One of the reasons the AR-15 has exploded in popularity in recent years is because of how easy it is to take apart, tinker with, and improve. With the glut of part makers and accessories shops now available, it seems easier than ever to build a totally custom AR from the ground up. But if you’re thinking of investing in your first AR, or even your next AR, should you buy it, or build it? Here at RailScales, we’re fans of both options and have built and bought our fair share of rifles, so let’s outline some of the advantages and disadvantages of both of these approaches.
The reality is, there are more videos, guides, and handbooks on building your own AR available now than ever before, thanks in large part to the internet. As such, many rifle owners are foregoing purchasing stock rifles in favor of building a rifle on their own. While we admire their DIY mindset, we recognize that this might not be the right approach for everyone. Buying a rifle off the rack and slowly replacing parts as you see fit is a great way to start using your rifle right away. So which is right for you? Let’s break it down.
There are a ton of great brands and manufacturers out there making quality AR rifles at a variety of price points. So while some might lean toward classic names like Colt and Ruger, others might turn to more bespoke rifle makers like Wilson Combat or SpecialOps Tactical. Realistically, modern manufacturing has made it so that nearly any well-known manufacturer can now produce a high-quality AR at a very reasonable price point.
The benefits of buying an AR off the rack are numerous, with some more obvious than others.
If you’re ready to hit the range ASAP, then buying your AR is the best route for you. After filling out the appropriate background check paperwork (check your local laws to find out more), you can take your rifle to the range with a box of ammo and punch paper all day long.
For those on tighter budgets, the prospect of buying a rifle and slowly changing out parts and accessories over time might be quite appealing. This process ensures that you can still spend time at the range, but also invest in new parts when you’ve got the scratch.
While AR manufacturers are good, they’re not perfect and mistakes happen sometimes. You might pick the one lemon off the rack and a warranty covers any of these issues and problems. That means you won’t have to pay out of pocket to have it fixed by a gunsmith or invest hours of your life into finding the one minute problem that’s giving you fits.Resale Value
Like custom cars, custom rifles are cool to really one person only: the person who made it. That means it can be really hard to sell a custom-built AR after you’re done with it. But branded rifles are easy to sell when you’re ready to upgrade or need the cash to start your custom project.
However, unless you’re looking for a run of the mill rifle, buying a rifle can be kind of boring. For those who love to create their own personal masterpieces, building an AR is the only way to go. This gives you complete freedom in what parts from what brands you want. The result is a rifle that is a unique extension of your design skills.
Just like buying an AR, building your own comes with its own list of benefits and pros.
When you build your rifle, you’re acutely aware of each and every part you put into it. This means you have a greater appreciation for how it works. Plus, building a rifle from the ground up makes you your own best armorer. So when your rifle starts to jam at the range, you’ll quickly address whatever issue you might face.
When you buy a rifle off the rack, you’re making compromises in exchange for convenience. While some might find this an acceptable approach, others would turn up their nose. Building your own AR provides you with the chance to build exactly what you want, whether that’s an ultralight AR that weighs next to nothing, or a tacticool monstrosity with every rail cover, forend grip, laser sight, and bayonet you can find.
If you’re looking for a high-end, performance-ready AR, building it might be more cost-effective than buying one. Competition-grade ARs can cost upwards of thousands of dollars, but might not have the features you want. You can slowly purchase and build the rifle over time, taking advantage of sales and closeouts until you’ve built a top-tier rifle at bottom of the barrel prices.
One of the greatest points in favor of the AR platform is how easy it is to assemble and disassemble. While your parts might not fit together immediately, with some minor fitting and smithing work, you can have a seamlessly built rifle in a matter of hours. Put together your rifle Friday night and spend Saturday morning shooting targets at the range.