When Should I Buy a Build Kit vs Build My Own? thumbnail image

When Should I Buy a Build Kit vs Build My Own?

Preston Arnet   |   Oct 15th 2019

If there was ever a time to purchase an AR15, it’s now. But the question to many becomes, “Do I buy a complete rifle, a build kit, or start a complete build?” Read on to see the break down for the pros and cons of each option.

A complete LANTAC LA-SF15 Recon Rifle, retailing for $1,750.

Buying a completed rifle

Buying a complete rifle has one big upside--convenience. There’s no easier way to get a rifle than to walk into a shop, pick it off the wall, and walk out (after paying of course). But convenience is about all this option has going for it. Because once you get home from your first range day, you’ll decide maybe your trigger is too heavy, and your rail is wide, your stock has some play in it, and the gun isn’t quite grouping like it should be. Now you have a $700-$1,300 gun that you’re going to sink another $500-$700 into it so you can have it feel the exact way you want. This is not to mention that you probably overpaid for the completed rifle anyways, as complete guns are always marked up for firearms excise tax, and the labor of someone assembling it for you. Complete rifles are generally adequate at most things, and exceptional at nothing. With today’s accessibility to parts of all kinds, it just doesn’t make too much sense these days to over pay for completed rifle that will be every bit of sub-par.

Some people love going part-by-part, some have no desire (or time).

A ground up new build:

Considering a ground up build is a really good idea if you are:

  • - Competing
  • - Capable of outshooting the average rifle (be honest with yourself)
  • - In possession of a large quantity of extra time and money
  • - All of the above.

Building your own rifle from the ground up sounds awesome in theory. Your rifle will have all the specific parts you wanted, it will feel and look exactly how you envisioned it to, and it will shoot (hopefully) incredibly. But when you start looking past theory and into reality, you’ll start to understand how huge of an undertaking this really is. Picking out each and every individual part is extremely time consuming. You need to make sure all the parts are in the same spec, shop around for best pricing and availability, and compare everything to make sure you are getting the best. Some people thoroughly enjoy this process, and some find it very frustrating. Perhaps the biggest flaw with this plan is the final product. After you pay a gunsmith to true the barrel and build the rifle for you, you’ll end up with a gun that may or may not be top quality, and where is why: Though all your parts were within "milspec", you realize that "milspec" is actually a pretty slack spec (it allows for a lot of variance), and your rifle wobbles and shakes like Bubba's '82 F150. I’ve seen it happen time and time again, when you finish a ground up build, all the different brands of parts don’t always mesh together well and can cause fitment issues. This leads to a hefty break in period, or even more time and money spent on a gunsmith to work out the kinks.

A complete 80% Arms Build Kit

Buying a build kit:

This is basically a hybrid of the two previous two options, taking all the positives from each and none of the negatives. For example with an  80% Arms build kit, the customer get's to select various options for their preferences, and is shipped everything they need to finish the rifle. Not only is the shipping a convenient factor, the kit includes reputable, high end parts for the upper receiver, barrel, and furniture. And since your lower is an 80%, there will be no need for an FFL to get involved. Once you mill out the lower, you can order the trigger, grip, and other last few features yourself. This way you don’t have a ton of leg work to do as far as searching for parts is concerned, but you still have options, and you have a bolt on ready to shoot upper, and the cost and time is kept within a more than reasonable quota while you have the exact trigger, grip, and lower parts you want. These build kits have become super popular in recent years due to the above reasons; in conjunction people seem to enjoy milling out their own lowers as it gets them connected and acquainted with their rifle.

Final Thoughts on Buy vs Build:

As the saying goes “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” which has always been an odd and confusing saying to me, as this suggests there must be a BEST way to skin a cat. Well the best way to approach buying your rifle, in all my experience; is to buy a build kit. However, if there are other circumstances like time, finances, or physical ability that restrict you from a build kit; please don’t refrain from exercising your 2nd amendment right. Go out and buy a complete rifle. A decent overpriced gun is still better than no gun.