Hi, I’m Chris!

Curious about building an AR-15 and don’t even know where to begin??? You’re in luck! You and I have a lot more in common than you might think. This blog will act as a real time knowledge-base as I research, purchase, and build a functioning AR-15 rifle. Wish me luck!  Follow the progress chronologically from the bottom post to the top.

Want more details on how this site came to be? Hit the About page.

Hey gang, I realized that when outlining AR-15 anatomy elsewhere on the site we had overlooked the details of the Bolt Carrier Group.

The first thing you’ll notice is that these are available with multiple finish types / coatings:

  • Standard Steel:  Standard issue steel.  These are usually the most inexpensive BCG’s on the market
  • Chrome-Plated: A few benefits come with having a coated BCG.  For one this coating will be resistant to corrosion and other elements that may break down the steel of the BCG.  Some report that chrome plating can chip or flake.  Chrome sits at the mid-price point.
  • Chrome Nitride: I don’t have any solid details on this coating… if someone does, please comment below! 
  • Nickle-Boron: Another type of coating.  I’ve read online that various NiB users do NOT need to lube their BCG at all.  This seems to be a highly debated topic.  NiB is a premium price BCG.
  • Heard of other coating types? Leave a comment below!

I ended up purchasing a Chromed BCG for my AR-15.

While the AR-15 bolt looks confusing, it really isn’t.  You can field strip the bolt using a pair of needle nose pliers which results in the firing pin, and separated bolt, and bolt carrier.  (Video below to for how-to on disassembly).

One point of note: When you re-assemble your bolt carrier group, make sure your bolt is correctly oriented so that the extractor is on the side of the ejection port.  It is possible to insert the bolt in a 180 degree wrong direction.  You’ll figure this out real quickly when your rifle doesn’t eject.  Thankfully this is an easy fix in the field!

Cleaning / Lubrication:

Some folks tend to run their bolt on the dry side.  Others run wet using their favorite firearm lube.  I myself use a thin layer of Mobile 1 grease to lube my BCG.  The bottom line is that your BCG will get dirty, since the gas system is channeling barrel gas into the gas key of your BCG.  There are some cleaning tools out there built specifically for the AR-15 bolt.  Do you have any that you like? Please comment below!

Here’s a cool bolt disassembly video I thought was pretty thorough:

Hey gang!  I got the opportunity to attend SHOT this year.  I expected to see guns… and LOTS of them!  I decided to make a post about the stuff I saw that stuck with me the most.


RAAC Firearms – AR 12GA
2013-01-15 11.02.48Looks like an AR-15 right?  WRONG!  This is a conversion that is a semi-auto 12GA shotgun.  They import these, and then can do a full on customization job down to your specific needs.  The magazines for this thing are HUGE!  For the price ($699) I think this is a really cool shotgun to have that your buddies would be jealous of.







Blade-Tech – Kydex Reinforced Belts


d_994In addition to holsters and mag pouches, these guys make really cool belts for holstering your gear… except that they make these belts reinforced with a layer of kydex in in middle.  Typical leather belts will stretch as they age, and loose their ability to bear the weight of your gear.  A few guys from our group snagged some belts so I’m curious to see how they hold up over the next year or so.

Swarovski Optik – Binoculars and Scopes


51iIhk-PezL._SL500_AA300_These guys have the cleanest and purest optic systems my eyes have ever seen.  I’ve looked through a lot of stuff in my time… and these optics present zoomed reality in a way my eyes had never seen.  Shooting a pair of EL binoculars across the show floor had an amazing depth of field, almost like humans were cardboard cutouts from one to the next.  I couldn’t put these down… until I saw the price tag.  I guess you should expect the best when spending $2000 on binoculars.





YouTube Channel – IraqVeteran8888


2013-01-16 16.33.18If you’ve got an internet connection, you’ve probably watched some gun related videos on YouTube.  Eric and the clan from IraqVeteran8888 offer a full course of great videos ranging from gun demos, debunking myths, gun gripes, and general “blow stuff up” videos.  I’m a huge fan, go show them some love!






2013-01-16 17.09.31This rifle seemed to generate a great deal of buzz from the show.  It balanced really well over your hands and would make a great weapon for closed quarters situations.  You’ve probably seen this rifle around before… but this year marks the first time it has been available to civillians in the USA.  Chambered in 5.56, it comes with a 16.5 and 18 inch barrel configuration with a few color options.  One thing I did notice was that each of the features attached to it, had a counter part on the other side… meaning, it is fully ambidextrous if you happen to be a left handed shooter.  Way cool!


Franklin Armory – CSW


2013-01-16 13.15.42This thing is freaking awesome!  It replaces the stock portion of your AR, and gives you that ‘belt fed’ feel with two large handles on the rear, each with their own trigger.  Mount this bad boy to a tripod, and your AR just got a huge COOL FACTOR upgrade.  Check out their site for a video showing how it works in both Semi and Full Auto ARs

I found this rather entertaining… leave a comment here on whether or not you think she did it right!

Thanks to the team @ EyeHandy for putting this together!

Hey gang, I thought you might all find this useful to soak up some AR-15 cleaning tips.

He talks at the beginning about using lots of lube on the bolt.  I have been using Mobile-1 Synthetic Grease on my bolt.  What do you guys use to keep things running smooth?

Thanks to everyone for all of the encouraging and positive comments you’ve been leaving on the site.  It occurred to me that I haven’t had anything new to put on the site… and I want to fix that.

Cash has been a little tight (new homeowner here, stupid) but I want to start posting some product reviews.  I’ve got so many peers that buy AR gadgets… I’m going to tag along so we can start reviewing these new products.  So keep your eyes peeled for new content, or simply subscribe to the site’s RSS feed with your favorite email client.

RSS Feed



What type of gear would you guys be interested in having me review?

Pics!  We want em!

I want to start an image gallery of YOUR AR builds at home… send in some pics and I’ll start to post them in the BUILD GALLERY!

Send to: info [at] ar15fornoobs (dot) com

UPDATE, first few sets of pics are up!


Hey gang!!!  It’s been a while since I updated the site here… so rather than leave you hanging, I wanted to bring you guys up to speed while I fill in the blanks on the site.

In short, it works!!!  I’ve had the AR out to the range about 3 times now… I just shot a quick video of it functioning this weekend:

Sadlly, a local gun store was having trouble and needed to move some inventory.  I decided to make friends with this Sig Sauer P220st.  It’s 100% Stainless Steel and feels like a beast.  Chambered in .45 ACP, I can’t wait to go shoot this bad boy!

Since Twitter is what all the cool kids are using nowadays to keep in touch, I thought we might as well get a page for AR15ForNoobs.com!  I’ll keep you guys updated on what’s going on with the AR build as well as other fun stuff!  Click the logo to get to our profile.

Pictured above is the bottom side of my new Yankee Hill Machine upper that showed up in the mail.  This one came with all the parts needed to assemble the Dust Cover, and Forward Assist.  Reference the Upper Detail post if you’re not sure what those are.  This upper does have T-Marks and M4 style feed ramps (pictured below).  I’ve got a whole post dedicated to M4 Feed Ramps to shed light on what those are for and if you need them.

Lets clarify one thing first… When we use the term M4, there are two possible interpretations:

  1. Reference to the specific M4 model / configuration of an AR-15 produced by Colt. This is a Colt model number and is NOT available to civilians. (Sad Trombone)
  2. The type of feed ramps cut into the upper receiver and barrel.  This post is dedicated to that concept.

Both upper receivers and barrels are available in an ‘M4’ design. What exactly is that?  Here’s what I can gather:  [click this post to expand the article]

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[work in progress]

Videos I watched that showed step by step instructions on how to assemble the entire upper:

The barrel probably has the most affect on the AR rifle’s accuracy & performance.  There are a handful of attributes to choose from when selecting a barrel, and you’ll want to to choose the right ones that help meet the needs of your desired rifle.  Click this post to access more info below:

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In this post I’ll go over all the specific parts of the Upper Receiver and Barrel with all associated parts.  Click this post or the ‘continue reading’ link below to see the full details.

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Lookin’ good so far!  The entire lower half is complete… moving onward to the Upper.

The video above isn’t a ‘how to’ video.. but more of a comment on the process.

Here are the video’s and how-to’s that I referenced for the build:


RRA Lower Parts Kits
Bolt Carrier Group

[work in progress]

I’ll catalog all the tools required for the build out of the AR.  I know you can go all out in this department, but I don’t have a TON of tools around the house.   This list should be the bare minimum to get the job done the first time!

  • Steel or Brass Punch Set
  • Torque Wrench
  • AR-15 Armorer’s Tool
  • Philips Head screwdriver
  • Light Weight Polymer Faced Hammer
  • Thick masking / painters tape
  • Sturdy Bench & Vice
  • Allen Key Set

In my AR research, I kept coming across a term being thrown around called MOA. I found it being used in reference to a rifle’s accuracy, or measurement of accuracy… and adjustments on scope optics. So what is it?

MOA means ‘Minute of Angle’.  A circle is divided into 360 degrees, and each degree is divided into 60 minutes.  At 100 yards, 1 MOA is equal to 1 inch.  At 200 yards, 2 inches… and so on.

  • A well calibrated accurate AR should be able to maintain 1MOA groupings on the target
  • The adjustments (or ‘clicks’) on scope optics are measured in increments of MOA. Depending on the scope, each click can equal 1/8 MOA, or 1/4 MOA.  Having calculated the MOA at a given distance, you can adjust your scope the right number of clicks to get your point of impact where you want on the target

SOURCES: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbhD2sU4L10

[work in progress] I’ll outline WHY I’m making the choices I am and different options for ammo.  Click this post to get the details. continue reading…

Thanks to Brownell’s and the National Shooting Sports Foundation for the video~!



Detailed Operation (5 Vids):

When shopping for collapsible stocks online… I noticed that some models come in 2 different variations. Mil-Spec and Commercial-Spec. EXAMPLE. So what’s the difference, and why are there 2 types?

EDIT Oct 29th 2012: This post generates a LOT of traffic and great comments / communication.  While there are differences between the two, great question has been raised as to whether or not one is better than the other, or if Mil-spec is any more reliable than others.  I like to consider myself a man of science… and will validate that I have not seen any solid proof showing that one style of buffer tube is any better than the other.  We do have to recognize that there are two sizes of tubes available on the market, and this post is created to illustrate those differences.

The two variations of the Stock exists because of two possible sized buffer tubes, or, lower receiver extenders.  I’m going to refrain from calling it the lower receiver extender simply because I find that it is a less commonly used name.  From what I could gather, the reason 2 types of tube exist is because the Mil-Spec version costs more to manufacture. More details… click the post to continue.

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This was one of my first questions after I understood the assembly of the AR-15.  I’ve never owned a semi-automatic rifle before… but I’m guessing this gas acts upon something in the upper receiver assisting with the loading of a new round in the chamber. I did some digging and found this REALLY in depth article on the gas system.  Link to the article below.

Source: How the AR-15 Direct Impingement Gas System Works

In short, the bolt carrier group needs help cycling.  The recoil from the .233 round isn’t strong enough to move the bolt far back enough to eject the old round and scoop up the new one.  By taking pressure from the barrel, and delivering it to the BCG via a Gas Block & Gas Tube, the thrust is enough to force the whole assembly backwards far enough.  Whenever I meet someone whose AR isn’t cycling correctly, the first place to check is the gas system.

Some people feel this type of semi-auto system is flawed… however, it doesn’t appear that there is much proof in the pudding with that argument.


I love this guy!  User Hickok45 on YouTube posts some of the best firearm videos on the interwebs.  In the video below, he gives you a short close-up tour of his Bushmaster XM-15 and shows the basic operation of an assembled AR.

Thank you Hickok45 for the video!

What’s the difference between 5.56 and 2.23?

I’ve noticed that most AR gear I’ve been looking at is chambered for 5.56mm NATO rounds… but when I’m at the range, most guys seem to be shooting .223 Remington ammunition.  Are they interchangeable?  I did a little digging online:

Apparently a barrel chambered for 5.56 NATO rounds can also shoot .223 Remington, but not vice versa.  Meaning, a barrel meant for .223 Rem. CANNOT shoot 5.56 ammo.  There are minor variations in the ammo that make .223 suitable to shoot in a 5.56 rifle.  My understanding is that you sacrifice a small amount of accuracy shooting a .223, but the difference should be negligible.

That said, I will probably buy some 5.56mm steel core for self defense purposes / zombie hunting… and use .223 to plink at the range.  My buddies @ CheaperThanDirt.com seem to have only a limited selection of 5.56 in comparison to .223 ammo.  Here’s a link to their full selection sorted by price lowest to highest: http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/ItemListing.aspx?sort=priceLow&pagesize=1000&catid=110

For specifics on the difference between 5.56mm NATO and .223 Rem physically, check out this PDF file for details:
http://www.ar15fornoobs.com/wp-content/uploads/223vs556.pdf (Source: http://ar15barrels.com)

Source: http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/MediaPages/ArticleDetail.aspx?mediaid=316

This will be my only post on the legalities of the AR-15 in the great state of California.  I am not a lawyer nor a lawmaker.  This is my understanding of the CA law in order to construct a CA legal AR at the time of writing.  LAWS CHANGE OFTEN, this is not to be construed as legal advice.

When I first set out to learn about the AR-15 and it’s legality in California… I had no idea where to begin.  I also saw much use of the term OLL, but wasn’t sure what that meant either.  Luckily, the nice guys over at CalGuns.net created a flowchart that you follow and to determine a rifle’s legality.  Since I’ll actually be building one, I’ll use this as a guide to ensure I’m following the rules.  Stepping through the flowchart below:

Calguns Rifle ID Flowchart

Here’s a link to the flowchart that will open in a new window (PDF) CalGuns.Net Semi-Auto Rifle ID Flowchart

Starting in the upper left hand corner:

Was the rifle registered as an Assault Weapon (AW) before the AW Control Act of 1989?
Obviously not, we’re building a new rifle today.. so the answer is a glaring NO. Next…

Is the rifle an AR or AK type? And if yes, is it listed on Appendix B or C?
OK, here’s where the term OLL comes from. Yes, I’m building an AR style rifle… but the law says what I CAN’T do, not what I CAN. The models shown on the Appendix list are deemed illegal by CA, but AR-15 parts that are not on the list are thus OK. You can legally purchase an ‘Off the List Lower’ (OLL) from your favorite FFL dealer that sells them. Alright, so now that I’m not purchasing from the dreaded ‘list’, I’ll answer NO and move on…

Is the rifle barrel shorter than 16 inches long?
I thought it would be pretty cool to build a short tactical rifle… but this section means I HAVE to purchase a barrel at least 16 inches long. Womp Womp. 🙁 Answering NO and continuing…

Is the rifle listed on Appendix A?
Nope! Next…

Is the rifle chambered in .50 BMG?
Wouldn’t that be awesome??? Holy crap…. but the answer is NO.

Is the rifle’s overall length less than 30 inches?
I can’t speak to every Upper Receiver and collapsible stock on the market… but from what I can gather, those two parts assembled with a 16 in barrel will yield a 30+ inch rifle in it’s collapsed state. Of course, I haven’t built anything yet so I can’t quite whip out a tape measure and answer YES / NO. We’ll assume NO for now and keep this in mind going forward…

Does the rifle have a detachable magazine?

AR-15 Bullt Button Function

The mag release that comes standard in a ‘Lower Parts Kit’ (LPK) would yield a YES answer and deem my rifle illegal in CA. There are a few different types of magazine release buttons that you can buy that require a tool to activate them. One of these types is called a ‘Bullet Button’ that requires a pointy tool object or a spare bullet to activate.  I’ll be installing one of these so we can answer NO to the flowchart and proceed.  This video gives you a pretty down and dirty demo of how it works:

Does the fixed magazine hold more than 10 cartridges?
This is easy, I’ll simply purchase 10 round magazines when the time comes.

Yay! We’ve arrived at the green LEGAL box. Whew! Just because I know that my rifle is legal… it doesn’t mean that my friendly neighborhood Law Enforcement Officer is versed in all of this knitty gritty. CalGuns.net has a great post with friendly reminders on how to keep out of trouble with you OLL AR-15 here: How NOT to get Arrested for your OLL Read up!

Other Sources:
Bullet Button http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/showthread.php?t=46802

In this post I’ll go over all the specific parts of the Lower Receiver and Stock / Buffer Assembly.  Click this post or the ‘continue reading’ link below to see the full details.

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In this post we’ll break down the AR into 4 major parts.  You can use this in conjunction with the TERMINOLOGY post (work in progress).  As I make more posts about these specific components, I will link this page to them.

Lower Receiver – Often called the ‘lower’ for short. This is most surprisingly the only part of the AR-15 that requires an FFL dealer to purchase (it has a serial number).  This receiver houses the Trigger Assembly, Magazine, Magazine Release Button, Pistol Grip, and the Safety Selector. Typically these receivers are available to purchase as a ‘stripped’ part (meaning none of the aforementioned components are installed) or a ‘complete’ build having all the components already installed.  For more specifics, go HERE for the post on the lower build.

Upper Receiver – Often called an ‘upper’ for short.  This receiver houses the Bolt Carrier, Bolt, Forward Assist, & Charging Handle.  Just like the Lower, you can purchase these as stripped empty receivers, or as complete builds with all the components already installed.  The Upper comes in a few different variations described in the Upper Detail post.

Stock – Pretty simple in concept. The stock is like any other rifle stock. Available in fixed or adjustable lengths.  The stock assembly houses the Buffer Tube, Buffer Spring, & Buffer assembly.  Some stocks have nifty little storage compartments for ammo or gadget batteries.

Barrel – Barrels come in a variety of lengths and styles.  Typically, this forward section of the rifle has a Flash Hider on the muzzle, a Hand-guard for a place to grip and place accessories, the Gas Return Tube, and the Gas Block.  It is important that if you choose an M4 style barrel that you make sure to have a matching Upper Receiver. Again, see the M4 post for details

Moving Animation:

Bushmaster posted this really cool animation which shows you the mechanical functions of all the working parts.  I’m an ‘engineer’ at heart, so seeing how all these pieces interact with each other was very educational.  Click the image below to check out the animation!


Listening to someone talk about building an AR-15 or the parts required is like trying to decipher a foreign language from another planet.  Here is a list of terms you might see on the web and hear in conversation:

AW – Assault Weapon (try not to use this term. The rifle we’re building is NOT an AW)

BCG – Bolt Carrier Group

BT – Buffer Tube / Lower Receiver Extension

DZSG – Designated Zombie Survival Gun, duh

FFL – Federal Firearm Licensed dealer

LEO – Law Enforcement Officer

LPK – Lower Parts Kit

MOA – Minute of Angle.  A unit measurement used with optics. Roughly 1″ at 100 yards.  Go HERE for specifics on measuring MOA.

OLL – A California term for ‘Off the List Lower’.  What list? Check out the CA Legal post for specific details.

UPK – Upper parts kit

[work in progress]

As I research exactly what parts & tools I’m going to need, I’ll list them all here with an attempt at a moderate budget price to spend for that part.

This will eventually also have a budget vs actual spend comparison.  Can you tell I work with $ at the day job?  Click this post for all the detail

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Having seen a bunch of AR-15s and AR-15 accessories at the local shooting range… and getting to try a few out… this project ended up a MUST on my summer to-do list.  Realizing I didn’t really know diddly squat about buying / building ARs, I decided to put this site together. Yay!

So ultimately, what is it I really want to build? The coolest looking SWAT / military type looking AR possible. 🙂 I’ve heard this concept called ‘Tacticool’. A play on words between ‘Tactical’ and ‘cool’.  People mostly use this play on words with a negative connotation… but honestly, I don’t care.  Sounds good to me!

I want to find a happy medium by keeping my AR on the ‘affordable’ side… but at the same time I am also not one to buy crappy cheap parts that I’ll regret.  So I guess I’ll find a middle of the road and build a very ‘decent’ AR and try to keep the budget under control.  I am one to operate under the MO: “do it right the first time”.  That said, I’m not going to buy cheap parts just because they’re cheap. I’ll definitely want to make sure I’m getting quality stuff that I wont hate or have to swap out down the line.  I’m going to  have to research exactly what parts are needed, and get an idea of what that this is going to cost me.  [Update: Check out the PARTS/BUDGET POST for specifics on that]

Being a student of the internet… I took to the web looking for ‘picture threads’ to get some ideas.  If you’re not familiar, a ‘picture thread’ is typically a thread of discussion on a user forum where folks do nothing but post pictures.  Great for idea building.  I hit up AR15.com and sure enough, they had more picture threads than I knew what to do with. I started with the most recent one and hit the jackpot.  I’ll post some of my favorites here, click on the header of this post to see more inspiration “after the jump”.

AR-15 Picture Thread Part 21

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