AR Bleg

I’ve been wanting to build a custom AR for a couple of years now, but a distinct lack of disposable income has been a real drag on my plans. At this point I don’t know much about what the current goodies are. The rifle would be primarily used for target shooting, possibly in matches (if I decide to get back into that kind of shooting). I’m looking for recommendations on:

  • Barrels. I dot know much about barrels and twist rates, etc. It’ll be a .223 AR, probably mostly shooting your standard 55gr XM193 at distances out to 200 yards 99% of the time.
  • Triggers. I’ve looked at the Geissele triggers, but they are spendy. Worth it though? Geissele is a local company, so it would be nice to support them.
  • Stocks. Magpul makes an adjustable stock I think might work.
  • Uppers. I notice they have uppers that allow the charging handle to operate on the left side of the upper instead of the traditional straight pull back. I’d tend to lean against this since I prefer to stick with a more standard AR, but I’m wondering if anyone has any feedback on that style of upper.
  • Parts Kits. I’d get the trigger separately, but is there any quality difference in the non-trigger parts? I would tend to imagine there wouldn’t be much difference.

I’ll probably build this slowly over time, when I can come up with some spare coin to grab a needed component. Any advice one can offer would be appreciated.

20 thoughts on “AR Bleg”

  1. Geissele triggers are very, very nice. Their G2S trigger is still excellent and can be picked up on sale for $125 or so. Their sister company, ALG Defense, makes polished up stock triggers for $45 and $65.

    There’s some excellent advice and helpful buyer’s guides at this blog:

    Palmetto State Armory has some excellent offerings, but make sure you only buy stuff that’s branded PSA and not their PTAC stuff, which is generally considered to be of inferior quality. I have a PSA premium upper and bcg and they’re excellent.

    Aero Precision also seems to offer high quality for a good price. Although it costs a little more, Bravo Company USA stuff is considered good to go. I’ve been very happy with the upper I got from them. They’re now offering lower parts kits with upgraded triggers.

  2. I got a lower parts kit with an ssa-e from palmetto state armory for a hair over 200 a few years back and it is the best trigger I’ve ever had on a rifle, including bolt actions. The light two stage is fantastic.

    I like DD cold hammer forged in 1:7 for barrels but it’s been a few years since I built a gun. There might be better deals since then.

    I have put badger tac latches on all my AR rifles. Much better than the straight back pull from on top of the gun. Your left hand does all the work and it’s comfortable and easy.

  3. I can’t really answer your question without knowing how much you want to spend.

    However, as a datapoint to show what’s possible these days without spending too much money, I have built two sub $500 ARs using Palmetto State Armory uppers. They are very decent guns for just messing around. I have more expensive ARs but these cheapies are nothing to sneeze at – you just need to know what you want.

    You can get Anderson Manufacturing lowers for around $55 locally here (online it’s about the same or less, but if you add in transfer fees its more). A while back PSA were selling LPKs for $40.

    Both of my uppers are standard mid-length uppers from their mid-range PTAC line. Both have nitrided/melonited barrels in stead of being chrome lined (which I consider a plus). I bought them for $280 including a charging handle and BCG.

    A complete stock kit with something like a Magpul MOE SL can be had for less than $100.

    And yeah, Geissele G2S is a great upgrade for about $125.

    Another good upgrade is the Primary Arms Advanced Microdot, which has the 50k hour battery life LED of an Aimpoint Micro for $180. I’ve got two and they are significatntly better built than Primary Arms’ cheaper red dots. Are they Aimpoints/would I use them in a 2 way shooting range? No, but you can buy three of them for one Aimpoint Micro, and for range use or home defense they are more than fine. Though I do recommend you splurge on a high quality mount (ADM, DD, LaRue) and avoid the cheap Chinese $20 mount offered – I had severe accuracy/zero issues until I replaced the mount with an ADM.

    Also, buy all these toys before Hillary gets elected, because you know the sh*tstorm panic that will ensue.

    Feel free to email for more suggestions.

  4. I have put ALG ACT triggers in the 3 ar type rifles I have. They shoot better than I do. They are a smooth and clean version of the mil spec trigger done to high precision. I have shot a couple guns with nicer triggers but I do not need the performance and these are inexpensive enough to just put in everything.

    I will probably rebuild my one stock ar upper with a one of Aero’s ME4 uppers and hand guards that fit their nice mount point on the upper receiver.

  5. Twist rate: 1:8 or 1:9 will do the trick. 1:7 is only needed if you intend to shoot the looooooong tracer bullet.

    Shilen has a 20″ heavy barrel with matched bolt. But it’s HEAVY, both in ounces and Benjamins.

    A slightly shorter and lighter barrel might be a better choice if you intend to use this AR for anything else than shooting prone.

    Don’t forget to get a handguard that leaves the barrel “free floating”. I was surprised by the extend of POA shift we noticed when a buddy of mine took the plastic handguard off his 20″ upper (those two plastic halves were a real PITA to get off and put a lot of pressure on the barrel).

    Stocks: I’m not sure I would shell out $200 for a crazy PRS stock. A good old CTR (which won’t rattle) is more than enough. You’ll upgrade later when you shoot at 400yd+.

    Geissele’s SSA-E is pretty sweet. I have one on one of my ARs.

    Rock River Arms has a “National Match” trigger that’s pretty good too and not too expensive (that’s what I had before the SSA-E).

    Keep in mind that you are probably the weakest link unless you shoot on a regular basis. From time to time I lend my guns to guys who know how to shoot so that blame I put on the gun or ammo is quickly squashed to focus the blame on the main source: me! :-D

    Ammunition is also another factor that can wield extremely different results.

  6. Barrel. Cold hammer forged 1/9. 223 Wylde chamber. look around, with the “end” of the rush, there will be bargains.

    Trigger: Rock RIver Arms. Excellent trigger for like $80. Yah, you can spend $200 but why? Are you capable of making .1 in shots?

    Parts kits, etc. Geez, look around. Mil-spec uppers and lowers are around for $49 each. Again, Aim surplus, google ar-15 and keep your eye out. You should be able to put together a top notch for $700. I built my Ar’s with a pair of pliers and parts kits.

    Optics planet for red dot or scopes. That will cost as much as the rifle.

  7. I am an NRA high power competitor, shooting at the master level. I use an AR rifle that I built.
    Since you said you were thinking of target shooting, my suggestion is to spend your money on the best equipment NOW rather than piece at a time replace cheaper stuff with the match grade good stuff.
    The Geissele high speed two stage match trigger is expensive and worth it and is the ovewhelming choice of serious competitors. When set up correctly, it almost reads your mind.
    Shilen offers a 20″ barrel / bolt set at a fair price. With good ammunition, it is (mine is) capable of 1/2″ groups or less @ 100 yds.
    The standard A2 stock is quite good for match purposes, no flex, no wiggle, no shake. Most adjustable stocks do flex and shake, thus causing larger groups.
    Spend a few extra $ and get the thicker, heavier (stiffer)upper receiver.
    Remember that the three most important items in AR accuracy are the barrel, the trigger, and ammunition.
    You can skimp on other parts, but you will regret skimping on the big 3.

  8. I had to look up the word bleg:

    bleg ‎(plural blegs)

    (Internet slang) An entry on a blog requesting information or contributions.

    Would you be willing to accept contributions from readers for parts as a thank you for a most excellent blog?

    1. I’ve thought about putting up a tip jar, but I’ve resisted making this a commercial venture. Placing ads helps pay for the costs of keeping the site online. If I did to a tip jar it would be for fundraising for that. And that might come to pass, as the server we’re hosted on is 5 years old at this point :)

      1. Sebastian,

        I have 2 parts that would probably be most excellent for your project. They have been sitting around and I’m too lazy to post pics or deal with Gunbroker.

        Please email me if you have any interest whatsoever. Again, I appreciate the blog content and the work that goes into it.



      2. 1 part is a Noveske 16″ stainless Recon barrel with matched bolt. New in packaging with lo-pro gas block. Would be great for a target gun.

  9. My go to rifle is a BCM. They make some good stuff. ALso have some Aero Precision and a mish mash of other stuff.

    Another good company is Sionics. They make a quality upper that includes an NP3 BCG. They also make an LPK with an ALG like trigger for around $65.

    A 5.56 chamber with 1/7 twist will shoot anything you want. Hammer forged is nice but can be superfluous depending on how many rounds you shoot.

  10. Palmetto has a nice upper 18 inch stainless bbl with Wylde chamber. But I will tell you their inexpensive 16″ with keymod free-floating handguard shoots pretty good for me.

  11. Hmm, here’s my two cents…

    I’ve built an AR for 600 yard F-class TR. Standard lower, Timney trigger, Magpul PBS stock, White Oak side charge upper, Hart 1:7 barrel in .223 Wylde, YHM free float tube, Harris bipod and Nightforce glass.

    This rifle is special because it lacks a gas system. I managed to get the barrel turned without having the gas port drilled. It is designed to send 77gr to 90gr rounds to 600+. Rounds are hand-fed and the magazine is actually a stabilization weight (filled with lead shot) and to allow the bolt to lock open and feed each round correctly.

    I built the rifle around the barrel. Can’t recommend Hart highly enough for a tack driver. I prefer single stage triggers and I have a Timney on my R700. The PRS stock is nice to fit the rifle to you.

    LPKs don’t matter. I use DPMS for mine. Can’t go wrong with Gisele for a trigger and any spec lower works fine. I have several builds on Spike’s solely for the receiver art.

    I built it over time due to the lead time. Took five months for the barrel. It comes with a price tag to make you weep but you get what you pay for with very sub-MOA performance.

    Go with 1:7 in .223 Wilde for accuracy. Can’t shoot 55gr out of it but if you want accuracy, you want 62gr or preferably 70-75gr.

  12. Best value for an LPK and an upgraded trigger is the Del-Ton Enhanced Lower Parts Kit. I have these in several lowers and love the way they shoot, the trigger is on par with the Rock River 2 Stage (having compared them side by side I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re made on the same machines.) $126 from Midway…

    Barrel…it depends on what the purpose of the rifle is. I tend to stick with .223 Wylde and 5.56 chambers, my general purpose rifles are 1/8 twist with a QPQ Melonite finish. Best value out there right now IMHO are the barrels from Faxon Firearms…

    The Luth AR Stock has all the adjustability of the Magpul stock you linked at a fraction of the cost…

  13. The ability to build my own rifle from the ground up has increased my fondness for the sport of shooting tenfold. There is nothing like building something from the ground up.

    With that said, I would highly recommend the Geissele triggers. Very crisp. On the other hand, if you want this to be a plinking or competition rifle, I would NOT recommend Magpul PRS’ stock. Don’t get me wrong, I love the stock, and I have one of them on what I consider my “precision” AR rifle. It is VERY heavy, compared to 99% of the other stocks out there. It is definitely better suited for bench-rest rifle shooting.

  14. Here’s my take. I’m a Rock River Arms guy- I’ve been buying/building them for 15 years. I have 3 of my own and two more in the process of building. Building an AR is a ton of fun, and once you do one, you’ll want to do more.

    I don’t know much about match target shooting, so take that into account below.

    Barrels- You’ll want at least a .223 Wylde chambered barrel- that will let you accurately shoot .223 and 5.56, and deal with the extra pressures of 5.56. Get at least a 1:9 twist, as that can shoot 62 grains, even though you only now want to shoot 55 grains.

    Triggers- I’ve only ever used single stage RRA triggers, but I hear lots of good things about Geissele. If you are going to use it in a match eventually, go with that.

    Stocks- I’m an old school guy, and have standard M4 type stocks on all my ARs save one (which has an A2 stock). I do like RRA’s Operator stock though, but then I don’t know what is best for target. Note there are two types of stock- commercial and military. I much prefer military myself.

    Uppers- I don’t have experience about the side charging uppers, and again I like the standard upper. Are you going to get a complete upper or get the upper and barrel separately? Its not hard to install a barrel if you have the right tools. Get a Gem State Armory barrel wrench- its the best out there.

    Parts Kits- Not particularly, but I just get an RRA one since they’ve always been high quality as afar as I can tell.

    Other- I love Hogue grips. Figure out what sight you want too. Decide on hand guards as well. I’m not sold on the usefulness of the front grip either.

  15. Triggers – I like the Geissele/ALG triggers. I have the G2S as well as the ALGs. All are good. I also have a RRA 2-stage which cost $65 which is supposed to be very good. I haven’t installed it yet.

    Barrels – My ultimate build which is almost done features an 18″ 1-8 twist, LaRue Stealth AR 5.56 barrel. Until July 4th, they are marked down to $225 from $495. They are sub MOA barrels.

    Stocks – if you want adjustable, I’d go with a Rogers SuperStock. It doesn’t rattle, wiggle, etc. For a fixed stock, look at the Luth-AR stock. I picked up a NIB one from Arfcom when a guy changed his mind.

    Uppers/Lowers – I like Aero Precision but Anderson lowers are dirt cheap right now. JayG’s ultimate build was built using it.

    LPKs – I’ve used DPMS, AeroPrecision, and CMMG. That all seem about the same in terms of quality. I look for what’s on sale.

    I can’t remember if you have a C&R FFL or not. If so, you can get dealer pricing at Brownells.

    The other thing I’d suggest is don’t be afraid to buy used parts like flash suppressors, grips, forearms, etc. Most times people are selling thing because they are either upgrading or they have become enamored with the next best thing. The Arfcom equipment exchange tends to be a good place to look.

    I have 3 builds in progress right now – 2 retro (A1 and A2 style) and my ultimate using most of the stuff above.

  16. Much of what I would say has been said already. For a good rifle I use one of the ALG trigger groups. For a target rifle I use the Geiselle SSA-E. Very nice, almost too light for hunting though.
    Spend extra on a good barrel. I have had good luck with White Oak Armaments.
    The Magpul target stock is rather pricey. I actually prefer the LUTH-AR Mod stock. Fully adjustable, light and about $120.

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