So, you're looking for advice on your first AR...

So, you're looking for advice on your first AR...

This is a discussion on So, you're looking for advice on your first AR... within the Defensive Rifles & Shotgun Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I've lost track of the number of threads I have seen on this issue, and I seem to see the same responses every time, and ...

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Thread: So, you're looking for advice on your first AR...

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array Sticks's Avatar
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    So, you're looking for advice on your first AR...

    I've lost track of the number of threads I have seen on this issue, and I seem to see the same responses every time, and I post the same thing every time.

    If you are just looking for an AR because of the political climate, or once a month go dump a few mags at pop cans and dirt clods, stop reading now and go buy what ever the heck you want.

    If you are seriously looking into this platform and are willing to do your part, and want something that will last, keep reading.

    To start with, you are on the wrong forum. This forum is primarily a handgun related, and activities revolving around that platform. I strongly recommend going to M4carbine.net and spend a great deal of time reading and using the search feature. If the question has been asked, or the argument held, it's in there.

    First and foremost: Do your homework BEFORE you buy! [Thank you atctimmy] which pretty much translates into "Buy once, cry once."

    Second: Budget. You saved up $1000 for a rifle. I have some bad news for you. You don't have enough money. Sure you can go out and buy some well known cheap rifle for $600 - $800 (RRA, Stag, Bushmaster [or any of their spin offs], CMMG, DPMS) but if you think you got a smokin' deal, you didn't. You will spend another $200+ to fix known problems with them or replace parts that are of crap quality. "The Chart" that was originally compiled by Rob S. is no longer available. This is an unfortunate turn of events, and somewhere out there someone had the foresight to make a copy of it before it was removed from Tactical Yellow Adviser, and hopefully it will turn up in the other sticky thread here. To sum it up, it clearly details a large variety of manufacturers and their rifles, what they are made of, what tests were done to key components, and what specs they meet - if any.

    I'll simplify this for you. Colt, BCM, & PSA are your current top choices for an entry level rifle that is of quality, and those start at $900. This is not some "Name Brand" snobbery, this is not my opinion, this the truth. Colt has the Technical Data Package for the military's M4, BCM has done a stellar job at matching the specs, and has a proven track record to back it up, and finally PSA is up and coming, and thus far is among the top dogs in the quality and reliability race for the money spent. That is the key point. Dollar for Dollar, those three are going to get you the best quality, and reliability for the money. Both of my assemblies are bits and pieces of BCM, PSA, Vltor, Centurion, Magpul, and Midwest Industries. No snobbery here, I don't own an off the rack rifle, and never will. That's just me.

    "Why don't I have enough money?"

    Incidentals that people just don't think about. When you buy the rifle, that is all you got. A basic rifle and 1-3 mags. No ammo to shoot, no RDS (Red Dot Sight - not mandatory, but trust me, you will want one), no sling, no additional mags (generally 5-10 is what you want on hand ~ I'll get into that later), no weapon light (especially if you want this rifle for any personal defense reasons - another point to get a proven quality rifle).

    There are only 2 or 3 manufacturers out there that make the basic accessories listed, and again, do your homework and buy quality. DON'T SKIMP! For just those 5 listed - that's $850 for an Aimpoint PRO (cheapest and best quality RDS), 500 rounds of factory 5.56 ammo, 8 Pmags, a good 2 point sling, and a weapon light. If you shop around you may save $200 - $300 by catching sales or buying used off the equipment exchange on various forums. If you go to Ebay, make damn sure that it is the actual brand name, not an Asian knock off.

    "WOW! I only wanted to spend $1k and go shooting and now I am up to $1800 and I haven't even pulled the trigger yet! What can I do to save a little cash?"

    Buying parts to assemble: Again, Do your homework BEFORE you buy!. Yes you can assemble a lower (if you have the skills and tools) cheaper than a complete, but it is near impossible to assemble an upper from parts cheaper than buying one outright. There are specific tools that you will need to do an assembly, and those cost money - you have to figure that in. Brownells has a series of videos on AR assembly and are spot on.

    Benefits to assembling over buying complete: You get to pick and choose the exact parts that you want. Trigger (FCG), Bolt carrier group (BCG), Lower parts kit (LPK), Receiver extension style, Handguard or quad rail, Back Up Iron Sights (BUIS), barrel length and twist rate, muzzle device.... Most places allow you to custom build your rifle with options, but they may not be the ones you want or need. Buying a basic entry level means that you will likely be replacing things down the road like the stock, FCG, BUIS, handguard or rail...Now you have a pile of parts in a box collecting dust.

    Skill: If you are the type of person that takes their vehicle to the shop for anything and everything, assembling a rifle is probably out of your skill set and you should avoid trying.

    "I can't fund this kind of project."

    No biggie. Start with the basics and pick up the strays as you go. Another option if you can swing $25 a week is to get a signature loan from your bank for $1k to finish your funding. Make a $25 payment each week (real easy with direct deposit and online banking) and this will reduce the amount of interest you accrue each month. Still $100 a month payment but you are paying your loan off faster. Double bonus - if you make all the payments, you up your credit rating. I've done it 5 times myself.

    "OK, I took your advice spent twice as much as I planned you jackwagon, now what?"

    Go to a range and get your rifle sighted in, and get the feel for it. Don't just fling ammo down range. Fire a mag (or less), then check your target to see how you are doing. An AR in the hands of someone with rudimentary skills and irons should be able to hold a 16" group at 100y and 4" at 25. Don't burn through all your ammo. 100 rounds should be sufficient for the first trip. Pack up your toys and go home to clean your rifle (not necessary, but you should do this to learn how).

    Time to go take a class. Appleseed for first time rifle shooters. You will learn tons. Now keep your eye out for an entry level carbine course. Here is where you want all the extra mags. Most entry level classes will be a 1 or 2 day session, and you will need 500 - 1k rounds of ammo (Uh Oh - there goes another $500 - $1k if it's close enough for you to commute from your home). You do not want to be That Guy holding up the class because you only have 3 mags and are constantly having to step off the line to reload. Hint - stripper clips are your friend! Read this thread about taking a training class This is a must read, and you will find yourself spending another $250+ on gear.

    "OK I read this long arse post, and I think you are an arrogant know it all and FOS."

    That may be. My first AR was assembled in Dec 2011 (do a search, there is a thread here on it). I just finished my second assembly last month, that one is $1900, and going to leap into the low $3k when I buy my scope (thread on that one too). My first one started out with a budget of $1800 - no ammo. I asked questions, I received advice from well respected members here, I did my research, and a month and a half later I started buying. By the time it was all said and done, I was $2700 into the project, and most of that was on sale. 3 months later I took the opportunity to take an advanced carbine course that was being held locally. I learned a great deal of the capabilities of my rifle, the reassurance that I made the correct choice in components that I bought. 30 days later there was another course and I took that too. 2400 rounds down range in one month and no failures. I have invested $1600 alone into learning about the platform and how to operate it. I am still nowhere near operator status with a lowly 7k rounds down range and 3 carbine classes in 1 year. I did however see weapons and optics fail, and they were not Colt, BCM, PSA rifles, or Aimpoint or Eotech optics.
    Last edited by Sticks; December 14th, 2012 at 06:26 PM.
    tmoore912, ruger91, mg27 and 1 others like this.
    Sticks

    Grasseater // Grass~eat~er noun, often attributive \ˈgras-ē-tər\
    A person who is incapable of independent thought; a person who is herd animal-like in behavior; one who cannot distinguish between right and wrong; a foolish person.
    See also Sheep


  2. #2
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    May the lord bless you my friend. This is the info I try to convey to friends/family/coworkers buying their first AR. Some listen, most don't.

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    Senior Member Array tmoore912's Avatar
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    I'll just copy and paste this into any new inquiry about what to buy or how to buy in the AR-15 world.
    GeorgiaCarry.org
    GPDO SAF NRA
    Let Not My Last Thought Be, If Only I Had My Gun.

  4. #4
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    This should be a "Sticky" and titled READ FIRST
    scgunlover1 and jbum like this.
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  5. #5
    Ex Member Array Piratesailor's Avatar
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    Great post!!!

    Or just by an AK. ;)

  6. #6
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    Agreed. Buying the basic weapon is just the start. Good optics and lights/lasers are quite expensive. Quality back up sights are also not cheap. Ammo:expensive for quality stuff. Also you will need maintenance tools (cleaning kit, brushes etc.) and stuff (oils, lubricants, cleaning
    solvents etc.) to keep it running reliably particularly with DI systems.

    I learned the hard and expensive way. I bought about six years ago. There is a lot more good info and good weapons out there now (also a lot of junk) so read, research and ask questions.

    As for me my next platform will be a piston driven system with enough rail for all the goodies and an adjustable stock. I will probably stick
    with a 1:9 twist and a sixteen inch barrel.

    Count on having about $2K invested before you finish. A little more for piston driven.
    "Life is tough but it's really tough if you are stupid"

  7. #7
    Member Array ruger91's Avatar
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    thanks Sticks, this should be helpful for me. my mind has recently been blown looking into buying my first AR. i feel so confused and overwhelmed but i really want and feel that i need one.
    ruger91


    NRA member

  8. #8
    Senior Member Array IAm_Not_Lost's Avatar
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    Great post. Most of your points could apply to any firearm, i.e. buy a high quality handgun for 500-600, mags, ammo, holsters, weapon light, night sights, exc. exc.
    "Brilliant. So now we got a huge guy theory, and a serial crusher theory. Top notch. What's your name?" - Paul Smecker

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    Member Array PilotAlso's Avatar
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    Absolute NONSENSE from OP on his disparaging remarks against AR brands not on HIS approved list. Keep in mind, his "opinions" on brands are just that, his opinions.

    I've asked many times for him to provide specifics as to why my Stag Arms AR is somehow lesser quality than those he CLAIMS are superior. So far, all he has provided is opinion, bluster, and diversion from my request for data/specs/facts to support his assertions. He claims you'll need to spend "$200 plus dollars to fix "known problems".

    Just what are these so-called "problems" on my Stag Arms rifle which came in at $730 that aren't found on his "approved" list?

    Stag and the others he lists do make some models that aren't MIL-SPEC. That doesn't mean those rifles won't be fine for casual shooters nor that they are likely to blow-up when in use. It also doesn't mean their MIL-SPEC models are anything less than his preferred brands.

    For the newbie, keep in mind, there will always be brand zealots (think along the lines of some Glock owners) and self proclaimed experts who project their opinions as fact and look down on anyone who doesn't see it their way. Not much you can do about it but research and evaluate to form your own opinions.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Array IAm_Not_Lost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PilotAlso View Post
    Absolute NONSENSE from OP on his disparaging remarks against AR brands not on HIS approved list. Keep in mind, his "opinions" on brands are just that, his opinions.

    Stag and the others he lists do make some models that aren't MIL-SPEC. That doesn't mean those rifles won't be fine for casual shooters nor that they are likely to blow-up when in use. It also doesn't mean their MIL-SPEC models are anything less than his preferred brands.
    The OP is not talking about the casual plinker. End of story. Do your own research, and go ask instructors who run training courses which AR they would want in a critical scenario.

    Here is a very helpful link, and it isn't "the chart", just one police officers hard work comparing the different AR's. Stag is ways down the page.

    http://forums.officer.com/t81462/
    "Brilliant. So now we got a huge guy theory, and a serial crusher theory. Top notch. What's your name?" - Paul Smecker

  11. #11
    Ex Member Array pscipio03's Avatar
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    Sticks,
    I'm thinking about buying my first AR. What brand tires are the best for my F150?

    Who doesn't enjoy ADD?

  12. #12
    Ex Member Array pscipio03's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=PilotAlso;2489592]Absolute NONSENSE from OP on his disparaging remarks against AR brands not on HIS approved list. Keep in mind, his "opinions" on brands are just that, his opinions.

    My opinion is that you may want to cut back on the red meat. Not sure why you felt it necessary to bash on him, you could have chosen the higher ground and just moved on. Also, you are being hypocritical by calling him a brand zealot if you're getting offended that he spoke badly about YOUR Stag choice.

    The only AR that has proven itself time and time again is Colt. And that's just simply based off of decades of field use. I prefer LMT and LaRue, but that is my opinion. So, here's a quarter-- go play some Mario Bros.

  13. #13
    VIP Member Array Sticks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pscipio03 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by PilotAlso View Post
    Absolute NONSENSE from OP on his disparaging remarks against AR brands not on HIS approved list. Keep in mind, his "opinions" on brands are just that, his opinions.
    My opinion is that you may want to cut back on the red meat. Not sure why you felt it necessary to bash on him, you could have chosen the higher ground and just moved on. Also, you are being hypocritical by calling him a brand zealot if you're getting offended that he spoke badly about YOUR Stag choice.

    The only AR that has proven itself time and time again is Colt. And that's just simply based off of decades of field use. I prefer LMT and LaRue, but that is my opinion. So, here's a quarter-- go play some Mario Bros.
    LMT, LaRue, DD, Noveske, KAC, and several others out there that are great rifles. Unfortunately you are getting in to the Ferrari's and the price tag to go with it. Not many people can afford that price tag, then another $1k to run it.

    ETA - A close friend of mine, who is in the National Guard, for what ever reason just bought a Stag, and I doubt it is the $100 uprated version. I already know that I have to reinforce the gas key staking, stake the castle nut on the receiver extension, pray the chamber is not too tight and FCG works well. Then we have to go find an H buffer because it's going to be over gassed, and find a way to sell off the Black Hawk sling, off brand mags, and Tru Glo red dot. He dropped $1k at the PX on base, and $250 of it is junk. For $1100 he could have bought a PSA middy with Aimpoint PRO, and been $500 ahead of the game.

    Then when I take him out shooting to teach him some drills and malfunction clearing, I will do some more praying that it survives and the stock does not explode when he mortars it to clear a FTE or really bad bolt override.
    Sticks

    Grasseater // Grass~eat~er noun, often attributive \ˈgras-ē-tər\
    A person who is incapable of independent thought; a person who is herd animal-like in behavior; one who cannot distinguish between right and wrong; a foolish person.
    See also Sheep

  14. #14
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    Good write up Sticks, you seem to be acquiring a good bit of AR knowledge.

    I will never again buy an off the shelf AR. My PSA mock dissy came in at about $850 as it sits, and I have a feeling it will handily outperform my Bushmaster M4gery.

    Also, I didn't have to buy components twice, since I just bought what I wanted for the rifle.
    Fortes Fortuna Juvat

    Former, USMC 0311, OIF/OEF vet
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