AR-15 for Dummies

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  • Happy Camper

    Member
    MDS Supporter
    Feb 3, 2024
    36
    Baltimore County
    Hello,

    I've got a few questions since I'm pretty new to AR-15s. When I say new, I've only ever held a Bullpup Springfield Hellion in Guntry new-to-ARs kind of new. :lol2:Wondering what everyone thinks about pre-built AR-15s? Also, trying to decide between an AR-15 and a PCC for home defense. Not really into building one from scratch, so I'm eyeing a decent pre-built that I can tweak later if needed. Was checking out the Black Rain Ordnance Spec 15, but then I remembered a post I saw here mentioning checking the Reviewed Firearms List, and turns out it's banned in Maryland. :sad20:

    Found an IWI Zion Z15 that's good to go in Maryland, which seems solid. On the flip side, I'm also considering a PCC for home defense. Saw a couple I liked, chambered in 9x19, which fits well with my pistols, plus the ammo's not too pricey. So, torn between the PCC with cheaper ammo and the AR's stopping power and versatility, despite the higher per-shot cost. Think I'm leaning one way, but curious to hear from more experienced AR users. Appreciate any insights. Thanks a lot.
     

    DaemonAssassin

    Why should we Free BSD?
    Jun 14, 2012
    23,991
    Political refugee in WV
    Hello,

    I've got a few questions since I'm pretty new to AR-15s. When I say new, I've only ever held a Bullpup Springfield Hellion in Guntry new-to-ARs kind of new. 2:Wondering what everyone thinks about pre-built AR-15s? Also, trying to decide between an AR-15 and a PCC for home defense. Not really into building one from scratch, so I'm eyeing a decent pre-built that I can tweak later if needed. Was checking out the Black Rain Ordnance Spec 15, but then I remembered a post I saw here mentioning checking the Reviewed Firearms List, and turns out it's banned in Maryland. :sad20:

    Found an IWI Zion Z15 that's good to go in Maryland, which seems solid. On the flip side, I'm also considering a PCC for home defense. Saw a couple I liked, chambered in 9x19, which fits well with my pistols, plus the ammo's not too pricey. So, torn between the PCC with cheaper ammo and the AR's stopping power and versatility, despite the higher per-shot cost. Think I'm leaning one way, but curious to hear from more experienced AR users. Appreciate any insights. Thanks a lot.
    556 vs. 9mm in regards to over penatration of building materials would be the first thing I'd consider.

    556 would be the way I'd go because it can be used effectively in close quarters and also out to 300+ yards with good effect. To get through a solid barrier, M855/SS109 would do the trick, and it is readily available.
     

    TinCuda

    Sky Captain
    Apr 26, 2016
    1,558
    Texas
    To answer your question about pre-built vs. build your rifle from a stripped lower. Building them is easy. The hardest part is driving the roll pins and not shooting your detents/springs across the room. It's like Legos for men. There are several good "how to" videos available on YT so I won't get into that here.

    Keep in mind, if your firearm was born a rifle from the factory, you cannot change it to a pistol on your own. You can pay the King for your rights and do some paperwork to make it a short barrel rifle (SBR) if you want, but that is a whole other discussion. If you buy a stripped lower or a complete firearm that was born a pistol, it can be made into a rifle and back to a pistol with no paperwork (on your own). You can buy a "complete" lower receiver that will save you most of the trouble of building it. I would recommend that you get one that does not already have a stock attached. I complete lower with a stock attached from the manufacturer could be determined to have been born a rifle and not a pistol.

    Because I have several AR15 type firearms, every single one of mine have either been built from a stripped lower receiver or came from the factory in a pistol configuration. This way, I never have to worry about which upper can be put on which lower. Assuming all other legal criteria are met, swapping any upper with any other lower receiver around will not violate any rules.

    I always recommend for new AR guys to get one in 5.56 first. The AR15 has been working with 5.56 for decades. Most of the bugs have been worked out with that caliber. It will give you the best chance of a positive experience. Then, if you want to move on to something else, you'll at least have a base line to compare to.
     
    Last edited:

    spoon059

    Ultimate Member
    Jun 1, 2018
    5,393
    The AR is a great weapon. I avoided them for years, they are plastic and boring. Ironically, I disliked them for the exact reasons I love Glocks.
    But then I got assigned a patrol rifle at work and saw what a great platform it is. I now own a bunch of ARs and enjoy them all. Easy to use, easy to shoot, pretty accurate once you're zeroed in. Scary weapon in the wrong hands, but a great tool in the right hands.

    If you're thinking PCC for home defense, make sure it works with flat nose rounds. A lot of the AR-9 guns have reviews where people complain that hollow point rounds get hung up on the "feed ramps". I plan to build an AR-9 eventually, but only for shooting ball ammo at steel for fun.

    I've got other platforms for home defense, so I'm not worried about fail to feed through a 9.

    Sent from my SM-S916U using Tapatalk
     

    King Chicken

    I identify as King/Emperor
    MDS Supporter
    Apr 24, 2022
    1,744
    Land Full of Marys - MoCo
    AR15 is "everything you might ever need". Reliability, durability, user friendly, adaptable, customizable, etc etc.

    Because I have several AR15 type firearms, every single one of mine have either been built from a stripped lower receiver or came from the factory in a pistol configuration. This way, I never have to worry about which upper can be put on which lower. Assuming all other legal criteria are met, swapping any upper with any other lower receiver around will not violate any rules.
    Can you esplain for dee other peeple here? Why would you be swapping and what? Ty
     

    TinCuda

    Sky Captain
    Apr 26, 2016
    1,558
    Texas
    AR15 is "everything you might ever need". Reliability, durability, user friendly, adaptable, customizable, etc etc.


    Can you esplain for dee other peeple here? Why would you be swapping and what? Ty
    Well, for starters, I have a Fightlite MCR (belt fed - I live in Texas) upper that fits an AR15 lower. With a push of a button, it has quick change barrels. Some are 16 inches long, some are shorter. If I want to avoid any imperial entanglements, I have to swap to a pistol lower if I change barrels to anything shorter than 16 inches.

    Another example is that I have lowers with multiple styles of trigger groups. Some lowers are mil-spec, some are two stage, and some are binary. It is much easier to trade out the whole lower receiver than replace all the small parts of the trigger group in a single lower receiver. Depending on what I am doing on any particular day, I just swap to that upper/lower receiver combination.
     
    Last edited:

    Happy Camper

    Member
    MDS Supporter
    Feb 3, 2024
    36
    Baltimore County
    Thanks everyone for your replies. I appreciate the detail. I know my level and patience for building is low. I did find a local place Hanover Armory, who builds MD compliant AR-15s for the customer. That interested me greatly. I think with the information the group has provided me here along with my own research, I think I'll go to Hanover Armory and talk to them about AR-15s. Thank you everyone!
     

    smokey

    2A TEACHER
    Jan 31, 2008
    31,496
    If you're shooting something rifle-sized, tossing a handgun cartridge in it makes no sense for defense. It's why people that fight with them moved away from things like the mp5 and towards small 300blk or 11.5" 5.56. Unless you're going with a pistol lower configuration and sticking with a 16" barrel, 5.56 makes way more sense for defense.

    5.56 is going fast enough that the small/light bullets tend to break up and begin shedding energy pretty rapidly after the first barrier. If you want to really limit overpenetration, you could go for varmint loads in the 50 grain range. If you want something more terminally effective that will also penetrate more through barriers, then it's tough to beat the 77gr or mid 60 gr loads in something soft point or hollowpoint.

    If you want a shorter barrel or to not worry about the HBAR stuff in md, start out with a pistol-configured or blank lower. Toss a SBA3 or SBA4 brace on it and your handgun can have pretty much any upper. If you're going shorter than 16", then 300blk makes a lot of sense because the cartridge gets more of an efficiency advantage over 5.56 the shorter the barrel becomes.

    There is more to building ARs than just slapping parts together lego-style. It's possible to get a reliable/accurate rifle from slapping parts together, provided you're using well-made components from a quality manufacturer with good quality control, but it's also possible you'll tolerance-stack your way into a bad build. For your first AR, and one that will be a defensive gun, get at least an upper that is complete. That way, if you do have any issues, you can simply send it back for warranty work.

    When you've got something like this for $300, it's a no-brainer.

    Just add a pistol lower and a red dot and you've got a good starter gun for home defense.
     

    Bountied

    Ultimate Member
    Apr 6, 2012
    7,099
    Pasadena
    AR15 is "everything you might ever need". Reliability, durability, user friendly, adaptable, customizable, etc etc.


    Can you esplain for dee other peeple here? Why would you be swapping and what? Ty
    I have a lower that I run a .50Beo and a 556, I can also run a 9mm upper with endomags if I wanted to. There are reasons to swap uppers and lowers but you can run into issues with buffer spring/buffer configurations depending. Usually when I have an extra upper it somehow magically finds a lower so I have a complete rifle.
     

    TinCuda

    Sky Captain
    Apr 26, 2016
    1,558
    Texas
    Can you esplain for dee other peeple here? Why would you be swapping and what? Ty
    Another thing that I forgot to mention earlier...

    The very first AR15 that I ever bought was a stripped Bushmaster lower receiver around the year of our Lord 1992. I could not afford a complete rifle in those days. It took several months of fishing pennies out of my couch seat cushions to be able to complete the build. Then, in 1994 the "Assault Weapons Ban" happened. This banned combinations of certain features on firearms, like flash hiders, pistol grips, collapsing shoulder stocks, thirty round magazines, etc. For the simplification of this discussion, I will be using the term "ban" to mean banning those features and not meaning to ban complete types of rifles. There was a grandfather clause included in order to keep the conservatives from outright civil war. Not long after, the prices of pre-ban lowers started shooting up. It wasn't long before really crappy stripped sand cast junk lowers were selling for over $500 and nice lowers sold for over a grand. That is $1000 - $2000 today, adjusted for inflation. THAT'S JUST FOR THE STRIPPED LOWER RECEIVER! I had a fantastic job while I was in collage back then. I was making $10/hr. Understanding sarcasm is key here. I used that same Bushmaster lower receiver for every AR15 upper that I had, FOR 10 YEARS, until the ban finally went away in 2004. Needless to say, that left a scar on my 2A psyche.

    For this reason, I like to have enough flexibility to be able to keep on with my firearm hobby if politics ever went that far south again.
     

    Bountied

    Ultimate Member
    Apr 6, 2012
    7,099
    Pasadena
    Another thing that I forgot to mention earlier...

    The very first AR15 that I ever bought was a stripped Bushmaster lower receiver around the year of our Lord 1992. I could not afford a complete rifle in those days. It took several months of fishing pennies out of my couch seat cushions to be able to complete the build. Then, in 1994 the "Assault Weapons Ban" happened. This banned combinations of certain features on firearms, like flash hiders, pistol grips, collapsing shoulder stocks, thirty round magazines, etc. For the simplification of this discussion, I will be using the term "ban" to mean banning those features and not meaning to ban complete types of rifles. There was a grandfather clause included in order to keep the conservatives from outright civil war. Not long after, the prices of pre-ban lowers started shooting up. It wasn't long before really crappy stripped sand cast junk lowers were selling for over $500 and nice lowers sold for over a grand. That is $1000 - $2000 today, adjusted for inflation. THAT'S JUST FOR THE STRIPPED LOWER RECEIVER! I had a fantastic job while I was in collage back then. I was making $10/hr. Understanding sarcasm is key here. I used that same Bushmaster lower receiver for every AR15 upper that I had, FOR 10 YEARS, until the ban finally went away in 2004. Needless to say, that left a scar on my 2A psyche.

    For this reason, I like to have enough flexibility to be able to keep on with my firearm hobby if politics ever went that far south again.
    So you're saying buy a few stripped lowers just in case?
     

    TinCuda

    Sky Captain
    Apr 26, 2016
    1,558
    Texas
    So you're saying buy a few stripped lowers just in case?
    I have at least half a dozen stripped lowers in my safe that I have absolutely no plans to build out right now. All of my uppers currently have a lower of some kind attached to it. I also have specialty lowers (like with a binary trigger) that I swap around all the time.
     

    DaemonAssassin

    Why should we Free BSD?
    Jun 14, 2012
    23,991
    Political refugee in WV
    I have at least half a dozen stripped lowers in my safe that I have absolutely no plans to build out right now. All of my uppers currently have a lower of some kind attached to it. I also have specialty lowers (like with a binary trigger) that I swap around all the time.
    Them is rookie numbers, hoss. I know members on here with at least 30 to 50 stripped lowers, just sitting on the shelf. I know of others that have sportsman's trunks full of AR, AK, Glock, etc... mags of standard capacity, just to hedge against another AWB/mag limit. Each trunk can hold a minimum of 75 AR/AK mags, well over that for pistol mags. They aren't using those mags for anything. Those mags are just sitting on the shelf for a rainy day.
     

    teratos

    My hair is amazing
    MDS Supporter
    Patriot Picket
    Jan 22, 2009
    59,824
    Bel Air
    If you're shooting something rifle-sized, tossing a handgun cartridge in it makes no sense for defense. It's why people that fight with them moved away from things like the mp5 and towards small 300blk or 11.5" 5.56. Unless you're going with a pistol lower configuration and sticking with a 16" barrel, 5.56 makes way more sense for defense.

    5.56 is going fast enough that the small/light bullets tend to break up and begin shedding energy pretty rapidly after the first barrier. If you want to really limit overpenetration, you could go for varmint loads in the 50 grain range. If you want something more terminally effective that will also penetrate more through barriers, then it's tough to beat the 77gr or mid 60 gr loads in something soft point or hollowpoint.

    If you want a shorter barrel or to not worry about the HBAR stuff in md, start out with a pistol-configured or blank lower. Toss a SBA3 or SBA4 brace on it and your handgun can have pretty much any upper. If you're going shorter than 16", then 300blk makes a lot of sense because the cartridge gets more of an efficiency advantage over 5.56 the shorter the barrel becomes.

    There is more to building ARs than just slapping parts together lego-style. It's possible to get a reliable/accurate rifle from slapping parts together, provided you're using well-made components from a quality manufacturer with good quality control, but it's also possible you'll tolerance-stack your way into a bad build. For your first AR, and one that will be a defensive gun, get at least an upper that is complete. That way, if you do have any issues, you can simply send it back for warranty work.

    When you've got something like this for $300, it's a no-brainer.

    Just add a pistol lower and a red dot and you've got a good starter gun for home defense.
    Preach.
    .50 cal Beowulf? Wut
    Doesn’t everyone have a .50 Beowulf?
     

    Bafflingbs

    Gozer the Destroyer
    MDS Supporter
    Feb 16, 2013
    4,600
    Calvert County
    “Bountied” touched upon one of the biggest reasons why you should go with an AR15. One lower can host a butt-load of different uppers, in a multitude of configurations and calibers. A PCC can’t do that. I have 3 different calibers for one SBR lower. Including a 9mm. There are many more calibers to choose from; .350 legend, for one. Which will allow you to hunt with it. 300 blackout, 6.5 Grendel, .45 cal, 10mm, 50 Beowulf, etc.
     

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