Budget AR Builds: Are They Worth It?

As one of the most popular semi-automatic rifles in America, the AR platform can be purchased almost anywhere, for any shooting role, and at a wide range of prices. Sometimes, however, those prices start at a base that is higher than reasonable due to external factors (usually politics) that lead hopeful buyers to consider alternatives to buying a complete, ready to fire rifle. There are several ways one can “make” their own AR that range from thousand(s of) dollar builds, to builds under $500, or even less. It is those budget builds we are going to look at here.

What can you expect?

If building a budget rifle, you can expect that certain parts may not have the same level of craftsmanship or quality as some of the higher priced builds. In general, a budget built AR will be capable of making a decent plinking or home defense rifle, but will fall short of a strong competition or full-blown survival rifle.

With that said, I will talk about the build I recently finished, as it came in under $500 when the average price of an AR-15 was $750 or more.

The Lower

Lower receiverI was going to purchase a lower receiver and put in a lower parts kit (LPK), a buffer assembly, and a buttstock. Then I found something that seemed better. A complete lower receiver with installed the parts for about the same price as putting one together myself known by the name of  New Frontier LW-15. It is a polymer lower with a polymer fire control group, which gave me some concern. The polymer lower was not too big of a deal, as many proven firearms use polymer frames or receivers. The fire control group (FCG), on the other hand, seemed as though it would wear out within a thousand rounds, so I decided to watch some torture videos which did give me a bit more confidence. There were three videos in all that covered the strength of the receiver, the durability of the FCG, and a shooting test.

Upper receiverThe Upper

Again, I was going to buy a receiver and fit the various pieces, but found a complete upper that was about the same price as building one. This was the Bear Creek Arsenal chambered in .223 Wylde, which is capable of firing .223 Remington, 5.56 NATO, and the .223 Wylde. This setup came complete with a bolt carrier group, charging handle, a flat top receiver, and a pinned A2 gas block with front sight.

This made everything very simple. The upper was shipped straight to my house and the lower was shipped to an FFL dealer. Once both were home, I was able to slap them together and I had a rifle for under $500.  I did change the handguard into a quad rail, replacing the standard A2, put on a rear iron sights, and mounted a forward grip and flashlight. So far, it seems to function quite well in dry fire runs. Within the next few weeks, I will be able to take it to the range and put real lead down range and see how well the polymer FCU holds up. Until then, here is a list of what was purchased and the costs.

  • Lower receiver- New Frontier LW-15 multi-cal $109 with shipping
  • FFL transfer- $20 to pick up my lower.
  • Upper receiver- Bear Creek Arsenal 16” in .223 Wylde $299 with shipping to my front door
  • Rear Sight- Standard A2 sight $20
  • Quad rail handguard-$20

With that all said and done, the build came in at $468. The way I figure it, if the FCG is not all it claims to be, I can change it out for $30-$40 and still have a build just under/over $500. Not too bad if you ask me, especially when you consider I didn’t have to buy any tools, saving even more on the cost of the “build.”

Click on the below images to see full size.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

  • Full weapon
    Added accessories
    Added rear sight
    Lower receiver
    Mawell and name
  • Muzzle
    Polymer FCG- Cocked
    Polymer FCG-Uncocked
    Stock handguard and gas block
    Upgraded handguard
  • Upper receiver

Seth Belt

Seth grew up in Southern Arizona before joining the U.S. Navy. While serving in the Navy, Seth was an anti-narcotics operator and an anti-submarine operator for 5 years. He was lucky enough to travel to many of the Central and South American countries, as well as visiting many South East Asian nations and islands. One of Seth’s greatest joys from his time in the Navy was teaching new Sailors firearms education and safety. After leaving the Navy in 2010, Seth returned to Arizona and had a rough time learning how to be a civilian again, often working jobs that could barely pay the bills. After going to school, Seth became an Emergency Medical Technician in the Phoenix Valley, where he now lives with his wife and son.His areas of knowledge cover military, firearms, and emergency medicine.
Seth Belt
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Seth Belt

Seth grew up in Southern Arizona before joining the U.S. Navy. While serving in the Navy, Seth was an anti-narcotics operator and an anti-submarine operator for 5 years. He was lucky enough to travel to many of the Central and South American countries, as well as visiting many South East Asian nations and islands. One of Seth’s greatest joys from his time in the Navy was teaching new Sailors firearms education and safety. After leaving the Navy in 2010, Seth returned to Arizona and had a rough time learning how to be a civilian again, often working jobs that could barely pay the bills. After going to school, Seth became an Emergency Medical Technician in the Phoenix Valley, where he now lives with his wife and son.His areas of knowledge cover military, firearms, and emergency medicine.
Seth Belt
2 Shares

36 thoughts on “Budget AR Builds: Are They Worth It?

  1. rugger has a 556 ar rifle with msrp of $550.00. you can buy one at gt distributors and many other places.

      1. Je suis fan de vos blogs à toutes les 2, alors voir cette vidéo qui vous réunit ça m’a fait super plaisir, en plus vous êtes trop marrantes avec vos &lesvo;&nbqp;ouar make up » et je me suis bien marrer en vous voyant vous bidonner !!! Super les filles, continuez comme ça 😉 (en plus on a le même humour, ça fait plaisir !)

  2. Interesting article. Was always in building one,but my preference is in a 308 with a 20″ barrel.
    Any recommendations.

    1. I have not done a build in .308 and don’t have much advice. They main reason I have not done a build is because there are fewer option out there for that. In particular, handguards are hard to find for an AR10. If you can find a receiver that comes with a handguard, go with that. Otherwise, finding one is somewhat difficult.

  3. Anderson 7075 lower for about $40 from AIM or Primary Arms plus the Magpul MOE LPK that can found from Palmetto State Armory and a decent milspec buffer tube set for $25 (PSA has Blackhawk buttstocks on clearance for $8).

    Not a fan of plastic lowers but to each their own, let us know how it does

    1. they have a lot of lowers that are out of stock and the out of stocks do not show the price. Do you mind telling me which one you bought for $110?

  4. So just wondering where you can snag a quad rail handguard for 20 bucks?

    All the ones I find online are upwards of 100-160 for an AR15.

        1. I got a standard 6.7″ one from ebay for like 16 bucks. EBay item number 172291317370
          It came from FL and only took 2 days to get to my door (in MD). VERY nice quality, and snapped right in. No smitthing required. Looks awesome. Aluminum of course. I also ordered an extension that goes around the A2 sight to make the rail look much longer. I like how the sight looks and where it is on the gun so the adapter was a perfect choice. If n interested it is eBay item number 262492427596

          Ebay has tons of other handguards too. All different lengths and styles and colors. They’re very reasonable too. I think I saw a 10 inch for like 30 bucks.

          Hope this helps.

  5. Getting AR 15 parts can be such an adventure, I love how customization it is. It’s such a powerful and useful gun, I really want to get a few more just so I can switch things up a bit. My husband likes them as well. Maybe I’ll get him a few new parts fr Christmas so he can try out something different.

  6. I really enjoyed the article, thank you! one minor correction if I may- .223 wylde isn’t a cartridge, but a slightly different chambering. designed for better accuracy, while still being versatile in ammo choice.

    no big deal, and I actually did not know this until I came across a good deal on a barrel and did a bit of research!

    thank you for the article, and a big THANK YOU for your service!

  7. Thank you for commenting on this article. I am glad you pointed out that technical error about the 223 Wylde only being a chamber difference and not an actual cartridge. Good catch. Thank you for reading!

  8. Very helpful for my future project so once I get it, I’m just putting the 2 piece together right?

    1. If you get a complete upper and a complete lower, all it takes is putting the two halves together with two locking pins and you are good. It’s so easy that even I can’t mess it up!

  9. Is that upper and lower legal to use together in any state? I live in Maryland unfortunately. The gun laws here are completely ridiculous. The biggie here is having a “heavy” barrel, or “HBAR”. After that you are pretty much ok.

    1. I am not sure on yourvstate laws, however, it is a basic set up. The Barr is a standard 16 in with a threaded muzzle. The lower is semi-auto with a pistol grip, removable magazine well, and a collapsing buttstock.

  10. Just did this build myself. (If you can really call it a build, lol).

    Honestly. It took me about 30 seconds to attach the upper and lower.

    I must say…. it is an AWESOME firearm. I love it, and the price was unbelievable!

      1. I’ve put about 90 rounds through it so far. Unfortunately I have limited places to shoot :/
        but, I broke in the barrel weekend before last, and this past weekend I zeroed in my sight. Only took about 30 minutes to do, then it was playtime! I put clip after clip (10 rounds each) through it just as fast as I could pull the trigger and every shot hit the rings. I will say this though, keep an eye on your trigger roll pin. The trigger pin started to go out /move…. but then again, I was being pretty harsh on it, and had put maybe a little too much lube on it. It was no huge biggie. I just pushed it back through and it was ok. All in all, for 500 bucks I am extremely satisfied with my first AR. I’ve been starting to study on how to build one from scratch and come this Christmas, I will be doing just that. I’ll probably get another BCA brown bear upper though. That thing is soooo nice!

        Hope this helps and feel free to ask any other questions.

  11. Just picked up a complete AR upper kit complete with LPK, buffer tube, stock etc for $399 from CDNN sports (everything minus the lower receiver). Found an Aero Precison stripped lower at a local gun shop for $60. $459 for a complete gun. Just have to put it together next weekend.

    1. Nice find Jay. Yea, I’ve found cheaper methods too since already having done this NFA, BCA build. I still stand by my decision to have done it. I’m currently building 6 ARs from scratch now that I am much more knowledgeable on the mechanics. Once I have a faster weapon built completely, the NFA, BCA will get passed down to my daughter who is only 6 and already has a healthy love and respect for guns.

      1. – Oh my word, I just found out about project life and I ca;n182#7&t stop thinking about it, I have 3 children under the age of 4 and sometimes it feels like I will NEVER be able to do anything and this time is passing by so fast, I want to preserve every moment of our life right now, Project life is the most amazing thing I have come across in along time!I would love to win!Tina

  12. Looking to find a quality upper for my lower Anderson. I’ve looked at troy industries, aero precision m4e1 and specops manuf. Just looking for a decent budget build

    1. As stated in the article, bearcreakarsenal.com makes a very nice upper for a nice price. I’ve also found good prices at daytonatactical.com as well as cdnnsports.com have fun with your build!

    1. 112Hello! I&17v#8;2e been following your website for some time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Porter Tx! Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic job!

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  14. You put valuable information about rifle AR 15 builds.People should carry a stun gun, tactical knife, flashlight, pepper spray and keychain alarms, is a good idea for personal defense.

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