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AR-15 Build - Our CHQ Cabin Fever Project Part 1

The various state and local government lockdowns coupled with Democrats releasing inmates from jails, and telling the police not to arrest criminals for such crimes as assault and burglary, has prompted many gun owners to stock-up on ammo and many other Americans to purchase their first firearm. However, many would be gun buyers have found popular guns, such as the AR-15, to be as scarce as toilet paper.

This temporary demand-based shortage of AR-15s has prompted many Americans to take the practical and perfectly legal (in most jurisdictions, but please check your local and state laws before starting) alternative of building their own AR-platform rifle.

Building your own AR-15 has the added benefit of helping to ward-off cabin fever and can be a family-friendly project. It doesn’t take a lot of specialized tools, although having a few helps, so we will do our build using the minimum tools and suggesting alternatives for those using a basic home toolkit.

Sort of like the beginning of the recipe for rabbit stew, “first catch a rabbit,” your first job is to find a stripped AR-15 “lower receiver” sometimes referred to simply as a lower. This is the serialized part that holds the trigger (fire control) mechanism, the pistol grip and stock. Stripped AR-15 lowers can be purchased online but require transfer through a federal firearms licensee (FFL).

Editors Note: We have no affiliation with any of the suppliers mentioned in this article and receive no benefit, freebies or compensation from any of them.

Some local gun stores will also carry stripped AR-15 lowers and Rural King, the farm supply and home goods chain, also often has them in stock. Buying one is just like buying a fully functioning rifle, so bring your ID and be prepared to do a background check.

If you can’t find one at your local gun shop, the easiest path is to order one online and have it transferred to you through a local FFL. Your local FFL will receive your lower receiver and do the background check, there will be a fee for the background check, but once you pass your local FFL will hand over your receiver and you are all set to begin your build.

There are lots of good American companies producing AR-15 lowers: Anderson Manufacturing and Palmetto State Armory are two of them we have used. Primary Arms, MAS Defense, Brownells, Midway USA and AIM Surplus are online retailers we have dealt with that usually have stripped AR-15 lowers in stock. We say usually because demand has caused some to be temporarily out of stock.

ALSO, be sure to purchase a “stripped” AR-15 lower, not an 80% AR-15 lower. An 80% lower requires a lot more work and needs to be machined with a specialized jig and drill or router bits.

When you have identified a source for your lower then decide on how you are going to acquire the rest of the parts necessary to complete your rifle. The easiest way is to order the rest of the rifle as a kit and have it shipped directly to your home. Palmetto State is justly famous for their “Freedom Rifle” kits, Stag Arms, Anderson Manufacturing, Brownell’s, Midway USA and lots of other companies sell completion kits with everything you need.

We decided to build our “COVID-19 Killer” as a long-range precision rifle, so we bought a lower from Palmetto State Armory and purchased a lower parts kit or LPK from Anderson Manufacturing. We also purchased a two-stage match trigger for it. For your first AR build this is completely unnecessary, the Anderson LPK has everything you need, as would a kit from any of the manufacturers mentioned in this article.

One final note, we chose a forged mil-spec receiver and mil-spec LPK. Mil-spec means the parts meet military specifications. This is important because non-mil-spec parts may not be interchangeable or fit together without modification. A forged receiver is also stronger than a billet or cast receiver, but you are not going to be shooting this rifle full auto, so a billet receiver will be just fine if that’s all you can find. There are even polymer receivers, we have one and it works OK, but we probably would not buy a second one as it was purchased out of curiosity and never intended for service-level use.

So, we’ve taken the first step and caught the rabbit and found an AR-15 lower and lower parts kit, here are the tools we will use to assemble our lower receiver:

Painters tape to protect the finish of your lower



Punches if you have them, otherwise we will MacGyver them

Interchangeable long shank screwdriver with hex tips

A thin piece of plastic like an old credit card or a wide thin flat blade 

A clear plastic dry cleaning bag

Gun grease available from your local gun shop or online

Next Up Part 2: AR-15 Lower Receiver Assembly Step 1

CHQ Editor George Rasley is a certified rifle and pistol instructor, a Glock ® certified pistol armorer and a veteran of over 300 political campaigns, including every Republican presidential campaign from 1976 to 2008. He served as lead advance representative for Governor Sarah Palin in 2008 and has served as a staff member, consultant or advance representative for some of America's most recognized conservative Republican political figures, including President Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. He served in policy and communications positions on the House and Senate staff, and during the George H.W. Bush administration he served on the White House staff of Vice President Dan Quayle.

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