Since the ATF’s recent decision on AR “pistol braces,” many shooters are looking at reconfiguring their AR pistols, which are perfect D.I.Y. projects. The AR is a modular design and once you understand its operation, you’ll see it’s a simple platform, one of its major attractions. Like any other firearm, if you’re planning some modifications, you’ll need to know the “how” and acquire the necessary tools.
There’s a world of info on ‘smithing the AR platform, both on the ‘net and in hardcopy. Being an old guy, I prefer hardcopies. I use the computer as little as possible, and like to highlight, underline and turn down pages.
For the fundamentals, and to achieve a quality build, I like Walt Kuleck and Clint McKee’s “The AR-15 Complete Assembly Guide.” In addition to covering parts, tools and techniques in a step-by-step fashion there are loads of small details. For example, using the proper size drill – “bit” – to ensure all holes for detents and springs are properly sized. It’s often these little things that make a big difference in your results.
Glen Zediker, an accomplished shooter – a High Master NRA shooter, and one of the top AR experts in the world, has several volumes devoted to building your ultimate AR. His book, “the Competitive AR15 Builders Guide” sees constant use in my shop. Zediker covers a variety of subjects including sections on aftermarket triggers, ammunition selection, tips to keep your AR magazines in tip-top shape and about any modification you might be considering.
I’m also a fan of Patrick Sweeney’s books on building and maintaining the AR. After years of working as a top-tier gunsmith he shifted over to writing, sharing his knowledge with others. He has several books on ARs, and you’ll find a world of wealth of information to help on your AR journey.
Using the wrong tools on the screws, pins and other parts of a firearm is a sure path to making mistakes - or ruining a component. The same is true for the “simple” AR. For one-stop shopping I recommend Real Avid’s tools . Their Armorer’s Master Kit for ARs is available in a standard version with tools like punches, torque wrench and clamps for both upper and lower receivers. The Pro kit adds specialized wrenches for different barrel nuts, handguards, castle nuts and flash hiders, plus a bench block to hold various pieces for removal and installation of pins and such. I’m also a fan of their other tools as well.
Learning how to maintain and modify a firearm isn’t that complicated. It just takes time and practice. You’ve got to invest the time required to learn the platform, how it functions and the techniques upkeep or performing various modifications. Then, it’s a matter of practice. With a new platform I start by learning how to disassemble and reassemble the firearm, acquiring an understanding of its function.
Each time you repeat a process you’ll learn more, and become comfortable with what you’re doing. Start with small jobs before attempting major modifications. Eventually, you’ll be performing “expert” work in your shop.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy. He is the author of The Book of Two Guns, AR-15 Skills and Drills, has a regular column in American Handgunner and makes some cool knives and custom revolvers. www.shootrite.org or visit Shootrite’s Facebook page for other details.