My Personal Rifle
My AR-15 build was done mostly on the cheap. Basically this is my beater rifle that I use and abuse for range time, hunting, and personal defense (assuming that will ever happen) but most importantly to larp. At least, larp with what I can afford to shoot with during my range sessions. Anyways, I have a mishmash of parts as you can clearly see. I’ve experimented with different setups and found this particular one to be the most ideal for now. That’s not to say I could invest in some additional changes but as it is right now, I’m quite happy with the handling and performance.
My rifle is entirely built upon a parts kit manufactured by Palmetto State Armory. Specifically, I began with a PSA 16" Mid-Length AR 15 Phosphate Classic Rifle Kit chambered for 5.56 NATO and with a 1/7 twist rate rifling. I personally opted for the Flat Dark Earth (FDE) colors because they suited my environment colors better (and even my skin tone lmao) and it was the cheapest kit that was on sale when I got it. Mid-Length is nice compromise between a carbine length barrel / gas system (16 inches which is the legal limit for how short you can have a rifle barrel in the states) and a rifle length barrel (20 inch) / gas system. Phosphate finish isn’t high end by any means but it gets the job done. It's not rust resistant though so it has to be oiled every so often. For the lower, I just used one of PSA’s in house lowers which you can get for less than $100. You buy the lower, get it shipped to a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) which is usually just a local gun store, and get the rest of the parts shipped home. Apart from a few punch tools, an AR15 wrench tool, and a workbench/vice (optional but it helps a lot) and you pretty much have everything you need to put the rifle together. Even a brainlet like myself was able to put my basic rifle together in about 40-60 minutes. My end result was a rifle that could use some improvements to balance and ergonomics. Which leads me to some of the upgrades I made over the years.
Optics and Sights
I have a Magpul deploy-able rear sight (Gen 1 I think) which works just fine for me. It’s polymer but otherwise seems pretty durable. It was a little stiff to get on my receiver's picatinny rail but now that it’s in place I no longer have to worry about it anymore. Lines up quite nicely with my A2 front sight post.
I used to have the classic A2 carry handle (a rather a low quality pot metal surplus one I might add) that I used for my rear sight because I liked the classic “M-16” look personally but the screw mounting system would come loose after firing a couple of mags and that got really annoying. Plus it added a lot of unnecessary weight to my rifle. I still have that sight though. Might use it for another build and will probably use loctite to keep it from falling out again.
My optic of choice is the Sig Sauer Romeo 7 red dot. It’s a full size optic with 1x magnification and has a 2 MOA (Minute of Angle) red dot size which makes it pretty visible to my poor eyesight. While it’s one of the larger budget red dot sights (and kind of heavy too), it’s a very rugged optic especially for the price. Not to mention it takes AA batteries which is better in my situation because I’m flooded with AA batteries and buying more is stupid easy and cheap. The mounting system is also real convient too. I can easily add and remove the optic if I want to save some weight and use iron sights.
The Magpul MOE SL was the next upgrade I made for my rifle after getting my optics and sights taken care of. Initially, I had a quality control issue with my stock but once I got that taken care of, this is definitely a superior stock compared to the standard M4 waffle stock my rifle originally came with. The classic M4 stock is notorious for having some really bad wobble (honestly this doesn’t really affect your accuracy or anything but it is irritating). Some people get around this wobble by adding some tape to their buffer tube to keep the stock from wobbling. The reason I ended up switching the stock however is because my rifle’s balance was too front heavy (being that it was a mid-length and all) so I needed a slightly heavier stock to balance out the weight. The MOE SL stock also has a larger check rest like some of the SOPMOD stocks many AR-15 owners seem to deploy on their builds but it’s nowhere near as pronounced as those. Unlike the M4 waffle stock, it’s doesn’t have any wobble since it locks up nicely to whatever position you decide to move it. Overall, it's a real comfy stock to shoulder. I also placed a quick detachment (QD) mount on the stock to use my sling on it. More on that later.
The rifle is almost perfect but there were a few things I wanted to add. I was not happy with how wide the classic front handguard was and searched for an alternative. I eventually settled with a BCM PKMR handguard as it was thinner than some of Magpul’s offerings and was cheaper too. Especially since it is using an older system of mounting accessories known as Keymod. Not that there’s anything wrong with Keymod but it seems like the standard in the military, police, and civilian world tends to be MLOK system. On the plus side, Keymod accessories tend to be a lot cheaper than their MLOK counterparts. I wasn’t planning on adding additional accessories other than some picatinny rails for my flashlight which I will also get to real soon. A word of warning though. Removing a handguard on a front sight post AR-15 is pretty tough, even with a handguard removal tool. You have to pull back on the delta ring and separate your top and bottom handguard first. Then place the top section of the PKMR handguard head first into your triangle end cap, pull the delta ring again, and press that handguard down until it’s locked in place. Then get the bottom part of the handguard and place it in head first as you did with the top handguard piece and really pull on that delta ring before snapping the bottom piece into place. It won’t be easy and I would suggest going for a free float barrel AR from the very beginning if you want to avoid all this trouble but the end results in my opinion is well worth it because it looks really cool. Like a mix of classic and modern. It’s also really lightweight and thin and pretty much balances out my rifle so that it’s not so front heavy anymore. Fun fact, the BCM PKMR handguards used to be exclusive only to the Springfield Saint line of AR15s but were released to the public right after.
As you can probably tell, I have yet to change my pistol grip on my rifle. I don’t really see a need to make any upgrades to the pistol grip. It’s fine the way it is and fits comfortably in my hands. The textured serrations on the pistol grip keep my hand from slipping too. I could change it later in the near future though it’s not a priority
There’s this no-name brand buffer tube sling mount that I added to hang some kind of charm though I don’t know what I would even put on it to be honest. It also functions as an alternative sling mount at least. Speaking of which, my sling is a cheap Ten Point Gear Paracord sling with HK clips. It’s cheap, simple and works. The paracord provides some shoulder support but it’s not that comfortable if I had to be honest.
I mounted a Streamlight 88066 Pro Tac since I heard it’s pretty solid for a tactical flashlight. It’s also not very expensive either and comes with additional accessories including a pressure switch which you can use to turn on the flashlight. I kept things simple and used the push button for my build. It has different light modes including a strobe which could come in handy for self defense situations. It’s also IPX7 water proof so it’s safe for use in the field too. It’s generally recommended that you don’t cheap out on your flashlight but Streamlight is one of the better budget options out there. Surefire, Olight, and Streamlight all seem to be pretty good budget options from what I heard.
I use a mix of aluminum surplus metal mags and polymer mags. Magpul PMAGs (Gen2) seem to work just fine and are cheap enough where you can stock up on a bunch of them without breaking your bank. I however have a preference for Lancer Systems L5AWM magazines. They are kind of a hybrid between polymer and metal magazines so they are more robust than something like the Magpul PMAGs. They are a tad more expensive than PMAGs though not by much and they come in a bunch of colors including some fun hues like reds, tan, purple, and translucent. Regardless, I haven’t had any issues with my 30 round magazines; metal or polymer. I also have a 20 round polymer magazine for bench accuracy shooting and a 10 round magazine for hunting.
Potential Future Upgrades
The buffer is probably the next step to improving the performance of my rifle. One common thing especially with budget rifles is that they tend to be over-gassed and thus have a harsher recoil they warrant having for .223/5.56 NATO. You could buy an adjustable gas block and have it installed in your barrel assembly though it’s much cheaper to just switch out your carbine buffer for something a little heavier. There are various buffer weights you can use so you can experiment with different weights to see which ones would soften your rifle’s recoil without interfering with the cycling of new rounds when firing. As mentioned before, the pistol grip could be changed out later on but it’s not a priority right now. I am looking towards getting a high quality bolt carrier group. Generally, it’s a good idea to have a back up bolt carrier group anyways since they do tend to wear out over long extended usage. The charging handle is….well….it works but there are better options out there that are less cheap feeling and don’t look as cheap. Those alternatives can be rather expensive though I think PSA makes their own enhanced charging handle for a reasonable price. I could also change the flash hider to a compensator though I still need to do more research on that before checking out some potential options. For my trigger group, I’m still rocking a mil-spec trigger and while it can feel a little gritty at times, I have no issues with it. Swapping it out for a better trigger could be something I might do later down the line but just as with my pistol grip, I’m fine with what I have right now. Last but not least, there’s always the potential to upgrade to an entirely new upper. More specifically, something that’s higher quality than PSA’s budget upper. That’s just an idea though and not something I plan to do anytime soon. At the end of the day, my AR-15 works just as I wanted it to and that’s all I can ask for right now.
Update April 2022: New Buffer Weight and Crappy Paintjob
So I made a minor change to my rifle but it made a huge difference in terms of case ejection and more importantly, recoil reduction. I replaced the stock carbine buffer in the buffer tube (3.0 oz) to a H2 buffer (4.5 oz). The benefit of having a heavier buffer allows an over gassed rifle to ease up on the internals whenever a round is fired and thus, reduces the amount of recoil felt by the user. This change was so significant, when I was testing this rifle, I didn’t see my rifle bouncing around whenever I would make quick follow up shots. The buffer weight I purchased was from Palmetto State Armory (since my rifle is from the same manufacture) but you can go with another brand too. They can be more expensive though they basically kind of do the same thing. The PSA H2 buffer was only $20 so it’s a highly recommended upgrade if you feel like your rifle is over gassed. One way you can tell if your rifle is over gassed is by checking the ejection angle of your cases. Try to image an overhead view while you shoot and visualize a analogue clock with you in the center. If you see your cases being ejected somewhere between 1 to 3 o’clock position, you are over gassed. That’s how my ejection pattern was with the standard carbine buffer. With the H2 buffer, my cases were being ejected around the 3 to 4 o’clock position which is considered the ideal angle for case ejection. Anything more than that and your buffer might either be too heavy or your rifle is under gassed which is honestly a more severe problem than an over gassed rifle. Ammo grain weights also have a play along with the the type of ammo you are using (.223/5.56). I was doing my testing with .223 ammo I had in surplus and it functioned just fine. If can feed .223 reliably, it shouldn’t have issues with 5.56.
I’m pretty happy with the rifle as it is right now. Maybe the last couple of parts I should look into is a backup bolt carrier group in case the stock bolt carrier group wears out. Maybe I can look into a new barrel if I start to notice a lost of performance in my phosphate barrel. My rifle lower seems to be holding up just fine. Maybe I could add some lock tight to my pistol grip because I noticed my pistol grip screw was coming loose so I had to tighten it a little to keep the pistol grip from wobbling. Other than that, everything is holding up just fine.
In fact, I am so satisfied with my rifle, I did something I would normally have hesitations with some of my other guns. I painted my rifle as you can see down below. Now it’s been said that painting your rifle (I just used matte spray paint because I’m cheap) can ruin the resell value of your rifle. Well guess what? I’m not getting rid of my AR. It’s mine. So I painted it to suit the environment where I normally shoot. A little bit of tan, black, and olive drab green and by using a layer spray technique followed by applying tri-colors with a sponge, I was able to accomplish the pattern you see bellow. It’s not super professional but it’s unique and it’s my own design and style. It’s personal. And when the paint starts to wear, it’s going to look super legit and operator larper etc etc. Crappy, but effective. The paint didn’t interfere with the operation of the rifle and the gritty feel did go away after a few days. Same with the paint smell. Speaking of which, these matte paints do dry pretty fast but you will have to be patient with the gritty/sticky feel so it’s probably a good idea to go out and shoot your rifle after letting it dry (usually the day after you paint it). I even painted my Chicom chest rig to match my rifle though that one took longer to dry since it was canvas.
Update Late Fall 2022: What would Jon Sumisu Do?
So it's been a long while since I made any updates to my firearms pages mainly due to the intolerable weather and health problems but now that things are cooling down and the only thing I got at the moment is a minor gag reflex, I can start talking about my latest modifications (or rather simplifications). For starters, I am now rocking a new lower as a result of a failed 3D printed AR 15 lower I had parts from that I didn't want to have lying around dong nothing. I picked up a KP15 lower for a very reasonable price right under $100 with FFL transfer fees and all and I must say I've been impressed by the aesthetics and lightweight properties of having a monopoly lower AR15. I love how handy and lightweight the rifle is even with my standard upper. Especially with the carry handle I picked up (just some cheap knock off carry handle sight which is...okay but not as good as the Colt or FN model but it is cheap and functional) really suits the retro/futuristic look of this rifle. So I decieded to do away with some attachments which I was going to use for my other guns anyways. That means, no more flashlight (for now) or optics. This is a rifle in the most simplist form. I can't stress enough how handy it is to have such a simple and light rifle. I can take shots from the bench, and then right afterwards, sling the rifle over my shoulder or use the carry sight as a handle as I walk to my target to inspect my hits. I redone the paint job with a forest type colors for the fall and winter season and it suits the rifle's aesthetics quite well. I can carry extra mags and tools in some chicom chest rigs and it's probably as light as I can get without sacrificing pratically.
The one downside to this lower is that the take down pins are not captive. You simply push them out and they come out from the lower reciever. The one captive pin on the rear in particular is very stiff with my upper and I hope it's something that wears down over time and becomes easier to remove as I have to constantly use a light hammer and pin to remove that captive pin. Another thing that may or may not be a con is the fact that you are pretty much stuck with an A1 length stock by default. Personally I love the length of pull of the A1 and it just works regardless if I am wearing heavy or light clothing depending on the weather.
Just as before, I am using Lancer, Magpul, and various metal mags and they all seem to work fine with this lower. I'm using the same sling as before with an additonal qd sling mount adapter for the monopoly stock. I am using a H2 buffer as my upper is slightly overgassed and I might want to do some experiments with an H3 buffer if I ever get one to decrease recoil without sacrificing reliability. I am planning on experimenting with mounting optics on the carry handle sight but that's going to take some time and money to do and frankly, I get decent accuracy (about 3-2 MOA) with the shitty iron sights so I don't need any red dots or optics for the time being. Most of them are on my other more complex larper guns anyways with the exception of the AK.
So in the end, I rejected modernity (sort of) and returned to tradition (sort of).Return to Catalog