Should You Buy a Complete Upper or Build Your Upper?

Should You Buy a Complete Upper or Build Your Upper?

Posted by STNGR USA on Nov 3rd 2022

Is a Complete AR Upper Right For You? Or Should You Build Your AR-15 Upper?

Hello! I'm Rick Barrett from STNGR USA and in this video, we're gonna be talking about whether you should build an AR Upper or buy a completed AR Upper.

So let's ask the question: should you buy all these upper components individually and then build it yourself or should you buy a completed AR Upper?

Now there are advantages to both. If you purchase all the individual parts and then put it together yourself you have a 100% customized AR Upper. If you choose to go the route of a completed AR Upper all you have to do is take the upper attach it to the lower via the two pins and you're good to go.

Building an AR-15 Upper

Choose Your Rifle Build and Stripped Upper Receiver

Let's take a look at the parts you would need to build an AR Upper and see if it's right for you.

Now the first thing you're gonna want to do is decide what kind of rifle you're going to build. Of course, you're going to have to figure out the purpose of your AR-15: sport shooting, plinking, or something as simple as varmint hunting. That's gonna go a long way in helping you figure out what components you need on your build.

Once you've narrowed that down now it's time to pick a stripped upper receiver as the foundation for the rest of your components.

There are several varieties of stripped uppers that you can use as your foundation for your AR Upper. Each one has its own set of capabilities for what you're going to be using it for and they have their own defined features.

The first one is an AR-15 A1. This upper is ideal to build a retro civilian version of the Vietnam-era M16. It also has a fixed carry handle as its defining feature.

Luth-AR Stripped A1 Slick-Side Upper Receiver. Image from Luth-AR.

The next one up is an AR-15 A2. This is a popular upper to use for building a rifle for use in shooting matches. This one also has a fixed carry handle.

Rock River Arms Forged NM A2 Upper Receiver Assembly. Image from Rock River Arms.

The third option could be an AR-15 A3 or an AR-15 flat top. Now the flat top is what it says it is, there is no carry handle. So it has a picatinny rail on top. The flat top is ideal for creating any form of varmint or target carbine rifle as it can accommodate any style of optic.

Windham Weaponry AR15 Flat-Top Upper Receiver Assembly. Image from Windham Weaponry.

Choose Your Upper Components

After you're done selecting your stripped upper receiver, you're gonna have to select parts from this following list in order to complete the build.

These are the following upper parts you're gonna have to find:

But that's not all. Once you have all these parts you're gonna have to put them together.

Tools Needed to Build an AR-15 Upper

Now it's not like putting together a model train or model car, you're going to need specific tools in order to do it. These are the following tools you're going to need in order to build your AR-15 Upper:

  • AR-15 upper receiver block
  • a vice
  • punch set
  • hammers
  • different types of torque wrenches
  • an AR-15 combo tool
  • feeder gauge
  • a headspace gauge

So obviously this seems to be a little bit more complicated than just buying the parts and throwing them together. Some people are very mechanically inclined and they enjoy doing this.

Pros and Cons of Building an AR-15 Upper

The major advantage as stated before is once you put this together, you have 100% unique AR Upper.

The disadvantages are that:

a) You're gonna have to spend the money on the parts and on the tools to build it.

b) Not all parts fit together perfectly, so there may be some modification with the dribble and trying to fit parts here and there.

c) You're gonna have to wait for each one of these parts to ship individually to your house, so you won't be able to build it all at once.

Once again, if you don't find any of these things as a major disadvantage or a major hurdle, then maybe building an AR-15 Upper is for you.

So, Is a Complete Upper Right for You?

Now on the flip side, if you were to buy a complete AR-15 Upper, you have two choices, one that comes with the bolt carrier group and a charging handle and one that doesn't, so that gives you a little bit more customization.

Either way, the major advantage is that you'll be able to get the AR-15 Upper, you'll put the pins in on the lower and you're good to go. It's a plug-and-play.

Now not all AR-15 Uppers are created equal, so that is one thing you're gonna have to do the research on. If it's very inexpensive, odds are the part quality is not going to be great and you're gonna end up replacing those things over time, which kind of negates buying it in the first place.

Final Thoughts

Either way whether you choose to build an AR-15 Upper or purchase an AR Upper, you're gonna have something that's unique for you and it's going to fit your needs.

And that's it for this episode. Coming to you from the STNGR Workshop my name is Rick Barrett. I hope you enjoyed this video and I'll talk to you again soon.