Tools That Make the Build
It’s been 10-plus years since I’ve taken a rifle course from Clint Smith and Thunder Ranch. Hell, he was back in Texas when he paced the line, barking commands and slinging his infamous “Clintisms.” I ventured to Lakeview, Oregon to build an Aero Precision AR-15 under the tutelage of Aero Precision and the instructors at Thunder Ranch. If I could share one thing to get you through your first AR build, here it is.
Tools, Tools, Tools
This was my first venture into a full-on AR build. I'd replaced safety selectors, buttstocks, handguards, triggers and pistol grips. I'd never tackled something on this scale. This was a complicated process if it hadn't been for the folks at Aero Precision and the right tools.
I’m sure it was entertaining for everyone watching me piece together the beginning stages of the lower with no tools. Finally, Brent Brabant, Aero Precision Product Guru, came over and offered some tools and thoughts. If you know me, I’m the guy who rushes into most things without regard for instructions. This doesn’t translate well when tiny springs and detents are involved. After I launched a few in the air, it was time for the right tools. If you are getting started on a build, DO NOT FORGET THESE TOOLS. Yes, there's a bunch of tools listed. You don't have to have every single one, but it'll make your life easier if you do.
Lower Build Tools:
Wheeler Engineering AR Pivot Pin installation tool: BUY HERE
Grace USA 12oz Ballpeen Hammer (for staking castle nut): BUY HERE
Mayhew Steel Center punch 222 (for staking castle nut): BUY HERE
Geissele Reaction Block: BUY HERE
General Build Tools:
Brownells AR-15 Armorers Wrench: BUY HERE
Grace USA Delrin Tipped Brass Hammer: BUY HERE
Wheeler Engineering FAT Wrench: BUY HERE
Bondhus Ball Hex Standard Allen Wrenches Set: BUY HERE
½” Drive Torque Wrench: BUY HERE
Most of these tools you already have in your stockpile. The stripped-lower I selected was the M4E1 Lower. The lower you choose can break you mentally. Aero Precision eliminated a ton of frustration with the threaded bolt catch roll pin. This subtle feature allows for simple installation and reduces the chance to mar the finish during installation. If you want to learn more or start your build, CLICK HERE.
It took me about 2.5 hours to complete the build, which was under close supervision. Without the right tools, this job would have taken triple that time. Trust me, I understand my limitations when it comes to assembling a job like this. I have come to peace with that knowledge. The right tools and components make my life easier.
We started out the day with a pile of parts. By the end of the day, I was on the range, banging steel and preparing for the next day's Urban Rifle Class.
With any build, the first shot is the test. Aero Precision doubled down by putting us through an entire class with the rifle we just built. The 5.56mm I built destroyed the class. It ran without fail, eating any ammo I fed it. If you know Clint Smith his high-intensity, no-nonsense classes have no time for malfunctions.
We shot from 7 yards all the way out to 500 yards. We shot in the rain and practically buried our guns in the thick Oregon dust. Honestly, it was almost like the guns relished the opportunity to be tested with every shot. We burned through roughly 10,000 round of DoubleTap ammo. Every gun assembled performed impeccably.
If you are remotely thinking about either building out a rifle or even changing out parts on an AR, you owe it to yourself and your sanity to have the right tools for the job. And if you look to the folks at Aero Precision, they'll set you straight with all the parts and pieces to produce an AR that is dependable and runs like a champ. ~ KJ
Kevin Jarnagin (KJ) hails from Oklahoma but quickly established Louisiana roots after joining the Gun Talk team. KJ grew up as a big game hunter and often finds himself in a bass boat. Whether it’s making his way to British Columbia for elk or training with pistols, Jarnagin always seems to find a gun in his hands and adventure on his mind.