POTD: William’s First AR-15

William sent us a photo of the first AR-15 he has owned. It’s his primary livestock defense rifle. He wrote …

Not all of us can afford $1,000 plus guns. So, we find quality where we can / can afford at that time. Or, we build it from parts that we can afford to buy at that time 🙂

Here where I live, my guns are not toys. They are tools and I do have to use them. I have to shoot lambs we raise for meat and hides, deer I hunt for meat, and, sadly, occasionally shoot one of our horses when they become too old to stand up anymore. This is very sad because our horses are our friends. I won’t let them suffer though. I also have to protect our sheep from wolves and mountain lions.

We live out in the mountains of Idaho. Not in a city. Self defense is a secondary reason for us to own a gun. It is not the primary reason we have them. We need them, so we have them. That is why the original settlers who came out here had them also.

I don’t have any particular favorite gun. My favorite pistol is my .45, my current favorite hunting rifle is my 1950’s Lee Enfield .303 with it’s original iron sights. My favorite saddle rifle is my Marlin 30/30 (of course it’s my favorite – it’s the only saddle rifle I own). My AR is now my favorite livestock defense. It has the 600 lumen light because most of the time it is only ever needed on the darkest of nights.

I built my AR because I needed that light on it for the pitch black nights. I went out at 2 AM about 2 years ago in the late fall because our dogs wanted to go out to pee. I was just about to go to bed but the dogs sounded off big time. Our sheep were in the small pasture close to our house. I knew something was wrong so I turned the light on over the door, a 60 watt bulb, and took my .45 – not ideal. Some critter was right outside the fence where our sheep were – I can only guess it was a coyote. I didn’t have any light at all except that 60 watt bulb 300 feet from our sheep in that small pasture. I saw a shadow of what was agitating the sheep and our dogs so I put a round from my .45 into the ground very close to it. I didn’t have a clear sight picture so I had to go the route of scaring whatever it was off. So, I built an AR carbine with a very powerful light on it. The next time such a thing happens on our small bit of land, I will light up the target so bright that a 5 year old with a .22 couldn’t miss at 50 yards.

Guns are simply tools, you use the right tool for the right job. You don’t use a phillips head screwdriver on a flathead screw. It’s the same with guns. People who live in cities don’t always understand this.

The first is the AR I finally was able to Finish after 1½ years of building it and saving to afford the parts. It’s a mishmash from many different companies and built on a Mag Tactical Systems lower receiver with a 16″ 1:8 twist barrel. Couldn’t afford a lot and the final price came in at $506.62 without the red dot sight. The flip up sights are A.R.M.S sights. It is still possible to build a $500 quality AR 15.

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  • Gabe

    Love the story, often people forget there are many more uses for firearms than what is portrayed in the media. I am reminded of my grandfather, staunch supported of the 2nd amendment. Only recently did I learn that he only ever owned 2 guns, a pump shotgun for bringing home game and a .22 handgun for fun and possums. My father was a collector, so growing up I thought that’s how it is with all gun owners, I was incredibly wrong.

    I love stories like this, as a collector myself I am humbled buy those who HAVE to have them for duty, work and life in general. Hats off to you, keep those sheep safe.

  • Andrew

    Polymer sight on a gas block lol

    • Payton

      If you only shoot 2-3 rounds at a time who cares? He’s not using it as a battle rifle, its a ranch rifle.

      • Emir Parkreiner

        The owner of this rifle would care when his front sight is reduced to a puddle. Given the level of detail the owner went into while explaining the price of this build, it’s fairly safe to assume he would prefer not having to buy another front sight. Rather than limiting himself to 2-3 round intervals (assuming the front sight can withstand that), he could simply mount the sight on the top of forearm rather than the gas block.

        • dan

          How many rounds do you think he needs to fire? Last time I checked coyotes don’t hang around long enough to warrant anymore than a couple shots.

          • dan citizen

            I think the rounds fired to melt the sight would cost a bit themselves…

            I was giving a customer a hard time about an epoxied rear sight on an SKS, then the rancher pointed out it had been there 3 years, truck guns are like constant product testing.

        • valorius

          He will probably never fire more than 1 or 2 shots at a time from it.

        • RaunchyDawg

          Lrn2 physics

      • Tierlieb

        I agree. Even more so, people seem to have a rather weird idea what it takes to make polymer sights melt. Yes, they do melt on piston guns if you do a few mag dumps quickly. The extreme case is my 10″ Sig 516, where the short barrel and the bigger gas port amplify the problem – I saw plastic parts melting there.

        DI is less of a problem in itself, a smaller gas port (due to a longer barrel) and shooting a lot less make this effectively a non-issue.

        What is shown may not be a good setup for a carbine course with a high round count. But for the given purpose, it does not matter at all.

        Still, the backup sights are actually used as backups, so moving them back and losing some sight range would not be a big thing.

    • Thracian Beast


      • sianmink

        Is that for a H&K 416?

        • Thracian Beast

          Yes don’t drop it on any “hard surface”

        • valorius

          Lol … Gotta love the inside jokes.

      • Thracian Beast

        William’s 1st AR should look like this. Teach him how to use IRON SIGHTS 1st!! Before you put BUIS backwards and a pos mmm I know you meant well. But I can shoot drunk off my ass better , with REAL IRONS Than the sponge BOB set up you have here. (not condoning drunken marksmanship)

        Sorry to be harsh but. THIS IS THE INTERNET my fine Sir.

        • Thracian Beast

          COLT 6520

          • Thracian Beast

            HAHAHA not BA BARACUS

          • Zachary marrs

            My ar is set up like Williams, exept I splurged on an eotech, though I just have some magpul furniture, ive taken a couple of hogs already. The scope comes in handy for low light hits on moving hogs, though I will use irons during the day

        • DiverEngrSL17K

          Perfectly understandable and a very good point, but please read my reply to Andrew above. I am sure that William is simply trying his best on a very tight budget and limited experience to do what he can for his farm and his livelihood, so some constructive commentary, rather than harsh criticism — however well-meant — would probably go a very long way in helping him get things right without making him feel like a fool. Not everyone is as well-versed as you or some others are in the different aspects of modern firearms and accessories.

          I will add that this might be the Internet, with all it’s wonderfully half-baked expectations of severe on-line commentary, mockery and trolling, but that is absolutely no excuse for a lack of civility, common courtesy or simple understanding and acceptance of another’s viewpoint. Please note that this is not a criticism of you or anyone else in particular, but a general observation of what things have sadly become.

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      You are absolutely correct about this issue. However, if one of the purposes of this web site is to share knowledge and experience, I am sure William will take it in good stride as a lesson learned. It is up to the rest of us, who may be fortunate enough to have the benefit of prior experience coupled with more financial flexibility, to help provide positive and useful advice instead of mere criticism.This is his first AR build, and he is to be commended for trying quite successfully to stay within a very limited budget while still fulfilling his immediate needs.

    • valorius

      For his application its fine.

  • Zachary marrs

    Nice, mines been doing pretty much the same thing, its replaced my m1.

  • JakeN

    I have the same sights. By the way, the front sight is on backwards.

    • YeeH

      So is the rear

    • Payton

      I keep one of my rifles set this way as well. They work this way, and the front folding backwards keeps it from hanging on brush/vines. The rear installed this way gives you a slightly longer sight radius.

    • wetcorps

      lot of people seem to put those on wrong and don’t notice it. So is there really a difference?

  • USMC03Vet

    Should have went with an AK and some duct tape.

    • Guest

      A lot of people seem to put these on wrong. Is there really a difference?

      • Zachary marrs

        If it gets the rounds on target, why the hell not?

      • dan citizen

        If you mount them reversed, the bullets come out of the buffer tube.

    • dan citizen

      sadly the days of cheap AKs seem gone (I could be wrong)

      An AK build can be plenty cheap, but it is definitely a trickier process.

  • Wurds r haard

    “William sent us a photo of the first AR-15 be has owned. It is a his primary livestock defense rifle.”

    I can’t stand it!!!!! PLEASE PROOFREAD. Not one, but two hiccups in the first line? Come on TFB, I want this place to represent us, not make us look like illiterate backwoods imbeciles that the antis portray us to be.

    • dan citizen

      My sister/wife/cousin agrees!
      I was so upset I stomped around the mobile home until it slipped off it’s pallets…
      So’s I went outside, sat on the hood of one of the broken cars in my front yard…
      I cracked open a breakfast natty-light and had a deep talk about proofreading with my pitbulls, Duke, Kenny, and Dale Jr…
      Soon enough my sister/wife/cousin woke up and came out front with our 5 youngest kids, Lilly-mae, Kendra-joe, Duke, Kenny, and Dale Jr….

      We all agreed that proofreading is under rated, and we all took an oath that the first of our family to get passed the 4th grade would become a proofreader.

      If it wasn’t for spell checker my typing would look like a dyslexic cow experiencing a seizure wrote it, so I can’t complain.

      • iksnilol

        All that matters is that you get your grade 10.

        • dan citizen

          Your confidence in me is an inspiration, I feel that I can not only make it through the rest of the 3rd grade, but also grades 4, 6, W, and 10!

          I may just go further, get a law degree, be one of them fancy public defenders, drive a car with doors that are the same color! Move into a real nice double wide trailer and get an above ground pool.

          Next time CPS let’s me see my other children they will be so excited.

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        :):):):)! Thanks, Dan, the long laugh did me a lot of good. FYI, I do have some pretty “folksy” ( to use an over-wrought term ) redneck friends, and they got a good-natured laugh out of it too!

      • LOL—now that was good!

      • n0truscotsman

        Can we please be friends? 😉

      • VaMtns

        I’m in the trailer next door keep that passell o’ dogs n younguns quiet out yonder

  • YoungGun

    Thanks for sharing your build and your story. Impressive value too, talk about bang for your buck! Hope it gives you many years of security, and maybe some fun shooting too.

  • OrionQuach

    I ate PB&J every meal, everyday, two weeks a month, my freshman year to save money for my Spike’s rifle and accessories. You just have to stay dedicated and you can have a nicely built rifle with “above” average stuff I like to think.

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      Very good point, and a testimony to your dedication. However, when one is trying to maintain a small farm or ranch as a viable ( read : living ) business concern against a plethora of potentially negative environmental, political and market factors while trying to pay for expenses and feed the family at the same time, it’s a lot harder than one might imagine. As far as I can tell from the limited amount of available information, William appears to be struggling each and every day to keep things going as the true small American ( or any other ) farmer / rancher we claim to admire so much in our present-day folklore, yet we also conveniently dismiss that same entity in practice every time we shop at a supermarket that typically gets its products from huge industrial agricultural concerns that are literally consuming and destroying the small farmer / rancher.

    • Jow Blow

      DiverEngrSL17K beat to the reply since I fell asleep before I finished the comment and posted.

      It seems to appear that you forget that in some rural areas ( dense inner urban areas too) that the better paying jobs are often just slightly more than minimum wage, and you’re lucky to get a quarter raise per hour(which is less after Uncle Sam takes his increased tax from you). With the real amount of take home pay, that lowly amount alone is saying you need hundred hours of work for that luxuary money needed that can be spared on saving for projects. After every living/survival house hold/farm experiences are ducted from that take home pay. Which even applies if his income is higher. Since it bought piece meal individual shipping you wind up paying more in hidden poor tax. Even if the gun pays for itself by saving the first or 2nd sheep, it still costs to get the gun. The money saved isn’t just magically in your bank account.

      Everyone has the right to AR (and all the other firearms) and we should not have the elitist aristocratic blue blood attitude about it. The attitude of you just need to____, and you can have it , yet within the exact same breath telling them they should have bought one and or bought the parts when the market goes insane. despite they saved and didn’t go into debt and were paying interest on credit cards but being smart with money when you are on tight budgets gets you shit about you spend everything because you never have to worry emergencies wiping out your entire savings. While often the people who most need firearms can not afford even the basic cheap models and assemblies you mock. Not everyone in a lower income area is hood rat.

      Everyone would love to have the best, not everyone can spare or justify the money to buy the best. They would love to just have to deal with an upset spouse as the worst outcome….Those people should be thanking what ever deity they believe in for their good fortune. Nor may the person starting out and/or trying to learn, which building a rifle is big step(even putting in your first LPK is one), remember back then how confusing and unsure you were and the sense of accomplishment? Bet most experience Ar owners could just about do it blind folded except for making sure the pins were right and the trigger guard ear is supported. So the new builder/owner has to weed through volumes of different opinions all over the internet. Some with no clear winner but rehashed over and over to different results each time. The new gear designs FAQ’s seldom stay current for long. All from people who appear experts to the uninformed Noob and worst the injokes posts about “do this” showing up over and over again can cause people to misjudge that as correct advice due to the number of endorsements. Their is no Snopes for gun forums advice….

      SOOOOooo love how our hobby is predatory on new people, it shows volumes worth of information on the character of a lot of our people. Malfunctioning guns unloaded on someone who doesn’t know as much as you, getting burned should never be part the learning experience especially from veteran firearm owners. But unloading problem equipment is the American way aka the capitalistic way of buyer beware….aka “I won’t f**k you, if can can catch before I do”. Trust , honor all seem to have taken the back seat. So much for what people learned from scouting and their grandparents.

      Then comes the even harder part of starting out…
      Even knowing what is the best, better, or good enough level is. Let alone brands to stay away from and certain bad vendors, old posts sat they were GTG but now are bad news. Add another landmine in the field for the poor starting out person who doesn’t have the parts kit or closet full of gear to swapp out or fill in until they can get something better.

      People don’t have days to spend reading years of internet forums. Lets start off with a few basics for the uninitiated. Which the best BCG? The best barrel? The best LPK? Best Caliber and what is all this .223, 5.56, .223 wylde crap? How much does the best forward hand guard rail system matter when they don’t to attack a bunch or gear?(IE a flashlight, sights[I’m for the standard gas block and fixed front site combo] , maybe a red dot and/or Vertical hand grip) . A bayonet means you can poke the object or shot animal of interest without risking shit in your muzzle and gives you a few inches of extra safety. With a emergency stab spear style defense…So no uses bayonets but they serve a purpose. especially if alone.

      Do you or anyone else think he or anyone else out there wouldn’t want a high quality, high end weapon system with gen 3 night optics, thermal optics, and a suppressor? When poor(you can have higher income and still be cash poor and many people living in “rich” neighborhoods are on government aid and they shouldn’t have to sell everything they own and loose it all, while using the very system they paid into for protection, while they are recovering from a hard hit. many people people are in the system for only a short time. Side digress, this system is the lowest in fraud and how people are treated raises the suicide rate but that digresses….. That a rifle is the cost of car, the cost of major dental or other bills…. So do the whole walk a mile in their shoes. Most corporate people would be done physically before even half a day of country living chores are done.

      I got told it was my fault that I had to pay so much for the ak during the assault ban that I should have bought one when they were cheap, I couldn’t legally and grew up in anti-gun household. I saw several dream firearms go beyond my reach for ownership. Post bad they are still more than I can afford. So not everyone was able to buy with a buy them cheap and stock it deep because of laws and their age with their available left over income making it impossible but to save for most of the year. Ever watched a dealer snear at person proudly buying the firearm they saved for, when that someone is paying with low denomination bills and rolls of quarters they had saved up? Isn’t that what america is about. Working hard saving and buying what you can afford… Ironically the dealer probably got real silver coins worth more than their face value…

      Then comes the worse combination of a job that pays low and is only partly available for the year because of tourist season. He mentions using hunting food and many people who do that may have to make ends meet. That why I argue if anyone is on government aide for food that their EBT card(Since it is not technically “food stamps” anymore) should double as a fishing and hunter’s license. Digging up worms are free and ether the person or their kids could try to catch fish to help make the amount of food more plentiful. Given you won’t have Bass all the time but plenty of other fish are in season year round. To bad Coyote doesn’t make better meat for eating.

      To put the wage issue in context, I have a friend who by training and with an impressive resume as a High Quality Head Gourmet Chef (also being the restaurant manger because it wasn’t getting done and he needed it, so he was trapped into doing the work to make his job and kitchen run better, which is wrong but I digress…, trained in New Orleans who ran an entire Resort Restaurant up in the mountains, (which also includes the food for special events like parties, weddings, corporate retreats and so forth on top of full lunch and dinner services) at the country club and catering. Minimum wage was in the $5 range and was was making about $7-8 bucks. While fully managing the kitchen, keeping costs in line portions, food delivers, rotating specials and boosting business. he came down out of the mountains he loved and got a jerk off joke job. A Job that was way beneath his skill set and insulting paid about double the high end resort. So he ended up with triple the income with less than 2.5 or so hours away in the same state. doing less quality fo work but he was able to gain ground and wasn’t laid off every year for the end of the season.

      He came down from the mountains and worked in the city at strip club started making $12 an hour dumping wings in fryer where he had to fight to get second one so he could make the company more profits. Had to quit and was rehire with requested improvements with the wage even higher, appears the discount minimum wage person wasn’t able to do the job fully and properly. Now he is able to buy more personal items than what was necessary supplies only. Yet he was the type people blame who put in 40+ hours a week. So He couldn’t live cheaper to save or appropriate his money.Cooks are tasting food all day so the never really eat on their own. He bought a gun as he could and when I brought cases of ammo to shoot he was very thankful for sharing it and even more so when I left it. With the if its here the next time,we shoot it, if not put it to good use.

      In the panic times we have all had to think about ammo and the cost oer shoot and replacement, poor us. We feel to grasp there are people living and working full time who in times of plenty with cheap prices are still functioning under those situations. If you say owning a gun is right, then they should be able to own said firearms equally right? So that profit is sometime not in the best interest. not all ruraol people or farmers/ranchers money strapped but they are feeling the pressure and fewer kids want to fallow in the steps….

      So to William great Job, don’t let the delusional detached from how other people live, the “Holier than thou” jerks get you down. Good Job on the build and I’m sure you’ll upgrade parts over time. The worst part is when EBR disease hits (EBR=Evil Black rifle ). then you start to build a second one to fill in gap whether its for short range or longer range. It is shame for people in your situation that Night Vison and thermal is not more affordable because you truly do need it to help protect your live stock.Here’s hoping you nail the predator(s) that is stalking your livelihood.

      To others just because it is the internet doesn’t mean you can be bully and a troll. If you want to act like that there are plenty of forums and even the trolls home on 4 chan has weapons sections where you can fling as much abuse and discouragement as you want. Long before you were able to get online, the internet was a lot better place. one where we tried to fill it with knowledge and truth. Then came AOL and the “Endless September” Rec.guns was perhaps a great example of how firearm enthusiasts could be helpful and behave online. If you want a punching bag may I suggest you go hang out side your local prisons waiting for the horrid criminals to be released….

  • David Johnson

    A true American story.

  • Tyson chandler

    Some of these comments are a little too critical. Every one is not in a position to go out and get a 6920. This is a good build that suits it’s intended purpose. We should appreciate William’s effort.

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      Very well said, Tyson — I think many of the criticisms were really well-meant, but they could have been couched in more positive and constructive terms conducive to sharing and learning.

  • dan citizen

    Nice article. I think it really represents how the AR makes a solid rural working rifle.

    When I first began using rifles it was all about .308, 30 06, 8mm mauser… I thought 5.56 was a varmint gun and I didn’t hunt varmints. I argued with my friends and coworkers endlessly. We would go hog hunting, me with a beat up SKS, they with AR’s. It didn’t take long to recognize that the .223 performed really well on hogs, and that the ARs make nice all around working rifles.

    I have built some heinous ARs, a couple entirely composed of rejected and/or damaged parts from customer builds and repairs. They still worked fine…

    * Receiver with a chunk of magwell missing and the grab handle broken off? Sawed off the handle, picatinny’d that mess and tossed a wally world red dot on their.
    * Broken forend? that’s what leftover fiberglass bedding compound is good for.
    * Barrel with cross thread flash hider? Chop it off at 17″ and re-crown, who am I hiding flash from?

    Rat rod AR’s are great fun.

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      How did your SKS do on those hunts? In my own experience, the SKS and it’s 7.62mm x 39 round does exceptionally well for this sort of use, including quickly ( and mercifully ) putting down the largest and toughest boars with really thick hides with a single, properly-placed shot.

  • big daddy

    I noticed that in reality it’s easier to flip the rear sight up and down with your thumb if it’s mounted backward. The Magpul sights I have are spring loaded but the PSA aluminum ones are not and very slow to operate, I still have them on correctly though. I would not put plastic sights on a gas block, they can get very hot quickly and I do not know if that can affect your zero. It’s a tool for him and I’m sure it works fine the way it is for what his needs are. I’m kind of a perfectionist so my guns are set up correctly. But I’ll wager this guy is a much better shot than I am.

  • Lance

    They are a ball William once you start with ARs you will never stop!!!!

  • Some of these comments are very over critical. We all share the same hobby and in Williams case a real need. He’s willing to share his first AR with us and I’m sure he’s rather proud of it as he should be. There are many levels of knowledge among shooters and those who would criticize an individual who’s doing his best with his no doubt hard earned money deserves better. Constructive comments are welcomed. Overly critical comments that show little civility towards a fellow shooter aren’t welcome. Yes it’s the Internet but that doesn’t mean we use that as an excuse to make inappropriate comments. I’d like to believe our readers are better than the average Internet visitor.

    • DiverEngrSL17K


  • Mark N.

    I bought an 80% lower for “political” reasons, and then decided I might as well build a rifle. I set out to build one for $500. I missed by $100 (or so), but I got the melonite 18″ HBar with a Wylde chamber I wanted, a mpi tested BCG, a better trigger (but not the high end $185 trigger I’d like to have) and Hogue free floated forend. It’ll do, and the experience of putting it together was a lot of fun.

  • nick

    Here’s an even better AR15 http://teespring.com/AnatomyofFreedom