How To Build An AR-15 Upper

MAKE SURE YOU TELL US WHAT KIND OF TORTURE TESTING YOU WANT TO SEE DONE TO THE COMPLETED RIFLE!

Patrick finally gets around to building the upper receiver to go on the lower that we previously built. While Patrick builds his uppers a bit out of order, nothing is skipped and a large emphasis is placed on making sure that everything is assembled correctly.

This video isn’t intended to tell you to go buy several hundred dollars in tools, building an upper can be accomplished with far fewer and cheaper options. Since we have the professional quality tools, there is no reason to not use them.

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Transcript ….

[coming soon]




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  • Matt

    Are crush washers reusable? I have been tossing them each time I remove a brake. And I had no idea the company was pronounced guys-lee. I always thought it was gazelle, like the animal.

    • Gary Kirk

      Crush washers reusable?.. That depends.. You can’t reuse one on the rifle it came off, but due to irregularities in machining, could potentially use it on another.. Depends on if you can achieve the min-max torque, and desired clocking of the muzzle device.. Me personally, they’re cheap, I throw them out and use a new one.. Now, on rifles that have the muzzle device removed frequently, I use peel washers..

    • Patrick R. – Senior Writer

      • Lov u longtime

        Phuc Long!!!?? Is this cat a rapper or an “adult film performer”?

        • Patrick R. – Senior Writer

          That depends on what continent he is on.

        • iksnilol

          Depends on whether he’s in your radio or in your wife.

          • Slobodan Milosevic

            What does being in someone’s wife have to do with being a pawnstar? You have some bi curious cuckish fantasies it would seem. Furthermore “in your radio”. In? Do you even English bro?

          • iksnilol

            Literally nothing to do with him being a pawnstar, but a pornstar. Yeah, we can write adult words here, this ain’t kindergarten. don’t be surprised if a pornstar has carnal relations with thine spouse. I used “in” for the sake of the joke.

            Also, moderators, can y’all please ban this fascist? He literally only posts on whatever I comment just to attempt to harass me. You can easily see who he is because he uses some “serb hero” theme in his nicknames.

          • Slobodan Milosevic

            Yes, call for a ban of people who frequently disagree with you, yet I am the fascist. Pawnstar is a joke about a tv show being the way southerners would hypothetically say “pornstar”. No need to get your panties in a twist.

          • iksnilol

            No, but you literally use a fascist war criminal’s name as your online name. I can safely assume you’re a fascist. I mean, I disagree with plenty of other posters without them being fascists. But you? Bonafide fascist.

            No, pawnstar is just a bad pun that’s used as the name of an even worse tv show.

          • Slobodan Milosevic

            I’m not a facist. It is called a joke. Stop taking everything so personal. And you’re right, pawnstars is a retarded tv show. “I know this guy, let me call him down to look it so I know how far to lowball my offer”

      • Matt

        Showed my wife that name and she said “guzz-ell”. Maybe something in our water???

    • 🦑 🐙

      They are reusable sometimes. It just depends if you can crank it down firm enough that it won’t come off, and have the timing correct. Like he demonstrated, if the timing is off then you need a clean start.

      It is easiest to use the crush washer with the same flash hider you took off (like when removing a suppressor). It’s not quite as tight as it was originally, but as long as it won’t come off while you’re shooting then it’s fine with me. I always avoid a new crush washer if possible because they can be a real pain to torque on sometimes (what you are “crushing” is steel so it can take some oomph).

      • Matt

        I might try next time. Thanks for the advice!

    • Steve W

      I typically would re-use them if the washer is going back on the same barrel with the same muzzle device.

      There are other circumstances I’d re-use one, but now we’re talking that much more experience to do so without negative effect.

      • noob

        after the apocalypse they should make a tool you can put a “almost new” crush washer into and you can apply some force to pop the dome side back to its original uncrushed height.

        you could get it to be good as new until work hardening eventually makes the crush washer crumble in your hands.

    • Flounder

      Everyone pronounces it differently. It’s kinda a fun game to count how many different pronounciations there are.

      Crush washers are supposed to be thrown away. BUT, if you only crushed it a little bit, It is possible to use it on a barrel that requires it to be crushed more. If you put it back on the same barrel with the same muzzle device it just won’t hold like it should.

    • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

      No. Crush washers are NOT re-usable.

  • Gary Kirk

    Now.. Do an A2, and drill and taper pin the front sight tower properly… Also, to set the gap for the front handgaurd cap, take an old one and cut it in half to use as a shim.. Also a good idea to use an accurate vial level on flat surfaces to ensure everything is true, I have a jig I machined to clamp everything in line, but you can use a 1″ piece of round tube and a few scope rings if you know what you’re doing..

    • Flounder

      LOL That method sucks. At least it is beyond almost all of the people who are building AR’s at home. You do need some skill and machinery, ideally a mill, To to those dang taper pins right.

      All we would see is a very angry leprechan throwing hi points and swearing.

      • Steve W

        BRD’s jigs help ease the pain. Coupled with a drill press and cross slide drill press vise and a square, levels, and your swear word dictionary.. it can be done cleanly.

  • I wunder

    Torture test? 1000 rounds, unlubed, shot on fiveish separate range trips with all firing consisting of mag dumps only for maximum heat. Break it up into seperate trips to ensure the gunk and carbon fouling has time to deveop and harden. Bet it’ll choke. I’ve seen ars run dirty, and I’ve seen them ran dry. But they usually only seem to function flawless when it has all been one continuous range day. It seems when one is ran dry and shot on multiple occasions without cleaning that the trouble develops. I have no science to back it up really, so no need to flame my comment. It just seems that the fouling is a bigger issue when given time to set up and cook on between multiple heat up/cool down cycles.

  • 🦑 🐙

    Do you need to worry about headspacing?

    • Steve W

      Always. But, AR’s are designed so you ‘shouldn’t’ need to check head spacing, but you always should for the sake of safety and proper operation. Typically you’d use go and no-gon gauges and it only takes a few minutes.

      • 🦑 🐙

        Thanks, that was always confusing to me.

    • Matt

      As i understand it, headspace is set when the barrel manufacturer installs the barrel extension. I haven’t checked it… perhaps i should

      • Steve W

        It is. But because gunpowder creates pressure and because manufacturing defects are possible, it’s prudent to check head space via go/no-go gauges. We all know the saying “if it can go bad, or be wrong, it will.. “

        • noob

          also the barrel nut is only held on by 80 pounded feet of torque, and no locktite or staking at all. in fact it has grease on it so you can get it off later. so does that mean that the barrel nut gets tighter as you shoot it?

          • Steve W

            I would never go anywhere near 80lbs. That is high enough to anyone not using a tool like the Geiselle Reaction Rod would risk breaking their receiver and there just isn’t any benefit to doing so. There is also a big difference between battle rifles maintained in an armory for battle purposes and precision rifles.

            The reason you use grease on the barrel extension and threads is because barrel nuts can require much more torque to remove them, than they did to install. But just because the torque to disassembly can be more, this doesn’t mean the barrel nut turned more on the receiver and became tighter that way,. It’s more to do with the properties of heat, the involved metals, and interactions between different metals.. especially where heat is concerned. This is getting beyond the scope of this simple build video so I’ll stop here.

          • noob

            🙂 Also I just realized that the stainless steel gas tube goes right through the barrel nut and into the receiver, which would prevent the barrel nut from vibrating loose in any case.

          • Steve W

            True, but there are many hand guards out there that use barrel nuts without indexing.

          • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

            I’ve worked on guns that had a completely loose barrel nut that was still only held in by the gas tube.

            The gun couldn’t hit a barn door at 10 feet away because the nut was loose enough to allow the barrel to wiggle around between the nut and receiver.

            The nice thing about the AR design is that all the dangerous high pressure stuff happens directly between the bolt and barrel extension. The receiver and barrel nut just hold things in place. You can even test-fire an AR without a barrel nut, just holding the barrel in place with tape or your hands.

            I removed the gas tube, loosened the nut, applied a little grease to the threads and properly torqued everything up and re-installed the gas tube. Gun went back to a 2 MOA gun after that.

        • TheChunkNorris

          +1 on the Go/No-Go gauges.

      • Bill

        It is in theory, but I headspace all my ARs and so far three factory builds have had either had too much headspace or too little. This is one reason why I now roll my own.

    • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

      AR15 barrels are headspaced to a calibrated reference bolt when the manufacturer installs the barrel extension.

      When you attach the barrel to the receiver, the barrel extension is what’s being held in place by the barrel nut, so the rifle has already been headspaced. Installing the barrel in the receiver, even if you screw it up, does not affect headspace.

      When you buy a bolt, you can check headspace, but you have to remove the ejector first (requires a roll punch) AND you have to make sure you are using the correct headspace gauges for your particular barrel, since many different manufacturers use slightly different chamber reamers (5.56 vs .223 vs wylde vs proprietary, etc). If you use the wrong gauge you might think your barrel has failed a headspace check when it is in fact perfectly fine.

      If you buy your barrel and bolt from quality manufacturers, you really don’t need to worry about it.

      • Steve W

        Agree with all. But, I have the three headspace gauges and I check to be sure because stuff happens. One of the first things I did with the three gauges was try them in other barrels. .223 in 5.56 and .223 wylde, 5.56 in .223 and .223 Wylde, etc, etc.. Because they are go and no-go, they all either “go”d or “no-go”d in theh other barrels. Of course you expect them to looking at the dimensions.. I suppose if a barrel was more towards the edge of their dimensions vs. the middle, then there might be an issue.

        Good catch on removing the pin on the bolt extractor. I see others trying without doing this.

  • USMC03Vet

    I have none of those things. I need more tools, vices, work benches, and whole rifles unassembled. Is there a starter gun guy kit? I feel so not gun guy now.

    • Black Dots

      Delete your account.

      • USMC03Vet

        How about I just buy some aftermarket triggers and we call it even? 😎

        • Black Dots

          *sighs* FFIIIIINNNEE!

    • noob

      You’re a post apocalyptic gun guy who will have to build uppers with random car maintenance tools.

      • USMC03Vet

        I hope I have level 10 luck.

  • Steve W

    If using a mil-spec dust cover, install it prior to installing the barrel/nut.

    If accuracy is a concern consider lapping the receiver face. And if reliability is as well, consider at least using locktite on the gas block set screws. I prefer to use a BRD dimple jig and set the dimples to the correct depth, and depending on the rifles purpose will also use BRD’s jig to pin the gas block and fit a proper taper pin.

    Precision Reflex sells a kit that includes a gas block roll pin starter punch and a cradle to hold the gas block when driving the pin in/out. The punch isn’t worth much, but the cradle allows assembly or disassembling without marring the gas block. Or, if using an expensive adjustable gas block breaking it. I’ve also used it to trace out the shape on blocks of wood for friends..

    • Flounder

      I completely agree! There is no swearing during the install of the gas block pin. A jig would be preferable, but there are also gas blocks with flats on the side so you can stick them in a vice.

      Or you can stick them in a vice sideways. Although you kinda need softjaws for that.

      • Jared Vynn

        I use channel locks to do the gas block pins and other pins.

        • Flounder

          Like how? I feel like that would screw up the finish on the gas block…

          If you are talking about using them to squish the roll pin into the hole like a hydraulic press? Done that too. Except i have an actual press now.

          • Jared Vynn

            I used them like a press, I use masking tape to protect the finish.

    • noob

      I was wondering if gas block set screws needed to be torqued, staked or loctited in the spec.

      • iksnilol

        Duct taped.

      • Flounder

        Just loctite them. And use a barrel with a dimple in it.

        If that is not sufficently durable for you, look up how the M4 gas block are pinned into place and do that.

      • Steve W

        Noob, good question. How you secure your gas block should match the purpose of your rifle. If it’s for competition you want something secure, but can easily be removed. If you’re building a WROL/Combat/Battle rifle then you don’t want it to come off when you least expect it. This is what I do:

        Not all barrels come with a starting dimple but most do. If the barrel comes with none or only one dimple, consider BRD’s dimple jig. You can get by without it, but the chance for an error is high. The jig lined up the gas port to the gas block’s set screws which need to match up to the dimples on the barrel.

        Most barrels come with a single dimple do you can fit different foot print gas blocks. Most dimples (Larue is an exception) on barrels are too shallow. So using the jig, line everything up, and using the right size drill.. make the depth of your dimples to the proper depth. Then locktite them. I’m purposely avoiding the specifics because that information comes with the jig. If you know the specific you might have the experience to proceed without a jig.

        I use red Locktite. I also buy grade 8 stainless set screws that will allow setting at the proper depth while lining up even with the top of the gas block. Most set screws that come with most gas blocks aren’t long enough. Larue’s are.

        You can easily remove the set screws by passing a torch over the bottom of the gas block. It will liquify the locktite and they’ll come right out. This is far preferable to not using the torch and stripping out your set screws. If you like drilling out stripped screws this is for you!

        Once you have the set screws drilled and set to the right depth, and locktited.. I don’t think you need to stake them. The screws will not back off if you set them to the right depth, snug them own, and use fresh (non-expired) red locktite. Red Locktite resists very high heat.. and if it does liquify (like with a torch) it will reseal once it cools down. You’ll only get the barrel hot enough to melt the locktite if you’re either intentionally abusing it, or your condo it being overrun by thousands of terrorists and you’re burning through your entire stock of 5.56mm.. (everyone has 25,000 rounds in the closet right?)

        On WROL/Combat/Battle rifles I take a further step of drilling the gas block and fitting a taper pin. I use stainless taper pins. Done right they’ll be centered and there will be no need to cut either end. BRD makes a great jig for pinning a taper pin. A drill press with a sliding cross jaw vise is very helpful for this step.

  • GunSnobMTilligitimi

    Step #1: Don’t use the free float featured in the video. Just…don’t.

  • Mitch

    Not trolling, and not hating on Patrick, but I must preface this by saying that this is the premier firearms related blog on the web. I don’t know Pat’s background (military or otherwise), but the fact that he doesn’t know how to pronounce “Giessele”, one of the top tier companies in the industry, is an absolute embarassment. May want to remove that “verified gun nerd” portion from your bio, Patrick… I’m the words of EDNO: “What are your credentials?”.

    • Black Dots

      Geissele is a shibboleth of the gun world.

    • Patrick R. – Senior Writer

      I probably shouldn’t use the term “pound feets” either. It’s not my fault that Gazelle is hard to pronounce. They do make some really nice things though, I personally enjoy Antilope’s SSA-E trigger.

      Or maybe you could check out Firepower United’s video on pronouncing Geissele? I learned all I need to know from that video.

    • TheChunkNorris

      I stopped watching at that point.

    • Bradley

      “I’m the words of EDNO?” It’s sort of an unwritten rule that if you choose to call someone out for spelling, grammar, pronunciation, etc., you should make sure not to include such mistakes in that criticism.

  • Steve W

    I also had concerns, but then I remembered how difficult it was to get my own ducks in a row last time I made am instructional video..

    But since we’re on the subject of torquing nuts.. 🙂 Just kidding..

    Many feel and it’s also been my experience that the lighter the torque towards the small end of the mil-spec range, the more accurate the carbine/rifle will be.

    Before accepting the index (gas tube fits through both the barrel nut and upper receiver) you should always “exercise” the upper receiver barrel nut threads by creeping up on the final torque value in three equal steps, backing off to zero, and repeating at least three times. Some may feel it doesn’t make a difference but I do.. I wait until setting the final torque to apply the AeroShell 33MS Synthetic Molybidenum Disulfide Grease on the barrel extension and threads.

    With that in mind, if the barrel nut indexes on the gas tube (lines up so the gas tube fits through the barrel nut and then through the upper receiver) it will generally only index on a single torque value within the mil-spec torque range. Or in other words as you continue to increase the torque of the barrel nut you will index (everything lines up) at some point in the mil-spec torque range, and as you continue to increase torque you will exceed maximum torque before you index again.

    Considering the above paragraph, it is possible to adjust the torque where this first index occurs and that bit of knowledge should be enough.. when it comes to you how, you’ll be ready to walk on the rice paper and leave the temple.. 🙂

    One more thing. Torque wrench info:

    a. Don’t buy a cheap one.

    b. NEVER stow a torque wrench under tension.

    c. If you use a 3/8 to 1/2 or 1/2 to 3/8 adapter or an extension, the torque will not as read on the dial, it will be different.

  • Slab Rankle

    High volume/high rate fire. Nothing else will test your upper to the limit and beyond, and it’s entertaining as well.

    No doubt you can borrow a full auto lower, or if not, a bump fire stock. Ventura Munitions will supply the ammo.

    • noob

      Tannerite. See how many rifles that flash hider can outlive before it can’t hide a flash anymore

  • Patrick R. – Senior Writer

    Pound feets is fun to say. It made me happy.

    • iksnilol

      Bonus points for poundsies feetsies.

      • noob

        it’s the reciprocal of foot pounding.

      • Patrick R. – Senior Writer

        Lol. I couldn’t remember if I said that. It absolutely sounds like something I would say.

        • iksnilol

          I think it’s cute, you rapscallion, you.

          • Patrick R. – Senior Writer

            James is going to be mad that you are getting a bit flirty, he is the jealous type you know.

  • MIKE

    ARE YOU GOING TO SHOOT THE THING OR WHAT? PUT IT THROUGH THE RINGER. LET’S SEE 5 SHOT GROUPS BEFORE AND AFTER. MAG DUMPS IN BETWEEN. DO A RUN AND GUN.

    • TheChunkNorris

      Why are you yelling.

  • art frewin

    i guess you do not check the chamber of the AR with a go and no go.

  • JJ

    Great job. It’s pretty hard to mess up the assembly but for most, it’s good to watch it done before hand. I’d like to share a couple things I noticed that differ from how I was taught. I’ve used the USMC tech manual from the 80s. It’s just how I was taught. A few changes in parts since then have changed some instructions. I use plain automotive white lithium grease on the barrel nut/ receiver threads. Easy to find, cheap and it works. Really just important to lube the darn things due to galling issues. Just don’t use loctite. I’ve been brought those to repair and it really suckos. I also torque the nut to 35ftlbs 3x or a bit more to get the threads mated together. I just do it one after another. No wait time needed. I never go to the max torque. Try another nut. Remember the grease does alter torque value a bit. Dry vs lubed. Plus at 80ftlbs cold is different at firing temp. Accuracy can be affected. Definitely dimple and loctite the set screws on gas block. I hate set screws too. Dimple deep enough, tighten down and lock in place. Stake them too if you want. It will still be removable if necessary. Tapered pins are king. My preference is to use a forged A2 front sight and machine it down to fit under guards. You get 2 taper pins and a much better gas block that won’t move. As for the flash hider, I think the zone is 35ftlbs but honestly if it needs to be indexed, just line it up. I’ve seen hand tightened ones stay on fine. Same on barrel nut. I couldn’t see how you installed the compression washer, not crush, but you want to put it on as designed. Flat against barrel shoulder. The old peel washers used originally were a crush fit. They actually crushed down and could peel layers off until index was made. These new ones compress. They can be reused if they weren’t over torqued but they are cheap. Use a new one. These don’t crush. They flex at the rim when the FH is pressed against them. Just like a split lock washer on cars. That tension keeps things from coming loose. Although now with the BFD or Blast Forward Devices, they don’t need one unless you prefer it to be indexed for whatever reason. I’ve yet to have one come loose and I just snug them on tight but not gorilla tight. Try one if you’re friends are tired of your loud comp blowing out their ears. It’s magic how they work. Much nicer standing beside one. Just my .02. Don’t get hung up on using “Special” AR tools. Some are necessity, others are just nice to have. Some can be made yourself very simply. The AR is really a very simple and efficient rifle. I think every house in America should have at least one. It is truly the patriots flint lock of today. They kept us free almost 250 years ago and the AR will keep us free today.

  • JJ

    Great job. It’s pretty hard to mess up the assembly but for most, it’s good to watch it done before hand. I’d like to share a couple things I noticed that differ from how I was taught. I’ve used the USMC tech manual from the 80s. It’s just how I was taught. A few changes in parts since then have changed some instructions. I use plain automotive white lithium grease on the barrel nut/ receiver threads. Easy to find, cheap and it works. Really just important to lube the darn things due to galling issues. Just don’t use loctite. I’ve been brought those to repair and it really suckos. I also torque the nut to 35ftlbs 3x or a bit more to get the threads mated together. I just do it one after another. No wait time needed. I never go to the max torque. Try another nut. Remember the grease does alter torque value a bit. Dry vs lubed. Plus at 80ftlbs cold is different at firing temp. Accuracy can be affected. Definitely dimple and loctite the set screws on gas block. I hate set screws too. Dimple deep enough, tighten down and lock in place. Stake them too if you want. It will still be removable if necessary. Tapered pins are king. My preference is to use a forged A2 front sight and machine it down to fit under guards. You get 2 taper pins and a much better gas block that won’t move. As for the flash hider, I think the zone is 35ftlbs but honestly if it needs to be indexed, just line it up. I’ve seen hand tightened ones stay on fine. Same on barrel nut. I couldn’t see how you installed the compression washer, not crush, but you want to put it on as designed. Flat against barrel shoulder. The old peel washers used originally were a crush fit. They actually crushed down and could peel layers off until index was made. These new ones compress. They can be reused if they weren’t over torqued but they are cheap. Use a new one. These don’t crush. They flex at the rim when the FH is pressed against them. Just like a split lock washer on cars. That tension keeps things from coming loose. Although now with the BFD or Blast Forward Devices, they don’t need one unless you prefer it to be indexed for whatever reason. I’ve yet to have one come loose and I just snug them on tight but not gorilla tight. Try one if you’re friends are tired of your loud comp blowing out their ears. It’s magic how they work. Much nicer standing beside one. Just my .02. Don’t get hung up on using “Special” AR tools. Some are necessity, others are just nice to have. Some can be made yourself very simply. The AR is really a very simple and efficient rifle. I think every house in America should have at least one. It is truly the patriots flint lock of today. They kept us free almost 250 years ago and the AR will keep us free today.

  • Budi Utomo

    Wonderful article. Very informative.