Building Clone Rifles – How To Get Started

    I heard how rewarding it was to build a “clone” rifle probably five or six years ago, so I decided to go for it and built an MK12 MOD 0 about four years ago. Clone rifles are a great way to build something you can use your imagination and learn a lot about history. It starts to also show why guys built the rifles the way they did during combat deployments. We get so caught up in the gun community with the newest and greatest around we tend to forget to look back and appreciate how we got to this point. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about what the best way to build a clone rifle is and there are a few different aspects to look at when starting your build.

    Pick One Model and Research It

    One of the first struggles will be to pick a specific model out of all the choices. I decided on a precision rifle but there are also several variations of each rifle as well. Sometimes the model has generation changes so figuring out what you really want to build is crucial. Once you finally decide on what your project will be, its time to start reading everything possible about the weapon you can find. When I started researching there was some resources and support but nothing like today.

    Today’s clone community is massive with people who live and breathe being historically accurate. These guys can sometimes be overwhelming when giving information but are some of the best sources to find period correct parts.  Now there are several pages on social media where people show their builds and you can find correct information very quickly. With the power of social media, it has become really easy to dive into a build and order parts because people not only know what to use but where to find it.

    Sourcing Parts

    Finding parts can be one of the hardest parts of building a rifle because certain pieces have been out of production for over a decade. Typically, people struggle most with finding the right parts for rifles and either put the build on hold or give up and go a different direction. In my opinion, you should find a close substitute and continue the build until you can find the correct part. Something like the older buttstocks can be extremely tough to find up for sale. It’s not rare to go weeks or even months without finding the correct part for a build. Currently, I’m still searching for the Leupold Mark 4 MK12 scope the MK12 uses. This was a perfect example of finding a close substitute and rolling with punches.

    I ended up going with a different model of Leupold’s Mark 4 and so far I’m happy with it. There will always be the die-hard guys out there that need everything correct down to the springs. For the majority of shooters who want clone rifles, it’s not a bad thing to substitute parts until you can find the right ones. Certain builds like the Mk18 were short barreled. As a result, you may need to either pay a tax stamp or get creative by making it a pistol with some sort of pistol brace. It may not be completely perfectly correct but it will be functional and you can enjoy shooting it while you decide to keep it like that or find the accurate parts.

    Good Options To Start

    If you’re looking to start simple and don’t want to dive into a technical build yet, there are a few different companies that will build you a great example of a few different models. Precision Reflex makes nearly perfect examples of what an MK12 MOD 0 would have looked like. They have the upper receiver builds available on their website as well as full rifle packages.  Daniel Defense makes a nice variation of the MK18 as well in full rifle or upper receiver configuration. There are other places to source parts like Knights Armament and LMT who will have parts available to purchase. Larger shooting sources will also have parts like Brownells.

    Don’t Stress About It

    There will always be people who say a specific part isn’t correct, but don’t let that discourage you. Building clone rifles can be such a rewarding experience and can really make you understand what the thought process was behind the rifles when they were used overseas. I love seeing the ideas behind certain features and running it on a rifle. At the end of the day, it’s something you’re building as a project so in the worlds of my Marine buddy, “Keep It gangster.”

    There were so many variations in rifle setups and most of the soldiers scrounged around for gear. Your build may be more authentic than you think just because builds were all over the place. Keep it simple and have fun with your builds. Let me know what you guys think about clone rifles in the comments below. If you have questions, shoot me a message on my Instagram page @fridgeoperator. Stay safe out there.

    We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.

    I’m an avid shooter and love educating whether it’s at my job or in the shooting community. I’m an average joe that really loves talking with other people about firearms and other passions
    .I’m active on Instagram on @fridgeoperator @just_pistols @thedailyrifle.