I recently built a very special AR-15 pistol, and a friend liked it so much that I decided to write up a short summary of the parts that went into it. Please note, though, that this gun is not actually complete. For example, there’s no dust cover, and nothing where the forward assist would normally go. I might install those parts eventually, I might not. Also, there are still upgrades that could be done to improve this gun.
Also, I do have some concerns about the number of “flyers” I’m getting. I need to shoot it suppressed & unsuppressed on a paper target, to determine if that’s a possible issue. I also need to try a few different kinds of ammo. If all else, maybe I just need to swap the micro barrel for something a little longer.
Anyway, here’s the parts list & recommendations.
The Upper Half
- ATI Omni polymer upper, which is about 1 ounce lighter than a similar aluminum upper. It’s also pretty cheap compared to an aluminum upper. http://www.opticsplanet.com/advanced-technology-international-ati-ati-omni-hybrid-ar15-stripped-polymer-uppe.html
- CMMG 4.5″ barrel & bolt, but you might want to get the 9″ barrel if you’re not going to use a suppressor. If you prefer a longer barrel, you could run the 9″ barrel with a suppressor and a 12″ handguard.
- I also have a CMMG anti-jam 22lr charging handle, and I added an extended latch.
- Optics Planet has good prices on the CMMG stuff, and they have 10% off coupons sometimes. http://www.opticsplanet.com/cmmg-inc-cmm-mt-4140cm-22-long-rifle-barrel-9-2-inch-medium-taper-profile-barrel.html
- Alternatively, you could get a barrel & bolt from Taccom3G, but the guy who runs it is a dick.
- I used a “clamping style” handguard from aliexpress like this one: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/7-9-10-11-12-13-5-15-Clamping-Stlyle-Slim-Handguard-Rail-Free-Front-Handguard/32796804917.html It’s nice because you don’t have to worry about tightening the barrel nut until the handguard aligns with the upper. You just tighten the nut to an appropriate tightness, and then slide the handguard on.
- The Sights – I have multiple sets of sights for this gun.
- A cheap red dot sight, for general use. I want to get a nicer red dot.
- Magpul folding sights, for when I want to practice with traditional sights.
- UTG 1-4x octagon scope, for when I want magnification.
The Lower Half
- Any “pistol” lower will do, and it doesn’t need to say “pistol”. Just make sure you get a “virgin” receiver that has never been assembled as a rifle. Check out sights like Palmetto State Armory for inexpensive lowers & parts.
- Personally, I would recommend the New Frontier Armory LW-15 pistol lower. http://www.joeboboutfitters.com/New_Frontier_Armory_LW_15_Complete_Polymer_Pistol_p/nfa-lw15-pistol.htm
- It only costs $150 (plus S&H and local dealer fee), so it helps keep costs down, and it weighs less than a standard aluminum lower with steel trigger group. The LW-15 pistol version comes with the KAK tube and Shockwave Blade pre-installed, which would cost at least $60 if bought separately, so the real cost of the LW-15 lower $90! That’s excellent considering it already has a trigger & all the small parts. I would have used a LW-15 for my 22LR pistol, but the pistol version didn’t exist when I built my pistol lower. I have a rifle version of the LW-15 that I love. I really wish I could combine my short barrel with the LW-15 lower, but I would have to file a $200 SBR tax stamp.
- I have a KAK buffer tube with Shockwave Blade arm brace, and recommend it strongly. It’s really nice to have a way to align your face/eyes with the sights.
- Alternatively, if you want the shortest pistol possible, Spikes Tactical makes a plug that replaces the buffer tube on 22LR AR-15s.
- If you’re willing to register as a SBR, you could use the AGP Arms folding stock for 22LR AR-15s.
- Also, if you’re willing to register as a SBR, VLTOR makes a tube that has a storage section instead of a buffer section. It’s hard to explain.
- If you do use a buffer tube, then you’ll need a spring and buffer, just to keep the 22LR bolt group from slipping backwards into the tube. I have a standard carbine buffer spring with a home made wood “buffer”. You can use any kind of buffer, but the buffer isn’t important to a 22LR, so I made a wooden one to save weight. I just cut a short piece of 1″ dowel rod and sanded it until it fit in the buffer tube (approximately 0.98 inch diameter).
- You’ll also need a trigger guard and a pistol grip. I like the Magpul MOE trigger guard and B5 Systems Grip 23, but there are many other great choices and this is really about personal preference.
- While I’m at it, I really like ambidextrous short-throw safeties.
- If you’re willing to make this a 22LR only lower, then you should check out the AR Catch22 from arcatch22.com . The Catch22 allows for true last-round bolt hold open (bolt locks open on empty magazines) when using S&W M&P-1522 magazines.
- I have a RRA Varmint trigger that I got on sale for 1/2 price ($60+S&H), but any good trigger will be fine (Geissele, Hiperfire, Franklin Armory, etc). For a budget trigger, I’m quite fond of the ALG ACT. The ACT is an improved milspec design. They’re far better than a standard AR-15 trigger but only costs about $20 more. If you get a New Frontier Armory plastic lower, the plastic trigger that comes with it is pretty good, and saves more weight.
$50 cheap lower
$60 ALG ACT
$30 lower parts kit without trigger
$20 KAK tube
$40 Shockwave Blade
=$200 at a minimum, not counting S&H from multiple stores
Assemble a shopping list from multiple vendors, and then compare the price to a NFA LW-15. I think you’ll find that the LW-15 is a great option for a simple plinking gun. As an added bonus, you’ll find that the completed gun is also very lightweight if you combine a LW-15 lower with the upper I designed. I weighed my LW-15 rifle lower, and weighed my pistol upper (separately). If they were combined, they would weigh significantly under 4 pounds (unloaded, without suppressor or optics).
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