So now you’ve come down to this moment in time. You’ve done your homework on the precautions needed for long distance hunting. You’ve made sure that your rifle is fit for this kind of hunt. You’ve even went and bought yourself a high-powered scope that specializes in long range shooting. When checking off everything off your list of “to-do”s, it appears that you’ve done everything needed to prepare yourself for your first long distance hunt!
But just because you’ve done your research and upgraded your toys accordingly, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re one-hundred percent ready to take on the new scores. There’s still that lingering nervousness that attacks all hopeful hunters. What if you missed something? What if you prove to not be good with this kind of distance? What if?
There’s no need to worry, Newcomer.
For today, we’re going to go over five tips that be only benefit you as you trek out into the wilderness.
Tip #1: Know what your rounds are capable of. Keep a mental note on the ammunition that you’re bringing with you. Are you bringing a box of .45s? Some .308s? Or perhaps some .375s, for those of you manly men toting around elephant guns? Regardless of the ammo, it is essential that you familiarize yourself with the impact each bullet is capable of. Perhaps take your rifle target shooting sometime before your big hunting trip. Fire as many rounds necessary. This is so you’ll be fully prepared for the kick (or lack thereof) and you won’t be thrown off your groove in the middle of your weekend prowl.
Tip #2: Get used to the kick. This goes hand in hand with the first tip, though there is a difference between knowing the kick and embracing it. Not all guns deliver the same amount of recoil. I learned this lesson the hard way when I was a small child. I thought I was a hotshot with my dinky little .22 Browning. When my dad let me shoot his 12 gauge shotgun, on the other hand…well, needless to say that I was humbled! As much as I never wanted to shoot that monster ever again, he made me keep at it. He told me that I’d never get used to it unless I taught my body how to deal with the recoil. Many falls and bruises later, I eventually found myself not even noticing the recoil! Now as a 25 year old gun enthusiast, I find myself able to fire 12 gauges like they’re .22s!
Tip #3: Take notes of your gun’s progress. This sort of goes with the previous two tips. This time, however, it’s more so to test the gun’s prowess whether than your own. Say that you want to take your brand new Ruger out to the woods. How well does it shoot? How accurate is it and is that level of accuracy consistent? Does the gun ever jam or backfire? These are all important things that you need to keep in mind–especially when it comes to hunting. The worst thing that can ever happen to you is being face to face with an angry grizzly bear that you can’t even shoot!
Tip #4: Don’t rush the shot. So you’ve finally got your first deer in your sights. He’s just standing around, either eating some leaves or even just standing around. He’s still as a board–ripe for the killing! Calm down there, Killer. Just because you’ve got him in your sights doesn’t mean that you can just carelessly fire away at him! You have to take your time and collect your bearings. Take a deep breath. Count to three. Steady your arms. Aim for a sweet spot and then pull the trigger.
“I like to shoot on the respiratory pause on the down breath. I take three deep breaths. Once I let all my air out on that last exhale, that 1- to 3-second pause is the money spot where I want to take my shot.”
Tip #5: Adjust your scope accordingly. You didn’t buy a $300 scope just to not use it properly! Your scope will be nothing short of your best friend whenever you decide to indulge in long distance hunting. So why not make use of it and adjust the magnification level a bit? What about the reticle? Can you see it clear enough? How about that eyecap? You comfortable, or are you feeling a ton of pressure on your right eye that doesn’t need to be there?
There are different types of rangefinders that serve different purposes. Therefore if you are a rifle hunter, you should buy a rangefinder that’s best suited for longer ranges (this is even more important if you hunt in the wide open west). If you’re archery hunting, you dont really have a use for a rangefinder that has a max range of 500+ yards because you wont be shooting that far. The purpose of your rangefinder is one thing you need to consider before buying a rangefinder. If you dont, you can end up buying a rangefinder that will not serve your needs right, and the last thing you want is to end up buying something that doesn’t suit your needs. Not only will it not help your hunting, it will cost you money. We don’t want this to happen to any hunter, and we want to make sure that every hunter gets the best rangefinder possible for their money, no matter if they are rifle hunting or if they are looking for the best rangefinder for archery.
Some buy a rangefinder for the purpose of bow hunting, rifle hunting or birding. For instance, if you are a bow hunter, consider getting an appropriate rangefinder for the task. Nikon Company is well known to produce rangefinders that are suitable for archery hunting. So, once you figure out what you’re going to use your rangefinder for (rifle or archery) it will make it a lot easier to pick one. We will cover better rifle hunting rangefinders later, but we are here to talk about the best rangefinder for archery. If you’re looking for more hunting stories, find them here.
We are assuming that you already know what a rangefinder is. If you’re unfamiliar with them, head to the homepage for a description of what they are and how they work. In my mind, a rangefinder is way more important for bow hunting than it is for rilfe hunting. The reason that I feel this way is because of typical deer terrain. I don’t know about you, but it’s not often that I was standing on a flat piece of ground, within range of a deer that was on that same flat piece of ground and simply pulled my bow back to a 35 yard draw and successfully took down a deer. When I’m out hunting for deer, it’s in a tree stand, or doing a typical spot and stalk – meaning that I’m at the top or bottom of a hill, and the deer is at the opposite end. Due to this change in angle, you also need to change the distance of your draw. The last thing you want is a near miss like the one shown in this video below.
The main reason that we differentiate our archery rangefinders from the units that are used for hunting is because of one thing: ARC, or Angle Range Compensation. Angle Range Compensation will help you calculate how much you need to draw back on your bow to hit a target that is above or below you (like when you’re in a tree stand). In my opinion, it’s totally necessary for bow hunting, and you want to get a unit with a good ARC calculator or else you’ll regret it after you follow the instructions for draw on your bow and you watch your arrow whiz over your targets back. There are a few ways to calculate ARC, by hand and with your rangefinder. We will talk about doing it by hand first.
Calculating ARC by hand
Of course, there’s always the option of calculating how much compensation you’ll need by hand. The formula is something you should remember from high school – the Pythagorean theorem. If you dont recall (I dont blame you) it’s used for calculating sides of a triangle when you know the length of two other sides. For instance, if you’re sitting in a tree stand imagine yourself at the top of a triangle. The first measurement you will take is one from your stand to the ground below you – thats one side of your triangle. The next measure will be to your target, and will be the long side of your triangle. You can use the Pythagorean theorem to calculate the bottom leg of your triangle using the forumla a^2 + b^2 = c^2, where a squared is your distance from the top of your stand to the ground, and b squared is the distance from your stand to the target. This is also called the riflemans rule, and if you want to see the trajectory calculations and application, there’s a good wikipedia article.
Thankfully, you dont have to calculate ARC by hand as many units now come with built in calculators. Now I’ll be the first to admit that if you take a lot of your shots at close range, you probably wont get much use out of this sort of technology. Shots at ranges that close wont really have that much of an adjustment that you’ll need to make to your shot and shot distance. Typically, rangefinders with ARC are needed more in the western part of the united states due to the varied terrain and the spot and stalk style hunting. This is where I hunt, and I will tell you that a lot of my shots come from the top of a ridge shooting down into a field or further down the hill where my target has stopped to feed for a few minutes. Typically, these shots are between 40 and 80 yards, and there’s always a fairly significant adjustment that needs to be made after I range in with my rangefinder. Thankfully, this saves me a lot of frustration as I dont frequently miss like I did before I got a rangefinder.
Here are the 5 best rangefinders for archery hunting
1. Nikon rifle hunter 550
This is a rangefinder made by the Nikon Company. It is among the best units for archery hunting, despite its name (rifle hunter). They have built in incline and decline technology that allows a hunter to shoots angles up to 89 degrees uphill or downhill. Technology like this will help you avoid coming home with a story about how you saw this huge 5 point white tail buck that you shot at and didn’t calculate the angle right and missed, while the buck trotted away out of sight. A hunter can focus objects up to 550 yards but it actually ranges in to more than 600 yards. The optics are very clear making it easy to find that huge buck and range in on it. What makes the Nikon rifle hunter 550 even more convenient to users is the fact that it is light weight and fairly small and can easily fit in your pocket. An archery hunter can easily carry it around during the whole process. It is very quick to range and the glass is clear enough to take perfect shots. The battery life is enough to sustain a hunter through the archery hunting process. This rangefinder therefore has proven to be the best rangefinder for archery. All its features just work perfectly fine. You will not regret going with this rangefinder to the woods for hunting.
2. Leupold RX-1000i TBR with DNA rangefinder
This is a product of the leupold company. Their true ballistic range provides a hunter with extremely accurate ranging information. This is one piece of a standout rangefinder for archery hunting. It has digital enhanced accuracy that allows the hunter to make clear shots. A hunter can range up to 800 yards. The optics are just not clear but impressive. The hunter can set different displays up to the desired results. It is also compacted with incline and decline technology that helps to calculate the correct distance between the rangefinder and the camera. The led display is clear and easy for the hunter to read. The rainproof feature allows the hunter to use it in the rain. It is therefore effective anytime regardless of the weather. However the true ballistic range has to be zeroed to 200 yards. A hunter can still get this product without the true ballistic range function.
3. Nikon archer’s choice laser rangefinder
This is another excellent rangefinder for archery hunting. It is well constructed with decline and incline technology that allows hunters to shoot at 90 degrees angle. It is light and simple to use for amateur hunters. Its optic is clear enabling it to produce better shots .This rangefinder is suitable for hunters who would not wish to range anything beyond 100 yards.
We really like this nikon archers choice laser rangefinder, and you can read a full review of the product here.
4. Bushnell Team Primos The Truth
This is a fantastic unit for the price, and the bushnell team primos doesnt dissapoint. Bushnell got together with the guys at team primos and they delivered a product that is great for bow hunters. The unit has 4x magnification, Angle Range Compensation (ARC) and an angle measurement tool that will help you get the perfect shot every time! The unit ranges from 7-850 yards with an accuracy of +/- 1 yard. The unit also has a rainproof cover, which I have found invaluable at times when the weather just is not going my way and the rangefinder can get a little slick and hard to hold. Not with this unit though – the rangefinder is plenty easy to grip and range in with one hand, no matter the weather.
This bushnell also has a great, bright display, allowing you to view all the information easily from up in your tree stand before first shooting light if you spot a trophy white tail buck that you want to take home. Since the product has bushnell optics, they are particularly great lenses and come in very clear when looking through the window. This is a solid option, and comes in at a great price for a rangefinder with this kind of features and capability.
5. Bushnell BowHunter Chuck Adams Edition
This is another great rangefinder entry for bushnell, and is the predecessor to the team primos version discussed above. Bushnell teamed up with legendary bow hunter Chuck Adams to develop this unit and make sure that they included everything that just about any bow hunter could want. Well, I’m here to tell you that they did not disappoint at all.
This is a great product and was made to help bow hunters increase accuracy when shooting. To that end, it comes with ARC technology and a “shoot like” distance, which is based on shot angle that will improve your accuracy. It has a great “bow mode” up to 99 yards that gives you line of sight, angle and true distance. Past 99 yards though, those features disappear, but the unit is still accurate up to 850 yards off of something reflective, and up to 200 yards on a deer. It has high quality lenses, and 4x magnification.
Much like the team primos rangefinder, this one fits perfectly in your hands, though the coating isnt quite as grippy when you’re out in inclement weather. This unit was made specifically with bow hunting in mind, so they pulled out all the stops and developed a high quality unit that every bow hunter will be happy to carry with them in the field. The icing on the cake for this rangefinder though is the ARC and the bow specific mode. It does everything that you can think about asking it to do, and does it well.
While there are still many rangefinders good for archery hunting, the five above provide the quality and value to the whole archery hunting process. Instead of coming home with the story of missing a nice buck because you judged the range wrong and shot low or high, you can come hope happy and exhausted after spending the afternoon pulling out your trophy. With a rangefinder you’ll know how far you are and can set the right pin and take a good shot at your target. The stories about hunting are great, but it’s much more fun (and filling!) when you come home with something to put on the wall and in the freezer. If you are looking for other range finders check our full guide.
Packing the right gears for your coyote hunting is critical if you’re going to succeed. Coyote hunting has been on the rise over the past few years. Coyotes have continued to sprawl in farms and urban areas which make sense controlling their population.
There are varied opinions on the best weapons to hunt coyotes, best calls, optics and much more. However, the semi-automatic AR-15 remains the best rifle for coyote hunting. It is lightweight and allows you to hide, shoot, stay on target and keep shooting no matter the position of your body.
So, is the must have gear for coyote hunting with an AR-15?
Gears for coyote hunting using the AR-15 might vary greatly depending on the region, hunter, habitat set up and much more. You will need to understand your gears, be agile and know the different coyote hunting scenarios that will offer you the best layout.
In this post, we are going to look at some of the Must-Have gears when hunting coyotes with an AR-15 rifle.
This is the second most important item you will require for coyote hunting after choosing your AR-15 rifle. We’ve seen various debates on most social groups and Forums where people are torn between mouth calls and electronic calls. These debates are important in helping you decide the best call depending on your location, situation and time of year.
However, electronic calls seem to have the edge over mouth calls. When choosing the best coyote electronic calls, you need to consider things like sound quality, volume, sound availability and much more. Make sure you know the best calls for the time of the year as coyotes operate on the instinct of feeding, mating, and fighting.
The optics on your AR-15 rifle will decide or break your hunt. I recommend this awesome post choosing the best ar 15 scope for your successful hunt: Top 10 Best AR-15 Optics & Scopes: From Red Dots to Magnified Review. The standpoint style of hunting will determine the best optic when hunting for coyotes. A quality piece of glass is an essential factor when choosing the best scope for coyote hunting. When hunting coyotes on properties and farms, the ideal shooting range is usually 0-200 yards. This greatly increases when hunting on an expansive country bush.
If you prefer to hunt coyotes at night, then take time and find suitable locations during the day. It is pretty hard finding good locations at night. Scout during the day and get yourself a night vision scope. A night scope will help you do a quick scan. The objective is to see the eyes and not the full body. It even gets easier when hunting with a partner. Split the field area into two and let each partner scan their area without overlapping until you find something.
Decoys are pretty essential as coyotes are very cautious when approaching calls. Most will walk away before they get to a shooting distance if they don’t see anything associated with the coyote calls. While these decoys are not needed most of the time, coyote hunting usually happens in some open field which makes it difficult to draw coyotes closer. Adding some realism in the form of a fur will convince coyotes a lot easier.
Photo Credit: IOutdoorPursuit
Spotting scopes are exceptional at spotting the game at long distances. They are less portable than binoculars and require a tripod stand for easy use. However, they offer some of the best clarity and magnification which is ideal when spotting a coyote from long distances. I recommend you to read an expert guide from Scopesman.com to get the best spotting scope for your hunting.
You require a stable rest for the gun since coyotes notice the slightest of movements. A shooting stick is ideal in keeping your rifle shouldered, up and ready to shoot. Sticks are good especially when hunting on rolling hills where bipods cannot stand stably.
Shooting sticks allow for faster acquisition of the target with minimal movement.
You will need to suppress the sound from your rifle by getting a quality suppressor. In most cases, you’re going to get at least two coyotes with one lurking behind. A good suppressor will muffle the sound and make it easier to get follow-up shots.
Tip: Pick up a wrap for the outside of your suppressor to make twisting a lot easier when it gets hot.
Hunter Seat and Support
These are not necessarily a must, but if you’re hunting in areas with snow, then you will soon realize the importance of a seat. Your legs will feel dead after 20 minutes of standing in the snow without any coyotes. A quality cushioned seat will ensure you don’t return to your truck so soon.
Of course, there are several gears you can still add to the list above like the predator camouflage, hunting packs, proper clothing and much more. However, with the basics already covered, you can easily make your coyote hunting a success. Overall, the must-have gears for coyote hunting with an AR-15 are the calls, optics, shooting stick and suppressor.
Assembling your AR15 lower receiver is fairly easy to do. All you need are a few simple tools, a stripped AR15 Lower Receiver, a Lower Parts Kit, and a Buttstock Assembly.
The stripped lower is the part that the ATF considers being the “gun”. This is the only part that you cannot have shipped directly to your home. You will need to either go to a gun store and purchase a stripped lower, or buy one online and have it shipped to your FFL so that they can transfer it to you.
An AR15 Stripped Lower Receiver
Most any lower from any reputable manufacturer will do. Just be sure that it is forged 7075-T6 aircraft aluminum alloy, hard-coat anodized. I've owned and/or had experience with a variety of stripped lowers, including but not limited to DPMS (pictured above), Stag Arms, RRA, MEGA, LAR, Double Star, etc... all of which have been great and I have seen no problems with them.
Here is a picture that shows the specific parts of a Lower Parts Kit ("LPK" for short). I prefer Stag Arms LPK's.
Lower Parts Kit
Here is a list of the few tools you will need to complete the assembly of the AR15 lower.
Small gunsmithing hammer/mallet
CAR Stock Wrench or an AR15 armorers tool (for carbine stock installation)
3/16 Allen wrench and/or Flat Head Screw Driver (depending on the stock and pistol grip screw)
Loctite (Non-permanent Loctite is recommended on all screws)
AR15 Lower Receiver Building: A Step-by-Step Guide
Now, if you have all of the appropriate tools and parts, you are ready to begin.
Magazine Catch/Button Release
Insert the magazine catch in the receiver (on the side with the roll mark/serial number) and install the magazine catch spring from the other side.
Then push the magazine button onto the spring and spin it onto the threaded end of the magazine catch, tightening it until it is flush. Now your first step is completed.
Then insert the bolt catch spring and plunger (with the plunger facing outwards on top of the spring).
Place the bolt catch roll pin in the slot above the magazine catch from the right side, tap lightly with light hammer/punch to get it started but not all the way in. Install the bolt catch pushing the catch in towards the spring while lining up the hole in the bolt catch with the hole in the side of the receiver.
Tap the roll pin in lightly avoiding damaging the lower by hitting it directly (I use a pin punch for this very reason). When the pin is inserted and flush with the hole you inserted it into your second step is completed.
Front Pivot Pin
This is a tricky one that can take a few tries and it frustrates many. This tends to be an easy step for me but I know that several people have issues with it. The problem is that the spring can launch the pivot pin detent pretty far if you fail to do it correctly. So I recommend that you set up a “backstop” (a small mailing box usually does the job well) in the direction the spring would shoot the pivot pin detent so that you can more easily recover it and the spring if you don’t get it right the first time.
On the right side of the receiver in front of the magazine well there is a hole where you insert the spring. To begin, insert the spring and then the detent on top. Using the pivot pin, push the detent back far enough for you to insert the pivot pin into its hole. If you did it correctly, the pivot pin will slide into position and the pivot pin detent will line up onto the pivot pin securing it into position.
Simply insert the pin on the trigger guard in the side nearest the magwell.
Now, you will align the other side of the trigger guard with the holes on the rear of the lower and insert the pin, tapping lightly to install.
Some people choose to squeeze the pin in place by using a block of some sort (thin block of wood) or even a pair of pliers with tape around the ends to push the pin(s) into place, so they don’t have to hammer anything in. This is in an attempt to avoid potentially damaging the receiver. This is a part of the receiver that is more vulnerable to being damaged by excessive force and/or out of spec pin/hole sizes.
Install the trigger spring on the trigger with the “coils” of the spring on both sides of the trigger and the two legs pointing forward and down (refer to the picture above showing the complete LPK for reference). Install the disconnector spring in the rear of the trigger.
Drop the trigger assembly into the receiver and place the disconnector on top of the disconnector spring with the notch on the disconnector over the spring. You will need to insert the trigger pin in the receiver through the disconnector and to the other side of the receiver locking the disconnector into place above the spring and the trigger assembly. It may take a bit of wiggling and then tapping with a hammer to work it in just right. Just be patient and don’t damage your receiver!
TIP: I highly recommend that you dip the end of the trigger pin in oil such as CLP prior to inserting it, this will help you immensely as you try to work the pin into place. Same goes for the hammer pin as well. If at any time you are inserting a pin and struggling with getting it to go smoothly, try a little bit of oil.
Squeeze the hammer assembly down into the receiver while lining up the holes for the hammer pin. This part can be a little tough to do. After you have installed the hammer assembly, cock the hammer.
You can pull the trigger to test for function if you'd like at this point, however, be sure to keep the hammer from slamming down with it's full force in this condition (or any time the lower is not assembled with the upper), as it could possibly damage the receiver. I usually place a couple fingers over the front of where the hammer would hit when performing this operation on a lower minus the upper.
Safety Selector/Pistol Grip
This is an easier step. From the left side (the side with the roll mark), install the safety selector. Then install the selector detent and spring (detent goes in first) on the right side of the receiver directly below the selector where you will install the pistol grip. Then put the pistol grip on, being sure that the spring is properly in place with the holes in both the receiver as well as the pistol grip. Don't let the spring get bunched up.
You will screw the pistol grip screw into place so that it properly holds the pistol grip (and everything else like the spring and selector detent). Make sure to use the lock washer. I also like to use non-permanent loctite on the screw in order to help hold it in place.
Rear Takedown Pin
This step is similar to the last one. You will install the rear takedown pin detent in from the backside of the receiver with the spring behind it. Install the takedown pin. Now, the spring will get its tension from the full installation of the butt stock.
Apply some thread locker on the threads of the buffer tube/receiver extension (make sure the castle nut is in place on the extension if you are using a carbine stock). Screw the receiver extension into receiver slowly making sure the takedown spring is still in place but don’t screw it in all the way just yet.
On the receiver in front of the threads, place the buffer retainer spring and buffer retainer into the receiver. Thread the buffer tube until it holds the buffer retainer into place, but don’t screw it so far that it completely restricts the movement of the buffer retainer.
Now you will want to tighten the stock into place. For an A2 stock, you will need to screw it in from the very back of the stock. With a carbine stock, you will probably want to use a stock wrench to tighten the castle nut onto the end plate (or burnsed style sling mount).
Insert the buffer spring and then the assembly into the receiver extension until the buffer retainer holds the spring and assembly into the buffer.
That’s it, you did it!
Left to right: A Complete Carbine AR15 Lower, Complete A2 AR15 lower
I remember my first carbine class I attended. I had a great time on the first day, but when I got home later that day I was exhausted. We had shot something like 700 rounds that day. I was so tired I just couldn't get up the motivation to clean my weapon.
The next day was upon me seemingly pretty fast and I decided to take another AR15 with me as well as the one I used the day before just in case I needed it. I didn't want to use that rifle if I didn't have to though. I gave my primary AR15 a good shot of oil and crossed my fingers thinking that I would be lucky if it ran well all day. Not because I had experienced anything in the past that would suggest it wouldn't work, but because I had always heard that an AR15 will start to choke if it is not cleaned very well every 1000 rounds or so.
Well, I finished off the carbine class with about another 700 rounds and to my surprise, no failures.
Just for the sake of it, I decided to let it go a little longer without cleaning just to see how long it would go, only oiling it to keep it going. I got it close to 2500 rounds before finally getting bored of the "test" and decided to clean it.
Since then, I have pushed many of my other AR15's to similar degrees and read of countless other accounts online where people have pushed just as hard or harder. I have also slacked off on my AR15 cleanings in recent years.
I hadn't stripped down my BCG's on any of my older AR15's in a few years, but just a couple weeks ago I decided to go through all of them and give them a good thorough cleaning.
I had never let them go for this long, and some of them have seen thousands of rounds in this time. Most cleanings took me about 5 minutes and consisted mostly of a wipe down of the BCG, a boresnake run through the barrel, and re-lubing. I like CLP and have never had a problem with it in my AR15's.
The bolts were filthy, as were the firing pins, etc... and some of the carbon was caked on pretty good. I hadn't been experiencing any failures. I simply decided it was "time" to clean them good.
It doesn't take 30 minutes to clean your AR15 and if you do not have time to clean your AR15, shoot some oil in there and it should run great. When I do a complete thorough cleaning, it takes me 10-15 minutes.
I am not advocating that you should not clean your AR15. I believe a clean weapon works better than a dirty one. However, for as much flack as the AR15 gets for not being able to run "dirty", I don't buy it. Particularly the idea that carbon fouling is an issue. They will run dirty, they just need to be properly well lubed.
I find that keeping the weapon properly well lubed particularly throughout it's early usage is critical as well.
This may be a little too much hands on for many people who would prefer to simply buy their AR15. However, for those of you who are even the least bit mechanically inclined and have the time to spend building an AR15, I highly recommend it.
Stripped AR15 lower receiver
I like that it gives me the ability to know and understand the design and function of the AR15 rifle. This gives me a better idea on how to diagnose potential problems and fix them.
It also gives me the ability to hand inspect every part in the weapon to determine quality (to some degree). I can swap out and upgrade parts as well as refinish them in order to improve quality of the part and the weapon as a whole.
It's also nice to be able to make changes down the road when I decide that I want a different upper style, barrel profile/length, etc...
A complete 16" AR15 upper
There are various degrees of AR15 building. Anywhere from buying two separate halves (a complete upper and a complete lower) and mating them together (the easiest way to "build") to finishing out an 80% stripped lower and turning down a barrel on a lathe (something that takes a lot more time, tools, and savvy).
A complete AR15 carbine lower receiver
I read an article not too long ago about the downsides of what some people refer to as "frankenrifles", home built, or even kit AR15's. It went on to mention that these rifles were not reliable and should not be trusted for personal defense.
A custom built 14.5" AR15 carbine (with a permanently attached 1.5" Phantom Flash Hider), Hogue grip, and Daniel Defense rail
While I agree that many of the cheaper "kit rifles" may be lacking the quality, a home build very well can give a savvy AR15 builder a better rifle than can be purchased off the shelf. However, this starts with using quality components from reputable companies, especially where it matters most.
A custom built 14.5" AR15 carbine (with a permanently attached 1.5" Phantom Flash Hider), Hogue grip, CTR stock, LaRue rail, and ACOG (light sabre not included)
Many people often think that you can save money on AR15's by building them, this can be true but it tends to be most true when you desire to build the best possible rifle for the money. This is because you can buy many parts such as a forged anodized lower receiver from many reputable companies for much cheaper than if you went straight to LMT or Noveseke. Most AR15 lower receivers are going to be the same in quality, regardless of manufacturer. The same is true with many other parts.
The parts that are the most crucial to get from high quality manufacturers tend to be barrels and bolts foremost, with special consideration given to other parts such as triggers, sights, buffer tubes, stocks, etc...
Customized AR15 A2 flash hider was turned down on the ends with a lathe and given a more unique look to better fit the skinny profile of this 16" pencil barrel AR15 carbine
Depending on the degree of customization you will need a variety of tools. To simply assemble an AR15 lower to a complete lower, you would need the stripped lower, a lower parts kit, desired sling mounts, and a buttstock assembly. The tools needed would be a set of pin punches, a small hammer, stock wrench (for adjustable carbine stocks), allen wrench, loctite, and possibly a flat head screwdriver.
To build an upper, tools needed would need a barrel wrench or AR15 armorers tool, action blocks for the upper receiver, vise (to hold the action bolcks), pin punches, etc...
This along with the barrel (including front sight base/gas block, gas tube, handguards, and possibly barrel nut, delta ring, etc...), upper receiver, upper reciever parts kit, sights and/or optic of choice, desired sling mounts, among other possible things.
And to a larger degree, depending on the complexity of your build, you may want or need an air compressor, drill press, silver solder, lathe, etc...
AR15 Carbines refinished with Duracoat in camo pattern
I have personally helped dozens of friends and family members with numerous builds in a variety of different configurations.
Compatibility between various brands usually is a non-issue. Once in a while, you will get an upper from brand "X" and a lower from brand "Y" that will have a tighter and looser fit. A tight fit is usually cured by usage of the AR15, shooting, assembling and disassembling. A loose fit can be cured with an Accu-Wedge.
Sometimes the finishes will not match perfectly (this is merely cosmetic and will not affect the function at all). Receivers can have anywhere from a black, gray, or even purplish coloring depending on the manufacturer and the particular “batch”. Refinishing is an option if this bothers you that much.
Of course, there is also the option of swapping out the receivers.
Fit and finish is nice, but it doesn't translate to anything where the rubber meets the road.
Many of Colts newer AR-15’s are made with larger pin hole sizes that won’t fit the majority of receivers out there (except the ones they made to match them) as well as odd (large) sized FCG's in an effort to over-comply and appease the ATF. This way, their “civilian” AR-15’s won’t be compatible with M16’s. Normal Receivers and lower parts kits won’t be compatible with these Colt receivers either, as Colt is the only one to have taken this drastic measure. It’s annoying and it keeps me from ever wanting many parts from Colt in my AR-15’s. Many people feel that Colt has sold out to the ATF and boycott their products altogether (I haven't gone that far yet).
You can match up Colt lower receivers with other types of uppers if you get an adapter for the large pivot pin.
Having built several AR-15’s, I can say that there is very little problem using parts from different manufacturers to construct an AR-15. I have rarely assembled an AR-15 with all the parts being from one particular manufacturer. All of my personal AR-15’s are mutts.
A Few Things You Should Know About Building an AR-15
Federal law Prohibits you from building a rifle with a total barrel length of less than 16" unless you apply for and are granted the $200 tax stamp for an SBR (short barreled rifle).
If you do not have the tax stamp and intend to put the upper on a rifle lower that is not registered with the ATF, you must be sure that your barrel is the minimum required length. In order to achieve this minimum length on a shorter barrel (than 16") such as a 14.5" barrel, you need to permanently attach a muzzle device that will bring the overall barrel length to 16" or greater.
If you are building an AR15 pistol, you need to register it as a pistol from the moment you get it from the FFL. A pistol AR15 CANNOT have a buttstock or a vertical foregrip.
A registered SBR can have a buttstock and a barrel of any length.
Although I oppose many of the laws regarding restriction on barrel lengths, select fire capabilities, etc... I do NOT recommend or condone ANY illegal modification to your AR15. It is simply not worth it.