I was looking at the guides on how to assemble an upper and lower and what tools were required. I have none of the tools and from just adding up the cost of tools that were listed the total for both upper/lower receivers was more than $200! Is this right? I wouldn't be saving any money doing it that way.
In terms of saving money on tools, my advice is to just buy the lower, buttstock, etc., & parts kit for assembly & buy the upper assembled.
The advantage to having all of the tools is that you save money cumulatively by building more of them over time. Another way to save would be to buy half of the tools & have a friend buy the other half & then build them together. Or, you buy the tools & split the cost with several friends. Or, you buy the tools & rent them to friends for $50 per rifle or something. You get the idea.
If saving money is what you want, then listen to hardcase, I finaly have all my parts for my first build, just waiting on tools, and I could have dine it much cheaper if I bought the upper completed.
It doesn't take much to assemble the lower, the upper is a different ballgame entirely, here's a couple of tools that are handy for assembling the lower.
3/32 is #3 Roll pin punch
#3 Roll Pin Punch $3.75
1/8 is #4 Roll pin punch
#4 Roll Pin Punch $3.83
First off – You don’t have to spend a fortune on tools to build an AR. That is a fallacy that keeps getting spread around that is simply not true. Most of the tools you should already have (hammer, Screw driver, torx driver, vice, etc). If you don’t have any of these tools already then chances are you are not that “handy” and probably aren’t cut out to build your own anyway.
The only special tools that you have to have to assemble a complete AR are…
Punch set – Cost = $17.95 (That was the price for a full set and you can get these cheaper than they price I listed. This is even something that a lot of people are going to already have. Even if you don’t, you will find yourself using them for other things than just building AR’s
Barrel Wrench – Cost = $26.99 I bought the DPMS unit which will also work to install the ext. tube for collapsible stocks
Action Block – Cost = $35.95 = I bought the DPMS “Claw” as it is the only one that I know of that will allow you to mount a barrel into any AR upper out there
Total Cost = $80.89 Every other tool that you hear about is not needed. They just make some tasks much easier. One perfect example is snap ring pliers. There apparently is a way to install the snap ring for the Delta ring without them but it’s 100x easier to spend the extra ~$10 on a pair of snap ring pliers.
Secondly – You can not attribute the cost of the tools to one gun unless you only ever build one gun. The more ARs you build the cheaper these tools become. You are right in that buying these tools do not make a lot of sense if you are only going to build one AR ever.
Thirdly – (and probably most importantly) Building your own AR is not about saving money. If your one and only goal is to save money than buying a used is the way to go. Even if somebody gave you or lent you all the tools, you would still be hard pressed to build one cheaper than you could buy a used one for (comparing similar quality guns).
There are 3 reasons to build your own AR IMHO
1 To learn more about an AR than you ever could by buying one and field stripping it or by reading any book\manual.
2 To build an AR that is exactly the way you want it. This may actually save you money in the long run because instead of paying for a gun that has parts you don’t like or need and then replacing them, you only pay for the parts that you actually want and will use. Unless you are very lucky or are not very picky, chances are non of the AR manufacturers sells an AR exactly the way you want it.
3 Just for the fun of it! If you are the handy type and like working on\building things than you will probably love building your own AR. I’d love to have about 20 or thirty ARs. Not because I want or need that many but just because it’s fun to do.
In summery, you first need to determine why you want to build your own? ARs are not exactly cheap. If you are looking to save money, buy a used one, do as others have suggested and build the lower and buy a completed upper or just stick to AK’s. If on the other hand your reason falls along with the reasons I gave, buy the tools, enjoy building you AR and never look back.