I bought my first AR-15 in 1978 and with a scope and sling the gun ran me about $600 bucks. Which means that in today’s numbers, that gun should cost me about $1,500 bucks. And right after Sandy Hook, when it looked like a gun bill had a chance of squeaking through Congress and landing on Obama’s desk, prices for black guns did briefly flirt at the $1,500 mark. Then reality set in, everyone who wanted an AR owned an AR or maybe two ARs, the number of ‘new’ shooters coming into the market has never been more than a trickle, and AR prices went back down south. Last year I bought a mint Colt H-Bar for $700 which a year earlier would have set me back at least thousand bucks.
Had I waited until this year to enlarge my AR arsenal, I could have bought the whole wing-ding now for several hundred dollars less because multiple companies are now selling AR “kits” which, like the old ham radio kits that I bought as a kid for $29.95, enable me to build a complete gun from scratch. I can also simply buy every single part from different suppliers, which will even save me a few more bucks, and all the instructions for assembling the gun are, of course, available on various internet websites. Or if I don’t want to bother to read anything, I can also watch a video which claims to show me every step that I need to follow to build an AR for less than $500 bucks.
Let me quickly clarify the legal issues involved in building your own gun. In fact, these AR kits are firearms that need to be purchased through a federally-licensed dealer because they come with a part known as the receiver which contains a specific serial number and is, under law, the part which makes a gun a gun. Every firearm has a receiver, it’s the part which normally holds the trigger and is the foundation, if you will, for assembling the entire gun. But if you know someone with some good milling equipment you can make your own receiver, and if you don’t transfer this part to anyone else, then under law you have not actually manufactured a firearm which means you don’t have to register the gun at all.
The reason that you can’t buy a kit to make a Glock or a Sig is because the design and functioning of those guns is protected by trademarks and copyrights, so anyone who attempted to make home-grown parts for a Sig 226 would find himself quickly facing a legal suit. But the AR consists of what is referred to as ‘mil-spec’ parts, none of which are any more protected by trademark or copyright and all of which are manufactured by hundreds of small machining companies who just make sure that the part they produce is exactly the size required to fit into any AR gun.
So where does this leave the gun industry if anyone can put together their own version of America’s most popular gun at half the price that the same gun commands when it’s sitting on a dealer’s shelf? Where it leaves the gun industry is in a happy place because the real attraction of the AR is that it can take a multitude of accessories, many of which cost more than the gun itself, are manufactured cheap as hell overseas and, best of all, don’t require any kind of point-of-sale licensing at all. I just received a Shop Now email from Optics Planet with links to 118 products which I can use to ‘deck out’ my AR. An Aimpoint red dot scope, front and rear Troy folding battle sights, a Mission First tactical grip and a Blackhawk sling will set me back around $900 (almost twice the price of the gun) or I can go whole hog and slap on a Trijicon ACOG for a thousand bucks.
And what will I do with my battle-ready AR when it’s all decked out? Stick it in the closet with all my other guns.