Our guest blogger, Maggie, has plenty of gun wisdom to share. She’s built her own AR and shares her story below. If you’re like me, you’ll be scouring the internet for an AR kit as soon as you finish the article!

I have always had a soft place in my heart for M16/AR15 rifles. Even before I really knew anything about guns I had the chance to fire an M16 on the hilltops outside Jerusalem. I hit my paper target and it was love and first shot. When I later became interested in firearms and went on to take classes and purchase my own guns, I thought owning my own AR was a dream that I would achieve One Day. Then I got an email announcing the class — Build your own AR! The chance to actually build my own AR

Maggie at the range shooting her AR. In a skirt.

was too much for me. Not only could I own one but I would learn exactly how it works, how to care for and clean it, and pick out every last part on it. The dream was going to come true.

The classes were split into three parts: (1) Introduction to materials needed for the build; (2) Build your lower receiver; and (3) Build your upper receiver– put it all together and test it out! In the first class, I learned about how versatile the AR platform is, how you can add and take off and rearrange to create something new just like building a Lego model! I left the first class with my Brownells (gun parts) catalog and a head swimming with gun parts.

To start with, I chose the parts for the lower. The stripped lower receiver serves as the base — the actual registered part of the gun. I chose a Mega Machine Gator. Then I added a standard DPMS lower parts kit (to install trigger, selector switch, magazine release, etc.) and a Hogue pistol grip for comfort. Finally the awesome Magpul MOE stock (yes it is pinned because adjustable stock is banned in NJ, where I live). I headed out to class and I put in every last spring, screw and detent. I didn’t lose any parts — which isn’t so easy as they are so small and springy! By the time I left that night I had built a lower receiver. We attached it to a complete upper (the part that has the bolt/carrier, the barrel and the handguard, which wraps around the barrel to allow the shooter to have a grip to balance the rifle and keep skin off the hot metal) and it worked — at least in the classroom. All the way home that night I kept checking out the distance to the next red traffic light and wondered, if I took aim with my finished rifle if I could hit it.

The search for the perfect upper took a bit more time. I spent a lot of time surfing the internet searching out rifle parts. My only ally here was my adorable five year old who is probably as in love with ARs as I am. We searched the catalogs for just the right barrel with muzzle break (Armalite), the perfect tactical handguard (Yankee Hill) and the best vertical grip, sights, etc. Then I had to pull back a bit on involving him. I had told him we were just building a fantasy gun — and he started to cry. Big crocodile tears. But in the end I did show him the finished rifle – I couldn’t help myself. He knows almost as much about it as I do.

I’ll never forget the day the barrel was delivered in the mail. When packages come in our house everyone runs to see what has arrived. We came home one Saturday to find a long box on the porch. My husband and kids dragged it to the kitchen (“It’s heavy!”), ripped it open, and then they all just stared into the box. My husband called to me, “Uh, hon, can you come tell us what the heck this is?” I peered in the box and said, “YES! It’s my BARREL!” They all looked at my husband with expressions that said, What did you do with our mother?

With more ease than seemed possible, I finished my AR 15 and I love it. I really wanted to understand how to take it apart and clean it so I challenged myself to see how fast I could disassemble and reassemble the rifle (1 minute and 1 second) and I made sure to clean it every time I fired it even if it was only ten rounds. Since the class I added a sweet little ejection port cover just for fun that says, “Don’t Run, you’ll just Die tired”, and my husband bought me a nice sling for my birthday.

Now I am looking forward to warmer weather so I can go shooting outside. In the meantime, I find myself taking the rifle out every once in a while, you know, just to look at it. As soon as I smell the oils I usually can’t help but pull the trigger. Then it is only a matter of a day or two before I find myself at the indoor range with a full magazine…

And now that the class is over I just think it all went by too fast. I have a great rifle but I still find myself surfing the gun websites for rifle parts. I told my husband this would be the only rifle I ever built so it had to be perfect and he just looked at me and shook his head. He was right, of course. I am already planning my next rifle build. I have the parts for the lower all picked out.