NM AR Rifle Build Part 3

In Part 1, we introduced the series and talked about tools.
In Part 2, we installed the magazine catch and trigger guard.

This time, we’re going to install the Jewell match grade, 2 stage adjustable trigger and go over the adjustment procedure.

The Jewell is pretty plainly not the absolute best trigger out there; and I have read some reviews complaining about them being too hard to adjust or not having the longevity that they should. As far as the first complaint, I’d say they either installed it wrong or were not adjusting it properly. Only time will tell whether the second complaint is accurate or not. I will say that, now that I’ve gotten mine installed, I’m very happy with it so far.

One of the biggest complaints about the Jewell trigger is that the installation instructions suck. That one I can wholeheartedly agree with. Hopefully, this post will come in handy for those intrepid souls who scour the internets for information that will make their lives easier.

As usual, click all pix to make bigger

The Jewell trigger assembly is very different from the standard trigger and hammer assembly.

Fortunately, the hammer spring is already installed in on the hammer out of the box and the trigger and disconnector assembly are already assembled.

This simplifies things considerably.

BTW: The nammer and trigger pins do not come with the trigger. You have to buy them separately. They do make both small pin and large pin versions of the trigger so you can get what you need for your lower.

The first step is to figure out how the trigger return spring fits on the trigger.

It goes on the left side of the trigger.

The spring has a bent leg and a straight leg.

The bent leg goes toward the trigger and the tip should be pointing up. There is a small “peg” on the left side of the trigger that this bent leg should catch on when properly installed.

Place the trigger into the lower receiver with the spring in this position.

It may not stay perfectly aligned because it’s a pretty loose fit. That’s OK, as long as the loop is positioned so the pin will go through it, you’re OK.

Next, while holding the trigger and spring to keep them aligned with the trigger pin holes, insert the trigger pin. FROM THE RIGHT SIDE (I’m yelling because this is important) and with the offset groove to the right.

Don’t put the pin in all the way yet, just enough to keep the trigger from falling out.

Now, slide the first stage adjustment plate in between the trigger return spring and the side of the receiver. If you pushed the pin in too far in the previous step, you may have to pull it back out a little to get the plate to go in.

The plate should be installed with the “teeth” pointing inward toward the trigger and the flat edge down toward the bottom of the receiver.

Line the plate up with the trigger pin hole, be sure that loop in the spring is still aligned with the trigger pin, and finish pushing the trigger pin the rest of the way in.

Next, the straight arm of the trigger return spring has to be brought up to engage the teeth in the first state adjustment plate. This is where the wire tool that came with the trigger came in handy.

One end of the wire is hooked. Use that hook to snag the straight arm of the trigger return spring and pull it up until it engages the adjustment plate. Which tooth it engages isn’t important at this point, as long as the spring is engaged in the adjustment plate teeth.

As you put tension on the spring, if it’s installed correctly, the bent arm of the spring should engage the peg on the left side of the trigger assembly.

Mine hooked right in. I’m sure if it doesn’t, you could just jiggle or move it around a bit until it pops into place.

AFTER the straight arm of the trigger return spring is engaged in the adjustment plate teeth, it’s time to install the hammer. If you forget and put the hammer in first, you’ll have to take it back out because the trigger return spring won’t fit past it once it’s installed.

The hammer’s pretty straightforward.

There is a cylindrical “roller” type bearing on the front part of the hammer spring. That roller goes against the front of the receiver.

As the hammer is pushed down into position, pry it back against the spring tension and lever the bottom in toward the front of the receiver.

Once you get the pin hole in the hammer aligned with the holes in the receiver, you can insert the hammer pin, again with the offset groove to the right.

It might make it easier to use a pin punch to line everything up and then push the pin punch out with the hammer pin.

Next, the hammer and trigger pin retainer goes in. On a standard trigger assembly, the hammer and hammer spring engage the grooves in the hammer and trigger pins to lock them in place. The Jewell trigger, because of the difference in design, doesn’t have that locking mechanism built in.

That is the purpose of the pin retainer.

From the right side of the receiver, gently push the trigger pin until it clears the side of the receiver. You just need it to clear the side of the receiver, don’t push it completely out.

Slip the loop end of the pin retainer between the right side of the trigger and the wall of the receiver.

the straight arm of the pin retainer should be pointing forward and down toward the hammer pin.

Once the loop is in position, seat the trigger pin fully back into place.

For the next step, the other tool included with the trigger comes in handy.

Use the wedge end of the tool to gently pry the hammer spring away from the right side of the receiver.

You’re trying to create a gap large enough for the pin retainer to slip through.

Once you have a gap between the hammer spring and receiver wall, use the notch in the trigger tool to push in and down on free end of the pin retainer.

Slip the arm of the pin retainer between the hammer spring and receiver wall, and so that the retainer is to the rear of the hammer pin.

Press it down until the half-loop in the pin retainer snaps around the hammer pin.

Once the pin retainer is in place, it should be under tension between the two pins.. The tension should force the two wire loops into the grooves in the hammer and trigger pins and lock them into place.

I pushed the pins back and forth slightly a few times while pressing down on the visible part of the the pin retainer to ensure that it locked into the grooves.

That’s it for installation. That wasn’t so bad now was it? Now for adjustment.

***IMPORTANT NOTE*** it is not good for the lower receiver to dry fire without the upper installed. Dry firing without the upper causes the hammer to impact the aluminum front of the trigger well in the receiver. Since aluminum is a relatively soft metal, this can cause damage to the receiver.

All is not lost, however. What I do is stick a popsicle stick between the front of the hammer and the rear wall of the receiver. When the hammer falls, it hits the popsicle stick versus the aluminum receiver and prevents damage to the receiver wall. This destroys the popsicle stick within about three or four dry fires, but popsicle sticks are significantly less expensive than lower receivers and are not regulated by the ATF (yet). [/NOTE]

There are four adjustment points for this trigger. The first is the first stage trigger pull (aka takeup) that is adjusted by the tension of the trigger return spring. This can be changed by moving the straight arm of the trigger return spring into different teeth of the first stage adjustment plate.

Both of the trigger tools were useful for this adjustment. When the trigger return spring is toward the front (least tension) end of the adjustment plate, the hooked end on the wire tool seemed to work best for pulling the arm back into the higher tension ranges of the adjustment plate.

But after the half-way point, it seemed easier to use the notched end of the other trigger tool to push the spring into the higher range of the adjustment plate’s positions.

I was very impressed with the range of adjustment options that this setup gave for the first stage trigger pull tension.

The other three adjustments are made by turning allen head set screws on the trigger assembly itself.

The first of these adjustments to make is the sear engagement adjustment.

This adjusts how far the trigger moves during the second stage of the trigger pull…after the trigger makes contact with the sear, how far it moves before the sear releases the hammer.

This movement is also called “creep”. The more creep there is, the less “crisp” the trigger is. With too much creep, the trigger can feel mushy or gritty as it releases.

Too little creep is a problem as well though. If there isn’t enough sear engagement, the hammer may fail to lock back after firing and “follow” the bolt down as it closes. At best, this means that the hammer won’t be cocked between shots and you’ll have to manually operate the bolt to cock the hammer. At worst, this condition can cause uncontrolled full auto fire. Not only is uncontrolled full auto bad for your scores in competition, but it can result in an out of battery cartridge detonation which is a very convenient method of turning your upper receiver into a hand grenade.

One other point about adjusting the sear engagement. This screw cannot be accessed with the hammer cocked. That means you should go slowly and make very small adjustments. If you get overzealous, you could adjust it to the point that the hammer won’t release at all. This is bad because, as I said before, you can’t reach the screw with the hammer cocked. If the hammer is cocked and won’t release, and you can’t reach the adjustment screw…there is only one way to adjust it: take the hammer and trigger pins out, remove the whole trigger assembly to release the hammer, adjust some of the sear engagement out, and then reassemble the whole thing.

I’m sure you can imagine how I figured that one out.

At any rate: The way I adjusted the sear engagement is, I basically adjusted it down until I had a hair trigger. Then I put maybe an eighth of a turn of engagement back in to be sure the engagement was sufficient to be safe. After firing my first 20 rounds through it tonight, that method seems to have worked well: no failures of any kind. So far so good.

The next adjustment is the second stage pull.

This is what determines how much pressure is required from the end of the first stage “takeup” until the trigger releases.

This is adjsuted with the larger allen screw on the rear of the trigger assembly.

You can adjust this down to the point that there is no appreciable second stage…the pull is smooth all the way until the hammer releases…or up so that significant force is required to release the hammer.

According to the instructions, Jewell recommends adjusting the first stage pull to 3 1/2 pounds, and then the second stage to 1 pound, for a DCM legal 4 1/2 pounds of pull.

While experimenting and dry firing, that didn’t feel “right” to me. The takeup felt too tight and the second stage release didn’t feel sufficient to give me a distinct release point. I decided to lower the first stage and increase the second stage a little. By my rinky-dink pull gauge, I read a first stage of 2 1/2 pounds and a release at 4 1/2 pounds for a second stage of 2 pounds.

I have to say that, after shooting it tonight, I think I was wrong. I’m going to adjust it closer to Jewell’s recommendation. What felt good when dry firing, didn’t feel so good when actually shooting. The first stage felt OK, but the release was too tight. It was crisp and clean, but just too heavy. I’m going to reduce the second stage, but to keep it within the DCM legal 4 1/2 pound range, I’m going to have to increase the first stage by an equal amount. That’s going to put me right around where Jewell recommended to begin with: 3 1/2 pound first stage, 1 pound second stage.

I guess they actually knew what they were talking about.

The final adjustment is overtravel.

This controls how far the trigger continues to the rear after the hammer releases.

It is adjusted with the small allen screw on the front right of the trigger assembly.

Overtravel (arguably) isn’t quite as critical to a good trigger pull as the sear engagement and pull weights, but it does make a difference in the overall feel of the trigger. When the trigger stops moving to the rear just as the hammer releases, it just feels more precise and actually makes the second stage pull weight feel less than it actually is. In other words, you can probably get away with a long overtravel distance, but the entire trigger experience is improved by reducing it.

The bst way to adjust the overtravel is to turn the screw in until the hammer simply won’t release at all. You can do that with this adjustment because you can still get to the screw with the hammer cocked. Once you’ve got it down to where the hammer won’t release, back the screw out a about a quarter turn and pull the trigger. If the hammer still doesn’t release, back the screw out another quarter turn and try it again. Repeat just until the hammer releases.

That’s the minimum overtravel you can have and still release the hammer.

That’s it. The trigger is installed and adjusted, so here’s where we’re at.

Next time well install the Safety Selector and Pistol Grip, and the Bolt Catch.

Click here for part 4

I just got back from the range

Just the 25 yard indoor range on the Marine Corps base. And I forgot my allen wrench to adjust the windage on the FSB so I didn’t get that done…but I broke Obama’s cherry.

First 20 rounds of break-in done.

I’m not going to give a full range report because it would be out of order…I’ll do that after all the build posts are up.

But I will say this: About the only way you could’ve scraped the grin off my face as I was leaving the range was with a cold chisel and 2 lb hammer.

I am one happy shooter right now.

NM AR-15 Rifle Build Part 2

In Part 1, we introduced the series and talked about tools.

This time we’re going to install the magazine catch and the trigger guard

As usual, click all pix to make bigger

The magazine catch consists of three components, the catch itself, the spring and the button.

From the left side of the lower receiver, place the magazine catch into its well. It should fit flush against the side of the receiver.

While holding the magazine catch in place with your finger, flip the lower over and slip the spring over the threaded post.

Then with the knurled part of the magazine catch button facing out, compress the spring with the button and screw the button onto the magazine catch post.

You’ll only be able to turn the button a couple of turns before the side of the lower interferes. At this point, align the button so that it fits into the oblong hole in the lower receiver, then press the button in as far as you can with your finger.

While holding the button in, from the left side of the receiver, turn the magazine catch to continue screwing the post into the button.

Again, you’ll get to the point where the receiver interferes and you won’t be able to screw the magazine catch down far enough.

At that point, use a punch or other long, slender object, padded with a rag to keep from marring the finish, to compress the button further into the receiver.

Continue turning the magazine catch until the post is about even with the top of the threads inside the button.

Line the magazine catch up with its well in the left side of the receiver and allow it the spring tension to press the catch into place.

The Trigger Guard consists of only two pieces

The trigger guard assembly itself contains a spring and pin (the silver piece), but generally come pre-assembled.

The only other component is the roll pin.

For some reason, I didn’t take any pictures of the assembly itself so I’m going to recycle a couple of pictures from the last assembly.

These pictures are from my old camera so you’ll be able to compare exactly how much better the new camera is as compared to the old one.

The end of the trigger guard with the spring loaded pin goes to the front of the receiver.

It can really go in one way because there is only one hole in the receiver mounting ears.

Match the side of the trigger guard without the pin, to the mounting ear with no hole. Angle the trigger guard so that the plain side goes in first. Press the spring loaded pin in with your finger, and then rock the pin side down onto the mounting ear.

As soon as the pin is lined up with the hole in the mounting ear, it will snap into the hole, locking the trigger guard in place.

Next, push the opposite end of the trigger guard into the rear mounting ears and align the pin holes.

It doesn’t hurt anything to insert a small punch to line up the holes and keep them aligned while driving in the roll pin, but it isn’t really required.

Drive the roll pin through the rear mounting ears and the trigger guard mounting hole.

And that’s where we are so far.

Next time, we’ll install and adjust the Jewell two stage match trigger.

Click here for Part 3

NM AR-15 Rifle Build Part 1

I’m going to consider this part one of the series even though I’ve been talking about this for a while now; this is the first of the series that involves the actual assembly and not just picking parts and buying stuff.

Anyone interested in the backstory regarding my reasons for assembling this rifle, the components that I chose and why, the costs incurred, etc can click HERE for all of those preliminary posts. I changed the category of the preliminary posts to “NM Rifle Pre-build” to differentiate them from the actual assembly series posts.

Although I’ve already done a post series on assembling an AR-15 lower, I’m going to repeat those steps here for the sake of thoroughness. the only real differences between this one and the other one I did are that this one uses an A-2 style buttstock so that assembly is slightly different, and the Jewell match trigger installation is significantly different. If you’re interested in assembling a lower with a standard trigger and an M4 style collapsible buttstock, the final post of that series (with links to the other posts in the series) can be found HERE.

As usual…click all pix to make bigger

One National Match AR-15 rifle…some assembly required.

Doesn’t look all that daunting once you get it all spread out does it?

I should have taken a picture with all the little pieces parts just dumped into a big ziplock bag. Now THAT made it look complicated.

To recap (and because I’m sure someone stumbling across this who has’t read any of the preliminary posts linked above is going to ask), the lower is a CMMG. The Upper is a YHM, the Barrel is a DPMS .223, Stainless Steel, DCM Legal, 1:8 twist, 20″ HBAR. The trigger is a Jewell 2 stage adjustable match trigger. The free float tube, handguards, Buttstock assembly, 1/4 moa x 1/4 moa rear sight and front sight post are all from Rock River Arms. The Bolt Carrier Group I don’t know the make but I got it in trade for an SKS trigger job so I wasn’t being picky. The magazines are steel 20 rounders from C-Products. The charging handle is from Model 1 and all the small parts are a mix of DPMS and Olympic depending what MidwayUSA had in stock, what got the best reviews and what was the least expensive, in that order. For costs and the reasoning (or lack thereof) for all of my selections, please click link above to the pre-build posts…I discussed all that in great detail there.

Before we actually get into the assembly, lets talk a little bit about tools.

The lower assembly doesn’t require any particular special tools. Everything for the lower is pretty standard fare: pin punches, needle nose pliers, hammer etc.

The upper only requires a couple of specialized tools: the Armorer’s Action Block, the AR-15 multi-tool (or a barrel nut wrench, combined with a spanner wrench and an appropriate sized open end wrench for the flash hider), and snap ring pliers and a torque wrench (which are pretty standard for piston-heads, and can be purchased or rented at virtually any auto parts store).

The packing tape is needed for installing the bolt catch pin and is only used to prevent the lower receiver finish from being marred during installation. It can be used at any phase of the assembly to protect the finish, but is really only needed for the bolt catch pin.

The dremel tool, jewelers file, fine stone and cold blue were only needed because I was installing a free float tube with a standard A2 Front Sight Base (FSB). The Free float tube has the front sling swivel mounted on it. In order for it to fit correctly, the sling swivel mounting ears on the FSB have to be ground or cut off. Then the area that is cut must be re-finished with cold blue to prevent corrosion and to match the finish. If you’re doing a standard installation without the free-float tube, or using an FSB or gas block that doesn’t have an integral sling swivel mount, these tools aren’t required.

The Jewell trigger tools came with the trigger assembly. The two allen wrenches were also required for the trigger for adjustment purposes…conveniently, the large allen wrench used for the trigger was also the size needed for the FSB set screws that, on a match rifle, replace the taper pins.

The snap ring pliers, torque wrench and multi-tool are needed for barrel installation. The torque wrench needs to go to at least 30 foot pounds and should be 1/2″ drive. If a 3/8″ drive torque wrench is used, a 3/8″ to 1/2″ socket adapter will be needed to fit the torque wrench to the hole in the multi-tool.

The home-made A2 sight tool is only needed if you are assembling an A-2 upper that doesn’t have rear sights already installed. I made that on the fly when I realized that I really did need it. I saw A-2 sight tools for sale but decided I could manage without one…I was right…it was easy to make one out of a humble popsicle stick that worked just fine.

The big straight slot screwdriver is used for the Lower Receiver extension self-locking screw (aka upper buttstock screw) and the pistol grip screw. There are different types of pistol grip screws so be sure you have a long driver for the type of screw you have, whether allen head, phillips, or whatever.

Not pictured is my bench vise…pretty much a must have for assembling an upper receiver. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to properly torque the barrel nut without one and it makes several other parts of the assembly much easier.

The Armorer’s block is really only needed for installing the barrel, but it is very useful for holding the upper receiver during several stages of the assembly. I actually bought an Armorer’s block set which also came with a lower action block as well as the upper action block. The lower action block is basically a chunk of plastic shaped like a magazine. It locks into the magazine well in the lower and then clamps in a vise to hold the lower while working.

During my last lower build, I used a rubber-jawed hobby vise to hold the lower during the assembly. This time, I had an assistant (my son) and those two extra hands meant I didn’t need either the hobby vise or the lower action block. If you are going to be doing this on your own, I’d recommend getting the lower action block as well as the upper action block. It seems to me that the lower action block would work just as well as my hobby vise did if you only have two hands; and, at MidwayUSA, the set was only a couple dollars more than just the upper action block by itself.

You may run across an opportunity to use some other common tools, smaller screwdrivers, different sized hammers, etc…but those really just make things easier, they aren’t really required. The above tools are all that you really need to assemble an AR-15.

Stay tuned…in part 2 we’re going to start assembling the lower.

Click here for Part 2

NM Rifle Update

I just got done cataloging, resizing, cleaning up and captioning pictures. Now I’m ready to start writing posts.

Should start getting the step-by-step posts up in the next day or so.

Saturday, I’m going to be at the Airfield shooting club all day teaching boy scouts about gun safety and handling. My first foray into the wild and wooley world of the NRA instructor. Should be fun.

While I’m there, if I have time, I’m going to start breaking in the barrel on the new rifle. I won’t really know how it shoots until I’ve gotten a few hundred rounds downrange, but I should at least be able to tell whether it works OK and if I’m at least in the ballpark.

It doesn’t help that I couldn’t find any match ammo anywhere. I ended up just picking up some cheap 55 grain FMJ, so I won’t really even be trying for groups until I get something better to do it with.

I’ll let you know how it goes even though I’m not expecting much at this point.

NR Rifle build update

The rifle is built. My son and I did most of it on Saturday and I finished it up yesterday.

Much more to come, but here’s a little teaser to get you started:

This text will be replaced

By the way: we made a really bonehead mistake when putting it together. If you’re looking really closely, you might spot it, but it’s only visible in two of the pictures of this slideshow before we corrected it. 500 bonus COACOO points to anyone who leaves a comment correctly identifying the mistake we made.

Good News

Rock River seems to be ahead of schedule. A couple of days ago, I got the notification that they had shipped the final couple of parts I need for my NM rifle build. They should be here tomorrow. Much better than the week to ten days they told me it would probably take to get the parts shipped.

I’m trying to arrange a time for my son and I to get together to do this build. I’m going to have him do most of the assembly and I’m going to take pictures so I should be able to get some really good shots…much better than using a tripod and timer.

I hope so anyway. I’m no professional photographer.

Of course, I’m no professional anything. One of the downsides to being able to do pretty much anything I set my mind to is that I’m not specialized enough to be really good at anything. Your stereotypical “Jack of all trades, master of none”.

At any rate, I’ll start taking some preliminary photos of the parts all laid out and organized by assembly tomorrow. After we get the rifle built, I’ll get started putting together a series of posts on the build.

Should be fun.

NM AR Build Update

OK…I ordered the last of the essential parts for the NM AR build today.

Brownell’s had the Rock River free float tube for less than Rock River was selling them for…and had them in stock. I did find out through the review that the RR float tube does not come with the Delta ring, weld spring or snap ring. I also found out that the float tube comes with a gas tube so I wasted a little money buying one of those…oh well.

The Model 1 charging handle I had been waiting for was in stock at MidwayUSA, but the two pivot/takedown pin detent springs were still listed as backordered.

So…I cancelled the detent springs from MidwayUSA and ordered the charging handle, delta ring, weld spring and snap ring from them. Then I ordered the detent springs and the free float tube from Brownell’s. Finally, I called Rock River to verify they had them in stock…they do…and that they’d be able to ship them to me in a reasonable time…they can (about 10 days)…and ordered the NM rear sights and the buttstock kit.

So, the only things I have left are accessories…weights, muzzle and sight covers, a sling, things like that. Those can all wait.

At the bottom of this post, I’ll update my costs so far.

Before that, though…right before I left for the weekend, I got an e-mail that asked some good questions. I promised the writer an answer, but I think the questions are worth answering in public. The pertinent part of his e-mail:

First question: how is the RRA NM float tube mounted? Does it screw on over the barrel nut? Does it replace the barrel nut? Does it come with a barrel nut?

Second question: small parts for the upper. Who, what and where? I’ve seen CMMG uppers with the forward assist and ejection port cover already mounted. Might be a good idea, saves time. How do I pick a charging handle? Before someone sent you a BCG, what were you looking at?

Third question: what tools have you bought so far?

1. This will be my first experience with installing a Free Float tube. From what I’ve gleaned from the limited info I’ve found, the free float tube comes with a specific nut that replaces the barrel nut. The replacement nut screws on where the barrel nut would normally go, then the free float tube screws onto that. That’s as much as I know until I get mine in and start looking at how it all goes together. I’ll be posting the details of the build as I do it so you can learn along with me.

2. Parts for the upper. If you start out with a completely stripped upper as I did, you’ll need:

The bolt carrier group.
The charging handle, including latch, latch spring and latch pin.
The forward assist assembly including spring and retaining pin.
The ejection port cover, retaining ring, pin and spring.
Rear sight assembly.

If you get the A4 type upper, the removable carry handle may come with a rear sight assembly. Be careful of that though because some service rifle matches only allow A2 style rifles.

Many of these parts come together as a kit. I bought the ejection port cover parts, the forward assist parts and the rear sights as kits.

It’s important to do the research and find out what exactly comes with the components you order so you don’t end up spending money on duplicate parts.

As far as from whom…as long as you stay with brand name parts, I can’t see you going wrong. DPMS, Bushmaster, Olympic, Colt etc etc etc…any of them should make good quality, mil-spec parts that will work on your rifle.

I bought almost all of the small parts from MidwayUSA. I have a curio and relic FFL so I get the dealer price from them, which made their prices better than anywhere else. Which specific manufacturer I chose depended on a few factors: What was in stock, Customer reviews, and price…in that order. One of the best features of MidwayUSA is their customer reviews. That’s what prompted me to buy the buttstock from RRA rather than one of the brands that MidwayUSA carries. All of the buttstocks that MidwayUSA had got some bad reviews for fit, finish, quality etc.

Most of the small parts I ordered were either DPMS or Olympic.

In addition to the small upper parts, you’ll need the barrel and the small parts for it.

When ordering a barrel, it is important to note on the ones that don’t have the front sight already installed, you’ll probably have to have the holes for the taper pins drilled both in the barrel and in the front sight itself; or, if you go with the adjustable front sight setup, you’ll have to have the FSB drilled and tapped for the set screws and flats milled in the barrel for the set screws to mate with.

That’s part of the reason I went with the barrel that I did…it was already outfitted with the FSB. I could have handled drilling and tapping the FSB for set screws, but milling the flats in the barrel is beyond my capabilities…mainly because I don’t have a milling machine.

The other parts you’ll need for the barrel are:

The front sight assembly (if it didn’t come with the barrel)
The Free float tube and handguards (which should include the barrel nut)
The sling swivel and rivet (if they don’t come with the free float tube)
The Delta Ring, weld spring and snap ring (may come with the free float tube)
The gas tube and gas tube pin (may come with the free float tube)
The flash supresser and peel washer for a threaded barrel. (if they don’t come with the barrel)

As you can see, it’s important to know what exactly comes with the parts you’re ordering before ordering anything else.

As far as choosing a charging handle…the main thing is to get a stock, military style handle. DCM/CMP/NRA service rifles must have the external appearance (other than the barrel) of an issued service rifle, so the charging handle can’t be oversized or have extended or “tactical” latches. I ended up ordering the Model 1…primarily because it was the only standard one they had in stock. I wouldn’t have ordered it solely for that reason, but the price was right and it got decent reviews also. I figured, even if it doesn’t hold up, I can order a better one later on if I need to. They are easy to change.

I was originally going to get a reduced weight “national match” bolt carrier group, but decided against it. I just don’t think that will have enough impact on accuracy to justify the extra expense. With that in mind, any brand name, mil-spec BCG should work just fine. I was looking at the Bushmaster BCG from MidwayUSA. The price is reasonable, Bushmaster is a well known name in the AR world, and they got excellent customer reviews. The downside is that they are out of stock right now. I can’t imagine that you would go wrong with the DPMS, Olympic, Les Bauer, Daniel Defense, or any of the other brands that they have in stock.

I had heard of some people having problems finding a bolt that would headspace correctly with their match barrel so I bought the headspace gauges to check mine. It was probably a waste of money though because it checked out fine…as I suspect the vast majority would…but better safe than sorry right? If you don’t want to spend the money on the gauges, disassemble the bolt and take the bolt and barrel to a gunsmith. It only takes a minute to check headspace if you take the disassembled parts in to them.

One other note on parts: some people think it is important to get a matched upper and lower set for a tight fit. I disagree. I think an accu-wedge or one of the other methods of tightening the fit will work just fine. Of course, I’m not a world-class shooter who depends on that last fraction of an MOA of performance to make the difference so your mileage may vary.

3. Tools.

I already have pin punches. Roll pin punches probably wouldn’t hurt anything, but I’ve been able to do everything I’ve needed to do with standard pin punches so far.

I bought the headspace gauges but you really don’t need them…those are rather expensive for what they are…about $20 each for the go and no-go gauges. You can save yourself about $40 in tools by skipping them.

I bought the DPMS AR multi-tool. It’s needed for installing the barrel, free float tube and buttstock. There are cheaper knockoffs out there, but from what I read in the reviews, it’s worth it to spend a few extra bucks on the DPMS one.

I bought the Model 1 upper and lower receiver “action blocks”.

A barrel clamp probably wouldn’t hurt anything, but I think I can make do without one. If I need to clamp the barrel, I’ll make a clamp out of wood.

I’ve already got a torque wrench for tightening the barrel nut, but if you don’t have one, you should be able to borrow or rent one from your local auto parts store.

There are other small tools (gas tube alignment tools, gas tube roll pin punch, things like that) but I think standard tools will do just fine, I don’t see any need for something that specific. If I have trouble during the assembly and have to buy any of those specific tools, I’ll burn those bridges when I come to them. Also, I’m including the cost of tools to the total cost of the build because they are expenses that I’ve incurred during the course of this project, but I’m not going to include them in the cost of the rifle once I’m done…tools are useful beyond the one project they were purchased for so their price is not properly included in the cost of the rifle.

Again, this is my first upper build and my first NM build so I’m kind of playing it by ear. I’ll really find out if I made the right decisions as I’m putting it together and during that all important first range trip after it’s done.

Stick with me and we’ll work our way through this together.

And now…the current cost tally:

NM Rifle Build costs
CMMG Stripped Lower $125.99
YHM A2 Stripped Upper $69.00
Lower Parts $46.08
Upper Parts $43.38
Barrel Parts $35.12
DPMS Barrel $148.99
RRA NM Free Float Tube/Handguard $100.00
RRA NM Sight Assembly $110.00
RRA A2 Buttstock Kit $65
Bolt Carrier Group *$66.65
Jewell Trigger $203.99
Magazines (2) $22.98
Tools $83.94
Taxes/Shipping/Handling $57.11
Running Total $1178.23

Those are all the parts I need for the build. The only things left are some accessories: Barrel and buttstock weights, muzzle and sight covers, sling and possibly a hard case.

The only one of those things actually required for a match rifle is the sling. A good, leather NM sling is about $40 to $50. The muzzle and sight covers are about $15, the weights are about $40 and a decent hard gun case can be had for around $100.

You wanna know the really frustrating thing? I just found out that the Norfolk County Rifle Range is conducting an NRA High Power Rifle match at the Blackwater facility on September 19. Unfortunately, I won’t even have all the parts in by then, let alone have time to build it, break it in and check it out thoroughly.

Sigh.

I suppose I could shoot my Garand in the match, even though it isn’t a NM rifle. It would at least give me some practice at the appropriate distances rather than using reduced targets at 100 yards. I’ll have to think about it.

Head Space

I checked it. On my NM AR Project, that is.

I wanted to make sure the bolt I got from Gregory of West By God! would headspace properly with the DPMS match barrel I bought from MidwayUSA.

Checks good on ground power…(it’s a Naval Aviation maintenance thing, you wouldn’t understand).

I probably didn’t need to buy the headspace gauges…AR’s aren’t as susceptible to headspace variations as other types of rifles…but I figured better safe than sorry and, if I ever reach my goal of becoming a professional gunsmith, I might just need them. I now have gauges for .30-06 and .223 Remington. Only about a million calibers to go to have a “full” set.

Anyway, now that I’m sure the bolt and barrel are compatible, all I need to do is conjure up the bucks to buy the last few components I need and get her put together.

Trigger decision

Well, my trigger decision was just made for me.

I was waffling between the Jewell and the Bushmaster match triggers. The Bushmaster is less expensive and reportedly more robust than the Jewell, but the Jewell is more adjustable and has a very good reputation as a match trigger.

Midway USA carries both, but both were listed as out of stock, no backorder. I set up a reminder on both of them and hadn’t really made up my mind as to which one to get. Which one came in first may have ended up being the deciding factor if it was getting down to the wire.

Having settled on the less expensive barrel, I had a little more money budgeted that I could use on the better trigger, so I was beginning to lean toward the Jewell, but I figured I’d have some time to make up my mind before either were in stock at Midway.

Well, I just got notified today that the Jewell trigger is in stock.

I spoke to my wife about it, she said unequivocally that, if it fit in the budget, I should go ahead and order the better trigger. I decided I’d better go ahead…she’s still under the influence of some pretty killer pain meds and there’s no telling if she would change her mind once she comes down from them (I kid).

I really hadn’t intended to order the trigger this soon, but I was afraid if I waited, they would be out of stock again and I’d end up having to settle. I’d already settled on less barrel than I wanted, so I’m not going to settle for less trigger too.

I just finished ordering the trigger. That also meant that I had to order a safety selector, which comes with the Bushmaster trigger, but not the Jewell. And I ordered a set of headspace gauges as well.

So, another updated price list:

NM Rifle Build costs
CMMG Stripped Lower $125.99
YHM A2 Stripped Upper $69.00
Lower Parts $46.08
Upper Parts $27.97
Barrel Parts $22.16
DPMS Barrel $148.99
Bolt Carrier Group *$66.65
Magazines (2) $22.98
Tools $83.94
Jewell Trigger $203.99
Taxes/Shipping/Handling $38.36
Running Total $856.11

To recap the remaining parts I need:

From Rock River, I still need the Free Float tube and handguard ($115), the 1/4 moa NM sights ($110) and the buttstock assembly ($65). From Bushmaster, I need their sight and muzzle cover set (14.95). And weights from Ray-Vin (37.90 for the set).

The added expense of the better trigger is going to put me right at about $1200 or slightly over with shipping and sales taxes. I’m starting to get really excited about this, but I’m probably going to have to hold my water for a while before I can get the rest. Hopefully I can resist raiding my savings account to finish the project.