What I am starting with is a complete lower from Aero Precision, minus the stock, coupled with an assembled upper from Aero. That avoids me having to mess with a ton of little springs which will help me stay moderately sane. This is about the most basic complete lower you can get from them, upper obviously already attached.
I usually use Rock River Arms for my lowers but they use commercial buffer tubes instead of milspec for some reason so lots of stocks won't fit. This is the basic foundation of an AR and I can replace anything I want outside of the upper and lower receivers.
What that leaves me with is a small project that is manageable for someone who is by no means a gunsmith. I know quite a bit but compared to lots of others I am a babe in the woods with a 30 round magazine. Most of what I will be doing will require several Youtube videos before I start.
As I tell my customers, I am an AR enthusiast, not an AR expert. As such I am open to suggestions on which components to add. That is the primary reason for this post in the first place.
Please note that as a dealer I am getting significant discounts on the components I am buying. On the complete lower receiver, I got it with a special dealer sale on top of my wholesale cost so I paid more than $50 less for it than retail. The parts are going to be primarily paid for with profits from the gun business and not take the place of budgeting for other preps. And as I said I am pretty comfortable with where I am on firearms so this is just for fun. You probably shouldn't do an overpriced build unless you can say the same, focus on getting a reliable, accurate, durable rifle and then get another one before you blow money on a tacticool rifle. Not looking for something expensive just for the sake of spending money on a brand-name but also not looking to sacrifice quality to save a few bucks.
My general position on AR-15s is that there are three critical components: the bolt carrier group, the trigger and the barrel. The other stuff is of course important but those three pieces are going to make or break the build. You can buy cheap barrels and stock mil-spec triggers and have a perfectly functional rifle but those are the places where an upgrade makes more of an impact than a fancy handguard or stock.
Obviously I plan on for sure replacing the trigger, probably with a Geissele single-stage trigger. That seems to be the gold standard but I am open to feedback on your experiences with Geissele and/or trigger brands. The Geissele trigger I am looking at has a pretty steep price tag even with a dealer discount but all of the high end trigger groups do. I am also looking at CMC triggers but again I am open to recommendations as I have only ever used stock triggers. I plan to replace the trigger guard with a "winter" trigger guard for a little more room if I am wearing gloves.
For the bolt carrier group I have a spare Sons Of Liberty Gun Works BCG or maybe I will use one of my nickel boron BCGs, although I wonder about having anything on the rifle that is reflective, or just order something sexy from one of my distributors. Open to suggestions.
The sketchy part will be the barrel, gas block and gas tube. I have never messed with those and am not sure what I want and how to put it on. I am sure there are lots of Youtube videos but I struggle when I am unfamiliar and uncomfortable. I want a standard 16" barrel and I can get a Ballistics Advantage barrel through my Aero dealer account. Any thoughts on barrels?
I am going to replace the pistol grip with something cool looking. I like Command Arms pistol grips or maybe a skeletonized carbon fiber grip from Fortis? Mostly I want it to be not slippery.
The charging handle isn't a part I am real twitchy about, it just needs to do what it is supposed to do. Also not a giant fan of oversized/ambi handles and I don't want to drop a c-note on a handle. Thinking maybe a Bravo Company Gunfighter?
Of course I will need a stock as my lower came without one. Wide open on that one, I don't need it to be padded because 5.56 has zero recoil but I want it to be comfortable to shoulder wearing a t-shirt.
The handguard is one of those "furniture" items that needs to be functional but otherwise is whatever I want. Definitely MLOK, not Keymod. I like the Fortis 16" Night Rail. Also considering the Odin Works O2 Lite 15.5", I like that it is pretty light. I freely admit that I want something cool and unique looking as well as being functional.
Muzzle devices are an open topic, anything but the standard birdcage is on the table. I don't really need a muzzle brake because again 5.56 doesn't really demand it so some kind of flash hider or even something non-NFA to reduce the noise. I have a Noveske Fire Pig but I was going to put that on a different gun.
A fourth component that is critical isn't a "gun part" as such but makes a world of difference, and that is the optic. I will be looking for something more than utilitarian for optics. I have both red-dots and LPVOs on other rifles, I am leaning toward another LPVO and probably going to spring for a Leupold. The dealer discount on optics is crazy, often $100 or more on cheaper scopes and a lot more on the more expensive ones. Maybe a Swampfox Arrowhead LPVO, I can get one for about a hundred less than the Leupold I am looking at and get a 1-8x24 instead of a 1.5-4x20. U.S. Optics are nice but are a bit spendy for what you get. I could go full retard and get a Zeiss LPVO for over a grand but probably not. Your suggestions are welcome here as well.
This won't be a "done next week" thing, not going to blow a huge wad of cash all at once. I'll provide updates as necessary but really what I am looking for are your experiences and suggestions of what to consider and what to stay clear of. Have at it!