My first AR-15s were a mix of used and new parts, “rifle kits”, anything I could find that was cheap.
I didn’t understand what the difference was between the stuff I could piece together for $500-550 and the stuff that I could buy for $800. Knowing what I know now, the $800 stuff back then wasn’t all that great, and the “good” stuff was $1200 on up. Of course, I spent at least $1200 between two rifles that ended up being junk, because I thought that was better than having one good rifle.
However, times have changed. It’s now possible to simply buy a really good rifle for under $800. I’m not saying that the kit gun manufacturers have gotten any better; I’m saying that existing rifle manufacturers have stepped in to fill a gap between the really cheap, hit-or-miss stuff and the high quality rifles that may be financially out of reach for many potential AR-15 owners.
One such company is Spike’s Tactical and their LE line of uppers and rifles. A coupon code is available that will knock $50 off the price of their uppers and complete rifles. For $750 plus shipping and transfer fees, you’ll end up with a quality rifle, one you’ll never make an excuse for. It’s complete with a quality, US made carry handle (which normally sells for around $100) and a 30rd Magpul PMag.
I used to be a firm believer that building a rifle would save money, but I do not believe that you could possibly build a rifle with all of the same features for $750. Sure, you might be able to shave $100 or $150 off the price, if you were willing to sacrifice quality or durability and reduce the capabilities of the weapon (such as not including a rear sight, which many kit gun manufacturers like to do in order to make their products look financially attractive). In the long run, though, such a small price difference won’t matter – while the lack of quality will.
Your options aren’t limited to Spike’s Tactical, though – the increased competition over the past few years has caused many companies to look for ways to increase quality and decrease cost. That said, I really wish Spike’s Tactical had introduced their LE line when I was first getting into ARs. They would have saved me a massive amount of money. I firmly believe that there has never been a better time to be entering the AR-15 world, whether you’re a hobbyist, a hunter, or someone looking for a rifle to be used for “serious social purposes”.