The Budget Lite Rifle
A while ago, I got to thinking about building a lightweight AR-15 on a budget… Mainly because I had gotten a great deal on a virgin magnesium alloy lower and was bored. Thus, $25 later I knew I had to at least build something with it.
Initially, being new to modern stuff, I had figured that the matching magnesium alloy lowers would be fine. However, that’s also the point I had to ask myself what I wanted out of an upper and how hard the rifle was going to be running. This lead me into going with a stripped upper without a forward assist. Why? Well, for starters, I have never once needed the forward assist when shooting an AR. For many people that don’t put their AR through battlefield conditions, they may never either. As such we ditched it. It saved ounces and it is one less thing to break on the gun. The downside, is that there really aren’t many uppers without the jam button on the market. In my case, I went with an Aero, no-forward assist upper with the dust cover pre-installed for $65 shipped. Trust me, half of budget building is literally waiting five-ever for sales, deals, clearance, etc.
For the barrel, I knew there had to be something better than your run-of-the-mill carbine barrel. After all, the standard profile barrel is not the pencil barrel of the A1 and the HBAR nonsense was right out. Talking around to various friends lead me to Faxon. Surprise, right? They kinda have the pencil barrel market covered well, and in my case, for $150 I got a 16″ mid-length barrel. The idea for going mid-length over carbine in this case was to keep the “softer shooting” with the lower overall mass.
However, I did decide to get a bit experimental with this build by going with a low-mass BCG and an A2 Rifle buffer with a skeleton stock. From my reading, it appears that many people claim there is more wear on the low-mass BCGs when you pair it with a gas-buffer (as one might normally). As such, we will see just how much this rifle wears in the future. It pains me to admit I’ve not put more than 2,000 rounds through it due to range availability not lining up for me. Despite this, I can comfortably say that if you decide to go for a build like this, avoid lacquered steel case ammo.
This brings us to the choice of hand guard. I wanted it to be lighter and more minimalist than your standard AR-15 offerings. With a little bit of research and some talking, I decided on the Aero Atlas-S; specifically the MLOK version. I know some have given me flak for this choice in that it doesn’t have a full top rail, but this rifle wasn’t designed for “operating”. Nor was it going to be getting irons. I could argue as to why I selected MLOK, but with “dickmod” being thrown on clearance everywhere, I think that has been settled.
From there, I kept it to a boring mil-spec LPK, charging handle, A2 bird cage, and gas tube. However, for the gas block, I did go with Faxon’s low-profile option. Really, the only complaint there is that it’s a pain in the ass to pin that gas tube.