When it comes to buying a firearm you always want to be well informed. You don't want to finally get yourself an AR-15 and then learn that the gun needs to be worked on by a gunsmith or have parts replaced. Worse being that you find out in a situation that is life-threatening. Which is why we are giving you this AR-15 buyer's guide so that you have all the buying info you need to go out and check any AR-15 be it new or used and not get ripped off.
AR-15 Buyer's Guide to Not Getting Ripped Off
Here is a step by step list of what we believe are the most important parts to check when looking into purchasing an AR-15. There are tons of different things you can or would want to check when getting a new weapon so please let us know what you think we should add to the list in the comments section below.
1. Safety Check
- Obviously, this one cannot fire as it has already been disassembled but be sure to check that your safety is on first before proceeding.
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2. Check the Barrel
- Check the front sight post and just run a line all the way down the barrel to make sure that it's straight.
- Check the ears on the front sight post for any inward bends. This is important because these ears allow your eyes to naturally align when looking down sights.
- Last make sure the front sight is adjustable.
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3. Upper Receiver and Barrel
- Check the upper receiver and barrel – Checking for serviceability
- Grab the upper receiver and six inch barrel portion and twist it to make sure it’s a solid piece
4. Gas Tube
- Check the gas tube
- Gas tube is only secured to the weapon by a pin on the front sight base
- The tube will wiggle because its only secure by the pin at the base
- Pull the gas tube back and forth to make sure it doesn’t come out and is well secured
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5. Upper Receiver
- Check the upper receiver
- Look inside for a uniform shape
- Look to see that it is not bent or oval shaped but a nice round shape – this means that it has good contact with the gas key which helps it function correctly
6. Hand Guards
- Check the hand guards
- Check for cracks on both the ends of the hand guards
- If any of the tabs that secure the hand guard break off and you’re out shooting you're in for a bad time. No one wants to touch a hot barrel
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7. Bolt Carrier Group – Bolt Carrier
- Check the Bolt Carrier Group
- Look for irregular wear patterns along the guide rails
- You will see a little on the front and back of the bolt carrier but that is normal
- If you see sloping angles or crazy wear on the rear portion you know its bad
- Looks for cracks and pitting throughout
8. The Gas Key
- Check the stakes on the gas key and then wiggle the gas key
- If it wiggles you will need to send the whole bolt carrier to a gunsmith and get it re-staked
- WARNING – You CAN re-stake it yourself. The problem here is if you mess up, because you don't know what you're doing, you run the risk of the gas key breaking off while you're firing leaving you with a locked up AR-15
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9. Check the Bolt
- Check to see that you have smooth and fluid motion of the bolt inside the body
- You should be able to push it in and out nice and smooth
- If checking a gun from a lower end manufacturer it may be sticky for a while
10. Break Down the Bolt Carrier
- Check the rings inside the bolt carrier
- Make sure they aren’t touching or overlapping – these work the same as a piston engine
- This is what stops gas from escaping. If they are out of place you could lose pressure and hurt cycling
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11. Lower Receiver – Stock is well connected to the lower receiver
- Check that there is not a huge amount of wiggle going on
12. Make sure you Buffer Assembly Cycles Freely
- Make sure that your buffer assembly cycles freely
- Push it in and out
BONUS TIP – Not usually checked on AR-15's
1. Make sure you have the safety on
- Focus on the hammer and when you pull the trigger back while the safety is still on the hammer will dip down very slightly
- This is a sign of a properly adjusted trigger on an AR-15
- This means there is negative angle on the trigger face which is good
- Put the gun into fire and brace the hammer with your thumb
- Pull the trigger and keep the hammer from hitting the lower receiver.
- You don't want to drop the hammer and dent your lower receiver
- Keep the trigger pulled and pull the hammer all the way back until it clicks back in place
- Let go of the trigger and listen for it to click – this is the reset
- If it doesn't click and reset then you need to have the trigger assembly looked at by a gunsmith
AR-15's are not meant to be loose guns. The only thing that is okay to be loose is the fit between the upper and lower receiver. I am not saying there should be a huge gap between them, like the size of a pen tip, this would mean the rifle is mismatched. If it does fit a piece of paper, I wouldn't worry about it.
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You can also check out the full video on the AR-15 Buyers Guide, How to Not Get Ripped Off
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