5 Best AR Build Retro Options for Classic Rifle Enthusiasts

AR Build Retro Options for Classic Rifle Enthusiasts

June 12, 2023 / Comments (0)

AR Build

If you are a fan of the classic AR-15-style rifles, you might be interested in building your own retro AR.

Retro ARs are replicas or clones of the original AR-15 variants used by the US military and other forces from the 1950s to the 1990s. They have a distinctive look and feel that differs from the modern AR-15s that are popular today.

In this article, we will answer these questions and more. We will also list some of the best retro AR options you can build or buy, along with their features and specifications.

Why AR Build Retro Options?

There are many reasons why you might want to build a retro AR. Here are some of them:

AR build retro options
  • Historical interest: Retro ARs are a way to connect with the history and heritage of the AR-15 platform. They allow you to experience what generations of soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen used in various conflicts and missions. They also let you appreciate the evolution and innovation of the AR-15 design over the decades.
  • Aesthetic appeal: Retro ARs have a unique and attractive appearance that stands out from the crowd of modern AR-15s. They have classic features such as triangular handguards, fixed carry handles, pencil barrels, A1 sights, and slick-side uppers. They come in different colors and finishes, such as gray, green, black, and tiger stripe.
  • Shooting fun: Retro ARs are fun to shoot and handle. They are lightweight, handy, and reliable. They also have less recoil and muzzle blast than modern AR-15s with shorter barrels and muzzle devices. They can be used for plinking, target shooting, hunting, or competition.
  • Challenge and satisfaction: Building a retro AR can be a rewarding and enjoyable project for any gun enthusiast. Finding the right parts and accessories that match the original specifications and quality can be challenging. It can also be satisfying to assemble your rifle and see it come to life.

How to Build a Retro AR?

Building a retro AR is similar to building any other AR-15 rifle. You will need a lower receiver, an upper receiver, a barrel, a bolt carrier group, a trigger group, a stock, a handguard, a gas system, a muzzle device, and some other small parts.

You will also need some tools, such as punches, hammers, wrenches, vise blocks, torque wrenches, etc.

However, building a retro AR also has some specific considerations you should consider. Here are some tips and advice on how to build a retro AR:

  • Do your research: Before building your retro AR, research the history and specifications of the original AR-15 variants you want to replicate or emulate. You should learn about their features, markings, colors, dimensions, materials, etc. You should also check out online resources, such as forums, blogs, videos, books, etc., that can help you with your project.
  • Choose your parts wisely: When choosing your parts for your retro AR build, you should look for parts that are as close as possible to the original in terms of quality, function, and appearance. You should avoid parts that are too modern or different from the original. You should also check the compatibility and fitment of your parts before buying them.
  • Consider your budget: Building a retro AR can be expensive or affordable, depending on how authentic and accurate you want your rifle to be. Some parts are rare or hard to find and can cost money. Some parts are more common or easy to find and can cost less money. You should decide how much you will spend on your project and plan accordingly.
  • Have fun: Building a retro AR should be fun and enjoyable. You should not stress too much about every detail or perfection. You should be proud of your work and happy with your result.

Best AR Build Retro Options

There are many retro AR options that you can build or buy depending on your preference and budget. Here are some of the best ones that we recommend:

Harrington & Richardson Retro M16A1 Rifle

The M16A1 was the standard issue rifle for the US military from 1967 to 1983. It was used extensively in the Vietnam War and other conflicts worldwide.

It had a 20-inch barrel, a fixed carry handle, a triangular handguard, an A1 sight, and a birdcage flash hider.

AR build retro options

It also had a forward assist and a chrome-lined chamber and bore. The Harrington & Richardson Retro M16A1 Rifle faithfully reproduces the original M16A1 rifle.

It is made by Harrington & Richardson, a subsidiary of FN America, the current manufacturer of the M16 for the US military.

It has the same features and specifications as the original M16A1, except for the semi-automatic-only fire control group.

It also has a gray anodized finish that matches the original color of the M16A1.

The Harrington & Richardson Retro M16A1 Rifle is a great option for anyone who wants to own and shoot a piece of history.

It is reasonably priced and extremely well-executed. It is also reliable, accurate, and fun to shoot.

Feature Specification
Caliber 5.56x45mm NATO
Barrel Length 20 inches
Overall Length 39.5 inches
Weight 7.35 pounds
Capacity 20 rounds
Price $1299 at Palmetto State Armory

Harrington & Richardson Retro 654 Slick Side 14.7″ Carbine

The CAR-15 or XM177, was a shortened and lightweight M16 rifle developed for special operations forces in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

It had a 10-inch or 11.5-inch barrel, a collapsible stock, a slick-side upper receiver, a moderator or flash suppressor, and no forward assist or dust cover.

AR build retro options

Various elite units used it, such as the Navy SEALs, the Army Special Forces, and the Air Force Combat Controllers.

The Harrington & Richardson Retro 654 Slick Side 14.7″ Carbine replicates the CAR-15 or XM177 carbine. It is also made by Harrington & Richardson, using the same quality and standards as their retro M16A1 rifle.

It has the same features and specifications as the original CAR-15 or XM177, except for the semi-automatic only fire control group and the slightly longer barrel to comply with federal law.

It also has a black anodized finish that matches the original color of the CAR-15 or XM177.

The Harrington & Richardson Retro 654 Slick Side 14.7″ Carbine is a fantastic option for anyone who wants to own and shoot a classic carbine. It is reasonably priced and very well-made.

It is also handy, fast, and fun to shoot.

Feature Specification
Caliber 5.56x45mm NATO
Barrel Length 14.7 inches
Overall Length 31 inches to 34 inches
Weight 6 pounds
Capacity 20 rounds
Price $1199 at Palmetto State Armory

Windham Weaponry A1 Government Rifle

The A1 Government Rifle is a replica of the early M16 rifles used by the US military in the mid-1960s.

It had a 20-inch barrel, a fixed carry handle, a triangular handguard, an A1 sight, and a three-prong flash hider. It also had no forward assist or dust cover.

The Windham Weaponry A1 Government Rifle is a reproduction of the early M16 rifles used by the US military in the mid-1960s.

It is made by Windham Weaponry, a company founded by former employees of Bushmaster Firearms, which was one of the original manufacturers of civilian AR-15 rifles.

It has the same features and specifications as the early M16 rifles, except for the semi-automatic-only fire control group.

It also has a black anodized finish that matches the original color of the early M16 rifles.

The Windham Weaponry A1 Government Rifle is a good option for anyone who wants to own and shoot a budget-friendly retro AR.

The prices fluctuate, but if you can catch them for under $1000, these rifles are fun while providing that retro vibe. They are also reliable, accurate, and easy to shoot.

Feature Specification
Caliber 5.56x45mm NATO
Barrel Length 20 inches
Overall Length 39 inches
Weight 7 pounds
Capacity 20 rounds
Price $1169 at GrabAGun

DSA AR-15 20″ Service Series 5.56×45 NATO A4 Rifle

The M16A4 was the standard-issued rifle for the US military from 1998 to 2015. It was used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It had a 20-inch barrel, a removable carry handle, a flat-top upper receiver with a Picatinny rail, a quad-rail handguard, an A2 sight, and a birdcage flash hider. It also had a forward assist and a dust cover.

AR build retro options

The DSA AR-15 20″ Service Series 5.56×45 NATO A4 Rifle is a clone of the M16A4 rifle. It is made by DSA, a company specializing in high-quality AR-15 rifles and parts.

It has the same features and specifications as the M16A4, except for the semi-automatic-only fire control group.

It also has a black anodized finish that matches the original color of the M16A4.

The DSA AR-15 20″ Service Series 5.56×45 NATO A4 Rifle is a great option for anyone who wants to own and shoot an optics-ready retro AR.

It has a flat-top upper receiver allows you to mount any optic of your choice, such as a red dot, a scope, or even a carry handle with an ACOG.

You can also use the classic iron sights for backup or preference. It is also reliable, accurate, and versatile.

Feature Specification
Caliber 5.56x45mm NATO
Barrel Length 20 inches
Overall Length 39 inches
Weight 7.5 pounds
Capacity 30 rounds
Price $1199 at DSA

Brownells BRN-180

The BRN-180 is not a true retro rifle, but it is inspired by the original AR-18 rifle that was developed in the late 1960s as an alternative to the AR-15 rifle.

The AR-18 had a short-stroke gas piston system, a stamped steel receiver, and a folding stock.

It was designed to be simple, reliable, and easy to manufacture. However, it was not widely adopted by any major military force.

The Brownells BRN-180 is a modernized version of the AR-18 rifle. It is made by Brownells, a well-known company for making retro AR parts and rifles.

It has a short-stroke gas piston system, an aluminum upper receiver with a Picatinny rail, and a side-folding stock adapter.

AR build retro options

It also has an M-LOK handguard, an adjustable gas block, and an integrated recoil spring assembly.

The Brownells BRN-180 is a cool option for anyone who wants to own and shoot a “modern” retro AR. It has a unique operating system that reduces recoil and heat transfer to the bolt carrier group.

It also has a side-folding stock adapter that allows you to use any AR-15 compatible lower receiver and stock you choose.

You can also mount any optic of your choice on the Picatinny rail. It is also reliable, accurate, and fun to shoot.

Feature Specification
Caliber 5.56x45mm NATO
Barrel Length 16 inches or 18 inches
Overall Length 30 inches or 32 inches (stock folded)
Weight 6 pounds or 6.3 pounds
Capacity Depends on lower receiver and magazine
Price $849 at Brownells

Building a retro AR can be an exciting and rewarding hobby for any gun enthusiast. You can learn about the history and evolution of the AR-15 platform, enjoy the classic look and feel of the retro ARs, and have fun shooting them at the range or in the field.

You can choose from many retro AR options depending on your preference and budget. You can build your own retro AR from scratch using parts and accessories that match the original ones as closely as possible.

Or you can buy a ready-made retro AR from reputable manufacturers that offer high-quality reproductions or clones of the original ones.

Whatever option you choose, you should research, choose your parts wisely, consider your budget, and have fun with your project.

We hope this article has given you some useful information and guidance on how to build or buy a retro AR.


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