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What do I need to build an AR-15? 

Updated: 02/23/2022

Because we hear this question A LOT, especially during this pandemic, we decided to provide a resource to assist in your journey down the rabbit hole. Additionally, we will be updating this page periodically based on input and requests so check back often. 

While the answers to the question above is both simple and complex, we think what is included in this brief article will provide a better understanding of what is needed for an AR-15 build and accomplish the following:

-Answer two commonly asked questions.
-List all the parts needed to complete an AR-15 build.

Before we begin, let’s get some housekeeping out of the way:

-This is NOT a step-by-step guide on “how” to build an AR-15.
-This is NOT a guide on how to prep an 80% lower for a build. In fact, nothing about this article will cover the 80% lower. 

Two Key Questions

Ok, so, if you have come this far, you likely have watched some videos on AR builds or have a friendly who has built an AR and you want to dive headfirst. So, let us start with two key questions and answers:

Question 1: Do I need a background check to build an AR?

Answer: Yes but only on the lower receiver. There are two main components to an AR-15; the lower receiver and the upper receiver. Although, generally speaking, ATF does not require an individual have a license to make a firearm for personal use, ownership of a lower receiver requires a background check be performed by an individual or company who holds a valid Federal Firearms License (FFL). You do not need a background check to buy an upper receiver.

Question 2: What is the difference between a lower receiver and an upper receiver?

Answer: The lower receiver houses the trigger while the upper receiver houses the bolt and the barrel. While this is an extreme oversimplification, you will soon learn there is a lot more to the receivers than meets the eye. 

What do I need to build an AR-15?

The keyword here is NEED. What do you NEED to build an AR-15? There are three main categories with an AR build: Lower Receiver & Parts, Upper Receiver & Parts and the Tools. The list below may seem simple, but you will quickly learn there are a plethora of options and manufacturers for every single part of an AR-15. Here we go: 

Lower Receiver & Parts:

-Lower receiver
-Lower parts kit with trigger control group. You may find you want to upgrade the trigger but that’s a different topic for a different article.
-Buffer tube
-Buffer spring

Upper Receiver & Parts:

-Upper receiver
-Charging handle
-Bolt carrier group
-Dust cover (if your upper did not come with one)
-Gas block
-Gas tube
-Hand guard
-Muzzle device 


-Armorer’s Wrench: This is a MUST HAVE for all AR builds.
-Roll Pin Punch Set
-Rubber mallet
-If you REALLY want to make things easy for you, buy an AR Armorer's Toolkit

And that's it! As you begin searching the interweb for all of the parts above, you will quickly learn there are dozens and dozens of options for each part. As we update this article over time, we will add photos and links so you know what you're looking for.


Safety is the most important aspect in building a firearm. If DIY builders do not educate themselves and take the necessary precauctions to ensure a safe and successful build, serious injury or death can ocurr when the firearm is operated with live ammunition. When in doubt, consult a professional gunsmith.