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You Finished Building Your Own AR… NOW WHAT?

shoot your AR

Finished AR Build
Finished AR Build

So you finished building your AR, the question is now what do I do? Your first thought is to run to the range and shoot the heck out of it. Should you go for it? 

Well, yes and no.

Installing a buffer tube

We are going to assume that you’ve done all your safety and function checks and checked head space on your build and lubed it properly for test firing.

Here is what I like to do to break in a new build at the range.

7 Steps to Break-In a New AR Build at the Range

1. Use several brands of mags (capacity and brand name) to ensure your build works well with any mags you might use.

2. Load a mag with 1 bullet and fire it. You are testing for proper extraction, ejection and last round bolt hold open feature. This means the bolt will remain locked in the rearward position when a mag has given up its last round and that round has been fired.

The round 1 test
The round 1 test

3. Load a ten-round mag and slowly fire the gun, at the rate of one round every 5 seconds or so. You are looking for consistency and repeatability in the cycling process. It is not unusual to have an issue here with a jam or failure. Your gun is new and tight, and everything needs to break in and mesh together. Clear any problem and continue to fire. If you cannot achieve consistent firing, stop and begin the troubleshooting process to see what might be wrong.

4. If you have achieved consistent firing, load another 10-round mag and shoot it fast. One round every second. Again, you are looking for consistency and repeatability under rapid-fire conditions.

Test firing a 10-round mag
Test firing a 10-round mag

5. Now it’s to time to sight in your optics or iron sights or any other aiming device you might be using. Load a 30-round mag and shoot 3-round groups and adjust your sights to achieve the point of impact that you desire.

TIP: if shooting a standard 5.56 on a 25-yard range a good rule of thumb is 1.5 to 2 inches low of bullseye will carry you out to 200 yards very well in my experience. Being a bit low at a short range near dead-on at 100 yards and a bit low again at 200 yards, but always well within acceptable kill zone range.

6. Now have fun and be safe. If you want to watch a video of me going through this 10-minute process you can watch it HERE.

7. Allow your gun to cool before loading it into your carry case. A hot gun can melt foam protection layers and cause a mess. Clean your gun well when you get home and re-lube for your next range outing.

Final Thoughts

Building and firing your own AR is a very satisfying process. It is also a great learning tool. It helps you understand how an AR works and helps you to be able to troubleshoot any problems.

I own multiple AR rifles and have built every single one. Only my 6.5 Grendel gave me headaches and had to come back to the shop for tweaks. I ended up drilling out the gas port at about .005 to achieve good cycling.

Now that you’ve made it this far, are you ready to build another? I sure am. In the meantime…


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