Buying Your First AR-15

Do's and Don'ts

1st -Don't be pressured into fancy buttons & gadgets.

Buying a gun at a gun show can lead you to some massive headaches when the show leaves town. Examples: (1) The guy you bought from may never come back, (2) Was his place of business the back of his van, truck or car (where is his storefront?) (3) What is his technical knowledge and does he offer repair parts or service for that gun? (4) Be aware of the guy who assembles weapons at the gun shows, offering tops and bottoms at a super good price. Some questions you should ask yourself about that individual should be: Is he a competent gunsmith trained in the function of the AR-15? Does he have a type 7 manufacturer's license (building one without it is a violation of the law - do you need to be caught up in that?) And lastly who test fired this rifle - YOU? How do you know it's safe if it was assembled in front of you? Was the barrel torqued to the right specs and is the gas port the proper dimension? How far off is the sight tower from the rear sights and are you sure all the parts are US made and meet or exceed mil spec?

Pre-ban vs Post-ban - Once again this is a good place to get stung at a gun show but not just there. There are also dealers willing to pass off a receiver as pre-ban that is actually post-ban leaving you to "bite the bullet" later. There are ways to tell and the first is to e-mail, phone or fax us and we can provide a list of serial numbers by manufacturer of the legal preban rifles. A distinction between pre-ban and post-ban is as follows:

As of the summer of 1994 (assault weapons ban), the ATF went from manufacturer to manufacturer inspecting complete rifles and receivers that were made by the closing date. They fell in to 3 categories: (1) True pre-ban rifle (all components to make a complete rifle were present with a numbered receiver or complete rifle) (2) A pre-ban/post-ban receiver (this was a receiver made on or before the cutoff date - made it pre-ban but since it did not have all of the components to assemble into a complete functioning rifle, ie: barrel, trigger or buttstock missing. It must be made into post-ban configuration and (3) a pure post-ban receiver (manufactured after the cutoff date to present) which must be built in to a post-ban configuration. The argument that flash suppressor and bayonet lugs don't make an assault rifle is falling on deaf ears and to discuss it is preaching to the choir. Get over it!! It's fact and it is LAW. Don't get caught up in it. Our receivers are post-ban and manufactured by us and proudly wear the name: T.T.i Int'l.

Since the assault weapons ban, it is illegal to offer any high capacity magazine in combination with the sale of that rifle. They can be purchased separately however but not offered by the dealer as a part of the initial sale.

What Style of shooting Do You Want To Do? Tactical, DCM, Match, IPSC

Buying an AR-15 or any other type weapon is like buying your very first car. You should consider a few of the following before making that investment - because buying an AR-15 today is equal to a good down payment on a fast car. It ain't chicken feed. So we'd like to try to take a little of the sting out of it for you.

What is your experience with the AR-15's? It has been my experience that for about 75% of my clients, this is a first time venture and we spend about an hour or more just qualifying which direction they want to go. By qualifying (as your custom gun builder) I must know your specific needs.

(1) Present affordability - what price range do we need stay within - not all of us have unlimited funds to put into our guns even though we enjoy the sport. (2) Type of shooting you want to accomplish? - Just plinking, tactical shooting, DCM or Match shooting, varmint or law enforcement.(3) Distance to be shooting - Because the twist and length of the barrel must be considered along with the weight of the bullet. First Step If you are going to be shooting at ranges of 250 yards or less and looking for an affordable rifle in the range of $800.00, T.T.i offers an A2 or Flat top rifle using a 1:9 barrel with A2 stock. The sights are of service grade (for easy sighting) for the novice or first time shooter. These rifles can easily shoot 1" or less MOA at 100 yards if you are capable of the same. There is no sense jumping in over your head at first until you establish your shooting style and distance.

Some shooters insist on having a second upper to mount on their rifle for different styles of shooting. If accuracy is not an issue, this is an acceptable practice. We advise against switching tops because the more you separate the two components, the more wear you add to their lugs.

Some subscribe that the looseness between uppers and lowers does not affect accuracy. Let's take a moment and think about what enhances accuracy. Since the barrel is mounted on the upper receiver along with the sights and the stock is mounted on the lower receiver, where your cheek makes contact with the stock your sight alignment will have minute changes because the spot on your stock will change while you're trying to correct the movement between upper and lower receivers and your sight picture. (Say this 3 times really fast and it will make sense !!) It's not like a Remington 700 where everything is one piece. In close up run and gun it doesn't make a big difference. That's why we suggest having separate rifles for different uses. One gun for one type of shooting only.

The first thing to consider in upgrading is a great trigger. As we all know, the trigger is one of the most important aspects of accurate shooting because the weight and drag of the trigger alone can cause you to over power your grip and pull the shot off target.

Don't be fooled by the so-called "drop in" anything. No two AR's are created equal. Depending on who cast the hammer and trigger (and it probably won't be the foundry who cast the receiver), the size and placement of the holes will vary from .001 to .05 and in trigger work that can be a mile. Each receiver should be considered individually and so should it's parts. If the person is competent in precision AR-15's he'll know what to do. Just because he calls himself a gunsmith, he may not know squat about AR-15 but could be a miracle worker on 1911's. We use your trigger or ours which is US mil spec and by creating adjustable points and the intersection of it's parts, we create a trigger pull conducive to the shooting that you will be doing. DCM requires no less that 4.5# where some tactical shooters prefer them in the 3# range. Since it is adjustable, you can choose the amount of take up that is comfortable to you (over travel adjustment can be added at your request). Each of our triggers are individually set to our clients needs or wishes at a price of $95.00 for big pin or small pin.

Sights are the next thing to consider. (1) Pick an aperture you can live with. At my age, a .035 aperture is out of the question but for you younger guys it is the snap in your krispies. Your aperture can vary in the following increments: .030, .040, .045, .050. You should consider micro adjustments of 1/4" MOA in windage or elevation. This is usually more than enough for DCM or other match shooting. Our fully adjustable match sights sell for $125.00 and we will allow trade in against your sights if in good condition. (2) Improved optics as in scopes for long range (>250 meters) when accuracy is paramount are fine. We suggest no particular manufacturer but range finder types seem to be the craze today. Just remember the better the optics are ground, the more clarity and definition is offered by the scope and the more expensive they will be. (Remember the Hubble Telescope). (3) Dot scopes for you tactical guys ( and there are a bunch available) dawn the top of your favorite upper whether A2 or Flat top. You will need to add a riser or extended mount which will increase your height off the flat top by 5/8" to comfortably acquire your optics without cramming your face into the stock. Those of you who use a carry handle or A2, to mount your optics, you'll need a cheek rest on your stock to get a good spot. Optics that we have found to answer most all of your tactical style shooting when heads up is most important are of the following: Aimpoint ML retails for around $375.00 to include the mount, this is favored by most military special ops teams like the seals and rangers and can withstand a tremendous amount of abuse. The second most popular is the Bushnell Holo-Sight with a standard reticle for super quick acquisition retailing at $285.00 and their cross hairs scope, the Bushnell Trophy "Turkey" 1.75- 4, at $149.00 seems to foot the bill out to and including 500 yards. There are a multitude of others at varying prices. It's all a matter of preference.

Who wants to float the barrel? You do if you want more reliability and accuracy. This can be accomplished in a couple different ways. (1) Match or tactical shooters prefer the aluminum handguard in fluted but usually not vented because there is enough heat being generated off the black handguard in 90 degree weather in June or July without adding the extra heat from the barrel or the mirage between your sights. Venting does not help cool it any faster. (2) For the DCM shooters, the Merchant's style free float tube which allows a non-restricted barrel but still looks service grade (this is a stipulation in DCM shooting). Both systems remove the sling swivel from the sight tower and remount it on the handguard itself so as not to cause the harmonics of the barrel to change by restricting it or mismatched pressure. A bipod lug can also be added to either handguard. The DCM handguards retail for $139.95 and the fluted aluminum handguard in either standard or CAR versions run $49.95.

Tactical vs Varmint Shooting - Most of my tactical shooters change their mind on an ongoing basis so we must be flexible to meet their needs. Some want the weight up front, some want the weight in the back and some want the gun to balance on the magazine. Hey guys and gals, it doesn't matter to me. It's what you think is best and serves your needs and abilities.

You do want at least two sight systems, iron or optics and even a good light for those shoot houses or night scenarios. Small is good in this game. Varmint hunters want long range, long barreled heavy guns. What we have seen over the past years is 24 inch, 1:7 A2 with aluminum free floating handguards sporting some really nice optics and the other is in 20 or 24 inch 1:8 stainless steel bull or super bull (.936 to 1.10) barrels with at least 4 lbs of extra weight in the buttstock. Sounds like a bench gun doesn't it.

How Far Out? Rate of Twist vs Weight of Bullet The first thing to consider is how far out are we expecting to engage a target? The further out the heavier the bullet must be to overcome wind and drag. Heavier bullets fly to target better, the tighter the twist.

At the present time, we are testing Black Hills Ammunition (Blue Box) to establish a set of norms that you can reasonably expect to achieve in the barrel that you choose. So that you will understand how we arrived at our figures, we'll explain. First of all we divided all of our AR-15 rifles into categories by length of barrel and twist and fired 100 rounds that were chronographed and shot for accuracy at 100 yards. Going in, we already knew that light bullets would key-hole or separate at high velocity shot through quick twist barrels. Now here's what we did. We started with a standard 20" GI older military barrel with a 1:12 twist and shot 50, 52, 55gr and so on at 100 yards through our chronograph. Then we took the lowest 25 shots and developed an average. We then did the same thing with the following barrels and twists: 17" 1:12, 17" 1:9, 16" 1:12, 16" 1:9, 16" 1:7, 20" 1:7, 20" 1:9, 20" 1:8 bull barrel, 24" 1:8, 24" 1:10. Then we used the following bullet weights: 50, 52, 55, 60, 62, 68, 75. (77 will be tested as soon as they come in). We shot each one of these barrels and bullets until we saw accuracy get better or fall off and watch for what weight and twist caused the bullet to key-hole. The reason we did this is we know the manufacturer tests some of his bullets from a bolt gun which will cause a difference in the velocities you would expect to get from different barrel lengths and bullet weights.

To those of you who shoot in the 3-Gun Matches or Mouse Gun competition, a power factor of 160 is the minimum that you can shoot. For example, a 17" barrel with a slower twist that 1:9 will not achieve a power factor of 160 using a 55 grain bullet because your length of compression is not long enough. You would expect a power factor of about 157. So for the individual who wants to shoot a "Dissipator" style barrel whether it's a Bushmaster or T.T.i Enforcer, you are going to need to shoot a velocity of at least 2800 fps with a 60 grain bullet. Do the math, it's simple. Ask yourself, why have we gone to such great lengths? As stated before manufacturers who make bullets do not test their bullets in every conceivable rifle out there by rate of twist, length or design. So we have done it for them for the AR-15. These findings will be published at a later date so you can then make an informed decision on the kind of barrel that you want placed on your gun to give you the best accuracy at distances you intend to shoot, whether at 100 yards or 1000 meters.

The most common mistake AR-15 shooters make is to put a lot of money into a gun and optics and chintz on ammunition.