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Wyoming Prairie Dog Hunt: AR Build
Assembling The Upper
Wheeler’s brand manager Jarrod is at the bench taking you through the process of his own AR-15 build. Using a set of Wheeler tools, Jarrod is planning on building the perfect rifle for Wheeler’s upcoming prairie dog hunt in Wyoming. Want to build your own AR-15 but not sure where to start? Grab some Wheeler tools and let Jarrod walk you through a complete build from start to finish.
Jarrod starts the build with the upper receiver, lapping the end of it to ensure the surface is level for perfect accuracy. Using a power drill, a lapping tool, and lapping compound, begin by rotating slowly and ensuring all the surfaces are nice and smooth. After a few seconds of spinning remove the drill and make sure to wipe off all the excess lapping compound. You can get a kit with all these products from Wheeler.
Next, Jarrod grabs a 24 inch 1:9 twist .204 Ruger caliber barrel for his rifle. A well-made, high quality barrel is imperative for accurate performance, especially when shooting targets (or prairie dogs) at 300-400 yards. Here, you will want to use the Wheeler Upper Receiver AR-15 Action Rod, (available December 2019) to hold the barrel in place while torqueing the barrel nut down. After securing the Action Rod in the vise, you will slide the upper over the rod, and then finally slide the barrel into the upper. Make sure when you do this that the locator pin is in the 12 o’clock position, and also ensure that you lock the barrel securely into place. Don’t forget to put some anti-seize onto the barrel nut – this way, if you decide to change handguards or barrels in the future, you will still be able to disassemble without too much hassle. After hand screwing the barrel nut in place, you will use a wrench to tighten the nut securely into place. While this barrel nut only needs a standard sized wrench, Jarrod recommends using a Wheeler Armorer’s Wrench (available December 2019) since it includes all your need-to-know torque specs.
You’ll want the Wheeler Roll Pin Punch Set for installing the low profile gas block and gas tube. For the gas tube and gas block, there’s just a few tricks. With the gas tube, there is a hole in the bottom that you’ll have to make sure you line up perfectly, and align it in the gas block for a snug fit. After placing the tube inside the block, secure it in the Wheeler AR-15 Bench Block.The roll pin is pretty small, so use the roll pin punch to get it started when hammering into the gas block. Then, continue to use a different punch to hammer the roll pin securely into the block until it is below flush. This piece needs to be installed onto the barrel, ensuring you align the gas tube at the 12 o’clock position. Put a little Loctite on the screw and secure the gas block onto the barrel with your Wheeler P-Handle screwdriver.
You’ll want the Wheeler Roll Pin Punch Set for installing the low profile gas block and gas tube. For the gas tube and gas block, there’s just a few tricks. With the gas tube, there is a hole in the bottom that you’ll have to make sure you line up perfectly, and align it in the gas block for a snug fit. After placing the tube inside the block, secure it in the Wheeler AR-15 Bench Block. The roll pin is pretty small, so use the roll pin punch to get it started when hammering into the gas block. Then, continue to use a different punch to hammer the roll pin securely into the block until it is below flush. This piece needs to be installed onto the barrel, ensuring you align the gas tube at the 12 o’clock position. Put a little Loctite on the screw and secure the gas block onto the barrel with your Wheeler P-Handle screwdriver.
Finally it’s time to install your handguard. Slide the handguard over the barrel and use the locator pin to ensure you are installing the handguard in the right position. Again, put some Loctite on those screws so they are extra secure in the handguard, and torque those down with your P-Handle screwdriver. Remove the upper from the vise and now it’s time to install the lightweight standard .223 bolt carrier and charging handle. Take the charging handle, slide into the upper receiver, and slide the bolt carrier in after. The lightweight bolt carrier makes for effortless cycling and less movement when out shooting prairie dogs.
Assembling The Lower
He’ll start with organizing all the internal pieces for the lower on the AR-15 build mat. There are plenty of small parts that will have to be assembled, so Jarrod recommends laying all of them out on your mat so that you can clearly assemble each piece and not lose any in the process.
Jarrod starts with the magazine catch by dropping it into the receiver and placing the spring and screw securely on the other side. The detent spring tool will help in securing the piece as well as ensuring the magazine catch piece becomes flush with the receiver. Remember to do a function test by pressing the button and ensuring it does not fall out!
The bolt catch is next, and you’ll want to secure the receiver ears into the bench block for this part. Take the plunger, install onto the detent spring, and put in place with the bolt catch on top. You’ll need your Hammer and Roll Pin Punch Set from Wheeler again when securing this piece into your lower receiver. Do another functions test to see if the bolt catch is moving freely and is flush.
Pivot pin comes next, and this part can be especially tricky if you don’t have the proper tools. The Wheeler Spring Detent Install Tool will come in handy at this point. The spring and detent keep the pivot pin from falling out, so it is important to put those in first, use your pivot tool on one side, and secure the pivot pin in the other side until it is completely attached and the spring tool is removed. Drop the trigger into place and secure by pushing the pins in on each side. The ambidextrous safety will be placed next, and make sure to do a functions test on this as well.
When installing the stock, the rear takedown pin and spring detent are held in by the stock itself from the back. Drop the detent after placing the pin in the receiver, check that the pin is secure, place the buffer retainer on top, and hold down as you screw the rifle tube into place. The Wheeler Armorer’s Wrench details that this particular tube has a torque of 40 lbs. Secure to this torque specification and slide the stock onto the buffer tube. The end plate will screw onto the back of this stock, followed by the butt pad. Be sure to tighten screws with your Wheeler P-Handle Screwdrivers. Make sure the hammer is back when placing the buffer spring and buffer inside the buffer tube, and don’t release the trigger to dry fire. Last thing that gets installed is the safety spring, safety detent, and pistol grip.
The safety detent is dropped into the lower, safety spring dropped into the grip, and the two carefully but securely are placed together onto the rest of the rifle. The grip screw will go down the center of the pistol grip and screw securely into the frame of the stock. Function test the safety, ensuring that it moves back and forth clearly and that the hammer does not release when the safety is on the “safe” setting. The Wheeler Bench Vise has a function that allows you to test your trigger function without damaging your hammer, so use this to function test your build.
Finally, attach the upper to the lower with the pivot pin and function test the bolt. Now, you have a complete AR-1 perfect for taking down some prairie dogs in Wyoming.