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AR-15 manufacturing

7.62x39Lover7.62x39Lover Member Posts: 3,936 ✭✭✭
edited October 2022 in Ask the Experts
Hi Guys!

I was hoping that the machinist folk on here could chime in and tell me what kind of machines are necessary to manufacture AR-15 rifles on a commercial level. Down to the make and model. The best machines for mass production and possibly where to get them.

Also, the best machines for mass production of polymer receivers.

Comments

  • mark christianmark christian Forums Admins, Member, Moderator Posts: 24,496 ******
    edited November -1
    Rather than investing in CNC and broaching machines, why not just buy stripped receivers and have your company name imprinted on them? Four or five companies produce the bulk of AR receivers and they supply virtually the entire industry. Rather than tying up big money in machinery (and the floor space needed to operate it), why not let them let them handle the receiver production while you simply do the assembly?
  • 7.62x39Lover7.62x39Lover Member Posts: 3,936 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by mark christian
    Rather than investing in CNC and broaching machines, why not just buy stripped receivers and have your company name imprinted on them? Four or five companies produce the bulk of AR receivers and they supply virtually the entire industry. Rather than tying up big money in machinery (and the floor space needed to operate it), why not let them let them handle the receiver production while you simply do the assembly?


    I am under the impression that there is more money made by the folks who manufacture firearms than the folks who assemble them or retail them. That is why I seek to become a manufacturer.

    I understand that is easier said than done, but I want to gather information. How much money can somebody possibly make just assembling AR-15's?

    A dream of mine is to manufacture AR-15's for a living. I understand that it might be easier to start the company not manufacturing the entire rifle, but it seems to me that the more you manufacture yourself the better. I can assemble them very well. I've done two very different rifles and am saving up parts to do a 3rd all for personal use.

    Basically, the purpose of this topic is to see what it takes to manufacture entire rifles on a production scale.
  • beantownshootahbeantownshootah Member Posts: 12,776 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    If you're just talking receivers, they can be made on conventional CNC milling machines.

    I don't know if any of the manufacturers make EVERY single part of their guns in house (maybe Colt. . .not sure). IE *some* of the part manufacture is still subcontracted out. But if you're interested in doing this, you're talking a tremendous investment in machinery to make barrels, small parts, magazines, etc, more than will probably be worth it, unless you're able to sell thousands or maybe even tens of thousands of guns.

    Bluntly, I agree with Mark Christian here. You're late to this "party"; the domestic AR market is already highly saturated, with all sorts of niche makers already present. Most of them don't find it cost effective to do all their own parts manufacture in house. . .I can't see why you will.

    IE, its probably going to be a lot more cost effective for you to have someone else build your receivers, and you buy them at wholesale, then set up your own production. That's likely true even if you have your own specific custom/boutique (ie non-standard) AR-15 receiver design.

    While I'm not saying you can't find some niche and make your mark in it, its pretty unlikely at this point that you're going to be able to put out and sell enough rifles to compete with the super-huge producers (eg Bushmaster, Olympic, Remington, Smith, Ruger, etc) who are putting these out by the thousands and have economy of scale on their side.

    IE, its a competitive marketplace, and barring some sort of massive technological innovation on your part, they're building them cheaper than you'll ever likely be able to.

    quote:I can assemble them very well. I've done two very different rifles and am saving up parts to do a 3rd all for personal use.Not to be mean about this, but building two guns from parts doesn't really qualify you as an AR "gunsmith", and suffice it to say, assembling guns made from other people's parts is a totally different thing than manufacturing them yourself!

    Is your intention to sit there *in person* putting parts together?

    If it is, given that you've only got two hands, and that there are only so many hours in the day, you're probably better off trying to become a "boutique builder" of a smaller number of custom or custom-like guns sold at margin, rather than a manufacturer making them from scratch.

    There are a number of individuals who do make a living building custom ARs, and I think some of the more well known high-end AR makers (eg Noveske) started off this way. Noveske (who is deceased now, btw), started off making his mark with custom BARRELS. Eventually he went onto entire guns and other accessories.

    The limiting thing here, I think isn't knocking together parts. . .its convincing the marketplace that YOUR guns offer something otherwise unavailable. What that is, I don't know, but I think you need to know! (It could be some actual gun-related feature or combination of them, appearance, branding, etc).

    If you want an idea, I think there is a good potential niche manufacturing and selling compliant guns to AR-banning states. If you can come up with an interesting "featureless' design that has enough similarity to a "real" AR to satisfy purchasers, but still meets the letter of the law, you may have something.
  • Ray BRay B Member Posts: 11,822
    edited November -1
    All of this is way over my head- I still don't understand how an aluminum receiver can be cast and forged. Seems to me it can be one or the other.
  • beantownshootahbeantownshootah Member Posts: 12,776 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by Ray B
    All of this is way over my head- I still don't understand how an aluminum receiver can be cast and forged. Seems to me it can be one or the other.


    I'm not really an expert in this area, but my understanding is that standard AR receivers are usually made one of three ways:

    -Cast: Molten AL is poured into a mold, out comes a receiver.

    -Milled: An AL "billet" block is carved into shape using a milling machine, now typically CNC automated machines.

    -Forged: An AL "blank" is pounded into shape over dies, creating a rough receiver that is then detail finished.

    To confuse this a little bit, forged receivers are typically finished with some milling steps. If the pre-forged blank has been cast into shape, the receiver could accurately be described as "cast and forged", though such receivers really are probably just described as "forged" since that's the most relevant step.

    I think there is quite a bit of debate about which method provides the "best" receivers, but like everything else, "best" is subjective (ie in some cases, lowest cost could be "best", in some nicest appearance could be "best", in some, strongest receiver could be "best").

    In the real world, AR receivers basically just hold all the moving parts in relation to each other, and receiver failure is extremely rare. EG, people get away with PLASTIC AR receivers. Unless you think you're likely to be repeatedly using your AR as a battering ram or club (and to be clear. . .some people DO use them that way!), any of the metal receivers is probably "good enough".
  • beantownshootahbeantownshootah Member Posts: 12,776 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    quote:I was hoping that the machinist folk on here could chime in and tell me what kind of machines are necessary to manufacture AR-15 rifles on a commercial level. Down to the make and model. The best machines for mass production and possibly where to get them.
    I can't tell you exactly which machines to use, let alone which are "best" (that depends on exactly what kinds of receivers you want to build, in what quantity, what your budget is, etc).

    But I do know there are plenty of different ways to skin this particular "cat". IE, receivers are made many different ways on many different types of machines. FWIW, the smaller "boutique" receiver makers typically use CNC machines, because they're relatively cheap and readily available, plus they're a lot more customizable than other manufacture modalities.


    quote:Originally posted by 7.62x39Lover
    Basically, the purpose of this topic is to see what it takes to manufacture entire rifles on a production scale.

    That's not too hard.

    Speaking in broad generality, you need to source all the parts, then assemble them.

    So you need reliable parts suppliers at the price and quality levels you determine, and then you need appropriately trained human beings to assemble the guns from the parts (which you'll have to pay possibly before you sell any actual guns!) and package them up for sale. How many of each depends on how many guns you want to make and sell. As above, you *could* manufacture your own parts (some or all), though most builders don't, because its not cost-effective.

    Of course, this isn't really the "right" question. Exact details will depend on what types, and how many, etc, but building the actual guns is reasonably straightforward. Its no different than any other assembly line. The question is how are you going to MARKET them?

    Assuming you want to SELL these guns, you need the appropriate facility to build and store them (including security. . .these are guns we're talking about), FFL licensure, business permits, and insurance. You'll need some sort of testing and quality control to ensure your guns are built properly, are safe, and function. You'll probably want some sort of packaging in which to ship out the guns.

    You'll need some sort of way to get them to market. IE, some sort of distribution network. Assuming you want to actually SELL any, you'll also need to come up with some sort of marketing scheme to convince the guy buying public that they should be spending their hard-earned cash on YOUR otherwise unknown ARs (again, vs 20 different, otherwise indistinguishable but much more well known and readily available brands).

    There are different ways this can be done. . .via conventional print advertising, word of mouth, or even (gasp!) internet viral marketing. Along those lines, you'll also need all the trappings of any other small business, including an office with public phone contact, website, etc.

    And lastly, you'll need some huge amount of cash to pay for all of above (including employee salaries). . .before you sell even gun #1!

    Again, I think focusing on the actual manufacture here is wrong. Yes, that needs to be done, but WHAT needs to be done there is pretty straightforward. If you're serious about this, you need a comprehensive business plan to figure out exactly what market niche you're trying to capture, and how you're going to do it in a profitable way. That's going to require quite a bit of homework on your part pricing EVERYTHING (including labor, marketing, insurance, etc), doing market research, etc.

    In short, building ARs is easy. . .SELLING them is hard!
  • iceracerxiceracerx Member Posts: 8,872 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    The suggestions to buy parts (wholesale) and assemble them for sale is valid.

    You said you want to manufacture AR rifles. You need more than just a CNC mill to produce the lower receiver. You also need a work station to machine the upper, a Pratt and Whitney Sine Bar rifling machine to produce barrels, an alloy casting operation to cast the upper and lower blanks, and a plastic injection molding operation for making the grip, butt stock and fore end.

    Krieger uses a Pratt and Whitney machine to make their barrels.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLUTL5S6yFE

    In addition to the machine you will need to hire operators that can make defect free parts. If you have a scrap rate of 10% you will be very lucky. There are days where a scrap rate of 85% isn't unusual (worn tools, machine set up, temperature variance, etc). Days like that will put out of business in no time.

    A good 5 axis CNC work station will cost at least 150K and you are going to need at least two dedicated to just the upper and lower receivers. I have no idea what a Pratt & Whitney costs but they aren't cheap.

    With a start up cost of over 1 million dollars plus (shop space, machines, a years wages for the workers, etc) it would seem to be more prudent to buy ready made parts and go from there. Once you clear a million or so in pure profit, then you might think about expanding your business.
  • mark christianmark christian Forums Admins, Member, Moderator Posts: 24,496 ******
    edited November -1
    Wrangle yourself a ticket to next years SHOT Show. Be creative and they'll let you in, especially if you have any form of business license or sales tax ID number. If you are ready to go into business you'll need those anyway, as well as a Type 07 FFL. Once you are in, head off the main floor and go into the more remote areas of the show where the nuts and bolts and the tools needed to build firearms will be found. This is the area where you'll find Beantown and iceracerx gabbing away with the manufactures of metal working equipment and machines which I won't even begin to try and understand. The guys manning those displays are all experts in exactly the sort of thing you are contemplating and they can give you all sorts of recommendations on what you'll need to get started.

    Bottom line, producing as many parts yourself is a waste of time and money. There is no way that you can produce something like a barrel at anywhere near the price and quality of companies which specialize in barrel manufacturing. Go to the SHOT show and start talking about firm orders for lower receivers in lots of 10,000 units and you'll get prices from the big players that you'll never be able to build your own for.
  • nononsensenononsense Member Posts: 10,933 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    7.62x39Lover,

    Here is a list compiled over many months from another source. Each name represents a company involved with making the lowers, uppers or complete rifle in the AR15 format. The ones marked with an (*) are no longer in business but did manufacture at one time. Continued below this list...

    1 2 Vets Arms Company, LLC
    2 Adams Arms
    3 ADCOR Defence
    4 Addax
    5 ADEQ Firearms Company
    6 Advanced Defense Sysems (ADS)
    7 Aeroprecision
    8 AGP Arms
    9 Alberta Tactical Rifle Supply
    10 Alexander Arms
    11 All Weapons One
    12 Allstar Tactical LLC
    13 Alpha Shooting Sports
    14 Ambush Firearms
    15 Ameetech*
    16 American Precision Arms
    17 American Spirit Arms
    18 American Tacitcal Imports (ATI)
    19 American Weapon Systems
    20 Anderson Manufacturing
    21 Anvil Arms*
    22 AR 15 Plus
    23 AR Permformance
    24 AR15 Depot
    25 AR15.com Armament Rifle
    26 AR57 Center
    27 Ardel Engineering (AE)
    28 Ares Arms LLC.
    29 Ares Defense
    30 Arizona Armory (AZ)
    31 Armalite
    32 Armitage International LTD
    33 ARMS LLC
    34 Arm's Tech LTD
    35 Astra Arms
    36 ATT Tactical
    37 AXTS Weapons
    38 Balimoy
    39 Barnes Precision
    40 Barret Firearms Manufacturing
    41 Bartlett Enterprises
    42 Battle Born Rifles
    43 Battle Rifle Company
    44 Bazooka Brothers Manufacturing
    45 Black Dawn
    46 Black Diamond SOCOM Mfg.
    47 Black Gold cusom Arms
    48 Black Heart International
    49 Black Hole Weaponry
    50 Black Rain
    51 Black Scorpion Firearms
    52 Black Weapons Armory
    53 Blackthorne
    54 BMG Inc
    55 Bohica Arms
    56 Bradley Arms
    57 Branch Custom Weaponry
    58 Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM)
    59 Bushmaster Firearms International
    60 C3 Defense
    61 Cavalry Arms*
    62 Centurion Arms
    63 Centurion Tactical
    64 Century
    65 Century Arms
    66 Charles Daly
    67 Chattahoochee Gun Works LLC
    68 Chengdu Hongguag Machinery Manufacturing Co Ltd
    69 Chiappa Firearms
    70 Christensen Arms
    71 Christian Armory Works (CAW)
    72 CIV Tactical
    73 CMMG
    74 CMS*
    75 Cobra Tactical
    76 Colt's
    77 Compass Lake Engineering (CLE)
    78 Conquest Arms
    79 Controlled Chaos Arms
    80 Core15
    81 Crusader Weaponry
    82 D.S. Arms
    83 Dalphon Firearms*
    84 Daniel Defense
    85 Dedicated Technology
    86 Delaware Machinery
    87 Delta Arms Company
    88 Del-Ton
    89 Denny's Guns
    90 Detroit Gun Works
    91 Diemaco*
    92 Dlask Arms
    93 Double Diamond Law Enforcement Supply
    94 Double Star
    95 DPMS / Panther Arms
    96 Dreadnaught Industries
    97 Duty Precision Machinery Shops (DPM Shops)
    98 Eagle Arms
    99 East Coast Gun Sales
    100 Echigoya
    101 Edward Arms
    102 Elite Arms
    103 Essential Arms
    104 Fabrique Nationale
    105 Firebird Precision
    106 Frankford Arsenal
    107 Franklin Armory
    108 Frozen North Firearms*
    109 Fulton Armory
    110 GA Precision (GAP)
    111 Galati International
    112 GAR Arms
    113 Global Tactical
    114 GM Corp.*
    115 Good Time Outdoors Inc
    116 Grenadier Precision*
    117 Group Industries*
    118 GT Vertical Concepts (GTVC)
    119 Gun Smoke Enterprises
    120 H&H Enterprises
    121 Harrington and Richarson (H&R)*
    122 Hatcher Gun Company
    123 Head Down Products
    124 Hecklor and Koch
    125 Henderson Defense
    126 Hera Arms
    127 Hera Arms, Germany
    128 Hesse
    129 High Mountain Hunting Supply
    130 High Standard Manufacturing Company
    131 Hogan guns
    132 Holland Gun Works
    133 Houlding Precision
    134 Huldra Arms
    135 Integrity Arms and Survival
    136 Iron Ridge Arms
    137 JARD Inc.
    138 JD Machine
    139 JP Enterprises
    140 JSE Surplus
    141 Kaiser Defense
    142 Kiss Tactical
    143 Knights Armament Co. (KAC)
    144 Kurt's Kustom Firearms (KKF)
    145 L&G weaponry
    146 Lancer Systems
    147 Land Warfare Research Company (LWRC)
    148 Lantac, UK
    149 LAR Grizzly
    150 LaRue
    151 Lauer Custom Weaponry (LCW)
    152 LBR Arms
    153 Legion Firearms
    154 Les Bauer
    155 Lewis Machine and Tool (LMT)
    156 Liberty Arms
    157 Liberty Tactical
    158 Loki
    159 Lone Wolf Distributing
    160 M Weapons
    161 Mack Gwinn Industries (?) (MGI)
    162 Magpul
    163 Mattel Corp.*
    164 McKay Enterprises LLC.
    165 Mean Metal Inc
    166 Medesha Fireamrs
    167 Mega Arms
    168 Model 1 Sales
    169 Mohawk Armory
    170 Molot
    171 Mossberg
    172 National Ordinance Company
    173 New Evolution Military Ordinance (NEMO)
    174 New Frontier Armory
    175 Next Generation Arms
    176 Nodak
    177 Nordic Components
    178 Norinco
    179 North East Arms
    180 Noveske
    181 Oberland Arms, Gemany
    182 Olympic Arms
    183 Palmetto State Armory
    184 Palmetto State Defense
    185 Para - USA
    186 Patriot Defense Arms
    187 Patriot Ordinance (POF)
    188 Plum Crazy
    189 Precision Firearms
    190 Precision Guncraft
    191 Predator Custom Shop
    192 Predator Tactical
    193 PRI Uppers
    194 Primary Weapons Systems (PWS)
    195 ProArms
    196 PWA*
    197 Quality Arms
    198 Quentin Defence
    199 R Guns
    200 Rainer Arms
    201 Ratworx
    202 RCM Gun Parts
    203 Red Jacket Firearms
    204 Red X Arms
    205 Remington
    206 RGM inc
    207 Rifle Dynamics
    208 RifleGear
    209 RND
    210 Rock Island Arsenal
    211 Rock River Arms
    212 Rocky Mountain Arms
    213 Roggio Arsenal
    214 Ruger
    215 S I Defense
    216 Saber Tactical
    217 Sabre Defence*
    218 Schmeisser, Germany
    219 Scorpion Tactical
    220 Seekins Precision
    221 Senda Corp*
    222 Sendra
    223 SGW*
    224 Shadow Ops Weaponry
    225 Sharps Rifle Company/Sharps rifle
    226 Sig Arms
    227 Sionics
    228 Smith & Wesson
    229 SNS Industries*
    230 SOCOM Mfg.
    231 Sog Arms
    232 Sonju Defense
    233 Southern Gun Co.
    234 Specialized Dynamics
    235 Specialized Tacitcal Systems
    236 Spike's Tactical
    237 Stag Arms
    238 State of the Art Arms (SOTA)
    239 Sterling Arsenal
    240 Stinger Arms
    241 Sun Devil
    242 Superior Arms
    243 Suplus Ammo and Arms
    244 Tactial Weapons Solutions
    245 Tactical Ammunition
    246 Tactical Arms Manufacturing
    247 Tactical Innovations
    248 Tactical Machining
    249 Tactics LLC*
    250 Templar Custom
    251 Templar Tactical Arms
    252 Teppo Jutsu LLC.
    253 Thompson Machine
    254 Thor Glocal Defense
    255 Timberwolf Tactical
    256 Titan Ordinance
    257 TKS Engineering
    258 TNW Firearms
    259 Tommy15
    260 Top Notch Tacitcal (TNT)
    261 Triplett Firearms
    262 Tromix
    263 U T Arms
    264 Umbrella Corporation Weapons Research Group
    265 US Fireams Academy
    266 USA Tactical Firearms
    267 Valkyrie Arms
    268 Vidalia Police Supply
    269 Vltor
    270 Vulcan Armament
    271 WFC Proshop
    272 White Oaks Armament
    273 Wilson Combat
    274 Windham Weaponry
    275 Xtreme Machinig
    276 Yankee Hill Machine (YHM)
    277 Z M Weapons
    278 Zel Custom Manufacturing
    279 Zombie Defense

    My company is on the above list and is still VERY successful with the larger AR platform so I'm the last person to attempt to dissuade anyone from embarking on a new business idea. However... this might be one idea for you to do a lot more research on before jumping into the pot. What ought to be perfectly clear at this point is the saturation of manufacturers in this market. Manufacturing on this scale is not for the faint of heart or those with shallow pockets. It takes perseverance, incredible depth of knowledge/expertise and tons of cash to embark on this journey.

    I suggest using your computer to do a search for AR manufacturers in Florida (there are about 30...) and see if you can get a plant tour(s) which will fill your eyes and brain with all sorts of information about this industry.

    Immediately after doing the above, I suggest that you follow Mark's suggestion about SHOT Show (end of January 2016). All of the manufacturers are there in one huge building for 4 days. That may be enough time for you to see quite a few of the better manufacturers to attempt to get a detailed picture of your quest.

    Then, after all of that, sit down for several days and nights for some quiet contemplation of your situation to see if this is really something you still think is possible. Use your comprehensive notes and photos to keep yourself refreshed with as much information as possible.

    Now for the the potentially hurtful part.

    You are in NO WAY, shape or form, capable of even spending two minute considering this at any point in time. You are not an engineer, you are not an experienced manufacturer or even a machinist with 20 or so years of experience. You have never actually run a major manufacturing business from the business end. In essence, you simply aren't qualified and can't get qualified in a short period of time. And no, building a couple of AR15 'kits' does not count at all. It will literally take years to get to where you might be able to take a stab at trying something along these lines. Ask any of us about what it's like to go back to school for intensive education before we went a different direction.

    It might be fun to think about or daydream about but you need some eye opening experiences to establish the proper perspective.

    Best of luck in whatever endeavor you choose.

    Regards.
  • MG1890MG1890 Member Posts: 4,649
    edited November -1
    7.62, I've been 30 years in manufacturing with CNC machines, forgings, etc.

    Unless you plan to whore yourself out as the absolute cheapest manufacturer, you will not compete. Too many places already in this market, some of them just (or not even) getting by, so they sell at practically cost just to cover the overhead.

    I can engage in as in depth conversation as you would like about fixed and variable overhead, shop rates, absorption, sales, marketing, staffing, etc. as you would like in regard to become a manufacturer.

    In fact, the best way to get into it is to buy somebody that has already failed.

    Just as a guesstimate, for even the smallest COMMERCIAL manufacturing operation for AR's, you would need $1M startup capitol (not counting the facility) + liquid assets to float 6+ payroll checks for a while. All tis to compete with somebody already going broke.
  • Muzzy5Muzzy5 Member Posts: 1

    I am looking for help in deciding what lower to use with my Bohica arms .50 Caliber upper that I purchased at an estate sale for what I thought was a bargain, ($800). New to this type of rifle, never fired one, and was told any AR-15 lower will fit to make a complete rifle. The research I did makes it way more complicated, I would not attempt to do this myself and am looking for help in finding a suitable lower, and finding someone familiar with this barrel to build it to make it safe. Any help would be appreciated.

This discussion has been closed.