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Building Your Own AR: It's Alive!

Building an AR-­15 is one thing; finishing it is another.

Building Your Own AR: It's Alive!
Photo by Michael Anschuetz. “Vortex Stealth Shadow” (Top). “ChameleonCoat” Green/Blue/Purple (Bottom).

Perhaps I understand Victor Frankenstein. If you are intimately familiar with the AR-­pattern rifle, carbine or pistol, there’s a sense of pleasure when you disassemble and reassemble the amalgamation of different parts and pieces — as long as it still works. I’ve been told that most gun owners who already have at least one AR-15 have turned to building their own than buying a new one; I can believe that. To learn how to do-it-yourself and be self-sufficient describes the current trends. For many of us, AR-­15 builds will comprise some new components, while others are cannibalized from former projects. In the end, pleasure usually turns to pride as we cradle something near 7 pounds of modern art, the kind that sends anti-­gunners into orbit when they try to understand how making an AR at home is legal or different than a company manufacturing one.

My first formal training in servicing firearms came during Armorer School in 1998 at the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Grounds. There soldiers and Marines spent three months learning the ins-­and-­outs of small arms troubleshooting, use of manuals, repair and maintenance. Our education culminated in a complete assembly and diagnosis of a firearm or machine gun system, often from a tray of disassembled small parts. After graduation, I couldn’t wait to return home and build an AR-15 of my own.

I’ve lost count of my AR projects. Some, like my Mk 12 Mod. 0/1 and wartime M4 clones are safe queens, but most qualify as take-­with-­me-­everywhere trunk guns. Reactions to my black-­rifle creations have ranged from inspired admiration to disgust. Unlike Frankenstein’s abomination, I have no remorse about what my ARs turn into. While beauty is subjective, function is undeniable. Hearing an AR repetitively chew through 30-­round magazines is my favorite all-­time soundtrack.

From 2006 through 2008, I worked for Blackwater USA as an armorer. Servicing the variety of small arms that were brought to the armory by U.S. Special Operations, law enforcement, three-­letter agencies and foreign militaries taught me more about how guns work than I learned while serving eight years in the same job as a U.S. Marine.


In 2007, Blackwater Custom Shop was started, which is when I went to various schools to learn how to enhance the quality and performance of different firearms. This included how to apply hard-use finishes. My early results working with colors were failures as instructors would return loaners with paint flaking off or fading. Once I attended a two-­day class on applying DuraCoat taught by Lauer Custom Weaponry, that changed.

The major takeaway was to learn how to properly prepare the surface. Mixing color, hardener and spraying it through an air brush was the easy part. If you knew how to completely disassemble a firearm, you had an advantage. The best results always required stripping and degreasing all oil and contaminates, but this has evolved.

The new Duracoat-­in-­a-­can is all you need to achieve an excellent finish on your monsters. Once you see how easy it to effectively finish a firearm, you’ll discover the long list of color combinations available, and patterns you can create. Building an AR-­15 is one thing; finishing it is another. Duracoat is lubricious, meaning that there’s less friction between moving parts, and is self-­etching for improved adhesion. There are also corrosion inhibitors in the formula for rust resistance. For the home-­brew gun builder, it’s also important to realize that there is no preheating or baking DuraCoat as there is with other products. DuraCoat is now available in a 12-­ounce spray can for use on all types of metals, plastic and wood, as well as any metal surface or existing finish.


This year, Steve Lauer’s family-­owned business is celebrating 20 years and I’m happy to see the passion hasn’t faded. Allow me to encourage you to get to know your inner Frankenstein and discover your creative side. 

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