I’ll be the first to admit it- I’m totally a “tool guy”. I typically get as much satisfaction out of the tools as I get spending time on the project that I’m using the tools for. I like tools- I like machinery- I like to fix and restore tools and machinery. I like to think about tools and machinery- I like to look at tools an machinery… You get the idea.
If you take the time to obtain the right tools, organize your tools, and understand how each tool is used, chances are you’ll enjoy the processes and jobs that you use your tools for. For me, this is just as much about the workspace as it is about the tools themselves. Having enough space, a clean and organized workbench, and each tool in its “spot” will help you spend your time putting your rifle together rather than spending your time rifling through your tool chest and dark corners of your shop.
So, in this post, we’ll take a quick inventory of the tools that you’ll need to have on hand when you go to assemble or work on your AR-15. I’ll include product links here where applicable.
Here’s a video that gives an overview of the tools needed to put an AR-15 together:
And here are the details for my AR-15 tool inventory for the AR-MPR project:
AR-15 Special Tools
AR-15 Vice Block Set (Brownells)
Contains the upper receiver vice block, and the lower receiver vice block. Heavy-duty blocks allow you to firmly clamp AR-15/M16 receiver halves in a vise without risk of crushing, twisting, or otherwise distorting them when applying vise pressure or torquing the barrel nut.
.223 Armorer’s Wrench (Smith Enterprises)
Extra-heavy duty armorers wrench provides easier installation and removal of all barrels up to 1¼” diameter with either encapsulated or peg-style barrel nuts. Extra-long handle features smooth, contoured edges for comfortable use. Includes ½” square drive opening for torque wrench application; 5⁄8″ and ¾” slots fit receiver extensions and A1/A2 flash suppressors .223 for AR-15/M16
M4 Buttstock Wrench (Rock River Arms)
Steel, dual function wrench lets you easily remove your old extension tube and install a new-style, A4 stock. Spanner has three lugs to fit the A4-style castle nut. Provides a non-slip fit so you can correctly torque the stock to the receiver. Also, the comfortable, rubber coated handle features a cutout to fit the receiver extension tube to remove the A1 or A2 stock.
Bolt Catch Pin Punch (Brownells)
Specially made, slab-sided punch clears left side of the magazine well allowing bolt catch pivot pin to be removed by driving it to the rear.
Pivot Pin Detent Depressor (Brownells)
Depresses spring-loaded detent to free the pivot pin for removal. Virtually impossible without this tool. Does not fit Colt Mfg. AR-15.
AR-15 Gas Tube Wrench (Mark Brown Custom)
Clamps around those fragile, easy-to-bend gas tubes to prevent damage during both removal and installation and adds a convenient “handle.”
5.56mm (.223) HEADSPACE GAUGE (Brownells)
Made to the Colt factory’s special dimensions for M16/AR-15 rifles. It measures the maximum factory acceptable headspace; an essential check on guns that have seen extensive service or have been rebarreled.
General Gunsmithing Tools
Roll Pin Punch Set (Mayhew Steel)
The ONLY way to properly install or remove roll pins without damage to either the pin or the surrounding metal. A small raised projection in the face of the punch automatically centers the punch and prevents the roll pin from collapsing.
Roll Pin Holders Set (Brownells)
Holds roll pins perfectly aligned for starting correctly. Especially good on the tiny, tough-to-grab ones, or those in tight places.
- Torque Wrench – (needs to measure 50 ft-lb or more)
- Bench Vise and padded jaws
- High quality screwdriver set
- Precision screwdriver set
- 0-1″ Micrometer
- 0-6″ Calipers (Digital works well)
- General tool set – Sockets, Wrenches, Pliers
This may sound like a lot, but if you’re going to own or build an AR-15, you will be well served by these tools. You’ll also have the confidence that if repairs or dis-assembly is required, you’ll be ready to take care of any of those tasks.
Now that we’re all geared up, it’s time to get into the build!