Lifted Logic Web Design in Kansas City Location phone play chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up Facebook instagram google plus pinterest Twitter LinkedIn youtube Arrow Right Arrow Left Product Slider Right Product Slider Left send Check Mark Minus the numeral 1 the numeral 2 the numeral 3 the numeral 4 the numeral 5 the numeral 6 the numeral 7 the numeral 8 Calendar User Search Bison Crosshairs buffalo Timer Triangle Left Triangle Right Triangle Down Triangle Up shopping-bag just-the-words-no-buff magnifier X-icon

Frontier Justice’s Firearms Experts Answer the Question: What Is An AR-15?

What is an AR-15

There’s a lot of discussion about AR-15’s these days, and a lot of misinformation. The truth is, the AR-15 firearm is a convenient tool with a wide variety of uses, from home defense to sport shooting and hunting, and everything in between. 

One of our main passions at Frontier Justice is educating our community about firearms and their Second Amendment rights. We’ve put together this helpful blog to explain exactly what an AR-15 is, dispel some misconceptions about this firearm platform, and recommend some useful items that are essential for all AR owners. 

You can also always reach out to our firearms experts with all of your questions, or schedule a class to learn more about the AR firearm platform. 

So, what is an AR?

While the AR-15 might seem like a newer player on the firearms scene, it’s actually been around for over half a century. In the late 1950’s, the firearms manufacturer ArmaLite created the ArmaLite Rifle, or AR for short. 

This original design was sold to Colt Firearms in 1959, and in 1963 the United States Military selected Colt to manufacture the rifle for U.S. troops in the Vietnam war. Thus the M-16 platform was created. 

In the 1970s, Colt’s patent for the AR-15 expired and other manufacturers began replicating the platform. Since then, it has gone through many different changes and adjustments throughout the years, making it an incredibly diverse platform that fits many different uses. 

Different styles of an AR

Since the platform has been produced and adjusted by so many different manufacturers, there’s not really one answer to the question “What is an AR-15?”

The AR-15 is highly customizable, you can even build your own AR (more on that later), so it can meet many different needs and budgets. Here are a few things you should consider when looking at different AR options:

Use reputable manufacturers

Just because a firearm is labeled an “AR-15”, that doesn’t mean all AR-15s are made the same. That’s why it’s important to purchase your firearms from a trusted manufacturer. Here are a few different manufacturers we recommend:

Smith & Wesson

Smith & Wesson is one of America’s oldest and most trusted firearms manufacturers, serving the American public for more than 170 years. Their M&P 15 Sport II is a great example of the AR-15 platform and it’s suitable for shooters of all skill levels. It’s built to perform under various conditions and engineered to fit recreational, sport shooting, professional, or home defense applications. 

The M&P 15 Sport II comes with a Magpul MBUS rear sight, forged trigger guard, forward assist and dust cover, and a 6 position collapsible stock. It works great straight out of the box and is lightweight and dependable.

Daniel Defense

Founded in 2000, Daniel Defense has quickly made a name as a quality producer of dependable firearms. Daniel Defense makes a variety of AR-style rifles, and they are the sole source provider of RIS II Rail Systems for US Special Operations Command. This is an IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity) contract that was awarded in 2005. To Date, Daniel Defense has delivered approximately 30,000 units to USSOCOM.

Daniel Defense is well known for their quality, and each firearm out of the factory is checked off by a gunsmith. Another great piece to their quality is all parts are made in house, down to the stock, grip, and magazine. 

Most of these rifles come built with many useful accessories as well, like flash suppressors, ergonomic stocks and pistol grips, and the GRIP-N-RIP Charging Handle is built to support both left-handed and right-handed shooters. 

Patriot Ordnance (POF)

Patriot Ordnance, or POF-USA, is one of the premier firearms manufacturers in the country because of their excellent engineering, design qualities, and the ability to introduce innovative upgrades to the iconic platform. The POF Minuteman AR is their twist on the direct impingement carbine, featuring ambidextrous controls and enhancements most important to remain mobile and light.

POF firearms typically also include ambidextrous sling swivel plates, anti-tilt buffer tubes, and patented features like their bolt carrier group with a roller cam pin, a renegade rail with oversized heat sink barrel nut, and more. POF rifles come out of the box ready for whichever optic system best suits your needs and purpose.

Build your own AR-15

While there’s a ton of fantastic options for purchasing a pre-built AR-15, there’s not really a better way of answering what is an AR-15 and how does it function than building one for yourself. 

That might seem like a daunting task, especially if you’ve never built your own firearm before, but it’s actually an easier process than it seems! Here’s a breakdown of everything you need, and what you need to know, to build your own AR-15. 

The lower receiver

When building an AR, you start from the ground up. Your first part should be the lower receiver, which suits above the grip, houses the trigger and the hammer, and has a slot for the magazine. For all intents and purposes, this is the actual firearm and the only serialized item in your AR-15 build. 

The lower receiver is your foundation for a quality AR-15 build. It’s the same requirements to purchase a lower receiver as it is a handgun; you have to undergo a background check before receiving the part. You can purchase everything else for your AR-15 build over the counter or online and shipped directly to you. 

A lower receiver can be turned into either a pistol or a rifle, depending on barrel length. Any barrel under 16 inches is considered a pistol, and those over 16 inches are considered rifles. 

Once you have your lower receiver, the customization of your AR-15 build can truly begin. 

Lower parts

When purchasing the lower parts for your AR-15, you can either buy a lower parts kit or purchase each of these parts separately. 

Our lower parts kits at Frontier Justice have all of the pieces you need to assemble the lower receiver, minus the trigger. 

If you’re purchasing the lower parts separately for yourself, here is what you will need:

  • Trigger spring
  • Trigger pin
  • Hammer spring
  • Hammer pin
  • Disconnector and spring
  • Bolt catch
  • Bolt catch plunger
  • Bolt catch spring
  • Bolt catch roll pin
  • Selector
  • Selector detent
  • Selector detent spring
  • Takedown detents and springs
  • Pivot pin
  • Rear takedown pin
  • Buffer retainer and spring
  • Magazine catch
  • Button and spring
  • Screw and washer
  • Trigger guard assembly

Aside from these parts that come in lower parts kits, you also need to purchase a buffer tube and a stock. Depending on the lower parts kit purchased, you may also need to purchase your grip, as many of our LPK’s include a pistol grip and fire control unit.

For more advanced builds, you can purchase enhanced parts to help manipulate your firearm faster and easier. There are many parts you can get that are ambidextrous as well for shooting left or right handed.

Upper receiver

With the bottom half of your AR-15 assembled, it’s now time to focus on the top half, known as the upper receiver. Just like with lower parts, there are upper parts kits that contain various useful parts to assemble your upper receiver. The Rise Armament Upper Parts Kit carried at Frontier Justice includes: 

  • Forward assist
  • Forward assist spring
  • Forward assist retaining roll pin
  • Dust cover
  • Dust cover spring
  • Dust cover rod (with C clamp installed)

The other main components of the upper receiver group includes the barrel, handguard, bolt carrier group, charging handle, muzzle device, gas tube, gas block, and of course the stripped upper receiver itself. 


Having the right parts to assemble your AR-15 is nothing if you don’t have the correct tools. Fortunately, Frontier Justice carries all the tools you may need, from barrel wrenches and fix-it sticks to smart mats and bench blocks to make the building process hassle free.

Why build your own AR-15?

You might be wondering if building your own AR-15 is worth all of the trouble. If you truly want to know the answer to “what is an AR-15?” then building one from the ground up is a crucial part of gaining that knowledge. 

When you’ve built your own tool, you know the inner workings. You understand how to disassemble the firearm and can make any adjustments necessary. And, if there were any malfunction, you understand how to look for the problem and that typically leads to an easier fix.

Building your own AR-15 also allows you to get the quality parts you want, while still maintaining your budget.  

Your first build is likely going to take some time, but as you put the pieces together you pick things up. Then your second and third builds, if you turn it into a hobby, become easier and you continue gaining knowledge of your tool. 

Pro tip: Always keep eye protection handy when working on your firearm. There are plenty of tiny, wound-up springs and detents that could come loose and fly around, and catching one of those to the eye is not good news. 

Essentials every AR-15 owner should have

Whether you bought your AR-15 or built one yourself, there are some essentials that every AR-15 owner needs for their tool.

Optics and sights

Many AR-15s don’t come with iron sights or optics out of the box. That’s advantageous for owners, however, because you can make sure your optic or sight is perfect for your needs. 

We carry a huge variety of sights and optics both in our stores and online, so we are bound to have one that fits your needs. 


A sling is an essential item for any AR-15. First and foremost, it keeps the rifle connected to you. Secondly, it allows you to release the firearm while not in use, giving you the ability to complete whatever tasks are necessary. From navigating the outdoors to transitioning from a rifle to a pistol, having a sling is an absolute necessity for every AR-15.

With many different sling and strap options available, you can find the exact sling to fit your needs and comfort level.  

Related: Single or dual point sling, which is best?

Mounted lights

One of the four fundamental rules of firearm safety is to know what you’re shooting at, and what lies beyond. In a dark setting or when shooting at night, if you don’t have a reliable light mounted to your AR you won’t be able to identify your target. These mounted lights are particularly useful in home defense scenarios, when you likely won’t have time to turn on the lights in your house. 

Another of the fundamental firearm safety rules is to never point a firearm at something you don’t wish to destroy. This is why we recommend having a handheld light in tandem with a weapon mounted light, to give you the opportunity to see in the dark without flagging loved ones with a live carbine. 

Spare magazines

If you purchase your AR or build your own, you’ll most likely end up with a magazine that holds 30 rounds, the standard magazine for ARs. There are plenty of other magazine options, however, including extended magazines that can hold more than 30 rounds. 

One of the major advantages of an AR is its round capacity, so we highly recommend exploring expansion options or even just owning spare magazines. You should aim to have roughly 8-10 magazines per AR-15. With their low price point and high quality, extra magazines are essential to have on hand. 


A firearm needs to be fed! Stocking up on enough ammo to practice your shooting and keep your magazines loaded in case of emergency is a critical part of firearm ownership. 

We carry many options for ammunition, including hollow point rounds that are perfect for home defense. 


Owning an AR-15 and all the accessories isn’t going to teach you how to use it. To truly answer the question what is an AR-15, you need to practice your skills and learn the proper techniques for shooting. 

Our AR-15 basics class gives new owners and prospective owners a basic orientation with the AR-15 platform. This class takes place both in our classroom and in our indoor shooting range, mixing both instruction and practical application of what you’ve learned. 

Still asking yourself “What is an AR-15?” Find out at Frontier Justice!

Our firearms experts can answer any and all questions you have about the AR-15 platform. We believe it is an incredibly useful tool that fits so many different purposes, and we want to spread that knowledge and love throughout our community. 

We are proud to serve our community through quality equipment and firearms education. Learn more about what makes Frontier Justice different by reaching out to us, signing up for our membership club, or scheduling a class. You can also always simply stop by to check out our store, boutique, and range for yourself!

Related Posts

Select Location & Bay

Select a location
  • Kansas City, KS
  • Lee's Summit, MO
  • Omaha, NE
Select your bay

Bay Descriptions

Select Class Location

Select a location
  • Lee's Summit, Missouri
  • Kansas City, Kansas
  • Omaha, Nebraska