How to Stay Out of Prison When Building a Rifle at Home ~ VIDEO & Check Lists

Opinion by Alex Kincaid

USA – -( There’s only one thing better than buying a new gun:  Making your own custom firearm at home.

Stick to Alex Kincaid’s “Three Rules for Staying Out of Prison” below, and you stand a good chance of not violating one of the many gun-control laws that can affect well-intentioned, law-abiding Americans.

What are the three rules?

  1. Be Selfish:  Build firearms for your personal use
  2. Know what you’re buying
  3. Know what you’re making

Build for Your Personal Use

The ATF has published an opinion that “Firearms may be lawfully made by persons who do not hold a manufacturer’s license under the Gun Control Act provided they are not for sale or distribution and the maker is not prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms.”

If you start helping other people finish their firearms and, especially, if you take money from them for doing so, you can wind up accused, prosecuted, and convicted of violating the federal Gun Control Act.

On top of it, if you purchase an 80% lower, and pay someone to finish it, the ATF has now said that the person finishing the lower into a firearm must have a federal firearms license to do so.

The safest route to ensure that you are not violating federal (and sometimes, state) law is to only build firearms for your own, personal use. If a friend or family member would like your guidance as they build their own rifle, instruct and assist them as they complete the task, rather than do it for them.

Know What You’re Buying

Just because something is for sale, doesn’t mean it’s legal. Think about drugs or child porn. These items are easily found and bought, but they are not legal. The same goes for firearms parts that you might find on the internet. Some parts, by themselves, may be legal, but depending on how you install them, they may make a firearm illegal.

If you buy a foregrip, is it angled, vertical, or unknown? Our laws distinguish between these different parts, and you can easily violate the federal law known as the National Firearms Act by installing certain parts on an AR-style pistol and turning it into an “any other weapon” or “AOW.”

To make matters worse, if you lawfully purchase parts for your AR rifle and install them in certain states, you may have turned a legal rifle into an illegal “assault weapon” under your state’s laws[read New Jersey], just by adding cosmetic parts. Gun control laws don’t usually make much sense, and these “cosmetic feature” laws are an excellent example of how little sense gun control laws can make. Gun owners know that a flash suppressor, a foregrip, a collapsible stock, and other parts of a rifle don’t make the rifle more deadly, but more states continue to pass “assault weapon” bans, which make adding these parts to a rifle illegal.

So, know what you’re buying and whether the parts are legal in your state.

Know What You’re Making

Basic AR 15 Rifle Kit Gun Parts
Basic AR 15 Rifle Kit Gun Parts

Do you know if the gun parts and pieces you will be assembling will create a pistol, a rifle, or short-barreled rifle (SBR)?

You need to know the rules before you start your build. Buying a lower receiver is like buying a blank slate. Technically, your lower receiver is your firearm, but before you add parts to it, it is a generic firearm. If you create an SBR by registering your rifle in the NFRTR, you cannot go backwards and turn that same lower receiver into a pistol without processing additional paperwork.

If you create a firearm designed to shoot from your shoulder, you have usually created a rifle. If you create a firearm designed to shoot with one hand, you have usually built a pistol. You can easily turn a pistol into an AOW by adding a vertical foregrip, as stated above.  In some states, if you add certain cosmetic features, you may turn a legal rifle into an illegal “assault weapon.”

If you add a shoulder stock and a barrel that is under 16” in length, you are building an SBR, and you had better pay the $200 tax, put your name on the registry, notify your chief law enforcement officer, send in photographs and fingerprints, and wait 6-9 months to get your approved tax stamp before building this firearm.  If you don’t, you are violating federal law.

If you’re building an NFA firearm – make sure you download a free copy of Alex Kincaids Form 1 Guide.  This guide will walk you through filling out Form 1 with your gun trust name.

Please watch our YouTube channel to hear more about how to build a rifle and stay out of prison. We also recommend a few detailed videos showing you how to insert small part into small part during your build. We like to shop at Brownell’s, where you can watch more how-to build videos on Brownell’s website.

To help you get started on your build journey, click here to check out Brownell’s build list for free. This build list will help you make sure you purchase the essential parts to a non-sporting rifle. It’s essentially a shopping list for your non-sporting rifle build. If you intend to build a firearm that will be subject to the National Firearms Act, be sure to contact us for a gun trust and also, download Alex Kincaids Form 1 Guide for free, which will walk you through the steps of using your gun trust to get your tax stamp for your new NFA firearm.

Assembling An AR-15 Rifle Parts Checklist

Feel free to post pictures of your build in the comments below! We would love to see what other good Americans are up to!  If you have questions, please call us for a free consultation.

Alexandria Kincaid, Attorney
Alexandria Kincaid, Attorney

About Alexandria Kincaid:

Alexandria Kincaid is a former elected District Attorney and the founder of Alex Kincaid Law, a full-service, boutique law firm emphasizing constitutional, criminal, and asset protection (estate and business) law, and boasting the unique specialty of firearms law. Alex Kincaid is hailed the Second Amendment Guru by the American Shooting Journal. Her expertise of the gun laws is relied upon by gun owners, gun businesses, and gun rights organizations across America, and her clients also include well-known firearms and firearms accessories manufacturers. Alex is also the author of “Infringed” the ultimate gun law book, available on Amazon . Or visit

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I was “given” an AK 47 that was made by a third party, with parts the third party purchased. I have no idea who the third party was that made it. Subsequently, I was told that there was a part of the mechanism that needed to have a serial number to make it legal. That is as much as I know as i don’t know what part to look at for a serial number to insure it’s legality. Does anybody know what they could be speaking of as i definitely do not want an illegal gun in my possession. And… Read more »


I am at [email protected]. What is federal laws state about an air “gun”. Some can put down big game at 100 yards?

Gregory Romeu

Bielinski, Alex is referring to rifles that are NFA type firearms like SBR’s or Short Barreled Rifles, AOW’s or Any Other Weapon type rifles… Both of which are not used in sporting, hunting situations. Sub Machineguns, Belt-Fed Weapons… All pretty much frowned upon in the hunting / sporting world…

Wesley Bielinski

In the last paragraph. What the hell is a non-sporting rifle?

Gregory Romeu

Bielinski, Alex is referring to rifles that are NFA type firearms like SBR’s or Short Barreled Rifles, AOW’s or Any Other Weapon type rifles… Both of which are not used in sporting, hunting situations. Sub Machineguns, Belt-Fed Weapons… All pretty much frowned upon in the hunting / sporting world…


Great write up Alexandria, really good info. We need to get the “feature” bans repealed in the Supreme Court: most are based on warrantless fear mongering by the political left. Magazine bans, stocks, control features, and the consumer laws are all unconstitutional. All of it. The restrictions on purchasing guns and ammo, and carry outside the home are blatant violations of the 2nd Amendment. These unconstitutional laws prevent citizens from protecting their lives and the lives of their families, and it violates the foundation of Western Law going back to Provincial Laws and Divine Law. (God given right to preserve… Read more »

Michael Mennone

The AR in AR-15 is Armalite Rifle, Armalite patterned refers to rifles that copy the AR-15. The AR in the question above is an abbreviation of assault rifle in the first sentence.In this context AR’s are fully automatic rifles.

Gregory Romeu

Mennone, No, No, No and hell NO! Are you just guessing at this stuff? Seriously? You weren’t taught how to “research” when you were in school?

Wm Hogsten

Great article/video. Question. Modern Sporting Rifle. vice the Assault Rifle. When I was younger I was taught that AR’s was any weapon that could fire in a fully automatic mode. And MSR’s, no matter how scary looking could be semi automatic or bolt action but not automatic. Although some military rifles could only fire in semi automatic and crossed over into the civilian population, M1 Grande comes to mind. I know state laws vary. I grew up in California, left before it went crazy and settled down here in South Georgia. And lived in many other states. Some more strict… Read more »

G dubb

AR does not mean “assault rifle” Wm. It means “Armalite-patterned”. The liberal media has confused millions of people with this lie. There is no such thing as an “assault rifle” outside of the military. Assault rifles are capable of automatic fire.

The terms MSR and AR can be used interchangeably in many situations, where standard rifle lengths and measurements are used. SBRs and pistols can also be ARs as well, if the AR pattern is used in the build.

Gregory Romeu

@G Dubb, you, yourself are being misleading. 1) “AR” stands for Armalite, period. There never had been any, “pattern” associated to the name/term, “AR”. 2) “There is no such thing as an “assault rifle” outside of the military.” Wrong again! Fully automatic firearms and weapons CAN and ARE obsessed by civilians here in the U.S. and many,country’s LEGALLY, worldwide! There are MANY CIVILIAN FFL Dealers that manufacture, modify, repair and deal in fully automatic firearms, silencers and even weapons of mass destruction and exploives! These are NOT government people/companies. There are MANY Full-Auto Machine gun Shoots held across the United… Read more »

Scotty Gunn

So, The CAR rifle was Colt Armalite? No, it was “Colt Automatic Rifle”. AR stood for “Automatic Rifle”. There were Colts with AR-15 on them in the military. Think that stood for Armalite? Urban Legend.

Wesley J Bielinski

CAR-15 were Colt Automatic Rifles after they bought the license from Armalite and started producing fully automatic weapons for the military. They did take some of the unused (old) stock from Armalite and did make fully automatic weapons. Again it’s not what the weapon looks like but what’s INSIDE that counts. So NOT urban legend.

Gregory Romeu

Gunn, I got your, “urban legend”.
Are you just guessing at this stuff too? Seriously? You weren’t taught how to “research” when you were in school?

Geez? Where do you guys come up with all of this psychobabble crap? Is this the BS that they are feeding you guys through your video games?


Calm down Greg, you give our name a bad rep. Just to let you know the military does not call them assault rifles, they are called rifles… I do have a couple of assault chickens and ducks. AR is from Armalite and others were patterned after them, clones, copies and any other term you want to throw at it. I have an AR “defensive firearm”. Please feel free to use that term and please feel free to correct others when they misuse AR.