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Custom Build Your Own Black Rifle
Text & Photos by Jeff W. Zimba

If the television reality-show craze were to momentarily abort political correctness and expand into the gun world, there could certainly be potential in a new series called Pimp-My-Rifle. Just like the auto industry and the homebuilders have done, a bone-stock firearm could be presented for enhancement and returned to its owner in a highly modified configuration. Unfortunately, for the time being, no such reality show exists but thanks to the folks at CAA, many upgrades from mild to wild can privately be accomplished with a single phone call.

Plastic Rifle Popularity

There are several companies who specialize in manufacturing AR-15 style rifles in configurations too numerous to list here. The popularity of the semiautomatic version of America's primary service weapon has exploded onto the civilian gun scene in the last decade evidenced by the number of major "sporting rifle" manufacturers who have added a version of the Black Rifle to their lineup. A firearm once considered on the fringe, or of limited interest, the AR-15 style rifle is no longer only being produced by specialized companies catering primarily to a military or law enforcement market. Eying a desirable and profitable market share, such well-known manufacturers as Remington, High Standard and Smith & Wesson seem to have now embraced the firearm that companies such as Colt, Bushmaster, DPMS, Olympic Arms, DoubleStar, and so many others have specialized in for decades.

With so many gun owners joining the ranks of the Black Rifle Owners Club, there has been a major influx of new ideas, points of view and weapon objectives brought forth by the fresh customer base and a desire to adapt this platform to their particular shooting discipline. This has, in turn, boosted the accessory market in volume and innovation. Jumping directly into the deep-end of the demand issue, CAA has a huge line of accessories for these rifles that continues to grow at an amazing pace. Their product line creates an environment where someone can purchase a standard, basic rifle and accessorize it for their particular purpose. Unfortunately, there have been specific cases where sensory overload occurred (too many available options and configurations) at a time when a purchase was about to be made and has led to a lost sale because the potential buyer wanted to "buy the right rifle the first time" and needed to do more research before buying.

Overload Problem Solved

One of the greatest advantages of the Black Rifle is the complete modularity built into the system. Almost any configuration in almost any caliber can be obtained with a little assistance from the aftermarket accessory industry. This means that for some shooters, especially those new to the AR-15 style rifle, the initial purchase can be as easy as a stripped-down, basic rifle, and it can be later customized to fit the specific criteria the new owner would desire. As well as making the initial purchase easier, this strategy has the potential to save the end user a substantial amount of money. Best of all, the configuration can be altered again, an unlimited number of times if desired, if a different or ever-changing end use should occur.

From Practical to Tactical... and Beyond

There is always plenty of discussion about what is considered a legitimate and useful accessory versus what constitutes an accessory deemed silly or ineffective. Ultimately this decision has to be the choice of the end user. This statement comes with a few light-hearted warnings.

•Black Rifle Bling - If you find something you can't live without, hanging off the barrel of your Black Rifle, but it is a little "outside the box," the ribbing from your peers is just part of the game. There are several accessories available and only you can decide what will meet your requirements. A light, a fore-grip or a laser, are usually acceptable in most shooting social circles. A bayonet lug mounted multi-blade combination lock-pick and hot dog fork might not.

•The 20-pound Light Rifle - Almost universally taunted by veteran AR-15 type rifle owners are those who purchase every accessory to the point of concealing the identity of the original firearm, and are often lightheartedly referred to as "Mall Ninjas" or "Internet Commandos." Some guns have been intentionally over-accessorized and photographed for the web to poke a little fun at these, and some are even quite humorous. You will have to decide what you need for your new rifle based on the purpose you want it for. Just don't mount everything you can find, anywhere it will fit, all at once.

If you are new to these rifles and maybe a little overwhelmed by the number of accessories available, consider these previous points your fair warning. They may save you some seemingly vicious but light-hearted ribbing.

The Right Touch

In order to demonstrate a series of practical upgrades to a base rifle, this writer contacted Command Arms Accessories (CAA) and explained the concept. They were asked to choose some of their popular accessories for a "makeover" on a basic rifle. In a very short period of time a few boxes arrived with several accessories and with the addition of a few components laying around the workshop, the first magazine version of Pimp-My-Rifle was underway.

The base rifle we started with had a low-end collapsible stock, a flattop upper receiver, standard front carbine-length forend, stock pistol grip and a traditional front sight & gas block.

•Stock - The makeover started at the rear and moved forward towards the muzzle. The first step was to deal with the factory stock. It was replaced with a CAA Collapsible Stock. This new stock gives the shooter a better cheek-weld and includes a no-slip rubber recoil pad as well as a small compartment that holds 4 CR123 Batteries, a short Picatinny accessory rail and an optional push-button sling swivel.

•Sling - With a mounting hole at the front of the new stock available, a one-point sling from CAA was chosen for this application. One-point slings work well in tight quarters and assist in weapon retention while incorporating quick-detach connection points.

•Pistol Grip - The stock pistol grip was replaced with a CAA Ergonomic Grip. This grip is a little wider, incorporates finger grooves and completely fills the space above the grip to the rear of the receiver for a very comfortable hold.

•Sights - Since this rifle had only a flattop receiver and standard front sight post, a combination of dot-type scope and adjustable iron sights were added and co-witnessed. They can be used in combination with each other or used individually if necessary or desired. The rear sight chosen was an LMT Tactical Adjustable Rear Sight. It is completely adjustable for windage and elevation. The red-dot scope chosen was a 30mm S.P.O.T. scope and mount from MGI Military. With several dot intensity settings this sight performs well in all light conditions.

•Rail System - Possibly the most versatile, and arguably the most popular, accessory of this rifle platform is a front rail system that allows for the attachment of numerous accessories. Since this was a project utilizing a base rifle with a standard upper receiver and front sight post, a TDI Arms X6 rail system was chosen. Manufactured from solid billet aviation aluminum, this 2-piece, 6-rail system simply replaces a standard carbine-length handguard and works in conjunction with the standard front sight. It is a drop-on rail installed with the factory delta ring and tightened with 5 bolts to secure the system. The top MIL-STD 1913 rail matches the height of the factory flat top rail to facilitate multiple accessories. Unused rail surfaces were covered with the assistance of an X6 Thermal Rail Cover Kit.

•Front Vertical Grip - The particular grip chosen for this project met a few different criteria. We used a CAA Flashlight Grip Adapter. This vertical front grip mounts on the front rail and accepts a standard 1-inch flashlight. Tactical lights with a rear button can utilize the built-in thumb switch in both a constant on and a momentary on mode. Lights with a pigtail-style pressure switch are also accommodated with built-in mounting surfaces.

Enough is Enough

Since we earlier made light of those who over-accessorize their rifles, we were cautious not to fall into that category with this build. Those who either need more accessories or just different accessories can rest well knowing that we didn't even scratch the surface of the available items. For a full listing of CAA accessories you can visit their website at Be prepared to be there for a while. There are numerous variants of the items we installed such as stocks, grips, mounts, slings and several other accessories not included such as magazine clamps, stock accessories, lasers and mounts, bipods and much more. They also carry accessories for many more firearms than just AR-15 style guns including AK47s, Uzis, P-90s, MP5s, Galils and several handguns.


Command Arms Accessories
76 Vincent Circle
Ivyland, PA 18974
Ph: (267) 803-1518
Fax: (267) 803-1002

Lewis Machine Tool Company
1305 11th Street
W. Milan, IL 61264
Ph: (309) 787-7151
Fax: (309) 787-7193

MGI Military
102 Cottage Street
Bangor, ME 04401
Ph: (207) 945-5441
Fax: (207) 945-4010


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