Tools are a huge key to success in any project. If you want to set yourself up for success, then you need to have the right tools for the job. Not having them might end in disaster. We’re talking about any where from builder induced minor cosmetic issues to broken parts or even a weapon that is improperly assembled. We definitely don’t want that.
I’ve already talked briefly about tools in my “So You Want To Build an AR (Part 1)” post. In that post I went over the basic tools you’re going to want when starting an AR build. It lays things out clearly and gives some insights to why we use certain things. Personally, I am the type of guy who goes out and buys exactly what I need. I also try to to buy the best tools I can afford. This often leads to a hodge podge of tools, but they work.
Not everybody likes this approach. Buying a tool kit that has everything can often times be an easier approach. This is especially the case for new builders who either don’t want to track down tools, are unsure of what will work, or who just want a one stop shop. Real Avid’s Armorers Master Kit for AR15’s provides has all the tools in one kit. I am a bit skeptical of such deals though…
I am often times skeptical of tool kits. The reason being is that the quality is not there, especially if the price is affordable. I cant tell you how many times I have bought sets of small tools too get by for a project. Poor quality items such as punches always end up bent and unusable in a short period of time. Low quality tools typically fail to hold up to abuse. Hence why I have subscribed to the buy one cry one philosophy.
I have found that it is much more beneficial to just piece together high quality tools to get a job done. Often times I have also found that specialty tools do not wind up in tool kits. Tools like the Geissele Reaction Rod typically have to be bought in addition to a tool kit. You might find a delrin set of blocks for your upper and lower, but they don’t tend to hold up. In fact, I have trashed my fair share for low quality upper receiver blocks. While applying torque to a barrel nut or a muzzle device, the upper wants to twist inside the block and it is still possible to damage an upper receiver.
These are two major down falls of buying a kit. Quality and Specialty tools. This is why I was absolutely shocked to see that the Real Avid kit contained tools that are actually useful. The question then became, would they hold up? The only way to find out was to buy a kit and build guns.
When the kit showed up in the mail I immediately tore it open and dug in. I was shocked to find that it did in fact include almost every tool you need to build an AR15. What is it missing you might ask? A bench and a good vice. Maybe some soft jaws for said quality vice.
The kit literally has everything I needed and thus far I have assembled 3 AR15’s with it. On top of that, it also comes with instructions and a booklet called “Top 18 Mods Every AR15 Owner Should Master.” The booklet basically cornicles a bunch of mods and upgrades that you’ll probably do as an AR15 owner. Most importantly though, its a pretty good guide to assembling an AR15 without getting super technical and into the weeds. There are things that I think were missed like staking your castle nut, but over all it is a good guide.
Where this kit shines is the specialty tools to make certain jobs easier. Most note worthy are the tightening lower receiver block, the upper receiver rod, and the bench block. These tools make life much more easy. Their primary job is to hold parts while you work on them. Gone are the day of needing 3 or 4 hands.
The kit also comes with every size roll pin punch, a starter punch, a torque wrench, armorer’s wrench, pivot pin tool, handguard tool, pivot lock, front sight tool, and a pick set among other things. That makes this a reasonably complete kits. While I did mention that I didn’t see instructions on staking a castle nut, they do include a punch to do it and it does work.
The Specialty Stuff
I harp on the specialty tools a lot. The reality is that they are some of the most useful tools for AR15 builders. Without a good way of holding an AR upper, you can damage it while installing a barrel nut. Thus it is important to have something like a Reaction Rod.
The upper receiver rod that comes in this kit is made from aluminum. The first time I used it, I was actually worried because the teeth didn’t engage as far into the barrel extension as I would have liked. I thought that I’d twist the end of the rod if I applied excessive force. This was not the case though and it has held up well. The upper receiver rod has pleasantly surprised me. Unlike the Geissele Reaction Rod, this rod has a means to hold the upper receiver in place. It accomplishes this via a red stop that you place in the rod the rod after you’ve placed the upper on it. It keeps the receiver from sliding forward while it is on the rod. Over all, this upper receiver rod gets my stamp of approval.
The lower receiver block is a very useful tool for holding the lower receiver during parts of its assembly. Its mostly helpful when you’re dealing with the buffer tube, although you can install the lower receiver on it upside down to assist with installing the grip, trigger guard, and mag release. What sets this apart from other options is its ability to tighten. Most cheap blocks fit loosely. This block is different though. First you install the lower on the block, then you turn the bottom knob on the block and the top expands in the mag well of the lower. This takes out any play between the block and the lower. After it is tight, you then clamp the block in your vice.
Next up is the bench block. Various tasks can be accomplished with the bench block. You can use it for anything from installing a forward assist in your upper, disassembling a bolt, tearing apart a charging handle, installing a bolt release, ect. It essentially has numerous recesses that hold the parts you’re working on. This block is amazing. On top of that, it also has the proper size roll pin punches listed next to the holes for each task. That way there is no guessing which size punch to use. On the back, it has pin storage and its magnetic so it helps prevent losing roll pins and small parts. This tool is an absolute life saver.
The last of the specialty tools is the front pivot pin tool. Any one who has installed a front pivot pin without this tools knows how big of a pain in the ass it can be. This tool stream lines the whole process. It allows you to install the spring and detent, push them into the lower, and then lock them into place by rotating a portion of the tool. You then simply push your pivot pin into place and it releases the detent. This tool is yet another life saver and will probably prevent you from shooting the spring and detent into your carpet.
The Small Tools
This kit comes with a myriad of small tools as well. It essentially has everything you need for most tasks that you’re going to perform while building an AR. A good set of allen wrenches and a big flat head screw driver are the only things that are really missing. Neither are essential, but often times installing a grip onto a lower will take one or the other. The kit has neither. It does come with almost everything else needed.
The punch set is vital for assembling both the upper and lower receivers. This kit comes with all the necessary punches. I have yet to bend one, but they probably would bend if used improperly or if seriously abused. No set of punches can escape being bent when seriously abused though. Its a fact of life, however, some hold up better than others. The kit comes with a combination of punches, roll pin punches (they have a nub on the end that centers the punch on the pin), a starter punch (the roll pin partially goes inside the end of the punch and it aids in starting the roll pin without needing 3 hands), a staking punch (a punch with a pointed end), and a delrin punch. The punch set is fairly complete for working on an AR15 and the quality is fairly good.
There are also a bunch of other useful small tools. It does come with plastic tweezers and a set of plastic picks. While I see value in plastic picks as far as not damaging or scratching finishes, they’re usefulness is limited. Some times you just need a good old fashioned metal pick. The front sight tool is another useful tool that seems to always get misplaced. The cool thing is, this kit comes in a nice organized case, so as long as you put it back when you’re done, you don’t have to fear losing it.
This kit also comes with a pivot lock. I have never seen much of a use for them, but some people may appreciate being able to open their receivers up without having them flop around. Also included is a handguard tool. If you have a standard milspec handguard, then this will aid in getting it off the rifle.
Other Major Tools
An armorers wrench is an essential tool when building an AR. Often times armorers wrenches are multi-function tools. In most cases they can be used for castle nuts, barrel nuts, muzzle devices, ect. The armorers wrench that comes in this kit is no exception. It has multi-functionality as a wrench, but it also doubles as a hammer. The kit comes with multiple heads for the hammer portion of the wrench. In fact, it comes with two of each head. One set of heads is stored in the case, while the other is stored directly on the wrench. Just like all good armorers wrenches, this one is designed to be used with a torque wrench.
The torque wrench that comes with this kit is simple and easy to use. It is a beam style torque wrench. Typically these are very precise. They might not look as fancy as some other wrenches, but they are simple and you probably wont break it. You also don’t have to figure out how to set them. Just simply apply the desired torque. This makes it a good fit for your average person.
I’ll be honest with you. I bought this kit with my own money and I have never talked to any one at Real Avid. I reviewed this kit because it appeared to be something that would benefit new AR15 owners. The quality of the kit looked like it would be acceptable. I’ll admit that I was pleasantly surprised.
As mentioned before I have used this kit to build 3 different guns now. Very seldom do I go digging through my old tools any more. Usually its just for the aforementioned allen wrench set or flat head screw driver. I haven’t really touched anything else since I’ve got my hands on this kit. Its got 95% of everything I have needed. It takes care of all the specialty tools and AR specific stuff that your new builder needs as well as most of what experienced builders such as myself would need.
The quality of the tools in this kit is actually pretty good. Much better than I expected. I don’t foresee any major issues. The only major thing that made me go “meh” was the plastic picks. Yes, they can be used for various things and not damage the finish of your firearm, but some times you just need a metal pick. I wish they had included some. Outside of that, if used properly, I feel like these tools will last a decent amount of time. Especially if you don’t abuse your punches. Typically there’s isn’t much on the AR platform that requires beating on that hard.
To me, the biggest life saver is all the blocks and the upper receiver rod. It takes the need for a 3rd hand out of working on your AR. No more trying to depress the forward assist while hammering in or out the roll pin. You no longer need an extra hand to hold anything in place while working on roll pins for that matter. The front pivot pin has been made stupid easy. You wont shoot springs across the room any more.
Real Avid has taken a lot into consideration when making this kit and it shows. I didn’t expect to be this impressed, let alone have this kit change how I do certain things. Is it a replacement for a set of ultra Gucci tools? Maybe not, but it certainly does it all at a much cheaper price. Its an awesome option for any one looking for a good set of tools to work on their AR’s and I highly recommend it.