View Full Version : Cost to Build vs. Cost to Buy

July 22, 2007, 15:42

I know this is primarily a FAL build forum, but you guys build more semi-autos than any other online group that I know of so I am asking this question here.

Very simply: from what I'm seeing, the going rate for a decent M1 Garand nowadays is somewhere between $850-$1150. Can I build one for less than that? Since I do not have the specialized tools I need to build one, I would have to farm the assembly out to a Garand 'smith. Can I put a decent, shootable M1 together for less than I can buy one for?

And likewise, can I put a FAL together for less than I can buy one? It had been a while since I looked and recent investigation shows that the cost for decent FAL receivers is now in the ~$500 range. And whole rifles for not terribly much more.

Where would I come out ahead for on a decent, shootable rifle. I don't need parts matching, just something representative of the what the rifle was that I could add to my collection and shoot whenever I wanted to. Any ideas sirs?

In good shooting,


July 22, 2007, 15:47
In my experience you can buy either of these cheaper than you can build one.
Most of us building these things do so for the fun of it. I really don't think there is an economic rationale any longer. Back when Imbel receivers were under $200 and kits were around $150, it made sense to build your own for a cheaper gun. Now, the only "advantage" is that you can custom configure it to your particular taste.

July 22, 2007, 15:52
We are at the tipping point in the FAL market.

Given the current market and supply, there is no economic incentive to build just one FAL.

If you want a FAL, the smart money says watch the marketplace forum for anything built on an IMBEL or DSA recevier. Most of these rifles currently sell for very close to the price of just the parts alone. Even if the rifle turns out to have minor issues, parts are still abundant. Moreover, advice to assist with any issue you may be unable to solve on your own is readily available here.

The Garand is a fine rifle too. But, it is a completely different creature than a FAL.

FAL freek
July 22, 2007, 16:29
If you're a member here and sweet talk DSA you might get a discount on one of their receivers. Only problem with that is waiting for it. They seem to be very busy a the moment. Something else you might want to factor into your build equation is the cost of the tools involved. You'll need a barrel vice, action wrench, butt stock removal tool, besides the everyday tools. Not trying to detere you from building but you'll either have to buy these or borrow them. That said if you have the confidence to build a rifle and build either or both, There's satisfaction when you take your creature out to the range after it's built and getting good groups you can't get from buying a rifle.

If you're serious about a FAL build start looking in the marketpace. From time to time there's a real deal to be had. Just a day or two ago I missed an Austrian kit for $300 by a few minutes.

July 22, 2007, 16:36
the thing with building your own fal , you can spread your purchase of parts out over many months , so you can get the parts you really want instead of the cheapest built rifle you can afford.

i have a fal built by one of the boards smith , its a work of art . but i have a lot more enjoyment from the fal that "I" built

plus if you build it you can probally fix it someday down the road if anything breaks

July 22, 2007, 16:55
I don't have a clue as to how hard it is to find a parts kit and the required tools for an M1, but as to FALs, there is no substitute for building one (or a dozen) yourself. The exception is if you are just not good at tinkering with things.

Speaking only for FALs there is a whole slew of people just North and South of you will the required tools and experience. One can be assembled in a day using borrowed tools or providing the beer for a build party. However, the real fun is in tinkering with it until it's near perfect (at least in the owners eyes). For that you need your own gear.

For just one, it might be better to buy it outright or send the parts to a good smith for a turn-key job.

July 22, 2007, 17:45
I'm a FAL enthusiast, so I'm willing to spend a little more and build it myself so that I can choose the specific components which suit my requirements - and this way I learn more about the platform so I can fix it myself if it later goes down. That's worth the difference in money to me.

July 22, 2007, 20:19
If you can get to Camp Perry during the National Matches:
M1 Garands will be available for sale at the National Matches (limit of 1 per customer)

M1 Garand, Springfield Armory, Service grade- $595.00
(Limited quantity available for sale at Camp Perry store only starting 9 July 2007)CMP Rifle sales (http://www.odcmp.com/Services/Rifles/m1garand.htm)

July 22, 2007, 20:21
The receiver question should really be settled pretty easily. Can't wait-- go to Marketplace and get the first DSA or IMBEL that suits your fancy, but be prepared to pay upwards of $500. CAN wait-- order a new receiver from DSA and spend $350. Nobody else is worth it.

Here's a repeat from one of my earlier posts that answers the remainder of your FAL-specific questions.These are the tools you'll need, or acceptable substitutes.

* Receiver wrench, top of the list. Trying to barrel a receiver in a vise invites crushing it. ratas calientes on this board sells one for roughly $60. Cheap: If you're good at woodworking, you can try to make your own from hardwood, for limited use, from plans available around this site. If you've got a huge hunk of free, good aluminum just sitting around, this is also a material with potential.
* Barrel manipulation. Cost and methods vary. Some folks get a 27mm or 1-1/16" wrench and slightly file them larger to make a TIGHT fit onto the barrel flats; they use this to torque on the barrel with the receiver wrench clamped into a vise. Other folks buy a special barrel vise, clamp it down, then twist on the receiver wrench. (Either way you need to apply approximately 120 ft-lbs of torque, after machining down the barrel shoulder as necessary, to properly time the barrel into the receiver.) Cheap: Put the barrel flats in your vise. Crank down HARD, you don't want it twisting out of the vise under torque. Don't forget to support the other side of the vise somehow. PS, you'd better have a good American vice, or this operation will possibly break it.
* 3/4" breaker bar or 3/4" to 1/2" adaptor for a 1/2" breaker bar. Needed for the receiver wrench above, if you clamp the barrel and tighten on the receiver wrench.
* Buttstock tool. Nice one from TAPCO for about $10; others. Invaluable, worth the money. Definitely necessary for assembling and you'll probably need to pull the buttstock someday to clean and re-lube the recoil spring. (TAPCO version converts into a Metric pistol grip tool, easier than a big screwdriver.) Cheap: Use a cleaning rod down the recoil spring tube and work a screwdriver around it. PITA.
* Front sight tool. Cheap plastic one from TAPCO, $5; sturdier metal tool from DSA. Cheap: Snap-ring pliers inserted into the sight holes. Bulkier in your shooters bag at the range.
* Headspace gauges. Forster brand your best bet, $15 to $20 each, many vendors. GO and NO-GO gauges minimum required. Cheap: Are you kidding? Don't you like your face? (By the way: headspacing an FAL is easy, a snap compared to screwing around with an M1A or AR10. Future adjustments to FAL headspace also very simple and quick.)
* Sizing rods. Needed for headspacing, about $90. Cheap: This is an easy one, ZZ "minus" pin gages from MSC Direct, under $2 each. You'll need sizes from about .254" to .265" for the average FAL. Cheaper: skip every other size, get them in odd or even increments.
* Extractor tool. Essential to strip the extractor when headspacing, also needed to periodically clean it during standard maintenance. Various vendors, roughly $20, maybe less. Cheap: Chuck a nail into a vise, hard, just a nub exposed. Push the extractor takedown hole into the nail, hard, and pull towards the firing pin. Hope it doesn't slip and the spring shoots into the next county. Well, it's cheap, eh?
*Various hollow-ground screwdrivers, files, a 1/16" punch, maybe a set of calipers to measure the locking shoulder that came with your kit. (Or borrow them.)

July 22, 2007, 20:24
both rifles can be purchased for less than assembly price. continue to watch the market place and research the seller if possible.

July 23, 2007, 07:37
It can be cheaper to build EXACTLY what you want, rather than to buy something close, and then have to replace parts to make it exactly what you want.

AR's are usually cheaper to build than to buy.

Building an M1 could be fun simply from the standpoint of hunting up the parts. If you search long enuf, you'll find a good deal on the parts you need, but you still are prolly in a break even scenario. And NO WAY you'll beat CMP proces on a Garand.

July 23, 2007, 11:37
I'm currently working on a Garand build as a side project. Here's the cost breakdown so far:

Stripped CMP Receiver - $125 (these are $195 now)
Criterion BBL - $200
Parts kit - $295 (From Sarco, lots of junk)
Op Rod Repair - $85 (Rod from kit was bent and had bad piston)
New CMP Stock Set - $120 (Stock from kit was beat to shit and not worth refinishing)

That's already $825, and all I have is a box of parts, some of which are unserviceable. I estimate at least another $100 to replace the assorted unserviceable small parts from the Sarco kit, plus about another $400 to have it all refinished and assembled, so I'll probably end up around $1300.

The rifle should be pretty nice when it's done, but I'll have spent 1.5x what it would have cost to just buy one. So, basically, it's not a cost effective project.

July 23, 2007, 14:04
Originally posted by AndyC
I'm a FAL enthusiast, so I'm willing to spend a little more and build it myself so that I can choose the specific components which suit my requirements - and this way I learn more about the platform so I can fix it myself if it later goes down. That's worth the difference in money to me.

+1 on that. That, and the fact that I just like to tinker with stuff makes it fun to my way of thinking.

If you don't like to tinker with stuff, I wouldn't bother with building something. You certainly won't save money by building one.

July 23, 2007, 16:07
I choose to build because I spend 1/2 my time in California. Because of this it is easier to throw money down and stockpile the receivers so in case the door closes I have all I need.
So for me $1800 on an off the rack FAL or a $1000 on a FAL in the classifieds would buy me more receivers now that I can build up later.

July 24, 2007, 00:50
It use to be estimated that you would have to build three rifles in order to justify the cost of purchasing the tools/guages, compliance parts, kits, etc, for FAL builds, but that was when kits were cheap and receivers were readily available. I crunched the numbers on my inch builds, on another post and they cost upwards of $800.00 each. If you can buy a completed rifle between 5-800 dollars you will be saving money. I wish that I had started ten years ago.:cry:

July 29, 2007, 20:28
I have built several FALs and AKs and did save money (remember Tapco $89 Imbel kits?). Had a lot of fun too. When the M1 bug hit I really wanted to build but the economics just are not there. Build it if you want to for fun but you will not save any money. Heck, the pull through reamer alone is $130 - a NM barrel and installation by Springfield was $265.