AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Home DIY Project: Build your own untraceable AR-15


Materials: AR-15 rifle kit; AR-15 magazine and bullets (sold separately)

Tools: Machine drill; drill bits; compact router; AR-15 easy jig (sold separately)

Time to build: several hours to several days, depending on skill level

Background check: none

Registration: none

Serial number: none

Questions asked: none

Laws broken: none

It sounds easy – and it was. Channel 2 Action News producer Josh Wade built an AR-15 rifle from a $500 kit bought off the internet, took it to a gun range and watched Channel 2 reporter Tom Regan squeeze off 20 rounds.

The finished product not only worked, but was completely untraceable. Unlike finished weapons with serial numbers that transfer from owner to owner, unfinished ones can be sold with no identifying marks.

Channel 2’s gun, bought from a Florida online retailer, had an unfinished lower receiver that required machine drilling to make fully functional. The lower receiver holds the firing mechanism.

And because the gun wasn’t ready out of the box, Wade didn’t need to undergo a background check to get it.

"We seize hundreds of these and the number's been going up every year," Graham Barlow, an agent with the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bureau told Channel 2.

The homemade weapons are dubbed “ghost guns” because they can’t be traced, and because buyers don’t have to undergo background checks to purchase them.

Jerry Henry with GeorgiaCarry.org told Channel 2 that most people who buy such guns are hobbyists who enjoy building their own firearms.

But criminals have used the guns in deadly crimes.

Last November, a California shooter who was barred from purchasing a gun legally because of criminal record used a homemade AR-15 to kill five people. Police shot and killed him in a shoot-out.

"We see this trend becoming more popular and we do see an increase in the number of people selling these," the ATF’s Barlow told Channel 2.

Wade said the trickiest part was using a power drill to bore out the lower receiver so it could accept the firing mechanism. He bought an AR-15 easy jig, sold separately, for precision. Once that was done, “stuff just pops in and locks together.” Time to build was about two days, Wade said.

“It’s very easy,” he said. “I could have done it a lot faster.”

Watch how the gun was built, and see Tom Regan shoot it at a local gun range in Channel 2’s special report.


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About the Author

Ken Foskett has been an AJC reporter and editor since 1989 and is the Senior Editor/Investigations.