Reviewed: Real Avid AR-15 Tools

Just as with other trades, there are tools specific to the trade of gunsmithing.

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posted on January 31, 2024
Real Avid Ar15 Build Lede

Just as with other trades, there are tools specific to the trade of gunsmithing. One subcategory of gunsmithing that’s exploded in the last several years is America’s favorite rifle, the AR-15 (or more broadly, the AR platform in general, to include the AR-10). While building an AR requires several common tools, like punch sets, drivers and a mallet from time to time, it also requires some specific tools to build one entirely from parts. Perhaps the best gunsmithing tool company, particularly for those fond of building AR-style rifles and pistols, is Real Avid, which makes every major tool you need for building your own AR from scratch.

The first tool outside of the average toolkit necessary for an AR is a vise. While most bench vises will suffice, Real Avid has taken the concept of the conventional vise and made one far more firearm-friendly with its Master Gun Vise. So, what’s Real Avid’s vise do that your run-of-the-mill vise won’t?

For starters, it has full range of movement; with a true 360-degree range of motion, as well as an eight-position locking ball-and-socket mechanism, the vise provides a rock-solid working platform that allows work to be done optimally while gaining the best leverage on parts and pieces (a barrel nut, for example, needs some real torque applied). This makes it easy to keep two hands available while accessing hard-to-reach places during assembly.

The vise also makes scope mounting quick and easy thanks to an integrated leveling knob. These features are useful for cleaning the gun once the gun is built, a scope is mounted, leveled and zeroed, and a few range sessions have taken their toll. In short, the Master Gun Vise is an incredibly versatile tool that will provide invaluable benefit—after all, it can double as a standard vise for other projects, too. MSRP: $299.99

Want to enhance the utility of the Master Gun Vise even more? Pair it with Real Avid’s Smart-Jaws Multi-Fit Sleeves to securely hold anything and everything for any project you may find yourself working on, without marring or scratching the finish. Normally, rounded objects provide hardly any contact points against flat-sided faces, like vise walls. So, two options are typically created: clamp down the object so tight that scratches undoubtedly occur or risk the object falling out of the vise entirely. With the Jaws, the vise can hold bolts, barrels and choke tubes—or any other rounded surface that provides minimal surface area—so slipping parts are no longer an issue. MSRP: $34.99

While Real Avid’s Master Gun Vise and Smart-Jaws Multi-Fit Sleeves are great universal tools, and necessary for AR building, they’re not truly AR-specific. There are two other tools Real Avid makes that are absolutely necessary for an AR build (aside from a vise): a vise block and an upper vise block. And wouldn’t you know it, Real Avid makes those, too!

The former, the Smart-Fit AR-15 Vise Block, is just like any other vise block at first glance. For the uninitiated, a vise block is simple in concept—the tool mimics a magazine and allows for lower receivers of AR-style rifles to be mounted and held securely in a vise. So, what makes Real Avid’s better? The block is “reversible” in the sense that it can hold a lower receiver upright to allow access to things like the buffer tube, trigger components and the safety, or the lower can be mounted upside-down to install new grips or tinker with the safety spring and detent.

Further, the vise block expands in all directions laterally, so even if tolerances aren’t quite what they should be, the vise block can snug up tight against the insides of the magazine well, minimizing play or slop in the receiver so users can perform assembly, change parts or simply do a deep dive into cleaning with surgical precision. There’s also a fitment sleeve which allows the vise block to pull double duty for not only the AR-15 platform, but the AR-10 as well.

If all you need is to hold open the upper to swab the barrel, the vise block includes a pivot lock to hold the upper open when the rear takedown pin is out, making cleaning a breeze. The barrel is even tipped downhill when the pivot lock is in place, meaning any extra lube, oil, solvents and dirt simply drip out the barrel. MSRP: $39.99

Another crucial tool is the upper vise block, which Real Avid calls the “Lug-Lok” upper vise block. Why is this tool crucial? It’s absolutely necessary for properly tightening down a barrel nut, as I learned the hard way when I sheared the rear take-down lug off of an upper receiver once because I thought I could just clamp the upper in a vise using the lugs as my holding points. (That didn’t end well for me—I’m still kind of bitter about it, but it’s my own fault.) Had I had the right tool for the job, it wouldn’t have been an issue.

Furthermore, the Real Avid Lug-Lok has a few extras, making it even more useful than a simple anchor point for an upper. Because of its unique pin system, the upper can be held in the vice at several different angles, so even if you don’t have the Real Avid vise, the Lug-Lok still gives you some adjustability. And because the vise relies on the steel barrel lugs rather than the upper, the chance of damaging parts when applying high torque to parts, such as with barrel installation when tightening the barrel nut down (again, ask me how I know…) is significantly lessened.

The Lug-Lok can also be used to mount scopes, tighten down attachments like flashlights, lasers, bipods, etc., and it doesn’t interfere with M-LOK slots or Picatinny-rail placement. The Lug-Lok—just like the vise block—is reversible, so the upper can be mounted upside down for cleaning. To ensure the upper doesn’t slide off the block, a receiver lock knob is included to pin the rear of the upper against the base of the lock block. And when you’re all done, the Lug-Lok’s pins for mounting the block in the vise stow away inside the receiver lock knob, ensuring those small-but-crucial parts remain in one neat, tidy place. MSRP: $79.99 (AR-15), $119.99 (AR-10)

Outside of these tools, basic punches, wrenches, bits and drivers will suffice; when it comes to securing parts, Real Avid ensures you have everything you need to build a gun from start to finish. And it all costs less than $500 bucks. Additionally, you can now build all the AR-15 and AR-10 firearms your heart desires, all without risking damage to your new creation.

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