Gun owners are struggling to buy the firearms they want. Gun shops throughout the Sunshine State have struggled to keep guns in stock — rifles, pistols, shotguns, and even ammo, and basic accessories are often unavailable, backordered months in advance. That’s left new and experienced gun owners with few alternatives, save one: Building your firearm, piece by piece, acquiring the rifle or handgun you want to buy, piecemeal.
Federal law – specifically, the Gun Control Act of 1968 – allows this. In fact, the law, which was mostly designed to curtail gun rights, carves out a specific clarification: Any individual who is otherwise legally allowed to own a firearm may build a firearm solely for personal use. A special manufacturing license is not required, though you can’t build a restricted firearm (like a machinegun). That leaves plenty of legal wiggle room for a prospective gun owner to assemble his or her rifle, handgun, or shotgun at home.
But is this legal to build a firearm in Florida? Yes. Although Florida, like federal law, bans the ownership of destructive devices and “NFA” (National Firearms Act) firearms without special licensing, no Florida law currently restricts any of the rights carved out in the Gun Control Act. So, you can, indeed, legally fabricate a pistol, shotgun, or rifle in the Sunshine State if you are legally allowed to purchase a firearm.
But how does one go about this, exactly? Making a gun sounds complicated, even dangerous — and it can be, lest you purchase the right components and perform a little due diligence when it comes to putting all those parts together. Let’s walk through it.
First, you’ll want to decide what caliber you want to chamber. This will dictate what barrel and receiver (or frame, if you’re building a pistol) you need to acquire. Most other components for popular “DIY” firearm models — like the typical AR, or GLOCK — utilize interchangeable or “multi-caliber” parts. For example, a single GLOCK frame is compatible with three or more different models. The standard AR-15 receiver set is capable of chambering over a dozen different calibers.
Once you’ve settled on the platform and caliber you want to build, you have a choice to make: Buy a receiver blank — an unfinished firearm component that requires you to fabricate it — or purchase a working frame or receiver from a licensed gun dealer. Buying this component is no different than purchasing a complete, ready-to-shoot firearm: You’ll fill out an ATF form at the local dealer for your background check and, in Florida’s case, wait the requisite period of time between your purchase and pick-up.
Fabricating the firearm component from a receiver blank requires investing in some expensive tools, so it may not be cost-effective. The tradeoff is that you typically avoid paying a brand’s premium, and you don’t need to pay those extra taxes and dealer fees. If you already own some of the necessary tooling – like a workbench, drill press, and vise – then fabricating may be a fun challenge that could save you some cash. A word of caution, here: Although fabricating your firearm from a blank is legal at the time of this publication, gun laws change daily. Congress is in the process of attempting to regulate (if not outright ban) receiver blanks by leveraging the ATF’s authority.
Either way, once you’ve got your hands on your frame or receiver, it’s time to pick out all the other components required to assemble your new firearm in Florida. Unlike the serialized firearm component, all these other parts – like the barrel, trigger, buttstock or brace, hammer, handguard or grip, muzzle device, and optics – are not regulated by the ATF. They don’t require a background check or visit a dealer to purchase, and many can be bought online.
If you’re not sure what specific components you need, it’ll be best to stick with a parts kit. These kits include all the components preconfigured with the right sizes, shapes, and specifications to complete your build. For example, typical AR-15 kits provide all those parts we reference, minus the stripped lower receiver itself. Or, like we referenced in our other example, a GLOCK upper parts kit can be fitted to your empty, serialized, or self-fabricated frame to complete your build. If you’re constructing a bolt action rifle or shotgun, custom “chassis” kits exist which provide all the parts necessary for installing your action with a magazine, bolt or breech, stock, and barrel.