Shortly after my son Calvin was born, I decided to put aside the pistol I'd carried while in the delivery room (my Glock 26), with the intent of passing it down to him when he came of age. This was an idea inspired by my friend Steve, who had done the same thing years ago for both of his sons. Then I decided to go one further and start building an AR-15 for Calvin, as well. To that end, I purchased a DPMS lower receiver from Orion Arms in Minnesota, and had it engraved with the family crest on the side of the magwell and Calvin's initials and birthdate on the front. Orion's work was top-notch, reasonably priced (considering this was a completely custom piece of art) and completed very quickly.

The reasons behind this project are twofold:

I wanted to establish a foundation for sharing my interest in firearms - and the values they symbolize, including freedom, self-reliance and personal responsibility - with my son. My parents and I never shared interests when I was growing up. Other parents went hunting or fishing, or played sports, or built go-carts with their kids. My folks and I did things together, sure, but the activities were always "their" interests or "my" interests, with the other party merely being along for the ride. I wanted to change that with my son.

When my grandfather died, his old Winchester Model 12 shotgun was passed down to my uncle, who still uses it to this day. When he dies, the gun will almost certainly go to his eldest son, then to his sons, and so on and so on. I always thought that was neat, and wished there had been something like that in my immediate family, as well. Grandpa's old shotgun was new at one time; these things have to start somewhere! The idea of something I built outliving me and being a source of fond memories and family pride for generations to come has a certain appeal. When I told my brother what I was doing and why, he said it reminded him of the engraved weapons that were handed down through the generations from father to son during the Middle Ages. Thinking about it in a larger context like that only made the idea more appealing!

My parents and my wife have all teased me about Calvin "not liking guns," because kids never like the things their parents do, or want them to. While I'm sure they're half-joking, there is probably some truth to that. My answer is to expose Calvin to guns and shooting without forcing anything on him. Whether or not he ends up "liking" guns, however, I'll make sure he grows up knowing how to use them - and more importantly respecting them - simply because they will be a part of everyday life. Hiding the guns or telling kids "don't touch" isn't the answer, especially as they get older. All that means is that they won't touch them at your house or while you're looking. That's how accidents happen. Not on my watch!

The Gun
I had initially planned to piece the gun together over several years, but then some things fell into place and I was able to pick up the necessary components quickly and relatively inexpensively. I built out the DPMS lower with a DPMS parts kit, and a 6-position adjustable stock I had sitting in my parts bin from a previous project. The upper was a package deal from G&R Tactical, consisting of a Bushmaster lightweight 1x9 twist barrel installed in a mil-spec flat-top upper receiver. Handguards were a Bushmaster CAR set that I got for cheap from CDNN. For sights, I opted for the Midwest Industries SPLP (same plane, low profile) folding rear like the one I installed on my LMT 10.5" SBR, and the Aimpoint COMP-ML that previously resided on my M4 type carbine. Shooting the new carbine proved uneventful; I fired a little over 100 rounds through it to check function and zero the iron sights and red dot.

The final form of the Calvin Project is subject to change, but my goal was to build a simple, lightweight carbine that could be used to teach the basics and "grow" with Calvin in the event he continues to shoot on his own later in life. I plan to eventually pair it with a .22LR conversion kit so he can start shooting it at as young an age as possible. The nice thing about the AR platform is its modularity; if I build the gun one way and he wants to change it later, no problem. Heck, that would even be a fun father-son project in itself...


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