Well, not exactly new to guns or shooting--did a brief stint in Executive Protection back in college and some recreational/competitive pistol shooting starting in junior-high and to now, and followed @Joe Link over here from NorthwestFirearms--but definitely new to long-arms and the AR/M16/M4 platform. Knocked out my first AR from parts and an upper, but haven't even had a chance to get out and test-fire it yet. Very FIRST thing I did other than pick up Patrick Sweeney (old boardmate from back in college on the old BattleRifles/AmBack forum) and Kevin Muramatsu's AR-smithing books was buy Wheeler's Ultra Armorer Kit figuring I'd "grow into it" as I developed knowledge and skill, even though the upper on my build was bought as a preassembled, test-fired unit.
Not totally wet behind the ears, but still have much to learn--and while I have a few builds I'm penciling out and gathering information for where appearances will matter, as a general rule I'm more "Form Follows Function," as Henry Dreyfuss described it while he was designing streamlined steam locomotives for "the old family business" back before WWII. That said, "function" for me may take some different turns than most, for various reasons, like...
1. Very light-sensitive (and thus sensitive to muzzle flash--I generally have to wear polarized lenses even indoors), so blast deflectors and flash suppressors are very important--on my current build, I'm combining a Precision Armament AFAB-556 flash-arresting brake with an Indian Creek "Anybrake" Blast Forwarding Device in the hope that combining the AFAB's better diffusion than an A2 birdcage plus the BFD as a shroud will protect my eyes in case I ever have to fire this thing in low-light conditions. Similarly, weapon lights in my case are of more interest to me for blinding a home invader than for illumination, since they also have potential to disrupt my own eyes at the same time.
2. Short arms and limited upper-body strength are in play--on a six-position stock I seem to need the first or second click out from fully-collapsed. (Ironic, given that my ONE AR weighs almost as much as TWO M4's fresh from the FN factory including accessories. Then again, the build was assuming a sling would be bearing the weight most of the time... and while some of that weight's a foregrip/bipod and rear monopod, those are intended more as built-in benchrest than any kind of "tactical ubersniper wannabe"-ness, since you could fit my entire cul-de-sac inside a typical football stadium with room to spare, so I'm looking at a practical max range of 100-200 yards for "likely scenarios" and more probably much less.)
3. Even at the cost of warranty, as a general rule I'd rather build than buy complete--for me, part of "pride of ownership" is the ability to say "Oh yes I DID build that!"
I'm going to have some technical questions and a few cosmetic ones for a couple "paired build" options (M16A4/C7 and M4/C8 clones) I'm considering, and will post the build-sheet for the Budget Class beast mentioned above later, but for now, now that I'm admitted to the club even if only as a Probie I've got some knowledge to go soak up from you guys... Thanks for letting me come hang with the big kids and learn from the BTDT's.