The Punisher is Marvel Comic's bad boy. He stands in stark contrast to the shiny and bright Captain America and Spider Man. He kills people. With guns, grenades, and knives. The Punisher is an easy to understand character. If you're criminal, he kills you, nothing more, nothing less. We've seen four different screen incarnations of the Punisher. Each has wielded an AR-15 variant of one kind or another.
The Punisher historically is a military man. The type of operative who is no doubt extensively trained on the AR-15 platform. If you are going into battle against the criminal underworld, it's best to come prepared with what you are trained with.
Today let’s look at all four Incarnations of the Punisher and his preferred AR platforms, as well as the accessories and kit necessary to build your own Punisher rifle.
The Original 1989 Punisher film introduced the character to movie going audiences. I remember watching it as a kid and being surprised it actually existed. In the mid-90s it played on late night HBO and being familiar with the character I was pretty disappointed. He didn't even wear the skull shirt. Like a lot of movies at the time it was a cheesy mess, but to be fair this is a Punisher incarnation.
The movie itself has some pretty standard weaponry at the time, including movies favorites like the Spas 12 and an M60 with an under-mounted ‘grenade' launcher. There is also a single AR derivative used by the Punisher, aka Dolph Lundgren. Now, this is a tricky one as it's a Colt Commando. Clearly, it's full automatic, and that's not gonna be a real possibility.
The Colt Commando was a small rifle with a collapsing stock, skinny circular handguards, and fixed iron sights. It also utilized a very long flash hider due to the crazy muzzle flash the 11.5-inch barrel would produce.
These old school weapons were incredibly lightweight, and this model weighed 5.35 pounds. The Punisher Seems to wield it well, and also quite oddly. It is designed for close combat and lacks a forward assist and a bayonet lug.
A lot of the parts on the gun are from the era and difficult to find these days. Some companies like Nodak Spud produce retro AR parts to complete a build like this, but even then you are still limited. You can get pretty close, and I’ll try to get you as close as possible.
Now to avoid the NFA requirements you will have to use permanently attach a muzzle device to bring the overall length to 16 inches. So let's start there. If you want an NFA free version, it's best to start with a 12.7-inch barrel.
Brownells of all places actually carries these. It's complete with a threaded barrel and fixed front sight, and classic sling point. This lightweight barrel is almost pencil thin but keeps the weapon nice and light.
The Muzzle Device
Admittedly in the film, the Punisher uses a small suppressor. This suppressor seems to be a work of fiction due to its size and shape. However, stranger things have happened. For a period correct muzzle device you need that crazy long flash hider. The XM177 flash hider is a perfect component for this rifle. When combined with a 12.7-inch barrel the length is brought up to 16 inches to avoid NFA requirements.
While the design is somewhat old, it is effective. It adds some length, looks odd, but is unique, and does have that old school cool feel.
Finding the upper receiver without a forward assist or a shell deflector is going to be quite difficult, but an A1 style receiver is a bit easier to find.
Some real searching may give you a legitimate slab side upper. Nodak Spud has an approximate 6 to 8 month waiting list as of right now. However, an A1 receiver can be found on Brownells pretty easily. It does have a forward assist, but no shell deflector, and you get the fixed carry handle and sight setup.
The Lower is an A1 lower, which luckily is much easier to find compared to the appropriate upper. Of course, there is no third pin for full auto, but we get what we get. The standard AR lower and the A1 lower look almost identical, but there are key differences you should note. The front takedown lug profile is a bit different for one. The other biggest difference is the receiver extension profile.
The stock is a plain Jane 4 position AR-15 style stock. These have fallen out of favor for the hundreds of other 6 position stocks, but are still produced. To find an affordable model we go to UTG. UTG has a hit and miss reputation, but they have greatly improved the quality of the gear they produce. The onslaught of AR-15 companies forced a lot of them to go their own way. These stocks are tiny and compared to modern stocks they suck. But, when you want to be authentic accept no substitutes.
Moving Forward with the Punisher
Starting in 2004 there have been three more incarnations of the Punisher, and each has used an AR based weapon of some kind or another. There are a lot of similar items used, so just to keep these moving, I'll address what movie what piece of gear comes from. If it's used in multiple movies, I'll comment that as well.
The M4A1 Punisher (2004), and Punisher in Daredevil S2.
The standard M4A1 is the standard rifle of two incarnations of Frank Castle. Each has their choice of optics and devices, but they share a lot of common features. They are both 16-inch barrels with standard A2 flash suppressors. They also feature fixed front A2 styles sights.
While plain, this is an effective combination. A good place to start is the standard pre built Upper receiver. Between appearances, the Punisher does use some different handguards. A solid place to start would this combo by BCM.
This kit lacks a handguard so you can customize it for your Punisher build of choice. It matches the three rifles seen in each modern appearance. It also has a cold hammer forged barrel, a USGI 1/7 twist rate, chrome lined bore and chamber, as well a Government barrel profile. BCM makes good stuff, and they make it to last.
If you want to make your own, you are going to need a few things,
- Forged Upper
- 16-inch barrel (14.5 with fixed 1.5-inch flash hider)
- MidLength Gas System
- Fixed A2 front sight
- Full auto BCG
- Upper Parts Kit
- Charging Handle
Punisher – War Zone
Punisher War Zone is a very unique movie with a very unique weapon setup. War Zone did stick well to the over the top and cartoon nature of some Punisher comics with its ultra violence and crazy gun play. Being the black sheep it is, Frank is not Armed with a standard M4A1 upper.
To work with his optic (which we'll cover later), he uses a low profile gas block and no front sight. Now, most of the time the use of a low profile gas block would allow the shooter to extend their handguard. However, in this film, the handguard appears to be a standard 7-inch M4A1 handguard.
He also uses what appears to be a shorter barrel. I'm estimating it's about 12 to 10.5 inches long. We also never see if it has a flash hider because Frank uses it exclusively with an Advanced Armament M4-2000 suppressor. In the movie, he's using the gun indoors, and a can will save his hearing significantly. It will also cut out flash which is necessary for the dark environment. With the suppressor equipped, the system appears to be just as long as a standard 16-inch barrel.
The Lower (All Appearances)
The lower is going to be your standard 7075 Forged lower, with a standard mil spec parts kit. The Punisher is a military man, and it makes sense his gear is what he knows. There isn't a lot of customization of weaponry in the military, so you make do. The Punisher as a character uses what he can get, and isn't a vain kinda guy. He isn't the type to customize too much because he'll likely drop the gun after it serves his purpose and just pick up a new one.
A standard lower is well accompanied by a Mil Spec LPK. We don’t have any evidence that the Punisher uses any drop in triggers, ambi safeties or specialized components. This standard kit is all the basics you need to get started.
Handguards (All Movies)
Rails, rails, rails. Remember the Punisher likes his military standard gear. Your normal M4A1 is outfitted with the extremely durable and high-quality RAS rail system. Could it be a different type of rail? Sure, but most Picatinny quad rails are stealing from Knight's design anyway. For your build, it doesn't have to be a KAC, and it likely won't.
These RAS rails aren't easy to find and cost a fortune. A quality substitute would be the Troy 2 piece, 7 inch Battle Rail. It's a high-quality option at about half the cost of the Knight's rail, and it's easy to find. It's important that it's a two piece system due to underbarrel attachments.
Since we already mentioned them, we can touch on the Punisher’s underbarrel attachments. The Punisher really seems to like Grenade launchers, and who wouldn’t. They launch grenades for God Sakes. Punisher (2004) and Punisher from Daredevil S2 both utilize a more traditional M203 grenade launcher to great effect.
The M203 is a multi mission weapon and can fire a wide variety of ordnance. Grenades being the most important. Believe it or not, you can buy a grenade launcher if you are willing to pay the NFA and play that game. Buying explosive ammunition is the tricky part.
There are flare launchers that are 37 MMs, like the Havoc from Spikes ($350) here.
Let's admit it, iron sights are boring. Boring to shoot with, really boring to see on screen. All three modern Frank Castles have all used a red dot optic of one kind or another. These optics are best suited for close quarters combat, and Frank certainly excels at it.
Punisher (2004) and Punisher Daredevil Season 2
These two incarnations use Aimpoint red dot optics. Aimpoint is the name to beat in high-end red dot optics. Aimpoint is the choice of the United States Army, and they've been trusted throughout the war on terror. They are well made, durable, and resistant to whatever the world tosses at them. They can run for up to five years with a single battery.
It's easy to see that Thomas Jane in the Punisher (2004) is using the Comp M2 aka the M68 Aimpoint. This is the model that was first fielded by the United States Army. The movie took place in 2004, and this model would be appropriate for that time period.
The Punisher in Daredevil Season 2 is almost always seen at night. It is apparent it's an Aimpoint, but if it's the M4 or M2 version is hard to call. The M4 is the latest version in use by the Us Army as the M68 Close Combat Optic.
Either way, the M2 is discontinued so your only chance of finding one is the used market. However, the M4 is still in production and is an outstanding optic.
Punisher War Zone
Punisher War Zone always has to be a contrarian. Instead of an Aimpoint, he goes with a classic Movie red dot, the C-More. The C-More red dot systems are well used and abused in movies. The reason being is its unique layout makes it easy to see the actor's face.
That being said C-More red dots are actually very well made, and easy to use. They are small, and light and have long been a favorite on the competition circuit. The Punisher Mounts it pretty far forward on his gun, and it never gets in the way of the Hero shot.
So this was our Build breakdown of the four screen versions of the Punisher. The character will be returning for his own series on Netflix soon, and I’m personally excited to see what he’ll be packing this year. Hopefully something new and exciting we can touch on here.
- Retro A1 carbine length barrel assembly. Chambered in 5.56×45 ($235)
- XM177 Flash Hider & Grenade Ring ($50)
- M16A1 Upper Receiver ($150)
- M16A1 Lower Receiver ($125)
- UTG Pro Collapsible Stock Assembly 4-Position ($50)
- BCM AR-15 BFH 16″ Mid Length Upper Receiver Group ($585)
- Radical Firearms Micro (Low Profile) Gas Block ($25)
- AAC 5.56mm M4-2000 Rifle Silencer ($998)
- 10.5″ 5.56 NATO Barrel & Carbine Gas System Kit ($115)
- AR-15 Forged Lower Receiver ($130)
- AR15 Lower Parts Kit ($60)
- Troy Enhanced Drop-In Battle Rail ($149)
- Spikes 9″ SIDE LOADING HAVOC LAUNCHER ($350)
- Aimpoint M4 2 Minute of Angle ACET CompM4 Sight ($851)
- C-MORE Systems Railway Red Dot Sight with Standard Switch ($249)
* Items may have been out of stock or discontinued at the time of this writing.