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The Beginners Guide to AR15s and Aftermarket Parts

I Love AR15s

The Beginners Guide to AR15s and Aftermarket Accessories.

Contents

1 AR15/M16/M4 A1s, A2s,A3s, & A4s – The Rundown
     1.1 Night Sights
     1.2 Optics
     1.3 BUIS (Back-Up Iron Sights)
     1.4 Bipods
2 A word on AR15 Gas Systems and Handguards
     2.1 Handguards
     2.2 Weaponlights, Torches, Taclights, and Flashlights (All names for a flashlight)
     2.3 Grips
     2.4 Vertical Fore Grips (VFGs)
     2.5 Stocks
3 Aftermarket AR15 Stocks by Manufacturer
     3.1 Magazines
     3.2 Slings
     3.3 Muzzle Brakes & Flash Suppressors



You may have seen a few AR15s in your local store, you have seen some ads in a gun magazine, or maybe a "guy" you know showed you his “evil black rifle”. You may have run to the local gun shop and picked one up already. After dumping a few 30 round mags at the range you may have noticed some things that you like, and maybe some things you want to modify.  

If you need some help separating the wheat from the chaff, and have come here to find out what is best for you. You came to the right place.

I am going to assume you’re not looking to take this weapon into harm's way (as in a combat situation). While many of these aftermarket product are more than capable (and designed for) of doing so, this is by no means an exercise in tactics or an argument for dependability. The products I will be talking about, for the most part, are what I like to call “budget friendly”. They are by no means the best of the best, but they work where it counts and won’t break the bank. With that being said, I will be pointing out some of my favorites and try and give comparisons to some of the higher end products.

Let’s get started.

So where do I start?

The AR15 for DummiesThe first question you SHOULD ask yourself, is "what's allowed?" For some states, (I’m looking at California among others) there are laws that prohibit the use of things like pistol grips, standard capacity magazines, collapsible stocks, flash hiders, among others. Always check your local laws BEFORE you make any purchases. While something might only cost $13.99 online, it could land you in the pokey for up to 10 years and no more guns for you. Not fun. So BE SURE you get something that is compliant with your local laws. Let's keep going...

Secondly, you should assess your budget. While that fancy [insert high end brand name here] quad rail may be the new hotness in all of the tactical training videos, it may mean the difference between having an optic or not. While it is true that not all parts are made equally, that doesn’t mean that some of the “budget” choices should be disregarded. Especially when it comes to things like mounts. I figure if [this] holds a flashlight, and [this] holds a flashlight, and one can save me $60.00 at no loss in function, than it’s a no brainer.

Before we can get into the products, lets discuss some of the different setups you could find on your weapon:

AR15/M16/M4 A1s, A2s,A3s, & A4s – The Rundown

A little history might be in order before we launch into the aftermarket parts. Primarily because different configurations may limit exactly what kind of accessories you can use or require additional mounts to use standard optics.

A1
AR15 A1 Upper Reciever

The M16A1 has a fixed carry handle upper receiver, which does not allow for "dialing" in elevation or windage. Tools (or a bullet tip) are needed to adjust for windage, and the front sight pin is the only way to adjust for elevation. Of course, the rear sight does have two apertures, one for 0-200m, and another for 200m+.  There is a movement that pushes reliability over frills. These people tout the A1 carry handle as the best, for its simplicity and lighter weight over the heavier A2 and A3 Flat-Top uppers. However, it does not allow for the use of optics mounted directly to the upper receiver and requires the use of a picatinny rail adapter. It also limits the use of different styles of rear sights. But, that's really the whole point. It "simplifies" this.

A2
AR15 A2 Upper Reciever

In the 80's, the US Military went to the M16A2. The A2 uses a fixed carry handle upper receiver very similar to the A1. With one big difference, the carry handle has elevation and windage adjustment right on the rear sight. The A2 rear sight was designed by the Army Marksmanship Unit, and then went into full production. This is the standard upper on a LOT of LE/Military AR15s. Just like with the A1 upper, you will need to install some type of scope mount to use an optic.


A3
AR15 A3 Upper Reciever

The "A3" upper was a commercial design incorporating a flattop upper equipped with a Picatinny rail, doing away with any type of carry handle. This is the upper used on the M4 and M16A4, and is by far the easiest to work with in terms of adding optics to the weapon. I run optics. Lots of people run optics. I am particularly partial to red dot scopes. For that reason, I like flattop uppers. If you know you aren't going to run an optic you may want to consider the A1 or A2 upper. Otherwise go with the A3 flat top. It will just make things easier, and you won’t have to resort to chopping up your AR15.

A4

The term A4 doesn't refer to the upper receiver so far as this discussion goes. For our purposes it is the same as the A3.

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Night Sights

AR15 Night Sight PictureNight sights are designed so that they can be seen regardless of lighting conditions. If you have ever been shooting at night and tried to make out the front sight post against a dark background, then you can understand the significance. They usually us either some sort of tritium based illumination, fiber optic lines, or both. Electronic sights do exist but in my opinion, should be ignored. They are in the same price range as the fiber optics and require the use of batteries.  Usually you can get the front sight only, or the front and rear set.

If you choose to get a red dot or holographic optic, the night sights might be unnecessary as they could become redundant (and might create a "busy" sight picture). Your mileage may vary.

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Optics

As for optics, the options truly are endless. Different brands offer different specs at prices ranging from under $50, all the way up to and including multiple thousands of dollars. When considering an optic for an AR15, the thing to keep in mind is that you really do get what you pay for… up to a certain limit. I would say that once you reach four digit prices you are essentially only paying for the brand and the warranty. The biggest thing to keep in mind is function. Not only function of the optic but also function of the weapon it is going on. If you only plan on taking your AR15 to the range, dump some mags, then put it back in the safe, I personally couldn’t justify spending more that $200 on an optic. Probably more like $100 actually. And believe me there are PLENTY of options in the $100 - $200 range.

My Picks:

I have ran a lot of different kinds of optics on my rifles. I have spent big and little. So far out of all of them The ones I like the most and currently use are broken down as follows:

High Powered Scope Pick

NcStar Patriot Series 4-16X42, Mil-Dot Reticle, Tactical Rifle Scope - $69.99

NcStar Patriot 4-16x50 on Custom AR15

I generally avoid a high powered optic on my AR15s but I have built rifles for some varmint hunting. My first pick was the UTG 30Mm 4-16X56 Full Size A.O. Range Estimating Mil-Dot Scope, and it performed great. I had absolutely no issues and was loaded with all kinds of features. Locking open target turrets, illuminated reticle, optional sunshade, 30mm tube, 56mm objective, parallax adjustment, the works. It also weighed close to 2 pounds including the mount. Great for a bench, not so much for hunting purposes. I decided to I wanted something a little more simple and weighing considerably less. I found the NcStar Patriot series. Here is a link to NcStar’s website.

Basically, they took the Mark III line and reduced it down to its basic components. No bells and whistles, No illuminated reticle. No fancy dials. Just scope. And just like the Mark III series, they made a winner. The glass is definitely in a higher class than the price suggests. And after trimming all of the other stuff, it weighs in at a mere 16oz. Almost half of the UTG. I have been shooting with it for about 6 months and are still more than impressed. Especially because it was almost 1/3 the price of the UTG scope. Win!

Low Powered Scope Pick

UTG 5th Generation 4x32 TS Platform Mini Rubber Armored Scope with Mil-Dot - $79.99

UTG AR15 4x32 Scope

Most of the time if I am running a magnified optic, it’s either low powered or its variable. Generally if its low powered, Its going to be 4x magnification. I like to move around scopes from gun to gun and this scope is perfect for that. If I want to use it on a flat-top, it includes the adapter to do so. If I want to put it on a carry handle than it has a carry handle mount built right in. This one is definitely another high value, low cost item.

Variable Powered Scope Pick (The Short Dot Scope)

UTG 1-4X24 30mm Long Eye Relief CQB Scope w/ Glass Circle Dot RGB Reticle & QD Rings – $110.99

UTG 1.25-4 Circle Dot Scope

I have always been a big fan of the “Short Dot Scope” concept for the AR15 platform. I love being able to shoot quickly as though it is a red dot and still have the capability to zoom in on far away targets and shoot accurately. It also helps when at the range and viewing your target from the bench. But, I have never been a fan of the price tag on a Schmidt & Bender Short Dot. That being said, anytime a manufacturer makes their own version of a short dot scope, I have to check it out. Here is a list of all of the versions that I have tried and reviewed:

Scope

Magnification

Price*

Rating**


Schmidt & Bender Short Dot

1.1-4x20

$2,549.99

100


Nightforce NXS

1-4x24

$1,380.00

97


UTG Circle Dot CQB Scope

1-4x24

$110.99

87


Nikon M-223

1-4x20

$295.99

87


Millet DMS 

1-4X24

$229.99

85


Sightmark CDX 

1-4x24

$279.99

81


Leatherwood CMR 

1-4x24

$350.00

81


Burris Fullfield TAC30 

1-4x24

$299.99

79


Bushnell Trophy XLT 

1-4x24

$220.00

76


Konus Konuspro M30

1.5-5x32

$179.99

74


NcStar Mark III Compact 

1.25-4x32

$119.99

67


UTG Accushot CQB 

1-4X28

$89.99

49


*(prices current when article written - subject to change) **(Rating based on a 100 point grading scale. Considerations were: Clarity, Features, Finish, Durability, Ease of use, Warranty, Materials, Innovation, Ergonomics, & Application. Up to 10 points per category.)




 Looking at this, there is one scope that just plain stands out. The UTG Circle Dot 1-4x24 is WAY outside of its price range in terms of rating. High value with a low cost? In my eyes that makes it a clear choice and it continues to sit on more than one of my AR15s.

Red Dot Pick

Sightmark Tactical Comp Red Dot Sight

Sightmark Comp Tactical Red Dot Sight w/ Cantilever Mount – $99.99

An example of a good paralax seeting. An example of bad paralax

What separates a good red dot from a bad red dot? Paralax. Plain and simple.More information on parallax can be found here. The whole idea of a red dot  is that as soon as the dot drops on the target you can start sending lead. Lots of lead, very quickly. Now shooting fundamentals always apply but when speed is the primary goal, some things get sacrificed and in my experience a good and proper cheek weld is one of them. If the parallax on your red dot isn’t set up correctly, depending on where your head is in relation to the reticle, the dot may or may not actually represent the zero that you worked so diligently to achieve. In other words, you won’t be able to hit a thing. Now no matter what manufacturers may tell you, there is no such thing as parallax free (they should say something like parallax reduced). But some of them are pretty close. These are the Eotechs, the Aimpoints, the C-Mores & the Trijicons. All fine pieces of equipment but for the price of one of them you could probably buy a new rifle. For those not looking to spend over $200? Here is a list of red dots that are more wallet friendly and have acceptable parallax settings, along with some higher end red dots for comparison:

Scope

Type

Price*

Rating**


EoTech AR-15 Holographic Weapon Sight 516.A65

Open Holographic

$508.49

100


Aimpoint COMPML3 Red Dot Scope

Tube Reflex

$599.99

99


Sightmark Comp Tactical Red Dot Sight

Tube Reflex

$99.99

86


NcStar Ultra Compact Tactical Green Dot Reflex Sight

Open Reflex

$102.99

85


Firefield Tactical 1x30 Red Dot Sight for Flat-Top

Tube Reflex

$81.99

84


NcStar 1x30 Tactical Red/Green Dot Scope

Tube Reflex

$44.99

82


Sightmark Holographic Ultra Shot Multi Reticle Sight

Open Holographic

$99.99

79


UTG 3.9" Red/Green Dot Sight with QD Mounts

Tube Reflex

$63.99

74


Aim Sports 1x25 Tactical Mini Red Dot Scope

Tube Reflex

$39.99

71


NcStar AR-15 4 Reticle Reflex Red/Green Dot Sight

Open Reflex

$64.99

70


*(prices current when article written - subject to change) **(Rating based on a 10 point grading scale. Considerations were: Clarity, Features, Finish, Durability, Ease of use, Warranty, Materials, Innovation, Ergonomics, & Application. Up to 10 points per category.)




 Now once again, there is one that jumps out at me as above its peers in terms of value and it is the Sightmark. For all intents and purposes it is basically a clone of the Aimpoint and it even has the same dimensions so things like the rubber covers fit on it. It has found a home on one of my AR15s permanently and that is saying a lot.

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BUIS (Back-Up Iron Sights)

If you have an AR15 that has a fixed front sight or an A1 or an A2 upper receiver than this may not apply to you.

Magpul MBUS Gen 1 BUISThis is one part of an AR15 that I absolutely WILL NOT accept sub-par products on. These are what is going to keep you shooting when everything else fails. I have tried every kind of BUIS that AR15outfitters.com carries and then some. Things I check for are:

Is it solid when open?

Is it Solid When closed?

Are the adjustments accurate & secure?

Are they reasonably weighted/sized? (most of the cheaper sights are overly bulky)

If a sight can’t answer all 4 of these questions as yes, then I don’t take a second look at it.

Here are my picks:

Sight

Style

Price*

Rating**


Magpul MBUS Rear Flip-Up Sight - Gen 2

Flip-up Rear Sight

$40.00

94


Magpul MBUS Front Flip-Up Sight - Gen 2

Flip-up Front Sight

$35.00

94


Aim Sports Dual Aperture Flip-Up Rear Sight

Flip-up Rear Sight

$39.99

92


Aim Sports Flip Up Front Sight

Flip-up Front Sight

$39.99

92


Magpul MBUS Rear Flip-Up Sight - Gen 1

Flip-up Rear Sight

$67.99

91


Magpul MBUS Front Flip-Up Sight - Gen 1

Flip-up Front Sight

$51.99

91


TruGlo Fiber Optic Gas Block Mount Front Sight

Fixed Front Sight

$69.99

90


UTG Compact Adjustable A2 Rear Sight

Fixed Rear Sight

$31.49

85


UTG AR-15 Removable Front Sight w/ Red Laser

Fixed Front Sight

$49.99

82


UTG Low Profile Front Sight w/ Red Laser

Fixed Front Sight

$43.99

82


NcStar Detachable Rear Sight

Fixed Rear Sight

$31.99

81


*(prices current when article written - subject to change) **(Rating based on a 10 point grading scale. Considerations were: Accuracy, Features, Finish, Durability, Ease of use, Warranty, Materials, Innovation, Ergonomics, & Application. Up to 10 points per category.)




 

The top contenders here are pretty easy to see so I guess the question comes down to plastic or aluminum. Personally, I run both the Aim Sports and the Magpul and both have done the job for me. The MBUS are about .4oz lighter if that is the deal breaker. Although I have heard stories of them melting when placed on gas blocks. Your call.

In addition, Command Arms has recently released The FFS and the FRS. I havent been able to take them out shooting yet but they seem solid enough. I dont think that i would be putting these on a gas block either.

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Bipods

Bayonet Lug Mount Bipod

Bipods are simple. They are just legs for your AR15. Find one that has the features you need and get it. The options out there include adjustable legs, folding, fixed, swivel, barrel mount, rail mount, stud mount, quick release, & rubber or steel feet.

Avoid anything made out of plastic as every single one I have owned made from “High Impact Polymer” has broken in a bad way. You want aluminum or steel.

My pick:

NcStar Precision Grade Bipod w/ Notched LegsNcStar Adjustable Precision Grade Bipod - Compact - Notched Legs - $34.99

This can mount to any AR15 right out of the box, has rubber feet, is spring loaded, and is adjustable. The only thing it doesn’t do is swivel, but I have never come across a situation when I thought I needed it to swivel.

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A word on AR15 Gas Systems and Handguards

The normal DI (direct impingement) AR15 gas system is composed of the gas port (located under the front sight base), which the gas block covers and redirects the gas back into the upper receiver through the gas tube. The handguards cover up this tube which is just made of thin aluminum.

Why is this important in regards to aftermarket AR15 accessories? Because one of the most beneficial modifications you can make to your AR15 is adding a rail system and the best place to do that is with the handguards.

There are also piston systems that have their own set of benefits and issues, especially when it comes to customizing your AR15. But that is for another discussion. For this discussion I will only be dealing with DI gas systems.

There are three lengths of gas systems for the AR-15. They are:

Carbine

AR15 Carbine Length Handguards

Carbine = 7" handguards

An interesting note in regards to AR15 gas systems, is that the carbine length gas system was designed to be used with 11.5" barrels (as in the Colt Commando) When the M4 stuck a 14.5" barrel on there (and later commercial manufacturers used 16" barrels) it made the short gas system extremely harsh on the carbine, leading to the what is called "hard extraction". To overcome this, a bolt upgrade was needed. The bolt in a carbine length gas system should have a black insert under the extractor spring. This helps the symptom, but commercial manufacturers went one step further and fixed the problem by creating what is now known as mid-length gas systems.

Mid-Length

AR15 Mid Length Handguards

Mid-length = 9" handguards

The "middy" is less harsh on the action, resulting in smoother extraction and less felt recoil like its big brother, the rifle gas system. The mid-length naturally gives the shooter a longer sight radius than the carbine. It's an excellent compromise if you are going to run a 16" barrel, and it is even the correct dimensions (length from flash suppressor to FSB) for the USGI bayonet to fit. The downside is there are far fewer aftermarket accessories for a mid-length gas system than there are for the carbine or rifle.

Rifle

AR15 Rifle Length Handguards

Rifle = 12" handguards

The  rifle length gas system is the original gas system used in the M16, and generally has less problems associated with it. However, it necessitates the use of an 18"+ barrel. If length isn’t an issue, go for it. The extra barrel length will increase the velocity of your bullet, helping with both accuracy and effectiveness of the round.

Dissipator

AR15 Dissipator Handguard

This is a hybrid of sorts and is a term coined only so it could have a name.
AR15 15" Handguard Dissipator Carbine It in no way affects bullet flight, but instead creates a weapon platform that the user might be more comfortable with. It is known as the "Dissipator". I have no idea why that name was chosen as it doesn’t really “dissipate” anything. It uses a carbine length gas system via a low-profile gas block which fits underneath the 12" (or longer) rifle length handguards. Sometimes a FSB and handguard end-cap is stuck on the end of the barrel for the 12" handguards to fit, but does it not serve as the gas block. The idea is that it gives the shooter a longer sight radius as well as offering more surface area to grasp the weapon or attach accessories to. This concept has become popular lately and even more options for aftermarket accessories (like 15” handguards) have become available. Some manufacturers are even putting out AR15s from the factory in this configuration.

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Handguards

Magpul MOE Carbine Handguards

The standard handguard that will come on a carbine length AR15, will either be CAR handguards or M4 style handguards. The M4 handguards will be subdivided into single heat-shield, or double heat-shield handguards. While these protect the shooter from the hot barrel, they don’t offer much in terms of aftermarket accessories and parts. Still, it's nice to have the clean military type look of the standard handguard. If you are dead set on using these handguards than any manufacturer of them is just as good as the next. They are all made from pretty cheap plastic as far as I have seen. The exception being the Magpul MOE style handguards.

Here is a list of ones that we carry:

Magpul MOE Drop In Handguard in Black, OD, Foliage, or Dark Earth

Mako Carbine Poymer CAR Handguard - MultiCam

Mako Carbine Poymer CAR Handguard - OD Green

Mako Carbine Poymer CAR Handguard - Black

UTG Shorty M4 Hand Guard w/ Liner - Black

UTG Shorty M4 Hand Guard w/ Liner - Tan

AR15 Handguard RailDon’t worry there is hope for these handguards and it comes in the form of the handguard accessory rail. There are many different styles but they all do essentially the same thing and that is to add a rail to the standard handguard. If you dont have the money to put a quad rail on your AR15. This is a great option.

My Pick:

Command Arms Offset Triple Rail Handguard Mount – $16.99

This keeps the sleek lines of a standard CAR or M4 handguard while giving you TONS of mounting options for accessories like flashlights, lasers, bipods and grips. Remember the center rail is removable and can be installed independently of the other two rails. It’s hard to tell that from the product images that are usually found online.

Quad Rails

AR15 2 Piece Quad RailThe other type of handguard is the railed or modular forearm. While certainly popular, railed handguards can add a significant amount of weight to the front of your carbine. This weight is well worth it in certain circumstances, but you must decide how you want to set up your rifle beforehand. There are mainly two types, The free float, and the drop-in. Both have their plusses and minuses, and both can be one of the most challenging pieces of aftermarket furniture to decide on. Prices are all over the place and there are more brands that I could count. There is polymer as well as aluminum. Generally I stay away from the polymer handguards as they all have a little bit of play after some rough handling. Not so good for having your laser hold a zero. Ill try and break down the two types.

Free Float

Free float forends will allow you to mount optics on your forend instead of just on the upper receiver. Basically they attach so securely that they extend the upper receiver forward. This is advantageous if you have an A1/A2 upper, and do not want to change over to the A3, or if you just prefer the red dot or scout scope to be further out from your face in a “scout” configuration. Lasers can also be mounted to free float forends without worry.

AR15 Free Float Quar RailFurthermore, as its name suggests, it “floats" the barrel.  A very long explantionation could be given about barrel harmonics and such but suffice to say that it has a positive impact on accuracy. On an aesthetic appeal, free float handguards are a lot more "solid" than drop ins, and mounting VFGs on them doesn’t "flex" the handguard.

Most free float tubes are "one-piece", and require the removal of the FSB to install, but there are a few that are "two piece" and can go on with the FSB in place. Get the one that you like better, and be sure you have the skill handle the installation (or get a gunsmith to do it!). Keep in mind that installing any free float handguard requires the use of specialized tools and should be considered in the cost of the handguard itself if you don’t have these tools already.

My pick:

It’s a TIE!

UTG PRO AR15 Rifle Length 13" Free Float Quad Rail System – $99.99

ATI AR-15 Modular 15" Free Float Aluminum Forend – $169.99

But hey! I have a carbine length gas system. How am I supposed to use a 15” or rifle length handguard?

AR15 Low Profile Gas BlockI am glad that you asked. This is one of my favorite modifications to an AR15 and that is “hiding” the gas system. All you need is a low profile gas block like this:

Once you get that, all sorts of free float handguards open up to you.

I like the ATI 15” because it almost completely shrouds a 16” barrel right up to the muzzle. Also it is completely modular, meaning you can put rails in places where a quad rail will need an offset mount to get to. Perfect for flashlights.

The UTG PRO line is a new player in quality handguards and I have to say that I am very impressed. I installed the rifle length on one of my carbines and it has almost everything I want in a FF handguard. It extends the same rail plane off of a flat top upper, it is very lightweight (15oz), and it has a perfectly matte black finish. Top shelf features on a very affordably priced item. Win!


Non-Free Float

These handguards are simpler to install, as they quite literally replace the plastic handguards. Sometimes they come with set screws to make them more stable, but other times they do not. These are fine for VFGs, bipods, and lights, but not for optics or lasers. They generally won’t hold a very good zero. These are usually a lot cheaper than the free floats.

My pick:

AIM Sports Weaver / Picatinny AR15 Carbine Length Quad Rail Hand Guard - $39.99

It has all of the features that should be standard on a 2 piece quad rail. It installs very easily, has four solid locking set screws which keep it as secure as it is going to get, and includes rail covers. Not the best rail covers, but at $39.99 for it all. Definitely a good deal.

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Weaponlights, Torches, Taclights, and Flashlights (All names for a flashlight)

AR15 Elzetta Flashlight & Mount

There are two types of lights, incandescent (Xenon) and LED. Incandescent lights need a shock-isolated bezel. They usually run in the yellowish spectrum of light. Also they tend to eat CR123 batteries like candy. LED lights do not need shock-isolated bezels. They generally have a longer battery life than Xenon, and in some cases have programmed functions built in to them. LEDs can have different light properties, and by that I mean most “white” LEDs are actually in the blue spectrum. I prefer LEDs but it comes down to preference and budget. Most LEDs are much more expensive than Xenons with similar functions.

My Pick:

UTG Combat 5-Function LED Flashlight - $55.49

This has everything you need in a good flashlight. Multiple brightness settings, 1” tube diameter, VERY solidly built, 120 Lumen max output. The only thing it is missing is a mount to attach it to your weapon. If you want to put it on a rail system I recommend this. If you don’t have/want a rail system, than I recommend this or this.

Grips

AR15 Basic GripI have tried the standard A2 grip and it doesn’t fit my hand at all. Grips are mostly personal preference. Get the one you like that fits your hand. This is one of the cheapest aftermarket parts for the AR15, and one of the easiest to install.

I like the Magpul MOE grip, personally. I first tried one on a Smith & Wesson M&P15 carbine, and absolutely loved it! I now have one on three of my AR15s, and there they will stay.

Magpul makes the MIAD that is completely configurable. It seems pretty nifty, but kinda steep if you want the "full" kit. This is what I have on my varmint setup I was talking about previously. It is considerably more expensive but includes some AR15 Magpul Grip MOEoversized back straps that I like for prone shooting. If you live in the northern regions where there are long winters and you have to wear gloves (warm ones, not shooting gloves) to go shooting, I'd get a Magpul enhanced trigger guard. It opens up the trigger guard perfectly. The MIAD grip used to come with a front strap that had a built in triggerguard but they no longer include it with the kit. That is a sad story as it made the MIAD an easy pick. Without it, my pick is going to be the MOE as it is ergonomically correct at a very reasonable price.

My Pick:

Magpul MOE Drop-In Pistol Grip – $18.39

I have heard great things about the Ergo grip. They have a few different models, right-handed, and ambidextrous, and also either standard, or "suregrip." This means it has a rubbery surface. I will be getting one of these next, especially because you might be seeing a lot more of them around here in the near future.

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 Vertical Fore Grips (VFGs)

Here is another item that there are literally hundreds if not thousands of options. Common features include storage, quick release, angles, long, short, aluminum, polymer, steel, pressure switch slots, built in lights, built in bipods, angled, folding, built in light mounts (with or without light activation switches)…etc…

When it comes to vertical grips, I like to keep it very easy. Is it solid? Does it get in the way? The correct answers to those questions should be ye and no, in that order. This is a list of some of the VFGs I have used and liked.

My picks (with notes):

Grip

Price

Mako Magazine Well Grip - Black

24.99

Use this on SBRs to good effect.

Mako Horizontal Foregrip w/Flashlight Adapter

56.99

Bulky but ergonomic.

Tapco Black Intrafuse Vertical Grip - Short

22.99

Very simple, nothing fancy.

Command Arms Flashlight Grip Adaptor

69.99

Lots of features, VERY bulky, be warned…

Mako Tactical Vertical Grip

41.99

It doesn’t get much better than this gem but a little pricey.

Aim Sports Aluminum Vertical Grip – Short

14.99

It would be perfect but must be forced on rail the first time.

CAA Ergonomic CQB magazine grip – Black

27.99

Another great item for SBRs. Requires a railed forend.

UTG Aluminum Vertical Foregrip - Short

28.49

Again nothing fancy. Just a good solid grip.

Magpul AFG2 Angled Fore Grip - OD Green

44.99

Spendy, but very cool. And it comes in all my favorite flavors!

Mako T-Pod Vertical Foregrip & Bipod Black

129.99

Very Bulky, very handy. Again, be warned…

 

AR15 Mako T-PodSome of the fancier options include the "Mako T-Pod", which is a VFG that has drop-down legs to become a bipod. Pretty neat, but pricey ($129.99). For another $80 they even make one with a built in LED flashlight. Nice.

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Stocks

There are ALL SORTS of options when it comes to AR15 stocks. Let's look at some of the military style stocks first, then we'll look at some aftermarket stock choices for your AR15.




A1 Stock

AR15 A1 Butt Stock

The original M16A1 came with a fixed triangular shaped stock that fit well into the role of the combat arm. It fit most people, and allowed the shooter to get in a combat position, squared with the target while touching the tip of the nose to the back of the charging handle for a reference point. This provided a repeatable "cheek weld." It was important that the shooter could face the target and bring the weapon straight up in front, which positions body armor towards the threat, giving maximum protection. That being said most manufacturers do not offer this configuration anymore as it has for the most part been replaced by the…

A2 Stock

AR15 A2 Butt Stock

The Army Marksmanship Unit developed the M16A2 to win shooting competitions. As they developed the rifle, they added a longer "target style" stock. This fixed stock is designed to be used while "bladed" to the target. The shooter does not put the weapon straight up in front of him, but instead brings it up alongside the body and stands perpendicular to the target. This stock (along with the entire rifle) was designed for target shooting. As such it was immediately adopted by the commercial market. For the most part if you are looking to put a fixed stock on an AR15 than you will probably be looking at something with a little more features but if you want that traditional look and feel than you will be looking at one of these.

4 position CAR stock

AR15 4 Position CAR Stock

The original CAR stock was originally an aluminum two-position stock  with "in" and "out." Positions only. This eventually progressed into the current offerings that are made of plastic and generally have four positions. They are lighter than the 6 position M4 stocks, and collapse just a little bit shorter.

6 position M4 Stock

AR15 M4 6 Position Stock

This stock has the sling swivel on the toe, and has "ribs" along the side to increase its rigidity. It usually uses a six position buffer (the number of positions is determined by the buffer tube, not the stock body) and is the collapsible stock that comes standard on most commercial AR15 carbines. So many manufacturers make them and they are all so close in specifications I won’t go into too much detail. Suffice to say that I would just find the best deal I can if purchasing one of these. Also keep in mind that this item can be purchased in all of the popular colors as well.

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Aftermarket AR15 Stocks by Manufacturer


Magpul


MOE

Link

CTR

Link

PRS

Link

UBR

Link

ACS

Link

Mako


GLR16

Link

GLR16CP

Link

GL-SHOCK

Link

GL-SHOCKCP

Link

SSR25

Link

ERGO


F93 PRO

Link

Command Arms


ARS

Link

ARSNL

Link

CBS

Link

CBSACP

Link

Lewis Machine & Tool


SOPMOD

Link

Blackhawk


K1100

Link

Mission First Tactical


 BATTLELINK

Link

 BATTLELINK Low Profile

Link

 BATTLELINK Minimalist

Link

Tactical Intent


TI-7

Link

Duostock


Duostock

Link

Advanced Technology International (ATI)


Strikeforce

Link

Vltor


IMOD

Link

EMOD

Link

Rifle A1

Link

Rifle A2

Link

M.A.G.S. LLC.


EFX-A1

Link

ACE Ltd.


AR-UL

Link

AR-UL-E

Link

AR-UL-GUS

Link

ARFX

Link

ARFX-E

Link

HMR

Link

M4S

Link

Slidefire Solutions


SSAR-15 OGR

Link

SSAR-15 OGR CK

Link

Ultimate Arms Gear (UAG)


UAG-6PS

Link

Choate


Telescoping Stock

Link

E-2 Stock

Link

Rock River Arms (RRA)


RRA Entry

Link

RRA Operator CAR

Link

RRA Operator A2

Link

Walnut CAR Contoured

Link

Walnut CAR A2

Link

Troy Industries


Battle Ax CQB

Link

Nav Stock

Link

 



This isn’t a complete list but it comes close.  In my opinion there is no such thing as a “best” AR15 stock. There are so many options and so many variations of the same thing that it comes down to how much you are willing to spend. I can say that there are some stocks that aren’t worth even looking at. Mostly because the cost to benefit ratio is way off. I chose not to link them above. That’s all I have to say about that.

My pick:

Tactical Intent TI-7 AR15 Stock

Tactical Intent TI-7 – $89.50

This thing has almost all of the features of another stock, at 2/3 the price. Holding one in your hand the quality is absolutely top notch. Get one and you won’t be disappointed.

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Magazines

This could be the possible weak point in the AR-15. It doesn't HAVE to be weak, but oftentimes it is. The problem with any AR15 magazines, is that the magwell of the AR-15 was designed to feed from the straight 20rd mags used during the Vietnam era. When the 30rd mags came out, they had to have a very unique design. The top half is straight but the bottom is curved. This design is not very good for smooth feeding from a large capacity box magazine. I generally stay away from the USGI style aluminum and steel mags as the steel usually have a hard time dropping free and the aluminum are so easily damaged.

AR15 CAA Countdown Magazine CDMAGShooters today have all sorts of choices for a quality magazine that is sure to feed smoothly.

Here is a list of the one I have used and like:

CAA CDMAG – $31.49

TAPCO Gen II 30 Round Magazine – $21.99

Cammenga 30 Round Easymag – $31.99

Magpul Pmag 30 Round – $21.99

Magpul Pmag 20 Round - $19.99


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Slings

A rifle without a sling is like a handgun without a holster. Get one! They come in three different configurations. These are 3-point, 2-point, or one-point slings.

3-Point
AR15 3-Point SlingA three-point sling has a strap that runs the length of the rifle on one side, and then has another strap that forms a loop that you put over your head and one shoulder. This allows the weapon to be worn at an angle, hanging down the "off" side. Three-point slings are sometimes known as "patrol slings", because they allow the shooter to let go of their weapon and walk naturally. I wouldn’t use one for target shooting but they are great for hunting on the plains where you have to do a lot of walking.

My pick:

UTG 3-Point Deluxe Tactical Rifle Sling $14.49

2-Point
A two-point sling just attaches to the front and back of the rifle. These are generally the ones that are made of simple nylon and come with a rifle. They will usually fall off your shoulder if not held tight. This is the most basic form of sling and if often called just a “strap”. There are some very nice “rubberized 2-point slings out there

My pick:

Blackhawk Kudu Stretch Sling - $27.49

Single-Point
AR15 One-Point SlingSingle point slings attach to the rifle in one place which is usually towards the back of the receiver. A single-point sling plate or a nylon adapter strap, is usually required to give you something for the sling to clip into, but some of the aftermarket stocks (Magpul CTR, TI-7, RRA Operator) have quick detach sling attachment points built right in. Basically, the sling is a loop, that goes over your head and shoulder and hangs the weapon straight down in front of you. The barrel usually ends up somewhere between your legs. Not so good for running but great for weapon retention.

My pick:

AIM Sports One Point Bungee Rifle Sling - $12.99

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Muzzle Brakes & Flash Suppressors

This is one item that I am all over the place on. There are so many out there and I have liked every single one I have ever owned for different reasons. My suggestion would be to find the one you like and ask questions about it. Heck even the plain jane A2 flash hider is good in its own right. Just like with the free float handguards, make sure you are equipped to do the installation or contact a gunsmith. Just keep in mind that different manufacturers may have different Troy Claymore Muzzle Brakerequirements as far as using a crush washer is concerned. That’s why I say ask questions first, then buy. Another thing to mention here is that some states are not too friendly on the term “flash suppressor” and instead will only recognize “muzzle brake” as “sporting”. Beats the living daylights out of me as to why but that’s the way it is for now. Do your research. Then buy.

My “current” pick:

Troy Claymore Muzzle Brake – $82.99

It says “Front Towards Enemy” right on it. Nuff said.


I hope this has been informative to all you AR15 owners out there. I sure wished that some of this information was out there when I first started building ARs.

Happy shooting!

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AR15 Parts & Accessories for sale!