An AR-15 rifle is already a powerful firearm, so owning one would probably be a dream come true. However, as powerful as it can be, some modifications could bring out the best in your AR 15. Fortunately, our team decided to take 48-hour intensive research to find the best AR upgrades one could ever have.
Table of Contents
- 1 AR-15 Upgrades: Why Do You Need Them?
- 2 A Brief History
- 3 Benefits of Having An AR-15 Upgrade
- 4 Top 17 Parts & Common Modifications for AR-15
- 4.1 1. Ambidextrous Charging Handle
- 4.2 2. Ambidextrous Safety Selectors
- 4.3 3. Anti-Rotational Pins
- 4.4 4. Backup Sights
- 4.5 5. Barrels
- 4.6 6. Enlarged Trigger Guards
- 4.7 7. Extended Bolt Releases
- 4.8 8. Extended Magazine Release
- 4.9 9. Grips
- 4.10 10. Handguards & Rail Systems
- 4.11 11. Muzzle Devices
- 4.12 12. Nickel Boron Coated Bolt Carrier Groups
- 4.13 13. Optics
- 4.14 14. Sling & Sling Mountings
- 4.15 15. Stocks
- 4.16 16. Triggers
- 4.17 17. Gas Blocks
- 5 Beginners Upgrades
- 6 Tactical Shooters Upgrades for AR-15
- 7 Competition Rifle Upgrades
- 8 FAQS
- 9 Key Takeaways for AR-15 Upgrades
AR-15 Upgrades: Why Do You Need Them?
You need AR-15 upgrades for one ultimate reason—nothing is perfect, including guns. You already know the capacity of your rifle. Still, depending on its use, you would want to have it upgraded to ensure that you continue to have a reliable weapon.
The more you use your rifle, the more reasons you have for doing the modification. It’s not only for accurate shooting but also for customizing it according to your needs. AR-15 rifles are customizable, but if you are not knowledgeable about the parts that need upgrading, you can go to experts to have that AR 15 upgraded.
A Brief History
Each firearm is designed to deliver a specific performance different from another make and model. However, quality rifles and budget ones do not perform the same as the other, which is understandable.
The quality of the rail system, the muzzle device, or the red dot sights will never provide the same results. That is why an AR owner would search for something that can exactly deliver what he needs.
Each one has his own preference, but one thing that will surprise you is that the upgrade is never-ending. One moment you thought that you already had an extremely durable barrel profile. The next thing you know, you are searching for different stainless steel barrels because you learned something new about it.
Benefits of Having An AR-15 Upgrade
Whether using your AR-15 rifle for tactical reasons or competition, the best AR 15 upgrades will give you benefits. Having solid builds, reliable triggers, fitted grips, and the right AR-15 upgrades allow you to get the best from your weapon, such as:
- Proficiency on whichever hand is used – Ambidextrous parts provides the user ease of use
- Speed and accuracy – you need this for hunting scenarios and competitive shooting
- Safety and comfort – malfunctions and jammed bolts are avoided
- Reduced recoil – effective accessories help with the flow in the gas system, which reduces the pullback
- Sleek looks – Aesthetics matter for many but this should not be your basis for an upgrade
Top 17 Parts & Common Modifications for AR-15
1. Ambidextrous Charging Handle
Upgrading to an ambidextrous AR-15 charging handle is beneficial to both right-handed or left-handed shooters. It can give shooters equal proficiency with whichever hand you are using. Also, this piece is important in the smooth functioning of the striker, bolt carrier, or hammer to place it in a ready position. It also checks if there are obstructions on the bolt catch, which is why choosing the right one is crucial to your AR -15 rifle’s performance.
High-quality ambidextrous charging handles are also designed to give the user increased surface area and maximum grip to give them better grips in whatever weather conditions. Whether these are lefties or not, it is going to be an easier use for the shooter.
2. Ambidextrous Safety Selectors
If you constantly use your rifle, then an Ambi safety selector would greatly upgrade your piece. Non-constant users will not appreciate the importance, but adjusting the safety selector faster is really an advantage if you are at the range constantly.
Instead of just the trigger finger, your entire hand can easily control it. Tactical scenarios and hunting situations will greatly benefit these types of AR-15 upgrades. You can choose an ambidextrous safety selector that gives your hands and fingers a good feel.
It wouldn’t be hard to look for that since manufacturers design these to provide a good fit and function.
This way, your fingers wouldn’t be slipping off, especially if you are out on the range or hunting.
These also are durable and easy to install for as long as you find high-quality products for your AR-15.
3. Anti-Rotational Pins
Firing pins are essential to the functionality of the AR-15 rifle since this is what triggers the firing mechanism of the firearm. You are lucky if the pin on your rifle fits like a glove. However, your shooting style will be affected when your trigger pin starts to walk out on you.
Upgrading to anti-rotational pins prevents the pins from moving out and minimizes, if not eliminates, vibration, which is bound to damage your rifle in the long run. Once anti-rotational pins replace your AR trigger, and hammer pins, your worries over pins that vibrate lose will no longer be a dilemma.
Money-wise, this is an inexpensive option, especially for fully automatic weapons or hard-use guns.
4. Backup Sights
One of the best AR-15 upgrades that you should consider is having backup sights. Factory iron sights are easy to break.
If you constantly use your weapon, backing up those iron sights would be the best thing you can prepare for.
Another good use of these backup sights is that they can be used as a weapon light. With its radioactive tritium, the option to utilize it as light is actually possible.
Having backup sights can backup your red dot though this may speedily use up your battery life.
One of the best AR-15 upgrades involves upgrading the barrels, but this would depend on how you are using the weapon. This will all depend on your personal preference, use of weapons, and your shooting style.
When it comes to AR-15 barrel length, you can opt for a shorter barrel if you want versatility and use your AR-15 as a home defense rifle. If your rifle is used in many ways, maneuverability is as important as accuracy. Therefore, a middle ground is best for you to have a balanced length and weight.
In your decision-making, you may want to include the chrome lining that increases its durability as it helps with wear and tears and against corrosion. Choosing the right barrel upgrade is important.
You also have to remember that your bullet passes through that barrel regardless of the size, so you have to consider every factor before making that purchase.
6. Enlarged Trigger Guards
The purpose behind the upgrade of trigger guards is to ensure safety. One concern of most gun owners is the lack of space for a gloved finger in the trigger guard area. Enlarged trigger guards provide you that much-needed room around the trigger area for your finger to fit and give you good precision comfortably.
Comfort even after a long and strenuous shooting session is not possible with small trigger guards. Your fingers will not feel cramped. Apart from this feature, it can also prevent cracks and corrosion effects on your trigger guard.
Finding your right fit should always depend on your preference but do consider your shooting applications. Quality trigger guards are made out of smooth and sturdy materials that are also designed to ensure it is not going to hurt the user’s fingers.
7. Extended Bolt Releases
Unless you only use your firearm for photo sessions, you will require speed in almost all of the activities you do with it. Compared to the factory parts, you can release and lock bolts back in with only your trigger finger if you have an extended bolt release installed.
Whether you are into competitive shooting, recreational sports, or law enforcement, clearing jams and swapping magazines as fast as possible is what you really need. Time is always of the essence.
One concern others are worried about is the added weight, but there are a lot of extended bolt releases that will not increase the weight of the gun. You can find those skeletonized to avoid unnecessary heaviness, but these are also durable and very easy to install.
8. Extended Magazine Release
Other upgrades can be considered needless, but this is one of the AR-15 upgrades you should consider.
If you had experienced fumbling over the stock release buttons that are microscopic, you would know what I mean.
Customizing your AR pistol will allow you to reload your magazine a lot faster.
An extended magazine release lets you keep your grip while you are discarding a used clip. These upgrades are designed ergonomically.
Therefore you need not worry about comfort while using it, even with pistol braces. You no longer have to change your hand position or adjust your grip to release. The surface is already increased, giving the user an easier and smoother process.
Customizing the grip of your AR-15 will ultimately provide you with comfort and a great improvement in your shooting capability. It all depends on the type of pistol grips you choose since each provides a varied level of comfort and ergonomically provides you with lesser tension.
It would be best to note the finger grooves, palm swells, and contours plus the weight since all of these greatly affect the fit and usability of the AR-15 upgraded groups. These upgraded grips can also help you with the heat that comes out of the barrel and the rail system, especially when you are using the gun for a longer period.
Other grips help out with precision shooting and recoil absorption. Picking the right grip can give you a much enjoyable time with your gun, plus an enhanced accuracy.
10. Handguards & Rail Systems
Handguards and rail systems are not only areas in the rifle where you can grip, but it also provides ventilation points to prevent heat build-up.
You have choices to choose from when it comes to upgrading.
Free-floating handguards and rail systems do not touch the barrel unless the barrel nut is on the point of contact. The standard versions of these handguards are usually heavy.
Still, the free-floating handguard is made of aluminum, but it is lightweight yet durable.
Drop-in handguards, on the other hand, are situated on the barrel itself, making it lighter. Still, it may affect accuracy since it may move, and even slight movements may affect the shooter’s performance.
However, these are more popular because they are cheaper and are commonly used if your AR-15 has a fixed front sight base.
11. Muzzle Devices
There are plenty of options when it comes to muzzle devices. Its main purpose is to absorb recoil, whether you opt for a muzzle brake, a compensator, or a flash hider. The pull may be a little harsh when you are using an AR-15. If you use it for a longer period, it will take a toll on your shoulder and upper body. Having a muzzle break lessens the recoil impact.
On the other hand, a flash hider minimizes recoil. Still, it mainly covers the muzzle flash, but usually, these are used by law enforcement. A competitive shooter prefers muzzle brakes to improve speed and accuracy as it helps greatly with muzzle climb. The shooter will have faster shots made since he will have better control of the weapon. However, you have to look at your weapon’s purpose before picking which muzzle device to attach to your rifle.
12. Nickel Boron Coated Bolt Carrier Groups
Bolt carrier groups are an essential part of an AR-15 because their functionality and performance on the firearm depend on its right lubrication. Using a nickel boron-coated bolt carrier group changes that.
The design is very efficient, making it smooth-flowing even without much lubrication, so there is no fear of having your weapon jammed.
Also, a nickel boron coated bolt carrier group is not heavy, increasing shot speed because of the increased cycling rate.
Another carrier bolt option is the M16 style, sometimes called “full-auto,” but do not expect your rifle to be fully automated because it will not. These are heavier carriers but can assure your accuracy and reliability in a lessened recoil but with lesser speed because of the weight.
Accuracy is what everyone is aspiring for, especially if you are into hunting or competition shooting. This is where the need to upgrade optics comes in. Long-range accuracy is greatly improved with the right optics .
You can choose among Red dots, Holographic Sights, Night Vision Scopes, and Hybrid Sights. Holographic and red dot sights are known to increase target acquisition at a higher rate.
However, red dots for AR-15 are more common. It has an objective lens that has a partial mirror coating. If you want to upgrade to that, you can choose a heads-up or tube body.
14. Sling & Sling Mountings
You actually have three options for these AR-15 upgrades. The first is the single-point slings with a single loop with a strap running diagonally across your body that passes over your head.
You will have easy access to your gun since this is close to your body, but weight distribution is not a feature of this option.
Two-point slings are those that allow you to change sling length automatically, which allows you to carry the rifle in any position. It offers stability to the rifle for the shooter when taking a shot.
Three-point slings are not popular since they restrict the gun from moving, although it securely holds the rifle in place. These types are no longer being used and are not commonly distributed.
Read next: How to stake a castle nut on an AR-15
You have to think about how you are using your gun before you consider changing your stock or which type to accessorize. An AR-15 adjustable stock is the best fit for competitive shooting since this can complement and adjust to its full cheek rest, fit, and height.
Also, the right stocks will help you with the pullback. Find the upgraded stock that will lessen recoil, which in turn will aid you with accuracy and precision. You can select a collapsible one, so shooters with different arm lengths can use it. You can also look for one that’s more comfortable for your cheek-to-stock position.
Your trigger gets to decide when the bullet leaves the barrel. All other parts won’t have any purpose if this is not functioning perfectly. Durability is what you need for a trigger to last in varied situations.
For scenarios where you need the rifle to fire at the exact moment you pull the trigger, you would need single-stage triggers, especially for home defense.
It is best to choose a two-stage trigger for trigger pull weight situations since this allows a higher twist rate where shooters can line up the shot first before shooting.
The twist rate and tweaks can be done easily with this as well as the buffer spring. Drop-in trigger kits can be installed easily, and anyone can complete the installation without any problems.
17. Gas Blocks
A fixed amount of gas is allowed to travel through an AR-15 gas tube, and the one responsible for the flow is the gas block. Standard types send more than what is necessary. That is why carbon is carried along with it causing tougher recoil.
Not many are aware of this because gas blocks are not prioritized when getting AR-15 upgrades. Using an adjustable low profile gas block will give you the capability to control how much gas enters the tube.
It would mean that our gun’s bolt will receive just the right amount of force that enters the tube. As a result, this minimizes that carbon that enters the system, making your gun cleaner and less recoil.
This is not absolute control on what goes through the gas tube, but at least this will prevent the accumulation of carbon and dirt inside the gun.
Also Read: Top Adjustable Gas Blocks
You should prioritize one of the AR-15 upgrades as lights because you couldn’t be shooting any shadowy figure that moves. Suppose you are not going out hunting and are just using this for home defense; a reliable mounted flashlight or night vision will be enough to provide the purpose.
Search for something that can be used easily. It provides enough power to identify whatever is in front of you.
In instances wherein you need to let go of your AR-15, getting a single-point or a two-point sling will be a very good option. It will also help with accuracy as it can give you a stable hold on the rifle as you aim.
The two-point sling would be giving you more ease of use compared to a single-point. You will find this convenient and will also help with your flexibility.
Accuracy relies greatly on your sights, but everything would depend on how you are using the weapon. Back-up iron sights are reliable and useful if these are just for regular shots you do.
Still, you can certainly save for a more accurate sight like a red dot or even flip-up sights, which can outstandingly improve your accuracy. Red dot sights won’t be a good option if you have astigmatism or an issue with your eyes, making prism optics a better option.
Tactical Shooters Upgrades for AR-15
In everything that you pick, especially for AR-15 upgrades, look for reliable brands and models. Looks can be deceiving. This can be the case for most AR upgrades.
If you personally prefer something that is flashy, then that is your option but consider the performance of your complete rifle. Some parts of the rifle are reliant on some components; therefore, make sure the product you purchase is of good quality.
This is where you upgrade into something you were not able to get before. Usually, this is related to the budget. If you can afford it, look for something useful to you in general and not for aesthetics purposes.
Get to know the right details of your AR upgrades, even the use of a tiny bolt release to ensure that everything is working accurately.
Avoiding the Geardo Syndrome
The purpose of your AR-15 upgrades is to improve your weapon. You start with the pistol grip, then start with a low-profile gas block, and then some more until you realize that the upgrade is infinite and most of these are unnecessary.
Choices are a lot in an AR platform. The best AR-15 upgrades would only be for those parts you are using and need improvement. Find something that can improve your accuracy and performance and make your shooting experience more convenient with the upgrades.
Competition Rifle Upgrades
The reason why you are upgrading is to improve your accuracy. Choosing stainless steel barrels is pretty easy to customize. The purpose of the customization is to make sure the bullets come out the same way all the time.
You would want a heavier barrel to help with recoil, but you’d want a longer barrel length for velocity. The bullet drops less compared to a shorter barrel in the upper receiver.
This part is really not necessary unless you got a plastic handguard on your AR-15. You can turn it rock solid if you want to change it, or you can go free float. Free float is always your personal preference.
Changing your trigger would be very helpful for competitive shooting. A good trigger will give you a lower trigger pull weight, which improves your every shot—consistency, and accuracy at the same time.
Upgrading to two-stage triggers is advisable for competitive shooters. However, it may decrease the strength of the hammer strike, but it can all be adjusted. Mil-Spec triggers are the best AR 15 upgrades for tactical purposes.
Every AR-15 needs an upgraded grip. When you are holding your gun, and you are not comfortable with how it is in your hands, your focus and attention will all go back to what you’re holding instead of where your target is.
The best attachments for an AR 15 would be grips that will be convenient to your feel. It could be a vertical grip or a pistol grip that will provide stability, especially during repetitive shooting.
Key Takeaways for AR-15 Upgrades
The best AR-15 upgrades are countless if you really want your rifle to perform at its top-most capability. However, the question in your mind should always be your purpose. There are so many options in the AR platform, starting from grips to the buffer tube.
You also have to determine how you use your firearm to find the perfectly needed upgrade. The upper receiver needs a good barrel, but it requires a reliable drop-in trigger to ensure that it functions smoothly.
Everything is related when it comes to functionality so, think twice before you make your decision or go to somebody who knows more about upgrading an AR-15.