In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the awesome upgrades you can make to your AR15. Performing these upgrades is a great way to learn the ins and outs of your rifle. Customizing and building it up allows you to connect with it as an extension of yourself. No one rifle is the same and being able to make it your own is a vital part of the respect that you gain for one another. This weapon is something that can save your life and you want to make it as reliable as possible.
Upper & Lower Receivers
The first upgrade we’re going to talk about is the changing of your upper and lower receivers. The upper and lower receivers are the backbone of your weapon. The upper and lower receivers come in two different versions: forged and billet. Forged receivers are made from a hot block of aluminum being pressed between two dies. Billet receivers are made from a solid block of aluminum that is slowly etched away by a CNC machine.
There are numerous variations you can make to your weapon by choosing different receivers and it can completely change the look. If you’re looking for a new .223 Remington receiver, you can check out the Battle Arms BAD556-LW Lightweight Billet Receiver. Or if you’re looking for a lower receiver that’s complete with a stock, take a look at the Spikes Tactical AR-15 Complete M4 Lower Receiver. To really step things up, consider checking out a new upper receiver such as the Adams Arms AR-15/M16 Tactical Elite Piston Upper Receiver or the Colt Complete Upper Receiver 16”. When purchasing your new receivers, be sure to take into account your specific cartridge size and barrel length to ensure everything matches up with your current parts.
Making a decision on the type of barrel to upgrade to depends entirely on the function of your rifle. Choosing a new barrel can come down to complex questions about ballistics, barrel linings, length, and chambering, so be sure to figure out exactly what you want to use it for, and build from there. If you’re looking for a few good .223 options, be sure to check out the Brownells AR-15/M16 223 Remington Barrel or the Colt 16-5/8” Barrel for a classic AR look.
Choosing the right stock is vital for both comfort and reliability. Stocks come in two kinds: fixed and collapsible. While fixed stocks generally offer more in the way of accuracy and consistency, upgrades made to collapsible stocks make them a viable choice for their functionality, while also maintaining integrity when it comes to accuracy and consistency.
When choosing a stock, be sure to choose a replacement that fits your buffer tube. Also, be sure to take into consideration how heavy your barrel, upper receiver, and any other attachments you have mounted to the front of your gun are. If your weapon tends to be front heavy, be sure to get a stock that will help balance out the overall weight of the gun, while still allowing it to be as maneuverable and functional as possible. Be sure to check out the Tapco AR-15 T6 Collapsible Stock and the Command Arms AR-15/M16 Sniper Stock.
Finding the right trigger can be as tricky a task as any. It all comes down to each shooter’s personal preference. Finding the one that works right for you can be a long, but ultimately rewarding process. Do you want it to feel like a quick snap, or do you want to apply a lot of pressure? Prior to the latest advancements in drop in trigger assemblies, a new trigger meant a trip to the gunsmith. Well, fortunately for us, not any longer! Whether it be single stage, two-stage, 3-gun, match, adjustable, non-adjustable, straight or curved bow, cassette or combat, there are a number of high quality drop in triggers available for ARs that you can install yourself. A couple of good examples include the Rock River Arms National Match 2-Stage Trigger and the Timney Drop-In Trigger Module.
Sights & Optics
Sights and optics are some of the most vital parts of your weapon. Having high quality and reliable sights could be the difference in you making a clean shot or missing completely. Whether you intend to use your rifle for personal protection, hunting, or sport, there’s an optic for every use. Some people prefer the classic old school iron sights. Many feel that younger shooters these days don’t know the fine art of shooting with iron sights, with no help from any fancy technology. The other side of the coin is that new holographic and red dot optics gives the shooter a bit of an advantage when it comes to acquiring targets faster from longer distances. Regardless of your personal preference, there is a wide variety of optics out there for every shooter’s personal tastes. If you’re looking for more of an old school feel, be sure you look into the Yankee Hill Gas Block Front Flip Sight with a Matech AR-15/M16/M4 USGI Backup Iron Sight. Perhaps you’re looking for more advanced optics? If so, check out the Eotech 552.A65 Holographic Weapon Sight or the Aimpoint Micro T-1 Red Dot Sight.
The next upgrade we’re going to talk about is updating your charging handle. This unique adaptation was made early on in the life of the AR-15 and has proven to be a reliable way to arm your weapon. Many people prefer to update their charging handles due to the fact than many mil-spec handles are smaller and harder to operate with gloves, or for people who shoot left-handed. Upgrading your charging handle can be a great way to add that special, unique touch to your weapon, while also making it more efficient. A couple of great handles to check out include the AXTS AR-15/M16 Raptor Charging Handle and the Bravo Company AR-15/M16 Ambidextrous BCM Gunfighter Charging Handle.
The grip is an important upgrade to consider and should never be overlooked. Standard AR grips can be uncomfortable and can cause unwanted rubbing or pressure on certain areas of your hand. Some people that are left-handed or that have larger hands might also find that typical grips offer a low profile and awkward feel that doesn’t work well with their hands. If you’ve been using your standard grip for a long time, you’ve more than likely noticed the negative effects on your hand, so changing it is probably one of the first things you’ll want to consider. For a few good ideas, check out the Hogue AR-15 Pistol Grip or the Ergo AR-15/M16 Rigid Ergo Grip.
Another great way to add some flare to your AR is to add a muzzle device. Muzzle devices are used for a variety of different purposes including taming recoil, suppressing sound, and reducing flash. Flash hiders reduce the visibility of gases as they exit the barrel. Muzzle breaks reduce recoil by expanding gases and bleeding them off through various drilled holes. Suppressors reduce the overall decibel level of firing by capturing the energy of gases and passing them off through chambers. If you’re looking for a flash hider, check out the Bravo Company AR-15/M16 Extended A2 Style Flash Hider. If you’re in the market for a muzzle break, check out the Lantac Dragon Muzzle Brake. Finally, if you’re looking for a suppressor, be sure to check out the Gemtech G5 5.56 Suppressor.
The final upgrade we’re going to cover is called stippling. Purely a cosmetic upgrade, stippling can be a great way to add character to your rifle as well as adding extra grip to your magazines. Stippling is the process of burning tiny holes into the surface of polymer magazines or grips with the tip of a soldering iron.
It can be done in any pattern you see fit, but most are done in rows of rectangles in order to add a textured surface that’s easier to hold on to. If doing this upgrade is something that interests you, be sure to do some research on the parts you plan to alter(good tutorial here). For instance, making changes to the structure of your magazine could be considered weakening the structure and could potentially void any factory warranty.
If you’ve already completed a lot of these upgrades and you’re looking for a few other unique ideas to really step up your AR-15, feel free to check out these other upgrades: Ambidextrous Safety Selectors, Anti-Rotational Pins, Free Floating Hand Guards, and Slings. Regardless of your skill level or whether you want to do one or all of these upgrades, get in there and have some fun making your weapon your own. It will truly feel like an extension of yourself and it will be something you can take great pride in! Have fun, and as always, shoot safe!