AR Accessories Series
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Which AR Accessories?
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AR Accessories List
It’s no secret the AR-15 was built for modularity and customization. But there is a glut of AR-15 accessories on the market. Which ones actually make sense to check out; furthermore, which ones will give an immediate positive impact by using? Where can you make large improvements with the smallest outlay? Practical and tactical is an important mix when looking for aftermarket add-ons, because not only do you want to be different, you want to have usable and effective pieces to bring your combat rifle to the next level.
You either love the Ar-15 or you hate it; when you take a hard look at the AR, it isn’t the prettiest, most reliable or most accurate, but it can post pretty high scores in each of these categories, and keep you in the competition when it comes down to it. The real draw to the AR-15 chassis is the utility and versatility it offers, the area between true customization and low cost is where this beast lives. I personally own several AR’s and love the concept, but I realize its limitations, and use other guns to replace the AR-15 when necessary. I have used my plethora of variants for everything from benchrest to 3-gun competitions to hunting to a bug out bag gun. I love that if I really wanted to, I wouldn’t have to have multiple guns to do this, simply a willingness to change out furniture and parts and swap some accessories. I choose to have multiple AR models with different setups, so I can use them quickly and for the purpose I intended. It’s worth it to me, because the basic weapon is cheap to build, feed and maintain.
It’s about as easy a gun to work on as any military weapon has ever been, with the exception of maybe a few (like the Mauser bolt action, etc.).
Many millions of dollars and over 25 years of research and development has been used to try and replace the aging design, but it’s been met with an overwhelming inability to do so. The system in place with the United States Armed Forces is in fact a Juggernaut, surpassed from a military perspective only by the AK-47 for the many litmus tests in place for an infantry rifle. It’s just so usable with all the options and customization available to it, and soldiers and civilians alike know that their rifle will be around in another 25 years, because this fad isn’t going to die out anytime soon.
Here are some excellent items for consideration in your rifle build (bear in mind this is a multi-part article, so there will likely be several articles that cover items you don’t see on this list):
AR Accessories #1
.22LR conversion kit
Having a hard time feeding your addiction? You need to find a way to get a little bit more for your buck. Enter the .22LR: an AR-15 conversion kit should be at the top of your list for add-ons, for many reasons, not the least of which is the cost savings. Additionally, you can get more face time with your gun, learning its functionality and committing to memory, the controls, firing control group, the sights and the general handling. Knowing how to handle your weapon will make it easier in a stressful situation; using the cheap and plentiful .22LR will keep your real ammunition for when it counts and give you a lot more time with the rifle downrange.
Sure, the .223 or 5.56 (yes most of the barrels on the market can accept both rounds, though there are some tiny differences) isn’t THAT expensive relative to other center-fire rifle rounds, but with the recent rise in brass costs, and the fear of Obama clamping down on ammunition eventually (especially with re-election), the cost has definitely gone up. The demand is greater, as a result of so many AR type rifles now being on the market, and yet, the ammunition hasn’t been increased in a proportionate amount, so ammunition suppliers are benefiting from the artificially inflated prices for ammo.
The reason it makes so much sense to have this accessory is because it is so multi-layered:
- Cheap training ammunition for learning muscle memory and testing out new add-on products
- The cartridge can actually be used to effectively hunt small animals and even to kill a human if it was absolutely necessary and there was no other option.
- Regardless of the low recoil of the .223/5.56, some people just can’t handle it, and won’t get valuable training if required to shoot with the round when they dislike the recoil. Small women and children can learn a lot about functionality and getting on target with a .22LR conversion kit in an AR body.
The cost difference is staggering: in some cases, .22LR is about 1/15th the price of similar quality .223/5.56: that type of savings leaves you wondering just how many tasks you could accomplish with .22LR instead of the full power option. Certainly some of your range time would be better spent shooting the stuff that costs less than dirt.
All the mainstream conversion kits have been made very well and have had all their bugs worked out by now, with more than a million units sold. You could opt for a full upper receiver to swap in and out, or simply get an insert for your upper receiver which runs less than $250. So if you look around you will see some incredible conversion kits for between $200 and $450, and look you should: nothing will make you a better shooter than practice and range time.
AR Accessories #2
If you already own an AR rifle/carbine/pistol/whatever and don’t know what a picatinny rail is, you are behind the curve and missing out. I think the picatinny rail is what made the whole rifle system skyrocket in volume to begin with. The picatinny rail makes the AR-15 more versatile than any other gun on the planet. A handguard with (sometimes) 4-8 separate flat and precision machined, indexed platforms upon which to mount an optic, an extra hand hold or another accessory makes this rifle a world beater. Sure, the AK-47 can be submerged in a sewer for 5 days then removed and shaken off and fire reliably for months with only a few piston wipe downs, but can the AK-47 shoot someone it can’t see? The picatinny rail allows a user to mount a flashlight to see in the dark. Pair that with a night vision scope with an array of flip up/down sights usable with or without scope, and a quick detachable mount for just about everything that could conceivably go onto a picatinny rail and you have battlefield superiority.
AR Accessories #3
Forward pistol grip
If you go in order for this list, you can follow up your picatinny rail fore-end with a forward pistol grip attachment, which of course attaches and detaches quickly via the picatinny rail. It holds the point of aim for fast shooting, and helps engage the operator in the action, by requiring full input from both arms. It flattens the sight plane and allows you to take standing shots with more accuracy. For an incredibly high quality version you might be plunking down about $35-65 and it takes about a minute to get it into action. With stats like that, it’s a wonder you lived without it already.
AR Accessories #4
If you reload, get a brass catcher, you will be glad you don’t have dinged up and dirty casings, and you won’t need to use those nasty brooms in the corner at the range. You will save a bit of money, or make a little depending on if you reload, or if you sell brass. At current brass/cartridge costs, it doesn’t make sense not to have one really. If you are a left-handed shooter and haven’t built a gun specifically for left-handed shooting, a brass catcher will prevent hot brass from hitting you in the teeth every shot.
AR Accessories #5
An accu-wedge will take the cheap and annoying rattle sound out of your rifle, and instantly make you feel like you have a competition gun. It’s incredibly cheap and shores up the loose sounds of the rifle, to bring you into the next level of confidence. It also removes play in the receivers to improve feeding, functioning and other minor concerns caused by mismatched and loose receivers. For the cost, it makes the most marked improvement.
AR Accessories #6
Quick detachable (QD) Bipod
If it’s QD, then it’s not permanent, and that means you can leave it at home when you don’t need it, and in the bag or the truck when you do, and simply clamp it on to one of those picatinny rails when you need a little something extra.
AR Accessories #7
QD strikes again: QD Sling swivels and a sling
Keeping your rifle in a safe position (safe from accidental discharge; safe from damage) is important to keeping it working well. Quick Detachable is important because it gives you functionality. If you store your gun with a leather sling on it, and the sling is touching blued metal, it can damage the metal finish, so the QD is helpful when it goes from the field back into the safe. A good quality leather sling will cost you about $40-60. I guess let’s be honest: you aren’t going to be buying a leather sling for your AR-15, so find the most adjustable and functional you can find with a heavy construction and yes: QD’s.
AR Accessories #8
It doesn’t have to be specifically this brand name, but they make an incredible version of the multipurpose quick recognition scope. It allows you to shoot a full range from about 25 feet to about 750 feet, with a lighted (tritium nuclear) reticle, and has a decent eye relief (from about 1.5 inches to 4 inches depending on the model), so you can use it to keep a full field of view as well. It will go out farther than 300 yards with mil-dot calculations or by using a different screen in the scope. It’s made of a heavy duty aluminum that is sealed to be able to be submerged underwater for a reasonable depth. The biggest thing about this scope and those like it, is that the technology has been around, and still has yet to be bettered for a multipurpose optic.
Other AR Accessories
There are several other items to be covered in future articles, and it’s not like the AR-15 platform is going anywhere: there will always be accessories to cover.
You will want the above items to make a difference when it counts in real scenarios, but you will also want the items listed below for in between and maintenance: both sets of gear are important.
You will certainly want to get these items to ensure full functionality and good conditioning:
- A cleaning kit (preferably one that can go with the gun at all times and has a chamber brush)
- Magazines and springs to ensure the gun runs well all the time
- Extra springs for internal workings of the rifle
- Extra bolt, extractor and firing pin as well as pins for those parts
- An extra gas tube
- An AR-15 specific multi-tool for range work, or a small tool kit to field strip and do basic work on the weapon
The AR platform is incredibly usable and utilitarian, and is a good addition to just about any arsenal. The versatility of the upper end changeability will allow a lot of potential in a wide range of calibers and setups. Don’t have any illusions though, just because you can use only one lower receiver it doesn’t mean you won’t spend a lot of money if you don’t keep it in check. Look for usability and value, don’t overspend just because it looks cool, or you may regret it later and styles evolve.
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