The AR-15 is, as so many have hailed it, America’s Rifle. Wildly modular, easily upgradeable, and extremely versatile, there are very few (if any) shooting sports and disciplines that the AR-15 can’t accomplish. In some caliber or other, and with the right attachments, this rifle is ideal for home defense, competitive shooting (both three-gun and long-distance shooting) hunting, plinking, and much more.
That said, from the factory, a mil-spec AR-15 is a rough machine. It’s a cookie-cutter standard that serves the needs of some but could stand some serious improvements.
If you’re thinking about taking on a tinkering project, consider swapping out the following firearm parts on your AR-15 for upgraded enhancements.
The mil-spec charging handle on your AR-15 is alright - but just that. There are plenty of ambidextrous replacements that are not only easier to manipulate in the cold, with gloves on, or in the dark, but which port gases away from your face more effectively.
Factory triggers can be a little stiffer or grittier than you’d like, though this is not a problem that is specific to the AR-15. It’s a pretty common gripe.
However, the AR-15 is highly versatile and can be easily deconstructed. A new trigger group can be dropped in just as easily.
3.Extended mag release
Just like a charging handle can be difficult to find in the dark, in the cold, or with gloves on, the same can be said of small, difficult-to-locate magazine releases.
Adding a larger, more ergonomic extended magazine release to your AR-15 will increase your speed when it comes to dropped spent mags and recharging the weapon, which will save you time in the competition. It’ll also just be easier to find and engage the mag release without needing to look for it.
4.Back-up sights (preferably offset)
Optics like red dot sights and scopes can make it difficult or impossible to see your rifle’s factory iron-sights since these are over the top of the receiver.
Add on a set of backup iron sights to get the best of both worlds: the prevision of modern optics and the downright reliability of iron sights, in any conditions, without the need for batteries.
Plus, having backup iron sights is a redundant failsafe. Remember, two is one and one is none.
5.A muzzle brake
If your AR-15 came with a flash suppressor but you’re more concerned about felt recoil, swap it out for a muzzle brake.
Muzzle brakes will help you control recoil and muzzle jump, keeping your sights trained more easily on the target for more rapid follow-up shots.
Just make sure you - and your range mates - are wearing adequate hearing protection!
6.A more ergonomic pistol grip
Nothing is wrong with most AR-15 pistol grips - but they could sure be better. Some manufacturers offer over-molded pistol grips that are more comfortable and more ergonomic, enabling greater confidence behind the stock.
Speaking of which…
7.A new stock
If you have any problems with handling your rifle or the LOP just isn’t working for you, a more ergonomic adjustable stock with greater flexibility can solve those problems pretty quickly. Just take your old stock off the buffer tube and put on a new one. It’s one of the easiest AR-15 upgrades you can make.
What you can’t see can kill you - remember that. A WML may not technically be a firearm part - it’s more of what we’d call a firearm accessory - but it’s a vital one.
Plus, with all of that rail space on the handguard, you really have no excuse not to have one.
9.A BCG with better permanent dry lubricity
The phosphate mil-spec BCG is your AR-15 is, like the mil-spec charging handle, alright - and again, that’s it. It’s just alright. It’s corrosion-resistant and sort of easy to clean, and it works. But that’s all we’re going to say about it.
Today, there are all different sorts of modern BCGs with high tech coatings like titanium nitride and nickel boron that offer higher permanent dry lubricity. They are more corrosion resistant and require less liquid lubrication - and they’re easy to clean.
10 Spare Firearm Parts for Your AR-15 That You Need to Keep on Hand
Now, upgrades aside, it’s equally important to keep some spare firearm parts on hand so you can make at-home or in-the-field repairs to your AR-15 when parts fail or go missing, which will happen sooner or later. Keep spares of these AR-15 parts on hand.
AR-15 rifles have tons of springs, and springs fatigue. Get a build kit just for the springs so you can make repairs when springs fatigue or snap.
Pins, like springs, can fail or shear, and AR-15 rifles have just as many of them. Better to have a bunch of roll pins or takedown pins on hand so you can make a repair when you need one - get a build kit or a parts kit.
3.A spare BCG
Your BCG contains a bunch of small parts that can fail, like extractor and ejector springs, not to mention the firing pin. Keeping a whole spare BCG on hand will make repairs easier if one of the parts goes and you decide just to swap out the whole thing.
4.A new barrel
After several thousand shots, accuracy will start to suffer as the bore of your barrel starts to wear down. Well, more properly, it’s the rifling that wears out, but the effect is the same. If you’re a high-volume competition shooter, you might need to re-barrel your rifle as often as once per year. At any rate, keep one on hand.
More like a firearm accessory than a firearm part, spare mags will save you time and annoyance at the range. You’ll get to spend more time shooting and less time stuffing cartridges into the mags. (We also recommend a speed loader for that, by the way).
If your gas rings are dirty or worn down (which will happen eventually) your rifle won’t cycle or cycling will become unreliable or sluggish. You can test the gas rings by pulling the bolt to out-of-battery and standing the BCG on the bolt face. If it falls back into the carrier, your gas rings aren’t doing a stand-up job (no pun intended) and should be replaced.
At any rate, keeping spares will ensure you always have an autoloader at the ready and not a repeater that is darn difficult to manually cycle.
Firearm Parts for Your AR-15 and More
Even though this post covers specific upgrades you can make to your AR-15, we carry a wide range of firearm parts and accessories for many other popular models, including M16s, AR-10s, M1 and M1 carbine rifles, the FAL, M1903, M1911 and variants, Lee-Enfield and countless others.
Take a look through our collection to find the parts you need to make repairs or upgrades and give us a call at 610-250-3960 if you need help.