4 Must Have Upgrades for Your AR-15

Call me crazy but I’m one of those guys that popped out of the womb wondering how everything works, which later resulted in me wanting to take everything apart regardless of its price tag or overall stock badassness. So when I first got the opportunity to buy an AR15, that’s exactly what I did, took the whole rifle apart, pin by pin and put it back together. What I learned and what many of you reading this can probably agree is the AR is a fairly simple operating platform and that ultimately means for us tinkerers, it’s easy to work on. And since it’s so straightforward and you happen to have some fun money set aside, whether or not to upgrade that AR isn’t even a question. Because that fun money isn’t infinite and you’ll want to get the proverbial “best bang for the buck” out of your AR upgrade budget, here’s my picks for the top 4 parts you gearheads should slap on that 5.56 millimeter copper jacketed lead thrower.

 

Adjustable Gas Block

opplanet-jp-enterprises-750-adjustable-gas-block-stainless-steel-black-jpgs-5b-main

 

As my highly regarded idol Ricky Bobby would say, “I wanna go fast” and like him I wanna shoot fast. In order to put those rounds on target as fast as possible and accurately, the number one priority is to reduce muzzle rise. One of the easiest ways to do that is tune the amount of gas that’s pushing your bolt carrier back and the velocity at which its going into the buffer tube. If we can slow down the speed at which that bolt is flying back into your shoulder it will in turn cut down on muzzle movement and recoil impulse. I should mention however that this is going to decrease the reliability of your rifle to an extent, so if this rifle is for home defense, zombies, etc you may want to think twice about installing an adjustable gas block or how far to tune the gas system.

 

 

Free-floating Forend

free floating forend

 

Since looking cool is half the battle, free floating M-Lok or Keymod forends are the cat’s pajamas. Isn’t that reason enough to buy one? OK OK they do help in several ways as well. One of the benefits of free floating forends are that there’s now only one point of contact on your barrel. If you really want to miss your target, the best way to do that is to get that barrel warm and rest your gun on your A2 front sight post. Sarcasm aside, once installed you’re not going to sacrifice accuracy by resting your rifle off your free floating forend like you would be if you did the same with a standard handguard. Another big plus is the almost endless mounting solutions for lights, laser, or any other tacticool necessity.

 

Trigger

IMG_0236_opt

 

If you could only afford to upgrade one part on your AR, swapping out the trigger would be my answer all day, every day and twice on Sunday. Yes if you’re a good shot, you should be able to pick up any gun and be able to hit targets with it, BUT who likes going to the range time after time with that long drawn out gritty stock AR trigger? If you answered “I Do” it’s because you’ve probably never shot a rifle sporting a trigger with a silky smooth pull and short reset. Your needs may vary and you might want a 2-stage trigger for precision over the short and light single stagers. If you do end up going with a low poundage trigger, double taps are your new best friend and your wallets worst enemy.

 

 

Muzzle Brake/ Flash Hider

lantac bmd

 

If you’re unfamiliar with muzzle brakes and flash hiders, they’re like car mufflers in that they alter the exiting gasses to increase performance and are in a way personal preference. The question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you want to hide/ dissipate muzzle blast or harness it to reduce muzzle rise and felt recoil. If you want to hide it, then obviously a flash hider is the route for you. Yes your rifle probably came with an A2 birdcage flash hider on it but once you upgrade to something like a Battle Comp or Noveske Flaming Pig you’ll really notice the difference.

When muzzle blast is the least of your worries and you’re less than considerate of the guy standing next you, then a brake needs to be on the end of your gun. Why? Well a brake, any quality one that is, directs those hot fast gasses out to the sides and out of the top of your muzzle. Sure it spews out a fiery concussive blast that’ll be felt all the way up in your nasal cavity but to make up for that you’re left with little to no felt recoil and even less muzzle movement. Is it worth it? Hell Ya!

 

 

So what do I really think?

Sure you could add a 5, 6, 7 to this list with stocks, charging handles and so on but at that point ever subsequent “must have part” becomes less and less important in the over performance of your rifle.  Now if you’ve decided to splurge and do all four upgrades to your AR, start with the trigger. Take it to the range, enjoy the heck out of it, then do the forend, gas block and muzzle device at the same time since you have to remove those parts anyway to change the block or forend.

 

Still don’t know if these upgrades are right for your rifle? Post your questions in the comments below. As always guys, shoot em straight and be safe!

 

 

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If it goes bang or has to deal with the outdoors then I am most likely passionate about it. If I'm not at the gun range then I'm either hiking, mountain biking or kayaking. Follow along as I dive into outdoor gear related products and topics.

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14 Responses to 4 Must Have Upgrades for Your AR-15

  1. OC says:

    Hi Jeremy L,
    Good read. Would it be possible name or list the Model/Manufacturer of the sample pictures in your article?
    Adjustable Gas Block = JP Enterprises?
    Free-floating Forend = Houlding Precision Firearms?
    Trigger =?
    Muzzle Brake/ Flash Hider =?

    Best Regards,
    OC

    • Jeremy L says:

      Hey OC,

      Thanks for the feedback. The trigger is a JP Revolution trigger that you can find by clicking here. The flash hider is a Lantac BMD and unfortunately it isn’t available yet because it was released at SHOT Show 2015 but you can find a brief writeup of it by clicking here. Hope that helps!

  2. Lobohunter says:

    Good article. Several years ago I kind of read the writing on the wall and decided that I needed a self-defense weapon of war grade quality. I had a highly customized Remington 870 Express which I would not be embarrassed to put against any cop or military version.

    All I had that was a semi automatic rifle that could spit out bullets one after the other was a Ruger 10-22. My hunting rifle was a lever action with a four round magazine in .308 Winchester.

    I did a lot of research and decided on a DPMS Panther Arms AR-10 ( .308 Winchester). At that time things weren’t so tight (availability) and I was able to build the rifle on line, take the build sheet to a gun store that could order Panther rifles, and say here is what I want. I picked the AR-10 because I figured if things got really hectic with our military ammo would still be easier to come by and I wanted to shoot long range like I did in special ops.

    The AR-10 I ordered had a $1700+ price tag and I soon realized that just about anything you bought for it was going to cost upwards of $100. Most of what you have in your article, I ordered on the gun, brake, long range scope, BUIS sights and a few other goodies I added.

  3. Mike says:

    So what is muzzle break / flash hider in picture? Does not appear to be either Noveske or a Battle Comp.

    • Jeremy L says:

      Hey Mike, It’s a Lantac Industries “BMD”. Unfortunately it was just launched at SHOT show 2015 and isn’t available for sale yet.

  4. Mike says:

    A good trigger, a high quality barrel free floated and good compact glass for starters. After that you will just keep spending more as the payoff from your first upgrades improved the rifle that much. It’s becomes an addiction. You find so many ways to improve the weapon that you have to build more rifles to take advantage of the incredible products.

  5. SportsmansLogistics.com says:

    I think you hit all the points that need to be except for one on the free floating forend. Not only do you have lots of options for mounting, but mounting a laser for instance isn’t as accurate on a two piece forend or those plastic ones available. They are cheaper, but why bother?

  6. Bill Hooghuis says:

    What fore-end is that in the picture above?

  7. djw663 says:

    Hi Jeremy L,
    I know opinions are like A—— everyone has one and every forum argues in every direction. I liked your suggestions and I agree a good trigger is soooo sweeeet. That muzzle break/Flash hider looks fantastic, looks like a good compensator as well. I wouldn’t want to have to tune my gas block for the type of shooting I do. I would like to know your opinion about BCG’s? Full auto, semi auto, type of material, coating, etc… I believe semi auto is lighter and will cycle faster; but in the end smooth, consistent, durable and dependable will win. Any statistical data or opinion you want to share?

  8. Mbad says:

    Jeremy, what’s the make of the front site in your pic? Looks cool from what I can see of it but I can’t quite make out the writing.
    Although this is going to make me sound like a troll, I only mean it in jest: Does LH remind anyone of MN, or is it just me?

  9. Markz says:

    I currently have a Rock River Arms LAR 15 rifle with the factory two stage trigger. Being a newbie & not having shot much else, what would you guys recommend for a good trigger upgrade. I plan on setting it up for mid-to-long range varmint vaporizing & want something with a very smooth pull & short reset. Let the battle begin :)

  10. Angel says:

    You may want to preface this article by saying, “Four must have upgrades for your AR, if it’s a toy or safe queen”. Work guns used by those who depend on these will disagree to parts of your article. Adjustable gas blocks will definitely make your rifle more temperamental. A bad quality to have on a work gun. Yes, you mention that and that’s where you loose many people. You can run an AR and set it down on the front site and nothing will happen. Now if you throw it down that’s different. I’ve been through many many training classes where we shoot tons of rounds at a time and I have never had not seen an issue. As far as free float hand guards, yes they have a purpose but to get one because they share pretty and/or everyone has one, well when the crap hits the fan and you need to use your gun for something other than shooting on an indoor range at paper targets, guess what, I’ll take your rifle from you and part that pretty but unpractical weapon. Here’s a suggestion, but a base rifle and spent some money on a training class to know how to use the thing so you don’t get yourself or your family hurt or killed! Just my two cents

  11. JW says:

    ARES ARMOR MKII Effin-A Compensator 5.56 It works (it will actually push the muzzle down) Its fun to play around with, top quality. IMHO

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