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If you own an AR-15 rifle, you’ve probably thought about accessorizing it. After all, the AR-15 platform’s modularity and the market for parts two of the primary reasons for its popularity among civilian shooters. But, what are the best and worst attachment ideas?
Importance of Accessories
Accessories and other attachments can improve your rifle’s handling characteristics, allowing you to hold, carry, and shoot it more efficiently. Alternatively, they can enhance your shooting experience in other ways by, for example, helping you see or identify your target. The number of AR-15 attachment ideas is extensive.
Types of Accessories
When you’re searching for the right accessories for your rifle, it’s crucial to determine what you need to enhance. This depends, directly, on the purpose you intend for your rifle to serve.
In a rifle, muzzle devices fall into roughly five categories:
1. Flash hider/flash suppressors
The standard muzzle device for an AR-15 carbine or rifle is a three-prong or birdcage flash hider. Flash hiders dissipate the muzzle flash, protecting your vision in the dark and minimizing your visibility. In short barrels, flash hiders are necessary for taming the fireball of burning propellant gases leaving the barrel.
2. Muzzle brakes
Not strictly necessary for .223-caliber/5.56mm AR-15-pattern rifles, muzzle brakes can nonetheless be useful for weapons chambered in heavy-recoiling calibers, such as .458 SOCOM and .50 Beowulf. On Commando-length carbines and pistol builds, muzzle brakes can help decrease the kick, especially when firing .300 Blackout and 6.8mm SPC rounds.
Compensators are related to muzzle brakes insofar as they are designed to reduce the effects caused by recoil. In a muzzle brake, the priority is mitigating the rearward recoil impulse. Recoil compensators can have a recoil-reducing impact too. But the comp keeps the muzzle down by redirecting the gases upward. Rather than saving your shoulder, the focus of the recoil compensator is to help you keep your sights on target during sustained rapid fire. If you’re a competition shooter, compensators allow you to put more rounds on target in less time.
4. Sound suppressors
Sound suppressors, also called silencers, can save your hearing by reducing the report at the muzzle. These devices capture hot, high-velocity gases, slowing and cooling them in the process.
However, while sound suppressors can increase the safety of shooting, they’re also regulated under the National Firearms Act. That means that they are more expensive and challenging to acquire than the other accessories on the list. If you need an accessory for your short-barreled rifle or AR-15 pistol, a suppressor is both more practical and won’t add as much to the overall length.
5. Blow-forward devices
One way to render the concussive blast less offensive to both you and bystanders is to use a blow-forward device when using short-barreled rifles. This muzzle device directs the muzzle blast forward.
The AR-15 rifle is widely regarded as an ergonomic firearm. But there are many ways to improve its handling characteristics. This can consist of the following attachments:
1. Pistol grips
The standard A2 pistol grip, with its center stud, is not uncomfortable for many shooters; however, it doesn’t fill the hand as well as some newer designs. You can find rubberized grips with finger grooves, palm swells, palm shelves, and compartments for storing spare parts, batteries, and additional cartridges.
A vertical or horizontal foregrip increases your gripping surface and provides a more rigid and stable firing hold. By applying rearward pressure, you can use the foregrip to help keep the weapon securely braced against your shoulder, reducing the rifle’s movement during recoil.
3. Butt stocks
There are multiple butt stock options to choose from on an AR-15 rifle. The standard 6-position collapsible stock serves as a solid base. However, a more specialized stock can provide a compartment for spare parts or ammunition, an adjustable-height cheek piece, side folding ability to further reduce overall length, and more.
4. Magazine couplers
Rather than taping two magazines together, the way soldiers did during the Vietnam War; you can buy a purpose-built product. A magazine coupler is a type of clamp that holds two magazines together for rapid reloads. As you press the magazine catch, you’ll pull both magazines down as a unit, move it a few millimeters to one side, and then insert the fully loaded magazine into the well.
Lights and Lasers
If you own or intend to keep a rifle or shotgun for home defense, the inclusion of a flashlight is one of the best AR-15 attachment ideas. When maneuvering with a rifle, holding a flashlight in your non-shooting hand is possible, but not ideal. A weapon light, attached to the handguard, with a button you can push with your non-dominant thumb or a tape switch, offers one of the most versatile options.
A light offers you the ability to illuminate your target and environment, increasing your ability to see under low-light conditions and in the dark. If you have to investigate noises or suspicious activity at night, few tools provide more functionality than a light.
Standard front post and rear aperture iron sights are simple, reliable, and functional. However, reflector, holographic, and telescopic sights offer several advantages.
Red-dot sights allow you to acquire a sight picture more rapidly, provide a brightly lit dot that you can see regardless of ambient lighting conditions, and often require less training to use effectively.
Telescopic sights allow you to magnify the target image, increasing precision and target identification. Depending on the type of reticle, the rifle scope may also include a bullet drop compensator grid. The disadvantage of the rifle scope, depending on the magnification, is that it limits your situational awareness compared with non-magnified optics.
A good sling can allow you to stabilize the rifle for supported shooting in several positions.
Consisting of two metal legs that fold downward, the bipod provides a stable platform for shooting. A high-quality bipod will also have extendable feet to accommodate different terrain. Whether you need a bipod will depend on the type of shooting you intend to do and the environment.
Among the worst attachment ideas are muzzle devices with accessory rails. There is no good reason to attach a flashlight, laser aiming module, or other accessories directly to a device that exhausts high-pressure, high-temperature expanding gases.
Another example is an accessory that allows you to attach a firearm to your rifle. This adds unnecessary weight to your rifle without much benefit — you’re better off keeping your handgun on your belt.
The worst attachments add weight, bulk, or inhibit the handling characteristics or convenience of the rifle without improving its performance in any way. Only those attachments that enhance the weapon’s functionality are worth buying.
Eliminate what is unnecessary, especially when building a survival, defensive, or hunting weapon. You’ll make the most of the limited space and weight at your disposal.
Not every attachment idea is equally valuable to you or your gun. Find the attachments you need, and don’t waste your money on fads or equipment you have no use for.