The Best AR 15 Buffer for Recoil Management and Blowback Reduction

There are generally two types of AR-15 owners out there: those who carefully choose their AR-15 buffer and those who just get one that works.

In reality, both types of AR-15 owners are cool. There’s nothing wrong with an AR-15 that works just fine, even if the buffer isn’t carefully selected to deliver the softest recoil impulse and minimize gas blowback.

But, a little digging can turn up a buffer that does just that: softens the recoil impulse and helps keep gas out of your face. We did that digging for you.

  • Fits any carbine buffer tube.
  • Standard buffer weight works with most gas systems.
  • Industry standard end cap and aluminum body.

SPOILER—if you’re the type who wants a buffer that just works, get the Rock River Arms AR-15 Carbine Buffer. It’s nothing special. But, it’s affordable and delivers the reliability you expect from a modern AR-15.

If you’re looking for a buffer that’s going to squeeze every bit of performance out of your rifle, keep reading. We’ve dug up all the best AR-15 buffers and checked them out, so you can find the one that does what you need.

Top AR-15 Buffers on the Market [2020]

The Best AR 15 Buffer Reviews: Absorbing Recoil

The best AR-15 buffer is up for review first. All the rest will be addressed in order of price, from most likely to fit into your budget to most likely to cause a budget blowout.

Time to buff things out.

1. Rock River Arms AR-15 Carbine Buffer - Overall Best AR-15 Buffer

The Rock River Arms AR-15 Carbine Buffer is your standard AR-15 buffer. No frills. Just a good piece of equipment that you won’t have to think about once it’s in your rifle.

This is a standard carbine buffer in terms of weight and size. It fits any carbine buffer tube designed for a collapsible buttstock. And, the weight is ideal for any rifle with a carbine length or mid-length gas system.

This isn’t a heavy buffer. So, it should work with a pistol-length gas system. However, check your manufacturer specs to make sure you don’t need something other than a standard weight buffer. Some rifles require a heavier buffer for shorter length gas systems.

As you’d expect, this model also has the standard polyurethane cap to soften the blow when the buffer bottoms out in the buffer tube. And, it’s constructed from coated aluminum with steel weights to ensure that it’s the standard H1 buffer weight

So, you won’t get hiccups from corrosion or incorrect buffer weights.

That’s it. No frills. Just function. This is an affordable buffer that delivers set-it-and-forget it operation.

Pros

  • Fits any carbine buffer tube.
  • Standard buffer weight works with most gas systems.
  • Industry standard end cap and aluminum body.

Cons

  • May not function reliably with pistol-length gas systems.

The D.S. Arms AR-15 Standard Weight Carbine Recoil Buffer delivers reliable function for the lowest price.

This buffer meets all the minimum requirements for an AR-15 buffer. The body is aluminum, packed with steel to meet the proper operating weight (3 ounces). And, there’s a plastic end cap to keep the buffer from knocking hard against the back of the buffer tube. So, you get a nice, standard recoil impulse.

But, this is definitely the minimum viable buffer. The aluminum body isn’t brushed to any sort of finish. And, the plastic end cap is slightly harder than some of the more rubbery compounds that come with more expensive buffers.

However, this buffer offers reliable operation for rifles with carbine-length and mid-length gas systems for the absolute lowest price.

There are fancier buffers out there. But, if you’re looking to get your rifle running on a slim budget, this buffer will do the trick.

Pros

  • Affordable.
  • Meets industry standards with aluminum construction, steel weights, and polyurethane end cap.
  • Works with carbine-length and mid-length gas systems.

Cons

  • Aluminum body has no brushed or smooth finish.
  • Dense end cap is a bit harder than that of some more expensive buffers.

9mm pistol caliber carbines have different bolt weights and recoil forces than a standard .223/5.56mm rifle. The Foxtrot Mike Products AR-15 FM-9 Heavy Buffer ensures that your 9mm AR-15 operates reliably.

As the name suggests, this buffer is heavier than a standard buffer. It’s 6.4 ounces. This ensures reliable function with blowback operated pistol caliber carbines. And, it slows the bolt down enough to prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your upper receiver.

Additionally, this buffer is slightly longer than a standard AR-15 buffer. That way you don’t need to use a spacer in a standard carbine length buffer tube. This also helps prevent bolt catch breakage.

Also, this buffer is finished with a salt bath nitride melonite/QPQ coating. This coating reduces friction, and improves corrosion and wear resistance. So, you get a smoother action and a longer lasting buffer.

All in all, this buffer improves the reliability, operational comfort, and lifespan of your 9mm AR-15. On top of all that, it’s priced about the same as a quality, standard weight AR-15 buffer.

If you need a buffer for a 9mm carbine or 9mm conversion kit, this is the one to get.

Pros

  • Increased weight for reliable cycling and reduced felt recoil in 9mm AR-15 carbines.
  • Removes the need for a spacer in standard length carbine length buffer tubes.
  • Prevents bolt catch breakage.
  • Nitride melonite/QPQ finish reduces friction and increases component lifespan.

Cons

  • May not work with direct impingement 9mm AR-15 systems.

4. Brownells AR-15 Heavy Carbine Buffer - Heavy AR-15 Buffer

If you need a heavy buffer for your AR-15 configuration, the Brownells AR-15 Heavy Carbine Buffer will meet your needs for a minimal price.

First, this buffer comes in three weights:

  • H1: 3.8 ounces.

  • H2: 4.8 ounces.
  • H3: 5.4 ounces.

Even the H1 buffer is slightly heavier than the absolute lightest AR-15 buffers. The added weight can smooth out the action and deliver slightly less felt recoil on just about any rifle. And, certain short-barreled configurations require a heavier buffer for reliable operation (the H2 buffer is the standard weight for U.S. military M4 carbines).

These buffers offer the standard aluminum construction, with a brushed finish, and a plastic end cap to protect your buffer tube if the buffer bottoms out.

And, these buffers are packed with steel and tungsten weights to ensure that the overall weight is precise. But, all those additional weights do drive the price up a bit. If you want a heavier buffer, you’ll need to pay a slightly heavier price.

But, in terms of quality and cost, these are easily the best value for the money when it comes to heavy AR-15 buffers.

Pros

  • Provides smoother operation and less felt recoil.
  • Offers reliable operation for certain short-barreled configurations.
  • Standard brushed aluminum construction with a plastic end cap.

Cons

  • May not operate reliably in all rifles, particularly rifles that need a low-weight buffer.

5. DPMS Buffer Body Assembly - Rifle-Length AR-15 Buffer

If you have an AR-15 with a rifle-length buffer tube, you’ll need a rifle-length buffer. The DPMS Buffer Body Assembly meets this need for almost the same price as a carbine buffer.

The big deal about this buffer is that it’s longer than a carbine length buffer, to fill out the rifle-length buffer tube. As such, it’s slightly heavier than a carbine buffer. So, this buffer inherently smooths out the operation and reduces your rifle’s felt recoil.

In all other aspects, this is the same as a standard carbine buffer.

The body is made of brushed aluminum. The end cap is a softer, rubbery plastic to ease the impact if your buffer happens to bash the back of your buffer tube. And, the internal weights are steel, and precisely weighed to ensure reliable operation.

It’s nothing flashy. But, this buffer will deliver smooth and reliable operation for any rifle with a rifle-length buffer tube. Just make sure that you don’t try to jam it into a carbine-length buffer tube.

Pros

  • Provides a smoother action with less felt recoil.
  • Industry standard brushed aluminum construction, with rubberized plastic end cap.
  • Precisely weighted for operation in rifle-length buffer tubes.

Cons

  • Slightly more expensive than a carbine buffer, as expected for a larger buffer.

The Primary Weapons AR-15 Enhanced Carbine Buffer is designed for any rifle that needs a heavier buffer—especially suppressed rifles.

First, this buffer is heavier than a standard buffer at every level:

  • H2: 4.4 ounces.

  • H3: 5.1 ounces.
  • H4: 6.8 ounces.

If you’re running a short gas system, an SBR, or a suppressed rifle, this buffer will help ensure reliable operation, reduce the felt recoil, and minimize gas blowback. It makes your rifle more dependable and comfortable, all around.

This buffer has a fluted body. So gases flow around the buffer more freely. This results in less gas being exhausted out the back of the upper receiver, into your face. 

The fluting also offers more room for debris to clear, rather than causing a malfunction.

Then, this buffer is finished with an FNC LIFE HD treatment that reduces friction and reduces wearThis means a smoother action and longer lifespan for your rifle.

This buffer is a bit pricey, especially in the heaviest weights.

But, it offers excellent reliability and shooting comfort for rifles that need a heavier buffer because of their gas system or for suppressed operation.

Pros

  • Slightly heavier for reliable operation with short gas systems, SBRs, and suppressed rifles.
  • Reduces felt recoil and gas blowback.
  • Fluted body makes your rifle more resilient against malfunctions caused by debris in the buffer tube.
  • FNC LIFE HD treatment gives you a smoother recoil impulse and improved component lifespan.

Cons

  • Expensive.
  • May be too heavy for rifles that require a standard weight buffer.

7. Liberty Suppressors AR-15 Buffer 4oz Stainless Steel - AR-15 Buffer for Suppressed Rifles

The Liberty Suppressors AR-15 Buffer is designed specifically for enhanced function in suppressed rifles. However, it can also improve the operation of any rifle with a carbine-length gas system.

First, the normal stuff: this buffer is made of stainless steel rather than aluminum. So, it’s more durable and corrosion resistant than a standard buffer, right out of the gate. Additionally, the plastic end cap resists pitting and corrosion from operating gases. So, this buffer will last just as long as the rest of your rifle, if not longer.

Next, this buffer weighs 4 ounces. It’s heavier than a standard H1 buffer, but not quite as heavy as an H2 buffer. This smooths out the recoil from carbine length gas systems. And, the added mass enhances reliability because your bolt won’t slow down as much when it strips the next round off the magazine. So, there’s less chance that your rifle will fail to feed or go completely into battery.

This hybrid weight is also ideal for rifles with quick-detach suppressors, because it offers reliable operation for both suppressed and unsuppressed fire.

Additionally, the head of this buffer has five faceted cuts to improve gas flow around the buffer, reduce gas blowback, and reduce the chances that your retaining pin will shear off.

Yes, this is a somewhat expensive buffer. But, it offers flexible reliability for carbine-length gas systems in both suppressed and unsuppressed operation.

Pros

  • Stainless steel construction offers exceptional lifespan.
  • 4 ounces hybrid weight for all-purpose reliability with carbine-length gas systems and suppressed rifles.
  • Reduces felt recoil and improves reliability.
  • Five faceted cuts improve air flow and reduce wear and tear on the retaining pin.

Cons

  • May not operate reliably with gas systems that function best with a light buffer.
  • Expensive.

The Spikes Tactical AR-15/M16 Carbine Recoil Buffer is quite simply a really high quality AR-15 buffer that’s offered in a few different weights that meet the needs of almost any rifle.

This buffer comes in the three standard weights:

  • H1: 3 ounces.

  • H2: 4.1 ounces.
  • H3: 5.4 ounces.

There’s nothing special about these weights. Any one of them will most likely work in any rifle. However, those with mid-length gas systems may want to stick with the H1 buffer. While those with carbine length gas systems or suppressed rifles will most likely find that the H2 or H3 buffer works best.

This buffer is built with brushed aluminum, as usual. However, this buffer is hard coat anodized to improve corrosion resistance and lifespan.

Where this buffer shines is in the weights. These buffers use low-density tungsten powder or tungsten bar stock, rather than the standard reciprocating weights. This makes your rifle’s action quieter.

And, the solid weights eliminate the hard shock from the reciprocating weights slamming inside the buffer. So, this buffer creates a smoother recoil impulse and reduces felt recoil.

Lastly, the bumper cap is polyurethane, which nicely absorbs the impact, should your buffer strike the back of your buffer tube.

This buffer is a bit pricey. But, the design offers some practical performance improvements. And, you can use this buffer in almost any rifle.

Pros

  • Standard weight options for compatibility with the broadest range of rifles.
  • Brushed aluminum construction with hard coat anodized finish for excellent corrosion resistance and service life.
  • Eliminates recoil noise and impact from traditional reciprocating weights.

Cons

  • Expensive.

The Kynetic Corporation AR-15/M16/308 AR Recoil Buffer offers the best recoil reduction on the market.

This buffer has a hydraulic piston to absorb some of the recoil force as the bolt pushes the buffer back. You get less felt recoil with this buffer. And, not just a little bit. The difference is noticeable.

But, the hydraulic piston also makes the recoil action less violent. So, there’s less wear and tear on your bolt, spring, and other parts.

The buffer itself is made of stainless steel. The body is more durable and corrosion resistant than an aluminum buffer. And, the hydraulic piston rod is nickel-plated to ensure that the piston never seizes up.

Lastly, the bumper cap is soft polyurethane to ensure that the impact is soft, if your buffer bottoms out in your buffer tube.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to make a hydraulic buffer inexpensive. This buffer costs a lot. And, it’s not universally compatible. It’s compatible with most rifles. But, check the compatibility list before you buy.

But, if it will fit your rifle, there’s no buffer that offers better recoil reduction than this one.

Pros

  • Hydraulic piston offers the best recoil reduction on the market.
  • Reduces wear and tear on all parts.
  • Stainless steel and nickel plated construction ensure that this buffer holds up, despite complex operation.
  • Soft polyurethane bumper cap resists pitting and absorbs impact nicely.

Cons

  • Expensive.
  • Not universally compatible.

Easing The Recoil

Most people don’t put much thought into their buffer. They just get one that’s roughly the correct weight. But, with a little bit of research, you can get a buffer that will give your rifle a performance edge for a minimal price.

If you want to get a buffer that works well, offers the performance you’d expect from an AR-15, and won’t break the bank, get the Rock River Arms AR-15 Carbine Buffer. It’s a solid, no-frills buffer that will get the job done without eating your wallet.

Now that you know that there’s more in the world of AR-15 buffers than the standard H1 buffer, check them out. Then, get a buffer that will make your shooting life a bit better.

James Miller is a defensive firearms coach, certified through the ICE Training Company. He teaches Intuitive Defensive Shooting fundamentals and tactics to shooters of all skill levels. He lives, writes, and skis in Reno, Nevada.