One of the most appealing aspects of the AR-15 is that it’s incredibly modular and upgradeable.
But, you have to be careful with AR-15 upgrades. Otherwise, you’ll go broke. There’s just so many options.
How do you prioritize?
That’s what we’re here to help you with.
First, a spoiler: if you only have the cash for one upgrade on your rifle, get sights. Many new AR-15 models come without sights. Or they’re fitted with subpar sights.
The A.R.M.S., Inc. AR-15 Polymer Sight Set is an excellent set of sights that offers backup sight operation, but retains almost all of the function of classic A2 sights.
If you’ve already got sights, keep reading. We’ve got a whole lineup of the best AR-15 upgrades for you to check out.
Top AR 15 Upgrades on the Market Today
The Best AR 15 Upgrades: Getting the Rifle You Truly Want
We’ll start with the AR-15 sights we mentioned earlier. Then, we’ll proceed in order of priority. The upgrades we consider to be most essential are up first. The most optional upgrades are near the bottom.
Time to prioritize and execute.
1. A.R.M.S., Inc. AR-15 Polymer Sight Set - Overall Best AR-15 Upgrade
The A.R.M.S., Inc. AR-15 Polymer Sight Set is up first because you can’t use your rifle without sights. So, if you don’t have sights, or your sights suck, get these sights.
These sights make excellent all-purpose sights because they fold down to get out of the way, if you decide you’d like to mount an optic. But, they have most of the functionality of standard A2 sights.
There’s a true windage adjustment knob. And, even though there’s no elevation adjustment, there’s a notch on top of the rear aperture that you can use for longer range shots. Yes, it’s an overhold. But, it’s an educated overhold.
Then, these sights are just 0.6 inches tall when folded down, which makes them short enough for just about any optic. In terms of size and operation, these sights give you the best features of backup sights and much of the performance of full A2 sights.
These sights are polymer. However, they’re reinforced with metal at the critical points.
So, they’re more durable than most completely polymer sights. But, lighter than a full metal sight.
Some may prefer complete metal sights. And, these sights are a tad pricey. But, they’re more affordable than many other options, and perform just as well.
2. Bravo Company AR-15 Mod-3 Gunfighter Grip - AR-15 Upgrade Grip
Next on your AR-15 shopping list should definitely be a grip. The standard A2 grip has a very steep grip angle that’s not comfortable or good for proper trigger finger placement. The Bravo Company AR-15 Mod-3 Gunfighter Grip solves the issues of older designs.
This grip has a reduced grip angle that puts your wrist in a more natural angle and places your trigger finger more squarely on the trigger without flexing your first knuckle. So, it gives you improved control, accuracy, and shooting comfort.
The grip texture is perfect for getting a good grip in all conditions, even when your hands are oily and sweaty.
There’s also a water resistant compartment in the bottom of the grip that’s good for storing batteries or field tools. That way you’ll always have what you need.
Lastly, there’s also an insert that fills the gap between your grip and trigger guard. This is a small detail.
But, it can help prevent blisters on your middle finger, which is always good.
There’s not a lot to complain about on this grip. But, it is fairly straight. And there are no finger grooves. If you prefer a larger palm swell or finger grooves, this may not be your favorite grip.
3. ALG Defense AR-15 Enhanced Military-Style Trigger - AR-15 Upgrade Trigger
Price plays a role in our analysis here. The ALG Defense AR-15 Enhanced Military Style Trigger is a good mix of price and performance. Yes, there are lighter and smoother triggers out there. But, the price point is higher.
However, this is a mil-spec trigger design. So, it retains all the reliability of a stock AR-15 trigger.
But, the internals have been polished and nickel-boron coated. The movement of the trigger is much smoother, without the grit of most stock mil-spec triggers. And, the break is much more crisp than a base model trigger. So, you get a lot more precision for a really reasonable price.
The pull weight is a bit lower than most military triggers. It’s set at about 6 pounds. This is heavy enough that you won’t have any safety issues in fast-paced tactical shooting. But, it’s light enough that you can use this trigger for a fair amount of precision shooting.
It’s not a super high-end precision trigger. But, this trigger will do everything you need for a fraction of the cost of many other triggers. And, it’s a legitimate upgrade over a base mil-spec trigger.
4. Bravo Company M-LOK BCMGunfighter KAG Angled Grip - AR-15 Upgrade Foregrip
A foregrip shows up this far down on our priority list because they’re handy, but almost totally optional. You can shoot very well using a bare handguard, using a good thumb forward or thumb over grip.
But, a foregrip is handy. And, the Bravo Company M-LOK BCMGunfighter KAG Angled Grip is one of the best all-purpose foregrips on the market. It’s incredibly versatile and helps you maximize your control.
There are a few things that make this an excellent upgrade. First, it’s very compact. It’s much shorter than most vertical grips. So, it gives you an excellent support hand grip, without adding much bulk to your rifle.
Second, it works very well with a variety of support-hand grips. Both thumb over and thumb forward grips work very well with this foregrip. But, you could conceivably even use a more vertical hand placement.
You get more control over your rifle, regardless of your shooting style.
However, it’s not a great barrier stop. It works. But, the shape makes it a bit awkward. And, if you’re really dedicated to a vertical hand placement, this isn’t the grip for you.
But, the vast majority of shooters will find this grip to be very comfortable. And, it will help you get better precision in almost every shooting context.
5. VG6 Precision AR-15 Gamma 556 Muzzle Brake - AR-15 Upgrade Muzzle Device
Once you’ve got the ergonomics of your rifle worked out, it’s time to work on the organic shootability. The VG6 Precision AR-15 Gamma 556 Muzzle Brake makes your rifle more comfortable to shoot, and helps you shoot faster and more accurately.
First, this muzzle brake offers some of the best recoil reduction on the market. It’s not the best. But, it performs better than many competing muzzle brakes. And, it gives you much less gas blowback than some of the other options. It gives you better control, without blasting you in the face.
Additionally, it has vertically oriented gas ports. These gas ports help keep your muzzle level during rapid fire. So, you can maintain a better sight picture and make faster follow-up shots.
But, there are no gas ports on the bottom. This reduces your dust signature when shooting from the prone position.
That way you don’t give away your position or cloud your field of view every time you fire outdoors.
However, it’s not a flash hider. As is the case with most muzzle brakes, it produces a pretty strong muzzle flash. But, it’s not so bad that you couldn’t use this muzzle brake for low light shooting.
Even so, this muzzle brake is surprisingly affordable considering the quality and performance that it delivers.
6. Aero Precision AR-15 Atlas R-One Handguard M-LOK - AR-15 Upgrade Handguard
The handguard comes last because it’s the most optional upgrade, these days. Most modern AR-15 rifles have decent handguards, with rail sections. So, you can get away without upgrading your handguard for quite a while.
But, when it’s time to upgrade your handguard, get the Aero Precision AR-15 Atlas R-One Handguard M-LOK. It’s affordable and offers excellent performance.
It’s machined from 6061-T6 aluminum, which makes it exceptionally rigid. This handguard will keep any lights, lasers, or sights you mount on it zeroed, without warping when you pull on it with your hand or sling.
The outside diameter is just 1.5 inches, which makes it easy to grip with either a thumb over or thumb forward grip. Even though it’s slim, it’s still compatible with standard mil-spec upper receivers and barrels, as well as low-profile gas blocks. Overall, it’s very comfortable and fits on almost any rifle.
And, there’s a full-length picatinny rail, so you can mount any sights or optics you need on top. If you need more attachments, there are M-LOK attachment slots and QD sling sockets at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. This gives you plenty of space and options for customizing your forend setup.
Lastly, this handguard is nice and light. The 15 inch model weighs just 9.07 ounces. It’s great for keeping the front end of your rifle light, to help mitigate fatigue.
The only thing to think about with this handguard is that the indexing tabs don’t line up with all upper receivers. Most upper receiver fit just fine. But, you may want to have a look before you buy, or just use an Aero Precision upper receiver.
Even so, the price, performance, and weight of this handguard make it an amazing value, and an excellent finishing your touch on your rifle.
Completing Your Build
If you’ve got a base model AR-15, or you’ve got a collection of parts that you want to put together, start with your sights. Get the A.R.M.S., Inc. AR-15 Polymer Sight Set. They’re compact and capable sights that won’t cost you too much.
Once you’re all sighted in, move on to the other things on our list.
If you’ve already got a few things dialed in, just look at what we’ve got that you don’t, and fill in the gaps. Easy peasy.