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The AR-15 platform is known for its ergonomics. The grip, stock, and forend are all commonly called “furniture.” Your AR-15’s furniture plays a role in how easily you can hold and fire your rifle, what you can attach to it, and how durable it is.
Why Furniture is Important
The furniture of a rifle allows you to hold the weapon, brace it firmly against your firing shoulder, protects your hands from the hot barrel and reciprocating action parts, and protects some parts from being damaged.
In traditional bolt-action and lever-action rifles, the furniture typically consists of a one- or two-piece wooden stock. In the AR-15 rifle, the furniture consists of multiple separate parts.
Rifles, as shoulder weapons, provide three or four points of contact, which enables increased stability and accuracy in comparison to handguns. The more points of contact that exist between you and the weapon, the more control you’re able to exert over it.
The furniture of an AR-15 rifle consists of the following parts:
1. Pistol grip
The pistol grip in an AR-15 rifle—outside of California—is a perpendicular part that attaches to the lower receiver. Many examples are checkered or otherwise textured to increase traction with your firing hand. When you place your firing hand on the pistol grip, you should apply a slight rearward pressure.
Modern accessories manufacturers produce various pistol-grip designs, featuring palm swells, palm shelves, finger grooves, and more. The hollow in the pistol grip is accompanied, in some models, by a plug, allowing you to securely carry spare ammunition, batteries, or a bottle of lubricating oil.
In the AR-15 rifle, modular handguards take the place of a fore-end or fore-stock, serving the same purpose. The handguards provide a point of contact for your non-dominant hand to support the rifle under the barrel and forward of the pistol grip.
As part of their role as the fore-stock, the handguards protect your hand from the heat generated by the barrel during firing. In older designs, the triangular and circular ribbed handguards contained reflective aluminum heat shields. These handguards often also have holes or slots to promote the circulation of air to cool the barrel and gas system.
In the AR-15, the handguards also protect the gas tube or piston assembly from impact. This is critical to reliable function, especially under harsh conditions. A bent gas tube will turn your semi-automatic defensive rifle into a single-shot sporter.
In modern designs, the handguards also enable you to attach accessories, such as weapon lights, vertical foregrips, and bipods. Depending on your preference, you can buy handguards that provide M-LOK, KeyMod, or Picatinny rails.
As handguards that contact the barrel can interfere with the harmonics and barrel whip, affecting inherent accuracy, several companies offer free-floating handguards.
3. Butt stock
The butt stock, also known as the shoulder stock, is part of the stock or furniture you brace against your shoulder to stabilize the rifle and resist rearward recoil. The top of the butt stock is called the comb — this is where you place your cheek to achieve a stock weld. If you want to increase the height of the comb, you can find butt stocks that include adjustable cheek pieces.
There are several butt stock options available, which include fixed and collapsible. The fixed variant, popular on older rifles, is the more rigid of the two and allows you to more reliably use the butt of the rifle as a blunt weapon.
In more modern variants, the butt stock is collapsible. Collapsible butt stocks increase the versatility of the rifle by allowing you to adjust the length of the pull by lengthening or shortening the rifle to suit your specific anatomy. You adjust this by using a locking lever located on the underside. In some designs, this lever is protected against accidental activation by a strut.
In the AR-15 design, the butt stock houses the receiver extension, which contains the buffer and recoil spring assembly. This design limits the ability of a folding stock to reduce the overall length for storage or transport, necessitating the use of an adapter.
If you're looking for a good options for AR-15 Stocks, check this comprehensive buying guide.
While this can be considered part of the butt stock, the recoil pad is essential as a standalone feature for some weapons. The original AR-15 cartridge, the .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO, doesn’t recoil enough to warrant a dedicated recoil pad.
However, thanks to the platform’s modularity, several companies offer AR-15-pattern rifles and upper receiver assemblies chambered in more powerful cartridges, such as .50 Beowulf and .458 SOCOM. These rounds, which deliver smashing power, recoil more harshly against your shoulder.
Sling Swivels & End Plates
A rifle should have, at a minimum, a set of sling swivels, allowing you to attach a two-point sling for carrying or stabilization. A quick-detach end plate enables you to attach and detach a sling easily.
You have a nearly endless supply of furniture options at your disposal, including custom AR-15 furniture kits, allowing you to increase the versatility and adjustability of your rifle for any scenario.
For a more classic appearance, you can also choose wooden furniture for your AR-15 rifle. However, wood does have certain disadvantages when compared with modern plastics, such as increased susceptibility to moisture absorption.
The AR-15 rifle platform is popular among hunters and outdoorsmen for its ergonomics, modularity, and reliability — the same reasons that shooters, in general, choose it.
This is reflected in some of the dedicated custom AR-15 furniture kits available. If you want your rifle to be less conspicuous when hunting or trekking, you can choose camouflage options designed for outdoor use, including variations of the classic woodland. Alternatively, you can apply a non-adhesive camouflage tape that serves the same purpose without permanently altering the furniture.
Explore What the Market Has to Offer
Whether you’re building an AR-15 rifle from the ground up or modifying an existing weapon, you should explore what the market has to offer. There are pistol grips, handguards, and stocks designed for every application.