The AR 15s have remained a popular choice among enthusiasts since it was made available to the general public in 1989. One of the prominent reasons for its popularity is the extent of customization possible in it. If you’ve been around AR 15s for some time, you’d have noticed that you don’t get to see a stock AR much.
When it comes to upgrading a AR 15, there are a hundred different things you can do ranging from changing the trigger assembly, changing the barrel, to mounting a scope, and more. While all of these upgrades will for sure improve the performance of your AR, we’ll focus on some of the best upgrade options that you’ve.
The 3 Must-Do Upgrades On a AR 15
1. Upper Receiver
The upper receiver is a crucial part of your AR that holds the bolt carrier group and charging handle. It is to the upper receiver, the barrel and the forend of the rifle are attached. Ideally, changing the upper receiver should be the first performance upgrade you should do in an AR.
Upper receivers are generally made out of Aluminium but they are classified into two based on their method of manufacturing.
- Forged upper receivers
As the name suggests, forged upper receivers are made from hammering raw Aluminium into the shape of an upper receiver. Because the aluminum is heated in a forge and beaten into shape with a hammer, it affects its composition adding to its strength.
- Billet Upper Receiver
Unlike its counterpart, Billet upper receivers are made by milling a solid metal piece using a CNC. While they have similar mechanical properties as forged ones, they aren’t as dense as the latter.
While choosing between a forged & billet upper receiver is entirely a personal choice, veteran gunsmiths recommend you buy a forged upper receiver if you want compatibility, long-term strength, and reliability. Whereas, if custom building options and aesthetic qualities are your priorities, invest in a billet upper receiver.
Irrespective of the one you choose, ensure that you buy an upper receiver for your AR 15 from a trusted outlet.
Upgrading the optics on the AR 15 is another popular choice among enthusiasts. To give you a better idea of upgrading the sights in your AR, let’s look at the different optics that are available in the market.
AR optics are divided into 5
- Class I: Red dot
- Class II: Low power fixed magnification
- Class III: Low power variable magnification
- Class IV: Mid to high magnification
- Class V: Digital Hybrid
Depending on the class of optics you choose, it can cost you anywhere up to a thousand dollars for a class V optic. If you are a beginner, we recommend that you buy a red dot to replace the iron sight of your AR. While red dots don’t offer magnification, they can give you a dot on the visual plane and let you better view pictures of the target. If you can push your budget, we’d recommend you invest in a class II optic.
3. Lower receiver
The lower receiver is that part of an AR that receives a round from the magazine before it is chambered. It is what holds the trigger, hammer, firing pin, selector switch, magazine release switch, magazine catch, and Bolt Catch Spring in an AR. While the stock lower receiver in a AR 15 does perform well, they do have their limitations.
Upgrading the lower receiver can significantly increase your firing speed, the accuracy of your shots, reduce the chances of jamming, giving you an upper hand in ranges. You can choose to invest in individual upgrades for the different components of the lower receiver or choose to buy a complete lower assembly part kit. We’d recommend you go ahead with the latter as it can save you time & money.
Note that the upgrades that you can do on your AR 15 are not restricted to the ones we discussed now. It’s just that the extent of customization possible in an AR is beyond the scope of this article.
Now that we’ve discussed the popular upgrade options, let’s have a look at the ways to properly maintain your AR-15.
How to Properly Maintain an AR-15?
Irrespective of the upgrades you’ve done on an AR or its age, it needs regular maintenance to function the way it was intended to be.
Here are four tips to properly maintain an AR-15:
1. Check the owner’s manual of your AR-15
Though this might sound silly, it is not. The owner’s manual of any rifle will for sure have more information than how to arm and disarm the gun properly. Go through the owner’s manual to understand the best practices and recommended guide on maintaining the AR. This will especially come in handy while you disassemble your AR for cleaning.
2. Clean your rifle regularly
Regular cleaning is essential to prolong the life of a AR 15 and to maintain its functional efficiency. Irrespective of whether you fire the AR regularly or not, it still needs to be cleaned during regular intervals. If you were to ask veteran gunsmiths, they’ll tell you how much rust and leftover gun powder can damage an AR.
Here is a sneak peek into cleaning an AR
- Dismantle the AR by following the guidelines in the owner’s manual. Ensure that you double-check that the chamber is empty before you start cleaning the AR.
- Inspect the barrel for signs of corrosion. If you were to find any, clean the barrel with anti-rust solvents such as WD-40.
- Use a dry patch to remove any loose grit or dust from the barrel.
- Once the dirt is removed lubricate the barrel using the lube recommended in the owner’s manual.
Ensure that you use the right tools to clean your rifle. Don’t try using any makeshift tools to clean your AR.
3. Store your AR properly
Having the right storage for your AR is a crucial part of maintaining it. Ideally, you should be investing in storage, setting up a safe and reliable rifle storage area right after you purchase an AR. Here are some tips for properly storing your rifle.
- Clean your rifle inside out before storing and ensure that you let the gun dry to avoid any chance of rusting.
- Keep your AR dismantled while storing them to avoid tensions at joints. It would be best if you also de-cock the firearm while in storage to relieve stress in the springs and other parts of the gun.
To Sum Up
As discussed, investing heavily in upgrading your AR 15 doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t maintain it properly. If you were to ask us, we’d recommend you to equally split your budget on upgrades & in the right tools, accessories, and storage for your AR.