This is a common question that I get. What add-on’s does one really need? The simple answer is “none”. A basic, stripped down AR is perfectly serviceable. So you don’t necessarily need anything else. Anything from here on that you might add, should only be based on how it’s going to help you do what you want to do with it.
It’s very easy to just bolt on any and all Tacticool gadgets. And I’ve seen AR’s with all sorts of stuff added. Some guys will pick a brand, such as Tango Down or MagPul and just go through the whole catalog. But what really do you want to accomplish with these add-ons? I can’t answer that for you.
Some guys will advocate that the weapon absolutely must have a light on it. No, that’s not true. Lights might be very helpful, but they are not a necessity. For example, a tactical light on a gun you want for just target shooting or something – you don’t need a light on it. However, if your weapon is for defensive use and not just larking around, you do need a light on the weapon.
Vertical foreward grips or the MagPul angled grips? The angled grips are popular and lots of people use them… some because they want to be cool like everyone else. Some because they are MagPul fans. Some because they think it just looks cool. Some because they actually understand what the angle is supposed to accomplish. Well, when talking with a Navy Seal on his Crusader Guardian builds, he specified a Vertical grip because it’s better for CQB work and helps with Muzzle Strikes. Those are both very good points. Not all shooting situations allow you to stretch it out like Chris Costa, and sometimes you just have to jam someone in the ribs, really hard, or use the muzzle to smash a window. Sure you can do that with an AFG, but a standard vertical unit is just better for it. Well, according to a US Navy SEAL. And those guys are not to be argued with lately. Or you don’t need a Vertical or other grip at all… just the regular old fore-stock is just fine for most shooting. So if you don’t need it, why bother with it?
That brings me to Rails. I see a ton of AR’s with rails with nothing on them. When talking to the owners, they don’t even want all the gadgets and some even go so far as to snicker at guys that have gadgets. Well then why do you have rails? “They look cool.” Oh really? Rails add weight and they are less pleasant to hold on to if you don’t have covers… and there’s something you’ll want to buy and put on at additional cost and weight… rail covers. So instead of covering the rails – why not just not have them in the first place? My M4 has quad rails from Surefire. On these rails, I have 1 vertical grip and 1 light. I need about 4 inches total of rails. What I have is about 4 feet worth of rails. I’d much rather use a fore end that doesn’t have any, but allows me to put a rail section right where I need.
Trick stocks are popular. But what do you want it to do? You pull it against your shoulder and some of them might hold some batteries. Battery storage is only important if you are rolling with something on the gun that uses batteries. If you don’t, then you don’t need that.
Grips. I really can’t stand the standard A2 Grip. My hand is too big for them. I’ll always replace that A2 with something and just about everything else is a better grip. I like the Hogue rubber grip. I like the grips from US Palm, Ergo MagPul MOE and Tango Down. But what I love, is the MagPul MIAD grip. I like it better than the cheaper MOE grip because it’s modular. One can change it up to make it fit you how you want it. My hand fits the best with the large backstrap and front strap with the finger groove. Feels awesome. Not only that, but I have better trigger control because my finger is right where it needs to be rather than wrapped around it to the second knuckle.
I’ve become a huge fan of the BattleComp muzzle brake/compensator/flash hider. The thing at the end of your barrel with the holes it it… they do something for you. And the BattleComp does it the best. I’m looking at my M4 right now, sporting a BattleComp 1.5. It had previously worn a unit from YHM. The BattleComp make it feel like I’m shooting my gun with a .22LR conversion kit. Kick, sight disruption, split times… everything is just better with the BattleComp. It’s not even quite as loud as the YHM. Here’s the coolest thing… it’s actually improved shot groups. From Clover Leaf groups to Clover Leaf Buds. If anyone tries to take my Battlecomp off my gun, I’m going to have to stab them in the ear. Any AR type gun that I buy in the future, will have to get a BattleComp.
Optics are the biggest question. The top pick is a Trijicon ACOG. Coming down from that is an AimPoint or an EoTech – both with fans of different models. Pick the one you want, flip a coin. All are great and have all been well proven. But what if you can’t afford one? The lesser cost optics have been a choice between Millet, Bushnell, or something else cheaper from China. The Bushnell Trophy T model has been popular… but for the same dollars, you have a better option. The Lucid HD7. It’s a few bucks more, but it is so much better that to settle for anything less is just stupid. Run iron sights for a while and save up a few more bucks. Sell a kidney if you have to. Honestly, I like these better than the last AimPoint I used, which cost twice as much. If I didn’t already have an EoTech on my M4, I’d have a Lucid.
The Short Dot type scopes, 1-4 and the like are becoming more popular and are becoming well proven in the crucible of competition. The only problem that I have with them, is that Variables usually only get fiddled with and usually end up just being left in the 1 power or 4 power positions. Some guys with AimPoints or EoTechs will get a flip up magnifier, but I hate those on my guns. If you are a guy that would run a Magnifier, maybe this is your option, one of these variables. The problems I have with these variables is that they are mechanically less durable than a fixed, and many that I’ve dealt with have much narrower field of views than I want in a gun for fighting. Personally, I’ll take a solid, fixed power optic.
The most important aspect of your weapon, regardless of the set up – is that it works. Machines run better, more reliably, when they are properly lubricated. I want the best Lubricant I can get in my guns. I use Slipstream. I will only use Slipstream. Better yet, my M4 has been treated with Crusader’s ST-1 treatment. Again, the best thing you can do with any AR. To help keep the carbon easy to clean, I’ll hit the ST-1 with Slipstream. There is a huge risk of opening a rift in space time, but that’s a risk I’ll have to take. The result is that my M4 hasn’t had a single Malfunction. It is the most reliable AR in the world.
So really, the most important thing for your AR is to send it to Crusader Weaponry, and have Joe put a BattleComp on it and treat it with the ST-1 process. Everything else is secondary.