Must Have Upgrades to your AR

Everyone is now getting into the AR Platform.  Either in the .308 size, which we can call the Heavy, and the AR-15’s classic .223/5.56mm size, which we will just call it an “AR”.    We’ve seen people from all walks of life coming in and buying their first AR type rifle.  They’ll come in and look at all the variety and it can be bewildering.  Really when you ask the guy at a well stocked gun counter to look at an AR, that’s like saying you want to look at a “Truck”.  It really doesn’t help the guy – or you – out at all.  Tell him what kind of an AR you want.  “Varminting”.  “Tactical”.  “Basic”.  Give the guy something to work with.   He wants to help you get what you want.  It can be frustrating and a huge waste of time if he hands you a dozen different AR’s and you say no to everything because your wasting his time letting him show you Tactical configurations when you are wanting a Varminting type rifle.  I’ve heard at another gun store the clerk getting fed up and saying “Why don’t you come back when you know what you want?”  That’s a failure from both parties if that happens.  You are the customer, you have the money, you have the control here… so try to guide that clerk and help him.  Most Gun Counters are staffed with guys that either don’t know any more than you do about guns and are just Helpful Sales Staff, or they are dedicated Gunnies that don’t have those Sales Skills.   Very few Gun Stores are staffed with Guys that know how to help a customer and know their way around Firearms.

So you get that cool AR that you want.  What do you need with it?  We can start at the front or back, where do you want to go first?  Front?  Okay…  At the Muzzle, most AR’s are coming with a standard Flash Hider.  This is a device that defuses the muzzle flash and reduces the light that is emitted when you shoot at night.  This is a good thing on a military gun.  Not all that helpful on most AR’s though.  But it looks “MilSpec”.  Many milspec looking flash hiders will help reduce muzzle climb a bit, but mostly they just make the gun louder and “Look Cool”.  There are a lot of different options out there, but I like to go with a Compensator or Muzzle Brake type device.  This is going to redirect the muzzle blast in such a way as to pull the rifle forward for the net result that you feel less recoil.  This is going help you keep your sights on target.   On a tactical gun, where you are buzzing off multiple shots, it helps you keep all those rounds in the kill zone.  On a Varminter, it lets you keep your target in your scope so you can see your hit, even at long range or if your scope is at high magnification.   Either style gun you go with, this is a good thing.

For this, I suggest a BATTLECOMP unit.  They are compact, light, simple, and is designed by a NASA Engineer.  You know those guys… they used Rocket Powered Sky Cranes to lower a Robot down to the surface of Mars.  What more pedigree do you need when it comes to expertise in Vectored Thrust?

Moving back into the action, the heart of the rifle is BCG.  The Bolt Carrier Group.  Really it isn’t so much who’s BCG you use, but how you treat it.  The very best thing you can use for your BCG, is SLIPSTREAM.  Here is a very long thread about Slipstream with lots of people’s impressions after using it.  You can order it from, and if you throw in a couple UPRISING books, then you’ll even get that Free Shipping.  There you go.  What makes Slipstream an Essential addition to the gun is that it makes that BCG so slick, that it increases reliability in all conditions.  Especially in extreme conditions such as with heat and dirt.   You can use it just like a regular oil, and use it generously.  The more you use it, eventually the less you’ll need as the nano particles will embed and become permanent.

Under the BCG is the trigger mechanism, again, Slipstream, but under that is the pistol grip.  Most AR’s are coming with the standard A2 Pistol Grip.  This grip is one of the very worst ever conceived by man. Or in this case, conceived by a very effeminate she-man with tiny girly hands that drinks while holding a pinky up.  This grip should not be on any AR of any type, no matter what.  Ever.  The grip is a more personal thing here.  I can’t tell you specifically which one to get.  But get one.   Magpul has two out, the MOE and the MIAD.  And now there is a rubber coated MOE version as well, so I guess three.  Get the MIAD if you are going to bother.  You can set it up to fit you best.  There is also the ERGO grip, which I like.  And the Hogue grip, which is also a very good grip.  Other companies out there are making grips, and there are some good ones.  Tapco, Mako, US Palm, Tango Down, etc… pic one and get rid of that crappy A2 grip.

Up on top of the gun, you need sights.  Depending on your configuration, you may need a set of Iron Sights for the front and rear.  If that’s the case, the set to get is from Diamondhead.  If you are going to run just irons on a gun that doesn’t come with them, these really are the only option.  But a set of Diamondheads even as a back up is absolutely the way to go.  Don’t think that if you are going to use Irons as a backup to your Optic, that you can cheap out on them.  If you are in a situation where you really need your Back Up Sights – you probably are going to want some accuracy with them as this is probably a very critical situation.  Don’t cheap out here and get the cheap Magpul flip ups… Popular and Good are too different things.  Don’t make me mention Lady Gaga.  Yes, I just said that the Magpul flip up sights are the Lady Gaga of rifle sights.  We don’t like plastic sights on our Glocks, why would we actually want them on our Rifles?  MapPuls are good because they are cheap and light, and that’s it.  They are place holders until you get your Diamondheads.   The Diamonheads are excellent because they actually let you be more precise with your Sight Alignment.  This means better accuracy.  Tighter groups.  And I think they even help you get that sight picture a little faster than standard Peep Sights.

Red Dot or Magnified Optic?  For a simple low cost Red Dot, there is only one option worth spending your money on.  Lucid HD7.  You can pick them up for 200 bucks, and it’s money very well spent.  If you can’t afford the Lucid, don’t buy something cheaper to hold you over… just save your money and run Iron Sights for awhile.  That will get you your Lucid quicker.  If you want something higher end, there are the optics from EOTech and Aimpoint.  Which ever one you like the best is fine.  The Military uses both for a reason.  Tough and Reliable.  Going up from that, there is Trijicon.  They have the SRS which I am quite fond of.  Up from this, we can look at the magnified optics, and again, Trijicon is the Cat’s Meow.  Higher end than that, and you have Elcan, which we at Crusader Weaponry put on our Broadsword rifle for Demo purposes.
Then there are the 1-4 variables.  Burris makes a few good ones.  They make some half decent fixed 3 or 5 power units, but I really like their 1-4’s… but the one to get is Trijicon if you can splurge for it. Really, which optic to pick really comes down to what kind of shooting your are doing, your eyes, and your style.  This is a more personal option here.

The stock.  There is nothing wrong with the standard A2 or M4 style stocks.  But the Magpul MOE and CTR stocks are becoming very common now days.  And adjustable stock can be a good thing, but too many guys are stroking their buffer tubes like a 14 year old boy with a playboy.  Don’t do that.  Set it to a length that fits you and leave it the hell alone until you have a reason to adjust it.  It’s not a toy.  It’s a freaking Rifle Stock.  If you are spending time playing with your stock, you are wasting time that could be better spent, I don’t know… reloading magazines or sharpening your Becker BK9 Combat Bowie knife.
Some stocks have storage compartments.  These should only be for 1 thing.  Batteries for your Optic.  Don’t keep anything else in there.  Everything else can be kept in your pack or vest or LBE, glove box, wherever.  But not on your gun.  I’m not even sure I like storage at all on my AR’s anymore.
My choice for a stock?  Just a basic Magpul MOE stock is good.  It looks sharp, it’s light, and it’s simple.

What do you guys think are Essentials for an AR.

27 thoughts on “Must Have Upgrades to your AR”

  1. I think you did pretty well (That shouldn’t surprise anyone)

    This is my set-up… it is “slip-stream STYX’d” and I think you would approve!

    ▪ BCM Blem Lower
    ▪ BCM BFH 16″ Light Weight Mid-length Upper
    ▪ BCM Bolt Carrier Group
    ▪ BCM GUNFIGHTER w/ Med Latch
    ▪ 13 Inch VTAC TRX Extreme Battle Rail
    ▪ Battle Comp 1.0
    ▪ Daniel Defense Rail-Mount Fixed Front Sight (set back for an x300)
    ▪ Troy Folding Rear Battle Sight
    ▪ Magpul CTR Stock
    ▪ Magpul MIAD Grip
    ▪ VCAS Padded Sling

  2. I have a thing for BCM’s products as well. Love the extended release charging handle and the grip angle on the gunfighter grip.

  3. I like the concept of Dueck Defense RTS – Rapid Transition Sights for shorter range use on a rifle with a scope set up for longer ranges but I’m also a fan of 5R rifling and 7mm-08 so what do I know?

  4. After quality magazines and a good supply of ammo are attained, and assuming you have sites or an optic of your choosing, the must have upgrade/accessory is training.

  5. Can I just get one that will work? I swear to Saint Kalashnikov, every single Ar I have ever had the displeasure of shooting had some reliability problem-from major to niggling- mags would not seat unless downloaded, trigger would not reset, ultra sensitive to ammo, various extraction- ejection- feed issues, the list goes on and on.
    The thing is, I want to love them! The ergos are great, the cartridge is great,the gun is light and accurate, if I could just get one that I could trust!
    Meanwhile, some Pashtun hammer jockey is banging AK’s of of sheet metal on a rock anvil and they seem to work.
    OK, ya’all can yell at me now..!!

  6. I certainly wouldn’t argue with the Mad Ogre about essentials for the AR. In fact I endorse most of these suggestions. Particularly Diamondhead Irons, Battle Comp on the front end, and of course Slipstream and Styx.

    The real meat of the article is deciding on your use for the rifle. If you need to run, lights and lasers, a bipod, a front grip, a grenade launcher, and a super ninja smoke screen producer… well then having a whole bunch of rail space would be important to you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a reliable 3 gun rifle, you don’t want all that extra weight creating inertia during transitions.

    My choices might go something like this:
    1. Standard upper and lower. I would probably lean toward JP for these. If budget was no object, I would think about a Noveske or Seekins billet set.
    2. 18″ barrel. Polygonal preferred.
    3. Battlecomp compensator
    4. Diamondhead diamond sights for irons.
    5. 1×4 or 1×6 optic. I have become partial to Leupold and Vortex for these although the Trijicon is top notch also.
    6. Trigger: I like the CMC straight trigger. The JP Fire Control and Gisselle also get high marks.
    7. Handguards: Depends on your needs. I have Apex on my Broadsword and like them. For 3 gun, I am liking the Seekins Precision SP3R.
    8. Charging Handle: BCM Gunfighter Mod 4.
    9. Stock: As Ogre noted, Magpul provides a lot of options. For a Tactical AR, I like the UBR.
    10. Grip: Try to find what best suits you. For me, both the MIAD and the Ergos work.
    11. Controls: BAD – the battery assist device gives you just a bit more leverage in releasing the bolt. I find that useful.
    12. Controls: Ambidextrous Safety. Nothing special, but being able to see the safety’s position from either side of the rifle is nice for competition or classes. Also, a 60 degree fire position is nicer than the standard 90. Personal preference thing, it isn’t that big a deal but I like it.
    13. Sling: Depends on your need. I generally run without one unless a class requires it.

  7. I was looking at some photos of some Russian race gunned AK-74 variants and I noticed something that looked like just a short muzzle attachment that was about 3x barrel diameter and totally open to the front and had no baffles. It was speculated that it was to reduce the noise of the weapon to the side and rear for indoor work. Has anybody done or tried something like that for the AR’s? It would be nice for indoor ranges and firing next to an enbankment

  8. Eotech 553
    Smith M&P 15 upper and lower
    11in Troy Alpha rail
    BCM HPT MPI bolt
    Staked gas key on FA bolt
    Miad and large trigger guard
    JP LW spring kit
    Troy Mod vert grip
    Noveske Lopro QD mount
    QD sling swivil
    A2 flash hider soon to be replaced with a SAS QD mount

    If I was going to run a gun with no can I would ONLY choose the battlecomp.

  9. All things considered, I’m leaning toward the Colt 6920, not much more than a Palmetto, a S&W OR and rumor has it Walmart will have them around $1K on Black Friday.
    Who spent years of his life working on M-16A1s.

      1. No, the Palmetto runs about $780, F type front, no rear, chrome barrel, et al.
        The S&W OR about $899, the “rumor” on the Colt 6920 from WalMart $999, instead of 1,100 or so. Local prices at LGS.
        Who got smacked with a new home network and a plumbing job, and the water bill..sigh.

  10. The Battlecomp is like magic. I need one on every gun I own……even pistols.
    I still can’t decide how I’d set up my Crusader AR, varmiter? long range precision? Like my old duty M4? Too many decisions.

  11. As somebody who hasn’t fired a black rifle for close to 20 years, but has put a fair bit of thought into this subject in the last year, here’s what I’m going to say.

    For a general purpose/HD AR, a small, lightweight weapon light is a must have. Laser in the HD application for a rifle is iffy to my mind. I can see the value, but is the value worth the cost, complication and weight?

    I’ve only ever used the GI iron sights, so I’ll defer on red dots and scopes to others.

    The oversized winter trigger guards are a must have.

    that’s all I’ve got, hopefully I’ll be willing to get myself a black rifle come January.

  12. I am still looking for my unicorn: Troy Industries Flip-Up, Windage Adjustable, Front Sight.

    Troy Industries quit making these a few years ago and NOBODY (at this time) makes a windage adjustable, flip-up, front sight. I came close one time when I found a used one online but I must have seemed too eager. The seller changed his mind and decided to keep it.

    BTW, why Diamonhead over Troy Industries?

    1. I would like to see this test repeated with some video documentation. I don’t doubt the review and I am not a “fan boy” of any particular brand. However, I am a fan boy of the scientific method. I would like to see more details such as targets, measured distances, more photos of the sights (before & after), photos of the test area. I would also like to see a few more maufacturers in the line-up as well as multiple drops/drags and varied angles.

      Still for a simple drop test, I find the results interesting. That Diamondhead rear sight looks pretty skewed/canted. I’m surprised the MOA shift is only 16MOA.

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