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by Bill Mooney
USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- Why is it whenever a product or service in America grows, gets popular, or dominates a market, the government steps in and feels the need to disrupt the industry and control it?
SUV’s get amazingly popular and the regulations on gas mileage explode. Internet sales flourish, and the painful and untimely talk of a national sales tax pops up like a pimple on your nose. Firearm background checks and transactions increase, the pressure on the banks from the politicians grow and they make it harder for firearm retailers to process credit cards.
The popularity of gluten-free products goes viral, and the politicians demonize it and call people bigots, fascists … oh wait. That one has not happened… yet.
The anti-liberty/freedom narrative always seems to go this predictable route. Something doesn’t fit a political agenda just demonize it or someone, tax it, regulate it, make it harder for citizens to own or participate in. There…the “problem” goes away eventually as they nudge and build fences around the edges. Your liberty is now infringed or taken away as planned.
The AR-15 rifle has been the battered stepchild of politicians and anti-gun people for decades yet the popularity of this platform for men and women of all ages is growing like a well-fed baby.
This AR firearm platform is a Cinderella story happening right before our eyes. In our gun-love-story, Cinderella’s glass shoe is a nickel boron bolt carrier group. The Prince in the great looking carriage in our story is an FDE Kryptec Cerakoted rifle chambered in an exotic round with a custom suppressor. Why do I feel this Cinderella AR-15 story will continue to grow and prosper (unless something drastic happens, like a November Blue Wave?)
Two reasons: The AR-15 is the most versatile weapon on the planet, and it is easily customized and upgraded for any size, shape, age person.
So many Americans are passionate about AR-15 firearms, that the popularity is growing in spite of the bad press, lying politicians, and a corrupt media.
The AR-15 platform is being used by so many people for so many purposes, it’s no wonder it’s so popular.
Personally, I love to predator hunt with my 5.56 NATO AR rifle with a fixed 3.5 Trijicon ACOG optic and an Aimpoint T-1 red dot offset. My favorite deer stand hunting rig is my 6.5 Grendel AR-15 with a Sightmark 3-18×44 FFP optic. Hog hunting with a 6.5 Grendel or 300 Blackout with Pulsar thermal or Pulsar NV optics are popular set ups, too. The latest 224 Valkyrie chambered AR-15 rifles are becoming very popular with prairie dog and small varmint hunters. The 458 SOCOM could be a short-range big game rifle with a nice quality 1-4×24 illuminated optic.
My 5.56 NATO rifle also doubles as a self-defense rifle. The .223 Wylde chambered upper makes a great competition set up.
People from all walks of life also build rifles just for the entertainment of building a rifle. You don’t have to be trained gunsmith to put together a great AR-15.
There’s also the comfort factor adding to the demand for this weapon system. This is a great firearm for the tentative-at-heart to use as the range for plinking, or general training. The options are endless.
So, when an ignorant politician or hyper-partisan talking-head tells you your AR-15 is only for killing, smile, laugh, and go ahead and yell at the TV. Shake it off because it only illustrates their ignorance or hidden agenda.
The AR-15 is an amazing platform. But that’s only half the story.
AR-15 Rifles are Upgradable & Customizable
The real beauty of the AR-15 platform is how easy it is for a person to upgrade their rifle or customize it to their needs, body type, artistic eye and specific use. For most rifle upgrades or customization, you don’t need to send your rifle off to a gunsmith. Because the platform is so modular, most of the parts are plug and play with very little manipulation needed.
Each upgrade can serve one or multiple purposes. Upgrades can be for many purposes such as:
- Making the rifle more accurate
- Improving your performance with the rifle
- Weight reduction
- Body adaptation
Let’s look at some of the most popular AR-15 upgrade and customization parts.
Starting with the lower receiver, here are a few easy upgrades.
Upgrading a trigger can be quick and easy (with drop-in AR triggers) to a moderate upgrade. I personally upgrade my AR-15s with a Geissele SSA two-stage trigger for better and more accurate follow up shots. Learned this many years ago rabbit hunting with my good friend Dave. Using his upgraded rifle, I quickly noticed how my consistency on follow up shots improved dramatically.
Swapping out a pistol grip that fits your hand or improves your grip is an inexpensive upgrade. Some like Tyrant Designs MOD GRIP come in so many styles and colors, you can also enhance your look too.
A butt stock upgrade can be a performance part, helps with comfort, and aesthetics too. I feel it belongs in the performance category because it helps you with your sight picture and quickly obtaining the sight image through your optic for one. Some feel a fixed stock helps them with their accuracy. It’s also used as a reference point on your face for quick target acquisition. ( read our Best AR 15 Stock Kits review) I like a firm buttstock with no rattle, especially when I am predator hunting.
Ambidextrous Safety Selector
Some people swear by an ambi safety selector to improve their performance.
Buying enhanced AR pins for the rifle take-down is a cheap upgrade. These pins are generally easier to grab and pop out if you need to quickly separate the upper from the lower.
Upper receiver upgrades include:
Between my optic getting in the way, or my big fingers, a standard charging handle is one of the parts I upgrade first. My choice, an extended and/or ambidextrous charging handle. You can find these from next to nothing for the cheap overseas knock-off products, to a little over $100. The downside of a wider charging handle? When walking with your rifle, the extended handle can make noise hitting your body or clothes, or snag as you manipulate the rifle.
Aesthetically, there are some crazy color charging handles in the marketing if you are going for the NASCAR look on your AR-15.
Bolt Carrier Group (BCG)
There are several upgrade opportunities with the bolt carrier group. Most options are related to the finish material. The porous and affordable phosphate finish, the easier-to-clean nitride finish, to the shiny nickel boron finish. I personally get great performance and durability to my nitride BCGs.
Gas Block and Gas Tube
Another performance upgrade opportunity. The gas block system is seldom seen, but when there is a problem, often heard. Some gas blocks and tubes are made of cheaper materials and can hurt the bolt cycling. There are also some adjustable gas blocks for those shooters who want to build a race-car and fine-tune the performance of the rifle. For me, I just want a durable gas system the works and will work for a long time to come.
I could write an entire article on barrels. Pick a barrel that suits your needs. Will you be doing long-range target shooting? Then a longer barrel with the correct twist-rate will be an important factor in your decision. Hunting feral hogs in Texas at 40 yards at night? Then a larger caliber like a 300 black out or the ever popular 6.5 Grendel might be the best barrel for you.
Optics is another opportunity for a lengthy article. Too much to talk about here. An easy upgrade to your optics-ready AR-15 is adding back up iron sights (BUIS) for your rifle. Magpul has some great light-weight polymer options. Be careful adding a BUIS to your rifle if the gas block has a picatinny rail attached. You will need to have a metal BUIS, not a polymer.
Please don’t ask how I know and why I mentioned polymer vs steel BUIS. Let’s just say it’s a school-of-hard-knocks experience and just leave it there.
Comfort is important, not for the sake of feeling comfortable, but for performance as well. My wife and I have different predator rifle set ups mostly because of our body types, arm lengths, and overall strength.
So many sizes, looks, and quality levels your head will spin. Length, weight, attachment design (quad, M-LOK, and Keymod) are things to consider. I like different handguard (or rail) options for different uses. My predator/self-defense rifle has a shorter quad rail for many attachments. My deer AR has less attachment opportunities but is a lighter rail. My wife uses a short polymer Magpul hand guard saving a lot of weight on her rifle.
Start with your needs and go from there. I’d suggest staying with one system through if you plan on adding rails and attachments down the road. M-LOK seems to have the momentum right now.
There aren’t enough hours and pages to be able to write about all the accessories available to you. Again, I would start with which rail system you want, identify your needs (bipod, forward grip, lighting system, laser, etc.) and go from there.
Some consider the AR-15 the Barbie Doll for guys. Or an adult set of Legos. With tattoos becoming so popular, the AR is not immune to personalization like a tattoo.
There are specialists all over the globe who will be happy to customize your AR look.
A small company out of Southern Oregon created a thin coating process using a polymer-ceramic material that is extremely durable and can come in many colors and variations. Of course, the firearms business has embraced this process and you see it on Kydex holsters, to pistols, and of course, any and every part on the AR-15 platform. The cost is very reasonable and you can have a lot of fun picking out a new color or pattern for your rifle.
For me, I am using different color upper receivers and handguards for different caliber uppers. My 6.5 Grendel upper and magazines are in FDE. My .223/5.56 NATO units are in black. In theory, I won’t get my ammo and magazines mixed up when at the range on in the field hunting.
Make the AR-15 Your Rifle
As much as I love my Remington 700 Mountain Stainless 308 bolt action rifle, my favorite long gun is the AR-15. Why?
Because it is so versatile. I can affordably target shoot. I can hunt varmints and predators. With the right ammunition I can ethically hunt larger game like deer, hog, and for the right set up, elk hunt.
Let’s face it. It’s just plain-old fun to design, plan, build, and upgrade. The AR-15 is badass too!
About Bill Mooney
Bill Mooney is an outdoor and shooting industry sales and marketing expert, an outdoor writer, and hunting enthusiast. His experience in the sport optics and firearms manufacturing world provides a fresh approach to his inspired writing, information, and instruction. Bill also helps many companies with public relations initiatives, strategic marketing, and helping companies grow their sales through creative and traditional sales channels.
“I want my writing to inspire consumers to break out of their comfort zone and improve their outdoor and shooting experiences. I also write to encourage businesses to break bad sales and marketing habits and grow their opportunities!” ~ Bill Mooney