April 06 2021 – Kara Schott
Are you one of the five or ten million or so owners of America’s rifle? If yes, great - if no, did you answer no with an asterisk because you own some other variant of sporting rifle that, though it is categorically not the same as an AR 15, is still functionally the same?
Good, then you will find some purpose in this article. Here we have some of the best AR 15 accessories out there that you’ll definitely want to add to your build or your range bag for those times when you need to suit the gear to the occasion.
Not all of these are completely necessary, but many shooters find a lot of value in them. Also, we’ll try to be brand and model agnostic because of the different specifications among makes and models of sporting rifles out there. Even if you don’t have an AR 15, if you have a sporter, there’s a company out there that makes some of these compatible with your platform.
- Upgraded Iron Sights
There are some dedicated shooters out there that have yet to upgrade their sporting rifles with optics or advanced sights. Some of us just prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, over old-school iron sights. Adjustable, modular, collapsible iron sights, but iron sights nonetheless.
There’s just nothing quite like the feeling of making a steel target sing when you connect with it over bare iron sights. It connects you to the contest or the sport or whatever you’ll call it. If you hunt with your AR, the feeling is the same; you’re much more present when you shoot over a bead or a blade than when you lean on the technology of a reticle.
The carry handles that come with many AR-style rifles, and the bulky, fixed front sights that grace the end of the handguard can actually get in your way while you’re shooting. If your model comes without the carry handle and you’d like an upgrade to the front sight, there are many, many options at your disposal for improving your experience behind the stock.
While you can upgrade your AR 15 with new iron sights and there is something to be said for that, many other shooters will find much more utility through optics like scopes. Take, for example, shooters who compete in precision-shooting matches and use sporting rifles for that purpose.
It might be considered unconventional by some to use an autoloader for anything but close range, reflex shooting, but if you make a habit of it, then a scope is a near necessity. Just being able to see the intended target through a magnified scope will help you shrink your groups.
Scopes are also useful for shooters that hunt with their AR platforms. Precision is a matter of ethics in the chase, and shot placement is crucial. A scope will assist with this, especially for those that hunt at night. Some scopes perform better than others in low-light conditions and are highly useful for hunters in those situations.
- Reflex Sights and Laser Sights
Understandably, some of you reading this might have minimal use for scopes or iron sights. For you reflexive shooters who use your sporting rifles in competitions and similar situations, reflex sights like red dot sights or laser sights would be much more valuable.
The beauty of a red dot or other reflex sight is it allows you to keep a fully open sight picture; you also don’t need to line anything up. It diminishes time-to-target acquisition and enables you to make quick, accurate follow-up shots in rapid succession. The same could be said for laser sights and center mass style sights. Actually, these are even more reflexive; with laser sights, you don’t even need to shoulder your rifle to accurately connect with your target.
For all of these reasons, reflex and laser sights belong on any list of essential AR 15 accessories, whether you personally choose to use them or not.
- Tactical Lights
Do you shoot your rifle at night? Intend to use your sporter for home defense? Then you should probably add some form of tactical light to the rail. After all, the point of preparedness is actually to be prepared, right? If you lean on your AR for any of these things and don’t have it outfitted with a light, you might be dropping the ball.
Of course, light is also useful for some forms of recreational nocturnal shooting. It’s illegal in a lot of places to spotlight game, but some three-gun matches specifically take place in the dark or in intentionally darkened settings. If you’re ever up against these, a light might not be all you need. You might be well served by light and luminous sights, like tritium sights.
- Rail Covers
Do you know what’s really uncomfortable? Carrying around a sporting rifle by the handguard if the rail segments are Pic rails. Picatinny rails dig into your hand like a form of toned-down Medieval method for extracting pleas from the accused. Honestly, even if your handguard uses M-Lok or KeyMod rails, you can improve your grip on any unused segments with rail covers.
Then again, this won’t be much of an issue for you if your AR has a carry handle (many do) or you use a sling, but if you’re in the habit of carrying your rifle by the handguard, why not pick up some ergonomic rail covers and plug the naked sections of the rail? They’re not doing any good open like that, and you can easily remove the rail covers if you ever need to.
- Sling Mount Adapters and Slings
The value of a sling is uncontestable. If you don’t use one it’s your own choice and it’s perfectly fine, but for hunters that carry their ARs in and out of the field miles in a given day, passing those few pounds from your arms to your shoulders will seriously cut back on fatigue. That, and it will free your hands to carry and of your other essentials, like blinds, decoys, or stands.
Adding sling mounts to a rifle is a pain for some gun owners, but not for those of you with sporters. Just get a set of QD sling adapters for the bottom portion of your rail, pick out a sling and you’ll be gold. You can use it when you want and leave it home when you don’t.
- Vertical Grips (For the handguard)
We made a point of calling out the fact that carrying a rifle by the Pic rail of the handguard is not particularly comfortable. Do you know what’s even more uncomfortable than carrying a Pic rail handguard? Shooting it.
The little edges of Pic rails are merciless when they communicate recoil to your hand. You can wear gloves; then the rail will actually improve your grip, but if not, it’s quite unpleasant.
For those of you with more “comfortable” handguards with M-Lok or KeyMod systems - yes, these are not quite uncomfortable to grasp while shooting, but there is a better way.
Get a vertical grip, preferably a folding vertical grip like a pistol grip, and attach it to the bottom of your handguard. It will improve your comfort while shooting and will steady your aim.
Any of you shooters out there in competition for the long-range? If so, you won’t just want a scope, you’ll want other accessories to provide you with a stable surface like a shooting mat or, more important, a bipod.
There are tons of bipods out there that are affordable, light, and extremely practical. It’s also pretty standard for a bipod to fold, so unless you’re still in the days of shooting sticks, you can add a bipod to your platform without adding too much weight or hardly any bulk.
Best of all, bipods can be easily removed or attached at will. Just add an adapter to the bottom front portion of your handguard and you’re set.
- A More Comfortable Charging Handle
Operating an AR platform in the dark, in a hurry, or in extreme cold (such as when you might be wearing gloves) is sometimes easier said than done. Adding an upgraded charging handle, such as one with a larger latch, may increase your speed and efficiency, especially if you’re operating in adverse conditions.
- Muzzle Brakes
There is a case to be made for muzzle brakes. While it’s downright miserable to shoot in the lane next to a guy with a muzzle brake on his rifle when you actually get behind the stock, it will significantly cut back on perceived recoil and it will keep muzzle jump to a minimum.
We’re not saying you need a muzzle brake (they might even be forbidden in your area) but they definitely have their draw. All we’re saying is keep an open mind and if the opportunity arises for you to upgrade your AR with a brake, you should consider it.
Boresights are another helpful AR accessory, especially when you’re shooting different loads at long ranges which may behave unpredictably. A boresight, especially one that sits in the chamber, can help you get on the paper faster so you can make more accurate adjustments at the range. There’s no sense wasting ammo when it’s expensive and it’s in short supply. Take the shortcuts you can get.
- A Different Handguard
Is your current handguard lacking, leaving you wishing you had more rail space or better ergonomics? That’s unfortunate, but it’s not a big deal when there are so many different types of handguards out there compatible with so many different sporting rifles. In fact, it just might be one of the least intrusive modifications you can make to your rifle.
- A Better Stock Assembly
Most sporting rifles come ready-equipped with folding or extendable or adjustable stocks. No two shooters are the same, and you need to use equipment that provides the best fit for you. Additionally, no two situations are the same. One day you might be suffering in the heat, another laboring under several layers and intense cold that changes your optimum length of pull.
Just like with your handguard, that’s no problem. There are plenty of modular stocks out there that you can use to make upgrades or replacements. Compatibility, will, of course, vary according to model, but you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a replacement.
- A Quality Brass Catcher
A quality brass catcher is another one of those excellent, highly valuable AR 15 accessories, and one that might, unfortunately, get overlooked.
Here at Magwell Mounts, we’ve produced what we believe to be the best AR 15 brass catcher of them all. Our Brass Goat is made in the USA from tough, molded ABS resin, is low profile (it won’t obstruct your sight picture), and designed to snap directly to an AR 15 lower receiver’s Magwell.
Unlike other brass catchers (including mesh bags) it won’t melt or catch fire; it also won’t jam and is compatible with a hopper that holds up to 30 rounds of .223 Remington. That means many of you out there can burn through two mags before you need to empty them. (It’s also worth noting that it’s compatible with a large number of other popular cartridges, including but not limited to .204 Ruger, 5.56 NATO, 7.62x39mm, .300 Blackout, and .450 Bushmaster. Check our page on ammo compatibility to learn more).
By the way, a brass catcher ranges alongside these other accessories in utility; with ammo in such short supply and prices rising, who can afford (or even wants) to waste their spent brass? If there’s ever been a time to get into reloading, this is it, and the Brass Goat makes it easier than ever before. With a brass catcher like this, you won’t need to run around your lane picking up casings after the fun is over, and for those of you that compete, salvaging your brass will be even easier.
Looking for more information or our input on some of these accessories, including our groundbreaking Magwell-Mounted Brass Goat? Feel free to get in touch with us at 1-833-MAGWELL or at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re looking for suggestions, questions about compatibility, or ideas for upgrades or accessories, let us know what you need and we’ll do our best to answer!