13 Useful AR15 Upgrades & Accessories [Very Practical For 2021]

Best useful ar 15 upgrades

You don't have to pay thousands of dollars to upgrade your AR.

We have put together this 2021 guide listing 13 best AR15 upgrades and accessories to smooth out the trigger pull, enhance handling and control ergonomics...etc

Whether you have a custom build or a factory rifle, these upgrades will make your AR look super sick and performs great!

Let's check them out.

13 Best AR15 Upgrades & Accessories

Magpul Battery Assist Lever - Increases Reload Speed & Added Ambi Capability

Why Get This Upgrade? - Increases AR reload speed by 2X with this simple and genius design for better weapon manipulation and manual of arms.

Added Ambi Control - The Magpul BAD (Battery Assist Device) extends the release paddle to the right side of the rifle, allowing the shooter to operate the bolt catch from the fire control / ready position for a right-handed shooter.

Simplified Mechanics - Lock the bolt to the rear effortlessly with support hand without leaving the firing hand off the pistol grip 

Surefire M600DF - See In Low Light


Why Buy A Light? - The Surefire M600DF is by far the best long gun weapon light for low light home defense applications right out of the box. Just slap it on your AR and you're good to go.

Mil-Spec Durability - Trust your life on the Surefire M600DF, whenever you need it it's going to work.

Wide Spill & Hot Center - Surefire's NEW TIR lens illuminates wide and far from your 9, 12 and 3 o' clock positions, and you won't miss a thing in the dark

Upgradeable Light Head - Use the MODLITE SYSTEM PLHv2 Head for 2.5X increased (54k candela) throw for long range illumination.

Tons Of Accessories - Configure the light in any ways you like with a ton of aftermarket support

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LA Police Gear

Surefire Muzzle Brake - Reduces Felt Recoil

Reduces felt recoil & fast follow up firing - This thing reduces muzzle climb reduction like magic, and gives the shooter faster follow-up shots. 

Fireball - Muzzle fireball lovers will absolutely love this during the day and night

Compatible With Most 556 Barrel Thread - Most muzzle brake made for the AR 15 had the standard 1/8-28 thread, and typically timing of the brake is required for proper installation.

Included Timing Shims - Using included shim spacer to properly orient the brake on the barrel

Definitely make sure you put on some hearing protection...check out our ear pro guide.

Match Grade Barrels - Accuracy Depends On It

AR15 barrel

If you're building an AR15 from scratch, the barrel is the most important component of the rifle that directly impacts the ballistic performance.

Core Specs to pay attention to when shopping for a barrel:

  • Length (Impacts accuracy and bullet velocity)
  • Barrel profile (Gov. Or Pencil)
  • Gas port size (Varies based on length & caliber)
  • DI or Piston System
  • Twist Rate (Impacts ballistic performance based on bullet weight)
  • Caliber (5.56, 223, 224, 300BLK, 7.62)

It depends on your shooting style, and you can go as short as 7.5" thru 18". No matter which type of AR you are going to build, it's important to understand that the length of the barrel affects accuracy and velocity.

A cold hammer forged and chrome lined barrel (CHF) is stronger than button-cut barrel, and it is the best you can get on the market right now.

They are cost efficient during manufacturing processes, and the most important part of the cold forging process are:

  • Make the bore's surface as smooth as possible, which increases barrel accuracy and service life
  • Hammer rifling pattern inside the barrel using a spiral grooved mandrel

Learn more about CHF barrels here

Single Stage Trigger - Increase Trigger Reset Speed

Timney Trigger (Buy on Brownells)

Wanna shoot fast with about ~0.15 - 0.2 sec split time? The single-stage trigger is the answer.

Shorter Reset & Pre Travel -  Just a hair, then the trigger breaks right around 3-5 lbs. The spring assisted resets helps reset the trigger even faster for the next shot

Note: Trigger pins (0.154") all fit mil-spec AR15/10 lower receiver

Lightning Fast Installation -  Just drop-in trigger package in the receiver, punch in the 2 pins and you're all set! (No fitting, No adjusting required)

If you want to see more, we've picked out some Top AR15 Drop In Triggers to check out here.

Nickel Boron Bolt Carrier Group - Improved Bolt Durability

nickel boron bolt carrier group

The BCG is the beating heart of your AR-15 rifle, and it's among your rifle’s most critical components so you want this piece to be durable. Most BCG for AR now days are all M16 machine gun bolt with shallower cut toward the rear of the bolt, more mass & more reliable.

Note, this will not make your AR-15 full-auto without full auto trigger or sear.

For Competition Use - Pick Low-Mass BCG, Made of lightweight material, such as titanium, to increase the cycle-rate of an AR-15. Note, to function reliably it typically requires other upgrades.

For Home Defense & Range Use - Pick M16 bolt coated with Nickel-Boron for reliable & smooth action

Geissele Braided Buffer Spring - Enhanced Cycling Service Life

Geissele Super 42 Braided Buffer Spring (Buy on Brownells)

Why Geissele Super 42? We recommend the Geissele Super 42 Braided Spring with H1 or H2 buffer for longer service life without the spring losing length over time.

Increased Cycle Life - Operating ONLY at around ~35% of its maximum stress load compared to a standard spring. The springs flex separately from each other like a harmonic damper and energy absorber to displace excess energy to prevent spring failure.

Improved Reliability - The Braided wire improves weapon cycling performance and increases bolt return force to ensure proper round chambering when dealing with a dirt or steel case ammo

Eliminated Spring Twang Sound - The braided wire spring kills the annoying twang sound and preserves spring harmonics inside the buffer tube.

What does it mean for you? It can handle full auto fire consistently without losing spring length, and it also eliminated the "twang.." sound with its braided wire design, which stops the fast-moving harmonic waves inside the buffer tube.

Fact: Any higher-end / high rate of fire guns like MG42, HK, FN M249, Sig MCX all have braided recoil spring for a reason...that is for durability!

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SB Tactical SBA3 - Stabilizes AR Pistol

SB tactical sba3 brace

Why Get The SBA3 - You can now legally own or build a short barrel rifle “pistol” legally without a $200 tax stamp.

For any MK18 pistol owners, this is an must-have after market accessory.

Before you get too excited, Please read the ATF letter below: 

[Updated 2020] Read More: New ATF Rule On AR Pistol Braces

You Can Should It! - Legally own a "less-than-16-inches" barrel rifle without any NFA paperwork. Yes you can shoulder it.

Adjustable Position - Adjust the length of pull on a regular mil-spec AR15 buffer tube. This is so unique that isn't available for other pistol braces on the market.

Best Looking Brace - The SBA3 is by far the best-looking pistol brace that assembles the look of a Magpul MOE stock, and it feels pretty solid to shoulder and maneuver.

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Raptor Charging Handle - Better Grip Leverage

More leverage & positive contact is what we want - Ditch the small latch charging handle for a large size one! The large size AR15 charging handle improves the control ergonomics when operating the bolt & clearing malfunctions.

  • Larger surface area to grab without slipping
  • Better leverge to pull, great for clearing nasty jams & malfunctions 

More Room To Grip - The larger latch sticks out more, and it's easier to grip with or without gloves!

Works For Lefties - Use your left to charge the bolt just like with the right!

A charging handle doesn't fundamentally affect how the gun shoot, but it's definitely a must-have ergonomics upgrade, for any serious AR15 shooters who practice and take training classes.

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Ambi Safety Selector - For Lefties & Righties

Why we like short throw ambi safety selector - being able to operate the safety selector from both hand is a performance & ergonomics add to your weapon system.

Firearm safety is number 1 l, so no matter how skilled you're. An ambidextrous selector can conveniently increase speed safety.

Huge ergonomics upgrade - a short throw fire selector eliminates the need to break your grip when flicking with your thumb.

Easier Thumb Reach - Operate the ambi-switch fast from Pre-positioned angle without a full 90 degree rotation or break the pistol grip

Positive Feedback - Rock solid detent makes the safety switch very responsive and positive even when wearing gloves.

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Durable Modular Handguard - Enable Attachments


DD MK18 RIS II Rail (Buy on Brownells)

Why Get Modular Handguard System ? Mount any accessories you like, and take it off when not needed!

  • Weapon light
  • IR / Laser device
  • Offset mount
  • Sling attachment points
  • Backup iron sights
  • Vertical grip
  • Front Thermal / NV optic attachments

Add Whatever You Want - Only add rail sections as needed to  dramatically smooth out the handguard and reduce weight.

The top 4 we like are BCM, Daniel Defense, Giessele and Aero Precision. As we slowly evolve from full length picatinny rail hardguard to modular handguard, more options will be available.

A good quality AR15 modular handguard has to have 6 more features:

  • High strength to weight ratio (keep it as light as possible
  • Heat resistent
  • Either full picatinny, MLOK or KeyMod
  • Long cantilever style barrel nut, keeping the mounting & torque point durable and beefy
  • Pick the right length
  • Free float, for increased accuracy

Check Out: Best Lightweight Modular AR15 Rail Handguard

Durable Optic Mount - Retains Optic Zero

Scalarworks Low Drag Aimpoint Micro Mount

Scalarworks LEAP (Buy on OpticsPlanet)

Durable optic mounts keep your scope securely fastened on the rifle, and hold zero against sharp recoil.

This is a gun accessory that AR owners cant ignore. The most favorable optic mounts are:

  • Geissele
  • LaRue Tactical
  • Scalarworks
  • Sphur
  • American Defense

Weather you're using a red dot or magnified scope, you need a durable mount around $100 at minimum for a good mount.

For scope mount, around $180 - $290 for precision shooting, which has high machining tolerance, and also can return to zero with high confidence.

The most common mounts are high strength to weight ratio optic mount made out of aerospace grade aluminum, providing a solid attachment to the gun, and using recoil lugs to increase accuracy and prevent the mount from shifting during recoil.

What to get:

  • Get QD throw lever optic mount for any setup that lets you quickly swap optic without any tool
  • Get cantilever mount for precision shooting, and they're better at clamping down tight on the M1913 picatinny rail

Magpul UBR Stock - Improved Rifle Handling & Shouldering

Getting a good solid stock, and transform your AR into a reliable and comfortable rifle to shoot.

A good rifle stock can do the following:

  • Looks way better!
  • Adjustable length of pull to accommodate shooter's body profile
  • Adjustable cheek riser for precision shooters
  • Reduced felt recoil, allows adding of recoil pad
  • Mini storage for batteries & other essentials
  • Enhanced snag free ergonomics
  • Better Sling attachment points

There is no reason to settle with a poor stock that wobbles and can potentially fall apart.

Before you purchase any stock, be sure to check the buffer tube sizes. There are commerical (1.148" diameter) and Mil-Spec (1.168" diameter) There are so many options out there, and the most trusted ones out there are:

  • Magpul UBR
  • Magpul MOE CTR
  • Magpul PRS

A short and collapsible stock is favorable in close quarter such as the popular Maxim PDW stock, allowing shooters who have different body profiles or chest rig setups to adjust the stock length to accommodate their tactical needs.

A fixed stock is great for precision rifles, which are much more beefier and a bit longer to absorb any recoil kickback. Some also feature cheek adjustments for the optimal cheek height and fit, that make long range shooting much more accurate and natural.

Note: Some rifles have longer buffer tube assembly for DI guns.

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Large Magazine Release - Improved Index Finger Reach

Large button to press, you wont miss it - Have you ever felt clumspy and fumble when practicing reload drills and miss hitting the small magazine release?

Many people have, and it slows people down. It slows people down even more in situation where adrenaline is pumping.

The solution is easy!... get a large size magazine release like the BAD Modular Mag Release, with better reach and larger contact surface, so the shooter doesn't have to change or adjust grip position, to release the magazine.

An extended large magazine release button is all about adding more ergonomics and combat efficiency to the already amazing AR15 weapon platform, as little as just increasing the size.

Also check out this super simple ambi mag release upgrade.

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Additional Resources

If you're configuring your AR15 for just home defense purposes, please check out our separately written accessory guide below:

Best Accessories For A Home Defense AR15

Best Red Dot Sights For AR15 & Other Carbines