Best AR-15 Accessories and Upgrades in 2021

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AR-15 Upgrades are plentiful enough to warrant an entire book written about them that’s updated on a yearly basis, but we’re going to take a stab at covering the best AR-15 upgrades that you can get for your AR-15 rifles in 2021. To be considered the best AR-15 upgrades, they’ll need to be fairly standard, of high quality, and available on a reputable site with good reviews.

We can’t guarantee that all of these gun accessories will be in stock right at this moment, but if you’re looking at upgrading your AR-15, this list should be the perfect place to start. The AR-15 platform is rock solid and highly customizable. 

Everything from the barrel to the furniture to the bullet and just about everything else about the gun can be swapped out via the third party market.

ar 15 mods

What Accessories We’re Covering

We are going to talk about a lot of the basic components of AR-15 rifles, starting with different barrel options and going all through the major pieces of an AR-15. Then we’ll go over more accessories that are most commonly sought after. If you’re looking for the best AR-15 upgrades, you’re in the right place. I know I said that already, but it bears repeating.

The list of AR-15 upgrades can get pretty long, so we wanted to focus on things that affect ease of use, recoil, weight, length, and other major usability factors before we got into a lot of really granular things. 

PRODUCT

DETAILS

Products

BEST FOR SMOOTH FLOW

Faxon 16” Gunner, 5.56 NATO

Faxon 16” Gunner, 5.56 NATO

Faxon 16” Gunner, 5.56 NATO

  • Gun Type:Rifle
  • Barrel Caliber: 5.56
  • Material:4150 Steel
BEST FOR GAS FLOW

Superlative Arms Adjustable Gas Block

Superlative Arms Adjustable Gas Block

Superlative Arms Adjustable Gas Block

  • Weight: 1.68 oz.
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.750
  • Material:416 SS
BEST FOR LOW FRICTION

Bravo company MFG bcm

Bravo company MFG

Bravo company MFG bcm

  • Gun Type:Rifle
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.750
  • Material: Steel
BEST FOR EASY INSTALL

Franklin Armory BFSIII AR-C1 binary trigger

Franklin Armory BFSIII AR-C1 binary trigger

Franklin Armory BFSIII AR-C1 binary trigger

  • Trigger Type: Curved
  • Pull Weight:4.5 lb
  • Material:Metal
BEST FOR RAIL SECTION

Aero Precision Atlas R-One M-Lok Handguard

Aero Precision Atlas R-One M-Lok Handguard

Aero Precision Atlas R-One M-Lok Handguard

  • Gun Type:Rifle
  • Weight:10.2 oz
  • Material:6061-T6 Aluminum
BEST FOR DURABILITY

Bravo Company MFG AR-15 BCMGUNFIGHTER

Bravo Company MFG AR-15 BCMGUNFIGHTER

Bravo Company MFG AR-15 BCMGUNFIGHTER

  • Color: Black
  • Gun Model: AR-15
  • Material:Polymer
BEST FOR GLOVES

Daniel Defense pistol grip

Daniel Defense pistol grip

Daniel Defense pistol grip

  • Type:GUN ACCESSORIES
  • Color: Black
  • Weight: 0.20 lb
BEST FOR REDUCE NOICE

Hera Arms LC linear compensator gen2

Hera Arms LC linear compensator gen2

Hera Arms LC linear compensator gen2

  • Diameter: 1.23"
  • Caliber: .223 Remington
  • Length: 3.55"
BEST FOR SMOOTH FEEDING

Magpul Pmags

Magpul Pmags

Magpul Pmags

  • Caliber:5.56 x 45
  • Capacity:30
  • Material:Polymer
BEST FOR COMFORT

Blue Force Gear’s Vickers Two Point

Blue Force Gear’s Vickers Two Point

Blue Force Gear’s Vickers Two Point

  • Length:Adjustable
  • Width:1.25 in
  • Material:Webbing
BEST FOR GRIP

Magpul MOE VFG

Magpul MOE VFG

Magpul MOE VFG

  • Type:Vertical Foregrip
  • Color:Black
  • Material:Polymer
BEST FOR DURABILITY

Vortex Strike Eagle

Vortex Strike Eagle

Vortex Strike Eagle

  • Magnification:1 x6
  • Color:Black
  • Material:Aluminum

What We’re Not Covering

This article was getting way too long, so we won’t be covering weapon light options (though I generally lean towards Streamlight) or night vision (I recommend looking at ATN). These can be important components, but they’re also fairly niche and situational, so we opted to go over things that are a little more ubiquitous.

We’re also not going to really get into accessories or the best AR-15 upgrades for an AR pistol in particular. We won’t be talking about different pistol braces or anything like that. We also won’t be getting so granular that we start talking about an upgrade for your charging handle or bolt release. Those things can be upgraded, but they are not always first on the list.

We will just be sticking to the “top” choice in each product line, rather than giving a list for each. I will go into detail on why I picked the product I picked, though, so if you’re still learning about these things you’ll have a little bit more insight into what factors need to be considered with each of these upgrades. 

“Best” Is Just “My Preference”

I’m not law enforcement or military personnel, I’m just a gun owner who mainly worries about defending his home, self-defense, and the occasional hunting trip. All of the upgrades and accessories we’re going to talk about in this article are a matter of personal preference. What may be my go-to upgrade may be completely worthless to you.

Even if I built ARs every day, there are simply some accessories that are good for one situation but not another. Keep in mind that your intended use for your firearm will have a big impact on what upgrades really are your best AR-15 upgrades.

1. Best AR-15 Barrel

The Faxon 16” Gunner, 5.56 NATO mid-length is my pick for the best AR-15 barrel.

badass ar 15 accessories

When you’re looking at a barrel either as a replacement or for a new build, you’ve got to weigh the pros and cons between a shorter barrel, mid-length barrel, and a long barrel. The longer the barrel the better your accuracy and muzzle velocity, but the more inconvenient and unwieldy the rifle becomes.

With shorter barrels, it’s much easier to find cases and store the AR-15 in small spaces like a compartment in a car or truck. All other things being equal, an AR-15 equipped with a shorter barrel will also weigh less than one with a mid-length or longer. Anyone who tells you that length doesn’t matter has clearly not experimented with barrels of different length.

The Faxon is my personal pick because it gets the best of two different sizes of barrel profile: government and pencil. Government profile gives you durability and strength, while the pencil barrel profile towards the end of the barrel gives you some weight and maneuverability savings.

You don’t have to get the Faxon as a mid-length, but unless you have a specific reason for wanting a long or short barrel, I’d recommend it. Faxon makes great quality stainless steel barrels. A new barrel is one of the fastest ways you can adjust the length of your AR-15, upgrade the accuracy, and even help with recoil.

For the most part, it’s a lot easier than you’d think to upgrade the barrel or just swap out one barrel with another barrel. That’s one of the great things about the AR-15 platform; swapping out something as integral as the barrel is actually fairly easy; almost as easy as swapping out simple accessories on another gun platform. 

Instructions are easy to find online, and as long as you follow them closely, you don’t have to worry about it too much and you’ll be back to shooting in no time. With other gun platforms, swapping out the barrel may not even be possible, and if it is it could take an incredibly long time.

Faxon 16” Gunner, 5.56 NATO

Faxon 16” Gunner, 5.56 NATO

The price of Faxon 16” Gunner, 5.56 NATO varies, so check the latest price at

2. Best AR-15 Gas Block

The Superlative Arms Adjustable Gas Block is my pick here.

ar15 upgrades

The Superlative Arms comes in all of the standard sizes and is a fantastic low profile gas block. Having a low profile gas system is a great way to make sure you can accommodate whatever optics you want to put on it. The gas tube and gas block get incredibly hot during firing, and Superlative Arms have made a solid gas system that can take a lot of heat, even when you shoot quickly.

One of the main reasons why this is my pick for the best AR-15 upgrades is that you can adjust how much of the gas it releases. This is great for making sure you only absorb recoil to the point you need to reliably cycle the action, and excess recoil can be brought down a bit by letting some of the gases escape.

This is something that’s going to vary with each gun, so you’ll want to take your weapon out for a day and get things adjusted exactly right for your AR-15.

Superlative Arms Adjustable Gas Block

Superlative Arms Adjustable Gas Block

The price of Superlative Arms Adjustable Gas Block varies, so check the latest price at

3. Best AR-15 Bolt Carrier Group

I’ll have to go with the Bravo company MFG bcm bolt carrier group MPI for this one.

ar accessories must have

You’d be forgiven for thinking that there isn’t much difference between bolt carrier group options that are made and sold by different manufacturers, but there really can be a big difference from one bolt carrier group to another. 

The bolt group is under extreme pressure during the shooting process, and it needs to operate smoothly, reliably, and predictably while under that extreme pressure. The BCG includes the bolt and the bolt carrier, but does not technically include the charging handle even if you’ve heard them referred to collectively as the BCG. 

Bravo Company does also make charging handles, so if that is of interest you can probably grab the BCG and the charging handle at the same time. The BCM MPI is of good quality and will function reliably; Bravo Company pressure-tests all of their bolts before shipping them. It’s not going to be the cheapest purchase you ever make, but I would consider it 100% worth it.

This BCG won’t work for every single caliber you could chamber your AR-15 in, but it will work for a lot of them, and will work for a lot more if you just swap out the bolt and keep the carrier. If you’re doing a standard .223/5.56 build, this BCG will work perfectly. You can get a BCG for a lot less money if you want, but this is my pick for the best option available.

Bravo company MFG

Bravo company MFG bcm

The price of Bravo company MFG bcm varies, so check the latest price at

4. Best AR-15 Trigger

At the risk of being too “out there”, I’m going to go with the Franklin Armory BFSIII AR-C1 binary trigger.

ar15 mods

This is one of those upgrades where it’s really difficult to say “best” instead of “my personal favorite”. Compared to a lot of other trigger options, the BFSIII is exorbitantly expensive. If all you need is a basic single stage with a clean break, that can be had for roughly 1/5 the price of the BFSIII.

So why did I choose the Franklin Armory as the best trigger? For me, it nails the basics and offers some extended functionality. The trigger pull weight is 4.5 pounds, trigger creep is minimal but enough, and the safety selector allows you to choose between standard semi-automatic shooting and shooting in binary mode.

For those not familiar, binary shooting is when a shot is fired each time you pull the trigger and each time you release it. It’s got incredible ease of use, and a lot of competition shooters say they get the best performance out of binary triggers since they don’t have to do a complete trigger reset between shots. 

While you can shoot faster than a semi-auto, it’s not the same as a full-auto trigger assembly.

Franklin Armory BFSIII AR-C1 binary trigger

Franklin Armory BFSIII AR-C1 binary trigger

The price of Franklin Armory BFSIII AR-C1 binary trigger varies, so check the latest price at

More About Triggers in General

Of all the best AR-15 upgrades, it seems like triggers are the one that is most likely to be an afterthought. After all, how different can triggers be from one another? If you use mil spec triggers as a starting point, you’ll have a single stage trigger with a trigger pull weight of about 6 to 6.5 pounds.

There are a lot of shooters who prefer two stage triggers over single stage triggers. The difference is that a single stage will have the same trigger pull all the way to the break, while two stage triggers will have what they call a “wall” right before the break where the trigger pull gets heavier. This can prevent accidental discharge, but it can also affect accuracy and rate of fire.

A really good AR 15 trigger will have a clean break with minimal overtravel and a quick reset. The trigger assembly should come with a safety selector that can be reached with your thumb or possibly your trigger finger. The best two stage trigger will have a noticeable wall that gives you enough resistance to hold for a moment if needed.

The bolt release isn’t part of the trigger assembly and shouldn’t really be affected by it on an AR-15 build.

5. Best AR-15 Handguard

Aero Precision Atlas R-One M-Lok Handguard (rail for red dot)

ar upgrades

This one shouldn’t be too controversial (I hope). Free float handguards are generally stronger and help more with accuracy when compared to drop in handguards. That said, my AR-15 that I have set up for home defense has a drop-in on it because I found a good one bundled with a vertical foregrip that I liked and the weaknesses of a drop-in don’t apply so much in my situation.

The main disadvantages of a drop-in handguard are that it can affect accuracy to a small degree because it constricts the barrel and there are some concerns about mounting an accessory on it due to strength and durability. For my defense AR, I mounted an LPVO on the lower receiver and it’s going to sit in my house unless I’m practicing at the range or have to use it.

So while I recommend the Atlas and would almost always recommend free floating handguards when everything else is equal, feel free to look at the drop-in style if you are looking to save money or want something that’s nice and simple. I personally prefer the free float for most things but it’s not a must-have by any means. 

Aero Precision Atlas R-One M-Lok Handguard

Aero Precision Atlas R-One M-Lok Handguard

The price of Aero Precision Atlas R-One M-Lok Handguard varies, so check the latest price at

6. Best AR-15 Stock

My choice here is the Bravo Company MFG AR-15 BCMGUNFIGHTER collapsible stock.

best ar 15 accessories

But honestly, this depends completely on how you use it and why you’re looking for the best AR-15 upgrades. This one from BCM is a great minimalist, small, light weight stock. It keeps the weight distribution right above your hands, and keeps the weapon light and maneuverable. 

If a little more weight isn’t a big deal or your shooting style doesn’t require minimalism, then there are other fantastic stocks out there for a wide variety of AR-15 rifles. Tactical shooters may like the tight and basic design, but regular gun owners and those who have an AR-15 for home defense may not want to have such a tight shooting stance.

Everything here is mil-spec, so your existing buffer tube and buffer spring should work just fine with this stock.

Bravo Company MFG AR-15 BCMGUNFIGHTER

Bravo Company MFG AR-15 BCMGUNFIGHTER

The price of Bravo Company MFG AR-15 BCMGUNFIGHTER varies, so check the latest price at

Best AR-15 Accessories

7. Best AR-15 Pistol Grip

The Daniel Defense pistol grip with oversized trigger guard is my #1 choice here.

ar 15 performance upgrades

If you bought a new rifle, chances are it already came with a pistol grip, and while you can certainly change it up, it’s understandable if that’s a low priority for you. When you’re building an AR-15 though, you’ll definitely want to put some thought into what you purchase. The Daniel Defense is great for a lot of reasons.

The oversized trigger guard is a great finger rest, and the rubber handle grip gives you fantastic control. There are plenty of pistol grips out there and a lot of them are good, but it’s hard to compete with Daniel Defense on this one. 

Daniel Defense pistol grip

Daniel Defense pistol grip

The price of Daniel Defense pistol grip varies, so check the latest price at

8. Best AR-15 Muzzle Device

Hands down, my recommendation is the Hera Arms LC linear compensator gen2.

ar 15 upgrades accessories

Muzzle devices fall into a few different categories. You’ve got flash hiders, which (you guessed it) help minimize the flash from the muzzle with each shot. There is some benefit here in regards to stealth and keeping a low profile, but it mostly helps with target acquisition for subsequent shots and having the least amount of disruption in between shots.

You’ve also got muzzle brakes. If you’ve ever been around someone shooting a rifle which seemed to give off way more concussive force than it should, the shooter was probably using a muzzle brake. It’s a good way to piss off other people at the range but muzzle brakes direct most of the concussion to either side away from the shooter.

Then there’s compensators. Compensators are intended to prevent muzzle rise, which is good especially with burst firing or other rapid fire shooting, but they also direct the concussion downrange, which gives you the benefit of a muzzle brake without making everyone else around you miserable. 

My #1 pick is a compensator that actually does well at compensating, and that’s the Hera Arms LC linear compensator gen2. It works phenomenally well, helps with recoil, and is as much at home on the range as it is in the woods. 

Hera Arms LC linear compensator gen2

Hera Arms LC linear compensator gen2

The price of Hera Arms LC linear compensator gen2 varies, so check the latest price at

9. Best AR-15 Magazines

Definitely the Magpul Pmags.

modify ar15

It’s pretty hard to argue with these. They’re very cheap, but well-made and reliable. They’re made by a reputable company, they’re widely available on the market, and they last a long time. You can get them in capacities all the way from 10 rounds up to 60 rounds and they just work.

It’s common for someone to only have a single magazine, but when you have more than one magazine you can load each of them with a specific load. For example, you can load one magazine with hollow points for defense, and a different magazine with FMJ for practicing at the range or even green-tip if that makes sense for you and is legal in your area.

With how affordable extra magazines are, it’s almost harder to justify not getting a handful of extra ones. 

Magpul Pmags

Magpul Pmags

The price of Magpul Pmags varies, so check the latest price at

10. Best AR-15 Sling

For this I’ll have to choose Blue Force Gear’s Vickers Two Point.

best ar mods

The Blue Force Vickers sling is a two point that is probably the most widely used rifle sling by militaries around the world. Two point slings are the most traditional design and for good reason; they are easy to use (unlike three point slings), and keep the rifle properly secured when not in use (unlike a one point sling).

Three pointers have their strengths as well, and if that’s your style then go for it, but I’m a big fan of simplicity, and when my adrenaline is pumping I want something to be as straightforward and idiot-proof as possible.

For those who aren’t aware of the difference, a single-point sling attaches to the rifle at the buttstock with a loop that the shooter sticks their head and arm through so the rifle dangles in front. This performs the most basic function of a sling, which is to keep the rifle on your person while keeping your hands free, but it also results in a lot of flopping around and knee-banging.

A three-point sling only connects to the rifle in two places, but the third point creates a loop just like the one with a one-pointer for the shooter's head and arm to go through. Objectively speaking, a three-point is generally more secure than a two-point, but it’s also more complicated to use and more subject to twisting and tangling.

That’s why I favor a two-point. It’s one of the best AR-15 upgrades you can do before just about anything else if you plan on taking your AR-15 anywhere. 

Blue Force Gear’s Vickers Two Point

Blue Force Gear’s Vickers Two Point

The price of Blue Force Gear’s Vickers Two Point varies, so check the latest price at

11. Best AR-15 Vertical Grip

My recommendation for overall best AR-15 upgrade here is the Magpul MOE VFG.

best ar accessories

This is a tough one because there are so many options available, and most of them are perfectly good. Different shooters want different things out of their vertical foregrip. A quality grip will be solid, stable, and do exactly what you need it to do.

If you want your grip vertical, then this is a really good one to look at, but there are good arguments for a handle that isn’t straight up and down but rather comes down and back at an angle to make your cupping grip or thumb on bore grip more secure. I like the control that I have with my foregrip being vertical, so that’s what I stick with.

Some of this can come down to a matter of training, and since it’s hard to definitively say which type of grip is better, a lot of times it comes down to how you shoot and what you’ve trained with. If you’ve trained with vertical and it comes more naturally to you, then it’s worth questioning whether changing makes sense. 

Your best bet is to find a friend or someone who has a different style on their gun for you to do a little bit of shooting with and see how it feels. It’s hard to make a call on what accessories work best when you have never shot a gun with the accessories you’re looking at. A little bit of shooting can go a long way in helping you make your decision. 

Magpul MOE VFG

Magpul MOE VFG

The price of Magpul MOE VFG varies, so check the latest price at

12. Best AR-15 Optic

After much deliberation, I’ll go with the Vortex Strike Eagle.

best ar 15 mods

At the risk of igniting a fiery debate, I’ll have to go with the Strike Eagle for a few reasons. It’s a low power variable optic that opens up all the way to 1x and can go up to either 6x or 8x depending on which model you buy. It’s reasonably priced, has a BDC reticle, and has a bright, clear image. 

Vortex Strike Eagle

Vortex Strike Eagle

The price of Vortex Strike Eagle varies, so check the latest price at

What About Red Dot Sights?

A red dot may be perfect for you. If all you want to do is home defense, then by all means get a red dot. You’ll get lightning fast target acquisition and serviceable accuracy within about 50 yards with no problem. A red dot sight is not nearly as flexible as an LPVO, though, which is why they wouldn’t be my number one choice for a list like this.

If you need tight accuracy at 100 yards and beyond, you’ll need a little magnification beyond what a red dot sight or iron sights can give you. The best AR-15 upgrades expand the functionality of the rifle, and an LPVO does that better than a red dot. At 1x you enjoy the same fast target acquisition as a red dot unless the target is only a few feet away. 

What About Other Scopes?

When you’re looking for the best AR-15 upgrades, you may look at everything from replacement iron sights to high-powered long-distance scopes designed to hit a target when you’re shooting at 1000 yards or beyond. Generally, I think LPVOs are the one of the best AR-15 upgrades you can do because they give you that little bit of magnification you need to extend the effective range of your weapon.

AR-15 rifles are only going to be accurate out to about 300 yards anyway, so having a scope that gets you out further than that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me personally. Not to mention that you have to worry about the extra weight, making rail space for the larger scope, and making sure the gun is still manageable with the massive addition.

The Monstrum G2 is a great 1-4x scope, and manufacturers all the way from budget brands to the Leupolds and Trijicons of the world make LPVOs that can be had for a good price if you catch the right deal. Length and weight aren’t nearly as much of an issue with LPVOs as they are with more powerful scopes.

Things to Consider

Adding accessories can send you down the rabbit hole if you’re not careful; when you buy an optic you’ll have to decide whether to co-witness with your FSP (front sight post), or remove it. 

If you remove it, you’ll probably have to replace the gas block which usually means replacing the tube as well, and to get the scope positioned well you might make the charging handle harder to reach.

That means you’ll have to get an extended one and install that, so just by putting a scope on your AR-15 you may have to make a lot of changes to it. A lot of AR-15 upgrades are that way; putting a free floating handguard on your AR-15 may require you to upgrade other components, and the same could be said of a new barrel.

Compatibility is another consideration. The AR-15 platform is modular and customizable, but not every company uses the same standards. If something says “mil-spec” it should be compatible with other mil-spec things. The rail system should almost always be Picatinny, but could be Weaver as well, so that’s important to pay attention to.  

Conclusion

When I bought my first AR-15, the last thing I was thinking about was the world of AR-15 upgrades, but the more I shot with it, the more I began to notice things that were missing, or that I wished were there. The first thing most people look at is an optic, because they want to do shooting at longer distances with some degree of accuracy, and that was the case for me.

Other people first look at swapping out the barrel or the stock to either save weight, length, or make shooting more accurate or comfortable. Some people even worry about triggers before they start playing with all the fun gun accessories that are out there. However you want to upgrade your AR-15 right now, hopefully this list gave you some good ideas on how to do so.

Big upgrades like the barrel can take longer than AR-15 accessories, but because the platform is so modular and customizable, it can actually be faster to swap out the barrel on an AR-15 than something simple like an optic or a flashlight on a different gun platform. 

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