As we used AR-15s and their government-issued brethren for well over fifteen years, we gradually developed a list of accessories that are essential on an AR.
And, we would mention that there are still plenty of people buying an AR for the first time.
If you're one of them, we hope this list will help you.
Please keep in mind that we tend to focus on defensive rifles, so if you're just getting a plinker, or working precision, your needs may vary.
Sights / Optics
Lots of new guns do not come with sights.
From a marketing perspective, we somewhat understand, as shooters may have a personal preference for their sights, so why charge them for sights they'll just replace, right?
At the same time, your rifle is useless without sights or an optic of some type, so that's always our first buy. If you have any intentions of using this for a defensive gun, please remember you get what you pay for.
Don't cheap out on sights or optics. We believe that an optic of some sort, whether red dot or magnified, is a must-have.
Typically, they are faster to learn and faster to use than iron sights, which can equate to faster progression on the range and faster engagement in a defensive situation. Also, there's a big debate about whether or not you need iron sights to go with your optic. Guys with a lot of experience in combat will argue both sides. But still, there's a strong argument to be made that if you buy a quality optic (such as an Aimpoint, to name one brand), the irons are just extra weight.
That's a discussion for another article. At a minimum, you need sights or you need an optic. If you wish to learn more, check out The Best Rifle Red Dot Sights: Our Top Picks.
AR-15 Spike Front Sight Post by Blitzkrieg Components
For example, if you’re going to use your AR15 at night or in low-light environments, you’ll need something better than stock iron sight.
In these environments, you can’t just rely on iron sight without any add-ons. However, if you’re not a fan of red dot sights, you can use an iron sight with luminescent sights like AR-15 Spike Front Sight Post by Blitzkrieg Components.
It costs only $22.75 and won’t make you break the bank. luminescent sights are a great option as they can harness energy from light sources and after that glow in the dark. Some of these sights can glow for 8 hours while needing only 20 minutes to fully recharge in good sunlight.
Of course, this is just an example, you can take a look and find other sights like this. You can check our offer here.
Vortex StrikeFire II Red Dot Sight
On the other hand, if you want to get your aim to the next level, you can try red dot sights. Depending on options and manufacturers, they can get costly.
Still, there are red dot sights which won’t make you spend too much money. In that case, our recommendation is Vortex StrikeFire II Red Dot Sight with a price of $199.99.
Here are some features of this red dot:
- Fully Multi-Coated
- Brightness Settings in 10 levels
- Parallax Free
These are just a few features this red dot offers. Other features and specifications you can check by visiting the link above.
So now that you can aim your rifle, you need something to feed it with.
It’s good to have at least five magazines for any gun you intend to use for more than range fun, and many factory ARs only come with one.
There are lots of options there as low as $15 per mag and those over $200. Check out our full offer here.
Magpul 30 Round PMAG GEN M3 - Black
This is an example of a cheaper mag able to carry 30 rounds. It cost $14.20 per piece, so get a couple of mags for your rifle.
Just keep in mind, some states have strict regulations regarding mag capacity, so check your state laws before purchasing magazines for your AR15.
If you bought a rifle that came with standard plastic handguards, we recommend you change out the handguard for something more versatile.
You can pick your mounting option - whether Picatinny rail, KeyMod, or M-LOK - but the forward handguard is where you'll probably mount your sling, forward grip, and flashlight. Therefore, before you can really use those other things, you need a place to put them.
You don't necessarily need a free-float handguard, although many shooters prefer those. Even a reputable drop-in modular handguard will greatly improve your rifle's capability. Check out our article with the Top 7 Best AR15 Handguards for 2023 to choose your handguard easier.
Rainier Arms AR-15 Urban Combat M-Lok Handguard
This handguard is made of CNC machined extruded 6000 series aluminum.
It’s made to withstand harsh conditions which is the reason why to switch to this one instead of using plastic handguards.
Also, it features MLOK slots for attaching other accessories and anti-rotation QD sockets.
It’s also compatible with most known low-profile adjustable and non-adjustable gas blocks.
The price of this handguard is $153.99 and you can purchase it or find more details about it through the next link.
Sling (and mounting hardware)
A sling is the holster of the rifle. Without a sling, if you need to use your hands for anything other than holding the rifle, you'll have to set it down. If you set it down, it's very easy to separate you from it.
The sling keeps the rifle on you, ready to be put into action as needed. We prefer two-point slings. They're more secure and more capable than single-point slings.
If you want to be able to run as a single or two-point sling, get one of the many popular convertible slings on the market.
Make sure you pick up mounting hardware if your sling doesn't come with it. Quick detach swivels are a good investment.
There are lots of options to choose from when purchasing a sling (you’ll also need a sling mount on your AR before using a sling).
- Magpul MS4 QDM Sling
- Price: $75.95
- Magpul MS1 Sling
- Price: $37.95
- Forward Controls Design Carbine Sling
- Price: $55.10
- Magpul MSA Sling Attachment Point
- Price: $23.70
- GUNFIGHTER M-LOK Compatible QD Low-Pro Sling Mount
- Price: $17.95
- Fortis MFG QD M-LOK Sling Mount
- Price: $18.90
A good flashlight on your defensive rifle is critical for target location and identification in low-light situations.
There are a lot of good options out there. Scout-type lights, for example, is a flashlight that you can find from a number of different manufacturers.
Get a light with enough lumens to adequately illuminate your target as well as provide you with a tactical advantage through temporary sensory overload.
Surefire X300T-B Turbo LED Weapon Light
Coming from the Turbo Series edition of the renowned X300 handgun WeaponLight family, this flashlight has 66,000 candelas of concentrated white light.
It projects an immensely effective beam that reaches far into the distance.
Featuring ambidextrous switching, it offers seamless control with a simple touch for momentary-on or constant-on activation.
Also, it's IPX7 waterproof for up to 1 meter for 30 minutes.
You can find Surefire X300T-B Turbo at Rainier Arms for $332 and by choosing this flashlight, you won’t be disappointed.
There are a lot of other items you can change on stock ARs, but those above are the top five.
Keep in mind that this is our opinion. We’re sure different individuals would prioritize different items.
We hope this has been helpful. If so, feel free to share. As always, Rainier Arms stands ready to help you Pursue Your Passion.