Best AR-15 Upgrades: Making Your Rifle!

by Travis Pike

August 8, 2022



Modularity and the AR 15 go together like peanut butter and jelly. The rifle is just so flipping modular you take a single AR rifle and turn it into whatever you want it to be. It’s an infinitely upgradeable platform, and today we plan to take modularity to the absolute edge. 

We are looking at the best upgrades for the AR 15. 

What Are We Covering? 

You can do various upgrades for your AR 15, and this list could expand into oblivion. To keep things a bit more contained, we will focus on end-user swaps. These are the no gunsmithing required upgrades, and these upgrades stay well within the under user’s ability to swap parts and pieces on firearms. You won’t need to be a gunsmith to make these upgrades. 

I also limited each category to one item. To pick that one item in each category, I looked at the most versatile, high-quality upgrades. Commonality was my end goal. These might be the best upgrades for everyone and their AR 15s. Specific uses often demand particular requirements, and a PDW has different needs than a competition rifle. 

However, these AR 15 upgrades will provide you with plenty of versatility and would be a welcome upgrade on almost all AR 15 rifles.

So let’s dive into the best AR 15 upgrades, and we’ll go front to rear on your AR 15, offering you the best options to take your rifle to the next level.  

Best AR 15 Upgrades

Magpul MOE SL Carbine Stock

Best AR 15 Stock

  • Adjustable 6 Position Stock
  • Polymer Design
  • Ambidextrous Design
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SB Tactical SBA3

Best AR 15 Pistol Brace

  • Adjustable Brace
  • QD Slot attached
  • Mixes hard and Soft Polymer
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Geissele Super Duty Mk 16 

Best AR 15 Handguard

  • M-LOK Handguard
  • Free Floating
  • 7 M-LOK Positions
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BCM Bolt Carrier Group

Best AR 15 BCG

  • HPT and MPI Inspected
  • Made from 158 Carpenter Steel
  • Tested Before Shipped
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SilencerCo Gas Defeating Charging Handle 

Best AR 15 Charging Handle

  • Gas Seal For Short Barrel and Suppressor Use
  • Ambidextrous
  • Extended Latches
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Geissele SSA X Trigger

Best AR 15 Trigger

  • Standard Installation 
  • Single Stage Trigger
  • Versatile Design
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Vortex Razor HD Gen 3 1-10X24 FFP

Best AR 15 Optic

  • Efficient Design
  • Easy to Use 
  • Versatile Magnification Parameters
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Cloud Defensive Rein 2.0

Best AR 15 Weapon Light

  • Extreme Range
  • Modular
  • Size Efficient
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Wilson Combat Q-Comp

Best AR 15 Muzzle Device

  • Finely Tuned Compensator
  • Slotted Expansion Chamber
  • Works As a Flash Suppressor
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Magpul MIAD Gen 1.1

Best AR 15 Grip

  • Customizable
  • Storage Compatible
  • Multiple Color Options
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Best AR 15 Upgrades

  1. Best AR 15 Stock – Magpul MOE SL Carbine Stock
  2. Best AR 15 Pistol Brace – SB Tactical SBA3 
  3. Best AR 15 Handguard – Geissele Super Duty Mk 16 
  4. Best AR 15 BCG – BCM Bolt Carrier Group 
  5. Best AR 15 Charging Handle – SilencerCo Gas Defeating Charging Handle 
  6. Best AR 15 Trigger – Geissele SSA X Trigger
  7. Best AR 15 Optic – Vortex Razor HD Gen 3 1-10X24 FFP 
  8. Best AR 15 Weapon Light – Cloud Defensive Rein 2.0 
  9. Best AR 15 Muzzle Device – Wilson Combat Q-Comp 
  10. Best AR 15 Grip – Magpul MIAD Gen 1.1 

Best AR 15 Upgrades Reviews

Now we’ve had an overview look at our list, let us take the time to individually review each item. In this section we’ll be looking further at the product and looking at the pros and cons.

Magpul MOE SL Carbine Stock Review

Magpul is an old friend to gun owners. Not only do they produce high-quality magazines and firearm accessories, but they also put their money where their mouth is in the fight for freedom. The Magpul MOE SL Carbine stock provides a great all-around carbine and rifle stock for the average AR owner. It might not be the best option for a PDW or designated marksman rifle, but it’s rock-solid for the other 90% of rifle owners. 

It features the same collapsing, six-position design we’ve come to know and love. Those multiple positions allow the end-user to fit the stock to their body and gear. The MOE SL design provides shooters with an excellent cheek weld for using modern optics, especially if you lean towards magnified optics. As a bearded bro, it doesn’t painfully pull hair out of your face. 

The Magpul MOE SL Carbine stock offers an ambidextrous lever that’s also protected to prevent accidental activations that cause the stock to slide and shift when shouldered. At the back of the stock sits a nice rubber pad that is textured to stay in the shoulder pocket and has a nice little rollover toe. That allows you to easily swap between shoulders smoothly and efficiently. 

Finally, we have multiple sling points, including two 1.25-inch webbing slots and a QD slot, to give you plenty of options for equipping a sling. The MOE SL is a very modern design that’s sleek, simple, and well made. Plus, it won’t break the bank. 

Magpul MOE SL Carbine Stock Pros and Cons

  • Modular
  • Ergonomic
  • Affordable
  • No Skittles Compartment

Magpul MOE SL Carbine Stock Deals

SB Tactical SBA3 Review

I know the SB Tactical SBA3 isn’t the latest hotness with AR pistol braces, but in my opinion, it’s the best on the market. The SBA3 represents the first time SB Tactical utilized an adjustable five-position brace design. This allows it to fit a wider variety of shooter’s arms, wrists, and more. The SBA3 pistol brace provides a smooth adjustment design similar to a standard M4 carbine stock. Hit the lever and extend as necessary to get the right fit for you.

The adjustable nature combines hard and soft polymer to provide a very comfortable brace system. The hard polymer across the top ensures the brace remains stable and makes it easy to balance your gun and safely brace it as desired. It fits standard carbine tubes without issue as well. 

SB Tactical also wisely installed a QD point for a sling. That’s especially handy for using the brace as a sling point and shooting SAS style with a lot of sling tension. The SBA3 works very well. It’s durable but also lightweight and minimalist in its design. You can’t ask for much more than that with an AR 15 pistol brace. 

It will work with AR pistols of any size, from the 9mms with 5-inch barrels to the 10.3 Mk18 cloner who hasn’t got his stamp yet. 

SB Tactical SBA3 Pros and Cons

  • Lightweight
  • Rigid
  • Adjustable
  • Only 5 Positions of Adjustment

SB Tactical SBA3 Deals

Geissele Super Duty Mk 16 Review

There was a time when Geissele was known for their triggers, and that was it. These days they are known for making some of the highest quality AR 15 accessories on the market, and hell, they make some of the best AR 15 on top of the accessories. One of the best rails currently on the market is the duty-ready Mk16 series M-LOK handguard. 

This isn’t just my opinion, but the opinion of SOCOM since they use the Mk16 on their latest rifle upper the URGI. (UGRI stands for Upper Receiver Group Improved.) Shooters get a very stable and dependable rail that won’t bend, break or fail in the roughest environments. It’s a little heavier than most, but that’s what you get with this level of durability. 

To match the modern needs of the modern riflemen, the Mk16 features seven different M-LOK slot angles. You can mount whatever, wherever, whenever with this rail system. This allows you to truly pick and choose what accessories you want and where you want them, which allows you to mount accessories right where you need them for enhanced ergonomics. 

Geissele makes the MK16 in a variety of rail lengths, including 9.3, 10.5, 13.5, and 15 inches. You can outfit whatever length AR rifle or pistol you own with an MK16 and feel confident knowing you have a robust, reliable, modern rail proven by America’s best professional gunfighters. 

Geissele Super Duty Mk 16 Pros and Cons

  • Nearly Unbreakable
  • Tons of M-LOK Slots
  • Various Lengths Available
  • Heavy

Geissele Super Duty Mk 16 Deals

BCM Bolt Carrier Group Review

BCM, or Bravo Company Manufacturing, is a highly AR 15 manufacturer renowned for its high-quality parts, pieces, and spectacular quality control. The BCM bolt carrier group isn’t nickel boron coated or lightweight, but it’s incredibly robust and built to standard specs. 

The BCM bolt carrier group is made from 158 carpenter steel, the original specification for the M16 bolt carrier group. Externally the BCG wears a parkerized exterior and a chrome-lined inside carrier. As the G.I. spec states, this includes the gas key that’s chrome lined and heat treated. 

The gas key is secured to the carrier with grade 8 fasteners and staked as well. The BCG itself is shot-peened, and both high pressure tested, and magnetic particle inspected to ensure the BCG and bolt are top-notch. The extractor and ejector are machined from tool steel to ensure they are long-lasting and tough. 

What does this all mean to you? Well, it means the BCM BCG won’t tap out. It will take abuse, lots and lots of abuse without failure. The BCG takes a lot of abuse, and when it breaks, your rifle breaks, so this is one of the most important parts of your rifle. A high-quality, well-made, and extensively tested BCG helps ensure unbeatable reliability. 

BCM test fires all of their bolt carrier groups before shipping to ensure they are functional and ready for a nice long life of abuse inside your rifle. As a MIL-SPEC carrier, the BCG will function with nearly every 5.56 AR 15 on the market.

BCM Bolt Carrier Group Pros and Cons

  • Made to last
  • Properly Constructed
  • Proven Design
  • Expensive

BCM Bolt Carrier Group Deals

SilencerCo Gas Defeating Charging Handle Review

SilencerCo makes suppressors, and I almost feel like I should add a’ duh’ at the end of that. However, they have expanded here and there to produce accessories of all kinds. Their latest non-suppressor product is the SilencerCo Gas Defeating Charging Handle. 

You can rightly assume this charging handle is designed to work with suppressors. However, it’s not just an excellent suppressor charging handle, but it’s a perfectly reasonable option for unsuppressed use as well. 

The SilencerCo Gas Defeating Charging Handle’s main claim to fame is reducing the gas thrown in your face when you use a suppressor or even an unsuppressed short-barreled rifle. This charging handle eliminates that gas improves comfort, and reduces the load you’re exposed to. 

Besides being excellent at reducing gas, we get an extended ambidextrous charging handle with some of the best ergonomics I’ve ever experienced. It’s enormous, easy to grab, allows extra leverage for stuck cases, and is compatible with multiple weapons charging methods. 

The SilencerCo charging handle works very well with modern magnified optics and makes it easy to grab that charging handle and let it rip rearward. It’s tough enough for duty use and will take abuse. It’s built to the standards professional users expect. What does suck is the relatively high price point? It’s far from cheap.

SilencerCo Gas Defeating Charging Handle Pros and Cons

  • Eliminates Gas Blowback to the Face
  • Ambidextrous design
  • Extended handles
  • Expensive

Product Deals

Geissele SSA X Trigger Review

Straight from the Super Duty series of rifles, Geissele has responded to consumer demand to release the SSA X to the general market. Shooters finally get arguably one of the best duty triggers on the market, as well as one of the most versatile trigger options. Triggers are often very explicitly designed for a particular use case. The SSA X might not excel at every role, buts it is good enough to be a jack of all trades. 

The SSA X delivers a crisp, clean single-stage trigger design that reduces grit and creep to imperceptible levels. There is very little, if any, overtravel, and the trigger delivers consistently excellent performance. The SSA X might not offer an adjustable trigger pull or a drop-in design, but it’s rugged and reliable. 

The pull is light, but not so light to be an issue for duty or defensive use. You’ll be able to land those precision shots without much difficulty, and you still pull the trigger rapidly and consistently with a positive reset for that rapid-fire we all love. 

Plus, it’s designed for maximum reliability with various ammo types. From your high-end hand loads to your hard primer Lake City ammo, it’ll go bang with the Geissele SSA X in place. It might be a feather trigger, but it’s a component and capable duty trigger that’s clean and crisp. 

Geissele SSA X Trigger Pros and Cons

  • Duty Ready
  • NSWC Approved
  • Reliable
  • Pricey

Geissele SSA X Trigger Deals

Vortex Razor HD Gen 3 Review

When it comes to downright versatility, the low-powered variable concept can’t be beaten. They can be effective at 5 yards and 500 yards and function at a very high level. Enough so that the modern military has moved towards the LPVO concept, including Special Operations and even the infantry of the United States Marine Corps. The Vortex Razor HD Gen 3 1-10X24 is easily the best LPVO on the market. 

Being able to move from 1X to 10X gives you extreme versatility when it comes time to shoot. At 1X, the optic’s generous eye box and eye relief offer what’s essentially a red dot. It’s not as good or as fast as a red dot, but it’s close. The bright illuminated reticle is easy to see and fast to get on target. 

As you ratchet up the magnification levels, you can zoom in, take more precise shots, and increase your ability to hit targets at longer ranges. The Vortex Razor features an illuminated reticle that allows for windage and drop estimations. 

This is a premium-grade optic with premium-grade everything. This includes the glass, which is insanely clear and perfect for that 10X magnification range. Shooters get great turrets and a smooth magnification ring to allow you to guide your magnification easily. 

Impressively enough, 1-10X fits into the same size profile as their 1-6X model and is even slightly lighter than the 1-6X LPVO. Vortex knocked it out of the park design-wise. The Vortex Razor HD Gen 3 is one of the most versatile optics on the market but also one of the more costly optics. 

Vortex Razor HD Gen 3 Pros and Cons

  • Awesome Magnification Range
  • Great Reticle
  • Clear Class
  • Costs 3,600 Dollars

Vortex Razor HD Gen 3 1-10X24 FFP Deals

Cloud Defensive Rein 2.0 Review

Cloud Defensive has revolutionized the weapon light market with its focus on producing the brightest, most powerful weapon lights in the world. The Rein 2.0 combines an intensive amount of lumens with an extreme amount of candela. Candela is a measure of working light and helps propel your lumens forward and give your light a longer overall range. The Rein 2.0 packs 71,000 candela backed by 1100 lumens to give you a powerful, hard-hitting beam of light that slices through the darkness. 

It provides enough power and range that the only way to truly take advantage of it is a magnified optic. An LPVO or magnifier behind your red dot will allow you to see those targets out to 200 yards clearly and decisively.  

That powerful beam will also overcome common light barriers. Things like photonic barriers created by other light sources are blown away by the Rein 2.0. Dealing with smoke, fog, and similar air-borne contaminants won’t be a problem either. The Rein 2.0 just eats through it. 

The 2.0 model made some slight improvements to make the light more ergonomic. They shrunk the head size, reduced the overall length, reduced the weight, and used a reduced mounting lug to get the light closer to your weapon’s rail. When you look at the power versus the light size, you see a very efficient design. 

A variety of end caps and remote switches allow you to get the light set up exactly how you want and where you want it. Cloud Defensive has done a fantastic job of producing an extremely high-quality weapon light that shines bright, shines far, and is positively blinding. 

The downsides are few and far between. Yes, it’s expensive, but not too far off from most professional duty grade lights. Users are stuck with rechargeable batteries only, and using CR123s can damage the light and void your warranty. Having several replaceable, rechargeable batteries is a wise idea. 

Cloud Defensive Rein 2.0 Pros and Cons

  • Extremely Bright
  • Size Efficient
  • Ergonomic and Modular
  • Rechargeable Batteries Only

Cloud Defensive Rein 2.0 Deals

Wilson Combat Q-Comp Review

I’m of the opinion the best muzzle device is likely a suppressor, but that involves navigating federal and state laws, the NFA, a tax stamp, and more. With that in mind, the best muzzle device that appeals to the widest variety of shooters is the Wilson Combat Q-Comp. This simplistic muzzle device could be used for defense, duty, competition, and beyond.

Wilson Combat looked at the proven and effective A2-style flash hider and seemingly went to work to improve it. Instead of having a flash suppressor that works okay as a comp, they designed a comp that works brilliantly as a flash suppressor. Across the top, the birdcage is present and invokes some Deja Vue. However, upon closer inspection, those ports are a fair bit bigger. 

They now beat back flash like it owes them money and has the effect of lowering muzzle rise. The bigger ports redirect more gas upwards, which drives the muzzle downwards. The result is less muzzle rise, making accurate and fast follow-up shots possible. The Wilson Q-Comp isn’t super long or heavy and doesn’t have any downsides beyond getting a perfect index. 

Wilson Combat Q-Comp Pros and Cons

  • Effective Compensator
  • Affordable
  • Compact
  • Requires Perfect Indexing

Wilson Combat Q-Comp Deals

Magpul MIAD Gen 1.1 Review

Magpul again, and honestly, it wouldn’t have been that off-kilter to use Magpul for many of these entries. You’d likely be surprised at just how many options exist when it comes to the AR pistol grips. It can be downright confusing. With that in mind, the MIAD Gen 1.1 is simple but functional, ergonomic, and comfortable. 

MIAD stands for Mission Adaptable, and for you, that means it’s modular. Shooters can swap the front and rear straps to customize the grip size to best fit the shooter’s hands. Shooters come in all shapes and sizes, and so should their grips. 

The bottom of the grip also opens, allowing you a small storage compartment. Magpul produces a few different grip inserts they call ‘cores,’ and each core has a different theme. This includes one featuring spare parts, an oil bottle, and more. You can avoid the core and shove skittles in it if you choose. 

On the outside of the grip, we get a great texture that sticks to the hand without being irritating. The grip angle is 25 degrees making it best suited for carbine-length weapons, which isn’t an issue since that’s the majority of AR rifles these days. 

The Magpul MIAD Gen 1.1 is a rock-solid option for the modern shooter. It matches the modular nature of the AR 15 and does so very well. If you don’t mind the price tag, you’ll be well served with the MIAD. 

Magpul MIAD Gen 1.1 Pros and Cons

  • Modular
  • Core Compatible
  • Non-slip grip texture
  • Almost 40 dollars!

Magpul MIAD Gen 1.1 Deals

Upgrade It All 

There are lots of reasons the AR 15 has such staying power. It’s lightweight, easy to shoot, accurate, controllable, and generally a fine firearm. Beyond that, the gun has remained a favorite due to its modularity. A modular weapon can stand the test of time. The AR 15 might be the most modular rifle to ever exist. 

If you aren’t upgrading it, you’re losing out on a significant part of the gun’s appeal, so start tinkering and make a rifle – your rifle! 


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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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