Editor’s Note: Prices noted in this article are as of July 26, 2013, and subject to change without notice.
Aftermarket options for the AR-15 and its variants are legion. I don’t think it’s possible for a single human being to scratch the surface of all the available handguards, optics, mounts, suppressors, and other geegaws out there, some of which can be quite spendy. However, I’ve recently bought a handful of inexpensive items for my AR that have delivered a lot of bang for the buck. Some have been mentioned in previous posts, but they’re worth a few more words to explain why you might consider them for your own rifle.
Quad rails are great, but they’re not always comfortable to handle without gloves. Magpul’s AR-15 Ladder Rail Protector offers a low-profile, no-slip grip surface that you can tailor to your accessories package with a pair of scissors. I have the OD Green ones on my Rock River Operator, but they come in several colors. We have ‘em in black.
This handy little rail allows the shooter to install micro red-dot optics, flashlights, lasers, and other items to be mounted at a 45-degree offset. I use it to move a Bushnell First Strike Reflex Red Dot Sight off the top rail to the right side when I want to install a riflescope on top of the rifle. It takes about a minute to put the offset rail on, and another minute to move the First Strike for closer targets. I put the rail on the right side so I can go from scope to dot with a quick counter-clockwise turn of the rifle, and without having to change my head position. The unit is ambidextrous, so if you want to cant clockwise, that’s easy, too. The offset piece mounts to a MIL-STD 1913 rail and offers five cross-slot mounting locations. It is 2.5 inches long, but only uses 1 inch of the top rail for mounting. It weighs 1.45 ounces.
Personally, I don’t like a hard cheekweld on my AR stock when I’m shooting a long time or when I’m trying to shoot a scoped rifle for accuracy, such as when I’m lot-testing ammo. I have a harder time regulating my cheek pressure on the gun the more firmly I press, so being able to back off how hard I press helps me shoot better. The ProMag PM066 scope riser allows optics to be raised 3/4-inch above a flat-top rail. Because the riser is quick detachable with Picatinny rails, I usually keep a scope mounted on the riser, and the whole unit goes on with the twist of two thumb screws and gives me the proper scope height without having to use extra-high rings. A full-length spring-loaded locking bar seats firmly on the top rail and helps the unit stay reasonably zeroed when I take the scope/rail unit on and off at the same T-mark.
When shooting off a bench, you may notice your AR’s grip length and magazine length can make it awkward to settle the rifle into a stable position. There’s not much you can do about the grip length, but you can make the gun’s overall height a little shorter by using 10- and 20-round magazines rather than 30-rounders, which are longer than the grip.
I own three of these shorter magazines, and my favorite is an aluminum-body 20-rounder made by Adventure Line, Mfg., which Cheaper Than Dirt! doesn’t carry. I have also used Windham Weaponry’s 20-round magazine (9-102143, $19.11) and like it as well as the Adventure Line.
Please comment below and tell everyone what inexpensive AR items you have that deliver a lot of utility for not a lot of money.