So you were able to purchase that AR15 you’ve been looking for, regardless of caliber. Congratulations on your purchase! So now what? AR15’s are like Lego’s for adult shooters. They can be modified to fit your needs and can also be a money pit if you aren’t careful. If you were lucky enough to snag a rifle that already has a free-floating rail…FANTASTIC! If not, well that’s ok too, you necessarily don’t need one when starting out, it’s just starting to become standard, so it seems, from manufacturers to include a free-floating rail. With that being said, let’s get this list started!
Back-up Iron Sights (BUIS)
So most AR15’s are coming with flattop receivers and some have BUIS, yet some don’t. To accurately shoot this rifle, you’re going to need some sort of sights. BUIS, or Iron Sights, have been around for a long time, and honestly, it takes some getting use to when starting out. There are a lot of different companies that sell BUIS, some are really high quality and some not so much. The common price tag for BUIS range from $50-$200. Here’s our suggestions for BUIS:
To shoot, you’re going to need more than just one (1) magazine, especially if you plan on taking any Rifle Courses. I would recommend at least having four (4) magazines. Why four (4) magazines? Well, most rifles come with at least one (1) magazine, but having to reload that magazine after shooting each time just sucks and just isn’t practical in a high stress situation. Having three (3) extra magazines makes reloading easy, especially with using a plate carrier or chest rig. Magazines are pretty much inexpensive and range between $10-$30. Some things to look for when it comes to magazines is the follower and feed lips – some are higher quality than others. Here’s our suggestions for very affordable magazine options:
- Magpul PMAG M2/PMAG M3 (Window or No Window)
- GI Steel Magazines
- Lancer Systems L5 AWM
- Daniel Defense 32rd
- Troy Industries Battlemag
Slings are often over-looked when purchasing a rifle. Most people remember either their dad, granddad or uncle having a hunting rifle with the proverbial camo sling. Yes those slings can work with your AR15, but to be honest, there are plenty of better slings out there on the market today. When using your AR15, especially in a class or just when at the range, you’ll more than likely need to learn how to transition from your rifle to your pistol. Some people will tell you to get a Single Point Sling or a Two Point Sling. My line of thinking, why not both? Sometimes, it’s necessary to change from a single point to a two point.
Single Point Only Slings, in my opinion, works well with say smaller short barreled pistols like an AR9, HK MP5, PTR 9KT, CZ Scorpion, Mini-Draco’s, etc. When it comes to a full-length 16″ rifle, it may be a bit much and may be uncomfortable when the rifle is dropped in front of you and it swings and hit you in the groin. Not fun for the Guys and Girls out there! But I digress. Also, what if you need to transition from shooting to your weak hand? You may need to maneuver the rifle around your body to get to that weak side due to a barricade or obstacle. This is just something to think about when carrying your rifle. Here’s our suggestions for slings:
- Magpul MS4
- Blue Force Gear Vickers Sling
- Frank Proctor Sling
- Haley Strategic Rifle Sling
- Ryker USA Sling
Remember with Slings, you may need to purchase some extra hardware to mount your sling, for example, QD Mounts for your handguard or a QD Backplate Mount. Something to consider when purchasing your sling.
Although optics aren’t truly necessary when shooting your AR15, especially if you have BUIS. But for some folks, having an optic makes shooting a bit more enjoyable and makes target acquisitions faster.
There are a wide range of optics out on the market, and quite frankly they can get overwhelming. There are a lot of Airsoft Brands that are being marketed for AR15 usage, but in reality, it is a waste of money and they will not hold zero. If you are on a budget, there are a lot of affordable options out there. If you are a baller and can afford the high-end glass…well roll with it. We have found that the average shooter doesn’t have a huge budget, so we feel like the Red Dot optics around the $150-$400 range is a good price point to look at and still feel comfortable trusting your life with it.
Here’s our suggestions for Entry-Level Red Dot optics:
- Holosun HS403B
- Holosun HS403C
- Sig Sauer Romeo5
- Sig Sauer Romeo MSR
- Primary Arms SLx Advanced Rotary Knob Microdot
- Vortex Optics StrikeFire II
- Vortex Optics Crossfire
- Vortex Optics SPARC AR II
- Bushnell TRS-25
- Black Spider Optics M0129
Here’s our suggestions for Mid-Level Red Dot Optics:
- Aimpoint Patrol Optic (PRO)
- Aimpoint Carbine Optic (ACO)
- Trijicon MRO
- EOTech 512
- Holosun HE503C
- Holosun HE515C
Another option for optics is the growing popular Low Power Variable Optic or LPVO. This optic is usually a 1-4x power optic but can be as high as 1-8x or 1-10x, depending on how much you’d like to spend. Having this optic choice is great if you are wanting to stretch the legs out on your rifle. Lets be real though, for most end-users their AR15’s will be used at no more 200yds…300yds at most. With that distance, a Red Dot Optic or BUIS can still be used at those distances. But for the ones that want to shoot a bit further than that, then a LPVO will be your best option.
The LPVO offers the ability to shoot a target up close with a 1x magnification, and then find another target at 300 yards very quickly with that 4x, 6x or 8x magnification. One thing to remember when it comes to adding an LPVO to your rifle is weight. Most LPVO’s with mounts can weigh up to and over 1 pound. So if you are wanting something light-weight, there are some brands out there, but they usually cost more, if not more than the rifle.
Most LPVO’s can be found between the $300-$800 range for just the optic, not including the mount. A good mount can cost between $100-$200, depending on what you are wanting. Also, keep in mind that most LPVO’s come with illuminated reticles, so shooting up close can be just like having that standard Red Dot Optic. Here’s our suggestions for quality LPVO’s:
- Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-8×24
- Primary Arms SLX 1-6×24 Gen III
- Trijicon Accupoint 1-4×24
- Sig Sauer Tango4 1-4×24
- Sightmark Citadel 1-10×24
If you are building an “all around – do all rifle”, then adding a light is very important. If you wake up in the middle of the night and find an uninvited guest rummaging through your stuff, you want to be able to see what you are they are doing and if they are a potential threat. This goes for pretty much any low-level light situation. There are many different variants to lights and some lights can be very expensive and some quite affordable.
Mounting of lights can also be a deciding factor when purchasing a light. The most common way of mounting a light is running a mount on your M-LOK, KeyMod, or Picatinny Rail and then using a tape-switch that can be mounted on top of the rail or on a front vertical grip. Be aware that some flashlights take a certain mounting bracket and that extra mounting bracket can be around the $50 mark.
Within the last few years, flashlights have gone away from the typical bulbs to utilizing LED’s, and with the LED came Lumens, or the total amount of light a flashlight emits. When purchasing a light, it all depends on “the mission set” or overall function of the light. If you are wanting something that is low-light and do not need to light up the dark sky, then a lower lumen light would be best. A couple of things to remember with flashlights is the “over spill” (how much illumination there is around the center beam), hot spot (how direct the light is in the center), and the brightness. If a light is too bright and say you shine the light on a white wall, that light will bounce back into your eyes and potentially have an affect on you.
Over the past say two-three years, the leading way for flashlights is no longer lumen, but switching to candela. Candela is the amount of light emitted by a lighting device in a particular direction. The higher the number candela, the more light that is emitted on the “over spill”. There are many reputable flashlight manufacturers out there and it can get overwhelming. The price point for flashlights can be from $80-$450.
Just remember the following when purchasing a flashlight: How will you be mounting it? Will you be needing a tape switch or will you be using the standard click-button? How much Lumen/Candela are you needing? Finding out what works best for you may be trial and error, but the end result will be the same…Bright Light! Here is our suggestions for quality Flashlights:
- Cloud Defensive REIN
- Cloud Defensive OWL
- InForce WML
- InForce WMLx
- Streamlight ProTac Rail Mount 2
- Surefire M600 Scout
- Surefire M300
- Modlite PLHv2
Is this list the “end-all, be-all” when it comes to the needs of a new AR15 shooter? NO! This is just what we think is important for the new shooter. What we really recommend first and foremost is training and shooting with your rifle and getting use to it. So that means purchasing ammunition. After purchasing that ammunition and shooting your rifle, you’ll need some sort of cleaning kit and cleaning solution to maintain your rifle in perfect working order. So some honorable mentions include:
- Carrying Case
- Gun Safe
- Cleaning Kit
- Cleaning Solution
- Gun Range Fees
- Training Courses
- AR Tools (Torx, Allen, Pliers, etc)
- Safety Glasses
- Medical Kit/IFAK
So at the end of the day, it’s all about your needs and what you are planning on doing with your rifle. If you are wanting to set it up for home defense, 3-Gun Shooting, or just something to plink with, the end result is the same – FREEDOM and FUN! Just remember that the rifle is a tool and it will get dirty and banged up if used. If you want a safe queen, then I would suggest purchasing a collectors piece and not shooting it, but if you want to use your rifle, then use it and enjoy it! It’s an investment either way. Just make sure to keep it cleaned, lubed up, and ready to go at a moments notice!
As always, ya’ll be good and be safe!