It’s about that time of year now when you spent all of your money on other peoples’ presents but you might get some money for Christmas and spending your new money on cool things is very much preferable to paying off the credit card charges you made for the presents you bought on Black Friday. So in honor of procrastinating paying off your credit card and AR-ing like there’s no tomorrow, here is a list of things your rifle might need that don’t cost too much but add some great functionality (in no particular order):
1. Slick BCG
There’s no doubt in my mind after using an NP3’d BCG for about a year now that it is worth every penny and then some. It will let your gun run smoother, dirtier, and longer, even without cleaning it regularly. It’s a fantastic mod that can be had from Robar for a little over $100, and I can’t recommend it enough. If I had to pick one thing to do to a bone-stock AR to increase reliability, this would be it. For more info, check Robar out: www.RobarGuns.com.
And for more detailed thoughts on NP3’ing your BCG, check out our full review here. As we said in the writeup, it’s no surprise that Wilson Combat uses NP3 on every BCG they use in a build. It’s that good.
2. Bigger Mags or a Paint Job for the Ones You Have
Our two favorites here are the PMAG 40 and the Surefire series of higher-capacity magazines. For the money, the PMAGs are excellent, but if you really want to hold 60 or 100 rounds (because why not, that’s why), our Surefire 60 has yet to give us a single hiccup and they are built to last through a lot of hard use as well. The Surefire 60 is also shorter than the PMAG 40, allowing a slightly more diverse array of shooting positions. At left, the Lancer L5 AWM, which is one of the best 30-rounders you can buy, for a size comparison. 30 rounds is great, but if you’re allowed to have 60, you might as well have more rounds in your “defend the ranch” gun.
If you really want something different out of your Christmas money this year, you could also try sending in some of the mags you already have for a custom Cerakote or Hydro-dip paint job. For the Multicam on my PMAG 40, I sent it to Carey Lewis at Hi Caliber Mfg. Carey offers a wide range of refinishing services for reasonable prices. For more info on Hi Caliber or for pricing on your individual project, check out their site at www.hicalibermfg.com, or for a great portfolio of work try their Instagram at @hicalibermfg. You certainly wouldn’t have to stop at a mag, either: Carey’s photos show that he can finish your rifle or shotgun in whatever custom pattern you can think up.
3. More Comfortable Stock
Although Magpul puts out some great stuff, my favorite stock right now is the SOPMOD Enhanced from B5 Systems. It has two battery compartments, sealed with o-rings, that fit 123A sized lithium cells perfectly, a great-feeling cheek weld, ambi quick-detach sling swivel mount, and a nice rubber buttpad. For around $100 retail, it isn’t the cheapest thing on the list, but it may well be the last stock you ever buy…until you buy another one for your next AR build.
They’re available at a lot of online retailers for competitive prices, but for more information on the stock itself, check out the specs at www.B5Systems.com.
4. Purpose-propriate Trigger
There are a lot of fantastic options out there to get a crisp, clean trigger pull. Geissele is well regarded and puts out some excellent-quality pieces. But lately I’ve been running a Wilson Combat TTU-3G and it has not disappointed. It’s a 3.5-4# pull that has a crisp break and the most positive reset I’ve experienced. The TTU is also available in Single Stage, Two-Stage, and LE/MIL configurations offering 4, 4, and ~5-5.75# pulls, respectively. For precision shooting, the Two-Stage might be the best bet.
The WC TTU is a TRUE drop-in unit that has no adjustment screws and imparts no stress on your receiver’s pin holes. Further, in a move that should be expected of Wilson, they included a 1911-style half cock notch to ensure that the unit meets military drop-safe specs. Best of all, they’re still 20% off for Wilson’s Christmas sale, so you can get a great deal on one if you hurry!
5. Better Charging Handle
There’s really only one charging handle as far as this writeup is concerned: the BCM Gunfighter. Shown above is the Mod3. This thing is fantastic. This 7075 T6 aluminum handle is beefed up in critical areas and the latch design is perfect for getting your hands on it when you want to, regardless of which one you’re using. It’s also available in an ambi configuration, or for 7.62 AR’s for those of you who prefer the .308.
Check out the variety and pick the one that’s right for you at www.BravoCompanyUSA.com.
6. Tools to Make Your Life Easier
For those of you who run an optic (which is probably almost everyone), this tool REALLY won’t break the bank, and it’ll work well for you regardless of which brand optic you prefer. It’s called the Combat Optic Tool, and it’s manufactured by Patriot Products out of Arizona. Coincidentally, Freddie Blish of ROBAR is the man behind it, and as a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the USMC, he knows his stuff.
The Combat Optic Tool features a way to install or adjust just about any optic or mount worth running on a hard-use or duty weapon, to include Aimpoint, Larue, Trijicon ACOG/RMR, Eotech, Elcan, or that dang beverage that hasn’t been upgraded to a screw-off cap yet.
The Combat Optic Tool is only about $15, and the Combat Optic Tool Optimized is about $21 from Robar, even with your favorite Robar finish to make sure it stays corrosion-free and ready to go. It’s also available from BCM, Larue, Tango Down, Battle Comp, and others. But I’d prefer to go straight to the source and buy it NP3’d from ROBAR (here).
7. Better Ammo
You don’t need this, but better ammo can make an astounding difference for a small amount of money if you’re trying to see what kind of groups your rifle is capable of shooting. Right now, Winchester Match or Federal Gold Medal Match, both in 69 grain, are two of the best rounds out there for precision rifle shooters. Although the Federal load is available with a 77 grain bullet as well, 69 grain projectiles seem to shoot to the highest degree of precision through a wider variety of rifles and barrel twist rates, which is a big part of the reason it’s my go-to weight for testing a new gun off the bench. It’s probably a big part of the reason Winchester only made their Match line in a 69 grain configuration for .223. Both of these rounds utilize a Sierra MatchKing BTHP bullet, which is widely respected as one of the best options out there for precision rifle shooting. The Winchester is loaded about 60 fps hotter and seems to carry a slightly higher retail at most big-box retailers, but what this one comes down to is which load your rifle likes more (and which one you can find on the shelf).
8. MORE AR
It’s never too early to start on your next rifle, either. Let’s be honest: sometimes we all got a feva, and the only prescription is more AR. Post-Christmas sales are sure to offer some great deals on upper/lower sets like this one from Wilson Combat. The billet set was out of my price range this year, but the integral trigger guard was a nice compromise for my next build, and I’ve never had an AR that wasn’t black. Maybe this will convince politicians that by making it another color it is less likely to do something evil. Hey, it’s no less logical than some actual laws they’ve passed. I digress. Wilson is sold out but still taking backorders on certain styles of their receivers for about a 50% discount. Check it out here.
Like most lists, this one could go on forever. A lot of people will probably wonder why I didn’t include rails on the list, but they’re a lot more of a personal preference item and there are so many good ones out there from companies like Daniel Defense, Wilson Combat, and others that we figured you guys could figure that one out yourselves. Additionally, this writeup is more about functional modifications than anything else (yes, new camo paintjobs do make you invisible), and a rail isn’t absolutely necessary for adding accessories or getting better accuracy out of your rifle. For the money involved, some of the items on this list can improve accuracy in a much more noticeable way than simply free-floating your build. But if you want to do it, there are certainly a lot of great rails out there, and it does make a lot of things easier.
My opinion here is just that: one man’s opinion based on my time spent working in the industry and shooting these guns. Neither of those things is meant to be a substitute for solid training or the mindset that goes along with going into harm’s way. When it comes to that, there are plenty of other websites more qualified to opine than this one. I’m no operator— just a shooter— but my time in the industry taught me a lot about parts quality and what goes into a good rifle. So if you want to add a thing or two to yours, this list might be a good place to start. HP
Photos by author unless otherwise noted.