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AR-15 Setup Guide: Accessory & Setup Tips

The AR-15, thanks to its impressive modularity, is one of the most versatile rifles in existence. Deciding what accessories to get first can be a daunting task seeing as there are so many configurations and modifications out there. Therefore, we compiled the perfect AR-15 setup guide, providing the five best accessories you can get for your AR-15 setup.

We also discuss some key tips, such as what to know before starting your optimization journey and what other modifications you can get for your AR-15 besides the five key accessories.


5 Accessories For Your AR-15 Setup

Below we discuss the five accessories you need for your AR-15 setup if you want to improve your AR’s performance.

  1. Optics
  2. Gun Tactical Lights
  3. Back Up Iron Sights
  4. AR-15 Pistol Grips
  5. Rifle Sling
HuntersHalt: #1 Red Dot Sight
#1 Gun Light
#1 Back Up Sights
4.9
4.7
4.8

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HuntersHalt: #1 Red Dot Sight
#1 Gun Light
#1 Back Up Sights
4.8

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1. Optics

HuntersHalt: #1 Red Dot Sight
Trijicon MRO 1×16 mm 2 MOA Reticle Red Dot Sight
4.9

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Optics are the most important accessory for your AR-15, especially if you want to improve accuracy, target acquisition rate, and situational awareness. Generally, we get three types of AR-15 optics, including:

  1. Red Dot Sight: Red dot sights are perfect for close to mid-range engagements, such as self-defense. By providing a single illuminated dot, you can easily spot targets and aim, allowing rapid target acquisition. I’ve used a lot of red dots on my AR-15s, such as Vortex, Leupold, and Holosun. However, the one I’ve been most satisfied with is the Trijicon MRO – providing the perfect balance between value, performance, and durability.
  2. Holographic Sights: These sights are very similar to red dot sights, but they have more features for enhanced performance. However, with the added features, they can also be more complex and bulky. They are ideal for people who want an advanced red dot for close to mid-range engagements, such as competition shooting or for your home defense gun.
  3. Magnified Scope: A magnified scope, like a low power variable optic (LPVO), is ideal for long-range shooting. Low power variable optics provide a magnification range and often have a holdover for rapidly switching between these magnifications, allowing you to quickly adjust to the distance to the target. Magnified scopes are ideal if you primarily use your AR for targets beyond 50 yards.

AR15 Optics


2. Gun Tactical Lights

#1 Gun Light
STREAMLIGHT TLR-1 HL GUN LIGHT 1,000 LUMEN
4.7

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Pros:
  • Very Durable & Reliable
  • Intuitive Controls
  • Very Powerful For The Size
Cons:
  • Cheaper Lights Exist
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No rifle setup is complete without a proper weapon light. I’m a huge fan of weapon-mounted lights, especially on my home defense and nighttime operation rifles. A green or white light makes seeing in the dark or low-light conditions so much easier, helping you to identify targets easier and avoid shooting you don’t want to.

Plus, a quality bright light, like the Streamlight TLR-1 HL with its 1000 lumens, really pairs well with a red dot and holographic sight. Streamlight makes several other great options. Check out our breakdown the of the Streamlight TLR7A vs TLR7 as well!

Pro Tip: Get a pressure switch for your AR-15 lights. A pressure switch allows you to activate the light without the need to move your hand from your pistol grip. Yes, it does mean you’ll need to spend a few extra dollars, but it saves you a lot of time, and in a life-or-death situation, that saved time can become invaluable.


3. Back Up Iron Sights

#1 Back Up Sights
MAGPUL MBUS PRO AR-15 IRON SIGHT FRONT FLIP UP
4.8

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Pros:
  • Very Durable Sights
  • Compact Design
  • Easy To Adjust
Cons:
  • Could Use A Drop Of Phosphor Paint
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Most of us who have used a red dot or holographic sight have wondered, “Well, what happens when the battery dies and I’m in a life-or-death situation?”

Enter, the backup iron sight, more specifically, the Magpul MBUS PRO, which is the perfect backup in case your primary optic fails. Its ergonomic, reliable, and provides an easy aiming platform. Additionally, the iron sight flips up, so it won’t be in your way when using your primary optic.


4. AR-15 Pistol Grips

#1 AR Pistol Grip
FAB Defense Ergonomic Pistol Grip
4.8

Includes: Up to 26% Off

Pros:
  • Lightweight & Durable Plastic Composite
  • Grips Even When Wet
  • Allows Access To The Storage Area
Cons:
  • Not Compatible With All Lower Receivers
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Struggling with vertical recoil, or just want to feel more in control when shooting with your AR-15? Well, a pistol grip might be the solution you are looking for. The best part is it’s super affordable – these pistol grips from FAB Defense only cost $30 and will make a world of difference to the stability and comfortability of your rifle during intense shooting sessions.


5. Rifle Sling

#1 AR Sling
Magpul MS4 Dual QD GEN 2 Multi-Mission Sling
4.8

Includes: Up to 12% Off w/ Free S&H

Pros:
  • Very Durable Heavy-Duty Nylon Webbing
  • Compatible w/ Front & Rear QD Attachment Points
  • Fits Very Comfortably
Cons:
  • Quick Adjust Feature Could Be Better
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People often forget the relevance and importance of a rifle sling in ensuring an enjoyable shooting session. I learned the hard way that not having a rifle sling on your rifle when hunting leads to hours of discomfort and irritation.

After that experience, I always double-check my rifle sling to confirm it’s up for the challenge that awaits. My favorite rifle sling is the Magpul MS4 Dual QD GEN 2 – it’s affordable, durable, and comfortable.

However, before you buy a new rifle sling or optimize your AR-15 setup in a different way, you need to know a few things, such as to identify your use case first. This will ensure a tailor-made setup for your personal preference.


What To Know Before Optimizing Your AR-15 Setup?

As mentioned, there are some things you need to know before optimizing your AR-15 setup. Here are three things I always double-check before buying a new gadget or modification for my AR-15 setup.

  1. Use Case
  2. Laws & Regulations
  3. Budget

AR-15 Set-up


1. Use Case

When I think of an AR-15, I think primarily of three use cases for civilian use, including hunting, self-defense, and range/competition shooting. It is important you determine the primary purpose of your rifle before buying a new modification.

You can go further and divide those three use cases further. For instance, if you want to hunt with your AR-15, you’ll need to determine what game you are hunting – a red dot works perfectly for hogs and turkeys and hunting in dense brush, whereas a magnified optic is ideal for hunting deer in open areas. While other shooters may want to turn their forward assist on to improve their performance even further!


2. Laws & Regulations

As with any weapon, there are several laws and regulations you should adhere to. Many AR-15 parts are regulated and require a registered and valid firearm license.

There are some parts you don’t have to purchase with a license, such as a handguard and most optics. However, lower receivers are, for example, regulated, and you’ll need to present a firearm license before you can buy the part. In short, make sure the state you live in allows AR-15 modifications.


3. Budget

Unfortunately, budget is always a factor to consider when buying any firearm or accessory. Therefore, balancing cost with quality is crucial – aim for the best quality AR-15 model within your budget.

Also, remember, the most expensive isn’t always the best. I’ve used several AR-15 models and parts that are much cheaper than their counterparts, and was amazed by the performance I obtained from them. Therefore, prioritize doing research on which AR-15 model you should use based on your budget, personal preference, and your local laws.


Which AR-15 Model Should You Use?

The AR-15 model you should use depends on your budget and personal preference. For instance, I prioritize lightweight and agility above rail space, but I always make sure the barrel and the rest of the upper receiver are made from high-quality materials.

We tested a lot of AR-15 models over the years, and based on our experiences here at HuntersHalt, we compiled a list of the 8 Best AR-15s for the money – offering pinnacle performance without you having to break the bank.


What Other AR-Modifications Can Be Made?

While I mentioned the most common AR modifications you can make, there are some others that also impact performance. The best AR-15 mods I didn’t mention include triggers such as the flat trigger shoe, barrels with different lengths, materials, and twist rates, handguards such as free-floating, a bolt carrier group, and even a muzzle brake.


Which Modification Is Best For Home Defense?

The best modification for home defense is an AR-15 red dot sight followed by a shorter barrel and tactical light. The red dot sight improves your accuracy, while the shorter barrel improves your maneuverability, and the tactical light improves your target acquisition rate and situation awareness.


Which Modification Is Best For Long Range Shooting?

The best modification for long-range shooting is a high-quality magnified scope. If you have a magnified optic, then you can start to look at modifications such as longer barrels with a faster twist rate, bipods/stabilizers, and a trigger designed for long-range shooting. Adding an ar binary trigger can produce a very smooth trigger pull that allows people to shoot more accurately from long range.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is it important to use high quality AR-15 accessories?

Yes, as in all things, quality ensures reliability and performance - paying an extra $30 for a higher-quality flashlight is better than someone getting injured, or worse, in a home defense situation where your flashlight dies, and you can't identify targets effectively.

Which type of muzzle device offers the best recoil reduction for AR-15s?

Muzzle brakes offer the best recoil reduction for AR-15s.

Can AR-15 accessories be easily customized?

Yes, basic accessories can be easily customized. However, it is important you have the right tools, knowledge, and compatible accessories.

The Bottom Line

Customizing your AR-15 is a rewarding experience, allowing you to create a tailored fit for your unique needs and preferences. From home defense to long-range shooting and hunting, the options are virtually limitless when it comes to AR-15 modifications. Remember to always consider your intended use, local laws, and budget when planning your setup. Enjoy the modification process, and always be sure to practice safe firearm procedures. Happy modifying!

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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