Published On: Wed, Oct 23rd, 2019

AR-15 Basics: A Guide to the AR-15 Platform

The AR-15, which stands for Armalite Rifle, encompasses a wide range of shooting capacities. You can take it with you to the woods, ranges, and anywhere in between. Its modular construction makes it the best long-firearm option for beginners. It is a lightweight semiautomatic rifle, which is the civilian version of the M14 or M16 military rifles. 

Vladimir Palyanov

Regardless of how you may feel about rifles, AR-15s are becoming more popular. They are heavy enough to drop a hog or a deer out in the field, and they are empowering to use on shooting ranges. If there’s one firearm that can be said to have it all, it would undeniably be the AR-15.

This lightweight wonder covers all the bases for rifle shooting. If you are new to long firearms and would like to understand how they work, then you’ve come to the right place. There are a couple of things you need to about the basic AR-15 assembly and the parts that you may need to customize according to use. Here is a basic breakdown you can start with.

How Does It Work?

A store-bought AR-15 comes with a reliable 30-round magazine, but you can customize it to go as high as 100 rounds. Chambers fire from 5.56 mm to .223 Remington. The barrels can go as full as 7 inches with standard 9 mm ammunition and 22 inches, with up to .300 Winchester Magnum power.

You can buy magazines and ammunition anywhere in the country. With its high-caliber performance, it’s no wonder the AR-15 is considered as one of the most reliable and accurate rifles available in the market today. The rifle is suitable for beginners. Its excellent control assembly provides an adjustable stock. The length can be customized to match the rifle owner’s physique.

Also, the steps required to load and fire the rifle can be learned quickly. With the AR-15’s minimal blast power and light recoil, shooters can take hold of the gun steadily with both arms and fire with accuracy even from several hundred yards.

Rifle customization is a huge selling point for AR-15s. Part upgrades can be installed quickly, and you can tailor them to your own specific shooting needs. The AR-15 is designed to handle harsh pressure under any type of condition.

The gas-operated system and the semiautomatic feature are a lot better than a manual firearm for several reasons. Its lever and bolt action allows the shooter to maintain the same position while shooting at a target without having to reposition in between shots. When looking for game and hunting for packed animals, AR-15s are generally more accurate than most hunting guns are.

What Are the Parts That You Can Upgrade?

The AR-15 is made for three purposes: hunting, competing, and self-defense. There are several smart upgrades that you can install on an AR-15.

Rifle Sling

The first thing to consider is the rifle sling. Like most handguns with holsters, you’ll need an adjustable sling for your rifle to carry it anywhere with you. 


Having an ergonomic buttstock is vital for better recoil, especially if you plan on upgrading to more full barrels and more powerful ammunition later on. Buttstocks usually cost anywhere between $70 to $100. With an upgraded buttstock, you’ll also need better AR-15 handguards for comfort and ease in handling.


As mentioned earlier, the standard chamber sits at 5.56 mm. Though you can upgrade it to .223 Remington, it’s better to stick with the standard cartridge. The former is designed for higher pressure and speed.

Also, you can safely fire a Remington on a standard chamber, but doing it the other way around may not be safe. 5.56 mm chamber is considered more versatile of the two. The latest chamber addition, which is the .223 Wylde, can accept both cartridges. These three types of chambers are the top choices for most rifle owners.


When it comes to performance, the item you can’t shoot effectively without is the optic. It’s the enhancer every shooter needs that can easily be bolted onto a rifle. The most convenient and effective target aligner is a red dot sight. It’s the dot that guides the shot and leads it to your target. It can improve your views and eliminate the guesswork for you.

If you prefer to rely on iron sights alone, you can upgrade the aperture and post, make them fit your anticipated shooting tasks. But for those who prefer quality scopes, choose the ones that offer a 500-yard viewing field. They often make transitioning from open iron sights to scopes much easier.

Also, scopes can provide better views in low light conditions. High-quality optics and scopes are not cheap, but you won’t regret investing in them once you start seeing improvements in your target shooting. 


Triggers on AR-15s can handle anywhere between 5 to 9-plus pounds. The primary assembly comes with single-stage triggers. They are usually nonadjustable and inexpensive. Some prefer the two-stage triggers as they are lighter and smoother. Either way, there’s always a trigger out there that will fit your shooting needs just right.

What Type of AR-15 Should You Buy?

AR-15s are intimidating at first, and that has a lot to do with their size. But once you’ve gotten the hang of its shape and power, you’ll find yourself getting more attached to your AR-15 over time.


The most popular AR-15 maker is Colt. After buying the license from Armalite Rifle, Colt is a highly recognized brand in the rifle world. Its LE6920 model is known as a defensive platform. It’s easy to shoot for beginners, given its mil-spec trigger. The parts offered are considered to be the standard measurement for most manufacturers.

As far as civilian self-loading carbines go, rifle starters find Colt assembly as reliable and durable. It’s the kind of rifle that will not break down even after thousands of rounds put into it. Though it doesn’t give you the option to mount a light, the rest of the assembly parts perform as well as those of any rifle available in stores.

Smith and Wesson

For those who want to get AR-15s but may not have the standard $1,000 budget to buy, Smith and Wesson (S&W) offers affordable entry-level long firearms. There are a lot of models available out there that hit the $700 to $800 mark, but most of them are substandard compared to the S&W assembly line.

The Sport II model is the kind of rifle that you can count on and grow from. It’s a great practice or backup gun, the kind that you can hone your skills with first before buying the rifle of your dreams. It’s like having a practice Fender guitar before getting a Gibson.

Knight’s Armament Co.

As far as expensive AR-15 platforms go, the Knight’s Armament Co. (KAC) SR line is one of the premium rifles money can buy. Powered by the Eugene Stoner system, the KAC AR-15 parts are designed with high-level military grade.

If you ever want to go all-out on an AR-15 assembly, this is the best option for you. It appeals to high-market gun owners because of its durability and functionality. The almost nonexistent recoil makes it a top choice for beginner and advanced shooters.

Whatever price range you may be looking at for your first AR-15, it’s better to buy a wholly assembled rifle. It’s generally less expensive than building your own as a newcomer. You can save the buildout for later when you’re more familiar with the system and have a better understanding of what you need as a rifle shooter.

Author: Paul Jacobs

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