AR15 Basics

AR15 Accessory Basics

AR15s have become synonymous with modularity within the last 20 years. The AR15s popularity and standard mounting interface options give them nearly endless options when it comes to not only what you attach to the firearm, but how.  Because of this, the accessory market for the AR15 is just as big as the market for the platform itself. This gives you as the builder and shooter the ability to tailor your rifle for your intended use and preferences.

But if you are new to the platform or firearms in general this can be overwhelming as there are so many things you can mount to your firearm. While it may be tempting to throw everything and the kitchen sink at build, you will end up with a lot of excess bulk and weight. On the reverse side of this coin omitting certain things can drastically affect the utility of your firearm, some things are very useful and arguably necessary in some cases.

There are 4 “go-to” accessories in my eyes that will cover most use cases. This list is by no means definitive and what you choose should be driven by your intended application. With that being said, this formula is what I use for most of my builds when applicable.

These accessories (in no particular order) are a quality optic, backup iron sights, a good sling, and a good weapon-mounted flashlight.


Optics are directly driven by purpose and preference. What distances are you wanting to shoot at? How light do you want the firearm to be? What is your budget? There is no one perfect choice. Regardless of what you choose, modern optics are generally much more efficient than iron sights and should be one of the first things you get for your build.

For an AR15 a good red dot without magnification or even a low-power variable optic (LPVO) will do everything you need in most cases. There is such thing as too much magnification, so these two options are the safest in the world of carbines.

Red dots and holographic sights are a great option for a lot of use cases. They are light and, in most instances, have amazing battery life. You do get the option of running an external magnifier with a lot of red dots and holographic sights if you decide that is something you need after the fact.

An important note here: if you are running an LPVO or some other optic that cannot properly co-witness with backup irons I recommend using a QD scope mount if plan on utilizing backup iron sights.

Back up iron sights:

If you buy a quality optic, you shouldn’t need to put much thought into backup iron sights. Even so, they offer important redundancy for one of the firearm’s most crucial systems and will keep your gun running in case things take a turn for the worse and your optic goes down. No optic is indestructible–I have seen even the most “bombproof” optics fail, it happens. Do not take this as me saying optics are not to be trusted, if you buy something that is quality it will likely never be a problem, but the added assurance and redundancy of backups will give you peace of mind and a good plan B. Your backups should be of equal or greater quality to your optic. I generally recommend Magpul MBUS Pro front and rear sights as they offer rock solid construction in a slimline package.


A sling to an AR15 is as valuable as the holster is to a sidearm. This is something I see being neglected on a lot of builds. Slings are important, and if you take a carbine class you will quickly learn why. While I understand slings aren’t always the sexiest accessory for your new build they are important for any practical use case where you may need to take your hands off your gun without wanting to ground it. This piece of the equation isn’t exactly rocket science. A good quality sling with a quick adjustment tab will do everything you need and then some. Take some time getting used to using your sling and adjusting it. I can tell you from experience it is awkward at first but after a while, you will feel naked shooting without one.

If you are unsure about how to set up your sling (there is no single right solution) I generally set mine up with the rear point of the sling looped/QD’d into the stock/brace on the side of my dominant hand, then wrapping it around the back of the stock into the 9 o’clock QD slot on my ATLAS Handguard.

Weapon Mounted Lights:

If you have any intention of using a long gun or AR pistol in a low/no light environment a good white light is non-negotiable. I am not in the business of teaching tactics, but I am an advocate for safe and responsible firearms use. Being able to positively identify your target is paramount and the need for a light should go without saying.

With this basic list you may or may not be done accessorizing. Something I am very adamant about is using your gear and figuring out what does/doesn’t work well as what else may be needed. Your gear should help with performance, not hinder it. Some of my builds have more than what is listed above, some have less—it truly comes down to intended use and what is needed from the system.

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