Gear, Parts and Accessories

A Beginner’s Guide to Accessorizing your AR


So you are new to the gun world and want one of those fancy AR-15s. Tricking out your combat gun is something that most owners of the famed black rifle pride themselves on. There is no doubt that you can spend more on accessories than you can on the rifle itself. Once you purchase an AR, there are a million choices for accessories on any budget. If you are looking for the must-have accessories, read ahead and figure out what you are getting in to. It isn’t difficult and it can be tons of fun!

Railed Forends

A railed forend is a handguard that is made of MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail. It encompasses the barrel and acts as the platform for sticking all your goodies on your rifle. The rail comprises a series of ridges with a T-shaped cross-section interspersed with flat spacing slots. Shooters can mount accessories either by sliding them on from one end or the other; by means of a Weaver mount, which clamps to the rail with bolts, thumbscrews, or levers; or onto the slots between the raised sections. When you pick up a railed rifle, you may notice that the rails themselves are a bit sharp to the touch. Some feel the action of shooting the gun would create a “cheese grater” effect on your hands. Many brands manufacture rail covers that give you a more comfortable grip. They are inexpensive and I think that as long as you have room, they’re a must-have.

Red Dots

I remember many years ago learning to shoot an M16 in basic training. I remember thinking the iron sights on the weapon were strong, precise, and relatively fast. When I first got my hands on a red dot sight however, my opinion changed. This thing was very fast, reliable, and tremendously precise. I could engage targets at a much greater speed, almost without thinking about it. Red dot sights come in all types of sizes and builds. Manufacturers make sights to fit just about any budget, but believe me when I say that you get what you pay for. Buy the best sight you can possibly afford. It will last you forever, and they make aiming an AR effortless. It is a good idea to plant some backup iron sights on your weapon however, should your fancy red dot take a hit from a 7.62 projectile, you will be glad you have them there. Don’t forget to practice with the iron sights just as much as you practice with your red dot too.


Here is a personal preference choice. Vertical or angled grips definitely make your rifle look cool. I personally don’t use them, but that doesn’t mean I’m right. I learned to shoot without one, so that’s what I’m more comfortable with. Some grips contain storage compartments for batteries or other small items. They can be a good idea if having that grip is in line with your style of shooting. I will say that the Magpul Industries AFG1 Angled Foregrip is quite comfortable, and does not alter my shooting style as much as a vertical one.


I love me a bipod. It is way easier to lug around a bipod than a couple of sandbags. For precise shooting over a distance, a bipod is a very nice thing to have. Shooters can attach railed items quickly and easily, so you can keep your bipod in your pack until you are about to use it. Bipods come in all budgets, but again, you get what you pay for. Keep in mind however, I’ve broken both entry-level and high-end bipods, so be careful with them.

White Lights

Perhaps one of the most important accessories on your rig, the white lights are a must-have. Good lights run around 100 bucks, and they last forever. This should be the first accessory you purchase after your sights.

Let us know what you are running on your rifle. I’ve seen laser sights, can openers, chainsaws, and one guy even had a garage door opener. The choices are endless. Maybe you can think of something that nobody else has thought of.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (8)

  1. To me an AR 15 is a mid to long range unit, with short distance capabilities. Most white lights are good for 50 to 60 feet, which is great in a room or close alley, but it is also a dead giveaway as to your location to someone 100 yards away. The minute you sweep from right to left, the enemy knows right where to empty his AK 47.It does NOT always pay to advertise, which is why the police hold their flashlight as far away from their body as they can.

  2. Geez! I’m totally out of the game at the moment!! Just got a totally box stock older Bushmaster carbine (1st gen.) Looks like I need to get some parts! I’ve been looking at the quad rail by UTG (forgot about rail covers… hate the thought of ‘cheese grater!); I like the looks of the MagPul angled foregrip; definitely a white light… wondering if my GLOCK mounted Streamlight will work with the angled grip (or even if it will fit the quad rail… thought I’d heard the GLOCK mount was different than the Picatinny style). Thanks. “Own a gun + Didn’t vote = Part of the problem”

  3. I am running a Troy carbine with a magpul afg2, an umbrella corporation grip 23(amazing feel), and a vortex sparc.

  4. I have a custom build AR in .300 BLK. Model 1 Sales barrel and upper, Stag Arms lower, Yankee Hill Machine Smooth Free Float Forearm, Ergo Grip, Vltor EMOD Enhanced stock, vertical grip with integrated light, Monstrum 2.5-10×40 w/Green Laser scope.

  5. Got an Eotech on each of my ARs, with 3X magnifier on a flip-to-the side mount on one and a standard fixed mount on the other, Both have Grippod foregrips on quadrails with Insight 3X laser/light combos, pressure switch mounted on the Grippod. Grippod is excellent, bipod mounted in the foregrip, very handy. Magpul collapsibles stocks and Magpul MOE pistol grips with battery storage capacity. Magpul B.A.D. lever for ease of rechambering a round after reload. The Colt also has a Miculek compensator to help reduce muzzle climb. Next on the agenda is hydraulic buffers for both.

  6. I have an Bushmaster Dissipator and I am running a magpul Moe full size handguard, Magpul rear bus, an eotech 512, Magpul B.A.D lever, a Fab Defense T-pod and a Command Arms pistol grip. Suits me well!

  7. I have an AMD-65 AK. I would like to know who out there knows what kind of rail systems will work with this rifle. I found one specifically for this weapon in CTD’s catalog, but it was listed as unavailable/out of stock. I haven’t seen it since. Are there any others that CTD has that will work? I greatly appreciate any input. Thanks…

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