If you’ve been around the AR 15 community for any length of time you’ll likely have noticed a common trend: AR owners love to debate. Whether it’s the merits of one handguard rail style over another or which optic options are best, you’ll notice that AR owners can get into some pretty lengthy — and passionate — discussions. And, because the AR is so wonderfully modular, we seriously doubt we’ll ever run out of topics to hash out. One of the big topics that comes up pretty regularly is the debate over weight. Is it better to have a heavier setup with more accessories, or should you pare down to keep the weight off? As with so many things regarding the AR 15, personal preference will play a big role. But, there are plenty of times that a lower weight can be more beneficial. Here are a few things to consider as you debate whether to ditch some weight:
Probably the single biggest draw for the AR 15 is how easily it can be customized. And, since the upper and lower receivers are separate, there is a truly abundant number of different parts out there to help you customize your AR as you see fit. What this means is, if you really want to invest the time and budget, you can have totally different upper assembly options based on different purposes (i.e. one upper assembly for hunting and another for competitions or range time). Of course, we know that’s not always an option, so swapping between a few custom AR parts and/or accessories can be a good way to adjust the weight when you don’t want to create multiple uppers for your AR.
We should also clarify: we aren’t going to break this down into the “perfect” weight range for a lighter versus heavier AR 15 setup. First, we know how much debate that will stir up. But second, and more importantly, weight is relative. Something that feels heavy to a five-foot, hundred pound AR owner will probably feel a lot lighter to someone who is over six feet tall and tops out at two hundred pounds of solid muscle. So, when it comes to weight considerations, a big part of it will be what feels heavy or light to you.
The biggest factor in your decision to add to or reduce the weight of your AR should be how the weight affects your stance. If your setup is too heavy, it can affect how strongly you can pull back and keep that strong, sturdy grip when in a ready stance. If your AR is heavy enough that you tire and let up on your grip, even just a bit, your accuracy can be affected and, if it’s too much of a strain, can become dangerous. So, if you really want to up the weight, you may want to hit the gym first and be sure you can handle the additional effort of a heavier AR setup for an extended period. Or, if grip is the issue rather than strictly the weight, it might be time to shop around for accessories. Some of the best AR accessories and parts out there are designed to help you get a better grip on the forend.
Whether you are standing, kneeling, sitting, or lying prone, the basics of your ready stance will be more or less the same: buttstock positioned high and tight inside your shoulder, both support hand and firing hand being used to pull the AR firmly into your body. As we said above, if your AR’s current setup inhibits your ability to have a firm, stable grip, it might be wise to lighten up. The caveat here is that some recreational shooting purposes lend themselves well to shooting from a supported position.
If you’re looking to specifically work on your accuracy and grouping more so than your draw speed, or if you’re testing your AR, shooting on a rest can be that stable variable to help you get a clear picture of what’s going on. Logic says that weight of your firearm doesn’t matter as much if you’re shooting supported, and to some extent, that’s correct. It is less weight for you to physically support. However, you will still have to be able to brace appropriately and deal with the recoil. If the weight is too much, it can affect your accuracy, even when shooting from a rest. On the flip side, however, is that an AR 15 that is too light can also affect your accuracy. Having sufficient heft to your AR can help compensate for tics and twitches if you’re shooting unsupported. Just be sure you’re finding the balance between good heft and too much weight.
Of course, shooting in motion is a different can of worms. The AR 15 was initially designed for use by U.S. Military service members, so it was meant to be used in mobile situations. The AR has been optimized with the intention of allowing a user to go from resting to ready quickly and with a firm grip. The intention there is that a quick draw and firm grip will, by and large, help with accuracy. If you’re going hunting, that can be a boon. If your AR 15 is too weighty, however, a day spent drawing and firing can get taxing and your accuracy can diminish as your muscles wear out. The better bet is to reduce the weight a bit so you can maintain a firm grip all day.
Reducing The Load
One of the big trends in custom AR parts and accessories has been a move toward lighter but still durable components. If you’re looking for a way to lighten your setup, you may want to start by exploring the best AR accessories; many offer the same benefits as older options, but with advancements that reduce the weight. This may also be the sign that it’s time to move away from that heavy Picatinny rail. For a lighter alternative that lets you keep using your Picatinny accessories, check out Bootleg’s proprietary PicMod rail system. Find that and more of the best AR accessories and parts online!