Make Your AR15 Rifle Shoot Better
By Steve Felgenhauer
Manasquan, NJ –-(Ammoland.com)- Think your AR can’t be as accurate as the high end custom AR above? Think again.
The AR or AR15 rifle is plenty accurate. Oh, yours isn’t? Maybe it’s time to look at some options to make your rifle the envy of the rifle range.
Like all rifles the AR is made up of components; each playing a role in its accuracy.
Though shooting style may differ from shooter to shooter, for example, those who participate in service rifle matches have different requirements from an AR used for long range hunting. However, high quality components are crucial for both top scores or long range hunting success.
Whether you are building a black rifle from parts or customizing your existing AR rifle to better suit your shooting style, here’s a rundown of what works for me and a suggestion where to spend your hard earned dollars to maximize black rifle accuracy.
The barrel: the heart of an accurate rifle.
The accuracy of any rifle begins and ends with its barrel. This should be the greatest single expenditure when looking to wring the most from your AR. Many rifle manufacturers use decent barrels capable of good accuracy. If your rifle isn’t accurate enough for your liking, replace the barrel first and choose a reputable barrel maker. Shilen Rifles makes one of the finest. Their drop-in barrel is available complete with matching bolt chambered, headspaced and ready for installation. Their barrels are available in many contours. Don’t skimp on a barrel.
The process of installing an aftermarket barrel is usually combined with installation of free float tubes. If you are utilizing a drop-in barrel, the barrel simply fits into the receiver and is held in place by the barrel nut. The nut must be aligned so that the gas tube clears the holes in the nut. Most free float tubes then screw onto the barrel nut.
If you would like to see this and other procedures, go to Brownell’s website. It has one of the most comprehensive video collections available on building an AR Rifle. www.brownells.com
Free Float Tubes
Any kind of pressure put on a rifle barrel will cause the impact of the bullet to shift. For this reason, I like free float tubes on my AR. If building an AR with some sort of attachment for a bipod, mount it on the free float tube so it makes no contact with the barrel whatsoever to include the gas block.
Free float tubes can be installed on CMP rifles by removing the heat shields from the issued hand guards then reinstalling the hand guards over them. Most shooters use a second set dedicated to this use as the original hand guards do need to be modified.
Free Float Tubes come in an array of styles and materials and are a personal preference AR accessory.
Upper and Lower Receiver
The upper and lower receivers for the AR- 15 are Mil- Spec. In theory, the parts are interchangeable. The AR- Style .308 is not, but I foresee one or two designs taking the lead and becoming the “standard”.
The upper and lower receivers are simply nothing more than housings to keep the guts of the rifle from flying apart. The upper holds the barrel in place and houses the bolt carrier. The lower houses the hammer and trigger while holding the buttstock and pistol grip in place.
Though many shooters feel the slop between the upper and lower receiver robs accuracy, I have yet to experience this. But, the slop rattle can be quite aggravating and distracting. If the rattling halves bother you, an Accu-wedge or JP Tension Pin can remove this slop. I prefer glassing the two halves. To do this, a minimum of tools will be needed:
- Bedding Compound – I like Brownell’s Acraglas Gel, 4 ounce kit – This will provide more than enough bedding compound to glass an AR and still have plenty to bed a bolt action rifle or two. This kit comes with everything you will need to do a professional-looking job. One word of caution, the release agent included in the kit prevents the two pieces from sticking together. It is imperative to use this release agent according to the directions.
- Degreasing Agent – I use denatured alcohol.
- Shim stock – The thickness of the shim depends on the desired tightness. I prefer a .005 of an inch thick shim stock (the thickness of two sheets of typing paper) though many match gun builders use a shim up to .012 of an inch thick.
Degrease the lower receiver where the lug from the upper fits into it. Apply the release agent to the upper receiver and the rear takedown pin. I also put a small piece of clay in the hole in the lug. The pin will not be pushed all the way through but will fill up with the Acraglas; the clay prevents this.
Apply a small amount of glass in the pocket of the lower receiver where the lug will sit. To get good adherence, I will occasionally rough up the receiver with a Dremel tool and a small bur and degrease it again. Once the glass is applied in the pocket, put the shim on the top of the lower receiver. Slowly close the two halves. I put the shim just behind the ejection port; the two halves should not close. Apply pressure to the upper receiver; enough so you can start the takedown pin in the lug. Do not push the pin all the way through.
The deed is now done. All that is left to do is clean up any glass that runs out and set aside, preferably in a horizontal position until the glass sets up. Once the glass is set up, remove pins and clean up all residue. The rifle is then ready to reassemble and shoot and viola, no more rattle.
The only specialized feature on an upper receiver other than the cool factor is matching it to your shooting style. If you are a Civilian Marksman Program (CMP) shooter, you will need to choose an upper that will accept rear sights, like the A2 upper. For a long range shooter or hunter who plans on mounting optics, a flat top or optic-friendly high rise upper is in order. I prefer the high rise to a standard flat top. I want to keep my optics as close to the receiver and bore as possible instead of using ultra high scope rings.
Don’t get too worked up over the upper and lower receivers and don’t overspend here.
The standard issue trigger isn’t conducive to accuracy unless you are familiar with a two stage trigger. I like a crisp, single stage trigger that breaks at 3- 3½ pounds. The JP EZ trigger is one of my favorites and as its name implies is rather easy to install. For service rifle shooters who are restricted to a 4 ½ pound trigger pull, a CMP set up is available. This is achieved by springs rather than sear and trigger engagements. This is one area in which I would not cut corners.
The installation is better watched than explained. JP Rifles has a wonderful video of the trigger installation and set up on their website. Go to www.jprifles.com/220.127.116.11_ezt.php to watch the video of the complete installation. Trigger control is important, but again it is a luxury and will be priced accordingly.
Often looked upon as an oversight, a stock is important to long range shooting. A consistent stock weld is imperative to consistent success when shooting long range. The Magpul Precision Rifle/Sniper stock is the choice for serious shooters. It is fully adjustable both for length and height and facilitates optic mounted ARs. These are premium made stocks and priced as such. A less expensive option is the standard A2 style buttstock and an aftermarket cheek piece to attach to it. While not high speed, it performs the same task and is a couple hundred dollars cheaper.
Optics is a matter of opinion. Red dots are fine for the new 3 gun shoots and the sort, but once the shot ranges over 400 yards, a traditional scope complete with a range-finding type reticle is the choice of long range shooters. Many shooters like the Mil – Dot reticle, however, I find the distance between the dots too extreme for shots over 500 yards. Nikon’s Bullet Drop Compensator (BDC) used in tandem with their Spot On software program makes shooting long range child’s play. Purchase the best optics you can afford and learn how to use them.
Getting the most out of an AR isn’t difficult, but does take some planning. Determining your intention and expectations for the rifle is important. Can an AR keep up with a bench rest target rifle? Probably not, but it was never designed to do so. The bolt action rifle as we know it has a big head start on the relative newcomer, the Modern Sporting Rifle.
AR variations have already taken the rifle to heights even Stoner could have not imagined and the best is yet to come.
About Steve Felgenhauer:
Steve Felgenhauer is an up and coming freelance writer that focuses on writing about all things firearms – from product reviews to hunting and everything in between. Steve is a frequent contributor to AmmoLand Shooting Sports News. You can read more about gun writer Steve Felgenhauer on the following page.