Best Bolt Carrier Group for your AR-15 Rifle ~ Bonus VIDEO

With so many to choose from gun writer Reverend Norris deals us his picks for the best AR-15 rifle Bolt Carrier Group or BCG parts.

Best Bolt Carrier Group
Bolt Carrier Group , a look at the best one for your AR-15 Rifle.
Brian (Rev) Norris
Brian (Rev) Norris

USA –  -( Some would argue that an AR rifle is an AR rifle.

You hear guys say all the time that all AR-15s are made in the same factory anyway (which isn’t the case). Those same gents are sure to think that any BCG is a Bolt Carrier Group and any Bolt Carrier Group is a BCG, find the best deal, and plug her in. While there are some great budget BCGs on the market, there are also BCGs out there (like any other AR 15 part) to steer clear of.

Generally, in bolt carrier groups, you should look for Carpenter 158 steel, well-secured gas (using grade 8 fasteners), chrome-lined and nickel boron, and shot peened. In addition, pay attention to whether the Bolt Carrier Group has been magnetic particle inspected and high pressure tested or not (MPI and HPT for short). These tests assure you that the BCG you purchase has been proven processed correctly. After these tests reveal no fractures, the BCG will prove to be durable for your use.

Bolt Carrier Group (BCG)

We live in an option rich world. Sometimes those options can become a bit overwhelming. Allow me to guide you to some proven BCG options.

For most users, a standard M16 style BCG will do nicely. That doesn’t quite narrow the field enough, though. Let me point you to some solid budget options that are not the cheapest bolt carrier groups, some mid-range options that have been time tested and shooter approved and a standout enhance model.

So my cut list of the best BCG, short for Bolt Carrier Group, goes like this:

  • Brownells 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group Nitride MP
  • COLT M16 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group
  • Bravo Company M16 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group
  • Spikes Tactical 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group
  • Aero Precision 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group
  • Battle Arms Development Enhanced BCG
  • Faxon Firearms AR-15 Lightweight 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group

Brownells 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group Nitride MP

Brownells 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group Nitride MP
Brownells 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group Nitride MP

This budget option meets the criteria stated above and comes in a nice nitride finish which should perform slightly better than your standard parkerized BCG over time. Actually, I say that it meets the criteria above, but that’s more in the spirit, rather than letter of the law. The steel used is properly hardened, but I don’t think it’s technically Carpenter 158. However, at under $100, an HPT and MPI tested BCG is an unreal value. You should know that many would say that 9310 steel is stronger than C158 anyway.

Brownells 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group Nitride MP Product Description:

  • Fully assembled Bolt Carrier Group; including the bolt, bolt carrier, gas key, firing pin, cam pin, and firing pin retaining pin
  • Every Bolt is Magnetic Particle Inspected (MPI)
  • The Bolt is machined from 9310 steel
  • Following machining, the Bolt is heat treated and shot peened
  • Installed extractor includes black rubber insert with spring
  • M16 Bolt Carrier is machined from 8620 steel and hardened
  • M16 Bolt Carrier will function in semi-auto or full-auto AR-15/M16
  • Gas Key Screws are properly torqued and staked
  • Bolt and Bolt Carrier feature a matte black nitride finish

COLT M16 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group

COLT M16 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group
COLT M16 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group

When discussing the letter of the law type classic BCGs, they don’t get much more classic than Colt. Colt has arguably been the standard since shortly after the AR-15’s inception. As the standard, Colt’s BCG demands a bit of a premium.

COLT M16 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group Product Description: 

“Complete, mil-spec assembly with bolt, bolt carrier, and firing pin ready to drop into the rifle or carbine upper of your choice.  Each bolt assembly is high pressure tested and magnetic particle inspection tested to ensure it’s free from imperfections that can lead to premature failures. Properly staked gas key prevents gas leakage that can lead to short stroking. M16-style carrier on the black phosphate model has full-length shroud for tripping auto sear, so this carrier may be installed on full-auto law enforcement and military rifles.  Carrier and gas key are chrome lined for smooth cycling and resistance to wear from hot combustion gases for years of dependable service.”

In a similar way, a modern AR discussion will typically include components from BCM or Spike’s Tactical. That’s for a good reason. These manufactures offer exceptional value.

Bravo Company M16 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group

Bravo Company M16 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group
Bravo Company M16 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group

The M16 BCG from BCM is truly made to USGI specifications. BCMs BCGs are not only MPI and HPI tested, but they are also test fired for function. There’s always someone around the water cooler that will promote BCM as the most bang for your buck in the BCG world. Their arguments are strong. As my friend, Tanner would say— they’re not wrong.

Bravo Company M16 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group Product Description: 

“BCM® (MPI) complete bolt carrier group is fully assembled. (BCG) Bolt carrier group (auto version) for your AR15, M16, or M4. Parkerized exterior and chrome lined inside carrier. Machined to USGI specifications. This M16/M4 carrier includes the proper Mil-Spec gas key. Gas key is chrome lined and heat treated per GI specifications. Gas key is secured to carrier via USGI domestic mfg Grade 8 fasteners and properly staked per Mil-Specs. These properly hardened parts insure a strong staking and proper gas system functioning. The bolt assembly is machined from the correct Mil-Spec Carpenter No. 158® steel, shot peened for increased strength, includes tool steel machined extractor and ejector, BCM Extractor Spring, and is HPT (High Pressure Tested) and MPI (Magnetic Particle Inspected). Prior to shipping, all BCM Bolt Carrier Groups are test fired for function. As such, the Bolt Carrier Group will show handling marks consistent with these quality control procedures. The Flat Dark Earth version has the stripped carrier finished with an Ion Bond coating which lowers friction and allows for easier cleaning.”

Spikes Tactical 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group

Spikes Tactical 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group
Spikes Tactical 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group

The M16 BCG from Spike’s Tactical is typically a few dollars less, it’s made with the same exacting standard in mind, and has a great reputation for reliability. Some would say that it just comes down to whether you want a spider or three letters as a logo on your BCG. Others would argue in perpetuum about the differences they perceive. I’m curious; what do you think?

Spikes Tactical 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group Product Description:

“Matched bolt/carrier set is machined to mil-spec dimensions using the latest manufacturing and quality-control techniques to deliver superb reliability in both semi-auto and select-fire rifles. Carrier is hard-chromed inside and has an M16-type full-length shroud on the underside to trip the auto sear on full-auto/burst rifles. Bolt is magnetic particle inspected to ensure there are no internal flaws to compromise structural integrity and cause premature failure. Fully staked carrier key and tool steel extractor further aid reliable cycling. Laser-engraved Spike’s Tactical logo on the side of the carrier is visible when the ejection port door is open. .223/5.56 fits standard AR-15/M16/M4 rifles and is available with standard MIL-STD-171 phosphate finish.”

Aero Precision 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group

Aero Precision 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group
Aero Precision 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group

Another up and coming brand that is making lots of great quality AR rifle parts is Aero Precision. Their Aero Precision 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group is an outstanding entry price black rifle part and has all my basic requirements in a good BCG.

Aero Precision 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group Product Description : 

“M16-cut carrier. Machined from 8620 steel. Carrier has forward assist serrations. Mil-Spec phosphate coating. Properly staked gas key. Chrome lined gas key and firing pin channel. 5.56 Bolt is machined from Carpenter 158 tool steel. Shot peened. HPT/MPI and marked. Black o-ring insert on extractor. High quality BCG.M16-cut carrier. Machined from 8620 steel. Carrier has forward assist serrations. Mil-Spec phosphate coating. Properly staked gas key. Chrome lined gas key and firing pin channel. 5.56 Bolt is machined from Carpenter 158 tool steel. Shot peened. HPT/MPI and marked. Black o-ring insert on extractor. High quality BCG.”

Enhanced Bolt Carrier Groups

In the slightly enhanced BCG category, names like Primary Weapons Systems and Battle Arms Development are often discussed.

Battle Arms Development Enhanced Bolt Carrier Group

Battle Arms Development Enhanced Bolt Carrier Group
Battle Arms Development Enhanced Bolt Carrier Group

If you’re looking for a BCG with a slightly distinct profile (a lightening cut or two), Battle Arms Development is a great option. They’ve cleared out a good reputation in the industry for quality made kit. They are made in the USA, have a well-executed black nitride finish, are consistently well-staked, and add a little flair to your AR.

Battle Arms Development Enhanced Bolt Carrier Group Product Description:

“Full Auto M16 Bolt Carrier Group. 9310 Bolt. Shot Peened. HPT & MPI. Staked Gas Key. Black Nitride Finished. For Full Auto Use Made in the USA.”

Faxon Firearms AR-15 Lightweight 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group

Faxon Firearms AR-15 Lightweight 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group
Faxon Firearms AR-15 Lightweight 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group

Lastly, I’d like to mention a wild card option that’s tailored to the competitive shooting market.

The AR-15 Lightweight Carrier from Faxon appears to be a show stopper. It weighs in at a mere 8.5 oz fully assembled. If you’re looking for a light/ fast option with broad compatibility that’s been held to exacting standards, this may be the ticket. Faxon even uses the QPQ SPN process of salt bath treating their BCG to assure the best possible wear in the worst possible conditions.

Faxon Firearms AR-15 Lightweight 5.56 Bolt Carrier Group Product Description:

“Faxon Firearms set out to create a bolt carrier group that could live up to the GUNNER name with no compromise in strength or function. They set specifications that would allow no compromise:

  1. Lightest Weight Possible (8.5 Ounces Complete)
  2. MIL-SPEC Materials & Finishes or Better!
  3. Forward Assist Serrations
  4. Compatible with Dust Covers
  5. Maintains Full-Auto Trip Sear for full-auto and the new multi-stage trigger functionality
  6. Looks Amazing

Matching their barrels, they selected the QPQ method of Salt Bath Nitride for all the carriers’ components. By coating all parts, the carrier's natural slickness is increased markedly requiring less gas and pressure to operate. Further, the QPQ SBN process seals components against corrosion while making them fantastically wear resistant.

Improvements include using 9310 tool steel for the bolt, which is stronger and nitriding the assembly to increase surface hardness, decrease resistance, and have superior corrosion resistance compared to typical chrome and phosphasted bolt carrier groups. All bolts are fully MPI tested to ensure the material is sound and without defects. Bolt lugs are chamfered 45 degrees to ensure reliable action for even the highest pressure hand loads and fast lightweight actions.

Faxon Bolt Carrier Groups are Superfinished to reduce friction, increase smoothness of operation, and reduce fouling. Further, they are full-Auto rated and maintain the trip for full-auto fire control groups and new multi-stage trigger systems. Gas keys use grade 8 fasteners and are fully staked for a lifetime of service.

As a testament of our confidence, the carriers are all laser-engraved with the Faxon Shield after passing all Quality inspections.


  • 9310 Tool Steel Construction (Stronger than C158)
  • Full MIL-SPEC Heat Treatment
  • Shot Peened to MIL-SPEC
  • Magnetic Particle Inspection (MPI)
  • Back of Lugs Chamfered for Reliability
  • Spring, Insert, & “Crane” O-Ring Installed
  • QPQ – Salt Bath Nitrided


  • S7 Tool Steel Construction
  • Fully Heat Treated
  • Shot Peened Per MIL-SPEC
  • QPQ – Salt Bath Nitrided

Carrier & Key:

  • Superfinished Carrier
  • Carrier: MIL-SPEC 8620 Steel Material
  • Key: 4140 Steel Material
  • Fully Heat Treated
  • Forward Assist Serrations
  • M16 (FULL-AUTO) Compatible
  • Grade 8 Fasteners
  • Fully & Properly Staked Key, Permatex Sealed
  • QPQ – Salt Bath Nitrided
  • Weight w/ Key (Not Bolt or any Pins): 6.32 Ounces

Cam Pin:

  • 4140 Pre-Hardended Steel Material

  • QPQ – Salt Bath Nitrided”

These options would be welcome additions to any of my ARs. As anyone who knows ARs will tell you, the BCG and barrel are not the components to skimp on. The BCG is the heart of the AR platform rifle. These options will help you keep the blood flow of bullets freely cycling through your weapon. Let me know which one(s) you choose for your AR.

Bonus Video by sootch00: How to I.D. AR 15, M16 & Mil Spec Bolt Carrier Groups

About Brian (Rev) Norris:

Brian (Rev) Norris, in addition to writing and talking guns and gear via video, is a pastor (hence the “Rev”) who specializes in mentoring young men in the urban context. If he catches a moment of free time, you'll likely find him enjoying his family or heading to the range on his motorcycle. Brian has enjoyed the shooting sports since his father introduced them to him as a child. He's an outdoorsman who enjoys life to the full.

AmmoLand Editor Comments:  This article was updated to reflect changes in product improvements / availability on 06/27/2017.

  • 19 thoughts on “Best Bolt Carrier Group for your AR-15 Rifle ~ Bonus VIDEO

    1. About 1/2 of the problems noted in the excellent maintenance video can be TOTALLY eliminated by going … piston op.

      Went with Adams Arms on my last three builds and will NEVER go back to direct impingement.

      No, I’m not rolling around in some dusty ditch near Fallujah. But for every day shooting – several hundred rounds – with no dumping of hot gasses & gunpowder residue into the Upper Receiver is worth every penny. Don’t give a s#it that it’s not “MIL spec” hardware. It works. The Upper stays clean. And it stays cool. Thermo-dynamically, as heated gas cools and decreases in volume, it loses pressure. Having your bolt actuation begin right at the gas port in the barrel – instead of being squirted down a skinny little gas tube and shot into your BCG – makes the most sense. ZERO issues with my Adams Arms piston op conversion – even attached to a (legal FFL3) full-auto Lower.

    2. just ordered 2 boron Tool Craft based on this thread. thanks guys all my other guns are Fail Zero, BMG, and Spikes. this saved me some $$$

      1. A whole lotta “style snobs” who rave about one brand of AR or another would be SHOCKED to learn how many parts are out-sourced by EVERYONE – and to whom – yes, even the foaming-at-the-mouth Colt owners. NO AR “manufacturer” actually “makes” all of the finished parts on what they sell. Very few do, in fact. Some really hot chihuahua parts – legendary names in the market – are very likely made by a relatively unknown name, high volume machine shop. Classic case in point? Stag Arms in New Britain CT. As MIL-spec as you can get. Started up by a kid (no longer there) next door to his daddy’s massive, well-connected with military contracts & quality demands of DoD hardware … CMT. Continental Machine Tool. Where did Colt scramble to to get it’s first prototypes out the door? They sure didn’t have the equipment to produce M16s when they submitted their bid … Betcha 100 clams most of their parts were machined at CMT – and their BCGs – and FNH USA’s too – come from Toolcraft.

    3. Cryptic Coatings BCG’s have out performed, by a large margin, any other BCG’s I’ve owned. I’ve replaced all of the BCG’s in my AR platform guns with them. They are so slick, and clean so easily. Customer service has been second to none as well.

    4. The Brownells M16 5.56 bolt carrier group is on sale for 79.99 at Brownells, and the Palmetto State Armory 5.56 premium full auto bolt carrier group is on sale for 79.99 at Palmetto’s site, both with free shipping.
      Any thoughts on Palmetto’s bolt carrier group? I checked the specs on both and both look to be a good deal eather way.
      I’m looking at an AR-15 pistol build.
      Daniel Alpert.

    5. What’s the diffrents in the Ar15 BCG can you still run a fast trigger like the GEISSLE SSA with it and still get the proformace as any other BCG thanks.

    6. you might want to check out the adams arms piston which replaces the gas ever reaching the bolt . Clean system.

    7. I’d love to test a tool craft out. The above specs sound good to go. Thanks for all the great convo Gents!

    8. Enjoyed the article, Writer was unbiased and simply being informative. I just happened to buy one of the Brownell’s BCG and really like it. Slick as snot out of the box. Apply some grease/oil and wow. I actually purchased a S&W Sport back pre-Sandy Hook, Do not care for nor need the forward assist and can live with the lack of dust cover. I bought it for the barrel which was an 1:8, 5R, melonite treated barrel. Only melonite barrel I had seen in any LGS offering. Now they are becoming quite common. At the time, the price was ridiculously good for the quality of the AR and the relatively high-end specs of the barrel.

    9. Thanks for the comments guys. As stated above this isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list– just some of my favorites. You’ve mentioned some good options too. Btw, the spider does look cool and it’s well made too.

    10. While the barrel of a firearm has to resist large pressures, it is not the only part of the firearm that is subject to such high forces. Another part that also receives a lot of force is the bolt of a firearm. In the case of the M16 family, the US military selected a steel called Carpenter 158 (also known as “C158” or “Car 158”) to be used for manufacturing the bolt. Therefore, any AR15 or M16 bolts that claim to follow military specifications (or “mil-spec” for short) should be made of C158 steel as one of the requirements.

      The interesting thing about Carpenter 158 is that it is a proprietary steel alloy and its formula and method of manufacturing are not publicly defined. Therefore, there is no SAE standard for it and the sole manufacturer of this steel is a company called Carpenter Technology in Pennsylvania. They do not manufacture this steel continuously and only do a certain number of mill runs per year, which means it is not always available. They also only sell this steel in large amounts and require the customer to buy a lot of it at a time. Therefore, only large companies like Colt, Fabrique Nationale (FN), Daniel Defense etc. can afford to buy this steel.

      However, C158 isn’t the only steel alloy used to make bolts. Bear in mind that the US military selected C158 in the 1960s and there have been other (and sometimes better) steel alloys developed since then. For instance, some manufacturers use 9310 or 8620 steels to make bolts. The advantage of these steels is that their chemical compositions and manufacturing methods are publicly specified by SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers – the organization responsible for specifying standards for different grades of steel in the US) and there are many manufacturers of these steels. Therefore, supply is less of a problem. Also, 9310 and 8620 steels can be purchased in small quantities and are therefore suitable for smaller manufacturers who cannot afford to buy large amounts of C158 steel at one time. If machined and heat treated properly afterwards, bolts made of 9310 steel can be even better than C158 steel. Another steel alloy used for bolts by some manufacturers is Aermet 100 (which is also used in the landing gear of jet fighters aboard US aircraft carriers). This is actually another proprietary steel alloy made by Carpenter Technology and is reputed to be far superior to C158 and 9310 steels. However, it requires a double hardening treatment process after machining to reach its full potential. In general, bolts made of 9310 steel are the cheapest to produce, followed by bolts made of C158 steel, and bolts made of Aermet steel are the most expensive. However, bolts for AR15/M16 made of 9310 or Aermet 100 cannot be called “mil-spec” even if they exceed the military standard specifications, since the US military specification says that only C158 steel should be used for the bolt of a M16. So, not being called “mil spec” can still be better. FYI…

      1. Doesn’t Tool Craft supply Palmetto State Armory….Their Premium BCG’s are all HPT/MPI tested and have held up well…..I have had Great service out of all of Palmetto State Armory Premium BCGS…..And they have some great sales and combo pack sales periodically…..

    11. I also love the Brownells B-Tac and have a couple of them. That said, the Sharps Rifle Company XPB Bolt Carrier Group needs to be at or near the top of this list, too! The XPB is heated treated and coated with a proprietary coating that is the toughest stuff I’ve seen as both an 8-year Marine Corps veteran, avid hunter and shooter, and professional gun writer. My first experience with the XPB’s coating was with a prototype-coated BCG. Before moving forward with the coating on the XPB, the prototype was subjected to 13,600 rounds. That IS over 27,000 passes! The bolt still looked brand new with no visible signs of wear! I also REALLY love Sharps’ tapered lug design! There isn’t anything I don’t like on the XPB. I now have three of those! I DID truly enjoy the article though and appreciate other BCGs to consider, too. Thanks!

    12. What being missed is the Tool Craft. First off, they supply carrier and parts for the military under cage code 1B1B6 (searchable) also supply carrier and parts which for UCT coatings which is the coating company for a few names mentioned, including carriers for Cryptic Coatings! (Easily verified) Why pay all that cash to spikes and a few other mentioned above when you can find them from WC Armory which is the main distrubotor for TOOL CRAFT and pick them up for $120 Same polished NiB ! About $20 less for their new Nitride QPQ! You can have Cage code 1B1B6 for $120 instead of $180 just 02 from an old fart! Happy pew pewing bros

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