When a customer is inquiring about purchasing a rifle, rifle kit, or complete upper assembly from us, one of the most prominent questions we receive is in regard to the configuration. “What options should I choose as an upgrade?” (or something along this line of thought). The anticipation of ordering and receiving a new AR-15, configured to be a custom build just for you, or at least a platform to head that way is exciting. An answer to this question has been briefly mentioned in previous blog posts; however, because it is so critical to enjoyment and practicality in the use of your weapon, this post will be dedicated to this often asked inquiry.
A Key Principle:
You see, it’s all about APPLICATION. Every choice you make in regard to the parts and options of a potential AR-15 purchase has to be made with this concept in mind. Will it be used primarily for “plinking” or target shooting? Will it ever be used for hunting, and if so, for what type? Is it primarily desired for home defense or maybe even for use at work? Maybe the rifle is intended to be used in a few of these situations. Questions like these can begin to reduce the seemingly endless list of options for an AR-15 rifle into something much more manageable. Focusing on application(s) will help ensure that the weapon will perform the function desired as soon as it is received by its owner.
The beauty of the AR-15 is its modularity. That plain, basic configuration offered with “default” options is not a bad place to start. Here is the weapon as it was originally designed to benefit our armed forces. Of course, their applications began to differ and demand modifications to the platform...this is where the AR-15 displayed its incredible adaptability. If you can define how the weapon is likely to be used most of the time, some of the options or upgrades DTI offers can offer substantial benefits over a standard, basic platform and help you enjoy and use your weapon to its fullest potential.
A Few Examples:
If you plan on adding accessories such as lights or lasers, etc...having a rail system somewhere on the weapon is a necessity. The handguards are probably the best place to attach these items and if this is something you plan on doing right away, upgrading to an option like that is probably a cost effective idea. All of the upgrades available to rifles, rifle kits, and custom upper assemblies at DTI on our website are offered at a discount from what the part would cost should you decide to install it later on. It is simply less expensive to have these options as part of your “custom build” purchase.
Will a scope be installed at some point? Depending on the design, ocular bell size, and mounting position, manipulating the charging handle can be difficult. A “Badger Tac-Latch” or some other type of extension of the charging handle could be beneficial to alleviate any difficulty. These or other latch extensions are also helpful in clearing malfunctions with the support hand while keeping the muzzle on target. If iron sights will not be used much or at all, choosing a gas block other than the standard front sight base might also be a good selection (if a scope is being used with a low mount).
Barrel choice can be dependent on application as well. A barrel with a 1X9 twist will handle anything from 45 grain to 77 grain (while bullets of 69 grains are thought to be the upper limit of 1X9 performance, many DTI rifles reviewed in recent gun publications have achieved sub MOA accuracy with 1X9 barrels, 75+ grain bullets, and proficient marksmen). A barrel with a 1X7 twist rate is probably better with the heavier bullets, but will not perform as well with ammunition using lighter weight bullets. If varmint hunting is the main or exclusive application for your potential weapon, the 1X9 twist rate is probably the best way to go. If personal defense or hunting medium size game is the plan, heavier bullets are likely to be the predominant choice, and these with a 1X7 twist rate barrel may offer better performance.
Because applications may overlap (we all can’t have 5 AR-15’s...wait a minute, why not?) and because there are so many choices, our sales and customer service team members are happy to assist you with any questions you may have. They want to make sure your purchase fulfills your needs and exceeds your expectations. Keep in mind that the AR-15 can be transformed from a basic weapon for plinking fun and home defense into an amazing hunting specific design with just a few parts changes. Once you decide on a configuration, you are not “locked in” for eternity... it can be modified according to your needs. To get the best use from your weapon and the best value for your dollar on your initial purchase, define how YOU plan to use it most of the time and use this as a filter when making decisions about YOUR weapon’s design. Friends with black rifles, magazine article authors, and former “elite operators” can provide insight into what works great for them and what may help you enjoy and employ your AR-15, but only you and your application(s) should determine what the weapon becomes.