Ask Foghorn: AR-15 for Left Handed Shooters?

Elliotte writes,

I’m looking to expand my firearm collection out into the realm of AR-pattern rifles, but I could use some advice. I’m a lefty and I’ve heard stories of other lefties having trouble with empty brass being ejected back at them. I’ve done some searching and found that there are companies that make ARs for lefties, do you have any that you would rank best? Also I like that you can change the upper and/or barrel to fire other calibers like .22LR or 300BLK. If I wanted to do the same on a southpaw-AR would it be as simple as changing just the barrel or would I need a whole new lefty upper in the new caliber? Thanks for the help.

I have a flood of AR-related questions to work my way through (yes, yours is coming Chris), but I thought this one would be a good place to start.

(The picture is from my Swarovski scope review, BTW. Just in case you wanted to see what a two star review for a $2,300 optic looks like.)

Semi-automatic firearms like the AR-15 are so easy and convenient to use (especially in competition settings) because they fire as fast as you can pull the trigger. There’s nothing to manipulate between shots like on a pump action or bolt action firearm so the time between shots is much shorter.

One side effect of the faster action is that the spent brass from the fired cartridge needs to get out of the way of the fresh round and do it quickly. Thanks to the speed with which the bolt flies backwards firearms such as the AK-47 and AR-15 have been known to fling hot brass into people’s faces, especially those standing right beside the shooter. Trust me, as someone who was the recipient of such a gift on more than one occasion, it’s not pleasant. Some guns mitigate this by ejecting the brass straight down (like the Steyr AUG) or up (like the M1 Garand), but the “modern assault rifles” were having none of that.

The U.S. Armed Forces quickly realized that this was going to be an issue with the M-16, as making one version for lefties and one for righties was impractical, and in the heat of battle the ability to use someone else’s gun was essential. The solution they came up with was ingenious — a small metal dealie was added just behind the ejection port on the gun that deflected the brass away from the shooter’s face.

You can see the brass deflector pretty clearly in this picture, it even has some brass marks from where the cases have been hitting it.

The deflector works, and lefties need not fear hot brass nicking their face. Even the hot gasses that come out of the bolt carrier as it cycles are no worry thanks to it being positioned well forward of the shooter’s face. Even so, there are some people who think the flying brass is distracting and prefer the ejection port be on the “proper” side of the gun, and so the AR industry has designed and sells AR-15 uppers that eject on the left side.

So what’s the difference between a right and left side ejection port in an AR-15? The only differences are in the bolt, bolt carrier and the upper receiver. Those parts need to be changed so that they operate like a mirror image of their “standard” counterparts, ejecting shells to the left instead of to the right. Everything else, including the barrel and lower receiver, can remain the exact same.

Speaking of the barrel, thanks to the AR-15 barrel being more or less symmetrical there is no need to swap it out for a special left-handed version. All AR-15 barrels fit all AR-15 upper receivers no matter whether the ejection port is on the right or the left. So go on, grab that .300 BLK barrel you’ve always wanted and go crazy. And just FYI, .22lr works just fine out of a 5.56x45mm NATO barrel with a conversion kit. It’s not exactly the same diameter but close enough to work for me.

Which manufacturer makes the best leftie uppers? I may be a little bit of a fanboy but I’d say Noveske is the place for you. Sure they’re spendy, but they’re perfect. If you’re willing to do some of the work yourself STAG Arms makes a great left-handed upper receiver that can be purchased online and will work for you, just make sure you get the left handed BCG as well.

Good luck!

If you have a topic you want to see covered in a future “Ask Foghorn” segment, email guntruth@me.com.

To browse previous Ask Foghorn segments visit http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/category/askfoghorn/.

comments

  1. avatar Charles says:

    Elliotte,
    I’m cross-dominant: I’m right-handed but left eye dominant. I shoot handguns right-handed but long guns like a lefty. My AR is an ordinary right hand configuration and I’ve never had a problem with brass either hitting me or distracting me. The brass ejects slightly forward from my S&W M&P15. I choose to go the righty rout because I figured it would make shooting someone else’s AR easier and I have more options this way. Just my 2 cents.

    Bolt actions are another matter. I’ve decided to go lefty there due to the manual nature of the action, but some lefties go with right-handed guns and do a reach around. Whoopsie!

    Not contradicting Foghorn here, I considered the Stag Arms AR as well, I just decided to adapt myself to the weapon as much as possible. Ambidextrous safeties for ARs can be had for @ $30, with that simple mod you’re good to go.

    1. avatar ExurbanKevin says:

      Ditto. I’m also left-eyed and right-handed, and I shoot an AR’s on my left shoulder.

      I’ve also never had any issues with brass hitting me. The only modifications I’ve made to my AR’s is an ambidextrous safety and an extended mag release button.

      1. avatar Koop says:

        Same here as well, the brass deflector does a fine job.

        1. avatar AJ says:

          I shoot rifles left handed and pistols right handed, and in 8 years combined service the Army and NG, I never once had an issue with brass hitting me in the face. Some of the older models wouldn’t throw the brass very far either. My new M&P Sport shoots the brass almost 2 lanes over.

    2. avatar Paul says:

      Wow..sniff…I thought I was all alone. I am right handed and cross eye dominant! Is there a club? A website? Do we have reunions? I had so much trouble learning to shoot because I did not understand cross eye dominance issues and apparently neither did anyone who taught me. I can shoot fair with either hand now I am naturally ambidextrous but with a handgun I bring the weapon to my left eye with my right hand. Partially because all the controls are right handed but also my draw precision is far better with my dominant right hand, so I conceal carry and trained to draw from right to left dominant. Does that sound terrible? Anyway just bought a right-handed AR platform entry level and was asking myself if this was a terrible mistake so thank you all.

      1. avatar Les says:

        I am with you Paul. I thought I was an odd duck right handed left eye dominate. We should form a club, have shoots and reunions

      2. avatar Richard Gray says:

        Paul, if there are reunions, I want to go.

        I knew my “condition” wasn’t all that special. I inherited mine from my dad. Kinda hoping my son turns out the same way, but at the same time, I know sometimes it’s a pain when dealing with rifles. But I’m still kinda hoping…

  2. avatar Jonathan says:

    I second the stag components. Top quality and they have the most southpaw experience.

    1. avatar Daily Llama says:

      “I second the stag components. Top quality and they have the most southpaw experience.”
      =======================
      Stag Arms has “the most southpaw experience”? That’s it?

      Stag Arms are 100% the reason for the engineering and production of the first left-handed AR Uppers, BCGs and bolts.

      And they’re as 100% “MIL-spec” as anyone else in the same business as far as materials and specifications … except for the left-handed function. Hence, they’ll never see a Department of Defense purchase order in full M16 form.

      Since the repeal of that useless “assault weapons ban” in ’94, I’ve owned one and have had exactly ZERO problems with it – and with the same ammunition as the guy next to me, is fully capable of shooting some “clover leaf” groups.

  3. avatar Larry says:

    I’m a left hand shooter and shot competition in the Army for several years with both the M16A1 & A2. With the A1 we used the plastic brass deflector that fit the carry handle. No problems with brass. Same with the A2 (and the rest of the later variants) with the “brass bump” just behind the ejection port. I like being able to work the charging handle with my trigger hand – the release is right there when I reach up to work the handle – and being able to look immedately into the ejection port to clear the weapon without having to roll the rifle over. Guess I’m set in my ways, but I’d stay traditional and not have to worry about any special parts needed to keep the left hand version running in the field.

  4. avatar Leo says:

    I’m a lefty and have never had any trouble shooting ar’s or ak’s for that matter. If you get a proper check rest and grip the gun like your supposed to there is not way for any shells to hit you in the face as a lefty.

    The military does not compensate for left handed shooters and they do alright. So my advice would be to go to a local range and get some round down range before you decide to buy a rifle in a left handed configuration. It will make it more difficult down to road to shoot other rifles that are made for right handed people predominately if you start off and do all your training with a lefty oriented rifles.

  5. avatar Ydneas says:

    I’m a leftie and I just got out of an Army unit (not US Army) that uses license-built right-hand only G3A3s. The G3 is pretty unforgiving if you misplace your right hand on the hand guard, and I’ve got some nice scars on the base of my right thumb from hot brass ejecting.This article and especially the comments were very useful as I’ve been planning on building an AR now that I’m state-side and was wondering about this exact issue. Keep ’em coming, Nick!

  6. avatar Elliotte says:

    Thanks for all the info folks, just gotta make sure not to get what Ydneas was issued and it all should be good.

  7. avatar 230therapy says:

    I am left handed and have AR-15s. You don’t need to buy a left handed gun; just change your attitude and think about how to run a standard gun. You will need to learn to cope with standard guns, but you can also purchase guns that have mostly ambidextrous controls. The Knights Armament SR-15 which has completely ambidextrous controls except for the charging handle. Operate standard safeties with either your thumb or trigger finger (but I do support ambisafeties since they’re easy to install). Install a BCM Gunfighter charging handle and operate it with the gun at an angle using your right hand by reaching under the triggerguard and pulling down and back. I use my right thumb to operate the magazine release. I use my right middle finger to operate the bolt release…just move your hand around the front of the magazine well and hit it.

  8. avatar j_nosfarato says:

    While in the service , I got nailed several times with brass between the chinstrap and the cheek. That was long before the army saw the logic in issueing brass deflectors to INFANTRY units. When they finally did get around to it the A-2’s came along, problem solved.

    I own 4 AR’s, all right hand configuration, the only modification is an ambi safety.

  9. avatar Witt Sullivan says:

    Stagarms was the first commercially produced left handed AR-15. I wouldn’t be surprised if Noveske used Stagarms manufactured upper receivers in his builds.

  10. avatar Chris Dumm says:

    No hurries on my account, Nick! The ArmaLite upper seems to run perfectly for 300+ rounds (as much as I’ve shot it in one sitting) with nothing but a light coating of Hoppe’s Gun Oil. I’m curious what effect frigid winter weather will have on it, however.

  11. avatar dave says:

    i have has a 22 lr atcheson?? long before ceinner took over and i works great in my colt SP1 and bfi m4 also just got from cdnn a cmme 25 round mag that works great in the bfi m4 so it also should work in the colt

    btw what happened to j a ceinner? couldnt have happened to a nicer turd

  12. avatar MarioPIe says:

    I know that Stag Arms sell left handed uppers at a price of $600(ish) In my opinion it is better than buying the whole gun with a lefty lower. Your main concern is the brass and position of the forward assist. things like the location of the safety or fire selector are not really worth the extra money. If you have the money and want a true” lefty AR, then by all means.

  13. avatar Fegelein says:

    How to make AR15’s eject forward like AK’s to avoid blasting your face with casings: make the gas tube narrower and shorter in order to up the pressure and therefore the energy available for a forceful ejection.

  14. avatar jedagi says:

    Ok, sounds like the place to ask this question. I’m building a left hand 6.5 grende!L. I’m having to mix and match some parts. The question is. Are stag arms LH bolts and carrier groups the same as any other left hand bolt and carrier group?

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email