There’s little doubt that standard AR-15 furniture sucks. Thankfully, the AR-15 platform design is modular and allows the user to VERY quickly change out that standard furniture. That easy interchangeability has led to an explosion of aftermarket parts to dress up your rifle, and one of the most popular manufacturers of aftermarket AR-15 parts is TAPCO. But how good are they really? . . .

There’s a belief in some parts of the firearms community that TAPCO equipment is cheap, both in price and quality. That the only people who would buy TAPCO products are people who are new to firearms and don’t really know what they’re doing. Or those who spent too much time playing Call of Duty. But there aren’t many in the population of TAPCO haters that have actually tried their stuff. So, how well does TAPCO rate compared to the standard “as-issued” parts? Let’s find out.

Starting at the rear of the gun, the stock is more or less identical to the standard mil-spec AR-15 stock. There’s a hair more cant to the butt and the sling attachment loop has its innards exposed rather than being encased in plastic, but overall, the stock is as good as its “standard” counterpart. So it’s a “push” in this category then.

The grip is where the TAPCO equipment really starts to shine.

The standard A2 AR-15 grip is absolutely terrible. For a guy with big hands like mine, trying to use such a tiny grip is infuriating. Plus, the groove for the middle finger never seems to line up properly with my hand. Add on top of that, the fact that it’s just about as “grippy” as a glass bottle under a waterfall and you’ve got a grip that is almost universally awful.

TAPCO’s version, on the other hand, is not so terrible. The grip is slightly larger than the standard A2 grip, meaning that it fits my bigger meathooks much better. And for those among us with daintier hands, it still isn’t terribly uncomfortable. The latitudinal serrations on the grip add some much-needed “grippyness” that helps keep the gun in hand when your hands are wet. And the material itself adds a little bit more with its slightly rough texture.

In addition to getting a better grip on your gun, you also get a little compartment to store various tiny gubbins in, which is more or less standard on replacement grips nowadays. Except that most other grips do it…well…better. The TAPCO grip uses a wire loop to hold the door closed and it looks and feels very cheap. The loop is completely exposed and separate from the door itself, which leaves it to flap about. Its a viable solution, just not a very sexy one.

Moving on up, the next stop is arguably the most important: the handguards.

As a reminder, this is what the “standard” carbine handguards look like. I know, they’re terrible. They don’t really offer anywhere to attach any of your toys, and they’re rather uncomfortable to boot.

TAPCO’s offerings are, on paper, better in every way. They have a full length top and bottom rail, and come from the factory with a detachable cover for the bottom rail to protect your hands from the plastic rails. It also has two sections of rail near the front on the side of the handguards that can either be covered up with an included piece that blends in seamlessly with the rest of the unit, Or you can quickly detached it to mount yet more stuff to your gun. In short, they give you tons of options and plenty of mounting space.

That’s not to say that the handguards are perfect. In order to get the handguards to fit around (but not directly touching) the barrel and still have enough room for the rails, they needed to make the exterior dimensions of the handguards a little large. This makes the gun seem a lot bigger than it really is, which sucks when you’re trying to do a lightweight, slick carbine setup. You can still get your thumb up and around the handguards for that “Chris Costa Grip,” though, so they aren’t so big that they keep you from holding the gun the way you want.

The other concern with the handguards is that they’re plastic. Normally that wouldn’t be such a big issue, and even with the absence of a metal heat shield, I still don’t really see an problem with overheating or melting. But when you start adding rails in plastic things, it can get ugly. The force of an AR-15 rifle’s recoil isn’t that much, but when you have large metal objects attached to a relatively thin piece of plastic that’s jostled around repeatedly — hundreds or even thousands of times — the tendency is for the plastic to break under the strain.

I’ve asked TAPCO HQ for permission to test their handguards to the breaking point, but as I haven’t heard back yet, I didn’t want to press my luck. Stay tuned for the verdict on that front, and I’ll be sure to update this with the results when they come in.

The final issue is the one that most people jump to first: these handguards just aren’t sexy. In fact, they look downright box-like. I think a little more rounding on the edges would help with this image problem, but as they stand they look very… 1980s. And not the col 1980s, the ugly, boxy, crappy 1980s.

If you can get past those things, the benefit you get is the price. These handguards have an MSRP of about $45, which is $15 more than its Magpul counterpart. But for that $15 you get all the rails you can eat, something that would normally cost you a couple hundred dollars for the metal version.

Magpul offers rail sections for their handguards that can be installed at a position of your choosing for about $6, but a full length rail on the top doesn’t seem to line up with the rail on your AR-15’s receiver as well as the TAPCO version.

The last piece of kit is the magazine. We’ve had two of these in stock for the magazine destruction test (which I HAVE NOT forgotten, by the way) and so far they have stood up to everything we’ve thrown at them. They have all the features you’d expect in an AR-15 mag, including the grooves in the back to let you use stripper clips. AND they have a little bit more aggressive design than the Magpul magazines in terms of being able to get a good grip on them.

The downside to all that gripitude is that they don’t exactly fit in the double magazine pouches in a chest rig or those MOLLE versions. But for competition shooters who don’t use those magazine holsters that shouldn’t be a problem.

There is, however, a small issue with the mags.

The magazines are cheap, in all senses of the word. The tolerances in the manufacturing process seem to have been opened up a little, and the primary indicator of that is the fact that they rattle. Tapping a Magpul magazine on its side produces very little noise, but tapping a TAPCO mag results in a veritable shake, rattle and roll within the plastic case.

Like I said, we’re still testing the magazines. And rest assured, we’ll get you an update when the test is complete (you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get someone to let you burn down their house around here). But preliminary results show them being functional, rugged and reliable enough for the average shooter.

And that pretty much sums up my opinion of Tapco’s AR-15 furniture — functional, rugged and reliable enough for the average shooter. If your AR-15 is only going to see action once or twice a month and you’re not putting thousands of rounds downrange, this stuff is definitely good enough and will get the job done. It’s as good, if not better, than the standard AR-15 components and it won’t break the bank.

And yet, there’s the elephant in the room. Sure TAPCO’s stuff works, but to me it just looks . . . ugly. Clunky. Uncool. Cheap. Its like the Pontiac Aztec of the firearms world — functional on paper, but too ugly to actually drive in public. All of the parts are MUCH less expensive than the competition and just as functional, but they’re still not something I would show up to a competition with on my gun. Then again, I’m a bit of an AR-15 snob.

If you want some rails on your handguards for cheap, this is the way to go. But if you just need some handguards that are better than the originals and don’t mind the lack of rails, there are better options.

TAPCO Intrafuse AR-15 Furniture
Includes: Stock, grip, handguards, magazine
Price (individually): $35, $10, $45, $14
Total: $104

Ratings (out of five stars):

Design: * *
They’re functional, but they just look so…meh.

Functionality: * * * *
Everything works the way it should and as advertised. I’m holding back the last star as I wait for confirmation of their durability from stress testing.

Overall Rating: * * * 1/2
TAPCO’s Intrafuse furniture for the AR-15 platform is functional, affordable and easy to install, but they leave something to be desired aesthetically.

12 Responses to Gear Review: TAPCO Intrafuse Furniture for the AR-15

  1. I dressed up an old Norinco MAK-90 with some Tapco furniture (Galil style folding stock, SAW style pistol grip and Galil style foregrip). I’ve generally been pleased with the set up – its a pretty economical solution for that occasional plinker that does not require the “best of the best.”

  2. The metal hook-thing over the pistol grip cover is the same as what my old C-9 (Canadian SAW) had. Actually, the grip looks pretty decent, but I much prefer the Magpul MOE handguards.

  3. Nick, Brownell’s has Magpul’s MOE setup available for $134, whih includes the pistol grip, buttstock, forearm, vertical grip and a PMAG. Care to compare?

    [off on a tangent]
    Keep up the pressure, boys! We’ve got him addressing the magazine test in his reviews, now. With just a little bit more hammering, we should see some results!

    (all in good fun, Nick)

  4. Purchase an infra red thermometer from Harbor Freight for $10.
    Pop your hand guards into a microwave, heat till plastic begins to soften.
    Take reading with the afore mentioned gizmo.
    You will now know how useful injection molded poly-watzit hand guards are vis-a-vis a hot rifle, in my experience it is slightly higher than 100 degrees.
    I love my M-4 guards, they are far superior to the old A1 guards, for $10 I mounted application specific metal P-rails top and bottom, mostly to keep rain generated steam from obscuring the target.

  5. I have to admit first of all that my experience with the AR platform has only been through the standard M-16A2 issued when I was a grunt in the 90’s but it seems kinda “girlish” when it comes to the whole “AR furniture” thing. While I had my own little wish list of M-16 improvements, I can frankly say the weapon performed just as I expected/needed. My only complaint was frankly barrel length for certain missions (e.g. MOUT). All the “furniture” additions, unless there’s a direct correlation to the weapon’s effectiveness and reliability seems like nothing more than the “bells and whistles” auto makers add to cars. As long as you can comfortably shoot and get steel on target life is good. Owning a weapon shouldn’t be a beauty contest. And Maybe it’s me but the last thing I want to do his hang a whole bunch of crap on rails except maybe a scope. Sometimes simplicity is the best option.

    Just my 2 cents…

    • “And Maybe it’s me but the last thing I want to do his hang a whole bunch of crap on rails except maybe a scope.”

      I think its a “grunt” thing: the more you have to hump it around the less you are enamored with the thought of putting extra heavy / bulky crap on teh end of your rifle. I was always partial to a bipod and an ACOG, but thats about it.

  6. I used the Tapco hand guard and stock/pistol grip for my saiga 12. Not the prettiest, but seems to function for me. And it gives you a pistol grip without having to do the gunsmithing work of trigger group.

  7. I think Tapco’s products tend to be hit or miss; that said, Tapco is an awesome company.
    I dressed my AK in some of their furniture (paired with Ultimak and Arsenal furniture). As of now I have the Tapco SAW grip, Fusion fore end, and G2 trigger group.
    In all Truth I really would have rather gone with a U.S Palm AK grip, but the Tapco does a good job and does it for a bit less, though the grip compartment does a terrible job of keeping even the smallest amount of water out (I know that first hand). The grip is still well made and functions fine.
    The G2 trigger is pretty darn awesome. It’s probably one of my favorite AK triggers on the market. Great product for only $30 (or less).
    The Fusion Fore end was something I picked up because I’d gotten a good deal on it. It was just going to be a 922r part until I could get an Arsenal piece. I expected to hate it, but after I installed it (fits right on with an Ultimak) I liked the way it felt. The heat shield they provide is pretty good for a light weight shield; I fired well over 200 rounds in rapid fire within a 30 minute time period in one range session and didn’t melt them. Aside from my cleaning rod not fitting in it, I have no problems with it whatsoever.

    I don’t like some of their products though. Their folding stocks don’t feel that solid too me (my brother has one and got rid of it), and I suspect they might break under pressure (Hadn’t pushed one too awful hard yet). I don’t care for their polymer collapsing AK stock either, it just feels flimsy to me. Lastly, I think their AK magazines are junky; the feed lips and locking tabs are plastic. If you do any kind of emergency reload or drop them loaded they’ll break on you.

    Tapco is a good company with some products for great prices, and some products that could use some work. Their customer service is excellent as well. I had questions about a product and their CS guy (Keven) walked me through everything I wanted to know and even sent me pictures of the parts so I would know about the AK grip bushings. Any time I’ve talked to their customer support they’ve been helpful and prompt (and Keven Deserves a raise if a Tapco exec reads this).

    • When I think of Tapco, I think of AK’s and SKS’s. I think they make some nice parts for those two, and if were getting a AK I’d be definitely ordering some of their products. But I’m not a AK guy though. With my AR I’ll stick with other brands.

  8. The best thing about Tapco so far is their badass commercial about the poor bastard trying to reload a revolver during a zombie invasion.

  9. Have a Tapco for my mini-14. Added a forward verticle grip. Works good. Looks good. A bit boxy as they say. Several compliments at the range. Better than the wood stock the rifle came with. Think I even shoot better although the sights are still the same. Maybe due to the pistol grip and verticle forward grip?

  10. I bought a Tapco SAW grip for my new AR because I wanted something that filled my hand better. I ordered a new one online and when I went to install it, the selector detent spring vanished into the hole in the grip. It went in completely.

    I contacted TAPCO and their response was that maybe I had put the spring in incorrectly. WTF? How can you drop a spring into a hole incorrectly. I then measured the hole in the TAPCO grip and the hole in the original grip that came off my Colt HBAR, and the hole in the grip off another AR. The TAPCO grip was 5/16″ deeper.

    I contacted Tapco and told them this and their solution was for me to send it back to the vendor who had sold it to me.

    I contacted the vendor who refunded my money with an apology. I then found something to fill the bott 5/16″ of the hole and installed the grip.

    Not happy at all with Tapco’s customer service.

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