By Jonathan B.
I don’t claim to be an expert when it comes to guns. I don’t get to go to the range as often as I used to, so for the most part, I satiate my thirst for all things gun-related by reading, reading, and then reading some more, with the occasional video thrown in for flavor. With the AR market continuing to blossom, there’s far more innovation on the market than I can afford to keep up with. That said, it’s a situation that could be more of a blessing than a curse . . .
My AR-15 is very simple compared to the more modern, super-sleek rifles that sit on the front page of every gun blog and magazine. I’ve done my fair share of modifications to it over the years, but it remains very spartan, even retaining the USGI front sight block that is becoming an endangered species in the AR world. The few “tacticool” parts I’ve added were chosen for their simplicity, weight, and cost-effectiveness. Like many other gun owners, I’ve taken my cues from subject matter experts like Travis Haley and Larry Vickers when it comes to learning how to set up and utilize my rifle. However, the #1 lesson that I try to keep in mind is that the equipment used by big name shooters won’t always be a perfect fit for me.
The AR-15 is the most customizable firearm ever invented, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the latest and greatest parts will make you a better shooter. Every time I visit the range, I’m confronted with a plethora of rifles and parts for sale, usually loaded down with no end of “tactical” accessories. Foregrips, bipods, flashlights, lasers, red dot optics with magnifiers, offset iron sights – the list goes on. Of course, people have every right to put whatever they want on their rifle, but seeing some people struggle to manipulate their weapon due to the mass of accessories bolted to a cheap quad rail on the front of their gun sometimes makes me question their judgment.
Oftentimes, these parts are purchased with the best of intentions. We’re bombarded on a daily basis by images of professional shooters showcasing the newest innovations from countless manufacturers. Outside of the shooting world, video games, TV shows, and movies also showcase “tactical” rifles, often using real-world equipment. Some gun owners will purchase similar accessories thinking these accessories will help them become better shooters, unaware of the reasons the parts were chosen by their individual users or the potential drawbacks of using certain accessories.
These drawbacks can be things such as excessive weight (leading to awkward weapon manipulation), poor build quality, or simple incompatibility with the shooting method they’re most comfortable with. Even I’ve been a victim of ignoring the latter – shortly after purchasing my AR, I purchased a Magpul AFG2 after having seen it in use by a number of famous shooters whom I looked up to. After some experimenting, however, I found that I greatly preferred shooting with the Magpul RVG and promptly swapped out my AFG2. I couldn’t be happier with my decision.
The lesson I learned was that what may be “tactical” for one shooter might not be practical for you, your rifle, or your budget. Experimenting with new gear is something we all do, but if you’re one of the many newcomers to the AR community in the wake of President Obama’s AWB push, focus on learning to shoot and manipulate your new rifle first and foremost. Rather than spending money hand over fist on the parts you think you’d want, it’s better to research and then purchase the parts that will best meet your needs. Your wallet will thank you in the long run.