A while ago American Rifleman had an article about “10 Important AR Accessories” that Cheaper Than Dirt carries. I know, its the trifecta of commercial gun mag articles — Perfect Google bait that was bought and paid for by the sponsor and low on content. And while it wasn’t a very exciting article, it got me thinking about what tools the average shooter really does need to properly maintain and get the most use out of their AR platform rifle. And I think I’ve narrowed the list to a fabulous five . . .
#1 – Leatherman MUT
First and foremost, yes I am a Leatherman fanboy. I believe I’ve made that clear. But in this one tool, you get just about everything you could possibly need to maintain your AR-15 rifle in the field.
From a screwdriver (with multiple bits for standard and hex head screws included) to a punch and even a carbon scraper to get all that nasty gunk off your bolt, this thing does it all. Heck, there’s even a pair of attachment points for your cleaning rod so you can use it as a handle. Since Leatherman sent me a unit for testing (and I failed to return it), I’ve found that there hasn’t been a single issue with a firearm on the range that I couldn’t fix with my MUT and get it running again no matter the gun.
That’s not to say a well-stocked toolkit can’t do the same thing. But when you’re out at the range, its nice to know that you’ve got all the tools you need to fix any problem and all in one handy little place.
#2 – Tapco Armorer’s Tool
One of the nice things about the AR-15 platform is the modularity of the design. With the push of a couple pins, the turn of a wrench and a muttered swear under your breath, you can change everything about the gun, from the stock to the barrel and even the caliber. And while the change is relatively quick and painless, that only happens if you have the right tools.
While the MUT’s a great start to your kit, the armorer’s wrench really seals the deal. With one piece of metal you gain the ability to turn any nut and change any part on your gun, something especially helpful when that castle nut on your stock starts to wiggle free or you feel the burning desire to try out a different caliber.
There are a number of designs out there for this wrench, and while American Rifleman suggests the Barska version I’m going to have to disagree. Tapco makes an armorer’s wrench that’s better thought out in its layout and easier to use. I’ve been using it on my own guns since the first time an AR-15 upper receiver came in the mail. This thing grades out at an A+++…I’d hand them my money again.
#3 – M16 Cleaning Kit
Some people like the style of cleaning kit that uses the little rope that you pull through the barrel. Not me. Personally, I like my cleaning kits to use the nice solid rods. And the reason is that if you get something stuck in your barrel, you can use the proper (or gratuitous, depending on the situation) application of force to remove said obstruction. Plus, the cleaning rods work great with the MUT you should already have.
Even better is that M16 cleaning kits usually come with a couple of brushes along with that cleaning rod, like the chamber brush pictured above. And while you can clean your gun just fine with the provided tools, the MUT lets you twirl that brush around and really de-gunkify the crevasses in your chamber.
Sometimes the newest and shiniest tools are the way to go. But for me, its all about the old school cleaning rods. And, even better, these can be had for less than $10.
#4 – A Good Soft Case
This one isn’t specific to the AR-15 platform, but really works for any rifle. When I’m packing up for the range, I grab my “MOLLE Sniper Drag Bag Rifle Case“. I know, it sounds like the firearms equivalent of Star Trek’s technobabble, but this case has survived the last two years of heavy abuse, hauling guns, gear and ammo to the range in one easy to carry bag.
Once you have a “nice” gun, the real trick keeping it that way. When I first started shooting I’d just throw all the guns in the trunk, pile the ammo cans in the back seat and head out. But as I began shooting more. I realized that I needed a slightly more covert way to get guns and ammo out to my trunk, and keep them from getting scratched up at the same time.
That’s where this bag comes in. It holds up to two rifles securely and keeps them from scratching each other. It also holds enough ammo for an entire afternoon of boomenschutzen. Actually, I use this thing for my 3-gun competitions as well — running “trooper division” wherever possible and keeping all my guns, gear and ammo (and a liter of water) in one secure place.
Getting nice things for your gun is only half the battle. Keeping them nice is almost as important. Protect your investment — get a bag.
#5 – A .22LR Conversion Kit
OK, this one assumes you have an AR-15 in 5.56 NATO. And if you do, you realize just how much it sucks to shell out tons of cash for 5.56 ammo every time you hit the range.
If you want to keep shooting and practicing without going broke, a .22LR conversion kit is a great idea. Its a drop-in replacement for the AR-15 bolt carrier group that lets you fire MUCH cheaper plinking rounds instead of the good stuff. The only thing you’ll miss is the same level of recoil that the full power stuff gives you.
This kit is the CMMG Alpha and I’ve personally used it in my rifle for the last two years without a single problem. And at $180 its a fine investment that pays for itself in about two range trips.
So there you have my fab five list. I’m sure there will be plenty of AR honks pointing out essentials I’ve missed and why they can’t live without ’em, so have at it.