How to Choose an AR15 Upper

October 27, 2011

The AR15 Upper is the first and most critical component of your custom AR15 rifle. This essential part contains the ‘guts’ of your weapon, including the barrel, forward assist, upper receiver, bolt carrier, ejection port cover, charging handle, and firing pin, among other things. There are several variations on this part, making it highly versatile.

Although the AR15 is most famous for its military applications, this semi-automatic rifle can be customized for many uses. This weapon’s modular design, light-weight, and accuracy have made it one of the most popular rifles available to civilians for over 30 years. Choosing the right AR15 Upper is the first step in building your own personalized rifle.

The first question you will want to ask yourself is: ‘how will I be using this rifle?’ Whether you are hunting varmints, plinking, or competition shooting, there are several specific parts that will make your custom rifle more effective.

Types of AR uppers Available

  • AR15 A1 – is designed with a fixed carry handle and a shell deflector. This upper most closely resembles the original M16 military rifle.
  • AR15 A2 – also has a fixed carry handle and a shell deflector, and is compatible with the A2 sight assembly for better windage and elevation adjustments. These features make this AR upper popular for competition shooting.
  • AR15 A3 – has a flattop instead of a handle, a shell deflector. This is the upper currently used by the military in the standard-issue M4 or M-16 A4. This upper AR15 is versatile for many applications as any type of scope can be mounted on the flattop. Consequently this upper receiver is quite popular with hunters.
  • AR15 Flattop – this AR upper is similar to the A3, though is will not accommodate forward assists assemblies or ejection port cover assemblies. Though less modifiable that the A3, these AR uppers are popular for scope-users who prefer simplicity to custom modification.

Why You Should Understand the Parts of Your AR15

It is always a good idea to assemble your own AR15. This will make you familiar with all of the working parts of your rifle so that care and maintenance become second nature. Assembling your own weapon also means that you can customize it for your specific needs. Finally, taking the time to become familiar with your AR15 will bring you more enjoyment in whatever activity you choose to engage in.

If it seems complicated, don’t worry. Anyone can learn the skills necessary to assemble and care for an AR15 rifle. Just take it step by step. The first thing to consider is the type of AR15 Upper you will want to use. Because this rifle is modular, you can always switch out to other AR15 Upper Receivers in the future. If you will be using the rifle for a variety of tasks, the A3 AR upper offers much flexibility. If you want simplicity, then the flattop will be an excellent choice. Regardless, there are many resources available that can fully instruct you on the assembly, care, and maintenance of your AR15 Upper and all the other components of your AR15 rifle.


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