AR Upgrade Parts You Should Be Selling

The AR-15’s modularity makes it an ideal choice for aftermarket upgrades.

AR Upgrade Parts You Should Be Selling

ARs have become America’s favorite rifle system, and for great reasons — home defense, competition, recreational shooting and hunting seem to top the list, but I would argue their lightweight design, semi-automatic cycling, price points and modularity rank among top motivators to buy. For millions of Americans over the past few years, AR-platform rifles were their first purchase, and most, undoubtedly, are run-of-the-mill vanilla-black. Thank God for modularity! Many gun owners at all experience levels continue to learn about AR-platform rifles, including opportunities to upgrade them. They see eye-popping ARs on TV, in magazines, online and at ranges. They can’t unsee them, and countless AR owners want a piece of that upgraded pie. This is where you come in. Upgrades and build projects have taken the AR industry by storm! There has never been a better time to offer those primary components and ancillary pieces AR owners are looking for to step their AR game in big, jaw-dropping ways. Consider these stocking these AR components to upgrade your sales.



Upgrades can be as simple as removing and installing components with a few screws or as complicated as changing out barrels, gas blocks and small parts. Either way, specialized tools certainly make upgrading projects easier, and no other brand focuses on DIY AR projects as much as Real Avid. From setting a pivot pin without losing a spring or detent to replacing a barrel or tightening to torque specs, Real Avid’s tool offerings, including magazine and upper receiver vise blocks, are specifically designed for A-to-Z AR-platform projects, including complete builds. Must-have upgrading and building tools for AR enthusiasts include Real Avid’s Armorer’s Master Kit Pro, Accu-Punch Master Set, and Smart Torque and Driver Master Set.



To be honest, I have only come across one workbench vise worth its weight in AR gold: Real Avid’s Master Gun Vise. Designed specifically for gunsmithing, Real Avid’s Master Gun vise is perfect for professional and recreational DIYers. The multi-axis vise makes upgrading, repairing and building ARs easier than ever without ever having to pull the project from the vise’s jaws. The Master Gun Vise boasts locking pins, micro-leveling, a ball and socket joint with Torq-Lok pins, Speed-Cam locking lever, quick-adjust crank and padded, reversible jaw sleeves.

DIY Build Sets (Chassis)

Functional bones or premium machining and looks to go with them, DIY sets generally consist of upper and lower receivers as well as a matching handguard. A top producer of DIY sets is Phoenix Weaponry. Owner and master machinist Aaron Cayce keeps tolerances tight at .002-inch; in fact, his machined parts also can be found on the International Space Station, in deep space, on the Mars rover and in people’s bodies — but his passion is AR manufacturing. The company offers billet and forged receiver sets, and their tube-shaped handguards are unmistakable. One of my personal favorites is the handguard with knurled texturing. While Phoenix Weaponry offers plain black DIY sets, the company also offers flat and battle-worn Cerakote finishes in various color options.


DIY Upgrade Kits (Controls and Furniture)

When it comes to upgrading a run-of-the-mill black AR into a jaw-dropping dream rifle, nobody does one-stop-shop better than Timber Creek Outdoors. Their latest, greatest 2022 Enforcer CF (carbon fiber) line is sure to turn plenty of heads; however, their original Enforcer upgrade kit is no slouch either. Timber Creek Outdoors Builder Kits are available in numerous colors and include an ambidextrous charging handle, forward assist, billet dust cover, 15-inch ultra-light M-LOK handguard, pistol grip, trigger guard, ambidextrous selector switch, extended magazine release button, take-down pins, receiver endplate with quick-detach sling-mount system, low-profile gas block and a Heart Breaker muzzle brake.


Receiver Sets

Receivers literally are the backbone of an AR, playing roles of both chassis and body — holding things in place and looking good while they do it. While shapes and sizes are pretty standardized, when it comes to quality and aesthetics, forged and billet, options seem unlimited, and so are price points. Aero Precision offers great quality receiver sets at lower price points, while F-1 Firearms receiver sets are great representations of premium options. Recently, I have had the pleasure of undertaking several build projects with F-1 Firearms receiver sets, and they have become a personal favorite, especially the skeletonized BDRx model. The company also offers skeletonized UDR and non-skeletonized HDR sets.


Complete Uppers

Easy way out or quick-change? The modularity of ARs means offering complete uppers can cut build-project time in half or completely change a rifle’s caliber. Upgrading from a .223 to a .300 AAC (Blackout) can be as simple as removing the .223 upper and installing the .300 AAC. Put simply, a complete upper can easily turn a rifle into two different shooting platforms and can be the perfect solution for enthusiasts to add more rifles to their collection without actually adding more rifles. Of course, customers do need to know changing calibers via complete uppers may require changing bolts and magazines. A great, affordable option with the lifetime-warranty peace of mind for your AR customers is CBC Industries. The company has made a reputable name for itself as top producer of affordable, premium-performing, complete-upper systems in various calibers with CBC’s lifetime warranty.


Free-Floating Handguards

Form or function, free-floating handguards speak volumes for lifestyle and purpose, and both are primary reasons AR enthusiasts seek them out for upgrades. Like most chassis and furniture pieces in the wide world of modularity, options seem unlimited. Short or long, large diameter or narrow, M-LOK (most popular) or keymod (shrinking popularity), plain matte coating or wild custom finishes, free-floating handguards are one of the most popular AR upgrades, especially by enthusiasts using delta-style handguard rings and front-sight gas blocks. Upgrading from such a setup to a free-floating handguard not only enhances aesthetics, but it allows for the use of an adjustable gas block and for easy mounting of accessories such as light systems. American-made Bowden Tactical Foundation Series handguards are affordable and rank among my favorites. They are available in multiple color options; however, black is likely a best stocking choice to accommodate common black rifle upgrades as well as custom Cerakote finishes.


Stock Systems

Before absorbing recoil impulse, shooter comfort often begins with one’s ability to settle down behind a rifle, set a comfortable length of pull, establish a solid cheek-weld and obtain proper sight picture, as well as sight alignment, without straining. Adjustable stocks are the ideal solution to each of those issues and, in a world full of production rifles with cheap A4-style stocks, they often are an AR owner’s first upgrade. I employ a number of Magpul, FabDefense, Mission First Tactical and SopMod style stocks; however, my favorite multi-point adjustable stock is Luth-AR’s MBA-4 with the cheekpiece. Offering the MBA-4 without the cheekpiece may also be a good idea. Benefits of a stock like the MBA-4 with the cheekpiece are length-of-pull and comb-height (cheekpiece) adjustability, a soft rubber buttpad, Picatinny compatible monopod mount, and a skeletonized design for lighter overall weight. Luth-AR seems to have thought of everything for shooters looking to upgrade stocks, and the price point is exceptionally affordable. The combination is sure to be a hit with customers.


Pistol Grips

AR pistol grips are quite subjective. Some like metal, others polymer, rubber, fiberglass or wood. Some like flat grips, while others appreciate grips with palm swells and finger grooves. Price points also are all over the place. Premium favorites of mine from the likes of F-1 Firearms and Timber Creek Outdoors are billet aluminum with colorful, even custom anodized or Cerakote finishes; however, they also come at a higher price point. Your customers can expect to pay upwards of $100 for precision-machined grips. They are great for those who want to take the dream-build plunge, and it makes sense to keep some top-shelf stock, but most are simply trying to upgrade their $10 stock grip. A great solution for those folks comes from Magpul — the MOE+ Grip. American-made, roughly a quarter of the cost of machined aluminum models and weighing just 3.4 ounces, the Magul MOE+ Grip is constructed of rock-solid polymer and wrapped in soft, comfortable, rubber-overmolding. The grip doubles as a compact storage space secured via an easy-access bottom door.


Bolt Carrier Groups

As an AR’s central nervous system, the bolt carrier group is the epicenter of function. From recoil energy, cycling, feeding and extracting, the BCG does the lion’s share of the shooting work. As such, offering exceptionally durable, ultra-reliable BCGs is critical. Great, affordable bolt carrier groups well worth your shelf space come from WMD Guns. WMD Guns offers a wide array of BCGs in various colors designed for long-term flawless functioning while also adding a special element to your customer’s AR color theme.



Nobody likes big groups, especially after upgrading their AR. Of course, like all other AR parts, the price range is as wide as the Grand Canyon. Your customers can expect to pay retail prices anywhere between $75 and $750. A perfect solution for precision, match-grade accuracy demanding customers are sure to want, at a mid-range price point, is Wilson Combat. While Wilson Combat is known for producing world-class pistols and ARs, and WC’s .300 HAM’R is one of my favorite pig-hunting cartridges, serious shooters can expect the same laser accuracy from the company’s barrels. Through several AR builds, including .300 HAM’R, 6mm ARC, 6.5 Grendel and 6.8 SPC II, I have achieved sub-half-MOA groups. Wilson Combat barrels are available fluted, non-fluted, bead-blasted and with Armor-Tuff coating in six colors.


Gas Systems

One of the toughest challenges DIYers face when building ARs is gassing. The issue can be more challenging in AR-10/LR-308 systems; however, even AR-15 calibers can get a little tricky, especially for customers who prefer shooting with suppressors. Some shooters want the ability to shoot with and without suppressors, making gassing an even greater challenge. For better control over gassing on my personal builds, I most often employ adjustable gas blocks. More specifically and for more flexibility with future upgrades, I always use and suggest low-profile gas blocks. One of my favorites is Superlative Arms. Offering gas tubes is pretty straightforward. I suggest carrying gas tubes from pistol and carbine lengths to mid-length, rifle and even +1-inch and +2-inch tubes to cover virtually any AR-15 or AR-10 direct-impingement project. White Oak Armament offers premium gas tubes — yes, even gas tube quality matters. and


Charging Handles

Not all charging handles are the same. Charging handles are rifle-mounted tools designed to give the shooter easy means to open the firearm’s action, eject cases and close the bolt in a controlled fashion. An ambidextrous charging handle with larger, easy-to-access, textured release levers is ideal. Battle Arms’ Rack Charging Handle delivers ambidextrous utility, as well as durable build quality, and it can certainly enhance a rifle’s color theme with six color options.


Buffering System

Buffering systems play critical roles in recoil impulse and reliable cycling. With the right combination, reliable rifle function and shooting comfort are enhanced; however, finding the sweet spot can be frustrating, especially for projects chambered for less common cartridges. For more common calibers, builders often achieve great functioning with buffer systems from the likes of Luth-AR. Over the years, I have found more challenging cycling issues were solved within minutes using JP Enterprises’ adjustable Silent Capture Buffer System. On my own most troubling gas issues, where I spent hours trying to find the rifle’s gassing sweet-spot, I switched to the Silent Capture system and resolved the issue in just minutes. That said, stocking Luth-AR buffer kits, as well as JP Enterprises’ Silent Capture system, assures you have all buffering bases covered.



Single-stage vs. two-stage — the debate has certainly aged without much compromise among serious shooters. Triggers are pretty subjective; however, there is no denying the benefits of top-shelf triggers vs. standard mil-spec options for precision shooting as well as hunting. My personal preference generally lands with single-stage, match-grade models somewhere in the 2- to 3-pound range. Others prefer two-stage systems with a bit higher poundage — my personal favorite two-stage triggers feature short, smooth take-up. Most of my AR builds have included Timney competition triggers. They definitely make good on trigger features precision shooters appreciate — light trigger pull, shorter travel, crisp break and short reset.


Small Parts

From ambidextrous selector switches and extended magazine releases to color-coordinated takedown pins, controls and small parts are a great way to enhance aesthetics, ergonomics and overall function. A routine choice for my personal projects, Timber Creek Outdoors has become a leader in upgrades and customizations with small parts as well as foundation furniture like pistol grips. Consider carrying TCO small part kits in a variety of color options.


Pro Tip

While upgrading or building ARs is certainly fun, even a bit addicting, it can also be frustrating if you lose one or two small, spring-loaded parts mid-stride. The best replacement small-parts kit I know of comes from 2A Armament and is aptly named the Carpet Kit. The kit comes in a tiny snap-lock case and includes the most commonly lost parts — detents, detent springs, selector switch detent and spring, buffer spring retaining pin and spring, and more. Every customer interested in building or upgrading ARs should have a few of these on the bench. Additionally, ensure you also stock a small inventory of high-temperature, anti-seizing white lithium grease, as well as CLP or other low-viscosity lubricant for tough-to-install parts like roll pins.



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