The AR-15 rifle is the Harley-Davidson of firearms—a chassis made to be accessorized. Just as a blinding assortment of aftermarket chrome can be added to Milwaukee iron, Connecticut steel can be tricked out with a bewildering array of grips, stocks, rails, optics, lasers, lights and sights.
With the proper accessories, an AR can be used to see in the dark, punch targets at long range or maneuver in close quarters battle (CQB) confines. More furniture can be hung on an AR than the gun is worth, many times over. The only limitation to accessorizing an AR is your imagination and bank account.
The civilian version of the M4, with its flat-top receiver, is an ideal platform for bedecking a tactical smorgasbord of parts, components and upgrades that fall into several major groups.
Uncle Sam calls the accessories for Special Operations M4s—Special Operations Peculiar Modifications (SOPMOD).
However, even the SOPMOD kit doesn’t include everything. For instance, it makes no provisions for upgraded triggers or pistol grips, and it leaves out sling attachments, assuming the operator will make his own provisions.
The current SOPMOD rail fore-end is made by Daniel Defense, but also authorized is a Knight’s Armament Co. fore-end known as the RAS (Rail Accessory System). Both are easy to install and leave the barrel free-floating, which is important for accuracy. Regardless of the brand, a quad rail is crucial first step to accessorizing an AR-15.
Civilians have far more choices. In addition to ACOG, Aimpoint or EOTech, optics include those made by Schmidt & Bender, Burris, Leupold, Weaver, Zeiss and others along with numerous kinds of knock-offs from Israel or China.
Back-Up Iron Sights
Some good BUIS are made by Troy Industries, Dueck Defense, Yankee Hill and GG&G. When choosing your BUIS, be sure that they will work with whatever optic is being put on the rifle. These are back-ups, so you may never need them, but they must be easy to transition to in an emergency.
The current SOPMOD in foregrips is the TangoDown quick-detach BattleGrip. This patented design comes with a recessed pocket for either an Insight Technologies or SureFire pressure switch, plus there’s a removable plug to store spare parts, such as an extractor or even extra batteries.
Since there is no SOPMOD kit trigger, the best way to improve the trigger in an AR is with one of the various drop-in triggers that are available on the market through Timney, Geissele, Wilson Combat or McCormick. All made excellent products that will improve your pull.
The one thing that can be said about lasers in general—and this applies to any gun and any laser—is that the more bore off-set you have, the worse your point-of-aim deviation will be. Ideally a laser should be aligned with one axis, preferably the left-right, so that you only have to make adjustments for elevation. Pick one that can do the job at the price you can afford.
The light used in the SOPMOD kit right now is an Insight M3 white light with an IR filter, but previously it was a SureFire MU System WeaponLight. What the SureFire has in ruggedness and durability, the Insight trumps with lightweight and lower cost.
SureFire’s latest M300 and M600 Scout Lights running on LEDs are smaller and lighter than anything the company has made before and, outside of SOPMOD, many operators are fitting them on their M4s left and right.
What’s On Your M4?
If all this is confusing, Brownells has an excellent feature on its Web site to let you “build your own” AR by clicking on different accessories. This makes tricking out your AR a lot simpler.