Up On ARs
Grips And Stocks
by Glen Zediker
Modular rifles are wonderful things, as long as there are those who see fit to provide worthwhile and optional modular components. One of the biggest differences between the AR-15 and other rifles is the bolt-on/bolt-off holding areas. Some call them stocks and grips.
Here is Glen in all his glory, space rifle and all. The point is, the AR-15 is perhaps our most versatile rifle and Glen has taken advantage of all the current technology. You can, too.
From my perspective, it seems as though of all the components we can change on an AR-15, those making the rifle fit the shooter better are underdone and evidently therefore underrated. Rate them up. You’ll be amazed at how much better the rifle will feel (any rifle for that matter) when it fits you. Shooting becomes easier.
First and easiest is the handgrip. That is, to change, not to choose. There are a lot of options. Quality counts as much as suitability. Like shoes, not all are suitable for all people because feet are all different, and some are just plain unsuitable because they’re poorly executed and constructed.
Most find the A2 issue grip to be a little thin and a little small. Most accessory grips are, for the most part, thicker and larger. Most then take that idea a good deal farther and add in “custom fit” contouring, which, of course, really isn’t. Since I am, well, how I am, I like to be able to truly custom fit this component, if needed. I don’t like finger grooves, or at least not if my fingers didn’t make them. Finding a pre-molded grip to suit me is hit or miss. For the most part and for the most hands, I would suggest selecting a grip standard in form, just bigger.
Aside from providing a better handle, the right grip can actually help improve shooting mechanics. The trigger is (relatively) very close to the grip centerline, meaning the location of the grip screw receiver hole. Ideally, the trigger finger will extend forward naturally and provide first-joint contact on the trigger face. For probably most shooters, a naturally extended trigger finger will be too far past the trigger face to provide first-joint contact.
Since it’s not (yet) possible to move the trigger forward, help comes from moving the hand back, and that’s engineered into some accessory handles. They’re thicker or deeper on their rearmost surfaces. Larger diameter handles also somewhat or indirectly move the trigger finger “back”, but can also force a compromise by changing the curve in the finger such that it’s curling inward more.
This is an adjustable buttplate from Accuracy Speaks. It’s a straight “bolt-on” replacement and provides length, height, and rotation adjustment. I recommend installing this on the back of an A1 stock shell, like this one is. The plate mechanism itself adds enough additional thickness competitive shooters may find the stock is actually too long for the standing event.
A “rookie mistake” many competitive shooters make is allowing any part of their trigger finger to touch the rifle except for that which contacts the trigger face. Until it’s paid attention to and eliminated, most folks would never imagine the adverse effect it has on their groups. It’s big. I can’t say this can be eliminated by finding a better handle, but shooter’s will say it best be paid attention to. If there’s excess material in this area of the handle, I relieve it. Relief comes from a grinder.
If the standard A2 stock is too long, get a shorter one, and that’s cheap and easy because all it takes is an A1. Last one I bought was less than $10. Remove the spacer from the receiver extension tube and screw that bad boy in place. This is a popular option for women and kids who compete in Service Rifle division. The A1 is 5/8″ shorter.
Make It Fit
Since my primary interest is position target shooting, the more adjustable a buttstock is, the more I want it. There are myriad advantages from a fully adjustable stock. I have radically different settings for standing, sitting and prone. There’s about 2″ in length alone, for instance, between my shortest and longest stock settings. I also raise and lower the buttplate and rotate it differently each event, and the cast adjustment is literally on one side or the other going from sitting to prone. The whole idea is to hold the rifle how you want, and then move the stock until it’s touching where it should.
It’s easy to tell if a good shooter designed a buttstock because either it’s easy to adjust or it isn’t. Location of the locking/loosening hardware and incremental cheekpiece adjustment are two clues. It should take only one wrench to run the entire works, and the entire point to an adjustable cheekpiece for a competition shooter is to gradually and finitely move the cheekpiece to attain perfect eye alignment with the rear sight.
The only trick is, with some adjustable stocks, standard charging handle access is denied. Won’t work. The reason is the cheekpiece height becomes excessive and blocks its path. The most expensive and complex, but ultimately worthwhile and simple after-the-fact solution is to eliminate the need for the t-handle altogether and have the bolt carrier drilled and tapped for a bolt handle. Otherwise, the cheekpiece either has to have so much clearance that it positions the head too far away from the back of the receiver or has to be lowered fully to load the dang gun. The Eliseo-style stock allows for ready drop in cheekpiece height, so it’s not a hard work-around.
For (more or less) fixed position shooting, such as varmint hunting, probably the biggest help comes from a higher cheekpiece, and that’s a help by simply raising the head up nearer to the scope centerline. The telltale sign you need this is neck strain. If your neck is hurting, that means your head isn’t able to rest firmly enough against the stock.
I didn’t make my own pickup camper shell from plywood, no, but I will say the most simple and effective means I’ve seen to get more height is foam water pipe insulation from the hardware store. Get some with 3/4″ i.d. and tape it on there. If you want to get sano and all, then get some Velcro strapping while you’re there.
More AR-15 Photos
I liked the A1 grips best in the first place because they didn’t have that daggone hook thing sticking out their middle. Others, as expected and foretold, think it’s just right like it is. I bought a sack-full of A1s and use them on my competition Service Rifles. The hook gets in the way of where I want my hand, which is just as high up as I can get it for offhand shooting.
This gadget is great for scoped AR-15s. It’s a cheekpiece that bolts onto a standard stock buttplate (the plate is part of the set). Unlike the lower-quality pieces many of us have seen, and possibly bitten on, this one is well made and engineered to provide adjustable height. It mounts solid and feels that way in use. Bell & Carlson makes it and Brownell’s has it.
I like this type buttstock best. It’s designed by Gary Eliseo, an NRA High Master and master builder. It’s adjustable for length, buttplate rotation, height, and also cast (moves left or right). The cheekpiece is adjustable from position without tools. Not recommended for field use.
Your humble correspondent has been shooting and experimenting with AR-15s for many years. It’s a good hobby and can become quite a passion.
My vote for best general use bolt-up is the Sierra Precision grip. It’s got pre-molded finger groves but they’re not exaggerated enough not to allow some latitude in hand positioning. Likewise, pure target grips sometimes have too much material to allow for the necessary hand position shifting necessary to operate the rifle quickly in the field.
This is a Whitley Space Gun stock from Evolution Gun Works. It’s simple and well made, and adds virtually no extra weight. It works well anywhere. It doesn’t have an adjustable cheekpiece, but that’s not going to be a factor for most folks who are not multi-position shooters. It comes with its own extension tube and can also have a handy-dandy “bag rider” addition to its bottom that sits it nicely on a rest.