AR 15 STOCKS BUYER'S GUIDE
One of the most upgraded parts on an AR-15 is the stock. Partly due to the ease of swapping one out, and partly due to being able to change the look and feel of your rifle without spending a ton of money. If you just bought an AR-15 with standard components and are looking to upgrade, or you want to change your setup to fit a specific role, then this AR-15 stock buyer’s guide is for you.
In this article, we will go over the different types of stocks, what they are generally used for, and the different components required for each, so you can make an informed decision on how you want to upgrade or even build your own AR-15 rifle.
A few quick notes before we get into the AR stocks is that carbine adjustable stocks require carbine length buffer tubes while rifle fixed stocks require rifle length buffer tubes. Additionally, carbine buffer tubes come in two different diameters—commercial and Mil-Spec—but most new AR-15s come with Mil-Spec buffer tubes. Continue reading until the end if you want to learn more about the AR stock components themselves.
The first type of AR 15 stock that we will look at is the carbine stock which is by far the most popular style to choose. Let’s take a look at why.
AR STOCK TYPES : AR 15 CARBINE STOCK
Why is the AR-15 carbine stock such a popular choice? Well, it is quite simple really, carbine stocks are generally lighter, shorter, and offer much more adjustment allowing you to use your AR-15 in a variety of different positions whether you are wearing a plate carrier or just plain clothes. For those of us who just like to hit the range every weekend, the adjustability is great for allowing various shooters of different sizes to be able to comfortably handle the firearm. Additionally, most off the shelf AR-15s come with carbine stocks, so you can easily swap it to another without having to change the buffer tube to a fixed rifle length version. Just pop off the old stock and throw on your brand new Magpul stock.
Sorry to name drop like that but there is a reason why Magpul stocks are some of our best sellers. Magpul stocks are known for being made from extremely durable polymer material and they have a ton of different styles and colors to choose from to fit your build no matter your preferred price point. The Magpul MOE SL-S Carbine stock like the one shown above is great for building a versatile AR-15 without sacrificing durability or functionality.
It features reinforced locking levers to keep it locked into the correct position on the buffer tube as well as a tension spring to eliminate any sort of wobble. Additionally, this Magpul stock features an enhanced cheek weld with water resistant containers built in for storing batteries or other necessary items and even has QD sling swivel slots. However, Magpul stocks aren’t the only ones on the market. If you are looking to build a lightweight carbine, the Mission First Tactical Minimalist Stock is generally the first choice people go for.
The MFT Minimalist Carbine AR15 stock does just what the name implies. This AR15 carbine stock has all that you need in a stock to eliminate as much weight as possible. At only 5.8 ounces, this carbine stock is still built to withstand heavy use and can even be mortared without fear of breaking the toe. Additionally, the toe of this stock is angled to roll into your shoulder pocket faster even while wearing gear.
If your budget is a little bit higher, and you want to build a precision rifle without having to change your buffer system, we have the new B5 systems collapsible precision stock.
The B5 Systems Precision AR15 Adjustable Stock comes with all the features of a high-end rifle stock like cheek height adjustment and length of pull adjustment all while securely mounting to a 6-position carbine length buffer tube. At 200+ bucks you are getting a ton of stock for your money, but if you are just looking for something to replace your wobbly M4 stock we’re going back to Magpul.
The Magpul MOE Carbine stock is the most affordable in the lineup and the most popular. It even comes as standard on some complete AR-15 rifles, so people don’t have to spend extra money just to change out the stock to their favorite MOE carbine stock. It even comes in pink if that is your flavor. No judgements here.
There are way more AR15 carbine stocks to choose from and we struggled to narrow it down to just our favorites, but we believe that if you choose to go the carbine stock route, these are great starting points for your AR.
If you still haven’t decided, continue reading and learn why you might want a fixed rifle stock.
AR STOCK TYPES: AR 15 FIXED STOCK
If the carbine stock is so much better, why would anyone want to use a rifle stock? Sometimes, lightweight and compact aren’t what you need for a specific rifle setup. Generally, AR15 stocks offer much more stability and durability at the expense of weight. This is great for those looking to get every bit of accuracy out of their rifle.
Where an adjustable stock will rattle—with the exception of a few really good stocks—and prevent a consistent cheek weld, a fixed rifle stock won’t move allowing you to position the rifle to your body the exact same way every time you present it. This is tremendously important for long range competition shooters, 3-gun competition shooters, and hunters alike where precision is key.
One of the most common reasons people choose fixed rifle length stocks is for long range competition shooting. While the standard A2 rifle stock is certainly capable and is even a requirement in certain military competitions, the market has grown significantly and added many features to their designs to meet the demands of serious competition shooters.
So, maybe it is time to upgrade. Enter, you guessed it, Magpul. The Magpul PRS Precision Rifle Stock has all the rock-solid stability that you need to be consistent, and all the adjustability that you need to ensure the rifle is perfectly tailored to your body shape and shooting position. And to top it off, the PRS can be used with both rifle length and carbine length buffer tubes, so you can easily throw it on your carbine with minimal effort.
However, the PRS isn’t the only AR15 fixed stock on the market designed for long range shooting. The Luth AR MBA-1 Modular Buttstock Assembly is popular with competition shooters because it offers a lot of the same adjustable features, but is much lighter, so you can carry it all day. The integrated castle nut and lock ring is a nice touch as well. Remember when I said that AR15 fixed stocks are generally heavier? I probably should have put more emphasis on “generally”. Check out this next rifle stock built for 3-gun competition.
If 3-gun competition is the end goal for your rifle and you are tired of the bone stock… stock, then we recommend the Odin Works Zulu 2.0 Stock. This rifle stock comes with its own rifle length buffer tube already attached, so it will require a little more work to get on your rifle. However, removing the buffer tube is quite easy and you can reuse your castle nut and end plate.
This AR15 fixed stock is actually not fixed as the rear butt pad section can be fine tuned to your perfect length of pull. This unique stock design that uses the buffer tube as the main body, is extremely lightweight and rigid, allowing you to get a consistent cheek weld and is easy to maneuver quickly through stages without weighing you down.
Guess what? AR15 fixed stocks can get even lighter. Because of the one-piece design and increased rigidity, companies like Lancer Systems can get away with using materials like carbon fiber that retain all the strength of polymer at half the weight.
This stock, like the Zulu 2.0, is better for 3-gun compared to long range, because of the weight factor combined with the consistent cheek weld perfect for fast and accurate shooting while on the move. It is the best of both worlds for close to medium range shooting while still being capable for those longer-range hits. Though, unlike the PRS and MBA-1, it lacks the adjustability that is almost a necessity for extremely long-range shooting.
If you are looking for an AR15 fixed stock that doesn’t need all those fancy adjustments and high-tech materials and is just built like a tank for your hunting rifle, we have the Magpul MOE Fixed Rifle Stock. I know, you are probably tired of hearing that name, but they really know what they are doing when it comes to AR15 stocks and have one for just about every scenario.
This Fixed rifle stock is built around the same design philosophy as the classic A2 rifle stock—Marine proof. No matter how many times you slam it against the ground to clear a stuck casing out of the chamber it won’t break. It even comes with modern improvements like 4 different QD sling attachment points and a standard sling loop, so carrying your rifle to your favorite hunting spot is less of a chore. The large internal storage compartment is a great spot to carry oil, replacement parts, or snacks to make sure you and your rifle are always operating at maximum performance.
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum are AR15 PDW stocks. PDW stands for personal defense weapon and are extremely compact weapon systems that are easy to carry in a bag or in your car while still being quick to deploy. Now you can adapt that philosophy to your very own AR-15 with these new unique designs that are even more compact than a standard AR 15 collapsible stock.
AR STOCK TYPES: AR 15 PDW STOCK
These PDW stock systems are generally come in at a higher price point but for good reason. They are completely all-in-one stock systems with their own proprietary buffer tubes, buffers, and springs to make your rifle as compact as possible. While they will require you to remove your standard buffer tube, it is easy and there are plenty of resources online to help you out.
The Strike Industries PDW Stock is one of the most well-thought-out platforms as the buffer tube is almost half the length of a standard carbine length buffer tube allowing for the minimalist buttpad to collapse the length of pull (the distance from rear of the stock to the trigger) to 7.5”. However, what makes this PDW stock special is the rapid deployment system that fully extends the stock at the push of a button.
Unfortunately, some states restrict types of AR stocks you can put on your AR15 but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
AR STOCK TYPES: AR 15 FEATURELESS STOCK
While it goes without saying, you must know your own local laws and regulations regarding stock configurations on your AR-15 but for the most part you will be fine with a fixed stock. However, there is now a subsection called featureless stocks which allow you to use collapsible AR stocks in a fixed configuration.
If you fell in love with the Mission First Tactical Minimalist stock that we talked about earlier, then you are in luck. The Cali Compliant version comes with a pin so you can pin it in place once you set it to your desired position on the buffer tube. Now you can enjoy the lightweight collapsible stock without that dangerous collapsible feature.
Somehow this topic didn’t come up earlier but if you are looking to build a space rifle, we have the Hera Arms CQR Rifle Buttstock. It features a unique design with a built-in pistol grip resembling something out of Halo. But we all know that the pistol grip is the most dangerous feature, so they offer the featureless version which fills in that gap and prevents you from putting your thumb all the way through.
However, I’m gong to let you in on a little secret. Precision shooters actually prefer to keep their thumb on the same side as their trigger finger to prevent putting unnecessary pressure on the rifle to keep it as straight as possible when firing. Even though this AR15 fixed stock might be a “featureless” version, it will still be a great addition to any precision style rifle.
Of course, these are not the only AR stocks out there. We have too many on our site to highlight here and these are just our favorites. Using the sub-category filter on the left side of the page will help you narrow it down to all these specific categories and make your decision that much easier.
AR 15 STOCK COMPONENTS
Now that you have decided on the type of AR stock that you want to upgrade too, it is time to take a look at the different stock components, so you can make sure that what you already have will work or if you need to add a few more small items to your cart.
Nobody wants to have to make a separate order and pay for shipping twice when it could have all been done in one go. This part of the guide will make sure you won’t make that annoying mistake. Let’s start with the buffer tube also known as a receiver extension.
AR 15 STOCK COMPONENT: BUFFER TUBE
CARBINE LENGTH BUFFER TUBE
Carbine length buffer tubes are easy to identify when compared to a rifle length buffer tubes. They are shorter and can have between 5 to 7 holes on the bottom to allow your collapsible stock to lock into and set your length of pull. What is slightly more annoying to identify is whether it is Mil-Spec or commercial spec.
The difference between these two specifications is the outer diameter. Mil-Spec buffer tubes feature an outer diameter of 1.14 inches while commercial spec buffer tubes are 1.17 inches in diameter. Luckily almost nobody uses commercial spec anymore, so more than likely, you have a Mil-Spec configuration. However, we do have commercial spec stocks if you are running an old school DPMS, Stag Arms, or Colt rifle and want to upgrade to a modern adjustable stock.
RIFLE LENGTH BUFFER TUBE
Rifle length buffer tubes are much longer than carbine length, smooth all the way around, and only come in one diameter, so no need to get out your micrometer.
AR 15 STOCK COMPONENT: BUFFERS AND SPRING
Like stocks and buffer tubes, you need to choose the correct style for your set up. Carbine length buffer weights and springs must be used with carbine buffer tubes and same with rifle length buffers and springs. An easy way to identify which you have is length.
Standard carbine length buffers will be 3.25” and about 3 oz. while rifle length buffers will be 5.92” and about 5 oz. While there are different weights you can choose from to help tune the recoil of your rifle, a standard weight will do just fine in most builds.
AR 15 STOCK COMPONENT: CASTLE NUT AND END PLATE
The castle nut and end plate are the components used to affix the buffer tube to your AR-15 lower receiver and are compatible with both carbine length and rifle length buffer tubes.
You can easily reuse the ones currently on your rifle or upgrade to the Primary Weapon Systems Ratchet Lock Castle Nut and End Plate set that ensure it won’t come loose over time and features a QD sling attachment slot.
AR 15 STOCK COMPONENT: STOCK KITS
However, picking every part can be annoying and sometimes you know exactly what you want, and you just want to get it all in one go. We also offer complete AR stock kits that come with everything mentioned above, so you know exactly what you are getting and that it will work on your rifle.
At the end of the day, with all the different stocks to choose from, it really comes down to personal preference and how you are going to use it. Rifle stocks can absolutely be utilized on a rifle that is going to be used for home defense or kept in a car and carbine stocks are perfectly adequate for shooting long distances.
If it works for you then use it. If it doesn’t then swap it out. That is what makes the AR platform so great. One rifle can be continuously changed to suit your specific needs and we have all the parts to help you meet those needs.