“The more the merrier” is a great saying to live by in so many circumstances. But, is more really merrier when it comes to your AR 15? Do us a favor and run a quick image search for the “ultimate Swiss Army knife.” When a ‘pocket’ knife has more attachments than there are tools in the standard toolbox, it probably feels like the accessories have reached the excessive point.
Yes, we know some gun owners out there do legitimately want their AR to look a lot like that ultimate Swiss Army knife. We’re not saying that’s wrong. After all, the beauty of the AR 15 is that you can customize every inch of the upper to get it set up in the way that works best for you. One of the most common debates we hear amongst AR 15 enthusiasts and owners is the merit of more accessories versus paring down to keep weight light. What’s the point at which enough accessories becomes too many?
There probably won’t ever be an end to this discussion. The whole point of the AR 15 is customizability, and what works best for one person may be totally wrong for the next. That being said, there are definitely some considerations to take into account to give this debate a well-rounded argument.
It’s important to consider the underlying purpose. The AR 15 was developed to be a lighter rifle while maintaining a decent amount of power and precision. Since it was initially developed for our troops, the idea was for the AR 15 — more specifically, the military version, the M16 — to help improve combat situations. The troops needed a lighter firearm that used lighter ammo but didn’t lose anything in terms of precision or power, and the answer to those needs was the AR 15/M16. So, if you’re questioning whether you have too many accessories, even if they’re the best AR accessories, ask yourself whether those additions detract from the purpose. Fortunately, there are myriad options for hand stops, handguard rails, optics, and other accessories that are impressively durable and still lightweight. Just don’t forget to consider that every element you add will increase the weight, so a dozen lightweight accessories can still add up to a much heavier gun.
The other key element to consider is how that weight is balanced on your setup. Your handguard rail, for example, is going to be pretty limited in terms of where it goes on the gun just by nature of how it works. Some of those best AR accessories, on the other hand, are the best because they’re more versatile. A quality hand stop or vertical grip is going to be more mobile because the point is to make it fit where you need it for your grip.
Now, versatility is great, don’t get us wrong. But the more accessories you add, the more you’ll have to find the right balance. Adding on additional accessories means finding space for them on your upper. It also means balancing them with other accessories. Not only will you need to consider where those accessories will be best placed for their intended purpose, you’ll also need to place them in such a way that they don’t interfere with your grip. On top of that, you’ll need to be wary of clustering accessories. Too many different components, all piled near the front end of the handguard rail, can have some distinct effects on the weight. Likewise, having all of your accessories clustered near the back can impact how the gun feels when firing. If you have so many accessories attached to your handguard rail that you’re having trouble getting a firm grip, you may have found the point that we can say, “that’s too many.” Consider the usefulness of each accessory, but also how well or poorly it affects your overall handling and grip.
For those of you who advocate for a minimalist approach, don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten you. The flipside of any argument about accessories inevitably harkens back to the original purpose — which, as we mentioned above, was a smaller, lighter rifle with good power and precision. Those who advocate for minimalism aren’t wrong that the fewer accessories, the better the AR sticks to its original purpose. However, there’s a distinct difference between the needs of our troops and someone who’s going to strictly use their AR for range time. While the original purpose might have been keeping weight and size down, many modern, civilian owners don’t have the same needs. And, let’s not forget that some accessories out there are plenty light and serve to boost precision (like an adjustable gas block) or help improve grip (like a hand stop or vertical grip). Many accessories are still lightweight and low profile enough that they help improve performance without affecting weight in a noticeable way.
Ultimately, as we said before, there isn’t a great answer to this question because different people and different needs will lead to different setups. As long as you aren’t overbalancing or wrecking your grip, do what makes sense for you. And, of course, choosing the best AR accessories can help you minimize the quantity and weight without losing out on function. For example, that’s where RailScales’ hand stops, grips, and rail scales win out over so many other options. We use light, heat-resistant materials and low-profile designs so you can get the control you need without bulking up your AR setup.