If Gunsite Academy’s carbine class taught me anything, it’s how much I don’t know about guns or shooting. Sure, I had a bit of a head start over the other students in the class, but their level of knowledge wasn’t the standard; nor was mine. I preferred the standard of knowledge brought to bear by the excellent instructors of the class.
Three intensive full days of instruction and 700 rounds later, my knowledge and skills improved. By firing live ammo with all the students under the watchful eye of the instructors, I figured out that I needed to practice — and practice regularly. There’s a lot more to say about the training and all its benefits.
What I want to provide to you today, however, is what I learned about accessories for an AR-15. Some of these things may seem like an obvious need (and they did to me too). But during and after the training, the usefulness of the accessories and the need for them to be integrated into a training regimen became much clearer and more real. Here are my Top 5 AR-15 Accessories.
Read Mark’s previous articles in this “Top Five” series:
- Top Five Outside-the-Waistband Holsters
- Top Five Magazine Holsters
- And Top Five Night Sights for Handguns
- Top Five .38 Special Self-Defense Rounds
- Top Five New Old Guns
1. Red Dot Optic
In my class, almost every student and instructor had some kind of red dot sighting system. One student opted for iron sights. My Anderson Manufacturing AR-15 had an Aimpoint Micro H-1, which is several years old but still just as tough and functional as ever.
You are well aware of the value of a red dot optic. A quick look through the unit, and you’ll see a red dot showing your point of aim. You can keep both eyes open and still use the sight too.
Even better, no matter how your move the rifle and the sight in relation to your eye, wherever you see the red dot is where your rounds are going to strike. This is especially useful if your eye can’t line up to the sight as perfectly as you’d like; you can still aim with precision.
Visit Aimpoint to learn more about their high-quality red dots.
Before we commence the debate on what types of slings are the best and why, I simply want to point out the usefulness of any sling. Being able to put an AR-15 on safe and let the gun hang off your body, pointing at the ground, is a great way to free up your hands for whatever else you have to do. Slings allow you to keep your rifle on your person, under your control and close to your body. You can use them to stabilize yourself for a shot.
In training, we wore our rifles virtually the entire time. After a shooting exercise, we often heard, “Safe and sling ‘em!” meaning put the safety on and the let rifle hang, pointing at the ground, while receiving the next instruction. We learned how to move with rifles slung, how to bring a rifle up from a slung position and more.
After the instruction, I couldn’t imagine not having one on my gun. The instructors strongly suggested a two-point sling, preferably one with a quick-adjustable strap to draw it in close.
Shop for two-point AR slings on GunsAmerica.
3. Magazine Carrier and Extra Magazines
Having extra magazines seems obvious enough, and so does a means of carrying one or two. While I could have gotten away with an OWB belt magazine holster holding one or two 30-round magazines, I opted for the Blackhawk spare magazine carrier you see here. This unit holds six 30-round magazines — three in the front and three in the back — and offers a padded strap and waist strap to keep it in place with reasonable comfort.
But hours of wearing 168 rounds of .223 has its pros and cons. Pro: I had more ammo on me than all the other students; I was prepared. Con: I had more ammo on me than all the other students; all that ammo was very heavy.
At times, I carried only three magazines, which certainly eased the burden. But in mag change drills, my hands always went to the same places to draw a fresh one. Horrible means of carrying spare magazines include pants pockets, shirt pockets, jacket pockets and so on. Whatever mag holster puts the rounds on your person securely and with relative comfort is worth its price ten times over.
Visit Blackhawk.com to learn more about the magazine carrier.
4. Tactical Light
Most of the students in the class used their weak hand to draw and use a tactical light during low-light operations. There are a few ways to illuminate a target and still properly manipulate your rifle, but the point was to have a light. It is worth noting that the instructors had weapon-mounted lights, which proved to be a much faster and more stable means of lighting up a target.
Shop for tactical lights on GunsAmerica.
5. Cleaning Kit
Even if you do not go through 700 rounds of ammunition in a three-day shooting session, you should still have a means to clean your gun. During the training, a few guns experienced some issues, and the instructors showed us how to quickly and safely clean an AR-15 and get back in the fight.
Nobody carried a cleaning kit on his person; there is an assumption that with a properly cleaned and functioning rifle, you can get through multiple magazines of ammo before the need to clean presents itself. But it is good to have one with you no matter what. Keep the cleaning kit and a bunch of other gear in your rifle bag. Which brings me to …
Shop for cleaning kits on GunsAmerica.
6. Rifle Bag
Let’s add a sixth item to this list because it is so useful. A good rifle bag will properly store and protect your rifle from banging into everything around it. Plus, you can store extra ammo, magazines, magazine holsters, a tactical light and a cleaning kit in it. The Flying Circle rifle bag you see here holds an AR-15 and several 30-round magazines with room to spare.
For more information visit FlyingCircleGear.com.
About the Author: Mark Kakkuri is a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.
Discover how you can join more than 200,000 responsibly armed Americans who already rely on the USCCA to protect their families, futures and freedoms: USCCA.com/gunsamerica.