How to Choose the Best Grip for your AR-15 Rifle

Unlike handguns, the shoulder weapon has much higher accuracy potential due to the rifle's three-point lockup. That means the rifle is held at three points: by the forend, by the grip, and at the cheek.  

By using proper grips that allow you to hold the rifle in a pistol fashion, you’ll effectively control the weapon. It gives you a maximum of comfort and keeps you comfortable in any situation.

Types of Ar-15 Grips

When we talk about a grip, it’s usually going to refer to where your “trigger hand” is. It’s the main point of contact with your rifle.and is going to provide you with the control you need and the ability to aim the gun. For your Black Rifle, these are usually pistol-style grips, although new laws in several states force the use of “featureless” grips.

ar15 with foregrip and pistol grip


A pistol grip and foregrip are visible on this model
Source

But on an AR-15 there are also two other points that are types of “grip”. The most common is the foregrip (forward grip). Here you can provide extra support to your rifle and help hold it steady while firing.

There’s also a less-commonly used type of grip - the magwell grip. Its value is dubious, honestly. But it provides a grip for holding your gun by the magazine well instead of by a foregrip.

Pistol Grips

One of the essential features in marksmanship skill is the distance from the back of the handgrip to the trigger. A poor grip can mean poor accuracy, which will make shooting a lot more difficult than it has to be.

Unlike the "straight" or "upland"-style stocks found on classic rifles and shotguns, the pistol grip is not part of the stock. It’s usually found just behind the trigger. It’s held by the hand and keeps it in a forward, vertical orientation. This useful attachment gets the name a "pistol grip" since it resembles the grip angle of pistols as opposed to traditional rifle grips.   

The very first weapon utilizing the pistol grip was a Belgian percussion carbine-pistol of Delvigne type by Lesoinne Et Pirlot Fils, Liege, dating to the mid-19th Century. After almost half a century, the idea for the pistol grip was renewed during the World War I in some designs of machine guns.

As lighter automatic fire weapons, such as the Thompson submachine gun (yes, that’s the “Tommy gun”!), developed, arms makers recognized that the pistol grip gives shooter better control over the firearm during rapid and burst firing. It merges into one point the needs of holding, controlling and reloading the firearm.

Today it’s unimaginable to find modern assault rifles without a pistol grip. The AR-15 is no exception. All standard-built AR-15s have the A2 style pistol grip, which is made of durable polymers or reinforced fiberglass. They’re one-size-fits-most and will work well for lefties or right-handed shooters.

Still, some people find that aftermarket modifications are necessary. Considering frequent complaints that stock pistol grips are a little too skinny and cheap-feeling, numerous manufacturers have offered other models of pistol grips. These can serve different purposes, enabling a far more comfortable shooting experience and better purchase on the grip.

Improvement and perfecting of the AR-15 platform seem like a never-ending story. The most recent trend in pistol grip design leans toward grips with a reduced grip angle. In this case it may not so much be a case of market demand as anti-market demand. Laws in a number of states prohibit pistol grips or classify rifles with them as “assault weapons” - which brings with it all kinds of hoops to jump through. We’ll talk more about the laws in our article on featureless grips.

A vertical angle facilitates a more square stance. The bladed stance that has become less and less popular over time. The newly-designed reduced grip angle is excellent for putting your hand and wrist in a more neutral and comfortable position when shouldering an AR-15 pistol. It’s also good for a rifle with the butt stock collapsed all the way.

In the early stages of automatic firearms development, a problem was quickly noticed: muzzle climb. It was happening even with a full-length barrel and flash suppressor.

To fight this, frontline combatants started fitting homemade hand grips to the forearm in an effort to control the climb and stabilize the weapon in operation.Of course the market caught on and began offering a number of the vertical foregrips that can be grasped in pistol-like fashion. This allowed shooters the potential for increased weapon handling and control.

There are now also other foregrips besides the traditional vertical forward pistol grip (VFG). These also aid in control but are not exactly vertical grips. They are grouped as Angled Fore-Grips (AFG) and Hand Stop attachments.

These grips feature simple installation under the AR-15 rifle barrel on a standard Picatinny rail platform or via KeyMod Compatible Handguards. These newly-designed forearm grips take into account natural body mechanics and provide a comfortable and stable user interface. It reduces fatigue and provides for more precise weapon control.

An M4 carbine, showing a pistol grip and a vertical foregrip that converts to a bipod

If you want really to maximize the usefulness of your grip, then the 2-in-1 concept of vertical foregrip is unsurpassed. Some front vertical grips can be converted to a bipod. But grips also serve multiple functions such as extra storage space for batteries or any other item.

When it comes to choosing between an angled foregrip or a more traditional vertical foregrip, most gun enthusiasts agree that it is a matter of personal preference and recommend trying both models. But angled foregrips do have a more ergonomic design, offering inherently more stability and control. On the other hand, the vertical foregrip is more versatile and gives a more natural feel to shooters.

Some states (looking at you, California, Connecticut and New York) also place restrictions on foregrips similar to those mentioned above. So be sure to stay abreast of your local laws to keep away from problems with the government.

Magazine Grips

Apart from the already mentioned well-known rifle supports, we should also mention magazine well grips. The manufacturers claim in their ads that Magazine Well Grip transforms the magazine well into a comfortable, close ergonomic foregrip and allows for easy release and insertion of the magazine.

However, many gun experts consider grabbing the mag well as one of the least desirable options for the ergonomics and mechanics of how the body and rifle work together while shooting.

Regardless of how often it is seen in movies, it is not a good idea to grip the magazine when firing. Actually, during rapid fire, the gun is subject to much more muzzle rise and the magazines are highly susceptible to damage to their feed lips. The jolt of the recoil could cause it to easily bend or get jammed by foreign matter.

Recent Laws and Changes

Almost every day, we are all witnessing some inexplicable bloody events across the country as well as government pressure on law-abiding citizens by imposing new restrictions on guns. The "Black rifle" and other similar autoloaders are classified as assault weapons in California, New York, and few other states if they carry certain features. Since the details vary by state, we won’t go into a high level of detail here. But the grips are a factor that you need to take into account to stay on the right side of the law.

The AR-15’s pistol grip may be its second most-recognizable feature, only behind the carrying handle on top of the receiver. However, this is the most significant aesthetic and functional change owners will have to make for compliance with these laws. You’ll have to replace the pistol grip - and sometimes even a pistol foregrip - and replace it with another type of grip to qualify as a featureless rifle.

Conclusion

Choosing a pistol grip is not rocket science, but as with everything else AR, the choices are vast, starting with left-handed, right-handed or ambidextrous grip options.

Furthermore, when we throw in rubberized finishes, aggressive texturing, and palm swell and finger grooves, making the right decision becomes a bit more complicated. The most important thing is to pick a grip that feels comfortable and sturdy in your hand. That’s what going to lead to the most accurate shooting you can do.

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