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[Video+Review] Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15: A Better AR?

We look at the TR15, an Aero Precision/Thunder Ranch AR-15. We put it through its paces at our range and at a Thunder Ranch course to see how it handles.

    What do you get when you combine a company specializing in AR-15s and parts with a world-renowned training facility known for its rifle courses?

    The Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15, of course!

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15
    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15

    This AR-15 is a special edition rifle in collaboration with Thunder Ranch. Clint and Heidi Smith of Thunder Ranch are legendary, so I was pumped to head out their way for training.

    I took the Urban Rifle Course, and during that week, I used their personal TR15s.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Clint Smith
    Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch. (Photo: TFB TV)

    I was so impressed, I came home and bought three TR15s for myself – two for use and one as a safe queen.

    Before you ask, yes, I paid full retail and waited for them to be in stock on the website like everyone else.

    So, today I’m going to run you through the TR15. I’ll tell you what I love about this rifle and why it’s one of my favorite AR-15s.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15
    Why buy one when you can buy a bunch?

    By the end, you’ll have a good idea whether the TR15 is right for you.

    To see the rifle in action, check out my full video review below.

    As always, make sure to head over to Pew Pew Tactical’s YouTube channel for more gun and gear content.

    Table of Contents


    What is the TR15?

    As I mentioned, the TR15 is a special collab between Aero Precision and Thunder Ranch.

    at Aero Precision

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    And, no, this isn’t just a regular AR-15 with the Thunder Ranch logo slapped on the side. Aero Precision built the TR15 to Clint Smith’s specifications.

    While I was at Thunder Ranch, I shot Clint and Heidi’s TR15s, serial numbers 01 and 02 – pretty cool.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Barrier Shooting
    Working on some fun AR stuff at Thunder Ranch. (Photo: TFB TV)

    The 5.56 chambered AR platform rifle comes in a few varieties.

    You can get these as stripped or complete lowers, just the upper receiver or a complete barreled upper. And you can get complete barreled uppers in 14.5- or 16-inches.

    All of that comes in either black or peanut butter (aka FDE…c’mon, it looks like PB).

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15
    It’s peanut butter colored, tell me otherwise.

    But, keep in mind that when you buy an Aero “complete” upper, they don’t come with a charging handle or bolt carrier group.

    Good news, though. We can help with that, so be sure to look at our Best Charging Handles and BCG articles.

    Also worth mentioning, Aero sells the complete uppers, and complete lowers separately.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Upper and Lower
    You buy the upper and lower separately.

    MSRP right now for the complete lower is $350 to $370 depending on finish, and the complete uppers are in the mid $600 range depending on length and finish.

    But again, on top of an optic, you need to budget for a BCG and charging handle.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Lower
    TR15 Lower

    TR15 Specs & Features

    For me, I chose Clint’s set-up — a complete Thunder Ranch lower paired with a complete 16-inch upper, both in Magpul FDE Cerakote. 

    Worth noting that the receivers are forged, and the lowers are based on Aero’s classic M4E1. So, the controls feel familiar.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15

    Everything is mil-spec compatible, so you can change things out and dial it in like you want.

    Furniture includes a Magpul MOE grip and SL stock, which I love.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Stock

    The barrels are 4150 chrome moly with a 1-in-7 twist and a mid-length gas system.

    You might be looking at the handguard and thinking, “That looks familiar.” That’s because it’s part of the Aero Atlas line.

    at Brownells

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    It comes loaded with M-LOK for all the accessories you could dream of.

    Up front, the rifle sports a VG6 Delta muzzle device.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 VG6

    It’s a nice touch, but I’ve already swapped one of mine out for the Surefire Warden Blast Diffuser.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Surefire Warden
    I swapped to the Surefire Warden.

    As far as aesthetics, both the upper and lower have Thunder Ranch logos on them, which I think look fantastic. The Cerakote finish on mine is gorgeous, and so far, it’s been durable.

    It ships in a cardboard box with Magpul Back-Up Sights.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Magpul
    Good ole Magpul.

    What Sets the TR15 Apart?

    So, with the basics out of the way, let’s talk about what makes the TR15 different.

    First off, as you’ve likely noticed, there’s no forward assist. The upper sports a slick side design, and that’s per Clint’s specs.

    The thinking behind it: why would you want to jam something into the chamber that doesn’t want to go there in the first place?

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15
    No forward assist here.

    But y’all can argue forward assists in the comments below, or you know, head over to our article dedicated to forward assists and do your arguing there.

    As for the lower, the mag well offers a flared design that makes it a little easier when changing mags.

    There’s also some skeletonizing on the well for clearing jams.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Shooting
    (Photo: TFB TV)

    The trigger is the ALG Defense mil-spec trigger which works fine. However, on one of my TR15s, I installed a new trigger because that’s what I do.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 ALG Trigger
    ALG Trigger

    If you want to swap a trigger out, check out our recommendations for the ones you should try.

    All in all, I like all the small touches — threaded roll pins, upgraded Magpul MOE furniture, great aesthetics, and a solid ALG trigger.

    All these small things together make a solid, solid package.

    Range Time with the TR15

    I spent time with the TR15 at Thunder Ranch last year and, of course, here at my home range in Tennessee.

    At the Ranch, I used Fiocchi frangible ammo, but at my range, I used nothing but Russian steel-cased ammo.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 556 Steel Ammo
    All the 5.56

    I also used every brand of magazine I could get my hands on, and I let ‘er rip!

    All told, I did a massive test. Four rifles, thousands of rounds in two states, and eight brands of magazines in dusty, nasty conditions.

    I would say I’ve borderline abused these rifles.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 AR Mags
    That’s a lot of magazines.

    And….this is completely anticlimactic because I have almost NOTHING bad to report.

    This rifle is a workhorse — no jams and no misfeeds. The TR15 loads, fires, ejects, locks back on empty, and is not picky on ammo or magazines.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Shooting
    It ran, no qualms.

    There’s just not much here to tell you other than it runs.  

    In my experience with the 16-inch carbine, it is gassed perfectly, with the shells ejecting into a neat little pile consistently.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15
    Everything just worked.

    In my hands, it runs in the 1.5 to 2 MOA range consistently, and I pounded steel with it easily.

    The complete uppers come with a full rail all the way down the top and sport Magpul sights. I topped mine off with a Trijicon MRO, which I love.

    (Which we torture tested, by the way. So, check out that article.)

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Shooting

    As far as shortcomings, I only have one major complaint. And that’s aimed more at Aero than this particular rifle.

    I just wish it came with a BCG and ambi charging handle. Just add it to the price if needed, but the way it is, I think a complete upper should be complete.

    Other than that, it’s solid.

    By the Numbers

    Reliability: 5/5

    It RUNS. End of story.

    Ergonomics: 4.5/5

    Great furniture. Great handguard. I like it.

    Accuracy: 4.5/5

    A sniper rifle it ain’t, but it’ll put rounds where you want them.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Prone Shooting
    It gets the job done. (Photo: TFB TV)

    Customization: 5/5

    Because it is all standard AR compatible, this number could actually be higher. Have yourself a good time.

    Value: 4/5

    Solid rifle. But after you buy it, you still have to buy more parts for it to run. Come on, man.

    at Aero Precision

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Overall: 4.5/5

    Zero complaints. I ran four rifles into the ground, and they all did what I asked them to do. Everything you need. Nothing you don’t.


    Overall, I couldn’t be happier with this rifle – obviously, I bought three and have no regrets.

    Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Class
    It lasted through the Urban Rifle Class, so it’s a winner. (Photo: TFB TV)

    I think the word workhouse fits the TR15. It’s rugged, runs, and has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

    The TR15 gets two huge thumbs up from me. I definitely recommend it. If you pick one up, I think you’ll be happy.

    at Aero Precision

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Again, check out the TR15 in action in the video below.

    What do you think of the TR15? Let us know in the comments below. If you’re looking for more Aero rifles, check out the video and review we did on the Aero EPC

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    7 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar
      Bull o' the Woods

      Aero has stopped selling these. Not sure when they quit. I saw a lame excuse along the lines of "they are no longer legal in Oregon" where TR is located. My suspicion is that they did not sell well. TR and Clint Smith have lost their mojo. I like the design features, especially the absence of a forward assist and the skeletonized mag well. As far as I can tell from browsing the Aero website, they don't make another lower like this one.

      August 13, 2023 2:49 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Robert Braden

      The original M16 design by Eugene Stoner had no forward assist; Stoner disagreed with addition of forward assist on the M16A1, stating it was the creation of bureacrats and politicians with no knowledge of weapons engineering. That is why there is a strong retro move back to the original M16 design with thin barrel and no assist. The heavier barrel M16A2 and A3 were designed for carry by auto rifleman. Standard lighter weight M16 was ideal for general purpose troops. The craziest creation of all are carbine length, presumably lighter weight M4 that are then weighted down with 4 pounds of optics and accessories.

      July 29, 2021 10:51 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Many years ago my platoon sergeant, who was a stickler for weapons maintenance in the field, advised us how to quietly chamber a round when stealth was critical. After the weapon had been serviced. Charging handle pulled to rear and constant tension maintained until loaded magazine was inserted. Release bolt stop and ride charging gently while allowing the bolt slowly move forward. As round contacts feed ramps and chamber, press forward assist with thumb and continue to maintain slight rearward pressure. Three or four gentle pushes will QUIETLY chamber round. Feel for bolt closure with finger if performing this task in the dark. Works with your AR10 if you don’t want to load weapon in deer camp, if weapon has forward assist

      July 25, 2021 6:19 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      sound awake

      i will never buy an upper without a forward assist

      its saved by bacon on more than one occasion

      July 23, 2021 8:16 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      What BCG's did you run?

      July 23, 2021 3:09 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Michael Hollomon

      It’s really just your standard Aero M4E1, with no forward assist, and magwell cutouts. I mean that’s not a bad thing. Aero makes great stuff at fair prices, if you can ever find it in stock. The Thunder Ranch marketing is cool, but not worth the premium price IMO

      July 22, 2021 4:54 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      American Patriot

      It looks like a pretty nice rifle I don't like the skeletonized magwell but at today's prices I've got all the guns I need but not all I want!

      July 22, 2021 3:29 pm
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