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[How-To Guide]: Accurizing the AR-15

Want to start a new accurate AR-15 build or trying to DIY accurize an existing rifle? We go over some of our favorite tips, tricks, and parts.

Semi-automatics were once considered to be inaccurate rifles.

accurate ar
Now That’s an Accurate AR

For the longest time, bolt rifles were the king of accuracy.

The truth is, a properly built semi-automatic rifle, like the AR-15 or LR-308, using quality components with match grade ammo can be excellent at precision at extended ranges.

I will be going over some quality components to look at for your next build, assembly techniques, and some DIY techniques to squeeze the accuracy out of your AR.

If you are shooting for groups, pair the right ammo with your rifle
If you are shooting for groups, pair the right ammo with your rifle

Table of Contents


The Barrel

Possibly the most important aspect of your rifle is the barrel.

Beyond rifle twist, barrel length, and contour, the thing that shooters don’t take into consideration is the barrel concentricity and how well the rifling is cut.

People tend to buy with their wallets instead of what the rifle will be used for.

Faxon Barrel Assortment
Faxon Barrel Assortment

If you’re going for precision, a bargain barrel is a gamble at best when you are shooting for sub-MOA accuracy. This is not where you want to skimp with a new build.

For the sake of building, there are plenty of options that can be a great choice depending on your budget. A proper barrel is the best way to enhance the mechanical accuracy of a weapon.

Do ample research, read reviews, and choose a company with a proven track record.

Some of my personal favorite barrels are made by Ballistic Advantage. For their price point, they tend to be highly accurate barrels, and they tend to be more affordable when buying for 5.56 NATO/.223 Wylde, or even .308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor.

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If money is no object, Proof Research makes barrels that are superbly consistent and go through much more strenuous quality control measures.

But that comes with a price. Barrels can cost as much as some people’s budget AR-15 builds as they are north of $400. Proven and verifiable accuracy standards do not come cheap.

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Check out some more of our favorites in Best AR-15 Barrels.

BSF Barrel Closeup
BSF Barrel Closeup

Installation Matters

Even if you buy the best barrel that money can buy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will shoot if you don’t abide by some certain aspects of assembly.

I am a stickler for proper assembly. It matters and if you are building a precision AR it matters even more.

Proper assembly with the right components makes a difference. They cost money, but investing in a torque wrench, reaction rod spline tool, and a lapping tool is a good idea
Proper assembly with the right components makes a difference. They cost money, but investing in a torque wrench, reaction rod spline tool, and a lapping tool is a good idea.

Proper tools are something that any serious builder needs.

With the right budget, you can get all sorts of tools for the trade, but the bare minimum needs to be a proper torque wrench to properly torque the barrel nut to mate the barrel to the upper receiver.

Real Avid AR-15 Armorer’s Master Kit
Real Avid AR-15 Armorer’s Master Kit

One of our favorite overall kits is the Real Avid. Check out our full review here.

at Gun Mag Warehouse

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Always verify the proper torque value with whatever manufacturer’s barrel nut that you use.

Speaking of barrel nuts, free-floating your barrel is important in reducing group sizes for precision.

The AR industry has shifted to free-floated handguards and for good reason. Don’t get me wrong, an M4orgery can be plenty accurate.

Check out some of our favorite handguards here.

Best AR-15 Handguards
Best AR-15 Handguards

Yearly, I cleaned up shop at 500 yards while serving in the Marine Corps.

But if you expect sub-MOA groups, you must ditch the plastic handguards and get with the times.

Accurizing meme
And you thought you could just throw a few parts in your Brownells cart and hit check out? Pssh!

Free-floating a barrel nut and proper torque isn’t enough though.

Proper mating of the barrel extension to the upper receiver needs to be considered as well.

It should be a tight fit.

And when I mean tight, I mean tight.

that's what she said
Heh heh.

If you look up the reviews or talk to people with experience, most would agree that Bravo Company USA has some of the tightest upper receivers you can buy.

So tight that for installation sometimes heat and cold are needed to properly join a barrel and upper receiver in holy matrimony.

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

The tighter the joining the more rigid and anchored the barrel is to the upper receiver and how it integrates with the bolt lock-up. Consistency is king.

Get some proper Aeroshell 33MS Grease on the threads. And I like to install/uninstall the barrel nut 2-3 times before the final time.

Speaking of consistency, a properly trued upper receiver face so that the barrel extension shoulder uniformly mates to the upper is also important. 

The Eisenach Arms AR15 side charging upper is purpose built for precision while paired with a Ballistic Advantage .224 Valkyrie barrel
The Eisenach Arms AR-15 side charging upper is purpose-built for precision while paired with a Ballistic Advantage .224 Valkyrie barrel

If you are looking for something out of the ordinary, I would highly recommend Eisenach Arms with their left side-charging, right side ejecting upper receiver.

I have one and the precision of quality, fit, and finish would be an excellent choice for a long-range precision AR-15. It is a billet upper and the anodizing is fantastic.

They come from the factory with the face of the upper trued for ultimate precision.

But Can You Polish a Turd?

Don’t get me wrong. I have bought and built with plenty of budget-minded parts for the AR.

Some of which have been great for the price, but you do still get some loose spec items.

Previously Completed 80%
Previously Completed 80%

Is there anything that you can do as a project to increase the precision and consistency of your AR? Or maybe help tighten up groups with your next build?

You can! But like most things in the world, it’s going to cost you money, some research, and patience.

The topics covered below should not be done by someone that is mechanically illiterate, and if you have any doubt in your abilities, STOP. Get a competent gunsmith to do the work.

accurizing meme 2

One thing that you can do is to ensure a tight fit with your barrel and upper receiver.

If the upper receiver and barrel have some wiggle room, you can tighten it up and provide better consistency by using a bedding material like Loctite 620.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

I am NOT talking about putting Loctite on your upper receiver threads.

This is applied to your barrel extension and when pressed into the upper, the compound beds the barrel for a tighter and more uniform fit once it dries.

Some people have even shimmed the barrel with a thin piece of aluminum, but honestly, if it requires a shim to get a tight fit, its worth using a warranty or scrapping the out of spec upper receiver.

trash can
Out of spec receiver? Put it in here.

Another option that you can do to possibly increase precision is lapping the face of your upper receiver.

All that is required is a lapping tool and lapping compound that marginally and incrementally trues the face of your upper receiver by wet sanding.

I own a Brownells’ Upper Receiver Lapping tool and they also offer lapping compounds in varying grit.

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

With the tool chucked into an electric drill, and while keeping the upper receiver vertical and in a stable position with a vise, you can properly true the face of the upper within a few minutes.

If you take it slow and check your results often, it is an easy task. Once the outer ring on the face of the upper is shiny and anodizing is stripped the whole way around, you have faced your upper.

Author’s faced upper receiver using the Brownell’s Lapping Tool
Author’s faced upper receiver using the Brownell’s Lapping Tool

Mechanical Accuracy vs. Practical Accuracy

Above, I covered topics to potentially increase the mechanical accuracy of the firearm.

There is an important distinction between mechanical accuracy and practical accuracy, a.k.a. “shooter accuracy.”

It’s important because even if a rifle can “circumcise a fly at 300 yards”, it doesn’t mean it will behind any type of shooter.

Remember: No holster can protection from stupidity - be smart, be safe!
Gotta be a little better than this guy.

Beyond the skills needed to properly shoot with precision, like trigger control, proper aiming, and breathing control, you can help the situation by making it easier and more repeatable.

The best way to help practical accuracy is training and trigger time. But getting a silky, butter-smooth trigger is also a great idea.

Geissele is the gold standard. One of the best triggers in their lineup is the Highspeed National Match trigger. It is slightly modular.

This trigger comes with 3 spring sets to customize the pull weight for your given task, whether you are shooting CMP competitions, tactical shooting, or a light crisp pull with their match set.

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

There are many other triggers for different roles with Geissele. You get what you pay for.

One of my favorite drop-in cassette-style triggers is the Timney AR-15 Competition trigger.

The pull weight is a consistent 4lbs. and the components inside of the cassette is of the highest-grade steel that is EDM machined, precision ground, and properly heat treated.

It is currently sitting in my 6.5 Creedmoor.

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Check out more of our favorite AR-15/AR-10 Triggers.

Tested AR-15 Triggers
Tested AR-15 Triggers

Parting Shots

As stated before, if you do not feel comfortable with some of the methods of accurizing the AR, get a competent gunsmith to perform the tasks you want. Every person’s skill set is different.

Also, nothing can compete with quality trigger time if you want to get better at shooting and be more precise. The ABCs of marksmanship still need to be followed to maximize the mechanical accuracy of a rifle!

A Few AR-15s

Finally, accuracy is also highly dependent on ammo! If you want match-grade performance, you must buy match grade components or factory loaded ammo.

With companies like Barnes, Federal Premium, and Hornady there are plenty to choose from.

Have you done some DIY accurizing on your AR? Have you noticed a difference by lapping the upper receiver or bedding your AR barrel? Let us know in the comments below! Find the best AR-15 upgrades to keep your newly accurized toy hitting the mark.

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10 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    R Parker

    Good reading with some great info. One issue tho, if he feels match grade ammo will outdo a very competent reloader then perhaps some of his other then perhaps some of the other suggestions won't hit the mark either

    January 9, 2023 1:17 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Wm. O'Brien

    I recently installed a hiperfire on my sig 716 g2 trigger breaks like glass with no take up or over travel, reset is microscopic, made a big difference in accuracy for me and double taps seem effortless now, being an AR10 that is. Lol.

    January 26, 2020 2:37 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    CJ Grasser

    I love the great advice. My concern, living in a non-friendly gun state like Maryland, is that I would spend a lot of money on my rifle to make it "great" and they will eventually outlaw it and confiscate it. They have a lot of restrictions now for AR type rifles but it is very likely that things will change.

    I personally want to get a minimal AR that meets the current law and if they keep lowering the bar, I won't lose as much money. Sorry for the dismal comment but anyone following our politics here will know what I'm talking about. Long live what is left of the 2nd Amendment.

    December 9, 2019 12:39 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Every barrel has a different sweet spot when it comes to torque and barrel harmonics. (That's why it's a range) Trial and error is the game you play when you wanna go past 800 yards. Lapping will always give more bang then bedding. No point holding the barrel still. If it's angled in the wrong direction.

    December 8, 2019 8:10 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Any upper receiver that needs bedding should be returned to sender, or the scrap metal bin.
      I'd wager most production rifles get one in and on, not off three then right, and many of the do it yourself lapping tools are of such poor tolerances they don't align properly, you get a crooked lap.
      5R rifling, will always be more accurate than button push rifling. AR Stoner sells chit upper receivers, but imo, for the buck, you can't beat Sota Arms.

      December 10, 2019 6:57 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    B.J. Miller

    I have a pieced together Aero/Daniel Defense that is not super accurate. I lapped the upper and bedded the barrel. I didn’t notice any change in accuracy. It may help on really loose parts but didn’t help any in my instance.

    November 21, 2019 5:31 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ken Whitmore

      What kind of ammo are you feeding it and what kind of barrel is currently in it? If it's a CHF DD barrel, they arent known for being tack drivers. They are relatively accurate and last a long time, but arent known for absolute precision.

      If you are shooting factory ammo, I suggest trying multiple brands and weights to find what it likes to eat.

      November 28, 2019 12:34 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Have you guys ever tested the MBT triggers from LaRue Tactical? I'm thinking of using one on an upcoming precision AR build, and I wanted to know if you had an opinion on them.

    November 21, 2019 12:31 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      I really like them, I use the MBT in 3 rifles right now. 2 AR-15 and 1 AR-10. Highly recommend!

      November 21, 2019 2:05 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Arizona Justice

      I've been using MBT triggers for awhile now and they can't be beat for the price. They break consistently at 4.5 lbs . They come with 2 sets trigger springs. 4.5 lbs and 6.5 lbs. They also offer single or 2 stage break. I prefer the 2 stage with 2lbs of take up and a perfect crisp break at 4.5 lbs.

      December 8, 2019 6:08 pm
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