Best AR-15 Stripped Upper Receivers For Your Build

So you’re ready to build your own AR-15 upper and aren’t sure what upper receiver to get?  We’ve got you covered with our personal go-to receiver and also a couple of unique options.


If you haven’t read my AR-15 Guide that goes over all the components of an AR, I’d suggest starting there first.  Otherwise, I’ll suppose that you’re well-versed in everything AR and ready to just see what’s the best upper receiver.

Best AR-15 Upper Receivers

I’ve built almost a dozen AR-15 uppers for myself and friends and have almost exclusively gone with Aero Precision.  They got their start manufacturing for the aerospace industry (name checks out) and moved into AR-15 parts.  Now they are really gunning with complete AR-15’s and even barrels too.

Upper Receiver Forge Marks

AR-15 Upper Receive Forge Mark
AR-15 Upper Receive Forge Mark

You might have heard about forge marks, which are above the forward assist.  This just designates which metal forging company created the upper blank.  The end company (such as Aero) is the one that actually machines the upper.  So the forge mark by itself means nothing since the quality really comes from the final company (and there are differences).  As far as I know, Aero uses several forges but mostly the “broken A.”

Aero Stripped Upper Receiver

Aero Stripped Upper Receiver
Aero Stripped Upper Receiver

The gold standard ($80) in my mind that lets you choose your own forward assist and port door.  Comes with M4 feedramps, laser engraved T-marks for the rails, and also available in several colors for a little bit more.

I’ve had no problems with any of my builds and if you do any searches you’ll see that it’s almost exclusively positive comments.

Aero Assembled Upper Receiver

Aero Assembled Upper Receiver
Aero Assembled Upper Receiver

Unless you really want an upgraded forward assist or customized port door, I would suggest getting an assembled upper receiver ($100).  The $20 more is almost exactly the same price you would have to pay for the forward assist and port door anyways…plus you have to install it yourself.

Blemished Aero Uppers

And if you’re on a budget, you can get a “blemished” version (~25% off) of the stripped or assembled upper (depending on their stock).  “Blemished” just means there’s some cosmetic abnormalities that will not affect actual function.

The last two builds I’ve done have been with Aero blem uppers and I had to really look to find the cosmetic problem.  And of course they’ve all worked fine.  Here’s the latest one…looks like there’s a scuff & a dimple.  I put more scuffs on mine during a match!  If you want to save a couple bucks I’d go this route.

Aero Blemished Upper
Aero Blemished Upper

Other AR-15 Upper Receivers

We’ve covered the standard mil-spec style of upper receivers but of course, companies have gone ahead and made their own mark on the classic AR-15 design.

Aero M4E1 Enhanced Upper

Aero Enhanced M4E1 Upper Receiver
Aero Enhanced M4E1 Upper Receiver

This new design ($150) combines the things needed to install a free-float handguard into the upper itself.  This makes it a stronger overall system and makes for installing a handguard a breeze (no more fiddling with the gas tube!).  However, you pretty much have to go with Aero handguards to make sure it fits with the system.

No Forward Assist Upper

Aero No Forward Assist Upper Receiver
Aero No Forward Assist Upper Receiver

If you have never used the forward assist and want to shave some weight off…you can get a no forward assist upper ($84).  This type of upper is also known as a “slick” upper.  In my opinion I just like the look of the forward assist and I go by the mantra that I’d rather have it and not use it, than need it and not have it.

VLTOR MUR Upper Receiver

Vltor MUR Upper
Vltor MUR Upper

The MUR upper receiver ($200) has thicker walls to make it a more rigid shooting platform which should translate to more accuracy.  Plus it looks different and cool enough to get some envious looks.


Now that you’ve seen our suggestions for the best AR-15 upper receiver (both stripped and assembled), you’re one step closer to your build.  Check out the rest of our guides to continue your parts selection and overall education.

BONUS: Shoot better. Download our exclusive shooting targets for FREE ($47 value)

Ultimate AR-15 Guide

AR-15 Buyer’s Guide

Best AR-15 Upgrades

Best AR-15 Accessories & Furniture

Best AR-15 Upper Receivers for the Money

Best AR-15 Ammo for the Range & Home Defense

Best AR-15 Optics & Scopes

Featureless AR-15 Build

Learning Resources



  1. Any serious builder should be using BCM stripped uppers exclusively. Mainly for the under cut barrel port. It makes the tightest fit in the industry.

    1. Hi Ludas, thanks for your comment! BCM does make some pretty good stuff and I’m looking forward to trying a build with them one day. But so far my aeros have held up with good results.

      1. Also worth a look: black rain ordnance. I’ve yet to build one yet, but did recently get my first ar15 (forged) stripped lower and milled ar10 upper/lower that fits *perfectly* together.

        I may get a couple more in the near future… Silly CA laws coming December 1, but that’s another topic.

        I love your site btw! Just found it last night.

          1. Hey can someone confirm for me if there are any restrictions on the type of Complete Upper Receiver used on a CA “Featureless” AR build? Specifically I am curious about purchasing a Colt LE6920 Upper but it falls on the Calguns flowchart under Appendix A/B of banned weapons. Does this count for a build as well?? Thanks!

          2. Hi, in short it should be legal since the lower is the part that is regulated. As long as your barrel is the right length and you meet the other featureless criteria when assembled (no flash hider, etc), it should be good to go. Check out the featureless rifle article for more details.

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