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A Guide to the Perfect Lightweight AR-15 Build
The AR-15 is considered to be one of the most versatile weapons on the market. The accessories, configurations, and caliber options make this weapon limited only to the gun owner’s imagination. One popular modification feature of this platform is weight.
Lightweight AR Builds are highly desirable and becoming more and more popular among AR-15 enthusiasts. There is something to be said about a lightweight AR-15 build that is under three pounds that can still be accurate out to over a quarter-mile.
Before we discuss the components that we recommend for a lightweight AR-15 build, we need to discuss the difference between a lightweight AR-15, and the lightest AR-15 build possible. There are tens of thousands of AR-15 parts available on the market.
The average AR-15 weighs roughly about six to seven pounds without optics mounted.
A lightweight build is considered anything under four pounds without optics mounted. There are basically two ways to reduce overall weight. You can choose between buying lightweight parts for assembly, or custom trimming, snipping, and shaving each part to achieve the lightest weight result.
Benefits and Uses of a Lightweight AR-15
The most obvious benefit is the weight. Reducing the weight makes the weapon more comfortable to carry and many times adds to the ergonomics. Many lighter-weight builds are also more compact, making transport easier and less cumbersome in close quarters.
That is why a trimmed-down AR-15 is a great choice to train appropriate aged family members to use for home and self-defense. It is a great gun for hunting also, especially for those avid stalk-and-hunt situations where hiking long distances can be a challenge with a heavy rifle.
Lightweight AR-15 Build Components to Consider
High-tech Alloys and Polymers – Pros and Cons
Materials like titanium, lithium-aluminum, and magnesium are becoming more commonplace in lightweight gun builds. The material can reduce weight considerably, and are very strong, they also come with considerable costs.
Carbon fiber and polymers are also becoming prevalent with gun builders looking to trim down the weight of their AR-15.
These metal alternatives are becoming more durable to lay to rest the worry of lifespan and are able to handle the high round count put through them by avid users. Some of these components can reduce the weight by 30-40% when compared to most mil-spec parts.
The barrel is going to be one of the heaviest components of your lightweight AR-15 build. The average AR-15 can have up to one-third of its weight in the barrel. Pencil barrels wrapped in carbon fiber are one of the best choices on the market currently and can weigh as little as 1.2 pounds.
There are many lightweight lower receiver options, many of which are 100% polymer. All parts that can be polymer; trigger, hammer, take-down pins, and disconnector. Metal components are limited to spring and other parts surrounding the buffer tube.
Here you have three main options: polymer, milled/skeletonized, and specialty alloy. These options can be as light as just over five ounces.
Bolt Carrier Group
The lightest bolt carrier group (BCG) that we have found is aluminum and weighs only four ounces. The BCG component is responsible for performing semiautomatic firing. Reducing the weight may result in custom gunsmithing to fine-tune the part based on ammo for it to perform at its best.
Gas Block and Tube, and Barrel Nut
Although these three do not add much weight, there are options to reduce the overall weight. We suggest investigating a titanium gas block and an aluminum barrel nut. The gas tube can be any of your liking. Combined these three parts should weigh in at about two ounces.
Choosing the lightest weight handguard will strip down its functionality to just be a handrest. Carbon fiber is the best handguard material option. The length of the handguard is also a consideration and there are many options available.
The shorter results in the lighter weight. You can find carbon fiber handguards that weigh as little as three to four ounces.
If you require a handguard to attach accessories, you will have to choose an option with a usable rail, which will increase the weight.
Reducing the weight of an AR-15 can sometimes make the gun feel unbalanced or “flimsy.” One component that is a part of every custom gun build is a captured buffer. Although this is not always a lightweight feature, it provides smoother shooting and reduced recoil. There is nothing more annoying than feeling the recoil in your jaw and ear protection every time you pull the trigger.
The options for lightweight stocks are almost too numerous to count. The good news is that there are many options that are around six ounces. Unlike other components, polymer stocks allow the shooter to retain functionalities like adjustability, sling mounts, and many color options.
Summary of Lightweight AR-15 Build Best Practices
There are many reasons for lightweight AR-15 builds that range from competition, self-defense, hunting, and even bragging rights. The AR platform has seen many design changes since its introduction in the late 1950s. Lightweight builds are a growing trend that pushes innovation and technology to their limits.
At the beginning of our discussion, we talked about the difference between building a lightweight AR-15, and the lightest AR-15 build possible.
Rooftop Arms has built countless custom-made ARs for customers around the USA. We pride ourselves on the uncompromised quality of the parts that we use in our custom AR builds.
Rooftop Arms is the perfect company to help you come up with the perfect blend of premium parts while still focusing on creating a lightweight gun that functions well and feels good to shoot. We would love the opportunity to build your next AR-15 from the market’s highest quality, lightweight components.
Interested in learning more about Lightweight AR-15 Builds?