How to Lose Weight—5 Good Reasons for Building a Lightweight AR-15
- Less fatigue
- Easier one-handed operation
- Better control for accurate follow-up shots
- Quicker to maneuver
- Easier for youth and smaller-statured persons to handle
What do we look for in a new firearm? Of course, it depends on the firearm’s purpose, but accuracy and reliability followed by shootability are at the top of the list. These three things can all be affected by the overall weight of the gun. Too heavy and you’ll become fatigued. Too light and some shooters will fall victim to recoil.
I have enough years of experience to know how to mitigate the recoil of most firearms, however, I do have issues with the weight of a gun. Shooting a rifle off-hand or a shotgun that weighs over eight pounds for too long results in me no longer able to even hit paper. I love the AR-15 for many different reasons and one of those is because I can build one that is ultra lightweight and serves all the purposes I need it for—plinking, self-defense and varmint and predator hunting.
Small Changes Matter
For the longest time, my Frankenrifle was outfitted with a tactical light and red dot sight, but for review purposes, I recently removed them and switched to a Sightmark M-Spec reflex sight. The difference in just a few ounces helps me maintain accuracy during long range sessions.
There are plenty of benefits to building a lightweight AR and fortunately, the advances in machining and materials and the increasing popularity of shaving weight off nearly every part of your build means there are plenty of internal parts and accessories on the market that allow for a super lightweight, yet sturdy rifle.
The heaviest parts of a rifle are usually the barrel, handguard, stock and upper and lower receivers. Aluminum, polymer and skeletonized handguards, stocks and lowers have aided in lightening the overall weight. Recent advances have allowed for many of the essential internal AR parts to be considerably lighter, as well. Though not cheap, titanium and magnesium bolt carrier groups and other parts have become more readily available.
“Pencil” barrels are considerably thinner and lighter than a traditional barrel and can save up to about 10 ounces. A 14-inch barrel with a permanently pinned muzzle device will lower the overall weight, as well. Polymer lowers have come a long way and are worth your consideration, especially for those who aren’t building a service rifle. Any BCG will do, but the titanium and aluminum options are nearly half as light as steel. A steel bolt carrier group will weigh up to 12 ounces, while aluminum can weigh less than 6. Aluminum wears faster than titanium, but choosing titanium comes with a price. It isn’t cheap. Your budget and how often you shoot will determine which BCG is right for you. An adjustable gas block is necessary for a lightweight build.
Up to 10 times stronger than steel but four times lighter, carbon fiber is now being used to construct AR-15 accessories. The Firefield Fringe M-LOK carbon fiber 10-inch handguard weighs only 6.2 ounces. The shorter handguard you can go, the more weight you save. Firefield also offers a skeletonized foregrip that only weighs 4.1 ounces.
A sub 5-lb. AR isn’t uncommon these days and helps increase your ability to stay accurate during long training sessions, is easier to maneuver in a home-protection and self-defense situation and is also great for those with an injury or disability and for smaller and younger shooters where a heavy rifle is an issue.
Top off your build with a mini reflex sight and you have a lightweight AR perfect and practical for real-world situations.