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Eugene Stoner’s original AR design was a masterstroke of advanced engineering, not only in its method of operation but also in its use of plastics and aluminum. The materials used were far lighter than wood and steel, and the direct gas impingement operating system also significantly reduced the weight of the rifle.

The American soldier went from carrying a fully loaded 10.7-pound M14 rifle to an M16 rifle that weighed roughly 2 pounds less. Yet in the span of the last 50 years since the M16 was adopted into military service, we have managed to add ever more weight onto its once-svelte frame.

The situation does seem to have come full circle, however, as there are increasingly more and more manufacturers producing lightweight ARs. But if you really want to trim down your AR as much as possible, there is no better way than to start from scratch and pick out each of the parts you want for your own custom build. There are many options available today, with some options simply reducing weight while others may match the original part’s weight while adding enhancements and features. Here are a few examples of what is out there today to get you started thinking about how you might want to build your own gun.

Stock Options

The stock is a great place to reduce your carbine’s weight. A great option is the lightweight, six-position- adjustable AR-15 TactLite buttstock from Advanced Technology International (ATI). This stock weighs only 5.7 ounces, is made from glass-reinforced polymer and has a very thin buttpad. It also features ambidextrous QD sling attachment points and is available for both commercial- and mil-spec-sized buffer tubes.

Lighter Receivers

The Omni Hybrid receiver set from American Tactical (AT) is made from a super-tough fiberglass-composite polymer and will soon be available in a translucent design so you can actually see the moving parts—try doing that with aluminum. To be fair, the Omni Hybrid lower does weigh only slightly less (about half an ounce) than a standard aluminum lower receiver, while the flattop upper receiver is about the same. But, it adds unique features, capabilities and looks to the mix.

To add strength where needed, ATI has embedded metal inserts at key points in both the upper and lower receivers. The Omni Hybrid lower receiver resembles a billet receiver with an aggressively beveled magazine well and an enlarged integral triggerguard. Another benefit of a polymer receiver set is that it is very scratch resistant as well as completely water- and corrosion-proof. It won’t dent or lose its finish. Polymer also has the benefit of dissipating heat very well, and even if the gun’s left in the hot sun, it won’t get too hot to the touch. The same goes for extreme cold, and unlike metal, you won’t get frostbite from these receivers in extreme cold.

All of the controls are standard for a right-handed shooter, and the safety selector is marked “SAFE” and “FIRE” on both sides of the receiver. These upper and lower receivers will accept all mil-spec AR parts for your build, and best of all, you can get both for under $100.

Rear Sight

Offering rugged durability and light weight, the Magpul MBUS injection- molded rear sight can replace a full carry handle rear sight system for a significant weight reduction on your AR. With the touch of a release, it flips up into place and features a dual aperture. It is made to fit any Picatinny rail-equipped weapon but is tailored for the AR-15 flattop upper receiver.

Bolt Carrier Group

One area where a lot of weight can be shaved off is in the bolt carrier group (BCG). The titanium BCG from V7 Weapon Systems makes for a great option on this front. The bolt is made from 9310 low-alloy steel that contains nickel, chromium and molybdenum. The carrier is made from Grade 5 titanium, which is an alloy with about 10-percent aluminum and vanadium. This BCG is not skeletonized yet has a weight of only 7.9 ounces. It is also finished in black IonBond for exceptional lubricity and corrosion resistance.

Featherweight Forend

There are extremely lightweight polymer and carbon-fiber handguards, but if you want to stick with metal and have a full-length Picatinny rail on top, the best option is the 10-inch KMR handguard from Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM). BCM offers its KMR (KeyMod Rail) handguards in different lengths, so you can opt for a shorter one to save weight, but the real weight savings come from their magnesium alloy construction. The 10-inch KMR handguard weighs an incredible 4.1 ounces while the 7-inch model weighs only 3 ounces.

Despite the light weight, the KMR retains the same strength as an aluminum handguard. The KMR is very thin and skeletonized, and it offers KeyMod accessory attachment slots along seven of the forend’s eight axes. This handguard also allows the barrel to remain free-floating, which improves the carbine’s accuracy potential. A special proprietary finish offers higher wear resistance than either hard chrome or anodizing. I have used this on past AR-platform builds and was very impressed by the product.

Ultralight Barrel

When it comes to lightweight barrels, there are several choices, but one that offers a solid mix of light weight and high quality is the Evo Ultra Lite VooDoo barrel from Adams Arms, which weighs only 21.9 ounces. Chambered in 5.56mm NATO, this 16-inch, 4150 chrome-moly-vanadium steel barrel features a fast 1-in-7-inch twist rate for stabilizing a maximum range of bullet weights, M4 feed ramps for improved feeding and reliability, and 1/2×28 threading for installing the muzzle device of your choice. For maximum weight reduction, the user may simply opt for a simple thread protector.

It also features a Melonite or salt bath nitriding finish instead of being chrome lined. I actually prefer this finish because it does not have the inconsistency in thickness that can be found in chrome lining, which can affect accuracy. Melonite is an extremely hard finish that offers extreme corrosion resistance and lubricity. By coating the entire barrel inside and out, it is completely protected and the barrel life is extended.

Pistol Grip

For those wanting the maximum in usability and a minimum of weight and bulk, an extremely light option is the MOE-K pistol grip (1.9 ounces) from Magpul. This grip is very thin with a steep angle for better weapon control when the stock is collapsed. This, combined with the company’s reputation for delivering tough and capable products, makes it a must-have option in my opinion.

Smaller Parts

The AR has a fair number of smaller parts and pins, and if you are building your AR from scratch, you would be surprised how much weight can be saved here. One company worth considering that offers lightweight small parts is V7 Weapon Systems, which provides a one-stop shop for all your AR-platform parts needs. This company goes out of its way to produce parts from titanium and aluminum, which significantly reduce the weight of the original steel parts without sacrificing any strength. Even the small pins are skeletonized to save weight where possible.

You can get a titanium A2 flash suppressor, an ultra-light forward assist, a featherweight polymer ejection port cover and an aluminum port door retention rod, a titanium grip screw, a hybrid safety selector, a titanium buffer retainer pin, aluminum takedown pivot pins, an ultra-light bolt and magazine release, and titanium castle nuts, end plates, and trigger and hammer pins. This may not seem like a lot of weight savings, but each of these parts weighs 40- to 60-percent less than their mil-spec steel counterparts.

More Than Its Sum

With some research, thought and some basic elbow grease, you can put together your ideal AR that is both highly capable and incredibly lightweight. While a few ounces here and there may not seem like that much, it can add up to serious weight reductions in the total bulk of your firearm. In fact, the difference in some cases can be measured in pounds, which in an already lightweight design like the AR can be quite impressive. Do a little research, pick out the parts you want/need, and build up the gun that is just right for you!

For More Information

American Tactical: americantactical.us; 800-290-0065

Adams Arms: adamsarms.net

Advanced Technology International: atigunstocks.com; 800-925-2522

Bravo Company USA: bravocompanyusa.com; 877-272-8626

Magpul: magpul.com; 877-462-4785

V7 Weapon Systems: v7weaponsystems.com; 541-218-9808

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