The modern sporting rifle, or MSR, is the most adaptable, modular rifle design on the market today. There is no limit to the configurations and build designs you can pursue. But if you’re new to shooting these rifles, where do you start?
The following upgrades are geared toward those who have recently bought a standard or entry-level-type MSR, and the accessories constitute a system that, together or independently, will enable you to extract the greatest accuracy potential from your MSR:
1. The Trigger
This is the one part I upgrade on every MSR rifle I own, regardless if its primary use is for hunting, home defense or 3-gun. The Mil-Spec versions typically installed at the factory are heavy and not designed to enable the most accurate shooting. MSR triggers fall into one of two categories that describe their design: component or modular. Component trigger units can arguably produce a lighter, cleaner break, though installation can be difficult. Modular units install easily and deliver more than adequate accuracy and reliability for most users.
Today’s MSR shooters benefit from a variety of outstanding modular, drop-in trigger units available on the market. With all parts self-contained in an aluminum housing, the modular design delivers an outstanding trigger pull while being extremely easy to install with a minimal amount of tools or gunsmithing skills.
American Trigger Corps’ AR Gold unit is widely used in 3-gun competitions, while a new entry from Rise Armament is getting a lot of attention. Timney’s AR-15 Competition is one I have used extensively in rifles set up for varmint hunting, training and 3-gun competition, making this a versatile trigger platform. Factory pre-set at 3, 4, or 4.5 pounds, this trigger enables you to get the most accuracy possible from the rifle without being too light to use under rough conditions.
How good are Timney’s triggers? In the five years of the 3-Gun Nation Championship, where the winner takes home $50,000, there have been four different winners. Three of those champions—Tommy Thacker, Keith Garcia, and Greg Jordan—used a Timney trigger to win the title.
2. The Handguard
Assuming you won’t replace the barrel that came with your rifle, the next appropriate upgrade is to change out the handguards (or rails). The upgrade here is one that is free-floated, meaning it doesn’t touch the barrel. The current trend in handguards shaves weight and provides various types of sling and accessory attachment points, depending on the design. But more importantly, a free-floated handguard ensures greater potential for accuracy, because no matter how you tie into the gun, or whatever rest you take in the field, that rail isn’t applying any type of pressure on the barrel—which can cause the bullet’s point of impact to shift.
Armalite recently introduced the M-15 Tac and M-15 3-Gun handguards. Each features a small outside diameter, Key-Mod attachment systems, and is ultra lightweight.
If the purpose of the MSR is self-defense, a model with a Picatinny rail or Key-Mod attachment points will allow attachment of a variety of light and laser accessories. For pure shooting, smaller-diameter variants have gained in popularity recently, as they are slimmed down to offer a better grip and are lightweight, yet still have basic attachment points for slings.
3. The Muzzle Brake
The accuracy trifecta is complete with an upgraded muzzle brake and adjustable gas block combination. An adjustable gas block enables you to tune the gas system to the specific load being used, while a muzzle brake, or compensator, redirects the gas expelled out of the muzzle in a direction that lessens recoil. Used in tandem, a good adjustable gas block and compensator/brake can enable incredible speed and accuracy on the second shot.
There are no shortages of suitable compensators and gas blocks on today’s MSRs, but one solid system is available through Seekins Precision. Pair the company’s AR ATC Muzzle Brake with its Low Profile Adjustable Gas Block, and whether you’re using a high-end, low-mass bolt or a Mil-Spec factory version, you can tune your preferred load for outstanding recoil management and faster follow-up shots.