All About AR-15 Stocks: Shoulder It

We don’t think a lot about butt….stocks. Yeah, it was a bad joke, but I had to make it because today is all about butt…stocks. The last one, I promise. The particular stocks we are talking about are AR-15 stocks, but a lot of the advice can be used for any rifle or shotgun stock. It seems pretty simple, just toss a stock on and go. You can do that, but that’s probably not the best way to go about it. A little thought and research can go a long way to getting you the stock you need and want for your rifle. 

The AR, in particular, has tons of stock options — more than any other firearm. In fact, they are so popular that they are used on shotguns, AKs, and many more firearms. They are the stock of choice for numerous firearms outside of the AR-15 world. That popularity creates options, and our goal is to help you navigate those options and to understand what makes a good stock. 

The pickier you are with your AR-15 stock, the better you’ll be outfitted and ready for whatever you choose to use your rifle for. 

AR-15 Stock Options 

All the stock options you can think of can be typically categorized into one of three different types: fixed, adjustable, and PDW type. 


Fixed stocks are nonadjustable and somewhat uncommon these days. They do not collapse and remain the same size all the time. The A2 and A1 style stocks typify these designs. They tend to be the most stable option and simplest solution for the rifleman on the go. 

Magpul rifle stock
The fixed Magpul stock is extremely stable. (Magpul)


Adjustable stocks are by far the most popular option on the market. They are adjustable instantly for length of pull and are quite collapsible. They are not just carbine stocks, but plenty of precision-oriented stocks allow for adjustment in one form or another. The collapsing ability makes it easy to fit with armor and without, and it can change the size to make them easier to use in vehicles. 


PDW, or personal defense weapon, stocks are essentially adjustable stocks. They get their own category for being so different. PDW stocks are often much shorter and sometimes even require specialized buffer tubes and buffers. They are as minimalist as it gets and are typically paired with ultra-short rifle designs to make them even smaller. 

Strike industries DW stock
The Strike Industries PDW Stock is a great example of a minimalist design. (Strike Industries)

What To Look For In Your AR-15 Stock 

Purchasing an AR stock is no different than purchasing anything else. You have to be selective and picky about it. You also often have to find the right compromise for you, because you can’t get a stock that does it all. A stock that offers great support and easy ambidexterity likely won’t be the lightest, shorter option. Keep in mind your needs and wants when stock shopping, and be willing to take cuts where you can to get what you want. 

Good Lock Up 

One of the big benefits of fixed stocks is the fact they don’t move when properly installed. They are fixed and stable. Collapsible stocks tend to be a little less stable. Craptastic stocks often move and wiggle. This creates an issue with establishing a good sight picture and maintaining that sight picture. A little wiggle goes a long way. 

M4 rifle stock
The classic M4 stock works quite well, but it isn’t perfect. (USMC)

A good stock should have a friction lock design. This prevents wobble and wiggle. It’s a testament to a quality adjustable stock. This is one of the things any good stock should have. The only exception would likely be PDW stocks just because of their stripped-down nature. 


How well does the stock support the cheek weld you are trying to obtain? Especially when it comes to using magnified optics. We’ve seen a lot of carbine stocks come out and offer more and more support. The B5, the Magpul MOE SL, and many more offer more room for a good, supportive cheek weld for optics use. It’s a nice trend for modern rifles. 

man shoulder rifle
A good cheek weld makes using optics easier. (Magpul)

Another degree of support comes in how the rifle stock sits on your shoulder. Does it slip easily? Does it stay in place during recoil? That’s tough to answer, so it’s smart to look at the texture of the stock and the material. A rubberized recoil pad with an aggressive pattern is often a good indicator of support in the shoulder. 

Sling Attachment Points

One of the most frustrating things I’ve encountered is great stocks with crappy sling options. Sure, I can connect behind the buffer tube, but my preference is the stock. I like a good QD slot, personally, but you need to look for options that allow you to use the sling the way you want to. 

AR-15 stock with bfg vickers sling
The BFG Vickers sling can use a multitude of attachments.

You might need a traditional strap point, and you might want to make sure it’s where to need it to run your sling. The old M4 style of below-the-stock isn’t for everyone. Modern sling solutions and modern sling usage often require you to be specific. Make sure the sling points are where you need them. 

Weight and Size 

No one likes a heavy rifle, right? Well, if that’s the case, you should pay attention to the weight of the stock and how it affects the weight of your weapon. Sometimes if you want that nice supportive stock, you have to deal with some extra weight. Other times you might need to go with a minimalist design to squeeze your itch. I tend to consider the entire rifle and its balance. A blowback 9mm PCC tends to be rear-heavy, so I might attach a lightweight stock to help provide a better balance. 

A suppressed rifle tends to be a little front-heavy, so a heavier stock can help balance it out at the cost of even more weight. Lightweight minimalist fixed stocks actually tend to be the lightest options out there, and surprisingly, PDW stocks tend to be fairly heavy. 

man shooting rifle
Modern stocks offer lots of support. (Magpul)

Another consideration is the overall length of the pull. It changes between stocks. I hate the length of the A2 stock. It’s over 14 inches. I prefer the A1 LOP, and the Magpul rifle stock delivers that LOP, so it’s much comfier. Even adjustable stocks can have a LOP difference. 

Take, for example, the Magpul MOE SL M. It has a length of pull that varies from 9.7 to 12.7 inches depending on its collapsed position. Yet, the Magpul MOE SL K has a LOP of 10.3 to 13.6 inches. Nearly an inch can be a big difference for some. 

Stocked Up 

Your stock is one of the parts of your rifle you directly interface with. Choose it with some selective criteria in mind. I prefer a good cheek weld and a nice sling support, personally, but needs differ. What do you need? Or what advice would you offer people shopping for slings? 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

Sign Up for Newsletter

Let us know what topics you would be interested:
© 2024 GunMag Warehouse. All Rights Reserved.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap