The AR-15 is a solid platform that has evolved from Eugene Stoners early design into a more reliable, more efficient and more adaptable rifle. In some form or another the AR-15 is in use as a military weapon, a patrol rifle for law enforcement, a defensive tool for armed citizens, a hunting rifle and as a fairly recent moniker indicates, a Modern Sporting Rifle.
It makes sense for the AR to fit into so many roles because it is such a versatile rifle. The AR is relatively light weight making it easy to carry. The fact that it is chambered in many different calibers makes it adaptable to many different roles. Accessories for the AR rifles are abundant and they allow for customization for specific duties as well as to each owners personality. The AR-15 is easy to shoot compared to many other rifles. With inexpensive and reliable 30 round AR-15 magazines it easy to keep your rifle fed. It seems like the AR is just about the perfect rifle.
With all the great attributes that the AR brings to the table it can be lacking when it comes to the manual of arms. Unloading an AR isn’t terribly graceful especially if you need to lock the bolt to the rear. Dealing with malfunctions is nothing like dealing with a handgun malfunction and for newer shooters figuring out where you need to put your hands to do what you need to do can make you look like you’re poppin and lockin.
Don’t get me wrong, AR’s aren’t impossible to deal with. It’s just that they could be so much easier. In my opinion, when your gun is malfunctioned and things aren’t going well, the last thing you want to deal with is difficult.
If you understand what I am talking about then you need to know that in today’s AR-15 market these issues should have an impact on the choices you make when you are shopping for a new AR-15.
The greatest innovations in AR-15 (and AR-10) rifles are in the realm of improving the manual of arms. Ambidextrous AR-15’s are where it is at!
There are a host of products that you can add to your standard AR-15 lower to help make it more friendly when it comes to the operation of your rifle. Some folks might prefer to go all the way with the idea of ambidextrous controls and instead of adding accessories they opt for a fully ambidextrous lower.
Whether you are looking for a rifle that is easier to handle as lefty or you simply want a rifle with simpler options for everyday operation, taking a look at ambitious parts and lowers makes sense.
Ambi Add Ons
There are a host of after market parts that work with the majority of rifle lowers out there that can help to make your rifle more efficient.
Without a doubt, charging handles are the easiest upgrade to help make your rifle easier to manipulate. Ambi charging handles will unlatch your bolt carrier group regardless of whether you grab the traditional left side of the handle or the right side. My favorite handle is the Raptor from Radian. If you can remove your BCG, you can replace your charging handle.
It takes a touch of know-how to replace your safety selector, but with just a few minutes of learning most can handle this task and replace the left side only safety selector with a selector that has a lever on both sides of the rifle. Why swap out standard levers for ambidextrous selectors? I find it helps in two ways. First, you can actuate the lever easily when running your rifle from either shoulder. Also, there are times when sweeping your manual safety back on with your index finger is easier than trying to use your thumb. Some folks also like the ability to feel the condition of the safety under their trigger finger knuckle.
Give an ambition safety a try and see if it works for you. While you are at it, make it a short throw lever.
Ambi Mag Release
The Norgon Ambi-Catch is an ambidextrous magazine catch that fits standard mil-spec AR-15 lowers. This simple device replaces your factory magazine catch and makes it ambidextrous providing additional options for releasing your mag as a lefty or a righty.
Extended Bolt Catch Lever
The hardest task when manipulating your AR might very well be locking the bolt to the rear. When under pressure, like when dealing with a malfunction, the awkward task can become downright difficult. Extended bolt catch levers typically reach from the left side bolt catch, under the receiver and to the right side of the rifle. They allow you to release the bolt and lock the bolt to the rear with your trigger finger.
The two big players in this market are Magpul and their B.A.D. Lever and Phase 5’s one piece Extended Bolt Release V2.
Of all the ambidextrous adaptations this one is the most controversial. You see, the lever reaches through the trigger guard of your AR and it is manipulated with your trigger finger. Many see it as an accident waiting to happen and I think these arguments are the best reason to consider a fully ambidextrous lower.
Fully Ambidextrous Lowers
If you want to run your rifle with speed and convenience moving to a fully ambidextrous lower might be the way to go for you. Fully ambidextrous lowers provide a safety lever on both sides of the lower, a magazine release on both sides of the gun and a bolt catch on both sides.
I’ve really only paid attention to three of the fully ambidextrous lowers out there, but there are certainly more.
Aero Precision – AR15 Ambidextrous Lower Receiver
If you are wanting to move into a ambidextrous lower the Aero Precision might be the right choice for you. The Aero receiver places the bolt catch high and away from the trigger almost at the seam between the lower and the upper so if you are worried about your trigger finger being where it shouldn’t be, take a look at the Aero. It utilizes the ambidextrous safety of your choice and a Norgon ambidextrous mag release.
American Defense Manufacturing – UIC Lower Combo
The American Defense Manufacturing Universal Improved Carbine Lower is a fully ambidextrous lower that ships with its proprietary ambidextrous controls installed. The lower includes an integral trigger guard with plenty of space for gloves and a tension screw to adjust the fit between your lower and the upper of your choice.
Mega – GTR-3S Ambi Lower
Another option out there is the Ambidextrous lower from Mega. The GTR-3S mates with standard uppers while the GTR-3H is designed to match Mega’s proprietary upper. Both come with an integral trigger guard, a nylon tipped tensioning screw and design features that make the Mega stand out.
Final Thoughts On Ambidextrous AR-15’s
No one really needs an ambi AR. I know that I don’t. At the same time, as we continue to move forward in firearm design, one of the areas that will improve is in the operability of the platform. With the AR-15 ambidextrous controls are a logical step in the progression of the rifle. Of course it is up to you to decide if you want to invest in the setup of controls on both sides of your rifle.
For me, I still sit on the fence when it comes to ambidextrous controls. That also means it is just a matter of time before I fall off the fence and I’m pretty sure I know which side I’m gonna land on. The side with more options makes an awful to of sense.
Paul Carlson, owner of Safety Solutions Academy, is a Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor. He has spent the past decade and a half studying how humans can perform more efficiently in violent confrontations and honing his skills as an instructor both in the classroom and on the range.
Through Safety Solutions Academy, Paul teaches a variety of Critical Defensive Skills courses in more than a dozen states annually. Courses range from Concealed Carry Classes to Advanced Critical Defensive Handgun Courses and include instruction for the defensive use of handguns, rifles and shotguns. Safety Solutions Academy regularly hosts other industry leading experts as guest instructors to make sure that SSA’s students have the opportunity for quality instruction across a broad range of Critical Defensive disciplines.