The AR Armorer’s wrench — a tool that will always be included in the answer to, “I want to work on my own firearms, what should I start with?” An armorer’s wrench is also a necessity when working in the firearms industry on a large amount of AR/M4/M16 style firearms. Companies have made these wrenches strong and sturdy, but there are some that are weak or slip a lot. Some designs give users a lot of useable features while some are just for looks. In this article, we dive into armorer wrenches on the market, the pros and cons of each, and some tips and tricks to basic armorer tasks.
The Basic Tasks for an Armorer’s Wrench
When looking at the basic tasks armorer wrenches should perform, we first want to split the AR platform into two categories: traditional M4/M16 and consumer type platforms. Many of the features on these wrenches may only work for M4/M16 platform barrel nuts, rails, etc. Consumer type AR’s give us a lot of different styles of parts such as free float barrels and different muzzle devices that may require specialized tools.
- mil-spec barrel nut
- receiver extension castle nut
- muzzle device
- torque wrench attachment
The traditional M4/M16 style AR platform has a barrel nut that most armorer wrenches are designed for. This nut has many spaces for teeth and is torqued on with about 35 ft-lbs. Due to the nut spaces needing to line up with the gas tube, this torque may have to go even higher to get the timing of the nut right. Thus, it can be on especially tight and requires a well-built wrench for removal. Most wrenches come with this nut specific pattern and a space where a 1/2″ torque wrench can be added to aid with removal.
Traditionally, muzzle devices feature the A2 style bird cage device. This device is added or removed with a 3/4″ muzzle brake slot on the wrench and is prevalent on most, if not all, wrenches.
The castle nut on the receiver extension is mostly the same between traditional and consumer platforms. A slotted wrench is at the end of all armorer wrenches but differs on quality between wrenches (a subtle hint to read on).
- free float barrel nut (sometimes)
- receiver extension castle nut
- muzzle device (sometimes)
- torque wrench attachment
This is where the wild west of the firearms industry comes in. The traditional barrel nut isn’t used as most free-float barrels often use a proprietary (specific to that company) barrel wrench.
The same goes for consumer muzzle devices. Not all devices have the 3/4″ flats from the classic A2 birdcage. Many times, you will need to carefully use a crescent wrench to time the muzzle device.
Most of the time, the wrench is still needed on the consumer side for the receiver extension. Most will have the traditional castle nut unless you want to be different — like Knights Armament — and have pin slots instead of the normal squared off slots.
Armorer Wrenches: Features to Focus On
When comparing the wrenches below, there are a few things to focus on. First, slippage. You don’t want your wrench to slip off the castle nut on the receiver extension. If the wrench teeth look overcoated with whatever they used to coat the tool or rounded off due to machining, you don’t want it. Also, the strength of the wrench. What is it made out of? Is it thin? Can it be grabbed and held easily? Can a torque wrench be inserted so it directly lines up with the armorer wrench for proper torque? Does it have multiple notches to make sufficient contact with the part? These are all things to pay attention to.
The receiver extension castle nut feature differs between wrenches. One design requires the wrench slide over the entire extension to contact the nut, which usually allows more space for contact notches. However, some don’t do this and only grab part of the castle nut without sliding the wrench over the extension.
Some armorer wrenches include features that are nice to have but aren’t necessary. Some of these features are writing out the torque values on the wrench or the ability to use it as a hammer or screwdriver. Meanwhile, price is obviously important with most quality wrenches around the 80 dollar mark. For a lifelong tool, that isn’t bad at all.
The Armorer Wrenches
Now the fun stuff — the wrenches. These are the most prevalent and higher quality wrenches out there on the market with a special mention for one that that isn’t as multi-use but can do one thing really well. Let’s get into it.
This wrench came out recently and hasn’t disappointed. Made from 4140 heat treated steel, Midwest Industries continues to deliver in quality. They list proper torque values on the wrench and the wrench includes a squared off hammer head. It also has two receiver options for a 1/2 inch drive for torque wrenches; super convenient. Currently, it is my go to on the bench.
- Designed to work with 5.56 and 7.62 AR platforms
- Works with encapsulated and pin style barrel nuts including the GI-style nut
- Drive end for all MI free float barrel nuts – Including CRM, SLH, CRT, CRLW, ULW, G3M, G4M, and SP Series
- ¾ inch wrench for A2 muzzle devices and designed to work with the thin flats on many popular suppressor mounts
- Castle nut driver with 3 notch engagement
- Combat bottle opener
- Small hammer head
- Torque specs features on wrench handle
- Constructed from 4140 heat treated steel
- 1/2 Inch drive for torque wrench (2)
- Made 100% in the USA
The beginning of the standard for armorer wrenches. Magpul gives us a classic wrench that is also quality. This wrench is made out of heated steel with a thin Manganese phosphate corrosion-resistant finish. This finish allows the notches to be square and grab parts with no slippage. Honestly, this wrench is very straightforward without a lot of extra features. However, it includes those you need: receiver extension castle nut notches, barrel nut wrench, flash hider wrench, and 1/2 inch drive receiver.
- Handle Thickness: 0.35 in.
- Length, maximum: 11.7 in.
- USGI barrel nut wrench
- Free-float tube barrel nut wrench
- 1/2″ torque wrench/breaker bar interface
- Armorer’s hammer
- USGI castle nut wrench, usable with aftermarket end plates such as the ASAP® and ASAP-QD
- 3/4″ wrench for most flash hiders/muzzle brakes
Real Avid has been an innovator when it comes to armorer tools and is really taking over the market due to doing things differently. The handle on this wrench is off to the side, not in line like other wrenches. Also, notice the multiple hammer head attachments: brass, nylon, and rubber. That comes in handy as not everyone carries multiple hammers with them in their toolbox. For barrel wrenches, it has the traditional and free-float wrench posts and notches.
Hammer Head Rifle Tool
This is one of those wrenches that isn’t necessarily the heaviest and high quality but it does one thing right, castle nut removal and install. It is light, easy to use, and can get through a ton of guns in a small amount of time. It does have a “punch”, a feature we don’t normally see on armorer wrenches. However, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a useful punch.
- Heat Treated 1095 Spring Steel
- Heavy Duty 3/16″ thick
- 4-point Castle Nut Wrench
- .825 Flash Hider Wrench
- 3/4″ Flash Hider Wrench
- 1/2″ & 3/8″ Torque Drive Socket
- 5/8″ A-2 Style Stock Extension Tube Wrench
- Receiver Take-Down and Pivot Pin Punch
- 1/4″ Hex Drive Socket