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Simple AR-15 Modifications for Under $200 Bucks

    Hunting Blog    April 27, 2017


Author: Justin Neaves

AR-15 Modifications

First, and foremost, I’m not a gun professional but rather a gun hobbyist.  I am not sponsoring any items or getting paid for any items I use.  This is all preference and my personal opinion of simple AR-15 modifications.  All items I used are listed at the bottom with links.

With that said, let’s dive in to what I did to beef up this OEM Windham Weaponry AR to improve functionality … and significantly improve the appearance!

I started out with the Windham Weaponry Carbon Fiber SRC AR-15 that was on sale from Sportsman’s Guide [ 44 perfect 5 star reviews]  I frequently visit SlickGuns.com and found the rifle on sale for $479 (free shipping) and I use a local mom-n-pop shop FFL ($25) so around $500 for a nice, lightweight, AR.

As you can see below, I went with the Optic Ready version so no front or rear posts so I wouldn’t have a need for risers on this particular setup.  Some people like to co-witness their sights..  it’s all preference.

Stock Windham Weaponry SRC AR-15

Before you do ANY gun modifications, cleaning, inspections, etc..  PLEASE ensure it is unloaded, magazines removed, and any safety precautions taken.  Accidents do happen so each precaution you take will limit the chances.

I personally always use a brightly colored Chamber Safety Tool as a peace of mind.

Safety Chamber Tool

The first thing I wanted to do was remove the bulky and somewhat useless handguard.

Ar-15 Handguard Comparison

To do this, you need to slide the protective ring down until you can separate the handguard and safely remove.  This can most of the time be done with your hands but this gun being new the ring had some pressure behind it so I used my handy dandy removal tool.

Removing stock AR-15 handguard

Now with the OEM handguard off you can clearly see the gas line.  Do not bend or damage this line!

AR-15 gas line

With the ring pressed down, install each half of the new handguard.  Once you have it firmly in place, sight down from the top and try to line up the gas line as evenly as possible before wrenching it down.

Ar-15 gas line quad rail handguard

EXTRA:  Keep in mind.. you’ll want to purchase a “2-piece” handguard instead of a free float unless you want to break down the rifle, remove the posts, and gas lines.  A free float handguard will not simply slide over the front end of the barrel.  The 2-piece setup in my opinion does its job just fine and is super simple to install.

two piece quad rail handguard

This is a good time to talk about the small things that can make a big difference.  For one, using Loctite on any bolt / screw that you don’t intend on removing for an extended period of time.  You will hear people talk about items coming loose and blaming it on quality when in fact it’s just the normal physics of gun vibration working things loose.  I don’t use a ton but just enough to get a little extra hold..  trust me, it helps.

Blue Loctite 242

In my opinion, after just installing the new quad rail, the rifle already feels a little more “grown up”.

Installing modifications on a picatinny rail is simple.  The key is to adjust the mods to your comfort so shooting the rifle is comfortable…. to you.  You’ll read over and over about how installing a mod is better on the front compare to the rear.  It’s all preferential.  If this is your first time then run a trial and error with placement.  Go shoot 75-100 rounds and if you feel like you need to re-adjust, then do so.  [I wouldn’t advise using Loctite until you find your “mod sweet spot”]

With that said, it’s time to install the scope.  I went with a generic Amazon purchase on this one that had a good amount of positive reviews.  As you can see, the scope itself has its own picatinny rails on the top and sides.  It came with a holo reflex site and a green laser pointer.  Not to venture off topic but laser pointers are toys..  not for guns, in my opinion.  I won’t be installing it.  I may take it to work and use it for PowerPoint presentations during meetings.  The reflex site is nice and good to use for short range shots.. or quick actions as you can sight with both eyes open.  I’m not sure how I will feel about how tall everything is on the gun with everything installed but for the price it was cheap enough to give it a shot.   Below are some shots of the red / green lights on the sights..  I must say, it’s pretty neat and easily seen in bright sun conditions.

Pinty scope combo

red and green optics

After positioning the scope where I could get a full view through the lens, I locked it down.  The reflex sight just has a standard spot for installing.  You can install it before if you want.. either way.

pinty scope with picatinny rail

Pinty holo optic installed

Technically, from here, your gun is ready to visit the range and make friends with the other guns 🙂

I, though, wanted to add a little more items to the gun to make it feel more like mine, and personable.

I picked a cheap forward grip.  I’m hit or miss on using these but I felt the gun needed something else.  A nice alternative is the Magpul angled fore grip but as I’m working this setup for as cheap as possible, I went with a generic grip from eBay.  As I mentioned before, you will read that everyone places the grip in different locations.  The military supposedly places forward grips closer to the magazine to “clear buildings” but that’s not what I’m planning to do.  For me, I choose to place the grip at the end of the handguard as that’s where I was most comfortable while holding the rifle and using the sights.

AR-15 forward adjustable grip

Now this brings me to my last modification.  I plan to use the forward grip when using the scope to gain a little added stability but when I’m shooting close range targets I want to hold the handguard behind the grip.  Doing this on a bare handguard can be a little uncomfortable when shooting a few hundred rounds because of the quad rails and slightly sharp points.

To help with this, I picked up generic non-slip handguard covers that clip or slide on the picatinny rails.  They are easy to install and provide a nice feel and grip when shooting.  The cheaper ones may slide a bit so check out reviews on what people think.  You want them to be snug on the rail.

Picatinny rail rubber covers

Done!  For now, at least.  My next modifications (or upgrades) will be a better pistol grip and buttstock.  The OEM ones on the Windham Weaponry are actually pretty good considering the amount of rounds I’ve put through it.  So for now, they get to stay on the rifle!

Finished AR-15 setup


The biggest complaint about the OEM rifle outside of the handguard is the cheap steel magazine.  I understand it’s to keep the cost down and most will change them out anyway…  so you’ll need to do that.  Pick yourself up a few Magpul polymer magazines.  I prefer ones with the window on the side to help see how many bullets are loaded.

30 round magazine comparison

Left: Stock Magazine Right: Magpul Gen 2 Pmag

When sighting in a scope(s) you’ll want something to stabilize the gun while shooting.  Your arms will naturally get tired holding up a gun and pinning a target at 50-100 yards will become quickly difficult to maintain accuracy.  For this, invest in an adjustable bipod.  Since this is my ‘lowest cost’ rifle, I went with a $20 best seller on Amazon and it’s surprisingly a nice bipod.  I’m honestly not sure if I’ll re-install the forward grip or not on this setup as I’m happy with how everything functions.  Keep in mind, when using a bipod you may need some shorter magazine clips as the 30 round magazine may hang too low for full up /down function.

Bipod installed on quad rail

Inside the new Flambeau Tactical case

Some reviews on the scope mentioned after shooting that the actual scope would “walk” up and back on the rail resulting in having to re-adjust everything.  I’ve shot at least 500 rounds and nothing has moved.  The Loctite works.  Another point, if you pick up the scope, it does not have a safety on the adjustments so any touch or movement can turn the dials.  Either write down your settings on the inside of your case or use a little paint to mark it.

I wasn’t prepared to buy a new case as the factory Windham Weaponry case is sufficient but with how tall the dang thing is now, it won’t fit.  I refuse to transport rifles outside of hard cases unless I’m hunting and carrying.  I now have added a new XL hard case from Amazon that has some neat options to install interior compartments and straps.  I’ll use the OEM case for another shotgun and extra pistols for now!

Stock gun case too small with optics installed

OEM Windham Weaponry Case.. No Bueno with Optics Added

That’s it folks.  From start to finish (minus the bipod) I spent right around an hour getting everything on the gun.  I’m OCD with lining everything up and going back to ensure each screw has proper tension so that given, the mods when on smoothly and really helped the appearance and functionality of my new AR.. and for a price that won’t break the wallet.  Trust me, I’m a fan of the big names but sometimes you just need something a little lower in price that you maybe plan on banging up or throwing around a little more and maintain the accuracy and dependability.

Here’s the FULL  list of everything I purchased in this setup.

Windham Weaponry Carbon Fiber SRC AR-15  Click Here  ($500 delivered – when on sale)

.223 Quad Rail – 6.7 inch Carbine Length (2-piece)  Click Here  ($16)

Handguard Picatinny Rubber Covers  Click Here  ($6)

Handguard Removal Tool  Click Here  ($10)

Pinty 3 in 1 Scope Combo (4-12×50)  Click Here  ($90)

Tactical Vertical Fore Grip  Click Here  ($9)

Magpul Gen 2 Pmag  Click Here  ($20)

Loctite – Blue 242  Click Here  ($5)

Flambeau Tactical AR Case  Click Here  ($39)

CVLIFE Adjustable Bipod  Click Here  ($20)


For the money and quality I use Pro for Sho 34db Ear Muffs when shooting… and they have a nice range of color options.  Click Here  ($20)

Pro for sho ear protection

Total Spent = $736

Minus optional case and hearing protection = $677

Minus the cost of the gun = $177

For less than $200 you can significantly improve you AR in both appearance and functionality.

Please leave a comment on what modifications you prefer using or how you set up your own personal AR!

Thanks for reading – Justin


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