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Picking the Right AR 15 Buffer

The AR 15 is designed to afford the everyday shooter with some pretty special characteristics often not found in other rifles: A quick reset, a smooth action, excellent energy absorption and dissipation, and low felt recoil, regardless of the grain count of the round being fired.

The Secret to a Good AR: The Buffer

A huge part of that equation is the buffer and spring. If you’re a first-time AR 15 builder, the buffer and spring are those little obscure pieces that rest inside your “buttstock tube”, or buffer tube – you know, that comically large spring that looks fit for a .50 cal, and that strange, bullet-shaped heavy-ish weight sitting in front of it. If you’re a newbie then you’ve probably overlooked the importance of picking the right buffer – and you may be feeling the effects of this oversight.

If your AR 15 seems to dance all over the paper and you’ve eliminated every other possibility for poor groups, it could be your buffer throwing you off. Get plenty of failures to eject, or failures to go back into battery? Again, look at that buffer. Feeling wimpy at the range, as if your AR 15 recoil feels a tad too much? It shouldn’t, unless your name is Gersh Kuntzman. It could be your buffer failing to mitigate the right amount of felt recoil because it’s too light.

How a Buffer Works

The buffer in your AR 15 acts as the “hammer” or piston mechanism that allows your bolt carrier group to fly back, reset your trigger, and chamber another round. The buffer rests inside and in front of the buffer spring, which compress into the rear of the buffer tube.

Buffer look simple but in truth, they’re  precisely built using a combination of metal and plastic weights. These weights ensure the buffer provides

Symptoms of a Bad Buffer

A buffer that’s too light or too heavy will cause your rifle (and you) to suffer varying symptoms at the range. A buffer that’s too light will cause felt recoil to increase, and it may cause early wear-and-tear to become noticeable on your rifle’s parts and receiver.

5.56 AR Pistol Kit (7" Barrel & 6" Keymod Handguard) with 80% Lower

The right buffer matters even more when building a pistol – our popular 7″ pistol kit includes the perfect setup, removing any guesswork!

A buffer that’s too heavy is even worse. It’ll often cause failures to cycle fully, resulting in jams, failures to eject, and failures to return to battery. Essentially, a buffer that’s too heavy could turn your rifle into a paperweight itself.

Why the Right Buffer Matters so Much

The perfect buffer will allow your rifle to cycle reliably, every time, whether suppressed or un-suppressed, no matter the grain count you’re shooting. It’ll reduce the chances of malfunctions creeping up, and it’ll reduce felt recoil and make your shot groups tighter, allowing for quicker follow-up shots.

Classic Lower Parts Kit | Butt Stock | Buffer Tube Assembly | AR-15

Our Classic Lower Parts Kit includes a mil-spec Carbine Buffer to ensure reliability

Buffer Weights Explained

Buffers are often mislabeled or categorized differently, but we’ll break down it down in simple terms:

  • Carbine Buffer: 3 ounces, 3 steel weights
  • Heavy Buffer: 3.8 ounces, 1 tungsten weight, 2 steel weights
  • H2 Buffer: 4.7 ounces, 2 tungsten weights, 2 steel weights
  • H3 Buffer: 5 ounces, 3 tungsten weights
  • HSS Buffer: 6.5 ounces, proprietary weights
  • XH Buffer: 8.5 ounces, proprietary weights

But Which Buffer’s Best?

Lucky for you, we make that simple, too: Building a standard AR 15 for fun times and plinking? Nothing crazy, like a pistol or franken-gun with a 24” barrel and custom gas system? Stick with a good ole’ fashioned Carbine buffer, found in all our lower parts kits. Want to slow things down a tad, reduce recoil a bit, and take your time with each shot? Try out an H2 Buffer. All other things considered equal, these two buffers will ensure your rifle’s reliable, accurate, and comfortable to shoot.


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