AR15A2 But Not Forgotten: The A2 Project

AR15A2 But Not Forgotten: The A2 Project

We don’t give the older AR15 platforms much thought any more. Everything is lighter, stronger, and supposedly better. We compensate everything, free float everything, and bolt ergonomic tabs to everything. There are far too many “older” AR15’s sitting in closets unused.

If you see an A2 mentioned on forums it is usually in its military configuration. Box stock, nylon web sling, and it’s admired as a piece of history… not as a modern fighting weapon. It definitely isn’t as flexible in certain roles as a modern M4 style rifle, but to declare it a dead weapon system would be doing no justice to the A2 rifle.

As a piece of military gear the rifle has been since supplanted. The weapon is still fielded, but has been demoted to the back-end of the army, and not the tip of the spear so to speak.


The Civilian Side of Things

As a civilian weapon, it is still an enjoyable platform to shoot. Many admire the nostalgia of the M16A2 and keep it equipped with a nylon web sling and have a bayonet ready to pull out of the stuff drawer. It’s nice to sit back and admire an M16A2 for its military history, but to dismiss it as a weapon system is stupid. Look at the A2 build from a different view: we often decry the carry handle as lacking provisions for mounting the latest optic systems, but how many optic systems does the average AR15 owner have? Not everyone has a Punisher-esque laser cut foam case (or SOCOM Block II smorgasbord) of sighting systems and accessories readily available.

When dealing with an older weapon system, we need to be smart when choosing our accessories to make yourself (and the weapon) a more effective shooter. A vanilla M16A2 is a great weapon to have available, but it can be made more user-friendly and effective with a few choice upgrades.

My Plan:

My intention is not to “pimp my ride”. This article would quickly lose relevancy if I wacked out the A2 in nonsensical gear just for the hell of it. I want to keep it simple and keep the main components of an A2 rifle largely unchanged.

I currently run a Vicker’s Combat Applications Sling on my primary rifle. I chose the same sling for my A2 with a rear sling adapter. The VCAS is a rugged sling and feels incredibly soft for being a nylon based sling. I chose something that allowed quick adjustment of sling length and to allow myself familiarity between my rifles.

The next item in the plan is a compensator. The Battle-Comp seemed like it was a good middle ground device, but is quite expensive. I am keeping my eyes peeled for a good comp that wont break the bank and will fit the project goals well.

I currently have a Spikes Tactical Battle Trigger installed on this weapon. It was an improvement and doesn’t have crunch, but the break is not as clean as I would like. I am looking at a ALG defense ACT trigger. The Battle Trigger isn’t a bad trigger, but somehow the RRA parts kit trigger in my primary rifle was smoother trigger than the much more expensive battle trigger.

A modern defensive rifle should sport a light. There are too many injuries and too many dead family members out there to go shooting at someone you cannot identify. I currently have a GG&G Sling Thing on the A2 with a TLR-1. It is a nice setup since I didn’t have to invest in a costly rail to get a light mounted. Another option would be the Magpul MOE hand-guards, but I chose to keep the stock stuff because I like the A2 profile hand-guards.

The last upgrade, and arguably the most important, would be an optic. This is where the A2 stumbles, but the compact ACOG’s are a great choice for the carry handle and I hope to get one in 2014 to complete this project.

Project A2 Updates

My goal here is to learn the inns and outs of the A2 and pass on what I learn. My primary rifle sports an ACOG. I can’t tell you how much of an advantage the glass gives to you. This is the flip side. What can you do with that spare A2 you keep in the back of the safe? The carry handle may limit my optic options, but that doesn’t worry me. The A2 may be outdated, but it isn’t grandpa’s old 30-30 either. The A2 is a capable rifle, and I am willing to bet that many people wouldn’t be as encumbered by it as they think. The A2 would be a very practical setup for a SHTF gun and, at the very least, a capable loaner weapon. There are many un-loved A2s sitting in the back of the safe. It doesn’t have to be a piece of nostalgia… it can be a fighting weapon.

As I start to accumulate parts for the A2 project, I will update and show readers just how far I can take the A2. Once the project is done, this will be my primary rifle for shooting competitions. It is my intention to run this rifle hard this year and best many other competitors with it.



Written by lothaen


  1. thebronze · December 31, 2013

    I’m taking my A2 (with removable carrying handle) and making it into an A4/DMR with the addition of a rail, bipod and scope. Good to go for long distances.

    • lothaen · December 31, 2013

      I think you would mean that you have an A4 then since the A2’s carry handle does not detach, but if you are going for a DMR build I can’t recommend enough the TA31f ACOG.

    • duncan · November 30, 2014

      if you have a removable carry handle you don’t have a a2, sorry,pfc,duncan.

  2. mike · February 27, 2014

    What do you mean “long distances”? I could shoot a stock iron sight A2 with 2-3 inch groups at 500yards. I am new to the civilian AR movement.

  3. Bob · April 11, 2014

    Coincidentally, I am also trying to decide what I am going to do with a 20″ HBAR A2.

    I decided the 3 lb beast barrel has got to go. Already have a 20″ lightweight profile 1:7 chrome lined barrel for it. Once I maneuvered with a MForgery off a bench rest and understood the weight difference in hand, I will never own anything other than a light weight barrel. I can’t legally shoot auto, so no reason to have anything other than a lightweight barrel.

    If one is going to the expense of buying an ACOG, one might as well just replace the A2 upper for a flattop and have no worries or issues on setting up optics. Buying a used ACOG is out of question, unless you can secure a deal from Trijicon to replenish the tritium that starts to deplete the moment its manufactured. I believe the tritium has a useful life of only 10 years in ACOG’s. Something to consider.

    A used KAC RAS handguard for $150, allows one to securely mount optics to the handguard. The rails also allow one to move accessories between other own AR15’s in inventory, and opens up alot more options for new accessories.

    New Keymod handguards for $200 (MI), allow accessories interchangeability also, and are lighter weight than any quad-rail, and one gets the benefit of a free floated barrel. If you are going to compete, you will want a free floated barrel. But some competitions will have rules about what you can and can not use, especially if its a service rifle competition. I know there is a free float mod made that fits under regular handguards with some modifications to the gas tube. Its a few hundred bucks serious service rifle competitors use it, because the rules allow it. Apparently, the rules are more about appearances in some regards.

    Maybe because I decided on a lightweight barrel, I am more concerned about POI shift when shooting with a grip-pod, at a barrier, or with a sling. The government profile and lightweight profile are the same under the guard, so it is an issue also with any A2 rifle, especially the 20″ barrels, so I think that a free floated handguard should be some consideration. Just a cheap one, no need for a Noveske or a DD.

    A lightweight optic is a good choice. If you are going to compete, Get a Geissele 2-stage trigger. They are the ones actually that make the ALG. But that is not a cheap upgrade.

  4. Colorado Pete · July 6, 2014

    A2, historical nostalgia?
    Here’s some nostalgia for ya…my primary rifle choice goes “PING” after 8 shots, and one of mine predates the Pearl Harbor attack.
    A little difference of perspective, I guess….but then I’m gittin’ old….and never did warm up much to the modern platform.

  5. Shelby · April 21, 2024

    I have wanted an civilian A2 for years. It’s what I was initially issued 20 years ago, before we got our M4s. I was also a 203 gunner at times, so even carried an A1 or A2 after we got M4s, I guess because we didn’t get M4 203s.

    One finally showed up to the pawn shop I manage now. A 1989 Colt AR-15A2 Gov’t Model. Stock and handguards got broked and gone, but a customer/collector/retro builder had a set for me. The rifle is cherry apart from the replacement plastics. Took me back in time to shoulder it yesterday. Despite owning lots of Tactical Timmy rifles, the plain old gal is my new primary.

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