May 21, 2020
By John D. Oller
Along with ARs, boots and bullets, one can never have enough tools. However, when it comes to working on firearms, having the right tools on hand makes gun care and improvements that much easier.
But what tools should AR owners have on hand? To get you pointed in the right direction, here are three armorer’s kits that each offer unique advantages when working on your AR-15 at home.
Real Avid offers many fine products for firearms maintenance, cleaning and armoring. Their flagship offering is the AR15 Armorer’s Master Kit. Except for a bench vise, this kit has everything you need to upgrade or assemble an AR-15.
To secure your AR in place, the kit includes the Lug-Lok Upper Vise Block and a Smart-Fit AR-15 Lower Vise Block. The lower vise block is inserted into the magwell and can expand or contract for a snug fit. This is ideal for upgrading a trigger, installing a lower parts kit, adjusting your buffer or installing a scope on your completed AR.
The Lug-Lok Upper Vise Block can slide inside Mil-Spec upper receivers, preventing the inward pressure of traditional clamp-style upper blocks. It is ideal for swapping out a barrel or handguard, installing a muzzle device or anything else you’d need to work on an upper receiver.
The kit’s Armorer’s Master Wrench is a wonder-tool. It is an ergonomically designed tool that makes it a breeze to install barrels, tighten castle nuts, swap muzzle devices or torque down anything else you need. It provides excellent leverage and doesn’t slip on stubborn parts.
The Master Wrench is designed to work with the kit’s torque wrench, and it can even function as a hammer. A brass, plastic and rubber hammer head are fastened inside the grip until needed and additional heads are also included in the kit. If you could only pick one tool from the Real Avid AR15 Armorer’s Master Kit, make it the Armorer’s Master Wrench.
Many have suggested the definition of the word frustration should show installing a pivot pin. However, with the kit’s AR-15 Pivot Pin Tool, pivot pins only take one attempt. This tool is a close second to the Master Wrench for those who understand this painful process.
Another useful tool in this kit is the Master Bench Block. This tool is designed to work on five key AR components and can position them in eight different orientations. It is clearly labeled to keep track of the smaller parts in an AR, and internal magnets prevent their many attempted escapes. The labels also note which punch sizes are needed for the pins, and it has a storage area to accommodate small parts.
This kit also includes an 11-piece punch pin set, ACCU-Grip Picks, Easy-Grip Handguard Tool, a safety flag and a front sight adjustment tool. All of the tools fit inside the Professional Tool Case, which is compact and easy to carry. The entire kit can go everywhere with you, and there won’t be any digging for tools at the range. Lastly, the kit includes a guide on the top 18 mods performed on an AR-15. The guide has excellent pictures, and it is very easy to follow.
The Real Avid AR-15 Armorer’s Master Kit would make a fine addition to any toolset, and it comes at a price that gives everyone the chance to become a shade-tree armorer.
Wheeler’s Delta Series AR Armorer’s Ultra Kit is the most extensive of the assembled kits, and it offers basic tools that have been given a unique twist. Most unique is the AR Armorer’s Vise. It features an integrated MagWell Vise Block, which offers a bolt service station built into the side of the block, and it also features a built-in hammer stop to prevent damage to your trigger when dry-fire testing.
The MagWell Vise Block also rotates, giving you access to the lower from multiple positions. The AR Armorer’s Vise front support is also adjustable, and the base is made from steel with nonslip rubber feet. If you could only pick one tool from this kit, go with the AR Armorer’s Vise.
This kit also includes the Wheeler Combo Tool and a strap wrench. The Combo Tool is for working on barrels, castle nuts and muzzle devices, and it works with the kit’s torque wrench. Instead of a hammer, this tool includes six common bits secured to the handle.
The strap wrench is an interesting tool not found in the other kits in this review, and it is ideal for attaching and removing smooth handguards. Also unique to this kit is the Trigger Guard Install Tool, which is specifically designed for installing a triggerguard.
This kit utilizes a clamshell-style upper vise block with a gas-tube alignment tool, another tool that’s unique to the Wheeler kit. The kit also includes a bench block, delta ring tool, AR-15 adjustable receiver link, front sight tool, pivot pin and roll pin tool and an AR-15 bore guide.
In addition to all the tools necessary for working on ARs, the Wheeler kit includes numerous brushes, cleaning picks and a maintenance mat with an exploded view of the AR-15. Everything in the kit fits inside of a custom-fitted carrying case.
Understandably, many gun owners already own some of the tools needed to work on an AR-15, so a large kit like Real Avid’s Master Kit or the Wheeler AR Armorer’s Ultra kit could be redundant. Also, there are many shotgun and bolt-action rifle owners that have tools for those guns, so they only need tools specifically needed for the AR-15. That’s where the Brownells AR-15/M16 Critical Tools Kit comes in handy. This kit has the tools that are critical to building or upgrading an AR, hence the name.
The Brownells Armorer’s Wrench will install barrels, tighten castle nuts and swap muzzle devices. The lower vise block snaps into the magwell for working on your lower and is made of a dense plastic that won’t crack during operation. The kit’s upper vise block is a heavy-duty clamshell design that fits flattop and carry-handle upper receivers. This upper vise block is very durable, so you can clamp your bench vise down as tight as you need. The Brownells kit also includes two pivot pin tools and a bolt catch pin punch.
While it may not seem as extensive as the other kits, it does have the essential parts for gun owners that already own some gunsmithing tools and need the basics for ARs. It is also the least expensive of the assembled kits.
Each of these kits offers certain advantages, but it is up to you to decide what best fits your needs. The Real Avid kit offers the best upper receiver vise tool and barrel wrench, but the Wheeler kit has the best lower vise tool and offers a greater number of tools. The Brownells kit may not offer as much, but it is ideal for those who already have an extensive tool collection and is the least expensive of the three. It’s a tough choice, but whatever you choose, you’ll be ready to work on your AR.
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