The Best AR-15 Tools

What are the best AR-15 tool kits?

The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America, in large part because it’s incredibly versatile. You can change-out most components – upper and lower receivers, furniture, triggers, and just about everything else – and there are enough third-party options to make your head spin. Plus tweaking your rife to get it just right is a big part of its appeal, but you’ve got to have the right set of tools for the job (there’s a special place in hell for anyone who gets within 10 feet of a barrel nut with a pair of channel locks). 

No amateur armorer can assemble an AR-15 without the right gunsmithing tools, so we’re going to look at the best AR-15 tools on the market for aspiring gunsmiths.

Quick List: the Best AR-15 Tool Kits

Complete AR-15 Tool Kits

The Wheeler Engineering AR-15 Armorer’s Essentials Kit is technically a complete AR-15 tool kit which includes the major tools a gunsmith needs to complete a rifle build, tackle repairs or handle maintenance without breaking the bank. 

It’s not the most complete kit out there, but if you want a kit that’ll cover all the bases and comes with a carry case without getting into a set that includes vices or a pin punch set this one from Wheeler is hard to beat.

What we liked:

  • Very complete kit
  • Priced right for beginners
  • Includes punch set with pin punch for removing roll pins

What we didn't:

  • Too bulky to use as a field repair kit
  • No brushes or front sight tool included

This high quality kit — also from Wheeler — is the Professional version of the Essentials kit above. You get all of the Essentials items plus a vice, brushes, an exploded AR-15 diagram maintenance mat, and a full set of picks. It’s about twice as expensive as the Essentials kit, but if you need to ensure you’ve got tools for a heavy duty repair or complete maintenance the Professional Kit will get you there.

What we liked:

  • Very complete kit
  • Includes a vise
  • Full set of brushes and picks included
  • Comes with a maintenance mat

What we didn't:

  • Expensive
  • May be overkill for some users’ needs

Individual Tools

Sometimes you don’t need a full-on set of new tools (as much as anyone would welcome them into the workshop). If that’s the case, here are our recommendations for individual AR tools that won’t disappoint.

The Real Avid AR-15 Combo Tool is built like a multi-tool, complete with a folding design we’re all familiar with. It sports a front sight adjuster along with a hex screw for removing the AR-15’s ¼-28 x ½ screws, as well as the nylon tipped tension set screw and a 440C serrated tanto knife – you know, for the kids.

What we liked:

  •  Super compact and easy to carry
  • Includes all the most commonly-used tools
  • Built-in threaded rod for cleaning kits and other accessories
  • Durable, all-metal construction

What we didn't:

  • Not an all-encompassing kit
  • Expensive for the size

A classic piece of every armorers kit, this Real Avid AR-15 Master Bench Block makes getting pins out of your AR a breeze. The block allows users to hold five separate components in place during assembly (and serves as an extra pair of hands) as you install up to 13 different pins found throughout the AR-15 platform. It’s made from non-marring material with a rubberized bottom seal to keep it from slipping around your workspace when in use.

One smart feature is the magnetic strip within the rubberized seal, which keeps the pins and small parts you punch through the block from flying around your workspace.If the Bench Block is out of stock you can get it as part of their (admittedly much more expensive) Master Armorers Kit.

What we liked:

  • Each area is clearly labeled
  • Stable
  • Multiple working configurations
  • Non-marring material
  • Magnetic strip keeps pins in place

What we didn't:

  • More of a nice to have than must have product

Brownells American-made AR-15 Armorer’s Wrench packs many of the tools you’ll need to build an AR-15 into one handy wrench. It’s designed to work with both encapsulated and peg-style barrel nuts, so you can tackle both standard barrel nuts and free-floating handguards. 

The handle end is a carbine buttstock wrench, plus it’s got a slot to install an A2 receiver extension, as well as a ½ torque drive and both ⅝” and ¾” slots for A1 and A2 flash hider installation.

Plus, like all of Brownells’ tools — it’s got a forever guarantee. 

Another fairly simple AR build tool – the Magpul Armorers Wrench is a premium nut wrench option that allows you to tackle castle nut removal/installation, barrel and handguard installation (both USGI and free-floating) with ease and offers a super tight lock-up on the ½” torque slot, which is considerably better than the tolerances on cheaper wrench options.

We really liked the two hammers on either side of the wrench, making it useful lighter hammering work like takedown pins and punches.

It’s not the cheapest option out there, but if you want a solidly engineered installation tool there are very few better than the Magpul.

Selecting the best AR Tool Kit

Whether you need a complete rebuild kit, the tool to install that new AR-15 upper, or you just need a more effective means of punching pins, there are some important considerations when shopping for AR tools. Let’s take a look at the different features, and see how they stack up!

How many tools do you need?

The first difference you’ll notice between the tool kits featured above is the number of tools they contain. For instance, the Real Avid AR-15 Tool is designed for cleaning and basic field stripping. To that end, it has a carbon scraper, 12 different bits, a knife, a detachable pin punch, and even a threaded rod that can be attached to a cleaning brush, eliminating the need to carry a separate brush handle.

The Wheeler Engineering kit, on the other hand, is much more comprehensive. In addition to the torque wrench and vise block, you also get a gas tube alignment tool, an upper receiver mount, an adjustable receiver link, a .22 caliber bore brush, a brush handle, and a strap wrench. That’s everything you need to completely disassemble an AR-15.

The bigger tool kits simply offer more tools than a multi-tool can possibly contain – which, of course, comes with a higher price. If you need to take your gun down to individual components you’ll need more than just a multi-tool or armorers wrench. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for a tool to help speed regular cleaning and field strips, the complete kit is probably overkill.

Quality of Construction

When it comes to quality of construction there’s a clear distinction between budget and premium tools. Many cheap multi-tools have plastic or soft aluminum frames that can crack under stress, or might have looser wrench slots tolerances These are never going to be as reliable as higher-quality products.

Look for tools constructed entirely from steel, which ensures durability and prevents rounding nut corners or stress cracks from everyday use. This rule goes beyond the primary tools though – all tools, bits, and pieces need to be well-engineered to stand up to the forces applied during maintenance. Everything from pliers to pin tools should be engineered to stand up to years of abuse.

Storage and Transport

Most tool sets will include a storage solution of some sort but these aren’t all created equal. Kits like the Wheeler Engineering Kit are smaller than full tool sets and will include something as simple as a nylon bag with a pair of carrying straps. This makes them easy to throw in your trunk, range bag, or on a closet shelf. That said, it’s too big and bulky to carry around with you in the field.

Multi-tools are pocketable – and will come with a sheath-like sleeve. If you’re familiar with the nylon belt pouches for carrying Gerber multi-tools, these will feel right at home. They’re ruggedly built, often with double-stitched seams that can handle a lot of abuse.

When it comes to storage and transport, the smaller multi-tools like the Real Avid are unbeatable. That convenience makes them easy to carry just about anywhere and makes them an ideal choice if you want a tool that you can pack to the range or into the field.

Conclusion

There are a lot of options when it comes to AR-15 build tools, but with a few basic rules of thumb you’ll have the right tools to start perfecting your AR. 

Building or modifying your AR-15 isn’t exactly simple, but if you ensure the tool basics are covered you’ll be able to complete your build quickly and easily – all without discovering you’ve lost 3 pins in the process. Happy wrenching!

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MICHAEL CRITES is el jefe around here. He writes about guns and gear.

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