Best AR-15 Armorers Wrenches: Build Better
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An armorer’s wrench is one of the primary tools that every hobbyist AR-15 owner should have in their toolset. Far too many tinkerers and hobbyists think they can get away with modifying or maintaining their AR-15 or other weapons with common tools.
The performance just isn’t the same, and when you’re dropping upwards of $1,000 on a precision-engineered firearm, you need the right tools for the job. We’ve all used a screwdriver as a pin punch now and again, but the first time your tools slip off target and put a nice 3″ scratch down the side of your upper, you’ll wish you did it right the first time.
Wrenching with anything other than a purpose-designed product won’t give you the fit, versatility, convenience, or piece-of-mind that a great armorer’s wrench can bring to your work table.
Let’s break down the best armorer’s wrenches on the market, so you never have to make do with a sub-par wrench again. This article is part of our ongoing series on Gun Basics.
In This Article
Armorers Wrench Comparison
Best Combo Tool Set
Best Nut Wrench
AR Wrench Reviews
1. Best Overall: Real Avid
The Real Avid armorer’s wrench comes with one of the most ergonomic shapes we’ve seen – it’s shaped a lot like a heavy-duty hammer – with a slight angle and contoured edges to maximize the torque you apply to any action you like. Such an ergonomic design lets you remove stubborn parts or pieces (like carbon frozen bits in your build) much more quickly than otherwise.
Even beyond the intelligent design, it comes with a variety of deep-seated sockets to be used for gripping barrel or castle nuts or other attachments like compensators, muzzle brakes, and flash hiders, as well as interchangeable hammer heads in high-quality stainless steel, brass, nylon, and rubber.
This heavy-duty wrench includes a castle nut wrench, 1/2″ Torque Receiver, 5/8″ receiver extension wrench, 3/4″ muzzle device wrench for things like standard-sized flash hiders, and spanner wrench as well. If you like the wrench but need more, check out our take on the Real Avid AR-15 Armorer’s Master kit — we highlight its strengths as we use it to assemble a new rifle.
- Very versatile
- Super ergonomic handle
- Quality materials
- Hammer heads are interchangeable
- A little pricier than average
2. Runner Up: Magpul
This Magpul AR-15 tool is solid steel and has a lot to like, starting with an exceptional phosphate finish that makes it easier to grip even if you have a sweaty hand. It’s perfect for engaging with most AR-15 and M16 bolts, including stock and pin-style barrel nuts when swapping out the barrel or AR-15 upper.
It can install and remove rifle receiver extensions, includes a castle nut wrench, spanner, and much more.
The Magpul armorer’s wrench is built like a tank — you’ve even got two hammer faces and a bottle opener on the bottom. With this, you can crack open a cold one and reflect on what a great job you did after you’re finished.
It is a little pricier compared to several of the other options on this list — and doesn’t have as many integrated tools and can be hit-or-miss with barrel fit — but I think the incredible build quality makes it a solid choice for most.
- Made of excellent steel construction
- Fits practically all the nuts and bolts you need to build an AR 15
- Comes with a bottle opener
- Fits standard flash hiders, too
- A little pricey
- Not as many features as other options
3. Best Combo AR-15 Tool: Wheeler
Here’s a much more affordable armorer’s wrench and combination tool. The Wheeler Engineering AR-15 Combo ToolAR assembly guide
Even better, the set comes with a torque wrench included in the purchase – this is excellent value for money when you consider the budget-friendly asking price.
Overall, the kit will help you work on most of the parts included with a standard AR-15 firearm. Both pieces are made with rugged stamped steel, so you don’t have to worry about them breaking or flexing over time — critical with things like a torque wrench attachment point.
The wrench, too, has attached holders for a few of the most common bits to allow easy bit retrieval.
- Has a bit holder
- Comes with a torque wrench
- Very affordable overall
- Both pieces made with good steel
- The wrench isn’t as versatile as some of the others
- Maybe too many features – bit holders sometimes fall off
4. Best for Nut Removal: Brownells
This armorer’s wrench comes from Brownells, which is great because they’re known for parts, tools, and gunsmithing products.
It’s a perfect tool for using with encapsulated or peg style barrel nuts. It comes with a long handle and has a carbine buttstock wrench at the back. This wrench includes four teeth to help you engage all four notch types in typical M4-style receivers.
There are other versatile openings and uses, like a ½ inch square drive opening for torque wrench use, plus slots for A2 receiver extensions and a variety of flash suppressors. All in all, it’s quite a versatile tool, and it’s not too pricey, either.
- Reasonable asking price
- Made of good materials
- Has plenty of slots and teeth for multiple uses
- Nice long handle
- Handle isn’t particularly comfortable/ergonomic
5. Budget Option: StarLuo Multi Tool
This last armorer’s wrench is a solidly versatile choice and one of the less expensive on the market.
The StarLuo AR-15 Tool has many tools you’ll need to build and maintain an AR-15. The tool includes sections that act as a screwdriver, barrel nut wrench, receiver extension wrench, A2 extension tool, and much more.
The tool is made with cast iron, so it’s not as durable as more expensive options, but it’s treated with a special coating to protect the metal from use and wear and function perfectly fine for basic needs.
- Has tons of uses
- Is made of 410 steel
- Inexpensive when compared to other options
- Not super ergonomic
- Not mil-spec
- Cast iron isn’t as durable as forged steel options
What is an AR-15 tool and why do you need one?
An armorer’s wrench (or AR-15 tool) is a multitool commonly used by gunsmiths and hobbyist shooters that put together their AR-15 or M16 builds.
You need an armorer’s wrench of one variety or another if you want to build an AR-15 from a kit rather than purchase a complete firearm.
They’re designed for installing barrel nuts, flash suppressors other muzzle devices, installing and removing rifle receiver extensions, carbine castle nuts, and can often have a torque wrench attachment to ensure you can get factory torque specs on key bolts and components.
These wrenches also make servicing and caring for your firearm considerably more manageable, and don’t bother modifying or upgrading your gun without one, as they make every task — from installing barrels to aligning the trigger and hammer pins — much, much easier.
Suffice it to say that all AR-15 enthusiasts should pick up an armorer’s wrench eventually just for general upkeep and repair.
Things to look for in a Quality AR Wrench
No two armorer’s wrenches are identical, and a poor-quality armorer’s tool is more of a liability than an asset. Consider these main factors to make sure you pick up an armorer’s wrench that fully meets your needs.
Second, it’s worth considering if the extra bits that come with some of these armorer’s wrenches are worth it to you. For instance, the one from Real Avid has a hammer, and I often find ourselves needing to get a stubborn pin in or out on a rifle that may have recently seen a lot of jarring, or is exceptionally muddy.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need something a little more specific than a general armorer’s wrench — like the need for a spanner wrench or different wrench heads — then considering one of the options packs that tool into a single tool will save you money and space in your toolbox.
Any decent armorer’s wrench will be made of solid steel construction, and I generally prefer stainless since it’s less likely to rust over time and they also tend to be perfectly aligned, which is critical for getting tolerances just so.
With that said, as long as the coating on the steel is of good general quality, and you don’t leave it on the bench at the range to get rained on or grow a pair of legs, then a reliable armorer’s wrench is likely to last you a lifetime.
With this one, do be careful who you lend your new wrench to, and maybe consider a cheap one for a loaner.
It’s also a good idea to consider ergonomics. More comfortable wrenches – preferably designed with a phosphate or non-slip finish – will be easier to use over the long term and give you better leverage when trying to twist a nut or bolt from an odd angle.
At the end of a maintenance session, the last thing you want is a blister from the wrench itself.
Lastly, be sure to consider the price – don’t go too cheap when it comes to buying a new armorer’s wrench, even if you’re on a budget.
Otherwise, you may easily break a cheap wrench and have to buy another one afterward or damage your firearm when working on it.
Why an Armorer’s Wrench?
If you own an AR, you need an armorers wrench
First and foremost, if you own an AR, you really do need an armorer’s wrench.
This is true especially of folks who plan to build an AR or several, but they’re an excellent tool for everyone. For example, many of these tools have the means to help you get the barrel nut compressed to remove the front handguard, which is an absolute godsend.
If you don’t believe me, try to take off — and reinstall — your front handguard and then come back here once you’ve had a little bit of time t cool off from the sheer frustration.
Multiple Tools In One
From there, an Armorer’s wrench saves you from having to have a whole kit of tools to work on your AR.
I maintain that if you had a flat head, a Phillips head, a set of punches, and an Armorer’s wrench, you could do about everything on an AR except forge the receivers.
Not having to look for tools while working on a project not only saves time, it saves you the further frustration of remembering that your son borrowed your channel locks, leaving you with no better way to do what you need to do than your bare hands.
Types of Armorer’s Wrenches
- Basic Wrenches. On the most basic end, you’ll have an AR-15 armorer’s wrench that is designed to be simple and has what you need to torque down the barrel, castle nut, flash hider, and not a ton else. These are often offered at a reasonable price point, which is why so many people who do a lot of work on guns will go with a little simpler style of AR-15 armorer’s wrench rather than some of the more fully-featured, and expensive options. This is often the case even when they have some of the other tools they might need on hand in a shop.
- More Advanced Wrenches. Some wrenches come with more features right on the wrench, such as an end shaped like a rubber mallet in case you need to pound on something for some reason, or contoured edges to keep your subtle hands, well, subtle. These tend to be a bit more expensive, but you get more of an “all in one wrench” with more features and high-quality materials — and the more you have on a wrench, the less likely you are to need to seek out other tools to accomplish any particular project. With a premium in price does sometimes come a premium in features, and some of the more expensive options are more than worth your consideration.
- Kit Wrenches. Other wrenches that come as part of a larger gunsmithing tool kit might come with additional AR tuning tools, including a set of screwdriver bits and a trigger pull gauge. These kits can get pretty pricey, but I think that they have their place. Such a kit would be perfect for someone getting started AR building who wants to be absolutely sure that they’ll have what they need before they start. They’d also be ideal for people like us, who are nearly as into collecting tools as I am into collecting firearms and shooting them.
- Single-Purpose Tools. Finally, some tools are meant to be as simple as possible, with as few features as you might need to get the buffer tube and barrel off of an AR. These are both good beginner options for people on a budget, as well as folks who might be taking or teaching classes at ranges and thus would need to work on an AR in the field without returning home or to a shop. While these do skimp on features, a simple wrench can be a lifesaver if, for example, your castle nut starts walking out in the middle of a course.
Real Avid AR-15 Armorer’s Wrench. It’s simply the best choice overall, thanks to its exceptional ergonomics, quality metal material, and versatility. It’s not the most affordable wrench on this list, but it scores well enough for all the major aspects to provide a versatile and ideal tool for most users.
Whichever armorer’s wrench you choose, I think it’ll be a great addition to your collection and help you build or maintain AR-15 you’ve always wanted. Good luck!
- Real Avid, Armorers Wrench
- Magpul, Armorers Wrench
- Uncle Hoss, Assembling an AR
March 15, 2023 — Our armorer’s wrench recommendations remain unchanged after a thorough review of this guide. We’ve updated images and links.
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