Best-Rated AR-15 Upper Receivers

Updated January 14, 2022

The AR-15 has become one of the most popular firearms among American gun owners due to its accuracy, versatility and lightweight frame. Its modularity is another attractive feature of this modern sporting rifle. While there are many excellent pre-built AR-15s on the market, some gun owners choose to build their own by assembling parts and accessories to create a unique custom build. One of the fundamental elements needed for an AR-15 custom build is the upper receiver.

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AR-15 Upper Receivers

The receiver is the part of an AR-15 onto which you build all the other components. It consists of two parts: the upper and lower receivers. The lower portion is the serialized and legally controlled part. The upper receiver affixes to the lower and holds all of the other parts. You can purchase an upper receiver with all the parts already in place, including the barrel, gas block, charging handle and other components. You can also buy a stripped upper receiver, into which you can install whichever parts you choose.

There are various types of AR-15 upper receiver Assemblies:

  1. AR-15 A1 Upper Assembly: Developed in the 1960s, the A1 is the earliest type of upper receiver. It enables accurate firing at up to around 450 yards and provides a 1:12 twist rate. Its flip rear sight is adjustable for windage, and the rear sight has both short- and long-range apertures. It has a light-profile barrel, a fixed-carry handle and forward assist.
  2. AR-15 A2 Upper Assembly: The A2 came out in the 1980s and features a rear sight that is adjustable for elevation as well as windage. The barrel is heavier than the barrel on the A1. It has rounded handguards and a 1:7 or 1:9 twist rate. Like the A1, it has a fixed-carry handle and forward assist.
  3. AR-15 A3 Upper Assembly: The A3 differs from the earlier models in that it has a flat-top configuration and a detachable carrying handle. Some A3 upper receivers also come in a "high-rise" configuration, which provides a higher scope position. This receiver includes either a Picatinny or Weaver rail as a mounting platform for accessories and also features forward assist and rifle cuts in the feed ramp.
  4. AR-15 A4 Upper Assembly: The A4 is similar to the A3 in that it has a flat-top upper receiver and a comparable overall design. Unlike the A3, the A4 has M4-style feed ramps to complement the feed ramps on an M4 barrel.

Today when people talk about these various styles, they often use A2 to refer to an upper receiver that has a fixed carrying handle and an A4 to mean a receiver that has a flat top picatinny rail. Although there are technically other differences, these are the most commonly referred to. The prominent upper receiver type on today's market is the A4, which includes a variety of customization options.

Best AR-15 Upper Receivers

  • Top AR-15 Upper Receivers

    Price

  • 2A Armament Balios Lite Gen 2 Upper Receiver

    $241.30

  • Aero Mil-Spec Upper Receiver

    $76.49

  • Aero M4E1 Upper Receiver

    $97.74

  • CMT UPUR-4 Upper Receiver

    $124.00

  • Fortis Billet Upper Receiver

    $199.45

  • V Seven 2055 Enlightened AR-15 Upper Receiver

    $392.85

  • Odin Works Billet Upper Receiver

    $151.05

  • Seekins Billet Upper Receiver

    $227.05

  • Spikes Mil-Spec Upper Receiver

    $103.05

  • Spikes Tactical Billet Upper Receiver

    $243.00

2022 Product Review: Best AR-15 Upper Receivers

So, if you're looking for a high-quality stripped AR-15 upper receiver that you can customize, which models should you consider? Below are 10 of the top-rated upper receivers, any of which would be a solid choice.

2A Armament Balios Lite Gen 2 Upper Receiver
  • Price:

    $241.30

The Balios Lite Gen 2 Upper Receiver gives you options to build your perfect rifle. It's compatible with many lower receivers, including 2A's Balios, Balios Lite, Balios Lite Gen 2 and Aethon. It also features a Picatinny rail section to accept your optic or sight mounts.

This upper receiver is machined from a high-quality, American-made 7075-T6 plate aluminum billet. After it's machined, the receiver is bead blasted and finished with a Mil-Spec Type II Class 2 hard anodized coating to withstand rough handling and resist corrosion. It also has a tapered transition beneath the charging handle to prevent damage to the finish due to wear patterns.

The Balios Lite Gen 2 was designed with weight reduction and improved functionality in mind. The sleek pocketed design and eliminated forward assist significantly reduce its weight, making it a lightweight option weighing only 5.9 ounces. 

Aero Precision Mil-Spec AR-15 Upper Receiver
  • Price:

    from $76.49

The Aero Precision Mil-Spec is one of the toughest upper receivers money can buy. At 6.9 oz., it's built to M16/M4 specifications and features M4 feed ramps and 0.250 takedown pin holes.

The Aero Precision is durable at its core. It's precision-machined with high-quality American 7075-T6 aluminum and then finished with type III hard anodized coating. It's built to Mil-Spec standards and has a Picatinny rail that readily accepts optics mount or sights. It's compatible with Mil-Spec components, and you can purchase this receiver with a forward assist and port door or without.

Aero Precision M4E1 Threaded AR15 Upper Receiver
  • Price:

    from $97.74

If you want a little extra with your upper receiver without sacrificing reliability, consider the Aero Precision M4E1 Enhanced Upper. Like the Aero-Precision Mil-Spec, it's made of sturdy 7075-T6 Aluminum with a Mil-Spec type III class 2 hardcoat anodized but weighs a little more at 8.65 oz. It features:

  1. M4 feed ramps
  2. Laser-engraved T-marks
  3. A Picatinny Top Rail
  4. Threads that will accept a standard AR-15 barrel nut

You have the option of including a forward assist and port door.

This receiver will work with almost any lower. The M4E1 is tough, but it's also nice to look at. The receiver's enhanced forging process gives it the style of a billet receiver, and it comes in black or flat dark earth.

CMT Tactical UPUR-4 Slick Side Upper Receiver with Dust Cover Port
  • Price:

    $124.00

If you, on the other hand, consider yourself something of a minimalist, this CMT Tactical UPUR-4 Slick Side Upper might catch your eye. It doesn't have a forward assist or shell deflector, which helps creates its slick, minimalist look. Sleekness is far from its only positive attribute, though. It's also incredibly sturdy and precise.

Cross Machine Tool Tactical uses 7075 T6 billet aluminum, which is more rigid and 65 percent stronger than the standard 6061 aluminum alloy. CMT also uses live-tool five-axis machining, which allows for extremely accurate production. It has thick walls, which add rigidity, and uses type III class 2 hardcoat anodized finish.

This 7.58-oz. upper features M4-style feed ramps and a machined dust cover port, although it doesn't include a port door. It's compatible with Mil-Spec AR-15 parts, most aftermarket handguards and most battery assist devices.

Fortis Billet Upper Receiver
  • Price:

    $199.45

If you're looking for a billet receiver, this is one of your best options. Unlike a forged receiver, a billet upper is machined from one solid piece of metal, giving it a more aggressive appearance.

For a billet upper, this upper is relatively lightweight at 8.6 oz. Fortis shaved off as much material as possible without sacrificing strength to reduce weight and create the sleek look that Fortis is known for. It's made in the USA with a single piece of 7075-T6 Billet Aluminum with Mil-Spec type III hardcoat anodized finish for added durability. This receiver also features a flat-top 1913 Picatinny rail, a forward assist and a dust cover.

V Seven 2055 Enlightened AR-15 Upper Receiver
  • Price:

    $392.85

The V Seven 2055 Enlightened AR-15 Upper Receiver is lighter and stronger than the competition. It's machined from a lithium/aluminum billet, which offers better durability, rigidity and corrosion resistance than the 7075 aluminum used for the average AR-15 upper. The 2055 is also finished with a Type III hardcoat anodized coating for even greater protection against corrosion and rust.

The V Seven 2055 has a simple elegance you'll appreciate from the first moment you hold your rifle. V Seven eliminated the forward assist and machined away all non-critical areas for this 2055 receiver, making it a lighter, more efficient option.

This upper receiver is compatible with most aftermarket handguard systems. For compatibility with a Geissele MK8 rail, the rail should be fitted to the upper.

V Seven recommends installing all screws, pins, springs and other components with high-quality grease or lubricating oil.

Odin Works AR-15 Billet Upper Receiver
  • Price:

    from $151.05

If you want a sleek, high-quality upper receiver, consider this one from Odin Works. It has no forward assist, a low-profile brass deflector, cleanly machined lines and a sleek overall design. At 8.6 oz., it's made with the durable but lightweight 7075 Billet Aluminum with a type III class 2 hardcoat anodized finish. It includes a dust cover and comes in black or flat dark earth. Not only is this upper beautiful, but it also combines perfectly with many of the best lowers on the market. 

Seekins Precision AR-15 Billet Upper Receiver
  • Price:

    $227.05

This Seekins Precision upper is high-quality, reliable and durable. While it has a fairly no-frills design, it features a full-length top Mil-Spec 1913 Picatinny Rail, so there's plenty of room to add any accessories you fancy. It's also made equal to or above Mil-Spec standards and will work well with most any part you might want to combine it with. At 11 oz. of 7075-T6 Billet Aluminum with a type III class 2 hardcoat anodized finish, this receiver provides the toughness and durability Seekins is known for.

Spike's Tactical Forged Mil-Spec AR-15 Upper Receiver
  • Price:

    $103.50

This receiver's features and quality construction make the Forged Mil-Spec AR-15 Upper Receiver a go-to for high-performance AR-15 builds. Spike's Tactical machines it from a solid forging of 7075-T6 aluminum before applying a type III hardcoat-anodized finish, resulting in a sturdy component that you can count on, even with heavy use. It has M4 feed ramps, and an ejection port door cover and forward assist come pre-installed. It also includes a Picatinny rail for easy mounting of optics and other accessories.

Spikes Tactical Billet Upper Receiver
  • Price:

    $243.00

The Spike's Tactical Billet Upper Receiver is one of the most coveted upper receivers on the market thanks to its many unique features for improved ergonomics and performance. It's cut from a solid billet of 7075 aluminum, one of the strongest types available.

Spike's Tactical also cuts the M4 feed ramps before anodizing to improve reliability. The Type III hardcoat anodizing minimizes wear and protects surfaces from corrosion.

Spike's Tactical enlarged the bolt-catch cutout on this receiver to give you plenty of options. As a result, this upper works with the popular Magpul BAD lever and many other aftermarket bolt release levers. Raised side walls on the exterior are included to prevent unintentional bolt releases.

This billet upper receiver will accept any standard Mil-Spec barrel nut, eliminating the need for any special hardware. It's also compatible with most aftermarket handguards. Another thoughtful touch added to this receiver is how the forward assist is secured. Rather than a standard roll pin, Spike's Tactical uses a set screw for a straightforward yet superior design enhancement.

If you like a little flair to your guns, you'll appreciate the Spike's Tactical logo engraving on this upper. Other shooters will immediately recognize this logo as a sign of your AR's quality.

Parts to Start Your AR-15 Build

So, once you have your upper receiver of choice, what's the next step? First, check your local and state laws so you can be sure you're following them as you work on your custom build. Then, you can start selecting the parts you'll use to create the AR-15 of your dreams. Here are some of the parts you should look for.

Rails and Handguards

Rails and handguards, which fit over the barrel, protect your hands from the heat created when firing. They also enable you to attach accessories such as optics, sights and grips.

Barrel

The barrel you choose will play a crucial role in the accuracy of your AR-15. You can choose among various lengths, shapes and designs for your barrel. Keep in mind that anything shorter than 16 inches qualifies your build as a short-barreled rifle, which makes it subject to the National Firearms Act and the additional regulation that comes along with that. Make sure you complete the necessary paperwork if you choose a shorter barrel so that you stay on the right side of the law.

Gas System

The type of barrel you choose will determine the length of your gas system, which will be either rifle, mid-length, carbine or pistol. A gas system consists of two parts — the gas block and the gas tube:

  • The gas block fits over the barrel and may go under the handguard.
  • The tube then goes into the gas block.

If you use an A2-style frontsight, this will double as your gas block. The gas block and tube push the Bolt Carrier Group into the buffer, enabling the ejection of spent casings and chambering of a new round.

Bolt Carrier Group

The bolt carrier group, or BCG, holds the firing pin, bolt, extractor and ejector and controls the feeding, firing and ejection of your ammunition.

Charging Handle

The charging handle enables you to load a round into the chamber or clear a malfunction. It doesn't move when the rifle fires. Instead, you use it when you need to move the BCG to load a round or clear a malfunction.

Forward Assist

You use a forward assist to ensure that the bolt is fully closed in case the return spring doesn't do so. This is one of the parts that's most often viewed as optional.

Ejection Port Cover

Another optional but useful component, the ejection port cover protects your upper receiver and BCG from debris such as dirt and dust. The port cover opens automatically when the BCG moves back but must be manually closed.

Muzzle Brake, Compensator, and Flash Hider

The muzzle brake, compensator and flash hider components attach to the end of the barrel and help to reduce muzzle rise, muzzle flash and recoil.

Shop Wing Tactical's AR-15 Upper Receivers

When building a custom AR-15, you need to work with a company you can trust that sells the top-rated AR-15 upper receivers. Wing Tactical provides only the highest-quality parts, including the best-rated AR-15 upper receivers, and we pride ourselves on our excellent customer service. We offer next-day shipping, hassle-free 30-day returns and discounts for law enforcement, the military and first responders.

Shop our upper receivers today. If you have questions or need help placing your order, contact us or view our FAQs page.