Direct Gas Impingement vs. Gas Piston Operating Systems

Posted by Wing Tactical on 17th Aug 2015

The AR 15 is an extremely customizable rifle. Round up twenty AR 15 owners from across the country, and chances are they’ll have 20 different variations of the rifle between them.

Whether you use your rifle for hunting, competition or protection, when beginning your search for a new AR 15 rifle, you’re going to have to choose what kind of operating system your weapon should be powered with: direct gas impingement or piston. Both variations of AR-15 gas system have their pros and cons, but the good news is that with the flexibility the AR 15 provides its users, you’re able to make use of both direct gas impingement systems and gas piston systems on the same lower receiver by swapping upper receivers out.

Curious about the differences between direct impingement vs. gas piston? Let’s take a look at the features each version offers:

Direct impingement gas system diagram


  • Direct impingement. The original M16 design (AR 15's bigger brother) initially contained a 20-inch barrel with a direct impingement gas system. However, as the years went by, shooters demanded for a more compact version of this rifle. The result? An AR 15 with a 16-inch barrel. Consequently, though, shaving a pound off weight causes the fired bullet to retract unburned gunpowder back into the rifle. Therefore direct impingement gas system results in a dirtier rifle. Still, direct impingement rifles are generally more accurate than their piston counterparts.
  • Gas piston. While heavier than direct impingement models, gas piston AR 15 rifles run considerably cooler and considerably cleaner due to an absence of gas rerouted back into the rifle. While that is certainly nice, it’s important to keep in mind that piston systems generally result in a noticeably heavier recoil and less accurate of a weapon. Because gas piston systems are less common than direct impingement ones, they’re usually more expensive and it is harder to find replacement parts for them.

At the end of the day, the answer to the question as to whether direct impingement or gas piston systems make more sense for your situation will boil down to your own personal preferences.

Wing Tactical: We’ve Got You Covered

Since the preference of the direct impingement vs. gas piston question will differ from person to person, there’s really no right or wrong choice. Either way, you’ll have no trouble finding the rifle with the operating systems you desire when you shop at Wing Tactical.

At Wing Tactical, we strive to supply our customers with the best gunning systems on the market at prices that are just hard to beat. You won’t find anything on our site that we wouldn’t use ourselves. You can shop with the confidence that comes with knowing you’re getting the best products on the market.

Worried about whether you’ll like the operating system you end up with? Not a problem. At Wing Tactical, we offer full refunds on all orders made within 30 days. If for some reason you don’t like your new system, don’t worry about it. We’ll refund your order — no questions asked. Place your order today!

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