Buffer & Buffer Tubes
The AR-15 buffer tube assembly could technically be considered the last part of the gas system, even though no direct gas ever reaches it. However, when you consider the process of tuning the AR to function as advertised, it is absolutely part of it.
Beginning with the weight of the bullet as well as how hot the round is loaded, it all flows from there. Next, the size of the gas port comes into play as well as the weight of the bolt carrier group. Finally, the weight of the buffer and strength of the buffer spring enclosed in the AR-15 buffer tube assembly ends the list of players.
All of the aforementioned factors have to balance in order to achieve a properly tuned rifle with the least amount of recoil. Consequently, if you plan to run different ammo for different purposes through the same gun, adjustments have to be made. There are only two places on the gun where these adjustments can be made easily. One is at the gas block, which is only possible if you have an adjustable gas block. The other is by changing the weight of the buffer, which is the focus of this piece.
AR-15 Buffer Tube Assembly, Both an End and a Beginning
Some refer to this seemingly, simple tube as a buffer tube, however, it can equally be called the receiver extension. Both terms describe exactly the same part, that happens to serve more than one purpose. It does extend the lower receiver, therefore, providing a mounting point for the buttstock. Although it does much more than that. The buffer tube also contains the buffer and buffer spring, without these two little goodies you would only have a hard kicking single-shot until something tore itself apart.
Initially, when the charging handle is pulled back the bolt carrier group pushes against the buffer. This, in turn, compresses the buffer spring. Once the charging handle is released, the compressed buffer spring provides the inertia required to send the carrier forward. The carrier strips a round from the top of the magazine and locks it into battery.
After the round is fired, gas from the shot enters the gas system through the gas port in the barrel. This gas travels through the gas tube and into the bolt carrier group. When the carrier gets slammed with the gas from the shot, it releases and begins its trip to the rear. As the round is being ejected the carrier is making contact with the buffer itself. The buffer spring begins to absorb the dynamic energy from the carrier as it compresses. All that energy is released and the carrier begins its trip forward. On its way, the carrier strips another round from the magazine and locks it into battery. Then it's simply wash, rinse and repeat.
So, the term receiver extension doesn't really describe everything properly. The AR-15 buffer and buffer tubes play a mission-critical role in the function of the weapon. Of course, they do give you something to smash somebody in the face with if you're doing something like dynamic entry.
Aftermarket AR-15 Buffer and Buffer Tube Parts
The AR-15 has been around for over six decades, and much of what you encounter today bears little resemblance to the original. The AR-15 platform is easily the fan favorite as far as modifications go, and therein lies the rub. There is no regulation for the aftermarketing or manufacturing of AR-15 parts or the entire gun for that matter, save for the full auto versions. Parts for the AR-15 have been made by countless different companies, all with pretty much no regulation. Depending on when and where your gun was made, there can be small differences even though it looks the same as all the others. The buffer system is one place where we can adapt to those differences.
Therefore, aftermarket AR-15 buffer and buffer tubes can come from just about anywhere in the world. While this may be good for competition, it creates a buyer beware market. Now, I love the old internet, and it has a wealth of information that quite often should be taken with a grain of salt.
Unfortunately, it also provides a huge market for some dubious sellers to unload some very poor quality AR-15 buffer tube assembly parts. Of course, the list of cheap junk out there is a mile long, but in this venue, we're only concerned with AR-15 buffer tube assembly parts.
If you happen to fall prey to some unscrupulous party who is aftermarketing buffer and buffer tube parts there is usually little recourse. The first step to ensure you get a quality buffer and buffer tube parts is to buy from an American company. That way when something goes wrong, you can contact the company and talk to somebody you can understand and get the problem resolved.
I say when something goes wrong, I do so because if you do enough business it will eventually happen. Sometimes it's nobody's fault, the package gets lost in transit, or old Mr.Murphy steps in and somewhere along the way wires get crossed. That's when it's great to know that you are not only getting quality products, and the company you're dealing with will make things right. In short, there is nothing wrong with aftermarket AR-15 buffer and buffer tubes, as long as you're dealing with a reputable source.
What Is Inside The AR-15 Buffer Tube Assembly?
- Buffer Tube - The term for the metal extension of the rear lower receiver that houses the buffer spring and buffer, as well as, provides a place to mount the Buttstock. It is normally made from aluminum, which can be anodized and colored to fit the motif of the weapon. Though normally round there are fluted versions which add strength. There are two different sizes which are important to know. The first is the Mil-Spec standard and the second is Commercial, the main identifiable difference is their outer diameter. The Mil-Spec version has an outer diameter of ~1.148" with its threads rolled into the surface. The Commercial version has an outer diameter of ~1.168" and the threads are cut into it on a lathe. This differentiation comes into the picture when one is attaching a buttstock. In this case guys, I'm afraid size does matter. You must have the right one. Although there is no verifiable difference in strength, the market seems to favor the Mil-Spec version. It has more stock options available.
- Buffer -The industry mainstay for buffer body construction is machined aluminum, however, some are made out of steel and even plastic. The carbine buffer is recognizable by its shape, it looks like a big, fat nail with a plastic point. The standard carbine buffer weight is 3 ounces, then H (~3.8 ounces), H2 (~4.6 ounces), H3 (~5.4 ounces). The weight is slightly different from manufacturer to manufacturer. There is a recoil spring type of buffer that doesn't ride the inner wall of the buffer tube. The rifle buffer is longer and has a ring around its body just below the top giving the appearance of a double-headed nail. Its standard weight is 5 ounces. Buffers commonly contain weights made of either steel, tungsten or a combination of both. Some buffers are filled with steel shot or tungsten powder. The buffer is what absorbs the force from the carrier after firing a shot. It behaves just like a dead-blow hammer against the carrier to keep it closed.
- Buffer Spring -The buffer spring resides inside the buffer tube and absorbs the energy the buffer receives from the carrier. It provides the inertia to send the carrier forward either after the shot is fired or when the charging handle is utilized. It is normally made out of either regular steel or stainless steel. Some manufacturers use piano wire or wire that is flat wound which is said to reduce noise in the guns cycle. This feature would be important when one is firing suppressed, it could be considered a factor in noise mitigation. The buffer spring for a rifle and a carbine are both the same diameter and only vary in length. They are not interchangeable. A standard carbine spring is 10.5" long and has from 37 to 39 coils. The standard rifle spring is 12.75" long and has either 41 to 43 coils. Over time, with every shot, the buffer spring will weaken and should be periodically removed and measured. If the buffer spring is found to be short, it is to be replaced. If you buy a used gun it is a wise practice to actually count the coils.
- Receiver Endplate - The receiver endplate keeps the buffer retainer pin and spring in place. Some are available with an attachment point for a quick detach sling swivel. Normal material for construction is titanium, steel or aluminum, which can be anodized to add a touch of color. You will see some shooters take advantage of this flat surface to add engraving or a laser-cut design.
- Castle Nut - The castle nut locks in the buffer tube to the receiver and should be torqued to spec and staked in place. Most often available in either steel or anodized aluminum.
Benefits of Upgrading Your Buffer System
When you're considering an upgrade to your AR-15 buffer and buffer tube parts do your due diligence and research the company you plan to do business with. AR-15 carbine buffer and buffer tube parts are available from a number of quality American companies, trust who you do business with.
A good reason to upgrade your AR-15 carbine buffer and buffer tube parts would be if the ones in your gun now are of inferior quality. It's better to take a minute and change those out, it'll save time and money in the long-run. AR-15 buffer and buffer tubes could be just worn out or broken. If you want to tune your gun to a specific load, all it takes is time and the correct match-up between your gas system and the buffer you run.
If your AR-15 happens to be wearing a Commercial buffer tube right now and you want to upgrade to Mil-Spec. That's great because you will have a much wider selection of Buttstocks to choose from. The next time you have a minute pull out the buffer and spring. Now, feel the inside of that buffer tube with your finger. Can you feel any ridges or slight imperfections? If so, now is a good time to get another buffer tube on its way to you before something fails.
Quality Brands You Can Trust and Components They Provide
- 2A Armament - Based in Boise, Idaho: Buffer Tubes
- Aero Precision - Based in Tacoma, Washington: Buffers, Buffer Springs, and Buffer Tubes
- Armaspec - Based in Burlingame, California: Stealth Recoil Spring Buffer Assemblies
- JP Enterprise - Based in Hugo, Minnesota: Buffer Springs, and Silent Capture Spring Buffer Systems
- Kaw Valley Precision - Based in Silver Lake, Kansas: Buffers, and Buffer Springs
- Phase 5 Tactical - Based in Roseville, California: Pistol Buffer Tube Assemblies
- PWS - Based in Boise, Idaho: Buffers, and Buffer Tubes
- Spikes Tactical - Based in Apopka, Florida: Buffers, Buffer Tubes, Buffer Springs, and Complete Assemblies
- Strike Industries - Based in Santa Ana, California: Buffer Tubes and Flat Wire Buffer Spring
Run Better, Run Stronger and Finish First
There are many good reasons to take a good look at your buffer system. However, there is not one single reason to ignore it. Assume for a moment that you have the perfect set-up, you rifle runs great and you never plan to change a single thing. Guess what, your AR-15 rifle buffer and buffer tube parts are still going to wear out. That is unless that lonely rifle just sits in a case somewhere unused and that would be a shame.
Hopefully, everybody takes at least a cursory glance at their rifles parts when they clean it. Unfortunately, it takes more than a cursory glance to see the AR-15 rifle buffer and buffer tube parts. I can't stress it enough, these parts wear with use, and eventually, your buffer and buffer tube parts are going to need to be replaced.
I know you have heard the old saying "there's more than one way to skin a cat". Well, the same can be said about tuning your gun, and the buffer and buffer tube parts are one way to do just that. Think of your guns buffer system as another tool you have to build a better AR.
When it comes time to reach for that tool I would like for you to take a minute and think. Think about where your hard-earned dollars are going to end up, and if need be can you ever get them back? I can tell you that if you order off from someplace overseas unknown the chances are slim.
The wise move is to stay with a known, well-reputed American company that has a history of not only quality but strong customer service. A company that will stand behind its products with more than a word, but with action. That would be a company like Wing Tactical.
Wing Tactical is a veteran owned company dedicated to bringing only the best manufacturers to the shooting community. Rest assured that when you contact our customer service department you will connect to a knowledgeable representative who is not simply reading to you from a catalog. Our job is to make sure that you get the right part that you need every time. Additionally, if in the rare instance you have changed your mind with your purchase we have a no-hassle 30-day return policy. So, order up, load up, shoot it up and have a blast.