Guide for Building a Long-Range AR-15

person aiming long-range rifle on bipod

Whether you're new to the world of long-range shooting or looking to expand your horizons, there's a lot to consider when thinking about AR-15 builds. A quick look at websites dedicated to long-range shooting reveals many terms and equipment that a casual shooter or novice may not be familiar with. But don't let that deter you from diving into this exciting sport.

Wing Tactical quote about long-range AR-15s

Building a custom AR-15 or upgrading an existing one is a surefire way to get the right equipment into your hands and succeed at long-range shooting, both for hobby and for sport. But before you start ordering random parts, it's important to understand what goes into building an AR-15 and how to choose the parts that best suit your needs.


camo-colored long-range AR-15 with a scope

Long-range precision shooting is a subjective term, mainly because the distance a shooter defines as "long-range" depends on their abilities and years of experience. For newer sports shooters, their long range may average around 200 yards. Someone more experienced with long-range AR-15 shooting, such as a competition shooter or military veteran looking to maintain their skills, will likely be looking for a firearm that will allow them to hit a target 800 or more yards away. Others will fall somewhere in between these two. This is why building an AR-15 to your needs can help.

A standard AR-15 is designed for longer-range targets, but a standard model typically doesn't come with all the match-grade AR-15 parts someone will need to use this gun for long-distance competition shooting or hunting. AR-15 builds for long-distance shooting need to consider several features and components that will impact the speed of your ammunition as it leaves the barrel and your ability to sight and go after a target at varying distances.


You should consider several components to ensure accuracy when shooting at long distances. This is where some people get confused because they are looking for a one-size-fits-all recommendation. But when it comes to building a long-range AR-15, there's no one right design. Plus, there are many different long-distance AR-15 shooting parts.

As you build your firearm, consider your specific needs, such as where you'll use it, how long you've been shooting, and what you plan to accomplish. In other words, are you a novice looking to start with target practice? Are you an experienced shooter looking to hit targets as far as 800 yards away? Or do you fall somewhere in between the two?

Use your abilities, needs, and budget to inform your decisions about various features when building an AR-15 including:


Several types of rounds will provide optimum long-range performance in your AR-15 builds.

  • 300 Blackout: A tried-and-true caliber for the AR-15 platform, 300 Blackout is known to provide additional penetration and power at an intermediate range and reduce recoil. Although more expensive than a 5.56, 300 Blackout gives you plenty of bang for your buck with a bullet weight ranging from 110 grain (gr) to 220 gr and long-range capabilities up to 300 yards. 300 Blackout is a great choice for short-barreled rifles, and it's a highly efficient option for building an AR-15 for hunting larger game, such as deer, boar, or small bears.
  • 5.56: If you're looking for a higher velocity at a cheaper price, then 5.56 is the way to go. After all, if you're primarily using them for target practice, then the extra cost isn't worth it. But it's not all about the cost of this one. 5.56 has less recoil, shoots flatter, and weighs less than 300 Blackout. It's also easier to find in stock, which is something to consider when building an AR-15. Furthermore, 5.56 rounds are designed to break apart on impact, making them a better choice for home defense rather than long-range AR-15s.
  • .223: Although similar to 5.56 in many aspects, .223 has some differences that can impact your aim, especially in target shooting. .223 has a slightly lower pressure level, as well as a shorter throat. The shorter throat can provide increased accuracy, but velocity and pressure are decreased as a result. Many people make the mistake of viewing .223 and 5.56 as interchangeable. While it's true that you can use .223 in a chamber designed for 5.56, you should never use 5.56 in a chamber designed for .223. Although it's not likely that the firearm will explode, the excess pressure may damage it as soon as you go to test-fire, which is an important part of the process of building your AR-15.
  • 6.5 Grendel: Originally designed to extend the firing capabilities of the AR-15, 6.5 Grendel is more effective than 5.56 when it comes to long-range shooting because of its outstanding penetration and greater firepower. Although it costs more than the 5.56 and the bullet weight is greater, this workhorse is designed for maximum impact, especially if you're using it for hunting large game. However, 6.5 Grendel is often associated with barrel erosion, and you may have difficulty finding magazines for it. The cost of bolts and barrels for this caliber can also be quite steep.


Wing Tactical quote about barrel choices

The barrel is arguably one of the most important parts of building an AR-15. It's essential to determine how the bullets will leave the gun and travel to meet their target. When selecting a barrel for your AR-15, pay close attention to both the length and profile of the barrel you choose for your long-range AR-15.

  • Length: The barrel length will determine the accuracy of your round, as well as muzzle velocity, so it's important to select a barrel that will get the results you're looking for. Shorter barrels are better for home defense or close-quarters shooting. Longer barrels provide increased accuracy and optimum acceleration for ammunition. AR-15 barrels range from 7 inches to 24 inches long, although 16 inches is the most popular option. The 16-inch barrel meets most requirements for long-range shooting, and barrels this length and longer aren't required to carry a Tax III stamp from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
  • Profile: When building an AR-15, it’s crucial to understand that a barrel's profile or weight breaks down into three categories: lightweight, government, and heavy. The heavier the barrel, the more resistant it is to the heat generated when you fire, so heavier barrels last longer than lighter ones. You may want a heavier barrel if you plan to use your AR-15 frequently, such as for competition or target shooting. If you're going to carry your firearm through the woods on hunting expeditions, a lightweight barrel may make it easier to move around. One popular option is the M4 government version, which offers durability without being too heavy, providing many AR-15 owners with a happy middle ground.


Another frequent question that comes up when someone is building an AR-15 is, "What kind of trigger should I choose?" In the past, there wasn't much variety when it came to choosing a trigger for your AR-15. You got whatever the manufacturer put together and hoped you could hit a target with it. But today's gun manufacturers offer options for shooters of all levels.

  • Single-stage trigger: The single-stage trigger is exactly what its name sounds like — a little bit of pressure on the trigger, and the gun fires. This trigger is designed for precision shooting because there's no mystery as to when your firearm will fire, and it doesn't take a lot of thought. However, this isn't the best option if your AR-15 build is for home defense since a quick trigger may get you in trouble in a high-stress encounter. Single-stage triggers also aren't conducive to close-quarters shooting, so keep this in mind when building your AR-15.
  • Double-stage trigger: A double-stage trigger requires an extra pull before the gun can fire. Often called the "slack," the first pull in a double-stage trigger is the heavier portion of the process, ending once the second stage begins. In this "first stage," it's possible to release the trigger back to its original position without firing. Although two-stage triggers were once thought of as a liability in precision shooting, they actually perform well in competition settings — they're incredibly accurate when used on long-range AR-15s — and have a variety of applications for law enforcement, military, sport, and competition shooting.


When building an AR-15, before you buy an optic for your AR, it's important to know how you intend to use your firearm. One of the biggest mistakes gun owners make is buying optics with either too much or too little power for their needs.

  • Close range (Yes, this is an article about long-range shooting, but the AR-15 offers a lot of flexibility for different levels of ability and various uses. If you're using your AR-15 for small game hunting or target shooting, then a close-range scope with a 1-4x power scope is a good choice.
  • Medium range (150-400 yards): 1-6x power scope or 2-7x power scope: Whether you're using your AR-15 build for hunting in the woods or protecting your property from pesky foxes, coyotes or other vermin, a medium-range scope gives you the additional magnification you need. You'll have a little more flexibility than you would with a close-range scope, but it won't be more powerful than what you need for the task at hand.
  • Long range (400+ yards): 3-9x power scope or 4-12x power scope: You likely won't be building an AR-15 to hunt something over 400 yards away, but if you're using your firearm for long-range competition shooting, then a scope at this level is a good choice.


Although you can certainly buy a standard AR-15 and enjoy the benefits it brings, many dedicated shooters prefer to customize their firearms to meet their own needs and specifications.


Wing Tactical quote about bullet rotation

In addition to selecting the length and profile that meet your needs, you can upgrade to a barrel with a higher twist rate. A barrel's twist rate refers to the number of rotations a bullet completes per inch of the barrel. For example, a barrel with a 1:7 twist ratio will be more accurate than a barrel with a 1:9 twist ratio, which is most common.

Another option to consider when building an AR-15 is upgrading from a barrel with a chrome lining to one with a stainless steel lining. Chrome-lined barrels are typically standard because they stay clean and last a long time. However, chrome barrels can also reduce accuracy at long distances. Stainless steel barrels can improve long-distance accuracy and, except in extreme conditions, also provide the same benefits as chrome.


There are many aftermarket trigger options for the AR-15, all designed to offer a smoother, lighter trigger pull every time. If your AR-15 build is designed to be used in competition, you'll want a trigger with a lighter pull weight so it discharges quickly and simply. For hunting or home defense, you might do better with a trigger that has a heavier pull weight to prevent unexpected or rapid discharge.

There's also some debate about whether a single- or double-stage trigger is better in long-range and competition shooting. There's no right or wrong answer here, but changing it up and trying a different trigger stage may take your long-range AR-15 to the next level.


Wing Tactical quote about muzzle devices

Muzzle devices are among the easier upgrades to make when building an AR-15, but they provide some of the greatest benefits whether you're in the forest or on the range. Muzzle compensators and muzzle brakes are designed to reduce recoil and muzzle climb, increasing accuracy and improving your firearm's ability to complete rapid follow-up shots.


The right grip goes a long way toward improving your comfort with your AR-15. A good grip reduces tension in your hands and helps you relax as you line up your shot. The ultimate goal is for the firearm to fit comfortably enough into your hand that you don't think about it once it's in place.

The right grip can also reduce recoil and improve your accuracy, but choosing the right grip when building an AR-15 is a very subjective process. Some AR-15 owners prefer a more rigid grip, while others prefer a smoother grip. It's also important to select a grip that fits your fingers and hands. After all, if you're focused on how your AR-15 build feels in your hands instead of lining up your shot, then your accuracy will probably suffer.


Whether you're new to the world of custom firearms or you're looking for the next step up, Wing Tactical is the place to find the best accessories at the lowest prices. As a veteran-founded business, we're proud to serve military personnel, law enforcement officers, hunters, competitive shooters, and gun enthusiasts around the country. In addition to our wide inventory of gun parts, we also sell survival gear, range gear, and gun tools.

Ready to start building an AR-15? We've got the precision AR-15 parts you need. Get started with Wing Tactical today!