November 2008

AR-15 Replacement Pistol Grips: We Like Magpul, Tapco

We examined a quartet of products from Command Arms, Ergo Grip, Magpul, and Tapco. We liked the versatility of the Magpul and tactical ergonomics of the Tapco SAW-style grip.

This month, Gun Tests continues its ongoing series of AR-15 accessories, looking at one of the first items gun owners look to replace after purchase: the OEM version pistol grip. The handle supplied as standard equipment by most gun manufacturers is an undersized, hollow piece of hard plastic that affords little in handling, comfort, or utility. We looked at four contenders who offered their versions to improve on this design. All of them succeeded in besting that lower standard, but we set our sights much higher in identifying the best of the bunch.

The AR-15 is an extremely versatile shooting platform, varying from short-barreled close quarter defense models, to long-barreled target and varmint rifles. These configurations radically change the weight, balance, and ergonomics required for each application. This is becoming even more complex as new technology is employed in its use.

We now have red dot, holographic, laser, illuminated reticle, and night vision sights. Lights with Xenon and LED technology, some now featuring strobe capabilities, are all being mounted on the AR, and that’s just in the civilian market. All of this new gadgetry has couple of things in common: A need for spare parts and power. So now we not only need proper ergonomics to balance and handle our guns, but to also to act as storage areas for all our batteries and other spares. Oh, and it should look really cool too.

With these parameters in mind we began to evaluate our four contenders for grip supremacy. We took two pistol grips that were of the one-piece variety from Ergo Grip and Tapco, and compared them to modular designs from Command Arms and Magpul. We found some strengths and weaknesses in all them, and the way in which you utilize your weapon could directly affect your buying decision.

Our test products included the Command Arms UPG16, $40, a modular unit that came with three front and three rear grip panels. Next was the Ergo Grip AR15/M16 Grip Kit Suregrip 4005SBK, $24, which comes with an overmolded rubber hide. Next up was the Magpul MIAD Basic Grip, $36, or Full Grip, $46, with Accessory Grip Cores, $15. The MIAD is an acronym for "Mission Adaptable" and features accessories for specific uses. Last was the Tapco SAW-Style Grip No. STK09201, $20, part of Tapco’s Fusion Series of AR15 furniture.

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