So you’re ready to build your own AR-15 upper but aren’t sure of the upper receiver?
We’ve got you covered with our personal go-to mil-spec receiver and a few unique options that will turn heads.
If you haven’t read our AR-15 Guide, which goes over all the components of an AR, I’d suggest starting there first.
Now let’s dive into what you need to know and our top picks for the best AR-15 stripped uppers!
Summary of Our Top Picks
Table of Contents
Upper Receiver Forge Marks
You might have heard about forge marks, which are above the forward assist. These marks designate which metal forging company created the upper blank. The end company (such as Aero Precision) is the one that actually machines the upper into its final state.
Ultimately, the forge mark itself is relatively inconsequential since the quality really comes from the company that machines the blanks.
Best AR-15 Stripped Receivers
1. Aero Precision Stripped Upper Receiver
At $80, the Aero AR15 Stripped Upper Receiver is the gold standard in my mind. This option lets you choose your own forward assist and dust cover. It comes with M4 feed ramps, laser engraved T-marks for the rails, and is also available in several colors for a little bit more.
I’ve built almost a dozen AR-15 uppers for myself and my friends and have almost exclusively gone with Aero Precision. They got their start manufacturing for the aerospace industry (name checks out) before moving into AR-15 parts.
Aero has become a titan in the industry, offering complete rifles and even barrels too.
I’ve had no problems with any of my builds, and if you do any searches, you’ll see that Aero parts have almost exclusively positive comments.
2. Aero Precision M4E1 Stripped Upper Receiver
The Aero M4E1 is an upgraded version of the mil-spec stripped upper that gives a billet look without the doubling in price. It is my personal favorite for my builds and is what lives on my home defense gun.
Check out our full review of the M4E1.
Remember to finish out your stripped upper with an upper parts kit, or simply look at assembled uppers which are basically the same price but with the upper parts already installed.
Editor’s Pick Upper Receiver
Assembled uppers are great if you want to save yourself a little bit of time and potential stress — no need to scrape anything during installation or go nuts trying to get the dust cover on.
3. Blemished Aero Uppers
If you’re balling on a budget, you can get a “blemished” version of the stripped or assembled upper (depending on their stock) for roughly 25% off. Blemished means there are some cosmetic abnormalities that do not affect actual function.
The last two builds I’ve done have been with Aero blem uppers, and I had to really look to find the cosmetic problem. And, of course, they’ve all worked perfectly.
My latest one has a tiny scuff and a small dimple, as shown below. I honestly put more wear on mine during a match! I’d go this route if you want to save a couple of bucks.
The only bad thing is that blems are usually snatched up as soon as they become available.
4. Aero Precision No Forward Assist Upper
If you have never used the forward assist and want to shave some weight off or keep it simple, you might consider the no forward assist upper from Aero.
In my opinion, I like the look of the forward assist, and I go by the mantra that I’d rather have it and not use it than need it and not have it — especially on a more duty rifle build.
5. VLTOR MUR Upper Receiver
The VLTOR MUR Upper Receiver has thicker walls to make it a more rigid shooting platform which should translate to more accuracy and durability. Plus, it looks different and cool enough to get some envious looks.
What do you think of the VLTOR? Rate it below!
6. Battle Arms Development Lightweight Upper
If you want to go lightweight but not at the expense of extreme lightening cuts and possible reduced reliability, then the Battle Arms Development Lightweight Upper might be a great choice.
Coming in at about 6.3 ounces, this upper is nearly half the weight of a standard Aero M4E1 upper (12.3 ounces).
Plus, the Tron-esque design is sure to catch a few looks at the range.
7. F1 Firearms UDR-15-3G Upper Receiver
The F1 UDR-15-3G is another super lightweight option, clocking in at 6.5 ounces.
Although this one is geared towards turning heads at rifle competitions more so than home defense. If you’re in a dusty environment, I’d keep it covered — but otherwise, most reports say that the large cuts don’t affect function even with tons of rounds downrange.
However, I have to knock off one point for the inability to use a Magpul BAD lever with this upper.
8. Bootleg Inc Upper Receiver
One of my latest builds uses a Bootleg Upper Receiver with their PicLOK handguard. These come with a low-profile brass deflector, no-forward assist, and captured dust cover pin that eliminates the need for an e-clip.
All that nets you an upper receiver that comes in at a scant 7.2 ounces.
This upper makes for cool and slick build, especially when paired with their adjustable gas BCG (no more switching out your gas block).
If you want something different yet functional, you can’t go wrong with the offerings from Bootleg.
Now that you’ve seen our suggestions for the best AR-15 upper receivers, you’re one step closer to your build.
Let us know in the comments below if there is an upper you like that isn’t on the list. And if you’re ready to build, here’s our AR-15 upper assembly visual guide.
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