From its start in 1959 until today, the iconic silhouette of an AR-15 has been widely recognizable. It carries with it a host of links that are both good and bad, depending on the gun owner’s perspective. Without a doubt, the AR-15/M16/M4 was basically made as a weapon of war, a dedicated battle machine. However, it has also found a place in gun safes of law-abiding citizens. As a matter of fact, as a “military-grade” rifle, an AR-15 is the very best hardware civilians can ever lay their hands on.
As always with guns, it is not only pragmatism that drives development. Legislation – some of which is good and some – well, we wouldn’t really want to openly discuss it – also plays a role. And recent legislation in a certain American state along with some other states has stimulated the development of “featureless rifles” with “featureless grips”.
Featureless Grips: What Are They?
Fundamentally, the whole idea of a “featureless rifle” is one that has been made somewhat difficult to cause large-scale damage with. Some lawmakers do not want a grip that goes any lower than the rifle’s trigger.
On top of all that, the space between your thumb and index finger has to stay higher than the visible part of the trigger. It does sound just about uncomfortable, doesn’t it? Because it basically is. To put it simply, your trigger finger is going to be at a downward angle with any trigger that can count as featureless.
The Reasons to Use a Featureless Grip
Back in the early days, the term “Modern Sporting Rifle” has gained popularity as a more descriptive name for AR-styled rifles. But among anti-gunners and their like-minded elected representatives, the “black rifle” is considered only as a killing machine made to kill as many people in as short a period of time as possible.
Some American States, including California and New York states, have delivered laws against assault weapons as well as other semi-automatic center-fire firearms (rifle, pistol, or shotgun). According to some States like the California State law, a rifle with the following features: pistol grip, forward pistol grip, thumbhole stock, telescoping or folding stock, grenade or flare launcher or flash hider is considered an assault weapon.
Furthermore, according to recent California laws, AR-15 rifles with any features mentioned above are considered banned. Consequently, it will be compulsory for gun owners to register those ARs as assault weapons as of the start of 2019.
Fortunately, there are creative workarounds with specific furniture to make your rifle a “compliant featureless”. However, keep in mind that many of them may not be comfortable or functional as original parts.
To put it simply, the answer to why should anyone use a featureless grip is that you may not have any other choices.
If you are a gun owner from California who does not want to register your AR-15, then you have the option of converting your gun to featureless hardware. The most cost-effective solution for most gun owners is converting their current platform to the featureless style. This conversion will mean that it remains an entirely functional rifle without the generic features which are usually reserved for defining an assault weapon.
You can of course choose to use a “featureless grip” just as a matter of preference. However, we expect that it will be quite rare. But there are a couple of choices that are available to stay on the right side of the law.
Creative gun manufacturers have made a lot of efforts to create a functional, non-pistol-style grip that meets the legal requirements. There are 3 ways it is being handled so far. One is replacing the pistol grip with Kydex grip wraps, which is also called “shark fin” grips. The other way is by grip design, which will prevent the web of your hands from being placed below the top of the exposed trigger while you are firing away.
If you do now want to sacrifice these features (assuming you come from a restrictive American state) then you will most likely have to register your firearm as a restricted assault rifle. This in itself is even more impeding and restrictive than any featureless grip though, so most likely you will want to avoid having to do it at any cost.
If you have read up to this point, you are most likely manic at having to do any of this at all. However, if you want to hold on to your AR-15 as an unrestricted firearm then it’s time to look into featureless grips. Ideally this law will help reduce the harm done by AR-15s generally while still allowing responsible gun owners like you to use yours with a few changes though.
Having brought up those alterations, the most cost-effective solution to solve them is for manufacturers as a whole to begin selling AR-15s with the featureless design. This can (and will) save gun owners a great deal of alteration costs, but it does not seem likely anywhere in the near future. So instead, the burden falls on the gun owners community in purchasing featureless grips and other parts that will keep the rifle functional without the classic assault rifle features.
While most gun manufacturers do not sell the rifles with featureless grips included, there are a few creative companies that have begun making a number of functional, non-pistol style grip options on the market, which will keep your rifle legal and operable. Of course, some shooters may prefer the featureless grips as a matter of taste and preference. However, more often than not you will only really need one to stay on the right side of the law.
There are currently 2 main ways in which gun owners can alter their AR-15s to be featureless. One is to replace the pistol grip with Kydex wraps, also known as “shark-fin” grips. The other way is by specific grips designed to keep the webbing on your thumb and index finger above the visible grip while you are firing. Depending on where you live you may need to resort to one of these choices along with some other modifications to make your rifle legal.
Of course, you can always keep your AR-15 the same and register it as an assault rifle instead. There are some heavy restrictions placed on assault rifles, although that will definitely prevent you from making the most of your firearm.
Top 6 Best Featureless Grips – Reviewed
Most of our recommended grips are relatively easy to install without any real gunsmithing. At the same time, they can give the rifle a bit of a funny look and shape. However, they do not unpleasantly affect the handling of your firearm. It is just a matter of you getting used to it as a gun owner.
1. Monsterman Grips for AR-15
One of the primogenital original grips in the market, the MMG-AR “Featureless Grip” condenses yours AR-15 into a California state-approved featureless rifle. It also keeps the rifle’s aptitude to have a detachable magazine. The Monsterman grip alters the normal pistol grip to prevent the thumb from wrapping up and over the featureless grip.
The MMG-AR is a molded polymer grip made to replace the Mil-Spec standard A2 pistol grip. As a plus point, the Monsterman grip attaches easily and fits comfortably without needing changes of any kind.
While the angled grip is comparable to a “Sporter” style stock, it looks a lot the body contours of a Mini 14 or M1 Garand. The MMG-AR connects with the existing grip screw and its side panels feature rounded edges and aggressive surface texturing for a comfortable yet safe grasp.
Not everyone may like this non-traditional Rifle grip. Some gun owners describe it to be similar to shouldering a standard hunting rifle stock and keeping your thumb on the side of the stock. Another common complaint coming from gun owners is regarding the distorted balance. With the MMG-AR installed grip, you cannot grasp the rifle with just one hand firmly.
2. Thordsen Customs AR-15 FRS Stock
This FRS-15 Stock from Thordsen Customs has been particularly made for AR-15 owners facing legal restrictions with their rifles in mind. If you are living in an American state like New York, where the law limits you to a pistol grip on your AR-15, then this stock is one of your best solutions. It is made from reinforced fiber, the stock features a minimalist design that is made to bypass tough restrictions on firearms.
The slant and curved grip of this stock allow you to use your rifle the same way you do with a pistol grip, without overstepping local laws. The stock has a recoil pad at the end which shrinks the effect of recoil. Furthermore, the stock also has several points for accepting QD mounts. The stock also comes with a buffer tube cover, which works pretty well as a base to rest your cheek.
The cover also accepts some M4 cheek risers so you will not fall short of any applications intended for an AR-15 stock. The peculiar design of this stock has been made in such a manner, that it does not hitch onto thick things like branches or benches when you work your way around.
The bottom line is that this peculiarly-shaped stock from Thordsen is an intelligently-designed stock to overcome state restrictions, without compromising on functionality. The stock has pre-installed sling mounts, and also takes cheek risers. Furthermore, the rubber pad on the butt plate also comes in handy. The stock seems like a pretty reasonable deal considering its price and the problem it solves.
3. Shark Fin Grips Kydex Wraparound Grip for AR MOE/A2
The Shark Fin Grips can be mass-produced from either Boltaron or Kydex, depending on the style and color. Since the MOE grips have a somewhat reduced angle compared to the A2, this model will explicitly fit only on standard AR MOE pistol grips.
The grip wrap is not adaptable to fit grips of a non-standard size. That is because the screw holes would not line up when mounted.
Since the Shark Fin is riveted to a standard A2 grip, it cannot be detached from the grip. When used in conjunction with other de-featuring items, it can help you stay legal in some restrictive states (like California for example).
On the other hand, the screws obtrude from the plastic material and scratch your palm. At the same time, when this featureless grip is mounted and fully tightened, the shark fin grip tends to get a little loose, which causes it to wobble for a bit.
4. Strike Industries AR Simple Featureless Grip
The most affordable choice for a featureless grip on our list so far comes from Strike Industries. As its name suggests, it is a straightforward and affordable component for your featureless AR build.
The SFG needs no permanent modification to the lower receiver. With easy installation, it quickly converts your AR-15 to featureless to side-step strict gun laws registration for some states (like California, for example).
SI Simple Grip is made of durable reinforced polymer. The textured side plate areas offer a comfortable grasping surface in adverse conditions. Although the SI Simple Featureless Grip is drop-in ready, you may want to take a little plastic off with a hand file the very first time you install it.
For obvious reasons, Strike Industries has made this featureless grip with the same contours and gripping angle as their enhanced pistol grip.
Some users mentioned how they regret that SI has not created a product with a bit of padding. However, it is made of solid plastic. Another occasional grievance is that this wrap-around grip is not made for the left-handed shooters in mind.
5. Exile Machine Hammerhead CA-Legal AR-15 Stock Adapter
The Exile Machine Hammerhead is an exceptional grip configurable in many different ways. It provides your AR-15 the feel of a more old-style wooden rifle stock. This ergonomic non-pistol grip replaces a forbidden bulging grip on your modern sporting rifle. It allows your AR-15 to fulfill observe strict gun laws (once again, like the Californian state for example).
The Hammerhead Stock Adapter can be applied along with the AR-15’s original buttstock. It allows allowance for the thumb, allowing you to wrap your thumb around the top for a safer assertive hold.
Another possible arrangement would be to attach an AR-15 stock to the back of a Hammerhead while the buffer tube is used as a cheek rest. Yet in both options, the stocks must be of a certain secure type or pinned to a fixed length for CA agreement.
As this featureless grip is made from a very strong polymer material, this product from Hammerhead is designed to work only with Mil-Spec-forged AR-15 lower receivers. Its package includes a mounting screw, a washer, and thin polymer hole-caps made to cover the rear holes. This helps improve its looks if you are not mounting a stock to the back of the product.
While it offers a relatively solid shooting stance, this grip can produce an uncomfortable position for thumb since it rubs against the stock latch plate. Others have grievances about the fitting and raw surface finish.
6. Exile Machine Headbutt SGW-515 AR / Shotgun Stock Adapter
Another featureless grip from Exile Machine, the Headbutt adapter replaces the protruding grip on your modern AR-15 sporting rifle. It allows you to have a secure wrap-around wooden shotgun-style hold. Except that you will find your neck is less cramped when you are using this featureless grip with your AR-15.
As one of several choices to a “featureless” pistol grip, the Exile Machine Headbutt SGW-515 allows you to get your fingers closer to the trigger. On top of the low cost and ergonomically made Strike Industries Simple Featureless Grip, this is our favorite choice to the regular pistol grip.
This funny-looking, non-pistol grip impersonates a Mini 14 grip angle and creates a grip attachment point for a well-matched shotgun-style stock or even a bird’s head grip. Nicknamed the “Shotgun Wedding,” this featureless grip is made to take only the Mossberg 500 stock and compatible shotgun stocks such as Magpul MAG490 and the Hogue OverMolded.
The Headbutt Shotgun Stock Adapter is made by 3D printing a strong nylon polymer via fused deposition. That partly explains its much coarser surface finish than what you have come to expect from either traditional glass-filled nylon injection molded parts.
There are certainly other ways to make your AR-15 CA compliant, but this Exile Machine Headbutt saves AR-owners from buying more expensive featureless grips and buttstocks.
Although the nuts and washers are also included, there are reports from gun owners that they have to purchase a slightly longer mounting bolt since the standard bolts from Mossberg 500 stocks are a bit short than they have expected it to be.
For very solid reasons, these choices to a featureless pistol grip are not as comfortable as a normal pistol grip. However, shooters will less likely to take a long time to get used to them.
Making these changes is never prevalent among gun aficionados, however, it is important to check out your alternatives and make the much-needed changes if you live in a state where certain features have now been made illegal.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) some gun owners and gun users may have.
Q: Can anyone legally build an AR-15 in California?
The quick answer is no, you cannot build a traditional AR-15 rifle in the American state of California. But there are certainly ways that you can bypass that law and make one that resembles it.