Top 3 Best AR-15 Gas Piston Upgrades (2020): A Buyer Guide

Best AR-15 Gas Pistons Feature Image

If you have ever fired an AR 15, chances are there are parts of the rifle you find yourself loving it and other parts of the rifle you wish were adapted. That makes a lot of sense: Different shooters desire rifles that are designed contrarily because no two bodies are accurately equivalent. While some riflemen may enjoy grips that are smooth, for instance, others may prefer grips that come with more contours.

The good news is that your AR-15 is an enormously customizable rifle. There are virtually a lot of ways you can personalize your weapons, and the gas piston is one of them. By upgrading certain mechanisms of your rifle, you can build the AR-15 that is best and well-matched to your specific open fire preferences, as well as to how you plan to use the weapon.

The final result? A more accurate and therefore more peak-performance shooting experience. Whether you believe it or not, you can develop up to 45% more accurate in the field when you shape the rifle that senses best in your own hands. And the best news ever? You do not have to carry your rifle to a gunsmith to install many common AR-15 upgrades.

The AR 15 rifle was designed as a combat rifle employing a direct impingement as the original expertise, invented by Eugene Stoner in the early 60s. Another clever solution made by some of the brightest firearms designers of that time was the short-stroke gas piston system, suggested and implemented by Mikhail Kalashnikov to the AK-47.

Here we are pleased to show a list of the top AR-15 gas piston upgrades, so you will have no issues in finding the customizations you need to take your open fire game to the new heights. So if you are looking for a common AR-15 gas piston upgrade or even less conventional AR-15 improvement ideas, then you have come to the correct site.

Piston System: The Functionalities

The need for AR piston-system rifles were unnecessary – or to quote the words of the late Cololen Jeff Cooper – “An original solution to a non-existent problem.” Nevertheless, some manufacturers that are ruthless for perfection released a line of piston-driven receivers that appear to be the model blend of AK reliability with AR ergonomics.

With the standard unswerving impingement system (DI), gas is deflected from the barrel via a tube and back into the upper receiver to achieve the cycling. However, it can build up a lot of fouling on the bolt carrier group. This residue can give way to many malfunctions.

Besides all of that, the piston systems makes use of a piston drive rod instead of a gas tube. The rod stands in as an intermediary to apply force on the bolt carrier group to cycle the weapons. Instead of migrating through a tube, the propellant gas simply shoves the piston and then escapes out of the gas block well onward of the receiver.

As there is almost no gas running back into the upper receiver, this piston system preserves the gun tremendously clean and cooler than Stoner’s direct impingement system.

Gas Piston Upgrade: What Makes It Great?

Knowing which characteristics and features makes for a great gas pistol upgrade are important. You will need to differentiate those that are deliberated as the best in quality and exhibition from those that are not. So you should be able to conveniently decide which one will work best for you. Here are some characteristics and features that should be at the top of your thoughts of the mind.

Price

The price tag and budget point are always an important thing and the top apprehension for most budget rifle components shoppers. However, a smart gun handler knows that the price and budget is not the only determining factor when buying a gas piston. You should find yourself the best one you can afford in terms of excellence and performance. Even if it means spending a little bit more on the higher end of your budget choice, it will still be better than throwing money away on any cheap gas piston.

Installation

If you are not a gun owner who has gunsmithing skills, you do not have to worry because you will be able to install these gas pistons in the matter of minutes with the correct kind of tools. Granted that there may be some gas pistons out there that needs the professional services of a gunsmither. Therefore, if you lack satisfactory gun-smithing skills, you may want to search for a model that is considered a drop-in. 

The Calibers’ Compatibility

You will need to find a gas piston that can be compatible with your type of AR 15 rifle. If you fire 5.56 NATO rounds, then you should find a piston upgrade that is suitable for and with that kind of caliber. The same things goes if you are using .223 rounds, 300 AAC Blackout rounds, and similar (as the list goes).

The Best AR 15 Gas Piston Upgrades – User and Shooter Review

Below are some of the best AR 15 gas piston upgrade choices that are available currently on the market. As you go through each option, search for one that matches your ideal description of the best gas piston upgrade. If you find one that fits your description best, then you know you have found yourself a winner.

In this mini-list, you will find some of the best piston upper receivers presenting one of the biggest inventions in the expansion of the AR-15 uppers. Let us take a look at some of the best gas piston upgrade of our choosing.

1. Wolf AR-15 A1 Complete Upper Receiver 5.56 Piston

Wolf AR-15 A1 Complete Upper Receiver 5.56 PistonA lot of gun owners are quite happy with this gas piston upgrade. They mentioned that installation was a piece of cake and the upgrade helped the gas system operate without much malfunctions or reliability problems. One of the users even mentioned that it has helped upgrade his accuracy.

This gas piston upgrade is firm in assembly and adds a lot of reliability to your favorite rifle. Besides all of that, it does a pretty good job at preventing any kind of debris from getting into your rifle and doing damage to the insides. Hence, if you want a gas piston upgrade that will do its best to keep the rifle spotless without kicking up dust, this will probably be something worth spending your money on.

The Wolf A1 Complete AR-15 Upper Receiver is, as a matter of fact, based on the design of the R.O.C. T91. However, it can be easily harmonized with any standard AR lower. Although it looks like your regular M16/M4 duplicate, it gives the added reliability of the short-stroke piston organization of the Taiwanese T91 military rifle. That prototype is internally comparable to the Armalite AR-18.

Unlike most piston upper designs for AR-15, the A1 system is modularized and can be effortlessly removed for cleaning and maintenance.

This upper comes far-reaching with a protected front sight fortification, a one-piece bolt-carrier group, and a charging handle. The package does not come with a forward assist button rear sight. On top of that, the 16.5-inch, cold hammer-forged barrel is completed with an A2-like flash hider. This flash concealer has to port further back than regularity to act as an effective compensator. With a dependable charging handle and a handguard, the T91 piston upper fits any AR-15 or M16 lower receiver.

The only disadvantage we have heard about in this model has to do with the looks of this handguard. Nevertheless, this upper has a practical foregrip that looks a lot like the old American M16A1 clamshell. It features a secure grip and defends your support hand with a heat shield, even with hefty fire.

This affordable and proven Wolf Arms piston upper is a worthy choice for home defense, recreation, or hunting. It is also well-matched with select-fire capable lowers, making it the best option for tactical uses.

This will be a beneficial gas piston upgrade you can install on most AR-15 builds, especially if you are building one from scratch. If you want the perfect gas system that is dependable right out of the manufacturer, this gas piston upgrade should be a good addition to your build.

The Wolf AR-15 A1 Complete Upper Receiver 5.56 Piston, may be right up your road if you want a sturdily constructed gas piston system that will provide your rifle with a boost in accuracy and reliability. Don’t be taken aback if you see that happening right after installation.

2. Superlative Arms AR 15 Adjustable Piston System .750 Inch Clamp On Gas Block

Superlative Arms AR-15 Adjustable Piston System .750 inches Clamp-On Gas BlockMost recent gun handlers who have bought this are quite happy with the gas piston upgrade. They are even more awestruck when they realized that they can easily adjust it to fit most gas systems. One of the recent buyers said that it was convenient to adjust so it can work well with his carbine gas system.

Another patented design derives from the Superlative Arms LLC. This one from SA offers an adjustable gas piston system made specifically for the AR 15 platform, which is a relatively modest and effective DIY upgrade.

This kit is obtainable in many configurations such as pistol, carbine, mid and full rifle-length. It is also obtainable as a clamp-on or with socket head cap screws. And of course, there are versions for both .750 inches and .625 inches.

This gas piston advancement is easy to adjust and it basically means that it is easy to use. It removes all the guesswork of what kind of gas piston upgrade will fit you well because you have them all in one package. You can make the correct kind of adjustment, set them up for your gas system, and you are done. As soon as it is installed, you will have an even better reliability and smoother cycling, among a few other benefits to mention.

The package includes a piston block assembly, a carrier without the bolt, the gas block plug, and bushing and insert tool, and the hex keys. This system will work well in rifles chambered in .223/5.56 x 45mm NATO. This model comes with SA’s proprietary “Bleed Off” gas piston system where the gas flow is controlled by bleeding the gas out of the block instead of curbing the flow like conventionally-adjustable blocks.

There are 30 locking gas places with audible clicks to choose from for many types and brands of rounds. In simple words, you may switch between bullet masses or move from suppressed to unsuppressed fire without much operational problem or triggering the system to be under or over-gassed.

While this upgrade kit seems to handle any bullet weight just fine, there is a noticeable difference in withdrawal depending on the suppressor use. It is not exactly life-threatening, however, it is noticeable.

This gas piston upgrade will be right up your alley if you are having a hard time looking for an appropriate gas piston upgrade that functions. If you want something that is made to last and has easy adjustment on-the-fly, this may have been what you’ have been looking for all those years.

The Superlative Arms AR-15 Adjustable Gas Piston Upgrade is a pleasant package of gas pistons that can be added on to any gas system. All you have to do is make some proper alterations to make sure it will fit your gas system and you will be set for a long time. 

3. Adams Arms AR-15 / M16 Piston Tactical EVO Upper Receivers

Adams Arms AR-15 M16 Piston Tactical EVO Upper Receivers

The Adams Arms system lets your rifle to run cleaner, cooler, and more dependably due to its patented short-stroke gas piston. Their enhanced and well-improved piston system involves a small chamber specifically made to capture the gases.

The company established its operating rod with a small cup on the end into which the regulator is implanted. It looks a lot like the old “short stroke” piston solution that you can find on the SKS and M1 Carbine. This mid-length piston system includes a Samson Manufacturing Evolution extended free-floating 12 inches forearm. This provides you with a longer sight radius and a more extended, ergonomic grip.

The re-designed piston upper receiver is made from 6061 T6 aluminum and comes with an A4 13-slot Picatinny-cut flattop rail and M4 feed ramps. They provide EVO uppers with their 16 inches long standard barrel topped with an A2 flash hider and an adaptable gas block. The gas system can be controlled for use with sound suppressors. It also has a shut-off to allow single-shot fire with no pedaling, if needed.

For all its strong points, big fans of shooting games may not be happy with the lack of modifiable settings.

Your Alternative Choice: Upgrading With An Installation Kit

On top of the more common complete AR-15 piston upper receiver, another recent trend is the piston conversion kit. People can all agree that piston operating systems keep the bolt carrier cooler and polished, but at the same time they also include more adjustment parts. While it needs little to no dedicated tools or gunsmithing for mounting, this hardware is not easy for people who are not familiar with the AR’s installation process.

Below is a YouTube tutorial to guide you.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that for many years, more people have become more aware of how changing the gas system on an AR 15 can play a part in overall satisfaction with the gun. Piston conversion kits or dedicated piston upper receivers provides or features a cleaner use of the rifle. This stand in for the direct impingement system has gained traction and popularity in many areas. Similar to all changes, it has its pros and cons. But making the alteration is relatively simple and you can give it a go as part of enjoying all your rifle has to give!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) some gun handlers may have about the AR 15 gas piston upgrade.

Q: Is swapping to a gas piston upper worth it?

This is a bit of a subjective area. Piston-based uppers are an excellent upgrade over direct-impingement guns in general, however, they have a few cons as well. For a start, they are most obviously expensive. At the same time, it is also a lot more difficult to find parts for a piston-based upper, and many uppers need proprietary parts, so it might not be the best gun for Armageddon either. 

Basically, it means that if something shatters, you are going to be stuck buying out of budget parts from the manufacturer, instead of a generic or OEM $20 gas block you can get anywhere else in America. By the end of the day, you will have to decide if a piston-drive AR 15 upper is worth your time and money.

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