AR-15 Forged Upper Receivers, the Good, the Better & the Best

Let us help you choose the perfect Upper Receiver for your AR-15 rifle! Read all about upper receivers below:

What is the difference between an upper receiver and a lower receiver?

The receiver could be considered the “heart” of the firearm. The upper and lower receivers are simply the two halves of a receiver in the AR-15/M-16 family of firearms.

In a two-piece type firearm, the upper carries the barrel and the bolt, while the lower carries the firing mechanism and the magazine.

The AR-15 can go from a long range precision rifle to a close quarter combat (CQB) carbine just by changing the upper receiver.

Legally, only the lower is required to be marked with a serial number, and it must be sold by a federally licensed dealer. Basically, this is the portion that is considered a “legal firearm” by the ATF. You can match several upper receivers with one lower receiver without filling out any extra paperwork.

Things to consider when purchasing an upper receiver:

Often referred to as simply the “upper,” an AR15 upper receiver contains and protects some of the most important components of your firearm. Consider the factors below when choosing one for your custom build.

AR-15 Billet Upper Receiver Assembly - Juggernaut Tactical

Different Types of Upper Receivers

Generally, there are two main types of uppers: flat top and carry handle. Flat top uppers feature a picatinny rail, while carry handle uppers have a fixed rear sight assembly on the top. Upper receivers may also be referred to as A1, A2, A3, or A4 receivers.

The main difference between these terms is that the A1, A2, and A3 have a permanently attached carry handle, while the A4 does not. Since the A4 is the flat top version, it is the only upper that can be equipped with an optic without needing an adapter.

In addition, whether or not the upper has a forward assist button or not is an important factor to consider. This feature may not be essential for civilian use, but it assures that the bolt is fully seated.

For most consumers, we recommend purchasing a flat top upper because it is the most versatile and widely available. The super popular Aero Precision Assembled Upper Receiver is an excellent choice for those who want a high-quality flat top upper with M4 feed ramps already cut into the upper and the Forward Assist already installed.

Construction of Upper Receivers

While aluminum is the most common material used for upper receivers, they can also be manufactured from several other metals. There are three main manufacturing methods: uppers can be forged, billet, or cast.

Forged uppers are hammered into shape and are usually finished with a CNC lathe. They will typically be denser and heavier, but will also provide excellent strength, hardness, and fatigue limit.

Billet receivers begin as solid pieces of metal, machined with a CNC mill to obtain the correct shape. They are less dense and lighter, but also have less strength than forged uppers.

Cast upper receivers are the lightest of all, but also provide the least amount of strength. They are made by a process known as die casting, in which melted metal is poured into a mold, and later finished with a CNC lathe.

Stripped vs. Complete Upper Receivers

Essentially, a stripped upper receiver is just the upper with no frills— the main solid piece of metal itself. An assembled or complete upper receivers add on the ejection port door and the forward assist button.

AR-15 80% Matching Upper and Lower Receiver Pair Set – CERRO Forged and  Machined – CryoStructure

A complete upper assembly may include the complete upper plus a charging handle, barrel, handguard, and occasionally the bolt carrier group.  A complete (or assembled) upper also has the ejection port door and the forward assist button factory installed.

In fact, a complete upper assembly is the full upper-half of an AR15 rifle. All you would need to fire it would be to attach it to a lower receiver.

Upper Receivers for Every Budget

Looking for a budget-friendly option? Try the AR15 Stripped Upper Receiver from Dirty Bird Industries.  Made of 7075-T6 Forged Aluminum, it’s durable, corrosion resistant, and features M4 Feed Ramps.

The Anderson AR15 Assembled Upper Receiver is a solid mid-range option, forged from 7075 T6 Aluminum with a Type 3 Hard Anodized finish. It is compatible with most AR15 calibers and comes with a dust cover and forward assist installed.

Finally, for a premium option, we recommend Aero Precision’s M4E1 Threaded Assembled Upper Receiver, which features an enhanced body profile and includes both the port door and forward assist already installed. It’s designed to look like a billet receiver, but sells for a fraction of the billet price!

SA&A Stripped AR-15 Flat Top Upper Receiver, Forged, Excellent Quality In  Stock

Best AR-15 Parts Brands

Take a tour of some of the top brands of AR-15 parts, where the careful fusion of durability, accuracy, and excellent craftsmanship amplifies the powerful capabilities of the AR-15, a weapon that is respected by shooters and defence contractors all across the country.

Magpul Industries

When discussing AR-15 parts and accessories, Magpul Industries is a name that comes up time and time again. Both experts and amateurs hold this company in high regard.

Bravo Company USA (BCM)

Over the years, Bravo Company USA (BCM) has built a solid name for itself in the firearms market, winning the respect and confidence of both professional and amateur shooters—especially those who favor the AR-15 platform. However, what solidifies BCM’s standing as one of the top manufacturers of rifles and accessories? Let’s examine the strong arguments.

Geissele Automatics

In the cutthroat market for AR-15 parts, Geissele Automatics stands out because to its superior triggers and wider selection of high-quality parts. In talks about premium AR-15 component brands, the company deserves special attention for a number of strong reasons.

Knight’s Armament Company (KAC)

In the world of firearms, the term Knight’s Armament Company (KAC) has long been associated with trust and respect. It constantly presents an appealing range of products that make it worthy of mention in any debate about premium AR-15 component manufacturers.

KAC is well-known for producing high-quality guns and accessories, and their unique designs and legacy of workmanship place them in a favorable position within the weapons market.

Aero Precision

Aero Precision is a brand in the gun market, especially when it comes to premium AR-15 parts, thus it has to be included in our list of important AR-15 component companies. The firm has gained respect and recognition from both experts and gun fans for its exceptional receivers, thanks to its reputation based on quality and precision.