After trashing Gun Digest's suggestions for 'sure-fire' AR accoutrements the least I could do is offer up my list for someone else to trash. So here are the kR-15 top 5 AR accessories/upgrades. Remember that my criteria here are performance and usability.
As mentioned previously I this space, iron sights seldom let you down. They never run out of battery and good ones won't break if your rifle takes a tumble. If you learn how to properly operate your rifle you should be able to use iron sights effectively up to at least 300 yds. Gun Digest also mentions this but presumes that everyone will have an optic- I contend that optics are not necessary for every user.
Upgrading your trigger to a 3 or 4# is the biggest accuracy improvement you can make to your AR. The trigger is the last human input to a weapon system before it fires- it's where you either hold the gun on the point of aim or jerk it off target. The drop-in assemblies are super easy to install- I prefer Timney but there are other options out there.
The two things I look for in a stock are minimal weight and solid, repeatable cheek weld. Adjustable length is a nice feature but whether it's useful depends on how your body fits your rifle. There are countless options for stocks so try a few out at your LGS. A good cheek weld will improve your accuracy because it helps you take the same sight picture every time you shoulder the rifle.
Pistol Grip with Backstrap
A recent trend in pistol grips is to offer interchangeable backstraps. These provide options for an optimal fit into almost every size hand. Why is this important? It relates back to improving recoil control and trigger press- if the grip is properly sized to your hand it will be easier to maintain a straight rearward press of the bang switch.
Extended Bolt Catch Release
There are differing schools of thought on a extended bolt catch- some people view it as a potential training scar because if the SHTF you may end up using someone else's rifle that doesn't have one of these. And that could cost you precious seconds…or not. I can't live my life off this scenario– it is incredibly unlikely at this point in time. The benefits of having all the rifle controls accessible from my control hand outweigh the risks of reaching for it on doomsday and not having one there. There are many options out there for these (start with Magpul or Troy if you're stumped) – shop around and find one you like.
And there you have it- no cheese graters, cappuccino makers, key rings or emergency life rafts. Just 5 upgrades that add up to utility and improved accuracy for your AR-15.