8 Best AR-15 Stripped Upper Receivers: Build It Yourself By: Eric Hung

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So you’re ready to build your own AR-15 upper but aren’t sure of the upper receiver?

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We’ve got you covered with our personal go-to mil-spec receiver and a few unique options that will turn heads.

F1 Firearms Upper with Vortex PST II
F1 Firearms Upper with Vortex PST Gen II

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

  1. Mil-Spec Goodness

    Aero Precision Stripped Upper Receiver

    Your bread and butter stripped upper. Hard to beat for the price and quality you get.

    $77 at Brownells
    Jump to Details
  2. Editor’s Choice

    Aero Precision M4E1 Stripped Upper Receiver

    The angled cuts on this receiver set it apart from your standard AR-15 upper without costing an arm and a leg.

    $98 at Brownells
    Jump to Details
  3. Best Budget Option

    Aero Precision M4E1 Stripped Upper BLEM

    Blemished uppers from Aero are great for those looking to pinch pennies and save a few dollars without sacrificing quality.

    $86 at Aero Precision
    Jump to Details
  4. Most Durable

    VLTOR MUR Upper Receiver

    Thicker receiver walls means this upper will last longer and potential have better accuracy.

    $180 at Rainier Arms
    Jump to Details
  5. Lightest Weight Upper

    Battle Arms Development Lightweight Upper

    At only 6.3 ounces, this upper is the lighest option on our list.

    $239 at Rainier Arms
    Jump to Details
  6. Best Billet Receiver

    Bootleg Inc Upper Receiver

    This upper is slick, good looking, and lightweight.

    $180 at OpticsPlanet
    Jump to Details

Table of Contents

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Upper Receiver Forge Marks

AR-15 Upper Receive Forge Mark
AR-15 Upper Receive Forge Mark

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.

Aero Stripped AR-15 Upper Receiver
Aero Stripped AR-15 Upper Receiver

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.  

Stripped Upper Receiver and Forward Assist
Stripped Upper Receiver and Forward Assist

Aero has become a titan in the industry, offering complete rifles and even barrels too.

Mil-Spec Goodness
77

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing


View Details

77
at Brownells

  • Brownells (See Price)
  • Aero Precision (See Price)

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons
  • 25% off all OAKLEY products – OAKLEY25

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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.

Aero Precision M4E1 16 Midlength Pencil
Aero Precision M4E1 with 16-Inch Midlength Pencil Barrel

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
98

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing


View Details

98
at Brownells

  • Brownells (See Price)
  • Aero Precision (See Price)

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons
  • 25% off all OAKLEY products – OAKLEY25

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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.

Ejection Port Spring
Dust Cover Spring, SnareMan

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.

Best Budget Option
86

at Aero Precision

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons
  • 25% off all OAKLEY products – OAKLEY25

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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.

Aero Blemished Upper
Aero Blemished Upper. As you can see, many of these imperfections are extremely minor.

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.

81

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing


View Details

81
at Brownells

  • Brownells (See Price)
  • Aero Precision (See Price)

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons
  • 25% off all OAKLEY products – OAKLEY25

    Copied!
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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.

Most Durable
180

at Rainier Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing


View Details

180
at Rainier Arms

  • Rainier Arms (See Price)
  • OpticsPlanet (See Price)
  • Brownells (See Price)

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons
  • 25% off all OAKLEY products – OAKLEY25

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What do you think of the VLTOR? Rate it below!

Readers’ Ratings

4.99/5
(899)

Your Rating?

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).

Lightest Weight Upper
239

at Rainier Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing


View Details

239
at Rainier Arms

  • Rainier Arms (See Price)
  • Brownells (See Price)

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons
  • 25% off all OAKLEY products – OAKLEY25

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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.

F1 Firearms Upper
Here is the F1 UDR on my competition upper.

However, I have to knock off one point for the inability to use a Magpul BAD lever with this upper.

Lightest Upper Receiver
231

at Rainier Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons
  • 25% off all OAKLEY products – OAKLEY25

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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.

Bootleg Upper Receiver and Rail
Bootleg Upper Receiver and Rail

This upper makes for cool and slick build, especially when paired with their adjustable gas BCG (no more switching out your gas block).

Bootleg Upper and Adjustable BCG
Bootleg Upper and Adjustable BCG

If you want something different yet functional, you can’t go wrong with the offerings from Bootleg.

Best Billet Receiver
180

at OpticsPlanet

Prices accurate at time of writing


View Details

180
at OpticsPlanet

  • OpticsPlanet (See Price)
  • Rainier Arms (See Price)

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons
  • 25% off all OAKLEY products – OAKLEY25

    Copied!
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Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve seen our suggestions for the best AR-15 upper receivers, you’re one step closer to your build.

Aero M4E1 16" Build
Aero M4E1 16″ 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.