How To Hold An AR-15

So you want to get in on the ground floor of America’s most popular rifle?

Maybe you’ve already gone out and bought one, but you’re unsure of how to hold an AR-15. Perhaps you’re familiar with it, but you want to make sure you’re holding the rifle in the best way possible. 

Whatever your reasons, we’ll guide you through how to hold an AR-15 to maximize safety and accuracy.

A lot of people grab and go, but there are some specific tips and steps you can follow to make sure you get the most out of the experience.

Read on for a quick answer and then a more detailed breakdown of the best way to hold an AR-15.

how to hold an ar 15

The Bottom Line

To hold an AR-15 properly, you need to keep the grip in your dominant hand (or the hand matching your dominant eye if you’re ambidextrous).

Your opposite hand should go on the handguard some distance from your other hand.

Keep the rifle parallel to the ground and your nose forward over the foot you have ahead with the rifle buttstock tucked firmly into your shoulder. 

How To Hold An AR-15 Step by Step

In this section, we go through each tip in detail and how it can impact your accuracy and safety with the rifle. You can read the list below and check out the video for a thorough guide on the AR-15 and some shooting tips.


#1 Dominant Eye, Dominant Hand

You need to know what your dominant eye and dominant hand are. Often, they line up with each other, but sometimes, especially with lefties, this isn’t always the case.

To figure out your dominant eye, hold your arms out at arm’s length, making a triangle shaped window.

Look at an object through the window and gradually move your hands closer to your nose.

You’ll notice one of two things. One eye quickly takes over in looking through the window at the object, or your hands unconsciously move towards one of your eyes.

This eye is your dominant one.

Now you know your dominant shooting hand as well because it’s the same. Even if you write with a different hand, when it comes to shooting, the dominant takes charge.

The dominant hand is the one that holds the grip.

Related: Best AR-15 Rifles

#2 Nose Forward

Stand with a positive stance, which means that one foot (opposite of your dominant eye) is slightly in front of the other.

This gives your body a firmer platform from which to fire.

I recommend that it feels like one small step forward rather than a regular or large step distance.

Your nose should be over the lead foot’s big toe. This puts your body in a comfortable and ready position to cradle the rifle against your shoulder.

If it feels like your off-balance or overstretching, then your lead foot is probably too far forward.

#3 Rest The Grip In Your Palm

Grasp the grip with your dominant hand. Take care that the weight and effort of holding the AR-15 come from your palm and NOT from your fingers.

It’s a common mistake to use your finger grip to hold the rifle, and this can cause big problems.

Holding too tightly with your fingers can make it harder to pull the trigger or worse. Using your fingers to grip can make you accidentally pull the trigger when you’re not ready.

Safety Tip: Always make sure your safety is on until you’re ready to fire. Never put your finger near the trigger until you’re going to shoot.

Related: Best AR-15 Stripped Lower Receiver

#4 Use The Hand Guard

Your opposite hand is what bears the weight of the AR-15.

A lot of people make the mistake of gripping the handguard up near the other hand. This is especially true for people using short-barreled AR-15s.

This best and most secure to use your opposite hand to hold up the rifle from as far down the handguard as you can.

When you hold your hands too close together, the gun gets shakier, which dramatically decreases your accuracy and precision.

Spreading your hands out is much more comfortable and stable.

#5 Tuck It In That Shoulder

AR-15s don’t have as much recoil as a rifle with a more significant caliber (unless you switch the standard .223 out for the larger .450 Bushmaster), but still packs enough of a punch to throw off your aim.

If you do a lot of rapid fire at the range, even the minimal recoil can make you sore over time.

To help with both of these problems, you need to tuck the buttstock into your shoulder as tight as you can.

It should be the same shoulder as the hand that’s holding the grip.

Tucking the stock in tightly into your shoulder disperses the recoil into the rest of your body better.

Holding it loosely makes the rifle kick into your shoulder directly, and that’s what causes the pain and poor accuracy. 

#6 Keep It Parallel And Straight

As you sight in on your target, you need to think about the position of your rifle to the ground.

The body of the AR-15 should be parallel to the ground. This helps your body absorb the recoil, and it minimizes the effects of muzzle rise.

You also need to take care that the line the grip makes with the ground is straight and perpendicular.

It may look cool on TV when people tilt their rifle at different angles, but in practical shooting, this doesn’t work.

Related: Best AR-15 Armorer’s Wrench


We hope you enjoyed learning about how to hold an AR-15.

This gun is one of the most useful and historically significant rifles in America.

Just having one can make you a true gun enthusiast, but knowing how to set up yourself properly can make you an expert.

Just remember to follow the tips from above, and you’ll be fine when it comes to holding your gun.  If you’re interested in more AR-15 articles, we do have one on the The 7 Best AR-15 Muzzle Brakes here if you want to check that out! 

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