At a Glance: Best Featureless AR Stocks
Comparison of The Best Featureless AR Stocks and Grips
Our Top Pick
|Thordsen Customs – AR-15 FRS-15||
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Our Top Pick
|Monsterman Grips – AR-15 Monsterman grip||
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Our Top Pick
|Shark Fin grips Kydex wrap-around grip||
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We are all well aware of the horror stories in New York, New Jersey, and California that are those states’ assault weapons bans. Many people living there expected that the unreasonably strict laws would bring about the extinction of the AR-15. But unlike what happened to California’s bear population, with a little bit of ingenuity and creativity that didn’t happen. Granted, to some people featureless stocks and grip don’t look esthetically pleasing, nevertheless they have helped the iconic rifle survive in such strict (and unconstitutional) environments.
Featureless AR Stock Review
Here’s our list of the best featureless AR stocks. If you need to get your black rifle on in a restrictive state, look no further.
Thordsen Customs – AR-15 FRS-15
Thordsen Customs LLC was originally started by a San Francisco native as a company specialized in making custom motorcycle parts in California. The economic downturn of 2008 had the company shift focus to making components for something else that was also close to the founder’s heart. Alan Thordsen is a long time gun enthusiast and a tinkerer, who’s innovative and creative solutions have made a significant impact in the California AR-15 market.
The FRS-15, I’ll just assume that acronym stands for Featureless Rifle Stock 15, is designed to look and feel like a standard rifle stock and it can be easily attached to your lower receiver. It comes with a buffer tube cover which can accept some M4 cheek risers. Installation is fairly simple, if you ever installed a traditional pistol grip or a stock, you won’t have any difficulties with this one. And in case this is your first time doing that, the instructions that come with the package will make the job easier for you.
Now, from a visual perspective, the stock doesn’t look all that appealing and kind of uncomfortable to shoot. But after installation, after a fairly short amount of time, I adapted quickly to the new position of the grip. The difference in the angle of the traditional grip and this one isn’t so drastic to be considered unnatural or awkward when holding the rifle, in fact, it feels like holding a grip of a traditional bolt-action hunting rifle or a shotgun. Granted, you will have to raise the elbow of your shooting hand a bit higher, but I can’t exactly call that a major downside. During firing, the recoil did cause the rifle to push against the webbing between my thumb and index finger, but the base plate is well rounded and that didn’t cause any unpleasantness whatsoever. Are there any downsides? I have to admit, as much as I wanted to find flaws to this stock, after some time spent with it, I just couldn’t force myself to hate it.
- Sturdy polymer construction
- Has multiple sling hardpoints
- Easy to install
- Maybe a bit rough of a finish
Monsterman Grips – AR-15 Monsterman grip
Monsterman has been offering featureless grips to California residents for the past 11 years, so you could say they have ample experience in making parts that will make your AR-15 CA-compliant. They are also producing grips for AKs, so in case some of you reading this have a Yugo (the AK, not the car, in case you do own the car, we sympathize with you and pray for all pedestrians and drivers who are out in the streets when you’re driving) or a Romanian, or any other variant, we suggest you check out their website.
This is a solid grip, made from glass fiber filled nylon, a little bit more durable material than the polymer which most standard pistol grips are made off. It was designed to be used with an A2 stock. The curve of the grip lines perfectly with it, and no filing or additional adjusting is necessary in most cases. Installation is fairly simple, one screw is all that it takes to attach it to the lower receiver and you’re good to go.
My subjective feeling is similar to holding the M1A carbine or a classic shotgun, except your thumb doesn’t go around the grip but stays above the trigger. To some people, that potentially spells uncomfortable or cumbersome, especially if you’re a competitive shooter and think that during rapid shooting you won’t be able to properly control the rifle. In the beginning, that’s what I thought also, but after holding, shooting, and reloading the rifle I have to admit that after some time stopped thinking about it and I just focused on having fun. The trigger, safety and mag release button are all within easy reach of the grip, which surprised me, in a good way of course. Fit and finish are perfect, and aggressive texturing on the grip will make sure that the rifle won’t slip out of your hands no matter how wet it gets.
- Installation procedure is simple
- Surprisingly comfortable to shoot
- Aggressive texturing on the grip
- Can only be used with an A2 stock
- Can feel awkward during rapid firing
Shark Fin grips Kydex wrap-around grip
Parallax Tactical, the seller of this wrap-around grip is a reputable gun shop in San Diego, and they have offered a fairly simple solution to making your rifle AR legal in the state of California. The Shark Fin grip doesn’t require any disassembly or unnecessary adjusting. If your pistol grip is MOE, just slide the shark fin on it, place the screws and bolts into the fin, tighten it up real good, and make sure it’s firmly in place. In case it feels loose, one of the possible solutions is to use a heat gun and carefully mold it until it better fits the pistol grip. Another, more sane solution would be to contact the guys in Parallax and ask them to send you a new grip, and replace the faulty one
Holding the rifle with the shark fin grip, as always, feels unnatural in the beginning, but after some time and several mags later, I won’t say it becomes barely noticeable, but it definitely isn’t agonizing. It offers a solid grip, with easy access to the selector, trigger, and mag release. Because it is made to be used with an A2 stock, your thumb won’t wrap around the grip but will be resting above the trigger. The design, as I mentioned, is fairly simple, cost-effective, and perfect if you’re planning on traveling out of state, where I’m guessing you’ll want to remove it fast and without too much hassle.
What would probably make this shark fin grip even better is a thumb rest, one that won’t get in the way of the safety selector. This product is for right-handed users only, however, the guys in Parallax Tactical do have a grip for left-handed shooters also, and if you ask politely they will be more than willing to ship it to you.
- Rigid when installed
- Cheapest option on the market
- Doesn’t require you to change the pistol grip
- Fairly comfortable
- Looks and feels cheap
- Holes on the fin don’t align perfectly
Exile Machine backfin finned backstrap
Innovative? Check. Easy to install? Check. Universal to all grips? Well not really, unfortunately, it can only be used with Magpul MIAD grips, by removing the backstrap and placing the backfin in its place. Sounds simple enough, but wait till you try to actually install it, you will have a tough time sliding that in. Which is a good thing, it was done on purpose to be an extremely tight fight, so it wouldn’t wobble or feel loose when you need it the most.
The material used is pure polymer, 3-D printed in order to lower the cost of production, which does make this grip a cheap option for most shooters, and this is especially a good option if you are one of those people who just can’t control himself or herself when it comes to the number of AR’s you need to have in your possession, particularly if you need to have CA grips on all of them. The texture of the grip is decent at best, but as I stated previously, due to the material used, a little filing will do wonders to alleviate that, but why stop there, be creative, why not put your family crest on this grip, a portrait of your dog, favorite anime character, motivational quotes are always popular, the options are limitless.
All joking aside, this is a very good option for people who are on a budget but still want their rifle to be CA compliant and comfortable to shoot. It does provide a thumb rest, however, if you decide to use an ambidextrous safety selector, be careful how you position it, because the thumb rest can possibly get in the way. Because it’s simple to install, this is also a good option when you travel out of state for hunting or competitions, it can easily be removed so you can use a normal pistol grip.
- Cheap compared to other options
- Decent texture
- Options available for both left and right-handed shooters
- Tight fit
- Available in only one color
- Not the most durable grip
- Thumb rest maybe a bit high
What is a featureless AR stock?
We had better ask first, what exactly is a featureless rifle? It’s one of those topics which the more you read about it, the more confusing it gets. But for people living in the state of California, it is a reality if they want to own an AR-15. To try and simplify it the best I can, a featureless AR-15 is a semi-automatic, centerfire rifle with a detachable magazine that does not have the following features:
- A flash hider
- A vertical foregrip
- A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon
- A thumbhole stock
- A collapsible or telescopic stock
- A grenade launcher or flare launcher
To try and simplify it even more, the whole point of this law is to make your AR-15 look and feel more like a “standard” rifle, like an M1 Garand or an M14. Most people have probably heard of so-called “shark fin grips,” attachments that you can easily install on your normal pistol grip. Their purpose is to prevent the shooter from wrapping his/her thumb around the grip and keep the webbing between the thumb and index finger above the top of the exposed part of the trigger. Does that explanation make any sense to you? Alternatively, you can choose to install a non-collapsible stock directly to your lower receiver instead of a traditional AR pistol grip. It does the same job while also serving as a traditional buttstock which you can rest on your shoulder while firing.
Why use an AR-15 featureless stock or grip
In California, prior to July of 2018, each AR-15 that possessed one of the above-mentioned features (and a bullet button mag release, but I’m not going to complicate this article even further by explaining what that is) was subject to registration as an assault rifle. Users who wanted to keep their rifles intact chose to register, but those who didn’t want to do that opted to modify their AR’s in order to meet the state’s regulations. After that date, owning an assault rifle was prohibited, and the owners of semiautomatic rifles were given two choices. First, to keep their AR’s with the features listed above, while not being able to use a detachable magazine with a capacity of more than ten rounds. Second, modify their rifles according to the new law but with the added benefit of having a detachable magazine with unlimited round capacity, if they are in possession of one or several (because at the moment, you can own one but can’t buy a new one).
One obvious benefit is, as mentioned, the ability to use a detachable magazine, but what other benefits do these rifles have? Well, one major difference is in how its “counterpart,” the fixed-magazine rifle, operates when it comes to reloading. A new magazine with ammo can only be inserted if you disassemble the rifle, according to the law. In order to do that as effectively and quickly as possible, many manufacturers are now using a simple solution, a takedown pin or a string that, when activated, will separate the upper from the lower receiver just enough to be considered a disassembly, but allowing the user to insert a new mag, close the rifle and carry on shooting.
This increase in the number of steps needed to reload obviously means it will take more time to perform this simple procedure and can cause malfunctions if the user is not properly trained to do it. Going featureless means you will have to make some cosmetic modifications to your existing rifle, but get to keep a normal detachable magazine.
Where are featureless stocks and grips legally necessary for your AR-15
In 1956, Eugene Stoner, a small arms inventor, working for ArmaLite corporation, designed the AR-10 as a new battle rifle for the US military meant to replace the iconic M1 Garand. A scaled-down and improved version of the AR-10 became what we know today as the AR-15, at the same time the most beloved and most vilified rifle in the United States. The original select-fire Colt AR-15, which was later adopted by the army as the M16 rifle, is the reason why some people still erroneously consider it to be exclusively an assault rifle. However, nowadays people use its semi-automatic-only versions for self-defense purposes, hunting, target shooting, and of course, law enforcement. The fact that most gun control legislators still see it as a military-style firearm has led to several states and jurisdictions enacting laws that restrict the sale, possession, and use of this firearm.
Currently, states like California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, and Massachusetts have laws restricting citizens from possession of assault weapons. However, in California and New York, in order for your featureless AR-15 to be compliant with state law, keep in mind the following rules:
- No muzzle devices in NY. Muzzle brakes and compensators are allowed in Cali
- The buttstock of the rifle mustn’t be collapsible or telescopic
- Magazine capacity is limited to 10 rounds in NY, but for now, unlimited in California
- No ‘straight’ forward pistol grip, but an angled one is legal
- No grenade or flare launcher, and in NY, no bayonet mount
- And last but not least, no traditional pistol grips
Owning an AR-15 in California and other restrictive states
California was the first state in the Union to ban assault-style weapons in 1989. After that year, owning an AR-15 with dangerous features, the ones listed above, can get you into a lot of trouble. Featureless rifles are subject to registration as an assault weapon, which yes, means each new rifle bought and sold in the state. And even if you choose to build your own rifle, you will still need to submit documentation to the DOJ and BOF and wait for them to issue you with a new serial number for the rifle. Background checks are also mandatory, even if you want to buy ammo.
How to pick the best featureless stocks and grips for your AR-15
My first advice would be, if you live in California, to go to your local gun range and ask if they happen to have AR’s with different grips. Try it before you buy it, because even though buying a featureless stock or a grip isn’t that big of an investment, you still don’t want to end up with something you won’t be able to properly hold. If that isn’t possible, for whatever reason, Google is your best friend, find reviews, product descriptions, ask your friends, your buddies from the forum, that strange, elderly but generally nice guy from work who is an army vet, already divorcing his fourth wife, and is really into conspiracy theories, prepping and saving up to buy a small ranch in Nebraska, or your mother (because a mother knows best).
Materials and durability
Materials used don’t need to be of superior quality, but make sure the quality is still satisfactory. In 99% of cases, it will be some type of plastic, but it has to be lightweight and durable. You don’t want to add extra weight to your rifle, and you definitely don’t want the grip to deform from the heat or from holding it too tight. Under all circumstances and conditions, it needs to stay hard and firmly attached to the grip or the rifle.
Ergonomics and comfort
Some people will choose to replace their stock, while others will just choose to put on a backfin to an existing grip, due to cheaper cost and the ability to remove it easily when traveling out of state. While I can’t tell you what the best option for you is, because individual needs vary, a good tip would be to first ask yourself, where will I use my rifle most often and for what purposes. If you are into 3-gun competitions, your first choice should be a grip that is comfortable to manipulate with one hand, while reloading with your other hand. If prone or bench shooting, well then perhaps installing a stock instead of a featureless grip would be a good option for you. Most importantly, choose something that has good ergonomics, that won’t be a strain on your wrist yet allow you to firmly hold the rifle even during the most stressful situations.
Most featureless grips now come with a very affordable price tag, so if you have several AR-15s in your arsenal it’s fairly easy and cheap to equip them all with your choice of featureless grips. If you want to install a featureless stock on your AR, that could be a bit more pricey of an option, but considering the quality of the stocks on the market, and for me personally the comfort of having a “Monte-Carlo” style of stock, that is also something worth considering.
Making sure it’s legal
Always, always, always check your local laws before making any purchases or modifications on your rifle. Check with the producer of the grips and/or stocks, and if possible ask a legal advisor whether the product be used in your state. It may sound a bit paranoid, but don’t give the local prosecutors and law enforcement any reason to criminalize or fine you, even though you’re a law-abiding citizen, just practicing your constitutional rights.
Personally I never understood participation trophies. Ever since I was a kid, my dad kept telling me, you either work hard, study, strive to improve yourself each day, and be the best there is in doing what you truly love, or be the worst there is and fail miserably (he is a huge Simpsons fan).
Don’t get me wrong, none of the grips and stocks covered here failed in any way, in fact, two of them performed really well. If you choose to go with a stock, Thordsen Customs AR-15 FRS-15 has you covered. Personally, the only thing I didn’t like about this stock is the fact my fingers were out of reach of the safety selector and mag release button, but the comfort and ergonomics I got in return were much better than, dare I say, the normal buttstock and pistol grip I used when I was in the “free states.” Granted, I always preferred olden-style hunting rifles and shotguns with genuine organic wooden furniture, so maybe that’s the reason why it feels more natural to me.
If you choose to install a grip, the Exile Machine Backfin finned backstrap is an excellent choice. It’s solid, cheap, easily replaceable, and comes with a thumb rest for your utmost comfort. Unlike some other grips out there on the market, this one offers solid support for your palm. Because of the fact that it attaches to the back of your Magpul grip, it adds a kind of padding to your palm, a good resting area that fills your hand, making you feel firmly in control of the grip.