If you currently own an AR-15 and want to upgrade it to boost its performance, easily the best thing you can do if you have the money will be to swap out the upper receiver.
That’s because the upper receiver assembly and the various components that comprise it will have the most direct impact on the reliability, accuracy, and overall shooting performance of your AR-15.
There’s just one problem you may run into: if you’re left handed, you probably know full well that the overwhelming number of AR-15 upper receivers are designed exclusively for right handed shooters. That doesn’t at all mean that you can’t learn how to shoot a right handed AR-15 upper receiver with your left side (left handed shooters do it all the time), it’s just that it’s more difficult and not as natural.
A left handed upper receiver is exactly what: it’s designed for use with left handed shooters, and as such as the ejection port and the forward assist located on the left hand side of the receiver.
In this article, we will introduce you to the top three best left handed upper receivers on the market today, and we will also be outlining and discussing the importance of upgrading your upper receiver to begin with, the basic components that the AR-15 upper receiver is comprised of, and then a buyer’s guide of what to look for in an upper.
Best Overall: Stag Arms AR-15 Complete 3 Gun Elite Upper Receiver 5.56 Left
The Stag Arms AR-15 Complete 3 Gunn Elite Upper Receiver is expensive, but it still provides you with everything that you need in an upper receiver and is built out of very high quality components.
Best For Customization: Stag Arms AR-15 A3 Upper Receiver Assembly 5.56 Left Hand
The Stag Arms AR-15 A3 is a mil-spec left handed stripped upper receiver assembly that comes ready for customization right out of the box. Despite being a stripped upper, it still comes with a forward assist and a dust cover, which you would expect on a higher end model.
Best Left Handed Receiver For Hunting: AR-15 Stag 15L Varminter Complete Upper Receiver Left Hand
If you want to build an AR-15 strictly for hunting business, then the AR-15 Stag 15L Varminter Complete Upper Receiver for left handed shooters will be the upper receiver that you are looking for.
Why Upgrade Your AR-15 Upper?
There are many reasons to consider upgrading your upper receiver. For one thing, if you’re left handed, switching to a receiver designed specifically for left handed people would be preferable for obvious reasons.
But there are other reasons to consider upgrading your AR-15 upper receiver beyond that. For one thing, you may want to go with an upper receiver that utilizes more durable materials. Or, you may want to improve the shooting performance out of your AR-15, and then go with an upper receiver that offers a better barrel or a longer gas system length.
Another reason to upgrade your AR-15 upper receiver is for legal purposes. You may need to remain in compliance with the gun laws of states that have tougher gun control laws, such as Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, or California. Many of these states will have special requirements on what you can have and can’t have on your AR-15 (if you can even legally own an AR-15 to begin with), so it’s up to you to research the laws in your state and confirm that you are in compliance. For example, some states may restrict how long the barrel can be on your AR-15.
What Are The Components of an AR-15 Upper?
Before you buy a new upper receiver, it would be wise of you to know what the components of an AR-15 upper receiver is to begin with.
The receiver should consist of each of the following units:
The barrel of your AR-15 is the central component of the upper receiver and the part that has the most direct impact on the shooting performance and accuracy of your rifle. The specific part of the barrel that has the most direct impact on the shooting performance of your rifle is the twist rate, or the number of inches the bullet will travel in order to complete a rotation. A 1:7 twist rate means that the bullet will travel seven inches before completing a full rotation, for instance. Generally speaking, a 1:8 twist rate barrel will be the most versatile for 5.56 bullets with a weight of fifty five to seventy grains.
The handguard is designed to protect (or ‘guard’) your hands from the barrel, and also usually consists of rails that will allow you to add scopes, red dot sights, flip up open sights, slings, lights, lasers, and so on. If possible, try to get a left handed upper receiver that has free floating rails, which will provide your AR-15 with overall greater accuracy.
Bolt Carrier Group
The AR-15 bolt carrier group is the heart of your rifle and the component that makes the rifle functional to begin with. The bolt carrier group consists of the gas key, bolt, extractor, and firing pin, and rests in the inside of the receiver. The BCG is often the component that will not only determine whether your AR-15 is functioning reliably, but also if it is functioning smoothly to begin with.
Also read: Best AR-15 Side Charging Uppers
Buyer’s Guide To Finding The Best Left Handed AR-15 Upper
These are the most important factors to consider when looking for a new left handed upper receiver for your AR-15 upper:
Stripped Upper Receiver vs. Complete Upper Receiver
Whenever you go to buy any kind of an upper receiver for your AR-15 rifle, you will always have to choose between getting a stripped upper or a complete upper.
A complete upper receiver means that the upper receiver comes with literally every component of the upper receiver, which would include all of the components that we discussed previously. A stripped upper receiver is just the opposite and doesn’t come with everything; for example, stripped upper receivers will often not come with a barrel, handguard, or a gas system, so you will need to purchase and install those components separately.
There are pros and cons to going with either a complete or a stripped upper and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with going with either one. The main benefit to a complete upper is that since it comes with everything that you need at once, there’s no need for you to buy or install anything else and you can install the upper on your complete lower right away in order to have a fully functional AR.
The advantage to a stripped upper receiver is that you can customize the rifle however you want it. However, you will need to purchase and install of the parts separately yourself (or otherwise have a gunsmith do it), which takes more time and money, and you won’t have a fully functional upper right out of the box either.
After choosing between a stripped upper receiver or a complete upper receiver, you will then need to choose what type of receiver you will want when it comes to manufacturing type.
Basically, an AR-15 upper can be billet machined, forged, or cast. A forged receiver is heavier, but also the most durable and sturdy. Machined upper receivers are the most lightweight option but are definitely not as durable or long lasting. Cast receivers are a good compromise between the two.
Any upper receiver that is either built out of some type of steel (such as stainless steel, for example) or aircraft grade aluminum, will be durable over the long run. The receiver will become even more durable if it’s been coated in an anti-rust and anti-corrosion material, such as Cerakote or a hard coat anodized finish.
Barrel and Gas System Length
If you go with a complete upper receiver, you will also need to choose which barrel and gas system length you want. AR-15 barrels can vary dramatically when it comes to length, from as short as 7.5 inches all the way up to 24 or more inches. 16 inch, 18.5 inch, and 20 inches are easily the most common. The longer the barrel, the greater accuracy and bullet velocity will be, but of course you will be sacrificing maneuverability in tight conditions, so a longer barrel will not be suitable for close quarters home defense or for hunting in thick brush. Whichever barrel you choose is really up to you based on your preference and needs.
For a gas system, you can choose between a pistol length, carbine length, mid-length, and rifle length gas systems. It is traditionally believed that AR-15s will function slightly more reliably with each increase in gas systems. This is why even though most 16 inch barreled AR-15s have a carbine length gas system, it’s considered preferable to go with one that would have a mid-length gas system.
Read more on the AR-15: Our buying guide on the best lower part kits for your AR-15.
The 3 Best Left Handed AR-15 Uppers For 2020
Now that we’ve covered exactly what you should be looking for in an AR-15 upper receiver, here are the three best left handed upper receivers on the market for 2020:
AR-15 Stag 15L Varminter Complete Upper Receiver Left Hand
The AR-15 Stag 15L Varminter Complete Upper Receiver for left handed receivers is a complete upper receiver ready to go out of the box that is designed to maximize accuracy potential out of the AR-15 for hunting purposes.
The 15L Varminter comes with a long twenty four inch bull barrel, which is great for hunting because it ensures that you’ll get high bullet velocity out of the barrel. However, this long and heavy of a barrel will also not be the best choice for tactical or home defense uses, so keep that in mind.
The barrel itself is built out of 410 stainless steel, which is very durable and rust and corrosion resistant. The inside of the barrel has a 1:8 twist rate, which is excellent for the AR-15 rifle overall. The rifle length gas system is also the best choice of gas system for the twenty four inch barrel and will help ensure good and reliable performance.
There’s also a Hogue made free floating handguard that surrounds the barrel as well, and itself is coated in a durable Type 3 hard coat anodized finish. Finally, the eleven degree target crown that Stag installed on this upper also helps with accuracy as well.
The Stag Arms 15L Varminter Upper Receiver is a great choice if you want to put together a left handed AR-15 that you can use for hunting. The longer bull barrel will be more unwieldy in dense brush and heavier to pack but will still ensure better bullet performance to bring down your deer or pronghorn.
- Designed primarily for hunting purposes
- Designed to maximize accuracy
- Rifle length gas system
- 24 inch heavy bull barrel is great for hunting to get best bullet velocity
- Coated in a Type 3 hard coat anodized finish
- Hogue free floating handguard
- Barrel is built out of a durable and rust resistant 410 stainless steel
- 1:8 barrel twist is great for the 5.56 round
- Eleven degree target crown helps with accuracy
- Very long and not the best choice for home defense or tactical purposes
Stag Arms AR-15 Complete 3 Gun Elite Upper Receiver 5.56 Left
The Stag Arms AR-15 Complete 3 Gun Elite Upper Receiver Left Handed in 5.56 is one of the best complete left handed upper receivers on the market today. This upper receiver is intended to be ready to go right out of the box, so instead of having to customize it or anything, you can instead just install it directly over your existing AR-15 lower and you’ll have a rifle that’s ready to go.
This upper receiver comes with an 18 inch barrel that utilizes a rifle length gas system for superior performance than if it were a sixteen inch barrel with a carbine length gas system. The barrel is built out of a durable and rust and corrosion resistance 410 stainless steel material, and has a 1:8 barrel twist rate, which is an overall excellent twist rate for most kinds of 5.56x45mm NATO ammunition. Meanwhile, the barrel is surrounded by a Stag-made M-LOK SL handguard coated in a Type 3 hard coat anodized finish for better rust and corrosion resistance.
This upper is rather expensive and costs about as much as an entire AR-15 rifle all together, so if you are on a budget you better make sure that you have a cheaper lower receiver to install it over.
While the Stag Arms Complete 3 Gun Upper Receiver for left handed shooters may cost a lot of money, it’s still a very high quality option and gives you everything that you need in an upper receiver right out of the box.
- Ready to go right out of the box
- 18 inch barrel length
- Heavy fluted barrel
- 410 Stainless steel construction
- Barrel has 1:8 twist rate
- Rifle length gas system for superior performance
- Comes with a charging handle
- With M-LOK Handguard
- Doesn’t allow for much customization
Stag Arms AR-15 A3 Upper Receiver Assembly 5.56 Left Hand
Last but not least, the Stag Arms AR-15 A3 Upper Receiver Assembly for the 5.56 in the left handed configuration is an excellent budget option for a left handed receiver assembly. Take note that this assembly is a stripped upper assembly, which means does lack a barrel, handguard, gas system, and rail, so you will need to purchase those things separately. Nonetheless, that means that this will be the perfect left handed upper receiver to get if you want an upper receiver that is more customizable.
Out of all of the left handed upper receivers on the market, the Stag Arms assembly is built the closest to mil-spec standards. It comes with more advanced features such as a dust cover and forward assist, which while not totally necessary to the operation of the AR-15 by any means are still both very useful for helping ensure reliability (the forward assist can help to close the bolt if it is stuck, while the dust cover keeps dirt, debris, and grime out of the ejection port of the gun when the rifle is not in use).
Think of it this way: if you want to make a project out of building your own left handed AR-15, then this is literally the perfect upper receiver that you can go with. It’s well-made and fully ready for customization right out of the box.
This Stag Arms stripped upper receiver assembly is the left handed upper that you need if you want to make a project out of building and customization your own AR-15.
- Can take any scope or optic
- Great for accepting mil-spec standard accessories
- Overall good value
- Allows the user to customize their upper receiver to their desire
- Build to mil-spec standards
- Comes with dust cover and forward assist
- Doesn’t come with a barrel, so you will need to buy and add that separately
Just because left handed AR-15 upper receivers may be rarer doesn’t at all mean that it has to be a challenge to find them. That means you don’t have to resign yourself to adapting to a right handed receiver if you’re a lefty.
Utilizing an upper receiver that is actually meant for left handed people such as yourself will make it infinitely more fun to shoot and will likely increase your own personal effectiveness with the weapon as well.