The AR-15 platform has undeniably become one of the most popular rifle systems on the market. Countless variations on the AR-15 are now available, and the breadth of the aftermarket accessories is overwhelming. The ability to shorten the rifle by adding a folding stock adapter is attractive to many shooters. However, until recently, the design and configuration of the AR-15 made a folding stock almost impossible.
Now innovations and designs have solved the problems associated with the AR-15 system and folding stocks. It is now possible to add a folding stock to your AR-15 with nothing more than a few tools and a bit of time. The advent of a truly workable folding stop adds another dimension to the AR-15 story.
In this article, I look at the best AR-15 folding stock adapters on the market. I looked for several factors in choosing the folding stock adapters for my list. Among these are:
- Reliability – If an aftermarket accessory isn’t reliable is less than useless. A failure of an aftermarket part at the wrong time can be a life-endangering situation. The reliability of any part that goes on your rifle is a prime consideration.
- Construction – Like reliability, the quality of the construction of an aftermarket add-on is important. Construction can certainly affect reliability. Construction and finish can also directly impact duty life and appearance. No one wants to have an ugly rifle.
- Materials – Anything folds or moves on a rifle are subject to enormous stresses. The construction materials’ quality is a major part of both reliability and the fit and finish of the part.
- Ease of Installation – No one wants any accessory on their rifle that costs more to install than the part costs. If you must do expensive alterations to your rifle to make the new part work, it probably isn’t worth the cost. I looked at the installation of these folding stock adapters and chose those that I felt were the easiest to install.
- Cost – For many people, the cost is a big factor in purchasing accessories for their firearms. Most of us work on a budget, and the cost is always a factor.
Understanding the Challenge of a Folding Stock on an AR-15
The recoil system of the AR-15 uses a gas impingement tube that scavenges gas from the barrel. The scavenged gas is directed back to the bolt, where it drives the bolt backward. During this backward and forward motion, several things occur.
- The spent casing ejects through the ejection port of the rifle.
- The hammer returns to the firing position and locks with the sear.
- As the bolt moves forward, a fresh cartridge is picked up from the magazine
- The bolt pushes the fresh cartridge into the chamber and locks in the breech
At this point, the rifle is ready to fire again. Squeeze the trigger again and the process repeats. Of course, this happens much quicker than I can describe it. The forces acting on the bolt carrier group and the receiver are tremendous.
The AR-15 has a recoil spring and buffer assembly that forms the stock’s structural component to relieve some of these forces. The recoil buffer tube attaches to the upper receiver and manages the recoil’s force and returns the bolt carrier group forward and back into the battery position.
The Buffer Tube Problem
The buffer tube assembly with the buffer spring and buffer is the primary problem with an AR-15 folding stock. The tube must rigidly align with the back of the bolt carrier group. This alignment is necessary to allow the bolt carrier group to recoil and perform its job. The challenge is to swing the buffer tube and stock to one side without allowing the buffer spring, buffer and the bolt carrier groups to slide out of position.
Finding the Solutions – The Only True AR-15 Folding Stock Adapter
Overcoming this challenge allows folding stocks for an AR-15 rifle to become a workable reality. There are still a few downsides to the AR-15 folding stock adapter. I will deal with these negatives later in this article. For now, let’s look at my choices for the best AR-15 folding stock adapters.
Law Tactical LLC Ar-15/M16 Gen 3 Folding Stock Adapter
Law Tactical virtually wrote the book on AR-15 folding stock adapters. Zachary Law, the owner and founder of Law Tactical, comes from a law enforcement background. As a counter-sniper and weapons specialist, Law saw the need for a more compact version of the AR-15 style weapons for use by law enforcement and special military operations teams. The Law Tactical designs have led the way for folding AR-15 stock adapters.
The Law Tactical LLC AR-15 Gen 3 folding stock adapter is, in my opinion, the overall best folding stock adapter available. The entire package meets every qualifying criterion that I set for evaluating folding stock adapters. If you want to create an AR-15 platform with a folding stock, this adapter is what I would recommend, hands down.
A quick rundown of the Law Tactical LLC AR-15 Gen 3 folding stock adapter’s features should leave no question about why this is my choice for the best overall folding stock adapter.
- Works with direct impingement or gas piston AR-15 systems
- Compatible with 5.56 or .308 platforms
- It fits every AR-15 style of rifle, including
- Mil-spec, commercial, or pistol buffer tubes and stocks
- 100% Made in the USA
- Low hinge profile reduces interference with the charging handle
- Uses a standard mil-spec buffer retention pin
- IonBond DLC finish
- Adjustable hinge tension
- Made from 4140 hardened steel
- Low profile housing, locking lug, and latch
- Set screw prevents losing of the adapter on the receiver
- Includes a quick detach sling point
- Bolt carrier extension included with attachment tool
- Bolt carrier Extension includes double O-Rings
- Symmetrical design of the bolt extension eliminates buffer retaining pun interference
- Weighs only 8.5 ounces
- Adds 1.3 inches to the length of pull on your rifle
- CNC machined for fine tolerances and finish
The installation of the Law Tactical LLC folding stock adapter is straightforward but does require some skill and understanding of AR-15 construction and assembly. You must remove the buffer tube assembly from the receiver to install the folding stock adapter.
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Removing the buffer tube is not difficult, but a may require a special tool. Take care to capture and keep the buffer retention pin and spring and the rear takedown detent and spring. The Law Tactical LLC folding stock adapter comes with well-written and illustrated instructions to make the installation process and clear and easy as possible.
I have been considering doing a folding stock conversion on one of my AR-15’s just to judge how well I like this style of rifle build. If you want to convert a standard AR-15 to a true folding stock configuration, your only choice currently is the Law Tactical Gen 3 folding stock adapter.
Other “folding stock” adapters are on the market, but none that I can find allows you to fold a true AR-015 with a buffer tube assembly. The other “folding stock” adapters work only with standard fixed bolt action rifles or those that don’t require a recoil buffer tube assembly.
What About the Folding Stock Kits?
Many retailers and aftermarket accessory manufacturers are offering folding stock kits that feather their stocks. If you read the specifications carefully, they are all using the Law Tactical folding stock adapter packaged with their stocks.
Wait! I Found Adapters on Amazon
Yes, several importers are offering AR-15 folding stock adapters for sale on Amazon. In fact, the price is often one-fifth the price of a Law Tactical adapter. Just remember the adage, you get what you pay for.
These knock-off of the Law Tactical Gen 3 folding stock adapter fall far below the standards I would accept on any rifle. The material of these imported folding stock adapters is aluminum, and there are reports of high failure rates of these parts.
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If you read many of the comments and the feedback, you find that most of these imported folding stock adapters require some machining of the adapter or your rifle for a proper fit and operation. The installation of these imported adapters requires great attention to detail. Failure to follow the directions exactly often destroys the adapter when the rifle fires.
Many users of these imported adapters report that the fit and finish of the adapters they received was poor. The overall rating on these imported adapters is not particularly good.
My Take on the Imported Adapters
Avoid them like the plague. That is my verdict. The material from which these adapters are constructed is suspect. The machining and tolerances are suspect. The fit and finish are suspect. You may well need to alter your rifle to make these adapters work.
Yes, they are inexpensive. Do you want to trust the safety and reliability of your AR-15 to save a little money? You may indeed run one of these imported adapters through thousands of rounds and have no problems. It is also true that only one failure could cost you much more than what you may save.
The Downside to an AR-15 Folding Stock
I mentioned earlier in the article that there are downsides to folding stock adapters on AR-15 rifles. Before you go to the expense and trouble to convert your AR-15 into a folding style, you should consider these issues carefully.
- Increased Length of Pull – Adding a folding stock adapter to your AR-15 changes the rifle’s shooting characteristics. The adapter will add to the length of pull of the rifle. This additional length may not be a major problem for many shooters, but you should consider the change before installing the adapter.
- Added Weight – Like any other accessory, a folding stock adapter adds weight to your rifle. The few ounces the adapter adds may seem insignificant, but every accessory begins to add up.
- Changes in ballistics and characteristics – The addition of the extension to the bolt carrier group also adds weight. This added weight and mass can change the overall shooting characteristics of your AR-15 and may affect its accuracy.
My book’s biggest drawback to converting an AR-15 to a folding stock configuration is the inability to shoot the rifle with the stock folded. The folding mechanism removes the buffer tube assembly from behind the bolt and places a stop to keep the bolt from slipping out of the receiver.
Trying to fire the AR-15 with the stock folded can damage or destroy the upper receiver, the bolt, or the folding hinge. The only real gain in converting your AR-15 to a folding style is the convenience of a shorter, more compact rifle for transport. There is no advantage when shooting the rifle.
In the End – Is It Worth the Expense and Trouble
That is a decision for each shooter to make. For some, the ability to fold their AR-15 into a more compact and manageable size for transport is a huge advantage. You can accomplish the same goal by breaking your AR-15 into its component upper and lower parts. However, you lose the rapid deployment you have with a folding stock adapter.
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For me, it is an intriguing concept. I like the idea of a compact rifle able to go into action quickly and simply. The inability to fire the rifle while folded is a nuisance but not a deal-breaker. In the end, I believe that an AR-15 with a folding stock adapter is in my future.
I hope that this article’s information is helpful and has cleared up some misconceptions about folding stock adapters for an AR-15 rifle. If you have comments, suggestions, ideas, or experiences that you would like to share, please use the comment section below. Sharing information is a great way to help others in our community gain knowledge and experience. In the meantime, stay safe and shoot straight.