Beginning life a few years ago as a standard off-the-shelf High Standard HSA-15 with a 16″ barrel, front-post flattop A3-style carbine, my mil-spec AR-15 functioned well, but left something to be desired, aesthetically. I knew right off that I would be adding an Ergo Grip Original, and that my love of O.D. green (olive drab) that originated from playing soldier in O.D. kid fatigues at an early age meant that my Ergo Grip would have to be green. A socket with extension enabled a quick and easy grip change from the factory standard black plastic stick that I find so uncomfortable. The Ergo Grip is superb. Not too soft, not abrasive, not flimsy or breakable feeling; just right.
The back up iron sights (B.U.I.S.) consisting of the standard front post with elevation adjustment and rear flip-ups from Pro-Mag, I was able to hit the targets, but also wanted an optical sight of some sort. Being unable to afford an ACOG or AimPoint, I considered going with a 1-4 variable scope but couldn’t decide which I liked best. Then I stumbled upon an unlikely candidate, at an unlikely sale price.
After mounting a relative bargain, a Bushnell Red/Green multi-reticle dot sight on a B-Square AR Flattop Riser to bring it up to co-witness height with the iron sights, I let it be for a while, trying to decide what quad rail to go with for mounting a plethora of accessories.
While I was still pondering over various rail systems, Magpul showed up on the scene with a new concept: the MOE system. These virtually indestructible plastic parts had lots going for them. Modular, well thought out, tough, and cheap, they also looked great and, being that I had already been using Magpul Pmags for a while and new their great quality, I knew the MOE parts would be good. I was leaning toward trying it out, but still tossing around the idea of a free-float aluminum quad-rail. Then it happened. I discovered that the MOE parts could be had in O.D. green. Game over.
Decision made, the parts had to be installed. The MOE hand guard, vertical grip, and remote light mounting kit went on quick and easy, with minimal tools or effort. I was glad I hadn’t wasted money on the special hand guard removal tools, available from several manufacturers. The retaining ring, while not floppy, was easy enough to retract with bare hands.
I went with the rail-mount vertical grip for a more versatile setup, allowing a quick swap to a different grip or a lower mounted laser, etc. The look of the new fore-end is not only vastly better than the stock hand guards, but more comfortable and has a much more solid feel. The entire gun feels less fragile having these installed.
Installing the remote light mount rail was similarly easy, but did require dropping the tiny screws into a chasm too small for fingers to reach. If you miss the target, you’ll have to dump them out and start over. A simple Allen wrench is all that’s required for this step, however. Since I haven’t yet purchased the light and remote tail switch that I plan to install, I decided to wait about installing the pressure-switch retaining plate that was included in the MOE light kit. It will require removing the hand guards again when I decide to mount the pressure switch, but knowing how easy the hand guard removal process is, that extra labor is of no concern.
Notice how much beefier the carbine appears with the new MOE hand guards installed. It feels stronger, too. Plus, the heat shields are much better in the Magpul hand guards than in the original guards. Each of the vent slots at the two-o’clock, ten-o’clock, and six-o’clock positions on the MOE hand guards can be used for mounting MOE specific equipment or rail sections for mounting gear from other manufacturers. It’s an incredibly versatile setup that covers all the pieces people usually install on heavy, more expensive aluminum quad-rails.
The MOE hand guards, however, cost only about $30, compared to about $40-300 for aluminum quad-rail systems. These are lighter, cheaper, and while obviously not as tough as machined aluminum, are a damn sight stronger than the mil-spec factory plastic junk that comes on most AR’s. As a result, many manufacturers are now offering the MOE hand guards as standard equipment. Several also offer the MOE pistol grip, which I don’t have because I had already purchased the softer Ergo Grip. Honestly, even if I had been buying a new grip at the same time as the hand guards, I still would have gone with the Ergo Grip. I prefer the rubbery feel and mild finger grooves, not to mention the mild arc of the back-strap. The Ergo Grip still has a water-tight grip plug (something Magpul makes a big deal about for their MOE grip for some reason) for storing extra CR-123a batteries for your tactical flashlight, a bore-snake cleaner, or small tool kit. It would be handy if the vertical grip came with the same feature, and that’s really my only gripe about the whole setup – that it doesn’t. That’s a minor gripe though.
The next steps are adding the tactical light with remote pressure switch, and replacing the rear cap with a single-point sling mount cap. For now, though, it’s off to the range to see how the new vertical grip handles. So far I’ve never had a misfire or any issue whatsoever from the High Standard. Since I zeroed the sights (properly), it has been beautifully consistent in grouping, and I feel I could drive a nail from as far away as I could see it. I’m hoping the vertical grip will aid in shot recovery time, so that I can drive more nails quicker.