The bolt carrier group (BCG) of the AR 15 is the action part of the gun. Meaning it is essential to the function of the firearm. Things like wear and tear, recoil, and reliability are all contingent on this group of parts. It is also one of the most upgraded parts of the AR, after barrel and trigger. Things like precision machining, the material used, and coatings are what matter with the BCG and you want them to be excellent. Here are some that I found, made by names that are worth trusting, with the upgrade in mind.
I've had the pleasure, over the years, to play with many products made by Aero Precision and can say with confidence that they are well made. Their Nickle Boron BCG is a well-made upgrade to any AR. Machined from high grade tooled, hardened steel and the main components (bolt, carrier, and key) are Nickle Boron coated inside and out. The coating gives a smooth finish to the essential parts that carry almost its own lubricity with it. This allows you to run the gun with less lube to keep fouling and carbon build-up to a minimum. Harder than harden steel, strong, and smooth means the carrier functions flawlessly and has easy cleanup. The key is mil-spec and properly staked. The bolt is shot Peened, and MPI tested to ensure that everything is up to the abuse you want to throw at it. Every review I've read on this carrier says it runs precisely as suspected with the bonus of easy cleanup. Definitely worth the money.
The CMC Enhanced BCG is designed to be abused by shooters. It is machined with a larger tail end to reduce carrier tilt and wear inside the receiver. It is also made to have fewer points of contact than the standard, meaning less friction for smoother cycling. Having fewer points of contact but greater mass at the rear allows this carrier to have more dwell time and proper gas pressure as well. This translates to better use with suppressors and short-barreled rifles and pistols. One of the unique things CMC does is machine the parts to size after the heat treatment has been done. Heat causes things to expand, and many manufacturers will undersize the parts before heat treatment to get the parts to spec. However, since expansion isn't always the same, this means there are more variations to the spec, giving less precision. When looking at an enhanced BCG, precision is the key. The CMC BCG is extremely precise, giving you better reliability in the manufacturing and trust that the part works every time. The parts are black nitride coated for durability, mil-spec or better dimensions and tested for strength and durability. Enlarged forward ports and an anti-tilt rear optimize this BCG for suppressors.
The V Seven Titanium BCG caught my eye for two reasons. The reviews were excellent and the titanium it's made out of brings down the weight. Unlike other designated "Lightweight" BCGs this one is not made with minimalized cuts but rather uses a lighter and stronger material. This carrier weighs in at only 7.9 oz, making it work with less felt recoil. You get the best of both worlds. The benefits of a lighter BCG with the material and strength of the standard BCG. It is made with a 9310-alloy bolt and a grade 5 Titanium carrier. They finish it with a Nickle Boron bolt and black Ionbond carrier. The combination of these two finishes means the assembly is smooth functioning, tough as nails, and easy to maintain. It's Capable to be used for both full and semi-auto and comes with an enhanced V Seven cam pin. This means the BCG is also going to cut down on the wear and tear your receiver sees with normal use. The reviews for this BCG reflect what you'd expect to pay for an upgrade like this. That being said, you will pay. This BCG is meant to be used, not just look pretty. Get this BCG in your rifle and never fear a day on the range.
If you want a simple upgrade to your mil-spec BCG but not put a lot of money into it, then check out Radian Weapons Enhanced BCG. Black nitride finished, thoroughly tested, and from a name, you can trust. This is definitely worth the extra $50 or so that you'd pay over the standard BCG price to get the upgrade.
There are a lot of AR parts and manufacturers out there. Every year more show up with their unique take on America's favorite long gun. If you want to upgrade your gun, without having to tear it apart, then look at your BCG. While there are a plethora of options, go with a name you trust and look at spending a little extra. This part can be the cause of plenty of troubles but also the fix to those issues. A quality machined part with quality finishes by a company that you trust will make your old faithful rifle your new favorite all over again.
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Prices accurate at time of writing