When thinking and talking about upgrades and enhancements for your AR-15 rifle, most of us tend to think about optics, stocks, or trigger groups. Very few of us consider the more mundane parts of an AR-15 that are prime candidates for upgrades. An example of these often overlooked parts is the safety selector.
The safety selector on your AR-15 may not seem like a part that needs a lot of attention. However, this seemingly minor part of your AR-15 is a key component of the trigger group. Many of us spend hours refining the function of our AR-15 triggers but never consider doing the same for the safety selector.
There are many good safety selector upgrades on the market. You can also employ tips and tricks to make the safety selector on your AR-15 work as smoothly and as effortlessly as your trigger. In this article, I will look at the functions of the safety selector, some common ways to improve your safety selector’s action, and some of the best-upgraded safety selectors you can find on the market.
Safety is the Key Word
The safety selector on your AR-15 is a simple arrangement. The selector lever on the left side of the AR-15 receiver has two positions. When the lever is in the horizontal position, your AR-15 is in safe mode. In this position, the safety engages the trigger and prevents disengaging the hammer from the seer. The hammer cannot move forward and strike the firing pin with the safety engaged.
Move the safety lever to the vertical position pointing up and the safety bar disengages the trigger allowing your AR-15 to fire. On AR-15’s the trigger must be pulled each time you fire a shot.
You must remember that the safety selector on your AR-15 is only a small part of safe gun handling. Your AR-15 is safest when the magazine is out of the rifle and the bolt is open. When you aren’t actively at the firing line, this is the best condition to keep your AR-15 for everyone’s safety.
Safety Selector Upgrades – What is Available
In the world of AR-15’s, the variety and depth of upgrades and accessories are staggering. The choices of safety selectors for your AR-15 is much the same. However, there are some upgrades for your safety selector that merit more attention.
Ambidextrous Safety Selectors
There are many lefthanded shooters in this world. The stock safety selector on an AR-15 is only operable from the left side of the receiver. Lefthanded shooters find this awkward as there is no way to manipulate the stock safety selector with their thumb.
Serious shooters often train using both hands to manipulate their AR-15. Shooting with their weak hand is a good exercise to improve your overall capabilities. If you train with your week hand routinely, you will also find the stock safety selector when firing from your left shoulder.
These scenarios make the addition of an ambidextrous safety selector almost a must for many shooters. There are several variations on the ambidextrous safety selector, and we will look at several in this article.
45 Degree Safety Selector
Stock safety selectors on most AR-15’s require the safety to be moved 90 degrees from the safe position to the fire position. For some shooters, this range of movement is excessive and time-consuming. Shooters with smaller hands may find it necessary to shift their hand on the rifle grip to make this movement.
Safety selectors for your AR-15 are now available that reduce this range of movement. To disengage the safety into the firing position requires only a 45-degree movement. The 45-degree safety selector cuts the travel distance of the level in half and makes a move quicker.
In most instances, the addition of a 45-degree safety selector doesn’t require any changes to the trigger control group or the receiver. The 45-degree selector is a drop-in upgrade easily accomplished by most ar-15 owners.
What to Look for in an Upgraded Safety Selector
As I considered the many upgraded safety selectors on the market, there are several factors I considered. These are, in my opinion, the critical ingredients to a top of the line safety selector. You should make your own decisions about what is most important to you when selecting your upgraded safety selector.
- Fit and Finish – The fit and finish of the safety selector are critical. Poor workmanship or less than stellar machining can mean more problems than you might think. Look for these critical defects that indicate poor workmanship or machining on the safety selector.
- Clean edges – Examine the edges of the safety selector. The edges should be clean and well defined. However, there should not be any razor-like surfaces. Look for burrs or ragged spots indicating poor machining and finish.
- Straight and true – The selector lever and the shaft should be square and true. There should be no cants, bends, or curves in the shaft.
- Sizing – One major problem with aftermarket parts is the sizing. If the aftermarket part, such as a safety selector, doesn’t meet the tolerances set out in the specifications, the safety selector may not fit correctly. A poor fit can cause a safety selector to be loose and wobbly or so tight it is hard to operate.
- Material – I prefer safety selectors made of the same sort of aluminum alloy used in the other parts and the receiver. Avoid polymer safety selectors. I have found that these parts wear too easily, leading to the safety selector’s failure to perform its functions.
- Price – Price is usually the least of my concerns when choosing an upgraded safety selector. Compared to the other parts of your AR-15, even the most expensive safety selectors are relatively cheap. Why skimp on the part of your rifle that performs such a vital function.
The Best AR-15 Safety Selectors for you AR-15 – My Picks
These safety selectors are my picks for upgrading the safety selector on your AR-15. In the end, you must find the one that best fits your needs and expectations.
Best Ambidextrous Upgraded Safety Selector – Knights Armament AR-15 Ambidextrous Safety Kit Review
Knights Armament makes some of the best aftermarket accessories for AR-15 rifles to be found. The Knights Armament Ambidextrous Safety kit is no exception. This kit from Knights Armament offers some features that allow you to customize the safety selector on your AR-15 as you install the upgraded safety selector.
- Steel Construction – The Knights Armament machines the ambidextrous safety selector from steel for long-lasting durability and performance.
- Fit and Finish – The fit and finish of these parts are above average. The edges are crisp withing being sharp. The surfaces are smooth, and there are no visible tool marks to be seen.
- Customizable installation – The Knights Armament kit comes with two different sized right-hand levers. Some shooters prefer an oversized right-hand lever on their ambidextrous safety selector. At installation, you can select which lever to install according to your preferences.
- Right-hand indicator arrow – The right-hand selection lever includes a built-in pointer that leaves no guesswork to the condition of your AR-15 rifle. The exposed pointer can be indexed with a finger for a quick check on the safety position even in the dark.
- Single lever installation – If you just want to install a single lever safety selector upgrade, the Knights Armament kit gives you that option. Each kit includes a lever less button. You can install the button rather than a lever for a more traditional style of safety selector. The button has an indicator arrow just like the normal level that allows you to see the safety position instantly.
- Quick and easy installation
- Steel construction is durable and dependable
- Fast and smooth operation without any gunsmithing or finish work necessary
- Works well for any situation
- Low-profile design
- Machining is precise. Out of spec lowers may have fit problems
- The finish color may not match some lower receiver finishes
The Knights Armament is a complete kit, ready to install. This kit gives you the best of almost every option. You can have an oversized right-hand lever, a standard-sized lever, or no ambidextrous lever at all. The Knights Armament Ambidextrous safety is a solid piece of design work that you can count on under any circumstance.
Lightest Ambidextrous Upgraded Safety Selector – V-Seven Weapons Systems AR-15 57/90 degree Ambidextrous Selector Review
For some shooters, every ounce of weight is critical. If your goal is to shave every bit of excess weight from your AR-15, the V Seven Safety Selector is a prime candidate. Weighing in at approximately 11.7 grams, this is possibly the lightest weight safety selector on the market.
V Seven Weapons Systems accomplishes this weight savings by machining their safety selector from titanium. Titanium is tough and light and can be finished in many ways. V Seven uses these qualities to their advantage in building the 57/90 Degree Safety Selector.
- 57-degree or 90-degree options – Each V Seven Weapons system selector kit comes with a convertible core. You can choose between a standard 90-degree throw on the safety lever or opt for a quicker and shorter 57-degree throw.
- Multiple Finish Options – Depending on your sense of style, you can choose from several finish options. If you are more traditional, a standard black finish is available to match most lower receiver finishes. If bling is your thing, opt for raw titanium to give your AR-15 a bit of eye-catching sparkle.
- Fit and Finish – The machining and finish work done by V Seven is exemplary. These safety selectors are more works of art than functional pieces of a rifle. The detail is amazingly sharp and crisp without being overwhelming.
- Materials – Each V Systems Ambidextrous selector switch is made from 4/40×14 Grade 5 titanium and is machined to Mi-Spec.
- 100 Percent Lifetime Warranty and Made in the USA
- Above-average workmanship and quality
- Titanium construction eliminates corrosion and wear
- Easy installation
- The lightest weight safety selector system on the market
We couldn’t find any. Users of the V Systems Ambidextrous safety selector give it rave reviews with no negative reports.
Best Low Profile Ambidextrous AR-15 Selector Upgrade – Battle Arms Development Inc. AR-15 Ambidextrous Safety Selector Review
Some shooters find that after installing an ambidextrous safety selector, the right-hand selector level interferes with their hand position and trigger finger rest. Battle Arms Development Inc. addresses this issue with their AR-5 Ambidextrous Safety Selector.
The Battle Arms Development Inc.’s ambidextrous safety selector features a much shorter and lower profile right-hand lever than most of their competitors. This abbreviated safety lever removes the trigger finger interference while maintaining a fully functional right-hand safety selector.
- Materials – Battle Arms Development machines these ambidextrous safety kits from bar stock steel. To be honest, these safety selectors are built like tanks. You can expect years of service and performance from these kits.
- Fit and Finish – The Battle Arms Development Ambidextrous safety kits are some of the cleanest and most well-finished safety selectors on the market. There are no visible machining marks to be seen.
- Parkerized finish – Battle Arms Development opted to finish their ambidextrous safety selectors with a parkerized finish. Parkerizing is a tough and durable way to protect steel from rust and corrosion.
- Easy installation. The kit includes the tools you need to install the Battle Arms Development Ambidextrous safety selector.
- Heavy duty and Built Tough
- Excellent fit and finish
- The small right-hand lever doesn’t interfere with grip or trigger finger.
- Installation may require some fitting since the Parkerizing can add a bit of dimension to the parts
- The price may be a bit high for some
Overall, users of these ambidextrous safety selectors give good reports without any problems. If weight isn’t a factor and you want one of the toughest and most dependable safety selectors on the market, this is the one for you.
Keeping the Safe in Safety
The safety selector is a key part of the function of your AR-15. As part of the safety systems, it should never be disregarded or overlooked. The safety selector on your AR-15 is a prime candidate for upgrades. Choosing the right upgraded safety selector for your AR-15 should be given the same attention that you give any other upgrade to your rifle.
I hope that this article helps you make critical decisions about upgrading your AR-15 safety selector. If you have any suggestions, ideas, experiences, or wisdom to share, please use the comments section below. Everyone benefits by sharing knowledge and this group is no exception. Be safe and shoot straight.