A1 vs A2 Stock – Does it Really Matter?

The A1 vs A2 stock for the AR-15 debate is still relevant and confuses many people looking to choose one. Some people view the A2 stocks with a frowny appearance due to their one unique feature against the A1.

Whereas the other consider A1 to be the ideal stock for an AR-style rifle.

The discussion will cover in detail what are these factors and how do they affect you in the long or maybe the short run. 


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TL;DR: A1 vs A2 Stocks

A1 Stock

A2 Stock



Very ergonomic stock length

Suits smaller stature shooters

Sturdy and reliable design

Great stock for prone shooting

Features a storage compartment



Usually lacks custom features

Length doesn’t suit every shooter

Best For

Best For

An A1 stock is best for combat and similar uses where quick and close position is the key.

A2 stocks are better suited for competitions or target shooting.

When Was the A2 Stock Adopted?

The A2 stock was developed upon the request of the United States Marine Corps after their battle experience with the A1 stocks in the Vietnam war. The USMC adopted the A2 as their standard stock in 1983 which later followed suit by the Army adopting it as their standard in 1985. 

The M16A2 was overall a more versatile weapon with more refinements compared to the original A1 models. The A2 stock with its longer design was the answer to thicker armor which was starting to gain traction among military units. 

Relevant Characteristics Between A1 and A2 Stocks


A1 Stock

A2 Stock


9-⅞ inches

10-½ inches

Materials (Original)

Fiberglass filled polymer

DuPont Zytel glass-filled thermoset polymer

Trap Door / Toolkit



Butt Top Screw

⅝th of an inch

1-⅛ inches

Plastic Spacer Needed



Similarities and Differences 

Steering towards the crux of this article, we’ll now understand the characteristics that make A1 and A2 stock similar or different. These factors can be major or hard to notice, further translation into small or big advantages.  

A1 and A2 Stock Differences 

Overall Length

The A1 vs A2 stock length is the first and most basic difference between these stocks. The A1 stock has an OAL of 9-⅞ inches. This means an A1 model M16/AR-15 rifle will have a LOP (Length of Pull) of 12.875 inches. 

Hence the A1 can be seen as a shorter stock that often fits better for youth or smaller stature shooters. 

The A2 on the other hand has a length of 10-½ inches. This means standard A2 rifles will have a LOP of 13.5 inches. That’s what most adult shooters with average height prefer. 

Spacer, Trapdoor and Butt Screw

Somewhat connected to the above point. Since the A2 stocks are longer than the A1, they require a polymer spacer to be mounted on the receiver's end to accommodate their length. 

Additionally, the longer length also calls for a longer butt top screw. Never neglect the length of the top screw if you plan to interchange A1 and A2 stocks. As using the wrong length will impede the buffer tube’s function. 

A2 stocks feature a trapdoor that can be used to store a cleaning kit. Whereas A1 stocks are fully solid. 

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Material and Durability

By the time A2 stocks had begun being manufactured and deployed. Polymer technology had advanced leaps and bounds. While that doesn’t connote in any manner that A1 stocks are not durable. But the A2 stocks are tougher and slightly lighter in weight due to the advanced polymer. 

Additionally, you’ll find the butt plate on the A2 stock to be checkered. A1’s are plain polymer and sometimes rubberized. 

A1 and A2 Stock Similarities

Same basic design

The A1 and A2 stocks look pretty much the same and showcase differences only when looked upon and inspected closely. The curvature, ergonomics, cheek weld, and other primary design elements are the same. 

The ⅝ inches of difference in the LOP is not a major difference for many users. Plus, neither of these stocks can be adjusted for LOP or cheek weld in their basic form. 


A1 and A2 stocks can be interchanged on an M16/AR-15 rifle without the need for any major refinements or tool upgrades. The A2 just needs a spacer and a longer butt top screw. 

This interchangeable design ensures that you can work with either of these stocks depending upon the preferences of the user. 

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Advantages of A1 Stocks

The A1 is a more compact and simpler design that suits most shooters. Being a shorter design, the stock allows the shooter to keep the rifle closer to the body when shooting. Which means that your eye will be closer to the sight. 

A1 stocks are great for combat. Their overall length means that a shooter doesn’t have to be picky about the length. The stock itself is very durable and often comes with a plain rubberized butt end for comfort. 

These stocks are great for young shooters, women, and anybody else who has short hands. The A1 uses a shorter buttstock screw which can be used with A2 stocks, in case you lose or don’t have one. The rounded corners at the toe and heel are a tad protective for the shooter. 

Advantages of A2 Stocks

A2 stocks are about ⅝ inches longer than A1. The difference is menial but what that does has to do with shooting comfort. The longer stock is better for the competitive shooter, especially when shooting from the prone position. 

The A2 stock also has a small trap door leading to a compartment inside. This space is meant for carrying a cleaning kit or any other smaller useful piece of equipment. 

It is also worth noting that A2 was developed after the A1. The advancement in polymer technology gives the A2 an edge with more rugged construction. The A1 is a much better target shooting stock.


Photo credit: sw-hearing.com

Bottom Line

The A2 stock is a slight modification of the former A1 stock. Or in other words, the M16A2 was an upgraded version of the M16A1 so there had to be a few changes in many aspects. The A1 is a more compact stock that helps with easy and quick handling regardless of the stance. 

The A2 on the other hand is a tad longer with a small storage compartment on the rear and a checkered polymer buttplate. The A2 was also better in terms of durability back in the day due to technological advancements. But that’s not the matter anymore. Eventually, it all drills down to your personal preference. 

People Also Ask

Take a look at the answers to some important and often asked queries in discussions about A1 and A2 stocks. 

Will an A2 buttstock work on a carbine?

Yes, an A2 buttstock will work on a carbine. But for the best results, you should look into using a rifle-length tube and spring.


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