Eugene Stoner’s AR-15/M-16 family of firearms are some of the most modular in the world. The same receiver can transform from a semi-automatic carbine into a light machine gun, sub-machine gun, sniper rifle, shotgun or even a shoulder-fired soda can launcher! On a more granular level, the AR-15 allows shooters access to a staggeringly large array of aftermarket parts and accessories.
That’s not just the obviously upgradable portions, either. Internal components like extractors, seers, trigger assembles and even triggerguards have dozens of replacement options available for the firearm. Yet, despite having this seemingly endless selection of components, one aspect of the gun’s design is often overlooked: user-configurable ergonomics.
Sure, the telescopic stock on the M4 can be adjusted to varying lengths, and precision rifle stocks with adjustable cheek rests also exist. But what about the lowly grip?
Since the rifle’s inception, shooters needed to decide on a single grip type and angle with any product they purchased — until now.
Up-and-coming magazine-maker HexMag has introduced a new pistol grip for the AR-15/M-16 that enables the user to adjust the angle the grip interfaces with the receiver itself. Why? Because one grip angle doesn’t rule them all.
Certain guns, like personal-defense weapons (PDW), are designed to be compact and easily accessible within the confines of an armed vehicle. A long, traditionally angled pistol grip doesn’t really make since for them. This is because within those confines, a shooter will often have the gun’s stock fully collapsed, thus the gun will be very close to their body.
This same phenomenon occurs when a shooter is wearing bulky equipment or body armor. The added girth to the shooter’s frame makes a fully extended stock impractical and impedes good form which in turn reduces shooter accuracy and effective range.
That brings us to the first selectable angle on the HexMag Advanced Tactical 3-Position Grip — 17 degrees. This first stop is indicated on the grip by the first line below the backstrap, and it feels like the most radical departure from traditional grip angles. In truth, the very steep (or shallow depending on your point of view) feels almost vertical compared to the traditional AR-15 grip.
And, true to my words above, it allows the shooter to effectively reach all the controls on the receiver even when the gun is very close in. This stop is clearly designed for CQB use and would be ideal for both very short shooters and those looking for a truck gun — or something for clearing rooms on a SWAT raid.
It even works really well with pistol braces for AR-15 carbines of all calibers. I installed the Advanced Tactical 3-Position Grip on a test pistol from CMMG to confirm the 17-degree angle’s usefulness on such a short firearm. Since the pistol isn’t an SBR, it has an SB Tactical pistol brace installed. This improves the design’s ability to shoot in a great way. When the shooter places their arm through the brace to reach the pistol grip, they’ll immediately notice a more swept-back angle is very uncomfortable. Yet, with a more vertical grip like the 17-degree configuration, the CMMG AR-15 pistol feels more like a traditional pistol. It is much more natural to point. Additionally, shooters who like to use the brace as a cheek weld will find the grip’s steep angle much more accommodating to that method of aiming, as well, because of how close it brings the gun to a shooter’s face. I utilized both of these shooting stances when using the 9mm CMMG AR-15 pistol and I found some really interesting results.
First, the steep angle feels like it reduces the distance from the grip’s backstrap to the trigger, but it actually doesn’t. To ensure I wasn’t crazy, I brought out a few additional shooters with different sized hands than my own. A petite, 100-pound lady standing a towering 4-foot-11 and a 6-foot, 275-pound man who works construction.
The young lady has shorter, thinner fingers, while the construction worker has sausage-like thick, strong hands covered in calluses. I chose these two, because they represent opposite ends of the spectrum, while I have medium-sized hands.
I first configured the grip to 25 degrees and installed it on a Bravo Company Machine M4 clone, because this is the standard angle for M-16/AR-15 grips and a very common firearm. Both shooters were given a few minutes to familiarize themselves with the controls on the gun. They were then given two HexMag 30-round magazines full of Federal SS109 5.56mm ammunition.
The shooters were instructed to fire five rounds at a time then toggle the safety selector and switch magazines. I did this obnoxious course of fire to give both a good understanding of how it feels to reload, toggle the safety and pull the trigger with the standard grip angle.
The construction worker is a retired Marine. He immediately commented on the hexagonal patterns on the grip. While he was initially skeptical of the futuristic appearance’s functionality, he commented that it was more comfortable than he would have thought, and that it was “grippy.” This was done with the optional grip tape panels installed, which undoubtedly contributed to the “grippiniess” of the product.
Aside from that, neither shooter found the original angle to be remarkably uncomfortable or awkward.
Next, I had the shooters fire the CMMG 9mm pistol with an Advanced Tactical 3-Position Grip installed at the 25-degree angle. The smaller-framed female shooter didn’t seem to struggle with this configuration, but the larger guy definitely did. The proximity of the grip to his chest, made properly grasping the grip next to impossible given his frame. The only way he could do so with any semblance of good form was to ‘chicken-wing’ his shooting arm’s elbow. But because of this, the large-framed shooter was forced to use the second knuckle of his trigger finger instead of the pad or first crux. This also meant his grip was so rotated that he couldn’t reach the safety selector on the other side.
The guns were then made safe, and the grip angle changed to the steeper 11-degree setting. The female shooter noticed a small improvement, noting that her wrist was much more comfortable. The large shooter said the difference was “night and day” between the original angle and the more vertical one. He also stated the next angle made actuating the controls on the gun much easier, and even commented that the new grip angle seemed to reduce the felt recoil. This is presumably because the gun was better aligned with his forearm, so he didn’t have to rely on his wrist to soak up the recoil — which is surprisingly stout for a 9mm thanks to the gun’s direct-blowback operating principle.
What about the third option? The 33-degree configuration? This one is actually a surprise hit with both myself and the two test shooters.
When set to 33-degrees, the Advanced Tactical 3-Position Grip looks and feels like the grip on the granddaddy of all assault rifles: The Sturmgewehr. The angle is conducive to shoot prone, but it’s also very natural in standing or crouched positions. This is because the angle allows the shooter’s grip canted forward, which makes them point with their shooting hand at their target — almost like the grips on shotguns or flint-lock pistols.
But enough subjective information, let’s get to the guts of this grip.
The engineers at HexMag ingeniously utilized the same approach from their magazines on this grip — a high-impact polymer body with hexagonal panels meant for specially cut grip tape. Also, if you’re wondering how HexMag can make the grip angle adjustable but still rugged enough for hard use, it’s actually pretty ingenious. It foregoes the one-piece design of traditional AR-15 pistol grips in lieu of a two-piece setup. Basically a tang and the pistol grip itself. The two are bound together by a screw that passes through both and into the threaded portion of the lower receiver. The screw presses them together, but what prevents them from changing angles under pressure is simply teeth.
Small 90-degree steps under the tang that interface with matching steps on the grip, provide a ton of contact between the two. When pressed together with a grip screw, the two are virtually inseparable. The testers and I confirmed with both mounting the grip on an AR-10 and firing repeatedly and by striking the grip from the back and front with a 5-pound wooden mallet.
Durability was my biggest concern. Adding extra components to such a critical component of the firearm always is. With that out of the way, I would definitely recommend this grip to anyone who wants a more adaptive option for their AR-15, or simply can’t decide between a few different angle options. Especially given its relatively low MSRP of $24.99.
Its unique design may not be for everyone, but for a shooter less concerned with traditional appearance and more so with performance and modularity, the HexMag Advanced Tactical 3-Position Grip stands above the rest.