Originally Posted by frazod
You could focus on my misadventures and learn a lot from my mistakes. I've wasted hundreds of dollars on shit that looked cool that is now buried in my junk drawer. I'm on my third red dot, my third handguard and my third muzzle device. In the junk drawer are a pistol grip flashlight holder that just got in the way when I shot the rifle at the range (around $150), and a couple of bipods. I replaced my original flash suppressor with a compensator, which is kind of silly for an AR since it barely kicks. Looked cool, but made the rifle twice is loud and blasted out that cat piss/ammonia smell sideways which tended to annoy people around me. Ended up replacing it with a different flash suppressor, and I'd have done well to have left the original on it (total money wasted on that about $100). I bought a cheap Bushnell red dot ($80) when I bought the rifle (entry level rifles won't come with sights or optics), then got a sort of mid-range one (Lucid HD7) that was decent, but not great. In hindsight, I should have bypassed the Lucid and saved my money for the totally badass (but very expensive) Trijicon ACOG that I have now. Between the Lucid sight, a magnifier and the mount for the magnifier, I dropped around $350 and it's all in the junk drawer now. I got a nickel boron bolt carrier group that was another big waste of money (around $125) - I reverted to the original one that came with the rifle).
Anyway, after all that, I now have the following additions to my rifle. Some of them are unnecessary, some are more functional and useful than others, but none of them hurt anything.
Sampson Evolution free-float handguard (free floats do not contact the barrel at all and improve accuracy)
Magpul ACS stock which is more comfortable for shooting
Grip Pod combination grip/bipod (sturdy, reliable, used extensively by combat troops)
Trijicon ACOG 4x32 battle scope (again, sturdly, reliable, troop favorite, doesn't need batteries)
Vortex flash hider
Magpul BAD (battery assist device) lever
Magpul trigger guard
Giessele SG3 trigger (excellent trigger upgrade)
Single point sling with mount
Mako pistol grip
Magpul 20 and 30 round magazines
For starting out, I highly recommend Magpul magazines. They seem to be pretty much everybody's favorite. No need to **** with the flash hider. Don't scrimp on optics - I'd get nothing less than an EOTech to start, but they are pricey. Free float rail probably isn't necessary, but you should at least replace the standard handguard with a quad rail so you can mount a grip/bipod. I love the ACS stock, but again, it's not that big of a deal. Leave the bolt carrier group alone. Trigger upgrade was a pain in the ass, but I love love love the new trigger.
Buying the rifle is only half the fun - slowly accessorizing it is a blast, but be smart about it less you end up with a ton of crap you'll wish you'd never bought. In the end, I initially paid around $700 for the rifle. As it sits right now, it's got about $2,000 worth of upgrades on it, purchased over the course of a couple of years, with probably $600 worth of crap that I'll end up selling on eBay if I ever get around to it.