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11 Best AR-15s: Ultimate Guide [2021 Hands-On]

There’s a perfect AR-15 out there for you and we’ll help you find it.

By the time you’re done with this guide, you’ll know everything about how the AR-15 works and how different configurations affect performance.

Favorite AR-15s
Some of Our Favorite AR-15s

There might be some jargon in there you don’t understand.

But don’t worry…we’ll deep dive into individual parts, the best manufacturers, and more about each rifle choice.

Aero Precision EPC Night Vision Shooting
Aero Precision EPC Night Vision Shooting

And we’ve actually hands-on tested all these guns…unlike most other sites out there that copied us.

Daniel Defense MK18
Daniel Defense MK18

Scroll to “Best AR-15 Rifles” (way down) if you can’t wait!

Table of Contents

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Why the AR-15?

BCM Recce 16 Rifle with MCMR Handguard
BCM Recce 16 Rifle with MCMR Handguard

The AR-15 is one of the most popular sporting rifles for many reasons. Here’s what we think are the top three:

1. Used by the US Military

Special Forces Beard Guy
Special Forces Beard Guy

Or rather, it looks like the M4s and M16s used by the US military.

The civilian AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle compared to the automatic/select fire capabilities of some of the military versions.

That means one press of the trigger is a single PEW! instead of a fully automatic where a single press of the trigger will be a continuous stream of PEW! PEW! PEW! until you let go.

Admit it…there’s a little coolness factor in holding the symbol of America’s might.

Lead Star Arms Shooting
Wooooo!

2. Shootability

AR15 Parts Diagram
AR-15 Parts Diagram

The AR-15 is very light recoiling when chambered in its native 5.56x45mm round. And is also very ergonomic when compared to other popular rifles such as the AK-47.

Check me out dumping 10 rounds on a PSA…

3. Modular Design

The AR-15 consists primarily of two large segments, the lower receiver…

BCM Lower Receiver, Mod 0 Stock
BCM Lower Receiver, Mod 0 Stock

And the upper receiver, which can be swapped out in a matter of seconds.

A Few Of Our Personal AR-15 Uppers
A Few Of Our Favorite AR-15 Uppers

The AR-15 can fulfill roles such from a long-range precision rifle to close-quarters combat (CQB) carbine by just switching out the “upper” and mating it with the “lower.”

Only the lower is the serialized firearm so with one lower you can have several uppers to fulfill any role without additional paperwork.

.300 BLK 123gr vs 200gr
.300 BLK 123gr vs 200gr

The lower holds the trigger mechanism and for the most part, you can swap out the upper for even different calibers, from the .22LR to .300 BLK and even .50 Beowulf.

All of the Prism Scopes
All of the Prism Scopes

There are also tons of aftermarket products to customize the look, feel, and performance of your AR-15 to match your personality and intended use.

However, there’s a prevailing stigma (especially online) of putting too much possibly unnecessary stuff on your gun, and making you a “mall ninja” or being too “tacticool.”

BSF Complete Upper
Carbon Fiber Everythang

In my opinion…it’s your gun and your money, so do what you want to do as long as it’s still safe and legal. But…the above AR might have gone a little overboard!

We’re also very obsessed…so here’s a (partial) selection of our upgraded uppers.

Lots of AR-15 Uppers
Lots of AR-15 Uppers

See all our suggestions at Best AR-15 Upgrades.

Want to get a glimpse of how easy it is to take apart and clean too?

Still with me?

AR-15 History

Popular Rifle Calibers, Part I
Popular Rifle Calibers, Part I

Eugene Stoner developed the AR-15 as a lightweight 5.56x45mm version of the 7.62x51mm AR-10 while working at Armalite during the 1950s. The lighter bullet enabled infantrymen to carry more rounds. And that’s always a good thing!

Naming Conventions

M16 Vietnam
M16 Vietnam

In 1959, Armalite sold the AR-10 and AR-15 rights to Colt. The “AR” actually stands for “Armalite” and not the common misconception of “Assault Rifle.”

After some tweaks, Colt introduced the M16 which was select-fire (automatic) and mostly had a 20-inch barrel.

M4 Carbine
M4 Carbine

The M4 came about in the 90s and had a 14.5-inch barrel with a carbine gas system. Carbine just means that it has a shorter barrel than the rifle version and can either be pronounced “car-BEAN” or “car-BYNE,” but my preference is for the “bean” version.

The AR-15 is the civilian semi-automatic version of the select fire M4. 1 press = 1 PEW!

Colt owns the rights to “AR15” and “AR-15,” so most other manufacturers have slightly different names, but the general public still refers to the general pattern as AR-15’s.

Now, one big question coming up…

AR-15: To Build or To Buy?

For a first AR-15, we would heavily suggest buying a complete rifle from a reputable manufacturer.

Or at the very least, get a complete upper (Guide to Best Uppers) and build your own lower. It’s like Legos for big kids and you can see our recs at Best AR-15 Lowers.

Couple AR Lowers
Couple AR Lowers

Now there are also options to simply get a complete upper AND a complete lower. This way saves some money too since companies are charged an 11% tax on complete firearms.

Buying complete eliminates a lot of possible headaches by having a solid warranty behind your gun. Plus, if you’re just starting off, you probably don’t know what you like/want, so I recommend just going with a standard configuration.

A factory gun doesn’t cost that much more than building your own (and nowadays it’s likely less), and you’ll get a much better resale value if you ever decide to part ways (or upgrade).

AR-15 Build Your Own Kit
AR-15 Build Your Own Kit

However, there’s something very satisfying about building your own “franken-gun” or “M4-gery,” but we recommend doing it for a 2nd or 3rd AR-15. It’s not terribly difficult and you’ll get to choose every component in your gun.

But we think you’ll make better decisions after spending time with a factory gun first.

If you’re curious, check out our How to Build an AR-15 Lower Receiver and Upper Receiver articles just to see your future.

AR-15 Upper Receiver Parts
AR-15 Upper Receiver Parts

Next, we dive into the various parts of the AR-15 before putting it all together and recommending specific combinations based on your intended use.

All About Barrels

We begin the breakdown of the AR-15 system by covering the various characteristics of barrels (the thing that bullets come out of).

Now the real fun is going to start!

Barrel Chambering

AR-15 Chamber
AR-15 Chamber

The barrel chamber means the part of the barrel where the cartridge sits before firing (ie, what ammo it can shoot).

Since this is a beginners’ guide, we’ll focus on the most common 5.56x45mm NATO and .223 Remington. There are tons of other chamberings from .22LR to .50 Beowulf, and a slew of new .30 caliber offerings.

The 5.56 is the more common choice compared to .223 since it gives “looser” tolerances and can withstand the higher pressures of the 5.56 round.

Here are some general safety guidelines for using different cartridges in different barrels:

  • With a 5.56 barrel, you can shoot BOTH 5.56 and .223
  • With a .223 barrel, you can ONLY shoot .223
  • Hybrid chambers such as Wylde are for specific precision purposes but can shoot both

Barrel Length: Long & Strong

AR-15 Different Barrel Lengths
AR-15 Different Barrel Lengths

Federal law states that the minimum barrel length of a rifle must be at least 16-inches. This includes muzzle devices, such as flash hiders, muzzle brakes, or compensators. However, if the device is to be included in the length, it must be permanently attached.

Tested Muzzle Brakes
Tested Muzzle Brakes

For example, you can have a 14.5-inch barrel and permanently pin/weld a muzzle device to make it over 16-inches to make it compliant. Please note, there are some state/local laws that might govern the types of devices allowed, and even having a 14.5-inch barrel might be illegal without appropriate paperwork.

Therefore, we recommend beginners get at least a 16-inch barrel so they can switch out muzzle devices to their liking. Most common lengths include 16-, 18- and 20-inches.

So which one do you choose?

AR-15 Barrel Length Velocity, SA Defense
AR-15 Barrel Length Velocity, SA Defense

Having a longer barrel doesn’t necessarily mean more accuracy. You can get plenty of accuracy out of 16-inches since it is shorter and therefore stiffer and less susceptible to barrel whip (movement of the barrel during shooting).

However, a longer barrel gives you higher velocity since there’s more room for all the powder to burn. And faster-moving bullets give the environment (gravity and wind) less time to affect the trajectory of the bullet.

PSA .223 Wylde 18"
PSA .223 Wylde 18″ Barrel

The average 16-inch barrel is good for up to 400-yards, but after 300-yards, the standard 55-grain projectile becomes more susceptible to environmental factors. 

For longer distance, you would want a heavier and longer projectile such as 62gr, 77gr, or 80gr bullets.

Assorted 5.56 Rounds (XM193, XM855, Gold Medal 69gr)
Assorted 5.56 Rounds (XM193, XM855, Gold Medal 69gr)

Lastly, there’s also the issue of portability…shorter barrels are easier to move and weigh less.

So many things to think about!

Barrel Twist Rate

Barrel Rifling, Criterion Barrels
Barrel Rifling, Criterion Barrels

Another number you’ll see when looking at barrels is the twist rate of the rifling.

This is denoted as 1 x number (1×9) which means “one twist per 9 inches”. In general, the longer a projectile, the faster the twist is needed (a smaller number in the twist since that means one turn happens in a shorter length).

Below is a great chart to show you the ideal bullet weight for the twist of a barrel.

Bullet Weight vs Twist, Shooters Log
Ideal Bullet Weight for Twist, Shooters Log

The most common AR-15 twist rate is 1:9 since 55gr is the most commercially available while the most common mil-spec twist is 1:7 since they need to stabilize longer/heavier tracer rounds.

Barrel Material

There are a lot of numbers and scary sounding words out there when related to barrel material, and we’ve done our best to simplify it:

  • 4150: Steel used in mil-spec barrels
  • 4140: Steel with 10% less carbon than 4150
  • Chrome Molybdenum Vanadium, Chrome Moly, or CMV: Same as 4140
  • Stainless Steel: More accurate but shorter lifespan
PSA .223 Wylde 18"
PSA .223 Wylde 18″ with Stainless Barrel

For the average shooter just go with the 4140/CMV. Unless you’re firing full-auto a lot, you probably would not reap any benefit from 4150. Except for a lighter wallet…but that probably doesn’t count as a benefit.

PSA Barrel Coatings
Coatings/Materials (L to R: Nitride, Nitride, Stainless Steel, Phosphate)

Barrel Lining

Chrome Lined Barrels
Chrome Lined Barrels
  • Chrome Lined: Coating that makes your barrel last longer at the price of a slight decrease in accuracy. You’ll see a gray ring around each end.
  • Ferritic Nitrocarburizing (FNC): Also known as Tennifer, Melonite, or Nitride. Treats the surface of the barrel instead of a coating for possibly better accuracy but with additional cost.
  • None: No coating.
Criterion Barrels, Different Coatings
Criterion Barrels, Different Coatings (Top to Bottom: Stainless, Chrome, Nitride)

Real round counts will differ based on a lot of factors (heat, environment, your definition of “accuracy,” etc), but you can expect around 10-20k before you have to re-barrel.

You still there?

Barrel Testing

Good, here’s some more acronyms manufacturers will throw at you.

MP HP Tested Barrel
MP HP Tested Barrel
  • MP: Magnetic Particle tested, magnetizing the barrel and using fine iron particles to detect cracks/defects
  • HP: High Pressure tested
  • None: No testing. You get what you pay for.

You might run into the use of “batch tested” which really doesn’t mean much. The manufacturer may test 1 out of 10 barrels or 1 out of 100K barrels. For a home defense rifle, we recommend getting a barrel that is both MP & HP tested.

You know…just in case.

Barrel Forging

  • Cold, Hammer, Forged (CHF): Process that creates a more durable barrel
  • Barrel, Forged, Hammer (BFH): Same as CHF
  • None: No extra process

CFH and BFH reduce accuracy a little but you gain a much more durable barrel. If you plan on shooting thousands of rounds a year, it might be worth the extra cost and push you towards a 20k+ round count.

Barrel Contours

Shape and thickness of the barrel will have a decent effect on the overall weight. And if you haven’t seen this quote yet on forums…“ounces equal pounds and pounds equals pain.”

AR-15 Barrel Profiles
AR-15 Barrel Profiles
  • CAR (Colt Automatic Rifle): Just a specific family of AR-15/M-16 rifles from the 70’s. Now just a general term for carbine-length rifles before the advent of the M4.
  • Heavy (Bull): Stiffer and heavier but more accurate. Can take a lot of heat before shooting groups start to suffer. Normally used for precision builds. .936-inches in diameter.
  • Medium (Government or M4): All around balance. M4 contour has a cutout for grenade launchers. .750-inches in diameter.
  • Light/Pencil: Lighter but more susceptible to heat from rapid firing. .625-inches in diameter.

For the average plinker, Medium or Light barrel contours will work great.

And to make it more fun…some manufacturers also have their own versions too.

Faxon Pencil, Ballistic Advantage Hanson, PSA Stock
Faxon Pencil, Ballistic Advantage “Hanson,” PSA Stock

Barrel Feed Ramps

This is an integral part of the upper receiver and you want it to be a proper match with your barrel.

M4 Feedramps, AR15Barrels
M4 Feedramps, AR15Barrels

The jury is still out whether or not they help reliability, but the main thing is to match up the ramps with your receiver. If you’re buying from the factory, this should not be a problem. But you still might want to check.

Curious what can befall ARs? Check out Most Common AR-15 Failures (And How to Fix Them).

AR-15 Gas Systems

Now that you’re a pro with AR-15 barrels, we’ll go into the gas system.

There are two major types, Direct Impingement (DI) and Piston. DI is the original design while piston only really became popular within the last few years.

Direct Impingement vs Piston

An AR-15 works by directing the hot gas behind the bullet into the gas tube (where the triangular front sight block is above) which then uses the gas to either move a piston or send it directly back (direct impingement).

Faxon 16" Gunner 5.56 Barrel
Faxon 16″ Gunner 5.56 Barrel with DI Gas System

When the force is applied, it makes the bolt unlock, move back, expel the spent casing, and strip a new cartridge into the chamber.

The vast majority of AR’s are direct impingement instead of piston.

Direct Impingement
Direct Impingement
Direct Impingement vs Piston
Direct Impingement vs Piston

Pros of Piston:

  • Cleaner since dirty gas is vented away
  • Should be more reliable in bad environments (water, dust, etc)

Cons of Piston:

  • Costs more than traditional DI system
  • Weighs more and puts weight in front (although getting better each year)
  • Proprietary parts unique to each manufacturer
  • Less accurate
PWS MK116 Long Stroke Piston
PWS MK116 Long Stroke Piston

Unless you’re needing to shoot coming out of water or in very dusty environments with limited ability to clean, a direct impingement system will work fine. If that’s you…here’s our review of the Best AR-15 Piston Uppers.

With proper maintenance, a DI AR-15 is a very reliable weapon and what the military uses.

Direct Impingement Gas System Lengths

The gas system length refers to the distance to the gas hole, or where the triangular “front site base” or FSB sits on each barrel above.

The rifle-length gas system is traditionally used for 18-inch or longer barrels, but there is the oddball “Dissipator” model which has a rifle length system on a 16-inch barrel.

AR-15 Gas Systems Barrel Lengths
AR-15 Gas Systems Barrel Lengths

For 16-inch barrels, the primary choice is between carbine and mid-length gas systems.

AR-15 Gas System Lengths
AR-15 Gas System Lengths

We believe the mid-length has the advantage since it allows a longer sight radius if using a front sight base (which doubles as the front sight). 

It also gives you more possible handguard/rail space since the handguard goes from the upper receiver to the front sight base.

PSA Valkyrie vs 5.56 Barrel
Two Different Length DI Gas Systems

It should also theoretically offer a smoother/softer shooting rifle since the increased distance will allow gas pressure to lower before going back into the rifle.

But, this is influenced by a lot of other factors including gas port size, buffer, and spring combinations.

Gas Blocks

For the majority of this article, you’ve been seeing the front sight base (FSB) style gas block which combines the front sight with the gas block.

PSA FSB vs Free-Floating
PSA FSB vs Free-Floating

For years I’ve been recommending this style for beginners for the ease of already having a front sight, robustness (the FSB is pinned to the barrel), and cost-efficiency of a non-free-floating barrel.

You can also choose to grind down the FSB to fit a free-floating barrel later.

BCM in the Desert
BCM in the Desert

BUT…there are many AR-15s that now offer low-profile gas blocks that enable a factory install of a free-floating barrel.

Some of these gas blocks are also adjustable so you can choose just the right amount of gas to make your rifle/ammo combination run smoothly without unnecessary recoil.

If you know you’ll want to add stuff to your AR…skip the headache of grinding down the FSB or getting a new upper…and start off with a free-float handguard.

Handguards

Front sight blocks almost always force you to utilize non-free-floating handguards.

PSA 16" Nitride with FSB
PSA 16″ Nitride with FSB

This means that the two-piece handguard touches the barrel at the FSB and can add some inconsistency in force that makes it slightly less accurate.

S&W M&P Sport II smoky
S&W M&P Sport II Smoky

But for non-competitive shooters, you’ll be fine with a non-free-float. There are some aluminum variations, but most are polymer which still work great and are more affordable.

The above Magpul MOE Handguards for Carbine or Mid-Length still allow you to add Picatinny rails on the slots to attach accessories or use their new M-LOK attachment system directly.

Picatinny rails were the gold standard of rail attachments and look like raised rectangles. Below is an example of a “quad-rail” since there are Picatinny rails on all four sides. 

FN 15 quad rail
FN 15 Quad Rail

The big con was its weight.

And of course, you’ve seen the free-floating handguards for low-profile gas blocks. This allows more consistency in your shots since there’s nothing touching the barrel along the handguard. Those usually cost $100 to $200 more but allow tons of rail space.

AR-15 Uppers, Front
AR-15 Uppers, Lots of Handguards

And also save you a bunch of weight.

I prefer M-LOK over KeyMod, and so does the military now.

Keymod vs M-Lok
KeyMod (bottom) vs M-LOK (top)

If you can’t wait to see handguard upgrades, check out Best AR-15 Handguards.

Lightest AR-15 Handguards
Lightest AR-15 Handguards

Now for some serious stuff…

Bolt Carrier Group (BCG)

How the BCG Works

Essentially the engine that runs the AR-15. The bolt is housed within the bolt carrier and together they make up the bolt carrier group (BCG).

Best AR-15 BCGs
Best AR-15 BCGs

It moves back when you pull the charging handle back.

Charging Handle and BCG Labeled
Charging Handle and BCG Labeled

And when you let go of the charging handle, the BCG moves forward, strips a round out of the magazine, and puts a round into the chamber.

When you pull the trigger, the hammer releases and strikes the back of the firing pin which is also in the BCG.

The firing pin hits the cartridge’s primer which sparks the gunpowder and sends the bullet down the barrel. Then the gas system comes into play.

Watch it below:

Semi-Auto vs Full-Auto BCG

The BCG comes in semi-auto (SA) and full-auto (FA) varieties. Having a full-auto BCG does not instantly make your gun automatic. Normally it is used to slow down the cycling rate due to its increased mass (see the right ends of the BCGs below).

Note that they should be overall the same size but the bottom FA is shrunk in the picture.

AR-15 Semi-Auto vs Full-Auto BCG
AR-15 Semi-Auto vs Full-Auto BCG

The full-auto has a shroud to protect the firing pin from hitting the hammer during re-cocking. You can see the right-most BCG has more of the firing pin exposed and less weight on the bottom, making it a semi-auto version.

BCG Shroud, AR15
BCG Shroud, AR15

It doesn’t really matter which one you get, but most higher-end manufacturers will put in the FA BCG. Most guns are over-gassed so they can run a larger variety of ammunition, so the additional mass and firing pin protection are advantageous.

What do I mean by over-gassed?

In an ideal world, the gas block would send back the bare minimum amount of gas to move the BCG back so it can eject the spent casing and strip another round.

BCM M16 BCG
BCM M16 BCG

However, there’s the problem of weaker ammo which would produce less gas, and also the crud that accumulates and can slow everything down.

Therefore, manufacturers usually let a much larger amount of gas cycle through to brute force through the issues. A heavier BCG and shrouded pin minimize the negative effects of a lot of gas.

There are also lighter BCGs for competition guns…but don’t worry about that for now! Unless you want to here.

Lightweight BCG's
Lightweight BCG’s

BCG Coatings

One of the newest crazes is to have coated BCG’s that are supposed to make them easier to clean, require less lubrication, and run longer between cleanings. 

WMD Guns NiB BCG
WMD Guns NiB BCG

Nickel boron is the flavor of the week along with Titanium Nitride, Hard Chrome, and Black Nitride.

Our Favorite BCGs
Our Favorite BCGs

If you’re running your gun hard constantly or use a suppressor which deposits more gunk back into your BCG, you might benefit from a coated BCG. Otherwise, keep your regular BCG clean and lubed and it will run just fine. 

Or…check out our Best BCG’s article for our favorite picks.

Buffer Tubes, Triggers, & More

Buffer Tube

Mil-Spec vs Commercial Buffer Tubes
Mil-Spec vs Commercial Buffer Tubes

This comes up more when you are building a lower from scratch. Just go with Mil-Spec instead of Commercial since it is stronger. Also, make sure to match up the carbine/rifle lengths according to your barrel.

Triggers

I’d stick with the standard Mil-Spec trigger initially. It may be a little gritty at first but will become better with use.

I like it for its reliability.

Mil-Spec Trigger
Mil-Spec Trigger

More precision rifles will use aftermarket single-stage or two-stage triggers.

However, I will say that the first upgrade I would do to a rifle would be upgrading the trigger. Just stick with the stock one first…if only so you can fully appreciate an upgraded one!

Tested AR-15 Triggers
Tested AR-15 Triggers

Can’t wait?

Check out our Best AR-15 Triggers list. Hands down…getting a better trigger is the best upgrade you can do to shoot more accurately.

Optics/Accessories/Furniture

Again, we recommend getting used to your iron sights, stock muzzle device, and standard furniture before jumping into upgrades.

You likely won’t know what you need until you get adequate range time.

Closeup of Destroyed Sig Sauer Romeo 8
Tested Red Dots & Optics

But of course, we’ve got a guide (and lots of testing) for that too…check out: 

A Couple AR-15 Optics
A Couple AR-15 Optics

Intended Purposes

We’ll cover the four main flavors, each with its own pros and cons.

M4gery

Typical AR-15
Typical AR-15

Known lovingly as the “M4-gery” (M4 + Forgery), this is the most common AR-15 type which seeks to mimic the M4 military carbine.

PSA 16" Nitride with FSB
PSA 16″ Nitride with FSB

While the M4 has a 14.5-inch barrel with a carbine length gas system, most AR-15s of this variant will use a 16-inch barrel and a mix of carbine and mid-length gas systems. 

Most will have collapsible buttstocks so you can adjust your length of pull and eye relief.

Best AR-15 Buttstocks
Best AR-15 Buttstocks…So Many Buttstocks

M4gery’s span many varieties. 

The first rifle is more bone stock, with a carry handle, non-free-floating handguard, carbine gas system, and a front sight base.

Trijicon MRO on BCM 15 Studio
Trijicon MRO on BCM 15

While the BCM flattop upper receiver with a 1913 (Picatinny) rail on top, the new M-LOK rail on the sides, free-floated handguard, mid-length gas system, and low profile gas block.

Precision/Varmint/SPR/DMR

AR-15 Varmint
AR-15 Varmint

Varmint/precision builds likely will have an 18- or 20-inch barrel of the heavy contour variety for extra stability and velocity. The twist rates and materials may also change for more accurate combinations (1×8 or 1×7 and non-chrome-line or stainless steel).

Oh…and get ready for some more acronyms such as Special Purpose Rifle (SPR) and Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR). Basically…longer barrel.

Precision AR-15s will also most likely have free-floated handguards and heavier buttstocks. You’ll want to add a scope and probably a bipod too. Get ready for a much heavier rifle!

SBR/Pistol Builds

Daniel Defense MK18
Daniel Defense MK18 SBR

We won’t be covering much of them in this guide, but if you do go this route, be extra sure of your state/local laws since you’ll be going with sub-16-inch barrels. Traditionally this is known as a Short Barreled Rifle (SBR) which requires paperwork and a tax stamp.

Three AR-Pistols
Three AR-Pistols

AR pistols generally require fewer steps but make the tradeoff of not having an actual buttstock. But now there are things such as “pistol braces” that the ATF allows for shouldering.

Daniel Defense MK18
Daniel Defense MK18 Pistol Brace

Both make the tradeoff of a shorter, lighter, and easier-to-handle weapon. But the drawbacks include much-decreased velocity and increased muzzle blast (people around will HATE you). 

SBR’s and AR pistols are best suited for under 100-yards.

Check out our guide for Best AR-15 Pistols and Best Pistol Braces!

Competition Builds (3-Gun)

JP15 3-Gun Rifle
JP15 3-Gun Rifle

Competition guns are specifically tailored race rifles for 3-Gun (rifle, pistol, & shotgun) or other competitions.

Normally you’ll see longer barrels and gas systems coupled with big brakes/compensators to reduce recoil and enable faster follow-up shots. Almost everything else in the system is customized to the shooter. For the best out-of-the-box competition ARs…click here.

Pistol Caliber Carbines

Another new entry to the field is pistol caliber carbines (PCC). They are also known as AR-9s and I’m pretty sure you can guess what they are!

9mm AR-9 Uppers
9mm AR-9 Uppers

ARs that give you the same ergonomics you’re used to but that take pistol mags and ammunition.

Aero Precision EPC Shooting
Aero Precision EPC Shooting

Now you don’t have to double-up on mags and ammo. Plus you can compete in pistol competitions because the ammo won’t destroy the targets like fast rifle rounds.

Check out our list of Best AR-9s: Pistol Caliber AR-15s.

Angstadt UDP-9 at Sunset
Angstadt UDP-9 at Sunset

Featureless Builds

It brings me great sadness to have to add this for 2017+.

Resurgent Arms Featureless Grip, Left
Resurgent Arms Featureless Grip

But featureless rifles make it legal for residents of CA and NY (and probably more) to own AR-15 style firearms with accessible magazine releases.

The biggest differences you’ll see are no pistol grip, non-adjustable buttstock, and no flash hider. For more, check out our Featureless Rifles page.

Best Featureless Grips
A Few of Our Featureless Rifles

Best AR-15 Manufacturers

Love it or hate it…people really want these groupings. These are my personal point of view and fluctuate through the years as I gain more experience.

Drumroll, please…

Top Tier AR-15 Manufacturers

These are our perceived top-quality manufacturers who don’t cut corners and can produce near 100% reliable guns (or they have an awesome marketing budget).

If you’re looking for the best service grade (mil-spec) AR for self or home defense, we recommend going with one of these top-tier companies that stand behind their product.

Mid Tier Manufacturers

These are great guns that might start out range plinking guns until they’ve proven themselves. We recommend putting at least 1,000 rounds through with varying conditions, ammo, and magazines before you trust a gun with your life.

The below is not an exhaustive list, especially with all the builders out there.

Budget Manufacturers

Nothing wrong with these guns either, they are great starter ARs because of their affordability and are perfectly capable of being reliable. Just test them out first.

Price

For a top tier, expect to pay $1,300 to $1,800 for a complete rifle, while mid-tiers can start around $900. Intro AR-15s are attainable for under $500 now thanks to Palmetto State Armory.

Remember, you’re paying for the quality of materials, quality control, and R&D. Ok…and probably marketing too.

Best AR-15 Rifles

Alright, what you’ve been waiting for…some of my specific recommendations are based on personal experience of my team.

Even More AR-15 Uppers
Even More AR-15 Uppers

Just because it’s not here doesn’t mean it’s not good, and just because I like it, doesn’t mean you will too.

You can online order them to your shop which should have an FFL (Federal Firearms License) to process everything. But I would also recommend touching them in hand if possible at your local gun store.

1. Daniel Defense DDM4

Might be just because my first AR-15 10 years ago was a DD, but mine has never failed me even after 8k rounds.

Daniel Defense DDM4V7
Daniel Defense DDM4 V7

My overall pick for a high-end AR-15 goes to the 16-inch DDM4 V7 which sports a free-float handguard and a softer-shooting mid-length gas system.

Daniel Defense DDM4V7 Desert Shooting
Daniel Defense DDM4V7 Desert Shooting

We’ve been testing it extensively and the quality shows even in a sea of ARs.

Check out our full video and article here of the DDM4 V7 here.

And in the current firearm craze…they are still pumping them out weekly although I recommend getting on their email notification.

High-End Editor's Choice
1730
at Daniel Defense

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

If you want to go on the shorter side, try out the 14.5-inch carbine gas system DDM4 A1 with a permanent muzzle device that brings it to 16-inch.

If you like the front sight block (FSB) options, look at the 16-inch DDM4 V1 ($~1700) which also has the slightly softer shooting mid-length gas system.

FSB Editor's Choice
1950
at Daniel Defense

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

See all their rifles here which include lightweight barrels and different lengths.

And if you’re from California…they have compliant versions too.

2. Palmetto State Armory (PSA) PA-15

Balling on a budget? PSA makes everything in-house…turning raw materials into the finished AR-15 of your dreams. Find complete rifles (a lot of the time with free-floating rails) for around $600.

Reputation is great too for rifles that simply work. Sometimes you’ll see some complaints about shipping times when there’s a large number of orders.

I’ve finished testing three PSA rifles. Full review here.

PSA 5.56 & .223 Wylde
PSA 5.56 & .223 Wylde Builds

And…now with a video review too!

They have a lot of complete rifles…and they go in and out of stock frequently as people gobble them up. But whatever you’re looking for…16-inch FSB or 18-inch free-floating rail with Magpul MOE furniture? They’ve got the variant.

For the truly budget-conscious go for the Freedom Carbine…otherwise, I’d prefer a 16-inch mid-length with rails (are you getting tired of me saying that)?

Best Budget AR-15
499
at PSA

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Depending on the market…you might be better off ordering a complete upper and complete lower separately. Something about an 11% tax on complete long guns. All you’ll have to do is connect them together with two pins. Easy peasy.

If you decide to go this route, you’ll be able to have a bigger selection of furniture and rails (and the ability to get a sub $500 rifle). Check out Best AR-15 Uppers for my personal picks.

Make sure to get one WITH bolt carrier group (BCG) and charging handle (CH).

250
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

And for lowers, you can choose whatever style you like. I prefer the Magpul editions with either the MOE buttstock or the ACS-L.

150
at PSA

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Again…full review of 3 PSA uppers right here.

What’s your take on PSA?

Readers' Ratings

4.97/5 (2162)

Your Rating?

3. Aero Precision M4E1

A well-known name if you’re into building your own AR (they make my favorite stripped upper+lower receiver). 

Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Shooting
Aero Precision Shooting

Aero has its roots in years of aerospace manufacturing and makes almost everything in-house (a rarity nowadays).

For best overall value in rifles, I’m liking their AC-15M 16-inch mid-length that has everything you want (including the mid-length gas system, at the same price as the other affordable models from S&W).

Best Bang-For-The-Buck FSB
689
at Aero Precision

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

I’ve tested a couple of their free-float uppers on their lowers and my best stamp of approval is that it’s now my home defense/SHTF rifle.

Aero M4E1 16" Build
Aero M4E1 16″ Build

We have a full YouTube review now:

And you can check out my full written review here that goes over the full build as well as 100-yard accuracy groups.

Aero Precision M4E1 with ATLAS Handguards
Aero Precision M4E1 with ATLAS Handguards

It’s kinda weird that their full rifles don’t have this combo…but you’re in luck since you’ll get to save the full firearm tax.

Editor's Pick
429
at Aero Precision

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

If it’s out of stock or you like other handguards…check out the rest of their Complete 5.56 Uppers.

Pair it with their AR-15 complete lower and you’ll never know the difference from purchasing a complete rifle.

205
at Aero Precision

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Make sure you don’t choose the M5 (different caliber) or Pistol (unless you’re building a pistol). M4E1 complete lowers are also great and come with upgraded buttstocks, grips, and better aesthetics on the lower (in my opinion).

4. Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM) Recce-16

Daniel Defense has the quality but what if you want to save a few hundred?

BCM in my mind is the best bang for the buck for top-tier stuff based on the several that my friends use and that I have extensively shot.

Lately, supply has been limited.

BCM Recce 16 Rifle with MCMR Handguard
BCM Recce 16 Rifle with MCMR Handguard

I would get their mid-length 16-inch MID16 Mod 0 ($~1200) with a polymer handguard for something with an FSB.

Mil-Spec
1100
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

For my overall recommendation, I would get either the Recce 16 (~$1300).

We spent a lot of time with it and now have a full review here.

Plus full video review too:

Snag yours here…

1299
at PSA

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Or just its upper if you already have a lower.

685
at Rainier Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

5. FN 15 Patrol Carbine

Looking for something with a “classic” feel?

FN 15 range ready
FN 15 Range Ready

The FN 15 has got it with its quadrail, FSB, and mil-spec furniture.

Superbly reliable, accurate, and soft shooting in our tests. Although you probably want gloves if you’re going to comfortably grip that rail.

And all from a super trusted name in the AR world.

899
at GunPrime

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Check out the full written review here…as well as our video review!

6. Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport II

Another well-known name, albeit probably more known in the revolver and handgun world.

More budget-friendly but also one of my top recommendations for an initial AR-15.

S&W M&P Sport II shooting, down hill!
S&W M&P Sport II Shooting

And one you’ll likely be able to feel hands-on at your local shop.

Their entry-level 16-inch carbine gas M&P 15 Sport II ($589) sells like hot cakes for good reason.

We had some slight hiccups like trigger pins walking out and a hot handguard…but overall it’s still a great budget AR.

S&W M&P Sport II smoky
S&W M&P Sport II Smoky

There are different variations based on sights and accessories…but we like the one with an included red dot.

Full review here and also our YouTube video!

7. Colt LE 6920

Good ole Colt has one of the best entry levels AR-15s and the LE6920 is always on the list that I recommend to my friends who want something they can find at their local gun store.

Colt stopped production of civilian rifles at the end of 2019 but as of now they are back…and we are glad they are!

Most Readily Available
1000
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

It might have the shorter carbine gas length barrel but it will eat anything and keep on truckin’.

Or you can opt for the OEM version ($800) and follow our AR Furniture Guide to make your very own without the difficult assembly.

Colt LE6920 OEM
Colt LE6920 OEM

8. Lead Star Grunt

Lead Star is a hidden gem that got its start from crazy cool competition ARs and pistol caliber carbines.

Lead Star Arms Shooting
Lead Star Arms Shooting

Their new production 5.56 Grunt brings what they’ve learned into an affordable package that needs no upgrades.

Lead Star Grunt AR-15 (11)
Lead Star Grunt AR-15

Super reliable and accurate (1 MOA) out of the box with a nice muzzle brake, trigger, charging handle, and furniture.

It’s a solid deal at under $800…and it’s easier to see in stock (unlike their custom competition rifles)!

780
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Full written review here and of course…a video too!

9. Faxon ION

Looking for something super lightweight with no mods necessary out of the box?

Faxon Ion Rifle Side
Faxon Ion Rifle

Check out the Faxon ION from the famed barrel manufacturers.

Coming in at sub 5-pounds, the ION has a lightweight barrel with an integrated brake that brings it to a 16-inch carbon fiber handguard, lightweight BCG, and more.

Faxon Ion Pencil Barrel
Faxon Ion Pencil Barrel & Integrated Brake

Plus a really nice tactile 45-degree safety and single-stage Hiperfire trigger.

Faxon Ion Pistol Side Profile
Faxon Ion Pistol Side Profile

Check it out in action:

Then check out our full review and video of both the rifle and pistol variants.

1425
at Faxon Firearms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

10. Daniel Defense MK18

We have an entire article dedicated to our favorite AR-15 pistols. But our absolute favorite that might be a little tinged with nostalgia and cool factor…is the Daniel Defense MK18 Pistol.

Daniel Defense MK18
Daniel Defense MK18 Pistol

Tested and fielded by SOCOM for years…it’s probably the closest you’ll get without diving deep into a clone build.

However due to current AR pistol regulations…DD has temporarily stopped selling the complete gun. So instead I’d recommend getting the upper and putting it on another lower receiver.

It’s a little heavy with quadrails…but it’s nearly indestructible and has a perfect 10.3-inch barrel that keeps going all day for sub-300-yard engagements. And oh yea…it excels in CQB.

Daniel Defense MK18
Daniel Defense MK18 Shoot House

Check out our MK18 full review where we get to use a full-auto receiver on it…as well as a nice Silencer Central suppressor.

And of course, with all that testing we have a sweet video:

11. Aero EPC 9mm

Again we have a full article on the best pistol caliber AR-15s but our favorite is the Aero EPC in 9mm.

Aero Precision EPC Shooting
Aero Precision EPC Shooting

Like other Aero’s it’s a great bang-for-the-buck option and has the all-important last round bolt hold open (LRBHO) feature that’s missing from more affordable options.

As well as other niceties.

Though it’s more oriented as a build-your-own option…there’s plenty of complete uppers and lowers to choose from.

Aero Precision EPC Build Right Side
Aero Precision EPC Build Right Side

We extensively tested the 16-inch for the full Aero EPC review.

And are currently having a great time with the 8.3″ version too which gives a great middle-ground for maneuverability, rail space, and balance.

Aero EPC-9 8.3" Build
Aero EPC-9 8.3″ Build

Check out all the things needed for your specific build:

314
at Aero Precision

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Check out the full video as well:

Left-Handed AR-15s

Now you don’t have to worry about brass flying into your face or getting an ambidextrous safety.

Stag Arms

Stag Arms has been making left-handed ARs for a long time and offers lifetime guarantees regardless of the original owner or even number of rounds fired.

Left Hahttps://www.pewpewtactical.com/go/stag/stag-arms-left-handed-ar/nded
1169
at Stag Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

My best buddy has been running his for years for both plinking and even competition.

Featureless Rifles

For the folks in CA and NY. 

There has been a lot more activity here (Springfield and LWRC) but I’m holding off on adding everything until I can review them in hand.

The easiest is to buy a featureless at your local gun store or turn your current one following our Featureless Guide.

Building?

If you really want to build your lower…

All AR-15 Lower Receiver Parts
All AR-15 Lower Receiver Parts

I’d recommend looking at our Best Lower Receivers article and then following How to Build a Lower Receiver.

But my advice is still…buy a complete rifle! Or at least two complete halves.

Conclusion

I know we’ve gone over a lot, and your journey to getting an AR-15 has just begun.

So think of all the criteria you want (including price point) and start looking.

And once you do get one, let me know how it runs, and then check out the rest of the AR-15 Definitive Guides.

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465 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Jim D

    You have a picture of a JP Rifle but don't list it as a Tier 1 rifle. John Paul has forgotten more about the AR platform then most will ever know. For decades this was THE competition AR, fire control all others were compared to. Any three gun competition you would see a line of JP or JP variants in the rack. Have over 25k rounds through a CTR02 and the thing is still as accurate as ever. If you have the money spend it on a JP.

    December 6, 2021 4:17 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Richard S

    The Savage MSR 15 lineup is wayyy underappreciated . 5R rifling in a good quality barrel, forged lower, a great handguard, mid length gas system, a history of Savage quality

    November 9, 2021 7:51 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Bill

    I luv my HK MR556 & DDM4V5s. Charms. I think the article isn't terrible but skewed some along with personal preferences.

    October 26, 2021 6:28 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Skeeter

    The overview about the difference in Ar15 and M4 is inaccurate.

    99% of Military M4 are NOT fully automatic. They have a three round burst. One trigger squeeze, three rounds, another trigger squeeze, another three rounds.

    The video of the guy shooting automatic bursts in prone, is not shooting an M4, M16 or an AR15.

    With so much misinformation out there regarding guns you would think you guys would know better. Politicians and celebrities say stuff like this and the uneducated masses latch onto it and spread it.

    Undoubtedly there is some new AR15 enthusiast reading this article expecting accurate information and taking your incorrect info as gospel.

    Do better. But if I just got into guns at the age of 25, maybe I wouldn't know any better either.

    October 25, 2021 8:39 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Ben L PA

    About to purchase my first AR. From everything I've seen and read, a great budget AR is the Ruger AR556 so I'm probably gonna go with that. Its already got the freefloat rail with mlok. With adding a good optic and some other mods, I see no reason the Ruger can't become a great mid level 1500 - 1800 dollar gun that is reliable.

    October 24, 2021 12:11 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Native NY'er

    Springfield Armory Saint Victor is a kick @$$ unit, with great reliability, accuracy, and great features. The fact that it's not on this list is highly suspect. I've used 3...no failures, jams, etc.

    October 24, 2021 6:29 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Brian K. Jones

    Geeesh! Where does my "Springfield Saint Victor" fall on your list" ???
    I always thought it was at least a little better than an M&P.....

    October 20, 2021 10:35 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Brett Baker

    First, and for now only, AR15 is a Diamondback DB-15. It came with the FSB style, but I've since replaced it with a 15" full flowing hand guard. Great gun so far. Have, I'd guess, around 500 rounds through it, with really no issues.

    October 20, 2021 7:11 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    John

    I love PSA. However, PSA makes the list and Ruger does not? That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. If you are favoring companies that let you buy uppers, lowers, and parts, then I get it. But otherwise, Ruger is at least of equivalent quality with PSA.

    October 20, 2021 4:44 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Earl

    The best AR is one that you design, spec parts for, procure parts for, and build yourself for your unique fit, style and needs. No factory built AR will ever compare to what you build for yourself.

    October 20, 2021 6:02 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Bert Powers

    Wilson Combat?

    October 20, 2021 3:37 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    sound awake

    just keep in mind:
    for every 1500 or 2000 dollar ar 15 out there
    theres another one that can be built or bought that will for most or almost all intents and purposes be 90 percent as good for half the price
    with the only real difference between them being perhaps a little less barrel life and a little less accuracy and a little less ability to do a sage dynamics 500 round burn down or get through a 1500 round 2 day carbine class without breaking a bolt or an ejector or extractor pin
    in most cases for most people it more sense to save 750 or a thousand dollars up front on the rifle and spend 150 or 200 on a premium bolt carrier group and use the rest on an optic and ammo

    October 19, 2021 10:03 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Joubert Trovati

      Totally agree. Very good points.

      October 20, 2021 3:25 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Joseph Kish

    This list is more interesting for what is excluded than what is included. Cannot take this seriously.

    October 19, 2021 8:07 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Hrm

      Agree completely. SA Edge is great weapon with fantastic trigger. POF as well,

      October 19, 2021 9:13 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Pete B.

    Once again, POF doesn't make your "top tier" list? You can't be serious.

    October 19, 2021 6:34 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Riggs

    IWI Zion 15... Great gun.

    October 19, 2021 5:50 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Ken

    As an owner of components and completed firearms I believe that Sons of Liberty Gun Works should be included on the top tier list. As for Palmetto State Armory I don't feel they belong on the mid tier list and should be on the budget list. I have experienced numerous quality control issues with PSA regarding parts and build quality.

    October 19, 2021 5:00 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Bert Powers

      Never had any problems with the PSA brand other than availability. That is just me.

      October 20, 2021 3:40 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Glen

    Again, Knights Armament missing from your list and all the same “belly button” / trendy AR’s included. Same ol Same ol.

    October 19, 2021 4:47 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    William

    No Radian or LaRue? Seems this is the list of "best cheap AR-15's." There's other excellent brands that have never been mentioned. Please expand your horizons from the few you always review.

    October 19, 2021 4:29 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Max

    The overview on the platform itself was phenomenal, will be referring newbies to this for a primer. The list itself of "Best ARs of 2021" seems overly geared towards site sponsors/manufacturers that I'm sure paid for advertisement placement considering their objective quality/history. If it was titled "Best ARs for Beginners" I think it would be truer/more accurate.

    October 19, 2021 4:27 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jacki Billings, Editor

      Hey Max! I can assure you we did not receive any money to put anyone on this list. These are guns we have hands-on experience with.

      October 20, 2021 2:32 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    AJ

    Great article, ton of info! I shared it with my fellow 2A Patriots.

    I have a very diverse stable to include a few custom-builds, but my LWRC is my go-to in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

    October 19, 2021 4:24 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    John R

    Excellent article. I'm a shotgun guy and knew just about nothing when it comes to sport rifles. With this article under my belt I would now feel confident making a first purchase.

    Clear, concise and thorough. Thanks...

    October 7, 2021 9:40 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Lyndon Jernigan

    I continue to wonder why you guys don't ever seem to mention Geissele Automatics.

    October 6, 2021 7:03 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Josh

    What a great find for education! Hey where do you personally rank Colt and Springfield from a tier perspective?

    September 28, 2021 3:27 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    johnny richardson aka clutch

    that r85 treated am15 vid 5,530 round with no oil "ever" just soap&water or throw it in the creek to clean it the anderson vid way ,,, smiley face...

    September 23, 2021 3:58 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    PTD

    Thank you for this information. It takes a lot of time to put something like this together and for a new to AR’s person it was great. I picked up my first AR from a friend because I liked shooting it, but was not really sure what I had or the technical stuff behind it. At least I am putting rounds through something and learning. I am looking for a second rifle now and your tutorial has been great! Thank you again.

    July 25, 2021 4:13 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Daniel

    Hi,
    I'm new here so I have couple newbie questions. Btw, very good article! I've been looking for AR-15 for a long time and now I finally want to buy it. Why are there so many manufacturers that can produce the same weapon? (for example I can buy glock only from GLOCK manufacturer and REX Zero 1 only from AREX manufacturer) but here there are lot of them... The OEM version of AR-15 is the COLT right? I wan't to buy an original version of AR-15. I've been told that COLT produce M4A1 for the USA Army, that's why I think that the closest rifle to the USA army's rifle I can buy is right from COLT. Am I right? And the last but not the least question... there are so many different manufacturers, so many different models... Is the model LE6920 known to all manufacturers? I see that there are the new version of LE6920 called CR6920, but I can't find it on the original COLT website, but you can buy it on some other pages and it's also from COLT. Anyway... I want to buy COLT AR-15 Carbine CR6920 and I need your help. Thank you for your time and I can't wait to see your answer. Thanks!!!

    July 9, 2021 4:25 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Daniel

      ..and is COLT AR-15 CR6920 a military clone of M4A1? Thanks.

      July 9, 2021 5:44 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    That_guy

    Anyone got deets on the rifle second to left with the tan upper in the picture at the start of the article?

    June 21, 2021 1:11 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      dmac

      Upper is an Aero M4E1 threaded upper with an ATLAS R-ONE rail (likely 12") with what looks like a BattleComp 1.0 on the end. Lower is also Aero—probably just a regular Gen 2. Optic is an Aimpoint COMPM3 in a LaRue LT129 mount. Hexmag, Ergo Grip, MFT stock, Inforce WML. Photo's too small for me to make out anything identifiable on the selector, charging handle or trigger, and I don't think I've seen anything that looks like what he's got going on with his bolt release.

      June 27, 2021 9:36 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Ricky johnson

    Lead star grunt 100 percent speck and build good as the 2000 are out there love the grunt well build as well

    June 3, 2021 1:52 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Ricky

    Grunt lead star up.with the best out there 100 percent millspeck great made ar. Shoots supper title and upper lower is supper title. Love the star

    June 3, 2021 1:50 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    McCormick, Dan McCormick

    Interesting article. I would have thought that I might see Knights Armament mentioned in the TOP tier. I also think that even though it is a variation, the HK mr556 would get a mention as well. Some of the brands you mention are not even close to either of the ones I mentioned. I do agree that DD makes a great gun. I just purchased a DD mk18 law tactical and cant wait to try it out. Overall good info. Keep up the good work.

    May 30, 2021 5:27 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ricky johnson

      6920 beats all.mitlary speck no other makes mitlary spec but first models of 6920 none lead star rocks as well all good lots good stuff out there some same as others just names on them good shooting

      June 3, 2021 1:54 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Louis Steven Menyhert

    What happened to LWRC rifles?

    April 18, 2021 2:53 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Lawrence Thurman

    I love my Springfield Saint Edge - incredibly accurate and so easy to clean and shoot.

    April 6, 2021 5:56 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    David Whitmore

    For someone who knows nothing about AR-15s but wants to learn, this article is extremely informative, well-written and interesting. Thank you.

    March 28, 2021 5:19 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Ranger Joe

    Ranier doesn’t manufacture so they shouldn’t even be on the list and Anderson is 100% not a mid tier brand on par with FNH or Sig.

    March 19, 2021 9:00 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Parker W

    Where is anyone getting an Aero lower for 200??? They're 350 everywhere I check (Portland metro area, Oregon)

    March 8, 2021 1:00 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Mike A

      from Aero directly, if you're eagle-eyed and quick on the online checkout. I picked up a complete M4E1 lower (with just buffer tube no stock) for $200. it's going great in my BRN-180S build. (Portland resident also)

      March 25, 2021 9:23 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    N8

    Just curious where you'd place current Colt/CZ CR-6920.. Your original article had Colt LE-6920 as a Top-Tier class and now that they're again selling to civilians...wondered where you see them compared to the ones from a few years ago. I bought one of the earlier LE6920s during the "Trump Slump" when they were offered at great prices and I absolutely love it!

    March 8, 2021 1:00 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ricky johnson

      Best of the best only made mitlary full speck out there the early ones or real spec newer not you tell by the new code square on side that one not good as first real runs they made on same full auto line as mitlary le6920 nother beats one

      June 3, 2021 1:58 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Traydon

        What???

        October 24, 2021 6:51 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Frankie Rutigliano

    Thoughts on Radical Firearms AR15's?

    February 25, 2021 1:16 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Austin Leroy

    So the m-16 can be flipped to fully automatic huh... M-4 too??? Dang my unit must have off brand

    February 13, 2021 9:39 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Mike Perri

    Great article! I would like to print this off in it's form. Is that possible?

    January 8, 2021 1:29 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Frank Rizzo

    what would you recomend - honestly interested in your opinion.

    December 14, 2020 11:04 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      met

      Sorry, 5.56? Bullpup Travor is FAR superior. More concealable, easily broken down and cleaned, and beyond ergonomic. An Adults weapon. And since the ADULTS are running it now, ammo and firearms will be widely available AGAIN just like when he was VP. HAW HAW!
      First introduced in the US in the spring of 2014, the Tavor SAR won immediate acclaim and achieved record sales as the first bullpup centerfire rifle to win large acceptance in the US market, due largely in part to its pedigree as the battle proven carbine of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

      February 9, 2021 4:31 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Chad Hanson

        Shut the fuck up

        May 23, 2021 4:34 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    John Byrum

    Best overall guide I’ve read.
    Thanks!

    December 12, 2020 1:52 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Michael Lewis

    No mention of CMMG. Reason(s)?

    December 7, 2020 4:13 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Alex

    Hi Eric,
    great guide and thanks for that amazing overview. I am from Germany and I love your site. Always a great inspiration and source of knowledge!
    The USA ist for sure the biggest and most important AR15 market. Nevertheless we also have in the meanwhile some manufacturer in Germany. It would be so interesting to know your opinion about some producer especially like HERA Arms and Dynamic Arms Research! Would be great to read something about them from your perspective!

    November 24, 2020 8:56 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Jolomas

    Lol the FN15 Patrol Carbine apparently went from $899 - $2,299!

    November 22, 2020 5:50 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    K

    What are your thoughts on Q and their honey badger, in particular?

    November 21, 2020 11:25 am
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    Alfred

    Nice and educative article. But not even mentioning KAC while talking about the top tier manufacturer is kind of weird no ?

    November 14, 2020 4:14 pm
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    Chas

    Any suggestion for an AR-15 in 9mm that would be California compliant?

    November 12, 2020 1:07 pm
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      Donovan

      I think Franklin Armory might have some.

      November 15, 2020 7:27 pm
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    rawdog

    Psa mid tier and rock river and stag are bottom of the barrel? none of this info is reliable if that’s the consensus here

    November 7, 2020 2:08 am
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      Ricky johnson

      Wrong fbi us marshals dea tested 11 well top known ars they when with rra why only one pasted there torched test for the record rra is not at low in or feds wount not picked it over lots u think or top notch do the math rra rocks fbk lifes depend on a gun that run in any condition s true faxs

      June 3, 2021 2:02 pm
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    Spook

    You recommend stag arms?

    September 24, 2020 6:42 am
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      Tony

      I do. I have a Stag model 8 that I've had for 10 or 12 years. Shoots great, never a hitch of any kind.

      October 14, 2020 8:02 pm
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    John

    Hi Eric,

    I noticed that you said you use the Aero Precision M4E1 5.56 Mid-length Upper (Atlas Handguard) and Aero Precision Complete AR-15 Lower for your personal Home Defense, yet you have them as mid-tier. Why? TIA

    September 12, 2020 6:30 pm
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    Richard Lewison

    What is your opinion about Patriot Ordinance Fabricators (POF)? They make an AR15 in 7.62x51 called the Revolution.

    September 8, 2020 9:59 pm
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    Grant Christensen

    5.56 vs 7.62 H&k if you were buying one of these which would you prefer? H&K is a good Brand Barret also makes good quality AR's there are plenty more LWRCI your thoughts on these 3 anyone?

    September 7, 2020 7:15 am
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    Mike

    So...I read this article thoroughly and tried aligning your recommendations along with your "Top Tier AR" list. I then contacted those manufacturers and asked what they recommended for a new AR owner...here are the weapons each company recommended, but I would like to know what you (Eric?) would choose from this list from 1-5? Thanks for any advice...this is a tough/expensive decision.

    *Bravo Company (BCM)* - One of our *BCM RECCE-16 *weapon systems may
    suit you best as an “all-round” weapon system for both range trips
    and home defense: https://bravocompanymfg.com/carbines/recce16.php

    *Daniel Defense (DD) *- *DDM4 V7 or V7 LW* /Ammo: Any .223 or 5.56
    will work fine. Find a soft tip 62 grain or heavier if you want
    for protection:
    https://danieldefense.com/ddm4rv7r-lw-02-128-02241-047.html

    *Yankee Hill Machine (YHM) *- *BLACK DIAMOND® Specter XL Carbine
    /*cheaper ammo I recommend it in 5.56, If you want a little more
    stopping power 300 Blackout / comes with iron sights you can use as
    a backup to a red dot or scope you can put on the firearm. I would
    recommend a green laser for the side of the hand-guard to make
    target acquisition easier / As for a suppressor a Resonator-K would
    be my recommendation:
    https://yhm.net/black-diamond-specter-xl-carbine.html

    *Noveske - *The best option for all your requirements is 100%
    the*GEN 4 Infidel /* It is extremely reliable, it’s longer barrel
    makes it deadly accurate, and it uses extremely interchangeable
    mil-spec AR-15 parts. This is a rifle that will be carried on from
    generation to generation. It comes with a 100% ambidextrous lower,
    so if any of your kin shoots lefty they will have a much easier time
    shooting this rifle compared to non-ambi rifles:
    https://noveske.com/products/13-7-gen-4-infidel-rifle

    *Rainier Arms - oddly...they recommended the same Bravo Company
    weapon above! If you're looking for a once and done setup, a *BCM
    Recce-16*, Aimpoint Patrol reddot, Magpul PRO Backups, and a bunch
    of ammo and magazines will have you pretty well setup to do anything
    you need with the rifle:
    https://www.rainierarms.com/bcm-recce-16-mcmr-rifle

    August 28, 2020 7:10 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Chris

      Thanks Mike, helpful work you've done.

      May 8, 2021 9:29 pm
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      Ricky johnson

      I put lead star grunt up against a above and 6920 e colt 100 spect tons ars out there lots made by same company s people buying names when one company makes for five Sox others true fack

      June 3, 2021 2:06 pm
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    Andre Coop

    What's your thoughts on Barrier Defense out of Orlando, FL?

    August 2, 2020 5:18 pm
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    Paul N

    I am in the market for a mid-tier to high-end AR 15 and I came across a company name POF ( Patriot Ordance Factory) specifically the new minuteman AR 15 selling right now about $1,700. There is very little information on this company and this gun. Anyone has any infomation will be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    July 31, 2020 5:19 pm
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      Drew

      I don’t know about them but I would look at the Geissele Super Duty rifle. It’s about $300 more (unless you’re military/leo) and they’re a bit tough to come by but worth the extra money. I’ve never felt a rifle so smooth.

      August 27, 2020 11:32 am
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      Daim

      Pof is great mostly piston operated and mostly billet recievers. Shot them alot smooth and reliable. If I was gonna buy a compete gun it would be in my top 5.

      November 14, 2020 6:27 pm
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    Debra

    Hi I need some advise please. I am new to guns I purchased Taurus PT111 Millennium G2 9mm Luger Pistol for conceal and my daughters friend gave me a .38 special for house protection. Now I am told to get a rifle/shotgun/AR for house they are better then the 38 special so I'm confused which to get a rifle/shotgun/AR. I never shot any of them but I can learn as I am with this Taurus. Please help me understand the difference between the 3 guns as well as which is best for a beginner. Thank you very much Debra

    July 29, 2020 5:36 pm
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      Howard

      A gun safe or other secure location is needed for each. Shotgun are ideal if for home defense and they are a ton of fun at outdoor ranges to shoot trap. Also shotgun ammo is easy to find and depending on the size of the shot, is less likely to penetrate walls compared to a rifle round. AR platforms would be my next choice. You can do a lot of protecting with a 30 round magazine. They are a little trickier to clean and ammunition is currently in short supply. Rifles would be my last recommendation as the tend to be for longer range shooting and most home defense would be less than 10 yards.

      August 13, 2020 8:07 pm
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      James C Fountain

      First off get rid of that taurus and get a quality pistol to carry.

      August 15, 2020 8:10 pm
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      Brian Corbitt

      That Taurus is a piece of junk. Might as well just throw it at the intruder.

      December 11, 2020 6:11 am
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      met

      All you need is a recoding of the shotgun cycling on your phone to play and you will hear widows shattering from the person(s) leaping out. Twelve gauge.

      February 9, 2021 4:34 pm
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      Joubert Trovati

      Hi Debra,
      AR and shotguns are usually much better as primary weapons for home defense compared to a Taurus G2 pistol or a revolver, despite their large size. Suggest you to go to a range and ask the instructor to teach you the differences and how to load and shoot them. And you can still keep your pistol or revolver in the holster as a secondary weapon for home defense.

      October 20, 2021 3:39 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Joubert Trovati

      AR and shotguns are usually much better as primary weapons for home defense compared to a Taurus G2 pistol or a revolver, despite their large size. Suggest you to go to a range and ask the instructor to teach you the differences and how to load and shoot them. And you can still keep your pistol or revolver in the holster as a secondary weapon for home defense.

      October 20, 2021 4:09 pm
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    Ed Green

    I rarely see anything about Windham Weaponry Ars. What's up with that?

    July 5, 2020 3:34 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      American

      This is very true! Clearly they do not through money at gunbloggers.

      August 16, 2020 3:58 pm
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    William Ziegenfus

    Hey. Knights is an awesome platform

    June 28, 2020 1:45 pm
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    Ken haungs

    What do we know about modern material NJ based AR-15 builder

    June 27, 2020 8:03 pm
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    Ronald Deskins

    Just need v tac sling and mounts for POF model P-415. Can't seem to get an answer ,part # etc. Recommendation? Thanks.

    June 15, 2020 10:03 am
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    Joseph Scott

    Surprised HK MR 556 A1 wasn't mentioned .

    June 8, 2020 3:28 pm
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    Bryian

    How about Windham Weaponry? Are they any good?

    June 8, 2020 5:14 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      nelson

      probably one of the best AR15 i have owned

      June 10, 2020 5:21 am
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    Jose

    How do you rate the Springfield Edge Series? Looks like a great value for money at that price point. I shot about 200 rounds on the DD V11 and love it, but not comfortable spending that much for a first AR.

    June 4, 2020 8:42 pm
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    Shane Minner

    This was a great article to read through. I will check out more of your stuff. I went with the Springfield Armory Saint Edge for my first AR platform. Searching for an optic now and will check out your reviews. Have you done any reviews on the Saint, adding to list or not?

    June 3, 2020 9:21 am
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    Mike K

    Eric, I’ve enjoyed reading your articles and have learned quite a bit from them. Thank you!!! I did not follow your “buy a complete AR first” advice, as I have always loved to tinker and couldn’t pass up the fun of building my own. Doing several weeks of research - reading and talking to experienced AR builders both helped a lot - delayed my start, but was definitely the right approach.

    Would I make a few different choices if I were starting over? Of course I would. But would I have learned enough to make better choices if I just bought and started shooting a complete rifle? I really don’t think so.

    My advice is not to worry about it too much. If you are reasonably handy and enjoy building other stuff, you’ll almost certainly enjoy assembling an AR. There is a wonderful comfort that comes from fully understanding how your gun works, and you just don’t get that same level of knowledge from field stripping and cleaning a gun... you need to be intimate with all its parts. You can mostly get that from pictures and videos of people doing builds. Still, as helpful as those are, they don’t quite get you to that full, 3-dimensional understanding you get from building it yourself!

    May 19, 2020 5:23 pm
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      Jim M

      I felt the exact same way and am waiting my PSA build kit to get delivered tonight!

      December 10, 2020 6:14 pm
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    Ed James

    Surprised Savage MSR 15 was not mentioned. Mr. Gunsngear gave it rave reviews.

    May 15, 2020 4:46 pm
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      HR Lav

      Savage has great AR’s and the MSR 15 Recon is fully equipped with 223 Wilde chamber, free float Mlok handguard, 5 R rifling, and Magpul furniture. Like Mrgunsandgear I’m shooting sub MOA with a Primary Arms ACSS 1x8 scope and paid $675 on sale before Covid!

      November 20, 2020 6:08 am
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    Pete B.

    Having carried an M4 throughout my career in the Army (to include in Iraq and Afghanistan) I told myself I'd never by a DI AR (runs too hot and gets too damn dirty; pain to clean, too, IMHO). I now own three piston ARs: a POF and two Rugers and couldn't be happier. I can't believe POF didn't make your list. What a phenomenal rifle (and what we should be carrying in harm's way). As soon as this Afghan tour is over I'm getting a POF Revolution (piston).

    May 15, 2020 11:48 am
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    Bud Muenckler

    Good Article... What do you think of Savage ARMs AR 15?? They own Black Hawk and with the Savage's rifle experience and Black Hawk I would think the Savage Recon Model AR15 would be a winner??

    May 15, 2020 9:51 am
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    Dave Brown

    Eric,
    Great article, thanks for the information.
    POF AR's never make the cut?
    What's up with that?
    Thanks.
    Dave

    May 15, 2020 4:38 am
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    Neil

    No mention of JP Rifles? They have some of the most innovative rifles and parts on the market.

    May 14, 2020 8:08 pm
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    Pete Woj

    Mind blowing to have no mention of POF. The innovation of parts by Frank and Co. puts POF on a pedestal thats unmatched for price IMO. The Renegade Plus is THE BEST 5.56 carbine out there for the price ($1600-1800). I have DD's, BCM's, LWRC's, etc and the POF Renegade + absolutely blows them all out of the water. Not saying I don't love those too... POF just has patented parts like the e2 chamber, heat sink barrel nut, keyless NP3 coated BCG w roller cam pin, fully ambi billet lower, straight gas tube, Dictator 9 position adjustable gas block, flat face 3.5lb single stage trigger etc for $1750 in a Bronze Cerakote. I also have a 12' POF Pistol that's incredible too. I'm officially on the POF Patriot Train ;-) #WWG1WGA

    May 14, 2020 5:58 pm
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      Tim

      Good point

      May 14, 2020 9:10 pm
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      Ari

      thanks for the info, I like those parts, I'll check them out

      September 2, 2020 5:56 am
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    gfx

    What no SR15?

    May 14, 2020 3:49 pm
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    John

    What seems to be the best AR platform gun that is a 338 caliber

    May 12, 2020 2:56 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Tim

      If you mean .338 Lapua, that cartridge is too long. AR 15 platforms can accommodate a roughly 2.25” cartridge overall length and the AR 10 accommodates a little over 2.8”. The .338 Lapua COL is around 3.68”.

      May 14, 2020 9:08 pm
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        Tim

        So you got me thinking about this so I did go out and find some companies making AR style guns that chamber .338 Lapua. Don’t know if they can be customized with AR parts from other companies.

        May 14, 2020 9:18 pm
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    Scott Hailey

    Excellent article! I read every word and reviewed most of the links as well. I'm new to the AR platform and truly appreciate the information here.

    April 30, 2020 6:29 am
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    mike pernell

    great info!! for i have been researching and looking into the purchase of a AR, this has defenintly helped me out!

    April 25, 2020 1:32 pm
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    Rick Chandler

    I have a Daniel Defense DD M-4 V1 with a 6x48 ACOG ( yeah I know it’s freaking heavy ) and a H&K MM556A1 with a 4x32 ACOG. They are vastly different platforms and I’ve never had any type of malfunction with either. I have a question for Eric if you would care to answer.

    April 18, 2020 3:45 pm
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    harry

    where does windham fit in? i expected it to be mentioned.

    April 13, 2020 6:49 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Joshua

      Yeah, me too. I just bought a Windham HBC. Its a nice rifle, I was curious if this would be considered mid-tier rifle.

      April 25, 2020 7:36 am
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    Buying Once

    Great thorough article once again, thanks for doing these reviews!
    Regarding your precision group, what is your opinion on quality/accuracy (not price) of Wilson Combat overall, and specifically on their Super Sniper?

    April 5, 2020 7:11 pm
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    Ed G

    Thank you so much for all the info, I went out and browsed for rifles at 8 different gun shops, ran into a buddy of mine who’s experienced with building rifles, I knew what I wanted, he helped me put it together and could never be happier, it was a great learning experience and I really appreciate the engineering behind a rifle. Thanks again for your advice and time, especially in these times.

    April 5, 2020 7:55 am
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    Jay

    Can you give me some background on Franklin armory and their AR-15 with Binary Firing System (BFS). The rifle is an appealing package for the BFS system, but I have not found much information about their actual craftsmanship.

    Are the Franklin AR's quality rifles? And how do they compare with most commonly reviewed manufacturers.

    March 31, 2020 12:09 pm
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    Brian D. Bark

    How can you not have a Knight's AR on this list? Or an LMT? Even a Radian, which is really catching on...

    March 30, 2020 7:10 pm
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    David

    Where does the Springfield Saint Edge fit into the evaluations of "Top Tier," "Mid Tier,' and "Budget" Ar-15s? Any evaluation of it as a weapon for occasional target shooting, and home defense? I read all the good reviews of it & got one; my son is considering getting one as his first AR-15, also for the above-mentioned purposes.

    March 30, 2020 6:05 pm
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    Calcynic

    I was fortunate to make a substantial ammo purchase before the quarantine and our dear governor shuttered sporting good/ammo and firearm stores. Dude behind the counter told me a bill was being considered in the senate to prohibit the online purchase and home shipping of firearm components - they’ll have to go through an ffl like lowers. I checked leginfo.ca.gov to verify but was unable to, though it sounds like typical California... what it would probably mean is another fee for instant background check, more taxes, you’ll need a realid/passport/birth cert.
    if anyone reading this fabulous page is considering purchasing components to do their own build, get on it stat.
    Oh, and if you’re a first timer, you’d be surprised how far you could get in your build by yourself with minimal experience or tools. Take the remainder of the parts to a local gunsmith for completion and support small local businesses

    March 28, 2020 10:20 pm
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    zac

    Error in my first post...windham was spawned from bushmaster, not blackout.

    March 24, 2020 12:50 am
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    zac

    Any opinion on windham weaponry's ARs? I own one for my first ar. Carbon fiber. Upgraded to quad rail and foregrip. Low weight and same manufacture as former blackout rifles, which I had heard were reputable firearms. I've shot prob 1500 rounds or more, no issues so far. I've not seen any mention of this brand. Have you tested them?

    March 23, 2020 2:05 pm
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    AJ

    I will put either of my PWS long stroke piston guns up against anything on any of your tiers. They will have no issues shooting against DD, Larue, and LWRC.

    March 23, 2020 7:53 am
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      Mike

      I have heard so many good reports about pws. The person who wrote this article is obviously bias against piston ARs. When talking about the best ARs to not have HK anywhere on the list is really flawed. For me the top 7 would look something like (not in any specific order) hk, bcm, dd, pws, lwrc, colt, and noveske.

      March 27, 2020 7:41 am
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        AJ

        I would agree with all but Colt. Id replace Colt with Larue or Wilson or simply the word custom. I can certainly frankenstein an AR with components from all the top guys.

        April 16, 2020 3:38 pm
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    Kris

    You're exclusion of the Ruger MPR is most disconcerting

    March 22, 2020 2:55 pm
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      Frank

      It's essentially interchangeable with the S&W M&P Sport and I wouldn't recommend that tier of rifle for anybody except for a first time AR buyer.

      March 23, 2020 5:23 am
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    Still-a-Newbie

    Taking triggers and optics out of the equation, what makes a $1.7K DD so much better than a $500-700 Aero, PSA, etc? Forgive my ignorance. I'm trying to understand better.

    March 22, 2020 1:12 pm
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      Frank

      Fit, material quality, origin of materials, SHTF reliability, but also brand name. It's like comparing a Bushnell TRS to an Aimpoint or EOtech. The higher you get in cost the more likely you are to get past the point of diminishing returns, but there's a reason service members and competitive shooters aren't using Smith and Wesson or Ruger rifles. It's the same reasoning behind why some will buy a Corolla- because it's efficient and gets them places the same as any other car, but others want an Audi because they can afford it, admire the prestige of the brand, and because people like nice things.

      March 23, 2020 5:30 am
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        Still-a-Newbie

        Thank you for the thoughtful and polite response Frank. When you say past the point if diminishing returns, is that poor performance/failure/etc. down the road? Might be changing subjects a little but In mentioning Smith & Wesson, does that include the M&P series? Is that marketing only or is the M&P series better than none M&P firearms? Others such as yourself that have a better understanding and/or more experience are great to share thoughts and opinions. Thank you.

        March 25, 2020 4:28 pm
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          Backpacker Dan

          Smith & Wesson makes a reliable rifle and is used by many law enforcement agencies, but the fit and finish is mediocre. I’d recommend the Aero Precision M4E1 above any Colt or Smith & Wesson.

          March 29, 2020 12:03 am
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    Bull o' the Woods

    Colt should have been dropped from the 2020 update.

    March 19, 2020 7:55 pm
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    Jordan

    Kind of surprised you guys put Aero Precision in the "mid level" with PSA. I think they are much nicer then PSA rifles, and honestly my Aero is indistinguishable from my BCM in terms of quality and fitment.

    March 19, 2020 9:34 am
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    Concerned Citizen

    No mention of POF Firearms? What is your opinion?

    March 19, 2020 6:00 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      James Patrick

      It's like when you see a "Best sportcars" article and they don't mention Ferrari.

      March 21, 2020 7:14 pm
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      NHNikon

      On point !! Now that I own a POF, there simply isn’t any other manufacturer Im interested in buying from and I own a DDM4V7. Is POF not available to these guys or are they living somewhere where you can’t see the sun...???

      May 14, 2020 4:47 pm
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    john

    Any thoughts on Knights Armament?
    In my opinion they make some of the best
    rifles on the market

    March 18, 2020 7:21 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Someone

      Best but not affordable

      March 19, 2020 3:58 pm
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    Robert Baker

    How does the diamondback ar-15 stand out? Is this a good quality ? And how many rounds can it shoot ?

    March 14, 2020 1:42 pm
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      David, PPT Editor

      We haven't tested them yet, but the feedback we've heard hasn't been great. It's super budget for a reason. Most of the issues I've heard are QC related. If you're looking for a starter rifle, I would highly recommend Palmetto State Armory.

      March 14, 2020 2:35 pm
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    Buck Lawson

    Rock river is budget but Colt is high tier and S&W is mid??? My $1000+ RRA is budget? This is like how pew pew suggested I buy AR500 armor and Safelite. What a joke!

    March 2, 2020 8:22 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Bull o' the Woods

      >> This is like how pew pew suggested I buy AR500 armor and Safelite. << What are you talking about ???

      March 19, 2020 7:57 pm
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    Wayne Keef

    Piston AR-15 types are as accurate, are more accurate than the non-piston types! It does not matter what anyone's opinion is concerning such. This is a fact.

    February 24, 2020 7:28 pm
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    Robert Morgan

    Ruger MPR ranks up among the top tier. you can spend hundreds, even thousands but you won't be getting any better than the Ruger MPR.

    February 20, 2020 1:39 pm
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      Travis g

      I agree I have approx 1000 rounds thru my ruger556 mpr. With hornady frontier fmj I'm getting around 1 to 1.5 moa at 100yds. With hornady frontier 75gr bthp match I m getting .6 to .75 moa at 100 yds. Not bad for a 599 dollar rifle. This is using a riton mod 7 4x20x50 scope using Caldwell steady rest on a bench.

      March 18, 2020 5:30 pm
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    OldStrummer

    I didn't see CMMG or Giessele listed in your "Best" list, yet those two have come highly recommended to me, looking to buy my first (but keepable) AR-15. Thoughts?

    February 13, 2020 2:56 pm
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      HRLav

      Take a long look at the Savage MSR 15 Recon before buying. Fully featured and more accurate than almost all of the rifles listed here. And less than $1,000.

      November 20, 2020 6:51 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Ronnie

        Did you test all the rifles listed here and compared it to the Savage? I highly doubt that.

        August 9, 2021 5:41 pm
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    Buttered Taters

    S&W Mid-Tier, but Rock River budget? The same Rock River Arms to whom you would pay $900+ for a standard 16 inch absolute basic AR15 Carbine?

    January 26, 2020 12:45 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Buck Lawson

      Yeah, the same RRA I paid $1200 for that has never had a misfeed for me in a couple thousand dirty rounds and puts a 3/4” grouping at 50 yrds with a 1x red dot while still being able to bump fire from my belt. THAT RRA lol

      March 2, 2020 8:29 pm
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    Tom Wolff

    You forgot Spike's Tactical, probably the best complete ARs or finished upper/lower combos on the market. But I'll get back to them in a minute.

    I've been buying/building/shooting AR platform guns since '67, as a Marine Corps armorer in The 'Nam. I have quite a few complete guns and finished upper/lower combos, from an old pre-ban Bushy Dissipator to my mainstay top-tier ARs. Bottom line, I know this subject very well.

    In My Not-So-Humble Opinion, Larue Tactical is the best out there, but you'll pay a lot more for their complete rifles than the rest of the high-end companies, because places like Gunbroker simply don't have a supply of their stuff at discounted prices. You're better off buying one of their Ultimate Upper Kits and a separate stripped lower. Then Larue becomes affordable.

    The downside to Larue is that although the MBT-2S trigger is a good trigger, if you want a GREAT trigger, you'll have to buy one and swap it in.

    Other than Larue, I tell people that their best bets are Spike's Tactical, Daniel Defense, or Bravo Company Manufacturing. Next to them, LWRC, Patriot Ordnance, LMT, and Colt are very good. I haven't seen enough of the Rainier and Yankee Hill guns to have a definitive opinion, but the few I've seen so far are good. I wouldn't put Noveske in the top tier any more since the old man died. Enough said.

    However, when looking at top-tier guns, only Spike's has the combination of an excellent trigger, bolt carrier group, and barrel, your top three concerns. They also have the forged/billet upper/lower combo, your next criteria.

    I looked at ALL the top-of-the-line guns last year and bought two Spike's rifles. I planned buying the Spartan Rifle with the "Battleworn" finish and bought one, but one week later I saw one of their 125 rifle limited edition Pipe Hitter's Union Battleworn Joker Rifles, so I snagged it up! The only real difference between the two is that the Spartan has a 12" handguard and the one on the Joker has the more desirable 13.2" guard. Both of these rifles were $1500 all in.

    The only things I've changed on these guns are the muzzle devices. The existing Spike's R2 muzzle brake on both of them is a great device for recoil, but not as suitable for my purposes as my favorite, the Primary Weapons Systems FSC556 flash-suppressing compensator, which kills much more flash as well as 58% of the recoil.
    The R2 wasn't tested, but the recoil feels the same as the FSC556. At about $100 each, delivered, that was a great investment.

    Okay. I could say a lot more, but that is the essence of my 2 cents worth.

    January 19, 2020 2:36 pm
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      Joe

      Can’t help you didn’t mention Knight’s SR15 or Radian’s Model 1, have to admit I find those exclusions odd when mentioning the best.

      August 15, 2020 7:38 am
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        Nick

        Youre absolutely right. I was thinking the same exact thing.. It's so strange that their info is so detailed and in depth, but they didn't even mention KAC or Radian.

        March 8, 2021 1:00 pm
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    Mememe

    Thanks for including information about left-handed guns. You are thorough and service oriented.

    January 18, 2020 6:55 pm
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    Jim

    From what I’ve read in ar-15 magazine there are 4 types of feed ramp

    January 9, 2020 8:12 pm
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    John W.

    Very good info and content. I have one question which came to mind while looking at the rifle length receiver and the M4 receiver. My question is where the difference is. I could tell the difference in the feed ramps but what is the difference in rifle verses M4 barrels? Is it how for the barrel protrudes into the receiver?

    December 29, 2019 9:34 am
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    RudyP

    If you were ready to buy a gas piston driven AR complete rifle which ones would you recommend?

    December 29, 2019 3:49 am
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      Greg Pritchard

      I have a Barrett Rec 7 in a 5.56. I fantastic out of the box rifle.

      January 2, 2020 3:02 pm
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      Backpacker Dan

      This reply is a little late, but my Adams Arms P-Series rifle has been fantastic.

      March 29, 2020 12:09 am
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    Larry W. Hauger

    Have been looking for a look alike Vietnam AR-15. Smooth fore arm and stock. However with updated
    operation. Is there such a thing? and what would be the estimated cost.

    December 18, 2019 6:07 pm
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      Name

      You will find an m16a1 clone and parts at Palmetto State Armory and Windham Weaponry. Definitely more but that’s what comes to mind first.

      March 20, 2020 7:40 am
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    Rob Scott

    Excellent article, I just wish I had read it before purchasing a locally available AR-15 Carbine. Mine is from Diamondback Arms. Haven’t fired it yet but I’ll let you know later what I think.

    December 15, 2019 5:36 pm
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    Jacob Smith

    Several companies on the mid tier list need to be swapped out with a few on the budget tier list.

    December 14, 2019 6:11 pm
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      Norm B

      I would agree. I have a Ruger SR-556, not to be confused with the AR-556, that, tho a bit heavy, is the finest AR I have. And I have two Colts and a DD.

      December 15, 2019 9:12 am
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    Hachiman

    As for the preferred pronunciation of carbine: "Carbine" Williams was asked by a California vineyard owner how he pronoubced it. He answered the man with another question, he asked the man if he grew his grapes on veens or vines? So if "Carbine" Williams pronounced it car-byne, that's good enough for me.

    December 7, 2019 4:54 pm
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    Andrew Budnik

    My research pointed me toward the Ruger 556 MPR. Too many good features in a sub &100 gun and for me a great start with only add ons to worry about and nothing to switch out.

    December 7, 2019 4:13 pm
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    Richard Hubbell

    Spectacular article. Thank you for explaining this so well. Going to reread it and begin my purchasing adventure.

    November 23, 2019 10:38 am
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    old one

    Free Float the handguard. A good trigger is nice, but free float the handguard.
    For me, at least, they seem to shoot better. ( group, instead of pattern. )

    November 23, 2019 6:32 am
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    Cliff James

    Thanks this helped me to make my decision.

    November 22, 2019 11:35 pm
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    Dee

    Not even an honorable mention on Windham Weaponry?? Rock solid quality, lifetime transferrable warranty. Broaden your horizons dude.

    October 26, 2019 6:35 pm
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    Jerry

    No Word about awesome JP?
    Jerry

    October 25, 2019 2:44 am
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    Sung Yang

    Great article. Good job bro.

    October 23, 2019 4:17 am
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    Jeremy Paulin

    Eric - Just a few comments and a question:

    Regarding the "barrel forging" as you call it. There are two types. They are Cold Hammer Forged and Button Pulled. They are significantly different from one another and aren't close to being the same.

    Cold Hammer Forged barrels produce a much more durable barrel because the material is hammered around a mandrel to form the rifling. This compression of the material makes a lattice structure that gives it the longevity. CHF barrels don't tend to need a hardening step because the machine "hammering" does that.

    BFH stands for Button-Forged and Hardened because Button-Forged barrels need to go through a hardening process after they've been rifled. Button Forged barrels are manufactured by pulling the "button" through the barrel to form the rifling. The Button cuts the barrel on the inside, removing material. Button forged barrels can have internal defects that cause the manufacturer to scrap the barrel immediately.

    "Barrel Life" depends on numerous things. The quality of the barrel (CHF v. BFH), Material, and how it's fired (automatic v. 3 round burst v. semi-auto). Other things that can affect the barrel life is the type quality of the rounds you use. If you're using 80-gr junk rounds, you'll heat up your barrel more than if you are using 62-gr high performance rounds.

    My question for you:
    - When you say that a Piston system is less accurate than a Direct Impingement system, what sort of accuracy difference are you talking about?

    October 13, 2019 2:33 pm
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    Suck it Jason

    Keep this shit to yourself. I came here to read an article about my hobby, not to read some dumbass comment that stereotypes everyone on the left. This is the type of crap that makes me believe every Trump supporter is a drooling troglodyte.

    October 2, 2019 8:59 pm
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      Rob D

      ...and then you do exactly the same thing... Ha!

      November 7, 2019 8:10 am
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    Jake

    How did the original AR...Armalite, not make this list? Surely, they are far better quality weapons than a garbage PSA.

    September 14, 2019 8:23 pm
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    John Cole

    I am in love , i have found my new love.

    August 24, 2019 2:29 pm
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    Charlie

    Great article. After reading it I know nearly all I need to know to get into an AR rifle.

    Thank you

    July 25, 2019 6:55 am
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    Carter Botto

    I have looked into the Springfield Saints, the Victor, Free float, or edge (that one is a little out of my price range). I am looking for something reliable, potentially for home defense, with a free float hand guard while not breaking the bank. Would these be a good option?

    July 12, 2019 7:01 pm
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    Matt Boe

    Hi Eric, thank you so much for the wealth of information! I was wondering if you have ever heard of Bear Creek Arsenal? Their prices are unbelievable. Thanks for any input you can offer!

    July 6, 2019 9:46 am
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      David, PPT Editor

      I've never heard anything overwhelmingly positive about BCA. A lot of reports about having to send back 3+ uppers to finally get one that worked, not even shot well but just functioned correctly. Barrels are very hit and miss, QC problems. Some times you can get one that is sub-MOA, a lot of times they are 5+ MOA - and this is coming from very experienced shooters that I trust. I've never used them personally but I don't plan too either, better to spend a little more but get something you know works.

      July 6, 2019 12:38 pm
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        Matt Boe

        Thank you David!

        July 7, 2019 5:51 am
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    Ken

    Thank you Eric. I now feel I can go out, look at the different choices, and ask the important questions
    before I make my investment in an AR.

    July 5, 2019 3:57 pm
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      Eric Hung

      Glad I could help you out, Ken!

      July 5, 2019 6:26 pm
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    Brucel

    Very good article, taught me alot, but
    What about the AR9?

    June 26, 2019 3:41 pm
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    John

    Nice article, But you haven't mentioned Core rife. This was my first AR15. Why no commit. I understood they are a quality MFG. My first sport rifles where Ruger 30 ranch and SKS which was cheap hunting rife for a young family man on a budget. Had both the rifle and the carbine. They were lots of fun for a group of broke young guy's just getting started.

    May 6, 2019 7:25 pm
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    JOHN AVILA

    I'VE BEEN LOOKING AT WILSON COMBAT AR PLATEFORM FOR A "HIGH END" RIFLE. DOES ANYONE HAVE ANY INSIGHT ON THE QUALITY OF THE RIFLE OF WILSON FOR THE COST? I ask because I don't see much reviews of this particular brand of AR.

    April 13, 2019 9:33 am
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      David, PPT Editor

      Wilson Combat makes very high-quality products. Their rifles, 1911s, and Berettas are all well respected in tactical and competition communities. If they are worth the price depends on you, you're paying a lot for the name and the reputation - but you know for a fact that your rifle is going to be top-tier.

      April 13, 2019 9:35 am
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    Tim

    I’m looking for an all-around optic that will be good for coyote hunting but also work for closer in tactical purposes

    March 26, 2019 8:49 am
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    Edward

    Does anyone have any pro's and con's on the Ruger AR 556 ?

    February 24, 2019 7:46 am
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      Michael Norris

      I bought mine a few weeks ago and love it. My only issue with it so far is after a few mags in succesion it gets a little hot, but that is probably just the stock handguard not handling heat well (and this is after runnign about 120 rounds throuhg in under 15 minutes). Other than that accuracy has been great, and it has been very reliable, I would definitely reccomend it for the price.

      February 28, 2019 4:52 pm
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      Zephead69

      I bought one about 3 years ago. I paid full retail(649.00) because I did not do my homework first. At the time I didn't want to spend 850.00 for a Springfield Saint but within the first 3 months I spent around 500 bucks swapping all the furniture, springs, and an assortment of other accessories. I'm not a hunter and no plans on becoming a sniper anytime soon so the Ruger gets the job done for me. With all that said, I want to buy about 10 more AR's after reading some of these comments from people that know a lot more than me about quality AR's.

      October 14, 2020 12:29 pm
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    Vepr fan

    As usual, no respect for Black Rain Ordnance. I love mine, it screams quality and is very accurate.

    January 16, 2019 8:47 pm
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      Doda

      I also have a Black Rain Ordnance and it really gets my goat that no one ever has any comments on this fantastic weapon!!

      May 7, 2019 8:45 pm
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    Riley

    Wonder why there’s no mention of Radian Model 1 or Battlearms Development on this site, is this stuff up to date?

    December 16, 2018 8:56 am
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    35 year Colt Armorer/USMC firearms guy

    Excellent article! A couple of points- there are only a very few companies that make the actual parts. So anything above $650. For an AR just means more middle men, or more options.
    The diffetence in the guns is in the detail. Anything milspec means the lowest quality, cheapest to manufacture, lowest accuracy standard, minus 20%, gun, and parts. As you get what you pay for, once out of the milspec parts bin, inspect, and look for the greater attention to detail. Example- matched upper/lower receiver sets that WON'T open unless BOTH pins are removed. Huge difference in reliability/accuracy. Example- try a Jewell, geissele, or other top end trigger. All triggers have the same internal parts. The only difference is quality, and attention to detail. Avoid a milspec trigger at all/any cost!

    December 15, 2018 4:31 pm
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    Dave

    I didnt see anything about Barrett. Their rec7 is equivalent to the DD for the same price.

    December 9, 2018 8:47 pm
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      Kyle Barham

      From a ddmv11 owner , Barrett is very much equivalent if not better than dd

      March 7, 2019 8:39 am
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    Bill Osten

    Aero rifles hard to get, AC15,,
    You can buy upper, and lower separate, and have the rifle?
    Missing magazine, maybe sights?
    Thanks

    November 27, 2018 11:37 am
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    Bill Green

    what are your thought about the Heckler and Koch rifles, they weren't mentioned

    November 27, 2018 6:14 am
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      David, PPT Editor

      HK is hard to find in the USA and very pricey when you do. They are well made and reliable, but grossly overpriced for the product delivered.

      Their pistols are a much better value though.

      November 27, 2018 10:23 am
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    RENE AUNIAC

    How about Patriot Ordonance Factory AR (POF- USA) ?

    November 17, 2018 4:58 pm
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    RENE AUNIAC

    How about POF-USA ?

    November 17, 2018 4:57 pm
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    Mikko

    Hi Eric - thanks for the article, good points you raised but I got recently my hands on my new best friend; KAC SR-15 E3 Mod 2 & Elcan Specter DR Dual Role 1,5x/6x scope on top of it and I am in love (pls don't tell my wife...). After almost 1K rounds the gun has had zero problems what so ever and the only thing I am contemplating improving is the trigger, although Knights original trigger is not bad at all. Ryker Grip is an accessory I can recommend for every AR shooter, although it needs some tweaking (grip tape) before it works properly. Just wondering why KAC SR-15 was not chosen on your top tier list, but a great gun whether listed or not. Best regards from Finland, Mikko.

    November 3, 2018 3:21 pm
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    Lenny

    Wow . I did not see Ruger ar15? 556-223 . It is right there with the m&p. Ill shoot mine against any shooter with a m&p. So made Ruger was not concidered

    November 3, 2018 12:42 am
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    harry

    hi. i am interested in your opinion of windham weaponry's ar offerings. i dont often see them reviewed. i live in the state of NY, so i have a thordsen stock which is completely comfortable and effective, tho i wish it were a bit longer. i know that the new ones can be lengthened, but what about the old ones?

    October 22, 2018 6:28 am
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      David, PPT Editor

      I don't know about the Thordsen stock, I've never used one. But I can say that Windham Weaponry is good to go - although not under the same name, they have a long history of producing great rifles for a decent price.

      If you Google their name a bit you can find the full story, but the short version is that the people in charge of WW made an outstanding product, Remington bought their company, fired everyone, moved the company and ran it into the ground, so the people that ran the old company reopened under the Windham Weaponry name with basically the same personnel as before the sale and started up their business again.

      They are good to go!

      October 22, 2018 10:17 am
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    Dwight

    Definitely check out Core Rifle Systems. I have a Grey Cerakoted TAC IV and love it. Precision AR with tight tolerances. I upgraded the BCG to nickel boron and love it. The forge their own barrels as well. A lot of Pew Pew for the buck.

    September 20, 2018 7:00 pm
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    Mario

    You have not mentioned POF. Woder why?

    September 10, 2018 9:46 pm
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      Eric Hung

      Hi Mario, we haven't had any experience besides a few rounds through at a range day to have a solid opinion.

      September 10, 2018 10:21 pm
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        Mario

        Understand. I have POF Renegade Plus. Superb quality and so many " extras " make this one really worth to take a closer look.

        September 10, 2018 11:32 pm
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    Subsonic

    Hey Eric, and everyone else. Great article.. My coworkers and I enjoy reading your stuff. We are all well seasoned shooters with prior service backgrounds. We may not always agree with you but we for sure appreciate you having a voice and using it effectively. I’ve read all the comments as of 9/2/2018 @ 8:31 a.m. and there is no shortage of options. To the fella who commented on the Mini 14 being a viable contender, I’d say absolutely. Ever heard of Michael Platt? I’m not in any way glamorizing this individual or the shootout and in the end he got what was coming to him but it speaks to the Mini’s reliable platform.
    Back on topic. In my opinion if you can perform any of the following:
    • Hang a picture on a wall
    • Insert a key into the ignition
    • Dress yourself
    • Open a soda can
    You should have no problem building an AR with the proper tooling, especially when you consider the vast amount of detailed instructions available on YouTube alone. I agree with the satisfaction that comes with completing your own build and I mean placing your hands on each individual part, not pinning an upper to a lower. But I must warn you, when you are finished with your first build and you see the fruits of your labor... you will build another. This is a contagious lifestyle for which I have found no cure, possibly because I haven’t looked. Buy tools that are dependable, accurate and that will last. There are a few steps that one can take while assembling that only take minutes but that will improve accuracy on the big end. One example is lapping the upper receiver before installing the barrel in order to gain equal contact between the upper receiver and barrel extension. I have a cheap AR I put together using no name leftover parts and a $70 16” Bear Creek Arsenal 1:8 .223 Wyld Barrel. This thing is a shooter. Yes it’s ugly, no the colors don’t match and I may have $300 in it but it has been 100% reliable with a medley of Ammo and in most cases it shoots laser beams and has only gotten better over time. This is a builders market as there are many more options available to the builder and don’t be fooled into believing that more money equals better accuracy.
    Practice basic shooting fundamentals and build your skills from there.
    My departing advice to anyone new to the AR scene.
    Keep your rifles simple and purpose built. Keep in mind one rifle can play many roles. You don’t need a bunch of stuff attached to your platform. Work on being effective with the minimum. You don’t need a high dollar rifle to be effective. You don’t have to look like the Blackwater operators to be effective and most important you don’t need either to have fun with whatever you choose. Most of us are fortunate enough to live in states that allow us to make our own decisions so take advantage of the “privilege” while you can. Find what works for you, take a friend shooting, practice practice practice, put some Ammo away and when the wolf comes knocking your experience and equipment will serve you well.

    September 2, 2018 8:21 am
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      Eric Hung

      Great advice there...especially on not needing a high dollar rifle or looking like a full-blown operator.

      September 4, 2018 10:49 am
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    anthony hill

    Thanks for the great read Eric. it has helped me out trying to narrow down my first AR15 purchase. I am OK with being in the 1500 range and was looking at the Falkor Defense The Standard, do you have any experience or thoughts on Falkor?

    August 29, 2018 7:25 pm
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      Eric Hung

      Hi Anthony, so glad I could help out!

      August 30, 2018 11:05 am
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      David

      I haven't had the opportunity to use any of their ARs, the only thing I've heard about them is that they make an AR-10 in .300 Win Mag. Sorry!

      August 30, 2018 3:28 pm
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    Robert Essa

    Eric, I see you didn't name Armalite as a good company to buy an AR from. They are now moving to a new Factory location. Do you have any comment on them at all?

    August 26, 2018 3:17 pm
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    Tball

    Well written, and very informative. I've been involved with shooting and hunting for sometime now, but I've never caught the AR bug until recently. Thanks for helping me with the basics

    August 5, 2018 1:51 pm
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    DK54

    You didn't include Ruger on your list. Why?

    July 23, 2018 9:53 am
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      David

      Ruger is on the list under "Mid-tier". The Ruger 556 and Ruger MPR are great budget rifles and two of main ones I recommend for people looking to get their first AR-15.

      July 23, 2018 11:07 am
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        Kris

        Sorry but I will double post .Having both a ruger 55.6 and mpr (both great rifles) I think the mpr should be on your best bang for the buck list.try one out

        August 12, 2018 10:13 pm
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      Ricardo Evans

      I have the Ruger MPR and it’s been serving me well.

      August 5, 2018 8:37 pm
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        Kris

        I have both a ruger 55.6 and mpr .both great rifles. The mpr should be considered on your best bang for the buck list with all the upgrades over the standard 55.6

        August 12, 2018 10:05 pm
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    mel

    mt inspection has nothing to do with x-rays .

    July 6, 2018 7:33 am
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    George

    Why do I never see Knights armament sr15 on these lists?

    July 4, 2018 8:47 pm
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      David

      Knights Armament rifles are great rifles. They are also an innovative company, they were one of the first really perfect the AR-10 and they won the military contract for it also. The main reason they aren't on the list is simple price. At $2,500 their AR-15 is out of reach for most people and does not return good value at all. While well made, reliable, and good rifles - they are nothing special. You can get the same reliability, build quality, and durability from rifles half or less the price.

      July 5, 2018 11:22 am
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    Ramses

    BCM..top tier...lol...really!....lol!

    June 17, 2018 11:42 am
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      American

      Yeah I laughed as well.

      August 16, 2020 4:14 pm
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    Tony

    For those new to AR, go with a COLT. You are more likely to get your money out of it later - other brands just dont hold value as well at a gun show. It’s a known commodity. COLT is not as high quality as the pimp’ed out DD, but people like used COLT rifles - like of like a S&W 44 mag versus other brands. Colt is Iconic.

    June 1, 2018 4:38 am
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      John Taylor

      and if you have no intention of selling it?

      June 4, 2018 3:40 pm
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    Mike

    I own a CMMG MK 4 in 300AAC Blackout 16 inch barrel and a Ruger 5.56, I love them both.
    I'm wanting to upgrade to a "premium " weapon but I can't decide on the Daniel Defense , Bravo Company , LWRC and Wilson Combat ( how were they left off your list).
    I'd like it in 300AAC Blackout to be used for hog hunting. Any recommendations? Thanks.

    May 27, 2018 6:48 pm
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      Sam

      Go with Daniel defense. I own the ddm4v7 and I love it. It’s a good amount of money but I think it is well worth it!

      July 9, 2018 4:12 pm
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    Brandyn

    How in the heck did the Ruger AR 556 MPR not make this list. That is just crazy.

    April 28, 2018 4:55 am
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    Jake

    Another good AR-15 maker is Rock River Arms. I hear they make a great, all-round AR-15 and they also make specifically engineered left-handed models as well, right down to the barrel twist. Keep in mind those parts are engineered, thus proprietary, for those left-handed models, as mentioned in their notice, but it's great there is another southpaw option out there.

    April 22, 2018 2:22 pm
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      David

      Twist based on shooter's dominant hand has been a debunked myth for decades. I would strongly question trusting any product being sold based on that claim.

      April 23, 2018 12:25 am
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    Grant Donald

    Hi Eric can you explain why you and the military prefer M LOK over KEY MOD hand guards. The Barret Rec 7 is is a very good AR 15 so i think Barret should have been included in the list of top tier manufacturers. Good article keep up the good work.

    April 18, 2018 4:57 pm
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      David

      USSOCOM Published Their Testing Results and it basically boils down to M-LOK attachments were much stronger than Keymod. Also, since they now have USSOCOM's support the market is shifting heavily to using M-LOK over Keymod.

      April 18, 2018 5:19 pm
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        Grant Donald

        Thanks for the info

        April 21, 2018 5:48 pm
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    Ron

    Hi Pew Pew, you have excellent articles posted, lots of good info. 30 years ago I got a good deal on a slightly used Colt SP-1, put a couple hundred rounds thru it, cleaned it and stashed it away. Decided now I want one to use, I ended up with a Radical RF15, I like the M-Lok free-floating guard, makes it easy to modify the gun. Good review and bad on-line, I read em, went back and talked to dealer, he's sold some to guys that have put a beating on them with no issues. He had cheaper guns there, he had some way more expensive. Do some reading and looking and buy the one you like. It's like anything else, I have friends that love their XYZ truck, I wouldn't ever buy one. Went to a show yesterday and was looking at all the parts and pieces, looks like fun to build one, wont be cheaper than buying a complete low end gun but it would be mine! thank you!!

    April 15, 2018 6:06 am
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    Steve

    Hi Eric, I'm new to the AR15 and looking to buy one. I probably am not looking to build my first. I live in CA so I need to have the ugly version (featureless) I've heard really good things about Sionics. What are your (or anyone else) thoughts on them? Quality & Customer Service appear to be excellent. Thank you for your time!

    April 11, 2018 1:52 pm
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      David

      I've never handled a Sionic but I haven't heard bad things about them. I think they are more focused on Law Enforcement though. I'm not sure they even make a CA approved AR-15.

      They wouldn't be my first choice for someone that was getting their first AR-15, but I don't think they would be a bad choice either.

      April 11, 2018 2:37 pm
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        Steve

        Thanks for your i put David. They do have a CA legal version, I was looking at them in the shop last week. No pistol grips, one piece stock or fin and no muzzle blast suppressor. I've seen some good reviews of them, was just curious.

        April 11, 2018 3:00 pm
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    DRH

    Curious as to why RRA is low tear?

    April 9, 2018 3:16 pm
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      David

      Personally, I wouldn't really think of them as low tier - just not the best and not something that I would look to for top quality. There have been QC issues that I've heard cropping up with their rifles that would lead me to consider other manufacturers first. However, if the price was right I would roll the dice and pick one up.

      April 9, 2018 3:59 pm
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    Charlie McDanger

    Excellent article. Keep up the good work.

    April 5, 2018 8:51 am
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    Kul555

    Brilliant plain English article

    April 2, 2018 5:10 am
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    Don

    Great article and very informative. Thanks!

    March 31, 2018 7:32 pm
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      Matthew Collins

      Glad it was helpful!

      April 2, 2018 8:10 am
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    Matthew

    Have you ever heard of Radical Firearms? I'm looking at buying my first AR-15. So I've been trying to read up and look at the best way to do it.

    March 28, 2018 8:09 pm
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      Ron

      I just picked up a Radical RF15 a couple weeks ago. Read good and bad reviews, went back looked it over and bought it. Only put about 150 rounds thru it so far, took it apart and everything looks good. Haven't shot for accuracy yet, still winter here. It has the M-Lok handguard so you can mount whatever you want wherever you want. With all the features I don't think you can go wrong.

      April 15, 2018 5:38 am
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      Bark Levin

      I own the Radical Arms RF-15, and I f-ing LOVE this rifle! I would argue that for the price, the quality can't be beat - American Made, Fully MIL-SPEC, 4150V Melonite Barrel, Free Float Barrel, yada yada.. And Personally, this rifle just feels absolutely perfect in my hands and when shouldered.. it's hard to describe really just how right this rifle feels.. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. 5 STARS.

      July 17, 2018 4:18 pm
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    Geof

    Great article, thanks.

    March 23, 2018 10:46 am
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    BigE

    Long article but such a great read! This may be one of the best entry level articles i've read during my research. You really break everything down, define abbreviations and terminology that first time buyers can understand. Also the abundance of pictures and references and videos you talk about are also super relevant and concise. This was a great article, thanks for writing and I'm excited now more than ever to start shopping around for my first.

    March 20, 2018 8:53 pm
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      Eric Hung

      You're so welcome, glad we could help out.

      March 26, 2018 3:28 pm
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    Ranger Cal

    Armalite makes the best ar15 bolt with 40% less stress during firing.
    The best rifling for 62 grain is 1/9. when is the last time you fired tracer?
    You never need a hammer forged barrel unless you're competition target shooting..
    Save your money and get an Armalite the best choice for your money in either ar15 or ar10.
    Most people by these firearms for homeland defense. Ideally you should choose lighter, sleeker, less moving parts with the goal of Designated Marksman. Ideally used in dynamic target acquisition. Ar15's are amazingly accurate rifles but the 5.56 is at maximum capable of Designated Marksman....barely. Definitely not a sniper.rifle.

    I recommend getting a Gas Piston and eliminating the bolt gas rings, the port door assembly and the forward assist. Also get a free float Mlok. get rid of the MBUIS and get a cheap C-More copy. Palmetto State Armory has the sleekest upper receiver.

    The best gas pistons are Bushmaster, Ares or Superlative...Period

    March 14, 2018 8:26 pm
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    Michael

    I've recently been introduced to Patriot Ordinance Factory AR15s - specifically I shot the Puritan model (now discontinued). I was wondering, where on your list POF might come in, and why? Thank you! And thanks for the article!

    March 14, 2018 7:04 pm
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      Les

      I have heard great things about POF as well. Your ranking?

      March 22, 2018 3:18 pm
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    Michael Findlay

    Excellent article. Well written with lots of useful information.

    March 11, 2018 6:35 am
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    TomCat

    Great article...however, Eric, you should know better than to say by permanently adding a muzzle device at least 1.5" in length to a 14.5" barrel will make it a 16" barrel. If you don't...I'll tell you....... THE THREADS... a muzzle device will need to be at least 2.21" long to make a 14.5" barrel extend to 16" "Permanently" by ATF definition means pinned and welded or silver soldered. Don't do this without knowing what you're doing...

    March 11, 2018 12:51 am
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      Eric Hung

      Thanks Tom!

      March 12, 2018 10:28 am
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    Aaron

    Is Colt Firearms still in business?
    I was planning to buy 2 Colt LE6920's oem2's to pick up shooting with my daughter when tax return comes in.
    But never in stock anywhere.
    And if not Colt what is its equal in price and quality out there?
    Thanks Aaron

    March 10, 2018 6:06 am
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      Eric Hung

      I believe it's Remington that was recently in trouble. As far as I know Colt is still in business. There's a couple of suggestions I have in the article. Thanks Aaron!

      March 12, 2018 10:26 am
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      Allan

      Maybe we are getting them all up here in Canada. Seems to be easy pickings as I just picked one up @ Bullseye in London. Good article BTW!

      March 13, 2018 4:05 am
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        John

        Okay because I won’t be there

        April 5, 2018 8:40 am
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    Steelbox44

    Dude jus take a 14.5 M4 barrel,,throw 2 crush washers and standard birdcage on,,pin it weld and your at 16.1 with the dowel test

    March 6, 2018 10:19 pm
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    FloppyG

    Mr Hung,
    Well written. This model will be my next purchase. Thank you for such clarity!

    Looking at the Ruger AR-556

    March 6, 2018 7:09 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Glad we could help out!

      March 9, 2018 11:26 am
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    Connor H

    Have any of the staff at Pew Pew had any hands on experience with the Ruger MPR? I've been researching this model for several months, and for the features included it seems to be a no-brainer entry level MSR.

    18" medium profile barrel, 5R rifling, rifle length gas system, free float M-LOK handguard, Magpul grip and stock, Ruger 552 two stage trigger. The trigger alone retails for ~$150, and this rifle can be found in the $600-$650 range. I see no reason for anyone to buy an M&P Sport or DPMS Oracle when a rifle with these features is available sub-$700.

    February 27, 2018 8:33 am
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      Jimmy 2 Pants

      Great question. I was looking for them to mention this rifle as well, now that it's been out for awhile.

      March 16, 2018 6:45 am
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        David

        I don't know if any of us have personally used one, but one of my best friends picked one up a month ago and has been very pleased with it. I know the Ruger 556 is a solid AR15 with a good reputation and since the MPR is just the 556 with upgrades - I would expect it to be a great choice.

        March 16, 2018 2:20 pm
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    Adam

    You are absolutely incorrect on the barrel and muzzle calculations. The barrel is measured with the bolt closed, a rod is inserted into the barrel until it stops on the closed bolt, then marked at the tip (excluding removable/non permanent muzzle. Anything less than 16" (which a 16" barrel is actually more around 14.5" when measured with out muzzle device and bolt fully closed) would be considered a short barrel rifle. So you cannot avoid this by using a removable muzzle device of any length on a standard 16" unless you want to pay for the $200 NFA tax stamp and wait around for a while to get the approval to build (cant legally build it until the paperwork is approved and you have received the tax stamp for the lower). Best route to go is to permanently attach (pin and weld) a muzzle device of 2" or more (you loose length of muzzle device when its threaded onto the barrel) to the barrel making the barrel from closed bolt to a length of 16" or more when checked with ATF approved rod length test. If its even less than 16" by even the slightest fraction of measurement, is it worth it to chance a 10k fine and 10 years away from your loved ones while your someone's' bitch in prison? Hope this description helps anyone. My references included the NFA Handbook (chapter 2) which is available on the BAFT website.

    February 25, 2018 7:46 pm
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      Larry G Turner

      Thanks for the informative comments. I immediately checked my Bushmaster to confirm its length. Now I know how to do it properly.

      February 28, 2018 5:42 am
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        Mr. WOLF

        Funk this guy bro. Bushmaster is a great brand. I gave right under a a 1000 for mine about 3 or 4 years ago. It still runs like a sewing machine. Xm15e2s rocks. Ask the Beltway Sniper

        March 2, 2018 12:00 am
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    Rich

    Eric, how would you rank the Aero AR15 M4E1 Complete Rifle, 16" 5.56 NATO Mid-Length as opposed to the AC15M against this list of recommendations?

    February 20, 2018 9:16 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      It's a matter of personal taste...if you want something more traditional with a front sight post and regular handguard, go with the AC15M. But if you have an inkling of wanting to upgrade optics or hang put anything on your handguard...go for the M4E1. I'll be updating the article this week to reflect this.

      February 21, 2018 11:15 am
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    Gareth

    Thanks that was well written and to the point. I appreciate the clear way you wrote it. A must read for first AR buyers.

    February 10, 2018 12:51 am
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      Eric Hung

      You're so welcome, Gareth!

      February 13, 2018 9:20 pm
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        Mr. WOLF

        Bushmaster is bottom of the barrel?

        March 2, 2018 12:01 am
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        Mr. WOLF

        I have a Colt and my Bushy runs just as well if not better

        March 2, 2018 12:03 am
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    Poop

    pardon my potential ignorance, but i have read in several guides that CHF produces a MORE accurate barrel. this has been my understanding for quite some time. did you mistakenly say less accurate? or, if not, can you help me to understand the basis for the assertion?

    i don't mean to nitpick, only to better understand. thanks for article, and thanks in advance for any feedback.

    January 25, 2018 6:52 am
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    Tom Smith

    Great beginner's buyer guide Eric!! I do want to point that a muzzle device of 1.5" in length will not bring a 14.5" barrel to 16" The threaded part of the barrel (approx .625") disappears into the muzzle device when installed, so the minimum length muzzle device needed is 2.125" Some manufacturers make them this precise length for this exact purpose. VG6 and Faxon among them.

    Thanks again Eric!!

    January 15, 2018 12:02 am
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      Eric Hung

      That's a good point, thanks Tom!

      January 16, 2018 8:28 pm
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    Snowflake Down

    Disappointing not to find Knights, POF and Armalite on tier lists.

    December 29, 2017 10:13 pm
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    W Jones

    I've been trying to research AR15's for a while now with the intent to buy and this page/post has been the most useful so far. Thanks for being so thorough.

    December 29, 2017 2:36 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      You're so welcome!

      January 12, 2018 5:06 pm
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    isaac

    just bought a new LE6920 (magpul addition) but wondering about the quality - is it the same quality of the ones made before or have they cut corners and if so what upgrades can i make to bring it up to snuff

    December 9, 2017 10:36 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      I think it's still fine...take a look at our AR-15 Upgrades.

      December 14, 2017 12:56 pm
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    Ken

    Hi guys. I’m looking at an entry level “ar” somewhere between $500 to $800.
    So far for the best $$$
    Smith &wesson M&P15 sport II $499
    Ruger 556 8500. $499
    And last but not least on my list is the
    Springfield saint at $749.
    I’ve heard very good things about all of these so I’m really caught up in my decision making.
    Any help will be greatly appreciated

    November 30, 2017 4:21 pm
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      Isaac

      Don't buy anything from traitors like Springfield or Rock River

      December 9, 2017 7:12 pm
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        Tom Smith

        Why are they traitors??

        January 15, 2018 12:04 am
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    R C

    You left Armalite off your list. Great affordable rifle.

    November 24, 2017 5:50 am
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      Eric Hung

      Definitely looking to update this list soon!

      December 14, 2017 12:30 pm
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    andrew

    I am surprised you put Stag as a budget rifle seeing how they made a lot of parts for Colt (tier 1) for many years now. I would take a Stag over a Colt all day. Colt quality has declined and Stag has developed a great reputation for accuracy and durability. I own an LWRC, Daniel Defense and a Stag and my Stag is only slightly less a rifle than those 2. For the money you'd be hard pressed to find a better quality AR.

    November 21, 2017 1:03 pm
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    Josh

    Any opinions over the Ruger? By the way, a great article.

    November 17, 2017 10:31 am
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    Joe

    first time in here I read over 4 hrs of information really liking this !!!

    November 14, 2017 10:04 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Glad we could help!!

      November 19, 2017 2:04 pm
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    Christian Inskeep

    Thanks for all the great info. That's a pretty good 15 minute lesson and gives me something to think about before buying.

    November 2, 2017 7:55 pm
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      Eric Hung

      You're so welcome, Christian!

      November 7, 2017 5:21 pm
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    Greg Steele

    Do you have any info on the Colt Expanse M4 AR-15 CE2000? I really want a Colt and I found this model for under $700.

    October 26, 2017 4:08 am
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      Eric Hung

      Hi Greg, I don't have any experience with that particular model.

      October 26, 2017 2:37 pm
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    James Hannan

    U failed tu mention d SPRINGFIELD SAINT IN D GOOD ARs Y ITS NOT ANY GOOD CAUSE I JUST GOT 1

    October 25, 2017 4:46 pm
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      Eric Hung

      Hi James, I don't have much experience from it besides shooting it once at SHOT. Springfield is a good company though.

      October 26, 2017 2:37 pm
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    Abdiel

    I highly recommend the S&W M&P sport 2, it is cheap and really, really worths the price. I only recommend getting a new stock, the standard can hurt your skin.

    October 20, 2017 7:31 pm
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    DharmaDawg

    Great information, Thanks!!!! Was wondering where Armalite falls in your list of manufacturers, budget, mid, or top tier?.

    October 13, 2017 8:33 am
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    Bert

    Lots of good info in article, Thanks! Have always used righty rifles, but now I want to work toward a suppressed AR. This will require the change to a lefty model. Already figure to get coated BCG and stainless barrel, but what manufacturers make suppressor ready lefty AR's?
    Thanks again!

    September 6, 2017 6:43 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Hi Bert...that's a pretty specific question! You should be fine with a regular lefty AR that has a threaded barrel.

      September 14, 2017 10:14 am
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      Tom Smith

      It's not the barrel or the rifle that makes it suppressor ready, it is the muzzle device. Many manufactures" sypressors will only fit their muzzle devices and some only fit one or two muzzle devices. The Gemtech "HALO" (among others) will fit an A2 birdcage. Personally i'd run a cheap muzzle device until you're ready to buy the suppressor and then match it with a good solid mount or brake that is made for the suppressor.

      January 15, 2018 12:13 am
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    Timmie

    Where did you get your info?

    Barrel material
    Stainless is more accurate but not as long lasting? I think you got things backwards. And with todays steels and barrel makers the accuracy thing can go either way. Stainless handles higher temps better and lasts longer than chrome moly. It handles the water vapor better from suppressors as well without corroding.
    Inspection
    MP means Magnetic Particle inspection which is the same as MagnaFlux where they magnetize the barrel and place it in a solution of naptha and tiny particles of iron which have a dye that shows up under a black light. The particles collect anywhere there is a crack or a discontinuity in the metal and is absolutely nothing like x ray at all.

    Hammer forged barrels can be just as accurate and can be longer lasting though it depends on material used and who does the work. Some are great, some not so great. Normally the forged barrels have better hardness and wear characteristics especially combined with nitriding.

    Chrome plating doesn't help accuracy at all....it can actually degrade it. It does protect against corrosion and is the primary reason they chrome bores. It prevents damage when owners neglect their firearms. It is a crutch.

    Thats as far as I got.....

    September 3, 2017 2:12 pm
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    Kevin Lynch

    Just bought the Ruger SR 556 Sporting Rifle, with the upgraded Trigger.

    I own a number of Ruger weapons and this one is no disappointment!

    There are more expensive AR's but I would rather save my money to increase my collection! Smile.

    August 23, 2017 5:46 pm
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    Mike Sr

    My recommendation is to think long and hard before grabbing that on-sale special.

    I strongly recommend buying a Flat Top, honestly you're going to tinker with it anyway. :)

    In my case, before cataract surgery I couldn't see the target well enough to aim... So, I bought a 4x scope. Which helped a lot, but, the Front "A" Frame sight was in the way.

    So, I bought a couple of good quality flip up sights and a low profile gas-block, which the first (supposed) gun smith installed and broke the gas tube.

    The second Gun Smith, also a principle at the SWGSA, got it working again.

    You can see the dollars signs adding up, right?

    OK, my first AR is a S&W M&P 15 Sport bought on sale at the now defunct Gander Mountain.

    For a one hour drive and about the same price I could have gotten a Daniel Defense Flat top and two popup sights!

    Didn't even know about Pew Pew (love the cat)

    August 11, 2017 2:08 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Thanks Mike! And yup...the dollar signs always add up in the world of guns...especially ARs!

      August 17, 2017 2:31 pm
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    J

    I call BS on the lists. You have Rock River Arms at the bottom of the list. I own four of their LAR-15 models and they are all tack drivers. I also own a few Colt 6920's and a Bushmaster XM15-E2S . I would not place RRA far from the COLT. I actually like the fact the RRA's come with Heavy Barrels. I had to buy Colt HBAR uppers to add to the 6920's. One of the RRA LAR-15's has fired many thousands of rounds and I have never had a single issue with it. The RRA 2-stage triggers are a bonus as well. I'd take another look at the list. In more than a decade of trying to find an answer, not a single person has given me a reason why the RRA is dissed by anyone. I'd love to hear why YOU have them at the bottom. My guess is it is only because you grabbed someone else's list. This seems to be the ONLY reason anyone puts them at the bottom of their list. I love mine.

    July 14, 2017 11:25 pm
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      Mallen

      Rock River Arms in the lowest tier makes no sense to me either. I own a predator pursuit and it's one of the most accurate ARs I have ever shot--100% reliable as well. Just picked up a 10.5" upper for my SBR build based on my positive experiences with the predator pursuit--it is also rock solid. Seriously wondering why this manufacturer is getting disrespected here--what is this based on?

      August 31, 2017 6:00 pm
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        Anaconda

        None of the "Top Teir" guns on this list have ever seen any real combat action or military trials testing.

        Same for FN as mid tier, which he defines as unproven. But by whom, the author himself? He probably doesnt even realize FN makes nearly all the guns used or carried by our troops, including the M4 Carbine. FN should be top tier and those in the biz will more likely agree. He failed to mention HK but im sure if he did they would also label them as mid tier; despite the fact that the US military uses them as well.


        Also No mention of LMT..... the king.

        December 9, 2017 1:03 am
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      Mike

      Absolutely! Many of those budget Rifles make top notch stuff. He has his tier list all wrong. My bushy has been 100 percent over the years including a 500 round course. My old RRA 16inch Predator Pursuit is about as accurate as you can get. I lusted after a Daniel Defense forever but couldn't justify it. Bought a full rail PSA upper with a CHF Barrel from FN and I'm very pleased.

      September 26, 2017 9:30 pm
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      Dave

      Amen Bro !! I just shot my RRA for the first time last weekend. It came with an 18" Stainless Steel match grade barrel chambered in .223 Wylde with a 1 in 8 twist (guaranteed 3/4 M.O.A. at 10o yards), and a tw0 stage trigger. It has an Ergo-grip and more awesome equipment that I want to type in here. All for $875 Ask the D.E.A. and A,T.F why they chose Rock River Arms. My son bought the RRA AR-10 in .308 for deer hunting and it's equally amazing.

      October 12, 2017 5:14 am
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    Jason

    Very informative piece! I decided that I wanted to build my first AR so I understood it and built it exactly how I wanted (although I have lots of experience shooting them) and I couldn't be happier. I went with Sons of Liberty for the receivers and BCG. So far I'm very happy with them. Do you have any experience with the company? They offer a great warranty and customer service. I also exchanged my mil-spec trigger with a unit from Trigger Tech and I LOVE IT!!! I tried a bunch of different brands and I think its on par with the very best out there and runs a bit less expensive. I would be curious to hear your thoughts.

    July 12, 2017 6:08 pm
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    cj pickup

    Didn't see Troy mentioned anywhere?

    July 11, 2017 2:08 pm
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    Ray

    Iam going to be a first time AR 15 after my son who is in the military took me to a gun range for fathers day. First of all my son and i had a blast at the range and went through 10 boxes of ammunition. For me when it comes to buying anything is warranty warranty warranty from the company. I hate to say this but money is no object when it comes to buying a AR 15 for me if it costs a little more i will just save for a little longer. in your opion the best AR with the best warranty.

    July 9, 2017 5:04 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Hi Ray, good point. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I've never had to call in a warranty for any of my AR's. You might be better off searching for forum posts on how each company deals with warranty. Just take it with a grain of salt since most people with positive experiences don't post...but it's a good sign if other forum members jump into the company's defense.

      July 10, 2017 11:21 am
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    Koops

    Eric, I loved the information in your article. I hung on to every word...no pun intended. I will recommend this article to a friend who is just starting out like myself. There is one thing I would love clarity on. Your recommendation in the end, included two carbine styled AR's and one mid-length gas system rifles. In your article you stated the mid-length gas system you found to be preferable for beginners. Your reasons were longer sight distance, more handguard/rail space and most important smoother/softer shooting due to gas pressure. I look forward to your response before I make my first purchase.

    July 7, 2017 3:51 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Haha lol. Thanks for writing in and for sharing with your friend. Yup if you have the choice, go with the mid-length which tend to be a few bucks more expensive.

      July 10, 2017 11:19 am
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    Dennis

    Hi Eric,

    This was such an informative article. Thank you.

    Against your advice, I built my first rifle. However, I had an experienced, professional gunsmith (a friend) looking over my shoulder and checking my work. I'd had also already shot many rifles, so I had a pretty good idea of what I liked and what worked for me. I realize that not everyone has that luxury. I was very fortunate to have come away with a great rifle and a ton of knowledge and experience from the build.

    I did want to ask about your opinion or knowledge about two things:

    1) Radical Firearms: They're a full service manufacturer (not just an assembler) out of Houston Texas that machines all their parts in-house. Their one-stop shop setup is what allows them to keep their prices low. They also provide firearms for a lot of the Police Dept's in Texas. So, what do you know about them, do you have an opinion about them and where would you place them on your tiers?

    2) Black Rain Ordnance: I noticed that you didn't place them on your tiers. I've heard some really great things about them. What's your take on them?

    Thank you for your time, in advance.
    Dennis

    July 7, 2017 12:05 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Hi Dennis, glad your build came out great!

      Regarding Radical and BRO...I simply don't have experience with them besides knowing Radical has some very affordable prices. But good to know that Radical's low prices come from being a one-stop shop.

      July 7, 2017 3:41 pm
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    Jeff Sheldon

    Eric, lots of info, probably an over load, but thanks. So for us old guys who live in California and can't buy Black Guns, what is wrong with a Ruger Mini-14? Seems to me, one who who carried an M-14 for our Government, the Mini-14 will do everything a Black Gun will do and be legal in California?

    July 3, 2017 7:31 pm
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      Eric Hung

      Hey Jeff, I replied in email but this is probably good for others too. Nothing wrong with the Mini-14...it's just not the flavor of the year. And if you're in CA...it's definitely less "scary" and almost featureless already.

      July 4, 2017 10:51 am
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    Jeff

    Hey Eric!

    Thanks a ton for all that information! I've always steered away from semi-auto rifles, or rather AR-15's due to all that jargon and lingo - your article really made it all much easier to understand!

    I think I want to buy/build a good 7.62x39 AR-15 platform. What would you recommend? Or would you recommend a different platform for that round? I'm attracted to the price of the round as well as the ballistics.

    June 24, 2017 5:10 am
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      Eric Hung

      You're so welcome. I've though about building/buying a 7.62x39 but it seems more headache than it is worth. I'd just get an AK variant for that round.

      June 26, 2017 1:53 pm
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    Job Russ

    It will be a cold day in hell before Daniel Defense and Bravo Company set higher standards than LWRC in my book. LWRC is the best precision gun manufacturer hands down, Pretty boys just want pogue rifles with as many attachments and aftermarket parts as they can fit, never mind putting rounds on target or buying a gun that doesn't need the trigger replaced out of the box. lmao

    June 19, 2017 8:27 am
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    Charles Gilbert

    Hi Eric:
    Great "Buyer's Guide"! You covered all the bases and kept the writing clear, concise and easy to understand. Very accessible article for those new to the AR game. Well done!

    Cheers,

    Charles

    June 12, 2017 5:03 pm
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    Dhaval Deshani

    Love you guys.....✌✌❤❤❤

    June 6, 2017 3:30 am
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    Mark

    I am new to the AR-15 world but found your article filled with good information to help me make my first purchase.
    My question is regarding the Colt LE6920 which I have almost decided to get. But what can be done about the front sight if I want to put a Red Dot on the Colt? Won't the front sight get in the way of the view? Any recommendations for this would be appreciated.

    May 22, 2017 2:04 pm
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    jason

    I am looking into buying my first ar-15. I have a military background, Marines, so I’m happy with fixed A2-style front, I’ll be shooting iron sights most of the time. This rifle is for self defense with plinking fun gun. I would like to shoot steel ammo, since I’m on a budget.
    I got Aero precision mid Ar 15 I can pick for at brownell for good price like less than 550, good specs but maybe bad customer service. I got ruger 556 for 605 from my dealer, ok specs, good customer service and I don't have to pay ffl. Or Springfield saint for 750 also from my dealer. Which one would you pick?

    April 25, 2017 2:15 pm
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      Dustycoyote

      Jason, which dealer is offering you the Springfield Saint for 750? that's a really good price.

      June 5, 2017 8:00 pm
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    Lou Storiale

    I just wanted to give you guys a hat tip on the article: https://www.pewpewtactical.com/ar-15-buyers-guide-how-to-choose-your-first-ar-15/

    I work for OpticsPlanet in the SEO dept. Damn! That's a great article. Great job to your team that put it together.

    Lou Storiale

    April 24, 2017 11:35 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Matthew Collins

      Thanks so much Lou! Really appreciate the kind words.

      April 25, 2017 8:26 am
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      Eric Hung

      Thanks so much Lou!

      June 5, 2017 12:27 pm
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    X

    Question. What is the highest quality ar 15 if money dosent matter?

    April 23, 2017 5:43 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Matthew Collins

      It really depends on what you're looking for. At the super high-end, the best option would be to find a quality custom shop or gunsmith and have them build you exactly what you want. Asking for the "best AR" is a bit like asking "what's the best car?"

      At the end of the day, its going to be the one that's the best at what you want to do, and the one you have the most fun with.

      April 24, 2017 3:57 am
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    Ed

    Being a left handed shooter, I wanted my first AR to be a lefty model. I bought a Stag Arms 3L. But after doing further research I learned that a lot of lefties buy just a regular AR. So now I am already looking for my second AR 15. I don't plan to compete or go hunting with them. I will probably just shoot at the local shooting ranges.
    I will probably start chasing the 1" MOA at 100 yd... I will start thinking about getting a free floating handguard, lighter trigger, better scope, better barrel, etc..
    So instead of upgrading a part by part, which can be fun but also frustrating, I will go for an expensive model probably.
    I will shoot the Stag Arms first and see how it does. But I know I will always want a premium AR.

    April 22, 2017 8:03 pm
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    JS

    Good article, but your commentary on barrel "forging" is a bit misleading. Hammer forging is not a process to make barrels last longer. It is how they are made. They are literally hammered around a mandrel that forms the chamber, bore, and rifling of the barrel. The reason they last longer is the hammering created a more dense material. As far as them loosing accuracy, that is not accurate either. Compared to other methods it can actually create a more smooth surface because nothing is pulled or pushed through the barrel created marks in it. In hand lapped barrels that is corrected mostly.
    Other types of barrels, are drilled, and either button rifled, single point cut, or broached. There are obviously pros and cons to all types, but Hammer forging can create extremely accurate and precise barrels.

    April 18, 2017 10:20 am
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    Dennis

    Pretty good article for the uninformed, You have some very good info there. But, (there's always a but) You state that "Magnetic Particle tested, basically x-raying the material to see if there’s any hidden cracks or voids." They are nothing alike. In Mag Particle NDT (non destructive testing), the part is either directly magnetized or indirectly magnetized. Then a ferrous material is applied, either in a wet suspension or as dry powder. The cracks or irregularities then show up.
    X-Ray is where the object is shot with a beam of either x rays or gamma rays since they have the shortest wavelength and can penetrate carbon steel easily, well they can penetrate almost everything. The rays pass through the object onto a special film that when developed any anomalies can be seen. Or you can even view them in real time now. Just like at your doctors.
    I teach NDT at an Aviation school.
    I've built 50+ AR's and have seen both flat commercial and slanted mil-spec. buffer tubes. I think Del-Ton made some of the flat commercial tubes.
    Keep up the good work!

    April 15, 2017 1:41 pm
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    Ralph

    Great article
    First, I dont buy the overwhelming internet "would you stake your life on a non mil spec AR?" Spent many years in the service with some heavy combat and I would have loved the reliability of some of my home AR's then the early M4's i used. There is a lot of subjective information that comes out on the AR builds, "I have to have 4150 blah blah blah". Look, in the real world here for self defense what are you really going to need? A gun that goes boom when you pull the trigger. Fact- you arent going to be shooting a 1000 rounds off when your house gets broken into. Find an AR that you are comfortable with and is made by a quality manufacturer. Yup for sure DD, BCM, Colt make great guns and i own them all. I also own a RRA. tactical Op 2 that I have literally beat the living Sheet out of and it keeps on ticking. I recently finished a 2 days fighting rifle class in pouring rain and mud for 2 straight 8 hours days. 1400 rounds and not a hiccup. Plain Jane Tac Op 2 with an eotech 512 on it and a sling. That is my 3rd such class with that rifle so In my book that is a pass and yea to get to my original point. I would stake my life on it whether its mil spec or not. Great read you have

    April 6, 2017 6:28 am
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    N8

    Great article Eric!

    After reading it, and researching the topic further I've narrowed my choices to two ARs...a Colt LE6920MPS or S&W M&P Mid MOE SL. I'm torn because I like the mid-length gas system on the S&W but the Colt's a Top Tier AR for same price (but with carbine length gas)
    Would you help me break the tie in choosing one of these two? They both seem great and meet my budget but I can only buy one.
    Thanks, N8

    March 29, 2017 4:38 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      I'd flip a coin, lol! But if I had to choose between those two I'd go for the Colt if it's your first gun.

      April 5, 2017 4:31 pm
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    Scott

    Any thoughts on the Savage MSR15? I'm looking for my first AR15 and this one seems to get pretty good marks for some of its features like the 223 Wylde chambering.

    March 23, 2017 5:32 pm
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    Dickie

    Eric,

    Great article, thank you. I am just starting to read about AR's; I've never owned one. Any opinions about American Defense MOD2 or Noveske GenIII? Was initially between Larue and DD, but now I'm not so sure. Thank you for your time.

    Dickie

    March 21, 2017 1:05 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Hey Dickie, Noveske has a great rep but I haven't heard of American Defense.

      April 5, 2017 4:25 pm
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    Francis

    Hi Eric,

    Awesome article. My first AR 15 was the M&P 15 Sport 2 and my wife has the M&P 15-22. we love the guns and so do our kids. Now I'm at the point where I'm studying up on what it takes to build one from scratch. One article I read suggested that a newbie like me build the lower but to buy a complete upper so there's less chance of messing things up. What's your take on that?

    Thanks,
    Francis

    March 21, 2017 8:49 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Hey Francis, the lower is pretty easy to complete if you know some of the tricks. The upper I recommend getting the correct tools so you have the right torque and also to secure the gas block correctly (those are the two main points of failure for my first few builds). Check out our how to build an upper and how to build a lower articles.

      April 5, 2017 4:25 pm
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    Paul

    Hi Eric,

    I am looking at the LWRC IC-A5, however they have not come out with any improvements for at least last years same model (maybe more I am not sure). I'm concerned about this; like cars, every year they improve. So, 1) what are your thoughts on this? and 2) what would be the equivalent AR from any other top Manufacture? (I did check some other manufactures links you listed, guess in my opinion, they weren't as up to par).

    Thanks

    Paul

    March 20, 2017 10:35 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Hey Paul, honestly there's not too much stuff to improve on the AR system...a lot of it is "improvement" for the sake of improvement. So I wouldn't take that as a negative.

      April 5, 2017 4:19 pm
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    Ferni5

    Great Article. I have one question, where do you stand on building your first AR? I never owned an AR before but I've done a lot of research. In a perfect world I would like a 1/8 twist wylde 223 AR that is free floated in the price range of $500. Off the shelf guns won't come close to that price range (Savage MSR 15 Recon). I was thinking Palmetto State Armory by building the lower and getting a complete upper from them. What do you think of them?

    March 16, 2017 5:47 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      I recommend buying your first AR, really knowing what you like/dislike, then going from there. PSA has some good budget products.

      April 5, 2017 4:17 pm
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    Nguyen

    I purchased my DDM4V7 high quality gun and great piece of art to look at. My 1st shot was bulls eye hit at 35 yard,.5 inch group after followed shots right out of the box with Magpul sights. Being an engineer I did my through research and save up for this riffle. Like a high quality tool, buy it's once and count on it when needed.

    March 11, 2017 12:06 pm
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    Joel

    Great article Eric!! I'm just a little confused about where the Colt LE6920 stands in your personal list. Do you rank it as top tier, mid, or low? Do you think a modern Le6920 is just as good overall as the older LE6920's from say 20 years ago? The reason I ask is because if heard people say that Colt has lost some of its quality that it is known for, due to their financial issues. What's your opinion on all that? I currently have a Colt LE6920 MP Edition on layaway. I'm an ex Army soldier from the 90's and I enjoyed shooting the Colt M-16A2 I was issued back then, and that's why I I'd likeep to own one. I currently have a S&W Sport 2 and so far after 500 rounds it's a flawless rifle!! Thanks bro!! -Joel

    February 19, 2017 3:59 am
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      Eric Hung

      Hey Joel, I've heard of that too but unfortunately I don't have experience with the older ones. One of my best buddies started off with a newer one (on my rec) and loves it.

      February 21, 2017 1:16 pm
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    C Francis

    Rock River is in the bottom? I am glad that I have bought three, and built one, The predator pursuit, and the varmint both shoot 3/8 in groups with factory ammo, and you have them at the bottom of the list??

    February 18, 2017 7:11 am
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    Neal Green

    Thanks for making it simple. There are so many "buzz" words out there I was getting a headache. Do some plinking and target shooting nothing involved, I purchased a Bear Creek Arsenal as my first one. It is 7.62 x39. About to build a 5.56 from an 80% lower. Seems the best route to go for function and overall cost is a 16" mid-length with the attached front sight , regular barrel and BCG. If I add a scope or optics will the front sight be an issue? Should I get coated BCG and barrel? Very fine work you have done on this article!!! Neal

    February 18, 2017 5:49 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Hi Neal, glad I could help! You'll be able to see the front sight block in your optics but it's not too much of a problem (at least with non-magnified optics). Coated BCG's are slightly cleaner but tons of people have done without them for years. And for barrel if you mean chrome-lined it's up to you...gives a slightly higher round count.

      February 21, 2017 1:14 pm
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    FlipGI

    The father of the AR is Eugene Stoner not Stone. Also, why dont you have any recommendations for CMMG, anderson manufacturing, and specifically JD Machine (formerly Kaiser Defense) which a lot of the top manufacturers use as their base lower. They are just as good if not better than your suggestions.

    Lastly i would recommend adams arms piston uppers for their ease of use and easily disassembly for cleaning and maintenance. I myself have a JD machine lower mated with an Adams Arms carbine length piston upper which cost less than $800 total for the rifle.

    February 16, 2017 10:28 am
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    Tim

    Very informative! I never make a major purchase without research. I am considering buying my first AR 15 type rifle. This article was bookmarked soon as I found it. It not only answered many questions, but has been a reference to fall back on.

    Do you have any background or info on Troy built guns? I'm finding very little info online.

    Thanks for the great post!
    Tim

    February 7, 2017 8:13 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Hi Tim, thanks! I haven't had personal experience with Troy besides their sights which are excellent.

      February 8, 2017 10:03 pm
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    Joe Brown

    I found this extremely informative if not a little intimidateing too. This is my first venture into buying an AR type rifle. I'm left-handed and researching the Stag Arms l2 or l3 models. I've saved your article in my favorites for future reference. I'm an avid shooter, mostly handguns, but feel out of my eliment when it comes to modern rifles. Thanks for getting me off on the right foot, or left foot in my case. Joe B.

    February 6, 2017 6:22 am
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    Ronnie Maeker

    I did not see Adcor mentioned. Any thoughts? Thanks.

    February 5, 2017 3:59 pm
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    Gary Duggan

    Very nice write-up, thanks. I am helping a friend who is looking to purchase his first rifle and this gives great information.

    February 2, 2017 8:55 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Thanks so much Gary!

      February 7, 2017 7:49 pm
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    Paul

    Great article:) Very helpful for newbies.

    However, the link to 'Best AR-15 Upgrades Guide' actually links to 1911 upgrades. Other than that, good stuff!

    Cheers, Paul

    January 25, 2017 3:59 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Thanks for catching that Paul!

      February 7, 2017 7:39 pm
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    Blue

    If this is truly a new, original article as of 2017 you seem to have one glaring omission: The Ruger AR556 is a tough rifle to beat in terms of mechanical accuracy at almost any price these days (1 - 1&1/2MOA at 100yds if you do your part and absolutely SPANKED the KAC SR25 I had in the safe until a few months ago) and it's one of, if not THE best "budget" AR's out there these days... The M/P 15 Sport 2 isn't the rifle it was in Ver 1 (5R rifling that made it what it was) and really it's nowhere near the value the Ruger is these days.

    As far as the others as advice to a first time ARb buyer (after over a decade of building them myself) I'd skip all the "big names" that want to charge you extra for a mid-range AR with their own (almost universally) junk furniture as an "upgrade."

    January 24, 2017 4:39 pm
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    Ken

    Hi Eric,

    Great article, thanks!

    Do you prefer a M4gery style AR or a Flat Top? Can you explain why one is "better" than the other? Or is the only difference how it looks?

    Thanks!

    January 15, 2017 7:12 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Hi Ken, thanks! I like a flat top vs the carry handle so I can put my choice of optic on it since I rarely use irons.

      January 16, 2017 9:55 pm
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    EB LeDoux

    What a great article! I've been looking for something like this for about a year. Most guides make too many assumptions about what the reader knows but you spell it out perfectly! Pros and cons and personal opinion mixed in honestly! Thanks!

    January 12, 2017 5:01 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Thanks so much!!

      January 13, 2017 12:09 am
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    Matthew Johnson

    What are the disadvantages of having a 55-grain bullet weight with a 1:8 or 1:9 twist rate?

    January 5, 2017 7:53 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Hey Matthew, 1:9 is the optimum twist for a 55gr bullet. If you go out of that range, it's possible that it doesn't spin it enough or too much so it's not stabilized in flight. Accuracy at distances might suffer.

      January 5, 2017 6:05 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Blue

      1:8 will still stabilize 55gr rounds perfectly well and it gives you significantly better results with the lower GR. rounds then the 1:9 barrels do with the heavier rounds that are becoming much more common these days. IF you can honestly say you'll never shoot anything but 55gr .223 then 1:9 is acceptable but if it's a GP rifle then 1:8 is just a vastly better and more versatile option as it'll help with the heavier bullets and give more consistent accuracy across a broader range of bullet-weights and target distances. IMO 1:8 is the best all-around rifling for an AR these days...

      January 24, 2017 4:54 pm
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    Harvey

    Hello Eric, I like to have an nice barrel, CHF, 16" Mid-gas, Government, 1-7 twists, would you suggest FN Barrel or BCM?
    Thank you

    January 3, 2017 12:55 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Hi Harvey, you can't go wrong with either!

      January 3, 2017 10:33 am
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    Lyle

    I read your article and was considering a bcm recce, and a dd v11, however I ended up going with a Troy which I really like so far, are you familiar with Troy, what tier would Troy fall under? Also I have a friend that is selling his dpms sass, I think it is an lrt but need to verify. Even though a manufacturer is typically a low tier can they make higher end that would fall in the mid or high tier catigory? This ar-10 looks and seems nice but I have no experience with dpms and don't want to pay 1500 for a low tier gun.

    December 18, 2016 9:50 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hey Lyle, I think you're sweating the tiers a little too much. Troy has a good rep but I have never tried/owned one. Shoot it a lot and build up that confidence! I personally have a DPMS 7.62 which has been great too when fed its favorite ammo. I'd ask your friend if it has been finicky. Not sure about the prices though.

      December 20, 2016 2:43 pm
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    Brian

    Hi Eric,

    You said that the Colt is one of the 3 entry AR-15s that you recommend to friends. What are the other two?

    Thanks,
    B

    December 15, 2016 10:50 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hey Brian, depends on your definition of entry, but mine is anything under $1000...so that would be the S&W, Spike's, and Aero at the bottom of the list.

      December 15, 2016 10:31 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Blue

        Ruger AR556 > Anything in it's price range and probably better then most AR's even a few hundred more... It's a LOT better then the mediocre M/P Sport II (the Sport I was a good rifle but the Sport II... meh, nothing special. They didn;t drop the price but they did drop the ONE big feature of the Sport I and seem to think that a forward assist and a dust-cover are equal to a quality barrel... they're not,) The lowers are all fairly interchangeable even on many of the high-end AR's and the barrel on the Ruger is better then anything Spikes, Smith & Worthless or the like.

        If you want to get the most bang for your buck and don't want to build: Ruger AR556

        January 24, 2017 5:02 pm
        • Commenter Avatar
          Eric Hung

          Hey Blue, thanks for the insight. I had the chance to play with the Ruger at SHOT this year and it did feel/shoot very nice. I hope to get my hands on one for a longer test. Lol at Smith & Worthless!

          January 25, 2017 9:57 am
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    Martin

    Hi Eric. Thanks for the informative article. This helped me choose my first AR by pointing me towards a DD. Did further research on it and ended up getting the DDM4V11. Been very happy with it. I sometimes shoot at ASR too.

    December 4, 2016 9:02 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Awesome to hear, Martin!

      December 4, 2016 4:59 pm
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    Donnie

    Thank you for the very informative article. The new Springfield is out and based off the article I like what im seeing with the Saint from SFA. Any thoughts on it for a zombie end of world must have AR?

    November 25, 2016 9:46 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hey Donnie, thanks for the comment. I've been seeing the name around a lot recently but haven't had the chance to play with one yet. Looking forward to SHOT show!

      November 26, 2016 10:04 pm
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    Mike

    Hi Eric, looking to purchase my first AR and I'm leaning towards DD but not sure which DDM4 model to go with...any suggestions?

    November 5, 2016 3:20 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Mike, I listed some of the variants in the article! For a first gun I like the one with the fixed sight base (FSB).

      November 7, 2016 9:49 pm
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    Nathan

    Hi! I like the article. Im looking into getting my first rifle and one of my friends who is a cop brought up the new AR from Springfield Armory the Saint. Do you have an opinion about that rifle as far as quality?

    November 3, 2016 2:54 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Nathan, I don't have personal experience with any SA rifles but my first 1911 was one of theirs and it's still going strong!

      November 7, 2016 9:45 pm
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    Dave

    Great article! Looking to purchase my first AR. Any tips on locating the BCM Mid 16 mod2? Everywhere around me just says "good luck". My local guy is pushing a CORE15. Any feedback?

    November 3, 2016 10:05 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Dave...they do tend to sell out quickly. Best bet would be to see if there's any place to do a back-order. As for Core15...I've only heard of them but don't have an opinion. If you get one, please let us know!

      November 7, 2016 9:44 pm
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    Juice

    Hi Eric great article. I was wondering why no mention about Wilson combat rifles and am looking into the AR platform and was wondering if you could recommend a top tier manufacture for a .300 blackout and will this shoot your standards 5.56/45mm & .223 home defence rounds. Thanks

    October 29, 2016 1:17 pm
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      ehung

      Thanks! I have no experience with their rifles but they make some top-notch 1911 products that I own. If you get a .300 BLK upper it will not be able to shoot other calibers.

      November 3, 2016 3:33 am
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    Przemek

    Hi Eric! Thanks for the article and greetings from Poland. In my country, the budget Mossberg MMR is becoming pretty popular, what's your opinion on this AR?

    October 27, 2016 3:27 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hey Przemek, I haven't had any experience with the MMR but I love their shotguns! Let me know if you end up getting it.

      October 28, 2016 1:35 am
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    Aryn

    I have been looking at a black rain ordinance in a 5.56/223, wondering what your thoughts are

    October 21, 2016 5:34 pm
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      ehung

      Hi Aryn, replied to your email, but thought other readers might like my response too.

      Haven't heard bad things about them but I haven't had the chance to see/hold/shoot one myself.

      Let us know how it is if you end up getting a BRO.

      October 23, 2016 6:18 am
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    Steve

    Thank u for a very informative article. I wish I could find a page like this for everything that I have ever needed answers for. Thanks again and for what it is worth I saved the page and subscribed to your YouTube channel.

    October 20, 2016 4:31 pm
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      ehung

      Glad I could help, Steve!

      October 20, 2016 4:41 pm
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    Jo

    Very informative and simplistic enough for a beginner like me to understand.

    THANK YOU!

    October 10, 2016 1:12 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Jo!

      October 10, 2016 5:56 pm
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    Roland

    Hi Eric, I have been researching ARs for awhile now. I just came across an article in Tactical Life on the Dark Storm Industries DS-15 Typhoon. Have you come across one of these and if so, how do you rate them? What is interesting to me is that it already comes with many of the mods I had already earmarked for mine. Appreciate any info you have.
    Roland

    October 8, 2016 5:30 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Roland, thanks for your message. I've never heard of them yet but that doesn't mean they aren't good.

      October 10, 2016 5:40 am
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    Dakota

    Eric, thanks for an excellent and informative article. Your BIO mentions that you have attended a number of training classes. Any in particular that you recommend for those new to the AR?

    October 1, 2016 5:09 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Dakota, I've done mostly pistol and shotgun courses. For rifle I utilize the same safety/handling skills from the classes and practice in rifle competitions. I can personally vouch for ITTS (CA but sometimes they travel). But great idea for a future article of great training courses!

      October 2, 2016 10:27 am
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    Eric

    Practically a knuckle dragger when it comes to Ar-15's. I hear all the time about switching uppers, but is that only possible with a given type of gas control system?? Direct impingement vs piston. So maybe the question is, if I bought a piston type complete gun, can I switch on most any upper or must it also be of a piston type only???

    Thank you very much Eric

    September 30, 2016 11:46 am
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      ehung

      You should be able to use any DI or piston upper with a "regular" DI lower since it doesn't play any part into the gas system. I'd still double check with some Google-fu in case you're looking at some proprietary systems.

      October 2, 2016 10:24 am
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    MrSatyre

    Great article for a relative AR newcomer like me (I've been a Tavor bullpup guy up till this year) (*gasp*). This past summer, after reading numerous glowing reviews and with the grudging nod of approval from a lifetime AR friend, I picked up a Ruger SR-556 Takedown in 556, with the option of swapping out the barrel for a 300 Blackout barrel kit. It's a piston design, which is something I definitely prefer, with a free-floating barrel, and overall a great gun in the $1500 range (gun show price, by the way). It does have two interesting quirks, however, and that's that it has a 1:9 twist to the barrel (which you say is typical, but for the a purportedly mil-spec AR, I wasn't the only one who was surprised it isn't 1:7), and that when assembling the rifle for use from its broken down and carry-bagged state, you MUST install the bolt carrier group LAST. Otherwise, the BCG doesn't sit quite right in the upper when it meets with the barrel and you'll have a devil of a time running the charging handle and no magazine installed. It will still work if you load a magazine and charge, but if you want totally smooth operation 100% of the time, follow the instructions and put the boot in AFTER you've assembled the rifle from its taken down state.

    Again, thanks for a great article!

    September 29, 2016 5:12 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Thanks for the insight! Haven't had the chance to try any piston AR's out yet. But good info to know.

      September 29, 2016 6:28 pm
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    Robert

    Hey guys just wanted to tell you about the barrels being magnetic particle tested. It's know as MT tested. It's the induction of a magnetic field into the steel with an application of flourscent iron particles. What this means with a barrel that is crack will attracted those iron particles to the void allowing the inspector to see it. It's called magnetic flux leakage. X-Ray is different. We all the the standard medical x-ray. Same process just more iodization

    September 21, 2016 8:04 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Robert, thanks for the insight into barrel testing!

      September 22, 2016 8:32 am
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    Joe

    I was wondering what your thoughts are on the Windham AR 15. A local dealer here seem to have some pretty good deals

    September 15, 2016 8:13 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Joe, I've seen them on some sites but haven't heard much about them. I'd do more research before you take the plunge. If you get it, please let us know how you like it.

      September 16, 2016 10:06 am
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    Forrest Branton Jr

    This is my 1st time to read your articles and really like the info you shared with 'us' newbies, in the AR platform. I built my very 1st AR-15, a Polymer80 lower, and a ATI 5.56/.223 NATO 16" barrel. I have since done a few mods, quad gas block, FireField site, Red Dot Laser, XML-T6 Flashlight lots of 30 round mags. [...] I love the way my AR shoots, it's very accurate, light weight. Do you have any info or ideas on this 'Kit' or the way I did things for the 1st time? All is appreciated...

    September 13, 2016 1:24 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Forrest, thanks! Sounds like a great first build. If you're looking for your next upper, check out my Best AR-15 Uppers article too.

      September 14, 2016 2:35 pm
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    Jr

    Great article Eric. I have to agree...Daniel Defense is top tier quality and function. A lil pricey, but worth every penny once you buy one. I bought the M4A1 and what a beautiful rifle! .....comes with nice case also. State of the art facility where these guns are made. Marty Daniel has you covered!!! If your on the fence, buy a DD -best AR out there.

    September 5, 2016 10:54 pm
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    Will

    Eric, great article. I am interested in an entry level (under $900) 300 Black Out for the extra punch in hunting. Do your recommendations hold for the guns, assuming they offer the 300 AAC? Also, looking at Wyndham Weaponry, are you familiar with that brand? Thanks so much.

    September 3, 2016 11:08 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Will, thanks! I haven't had the chance to get a .300 Blk but I've done some research before and it seems awesome to have the capability of a .30 cal in the AR-15 platform that is basically made to be suppressed.

      I haven't heard much about Wyndham so I have no opinion yet, but for now I'd say my recommendations should be a good starting spot as well for .300 Blk.

      September 4, 2016 11:53 am
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    Keith

    Oh by the way I love your website keep up the good work guys.

    August 25, 2016 6:37 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Thanks so much!

      August 27, 2016 8:47 pm
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    Keith

    Do you ever have to clean the gas tube that runs back into the bolt assembly?

    August 25, 2016 6:32 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Keith, thanks for the question. I've never cleaned it since it should be self-cleaning every time you shoot. The 30-50k PSI of hot gas probably does a better job than I ever could.

      August 27, 2016 8:46 pm
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    John

    I'm debating between Colt 6920 and Spikes ST-15 Midlength. Both are about same price just under 900.

    Any tips for a newbie? Thank you!

    August 23, 2016 5:43 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi John, out of those two I like the Spikes since it has the mid-length which should shoot a little softer. As far as I know Colt doesn't have any mid-lengths.

      August 23, 2016 7:42 pm
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        John

        Thank you so much for the fast reply! I may actually hold off an save a little bit for a BCM. I have a tendacy to over analyze everything and become frozen around decision time!

        August 24, 2016 6:37 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        John

        Just want to let you know that I ordered the Spikes today! Thank you for your advice and this well informative article. I will let you know how it is in follow-up comment!

        August 24, 2016 12:42 pm
        • Commenter Avatar
          ehung

          Awesome, keep us posted.

          August 25, 2016 4:03 pm
          • Commenter Avatar
            John

            Hi Eric,

            Hope all is well and thank you again for your articles and sharing your knowledge with us. I know it's over a year now from my original post, but I wanted to follow up.

            I am definitely happy with my Spikes, but I am not thrilled. One of the things I don't like about it is that the gun seems "wiggle" a bit. People I spoke to said this normal, but I have shot other ARs that did not have this amount of wiggle and they seemed more solid to me. It's like the lower/receiver has some wiggle with the upper.

            Is this normal in your opinion?

            August 10, 2017 11:45 am
          • Commenter Avatar
            Eric Hung

            Hi John, thanks for bringing in your yearlong experience. It's "normal" but I'm with you...it's not ideal. It theoretically should not make a difference in function. You can look up the AR-15 accurizing wedge to help.

            August 17, 2017 2:27 pm
          • Commenter Avatar
            John

            Agree that it shouldn't impact the function of the rifle itself, more concerned about its impact on me. A few times I had my target zero'd in on and the wiggle caused me to readjust my aim.

            August 30, 2017 10:26 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Chris

    I have a few different manufactures on your list, but the one I take issue with is Stag. To put Stag on the "budget" list, but Colt as a tier one, isn't doing your homework. CMT (Stag is their house brand) has been making parts for the M4 since the Vietnam War, and I would bet there is a great chance nearly all of the rifles you have listed have some CMT (Stag) parts in them. You have S&W as a mid-tier......do you know who made S&W early AR style rifles? Stag did.

    I don't work for Stag, nor am I involved in the firearm business at all - I just like it when folks do their homework. You can find Stag Model 1 or 2 with their "Plus Package" for around $850 - and that is a 100% "mil-spec", "tier-one" AR (according to the infamous chart) for less than any other mil-spec variant on the market. Oh, and a transferable lifetime warranty with them, including free barrel replacement if you shoot it out. IF a 6920 Colt (which I own a couple of) is "tier one", then so is a Plus Package Stag.

    August 22, 2016 6:57 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Chris, thanks for the info! It's my own personal list and really appreciate your input which helps me out in the future and gives a different perspective to my readers.

      August 22, 2016 9:36 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        762COAX

        Don't confuse original manufacturers to end products.

        Just because CMT made the RAW product for a company doesn't mean there all equal.

        Each company has to put the finishing touches on the product. Like finishing or quality control.


        An example would be a company only checks every 25 gas blocks for proper sizing and machining.

        When another company check every 10 or everyone.

        The end product will very between company's . Some company's cut corns to save money. Some don't.

        November 1, 2016 11:40 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    wayne

    Cool info but it is a fact that a gas piston AR-15 is as accurate as one that isn't! I've owned both and my gas piston LWRC and RUGER 556 piston type AR-15 rifles were more accurate than any of the none piston rifles. LWRC is a half an inch MOA shooter. RUGER is a three fourth an inch MOA shooter. They never jam! Every non gas piston rifle that I ever owned would jam all of the time.

    August 8, 2016 6:53 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Thanks for the info Wayne! I hope to try out some piston AR-15's soon.

      August 8, 2016 9:18 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Jesse

        Try out the Sig 516 if you get the chance. You will fall in love with it, and you will probably put Sig in your top tier where it belongs.

        August 27, 2016 6:03 pm
        • Commenter Avatar
          ehung

          Will do in the future (hopefully soon)...thanks for the rec!

          August 27, 2016 8:48 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Patrick

    I miss the H&K MR223/416 in your list. In my opinion it beats up everyone of your list - especially the poor one`s of colt. Just look for youtube to see a comparison firing test with a wet Colt M4 against a MR223/416 - The Colt explodes completely when firing the first round!

    August 4, 2016 9:46 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Patrick, I do remember that video! I'll probably do a future list with piston AR's (where it will definitely make the list)...but for now I'm just including DI for first timer buyers.

      August 5, 2016 10:07 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Tom

    Hi Eric,

    Excellent article and very informative. I appreciate you taking the time to do a really deep dive on the AR-15. I've wanted one for a while, but the explosion in AR-15 variations has overwhelmed my ability to digest all the variations out there. Your article helped clear up a lot of the confusion. I noticed that you've got Colt crossed out on your list of top tier AR-15 manufacturers. Is that a typo? If not, could you explain why you've crossed Colt off of your top tier list?

    Based on your article and a search of their website, I decided to look for a BCM Mid16 Mod2, but I can't find an online dealer with any in stock. In fact, I can't find an online dealer with ANY BCM products in stock. I suppose this is a combination of the overwhelming public demand to get an AR-15 before the gun control nuts get their way and a testament to the quality of BCM products.

    August 1, 2016 6:30 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Tom, thanks for the keen eye! Turns out the specific link to Colt became a dud and your browser picked it up. I've gone through and fixed it.

      Yup...it seems like there's always something political/tragic that's driving great products out of stock. Best of luck in finding one!

      August 2, 2016 9:56 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Marine

        At the beginning of your article you stated the military version is fully automatic. That is entirely incorrect. It has semi and 3 round burst. Everyone I packed for 9 years did which was and m4, m16 A2, and m16 A4

        July 15, 2017 4:57 pm
        • Commenter Avatar
          GRUNT

          You are absolutely right Marine. I am also a Marine 0311 Rifleman. 3 round burst and not full auto. Semper Fi brother...

          July 19, 2017 7:01 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Chuck

    Eric, great article and thanks for the information. I'm thinking of buying my first AR and have been looking at an Adams Arms product at a local gun dealer. Specifically the 16" Mid Tactical Evo Rifle. Do you have any experience with Adams Arms?

    July 23, 2016 10:24 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Chuck, definitely heard of them and mostly for their piston gas system guns. Looks like the one you mentioned is piston so I'd so you're most likely in good hands!

      July 24, 2016 10:45 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Fain

    P.S. $1700.00 budget

    July 19, 2016 3:14 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Fain

    Eric,

    Great informative article..been researching for months. Am looking to get my first AR.

    Grew up around guns...but its baan a long while. 25 yeard.. Live in CA. So panther is out...Any reccomendations? 5.56/.223 or .308. (Light n cheap vs. Death behind a cinderblock wall at 150yrds. N expensive) Chrome vs. Chromoly...etc. plinking, deer..zombies..urban combat scenarios (aka decline of western civilization) etc.

    Any suggestions? (CA)

    Thanks!

    July 19, 2016 3:12 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Fain, thanks for your comment! For a first AR I would heavily suggest the AR-15 (5.56/.223) instead of the AR-10 (7.62/.308) since the recoil will be much more controllable and you won't go bankrupt from ammo. Check out my recs for complete rifles in the article above.

      July 20, 2016 11:34 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Caleb

    Hi. I'm not sure if you're going strictly by price here but I strongly disagree with your placing RRA in the bottom tier of AR builders. I have owned or shot at least half a dozen RRA rifles or upper builds and every single one of them has had incredible fit and finish and will shoot sub 1" groups at 100yds all day. I've admittedly only shot their "higher end" rifles but I have a fair amount of experience with AR type rifles in general and have not found a better overall value yet. Do you have actual experience with RRA guns that differs from mine?

    July 15, 2016 2:01 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Caleb, thanks so much for your message and experience with the value and performance of RRA. My list is definitely a little subjective and I take into account price, personal experience, online sentiment, etc. Hope to one day have a shootoff with all the rifles out there...

      July 15, 2016 3:21 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Deadparrothead

        Great article learned a few things, been around ar's for at least 25 years. I will say of the 4 I currently have 2 Colts one being a car but the car meaning Colt accurized rifle
        (its on the box) a Daniel Defense and a RRA in 308, the RRA is easily on par with the others. Bought new with a 26" barrel a 1/2 moa gun and liked it so much bought a 16" upper and made a 1 moa gun never had a issue with any of them. RRA rocks.

        July 24, 2017 6:43 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Xander

    Hi Eric,

    Great article, it was very informative, what tier would you considers "Nemo Firearms?" I have been looking and researching the 5.556 Tango 2. Any experience with this manufacturer? Thanks in advance!

    July 14, 2016 1:49 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Xander, I've only heard of them but don't have any experience with them. Let me know what you end up deciding!

      July 15, 2016 8:23 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Kurt

    Hi Eric, thanks for the great article. I'm looking for a first AR for my son for his 18th birthday. The rifle will be used for recreational shooting and home defense (kept in my safe until he graduates from college!).

    Here's my question: John is left-eye dominant so he shoots better left-handed. What is the difference between a RH and a LH rifle? If we get a LH model can I still still shoot it (I'm a RH shooter)?

    Also, you didn't mention Bushmaster in your summary for a first affordably priced gun. Can you comment on that brand please?

    Thanks again,
    Kurt

    July 12, 2016 9:59 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Kurt, you're welcome and thanks for your comment!

      The difference between a RH and LH AR-15 rifle would be the placement of the ejection port (would be on the left side) and also the placement of the magazine release and safety lever (mag release would be on the left and safety lever would be to the right).

      You can still shoot it just like John can shoot a regular RH gun. Only annoying thing would be the manipulations and the occasional brass flying into your face. I'd suggest an ambi-safety at least so it's not annoying to switch it on/off safe for either of you.

      Bushmaster is good to go as an introductory gun!

      July 12, 2016 2:34 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Luiz

    Hello great article ! lots of great info. I was thinking of buying a DPMS GII Recon or GII Moe
    Have you done any reviews on DPMS Porducts? If so which one would you recommend of these 2.
    Thank you

    July 6, 2016 9:19 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi, DPMS should be good for the price...I've used a DPMS upper for my AR-10 which has run smoothly. I think it really depends on what handguard you like since the recon is a quad rail with flip up sights while the MOE has the standard Magpul plastic handguard and front sight block.

      July 8, 2016 10:07 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    M B

    Eric,
    Great article. Lot's of information. I'm new to guns, trying to learn as much as possible.
    What are you thoughts on "Knights Armament" products?
    Thinking about the AR "mod 2".

    June 25, 2016 10:03 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      I'd consider them in the highest tier as well...can't go wrong with KAC!

      June 28, 2016 8:28 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Nate W.

    Hey Eric
    Excellent and informative article. I have been out of the market for years (kids &life), but have recently decided to reinvest. I am somewhat familiar with the AR platform buy as stated it has been about eight years since owning. Was curious what you would reccommend for a second AR? Buy or build? I have put a few .22's together which were relatively simple and have a pretty decent understanding of building. However I am torn with the idea of "M4gery" or having one , like a DDM4 finished and ready. Also you left the trigger department somewhat vague (no offense). For .22's (Ruger) that is a fairly integral portion of accuracy. Not that I'm looking to get involved in comp. shooting but I do like to hit what I'm aiming for! I do understand there are tons of variables when it comes to deciding what AR is right for each individual personally. So with that being said, what do you think is best for an all around AR platform that is reasonable to carry for reasonable distances, accurate, and dependable? And do you think it's best to build or buy?
    Thanks

    June 12, 2016 7:08 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      ehung

      Hi Nate, thanks for your comment and suggestions! If it will be your first 5.56/.223 AR-15 (sounds like right now you only have.22 versions?) I would suggest going the Buy route with any of the suggestions I have at the end of this article based on your budget. You can always go ahead and upgrade the trigger (thanks for the insight) in your lower at a different time. I go over them somewhat in my Best AR-15 Upgrades article.

      June 12, 2016 5:13 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        ken

        Man , I thought that PSA would have been rated better than you rated it. I have shot mine with a bump fire stock, used steel cased ammo, etc, and it hasn't missed a beat. It is mil spec as well, so I don't know why it's rated as a lower tier product

        March 4, 2017 8:27 pm
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