There’s a lot of AR-15 barrel manufacturers out there. Even if you have some idea of which to go with…you also have to decide which specific barrel.
Whether you’re doing a new build or swapping out a worn one…your barrel isn’t something where you cut corners.
We’ve built a lot of AR’s and tested countless more.
Follow us as we cover our favorite barrel manufacturers…from the affordable to the very cutting edge of carbon fiber.
And also specific models for all your kinds of builds…from M4-style to pistol, SPR, and even exotic calibers.
If you need a refresher on gas lengths, barrel profiles, or different metals, check out the barrel section to our AR-15 guide before you get started.
*Updated 2018*: More barrels and calibers
Let’s get started…
1. Faxon Firearms
Faxon is my go-to pick for affordable barrels. And I don’t mean cheap…they are just fairly priced in my mind. They have a great online reputation and utilize their aerospace background to produce their barrels in-house (harder and harder to find nowadays).
Their claim to fame is their “Gunner” profile which utilizes the best from Government and Pencil profiles. Check out my art skills:
The Government section is thicker to maximize heat resistance and lower barrel whip. While at the gas block segment, it becomes Pencil profile for a .625″ gas block and reduced weight.
I also like how you can bundle gas blocks AND they have my favorite…the Superlative Arms Adjustable Gas Block (full review).
Here are our specific picks:
The Goldilocks Barrel
Has everything I’d want for an all-around build:
- 16″ to avoid permanently attaching a muzzle device
- Mid-length gas system for softer shooting compared to carbine
- Gunner profile
- 5.56 chamber to eat up anything
If you’re looking for the shortest barrel without requiring a tax stamp or moving into Pistol category, check out their 14.5″ barrel with permanently attached muzzle device. I did a full review here of the pencil version.
And if you’re looking at weight savings…you can’t go wrong with the 16″ Pencil barrel. Note that going pencil will open up your groups (2-3 MOA) a little under rapid fire. If you’re shooting close range or ok simply hitting 6″ targets at 100 yards…it’s worth it.
Match Accuracy Barrel
Not content with a 5.56 chamber? Upgrade to the more accurate .223 Wylde chamber (which still allows both 5.56 and .223) . I have one on the way to test for accuracy so stay tuned.
The Short Barrel
Going short for an SBR or AR-pistol (Best Pistol Braces)?
I prefer 11.5″ since it has a much longer dwell time compared to even 10.5″ and shorter. Most problems I’ve seen with AR pistols have been with people going too short.
Whatever you want to call it…if you’re going long distance and want that even softer-shooting rifle-length gas system?
Faxon’s stainless heavy fluted barrels give great rigidity for the weight…plus they look super cool.
Faxon was also one of the first companies to move into 9mm pistol caliber carbines (PCC) so they definitely excel there too. Plus other offerings for AR-15 and AR-10.
What’s your take on Faxon?
2. Ballistic Advantage
Ballistic Advantage is another of my favorite barrel manufacturers that build their own in-house.
What’s cool about BA barrels is that the company doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to barrel design. Most barrels belong to one of the following series: Modern, Performance, or Premium. Each series is designed to fulfill a specific need for the shooter, while also giving them the chance to stick to their price range or only pay for features that they actually need.
I consider “Modern Series” ($140) to be more run-of-the-mill in design so I’m skipping over it. If you’re building a new rifle…get what a company is known for…
A barrel profile unique to Ballistic advantage…the Hanson (part of the Performance Series) is shoulder-less at the gas block area which keeps the barrel more symmetrical and cuts down on barrel whip. Art time…
There’s 5.56 Hanson Barrels but I went with the .223 Wylde to squeeze a little more accuracy out of the chamber while still able to shoot both 5.56 and .223.
This was perfect for me since it had:
- .223 Wylde chamber for more accuracy
- 16″ to avoid any length problems
- Mid-length to be softer shooting
I’m currently running this barrel for my rifle competition gun and it’s been kicking butt from close range all the way up to 400 yards. You can check it out in my How to Build An AR-15 article.
For your precision 18″+ needs. Fluted for your pleasure and extra rigidity when shooting.
I have this one coming in so I’ll be posting up accuracy groups soon!
The Short One
They have a 11.3″ Hanson profile if you’re more serious about your SBR or AR-pistol. But for me since my AR pistols are more range toys I would recommend the more affordable Government profile barrel.
.224 Valkyrie and Other Calibers
I’m pretty excited for the .224 Valkyrie…I got to shoot this exact barrel at SHOT Show 2018 and you get the ability to hit up to 1300 yards with the same recoil of a .223. Plus it goes into the AR-15 platform and not its big brother the AR-10 (Best AR-10s). I’ve pre-ordered mine so I’ll have results soon!
3. Christensen Arms
Christensen Arms was founded by aerospace engineer, Roland Christensen who envisioned a new way to build superior firearms. The company has a two-decade long reputation of developing some of the finest rifle parts and fully-assembled gun builds around.
Christensen is also the first company to develop the carbon fiber barrel, which tend to trump other barrels in pretty much every way except price.
And boy do they cost more – approximately double the price tag of your finest steel barrel, to be exact. Still, your carbon fiber barrel delivers better accuracy, durability, and barrel life than other barrels on the market, all while being significantly lighter in weight.
Let’s look at a couple carbon fiber barrels for your AR build.
AR-10 16” Carbon Fiber Barrel with 2” Gas Seat
The benefits of this barrel are pretty straightforward. Its carbon fiber design means that you get better accuracy and durability than you would with a 4150 or 4140 steel barrel, and the match-grade 416R stainless steel barrel lining ensures that precision and accuracy is delivered with every shot.
The barrel comes with a threaded muzzle, gives a twist ratio of 1:10”, and weighs under two pounds.
AR-15 Carbon Fiber Barrel with 2” Gas Seat
It’s pretty much the same as the AR-10 variant. However, unlike the AR-10, you have more options to choose from when purchasing this carbon fiber barrel.
It comes chambered for the following calibers:
- .204 Ruger – length of 16” or 20”; twist rate of 1:10” or 1:12”
- .223 Wylde – length of 11.5”, 14.5”, 16”, or 18”; twist rate of 1:7”, 1:8”, or 1:9”
- 5.56 NATO – length of 16”; twist rate of 1:8”
- 6.5 Grendel – length of 24”; twist rate of 1:8”
If you’re looking for a good, lightweight barrel that can carry you through competitive shooting and hunting, Christensen’s carbon fiber AR-15 barrel is a pretty solid choice. And if you’re looking for more carbon fiber…check out our Best Picks including Proof Research and BSF.
And BSF which I have in-hand and will test out soon!
Don’t see your favorite manufacturer above? Here’s some more popular ones that I’ll be updating as I get my hands on more barrels and test them out.
- White Oak Armament: no frills…they are just accurate
- Daniel Defense: cold-hammer forged for extreme durability
Have Fun Upgrading Your AR
That should do it for my list of favorite AR barrel manufacturers
If you’re new to the AR modding and would like to learn more about upgrading your rifle, take a look at our AR-15 Definitive Resource page.