Best AR-15 Barrels & Manufacturers [2019 Hands-On]

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.

AR-15 Barrel Ramps
AR-15 Barrels

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.

Bouquet of AR-15s
Bouquet of AR-15s

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.  

Best AR-15 Barrels

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).

Faxon Barrel Assortment
Faxon Barrel Assortment

Their claim to fame is their “Gunner” profile which utilizes the best from Government and Pencil profiles.  Check out my art skills:

Faxon Gunner Profile
Faxon Gunner Profile

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
Goldilocks Barrel
175
at Faxon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

I did a full review of it here…Faxon 16″ Gunner Barrel Review where it passed my fit, feel, install, shootability, and accuracy criteria.

Faxon 16" Gunner 5.56 Barrel
Faxon 16″ Gunner 5.56 Barrel

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.

Lightweight Build Brigand Arms and Faxon Pencil 14.5 Pinned
Lightweight Build Brigand Arms and Faxon Pencil 14.5 Pinned

And if you’re looking at weight savings…you can’t go wrong with the 16″ Pencil barrel.

Faxon Pencil, Ballistic Advantage Hanson, PSA Stock
(T to B) Faxon Pencil, Ballistic Advantage Hanson, PSA Stock

Note that going pencil will open up your groups a little under rapid fire.  If you’re shooting close range or ok simply hitting 6″ targets at 100 yards…it’s worth the weight savings.

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.

225
at Faxon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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.

Best Short Barrel
149
at Faxon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

DMR/SPR Barrel

Whatever you want to call it…if you’re going long distance and want that even softer-shooting rifle-length gas system?

Precision Fluted Barrel
309
at Faxon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Faxon’s stainless heavy fluted barrels give great rigidity for the weight…plus they look super cool.

Other Calibers

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?

Readers' Ratings

4.96/5 (616)

Your Rating?

Oh…and did I mention…

Faxon is hooking up Pew Pew Tactical readers like yourself with a 10% off barrel code: FXPPTBARREL10

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.

Assorted Barrels by Ballistic Advantage
Assorted Barrels by Ballistic Advantage, Greg Skaz Photography

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…

Hanson Barrel

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…

Hanson Barrel Profile
Hanson Barrel Profile

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
AR-15 Upper Receiver Parts
AR-15 Upper Build with Ballistic Advantage

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 my complete build in my How to Build An AR-15 article.

And the full review of the barrel.

Premium Series

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.

145
at Ballistic Advantage

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

.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. Brownells

Looking for a build that won’t break the bank?

Brownells has got you covered with their own branded B-Tac line of barrels.

Brownells B-Tac Barrel
Brownells B-Tac Barrel

They are 16″, mid-length gas system, and nitride coated so it already exceeds a normal carbine-length and phosphate coated barrel.

It is also Socom profile…but that just means regular Government.  You’re not going to save weight but it will do well with rapid fire.

And the greatest thing?  It’s priced at around $100…with most of the time underneath it especially with a sale.

85
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

4. Rainier Arms

Want to upgrade your accuracy game?

Check out Rainier Arms’ Ultramatch in 18″, rifle-length gas system, .223 Wylde, stainless steel, and TiN coated extension.

Rainier Arms Ultramatch Mod2
Rainier Arms Ultramatch Mod2

Made from top-grade Shilen barrel blanks…the barrel is dead sexy with the TiN extension which should add lubricity to loading…but we’ll be testing more to see.

Rainier Arms Ultramatch Mod 2 TiN Extension
Rainier Arms Ultramatch Mod 2 TiN Extension

Plus the combo of 18″, rifle-length gas system, and aggressive fluting should give you a super soft shooting impulse with great velocity and rigidity.

I opted for their special .800″ thick gas block for a slight accuracy edge.

Exclusive Pew Pew Code
300
at Rainier Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

5. 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

662
at Rainier Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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.  

Carbon Fiber Goodness
621
at Rainier Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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 Carbon Fiber Picks including Proof Research and BSF.

Most Accurate Carbon Fiber
799
at Cabela's

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

And BSF which I have in-hand with the full review here!

BSF Barrel, No Handguard
BSF Barrel, No Handguard
Best Bang for Buck Carbon Fiber
490
at Rainier Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Honorable Mentions

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.

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.

42 Leave a Reply

  • Blake

    Who makes the best barrel in the 13.5 length? If I have to I'll go 13.7 but 13.5 would be perfect because it would be exactly 16.1 after I pin and weld a surefire warcomp... Thanks

    1 week ago
    • Joe

      Sons of Liberty

      2 days ago
  • Connor H

    Do you have any experience with AR Performance barrels? I’m looking at doing a 6.8 SPC build and keep seeing them mentioned positively in forums. It appears they make their 6.8 barrels with a special chamber to take advantage of hand loads that are stronger than factory. The comparison I’ve seen is 6.8 SPC chamber = .223, SPC 2 chamber = 5.56, and their custom chamber = .223 wylde. Sounds great if they shoot well. They make a special bolt too.

    1 month ago
  • tim doser

    pencil barrel just look goofy with a skinny little noodle sticking out of handguard with muzzle attachment that fatter than barrel.

    1 month ago
  • Maurice L

    If I wanted to attach a hybrid 46 silencer on a ar15, let’s say a DDM4 V7. Would I need to purchase a threaded barrel? Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

    2 months ago
    • John Brown

      No, you do not need to purchase another barrel. The DDM4v7's barrel is already threaded, as are most barrels for AR platforms. This is done to allow for the attachment of flash hiders, compensators, muzzle brakes and suppressors. According to Daniel Defense's website, the DDM4v7 has a muzzle thread of 1⁄2"×28 TPI (Threads Per Inch). The exception to this is if you buy a DDM4v7 that has been modified to be non-NFA by a gun dealer by having a pinned and welded flash hider, muzzle brake or compensator that extends a 14.5" barrel to 16". If you have a pinned and welded barrel, which is not standard from Daniel Defense, then you would need to buy a new barrel. Keep in mind that suppressors are NFA items. (also keep in mind that most firearm enthusiasts despise the term "silencer" as a suppressor does not make a firearm anywhere near "silent") If adding a suppressor to an existing firearm, then you will need to purchase the suppressor, pay the $200 NFA tax and fill out an ATF form 1 to manufacture an NFA item. If purchasing a firearm with a suppressor already attached, then you will need to fill out an ATF form 4. Your local FFL dealer should be able to guide you through this process. Keep in mind that NFA items can take months to a year to be approved.

      1 month ago
  • Joe Mona

    The author doesn't even realize that Ballistics does not make a gun barrel, they buy from other companies.

    6 months ago
    • Trey

      Actually Ballistic advantage does make their own barrels and the partnered with Aero Precision because they manufacture all of the other AR parts needed

      4 months ago
  • Arctic Cowboy

    How in the balls did Noveske not make this list...

    7 months ago
  • steve

    Criterion barrels are match grade and they are chrome lined . I know . I had never heard of a chrome lined match grade barrel either. They are a part of Krieger barrels . Criterion has successfully integraded the best both worlds.

    11 months ago
  • Nolan

    Try the Wilson Combat barrels

    1 year ago
  • iichael

    I cant believe the barrels you chose as the best.Colt,Daniel Defense,FN are milspec,accurate,affordable and tough.Those other barrels are fine commercial barrels for plinkers but if you shoot alot or train hard you should go with barrels listed and a few more not mentioned.

    1 year ago
    • David

      Milspec barrels are a fairly obsolescent design unless you are using them in a military application - ie mass produced, good for anything, and might need to mount under-barrel launchers. For a civilian shooter, of any flavor, the government profile is outdated.

      1 year ago
      • Austin

        Kinda late to this, but what the hell. 1) You should change this article's title to something like "best buys" or something. 2) All of those manufactures that the previous poster mentioned make barrels in profiles besides the government profile. 3) Milspec doesn't only apply to the profile, but the materials and manufacturing process. Colt, FN, Green Mountain, Krieger, Shilen, Rock Creek, Lothar Walther, Criterion, JP, Bartlein, and BCM are as good (more likely better) than those you posted.

        11 months ago
  • Chris Starke

    No mention of BCA? Never had an issue with any of their barrels plus they come in all shapes, finishes and sizes. I always check Primary Arms and Midway to compare prices and free shipping for all parts.

    1 year ago
  • Chris Brown

    What are your thoughts on odin works or jp industries? Building a 6.5 creedmoore....

    1 year ago
    • David

      I can personally state that JP makes amazing BCGs and adjustable gas blocks (we even recommend them in our Adjustable Gas Block and our Best BCG articles). I've never personally used Odin Works parts but I've heard many great things about them from a number of people. I would feel confident buying either of their product lines.

      1 year ago
      • Matthew Collins

        I second this and throw my vote behind Odin Works as well, I have one of their gas blocks and a 300 blackout barrel.

        1 year ago
  • James

    Hi Eric, I'm building my first AR-10 and I'm looking for a relatively lightweight setup. Short of coughing up $7-900 for a CF barrel from Proof or Christensen, what would you recommend for a 16" or 18" length?

    1 year ago
    • steve

      go with the 18 inch from Criterion barrels they are match grade barrels and they are chrome lined . Look them up on Brownells website 30 reviews all rate them 5 stars.

      11 months ago
    • Eric Hung

      Hi James, you can try a fluted option to save a little weight. I don't think there's pencil barrels so the only way to save a significant amount of weight is going with the CF barrels.

      1 year ago
      • Tom

        How do cf barrels hold up compared to chrome polished barrels?

        1 year ago
  • Michael

    What about Columbia River Arms/Black Hole Weaponry ?

    1 year ago
    • jars

      I have a BHW barrel in 6x45 and love it. Sub MOA.

      1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      Hi Michael, simply haven't had experience with them.

      1 year ago
  • John

    There are always good and bad from any manufacturer. I bought an AR Stoner barrel in .300 Blackout. Great barrel and great service from Brownells. Perfect fit and finish. I figured, "How can I go wrong with AR Stoner?" And best of all it was on sale for $79.99. Now I'm looking to do another complete upper in .223 Wylde.

    1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      They had a "meh" reputation a while ago, but glad to hear you had a good experience. Let us know how the Wylde turns out!

      1 year ago
  • David

    One of the best barrels I have used and currently using on a AR pistol build is the Rosco barrel's. They make everything in house. I have spoke to many Special Operations personnel that are using Rosco barrels and they swear by them. I am surprised you only list high end barrel's (ok some of the barrels you have posted are around $150 and up.) My custom barrel cost me 130.00 I know of many military and non military that use Rosco barrels. I know of one SF guy that has shot over 25000 rounds through his Rosco barrel with no problems or issues. ( He has had his barrel inspected by a certified Armorer and by Rosco.) So it would definitely should be mentioned. Granted I know there are many barrel manufactures of barrels out there and you can't list them all. This is just my opinion. But I will never go back to another barrel.

    1 year ago
    • Rick

      The only "Special Operations" personnel that I've seen review a Rosco barrel is the Garand Thumb YouTube channel and is was a Rosco sponsored review. The conclusion of the review was that it was okay for the price. "Garand Thumb" was getting 1.2 moa with good factory ammo and 2.4 moa with Freedom Munitions re-manufactured ammo. Other than the carbon fiber barrels and possibly the Rainier UltraMatch, all the other barrels in this article are budget options, as many other comments have pointed out. Rosco is what I'd call an "ultra-budget" barrel. Check reddit and you'll find many reports of quality issues and general poor performance of Rosco barrels. There are also complaints about poor quality machining, scratches in the rifling, and incorrect crowns. The measure of a barrel involves more than just how many rounds you can put through it without issue, it involves other considerations such as barrel harmonics, consistency, and accuracy. I have a 10.5" Rosco barrel chambered in 5.56 that I bought on sale for around $110. It seems like a well made barrel but it doesn't group sub-moa, even with hand loaded 77g SMK's after load development for the specific barrel. When building any type of AR platform rifle the two things I don't skimp on are barrel and trigger. The two things that are going to have the greatest influence on accuracy (not counting optic). There's nothing wrong with building "minute of man" rifles/pistols using budget barrels, but it's just wrong to label a Faxon or BA barrel among the "Best AR-15 Barrels". I'd consider sub-moa performance a minimum criteria for any barrel considered the "best". And not Ballistic Advantage's definition of sub-moa used in their "guarantee". Their definition is "We define sub MOA as a group size of 1 inch or under at 100 yards with a 3 shot magazine fed group, or 5 shot single loaded group with match grade ammunition". No one uses three shot groups to determine accuracy as three shots are not a statistically significant sample. My personal list of "best" would be Krieger, Criterion, JP, BSF, Lilja on tier 1 and Triarc, White Oak Armament and Wilson Combat on tier 2 but that's a gross generalization. Even among that list there are always exceptions. I've seen a JP Supermatch that can't group moa with a 22" .308 but an 18" Krieger that can in the same rifle. I've also seen Faxon barrels with so much barrel whip that adding a brake changes POI by 6 inches, and not just the pencil profiles. Faxon seems to think that fluting a barrel makes it more rigid than a non-fluted barrel of the same diameter, thus defying the laws of physics. Or at least that's what they seem to want customers to believe. But mass is mass. Ballistic Advantage makes a good quality budget barrel for a reasonable price and you can find them sold under a dozen different brand names aside from just Aero. I bought an 11.5 inch "Andro" barrel that is a BA Modern series barrel, also for around $100 on sale. My only problem with BA is they tout themselves as a premium barrel manufacturer and this belief has become so pervasive that every discussion of match quality barrels is filled with recommendations from people who bought a BA barrel thinking it was a Krieger. The one I'm not sure about is Noveske. Clearly they make high quality, rugged barrels, and a lot of people recommend them but I never seem to see a lot of accuracy information accompanying the recommendations. They're priced like top tier barrels but that may be based mainly on brand perception, like I think is the case with Colt. So anyone looking for a truly "best" barrel should ignore articles like this and do the research required. The article doesn't even mention accuracy of the barrels as if they are all the same. Also, the word "match" in the barrel name doesn't make it so. Finally, this list of best "AR-15" barrels doesn't seem to recognize barrels chambered in 300 Blackout, 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC, .224 Valkyrie, .22 Nosler, etc. At least half the AR barrels I buy are chambered for an alternative cartridge. So the article title should be refined even further to "Best Buys in AR-15 Barrels Chambered for 5.56/.223". Oh, and Chris Starke, I can't believe you even mentioned BCA in an article about "best" barrels. Best for under a hundred dollars, maybe.

      4 months ago
    • Eric Hung

      I've been hearing a lot about them recently...going to try and get my hands on one in the new year.

      1 year ago
      • David

        Yes Eric I have gone with the Rosco barrel for my AR pistol build. Since the guys I know have relied on them in the field and they are priced excellent My 10.5 inch barrel cost me 130.00 the 11.5 I think is 135.00. These barrels listed here are excellent but there is no way I would pay 400-600 for a barrel. That is crazy. Check out their barrels online, I ordered directly from them. Mine was backordered about 3 days due to the Christmas rush. Their customer service is great.

        1 year ago
  • RG4

    Good article, and I’m pleased to see Ballistic Advantage listed, but am surprised to see no mention of their Hanson barrels. I have great luck with them and can note two points. First, all BA barrels are offered with pinned gas blocks and provide peace of mind that they aren’t going anywhere. Second, the Hanson profile barrels are my preferred choice because of their balance, accuracy, and soft shooting characteristics due to the gas port sizing. I recently built a 10.3” 556 “mk18” and despite its length shoots more like it has a mid length gas system or adjustable block. Thank you, keep up the good work

    1 year ago
    • iichael

      the recommended gas port size for the 10.3 mk18 is .070.If they're using .070 gas port how is it softer shooting?

      1 year ago
      • Dick Coe

        Join the discussion...Does anyone know if I can buy a 20in length lightweight AR barrel, to swap out of the 3+ pound Olympic Plinker AR 15???? Failing that, would an 18" lightweight be compatible with 20-inch? Same question, 16-inch??? As it stands, empty the Olympic weighs just a little over 9 lbs (too heavy).

        8 months ago
    • Eric Hung

      Hanson is great...it's what I'm currently running in my competition rifle. Looking forward to trying out their new fluted varieties soon!

      1 year ago
  • Jeff

    I've had really good results using Faxon barrels. I recently purchased a 20" heavy fluted barrel directly from Faxon on sale. Just received a 20" flame fluted .223 Wylde barrel from Brownells for just over $210. Excellent quality, in my opinion, and so far I've been more than pleased with the accuracy.

    1 year ago
    • Scott

      The heavy contour Oly barrels are tack drivers. Heavy yes but man they are accurate. Sold one and wish I had it back.

      7 months ago
    • Eric Hung

      Nice to hear! Looking to test a bunch of Faxon barrels in the next quarter.

      1 year ago
  • Mtdewd

    What about Criterion?

    1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      Haven't had a chance to try them out...but looking forward to in the new year.

      1 year ago
  • Phil D.

    Don't buy Ballistic Advantage barrels. I purchased 2 of them based on their 1moa guarantee. They shoot 5~7 inch groups with standard ball ammo and 2 moa with match grade ammo. I'm in the processes of getting them warranted put and getting a refund.

    1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      Yea that's a pretty bad result...I've had a couple of theirs and so far so good even with military ammo. Hope it gets taken care of.

      1 year ago
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