10 Best AR-15 Rifles in 2018 (with Pictures and Prices)

Looking to buy your first AR-15 rifle but not quite sure where to start?

Stay tuned, because in this article we’re going to cover the best AR15 options, for budget shoppers and advanced shooters alike.

After you read this guide, you will have a pretty good idea how the AR-15 works and how different configurations make a big difference. This should help you make an informed decision on which AR-15 to purchase for your intended purpose.

Below, you will find our recommendations. To note, we spent days test firing these AR-15s and doing research to come up with this list..

Here’s Gun News Daily’s list of top ten AR-15 rifles across all price points:

  • Aero Precision: AC-15M
  • Armalite: M-15 A4
  • Bravo Company: Mod 0, Mod 2, Recce 14/16
  • Colt: LE6920
  • Daniel Defense: DDM4 V3, DDM3 VV5, DDMA1
  • LaRue: PredatAR
  • Rock River Arms: LAR-15 Entry Tactical
  • Sig Sauer: M400
  • Smith & Wesson: M & P MOE
  • Windham Armory: R16M4FTT

If you need to jump to a specific section of the article, please click on the link in the Table of Contents here:


Why the AR-15?

There are many reasons why the AR-15 has remained the most popular of all civilian rifles. Here is a list of the top five reasons why I think they are so popular:

They Are Used by the U.S. Military

Technically, this isn’t 100% accurate. The US military uses the M4 whereas civilians are legally allowed to only use the semi-auto AR-15. This differs from the automatic/select fire capabilities of the military variety.

five army soldiers shooting ar15 rifles at the range during a training exercise
Military versions of the AR15 rifle.

In a nutshell, semi-auto means with each pull of the gun’s trigger, only a single round is fired. 

This makes the AR-15 significantly slower to shoot compared to  the military version of the rifle, the M4, which fires has a 3-shot burst option (three rounds are fired with a single pull of the trigger) and a full auto option (the gun will empty the entire mag if the user doesn’t let go of the trigger).

Personally, I prefer firing any gun in semi-auto. When doing target practice, I get to focus on each shot and don’t end up wasting bullets.

In real-life home defense scenarios where most of us only have to deal with one or two people, the ballistic performance of the 5.56×45mm caliber should be plenty powerful — a single shot should be enough to repel, maim or even kill a bad guy if needed.

AR-15 “Furniture”

One of the best things about the AR-15 is that it can be tailored to suit aesthetic taste and home/personal defense needs. It is customizable for any purpose and has readily swappable parts, aka “furniture.”

You can pick up practically any gun-related magazine and you will see ad after ad of aftermarket AR-15 accessories and parts.

To really put this into perspective, Brownell’s has a catalog of AR-15 parts that rivals the Yellow Pages in size, and Brownell’s is just one of many. That’s how readily available AR-15 aftermarket parts and accessories are.

Shootability

The AR-15 as a shooting platform has relatively more manageable recoil compared to other rifle platforms, particularly so when chambered in its intended 5.56x45mm round. It is also offers relatively better ergonomics than other popular rifles, such as the venerable AK-47.

It is a precision-built tool specially designed for accuracy with some models tricked out with easy-grip hand guards, scope mounts and more. This is why many rifle purists swear by the AR-15.

And this brings us to number four our my list of reasons why the AR-15 is incredibly popular.

Modular Design

The AR-15 is primarily comprised of two segments—the lower receiver and the upper receiver, each of which can be easily swapped out in as fast as a few seconds, provided the user has put enough time to practice field stripping and reassembly.

I’ve seen a few people do it real fast even when blindfolded.

This modularity makes the AR-15 stand out as a weapon platform: it’s easy to clean, easy to maintain, easy to field strip and easy to reassemble.

image of a fully disassembled ar 15 rifle with all the parts in 2017This also makes it versatile because in a pinch, with the right parts and accessories, it can be configured as a DMR (Designated Marksman’s Rifle) high-precision rifle, a hunting rifle (using bigger caliber barrels and ammo) or by default, as a CQB (Close Quarters Combat) carbine by simply switching out the upper receivers and barrels.

What’s more, the upper receiver and barrel can be swapped out for a ton of different calibers like the significantly weak but plentiful .22LR or the monstrosity that is the .50 Beowulf.

If you’ve never heard of the .50 Beowulf, it’s essentially a 50-caliber round that has the same ballistic performance as that of the most powerful production revolver caliber, the .500 S&W Magnum, designed primarily for big game hunting.

Only difference between the two is firing the .50 Beowulf in a rifle platform is significantly more manageable than firing the .500 S&W Magnum in the wrist-breaking S&W 500 X-frame revolver — that, and you get more rounds in the mag with the AR-15 compared to only five shots in the X-frame revolver’s cylinder.

As mentioned earlier, there is no end to the aftermarket products with which the AR-15 can be customized to suit anyone’s specific preferences and needs. The sky’s the limit when personalizing the look, feel and performance of your rifle, provided you have the money to burn.

People make fun of some AR-15 enthusiasts who like to pimp their gun, overly customizing it to impractical tacticool levels, but I say to each his own. It’s your hard-earned dollar, don’t let anyone tell you how you should be spending it.

Demand

If someone tells you that you can’t have something, you end up wanting it that much more.

That was the case with the AR-15 back when then-POTUS Bill Clinton signed into Office the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.

Former President Bill Clinton signs the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994.
Former President Bill Clinton signs the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994.

In time, Clinton would come to realize that his ban did nothing to deter gun-related crimes nor did the ban successfully halt production on AR rifles. But it did cause AR sales to rise and, also, resulted in manufacturers making innovative modifications to the AR model to strengthen its materials.

Fast forward to the present, the demand resulting from the Clinton ban didn’t die. In fact it’s gotten even stronger — proof being every day there seems to be a new firearms manufacturing company selling their version of the AR-15.

And since more and more of them are being made available, pricing is never going to be an issue


The Origins of the AR-15

picture of eugene stoner standing next to a wall of ar15 rifles
Eugene Stoner, creator of the AR15.

The first AR-15 was manufactured in 1958 by Eugene Stoner for ArmaLite (which is why it’s a no-brainer that ArmaLite should land on this list). It was a lightweight 5.56x45mm variation on the 7.62x51mm AR-10.

The lighter bullets made it so that infantrymen could carry more rounds with ease.

Most people associate the AR-15 with the Colt name because Armalite sold the rights to Colt in 1959. But think about the name AR-15 — what does the AR stand for?

If no one ever told you, the AR is short for Armalite (not “Assault Rifle” as so many libtards especially in the left-wing media would have you think).

Over time, Colt tweaked the design and came out with the M16, a select fire (auto) design with a twenty-inch barrel.

In the 90’s, the M4 was introduced featuring a 14.5-in barrel and a carbine gas system. Carbine is a word that basically serves as a shorthand for “shorter barrel.”

The AR-15 is the civilian semi-auto version of the fully-automatic M4. To reiterate what was said earlier about semi-autos, one pull of the trigger equals one shot.

Since Colt owns the rights to the AR-15 name most manufacturers use slight variations on the name such as ARX, A4 or, more cleverly, “PredatAR.”

Now, to answer a pressing question:


AR-15: To Build or Buy?

For those of you who are purchasing your first ever AR-15, I would highly advise you buy a complete rifle from a trusted manufacturer. In the very least, you should buy a total upper and customize your own lower.

This will prevent a lot of inconveniences because you will have a full warranty on your rifle. Also, when you’re just getting started, you might not know exactly what you want or need so it’s best to go with a standard configuration.

image of all the ar 15 parts you need to build your own diy rifle in 2017
All the AR-15 parts you need to build your own.

 

Factory-grade rifles are generally pretty affordable which means that you won’t have to spend much more than you would if you were building your own. Besides, beginners aren’t exactly adept at assembling their own firearm so this takes the headache out of the whole process.

Another factor here is resale value. As I learned the hard way when I posted an ad in the past, self-built rifles are practically worth nothing when compared to branded pre-built firearms.

On the flip side, many people enjoy the sense of pride they get from building their own. Designing your very own “Frankengun” can be a satisfying and fun experience, but I recommend getting your hands on a standard AR before attempting to go the DIY route.

I think you’ll have an easier time building one after you’ve spent some time with a factory gun.

For those who have graduated from the factory-built AR-15 and want to build your own AR-15 lower receiver, there are several resources out there that will walk you through the process.

I recommend this helpful and informative YouTube video, which covers the process start to finish.


Barrels

This is another important area that needs to be covered, especially for first-time shooters. We’ll begin by breaking down the AR-15 system by talking about the multiple characteristics of barrels.

image of the ar15 barrels compared side by side by sizesThis can be boring or fun depending on your level of familiarity with the platform.

Barrel Chamber

The chamber is that part of the barrel where the cartridge resides before it is fired. This, and the barrel itself, determine what kind of ammo your rifle can shoot.

For beginners, you’ll want to focus only on the most common loads— the .223 Remington and the 5.56X45 mm. As mentioned earlier, there are lots of rifle calibers available for the AR-15, from the lowly .22LR to the powerful .50 Beowulf, but the .223 Remington and the 5.56X45 mm are the two best offerings for novices.

The 5.56mm is the most popular choice for home defense and fun plinking sessions. It is readily available so ammo is cheap.

Now this might seem like a no-brainer but when it comes to guns, safety should always be a top priority. With that in mind, here are some guidelines first-time AR-15 owners have to remember:

  • With a .223 barrel, you can only fire .223 rounds.
  • Hybrid chambers like Wylde are implemented for specific reasons but can fire a .223 or a 5.56.
  • The 5.56 barrel, on the other hand, can fire both 5.56mm AND .223 Remington
  • Always clean and lube before shooting, especially if your rifle is new.
  • Always protect your eyes and ears with goggles and ear plugs
  • Consider taking shooting lessons/classes before purchasing an AR-15.

Barrel Length

The minimum barrel length, according to Federal law, is sixteen inches. If an additional device is used, such as a muzzle brake or flash hider, it has to be permanently attached if it will be included in the rifle’s length.

For instance, gun owners can have a 14.5-inch barrel and weld a muzzle device that’s 1.5-inch long in order for the gun to be compliant with Federal requirements.

However, it is important to note that some states and municipalities have their own laws governing firearms and their accessories, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations in your area.

Due to these restrictions, we strongly advise first-time shooters to purchase at least a sixteen-inch barrel so that they can swap out muzzle devices at will. There are three main lengths that are popular: 16”, 18” and 20”.

One thing that beginners should be aware of is the length of an AR-15’s barrel doesn’t necessarily equate to accuracy. Anyone who knows that they’re doing can achieve plenty of accuracy with a sixteen-inch barrel because it is stiffer and thus less affected by barrel whip.

civilian shooting an ar15 with 16 inch barrel in field - slow motion gif
Shorter, thicker barrels tend to have less “barrel whip” (ie, the barrel moves less up and down as you shoot — not to be confused with muzzle flip).

On the other hand, longer barrels can provide higher velocities as there is more space for the powder to burn and more room for the bullet to accelerate.

When bullets are able to move faster, there is far less time for environmental factors to affect the bullet’s trajectory (e.g. wind and gravity), meaning that each shot will be relatively more powerful and a bit more accurate over longer distances.

On average, sixteen-inch barrels are able to reach a target from four hundred yards away. That being said, the traditional fifty-five grain load grows more imprecise after three hundred yards, so fire carefully.

If you’re looking to fire at a longer range, you would fare better with a heavier, longer load like a sixty-two grain, seventy-seven or eighty grain bullet.

When I’m considering a weapon of any kind, I always think about portability. Shorter barrels generally weigh less and are easier to handle.

Barrel Material

When you first get into guns, it can be overwhelming. There are so many numbers and so much technical jargon that it might seem scary or confusing.

This is especially true of barrel material which is why I’ve tried my best to simplify it for the newbies out there who are just learning about this stuff.

  • 4140: This consists of steel with ten percent less carbon compared to its predecessor, 4150 steel.
  • 4150: Steel used in mil-spec barrels.
  • Stainless Steel: This one is more accurate but isn’t as durable as 4150 or 4140 steel.
  • Chrome Molybdenum Vanadium, Chrome Moly, or CMV: Basically identical to 4140

There are slight differences between that last one and 4140. Chrome Molybdenum Vanadium steel alloy contains a range of elements from chromium and nickel to molybdenum and so forth. It is renowned for its strength and hardness.

up close look at the barrel of an ar15 made of chrome moly material“Chrome Moly” or Chromium-molybdenum steel, is a range of low alloy steels that are of high tensile strength and aren’t as lightweight as counterparts like aluminum.

4140 alloy steel is a combination of chromium, molybdenum and manganese has high fatigue strength, impact and abrasion.

Both are high tensile strength steels which make them great for guns as well as bicycles and the like.

The average shooter should probably just stick with 4140 or CMV because there’s really no benefit to using 4150 unless you’re dealing with a fully-automatic piece. Besides, you’ll save money as 4150 costs more.

Barrel Lining

two lined ar 15 barrels resting on a wooden stump outdoorsThere are three basic options on the market when it comes to the inside of your AR-15 barrel. They are as follows:

  • Ferritic Nitrocarburizing (FNC): Otherwise referred to as Melonite, Tennifer or Nitride, FNC treats the surface of the barrel instead of just coating. This can result to increased accuracy.
  • Chrome Lined: A popular form of barrel lining. It is a coating that makes for better barrel longevity, but that longevity comes at a price — accuracy might suffer. If either end of the barrel has a gray ring around it, it’s chrome lined.
  • None: Some barrels have absolutely no coating whatsoever.

Many environmental factors such as heat, moisture and more can affect your exact round count, but you can count on approximately ten to twenty thousand rounds before you need to re-barrel.

If you’re still with me, let’s move on to testing, another important area to be aware of.

Barrel Testing

As I said before, there is a lot of technical mumbo jumbo that comes with owning guns. Some acronyms that manufacturers like to throw at you include the following:

  • MP: Magnetic Particle tested. This just means that it’s essentially subjected to X-Rays to check that the gun doesn’t have any voids, cracks or other imperfections.
  • HP: High Pressure tested. This is a method by which manufacturers ensure the integrity of anything from primers and projectile seating depth to chamber parameters and neck tension.

Of course, some AR-15s have not been tested at all, so buyer beware! If a gun’s packaging or advertising specifically says it hasn’t been tested or doesn’t mention testing, you’re buying it at your own risk.

Barrel Forging

  • man forging the barrel of an ar15 in his work shed red hotCold, Hammer, Forged (CHF): This is a process that results in a more durable barrel. Repeated blows by a series of hammers align the grain within the metal, causing more strength and rigidity.
  • Barrel, Forged, Hammer (BFH): Essentially the same as CHF, BFH is where a mandrel (carbide tube) is inserted into the barrel, rotated and pushed forward to create precise rifling.

With these options, you lose some accuracy but they make up for that with increased durability.

Barrel Contours

This refers to the thickness and overall shape of your barrel. Fortunately, there are several options available.

chart comparison the ar15 barrel contours side by sideThey include:

  • CAR (Colt Automatic Rifle): This one used to be the name of a certain group of AR-15s and M-16s back in the 1970s, but today it is a name for carbine-length rifles.
  • Light: This one is just what it sounds like, it’s lighter than others but it’s vulnerable to the heat associated with rapid firing. This one’s .625-in in diameter.
  • Heavy (Bull): This one is heavier and stiffer, but it’s also far more accurate. I like this one a lot because it can handle more heat than others before it starts to be affected. It’s typically implemented for precision builds. Bulls are .936” in diameter.
  • Medium (M4): The M4 contour possesses a cutout for grenade launchers which is what makes it ideal for military purposes. It’s got terrific balance and is .750” in diameter.

In my opinion, the average plinker doesn’t require anything more advanced than light or medium barrel.

Barrel Feed Ramp

This is a vital part of the AR-15’s upper receiver, therefore you want it to properly match the barrel of your rifle.

It is still debatable as to whether or not the barrel’s feed ramp affects reliability, but at the very least, it’s important to match the ramp with the upper receiver. Usually, if you buy factory made rifles this won’t be an issue, but you should still check to confirm it.


AR-15 Gas Systems

Now that you know the basics of the AR-15, we’ll get into more complicated stuff.

There are two primary types of gas systems for the AR-15. They are DI and Piston. DI stands for Direct Impingement. DI is the original design whereas the Piston only became popular in recent years.

Direct Impingement vs Piston

The AR-15 operates by transmitting hot gas behind the bullet into the gas tube at which point it the tube uses the gas to either move a piston or deliver the gas directly back (direct impingement).

up close schematic animation of the ar15 direct gas impingement system
The Direct Impingement system in action.

No matter how the force is applied, it makes the bolt unlock, move back, eject the spent casing and push a new cartridge into the chamber.

By and large, most AR-15s are DI instead of Piston. Like most things, there are pros and cons to each.

Pros of Piston

  • Typically more reliable in poor weather conditions (dust, water, moisture, heat, et al.)
  • Relatively cleaner as dirty gas is vented out

Cons of Piston

  • More expensive than DI
  • Heavier with more weight in front
  • Harder to find proprietary parts from manufacturers
  • Less accurate than DI

Unless you’re in an Arnold Schwartzenegger movie where you have to fire your weapon coming out of water or you live in a desert somewhere, a DI system will be perfectly adequate for most purposes.

Assuming you properly maintain your AR-15, a DI model will be a dependable weapon.

DI Gas System Lengths

Gas system length is the distance to the gas hole. The gas hole refers to the triangular front site base (FSB) that sits on top of the barrel.

Although there is the rare “Dissipator” model that has a sixteen-inch barrel, the rifle length gas system is normally used for an eighteen-inch barrel.

The average choice for sixteen-inch barrels is a carbine or midlength gas system.

Personally, I favor the midlength system because I think it’s advantageous because it enables the user to have a longer sight radius when you’re using a front sight base. You also get more rail space because the handguard extends from the upper receiver to that front sight base.

Gas Blocks

We’ve mostly been talking about the FSB (Front Sight Base) style gas block here where the front sight is combined with the gas block and there’s a reason for that.

I always recommend this style to first-time shooters because it’s easier to have a front sight and it’s affordable to use a non-free-floating barrel.

picture of the front sight base (fsb) gas block for an ar15 rifle, black on white

Another good thing about this style is that it can be converted by grinding down the front sight base to allow for a free-floating barrel.


Handguards

Front sight blocks generally use non-free-floating handguards. So the two-piece handguard touches the barrel at the front sight base which, unfortunately, can add a bit of inconsistency when it comes to force. Consequently, your shooting accuracy can be affected.

Nevertheless, if you are a non-competitive shooter, the non-free-floater will be accurate enough.

While there are some aluminum models, most are made from polymer and are cheaper and just as good at more affordable price points.

image of the standard MOE handguard for ar15
Standard MOE handguard, manufactured by Magpul Industries.

Magpul MOE handguards are our go-to handguards because they enable the shooter to attach Picatinny rails on slots which allow you to add accessories. Picatinny rails are a tad on the heavy side, but if you like to attach accessories, this is the way to go.


BCG (Bolt Carrier Group)

The BCG is basically the engine which runs the AR-15. It retracts when you pull the charging handle back.

When you let go of the handle, the bolt carrier group moves forward, strips a round from the mag and releases a round into the chamber.

When you pull the trigger, the hammer is released and it strikes the firing pin, hitting the the primer. This sparks the gunpowder, sending the bullet down the barrel. This is where the gas system comes into the picture.


The Best AR-15 Manufacturers

There are a number of other factors that you’ll want to consider when selecting your AR-15.

They include build (precision build or 18” barrel vs pistol build or short-barreled rifle), optics, trigger (single stage vs two stage trigger), rifle type (semi-auto vs full-auto), but for the sake of brevity, let’s get right down to it.

Below is a full list of all the top AR-15 manufacturers around followed by my personal favorites.

These are the manufacturers that seem to be reputable rifle vendors who don’t cut corners and commit to providing quality materials. Either that or they’ve just got a crazy marketing budget that makes them look boss.

Top Tier Manufacturers

As of the publishing of this article, we vouch for the following eight companies as the absolute best manufacturers of AR15 rifles:

  1. Bravo Company
  2. Colt
  3. Daniel Defense
  4. Larue
  5. Lewis Machine & Tool
  6. Noveske
  7. Rainier Arms
  8. Yankee Hill Machine

The companies listed above are believed to be the greatest sources for service grade AR-15s.

Mid-Tier Manufacturers

  • Anderson
  • Aero Precision
  • Ruger
  • Sig Sauer
  • Smith & Wesson
  • Spike’s

These are some companies with good guns that are fine for training/range plinking purposes. I suggest you run at least 1,000 rounds through one of these rifles before you trust any of them with your life.

You want to know that your AR works before affording it the title of great home defense weapon.

Budget Manufacturers

Don’t be thrown by the title, these are perfectly adequate manufacturers with perfectly good guns. They are inexpensive and may be the right choice for starter rifles.

  • Bushmaster
  • Delton
  • DPMS
  • Olympic
  • Palmetto State Armory
  • Rock River Arms
  • Stag

Price Points

When it comes to the top tier, you should be prepared to spend no less than $1,000. On the other hand, most mid-tier manufacturers’ rifles start at $500.

$1,000 might sound steep, but keep in mind that you’re paying for quality, name, and the research and development that goes into the same.


Our Top Picks for the AR-15 (Updated: 2017)

Let’s talk a bit about my top picks! To recap, here’s my top ten list across all price points:

 MakeModelPrice 
image of Aero Precision AC-15M
Aero Precision
AC-15M$549
image of Armalite M-15, A4
ArmaliteM-15 A4$1,000
image of Bravo Company: Mod 0, Mod 2, Recce 14/16
Bravo CompanyMod 0, Mod 2, Recce 14/16$1,340
image of Daniel Defense DDM4 V3, DDM3 VV5, DDMA1
Daniel DefenseDDM4 V3, DDM3 VV5, DDMA1$1,690
image of Sig Sauer M400
Sig SauerM400$1,000

image of Smith & Wesson M & P MOE
Smith & WessonM & P MOE$1,259
image of Windham Armory R16M4FTT
Windham ArmoryR16M4FTT$880

I’d just like to preface this by saying that if a popular AR-15 isn’t on this list, it doesn’t mean that the rifle is no good. This is just based on our own tests.

1. Aero Precision AC-15M

side shot of the aero precision ar15 rifleAero Precision is a well-known name among people who build their own AR-15s, but they’ve also done an incredible job of offering complete AR-15s with unique features. Their AC-15M is a handsome gun with a sixteen-inch barrel that we simply love because of its ergonomics and price.

The Aero Precision AC-15M is great for first-time shooters because it won’t cost an arm and a leg and it’s got most of the bells and whistles that can also be found in some of the more expensive options.

2. Armalite M-15, A4

armalite ar15 a4 lying on its side on the ground, all blackThe M-15 is a lightweight tactical carbine and at $1,000, it’s one of the better defensive AR-15s on the market. Tailored to front line users, it can also cut the mustard as a home defense weapon.

A bit larger than the last piece on this list, the M-15 has an eighteen-inch match-grade, Cerakote-coated stainless steel barrel. A semi-automatic, the M-15 is durable, compact and ultra-fast.

3. Bravo Company Mod 0, Mod 2, Recce 14/16

image of my favorite bravoc ompany mod0 ar15 rifle in 2017All three options are worth looking into, but we like the Mod 0 more because we’ve spent more time with it than others. The Mod 0 is a 16” 5.56x45mm rifle that typically goes for around $1,100.

With a chrome lined barrel, the Mod 0 was not designed for the gamer, rather it is geared toward tactical applications. But when it comes to training and range shooting, this one packs a lot of punch.

This one includes the aforementioned Magpul MOE handguards and a PNT trigger. For me, it’s the gold standard of modern AR-15s.

The Mod 2 is a quarter of an inch wider than the Mod 0 and shares its cable lock and 5.56mm chambering. It’s also got a mid-length gas system that enables it to run cooler than its counterparts.

The Recce 14/16 is more pricey than the others on this list, generally retailing for $1,500. But it’s a beautiful, streamlined weapon that will definitely be the envy of everyone you encounter at the gun range. The first time I picked one up, I felt like I was in a Predator movie. Seriously, just look at this design:

As with the Mod 0 and Mod 2, the Recce 14 is a 5.56mm caliber rifle with a chrome lined barrel and 11595E certified steel. It’s got a Mod 4 charging handle, a Mod 3 pistol grip and a BCM QD end plate.

With a shot peened bolt, feed ramp flat top receiver and chrome lined bore and chamber, it’s a real beast.

4. Colt LE6922

side shot of the coltle6920 ar15 rifle, one of the best ar15s

Another semi-auto, the LE6920 M4 carbine is a versatile option that is known for its performance and accuracy. With a wide range of ammo options, this tactical rifle also has a chrome lined barrel with a 1:7 rate of twist and combat-proven power.

Often implemented in law enforcement and military operations, the LE6920 has six lands and grooves, a 20-round removable magazine and a 5.56x45mm NATO chamber. At 6.95 lbs, it’s not the lightest of rifles, but it’s certainly a sweet piece.

5. Daniel Defense DDM4 V3, DDM3 VV5, DDMA1

danieldefenseDDM4 ar15 rifleThe DDM4 has a 16-inch cold hammer forged barrel and a vertical foregrip for ideal manipulation. This one is good for maneuverability which makes it a nice pick for a CQB rig.

Another attractive feature is its nine-inch free float rail, but we don’t really care for it too much.

When recommending a piece to a first-time shooter or to anyone who doesn’t have a lot of experience with AR-15s, the best rifles are those that are easy and comfortable to shoot. In this regard, the DDM4’s buttstock and pistol grip makes it a great option.

It’s also got a 30-round capacity and direct impingement action. For beginners, this is one of the top picks for a 5.56mm weapon.

The DDM3 or “Tornado” measures up to its name. It packs a real wallop. With a salt bath nitride finished muzzle device and a full-latch impact plastic case, the Tornado is just an awesome thing to behold. Which brings me to my next point.

At nearly $2,000, this one is really an end-user piece — it’s not the first rifle we would recommend as it is in no way budget-friendly.

Essentially, the DDM3 is a vanity piece. It’s great if you want a fast and accurate weapon that will also serve as a great conversation piece, but there are certainly AR-15s out there that are significantly cheaper and every bit as good.

The DDMA1 on the other hand uses a lightweight free-floating barrel design. The thing we like the most about it is its sling swivel attachment points. We really appreciate the convenience this provides when customizing this rifle.

6. LaRue PredatAR

side angle image of the larue predator, a favorite ar15 rifle by civilians and military

We mentioned the Predator movie earlier, right? Well, for those who liked that movie, you’ll appreciate the name of this LaRue model, and it wouldn’t look out of place in a balls-to-the-wall action movie like Predator either.

This one’s got a camo-colored stock, a fierce-looking barrel and all the things anyone could want in an AR-15. It’s got lightweight maneuverability, sub-MOA accuracy and staked carrier keys.

7. Rock River Arms LAR-15 Entry Tacticalimage of the rock river arms ar15 rifle side shot

At $1,065, this is one of the more expensive AR-15s on this list, and for good reason.

Most people have never heard of the Rock River Arms brand of AR-15 — they’re currently not as popular as the most established brands we grew up hearing, e.g. names like Remington, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, etc.

Rock River Arms were founded in 1993 and have been steadily earning a solid reputation as an AR-15 manufacturer eversince.

With a hogue grip and A2 flash hider, the LAR-15 is comfortable to use, accurate and built to last. It’s got an RRA two-stage trigger and a star safety selector as well.

Although we can’t recommend this rifle to everyone seeing as how hard it can be on the wallet, being a feature-packed piece of hardware, it’s well worth the price — definitely worth taking a look at if you can afford it.

8. SIG Sauer M400

side angle photo of the sig sauer m400 ar15 tactical rifleThe M400 is billed as being made from some of the finest components and I’d definitely agree with the advertising. It’s got a handsome, classy titanium finish and a direct impingement system.

The thing that makes this the ideal piece for a newcomer to the AR-15 is its ROMEO5 red dot sight.

Though personally, I’m not a real fan of any sight system save for the classic run-of-the-mill iron sights that come pre-installed in most guns, the ROMEO5 sight it comes with will make a huge difference, especially for those who who prefer a red dot sight installed on their AR-15 out of the box.

And being manufactured by SIG Sauer, a company known for their firearms’ reliability, for $999.99 you are paying for the company’s reputation and experience. They wouldn’t have won the US Military’s Modular Handgun System contract if their guns aren’t top notch.

9. Smith & Wesson M & P MOE

photo of the sw moe ar15 rifle all black, ready to rockLike most firearms enthusiasts, I don’t really like Smith & Wesson as a company, but I love their guns.

This AR-15 one is a tad bit more expensive than some of their other options as it retails for nearly $1,300, but if you got the money and you’re willing to look past the rather hefty price tag, you’re definitely getting your money’s worth with the M & P MOE.

The rifle comes with folding Magpul MBUS rear sights, a Magpul lower receiver, a chromed firing pin and an Armornite barrel finish. It should really be called the “Magpul Special” because it’s loaded for bear with everything Magpul.

The M & P MOE has a Magpul brand vertical grip, a Magpul stock, a Magpul pistol grip and a Magpul handguard. Why, it even comes with Magpul magazines!

So if you’re a fan of Magpul accessories and you’re looking to build your own AR-15 and only installing aftermarket Magpul parts on it, look no further. The M & P MOE is the best rifle on this list for you.

10. Windham Armory R16M4FT

windham armory ar15 R16M4FT rifle side image, ready for battleThis is probably the best mid-level AR-15 on this list in terms of price. At $879.99, it won’t break the bank but you know you’ll still be getting a quality piece.

Chambered for, again, the typical 5.56mm cartridge, the R16 is an attractive option because it has some interesting features that many AR-15s do not possess. My favorite one is its six-position telescoping buttstock.

The R16 also has manual-lever safety with indicator markings on either side of the receiver which is good for beginners who aren’t used to handling rifles. Each one comes with a durable hard plastic case which makes it easy to store and maintain.


Conclusion

We’ve gone over a ton of stuff here and it’s probably been exhausting, but if you’re only looking to purchase your first AR-15, we recommend that you do your own research before buying anything.

We also recommend for anyone who already owns an AR-15 to get a quality range bag to house their rig and also check out one of our recommended cleaning kits if they haven’t purchased one yet.

There are a host of great resources out there that give even more specific info about how to shoot an AR-15 properly, how to maintain them, and how some AR-15 models could be better for certain purposes than others.

It goes without saying that you, as the buyer, should make sure that the AR-15 you’re looking to buy will serve your intended purpose. The world of AR-15s is vast and we can only fit too much info on a single article. We can’t emphasize more how important it is to do your own research. 

Love your AR15 but don’t see it included on my list? Please let me know in the comments below!

Hi there, I'm Will and I'll be your guide. Here at Gun News Daily, we support guns for self defense and and competitive shooting. We believe that America should be free and support the 2nd Amendment.

29 COMMENTS

  1. […] These issues were corrected in the M-16 variant, the M16A1. Despite the fact that the gun saved thousands of lives in Vietnam (whereas the M-14 might not have been so effective), the M-16’s popularity had dwindled. AR-style Rifles Today Today, many brands manufacture AR-15-style rifles, and many of these are popular (and wise) purchases. For example, the ArmaLite M-15 A4 and the Colt LE 6920 lead the pack of the best AR-15s for the price right now. […]

  2. Thanks for this interesting and informative piece of research and writing.

    I share your fondness for the MOE handguards. Would you care to offer any suggestions as to which rifles w/ either full length MOE handguards or full length M-Lok handguards, bbls ~ 16″ (“Dissapator” like) and collapsible butt stocks, you’d recommend as good values for a defensive rifle?

    I’m considering the newer Springfield Armory “Saint” (reviewed here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dLxX2bBwEU), though the handguard is only 13.5″.

    Are you aware of better built/ more reliable rifles in a similar configuration at, or near, this price point? Pls advise.

    TIA

    • Just curious if you picked up the Saint or did you decide to go with another and are you happy with your decision? I’m looking at the Saint now and was disappointed it wasn’t listed in this article as I think it has some nice upgrades for the price

  3. […] The SAFE Act immediately banned specific rifles and shotguns and expanded the scope of what constitutes an assault weapon. From that point, any gun that had a thumbhole stock, pistol grip or anything else that was deemed to be a military feature was relegated to being assigned to the sector of assault weapons. This ruled out many civilian-loved rifle models, like many of the popular AR-15s listed here. […]

  4. My latest budget carbine build is based on a $300 hardened arms quad rail upper with a 16″ 1/9 twist 5.56 m4 profile barrel

    It shoots under 1/2″ groups at 100 yds with a $180 vortex scope and a single stage mil spec trigger using $7.50 a box factory Winchester 5.56 55 grain q3131 ammo

    Total invested in the rifle with optic:
    less than $900 all magpul’d out and a streamlight so $750 for the basic rifle

  5. What an informative nicely written narrative for those like me looking to purchase their first AR-15. In addition to the nationally known brands spoke of in this article it’s amazing how it leads to the many private local clubs that offer their own build. Living in the suburbs of Chicago, I stumbled across this offering of firearms and the staff here couldn’t have been more helpful. CY Armory. I would welcome anyone’s experience or comments or reviews on the Minuteman CY-AR15 https://www.cyarmory.com/product-category/firearms/ar/
    Mike thank you for helping me learn more about the offerings of this rifle. Nicely written!

    • Trolling? Banning guns doesn’t work. It’s proven. Switzerland reguires citizens to own a gun and provide free training and they have the lowest crime rate in the world! I cannot understand what we’ll call “ignorance” of the people calling for gun control when it will never have an effect on the owning of firearms by criminals. They are “NOT” just going to turn them in to the government. The material & statistics are out there, so please, do your research & READ all the “unbiased” views & educate yourself.

      • What!?!? Get your facts straight. Are YOU a BOT? Possibly from Russia?

        Fact….Switzerland DOES NOT require its citizenry to purchase a gun…period. Switzerland regulates guns.

        I am of an age where I remember when the NRA was an organization focused on gun safety. Eventually, the “government is going to get our guns” crowd took over and look at where we are at now. I left the NRA because I was tired of being duped.

        And how does not banning guns work…have you looked at the United States? Are you ok with you having to think about you and your loved ones safety every time they leave the house? A simple fact is there are a multitude of other countries (not talking third world here) where safety is the norm and they don’t have guns (most regulate them).

        NO to banning guns….no, no, no! But to regulate guns is basic common sense.

        • Nice straw man argument. Guns are heavily-regulated, from manufacture to sale. So, what specific regulations DO you really want?

        • Regulations on guns just keep honest people honest. Criminals get their hands on any kind of gun out their. Read the CDC website on how many lives are saved annually due to someone protecting theirselves with a gun. It’s over 100,000 per year. If 30000 deaths per year are due to gun violence half that many are suicides. So 15000 lives lost, compared to over 100000 saved is a number you don’t hear major news networks talking about. But dont take my word for it. Check the CDC report on it. My whole point is. STOP blaming guns and start blaming criminals who get them. Stiffer penalties for ALL violent crimes should be mandatory. Lets compare numbers of fatalities because of drunk driving. Does that mean we should ban beer? Or Cars???? The government will never take my right to defend myself, my family, or my home. They or anyone else who wants to try will have to kill me to take mine away.

    • Your grandchildren are about eight times more likely to be killed by lightning than they are in a school mass shooting. Read the stats and then take a breath before you start suggesting draconian policies that affect hundreds of millions of us and that won’t even solve the thing you say you worry about.

    • You obviously buy your game in the supermarket. 5.56/223 is one of the least powerful rifle rounds. And an AR-15 fires no slower or faster than any other semi-auto rifle. Please become educated about a subject before spouting off on it.

  6. No right is absolute. You have freedom of speech, but cannot yell “FIRE” in a crowded movie theater,
    nor can your speech be protected if it is creating an environment where there is “imminent danger of violence”. I have “…freedom of religion and the free exercise thereof…”, but that doesn’t mean that I can sacrifice human beings or animals a a part of my religious practice, nor can I use drugs, claiming that drug use is a part of my religious practices. The Supreme Court stated very clearly in the Heller decision (District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 US 570 2008) that the right to own a gun is an individual right every American has, but Justice Scalia went on to say ““Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” It is “…not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Gun control/regulation is as valid as the Second Amendment itself.

  7. I have 6 sons that are now or were in school. I believe that when i was young and someone brought a gun to school we worked on it in shop(8th grade), and we all had pocket knives. No one shot anyone or stabbed anyone. We had guns in racks in our truck with a shotgun and rifle in it. We had every kind of gun within reason 50 cal or less and we didnt shoot anyone. Do you think its the disrespectful, video game playing, drug taking punk that think the world owes them. Or should we blame the parents and students for ignoring everyday behavior that is bordering on psychotic.
    Lets blame the inanimate object. All my sons have ar15s some more than one. They have children in school, 3 served in the military and can drive tacks. They will say that their kids have gone over what to do in a shooting situation. Im zure the high school age boys would respond with some kind of offense to stop the shooter.
    Those countries that have strict no ownership laws don’t have the freedom and rights you have.
    What should we do? Maybe if we deported 16 million illegal aliens, stop legalizing drugs, make parents responsible and get some balls with their kids we could say we tried. Banning or restrictions on ars isn’t going to change anything but choice of weapon. When the criminals go to buckshot and shotguns you will see the ar is weak close range, 12 ga. shotguns will triple the dead and wounded.
    Please don’t think I don’t grieve for the lost lives and destruction of a family. Make the people understand thsy are responsible for their actions. Stop whining about a system that is safer than you driving you child to school while your texting. We have lost more kids to school shooting than any other modern country. We have lost more to texting and driving, drinking and driving, smoking, and many other ways. We are different than those countries and have freedoms that we have to protect from uneducated well doers.
    Love, peace and hope we all can get along.

  8. Can anyone please tell me the exact manufacturer/ model / components/ etc… of what the AR15 is in the picture at the beginning of this article ???

  9. You need to find a new career. Writing about guns isn’t something you are good at. Telling people Rock River builds budget AR’s is ridiculous. I have 3 Rocks, my buddy has 4, and another has one. Every single one is a sub-MOA shooter and have been 100% reliable. I’ll put any of my RRA guns against your so called top tier manufactures any day. Daniels Defense sell the most overpriced AR’s on the market.

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