13 Best AR15 Rifles

Are you in the market for a brand new rifle? This guide covers the best AR15 rifles currently on the market. We have over a decade of experience shooting and modifying firearms to give you our best recommendations.

This list comprise of entry level, mid tier and high end AR15 rifles. Whether you just want to buy a cheap starter rifle under $800 to upgrade later to save money, or you just want the best on day 1, check out what we have below:

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Introduction to AR-15 Rifles

ar15-legacy-to-modern.png

Credit BadAssOptic

The AR-15 is a lightweight semi-automatic rifle based on the Colt AR-15 design. After the Colt patents expired in 1976, many firearm manufacturers began to copy the Colt AR-15 under various names.

Today, the AR-15 has been further developed and adapted with newer technologies, improved ergonomics and strengthened parts, making it a popular firearm with unlimited customization possibilities.

14 Best AR-15 Rifles

Here are some of the best AR-15 rifles available in the market:

M&P 15 Sport II

smith wesson mp15 sport 2

This is a perfect entry-level AR-15 without fancy accessories, aimed at new AR buyers looking for a quality rifle at a bargain price. 

The S&W Sport features a MOE M-LOK handguard at carbine length and a sixteen-inch barrel, also at carbine length, with a 1:9 twist rate for effective bullet stabilization. It also boasts a chromed firing pin for enhanced durability.

Most M&P15 rifles have proven to be reliable, with only a few reported issues concerning the gas system.

Despite these minor concerns, these rifles are in high demand and rarely returned due to problems, solidifying the Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport II's position as a top choice for a budget-friendly AR-15.

Specifications:

  • Overall length: 35 - 39"
  • Barrel length: 16"
  • Weight: 6.45 lbs
  • Barrel material: 4140 Steel
  • Twist rate: 1:9
  • Gas system: Direct impingement, carbine gas length
  • Sights: Fixed A2 + Magpul MBUS
  • Stock: 6 position retractable
  • Trigger: Mil Spec 6 - 7 lbs

Daniel Defense M4V11

daniel defense m4v11

Known for its lightweight and modular handguard, this rifle is great for new AR buyers. It's made to the US DOD Mil-Spec standards and is one of the top tier brands in the firearm industry.

Specifications:

  • Overall length: 33 - 35"
  • Barrel length: 16"
  • Weight: 6.28 lbs
  • Barrel material: Chrome-Moly Vanadium steel, Cold Hammer Forged
  • Twist rate: 1:7
  • Gas system: Direct impingement, Mid length
  • Sights: Magpul MBUS
  • Stock: 6 position retractable
  • Trigger: Mil Spec 

Geissele Super Duty

giessele super duty ar15 rifle

The Geissele Automatic super duty rifle is a no BS high end rifle with every part built to mil-spec standards.

One of the biggest feature of this rifle is its locking mechanism between the upper receiver and the handguard to prevent it from shifting after heavy use.

For the price, you are getting a rock solid rifle especially the stiff barrel nut system to prevent handguard warp, and it' comparable to some high end Daniel Defense rifles.

Specifications:

  • Overall length: 33 - 35"
  • Barrel length: 16"
  • Weight: 7 lbs
  • Barrel material: Chrome-Moly Vanadium steel, Cold Hammer Forged
  • Twist rate: 1:7
  • Gas system: Direct impingement, Mid length
  • Sights: Magpul MBUS
  • Stock: 6 position retractable
  • Trigger: SSA-E X w/ Lightning Bow

Palmetto State Armory PA-15

PSA AR15

The Palmetto State Armory PA-15 stands out as a top choice for those seeking a budget-friendly AR-15 without compromising on quality. It's made in the US with mil-spec manufacturing equipment without middle man, therefore the price of PSA rifles are so much more affordable without compromising quality. 

This is a great rifle for beginners to start as well as for someone wanting a spare rifle as a backup. Users can also upgrade it into the perfect rifle as time goes on. 

Specifications:

  • Overall length: 32 - 36"
  • Barrel length: 16"
  • Weight: 6.28 lbs
  • Barrel material: Chrome-Moly Vanadium steel, Cold Hammer Forged
  • Twist rate: 1:7
  • Gas system: Direct impingement, Mid length
  • Sights: Fixed A2 front sight + Magpul MBUS
  • Stock: 6 position retractable
  • Trigger: Mil Spec 

Aero Precision M4E1

aero precision m4e1 custom ar15 rifle

This AR-15 offers high-quality components, reliable performance, and great value. It's lightweight and ideal for accuracy. While most people purchase individual parts to build a custom AR15 rifle, they do offer many budget complete rifle packages.

The Upper Receiver from the Enhanced Series offers a lightweight yet sturdy platform, perfect for precision shooting. The Gen 2 Lower Receiver, on the other hand, comes with a widened magazine well and a tension screw, ensuring a snug fit and seamless operation.

The package also includes a Magpul STR Stock, providing a comfortable cheek weld and a compartment for battery storage. The AR-15's design is further optimized with a streamlined gas block and a mid-length gas system, promoting smooth and reliable operation.

Specifications:

  • Overall length: 32 - 35"
  • Barrel length: 16"
  • Weight: 6.28 lbs
  • Barrel material: 4150 chrome moly vanadium steel
  • Twist rate: 1:7
  • Gas system: Direct impingement, Carbine gas length
  • Sights: Magpul MBUS
  • Stock: 6 position retractable BCM
  • Trigger: Mil Spec 

Sig Sauer MCX

sig mcx 556

The Sig Sauer MCX is not just another rifle. This is a modular short stroke gas piston with AR alike handling ergonomics that anyone can pick up and use without a learning curve. The MCX also allows for quick barrel and handguard changes, catering to various mission requirements.

The MCX's piston system operates cooler than direct impingement systems, enhancing the rifle's lifespan and ensuring consistent performance even during extended firing sessions.

The platform is developed to surpass past Special Ops small arms standards, it endures extreme torture tests while maintaining precision.

It features a short-stroke gas piston system, semi auto Matchlite Duo trigger, interchangeable cold hammer-forged barrels, M-LOK handguards, and functions flawlessly with its folding stock for CQB and compact storage.

Specifications:

  • Overall length: 25 - 35"
  • Barrel length: 16"
  • Weight: 6.4 lbs
  • Barrel material: Carbon steel
  • Twist rate: 1:7
  • Gas system: Short stroke gas piston
  • Sights: Flip up sights
  • Stock: Folding stock
  • Trigger: Mil Spec 

Daniel Defense MK18

ddm4 mk18

This is a reliable short barrel AR rifle platform for working around tight spaces and vehicles. It's the same length in use for the MK18 upper most commonly used for CQB operations fielded by US Special Operation Units.

Daniel Defense has increased the size of the gas port on the MK18, making the rifle more tolerant of various types of ammunition, including weaker loads. When using full-powered 5.56 ammunition, there can be an increased amount of gas blowback around the charging handle and gas port.

The advantage is that the MK18 can reliably function with any ammo, ensuring consistent performance.

Specifications:

  • Overall length: 28.4"
  • Barrel length: 10.3"
  • Weight: 5.8 lbs
  • Barrel material: Chrome Moly Vanadium Steel, Cold Hammer Forged
  • Twist rate: 1:7
  • Gas system: Carbine gas length
  • Sights: Flip up sights
  • Stock: Retractable stock
  • Trigger: Mil Spec 

Daniel Defense M4A1

ddm4 m4a1

This AR-15 is great for anyone who wants a reliable and customizable gun. It has a 16-inch barrel and comes with a flash hider. It also has a mid-length gas system for better reliability. A distinctive feature of the M4A1 is its handguard rail system, specifically the Daniel Defense RIS II (Rail Interface System).

Since its introduction in 2005 with the SOPMOD II weapons system, adopted to enhance Special Operations during intense combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, the RIS II has been utilized by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

The RISII handguard is machined from 6061 T-6 aluminum, these handguards provide a free floated barrel system, ensuring exceptional accuracy for the shooter.

Additionally, the rifle includes rail panels that reduce discomfort when gripping the 1913 picatinny rail system, offering heat resistance up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. With an ambidextrous safety switch, both left-handed and right-handed shooters can easily engage the selector switch.

Specifications:

  • Overall length: 31.5" - 34.7"
  • Barrel length: 14.5" pinned and welded
  • Weight: 6.74 lbs
  • Barrel material: Chrome Moly Vanadium Steel, Cold Hammer Forged
  • Twist rate: 1:7
  • Gas system: Carbine gas length
  • Sights: Flip up sights
  • Stock: Retractable stock
  • Trigger: Mil Spec 

FN 15 TAC 3

fn15 tac

This is the FN 15 TAC 3. It's an awesome buy for buyers who value collecting historic military gears. And Yes, the FN 15 is the civilian AR15, and their M4A1 collector edition is the actual M4A1 with the correct barrel length (Legal total 16" barrel) and UID-labeled lower receiver.

The FN-branded M4 "waffle stock" is a basic six-position stock with a unique "waffle" design. It also has a fixed sling mount. The H1 buffer helps reduce recoil, and it uses a carbine-length gas system.

The controls are simple with no extra features. It has a safety switch on the left side and a bolt-release paddle. On the right, there's a magazine release button. The magazine slot has a slight angle to help with changing magazines.

The FN Patrol Carbine is straightforward but easy to use. It comes with a 30-round magazine. The trigger is standard but works well.

Specifications:

  • Overall length: 31.9" - 35.2"
  • Barrel length: 16"
  • Weight: 6.94 lbs
  • Barrel material: Chrome Moly Vanadium Steel, Cold Hammer Forged
  • Twist rate: 1:7
  • Gas system: Mid length gas system
  • Sights: Flip up sights
  • Stock: Retractable stock
  • Trigger: Mil Spec 

Sig Sauer M400 Tread

sig m400 tread ar15 rifle

This rifle functions the same as any other AR-15s, but comes with a lightweight MLOK rail system. It has everything a new shooter needs right out of the box.

The Sig Sauer M400 Tread AR-15, a superb mid-level rifle featuring enhanced handguard and pistol grip options. With a reliable mil-spec trigger, this AR platform provides endless possibilities for further customization and upgrades.

Its outstanding reliability is matched by its remarkable value under $1000, offering a great bang-for-the-buck proposition.

Whether it's your first venture into the AR-15 world or a valuable addition to your collection, the M400 Tread is an excellent choice.

Specifications:

  • Overall length: 30.8"
  • Barrel length: 16"
  • Weight: 7 lbs
  • Barrel material: Stainless steel
  • Twist rate: 1:8
  • Gas system: Mid length gas system
  • Sights: Flip up sights
  • Stock: Retractable stock
  • Trigger: Mil Spec 

LaRue Tactical Predator OBR

larue tactical obr

This AR-15 stands out very much from the rest of the AR-15 market. It's extremely solid, sturdy, and durable for 0.25 MOA long range precision. LaRue rifles are not easy to find, and most people have to special order them directly from LaRue Tactical in Texas, and they offer phenomenal products and customer service. 

The rifle has features like guaranteed sub-MOA accuracy, a unique handguard design, and a free-floating barrel. The rifle's upper, lower, and rails are CNC-machined from aluminum, and it comes with a variety of barrel lengths.

The rifle has consistently delivered accurate shots, even in varying environmental conditions. It has also proven to be reliable, with no failures to function except those related to faulty magazines. Cleaning and maintenance are straightforward, with the hard chrome bolt and carrier easily cleaned even without solvent.

Specifications:

  • Overall length: 30.8"
  • Barrel length: 16.1"
  • Twist rate: 1:8
  • Gas system: Direct Impingement with LaRue PST port selector
  • Sights: Flip up sights
  • Stock: Retractable stock
  • Trigger: LaRue RAT

BCM RECCE-16

bcm recce 16

Bravo Company Manufacturing, a highly regarded and dependable name in the AR world. BCM's stringent standards guarantee that the rifle is not only of high quality but also robust enough to withstand heavy use.

The rifle features a 16-inch 11595E Certified Steel barrel with a 1-7" twist, finished with phosphate. This design contributes to the rifle's precision, a key attribute for any firearm.

The KMR handguard, being lightweight and slim, is ideal for a c-clamp grip. Additionally, the mid-length gas system pairs well with the 16-inch barrel, enhancing the rifle's performance.

Specifications:

  • Overall length: 32.5 - 35.5"
  • Barrel length: 16"
  • Weight: 5.8 lbs
  • Barrel material: 11595E Barrel Steel
  • Twist rate: 1:7
  • Gas system: Mid length gas system
  • Sights: Flip up sights
  • Stock: Retractable BCM stock
  • Trigger: BCM PNT Trigger

HK MR556A1

hk mr556

The HK MR556A1 stands out as an exceptional piston driven AR-15, offering excellent value for its cost, despite being on the pricier side.

HK's renowned short-stroke gas piston system ensures consistent and reliable performance. This system is brilliantly simple, robust, and keeps the rifle remarkably clean even after hundreds of rounds.

This rifle is constructed with the same meticulous attention to detail and quality that H&K applies to their globally recognized battle rifles, ensuring both reliability and precision.

The MR556A1 has impressive accuracy performance, with some groups measuring as tight as .45 MOA.

When paired with a good optic, this is a fun rifle to shoot. The rifle also comes with modern refinements like a flared mag well, ambi safety. The stock isn't the best according to some users, but you can always swap it out with something else later.

Specifications:

  • Overall length: 33.9 - 37.6"
  • Barrel length: 16.5"
  • Weight: 9.04 lbs
  • Barrel material: 
  • Twist rate: 1:7
  • Gas system: Piston gas system
  • Sights: Flip up sights
  • Stock: Retractable stock
  • Trigger: Two stage trigger

AR15 Buyer's Guide

When choosing an AR-15, consider the performance track records, modularity, aesthetics, and cost. The typical price difference is often based on the added accessories included. Some people choose to build AR15 from scratch to have exactly the part they need without leaving spare parts around, but without proper armor tools it can be challenging.

For beginners, most AR-15 rifles available today are well-built and reliable. While the AR15 price range may vary, the key differences between a standard $800 AR-15 and a more advanced DDM4v11 costing $1800 are the brand, markup cost, and additional accessories.

If you're looking for a rifle that comes equipped with the accessories you want right out of the box, we highly recommend purchasing one rather than opting for a bare-bones $600 AR-15 that requires additional parts and could end up costing more in the long run.

As the time of writing this guide, most modern AR15s on the market are top notch even the most basic ones. What drives the higher price tag are mostly branding and additional accessories.

AR-15 Calibers

The AR-15 can be chambered in various popular centerfire cartridges besides 223/5.56, including 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC, 300 Blackout, 22 Nosler, 450 Bushmaster, 458 SOCOM, 350 Legend, and even Beowulf. Overall, the 5.56 or 223 are the most popular.

AR-15 Gas Systems (Direct Impingement Vs Piston)

Most AR-15 rifles use a system where gases are directed backward through a tube into the expansion chamber of the bolt carrier group (BCG). This forces the BCG to move backward. It's commonly known as "Direct-Impingement," although the more accurate name would be the "Internal Piston" system.

Another system that has become popular is the piston-operated mechanism. In this case, the tube is replaced with a steel rod. The gases then move the rod, which is mechanically connected to the BCG, pushing it backward.

piston gas system

Piston-operated systems have certain advantages, like requiring less cleaning and working better with suppressors. However, they haven't become popular among most people. Piston systems are also heavier, much more expensive, and don't offer significant benefits to the average user. Nevertheless, the HK416 and its variations use the piston system, making it a popular choice for military applications worldwide.

AR-15 Barrels

AR-15 barrels come in different materials, lengths, profiles, and twist rates. Cold Hammer Forged barrels are the most durable with the longest service life on the market. The twist rate affects the bullet speed and stability when exiting the barrel.

For first time AR15 buyers, this is what you need to know:

  • For a safe / completely legal choice, go with a 16-inch barrel. (16" without accounting for muzzle device length)
  • 1:9 twist rate is the optimal for most barrel lengths shooting various 5.56 bullet weight
  • Shorter barrels (below 11.5 inches) may cause reliability issues.
  • Barrels shorter than 16 inches need to be built as pistols or registered as SBRs.
  • Longer barrels (over 16 inches) extend the rifle's effective range.
  • The barrel profile is crucial, with the "government" profile being outdated and unnecessary for civilians.
  • Lighter profiles, like "pencil" or slightly heavier options, reduce weight while effectively managing heat.
  • Avoid "bull" or "heavy" profiles unless required by your state or for dedicated long-range bench rifles.

AR-15 Chambers

ar15 barrel chamber

If you're new to AR-15 rifles, it's recommended to start with either 5.56 NATO or .223 Wylde chambers. What exactly are they?

The 5.56 NATO chamber is considered the standard choice because it allows you to shoot both the less expensive .223 Remington ammunition and the hotter 5.56 NATO ammo.

While .223 Remington barrels are becoming rare these days, they can still be found occasionally. However, it's important to note that you shouldn't shoot 5.56 NATO ammunition in rifles chambered for .223 Remington.

On the other hand, the .223 Wylde chamber is a newer option that offers great performance. It's important to understand that .223 Wylde is not a specific cartridge that you can purchase at your local store. It's a chamber dimension that allows firing both 5.56 and 223 with optimal performance.

AR-15 Triggers

single stage flat trigger

Most out-of-the-box AR-15s will have a standard mil-spec single-stage trigger with about a 9 lb trigger pull. The user can swap out the factory trigger with an aftermarket AR15 trigger at any time to improve the overall performance of the rifle.

Don't let a factory trigger push you away from a great factory rifle, remember you can always swap it out later.

AR-15 Handguards

ar15 handguard config

Handguards are a crucial part of an AR-15, offering mounting options, protection from heat, and safeguarding the barrel. The two main types are "Free-floated" and "Drop-in." Drop-in handguards are cheaper but can affect accuracy.

Free-floating handguards improve accuracy and reduce heat transfer. Other options include Quad rails (strong but uncomfortable) and M-LOK (sleek and versatile). Carbon Fiber handguards are lightweight and durable, but expensive.

AR-15 Buffer System

While most AR-15 rifles feature buffer tube and buffer spring to cycle the action. They are most popular on the market today. Please note that some AR15s may feature commercial buffer tube and some may feature mil-spec buffer tube. 

Ultimately, there is no significant difference between mil-spec and commercial buffer tubes. The buffer spring works identically in both systems, and even slight variations in dimensions do not affect performance.

AR-15 Accessories

ar15 with red dot

The AR-15 platform allows for endless customization possibilities. You can add accessories like modular handguards, grips, stocks, sights, and optics to enhance the handling and ergonomics of the rifle. By now, there are just so much stuff on the market, and it's hard to go over all of them in this guide. Please check out this guide for more information.

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