If you’re one of the three or four gun owners in the country who didn’t acquire an AR-15 during the buying frenzy of the last year, then maybe you could use some help. AR-15s are a lot easier to come by these days and fortunately, so is .223/556 ammo, and that makes now an ideal time to look into getting your first AR if you haven’t already. But selecting just the right AR is tough. There are so many options and price points, and very little distinguishing them on the surface other than a brand name and a confusing list of “features”. In this week’s Make Up Your Mind video, I give an overview of the different approaches to buying an AR; when it makes sense to pinch pennies, and when you should break the bank and go for the best.

What’s the maximum you’d be willing to spend on AR-15? Is there a point of diminishing returns between price paid and the features or performance of the firearm?

 

Which price point offers the ideal balance of cost and features/quality in a basic AR-15 for your needs? (not including optics or accessories)


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39 Responses to “Make Up Your Mind Monday: High-End vs. Entry-Level AR-15s”

  1. Eric Hagstrom

    The price dose not matter as long as you are not just paying for the name but for quality

    Reply
  2. Jon Register

    This is a great subject! I am in the market for a good AR and would like input on mid price point brands and models. Looking at Core15 right now

    Reply
  3. Bill Cleveland

    High end, I own a BRO gun, Black Rain.

    Reply
  4. Gary Hart

    95% of the people who will buy one of these won't shoot any better with the high end rifle than they will will the low end.

    Reply
  5. Gary Hart

    S&W M&P is the best bang for the buck that you can get for an AR on the market right now.

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  6. Tom Venditti

    I agree. The M&P 15 Sport. Good bang for the buck.

    Reply
  7. LG Chris

    A couple of the most well-regarded mid-range brands seem to be Colt and BCM. Spike's also has a good reputation in that price range. As Gary mentioned, the S&W M&P line also has some good offerings, though there are differing opinions depending on the specific model as they are not all made to the same specs.

    Reply
  8. Jarrod E. Sammis

    I put together my AR with a Del-Ton M4 HBAR upper with a New Frontier Armory lower for under $550. It does everything I ask it to, and then some.

    Reply
  9. BillnCara Elrod

    Great Video. One point I wish he would have made is supporting the Industry in the direction you would like to see it grow stronger. I got a "high end" SIG516 Piston gun not because I need it but because I believe it is a superior design and we should support changes in Gun manufacturing when possible. And the "COOL FACTOR" is like, uh.. right off the charts!!!

    Reply
  10. Richard Sheridan

    I bought my first AR in '08. I bought a Stag Arms Model 1 from a LGS for about a grand. Yes, I got screwed on the price, but Stag Arms has a lifetime warranty on their complete rifles. I will say that it is an exceptional rifle with regards to functionality and fit/finish. If I had it to do over again, I would by a Colt LE 6920. The Colt is a tier-one rifle for around 1000-1100. I am happy with my Stag, however, and it performs flawlessly with any kind of ammo! It is very accurate too. I hope this helps a first-time AR buyer.

    Reply
  11. LG Chris

    That's probably true, if by "shoot better" you just mean simple marksmanship ability. In many cases, an cheap AR with inferior build quality will not function as reliably, or may not work with as wide a variety of ammo or magazines. For most people, buying a more expensive AR will not make them "shoot better", but it may ensure that the gun functions properly under a more diverse set of circumstances compared to what the cheap AR will tolerate.

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  12. LG Chris

    Eric, that's a great point, and one that I wanted to include in the video but had to edit out for the sake of time. Price should not be the only factor in making your decision, and neither should brand name.

    Reply
  13. Karl Spencer

    I have an M&P15 MOE and love it. It's not always about the rifle. I can out shoot my friend who has a PWS. As a former Army and Air Force service member I learned to shoot well with whatever I had, regardless of the quality. Without proper shooting technique it doesn't matter how good a weapon you have.

    Reply
  14. Kyle Hurst

    i have an LMT upper on an NFA lower and the lower has been exceptional

    Reply
  15. Butch Fermil

    My budget AR 15, S&W MP 15 Sport for $600.00 has been doing so well in 200 meters. A li'l bit accessories to look like cool, what can I ask for ?

    Reply
  16. Ron Sokso

    Have a stag arms model 3, it can shoot less than 1st a at a 100. For less than 800 bucks

    Reply
  17. Chris LaPlant

    Love my TAC 6408. M4

    Reply
  18. Craig Exley

    Nice Beard….. 7 some odd minutes later and all I heard was common sense and the Bloody Obvious…. Thanks………. I Guess….

    Reply
  19. Danny Smith

    NSA is listening!

    Reply
  20. Danny Smith

    There are only a small handful of foundries turning out all these AR-15's I've heard, and so different brands are likely to come from the same foundry. Once you get the basics, you can accessorize all you want!

    Reply
  21. David Planchon

    i had just this conversation with a prospective first time customer today. as i told her i think the most important question is what application is intended for the rifle, and is there a chance that might expand within 12 or so months; second is the question of parts and manufacturing quality in the context of the application for the rifle. if all you want is home defense, then a lower end model may do as long as it's maintained regularly, someone looking at long range shooting will have other needs. answering those two points usually narrows down what one should be looking at, and price, IMO.
    and if budget is really a major concern find a store with a good layaway program, and buy what you really need because at the end of the day you don't want to drop $700 on something only to find out that you really needed to spend an additional $300 to be satisfied.

    Reply
  22. Matt Bartmess

    I think this is an oversimplification and only partially true. Tier one manufactures often make most of their own stuff and have very specific quality control standards and specs when they dont. Even if FN makes barrels for many manufactures they design them to the specs requested such as gas port size. This is one example of why many lower quality AR's are over gassed.

    Reply
  23. Matt Bartmess

    Quality control and materials are a couple of the most essential pieces when buying a AR. The need goes up for quality control and materials (and often the price) for serious use in defense or military/police applications. If your buying it to plink get what you want but they are not the same as tier one equipment.

    Reply
  24. Matt Bartmess

    Colt falls in the middle slot and has nothing lost in quality.

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  25. Jason Desselles

    The bolt carrier assembly, barrel and trigger group are the heart and soul of the AR platform. Everything else is paying for rollmarks and bragging rights.

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  26. Raymond Pizarro

    Prior service Infantryman who is an active shooter, I choose LWRCi. I could have went with RRA, Colt, or DPMS but at the end of the day I wanted something that was going to be tight and stay tight. I wanted something I could abuse all day and the next day and the next day and know I was going to have something that works. My biggest drawback is that most ARs are DGI and mine is piston. If put in a oh shit situation I have to do a lot of mods that require tools to keep my weapon running if I am salvaging parts from other weapons. I love my weapon, it shoots better than me and it has yet to ever fail.

    Reply
  27. Joe Collins

    Too bad it won't shoot inexpensive ammo…..

    Reply
  28. Scott Lofland

    I chose the custom build road myself. Started from the ground up with top-notch parts and got EXACTLY what I wanted in my platform. :)

    Reply
  29. David Leflar

    An absolutely useless video. To sum up: buy what you want and can afford and are comfortable with. What a waste of time.

    Reply
  30. Gary Hart

    LG Chris By 'shoot better', I did indeed mean everything involved. Although a cheap build is against the odds for being as reliable as the high end build, the high end is still not 100% reliable. Most folks will buy their AR, fire, at most, 100 to 200 rounds through it at a local range, then park it as too expensive for constant practice. The average LWRC buyer will be no better equipped to handle jams than the DPMS owner, never mind the ability to hit targets. All it means is that they had better funding for the initial outlay and thus a wall ornament that suits their egos better. To me, the best purchase would be as I have done. I have a DPMS that I beat the shit out of, and I keep my Colt at the ready. They are both set up with identical, battery free optics, and the battery compartments in the stock are stuffed with tubes of Frog Lube. In conclusion, if I really had need of breaking out an assault rifle, I would mention that I intend to rely more on my AK.

    Reply
  31. Malizioso Cuor Di Leone

    I recently purchased 2 Diamond Back ARs. They have what they need and there is very little that i need to do to them, i got a DPMS compensator, ambi safety and a red dot sight, i paid $880 for one and $100 for the other one by trading a bushmaster that i hated for so many reasons. They shoot anything i put in the magazine and after hundreds of rounds not a single mal function… what else can i ask?

    Reply
  32. Eric Lytle

    LaRue Tactical or LMT. I opted for the LaRue .556 and 7.62 both are amazing.

    Reply
  33. Scott Crews

    Only entry level if it's one I'm going to gut and build it to a certain type

    Reply
  34. Jesse Johnson

    I have actually seen 6920s a lot cheaper then that lately. Black Fri saw Moe edition ones for $899 and $1000 for the SOCOM model that comes with the Matech rear and KAC rail. My first AR I spent around $850 on few hundred since on different upgrades last 2 I pieced together and used the Adams Arms piston kits those both cost me about $1700 or so each and that is without optics but the Centurion rail was $300 alone for the one rifle.

    Reply
  35. Josh Riley

    i own a low end Del-Ton and it works great, i have flip iron sights and no optics and can still hold one inch groups. the rifle cost me around 700 and i couldnt be happier

    Reply
  36. John Hubbard

    I had a relatively easy choice since I was looking for a true left handed AR. Stag Arms builds a great true left handed rifle. I don't know of anybody else that does (or at least didn't when I was looking). My only regret was not choosing the piston version. They run much cleaner than the DI versions. Since then I have bought a SCAR 16s and I love how clean it stays. For me, the most rewarding thing about buying a mid-range AR is you have a solid base to expand upon and customize to your current tastes (mine are ever changing and my AR has gone through many changes over the last few years).

    Reply
  37. John Haynes

    Where can you find a MOE warrior for 800 bucks ?

    Reply
  38. LG Chris

    I don't remember where I found that price originally, but I just found this one on GunBroker: http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.aspx?Item=388282548

    Reply
  39. Darren Lewis

    I am looking for my first AR15 and plan to use it a few times a year at the range, but I'm looking to hone my skills at shooting 200-300 yards. I am most interested in a safe, accurate, and reliable weapon without breaking the bank. I am looking for very good optics and could use a little advice here as well.

    Reply

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