We all know there’s a plethora of makes and models variations and variants out there. I will shine a light on what I think is the best that might give you a little helping guidance when you embark on the journey to your first Ar-15.
- Why You Need To Have A Rifle In Order To Defend Yourself
- There Are A Few Things One Need To Consider
- Best AR-15 Rifles
Why You Need To Have A Rifle In Order To Defend Yourself
The answer is simple: Range and Power. If you want to hit anything further away than the length of your arm under stress while being attacked, a rifle offers you a much more stable platform, you’ll be able to hit further and faster.
We all carry handguns, not because they’re the best but because they’re handy. However, this leaves us with pretty weak bullets. A rifle changes that picture, it is less comfortable to carry but much better to stop an attack.
Come what may if you need a rifle, why an ar-15? Because it is the best bang for your buck, it starts with being cheaper than many other options, it is more precise than cheaper options and it has the best ergonomics.
This all did not happen by accident. Ar-15 are the best developed rifles because they serve in the military. This means they are built in great numbers which brings the price down. Also, they are intended to be less expensive and they come with the best ergonomics as they have to suit a lot of different shooters in a lot of bad conditions.
The standard Ar-15 while being definitely related to the military m4 and m16 is not completely a military weapon, but a civilian version of such a gun, you see that in the fact that your ar-15 does not have a fully automatic capability.
While many think that is a downside is actually an upside. Full auto is just a waste of ammo. In fact, most soldiers are trained to use only semi and the US military had the trigger group set up to shoot three-round bursts instead of full auto in many versions shooting semi-automatic allows you to aim much better.
Even if you go spray and pray and pull the trigger again and again, you still hit better as you know when each shot will come. Also, the M4 and M16 are symbols of the might of the US military and they stand for the freedom of us.
All it is just cool to have that symbol in your own hands. Did I mention that it is very ergonomic? This does not only provide you with a good feel but also with a fast target acquisition and good recoil management. This is further enhanced with the 556×45 round which does kick only very little.
Then there is the modularity of the design, an ar-15 consists of two main parts which have all the rest attached to them. There are the lower receiver and the upper receiver also just called the lower and the upper.
Only the lower is the actual firearm as far as the law is concerned. It is serialized and you can swap out the upper as much as you want without having to deal with any additional paperwork.
To the upper and the lower you attach all the toys and gadgets. All the upgrades and customization parts that you want, like, or feel are necessary. Also, you can even change the caliber you can go with a .556 or .223 which are both in many regards the same. Although there are some small differences or the .300 blackout .22 rifle or 50 Beowulf. All you need to do is swap the upper.
Apart from the caliber, you have tons of options for aftermarket products. Choose wisely not only to get the best product but also to not add too much everything you attach to your gun will increase its weight and often enough its bulk. Also, more significantly it will get you stigmatized as mall ninja or tactical. Do not add parts simply for a cool look but parts that make sense for increasing the performance. Of course in the end it is your gun and if you want to attach a tv set and microwave to it feel free to do so. By the way, Ar-15 does not stand for assault rifle 15. But for ArmaLite Model 15, it was developed for a lightweight version of the ar-10 with a lighter round as the ar-10 used 7.62 by 51 millimeter.
The rationale behind that was that an infantryman can carry more bullets when each of them and the rifle as well are lighter. Armalites sold the rights of both the ar-10 and ar-15 to Colt, as Colt was a better partner for the armed forces and bigger and more experience. They could easily integrate all the changes and upgrades the air force and later the army wanted. Colt finalized, what Armalite had begun and supplied the gun and formed the m16 to the armed forces using a 20-inch barrel for it. Of course, this made it rather long weapon. But for its time, it was short and handy as other rifles were not only longer but also heavier. Still, once the soldiers got used to accept the M16 as a standard, they wanted something lighter and handier. Their request was answered by the M4 that came out in the 1990s with a 14.5-inch barrel which reduces both size and weight of the gun.
The ar-15 started as a version of the M4 just in semi instead of full auto. The name AR-15 is widely used when people speak about this type of gun but it is owned by Colt. This leads to many different names for rifles of other manufacturers that follow the general pattern of this system.
When it comes to the moment that you want to be proud owner of your own AR-15, there is a basic decision you have to make. Do you rather want to buy or build it? The answer is easy.
- If it is your first ar-15, just buy it then you can not go too wrong once you’re familiar with it and it is not enough to just customize it. But you want your own very specific version, then build it!
- If you just want to save money by avoiding the 11 tax on a completely ready gun, just order a build kit, it has everything in it that you need, all you got to do is to assemble it.
Going with a standard configuration is not bad, and it allows you to learn what suits your specific needs. Also, there are good budget options out there that allow you to do exactly that.
There Are A Few Things One Need To Consider
Getting to know the AR-15 pattern and go to something more custom from there. The parts of an ar-15 in principle all parts of a rifle are important. It is hard to say this or that is the most important part but I make an exception for the barrel. This is the thing, the bullets travel through and start their journey to the target. Actually, the barrel is a little bit more than just that as it also holds the chamber, the chamber is the part where everything starts, the round sits and is fired in there, the powder in the round is ignited and expands. The bullet is pushed forward and rushed down the length of the barrel while biting into the rifling and starting the spin, then at the gas port part of the gas pressure is bled to cycle the action that ejects suspend case and inserts a new round. I must say that the barrel is the heart, the main thing, the center of everything in a gun.
First, in most cases you can shoot only one caliber out of the chamber and barrel. However, there is an exception when we look at the .223 and .556, the chamber and barrel that can take the .556 can also take the 223. However, the barrel that can take the 223 can only take the 223 as it has looser tolerances than the 556 can withstand higher pressures.
Another thing to consider is the barrel length. There is a law it says that the minimum barrel length must be 16 inches. This means everything shorter than this is either a pistol or a short barrelled rifle. That needs a special tack stamp and is subjected to special rules.
Another point is the combination of precision power and barrel length. A longer power makes the bullet go faster as it is subjected to the pressure that accelerates it. However, this stops at a barrel length of 20 inches, any barrel for a 556 or 223 that is longer does not increase its speed or its force added to this is that a longer barrel means more precision. But also this has a limit, the limit comes from the whip of the barrel with every shot, the longer the barrel the stronger is the whip.
If you look for precision, go with an 18-inch barrel as this offers the optimum between precision because of the length of the barrel and losing the precision because of barrel whip. Also, a barrel is pretty heavy as it must withstand the pressure of the shot, this makes the barrel length.
The most important factor when we talk about weight, add to this the pure fact that a longer barrel makes for a longer rifle that is automatically less handy.
So what should you go for? For your decision, there are three factors to consider. There are power of the round, precision of the shot, and comfort of ease of shooting.
- You want power, go with a 20 inch barrel. There is a very high chance that one shot is enough to down a target and keep it down and that out to up to 400 yards.
- If you’re looking for the maximum precision, go with an 18 inch barrel, you lose power but you hit where you intended to and this at long ranges up to 800 yards.
- If you want to ease of handling go with the 16 inch barrel, you still have power and precision but only out to 200 or 300 yards for power and 400 yards for precision.
Another factor is the bullet itself. Shooting shorter ranges go for a lighter bullet one below 60 grain. It goes fast and creates nice terminal ballistics by transferring most of its energy into the body of the target.
If you go for longer ranges and precision, use heavier bullets. They start slower but keep going farther out and are less susceptible by environmental influences like wind because of their weight. They also keep a good terminal ballistic farther out but are beaten by the lightweights at shorter distances.
All come down to what do you expect to be in your range below 200 yards, go with the 55-grain bullet. Past that, go for 62 or up to 80 grain.
Then there’s the barrel twist. This shows you how fast the rifling that imparts the spin goes around one full circle. A 1:9 inch twist means that the rifling will do a full circle at 9 inches. The rule of thumb is that a heavier bullet needs a shorter twist rate or a lower second number.
A lighter bullet of 55 grain goes perfect with a 1:9 twist rate, a 80-grain bullet should be shot through a 1:7 twist. Buying a common AR-15 you’ll get a 1:9 twist rate as it is perfect for 55 grain and those are the standard for this caliber.
The barrel is also made of a certain material, that one you can see from the number on the barrel. A 4150 is a steel barrel following military specifications, 4140 is almost the same but it comes with 10 percent less carbon. Then there are the CMV barrels or chrome molybdenum vanadium that are like the 4140. In the end, there is a stainless steel barrel that offers more accuracy for the price of a shorter lifespan.
However, think about how many rounds you will actually shoot through your barrel in training and self-defense and you will see that stainless steel can take that kind of use. For an average, use the 4140 or CMV is more than adequate as long as you are not doing one mag pump after another. You will not benefit at all from a 4150, also 4140 or CMV can be felt by your bank account.
Do not forget that you pay for what you get, the higher the performance you want the higher the price even if you do never use this performance.
The barrels also come with a lining. There is the chrome line barrel this lasts you a lot longer but it also decreases the accuracy for a teeny tiny little bit then there’s the FNC phoretic nitrocarburizing or tenifer or melonite or nitride lining that gives you a treated inside surface of the barrel for a longer life. But without aligning this means you can hammer more shots downrange without losing accuracy. However, you pay more. The third option is to go without any lining. Of course, the wear and tear of any round shot is varying with the environment factors but we are talking about tens of thousands of rounds, not just hundreds or thousands. Furthermore, for the barrel, the testing might be of interest for you. They can be MP magnetic particle tested, HB high pressure tested, or not tested at all.
Another one is batch tested, when there are only samples taken from specific batch of barrels, do not forget that you pay for what you get. Believe it or not, the testing is less important than you think. Faulty or grossly imprecise barrels are rare as they cost the manufacturers dearly and lost trust and lost customers.
Barrels must be manufactured. For this, there are different methods to be used. There is the cold hammer forge CHF barrel that is way more durable. Then you have the barrel forged hammer models that are also durable. On the lower end, you have those with none that did not get processed. The hammer forging being cold or not gives you a more durable product for a lower accuracy. However, if you shoot twenty thousand rounds per year, it is absolutely worth it, if you shoot less do not waste your money!
Also, the barrel contours come into play. The contours refer to the outside of the barrels over the length, a thicker barrel is heavier bite can take more abuse, a thinner barrel is lighter but overheats much faster, a heavy or bowl barrel means you carry around more weight but it offers more precision. It keeps the precision longer until the heat from the repeated firing opens up your groups. Medium barrels are balanced as they are lighter with enough precision at the beginning and the ability to last longer in a firefight. The light or pencil barrels are okay for one mag, everything beyond that shot in rapid fire will excessively reduce accuracy and lead to overheating and subsequent jamming.
Did I mention that the barrels include the chambers, the chambers also include the feed ramps. Those are the areas that make a round go easily from the mag into the chamber, from the factory a rifle might encounter no problems here. A build however has to carefully match receiver and ramps so that the gun feeds reliably. You remember how I told you that the gas is bled from the barrel and used to cycle the action, here you can choose again between the direct impingement and the piston system. The DI (direct impingement) system uses the gas directly. It goes through a tube into the bolt carrier group and pushes it backwards and it starts to cycle. The other system is the piston, the gas is directed against the head of a piston that moves subsequently backwards cycling the action. Which one is better, depends on what you want.
- If you want precision, go with the DI system. DI means less weight and especially less moving weight. However, you follow up the gun so clean it more often.
- If you want to use the gun again and again for many days without cleaning, go with the piston. However you carry more and the moving weight, causes your gun to move during the shot reducing your accuracy.
- What should you take as the average shooter, go with di. It is lighter to carry around and you do not shoot it that much anyway, besides after every ranged session, there should be a cleaning session anyway.
- The piston system offers a lot of advantages but none of them is for you. Do not forget that you pay for what you get, so PAY for things you need and NOT for things you have no use for.
The handguards are an important part of the upper receiver. Basically, they are supposed to keep your hands away from the barrel which will get increasingly hot with every round fired. You can put them in one of two categories.
There are the free floating ones and the non-free floating ones. The free floating ones do not touch the barrel that allows it to whip freely and bring consistent precision. Non-free floating means that the foregrip touches the barrel somewhere and this leads to inconsistencies. However it also leads to a lighter and cheaper gun because of a less stiff handguard. Free floating handguards are something for competitive shooters but not for the average joe. Also, the handguard allows some gadgets to be attached. For this, there must be rails on them. These add weight and price so choose wisely if you really need all those rails and real estate for your toys to attach them and making the rifle heavier by themselves and the rails.
Bolt Carrier Group (BCG)
The part of the ar-15 that makes it go bang is the bolt carrier group. The bolt is inside this group and it is a hole move inside the upper receiver, it is pushed back by the gas or piston and unlocks the chamber, and moves backward ejecting against the spring injecting the spent case. At the end of its travel, the springs will push it forward, taking a new round from the mag and sliding it into the chamber, locking it up. To chamber the first round, you use the charging handle to do what normally the gas does. When you pull the trigger, the hammer is released and strikes the firing pin housed inside the BCG (bolt carrier group). The firing pin hits the primer and sets it the round in the chamber. Normally, a BCG is semi-auto this means whenever you squeeze the trigger you get one bang.
BCGs and military rifles either come with a three-round burst or full auto option that is emitted in the civilian version. A new trend is to apply some form of coating to the BSG. The intention is to make them easier to clean and allow them to work without having to lubricate them regularly. The materials used are nickel boron, titanium nitrate, hard chrome and black nitrate.
However, to really benefit from a coating, you have to run your gun very hard using a suppressor, anything else means your money spent for coating the BCG is simply a waste.
In the back of, the gun is not only a stock but also a fixed buffer tube on which the stock is riding. The buffer tube contains the buffer spring that is compressed by the backward motion of the BCG. The various spring is also the one pushing the BCG back forward chambering a new round.
Another thing worth upgrading is the trigger. For a good shot, you need to align the sights and control your breathing. For this, you need to know where the trigger breaks standard triggers come with creep and are kind of sluggish.
However, there are some fine aftermarket versions out there that make for a great feeling and equally great precision.
We should also not forget the optics. Shooting with iron sights is okay but once you really want to hit something further out there you might want to use a scope.
If you want to hit a target at close range faster you might want to go for an AR-15 red dot. If you are not that sure you can go for a combo of magnifier and red dot or a low powered variable optic, the former allows you to be fast in close encounter and adequate at some distance, the latter allows you to be adequate in close encounters and better at longer distances.
In order to decide which AR-15 to buy, you also have to think about what you want to use it for. One typical purpose is the so-called emphogry, this means you want it to look like the military M416.
There are many models out there that suits that come with the right look exactly for that. You want to have precision or want to do some variant control, the SBR special purpose rifle or DMR designated marksman rifle will suit you best. They have 18 or 20-inch barrels and 1:8 or 1:7 twist rate.
Thanks to the heavier bullet precision you can reach out very far, you want something super handy go with an SBR short barrel rifle or an AR-15 pistol. Those are the super handy versions and are well suited.
When it comes to CQB (so close quarter battles) aka defending yourself inside your home. For competitions, there are special builds, they have longer barrels with great compensators to allow for precision and good follow-up shots due to perfect recoil management. Pistol caliber carbines allow you to play with something looking like an AR-15 but shooting a pistol caliber at a reduced price. They often use pistol mags but there are magazines out there that allow to feed 9mm ammo and look like a standard AR-15 mag.
Featureless builds are resolved to some less fortunate laws in California and New York. They try to ban assault rifles and end up mutilating them with their stipulations.
Best AR-15 Rifles
Let’s come to what you’ve been waiting for to what I consider the best day or fifteen. These are all recommendations solely based on my personal experience and my preferences having shot a plethora of guns and instructed people on their use.
1. Daniel Defense Ddm4
The daniel defense ddm4 is an AR-15 that allows you to get into the game and to develop in it.
It comes at around seventeen hundred dollars is reliable and precise and works with a mid-length gas system, this gives it a nice soft touch when you pull the trigger.
As the version ddm4, version 7 comes with a free floating handguard, there is also the ddm4a1 with a carbine gas system and a permanent muzzle device.
2. S&W M&P15 SPORT II
The Smith Wesson M&pP15 sport II offers you a nice deal on an AR-15 style rifle. They do not just offer revolvers and semi-automatic pistols. The great advantage is the price of less than $600 that makes it a good beginner model.
If you see it, do not wait too long before you buy it. It sells like hotcakes, its caliber is 556 Nato so it shoots .556 and .223 ammunition.
3. LEAD STAR GRUNT
Led Star Arms is a special tip for an AR-15. It shoots 556 and 223 precisely. It has a muzzle brake a nice trigger and a cool charging handle. All of this costs you less than 800.
4. Fn 15 Patrol Carbine
You want to have the feeling of holding a real classic, the Fn 15 Patrol Carbine will give you exactly that.
It is also built to military specifications and comes with a quad rail, this means you can attach whatever you want on top, below, and on both sides.
It is accurate shoots very softly and is also very comfortable to carry. It comes at only nine hundred dollars.
5. PSA PA-15
The budget is really tight go with the PSA PA-15, it is completely manufactured in-house, has a free floating handguard, and costs you less than 500 dollars.
It can be described in three words, it just works. You can have it with a 16 or an 18-inch barrel. It can shoot 556 and 223 equally well. You can get it also as a kit with the upper and lower receiver separated. It takes you only one movement and one pin to connect them but this can save you 11% on firearm taxes.
6. STAG ARMS MODEL 2L
Are you a lefty the Stag Arms model 2l will suit you well. It has been designed and constructed specifically for left-handed shooters. It has a standard front sight post and flip up iron sights in the back.
7. Aero Precision AC-15M
Aero Precision is a well-known name and offers you with the AC-15m, a really affordable price model that comes with great precision and a 16-inch barrel, free floating handguards. It costs less than 700 dollars, it will not fail you when you need it the most.
8. BCM RE-16
The bravo company manufacturing Recce 16 is another great choice is around 1200 dollars. With an MCMR handguard, you cannot go wrong with this rifle. It is built to military specifications and will last you a long time with great precision and great comfort.