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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So to the gentlemen that are comfortable with the subject...

I'm looking to purchase my first AR-15. I have done as much research as can fit in my brain, and I'm wondering what other's opinions are for this area. What are the best brands to buy? What are the brands to ignore? How much of an issue is barrel length? I do realize that accessories are without limit, and I can make it anything that I want it to be.

Opinions? Facts? General rules of thumb?

I'm open to anything and everything.

Thanks!
 

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Check this out.

Put these AR brands in "quality" order from best to worst - INGunOwners

Really, an endless debate it seems, but here is the first summary list from page two of the above thread.

Here's my list. Some of these I've never heard of. And I also tried to put some of these companies in order of the better customer service too. IMO, customer service means A LOT.


Noveske
Daniel Defense
Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM)
Lewis Machine & Tool (LMT
Spike's Tactical
Rock River Arms
Armalite
Colt
CMMG
Palmetto State Armory
Smith & Wesson
Ruger
Sabre Defense
Stag Arms
Bushmaster
DPMS / Panther Arms
Charles Daly
Olympic
Yankee Hill Machine (YHM)
Del-Ton
Superior Arms
D.S. Arms*
Wilson Combat*
Remington
LWRCi
POF*
Nodak
Fulton
Double Star
Les Bauer
Tactical Innovations
Anvil Arms
High Standard
JP Enterprises
SI Defense
Vulcan/Hesse
Model 1 Sales
 

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First question - What is the purpose (or purposes) of the rifle? What do you expect it to do?

I wanted a target rifle for plinking and wanted it to be as accurate as possible. Possibly to go hog hunting with. I chose a doublestar carbine (16") length. I get about 1 moa accuracy (1" at 100 yds). I've had it 5 years and have modified it extensively since I owned it. I am now building another AR strictly for me to get one exactly the way I want it.

Some features to look at when shopping:
Barrells - 16" Carbines and 20" Rifles are the 2 most common choices. Depends on your purpose. Also barrells come in stainless, chromoly, and chrome lined. Chrome lined does provide a more corrosion resistant finish (good if you are exposing the rifle to lots of moisture). Twist rate standard is 1 in 9 for bullets up to 62 grain (this is debateable), 1 in 7 is better for heavier bullets.

Barrell Diameter - Standard .625, HBar .75, or Bull .9??. Thicker barrells are heavier but dissapate heat better and accuracy is less affected by heat. Thicker barrels also have less barrell wrap when shot. Fluting is just for looks, it supposedly dissapates heat better, but I just think they look cool.

Upper A2 or Flattop. Flattop gives you many options for optics.

Trigger - Mil spec is good but quite heavy 6.5 to 7 lbs. It is good if you can find one with a better trigger but expect to pay a premium or plan on upgrading with an aftermarket trigger if you don't like the mil spec.

Gas operating sysitem or piston system - most ARs are gas operated (Direct Impingement). Piston driven are much cleaner but again expect to pay a premium to get one. Even the upgrade is in the $500 - $600.00 range just fo rthe upgrade kit.

Forward Assist and Dust Cover - These are often omitted on some rifles and are a money saver. I personally don't care if these features are on my rifle. If you purchase a rifle or upper without these they cannot be added later without changing the upper.

Handguards - railed or smooth; free floated or spring fitted. Free Floated will increase accuracy since the handguard does not put pressure on the barrell.

Front Sight Post A2, low profile, or railed gas block.

Optics - Your choice

There a whole bunch of other features to look for but there isn't room on this post. I would reccomend that you look around and handle as many as possible. My opinion is that the barrell indicates the quality of the rifle. I like HBar with a 1 in 9 twist (I don't shoot the heavier bullets). My current build is started with an Anderson Lower and and Aero Precision Upper.

I personally like Doublestar Carbine, S&W M&P15, Sig 516, and the Ruger AR (Can't think of the model). There are many good brands out there and some definitely lesser quality. I don't want to bash any manufacturer so I will limit my comment to saying you get what you pay for.
 

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With the AR market exploding, everyone seems to make one. Almost all of them are quality rifles. You will pay more for Noveske or Les Baer but those are high end rifles and it shows. One of the companies I can tell you to stay away from is Vulcan/Hesse/Blackthorne. They are the same company who has had so many issues they have had to change their name 3 times. Most all others will give you a lifetime of fun!
 
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You weren't lying sir...I got to about page 11, and it is truly never ending!

I've finally got enough cash saved up, and while I'm probably looking at this from the wrong stand point, I'd like to be "one and done" on this. I've heard of black rifle fever, but I just can't see owning many different guns of the same caliber, but I also understand that ARs do come in different calibers. I just want a good quality, mil-spec rifle that will be there when I need, IF I need it. Plus, I want to punch paper with it also.

I have upgrades in mind, but not sure if I should buy upgraded. I know it's not a good time to buy right now, but I just want to get one so that I can start the customization process. My gunsmith buddy has a friend with a DPMS, with a 24" match grade barrel and an aftermarket trigger group in it, with much more done to it I'm sure. Asking price seems a little steep for me, but I can swing it. He also has a guy that is looking to bring a Colt in. I assume it is the LE6920, and I've read nothing but good things about it. It's a couple hundred bucks cheaper, but It's also stock.

Decisions, decisions...it always comes down to decisions lol.
 

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The sneaky truth is that there are only a handful of manufacturers making all the important parts for all the companies that sell them. (Yes, including Colt.) Most of the true manufactureres of the parts are either ones you've never heard of or ones you wouldn't expect. (For instance Mossberg makes *lots* of barrels for AR OEMs.) So, generally speaking, there isn't a great deal of difference in upper and lower receivers when it comes to function. True, some brands will spend more time blending edges and corners, but the difference is almost completely cosmetic. (Deburring edges can make a difference though.) I guess I should point out that I'm ignoring the newer polymer (plastic) guns like the Carbon 15, etc; I wouldn't recommend one of these for your first/only. Basically, if I were you, I'd look for one from a reputable/recognizable company that's been around for a while so that I could count on some support in case of problems.

From there, if this were to be my only one and I wanted a "one-size-fits-most" situations kind of rifle, I'd look for a basic 16" "M-forgery". Your best bet is a 5.56 NATO chamber, or a 223 Wylde if that's an option. (I don't recommend a pure 223 Rem because it, for safety reasons, will cut you off from using mil-surp 5.56 ammo.) For durability, I'd look for one with chrome-lined barrel and bolt carrier and, for flexibility, I'd want a threaded muzzle if the government will allow it. For the best flexibility with ammunition, a 1-9 twist barrel may be the best compromise; they are readily available, shoot most mil-surp ammo very well, and will still work with light, thin-jacketed, varmint bullets, but it will have trouble with heavier (longer) bullets above 69gr or so. A 1-8 may be even better, in that it will shoot pretty much anything well, but they are pretty much reserved for specialty rifles and custom builds. Or, if you want to go "mil-spec" (which is a major, if illogical, obsession for many) you can go 1-7, which will still shoot most commercial and mil-surp ammo very well, but it will be less reliable with light bullets, less than 55 grs or so. Oh, and while nice to have, I certainly wouldn't get too wrapped up in looking for a hammer forged barrel.

Since they are more readily available off-the-shelf these days, you may want to look for one with a mid-length gas system. They seem to improve reliability and many claim they "shoot better". But, I wouldn't turn down a carbine-length. Yes, there is some evidence that, under extreme conditions (the kind many actual military rifles never see), the carbine-length system has durability/reliability problems. But, there are also some simple changes that can mostly address these, making it very, very reliable for the vast majority of civilian uses. (Basically, a heavier buffer and tougher extractor, either or both of which might come with the rifle, but are easily and cheaply added later.) Also, piston guns are nice, but they also tend to be pricey and the actual benefit is highly debatable.

Beyond that, it's mostly a preference/cost thing. I would recommend a flat-top (M4 or M16A4 type) upper receiver will be the most flexible; you can even put a carry handle with an A2-type rear sight on it if that's your preference, without giving up the option of optics later. But there are plenty of A2 uppers around and you can add additional uppers later if you like. Forearm is up to you really, but keep in mind that quad rails are not only neat-looking, but typically heavy and cost more. Newer options, like the Magpul MOE handguards give you the flexibility to mount stuff (that also gets heavy quickly) while weighing and costing a little less. A free-float setup of some type can help accuracy. But, the platform is inherently pretty accurate, so the improvements are marginal at most ranges with most ammo and free-floating will cost more. (Let your wallet and goals be your guide.) A carbine-style stock will probably be the most flexible, but that is almost purely a preference thing.

Essentially, find the best price you can from a known company. If you have the budget, focus on some of the stuff I mentioned. But, keep in mind, nothing here is a deal-breaker because there is nothing about the rifle that can't be changed later with relative ease.

Good luck!
 

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I'm totally in love with my Stag Model 8. That gas piston will spoil you real fast. I've never seen an AR that stays so clean. You get the accuracy of an AR with the reliability of an AK. And stag's parent company, CMT, forges their own receivers and stag passes the cost savings along to the consumer. CMT supplies a lot of equipment to the military too, as well as supplying receivers to a lot of other manufacturers. But good luck finding a model 8.
 

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I like the AR platform, but the one I wanted to get I just can't get in california. Here is something no one has brought up yet, and it is more finicky than all the gimmicky stuff listed.

FIT and BALANCE. More important than just about everything else a good AR platform will have a superior weight balance. You will be able to shoulder it easily, it will be able to be held and you won't feel muzzle drag or heel drag pulling it out of place as you bring it up. Had a long chat with my LGS about it as we toyed with various AR platforms and I pointed out that the balance is more important in making the rifle fast and stable platform. For bench rest it doesn't matter but everything else.. be careful of the rails. Aluminum seems light.. till you put it 16" out from your point of contact. Swing that muzzle about and you can feel the inertia pulling you off target. SLOW.

In the end, I like the AK platform for what I can legally own in california. So I recommend, avoid full length rails, keep the balance even on the rifle. Rails are good, but too many rails are not good. Flip up sights are actually better than most conventional irons, most use peep sights which are superior option to open V slot irons. I don't like "tactial" stocks, they may be adjustable but almost all are crap unless you add contact point 4 cheek risers to them so you can get proper cheek weld. I good AR becomes part of you, feels smooth to shoulder and aim. You can swing it and it won't yank you too far with inertia. I am FAST with my AK platforms. FAST, which is odd if you consider their overall weight (more than an AR). Given a scope mount + 3x Red Dot, solid system, especially in a carbine configuration.
I say, go to your LGS and fondle some ARs. Work the action, find one that wants to be part of you and buy it. The gimmicks can always be played with later as far as piston vs gas, etc.

ARs are complex platforms. There is just so much out there for them. If you are not careful you will get pulled in and never stop modding your AR. Next thing we will hear is you will want a 6.5 upper or 300 blackout.
 

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dbeardslee is correct on all counts and may I add, Stag Arms are the best bang for the buck too. I gave my first SA2 to my oldest son and purchased another for me. My brother and his two friends have each ordered their SA8s from LGS. Another plus for Stag is they make true left hand rifles for the lefties of the world.
 
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Get what you can get right now, brownells is your best friend.
 

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The waiting lists are winding down. I see decent selections in most LGS in this region.
 

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I was at Walmart yesterday and they had 2 Colt ar's not sure of the model but had them for $1017 I believe. No ammo but do have EBR's
 
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You can't go wrong with any of the major Manufacturers, I personally prefer Colt and I also own a Smith and Wesson M&P that shoots really well.
Welcome to the Dark Side!
 

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If you are married, now is the time to get a separate email account and credit card.
 
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I have a DPMS that I like a lot and shoot in competition. Pics if I was not on a phone. I also have my eye on so many other variations. If prices normalize I will probably do a build - that and a 1911 are my "add" goals for 2013.
 

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My first AR was a Bushmaster from the 1990s. I just finished a 20 inch barreled A2 rifle build, with an ATI aluminum lower and a Del-Ton upper. Just get what you can afford for now, and if you determine that you want to upgrade later, the AR platform is eminently adaptable. Parts can be added or replaced as desired. Switching uppers can be done to change caliber or purpose of the rifle. Trigger groups can be purchased as a drop in unit to max out performance for hunting, competition, or target shooting. We're probably not going to see too much of a price drop over the next year, so get what you can,and you can enhance it later.

ATI-Del Ton & Bushmaster.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Well I went to my LGS to see if I could work out a deal. He had a brand new Colt 6920 with an entire set of magpul furniture on it already. Foregrip, pistol grip, Vertical grip, an MBUS rear folding sight, a PMAG, and a 4 position stock. I walked in the store, shouldered it, and it just felt right in my hands. He worked me out a deal a couple hundred bucks less than the asking price so I walked out with it. I took it to the range this past Saturday and it just rocked my world! I loved how it shouldered, loved the sight line up, loved just the overall feel of it!

Very happy with my purchase overall. Hell, I was even happy with the trigger pull. Not gritty, not sloppy, a little heavy, but consistent every single time. I want a quick detach holo-sight for the top of it and I'm beyond happy with this one. Another rifle can be built and modded, but I like this one just the way it is. I wanted a battle rifle and I believe I got exactly what I wanted, in the price range I wanted it in.


Let the wifey shoot it, and she loved it just as much as I did. At first she was a little reserved about me spending that much money on a gun, but after she shot it, she fell in love. Now she wants her own!

Ahh, the good ole black rifle fever...The Bell family has officially caught it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thank you again for all of your comments and suggestions guys, I really appreciate it. I had an idea of what I wanted, along with some specs, but garnered a little more information from the trusty gentlemen at Taurusarmed.net.

Thanks!
 

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You can't go wrong with a DPMS. Best prices and very reliable.
 
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