May 21, 2014
Firearms manufacturers and retailers refer to the buying frenzy that hit the shooting scene a couple years ago as "The Surge."
During "The Surge," shooters snapped up ammunition, high-capacity magazines and right at the top of the list AR-style rifles. Retailers had yards of empty gun racks, and a shipment of ARs that actually hit the gun counter was often gone by the very next day. Meanwhile, ARs that had been selling for $700 to $800 were suddenly commanding $1,500 or more often, a heck of a lot more if you could even find them.
Fortunately, "The Surge" is more or less over for ARs, and as a result prices have come tumbling down. It seems the current fad is high-end ARs. For a couple grand or better you can get one complete with a match trigger, fluted bull barrel and all the coolest tactical furniture.
But there are still many high quality, extremely functional ARs on the market. Some are no-frill models, while others have a surprising number of higher-end features. Regardless, these rifles will get the job done and do it for $1,000 or less.
Core 15 M4 Scout
CORE15 is converting many in the AR world with their reasonably-priced and sturdy M4 Scout
rifle. It weighs just 6 pounds, 5 ounces, with a six-position stock and CORE15's own Hardcore billet charging handle. Here's a feature you don't see often — optional barrel twist rate available, from 1:7, for those shooting longer, heavier .223/5.56mm bullets, to 1:8 and 1:9 twist rates. The magazine well is beveled for faster reloading, too.
ALPHA 320H by Del-Ton
For the last several years — and somewhat under the radar — Del-Ton has been manufacturing quality ARs at prices that won't push you into Chapter 11. Case in point, the Del-Ton ALPHA 320H
in 5.56mm. It sports a 20-inch chrome moly vanadium barrel with a 1x9 twist, a properly staked and sealed gas key (a poorly installed gas key can lead to short-stroking and other malfunctions), and most of the mil-spec accoutrements standard on ARs — all for under $800.
The DPMS LR-204
is a unique varminter AR built around the .204 Ruger cartridge, but with street prices roughly $100 below MSRP. The LR-204 features a 24-inch, fluted bull barrel made of stainless steel and an A3 style flattop that's hard coat anodized. It also features a shell deflector, forward assist, and right hand ejection. With the longer barrel, this isn't a lightweight AR, though, coming in at 9.75 pounds.
DS Arms ZM4 Carbine in 300 BLK
A no-frills, get-the-job-done AR in the popular 300 Blackout, the ZM4
is an M4-style rifle with an A3 flattop receiver. Forged front sight base with bayonet lug, and an M4 handguard with heat shield are standard on the ZM4. The 16-inch barrel is made of stainless steel. A Hogue pistol grip and a six-position collapsible M4 stock round out the package. All parts are made in the U.S.A.
Mk4LE by CMMG
CMMG's basic rifle, the Mk4LE
, is one solid value, in part because, unlike most bargain-priced ARs, this one's available in so many caliber options: 5.56x45mm, 300 AAC BLK, 9mm Luger and 22LR. All variants feature a nitrided 16.1-inch, 4140 CrMo steel barrel. Picatinny rail atop the receiver, a rounded handguard, open sights, and weighs in at just 6.2 pounds.
Smith & Wesson Model M&P 15 Sport
The epitome of the lightweight, do-it-all AR, the M&P 15 Sport
is a 5.56mm powerhouse that weighs in at just 6.45 pounds. Optics ready, but also comes standard with an A2 front post and a Magpul Folding MBUS rear sight. Chromed gas key and bolt carrier add to the rifle's reliability. Recreational shooting, hunting, home defense — the M&P 15 Sport is ready.
MasterPiece Arms MPAR 556 AR-15
A short-stroke piston-driven rifle, the MasterPiece Arms MPAR 556 AR-15
, in .223 Rem/5.56mm, sports a side-folding collapsible butt stock, and a side charging handle. The MPAR 556 is ready for all sorts of add-ons with a full-length top rail, aluminum handguard with front cover, combat muzzle brake and ample rail space beneath barrel. Weighs under eight pounds.
Mossberg MMR Tactical
Mossberg jumped into the AR market a couple years ago with the Mossberg Modern Rifle
, or the MMR, chambered in .223 Rem. Carrying on the Mossberg tradition, the MMR is rugged, reliable, and reasonably priced. It features a Stark SE-1 pistol grip, and a six-position tactical stock, plus a Picatinny quad-rail forearm. It weighs only seven pounds, too.
Rock River Arms LAR-15 Standard A4
For under [imo-slideshow gallery=226],000 in stores, the Rock River Arms LAR-15 Standard AR
is a darned accurate rifle, chambered in .223 Wylde, a match chambering for semi-automatic rifles that accommodates both .223 Rem and 5.56 NATO ammunition. Accuracy is enhanced by a 20-inch chrome-moly barrel and RRA's excellent two-stage trigger. Go 'Old School ' for $50 more and get the A2 Upper with carrying handle.
Stag Arms Model 3T
Designed for tactical situations and shooting competitions, the gas-operated Stag Arms 3T
weighs in at a nifty 7.4 pounds, has a 16-inch, chrome-lined barrel and is chambered in 5.56mm. The 3T features a full-length rail atop, and Stag Arm's unique (and ultra cool-looking) Freefloat Diamondhead VRS-T handguard. Open sights and a lifetime transferable warranty, too. Upper and lower receivers sport Type 3 hard coat anodizing.