8 Best AR-15s For The Money

In the diverse world of firearms, the AR-15 stands out as one of the most popular options available. Its popularity stems from its ability to provide an adaptable, reliable, and user-friendly shooting platform. Ideal for various applications, these rifles come in various styles and prices, making it crucial to find the best value for your budget and use case. Therefore, we compiled a list of the best AR-15s highlighting our own experience and areas where each rifle excels. After reading this handy guide, you’ll be buying a tailor-made AR-15 for your needs in no time!

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1. Daniel Defense DDM4v7 5.56 AR-15 Rifle

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Daniel Defense DDM4v7 5.56 AR-15 Rifle
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Daniel Defense has a strong reputation for producing high-quality, reliable firearms trusted by military and law enforcement worldwide – the DDM4v7 is no exception to this standard. This AR-15 features impressive build quality and performance.

It has a free-float handguard, a 16″ cold hammer forged barrel with a government profile, a mid-length gas piston system, a 7″ barrel twist rate, a 16″ barrel length, and an M-LOK attachment system. It’s designed for the demanding use case of the military, law enforcement, and avid shooting enthusiasts.

My own experience with this AR-15 is immensely positive – the DDM4V7 is remarkably reliable and offers accuracy I don’t often see in ARs. It excels in a variety of shooting scenarios, from competitive shooting to home defense and hunting. Overall, its great balance, ease of control, and rapid-fire capabilities make it the best AR 15 currently available.

Daniel Defense DDM4v7


  • Solid build quality
  • Excellent performance in both control over the firearm and accuracy
  • Trusted reputation.


  • Higher price point compared to some other AR-15s

2. Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport II 5.56 AR-15

Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport II 5.56 AR-15
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There’s no need for me to tell you about the reputation of the venerable Smith & Wesson company, known for producing reliable, quality firearms for well over a century. The M&P 15 Sport II is the perfect AR for those on a tight budget.

This rifle is a versatile and highly adaptable AR-15, perfectly designed for those budget-conscious shooting enthusiasts who still want a taste of premium, high-quality products. The M&P 15 Sport II has a 16″ barrel length, rifling of 1:9, and a ruggedized, durability-enhanced design. It is a bit on the heavy side, weighing 6.45 pounds. Still, on the range or for hunters who primarily wait for their targets, this AR will work like a charm.

Personally, this rifle offered a comfortable and smooth shooting experience, thanks to the 6-position collapsible stock and excellent craftsmanship from Smith & Wesson. I enjoyed shooting with this rifle so much that I even compiled a list of the best scopes for the MP 15 Sport II.

M&P Sport II


  • Versatility
  • High accuracy
  • Affordability


  • Heavy

3. SOLGW M4-76 5.56 NATO AR-15 Rifle

SOLGW M4-76 5.56 NATO AR-15 Rifle
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Sons of Liberty Gun Works has always been seen as the unorthodox crafters of firearms, which makes adding one of their weapons to your collection a must!

The M4-76 is an extremely reliable AR-15 with a robust shorter barrel of 13.9″, pinned and welded muzzle brake, a mid-rifle length gas system, and ambidextrous controls, which really helps!

From my own experience, I can tell you that this rifle offers a smooth and reliable shooting experience, thanks to the high-quality bolt carrier group, low profile gas block, and excellent mechanics of the rifle. It also has noticeably better maneuverability due to the shorter configuration, making it ideal for hunting in dense bush or self-defense.


  • Top-tier construction
  • Durable finish
  • Compact design
  • Excellent performance for short to mid-range shooting


  • Expensive
  • The shorter barrel can lead to reduced long-range shooting performance

4. Bravo Company Manufacturing RECCE-16

Bravo Company Manufacturing RECCE-16 5.56 NATO AR-15
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Bravo Company has an outstanding reputation in the industry for its commitment to quality, reliability, and performance, and the RECCE-16 is a prime example of these three production attributes.

The RECCE-16 is a professional-grade AR-15 known for its high-quality components and engineering. It’s built with a 16″ cold hammer forged barrel, BCM Bolt Carrier Group, BCM Mod 3 Pistol Grip, and a 15” MCMR M-LOK Free Float Handguard, which is a very popular type of handguard. Plus, it has a durable design featuring a 7075-T6 Aluminum construction with a Mil-A-8625F Type III Hardcoat Anodized for further durability enhancement.

I really enjoy BCMs firearms, and the RECCE-16 reminded me why BCM has such a good reputation for providing quality products and affordable prices. When I tested the RECCE-16, it provided me with a smooth shooting experience, delivering great reliability and durability both on the range and in the field. It is particularly suited for professional use in defense and law enforcement.


  • Durable
  • Reliable
  • Backed by BCMs excellent reputation


  • The design might not be to everyone’s liking

5. FN America FN15 5.56 AR-15 Patrol Carbine

FN America FN15 5.56 AR-15
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FN America forms part of the global brand FN Herstal, which is a highly respected firearms manufacturer. They excel in producing quality, reliable firearms for tactical and civilian use. The FN15 is primarily designed for law enforcement use, but it also works well as a self-defense AR.

It comes with a 16” chrome-lined barrel, a Midwest Industries carbine quad rail, allowing more than enough mounting space, and Samson flip-up rear sight if you prefer iron sights over red dots.

I found the FN15 quite enjoyable – weighing only 6 pounds, it’s not as heavy as the DDM4v7, which improves maneuverability, especially when hunting hogs. It is also robust and accurate, allowing me to use it in various shooting environments and scenarios. However, I would say it is best suited for tactical use and home defense because it was designed for it.


  • Robust build
  • Chrome-lined barrel
  • Reliable performance
  • Excellent ergonomics
  • Good iron sights


  • Primarily for tactical use – long-range performance can be unpredictable.

6. Daniel Defense 14.5″ 5.56 M4A1 Rifle

Daniel Defense 14.5" 5.56 M4A1 Rifle
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As already mentioned, Daniel Defense is a trusted manufacturer known for their dependable firearms. The 14.5″ M4A1 is no exception. This firearm includes noticeable features like the RIS II Picatinny quad rail, providing ample space for mounting accessories. It also features a cold hammer forged M4 profile barrel and ambi GRIP-N-RIP Charging Handle, which allows for ambidextrous control of your firearm.

The gun is designed for a wide variety of applications, including home defense, tactical training, and even competitive shooting scenarios. I used it for hunting as well as range shooting, and I must say, I was quite impressed with the accuracy this rifle provided.

It’s notable for its robust construction, such as the addition of 7075-T6 Aluminum, as well as its Chrome Moly Vanadium Steel barrel. This makes it resilient to adverse conditions and heavy usage.


  • Maneuverability
  • Compact
  • Ergonomic
  • Comfortable
  • Easy handling


  • More expensive than the DDM4v7

7. Sons of Liberty Gun Works M4-76 AR-15 Rifle

SOLGW M4-76 AR-15 Rifle
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While this SOLGW looks very similar to the M4-76 listed at number three, this one features a 10.5″ 1:7 barrel. This rifle has all of the design perks and qualities of the 13.9″ rifle, but it is better at close range due to the compact design.

The shorter barrel length makes it perfect for self-defense situations or when you require a fast-handling weapon. SOL also makes a great M16a4 clone that many shooters love to use as well.


  • Top-tier construction
  • Durable finish
  • Compact design
  • Excels at close-range encounters


  • Expensive
  • The shorter barrel can lead to reduced long-range shooting performance

8. Del-Ton Sierra 316L AR-15 Rifle

Del-Ton Sierra 316L AR-15 Rifle
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Finally, we have the Del-Ton Sierra 316L AR-15 rifle. This company has an overall positive brand outlook, but I have encountered some AR-15 problems with Delton.

Nonetheless, this AR-15 shines in terms of versatility and accessibility. Features such as the lightweight 16″ Chrome Moly Vanadium barrel, full-length 15″ M-LOK handguard, and mid-length gas system cater to a wide variety of shooting scenarios.

The rifle is perfect for recreational shooting, home defense, and hunting. The best part about the Sierra 316L is that it is extremely affordable. It is the cheapest rifle on this list, making it a great starter AR-15, and also allows you great room for upgrades to the lower and upper receiver or individual parts.


  • Low-profile gas system
  • Extremely affordable
  • Ample room for upgrades and customization
  • Perfect for beginners


  • Questionable durability

What Is An AR-15?

An AR-15 is a type of semi-automatic rifle that fires one bullet each time you pull the trigger. It was originally developed in the 1950s by ArmaLite (hence the “AR” in its name). An adapted form also exists namely the M16 military combat automatic rifle.

The AR-15 is not an assault rifle or an assault weapon, as it is not fully automatic. It is a modern sporting rifle for civilian use and is popular among recreational and competitive target shooters, hunters, and gun enthusiasts.

What Are The Main Use Cases For An AR-15?

The AR-15 is a versatile firearm used in various activities, including:

  • Hunting
  • Varminting
  • Sport shooting (such as 3-gun competitions)
  • Recreational target practice
  • Home Defense

Which AR-15 Is Best For Hunters?

When looking at an AR-15 for hunting, you want an AR that provides a perfect balance between performance, maneuverability, and durability. Based on these factors, I would opt for the Daniel Defense DDM4v7 or the Smith & Wesson M&P Sport II.

Which AR-15 Is Best For Range Shooters?

For range shooting, you want to prioritize accuracy and comfortability. After all, range shooting sessions can get long, and you don’t want a rifle that eats away your shoulder with an uncomfortable buttstock. My preferred choice for range shooting is the Daniel Defense DDM4v7, followed by BCMs RECCE-16.

Which AR-15 Is Best For Self Defense?

Any AR-15 rifle will be suited for self-defense, but if you want an AR solely for self-defense, then I would go for the SOLGW 10.5″ AR-15, as it is easy to maneuver and still provides excellent accuracy. Alternatively, I would choose the budget-friendly Del-Ton Sierra 316L AR-15 Rifle or the FN America FN15 5.56 AR-15 Patrol Carbine.

What Factors Make A Great AR-15?

When we rate AR-15s, we look at various factors to determine the quality of the rifle. These factors include:

  • Quality and Reliability: The AR should feature high-quality components and have a reputation for reliability.
  • Accuracy: The AR-15 should have good inherent accuracy, allowing for precise shot placement. We always test the rifle under various shooting conditions, on the range and in the field.
  • Ergonomics: An AR-15 should have a comfortable and ergonomic design, with features such as adjustable stocks, ambidextrous controls, and a smooth trigger pull.
  • Customizability: Remember, this shooting platform is known for its modularity, allowing you to customize and personalize your rifle exactly to your preferences and needs. A great AR-15 should have a high level of customizability with various aftermarket parts and accessories available.
  • Versatility: The AR-15 should be capable of performing well in various shooting scenarios, whether it’s for recreational shooting, hunting, or self-defense. We know companies build ARs for different shooting situations, but a great AR-15 should perform well in all types of shooting situations, whether it is hunting, tactical, or self-defense.

What Are The Different Build Types Of AR-15s?

Here is a list of the 6 most common AR-15 types.

  1. M4gery: This build type closely replicates the look and features of the M4 carbine used by the military. They are very popular among avid military enthusiasts.
  2. Precision/Varmint: These AR-15 builds are designed for long-range shooting and accuracy. They typically have longer, heavier barrels and high-magnification scopes to improve accuracy at longer ranges. They’re primarily used for hunting small game and target shooting.
  3. SBR/Pistol: Short-barreled rifle (SBR) and pistol builds are compact, maneuverable options featuring barrels shorter than 16 inches and require a special tax stamp, while pistols have a brace instead of a stock. Their compact design makes them suitable for close-quarters engagements.
  4. Competition Builds: These AR-15s are designed for speed and accuracy in 3-gun competitions or other shooting sports. They often have match-grade barrels, extended handguards, lightweight components, and specialized triggers.
  5. Pistol Caliber Carbines: These AR-15s are chambered in pistol calibers like 9mm or .45 ACP. Pistol caliber carbines are very popular for home defense, plinking, and sometimes competition shooting.
  6. Featureless Builds: These are AR-15s designed to comply with restrictive firearm laws in certain states. They lack certain features commonly found on AR-15s, such as pistol grips or adjustable stocks.

Can You Upgrade An AR-15?

Yes, upgrading your AR-15 is fairly easy because of the AR-15 platforms modularity. There is a wide range of parts and accessories and AR-15 modifications, including different stocks, optics, handguards, triggers, or complete upper and AR-15 lower receivers.

Ultimately, the upgrade depends on what you want to improve – performance, ergonomics, or aesthetics – if you want to improve something, changes are there will be an upgrade for it.

What Are The Benefits Of Mounting A Red Dot Sight On An AR15?

Mounting a red dot sight on your AR-15 has so many benefits that I thought it necessary to write an article on the best red dot sights for AR15 with fixed front sight. Trust me, after you’ve experienced the benefits of shooting with a red dot, you’ll want to mount one as soon as possible! Some common benefits I experience include:

  • Quick Target Acquisition: The clear dot of a red dot allows for faster target acquisition compared to traditional iron sights, allowing you to shoot your targets much quicker.
  • Improved Accuracy: The simplicity of aiming with a red dot makes it a much more reliable aiming platform, as it allows you to maintain proper sight alignment and sight picture, leading to improved accuracy.
  • Versatility: Red dot sights allow you to shoot in more diverse shooting situations, including close-quarters, fast-paced shooting competitions, low-light conditions, or even long-range shooting.
  • Increased Field of View: Red dot sights allow you to shoot with both eyes open, which increases your peripheral vision and hence your field of view, allowing you to maintain situational awareness while aiming.

Can You Mount A Scope On An AR15 Rifle?

Yes, it is fairly easy to mount a scope on your AR15. Scopes greatly improve long-range precision, which is why I use one when hunting and varminting. You can find my take on the best scopes for AR15 with fixed front sight if you are interested in mounting a scope on your AR.

Which Is The Best Upper Receiver To Use On An AR-15?

I’ve tested a lot of upper receivers, from Aero Precision to TRYBE, but the best upper receiver has to be the Daniel Defense DDM4v7 16″ upper receiver. This upper receiver shines with its cold hammer-forged 16-inch barrel and DD-improved flash suppressor for enhanced stealth.

Its gas system length is perfect for ensuring reliable cycling and reduced wear. The free-floating MFR 15.0 handguard attached to the barrel nut provides excellent cooling, ergonomics, and modularity. The spacious rail system accommodates sights and accessories, while the GRIP-N-RIP charging handle caters to both left- and right-handed shooters.

Frequently Asked Questions

When Was The AR-15 Invented?

The AR-15 was invented in the late 1950s by American engineer Eugene Stoner. He developed the original design while working for the Armalite Corporation, and the rifle was designated as the Armalite Rifle model 15 (AR-15). The rifle featured a favorable gas tube length, weight, and performance for civilian as well as tactical use. This is why the U.S. military later adopted it and evolved the AR-15 into the M16 rifle.

Is it possible to get a reliable AR-15 without spending a fortune?

Yes, when looking at a reliable AR-15, you want to look for the type of gas system, such as the carbine length gas system and rifle length gas systems, the quality of the AR's construction, the reputation of the brand, and more. Highly reliable AR-15s that are affordable include the Springfield Armory Saint Victor, Del-Ton Sierra, and Smith & Wesson M&P.

Is it legal to own an AR-15?

Yes, it is legal to own an AR-15 in the United States, but laws vary by state. Some states have stricter regulations and bans on certain types of firearms, which is why you should make sure of the legality of owning an AR-15 in your specific state.

The Bottom Line

Investing in an AR-15 doesn’t necessarily mean spending a fortune. Whether it is the Sierra or DDM4v7, each of the eight rifles discussed here provides outstanding value for money, combining top-tier performance with affordability. Remember, the best AR-15 is one that meets your specific needs, so consider what you want from your rifle before making your final decision. Whether it is hunting, self-defense, or competitive shooting, with the right AR-15, you’ll have a trustworthy partner!

About the author

Charles Neser

I'm a life long hunter & gun lover. Currently pursuing my Master's Degree (M.Sc.) in Animal Nutrition at University of the Free State.

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