Getting the Best AR-15 for Your Money
Derrek Sigler 04/05/20
The modern sporting rifle (MSR), based on Eugene Stoner’s Armalite Rifle, Model 15, is one of the most popular aiming and hunting rifles in the country. These adaptable, precise, and easy-to-maintain rifles are great for bench rest, three-gun, and other target shooting practices, as well as for hunting predators, wild boars, and varmint in smaller calibers than deer and other larger wild animals in larger caliber variants. With many, many versions of the AR-15 out there, which one should you get? Here’s a little help to get the best bang for your buck.
There are two common variants of the MSR – the AR-15 platform and the AR-10 platform. Most AR-15 rifles fire a version of the 5.56mm cartridge, such as the .223. There are other caliber offerings such as the .300 Blackout, .224 Valkyrie, .350 Legend, and even the .450 Bushmaster. The AR-10 is based on the 7.62 or .308 round, and its variants include the popular 6.5 Creedmoor. For the sake of appearance, most MSRs are grouped under the banner of the AR-15. Most Sagittarians shy away from it, but it is what it is.
* Note: This is nowhere near an exhaustive list of the best AR-15s. These are just a few of our favorites.
Springfield Armory Saint Victor
The original Springfield Armory, operated by the U.S. government to supply firearms to the military, played a role in developing the AR platform to compete with the M-14. Following the introduction of the AR platform (M-16), the government closed the armory in 1968. A private family brought back the name and principles of the armory and the Springfield Armory Company was founded in 1974 and is now a major player in the MSR- Field with the Saint Victor rifle. The Victor is a direct impact, medium length, low profile gas system rifle. It has a heavy tungsten buffer and a 16 inch chrome vanadium barrel with 1: 8 twist. Everything has a durable melonite finish and the rifle weighs a light 6.9 pounds. Customize and finish it top notch and this is a quality MSR that you should seriously consider.
Smith & Wesson M & P15 Sport II – Best Buy
The M&P Sport II is a simple, no-frills MSR and a great deal, especially in this combo kit that comes with a case and speedloader. The 16-inch 4140 steel barrel has a 1: 9.6 turn and an Armorlite finish. The rifle has sights and is optically ready with a Picatinny rail. The rifle weighs 6.45 pounds and is a great platform as it is or for people who want to add personalized accessories for a cool, bespoke construction. This MSR has all of the things that make it a best AR-15 purchase. It has a lightweight aluminum receiver and a 6-position CAR shaft. It still comes with the forward wizard, which some MSRs skip over these days. The combination of values is under $ 700 so is a great option.
FN Herstal FN-15 Sporting – Editor’s Choice
People often ask why some MSRs cost a lot more than others. The FN is one of those rifles. It starts with absolute precision. FN Herstal developed the FN-15 Sporting for competition and for those shooters looking for a premium target and hunting rifles, this is it. The FN-15 is chambered in .223 and has an 18-inch, match-grade, cold-hammer-forged, chrome-plated barrel. These are the barrels that people pay to have them made to measure. The direct impact rifle comes with aftermarket extras like a SureFire ProComp 556 muzzle brake to reduce muzzle rise. FN also included a Magpul handle and buttock, as well as a 15-inch Samson Evolution handguard. The result is a bespoke, high-precision rifle that is perfect for competition shots. The FN-15 is easily one of the best AR-15s for your money.
The .450 Bushmaster began by extracting a large chunk of lead from an AR platform rifle. We tested one of the very first .450 Bushmaster ARs to hit the market years ago and found this to be a great take on the .45/70 ballistics in an MSR. The hype was short-lived as the round was not widely accepted. Then, in recent years, it has regained popularity as many rifle-restricted states began allowing straight-walled rifle cartridges for deer hunting. Suddenly, the .450 Bushmaster is a big deal again. The original rifle is a good option. It features a 16-inch barrel made of 4150 chrome-moly steel with a 1:24 inch rotation that has been FNC treated for maximum durability and longevity. This 6 pound rifle comes with a 5 round magazine and is one of the best AR-15 options for hunters looking for big game performance on the MSR platform.
Savage MSR15 Recon LRP
Savage has reached the MSR field with multiple models designed to showcase the elements Savage is so known for – value and accuracy. This rifle is in the 224 Valkyrie, a variant of the .223 developed by Federal. The 224 is not the same as a .223 and they are not interchangeable. The brass is different as the 224 is said to be a bit more powerful and perform better at greater distances. The rifle has an 18-inch barrel, free-floating handguard, and a two-stage trigger that makes the longer, calculated shots easier. These are really great rifles for all types of target shooting and competition, such as three-cannon rifles. It’s also a spectacular predator and varmint rifle as the 224 is a long-range flat-shooting option for coyotes.