The Best Budget Ar 15 Rifles

spikes punisher AR

by Eric

I sure do love the AR15. Well, okay, love might be a bit strong of a word. But I really do like them. They are such fun toys to play with. They are like the tinker toy of rifles. Click this on here, click that on there. Is there anything that can’t be customized on the AR15?

The AR15 as an economical SHTF/TEOTWAWKI Gun

The AR15 can be an economical choice for your SHTF/TEOTWAWKI rifle too. With that light 5.56/.223 cartridge you can shoot the AR15 all day long and never even get a sore shoulder.

Sure, you can spend a lot of money on an AR15, too much really. But you don’t have to. Really, to be honest, you don’t need to. All of the parts for AR15 rifles are made to the same tolerances and specifications, that’s why they are all interchangeable (NOTE: except for the Colt).

In the Colt AR, the fire control group pins WERE larger sizes than ALL other AR 15 rifles, but they changed them to match everyone else sometime recently. Sorry, but I don’t have the exact date when they made the change, I think it was around 2008-2009.

If you have an older Colt with the larger pins, you might have trouble finding replacement parts in the future. Because of this, I’d either get rid of it, or buy a few replacement parts now. If you aren’t sure you can either just measure them, or you can contact Colt with the serial number. The larger pins measure .170”, while the “normal”, smaller pins measure .154”

But really, we are discussing economically priced AR models, and the Colt is typically more expensive for no reason other than it says “Colt” on it. Oh, and it has a little horsey on it. I have owned Colt and Bushmaster ARs before they were not any better than any of the others, they just cost more.

Below is a picture of a Bushmaster I had. It was a great shooter, but it was not an off the shelf gun. The fire control group and barrel alone cost more than many new guns cost. It shot sub-MOA (no seriously, it did) with quality brass cased 55 grain fmj factory ammo, but it just wasn’t “fun” to shoot after awhile because I got bored sitting at the table.

Sub-MOA? What’s that you ask? Sub-MOA basically means the rifle is capable of firing a 3 shot group LESS than one inch in diameter. It could do it repeatedly, so it wasn’t just a fluke. Now, after a box of ammo on a hot day they spread out. Any gun will do that.

But if I shot a 3 shot group, cleared the gun, swabbed the bore, put it back together then shot again, I could keep it under one inch, repeatedly. As far as shooting it all day and running a couple hundred rounds through it. You could hit a “gallon milk jug” all day long at distances beyond any range I could shoot at.

bushmaster AR

Besides the Colt having different fcg pin sizes, really one could say that AR 15’s are all pretty much all the same. (Except for the polymer lower AR’s, I just don’t like those polymer lowers because, come on man, it’s plastic).

There are several economically priced AR15 rifles that can serve you well. However, once you buy the rifle, and start customizing it to your tastes, you can end up doubling the original price of the rifle before too long if you aren’t careful.

What can you do with you AR15 to personalize it

The first thing the new AR owner does is change the stock because you can change the stock very easily. Not to mention that there is almost literally an infinite selection of stock configurations for the AR15 rifle. They even have wood stocks in nearly infinite configurations for the AR15 now.

Besides the stocks you can change the hand guards. Tactical rails are my favorite because you can add cool little gadgets like “flare launchers”, lasers, flashlights, and under barrel mount shotguns.

You can put a bipod on it too. If you don’t have room left on your rail because of all the gadgets, there are barrel mount styles. They fit perfectly in that little “groove” around your M4 barrel. That is the perfect spot for a bi-pod.

Here’s a funny video of a guy making a joke about all the stuff people put on their ARs:

You can change the sights to any of an infinite number of options. My favorite is the reflex sight with flip up front and rear backup sights. I set mine up so that if the battery dies in the reflex you just pop the flip sights and then you can look right through the reflex and use the ol’ irons.

You can also use a red dot tube optic and have a flip scope on it. This works by flipping the magnifying scope to the side when firing at close range but when you need to make a farther away shot you just flip the scope over in front of the sight tube and fire away.

You can change the barrels to any of a number of styles of barrel. There are M4 barrels, which is basically the standard and works fine for normal shooting conditions. But then you can build yourself a longer range rifle by installing a longer, heavier barrel (like the stainless, compensated bull barrel that was in mine).

Then there are longer, heavier target barrels that are fluted to lose weight, and even a spiral twist fluted barrel. (Those are really cool looking). Then there are all of the limitless accessories that you can clip, snap, or screw on to your AR 15 rifle.

Here is a video comparing two custom builds. One was $3000, the other was $1000. Both overpriced if you ask me, although I have spent around $1200 building an AR before. It didn’t shoot any better than the $600 shelf gun:

Here is a picture of a Spikes Tactical Punisher build I did a few years ago. Shot great but I didn’t keep it long.

What is an economical AR15

Well, economical for different people can mean different things. Some people can go spend limitless money on a build and still consider it “economical” because they built it themselves rather than having a gunsmith build it for them. Personally, I consider an economical gun one that only costs $500-600 and WORKS.

If you spend $3000 on a build, and I buy an off the rack gun for $550 and they both will hit a pop can at 100 yards with ease, then you wasted a lot of money just to have a “cool looking” gun.

Let’s be honest, if we are saying economical then we aren’t building custom target rifles with $2500 scopes on them. When we say economical we are talking about a rifle that doesn’t cost a small fortune and will function reliably and fire accurately.

Does economical mean cheap

In my experiences with the AR 15 you can go to just about any Academy sports and buy an AR15 for about $500 if you catch them on sale. There are the M4 variants with a collapsible stock and they have a plastic vented hand guard. They are all flat black, plain looking, and they all have the same fire control and safety setup. You can buy the flat top version and then spend a couple hundred more dollars on sights and/or optics for it if you want.

But you can also buy the “classic style” A2 version with a 20” barrel, carry handle and post front sight. Or you can get the M4 A3 which has the carry handle and post front sight but has the 16” barrel rather than the 20” of the A2 and a collapsible stock.

Either of these rifles are ready to go out the door, meaning you don’t need to buy any sights or optics for it. All you need are some magazines and some ammo and you are ready to protect the homestead. Just because the rifle was inexpensive doesn’t mean it is a cheap gun. There are several manufacturers of AR 15 that you can get for well under $1000.

A few economically priced AR15 brands

I have owned a couple of the DPMS Oracle and Panther rifles and they were very good shooting guns. If you hold them side by side with any other AR15 of the same style you can’t tell them apart.

When you fire them at a target you can’t tell them apart because they all hit the target equally well and all function equally well.

There are Palmetto State Armory AR15 rifles that are economical, inexpensive, high quality rifles.

There is Doublestar, one of my favorites because they are made in my state. They are very good rifles at a low price point.

I currently own an Interarms High Standard (pictured below) that I paid around $600-$650 for. It was made in Texas, and I have fired thousands of rounds through it. Most of those were coming out “high speed” with my slidefire stock, and it has been flawless.

ar with launcher

Of course I upgraded the hand guard to a railed floating guard. Put the optics/flip sight set up on it I like, added a slidefire stock for fun and somehow that “flare launcher” wound up hanging under it. All in all it’s a blast to shoot.

Some other economical guns

Anderson Arms makes a decent gun at reasonable prices, although I have never personally fired one.

Of course the Smit and Wesson M&P variants aren’t too bad on the price and they are quality guns.

Ruger makes a good one too, still reasonably priced.

With the DPMS you can upgrade to a .308 caliber AR10 and still spend under $1000. These are very good guns. I have not owned one myself, I prefer the FAL for that caliber, but my cousin has one and he customized it to his tastes and loves it. it is a very good shooting rifle.

Final volley

My personal preference is for the flat top variants because I like to set mine up with the reflex sights and back up flip iron sights. But that’s just me. That’s the good thing about the AR15 is that they are infinitely customizable, so you can tailor yours to your tastes. They even make pink camo rifles if you want to get your wife one, or if you just want one for yourself.


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1 Comment

  1. Add to the “AR exception” rule. Early S&W MP-15 will not take ANY plastic magazines! Period. It does take any metal mags. If you get an early S&W, Check it before you buy! How about an honest response from S&W? Not a real problem with so many aluminum and steel mags out there, just would like an honest answer.

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