If you’re an American firearm enthusiast, odds are you’ve at least held an AR-15 at one point or another. This nigh ubiquitous rifle is popular for shooting competitions, hunting expeditions, and home defense all at the same time.

What’s that? You don’t have an AR-15 of your own? Well, we’d better solve that!

Even if you don’t already have an AR-15, there’s good news; several of the best AR-15 models ever to be produced are for sale in 2021. If you aren’t sure which AR-15 is right for you, read on; we’ll break down the best AR-15s for 2021 in detail below.

 

The Glory of the AR-15 Platform

The AR-15 or “ArmaLite Rifle 15” is one of the most popular sporting and tactical weapon platforms in the US and around the world. It’s a lightweight and semiautomatic rifle originally based on the larger AR-10 counterpart, which is more suitable for long-range tactical work. The AR-15 is so popular that it’s been nicknamed “America’s rifle”.

The AR-15 today sees a lot of action in official military tactical units, with hunters, and with sporting shooters everywhere. It’s prized primarily because of its versatility and relatively low weight. Additionally, fans of firearms are able to modify their AR-15 weapons according to their unique needs and tastes.

Practically every major part of the core AR-15 platform is modifiable to some degree, including the barrel, trigger, stock, and more. You can, of course, add a ton of different muzzle and sight attachments if you choose. In many ways, the AR-15 is the counterpart to the widely-used AK-47.

Despite its customization, many people prefer to purchase prebuilt AR-15 platforms so they can take them out of the box, set them up and zero them with their favorite optics, and get to shooting right away. Luckily, there are tons of ready-to-go AR-15s available from some of the most popular firearm manufacturers, including Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, and more.

 

What to Look for in an AR-15

The fact that there are dozens of quality AR-15 platforms available is both good and bad. It’s excellent since it means there’s a platform for practically every shooter regardless of experience level or preferences. It’s not so good since it means beginners may not know which rifle to buy.

As you shop for a new AR-15 rifle, keep these major factors in mind and you’ll choose a rifle that’s perfect for your requirements.

 

Barrel Steel Quality

You’ll first want to make sure that your AR-15 is made of quality steel, particularly when it comes to the barrel. Barrel steel of 4150 grade or better is the way to go to ensure long-term durability and performance, especially when you consider that you’ll eventually fire thousands of cartridges.

While you can go with cheaper 4140 steel if you have a tighter budget, expect to perform more maintenance on your AR-15 over its lifespan. You’ll also want to look for stainless steel barrels if possible, particularly if you are looking for a precision or match-ready AR-15 for shooting competitions.

Bottom line: high-quality stainless steel results in more durability and greater consistency. More consistency, naturally, means more accuracy.

 

Twist Rate

Speaking of accuracy, you should also consider the twist rate an AR-15 comes with. The twist rate refers to how many inches a bullet moves per turn in the barrel. For example, a barrel with a 1:10” twist means that the rifle barrel spins the bullet one full revolution every 10 inches.

The more spin that an AR-15 has, the more accurate your shots will be at a distance. Spinning stabilizes a bullet’s flight path and makes it more resistant to wind or movement. Don’t be fooled by higher numbers; “more” spin means the right number will be lower. A rifle with a twist rate of 1:5” spins a bullet more frequently than a rifle with a twist rate of 1:10”.

We’d recommend looking for an AR-15 with a twist rate of either 1:7” or 1:8” at minimum. However, as your bullets become heavier or have higher grains, you’ll need a faster twist rate to compensate.

 

Handguards and Rail

It’s also a good idea to look at the handguards and mounting rails that a given AR-15 may come with. While plastic handguards are fine for most people (and very budget-friendly), those made with sturdier polymers are better for durability.

When it comes to rails, free-floating rail systems are usually superior compared to non-free-floating rails. Free-floating rails give you extra room to attach accessories or sights, and they don’t interfere with the barrel during the firing process. Such a design passively boosts your accuracy.

If you already have several accessories or optics you want to add to your AR-15, make sure that they are compatible with a given rifle’s rail system (usually Weaver or Picatinny).

 

Trigger Type and Pull Weight

Lastly, check out an AR-15 rifle’s trigger and the required pull weight before buying it. Some triggers offer a “crisp” feel with each pull, while others may require more finger strength to squeeze off a round. Light triggers can feel nice but require more finger discipline to use effectively.

This aspect is largely down to your personal preference.

 

The 10 Best AR-15 Rifles

With all that out of the way, let’s break down 10 of the best AR-15 rifles you can buy in 2022.

1. Ruger AR-556

Ruger’s AR-556 is a top-tier AR-15 option for a variety of reasons, including its matte black oxide finish. The finish provides the rifle with fantastic corrosion resistance. You’ll certainly also appreciate the fantastic barrel: a cold hammer-forged model 16 inches in length with fantastically precise rifling to ensure excellent long-range accuracy.

The rifle has many other top-tier elements and design features as well, like handguards over the barrel made of glass-filled nylon. This special material is heat resistant, keeping your hands safe and secure even after repeated shots. The synthetic buttstock is M4-style, so fans of the M4 rifle will feel right at home when using this rifle.

Other aspects, including a dust cover, elevation adjustable fixed front sights and flip-up rear sights, make this a relatively affordable and well-rounded AR-15 model for practically everyone.

Specs:

  • Price: $821.99
  • Caliber: 5.56 x 45mm NATO
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length: 16 inches
  • Weight: 6.5 lbs

2. Bravo Company Recce 14 MCMR

Bravo Company Mfg makes several different models of AR-15, but the Recce is our favorite. Chambered for 5.56 NATO rounds with a typical asking price of around $1500, this AR-15 features a chrome-lined barrel, making it great for tactical or target shooting purposes.

It also includes a PNT trigger, Magpul MOE handguards, and a shot-peened bolt. These components are all bolstered by the 11595E certified steel barrel, ensuring excellent longevity and shooting consistency.

The barrel comes with venting to keep heat low while both the top and bottom of the barrel are fitted with rails for adding laser sights, optics, and more. In short, the Bravo Company Recce is very customizable and versatile, just like the AR-15 overall.

Specs:

  • Price: $1,499.99
  • Caliber: 5.56 x 45mm NATO
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length: 14.5 inches
  • Weight: 6.3 lbs

3. American Tactical Imports AR-15

American Tactical Imports’ AR-15 Milsport Ria is a mil-spec and M4-style rifle with a 16-inch barrel and a twist rate of 1:8″, which is great for ensuring long-range accuracy. More importantly, the AR-15 comes with a flash hider by default, as it is threaded onto the end of the muzzle out of the box.

Also nice are the 7075 aircraft-grade aluminum upper and lower receivers. This material keeps the weight of the rifle relatively low without compromising durability or heat resistance. Those who try this rifle will also appreciate the collapsible synthetic stock, which allows you to extend or compress it as needed.

This AR-15 is optics ready, so it’s easy to add a red dot sight or scope on top of the receiver via the Picatinny rail. The only downside is that optics aren’t installed by default, so it’s up to you to pay for these aftermarket attachments if you don’t have some already.

Specs:

  • Price: $847.99
  • Caliber: 5.56 x 45mm NATO
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length: 16 inches
  • Weight: 6 lbs.

4. Daniel Defense DDM4 V7

Daniel Defense’s DDM4 V7 AR-15 is one of the highest quality platforms you can find. It comes with M-Lok attachment technology out-of-the-box, plus a 16-inch cold hammer-forged barrel with an integrated flash hider.

For extra reliability, the DDM4 V7 uses a mid-length gas system. Also included is a Picatinny rail on top of the free-floating handguard (remember, a free-floating handguard improves consistency and accuracy for the barrel). There are seven M-Lok attachment points in total, making this one of the most modifiable and aftermarket-ready AR-15s you can find.

The rifle also comes with Daniel Defense’s stock and pistol grip, which can’t be found anywhere else.

Specs:

  • Price: $2,162.00
  • Caliber: 5.56 x 45mm NATO
  • Barrel Length: 18 inches
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Weight: 7.4 lbs.

5. Wilson Combat AR-15 Protector

Wilson Combat’s AR-15 Protector is just as good as the company’s broader range of 1911 pistols. This match-grade rifle is designed with a precision rifle barrel made of stainless steel with a Q-Comp muzzle at the end. This attachment, which you don’t have to install, reduces recoil, ensuring excellent stability and accuracy, especially for beginner shooters or marksmen.

But this AR-15 rifle also features a two-stage tactical trigger. The trigger provides a very crisp pull and great sensitivity, so it’s a rifle you can grow into as you become more skilled as well. The AR-15 overall features a modular design; taking it apart for maintenance and putting it back together is quick and simple.

The rifle’s other features are also nice, including a BCM pistol grip, a low-profile gas block, and an M-Lok compatible handguard. QD sling mounts let you wear this around your back and quickly bring it up to ready position if necessary.

Specs:

  • Price $2,099.95
  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length: 16 inches
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • Weight: 6 lbs

6. Rock River Arms LAR-15 Entry Tactical

With a middling asking price, the Rock River Arms LAR-15 is a basic but consistent AR-15 platform with a few excellent attachments already installed upon purchase. These include an A2 flash hider and Hogue grip, plus a two-stage trigger and a star safety selector you can use to practice trigger discipline and guarantee user safety.

Its attachment rail is separated into two distinct parts: one closer to the barrel muzzle and one closer to the flip-up sights. This unique design will appeal more or less depending on your preferences, but it’s certainly an interesting choice.

Specs:

  • Used Price: $1,199.99
  • Caliber: 5.56 x 45mm
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length: 16 inches
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • Weight: 7.5 lbs.

7. Smith & Wesson M&P-15 Sport II

Smith & Wesson’s M&P15 Sport II AR-15 is another budget-friendly option, designed for recreational sporting events or for tactical uses. It comes with an M-Lok Carbine length handguard, plus a Picatinny-style rail if you want to add attachments near the middle of the platform.

More importantly, it comes with a reasonably fast 1:9″ twist rate. While this rifle won’t be suitable for heavier bullets, it’ll be fine for the 5.56 NATO rounds it’s chambered for. We also like the Armornite finish the rifle comes with, which protects it from rust and corrosion.

The rest of the rifle’s features are similarly practical and useful, including a dust cover and a chromed firing pin that guarantees longevity and consistency. As an added bonus, you get a 30-round Magpul PMAG with your purchase for free.

Specs:

  • Price: $812.00
  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO/.223
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length: 16 inches
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • Weight: 6.45 lbs

8. Sig Sauer M400

Sig Sauer’s M400 TREAD Snakebite is quite an aesthetically attractive AR-15, featuring a titanium finish for lethal elegance. This rifle features a mid-length direct impingement operating system, and is standard with features normally only found in premium rifles.

For long-lasting durability, the rifle’s upper and lower receiver are made of hard coated anodized aircraft grade 7075 aluminum.

The Sig Sauer M400 TREAD has a full-length handguard. It is free floated and features lightning cuts for heat ventilation. Magpul’s MLOK attachments give the M400 TREAD a sleek, no-nonsense appearance. The handguard also features Magpul’s MLOK attachments.

Bolt release and safety controls are available on the lower receiver. The rifle’s barrel is made of stainless steel and has a natural stainless finish. It is also crowned with a 3-prong flash hider.

The M400 TREAD is the perfect choice if you are looking to buy your first AR15, or just for an upgrade at an affordable price. Make sure to get an optic! The rifle would be complemented by a low power variable scope or a reflex sight.

The M400 comes with a direct impingement system and can be picked up for less than $1000 from some manufacturers. All in all, it may be a great budget-friendly choice if you want an AR-15 you can rely on without breaking the bank.

Specs:

  • Used Price: $999.99
  • Caliber: 5.56 x 45mm NATO
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length: 16 inches
  • Overall Length: 35.5 inches
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • Weight: 7 lbs.

9. Zev Technologies Core Elite

ZEV CORE Elite Rifles are designed for serious shooters. They represent ZEV’s commitment to quality and performance. This rifle features ZEV’s high-quality aesthetics and controls, as well as functional upgrades that provide excellent performance on the range and in the field.

ZEV Wedge Lock hand guard provides a full length continuous top rail with M-LOK mounting system. The integrated anti-rotation pin ensures a consistently aligned and continuous top rail with the upper receiver. The forged upper and lower receivers are precision machined from 7075-T6 aluminum for strength and light weight, finished in true black type III class 2 hard coat anodize.

Specs:

  • Price: $1,826.72
  • Caliber: 223 Rem/5.56mm NATO
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length: 16 inches
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • Weight: 6.7 lbs.

10. Springfield Armory Saint Victor

 

Think of the Springfield Armory(r), Saint M-Lok (r) AR-15 rifle with B5 stock as a timeless classic that offers unflinching reliability. This reliable shot maker is kept on the right beat by its lightweight, mid-length direct gas impingement system. B5 Systems furniture is top-of-the-line.

It includes Type-23 Pgrip with extended-tang Type 23 with palm-filling ergonomics, enhanced SOPMOD Stock with integrated QD sling mountings, and no-slip cushioned BUTTpad. The 15-inch aluminum handguard is full-length and offers ample M-Lok(r), which can be used for accessories.

The barrel is 16 inches in length and has a chrome moly vanadium Melonite (r) coating. It features a 1:8 rate-of-twist, rifling, and rugged handling performance. The low-profile, adjustable flip-up sights allow for fast and accurate aiming. The type-III hardcoat anodized aluminum receivers are forged 7075 T6.

They have forward assistance and M4 feed ramps. The lower receiver has Accu-Tite(tm). tension system. Details include M16 bolt carrier with 9310 steel bolt and nickel-boron-coated GI Trigger, Carbine “H” heavy tungsten buffer. GI-style charging handle, ambidextrous safety button, and SA muzzle brake.

Springfield Armory Saint M.Lok B-5 Stock AR-15 rifle includes one 30-round Magpul(r), PMAG(r), Gen M3(tm), magazine.

Specs:

  • Price: $1,078.64
  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
  • Action: Semi-Automatic
  • Barrel Length: 16 inches
  • Capacity: 30+1 Round
  • Weight: 6.12 lbs.

Wrap Up

There’s an AR-15 for every American; all that’s left is for you to choose the rifle you like best. Our advice? Check out each of the above AR-15 rifles in even greater detail before pulling the proverbial trigger. Consider your budget, your shooting experience, and the level of customization you want. Do all that and you’ll be satisfied once you finally feel your rifle in your hands. Good luck!