Best AR-15 Under $1,000 [2021]

AR-15s aren’t always the cheapest rifles you can buy for personal use. But if you don’t want to go for premium models, you can still find fantastic value if you know where to look. Some of the better AR-15s for under $1,000 may definitely surprise you with longevity, performance, and feel. If you’re in a rush and just want to see our top options, here they are.

Best AR-15s Under $1,000

PSA Bushmaster XM-15 Standard A2 Patrolman Carbine

PSA is one of the best AR-15 brands for many reasons. The manufacturer makes reliable weapons and reduces costs by not using too many stylish and unnecessary design features.

BUSHMASTER XM-15 STANDARD - 16 A2 PATROLMAN'S CARBINE 5.56 SEMI-AUTOMATIC AR-15 RIFLE - 90216>>Palmetto State Armory (Check Price)<<

>>Guns.com (Check Price)<<

The six-position stock and single-stage trigger make this a comfortable and rapid semi-automatic rifle. One of my favorite features is the 4150 CMV barrel. It increases both durability and accuracy. Plus, it makes it much easier to maintain.

The fact that it comes with an A2 flash hider and an M16 bolt carrier sweetens the pot. I also like the dual aperture sight system. This model allows for both wind and elevation adjustments.

You may also appreciate the simple and functional design. It’s one of the easiest rifles to take apart and reassemble. And you can make lots of customizations in grips, stocks, triggers, mounts, and so on.

It’s also unnecessary to look far and wide for accessories. Bushmaster provides varied kits you can use to enhance the performance of your XM-15 model.

Pros

  • Reliable enough for government work
  • Highly customizable
  • High-end 4150 CMV barrel
  • Dual aperture rear sight system

Cons

  • The handguard may pose issues after continuous use

Ruger 556

The Ruger 556 is not your garden variety best budget AR-15. It’s a uniquely designed weapon with impressive stopping power and robust construction.

Ruger AR556 AR15 Semi-Auto Rifle

>>Sportsman’s Warehouse (Check Price)<<

>>Guns.com (Check Price)<<

From the start, you may notice a different front sight. It’s not cast-made but actually an aluminum component. It takes some getting used to. But it also offers the benefit of allowing you to attach a quick sling.

The bolt works exceptionally well. I find this comforting as it compensates for the tight slot. Another impressive design feature is the overall mechanism. Unlike many other Ruger firearms, the AR-556 actually follows AR-15 specs to a tee.

This gives it that easy to customize allure. I also appreciate opting for a 1:8 twist barrel as it caters to both heavy and light rounds. If you’re a true outdoorsman, you may also appreciate saving a few bucks on a dust cover.

Yes, the Ruger AR-556 already comes with one that keeps it safe from dust and dirt. The rifle lacks ambidextrous features, so it’s not for everyone. But it’s still comfortable enough to shoot due to the adjustability of the buttstock. What you may not like is the non-adjustable two-stage trigger.

Pros

  • Customizable AR-15 mechanism
  • Dust cover included
  • 1:8 barrel twist for heavy and light rounds
  • Very reliable bolt

Cons

  • Heavy trigger action
  • Not ideal for lefties

Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport II

One of the most versatile rifles, the M&P 15 Sport II makes a strong argument for the best AR-15 under $1,000. It’s a rather basic gun, but it’s enjoyable to shoot and surprisingly lightweight.

Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport II Rifle

>>Primary Arms (Check Price)<<

>>Sportsman’s Warehouse (Check Price)<<

>>Palmetto State Armory (Check Price)<<

>>Guns.com (Check Price)<<

It follows a classic platform and shoots 5.56 or 223 Remington rounds with ease. The 1:9” barrel twist offers a reasonable twist rate for both heavy and light caliber bullets. However, it’s a smidge slower than other AR-15s on this list.

While I’m a fan of this rifle, I’m not keen on its handguard. The absence of a heat shield is not ideal for continuous shooting. Luckily, an upgrade won’t put you over the $1,000 threshold.

A detailed analysis of the M&P 15 Sport II shows that the manufacturer used high-quality components. It ticks most checkboxes, which is surprising for this price point. Even though some users may prefer a heavy chrome lining, the Sport II does well without it.

The rounded winter trigger guard and the 4lbs weight offer a pleasant shooting experience. And although slightly barrel-heavy (due to the M4 profile), it’s still an effortless rifle to use.

Pros

  • A2 flash hider included
  • Versatile 1:9 twist rate
  • No sharp recoil
  • Very reliable components
  • Doesn’t lack modularity

Cons

  • No lining or handguard shielding
  • A bit barrel-heavy

Springfield Armory Saint Free-Float

When Springfield introduced its first entry-level AR-15, it made a big splash. The second model, the Saint Free-Float, improves on many aspects of the original design. All while still remaining one of the best budget AR-15 rifles.

Springfield Saint 5.56mm NATO 16in Black Semi Automatic Rifle

>>Sportsman’s Warehouse (Check Price)<<

>>Guns.com (Check Price)<<

With its 1:8” twist rate, it hits the sweet spot for most round weights. It easily dispatches 223 and 5.56 ammunition at incredible speeds.

The M4 feed ramps and forward assist make it a comfortable-to-use weapon. I think its standout feature is the Accu-Tite Tension System. It’s a proprietary Springfield mechanism that reduces trigger play to increase stability and accuracy.

The rifle is a top contender for the best AR-15 for the money title. Furthermore, it also has very low recoil due to a heavy H buffer. A fine addition, given that most alternatives in this price range use standard carbine buffers.

I also recommend this model for its free-floating handguard. The single-point attachment design solves heating issues and makes it better for dumping mags.

Pros

  • Free-floating handguard
  • Accu-Tite Tension System
  • Heavy H buffer
  • 1:8” twist rate

Cons

  • Slightly heavier despite its outstanding balance
  • Right under the $1,000 limit

Armalite M15 Light Tactical

You can find this AR-15 rifle in a few variations. I recommend the M15 Light Tactical model with a 30+1 round capacity and barrel length of 16”.

Armalite M-15 Light Tactical Carbine Rifle

>>Sportsman’s Warehouse (Check Price)<<

>>Guns.com (Check Price)<<

It offers the best price to performance ratio in the Armalite M15 lineup and sufficient firepower. Its design follows the factory AR-15 blueprint to a tee. There’s nothing too innovative about the engineering of this gun, with one exception.

I would argue that the 10” KeyMod handguard is a nice feature. It solves some comfort and heating issues.

The A2 trigger guard is ok, but nothing to write home about. For the money, I would’ve loved to see this upgraded to something better. You may also notice some stiffness when clearing an unfired round.

Luckily, Armalite designed a reliable rifle, so misfires don’t happen often enough for this to become a problem.

The six-position stock allows the same adjustments as most AR-15s. So why recommend this rifle at all?

It’s among the most reliable shooters for under $1,000. If you want a close-to-factory, unmodified AR with sustainable accuracy and well-machine components, Armalite delivers.

Pros

  • Hard anodized aluminum
  • Innovative KeyMod handguard
  • 30+1 capacity
  • 16” barrel with a 1:9” twist

Cons

  • A2 trigger guard
  • Slower to clear misfired rounds

Stag Arms Model 15 M4

The Model 15 M4 may have relatively simple features, but don’t let that fool you—it’s an excellent budget AR-15. Outstanding characteristics of the Model 15 M4 Carbine include a 1:7-inch twist rate and a military-grade design. 

STAG ARMS - STAG 15 M4 5.56>>Brownells (Check Price)<<

>>Guns.com (Check Price)<<

A chrome-lined barrel prevents corrosion, and the Model 15 M4 has a Magpul MOE trigger guard. It has a 30-round capacity and weighs under seven pounds.

It’s a great starter gun for anyone wanting to try their hand at AR-15s. The Model 15 M4 has a 16-inch barrel and can accommodate .223, although it works best with the 5.56 NATO.

The best feature that makes the M4 truly a great value for its price is that it comes with an Infinite Shot Barrel Guarantee. The manufacturer promises that should you use your weapon enough to the point where it has irreparable wear and tear on the barrel, they’ll rebarrel it for free.

It’s those little perks, plus a transferable lifetime warranty, that help the Stag Arms rank on our list of the best ARs at this price point. Plus, if you’re rough on your weapon, you’ll appreciate the extra attention Stag Arms offers.

Pros

  • Enhanced trigger guard
  • Built to U.S. Army M4 standards
  • Right or left-handed ejection
  • Ultra-slim profile to improve ergonomics

Cons

  • Not ideal for tactical operations
  • Some people don’t like the thermoplastic handguard

Radical Firearms Hbar Contour M4

Economical but mighty, the Radical Firearms Habar contour has law enforcement grade upper receivers and mil-spec lower receivers. Radical Firearms doesn’t skimp on the quality of its materials for their AR-15—the bolt heads are MIL-STD, and the rifle has a custom-made forward guard shield (FGS). It also has a .750 low-profile gas block.

RADICAL FIREARMS - RIFLE 16 7.62X39 HBAR CONTOUR, 12 FGS, M4 COLLAPSIBLE STOCK>>Brownells (Check Price)<<

>>Guns.com (Check Price)<<

Thanks to a free-float handguard, your hands won’t heat up. With the support of an FGS rail, you can add attachments in addition to those you may put on the Picatinny rail. Finally, the bolt carrier groups have a beautiful Melonite with a more durable finish than chrome.

Radical Firearms’ M4 is dependable, too, earning high marks for its performance over time. One catch is that feeding issues can come up, but that’s a common issue across a few models. The fix is simple, too; an enhanced firing pin is a cheap yet effective means of eliminating feeding mishaps.

For details about building a Radical Firearm, take a look at this YouTube video.

Pros

  • 4150 Chromoly Vanadium Steel barrels
  • Flash hider muzzle
  • Direct impingement style
  • Removable magazine type

Cons

  • Feeding issues can occur

How to Choose the Best Type of AR-15

Picking out the right AR-15 takes time. When choosing their firearm, AR-15 owners should consider:

  • Company reputation
  • Quality of the materials
  • Accessibility of customer service

Additionally, you should decide the specifications that are must-haves for you. Generally, high-quality AR-15s will have most or all of the following features:

  • Mil-Spec 11595E Barrel Steel
  • 5.56 NATO or .223 Wylde chamber
  • HPT bolt and barrel
  • Cold hammer forged barrel
  • Chrome lined barrel
  • Shot-peened bolt

The good news? Just because you purchase a budget-friendly AR-15 doesn’t mean that you can’t receive some of these essential rifle qualities.

What Are the Advantages of AR-15s?

There are numerous benefits of using an AR-15. One of gun enthusiasts’ most favorite parts is that the AR-15 offers an impressive amount of accuracy. They provide better stability than handguns and shotguns because they have several points of contact. You might have a carry handle or charging handle that allows for better grip, versus a flat top. ARs are also excellent for long-distance shooting.

Want to learn more about owning an AR-15? Check out this video.

Things to Look for When Purchasing an AR-15

The first thing to consider before buying an AR-15 is what you’ll be using it to do. For example, target shooters will want an AR-15 with a heavy barrel. Hunters will need a caliber like the 6.5 Grendel or .300 Blackout. If you’re looking for an all-purpose rifle, an M4-style stock might be best for you.

It’s also important to consider the twist rate you need, which is how much spin a bullet has when leaving the rifle. Often, lighter bullets work better on looser twists and vice versa with heavier bullets. Rifling will have an effect too, of course.

Materials

While many AR-15s under $1K use less expensive materials, that doesn’t always mean they’re cheap. A chrome-lined barrel is easy to maintain, but chrome-moly is also a popular option — with nitride, you’re looking at another price bump. 

And polymer lowers might be cheaper than alternatives, but depending on your habits, a polymer lower could last long enough for you to get your money’s worth. 

Consider Your Favorite Ammo

AR-15 rifles fire a wide range of bullets, depending on their specs. If you favor a particular caliber, make sure the rifle you’re looking at can shoot it. 

You’ll notice that the majority of AR-15s fire 233 Remington and 5.56 NATO rounds. Others feature 300 Blackout barrels and excel with BLK bullets. You can even find 7.62×39 caliber AR-15s.

There’s enough variety to make your head spin. Personally, I think there’s a good reason why 5.56 bullets are so popular in this niche. It’s a powerful enough bullet for many applications.

And there’s a great selection of rifles that cater to it, as well as the 233 Remington rounds. 

Known Handguard Issues

Even the best AR-15 brands sometimes fall into the same trap. On their budget or entry-level rifles, they don’t always pay attention to details.

Case in point, the melting handguard problem. It’s something as common in cheap ARs as the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

Many rifles require a handguard upgrade if you want to dump mags safely. But I’ve also found some interesting factory solutions for this common issue, which I’ll share in the review section.

Accuracy Vs. Reliability

This is an interesting debate point among gun enthusiasts. Yet, I have a very simple approach to it. You want the best of both worlds, almost all the time.

If you want a competition AR, you’re probably not shopping outside the premium range anyway. And yes, reliability is more important than accuracy in self-defense situations that require a civilian to use a rifle.

But if you can find a balance of both, why not spend the extra dollars to get it?

Don’t Stress Over Extra Perks

Everyone knows by now that the real power behind an AR-15 rifle is its modularity. It’s one of the most customizable and upgradeable guns on the planet.

That’s where it’s true strength lies. So while you have many options with iron sights, handguards, barrels, red dot sight, optics ready weapons, M-Lok rails, and so on, keep in mind you can always upgrade those to fit your preferred shooting style.

You also have the choice to get a custom Rock River rifle, but a complete rifle will probably run over budget. The same goes for a Brownells Retro unless you go for a custom build that’s not a complete model.

Round Capacity

You’ll get a better deal on a rifle if you buy one with a 20+1 or 10+1 capacity. I’d say don’t settle for less than 30+1.

Whether for defense, practice, competition, or anything in between, more rounds make the gun more dangerous and reliable.

Recoil Considerations

In general, the AR-15 doesn’t pack nearly the punch of a government issue M4, let alone an M16. But don’t assume that it has no recoil.

As you’ll soon find out, some manufacturers try to squeeze as much power as they can out of this civilian rifle. Using something like an H buffer can create a much sharper kickback than you expect.

Sure, it’s a lightweight rifle, but each model has its own unique quirks. A sharp recoil is often one of them. You can grab a suppressor for your AR, but they’re not legal in all 50 states.

Think about features like the carbine-length gas system and how that will impact recoil, too. Carbine-length can involve more recoil while mid-length involves less recoil and potentially getting more use out of your AR.

What’s the Best Way to Mount an AR-15?

Correct mounting is essential to use your AR-15 effectively. To start, place the buttstock tightly against the inside of your shoulder. Make sure to keep the buttstock high. Otherwise, you’ll have to lean down too much to look through the sights. 

It’s also important to have a good hold on the pistol grip since you’ll be firing quickly. To test whether you’re placing the correct amount of pressure, put increased pressure on the grip and reward force until your rifle starts wobbling. 

From there, slowly release the pressure until it stops moving, and voila! You’ve applied the correct amount of pressure. 

Addressing the Controversy: AR-15

There’s no doubt about it—an AR is a powerful weapon that needs to be in the right hands.

However, the AR-15’s bad rep in the U.S. isn’t entirely fair. AR-15s are semi-auto, meaning that you need to pull the trigger every time you want to fire. That differs from the M-16s, which continue to fire if you have your finger on the trigger.

Every state has different rules on who can purchase an AR-15. Still, many people believe that stricter policies are necessary. At the same time, other advocates say that it isn’t fair for AR-15s to have an “assault weapon” classification under the National Firearms Act

Precautions for Using the AR-15

The precautions for handling an AR-15 are much like the care you’d take with any other type of weapon. You should always set your weapon on safe whenever you’re not firing and keep your AR-15 locked up when you’re not using it. 

Regardless of what type of weapon you have, safety is crucial.

Conclusion 

In my opinion, all rifles on this list are great to shoot and are reliable. But if you have to pick just one, you have two options. Either go with the cheapest that will do the job or the best under the $1,000 mark.

I’d recommend the latter, so you ensure you squeeze every ounce of performance. By that logic, I put the Springfield Armory Saint Free-Floating model up there as the best AR-15 under $1,000.

Its cost to performance ratio may not be ideal, but its accuracy and comfort level are almost unmatched. It exceeds expectations in real-world scenarios and makes some interesting choices for a budget AR rifle. The heavy H buffer and handguard alone give it an excellent feel.

Add to that an innovative trigger system and the 1:8” twist rate, and you have yourself a very versatile civilian rifle for practice, home defense, and more.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on email
Email
Share on print
Print

Leave a Comment