The Best Complete AR-15 for the Money

The Best AR-15 Cover Photo

In this guide, we'll be covering everything you need know about AR-15s, including our picks for the best ones. We've broken the picks down by manufacturer so that you can find the best AR-15 for the money at any budget.

Preview

BCM RECCE-16 (Overall Best AR-15)

BCM Recce-16 Preview (Best Overall Ar-15)

$1299.00

Prices accurate at time of publishing

PSA (Best Budget AR-15 Manufacturer)

PSA AR-15 (Best Budget Manufacturer)

From $469.99

Prices accurate at time of publishing

AERO AC-15M (Best M4 Style AR-15)

Aero-AC-15M Preview

$689.99

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Best AR-15 Manufactuers

Before covering our picks, here's a quick breakdown of the best AR-15 manufacturers that we feel comfortable recommending:

Best Overall AR-15 Manufacturers:

  • Bravo Company (BCM)
  • Daniel Defense
  • Colt
  • Knight Armament
  • LWRC
  • Larue
  • Rainier Arms
  • Lewis Machine & Tool (LMT)
  • Noveske
  • Yankee Hill Machine
  • SIG Sauer

Best Mid Tier and Budget AR-15 Manufacturers:

  • Aero Precision
  • Palmetto State Armory
  • Smith & Wesson
  • Bushmaster
  • Rock River Arms
  • FNH
  • Anderson
  • Ruger

Note: This list may not be as exhaustive or all encompassing compared to some other lists on the internet. That's because we've chosen to only list brands that we've put a significant number of rounds down range with. Manufacturers in bold are brands that we use very regularly and are our personal preferences.

If we left off your favorite brand, feel free to let us know why we should try it out.

Bravo Company (BCM)

Starting this list off is Bravo Company (BCM). BCM is in my opinion the current front runner for producing the best AR-15s for the money. While not necessarily the best AR-15 money can buy, all of their parts are extremely high quality, dependable, and light weight at a great price for what you're getting.

Thanks to their focus on reliability, a Bravo Company AR is perfect as a duty weapon, home-defense gun, or SHTF weapon—or just a range toy. The company has supplied numerous military branches, as shown in the screenshot below:

Bravo Company (BCM) Customers

Though I don't currently own a complete BCM rifle, most of my AR-15s have either a BCM upper, BCM rail, or BCM bolt carrier group. For those of you building an AR-15, you'll find many BCM parts in our AR-15 parts list and specific favorite products lists.

My BCM Upper, Custom Lower AR-15 Pistol Build

My BCM Upper, Custom Lower AR-15 Pistol Build

With all of that said, here are some fantastic complete BCM AR-15s.

BCM RECCE-16 KMR-A AR-15 Carbine

$1299.00 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Best AR-15 For the Money - BCM RECCE-16 Carbine

BCM's RECCE-16 Carbine is our choice for the best AR-15 for the money. The 1-7" twist 16" barrel is Mil-Spec 11595E and has a manganese phosphate finish. Depending on the position of the stock, the overall length is 32.5"-35.5".

The BCM RECCE-16 KMR-A (shown to the left) has a lightweight 15" KeyMod free-float handguard, helping to bring the overall weight of the rifle down to 6.1 lbs.

You can also find this same rifle with a MCMR (M-LOK) Handguard Here.

I'm a big fan of the long handguard in relation to its barrel length, and it's narrowness makes it easy to c-clamp grip.

The RECCE has a mid-length gas system, my personal preference for a barrel of this length.

Last to note as far as the upper is concerned, it has BCM's famous auto rated bolt carrier group (though this is of course a semi-automatic rifle).

Moving down to the lower receiver, it includes a pistol grip and stock that we've featured in the best pistol grips and the best AR-15 stocks. The trigger is BCM's Mil-Spec PNT single stage trigger. Though only a mil-spec trigger, it's one of the two best Mil-Spec triggers I've used.

  • Barrel Length - 16"
  • Overall Length - 32.5"-35.5"
  • Weight - 6.1 lbs
  • Gas System - Mid-Length

If you want a shorter barrel, while still staying above the 16" federal barrel length limit, BCM also offers this rifle with a 14.5" barrel with a MOD 1 Compensator permanently attached (combined over 16" limit). Check the price here.

BCM RECCE-14 KMR-LW

$1380.00 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

BCM RECCE-16 KMR-LW

If you're looking to stick with BCM quality but want to cut some ounces, there's the RECCE-16 KMR Light Weight. While similar to the above rifle, there are a few key differences.

The thinner profiled Enhanced Light Weight (ELW) barrel, along with a relatively short 13" free-float handguard, are the primary reasons for the firearm's reduced weight.

Although the BCM RECCE-16 KMR-LW is not the lightest AR-15 on our list, it's a great lightweight option that sacrifices little in terms of practicality.

  • Barrel Length - 16"
  • Overall Length - 32.5"-35.5"
  • Weight - 5.8 lbs
  • Gas System - Mid-Length

Again, there is also a version of this rifle with a 14.5" barrel with a permanently attached comp (see here).

Palmetto State Armory (PSA)Palmetto State Armory (PSA) Logo

For those of you on a budget, there's no shortage of relative newcomers to the AR-15 space producing them at more affordable prices. Our go-to recommendation for the best budget AR-15 manufacturer is Palmetto State Armory (PSA). At PSA, you can find complete AR-15s starting from under $500.

How is PSA so Cheap?

For starters, Palmetto State Armory makes nearly all of their parts from scratch in house. They also seem to focus on earning repeat customers by maintaining affordable pricing.

They are a fantastic company, that makes quality products, but there are a couple of things to note about PSA products.

First, their rifles are generally reliable and use Mil-Spec parts, but your unlikely to find anything exceptional. For example, a "lightweight" PSA rifle can be as much as 1-2 lbs heavier than high-end competitors.

Second, almost all manufactures seem to struggle to meet the demand for their products these days. As the go-to budget option, PSA products can sell out incredibly quickly. This may leave you waiting for products to come back in stock.

PSA is constantly coming out with new complete rifles, so be sure to check out all of their AR-15s here for the latest available options.

PSA 16in M-LOK Carbine 15in FF Handguard

$469.99 at PSA

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Best Budget AR-15 - PSA 16" M4 Carbine

Our recommendation is to go with Palmetto State Armory's 16" 1:7 twist barrel M4 carbine. The barrel material is 4150V chrome molybdenum vanadium steel.  The option shown to the left has a 15" free-float M-LOK handguard and a carbine-length gas system. PSA's BCG is auto rated.

The lower is made up of PSA MIL-Spec parts and has a 6-position adjustable stock.

All in all, this is a fantastic rifle for those on a budget or those buying their first AR-15. It's not the lightest rifle around and doesn't have the best controls available, but it's more than serviceable for the majority of people's needs. If you're looking to buy your first rifle, go cheap with this one until you figure out what you'd want to improve in your second AR-15.

  • Barrel Length - 16"
  • Overall Length - 32"+
  • Weight - 7 lbs
  • Gas System - Carbine-Length

If you've got something else in mind, but want to stick to a budget, check out the rest of PSA's complete rifles here.

Daniel DefenseDaniel Defense Logo

In recent years, Daniel Defense has been the most frequently recommended AR-15 manufacturer to those who can afford their price tags.

Since 2000, Daniel Defense has built an incredible reputation for their high-quality rifles, parts, and accessories. In particular, they're known for their cold hammer forged barrels and RIS II rail system—designed for the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

For those of you looking for a top-tier semi-automatic rifle that you don't have to build yourself, look no further than a complete Daniel Defense AR-15.

Danidel Defense DDM4V11 Black 16in Barrel

$1519.00 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Daniel Defense DDM4V11

The Daniel Defense DDM4V11 is the KeyMod handguard version of the popular DDM4 line. In the model shown left, the DDM4v11 has a 15" free-floating handguard over a 16" chrome moly vanadium steel, cold hammer forged barrel.

The gas system is a pinned mid-length system. As is the case for all BCGs so far, the DDM4's is auto rated.

The lower consists largely of Daniel Defense's own parts, including their glass-filled polymer pistol grip and buttstock. This is also the first AR-15 on our list with an ambidextrous safety selector, something I prefer on my rifles. If you're like me, this saves you from having to make this upgrade.

This is a fantastic all-around rifle, nearly perfect as it comes, especially compared to some of the other AR-15s on our list. The only potential upgrade I'd consider making is the trigger.

  • Barrel Length - 16"
  • Overall Length - 32.25"-35.875"
  • Weight - 6.2 lbs
  • Gas System - Mid-Length

Sick of the usual Black AR-15 Look? You can also get the DDM4V11 in their "Tornado" and "Mil Spec + Cerakote" finishes.

Daniel Defense DDM4v11 Tornado 16in

$1519.00 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Danidel Defense DDM4V11 Mil Spec Plus 16in Barrel

$1519.00 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Aero PrecisionAero Precision Logo

As the name suggests, Aero Precision has a history in aerospace engineering and machining since the early 1990's. In more recent years, they've brought their extreme attention to detail to the firearms industry.

Like Palmetto State Armory, Aero Precision makes the majority of parts in house, while bringing with them a longer track record of manufacturing. As a result of this, Aero Precision comes at slightly higher prices, though is still very affordable.

The only criticism against the company is that they struggle to keep up with the demand for their products, so it's hard to find their complete AR-15s in stock. In addition to their own website, you may also want to check out Brownells.

Aero AC-15M

From $689.99 at Aero Precision

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Aero AC-15M

Though I'm personally not a fan of fixed front sight bases, the AERO AC-15M is our choice for the best budget AR-15 in this category. It has a mid-length gas system and an A2 pinned front sight block. It also comes with a Magpul MBUS rear flip-up sight.

The barrel is 16" (1:7 twist rate) and made of 4150 chrome moly vanadium steel. Over the barrel is a standard M4 mid-length drop in handguard with heat shield.

The Aero Precision-built lower has a flared magwell, a standard Mil-Spec buffer system, and a standard M4 collapsible stock.

  • Barrel - 16"
  • Weight - 6.3 lbs
  • Gas System - Mid-length

Aero Precision also makes the regular AC-15, with a carbine-length gas system and handguard.

Aero Precision AR15 M4E1

From $939.99 at Aero Precision

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Aero AR15 M4E1

The M4E1 from Aero Precision is more my style, with a free-float handguard over its 16" barrel. You can choose the length of your handguard at check out.

Unlike the AC-15M, the M4E1 has a low-profile gas block, though it shares the AC-15M's mid-length gas tube.

The lower also has some upgrades, using their "Enhanced Lower Parts Kit", which includes a Magpul MOE pistol grip and Magpul STR Stock.

As far as complete rifles go, the M4E1 is a strong contender for the best AR-15 under $1,000.

Colt

The creator of the military's M4 Carbine, Colt, has long been known for making fantastic AR-15s for civilian use. While some manufactures have arguably been more innovative in recent years, many gun owners continue to go back to Colt as a name they can trust.

Colt LE6920

$989.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Colt LE6920 Law Enforcement Carbine

With it's fixed front sight base and traditional handguard, the Colt LE6920 is a more classic-looking AR-15. It has a 1:7 twist 16" chrome-lined barrel, an A2 flash hider, and a carbine-length gas system. Unlike most of the rifles on our list, it also comes with a rear Magpul flip-up sight.

As you may be able to tell from our other top picks, I'm not the biggest fan of fixed front sight bases.

I prefer to run a red dot with backup flip-up front and rear sights (see the best red dot sights here). Still, many others like the dependability of a fixed front sight, so go for it if that's Colt Logoyour thing.

This is definitely an extremely high-quality rifle, but I prefer a longer M-LOK or KeyMod handguard.

  • Barrel Length - 16.1"
  • Overall Length - 35.5"
  • Weight - 6.95 lbs
  • Gas System - Carbine-Length

Faxon Firearms

Faxon FX5500 Ultralight AR15

$1994.00 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Lightest AR-15 - Faxon FX5500 Ultralight AR-15

This is the lightest complete "full-sized" AR-15 from a manufacturer that I've seen, at just 4.95 lbs. While it likely isn't the absolute lightest available, Faxon hasn't done anything too gimmicky to get it below the 5 lb mark.

The FX5500 has a 14.5" pencil barrel with a permanently welded 3-port muzzle brake, meeting the minimum 16" length for a rifle. Covering the barrel and adjustable gas block is Faxon's 13" carbon fiber M-LOK handguard.

All parts of the upper are made by Faxon—including the lightweight bolt carrier group—with the exception of the Radian Raptor LT ambi charging handle.

Faxon used more parts from other manufactures for the lower, but chose wisely. The trigger is a HiperFire EDT3, which is pretty great compared to what's in other complete AR-15s. They've also chosen one of my personal favorite stocks, the MFT Minimalist Stock. Last to note is, like the Daniel Defense rifles, the FX5500 has an ambi safety selector.

I own one of these and love it, but there's a few things to know before spending this much on the FX5500.

Faxon AR-15

My Faxon FX5500

First off, the good: If you haven't experienced shooting a sub-5 lb rifle, the difference between this and a 6 lb rifle is really noticeable. It feels extremely light, yet it's remarkably easy to shoot, in part due to the 3-port muzzle brake.

The quality in engineering and machining is exceptional, exactly what you'd hope for out of a $2k firearm.

This is a great rifle for messing around at an outdoor range. It's also great for introducing new or physically weak shooters to the AR-15.

With that said, there is a cost to making a rifle this light, that's also easily manageable to shoot: It gets hot! After a number of quick magazines, you'll have to move your grip down the handguard, put on gloves, or even grip it by the magazine. It's also going to really start to lose accuracy at this point.

The muzzle brake is also really loud and blows A LOT of hot air to the sides. If you shoot this at an indoor range, the person next to you is going to hate you, especially when they bring their target in and you're blowing a tornado onto it.

So it should be clear by this point, this rifle won't be seeing any use in serious combat any time soon. If you're looking for any sort of duty weapon, keep looking.

With that said, it could still be perfect for you, depending on what you're looking for. Personally, I love it and will continue to shoot it weekly.

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