Top 5 AR-15s — A Definitive List from 2012

By Dave Dolbee published on in Firearms

Of course claiming a definitive list to AR enthusiasts is tantamount to using a .25 caliber to clear your sinus—but I thought it might get your attention and while you are here you might as well read on comment with your own list. Despite the efforts of the Antis, there has never been a better time to be a gun enthusiast than today.

Every famous model of gun in history got its start in the military or possibly law enforcement and filtered down to the hands of civilians and the AR-15 or MSR is no different. Which is better the Winchester Model 70 or Remington 700? At least the answer to that question is likely to bring a little more than a smile and few terse words. However, if you ask which AR platform is the best and you are likely to spark a conversation worthy of shaming the Hatfields & McCoys.

Never one to err on the side of caution, coupled with the fact Stoner’s design; the War on Terror; the explosion of 3-Gun competitions; the threat of another “Crime Bill” and a nation with a ravenous appetite for ARs here is my short list of must own ARs. In truth, while these are my top production models, it would really be hard to go wrong given the quality of today’s offerings. Here’s five in no particular order.

BCM M4 Carbine

Bravo Company's M4 CarbineThe BCM M4 Carbine is chock full of features that make it worthy of being a Top 5. One of the simplest, yet critical is the BCMGunfighter Charging handle. On the surface it seem minor. You pull it and a round gets chambered. If we look a bit deeper though into modern training doctrines and practices, it has us working the charging handle with our support hand while the primary hand stays on the pistol grip of the weapon. Initially, the weapon was designed for the shooter to grasp the charging handle with their firing hand, and to pull directly to the rear. The straight-back method reduced the stress on the charging handle roll pin, but takes us out of a firing position. By switching to the flat of your support hand, or index finger off your support hand to pull back on the charging handle while pushing forward with their firing hand on the pistol grip.

Other notables include the factory machined M4 feed ramps on the receiver are hard coat anodized which adds significant strength to the aluminum. An independently certified Mil-Spec 11595E barrel steel, Carpenter No. 158 steel machined bolt and 1/7 twist rate. The barrel is chrome lined, which has become a standard for battle rifles around the world, increases velocity, resists fouling and corrosion from extended use in the field and a longer barrel life with less required time in maintenance and cleaning.

Click here to buy a BCM M4 Carbine online

 

 

Colt SP6920

Colt LE6920 AR-15Nearly five decades, a half-century, have elapsed since Colt’s M16 was first fielded by the U.S. Military. Since that time, Colt has never surrendered its position as one of the world’s preeminent AR manufacturers. Simply put, Colt’s 6920 is the closest thing to what the military is using—minus the happy switch of course—‘nuff said.

Colt’s 6920 starts with a high-strength polymer, four-position, collapsible stock on the lower receiver assembly and a standard, semi-automatic AR-15 trigger assembly inside. The muzzle compensator reduces muzzle climb and helps eliminate flash and dust signatures.

Colt uses carpenter steel and tests each individual bolt to check for micro fissures or defects that could cause a failure down the road. As far as I know… Colt and FN are the only companies that fire a proof load on every bolt before it is inspected that I know of.

Click here to shop for a Colt AR-15 online

 

 

Daniel Defense M4 Carbine, V5 LW (Lightweight Barrel)

Daniel Defense M4V5The Daniel Defense V5 Light Weight, is everything you need in a homegrown defensive carbine. Put one up against a military M4 though the DD will come up a bit light. Well, not actually a bit; it’s more like 10 ounces. One of the main reasons is the lightweight barrel. Let’s be honest, unless you have an M203 with ammo for it, you really do not need a heavy barrel. However, if you are going to carry the gun for professional reasons or while traversing the hills on a hunt, those ounces are going to make a ton of difference.

Beyond the weight factor, the DD M4 has much of the furniture you’d upgrade other ARs with after plopping down your greenbacks. Features include an Omega X Rail with low-profile covers, A2 flash hider, Magpul 30-round P Mag and MOE buttstock, Daniel Defense A2 pistol grip, and vertical foregrip. The upper and lower receivers are military spec with an M4 feed ramp, an enhanced/flared magazine well, and an H buffer. The bolt group is mil-spec and properly staked. Of course to be included in any list of top ARs, the DD V5 Lightweight has a chrome steel barrel with a 1/7 twist.

Click here to shop of a Daniel Defense AR-15 online

 

 

Lewis Machine & Tool CQB MRP Defender

LMT CQB DefenderProbably the best argument for the popularity of LMT’s guns is that it is constantly runs a backorder status. That being said, the CQB MRP Defender features a CQB MRP upper receiver with 16-inch chrome lined, 1/7 twist barrel. The Monolithic Rail is not separate from the receiver; it’s fabricated from a single block of aluminum. This allows the operator to quickly change the free-floating barrel using only a Torx wrench in a matter of seconds.

The free-floating barrel helps with accuracy and keeping the gun cool. When you look through the quad-rail forend, you’ll see the gas tube is slightly different from a standard AR gas tube. On the LMT CQB, it’s a straight shot from front to back, which I believe aids in the smooth feel and operation.

Other notables include the piston semi auto bolt carrier group, tactical charging handle assembly, defender lower with SOPMOD buttstock and standard trigger group. The LMT CQB MRP Defender comes standard with tactical adjustable rear sight, tactical front sight, (2) heavy-duty push button swivels, (1) thirty round magazine, torque wrench / driver and (3) rail panels, A2 birdcage compensator, low-profile gas block, cryogenically-treated barrel and electronically tested and recorded trigger pull.

DIY AR-15 on the Cheap

Of course a top gun in anyone’s book has to be a DIY gun on the cheap. I don’t care if it shoots minute-of-clay-pigeon or minute-of-coyote when you are finished. Three things are going to be certain. First, a bad guy looking at the bore of your home build is still going to need to change his shorts, and ain’t going to stick around to be the subject of your next accuracy check. Second, building your own AR is the ultimate erector set, and last—as an absolute-worst-case-scenario— it will make a great truck gun or something to tuck away in a bug out kit. It will certainly give you an appreciation and education of ARs when you sit down with a few boxes of parts and assemble one from scratch.

It took me a total of about five minutes to come up with everything you should need to put together an AR on the cheap.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Trackback from your site.

The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, "The Shooter's Log," is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (240)

  • Pacman976

    |

    Got my first AR in 2011 after over 25 years of shooting my trusty Ruger Mini-14 in the Democratic Republic of California. My m14 has had well over 15k rounds through it, but I had some friends with AR’s and they were successful in converting me to their ranks. Their methods of conversion were to allow me to fire their S&W M&P15, DPMS MK, and a Bushmaster Carbon. Since I had been used to shooting my Ruger mini and its big brother, my Springfield M1A loaded, I wasn’t used to the recoil dampening springs of the AR but I adapted quickly. After our day at the range, I gave a potential AR purchase some thought but It wasn’t until I visited our local Turners did the purchase a reality. It appeared that they were having a shot show with a bunch of gun vendors at Raahaugh’s range and they were discounting guns from the attending vendors. Since I really had not planned to spend a bunch of money on this day, I opted for the S&W M&P15 running $800. Just as I completed the paperwork, the salesmen whipped out a Daniel Defense DDM4 V5 going for $1099. I took the shot and purchased it and I could not be happier, although I have to get used to the recessed mag release button and 10 round clip limitation. With minimal mods (Magpul popup sight, BCM Gunfighter Hogue grips) and a little Frog Lube, this gun has proven to be an excellent purchase. Pity that I can only run 10-round clips in it though, but I still have my Mini-14 with its 30-round clips being grandfathered in (until further notice) since they were bought in the 80’s.

    Reply

  • Dr. Rick

    |

    A lot of comments were made regarding no or very little play between the upper and lower receivers. People mentioned Stag, LMT, CMT et. el. However, I recently purchase a Smith and Wesson M&P and then modified it to my taste to give a customize gun per se. As far as tight tolerances the M&P is super tight. The gun is broken in and currently shot roughly 2000-2500 rounds. And I STILL need to use a Punch Tool to take the pins down. And no I am not new to AR’s. I have 7 of them and know quite a bit about this weapons platform. So not sure why people where making such a big deal about play/wobble between receivers. If your gun has some play and it bothers you. It’s an easy fix…buy an Accuwedge for like $5. Or at a hardware store, buy a silicone donut and put it on the shelf just over and behind the safety bar. And problem is solved. As far which is the best AR. Only you can determine that. You know what your looking for and what you’ll be using the gun for. Once that is ascertain and you have a price point in mind. You’re ready to make a purchase that will best suit your needs. There seems to be a lot AR snobs in this forum. I went with a Smith and Wesson because I wanted a “Project” gun. Something to have fun making it a little unique. I used S&W because theyre an excellent gun manufacture who’s been around for over a 100 years. And they have an excellent reputation who makes quality guns. My advise would be , go with a reputable and known company. A lifetime warranty does you no good if the company folds and out of business in 10 years. Many of these smaller companies have a lifetime warranty, However, they might go under or swallow up from a bigger company. DPMS, Remington, Marlin and Bushmaster are now owned by the Freedom Group. And they only offer a one year warranty. When the aforementioned companies use to have a lifetime limited warranty. So, I highly recommend that you do your homework and plenty of research before you make your subsequent purchase. Have fun, stay safe and shoot plenty. Happy Holidays to my fellow Gun Owners. Respectfully submitted, Dr. S.

    Reply

  • Margo

    |

    I have a lot of experience with the AR, have used many different brands with various configurations, stock, mofified, builds, etc., and various ammo both standard and reload over a twenty year period. My overall favorite is my BCM MOD 0. All of the BCM products are very high quality, extremely reliable and give you the most bang for your buck. Most of the issues that people experience with their AR is related to cheap manufacturing standards and low quality control, using crap ammo or not maintaining their AR. To minimize issues always buy products that are manufactured with high quality parts under strict quality control. And don’t scrimp on the ammo you use. You might save money buying lower quality weapons and cheap ammo but you may pay a high price in the end if the weapon fails to do what you intend for it to do— such as saving your life or a loved one. Think of your weapon the way you would a vehicle, appliance, etc. The higher quality that the components are and the better they are assembled then the more reliable and longer-lasting they will be. Reliability and performance come at a price. Before you buy something that you may need to depend on to save your life you should do some research. If you just want to shoot targets then a lower priced weapon will suffice but if you are purchasing a weapon or ammo for self-defense then save up your money until you have enough to buy high quality.

    Reply

  • Laust "MEMEME"

    |

    Let me tell you something Mr know it all, if you read my 1st comment here you would understant why i posted mememe,it was directed at people just like you, that think what thay have is better than what everyone else has.IF you read all the comments you would see that I never even talked about what type weapon i have,one guy insinuated that i had a sig because of my 1st comment,i told him what i have,nothing more,so next time you want to run your mouth make sure you know what your talking about. look up the word arrogance,thats who the mememe comment is directed at.

    Reply

  • Randy

    |

    MEMEME? Just by your name I can tell youre a know it all. I don’t meet the stereotype mostly seen on here. Just hate braggarts that think their weapon is better than everyone else’s. All that matters is that you like your weapon and and it hits what you’re aiming for.

    Reply

  • Laust "MEMEME"

    |

    @Randy Boland,Looks like you fit right in> ” all these stupid comments”

    Reply

  • Randy Boland

    |

    Oh, and by the way, just so everyone knows, I shoot a Rock River Arms with a two stage trigger and a cheap 4 sided picitanny rail forearm to mount a flashlight. Love the gun and wouldn’t trade it for the most tricked out Colt ever made. JFYI

    Reply

  • Randy Boland

    |

    There is only one right answer out of all these stupid comments. If you like your AR and it shoots well, you should take some training courses on house clearing, long range shooting and pistol lessons. I’m a member of the NRA, and they just came out with a beginners video that will shut everyone up here. As long as you know how and when to use your weapon, and you have been properly train, and practice regularly, any AR platform can be perfect for you. The people that want to spend 2500 or 3000 on an AR just have a lot of money to blow and want theirs to be tricked out more than Charlie, who’s sitting 3 benches downrange shooting his M&P. Hands down, They’re all designed basically the same way and meant to do the same thing. So men, let me tell you, it’s never the gun, it’s the shooter!!!!!

    Reply

  • FlyCaster

    |

    Christensen Arms makes a superb AR-15&10s. I’ve shot one for over 2 years and its the most accurayte AR-15 I’ve ever shot. Plus the Barrell and UppernReceiver are made if Carbon Fiber making it the lightest AR on the market. It’s probably the most expensive AR-15s at $3300 without a scope and accessories. With all the finishing touches it’ll set ya back $6500ish, but you pay for what you get. And in this AR you find the finest.

    Reply

  • steve

    |

    URGENT NOTICE: Su – Press – On, a Detroit based maker of AR1 drop in auto sears is in deep trouble. Seems like this guy was not the original inventor as he claimed he was and his stocks of pre 81 inventory were simply recently made items. He has been busted by the federal government and the ATF has seized his records of those items he has mailed to people throughout the USA for many years. So if you bought one, tried to buy one, or did not get one and had money refunded, be prepared to have the knock on your door and you will get the one – time amnesty question……………..

    This guy who ran Supresson advertised heavily in Shotgun News and a recent talk with an ATF agent I was rold that every agent across the fruited plains are out like Jehovah’s Witness’s knocking on doors and asking where that sear you bought 15 years ago is.

    Funny thing……………I just met a guy the other day that bought a parts kit from Ohio Ordnance, a Bren kit, and was visited by the ATF who asked him to surrender the kit or just stay put and say ‘no’ until we get a search warrant and take you to a federal prison for 5 years. So they took his kit and now the guy is wondering, did Ohio Ordnance hand over their sales list? Did they get pinched somewhere and then offer up names as a way to ease the pain from the feds? Or maybe just a pure coincidence? Or maybe the mailman put a note in the suggestion box at ATF? You be the judge here. Maybe it was a big mouth? I have know people that have strayed outside the law and were reported to the feds only to have the reporting person get looked at instead. So you be the judge here. Use your brains. Any full auto parts will get you in very hot water. Stay protected and either have a registered machine gun or obey the law as it stands. I know there are some out there that say, “federal prisons are a joke, a vacation at best”. Well OK………..not my idea of a vacation. Or visit. Happy 4th of July……………

    Reply

Leave a comment

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.


three − = 1