Best Selling AR-15s of 2013

By CTD Suzanne published on in Firearms

It is understandable that our top-selling AR-15s of 2013 are also some of our most affordable. My friend being able to easily sell his Frankenrifle for $3,000 cash proved black rifle prices went through the roof earlier this year. Now that the market has somewhat stabilized, all those who skipped the purchasing frenzy can now buy an entry-level AR at a price pleasing to their pocket books.

When I say entry-level AR, I mean to say one you wouldn’t necessarily want to take into battle. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a bare bones, no-nonsense AR-15. None of our top sellers will disappoint; high quality parts, surprising accuracy, durability and trusted brand names round off our list. Bare-bones tactical rifles are perfect for the beginner. You have a solid platform in any of the following ARs to start building upon. However, neither combat-grade, nor competition-ready, cheap AR-15s get the job done. Intended for plinking, punching paper, varmint hunting, and even home defense, the DPMS, Bushmaster, S&W M&P-15 and Colt LE 6920 are all dependable purchases.

Many AR aficionados will pooh-pooh some of the choices, however spending less than a grand means you have more cashola to accessorize and upgrade—not to mention extra dough to spend on magazines and ammo. Lower-priced ARs allow you to upgrade stocks, sights, triggers, and rails further down the line.

These five AR-15s will serve any beginner well. Listed by price ascending lowest to highest:

DPMS Sportical

Achieving 1-inch groups at 100 yards is no hard feat for the DPMS Sportical.

Achieving 1-inch groups at 100 yards is no hard feat for the DPMS Sportical.

If you want to learn the ropes of the AR-15 platform without spending a stack, the DPMS optic-of-your-choice-ready Sportical has no bells and whistles, but at the price, you can afford high-end glass to make it ready to shoot. The thin 16-inch barrel with a 1×9 twist is not chrome-lined and there is no dust cover, shell deflector or forward assist. Many would argue over the value of the forward assist. Keep in mind, however, the Sportical comes without just as AR-god Eugene Stoner intended. Don’t worry about the non chrome-lined barrel either as accuracy deficiencies are so minimal they go unnoticed. Decent, non chrome-lined barrels withstand thousands of rounds before losing accuracy.

Achieving 1-inch groups at 100 yards is no hard feat for the Sportical. With the right optic, you will get point and shoot accuracy that will surprise you at this price point. After thousands of rounds, the DPMS just keeps running—each shot hitting its mark.

Even though DPMS skipped the sights on the Sportical, they didn’t skimp on the furniture. It comes equipped with heat-dissipating Glacier Guards and an upgraded Pardus adjustable length of pull stock.

DPMS owners describe their Sporticals as “great” in comparison to some of their other higher-end “incredible” black rifles, but you know what, great is good enough for me.

With the flat top upper and raised gas block, adding sights of your choice will be no problem. Rated for both the .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO cartridges, this 6.3-pound DMPS AR-15 has all you need to start sport shooting.

 
DPMS Sportical
Action Semiautomatic
Barrel Length 16 inches, 1:9 twist
Caliber .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO
Overall Length 32.5 inches
Weight Unloaded 6.3 pounds
Sights Railed gas block
Stock Pardus collapsible
Capacity 30 rounds

Bushmaster SuperLight Carbon-15

The real gem is the rifle’s weight. At 5.5 pounds, I dare you try finding a much lighter AR.

The real gem is the rifle’s weight. At 5.5 pounds, I dare you try finding a much lighter AR.

The black rifle community is grumpy lately with Bushmaster. Once one of the top contenders in the AR-15 market, many so-called black rifle experts say quality has gone down hill. Both sides can yell, “taste great, less filling” until they are blue in the face. However, the Bushmasters I have experience with run like a dream all day in the hot and dusty Texas heat with zero malfunctions.

Others are skeptical of the Bushmaster SuperLight Carbon-15 carbon composite construction. Carbon composite is just a fancy way to say “plastic.” Much of the AR is plastic from the get-go, with the exception of the traditional aluminum upper and lower receivers, barrel and a few other bit parts. Traditionally, we are not used to plastic rifles, but we were not used to plastic handguns either. When the polymer-framed Glock came out, gun folks got in a tizzy over their durability and functionality. It goes without saying Glock’s polymer-framed “flop” has reached popularity in epic proportions.

Last year, CTD Rob bought a cheap plastic AR-15 lower. He questioned his gun’s durability. A year later, CTD Rob is completely satisfied with his cheap build and his AR has stood up to plenty of range abuse.

If you do research on the Internet when shopping for guns, you know everyone has an opinion. Don’t listen to the naysayers. The Bushmaster SuperLight Carbon-15 has a standard buffer, spring and bolt carrier group just like any other AR-15.

After thousands of rounds, the SuperLight Carbon-15 keeps shooting with no malfunctions. You might not get as tight groups with this particular Bushy as some other more expensive AR-15s, but it is reliable and accurate enough for home defense and target practice.

The real gem is the rifle’s weight. At 5.5 pounds, I dare you try finding much lighter ARs than this, making the SuperLight Bushmaster perfect for new, young and women shooters. The 16-inch light profile barrel is chrome lined as well as the chamber. It shoots both .223 Remington and 5.56mm rounds with a 30-round magazine. A red dot sight is included.

 
Bushmaster SuperLight Carbon-15
Action Semiautomatic
Barrel Length 16 inches, 1:9 twist
Caliber .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO
Overall Length 34.5 inches
Weight Unloaded 5 pounds
Sights Red dot sight included
Stock Telescoping
Capacity 30 rounds

 

Bushmaster Optics Ready (O.R.C.)

The Bushmaster O.R.C. kills coyotes and other varmints with a vengeance.

The Bushmaster O.R.C. kills coyotes and other varmints with a vengeance.

Slightly higher in price than the Carbon-15, Bushmaster’s O.R.C. still sells for hundreds less than MSRP. It kills coyotes and other varmints with a vengeance—all you need are sights and the scope of your choice. The M4 16-inch barrel is chrome-lined, which extends the barrel life especially during heavy use and rapid fire.

Law enforcement agencies around the country trust their lives on Bushmaster rifles. As far as accuracy goes, with the right optic, an AR-15 built by Bushmaster has the ability to achieve at least 2-inch groups at a far 300 yards.

The milled, low profile gas block and 0.5-inch risers without sights, allows Bushmaster to cut their costs and pass that savings on to you. Go as cheap or expensive as you wish adding your own sights and optics.

Made for more than entry-level in mind, the Bushy ORC is perfect to start adding accessories. It comes with two-piece, plastic handguards and a nice durable manganese phosphate coating.

 
Bushmaster Optics Ready O.R.C .
Action Semiautomatic
Barrel Length 16 inches, 1:9 twist
Caliber .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO
Overall Length 36.25 inches
Weight Unloaded 6 pounds
Sights Two 0.5 inch optics risers
Stock M4 collapsible
Capacity 30 rounds

 

S&W M&P-15 OR

S&W M&P-15s come highly recommended from many AR shooters.

S&W M&P-15s come highly recommended from many AR shooters.

Though fairly new to the black rifle market, S&W M&P-15s come highly recommended from many AR shooters—from yours truly, as well. The M&P-15 optics-ready rifle has no iron sights, but is outfitted with a rail for any type of sight or scope you want to put on it. Instead of farming them out to other manufacturers, most of the tight-fitting parts are made in-house by S&W. Smith and Wesson’s optics ready (OR) rifle shoots all types of ammo—even cheap steel-cased—without fail.

The M&P ARs are scary accurate right out of the box. The barrel, bore, gas key and bolt carrier are chrome lined. The 1×9 barrel twist has no issues firing traditional 55-grain bullets, both 5.56 NATO and .223 Remington in tight groups over 100 yards.

Even though the OR is one of S&W’s lowest-priced rifles, it isn’t a “saver” or even standard model. Put it through the paces and the M&P-15 OR will run and run. It’s cheap in comparison, but doesn’t act that way. Even those intermediate and expert AR users appreciate S&W’s line of M&P AR-15 tactical rifles.

 
Smith & Wesson M&P 15 OR
Action Semiautomatic
Barrel Length 16 inches, 1:9 twist
Caliber .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO
Overall Length 32 to 35 inches
Weight Unloaded 6.5 pounds
Sights Gas block with Picatinny rail
Stock M4 6-position collapsible
Capacity 30 rounds

Colt LE 6920

The Colt LE 6920 is the closet factory rifle you can buy to what our military uses.

The Colt LE 6920 is the closet factory rifle you can buy to what our military uses.

The Colt LE 6920 is the closet factory rifle you can buy that compares to what our military uses. It is one of the most recommend AR-15s in the tactical black rifle world. The 16-inch chrome-lined barrel has a mil-spec 1×7 twist—handling heavier hitting bullets flawlessly.

Colt makes the LE 6920 AR-15’s bolt and other internal parts. Each bolt is test-fired before heading out for sale. It does have a forward assist and shell deflector, while some of the budget AR-15s do not. The one-piece, which Colt calls “monolithic,” A3 flat top receiver includes a standard A2 front sight base so you can add any type of optic you want. The double heat shields keep your hands from burning while throwing hundreds of rounds down range.

The Colt LE 6920, trusted by law enforcement around the country is the better choice for a home defense rifle and requires minimal upgrades. At the top of the price point of our top-selling AR-15s, the Colt LE 6920 won’t let you down.

 
Colt LE 6920
Action Semiautomatic
Barrel Length 16 inches, 1:7 twist
Caliber .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO
Overall Length 32 inches
Weight Unloaded 6.95 pounds
Sights Standard A2 front sight base
Stock Either a 4-position Colt Superstock or original M4
Capacity 30 rounds

 

As far as functions and features go, there are not many differences in each of Cheaperthandirt.com’s top-selling AR-15s. Every one of them incorporates the standard carbine-length, direct gas impingement gas system. All shoot both 5.56mm NATO and .223 Remington ammo. All have 16-inch barrels, collapsible stocks and a 30 round magazine. All barrel twist rates are the same (1×9), with the exception of the Colt’s MIL-SPEC 1×7. Other exceptions are the SuperLight and the Sportical’s barrels are not chrome-lined. All but two of the modern sporting weapons listed come without sights with the exception of the Colt and the SuperLight. The Colt LE 6920 includes sights, while the Bushmaster SuperLight Carbon-15 includes a red dot sight.

For the price you want to pay to enter the tactical rifle world, none of these best selling AR-15s will be a regrettable purchase.

 Model Length Gas System Barrel Length Ammunition Stock Magazine Barrel Twist Chrome Lined Barrel Sights Included
Bushmaster O.R.C. Carbine DI 16″ 5.56/.223 Rem Collapsible 30-Round 1-9″ Yes No
S&W M&P-15 Carbine DI 16″ 5.56/.223 Rem Collapsible 30-Round 1-9″ Yes No
DPMS Sportical Carbine DI 16″ 5.56/.223 Rem Collapsible 30-Round 1-9″ No No
Colt LE 6920 Carbine DI 16″ 5.56/.223 Rem Collapsible 30-Round 1-7″ Yes Yes
Bushmaster SuperLight Carbon-15 Carbine DI 16″ 5.56/.223 Rem Collapsible 30-Round 1-9″ No Yes (Red Dot)

What was your first AR-15? Tell us about it in the comment section.

SLRule

Introduced to shooting at young age by her older brother, Suzanne Wiley took to the shooting sports and developed a deep love for it over the years. Today, she enjoys plinking with her S&W M&P 15-22, loves revolvers, the 1911, short-barreled AR-15s, and shooting full auto when she gets the chance. Suzanne specializes in writing for the female shooter, beginner shooter, and the modern-day prepper. Suzanne is a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!

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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 (51)

  • ELI

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    I JUST WANT TO LIVE A COMMENT OF MY EXPERIENCE WITH BUSHMASTER! 10 years ago Ihave a POST BAN M4 type BUSHMASTER and it was great! NEVER HAVEPROBLEMS WITH THE RIFLE , THE BARREL WAS CHROME -LINED AND WELL MADE! I PAY $700 plus ANOTHER $100 for the A2 SIGHT carry handle. KNOW I HAVE A BUSHMASTER ORC, COST ME A LOT MORE BECAUSE I GOT IT AFTER EVERY ONE IN THE US GOT CRAZY BUYING ALL THE WEAPONS THEY CAN BECAUSE THE BAN THEY WAS TRYING TO PAST ABOUT ASAULT WEAPONS. THEY ARE MANY GOOD AR-15/M4 type/M16TYPE RIFLES IN THE MARKET,( STAG ARMS,RUGER,WINDHAM,ARMALITE,S&W,COLT,BUSHMASTER,LMT,DANIEL DEFENCE,DPMS,ROCK RIVER,LES BAER,OLIMPIC ARMS,LARUE,H&K,SIG SAUER AND THE LIST IS LONGER BUT THOSE ARE FEW OF THE BRANDS! DO YOUR RESEARCH FIRST AND ASK PEOPLE THAT REALLY KNOW ABOUT THE RIFLES (NOT PEOPLE ATTACH TO A BRAND NAME). GET IN A FORUM AND ASK FOR ADVICE ON : PRICE$$,RELIABILITY ,how ACURRATE IS THE RIFLE ,WARRANTY,HOW GOOD WORK with aftermarket parts ,it is a 223REMINGTON if you can shoot 5.56 nato rounds,CHROME-LINED BARREL AND OTHER PARTS AND WHAT KIND OF FINISH HAVE THE WEAPON )!!! IF YOU CAN AFFORD A HIGH DOLLAR RIFLE$$$$ , GO FOR IT IF NOT THERE IS A TON OF LEST EXPENSIVE AND VERY RELIABLE AR-15 platforms OUT THERE.GOD BLESS OUR NATION AND HAPPY HUNTING FOR YOUR AR-15! :-) :-) :-)

    Reply

    • jijij

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      most annoying post

      Reply

  • Eustace

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    Even though I linked a video of my Sportical which was my first AR above, I have to say my favorite is a custom I built from scratch. I currently have a Daniel Defense upper with a spikes tactical lower. I like the fact I hand picked every part exactly as I wanted it. I think any of the brands mentioned will get the job done. Some may need more care or be more sensitive to ammo types etc., but anybody who knows their weapon can work around those issues.

    In related news, I finished a 308 caliber AR platform rifle build awhile back that I’m very happy with. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roJUoklIn10 Another entire conversation could had about builds in 308 because even though they look like and share many similarities with the AR 15 there are major differences.

    Reply

  • Tactical Mount

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    After reading the entire article, to include the line at the bottom that said, “Which AR-15 is your favorite? Tell us why in the comment section.” I’d have to say my favorite would be the PWS Wraith because holy precision long-stroke piston sexiness! To bad I don’t own one…yet. I do have a Sig516, and it’s a beast. It’ll eat Tula .223 steel-cased junk all day long, and spit them in a 1″ circle @ 100yds. Love the cleanliness of the piston system. Thousands of rounds between cleaning and relubing the bcg is such a nice change from have to remeber to take lube to a range session.

    Reply

  • Hide Behind

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    It was Vietnam style combat that made the AR necessary, short range and personal, light to hump and as thebAirborne and Spec Forces were major first users light weight for fast in and out brutal killing.
    Loved my m- 14 but given an auto went back to semi then grabbed an AR.
    In place of M-14 our “Advisors” grabbed thr old M-1carbines and any damned short close up foreign or not( Seen many WWII and KOREAN CONFICT 9 and 45.
    WHEN THE COLT AR’S SHOWED UP THE KILL COUNT EENT THROUGH ROOF AND OUR FORCES TOOK IT TO HEM.
    Yes Colts were made with bent barrels and many of those rifles went to men that had trained on M-14 and came in one day and given a plastic gun they knew mothing about but loved the hell out of full auto.
    The M-14 was a WWII Korea infantry weapon the Colt as a pice of crap slammed togethrr by greed and nothing else.
    That management knew of issues but did nothing to remedy made me swear t never buy any thing with Colt on it.
    Never. I Have always wondered how many names on the wall paid for Colt managements fun and games.
    Buy any weapon that exceeds a colt in price and remind Colt of where you have been.
    Oh and it was a gun hating “Liberal” that ended Colts rip off, Ted Kennedy..

    Reply

    • Lonnie G Hopson

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      Most of the problems you attribute to Colt were not Colt’s fault. There were several people in the Pentagon plus one warmonger, McNamara, who were rushing Colt to get the M16 into the field. LBJ and McNamara, plus Westmoreland requesting more and more troops, were more responsible for those “names on the wall,” than Colt.

      Reply

  • MadMike

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    The biggest problem with the early M16’s not cycling was the inferior ammo issued, not from being dirty. This was due to production shortages and the decision to farm out the production to suppliers who used the wrong powder, not the weapon. Since there were so much old ball power left from WW-1, WW-2 and the Korean War, why not substitute the original powder used in the 5.56mm round with this old ball power? That’s what they did against the advice of Mr. Eugene Stoner; the iventor of the weapon. Old wives tale die hard.

    Reply

  • Alex the dog

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    Again, this article was about the best selling AR’s–not the highest priced or most custom features. Anybody just getting started in the AR craze doesn’t need all the custom features. He just needs a good quality rifle he can shoot the heck out of, and customize later when he knows what he wants. Contrary to what the writer said, any of these could be used in combat. I purchased a Bushmaster XM15 (removable carry handle)for a little over $900 at WallyWorld last year, and it is a far superior rifle (barring full auto) than what I was issued in the Marine Corps in 1968.

    My original Colt M16 in VietNam was an inferior rifle compared to all on this list. Once we learned how important daily cleaning was, you could depend on it more. Otherwise, my .45 was what really saved my ass a few times. I learned to carry the M16 in my left hand and the .45 in my right hand for close combat. Even the Gov’t .45 was much looser than anything you will buy today.

    Reply

  • ML Schneider

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    Please CTD Suzanne please update this list to include any changes that occurred since July. Could you also maybe break it down to entry level, midrange and high end ar’s?
    Thanks!

    Reply

  • Rick Rosado

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    Why wasn’t Stag Arms on this list ? I own a Stag model 3 with a 556 EOTech mounted . Both the rifle and EO takes a beating one week end a month during training . I have had mud in the barrel and all over inside of the bolt . Never missed a beat uncleaned . hitting half inch groups at 200 yards . I will never own any other rifle

    Reply

    • Tim

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      that would be a quarter MOA that seems well should we sayI think you might be mistaking on the distance or how big a half inch is

      Reply

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