5 Best AR-15 Barrels

Ballistic Advantage AR-15 16" barrel

Whether you’re building your AR from the ground up or upgrading a rifle that is already built, any one of the following AR-15 barrels will improve the accuracy, reliability and performance of your weapon.

We’ll talk chambering, profile, weight, twist-rate, material and more for these five incredible AR-15 barrels to make sure you’re getting the best option to fit your needs.

Let’s get started…

1. Ballistic Advantage Hanson 16” 

While any of the Ballistic Advantage barrels will guarantee a lightweight, in-house built, durable piece of steel, my top choice for AR builds is this 16” Hanson model chambered in .223 Wylde.

It’s one of BA’s “Performance Series” models, and, boy, does it live up to its name.

The shoulder-less gas block design gives it a nearly perfect symmetry and cuts down significantly on any barrel whip. Using the Hanson improved my accuracy out past 400 yards.

Plus, this mid-length soft-shooter comes pre-threaded and with extended feed ramps for flawless reliability every time.

BA makes some of the most affordable barrels out there, but you don’t feel like they skimped on their builds at all when you witness the exceptional machining and durability of these barrels.

I picked up my BA Hanson barrel for just under $200, and couldn’t be happier with its performance in the field.

Ballistic Advantage AR-15 Barrels

2. Rainier Arms UltraMatch 18”

The name of the game for this Rainier barrel is ACCURACY.

I picked up the model with a special thick .800” gas block that complements the rifle-length system and really pushes my AR’s accuracy over the top.

The fluting on this UltraMatch is super aggressive, making for soft shots without losing anything in velocity or rigidity.

Made from the highest grade Shilen blanks, this RA model also has a TiN-coated extension that makes loading a lot smoother.

You can pick up an UltraMatch for a moderate $300.

Rainier Arms AR-15 Barrels
Source: Rainier Arms

3. Spike’s Tactical SPR Special Purpose 18”

Where BA takes the day with affordability and RA with accuracy, the Special Purpose from Spike’s Tactical stomps its competitors when it comes to durability.

This medium-profile barrel is cold-hammer forged, crafted from CMV alloy, and coated in a corrosion-resistant black nitride finish to make sure it withstands even the most extreme conditions.

I grabbed this lightweight barrel in 5.56 NATO and found it easy to handle and set up — it was all ready for a rifle-length gas system from the get-go.

Retailing at just under $300, this barrel comes with a NiB M4 feed-ramp barrel extension.

The SPR Special Purpose is my go-to barrel for my survival/bush rifle.

Spike's Tactical AR-15 Upper

4. Faxon Firearms Gunner 16” 

One of the most reliable and affordable barrels on the market, this Faxon Firearms Gunner model is the Jack-of-all-trades.

Made for mid-length gas systems, the Gunner profile uses a unique tapering from government to pencil and a 1:8 twist that gives it a boost in accuracy.

The best part?

This barrel’s QPQ nitride finish, CMV steel composition, and MPI/air-gauge testing make it last forever.

I was blown away by the quick movement between targets this barrel affords because of its lighter weight.

Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased with the versatility of this $160 Faxon Firearms favorite.

Faxon Firearms AR-15 Barrels

5. Noveske Recon 16”

Built with Noveske’s incredible 5.56 Match Chamber, this medium-profile barrel is perfect for both everyday and competition shooting.

You can get it in 10.5, 14.5, or 16 inches depending on what you’re building.

I like the 16” that comes with a gas tube and pin already in the box, making it a breeze to install in any low-profile gas block system.

This 1:7 twist Noveske Recon model is cold-hammer forged and comes with extended M4 feed ramps, but does drop a little on the higher side with an MSRP of $600.

Noveske AR-15 Barrels

Conclusion: AR-15 Barrels

When you’re looking to improve the accuracy, reliability and durability of your weapon, any one of these five best AR-15 barrels will get the job done right.

What are your favorite AR-15 barrels? Why? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Richard Douglas

Richard Douglas is a firearms expert and educator. His work has appeared on large publications like The National Interest, Daily Caller, American Shooting Journal, and more. In his free time, he reviews optics on his Scopes Field blog.
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 (5)

  1. Yankee Hill Machine Co. Makes great barrels, one of my favorites:
    YHM 14.5″ Diamond Fluted, Melonite QPQ Barrels with Pinned low profile Flash Hider or low profile Muzzle Device are great choices. Constructed of 4140 chrome moly steel, the barrel is Melonited for ultimate surface protection. Chamber in 5.56x45mm NATO with a 1 in 7″ twist rate and M4 feed ramps. Carbine length 0.750″ gas port.

  2. Stainless Steel barrels are no where in this list. Spikes sure, but spikes do not make their barrels. Companies like Wilson, and Xcaliber who actually manufacture barrels are your best for accuracy.

  3. I have had the best luck with Kreiger barrels for Hipower AR-15 applications (as well as for M1A and M1 Garands). You can specify chamber dimensions, leade, port size, etc. to work with your preferred loads and bullet weights. Kreiger should be at the top of the list.

  4. I’ve never really got serious on paper with my 16” pencil barrel milspec AR-15… Just has a fixed front sight and a lightweight carry handle rear sight. I just scatter out some red 12 gauge hulls at the 25 and 50 both distances, just standing/shooting. you can hit them individually every time. 30 out of 30….I think that’s accurate enough, and no reason to get technical or further adjust anything….

  5. I built three AR’s of different configurations using FN’s chf extra chrome lined “machine gun steel” barrels that I purchased through PSA at great prices when they were still available pre-pandemic.
    A 20” , a 16” in M4’gery style and on in SOCOM style.
    All shoot way beyond my expectations with good ammunition (read-NOT cheap lake city crap!).
    We’ll see if they live up to the hype, though unfortunately ammo shortages will preclude extensive shooting unless shtf.

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