It’s far too easy to get caught up in AR-15 brand loyalty wars, often with a diminishing rate of return on your time investment. I’d like to take a step back, and look at the big picture to the question: “Is there a place for budget AR-15 rifles?” Thankfully, the answer to this is far simpler than some would have you believe.
First, let’s establish that there really is a difference between a cheaply-made rifle and a properly assembled one. The AR-15 is a simple design, but that doesn’t mean there’s no right or wrong to putting one together. Things like quality control checks on vital parts really do matter.
What’s Your Ultimate Goal?
Truthfully, asking whether a budget rifle is a good buy or not isn’t even the real question. It really boils down to what you want to do with your rifle. Like most purchasing decisions, whether it’s a new dishwasher, computer or vehicle, it’s important to consider what your true needs are. And this isn’t that difficult if you’re honest with yourself.
It’s Okay to not be “Tacticool”
Do you want a rifle to play around with, impress your friends, or own just because AR-15s are cool? Will it see limited paper-punching duty from the bench on a square range, once a month or even less frequently? If that’s the case, you’ll be fine with the most inexpensive rifle available, and don’t let anybody on all the Internet gun forums tell you differently.
A cheap rifle with bottom-of-the-bucket parts leans against a wall the same way a “Tier One” blaster does. Parts can’t wear out if you don’t use them very much, so be realistic about your needs.
For range duty and most hunting needs, the cheapest AR on the rack is perfect! Modern manufacturing and quality control processes has made even inexpensive guns very reliable for the average user. Rifles like the Del-Ton Echo 316M even include iron sights, so you’re good to go right out of the box.
It’s also Okay to be Dead Serious
On the other hand, what if you want to actually become proficient with your equipment? Do you want to take multiple training classes, practice what you learned at them regularly, and be as prepared as possible for the toughest shooting matches? Are you serious about using your rifle for personal defense, or other “serious” purposes? If so, you owe it to yourself and others to buy a quality gun like the Bravo Company Manufacturing MID-16. It just doesn’t get any better than Bravo Company when it comes to selecting a quality rifle. These guys simply do it right. It’s a rifle you could literally take to a warzone (and many have done so).
Saving money on your rifle is a poor choice
Let’s think about this critically for a second. Buying a budget AR-15 with serious purposes in mind might save you around $300-$500, perhaps more if you’re really lucky.
The total costs of competition or tactical training classes quickly adds up. Travel expenses, hotel stays, gun club membership dues and range fees, class tuition, and the never-ending need for a literal mountain of ammo will put that measly $300 you saved on the rifle into perspective rather quickly.
And, do you really want to invest such large sums of time and money into your training goals, only to have them hampered by a manufacturing flaw or defect in an inexpensive rifle? Sure, there is anecdotal evidence of that Black Friday special running for tens of thousands of rounds without a problem.
Hanging your hat on those reports is asinine, however, when reputable trainers repeatedly report issues with lower quality guns in their multi-thousand round classes. These classes will show a rifle more rounds in a day than the average user will see in a lifetime. Do your research and choose wisely.
Bottom line: The associated costs of dedicated practice and training make the few hundreds of dollars saved on the initial rifle investment paltry in comparison. If you don’t plan on dedicating the real time and money towards becoming proficient with your long gun, then a budget gun is perfect.
Again, there is nothing wrong with genuinely evaluating your needs and determining that a hobby-level gun is right for you. Don’t listen for a second to anybody that tells you otherwise.
Basically, if you find yourself asking the question “Is a budget-priced AR-15 for me?” buy the low-end gun. Because if you’re serious about spending serious money on training, you already know what you have to do.