By the Numbers: America’s Top 5 Rifles

Colt LE6920 AR-15

The ATF numbers show that rifles gave pistols a close run for the top spot. While the category can be broken down into three subcategories, semi-automatic, bolt action, and lever actions, no one reading this will be surprised that semi-autos dominate the category.

DPMS Oracle

DPMS Oracle profile right
DPMS Oracle

Starting with number five, the DMPS Oracle AR-15 chambered in 5.56 NATO is the perfect rifle for you no matter if you are looking for your first rifle, or just an accurate and affordable plinker. Designed to bridge the gap between the tactical and sporting markets, the Oracle is an introductory carbine that fills both roles with ease. With features like a 16″ lightweight barrel, a flat top upper receiver, Glacier Guard handguards and a collapsible, six-position Pardus buttstock the Oracle is nothing short of a fantastic value. DPMS even outfitted it with a railed gas block and one high-quality magazine to make sure that you get the most value for your dollar on one of the most versatile carbines on the market today!

Specifications and Features:
DPMS 60532
DPMS Oracle Semi-Auto Rifle
Optics Ready
5.56mm NATO (Accepts .223 Remington)
16″ Lightweight 4140 Chromemoly Barrel
1:9″ Twist
A2 Flash Hider
10 Round Magazine Capacity
Direct Impingement Gas System
A3 Style Flat Top
Forged 7075 T6 upper receiver
Forged 7075 T6 lower receiver
Pardus Carbine Stock
Glacier Guard Polymer Handguard
Railed Gas Block
Commercial Buffer Tube
Carbine Length Gas System
No Sights Included
Overall Weight 6.4 lb’s
Overall Length Collapsed 32.5″/ Extended 36.5″
Matte Black Finish

Ruger AR-556

Ruger AR-556 right profile
Ruger AR-556

The Ruger AR-556 is ready to go out of the box with its adjustable Ruger Rapid Deploy rear sight. It has a 16.1″ cold hammer forged barrel with 1:8″ rifling, mil-spec diameter buffer tube and six position telescoping M4 style buttstock. The enlarged trigger guard makes shooting with gloves easier. This is an excellent choice for patrol, competition or defensive uses, as well as small game hunting.

Specifications and Features:
Ruger AR-556 8500
AR-15 Semi Automatic Rifle
5.56 NATO accepts .223 Remington
30 Rounds
16.1″ Cold Hammer Forged Barrel
1:8″ Twist
Muzzle Threaded 1/2-28 TPI
Carbine Length Gas System
Mil-Spec Diameter Buffer Tube
Six Position Collapsible Stock
Overall length 35.5″
Weight 6.5 lbs

Kel-Tec SUB-2000

Kel-Tec SUB-2000
Kel-Tec SUB-2000

The SUB-2000 is a fantastic companion for the hiking pack, bug out bag or ranch truck. This self-loading pistol caliber carbine uses Beretta 92 and 96 magazines for ease and convenience. Kel-Tec’s SUB-2000 G2 has a greatly enhanced accuracy and extends the range of your handgun ammo to give you a superior hunting, self defense or varmint control tool. M-LOK compatible with top and bottom picatinny rails on the forened, and a stock that’s adjustable for length of pull, this is a very versatile platform. Where the SUB-2000 really shines is the compact nature of the firearm. This carbine literally folds in half! With a 16.25″ overall length and a 7″ high package, you can take this rifle anywhere! And let’s face it, this compact rifle is a blast to shoot! Get a Kel-Tec SUB-2000 and have a versatile go anywhere rifle on hand anytime you need it.

Specifications and Features:
Kel-Tec SUB-2000 G2 SUB2K40BRTA96BLKHC
Semi Automatic Rifle – Pistol Caliber Carbine
.40 Smith & Wesson
15 Rounds
16.25″ Barrel with 1:16 Twist
Threaded Muzzle with 9/16×24 TPI
Uses Beretta 92 and 96 Magazines
M-LOK Compatible Polymer Forend with Top and Bottom Picatinny Rail
Three Position Adjustable Stock
Gator Grip Texturing
Ergonomic Charging Handle
Adjustable Fluorescent Front Sight
Ghost Ring Rear Sight
Crossbolt Safety
Overall Length 30.5″
Weight 4.25 lbs Unloaded

Colt LE6920

Colt LE6920 AR-15
Colt LE6920

Colt designs some of the most reliable AR-15’s for LE and military personnel, they have taken their basic LE model 6920 and improved it by adding Magpul MOE SlimLine furniture. Magpul Original Equipment (MOE) is a line of firearm accessories designed to provide a high quality economical alternative to standard weapon parts. Get these high quality firearms today before they sell out.

Specifications and Features:
Colt LE6920MPS AR-15 Semi Auto Rifle LE6920MPS-B
5.56 NATO chamber (accepts .223 Remington)
16″ chrome-lined, M4 barrel
1:7″ RH twist, 6 lands and grooves
Gas operated, multi-lug rotary locking bolt
Carbine Length Gas System
Standard M4 Fixed Front Sight Base
Forged flat top upper receiver
Magpul MBUS rear sight
Anodized aluminum upper/lower receivers
Magpul MOE SlimLine furniture
Overall Length: 32″ Collapsed to 35.5″ Extended
Weight: 6.57 lbs

Smith & Wesson M&P15

Smith and Wesson M&P 15 stock
The M&P 15 Sport is all AR-15, with fast handling and rapid reloads.

Smith and Wesson followed up the top pistol spot with the M&P-15. The Smith and Wesson Military & Police model 15 Sport II is designed to the exact same specs as other S&W M&P15 rifles. Built for a variety of applications including recreational and professional shooting, the Sport II is the ideal entry level rifle. The M&P 15 features a 1:9″ twist barrel with an adjustable A2 style front post. The flat top style upper receiver is ready for any optic of your choosing, but will work great with the included Magpul MBUS rear sight.

Specifications and Features:
Smith & Wesson Military & Police 15 Sport II 10202
AR-15 Semi Automatic Rifle
5.56mm NATO caliber (accepts .223 Remington)
16″ 4140 steel barrel
1:9″ Twist
M4 feed ramps
7075 T6 Aluminum upper and lower receivers
Mil spec hard coat anodized black
Adjustable A2 front sight post
Magpul MBUS folding rear sight
6 Position telescopic stock
Chromed Gas key and bolt carrier
30 round magazine
Overall length 35″ Extended / 32″ Collapsed
Overall weight 6.45 lbs
Made in the USA

It takes more than just rebates to be the top seller nationally. Give us your top five picks in the comment section.

Check out the other articles in this series:


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 (34)

  1. Democrats have held all branches of Government at the same time and nobody took your guns, grow up… I am a Democrat and I own many guns, I would never support any candidate who would change that.

  2. You have multiple AR-15s in the list, that’s redundant. There should be only one AR-15.

    By doing that you left out FALs and other first class main battle rifles.

  3. Why does everyone seem to ignore the Anderson Line of AR’s . I’ve had mine for 4 yrs with no I repeat no problems. Extremely accurate. Easy to clean (Dawn Dishwashing Detergent) shoots anything reliably. Including steet case! Literaly thousands of rounds with NO ff only an occasional fail to fire.

    1. @Lynn Robertson,

      I agree. Anderson never seems to make anyone’s list. My next build will be from an 80% lower built up using primarily Anderson parts. This will be my first non-serialized (numbered) AR that won’t require any part to transfer through an FFL.

      Doing so will ensure I have an AR rifle that is legally rendered untraceable by any government means. Just a gut feeling, but in the off chance the liberals ever take the House, Senate, and Presidency at the same time any time in the future – I have a feeling there will be hell to pay where gun bans are concerned.

      Anderson makes a decent rifle complete, as well as sells parts kits just for the hobbyist that likes to build them.

    2. G-Man,

      What are your thoughts on putting your own serial number on the ghost just to limit the potential hassle if you are ever pulled over or checked? Simply placing your own number may go a long way…

    3. Dave,

      Shucks! I wanna be a rebel for just a little bit after I retire from law enforcement. Seriously though, the federal government has no requirement at all for serial numbers on home brewed rifles… unless you sell them. Check the ATF serialization requirements.

      However, there are some states that mandate you always must engrave a serial number of some kind. They usually don‘t require you to register your custom number, but their statutes will still require you have one in the event you need to report it stolen for crime tracing purposes as well as your insurance claim.

      Pay closer attention to California which has some looming deadlines coming up next year. If you tattoo your rifle (or just the pre-built lower I think) prior to July 2018 you don’t have to do a thing and can stay off the books (so-to-speak).

      But by 2019 California’s AB 857 mandates ALL completed firearms must have a serial number. If you didn’t put one on yourself by then, you will be forced to apply to their DOJ for them to assign and issue you a serial before you can even start work on the 80% lower or to possess your previous builds legally.

      Obviously those that miss the deadline – but who wish to not become a felon – will have to submit to the DOJ registration scheme and thereafter be tracked like a lab rat.

      I am still researching the various aspects, so folks should check their respective states. My plans are to retire in Arizona (best gun state in the World), but I also have LEA friends and family in Sothern California I’ll visit frequently which means I’ll need to know the laws there.

    4. G-Man,
      You know I have a spot reserved for you, if you ever want a little walking around money in Arizona for an article here or there!

    5. I also have an Anderson Arms AR. I love it and like the others are saying, no problems. Has anyone here played around with the 22LR conversion kits? I was thinking of trying one out.

  4. Got a Bushmaster XM-15 E2S. Great gun right out of the box. Put roughly 5000 rounds downrange in the last year. No issues PERIOD. Also like to shoot my DPMS in 308. couple a thousand rounds through it no problems, Shot several other AR platforms at our local range as we tend to trade our weapons around when shooting as a group. Got to say there aren’t many bad AR platform out there. Get what you can afford. Shoot ti often and enjoy the experience,

  5. I own 2 oracle models, ar-15 and ar-10. love em. Only changes i made were changing the pistol Grip,But stock and fore stock for Magpul furniture. i have no regrets buying these.

    1. I also have the DPMS AR-10 and made a couple of the same modifications except for brand (Luth buttstock, OdinWorks 12.5″ free-floating fore stock with an 8.5″ accessory rail mounted at 6 o’clock to accommodate a Magpul angled handgrip and bi-pod. Haven’t changed the pistol grip, but did add a Vortex Viper PST scope. Great mid-range gun for 100 – 400 yards. Next project, an AR platform in .300 blackout.

  6. While the opening paragraph is written to be technically accurate, at a glance it may give the casual reader the impression that specific rifle brands, makes, and models listed here are supported by the ATF data to be “top” selling rifles.

    Just to be clear, to the best of my professional law enforcement knowledge the ATF does not – and cannot – maintain lists of specific models sold by each manufacturer. The only information contained in ATF annual reports are broken down by basic weapons categories produced and placed into commerce by each manufacturer every year.

    As stated, this article does accurately reflect this from the start, but could still give the wrong impression that ATF data somehow led to the selection of the 5 rifles that were depicted in this particular list of “America’s Top 5 Rifles”.

    While I’d have bragging rights to owning the top 2 listed rifles (Colt and S&W) from this list, it is somewhat meaningless unless we know how and why these 5 rifles were chosen to be featured in this particular article to begin with.

    For those that are curious, there are other resources that lend a great deal of insight beyond the basic ATF data as to the numbers and rankings of specific makes and models from a commercial / industry perspective. Some of this data comes at a cost or membership, like that offered through the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) which produces a comprehensive annual “Industry Reference Guide”.

    However, in –the-end Dave said it best when he wrote that, “It takes more than just rebates to be the top seller nationally”. I would wholeheartedly agree, but also must caution that there is so much more to that equation.

    Unlike cars, the novice may be unaware that rifles are not broken down by an obvious equivalent of say – budget, compact, economy, or luxury classes like the auto industry does. That means that a rifle manufacturer could easily land in the “top sellers” because they offer a well-rounded economy rifle at a low price. That by no means is an indicator of its quality and accuracy.

    In my experience I break rifles into 4 categories: Retail High-End, Retail Mid-Range, Retail Budget, and lastly Custom Builds (either via DIY or Gunsmith).

    However, for the novice no dealer will break this down for you in an advertisement or store placard. Likewise, price is not always an indicator of quality either – especially during political scares which can dictate higher pricing for even budget rifles.

    Adding to the confusion is that most manufacturers offer all of these ranges of class and quality throughout their entire lines, which can make it even harder to know where you stand as you attempt to compare each product even within the same manufacturer.

    The best guidance I could ever offer the novice is that you simply must do your research as well as seek advice from seasoned aficionados who knows the differences. But if you don’t have the time, then get the most rifle you can afford, but stay within your budget. They are all pretty well made and the list of crappy rifles is far shorter to sift out.

    1. G-Man!
      Thanks for keeping me straight and clarifying things. Yes, the top sellers by category was through the ATF numbers, but the specific models selected was generated through online retail sales numbers that I was able to generate from multiple sources. ~Dave Dolbee

    2. @ Dave Dolbee.

      I’m sort of Curious “DAVE”? But do you Actually Go Out of Your Way to Segway the Conversation, By Titling the Article in One Direction and Using Pictures of Assault Type Rifles to Segway the Conversation in Another Direction…

    3. Secundius,

      If a bolt gun or lever action would have been in one of the top 5 spots, I would have been more than happy to give it some love. These were not picks, just based on how the numbers came out. Of course, the ATF picks the categories and does not distinguish between rifles generally and assault-type rifles as you noted.

      However, I am always open to requests and accept queries. If you are interested in a specific review, shoot me a message. Likewise, you are a frequent flyer here on the blog; shoot me a review of your own. My email is not hard to figure out — — hit me up anytime! ~Dave Dolbee

  7. The Colt Expanse has everything these ARs have, is a great shooter, and can be had for less than 800.00. Add the bonus packages some deals have and it is a great buy.

  8. The AR platform works well for the lower 48.
    The one rifle I saw is the Kel Tec Sub 2000, except the caliber is to small. I would like it in the 10mm chamber.

    1. Just because your own pet rifles weren’t listed doesn’t mean they’re bad.

      As with the preceding “Top 5 Pistols” article, the rankings represent sales numbers. This gives a measure of their popularity, but is not a means to compare quality or performance.

      Though you could assert that, by selling well, they are at least “good enough”.

  9. While I have an Pre-Ban AR-15 A-1 (Olympia Arms/SGW Pre-Sherriff’s Model, put together by an armorer for SGW 3 months before the Sheriff’s model) with a 21 inch barrel with military flash suppressor/muzzle brake, bayonet lug, and collapsible butt stock in 223/5.56 with a Russian Sniper Scope (for better light reception) and I really appreciate the light weight but do not consider AR-15 or any AR types to be America’s Top Five. It is a very efficient Military Gun and a fine target, prairie dog, varmint, coyote, etc rifle. Now I know the military trainers will argue with me till the cows come home, but we pretty well proved that the 7.62×39 is a superior gun in knock down and deflection possibilities. But even though I have and like the AK in my collection is has the one main problem of most military guns save the AR, it is heavy! If I have to carry weight prefer 7.62×51 (308) for caliber as well as 30-06. But then again I have a Sniper/Hunter Attitude towards my rifles. And I would never use a handgun caliber in a rifle with the exception of a 44 Magnum, but I would not call that America’s Top 5. Now instead lets look at the M1A/M14, or how about the 03A3….

    Just for what its worth… I like looongg range rifles…..

  10. ive been wanting a keltec sub2000 for quite some time. not able in california. it sucks out here for gun owners. just wanted to say it also takes glock and smith&wesson M&P mags as well but have order the spec gun for those mags

  11. I purchased a DPMS Oracle 5.56 as a budget rifle to add on aftermarket parts just to knock around with not to damage any of the much more expensive AR’s that I own. Much to my surspise this rifle did not need many aftermarket add-ons except an ambitious safety and a quad rail hand guard. This has turned out to be my favorite rifle! It out shoots all except for 1 of my others and the trigger has a much better pull and is as smooth as all of the aftermarket drop-ins ( some at nearly as much as the price of the rifle) that I have installed. I’m not sure if I just got extremely lucky with this rifle or if all of DPMS’s rifles are this good but I will definitely be buying more!!!

  12. Makes one wonder just how many lowers are sold in comparison or if they count as guns to a survey like this. Or maybe not as many folks as I would think find building an AR 15/10 with the EXACT components one wants as the most desirable way to obtain such a handy rifle.

  13. I happen to like my Bushmaster 5.56/2.23. It’s comfortable. I carried a CAR16 in Vietnam. I added a .22LR and a .300AAC Blackout upper for plinking and boar.

  14. As a “Stowaway or Trunk Gug” i’d consider the Kel-Tec SUB-2000! But as far as a Rifle, i’d get the Colt’s manufacturing LE6920. At least “IT’s” the Only Rifle that’s made it through the First Phase of the US. Military Rifle Replacement Competition. The Other NEVER even got that far in the Competition…

  15. I’m kind of surprised a Ruger 10/22 isn’t on this list although I got a Colt LE6920 Trooper this year and find it to be a great AR type rifle. I’ve had other ARs and I don’t really understand why but I find this rifle to be much more comfortable to shoot.

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