Best Selling AR-15s of 2011

Here at Cheaper Than Dirt! we often get the question “which AR-15 is best?” That’s a dangerous question to ask a bunch of gun nuts like us. Pretty soon one guy is ranting about which guns the Navy SEALS use now, another guy is trying to explain about which barrel twist rate is best, and a third guy is talking about boycotting a company because they supported a politician he didn’t like 10 years ago. It’s hard to get a straight answer, we know. But the invisible hand of capitalism provides us with one kind of answer—perhaps the “best” AR-15 is the one that gun owners purchase the most. We ran a computer report of our best-selling long guns, dug into it looking for the AR-15s, and here are the results. All of these rifles represent an excellent value for the money, as proven by the fact that they were chosen most often!

#5 — Stag Model 3

The Stag Model 3 comes with a chrome lined barrel, but the twist rate is 1/9, not optimal for shooting the heavier 70 grain and up 5.56 rounds that are currently all the rage with hunters and precision shooters. If you’re just going to be shooting 55 grain pills you won’t notice a difference. The great value of the Stag Model 3 is that it comes with a railed forend and railed gas block from the factory, so it’s completely ready to be accessorized. The disadvantage is, you HAVE to accessorize it immediately—with no factory sights included you’ll need to sink extra money into some way to aim this thing before you ever tote it to the range.

#4 — S&W M&P 15X

The Smith & Wesson M&P 15 X is a lot like the Stag, but with iron sights! A traditional A-frame sight up front and a high quality Troy unit in the rear which folds down out-of-the-way so you have a clear view through your optic of choice. Again we have a chrome-lined M4 style carbine barrel, and again we have that pesky civilian 1/9 twist rate. The M&P comes in at just under a thousand bucks. Not bad but as you’ll see, not enough to make it quite to the top in terms of value either.

#3 — Bushmaster ORC

Coming in at number three on our list is the a Bushmaster ORC. I personally think it would be cool if they tied it in to Lord of the Rings somehow, but I’m a dork that way. ORC stands for Optics Ready Carbine, which is shorthand for “hope you don’t like iron sights at all” because there’s no way to put irons on this gun without at least buying a railed forend. So why does it outsell the Smith & Wesson and Stag Arms guns? This rifle sports a chrome lined, 1/9 twist (sigh) barrel and quality components throughout. If you know before you buy that you’ll never want to shoot this gun using iron sights, why not save a couple hundred bucks over its competitors?

#2 — Colt SP6920

The Colt 6920 is the closest thing the American citizen can get to the rifle issued to our soldiers fighting around the world. It is the highest quality rifle on this list. Barrel twist rate (finally!) is 1/7, one complete bullet revolution per seven inches of barrel, which is the military specification and which will effectively stabilize bullets from 55 grains to 77 grains in weight. They say the devil is in the details, and a detailed analysis of this gun will show it to be made of superior materials and workmanship. For nearly two decades now the 6920 has stood as the epitome of the “M4 Carbine,” and the loyalty to Colt and their design shows in the sales of this model.

#1 — CMMG M4 LE

The number one selling AR-15 at Cheaper Than Dirt for 2011 was Central Missouri Machine Gun’s M4 LE. This proves the wisdom of its customers, because the CMMG is built to exacting specifications yet saves over $200 compared to the Colt 6920. The M4 LE comes with a folding back up sight from Magpul instead of the Colt’s detachable carry handle, and there are a few other differences. For example, instead of chrome lining the barrel is nitrided in a process CMMG calls their “WASP” finish, which provides for excellent corrosion resistance and improved accuracy over a chrome lined barrel. I honestly can’t think of an AR-15 that’s a better value per dollar spent. Maybe I’m biased, since I have owned many CMMG guns over the years, but obviously I’m not the only one who feels this way—more Cheaper Than Dirt! customers bought CMMG rifles than any other AR-15 this year!

Want to see what our top selling ARs in 2012 are? Click here!

Tell us which AR is your favorite in the comment section.

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 (29)

  1. Glad I bought a few RRAs, and BCMs before all thus. Niue got my RRS 6.8 for sale because i have three of the same exact models, all with dd omega ff rail, knd, magpul ctr, asap, battle comp babc, all for 2k

  2. I am in the market for an AR but the market has gone through the roof LOL as we all know . I will keep watching and hoping and saving .
    Thanks for the info !

  3. You should have mentioned that for just a $100.00 extra for the Plus Package on a Stag AR carbine you get better barrel(chrome), 1/7 twist,M4 feed ramps, MP &HP bolt and barrel, M16 bolt carrier, heavy buffer, extra 30 rd mag. Well worth the money!!!

  4. Good way to put it, ha ha! The ones sold the most. First off, I have a simple solution for the M16/M4/AK controversy-I have an AK, an RPK LMG, a Kel Tec PLR-16 in 5.56mm as my ”Poor Man’s PDW rigged out with a tactical Gladius light and a mil issue green laser, and my investment in the AR platform-the Ruger SR in 6.8SPC. Yep, I waited on the gas piston. Having fielded the M16A1/A2 and M4, it was my personal choice for the ultimate set up I wanted. I have yet to meet anyone regretting the SR yet! I must like to settle arguments-I chose .45, .40 AND 9mm, although almost all of my 9mm’s use a good sized cache of 9mm JHP +P+ only. Ha ha ha~! Don’t you love having choices in America!?

  5. Someone was dead on about the most sold product very much isn’t the best AR made. Has anyone ever shot a GAP10??? I have, and there’s not another AR made that shoots like it even though it’s a .308/260/6,5Creed. I have shot many many Sniper Comps, and never saw a Stag, or any standard AR15 shoot 1″ groups at 200yds.Also if you like the 7.62×39 try the 6.8SPC. It was thought out by the Military, and is a darn good round, sending an 85gr TSX @3,000fps+ out of a 16″ brrl. I have Les Baer’s, Barrett Rec7, RRA’s, S&W’s, Noveske’s, BCM’s, MSTN’s, and comparing the above reviewed to ANY of these is like comparing a mini bike to a Ferrari. Anyone who knows AR’s will tell you to build your own, use what ever lower you like, and you get to put the HEART of an AR into it, (THE BARREL) Noveske is PAC-NOR, which is miles above any other brrl maker.And when the Barrett was out shot @ 100,300,500 by a RRA 6.8spc that tells me something. When you tour Machine Shops, it just depends when your Colt, RRA, etc. was actually MADE by. I’ve saw Colt Roll Marks at several Machine Shops. Stag, being the “SON” if you will of CMT, uses same parts.
    How do you tell if your AR is a “TRUE MIL-SPEC?” look at your barrel. Is it 1/9? then it’s not MIL SPEC. Look at your bolt.. Is it an M16 carrier? if not, it’s not MIL SPEC. Look at your front sight… Is it F marked (has the letter F on the left side) If not.. IT”S NOT MIL SPEC. Buffer? does it say H for Heavy on a Carbine? No? NOT MIL SPEC., lol Get where I’m going. Matter of fact, is your 16″ a Mil SPEC M4? NO! Why? Because ALL our M4’s are 14.5″ barrels, only legal, by Perm. attaching a FH/MB, or getting an SBR Tax Stamp for $200 and waiting to get approved. The internet has pushed this Mil Spec crap so far that people are buying better Flash Hiders, so their Enemy (?) won’t see their flash, lol. We need to get a grip, and understand, that if we ever have to use deadly force outside of the Mil. it will be 21ft or less, That’s a Promise! If your not a Marine, or Military, you don’t need a MIL SPEC Nothing, lol. Want to learn about real LR shooting, and Accuracy? Try ( or, or even

    I have had waaayy too many people shooting at our range, that have never had a lesson at LR shooting, a Carbine Class, etc. Save your $ for a good training class.
    It’s like my old friend says, (Driving Coach) What’s more fun? Driving a Nascar/Indy Car at the track, (where your gonna get lapped by factory Honda Corolla’s) or driving a Factory Corolla to it’s MAX! White knuckles, foot down, no brakes, and wide open. Tried both, not trained enough to drive a fast car, just like a LWRC REPR, bought by a man who’s never shot an AR gun in his life,lol. Continue on Internet,”If it’s not a (insert your gun here) It’s not the Best!”

  6. After loooking for 4 years had decided to build my own. To late parts not available for 3-6 months. Stumbled onto the MP Sport. Was 100 cheaper than my best build and came with magazine and sights. May get different in 2-3 years but love the S&W MP. Also has handled all ammo thrown at it

  7. I should correct my last comment or clarify it some, as I am not an authority on the subject though have studied it somewhat. When the British first discovered rifling it was used in cannon rnds, later muskets and mini ball rnds, so weight was pretty much everything. Today however bullet designs have obviously advanced, and while weight does still matter its length becomes of more importance due to stability of the bullet, which not only effects it terminal performance on the target but also accuracy, but you wont find a 55gr bullet the same length as a 70gr(same core material) so length and weight do correspond to each other.

  8. the twist rate in rifling pertains to the bullets length not its weight, though its weight is related to its length, anyone who has studied internal ballistics will tell you 1:7 doesnt neccessarily suit all bullet lengths, and it will effect accuracy at given distances, as well as its terminal ballistics. A lot of hoopla was made about the M16 and its fragmenting bullet, which was more about an unstable bullet caused by improper rifling for that bullet, which also made it less accurate at greater distances. (at that time it was 1:12 or greater,I believe)Plus military standards dont always translate well to civilian use, 5.56×45 mil. Rnd is not the same as a .223.

  9. I love my Spikes Tactical. As much as I love and respect Colt, I cant see spending more money just because the weapon has a prancing horse stamped on the lower. If you’re a collector, sure the Colt will hold value more because of the name…but if you’re a shooter…you wont be disappointed in the Spikes. It will do anything the Colt will and shoot just as well doing it. The Spikes has all milspec parts though and through and is built to military specs when assembled. The price difference can be spent towards optics or other custom goodies typical of the AR platform. I looked at the S&W M&P and its a nice AR. But, I just didnt like the lack of dust cover and forward assist. Yeah, to some it means nothing but to me its like an AR thats missing its “personality”. I prefer an AR to look and feel more like its military cousin rather than a sporter. The M&P is a nice AR though. And although its not quite as heavy duty as the Spikes, its fine for plinking and sport use. Just my two cents YMMV.

  10. I’ve always been an 7.62×39 guy. I started with the old Norinco SKS and then added a Russian model SKS. Then I moved my way up to an AK. I really like the 7.62×39 round. I found the SKS’s to be very accurate and reliable. A little heavy and only holds 10 rounds. (I’ve tried several aftermarket mags with no dependable results) I love my AK now too. Reliably accurate and will eat anything for ammo. I recently (after 30 years) started to look at AR’s. I bought one and was in love at first pull of the trigger. I have a S&W-M&P15 and really like the available add on’s. I ended up taking a very light battle rifle and turned it into a 12.5 pound beast…. I had to re-think and start stripping of all non-essential goodies. I got it back to around 9 lbs. Heavy but equipped with what I consider real life goodies. Quad rail, 250 lumen flashlight and mount, Red dot and iron backup sights, sling, and foregrip. 1″ groups at 200 yrds. Very nice!! I still keep a standard AK around ready for Armageddon. You never know..

  11. finally picked up my 22tcm. It shoots great but with less than 100 rounds ran through it, it began to fail ejection. there is also brass shavings in it. What can I do. Help!

  12. at least its good to know my Stag is in the top 5 . the rifle now has a x50 nikon scope on it a harris bi-pod . and a single point bungie combat sling . i have no problems shooting heavy ammo with it . it love it and so does everybody eles that i let shoot it . they just need to stop asking me to sell it to them . NEVER ! next on the weapon is a night scope .

  13. IMHO the Rugar SR-556 has the most to offer check it out; but what do I know I was just a corpsman in Nam. As for the 1/9 twist; if one’s target is a human bad guy; tumbling is good!

  14. Best Selling, does not mean the Best AR-15. Spend a few more dollars and pick up the SIG-Sauer .556 Swat version, by CTD, includes a 16″ 1:7 forged barrel and an adjustable gas piston system, and check out the $1000 EOTECH 556 holographic sights w/ night vision and a 3x scope combo. Plug in a 60 round magazine and its game on for any adventure. I am also considering the SIG 556 Pistol version.. Another amazing tool or art.

  15. Thanks to all who take the time to Ed. Us (ME) newbes to the huge amount of info. Out there your comment allow me to take another look before I buy,I always hope that the info given is with the best intent. But your knowledge allows me to take another look at the specs before I make a dission.

  16. I’m a bit confused! You stated that the military uses a 1-7″ twist rate on their rifles which can be used to shoot a heavier round. Yet the cmmg m4 LE has a 1-9″ twist rate. Therefore, wouldn’t the colt be the better rifle with their 1-7″ twist rate?

  17. I wonder where the S&W M&P 15 Sport fit in your sales results. The specs and pricing pretty much match the CDT rifle but it’s from one of the best known makers in the world. Sure, it has no dust cover or forward assist but how many of us are really going to sit out a dust storm in Afghanistan or crawl on the beaches of Normandy with our civilian AR.

    BTW, the CTD website says the M4 LE is no longer available. Would it be a good idea to review guns that we can buy?

  18. Manufacturer: CMMG, Inc. CMMGM4LE
    Item: 2-CMMGM4LE
    UPC: 852005002127

    CMMG M4 LE Semi-automatic Carbine 5.56 NATO 16″ Barrel 30 Rounds 6 Position Stock, Black Finish.
    Includes one 30 round magazine and manual. Barrels are engraved CMMG WASP 5.56 NATO 1:9. Each firearm is head spaced and test fired before shipping.

    1 in 9 twist instead of 1 in 7 as desribed above? Am I missing something?

    Thanks CTD you guys rock!

  19. Just in time! My next gun will be an AR-15, now that I have moved out of Cook County, IL. Also considering a Palmetto State Armory M4A1. Next, please do a review of optics. They really range from $35 reflex sights to $400 for EOTech and Aimpoint. For a sporting AR15 rifle, I need some reviews!

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