Best/cheapest out of the box AR for a beginner?


May 24, 2006, 02:59 PM
So I shot my first AR a couple days ago. It was a Bushmaster XM 15 M4 in .223/5.56mm. Let me just say that I'm hooked! I am definitely going to need some sort of AR in the future! :D I'm a total newbie when it comes to rifles, so keep that in mind.

What is the cheapest (but still decent, reliable, and relatively accurate) complete AR "out of the box"? Do you recommend a newbie start wtih an M16 or an M4? Which is cheaper, and what are the pros/cons of each? As I understand it the M4 is louder and less powerful due to the shorter barrel.

I don't know enough yet to build my own AR, so I'm thinking I should leave that option out until I have my own and figure out what I like and don't like.

Help a newbie out! :D Thanks in advance. I've been trying to find some info on searches, but maybe I'm not searching for the right things.

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May 24, 2006, 03:13 PM
Well, what do you want to do with it? :)

For just general plinking, go with whatever tickles your fancy.

But before making a choice, you might look into some of the different forms of competition people use AR's in to see if you'd be interested in trying that stuff out.

Probably the two most well known would be High Power Service Rifle competition and Multigun/3 Gun. The first deals with developing pure marksmanship ability, the second with employing a rifle in situations that are at unknown distances and involve moving.

There are also plenty of others.

May 24, 2006, 03:30 PM
Interesting question...

Well, it would start out being for general plinking since it's fun and I'd need to build up some basic skills first. However, I may eventually dabble in the Multigun/3gun competitions you're speaking of. What are the other 2 guns, pistol and shotgun? I'm into pistols already, and I plan on dabbling in shotguns, too. I was thinking of shotguns first, since they're cheaper, but I'm just too darn hooked on the AR now!

The thing is, I'll be able to afford a really nice AR eventually (years down the road--so not really a "wait and buy a great gun later instead of a decent gun now" scenario), but right now my budget is very limited. So that's why I'm looking for the cheapest out-the-door AR that is not a piece of junk (rifle equivalent of a Jennings pistol, e.g.).

Are there any brands or types to steer clear of? Also, any thoughts as to M16 vs. M4? Is one cheaper than the other? I know the M16 has longer range capabilities and more power, and I'll probably eventually buy or build a nice one when I know more and have more time and money. I assume the M4 is cheaper.

Are all AR parts interchangeable, regardless of manufacturer? I've noticed people buying uppers and lowers from different companies. They don't require fitting/adjusting?

In pistol terms (what I know more about), what is the equivalent of a Hi-Point in an AR (entry level)? How about a Ruger equivalent (mid level)? Or a Sig/H&K equivalent (upper tier)? And what's a price I should expect to not pay more than for the above three categories? I don't have a clue about pricing, and I don't want to get taken to the cleaners.

Red State
May 24, 2006, 04:12 PM
I cant speak from experience, but I have heard that both Busmaster and Rock River make multiple AR style guns that are pretty good right out of the box.

Don't Tread On Me
May 24, 2006, 04:22 PM
Impossible request.

Best method is to list your absolute max price for purchasing an AR. When you do that, people will be able to make good suggestions as to what is the best AR you can get for that money.

Also, what do you mean by out of the box? Do you mean brand-new? Or a factory built rifle (not a parts built gun)?

May 24, 2006, 04:24 PM
I have been looking around and doing some research on ar-15 as I plan to purchace one in the near future.

Bushmasters seem to be a great choice. Everyone tends to agree Bushmasters are great quality and prices are very reasonable for an ar out of the box.

As far as m-4 / m-16, you would be surprised that the m-16 style ars tend to be cheaper (as far as I can tell). I think that features like the 6-position stock and barrel profile bump the price a little on the m-4.

I am looking at m-4 type rifles as the size makes it a little more practical for a home defense weapon (still mostly for fun). There is a lot of stuff you can read to get people's point of view on the different brands and types of ar's, and I am always a fan of researching stuff a lot before you buy.

I just thought I'd jump in since I am in the same situation as you right now. Good luck in your search!

May 24, 2006, 06:15 PM
I think your best bet is to save up a few bucks and, rather than a cheap beginner rifle, go buy that Bushmaster. IMO the best way to go is with an A3(removeable carry handle) because you will eventually want to buy a scope or red dot.
And yes,I believe in Bushmaster all the way. The quality and price is unbeatable.

Side Note: After talking to a Rock River rep at the recent NRA show I am even more convinced that a chrome lined barrel is the way to go.
The RRA rep says: 'well, a chrome lined barrel is necessary if you are fighting in the jungles because its a rust inhibitor, but otherwise its not neccessary and it hurts accuracy' -sorry but BS!

I own a Bushmaster with 16" barrel and have no problems at all with sub 1" groups at 200 meters

May 24, 2006, 08:15 PM
Check out for more Q/As. I'd say build one to your liking and so that you know the in and outs of the gun.

May 24, 2006, 10:51 PM
"Cheapest" and "Best" are mutually exclusive.

IMHO, the best out-of-the-box deal for an entry-level AR is the Olympic Arms "Plinker Plus," hands down. Originally it was available only as a 16" carbine. I believe there is now also a 20" Plinker version available.

May 24, 2006, 11:01 PM
When it comes to AR's even the "cheap" ones ain't cheap. You are better off waiting a little while, saving up some more cash and buying a good one, or building exactly what you want. At the range, either rent different brands and configuration or ask someone that you see shooting one if you can try it out... We AR folks are usually pretty friendly.:D

Once you have an idea of what you want, go for it.

May 24, 2006, 11:07 PM
Go with a rockriver .

May 24, 2006, 11:09 PM

Bushmaster 16" A3 .223 Carbine

Bushmaster 16" A3 .223 Carbine
A rugged, telescoping buttstock adds to the versatility of this .223 Remington caliber carbine, and the ribbed handguards keep swing weight to a minimum. Its handguards, pistol grip and “tele” stock are molded of hard thermoset polymer composite. The heavy barrel, with chrome lined bore and chamber, offers exceptional accuracy for its length and is externally manganese phosphate finished for complete protection against corrosion and rust - as are all steel parts of the weapon. The barrel incorporates a “birdcage” style flash suppressor/compensator with closed bottom to eliminate dust signature when firing in the prone position. The M16A2 sight system, with two flip-up apertures designed for either short range shots at moving targets or long distance accuracy, offers adjustment for windage and elevation. The elevation adjustments are graduated from 300 to 800 meters and automatically compensate for bullet drop. Forged, lightweight 7075T6 aircraft quality aluminum receivers have all M16A2 design improvements including cartridge case deflector, last round bolt hold-open and raised ridges for magazine release button protection.

The A3 Type differs in that it's Upper Receiver is “flat-top” style with an integral Picatinny rail to offer a variety of sight, scope or night vision mounting options. A 1/2 M.o.A. rear sight is incorporated into the Removable Carrying Handle.
The XM15 E2S Carbine is shipped complete with 30 round magazine, instructional manual and carrying sling, all in a hard plastic shipping case.

To Order please call Toll Free, 888-748-5252

Price: $849.95

May 24, 2006, 11:13 PM
Go with a rockriver .

If you get a RRA get a mid length gas system. That's what I have and I love it. Wish I had a chrome chamber and barrel so I wouldn't feel inadequate when surfing ARFCOM.

May 25, 2006, 10:23 AM
How much does a basic olympic arms run? what about a RRA? I saw that the bushmaster was listed as $850 on one of the previous posts.

I also saw a post on here that someone could build an AR for $5-600. Is this really do-able for a newbie just with tips from the AR forum? Just curious, b/c that would be nice to only spend that much and use the extra $250-350 for lots of ammo.

May 25, 2006, 11:32 AM
Juna, you can save a little money buy assembling one yourself, but you'll need access to certain task-specific tools. If you have to buy these, it will eat into your savings margin. If you have a friend who already owns the tools, borrowing that friend's tools and knowledge will get her done.

May 25, 2006, 11:38 AM
I'm in the market for one too. The Olympic Plinker Plus rifles I've seen at the gunshow here are between $600 and $650, depending on the vendor. You may be able to get one for under $600 if you really shop around. I've priced a build, and yes you can build one that is a little better for cheaper, but I think for my first one I'm going to try to save up for a Bushmaster (or, heaven forbid, trade for one).

As much as I like my AK and SKS's, I think it is time to expand my semi-auto horizons.

Gary G23
May 25, 2006, 11:42 AM
Stag Arms

May 25, 2006, 12:15 PM
I just bought a DPMS Panther Lite. I am very happy with it. It came with a plastic case, cleaning kit, manual, and two 30 round mags. It has a forged aluminum upper and lower, closely resembles more expensive ARs, and is light (5.7 pounds empty) and handy (16 inch barrel, adjustable stock). I saw the rifle listed on The seller was Greg Calvert, Greg's Guns, Russellville, AR. ( I paid $639 plus $20 shipping. Greg was very easy to deal with. I think the price I paid is a few dollars lower than the going rate. Others who deal in DPMS include Tejas Gunwerks and Dynamic Armament.


May 25, 2006, 11:38 PM
Couple of things...

Rock River Arms. Great but not inexpensive.

Chrome lines parts are easier to clean and reduce fouling than SS, chromemoly, etc.

Olympic's plinker is probably the most inexpensive rifle you'll find that will actually work out of the box from one of the large manufacturers.

That said, you can get a Bushmaster or DPMS and some others used for as low as $600 and maybe lower.

May 26, 2006, 12:23 AM
I have a DPMS 16" with flattop, an aimpoint, 6 pos buttstock, rails with a vertical front grip, and BUIS. I also have an Armalite 16" A2 upper with a scope, front rails with a vertical grip, hogue pistol grip, 6 pos stock. Neither has ever failed me.

May 26, 2006, 10:52 AM
I have a Bushmaster A2 HB (fixed handle) 20" barrel. It is a great rifle. I have not had any problems with it. Extremely accurate. My wife loves to shoot it.
I had trouble getting magazines back in '99 but now there is no problem.

May 26, 2006, 12:05 PM
One way to "build your own" (not really since you are just slapping a lower to an upper) is to find a complete upper and complete lower separately. This involves almost no skill and no special tools (you just pop out two pins and fit the pieces together and pop the pins back in place.)

It takes some patience and a bit of surfing the exchange forum at, but I've got a stag lower with a flat top Rock River upper that I pieced together for about $500 shipped, and a Bushmaster lower and upper that when bought separately totaled $565.

Good luck with your decision, and keep in mind that you may be beginning a very addictive habit.

May 26, 2006, 01:24 PM
Thanks for all the replies, folks! Yet another area of THR that I'm impressed with. :)

One way to "build your own" (not really since you are just slapping a lower to an upper) is to find a complete upper and complete lower separately. This involves almost no skill and no special tools (you just pop out two pins and fit the pieces together and pop the pins back in place.)

Wow, that's good to know. I didn't realize it was that simple. I'll have to do some research on that. So do pretty much all AR variant component parts fit one another? Are there any brands that don't fit with other brands' components or require special fitting?

keep in mind that you may be beginning a very addictive habit.
It's too late for that... I'm already hooked! :D

May 26, 2006, 01:40 PM
Although this may change, my current plans are to get a complete upper and lower and slap them together myself. Its looking like the upper is gona run about 650 (I want some extra goodies :D ) and pick up a lower with the tele-stock and maby 2 stage trigger (about 200), Over all is gona run about 850, which isn't bad when a setup gun like this is running like 1000 from RRA and Bushmaster.

1911 guy
May 27, 2006, 01:50 AM
There are adds in SGN for complete lowers all the time. Another option is to buy a kit that includes all but a stripped lower. For a beginner buying a kit, there are companies that sell kits with complete uppers and the fire control group in a small bag for assembly into your lower.

Personally, my last EBR (Evil Black Rifle) purchase was a DPMS lower from Keisslers (found in SGN) and a 24" chromed H-BAR profile with National Match sights from Model 1 Sales. Total cost about 650, assemply is a matter of two reciever pins as mentioned above.

If you plan on buying a seperate upper and lower but plan to upgrade later, spend the money on the best lower you can afford. Olympic, Rock River, DPMS, Bushmaster and Armalite are very good. Colt's not bad at all, but overpriced and their triggers leave something to be desired. Buy a less expensive upper to start with, later put a better upper on an already good lower.

A word on triggers. If you plan on putting a lot of M193 or M855 through it, keep the stock trigger. Most two stages don't take kindly to the abuse of Mil spec. ammo and the manufacturers will tell you as much. That's where getting a good factory trigger comes in.

May 27, 2006, 07:32 AM
Be carefull to try and identify how you want to use this gun so you get what fits you on the first try.
Beware some of the parts and pieces used guns at gunshows.
I recomend a chrome lined barrel,it is one of the things that is usually left out of the budget guns to lower the cost.
An A2 fixed carry handle will be about the same cost as a Flatop but then with the flatop you have to purchase the clamp on handle/sight for about another $100. I do recomend you go for both the flatop w/removable carry handle and chrome lined barrel.
Any dealer should be beating the mfg list price on web sights such as Bushmaster or Rockriver.
You pay federal excise tax of 11% on any firearm (folded into price you pay at local store).If you buy a complete assembled lower as one transaction and buy an upper somewhere else or as a seperate transaction the upper is just an "part" and carries no fed tax.This is how you save money "building" an AR . Don't expect the local gunstore to seperate a complete gun,the tax has been paid ,you have to find a store that carries or is willing to order an assembled or striped lower. The lower has the serial number and is the "firearm" in the eyes of the law. Some folks willl assemble their own lower from a stripped model,takes only a few simple tools (hammer and punches) this might save you $50 if you shop carefull ,I would recomend you buy the factory assembled lower to start off. Building an upper takes some special tools and knowledge,again I suggest you buy a factory assembled upper,your cost savings here is shopping around on the internet and finding the best price.
If you buy an factory assembled lower and a same brand factory assembled upper you basicly have the same factory warantee as buying a complete rifle

June 2, 2006, 02:56 AM
Before you buy an Oly Arms do some reading at their site. I remember reading in there somewhere that they have closer tolerances and 5.56 may not be recommended by them/ .223 and 5.56 have slight differences.

June 2, 2006, 03:11 AM
On the Olympic-
I have shot some 5.56 out of mine. Even Wolf and Olympic run fine out of it.

June 2, 2006, 08:37 PM
>> word on triggers. If you plan on putting a lot of M193 or M855 through it, keep the stock trigger. Most two stages don't take kindly to the abuse of Mil spec. ammo and the manufacturers will tell you as much. That's where getting a good factory trigger comes in.

I never heard that or read that from any of my two stage triggers manufacturers. Fill me in.

Bartholomew Roberts
June 2, 2006, 10:32 PM
A word on triggers. If you plan on putting a lot of M193 or M855 through it, keep the stock trigger. Most two stages don't take kindly to the abuse of Mil spec. ammo and the manufacturers will tell you as much. That's where getting a good factory trigger comes in.

It has nothing to do with the ammo type, most two-stage match triggers just aren't built with the same degree of reliability and set screws on adjustable triggers tend to back out from mechanical vibration unless loctited into place.

One quick way to improve a stock trigger is to replace the hammer and trigger pins with some quality aftermarket pins (and most match triggers will include such pins with the trigger)

June 3, 2006, 12:12 AM
right now, i would say that Star, and high Standard , are making some pretty decent low priced stuff right now.

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