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Please school me on ARs

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Kachok, Jun 27, 2012.

  1. Kachok

    Kachok Senior Member

    Oct 3, 2010
    Palestine TX
    OK so I have played with every bolt gun on the planet for my entire life, but I have very little understanding of the changes to AR platforms since I used an M16 years ago. Like many others I have noticed the dramatic increase in ARs for sale everywhere I turn including the local Wal-Mart, the prices vary from $599 to about $1300, what are the major differences between these low end models and name brand ARs? A friend of mine is looking at the M&P Sport and the Sig M400 enhanced carbine, are these both quality firearms?
  2. greyling22

    greyling22 Senior Member

    Aug 6, 2007
    East Texas
    if you're not going to run them hard you're probably not going to be able to tell the difference in a $600 vs a $1000 gun. A lot of it is how much quality control and testing did they do on the parts. (ex was it MPI tested? expensive one, yes, cheap one, probably not. maybe batched, but it all came out of the same parts bin) The AR industry is very incestuous and there is a lot of parts sharing going around.

    beyond that, accessories accessories accessories. free float tubes to enhance accuracy, flashlights for raccoons at night, back up iron sights for.........war?

    **********soapbox alert*******
    My snooty opinion is that the AR crowd (especially the internet crowd) is unbelievably snooty and opinionated. worse than the 1911 crowd. Only the BEST and COMBAT READY and MILSPEC etc. is worth having, the rest is all junk, not even worth for the guy who shoots cans and runs 300 rounds through his gun a year. he has to have milspec!!! and testing! and accessories!

    now, if you're going to shoot competitively and take one to war, get a nicer one by all means.

    *******end soapbox ***********
  3. checkmyswag

    checkmyswag Member

    Sep 24, 2011
    Not sure about the Sig but most like the Sport.

    Depends what brand you want and what features. I think I'd be happy with an $850ish AR, could live with a $700ish one but prefer the $1000 plus ones, eventually would like a piston gun.

    Watch your lane!
  4. Kachok

    Kachok Senior Member

    Oct 3, 2010
    Palestine TX
    The gas piston systems are supposed to be more reliable, which ARs come with this feature? Are there any ARs that come with a crisp adjustable factory trigger like the ones on Sako/Tikka bolt rifles? All the factory triggers I have seen thus far have been very heavy (7-8lbs) and no mention of a user adjustable feature.
  5. madcratebuilder

    madcratebuilder Mentor

    Jul 15, 2007
    Northern Orygun
    greyling22 described it well. You pay more for 4150 barrels and fully tested bolts. That does not mean 4140 barrels and batch tested bolts fail sooner.

    To have a light adjustable trigger well require you to add a after market trigger and there are dozens to choose from. There are many single stage and two stage triggers, very few are adjustable.

    A piston AR is no more reliable than the DI AR. You have to clean the piston and gas cylinder instead of the bolt and carrier. The piston may degrade accuracy and adds weight.
  6. meanmrmustard

    meanmrmustard Senior Member

    Jun 14, 2011
    Gas piston is a more reliable design, but more importantly, it runs cooler and isnt spewing hot gaseous carbon fouling into the receiver in order to run the action, therefore also running cleaner. Downside is that gas piston, while not a huge deal breaker, is a bit heavier and costs more. Imagine an AR with AK-like self loading system. That's almost too sexy.

    You'll hear that DI is as reliable as GP. It's also easier to clean a GP that it is every nook and cranny of a receiver due to the goofy design of DI. The weight difference is minute.
    Degrade accuracy? Only if you suck.

    Who makes em...
    Ruger 556
    Colt 6940P
    Sig 516
    Smith and Wesson M&P psx...to name ONLY a few.

    Also, there are several conversion units that allow you to change from DI to GP if you decide to do so later.

    As much as I love GP (I'm a diehard AK fan) I'd get the Sport. Spend $700 overall and use the rest of your money for ammo and gadgets, an AWESOME cleaning kit as you'll need it with the Sport, or a whole other gun. But, as you know having had an M16 back in the day, do not be fooled. DI will work, but it is a dirty system and favors the cost inhibited who LOVE to clean their rifle. My Sport shoots great, is accurate, and is light. The Smith PSX is only a 1/4lb more in weight, it's GP, and just as accurate with 64 gr pills. It also doesn't such to clean. I'll talk my brother in law out of it someday:evil:

    I won't do the DI vs GP arguing if it gets sparked. They have their ups and downs. GP has more ups for me, YMMV.
  7. proven

    proven Active Member

    Mar 9, 2004
    i'm not trying to be a wise guy, but......use the search function and google. there are more threads about ar's on this board than any other platform. most are guys looking to get into one and wondering what they should look for given their personal paln for use. google will turn up years of reading on them.

    in a nut shell it boils down to quality of material used and specs for parts along with the testing of those parts. not all are created equal. yes, many come from the same milling house, but are made to customers specs. then there's proper or improper assembly.

    piston guns are not necessarily more reliable, and the downside is you lose parts interchangability as there is no one standard piston design. google filthy 14 to see what a properly built ar is capable of in terms of reliablity.

    i know of no adjustable factory triggers. rock river has a nm two stage trigger, but i've heard countless stories of it crapping out and going to single stage over time, and not maintaining a consistant pull weight. aftermarket is your friend here.

    good luck

    eta, mrmeanmustard...it's remarkable how you always say you won't do the di vs. gp debate right after you post all your love for the gp and why it's better than di, and how di guns are sooo dirty and need to be babied.
  8. Skyshot

    Skyshot Active Member

    Jan 23, 2011
    The good thing about AR's is you can replace any part of the firearm you want. Most of the low end guns shoot pretty decent. You can also build a very nice one if you shop around. And anyone who has any mechanical ability can build one. So I would suggest you find one the you like and go for it. My own prefs are for a 1:9 twist because they seem to handle the best array of bullets and a lightweight M4 carbine style. I have a Stag Arms 3H upper unit mated to a PSA lower with 2x7 Nikon and it shoots M855 ball ammo inside and inch at 100 yards. I also have a DPMS that shoots almost that good with bulk ammo and with both guns I have less than 750 bucks in each and have never had any problems with either. Enjoy and good luck.
  9. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Mentor

    Oct 19, 2010
    East TN
    As a result of the Service Rifle shooters, accuracy of the AR has become outstanding. This has spawned a whole host of variations and accessories for both the tactical market as well as the hunting market.

    And, it is easy to build, modify, or rebuild an AR for someone with good mechanical skills and the appropriate hand tools.

    The caliber choices are becoming numerous. One is not tied to just 223 Remington any more. I have ARs chambered in 4 different cartridges. Configurations vary from 24" heavy barrel, "crew served" varminter AR to a light weight, 16" M4gery.

    Todays ARs are definitely not your father's M-16.
  10. gotigers

    gotigers Participating Member

    Sep 1, 2009
    No need for a piston. Yes, they run cleaner, but they are more barrel heavy. Biggest reason against piston, is that there is nothing wrong with Direct Impingement. Just clean the AR occassionally. Also, as said above, you lose part versatility.

    The biggest difference between the low end ARs you see at walmart is the barrels are not chrome lined. CL is nice if you are going to run 10,000 rounds thru it. otherwise non-lined barrels are fine and might be a little more accurate.

    Some of the low end ARs don't have a forward assist or port cover. Neither are really needed for civilian uses.

    The ARs i've seen at walmarts are good ARs. They are fine for home defense, plinking, light varmint hunting, beginner 3 gun, etc.

    AR milspec triggers can be 5-6.5lbs +/-. You can lighten the trigger by replacing the trigger and hammer springs with JP yellow reduced power springs.
  11. taliv

    taliv Moderator

    Oct 23, 2004
    Kachok, there are thousands of threads covering this topic, which has been discussed every day for 10 years here. Most of them are more useful than some of the answers you've received so far, as experienced discussion about the actual specs and features is much more helpful than repeating myths and discussing hurt feelings after others bought a better product for about the same money.

    if you want some fact-based reading, this page describes various features the military finds critical and why they're meaningful. https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pwswheghNQsEuEhjFwPrgTA&single=true&gid=5&output=html
    Then this page has a list of several models and the differences. https://spreadsheets.google.com/spr...akp2a3Y2NjMxTEE&single=true&gid=2&output=html

    obviously, if your interest is precision benchrest type shooting, or competitive 3gun or finding the lightest weight, etc then many of the military features are not desirable. e.g. you might want a bull barrel and 1.5 lb trigger instead. And if your friend's interest is low-cost, that's ok too. There are many mfgs that cut corners in assembly and use cheaper parts. Really, the only thing that's not ok, is claiming there are no differences when clearly they are demonstrable and quantifiable.

    but looking at the M&P sport, it's obviously a knock off of the colt m4. it's cheaper for the same reason the yugo is cheaper than a honda Will they both get you to work? sure, most of the time.

    if you are concerned enough about reliability to be interested in a gas piston, do yourself a huge favor and skip the gas piston. Adding proprietary moving mechanical parts to a system usually doesn't improve reliability, and if something breaks, it makes it really difficult to find replacement parts. (and yeah, they do break surprisingly often)
  12. Lovesbeer99

    Lovesbeer99 Participating Member

    Sep 27, 2006
    I bought a standard Bushmaster 20" some years ago and it never failed me ever. As money allowed I upgraded to a free float tube and trigger, and went from milsurp ammo to match grade ammo and that alone greatly improved accuracy. I've continued to upgrade with a match barrel, an even better trigger, match sights, adjustable butstock and my AR runs like a top and with handloads is very accurate out to 600 yards.

    Any AR out of the box will you give you 2" groups at 100 yards with milsurp ammo. You can learn a lot about AR's starting here and upgrading as you go. Thats part of the fun with AR's are all the available upgrades.

    If you want a 2nd AR, just buy an upper as there is no need to get an entire new gun. You can use the same lower.

    I don't like the Piston guns yet because there is no standard. The DI gun parts are all interchangable.

    For an out of the box gun I'm partial to Bushmaster and RockRiver. Good luck
  13. jmr40

    jmr40 Mentor

    May 26, 2007
    I don't have any higher end AR's, but have 3 mid level and 1 budget AR. All are VERY accurate. My cheapest, a DPMS shoots 1"-1.5" groups with the cheaper bulk ammo and .5-1" with quality ammo just like the more expensive guns. There were some corners cut that could be an issue if it were to be used in an extended firefight. That is not what I bought it for. It wears a 2-7X scope and is my lightweight carrying around Varmit gun. If it malfunctions a coyote may live another day, but I won't die.

    I also have a Stag, Rock River, and Palmetto State Armory. They are mid-level guns selling for around $700-$800. They are close enough to the $1000-$1400 guns for me. Any differences in quality I will never notice. There are those who will argue that the high end guns are worth the difference. I respect their opinions, but disagree.

    The S&W has earned a reputation for being one of the better mid grade guns and I'd say it is every bit as good as the Stag, Rock River or PSA that I own. Maybe better.

    The Sig is probably right there as well. There are just not as many out there and they are not as well known. I'd probably trust my life to any of the mid-level guns.

    My advice is to go to their websites and compare the specs of the parts they use to build their guns. Buy the one that has the features important to you and at the best price. I just bought my PSA about a week ago and have not even shot it yet. Like you I was looking at the Colt at Walmart for $1079 or the Sig for $917. My brother, who is much more into AR's than I suggested the PSA. After looking at the parts specs we felt that the PSA at $750 was better built than the Sig, and right with the Colt.
  14. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Elder

    Jun 5, 2006
    In a part of Utah that resembles Tattooine.
    I'm not at all sold on pistons. They are non-standardized, and create their own set of problems, such as bolt carrier tilt. One day, with a Bushmaster M-4gery, me and a friend of mine cranked through 500 straight rounds of Wolf ammo, stopping once to slather more CLP on the bolt. Zero malfunctions, no piston. Yes, the thing was so hot I was glad I had gloves, but it ran.

    All machines fail sooner or later. I think that the factors that determin how well and how long an AR will run are basic features, like a chrome-lined chamber and bore, and a good bolt, carrier, and extractor. (And I have had a military carrier come unstaked.) A S&W Sport will work the vast majority of the time for the vast majority of shooters. A Colt 6920 is a few hundred dollars up, and probably worth most of it. Beyond that, you have lots of cool rail and cosmetic options, but I don't think most of it is justified by the return.
  15. Landric

    Landric Active Member

    Apr 19, 2003
    Kansas City Metro
    This is one of those "no right answer" kind of threads. Mostly AR preference is about opinions, though there are some things that are actually important, what those are also come down to preference and intended use.

    Me? I prefer chrome lined chambers and barrels, 1/7 twists, and property staked auto bolt carriers. Past that, I'm pretty open.

    The Sport has a good rep, though I have never had one, I wouldn't hesitate to get one for a range toy. I wouldn't use one as a defensive gun (just my preference, it would probably work just fine in that role). The SIG M400 is a newer development, but I haven't seen anything negative about it. Never played with one myself. When it comes to SIG rifles I prefer the 556 series, so that makes me somewhat unusual, a lot of folks don't like the 556 for one reason or another.

    Really, any quality brand should give good service. Some of the mainstream brands have less then stellar reputations on the internet (DPMS, current Bushmasters), but I expect that the majority of those guns are fine as well, they just might have a slightly higher rate of problems than some other brands.
  16. longrange308

    longrange308 New Member

    Jun 14, 2012
    I have one AR style rifle, it's the DPMS AP4 Panther Carbine, I bought it about four years ago when the panic was in full swing for right at $1000.00. I love it, won't get rid of it.

    Pay attention to the barrel, is it chrome lined, or not. But, AR's are like anything else, you get what you pay for.

    If I did buy another one it would probably be a Ruger.
  17. Welding Rod

    Welding Rod Participating Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    In a lot of cases, among common ARs most of the extra cost is for one thing - a quad rail.

    Getting an AR with a quad rail is a complete waste of money, unless of course you need or want one.

    I have owned my share of ARs, well more than a dozen. Personally my all time favorite AR is configured like this:

    Flattop w/ Aimpoint T-1 (2 MOA) or M4S red dot optic
    Troy flip up rear sight
    16" lightweight profile 556 chrome lined barrel
    Mid-length gas system
    Plastic Handguards (MagPul when mounting a Surefire light)
    2 stage match trigger
    Magpul CTR telescoping stock
    BCM "Gun-fighter" charging handle - medium.
    Magpul or NHMTG magazines (20 round)

    My seond choice is the same gun but with a 20" Gov profile barrel and a removable carry handle also sighted in to go along with the Aimpoint.

    Either of these will be about $1,900 - $2,000 or so all done up, if my math was right. Of course a good part of that is the optic. Personally I think the optic is quite important if you want to exploit the capabilities of the gun.... the purpose for a gun like this is to shoot fast and accurately, and a good red dot is big help in doing this.

    For precise shooting I like a 20" HBAR stainless barrel with a round free float tube and a good conventional scope on top.

    If you are going to do it, I would buy right the first time. I have seen a lot of guys, including myself almost 30 years ago, take the AR plunge and get something like a 16" carbine with iron sights. The handguards are too short, the sight radius is too short, the trigger sucks, and the buttstock is cheesey. Consequently they became unimpressed and sold off their gun later, losing interest in the AR platform.
  18. Carne Frio

    Carne Frio Active Member

    Aug 28, 2008
    Near Fairbanks
  19. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Elder

    Jun 5, 2006
    In a part of Utah that resembles Tattooine.
    I would say a quad rail is worth it if you are in a situation where you MUST mount optics forward of the receiver. If you are mounting something that really requires precision, you will need a hard rail with a free-float. But for lights, grips, etc, anything that doesn't need to be zeroed, a Magpul MOE grip is very versatile for $30.

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