At a Glance: Top AR15 rifles for under $1000 in 2020
Comparison of the Top AR15 rifles for under $1000
Our Top Pick
|Aero Precision – AC-15 5.56X45MM NATO 16″ Mid-length Rifle||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|Aero Precision – M4E1 5.56 Collapsible Stock 20″||View Latest Price|
|Double Star – Star-15 Carb 5.56 16″ BBL LTWT 30+1||View Latest Price|
The AR-15 is not only one of the most popular firearms in American but also one of the most prolifically manufactured firearmsin the world, with many manufacturers to choose from. That makes it extremely difficult for a buyer to decide which AR-15 to buy. to complicate things even further, there is a vast offering of accessories with which to personalize your AR-15.
Our list of the top options
In this review, we will look at several AR-15 rifles which can be bought for less than $1000 to help you select the best weapon for your unique needs. We will highlight the different specifications of the selected AR-15 rifles and the pros and cons of each rifle to help you make an informed choice.
Aero Precision – AC-15 5.56X45MM NATO 16″ Mid-length Rifle
This rifle’s reduced weight makes it ideal for lugging around or target shooting all day long. It can easily fire more than 2000 rounds without any malfunction. It is easy to disassemble when cleaning it which is great, particularly for new shooters. Aero Precision didn’t skimp on quality when they built the rifle although it remains a budget-friendly option. The quality and performance compares favorably with higher-priced rifles. The high-quality pistol grip and buttstock ensure good control over your rifle and make it easy to handle.
The rifle is optics-ready and the flattop Aero Precision AC-15 mid-length is the perfect budget-friendly option. Users can either install optics or iron sights of their choice.
Both upper and lower receivers are made from aluminum. The 16″ barrel is machined from 4150 CMV steel and coated with a corrosion-resistant finish. The barrel’s twist rate is 1-in-7 and has an M4 profile and a flash suppressor and is chambered in 5.56 Nato caliber. The rifle employs a mid-length direct impingement gas system and an M16 bolt carrier group with a properly staked gas key. The bolt is machined of Carpenter 158 steel and is high-pressure and magnetic-particle inspected. The manufacturer builds its components mostly in-house and, coming from a background in the aerospace industry, their components are all mil-spec. The trigger was found to be gritty and a magazine would have been a happy addition.
This option is best for newcomers and anyone with a smaller budget. This is a high-quality rifle at an affordable price that will do everything you want from it. Beginners will find the rifle easy to shoot.
In our view the Aero Precision AC-15 Mid-Length Rifle is an excellent choice for both experienced and beginner shooters. The rifle is reasonably priced without sacrificing any quality. The rifle is well-built to mil-spec standards with all the necessary features that you will need to enjoy your day at the shooting range. The rifle has a low weight of 6.25lbs which won’t tire you out on your hiking trip.
- M4 profile barrel
- Aluminum receiver
- BCG is HP and MP inspected
- 16-Inch barrel with a 1-to-7 twist rate
- Corrosion-resistant finish
- A free-floating handguard
- Lightweight, 6.25lbs.
- A gritty trigger
- Ships without a magazine
Aero Precision – M4E1 5.56 Collapsible Stock 20″
This is a reliabile and accurate rifle. It makes it easy to fire accurate follow-up shots. The accuracy of the Aero Precision M41E1 rifle is comparable to a full-length rifle but with all the features of an AR-15 carbine. The rifle-length gas system affords greater reliability and less recoil particularly in rapid fire. The increased velocity of the 20″ barrel makes it possible to reach targets outside the range of shorter barrels. The collapsible buttstock makes the rifle more compact and easier to maneuver. The quality of the buttstock and the Magpul MOE pistol grip makes the control of the rifle easy and improves accuracy. The integral rigid handguard didn’t show any flex between the guard and receiver. The free-floating barrel and the M-Lok slots and Picatinny rail sections are nice touches that make the attachment of accessories easy. The direct impingement system and the rifle-length gas system with the 20″ barrel offer great reliability and accuracy. The barrel is made of 4150 chrome-vanadium and has a 1-7 twist rate and a QPQ finish for corrosion resistance. The barrel is chambered for 5.56 Nato ammunition and is also compatible with .223 Remington ammo. The rifle employs an M16-type bolt carrier group. We liked the flared mag well which speeds up magazine changes and the integral trigger guard.
This rifle is best for the more experienced AR-15 shooter due to its greater accuracy and longer reach while having all the capabilities of a full-length AR-15 rifle. The greater weight makes it better-suited for larger shooters who can handle the length and weight. The rifle is ideal for target shooting, shooting competitions, and hunting, and of course it will also serve its purpose in a home defense role. Anyone who wants to add accessories and customize their AR-15 will find ample space to attach whatever they want.
The Aero Precision M4E-1 5.56 Collapsible stock 20″ is the ideal buy for the more experienced AR-15 shooter who wants more accuracy and velocity when shooting. The rifle is well built, well balanced, and is at the top of the price range, offering great quality and reliability. The shooter must consider the increased weight against the great accuracy and tactical abilities of this AR-15 carbine.
- 20″ barrel
- Standard rifle-length gas systems
- Extra velocity to reach further targets
- Handguard rigidity and free-floating barrel
- MLOK slots for mounting accessories
- Collapsible stock
- Flared mag well
- Chambered in 5.56, can shoot .223 Remington
- Weight of 8.2lbs
- Ships without a magazine
Double Star – Star-15 Carb 5.56 16″ BBL LTWT 30+1
This is an easy rifle to handle with enough options to customize it. It is enjoyable to shoot and has a very comfortable weight. The standard 16′ barrel length makes it easy to carry and handle. It is a basic no-frills AR-15 carbine that offers shooters everything needed to enjoy their AR-15 shooting. The rifle offers beginners the opportunity to get into AR-15 shooting and its manual of arms. Anyone looking for a more customized look can utilize various options to realize their vesion. The carbine includes Mil-spec receivers, an adjustable buttstock, and two-piece handguards to give the weapon a slick look. The 16-inch barrel has an HBAR profile and will deliver accuracy and reliability. The caliber is 5.56mm NATO. It comes with a 30 round mag where legal. The rifle includes an A2 flash hider.
This carbine offers great value to beginners and at the discounted price makes it the best AR-15 to build into the ideal carbine. Some hunters found it ideal for hunting vermin after some modifications. You can read more about it here.
This carbine offers value to beginners and has an ideal weight to get to know your AR-15 rifle and to become an accomplished marksman. The discounted price of $629.00 makes it a better option for someone looking at buying an AR-15 and customizing it to their liking.
- Adjustable buttstock
- Basic AR-15 that can be customized
- Weight of 6.65lbs
- Removable 20 round magazine included
- Flash hider
- Basic Beginner rifle
Primary Weapons – MK-116 Pro Rifle 223 Wylde
The .223 Wylde chambering is a unique chamber safe for both .223 Remington and 5.56 Nato ammunition. You can’t fire 5.56 in a .223 gun, and Wylde is better with .223 than a dedicated 5.56 chamber. You can get more information about .223 Wylde here. The gas-piston system and the different settings it offers are a great feature of this gun. The gas-piston system offers less fouling in the receiver and the ability to fine-tune the gas flow for different ronuds. The long-stroke system allows three different settings to cater for suppressors and different ammunition loads. The rifle is reliabile with different ammunition loads. You can get this as a standalone upper receiver which can fit on any AR-15 lower, upgrading it to a long-stroke system. Also great are the Radian Raptor charging handle, pistol grip, and free-float M-Lok handguard which makes it easy to hold the rifle steady when firing.
This rifle is toward the top of the price range. It offers excellent quality and the variable settings of its long-stroke gas system make this a weapon more suited to the accomplished AR-15 shooter. Anyone who wants to move from a direct impingement gas system to a gas-piston system will find this rifle a nice option. AR-15 owners mixing civilian and NATO will like the Wylde chambering.
This is a great buy for the more accomplished AR-15 shooter who wants to have a rifle with a gas-operated piston system, the price is approaching the top of the range but this rifle offers great value and accuracy. The M-Lok handguards make it easy to attach accessories and customize the weapon. We like the Wylde chambering and the fine-tuning options of the gas system.
Watch this video for more information about the .223 Wylde and 5.56 Nato ammunition.
- .223 Wylde Chambering
- Variable settings on the long-stroke gas system
- Standalone Uppers -upgrade existing rifles to the long-stroke system
- 30 round magazine included
- Muzzle brake included
- Top-end of the price range
Mossberg – MMR Pro 224 Valkyrie
This is a very accurate and reliable rifle. Many owners never experience a single extraction problem. It is ideal for varmint hunting and taking advantage of the longer distance ability of the Valkyrie cartridge. Although this AR-15 is chambered for a specialized cartridge it offers all the usual great qualities of a standard AR. The long-range precision-built cartridge gives you greater performance than your buddies with their 5.56 pea-shooters. The 18′ stainless steel barrel is free-floated and comes with an ASR muzzle brake, limiting the felt recoil. The handguards are 15″ with multiple M-LOK slots for a variety of attachments. The rifle ships with a 28-round magazine for its .224 Valkyrie cartridges. The rifle has a direct impingement gas system and offers great stability and accuracy. It uses the JM Pro adjustable trigger which can be fine-tuned, but some users find a bit gritty.
The MMR Pro 224 Valkyrie is better suited for experienced shooters who have an interest in using the rifle for hunting or competitive shooting over a longer range. The .224 Valkyrie cartridge is a specialized long-range cartridge. Although the AR-15 is in the $1000 price range it offers features and characteristics comparable to more expensive AR-15.
- Lightweight at 7 lbs.
- Best gun in 224 Valkyrie for competitive shooters
- Muzzle Brake for reduced recoil
- Magazine included
- JM Pro adjustable trigger
- Specialized cartridge size
- Gritty trigger
Brownells – BRN-605® 5.56
Many shooters love the retro look of this rifle. It is light, has great balance, and a compact size. It will shoot various brands of ammo without any difficulties. This is an affordable reproduction of the first AR-15 carbine, the Colt 605. This rifle might look classic but doesn’t have outdated tech. The authentic upper and lower receivers are replicas of the XM16E with the partial fence around the magazine release. There is a forward assist but no shell deflector. The chrome-plated bolt extractor group is similar to the original model and is machined from 9310 carbon metal. This rifle uses a direct impingement gas system. It has a 15.5″ barrel with an A1-profile capped with a flash hider which is welded in place. The gas port is enlarged to ensure smooth operation. The buttstock and handguard are made from black reinforced polymer to further enhance the authentic look. This carbine is chambered in 5.56x45mm Nato and compatible with .223 Remington ammunition. The barrel has a 1-12″ barrel twist for compatibility with modern ammunition. It comes with a 20-round magazine and weighs 7.5 lbs.
This weapon offers everything that you would expect from an AR-15 but its price tag means it’s not the first option for the beginner with a lower budget. This classic would appeal to anyone who likes retro style but it is a well designed and well-constructed rifle that will be equally at home on the shooting range, in the field, hunting, or doinghome defense. It’s ideal for the collector of differently styled AR-15’s who wants something classic.
- Has a flash hider
- More compact carbine
- Enlarged gas port
- Made of quality materials
- Sleek design
- .223 Remington compatible chambering
- Slightly stronger recoil
- No shell deflector
- Not for use with steel casings
What is an AR-15?
The AR-15 rifle is a lightweight rifle with a semi-automatic action based on the original ArmaLite AR-15 design of Eugene Stoner. The rifle was designed specifically for use with the light 5.56 NATO/223-caliber ammunition and is constructed of materials like injection-molded plastic and aluminum.
The rifle was developed in response to the Pentagon’s drive during the 1960s to replace the then M14 rifle with a more modern weapon firing a .308-caliber cartridge. However, research indicated that a smaller 5.56/.223-caliber rifle would be better suited to the situation in Vietnam.
The many different manufacturers and plethora of different styles and variants help to ensure that the AR-15 is one of the most recognizable rifles in the world.
Why is the AR-15 America’s favorite rifle?
The M16-rifle was a success in Vietnam but gained a reputation for being unreliable and was tainted with a bit of stigma for not being suitable for the Souteast Asian jungle. In 1994, assault weapons were banned in the US including the AR-15. The powerful NRA helped insert a “sunset clause” into the ban, so it expired after some years.
After the ban expired, the rifle became extremely popular amongst gun lovers. The National Rifle Association promoted the AR-15 rifle as “America’s rifle” and the media attention helped to turn the AR-15 rifle into one of America’s most favorite rifles.
How to choose an AR-15 under $1000
Before rushing off to go and buy that AR-15 it would be wise to ask yourself a few questions like:
- Why do you want to own an AR-15 and for what purpose?
- Do you plan to do target shooting, participating in competitions, hunting, or use it for personal home defense?
- What is your budget?
- Have you done any prior research or read any reviews on specific AR-15 rifles and accessories?
If not, speak to other gun owners, ask them about their experiences and what they recommend. Arm yourself with all the knowledge you can gain to make an informed decision.
The basic AR-15 rifle performs well, has good accuracy, and is equally suited to target shooting, home defense, and hunting. The rifle carries comfortably on hikes, the weight won’t tire you out.
We recommend a beginner to the AR-15 world look for the following basic specifications when buying your complete AR-15 rifle:
- A lightweight, chrome-lined barrel of mid-length, 16″ with a fixed front sight base. Select a twist rate which will suit most types of bullets like a 1:8 or 1:9 twist rate.
- Preferably chambered for 5.56mm because it can also safely fire .223 ammo. The opposite is not safe.
- Good quality drop-in handguards.
- Preferably a collapsible stock
- Standard trigger mechanism.
- A comfortable pistol grip of good quality.
- Adjustable rear sight.
- Ability to attach accessories like optics and light for home defense, a sling for carrying.
Individual needs, the purpose of use, and shooting experience will determine if you will need more or different features when selecting your AR-15 for under $1000.
Gas operated versus direct impingement
The AR-15 is a semi-auto fireram. Pull the charging handle once and all you have to do is keep tapping the trigger once per shot. The following basic mechanical functions are required:
The direct impingement and gas piston operating systems differ largely on what happens with the propellant gas after the bullet is pushed through the barrel.
The direct-impingement model is the technology that Eugene Stoner originally devised for the AR-15 rifle. The propellant gas from the fired cartridge is moved through a small tube to directly impinge or contact the bolt carrier assembly. The gas pushes the bolt carrier assembly backward which extracts the cartridge and ejects it. A spring-loaded action pushes the bolt carrier assembly forward to push an unspent round into the chamber. The system doesn’t have a separate gas cylinder, piston, and operating rod assembly, thereby saving on weight and manufacturing costs.
Gas operated piston technology was first used in a standard-issue assault rifle in the form of Mikhail Kalashnikov’s AK-47. Gas systems operate by using the propellant gas produced when firing the bullet. The gas is captured in a separate cylinder where it forces a piston to push the bolt carrier system backward to extract and eject the cartridge case. The bolt carrier assembly is pushed forward by a spring to push an unspent round into the chamber.
The arguments for and against the different systems can be summarised with the following:
- The Direct-impingement system’s replacement parts are easy to get, inexpensive, and made to a set standard.
- The parts become dirty from direct contact with the gas and get very hot quickly. This makes it difficult to handle and will require a cool-down period.
- The Gas operated piston system’s parts cannot be interchanged because of manufacturers using proprietary components.
- Piston system parts remain clean longer and will remain cool even after firing many rounds in quick succession. This makes it easy to restore a jam without burning yourself.
Drop-in versus free-float handguards
An AR-15 handguard’s purpose is to protect your hand from the heated barrel particularly during sustained fire. With AR-15 rifles, you have the choice between two different types of handguards, the drop-in or the free-float handguard.
The two types differ in their point of attachment on your rifle. The drop-in attaches to both the front-end cap and the receiver while the free-float handguard attaches onto the front of the receiver only. Generally, drop-in handguards will be lighter and cheaper than the majority of free-float handguards. Both types have benefits, however, there are other considerations when deciding, which we list briefly below.
Consider using a drop-in handguard if you prefer the following:
- Weight saving
- The use of the rifle’s front sight block
- Quick and easy installation of the handguard without modifications.
- A classic look.
- Affordable price and easy installation.
Consider using a free-float handguard if you prefer the following:
- A low-profile gas block
- A more solid grip that won’t move around.
- Improved accuracy.
- Improved heat dissipation.
- Modern, customized look with accessory mounting options.
- Less concerned about costs.
Both types of handguards make it possible to attach various accessories like flashlights, bipods, different optics, and lasers for a customized look and functionality. You can also decide to change the type of handguard on your AR-15 rifle for greater versatility at any time. The selection will depend on your personal preference, priorities, and budget.
Key components to check for quality
The barrel of your AR-15 rifle is the main functioning component of the rifle and determines its performance more than any other component. The barrel affects the handling, reliability, and accuracy of your AR-15 rifle.
Keep in mind that you must ensure a balance between weight, handling, accuracy, compactness, durability, and recoil in your selection of a barrel. Your choices on the following aspects of the barrel will play a pivotal role:
- Type of barrel: lightweight, mid-weight, or precision.
- Barrel Length: determines the velocity.
- Profile of the barrel
- Material & lining
- Rifling method & twist
- Chamber dimensions
- Gas system
The rifle’s bolt is housed inside what is known as the bolt carrier and together they form the bolt carrier group (BCG). The typical AR-15’s BCG consists of 17 different parts and in total, up to 8 different basic operations take place between the insertion of a round into the chamber, firing of the shot, and when the next round is inserted into the chamber. Visit the following site for more information.
There are semi-automatic and full-auto BCG’s available for use with your AR-15. As is the case with barrels the steel used to manufacture the BCG can make a difference in the working and longevity of your BCG. Different steel grades like 8620, 9310, and Carpenter 158 exist and differ in hardness, durability, and price. A variety of coatings is used to reduce wear and improve the functioning of the BCG. The military-spec option for coating is chrome plating but several others exist like nitride, phosphate, and nickel boron coatings.
The trigger group is a key component of the lower receiver of the AR-15 rifle and one of the most customizable parts. Many shooters believe that it is one of the first things to upgrade on their rifles. There are 4 different types of AR-15 triggers:
- Single-stage or military spec option.
- Two-stage which is a safe, accurate, and light option.
- An adjustable trigger which can be either two-stage or single-stage.
- A drop-in trigger which is available in many varieties and is easy to install.
The single-stage trigger is the military spec trigger as designed originally by Eugene Stoner and differs greatly in the pull required to fire the shot. The two-stage trigger requires a lighter initial pull before the second heavier pull required to fire the shot. The adjustable trigger and the drop-in triggers can be either single or two-stage triggers. Visit this page for more information on how triggers work.
There is strong competition in the market for AR-15 below $1000 and the six AR-15s we reviewed all offer some excellent features and value for money. None of the AR-15s we reviewed will disappoint. In the end, it comes down to finding a balance between features, affordability, and planned usage. Many of the AR-15’s reviewed will outperform the others in certain aspects but in our view, the best all-rounder based on our criteria would be the Aero Precision AC-15 5.56x45MM Nato 16″ Mid-Length Rifle.