The great Obama AR-15 Sale of 2013 is over, sort of. Yes, fears about political shenanigans like green tip 5.56mm ammo bans and other nonsensical moves are driving sales, but we’ve moved on from the time when there were no AR-rifles of any type available on the shelves. In fact, as the market has chilled a bit, prices also have chill-axed, so there are lots and lots of good deals out there.
During the boom, everyone who owned a pair of Vise Grips got into the AR manufacturing business. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It does, however, make it a lot harder for prospective buyers to know which companies know how to make a quality rifle and which recently shifted production from selfie sticks to AR-15s. Even when we filter out the companies who recycle aluminum foil burrito wrappers into bolt carrier groups, there are still a ton of great deals out there, so this list is just a starting point. Space limits us to five, so rather than get all cranky that your rifle isn’t listed here, leave a range report on your best pick in the comments.
Let’s clear up one other thing right off the bat. For this list, I am going to eke every available dollar of extra features and quality by using an actual street price limit of $1,000 rather than the often inflated Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price. That will let me squeak in a few entries with an MSRP over our $1,000 limit.
With that said, here are five that make my list.
Smith & Wesson M&P15 OR
The OR part of the name stands for “Optics Ready” and it certainly is. This one makes my list because you get a solid rifle, prepared for optics addition and back up iron sight configuration, without any frills or stuff to remove before you get started customizing. It comes with a receiver length rail, and the gas block is also a short rail segment that is the exact height of the receiver rail. This makes mounting permanent or flip-up iron sights easy. While it’s not that hard to remove a fixed front sight gas block, I’d just as soon do without one in the first place.
It’s got a 16-inch barrel with 1:9 rifling, so it’s perfectly appropriate for the most common 5.56mm bullet weights. The bore, chamber, and bolt carrier are all chromed for durability. The trigger is heavy, but not gritty. It’s fine in its default configuration, at least until you get an itch to put in a match grade replacement.
The net-net of this rifle is that it’s a good mix of bare bones features, but all the core components are good for long term use. You don’t pay for things you’re likely to customize or replace anyway, so it’s a great platform to customize over time. MSRP of the 811003 model is $1,069, but I see them online for a little over $890.