Three Great AR-15s that Won’t Break the Bank

With the increased potential for new gun control, there are a good number of people looking to grab an AR-15 before any possible assault weapons ban could be enacted. If you’re one of those people, I have three recommendations based on firearms we here at TTAG have tested that will not only scratch your AR-15 itch, but serve you well and continue to work great for years to come without dropping tons of cash.

Recommendation #1, as always for me, is the Mossberg MMR Tactical.

Mossberg has been expanding into the more modern firearms lately, and the MMR Tactical is their attempt to cash in on the booming AR-15 market.

On paper, the rifle is fantastic. The free floated handguards make for increased accuracy, the Picatinny rails mean you can hang crap off it to your heart’s content, and the full length top rail makes optics selection a wide open question that you’re free to answer in your own time. In practice the handguards can be a bit uncomfortable, but other than that its a great rifle.

While I may not like all of the features on the gun, the bottom line is that you’re getting a 1 MoA rifle that has tons of potential for expansion and upgrades down the line at a price that doesn’t tip the scales. MSRP is $950, last reported price at Bud’s Gun Shop was $726.

Number two on the list is something my man Shotzberger loved in Arizona, the Smith & Wesson M&P-15 Sport.

While the MMR Tactical had all of the bells and whistles, this rifle is more of a stripped down bare-essentials kind of gun. The lightweight profile barrel and attached handguards save weight, but at the cost of longer range accuracy. There’s also no forward assist, but then again I’ve never really needed to use one. Despite those two minor issues, what you get is a great rifle at a really good price — lower than the Mossberg even.

MSRP when we reviewed the rifle in 2011 was $709, last reported price at Bud’s Gun Shop was $649.

The last option is going to be a little more difficult — building your own rifle. If an assault weapons ban comes into effect, there’s a good chance that any firearms purchased before the ban goes into effect would be grandfathered in and exempt from the regulation of “evil features.” As such, if you really don’t have a ton of money laying around, simply buying a stripped lower receiver might be your best bet. And the best bang for your buck is made by New Frontier Armory.

Polymer lower receivers are not only cheap and easy to manufacture, but surprisingly sturdy as Chris found out while doing his review. By going with just the lower, you only need to pay for the actual “firearm” (with the serialized part) and you can build whatever rifle you want… when you scrape together some more money.

The issue with buying just the lower though is that everybody and their brother has already done it. There are none to be had, and lowers that were selling for $100 last week are now up to $300. Which, if you really are nervous about the coming months and want something just in case, is still cheaper than a complete firearm.

MSRP for the lower alone was $109 when the review was published, but the NFA store still has complete lower receivers offered for around $200. Backordered, but still available at that price and shipping directly to you as soon as they get to your place in line. Which, compared to traditional aluminum receivers, should be fairly quick.

I’d love to hear if anyone has been seeing rifles for reasonable prices — leave a note in the comments!

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

30 Responses to Three Great AR-15s that Won’t Break the Bank

  1. avatarSaul Feldstein says:

    Since this article is an unabashed promotion of Buds Gun Shop, the smart shopper should check all the complaints on Buds shoddy service on Complaintsboard.com and other sites all over the net. Just google Budsgunshop and see how they treat people with their bait and switch prices, sending different goods, billing but not shipping goods, refusing returns, etc etc etc….

    You are better off dealing with a local dealer, and maybe pay a few bucks more than taking your chances online.

    Caveat emptor.

    • More like using them for a yardstick than anything else.

      • avatarSaul Feldstein says:

        A quick check shows even the yardstick Buds is sold out of AR15s, but would you care to bet the prices will be significantly higher when they are back in stock?

        Don’t forget the 3% credit card fees and transfer fees added to all online purchases, which puts them mostly on par with local gun shops.

        Obama is not the only one capitalizing on the CT tragedy.

      • avatarspeedracer5050 says:

        Our LGS charges $20 for FFL transfers except for anything from Buds. Because of their bull tactics and other crap, if you buy a gun from Buds the fee is $40 minimum, and can be more depending on what kind of crap Buds is passing out that day.

  2. avatarIn Memphis says:

    Good reveiw.

    I would also reccomend Palmetto State Armorys PSAM4. They run around $700-750 for a flat top upper with a 16″ 1:7 twist FN barrel, mil-spec, fixed sight tower and the standard M4 collapsable stock and carbine handguard.

    The $700-720 (depending on where you buy) will get you the above without a rear sight while a few extra bucks will include a Magpul MBUIS. I was fortunate enough that the one I found came with a Vortex Strikefire Red/Green Dot for $775ish before taxes and layaway charge.

    Cant wait to get it on the range.

    • avatarAccur81 says:

      Palmetto State Armory had HAD barreled upper assemblies for $289 on sale. I’m not sure if they are still in, and I have a feeling that the prices have gone up. Their “madness” (not mental illness, just a low price) deals were pretty sweet.

      Oh, and I’ve not been able to find the complete PSA MOE lower for $299 (285 with my 5% off) since this whole mess started.

      • avatarIn Memphis says:

        Well to be fair the prices Im giving were from before the school and mall shootings. The only AR’s I have seen anywhere since then were at the gun show I went to today.

        I put mine on layaway direct from my dealer. Well their Jackson location had it in stock but since managment commutes between locations I didnt pay extra.

        Since I have secured this I have only been looking at accesories rather than who has what for complete ARs. But PSA did have some good deals, I think they were selling blemished lowers for about $80, I wish I had picked one up for a future build and paint job.

  3. avatarJimD says:

    I’ve had the Sport for about a year and it is one awesome gun. It’s super accurate to at least 250 yards, that’s as far out as I’ve shot it so far. If you can find one, its an absolute gem.

  4. avatarChris says:

    Good luck finding anything and if you do get ready to be raped on the price.

    And New Frontier was selling the lowers for $109 as recent as Wednesday. Thursday night they went up to $129. Now they are $169. Add another $30 for shipping and then your transfer fee and that $109 is now $229. Still a good deal?

    • avatarIn Memphis says:

      $109 for a transfer fee!? Ouch. I understand businesses doing that to deter customers from not buying through them but where are you paying that much?

      The most I have seen in my area is an average $40.

      Still, you have a point.

  5. avatarSam says:

    Essential Arms has lowers for around $110, you’ll have to call for hours to get through but they still have some as of this morning.

  6. avatarDaleS says:

    I was in the planning stages of building an AR (it will be my first and I figured it would make for an interesting project) from the ground up for a few months prior to the current state of affairs. I had a specific lower picked out, but when I tried to pull the trigger (pun intended?) this week, I was WAY out of luck. I finally struck gold last night by clicking on every dealer link from the manufacturer’s website and searching for inventory. I found a place in the mid-west that didn’t list them as “out of stock” like every other place in the country. I actually tried to buy two, but either the seller is limiting multiple purchases, or I got the last one, because the one is all I got. Either way, I was able to get one (for MSRP) and will be able to get started on my project.

    Also, on a lark, I did buy six pmags from Brownells recently (even without an AR). I got them for ~$13/each. I just saw the same mags selling on gun broker last night for $60/each. I wish I had bought 100 of them earlier! Also, it looks like stripped lower receivers were going for $400 and up on gun broker– that is what several I saw last night had been bid up to, and they had plenty of time left before the end of the sale. We are seeing the auction market turn to gold as the retail market runs dry. I thought the point of a potential ban was to get these arms out of the hands of non military and LE. That’s working out great so far!

    • avatarRandy Drescher says:

      Yeah, I’m sure the dealers are wondering when the ban on gun oil & cleaning supplies is going to start, Randy

  7. avatarLance says:

    Nick I was with you for weeks till now. Your saying the sky will fall and we will lose everything. BUT it might not at all. NRA opposes a new AWB watch NRA news yesterday with NRA President. The GOP House will oppose it and even some Dems will too. its not over and having people wast there time and money buying instead of fighting is a bigger waste. Please come back to your sense Nick!

    • avatarJoke & Dagger says:

      You vastly underestimate the resolve and underhanded methods of the current Ruling Class of this great country.

    • avatarDaniel says:

      Just as those of us who realize that carrying a firearm is a hope-to-God-I-never-need-it-but-just-in-case measure, you should be purchasing a rifle or a lower just-in-case. Like now. Sure, we may not get an AWB, but there is always the chance. Either potentially squander your opportunity or don’t.

    • avatarpat says:

      You may be right regarding the House and Senate, but……….Barry can issue an Executive Order. Is he crazy enough to squander political capital doing so? Are you crazy enough to gamble that he wont?

  8. avatarDaniel says:

    For about one day, Aero Precision was selling their lowers direct from their web site, aeroprecisionusa.com. They have of course sold them all (I grabbed two). But if you want to be really proactive about this, then call your desired manufacturers and ask them where they’ve sent their last shipments to, and where they will go to next (or if they will have them available for sale directly).

  9. avatarAPBTFan says:

    The prices for AR stuff on my local backpage are mind blowing. Guys wanting $100 for one P-Mag isn’t out of the ordinary and one dipwad was asking $1,000 for a stripped ATI polymer lower. $3,500 for 1,000 green tips. Plenty of fellas are asking $1,500 for their $650 DPMS Oracles. Nothing like asking your brother shooters to bend over and take it in the kazoo. I fully realize supply and demand but would personally be ashamed screwing a person like that.

    • avatarspeedracer5050 says:

      Mabye no one will buy them and they will have to get rid of them after all of this is over for about 25% below what they originally paid for them. Our LGS sold their last 3 pack of black Pmags Friday for $42.
      The local Wal Mart had PDX .223 for $29.95 for a 20rd box today and although 4 or 5 people looked at them no one bought because they were too high.

  10. avatarBilly says:

    Stag Arms makes some decently priced ARs. I got my Model 3 from Buds for $768.14…. Back in Sept though… And Stag has been hard to find even BEFORE then unfortunately…

  11. avatarJeff O. says:

    I’ve highly enjoy my M&P-15 Sport for the 6 months I’ve had it.

    I’d been looking at low cost ARs and it was the review on this site that sealed the deal for me. It also helps that I got it for a steal buying it during a sale, using a Cabela’s coupon and spending Cabela’s points.

  12. avatarIn Memphis says:

    Nick,

    What hanguard is on the AR in the video? I want to get something that is THIN and smooth (rail across the top is okay but only attatchment rails on the side and bottom). I really like the Noveske NSR but it is currently out of a realistic price range for me

  13. avatarguzzimike says:

    I got a couple of the New Frontier lowers a week or two after the election. My plan was to buy a 22 upper and also a 5.56 or 7.62×39 upper. Since complete uppers & bolt carrier groups have all but disappeared now the plan is to buy bits piecemeal as they become available and build them myself. Assuming Brownells & Midway don’t jack their prices I figure I may be able to do them a bit cheaper that way and learn more @ the same time

  14. avatarJustice06RR says:

    Good review Nick. Ditto on adding PSA’s AR15′s also.

    I still know a couple of local shops to me that are getting stripped lowers. You just gotta have a few connections and be in the loop. I was even able to get a Spikes lower a few days ago by going to their store in person!

  15. avatarmichael says:

    try ares armor…

  16. avatarvirgilc says:

    Hey just heard on one of the big time news stations the other night that st. police or f.b.i. released a report that said the only weapons the nut job in newtown ct. school shooting had was 4 handguns, the ar was still in the trunk of the car.

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