The 5 Best AR-15 Rifles Under $500

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As someone once wrote, this is both the best of times and the worst of times in the firearms industry. If you’re in the business of making guns, the election of a pro-gun (or, at least, not anti-gun) CINC meant that the pre-election push to head off any Hillary-approved restrictions of the number or kind of firearms Americans can buy and own came to a crashing halt last November. Increased production capacity and stuffed distribution channels meant that inventories have skyrocketed.

And since no one’s been able to repeal the laws of economics yet — try as they might — all of that supply coupled with reduced demand has meant one thing: falling prices.

Which brings us to the best of times…for gun buyers. If you’ve got the cash and are looking to buy, you haven’t seen prices this low since at least before Sandy Hook. And probably long before that. Especially for “commodity” items like, say, AR-pattern rifles. If you’re looking for a scary black gun, there’s an embarrassment of riches out there now at extremely affordable prices.

All of which means that sifting through the plethora of low-cost AR-15 options can be daunting. Well, we have you covered. Here’s our list of the five best AR-15 rifles out there for less than $500.


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  1. avatar Blackspike2710 says:

    God damn video.

    1. avatar TruthTellers says:

      Yup. Just give me a damn article I can read instead. I do like reading.

      1. avatar ironicatbest says:

        Ironic at best. ∆ data warning. I’ve used it all up, videos, I can half ass spell, Eye kan reed tho. And now depend on comment section to gain info on article. All they do is bitch about these goddamn videos

    2. avatar Madcapp says:

      Not a fan of cheapskates, or things targeted to cheapskates…they drag the market down into the toilet, just look at electronics.

    3. avatar ad-lib says:

      or at least don’t fool me into thinking it MIGHT be an article.

      1. avatar PeterK says:

        Yeah, I do think it should be called out somehow through the rss feed and otherwise that this is a video post.

    4. avatar Texheim says:

      For me, it looks like they removed the preview that was auto playing on the main page which told me I didn’t want to click on this link. With the preview gone they can ambush everyone now.

    5. avatar Please, Just Once... says:

      As the page loaded and I began to read I thought, “HooRay they finally put a transcript with the video”.
      Teased and phuked once again.

    6. avatar Hank says:

      I’m actually convinced there’s a global internet conspiracy to end written articles and replace them all with video to further dumb down the population. Further, it goes hand and hand with the elimination of cursive hand writing in education. In two generations no one will be able to read or write in cursive. Why does that matter you say? Well.., there’s a ton of important documents written in cursive that can now suddenly be “re-interpreted” by the “experts” in hand writing, the only ones who will be able to read it. It does not matter if there’s currently printed forms of these documents, because they’ll be able to change the original one. “Well actually, the second amendment never included the words right of the people, that’s a misprint”…

      1. avatar Cliff says:

        My thinking exactly! Pour crap directly into your brain thru the eye holes!

    7. avatar AKM Sarah says:

      Exactly. Why not just write a list of the products? Why are you forcing me to watch a video that crashes my machine?

  2. avatar jwm says:

    Gun makers need to force the state of CA to allow their non compliant arms into the state. A huge market that would take the excess of EBR’s.

    Or they need to come out with something new and exciting instead of just another ar15 or glock.

    1. avatar ironicatbest says:

      + the tax revenue on gun sales. I’m concerned about the sanity if those elected. The ones who voted for them maybe too. I just sticki with conspiracy theory because it’s not as scary. DOOMGUY, GAME OVER BUDDY!!

  3. avatar Ahil925 says:

    First “great” gun is the ATI Omni… Way to torpedo your credibility in the first minute of video.

  4. avatar Mark says:

    An AR15 under $500 = shit. Just pay up and get a quality rifle from BCM, LWRC, KAC, Daniel Defense, FN. You are betting your life on your rifle for fuck’s sake. Don’t skimp.

    1. avatar Evey259 says:

      Riiiiiiiight. Unlike AKs, ARs you can get the bottom of the barrel stuff and still have a decidedly decent rifle. What’s more, most of those Gucci “manufacturers” outsource the manufacturing to two or three OEMS

      1. avatar Em says:

        Except those “Gucci” manufacturers own and use torque wrenches and center punches. Based on what I’ve seen, the bottom-barrel guys seem to have “I can *feel* 40 ft/lbs” and blue loctite.

    2. avatar Carrucan says:

      I bought my AR to shoot lead down range for the hell of it. It sits in the corner of my office collecting dust. About once a month I take it out to the field, shoot a few hundred rounds with a red dot, then bring it back, clean it up, and put it back in the corner. I think I paid $400 for mine and I have enjoyed every minute of shooting it. It shoots well at 50 yards or so. I didn’t need to spend $1000 for that type of fun.

    3. avatar ai338 says:

      DD and KAC, two of the most overpriced guns in the industry.

  5. avatar bob in IN says:

    rural king has s&w sport ii at $500 ad today. Cant beat that.

    1. avatar Wheel Gun Guy says:

      The Smith and Wesson M&P 15 Sport is a much better AR by far than any of his top 5 listed in this article….just sayin”

      1. avatar CS says:

        Windham Weaponry is the same quality as the smith and wesson. And yes, they use torque wrenches.

  6. avatar GunzGunzGunz says:

    Can we get videos with gun bunnies in them? Let’s not pretend that there is gender diversity in this wacky echo chamber of freeeeeedom known as TTAG. It’s mostly us guys.

    1. avatar JS says:

      Second that. My wife prefers watching scantily clad women demonstrating firearms also. Im serious.

    2. avatar sfprairie says:

      I was going to post adding to the complaints about videos, but then I read your post. You have the right idea.

  7. avatar Florian Geyer says:

    From the video; You’re welcome.
    1. ATI omni Hybrid:
    2. Windham R16M4
    3. DPMS Oracle
    4. Delton DT15
    5.Anderson AM15

  8. avatar Steve says:

    Third time is a charm for me, see ya TTAG – it’s been fun (unless you’re deaf).

  9. avatar Nanashi says:

    No PSA, Ruger or S&W? What? All of those are under 500 with the smallest amount of watching, have iron sights and are better.

    1. avatar Nanashi says:

      5: Used AR-15
      Used AR-15s are everywhere these days and only a few, easily examined, parts of the rifle wear down, primarily the rifling and bolt carrier group. Most gun stores will price all used ARs at under $500 before negotiation, which is generally allowed on used guns especially if paying in cash or debit. Unfortunately with a platform as prolific and varied as the AR-15 it is difficult for a new-comer to properly appraise a rifle for substandard parts like a “commercial spec” stock, sticky takedown pins, handguards without a heatshield or general low quality parts. If you know a bit more about the platform and want an extra spare rifle or know someone who does and can assist you this can be a fantastic option.

      4: Ruger AR-556
      While Bill “Quisling” Ruger kept his company out of the AR market for a long time, his death allowed the company to finally enter the lucrative AR market. Ruger’s base model is a solid example of a budget AR15. Compared to more standard AR15s, but common to budget rifles, the AR-556 has an untappered barrel that while accurate is a little front heavy. Also like most budget rifles the AR-556 has no metal heat shield in its handguard, which can make handling uncomfortable after high volumes of shooting. This is easily fixed while improving ergonomics and adding a possible light mount with the addition of a MOE handguard (~<$30). It also has an unusual method of attaching the barrel, but it's not something you'll likely care much about either way.

      3: Smith and Wesson M&P15 Sport II
      Smith and Wesson's entry level AR is comparable to Ruger's in most respects, keeping the same barrel profile and heatshield-less handguard, without the proprietary barrel attachment method you'll never use. What puts the M&P15 Sport II ahead is simply cost, as it is almost always slightly cheaper than the AR-556.

      2: Palmetto State Armory Freedom Rifle MOE
      With specs comparable or superior to the Ruger or Smith & Wesson examples this rifle has one major advantage over the previous items on this list: Magpul furniture. While an improvement in ergonomics and equiped with a heat shield, this more importantly gives the rifle several M-LOK attachment points on the handguard. These points make it far easier to attach a flashlight to the rifle, which is mandatory for a home-defense rifle. These rifles are also available with a mid-length gas system, which reduces recoil and part wear but also lets you annoy liberals by mounting a bayonet.

      PSA rotates the exact model they sell daily, changing the furniture color, exact barrel type and gas system length daily, but will generally have the model you want within a month, in not a week. While chromed barrels and carbine length gas systems are fine, the best is the mid-length "melonite" barrel. As your first rifle you will likely want to avoid a stainless steel due to the added weight and maintence requirements.

      1: Build your own
      The idea of building your own gun may sound intimidating, but it's not. If you get a prebuilt upper and a lower parts kit, often sold as a bundle, you only need an aluminum lower receiver from a local gun store, which can be found for 60 dollars or less, a punch set, about 23 dollars, and a buffer tube wrench, less than 10 dollars, some masking tape and a block of wood or two. There are countless guides that walk you through each step and it's not as hard as it seems. This will allow you to get a rifle of a much higher quality than you normally would, and you can easily get a rifle with sights and a free floated handguard, a huge boost to accuracy while retaining the ease of light mounting, within 500 dollars, or a more standard rifle within 400. Palmetto State Armory always has kits with a freefloated upper, sights, and a lower parts kit for $420 and free shipping while Brownell’s uppers are also frequently on sale albeit without sights.

      There, I made a better article.

      1. avatar Matt in SC says:

        +1 on the PSA MOE Freedom rifle. Got a lower and upper, full auto BCG and carry handle sight. Waited for each to go on sale and was just a hair over $500 with sales tax. Dropped an echo trigger in it and have about 1200 rounds of Wolf Gold through it with no cleaning at all and no rifle induced failures. Runs like a champ and accurate enough with the iron sights.

      2. avatar SemperSapper says:

        Good list. I’m curious, though: what additional maintenance requirements does a stainless steel barrel have?

        1. avatar Nanashi says:

          I believe needs to be cleaned more and more seriously because it isn’t as good a protector as chome or nitride. It has a minor accuracy advantage in exchange.

  10. avatar doesky2 says:

    Ruger MPR
    18″ barrel with rifle gas (soft shooter!)
    Nitride barrel
    Free float MLOK rail
    2 stage upgrade trigger (i hesitate to say match trigger but probably way better than typical low cost milspec)


  11. avatar former water walker says:

    Seriously the video does NOT work. Thanks for the list. I would get 2 mebbe 3 of these. Del-Ton 1st and Windom. DPMS closer to $400. Anderson under 400(or less)…and ATI never. SEE:TTAG review a few years ago. But I’d still go Ruger or S &W…

  12. avatar The bait shack says:

    This video business is crappy at best and totally lazy at worst. When will ttag start listening to us?!?!

  13. avatar Specialist38 says:

    I’m sad. There was nothing in the video to make him say “fitty”.

    These seem to get a lot of hate, but I have to say they are pretty well done.

    If you don’t agree with his list – make your own video……so we can make fun of you.

    I guess they are going on MSRP so no Ruger or S&W ARs. That would be my choice cause I’m lazy and like a ready-to-go rifle (with sights).

  14. avatar Demo says:

    Better quit it with the video. Get a YouTube channel if that’s how you want to market. Seriously annoying and not watched.

  15. avatar Al Bondigas says:

    The narrator looks like a mortician. Wonder what’s in the urns on the mantel behind him.

  16. avatar Cruzo1981 says:

    Waiting for the CZ Been 806 in 762X39…

  17. avatar Scoutino says:

    I’m not clicking on a video.
    And I build my own ARs anyways.

  18. avatar Buzz Word says:

    This is a great YouTube channel.. do check out all their vids. Other great channels: Hickok45, Sootch00, Nutnfancy, Paul Harrell,..

    It would be wise to snatch up as many ARs as you can, including the five in the video. These will become banned all over the USA so you want to have a few around for the next few decades at least. Stock up on ammo too and store it properly. Have at least 1,000 rounds per gun, preferably five times that.

    1. avatar Mark says:

      There is not going to be a nation wide ban on any semi auto firearms during the current legislature. The Reublicans control the house, the senate, and the presidency. Once Ginsburg fucking dies already, we will control the Supreme Court as well. Now at the state level, things could be very different. I live in WA and we will be fighting for our rights again in 2018 due to the twin cunts of Ferguson and Inslee wanting to disarm us. While I have more than enough rifles to last me several lifetimes, I will be fighting the good fight so others can be armed as well.

      1. avatar doesky2 says:

        Well she better hurry up and die because we’re down to 51 senators and a few of them are GOPe squishes.

  19. avatar FlaBoy says:

    Add me to the list that would prefer either a written article with no video or at least a transcript of the video available for reading. If I wanted to see a video, I would be at YouTube, not here.

  20. avatar Docduracoat says:

    It’s just totally complete laziness on the part of TTAG to have videos
    Every time they have a video with no transcript they get so many comments saying people can’t watch videos at work
    So get with the program, TTAG
    You need a transcript of the video like every other website does

  21. avatar Tim says:

    Build your own.
    /end list

  22. avatar adverse5 says:

    Videos are so much cooler.

  23. avatar Mark Kelly's Diapered Drooling Ventriloquist's Dummy says:


    Stop with the F***ing videos already, give us TEXT!

    Many of us don’t want to waste time waiting for a video to load, we can read much faster.

  24. Initially “awesome” weapon is the ATI Omni… Way to torpedo your believability in the principal moment of video.

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