OK, this might piss off a few people. Does it matter which brand of AR15 you buy? The AR15 has become the most popular rifle in America and it seems like everyone, except King Barack and Hillary, wants one. With so many brands out there, the natural question is “which one is best” and “which one should I buy?”
I’ve got a can of worms here on my desk, so lets go ahead and open it by trying to answer those questions! First I think we need to divide the playing field into three basic groups; Imports, Standard Grade, and High End. We’re starting to see AR-15 clones made overseas or at least made from a lot of imported parts. Take the Century Arms C15 rifle for example. I’m pretty sure it’s made in Poland and I know you can get one new for less than $700. I don’t have any experience with them so I’m not going to say much about them. I will say this though, I think I’d save an extra $150 and get an American made AR-15. So let’s move on to Standard Grade AR-15s.
I’m going to let you in on a little, not so well known, secret on AR-15s… most of them are not made by the brand name stamped on the side of the lower receiver. Multiple brands are made in the same machine shop, stamped with the appropriate name, and shipped off. LAR Manufacturing, just across the mountain from me in Salt Lake City, Utah is a prime example. They’ve been making, actually making – not assembling, AR-15 parts for 47 years. I’ve seen with my own eyes crates of AR-15 parts in their shop sitting side by side for top brands like Bushmaster, DPMS and many others. That’s right, Bushmaster and DPMS are made in the same shop. Do you think Smith & Wesson makes their M&P? Think again. It’s made by Stag Arms. S&W says they do some finishing work, but they don’t actually make the gun. In fact, the the Standard Grade AR15 class, I’m not aware of anyone making their own gun entirely. What do I mean by Standard Grade?
It’s not a Black and White definition, but when I say Standard Grade, I mean the guns you’re finding on the shelves in most shops across America… Bushmaster, DPMS, Stag Arms, Smith & Wesson, CMMG, Rock River Arms… Typically the AR15s selling for under $1300. And that means Colt as well.
So does it matter if you buy a Bushmaster or Rock River? No, not really. I don’t think it does. The quality is going to basically be the same because so many of the parts are made in the exact same shop on CNC machines and forges. What you see is different features. The brands offer different styles of rifles, but the quality is going to be about the same.
I know, I know… that sends some of you guys into orbit. I know of people who will fight you on the fact DPMS is the “best damn AR money can buy”. Well, not in today’s world of just-in-time inventory and out-sourced manufacturing. Because that DPMS was mostly made in Salt Lake City, Utah by the same machines and technicians that make Bushmaster and many of the others. That’s not marketing hype. That’s just the facts… and I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
In the last few years, a new group of High End AR15s has emerged. These are your JP, Noveske, LWRC, LaRue Tactical, and a host of others. They are more of a “Professional Grade” than anything else. Think of it this way, you can buy a really nice Jeep of the dealer’s lot and you can have a lot of fun off-roading. But if you were going to enter the Baja 500, you would need to seriously upgrade that Jeep or probably just buy or build a vehicle for that specific purpose. Now you could get into an argument over whether the Baja 500 vehicle was better than a regular Jeep, but what’s the point? Sure, the Baja 500 vehicle is probably “better”, but how many of us really need that kind of vehicle? Maybe you’ve got the money and you want the toughest vehicle you can buy? Great… go for it.
That’s how I see AR-15s. The Standard Grade weapons work excellent for most people. Some guys have a couple thousand, or quite a bit more, to drop on a rifle and they just want a high end rifle. Standing on the line at your local range, you probably aren’t going to see a big difference between the regular guns and the high end guns. It’s kind of like driving a Jeep and the Baja 500 vehicle down the highway. But when you get into the mud, snow, ice, dust and extreme conditions of combat, you’re going to see the high end guns out perform the regular ones.
In closing, I guess I’ll wrap this up by saying that Brand doesn’t matter for the most part. It comes down to which rifle has the features you want? The only other consideration is if you have the money or the need for one of the real high end rifles out there.