What should I look for when buying an AR Rifle?

What should I look for when buying an AR rifle? That’s a really good question! Besides the fact that they both shoot bullets, ARs are about as different from other guns as they can get. It is for that reason that I decided to do today’s post on this subject. This subject is wildly debated and has often led to disagreements among even the best of friends. Everyone seems to have their own idea and I am no exception. The difference is that I will try to cover some of the things that many do seem to agree on. If you are getting ready to buy your first AR rifle, then this would be a good place to start, as for looking up information and knowing what you should be looking for.

Like I said, everyone has their own opinion on these just what you should looking for. The first things you need to ask yourself is exactly what do you intend to use it for?  Self-defense, Hunting, SHTF, or something else? This is an important question because it defines the requirements for the rifle. If you are planning on using it for self-defense then you are looking at needing it for close in fighting and not trying to hit a deer at 300 yards. For close in, you will want a shorter barrel for maneuvering in tight places. If you are looking at using it in a situation where the target is less than 10 yards away such as in a house, then you won’t need to worry about barrel twist. But if you are looking for a good midrange weapon, then you will want to pay attention to it.  A 1 in 9 twist is a good average twist rate for shooting at targets up to 200 yards, but after that you will want to look at a different rate. The Twist rate of 1 in 9 is the spiraling in the barrel that makes the bullet twist one full revolution for every 9 inches it travels while it is in the barrel. This spinning action helps the bullet to travel straighter and stays accurate. You can over compensate for the bullet and then you have issues. The 1:9 is recommended for a round with a 55 Grain bullet weight. Whereas a 1:7 or 1:8 would work well for a 62 or 77 grain weight. There is a lot of science behind this, but just look at the bullet weight to know what Twist rate you need.

The next thing about the barrel is be sure that it is Chrome lined. This will make the barrel last longer and be easier to clean. It is a small detail but a very important one. You will also see some listed as having a “Chromalloy” barrel interior. This is not the same a being chrome plated, it is just a marketing ploy, so keep your eye on the ball and get one with a chrome plated interior barrel. You will be glad you did. Again, this is just my opinion and others may vary. I know that there are a ton of them on the market that do not have this and are often less expensive than the ones that do.  Another thing to be aware of is the term “Mil-Spec”. It means that the parts used in the rifle are of the same size and dimensions as those used by the military. This is important because it means that replacing worn parts and upgrading can be easily done because everything fits without the need to modify things for your weapon. This often refers to things like pin sizes, etc. Being able to mix and match parts to create the weapon that is perfect for you is one of the big draws of the AR platform and will continue to be for a long time to come. If you are unsure if it is Mil-Spec then ask the seller questions, if they do not know then take the time to research it on the web. It is important to know what you are buying.

The next section that I want to touch on is the sighting system you plan to use. Are you going to use iron sights or optics? If you are going to use optics, then there are a few things to know before you layout your hard earned money. Again, we need to go back to what the weapon is intended to be used for. If you are using it for self-defense, then iron sights should be all you need. Heck, if they are close enough, you could just point it at them and probably get the job done. There is no point in wasting your money on fancy optics if you are only going to be using it in close quarters situations. Now, on to optics… the ugly truth is that all of those cheap optics and scopes on the market are just junk and you would be better not to waste your money on them. If you can’t afford a good set then use the iron sights until you can afford to get a good one. Think about this, the optics are the interface between you and the weapon. If it fails, you fail and if old man Murphy has anything to say about it, it will fail at the worst possible time! Do not risk your life or that once in a lifetime shot on a cheap piece of junk. Make it a point to get you a good one. If you are looking to be shooting, in the 1 to 200 yard range, then you will want an optic (or scope) that has something like a 1 to 4 zoom on it to help you make those long shots while still allowing you to make the close ones as well. If however you are going after those really long shots that are 2 to 700 yards then you will want something that can bring those really hard shots into focus with maybe a 4+ zoom and a wide aperture. After all, you can’t shoot what you can’t see.

When you go to buy your first AR weapon, try to bring along someone who has one and knows what to look for. You will be glad you did. These are just a few of the things to look for and as I can put together more information for you I will be adding new articles on this subject. Let me say again, that this is just my opinion and others may vary. In any case do your homework and learn as much about the AR platform and brands as you can. One of my favorite websites on this subject is www.AR15.com. It is a really great site and has a forum of experienced users to answer any question that you might have. Just remember that just because someone says they are an expert, it doesn’t mean that they are. Look for trends. If someone says that something is good and a lot of people agree than it is probably a safe bet that they are, and I would question if a single person says something is good and the others disagree. Like I said, look for trends and patterns on what is good and bad. Most of these folks will be more than glad to answer your questions and help you along your way.

Well, that is it for today, and I hope I may have passed along a little information that you can use when you set out to purchase your first AR rifle. Until next time, keep on prepping!

-The Sargent-

The Sgt.

Prepper, Patriot, and Proud U.S. ARMY Veteran.

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4 Responses

  1. Fifth Disciple says:

    Thank you for mentioning chrome lined barrels. A good one with good ammo (no steel jackets!) will last 20000 rounds. Barrels not chrome lined last about 6000 rounds. Use copper jacketed rounds. The copper is softer and easier on the barrel. A non chrome lined barrel firing steel jacketed rounds have been known to shoot out and keyhole in 2-3000 rounds.
    I know it wasn’t really in the scope of the article but I feel a rifle is appropriate for 100+ yards. I favor a three gun weapons system and I think in terms of an expanding range.
    I’m not a big fan of pistols but for close in, and I mean really close in, as in the passenger compartment of an automobile they are excellent.
    If you get beyond 10 feet a shot gun is called for and it’s my weapon of choice out to 100 yards. I also like the fact that they are typically tube fed which makes it easy to fire a few rounds and slide a few more into the tube then fire a few more.
    Beyond that you are into the range of a rifle. Mine is actually an AR10 with a 24″ barrel. I like the additional range and knock down power.

    • mike allen says:

      i have to agree, a shotgun should be the first purchase for most applications, perferably pump action. i also keep a .22 for back up as hoarding thousands of rounds costs very little. i would like to have two identical shotguns and two .22 rifles for backups but for now my .22 is my backup for my shotgun. handguns for close in and rifles for long range can be procured after shotgun and .22 purchases.

  2. mikeinsa says:

    I believe the AR15/M16/M4 are the only weapons with a bolt assist. The bolt assist allows the bolt to be forced forward, such that the the round is fully chambered. The bolt assist was developed because it is hard to clean thoroughly where the lugs lock the bolt. A solution to a problem that never needed to occur. That is why I prefer the M1 Garand/M1A/M14 and Mini-14.

    • mike allen says:

      an AK has a fixed cocking handle that can be hit from behind if the round is not fully seated. while i like piston driven AR rifles in 300 blackout i still prefer an AK if it is to be used with non optic sights.