View Full Version : Help with picking entry level AR-15?

October 12, 2012, 01:35 AM
Edit: Before reading this, I want to warn you that you'll probably think I'm an idiot or something when you're done reading it. Even still, any help regarding any of the issues I've asked about would be GREATLY appreciated...

Alright, well I must have somehow contracted the "AR" virus, because in the last few days, whenever I have a minute of free time, I've been frantically searching for and comparing AR-15's... I don't want to spend a lot of money, but want a nice, basic, but decent quality rifle. I heard about a lot of people with 18'' rifles, but 16" seems most common.

Now going back to my price range, I was looking at maybe no more than 800. Even if I went over, it'd be fine. At that point, I told myself, "I want a high quality AR". Only answer? Build one. I've looked over what seems like countless kits, lower kits, stripped lowers, uppers of a million calibers and barrel lengths, handguard, grip, sight variations, etc. In the end, I came to the conclusion that I should buy one. I want to get familiar with the platform, so when it comes time to build my own, I will feel more confident in doing so...

Now, since my price range isnt very high, and now I won't be building one, this leaves me limited, so I'd have to go with something "budget oriented".

Originally, I was going to go for a RRA Entry Tactical, which seems to have went up in price, a lot more than I had thought (from what I see). Still an option, however. Another good option seemed to be the S&W M&P-15 Sport, which seemed like a lot of gun for the money (MSRP $750?). I also heard a lot about DPMS, but after hearing that people tend to have more issues with them, I decided not to go with them. Enter, Palmetto State Armory. They seem to have some cheap, but high quality AR's. One I was looking at was the "MOE 16" M4 Premium" or something like that. Either $750 or $800, I forget.

I hear a lot about the S&W as a good, high quality rifle, even though it is entry level. I read some reviews, opinions, etc and watched Nutnfancy's review on it. Seems like a quality gun. The entry tactical seems like a very good gun as well. Not sure about the PSA, though...

There's 2 parts that drive me insane.

So many pros and cons because there are so many customizable parts on an AR...

DI vs Piston Driven?
Mil-spec vs commercial stock?
Is forward assist important/needed? Ever utilized in realistic scenario???
Dust Cover? (Seems like less of a concern)
I'm fine with the Melonite coating on the M&P15...

Another, is staying compliant with my state (NY), which in a nutshell is "No muzzle device or adjustable stock". But what about barrel length? 16 is legal, but what about other states? Probably the more difficult part about this whole thing...

Apparently, S&W makes a compliant Sport model, however, how do I get my hands on one? Its probably in their catalog, but I can't find it online! It's like some kind of thing that doesn't exist, but does. Another thing is that, suppose I wanted a rock river, I have a shop order one for me... What the hell would I expect to get? I mean it annoys me that these sites dont show any of their stuff being state compliant, and it's driving me F^#@#$* INSANE!!!

I feel that at this point, I'd probably be more inclined to go with the M&P15 Sport because of much wider availability... The only "bad" about the gun seems to be the exclusion of a forward assist and dust cover (mostly the assist) and from what I hear, people seem to think they're pretty useless and that they've never even had to use a forward assist,as well as "If it's that dirty where the round wont chamber properly, you should just clean the thing"...

I probably seem insane, but to be honest, I'm not good at making descisions, at all. To be fair, we're not comparing a couple of simple .22 rifles, we're comparing guns that have so many options, variations, aftermarket products, etc that you couldn't count them all...

Can someone help me? I guess if there are a few things in short, that I'm concerned about, its...

DI VS Piston Driven.
Lack of forward assist?
How does ordering a state compliant rifle work, and what do I expect when ordering/receiving it?

For simplicity, would you recommend I start with the M&P15? I'd rather go with a "commercially available" gun, so is there another cheaper rifle from a major manufacturer like S&W that I might have missed?

October 12, 2012, 02:16 AM
I can't speak for the M&P15 Sport but have owned two M&P15s in the past (basic M4 style with carry handle) and they were both good rifles. I never had the chance to really run them through their paces as I fell on hard times and had to sell them. I waited another year and a half before buying my 3rd AR which I still have and that's the Colt 6920. I wanted one of those originally but back in 2008 when I bought the M&P15, the Colt was going for 1600-1700 dollars. Fast forward 4 years and they can be had for right around 1,100.

Many people will tell you that your choice of AR will depend on your use for it. For me personally I just wanted a good quality defensive rifle that I could bet my life on if needed. I like everything about the M4 carbine and I'm not much of a precision shooter. I'm not out there trying to make dime sized groups at 500-1,000 yards. I like to shoot no further than 300 yards. If I need to go out further than that I'll opt for a good bolt action rifle with a good scope.

The forward assist I don't think is necessary for the average shooter but I'd rather have and and not need it. It's more of a personal preference thing. Same goes for the dust cover.

There's a whole debate about what is better DI or piston. I like to keep things simple so DI works for me just fine. There's less moving parts that could break rendering the gun useless.

I hear good things about the M&P15 Sport and I may even pick one up someday.

October 12, 2012, 06:57 AM
Gunxpatriot - your not an idiot, but you might be crazy, lol

All kidding aside - I was probably one of the first owners of an M&P15 Sport in my area. I picked mine up for $599! My thought's were, "It's a Smith and Wesson, if anything is wrong with it, they will fix it!" Well I was wrong...they don't need to fix it, it is an awesome gun! Accurate and zero problems!

To answer your question...

DI VS Piston Driven - people will argue for either one until they turn blue. On a lower priced AR15 - your only choice is DI. If you up the price - then it's up to you how you would like to spend your money, because I think both systems work.
Lack of forward assist? I've yet to use the FA in a shooting situation whether local range or military. Only time I use it is in the classroom.
Sorry - can't answer third question. I'm in MS and we don't have the same rules.

October 12, 2012, 10:45 AM
On the budget end, the M&P Sport's reputation is incredibly hard to beat. I don't think you will find a finer AR at a comparable price.

The FA and dust cover are things that IMO are nice to have but hardly a make it or break it proposition; unless you plan to use the rifle in extremely dirty environments the dust cover means little (and it pops open the moment the first shot is fired anyway). The FA, well, if you use it you're probably as likely to make a jam worse as stay in the fight.

Are Rock Rivers and nicer guns worth the money? Sure. Will the Sport be a bad choice. Heck no.

October 12, 2012, 11:14 AM
I suggest you buy one. Live with it and learn from it. Then build what you want. You can get one for $800 or less.

I don't know about your state laws.

I have an Olympic Arms AR-15. It's always worked just fine, and I am relatively sure you can get one within your budget.

As to your questions:

"DI vs Piston Driven?" At the price you are willing to pay, it's going to be DI, so it isn't an issue.

"Mil-spec vs commercial stock?" I wouldn't worry about the difference. You can always replace it later.

"Is forward assist important/needed? Ever utilized in realistic scenario???" I never needed mine. It doesn't hurt anything though.

"Dust Cover? (Seems like less of a concern)." You want the dust cover. In fact, you should get in the habit of closing it when you are moving around in the field.

I'd find out what the rifling is. Military is 1:7. Most commercial rifles seem to have 1:8 and !:9. It will affect the muzzle velocity and the best weight for your bullets. Mine is 1:9.

Don't over think this. Pick one, have fun and get experienced. If you want another, it won't be hard to sell the one you buy.

October 12, 2012, 11:42 AM
Highly reccomend the M&P Sport.

October 12, 2012, 03:05 PM
All really good advice guys, thanks a lot. As it turns out, S&W shows the compliant model on their site. I think I will actually go for it soon. I've been watching a lot of reviews on youtube and I havent heard of any problems, so definitely seems good quality.

October 12, 2012, 04:14 PM
Palmetto state armory often has great prices and great products. Through them you'll be able to get a nice rifle for around $700 (+/- depending on what sights you want) ready to shoot. This is with milspec built and tested barrels and bolt carrier groups, if those things matter to you.

You could even buy an upper from them and a lower locally. That might get you the best price.

DI vs piston is a heated debate in the AR community. Luckily (:D) for you, they're way out of your price range, so you don't even have to worry about it.

You honestly don't need a forward assist. Both of my rifles have them though.

Metal god
October 12, 2012, 05:36 PM
M&P 15 keep it simple .

Here is a guy in New York that was going through the same issues as you .I don't even remember what he bought , I think the M$P 15 not sure .http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=500261. You may find this helpful . The thread covers many topics so it may be some tuff reading

Really cus your on the low end of a budget It should be easier for you . stick with the main brands in your price range and you will be fine .

chris in va
October 12, 2012, 11:23 PM
I have a Sport. 3000 rounds, zero issues. All I've really done is change out the handguard for a shielded version and throw on a red dot. Oh and add a curved buttpad.

Honestly I just have it as a range toy. It would serve as a HD rifle but that's about it. The dust cover isn't needed and the FA would just aggrivate a potential jam situation.

Mine cost $630 plus tax.

October 13, 2012, 12:13 AM
I just built my first AR. I wanted cheap since I just finished my vepr build.

Used olympic SUM .223 upper with BCG $350
NFA Poly lower (complete) $100 OTD locally
$450 for a complete ar.

Shoots good too, I am getting 1" groups easy at 100yds with a cheap leapers scope.

I would find a cheap upper online since you can ship it, save tax too.
The NFA poly lower came complete with everything. Its nothing fancy but it works. Me and a friend shot about 200 hard rds some russian steel case and that lower didn't flinch.

October 13, 2012, 12:40 AM
Thanks guys. Also, I'm not sure how much it will be... MSRP is at $739, but at my local shop, I wound up paying $380 + tax for a $400 MSRP rifle (Thieves), so I dont really know how much I'll have to pay. I probably got ripped off on that gun to be honest...

I've heard a lot of people say as of 2012 that you should pay no more than around $650 out the door, but I'd be lucky to get the thing for less than MSRP OTD.

In general, how much should one pay compared to the MSRP? If a rifle is $1000 MSRP, how much should one expect to pay after tax? Thanks.

October 14, 2012, 10:58 PM
Everyone will have their opinions as to manufacturers, and I have no doubt they're well-founded. My only contribution here will be to subscribe to the theory 'buy once, cry once'. If you have to save a bit more to get a better product, do so. Go quality the first time and don't worry about it failing you later on down the line.

October 15, 2012, 12:58 PM
That's what I did. I picked up a Colt LE6920 for under 1100. If I drove 30 miles I could have saved $30. But without even saying anything to the guy that sold it to me, when I stuck a boresnake and 3 boxes of 5.56 FMJ ammo on the counter he did three things. He adjusted the price on the boresnake to $0.00, asked what I wanted the ammo for, and when I said range ammo he told me I had the wrong stuff and picked up cheaper stuff, then handed me a box of tracer ammo that I probably can't use until the next time I visit my uncle on his farm in outer BFE. But it's something cool to look at until then, and pretty nice of him to do so. By the way, there's a second gun store less than 5 blocks away that wanted 300 more than I paid.

I guess the point of that is two fold: Buy the bottom of the best tier the first time, because it's cheaper in the long run than having to replace something junky that broke with what you should have bought in the first place. Though to be fair, S&W usually isn't junk. Second, if you think your gun shop should buy you dinner after you buy something, find a place that wants to bend over for you, instead of the other way around. If you look, you'll find a store that wants repeat business. You may have to be willing to special order the stuff you want, but it's worth that to have a guy wants your business more than he wants to give you the business.

October 15, 2012, 10:57 PM
GunX, the average price of the M&P Sport is $650. Try to get it as close as possible to that price, even cheaper if possible. If you wait a bit and look around, sometimes they go on sale for $599 esp during the Thanksgiving/Black friday sales.

good luck in your search.

October 16, 2012, 05:32 AM
I also recommend a S&W Sport. I have one and it is an awesom rifle at a great price. With my hand loads I have shot groups of five rounds in one hole half inch at 100 yds.

October 16, 2012, 06:25 AM
I too am new to AR's and had this same decision last month. I went with a Sport. I have yet to shoot it though, I want to replace the buttstock first for a Magpul. I'm in a non "Free State" so I have to pin it.

Anyway...to me, that rifle was a great value and quality materials. The lack of FA didn't bother me as much as the lack of DC. I really would prefer a DC, but this review eased my a fears a bit. http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2011/06/benjamin-t-shotzberger/%EF%BB%BF-gun-review-smith-and-wesson-mp15-sport/

Once I'm done with the buttstock I'll have my mods complete. I'm running an EOTECH XPS2-2, I replaced the foreend with a Troy quad rail as well. It looks pretty slick right now!

October 17, 2012, 07:48 PM
New AR guy here as well. I stumbled on an used one (Bushmaster carbine) from a buddy. Afterwards I hit the google button and YouTube. YIKES! :eek: I wouldn't attempt to recommend a specific brand/model. But, I can say this: don't go wild and crazy trying to keep up with the advanced AR upgrade guys. After shooting mine the first time I discovered I needed two changes, a rubber butt stock pad for the hard plastic Tapco adjusting stock and a rubber Magpul pistol grip. Find a middle of the road AR manufacturer and do your personal upgrades...slowly. Good luck.

October 17, 2012, 08:13 PM
To OP have u looked into Windham Weoponry? I just picked one up for $848 OTD and it comes with FA and dust cover. Its a flattop so its ready for a scope or u can install some flip up sights. Nice firm weapon and on a plus note they offer a full TRANSFERRABLE WARRANTY. I think its a great deal. Hope u find one u enjoy.

October 18, 2012, 08:53 PM

I have this one I paid $699+tax, added an EOTech 512 and so far with a few hundred rounds or so down range its performance has been unbelievable. The 1:9 twist heavy barrel is very accurate and loves my handloads.

October 19, 2012, 08:38 AM
Bamashooter, it looks great and all, but unfortunately, I live in NY :/

Seems very good. I think ultimately, I've decided on the M&P-15 Sport. It's easier and cheaper to get my hands on. Thanks a lot for all the great suggestions, opinions/input!

October 19, 2012, 06:26 PM
Its all good Gunx. If I hadnt bought the DTI I would have bought the S&W M&P Sport. Sorry that you live in a place that restricts your God given rights.