7 Best AR-15 Rifles of 2022

by Travis Pike

May 19, 2022

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The American market has been absolutely dominated by the AR 15 and AR 15 type rifles. This massive market has delivered unto us a bountiful harvest of semi-automatic rifles in a wide variety of calibers, all on a similar platform. I would not want to be the guy that had to gather every AR manufacturer into some kind of crazy list. Heck, I had a hard enough time building a list of what I think are the very best AR 15s on the market. Yet, here we are with a list I think might be controversial, but I think these are the best AR 15s out there. 

Why the AR 15 

Why would anyone consider the AR 15 as a rifle? Well, that’s an interesting question. I could point out that they are available at every price point. They are also so dang popular that you can upgrade your very rifle to an extreme degree and build the rifle of your dreams. AR 15s come in every configuration you could want. Heck, including the bolt and pump-action models. 

However, the best way to sell you the AR 15 is to examine it in a vacuum. Yes, price and modularity matter, but the rifle itself is outstanding. The AR 15 is an extremely ergonomic weapon that anyone can use. They can be extremely lightweight, and the controls are very simple. AR 15s are also accurate firearms that can spit lead out to 500 yards with a trained and competent shooter. Also, the AR 15 is extremely reliable and can function in nearly any condition. 

The modularity and price points only came to be so dominant because the rifle itself is so solid. It’s tough, if not impossible, to beat out the modern market. It’s the reason why the AR 15 has served for so long and why so many countries have adopted variants of the rifle. 

Why There Isn’t a Single Best AR-15? 

Because the AR 15 fills so many different roles, it’s tough to say it’s the best ever! In fact, it’s impossible because different people have different needs. As such, there isn’t necessarily one rifle that rules them all. However, I can very easily choose a multitude of the best rifles, make the editors’ choice, and pick my favorite model. 

However, I’ve chosen what I think are some of the best AR 15s on the market for a wide variety of roles, and I tried to address a multitude of price ranges as well. It’s easy to make a list of ARs that cost thousands of dollars and call it a day. Yet, I’ve abstained from picking nothing but Gucci choices. 

The Many Different Uses of the AR-15 

Duty – Duty means police, military, and security use of a AR 15 as well as used by professional trappers and hunters who might be ridding the land of hogs and coyotes for farmers, counties, and even the national forest service. These roles require hard running and tough and ready weapons that are extremely well made. They should be top-tier weapons in the reliability and durability department, as well as being accurate and capable. 

Home Defense – Home defense still means lives are on the line, but you won’t need to storm the beaches of Normandy with this rifle. The most important characteristic will be reliability. You’ll need a rifle that always goes bang. You’ll typically want something shorter rather than longer for inside a home. In that situation, the shorter gun is more maneuverable, and that’s important. 

Competition – While there are no lives on the line here, you want a rifle that’s reliable. However, you can be a little more friendly in tampering with the gun in terms of gas systems, buffer weights, and muzzle devices to limit recoil and muzzle rise. Still, you want a straight-shooting rifle, and depending on how crazy you get, you might want to trim or add weight depending on your discipline. 

Hunting – The only life on the line here is the animals, and as such, you want a rifle that can take the animal down without issue. This typically means accuracy is paramount. You likely want a good trigger, a free-floated barrel, and a flat top upper to add an optic too. Plus, it helps if the gun stays light, so it’s not an anchor in the field.

Best AR-15

Knight's SR-15 MOD 2
  • E3 Bolt Design
  • URX 4 M-LOK Rail
  • 16-inch barrel
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JP Enterprises JP5
  • 9mm Pistol Caliber Carbine
  • Roller-Delayed 
  • Competition-Ready
Check Price
Colt LE6920
  • Closest to Military Grade M4 on the market
  • Affordable
  • Proven Across the Globe
Check Price
MARS-L
  • Advanced Ambidextrous Lower 
  • True Monolithic Upper Receiver
  • Adopted by the NZ Defense Force
Check Price
Aero Precision M4E1
  • Advanced Lower Receivers
  • Comes in various calibers, colors, and sizes
  • Easy to Build
Check Price
S&W M&P Sport 2
  • Reliable, budget grade option
  • Lacks Anything Fancy
  • Great Warranty
Check Price
Fightlite SCR
  • 50 State Legal 
  • Unique Design
  • Accepts AR everything
Check Price

BEST AR-15’s

  1. Knight’s SR-15 MOD 2 
  2. JP Enterprises JP5
  3. Colt LE6920
  4. MARS-L
  5. Aero Precision M4E1
  6. S&W M&P Sport 2
  7. Fightlite SCR

Gun Specifications

Below is a list of our Best AR-15s. So we can compare and line up the specs from each of the products and help you make the best decision possible.

AR-15WeightLengthBarrel LengthCaliber
Knight's SR-15 MOD 26.55 pounds33.5 inches16.1 inches5.56
JP5 Roller Delayed6.1 pounds31.5 inches14.5 w/ fixed muzzle device9mm
Colt LE69206.95 pounds32 inches16.1 inches5.56
MARS-L7.27 pounds32 inches16 inches5.56
Aero Precision M4E17.18 pounds35 inches16 inches5.56/300 Blackout
S&W M&P Sport 26.45 pounds35 inches16 inches5.56 / 300 Blackout
Fightlite SCR5.8 pounds37.75 inches16.25 inches5.56/300 Blackout

Best AR-15 Reviews

Now we’ve had an overview and looked at our list, let us take the time to individually review each item. In this section, we’ll be revisiting our specs, discussing the product, and looking at the pros and cons.

1. Knight’s SR-15 MOD 2

Editor's Choice

Knight’s SR-15 MOD 2

The SR-15 E3 MOD 2 series’ 5.56mm NATO barrel is manufactured for military grade durability, and is free-floated inside a URX 4 M-LOK handguard.

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  • Shootability A+
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy A+
  • Value A-

Our Grade

A

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

A+

Based on 1 Reviews

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SR-15 MOD 2 Specs

  • Weight 6.55 pounds
  • Length 33.5 inches
  • Barrel Length 16.1 inches
  • Caliber 5.56

SR-15 MOD 2 Review

Knights Armament arms the world’s professional gunfighters with the finest fighting rifles money can buy. Knights Armory Company, of KAC, produces rifles for the most discerning customer. In the AR-15 realm, the SR-15 is hard to beat. If the world was going to end, I’d grab the SR-15 because it’s insanely durable and made to last.

The SR-15 utilizes the E3 round bolt lug that increases bolt life to an extreme level. Another common weak point is the extractor, so Knights packs the SR-15 with dual extractor springs that provide constant pressure and ensure the best extraction even when you have the dirtiest chamber. 

Knights also utilizes ambidextrous controls that include the safety, the magazine release, and bolt release. These controls are fantastic and provide perfect ergos for lefties and allow you to maintain control when swapping shoulders. 

The URX M-LOK rail is tough to beat in terms of durability, and you can easily zero a PEQ style aiming device and know it will maintain zero. The two-stage flat trigger will help you ensure the rounds hit their target, and so will the unbeatable QC. The SR-15 might be the future of duty grade AR 15 rifles. 

SR-15 MOD 2 Pros and Cons

  • Absurdly reliable
  • Ergonomic
  • Outstanding design
  • Expensive

Knight’s SR-15 MOD 2 Deals

2. JP5 Roller Delayed

JP5 Roller Delayed

The JP-5 Competition PCC is the ultimate Pistol Caliber Carbine for the action shooter. This configuration includes all the features you need to get out and win some matches.

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics A-
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A-

Our Grade

A

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

D+

Based on 2 Reviews

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JP5 Roller Delayed Specs

  • Weight 6.1 pounds
  • Length 31.5 inches
  • Barrel Length 14.5 w/ fixed muzzle device
  • Caliber 9mm

JP5 Roller Review

The JP5 from JP Enterprises took the classic PCC design and revamped it. Most are direct blowback firearms, but the JP5 uses a roller delayed setup much like an MP5. However, unlike the MP5, the JP5 retains the awesome ergonomics of the AR 15. This roller delayed setup reduces recoil, and the massive compensator reduces muzzle rise as well. 

The JP5 comes with complete ambidextrous controls that make rifle manipulations quite easy and very intuitive. The complete clone of the rifle from one side to the other allows the rifle to be easily handled by any shooter. The JP5 utilizes Glock pattern magazines that make it easy to keep the rifle fed. JP enterprise did an amazing job with this rifle, and this means everything is premium. This includes a fantastic trigger, billet receivers, and massive, easy-to-use controls. 

The JP5 is built from the ground up to be a competition PCC, and it’s all about speed and accuracy. The JP5 kicks ass in either direction and makes double and triple taps impressively easy. 

JP5 Roller Delayed Pros and Cons

  • Recoil and muzzle rise is nil
  • Easy to shoot
  • Extremely reliable
  • Costs more than the SR-15

JP5 Roller Deals

3. Colt LE6920

Colt LE6920

Throughout the world today, Colt’s reliability, performance, and accuracy provide our Armed Forces the confidence required to accomplish any mission

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  • Shootability A-
  • Reliability A-
  • Ergonomics B+
  • Accuracy A-
  • Value B+

Our Grade

A-

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

A+

Based on 1 Reviews

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Colt LE6920

  • Weight 6.95 pounds
  • Length 32 inches
  • Barrel Length 16.1 inches
  • Caliber 5.56

Colt LE6920 Review

Want the closest thing you can get to an actual M4? Well, Colt has you covered with the LE6920. Colt is the original contract producer of the M4, and this is the closest you can get to the actual M4 without getting all the licenses and tax stamps to be a SOT. The Colt LE6920 provides shooters with a very competent rifle at a rather affordable price point. 

The Colt LE6920 utilizes the M4 standard everything, so expect anything fancy. However, you do get a very competent rifle with a proven track record for reliability and durability. It will take a beating and keep ticking. It’s an outstanding rifle that does core competencies very well. It can be the platform to build a better rifle and upgrade as you see fit, but it’s also damn fine by itself. 

Unlike the M4, the LE6920 does have a 16.1 barrel that ensures the weapon remains NFA-free. This pattern rifle has long been the favorite for military shooters around the world. It’s a rock-solid rifle, and it’s hard to find a more proven platform. 

Colt LE6920 Pros and Cons

  • Affordable
  • Extremely reliable
  • Perfect rifle to build upon
  • It’s a plain-Jane rifle

Colt LE6920 Deals

4. LMT Mars-L

LMT Mars-L

The only true monolithic rail platform, milled from a single solid piece of aerospace aluminum forging.

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  • Shootability B
  • Reliability B+
  • Ergonomics B
  • Accuracy B+
  • Value B

Our Grade

B

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 2 Reviews

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MARS-L Specs

  • Weight 7.27 pounds
  • Length 32 inches
  • Barrel Length 16 inches
  • Caliber 5.56

MARS-L Review

The MARS-L rifle is one of the most underrated rifles of all time. MARS-L stands for Modular Ambidextrous Rifle System – Light. This 5.56 caliber rifle has won a number of military contests, including the New Zealand Defense Force and Estonia. It’s more than just your average AR-15. The MARS-L is the only true monolithic upper featuring a handguard that is truly part of the rail system. 

This design gives shooters 14.5 inches of rail and optic space to mount even the larger and most capable optics. Additionally, the barrel system uses two locking bolts to lock in the barrel extension. The benefits are the fact the barrel can be removed in seconds and swapped for a shorter or longer option at will. 

Additionally, the MARS-L uses an ambidextrous lower receiver to make controlling the rifle very simple. Anyone can pick the rifle up and find it ergonomic and natural to wield. Additionally, the MARS-L has proven to be very accurate and extremely capable in the field. It can withstand abuse, use, and dirt, without issue.

MARS-L Pros and Cons

  • True monolithic upper
  • Quick change barrel
  • Ambi ergonomics
  • Can be tough to find

MARS-L Deals

5. Aero Precision M4E1

Aero Precision M4E1

The Aero Precision M4E1 16″ 5.56 Complete Rifle is built on the popular Enhanced Series Upper Receiver. This system provides the shooter a light-weight, free-floated, rigid design resulting in superior performance and accuracy.

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  • Shootability B-
  • Reliability B
  • Ergonomics B-
  • Accuracy B
  • Value B-

Our Grade

B-

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

B-

Based on 4 Reviews

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Aero Precision M4E1 Specs

  • Weight 7.18 pounds
  • Length 35 inches
  • Barrel Length 16 inches
  • Caliber 5.56/300 Blackout

Aero Precision M4E1 Review

Aero Precision is a massive company that makes uppers, lowers, and parts for a number of companies. They also produce their own series of rifles in various platforms. My favorite is the M4E1. The M4E1 takes the normal AR 15 design and makes slight improvements to its design/ These improvements include two threaded sockets to make installs easier, and the M4E1 lower is my favorite for builds. 

Additionally, the M4E1 comes with an integrated trigger guard as well as a flared magazine well for faster reloads. This is part of the receiver’s forging and makes the lower look very nice and clean. Aero’s guns are well known for their reliability and superb accuracy. Aero makes almost every part in-house, so it guarantees a perfect fit and function. 

Shooters looking for a AR 15 pistol or rifle are taken care of by the M4E1 series, and so are those looking for a multitude of calibers. 5.56 and 300 Blackout are covered, and shooters wanting a .223 Wylde chamber are also covered. Aero Precision also provides their guns at a very fair price point. They can be tough to beat for first-time AR owners.

Aero Precision M4E1 Pros and Cons

  • Multiple calibers, barrel lengths, and colors offered.
  • Enhanced lower
  • Affordable
  • Nothing revolutionary

Aero Precision M4E1 Deals

6. S&W M&P Sport 2

S&W M&P Sport 2

M&P15 Rifles are the ideal modern sporting rifle.  Built to perform multiple uses under various conditions, M&P15 Rifles are as versatile as they are reliable. 

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  • Shootability C+
  • Reliability B-
  • Ergonomics C+
  • Accuracy B-
  • Value C+

Our Grade

C+

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

C+

Based on 2 Reviews

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S&W M&P Sport 2 Specs

  • Weight 6.45 pounds
  • Length 35 inches
  • Barrel Length 16 inches
  • Caliber 5.56 / 300 Blackout

S&W M&P Sport 2 Review

The S&W Sport 2 is not the best AR 15 on the market. However, if money is tight, the S&W M&P Sport 2 is going to be the best option for a budget-conscious shooter. It’s very simple and lacks any fancy features. It comes with a front sight base gas block, plastic handguards, and the classic six-position M4 stock. 

It’s a flat top with the ability to mount an optic with ease. However, to mount anything else, you might need to start fielding a new handguard. Yet, if you need a rifle and you don’t have a ton of extra cash, this is a good base to start with. With regular maintenance, the M&P Sport 2 will be reliable and accurate enough for most tasks. 

You won’t win a PRS competition, but this isn’t what that rifle is for. It’s a solid rifle that does the basics right. Additionally, unlike a number of other companies producing budget rifles, S&W has been around and will be around for a long time. If you need customer service, they are there. It’s not a fly by nite shop selling the lowest common denominator guns.

S&W M&P Sport 2 Pros and Cons

  • Great Warranty
  • Easy to Find
  • Super affordable
  • Far From Fancy

S&W M&P Sport 2 Deals

7. Fightlite SCR

Fightlite SCR

A complete AR-15 that’s legal in all 50 states.

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  • Reliability A+
  • Accuracy B
  • Shootability B
  • Ergonomics D
  • Value D

Our Grade

C+

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

B+

Based on 3 Reviews

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Fightlite SCR Specs

  • Weight 5.8 pounds
  • Length 37.75 inches
  • Barrel Length 16.25 inches
  • Caliber 5.56/300 Blackout

Fightlite SCR Review

I don’t want to leave my poor ban states out. States that hate freedom like New York, Hawaii, and California, you know, the usual suspects hate the traditional AR 15 design. Numerous designs have come and gone to comply while providing the awesomeness of the AR 15. 

The best one I’ve ever seen is the Fightlite SCR. This rifle uses a proprietary bolt carrier group and internal buffer system complete with a traditional style stock. It’s quite unique, and I don’t live in a ban state, and I own one because it just looks cool. 

Other than that, it’s almost entirely your standard AR. The controls are the same, the recoil impulse is even lighter, and it’s quite accurate. You lose the ability to use a standard pistol grip, a threaded barrel, and other small features, but the Ares SCR remains the only AR variant that is 50 state legal.

Fightlite SCR Pros and Cons

  • Ergonomic
  • 50 State Legal
  • Actually not a bad gun
  • Hard to find

Fightlite SCR Deals

AR-15 Buyers Guide

There seems to be a little willful ignorance in the AR 15 world. A lot of people claim there isn’t a difference between a cheap mil-spec AR 15 and an expensive mil-spec AR 15. Mil-Spec is an awful term that is just a set of tolerances that doesn’t necessarily say anything about a weapon’s overall quality. Heck, Mil-Spec allows for a 5 MOA gun, and that’s not good by any metric. 

The claim you are ‘just buying a name’ simply isn’t true. Also, no, there aren’t just five forges that produce all the AR 15s of the world. It’s simply not true. Quality AR 15s are more than just a name. Sure some names have a high price tag, but that’s not because they charge for the name. It’s because they make fantastic rifles. 

Barrel Length 

What’s the best AR 15 barrel length? Well, that’s a tough question. What’s the gun’s purpose? What’s its caliber? Those are all important to consider. To simplify this question, let’s focus on the 5.56 caliber. It’s the most common AR 15 caliber and the caliber with the majority of barrel length differences. 

20 inch – Rifle length barrels come in at 20-inches. The 5.56 was made for a 20-inch barrel, and the round reaches its max velocity from a 20-inch barrel. An AR 15 with a 20-inch barrel will be the smoothest shooting AR experience out of the box. These are perfect for hunting and for competitions involving accuracy. 

16-inch – 16-inch barrels are the most common barrels on the commercial market. At 16 inches, you get a good mix of velocity and maneuverability at close ranges. 16-inch barrels are also the shortest you can get without using a AR 15 pistol or SBR. This length of barrel will ensure reliability, and accuracy and give you a very effective range. 

14.5-inch – 14.5-inch barrels are the military standard for the M4 and, as such, are quite popular among civilian shooters. Like the 16-inch barrel, the weapon remains maneuverable, lightweight, and reliable. To avoid the NFA, you can pin and weld a muzzle device in place to reach the necessary 16 inches. 

11.5 inches – Now we are getting into specialized barrel lengths made explicitly for close quarter combat, and out to longer ranges, the terminal ballistics will suck. For home defense, it’s great, but it’s super loud, has a lot of muzzle blast, and creates lots of concussions. 11.3 inches is a sweet spot for reliability with shorter barrels. 

10.3 inches – like 11.5, the 10.3-inch barrel is special purposes, like CQB. In CQB, the 10.3-inch barrel does well, but again you are limited in max range in terms of terminal ballistics. On top of that, you’ll have to deal with the flash, noise, and concussion. They’ve made 10.3 guns work, but the 11.5 guns tend to be more reliable. 

Shorter Barrels – Anything shorter than 10.3 is a bit silly in 5.56. It’s basically a flashbang in the form of a gun. Sure, 7.5 exists, and I even own one, but it’s so utterly silly that it’s not worth the investment for a premium-grade gun. 

AR 15 Calibers

AR 15s come in a multitude of calibers, inf act they come in so many it would be an entire article just to list them. Instead, let’s talk about the three most common you’ll find in the premium grade AR 15s and some of the other categories of AR cartridges out here. 

5.56 – 5.56 comes standard in the AR 15 world. This intermediate caliber does well out to 500 yards and even a little more with a good shot. It’s incredibly common and affordable. It provides excellent accuracy and minimal recoil. 

9mm – 9mm is the world’s favorite pistol round and also their favorite pistol caliber carbine round. It’s a fun little cartridge that works well with the blowback systems in PCC AR 15s. It also allows the user to use standard pistol magazines that can match their chosen handgun. 

300 Blackout – 300 Blackout is a neat round that excels at the versatility and being used in short barrels. It’s designed to reach max velocity in a barrel as short as 9 inches. It’s perfect for use with suppressors as well. In fact, if you want an SBR or short-barreled pistol, I’d go with the 300 Blackout. 

Big Bore – Big bore calibers including 350 Legend, 450 Bushmaster, and 458 SOCOM are developed for taking bigger game, at closer ranges. These are excellent hunting cartridges within 200 yards or so but provide a costly source for ammunition. 

Longer(er) Range – The 6mm ARC and 6.5 Grendel provide AR 15s with a high ballistic coefficient and extends the range of your AR 15 a fair bit. In fact, hits out to 800 yards with either caliber aren’t crazy. 

Should I Build My Own? 

You can certainly build an extremely nice rifle if you have the skills to do so. Building a functional AR 15 doesn’t take rocket surgery or specialized tools, but building a premium AR 15 certainly requires experience and some nice tools. Ensuring the barrel nut is torqued correctly and the flash hider is on straight isn’t something you can do with a pair of channel locks. 

I’m not saying it can’t be done, but to me, when I spend a good chunk of money on a rifle, I want someone with more experience than me to put it together. I’ve built rifles before, and I haven’t had a problem, but that doesn’t mean I trust myself to build a rifle to defend myself with. 

Going Premium 

A premium AR 15 will deliver a premium experience. This includes the departments of reliability, accuracy, speed, ergonomics, and generally higher-end features. We also get a gun that will last, and last, and last. Sometimes that little extra you spend is well worth the investment. 

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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1 COMMENTS

  1. Quality construction, reasonable price. Mine runs like a scalded dog and is plenty accurate. May not appeal to the rollmark snobs, but so what.

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