More Gun For Your Buck: The Top 5 Budget Friendly AR-15 Rifles

orca II pro
Want another AR-15 without breaking the bank? We have some ideas. (Photo credit: Bushmaster)

When it comes to firearms, most people aren’t necessarily excited to hear the words “budget” or “cheap” attached to them. After all, any gun you have needs to be reliable and consistent in its performance—you don’t want some poorly made gun that only fires when it feels like it or is overly finicky about ammo.

With all that in mind, we put together this list of top five budget-friendly AR-15s to consider adding to your gun collection (or using one to get yours started). You’ll notice some have somewhat higher price points than others, but that’s because we’re only going to recommend guns that we know work, not those that are no better than paper weights.

diamondback db-15
This is a great option for a spare rifle or range gun. (Photo credit: Diamondback)

Diamondback DB-15

For a long time Diamondback was considered a less-than-ideal option by shooters. That’s changed in recent years. After getting my hands on various DB-15s over time, I can say they are definitely worth choosing as a budget-friendly option. It isn’t always possible—or, let’s be honest, even preferable—to buy high-end precision rifles and the Diamondback DB-15 is a gun that simply works when you need it to.

You can get the DB-15 with various finishes including black and flat dark earth. This model has a 5.56 NATO barrel and a dust cover that’s marked with the caliber as well. It has a 16-inch barrel, making it technically a carbine, and it includes a number of useful features.

The DB-15 isn’t just a plain-Jane, stock AR-15. Features include a collapsible stock, M-LOK compatible slots on the handguard, and a length of Picatinny rail over the receiver and at the muzzle end of the handguard.

Specs include a 1 in 8 twist rate, A2 flash hider, standard MIL-SPEC trigger, and medium contour barrel. It weighs 6.3 pounds empty, making it easily portable and not excessively heavy. The Diamondback DB-15 is a legit option whether it’s your first AR-15 or your tenth.

Price point at dealers averages about $559.

radical firearms ar-15
This isn’t a no-frills model. It has some great features that make it a versatile rifle. (Photo credit: Radical Firearms)

Radical Firearms AR-15

Radical Firearms is another company that’s coming out with increasingly reliable guns, and their standard AR-15 in 5.56 NATO is a great example. This rifle is solid for plinking, use as a truck gun, or teaching someone new to shooting the ropes of the AR platform. It’s designed to be good-to-go and optics-ready right out of the box. While that might sound standard, you’ll find a lot of the more wallet-friendly rifles can be short on features.

One of the great things about the Radical AR-15 is the full-length Picatinny rail. If you’re like me and a fan of aftermarket accessories, having a full-length rail makes it a lot easier to get things done. It also has M-LOK compatible slots on both sides of the handguard, so you can add your weapon mounted light that way, too.

This gun has a 16-inch barrel with a 15-inch free-floated handguard and a .750-inch low profile gas block. The minimalist stock is adjustable so it has that L-shape rather than being a full-on, bulkier design. Overall this is a great gun for first-timers or people looking to have a spare on hand for whatever reason.

Price point through dealers averages about $429.

mossberg 22 lr rifle
Want a plinking rifle? This 22 LR from Mossberg is a solid choice. (Photo credit: Mossberg)

Mossberg 715T Flat-Top

Maybe you want an AR-15 platform rifle, but not one chambered in 5.56 NATO. Maybe you just want a simple plinking gun.

The Mossberg 715T Flat-Top is a .22 LR-chambered rifle that’s made for straightforward use. It can be great for inexpensive shooting days at the range where you can burn through a bunch of rimfire and also use the rifle for hunting varmints and pests. While this is an affordable rimfire, it isn’t without nice features.

The Mossberg 715T Flat-Top is available as a red dot package so it comes with a pre-mounted basic red dot sight, making it shootable out of the box (yes, you should still zero that red dot).

The stock is adjustable so you can change length of pull as needed. There’s a Picatinny rail for optics over the receiver and on the handguard. In fact, the 715-T has a quad-rail handguard, so there’s all sorts of real estate for accessories. An A2 muzzle brake comes standard as does the MIL-SPEC trigger.

Price at dealers averages $399.99.

PSA pa-15
The PA-15 is a standard rifle with an A2 front sight and MIL-SPEC trigger. (Photo credit: Palmetto State Armory)

Palmetto State Armory PA-15

If you’re a fan of the old A2 front sight, you might prefer the Palmetto State Armory PA-15. This is another 5.56 NATO rifle that’s proven itself to be a very reliable gun.

Keep in mind this isn’t a free-floated rifle, so if that’s your preference, this isn’t the gun for you. What the PA-15 is, though, is a durable rifle that cycles consistently and fills a niche for affordable firearms. It has a 16-inch barrel with a 1 in 7 twist rate and an M4 profile.

Features of the PA-15 include the requisite Picatinny over the receiver—that’s really a must for optics—and an adjustable stock. The rifle is hard coat anodized to make it more resistant to use-related wear and the receivers are made from forged 7075-T6. Trigger is MIL-SPEC and the muzzle brake is A2-style.

This particular model comes with flat dark earth/sand furniture, but PSA also offeres them in all black. The gun has an overall length of 32 inches and an empty weight of 6.8 pounds.

Price point through PSA is $449.99.

bushmaster orc II pro
The ORC II Pro is an awesome choice for a sub-$1k rifle. (Photo credit: Bushmaster)

Bushmaster ORC II Pro

This is the highest-priced rifle on the list, but it’s still well south of $1000. Bushmaster has long made some great rifles and it’s practically a must to include one here. The Bushmaster ORC II Pro is chambered in 5.56 NATO with a 16-inch barrel made from 4150 chrome moly vanadium. Both the upper and lower receiver are made from 7075 aluminum alloy for durability and to keep the rifle lighter. Features like the trigger, safety selector, and trigger guard are MIL-SPEC.

The ORC II Pro is a good-looking flat black rifle that offers things like a more comfortable stock and greater compatibility options. It has a full-length Picatinny rail and the M-LOK slots on the handguard go all the way around instead of just down the sides. The BFI M4 Carbine Stock has broad, angled upper edges for a better, more comfortable cheek weld and, of course, it’s adjustable.

This is a well-made rifle that’s capable of taking a beating, and it’s a great choice for everything from hunting to self-defense to range use.

Price point at dealers averages $799.99.

5 Responses

  1. Ruger AR-556 MPR for the win
    18″ barrel, rifle length gas system, not very heavy
    Ruger Elite 452 AR-Trigger two-stage
    Widespread availability for less than $800

    1. As a bonus, it would probably retain the best resale value out of this group, if you’re into that sort of thing (selling of your gunz).

  2. For a solid budget AR, the S&W M&P Sport series is hard to beat. Lots of options, pretty well made, and usually available for six bills or so.

    Are they as good as a LaRue Tactical, Noveske, or Wilson Combat? Of course not. Would I want them for a competition gun I’m running hundreds of rounds through it every month, or to issue to a soldier for a combat mission in extreme conditions? No.

    Can you get them cheap and then improve them with a better trigger, etc.? Yup. Are they good enough for probably >90% of our needs? Yup.

    1. LKB,

      I used to make an effort at golf. I was crappy at it. On one particular outing, a friend said, “You and I need to go to a golf store or a sporting goods store, and get you some new clubs.” I was intelligent enough to respond, “My clubs are NOT the limiting factor in my game, I assure you!”

      So it is for most firearms. Sure, Jerry Miculek probably can outshoot some of his guns (and he get high-end guns for free), but . . . most folks can’t. I have a Ruger 10/22. I don’t consider it particularly a “tack-driver”, but . . . it is WAY more accurate than I am. When I was younger, I got into shooting precision long-range, and bought a very expensive long-range rifle. In retrospect, while I LOVE the rifle, I would have been better off with a decent Remington 700, and saved a few grand. My fancy long-range, precision rifle is capable of amazing accuracy . . . and I can’t shoot as accurately as a decent Remington 700 is capable of.

      ANY of those options listed (and the S&W M&P option, or a couple of others) are capable of more than I am, and would work fine for plinking, home defense, or a weekly range day to maintain competence. Someone once told me that “it’s a poor workman who blames his tools”. I believe that is correct.

      Sure, I’d love to jump on a Noveske, or Daniel Defense, or Wilson Combat, or some other high-priced option, but . . . the PSA would work just fine for 99.999% of what I do, and I could have fun with the extra money.

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