We’ll be going over completed AR-15 upper assemblies or groups, instead of just the stripped upper. But don’t worry, here’s our guide for the best stripped uppers for your build. And how to put it all together: Upper Guide & Lower Guide[email protected]
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And these are our mid-tier brands. There’s nothing wrong with them and we own a couple ourselves for plinking and competitions. But we recommend testing them thoroughly before you decide to use them for defensive purposes. These will typically cost less than the top tier brands
These types of builds have longer barrels such as 18″ or 20″ for increased bullet velocity and may even use stainless steel barrels barrel for better accuracy. Their handguards will likely be free-floated for enhanced accuracy too
Reach out and touch something with this upper in soft-shooting rifle gas length configuration. 1:7 twist stainless steel barrel is perfect for precision shooting with heavier bullets. Comes with flash suppressor. ($1300)
Working with a budget but need something that will always go bang and hit its target? I’m liking PSA’s 18″ rifle-length gas system for extra velocity and reduced recoil. Again, tons of options but I’ve selected M-LOK handguards for you to be future-proof. If you’re shooting mostly bench…you can opt for the 20″ barrel. (~$350)
Rifle-length gas system for the softest shooting and with the more accurate Wylde .223 chamber that still works for both 5.56 and .223 rounds. Different thin free-floating handguards and colors available
These barreled uppers are for Short Barrel Rifle (SBR) applications or the easier to do AR-15 pistol configuration. Make sure you follow all laws such as having a pistol lower already before purchasing
Stag has been in the left-handed game for years and offers a transferable owner and infinite round-count guarantee. I like this model for the super cool rails although there are other options if you want a front-sight block. Although, there are other options here
Did you actually read the article in its entirety? With every item the article talks about, there is a disclaimer that says "Prices accurate at time of writing." Your reading comprehension is horrible and you have zero clue about supply and demand
Prices are not automatically updated and our staff isn't big enough to update thousands of prices in real-time across the site. A global health event combined with a US election year and civil unrest caused massive stockpiling, shortages in production, and panic buying that resulted in prices rising across the industry as supply plummeted and demand skyrocketed
Did not read all the comments. But didn't see any listing about White Oak Armament or Odin. Which both list complete uppers. Seen the Noveske and was understand these 3 to be some what in the same class. Of coarse it like Ford and Chevrolet!!!!!!!
I've built a few ar15s and an ar10 and have bought a few of them fully assembled. The Diamondback,2- DPMS, and Spikes Tactical were fully assembled The ar10 I built with a polymer lower with a Delta Team Tactical upper and an ar15 polymer lower with Ar15Tac.com upper. Each has different trigger assemblies and optics, Not to take away from your experience with ar15s but I'm not a list person and I buy what I like and can afford. Just because someone spends a bunch of money on a "top tier" rifle doesn't mean their not gonna have problems or accuracy issues. A lot depends on the person that owns the rifle, how they take care of it, the optics, the trigger, etc. My friend bought an aero precision cause he seen a list somewhere that they were better than one of the DPMSs I own. He found out that lists of high dollar rifles aren't all that when my DPMS out shot his. Out of all my ARs my first DPMS is by far my go to gun for hunting, range shooting, etc. I've shot more deer, varmints, hogs, with that rifle and have never had an issue of any kind and no, you didn't hurt my feelings by putting DPMS at the bottom tier my point is that people shouldn't be afraid to purchase any of the bottom tier rifles cause a list says you have to spend crazy money to have a dependable and accurate rifle. Its just not true
Eric when you were in the military did you ever get told that if the round won't chamber hit the assist to make the problem worse. I didn't see any comments on manual assists. Don't have any now and didn't use them in the service
Oh my, you could build a pair of beautiful AR's with 2 grand. I've owned many, a couple of Delton 16"s, a Olympic Arms in x39, a few other piece meal ones, Bear Creek Arsenal, PSA (kit where I built the lower, SUPER simple and easy BTW) 10.5" pistol by far my favorite go to since putting it together AND can carry it on my passenger seat loaded since I live in a Constitutional Carry state, and I had a couple of other AR's through the years too.. I'd say for building something, Delton and PSA would be my first 2 choices. Anyway, just pick barrel length, what it's for, and go for it!
I know your pushing the larger length 14” uppers, but you may consider highlighting the smaller uppers I.E. BCM 11.5, Daniel Defense, and others- If you put a suppressor on a 11.5” upper the barrel size increases to 14-16”. A suppressed m4 is ideal for home defense since Your not blowing out your neighbors eardrums —ohh and the Katt with the super beard on Your Staff you may consider a charity Shave off and the proceeds go to shaving his beard. Besides that beard can get stuck in machine tools, burned up by hot objects or firearms of open bolt designs -can be a liability-even for ‘Pew Pew’. Good Luck
I beg too differ about the Stag Arms Brand being a lower tier brand!!! I own a few and they are far from lower tier and make a damn good product!!! getting them on a sale is even better and cheaper dosnt mean cheaply maid!
There is a lot of other factors involved in reliability and accuracy besides the design of a rifle. You don't have to spend crazy money to have a reliable and accurate AR either. I guess some people have to justify what They paid to buy or build their AR. BTW my 2 DPMS rifles have put some of those high dollar ones to shame at the range and in the field. If I miss that quarter at 200 yards I have 29 more rounds and my rifles not jamming
Can believe I just read all this... and then the comments. Anyone who says anything about “Price doesn’t equal quality” is a complete dolt. It means they don’t understand the firearm, the different manufacturers or their designs or end goals (reliability/ accuracy). Any $500 AR can throw a bullet a hundred yards, but few can cover a quarter at 200+. Those who understands this, understands the build process, the ammunition and the reason for the higher cost.... It’s not just laser etching on a pot metal
If your talking about Bear Creek Arsenal, I have two uppers 300 Blackout and 458 Socom,. Both perform as expected without problems. They are not top of the line so your mileage will/may vary. Check with other who have them, see if they have issues. I am happy with mine
The listed retailers are the end result of parts tree of life. The higher the price, the more middle men. Not necessarily, the higher the quality. You want to look for a combination of high quality individual parts, absolutely NOT mil-spec, the lowest quality, and performance tier; Combined with assemblers exhibiting high quality assurance (you're way past the quality control stage), and extreme attention to detail. So if you buy a rifle with a flag engraved on both sides, They should conform to either, official flag flying specs, like on a jeep, or aircraft; Or to your specific order specs. If you bring up quality control, or attention to detail, and the seller says- that costs money! Go someplace else, because the first three steps in making anything are, attention to detail, quality control, and quality assurance, before you charge penny one. I don't want to list my favorites after going through M's, AR's, and M's again since 1970! Luckily, with all officially supplied ammo. I want you, the future buyer, to become a well educated, well informed, conscious, buyer, so you can pay it forward. To review- price does not necessarily equate to quality. Mil-spec is the lowest quality level on the market. Endeavour to always exceed mil-spec. The critical components are- matched upper/lower sets that DO NOT open like a mil-spec hinge. Bolt carrier to upper receiver slop on fore/aft movement. Bolt to barrel extension precise, smooth, interaction. Bolt to bolt carrier precise, smooth, non wobbling interaction. Bore, centered precisely in the barrel. (BTSeenT). Barrel precisely, and correctly positioned in the barrel extension. Barrel extension, with correct feed ramp, correctly centered in upper receiver, to correctly feed a round. Correct chamber for your chosen round. I have had all 3. For me, the best, constantly reliable, was the 5.56 military chamber. It ate/eats anything. .223 chambers can be quirky with 5.56 rounds.. (ever found blown primers in your barrel extension? ) And the Wilde chambers can be quirky with all but specific sized reloads. So talk with the chamber expert in the shop when deciding which chamber to use/request. And recognize that AR-X may love one brand of ammo, and shoot it dead on where you want, but with super high priced g-whiz ammo, it may turn into a clunker gun!
There are only three or four actual manufacturers of many of the upper parts listed. Maybe 5! Using original M-16E2 source retail, plus - Government prices as a start, we can determine the ever increasing retail price andan indicator of the number of extra middle men involved. Lets start with a "mil-spec" rifle. Bottom of the barrel, lowest quality, minimal accuracy, must go bang, most of the time, sloppiest tolerances, no problem with parts wear out or breakage with constant depot, or armory level care and maintenance. - Milspec- had one issued for 35 years! Above mil-spec- difference is, attention to detail, quality control, and assembly tolerance quality. If you have an assembler that gets paid $2. per rifle to assemble it. The faster he can make it go click bang, the more he makes! If the gun comes back to be correctly rebuilt to correct original factory, shoulda been spec, it comes out of the assemblers time. They don't like that, and at some companies, the assembler, whose d code is stamped into the bottom of the grip frame, will do anything to avoid the issue. Especially with stainless steel, issue,law enforcement revolvers from a hour North of Hartford. Just something to be aware of. But, if you get a rifle, built by a guy who is a professional, and who cares, and you get a box stock, matched upper/lower, rifle that shoots better than 1 moa, has had one malfunction that can't be explained in the first 3500 rounds, was overnight factory shipped corrected, then went 60,000 rounds without failure, and still shot 2.5 moa, with all stock, non mil-spec (above, due to attention to detail, and quality control), parts. For an, at the time, $800 rifle. That pretty much sets the standard of expectance. Colona, Il. must have special air! So a key component to getting a super- shoots where you think, never breaks gun, is to find the actual source of the critical component parts, like the barrel, or the matched, no slack, upper/lower assembly, and ask them, who uses their components. Like ask Brownells who makes their super excellent component parts, and start there. Many "assemblers" produce multiple tier quality levels. From the bottom end mil-spec stuff, to the exceptional quality, "ultra match grade, non mil-spec stuff" but make sure your chosen manufacturer can back up his grade level claims with product, not words or labels. If you have ever sat in front of the old Colt Hammer Forging barrel machine for an hourof havng your bones rattled, it gives perspective. If you've talked to Boots, and listened to his swiss time piece barrel machine in the background, it gves you perspective. If you go to Colona, Il. and get treated like family, it gves perspective. Or if you walk into a small production company, stacked to the ceiling with boxes of parts being supplied to 25 different AR rifle assembling companies, it gives perspective. Point is- research is fun, and a great learning experience. Investigate, go to the shot show and talk to everyone, big and small, especially small. Read the name tags of passers by. The heavy hitters at the show will be quiet guys walking the aisles, with no tables. Find they, talk to them, learn! Respectfully, an aged barrel stroker
A stainless steel barrel is not more inheriently accurate than a comparable chromoly barrel. The difference is in the gauging of the barrel after it is rifled. I also must take exception to your notion that Ruger or Smith and Wesson are less "top tier" than Colt or the other manufacturers you list as top. I have been a gunsmith for more than 35 years and have worked on all of these, not depend on them? Nonsense. You seem to be more impressed by the price than actual performance. I would put one of mine against anything you list as top tier
Some great information but really nothing at all to support the placement in a specific category. It may just be us mechanical engineers that want real data in the form of exactly what materials, coatings, design features, tolerances and dimensions, surface finish, heat treatments, it is that makes one widget better than another. Millions of bytes on the web and still not what we need
Does POF make their own uppers? or have them made under contract for them? I really like the POF lowers, for attention to detail, and quality control, but only with a matched, non mil-spec, won't open like a clam, upper. For strength, check the torque specs they tested to the failure point in screwing on the barrel nut. While put it together spec is one thing. Failure spec tells you the quality of the upper, metal. When you attach the upper to the lower, it should sound like an mp-5sda3 with a wet supressor. shick-aaah! It should no go clunk clunk, snap snap!
I don't understand how you could possibly have Stag and Aero Precision in different tiers. The overwhelming majority of people in the firearms community more than likely would consider them to be on par with each other. Neither of which are a bottom tier IMO
at atlantic tactical they ran a special fn 16.1 inch ar with a flat top for about a grand plus tax ,I bought three and outfitted different optics to match my shooting styles ,each holds an inch and a half at 300 yards ,now that's a deal worth getting.all but one got an acog .it got a vortex strike eagle 1x8 instead
For an AR-15 yes it is fine. The vast majority of manufacturers all use the same mil-spec standard as everyone else. There are a couple of companies out there that make a weird pattern that isn't mil-spec, but those are very rare, cost an outrageous amount, and comes with lots of warning labels about how they aren't standard. All of the manufacturers we looked at in this article all make standard mil-spec uppers that can attach to any standard lower with no worries. Personally, I highly recommend Aero
Two other great budget uppers are diamondback and CBC industries. I was weary of diamondback as they’re not known to make the greatest pistols, but I’ve already put 1000rds through one and have never had an issue and it’s extremely accurate. I’ve never personally shot a CBC upper but from the reviews they get they seem pretty nice. Both start around $200 with a large variety of uppers on both websites
I have a CBC upper mounted to a Anderson lower excellent fit and my 16'' 1/7 twist 556 upper is as reliable and accurate as you can ask for regardless of the price at 200 yards I can shoot the cap off of a milk jug every shot it runs steel case tula ammo without an issue and brass runs great the customer service is prompt and they keep you informed on the status of your order unlike the horror stories I've read about from other companies I hope this helps more people decide to exercise they're 2nd amendment rights responsibly
Eric i always enjoy your articles but I don’t know how lon it’s been since you got a palmetto state armory upper but I have ordered 3 in last 6 months using their deal of the day and they to me are better than most of the middle group you mentioned. I have a DD AR and they don’t compare but I’ve had zero problems and great groups with all of them. Most are what they call blemishes and they usually have a little scratch on the rail or a slight color defect that I’m not sure most could tell if they don’t look for it and all 3 have had stainless free float barrels and the most I paid was $249 because they are blemishes one is perfect because it has a paint chip right where my optic sits. And at that price I was able to put eotech on all. I know this is about uppers but today they have a 5th gen glock 26 and 3 lowers for $599 if you wait and catch the uppers you want you can get 4 guns for under $1200 bucks and the quality of uppers have been great. I’m thinki of pulling plug on the Glock and 3 lower deal and test them out