Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Can a cheap, bargain-basement AR-15 keep up with a high-end model?


That's the question James Reeves set out to answer in an amusingly snobbish-sounding video.  He fired four different types of ammunition through a low-end DPMS AR-15, and a high-end Bravo Company model.  The results deflated his ego somewhat - although not altogether.

That underscores an important point.  When a design has matured to the point of general availability and adoption, one can assume that most of the examples out there run reasonably well - otherwise nobody would be buying them.  High-end models, made of superior materials and manufactured with stricter tolerances, are likely to be better than el cheapo equivalents over the long term;  but the low end is likely to provide adequate basic services to those who don't need a race car or a purpose-built specialist weapon.

I figured this out in the early 2000's, when I began working with AR-15's and equivalent weapons to help my disabled shooting students.  It wasn't too hard to buy component parts and put them together much more cheaply than the finished product was selling for in gun stores.  Firearms manufacturers responded to the growing home-build movement by reducing their own prices.  Over the past few years that reached the point where $500 factory-manufactured AR-15's were freely available, making the economics of home-built weapons almost irrelevant.

Now, of course, given the sudden shortage of firearms and ammunition following the catastrophic events of the past year, that's changed yet again.  Parts I could buy for $50-$100 in the first half of this year now sell for $300-$400, if and when one can find them (which is seldom).  Even the cheapest AR-15's are now in the high hundreds of dollars, and high-end guns are double or triple that.  As for ammunition, prices are through the roof and still climbing.  I doubt the situation will get back to "normal" (or what we used to regard as normal) for at least a year, maybe two or three.  I used to buy M193 or M855 US-production military 5.56x45mm ball ammunition for 25c-35c per round.  Today it's often found in the dollar-per-round range (if and when it's available), and often it's more than that.

We also have the threat of restrictions and/or outright bans on the sale and possession of AR-15's and equivalent weapons.  I doubt very much whether most Americans will obey such restrictive laws and regulations, but it'll make legally buying and selling them much more difficult.

Hmmm . . . sounds like the perfect time for me to sell a couple more AR-15's, and a thousand rounds of ammo to go with them.  Given my health problems over the past year that have kept me from writing, and thereby generating income the usual way, that would help tide us over for another couple of months.  Thank heavens I stockpiled ammo when it was cheap and plentiful!



Chris Nelson said...

Spouse wants to know how much. A trip up 287 via 380 isn't too far a drive in this great state.

Unknown said...

I am confused. Is that set up for a designated rifleman?

That would appear to be way to much optic for a home defense or car gun usage.

The first thing we did after zeroing our rifles at the DTI course, was a mad minute drill. We dumped 100 to 120 rounds as fast as possible to see if the rifle would still function after heavy use. Tight rifles did not function once they heated up. In fact some AK variants and the Ruger Mini 14 actually got their wood stocks smoldering.

In the high round count course with Jeff Gonzales, all the rifles started choking between 500-1000 rounds from lack of lubrication and fouling. Jeff did not allow the weapons to be cleaned between day one and two so we would practice malfunction drills. High dollar, issued firearms or frankenguns all had issues.

The question is what is more important in a defensive firearm, accuracy or reliability? I think he made the point that better made parts will hold up longer in heavy service. My gamer friends spend big bucks on high end optics and rifles but I doubt that I need that precision for my intended use.


Beans said...

Cheap AR-15 platform worked for Mr. Rittenhouse, didn't it? So the answer is, yes. Cheap, bargain basement versions work well.

riverrider said...

most buyers never or seldom shoot their ar15. i have had guys come back 10 yrs later offering to sell it back b/c they never fired a round after the first mag...that said, you hit the two major themes i have found in 40 years of dealing with ar15's. lube is key, and cheap guns work good enough if you follow rule one, for most purchasers. wouldn't go into 3 gun comp with a palmetto but i wouldn't run from a fight if that's what i had. i even have a 40 y/o model one sales parts gun that runs like a top and drives tacks all day. got 300 bucks in it. vast majority guns will outlast their shooters in a fight/war anyway. they'll be dead or dying in the first few seconds or they'll be lucky and win.

riverrider said...

beans, rittenhouse is a god, or chosen by one. all hail rittenhouse. 40 years of training and some experience but i couldn't have pulled it off. course, i wouldn't have been there to begin with. i'm too old for that stuff. i pray there are daring patriots that won't let him fry for it, whatever it takes. hint, hint.

1chota said...

He didn't exactly do a side by side comparison. He set one scope at 25X and the other at 14X (16X)?
He also had two shooters.
Kinda a half assed approach to comparison.
The "cheap" gun was a hybrid.
Kinda snobby in his attitude, also.

S. M. Pew said...

I’m very interested in details about location, price, etc. on how to get one for myself.

Barry Jones said...

I think from watching other vids by James that he was intentionally snarking it up. Both of those rifles are his (also both shooter shot both rifles with all the ammo to the comparisons are really apples to apples on the shooters). Overall, his comments on the inexpensive rifle were valid - and so what his praise of same.

Antibubba said...

A sub-MOA rifle is very nice, but it's an unnecessary expense for a 3 MOA shooter. As James pointed out, this was short-range shooting under almost ideal conditions by two experienced riflemen. What I'd like to see is how each rifle does with a neophyte shooting.

libertyman said...

An interesting and entertaining comparison.

The conclusion, I think, is that there is no significant difference between the two set ups.

Is it worth 3 times the price for the rifle, and 6 or seven times the price for the optic? I will leave that up to the buyer.

tsquared said...

I can build a better AR than Colt or Bushmaster for less than what their high end AR's cost. (FYI: DPMS is on the bottom end of quality). The bottom line is that for any firearm having ammo that is dialed in will make all of the difference. The 5.56 was created to wound enemy combatants. I like something with a bit more oomph. My preferred carbine is a 6.8spc. With a 120 grain bullet my carbine has the power at 600 yards to still get the job done and is less than 3/4" MOA.

For distance the 30-06 does a nice job. At distance quick shots are not required so a bolt action will work. I have a 185gr soft tip spitser dialed in for knocking turtles off logs at 1070 yards on the pond. They explode when hit. For an AR pistol or SBR a 10mm with a 10.5" barrel fills the bill. The ammo runs 1290fps in a Glock 20 and 1510fps in the AR pistol. Over-penetration? Possibly but a 200 grain bullet traveling that fast is going to mess up whatever it hits.

Unknown said...

The three main causes of malfunction in AR platforms are:
The magazine. Which is independent of the rifle.
The combination of tight tolerances and residue from direct impingement. Which implies that the more expensive firearm with tighter tolerances is more likely to malf. (Clean your weapons, people!)
The extractor. More expensive platforms *should* come with an upgraded spring. Or you could upgrade the base model's spirng yourself for five bucks. Slight advantage to the more expensive. (So long as you remember to clean the thing once in a while.)

Tackdrivers are nice, but in the suburbs a "long range" shot might be all of fifty yards.
I care what my '06 groups at 400 yds.
But with an intermediate caliber, semi auto, pistol gripped carbine, 2-3 MOA is perfectly acceptable to me.