First AR 556/223

Hi all. I’m considering buying my first AR. I’ve done a bunch of research and while I expected to hunt down components and build, it is a bit too complicated (and likely expensive). I’m learning toward buying a complete firearm (not a kit either). Use will be only for fun at the range (indoor/outdoor. I don’t think that I need anything fancy, but I would like the option for changing out parts in the future, particularly for 9mm or even .22lr use.

The first question is, pistol or rifle (16")? I have a CZ Evo pistol with a brace and REALLY wish that I bought the carbine instead. I don’t want to make the same mistake twice, but I’m told that there are a lot more options for braces on the AR pistol platform (allowing more extension for my long arms).

The second question is about which make/model. I’m leaning toward Palmetto Armory, Ruger, or Sig.

Any and all input is welcome. I know about .001% of what many others seem to know about the AR platform.


There is no secret that I am a proponent of building AR’s as opposed to buying them. Given that you wish to change calibers it would serve you well to obtain the understanding of the platform that can only come with building it.

Out of the gate I would recommend that you build a rifle (carbine) first and play with it to learn the things that you like and don’t like and expand from there. Rifles are 16"+ barrels and due to the length of the buffer tube pistols generally come in with a 10.5" or less barrel. I finally got off the X and built a pistol this year but I spent a fair amount of time researching the rules and regulations that go into building one without turning it into an NFA weapon.

There is another thread LINK ---->>>> What do I need <<<<<------- LINK that addresses a lot of topics about kit guns and such that you may find helpful.

AR’s are fun to build, not overly complicated and pretty much work every time if you assemble them correctly. That said you can spend some serious $$$$ if you go off the rails on high end name parts. Build it basic and play with it. They are Lego’s for big kids!




Palmetto state Armory is a great entry level gun with good sales throughout the year. As you gain knowledge and experience you’ll want upgrades. I bought my kits and took them to am armorer to be assembled (I don’t have enough spare time to build). It’s a great learning experience. BE WARNED THIS IS INCREDIBLY ADDICTING. You won’t stop at one.


AR’s are like potato chip’s you can’t have just one!!!




As stated many times. Have guns as a hobby you can’t afford to be a drug addict.


I would agree that building a rifle is a great experience to learn about the platform, but totally understand if you don’t want to take that on as well. I would recommend going rifle if it’s your first one as they’re still a little more “universal” and you’re as dependent on atf rulings. As stated above that means a 16" or longer barrel (or a 14.5"ish with a pinned muzzle device). I do have a question though. What is your price range. The 3 brands you posted are all decent guns, but vary quite a bit with a Sig usually running quite a bit higher (and depending on what sig you’re looking at, can actually be a little different system than the others).


The Rugers seem to be $500-$600

The Sig M400 is $800, and the PSA seem to be about with the Ruger.
There are others, but I don’t know enough about these brands to know if i’d want one.
I like this.

I did bump into this on the AR forum:
Ruger AR556 is NOT an AR15.

It looks similar, and functions similar.

But they generally do not use mil-spec parts (specifications for parts size)

At our shop, we have more problems with people who want to upgrade their Ruger rifles than anything else. It’s fine if you want a stock rifle, but if you plan on lots of upgrades and customization there are many better options.

S&W M&P 15 Sport II
Palmetto State PA-15


Get a Colt M4A1 SOCOM if you can find one. They are on Here’s mine equipped with a Colt M203 launcher. :slight_smile:


In general I can procure a very nice carbine for a fair bit under $500 including the lower. Depending on the particular sale of the week I can get the upper assembled for free (the hardest part) with bonus parts. I like as a source. I love everything about their platforms except the screws that hold the fore arm on to the barrel nut. The putting together part is the best hour or two you will spend.




All my opinion again, but in that range I’d go with the Sig or building one. You can definitely get a quality firearm built for that price if you want learn about them and shop your parts some, as Craig said. I’m a fan of most Sig items and find them to be of good quality personally. I’d say it’s likely the gun will change quite a bit from the time you get it until you have it “just right”. Especially if it’s your first one. They really are like adult legos.


Honestly start with a known brand. My coworker went with a dpms and now hates ARs and relentlessly talks crap about the platform. I went with a Springfield Armory Saint and I’ve had exactly zero of the issues he talks about. Just to prove my point to him, I went through 3k rounds before cleaning the rifle, I just lubed before and after shooting. (They do run better when lubed up frequently.)

So do yourself a favor and go with a brand that is known for quality. Note that i didn’t say is expensive.


Research is not paying off, my USCCA friends…

I just talked with Ruger about their AR556 platform to see how it will play with standard AR-15 parts/upgrades/mods. They insisted on a canned answer that it is mil-spec and that only their parts are guaranteed to fit/work. So…not an answer. I love the look of their newest PC Carbine line ( I wish that aftermarket would make some mag wells for this line) though and am starting to think that the AR world may be too complicated for my simple mind.

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Arms Unlimited has 6 of these in stock and trust me when I say they are hard to find since Colt is out of the consumer rifle market for now:

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They look great and I’ve read many reviews on them, but they’re 2x-3x what I’m willing to spend for something I’m likely to shoot so little.

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I bought mine a few months ago. Could not be any happier with it. I bought a Colt-branded M203 launcher to go with it - which cost more than the gun itself! Either way you go, AR’s are so much fun to shoot and very customizable.

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And many places seem to have these deals:


Try look at some of these

They are running Black Friday Specials right now so there is free assembly and test fire and other bits. For an additional $45 - 100 you can get a lower from your local shop and be into a new rig in an hour or so.



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Don’t get overwhelmed, you could pick any of the recommendations on here and do just fine. One thing I know is you don’t have to get it perfect the first time, just good enough. This won’t be the last gun you ever buy, so choose a likely looking candidate from the list here, and go learn on it. Then you’ll know enough about your preferences to get exactly what will suit you best the next time.

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Random thoughts

  • the real choice is between getting direct impingement system, or one with a gas tube
  • the shorter it is, the higher is pressure and wear
  • milspec barrel is more expensive, lasts longer, does not offer better precision.
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Hey @Brad the amount of options you have can be a bit overwhelming at first, but dont get discouraged. The AR15 platform is like a bunch of legos. I’ll give it a shot and see if I can simplify things for you

The first question is, pistol or rifle

TLDR -> Get an AR15 with a 16" barrel

More info -> The full answer is “it depends” :smiley:. Your first AR, you should probably get a rifle with a 16" barrel because it’s just “the easiest”.

AR Pistols are convenient because of their shorter overall length and accompanying lighter weight, making them handier for home defense. Easier to travel with (IANAL, state laws vary, but you can take pistols sometimes where you cant a rifle), fit in smaller bags so your nosy neighbors dont know its a rifle in there, sometimes cheaper cost (less metal used), etc.

On the other hand, laws can sometimes be funky regarding AR Pistols (thanks ATF). Pistol brace rules can change, you cant use foregrips, sometimes concerns with the length of certain braces. 5.56/.223 ammo is often velocity dependent, so something that works really well out of a 16" barrel doesn’t work so well out of an 11.5" barrel.

There are also edge cases like a 14.5" or 13.7" barrel with a pinned and welded muzzle device. Skip these too for now :slight_smile:

Its not impossible to navigate, but for someone’s first AR, having just a regular rifle is less to learn about and you can just use it and have fun out of the gate.

I would like the option for changing out parts in the future, particularly for 9mm or even .22lr use.

TLDR -> I wouldnt put 9mm/.22LR on your list for your first AR15

More info -> 9mm and .22LR require more than just a barrel or upper swap. They need specific bolt/bolt carriers, and usually a different lower as well. Some calibers like 300Blackout or 6.5 you can just swap an upper (which includes the Bolt/Carrier and barrel), and others like .308, 9mm, .22LR that require a different lower as well as an upper. Their similarity is that all the controls are in the same place and they work the same way as the AR15. Here’s a good list of alternative calibers. S&W has a .22LR version that looks and works exactly like its 5.56/.223 counterpart with the advantage of significantly lower shooting costs, but AFAIK the important parts are not interchangeable.

Now, all the other stuff you can swap out to your hearts content (usually, you’ve already found out about Ruger’s AR556). It really is like a bunch of legos.

The second question is about which make/model

TLDR -> In order of cost, Palmetto State, S&W M&P Sport, Colt, Bravo Company. Higher end -> Daniel Defense, KAC, POF, Sons of Liberty GW

More info -> There are more on this list, but you cant go wrong with this shorter list.

You want to avoid “cheap”, but inexpensive is OK. If you literally want the least expensive, but still sturdy enough to rely on I’d start and stop on Palmetto State Armory (PSA). You can buy a complete rifle for < $500. You can save a little bit of money if you buy the lower and upper separately, you literally just put the two halves together yourself by pressing together and pushing in two pins (literally thats it). You can save a little more money than that by getting the upper, stripped lower, and a lower parts kit but now you are building a lot more yourself.

In the sub-$1000 category there is the tried and true S&W M&P Sport series. If you can find one without being price-gouged the Colt 69XX series is fantastic (Colt has stopped civilian production, so the supply is drying up driving up cost). You can also look at Sig’s TREAD line and the Ruger AR556 but be wary of proprietary parts if you want to change things later. They are reliable though and very reasonably priced.

Bravo Company (commonly referred to as BCM) is among the gold standards in AR platform, IMO. Cost will be in the ballpark of $1000+, but along with Colt (lower) and Daniel Defense (higher) is a known and proven provider to law enforcement and militaries. You can trust your life to these for sure.

What do you get for paying more money? In most cases you get materials or workmanship that will last longer overall or last longer under higher-stress environments like full-auto (which you can’t do anyway). For a low-volume beginning shooter, does it matter that the one you buy will only last 10k rounds instead of 20k rounds before you need to replace a barrel or bolt? Probably not. In some other cases you might get better accuracy, but if you aren’t pulling competition or shooting out past a few hundred yards or trying to put really tiny groups on paper then this might not matter either. In some cases (especially the higher end brands) you are paying for more exotic materials like titanium that give some benefit like lighter weight for same/more strength or coatings on some parts like Nickel Boron on the bolt carrier, etc. And sometimes you are just paying for the brand name.

You have to make the dollar choice that makes sense to you. We aren’t fighting in Afghanistan, but there’s nothing wrong with getting a rifle that can survive that if its in your budget. But there’s a lot to be said for getting an inexpensive rifle and spending the savings on training and ammo.

YMMV, hope that helps!