Buying your First AR-15

The AR-15 is one of the most iconic rifles on the market. Derived from the classic AR-15 design, these firearms are ideal for a range of applications, including hunting, self-defense, and recreation. Its popularity proves this — about 8 million AR-15s and similar models are estimated to be in circulation. If you’re considering joining this number but aren’t sure where to start, you likely have a few questions, like how much is an AR-15, what manufacturer makes the best AR-15 rifle, and where do I find an affordable AR-15? Find the answers to these questions and more in the following guide.

The Most Important Things to Consider When Buying Your First AR-15

When you’re shopping for your first AR-15, there are many factors to take into account. Of course, you want to find a rifle that’s suited for a first-time user, as well as one that’s reliable and affordable. These criteria are some of the most important to consider, but many other important factors are too. In addition to cost and user-friendliness, you should determine what purpose you primarily intend to use your rifle for, as well as how powerful it will need to be. With these criteria in mind, you can find the best AR-15 rifle for your needs.


The cost of an AR-15 can vary widely, but generally speaking, they are an affordable model for new gun owners. With prices reportedly starting as low as $500 and reaching as high as $2,000, there’s an option for every budget. Searching for a model at the lower end of this spectrum may be advisable for rifle hobbyists new to the AR-15 club. Buying a partial build model is a great way to save money while taking advantage of the ability to customize your rifle.


The intended application of your rifle is yet another factor to consider. There are practically endless applications for an AR-15. In addition to the long-range precision, these rifles are ideal for shooting range plinking. You should narrow down how you plan to use your rifle to find the one that’s best suited to your use, and if you plan to find a partial build, assess the accessibility and cost of the customizations your model will need.


When you shop for a gun, you should shop for the right ammunition, too. An AR-15 can be configured to fire several different calibers, including the following:

  • .223
  • .308
  • 9mm
  • 5 Grendel
  • 300 Blackout
  • 56×45mm

These options for ammunition highlight the incredible versatility of the AR-15. Configuration for different calibers can be achieved by changing out a few key components, including the barrel of the rifle. Choosing the right ammunition is key to having the intended impact when you use your AR-15.


Finally, you need to find the right accessories for your AR-15. There are many different add-ons you can use to amp up your rifle’s impact, including the following:

  • Handgrips
  • Slings
  • Bipods
  • Lights
  • Collapsible stocks
  • Sights and optics

These accessories can be added to an AR-15 to improve its performance, make your rifle more accurate, and increase comfort during handling and firing.

Should You Build or Buy Your First AR-15?

When you’ve decided to invest in a rifle, another question remains — will you build your first AR-15, or will you buy a manufactured model? Manufactured models come ready to use upon arrival, while buildable models include only the parts of the rifle, and the owner can then assemble it. A third option available that may be ideal for first-time AR-15 buyers — a partial build model that offers the best of both worlds. Matrix Arms, for example, offers 80% built lower receivers so that buyers can build and customize the remaining 20%.

What Configuration Should I Buy?

When you’re selecting a configuration, you’ll have a few options to choose from. One of these configurations is the gas system length, which typically comes in three options:

  • Carbine length
  • Mid-length
  • Rifle length

Each of these options offers its own benefits to users, but your selection depends largely on the size of your barrel, and it will ultimately determine how quickly your rifle can extract a shell upon firing.

The Carbine-Length System

Many rifle owners favor the carbine length configuration for its early timing. Its extraction process allows for quick firing due to the pressure placed on the brass case. This pressure seals it against the chamber’s wall, and the carbine overcomes this pressure to extract the shell. It is most commonly used in rifles with 10 to 16-inch barrels.

The Mid-Length System

A mid-length system is optimal for a 16 to 18-inch barrel. In this configuration, gas becomes trapped further into the barrel, thus making for a longer extraction time. The longer extraction time can be attributed to this decrease in pressure. Some firearm enthusiasts also prefer the mid-length system because it offers the bullet more time to pass the gas tube while exiting the rifle. This allows for better dwell time and an ideally pressurized shot.

The Rifle-Length Gas System

Finally, a rifle length configuration is typically used for 18 to 20-inch barrels, and it offers the lowest case pressure of the three options as well as the longest extraction time. Many AR-15 professionals cite this system as the easiest to use because it delays extraction longer than the mid-length and carbine systems. It also allows case pressure to plummet, which makes ejection of the spent case easier to achieve.

Find the Right AR-15 for Your Unique Needs

Shopping for your first AR-15 can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Equipped with the right knowledge and a firm understanding of what you want, you can buy confidently. With over a decade of experience in firearms manufacturing, Matrix Arms is the go-to source for experienced and first-time rifle buyers alike. We carry the top brands in the gun industry, allowing customers to shop from a selection of high-quality, precisely manufactured, and expertly engineered options. Choose from AR-15 upper and lower receivers machined from 7075 aluminum forgings. Call us at (603) 665-0232 or reach out online for more information.

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