Buying your first AR-15 can be a daunting task. It’s even more intimidating if it is your first gun, or your first rifle.
There are loads of choices, huge differences in price and most importantly there are laws that you need to be aware of.
Here are common AR-15 buying mistakes and how you can avoid them so that you don’t waste time or end up with a gun you don’t like.
Mistake #1 Buying The Cheapest AR-15 You Can Find
When you start searching for your first AR-15 you’ll see a ton of AR-15 deals that promise a full AR for $400 or $450. Many of these deals are online, and you’ll easily spend another $30 to $50 in FFL fees to have the background check at a local gun store.
Often times these guns will not be as reliable as a $500 to $600 AR-15, and if it comes with a bad stock, no optic and a mediocre handguard you may find yourself spending more money soon after you buy it to upgrade these parts that you will touch every time you use the gun.
Instead, we recommend looking for a good deal on a AR-15 that has a retail price of $699 to $799. This is how I bought my First AR-15 for just under $600 complete with a red dot and reliable parts.
Mistake #2: Buying Something a Gun Shop is Pushing On You
If you are buying your first AR-15 it’s a good idea to try several models and ask other people who shoot about their experiences. If it is your first time in a gun shop and the salesperson is pushing a specific gun without first finding out how you plan to use it and what you want to do with it, you should ask why they are so focused on that model.
There is a chance that it is legitimately the best fit for your needs, but unless they first find out what you want it for, they won’t know that.
It’s a good idea to look at multiple gun stores and hold different rifles in different price ranges. This will allow you to get a better idea of what you want and help you figure out if the model they suggest is the right one.
Ideally you will want to fire some from a brand that you are thinking about, but unless you go to a gun club or know a group of people this may be hard to do.
Mistake #3: Not Doing Enough Research
The AR-15 is available in a wide range of models, with different options, uses and even upgrade paths down the road.
I looked through reviews of specific models and brands on my computer before I stepped into a gun shop. Keep in mind that problems a user has may not be the gun, it could be low quality ammo, bad magazines or simply bad gun care. So look at the overall tone of reviews, and don’t write off a gun based on one vocal bad review.
In my case I learned that I did not want a AR-15 with a carry handle or a fixed front site. I knew I wanted to use an optic like a red dot or a scope for longer range shooting and I wanted to upgrade some parts later on without dealing with a fixed front site.
You may want those features, which is one of the great parts of the AR platform, but you won’t know without reading about them or trying them out.
Mistake #4: Not Planning for All the Accessories You Need
When you buy an AR-15 that’s not the only thing you need to buy that day. Most budget AR-15 rifles will come in a cardboard box with one magazine. You will likely want to buy;
- A few magazines
- A carrying case or bag
- Eye and ear protection
- Cleaning kit
The total cost will vary, and you may save money buying the accessories online. If you know you are going to buy an AR-15 you may want to look for gun deals on accessories as well as on the gun itself and order ahead of time.
Mistake #5: Buying Without Knowing the Laws
When you buy an AR-15 at a local gun shop they will most often know the local laws that relate to owning a rifle in your state, but you should do the basic research about limitations and laws in your state and even in your county.
Unless you buy a tax stamp, your AR-15 barrel needs to be 16 inches in most states. A shorter barrel AR-15 pistol is legal without a tax stamp in most states but you cannot put a stock on it.
You can use a standard capacity 30-round magazine in many states, but other states have limitations on capacity and require a fixed magazine. These rules are especially important if you plan to take the rifle across state lines and if you think you may move in the near future.
You should also learn how to legally transport the AR-15 to and from your home and the range. If you don’t have a concealed carry license or permit, you need to store the gun and ammo separately while transporting it. Check the local laws before you transport it.