Thanks glockman10mm, you summed up why I was looking at the mini-14 first.
Wonderbra, I really think you would love the mini. But I don't have a dog in the fight here. Only my opinion. I like them both, but in reality, for your intended purpose, the mini is the way to go. If you get the ranch version, it comes with detachable scope rings, and still has the flip up sight.
It's really a personal preference. My next 5.56 will be a new Mini Ranch.
A variable power scope is the only accessory on my Mini 14, other than the sling (a plain 2 point one, at that). I leave it set at low power for the more likely close-range work, but like having the ability to dial up more magnification if needed. I avoid the "tacticool" look with all manner of gadgets hung on my rifle.
My Marlin 336 is set up the same, with the sole addition of an elastic butt cuff for more ammo on board, given the tube mag's lower capacity.
If you can, try out some of your options before you buy.
I like AR15s and I have two of them....but the question the OP asked is best value. The best value out there is an AK 74 type rifle chambered in 5.45 X 39. You can get a quality AK74 or clone for about $450. On top of that you add in the fact that NOTHING is as cheap to shoot as 5.45 X 39. The 74 would be just fine for IDPA and HD. It is all the rifle you would ever need for man sized targets out to 300yds.
Check AIM or JG sales for pricing ideas.
If you absolutely must have an AR then the best way to get a good one on the cheap is to have your money ready when the sale comes along. I ( and two or three others here at DC) bought S&W M&P 15s last year when they were only $600. That is a HECK of a lot of value in a AR type rifle. The key was that I was ready to buy when the sale came along and I saved a boatload.
Google CDNN investments for AR sale pricing.
Best value? DPMS Sportical. $530.00. Po boys AR. Perfect for varmint hunting. Im not into fancy $3000 ARs. If I were going to war Id probaly choose something else, but my DPMS has been perfect. It will shoot a snuff can all to pieces at 100yards. Can your Mini do that?
I'm a big fan of both the Mini-14 and AR platforms.
Got my first Mini-14 in (IIRC) 1978, and it's still one of the most plain ol' "fun guns" I've ever had. I paid $279 for it, because I couldn't quite see the extra $50-$100 that an AR would have cost at the time. Got my second in 1994 as insurance, just in case the "Assault Weapons Ban" made it impossible to ever get another one.
Since those days, the price of Mini-14's has continued to go up, while many economical AR models came out, closing the price gap. Got my first AR just a few months ago (S&W M&P), and it's a real "fun gun" too! Availability of mags & accessories figured in to that choice, but I mainly got it 'cause I just wanted one. :yup:
I don't think you can go wrong with either one, although I'm sure there are a few low-end AR's that you might want to avoid. I never had any issues with my Mini-14's, either accuracy or reliability, except when I tried a few cheap aftermarket mags that just weren't reliable. I'm still looking for a good aftermarket polymer mag, and have brought that up in another thread. Not sure if there is a really good one out there, and the factory mags are steep! They're also all steel, so you can't have the benefits of light weight & dent-resistance that the polymers offer. Magpul - are you listening???
Anyway, GL on the shopping, and have fun with whatever you get!
Wormy, I don't give a damn bout hitting snuff cans at 100 yards....they don't shoot back. Besides that I chew it so I routinely " kill a can" with my hands. :D
But yes, at 100 yards, with a scope mounted such as yours, it will do it with boring regularity.
All my AR's I've assembled myself, if I were looking for a best buy for the buck for the general consumer I'd go with the S&W Model M&P15 - MOE
Have the mini's ..14 and 30...Ar platform also...kinda lookin at the new ruger scout??? just an idea..
Best value 5.56 rifle. That is entirely dependent on your definition of value, and your intended philosophy of use for such.
First off, be aware that some run of the mill, off the shelf ARs are not chambered for 5.56, they are good to go with .223. There is a difference. That difference doesn't matter, unless you want to shoot up some military surplus ammo.
I have no first hand experience, but have read extensively on m4carbine forum, and that is not an uncommon problem.
There are a bunch of different options, here. You could pick up a Saiga .223. It's a variant of the AK, and can be had for ~$350.
It sounds like you're leaning a bit toward the Mini-14. They are fine guns with an excellent reputation for reliability. It gets 2 or 3 MOA accuracy; for some that's perfectly acceptable, but not for others.
You can get top notch AR rifles for the same price as lesser ones. But, depending on your usage, any AR may do. S&W M&P
Sport models and the DPMS Sportical, are budget AR rifles. They lack just a few bells and whistles, but otherwise may serve fine for a recreational shooter.
.223/5.56 are excellent HD guns, there are lots of good ammo to choose from.
Basically, there is no reason to eschew the Mini 14 for accuracy concerns anymore.
You can get a cheaper 5.56 semi auto in an AK platform, and there is the 5.45 option that is cheaper still, as has been mentioned. However, neither the AR nor the AK allow you direct access to the bolt/chamber. I will agree with glockman10mm that this is another advantage in the Mini's favor.
Ok, let's get down to business here and let me tell you what my experiences are and why TO ME a mil spec AR is a must, not a luxury or something that would be nice, but not really needed. Let me start by saying I have owned many different ARs and components (like rails, mounts, optics, etc) from, but not limited to, DPMS, Bushmaster, S&W, RRA, Noveske, Bravo Co, LaRue, Knight's Armament, LMT, LWRC, Troy, Magpul, Vltor, Aimpoint, EoTech, Daniel Defense and I'm sure a few others. As a qualifier, I shoot about 500 to 750 rounds a week, give or take, usually involving some sort of drill, not just off of a bench. I work with and train LE's and civilians in typically "advanced" carbine. I attend somewhere between 2 to 5 training classes a year, again typically advanced carbine and tactics. I only clean my guns when they're extremely filthy and I lube with Slip EWL before each day of shooting. A general cleaning occurs once every 1,000 to 2,000 rounds with maybe an occasional wipe down of the bolt if need I just thought I should throw that out there so you know I don't just shoot 500 rounds a year from a bench.
Now, let's first get the myth of price out of the way… You can walk into a shop right now and pick up a Bushmaster, S&W or RRA for what, $900 to $1,100? Maybe $800 for a DPMS? Now, we can buy a higher quality Bravo Company, Colt or LMT for about…….$900 to $1,100! You can also buy a Daniel Defense for about $1,200 from a good shop, but part of that higher price is their rail systems. The DD rails (Lite and RIS II) typically cost between 4350 to $400 where a Troy or whatever Bushmaster uses costs $150 or so.
So, I think we need to bust the all too common myth that a quality AR is FAR more expensive than a commercial grade Bushmaster, RRA, etc. Worst case scenario, we're looking at $100 more for a similarly configured AR… We cannot compare a tricked out Knight's Armament SR15 which includes a $200 stock, $330 trigger, $350 to $450 rail, $200 rear sight, $80 selector, $390 e3 bolt plus the $100 M16 bolt carrier and not mentioning the chf semi-lightweight $400 barrel and ambi lower. Funny thing is, that SR15 with well over $1,300 in upgrades over a base model Bushmaster/RRA/S&W only costs about $1,900 depending on the dealer/distributor. Remember too, if we compare of base model from Bravo Company and a base model from Bushmaster, that even though the prices are similar, we automatically get more "stuff" with the Bravo Co… For example, we're getting a quality receiver extension, not a cheap commercial tube… we're getting a higher quality chrome lined, cold hammer forged barrel…. we're getting a better stock and an appropriate buffer. So, we're looking at maybe $200 to $300 in "extras" comparing base model to base model, so even if the Bravo Co is $100 more, it's not like we're not getting 3x that amount in "stuff".
So, what exactly makes a Bravo Co/Daniel Defense/Colt/LMT/Noveske (we'll call this group "A") better than a Bushmaster/DPMS/RRA/S&W/Stag (we'll call this group "B")?? I'm glad you asked! We'll start at the rear and work our way forward…
The first thing we get is a quality mil spec receiver extension with an appropriate buffer for the given gas system. If it's a carbine gas system on a 16" barrel, we're already looking at too much gas coming into the gun. Two (well, three actually) things will play into this. One is the size of the gas port and the other is the buffer and the bolt carrier group. For a carbine gassed 16" gun, we're going to need at least an H buffer even with the smallest of gas ports. Group "A" includes the appropriate buffer where group "B" only includes a carbine buffer in most cases or charges more for the "upgrade" which isn't an upgrade at all. The problem with using the carbine buffer is…..the bolt can start to unlock while the case is still expanded inside the chamber….the carrier can trail faster than it should which can cause bolt bounce on the return….the carrier can "beat" the magazine spring and fail to strip a fresh round….the recoil is harsher than it should be which causes slower follow-up shots regardless of who you are and how "little" recoil a 5.56 demonstrates.
Next, group "B" will include a semi auto bolt carrier while group "A" will include a full auto M16 carrier. Despite what the local gun shop guru may have told you, the ATF DOES allow the use of the full auto carrier and it IS NOT considered manufacturing a machine gun like the old myth says. I actually have a letter from the ATF around to prove this fact. To keep it simple, we'll just say the same issues exist with the semi carrier as caused by the carbine buffer, for the most part.
A small, easily fixed oversight to some and a huge demonstration of a company's commitment to it's customers to others is staking. To me, I'd prefer the end plate be left un-staked as I change it out anyway, but I cannot accept no staking or poor staking of the gas key. An improperly or non-staked gas key can lead to the screws backing out and gas leakage causing the carrier to short stroke. Bad, bad, bad. Also, group "B" is notorious for improperly torquing the screws of the gas key, so one could argue staking is even more important with this group since they do it wrong to begin with.
As for the lower receiver, even DPMS has been good about using 7075, but they are inconsistent. Trigger pins will have a higher tendency to walk than in group "A". There's a post right now by a distributor on one of the M4 sites showing two lower receivers he received from DPMS that have cracks from the bottom of the magwell all the way to the top. Both have the exact same cracks or fractures. DPMS would NOT take these back at first and said they were fine. After many months they finally were willing to do something, but he told them never-mind as he'd rather keep them on display in his shop to show customers. Good stuff!
Now we're looking at barrels. Some of these differences will small to some and huge to others. Almost all barrels from group "A" are going to be chrome lined, cold hammer forged (there's a standard barrel option from BCM for $100 less) and made of B-11595E. Group "B" will have 4140 or 4150. I don't want to make this twice as long as it is, so here's some info on the barrel steel. Barrel Steel: 4150, 4140, Chrome Moly, CMV - M4Carbine.net Forums
A chrome lined, cold hammer forged B-11595E barrel is going to give you longevity. For some this may not be a big deal, but the difference between groups opening up at 4,000 to 6,000 rounds or them opening up at 10,000 to 15,000 is a big deal to me as I can burn out a barrel in less than a year. We're not talking about Glocks here that can go 100,000 rounds and be replaced for $150 or less. A good AR barrel will be around $350 then we may need the gas block and gas tube.
Group "A" will always have a true 5.56 chamber. Group "B" will be much less consistent and even when marked 5.56, a go/no-go gauge is necessary as many have claimed 5.56 but used .223 chamber in the past and I know of two that still do. This is bad as it can not only cause very serious malfunctions that can ruin your day, they create dangerous pressures that can ruin your gun. Failures I have personally experienced.
Group "A" will use a 1:7 twist. In almost all cases this is a plus. There's a lot of talk about a 1:7 barrel not handling lighter (shorter) loads as well as a 1:9. This is only slightly true and only at extreme distance. I've seen 1:7 barrels hold 2 MOA at 800 meters with 55 grain. Though they'll handle the 55 grain loads about the same as a 1:9, they'll handle the 75 grain loads much better. Seeing as some of the best match grade and defensive ammo is 75 grain, this is a plus.
Out at this end, we're back into gas ports. Group "B's" gas ports will typically be larger than group "A's" with all else being equal. This is not a good thing. not only will we have a more violent system, our recoil will be greater (which makes a difference no matter the caliber and how good you are at recoil control - less is less which equates to hits on target faster) and we have a greater potential of failures. Life expectancy is less the higher the pressure.
Ok, how about high pressure testing and magnetic particle inspection? I'm not going to bore you with the details (my way of saying I have no clue what I'm talking about! :wink: ) Group "A" will do these two tests to every single bolt and barrel while group "B" will batch, at best. A simple explanation is this… HPT is using a proof cartridge with 125% NATO standard pressure. MPI is a magnetic test that shows any cracks in the material. Google both for a much more in depth and accurate explanation. For example, KAC does not MPI their E3 bolts. In this case alone, it's acceptable because the bolt itself is a different design and lasts a very minimum of 4 times a standard bolt. There's debate about these tests still being relevant and by all accounts, it is. I'll get into my experiences on this in a bit.
Now we can look at warrantees. You can reference the "chart" or the manufacturers websites for specifics, but here's my experience. You'll more likely need that warrantee with group "B" than group"A". If something should go wrong with group "A", warranty or not, they'll most likely fix it. KAC just sent me a new front sight for my URX because of something I did during a drill. They never asked for the serial the first time I contacted them. After that, I got to know the guys there.
Then there's things like anodizing, type II or type III? We want type III, just so you know. Then there's the lower parts kits used. The Stag/RRA/DPMS type kits are almost never consistent. The triggers are far from good, the selectors (on safe) can actually interfere on a small level with the BCG when you work the charging handle. Then there's the charging handle. Believe it or not, this is an important item. I want the best quality charging handle because any skimping here can cause a major failure. Just the other day, a guy posted on m4c that after only a few rounds, the front piece of his CH that has the hole for the gas key and tube snapped off and wedged somewhere around the bolt lugs.
EDIT - MORE TO COME - Bare with me here as I'm doing family time and trying to sneak in computer time as well…
Jon - Your lengthy post reminded me of yet another advantage to the Mini...you don't have to worry about trying to remember all this nonsense.
^ I know you're still working on that, jonconsiglio, but where were you a couple of months ago, when I first started researching ARs? :lol: Your one single post above summarized much of what I'd learned reading through the ENTIRE Officer.com AR-buying thread.
A simple "like" of your post there is just not enough. Great stuff, keep it coming!