The AR-15 is a versatile semi-automatic rifle that appeals to both casual and professional shooters. Since its inception, the platform has been used by both civilians and the military, and it has been proven to be a very effective and reliable firearm.
However, for the ultimate shooting experience, many manufacturers produce improved high-quality AR-15-barrels. But which of the many options should you be spending your money on? No need to worry, we’ve put together a list of the best AR-15 barrels currently available to help you choose the perfect one for your AR-15 platform.
- Top 8 Best AR-15 Barrels On The Market 2021 Reviews
- 1 Criterion Barrels Inc – Ultralight Contour Ar-15 Barrel
- 2 Ballistic Advantage (ba) – AR -15 Modern Series Barrels 5.56mm
- 3 Rainier Arms – AR-15/M16 223 Wylde Match Barrels
- 4 Criterion Barrels inc – AR-15/M16 223 Wylde Chrome Lined Barrels
- 5 Brownells – B-Tac AR-15 5.56 Barrels
- 6 Faxon Firearms – AR-15 Match Barrels 223 Wylde Flame Fluted
- 7 Lothar Walther Precision Tool – Rifle Barrels
- 8 Faxon Gunner AR-15 Gunner 5.56 Nato 4150 QPQ Barrel – 14.5″
- Best AR-15 Barrels Buyers Guide
- So, What Are The Best AR-15 Barrels?
Top 8 Best AR-15 Barrels On The Market 2021 Reviews
1 Criterion Barrels Inc – Ultralight Contour Ar-15 Barrel
Weighing 1.75lbs., the Criterion barrel includes a standard cut muzzle thread measuring ½”-28tpi for mounting your muzzle devices, such as muzzle brakes, and boosters. And the barrel extension features M4 feed ramps to ensure reliable and smooth feeding.
This barrel was built with competitions in mind. And it’s actually one of the lightest barrels on the market, and with a lighter weight comes improved performance and maneuverability.
It also features a dimple opposite of the gas port that ensures the gas blocks do not move when the gun is fired, which retains the accuracy of each shot.
The barrel undergoes a chrome-lining process, which ensures the uniformity of the bullet trajectory as well as protecting it from corrosion. The hand-tapping also results in consistent and smoother rifling, thus improving accuracy even further.
The exterior of the barrel features a nitride coating to resist corrosion and rust, therefore increasing the barrel’s service life. And the barrel is chambered in .223 Wylde and has a 1/8 twist rate that increases precision when using either 5.56 NATO or .223 Remington rounds.
- Chamber: 223 Wylde.
- Material: CRMOV.
- Dimensions: 18 x 1 x 1-inch.
- Muzzle thread: 1/2 x 28.
- Twist: 1/8.
- Weight: 1.85 lbs.
- Length: 18-inch.
- Grooves: 6.
- Finish: chrome-lined, parkerized.
- Contour/profile: ultralight.
- Gas block diameter: 0.750-inch.
- Superb handling and maneuverability.
- Premium quality build.
- Very easy to clean
- Not as durable as heavier barrels.
2 Ballistic Advantage (ba) – AR -15 Modern Series Barrels 5.56mm
The BA barrel offers the benefits of a heavy profile barrel but without the added weight. And the barrel’s Hanson profile regulates its movement, keeping the barrel in the same position after every shot, which is extremely useful when rapidly firing follow up shots.
The profile also increases the rigidity of a larger barrel while maintaining a lightweight design and reducing barrel whip, which describes the action which occurs due to vibration and flexing during prolonged shooting sessions. It is chambered in 5.56 NATO.
Regarding the design, the BA barrel is precision-made from 4150-chrome moly vanadium steel alloy. While, the barrel extension has a nickel-boron coating, which offers excellent corrosion and rust resistance. The extension also consists of M4 feed ramps for enhancing smooth feeding and extraction. And since the construction of the barrel is solid chrome, it does not require a chrome-lining.
The muzzle thread measures ½”-28, and the 1/7 twist rate will stabilize any bullet along its trajectory. In terms of quality control, the AR-15 Modern Series Barrel is magnetic particle-inspected, and high pressure tested to make sure it does not have any defects.
Out of the box, the Ballistic Advantage barrel features a .750-inch low profile gas block mounted on the unit.
This barrel is available in a wide range of lengths and contour options, with 7.5″, 8″, 10.5″, 11.5″, 12.5″, 14.5″, 14.7″, 16″, 18″ and 20″ lengths being available. As for the contours, they are not all available in every length choice, but depending on the length are available in Government, M4, Pencil, or SPR.
- Profile: DRP/Hanson.
- Length: 7.5″-20″.
- Material: 4150 chrome moly vanadium.
- Finish: GPQ corrosion resistant.
- Twist rate: 1/7 inches.
- Gas block journal: .625″. or .750″.
- Weight: 17oz.
- Muzzle: 1/2×28 threaded.
- MPI and HP tested.
- Nicely balanced.
- Lightweight with a unique look.
- Easy to install.
- Very accurate.
- Large range of length and contour options.
3 Rainier Arms – AR-15/M16 223 Wylde Match Barrels
The Rainier Arms .223 Wylde Match Barrel is built from high-quality stainless steel. It is chambered in .223 Wylde, allowing it to be compatible with both the 5.55×45 NATO and .223 Remington cartridges. And has a twist rate of 1/8, providing stability when firing any weight of bullet.
This quality provides you with the ability to take long-range shots with ease. The manufacturer also guarantees that the barrel can shoot sub-MOA with match grade ammo.
A unique feature of this product is the bead-blasted stainless-steel finish, which offers high corrosion resistance allowing the barrel to be used in any conditions. The finish is also heat and fire-resistant, allowing the barrel to retain its strength at high temperatures.
It is available in three lengths – 14.5 inches, 16 inches, and 18 inches. The 14.5- and 16-inch models include mid-length gas systems while the 18-inch version comes with a rifle-length gas system. As for ballistic performance, the barrel is very robust and delivers impeccable accuracy.
- Chamber: .223 Wylde.
- Length: 14.5”, 16” and 18″ SPR.
- Thread pitch: 1/2 x 28.
- Twist: 1/8.
- .750 gas block seat.
- M4 feed ramps.
- SPR contour.
- Weight: 2 lbs/ 9 oz.
- Bead blasted finish.
- Mid-length or rifle gas system.
- Material: stainless steel match grade blank.
- Hybrid .223 Wylde chambering.
- Very accurate, especially when used with match grade ammo.
- Durable with bead-blasted stainless-steel finish.
- Tight shot groups with a number of different ammo.
- Choice of barrel length.
4 Criterion Barrels inc – AR-15/M16 223 Wylde Chrome Lined Barrels
Our next Best AR-15 Barrels features a fluted construction that allows manufacturers to retain the increased velocity of a longer barrel in a lightweight design. This makes it a great option for lighter barrels because it removes unnecessary weight.
The Criterion barrel is manufactured from 416R stainless-steel and is again chambered in .223 Wylde, making it compatible with both 5.56 and .223 Remington rounds. It then goes through a unique chrome-lining process that guarantees bore uniformity and hand-lapping ensures smooth, consistent lands and grooves.
It features ½”-28tpi muzzle threads for attaching standard flash hiders and comps, as well as M4 feed ramps on the barrel extension allowing smooth, reliable feeding. They also now have a dimple opposite the gas port that ensures that screw-on gas blocks do not move during firing.
The Criterion barrels are available in three lengths – 16, 18 and 20 inches – and can be purchased for either carbine, mid-length or rifle gas systems. And has a 1/8-inch twist rate for improved accuracy.
And finally, the Criterion barrel is button rifled for a stable trajectory and consistent spin, which further increases the accuracy of the barrel.
- Gun Model: AR-15.
- Caliber: .223 Wylde.
- Profile: Hybrid.
- Length: 16 inches.
- Barrel Twist Rate: 1/8.
- Threads per Inch: 1/2×28.
- Color: Black.
- Finish: Parkerized.
- Gas System: A choice available.
- Extra Features: M4 Barrel Extension.
- Fluted design making it lightweight.
- .223 Wylde chambering.
- Lower recoil.
- Choice of barrel length.
- Some people struggle to get the barrel under 2MOA.
5 Brownells – B-Tac AR-15 5.56 Barrels
Brownells is a highly respected manufacturer that produces affordable, high-quality accessories, such as this B-TAC AR-15 barrel. It features a mid-length gas barrel system, which offers several benefits, including increased bolt velocity because of lower gas port pressure and improved dwell time.
The B-TAC barrel is milled from 4150V steel with a nitride finish to protect it from wear and corrosion. Featuring a 1:7 twist for rifle and 1:9 for pistol length, both offering improved bullet stability.
As for function and feeding, we did not experience any issues with the B-TAC barrel, and we were also impressed by the accuracy of the barrel and the easily controllable recoil.
- Cartridge: 5.56 mm NATO, 223 Remington.
- Contour: M-4.
- Length: 10.5-inch.
- Finish: Black.
- Twist: 1:9/1:7.
- Muzzle Threads: 1/2-28.
- Easy to install and clean.
- Low recoil.
- Excellent overall performance.
6 Faxon Firearms – AR-15 Match Barrels 223 Wylde Flame Fluted
As with the Criterion barrel we reviewed, the Faxon Match is also fluted, as well as being milled from 416R stainless steel, giving it power and accuracy. It has been button-rifled design with exterior flame-style cuts making a quality barrel that can endure thousands of rounds without any issues.
Both the interior and exterior are coated with QPQ black nitride finish to protect the barrel from corrosion. And it adopts innovative 5R rifling technology that improves bullet velocity and, therefore, accuracy.
As with a few of the other barrels reviewed, it is again chambered .233 Wylde. So, you can comfortably use both 5.56 NATO and .223 Remington rounds without overpressure. The twist rate of the barrel is 1/8, which allows for a stable trajectory.
The Faxon Match comes in a choice of three lengths: 16, 18, and 20 inches, and is available in either mid-length or rifle gas system. It is also air-gauge tested and magnetic particle inspected before sale to ensure quality.
It features a ½’-28tpi muzzle thread and an 11-degree target crown for mounting muzzle devices. The M4 barrel extension allows you to mount feed ramps. And the glass block has a diameter of .750-inches with the gas block journal measuring 1.1-inches.
The Faxon Match is an accurate beast and provides very impressive results.
- Caliber: .223 Rem / 5.56 NATO.
- Chamber: .223 Wylde.
- Material: 416R Stainless Steel.
- Twist Rate: 1:8.
- Gas Seat: 0.750″.
- Muzzle Thread Pattern: 1/2″-28 TPI.
- 16-Inch: Mid-Length.
- 18-Inch: Rifle-Length.
- Weight: 18-Inch: 15.7 oz/16-Inch: 10.4 oz.
- Exterior and Bore Finish: QPQ Nitride.
- M4 Feed Ramps: NP3 Nickel Teflon Coated.
- High-quality Fluted design.
- Finish gives the barrel a nice look and feel.
- Easy to install.
- Some users have reported lower MOA.
7 Lothar Walther Precision Tool – Rifle Barrels
We cannot end this review without featuring the Lothar Walther Precision Tool Rifle Barrel. It is made from LW19 steel, is chambered for .264 rounds, and features a twist rate of 1/8.
The Walther barrel is button rifled and hand-lapped for precision and retaining the accuracy of the bore. It is simple to install and use, and comes at a reasonable price, making it ideal for shooters on a budget.
It guarantees quality performance and impeccable accuracy. Therefore, if you are looking for a barrel that is compatible with the majority of AR-15s, you could do a lot worse than considering the Lothar Walther. If you use your AR-15 rifle regularly for target practice or are a competition shooter, then this barrel will not disappoint.
- Camber: .223 Wylde.
- Caliber: .223/ 5.56 NATO.
- Material: LW19 Stainless Steel.
- Finish: Melonite Coating.
- Gas System: Mid Length.
- Barrel Extension: Nickel Boron Coated M4.
- Twist Rate: 1/8.
- Contour: M4 Feed ramps.
- Muzzle Thread Pattern: 1/2×28.
- Threads Cut Concentric to the Bore.
- Weight: 28.7oz.
- Ideal for target and competition shooters.
- Exceptional steel finish.
- Versatile and practical.
- Some sanding may be necessary before fitting.
8 Faxon Gunner AR-15 Gunner 5.56 Nato 4150 QPQ Barrel – 14.5″
The last of our Best AR-15 Barrels again comes from Faxon, in the form of their GUNNER. And it is the definition of value, balance, weight, and performance. It is specially made for shooters who appreciate versatility and performance, with the innovative design being a combination of the two top-performing profiles, the Pencil and the Government. The design of the barrel, from the extension to the gas block, mirrors the popular government taper.
A standard 16-inch profile Gov’t barrel weighs approximately 2 pounds. However, with the “pencil” design, Faxon has managed to shave off a lot of weight, bringing it down to a very practical and maneuverable 1.29 pounds. Shedding the weight from the front of the barrel guarantees maximum versatility and optimizes heat resistance at the rear of the barrel.
The Faxon barrel is built one hundred percent in house, and each one undergoes rigorous testing throughout its production, including air-gauge and stress tests. It is then coated with Nitride finish and finally inspected, including being checked for headspace to ensure quality and performance are of the highest quality.
- Caliber: 5.56.
- Material: 4150 CMV Steel.
- Type: Button Rifled.
- Length: 14.5”.
- Twist: 1:8.
- Muzzle Thread: 1/2-28 TPI.
- Gas Block Journal Length: 1.9”.
- Gas Block Diameter: .625.
- Barrel Extension: M4.
- Weight: 1.29 lbs.
- Exterior and interior Finish: QPQ Nitride.
- Easy to install.
- Highly durable.
- Compatible with most AR-15 platforms.
- Not the best option for heavier ammunition.
Best AR-15 Barrels Buyers Guide
Before you choose the best AR-15 barrel, you need to consider some important factors, so let’s take a look at them…
Chrome or Stainless Steel
Stainless-steel and chrome are two of the most commonly used materials in the manufacturing of AR-15 barrels. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Chrome is excellent for preventing corrosion, ensuring a longer, trouble-free barrel life. With the average lifespan of a chrome-lined barrel being usually between eight and ten years.
However, stainless steel barrels are ideal for longer range shots. So, it’s a matter of your intended use and your personal preference, to be honest.
The “profile” is the design or shape of the barrel, which has an impact on its weight, which, in turn, affects the overall weight of the gun. Among the most popular barrel profiles are Recce, M4, Gov’t, and Pencil.
Barrels with heavy profiles have enough thermal mass to resist and absorb immense heat during full-auto shooting. Pencil barrels, on the other hand, are lighter and better suited to semi-automatic or single shots.
A recce, also known as reconnaissance, tends to be on the heavier side and normally features a mid-length gas system. Whereas, the M4 is a mixture of heavyweight and lightweight barrels. It is lighter beneath the handguard and thickens toward the gas port.
Barrels chambered in .223 Wylde can fire both the 5.56mm NATO and .223 Remington ammo safely, allowing you more round options.
The type of ammo you choose will determine the ideal ratio for your barrel. For shooters who do not take longer range shots, 1/7 or the 1/9 ratios are fine because they work well with 55 or 62 grain bullets.
The length of the barrel is equally important. For instance, a short barrel cannot be used to engage long-range targets because of reduced muzzle velocity. Instead, a shorter barrel is best for easy target acquisition and maneuverability in short-range and close combat scenarios. Whereas a longer barrel, of around 20-inches, is ideal for long-range targets.
More Upgrades For Your AR-15
If you’re thinking of upgrading your AR-15, why stop at the barrel? The more upgrades you do, the better a weapon you will end up with, so please check out our reviews of the Best EOTech for AR15, the Best Aimpoint for AR15s, the Best AR15 Optics Scopes, the Best AR 15 Hard Soft Cases, and the Best Iron Sights for AR15 currently available.
So, What Are The Best AR-15 Barrels?
The barrel plays a crucial role in any rifle. So, you need to ensure that you fit a quality option. However, unlike with many rifle upgrades, some of the pocket-friendly options available will do an incredible job for most shooters.
Our top choices are, therefore, either of the…
They offer all the features that most AR owners need, are well built, ensure consistent accuracy, and, most importantly, don’t cost a fortune for the quality you get.
However, if you are looking for a cold hammer-forged barrel, then the Daniel Defense would be a great choice.