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Your barrel is the backbone of your rifle. If you think about it, the rest of your rifle is just there to get bullets into your barrel and give you a place to put your hands. Clearly, you want the best AR-15 barrel you can get.
Of course, your definition of “best” will vary based on your budget and shooting context.
The Top AR-15 Barrels on the Market
Our Favorite Choice
Criterion Barrels AR-15 Chrome Lined Barrel
If you’re short on time, you can skip straight to buying a Criterion Barrels AR-15 Chrome Lined Barrel. They deliver excellent accuracy and longevity for a reasonable price.
We’ll run through all the options for everybody who’s still here.
The Best AR 15 Barrel: Which is Right for Your Boomstick?
As you probably guessed, our champion barrel is up first. All the rest will be ordered from most affordable to most unrealistically priced.
1. Criterion Barrels AR-15 Chrome Lined Barrel - Best AR 15 Barrel
The Criterion Barrels AR-15 Chrome Lined Barrel is designed to hit the sweet spot between price and performance. They’re not the most affordable barrels on the market. But, they’ve got a lot of great features that elevate their performance above budget barrels.
First, these barrels are chambered in .223 Wylde. The chambering is designed to maximize performance with both 5.56mm rounds, and .223 Remington rounds. It offers the accuracy of match-grade .223 rounds, with the high-pressure tolerance for 5.56mm rounds.
Second, Criterion uses a hybrid barrel profile that’s tapered under the handguard to save weight. However, the tapering and standard barrel profile outside the handguard provide more accuracy than a standard thin profile.
On one end of this barrel is standard threading for flash hiders, muzzle brakes, and other muzzle devices. At the other end, Criterion equipped this model with M4 feed ramps for smoother feeding and improved reliability.
On the inside, the bore is chrome lined for maximum accuracy and barrel life. The rifling is a 1 in 8 inch twist rate, which is a solid all-around twist. It provides good flight stability for bullets of all weights. Though, if you only shoot very light bullets or very heavy bullets, a more specific rate of twist will give you better performance.
If there’s one downside to this model, it’s the finish. The finish is parkerized. It’s a decent finish that resists rust well. However, it’s not the most durable finish, and is prone to sling and holster wear. Fortunately, your handguard should protect your barrel from too much external wear.
Overall, this is an excellent barrel for any type of AR-15 rifle. The price is good, and the performance is exceptional. You can’t go wrong.
2. Faxon Firearms AR-15 Government/SOCOM Barrels - Budget Barrel
The Faxon Firearms AR-15 Government/SOCOM Barrels are designed to match the standard military issue profile and the mass production price. However, this model actually offers a bit better performance than a standard military issue barrel.
This model features a profile that’s a mix of an M4 and a heavy barrel profile. The section under the handguard is thin, and the section near the muzzle is thicker. Faxon removed the M203 grenade launcher cutout from the M4 profile in favor of more stability (since civilians don’t really use grenade launchers).
The result is a barrel that’s light, but offers more accuracy than a general issue M4 barrels. However, the chambering is 5.56mm, which withstands more pressure than .223 chambering. But it’s slightly less accurate with .223 rounds.
This barrel is constructed from carbon steel, which is lighter than stainless steel. However, it’s slightly less rigid.
Carbon steel is a good blend of weight reduction and accuracy. However, this barrel won’t deliver match-grade precision. But the reduced weight makes for a good patrol or tactical rifle.
The twist rate is 1 in 8 inches, which is a versatile rate of turn that works well with all bullet weights. It’s not great if you want a rifle that specializes in shooting very heavy or very light bullets, though.
Where this barrel is a step up from standard military equipment is in the finish. The entire barrel is QPQ nitride coated for excellent corrosion resistance. Nitride finishes also resist wear from slings and gear. However, nitride coating doesn’t provide as much accuracy as a chrome lined bore.
When you add all this up, you’ve got a great barrel that provides a good blend of light weight and precision. It’s a good option if you take most of your shots from less than 300 yards.
3. Faxon Firearms AR-15 Pencil Profile Match Barrel - Slim Profile AR 15 Barrel
Thinner, lighter barrels are less accurate than thick, heavy barrels. The Faxon Firearms AR-15 Profile Match Barrel is designed to minimize the compromise of a lighter barrel.
This model features a pencil profile for maximum weight reduction. However, it’s machined from a solid piece of stainless steel bar stock for maximum rigidity. That way you sacrifice far less accuracy for the weight savings.
Additionally, the chambering is .223 Wylde for maximum accuracy with both .223 Remington and 5.56mm rounds.
The rate of turn is 1 in 8, for good performance with all bullet weights. 5R button rifling coaxes the best precision and velocity from your ammunition.
Faxon used a nitride coating to protect the stainless steel. The barrel extension is NP3 coated to prevent seizing in your upper receiver.
All in all, this is the most accurate lightweight barrel you can get. It’s not as accurate as a true match barrel. But, it’s an excellent option for a lightweight rifle.
4. Rainier Arms .223 Wylde Match Barrels - AR-15 Match Barrel
The Rainier Arms .223 Wylde Match Barrel is all about precision. But, more precision means more weight.
This barrel uses a bull barrel profile for the most precision.
However, this makes for a rather heavy barrel. It’s certainly not an ideal part for a patrol rifle.
The construction is machined stainless steel. This bumps up the precision—and the weight—even more. Solid stainless steel also delivers a longer lifespan than a lined bore.
However, the stainless steel on this Rainier Arms barrel is bead blasted, not coated. So, the corrosion resistance isn’t as high as a black barrel.
On the ends, you get M4 feed ramps for reliable feeding, and threading for your favorite muzzle device.
The twist rate is 1 in 8, which provides solid performance with a variety of bullet weights.
All the features add up to give you a great barrel for a match or designated marksman rifle.
5. Daniel Defense AR-15 Hammer Forged Barrel - Mil-Spec AR-15 Barrel
The Daniel Defense AR-15 Hammer Forged Barrel comes with all the usual military specifications, but features far higher quality construction.
Where this barrel falls into military specifications is the profile and the rate of twist.
The profile is a standard government profile, minus the notch for mounting a grenade launcher. It’s a good all-around profile that’s not too heavy, but still nicely rigid.
The rate of twist is 1 in 7, which is what the military uses for their standard issue rifles. This rate of twist is best for heavy rounds. If you frequently use 77-grain and 80-grain rounds, this rate of twist will work great for you.
Where this Daniel Defense barrel is better than a mil-spec barrel is in the construction. This model is cold hammer forged from alloy steel for excellent accuracy, even with the minimal government profile.
The manganese phosphate finish is also a step up from typical mil-spec bluing. It’s more durable and corrosion resistant. The finish also provides excellent bore lining for accuracy and lifespan.
Combine all this with M4 feed ramps and a threaded muzzle, and you’ve got a barrel that’s built to military specifications, but performs much better.
6. Criterion Barrels AR-15 Fluted Stainless Steel Barrel - Long Range Barrel
The Criterion Barrels AR-15 Fluted Stainless Steel Barrel gives you a long barrel, without the extra weight that usually comes with those extra inches.
There are eight flutes machined along the length of the barrel to reduce the weight and improve cooling. This means you can use an 18 or 20 inch barrel without making your rifle much heavier than a 16 inch barrel.
The contour is a modified bull barrel profile. The profile is full under the handguard, but narrows near the muzzle to keep your rifle from being too heavy up front.
This model also features .223 Wylde chambering for solid accuracy with both .223 Remington and 5.56mm rounds. The rifling is a 1 in 8 twist rate. This provides good performance with any ammunition.
However, 1 in 8 twist is an interesting choice.
Most match ammunition is heavy. So, a 1 in 7 twist seems more appropriate for a longer barrel.
The construction is machined, stainless steel. It offers excellent accuracy and longevity. However, there’s no corrosion resistant coating.
There’s also M4 feed ramps and a threaded muzzle to round out the package for reliability and customization.
In the end, this barrel delivers excellent precision without making your rifle too heavy. It’s an excellent barrel for an AR-15 match rifle or a designated marksman rifle.
7. BSF Barrels Carbon Fiber 223 Wylde Barrel - Lightweight AR-15 Barrel
The BSF Barrels Carbon Fiber 223 Wylde Barrel takes an innovative approach to delivering a rigid, but lightweight, barrel.
This model is constructed from stainless steel and carbon fiber. The carbon fiber is wrapped around a stainless steel core to enhance the rigidity, without adding much weight.
Additionally, the carbon fiber jacket is vented to improve air flow and cooling. The carbon fiber is also heat resistant, which keeps the barrel cool enough to touch even after rapid fire.
The stainless steel core itself is match-grade 416R steel. This is rigid enough that this barrel delivers match-grade accuracy, even though much of the body is carbon fiber.
The stainless steel backbone of the barrel features .223 Wylde chambering for good performance with .223 Remington and 5.56mm ammunition.
This combines with a 1 in 8 twist rate to provide solid accuracy with any ammunition you throw at it.
You might expect it by now, but the core is capped with M4 feed ramps and a threaded muzzle for the industry-standard reliability and customization.
This BSF Barrels model is an excellent barrel for any lightweight build, especially if you want to use a slightly longer barrel to retain long range performance.
Hitting the Last Points
Your barrel is the centerpiece of your rifle. Fortunately, there’s a barrel for every rifle. No matter what your shooting context and goals are, there’s a barrel for you.
It takes a lot to improve your rifle uppers, it holds half of rifle functions that's why you should not be settling on anything less than standards. For more good reads, check out our definitive guide on bolt carriers.
Criterion Barrels AR-15 Chrome Lined Barrel
If you want a solid barrel that you could put on almost any rifle, pick up the Criterion Barrels AR-15 Chrome Lined Barrel. The blend of performance and price is nearly impossible to beat.
Now that you’ve got a good read of your options, upgrade your barrel, improve your rifle, and tighten your shot groups.