A key part of building your awesome AR is getting the best AR-15 barrel. Let me explain.
The AR 15 has managed to do amazing things: take a varmint round, pump up its velocity to ludicrous speeds, and make it pack enough of a punch that it can take down a man-size target.
Even crazier is the revelation that your standard Black Rifle can sling standard ball 5.56 rounds past 500 yards (one guy claims to shoot 800 yards consistently, and it is proven and recorded).
So how does a such a small, modular, mass-produced, semiautomatic rifle manage this magic? What is the trick?
It is the barrel.
There are few rifles besides your typical AR 15 where the barrel is so important and simultaneously so varied in production and configuration.
So what is the best barrel? What barrel will let you theoretically hit out to almost a half-mile with some ballistic feasibility?
What barrel is the lightest, the longest lasting, the smoothest, and the coolest? We will break it all down, but first, let's look at some common terms. Also, don't forget that getting the right lower receiver is important as well.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, where I make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Best AR Barrel Terms
This is the gold standard of AR 15 barrel steel.
Chromoly Steel is fancy talk for an alloy that combines chromium and molybdenum (also referred to as Chrome Moly) with 4140 steel to produce an AR 15 barrel that is long-lasting, accurate, easy to clean, and resistant to corrosion, wear, heat, warping, and high pressure.
“Stainless steel” is the buzz phrase you will hear in sentences that also include the word “accuracy”. Stainless AR 15 barrels are the tack drivers of the black rifle world.
They require more care. They theoretically will not last as long as a Chromoly steel barrel; however, they are dead-on at great distances.
Mil-Spec Barrel Steel (Mil-B-11595E)
This is fancy sales speak for saying, “your barrel is made of quality, military-approved steel.” Mil-Spec grade barrels are a specific version of Chromoly Steel.
They are said to contain more carbon and vanadium that offers longer barrel life and more rigidity.
Chrome lining is an extra step in the fabrication process of AR barrels. It adds a slick, protective surface to the bore and chamber.
This addition helps reduce fouling from carbon. Chrome lining adds a few thousand rounds of lifespan to a barrel that is run hard and dirty. This is a great investment. The chrome lining makes cleaning and maintenance easier.
Conversely, a barrel that does not have chrome lining does not mean it is not a good barrel. The lining just provides a nice feature. Chrome lining affects accuracy by up to 1 MOA. Some non-chrome lined barrels may be more accurate.
CHF / Hammer Forged
This is pretty self-explanatory. AR 15 barrels that are cold hammer-forged (CHF) are formed around a rifling mold under extremely high pressures.
This creates an incredibly dense barrel with ridiculously strong rifling. CHF or hammer-forged barrels are meant to take more abuse.
They will resist corrosion and rifling wear better. This advantage is especially important if you are shooting fast or running hotter or heavier loads.
HPT / MP Inspected
This is sales speak for saying, “your barrel was tested so it will not explode or crack.” High-Pressure Testing (HPT) is exactly what it sounds like.
The manufacturer tests the barrel up to 70,000 PSI (well beyond the average pressure a 5.56 or .223 can make) to make sure it does not blow up.
The barrel is then Magnetic Particle (MP) inspected. This ensures that the barrel has no flaws in the metal, like fractures or weak spots.
M4 Feed Ramps
This nifty little feature in the barrel’s chamber originated in the military. In simple terms, M4 feed ramps are cut deep to ensure your magazine and bolt carrier group feeds rounds into your barrel more reliably.
The barrel profile simply refers to how the barrel’s exterior is physically shaped. Pencil neck barrels are thin and light, whereas bull barrels are big and heavy.
“Government profile” or “M4 profile” barrels provide a mix of the two and offer a balance of saved weight and strength.
Best AR 15 Barrels - Top 5
DPMS is widely considered the entry-level choice of new AR shooters or those on a budget. Starting off our list is the DPMS 1-in-9” twist, 16” Chromoly barrel is a steal.
This is a lightweight profile barrel. Though it is not quite a pencil neck, it is a lightened version of a typical Government/M4 profile barrel. This barrel is found on the DPMS Sportical rifle, a great beginner’s AR 15 platform.
The DPMS Barrel features a standard black parkerized finish and 4140 Chromoly Steel. While the DPMS Barrel does not have some fancy features like M4 feed ramps, chrome lining or cold hammer forging, it is accurate for its simplicity.
A unique twist on the M4 profile is its lightweight profile that balances rigidity and maneuverability while retaining a more “beef” to provide extra ruggedness and accuracy.
Although cleaning might take a little longer, shooters comment that a lack of chrome lining also helps to make this barrel quite accurate for its economy price.
If you are going to the range for fun or even taking your AR out for a hunt, this is a perfect buy. You can expect excellent shot groups under 300 yards for a low price.
The DPSM 5.56 Barrel can be purchased for about $150. This is an inexpensive, quality barrel produced by a reputable manufacturer, making it the best AR 15 barrel for the money.
Coming in at #4, Bravo Company USA’s M4 profile, 16” barrel is the gold standard by which every other conventionally built AR barrel should be judged.
This 1-in-7” twist button rifled barrel features all the goodies: Phosphate-coated M4 feed ramps, Mil-Spec Chromoly Barrel Steel, a chrome-lined bore and chamber, the classic M4/Government profile, and HPT and MP inspections.
You could slap this on an SOPMOD M4 and the Frogman or SOF guy shooting it would not know the difference.
BCM’s quality control standards are exceptional. Many shooters comment on these barrels and their ability to shoot around 1 to 2 MOA, even with a chrome lining.
These barrels are tough, accurate, and feature precision tolerances. As far as standard production cut or button rifled AR barrels go, this is the one to beat.
The BCM Standard 16” M4 Barrel is available for just shy of $250. This is a middle-of-the-road price for what we feel is a top-of-the-line, USGI-type barrel.
The Daniel Defense 16” M4 Barrel takes all the great things you will find in the BCM Standard 16” M4 barrel and kicks it up a notch to provide the best durability and accuracy possible with this configuration.
The Daniel Defense Barrel comes with all the awesome features (1-in-7 twist, Mil-Spec Chromoly Steel, M4 feed ramps, chrome lining, HPT/MP, M4 profile) and jams them all together with a cold hammer-forged construction.
Cold hammer forging creates the toughest AR barrel you will find—period.
These barrels are rated for machine gun use and the forging process creates rifling that is strong, sharp, and consistent. It will be tough to beat with anything less than a match-grade Stainless barrel.
You will get better accuracy out of CHF rifling than you will with button or cut rifling. So, if you want all those goodies you would enjoy in the BCM Barrel.
If you want to get even tighter in your shot groups, the Daniel Defense Barrel is the way to go. The Daniel Defense 16” M4 Barrel can be yours for just under $300.
We know “varmint” is in the name, but if you want a super-accurate, compact barrel for your AR, this is a great choice. Coming in at #2, this Stainless Steel barrel features a heavy bull profile, ramping up the deadeye factor and stability dramatically.
WOA’s barrels go through a rigorous fabrication and rifling process. Each barrel receives an individual inspection. To be sure, these barrels are still mass-produced. However, they offer accuracy that can only be surpassed with a custom barrel.
The WOA 18” Varmint Barrel is available in 1-in-7, 1-in-8, or 1-in-12 twists, so you can pick what grain count and ballistics work best for your long-range hunting, match, or target shooting needs.
A uniquely large 0.936” gas manifold and tube help optimize felt recoil and offer some of the best reliability of any 18” barrel. Fluting is available, but as it sits, the WOA Varmint Barrel can be your go-to AR precision barrel for around $285.
Whew, that is a mouthful. If money is no object, a reputation is on the line, and the need for the most accuracy possible is required, then Krieger’s Custom Cut Varmatch Barrel is your saving grace. At #1, THIS is the king of AR barrels.
This puppy is a true custom piece, subjected to neurotic tolerances and guaranteed perfection. Krieger’s bespoke build process produces a barrel boasting sub-MOA accuracy up to the limit of what the 5.56 or .223 can accomplish.
Krieger’s AR Barrel is single-point cut rifled, hand lapped, and inspected on an individual basis. Single-point cut rifling involves shaving off bits of barrel by 0.0001 inches. It takes hundreds of passes to rifle one of these barrels. It does not get any more accurate than this.
Each barrel is service rifle match legal and comes in a unique Heavy Stainless Steel for the most stability and accuracy.
There is simply too much to go to over in the build process. Just pick up one of these barrels and expect the best metal you will find on a firearm.
Each batch of steel is sampled and tested on a molecular level to ensure that it meets Krieger’s production requirements. All of these factors make it the best AR 15 barrel for accuracy.
We found Krieger’s manufacturing process so crazy and thorough, we highly recommend you read it for yourself. Then, you realize just what kind of quality you are getting.
The Krieger Match-Grade Custom Cut-Rifled Varmatch Barrel can take you to the top of the AR food chain for a cool $370. You can expect a lead time in production. After all, you are paying for a custom piece.
Product Images Sourced From: Link