One of the major trends in AR-15s over the past year or so is that the rifles keep getting lighter and handier, which is great news if you want to hunt with one. We know that with today’s bullets, the .223 Remington has enough punch to take down deer, and it may be the best varmint-and-predator cartridge of all. (There’s a misconception that the .223 is not legal for deer hunting in most states, but it’s actually allowed in 35 of 50.) But for many would-be buyers, one key question remains: Can you get a handy, reliable new AR without spending a small fortune? To find out, I put a total of 1,000 rounds through four rifles, all of which weigh in at less than 7 pounds and cost under $1K. Here’s how they did.