6 Top ARs of 2017: Gun Test

We rank the year’s top-performing and most affordable AR-platform rifles based on performance and value.

Gun writer Richard Mann met with Field & Stream’s rifles editor David E. Petzal and deputy editor Dave Hurteau at Mann’s home shooting range West Virginia hills to test these six AR-platform rifles, all new for 2017.

Over the course of four days, the trio generated roughly five gallons of brass, shooting the test rifles at distances from 10 to 500 yards—plus a few shots at 1,000-plus just for fun. When the smoke cleared, they narrowed the field down to the top six rifles that stood out because of their performance and value.

The Test

After weighing and measuring the rifles, we evaluated them for the following:

• Accuracy: Testers fired three five-shot groups from a bench at 100 yards, deducting one point for every 1/4 inch the average group size was larger than 1/2 inch.
• Shooter Interface: ARs were subjected to speed drills on multiple targets.
• Fit and Finish: We evaluated workmanship and appearance.
• Functionality: We tested ease of loading, action smoothness, and general operation. We evaluated features and subtracted points for malfunctions.
• Trigger: We measured pull-weight with a digital scale and evaluated quality of pull.

Finally, they weighted the test categories for a total possible score of 100 and crunched the numbers to get our rankings. We also divided the price of each rifle by its total score to determine the best value in each category. The rifles were outfitted with the Bushnell 1–4x24mm AR scope, Weaver rings and bases, and Hornady provided all test ammunition. . —R.M.

Best of the Test: Bushmaster Minimalist-SD

Score: 87 • $1,169
The Bushmaster Minimalist-SD scored 87 points. MSRP: $1,169 photo by Jeff Wilson
.223 Rem./5.56 NATO • 6 lb. 6.4 oz. • 33.5–36.75″ overall length • 16″ barrel • Six-position adjustable stock

A sub-6.5-pound AR-15 that consistently shoots sub-1.5 MOA five-shot groups is noteworthy, but there’s more to this rifle than its light weight and precision. The 1:8 twist rifling will handle long, heavy .223 bullets ideal for hunting, and the 4150 chrome moly barrel is capped off with a suppressor-ready AAC flash hider. Functionality was as good as or better than any AR we tested.

The trigger was crisp, although a bit on the heavy side (the gun’s only flaw). Where the Minimalist really stood out was in the shooter-interface evaluation. The rifle was extremely nimble and comfortable to shoot, and it turned in the test cate­gory’s top score. Some credit here goes to the excellent Mission First Tactical stock and grip. All of this comes at a reasonable price for an AR, too. —R.M.

Mossberg MMR Pro

Score: 86 • $1,393
The Mossberg MMR Pro scored 86 points. MSRP: $1,393 photo by Jeff Wilson
.223 Rem./5.56 NATO • 7 lb. 4.6 oz. • 33.75–39″ overall length • 18″ barrel • Six-position adjustable stock

Generally speaking, AR-15s are very much the same; it’s the little things that set them apart. Think of the “Star-Spangled Banner” sung by different performers, and you have a good analogy. To distinguish the MMR Pro, Mossberg sought the advice of competitive shooter Jerry Miculek, which led to a host of little things, including a JM Pro match trigger, a slim-profile 15-inch M-Lok handguard, an AXTS Raptor ambidextrous charging handle, and a stainless, compensated 18-inch barrel.

The result is the most accurate MSR in our test. The test team’s only complaints targeted the rifle’s so-so fit and finish and its horrendously loud muzzle brake. A brake might be ideal for competition, but it’s not what you want if you’re going to hunt with this rifle. —R.M.


Score: 83 • $1,999
The FN 15 DMR II scored 83 points. MSRP: $1,999 photo by Jeff Wilson
.223 Rem./5.56 NATO • 7 lb. 4.6 oz. • 33.75–39″ overall length • 18″ barrel • Six-position adjustable stock

As the most expensive MSR tested, you’d expect the FN DMR II to perform well, and it did. The rifle’s match-grade Timney trigger was the best of any AR we tested. The DMR II’s fit and finish was far superior to that of the other ARs, and it tied with the Bushmaster Minimalist for top marks in functionality. The rifle got average scores in the shooter-interface test, hindered somewhat in the speed drills by its heft and length. Accuracy was just below average.

The 1:7 twist rifling will allow you to shoot even the heaviest .223-caliber bullets, and the Magpul MOE grip and buttstock are comfortable. In the end, what sets the FN apart is the quality of the workmanship; whereas some ARs feel like a collection of parts, this feels like a finely crafted tool. —R.M.

Best Value: Mossberg MMR

Score: 81 • $938
The best value rifle, the Mossberg MMR, scored 81 points. MSRP: $938 mfg photo
.223 Rem./5.56 NATO • 7 lbs. • 33.25–36.5″ overall length • 16″ barrel • Six-position adjustable stock

Mossberg’s standard MMR lacks a few of the Pro’s features, but it’s about 4 ounces lighter and costs about $450 less. It shot nearly as well, too. The MMR was the third most accurate MSR tested. We found fit and finish and functionality to be a bit lacking, but the MMR’s overall performance and price make it the cate­gory’s best value. —R.M.

Savage MSR 15 Recon

Score: 77 • $999
The Savage MSR 15 Recon scored 77 points. MSRP: $999 mfg photo
.223 Rem./5.56 NATO • 7 lb. • 33.5–36.75″ overall length • 16.125″ barrel • Six-position adjustable stock

Savage debuted its first line of MSRs this year and the MSR 15 Recon is the flagship offering in .223. The rifle tallied solid marks in most of the test categories. Fit and finish was a tad rough and so was the trigger. Where the MSR 15 Recon stands out is in the value department—a solid second behind the Mossberg MMR. —R.M.

Savage MSR 10 Hunter

Score: 71 • $1,481
The Savage MSR 10 Hunter scored 71 points. MSRP: $1,481 mfg photo
.308 Win./7.62 NATO • 7 lb. 12.8 oz. • 36–39″ overall length • 16.25″ barrel • Six-position adjustable stock

As hunters, we were excited to test a new AR-10 .308 designed for the field, but we ended up a bit disappointed. The Hunter was the least accurate MSR tested. Most of its other test scores were around average. On the positive side, the Hunter is reasonably compact and not too heavy given its .308 chambering, and it is also available in the popular 6.5 Creedmoor. —R.M.

This content originally appeared on fieldandstream.com.