There seems to be a lot of people with the mistaken idea that a beginning shooter doesn’t need good quality parts on their AR-15. The reasoning seems to be that “I don’t need a gun that can shoot better than I can.” It doesn’t take long to find a lot of comments on internet forums along the lines of the barrel shoots better than I can or how many people are at such a level that hitting our target is determined by a $$$ trigger? That kind of reasoning is flawed. I’ll tell you why and make the case for good AR 15 parts, i.e. the best quality you can afford when putting together your firearm. I’ll talk about barrel accuracy issues this time, trigger issues next time, and wrap it up with reliability.
The case for the best AR 15 barrel you can afford: I’ll be the first to admit that a combat weapon doesn’t need a match grade barrel. After all, if you can shoot a 3″ group at 100 yards you can probably hit a man-sized target at 500 yards. That’s fine for a combat rifle. Big deal. If you’re reading this I’m 99% sure you’re not using your rifle as an actual combat rifle. If you’re like me, you use your AR for plinking, punching holes in paper, and maybe hunting. For plinking, 3″ groups are OK, for hunting and paper punching, not so much. A rabbit’s head is maybe 2″, and when shooting targets it’s a lot more fun if you can put all your shots in the 10 ring. So how do you get from 3″ (or 8″ – LOL) groups to something a little better? With a better barrel.
Before you say “my barrel shoots better than I do,” hear me out… Pretend you have a barrel that can shoot 3″ groups when conditions are perfect. The rifle is completely immobile, mounted in a shooting vice that’s set on a solid bench, zero wind. Next, assume that with a perfect barrel (one that shoots one-hole groups) you can shoot 3″ groups. Now, add your barrel’s best potential (3″ groups) to your best potential (3″ again) and you’ll probably be shooting 6″ groups. No matter how much you personally improve you’ll never shoot better than 3″ with that particular gun. Then, imagine the same scenario except with a barrel that can shoot 1-1/2″. Now, you’ve instantly shrunk your groups by 25% even though your barrel “shoots better than you can.”