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ARs come in myriad sizes and configurations, and depending on your needs, sometimes less is more. For personal protection, ARs with shorter barrel lengths can offer a real advantage. Their compact dimensions make them more maneuverable for use within cramped spaces, and they handle with greater speed and agility.
A rifle with a barrel shorter than 16 inches requires additional paperwork to acquire. But don’t let this deter you from purchasing an SBR (short-barreled rifle), as they are known.
Here are some of the best compact ARs on the market.
Daniel Defense DDMK18
Daniel Defense’s new DDMK18, a 10.3-inch-barreled rifle, is a solid shooter. The rail featured on this SBR is the same one that Daniel Defense supplies to USSOCOM. It allows the shooter to mount items on all four sides of the rifle. The hammer-forged barrel is capable of shooting some amazing groups, and being so short, this rifle is great for working from a vehicle, in tight quarters, or for any type of CQB work. ($1,749; danieldefense.com)
Company USA BCM RECCE-14
The BCM RECCE-14 is a 14-inch-barreled rifle that is built to exacting specifications. Made with barrels that are proof-tested and checked for minute flaws in the metal, BCM guns are built for hard use. Shooting tight groups will not be a challenge for the RECCE-14. The permanently attached BCM Gunfighter Mod 1 Compensator gets the barrel length to 16.1 inches, negating the need for the BATF tax stamp. ($1,496; bravocompanyusa.com)
Noveske 10.5-inch Gen III
The 10.5-inch Gen III Rifle has an upper and lower forged from 7075-T6 aluminum and can be ordered with a stainless-steel button-rifled barrel or a cold-hammer-forged chrome-lined barrel, which is just like those found in the M249 family of light machine guns. Accuracy from both barrel types is superb. Noveske uses Magpul furniture on this rifle, and the rail comes in two options: a quad rail or a free-float rail with a 1913 rail on the top. ($2,505; shopnoveske.com)
Colt M4 Commando
Colt’s LE6933 is a semi-auto weapon that has an 11.5-inch barrel with a 1-in-7 twist rate, and it eats just about any ammunition out there. I’ve used this rifle for more than a decade working as a cop, and it is my primary SBR. Accuracy is on par with some custom-built weapons, but it does not carry their hefty price tag. ($1,171; colt.com)
Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport
The Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport is an all-around solid performer and will be a great purchase for someone looking to get introduced to ARs. With a barrel length of 16 inches and a 1-in-9 twist rate, the M&P15 Sport handles a wide range of bullet weights. The Smith & Wesson carries a Magpul folding backup sight and has a fixed front-sight post for crisp iron-sighted shooting. Made from quality aluminum and steel in the United States, the M&P15 Sport is a good value. ($839; smith-wesson.com)
Primary Weapons MK107 Diablo
The Diablo is a 7.75-inch carbine that features a long stroke piston and adjustable gas block for tuning the rifle to the ammunition being shot. One advantage of the piston-driven action is its reduced recoil when compared to a traditional gas-impingement AR system. It was designed to replicate the size of an MP5 9mm submachine gun while benefiting from the .223’s greater firepower. ($1,999; primaryweapons.com)
LaRue Tactical PredatOBR
This accurate tack driver is expensive, but it’s worth it. Having spent a lot of time behind LaRue’s rifles, I can testify that they are a dream to shoot. One particularly handy feature of the PredatOBR is that it can be broken down and stowed in a custom toolbox. The PredatOBR can also be ordered with a pinned muzzle device to get it over the 16-inch limit for the SBR regs. ($2,245; laruetactical.com)