Best AR-15 Barrels

A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to guns, everyone has an opinion. But the truth is that there are so many options out there that choosing the best AR-15 Barrels can be overwhelming. The problem with buying barrels online is two-fold; you might not get what you think you’re getting, and if something goes wrong, returns/exchanges can be tricky.

Criterion Barrels Inc Ar-15 Sbn Barrels .223 Wylde Hybrid

$296.99 in stock
Last update was on: May 17, 2022 10:44 pm

Many AR-15s on the market are chambered either in 5.56 NATO or .223 Rem. However, barrels chambered in .223 Wylde incorporate the best features of both chamberings, and the Criterion Barrels .223 Wylde AR-15 barrel is the perfect choice for users looking to build an enhanced AR. Each Criterion...

We’ve done all of the heavy liftings for you by searching different AR-15 barrels from various manufacturers. Our list features only high-quality products we would use in our rifles or sell to friends and family members who trust our recommendations.

Table of Contents

If you are in a hurry to purchase the best AR-15 barrels, and you want to make the best decision, here are our top 3 picks:

Top 3 Best AR-15 Barrels

Perfect for building your custom AR15 upper group. Comes with a properly installed M4 barrel extension. All barrel sub-assemblies are properly headspaced. Chambered in 5.56mm 16.1" Barrel Length M4 and Lightweight Tapers Carbine Gas System Length 1/2-28 Threads 1-7 Barrel Twist ...
in stock
Cmmg Barrel Sub-Assembly 5.56mm
The .223 Wylde chambered barrels are machined from 416 Stainless Steel with a bead blasted finish. Our Premium Series Barrels feature a Nickel Boron Coated Extended M4 Feed Ramp Extension. Hanson Series Barrels feature Ballistic Advantage's proprietary BA Hanson profile. Hanson barrels are not...
in stock
Ballistic Advantage Ar-15 Premium Barrels .223 Wylde Stainless Steel
Many AR-15s on the market are chambered either in 5.56 NATO or .223 Rem. However, barrels chambered in .223 Wylde incorporate the best features of both chamberings, and the Criterion Barrels .223 Wylde AR-15 barrel is the perfect choice for users looking to build an enhanced AR. Each Criterion...
in stock
Criterion Barrels Inc Ar-15 Sbn Barrels .223 Wylde Hybrid

Best of all, this post will save you hours of research time by allowing you to quickly compare top brands side by side and find the best choice for your specific needs based on price point, material type (steel vs aluminum), length, diameter, finish type (chrome vs nitride) and other factors such as brand reputation or customer support responsiveness.

5 Best AR-15 Barrels (Ranked And Reviewed)

1. Criterion AR-15 Hybrid Contour .223 Wylde Barrel


The Criterion .223 Wylde Barrel is designed to meet all of the AR-15 needs of any average shooter. This lightweight profile barrel offers extreme accuracy, optimal heat dissipation, and shooting performance with its unique contour. The tight tolerances of the rifling ensure that you’ll get good results for both your first time shooting it as well as years down the road. The attention to detail in machining the chamber and the bore also ensures that this barrel profile will always give you consistent results no matter how many rounds you fire through it. One of the best things about this Criterion Barrel is that it can be used with both .223 Remington ammunition as well as 5.56 NATO cartridges, allowing you to take advantage of steel or brass-cased cartridges depending upon your needs.


The Criterion Barrel also has a pre-installed barrel extension, easily installed onto virtually any AR15 platform. The Criterion .223 Wylde Barrel has excellent heat dissipation thanks to its hybrid contour designed for maximum cooling. The Criterion Barrel allows you to keep your shots on target even during rapid-fire scenarios compared with other barrels. This .223 Wylde Barrel from Criterion is the best choice for any AR15 owner if you want a durable rifle with impressive accuracy and superior performance.



2. CMMG M4 5.56mm Carbine Length Barrel


This CMMG M4 5.56mm Carbine Length Barrel is designed to fit your AR15 platform with the most positive results. Like all other barrels on this list, it has excellent accuracy when paired with quality ammunition for any shooter. The best part about this barrel is that it is made from high-quality steel. The Chambered version of the CMMG Barrel is finished with stainless black nitride. You can fire hundreds of rounds through it without worrying about your accuracy taking a hit.  This is because the CMMG Barrel isn’t susceptible to erosion from hot gases passing through it.


In addition, this barrel features a rifling twist rate of 1:7″ twists per turn which makes it compatible with all types of ammo. The CMMG Barrel is also versatile in its use. It can be used with any AR platform whether you are using the 5.56mm NATO cartridge or even.223 Remington ammunition if that’s what you prefer. The use of high-quality steel ensures that the CMMG Barrel will last for many years to come, no matter how many rounds you put through it.

CMMG M4 5.56mm Carbine Length Barrel.



3. Ballistic Advantage Fluted Mid-Length Barrel


Ballistic Advantage manufacturers a wide variety of AR15 parts and accessories, but they are best known for their high-quality replacement barrels. The Fluted Mid-Length Barrel is an excellent option for any shooter looking to improve accuracy without breaking the bank. This barrel features a fluted design of 416R stainless steel for long service life and improved heat dissipation from the rifling process. This Ballistic Barrel is designed for a mid-length gas system. It will provide you with improved accuracy over other standard carbine or rifle length barrels due to reduced vibrations from muzzle brakes movement. Like all of our products, the Ballistic Advantage Barrel comes with a warranty to ensure your satisfaction.


If you aren’t satisfied with the barrel, send it back for an exchange or refund within 30 days of the purchase date. Ballistic Advantage has become one of the most trusted sources in replacement barrels due to its quality craftsmanship and affordable price range. Many shooters enjoy using this Ballistic Advantage Fluted Mid-Length Barrel as it provides excellent results on the range. Its 1:8” an ideal twist rate makes it compatible with all ammo types, including the 5.56mm NATO cartridge, the .223 Remington cartridge, and even 300 Blackout ammunition.

Ballistic Advantage Fluted Mid-Length Barrel.



4. Wilson Combat AR-15 Ranger Barrels 5.56mm


The Ranger match grade barrel is designed for use in law enforcement and defensive situations. Made from stainless steel, it is a highly durable option for all shooters looking for a great replacement AR15 barrel. The barrel will ensure excellent accuracy when used with any type of ammo and can be paired with a high-quality suppressor when the time comes to upgrade your rifle’s sound control system. It has a .750″ diameter by .920″ length dimpled for a set screw and features the patented Wilson Combat Accuracy System, which uses relieved lands and grooves to reduce bullet deformation. The Ranger Barrel is compatible with both .223 Remington cartridges and 5.56mm NATO rounds, making it an excellent choice for many shooters regardless of your preferred cartridge.


However, it is best known for its use with the .300 Blackout cartridge, which has risen in popularity over the past few years. When pairing it with a suppressor, you will be able to cut 70% of felt recoil and significantly reduce muzzle flip and climb, allowing you to stay on target throughout your entire shooting session. The use of supposed recoil reduction will also enable you to get back on target much faster after a shot allowing you to make follow-up shots without delay. The Ranger Barrel is an excellent choice for all shooters looking for a versatile replacement barrel for their AR15 rifle. Wilson Combat has created a high-quality yet affordable barrel option that will quickly satisfy your needs no matter what type of ammo you choose to use.



What To Consider While Buying The Best AR-15 Barrels?

There are many things to consider when looking for a new barrel, and it can be challenging to determine what you need and what is the best possible choice, whether price, accuracy, or other factors. It’s important not to purchase before considering all of your options and researching, which we will help with within this post. Here are some of the most important factors to consider before making your purchase.

Barrel Length

The barrel length you will need depends on what exact type of firearm or weapon system you are using the barrel with. For example, AR15 rifles typically come in one of three different lengths, including carbine (7-9″ inches), mid-length (9-12″ inches), and rifle (16+ inches). Choosing to go with a shorter barrel for your weapon will reduce the weight and improve maneuverability. However, your accuracy will decrease due to less projectile stabilization from increased bullet velocity. In addition to choosing an AR15 length specifically for your weapon, it’s also possible to choose one that falls between two different sizes, as well as rifles with adjustable or folding stocks that are capable of accommodating different barrel lengths.


No matter what type of AR15 barrel you purchase, it will usually fall into one of three main categories, which include button-rifled, pre-hardened, or hammer forged. All three have unique benefits, making them better for specific applications than the other types.

Button-Rifled Barrels

Button rifling is a manufacturing process that uses a button-shaped tool with a sharp edge to bore out the inside of your barrel, which creates pre-made grooves down the length. This design usually provides the most accurate results, specifically when paired with high-quality ammo.

Pre-Hardened Barrels

A pre-hardened barrel is created by placing steel in a furnace, heating it to its plastic point, and cooling it before it becomes problematic. This design is excellent if you look for a highly durable option that can provide accurate results with most lower-grade ammo.

Hammer Forged Barrels

Finally, a hammer-forged barrel is created by pounding the steel through two hardened steel pins, making grooves down its length. This type of design typically provides the least accurate results because of lower quality manufacturing processes that don’t emphasize creating precise grooves and rifling. However, this type of design is still a popular choice for many shooters because of its overall durability and availability.

Stainless Steel or Carbon Steel

Choosing from stainless steel or carbon steel mostly depends on the specific shooting application you are planning on using it for. Carbon steel profile barrels, also known as chrome-lined barrel, provide excellent corrosion resistance, which is best if you plan to use your barrel for wet and dirty conditions. Stainless steel is more often used by hunters who want to avoid any possibility of corrosion they may experience while hunting in the rain or snow. These barrels will usually only be offered as chrome-lined models because stainless steel doesn’t provide anywhere near the level of protection against rust and corrosion as its carbon counterparts.

Barrel Lining

Most barrels are either chrome-lined or feature a black nitride/nitrate finish applied after the barrel has been machined. Chrome lining provides excellent protection against rust and corrosion while also reducing friction inside the barrel, which improves accuracy over time as long as you properly care for your weapon. Nitride/Nitrate finishes provide an incredibly durable yet thin layer of protection that doesn’t significantly add to your barrel’s overall weight or thickness. This process gives you all of the benefits of chrome lining without any associated downside.

Gas Block Journal

The gas block journal on a barrel is essentially the diameter found right before tapering down towards the gas block. There are two main differences to be aware of: low profile and total diameter. A low-profile design is great when you want to save as much weight as possible because it allows the barrel to taper much sooner than a total diameter one. However, this type of design requires an adjustable gas block because it can limit how much gas reaches the BCG, affecting your cycling and reliability. A full-diameter gas block journal is optimal if you don’t have to worry about recoil or muzzle velocity rise when shooting. This design will usually be heavier than a low-profile one, but it is still an excellent choice for many shooters because it also ensures the most reliable cycling.

AR-15 Barrel Contours

There are many contours to choose from when selecting a new AR-15 barrel, and knowing the specific details associated with each one can help you make a perfect choice. Your first step should be determining what rifle application you intend to use it for, which can provide the best place to start. For instance, the lightest options are usually favored by competition shooters who need them for fast maneuverability during a match. However, these might not be optimal for someone who wants to use their barrel for varmint hunting because they typically feature very thin barrels which don’t provide the necessary durability.


A medium contour is excellent if you shop for an AR-15 used around heavy brushes or medium-sized hunting games. This type of contour will typically be the most durable while also thicker than some lighter barrels, which can help reduce any potential accuracy issues caused by warping under heavier recoil. The heaviest contours are usually reserved for precision shooters who want to add as much weight as possible to their barrel to help reduce recoil and muzzle rise when firing. These barrels will usually be the thickest ones, which can decrease potential accuracy because of alignment issues when placed under heavier recoil.


The weight, thickness, length, and width of an AR-15 barrel will depend on the specific contour and profile that it features. Some of the most common ones include lightweight barrel, government, medium, heavy barrel, and bull barrel profile.

You can usually expect your rifle to perform optimally with 55-grain heavy bullets or lighter. You can also expect to see decent results with these bullet weights in a 1-in-8 twist barrel, but the most optimal option is to use heavier 77+ grain rounds.

The standard AR-15 barrel length is 20 inches. This size is optimal for multiple applications, including home defense, varmint hunting, and competition shooting.


AR-15 barrels are an essential element of your rifle that should never be overlooked. They typically feature 1-in-7 inch twist rates which means they can stabilize both heavy and light projectiles, so you will want to choose the right one for your needs. You should also look at the gas block journal size, contour, and profile before making a final decision so you can be sure it will work well with your entire AR-15 rifle. In the end, there are a wide variety of excellent choices when shopping for the best AR-15 barrels, and each one offers unique features that might just meet the specific needs of many different competitive shooters. Therefore, knowing what to look for ahead of time can make all the difference when choosing a new barrel for your rifle. 

Author Profile

Gabriel Tackett
Double major in Engineering and Geology at the University of Minnesota. Experienced shooter & hunter for over 15 years. Certified NRA officer for over 10 years working as a writer at .

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