I've written several articles about budget options for your firearms and builds. I haven't won the lottery yet, so I still look at these options for a number of my firearm purchases. However, not everyone is as frugal as I am. Plus, when it comes to barrels, I try not to go cheap. After all, it's the heart and soul of a firearm. I was looking at AR barrels, in wishful hope, contemplating my next build and decided to look as though money wasn't an issue. I stayed with production barrels to ease my search; however, several of these manufacturers do custom work as well. These are my top 3 choices in a "Good," "Better," and "Best" format.
White Oak Armament is a name any AR enthusiast knows. For my purpose, I focused on preferably a 16", maybe 18", barrel with a mid-length gas system that is accurate. White Oak barrels are run in all forms of competition because they are known for accuracy. My choice for them is the 16" Squad Designated Marksmen (SDM) barrel. The barrel is a lightweight, stainless steel, medium profile, shortened version of their standard SDM barrel. It has 12 flutes machined behind the gas block to reduce weight and aid in cooling. The gas block is a standard .750," and the barrel extension has M4 feed ramps in it. The barrel is chambered for .223/5.56 with a 1:7 twist to stabilize the majority of common range ammo you can find. Even with the heavier profile, the steel brings the weight down to 2.13 lbs, less than their standard M4 contour barrel.
All in all, it makes a solid, balanced platform for a competition or high-volume range rifle with expected MOA or better at 100 yards. It retails for $370 from White Oak Armament. If you are looking for a longer or custom barrel for a different build, White Oak offers several options from several high-end blank manufacturers. You can trust your barrel from White Oak to be worth every penny.
I've always had great experiences with Rainier Arms and have found that they know quality. When they got into the barrel market a few years ago, I immediately knew I could trust their product. Several years later, they have proven my trust again. Their Ultramatch Mod2, in .223 Wylde, is my personal choice for them. It is a lightweight, proprietary contoured barrel that weighs 1.94 lbs. It comes with an intermediate gas system and a choice of either their own high-end adjustable gas block (the gas block releases excess pressure out of the front to help the rifle cycle cleaner and cooler) or a standard low profile melonite gas block. It is fluted, bead blasted and chambered in .223 Wylde (capable of running .223 or 5.56). The rate of twist is a 1:7.5, which is my personal preference. I've found that this rate or the 1:8 out of 16" barrel stabilizes more bullet weights allowing the end-user more ammo options. As a hunter and a range junkie, this gives me more usable options for my rifle. One of the other unique features of this barrel is the extension. It has been TiN coated, a process that cuts down friction and will allow better feeding and more reliability. This barrel retails for $379.95 with the standard gas block or $439.94 with their adjustable gas block (well worth the $59 value). A barrel that you can expect to perform and if you like a different length or caliber, they've got it.
As a hunter, I’ve heard of Proof Research for high-end custom bolt rifles and barrels. This is something they do very well. They also make barrels for a multitude of calibers on the AR platform with the same quality you come to expect. What makes them unique is their carbon fiber-wrapped barrels. Their patented manufacturing process means they turn a 416R Stainless Steel barrel blank down to their own minimal dimensions, in house. They then use a proprietary carbon fiber wrapping that makes the barrel lightweight and dissipate heat better than any standard stainless barrel. This keeps you on target better, have better follow-up shots and stay on the range longer. It improves the barrel’s life and gives you match-grade accuracy along with a 64% reduction in weight from similar profiled stainless-steel barrels. The end result is a barrel like no other. The price tag on these beauties is $920 for the 16” mid-length gas system with a 1:8 twist and .223 Wylde chamber. These barrels are not cheap. You get what you pay for and you will pay for the best with Proof Research. Without a doubt my top choice, once I get that winning lotto ticket.
Krieger. They are well known for barrels and barrel blanks. In fact, White Oak Armament uses their blanks for some of their custom work. One thing they do well themselves is custom barrels, and they have a great setup on their website for customers to build their ideal barrel.
Anyone of these manufacturers will be a good choice and give you all types of options. Do you want that rifle that is truly one of kind or the envy of the range? Then give these companies a look. You’ll find your desires here and be happy that you did. Just remember to open up that wallet when you do, it’s the price you pay for top quality.
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Prices accurate at time of writing