If someone had told me when I was a kid that being into firearms would cost me more than a used car, I don’t think I would have believed them. Lo and behold, here we are, and a Knights Armament SR-15 costs $4,000 if you can even get your hands on one. 

So what gives? Why do some AR-15s cost $600 while others cost $3,000 or more? That’s what we’re going to talk about today. 

In the simplest terms, it all boils down to materials, quality control, and a lot of hype—emphasis on that last one. 

We will discuss all of this further and find out why some AR-15s cost the same as a night out and others cost more than a mortgage payment.

high-end build (top) vs. a low-end build (bottom)

A high-end build (top) vs. a low-end build (bottom). Source: reddit

Materials and Components

Nowadays, most rifles are made of 7000 series aluminum, like 7075-T6. Some are made from 6061-T6 aluminum, but most are made of the former. 

But if every rifle is made from the same material, what makes it so expensive?

Some manufacturers have a particular way of making the material for their rifles. Of course, these ways are guarded, but it’s the reason why two rifles can be made of the same material, and one will thrive over the other. 

It’s not just the rifle’s construction but also its components, such as the bolt carrier group and barrel. The material of the bolt carrier group and barrel will also play a huge role in a company’s pricing for its rifles. 

Some manufacturers, like Radian and American Defense Manufacturing, include aftermarket parts in their rifles, too, which drives the price up. 

The better the material, the more it will run you.

6061-T6 Aluminum vs. 7075-T6 Aluminum

6061-T6 Aluminum vs. 7075-T6 Aluminum. Source: jcmetal

Quality Control 

Quality control can make or break a company for a long time. Palmetto State Armory is a good example. It experienced a period of bad quality control, and it took a long time to bounce back from that.

However, when companies like LMT and Knights have government contracts, their rifles tend to be examined more in-depth than rifles that are mass-produced and sent out. 

When sending out 100 rifles vs. 100,000 rifles, QC tends to be better. 

If the company has a history of excellent quality control, it will charge a premium. If not, you have your budget rifles. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been surprised by both. PSA rifles have performed like Knights, and Knights have performed like a Hi-Point. It’s just few and far between.


Oh yeah, just like anything else, the AR-15 market has A LOT of hype behind it. This is where manufacturers benefit the most. 

Like a pair of Jordans, a special-edition Porsche 911, or a penny stock with a lot of pump, some consumers will spend large amounts of money on a rifle simply because it comes from a particular brand. Or because others said it was the best. 

An excellent example of this is the Knights SR-15. When it comes to battle rifles, you can’t go wrong with it. It’s tried, true, and has decades of reputation to back it up. There is a lot of hype behind that rifle, but it is well-deserved. 

It’s simple supply and demand. Of course, some of these brands deserve this hype. LMT makes a great rifle. Knights Armament makes a great rifle. And so does Noveske. 

But there’s also the question of government contracts. 

If that company has government contracts, you can bet it will come with a price raise. And it’ll take months to get it unless you can find one on the wall at your local gun store. 

Hype is one of those things that can carry a manufacturer for years. As long as they can keep up producing quality products, the fans will keep piling on. 

However, reputation can also keep a company down for years. As mentioned above, Palmetto State Armory has been rocking lately, but its old reputation for inadequate quality control has kept it down to a degree. 

Hype is important. Hype is a huge reason why manufacturers charge what they do.

Knights Armament SR-15

The Knights Armament SR-15 is the epitome of hype in the AR-15 world. Source: reddit

Proprietary Parts

Some companies like to be different from others, so they find ways to make parts that are better than standard mil-spec ones. Again, I’ll refer back to Knights Armament, with its plethora of proprietary parts. These parts are used to make the finest battle rifles in the world. 

Manufacturers at the higher level deviate from mil-spec, the lowest standard, to innovate and change the game—Knights with its E3 bolt, LMT with its monolithic handguards, etc. 

If the manufacturer is an innovator, that will drive the price up. 

Budget-level manufacturers focus on mil-spec, which, as I said before, is the lowest standard for firearms. This way, expenses stay low, and the rifles stay affordable.

Daniel Defense

Daniel Defense is another fan of using proprietary parts. Source: danieldefense


Although hype and demand go hand in hand, lower-end AR-15s can fly off the shelves when folks start panic buying, which was a huge deal here in Washington before the AR-15 ban went into effect. 

Demand causes every rifle to carry a higher price tag, so make sure you have what you want long before any bills or laws get put into place so you don’t have to deal with other shooters’ fear of missing out. 


AR-15s are expensive for many reasons. Whether it be the quality or the hype, you’ll find an AR-15 at every price point. Hype is your most common enemy when finding a quality rifle at a reasonable price since everyone wants one, and the manufacturer knows it. 

Not all rifles command their price tag, either. I’ve seen PSA rifles outshoot rifles that cost three times as much, so don’t get caught up in the price craze. Buy a rifle, take it to the range, and put a case of ammo through it. Training is extremely important.

Even the best rifles fail at this sometimes. So, if you make it past this point, you’re in business. 

Be good and take care.

Brian Zerbian
Brian is a USMC Veteran and avid gun enthusiast from New Jersey who loves to spend his time shooting, writing, listening to classic rock, and learning new things.
Learn more