Who Makes The Best Barrels - Best AR Barrels On The Market

Updated 1 week ago

Good morning, everyone, this is John with gun.deals, today we're going to be going over some of my favorite barrels. These are going to be not necessarily budget barrel, some of these are going to be quite expensive, we're going to go over basically a top five with maybe kind of an honorable mention at the beginning.

Full disclosure, on a lot of these brands, I believe all but one in the top five, I am personally a dealer or distributor for so I do have a relationship with a lot of these companies, oddly enough other than the number 1 spot.

Starting off with number 5, that is definitely more of an honorable mention, this is actually going to be KAK. KAK, for those of you unaware, they produce some really good components, some really basic components, but in the past I have had some issues with their barrels that they've mostly rectified. The reason why this is more of an honorable mention as this is one of the only true budget brands on the list where they definitely cater to the lower end of the market. The reason why I like KAK, and recently they have been growing on me a little bit, is they have been bringing some very interesting offerings to market. The one that I have here in my hands, this is a 16-inch rifle length 556, so the gas block is actually all the way up here, the gas port size on it is like a 0.114, it is a very, very large gas port on there, but you have basically no dwell time on this 16-inch rifle build. Shoots very nice suppressed, shoots fairly nice unsuppressed as well, very interesting, something that we'll probably talk about in a little bit more depth later on.

Top of these offerings, they've also recently come out with a 13.9-inch 300 Blackout, a 13.9-inch 7.62x39, and those length and caliber combinations can often be hard to find, especially in the hundred dollar-ish category or sometimes underneath a hundred dollars, that KAK tends to operate in, and by KAK I mean K-A-K not KAC as a Knight’s Armament Company, as I don't even know if you can buy at Night's Armament barrels separately, and if you could they'd probably be somewhere between three and seven hundred dollars. KAK as a company, they machine their barrels completely in-house from in-house made blanks, which is very cool, however, when they have problems it's their own fault.


As they've had problems they have updated and redone barrel profiles, in fact the first time I used a KAK barrel I had horrible heat dispersion issues, it would basically do anywhere from 10 to 20 MOA after being mildly hot, maybe just a few magazines through it, it would start to just have horrible heat dispersion, however, they completely redid their profile on it, I retested it, didn't have any issues with it. Every now and again you're still going to get problems with their barrels as they are going to be on the more budget side of things versus some of the other brands on this list, which are a little bit more expensive.

Moving on to number 4, this will probably be some of you guys' favorite barrel brand as it has a very unique blend of performance, price, and features, and that is going to be Rosco. Roscoe barrels are some of the most accurate barrels per dollar, you can often find their Bloodline barrels for under a hundred dollars or around a hundred dollars on sale, and they are purebred barrels for around 130 to 175 dollars, depending on which one you're going for.
Roscoe's Bloodline series of barrels, that is the more basic series, it's a little bit cheaper as well, very standard features for the industry, you have a 4150 Chrome Moly Vanadium Steel, you usually have a nitride coating dimpled barrels, the gas ports are usually very appropriate for general purpose, which means that they're going to be gasped fairly well for unsuppressed shooting, and if you're going to throw on a suppressor, depending on how much back pressure your suppressor creates, you may want to throw in a heavier buffer or spring combo. The profiles on the Bloodline series are almost exclusively Government profiles, however, the Government profile, while not the most efficient, cutting edge, new, the best balance profile out there, Rosco barrels, by far and large every single one that I've tested, which has been a lot at this point, has been able to produce 1 MOA, if not a little bit under 1 MOA groups, with at least one type of ammo, and keep in mind that's on a barrel that retails for about 100 to130 bucks, depending on where you're getting it from and that is a ton of performance for the amount of money that you're paying for it.

Their Purebred series, that is more accuracy focused so that is going to be a stainless steel bead blasted finish 416R stainless steel, generally speaking has a little bit better harmonics and will be a little bit more accurate over a wide variety of loads than 4150. However, the trade-off there is about half the barrel life depending on coatings, firing schedule, and a lot of other things as well. The Purebred series are also gassed to a point where I would personally consider them under gassed, for instance one of my most popular line of uppers is the 13.7 Rosco Purebred, which is a very nice barrel, it's extremely accurate, but the gas port that they send on is a 0.076 and if you're not using carbine springs/carbine buffers with true full power ammunition it's probably going to have cycling issues, even if it gets just a little bit dirty. For me personally, I open them up to .081 and they cycle just about anything, ejecting at about 3 to 3.30 unsuppressed, and then with a suppressor maybe you throw on a little bit of a heavier buffer or spring and even though the Purebred line of barrels is a little bit more expensive than the Rosco Bloodline they still provide a very good performance to dollar ratio as they do tend to be extremely, accurate extremely soft shooting, they are dimpled from the factory and I haven't had an issue with one to date.


Moving on to number 3, that is going to be a Ballistic Advantage. Ballistic Advantage is probably the barrel manufacturer that I've worked with the most and shot the most rounds through, they also probably have the most varied lineup, anything from their Classic series, which is kind of older style barrels, some chrome lined barrels as well in there, their modern series, which is like a very basic 415 0nitride barrel, and then they also have their Performance series, their Premium Black series. As of right now, the Hanson series of barrels is definitely my favorite to work with and to use in a general purpose application, the profiles on them are nearly perfect whether you're using a 0.750 profile or they're more lightweight 0.625 profile, very, very efficient profiles that keep the weight back, very nicely balanced while retaining, enough material and rigidity to have good accuracy as well, maybe not quite as accurate as some of the Rosco barrels, but they do come with a factory pinned gas block as well.

The gassing on them is on the softer side of general purpose, so usually I don't have to do anything to a Ballistic Advantage Hanson barrel to get it to run in a wide variety of circumstances, whereas some other barrels on the market might be tuned down so much that if you put them in a sub-optimal condition then they start to have reliability issues, and Ballistic Advantage offers basically every caliber out there and I've used just about every caliber that they offer whether that be AR-15 style or even their larger frame 308, 6.5 Creedmoor, so on and so forth, I've used just about everything that they have on offer.
In terms of just raw performance I would say, maybe the Rosco Bloodline barrels are better than Ballistic Advantage Performance series barrels, but the Performance series barrels are going to be a little bit cheaper, the Rosco Purebreds are going to be a little bit more accurate than The Hansons, but the Hansons come with factory pinned gas blocks and they're gassed properly from the factory, so there are definitely trade-offs there where you might want Rosco or over Ballistic Advantage or where you might want to Hanson over some other offering on the market. The next two offerings are going to be considerably more expensive and they're also hopefully having the performance and features to match.


Number 2 is actually going to be Geissele. Geissele is another company that I use a lot of their barrels 10.3, 11.5, 12.5, 14.5 and 16-inch 556, I've used all of those extensively with very, very good results. Geissele, very interestingly, uses 4140 chrome moly vanadium steel, which I always get a lot of questions about this, there's only 0.1% difference in the carbon content in 4140 versus 4150, so there's almost no difference whatsoever in terms of strength or mechanical properties, and that's going to vary from batch to batch, and unless you have the actual MTR attached to this specific heat number on a batch of let's say 4140 versus 4150, they would be nearly indistinguishable on paper.

Geissele probably uses 4140 because it is a little bit less brittle than 4150, maybe it gives them a little bit better accuracy characteristics with the trade-off of like maybe a few hundred rounds less in terms of barrel life. Their barrels are all cold hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels, which is one of the best coatings you could possibly have for a barrel and one of the best processes for manufacturing a barrel as well. Every Geissele barrel that I've tested to date has been extremely accurate and extremely well gassed. In terms of accuracy, as far as gas guns go, you're looking at 1 MOA or less with the right ammo shooter combination, and you really can't ask for much more than that in an AR-15 that you slap together in your basement over a weekend.
In terms of the rest of the features they use what they call a Taper profile I believe, which is a very efficient profile, it tends to keep a lot of the weight off the front of the gun and move that weight back a little bit, so that it feels a little bit lighter in hand overall being a very middleweight profile in general, on top of that, their barrels are also dimpled from the factory, which is quite nice, which means that I don't have to do that on my drill press.


As far as price goes, Geissele is quite expensive, usually coming in somewhere between 250 and 400 dollars for their barrels, which is on par with other cold hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels. However, when it comes to like Geissele versus FN, and why I didn't put FN on the list, is that FN doesn't dimple barrels from the factory, they also use older profiles like a Government profile, which is perfectly fine, but it's not going to be as efficient as the Geissele Taper profile and in general I have found that the Geissele barrels are a better gassed and more accurate in general, you might find a specific case where your FN barrel performs fantastic, and I'm not saying that FN barrels are bad by any means, FN barrels are very, very good, very durable, very high quality, certainly duty proven barrels, I'm just saying the Geissele are at least a little bit better or probably a little bit more money, which is why I would go to Geissele or like something like FM.

The last barrel manufacturer on the list is the most expensive, though not the most expensive barrel manufacturer out there, and that is going to be Criterion. I certainly haven't tried all of the Criterion barrels on the market as they do make several different lengths and I believe they have a few different profiles as well, but every single one that I have tried has been extremely accurate and the softest gassed barrel on the market.

Depending on who you are that could be a good or a bad thing, Criterion barrels, from my experience, have been gassed to a point where as long as you're using true full power ammunition with carbine springs/ carbine buffers, you're going to be getting ejection at around 3:30 to 4 o'clock very consistently, however, if you don't have a good gas seal between your gas block and your barrel or between your gas rings on your bolt and your bolt carrier then you could have issues with cycling, anything to do with having less gas than you need, because usually they are on the softest side of the market.


That being said, if they're set up properly and you're using high quality components everywhere they should be very, very reliable, and on top of that, when you throw on a suppressor usually you don't even need to go with like an adjustable gas block or any sort of adjustable system, maybe a heavier buffer or spring if you are extremely concerned with recoil impulse, but in general, Criterion are some of the softest shooting barrels on the market, while also being cold hammer forge chrome-lined, while retaining a very, very high level of accuracy, and they have a price to boot usually being north of three hundred dollars and being very difficult to find in stock, at least if you're looking for a somewhat odd profile and barrel length combo.

Basically, to sum it up, if you're looking for the best performance-to -dollar you can go with Rosco or Ballistic Advantage, they're both going to serve you very well, and you get a wide variety of barrels there, depending on your specific application, and if you're looking for just the best performance possible for your AR-15, well, it's probably going to be Criterion or Geissele, and depending on availability, budget, so on and so forth, you really can't go wrong with any of those options, and depending on your personal circumstances one might make more sense than the other.