Finding a reliable and affordable AR can be a challenge, especially if you’re looking for some extra cash to add the mags and accessories you want while working on a budget. But both used and low-cost options can kick that door right in for you.
Now, I've never been a lawyer. I’ve also never lost a night of sleep over that fact. Still, I'd like to enter two rifles – the Del-Ton Echo 316 and Rock River Arms LAR-15 – into evidence as proof that you can get your AR shopping done on a dime.
Both of these firearms allowed me to put together low-cost rifle packages complete with optics, lights, backup sights, and grips. When I got them, I was able to do it a fraction of the cost I would have paid chasing the high-end guns that dominate most AR discussions. More than that, they’ve been accurate, incredibly reliable, and a pleasure to shoot.
To be transparent, this is not a one-to-one comparison per se, because both guns are set up differently for different purposes. But stick with me, and maybe you'll decide one is right for you, too.
Del-Ton Echo 316 After 2000+ Rounds
OK, I’ll admit it. I lost track of exactly how many rounds I’ve personally put through this well-used AR. The best I can do is ballpark it by my general ammunition budget – plus whatever was shot during an early morning range marathon to kick off a bachelor party. I did not keep receipts. Suffice it to say that after regular trips to the range over five years, it has seen a fair number of rounds. I’ve even loaned it to friends for rifle courses and stretched its legs to 300 yards.
This particular Del-Ton boasts Magpul furniture: grip, M-LOK handguard, and collapsible stock. Other than that, it’s mostly just a mil-spec rifle, so much so that it even comes with an "F" marked front sight base and A2 “birdcage” flash hider.
LAR-15 After LEO Service
I’m a sucker for a gun with a service record. This one has a nice pedigree with the law enforcement extras and service-related cosmetics to prove it. This particular rifle actually comes from a limited stock of law enforcement trade-ins. It’s been dinged a few times and worn in a few cosmetic places to prove it did its service time.
Rock River Arms actually makes guns for numerous security and law enforcement organizations, including the DEA and the FBI. This used LAR-15 came with an ample Daniel Defense quad rail, rubberized ergo grip, and flip-up front sight. All are nice, value-added additions
On paper, the specs for these guns break down quite similarly. In actual use, they have some significant differences. The Del-Ton has a standard AR safety lever, while the LAR-15 boasts a raised hump on the rear of the safety. The LAR also has an extended charging handle and integrated flip-up front sights.
Probably the most noticeable difference is the accessory mounting system. Where the Del-Ton has an abbreviated M-LOK handguard that leaves plenty of barrel beyond the front sight, the LAR-15 has a generous amount of Picatinny rail on its quad mount that runs most of the length of the barrel. It also boasts an effective compensator on the end of the barrel, whereas the Del-Ton features a standard “birdcage” flash hider.
Sling-mount options on this LAR-15 are limited to an ambi single-point sling mount. The Del-Ton features a more traditional sling swivel on the front handguard and integrated sling cuts in the stock. The pistol grip on the LAR-15 is an aggressive and positive rubberized material, while the Del-Ton is a textured Magpul grip.
At first glance, both guns might seem a bit hefty once mounted with some basic accessories and loaded with a 30-round mag. But for comparison, the Marine Corps’ old M4 carbines boasted a weight of 6.63 pounds unloaded with shorter barrels. Pop in a 30-round mag and slap on a Trijicon RCO with some other tactical goodies Marines add, and it’ll run around the same weight.
There’s a lot going for both of these rifles even after the well-used life they’ve lived. That said, there are some notable downsides as well. At the top of my list is the mounting system. M-LOK mounts are fine, if you prefer them. But the LAR-15 blows the Del-Ton out of the water with mounting space. The Daniel Defense rails would have run me several hundred dollars new on their own. The end result is the LAR-15 also has an increased length of pull because the rail runs most of the length of the barrel.
Stock options are also notably different. The LAR-15 hosts a standard M4-style stock, which is still my preferred style. It shoulders fantastically and provides an additional half an inch of extension over the Magpul stock. That said, the LAR-15 does not currently have a metal buttstock sling mount. That was removed but could be cheaply replaced. It also lacks a forward mount for a non-one-point sling.
If there is one thing about the LAR-15 that I absolutely hate… and I do mean hate… it is the single-point sling mount right behind the pistol grip. The grip is quite nice, but that sling mount just loves to rub on my pointer-finger knuckle when I function the raised safety. I can deal with the rubbing, but the single-point sling system is on my shortlist of disliked tactical additions. The Del-Ton, on the other hand, offers easy mounting for a two- or three-point sling. You would have to modify the LAR-15 to get a two-point on it as it stands right now.
As far as magazine reliability, both of these guns have functioned great with everything from clear ETS mags, Magpul PMAGs, various GI metal mags, and I’ve even run a few cheap 20-round Thermold mags through them. Overall, reliability and durability haven’t been an issue. In fact, the internals are barely worn after plenty of shooting.
I like spending just enough on a rifle to still add any accessories I want without going over budget. These two guns both do that. Both guns are also well broken in and feature buttery smooth actions now.
If you held my feet to the fire, I would probably go with the LAR-15, mostly for the extended rails. That said, the Del-Ton is actually more comfortable to handle and shoot for me. But I have more time with it. Its smooth furniture and lack of rails have pushed the center of gravity rearward, so the gun also balances very well. The choice really comes down to what you want to get out of the guns.