Budget vs Gucci AR-15 Shootout, What's the Difference?
Can a budget AR-15 stand up to a Gucci custom AR built for speed? A head-to-head comparison is really the only way to find out. So we pulled a relatively “plain-Jane” – though, admittedly sleek looking – rifle from the Guns.com Vault to compare it to a pricier rifle that was custom built to be “high speed, low drag.”
As a point of order, I’ll start by emphasizing there is a big difference between budget friendly and cheap when it comes to AR-15s. It’s only a high-value gun if it works. At the same time, you can go in the opposite direction to buy or build whatever kind of hot rod rifle you want. But that usually involves digging into the pocket book a bit deeper.
For this comparison, we picked a stock ZRO Delta Base rifle and a custom AR built around a Noveske lower with a Daniel Defense upper. The ZRO Deltas are not terribly well known yet, but both Noveske and Daniel Defense have very shiny and well-earned reputations for quality and performance. Let’s see how they stack up on the specs.
Prizefighters appropriately start with a weigh-in, so let’s begin there. The ZRO Delta hit my scales at just 7.8 pounds with a U.S. Optics TS 1-6x scope and Leupold mount. The Noveske build with an Aimpoint red dot and Streamlight TLR-1 light came in at just a hair below 8 pounds.
The rifles are set up differently, with the Noveske featuring more furniture such as backup iron sights. But pound for pound, the two are comparable in weight and length. I will give a small nod to the Noveske for having a better balance near the magwell when loaded with a 30-round magazine.
That balance does come at a price. In the hand, the Noveske feels very nimble. But I expected that. When I first picked up the ZRO Delta, I was pleasantly surprised to find it light and slender in the hands as well. I’m also a fan of the A2 pistol grip, so I would give some extra points to the ZRO Delta for that feature alone.
The ZRO Delta also has a Mission First Tactical Minimalist six-position stock that provides a nice and positive cheek weld. Our Noveske build features a Magpul CTR stock. It is a bit less busy, and I find that I prefer it slightly more when shooting. However, both stocks are canted and rock into the shoulder nicely.
I’ve listed some more general specs for the Noveske build and the ZRO Delta below:
On paper, the two are relatively similar. The Noveske does come with some extra bells and whistles. It proudly boasts the Noveske KX3 “flaming pig” flash suppressor. As a used firearm, it came with a two-point Viking tactical sling complete with a magnetic Sentry Strap. To top off the tacticool vibes, it has a BCM Gunfighter charging handle. The ZRO Delta features only the standard A2 “birdcage” flash hider and basic AR charging handle.
I have no issues or complaints to register from my time on the firing line with both rifles. I ran several boxes of 5.56 NATO and .223 Rem from manufacturers ranging from Sellier & Bellot and Fiocchi to Federal and Aguila through both guns. Both guns handled all the ammunition just fine, though I would give a nod to the Noveske. It was already broken in and felt smoother.
Trigger pull for the Noveske came in at 4.25 pounds, with the ZRO Delta rolling in at 5.6 pounds. The trigger pull on the Noveske is really only half the story. The upgraded Geissele trigger is tactile and fast. The ZRO Delta feels like a standard AR trigger, and I have no issues or complaints there.
Shooting from the unsupported standing was actually quite comfortable with both rifles. The Noveske balanced better near the pistol grip, but both rifles were easy to manage in the hands. The ZRO Delta did warm up faster around the handguard. Gloves or a heat shield would be great additions for either gun if you wanted to burn through a lot of ammo in a single range visit.
I’m generally a fan of quad Picatinny rails, which are only featured on the top of both of these rifles. The ZRO Delta has an interrupted rail near the center of the handguard. Beyond that, the Noveske boasts a KeyMod system and the ZRO Delta hosts an M-LOK handguard. I prefer the M-LOK, and the loss of rail space is easily made up for in weight reduction. Both rifles measure only 1.5 inches wide at the handguard, and the ZRO Delta Base rifle even offers a generous 15-inch M-LOK handguard.
If you’re a competition shooter or looking for a light rifle that you can really floor the gas pedal with, the Gucci Noveske has you covered. The balance is right where you want it, and that Geissele trigger shoots faster than I can run it. Length of pull is also just right for me.
While it wouldn’t be fair to say this was a “hare and the tortoise” comparison, the Noveske was clearly custom built for speed. It can deliver on that. Overall, I’d call it the winner in a head-to-head match. But that performance comes at a price.
On the other hand, I’ve got pretty much nothing but good things to say about the ZRO Delta. It has that sleek Gucci feel – not quite as balanced as the Noveske, but better than most ARs. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it given the overall performance at a fraction of the cost.
In my experience, most decent guns can generally outshoot the shooter. Don’t mistake that for saying quality doesn’t count. It does. So far, the ZRO Delta has been a quality rifle for me, and I have seen some shooters use stock triggers fast enough to make you think they flipped the giggle switch to full auto.
When you’re operator enough to hit the target and still have five pieces of brass in the air before one hits the ground … well, props. Maybe pick up a Noveske with a Geissele trigger. There’s no getting around it, the Noveske was awesome. But if it was my money, I would probably invest it in the ZRO Delta base and spend the rest on ammo and a decent optic.