As a ramp up for the 2018 SHOT Show, which begins on Monday, January 22, with an invitation-only Industry Day the Range, I thought it would be timely to discuss long guns that won’t break the bank.

For modern rifle shooters, there has hardly been a better time to obtain high-quality, affordable firearms. The prices of AR-pattern rifles are nearly at an all-time low, and low-priced options abound for folks who want something a bit different than an AR. Whether you’re looking for your first rifle, or just want to build out your collection, here are five suggestions for good centerfire long guns priced at less than $700. (Prices may vary slightly based on when you read this article.)

Build-your-own AR-15 from Palmetto State Armory – $688


The author’s mid-length AR-15 built using parts from Palmetto State Armory similar to those described in this article.

One of the most cost-effective ARs available today is one that you assemble from components. Palmetto State Armory is the go-to site for those seeking a wide variety of affordable AR parts. Here is a build list for a top-notch 5.56x45mm AR-15 with a mid-length gas system that should come in right at $690 or so:

Just add a magazine of your choice this rifle is ready to roll.

Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport II – $550

A Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport II. Image from Smith & Wesson.

The Smith & Wesson M&P Sport II is my bottom baseline for barebones, complete ARs. When you drop below this price point for complete guns, you enter some pretty sketchy territory — or you start compromising on the quality of one part for another. If you purchase an M&P Sport II, you can at least be sure that you’ll be getting a reliable, albeit basic, rifle. I prefer mid-length gas systems for reliability and aesthetics, but the carbine-length gas system on this gun ought to be perfectly serviceable.

The M&P Sport II is a good starting point to figure out what you like and dislike with regard to ARs and then grow from there.

WASR 10 AK-pattern rifle – $640

A student aims his customized WASR-10 at an AK Operators Union class. The WASR is a great platform for learning the AK.

“Get a WASR” is conditioned response most AK shooters provide to newbies when they come asking for advice on what’s a good “first AK.” The WASR 10 is a generic, Romanian-made AKM clone chambered in 7.62x39mm. It accepts just about every type of AK accessory that is compatible with a stamped receiver — just like the M&P Sport II described above, the WASR 10 is a great gun to “learn” AKs on. Though the WASR isn’t necessarily the most attractive gun around, it will run until the heat death of the universe — just like any good AK should.

NPAP AK-pattern rifle – $550

An NPAP rifle outfitted with a scope. The NPAP is another good rifle to figure out what works for you on AKs.

The NPAP is another good budget 7.62x39mm AK. While the NPAP also has a stamped receiver, it uses Yugoslavian-pattern furniture. There are very slightly fewer accessories available for Yugo-pattern firearms, but they can sometimes be harder to find than the more generic gear. Though some folks claim that the NPAPs are of a lower quality than WASRs, I have yet to experience this personally. My NPAP-DF (the underfolder variant of the NPAP) has worked reliably for the past several years and is one of the rifles I most frequently shoot. It’s gone months without being cleaned, been used with a suppressor, and been generally beat to hell and keeps kicking.

Build-your-own AR-10 from Palmetto State Armory – $550

Using this upper and lower from Palmetto State Armory, you’ll be well on your way to a solid .30-caliber AR. Images from PSA.

PSA has also made AR-10s (AR-pattern rifles in .308) more attainable for budget-minded shooters. While you probably won’t be shooting cloverleaf groups at 100 meters with these rifles, they can get you into .30-caliber ARs for less cash than other methods. Here’s a build list:

These parts will get you a very barebones .308 AR that will kickstart your collection.

So there’s my list; what are some of your best buys under $700?

Images by Matt Korovesis unless stated otherwise

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