What actually puts a rifle into the category of “best rifles”?

Well, there are a lot of factors: Weight, extra parts, build, cost — the list goes on and on. Different rifles work for different shooters. There is no one answer.

Below are 13 rifles that truly stood out on the pages of Tactical Weapons magazine in 2016.

Aero Precision M5E1

Aero Precision is probably best known for its manufacturing process. The company has been machining AR receivers and parts for a number of OEM manufacturers for years. Drawing on its experience in the aerospace industry and using state-of-the-art CNC machines, Aero Precision makes some of the finest AR-platform receivers and handguards available. Just as importantly, the company does so at a moderate price to make its products available to more shooters. If you’re interested in building your own rifle, Aero Precision is a great place to start, but it also makes high-quality complete rifles, including the M5E1.

The M5E1 enhanced upper receiver is machined from 7075-T6 aluminum and features an integral, free-floating handguard, providing a very sturdy platform for mounting optics and sights. (; 253-272-8188.

Black Dawn Lightweight 3-Gun

The Black Dawn team is proud to announce its newest production rifle geared toward 3-Gun and tactical shooters. The BDR-556-3GLW is designed specifically for competition-grade reliability and accuracy while being extremely lightweight. With a 15-inch MMR handguard installed, the rifle weighs only 6.2 pounds unloaded, while it weighs only 5.8 pounds unloaded with a 9-inch handguard installed. Other features include a CMC trigger, an MFT Minimalist stock and a Lantac Dragon muzzle brake. (; 660-851-0907)

Black Rain Ordnance SPEC15 Pistol

Black Rain Ordnance’s 300 Blackout SPEC15 Pistol utilizes a pistol-length gas system to improve reliability with this alternative chambering. Some of the SPEC15’s features include a single-stage trigger and a nitrided bolt carrier group that is made in-house from Carpenter 158 steel for premium longevity, durability under heavy stress and ease of cleaning. Along with a full-length Picatinny top rail, the handguard has several lightening cuts as well as short side and bottom rails for accessories. (; 888-836-2620)

Chiappa X-Caliber

The X-Caliber survival rifle uses chamber adapters so it can fire calibers ranging from .22 LR to .45 Long Colt along with .410-, 12- and 20-gauge shotgun shells. No matter what ammo you have on hand, the X-Caliber will most likely be able to shoot it. By simply pressing a lever, the weapon can be folded down to 18.5 inches in length so it can easily be carried in a backpack or duffle bag. It also comes with Picatinny rails so you can add accessories. (

CORE15 Roscoe RB1

If you’re looking for an AR pistol that functions flawlessly, look no further than the CORE15 Roscoe RB1 from CORE Rifle Systems. This American-made pistol comes with forged 7075-T6 upper and lower receivers, a 10.5-inch, nitrided, chrome-moly barrel with a carbine-length gas system, a 9.5-inch KeyMod forend, M4 feed ramps, a billet charging handle, a Sig SB15 stabilizing brace, an Ergo Swift grip, a Midwest Industries flash suppressor and a Magpul PMAG. (

Daniel Defense DD5V1

The DD5V1 starts with forged 7075-T6 aluminum upper and lower receivers that are designed for increased strength while remaining lightweight. The upper features a 16-inch, chrome-lined barrel that has been cold-hammer forged from chrome-moly-vanadium steel. It has Daniel Defense’s strength-to-weight (S2W) profile along with four-groove, 1-in-11-inch twist rifling for optimum accuracy over a broad range of ammunition. The barrel also has a longer extension that works with M4-style feed ramps for enhanced reliability. (; 866-554-4867)

Nemesis Vanquish

The Vanquish from Nemesis Arms is designed from the buttpad forward as a multi-caliber takedown platform. Five different calibers are available from one magazine and one bolt, only the barrel needs to be swapped out. The rifle disassembles and can fit in a briefcase or other small bag for discreet carry. Assembly only takes a few seconds. (; 207-749-2180)

POF Renegade+

The Renegade+ is a lightweight game-changer that comes in at only 6.4 pounds unloaded. And while it is a very lightweight AR, it still packs plenty of features when compared to others. Most prominent in the list of features is the ability to tune the rifle for different ammunition. The Dictator nine-position-adjustable gas block, which works with a straight gas tube, allows you to tune the rifle to your preferred ammunition. Even the handguard has been modified with a small cutout that allows shooters to adjust the gas block.

The 16.5-inch barrel is nitride heat-treated and features a 1-in-8-inch twist rate. But the barrel is also innovative because it comes equipped with a well-designed heat sink barrel nut that helps dissipate heat. Surrounding the barrel and gas system is the Renegade handguard, which is designed with Magpul M-LOK slots along the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions for accessories while a small bottom rail at the front of the handguard can accommodate a bipod or foregrip. The handguard has a full-length Picatinny rail in the 12 o’clock position to accommodate sights, and four quick-detach (QD) sling sockets are positioned at the front and rear on both sides of the handguard. (; 877-561-9572)

Rock River Arms LAR-PDS Carbine

Piston driven ARs are another category that seems to be growing exponentially in popularity, and these rifles certainly offer certain advantages. The gas piston system keeps the carbon fouling and heat at the front of the gas block and out of the bolt carrier and receiver. This allows for a cleaner-running and some say more reliable rifle. Of course, RRA has really taken advantage of what this system can do with its innovative take on a gas piston AR.

Rather than simply slap a gas piston on a standard AR, the LAR-PDS carbine uses a patent-pending adjustable gas system that eliminates the buffer tube, buffer and recoil spring in the stock. Instead, this rifle uses a redesigned bolt with a gas piston mounted above the barrel and ambidextrous charging handles. This allows the stock to be completely folded to the side while the rifle remains operable. You also get a monolithic upper receiver with a full-length Picatinny top rail. This top rail is slightly elevated as opposed to a standard AR, and currently the gas system should not be used with a suppressor although a fix is in the works. (; 866-980-7625)

Ruger 10/22 Takedown

Compared to centerfire rifles, rimfires create less of a sound signature and use lightweight ammo, so you can carry more of it. Ruger reengineered its popular 10/22 semi-automatic rifle to create the 10/22 Takedown, which fits in its own backpack. The user simply attaches the action/stock to the barrel/handguard, making it ready for whatever comes your way. The barrel is threaded for use with the equipped flash suppressor or a sound suppressor. (

Steyr SSG Carbon Rifle

Steyr’s advanced carbon-fiber stock rifle is now available throughout the U.S.

Proven against side-strike structural failures, the SSG Carbon’s durable stock is made using the same “chipped-carbon” Sheet Molding Compound (SMC) construction used to create load-bearing structures in Formula 1 racecars and high-performance aircraft. The lightweight SSG Carbon absorbs recoil and features a detachable box magazine that can function as a constant-feed magazine or can single-feed the rifle over the top of a loaded magazine. The rifle also features a multiple mounting point stock; an adjustable cheek piece, butt plate, and rear-elevation pod; rubber-wrapped pistol grip, 20-inch barrel and a heavy bipod. (; 205-417-8644)

Surgeon Concealable Sniper Rifle

The CSR starts with Surgeon’s 591SA-R action, which features an integral recoil lug as well as a 20-MOA scope rail. The spiral-fluted, one-piece bolt is laser straight and includes a Surgeon shroud, cocking piece, firing pin and bolt knob. The bolt handle is threaded, allowing users to choose different bolt knobs to suit their needs. The Remington style extractor and ejector use a Surgeon spring and bolt stop.

Mated to the action is a 16-inch, stainless steel, match-grade barrel with 5R rifling. The barrel is capped with an AWC PSR muzzle brake, which works well on its own and can also accept AWC PSR sound suppressors. (; 800-401-7269)

Wilson Combat Recon Tactical .338 Fed

The Recon Tactical uses the direct-impingement (DI) gas system. It’s simple, reliable and incrementally lighter in weight than piston-driven systems. In tests at Wilson Combat, DI rifles also gave slightly better accuracy. The one criticism of DI systems, that they run dirtier, is countered in this rifle by way of an NP3-coated bolt carrier group. NP3 combines tiny particles of polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon) with electroless nickel for a plating hardness of 49 to 51 Rockwell. The lubricity is so high that there’s no need to add grit-collecting lube. NP3 also resists corrosion, enduring 240-hour salt spray in tests. (; 800-955-4856)

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