My philosophy on buying a product, be it AR-15, other firearm, automobile, furniture, or just about anything else – is to not buy the most inexpensive product available. Cheap products cut corners in order to achieve that price point, while more expensive products tend to be higher quality. The most inexpensive products available tend to break faster and operate less efficiently. This is very problematic when it comes to firearms – a broken firearm can cause serious injury or death.

The VSO Gun Channel has a very nice example of a budget AR-15 not performing well and how a simple $5-$20 fix made a huge difference in the reliability of that firearm.

I do have one minor disagreement with their assessment, though it’s mostly semantic.

The difference between cheap and budget firearms

There’s nothing wrong with “budget” firearms. However, there is a big problem with “cheap” firearms. There’s a very subtle, but important difference between the two terms.

A budget firearm would be something like buying a base model Rock Island Armory 1911 for around $400. While it doesn’t have the same features and quality of their nicer $1,000 1911s, the base model Rock Island Armory 1911 will operate well and is safe to use.

A cheap firearm is more like a Hi-Point, which can cost under $200 for a semi-automatic pistol. Hi-Point firearms are known for being very unreliable, and unreliable firearms are unsafe for a multitude of reasons.

An even better example of budget vs cheap is buying some inexpensive factory ammo from a reputable company, or buying even cheaper once shot reloads from a random person at a gun show. The inexpensive factory ammo won’t operate as consistently as their match grade ammo, but is still reasonably safe to shoot. However, the reloaded ammo from an unknown person at a gun show with unknown quality standards could very well blow up in your face – which I have personally encountered. Spending a few extra pennies per round could save your fingers or your eyes.

Don’t cut corners when it comes to firearms

Firearms are literally designed to contain and direct an explosion. Naturally, there is an inherent risk to interacting with explosions. However, it is easy to minimize those risks by spending an extra hundred or few hundred bucks to buy a higher quality firearm with more reliable function.