OK. I'm going to break down and sell one of my better pistols, and throw in some OT cash to purchase an AR-15. I'm looking mostly at Daniel Defense and Wilson Combat. Are there any others that I should be looking seriously at in the 1.5-2k range? I want a high quality rifle, hopefully one I don't have to upgrade much at all other than a red-dot and a light. Thanks.
I've owned a half dozen or so AR-15's and my favorites have been the Rock River ones. I've owned 3 RR ar-15 and all 3 had a 3/4" guarantee at 100 yards and all 3 delivered on that guarantee plus they are priced less than Daniel Defense.
If you can afford it: hard to do better:
Daniel Defense and Wilson Combat.
Glad to hear you plan to set aside some funds for ammo and a good optic. Aero Precision does make a quality product for the money and I have also heard good things about CMMG, but have no firsthand experience with them. I would rate Aero Precision very similar to Windham Weaponry, which as mentioned is the same group of employees that used to work at Bushmaster before Bushmaster was bought by the Freedom Group/Cerberus (Remington/Marlin) and moved production out of Windham, ME. The employees bought the former Bushmaster facility and re-opened under Windham Weaponry and maintained the quality that Bushmaster USED to be known for. Buy what makes you feel good and learn how to use it well. I have built a couple uppers/rifles now and once you know what you are doing and what you like, you can tailor the rifle to what you like and your needs.
I suggest buying an AR Armorer's kit that has the upper receiver vice block, mag well vise block, gas tube jig, armorer's wrench, a punch set, staking punches, etc. so when you do start working on your gear, you have the proper tools to do so. If you can spend $2k on a rifle and still have the money for a good optic/sights, ammo and a tool kit...that's great. I always mention these things to guys new to the game as many don't realize that if you plan to shoot a lot and want to be able to work on your own rifle(s), there are a few other things you need.
I was in the same boat a bit over a year ago. New to AR platform. First one was a DD. Added a red dot, light, sling and back up sights to it. Shot it a bit and decided to add another one. Built the next two. I find planning, searching out parts and building to be a good way to occupy time (and money). Sound advice on ensuring you have a bit extra for accessories and ammo. My DD didn’t come with any sights, so had to spend a minimum of $50-100+ for iron sights before being able to shoot it. Good luck, whatever path you take.
Eta: if building upper in the future, make sure you budget for the various tools and jigs. I found there was nothing overly special or expensive needed for the lower, but the upper required a jig or rod to install the barrel, punch set, torque wrench and torque screw driver.
Thanks for the recommendations. I am indeed new to the platform, but definitely plan to train/shoot with it. I do go to the range and shoot my pistols with reasonable frequency. I've been putting off getting into rifles simply because I have nowhere private to shoot them. I figure on hitting the outdoor range in the Whitewater Lake area. My intention is to buy a better rifle, learn it well, then build one myself. There are so many companies building the platform, it can be difficult to know where to start. I've heard very good things about Aero Precision at an affordable price. Might go the less expensive route to start. I just want something with excellent build quality because I always look for that in the firearms I purchase. Not rich, but can afford decent stuff.
You could buy 2 pretty nice AR's for $2k...BCM is another good manufacturer you could look at if you're looking higher end. If you're new to the AR platform, I would personally recommend spending a little less on the rifle and get a nice optic and a few hundred rounds of ammo if it were me...the nicest rifle in the world won't matter if you can't / won't practice/train with it...Just my opinion. I've seen a lot of guys that thump their chest and say "I have a *name the brand* AR"...that they can't hit anything with, clear a malfunction, strip down and inspect, etc. Not saying that is you, but if you are newer to the platform, I would suggest spending some money on ammo and a couple spare magazines instead of buying a top-of-the-line rifle and skimping on the rest. I don't know your financial situation, so take that advice for what it is. Not saying to buy a cheap AR, but buy a decent one and a 1000 or 1500 rounds of ammo. My opinion, others may not agree and that's ok.
I have a Windham Weaponry AR with about 4k rounds through it...hasn't missed a beat and is very accurate. They run about $1000 +/-...it's been a solid rifle. The best part about the AR platform is the versatility...you can switch from a 16" 5.56 pencil barrel upper for home defense to a 20" bull barrel .223 Wylde for varmint hunting to a 350 Legend or 450 Bushmaster upper for deer hunting by punching two pins in about 15 seconds...and without breaking the bank, as an AR upper is about half of what another rifle would cost.