In the chaotic, gun-smoke-filled air of the American firearms bazaar, a quest for the best AR-15 alternatives chambered in 5.56 is like a wild, hallucinogenic trip through a forest of steel and lead. We love the venerable AR platform, but it’s always nice to own something unique and familiar but a little off the beaten path.

As my favorite writer and avid firearms enthusiast, Hunter S. Thompson might have said:

“Ah, the AR-15, that sleek chariot of ballistic fury, the darling of every red-blooded patriot and doomsday prepper from sea to shining sea. But let’s skew off the beaten path, beyond the realm of the ordinary, into the wild unknown where other 5.56 chambered beasts lurk.”

The Ruger Mini-14 Ranch


First, there’s the Ruger Mini-14, a rifle that dances to a different tune. It’s like the AR-15’s estranged cousin who went off to join a jazz band instead of the army. It has a traditional look, more ‘Old West’ than ‘New World Order,’ but don’t let its appearance fool you. This gun can spit out rounds with the best of them, and its accuracy is like trying to pin down the truth in a political campaign – surprisingly on point. Chambered in 5.56, it can be had for $1259.