Assault rifles are the weapon of choice on the battlefield, offering more reliability and ease of use than other firearms. The range and accuracy of rifles remain unchallenged, and a few even provide modifications for the shooter to improve their chances of a sure hit. But with so many rifles available on the market, finding the best can be a complicated task.
Here are the 9 best assault rifles ever made:
- HK 416
- Tavor TAR-21
- FN SCAR
- Steyr AUG A3
- VZ 58
- SIG SG 550
- IWI Galil Ace
In this article, I have listed out the top 9 assault rifles, in no particular order, along with a brief history of each weapon and a description of its offensive capabilities.
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1. HK 416
Built with efficiency in mind, the piston operating system on the HK 416 significantly reduces malfunction and jamming, improving the weapon’s longevity.
With a weak recoil and the power to fire up to 850 rounds per minute at a range of 600 m (1,968.5 ft), the HK 416 is perhaps the most popular assault rifle on the market today.
Thanks to its versatility, the HK 416 can be used under various conditions of warfare.
The HK 416 is a state-of-the-art assault rifle developed in the ’90s by German company Heckler & Koch, who worked in conjunction with the U.S. Army’s Delta Force to manufacture this firearm.
At the time, most of the infantry on Delta Force was equipped with HK MP5s, a rifle whose 9 mm (0.35 in) bullets were considered too weak to inflict critical damage. The other models used by the infantry were too large and heavy, making pitched combat more physically taxing.
The idea behind this assault rifle was to create a firearm that was lethal and yet light enough to carry with ease on the battlefield. The HK 416 fit right into that sweet spot between size and efficiency, and the U.S. Army’s Delta Force began using the weapon extensively by 2004.
The rifle’s potency and ease of use have made it a favorite among the Norwegian Armed Forces, the French Armed Forces, and special operations units worldwide.
The AK-103 came under extensive use much later than most of the other assault rifles on this list. While accuracy and ease of use aren’t its strong suits, this weapon has carved its place out in the weapons market as a firearm with unsurpassed reliability on the field of battle.
The simplicity of its design and the ease of manufacture make the AK-103 a popular weapon in countries all over the world.
It’s also a highly customizable weapon and can be fitted with night vision or telescopic sights, a knife bayonet, laser vision, a suppressor, and the GP-25 grenade launcher.
The AK-103 uses plastic components to replace metal or wooden parts wherever possible, making the weapon light and mobile. It may seem ‘low-tech’ from a technological point of view, but its capacity to weather the worst conditions makes this weapon highly reliable in battle.
A descendant of the legendary AK-47, the AK-103 was built by Russian arms dealer Mikhail Kalashnikov back in 1994. Kalashnikov continued to improve his design of the AK-47, producing the AK-74M, and eventually, the AK-103.
3. Tavor TAR-21
The Tavor Tar 21 offers shooters a selective fire system so they can choose between semi-automatic and fully automatic modes.
This firearm is also designed to be used by both left and right-handed soldiers, which, aside from comfort, can be extremely useful in warfare where injury to the limbs is commonplace.
The Tavor is designed to fit a grenade launcher and night vision scope, immensely improving a soldier’s offensive capabilities. This rifle can fire up to 900 rounds per minute, with an effective firing distance of up to 550 m (1,804.46 ft).
The Tavor TAR-21 was designed and produced by the IWI (Israeli Weapons Industry).
Gun designer Zalmen Shebs headed the team that initiated the development of the Tavor back in 1995. The team’s objective was to design a rifle with enhanced offensive capabilities that were durable and easier to maintain than the M4A1 Carbine – a rifle used extensively by the Israeli Defense Forces.
However, the design also had to accommodate close-quarter combat and be suited to adapt to mechanized infantry roles.
To fit the requirements, the team created a compact design with a long barrel and a long-stroke piston system to ensure the weapon’s reliability under adverse conditions.
After conducting several trials in 2001 and 2002, the Israeli Defense forces concluded that the Tavor TAR-21 was far superior to their favored M4A1 Carbine.
By 2006 Israel began a gradual changeover, replacing the infantry’s firearms with the Tavor, which happens to be the weapon of choice for Israeli Defense Forces today.
4. FN SCAR
Among all the assault rifles used by the U.S. military, the FN SCAR won an award (yes, an award!) for being the best assault rifle in 2014. The SCAR is also a modular weapon system, allowing for a range of customizations that can be accessed and fitted within minutes.
This assault rifle can fire up to 650 rounds per minute, ranging between 300 m and 700 m (984.25 ft and 2,296.59 ft), based on the barrel length used.
The SCAR (Special Combat Assault Rifle) was developed by a Belgian manufacturer, FN Herstal, back in 2004. This gun is available in two variants – the SCAR – L (light) and the SCAR – H (heavy).
Both forms of this weapon are available in three primary modes, including close quarters, standard, and long barrel variations.
In 2004, the United States Special Operations Commission (USSOCOM) worked closely with Belgian manufacturer FN Herstal to produce the SCAR. The coalition resulted in the manufacture of two different caliber rifles with identical ergonomics.
After a few delays due to red tape and bureaucracy, FN Herstal finally provided the U.S. with 600 units of the SCAR, which were given to the 75th Ranger Regiment. And in 2009, they were finally able to experience the destructive power of this rifle in combat.
However, after the first battle, the U.S. stopped purchasing the SCAR-L and continued to import only the SCAR-H.
The M16 was a technological marvel and way ahead of its time when it was invented. The air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed assault rifle is made from steel, aluminum, and composite parts, making it easy to lug around during battle.
The M16 is capable of firing 60 rounds per minute in semi-automatic mode and up to 950 rounds per minute in fully automatic mode, with an effective range of up to 800 m (2,624.67 ft).
The development of the M16 can be traced back to 1928, when the U.S. Army, after extensive testing, decided that the infantry required smaller caliber rounds.
So the M14 was born, but it wasn’t until the 1950s when another predecessor of the M16, the AR-15, first made its appearance on the weapons market.
Throughout 1962 and 1963, the army tested the AR-15 extensively, noting its performances in combat situations with small squads. The Army Materiel Command praised its lightness and reliability while criticizing its inaccuracy and penetration at longer ranges.
But by the end of 1963, the Secretary of Defense concluded that the AR-15 was superior to the M14. And after further modifications, the M16 was born, a much lighter and more lethal version of both the AR-15 and the M14.
6. Steyr AUG A3
The Steyr Aug comes with highly sophisticated firearms technology, made from polymer and aluminum components. But perhaps the most impressive feature of the AUG is its design as a modular weapon system.
The AUG can fire effectively up to 300 m (984.25 ft) with a high level of accuracy. However, if you’re looking for more range, specific customizations allow the AUG to fire as far as a whopping 2700 meters (8,858.27 ft)!
The firing rate for this assault rifle is anywhere between 680-750 rounds per minute.
‘Steyr AUG’ literally translates to ‘universal army rifle’ and has been adopted by the armed forces in countries all across the world. In some places, the Steyr-AUG is the weapon of choice as a standard-issue service rifle.
The Steyr AUG was designed in the 1960s in Austria and adopted by the Austrian army in 1978. The U.S. began importing this rifle from Austria in early 1980. But importation was banned in 1989 during the Bush administration under the Assault Weapon Import Ban issued that year.
However, in a few years, buyers could get their hands on the rifle thanks to cosmetic changes in the weapons design, allowing the gun to be legally imported again.
By 2004 the ban was lifted, and in 2008 Steyr Aug began working with American weapons manufacturer Sabre Defense to produce this rifle in the U.S.
7. VZ 58
The VZ 58 is produced in three main variants – the standard VZ 58P (infantry mode) with a synthetic buttstock, the VZ 58V (airborne) featuring a metal shoulder stock, and the VZ 58 Pi (infantry with infrared mode).
The last version is similar to the VZ 58P but comes with a dovetail bracket to mount the NSP2 night vision device.
The VZ 58 is fed from a detachable magazine with a 30 round cartridge capacity made from lightweight aluminum alloy. The VZ 58 can fire up to 800 rounds per minute with an effective range between 100 m and 800 m (328.08 ft and 2,624.67 ft) based on sight adjustments.
The development of the VZ 58 began in 1956 in Czechoslovakia under Chief Engineer of the Slavic forces, Jiri Cermak.
To benefit from trade and rely on its allies during the war, the Soviet Union spurred all Warsaw Pact countries to standardize on a common form of ammunition. The VZ 58 was manufactured as a response to this pressure on the forces of the Warsaw pact.
8. SIG SG 550
The SG 550 comes with a long sight radius and iron sights that can be adjusted according to the wind and elevation.
The SIG can fire up to 700 rounds per minute with a range accuracy between 100 m and 400 m (328.08 ft and 1,312.34 ft), depending on sight adjustments.
The SIG G 550 was first formulated in 1978 when the Swiss Armed Forces were in search of a successor to their beloved SG510.
The Army worked in conjunction with research and development teams and emphasized a modular weapons system.
The Swiss were looking for a lightweight weapon with a formidable range and several design variants, one that could be issued to rear echelons, command staff, support troops, vehicle crews, paratroopers, and special forces.
In 1984, the SG 541 came into existence, and the Swiss Army decided that it would be the weapon of choice for their ranks. The SG 541 was subsequently renamed to the SG 550, with a carbine version designated as the SG 551.
The production of the SG 550 began in 1986, and it was officially approved into service in the year 1990.
9. IWI Galil Ace
The Galil Ace uses the same piston-based operating system as the famed AK-47, limiting the chances of jamming and improving reliability.
The only downside to the Galil Ace is the design, which integrates solid steel to improve the structure and durability of the weapon. This design weighs down the weapon at nearly 4.4 kg (9.70 lb), making it difficult to maneuver.
However, the Galil provides semi-automatic and fully-automatic fire rates, with the latter capable of delivering up to 650 rounds per minute with an effective range of 300 m to 500 m (984.25 ft to 1,640.42 ft).
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The Israeli Army was enamored by their FN FAL rifles until the 1967 Six-Day Arab-Israeli War, where they learned that the FN FAL was too heavy and unwieldy for pitched combat.
By then, the U.S. and the Soviet Union had transcended beyond the idea of battle rifles, moving on to smaller weapons with intermediate-powered cartridges. The Israeli Defense Forces realized that without innovation, they would be left behind in the arms race.
Luckily, during the Six-Day War, the Israelis captured a few Arab soldiers, along with their AK-47s. But lacking a major arms manufacturer, Israel was unable to use the design specifications of the AK-47 to make their weapon.
Instead, they decided to copy the AK-47, giving birth to the Galil ACE. And while the Galil looked like the AK-47, its parts weren’t interchangeable.
For more, check out How To Choose the Best Rifle for Target Shooting.
Hey, I’m Jim, and I’m the author of this website. I have been teaching people a wide variety of survivalism topics for over five years and have a lifetime of experience fishing, camping, general survivalism, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!