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Many years ago I went with an entry level AR: the S&W MP15 Sport (1st Model). Around $450 if I recall. I was derided as it didn't have a dust cover (I've not taken it to the sand box), nor a forward assist (I've never had a failure to chamber, whether in a combat situation or other), blada blada. It has served me well and I have served/maintained it well. Back to the OP question:
I'm kinda with Caveman Jim: depending upon use (IPSC/3 gun match, match accuracy, plinking, home defense, etc etc), "you get what you pay for" in most Barbie rifles. "Toughness etc" ... are you going to launch 10,000 rounds a year? Reliability? I don't own it but I'd bet it go bang every trigger press. Anything better? Oh sure! "Speed costs money, how fast do you want to go?"
Guessing you get the clue by now, pick your purpose, and pay accordingly.

-jb, willing to go AR lite for my uses
 

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Philmo said "[pretty much everything]"

-jb, nicely concise Philmo (y)
 
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