When I first get into something, I usually buy the least expensive to 1. see if I like it, 2. learn what are the features I will see value in.
My first snowboard and boots were the best inexpensive ones I could find. At the end of the 1st season, I knew what I liked and what to look for in my next upgrade.
Since I'm not expecting combat yet, the 1st ar15 I got was a ButchMaster (
) C15. I like it. It's fun. But now I have a better idea , and want to build one from scratch. Well, not really scratch, but from upper and lower assemblies. Next I will probably start from scratch.
another analogy is guitars. I love Gibsons, and I love Fenders. Fenders are often much less expensive that a comparable Gibson. Unless you just HAVE TO OWN a real Les Paul or SG, the Fenders are well-made, they play good, they sound good and are excellent values for the money.
So... for me... I'm just trying to find the equivalent to a Fender in an AR15. I'm in no hurry, because I have the C15 and a Mini-14 and they are both fun to shoot.
just my $1.00 worth (inflation, you know).
ps. when my son was a baby, we also bought the best car-seat we could afford and still have some grocery money. Actually , I'm sure my parents helped out!