I know a young man who turned 17 yesterday. He has had a .22 rifle for some time now and wants to graduate to a more capable platform. His dad will be purchasing him "something AR-15" for his birthday, but they sought my advice on the best starter platform for the money. My first advice off the top of my head was based on my own experience, summed up by:
(1.) Rock River quality is excellent for the money.
(2.) Forward assists can make a bad problem worse and are hence unnecessary.
(3.) Don't buy a rifle without a bolt dust cover because keeping dirt out of the AR action is critical. (I didn't even know that this was possible, but apparently the S&W sporter does not.)
(4.) Get a flattop receiver, not one with the old style fixed carry handle.
Do any of you have any further advice consistent with helping the young man get the most capable platform for the money as a starter rifle? (And all you Kalashnikov fans butt out. We're not refighting THAT eternal and ad nauseum argument here.) For myself, I think I'll get the young man an Appleseed training experience in the state in which he lives (Ohio) once he has the rifle.