The recent Jihadist slaughter of Americans in Orlando is a crisis Mr. Obama and his sycophantic minions are determined not to allow to go to waste. Accordingly, he has come up with a typically Obamite plan to deal with Islamist terror: disarm law-abiding Americans who pose no threat to anyone. Fox News reports:
Being tough on terrorism — particularly the sorts of homegrown terrorism that we’ve seen now in Orlando and San Bernardino — means making it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on assault weapons that are capable of killing dozens of innocents as quickly as possible,’ Obama said in his weekly radio address. ‘That’s something I’ll continue to talk about in the weeks ahead.
Hillary Clinton, who has never seen an anti-liberty, gun control idea she did not embrace, was true to form:
Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has also joined the fight to ban semi-automatic weapons, saying last week: ‘Weapons of war have no place on our streets.
Some Democrats, Liberal Republicans, and some in the media are calling for compromise, but compromise requires that each side surrender something. Such compromise is commonly presented as integral to “common sense gun safety” proposals, but what will anti-liberty forces surrender? They have nothing to offer, but they demand total surrender. How may fundamental, unalienable rights be compromised? How does one compromise on due process? How does one compromise on the right to keep and bear arms? Allow the abridgement of rights every other week only?
Professional anti-gun shock troops in the media and Congress have implied that the AR-15 and all of its variants are uniquely dangerous and commonly used in mass shootings and crime. This is abject nonsense. Rifles of all types are used in less than 3% of all shootings, and AR-15s in only a tiny portion of that already tiny portion of the firearm universe.
The AR-15 has been demonized, and will continue to be disparaged because the anti-gun movement has, for decades, worked to convince the public that any gun that looks like a machinegun must be a fully automatic weapon. One of the oldest tactics of these anti-freedom forces is to ban any gun, type of gun or accessory possible in the hope that such bans will be a foot in the door to eventual total bans of firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens.
With this in mind, I present a basic AR-15 primer in the hope that facts are the best antidote to lies. Anti-gunners often call the AR-15 a “high-powered” rifle, or an “assault weapon.” Both are entirely false. The AR-15 fires a rifle cartridge of intermediate power at best, and there is no such thing as an “assault weapon,” which is entirely an invention of anti-gun organizations and the media, though some states have used that language in gun banning legislation.
For an understanding of the relative size of the cartridges mentioned herein, here is a photo of four of the most common contemporary cartridges. From left to right, the .22 Long Rifle, the 9mm, the .223, and the .308. True high-powered rifle cartridges are on the order of the .308 and larger.
Battle Rifles: After WWII, the Army sought a replacement for the M1 Garand, a large and heavy rifle, firing an unquestionably high-powered cartridge, the .30 caliber 30.06. This–a high-powered, full-sized cartridge–is the defining characteristic of the battle rifle. Because of the power of these long-range cartridges, battle rifles tend to be heavy, weighing in the ten-pound range, and have been historically made of steel and wood, which has been replaced with plastics in the modern era. The M1 was the first generally issued semiautomatic battle rifle.
General George Patton called the Garand “the greatest battle implement ever devised,” but it did have drawbacks. Loaded, the weapon commonly weighed more than 11 pounds, and it did not use magazines, but metal clips holding only 8 rounds. The 30.06 is also a physically large and heavy cartridge, limiting the number of rounds a soldier can carry. The Garand remains the only widely available firearm that is actually fed via a clip, which term is commonly misused when one actually means “magazine.”
After WWII, modernization efforts among western militaries nearly led to the American adoption of the excellent FN-FAL semiautomatic rifle in .308 caliber. Unfortunately, the “not invented here” syndrome prevailed and the US adopted the M-14, which was essentially an M1-Garand in the somewhat smaller .308 cartridge, with a flash hider and a removable 20-round box magazine. This more or less forced NATO to adopt the .308. At around the same time, the British were experimenting, to good effect, with sub-.30 caliber cartridges.
The M-14 was the rifle that initially accompanied our troops in Vietnam. Its unsuitability as a general issue rifle for counter insurgency warfare, particularly fought in a jungle environment, quickly became obvious. The need for a lighter weapon capable of fully automatic fire–battle rifles are too light to be controllable in full-auto mode–and firing a smaller cartridge became obvious. One can carry far more .223 cartridges for the same weight and space than .308 cartridges.
Assault Rifles: The first true assault rifle was the German StG-44, first used in combat near the end of WWII. It was this rifle that was part of the inspiration for the ubiquitous AK-47, the most widely produced assault rifle in history. True assault rifles have these characteristics:
(1) Shoulder fired
(2) Gas operated (with a few well-known exceptions)
(3) Single-operator fired
(4) Removable magazine fed
(5) Firing an intermediate-sized cartridge
(6) Semiautomatic and full automatic (and/or burst) capability
Eugene Stoner, working for the ArmaLite Company (hence “AR”), developed the forerunner of the AR-15, the AR-10, in the mid 1950s. Like the AR-15 that followed it, it was made with aircraft grade aluminum and plastics, and had a very futuristic appearance. Unlike the AR-15 it was chambered for the .308 (finalized as the 7.62 NATO) cartridge. It competed against the M-14 and the FN-FAL in Army trials, but the Army adopted the M-14, and the AR-10 was scaled down to become the AR-15, which would ironically require the kind of intermediate cartridge the British wanted. A more detailed history of the development of the AR-15 can be found here.
It was the Air Force, not the Army, that initially adopted the AR-15, designated the M-16, for base security, in the iconic triangular hand guard configuration. The initial flash hider had a multi-pronged, open end, which was quickly found to catch on foliage, and was replaced with a closed end design as depicted here. Eventual redesigns of the rifle resulted in the round hand guard and the heavier barrel now standard on the military family of weapons. The .223 civilian cartridge was standardized as the 5.56mm NATO cartridge. While the cartridges have very similar dimensions, there are some caveats regarding their use. It is entirely safe to fire .223 cartridges in weapons chambered for 5.56mm, but the opposite may be unsafe in some circumstances. Those interested can find more detailed information here.
The Civilian AR-15: The AR-15 is the best-selling rifle family in America. However, it is not an assault rifle, and certainly not a non-existent “assault weapon,” which is best defined as any firearm anti-gun forces want to ban on any given day, particularly if it is black, or scary-looking to the uninformed. The standard military rifle has a barrel of approximately 20”, but the most popular civilian configuration resembles the military M-4, which is a short-barreled, fully automatic carbine with a collapsing stock. Civilian equivalents are not fully automatic firearms, and have barrels of no less than 16” to conform to federal law.
This AR-15 rifle is one of mine of original Colt manufacture. It is representative of the modern sporting rifle, which is easily adapted to a variety of configurations to meet a variety of needs. Among the non-factory accessories I’ve added (stock to muzzle) are a Magpul stock, a single point sling attachment, a folding rear sight, a trigger guard enlarger, a Magpul plastic magazine, a red-dot type sight, a fore end with four accessory rails, a laser sight, and a slightly modified flash suppressor.
Visible on this left side view is a Sure Fire flashlight in a quickly removable mounting.
This photo provides a better view of the laser sight and its activation pad.
This photo provides a better view of the flashlight. It is activated via a momentary button on the rear of the flashlight that falls easily to the thumb of the supporting hand. I’ve found this less cumbersome than using a wire and pressure pad.
It is possible to own a fully automatic weapon, but since 1934, ownership has required onerous federal permissions and requirements, including exhaustive background checks, payment of a large tax and restrictions on storage and travel with such weapons. In 1986, by dishonorable means, congressional Democrats made the sale of any newly manufactured fully automatic firearm to American citizens illegal. Only weapons manufactured prior to 1986 remain legal for private ownership, making them scarce and expensive.
The US government does not vet hordes of Muslim immigrants that certainly include jihadists, but it absolutely vets any citizen that wants to own a fully automatic weapon. Such weapons are expensive indeed, and it’s a very safe bet that any AR-15 seen anywhere is semi-automatic only.
Popular Features: The AR-15 family is one of the most versatile rifles ever invented. Because it is highly accurate and has very low recoil, it is useful for target shooting and competitions. Because it is lightweight and has excellent ergonomic design, it is suitable for men, women and even children. Even so, the AR-15 can be cheaply and quickly adapted to the individual without the time consuming and expensive ministrations of a gunsmith.
Anti-freedom forces often claim that the collapsing buttstocks of AR carbines are somehow dangerous or sinister. In fact, these stocks collapse all of about 3.5” inches. These carbines are not useful as concealed weapons, and are virtually never so used by criminals. Their real purpose is to allow quick and easy adjustment of the length of pull–essentially proper fit of the rifle to the shooter–for people wearing thick clothing, tactical gear such as bullet resistant vests and load bearing equipment, and people of shorter stature. This easy adjustability makes AR carbines very user friendly for women and children. The tube on which buttstocks slide contains the rifle’s main recoil spring and buffer, part of the design, with the gas action, that produces such light recoil.
The AR-15 is easily broken down and reassembled, as illustrated here:
One merely pushes a pin through the lower receiver to allow the hinged upper receiver to open. Pulling back the charging handle removes the bolt group. The pin is retained in the lower receiver to prevent its loss, an important feature in a military design. The bolt group breaks down into just five primary parts, which makes cleaning rapid and relatively easy. Cleaning requires attention to detail, but is easily done. All the disassembly required for normal cleaning can be accomplished with nothing more than the point of a bullet.
Hunting: Hunters choose weapons in large part for the cartridge they fire. Smaller cartridges like the .223/5.56 mm are unsuited to large game. The .223 is suitable for small game up to and including animals the size of a coyote. While it can be used for game the size of deer, most consider the cartridge marginal at best for that purpose. The AR-15 is uniquely suited to hunting. The rifle’s rugged construction and corrosion-resistant parts and finish help to prevent rust while eliminating shine. Its accuracy, light weight, mild report and recoil are also positive factors for the hunter.
The AR-15 is not limited to the .223 cartridge. Because its upper receiver–essentially its barrel, hand guard, charging handle and sights–can be easily removed and replaced, a number of additional calibers have been adapted and invented that greatly expand the usefulness of the AR-15 family. All that is required is a cartridge that will fit the dimensions of the AR magazine well, a properly designed magazine, and an upper receiver chambered for the new cartridge. Uppers chambered in pistol calibers from .22 LR to 9mm and .45 ACP are available as are rifle cartridges as large and powerful as the 450 Bushmaster, 458 SOCOM and the 50 Beowulf. A general (not complete) listing of the current calibers available for the AR platform is here. And of course, most AR family manufacturers also make at least one AR-10 model, a scaled up version of the AR-15 which fires the .308/7.62 NATO cartridge. The magazines of AR-10s are usually limited to 20 rounds for reasons of size and weight.
Accessories: As previously noted, innumerable accessories have been invented for the AR-15, and more are being marketed all the time. These accessories, such as red dot sights, laser sights, flashlights and more make the AR family excellent choices for home defense and personal defense where the size of a rifle is not prohibitive.
The standard 30 round magazine is also a popular feature. This reduces reloading on the range–-more time for focusing on marksmanship–-and is an essential feature for competition shooting where multiple targets and courses of fire are required. Anti-freedom advocates call such magazines “large capacity,” and claim they are uniquely dangerous, demanding magazines of ever-smaller capacity. The truth is the magazines of any magazine fed firearm can be changed in a few seconds even by untrained shooters. Even in the few mass shooting situations where AR-type rifles have been used, smaller capacity magazines would have made no real difference. Law enforcement agencies have recognized the advantages of semiautomatic cartridges and have begun replacing their shotguns with AR-type carbines with standard, 30 round magazines.
Feeling a lack of trust in Mr. Obama, Americans responded in the early years of the Age of Obama by buying up every gun and round of ammunition available, particularly AR-type rifles. This caused a serious shortage of guns and ammunition, however, they have, for the last few years, become readily and cheaply available. Unfortunately, should Hillary Clinton appear likely to become president, I suspect the resulting run on guns and ammunition will make the Obama shortages look minor by comparison.
Additional Reading: Other, related articles readers might find useful are a long gun primer article I posted some time ago, an article on magazine capacity, an article on the reality of the Clinton gun ban (which dealt with “large capacity” magazines), an article on the Smith and Wesson M&P 22-15, a .22LR caliber AR-15 clone, and an article on the laser sight depicted in this article.
Final Thoughts: Virtually everything the media and progressive anti-freedom forces have said about the AR-15 is false. It is a common–the currently most common–semi-automatic rifle of intermediate power. Most common hunting rifles are far more powerful, and accurate over far greater ranges.
The Supreme Court, in its Heller and McDonald decisions, made clear that the Second Amendment applies to the weapons most commonly and usually used for self-defense. The court specifically mentioned handguns, the most common action type being semiautomatic. The AR-15 semiautomatic rifle family is the most common and usual type of rifle used for self-defense, marksmanship training, competition, home defense and hunting, among other lawful and reasonable pursuits. It likely enjoys the protection of the Second Amendment, at least with the current Supreme Court. A Clinton court would quickly render the Second Amendment fading ink on yellowing paper with no application in the lives of Americans.
Another factor in the success and popularity of the AR-15 is the number of former members of the military that purchase civilian-legal versions of their service weapons. This is long been an American tradition, and an essential part of our culture, regardless of how the effete, self-identified elite might wish to deny it.
Few firearms of any kind are so versatile. The AR-15 is not only useful for self-defense at short and long ranges, it is also a highly accurate precision rifle out to 300 yards and more, yet its cartridge, in the home and self-defense roles, does not excessively penetrate as high powered rifle cartridges tend to do.
Finally, the Second Amendment exists not to protect hunting, target shooting or any other pursuit, but to enable citizens, should it become necessary, to overthrow a repressive government. Progressives love to accuse anyone recognizing this essential truth of history of being radical and dangerous, but danger lies in trying to destroy any portion of the Constitution, never in defending it.
Progressives falsely claim that weapons like the AR-15 are weapons of war, yet could never be useful in resisting a modern army. This reveals nothing so much as their ignorance of history and war. If AR-15s are so ineffective, why are they so determined to ban them?
They realize that as long as honest men and women possess arms, they can never establish their utopia on Earth. They want to do away with firearms in the hands of law-abiding patriots not to prevent Islamist terror attacks, not to ensure the safety of innocents, but to ensure their safety in imposing tyranny.
That’s more than enough reason to appreciate, and own, an AR-15, America’s most popular rifle.