With the advent of the Temporary Biden Administration, Americans of all races and both genders—or all 57 or so if you please—have set several new records. Barack Obama is no longer the greatest firearm salesman in American History, and Americans are setting records for the purchase of arms and ammunition. So determined are they to buy arms—the number of first time buyers is likewise skyrocketing—in much of the country, arms of all description are in short supply, and ammunition is virtually impossible to get at any price. Ammo manufacturers are running 24/7/365 and producing far more than ever, but demand continues to far outstrip supply.
Leading the list of long guns sold is, as it has been for a very long time, the ubiquitous AR-15, the most popular sporting rifle in America. Not coincidentally, it is also the rifle type Democrats/Socialists/Communists are most desperate to ban, that and so-called “high capacity magazines,” which are actually standard capacity magazines. This is nothing new, but what is new is D/S/Cs are no longer bothering to try to hide their true intention: the utter disarmament of law-abiding Americans.
With that in mind, and considering D/S/Cs support for criminals and their no longer stealthy efforts to abolish or cripple the police, and it’s no secret why Americans are trying to buy arms and ammunition in record numbers. They’re not stupid. So for your approval, gentle readers, I present the 2021 version of my annual AR-15 primer.
After any terrorist incident, or even after peaceful exercises of unalienable rights, some D/S/Cs, Deep State Republicans, and most of the media reflexively demand compromise, but compromise requires each side bargain in good faith and be willing to 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, yet demand total surrender. How may fundamental, unalienable rights be compromised? How does one compromise due process? How does one compromise the right to keep and bear arms? Allow the abridgement of rights every other week only? Perhaps keep the “keep” part, but not the “bear” part?
Professional anti-gun shock troops, the media and Congress have focused on the most popular and widely owned rifle in America, implying that the AR-15 and all its variants are uniquely dangerous and commonly used in mass shootings and crime. This is abject nonsense. Rifles of all types are used in only a tiny fraction of crimes, and AR-15s in only a tiny portion of that already tiny portion of the firearm universe. The 2019 FBI Uniform Crime Report, which encompasses data from 2015-2019, lists the use in 2019 of 13,927 weapons of all kinds in homicides, but only 364 rifles. While the UCR does not break down statistics as to specific rifle types, reliable data has, for decades, indicated AR-15 type rifles are used in only around 2% of all rifle involved incidents. Knives and other cutting instruments were used in 1467 crimes, fists and feet in 600 and blunt objects in 397. The most deadly school shooting in history, Virginia Tech, was done with two common handguns, one in .22LR caliber. That handgun had only a ten round capacity.
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 any gun that looks like a machine gun 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 establish precedent. Once any class of guns is successfully banned, it will be easier to ban another, and finally, all.
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. The 5.56mm/.223 caliber cartridges used by AR-15 pattern rifles are of intermediate power.
M1 Garand Battle Rifle
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 machined steel and wood, which has been largely replaced with aluminum and 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 large and heavy cartridge, limiting the number of rounds a soldier can carry. The Garand remains the only widely available firearm actually fed via a clip, which term is commonly misused when one actually means “magazine.”
FN FAL Battle Rifle
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 using the smaller .308 cartridge, with a flash hider and a removable 20-round box magazine. This choice, and American power, forced NATO to adopt the .308. At around the same time, the British were experimenting, to good effect, with sub-.30 caliber cartridges.
M-14 Battle Rifle
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. No soldier that has seen combat has ever wished for less ammunition.
StG44, the first assault rifle
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 select-fire (full automatic and/or burst) capability
Eugene Stoner, working for the ArmaLite Company (hence “AR”, not “assault rifle”), 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 may be found here.
It was the Air Force, not the Army, that initially adopted the AR-15–designated 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 above. Eventual redesigns of the rifle resulted in a round plastic, aluminum heat shield lined, 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, and definitive, information here.
The Civilian AR-15: The AR-15 is the best-selling, most popular 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 term “assault weapon” has been inserted into some laws, but that does not make the term any more accurate or descriptive of an actual class of firearms. The definitions accompanying the term in various laws are notorious for vagueness, because they seek to ban virtually any and everything. Military rifles have barrels of 20” or less, 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 a Colt model LE6940. 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 are a Magpul stock, a single point sling attachment, a folding rear sight, a trigger guard enlarger (handy in cold climates where gloves are necessary), a Crimson Trace red-dot sight, a laser sight, and a flashlight/mount. The four rail accessory fore end is standard on this model, and common on all but the least expensive AR variants available.
Visible on this left side view is a Sure Fire flashlight in a quickly removable VLTOR mount.
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. In 1986, by dishonorable means—take the link–congressional D/S/Cs made the sale to American citizens of all newly manufactured fully automatic firearms illegal. Only weapons manufactured prior to 1986 remain legal for private ownership, making them scarce and expensive.
How necessary are these laws? How many legally owned machineguns have been used in crimes since 1934? Perhaps four. Take this link to discover an essentially unknown reality.
The US government does not vet hordes of illegal immigrants that include jihadists and soldiers of drug cartels. Circa Spring, 2021, it doesn’t even bother to screen them for disease, but it absolutely vets any citizen that wants to own a fully automatic weapon, or any new firearm for that matter. Due to their rarity, such weapons are expensive indeed, and it’s a safe bet any AR-15 seen anywhere is semi-automatic only.
Popular Features: The AR-15 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, competition, hunting and self-defense. 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.
In July of 2020, I reprised an article on a male reporter who suffered terribly to tell the tale of the all-powerful, Earth-shattering AR-15. It’s a hilarious tale of a “man” emasculating himself in print by shooting a rifle that little girls find fun and easy to shoot. It’s informative, not only about the AR-15, but the political controversy surrounding it, and the kinds of people that keep the anti-liberty pot boiling.
Note the collapsed stock on her suppressed, personal, AR-15. Yes, she’s a competitive shooter.
Anti-freedom forces often claim 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. The real purpose of collapsing stocks is to allow quick and easy adjustment of the length of pull–proper fitting 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 smaller stature. This easy adjustability makes AR carbines very user friendly for women and children. A man, his wife and daughter can easily use the same rifle. The aluminum tube on which the buttstock slides contains the rifle’s main recoil spring and buffer, part of the design with the gas action that produces such light recoil. Another factor is the chamber/barrel and stock are oriented in a straight line, so recoil is more a gentle backward push than an upward movement of the muzzle.
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 carrier 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. Even a toothpick will suffice.
Hunting: Hunters choose weapons in large part for the cartridge they fire. Smaller cartridges like the .223/5.56 mm are generally unsuited to large game. The .223 is best suited 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 for that purpose. Honorable hunters always seek to take game animals as quickly and humanely as possible.
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, low weight, mild report and slight 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 switched by removing a single pin, 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 proportioned and 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. 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. A 30 round magazine for 7.62 rounds is quite long and unwieldy, particularly when trying to fire from the prone position
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 time on the range–-more time for focusing on marksmanship/training–-and is an essential feature for competition shooting where multiple targets and courses of fire are required. Anti-freedom advocates call such magazines “high 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 carbines and have begun replacing their shotguns with AR-type carbines with standard, 30 round magazines.
Additional Reading: Other, related articles readers might find useful are a long gun primer 2020, 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.
AR-15 pattern rifles are produced by a variety of companies, including Colt, Smith and Wesson, Ruger, Daniel Defense, DPMS,Yankee Hill Machine and others. One of the most popular manufacturers of magazines and other AR accessories is Magpul, whose products I’ve found to be exceptional in design and function. Their polymer AR magazines are the industry standard.
A real little girl and a real AR-15.
Final Thoughts: Virtually everything D/S/Cs, including their media propaganda arm, have said about the AR-15 is false. It is the most common semi-automatic rifle of intermediate power sold in America. Most common hunting rifles are far more powerful, and accurate over greater ranges.
AR-15 pattern rifles from a variety of manufacturers currently sell beginning in the $500.00 range, up to well past $2000 for more customized, specialized rifles. Another factor that makes the rifle so attractive is one may begin with a lower priced weapon and gradually outfit it with accessories such as fore end rails, red dot or other optical sights, etc.
The Supreme Court, in its Heller and McDonald decisions, made clear the Second Amendment applies to the weapons most commonly 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 D/S/C dominated court, and the Harris Administration is holding out a court packing threat, hoping to neuter the 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-imagined 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.
More masculine than male reporters…note the collapsed stock and good marksmanship…
A large part of the popularity of the little black rifle is its ease of shooting, and shooting well. People, particularly women, firing it for the first time, are delighted by the low recoil, and surprised by how easy it is to shoot accurately. Its ergonomics are extraordinarily good, and all controls fall easily to hand for virtually any shooter.
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. D/S/Cs 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.
Never in history have those seeking to destroy free speech, or to disarm the law-abiding, been good people, acting with honorable motives.
D/S/Cs falsely claim 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 prevent crime, not to ensure the safety of innocents, but to ensure their safety in imposing tyranny. That’s part of the reason that even though they surround themselves with unwilling, bored and very annoyed National Guard troops, they don’t allow them ammunition for their M-4 rifles.
That’s more than enough reason to appreciate, and own, an AR-15, America’s most popular rifle.