Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thoughts and Ramblings on AR-15s

Hope everyone has had a good weekend. It's Sunday evening and tomorrow work starts all over for many of us. I spent a portion of yesterday afternoon, plinking and adjusting some things on my rifles, particularly my main home defense carbine, my AR. I was not always sold on the AR, having listened early on in my shooting life to many of the gun snobs who tell you that the AR is inadequate when it comes to firepower, it's too finicky for serious work, or that it was prone to malfunction and damage. Many of the concerns were based on problem inherent in older design as well as isolated incidences that were blown far out of proportion. I have become a true believer in the AR-15, and while it is not always the right gun for everyone, it is the top dog around my little piece of heaven.

The AR-15 family of rifle is the number one choice of weaponry in America not only for military and law enforcement, but is also the top dog amongst the civilian population looking for a tactical rifle.

Now, I could go on a long diatribe about how amazing and wonderful the AR 15 is compared to all the other options out there, but that would be a waste of good article space. And when it comes to choice in rifle, a great deal of it depends on personal choice. An AR might be the right rifle for me, but the next guy may prefer the AK, or the FAL, or even a Mini 14. And you know something, that’s perfectly OK. The deciding factors on purchasing a defense rifle many times are cost, availability, and personal choice. And many of the other options to the AR will be covered here in time. We’ll focus on the AR today, without getting into the rivalries amongst many of the gun snob fan boys.

Eugene Stoner developed the AR in 1957 while working for Armalite Corp., it was an updated version of the company’s 7.62mm AR-10. Armalite started having some money issues, and in 1959 they sold the design the Colt . Colt saw the design for its possibilities and began to work on marketing it to the US military. Surprisingly, the first AR rifles to be fielded to a military force were not to the US army, but to Malaysia. Eventually the US Army picked up the AR and gave it the military designation M-16.

Early on, there were complaints about the operation and function of the rifle, but in time these issues have been improved and overcome. The rifle’s DGI (direct gas impingement) has been one of the issues of contention amongst gun enthusiasts for many years. In the DGI operation system, Gas is trapped from the barrel as the bullet moves past a gas port located above the rifle's front sight base. The gas rushes into the port and down a gas tube, located above the barrel, which runs from the front sight base into the AR’s upper receiver. Here, the gas tube protrudes into a “gas key” which accepts the gas and funnels it into the bolt carrier. The bolt carrier cycles back into the buffer tube of the stock, and the process begins again. The main complaint about this is the rifle “poops where it eats”, sending carbon and gas residue back into the receiver. If you properly clean your rifle and maintain it, this is not going to be an issue. I know, I can hear the AK purists saying “Well, an AK doesn’t have to be cleaned like that! Maybe you should dump the AR and get a man’s rifle!” I’m not even going to address that kind of nonsense. You want something that will smash through a wall, quick and brutal, you use a sledgehammer, you want something that will cut smooth and precise you use a razor. That is the difference.

A basic, no-frills carbine. No bells, or whistles, just good old fashioned American design

Notice the standard "bird cage" style flash hider. Standard front sight base, and no optics other than irons. While I do have an Aimpoint CompM4 as well as the Bushnell TRS-25 micro red dot, this particular rifle runs light and simple. Sporting a somewhat rare Mag-Pul EMag, smooth side 30 rounder, originally made for export.

Considering the modular capability of the AR, it has personally become my first choice of rifle. I chose to “roll my own”, in other words, I built my rifle from components rather than purchase one complete. That is not something I would recommend to everyone, but it was right for me. I built mine on a CMMG lower receiver, with a Mag-Pul CTR adjustable stock, Hogue rubberized pistol grip, and a Knight’s Armament quad rail forend on a Del-Ton 16 inch 1:9 twist barrel. It is a basic no-frills rifle, built from good quality parts. The nice part about an AR, is that uppers can be switched in and out without much issue, and this allows for alternatives in calibers in many cases. As referenced in my very first blog post, I purchased one of CMMGs dedicated .22LR uppers which I can swap out, and shoot cheaply, while keeping in practice the battery of arms of the main rifle. I prefer an AR which is chambered properly for both .223 Remington as well as the higher pressure 5.56 NATO, it gives you the options of ammo.

In my personal opinion (take it for what it’s worth) is that the AR in a defensive role in the civilian population is definitely worth consideration. Perhaps in an urban environment, this might not be an optimal choice, due to close proximity of homes to one another, as well as legal factors, but in a rural, farm or ranch environment, it is darn near perfect. Yeah, I’ll go with perfect on that. .223/5.56 NATO is an excellent round for use against predators, such as coyote, as well as 2 legged predators which might see fit to relieve you of some of your personal goods. The .223/5.56 round is very accurate with quality ammunition and with a good optic you can reach out several hundred yards and drop a target. Availability of parts and accessories make it a prime choice as well, with multiple companies carrying spare components. Magazines are plentiful (check your local laws for any restrictions on Mag capacity), and at the moment of my writing this, the ammo itself has dropped back down to a somewhat affordable price.

When shopping for an AR, remember to do your homework. Research the various companies, their track records, history of problems if any, etc. You can get a decent no frills AR-15 in the $750-$900 range if you buy it outright. I built the last one for around $625.

Take everything I say with a grain of salt. I’m just a guy shootin’ the breeze about things he loves. I am no expert. But I know a good thing when I see it.


  1. Great article. My thoughts are nearly identical on the AR. Well Done!


  2. One day I will talk about the rivalry between the AR and AK gun owners, but I've had enough dealings with kindergarten nonsense for one weekend. :)