When I first started writing this article I thought I would simply list a few reasons why AR15s are so popular and why so many people, like me, enjoy owning and shooting them. Then I started typing and my wife started proof reading. It didn’t take long before I realized that some readers might not have a clue what I’m writing about unless I lay out some background first.
Over the last several decades there has been a series of attempts to ban semi-automatic rifles. To lend credence to their banning efforts, the media and political elite have engaged in a relentless demonization of the AR15. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the press and politicians often have an agenda where firearms are concerned and often spin things to achieve their goals even when it means spinning the truth right out of the picture. When this happens, as it all too often does, folks can end up with a very inaccurate understanding of the issue at hand. That is certainly the case when it comes to the general public’s “knowledge” of the AR15 rifle.
To help counter the onslaught of propaganda and disinformation, I thought I would take a few moments to explain why AR15s are so popular and why you might like to own one. I promise that I will give you 10 good reasons, but I might throw in some bonus reasons if I think of extra ones along the way. But, before I do, let me take a moment to explain what the AR15 is and what it is not.
The AR15 is NOT a weapon of war. It is not an M16 or an M4. Both the M16 and M4 are military assault rifles that can fire fully automatic like a machine gun. The AR15 may look a lot like it’s military cousins, but it is NOT the same. The AR15 is NOT an assault rifle. The AR15 is a civilian version of a military rifle, no different in that respect than a Springfield 1903 set up for deer hunting; a Lee-Enfield .303 with a sport style stock; a Springfield M1A; a Ruger Mini-14; the civilian Browning BAR; or any other civilian version of a military arm that has been enjoyed by shooters and hunters in the United States for over 100 years. In short: the AR15 does NOT have the same capabilities as the M16 or M4; the AR15 is NOT a weapon of war: the AR15 is NOT used by the military.
Now that I’ve cleared that up, here, in no particular order, are some of the many reasons why the AR15 has become the most popular civilian rifle in the United States.
1) AR15s don’t kick much. Some people prefer a long gun and want one that doesn’t beat them up when they shoot it. For example: my wife has a shotgun, but doesn’t like to shoot it because she’s recoil-sensitive. However, she’d shoot an AR-15 all day long.
2) It’s easy to control and shoot. Handguns are difficult to shoot well. AR15s are extremely easy to shoot accurately and well.
3) It’s light. By comparison, AR15-type rifles are lighter in weight than similar rifles because the main part of the gun, the lower receiver, is made of aluminum and the stock is made of plastic or some other polymer. Some lower receivers are also made of polymer, which makes the gun even lighter. Guns weigh more when loaded than when unloaded, but the AR15 shines here as well. The standard ammunition that is used by most AR15 rifles, .223 Remington, is very compact and light, so even when the gun is fully loaded it is often lighter than other rifles of its ilk.
4) It’s modular. AR15s are the Legos of rifles. They are easily customized to fit an individual shooter’s needs by simply purchasing and attaching various parts, like stocks, grips, sites and so on. No two AR15s are exactly alike simply because the owners tend to customize them.
5) Following along with the modular aspects of the rifle is the ability to have one AR15 “lower” and several different “uppers” that can be combined to assemble different rifles of different calibers and for different uses. AR15s break into two main parts: the “Lower” receiver that houses the trigger and attaches to the buttstock; and the “Upper” receiver that contains the barrel, bolt, sights and so on. The two parts simply snap together by the use of two pins. With the pins in place, the rifle is complete. Pull the pins out and the upper and lower receivers come apart. The lower receiver contains the serial number of the gun and is the part that is officially considered to be the firearm. So, if you purchase an AR15 chambered in .223 Remington for home defense, but later want to have an AR15 chambered in .22 Long Rifle for plinking, all you have to do is buy a new upper receiver chambered in .22 Long Rifle and attach it to the lower receiver you already own. Put the two parts together, push the pins in place and SHAZAM! You now have a .22 Long Rifle AR15 for plinking. How cool is that? There is an amazing selection of upper receivers in a number of popular and useful calibers, so the possibilities are almost endless.
6) It’s familiar. Millions of military service personnel have been trained with the military version of this rifle. When they leave the military, they want a gun that they are familiar with. This is why Springfield made a “sport/hunting” version of the 1903 battle rifle after WWI, and why Browning made a civilian hunting version of the venerable Browning BAR (which stands for Browning Automatic Rifle) after WWII, and why Springfield Armory made a civilian version of the Military M-14 after the Korean War and called it the M1A. For the same reason, Armalite first designed the civilian version of the M16, which they called the AR15, because they knew it would appeal to veterans. By the way, the “AR” in AR15 stands for Armalite. Contrary to media belief it does NOT stand for “Assault Rifle.”
7) It’s great for competitive shooting sports. AR15 style rifles are the standard for many competitive shooting sports, for all of the reasons stated above.
8) It’s accurate. AR15 type rifles can be extremely accurate. I have one I want to set up specifically for coyote hunting. You can’t get very close to a coyote, so the rifle has to be extraordinarily accurate. An AR15 can do that.
9) It’s a great rifle for hunting. Just think about the attributes that I’ve already listed. It’s light, so old guys like me don’t mind lugging the thing all over the place in order to get where the game is. It can be set up to use a host of different calibers depending upon what kind of game you’re hunting. Just swap out the upper receiver to set the rifle up for the specific need. It can fire follow up shots quickly in case you have to take a second shot to put the animal down humanely.
10) It’s fun to shoot. The rifle is just fun.
11) It’s inexpensive to shoot. Since an AR15 chambered in .223 Remington/556mm can shoot surplus military ammunition, the cost to buy it is not as high. As a result, you get to shoot your rifle more without burning a hole through your wallet.
If you want more reasons beyond these eleven, you’ll find them listed in the video I produced as part of this article.
The AR15 is a wonderful civilian rifle that is adored by millions of Americans who use it for the peaceful purposes of hunting, recreational shooting, competition and personal defense. If you don’t have one, I suggest you go shoot one with a friend or at your local gun range. But be warned, shooting one of these wonderful rifles will paste a smile on your face and you’ll probably end up buying one shortly thereafter.