Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Thoughts on the AR-15

One of the most popular rifles in both monthly firearms literature (aka the gun rags) is the AR-15 in any/all of its many permutations. From cal .22 to cal .50, with barrels from 12 to 22 inches, direct gas impingement or gas piston, fixed and telescoping stocks, and all sorts of sight combinations. They even have rails on the forearm on which one can mount just about anything one can think of, sort of like a Swiss Army Knife gone wild and, as you see, you can get a bit crazy.

These rifles are now highly developed. The industry has a lot of experience in manufacturing these guns and users have a lot of experience with the most popular cartridges such as the .223 Rem/5.56mm NATO. There is also a lot of support for add-ons and these guns are nearly perfect choices for those who like to mix and match and build their own custom guns.

It seems that most of the new/younger shooters in the 20-35 year age group see these guns as the norm and only us old fogies prefer the more traditional guns. One sees the high-tech look carry over into the bolt-action rifle market as well with the many offerings of stainless and stocks of various synthetic materials. I think that the AR-15 "craze" has forever changed the firearms market. More than simply changing styles, the high-tech look (so-called military look in some circles) has drawn many new shooters into the sport. They love these guns just as we loved our Springfield bolt actions or Winchester leverguns. New shooters are necessary to the sport and the availability of these guns is bringing them in in droves.

Because of this one can now get these guns in most any shop. This wasn't always true. We saw a vestige of this anti-AR prejudice in the Zumbo incident. Indeed, Mr. Zumbo got zapped pretty much by all those new shooters I previously mentioned. With these guns in every shop, accessories and ammunition can also be found everywhere. Accessiblity helps further improve market penetration and might help prevent an all encompassing ban.

I once owned one of the early, semi-auto only carbines. Mine was early enough that it didn't have the forward assist feature but late enough that it had the later flash suppressor. I still prefer the aluminum collapsable butt-stock that came on this Colt rifle to those plastic copies which seem to be the norm now. Of course mine was not a flat-top and I had the Colt 3X scope that had an integral mount which screwed together to clamp itself on the carry handle. That was a fine gun and because I kept it clean it never needed a forward assist! I used my gun for hunting groundhogs, foxes and other small vermin. It worked a treat whether the load was 40, 55 or even 70 gr. Sierra SMP bulleted. Functioning was never a problem and neither was accuracy despite the warnings I'd had that the carbines weren't as accurate. I liked the gun but sold it at the beginning of the '94 ban to fund my TC Contender interests.

I also used the gun as an M16A1 and M16A2 while in service and never had a lick of trouble from those issued to me so long as they were fairly clean. I did have one that wouldn't cycle issued to me for a MILES controller class but a thorough cleaning fixed that problem right up. In its defense one could use it as a repeater by manually slinging the bolt back for every shot. In fact that is how I survived one whole day in practical exercises using the MILES equipment. I liked the guns well enough.

Do you or I need one of these guns? Well, yes. Of all the firearms out there, these are closest in technical specifications to fulfilling our responsibilities as members of the unorganized militia. They are eminently useful guns for purposes other than those for which the designers intended. However, it is their intrinsic interoperability with military arms (despite their semi-auto only rather than full-auto operation) that is valuable in the militia role. They can use the same ammunition, same magazines (these are no small considerations) and the most likely needed repair parts will be readily available (in my experience it is the extractor spring, forearms and buttstocks that will most likely need replacement).

It is said that the best way to get one relatively inexpensively is to build it yourself. This isn't always possible but if you can do this, or have a friend who can, you can save a significant amount of money. You can, then, spend that money on ammo and gas to go to the range.

For those who can't or prefer not to build their own the very best seem to be the Colts, Bushmasters, Lewis Machine & Tool guns with many others being available.

No comments: