There is so much misinformation communicated through both ignorance and malice about the AR-15 (Modern Sporting Rifle). It’s time to set the record straight with the truth of the AR-15. Let’s begin with some history.
History of the AR-15
In 1954, Armalite was established as a division of Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation. All rifles were designated AR, short for Armalite Rifle. The AR-1 was one of the first rifles produced at Armalite’s location in Hollywood, CA, and paved the way to the development of the AR-10 and others.
The AR-10 was developed by ArmaLite in response to the military contest for a replacement service rifle for the M14, which was found to be too heavy and bulky and in unreliable in automatic mode leaving troops in Vietnam feeling outgunned by the enemy. The US was looking for a lightweight, low recoil fully automatic firearm that could compete with the AK-47 used by the Vietcong. Armalite answered with the AR-10. which was initially passed over, but the military’s interest in the platform continued, and at their request, the design was modified to shoot a lower recoil 5.56 round.
This was the design adopted by the Army and Marines near the middle of the Vietnam war, and begin being issued as early as 1965. By 1969, M16 became the standard issue service rifle for the Army and Marines.
Prior to adoption by the US Military, the rights to the AR-10 and AR-15 were sold to Colt. In addition to marketing the AR-15 platform to the military as the fully automatic capable, M16, Colt also was marketing the semi-automatic AR-15 version of the rifle to the civilian market beginning in 1963.
Hundreds of Rounds Per Minute?
With rampant media misinformation and confusion, it is very important to know the difference between an Automatic Rifle and a Semi-Automatic rifle. When the trigger is pulled on an automatic rifle, only one round is fired at a time, but the rifle will continue to fire until the trigger is released, even with 3 round burst found on the current M16. Automatic rifles have been severely restricted since the implementation of the National Firearms Act of 1934 required an additional tax to purchase, as well as government approval after an extensive background check and registration. The Firearms Owners Protection Act banned the purchase of any fully automatic weapon manufactured after 1986 by civilians.
Semi-Automatic rifles, however, like the ones available to civilians, fire only one round per each pull of the trigger. Semi-automatic firearms are very prevalent on the market and available to the public. They can be obtained by anyone who may legally purchase a firearm.
The widely available AR-15’s are semi-automatic, not automatic, and the “AR” in AR-15 does not stand for automatic rifle it stands for Armalite Rifle.
The widely available AR-15’s are semi-automatic, not automatic.
But this rifle was designed for the military!
Yes, originally the basis of the AR-15 was designed for use in the military. However, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, NSSF, “Since the 19th century, civilian sporting rifles have evolved from their military predecessors. The modern sporting rifle simply follows that tradition” Guns such as Henry Lever Action rifles, Colt Revolvers, Bolt Action Springfields, and even as old as Flint Lock single fire pistols were originally designed for military use. The MSR is just the most recent evolution to civilian use.
Remember, just because something was originally designed for military action doesn’t make it unfit for civilian use. Look to microwave ovens and M&M candies for proof. Both microwave technology and M&M candies were designed primarily for military use and originally unavailable to the public.
Why would anyone own an MSR?
The Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR) is one of the most popular rifles sold to civilians in the market today and Americans have found practical and safe purposes for their ownership. They are also highly customizable, so every shooter, male or female can easily make their MSR the perfect gun for them.
Target and Recreational Shooting
An MSR has several features making it a great option for the average, everyday recreational shooter. The lightweight nature and low recoil make it a wonderful firearm for women and shooters of a smaller stature. Its operation is simple and uncomplicated, as is its cleaning and take down. The gun itself and ammunition are relatively affordable and available. Parts can be swapped out and added for the shooters comfort and enjoyment and many parts make the gun adjustable to the size of the shooter, ensuring as safer shooting experience. A gun that fits ensures the shooter can effectively and safely handle it. Additionally, they are just plain fun to shoot.
An MSR’s easy operation, high maneuverability, low recoil, and easy customization make it a go-to rifle for many competitors. They can tailor the gun to best suit their stature and needs. They can easily operate their firearm in a safe manner during competition thanks to its ergonomic design and they can trust that their gun will reliably perform. The AR-15 is the predominant rifle featured in several forms of competition such as High Power and 3 Gun.
The semi-automatic nature of the MSR paired with its low recoil allow for quick follow up shots when necessary. The calibers available on MSRs are suitable for harvesting a wide range of game without excessive damage to meat or animal while offering sufficient takedown power help ensure ethical kills. They were designed to perform under the harshest of conditions, so a hunter knows that when they need to take that shot, their gun will fire, regardless of the weather and environmental condition. AR-15 platforms are commonly used for hunting hogs, coyotes, prairie dogs, bobcats, and turkey.
In addition to all of the reasons this gun was great for recreational shooters, competitors, and hunters, the MSR is also an ideal home defense firearm. They are highly accurate, especially at the close distances of in home defensive situations. They are shorter than most standard rifles and shotguns, allowing them to be easily maneuvered inside the home, around corners and other obstacles. The accessory rails allow for easy use and installation of lights or lasers helping to ensure accurate shot placement.
The calibers on a standard MSR are sufficient to stop a threat but offer a recoil low enough to allow rapid follow up shots if the threat is not neutralized after a single shot. The capacity, standard 30 round magazines, provide the homeowner with enough rounds to neutralize multiple intruders, if necessary and account for misses. There are dozens and dozens of stories in which a subject did not stop their attack after being hit by one, two, three or more shots. In fact, stories of personal defense range up to over 100 shots fired. The capacity in a standard MSR allows a homeowner the opportunity to defend themselves with fewer magazines or loose pieces to worry about keeping track of.
Current events have brought MSR’s into a national spotlight, and within this spotlight, misinformation and outright falsities are being spread unchecked to villainize an inanimate object. Here are just a few of the myths I’ve heard recently:
The Push for a Federal Assault Weapon Ban
Because of the horrendous acts of a handful of individuals, a call has been for the implementation of an “Assault Weapons Ban”, which despite also turning into a battle of semantics, essentially is a call for the banning of AR-15’s and similar style rifles. This has already been tried.
Under the previous Assault Weapons ban, which was statistically unable to show either an increase or decrease in violent crime, one of these guns would be illegal, one would not. These are not AR-15’s. But they can both be considered MSR’s. Both are evolutions of a military rifle. Both of these rifles are Springfield M1A’s. These firearms are the same gun model. They have the exact same mechanisms, the exact same caliber, use the same magazines that hold the same number of rounds, and have the exact same rates of fire.
What would make the one on the right illegal is the adjustable stock and flash suppressor, nothing more. Equipment designed to be more ergonomic and comfortable for the shooter so they can adjust their length of pull (how far of a reach to the trigger) and its ability to help diminish the effect of firing on the shooter’s eyes, is what would disqualify this rifle, not a feature that in any way “increases its ability to kill”.
According to FBI statistics, from 2010-2014 (the most recent multi-year statistics available) of 63,061 murders, 1530 were committed with a rifle. These numbers include ALL rifles, not singularly the MSR. This is 2% of all murders.
Perhaps instead of focusing on the banning of tool, used and purchased legally in the overwhelming majority by millions of Americans, we should focus on the root causes and prevention of what drives evil people to do evil things: with and without firearms, the curbing of a society that seems steeped in and in idolation of violence, and the infamous celebrity awarded to those who commit these acts.
The Scary Black Gun
There is a lot of misunderstanding and inaccurate information out there stemming simply from not knowing what the parts on an MSR are for, leading to fear-mongering and the spreading of false information. What makes the AR-15 “more dangerous”? The real answer is nothing.
1. Adjustable stock:
An adjustable stock allows the shooter the adjust the rifle to better fit him or her. They can adjust the length of pull, ensuring they don’t have the trigger either too close or too far for proper trigger and firearm control. This will help their shots to be more accurate and stay on target during their trigger pull. An improperly fit firearm can be dangerous.
2. Pistol Grip:
An MSR’s stock and muzzle are in-line with one another. On most rifles, the stock is set slightly below the muzzle, giving the hand somewhere to grip the rear of the gun. The in-line design of the MSR helps cut down on muzzle rise immediately following a shot, by sending the recoil straight back into the shoulder, instead of creating a pivot point on the lower set stock. This also helps decrease the felt recoil of the MSR, making it easier for a smaller stature or weaker shooter to manage.
Because of this in-line design, there is no stock to the rear of the trigger for the trigger hand to grip without having the pistol grip. The pistol grip is literally required in order to safely make the firearm function. Take a look at the below photo of an MSR with the pistol grip removed. Where else could the dominant hand grip the gun without the pistol grip?
3. Handguard with accessory rails:
The handguard in general protects the shooters hands from the heat created within the barrel during firing. Note on traditional stocks, the wood frame goes forward further along the barrel, to where the support hand would be placed. This is not the case on the MSR, and if you’ve ever fired several rounds through a rifle with a poor handguard, you’ve felt how hot the barrel gets and why a handguard would be important. The accessory rails allow the user to add the necessary optics or accessories they need for this gun to be effective, like scopes for hunting or red dot sights for competition and home defense.
4. Flash Suppressors:
Flash Suppressors help to rapidly cool the gasses leaving the barrel at high temperatures. These gasses can be seen visually as they explosively exit the barrel. The purpose of the flash suppressor is to help cool those gasses at a rapid rate to decrease the visual flash after firing. This is to help protect the shooter’s night vision in lower light situations, such as those a homeowner might encounter during a break in. Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t designed to hide the flash of the rifle from the enemy.
Any effect on reducing visibility to others would be very minor.
5. Forward Grip:
While a forward grip had been in place on sub-machine guns for some time, forward grips didn’t start appearing on AR-15’s until the 1990’s. It was at this time that special forces introduced a SOPMOD kit (accessory kit to make the firearm more effective for their purposes). That added several different accessories to their firearms that cluttered the handguard making it difficult to secure a solid, stable grip. This gave birth to a vertical foregrip. In modern use, the vertical foregrip is often used improperly and actually makes many shooters less effective. When used properly, however, they allow a shooter to have a more stable mount, decreased felt recoil, and enhanced control. To be used properly on uncluttered semi-automatics, the hand is in front of the vertical forward grip, so the hand is touching both the handguard and VFG in a “c-clamp” style grip and the VFG is used as a “platform” to keep the rifle pressed back into the shoulder of the shooter while the grip helps to counteract muzzle rise.
AR-15’s for Women
All of the reasons that make the AR-15 great in general make it great for women too! Our smaller stature, typically shorter arms, and smaller hands can be accommodated by the smaller frame of an AR. The recoil is very manageable, even for beginning shooters. We can manipulate the controls without difficulty. We can maneuver indoors with ease, and because of the light recoil, take quick follow up shots in competition, hunting, and self-defense. Thousands of women across the country choose to own an AR-15. They do so in a safe and law-abiding manner. For many women, the AR is an equalizer, allowing them to defend their home without fear of pain or injury from a larger, bulkier, more unmanageable firearm. Read more: “Benefits of the AR-15 For Female Shooters”
Remember, an object doesn’t cause harm. An MSR, left unattended will never shoot anyone without a human operator. The MSR has become a staple in the American firearms world and for good reason. So, next time you hear the myths, remember what you have just read about the REAL American MSR.
Written by Ashley Suris
Sources and Links:
https://www.ar15.com/content/articles/history/birth.html- no longer available
https://armalite.com/history/1955-1959/- no longer available
http://armedforcesmuseum.com/united-states-m16-assault-rifle/- no longer available