By David Patterson, Director of Training – The Alamo Range
The AR-style rifle is one of the most beloved and yet vilified firearms in history. From its introduction into the civilian market by Colt in 1963 to present day variants, the AR-style rifle has been the nemesis of gun control advocates, while at the same time serving as a symbol of freedom, and self-defense for 2nd amendment supporters and firearms enthusiasts. No one can deny that the AR rifle is one of the most popular, adaptable, and versatile firearms in the world. Acclaimed for its ease of use, maintenance, manageable recoil, light weight, and modular efficiency, it is estimated that over 5 million AR-style rifles are currently owned by Americans. Amid the heated debate surrounding the AR rifle, many myths and misconceptions continue to be perpetrated, usually by people who have little or no firearms knowledge and whose interests are skewed in favor of limiting or even eliminating semi-automatic rifles for civilian use. I’d like to examine few of these misconceptions.
Myth #1 – “The AR15 is an assault weapon and exclusively a weapon of war”
While the AR15 (ArmaLite Rifle 15) was originally invented for military use by ArmaLite in the mid-1950s, the company soon sold the design to Colt due to manufacturing cost issues. Within a few years Colt released a civilian version of the rifle (AR15 Sporter) and subsequently produced many variants to suit the rapidly growing sport shooting market. After Colt’s license expired in 1977, the rifle grew exponentially into popularity as other manufacturers began producing their own versions. Contrary to what some might characterize as the narrow scope of use for the rifle, the AR rifle is probably the most versatile rifle platform in existence. Virtually every aspect of the rifle can be customized to suit the owners needs whether it’s one of the shooting sports like 3-Gun or long-range shooting, home defense, or hunting. In modern times the term “assault rifle” is usually reserved for select-fire weapons (fully automatic). Not all AR-style rifles are select fire nor are they all designed for use in the theater of combat.
Myth #2 – “The AR is a poor choice for home defense”
The AR pattern rifle is probably one of the most effective firearms for home defense. This is true for a variety of reasons:
- It’s lightweight and easily manageable by a person of any size or stature
- The rifle can be customized to suit any individual, situation, or environment
- The 5.56 caliber round is highly effective for self-defense
- The AR platform offers various options in terms of caliber and barrel length
- The AR pattern platform is used extensively in law enforcement in urban and close quarters environments
Myth #3 – “People don’t hunt with AR-style rifles”
Not only are AR-style rifles used for hunting, but some hunters actually prefer using ARs because of their versatility, durability, and features. AR rifles have been a favorite choice as ranch guns for decades and are used extensively for pest control. The semi-automatic feature is useful when hunting pack animals such as feral hogs or coyote where a hunter may want to take several animals before the pack disperses or the need to take follow-up shots.
Hiking or traveling to remote locations is more convenient as many AR variants use collapsible stocks and are very lightweight. Synthetic stocks and polymer construction reduce the possibility of corrosion, rust, and warping. Additionally, the rifle’s internals are encapsulated within the upper and lower receivers, and a dust cover protects the bolt and chamber from the elements. making the AR an excellent choice for hunting in adverse conditions and humid environments. In terms of ballistics, it is true that many states prohibit the use of 5.56/.223 caliber for hunting larger game, however AR pattern variants can be chambered in larger calibers such as .308 and 358 Winchester.
Myth #4 – “The AR15 is the weapon of choice for mass murderers”
While semi-automatic rifles have been involved in several high-profile shootings in the United States, they represent a fraction of the weapons used in homicides each year. According to FBI statistics, rifles were used in 374 homicides in 2016, and only a portion of these were AR pattern rifles. That pales in comparison with handgun homicides in the same year (7,105) and is about a fifth of homicides committed with knives and cutting instruments in 2016.
(Selected stats taken from FBI expanded homicide data table 4 for 2016 (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-4.xls)
- Knives/cutting instruments – 1,604
- Blunt weapons (club, hammer, etc.) – 472
- Hands & feet – 656
- Rifles – 374
Loss of human life is always a tragedy regardless of the cause, however it’s important to put things in perspective. Unfortunately, the media, politicians, and gun control advocates do not always represent the clearest voices, rather the loudest. Gun owners must continue to be vigilant against misinformation and disinformation the media feeds the public about firearms. It is our duty to educate the public as well as defend our rights to ensure that future generations can enjoy the same freedoms we revere.