AR-15 – The Facts and the Myths

Yet again, I find myself being pushed into a situation where I personally feel that I should address the elephants in the room. So far, I have seen tons of inaccurate and disingenuous information being spread on both sides of the fence and as I look through everything that I’ve come across, I personally feel that one of the biggest problems here is a lack of knowledge, lack of understanding and/or people being purposely misled.


Now, I consider this an open forum; if you wish to leave comments or questions below, please feel free to do so (I actually encourage it). This post and ‘forum’ is not for a political angle, I will not defame you, bully you, attempt to force you into agreeing with my views, I will not belittle you or anything of that nature for leaving comments or questions; that just not my nature and I believe that is one of the reasons why we are having this breakdown in communication. I will merely provide facts and personal experience here (from my time in the military, from being a law enforcement officer and from being in the private protective services field) and I do apologize if some parts may seem like a history lesson.

What is an Assault Rifle?

Personally, I do not care for this misnomer. Assault is a verb (or an action word) meaning to make a physical attack on someone or something. I understand that Merriam-Webster has it listed as a noun but I don’t rightly understand how ‘assault’ could be a person, place or thing.

As far as the common vernacular, an assault rifle is a select-fire rifle (it features the ability to switch between functions such as semi-automatic, multiple round bursts, and fully automatic), that features an intermediate cartridge and detachable magazine, it is used by military personnel, select military contractors, and select law enforcement personnel.

Select Fire Information

When it comes to a select-fire weapon, the following information must be understood.

 – Semi-Automatic: One and only one round is fired every time the trigger is pulled.

 – Burst: (In the case of three round burst) three rounds are fired every time the trigger is pulled.

 – Fully Automatic: The firearm will fire for the duration that the trigger is depressed and will continue to fire until the trigger is released or the firearm runs out of ammunition.

Where did the term Assault Rifle come from?

I’ve seen where a lot of people attempt to blame modern day liberals for the ‘designation’ or introduction of the term “assault rifle” or “assault weapon” and this is really not true. The term ‘assault rifle’ actually comes from Nazi Germany during World War II with the creation of the Sturmgewehr Model 44. The word sturmgewehr actually translates to “assault rifle” and depending on which book you read, was given the name my Adolf Hitler himself. Whether it was Hitler, Goebbels or someone else within the Nazi party that named the Sturmgewehr 44, the basic naming convention and reasoning was due to propaganda; the Nazis had a habit of giving things names in order to try and instill fear in those who opposed them (i.e. Tiger, Storm Troopers (or Storm Detachment), Lightning War, Assault Rifle, etc.). 

Who can purchase an Assault Rifle?

The real question here should be, ‘who can purchase a fully automatic weapon (or machine gun)?’ and this is an easy question to ask, but a difficult question to answer. Technically, persons (private citizens) who are not disqualified by current laws, could theoretically purchase a fully automatic weapon. Now, since I’ve heard a collective gasp through the computer from the people that think this is absolutely absurd, it’s not even close to being an easy task (not legally, black market sales is a completely different demon that we’ll try to cover later).

Before I cover the disqualifiers and restrictions involved with purchasing a ‘machine gun’, if you believe that I am blowing smoke up your tailpipe on this, feel free to walk into your nearest firearm retailer and tell them that you wish to purchase a machine gun. I’m pretty sure that they will either laugh you out of the store, show you the door or possibly even call the police on you because it is not something that is commonly requested.

There are four big things that must be in place before ownership is even remotely possible.

  1. The purchaser cannot be a ‘prohibited person’.
  2. The firearm in question must have been manufactured prior to 1986.
  3. The purchaser’s state must allow the firearm in question.
  4. The purchaser better have a lot of time to wait and very deep pockets.

“Prohibited Persons”

If you wish to try and apply for a ‘machine gun’, none of the following can apply to you.

  • convicted felon
  • has been convicted of any crime punishable by more than a year in prison (whether or not they were ever sentenced to or served a day in prison)
  • is under indictment for any crime punishable by more than a year in prison
  • is a fugitive
  • is an unlawful user of any controlled substance
  • has been adjudicated as a mental defective
  • has been committed to a mental institution
  • is an illegal alien
  • has a dishonorable discharge from the military
  • has renounced their U.S. citizenship
  • is the subject of a restraining order restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or the child of an intimate partner
  • who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence

Pre-1986 Manufacture Date

You can’t just go down to the local gun shop and request a brand new SCAR-L that the military uses. Any person who wished to obtain a ‘machine gun’ must find one that was manufactured prior to 1986, anything after that date is not permitted. 

State Laws are still in effect

If the state in which you live prohibits the ownership of a particular ‘machine gun’, you won’t be getting it, plain and simple.

Time and Money

We’ll say for the sake of argument that you are not a ‘prohibited person’, you found a person or place that will sell you a pre-1986 automatic firearm and your particular state does not prohibit the ownership, you are still not finished. 

You will have to fill out a BATFE Form 4 application, you will also have to cough up $200 for your tax (to receive a tax stamp for the firearm), have your fingerprints taken, turn over a passport style photo of yourself, shell out the $12,000+ for a 30+ year old firearm (no that is not a typo, I did just write twevle thousand dollars plus) and wait almost a year, if not more to see if the BATFE approves your application (in which they can deny for any reason), then if all of that passes, then you can have your ‘machine gun’.

Doesn’t AR in AR-15 stand for Assault Rifle or Automatic Rifle?

No, the designation AR in AR-15 actually stands for Armalite Rifle, the company that originally designed the platform. 

Why are AR-15s so popular?

This is a ‘to each their own’ answer, but they are popular for many reasons. Some of these reasons are as follows:

  • They are easy to maintain.
  • They are easy to learn how to use.
  • The ammunition is relatively inexpensive when compared to some other rifle calibers
  • The recoil is relatively minimal.
  • They can be tailored to different styles of shooting (i.e. hunting, competition, home defense, etc).
  • They are not outrageously expensive.
  • They are reliable (providing that they are maintained).
  • Familiarity – Many veterans (myself included) go to the AR platform after leaving the military because the form and function are similar to what we are used to.

Aren’t AR-15s extremely powerful?

Not exactly. The projectile that is fired from an AR-15 is only 0.001″ larger in diameter when compared to a .22LR caliber projectile and it has similar recoil (kick). When compared to other rifle calibers (such as the 7.62 x 51mm (or .308 Winchester), the .300 Blackout, the .30-06 Springfield, the 6.8mm Remington, etc) the ballistic performance of the .223 (or 5.56 Nato) round that is fired from the AR-15 is not as powerful. 

Well isn’t the AR-15 more dangerous than a handgun?

In my opinion, that is a yes and no answer. Yes, any carbine or rifle is potentially more ‘dangerous’ than a pistol. The speed of the projectile is faster and the energy is typically higher. However, an AR-15 is harder to conceal when compared to a pistol just because of the size. Moreover, any type of firearm is dangerous even small pocket-sized Derringers.

Why are we always seeing AR-15s used in shootings or in the news?

I can’t give you an answer to this question without speculating. Personally, I feel that this is a combination of things coming together. The news is always going to capitalize on shootings like Parkland, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, and Columbine because of the hard fact that death and destruction sells. It’s the same reason why if you watch the news, out of a 35-minute news broadcast, maybe only 5-8 minutes of total time is ‘positive’ news; the rest is death, drugs, destruction, corruption, and violence…it’s what sells and keeps the ratings up.


If you look at things from a statistical manner, the numbers say the complete opposite of what people have been saying as of late…that AR-15s are the problem.

Statistics

If we look at the 2013 Expanded Homicide Data Table from the FBI for example, there were 12,253 murders in the US and 8,454 were from firearms. Out of the 8,454 firearms that were used to commit murder, only 285 were listed as rifles and 123 were listed as ‘other guns’. Unfortunately, 1,956 of those firearms are a mystery because they do not know what kind of firearm was used. However, we do know that at least 5,782 of the 8,454 murders were at the end of a pistol, not a rifle or an AR-15. 

Common Logic

According to the aforementioned stats, why are pistols predominantly used to commit a crime? It all comes down to common logic within the criminal community. A criminal (or person who is planning on committing a crime) is going to want something that they can easily conceal away from the people around them. Walking down the street with a shotgun or rifle will automatically draw attention from the public; this is something that most criminals do not want. After all, their end goal is to try to get away with their crime, not be sitting in lock-up waiting to go to court.

Doesn’t an AR-15 shoot 700-800 rounds per minute?

No, and I really wish that Representative Alan Grayson would have at least talked to people who actually have experience with firearms before opening his mouth. The number that he decided to throw out there could have come from certain automatic rifle cyclic rating statistics but it is not close to being accurate for a semi-automatic firearm like the AR-15. For example, the cyclic rate of fire rating for an automatic M4 Carbine (military service rifle) is 700-950 rpm (rounds per minute), an AK-47 is 600 rpm, an H&K G3 is 500-600 rpm, and even an FN M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (which is belt fed) is only 800 rpm. The numbers that have been listed above are basically the maximum number of rounds that those weapons could fire if reloading was never a factor, the weapon was in perfect working condition, it was properly lubricated, it was free of dirt and gunk and the barrel didn’t start to deform and distort from the heat generated from rapid fire. 

Well then, how many rounds per minute can someone shoot a firearm (AR-15)?

To be honest, this depends on many factors and there is no easy, concrete number(s). From personal experience around 40-45 rounds per minute for me, which is about the same number as when firing a pistol. Granted, this isn’t a movie or a video game and I don’t just try and spray crap all over the place hoping that you hit your target in the process. If you factor some idiot who is attempting the ‘spray and pray’ method, I’m guessing that the number could theoretically be in the 100-120 rounds per minute range. However, that is not factoring nerves, adrenaline, reloading time, magazine size, firearm control, stoppages, etc; all of which can greatly modify that number, by reducing it. 

Why do you even need an AR-15, you can’t hunt with it…

Says who? I know several people that use the AR platform, chambered in different calibers, to hunt a variety of animals. I’ve seen them used to hunt vermin such as squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, beavers, porcupines, possums, rats, coyotes, wild boars, feral dogs, wolves, badgers and even a snake. Additionally, because an AR platform can be chambered in different calibers, I’ve also seen it used to hunt deer and elk.

But AR-15s are easy to modify…

Well yes, that is part of the reason why they are popular. However, when most people (who are not familiar with firearms) hear this statement, they automatically assume that we are talking about modifying it to be some super gun and that simply isn’t the case. With an AR-15, you have the ability to switch out the grips (furniture), you can add optics (such as a red dot, an ACOG, a telescopic scope) or you can take them off, you can get longer and/or heavier barrels, put a different buttstock on it and you can even change the caliber for some (.223/5.56mm to .22LR conversion for example). However, you can’t attach a chainsaw to the front of it (thanks, CNN), you can’t change out a little pin and make it fire 900 rounds per minute (that concept is much more involved and is also a felony to do so) and you can’t make it shoot around corners. 

An AR-15 is basically what the military uses.

Yes, it is basically a semi-automatic version of our military’s rifles, the M16, and the M4. 

The military went with the AR-15/M16 because it is a killing machine…

 This is a really misleading comment. First off, every weapon ever devised by man can be a killing machine; even the gallows, by definition is a form of killing machine. Aside from the poor wording used here, originally, the military didn’t want the AR-10/AR-15/M16. Many generals within the government wanted to stick with the M14 and did everything they could to prevent the introduction of the AR-15/M16 to the forces within the military; including citing reliability concerns, under-penetration, maintenance requirements and lack of ‘hitting’ or ‘knock down’ power. In the end (and to make a long story short), between the cost savings and weight savings, the military did contract the M16 to be the primary service rifle. There are a couple good documentaries out there, about the M16, that explains all of this in much more detail…including a couple about the designer Eugene Stoner.

We should just ban AR-15s and we wouldn’t have so many mass shootings…

This is nowhere even close to being factual or logical. Banning one style of firearm will not change anything but the delivery of the end result. For a very simple example, if you are out to lunch and no forks are available, chances are that you will improvise by using a different object to get the job done (whether it is a spoon, spork, chopsticks, fingers, whatever). The same problem arises when discussing the concept of mass shooting numbers will fall if a particular style of a firearm is banned. 

Additionally, I also see two very big problems with actually banning the AR-15; one is the dark web and the other is profiteers. The dark web is an extremely deep rabbit hole where, if most people knew what was on it, they would probably lose their minds. Firearms is one of the many different things that are available on that virtual black market. Keep in mind here, none of these are regulated, there are no background checks, there are no fingerprinting or ID checks, it is 100% anonymous and it is available to anyone that can find it and has the money. The other issue (profiteers) would be the influx of illegal weapons brought into the country from South America and abroad. I technically see cartels from Central and South America capitalizing on the gun trade if items were no longer available. My theory is basically the same as Canada and alcohol during prohibition, only now it would be Cartels and weapons.

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