The AR15 is a great gun. It has the versatility of a semi automatic weapon, with a simplistic design that makes it easy to modify and maintain. With a long standing history in military service as well as its evolution in the civilian market, there is a lot of information out there on the AR-15.
As one of America’s most popular and most controversial firearms, the AR-15 continues to push the limits of modern gun ownership, providing an affordable avenue for many people to begin and evolve their knowledge of guns. The platform has many different things going on with it in the aftermarket, most of which people can make use of without breaking the bank or the law. The AR-15 has been under intense scrutiny, but has made its name as one of the main poster boys for the preservation of the second amendment both in politics and in our daily lives as Americans.
What does the AR in AR-15 stand for?
This is one of the biggest misconceptions that is still apparent to this day. The term AR is one that many self proclaimed gun gurus think they have down pat, with a fictional history dating all the way back to the first call of duty games. Where some people think that the term AR stands for Assault rifle or Automatic rifle, it just goes to show how little people really know about the platform they see fit to ban under any circumstance.
The term AR in AR-15 stands for Armalite, and while the AR-15 is an automatic rifle, it does not have anything to do with the nature of its action. In fact, Armalite is the company from which the AR-15s first iterations were designed and engineered. The AR-15 is the 15th rifle model made by Armalite. The rifle carbine itself has gone through many different owners, being manufactured by the military in the M4 and the classic M-16, however none of these are comparable to the AR-15 as the AR-15 is a semi automatic firearm designed for civilian use.
While the platform of the AR-15 looks very similar to those used in the military, there is no legal way for a civilian to own and operate a fully automatic firearm without a manufacturer’s license. The general public does not have access to own this type of firearm.
The AR-15 vs the M-16?
The M-16 was developed by Colt during the Vietnam war as a replacement of the very heavy M-14, the successor to the M1 Garand which did not perform well as its cartridge, the .30-06 was just too heavy for sustained fire in a fully automatic platform. It did not lend itself well to a jungle setting, and while the power of the bullet could usually keep the action from seizing, It was time for a technical downgrade to meet the needs of a struggling American infantry.
The Colt M-16 promised a lot for a completely metal and polymer platform, as it was said to be a self cleaning rifle. That wasn’t the case, and many soldiers actually lost their lives due to action seizures until cleaning kits became a standard issue.
The AR-15 is actually the predecessor of the M-16 as Colt bought the rights to the firearm from Armalite, and ran with it for some time after releasing the design to the public, in which case the AR platform boomed in the civilian market until it was banned in the same Assault rifle ban that made the notorious AK-47 illegal. And just if you were wondering, this is precisely the reason that the SKS became such a popular rifle in that time. It wasn’t until 2004 when the ban was lifted that the public could get back into the AR-15 platform, and the public still has not been able to get enough of them.
The history of the AR-15
Armalite first developed the AR-15 in the 1950s pursuing a military contract for the new standard issue of the US armed forces, however, failed in the pursuit. Its creator, Eugene Stoner, along with Armalite sold the rights to the model to Colt in 1959 from which point, Colt seized the opportunity to tweak the design in order to receive that contract. And in 1963, Colt won the contract to produce the new standard issue rifle for the armed forces, succeeding the M1 Garand infantry variants and the 1903. This implement was known as the Colt M-16 automatic rifle.
Shortly after the military contract success, Colt ramped up production on law enforcement models in the first iterations of the Colt LE models, as well as the Colt SP(Sporter) series for the civilian market. These were made semi automatic however, while the military variant remained fully automatic.
And in the 1970s, Colt’s patent on the platform expired, pushing many manufacturers, like DPMS, to create their own versions of the acclaimed civilian rifle. Thus, the modern AR-15 was born. Even Armalite took to recreating the AR-15, however without Stoner’s input on the model. The AR-15 as Stoner envisioned it would never really gain popularity until the late 2010s.
The history of the AR-15 after the 1970s was still a bit rocky as the Raegan ban in 1984 saw the first major push back by the US government against the AR-15. The civilian market was barren on these rifles, however, the law enforcement models were still in use, and therefore have garnered a large community with demand only for these specific models.
The Clinton Ban in 1994 saw another push back by the US government as well. And in 2004, at the end of the ban, the platform came back to the civilian market in force. Demand for the AR-15 skyrocketed overnight into what many thought would be a complete overhaul of the civilian gun market. And in many ways it was. However, the ATF came out with many letters of the course of the next two decades to limit the sale and modification of the AR-15.
2004 and 2005 gave birth to the modern internet as we know it today, so one of the biggest reasons for the success of the AR-15 in the market was largely due to the fact that people could now buy them online instead of over the phone or at a gun store. It became easier for even private sellers to build their own ARs and sell them privately with different customizations and finishes. And now we have much of the same going on today.
What caliber is the AR-15?
The caliber of the AR-15 is standardly the .223 remington or the 5.56, however the AR-15 can be chambered in many different calibers, including these in the list below. The thing is, the AR-15 is not a standalone rifle, but a platform that can be modified to fit almost any caliber out there. Because the platform is for all intents and purposes, open source, any modification on the AR platform, so long as it is legal, is permissible. That means that virtually any caliber can be shot out of an AR style rifle.
How fast can an AR-15 shoot?
The AR-15 is a gas operated semi automatic system. It relies on the pull of the trigger in order to fire. One pull of the trigger means one shot fired. In this system, the AR-15 can shoot as fast as the shooter can pull the trigger.
How long is an AR-15 rifle?
The AR-15 is a standard carbine length rifle, but now many people know what that means. Carbines are typically viewed as rifle length guns that are slightly shorter in length than a full length rifle. A barrel on a full length rifle will usually be from 24 inches to 35 inches.
Full length is a term used primarily for older battle implements and hunting rifles that rely on long barrel lengths to burn up a lot of a gun powder quickly while also having a lot more torque due to a longer rifled bore. The AR-15 has a standard length of 16” which is just at the cusp of what is legal for any rifle pursuant to the law installed by the National Firearms Act, which set legal doctrine for the classification of all firearms recognized by the Federal Government.
So the question is not really how long it can be, but how long it can’t be. Anything under a barrel length of 16” and an overall length of under 24 inches is either considered a pistol given that it falls into the criteria for what the government deems a pistol or Any Other Weapon(AOW) the classification for any firearm that does not fall in the criteria of either a rifle or a pistol.
AR-15s parts list.
The AR-15 has the same internals no matter where its coming from. In fact, it is this system which has sprung the designs of a few different models, however all AR-15s that are mil spec will use the same parts, give or take the forward assist and dust cover, as they are the most disposable parts on the AR platform.
The AR-15 is set up into a series of components that all work together to make the gun function and improve handling. The design is very simply done and the components are very easy to take down and maintain.
The two main components of the AR-15 are the Upper assembly and the lower assembly. Because the receiver of the AR-15 is split into two parts, this makes it easier to see really whats going on. The core functions of the gun are then split into these two components by a set of sub components that all play their part in the function of the AR-15
The Upper Assembly:
The Upper assembly holds the gas system, which is responsible for sending a portion of the expanding gasses from the fired cartridge back to the bolt, cycling the action and chambering a new round to be fired. The bolt and charging handle are held here. The barrel is also housed here and the barrel is connected to the gas block, connected to the gas tube, which transports the gas to the gas key connected to the bolt carrier.
Parts of the Upper Assembly of an AR-15:
The Lower Assembly:
The lower contains most of the functions of the AR-15. It is also the only part of the AR-15 that is legally considered a firearm. That is because it contains the fire control group.
The fire control group is responsible for firing the gun, and contains the trigger, hammer, safety selector, mag release and bolt catch.
On the other part of the lower, the buffer system is relied upon to provide the necessary spring force to the bolt in order to chamber another round. When the cartridge is fed from the magazine in the magazine well, also on the lower receiver, the projectile is pushed forward by the expanding gasses, a portion of which are sent back to the bolt, sending it back into the buffer tube, where the spring will reduce the recoil as well as provide the force to chamber the second round.
While the bolt is on its way back into the buffer tube, the bolt carrier also pushes the hammer back to the cocked position readying the trigger for its next pull. The safety stops the trigger from being pulled when engaged and does not provide what is known as a dead trigger. A dead trigger allows the trigger to be pulled with no effect. In an AR-15 however, the trigger is stopped from moving at all. The lower of the AR-15 controls these vital components of the AR-15s function. The takedown pins are also housed on the lower receiver, which are responsible for connecting and securing the upper to the lower. The AR-15 is broken down from these pins, which is why many people suggest that it is one of the easiest guns to field strip.
Parts of the Lower Assembly of an AR-15:
- Buffer spring
- Magazine release
- Bolt catch
- Safety selector
- Takedown pins
How much is an AR-15?
The AR-15 has a varying price range. That is because you can essentially buy one or build one. These are the two main factors that guide the price you may end up paying. Typically if you are looking to spend the bare minimum on an AR-15, then building one will be the cheapest option for you. Buying one outright can be cheaper, although it happens less because the brand name affects the price more. The average price for an AR-15 is around $500. That is a fair price for a decent quality AR-15. Now this price is subject to change based on a variety of key factors.
If you have never built an AR-15, it is not a hard world to get into as the AR-15 platform is pretty easy to get the hang of. However, there is an upfront cost for the necessary tools to build one. While you could essentially build an AR-15 with an 80% lower using a hand drill, it is not recommended as the margin of error is severely high compared to the more effective methods. This involves the use of a jig or a router, and in more extreme cases, a CNC machine which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Using a jig is almost required in every build process that doesn’t utilize a CNC machine and CAD program and they are not very expensive. A necessary expense however for a consistently built AR-15.
Polymer AR-15s are very cheap, and can run you anywhere from $250 to $300 for a complete build, however polymer technology is not yet advanced enough to produce the same results as aluminum counterparts. The longevity of the polymer AR-15s is nothing compared to that of the aluminum AR-15s
When shopping for an AR-15 consider these factors to help you create a good budget around your build.
- Are you building or buying?
- What accessories do you want?
- How much are you willing to spend on accessories
- Do you want custom internals?
- Will your build be 80% machined?
- Do I have the necessary tools to build?
- Am I buying from a reputable company?
- Is this AR-15 reliable?
- What are the specs of this AR-15?
Can you legally build an AR-15?
Chances are, if you are a gun owner, you support the second amendment whole-heartedly. Maybe you have more liberal beliefs, or maybe you have more conservative beliefs (yes we can all exist together), but the fact remains that owning a gun is constitutional. Therefore building AR-15s from the ground up with 80% lowers is one of the best ways to express your second amendment rights.
No background checks, no extra fees, which generally makes building a cheaper option. There is definitely a cost that is involved with building, and that comes from the tools you may need. Despite what you have read, it stands that using a hand drill and a jig kit is still not the easiest way to build an AR-15 and if you’re looking to get your builds right every time, it will cost you a bit extra in the production phase.
You can customize your builds a lot more when you build parts, However, when you buy parts, you are more likely to get a reliable product with a warranty attached to it. Building and buying both allow you to express your second amendment rights, but building ensures that it is done without the unconstitutional hassle that comes with buying a firearm these days.
Firearms are bought and built with a purpose. Maybe you need something completely specialized for you, or maybe you need something for home defense that you know you can get a lot of reliability out of. Whether you buy or build should accurately reflect the purpose for which you build or buy. Or maybe you just want your rifle now.
The Different Types of ARs
The ARplatform is heavily modular. However it cannot do everything without a little bit of tweaking. There are two other variants to the platform known as the AR-9 and the AR10. The AR-9 is designed as a blowback operated system capable of shooting virtually any pistol caliber. It mimics the action of most handguns to achieve this result. It does so with deadly accuracy as its larger build keeps recoil down and accuracy up compared to the guns these calibers were initially made for. The 9mm cartridge is the standard round for the AR-9, but calibers like .45acp are also able to be shot out of the AR-9s bore.
The AR-10’s standard cartridge is the .308 winchester. It is a bulkier built AR-15, containing all of the same components as the AR-15, but being able to shoot larger calibers. The main reason for the variants is that the cartridge for the .308 is too long for the AR-15. Not only is the receiver too small for the .308, its aluminum frame is not strong enough to withstand prolonged firing of the heavy grained cartridge. The AR-10 opens up the AR platform to be able to shoot large calibers with devastating efficiency. AR-10s are typically not carbine length rifles, with the standard length for the AR-10 barrel being 20 inches. These are great for hunting which we will get into in the next section.
Is the AR-15 good for hunting?
The AR-15 shoots the 5.56 nato as a standard cartrige which is the NATO variant of the .223 remington cartridge, the cartridge the AR-15 was based off of in the first place, with a little more powder in it for speed. The .223 remington is a common hunting caliber made for many kinds of small game, but is also known to be quite effective with smaller deer.
The AR-10 is a more suitable hunting rifle, as it is full length without any modification and is semi automatic. The magazine does not have a standard capacity so purchasing a magazine with 5-10 rounds is not hard, making it very suitable for hunting. The AR-10 is able to shoot large calibers perfect for hunting large game.
Is the AR-15 an assault weapon?
The AR-15 is a civilian rifle and not an assault weapon. Unfortunately, controversy has begotten the platform, where many have taken to calling the AR-15 an assault rifle, despite the term not being legal definable or having the qualities necessary to be an “assault weapon” per the sources the term comes from. Videogames coined the term assault rifle, or any rifle in that category which is fully automatic. However, as we have already discussed, the AR-15 is a semi automatic rifle.
Where to buy an AR-15?
There are a myriad of places to buy an AR-15. That is because over the years the demand for the gun has been massive, and with advancements to online technology and production of different aftermarket parts for the AR, there accessibility of the AR-15 to the general public seemingly has no limit.
Online is the best place to get an AR-15 as online gun stores are accessible with simply a few clicks. From the internet, you can define your search for exactly the kind of AR-15 you want, setting up criteria for the finish, caliber, and style of the AR-15 you want. It is important to note that buying an AR-15 online will likely incur a transfer fee, as complete firearms must be sent to an FFL dealer in order to be picked up. From that point, a background check will also ensue.
This can usually be more time consuming, however, these steps are completely waived when purchasing an 80% lower build kit, as the 80% lower receiver is not legally considered a firearm. 80% lower AR-15 build kits can be sent directly to your house to be built at that time or at a later date. There are no real extra fees tacked onto 80% lowers, however 80% lowers are not legal in all states.
Here are the States where 80% lowers are illegal.
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- Washington DC
Walk-in Gun stores also have ARs, however they will likely only carry those of brand names, as the market value of branded AR-15s is not as volatile as the market value of custom AR-15s even if they are made with branded parts. That is something to consider when buying one, but if you are still considering where to buy an AR-15 look no farther than Steel Fox Firearms, home of the highest quality, most affordable AR-15s on the market.