What Does AR in AR-15 Stand For?
Many people know the name, but fewer seem to understand what it means. Despite what you may have seen on the news, social media, or heard in political speeches, AR doesn’t stand for “Assault Rifle,” or even “Automatic Rifle.”
“AR” is simply the designation given to the AR-15 platform by the company that initially developed it; ArmaLite, Inc. Thus, AR-15 for “ArmaLite Rifle, Model 15.”
What’s an “Assault Rifle” or “Assault Weapon”?
Now that we’ve mentioned the phrase “assault rifle,” it’s worth exploring that term as well. In the terminology of military arms, an assault rifle is any long gun capable of burst or automatic fire, chambered in an intermediate cartridge like 5.56/.223 or 7.62×39. This means that an M-16 or M-4 is an “assault rifle,” but an AR-15 may not be contained in that definition.
Despite this, the anti-gun lobby and the media seem determined to use the term inaccurately to villainize, and even advocate for the ban of, many guns that fall under the umbrella of modern sporting arms. Lately, they’ve started to use the term “assault weapon” to push for banning handguns under the same umbrella.
The features that mark what makes something an “assault weapon” change from law to law, state to state, and include such entirely harmless things as pistol grips, muzzle brakes, and folding stocks.
Why are AR-15s so Popular?
The M-16 was made famous by the Vietnam War, so much so that it’s difficult to imagine the U.S. experience in that conflict without also picturing a GI in a green uniform, with a steel-pot helmet, and a black M-16. When Colt’s patent expired in the 1970’s other manufacturers started producing their own versions of the rifle, mostly as some variant of the AR-15, for civilian sale.
The strong connection to U.S. service in Vietnam, the futuristic styling, low recoil, modularity, and ergonomic design led to popularity in every major sector of U.S. gun ownership. The lower receiver of the gun (the “frame” of the AR, which is the lower half that retains the magazine, the grip, and the trigger) is the only part legally considered a firearm by law, so you can buy one lower, and have a dozen or more uppers (the top half, containing the chamber, barrel, and charging handle) of different lengths, calibers, and purposes that you can swap out with the push of two pins, and 10-20 seconds.
Such features, and the enormous variety of aftermarket parts available to customize the platform, have helped make the AR-15 one of the most popular rifles available today, and estimates range between 8-20 million of them legally owned in the U.S. today.
AR-15s can also be (comparatively) affordable. AR-15s generally start at a couple hundred dollars, although quality, options, caliber, modifications, and whether the item is new or used can quickly shift the item’s value.
Will AR-15s Be Banned?
There’s a constant, low-level effort to villainize these popular guns, so it remains a continuing concern. That said, as first-time gun ownership has recently exploded in numbers, so has the sale of this lightweight, ergonomic, and easy-to-use platform. More owners mean more people who aren’t scared by the hype surrounding these firearms, and fewer people who will support a ban. Gun control might seem to have slipped as a legislative priority, but people should still be aware of efforts to ban such items.
While the Second Amendment is never safe from those who oppose it, it’s reasonable to suggest that a ban is not currently in the works.
What’s an AR-15 Good For?
An AR-15 is good for just about anything you could do with a long gun, short of easily taking down big-game animals. Some areas even limit hunting with .223/5.56 because the projectile is relatively small. But if you’re looking for small to medium game, or varmint hunting, long-range sport or recreational shooting, competition events, or simply collecting interesting firearms, the AR-15 has a variant in a caliber that can do it. From .22LR to .50 Beowulf, and from pistol-sized to sniper rifle length, the ArmaLite Rifle series of guns is a multi-purpose jack-of-all-trades, which can do most things, and fit most budgets.
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