Understanding America’s Rifle, the AR-15
The term “modern sporting rifle” was coined to describe today’s very popular semiautomatic rifle designs, including the AR-15 and its offspring. These rifles are used by hunters, competitors, a lot of Americans seeking home-defense guns and by many others who simply enjoy going to the range.
Though modern sporting rifles are increasingly popular, they are too often misunderstood.
The central reason these firearms are misunderstood is political. Though the semiautomatic design used in today’s pistols, rifles and shotguns was invented in the late-nineteenth century and was popularly sold to consumers in America and Europe in the early twentieth century, the modern sporting rifle has been called a “weapon of war” by those who want to ban them.
Though some modern sporting rifles might cosmetically look like fully automatic rifles the military uses, modern sporting rifles by law have many internal differences.
To dispel the myths about modern sporting rifles so that we can have honest and factual discussions about them here are the facts about these rifles.
Modern Sporting Rifle Facts
- Modern sporting rifles are among the most popular firearms being sold today.
- The “AR” in “AR-15” rifle stands for ArmaLite rifle, after the company that developed it in the 1950s. “AR” does NOT stand for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle.”
- AR-15-style rifles are NOT “assault weapons” or “assault rifles.” An assault rifle is fully automatic, a machine gun. Automatic firearms have been severely restricted from civilian ownership since 1934.
- If someone calls an AR-15-style rifle an “assault weapon,” then they’ve been duped by an agenda. The only real way to define what is an “assault weapon” is politically, as in how any given law chooses to define the term—this is why the states that have banned this category of semiautomatic firearms have done so with very different definitions.
- AR-15-style rifles can look like military rifles, such as the M-16, but by law they function like other semiautomatic civilian sporting firearms, as they fire only one round with each pull of the trigger.
- Versions of modern sporting rifles are legal to own in most states, provided the purchaser passes the mandatory FBI background check required for all retail firearm purchasers.
- Since America’s founding, civilian sporting rifles have evolved along with military firearms. The modern sporting rifle simply follows that pattern.
- These rifles’ accuracy, reliability, ruggedness and versatility serve target shooters and hunters well. They are true all-weather firearms.
- Modern sporting rifles are chambered in .22 LR, .223 (5.56 x 45mm), 6.8 SPC, .308, .450 Bushmaster and in many other calibers. Upper receivers for pistol calibers such as 9 mm, .40, and .45 are available. There are even .410 shotgun versions.
- These rifles are used for many different types of hunting, from varmint to big game. And they’re used for target shooting and in competitions.
- AR-15-style rifles are no more powerful than other hunting rifles of the same caliber and in most cases are chambered in calibers less powerful than common big-game hunting cartridges like the .30-06 Springfield and .300 Win. Mag.
- The AR-15 platform is modular. Owners like being able to affix different “uppers” (the barrel and chamber) to the “lower” (the grip, stock).
- They have been commercially sold to the American public since the 1960s.
This article originally appeared at NSSF.org.