Understanding AR-15 Modern Sporting Rifles


With all the buzz on gun control recently, it’s important to separate fact from fiction. AR-15s are often referred to as assault weapons, when in actuality they are just a modern version of a semi-automatic sporting rifle.

The name AR-15 stands for Armalite model 15. The abbreviation “AR” has nothing to do with the term “Assault Rifle.” True assault rifles, like the M16 and M4 carbine assault rifles, which are currently used by the military, are fully automatic-capable firearms. Ownership of such fully- automatic firearms has been severely restricted for civilians since 1934. Modern sporting rifles―AR- based―are semi-automatic firearms, meaning they shoot one shot per trigger pull. The action of modern sporting rifles is similar to other semi-automatic firearms, including semi-automatic shotguns commonly used for duck hunting, or semi-automatic .22 rifles that are used for introducing kids to guns. Modern sporting rifles simply look different than your grandpa’s gun, but likely function the same way.

The AR platform is becoming more and more common among hunters because of their durability, accuracy and ability to be customized. While the issue of limited caliber choice does currently remain, the days of widespread calibers across the AR platform are near.

One of the misconceptions about the AR-15 lies in the fact that these sporting rifles look like the rifles we see soldiers or law enforcement officers carrying. The trend of transitioning military-style rifles into the modern shooting world has been going on for centuries. As military technology has advanced weaponry, civilian sporting firearms have become more dependable, more accurate and ergonomically correct, therefore, more enticing to hunters interested in quality equipment that helps them make ethical shots.

“Because of my military background, I am most comfortable using an AR as a hunting rifle,” says Kevin Reese, a retired Marine. “The body style is what I’m used to. I do a lot of hog hunting at night, so I appreciate the ability to add a light to the picatinny rail. My AR is just a modern semi-automatic sporting rifle that looks and feels like the rifle I carried as a Marine.”

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The ease of customizing ARs is the greatest appeal of the platform. Not only can you easily add accessories, but you can also switch upper receivers to change the caliber of the rifle. Actually, you can change and customize just about every part of an AR, including the hand guard, trigger, grip, sights, magazine, stock and more. Then once you have customized the necessary parts, you can start adding accessories, like lights, optics and slings.

“The biggest advantage of the AR platform is the modularity of the gun,” said Matt Kinamore, product manager at Battenfeld Technologies. “ARs can be customized for personal preferences, such as color, barrel length, stock/forearm configurations and caliber. You can easily switch uppers (receivers), having one for varmint hunting, one for big-game hunting and another for target shooting while maintaining the exact same fit and feel of your rifle.”

ARs can be overwhelming to newcomers; there are a lot of parts and some fancy terms. Once you have a basic comprehension though, it’s easy to start understanding what goes where and how you can customize that particular part.

Another great appeal of ARs is the ease of cleaning and maintenance. These rifles break down quickly and are easy to put back together. You can remove most of the major parts without tools, and for the parts that do require tools, a number of manufacturers are producing specialty items that make every part of an AR cleaning job a breeze.

Misinformation is being used in an attempt to infringe upon the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Don’t let the appearance of AR platform rifles lead you to believe they are more than what they actually are, which is a modern version of the traditional semi-automatic sporting rifle.