Overcoming the Image Problem


I couldn’t help but be a little uneasy as I slid onto the bench rest and hoisted the black rifle to my shoulder.    The sleek, synthetic fore stock was larger than I was used to.  The thin shoulder rest slid backwards to adjust to my 6’5" frame.   The clip extended below my trigger finger. I peered downrange at the target through the duplex reticule of the scope, centered the sites, and squeezed the trigger. 

To my amazement the kick was virtually non-existent.  To be sure, the

Tom Gresham

report had the resonance of a high-powered rifle, but the shot seemed little more than the punch of a .22 rimfire.   I had just pulled the trigger for the first time on the AR-15. 

These rifles have received an ill reputation over the years, much of it a result of complete misunderstandings.  

"It’s cosmetically challenged," said noted gun writer Tom Gresham. "It’s kind of like one of those ‘replicars’, where you have a Volkswagen chassis that looks like a Ferrari.  The AR-15 looks like an M-16, a fully automatic military rifle, but it is not.  It’s semi-automatic and fires one shot each time you pull the trigger."

The guns are often termed "assault rifle" or "military firearms" by mainstream press accounts and gun control advocates.  However, Gresham says that’s a poor description.

"It’s got a little bit of a P-R problem, but only among people who either don’t know or won’t make the effort to find out that this thing works like every other semi-auto, one pull of the trigger, one shot," said Gresham.

Truly, all firearms are based on a military model at some point.  Most bolt action rifles that today are considered hunting firearms are based of the 1903 Springfield or 1898 Mauser design.   Muzzleloaders have roots in the Revolutionary and Civil War arsenals.    Most firearm companies have made their mark creating military weapons and then adapting them to civilian use. 

Today, the "black sheep" image that has hung over the AR-15 is evaporating.

"This is by far the most popular, hottest selling firearm made in the United States," explained Gresham. "There’s a reason for that.  They’re a ton of fun to shoot."

The rifles are also adaptable.   A number of U-S gun makers produce an AR-15 product.  They are chambered in a variety of calibers from the small .22 all the way up to high powered .308 rounds for use in all forms of shooting and hunting.   Remington has even produced a camo version specifically made for hunting.   

Lightweight and low recoil make the AR-15 manageble for anyone to shoot.

The AR-15 platform is also extremely versatile.  The "upper" of the rifle is interchangeable to move through various calibers without changing the entire gun.   A fore rail allows for scope mounts, lights, or a variety of attachments.  

The adjustable butt stock may be the most intriguing feature of the AR-15.  The rifle can be custom fit for the largest man to even a child’s frame in seconds.

"It’s lighter with the adjustable stock and it can go from a full-sized guy, down to a smaller framed woman, and even down to a child size," said Gresham. "Actually it’s a great firearm to get a youngster started shooting.  Short stock, light recoil, and a lot of fun to shoot."

Although looks are a big selling point with the AR-15, don’t be fooled accuracy remains a key.   The rifles are scope friendly and once adjusted shoot reliable groups. 

It’s the fastest selling American made firearm.  Gresham says once people get past what they’ve heard about the AR-15 and give it a chance themselves–they come away with a changed mind.

"I grew up with walnut stocks and I had some reservations, and said ‘I don’t know about that," said Gresham. "Once I shot it, I said, ‘Holy cow I have been such a dummy, look what have I been missing out on.’  Once people try it out, they’re going to like it." 


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