Everything I Need to Know about AR-15s, I Learned from Fanboys
At one point, I considered building an AR-15 of some sort. The platform seemed ubiquitous and I'd heard that assembling them was easy. Also, what little I knew of the rifle seemed to indicate that the design had some really cool features. However, I knew next to nothing of the rifle's features, functionality, and performance. When you add the vast array of parts and configurations possible for the platform (to say nothing of the variety of manufacturers), learning about AR-15s seemed a daunting task.
Searching the internet helped, but the information it turned up was disappointingly nuanced. Whether the subject was parts, manufacturers, or AR-15s as a rifle, articles tended to be balanced and objective. It created an impression of AR-15s as unique rifles with their own sets of pros and cons: better for some purposes and users than others.
But before false objectivity's seductive song could lead me astray, I learned that everything I thought true was hopelessly wrong. My unexpected saviors swooped out of internet forums and gushing reviews, burning with the manic righteousness of the truly enlightened. They were eager to share their knowledge and advocacy of the AR platform with all who would listen--even those who never asked their advice. Theirs was not the muddlesome weighing of pros and cons; they acknowledged no cons. Neither did they negligently allow the uninformed to believe that one choice was as good as another: Their choices were the correct choices, and anything else was wrong. These were the AR-15 fanboys, and I was fortunate indeed to benefit from their simple, unambiguous wealth of knowledge.
The first thing they taught me is that evaluating the AR-15 in the context of any other rifle not only leads one to incorrect conclusions, but is also retarded, idiotic, and stupid. As the only rifle worth considering, the AR is the basis by which all others firearms are evaluated. This can often be counterintuitive. For instance, you might think that someone who says AR-15s are very accurate by the standards of semi-automatic rifles is expressing admiration; however, these are actually the words of someone who hates ARs. This hypothetical hater is comparing ARs to other semi-autos, not the other way around. Correct opinion rightly recognizes that AR-15s are not very accurate, but acceptably accurate; all other rifles are therefore inaccurate. Similarly, AR-15s aren't light; other rifles are heavy. This is how someone with an AR whose 20" stainless bull barrel and heavy-duty free-float tube take the rifle to over ten pounds can, with a straight face, disparage other rifles for their ungainly mass.
This shouldn't be confused with the phenomenon whereby a carbine laden with so many attachments that it weighs as much as an M14 cannot be called heavy. In this case, the rifle underneath the flashlight, optic, flip-away magnifier, free-float tube, back-up iron sights, vertical foregrip, bipod, infrared laser, ballistic computer, and spare batteries is not heavy; therefore, the net weight with all the additions isn't heavy because it would weigh far more if all those attachments were on a heavier rifle.
On this subject, it should be mentioned that the ability to attach tactical attachments to AR-15s is one of the things that make them good rifles. Previously, I'd labored under the misapprehension that rifle quality had more to do with what went on inside the rifle, and that the ability to play Barbie dress-up with one's gun for those high-intensity tactical trips to the range was a minor consideration. Now, though, I understand that attachments are every bit as important as the gun; without them, one runs the very real risk of not looking nearly so cool when he glowers into the mirror while dressed in his tactical vest and balaclava.
Well before I met the fanboys, I knew that reports of unreliability in AR-pattern rifles were largely due to teething problems in the early design--problems which were later rectified. What I didn't know, however, was that anybody who worries about AR-15 reliability not only hates AR-15s, but is also an idiot. Modern AR-15s are supremely reliable, and any fanboy will gladly tell you about how his rifle has gone 4,000 rounds without cleaning or lubrication without a single malfunction. In the laughably remote chance that your particular AR happens to jam, it's probably because you haven't cleaned it recently or lubed it correctly. Another possibility is a bad magazine, which is a magazine that is in the AR when it jams and is therefore the reason this incredibly reliable firearm failed. Proper magazine choice is paramount; consult your local fanboys to learn which magazine brand is currently the one which solve all jamming problems forever.
AR fanboys also taught me that being able to justify your stance based on principles that can be explained and defended logically is not necessary when one can simply make an appeal to authority. This is especially useful when discussing the AR-15 platform, because it's used by every single military force that matters. (A military force that matters is one using M4s or M16s.) US special forces members can choose any firearm they like, and they consistenly select the M4; this indicates the inherent superiority of the rifle and has nothing to do with the fact that the SF personnel in question were trained on and spent their conventional military careers using M16s or M4s. But you don't have to be SF in order to appreciate ARs: Just look at the M4's approval rating, which falls somewhere between 80% and 90%. The fact that this matches up rather neatly with the percentage of people in the military who have no prior semi-auto rifle experience is entirely coincidental, the fanboys assured me.
Or, if more authority is needed, you can simply look at how long the M16 has been used by the military. AR fanboys are proud to espouse the rifle's long service as evidence of its clear superiority. When I followed this to its logical conclusion and expressed admiration for the AK-47's sixty years of constant use worldwide, the explosion of corrective rage quickly set me straight: AKs are only widely used because they're cheap, plentiful, and easy to use, but ARs are used because of their established logistical supply-chain, strategic materiel reserves, and fitness for existing T&OE models. Besides, AKs have had to go through several revisions over time, unlike the M16A4.
Speaking of AKs, I used to think they were pretty cool until AR fanboys set me straight. The inevitable comparisons between AKs and ARs tend to give AKs the nod for reliability under adverse conditions, when dirty, and when using questionable ammunition, but they're really no more reliable than an AR that is cleaned rigorously, fed good ammo, and uses good magazines and mil-spec parts. With equal reliability, the balance is clearly tipped in favor of ARs by the AK's legendary inaccuracy. As the AR fanboys explained, an AK carbine will be lucky to place all its shots within 5 MOA, while bull-barrelled, free-floated, rifle-length ARs regularly turn in sub-MOA performance.
Furthermore, AK ergonomics are atrocious, making them unsuitable to be "run" as a "fighting rifle." For one thing, the AK's safety is in a different place than it is on an AR, they don't have a bolt release like an AR, and the magazine goes in differently than an AR. Proof of AK inferiority is demonstrated at carbine matches, where people shooting $1,600 AR-15s with $1,000 optics regularly score 25% higher than the people using $300 AKs.
The AR's acceptable ergonomics are of vital importance to both tactical operators and people who want to be tactical operators. One great feature is the charging handle, which is ambidextrous and allows both left- and right-handed people to break their cheekweld when chambering a round. There's also the safety, which can be disengaged silently with the finger on the trigger--perfect for those occasions when you've snuck up on a tango with your rifle on safe. Very fast magazine changes are another great feature on a rifle with such superb long-range accuracy, and just one of the ergonomic advantages that makes the AR excel in CQB tactics designed around the AR platform.
Another rifle AR fanboys really hate is the Mini-14, a gun that has the temerity to be a semi-automatic carbine in .223. I'd always been under the impression that the Mini-14 was basically an M1 Carbine in .223 and therefore intended for a different role than an AR--but that's just the kind of thinking one might expect from someone who hates AR-15s so much that he even considers the possibility they are not the only choice for every possible role to which a longarm may be put. The Mini-14 is especially bad, though, because it retails for around $600. For that amount of money plus $200, you could get an entry-level AR-15. Of course, none of the AR-15 fanboys recommending this course of action would even consider owning such an AR-15 and will snarkily remind you of this. But it's still an AR-15 (even if only technically so), which means you at least are in a position to be envious of their superior ARs and boot-lickingly grateful for their condescending and abusive advice. Mini-14 owners, though, are already living in the special kind of torment that comes from owning guns that aren't seen in pictures of soldiers in Iraq.
Of all the things I learned from AR-15 fanboys, the most important lesson was this: If you don't prefer AR-15s, you're an old fuddy-duddy who has reached this opinion solely based on his archaic prejudices and aesthetic predilections. AR fanboys, though, prefer their rifles despite their ubiquity in action movies and real life. Fanboy predilection for the AR has zero aesthetic component, as evidenced by the fact that none will ever comment positively on the appearance of an AR, let alone notice or care about color mismatches on plastic parts.
Despite all that the AR-15 fanboys have taught me, I'm still just a neophyte and still plagued with episodes of backsliding into heretical thought. I still catch myself thinking of the AR as a firearms option instead of the only realistic choice for any use whatsoever. Other times, I'll find myself having a positive opinion about an AR that doesn't have a single Magpul, LaRue, or Noveske part in it. Such is the folly of one who doesn't own anything made under these brands. Once, I even thought that a part specification not used by the military might be better suited for a wider range of applications!
It's humiliating to divulge these weaknesses, but worth it if it helps bring a single deluded soul to the truth and light of AR fanboyism. Fortunately, we can always count on the fanboys to identify any instance where our thinking deviates from theirs and remind us that we are not only wrong to disagree, but bad people as well.
Last edited by Fang; 02-18-2009 at 04:30 PM.
As I move into my own stage of rifle building with the AR, I have to say that despite the hilarity of this article....its spot on. Its so hard to find actual advice on the AR that is not mired down with alludes and alludes of personal experience by those 'in the know'.
I met with a member of a swat team the other day and we were talking about rifles and I mentioned I liked the mini-14. He told me he loved it as well, but for certain situations the AR was a better platform mainly because of the accessories that could be placed on them. The icing on the cake? The ultimate go to gun is the AK, no fuss, no muss, clean it if you want to or leave it caked.
I'll let you know how may plain jane build works out. :)
Thats pretty funny and pretty accurate at the same time. Some of the shooters at my range have these rifles that have every conceivable option on them and have to weight a ton. I think in some cases the vertical fore grip is more for them to evenly distribute the weight of the extra 8 pounds than it is for any tactical sense.
Don't even get me started on The Chart.
Man you're good. Having owned three AR-15s and 0 Mini-14s I find myself awash in shame.
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