Top 5 AR-15 Myths


Today’s newsletter is sponsored by the Home Defense Rifle AR-15 and Home Defense DVD course.  It’s the only course that dispels the myths of clearing your home, over-penetration with pistols, rifles, and shotguns, and urban legends about home invasions.  In addition, it explains the workings of the AR-15/Modern Sporting Rifle more thoroughly and more clearly than the majority of military and law enforcement classes.  This makes it a PERFECT course to get spouses and children who don’t have your knowledge up to speed.  Learn more by clicking >HERE<. posed the question awhile back, “How many assault weapons are there in America?”  Actually, that’s not what they asked.  They asked, “How many assault rifles are there in America?” but they had to retract it and change the title of their article once they realized that very few gun stores sell “assault rifles.”

They got caught making bold statements about the AR that have little to no basis in fact.  Myths & lies that can influence politicians to make ignorant policy decisions and there are several myths that can cause law abiding shooters like you and me to make poor buying decisions.

So, today, we’re going to expose and bust through 5 of those myths about the AR…including the fact that the majority of the rifles that are called “AR”s aren’t really ARs, how effective they are for home defense, and whether a $500 rifle is just as good as a $2000 rifle.

Myth #1:  AR stands for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle”

“AR” is the designation that the rifle company, ArmaLite Rifle Company, uses when it names it’s guns.  AR-15 is simply short for ArmaLite 15.  Other companies do the same thing.  As an example, the M&P15 is a semi-auto rifle made by Smith & Wesson in the M&P line of guns.

ArmaLite sold the designations “AR-10” and “AR-15” to Colt in 1959, so if you have a gun that looks like an AR-15 that’s not from ArmaLite or Colt, it’s probably not really an AR-15.

Confused?  A parallel example is Kleenex and facial tissue.  Several companies make facial tissue.  People call them all Kleenex, even though Kleenex only refers to one specific brand of facial tissue.

Several firearms industry groups are promoting the use of the term “Modern Sporting Rifle” or MSR instead of AR for guns that look like the AR-15.  It makes sense…MSRs are used a LOT more in the US for competition, play, and hunting than for “assaulting.”  Unfortunately, everyone understands what “AR” refers to but not everyone knows what “MSR” means yet.

Myth #2: ARs/MSRs are “full auto” and extra good at killing compared to all other guns.

ARs/MSRs are semi-automatic…not fully automatic.  Semi-automatic means that you press the trigger once for each shot and fully automatic means that you press the trigger once and multiple rounds are fired.

A couple examples of other guns that shoot as fast as you pull the trigger are Ruger 10/22 .22 caliber rifles and most modern revolvers…including the one your grandma might have kept in her bedside table when you were growing up.  The AR/MSR is hardly unique, special, or extra deadly in this regard.

Most deer hunting rifles that were around 50-100 years ago are more “deadly” than the modern AR/MSR chambered in .223

Full auto M16s ARE legal and relatively simple for civilians to own, but they’re expensive.  A semi-auto AR/MSR will run you $500-$3,000, but full auto M16s are $20k+.  I did a few searches as I was writing this and they’re currently selling in the $20,000-$60,000 range.

Full auto “assault” rifles are designed to a large extent to suppress an enemy so that you can advance on them or maneuver on them and flank them.

Full auto from an M16 or M4 will spit out 10-15 rounds per second and empty a 30 round magazine in 2-3 seconds, but accuracy depends a lot on the individual shooter and how the gun is configured.

I’m no high speed operator and I can put 5 rounds per second (semi-auto) on a tennis ball sized target at 21 feet, semi-auto, with the right AR/MSR, muzzle break, and vertical fore-grip.

In other words, for most shooters, full auto doesn’t give you an advantage.

It won’t help you hit your target and there’s a really good chance that you won’t be able to hit as many targets per magazine.

Bump stocks?  When they were legal, they were simply a toy that helped shooters eat through ammo quicker.  If you actually want to hit what you’re aiming at, semi-auto is the way to go.

Myth #3: Black military rifles and guns that look like black military rifles are designed solely to murder people.


Guns are designed to project kinetic force at a distance.  What you do with them is a reflection of your intent…not the intent of the gun.

Scalpels are designed to be very efficient at cutting through flesh and bodily organs, but they save a LOT of lives in the hands of a skilled operator.  The potential of an item to do harm doesn’t matter nearly as much as the intent of the person using it.  If it did, we’d outlaw swimming pools, automobiles, and cigarettes.

The fact is, regardless of the intent when people buy them, most ARs/MSRs sold in America are actually used for entertainment purposes.  They’re used for plinking, competition, and hunting.

More than that, the vast majority of ARs/MSRs that were purchased in the last few years sit unshot in safes.  They’re owned by people who bought them while they still could, “just in case,” but haven’t gotten around to practicing or sighting them in yet.

Even guns that are BOUGHT primarily for defensive/law enforcement purposes are USED primarily for fun.  And, yes, I’m including serious, high speed training classes as fun…it IS possible to have fun in the moment and enjoy the memories of training for worst-case scenarios.

On the whole murder aspect of this myth…keep in mind that if you go WAY back to the 10 Commandments and look at the Hebrew, the 6th commandment is Lo tirtzach, or “Do not murder.”  It doesn’t say “Do not kill.”  The terms are used interchangeably, but they’re very different.  Murder is selfish.  Killing can be an act of self preservation or can be selfless.  This little mis-translation has caused countless warriors to unnecessarily abandon their faith after coming back from war and has caused many well meaning Christians to unfairly judge those who have fought to protect their freedom.

Myth #4: I think AR’s are bad for home defense because of over penetration.  I don’t want to shoot my neighbors or kids in another part of the house.

Good.  I don’t want you to shoot anyone who’s innocent either.

But let’s dig into this a little…

Ordinary defensive 9mm hollow points can go through 6 layers of sheetrock or 3-4 layers of steel in a car.  There’s a good chance that ANY caliber of defensive pistol or rifle ammo has the ability to go through walls and hurt innocent people.  Hollow points that may expand when they hit soft tissue oftentimes get plugged when they go through sheetrock, don’t expand, and act like a full metal jacket round.

The first and most important rule to minimize innocent people getting hit in a gunfight is to hit your target with every shot.  Don’t stop training when you can hit your target…keep training until you CAN’T MISS.

That is the standard that you should set for yourself.  100% hits and no misses.  There’s a really good chance that reality & Murphy will step in and mess things up, but you want to train so that any misses you have are beyond your control…not because of a lack of training or practice.

There are bullet designs that claim to reduce over penetration on sheetrock, and some do better than others, but regardless of how realistic it is, the best way to minimize the chances of hurting innocent people is to have 100% hits.

One thing that’s surprisingly consistent in penetration/overpenetration testing is that typical defensive handgun rounds penetrate MORE layers of building materials than .223 from a carbine.

So, if all bullets are capable of penetrating through multiple walls, it stands to reason that you might want to use a weapon platform that will give you the highest probability of hitting your threat.  For most people, the increased barrel length, multiple points of contact, and controllability of an AR makes it easier to hit man-sized targets at in-house distances in low light conditions.

Finally, the AR/MSR is much easier to control and keep control of…especially if you’re using a sling.

Myth #5:  All AR’s/MSR’s are created equal.  A $399 gun that I put together or bought on sale will be just as good as a $1500-$3000 gun.

This one’s a can of worms.  In general, cheap guns make good safe queens, but if you want a gun that you can run hard and depend on in life or death situations, you need quality components.

I see a LOT of inexpensive ARs/MSRs crap out in competitions and classes.  If that happens in a real-life situation, the money saved by buying an inexpensive gun goes straight to hospital or funeral bills.

I’ve got a $3,000+ JP that’s a work of art and I run the snot out of it.  It was designed from the ground up to hold MP5 size groups at full auto with 5.56 in an AR platform.  I’ve also got a franken-gun with 3 different camo patterns that cost a fraction of that amount, won’t hold .3″ groups at 100 yards, but it’ll eat any ammo I feed it, no matter how crappy or how out of spec the cases may be.

One thing that I am particular about is buying guns that use US steel for the critical parts.  Chinese steel is more likely to have microscopic bubbles, impurities, and other things that makes it more likely to break at bad times.  This has changed over time, but it’s still a good guideline.

If you just want a gun that you can hang accessories on that looks cool to show your friends, buy cheap.  If you want a gun that you can trust your life to, make sure you get a gun that’s proven reliable.  If you build your own, use quality parts and run the gun until you know you can count on it.  You don’t want to find out on Z-Day +1 that you bought into a false economy.  When people ask me about a cheap AR that I actually recommend, I tell them the S&W M&P15.  There may be others that are cheaper and just as good…I just haven’t toured their manufacturing facilities and don’t have enough time on them to say.

For more serious guns, I’m a big fan of LaRue, Seekins, and JP.

Once you get a reliable gun, then you’ve got to figure out what kind of accuracy you need.  Most people will do well with an AR/MSR that will shoot 2”-3” groups at 100 yards.  If you want sub 1” accuracy, you’re going to pay more for it.  A 2″-3″ gun will work great for deer sized game out to 100 yards and do what 90-95% of shooters need it to do…as long as it’s reliable.

For super accurate ARs/MSRs, I’m partial to LaRue & JP  They regularly put out guns that shoot .5” or smaller groups at 100 yards.

So what’s your favorite myth about the AR?  Any big questions?  Did you completely disagree with any of the points I made?  Let me know by commenting below.

And remember, if you don’t have the Home Defense Rifle DVD course yet, check it out now by clicking >HERE<

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  • Robert Cline

    Reply Reply November 9, 2021

    This was an awesome article. It covered a lot of information on a lot of topics unknown to most people. You people are marvelous!!!

    Bob Cline

  • Alan Henning

    Reply Reply November 9, 2021

    Thanks Ox for the article.
    I put together a Palmetto Armory pistol lower, with a Bear Creek Arsenal 10.5″ upper in .223 Wylde, with a 1:7 twist. I have under $400.00 in it. It eats anything, including my 77 gn. cast and powdercoated “Elvis” bullets. I am totally surprised that it shoots under 1″ groups.

  • Jumpinjarhead

    Reply Reply July 30, 2021

    for those who care about such things as facts more than “wives tales,” “urban legends” and folklore in so much of this thread (and every orgmher similar one I have ever read—sigh), here is a pretty definitive treatment of the Vietnam history of the introduction of the M16 (after the USAF air crew phase):

    I guess it is just human nature to prefer fiction to fact.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply July 30, 2021

      hmmmm…did you read it?

  • David Johnson

    Reply Reply July 30, 2021

    Spot on concerning intent and, “evil guns”. The real weapon in the equation weighs 2.2 pounds and sits between your ears. Everything else is just tools.

  • Chuck

    Reply Reply October 21, 2020

    Re: Your comment about practice not having to be misery.

    When I was in the USMCR we had a major as the I&I. He knew misery the first hand as he had made The March Down From the Reservoir. His favorite saying was, “You don’t have to practice to be miserable. You can be perfectly miserable the very first time.”

  • Morris

    Reply Reply April 21, 2017

    Muzzles with BREAKS are dangerous, Muzzles with Brakes reduce felt recoil and muzzle rise. Which did your rifle have?

    • Ox

      Reply Reply April 24, 2017

      LOL…touche 🙂 Fortunately, everyone who understands the topic has the ability to discern the correct meaning, even if I screw up my spelling on a quite-regular basis.

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