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Slate.com 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, uses when it names it’s guns. AR-15 is simply short for ArmaLite 15. Other companies do the same thing. The M&P15 is a semi-auto rifle made by Smith & Wesson in the M&P line of guns. (M&P does not stand for massacre & punish) The G17 is the designation for the Glock 17. (G does not stand for gore) Unfortunately for those in the media who are gun-ignorant, all of those letters that designate gun models are pretty mundane.
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 the least expensive ones I found were $24,999.
Full auto IS fun, but an argument could be made that it’s not very effective at racking up body counts.
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 on a tennis ball sized target at 21 feet, semi-auto, with the right AR/MSR, muzzle break, and vertical foregrip.
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.
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.
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. Don’t take your eyes off of the goal and the reason you’re doing what you’re doing, but also remember to enjoy the journey.
(On that note, if you think all serious training has to make you miserable to be effective, you’re wrong. Enjoying training and practice, even when you’re “embracing the suck” releases neurotransmitters in the brain that help you learn faster. The simple act of firing a live round releases dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin. Enjoyment=faster learning. Being miserable or a false air of seriousness=slower learning. Eventually you need to add stress, but not before you have the fundamentals dialed in.)
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 and controllability of an AR makes it easier to hit man-sized targets at in-house distances in low light conditions.
In addition, it’s generally easier to put a light/laser on an AR/MSR than on a pistol. There are great laser/light options for pistols, but most shooters find them easier to operate on an AR/MSR than on a pistol.
Finally, you can use both a pistol and an AR/MSR as an impact weapon, but the AR/MSR is much easier to control and keep control of if you decide to strike someone with it.
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. Last year at Ironman, I was shooting a $3k JP. A friend of mine was shooting a gun that he built from parts. Mine had problems (JP fixed it and it runs perfectly now) and my friend’s ran like a sewing machine for all 3 days. That was unusual.
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.
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.
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 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 and 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 Avoid Deter Defend Situational Awareness DVD course yet, check it out now by clicking >HERE<