A few weekends ago I went shooting with some extended family members. One of them saw the AR-15s that we had and said she didn’t like them because they looked like machine guns. That got me to thinking about why I enjoy shooting the AR so much, and the genius behind the design of one of the most iconic, and misunderstood, rifles ever designed.
First of all, the AR-15 is not a “machine gun.” That family member had fallen into the narrative trap of “scary black rifle.” A little education goes a long way, so here’s some education.
The AR 15 typically shoots the round pictured on the right (the one with the red tip). On the left is a .308 round that my wife and I use to hunt deer (the blue tipped one). So the AR doesn’t shoot a giant building crusher bullet. I’ll be talking about two rifles in this post that both shoot a .223 round (red tip for those not paying attention.)
One of those rifles your typical bolt action rifle. You can use it to hunt but I would only recommend using it for hunting coyotes, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc.
The other rifle is of course the AR-15 originally designed by Eugene Stoner.
While you can see the differences between those two rifles at the outset, I’m going to talk about why the AR is much more comfortable to shoot, besides things like the pistol grip and adjustable stock. There is much more to it than that.
If you shoot the bolt action rifle it is going to kick when you pull the trigger. When you shoot the AR, it will kick too, but significantly less. Part of the reason for that is because of the action of the AR.
That giant honking spring and plug looking thing are the buffer and the buffer spring. When you pull the trigger on an AR, the bolt and bolt carrier slam into that buffer shoving it back into that spring. On the left of the buffer in the picture above is also a rubber bumper. All of this works like a built in shock absorber to suck up recoil when you shoot the rifle.
There’s that red tipped bullet again, shown to give a size comparison. It’s a little bullet, and a big-assed spring that sucks up much of the recoil.
That’s only part of the genius though. The direction of recoil is also managed in an AR.
The red line above shows the direction of recoil when the rifle is fired. The blue line shows the direction if impact when the rifle is fired. If you notice where the butt of the rifle is, compared to the line of the barrel, you’ll notice that they do not line up. When you fire this rifle the muzzle is going to want to rise up as the rifle pushes back into your shoulder. The AR doesn’t have this issue, due to its design.
The red line above show the direction of recoil when the rifle is fired. The blue line shows the direction of impact when the rifle is fired. You might be asking “What blue line?” That’s the whole point. The AR doesn’t push back and down causing the muzzle to rise after firing, it simply pushes straight back into your shoulder. If the AR is held and shouldered properly, you do not need any type of compensation for muzzle rise.
So there you have it; a little bit of insight into why the AR is one of the most popular rifles in the country, or at least why I enjoy it so much. It’s not because it’s “black and scary looking.” It is because it honestly is very enjoyable to shoot. If anyone of my friends would like to try both rifles and see what the difference is, and why the AR is actually a very well thought out and fun rifle to shoot, I will be more than happy to give them that chance.
It’s not scary, it’s incredibly well designed.