The AR-15 has been sold to civilians in the United States for 50 years. During that time—and especially in the past 20 years—it has become extremely popular. It is the best-selling rifle in the United States, used by men, women, and carefully supervised younger shooters. Why?
AR-15s are known for being accurate rifles. Even in their most basic configurations, off-the-rack ARs are capable of shooting 2 minutes of angle (MOA) or better, without modifications, which translates into 2″ groups at 100 yards. Versions designed for long range shooting easily shoot sub-MOA groups of less than 1″ at 100 yards.
The AR-15 is modular in design, and the multiple-positions of a collapsible stock mean that shooters of every size and shape can quickly adapt the length-of-pull (LOP). For example, at 6’3″, I’ve occasionally found the stock design of some traditional wood-stocked rifles to be a little short. With an AR-15, I can extend the collapsible stock to its full-length and add an extender which makes it perfect for me. I can then turn my rifle over to one of the exceptional teen shooters I know, a 16-year-old, and she merely needs to take a few seconds to shorter the LOP to fit her 5’5″ frame, and she’s ready to shoot.
Like the stock, pistol grips can be adapted to various hand sizes, and for different purposes. Shooters who prefer a more compact stock often tend to like more vertical grips, while others simply prefer to adapt a grip that suits their hand sizes.
The ability to adapt AR-15 furniture such as grips and stocks to different sizes and shapes of people is part of the reason for it’s popularity.
The modular nature of the AR-15 design that lends it to being so easily adjusted for comfort also makes it adaptable for other roles.
Dedicated upper receivers (an “upper” is the modular top-half of the rifle that consists of the barrel, front handguard, operating system, and bolt) can be chambered in different calibers and/or barrel lengths for different kinds of shooting. By pushing out two pins, a shooter can remove one upper receiver (for example, a standard 16″ .223 Remington barrel useful for most general purpose needs), and replace it with another (a dedicated .22LR upper receivers or a .22LR conversion kit allow shooters to target shoot or hunt with inexpensive .22LR rimfire ammunition, a scoped upper receiver with a 24″ 6.5 Grendel barrel for long distance shooting, or a match upper with 20″ 5.56 NATO barrel for service rifle competitions, etc.).
Keeping the same trigger, controls, stock and grip, the user can perform almost any task a rifleman or riflewoman could desire.
The relatively recent adoption of picatinny rails enabled shooters to customize their AR-15s even more, adding, as Wikipedia notes, “tactical lights, laser aiming modules, night vision devices, reflex sights, foregrips, bipods, and bayonets.”
Heavy-duty or lightweight, short distance or long range, air-rifle, rimfire, or centerfire, the AR-15 is the most useful, adaptable rifle in America.
While the accurate, comfortable, and modular nature ensures the AR-15 excels in many roles, like most of the popular firearms in civilian use around the world, it can trace its roots to a military heritage in its cousins, the M16 rifle and M4 carbine.
Important for it’s role as the firearm of the unorganized militia (a real thing, under 10 USC § 311 – Militia: composition and classes that encompasses almost all of us), most civilian AR-15s have many parts, controls, and usage procedures in common with their military cousins. Those AR-15s chambered for 5.56 NATO also share the same ammunition and magazines.
This means that the AR-15 and the 30-round magazines that are standard to it are the modern firearm system that is most useful for militia use, meaning they are the rifle and magazines in “common use” (20-30 round magazines) are clearly protected under the original intent and plain meaning of the Constitution, as well as the Miller (1939), Heller, and MacDonald Supreme Court decisions, and the lower court cases that have followed those precedents.
The AR-15 rifle is America’s rifle, the modern musket, one of the arms that clearly meets the role the Founders intended filled.
Attempts to restrict its use and function are unconstitutional.