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Why the AR-15 Ain’t No Weapon of War

Mention the AR-15 and it is bound to bring up emotions and arguments on both sides of the gun control spectrum. It is the so-called “assault weapon” we hear about so often.

AR-15. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Mention the AR-15, and it is bound to bring up emotions and arguments on both sides of the gun control spectrum.

It is the so-called “assault weapon” we hear about so often.

Much of the reporting on “AR-style” weapons is politically charged, and lacking in knowledge of both firearms and specifically the AR-15.

Here are some technical specifics that should hopefully make it abundantly clear that the oh-so-controversial AR-15 is not a “weapon of war” and indeed has some very legitimate private civilian applications. 

Differentiating the Civilian AR-15 from the M16 “Weapon of War”

The 19FortyFive has covered the topic before and will cover it again.

A previous article, “Stop Saying The AR-15 Is A Weapon Of War,” goes into the arguments.

“In fact, the differences between the E-3 [Sentry AWACS plane] and the [Boeing] 707 are essentially similar to those of the AR-15 and the military M16 platform. The former is a semi-automatic firearm that can only fire one shot each time the trigger is pulled. By contrast, the M16 is select-fire and has a burst mode, as well as semi-automatic. Given a choice, it is unlikely that any soldier heading to a battlefield would opt for the AR-15 over the M16.”

So then, other than the “cool points” factor, what practical reasons would a private citizen gun enthusiast have for wanting to own an AR-15?

Beyond reasons outlined in the Bill of Rights, there are some answers which may surprise you.

AR-15s for Varmint Hunting

If you grew up on Bugs Bunny cartoons as I did, chances are that when you read or hear the word “varmint,” good ol’ Yosemite Sam comes to mind.

But what exactly does the word “varmint” mean? John McAdams explains in an August 2022 article for Wide Open Spaces:

“As we see it, a varmint is a critter that’s causing some sort of damage or posing some sort of threat and is in need of some pest control. Crop or land damage, the spread of disease, danger to farm animals or pets, and other nuisances can qualify a critter as a varmint … These can include (but will vary depending on the region and circumstances) small- to medium-sized game; or non-game, non-regulated animals like coyotes, foxes, bobcats, feral hogs, groundhogs, gophers, prairie dogs, moles, rats, starlings, and crows. Many times these animals are such an issue that negating their numbers becomes a necessity, and the hunting of them is lightly regulated. There are often no closed seasons, no bag limits, and fewer restrictions on method of take when it comes to varmints.”

And the AR-15, particularly in its .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm chamberings, comes in very handy for varmint hunting.

Indeed, this past weekend, when I test-fired a rental SIG Sauer M400 AR-15 variant at the excellent Silver Eagle Group (SEG) indoor shooting range, the ammo the range staff provided me for the gun was the Federal Premium Varmint & Predator Ammunition 5.56x45mm NATO 50-Grain Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP). 

Two quick asides here. (1) Federal Ammunition, its name notwithstanding, is actually a private sector company, not a government agency. (2) In case anybody’s wondering, the M400 was underwhelming. Sure, it was accurate, but it jammed five times – the staff admitted it was in bad need of cleaning – the charging handle was very stiff to operate, and the bolt catch was not user-friendly for southpaws

Wait, What? AR-15s for Deer Hunting?

Contrary to popular misconception, yes indeed the AR can be used for deer hunting, and this includes the .223 Remington/5.56mm chambering.

Back in March 2017, Richard Mann penned an article for Outdoor Hub titled “AR-15 Deer Hunting Cartridges: The Magnificent 7.” 

Mr. Mann wrote: “.223 Remington: Developed as the original cartridge for the AR-15, and also known as the 5.56 NATO, the .223 Rem. is suitable for deer hunting, when used with bullets designed for that task. Remington offers its Core-Lokt Ultra, Fusion has a 62-grain bullet, and Federal offers a 60-grain Nosler Partition. All these bullets will work out to 200 yards or so on any whitetail or mule deer. Some argue that the .223 Rem. isn’t legal in most states, but at last count, 38 allow it.”

From there, Mann lists six other deer-worthy calibers which serve as available chambering options for the AR: 6.5mm Grendel, 6.8mm Remington SPC, .300 Blackout, .30 Remington AR, 7.62x39mm (yes, the all-American AR is available in that infamous Soviet-designed caliber), and .450 Bushmaster.

All of which goes to demonstrate the versatility of the AR-15 platform, far beyond any mere “weapon of war” pejorative. 

Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.

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Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).