UPDATE: This post was written in great haste, leading to an unacceptable number of mistakes. The Posse is pleased to present a revised, expanded and edited version for your reading pleasure.
The Posse would like to commemorate the end of the "Assault Weapons Ban" by offering a gun review of the humble AR-15, the civilian version of the M-16.
The one we own is made by Bushmaster and it is the no-frills standard model.
For people who don't have much experience with ARs, they come in a variety of flavors, sizes and calibres. Indeed, the great number one can choose from may be a little intimidating to the first-time buyer.
We went with the closest one could get to a military issue rifle.
Contrary to popular myth, AR-15s are not super-powered killing machines. Indeed, many gun enthusiasts consider the .223 cartridge they use (5.56 NATO in military nomenclature) to be underpowered. Compared with the trusty old .30-06 that it replaced, it is a fairly weak round.
But it does that job it was meant to: it is lightweight, easy to use and shoots quite straight.
(Readers should be advised that the DPMS site has audio of a rifle shooting when you open it. Kind of annoying, if you ask us.)
The AR-15 is particularly well-suited for target shooting. There are frequent contests using extremely high-end ARs specially modified for outstanding accuracy.
It is worth pointing out that the AR-15 is not the only military-grade weapon civilians can own. Indeed, there's a government program to promote ownership of its predecessor, the M1 Garand.
The M1 packs far more punch than the humble AR, both in recoil and killing power. Many rifle enthusiasts still lament the adoption of the M-16 by the military for that reason.
The military went with the M-16 because it was lighter, used smaller bullets (meaning you could carry more of them), and was easier to shoot. It's low recoil makes it easy to train new people.
The M1 Garand, on the other hand, is a lot more intimidating and requires much practice to use effectively.
Thus the AR-15 is neither uniquely dangerous nor particularly amenable to perpetrating massacres.
This ruins the talking points of the anti-gun lobby, but they never had much to go one besides scare tactics, anyway.
Our only complaint about the AR-15 and the expiration of the AWB is that it ruined our investment.
We purchased our Bushmaster in July 2000, when Al Gore was ahead in the polls and most electoral models showed he would win the White House. A year later, the market value of the very same model had dropped by $200. We expect it will go down even more with the AWB sunset.
Guns are normally a good investment. They keep their value and if you maintain them, they can be valuable heirlooms.
The AWB acted as an artificial price support for "pre-ban" weapons (the ones with bayonet mounts, flash suppressors and other cosmetic features).
So while we're glad to see it go, we feel bad for people who paid top-dollar for for "pre-ban" that is now worth a lot less.
In terms of shooting, the AR is quite handy. It is somewhat loud because its high-velocity bullet makes a very sharp CRACK! as it leave the barrel (breaking the sound barrier and all). Hearing protection (which is always a good idea) is mandatory with an AR.
One curious thing about shooting it is that the butt has a spring in it to help dampen recoil. When one shoots, this spring can be heard loudly clanging away as the bolt carrier goes back and is then pushed forward.
Thus instead of a crisp report, the shooter will hear something very similar to a cash register opening and closing. Professional shooters have ways to dampen or eliminate this noise. It is a little off-putting at first, but easy to adjust to. Note that people nearby, can't hear anything but the crack of the shot.
Another nice feature of the AR is its size. Women often find full-sized rifles heavy and awkward. The AR, by contract, is nice and lightweight. The cut-down versions are even easier for them to use.
Again, far from being brutal killing machines, the AR is actually a very accessible firearm for inexperienced shooters. The large magazing capacity allows a shooter to get good and comfortable and then fire off a long series of shots without disturbing his steady position.
As all should know by now, the AR is a semi-automatic weapon. Each pull of the trigger will fire only one shot. It is therefore no more dangerous than any other semi-automatic rifle.
The Bushmaster that we own has been incredibly reliable and is very well-made. The Posse is pleased to recommend it to anyone with an interest in rifle shooting. With the AWB gone, prices should be quite low, especially for the old "post-ban" models.