A dozen years ago I posted one of our first gun reviews for the Bushmaster AR-15.
In the years that followed, I sold off the Bushmaster and dallied on buying a replacement. The biggest obstacle was having a place to shoot it. Rural residents can just set up a range on the Back Forty, but for those of us in suburbia, rifle shooting is more challenging.
Total Firearms in Mason has an excellent pistol range and I've used it often, but they do not allow rifle calibers. It was only recently that I began exploring some of the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources ranges and found that they are in excellent condition and often free of charge.
This new information, combined with the very real possibility that Hillary Clinton would be elected president, moved me to add an AR to my collection.
If there was a dizzying variety of ARs to choose from in 2004, the number today is positively staggering. The ability to customize the AR platform has been taking to even greater lengths, to the point that there isn't anything really approaching a "standard" model.
I chose the DPMS Oracle because the manufacturer has a good reputation (something I noted in my earlier review) and the price was right.
The Oracle is a very stripped-down model, perfect for the budget-minded shooter. In fact, it is so stripped down that it lacks even basic iron sights - it's up the purchaser to add optics. This is the only firearm I've ever purchased that was technically unusuable "out of the box."
Of course, for as little as $30 the problem (such as it is) can be fixed with a red-dot sight. I opted for a slightly more expensive model that gives me a choice of optics (big dot, little dot, bulls eye dot and cross hairs).
The Oracle isn't totally low-budget, though. It does come with an adjustable stock and a flash suppressor. It has a shorter barrel for easy handling and lacks such deadly features as a bayonet lug (banned by the now expired 1994 law).
In terms of shooting, it is what you would expect - accurate, easy to use and fun to operate. The wonderful thing about the AR platform is that my minimalist rifle can easily become quite tricked out. I can add a vertical foregrip, bipod, new optics, and even change the caliber by swapping out the upper assembly.
Let's face it: Sporting rifles are basically guns made of Legos. You can tweak them to your heart's content.
I've said it before, but it bears repeating - this ability to inexpensively modify your rifle to suit your personal needs is why these weapons are so popular. Back in 1994, that wasn't the case and the gun control zealots knew it. ARs were not all that popular even in the shooting community. The early civilian versions weren't optimized for hunting and many outdoorsmen felt they had no legitimate sporting purpose. They were the province of military vets and militia types.
That notion is now utterly discredited. Women in particular enjoy the AR platform because it can be so easily adjusted to their stature. I remember back in the 80s when women who wanted to purchase a rifle had to either settle on a "youth model" or have the stock cut down to fit - which was very expensive and required a skilled craftsman.
Those obstacles are now removed and with the click of a button, the stock can fit just about anyone.
The option to change calibers is also more prominent than it was in 2004. The AR had always had that potential, but finding the conversion kits was difficult and the cost was prohibitive. Now that carbines are a thing, more manufacturers are entering the market and providing inexpensive uppers and magazine adapters.
Here again the Oracle has an edge - buying a 9mm AR carbine is far more expensive than a 5.56mm one. Why not get the former and then - when finances permit - add the option?
Many shooters have embraced .22 LR as an cheaper alternative to shooting 5.56mm (or .223, they are slightly different). While .22 LR isn't as cheap or plentiful as it once was, the Bullet Bubble continues to recede and those dinky rounds are still cheaper than their much larger cousins.
However you choose to modify it down the road, the DPMS Oracle is a good value.