AR-15 Part 1: Myths Dispelled

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posted on December 3, 2019
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According to a recent Facebook post by Mark Twain, reports about the AR-15 are greatly exaggerated. It’s true. Anyone who doesn’t own one likely holds plenty of views on the topic that are mythical. Let’s explore a few of the more egregious myths that are circulated more frequently than the common cold at a gun show.

Myth 1: The AR-15 Is Too Powerful for Civilian Use

First, let’s recognize that any firearm is “powerful,” meaning that if used with ill-intent, it can cause harm; after all, the whole point of a defensive firearm in the hands of a law-abiding citizen is to help even the odds against an aggressor to protect self and family.

With that said, as far as rifles go, the AR-15 is on the lower end of the power scale. Virtually any hunting rifle exceeds the kinetic energy figures for the standard .223 Remington, 55-grain cartridge. Let’s consider real numbers: A 55-grain projectile flying at 3,000 feet per second generates 1,099.3 foot-pounds of kinetic energy. As a comparison, a standard .30-06 with a 150-grain bullet delivers 2,820 foot-pounds; a .270 load using a 140-grain bullet cranks out just over 2,700 foot-pounds. The ubiquitous 12-gauge? How about 2,487.3 foot-pounds for a slug moving at a whopping 1,600 feet per second. Even a.30-30 lever-action rifle generates 2,500 give or take.

There’s a reason that some states don’t allow hunters to use an AR-15 chambered in .223 Remington for deer hunting. Some think—and a lot of this is based on old bullet design performance—that the .223 caliber isn’t powerful enough for medium to large-sized game.

Myth 2: The AR-15 is a Weapon of War

The terminology used by MSNBC and CNN to describe America’s Rifle varies a bit, but the top contenders include: “assault weapon,” “assault rifle” and “weapon of war.” The latest I’ve seen is “military-style” rifle. I have to believe this new one is an intentional nod to the inaccuracy of the other terms.

While I’m sure that AR-15s have been used in conflict zones, they’re not issued by the United States to its various armed services. Those would be select-fire—capable of semi-automatic, full-auto, or three-round burst fire—and full-auto variants like the M4 and M16. Do they look similar? Sure. But AR-15 rifles are strictly semi-automatic.

Myth 3: You Can Easily Convert an AR-15 to a Machine Gun

Listening to the news, you’d think a dyslexic tree sloth could convert an AR-15 to an M249 Squad Automatic Rifle. In reality, converting a standard semi-automatic AR-15 into a full-auto M16 or M4 is no easy thing to accomplish. Oh, and it’s insanely illegal even if you have a machine shop, knowledge and the appropriate metalworking skills. Don’t even think about trying unless you want an all-expenses paid vacation to a federal penitentiary.

Myth 4: An AR-15 Is Too Powerful for Home Defense

We will explore this in more detail in the next installment, but for now, know that AR-15s and similar semi-automatic rifles make a perfectly good home-defense option, too; in fact, with standard .223 ammo, its projectiles will penetrate fewer walls than most pistol and buckshot loads. Surprised? Hold that thought until next time.

Oh, and by the way, the “AR” in AR-15 doesn’t stand for “assault rifle,” regardless of how often the talking heads repeat that myth. It stands for “Armalite,” the company that developed the AR-15.

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