AR-15s becoming firearm of choice

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Colt AR-15
Colt AR-15 (Public Domain photo)

It’s no secret that gun sales across the country have skyrocketed over the last eight years.

In 2013, U.S. arms manufacturers produced 10.8 million firearms, up from 5.4 million in 2010, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Before 2008, there were never more than 4.4 million firearms produced domestically for commercial sales in a single year.

The numbers are staggering.

According to information released from Cabela’s, it is obvious the lion’s share of sales can be attributed to the runaway popularity of AR-15 rifles, most often referred to as assault or tactical style rifles.

Cabela’s, a major player in the retail national gun market, claims that reliable sources estimate there are now somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 manufacturers of AR-15s today, when less than 30 existed in 2000. That alone proves the combined power of marketing and buyer demand.

Of course, some of this was exacerbated by the 10-year federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. The threat of further gun control measures has also fueled massive spikes in both AR-15 sales and prices in recent years.

Perhaps the fire sale has lost its spark. According to Cabela’s, the market has slowed considerably in recent months and AR-15s are now plentiful and in price ranges that fit every budget.

Colt still king

Despite many companies manufacturing what the casual gun buyer refers to as an AR-15, Colt is the original and primary manufacturer. The company name is often spoken in the same sentence with the mention of AR-15 rifles, which are the semi-automatic civilian version of the fully automatic M16 used by U.S. military and NATO forces.

According to information published from Cabela’s, AR-15 wannabes need to be informed shoppers. The most common AR-15 chamber is the .223 Remington. Some prefer the Mil-Spec 5.56 chamber, as it can safely fire both .223 and 5.56 NATO ammunition.

Though some AR-15 newbies will tell you this works the other way around as well, it’s not a good idea.

Granted, 5.56 will shoot through the .223 chamber, the higher pressure of the previous and smaller chamber of the latter can cause numerous issues, with the worst possible outcome being a cracked upper receiver.

When purchasing an AR-15, make certain the barrel is properly stamped — do not take a gun seller or manual’s word for it.

Not automatic

AR-15s are popular because of their versatility and accuracy. The political term “assault rifle” is inaccurate to describe the AR-15, since it is not fully automatic. AR-15s are sports rifles that are no more powerful than other rifles of the same caliber.

AR style rifle owners report superior accuracy and dependable performance. AR popularity is evident in publications featuring hunting, target, and other competitive shooting.

Most people think of AR-15s solely as self-defense weapons. But because of their versatility, they are one of the best hunting rifles on the market.

It’s about the barrel

Experts suggest that you think of rifling in an AR-15 barrel, think of throwing a football with that perfect spiral. The rifling, or twist, inside the barrel is what causes the bullet to spin and ultimately be more accurate when shot.

Twist rates for AR-15s typically range from 1:7 to 1:12; the latter meaning the bullet spins one full rotation through 12 inches of barrel.

Several brands of AR style rifles are nothing less than a custom assembly of interchangeable parts from several manufacturers or sources.

Indeed, the AR style rifle has become the most popular modern firearm.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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