Though he didn’t get everything right in his article about the AR-15 for Business Insider on Friday, Brian Jones included a number of facts that are beyond dispute. He noted, for example, that the AR-15 is “America’s most popular rifle,” which is certainly the case, based upon recent firearm manufacturer reports showing that between 300,000 and 500,000 AR-15s are made annually for sale to the public. Jones also mentioned that “Much of what makes the AR‑15 so popular is its adaptability. Modern AR‑15s feature a rail system that allows for custom sights, scopes, and accessories to be placed on the gun.”
But since Jones made clear that the occasion for his article was the misuse of an AR-15 in the Los Angeles airport recently, fairness would dictate that he should have also mentioned the ways in which AR-15s are used by good people for perfectly good reasons.
For starters, Americans own about five million AR-15s and it should go without saying that virtually all AR-15s are never misused.
Many are kept for home protection, particularly now that carbine versions are available in many configurations suited for defense in the close spaces of a home, often in low light conditions. AR-15s are also the rifle most commonly used for marksmanship competitions in the United States, such as the NRA’s National Service Rifle Championship, the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s National Trophy Matches, and various action-oriented shooting sports, such as “Three Gun.” It was also used by virtually all of the participants in the NRA National Defense Match weekend at Peacemaker National Training Center in October, which included a basic-level match, as well as an advanced-level match in bays, and a championship match on an open-terrain range with targets as far as 600 yards, all of which will be covered in an American Rifleman TV episode on the Outdoor Channel early next year.
AR-15s are also the rifle most commonly used in rifle training courses, taught by literally dozens of professional schools around the country. And they are increasingly popular for hunting. Their standard 5.56 mm or .223 Rem. cartridge is effective on varmints, and with certain projectiles can be effective on larger game, such as deer. Not all states allow .22-caliber bullets for deer hunting, but there are also AR-15s available in larger calibers, such as 6.8mm Remington SPC, 6.5mm Grendel, and .300 Blackout.
The AR-15 is a modern equivalent of the Mauser Model 98 action, from which the best defensive, hunting, and match rifles were derived a century ago. It’s unfortunate that most in the media overlook that fact, in their coverage of the rifle.