The AR-15 Rifle: Myth & Reality

Once again, there has been a senseless mass shooting in America–actually two, in the past two weeks in which a total of 31 people were killed. One was in Buffalo, New York, where ten persons were killed and three were wounded in the Topps Super Market; the other was in the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two adults were killed and 17 others injured.

The killers in both cases used an AR-15 rifle.

Naturally, the immediate response by the anti-Second Amendment crowd, including a clueless President Biden, has been to demand the banning of so-called “assault rifles” or “military weapons.”

Sorry, but the AR-15 is neither.

If we believe the anti-gun mob, the mainstream media, left-wing politicians, and even President Biden, the AR-15 and other semi-automatic rifles are the primary weapons of choice for gun-related murders in America.

Once again, that is not true.

Here are the facts, taken directly from FBI crime statistics for 2019–the year for which the most recent statistics are available.

Of the 13,258 murders committed in America with various weapons in 2019, 364 were with rifles, including bolt-action hunting rifles, .22 caliber “varmint” rifles, and, yes, semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15.

That means of all the murders committed in America with all types of weapons, just 4.8 percent were by rifle.

Meanwhile, 6,368 murders were committed with handguns, 200 with shotguns, and 45 with “other” guns.

Those are facts. They don’t lie or twist the truth like Biden and his gun-hating, anti-Second Amendment minions.

And here’s another fact you won’t hear from the mainstream media or uncle Joe. While just 364 murders were committed with rifles, 1,476 were committed with “knives or cutting instruments.” So why not a call to ban knives? They are clearly more dangerous than rifles.

But let’s get back to the AR-15. Last fall, I  attempted to clarify the difference between the AR-15 and so-called “military weapons.” Apparently, not everybody, including those in the mainstream media, saw it. Too bad. If they had, maybe they wouldn’t continue to repeat the distortions and misrepresentations about the AR-15.

So, here is that post again. I hope you find it enlightening and useful the next time some unapprised politician or clueless reporter refers to the AR-15 as a military-grade “assault rifle.”

During one of the Democrat presidential candidate debates in 2020, Peter Francis O’Rourke famously (or infamously) declared: “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”

As it turned out, O’Rourke took himself out of the presidential race instead, and therefore, his threat to sabotage the Second Amendment is now moot. Now we have President Biden telling Americans that the Second Amendment, which guarantees Americans’ right to bear arms, is not sacrosanct or inviolable. In other words, he believes the Second Amendment could and possibly should be invalidated or weakened in some way.

This nation’s founders wisely and rightly recognized that allowing citizens to own guns would provide a check against tyranny and a government that might attempt to subjugate us.

It is no accident that governments confiscated ALL guns from the civilian populace in nations where dictators reigned in the past (Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan) and where they still rule today (China, North Korea, Cuba). Doing so turned their citizens then and now into defenseless and helpless vassals.

Anybody who believes that could not happen in America is not only ill-advised but foolish. Look at how Americans were bullied and manipulated by government autocrats during the Covid-19 pandemic. The brutal lockdowns of businesses and schools have left millions of adults and children damaged psychologically. As we are learning today, that kind of totalitarian control may be partially responsible for the irrational and deadly behavior of those who engage in mass murder.

But my post today is focused on the AR-15 rifle and the misinformation the most popular rifle in America engenders. So given all of the chatter out there about assault rifles—and specifically the AR-15—perhaps a little background is needed to clear the air.

I don’t want to get too technical here. Still, as a U.S. Army veteran, it irks me when politicians, uninformed television pundits, and anti-Second Amendment fanatics rant on and on about so-called “military-grade weapons” owned by the general populace that the government should confiscate.

Let me say right off that I do not own an AR-15 nor an “Avtomat Kalashnikova,” otherwise known as an AK-47. However, I have fired both on rifle ranges. Both are excellent rifles, though one (the AR-15) is typically chambered for the smaller .223 or 5.56 mm NATO round, while the other (the AK-47) is chambered for the larger NATO-standard 7.62 mm or 30.06 round.

                                     Woman firing an AR-15

I should also point out that the “A.R.” in AR-15 does NOT stand for “Assault Rifle,” which the unapprised media and lawmakers like to tell you. The “A.R.” in AR-15 stands for “ArmaLite Rifle,” not “Assault Rifle,” or “Automatic Rifle,” or “American Rifle,” or whatever other spurious name Second Amendment opponents have propagated.

ArmaLite is the company’s name that initially produced the AR-15 in 1959. That year, the AR-15 platform’s rights were sold to Colt Firearms. Colt’s 1963 redesign was adopted by the U.S. Army in Vietnam, tweaked with select-fire capabilities, a heavier military grade barrel, and rebranded the M-16.

As for the other rifle O’Rourke promised to take away from Americans, the “A” in AK-47 stands for “Automatic,” not Assault.

Russian weapons designer Mikhail Kalashnikov invented it in the late 1940s for use by the Russian military. It is a military-grade “select fire” weapon and has been outlawed in the U.S. since 1984. “Select fire” means that it can be fired semi-auto or full-auto.

All full-auto or burst-fired weapons are highly regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and are almost impossible to come by via a legal sale. Of course, criminals, drug cartels, and urban gangs can buy fully automatic weapons like the AK-47 from gun smugglers and other illicit weapons dealers—and do!

So, there is a world of difference between an AK-47 and an AR-15. One is indeed an assault rifle; the other is not.

But let’s get something straight. Any rifle, pistol, revolver, shotgun, or even pellet gun can be an “assault weapon” if used to attack another person. So, calling an AR-15 an assault weapon compared to a 12-gauge shotgun, a bolt-action .30-caliber hunting rifle, or a .357 magnum revolver is idiotic and demonstrates an individual’s complete ignorance of small arms nomenclature.

When I was in the U.S. Army (active duty and reserves), I qualified “Expert Rifle” with the M-1 Garand, the M-14 (the successor to the M-1), and the M-16. I have never fired the rifles currently used by the U.S. military—the M16A2, the M-4A1, or the new M110A1.

The M16A2 is a semi-automatic rifle capable of three-shot bursts, while the M-4A1 is a more specialized weapon capable of fully-automatic fire. The new semi-automatic M110A1 rifle fires a 7.62 round and is designated for use by snipers, spotters, or designated sharpshooters. In addition, the Marine Corps’ new rifle is the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR). It is a 5.56 select-fire assault rifle.

These weapons are military-grade assault rifles and are NOT available for civilian use. The AR-15, on the other hand, is NOT in that class.

The AR-15, as we know it today, is a civilian semi-automatic rifle. Semi-automatic means one trigger pull results in one bullet being fired. Automatic means one trigger pull will result in continuous fire until the magazine is empty or you remove your finger from the trigger.

                          A boy firing an AR-15

The AR-15 is most commonly chambered in .223, but some platforms accept .22, .308, etc. The AR-15 is light (6.5 pounds), easy to clean and maintain, exceptionally fun to shoot, and is an all-around versatile firearm.

I have had anti-gun advocates ask why any hunter needs to have an AR-15 with a 20-round magazine. For one thing, the AR-15 IS NOT a hunting rifle. In its standard 5.56 / .223 chambering, the AR-15 is great for pest control against varmints like prairie dogs, groundhogs, foxes, and coyotes.

Traditionally it’s not much of a hunter beyond that. The 5.56 / .223 is too much for use on small game you’d want to harvest and eat but not quite enough for medium-sized game, like deer or bigger animals. Very few states allow you to legally hunt deer-sized game or larger with a 22 caliber or 5.56mm bullet.

The AR-15 is a good “ranch rifle,” a tool traditionally used for outside-the-home defense or pest control. Got a large piece of property, boat, or R.V. to defend? The AR-15 will do the trick out to about 300 yards.

Invariably the person telling me the AR-15 is an assault rifle is someone with very little, to zero, firearms knowledge or experience. They’ve typically never had firearms training, don’t hunt, don’t target shoot, and don’t even see the value of guns for self-defense. The difference between picking up an AR-15 (or any other firearm) or dialing 911 when an armed intruder has just broken into your house can be the difference between living and dying, as thousands of Americans can tell you from first-hand experience.

Additionally, most folks opposed to civilian ownership of the AR-15 can’t define an assault weapon as outlined by the Federal Ban that became law in 1994 under President Bill Clinton.

Since I was eight years old, firearms safety has been drilled into my head. That’s when my father gave me my first rifle—a .22 caliber model 1904 Winchester pump. I’ve been shooting ever since—in the Army and out. It’s second nature to me.

The Second Amendment, written in the era of muzzle-loaded muskets, does not mention or describe what arms we have the right to keep and bear. But we have an idea based on how they were used: to protect their owners’ homes, businesses, farms, and families and to fight the tyranny of the British crown. In the 18th century, the general populace had the same weapons that the British Red Coats and the Continental Army carried.

Today, civilians cannot own the varieties of weapons currently used by our military. I own an M-1 Garand. It is a gas-operated, 7.62 mm (30.06 caliber), 8-shot clip-fed semi-automatic rifle. This was the rifle used by the U.S. military during World War II, Korea, and even in the early years of Vietnam. It fires a much more lethal round than the AR-15’s 5.56 mm round—and no one is trying to ban it.

                                               My M-1 Garand

These days, I use my M-1 only for target shooting. When I bought it several years ago, I had visions of using it as a deer rifle, but I no longer hunt. When I did hunt, it wasn’t to kill animals for sport. I learned early in life that you don’t kill any animal for sport. You only kill an animal for food. I field dressed, cleaned, and consumed every rabbit, squirrel, pheasant, duck, deer, or quail I killed.

It’s been said that the Second Amendment was put in the Bill of Rights to protect the other nine. As Fox News contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano notes:

“The historical reality of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants and shoot at them effectively, with the same instruments they would use upon us. If the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto had had the firepower and ammunition that the Nazis had, some of Poland might have stayed free and more people would have survived the Holocaust.”

Amen, Judge.





About Ronald E. Yates

Ronald E. Yates is an award-winning author of historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy. Read More About Ron Here

10 thoughts on “The AR-15 Rifle: Myth & Reality”

  1. Well said Ron. The anti-Second Amendment crowd does not care about actual facts or data. Their entire argument is about labeling to get an emotional response.

    I would like to be able to own a firearm capable of full auto fire but could never afford to buy one, let alone go through the years of permit applications to be allowed to buy one. And the cost of ammo would also be beyond my means.

    The leftist socialist Demoncrats (spelling intentional) want to disarm the law abiding and leave us defenseless against the armed criminals that they insist on releasing back onto the streets regardless of their criminal offense or history.

    • Buckle up, Joe. we are about to see one inane argument after another as Congress creates yet another “gun control” bill designed to disarm Americans. The anti-gun crowd’s plan is to make all semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 and my M-1 Garand illegal and short of that, to restrict the capacity of the magazines and clips used by most semi-automatic rifles.

      • And pistols too. Delora has a pistol range I built for her on her family farm in Illinois. Her oldest son Kenny, Delora and my daughter from Missouri were all throwing lead this morning. We will be back in AZ come December. You will have to bring your bride over. I have 100 loaded 30-round magazines for the AR-15 just waiting to be shot up

        • Sounds like a plan, Joe. I’ll bring my M-1 Garand and my Weatherby 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun and a few assorted revolvers. I want to teach Inge to shoot the shotgun so if she is ever home alone and someone breaks in, she can point and shoot the creep. BTW, Where do you buy your ammo? I used to order my M-1, 152-gram rounds online, but California is making it almost impossible to do that now. I suspect Arizona is much more lenient!

  2. Well said, Ron. I think the judge said it right. Who cares about hunting. I want to make sure the progressives don’t come for me and my family because of my beliefs.

    • Exactly, John. The idea of an armed citizenry terrifies the left. With more than 400 million guns in the hands of some 82 million Americans, they know any attempt to overturn the Second Amendment could possibly result in an armed response if not an all-out civil war.

  3. Remember, Joe advised Americans to “Buy a shotgun.” In 2020, more than 200 homicides were committed by shotguns. I suspect this count is greater than the total of homicides committed by AR-15 rifles during the same period. The same year, at least 393 homicides were committed with blunt objects such as hammers. Will Joe and Beto try to seize our hammers?


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