Why The AR-15 Is So Darned Popular

You can't come to any conclusion other than the AR-15 being Americans favorite rifle, at least in the broad strokes. While they are becoming controversial, mostly due to some horrific crimes committed with AR-platform rifles, American gun owners have a love affair with this particular rifle platform.


The AR-15 Can Be Very Affordable

AR 15

The AR-15 was invented in the mid-50s, which means that the patents have long-since expired and thus anybody can make one. As a result, you can get into the platform for pretty cheap.

Granted...sometimes you get what you pay for!

But with that said, you can get into the AR platform for not a whole heck of a lot of money, which is something many people appreciate.

An AR-15 Is Easy To Shoot In .223

223 remington

If you get an AR-15 in the classic chambering of .223 Remington, it's one of the easiest centerfire rifle calibers to shoot, especially in high volume.

Back in the day, .30-06 (and later on .308/7.62mm NATO) was considered the best compromise between terminal performance (power, range) and shootability, meaning it was the biggest, most powerful rifle cartridge that people could shoot without beating themselves up or being too uncomfortable.

They were being generous; .30-06 is not overwhelmingly powerful but it's much less pleasant to shoot than, say, .270 or .243.

To give you an idea, a typical 150-grain load in a typical .30-06 rifle produces somewhere around 18 ft-lbs of recoil energy, depending greatly on the particulars. (Rifle weight, velocity of the round, etc.) A hot 95-grain .243 produces about 11 ft-lbs of recoil energy, again depending. The typical 55-grain .223 produces around 3 ft-lbs of recoil.

So you can shoot a ton of it without issue.

An AR-15 Is Cheaper To Shoot In .223, Too


Also, the classic AR-15 chambering of .223 is cheap as all get out.

Granted, ammunition prices are relative; you have to compare like-for-like to get an accurate comparison. If you compared, say, a box of cheap, steel-case dirty-as-heck military surplus .223 from some backwater outfit buried deep in Eastern Europe to, say, Nosler AccuBond Long-Range...then .30-06 is downright exorbitant.

However, let's just compare the cheapest stuff. The cheapest .30-06 we found on Cheaper Than Dirt was about $13.50. The cheapest .223 ammunition we could find was around $4.20.

So one-third of the cost of .30-06, and of the serious rifle calibers, .30-06 is one of the most economical to shoot since it's pretty much everywhere and everyone makes ammunition in that chambering.

It's Easy To Customize An AR-15

ar 15

If you like to tinker, customize or improve stuff, the AR-15 is the ideal platform to do it. Literally every single component can be replaced, upgraded or customized to better suit your needs, your aesthetic tastes, whatever you want.

So you can buy a cheap rifle, then upgrade the internals for better function. Add a better barrel for increased accuracy. Change the handguard. Whatever you want.

Just like Glock pistols or Ford Mustangs, you can mod the heck out of your AR-15, an attribute that people love about it.

The AR-15 Is A Very Effective Tool For Personal Protection

ar 15

There's some discussion about whether an AR-15 is overkill for home defense, and maybe in a certain on-paper sense is. It is, after all, a rifle...but it is an intermediate rifle rather than a full-meal-deal battle rifle.

At close range, the .223 is very powerful, having roughly double the muzzle velocity and slightly more muzzle energy than a .44 Magnum revolver. The .223 is definitely a pipsqueak when compared to other rifle cartridges (.30-06 has almost double the energy, a longer effective range, etc,) but make no mistake: it is more than powerful enough for personal defense at intermediate (inside about 300 yards) distances.

Look: Shooting An AR-15 Is Just Fun

AR-15 vs. Ruger 10/22

Shooting an AR-15 gives you a lot of the same fun as shooting a Ruger 10/22, meaning you get to make a whole bunch of pews really quick without your shoulder or your wallet hurting. They're just fun to run!

Granted, the Second Amendment is not about fun. The founders of this country intended on the population to not be barred from the acquisition of arms, for personal protection and to resist tyranny. It doesn't say "well regulated big game hunting, being necessary for the recreation of people who can get out to the woods if their boss isn't on a complete power trip."

But let's also be honest: shooting is fun. Except for 3-½" turkey loads. Those are PURE MISERY, and there's no refining them. But an AR-15 is darn fun to shoot.

Sam Hoober  

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.