Stupid question about AR-15 rifles


August 10, 2007, 11:55 AM
I have to start out by saying that I have never shot an AR style rifle. My experience is with pistols and some shotguns. I have two basic questions:
1- Among the big name AR companies, are there any real differences? This could be interms of reliability, funcionality, weight, feel, fit and finish? It seems they are all made very closely to the same specs. It seems that there are quite a few "big name" AR manufacturors (Rock River Arms, Bushmaster, Armalite, Olympic etc.) that seem to make the same gun.
2- How effective is the terms of stopping a two legged or a four legged? Seems like the 308 might be a better round simply for the size, and I think similar velocity.

I know that this has been discused, but I just want to learn the basic (dumbed down) version. I am not military or LE, I just like to go shooting sometimes. It may be used for self defense, but the range is where it will get its use.

A side note, there seems to be a move toward piston driven AR rifles. POF and Bushmaster are the two that I can think of that make them. What do you make of this new change in technology? Is there something wrong with the gas system that makes the piston driven system much better?

Thank you for your assistance.

If you enjoyed reading about "Stupid question about AR-15 rifles" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
August 10, 2007, 12:03 PM
There is very little difference between the big name, quality ARs. Some have different options, and some have better or worse customer service.

223 is a great cartridge for use on people when you have select fire capability and are restricted to ball ammunition. It's marginal for hunting 2 and four legged game, but better than just about any handgun. With expanding ammunition, 223 pales in comparison to 308. 223 ammo is much lighter, and recoil is virtually non-existant.

August 10, 2007, 12:19 PM
This is very interesting reading concerning the differences in AR manufacturers

You'll get alot of opinions on different brands. Your best bet is to do alot of research by looking for the different types of issues people have had with different brands. For instance, if you do a search on a few key sites, you will find that Bushmaster is pretty well known for putting out guns with crooked front sights. I bought a NIB BM just a few months ago with this problem and after searching for this on these sites found out it is pretty common. I wish I would have known about that before buying the gun, and I would have if I would have done lots and lots of research.

search here, and The last one seems to tell it like it is more than some other sites.

August 10, 2007, 12:33 PM
Personally, I like to build my own ARs. That way I know QC is good. :)

August 10, 2007, 12:46 PM
The other rifle I am considering is a Springfield M1A. Like Guntech said, the 308 seems to kick major ass. That gun would be capable of shooting 2 and 4 legged bumps in the night.
What about an AR-10....a 308 AR? Could this be the best of both worlds?

What manufacturors to you use for your uppers and lowers? Have you found that some are better than others? Even if you build your own, you still have to choose which manufacturors to get your pieces and parts with. Are there many differences if you build your own?
What about cost....does it cost more or less to build your own?
What kind of training and tools are required to be able to build your own? I think it would be great to be able to make it exactly like I would want.

August 10, 2007, 12:56 PM

For range work, which seems to be the brunt of use of this weapon, then an AR is a good semi-automatic weapon platform to start with. It is a widely used weapon type with a massive range of customisation and after market add-ons available.

It is a tool and like any tool, in general, you get what you pay for. The big boys you mentioned (Rock River Arms, Bushmaster, Armalite, Olympic ) provide good quality weapons with a wide range of features.

You can go cheaper, you can go a lot more expensive, pay your money, take your choice.

There is a continuing argument for and against the .223/5.56 round and it's effectiveness and arguments cover, bullet mass, velocity, barrel twist, bullet construction etc and will never die......8-)

It CAN do a one shot knock down but don't bank on it unless your shot placement is precise, also remember this is a rifle round and over penetration (dependant upon the reasons listed above) can be a significant issue.

The 7.62/.308 round is inherently bigger, fatter and with a higher kinetic energy and you are MORE likely to get a one round knock down than with a 5.56
Much greater issues with over penetration!!!

It also kicks more and is more expensive, I would suggest seeing if there is a range or rifle club close to you, going down and politely asking if someone with a 7.62/.308 would let you fire a few rounds to see if you are comfortable.

You also asked the other big "light blue touchpaper" issue, Direct Impingement (DI, the standard AR15 method) versus Piston action......this has more opinions that you can shake a stick at.

My opionion (and you will hear more) is that the issue is less the method of cycling and more the overall platform build.

The DI method means you have very high temperature gas, laden with carbon and other stuff slamming through a small pipe to unlock the bolt and throw it back. This means that more crap is pushed into your working parts. This is a statement of actuality and not a discussion point....8-). It leads to a requirement to clean the working parts more often than a piston action.

This in itself is a pain but not a problem per se so long as you clean effectively and in a timely fashion. Remember, cleanliness is next to Godliness....8-)

My personal issues are not the AR15 DI method but the rest of the fire cycle, extract, eject, return, strip cartridge, chamber cartridge, lock bolt.

The daisy head bolt design of the AR15 range is both inherently harder to clean with its large number of nooks, crannies and surfaces, it is also more liable to fracture and fail due to the large number of nooks, crannies and surfaces.

Emphasis is MORE LIKELY to, not WILL and not LIABLE.

More smaller and thinner "fingers", means thinner metal per "finger" to cope with the inherent stresses of a semi-automatic rifle and higher probability of one suffering damage.

In addition the plunger style ejector is more complex than say an AK or Sako style of "dumb" ejector. Greater complexity does not necessarily lead to greater reliability.

Now, this does NOT make the AR15 platform bad, a hell of a lot of work over the last 40 years has gone in to making the platform more reliable (although having to have a plunger on the side in case the round doesn't seat has always been a concern of mine).

It's widely used, it can be exceptionally accurate, there are a huge number of variants and bolt ons and support is easy to get. If you want to get one that may be better for home defense, possibly look to getting an upper in 6.8SPC, for another $500'ish you get another upper with a larger round with more knock down.

(I openly admit to preferences on piston as I was raised on FAL's and their ilk and shot a lot of AK variants.)

August 10, 2007, 01:11 PM
More smaller and thinner "fingers", means thinner metal per "finger" to cope with the inherent stresses of a semi-automatic rifle and higher probability of one suffering damage.

True, however the Johnson style bolt head mean that there is more surface area engaging in lockup compared to the traditional two lug bolt employed by most rifles, so each 'finger' has less load on it. Johnson type bolts will typically have 50% or more increase in area on the locking surface compared with a two lug design.

Other than that, evarallm is 100% correct.

An AR-10 is a more accurate rifle than the M1A, and is functionally identical to the AR. It is a better platform for mounting a scope than the M1A as well. I believe that the M1A has the edge in reliability, particularly when PM is not performed as often as one would like.

If you are going to stick with Milsurp ammo, 5.56x45mm or 7.62x51 are requirements. If commercial ammo is fine, I'd look into an AR-10 Flat top in 260 Remington. 260 is a superb long range cartridge, with great bullets available. It recoils much less than 308 but has more power than 223.

As far as 'rolling you own' I prefer Mega upper and lower receivers. Their QC and precision is unmatched - not unexpected from a company that used to make precision aerospace parts.

There are many online and publish references to building you own AR-15 - from military TM on up. If you use good quality parts, the only crucial factor is headspacing.

Tools you should have are a barrel wrench, a receiver block, go and no go gauges and some basic tools.

I build because I get my parts at dealer cost, and I can build exactly what I want, rather than buying a commercial rifle and then modifying it. For someone with limited funds who is willing to prowl the gun shows, you can build up the rifle a piece at at time and spread the pain.

A new guy can do it, but you should be pretty familiar with guns and mechanically inclined.

Here are some useful fresources:

August 10, 2007, 02:10 PM
Wow, more info than I think I can handle. Thank you all for continuing to educate me...nowhere else is there so much knowledge being passed around.
Looks like I have a lot more reading ahead of me. I am just simply trying to get the basics down so that I have somewhere to start.
Not only are there a lot of rifle options, but there seems to be an infinate number of ammo options as well. I can't even decide which platform I like, let alone which round I want to fire out of it.

With my limited knowledge, I am liking the AR-15 that is piston actuated. It intuatively seems like a better system than charging the rifle with hot and fouled gas. And as it stands, it looks like it will have to be a custom build.

Please keep the info and opions rolling in.
Thanks again to everybody.

August 10, 2007, 03:58 PM
Gas operating system like the majority of ARs is very dirty after a few rounds
(around 100 or so)

The Not so new piston system is much cleaner plus some can be adjusted for different loads

August 10, 2007, 05:17 PM
If you like the AR-15 type of platform you can go with a purpose built piston driven rifle or a replacement upper for your AR15.

The replacement upper market is lead, so I am told, by POF (Patriot Ordnance Factory)

I have not used their equipment but hear consistent good reports. It's not cheap but few of the things in life we want ever are......

The other option is the built up from the ground rifle and this is the route I recently went down.

The Robinson Arms XCR rifle.....I own up, I love my XCR....8-)

Built from the ground up as a piston driven platform with the addition of the capacity to swap barrel and caliber in 90 seconds.

Pros's(for me)
The rifle also addresses most of my other concerns on the AR-15 platform such as the extractor, the bolt, the forward assist.
All American build
Uses standard AR-15 mags
Simple swap barrel and bolt assembly (also makes cleaning the barrel and chamber SO much easier)
Can come with fixed, folding, collapsable and folding+collapsable stocks

They are manufactured by a smaller company, size and availibility can suffer
Parts are not interchangeable with standard AR-15
Quite expensive

H'mm, I said quite expensive as a unit but then to get a POF you either buy a whole POF rifle (more expensive than an XCR) or buy an AR-15 and then buy an upper from POF.

Also the XCR comes as a standard with Picatinny Rails at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock.

Just a thought, at the end of the day you have to be comfortable with what you buy.

August 10, 2007, 06:13 PM
If you want to see what configurations are available, check out I personally like the Elite CAR A4:

which is accurate enough for target shooting (1 MOA with match ammunition), short enough to be handy for defensive use, and provides easy mounting for a variety of optics. I'd add the chrome-lined barrel for $40 (easier to keep clean and more durable, though it may be a smidgen less accurate).

If you are interested in target and defensive use, rather than hunting, I think .223/5.56mm is an excellent choice. With suitable expanding ammunition, it is as effective as any handgun, and inside 100 yards I don't see .308 as being significantly better for defensive purposes. As a hunting cartridge, obviously .308 is better, and for combat use it definitely has superior effective range to .223, but for target and defensive use I prefer .223. An AR-10 is bigger, heavier, more expensive to buy and shoot, and kicks more.

Piston guns are reportedly more reliable when dirty or not lubricated well, but a well-maintained AR is quite reliable.

Zeke Menuar
August 10, 2007, 07:00 PM
Take your time.

Do your research.

It took me 10 months to decide what AR I wanted. I bought a complete Stag lower with a fixed buttstock. Then spent from 10/06 until 2/07 making up my mind.

I ended up with a CMMG flattop 20" 5.56mm upper with a govt profile barrel. Added a carbon fiber FF tube, QD scope mount,adjustable stock and a 5C1 FH. Kept the original FSB. It's pretty simple as far as AR's go
It's a jack of all trades, master of none.

Want a varmint gun? Throw on the scope. It's good from 0-400 yards, however the owner sometimes isn't.

Want a HD gun? Put the carry handle irons on it, move the stock in a bit and it will work for HD. Not optimum but it will work. I managed to attach a flashlight to the forearm. Good enough for short distance work.
I keep it in this configuration most of the time.
If you plan on using an AR for HD. Get training. The tactics involved in using an AR are different than a handgun.

Keep it maintained and the AR will work just fine. Mine hasn't hiccuped, malfunctioned and even runs Wolf without a hitch.

I reasearched the rifle/overpenetration issue. I found that 9mm, 380, 45acp AND XM193 will all penetrate at least 12 sheets of drywall. That's the equivalent of three walls. So, for me anyway, saying that a handgun round will go through fewer walls then an AR isn't exactly correct. They are all going to go through a lot of material.
So one needs to be aware of what's behind the crackhead if you have to shoot. Rifle, shotgun or whatever.

Using an AR needs to be coordinated with a handgun and/or shotgun for a system that works in your house. We have all three in various places in the house. That's another post.

If you stick with one of the big names
Sabre Defence

You'll get a excellent gun that will work well for you.

I'd post another pic of my gun but it's all over the 'net and not hard to find.

Good Luck


August 10, 2007, 08:28 PM
the best ar parts makers are, cmmg, lauer, larue, stag, LMT, Sabre defense, and a few others, throw bushy in there as well, for quality checked and rechecked bbls.
go here.

August 10, 2007, 11:05 PM
Standard DI is a nuisance to clean, but there are tricks to expedite matters and it works well, all things considered. Granted, it takes me about 45 minutes to clean my M4gery to my taste, as compared to 10 minutes for the M1 and M1A--but I don't have to be anywhere special.

The only things I have added to mine are a compact ACOG (great!) and a Jard match trigger. Those I "need". Nada mas.

August 11, 2007, 12:41 AM

Welcome to THR. I would recommend getting both an M1A and an AR-15. I have a Sprongfield Loaded M1A and it can pack a punch out to longer distances than the AR. AR's are fun. I have 2 Stag's one a model #2 M4 style and the other a model #4 A2 style. If ever in a bund however I'll grab the M1A first. IMHO Fewer jams, much more powerful round.

If you can get both. The M1A will cost more, probably the price of 2 AR-15's.

August 11, 2007, 12:57 AM
I am not military or LE, I just like to go shooting sometimes. It may be used for self defense, but the range is where it will get its use.

For range banging, I bought a .223 Bushmaster M-4 style. Love it. :)

No ammo is cheap anymore, but .223 is not ridiculous. I have a couple cases (they call that an arsenal on the news :rolleyes:) and it did not break the bank.

If you buy a range rifle that uses $$$ ammo, you will not shoot it as much, so will not enjoy it as much.

Point to ponder as you decide.

Whatever you do, get yourself an AR style rifle and shoot the heck out of it. It will make you smile.:)

August 11, 2007, 01:13 AM
Don't be afraid of direct gas inpingment, it's worked very well for a long time now.

August 11, 2007, 09:48 PM
Don't be afraid of direct gas inpingment, it's worked very well for a long time now.

I agree, my RRA doesn't seem to need to be cleaned all the time to run without stoppages. I go 500-1000 rounds in between cleanings as a general rule.

August 13, 2007, 01:39 AM
From what I have heard, it sounds like just about any AR would be a pretty nice plinking rifle. I may have to do some research and try my hand at building my own.
Mega Machine Company has been recomended as a good upper and lower.
Not sure what the cost will be to build it all up, but hopefully won't break the bank. I would love a SA M1A, but damn those cost a lot of $$$. I think it is a great rifle and a great round (308), but simply not worth the cost for a range rifle.

Hopefully you will all continue to chime in with info...this thread has been very helpful.

August 13, 2007, 02:28 AM
If ammo costs are a concern, then I would stick with 223 over 308.

If cost is not a concern, have a good smith build you an M14 on a Smith Enterprises receiver (if you can find one), and know happiness.

August 13, 2007, 09:45 AM
For 99% of shooting applications a .223 will suffice for 99% of shooters.
From what I have read on these firearm forums, most shooters are lucky if they have access to a range longer than 100 meters and many shoot at indoor ranges.
In this "Real World" scenario the .223 will really shine and not break your wallet buying factory loaded ammunition.

The 6.5s and 6.8 make the AR15/M16 smoke things at stupid long ranges but most American shooters won't have the opportunity or range to prove this.

The .308 is a wonderful and remarkable round, I have been shooting them for the better part of twenty five years now.
If you are a sniper you will have grown to love this round.
If you have access to a 6.8 you will probably prefer this platform over the .308 for general shooting to 600 meters.

You will choose a .300 magnum for really long shooting and a fifty if you can find one that is accurate enough with the ammunition you can aquire.

I don't understand why people think gas piston guns make fouling magically disappear.
They don't, the fouling remains in the gas tube area and it will eventually choke the gun in ways one can only see to truely appreciate.
British L85A1 rifles are piston guns and some of the biggest piece of garbage weapons to be issued enmasse.
FN/FAL rifles are piston guns.
Nobody worth noting issues them anymore.
AK/AKM rifles are piston guns, if it wasn't for those oh so generous tolerances and Soviet Bloc marketing, these rifles would be but a footnote today.
Ever see anybody win a serious 300 meter Match with an AK??????

To sumarize:
Stick with .223, it ain't so bad.
Standard gas system has actually worked well for forty years, think about this for a minute.
$850.00-$1100.00 is the price range for a new in box example.
Anything cheaper is probably just that, manufactured with parts as cheap as can be purchased, the rifle will most likely give you more fits than pleasure.
Anything more is probably more of a rifle than most people really need.

August 13, 2007, 10:08 AM
Among the big name AR companies, are there any real differences? This could be interms of reliability, funcionality, weight, feel, fit and finish? It seems they are all made very closely to the same specs. It seems that there are quite a few "big name" AR manufacturors (Rock River Arms, Bushmaster, Armalite, Olympic etc.) that seem to make the same gun.ARs are generally made to similar specs. Not identical but similar. Since it hasn't been mentioned yet, Colt uses some different pin sizes than the other manufacturers. There are conversion parts that make that less important, but if you buy Colt anything you should be aware of it. That is probably the biggest different among the top tier of manufacturers.

Honestly, I build my own AR and it wasn't especially hard. And you will save money. I recommend it.

August 13, 2007, 01:09 PM
There's a good article over on CalGuns about the lower manufacturers. Despite the dozens of brand names, there's really only a few manufaturers:

August 13, 2007, 04:34 PM
You can buy used which has not been mentioned. Complete rifles, a complete upper, a complete lower and such. equipment exchange is a good place to buy. I have a Bushmaster carbine which consists of a complete new upper I got from a dealer at the local gun show and a new Bushmaster complete lower from another dealer one isle over.....rums like a dream. Then there's always the guy that bought a new one, doesn't shoot it often enough to justify the cost and wants to sell it. If bought on the net there's no S.T. and usually the price includes shipping and you only pay about $10 transfer fee.

Only one of these was a new in the box complete rifle. One has already been change from the pictured configuration.

August 14, 2007, 12:13 PM
IndianBoy - well, $$$ is a challenge...looks like the 223 wins, until I strike it rich....then comes the custom M14.

Onmilo - Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge. I do have access to a 1000 meter range, but looks like I will not be using it. I have not heard of the 6.5s or 6.8 AR rifles...can you post info or a link. Thanks.

MrAcheson - Thanks for the heads up, I had not heard that Colt has different specs.

MudCamper - Great link...I appreciate it. Looks like a Mega will be the lower of choice for me...besides, they are made about 20 miles away from my house.

Bill73 - I will be sure to cruise the used sections at the store. Being so close to Fort Lewis, there are quite a few AR's around. The local shows are mostly antiques and junk, not much modern weapons.

Can anybody with personal experience with MEGA uppers and or lowers chime in. I would like to hear what you have to say about them.
Thanks again.

August 14, 2007, 01:11 PM
Lots of first time buyers decide they want something else after firing very few many choices on the purchase, i.e. barrel length, rifling twist, stock, A1, A2, A3, M4. etc. that they change their mind. You can save hundreds by picking up a lightly used rifle and if you change your mind not take as big a loss as the first guy (drive it off the show room floor and the value goes POOF).

Stag, RRA, Bushmaster, DMPS, CMMG, LMT should give you a pleasant experience.

Good Luck and Good Shooting!

August 14, 2007, 01:17 PM
I like the Colts, myself. :)

August 14, 2007, 01:25 PM
Thumbs up for Colt! I collect the old war time .45s. The picture in my previous post is of two Clots and a Bushmaster.

August 15, 2007, 09:30 PM
I LOVE my MEGA lower and just got the call about 30mins ago my 2nd will be mailed to my FFL tomorrow.....:D

I built my lower and bought the upper from STAG.

This was also my FIRST AR Build.....and NOT my last.

Also with my MEGA lower thats coming I also got one of Mega A3 forged upper receiver's..

I returned your PM

August 15, 2007, 09:50 PM
Welcome to the boards. I recently completed this process myself, and it actually led to to THR. You'll lot lots of good info here. Also try

Most of the high-volume manufacturers - Bushmaster, Rock River, Armalite, DPMS, Colt, etc. - are pretty reliable. They each have a few issues that sometimes pop up, you can search AR15.Com and THR to learn more about them. Overall though, they all build them pretty solid. Olympic Arms undercuts them in price but tends to be a little more hit-or-miss. High Standard is another company that has a good value quotient. They're newer to the AR scene but have gotten a solid reputation. DPMS is a good choice if you're looking to conserve cash. Stag Arms has a great reputation for reliability and quality at a fair price. I have a Bushmaster and it's worked great.

Colt and S&W typically charge a premium for their ARs versus Armalite, Bushy, RRA, etc. They are very nicely built guns and Colt has a rep for being very reliable with their ARs. Not sure whether they are worth the price premium, although they have strong resale.

There are many less well-known manufacturers out there such as CMMG, Lewis Machine Tool, LaRue Tactical, etc. that build high-quality AR components such as upper and lower halves. These can be a cost-competitive solution if you want a very specific setup. It doesn't sound like you want to spend huge money, but makers like Sabre Defense, Wilson Combat, and Les Baer all built very high-end ARs. Furthermore, gas-piston ARs are sort of a new rage; again, these will cost more money.

In conclusion, I'd get a .223/5.56mm AR from a well-known mainstream maker and not worry about it. See what sort of

Stick to .223 if you're on a budget. 6.8SPC is several times more expensive, as is 6.5 Grendel. A .308-cal AR-15 or an Armalite AR-10 would be worth checking out, particularly if you want to hunt or shoot at longer range, but .308 is also more expensive to shoot. Several companies make 7.62x39 ARs, but IMO just get an AK if you're gonna do that. .223 is more than adequate for most AR-related needs and is cheap to shoot for a centerfire.

If you're looking to head after our furry friends, .223 is plenty for anything smaller than a deer. Deer-hunting with .223 will generate some big flame wars on THR, but if you're a good shooter and you're not gunning from long range a good, clean kill is certainly achievable. Anything bigger than eastern white tail and I'd go for a larger caliber.

Stopping power in case of self-defense will also generate big controversy, but it's certainly superior to a handgun. Over-penetration in close quarters will also stir up controversy. I'll stay silent for this thread's sake.

Before you buy, carefully consider the setup you want. That will likely have major implications on your search.

Good hunting, and welcome to the wonderful world of ARs!

If you enjoyed reading about "Stupid question about AR-15 rifles" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!