Many gun owners either expect or don’t notice that their new AR platform firearm has come with a forward assist. Some think the forward assist is now a useless addition to the platform, while others view it as a tool that simply has not found its purpose yet. However, whether you think the forward assist on your AR build is necessary or not depends on how you plan on using your firearm. So lets answer the question, do you really need a forward assist?
Where did the Forward assist come from?
During the Vietnam war, the USA went through a change in the infantry unit’s standard issue rifle, going from the M-14 rifle to the M-16. The reason this switch was made was primarily because of a major change in the kind of fighting in wars. Where previous wars up until World War II had soldiers fighting in trenches over long battlefields, Vietnam sparked a very new kind of war. This war entailed Airborne strikes on a completely different scale, and involved troops engaging combat on a much closer scale, involving combat against many enemies at a time.
The soldiers needed something lighter, with a smaller round that would not have any, if at all, recoil. The M14’s caliber, the .30-06 is a big round that does not lend itself well to a fully automatic rifle platform.
That being said, the M-16 was then adopted as the new standard issue rifle for not only the United States, but other NATO allies as well.
What is the Forward Assist used for?
Now that the historical synopsis is over, here is where the purpose of the Forward assist comes from. In Vietnam, the heavy marshes and swamps that the country is characteristic of proved to be something of a challenge for US soldiers and their rifle’s maintenance. Their M-16s would be rendered useless by the overwhelming amount of murky swamp water and dirt. Precious seconds and minutes were wasted trying to make them operable again.
However, the rifle came outfitted with a forward assist for the very purpose of helping soldiers move their bolts manually after a seizure in the action had taken place. The bolt is notched on one side to allow for the forward assist to push the bolt forward until a new round can be chambered, and the rifle can revert back to its action to cycle ammunition. This integrated tool helped many soldiers during combat, as it was meant to be useful in situations where a complete field strip could not be completed.
Let’s fast forward time a little bit now to the present day. The M-16 is no longer in use in the military, but its variants are. And they are still equipped with forward assists. How useful they really are these days, is not really clear. However, one thing that is clear is how the opportunities to use the forward assist have decreased a lot in the civilian world. With a wider circulation of AR-15s in the civilian market, you can bet your bottom dollar that there isn’t a lot of fighting going on, especially in such extreme environments as the ones in Vietnam. So the forward assist’s potential to help has been severely reduced to the point where some would even just call it dead weight at this point. The aftermarket on these things is not as crazy either. It just holds no weight in the face of a market so saturated with more customizable parts that may actually affect the performance of the gun.
However, if they are so useless, why does the platform not get an overhaul in which the forward assist is moved completely from it? Well that is a great question. Perhaps it is due to the fact that the forward assist is not a useless addition to the platform. In fact, it is a very useful item regardless of whether people use them often or not. It is the same way we view the guns we carry for self defense. We carry them with the likelihood of never having to use them, but always being ready to use them if the time arises. So to may we use the forward assist on our AR builds should the time arise where we might need to.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Constant gun maintenance reduces the overall chance you might need to use your forward assist, obviously. However what you might not think about is how the forward assist is meant to be used. It is meant to be used in situations where a complete field strip of the AR-15 is not at all possible, what with time constraints, lack of a clear place to seat the gun, and the occasional bullet flying overhead. The forward assist was designed for very specific occasions, and while we find ourselves, more often than not, able to perform complete field strips on our firearms, the forward assist is not designed to be used in those moments.
Also Read: 5 Most Ignored Rifle Calibers
Can you buy ARs without forward assists?
There are upper receivers out there now that are being sold without forward assists. If you stand by your AR-15’s forward assist, that is ok, because we just discussed how situational the use of the forward assist is. Not to mention, the purpose for which someone intends for their AR build may not even require it to be there. Maybe it is not meant to be shot as much, or be involved in such close quarters combat. The purpose and intent you have for your AR build will help you decide what is best for you. That means, whether you need on or not, despite the debate, is up to you and what you want to get out of your AR.
The ammunition market has been in disarray for about a year and half now. With the overwhelming cost of the most popular kinds of ammunition coupled with panic buying the likes of which have never been seen before, buying conventional calibers is almost impossible without luck. The most popular calibers like the .223/5.56 and 9mm are in as high demand as ever so you are lucky to get them even if they have a restock date. The thing is, most people don’t know or don’t think to look to the past for ammunition that might be even better than what you currently run.
Calibers are designed intuitively for specific rifles, which are designed around a certain purpose. Whether its for range, impact, etc., the kind of purpose a particular caliber is designed for matters for the kind of shooting you want to do. At the end of the day researching more types of ammunition only helps you to understand ballistics better. This will definitely help you if you are looking to reload your own ammo, although the information on that is widely accessible on the internet.
The history of ammunition.
While we won’t question how obsolete more archaic types of ammunition like those used in muzzleloaders, taking a look back in the history of ballistics might do you some good when looking for another type of ammo that may suit you even better than other more modern calibers. When the birth of the smokeless powder cartridges came with the lebel 1886, a revolution in the firearms industry had taken place. Calibers could be shot faster and farther than ever before, and many of them were created for battle. At a time when war was in demand, the early half of the 20th century and on, a great deal of innovations had been made. Manufacturers developed rifles and the ammunition that would be shot from them with heightened understanding of ballistics and the physical phenomena of projectiles.
Listen, no one here is telling you to go for milsurp ammo, but there are a few cartridges still in production today that you may not know about because they simply are not as popular anymore.
What guns take older rounds?
You would be surprised to know that many older milsurp firearms are refashioned into more modern sporting rifles. Many milsurp firearms were made with the intent to be easily manufactured so many things that competition shooters and especially hunters, would not be present on them. There are some more popular rifles whose ammunition is still widely accepted, like the 7.62x54R, like in the mosin nagant and the dragunov sniper rifle, and getting into sporterizing rifles is not as hard as you might think. Here is a list of 5 rounds that are not popular, but are still good.
This round is definitely not as popular as the more modern rounds we have talked about, but is still a great round that can go in a relatively cheap rifle. That is the mosin nagant 91/30. A variant has been made, called the ArchAngel which is a sporter kit made for the platform, the bolt and the receiver/barrel. If you want a very cheap rifle with an equally cheap caliber, go for the 7.62x54R
The .338 Fed is known for its very blunt nature. That is to say, while many might go for a smaller, faster round, the slower, heavier rounds are still capable of doing a fair share damage. 210 grains producing 2,630 fps and 3,225 ft/lbs of muzzle energy and roughly 23 ft/lbs of recoil in an eight-pound gun. It’s a perfect round for hunting any game in the United States.
.280 Rem/.280 Ackley Improved
If you are going the route of .280 remington then you might want to just head up, for no extra cost mind you, to the .280 Ackley which boasts 200 fps more than its predecessor. This round provides performance nearly identical to 7mm Magnum with a much lower recoil penalty. This is a function of efficient use of powder. The Ackley doesn’t use nearly as much powder to produce the same effect using a 140-grain projectile, pushing 3,200 fps and 2,800 ft/lbs of muzzle energy and a MPBR of roughly 310 yards.
This caliber is a necked-down .308 Winchester. It has a lower recoil because of this, even compared to the 7mm – 08 by at least 20%. It is a great varmint hunting round in this instance, however, the grains will get you to hunt even deer.
This round is a beauty, still manufactured today by a few companies, and is one of the best rounds I have ever fired. It was a round standardized by the manufacturers in Sweden and Norway who came to produce the Swedish Mauser and the variations of the Norwegian krag rifle. The round fell out of favor due to the better performing 6.5 Cm and 6.5 Grendel. However, while the muzzle velocity is about 50 fps slower, it comes with a very soft recoil. Plus who wouldn’t like to shoot such a round out of a prewar rifle.
Ammunition is scarce. Getting into new forms of ammunition may be just what you need to fuel your hobbies even more. And with what more conventional calibers cost now, doing your research and choosing a different ammunition may even keep you from breaking the bank.
Also Read: What Caliber is AR-15
We have all heard on the news such crazy notions uttered about the AR-15, its platform, and its link to military style rifles in history and in the modern day. And while the media claims to cover this as news, it is really just fuel for the fire of fear. Misconceptions come around though from not only the media, but gaming as well. Popular games like call of duty don’t do a good job of making the distinction between what is real and what is fake. And all too often it seems that what is not so true is what is more widely accepted among the masses.
The AR-15 is not a military rifle. It is a civilian rifle carbine bearing some similarities to its predecessor, the M-16, which was made after the AR-15 was designed by Eugene Stoner. The AR-15 was made to be a civilian carbine with a varmint round in it.
What is an AR-15?
The AR-15, again, is a semi automatic rifle carbine that shoots a varmint caliber, the .223/5.56. It was developed by Eugene Stoner, in what would become one of the biggest revolutions to modern firearms in history. If you have ever purchased an AR style rifle, you know exactly why. It’s because the design of the AR platform is nearly flawless. It is constructed of light metal and polymer, a stark difference from the more archaic seeming wood and steel construction that has been the form of pretty much every gun since before the 1950s. What we are looking at with the AR-15 when it comes to the civilian market is a rifle that has a good, cheap caliber, and a design that can be fitted to many different purposes.
The platform is able to accept a variety of calibers with which its owners can delve into the many different kinds of shooting out there. Every piece of the frame to its internals can be modified making it the most popular match rifle to date, because competitors can adjust based on physical data of the parts they are using and the ballistics quality of the rounds they are shooting.
Can you Hunt with an AR-15?
Hunting is and is not possible with the AR-15. That is to say, the AR-15 itself shoots a standard cartridge that is more of a varmint cartridge. It is essentially a .22lr with 45mm of powder stuck behind it. So while it produces a high muzzle velocity, its weight and speed cannot hold up long enough to give a clean shot on bigger game, especially in America.
However, with advancement to the platform like the AR-10, bigger game hunting is possible because the platform is now able to withstand a greater deal of pressure, and accept bigger rounds with ease. The AR is generally known as a soft shooter. That is because of the gas system, which is based off of a weighted buffer and spring which eat up a lot of the energy. So you will not have to worry about taking a larger than life caliber out hunting because the recoil might be too much.
The .308 win is the standard cartridge in both the Armalite and DPMS versions of the platform and is able to take other rounds like the popular 6.5 cm and 6.5 Grendel.
What is an M-16?
The M-16 is the rifle carbine used in the Vietnam War by the US infantry after the M-14 rifle that preceded it. The M-14 was a big gun. Its full-auto capability was rendered useless in the face of the .30-06 cartridge, a legendary cartridge, used since the days of the Springfield 1903. Because it was a big gun, and fired an equally large round out at a super high rate of fire, you can imagine there might have been some issues with recoil, in the sense that the second shot would always go over the enemies head. The soldiers were forced to use the semi auto function which defeated the purpose of having a rifle designed to be fully automatic. Enter Colt with their newly purchased M-16 which they bought from Armalite a few years before and the US has a new rifle, a self cleaning rifle that shoots a much smaller round, with a full auto function that can also be used.
The rifle did not do so well in its first days on the battlefield because the rifles were not issued with cleaning kits, something that soldiers would soon find out that they needed.
The M-16 would be used in many other conflicts by other countries who are members of NATO, the standardized round of the M-16 being the 5.56×45 NATO. It is almost identical to the AR-15’s .223 rem, but has a bit more pressure, so is not as interchangeable unless you have a .223 wylde bore barrel.
Advancement to the M-16 would later come in the form of the M4-A1 which is capable of chamber .300blk, a caliber that can be made subsonic. The M4 is a carbine SBR with a much more attuned gas system for suppressed firing, making it one of the ideal choices in recon situations.
Also Read: The AR-15 Pistol : Why Bother?
What are the similarities of the AR-15 and the M-16?
The M-16 and the Ar-15 are essentially the same platform, one is made for the military and one is made for civilians. The AR-15 has no full auto capabilities and it is illegal for a civilian to modify it in such a way that it would be able to fire fully automatic. The M-16 has a semi auto and a full auto option and both of them come with a safety selector. They are constructed of the same materials, although the AR-15 has gone through many more metamorphoses due to the overwhelming innovation of the aftermarket. Advancements in composite materials like polymer have begun to usher in a new age of construction for the AR-15. The relatively small ballistics of the AR platform has also made it much easier to fashion completely polymer lowers, as much of the pressure from firing does not reach the lower portion of the receiver itself.
The core differences between the AR-15 and the M-16 lay in their purpose. One is a battle rifle, and the other has become a staple of American Ingenuity and craftsmanship, the likes of which have paved a new path for civilian gunsmithing and building.