It’s a little unoriginal to start an AR 15 article by saying, “The AR-15 is one of the most popular rifles on the American gun market in recent years.” But it’s also the truth. There are an estimated 15 million of these rifles in American homes, at present, and interest is at an all-time high among consumers. This makes hobby building from AR-15 lower receiver components, among others, popular, to say the least.

But we live in a complicated climate for gun enthusiasts, and reports of AR 15 rifles being dangerous can be hard to ignore sometimes. But are they any more dangerous than any other weapon? Are they even as dangerous as you think they are?

Let’s take a closer look.

How Does The AR 15 Work?

First, a little housecleaning: because you’re here, reading this, we’re going to assume you know enough about AR-15s not to need some long “101”-style lesson on what they are. That said, for those of you who may be new to this firearm, here’s a short breakdown:

The AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle based on the ArmaLite AR-15 design. Originally developed in the 1950s, this is a lightweight, highly-customizable rifle design that has had a lot of success in the commercial market.

It is important to know the function and components of this firearm. The AR-15 is a firearm based around an extremely efficient firing system. Cartridges are chambered, with the BCG shutting closed behind them. As it closes, it also rotates 15 degrees, which will be important in just a moment. Lugs on the BCG head lock into place with protrusions on the gun barrel, securing the bolt against the high-pressure of powder combustion.

The rifle itself redirects a small part of the gas that propels each bullet back through the barrel and to the Bolt Carrier Group (BCG). As each bullet passes the barrel’s gas port, these gases pass through a gas tube, traveling back along the length of the upper, through a gas key, and into the receiver, where it forces the BCG backward again.

As each cartridge is fired off, the remaining case is spun backwards along the initial 15 degrees and pulled back, ejecting it via the ejection port. A fresh round is chambered,a compress spring shoots the BCG forward with the new round, and the whole process starts all over again.

In an AR 15’s cycle of operation, there are essentially eight stages. These include: 

  1. feeding 
  2. chambering 
  3. locking 
  4. firing 
  5. unlocking 
  6. extracting 
  7. ejecting 
  8. cocking 

During feeding, the bolt carrier group’s forward momentum helps the bolt strip cartridges from the magazine. Next is chambering, wherein cartridges are loaded into the barrel, followed by locking, when the bolt is locked into the barrel extension’s lungs. 

Next is the fun part: firing, by way of pressing the trigger. After your round has left the chamber, the bolt is pushed back and unlocked. Extracting, ejecting and cocking follow from here, and the shell is pulled from the chamber, ejecting it from the receiver before compressing the buffer spring. From there, it’s wash, rinse, repeat for your next rounds.

In terms of parts, the AR 15 lower receiver contains the fire control grip, magazine well, and pistol grip. The upper assembly houses many of the rifle’s more important components, namely the barrel, forend, bolt carrier group and charging handle, among others.

How Does It Compare To The M-16?

The AR 15 is, essentially, the M-16’s consumer counterpart, so the question of how they relate to each other is actually pretty common. 

Arriving in 1947, the AR-15’s military cousin would arrive a decade later. The two share various similarities and more than a few differences: 

  • Both firearms have a magazine capacity of 30 rounds.
  • The M-16 is heavier than the AR-15.
  • The AR-15 has a shorter range and a slower rate of fire. 

What Defines The AR-15?

When the M-16 was originally developed for the military, it was designed as a fully automatic rifle which could, as you’d expect, fire dozens of rounds with the trigger pulled. As we’ve mentioned, the AR-15 is semi automatic with each pull of the trigger firing a single shot.

The AR was designed for quick reloading, firing dozens of rounds at high speeds. Contained in the rifle stock, a large internal spring absorbs shocks for lower recoil, making for easier, more accurate firing. 

The other defining characteristic of the AR-15 is the ease with which it can be customized. Users have made a point of adding scopes, lasers and various accessories to create rifles that are 100% unique and suited to sport, hunting, and hobby ownership. 

Then there’s the fact that you can put one together using partially completed 80 lower components and a little technical expertise. Get the right combination of AR-15 lower, upper, and accessories together, and anything’s possible.

What Are The Gun Laws Concerning Assault Weapons?

Among gun advocates, it’s an important issue for semiautomatic firearms like the AR 15 to not be classified as “assault weapons,” mostly because they’re simply not fully automatic. These are also created for recreational use, from hunting to target shooting and home defending.

Even so, gun-control advocates maintain that the distinction is unimportant. It’s their position that these weapons are dangerous, regardless, because they are designed to kill many people in a short amount of time. The AR-15’s high muzzle velocity is a pretty common point of contention, as well. Whatever the argument, however, it’s hard to argue that any other weapon isn’t capable of the same amount of damage in the hands of someone trying to use it for destruction.

1994 saw a major assault-weapons ban signed into effect by President Bill Clinton, which outlawed the AR-15. The law itself had a lot of loopholes, however, leaving gun manufacturers wide open to work around them by modifying their weapons. 

The ban expired as recently as 2004, increasing sales of the rifle significantly during the Bush Jr. and Obama administrations. It can be argued that this period is responsible for the AR 15’s current title as America’s most popular rifle

Efforts to pick up the ban again didn’t resurface until 2012, when California Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to ban assault weapons after the Sandy Hook massacre. Though the effort ultimately failed, gun-violence have since gone on to spearhead a new campaign to restore the 1994 ban. Lawmakers have joined in, calling for new legislation in the same vein. A new bill from Feinstein and 22 other Democratic Senate supporters is currently poised to ban the sale and manufacture of 205 “military-style assault weapons” in the state within the next four years. This would impact both the sale of fully-built rifles and 80 lower kits.

How Does The Second Amendment Factor In?

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution is a significant part of the gun debate. The amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” 

The right to keep and bear arms is a simple enough concept: it refers to the people’s right to possess weapons in the event they need them for their own defense. It’s actually not that common of a right in most countries, with only a few recognizing their people’s right to keep and bear arms on a statutory level. Fewer than that, even, will protect that right on a constitutional level.

So, why is it so important to the question of AR-15’s place on the consumer market? The Second Amendment insists that it shall not be infringed by Congress. Heller saw a Supreme Court decision handed down to hold the amendment’s protection of an individual’s right to keep a gun for the purposes of self-defense.

If we look at the constitution and the people who sat down and wrote it, their vision was an armed citizenry who could work as a barrier against an out-of-control government. These days, an idea like that might well get filed under “conspiracy theories”, but the truth is, some of our greatest leaders worried about the same thing. JFK is on record as saying: “By calling attention to ‘a well regulated militia,’ the ‘security’ of the nation, and the right of each citizen ‘to keep and bear arms,’ our founding fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fears of governmental tyranny which gave rise to the Second Amendment will ever be a major danger to our nation, the Amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic civilian-military relationships, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason I believe the Second Amendment will always be important.”

As much respect and trust as we might have for our government, the truth is the economy is “essentially civilian”, and that can lead governments to make selfish, risky decisions without considering us. It might be a longshot to imagine the U.S. government turning tyrant on its own people, but that’s why it’s called being prepared.

At the end of the day, the second amendment ensures that our human rights, that is necessary to a free state, to defend ourselves, regardless of how that is, shall not be infringed. 

What Are The Arguments For and Against?

But America has had more than its fair share of tragic gun violence incidents in recent, and that’s where this amendment comes into focus pretty quickly. Following any shooting, debates inevitably crop up over how to stem them. One big issue that always comes up is the question of stricter gun laws or bans whatever gun was involved in the shooting. Now there’s no shortage of political arguments for and against these bans, but let’s take a look at those with the most factual basis behind them.

First of all, it’s important to consider the actual lethality of AR-15s themselves, which is often overplayed and inflated due to emotions in the wake of gun tragedies. Gun advocates demonstrating the impact of different weapons on gun ranges have compared AR-15s, semi-automatic AK-47s, 300 caliber Magnums, 12-gauge shotguns and even 9 millimeter handguns. Heavier slugs win out almost almost every time over the lighter, faster AR-15 rounds. While these rounds are capable of impressive damage, there’s still not enough energy behind them to even humanely kill a deer.

It’s also one firearm in a sea of similar consumer products, which means the focus on banning the AR-15 is also a little shortsighted. Implement laws to ban that rifle in particular, and you open up a floodgate that directly affects the second amendment. After all, if you ban these weapons based on their potential to hurt people, you’d have to ban firearms that could do more damage. 

When you look at it closely, any gun in the hands of a mass shooter is going to do massive amounts of damage, but this is an argument still used against the AR-15. Trauma surgeons have noted that the velocity of the bullet being among the fastest around means it hits and potentially causes more damage in a body. 

But, as we’ve mentioned, the ability to cause damage shouldn’t really factor into a decision to ban something because, ultimately, that doesn’t make them any less lethal in the wrong hands. Cars, wild animals, industrial cleaners, or just your bare hands could do absolutely brutal damage in the wrong circumstances. With that being said, do we ban bears after a family gets mauled on a camping trip? Do we outlaw cleaning agents when a baby drinks some and gets sick? Or is the issue more complicated than just blanket banning weapons when sick people use them to murder other people?

So, Is The AR 15 All That Dangerous?

The short answer to this question is “No. Absolutely not.” 

The long answer is, “Every weapon in the history of the world has been dangerous. We teach each other how to use them safely, never to point them at people outside of combat zones, and that there are laws that will punish you for hurting people with them. So, with dozens of firearms out there capable of doing much more damage and thousands of enthusiasts using them for sport every year, is the AR 15 that dangerous? No. Absolutely not.”

The AR 15 is a precision-crafted, highly customizable firearm, perfect for consumers who want to learn how to protect themselves, or just get out on the range and enjoy themselves. It’s a weapon with a proud history, borrowing a lot of great design tips from its military cousin, the M-16.

Interested in building an AR-15 of your own, from the ground up? Shop Thunder Tactical for the AR-15 lower, upper assembly, and AR-15 parts you need to start building your own firearm, today!