At the Range: A Non-Tactical Guy Goes Tactical

By Ace Luciano published on in Firearms, General

This is the first installment in a four-part series of my transformation from MSR-neophyte to “functional expert,” hunter, shooter and advocate.

Phase One: The Purchase and Explanation

Ace Luciano with his Ruger SR-556E

The author with his Ruger SR-556E

Yes, I finally took the plunge.
Got on board.
Leaped in with both feet.
Got on the boat.
Joined the team.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, after surviving for my first 40 years of life without having any interest in a tactical weapon, I have finally joined the rank-and-file of Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR) owners.

All I have to say is, boy, do I wish that I had discovered how much fun this was a lot sooner! The sad part is, I was one of those people in my own little world, I was never “against” the ownership of a tactical-style rifle. I just felt that I had no use for one. Since I took the plunge, I have fielded questions from just about every niche of my network of friends, colleagues and acquaintances…

From my “Fine Gun Fellows” asking, “What are you going to do with that?” to my dyed-in-the-wool hunting buddies and forum members asking, “Why do you need a gun like that?” and, “I thought you were more of a shotgun and big-game rifle guy.” For a long time, that is exactly what I was. Before this past year, all I knew how to do with an MSR was check to see if it was loaded and drop the magazine.

In truth, I really believed for a long time that a hunter had no use for the AR platform. Sure, you can shoot things with it, but there are bolt-action varmint rifles with better accuracy for a lot less money. Certainly, I believed the vast array of hunting calibers available in bolt-action, double barrel, and semi-automatic rifles far surpassed what you can put on an AR platform. Understand—I have spent my entire life shooting guns. I know a lot about firearms. I have been an avid hunter for 35 years. I can disassemble and re-assembled most shotguns and hunting rifles in a matter of seconds. I have shot a lot of handguns that aren’t typically used for hunting. I have also done a great deal of recreational shooting. However, prior to 10 months ago, I had pulled the trigger on a MSR only once or twice. I really did not have an excuse to buy an MSR, except the thought that I wanted one. At the time I didn’t have an idea which brand or model to choose. Everyone told me, “Pick one—it’s all the same parts.”

That delay almost cost me my chance to ever own one. Many say fear is a great motivator. With the current mood of the country—and a few mentally-disturbed wackos conducting mass-shootings and attempting to assassinate members of Congress—I was more than a little concerned of potential legislation. I worried if I didn’t get one soon, I might be denied the right to ever have one. Luckily, just prior to last year’s election, I ordered my first MSR from Ruger. I was lucky on several fronts. First, Ruger still had some SR-556s in stock. Second, the full-fledged panic had not yet risen to epic proportions…

Ruger SR-556E

When asked what I wanted, my answer was, “An AR-15.” Sure, I knew that there were other calibers that were available, but did anyone really ever order those? The model I settled on was the SR-556E in 5.56mm/.223. When my package arrived at a local dealer a few weeks later, I was actually at a bit of a loss as to how to even assemble it. For the first time in many years, I actually read the entire product manual and safety brochure.

  • I learned about the forward assist and how it works.
  • I learned how to clear a jam or malfunction. (Not as simple as it looks.)
  • I even learned the basic principles and differences between a gas-impingement system and a piston-driven recoil system, which is what I have.

I even took it apart—it was easy. And, thanks to a great video library at the Ruger website, I was able to put it back together—only after a LOT more time than it should have taken. Join me over the next few weeks as I talk about my experiences with shooting, hunting, and basic maintenance of the AR platform, beginning with sights, optics, and at the range… All from a humble neophyte to the MSR community.

Do you have a modern sporting rifle? Tell us about your experience in the comment section.



Ace Luciano is first a seasoned hunter, an accomplished angler and experienced outdoorsman. He is also a published outdoor author, seminar speaker, consultant and entrepreneur. Ace is involved in numerous conservation and youth-oriented projects. He spends much of his time pursuing his passion of introducing youths to the outdoors through the United Sportsman’s Youth Foundation. Over the years, Ace has traveled the globe in pursuit of both game and fish, from North America to Africa, from Europe to Australia. Ace’s highly successful booking agency, World Game Hunts, Ltd., specializes in affordable, unbelievable hunting and fishing trips. You can contact or learn more about Ace at

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