Why I Own an AR-15

AR-15 - why own one

I’m the proud owner of an AR-15.

Alright, I own two. Well, make that, three… I mean five – oh, heck, I own a bunch of them. But this isn’t about how many I own, it is about why I own them.

At almost 50, I can state that the AR-15 held little interest for me for the vast majority of my life. The 223 / 5.56 NATO round is underpowered and has inferior ballistics to, well, almost any other rifle round.

My theory used to be that you need to have a round that will DO THE JOB and then some. The family of 7.62 rounds did that for me.

In my early gun-owning days, I was poor and the SKS was cheap, as was the ammunition. The bullet for the SKS is significantly bigger than the AR-15 bullet, so it must be “better.” Or at least that was my thought.

That skewed logic led me down a certain path for my prepper/home defense ideas. I am not saying it was a bad plan; just that my life changed and so did my priorities.

Taking the Plunge

The first thing that changed was my level of disposable income. It went up and I had opportunities to buy things outside of the $200 price range. (Not to mention, how many Mosin Nagants and SKSs does a guy really want?)

Secondly, the woman who would become my wife hated the Mosin and disliked the SKS with their very soft steel butt plates. She was also very not fond of stripper clips or reloading the Yugo SKS. If I wanted her to practice, there needed to be a change.

This led to holding my nose and purchasing our first AR-15. We went with an entry-level Smith and Wesson Sport. I told myself it was for her. I would stay with the more manly calibers.

That concept lasted until I did the first load-out drill and realized what armies have known for, well, pretty much forever. Keep it simple. We had a commonality of sidearm ammunition and magazines with our 9mm GLOCKs.

This made having two different rifle calibers and loading mechanisms—rather inefficient. Not to mention, she could consistently get bullets downrange for longer and with faster follow-up shots.

Hitting with authority is awesome, but getting the first hit is usually the deciding factor. It also helped that, compared to the SKS, she loved the AR-15.

It was significantly lighter, held more bullets, was easier to reload and was decidedly more accurate, even without an optic. Unlike on the SKS, mounting an optic was simple. With the optic, she hit spray paint cans at 75 yards more often than she missed.

AR-15 rifle and ammo

The More, the Merrier

This led to the purchase of our second AR-15 to “simplify logistics.” I had unwillingly joined the MSR (Modern Sporting Rifle) Revolution. The second AR-15 was a component gun that I assembled myself.

It consisted of a Spikes Tactical lower, a Magpul CTR stock and a Geissele SSA_E trigger. The finished product was an 18” 1:8 twist barrel gun with a lightweight quad rail.

The brown truck of happiness also arrived with a ten pack of Magpul magazines and a pile of reloading components.

The reloading components were to help offset the biggest issue with 5.56 caliber ARs. Most people shoot pesky little 55-grain FMJ bullets. I was bound and determined to get better terminal ballistics, so I went heavier.

The first forays were with 55-grain soft point bullets. Their performance was not a significant improvement. Further testing with 60-65 grain soft points also provided marginal or inconsistent improvements. Then I moved up to the 75+ class of bullets.

My testing showed that several of these did remarkably well considering their lack of diameter and weight. The Berger and Sierra’s did great both on gel and in deer hunting.

The Prvi Partizan 75-grain FMJ is a fairly close approximation from a ballistic standpoint and works great for practicing at half the cost. Of the six deer shot, five were on the ground in less than five yards.

They shredded tissue but also tended not to over-penetrate. This is very important, especially with kids in the house.

AR-15 Addiction

To sum up, the initial purchase of the AR-15 was to accommodate my future (now late) wife with a firearm that was easier to transport, softer recoiling, easier to load and more fun to practice with.

The reality was, the platform is much better suited to almost all aspects of what we wanted. She relegated the original S&W Sport to trunk duty and stole the 18” gun for her bug-out kit. My bug-out kit was a tad more bulky with a 24” precision barrel on mine.

That left my 18” gun as my trunk gun. I think you can see how they multiplied. Then I discovered PCC (pistol caliber carbine) ARs and got one in 9mm and .45 ACP. ‘

Then I discovered pistol braces, specifically the ones from Gear Head Works. That led to several AR pistols in useful bedside calibers like 9mm and .300 BLO.


I own AR-15s because they work. The manual of arms is easy and the same on almost all calibers. They range from the .22 LR version for training, teaching newbies and kids; to the hog hunting with .458 Socom.

I even have a wildcat in 6mm FatRat that will reach out to 1,000 yards with accuracy. Each gun has a distinct role and performs it well. Despite what the rabid anti-ARs say, none of my guns have killed a human.

They have dispatched a poisonous snake, provided dozens of squirrels and bunnies as food, half a dozen deer and a few hogs as well. If a two-legged varmint needs dispatching, several sit ready and waiting, but the hope is to never need them.

Mostly, my girlfriend and I punch paper and steel in 3-Gun matches, in the time-honored, American tradition of turning money into noise.

How many AR-15s do you own? Why do you own one? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (22)

  1. I have mine with 3rd upper on it, now a 20″ previous 16″ upper just went on the
    AR I built for my daughter. Have a .224 Valk upper, and the LR 308 that I built. Have built 4 other AR-15s for family and friends, it’s a lot of fun actually putting one together piece by piece, the first trip to the range is like a trophy, look what I can build!

  2. I have owned 2 Colts and 1 custom. My experience with the early Colts weren’t as good as the custom. Depends on ammo used and shot placement. Not considered larger game rifle. Capable of killing game if range isn’t too long.

  3. Well i purchased my 1st AR about 7yrs ago now and it was due to reasons that most would buy one.Home protection as well as fun at the range.but at the time of my purchase there was a more immediate problem brewing in our country and that problem is blossoming,right befor our eyes!Antifa,the BLM and other Fascist groups that are openly calling for the impeachment of a duly elected President along with Islam illegally represented in our government at all levels shows the need for these kinds of firearms more then ever!!!If anyone were to read our Constitution they would know how much and for how long our Fed. Gov. has been ignoring it!!! The very Document that this country has been founded on!So when im asked why i own so many when i can only fire one at a time i tell them i have a lot of Patriotic friends and neighbors!!!% I have to say when it comes to hunting i am old school.I have a bolt action rifle in 6.5Creedmoor and since im far from rich only realized my mistake when i started shopping the Ammo and figuring out which weight and brand works best in it?But my state not only dosnt allow rifle hunting in our state they have no public ranges that a person can legally shoot a long gun.You have to hit a manned range which cost $$ to shoot at or the cost of joining a gun club is your next best option in my Bluest State of N.J. 🙁 anyway even when it comes to hunting with .223/5.56 i much rather use a bolt action rifle.Savage has just come out with a 10rd bolt action .223/5.56NATO rifle i am just drooling over! lol But when it comes to range fun and home defense i do own more then a couple of AR style rifles. My Fav. is my Stag Minimalist AR15 in .223/5.56NATO with a 1-7 twist that shoots 55gr rounds so accurately it scares me! lol then i have one,a Del-Ton sport with a 1-9twist for the heavier rounds.Then i have a .224Valkrie variant and i just finished building this one,its my 1st and havnt had a chance to shoot it yet and dont know when i will since i only have access to a 20yrd indoor range :>/ so that along with my 6.5Creedmoor will remain unfired until i can find a place to shoot them more then 20yrs since both need a scope which i have never used in my life(always iron sights) so hoping to learn how to use them well befor i hit 55yrs old this month!LOL

  4. I like your writing style, John and love your appreciation for the AR platform. My neighbor just got his FFL and has an SBR, suppressed, in .300 Blackout coming that I’m just dying to see/handle/try out. So sorry to learn that the wonderful woman that set you on this journey passed.

  5. I like going to the range and want something I can shoot for an hour or so and not have to go home and ice my shoulder down (i’m getting up in years). I also like that I was trained on every aspect of this type of rifle, from shooting to cleaning and storing to repairing it, while in the Army back in the 70’s. Also, my wife does not like the kick of the .30 cal’s but is okay with the 223/5.56.

  6. I guess well travel a similar road. I too subscribed to the Elmer Keith credo biggest is best and turned away from the AR platform. However once you get one you are done for. The flexibility and efficiency is overwhelming if one thinks in those directions at all. If you keep at it the day comes when the reloading thing enters the picture and the quest there eventually becomes volume. My comment is my history – love the darn things and then one day I came across this superb AR-10 style unit – and off we went again. I managed to keep that to a single unit but I have to repeat it is as I already said superb. I printed a target that consisted of a 1/2 square in a sheet of 8×11 1/2 paper. Installed the trigger and lined up on the paper 100 yards away. My scope matched the rifle in that it is superb as well (Leupold) and I very carefully touched off that first round. I had gone all through the pre firing machinations – bore sighting with incredible care and providing a case that would reduce the possibility of my sight work being damaged. That first round cut the little box in half – top half. I was so excited I decided not to shoot anymore – with results like that how much more does one need? The best course of action is to try not to let those odd prejudices get into the way to begin with that will extend your period of enjoyment – and after all that’s what it’s about fun! Go have some!

  7. Thanks for a good read. I fit in the same category that and opinion as your original one. I own one AR-type rifle. I am not really fond of it either. I guess my main pet peeve with it is the “pling-noise” that the recoil spring makes on every shot. As a retired law enforcement officer who retired before the cops were allowed to carry rifles I never became attached to the AR. When I was in the academy years ago we fired some M-16’s as well. I feel that In a rural environment, a rifle for a LE officer is much more appropriate than for us city-folk. Of course I also trained carrying a revolver and eventually switched over to a semi-auto Beretta. Many of the people becoming cops today never perfect the art of shooting and seem to share the “Sprayin and prayin” philosophy. Having shot competitively when I was younger I don’t care for that technique.

    Your article did inspire me though to get my AR out of mothballs and give it another chance to impress me.

  8. Like the author, one of the reasons I own AR-15s is because they’re just a helluva lot of fun to shoot. My first AR-15 was a component build starting with a Daniel Defense barrel and upper and chambered in 5.56 with an EOTech red dot.

    One summer several years ago my oldest daughter, her husband and two sons came across the country for a visit. Both of my grandsons were active in Boy Scouts and both eventually earned the rank of Eagle Scout. My daughter and her husband were active as adult leaders in Scouting and all four of them had shot a single shot, bolt action .22 at scout camp. My son-in-law and the older grandson had done some skeet shooting, but that was the extent of shooting experience by any of them.

    The grandsons, who were around 12 and 15 at the time were anxious to shoot some of my guns, both handguns and long guns, and we went to a nearby private range that belongs to a relative and spent an afternoon shooting paper targets, metal plates, a bowling pin hanging from a chain and a bunch of milk jugs filled with water. My daughter, who is not a gun fan by any stretch of the imagination went along to take pictures. Toward the end she asked if she could shoot my AR. I pulled out a fresh 30-round mag, chambered a round and showed her the safety. Standing, shooting off-hand at 50 yards she made the bowling pin dance. After a dozen or so rounds she stopped and said, “this is fun, and I really like this sight.” She emptied the remainder of the mag in about 10 seconds and nearly ripped the bowling pin off the chain. It was hard to keep count, but I’d estimate she hit it 20-25 times out of 30 rounds. She’s still not a gun nut like me, but she definitely had fun that day.

  9. I never wanted an AR either, but more because it did not really fit my personality.

    The US government fixed that for me when they started talking about outlawing them.

    Now I really enjoy taking it to the range and wiping out paper targets with it.

    Good times.

  10. I can relate very well to this article . I too had to make do with what was available according to my paycheck or lack thereof with . 22 and a 12 gauge pump shotgun . As I got older and a little better off financially, I started collecting mostly military surplus weapons as that is my favorite part of gun collecting . I always wanted a AR 15 but they were quite expensive back then so I set out a plan to save any way I could to buy one . After finally having the money for my rifle , I waited for the next gun show to come into town I purchased my first Colt HBAR AR 15 .It was such a joy to finally have this in my collection and even more fun to shoot . To me AR’s are one of the easiest guns to shoot, clean and customize to your liking. The only downside if you can call it that ,owning a AR 15 leads to owning more AR ‘s , ten and counting . I hope hope they never find a cure for this addiction !

  11. Being a retired Marine and the knowledge I have on the AR it just made it a great hobby. There are a great number of mil spec uppers and lowers out there , makes it so easy to come up with some really cool customs. Going from custom stocks, barrels , hand guards, free float tubes, sights and scopes,to custom laser graphics , the ideas are endless. And the you have some many ideas for the use of duracote and cerakote that takes it to another level. I have done an AR with each of the armed services logo along with the to hell and back look to, as to a Harley Davidson theme. There is now a total of 13 custom rifles in the collection. As for the range, the ammo is cheap when you buy bulk, and they are a lot of fun to shoot. And last but not least the $$ cost doesn’t tear holes in your pocket. Let your imagination flow you will be surprised what you can come up with. And if the shit hits the fan, no doubt you will have what you need to protect the family. God bless , Semper fi, to all the brothers and sisters out there. Keep on double tapping🇺🇸✌️

  12. Best thing about AR-15 learned from Dad. Told me 5.56 NATO most readily avail & can carry a ton of rounds versus 30.06 or 7.62NATO. Dad old WW2 Vet that w/BAR + ammo carrier went AWOL, took bridge over Rhine alone, while rest of 1st Army followed orders and went to town. He killed or wounded all enemy including combat Engineers mining bridge and their set-ups to boot! Only had 2.000+ rnds, 4 pouches w/3 grenades each, and his twice liberated Tokarev Pistol w/6 mags and pocket bullets to start with, SO HAD TO MAKE’EM COUNT!! Ammo carrier hit 1/3 way across 4/10 mile bridge so Dad patched him up, jammed him in I-beam, so I met him in 1954. What charges were left blew up in Dad’s face damaging bridge, but it still stood so drove rest of German’s into RR tunnel at far end. He held off 4 counter attacks by taking cover right outside the entrance, and after 25 min rest of 1st Army relieved after BAR melted as ran out of ammo, had 4 grenades left, plus 2 1/2 mags for Tokarev. Ike claimed taking bridge at that time shortened WW2 for him by 6 months, ordered General of the 1st Army Houge to release him from detention for being AWOL, and pin The Distinguished Service Cross on ’em instead, as can be seen in last frames of documentary on AHC titled “Hitler’s Last Bridge”. With that little bit of experience behind him, Dad said he loved my AR-15s and claimed if had a fully automatic one in WW2 they could have carried enough ammo to end the war a year early for Ike! Moral here is more ammo is more better!!! By the way, when movie “Bridge at Remagen” came out, Dad laughed like hell as thought it was a comedy. At 9th Division reunions shortly thereafter, all the GIs wondered where they had gotten the script as it was complete fiction!! That was my first contact with what we call today “Fake News”!!! KEEP SHOOTING!!!!

  13. I do ARs, I do them in 7.62×39. Just More Thump than 5.56, and down here in Bayou Country… We don’t get long shots. I have a G3 in X51 for Longer, Heavier duties.

  14. I forgot to mention. I offered my comments about the second amendment as my reason for owning multiple ARs! Shoot straight!

  15. In the gun debate I most often hear people speak of the second amendment as protecting their right to protect themselves. While that right is afforded them, that is not what the right to Keep and Bear Arms was intended to do. Our founders gave us the second amendment in order that we would be able to fight back an oppressive overreaching invasive government. Our government is getting dangerously close to needing to be reminded by “We the People” who the REAL government is. A little revolution may be a good thing. They want all our money. They want to tell us how to live. They even want to tell us how to eat! (Did you see the recent “Climate Change BS on the Communist News Newtwork CNN?). AND they want our guns so we can’t stop them. The true purpose of the second amendment is to protect us from our own government. Stay ever vigilant!

  16. HOW MANY? 3, 1 5.56, AND 2 6.5 GRENDELS

  17. even though during my 24 year career in the Navy Seabees and carried a m16 at times I personally liked the 7.62 caliber over the 5.56. and owned an Armalite AR180 at one time. so for now I’m looking at getting a Springfield M1A.

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