There are few things in this world that equalize people like firearms. A 110-pound, 60-year-old woman can quickly become the fighting equal to a 250-pound, 22-year-old man with the introduction of a gun. What makes this equalization process even more clear is the use of a rifle. Once the weapon of only “hearty” men, the rifle has evolved into an accurate, easy-to-run weapon system. Today, the evolution of rifle technology has brought us what you might know as the “modern sporting rifle” (MSR), or as most people know it, the AR-15.
This rifle is a lightning rod of manufactured drama and vilification in all circles of the anti-gun crowd. The facts, however, offer a clearer vision about this fantastic tool. Contrary to what “experts” spew, the AR-15 is not an “assault rifle.” An assault rifle is fully automatic weapon or, as it’s more commonly known, a machine gun. Automatic firearms have been severely restricted from civilian ownership since 1934. On the other hand, the AR-15 is semi-automatic, which means it only fires one round per each pull of the trigger. It does not have a will of its own and does not fire unless the safety is off and the trigger is pulled.
Several media outlets, however, tend to go light on facts because scary guns drive up their ratings. Many times these guns are simply called “machine guns” by either the uninformed or those intentionally trying to manipulate a narrative. For those of us who know the facts, it is borderline hilarious to see these people make fools of themselves. The idea that John Doe held up a local liquor store with a machine gun is absurd. With an average price of $25,000 and requiring an ocean of paperwork, it is unlikely that our villain would be using such a restricted weapon. One other piece of information that is often manipulated is the meaning of “AR.” The letters actually stand for Armalite Rifle, after the company that developed it in the 1950s. So, “AR” does not stand for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle.”
Popular & Proven
Today, AR-platform rifles are among the most popular firearms being sold. The reasons are many, but according to a survey conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), recreational target shooting was the top reason for owning an AR in terms of importance. Home defense was next, followed by collecting and varmint hunting.
While there have always been civilian versions of military-inspired firearms, the AR-15 has blossomed like no other. There are several reasons for this, but in my opinion, one of the most important factors is one that applies to women: It is easy to shoot.
I have had my fair share of time on larger rifles and found them fatiguing over time. The AR-15 design eliminates much of that. Having trained women over the years, I found that the AR platform is great for ladies because of a few primary factors. First off is weight. Most ARs weigh in at a mild 7 to 9 pounds. Even the most petite among us can easily manage that weight. Second is that almost all of these rifles have adjustable stocks that allow us to fit them to our bodies. We are not simply consigned to trying to wrestle with a large rifle and hoping it works out. Third on my list is ease of use. The learning curve on this rifle is short and simple. There are no complicated procedures, and all of the controls are easy to reach and use. Lastly, the gun has very little kick. Say what you want, but this matters a great deal. Nobody, especially women, wants to spend a day on the range with a gun that is punishing. The AR-15 has an interesting design that includes a large spring in the buttstock that absorbs most of the recoil. What this translates into is a powerful rifle with very little kick. Honestly, it is a thrill to shoot.
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While handguns are obviously easier to carry and conceal, an AR is much easier to aim, which makes it more accurate in turn. This has always been the case with rifles. The biggest reason has to do with what is called sight radius, or the distance between the front and rear sights. The shorter this distance is, the more difficult it is to be accurate. It is this reason that many women are turning to ARs for home-defense weapons as well. They have spent their time on the range and in training and find the gun easy and quick to use. This is a solid combination for home defense.
Some may argue that a rifle is just too long for home defense. I would counter that with the fact that the overall body-to-muzzle distance with a 16-inch-barreled rifle is almost the same as it would be with a fully extended handgun. It just takes a little training and practice.
The biggest benefit that a rifle brings to a home-defense scenario is effectiveness. It would be a terrible day if we ever had to shoot an assailant, but if it had to happen, we would want to make sure we were effective. Handgun rounds can stop threats, but not nearly as effectively as the .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO rounds that ARs typically shoot. This, combined with a standard magazine capacity of 30 rounds, makes it tough to beat. If you are in the middle of a home invasion with multiple attackers, a magazine with a higher capacity than that of a standard handgun will matter. When it comes to protecting my family, a rifle is my personal choice.
AR-15 For All
But let’s get back to the mechanics of the AR-15 for a moment and another reason they are enjoyed by women: They are versatile. I mentioned earlier that most of these rifles come with adjustable stocks, but they rarely stop there. This gun has helped to launch a cottage industry of accessories and parts. There are a variety of grips and stocks that allow each shooter to really customize the gun to fit his or her needs. This modularity far exceeds what I have experienced with handguns. There are also a huge variety of flashlights, lasers and sights to help you fine-tune the gun even further. I really like the option to put an optic on my rifle. Modern scopes range from what we would see on hunting rifles to modern red-dot sights that allow me to shoot with both eyes open. They are a very nice addition to the gun.
Like any fashion-conscious woman, I too was pleased to find out that black was not the only color option. One section of the cottage industry I mentioned is dedicated to coating the gun. There is honestly no limit on color choices. Yes, they come in pink, but I am seeing fewer and fewer women fall into that cliché. What I have seen are deep purple guns or those that are candy apple red with black grips as just a few examples. Nothing says our rifles have to be boring.
The AR has been a catalyst in more and more women joining shooting leagues as well. Three-Gun competitions that utilize ARs are full of women from across the spectrum that share a love of shooting. Even during training classes held by my husband and myself, we will hold impromptu competitions to make the course more enjoyable, and we’ll hear lots of laughing and see lots of smiles, reminding us just how fun all of this can be.
If you have never had the chance to try an AR-15, I highly encourage you to do so. As always, do so safely and under the direction of a professional instructor until you are comfortable. The ability to effectively shoot this rifle is an empowering skill. As I said, it is an incredible equalizer and allows me equal footing in dangerous situations. I have not always been a gun person, but I made my journey through education and experience with good people. When I see the AR-15 or any gun villainized by others, I am disheartened because they are simply following a line that they have been fed. Rare is the day that new shooters do not walk off the line with smiles on their faces after shooting an AR-15. This is the 21st century, and I encourage you to come to your own educated conclusions on things. Shooting an AR-15 is flat-out fun, and you’re missing out if you are too stuck in the mud to try it.
This article was originally published in “Black Guns” 2018. To order a copy, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.