Why I hate the M-16/AR-15 Rifle

Why I hate the M-16/AR-15 Rifle and variants.

When joined the Army and was issued my first M-16, I thought it was the deadliest rifle ever invented. It was the blackest, most evil looking thing ever. It was pure badass. I was in love… sure, I had jams here and there but that was due to the dirty blank ammunition, right? I cleaned my rifle to the point of “surgical instrument clean” and lubed it exactingly according to the gospel of my Drill Sergeants. When I went to fire it with live rounds and found that I would get an occasional jam. Well, this is because it was an old rifle used by hundreds of raw ignorant recruits like myself. Right?

After training I went to a unit that had an Armourer that believed any jam was a personal insult to him… so he used special tools he got from a jewelers and polished every internal bearing surface to a mirror finish. I thought the parts were chromed. I thought that THIS was how an M-16 was supposed to be like. Perfectly smooth and slick in every function from trigger pull to magazine ejection and everything in between. No… I don’t remember having any jams with it… but then again, this obsessive compulsive Armourer always insisted upon checking the rifle and detail stripping and cleaning it when ever I was on down time. Not just my rifle… but every rifle in the unit. If you did get a jam, he would be inquiring as to what you did to his rifle! But this guy was unique… and so were “his rifles”. When I went to a different unit, the rifle I was given was regular Mil-Spec and I had jams for the rest of my time in service. I just thought, well, these are old worn out rifles… Not a new customized rifle like I used to run. I had convinced myself that new AR-15’s wouldn’t jam like this.

I was very wrong. I found this out the hard way with the acquisition of a Bushmaster XM-15A2. It ran flawlessly for the first 20 round box of ammo… *sigh* Slowly, suspicion built. Then suddenly realization hit me like a truck load of Clue. The AR-15 sucks. Crap, my little brother was right. I used to argue with my brother about ARs vs AKs, myself being a full fledged AR-15 Apologist. But he was right… Both rifles use an intermediate cartridge. Neither are full sized rifle rounds. To debate the rifle based only on the caliber is wrong. Proof – you can get an AR chambered in .243… but it is still an “AR” with all of the normal “AR” problems. The Design is critically flawed. “Oh, but the AR is so ergonomic!” Ergonomics are a plus – but what’s the point if the gun doesn’t even go Click!?!
Let’s look at some details.

The AR-15 sucks by design. If you lay out the blue prints of the rifle you discover that the design is fundamentally flawed. The design uses tolerances that are way too tight for a combat weapon. It is ammo sensitive to the point of being finicky. It uses soft alloy receivers and is fed from flimsy magazines that are too weak to operate properly when loaded to full capacity. Then there is the gas system. The rifle defecates where it eats thanks to it’s direct gas impingement system. Compounding that bad idea, we have the use of a tiny gas tube and a horrible breach design that is impossible to clean properly without dental tools and the patience of a dentist doing a root canal. The gas tube itself can warp or break from overheating due to sustained firing. I know, I’ve seen it happen and I’ve done it myself. When the gas tube glows brightly at night to the point it’s lighting your immediate area – this is not good it could go “pop” any moment here. If your gas tube had any weakness in it before – it’s only going to be worse now. If it doesn’t break now – it will have a greater likelihood of breaking in the future.

The extractor design is puny and weak, but worse yet is the spring loaded ejector. The ejector plunger can get stuck with the smallest of particles of brass or copper from the ammunition. A jam from a stuck ejector is a special kind of jam that double feeds the next round causing a wedge that prevents further movement of the action regardless of how hard you try to pull on the bolt handle. To clear it, you have to drop the magazine (if you can) and slam the butt furiously against a hard, unyielding object… preferably Eugene Stoner’s head. (the designer) Unfortunately when you start slamming the rifle like this, you can bend the rifle at a couple different points or you can just break stock. It’s a roll of the dice.

Let’s talk about field stripping for a second. At first it starts out not too badly. Push out a pin and the rifle breaks open like a shotgun allowing you to pull out the bolt carrier assembly. Wait, be careful not to lose or damage that T shaped charging handle… it is made out of relatively soft aluminum compared to the bolt carrier. After the bolt carrier is out, you need to disassemble it. There is a firing pin retaining pin, then the firing pin, then the big rotating bolt pin… Now, you can pull out the bolt. Don’t loose any of those pins, if you do, you are screwed. Now gotta take that little bolt and drift out the little extractor pin – careful not to let the spring fly. Then there is the ejector and its little pin and spring.

Now that you have all of these things taken down… clean them. While cleaning you will notice that in a great many hard to reach places you have a black deposit that must be removed. This is carbon. This is the defecation that I mentioned earlier. It hits the metal flaming hot and under pressure. Do you know what heat and pressure does to carbon? Turns the shit into diamonds that’s what it does. This black carbon is so hard that it has to be scraped off with a tool. Oops… not too hard… you don’t want to scratch the parts. You can use your firing pin, but it’s not the best tool for it and you don’t want to damage the firing pin… that would be a bad thing.

Be certain that you clean out the insides of the bolt carrier where the gas tube is and the surfaces where the firing pin operate. More carbon there… and on the firing pin it’s self. You can easily go through a dozen or so pipe cleaners in the bolt and carrier system. Once all the parts are cleaned and inspected and properly lubed, it can all be reassembled. All of this might take you about 45 minutes to an hour if you want your rifle to “Pass Inspection”. Now there is the rifle it’s self.

There is the lower receiver and trigger group…. More pipe cleaners and some Q-Tips to get down in there. After the lower is done, it’s time for the upper receiver. You have the main tube portion that is hard to reach all the areas in there… then the charging handle raceway which is even more interesting. The gas tube needs to be cleaning as well. Pipe Cleaners, high pressure solvent injectors, harsh language… all required to clean that. Once this is done now you are in for a special treat. The chamber. The AR-15’s chamber is shaped like a retarded star and you have to get behind the lugs in there. Strange brushes, pipe cleaners, language that would make a drunk Irishman blush… all required to get the chamber clean and none of it allow you to get the chamber perfectly clean.

After this chamber of tortures, you can now do the barrel like a normal rifle. There you go. Put it all back together again and then wipe the whole thing down and your done. Through the entire process you have let an entire movie play, eaten some dinner, and drank about 4 and a half Cold Ones. Your Drill Sergeant would no be proud. Try doing all this in the field, during bad weather conditions, stress, hunger, fatigue, the threat of death, and no Cold Ones… not much fun is it? Now remember this… the phrase “It functions well if its cleaned properly.” You will hear that a lot about the AR-15. In fact, in regards to the AR-15, you will ALWAYS hear that. So get used to it. You’ll hear it again. The flaw is the rifle’s gas system. Should the gas system be redesigned to use an operating rod and gas piston to push the bolt carrier back – that would be 75% of the rifles problem, 20% the lack of a fixed ejector, and the last 5% is the chamber and locking lugs design that makes it such a chore to clean.

The only plus for the AR’s gas impingement system is that it has fewer parts. Supposedly, this makes for a more accurate rifle system than one which utilizes an op rod like an M-14/M1 Garand or an op rod attached to a gas piston like an AK. However, the problem is that because the hot gasses are blown back into the action, only certain propellants may be used lest the system suffers total breakdown due to carbon pollution. This was the problem which led to way too many U.S. casualties during the Viet Nam war. Going to the Garand or Kalashnikov type action will produce a gun which is more robust and less sensitive to the type of powder in the ammunition. However, the tradeoff is weight and more moving parts. Supposedly this means less accuracy. Funny how the M-21 sniper rifle system uses this type of action. Go figure. Admittedly the M-21/M-14 is a higher maintenance gun than the AR, and this is one of the reasons why ARs are superceding the M-14 in matches. The other reason is familiarity with the rifle… since ARs are so popular and are the US military’s service rifle, more people know the AR than they do the M-14.

Not only can the AR jam so easily, but it doesn’t even make a good club.

I’m going to catch a lot of flak for this piece… The AR-15 has many advocates and I have just pissed them all off to the man. I’ll get emails about this… here are what they are going to say – Well no… the first thing that are going to say is that I don’t know what I am talking about… I wasn’t enlisted because I don’t publish my unit… Well, I don’t publish my fucking credit card number either… dumbass. So other than personal attacks (which I get the most because they can’t attack the idea, they have to attack the man) here are the arguments:

1) The M16 is so accurate!
Answer: Accuracy isn’t the number one requirement of an assault rifle and does you little good if the gun doesn’t fire when the trigger is pulled.

2) It works fine if you clean it!
Answer: A service rifle should still work fine even when you don’t have the time to clean it. Like when people are shooting at you. If it gets too muddy you should be able to open the action, piss into it to rinse the mud chunks out of it, and be back in the fight.

3) It’s very light!
Answer: And it breaks! However this very light AR-15 is no longer light when you add in all the extras that are the style these days… two white lights, vertical fore grip, full length rail for your short compact optical sights… lasers… AM/FM tape deck… There is a whole Gun Industry Sub-Industry revolved around the AR-15. There are so many accessories the AR is nothing more than a Black Barbie Doll for Boys. You can dress it up for a night on the town or a day at the beach in your little pink convertible… it’s fabulous! By the time your rifle is dressed out like one of the guys from the Blackhawk Industries ads… it’s no longer very light. It now weighs as much as an M-249 SAW.

4) I’ve fired blah, blah number of rounds through MY AR, and it works fine.
Answer. Not while on your belly in the dirt crawling through God knows what. Punching holes through paper targets at the range is fine… the AR-15 is a great little .223 target rifle. But a fighting rifle it is not. “As long as you do your part…”
This is a WEAPON… Not a Bench Rest comp-rifle. A weapon gets used and abused… not treated like a Faberge Egg. “Doing your part” should include pissing into the action to rinse the mud out of it – and not much more.

You like the AR? Fine. Enlist and try it out where it is supposed to be used. One thing to think about… The AR was designed back in the 1960s, when people smoked a lot of pot… Not saying that Stoner smoked dope, but it would explain a few things. Since that time there have been dozens of different military guns designed all over the world. The designers of these weapons had the advantage of being able to look at what else was out there and pick what they liked the best. So my question is, over the last forty some odd years, how many new military rifles have come out using the AR gas system? (The .308 version of the AR-15 called the SR-25 or AR-10 doesn’t count) How many have come out using a piston? How many have a spring loaded ejector vs. a fixed ejector? With some form of gas piston or op rod since the AR: K2, G36, SAR, Valmet, Sako M90, Sig 550, FNC, Galil, Tavor, AN 94, FARA 98, Aug, INSAS, AR 70/90, AR 18, Stoner 63. I’m not sure if it is Singapore or Taiwan who has built a copy of the M16, but it even has a gas piston! I’ve probably forgotten a few as well. Who else has used direct gas impingement in their designs? I can’t think of any at the moment.

The best way to improve the AR-15 is to unscrew the front sight, and put a new gun under it.– Kevin McKlung, aka Mad Dog.

Let’s talk about the cartridge now, for just a moment. 5.56MM is another name for .223 basically. In essence, it’s just a big .22 rifle. You can even fire .22 LR through the AR-15 accurately with an adapter bolt mechanism. There are those that say that 5.56MM is plenty powerful enough for combat and even inflict more wound damage than a 7.62X39MM or even the mighty .308. This is completely untrue. Just because you saw a graph that some guy drew with MS Paint that illustrates a wound channel in ballistic gel doesn’t mean that what you saw with the truth.

“Well under 100 meters…” No. No it doesn’t. The .308 fires a bigger, fatter, heavier bullet with a greater power charge behind it. The .308 has a greater range do it’s tremendous ballistic advantage at any range. Muzzle to 1,000 yards out… well beyond where a 5.56MM weapon can effectively engage.

You want to talk power from the AR’s “hyper velocity”? Then how come police tactical units are using 5.56MM weapons because of the reduced risk of over penetration?

Just about any .308 load (WARNING: Graphic Exaggeration Ahead!) will blow a big enough hole through a person to toss a cat through, so don’t even go there about 5.56MM ballistics. Especially when your talking about the shorter 16 inch barreled versions of the AR. When you shorten the barrel of a rifle, your reducing it’s velocity and the only thing the M-16 has going for it is velocity. After chopping it down, your velocity is now just average. Let’s be quite frank… there are some .22LR loads that can almost catch up to it.

FACT: AR-15/M-16 based rifles SUCK. The Army has done its damnedest to make people think they don’t… but let’s not take my word for it – let’s take it straight from the horse’s mouth. Read THIS. If the AR is so great, how come they have been trying to replace it? Why has the Special Forces just awarded a contract to FN for their new SCAR rifle? Why? I’ve told you why. I’ve yet to get an email from a real combat veteran who has seen more than a single instance of action who thinks the AR-15/M-16 family of rifles is a good weapon. Even when I was in, there were XM-X or some designation rifle trials… to include new variants of the M-16, one of which was the flat top, and apparently that won… Even though it was still the lowest scoring rifle in the mix according to the grunts they let play with them. Reading this article, you find a nice little phrase about using an operating rod to improve the reliability because like I have said, it self pollutes. It shits on it’s own dinner plate. I like the XM-8, but I’d like it better if it was in .300 Whisper.


I wrote this piece a long time ago… It has garnered me more flak than anything else I have ever written. It is linked to many discussion forums all over the net where people who disagree with my opinion elect to voice it through personal insults and asking questions to their forum – but not to me. That’s fine. I don’t consider myself to be taken to task by zit faced, roll-playing, counter-strike addicted pussies.

What REAL SOLDIERS have to say about the M-4/M-16:

3rd ID soldier: “I know it fires very well and accurate [when] clean. But sometimes it needs to fire dirty well too.

25th Infantry Division soldier: “The M4 Weapon in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan was quick to malfunction when a little sand got in the weapon. Trying to keep it clean, sand free was impossible while on patrols or firefights.

82nd Airborne Division soldier: “The M4 is overall an excellent weapon, however the flaw of its sensitivity to dirt and powder residue needs to be corrected. True to fact, cleaning will help. Daily assigned tasks, and nonregular hours in tactical situations do not always warrant the necessary time required for effective cleaning.

75th Ranger Regiment member, SOCOM: “Even with the dust cover closed and magazine in the well, sand gets all inside; on and around the bolt. It still fires, but after a while the sand works its way all through the gun and jams start.

The 507th Maintenance Company, ambushed outside Nasariyah in 2003 during the opening days of the ground invasion of Iraq, might concur with all of the above. The post-incident report released by the US Army had this to say:

“Dusty, desert conditions do require vigilance in weapons maintenance… However, it is imperative to remember that at the time of the attack, the 507th had spent more than two days on the move, with little rest and time to conduct vehicle repair and recovery operations.”

The last word will be left to SOCOM’s Major Chaz Bowser:

We buy new laptop computers every few years across the gamut, so couldn’t we do the same with our single most important piece of military equipment? …. Waiting for a leap-ahead technology based on a kinetic energy weapon platform is a waste of time and money, so we need to look at what is out there now…. What the Army needs is a weapon that is now ready for prime-time and not a developmental system…. The requirement comes from the field, not from an office in some garrison activity, not from some consultant and definitely not from a vendor.

Let’s do this quickly without all the bureaucracy typically associated with change. Find someone in our ranks who can make a decision – who hasn’t floated a retirement resume with a gun company – and make the decision now. Just look how fast we were all issued the ‘highly coveted’ black beret or the digital uniform. Find that recipe card, change out the word ‘Velcro’ with ‘battle rifle’ and that may be a start to finding a solution [DID: which, he acknowledges, could be Colt’s M4 if that’s what the competition shows]. Our men and women deserve much better than we are giving them, and shame on us.

77 thoughts on “Why I hate the M-16/AR-15 Rifle”

  1. No matter what year it is, or how many times you do it, shooting a hornets nest with a pellet gun is fun.

  2. Counter Strike…wow, that really dates this piece. Does anyone even own this game anymore? George, I don’t know why you even bring this up again considering AR’s are Crusader’s bread & butter. This horse needs to be 6 feet under.

    1. This was written, what? 8 years ago or more now?
      Why bring it up? Well, thats a good question. I guess it goes to show the faith that I put into Crusader’s guns. Their reliability is above anything else I’ve seen in other AR’s.
      You see, with the other guy’s AR’s its all about what’s ON the AR. With Crusader, you put on whatever you want… but Crusader is all about what’s IN the AR. There is a fundamentally huge difference. This is why a Crusader is better. I wouldn’t have been a part of Crusader if it was any less.

      1. Still true today. Crusader is just selling what it’s customers want.

        I have three ARs ( a DCM rifle, a Cavarms plastic in 6.8 SPC, and a lower dedicated to a .50 BMG upper ) … but the emergency rifle I keep loaded and hanging from coathook is an AK that I built from a Romy parts kit for under $200.

        I know that regardless of what else happens, that AK will shoot.

        My truck gun, which takes even more abuse, is a Mosin Nagant carbine …

    2. The new horse is an Anderson manufactured RF-85 AR-15 the only non lube AR-15 in the world, runs 85% cooler, and 23% faster cycling , this RF-85 metal is not a coating It’s like butter through & through running only 15 % of the heat from gas impingement the carbon simply blows out like the casing at Anderson AR-15,com they ran a test the old horse colt lubed at start & the RF-85 no lube ran for over 4200 rounds at 15 rds per min. then the plastic rail caught fire the colt only ran 700 to 800 rds then seized This AR-15 will out run any AK-47 in the world and twice the life of any other AR I’ve been trying to get IRAQ VETERAN 8888 to torture test this weapon but he did torture test a Anderson standard AR-15 it blew the barrel out at 855 rds full auto only one lube century Arms AK-47 worped the barrel at only 270 rds which caused a gas leak that stoped the rod from blowing back the action so he tried a Vipre AK which went 70 rds more than an AR-15 the barrel worped which caused a gas leak ya stoped the rod from blowing back the action again

    1. Worse than it has been for the last many years? It goes in cycles… some times I hear nothing about it, then suddenly I get a bunch of emails about it. Some from “You Don’t Know Nothing” types, and others from professional soldiers and contractors who serve in front line, point of the spear units, who know what makes a good fighting weapon… and those guys generally all say that the M-16 isnt it. Quite simply, if it was all that, then why would SOCOM have bothered with the FN SCAR?

    1. There where a couple of others. There was the Swedish AG-42 Lljungman rifle which is where the DI system comes from and the Hakim, and Rasheed Rifles which are developments of the AG-42.

  3. I enjoyed this article long ago, and again now…however I don’t see value in saying Crusaders are the only AR’s which focus on what’s inside. IMHO you would be better off claiming status among other premium quality brands like Colt, BCM, and Noveske…unless you are tweaking the platform a’la KAC…

  4. Kristopher, you can add the FN49, Swede Ljungman (sp.), Egyptian Hakim & Rashid to the list of DI rifles…but they are all mid-century designs. Nothing wrong with an AR for 95% of the shooting population, but for people who’s lives depend on it…well I would think they are the experts on what is best for them instead of someone pretty much dropping whatever in thier laps and telling them to have at it. George, trust me when I say that I believe in Crusader but I just don’t want this to turn into a contridiction or something that is thrown up in your face and forcing you to explain yourself. I just don’t want to see this affect Crusader’s business in any type of negative way.

    1. Not the FN-49 — unless they stuck that operating rod/piston in there just to add weight or fill empty space.

      1. OK … and the other two are just Ljungman knockoffs.

        So you have just two other direct impingement rifles, a french, and a swede ( + copies ), all of which were abandoned after a decade or so.

  5. Amen. I went through basic training late 2008 and was not pleased by what I saw. The rifles we were trained on were so carbon fouled that they had all but given up on keeping them clean. The procedure we were taught was to douse the insides in CLP and use the threads on the eyehook attachment of the cleaning kit to scrape as much carbon off the bolt as possible, which wasn’t much. It works if you keep it clean? That’s fine until you realize that a complete GI cleaning kit is a mythical creature on the order of bigfoot, except that some people claim to have actually seen bigfoot. My flight had to mix and match to have functional kits for even half of us and cleaning brushes worn down to olive drab tongue depressors were the norm. I would have no confidence in this weapon if I were issued one and, in my opinion, the sooner we replace it the better.

    1. I have to agree. I went through basic in 2006 and up until that time I thought the AR platform was the baddest shit kicking weapon around. Now I started hunting at a very young age with my uncle who was a very traditional style hunter. The old man of the mountain kind of guy. Respect the woods, respect your prey, respect your weapon, etc. I have cleaned many a hunting rifle, pistol, and shotguns which are known for being dirty weapons. My uncle being the strict traditionalist that he is made sure that I cleaned whatever weapon I used to the point of being white glove clean, taking care even to wipe fingerprints off any metal surface before storing to prevent possible rust from the oils left on the weapon from your skin. Being used to this level of dedication to cleaning my weapon, I was shocked when we actually had stations set up to drop the components of our M4’s into a CLP solvent bath to soak prior to manually cleaning them. (Anybody else remember that?) And even more shocked that once they were soaked and manually cleaned it was still impossible to get all the carbon out of the tiny cracks and even some of the surface carbon that had burned on to the bolt so badly you couldnt scrape it off. I cleaned my M4, literally until my fingers bled getting cut on the chamber star lugs and still couldn’t achieve that white glove level of cleanliness I was so used to. And there is absolutely no arguing that this carbon build up over time, even after rigorous cleaning, is a problem that causes malfunction. Its just proven scientific fact shown by countless statistics and that anyone can see for themselves if you have shot an AR. Now if carbon build up is enough to cause ejection problems, double feeds, etc, what do you imagine would happen if you were to drag it through a sandbox for 6 hours, then shake it off and fire it? The tolerances between the moving parts and the DI system is OBVIOUSLY a bad idea and makes the AR a bad choice for a combat rifle that should be reliable in any environment. Of course tolerances are a difficult subject as well. There is no argument that the AK is notorious for its reliability under extreme abuse because of the wide tollerences of its moving parts. But for that reliability it suffers from decreased accuracy at long ranges. For accuracy you need to ensure the rifle moves the exact same way every time a round is fired and you cant do that when there is wiggle room. As a sporting rifle sure the AR is fine because you can treat it right and stoppages aren’t going to cost someone their life. But in combat I want to spend my time sending rounds downrange not wondering how many more rounds my rifle will tolerate before it has choked itself to death with carbon fouling.

      1. One of the problems the military guns have, is the use of BREAKFREE CLP. That stuff just sucks. Anyone says differently must be selling it. That and the incessant use of Blanks… which just carbon loads everything. 20 rounds equals about 500 rounds of regular carbon build up. Or so it seems. Combine those too things… Yeah, you’ll need hot solvent baths.

    2. Well I first met the AR-15 in 1964 and was not impressed. Then came the M-16. First ones I used were in 1965. I used them in special forces and the infantry and as an advisor to ARVN Rangers and the 81st Airborne Ranger Bn. My last firefight was in Mogadishu in 2003. I never had a malfunction. I carried a Bushmaster as a police patrol rifle. I never had a malfunction. I am really sorry I was so lucky and so many were not!!

  6. I got out of the army in 1970. This was well known, even then. What politics has kept the thing going all this time?

    I’ve forgotten the numbers; so I’ll make them up: In the late 60s, an AK cost about $40.00. An M16 cost $850.00. Who got all the graft? The M16s persistence must have a political explanation. Has any book attempted to explain it?

    1. An AK is also a dirt simple rifle designed to be made with simple tools. The AR, not so much. It’s complicated and requires special tooling to manufacture. The American Way is to go with the more expensive weapon system.

  7. Dump the M-16!!! its high time it went away. There are many other guns better than it for cheaper. You shound never have to clean a gun every ten mins, and the 16 fails in that. I have a Valmet M76, 1000rds in it, no cleaned yet, works with reloads, any bullet type.

    1. I used think the same way… In fact, I wrote the “Why I hate the M-16/AR-15 article that became the bible for AR Haters.
      But you know, my Crusader tweaked Rock River has never – ever – jammed on me. And I’ve not cleaned it in over 3000 rounds… not since Spring of 2010.

      1. Ok I am really confused and I don’t want to sound retarded (who does) but when you say ar15 suck do you mean armalite produced versions? Or do you mean any ar15 even gas bolt versions suck? I thought ar15 was just the basic name give to the design attributed to ArmaLite and that many guny manufacturers made their own like the rock river LAR-15 (or is that even a ar15 design?)

        1. At the time I wrote that – 20 years go – I meant all AR-15 rifles. All of them. I’ve not changed the article as I do not re-write history… but since that time, the AR-15 has come a long way. Makers know how to build them and generally speaking all of them are pretty dang good now. I don’t know any that are actually bad now. Some better than others… Crusader Weaponry, Daniel Defense, LWRC…

  8. I also own a Rock River AR. I’ve been lazy lately and haven’t properly cleaned it in over 1,000 rounds. Never has it jammed. I shoot mostly budget range ammo, too.. Amreican Eagle, and even some steel cased Russian stuff.

  9. Tell it like it is Brother. I’m right there with you and have been for years. My SHTF gun is an M14 and if I need something really accurate I’ll use my M24.

    Semper Fi
    SSGT Ret.

  10. I’ve been saying this since my Army days. I love it how AR people get an AR and then say “I went out and shot 200 rounds and didn’t have any jams.” WTF? Did you expect some jams after only 200 rounds? If it can’t fire 200 rounds without a jam it is a piece of shit.

  11. I agree with you the design is flawed and they have been issuing the AR for way too long with no significant alterations. One thing I have heard is that the ORIGINAL 5.56mm cartridge powder for the AR burned very clean and created very little carbon build-up. Then Du-Pont came and made a powder that was cheaper but burned poorly with lots of carbon build-up. Just something to think about as far as why Eugene Stone designed some of the parts the way he did. However aside from that there were still design flaws. With so many different guns to choose from I think It’s time the Military lay the AR – aside. Like you said [paraphrasing] a dolled up AR doesn’t do you good if it wont fire!

  12. As a combat vet Marine Infantryman that has fired thousands of rounds through the M-16 family of weapons I can honestly say that I disagree with much of what was written in this article. I know for a fact that Marines in WW2 had their issued weapons jam. And yes so do current issued Firearms. The problem is mostly due to:
    A. Bad magazines
    B. Bad ammo
    C. Worn out springs
    An AK with the above 3 listed factors can and wilp jam. Ive seen it.
    There are however undoubtably better systems. The ARAK21, the TAR21 and X95 Tavor immediately come to mind. Before I deployed with 1/5 to Afghanistan I made sure that all of my fireteams weapons had:
    Good mags, good springs, and new extractors. We did fine.

    1. You sound like a much younger infantryman… The Platform has improved greately from the time this was first written. Since that time was a half owner in a company that made AR-15 type rifles. I now own one particular AR that has had a stellar record of reliability.

  13. MadOgre, I have a honest question. I own a Ruger Mini 14 Tactical and I am honestly wondering about giving it up. I have two questions: First, I am also prior Military, shot the M16A2, but I’ve never seen combat. However I’m wondering if you would take the new designed Minis to combat over the older AR designs. Second, Because I’m on a budget, Do you suggest an AK? Or should I actually take my chances with a newer style AR?

    1. Honestly the only actual problem the Mini-14 has is it’s proprietary, single source magazine. There’s only 1 decent source for mags, and that’s from Ruger. They are expensive compared to the AR Type, and not as easy to find.
      So like many other rifles, invest in a good supply of magazines. That’s it. You are good to go.
      Now if you are wanting something different, that’s fine too. I love the AK, but the cost of a good AK now is only slightly less than a good AR, so really price doesn’t matter on that choice. It’s the ammo. In your area, what ammo can you get good and plenty is going to determine which rifle you might want to get.
      I’ve got my personal AR as my go to rifle now. Because since I wrote this, AR’s have become very good now. Over 40 years of constant development will do that.

      1. Still a great article on the AR-15. Some thoughts on the Mini-14.

        The Mini-14 is actually a superior weapon to the AR-15 now that Ruger took the time several years ago to make improvements in the barrel and gas block. Nearly as good now as the AK. 1.5″ groups from a bench rest at 100 yards are common, and nearly all guns will do under 2″. With the original design is was a 4″ group gun and the barrel heated up very fast causing groups to open up. Aftermarket improvements like a reduced diameter gas bushing (cheap) or adjustable gas block (more expensive) or a barrel strut (cost varies) help even more. The reduced diameter bushings cause the rounds to flop out just off the bench rather than getting dented and launched. Shutting off the gas system on an adjustable aftermarket block gives you a nice single shot (bolt-like) action.

        Yes the newer AR-15s are better than the used to be, but they still are a dirt- and sand-susceptible tiny-part contraptions compared to a Mini-14 or AK. The gas system still sucks. You can get a Mini-14 dirty like an AK, shake it out and it will still fire. Since the bolt is open and visible, it is easy to brush out any embeded crud. It has very few parts and can be taken apart as far as you need to for any cleaning with a stick. And it is quick and easy to clean.

        The Mini-14 Ranch Rifle with a wood stock is “juror and police friendly.” Ask any lawyer if he wants to defend a self defense shooting with a black AR-15 (or an AK) on the evidence table, or a wood Mini-14. Non-shooters associate the AR-14 with military-only use and the AK with commie militaries or criminals. In contrast, the the wood-stocked Mini-14 looks like a hunting rifle and is much less threatening to non-shooters – “something your grandfather might have owned.” This is just reality, especially if you are in a leftist state.

        The old Mini-14 barrels were just too light. The new ones are heavier and tapered. Unfortunately, Ruger gave in to the tacticool temptation and make the Mini-14 Tactical model with a 16.12″ barrel to allow for the flash supressor length. As was indicated in the article, the 5.56/223 Rem round was designed for a longer barrel to achieve its velocity potential. That’s why the new Ruger Mini-14 Target Model has a 22″ barrel. (Of course it also has no iron sights and a harmonic tuner.) A Mini-14 with a 20″ barrel and iron sights (no tuner) is really what is needed. (The Standard models have only 18.5″ barrels). I’d also prefer a slightly even heavier barrel than the improved mid-weight tapered barrels for better heat resistance in rapid fire, but that would obviously make the rifle heavier.

        Actually, there have been several manufacturers that made decent Mini-14 magazines in the past. Those included Thermold (polymer) and USA (blue steel, nickel plated, and stainless) in the mid 1990s. Also some Triple-Ks and John Masens. I’m not sure of the aftermarket situation now. But Ruger now sells good high-capacity Mini-14 mags to anyone on-line (used to be law enforcement only back in the 90s). For a rural self-defense or disaster situation in the U.S.A, you obviously wouldn’t need more than say four 20-round magazines, and 5- or 10-rounders are of course better when shooting prone. Some of the new models have come with two 20 round magazines.

        The Mini-30 is also decent, but it could also benefit from a longer 20″ barrel. Frankly though, if the SHTF, you’d better have a lot of commie 7.62×39 stored up. I’d rather go with what the governemnt and police are shooting (and have stored all over the U.S. in the millions of rounds.) (The Mini-30 is also a little odd to reload because some shoot fine with .308 bullets and some do better with the .311 diameter of the commie rounds – you just have to experiment. And also likely need a cannelure to crimp into. )

        According to my Korean War era veteran relatives, what every soldier wanted was a rifle right between the M1 carbine and the M14 in power and weight. One wonders how history may have been different if Ruger had the current Mini-14 design available in the 1960s for the military – with say a shortened .243 cartridge to match.

        1. Superior?
          No. It’s not. It’s still not as accurate, doesn’t have the aftermarket support, nor the development. Ruger’s barrels are second rate compared to the Cold Hammer Forged barrels you can get on any AR now. That’s just metallurgical science. There are no great triggers for it either. And if you want a stock – you have Wood or Synthetic or a cheap bullpup option. 3 options. Compared to how many? Thousands? The magazines are proprietary and not that great. Good, but not that great. Single sourced is a handicapped. Where are the 60 and 100 round options? There are none. Because reasons.
          Now, the Mini-14 is not a bad gun at all. I’m not saying that. But to say it’s superior is just ignorant. Though I appreciate your enthusiasm.

          1. The long-running Mini-14 versus AR-15 debate may become moot with the release of the Ruger AR-556 (which is only now showing up in decent numbers at shops). With an AR-556 street price of $570, and the Mini-14 Tactical or Ranch at $750 street, the Mini may die a slow death. That’s just too much for most people.

            The same is true of the now-expensive Ruger M77 and 77/22 bolt actions compared to the much lower priced (and just as accurate) Ruger American and American Rimfire.

            This may be an intentional strategy by Ruger because the traditional rifles have had a very large price increase in the last few years. The new guns are cheaper to produce and probably have a much bigger profit margin.
            By the way, I also doubt the SUPERIOR (yes) Ruger SR-556 adjustable gas-system piston rifles are selling well due to the $1000 to $1500 street price. But Ruger put a lot of effort into that gun, so they will probably keep producing it in small numbers for the rich dudes.

            The SP101 and GP100 revolvers will probably survive for now, though they are pushing the too-lightweight LCR polymer revolvers heavily. If they come out with mid-weight and heavy weight polymer revolvers, then it is eventually over for them also.

            R.I.P Mini-14.

        2. The M-14 wasn’t around during the Korean War. The Springfield Armory finalized the M-14 design in 1955. They weren’t issued to the troops until 1960.

      2. OK, I’m confused! I’m 67 years old, served in Nam all of 1969, yes, in combat and wounded, day & night patrols with Lima 3/1 Marines. We called the m-16, the one shoot rifle!! Any dirt, it does fire! You mean after all these years, they haven’t fix it!!! I’m reading this because I’m retired now, and was going to buy a Ruger AR-556 for fun. I will not buy any combat rifle that can’t fire in mud and dirt!!! The AK-47 was used by the North and you could get it wet & muddy and it would keep on shooting! We Marines wish we had the AK instead of the M-16! SO! is the Ruger AR-556 a good weapon or not! I don’t want a one shot combat weapon, even if I’m now an old man. What should I buy!

        1. My dad is a Vietnam vet, ’68-69 with the “Big Red One” was in the II Corp area, he was combat wounded. Had 2 uncles there also one was a Marine at Khe Sahn, 67-69 the other was at Da Nang he was Army 1970 -1971. One thing they all say is the M16 “SUCKED”. My dad carried a M79, my Marine uncle carried a M14 and my other uncle carried a AK47, now if they hated the M16 wonder how many others did then and now? Dad told me most guys broke them or ditched them first chance the got.

  14. So, I am wondering why the FN FAL isn’t being mentioned. It can be tested to be comparably tough in terms of rounds fired in comparison to the AK-47. It also has comparable range and accuracy to the AR-15.

      1. Alright. An interesting note. AR-18 uses same ammo as AR-15, but actually does use a gas piston.

  15. I never had an AR15 or M16 that did NOT malfunction on me, admittedly I have not used one since the mid ’80s and I am aware that current models are vastly better but my experience has kept me far away from the AR platform. In fact I got in an argument with Grant Cunningham
    ( http://www.grantcunningham.com/blog.html ) as he took me to task for saying that the gas rings had to be misaligned for the weapon to work and he called BS. In my day it was absolutely true, apparently now, not so much, but that is the kind of thing you run into with this POS, some of them are what some wag called “a triumph of engineering over design” and some are still useless junk that should be lumped in with the Chauchat and the type 94 Nambu. The real problem is politics, McNamara rammed this thing down the Army’s throat and no one wants to admit the military has been issuing a POS since the early 60’s since everyone will bitch and some ass covering generals might look bad.

    1. In 2014 things are different… Most everyone making ARs are making decent rifles that are going to run.

  16. I have to admit I have two AR-15’s and recently got my hands on an Ak-47. From a parts and simplicity standpoint there is really no comparison. You can easily field strip and AK with your eyes closed and the only tool you might need is the metal magazine to get the gas switch lock off…not sure on the exact name but it is the lever next to the sight aperture.

    The AR by comparison needs tools…a lot of them imho to fully field strip it. Also I watched a guy dump mud and water into his AK-47 and aside from having to re-rack it a few times it shot perfectly. I guarantee that the AR-15 will not do that regardless of what is said. I have had to use my forward assist to help it clear jamming just from firing so I would have to say I am really sold on the AK. Additionally I have fired the 7.62 and had it go through trees and keep trucking. The .223 is a nice round but the AK is a much heavier bullet etc. I feel one of the major advantages of the AR would probably be the lighter bullets honestly. I am guessing that you can carry a lot more ammo in the .223 from a weight perspective and also most people are not going to put their head up to find out if it is an AK or an AR shooting at them.

    My 2 cents. I also have a Ruger Mini-30 but as was previously mentioned the magazines are next to impossible to get. I have some factory Rugers but the PMAGs are the way to go for the AR etc.

  17. Thanks! This article is spot on. I was really debating/ pushing myself towards an ar15 this article got me to go with the guns I have and screw the AR. It can only be reliable with a piston and at that point you might as well spend the money on a good piston gun.

  18. I carried an M4 for most of my years in the Army. I was discharged in 2007. During the last four years I was fortunate to have s brand spanking new M4. My feeling is that the newer examples have evolved to the point where they are fairly reliable even when not perfectly clean.

    I don’t remember having a single failure during my last two years of service. Granted I am a fastidious cleaner. I am not sure that the last couple of M4s that I carried would be any less reliable than an equivalent AK.

    I am not saying that the platform hasn’t had signifigant problems in the past, but at this point the M4/M16 series is doing pretty well. I suspect that’s why the military is hesitant to select a replacement. They probably feel like they could be starting the whole process that they went through with the M16 all over again.

    1. The platform has improved greatly over the years. 50 years of continual development has paid off. However, when this post was first created – what I said held true. For some lesser brands of AR-15’s, it still is.
      Now days, most AR builders are indeed building decent rifles.

      1. Name one major change over the last 40 years…there has been none. The military came very close to getting ride of the AR in 2007 but Obama would not allow the cost. It takes around ten years to develop a new weapon. The AR was never developed or tested. The M-16 was forced on the Marines in 1964 and later the Army.

        1. Yes, but in 2007 that alternative weapon was the XM8. And luckily we didn’t go with it. Because it was a Failure. Melted when fired too much.

      2. I saw the issues with the rifle when I enlisted.. I saw the M16/M16A2 and M4…No real difference. It is a fatally flawed design. The improvements have been more external. It is still the same basic firing system Stoned Stoner came out with.

        If it gets dirty it fails, that carbon block back does indeed degenerate the firing mechanisms. You should have visited blogs from soldiers in the field, tons of complaints about failures and this in last few years.

        My last trip to mid east we had a guy in our unit who was natuarlly funny. He had this saying that a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down. He said it helped with the army bs.

        Later he changed his words to the song. “A spoon full of sand makes my 4 break down, my 4 break down” So I will just leave it on the ground”

        Regardless of improvements ( silk purse out of a sow’s ear)

        Sand will shut that rifle down, piston system or not…if it gets dirty…and it will. IT WILL NOT WORK!!!.

        I have a mini 30 , and with a few minor enhancements. This would be an ideal, simple, reliable, sturdy ( based on M 14/ garand) SELF CLEANING (yes its true) field rifle. It is a tough tough gun. Take care

  19. Yeah man I agree with you 100 percent. AR enthusist think its the best rifle to take into combat when it is not. Its far from that its a piece of garbage, and yes I have carried one as a 19 delta scout in the army. I hated that piece of trash even before the army. I loved history and knew how the a1s were. I feel the m4s are not to much better and I bought one in 6.8 and it was made very shitty super picky with ammo. All I wanted was a rifle that shoots. Should of bought a AK I dont care if it gets 3 moa at a 100 yards I can still hit a deer with that. At least the thing works almost all the time and cycles anything you feed it. In my mind the military should move on but unfortunatly it would cost way to much. A guy at college who was a ranger and issued a scar said if he had to pick a ar over a ak it would be a ak. He has both but he says the ak in a combat situation is a much better choice. Its harder to manipulate but it works.

  20. When somebody starts with the “my time in the army, my M16 jammed all the time—blah-blah-blah”. I tend to think of them as walts.

    1. I started out by saying my M-16 ran like a top. And this article was written a long time ago. I tend to call guys that post to ancient articles, “zombie hunters”.

  21. Nobody quite understands the truth about how the U.S. actually bought the first 104,000 rifles in December 1963, eight days after JFKs murder. It all had to do with LBJ and his good friend, David Karr, president of Fairbanks Whitney, owner of Colt Industries Inc. McNamara was ordered to buy the rifle, the AR-15, a survival rifle developed by the Armalite Corporation for the Air Force. Fairbanks Morse was almost bankrupt under Landa so when Karr took over the name was changed to Fairbanks Whitney. In 1961 and 1962 Fairbanks Whitney had a net loss and Karr begged LBJ to buy something to save the company. The AR-15 was never developed for the military and never went through a research and development stage. There is some debate about how Fairbanks came up with a viable military weapon that could be pawned off to the military as a new viable rifle. Colt was lucky to find the new Armalite design and bought the patent from Armalite. Stoner was only one of several design engineers who worked on the AR15 and was later hired by Colt. After the sale to the government Karr retired and the company name became Colt Industries Inc. The full story with cites is available.

  22. I agree the gas tube is a big problem with these rifles I burned one out one time and could not get it out and basically destroyed my whole upper that cost me 800 bucks I respect the ak for that reason

  23. Actually, the M16 or AR15 rifle has been reliable for quite sometime. One of the first things they do in military training is to make a recruit confident in his weapon. So they routinely proofed the rifle robust enough for adverse conditions and with enough power to be effective within typical engagement distance. Nowadays there’s enough video demos online to illustrate that it is reliable.

  24. Sorry guys but my time with an ak47 has been not as good as your experience with them I’ve tryed out like 7 of them and each did not perform to with you all say they each jamb big time so the saying that the ak47 always shoots is not true at all and now the AR-15 I’ve seen a few not work that well from $500 to the $8,000 ones but I did find an AR-15 that works realy well and I like its so far 3,000 rounds and not one jam the Omni 2 gen AR-15 shoots with out fell or problems.

  25. I call BS on Lee who claims to have used 7 AK’s and each of them jammed “big time”. Hahaha. You’d probably have better odds at winning the lottery than having 7 different “big time” AK jams. Unless you were using the same broken magazine in all of them.

    I have nothing against AR’s. Almost everyone I know chooses the AR over AK or M1A or mini. I just don’t like having to deal with all tiny little areas while cleaning them. I guess I just get lazy and the AK is more lazy guy friendly.

    Well written article. I will have to check out more of your writing.

    1. Thank you.
      Now, I have seen some AK’s jam… I’ve seen everything jam at one point or another. But jams in AK’s are more rare than in AR’s. These days, AR’s are pretty damn reliable. After 50 years of development, most makers have figured out how to build them right.
      Usually when I see an AR jam, they are for the following reasons – In no particular order:
      1. Frankengun – a home made AR built from a parts from a number of different companies and assembled after watching a few YouTube Videos.
      2. They ran the gun hot and dirty with no lube. AR’s like to be wet. Keep the lube in it and they will run. They can be dirty and wet… they can be hot and wet… They can be dirty hot and wet. But they don’t like to run dry. Think of an AR’s internals like a weekend in Thailand.
      3. Poor Ammunition Choice. Either running some Remanufactured ammo you got from a table at the gunshow, or it’s imported steel cased ammo. Remanufactured ammo from 2nd and 3rd tier maker – you are asking for trouble. If you want Remaned ammo – source it through someone reputable. I’ve seen a lot of crap stuff that was said to be good stuff… With ammo “Trust No One” and buy it from a known good source. With Steel Cased ammo – just don’t. Ever.

      1. I think the guy who wrote this blog is lying or not very bright.

        Lucky Gunner did abusive things to cheap M4s and managed to get mag after mag without issue, using steel-cased ammo; without any kind of delay between shots besides reloading.

        1. The article was written a very long time ago. Things have changed since then. At the time, it was spot on.

          1. But why invest in a field rifle that has to be treated with kid gloves….The DI system will greatly shorten the life of this rifle. The improvements have not been that spectacular. And Finally if your rifle gets dirty or dry IT WILL FAIL. And sand is its kryptonite,,,, I saw these rifles constantly fail at Fort Bliss ( sandy environment). Even the new ones.

            It is just too temperamental for me and that is unacceptable. The Military spends billions and billions… we need a new reliable field rifle that does not incorporate this Direct impingement system.

            I have never seen one shoot sub 1″ MOA….maybe bolt action on a sand bag. The AK, M14, Garands have proven themselves over and over. In Iraq, the Re issued M14s NEVER LET US DOWN and in the rain and mud in Iraq!!! Keep it simple stupid should be the cry of military!!

  26. Excellent article, spot on and made me laugh. I’m betting the (un)intended consequence of the M-16 to require so much cleaning is to keep GI’s occupied and out of trouble. 😉

  27. AR/AK is all you hear about but lets face it the VZ58 tops them both in every way. The VZ58 at 200rds per second is faster lighter and ugly as crap this is a true battle rifle. Fact is you don’t worry about keeping something pretty when it was made to do dirty work.

  28. I agree with this article. Its not only performance reasons that make me hate the AR, but I want new rifles too keep coming out and be worked on. The M4 is a piece of garbage and about as scary as a handgun, while they have cooler, better performing, and less expensive platforms kik the SIG 55X. I used to be Infantry and I’d rather spend a day MilSiming than any time with the M4 at the range.
    God bless.

  29. I’m really a new shooter, really new but I’m 60 years old. I’m a licensed aircraft mechanic for a major airline.

    I recently purchased an Arsenal SLR 106F 5.56×45 and a Colt/Walther M4 .22LR.

    The M4 was cheaply priced and I thought it is something for women, sissies, and kids to shoot.

    In my novice opinion, the M4’s an inferior platform when compared to the AK-47, (I’ve a Riley AK-47 7.62 x 39), and for the unknowing, the SLR 106F is also an AK-47 platform.

    I can’t even imagine all the headaches with a real AR-15. And, I have better things to do than clean a poorly designed weapon and/or rub dicks with a gunsmith.

    I have three (3) SKS’s and I luv ‘em.

    I dislike the AR platform so-much-so that I purchased a Mini 14 and put an ATI Strikeforce stock on it and a Kel-Tec PLR-16 with a Ferfrans Modular Concussion Reduction Muzzle Device. I also have a Weatherby Vanguard to round-out my .223/5.56 purchases.

    Is an AR aesthetically pleasing to the eye? The answer is absolutely but it’s analogous to a beautiful girlfriend that’s bat shit crazy.

    Now, if young guys want to see if they can spend enough money in modifications to engineer an AR that’s reliable, knock yourselves out; I still think the platform sucks and it’s like sending a bat shit crazy girlfriend to a shrink. You’re wasting your time and money.

  30. I’m glad mine was stolen years ago. The wobble in them sucks, they jam frequently, burn dirty, and quality non red dot scopes for A2 carry handle model are few. I don’t miss it one bit.

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