My AR-15

my ar-15I’ve been ordering back issues of Backwoodsman Magazine, and the latest batch got here today. In the Jan/Feb 2013 issue there is an article by Mickey Eckhoff titled My Ruger Mini-14. As the former owner of a Mini-14 I really enjoyed reading it. As the current owner of an AR-15, I found his comments on the AR-15 interesting. I figure it’s worth throwing in my 2 cents on the subject of Mini-14 vs AR-15, so let me tell you about my AR-15…

Ruger Mini-14

I used to own a Mini-14 and I loved it. Actually I owned 3 – a standard blued model, a stainless Ranch Rifle, and a Mini-30. All were reliable and accurate enough for me. The styling can’t be beat IMO. I love the classic M1 looks. The action is gas piston which some claim is more reliable than the direct impingement system used by the AR.

The downside to Ruger’s Mini series is they’re proprietary. If you want extra magazines you buy Ruger mags. If you want to change the stock there are maybe 2 or 3 choices. The stock barrel has a 1-9 twist which limits you to bullets weighing 69 grains or less. If you want to re-barrel a Mini-14, you’d better know a gunsmith that knows how to do it.

In spite of the downsides, I liked my Ruger Minis, and they were only sold because of financial difficulties I was having at the time. I think they’re nice guns and I wish I still had them. Enough about that though, I want to talk about my AR-15…

If looks could kill…

I’ll be the first to admit that the AR-15 is ugly compared to more classically styled guns (like the Mini-14). I’m a traditionalist, and I like my guns with richly figured wood stocks and blued metal. The AR-15 is plastic and dull metal. The visuals are definitely an acquired taste. Because of it looks like a military M-16, the AR-15 can draw unwanted attention. I realize that’s not the fault of the gun, but still it’s a fact. The direct impingement gas system runs a little dirtier than a piston system, so you might have to clean it a little more often. All in all though I find the benefits of the AR system far outweigh the negatives.

AR-15 Versatility

OK, enough about looks. My AR-15 is a shooter’s gun, not a safe queen. One of the best things about the AR-15 is its versatility. Don’t like the stock? Get a different one – there are dozens of choices. Same thing with the trigger, fore end, whatever – the AR-15 is probably the easiest gun on the planet to customize. Need to shoot heavy bullets? For the AR you can get barrels with a fast enough twist to stabilize a 90 gr. VLD bullet. Try that with a Mini-14…

Even better than parts selection is workability. Most firearms require specialized tools and high skill levels for anything more than the most basic gunsmithing. My AR-15 on the other hand is a DIYer’s dream. Anyone with average mechanical skills and a small set of tools can fix any problem that might come up on an AR-15. Broken bolt? No problem, order a new one and replace it yourself. Worn out barrel? Same thing… The AR-15 is so easy to work on that you can fix just about anything that goes wrong yourself. You can even build one yourself from parts.

My AR-15

The lead picture is my AR-15. I built it myself, exactly the way I wanted it. This is my truck gun so I chose a fixed stock. It would have been just as easy to make it with a collapsible stock. The barrel is 16″ long with a 1:7 twist. It’s made from 4150 steel and it’s chrome lined. It will stabilize bullets up to 77 gr. and will probably last longer than the non-lined 4140 steel barrel on a Mini-14. Accuracy is at least as good as the Mini-14.

Since the upper receiver is machined with a Picatinny mount, I can choose whatever rear sight I want. I decided on an HK-style sight from Brownells. The front sight is also the gas block, and I chose a standard M4 Carbine fore end. It would have been just as easy to use a low profile gas block and free floating fore end. After the picture was taken, I added an Eotech red dot sight that works well with the irons.

I’ve since built another AR-15 for hunting. My hunting AR has a collapsible stock, free floating fore end, and a 3×9 scope. It’s chambered for 6.8 SPC, which I think is better for deer than 5.56. Like my truck gun, it was built using off the shelf parts, no custom work needed. Also like my truck gun, it worked perfectly from the start. That’s just how AR’s are…

AR-15 for the Backyardsman…

I really think an AR-15 comes close to being a perfect gun for the backwoodsman or backyardsman. You can build and maintain an AR-15 yourself without expensive tools like a lathe. It’s easy to pick your caliber (at least 11) based on intended use. Accuracy potential is at least as good as any other semiautomatic rifle.

So when you’re thinking about your next rifle, don’t look down on the AR-15. It has a lot going for it, and IMO is pretty close to perfect as a backwoodsman/backyardsman rifle.

Peace out,