Is the AR-15 a Machine Gun? (not even close)

Young girl holding an AR-15 hunting rifle

I have several ARs. They’re great little sporting rifles that get used for hunting and target shooting.

The AR-15 is not a machine gun. It shoots a single bullet every time it’s fired. The original design from the 1950s included some fully auto and select-fire versions, but those are highly restricted. An AR-15 is a semiautomatic, generally small-caliber rifle that is commonly used as a sporting rifle. The AR-15 is the most common rifle purchased in the US.

The AR-15 rifle, or rather style of rifle, is largely misunderstood by people unfamiliar with it. I’d like to take a minute and talk about this rifle, just to help you understand more about it.

The Modern AR-15 is a Style, not a Specific Model.

The name AR-15 was issued to the 15th rifle developed by the Armalite Rifle Company in the 50s. Armalite’s 15’th rifle was the original AR-15. The company wasn’t concerned with marketing and simply use AR, then then a number for all the rifles they developed. The modern AR-15 is any rifle made which follows that unique style.

The AR-15 has become a style of rifle, like a bolt-action or pump-action. Being a stickler for details, I don’t like to call them all AR-15s because in my mind, the AR-15 is an old rifle from Armalite in the 50s and 60’s that’s no longer made. the Industry has been trying to clear that up by referring to them as Modern Sporting Rifles, which is more appropriate.

The AR-style rifle has a 2-piece receiver. The receiver is the part that sits between the barrel and stock and houses the parts that load and fire ammunition. the AR receiver comes in an upper and a lower. The upper fits partially into the lower and is held on by two large locking pins. That’s part of why it’s popular. It comes apart easily.

They operate by redirecting a small portion of the expanding gas (from firing a bullet) to push the bolt back, ejecting the spent ammo. Then a spring pushes the bolt back, where it will pick up a new bullet so it can be fired again when the operator is ready.

Just like a traditional semi-automatic rifle, you must release the trigger and squeeze it again in order to fire another shot. Holding the trigger down will only result in a single shot because of the trigger reset. Here’s how the trigger system works.

pully the trigger of a fully cocked AR released the hammer. The hammer is the striking force that causes bullets to fire. Before an AR will fire, you must pull the bolt and release the bolt handle, which cocks the hammer back. Then, the trigger pull releases the hammer to strike forward.

Then, after the gun fires, the bolt is forced back automatically, which cocks the hammer but also locks it under the sear, away from the trigger. When the trigger is released from the first shot, the sear is disengaged and the trigger gets hold of the hammer again, ready to release it on another cartridge. This process was originally known as Autoloading.

Guns like this used to be called autoloading but now are known as semiauto. By the way, the first functioning machinegun was built in 1884, 10 years before semiautos were a thing. Remember, the AR wasn’t really a thing until 1964.

What is the original AR-15?

The original AR15, known now as the Armalite AR-15, was a longer barreled, less ergonomic version than most today. The design utilized aluminum for the receiver, and plastic for the stock and handguard, both of which were initially fronted upon. it was made in both fully-auto and semiauto versions.

Although Artmalite designed it, they never sold many. The company was terrible at marketing and had only a few workers, so they couldn’t get big contracts. They sold the design to Colt in 1964 for $75,000. Colt quickly marketed it to the military and began producing semiauto versions for the civilian market.

The old-school AR that most people know about was the Colt-AR-15. My uncle had an old Colt AR in the early 70s. Great little guns for the time, but personally I don’t like them so much. I much prefer the more modern iterations. Modern ARs are more reliable and can be leagues more accurate. Plus, they actually accept accessories.

The early versions had no ability to take any accessories. It was limited to a single configuration that I personally don’t like. Modern versions usually have multiple accessory rails and accessory mounting slots. That’s what really made the AR-15 design popular on the civilian market. It gave us the ability to customize and adapt our rifles to fit our needs.

When was the First AR-15 Sold?

No one knows for sure when the first AR-15 was sold. We know it was being developed through the 50s and it was ready for sale around 59, but not mass-produced until 1964 when Armalite sold the design to Colt. There is no knowledge of how many rifles were sold before the Colt acquisition.

When my daughter gets older, she will hunt with this AR.

The AR, or modern sporting rifle, has become the fastest-selling rifle in the US, far outpacing traditional hunting rifles. Current estimates show over 25 million AR rifles owned by civilians in the US. That number had been increasing each year by millions.

Americans like the AR, and who can blame them? They’re incredibly reliable and easily customizable to fit one’s specific needs. Hunters and shooters no longer are stuck with a “one size fits all” rifle. For example, I have an AR that’s set up for target shooting, but by swapping uppers, I can have it set up for a 3-gun competition or take it on a moose hunt.

They are like Legos for grownups. You can totally adapt it to what you want. They’re also about the same cost as a regular rifle. I can buy a basic AR for $500.

The AR-15 is Not “More Dangerous”

The AR-15 style rifle is not more dangerous or more powerful than classic hunting rifles. The standard AR-15 rifle shoots a low-power, lightweight rifle cartridge. It’s infamous 5.56/.223 cartridge is considered the lowest power military rifle cartridge and is not powerful enough for hunting in many areas.

Common hunting rifles are often 2 or 3 times more powerful and have been available as a semiauto nearly 50 years before the AR. The classic 30-06 has about 3,000 pounds of bullet energy, and the standard AR has 1,200.

Guns are deadly tools. Guns were designed to be deadly tools and they all will do the job. But why do you need an AR-15? Can’t you just use a regular hunting rifle? See, this is where we fall into confusion.

My dad has a BAR. That stands for Browning Automatic Rifle. It’s a semi-auto rifle designed over a hundred years ago and chambered in the powerful 7mm Magnum. That’s three times more powerful than my AR-15. The .223 cartridge, original AR caliber, was designed for small animals and varmints.

And those high capacity magazines, we’ve had those things since the civil war era. My point is, guns have been insanely deadly for well over 100-years and the AR-15 is probably middle-of-the-pack at best. Shucks, near the end of WWI, shotguns were considered more deadly than machineguns.

The point is, yes an AR is dangerous. It’s supposed to be. The AR-15 or any similar style rifle with a big magazine gives you the ability to defend yourself and your family because, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

Check out these other articles What Does an AR-15 Cost? What is a Complete AR Upper?

Jordan Buck

Jordan Buck is an outdoor writer, a man of faith, and a family man. He grew up hunting, fishing, and trapping. Jordan has taught marksmanship, woodsmanship, and self-defense classes. He has earned black belts in four martial arts and is a certified Krav Maga instructor. He also runs his own Gun Blog and YouTube Channel. Jordan enjoys giving his time and resources to help others and has spent 15 years volunteering in a boy's mentoring program He is and will always be an American Patriot. MOLON LABE

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