Why the AR-15 Sucks for Preppers – Readyman

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Why the AR-15 Sucks for Preppers

Posted on March 17 2019

I’m a 28-year Green Beret veteran (8 years boots-on-the-ground just in Afghanistan). My family comes from a manufacturing background.

And, I hate the AR-15. 

This sounds like an AA meeting for American veterans, so I better put up a decent argument soon before I’m lynched. Why does the AR suck?  

It’s too complex. Any time you have a system that is complex, you have two results: efficiency and fragility. 

In the military we are taught that the AR-15 is a fine weapon “as long as you maintain it.” In truth, the design works (80% of the time) in spite of itself, and has gone through so many design iterations that people have lost count.  The history of the AR-15 is a history of band-aids.

From front to back:

  • The front sight assembly sits ridiculously high because the straight (non-ergonomic) stock has to contain a massive spring and buffer assembly. If the weight or spring compression in that assembly is off just a small amount, it causes malfunction. This design flaw, right out of the gate, causes a huge mechanical offset where the eye lines up around three inches higher than the barrel. That’s why in 2019 you can’t find a new AR-15 with an old school front sight assembly.

  • The gas tube is thin, fragile and subject to bending or breaking—usually taking the rifle out of commission. 

If a build up of mud, water or carbon decreases gas pressure to the bolt, the the AR-15 fails to cycle.  This is particularly common with AR’s that have shorter barrels. That’s why gas rods have become all the rage. Yet another band aid…

    • The star chamber and bolt face are perhaps the single biggest design flaw of the AR-15.  That’s the eight-petaled flower at the front of the bolt. Flowers don’t belong in assault rifles. Some say the star chamber provides accuracy. It does not. Bolt-action sniper rifles don’t have star chambers. They have two or three lug bolts and they are the gold standard for accuracy. 

    Ask any soldier about weapons inspection and they will tell you the test is worming a pinky in the chamber of the rifle. The pinky never comes out clean and that should give us a clue. The single most important part of the rifle is nearly impossible to keep clean even in a garrison setting.  Think about that for a minute: the point where the bolt, bullet, and barrel meet is almost impossible to keep clean in an AR-15.

    The lugs on the bolt that lock into the star chamber are essentially a series of gears that if they don’t match up exactly, they cause a failure to feed or a failure to fire.  Any number of things can cause the lugs not to pass efficiently through the star portion of the chamber: dirt, heat expansion, ice, wobbly bolt carrier or wear and tear. All can cause a bolt to seat incorrectly in the chamber, or not to extract after firing, causing a whole host of malfunctions.  This is one of the reasons the forward assist was developed.

    • The extractor, due to its design has issues because it is similar to a teeter-totter that is out of balance. This causes the extractor to want to slip off the rim of the casing causing failure to extract malfunctions. This is particularly evident when the chamber gets fouled from use in combat conditions. Almost all infantry soldiers carry cleaning rods to clear this brutal malfunction so they can knock a spent casing out of the chamber and get back in the fight.

    • The bullet itself is a reliability issue.  The 5.56 has a relatively long, slightly tapered  casing which begs for issues disengaging it from the chamber.  And, the casing has to move a long way to disengage.  This becomes a monster issue if the bullet casing bulges during firing or if the chamber becomes excessively fouled, leading to failure to extract or half-extraction. 
    • There is no delay in the bolt moving during the extraction phase and this causes tremendous mechanical resistance. When the bolt carrier begins to move, it tries immediately to turn the bolt without first gaining momentum. If the bolt is stuck to the inside of the chamber due to fouling (or crap ammo like in Vietnam) then there is often not enough energy to knock the bolt back into rotation. There’s no “running start” to dislodge the bullet before turning the bolt. Almost all battle rifles, like the M14, M1 and AK use a delayed rotating bolt. The mass of the bolt carrier, once in motion, wants to stay in motion and hits the bolt like a hammer, knocking it into rotation and into extraction. Not so for the AR-15.
    • Also, the steep angle of feed for the bullets has caused more than its fair share of failure to feeds. Overly-strong magazine springs, dirt, burs, or gunk can cause a bullet to hang up as it tries to climb the steep angle.Why do we only load 28 rounds into a 30 round magazine? Say it with me: BAND AID.
    • The gas tube dumps carbon and debris into the upper receiver where the bolt carrier relies on a smooth surface to travel, which further exacerbates the tolerance issues with the star chamber. This has us running to piston-type band aid designs these days, as another attempt to fix a fatally-flawed concept. 
    • The hammer only goes to a 90 degree angle, which is ok, but does not take into account any mishaps, cold or weak primers, or a bolt that is not seated all the way.
    • Magazines for the AR-15 used to be notorious for feed lips cracking, springs getting weak, and followers not putting bullets at the correct angle (which still happens with plastic mags all the time.)
    • The bolt carrier does not ride on rails, and therefore wobbles as it travels back and forth in the upper receiver.  This wobble is one of the contributing factors to the lugs on the bolt face not lining up for proper mating with the chamber—causing other failures to feed.  This is another one of the reasons AR’s have a forward assist.

    • If the buffer, buffer tube or buffer spring are out of balance, it leads to all manner of malfunctions. When I was at 1st SFG and we were first issued the M4 to replace the M16A2 there was no end of problems because the buffers were not the correct weight which caused weird failures to feed. Once the buffer weight was fixed we ran into problems with the buffer spring tension; more malfunctions. Then we ran into a buffer tube length problem. All of the three had to be working in harmony or we would be going to war with sexy-looking paperweights. Never mind if dirt got into the buffer tube…

    I have probably made several AR-15 die-hard’s angry, and for that I apologize.

    When all of these arguments are brought to bear, the inevitable retort is this: “If the AR-15 is so bad, why does the United States government use it?” Anyone who has been in the military can attest: we do lots of dumb things, and sometimes we do them for generations.

    In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales said,  "American penchant for arming troops with lousy rifles has been responsible for a staggering number of unnecessary deaths…They died because the Army’s weapon buying bureaucracy has consistently denied that a Soldier’s individual weapon is important enough to gain their serious attention.”

    Test after test fielded by the U.S. armed services demonstrate that the AR-15 has a litany of problems. These problems are much, much worse for non-professional soldiers such as citizen preppers. On the ReadyMan range, with regular folks appearing with their own AR-15 rifles, grab-bag ammunition, custom modifications and uneven maintenance, our failure rate for shooting ARs runs about 25%.
    Granted: professional soldiers with training and dedicated time for rifle maintenance don’t experience quite such horrifying results with the M4, but preppers should beware: just because the U.S. military enjoys buying them, doesn’t mean the AR-15 is the right rifle for gardening one moment, defending your life the next.


    If a Tesla car failed 25% of the time, we would lynch Elon Musk and duct tape him to one of his rockets. If our iPhones only worked “when well maintained,” we would’ve chucked them all off a bridge. If our pants failed 19% of the time they went into battle, we’d burn that manufacturer at the stake for being an unpatriotic cost-cutter. For some reason, we’re still buying from Colt.
     

    (Editor's Note: Before you flame a 28-year Green Beret, please be so kind as to read the research attached below. Then, flame away.) 

    ReadyMen Closed Group
    Learn more cool things at ReadyMan.com 
     

     

    2007 Aberdeen Sandstorm Test. U.S. Army

    http://www.warriortalk.com/archive/index.php/t-32165.html

    10 Rifles. 60,000 rounds each.

    XM8: 127 stoppages.

    MK16 SCAR Light: 226 stoppages.

    416: 233 stoppages.

    M4: 882 stoppages. (3.5 times the second worst, which is also an AR-15)

     

    2006 CNA Corporation Soldier Satisfaction Survey

    https://www.cna.org/CNA_files/PDF/D0015259.A2.pdf

    “Only” 19% of servicemen reported their M4 experiencing a stoppage during battle.

    2014 “Secret Test” of M4A1 Carbine

    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/aug/19/armys-quits-tests-after-competing-rifle-outperform/

    Competing rifle outperforms the M4 and Army calls off the test.

     

    "Troops left to fend for themselves after Army was warned of flaws in rifle"

    Washington Times article, 2014

    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/feb/19/troop-left-to-fend-for-themselves-after-army-was-w/

    112 comments

    • Eugene Stoner: December 03, 2019

      God told me to tell you you’re a nigger.

    • a kat: December 03, 2019

      ur a faget

    • Kyle: December 01, 2019

      In a real prepper situation the crossbow is the best weapon by far, period. Silent. Reusable ammo. Light. Accurate. Deadly. You guys can have you unreliable ar-15’s.

    • Muller: October 26, 2019

      I first entered the U.S. Army in 1987. I spent all my time as a grunt (Infantry). I cleaned, carried and fired the M-16 in training including FTX’s and live fire exercises. The M-16 was finicky. It has to be kept clean in dirty conditions. It is light weight which is a plus but is not the toughest weapon. A gas impingement system lightens the load but puts the heated gas and carbon directly in the inner workings of the rifle.

      I will say this for the rifle. I carried the rifle in the Desert (Iraq). In a dry environment the rifle performed much better. It fired and ran well. This was not heavy fire, no fire fights just light use.

      The rifle has some interesting design ideas. But it was never designed to be a combat rifle. It was best as a SP rifle on Air Force Bases.

    • Alvin K York III: October 15, 2019

      A lot of misinformation in this article. Lots of Bias Bullshit.

      1. Gas tubes very rarely break. Ive never manadged to break one. If you have, I question your compitancy with a firearm

      2. The height of the front sight base is not a problem for anyone. Ive ever hard of someone complaining about the height of the front sight.

      3. The Carbon of the ar15 isnt dumped into the receiver its sent out of the side of the bolt carrier. that is why there are holes in the side of every ar15 Bolt Carrier. Even so, this isn’t an Issue as SWAT magazine released an article in 2010 about the BCM Filthy-14. An Ar15 built be BCM and it has had 31,000 round put throught it and it has only been cleaned once. I doubt you have put 31,000 rounds though anything without cleaning it.

      4. Mud isnt as big of a deal for m16 as people have made it out to be. After dozens of videos of the m16 mud tests being conducted by channels like InrangeTV, you would think this myth would have died. The m16s does better than the AK in the mud because its a sealed system.

      5. You present no proof that AR15s have a 25% failure rate. You just made a statement and expect us to just accept it. Even so Im willing to bet my life savings that the over whelming majority of AR15s that are failing are custom guns and not factory produced.

      6. The problem with out of balance buffer tubes is fixed by buying to correct buffer tube. I mean how fucking stupid do you think people are?

      7. AR15s dont have a forward assist because of the lack of rails for the Bolt Carrier. It has a forward assist because the Army wanted one. The Army decades prior to the adoption of the M16 was always teaching soldiers to use the Charging handle of M1 Garands and M14s as a forward assist. Since the m16 charging handle couldn’t be used as a forward assist, the Army demanded that a forward assist be added to the design before adoption. Eugene Stoner never liked the idea.

      The Ar-15 is probably the best rifle for preppers. Its easy to shoot, ammo is plentiful, parts are plentiful and its more reliable than you give it credit for.

      If its sucked so much, it wouldn’t be as popular as it is.

    • Griff: October 14, 2019

      Former USMC Infantry, LE, SWAT, ect, ect, and I also think that the AR15 sucks. But, it doesn’t suck bad enough for me not to reach for my BCM M4 clone in an emergency. It is what it is. Besides, where the f#ck are you going to get 7.62×39 if you actually live long enough to run out away from home? You might not find any 5.56, but you sure as hell won’t find anything else before you do..

    • Charles Gilbert: October 11, 2019

      Yes ,the ar platform used to have issues ,but since 07 they have improved dramaticaly and i can build take down or design an ar15/m4 that would blow a regular green beret’s mind ,and im a prepper a little more trained but niether the less a prepper the only difference in a m4 and ar15 is fire control group /selector ,barrel length, and some bolts, I am a pro ,and folks just because you read green beret doesnt mean they know what their talking about ,and if there even really green berets,damn c’mon. Most of my people would never tell you ,hey im a green beret you would know them for years including my self and never know it, but its my expieriance that spec ops and special troops alike fu@#$%! Love the ar15 and m4 platform.loooooove it.

    • William J Palumbo: October 06, 2019

      First of all – thank you for your service!

      I agree with all of these points but…when compared to the benefits, I think the AR 15 still has tremendous value for preppers. When you consider the availability of high quality, relatively low-cost parts/ammo/magazines available today, the benefits start to stack up. Add to that the commonality and availability of spare parts and it gets even better. They do require maintenance, but so do all guns and if you are a prepper and not 150% capable of maintaining/fixing your weapons, you are fooling yourself. That being said, if you want a weapon that you can ignore the maintenance on, buy an AK 47…they were basically designed to be used by soldiers with little to no training and/or cleaning materials. If your idea of SHTF is relatively short term (under 1 year), the AR 15 is probably more than adequate. All that being said, my plans would include an AR 15, along with a .30 cal bolt action rifle. In fact, if the ammo wasn’t so hard to find and the rifle wasn’t so heavy, I would have no issue defending myself with a Lee-Enfield No. 4 Mk1. At the end of the day, whatever you choose, make sure you are proficient at using/maintaining/fixing it and make sure you have sufficient spare parts for it…

    • Average Shooter: October 05, 2019

      The first rifle I shot was a AR. I like the flat trajectory. I’m not fond of cleaning a weapon a lot to maintain it though. When shtf supplies well run out sooner or later and we’ll have to use spit and old grease to clean or weapons which won’t be enough for many. Having a AR in that situation is like having a wife who wears a pound of accessories to look dandy feel and perform like poorly because she doesn’t have her nails done and etc. AK or surplus based weapons are like having wife who doesn’t need much to make do. Choose wisely when it pops off… it’ll be soon when we have to prove these opinions and beliefs with action. Accuracy isn’t about the tool, it’s about the individual pulling the trigger. Reliability is about the tool itself. God bless

    • David Rucker: October 05, 2019

      We never used the AR15 in the military (during my time at least). I agree with some of your points about the M16. But I do know from my yeats using it that it was a reliable weapon when properly maintain…Which the Army made sure you damn well did! Did it jam???…Yes! All firearms jam at some point! That’s just the nature of them! There’s no sure thing as a perfect firearm! That’s why we were taught immediate action drill to clear up these problems! But as to this day…I don’t believe the AR15 has still seen combat or military usage! But…I have been out for a long time!

    • David Rucker: October 05, 2019

      We never used the AR15 in the military (during my time at least). I agree with some of your points about the M16. But I do know from my yeats using it that it was a reliable weapon when properly maintain…Which the Army made sure you damn well did! Did it jam???…Yes! All firearms jam at some point! That’s just the nature of them! There’s no sure thing as a perfect firearm! That’s why we were taught immediate action drill to clear up these problems! But as to this day…I don’t believe the AR15 has still seen combat or military usage! But…I have been out for a long time!

    • Me: October 05, 2019

      Youre a idiot

    • Dugan: September 20, 2019

      I would have to agree with this assessment of the AR platform.
      Are they awesome, sexy, have all kinds of cool switches and tacticool doodads….YEP
      But I don’t know how many rounds and extra cash for custom parts it took to get my AR to funtion without flaw.
      He is correct, the carbine system with gastube is wayyyyy overgassed…..but it has to be why? So you can cycle your cheap Russian ammo through it in America.
      BUT – The one thing that caused me to not totally trust the AR….one day while range testing…the roll pin that holds the extractor in….fell out of the bolt….just fell out of its hole and luckily the extractor came undone and caused the bolt to not fully close so the weapon was disabled….
      Got that?….DISABLED dead in the water….a tiny little roll pin…
      Had the weapon fired with the steel roll pin in the bore who knows what damage would have been done to the bore…
      Moral….work all possible flaws out of your prescious AR before trusting your life to it.
      And yes….maintain and keep it lubed…EVEN if it has been just sitting there for a month.
      cycle the bolt to make sure it hasnt rusted itself shut and cannot cycle.

    • Banterbro: September 07, 2019

      I don’t like the AR platform but I have not done exhaustive studies on its weak points. I do know I prefer the AK, and it also has its weak points but I prefer its weak points to the plastic, aluminum mattel toy the U.S. calls its main combat weapon. I also prefer a weapon that doesn’t shit where it eats. Thank ya’ll.

    • John Raba: August 26, 2019

      I can only speak to my personal experience. I have a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 sport 2. I have shot many different kinds of ammo through it many times. At no time has it not performed flawlessly. Not a single glitch. I clean it after each range visit. I have never had any difficulty cleaning the bore, or any other part of the rifle. I lubricate it properly as well. My failure rate is 0. Shoot with good ammo, clean it properly, lubricate it properly and a good (not necessarily expensive) AR will run and run and run. Mine has. Use crappy ammo, fail to properly clean and lubricate any rifle and you will get failures. There is nothing wrong with the AR platform.

    • John Raba: August 26, 2019

      I can only speak to my personal experience. I have a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 sport 2. I have shot many different kinds of ammo through it many times. At no time has it not performed flawlessly. Not a single glitch. I clean it after each range visit. I have never had any difficulty cleaning the bore, or any other part of the rifle. I lubricate it properly as well. My failure rate is 0. Shoot with good ammo, clean it properly, lubricate it properly and a good (not necessarily expensive) AR will run and run and run. Mine has. Use crappy ammo, fail to properly clean and lubricate any rifle and you will get failures. There is nothing wrong with the AR platform.

    • Travis: August 21, 2019

      Man, I gotta say this: Don’t write dumb shit for the sake of SEO and generating traffic to your site. Especially don’t do this by writing some controversial piece about a rifle (and filling that piece with blatant lies). I don’t even need to get into the details – someone else already explained on here, in depth, why every single point in this article is wrong.

      I’ll instead defer you, Mr. high-speed Green Beret bullshitter (I was Army, too. Joint fires, NCO, Range NCOIC, and now I’m a gunsmith and work for a tactical rifle company), to a forum post from Henderson Defense. They run their AR-15s and full-auto M4s into the ground, literally, with over 200,000 rounds downrange. This entire article is malarkey.

      https://www.ar15.com/forums/ar-15/High-round-count-AR-M4-s-over-100-000-rounds-and-how-they-have-handled-on-our-range/118-677135/

    • Robert Pinto: July 20, 2019

      As I’m trying to build a decent battle rifle I’m trying to do my research and one of the biggest problems I’m finding are the choices of barrels. Where do you buy the pencil Barrel or the government profile Barrel they both have severe whip or as people like to call the harmonics if you are using rapid fire the heat up rather quickly and throw your point of impact off my many inches. I also feel that when purchasing Parts as a civilian we are not able to purchase the best of parts unless you want to spend $400 for a bolt carrier group which really don’t make sense either it just seems that these civilians AR-15 R design to be flawed so civilians will never have that perfectly reliable rifle to defend themselves with and in my opinion I feel that is done intentionally. As much as I love my AR-15 if I had to use it in a life-or-death situation yes I’m confident that it will work but if we were invaded by a foreign country or some crazy apocalyptic event happens which I don’t think it will nor do I hope it will that’s what I think the AR-15 platform will fail under stressful situations for a home defense matter as long as you keep it clean you should have no issues but if you’re going to war but I have your tools with you spare parts and your cleaning gear along with 80 to a hundred pounds of other gear. Good luck out there stay safe and be vigilant

    • Nick: July 11, 2019

      To the guy beneath me, nobody has 25% failure rates lol your AK can’t even pass the mudtest. Just another person that sucks at using an AR so they use the AK because it’s limited in skill just like them

    • Roxie Frost: July 08, 2019

      I love and own both platforms AR and AK …
      Also if your little prepping gang has 25% failures with AR’s
      at the range….. then when SHTF…. your groups in Real trouble ….

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