Why the AR-15 Sucks for Preppers – Page 40 – 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


    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


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

    2014 “Secret Test” of M4A1 Carbine


    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



    • A SEA Monkey: March 21, 2019

      The litany of stupid bullshit in here has convinced me you barely handle firearms, much more have 28 years in a service. I’m not even sure where to begin on where so much of thing is wrong and is wrong in such intricate and stupid ways its easier to cut the whole thing out and disregard it. Holy fuckballs.

    • SLICK11B : March 20, 2019

      I’ve only had a few issues with an M16 ( from A1-M4, and other AR variations) I’m a grunt that has fired 30k plus rounds, and in every kind of condition. That said, I like (not love) the platform. But like all freedom loving Americans I have my favorites, and recommend that whatever you buy, get proficient with it. ARs are everywhere, and the rounds are relatively common. For now. Buy them up. Get the 762 version as well. Heck, go crazy.

    • Ryan : March 20, 2019

      Yeah Mr Green Beret with 8 years “Boots on the Ground in Afghanistan” we’re gonna need some documentation. And don’t even think the ye olde “my records are sealed” trope is gonna work.
      I really could care less about your thoughts about the AR15 but I do have an issue with your obviously bullshit service record.

    • Darrell S: March 20, 2019

      Hey Jeff, thanks for the well-written article. What do you suggest instead? Please be as specific as possible. I trust you and your experience and although many will think I’m an idiot, I’d rather buy a gun that you recommend and then use it myself than make several expensive purchases only to find out they are not reliable weapons

    • thomas marsico: March 20, 2019

      umm I see someone said ar fnboys are guys who haven’t needed to maintain them in harsh conditions?? 0311 02 to 06 3 tours bro I love the ar

    • Jason Ross: March 20, 2019

      I’d love a cogent answer to this question:
      What combat failure rate in a rifle is acceptable and what combat failure rate requires a redesign?

      This should be a simple number—a percentage, preferably.


    • James: March 20, 2019

      Stick to making non effective medical devices.

    • Adam Knowlton: March 20, 2019

      Almost everything stated in this article is wrong and/or uses retarded logic.

    • Dick Johnson: March 20, 2019
      The author has autism. REEEEEEEEEE!!!!
    • Nathaniel F: March 20, 2019

      Anthony, I’m an AK guy, so you’re dead wrong there.

    • Brian Messenheimer: March 20, 2019

      When did the military start issuing AR15’s to the military?

    • Anthony Maxim: March 20, 2019

      AR fanboys are just people who have never had to maintain and fire a weapon in shitty conditions. Our friends the Kurdish YPG/YPJ hardly have any cleaning gear. Most don’t have it and run a diesel soaked piece of cloth through the bore with no understanding of the effect on accuracy. The elements in Syria make AKs and PKMs fail, so without constant maintenance an AR doesn’t stand a chance. Most people involved in this discussion and weighing in (myself included) have never experienced anything close to Viet Nam or what those jungles do to a weapon. Let’s be real most of you are just talking out of your ass and defending your purchases. The only thing that really sucks about AKs is the stock sights. Most veterans who think AKs suck are the guys who have seen all the outdated shit that’s been buried or otherwise hidden in caches until it was needed. The more modern stuff with optic rails riveted in make for a much better weapon when you add a sight that was designed for the weapon. Now I do have one argument for the author about the height of sights on modern assault rifles. There’s reason for this and if you think about having to drop into the prone and take a shot with sights mounted super low to the bore axis, it would be shitty difficult with body armor and helmet. It helps in all kinds of offhand positions. Most AK or SVD mounted optics are not going to allow for a good cheek weld. Most combat situations don’t allow for a whole lot of fundamentals of rifle marksmanship to be applied. Do consider that. The greater an angle at which the sight and bore axis intersect, the more easily a practical battle zero can be acheived (36 meters and 300 or 400 meters AK74 BZO for example) As a Marine armorer I witnessed 3 brand new FN M16A4’s shear off bolt lugs just from firing blanks and if I recall correctly all 3 of these happened in the first 3 months of the rifles showing up. The whole system just flat out sucks and if you don’t think so you’re fooling yourself. Now a semi auto .243 cobbled together from surplus RPK47 parts at the Molot Oruzhie Zavod, there’s a real weapon you can rely on. It gets the ammo in an out of the weapon as well as the projectile down range with intent and purpose, is no longer than an M16A4, and shoots sub MOA with an outdated 4X PSO copy from Belarus. For those of you who don’t know what you’re talking about, the standard of accuracy for the M16 series of rifles in every branch of the service is 4 MOA before the rifle needs to be overhauled. Our department of defense has shitty standards for the people who need to rely on these weapons and they’re long overdue for replacement with an AK74 or 100 series AK, but most Americans are too retarded to build an AK properly. Any idiot can build an AR, or mess up an AR build but the average person doesn’t know the first thing about building an AK. They just know they’ve been told by ignorand and biased folks that it’s a “shitty commie gun” and will just keep squawking that old bullshit like a parrot until they either die or have a serious enough AR malfunction to see for themselves. The first AK I was issued in Syria was a 1958 type 3 from Kazanlak Bulgaria and that beat up old workhorse still held a 3 inch group at 100 meters with Irons and ran cyclic 800rpm (no hammer retarder) no problem. Mind you that’s one of the first Bulgarian AKs with both proof stamps from Izhevsk wokers who were supervising and the actual circle 10 Kazanlak stamp from the workers there. That AK might have rusty brown grooves running the entire length on the left side of every land of rifling, but whoever has that rifle now can probably still depend on it unless it got blown to bits. An M4 wouldn’t put up with 1/10th of the shit that poor AK has seen and if you think otherwise have fun being retarded.

    • Rick Walbridge: March 20, 2019

      Matt Loganbill. You do not have a unique rifle, you have a unique set of circumstances. You show up to a competition with a perfectly clean gun, you shoot your courses of fire with a few cleanings in between each? Remember, no one is shooting back at you, your not exposed to the environments soldiers are. You get to go sit on ur tailgate have a few snacks and wipe down ur rifle with a diaper. Soldiers have a unique set of circumstances.

    • Jason Ross: March 20, 2019

      I think the survey was per deployment, so how many gunfights does the average soldier get in on a deployment? One out of five guys who got in at least one gunfight experiences a stoppage and a quarter of those were serious.
      My personal anecdotal experience is that when preppers (not combat vets) shoot on my range and other ranges, they experience around a 50% stoppage rate. That’s anecdotal.
      We’re narrowing in on an agreement as to what happened in the study. My question: is that an acceptable failure rate for a combat firearm or should be be changing to something much less prone to failure? What is an acceptable failure rate, because as a prepper, I’m hoping for my rifle to work in 100% of gunfights with zero stoppages.

    • Don Ward: March 20, 2019

      A Boomer hawking $50 credit card “survival” tools in order to bilk gullible preppers didn’t do his homework when peddling out-dated gun-think and is taken to school by a millennial?

      This has never happened before on the Internet!

    • Nathaniel T Fitch: March 19, 2019


      It’s not a 19% incidence of failure. It’s 19% of soldiers having ever experienced a stoppage while engaging the enemy. So if you serve two tours and get into four combat engagements over which you fire a combined total of 600 rounds, and once your bolt fails to lock back, that’s one stoppage, and you’re part of that 19%. 80% of soldiers went through all that, and never experienced one stoppage. Let’s use my experience as a proxy. I’ve owned a Colt 6920, the civilian version of the AR-15, for about ten years. I’ve fired about 9,000+ rounds through it. I’ve had two failures in that time. Also, I would be counted in that 19%, since I have experienced a failure.

      Does that make sense? 19% sounds like a lot. Obviously a rifle that jams one time in five is a shitty rifle. But that’s not what we’re looking at here, we’re looking at a group of people who are in active service, less than 20% of which have ever seen a malfunction during combat.

    • Dutch1788: March 19, 2019

      First of all I’d like to say to the author thanks for your service to our great country. Second, no firearm is probably for everybody so go find the ones that you prefer. Thank God that for now we can still do that in our country.

    • Nathaniel F: March 19, 2019

      I would just like to point out that I didn’t know this author sells those credit card survival tools, I just pulled that out of my ass.

    • Terry J David: March 19, 2019

      Pat Rogers had his Filthy 14 that he only lube, never cleaned, and it was at approximately 30k rounds when he wrote his article on it.

      It seems that this author took a bunch of griped he heard from the Vietnam era and decided to rehash them. If your unit has a culture of maintenance, understands how the cycle of operation works, and takes care of the rifle as needed then you won’t see the problems that the author was bringing up.

      Magpul Industries Corp. also makes some of the finest magazines available for this series of rifle and they’ve worked out all of those problems that were mentioned.

      Articles full of derp like this is why groups like Primary & Secondary, LLC. exist.

      If the author would like to contact me to go over what he got wrong I’d be pleased to help him out.

    • Bill: March 19, 2019

      The cheap ones from Ruger and Smith and Wesson at work very good. They over-gas the system so it will work when it is dirty.

      The expensive light recoil ones are not reliable.

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