Why the AR-15 Sucks for Preppers – Page 41 – 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



    • Not Impressed: March 19, 2019

      Look Ma! Every type of rumor, wife’s tale, and misinformation “quote” about the AR-15 in one article. Ain’t that special! I reckon that we got ourselves a troll mama.

      Is the AR-15 perfect??? HECK NO!!! The AR-15 IS a reasonably well designed and can be well built weapon that lends itself to be slightly more effective at putting rounds on target in the hands of troops with less than stellar training.

      Although, in the case of this article, I would bet a large soda that someone is attempting to stir some manure for their own sadistic pleasure.

    • Corvus: March 19, 2019

      Former Green Beret Guy: I do not own nor will I seek one out if there was a respectable alternative for a long gun. I have Mossberg’s 12 gauge and a 20 gauge 500 Super Bantam. Let me read an alternative something, not AR 15. Thanks.

    • Corvus: March 19, 2019

      Former Green Beret Guy: I do not own nor will I seek one out if there was a respectable alternative for a long gun. I have Mossberg’s 12 gauge and a 20 gauge 500 Super Bantam. Let me read an alternative something, not AR 15. Thanks.

    • Jason Ross: March 19, 2019

      Nathaniel, thank you responding and for commenting in the first place. I posit that a 19% incidence of failure is unacceptable in a combat firearm. So, if a mountaineers ascending device had a stoppage for only 19% of users while climbing and then had a breakage (where the shooter was forced to stop fighting) only a quarter of those times (about 5%), would that be acceptable?

      That would be like a climber experiencing a stoppage from an ascending device 19% during a “deployment” and then only a quarter of those leading to total device failure. When I clean up my analogy as per your suggestion, do you still argue that the M4 and M16 are performing acceptably well and that we cannot reasonably design them better?

      Is it possible to get to a <1% stoppage rate for a combat rifle, even without assiduous cleaning?

    • Jason Ross: March 19, 2019

      Robert, good sir. I’m good with robust argument. I’m pointing out the age-old debater’s wisdom that ad hominem attacks occlude good argument. Nathaniel had good argument. The personal attacks just made his argument harder to follow.

      Pointing out fallacies—such as ad hominem attacks—is good debate, brother. And this world could use more respectful, good debate (especially when we’re debating a man who served our country for almost thirty years.)

      Wouldn’t you agree?

    • Robert S.: March 19, 2019

      @Jason R.

      Personal attacks by Nathaniel? What a snowflake response. He seasoned his rebuttal of the seriously overplayed and outdated issues with some humor. I’m sure the author wears big boy pants and can handle whatever criticism he gets. Aside from knowing most AR owners are like rabid dogs, seconded only by the even more rabid/feral AK owners.. Good lord dude. “Shit-ton of personal attacks”?? Grow up and grow a pair.

    • Robert The Texan: March 19, 2019

      What Nathaniel said. No other comment needs to be read, including this one.

      Oddly enough my SOF buddy with 96 months combat time during his career, swears by the AR, has built I don’t know how many, deployed with his own uppers (on his issued lower) and thinks AK’s suck. I’ll leave out his comment about the AK fans because it has no bearing on this discussion.

    • Rats: March 19, 2019

      This is the same fucking idiot that invented the RATS tourniquet. 28 year green beret, you would have thought he learned something.

    • Nathaniel F: March 19, 2019

      Jason, I addressed all of his sources. I also never attacked him personally, just how he sounded and the content of what he wrote. Unless you count the joke about credit card survival tools, which was intended more as a general caricature than about him specifically.

      I am also curious what your other experiences have been with consumer products, because in my universe stuff has hiccups all the time and fails routinely. That’s just the way the world is, stuff wears out and has problems. Also, when we’re talking about failures in a rifle, we mean malfunctions and breakages, not just breakages. So your analogy with mountain climbing equipment doesn’t work.

    • Jason Ross: March 19, 2019

      Is anyone going to address the studies and the data or are we happy holding this to ad hominem attacks?

      Nathaniel F: hat’s off, brother. At least you supplied specifics, if not addressing the data and you did regale us with a shit-ton of personal attacks as evidence for your argument. But in-between all that, you presented a cogent argument with solid specifics, though I’m sure Jeff would have a counter to some.

      I want to address one point, if I may:

      “You misinterpret 19% of soldiers experiencing a malfunction in battle as the gun malfunctioning 19% of the time. Nope. 80% of soldiers never had their AR-15 jam in combat. Ever. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?”

      If any other consumer product, when it came time to rely on it for life and death, malfunctioned at the same level, we would not tolerate that failure rate. 80% reliability is not good when considering the downside potential of a rifle failing in combat.

      “Only 19% of mountain climbers have ever fallen to their death when using this brand of ascending device…”

      For whatever reason, we would not feel foaming-at-the-mouth defensive our equipment if we were talking about climbing equipment instead of a combat rifle. If that ONE PIECE of data stands,19% of soldiers experiencing combat failure of that equipment, then I think we’re fools for trusting our lives to that piece of equipment. We can do better.

    • Mark: March 19, 2019

      I feel this article has reduced the collective intelligence of the planet. Seriously it’s a soul sucking reduction of stupid opinions to a succinct point of retardation that skips potato and goes right to window licking.

    • Matt Loganbill : March 19, 2019

      WOW !
      I shoot thousands, 7-10k, per year in competition. Haven’t had any of these problems. I must have unique rifle.

    • Payce: March 19, 2019

      This article, ladies and gentlemen, is why you vet people regardless of their background. I’ve never seen such BS in my life. I’d like to refute everything step by step but Nathaniel F did that much better than I ever could have.

    • A. Kalashnikova: March 19, 2019

      Stupid Americans…

    • A. Kalashnikova: March 19, 2019

      Stupid Americans…

    • Rick Mc: March 19, 2019

      My car is also very complex. That doesn’t mean I abandon it, break out the flat brimmed straw hat, change my name to Jedidiah and haul the fam off on vacation in the old horse drawn buggy.

      Like most weapons, the AR-15s take maintenance. That’s something most preppers plan for. That’s actually why they’re called preppers.

      As for the rest of American (the ones who aren’t prepared to fight, live off the land or even run) they’re screwed anyway!

    • Matt: March 19, 2019

      So the guy who is behind a TQ that doesnt work (literally the most simple item in use in med practice this side of tongue depressors), says the AR15 doesnt work… and proceeds to describe a boat load of problems that have either never existed or only existed in the A1, were the Army and not Stoner was to blame. Riiiiight….

    • Jason Ross : March 19, 2019

      Was that really Eugene Stoner commenting? From the grave? I would not necessarily be surprised, given the almost-spiritual nature of this debate about an inanimate object.

    • Andrea Helm: March 19, 2019

      This is the stupidest thing I have ever read.

    • Meathammer: March 19, 2019

      Holy fucking bullshit Batman

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