Why the AR-15 Sucks for Preppers – Page 2 – 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



    • Guy: February 10, 2020

      Very interesting I used to feel the same way then I saw for myself guys putting 1000s of rds through Ars and not cleaning them and they still ran. That being said I would carry an Sks without the duck bill mags but if shtf and I was up against multiple enemies then yea I would go for the ar. The sks is a great ranch rifle and all around rifle wish I had one still.

    • Jesse Owens: February 07, 2020

      This is garbage propaganda to attack ar15 ownership from a different angle. Next they’ll be having prominent homosexuals posing with them to make it look gay. I call bs on the whole article, starting with the author. I don’t know this asshole but I know rangers, combat controllers, marine recon, Marines and grunts. They all say the same thing, NATO ball doesn’t kill. Never once have I heard that today’s M16/M4/AR15 is unreliable, AND THEY OWN THESE WEPAONS PRIVATELY. So the author is a fucking liar with an agenda, not a Green Berett. And if by chance you (the author) aren’t lying , you’ve pissed into the arena of gun ownership. There are men here.

    • Creepy Joe Biden: January 25, 2020

      Big difference between clapped out M4A1s that have been poorly maintained by armorers and a quality built AR15 built with the latest innovations. Milpsec=Cheapest shit that will meet minimum standards. Same concept can be seen in the berreta m9 pistol. They were clapped out and poorly maintained. Does that mean the M9 is a bad pistol? Nope far from it. As far as the locking lug problem that was a colt heat treat issue and btw an ar15/m16 is absolutley has a delayed bolt system Use of a short barrel like in MK18 will reduce dwell time 11.5 is a better option for parts longevity imo.Its very easy and cost effective to build an Ar15 that is dead nuts reliable. I always KG Gunkote(similar to cerakote high lubricity) the inside of my uppers and use NIB/Np3 BCG makes everything feel like glass. Get rid of the pencil barrel and go with a SOCOM profile. Im starting to ramble but im just not seeing were you are making sense. Semper Fi

    • Joe: January 23, 2020

      Let’s be 100% here… the author of this nonsense doesn’t even understand how the AR-15 operates.

      How are you going to “inform” people on a platform you’re not even marginally knowledgeable about? The bolt carrier absolutely performs a delayed bolt unlocking. How is this even up for discussion… seriously… this is the most basic of AR-15 knowledge.

    • Joe: January 23, 2020

      You need to go back to school. 19% of soldiers experiencing a failure isn’t a 20% failure rate. A 20% failure rate means 1 out of 5 bullets will malfunction. You would be hard pressed to locate even 1 AR-15 shooter that experiences this.

      What an totally garbage opinion piece…

    • Greg: January 12, 2020

      Just goes to show you how experience in the .mil, including at the upper levels of combat arms, doesn’t translate to being a firearms expert. This article is an ill-informed piece that gets several technical and historical issues completely wrong, and reeks of bias and subjectivity.

    • Attilio: January 07, 2020

      From how I understand it the reason why the AR has the reputation of being such a piece of junk is because certain factors made it to be:

      1. Original ammo was junk in Vietnam and not up to spec.

      2. Cheaponsky’s today insist on using cheap ammo then complain their gun doesn’t run right when it was never designed to run it. Want steel casings shoot an AK, or a Grendel upper!

      3. Frankenguns, people doing home builds from parts by different manufacturers which never have the same guarantee or likelihood they will work as well as parts from the same company. This was hard not to do during the panic but you paid the consequences.

      4. Either very low dollar cost cutting builds that use junk parts or high dollar, highly customized, high precision builds with very tight (reliability killing) tolerances or expensive, low production parts without as much of a track records. This also leads to over-frankengunning your rifle in search of either the cheapest possible parts, or the “best” (read most expensive) possible parts anywhere.

      5. Over lubrication due to the bone-headed idea that running the gun very wet means you don’t have to clean it that often. The truth is an AR will function flawlessly with a light coat of oil for many thousands of rounds using carbon as lubrication. If cleaning is not possible then a drop or two of oil, not “RUNNING WET” will keep it more reliable. Lots of oil just generates more gunky fouling that the action can’t blow out which is what the DI was originally designed to do and harder to clean later on.

      6. Adjustable gas blocks. What a dumb mod. You are reducing the amount of gas to the gun and while useful in certain situations with very unusual situations (pistol or SBR especially w/ suppressor) the truth is that the gun is not over gas. The truth is that adjusting the gas block under gasses your gun because you never know ahead of time for sure the conditions in which you are shooting so by decreasing the gas you are lowering the power and ability of the gun to function reliably especially with any or all of items 1-5 above present in your rifle.

      7. Low quality manufacturers like Olympic arms that turned out subpar quality rifles and were able to soldier on due to high demand panic buys.

      Now with demand lessened most of the remaining manufacturers have slashed their prices and increased quality. If you buy an AR from most well known and reputable companies like PSA you will be fine, and if you really want to itch the build scratch buy all your components from the same maker. Maybe the best value out there is a 50/50 buy, like a complete upper and lower which dodges a lot of the excise taxes on guns which are only charged on a full, complete build so you can get a 20ish % off and get the same thing as a full gun

    • That guy: January 02, 2020

      The M4/M16 is built and supplied by the lowest bidder. And hands down the second biggest piece of shit on the battlefield. (The biggest POS is a toss up between the M2 and the mark19).
      If you have to train your self to perform SPOTS on your weapon?? It’s a bad weapon.
      The AR15 is nothing more then a cheep knock off of the M4. “And if you are one of the retards that says the AR15 is identical to the M4?? Your a dumb sack of shit”. The only counterpart of the M4 that is worth a shit, is the HK416, and even that has problems.

    • Annon: December 25, 2019

      AR-15s are so bad libs want to ban them. Sopmod just divested the mk12 & mk18… Roll pin falling out? I confirmed it sits behind carrier so… Couple actual issues include cotter pin jamming along side of bolt when upper and bcg out of spec, cam pin sheering, unataked castle nut loosening, concentricity of firing pin… those are all fixable and preventable with milspec manufacturing/purchasing

    • 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!

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