Why the AR-15 Sucks for Preppers – Page 7 – 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/

    141 comments

    • 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

    • Aaron Raynor: March 19, 2019

      When a 28 year veteran who has been running the various models of the AR platform for as long as Jeff has, I’m going to pay attention…even if it challenges my beliefs. That is how we think critically, analyze efficiently, and stay clear of confirmation bias. I have been running an AR platform for 18 years: first in the Marine Corps, then/now as an LEO. I have witnessed the changes to the platform first hand to address all of the issues we have had with them throughout the years. This was a good write up and I particularly liked the studies at the end.

    • Nathaniel F: March 19, 2019

      With the egging on of my so-called “friends”, I have been convinced to give a point-by-point rebuttal in the comments here.

      >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.

      This is in fact such a horrible, awful, terrible idea that the Soviets decided to change the AK platform to be more like that. /sarc

      You sound like Chuck Hawks. Not a good look, dude.

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

      What, do you run your AR-15 without handguards? You know what the AR-15 doesn’t have to deal with? Piston/cylinder alignment. Eugene says “you’re welcome”.

      >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…

      If only there were some sort of automatic flush mechanism that acted like a sort of, I don’t know, air compressor, to blow that crap out with every shot!

      The real issue with AR-15s is actually gas port erosion, not the gas port getting clogged with debris. All gas operated rifles have itty bitty little gas ports. All of them erode over time. This causes the cycle to become too violent, not the other way around.

      >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.

      If you’re seriously having trouble cleaning the barrel extension on your AR-15, get some steel wool. Obviously, you can buy dedicated tools for this that fit inside the pistol grip, but since this is a prepper blog I know that actually effective solutions that cost $7.89 before tax are met with disdain as that cuts into the MRE budget. So just get some steel wool. And just a thought, if you’re not resourceful enough to clean a recessed cylinder with whatever is on hand, maybe you shouldn’t be a prepper.

      >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.

      This is plain ol counterfactual BS. The lugs are manufactured to precise dimensions and toleranced against this. And you might have noticed this thing called a “cam pin” that prevents the bolt from rotating into orientations where it doesn’t match up with the barrel extension. If you are having these problems, stop buying parts from the gunsmith’s special bin.

      >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.

      This is actually true, and it’s something that was only discovered when they went to the 14.5" barrel and carbine length gas system of the M4 Carbine. Also, it’s easily solved with a little black o-ring that costs less than $2 for a 3-pack, and which comes standard on most current AR-15 offerings. But again, that MRE budget. Better spend $1800 on an M1A Loaded, instead!

      >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.

      Look man, I don’t know how you expect people to take you seriously as an expert when you can’t even clearly distinguish between a “bullet” and a “cartridge case”. Also, the 5.56mm case has as much or more taper than the following alternatives:

      -.30-06
      -7.62 NATO
      -6.5 Grendel
      -7.62×54R

      Yes it has less taper than 7.62×39 or 5.45×39, but both of those rounds were designed for steel cases, and 5.56mm wasn’t. Having said that, I’ve got about 10,000 steel cased 5.56/.223 rounds under my belt and I’ve only ever seen one extraction failure. Ever. That was in a rifle that had an incorrectly dimensioned chamber.

      >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.

      This shows you don’t know what you’re talking about. First, the term for run up before the bolt carrier/operating rod begins to rotate the bolt is called “underslide”. Second, the AR-15 does not need underslide because, as designed, this dwell time between the peak gas port pressure and unlocking is taken up by the gas traveling rearward through the gas tube. Which is why the piston operated AR-15s which you seem to think are an improvement end up with dramatically reduced bolt lives, because they are unlocking when the chamber pressure is higher than it should be. Almost like you shouldn’t fuck with a good thing, eh?

      Oh, and by the way, your “battle rifles” with “delayed rotating bolts” had better have good metallurgy and be well lubricated. In WWII, the M1 Garand had this fun issue where the operating rod got a good running start at unlocking the bolt, and if the lubricant had washed away or evaporated, it would beat the snot out of the cam lug, galling it, and the rifle wouldn’t work anymore. This is why the M14 has a roller cam, which did fix the issue but introduced about three more I can think of. I’ll let you try to guess what those were.

      >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.

      Wh- wh- what? “Overly-strong magazine springs” cause the bullet to hang up during feeding? This sounds like it was written by some journalist who has never seen a gun in person and is being fed information by a third party and they’re trying to sound informed. No, strong magazine springs do not cause failures to feed (that’s the term you were looking for, btw). Yes the AR-15 has a cluttered feedway. So do lots of rifles. If you’re so worried about it, buy Gen 3 PMags.

      >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.

      You just said a bunch of stuff that sounds good if you don’t know how all these things interact. Quiz time! Which of these two things do you think will dump more propellant reside into the barrel extension and onto the locking lugs?

      -The gas port, which is small and recessed into the upper receiver and contained within the gas key during most of the pressure curve.

      -The chamber which is huge and right fucking there.

      Yes the AR-15 dumps reside into its receiver. Actually, all guns do, to some extent. Some are cleaner than others. Know what some of the dirtiest are? The roller retarded blowback guns, like the G3 and HK33.

      >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.

      Maybe the hammer spring could be a bigger factor in that bigthonk

      >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.)

      ALL PLASTIC MAGS ARE THE SAME AND ALSO I DON’T NEED SOURCES FOR MY CLAIMS

      >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.

      Hahahahah what the fuck kind of shagged out upper receiver are you using, dude? Buy fewer credit card survival tools and shell out those eighty nine bucks for an in-spec Aero lower. The problem will m a g i c a l l y disappear.

      >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…

      Yeah it turns out if you use the wrong parts in a gun, it don’t work right. Who knew! Nice thing about the AR-15: It gives you a modular moving mass which means an additional point of adjustment so you can tune them much more exactly than you can other designs.

      >Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales

      He’s literally a paid lobbyist for defense companies. I’m not denigrating the man, that’s his actual job description.

      OK we’ve gotten past most of the random counterfactuals, and to your sources, of which you have four. I’ll address each of them individually:

      1. The 2007 Dust Test. This was a trainwreck, not the least because it counted burst memory as a “failure” of the M4. Gee I wonder why malfunctions were so much higher?

      https://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2014/08/25/2004-m4-dust-tests/

      2. The 2006 CNA study. 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? Especially since, if you’d read the study, you’d know that the M16 and M4 were the most reliable weapons in US Army inventory, far above the M249 SAW (which is a belt-fed AK, basically).

      https://i.imgur.com/3svytHe.png

      3. The Individual Carbine program. It might be worth mentioning that there were three classifications of malfunctions in these test, separated by how long each malfunction took to remedy (these classifications were the same as in the 2007 dust tests). They are:

      >A class 1 stoppage is one a Soldier can clear within 10 seconds; a class 2 stoppage is one a Soldier can clear, but requires more than 10 seconds; and, class 3 is a stoppage that requires an armorer to clear.

      The M4 Carbine out-performed 7 of the 8 IC competitors in all three categories. It was outperformed in class 1 stoppages by one of the eight, “Rifle C” but it in turn out-performed “Rifle C” in class 2 and 3 stoppages. The media didn’t report it this way, because “US Army rifles work real good” isn’t a gripping headline.

      4. Some random Washington Times article. It’s not clear what this source is really supposed to tell us, except “M4 bad”. SOCOM did adopt the Mk. 16 SCAR, and then subsequently abandoned it as not being an improvement over the M4. They quote Scales and the ancient Y2K SOCOM tests, and there’s a lot of “real journalism” going on. Weird, SOCOM still seems to be shooting people with M4s, despite having access to alternatives.

    • Adam: March 19, 2019

      So you’re bitching about military issue rifles being unreliable? 😂
      My guy this is fucking cancer.the part about the failure to feeds and the forward assisst are totally wrong lmao.
      All the issues you’re complaining about here sound like shit that was fixed in the late 90s~mid2000s.
      The forward assist was literally only added to completely seat the bolt for disassembly (at the request of the military, Jim Sullivan and Bob Freemomt consider the FA to be useless).

    • Chuck Simpson: March 19, 2019

      I agree, I always say and seen, less moving parts, who result in less malfunctions. Are you know I am a big boat action fan, especially in long range sniper systems. I am also a fan of the AK used it a lot, in Afghanistan and I work great. The only problem we had was bad ammunition. I’m also not a big fan of a smaller caliber I kind of lean to 308 or higher.

    • Joshua L Hill: March 19, 2019

      Your bias is completely false

    • Nathaniel Fitch: March 19, 2019

      >can’t tell the difference between a bullet and a cartridge
      “I are a expert!”

    • Brian Deschenes : March 19, 2019

      Any credibility you hoped to gain by citing your special forces background is immediately lost by how garbage this article is. This is straight trash.

    • Competition Nerd: March 19, 2019

      This lack of reliability and inflexible design specs must be why 2—gun and 3-gun have settled on the AKM as the universally accepted platform for their sport.

      Oh, wait.

    • Michael Bridges: March 19, 2019

      okay…..so whats better? cause i can show tests where the AR passes and the AK fails. same with other modern guns.

    • Grandy Rossman: March 19, 2019

      By show of hands, how many people have seen a gas tube failure on an AR, other than some silly burn down video after 700 RDS of FA back to back to back?

    • Eugene Stoner: March 19, 2019

      Hmm, not sure about this…

    • Jerry Lachenbruch: March 19, 2019

      Well written and well said…get after skewering sacred cows fine sir!!!

      That being said, I still love my ARs…I spec’d them, I built them, they run flawlessly with crap ammo as well as top shelf ammo. Why, because I did my home work and spec’d and built what I had full belief I could trust my life to.

      Your mileage may vary and objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.

    • Shawn Hinck: March 19, 2019

      So, was this article designed to show your lack of knowledge or a satire piece? It’s hard to tell and I’d like clarification….

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