The AR15 (5.56×45) was designed by Eugene Stoner as a lighter version of the AR10 (7.62×51). The original AR15 was designed and manufactured by Armalite (hence the AR designation) which in 1959 sold the AR15 and AR10 design to Colt. It was Colt who sold the rifle to the US Military as the M16.
I previously had no interest in the AR15 at all until I watched a documentary on the History channel about the M16. After watching that program my interest was piqued and I came to understand the simplicity and efficiency of the system. The AR15 consists of a Lower assembly and an Upper assembly that are pined together with two easily removed take down pin. The uppers and lowers are interchangeable between rifles as are the individual parts that make up each upper and lower unit.
The M16 is the military version of the AR15 and is virtually identical in appearance only to an AR15 except for the safety selective fire lever. The M16 selector lever can select safe, or either fully automatic or 3 round burst mode but not both. This feature makes the internal parts different and not interchangeable with the semiautomatic only AR15. The M16 is chambered in the NATO 5.56 x 45 caliber. The AR15 can be chambered in 5.56 x 45 or .223 caliber. If you own or are interested in buying an AR15 then you should understand the difference between the 5.56 x 45 and .223 rounds.
The AR15 has two main components, the AR15 Upper assembly and the AR15 Lower assembly. The two main parts are held together by two easily removable take down pins. If the rear pin is removed the upper assembly can hinge open to gain access to the bolt carrier assembly so that the rifle can easily be cleaned.
The AR15 lower assembly consists of the AR15 stock, AR15 trigger assembly, safety lever, AR15 magazine well, and pistol grip.
The Upper Assembly consists of the barrel, The bolt, Bolt carrier, and charging handle. There are several styles of uppers, these are the A2 which has the classic look of the Viet Nam era M16, the A3, and the A4 flat top.
A cool feature that I like about the AR 15 system is the interchangeability of uppers. You can easily change AR15 calibers by removing the two take down pins to separate the upper and lower and install a different upper assembly. My DPMS Panther Lite 20 is chambered in 5.56 x 45. The reason I chose this caliber for my AR15 is that it can accept both the 5.56 x 45 caliber and the .223 caliber. Rifles chambered in .223 can only safely shoot the .223 round. The benefit to the .223 is that it is slightly more accurate than the 5.56 x 45 round. The benefit to using the 5.56 x 45 chamber is that it provides the versatility to safely shoot the .223 as well.
AR15 Calibers – The AR15 can be chambered in 5.56 x 45, .223, and in 7.62 x 51 which is .308 caliber. Because of the longer length of the round, the .308 requires a different lower with a larger magazine well. I have an AR15 chambered in 5.56 x 45 (which can also shoot the .223) and I have one that shoots the 7.62 x 39 round used in the AK47. The 7.62 x 39 upper uses the same standard size AR15 lower assembly. I like the cheap 7.62 x 39 caliber because it is cheap, and is readily available all over the world. I can buy 1000 rounds of the cheap 7.62 x 39 for $200. Compare this to the .223 or 5.56 x 45 round at over $300 a thousand. However, you get what you pay for.
The 7.62 x 39 accuracy is not the same as the 5.56 x 45 round, but it is still plenty accurate at 200 yards and is capable of lethal shots at 300 yards. Accuracy is dependent on the quality of the ammunition and I shoot the cheapest 7.62 x 39 ammo I can find. I buy surplus ammo, and bulk ammo. When buying cheap surplus ammunition you have to treat it as corrosive and do your AR15 cleaning right after firing any of the inexpensive ammunition through your rifle. Some of it is marked as corrosive but I would consider it all as corrosive to some degree.
It is easy to Build an AR15 and change calibers. I purchased a complete DPMS lower, then purchased a Bushmaster 7.62 x 39 upper assembly. When using the 7.62 x 39 caliber the main problem is getting good quality AR15 magazines that that feed reliably. I like the Bushmaster upper because it comes with two 20 round magazines which do feed reliably.
AR15 Kits – Complete kits less the stripped serialized lower receiver can be purchased online and sent directly to your home. The lower receiver is serialized and must be purchased through a FFL so that a background check can be performed.
AR15 Manufactures – Listed are some of the popular AR15 brands.
- Stag AR15 – Products include left hand and right hand rifles, chrome lined barrel
- Smith Wesson AR15 – Well known for excellent trigger and high quality which commands higher prices.
- AR15 Colt – Provides rifles to the US military and law enforcement agencies. Colt AR15s are more expensive than most.
- AR15 Bushmaster – Large selection of models and calibers.
- Remington AR15 – Limited selection.
- DPMS AR15 – Large selection, good prices, quality rifles.
- Rock River AR15 – Lots of options available during order process.
- Del Ton AR15 – Good selection of completed rifles and AR15 kits.
AR15 Sights – There are several sight options available for AR15 owners. The standard iron sights, fiber optic sights, Red Dot sights, scopes for AR15 and that includes AR15 tactical scopes, and standard AR15 scopes. And then there are laser sights for the AR15
AR15 Accessories – Probably the main feature of the AR15 rifle is the number of accessories available. It is easy to accessorize because of the pica tinny rail. Lights, lasers, and optics are easily installed.
AR15 Suppressors – Not to be confused with a flash suppressor, the suppressor or silencer reduces the sound level when the rifle is fired. Cheap suppressors cost about $300.00 with quality suppressors starting about $500.00 and up.
AR15 Bipods – A fold up set of two legs that support and steady the barrel of the rifle while aiming. Harris bipods are a quality top of the line brand.
AR15 22 Conversion – Save money while familiarizing yourself with the AR15. AR15 .22 caliber conversion kits allow the use of standard .22 caliber long rifle ammunition in your AR15.
AR15 Parts List – An excellent list of AR15 parts is available from Brownells as a PDF.
AR15 Disassembly and AR15 Field Strip – Take down of the AR15 is easy. Just remove the rear take down pin and the upper hinges open for quick and easy cleaning. Remove the forward take down pin to remove the upper assembly from the lower assembly. With the upper hinged open it is simple and easy to field strip the AR15 and to remove the bolt carrier assembly for cleaning.
Cleaning the AR15 – With the AR15 upper hinged open it is a simple task to remove the charging handle and the Bolt Carrier assembly. Use Hoppes 9 solvent and a chamber brush to clean the chamber, run a wet patch through the bore, then push a wet bore brush from the breach end through the barrel. Finish the barrel with a wet patch and then dry patches until clean.
Disassemble the bolt carrier assembly, disassemble the bolt assembly and clean with Hoppes 9 solvent and a brush. A pipe cleaner works well in the firing pin channel. When clean then wipe all parts down with lint free rag and lubricant liberally with quality gun oil like REM oil. The AR15 needs more lube than most guns and operates more reliably wet than dry.
An excellent source of information is available on the AR15.com website. Here is a link to an article called “So You Want to Buy an AR15”. It has a lot of very helpful information you should know before buying your AR15.
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