Josh Montgomery: AR-style rifles – What Should You Pay Attention When Buying.

You’re probably very excited to buy your first AR-style rifle, yet you’re afraid you might end up choosing one that is not right for you. You’re not the first nor the last. After all, not everyone can be an all-around expert, right?

AR-style rifles are semi-automatic performers that are capable of being used in combat. They are of multiple types, such as polymer, AK-47, AR-15, compact and many others. However, combat is not the only way assault rifles can be put to work, as they can be used for hunting and self-defense as well.

Especially if you’re a first-time buyer, the many choices you find on the market could be overwhelming and can easily give you the “this is not for me” mindset. However, it is not as difficult as you think, and all you need is some guidance. So, if you’re thinking of purchasing an AR-style rifle, here’s what you need to look for before you spend your money.

  • Brand

Is it even worth mentioning that there are a lot of brands out there? Just like it’s the case for any other product, there are different brands that are trying to manufacture the best model on the market. In case you were thinking the brand doesn’t really matter, well, think again. Each one hires different experts to manufacture the weapons, so it’s only normal the rifles differ from each other, depending on who made them.

That being said, some brands sell their rifles for lower prices, while others seem quite expensive. While we don’t suggest choosing the pricier item, don’t settle for the cheapest one either. Unless you want to end up with a gun that will have a poor performance and won’t resist for too long, you should avoid it.

Look for one with a decent price. Some popular brands are Smith, Colt, and Wesson.

  • Triggers

The trigger is the one determining the bullet to pass through the barrel, so it only makes sense you have to consider this factor. Some triggers are harder to pull than others, and choosing the right pull weight depends on your strength and preference.

Make sure you choose one that’s not too easy to pull, nor requiring all of your power to work. Also, if triggers have screw adjustments, avoid them, as they may back out.

  • Feel

How you feel with the rifle while handling it is really important. So, this should definitely be one of the decisive factors before you invest in it. You wouldn’t want to feel any discomfort while struggling to shoot accurately, would you?

Of course, this also differs from one person to another. So, you have to test the assault rifle before deciding if it’s the right one for you. You can do this by picking it up and putting it on your shoulder.

If it feels uncomfortable, it’s best to avoid buying that model because you will have to spend extra money on adjustments.

Test each rifle you set your eyes on and make sure it feels comfortable when you handle it.

  • Fit

Whether the rifle fits or not is yet another very important aspect to take into consideration. Just like the feel, this depends on each individual. It can be figured out through a simple test.

You have to hold the rifle and use your dominant hand to make a firing grip. See if you’re able to reach every control, such as the safety, bolt catch, magazine release and, ultimately, the trigger. Don’t be surprised if some rifles make this the most difficult task in the world. As they are manufactured differently, not each one allows for smooth, easy operation, so reaching every control may not be possible.

That being said, choose one that allows you to reach the controls without putting in too much effort. Otherwise, you might drop the weapon and you’ll not be able to use it efficiently. Look for a different model if the one you tested doesn’t fit.

  • Durability

Let’s be honest, who would want to buy a gun knowing it will most likely die after barely being used? Nobody wants that, given the amount of money spent. It’s important to look carefully at the weapon and do some research before you settle for it. Assault rifles should be able to withstand years of usage without losing their good condition.

Coming as no surprise, the market has many low-quality rifle models that are not only about to crumble after a few uses but may also be really dangerous. So, you need to be really careful and not just choose a cheap option, or one from a brand you haven’t heard of. Check out the rifle, do some research and ask the shop worker for as many details as possible to be sure that you’re getting the right item.

  • Accessories

Sometimes, you have to look for some additional items that will make the experience much better. When it comes to AR-style rifles, you may want accessories such as optics, lights, and slings. So, the rifle you choose should have attachment points for them.

This is why you should look at how many attachment points the weapon has. Particularly if you want to do competitive shooting, the more attachment points, the better. This is because accessories can greatly improve your performance by helping you.

So, look for rifles with a higher number of attachment points, and you can add versatile and useful accessories.

Final Thoughts

AR-style rifles are not like children’s toys and looking for one is a task that should be taken seriously. Since assault rifles can be a really solid investment, you need to know what to look for to choose one that delivers exactly what you wish. Hopefully, our article has helped you in this regard.

27 thoughts on “Josh Montgomery: AR-style rifles – What Should You Pay Attention When Buying.

      • Ha!

        I’m really not crazy about .22 CF rounds for deer or bear. Maybe they’re fine, however.

        If I can use a round lead ball I suppose I shouldn’t be preaching about others’ choices.

  1. A few other things.

    1. Yes, you can modify an AR to take a heavier cartridge such as the 300 Blackout by buying the “upper” assembly and fitting it to the lower or whatever it is called. According to BATF rules, an upper is not a gun but part of a gun, so you don’t need to go through the 4473 dance. But keep in mind that the cartridge length is limited by the lower (I think) so you are not going to be pushing high velocities good for long range. But you don’t need high velocities for a lot of hunting. The classic deer rifle was the 30/30. When I hunted whitetail in Upstate NY, I was usually in shotgun-only territory and there were plenty of opportunities at close range, i.e., inside 100 yds.

    2. These rifles are modular. If you don’t like the trigger or stock, you can change it.

    3. Most of these have a rifling rate of 1 rotation in in 7 inches or 1 in 8 (often called “twist”) as these rifles are meant to handle heavier bullets, e.g. 55 grain or heavier. There are charts out there where you can look up twist rate vs. bullet stabilization. Too fast a twist rate on a high velocity, light bullet can cause it to fragment while too slow a twist on a heavy slower bullet can cause it to tumble or keyhole, wrecking accuracy. My Mini 14 has a 1 in 9 twist rate and hates the heavier, 75 grain bullets that my Ruger 556 with a 1 in 8 shoots with incredible accuracy. Even with me shooting it.

    4. There is a real cult following for these rifles, so the Internet is rich with both good and bad advice as well as pricing for online stores such as Cheaper than Dirt.

    5. As anyone following this blog knows, the laws vary state to state and even within states (the People’s Republic of Boulder, CO is currently being sued for its AR ban). Check before you think about buying.

    6. If you have a buddy with one, ask to try it. I never wanted one but my brother has one and when I visited him in North Carolina, we went out to his backyard range. I was smitten.

    7. Finally, be ready to be told you are a bad person or worse. After all, these are “weapons of war” and have no place in proper society. Prepare to bury it in the back yard if Beto is ever elected president 😉

    • Thanks Khal. So, a 75 grain bullet is a porker? And 1:9 twist is slow?
      In my gun sub-culture 230 grains is just getting heavy and 1:72 is slow (though not by much)!
      My favorite assault-style rifle is the U.S. ’03. THAT’S M1803, BY HARPERS FERRY, thank ya’ Sir.

      • My brother who got me into ARs just got into black powder. I guess that is an intellectual progression! But yeah, 75 gr is pretty hefty for a .22/5.56. I’m not an expert. I think the heaviest/longest bullet I’ve seen is 77 gr.

        Back when I was a kid, my stepdad got into woodchuck hunting after we moved out to the country. He bought a 225 Winchester (a Savage rifle). I think at the time 52-55 grains was considered hefty and that rifle had a slower twist. We handloaded Speer 52 gr hollowpoints. Accurate as heck and with that big 225 winchester cartridge case (I think almost identical to the Remington 22/250, a lot hotter than the 223. 200 yards was considered a close shot.

      • I’ve got a few cartridge guns but they’re mostly for black powder rounds. My main interest is the Kentucky Rifle, of which I make & sell examples.

  2. .450 Bushmaster, or .460 SOCOM should be enough cartridge to take anything on the planet (tho maybe consider something bigger for dangerous game) also the new .350 Legend will work fine for anything you’d aim a .30-30 at, and has the added bonus of being straight walled in case your hunting laws are concerned about that. Also the 6.8 Rem SPC also boasts .30-30 power levels (or more if you put muzzle energy over bullet weight).

    • Hi Thomas

      I was advising against marginal rounds against dangerous game. But I looked up the 450 Bushmaster and its pushing a pretty high muzzle energy and a lot of mass. Thank you.

      • It’s a more-or-less .45-70 for an AR-15 (if you use commercial load data, not the insane stuff you’d put in a Ruger No 1) and while there are better choices, elephants and lions have been taken with black powder. 45-70

    • Dr. Jim, people like certain classes of firearms for purely subjective reasons. Some like these state-of-the-art rifles – ARs & such. I’m one such person, but for me it’s ca. 1780’s state-of-the-art weaponry. (Well, O.K., I go up to about ca.1870 at times.)
      To be entirely frank, very, very, very few need any gun whatsoever. Your rhetorical question here speaks to that.

    • I will never defend the NRA or their “no-compromise” stance. However there are an estimated 15 million ARs in circulation and I’d guess that 99.5% of them are never used for any violent act whatsoever. I can only speak to what I use mine for. I do participate in competitive shooting events and have one set up for home defense (though not in 5.56mm).

    • “Unless you are planning a mass murder, or have very inadequate private parts why the hell could you possibly want or need an AR-15?”

      Consider this:

      There are between 16-18 Million “Assault weapons” owned by Americans….
      And yet, only around 400 deaths a year caused by Long guns of any type.

      ….Now Compare that to the 250,000-450,000 deaths a year caused by Medical errors.

      Seems to me that Dr. Jim is more of a threat to people than an AR-15….

      ….And HE probably compensates for his “Inadequate Private parts” by buying Sports cars or by smugly regurgitating uninformed Anti-gun drivel like the nonsensical post quoted above.

    • Leaving aside the insult, for most it is a discretionary purchase by those who simply enjoy owning and shooting the rifle. With 15-20 million out there, the number misused every year is in the parts per million so apparently mass murder is not a selling point. Perhaps we ought to put that in context.

      As Josh says, these are a serious purchase. I’m of the opinion that we ought to make that clear. No more “man card” or other asinine advertisements and perhaps limit to 21 years old and older. In New Mexico, perhaps I would require something like a CHL or equivalent but not sure there is the political will to choose a middle ground between the present regulation (a 4473 and 18 ys old) and an outright ban. The present national conversation among Democrats (and I’m a registered D) makes discussion almost impossible.

      • Just adding numbers FWIW. You can argue any way you want with this.

        J Urban Health. 2018 Jun; 95(3): 313–321.
        Published online 2017 Oct 2. doi: 10.1007/s11524-017-0205-7
        PMCID: PMC5993698
        PMID: 28971349
        Criminal Use of Assault Weapons and High-Capacity Semiautomatic Firearms: an Updated Examination of Local and National Sources

        Gives percentages of ARs, semiautos, including pistols used in crime.

        Huffington Post, 6/17/16, using Gun Violence Archive data “…There have been at least 267 incidents involving assault-style rifles in 2016…”. So if you pick a number of 15 million ARs out there, would be about 18 incidents per million owned.

    • Dear Mr. Doctor Jim,
      Your comment is rich. I would expect a doctor could come up with more original thoughts than what you have. So…I suspect your a want-to-be doctor. You have a “want or need” to be a doctor.

      • If this is the Jim I think it is, he is a retired trauma surgeon who practiced in Chicago and is now a member of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence.

        I had a discussion last night at my gun club board meeting where I am a board member. Suggested we all treat each other with respect regardless of what our point of view might be. Its the only way to coexist.

      • khal, I agree with you (and here’s the but) but it goes both ways. Dr. Jim says “have very inadequate private parts.” What’s that all about? I really don’t care if he practiced in Chicago or a small town in Alaska. Remarks like that are totally uncalled for. If doctor Jim is a retired trauma surgeon he should be ashamed of himself.

      • Alan, I meant that for Dr. Jim too. Gratuitous insults are not conversation starters. Its one thing to be frustrated by lack of progress with one’s own point of view, but it isn’t a good excuse for today’s political food fights.

        On the other hand, if Dr. Jim was responding to that old Bushmaster ad for getting one’s man card back, then we really gotta wonder if our own side set us up for that insult.

  3. Individuals like Beto O’Rourke make the job tougher for those (like myself) who are in the gun violence prevention movement. Due to their position in the public eye, and given their huge microphone, they easily derail our attempts at finding common ground with the uninformed comments they make – and they make many such comments. They are taken by the pubic as our spokesperson when they are not.

    • Furthermore when Mr O’Rourke mentioned his ban and confiscation plan, he was greeted with applause from both the audience and the dias. It wasn’t until a few days later and the pro-gun reaction articles came out did the various candidates nuance their plans for the vast majority of gun owners.

      The truth was revealed, confiscation of the majority of basic arms was the end goal. Yes I know much of the gun owners here own a pile of bolt action and single shot rifles, and revolvers and single stack pistols, but that’s gun nut, collector, and specialty sporting goods. The bulk of gun sales to people who want to protect their families and property, and well as have a good time st the range, we’re looking at semi-automatic rifle and pistols, all with double stack removable magazines.

      Hence why Americans poll in favor of background checks, but Bloomberg background check bills fail miserably. Because when your background checks require names, addresses, make model and serial numbers, that’s a registry, and as we know from both states and nations with registries, they serve virtually no use to law enforcement. But as we see from Australia, and conversely New Zealand, registries are ideal for confiscation.

  4. The initial response to Beto was indeed tremendous applause from the Democratic base and from other candidates as they piled on to not be outflanked on the left. It was only after some of the gun control organizations responded to Beto’s proposal saying “Beto, you just started another land war in Asia and the first to fall victim will be all the moderate/conservative Dems who were elected in 2018”. It was only then that they fell back and as far as I can tell, it was a tactical retreat rather than a change in philosophy.

    Indeed, some of the loudest voices on the Left want to leave us with bolt action rifles and revolvers and maybe a few internal magazine semiauto rifles and shotguns such as the Browning, Remington, and Winchester. I suspect many of them would even want to confiscate dedicated target pistols such as the Hi Standard Trophy or Colt Gold Cup. Externally removable magazines, you know.. At some point either we are screwed or the SCOTUS is going to have to hammer down what is meant by “in common use at the time”.

    • Honestly I think the “in Common Use” as well as the admission of concealed weapons permits in Heller were simply added to focus the decision. I personally think all this crap is against the 2nd Amendment. At the time of the ratification of the bill of rights, repeating arms existed, private citizens owned artillery pieces, the common components for loading a musket or rifle were also the common components for making bombs and grenades, private citizens owned BATTLE SHIPS, and went into freelance business hunting pirates with letters of Marque.

      Hell at the time of the ratification, the largest armed force in the WORLD was the British East India Company… in a private company.

      But all that being said the National Firearms act was in 1934, and all of the modern gun control groups have their roots in the 1960s, so we didn’t get to this place where we would even be arguing what the 2nd Amendment means and what infringements are constitutional overnight, and so it is both unrealistic and probably a little brash to try and take it all back overnight.

      • IIRC, the “in common use”phrase came from the Miller decision. I can look it up.
        Yes, 307 U.S. 174 “…The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. “A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline.” And further, that ordinarily, when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time…”

      • Well I was quoting Heller v DC. Honestly I have no idea why Miller even ended in a decision. Miller was Dead, his attorney was not present, and the court ruled that a short barrel shotgun was not protected by the Second Amendment BECAUSE it isn’t a military weapon.

        First up the first military small arms were short barrel smooth bore firearms, and the US Military has never NOT had a shotgun with a barrel under 18″ available to troops.

        Second this also flies in the face of ALL current gun control, where machine guns, suppressors, short barrel rifles, and short barrel shotguns, which are all utilized by the military are on the NFA, and Machine guns cannot be added to the registry. Furthermore people like Mike and Yourself want further regulation on semi-auto rifles (often with the erroneous claim that they are “Weapons of War”).

        All of that is openly illegal action according to Miller….which should have never been ruled on.

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