Why The AR-15 is Not a Sporting Rifle

by LiamBean

Despite the repeated attempts of the gun lobby to paint the AR15 or Bushmaster as a sporting rifle it is and always has been an Assault Rifle.

When Eugene Stoner developed this rifle he did so for strictly military purposes. His aim was not to create a hunting or sporting rifle. Rather his purpose was to bring firearm design into the twenty-first century by creating fire-arms that used aircraft & man-made materials rather than wood & forged steel. By doing this he created a fire-arm that could be manufactured much more efficiently, did not require a factory outfitted with stamp & forging equipment, which is quite expensive, and could be manufactured by a number of companies rather than one devoted to producing a complex and specialized rifle.

He succeeded.

The result was a fire-arm that, when mass produced, always weighed exactly the same, was cheaper and easier to manufacture, and weighed considerably less than the rifle it replaced. This rifle also gave the soldier who wielded it considerable fire-power and the ability to carry twice as much ammunition as before.

None of this is consistent with a sporting rifle.

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Sporting Rifle vs Assault Rifle

The differences and the similarities



M16 Assault Weapon with 30 Round Magazine





The Sporting Rifle

A sporting rifle is designed for one of two things:

  • Hunting
  • Target practice

An Assault Rifle

An assault rifle is designed for one of two things:

  • To wound an enemy
  • To kill an enemy

Details on Differences

The fine differences detailed

Sporting Fire-Arms
A sporting rifle is designed to "take-down" small to large game, such as deer, boar, or varmints which is called hunting. Or it is designed to take to the firing range where it an be fired at targets. A sporting rifle is not designed to be used to fire upon people, but as we all know it can be used that way.

Assault Fire-Arm
An assault rifle is designed to wound or kill enemy combatants, e.g. enemy soldiers. Yes, it can be used for target shooting or game, but that is not it's design purpose.


Rifle SpecificationsM16AR15
Weight 7.18 pounds 7.18 pounds
Weight with 30 round magazine 8.80 pounds 8.80 pounds
Muzzle Velocity 3,200 feet per second 3,200 feet per second
Rate of Fire (semi-auto) 45 rounds per minute 45 rounds per minute
Rate of Fire (3 burst) 90 rounds per minute Does not apply
Rate of Fire (full-auto) 900 rounds per minute Does not apply
Range 600 yards 600 yards
Speed of round in meters per second 975 mps 975 mps



Note that the speed of sound is 343 meters per second. This means that the bullet exiting either rifle is traveling at almost three times the speed of sound.


Practical Application

Dispelling the most cited Talking Point of the Gun Lobby

It has been argued that since the AR15 does not have a full automatic or three shot automatic mode, that it cannot be fairly compared to the M16.

I want to dispel that myth once and for all.

As a trained soldier we were occasionally allowed to fire the weapon in fully automatic mode. This was almost always during training so that we could become familiar with how the weapon operated in that mode. In every case we were admonished not to fire the weapon that way since it expended ammunition at a frightful rate.

There were a number of reasons, beyond burning through ammunition so quickly, we were strongly discouraged from fully automatic operations.

Fired in full automatic, in under a minute the weapon overheated and was prone to jams; this made it inoperable. Once the barrel heated to a certain point it would take a substantial amount of time to cool down enough to resume firing.

Finally, there was the risk of a chambered round "cooking-off," or detonating from the heat alone. Since this was an unintentional discharge the weapon might be pointed in the wrong direction. A discharge like this could prove fatal to friendlies or the operator.

Ninety nine percent of the time, we used the M16 in the semi-auto mode only. In this way the weapon was no different than the AR15 in weight, capability, or use.

The argument that the AR15 is a sporting fire-arm is completely without merit.

Updated: 02/10/2013, LiamBean
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