The AR15 (or M4) is one of the most prolific weapons on the planet, second only to the venerable AK47 in recognition. A good rifle is worth its weight in gold in most circumstances, but for SHTF it should also be recognized that it will be important to own a rifle that is a proven and reliable platform. The truth is while not the most expensive, accurate, or powerful when weighed in the balance the AR15 holds its own against any of the other popular rifles out there. What follows are the reasons why, if things get crazy, you’ll want the AR15 in your gun safe.
Cost. The AR15 is relatively affordable with base models starting out in the $600 range, most mid-level rifles going for $1000 (+ or – $200) and upper end custom models easily eclipsing the $3000 range. In addition to the rifle the ammo required (.223 or 5.56 NATO) to feed the AR15 is relatively affordable (especially if you reload).
Bottom Line: For less than $1500 you can buy a Colt AR15, 1,000 rounds of 5.56 and 6 mags. Not a bad deal.
Durability/Reliability. A hotly contest topic around the internet and at local gun clubs, the durability of the AR15 has been both praised and condemned in recent times. I would submit that a well maintained gun will perform well in almost every circumstance, with the caveat that all things mechanical are subject to failure at one point. The better maintained, the better chance you have of not experiencing a failure. It should also be noted that the operational environment should be taken into consideration. If you think about how most people would employ their AR15’s in a post SHTF scenario, hunting and personal defense come to mind (low usage, low round count). Yet If you do find yourself in a sandstorm having fired more than 5,000 rounds in one sitting at overzealous looters and start experiencing extraction issues, well I don’t know what to tell you. A more likely scenario involves taking a few shots at a groundhog or deer, or *maybe* running through a mag or two in a self defense situation. Regardless the AR15 is well suited to stand up to high levels of abuse, levels of abuse which far surpass anything most people would be faced with.
Check out this video of an AR15 Torture Test.
Here is a link to another AR15 Torture Test performed by Gun Digest.
Bottom Line: While any system can be prone to failure, the AR platform performs well above the standard and has proven itself both in civilian tests and overseas in combat.
Replacement Parts. In 2010 it was reported that there were over 2.5 million AR15’s in the US, with that number increasing by approximately 300k per year. That’s a large number of AR15’s and with that comes a huge market for OEM and aftermarket replacement parts. That figure does not even include the amount of M16/M4 based rifles in existence by the members of our military. With all of the AR15 based rifles in circulation and production only due to increase, it stands to reason that there will be a greater chance to obtain replacement parts should the need arise. Chances are your neighbor or local police station would have an extra part for an AR15, it’s doubtful they would for a P90 or FAL.
Bottom line: The more AR15’s the better, especially if you need to source replacement parts.
Ammunition. Most AR15’s are chambered in 5.56 NATO, but almost all are capable of shooting 223 Remington as well. What’s the difference? A 5.56 NATO round has thicker walls on the casing which help it to withstand higher pressures. The general rule is this: it’s ok to shoot 223 in a 5.56 gun, but NOT ok to shoot 5.56 is a 223 gun. If you shoot all 223 generally you won’t have a problem, but I would just to make sure to get an AR15 chambered in 5.56, this is usually stamped on the barrel itself. A basic load of 5.56 (210 rounds) is also easier to carry than 210 rounds of 7.62, and it’s cheaper to buy.
Bottom line: The availability of 5.56/223 ammunition and the fact that most of this ammo is manufactured in the US proves highly beneficial to all AR15 owners.
Penetration. While the 5.56 round won’t set any records for penetration power, the round carries enough energy to do some serious damage to targets well beyond 500 meters. Check out this test video which highlights the penetration power of the 5.56 round when shot through drywall, ballistic gel, and finally against a steel plate.
Bottom line: The 5.56 round is plenty lethal for just about every purpose which one could be faced with in a SHTF situation (hunting or personal defense). While not the most powerful round ever it still provides a great balance of effectiveness, weight, availability and cost.
Accuracy. What you need to know here is that the AR15 is much more capable than most of the shooters who get behind the sights. There are many variables which contribute to how accurate a gun is: barrel length, weather conditions, type of bullet and most importantly skill of the shooter. Most AR15’s are capable of shooting between 1 to 4 MOA at distances of 100 yards, which is reasonable considering the platform.
Bottom line: Plenty accurate for almost every situation which you might encounter. If you can’t hit the broad side of a barn with your AR15, it’s probably not the gun’s fault.
Modular Design. Quite frequently the AR15 is referred to as the Mr. Potato Head of the gun world. The ability to customize the platform is simply off the charts. Almost every part is replaceable and by doing so you have the ability to personalize your gun so that you feel and subsequently shoot better. Optics are easily mounted on flat top rail systems (called Picatinny Rails), and rails on the hand guards also allow for forward grips, lights, lasers and sling mounts.
Bottom line: The ability to customize the AR15 platform makes it easier to personalize the gun so it fits your needs/style.
Conclusion. The AR15 is a great platform which has proven itself over time to be reliable and effective. If you don’t own an AR15, you might want to consider getting one!