What Does AR Stand for in AR 15? The Meaning Behind the Letters

Understanding what does AR stand for in AR 15

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It seems everyone has heard of the AR 15, from gun enthusiasts to the man on the street. In fact, the AR 15, which has been called America’s Rifle by the National Rifle Association and is one of the most popular hunting rifles in use today. But, what does AR stand for in AR 15?

What Does AR Stand for in Ar 15?

AR15 rifle with stand and scope

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If you were to ask people “What does AR stand for in AR 15?”, two of the most popular answers are “assault rifle” and “automatic rifle.” Both answers would be wrong. The letters AR actually stand for Armalite Rifle. A lot of people confidently throw out the wrong answer when asked “what does the AR stand for in AR 15,” and we’re here to set the record straight. The AR 15 is neither an assault rifle nor an automatic rifle, so it would not make sense if AR stood for either. In fact, there are no assault rifles or automatic rifles legally for sale in the United States.

How the AR 15 Came to Be

AR 15 Rifle

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George Sullivan, who had been a patent lawyer for Lockheed, founded the company Armalite. Armalite was originally a small arms manufacturer, until they brought Eugene Stoner in to help develop rifles in the 1950’s. Lockheed funded the development since they recognized the potential profit that arms manufacturing held.

Predecessors to the AR 15

Two earlier designs, the AR 5 and AR 7, were sold to the military for use as take-down rifles for pilots. Designed with a polymer stock, AR rifles were lighter than traditional rifles of the time, which was a key feature the military was looking for. The AR 10 was developed to be a military rifle but was passed over in favor of the T-44 which became known as the M-14.

The AR 15 Is Born

In the late 50’s, Armalite created the AR 15. The new rifle weighed in at about 6 pounds and had a 20 round magazine. Once again, the military passed up the AR rifle, choosing to stick with the M-14. At this point, Armalite was sold to Colt, which kept the AR name out of respect for the company which created it. What does AR stand for in AR 15? According to Colt, it stands for the distinguished company that originally designed this piece.

After the U.S. military chose Colt to produce AR 15s for troops in 1963–AR 15s that would come to be called M-16s, the company produced a civilian semiautomatic version that kept the name AR 15. They sold this version to both law enforcement agencies and the public. The first of these semiautomatic rifles was named the AR 15 Sporter. It had a 20-inch barrel and fired .223 Remingtons.

When the patent for the AR 15 ran out in 1977, many other gun manufacturers began producing their own AR 15-style rifles. Even though many of these may have a similar appearance and performance they, are not true AR 15s. But out of respect for the original manufacturers, and a desire to capitalize on what everyone acknowledges to be an excellent design, they all keep the name AR 15.

The AR 15’s Impact on the Military

military training with an ar15 rifle

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Along with the light-weight polymer stock, Stoner and his design team also developed a trigger with a pull that was lighter than that of other rifles. They replaced the traditional gas piston firing system with a direct impingement system with a rotating bolt. Exhaust gases are piped directly into the receiver which cycles the bolt carrier.

These design innovations created a simpler, lighter rifle. The flip side to these advances is that small particles are present in the exhaust gases. These particles cause the parts to wear more quickly. This meant that for military use, soldiers had to break down and clean their weapons more often. The ease of disassembly and reassembly was a key feature of the AR 15.

The U.S. military renamed the rifle as the M-16. The military version was select-fire and included a forward assist. The forward assist is a button, often near the bolt closure, which pushes the bolt forward, locking it into place.

The AR 15 and the Public

civilian shooting an ar15

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Why is the AR 15 popular among private citizens? Because so many people erroneously believe this rifle to be an assault rifle or an automatic rifle, in part because someone answered the question “what does AR stand for in AR 15” with one of those choices, many believe the AR 15 has no legitimate civilian purpose. Actually, there are plenty of legitimate reasons people love this rifle.

It Is Very Versatile

The AR 15 rifle is one of the most popular rifles among gun owners for one simple reason. It is the most versatile rifle, being perfect for everything from target practice, to competitive shooting, to hunting. Prior to the AR 15, gun enthusiasts had to purchase a different gun for different uses.

With the AR 15, however, gun owners can order parts online and install them on their rifle with everyday hand tools. The only part that has to be purchased through a licensed gun dealer is the lower receiver since it contains the serial number. The lower receiver contains the trigger assembly and the attachment point for the buttstock. It is also where the pistol grip is attached.

Great for Hunting Big, and Small, Game

The AR 15’s lightweight durability, and the ability to change calibers quickly and easily, make it great for hunting. Add to that its water resistant design and renowned accuracy and you have the perfect rifle for hunting in any conditions. The AR 15 is perfect for hunting small game as well as large.

Target Practice

Since the caliber of the AR 15 can be changed to fire 22 caliber rounds, target practice becomes much more affordable. Whether it is being used for competition, hunting, or self-defense, target practice is crucial to maintaining accuracy.

Self-Defense and Home Protection

Designed to be a precise weapon, the AR 15 lends itself easily to home protection and self-defense. Its accuracy and ability to fire multiple times without reloading gives the owner the edge needed to stop a potentially deadly threat.

The AR 15 Gets a Bad Rap

rifle on a wooden bench

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Now that we’ve answered the question “What does AR stand for in AR 15”, let’s look at the widespread belief that they are assault rifles. The fact that they look like their military cousins certainly adds to that belief. However, there are important differences between the two, and the similarity in looks is almost entirely cosmetic.

AR 15 rifles are semiautomatic, meaning the trigger has to be pulled to fire every round. An automatic rifle, on the other hand, only needs the trigger to pulled once and held to fire multiple rounds. The AR 15 is also no more powerful than a traditional rifle of the same caliber. If you are firing 22 caliber rounds from an AR 15, it has exactly the same punch as a traditional 22.

Gun control advocates state that there is no real reason for the public to own weapons like the AR 15. They say that the differences between semiautomatic and fully automatic weapons is minimal. They also say that there is no true recreational use for rifles such as the AR 15, insisting that they are military assault weapons.

Gun rights advocates point to the popularity of the AR 15 among hunters as evidence of the rifle’s recreational importance. They correctly state that semiautomatic rifles are not assault weapons since they cannot fire multiple rounds with one trigger pull.

Looking Ahead

At this time, what is needed is better education for the public on semiautomatic weapons and their intended use. A more knowledgeable public would have a firmer grasp of the facts and be able to base their weapons ban positions on fact instead of feeling. While the emotional aspect should never be entirely removed from this issue, decisions affecting constitutional rights should not be based solely on emotions.

A balance needs to be found between protecting the civil rights outlined in the Constitution and the right of people to live in a safe society and to protect themselves, as well as to have excellent hunting and target practice weapons. There is no easy answer to this ongoing debate.

Now You Know What the AR in AR 15 Stands For

The next time someone says that AR stands for assault rifle, you can tell them what those letters really mean. Just tell them they are mistaken: the AR stands for Armalite Rifle, the company that designed the AR 15. If you want, you can even give them a little history lesson, too.

The AR 15, the most versatile, durable, and accurate rifle produced to date, is not an assault weapon. It is the rifle of choice for many hunters and shooting enthusiasts due to its precision firing. This pioneer of the modern sporting rifle continues to make its mark among gun enthusiasts of all ages.

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