Six Myths About the Legendary AR-15

AR-15 George Frey:Getty Images
George Frey/Getty Images

The AR-15 is a legendary American firearm that has become steeped in myth while being maligned by leftists eager to blame the rifle, rather than the criminal who uses it.

In the following we dispel six of the more prominent myths surrounding the AR-15.

Myth #1: “AR” Stands for “Assault Rifle”–One of the biggest myths perpetuated by gun controllers is that the “AR” in AR-15 stands for “assault rifle.” In fact, it stands for “Armalite Rifle,” and that is because Armalite was the company that manufactured the rifle, following its design by Eugene Stoner in the 1950s.

Myth #2: AR-15s Are Not for Hunting–This is a popular line among proponents of “assault weapons” bans. As Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said verbatim just days after the Parkland school shooting, “I have hunted all my life. I still hunt with my son. But an AR-15 is not for hunting, it’s for killing.” Nelson’s position is countered by the fact hunting with AR-15s has become so popular that Time magazine ran a column on AR-15 hunters. Moreover, ATF Associate Deputy Director Ronald Turk says AR-15s are so popular for hunting that the ATF should review older studies on the rifle and bring them up to speed.

Myth #3: AR-15s Are Not Good for Self-Defense–AR-15s are a great rifle for self-defense and home defense, and this is particularly so if they have collapsible or adjustable stocks, which make for a shorter throw as you swing the gun up on target while moving through your home. Simple optics with which the gun’s owner is familiar only increase the rifle’s usefulness for self-defense. On March 28, 2017, Breitbart News reported that an Oklahoma homeowner’s son used an AR-15 for self-defense, killing three home intruders. On November 5, 2017, Stephen Willeford grabbed his AR-15 and ran toward the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooter. Upon arriving he shot the shooter, forcing him to flee the scene. On February 27, 2018, Breitbart News reported that Dave Thomas witnessed his neighbor under knife attack, retrieved his AR-15 and ended the assault. Thomas said, “The AR-15 is my weapon of choice for home protection. It’s light, it’s maneuverable. If you train and know how to use it properly, it’s not dangerous. And this is just a perfect example of good guy with an AR-15 stopped a bad guy with a knife. And there were no lives taken, so all in all it was a good day.”

Myth #4: AR-15s Are “Weapons of War”–This myth, uttered again and again by Barack Obama, continues to be promulgated by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Democrats at large. The claim is a not-so-subtle suggestion that AR-15s are truly battlefield weapons, but they are not. The battlefield weapon is an M16 and it is fully automatic. This means it will fire an entire magazine full of bullets with one pull of the trigger, if the person using the gun keeps the trigger depressed. But an AR-15 is a semiautomatic gun, which means it only fires one round per trigger pull, period.

Myth #5: AR-15s Are “Killing Machines”–This particular myth goes deeper that it may first appear. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) is one of many Democrats who describe AR-15s as “killing machines.” Moreover, he claims the guns were “intentionally designed to kill as many people as efficiently as possible.” The image created by both claims is that the AR-15 some heretofore unknown rapidity of fire capability. But in reality, it is just a semi-automatic rifle that fires one round every time the trigger is pulled, just like a Glock, Heckler & Koch, Kimber, Sig Sauer, or Smith & Wesson pistol. Because of this, Murphy’s claims are a slippery slope which use a ban on AR-15s to open the door to a ban on all semi-automatic firearms; rifles and pistols alike.

Myth #6: AR-15s Are the “Weapon of Choice” for Mass Public Attackers–The “weapon of choice” claim is ubiquitous on the left. In the days after Parkland shooting it was made by Rolling Stone, ABC News, and Think Progress, and other publications. But one only has to glance at the weapons used in our nation’s most prominent mass public attacks to recognize this claim as a myth:

  1. Great Mills High School attack (March 20, 2018) – Handgun
  2. Parkland School attack (February 14, 2018) – AR-15
  3. Marshall County High School attack (January 23, 2018) – Shotgun
  4. Texas church attack (November 5, 2017) – AR-15
  5. Las Vegas attack (October 1, 2017) – AR-15
  6. the Alexandria attack (June 14, 2017) – Handgun
  7. Orlando attack (June 12, 2016) – AR-15, handgun
  8. the UCLA gunman (June 1, 2016) – Handgun
  9. the San Bernardino attack (December 2, 2015) – AR-15, handgun
  10. the Colorado Springs attack (October 31, 2015) – AR-15, handgun
  11. the Umpqua Community College attack (October 1, 2015) – Handgun
  12. Alison Parker’s attack (August 26, 2015) – Handgun
  13. the Lafayette movie theater attack (July 23, 2015) – Handgun
  14. the Chattanooga attack (July 16, 2015) – AK-47, shotgun, handgun
  15. the alleged Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal attack (Jun 17, 2015) – Handgun
  16. the Las Vegas cop killers (June 9, 2015) – Handgun
  17. the Santa Barbara attack (May 23, 2014) – Handgun
  18. the Fort Hood attack (April 2, 2014) – Handgun
  19. the Arapahoe High School attack (December 13, 2013) – Shotgun
  20. the D.C. Navy Yard attack (September 16, 2013) – Shotgun
  21. the Sandy Hook Elementary School attack (December 14, 2012) — AR-15
  22. the Aurora movie theater attack (July 20, 2012) – AR-15
  23. Gabby Giffords’ attack (January 8, 2011) – Handgun
  24. the Fort Hood attack (November 5, 2009) – Handgun
  25. the Virginia Tech attack (April 16, 2007) – Handgun

Handgun used 17 times, AR-15 used eight times, shotgun used four times, an AK-47 used once. There figures to do not really bolster the claim AR-15s are the “weapon of choice” for mass public attackers.

Additionally, if we consider homicides in general rather that mass attacks, FBI crime stats for 2016 show over four times as many people were stabbed to death than were shot and killed with rifles of any kind.  In other words, rifles not the weapon of choice for homicide in general.

AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News, the host of the Breitbart podcast Bullets with AWR Hawkins, and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at Sign up to get Down Range at



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