A couple months ago, I broke from my usual routine of providing bushcraft and survival-related entries to this blog and wrote about good habits that should be developed for home-defense shotgun use. I enjoyed writing that piece as it allowed me to share another side of me, the firearms enthusiast, with the readers here who may only know me as the guy behind the “KE” of the KE Bushie crafted by Fiddleback Forge. That blog post provided safety tips and common sense skills you should have for effectiveness and competence. The shotgun is just one firearm the modern law-abiding and defense-minded civilian should own and become proficient with; another is the AR. This firearm, unlike the shotgun, has become the topic of a lot of debate in the mainstream media. Some news outlets would have you believe it is capable of taking down aircraft 5 miles high and traveling 500 miles per hour. Others would have you believe it is used in the vast majority of “gun violence” (Can we just call it violence?). In both of these cases, it is not. The AR15 is a widely used firearm in more legal pursuits than illegal and it’s popular for a reason. I’m going to venture to say most of the readers of this blog own one leading to the impetus of this post. Continuing with the theme of education, assess your knowledge of your firearm by trying to answer these simple questions. Perhaps this blog will help turn the tides of misinformation and create a more-educated population of AR owners.
Why is “that” on your AR?
The AR is incredibly modular and the array of accessories allow you to construct the perfect firearm for your needs. The same AR receiver can be accessorised to fit users of greatly different shapes and sizes with the right combination of stock, grip, and forend. The educated AR owner carefully plans what to “bolt” onto their firearm and bases these decisions in logic. It’s easy to buy something because it looks cool but if it isn’t practical, you end up feeding into the “gun nut” stereotype of those who radically oppose your 2A right. A light makes sense as day can turn into night and indoors can be darker than outdoors. A sling makes sense to hold your rifle to your body and let you go hands free. A red dot sight will greatly improve your accuracy over traditional iron sights. This is why these accessories are on mine.
How high is your sight over bore?
If you are using the red-dot optic mentioned in the previous paragraph, you know it sits higher than the barrel of your rifle. At close range, you must remember your offset. That is, when the dot of your sight is placed on the bullseye at close range, you’ll notice the hits will all be low unless you compensate and aim slightly higher. You should know this offset and remember it for times when the distance between you and your target will vary.
What is your Zero?
At some range, you will adjust the windage and elevation of your red dot to match the impact of the rounds on your target. This is your zero. You should know a zero of 50 yards will generally also be the same zero at 200 yards. This is not always true and you’ll find the best way to determine your zero is to actually shoot it at 50 and find what range it will impact the target in the same spot at a greater distance. Contrary to popular belief, bullets don’t climb but they can be shot slightly upward in an arc which some mistake for a lift property in the projectile. That first zero point will be when the bullet is arcing up to the line of sight and the second impact will be when it starts to fall back into the straight line of sight further down range. If you have an AR, you should know what the zero is.
Can you effectively transition with your rifle?
We are most vulnerable in transition. This is a universal concept. When we leave our homes, we put ourselves at risk on the road. When a caterpillar emerges from its cocoon, it is easy prey for birds. When we move from one shoulder to the next or when we let our AR hang and draw our pistol, we need to do it quickly. When our firearms go dry, we need to reload because in this transitional phase and until we gas up our firearms, they become clubs. Learning how to quickly, efficiently, and effectively transition is the mark of mastery. Having a training partner throw in the occasional dummy round lets you practice transitioning out of malfunctions that can happen too. Learning to be cool under pressure while working through the problem is a goal to strive for.
When was the last time you cleaned your AR and how?
The AR earned a reputation back in the early days for being unreliable largely for being used with remanufactured ammunition with incorrect gunpowder. These issues have been addressed and now the AR is extremely reliable especially with proper maintenance and understanding how the firearm works best. It was once thought the AR needed to be cleaned religiously to pass the “white-glove” inspection. Now, the emphasis isn’t on removing all that gunpowder residue but rather running your rifle well lubricated. A good lubricant will turn all that gunpowder into a slick layer that runs over your bolt carrier, charging handle, and so on. Still, if you are running a suppressor, you may find it preferable to clean your rifle after a long session at the range. No matter what your preference, you should know when the last time you cleaned it was and if it was stored properly lubricated. You have the responsibility of maintaining your gear and it’s said if you take care of your gear, it will take care of you. I believe that expression.
If you struggled to answer these questions, there is a solution that will make you more competent with your AR; it’s called training. Training is not simply going to the range and blasting holes in paper. Training is working as a student under a qualified instructor who can diagnose your good/bad habits and help you level up safely. Consider this, there are some firearm enthusiasts who only have basic firearms safety as their highest level of training. If that’s you, don’t stop educating yourself. Share what you learn with those you care about and build on your skills until you achieve the goals you set for yourself. Knowledge through formal firearms education weighs nothing and in the case of the AR and firearms in general, it’s one of the best investments you can make.
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