David Petzal Gets An AR-15

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 6 months ago

Field & Stream writes this about the recent SHOT show.

Range Day is the Monday prior to the Show’s opening when manufacturers demonstrate their wares. People like me are bussed out to handle the goodies. This year, Range Day sounded like the Battle of Dak To, or perhaps Fallujah, with the distinctive pop-pop-pop of full-auto fire, which was extremely popular amongst all the SEAL wannabes. Indeed, this was symbolic of the whole show, which has now become so heavily militarized that you have to look fairly hard for something designed to kill animals instead of people.

It’s David Petzal.  Is anyone really surprised?  Just a few days later, David writes to tell us why he finally got an AR-15.

I also liked that the DMR is a 7.62 and not a 5.56—as the former easily outranges the latter—and that it is a gas-piston rifle, and not a direct-­impingement rifle. This keeps all the dirt and heat up front in the gas system rather than letting it pour back into the action in order to cycle the bolt.

The 18-inch medium barrel is chrome lined, which means you’ll probably never wear it out, and the match-grade trigger is a two-stage Geissele that breaks at 61⁄2 pounds. The buttstock is a Magpul PRS, and the grip is a MIAD. There is no carrying handle, just an endless Picatinny rail (four of them, actually) and excellent quick-detachable iron sights. Twenty-round Magpul PMag magazines are standard.

The weight…ah, the weight: My rifle, with a scope in high Leupold Mark 4 rings, a flash suppressor (highly recommended), and a vertical fore-end grip, weighs 131⁄2 pounds. This means I will not take it hunting, but then it is not a hunting rifle. It does mean that the DMR has hardly any kick, holds steady, and can put down aimed, controlled fire at the range very rapidly.

Finally, it is not compliant with California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, or New York restrictions. I take considerable satisfaction in that.

[ … ]

The 716 DMR is not a cheap gun at $2,970. But I’ve found that long after you’ve forgotten how much you spent, you can delight in the performance of what your money bought. I waited a long time to join the 21st century, but I went about it the right way.

Uh huh.  So you did it right, did you?  Well, you know what David?  Your rifle cost you a lot of money.  And it can shoot too, with sub-MOA accuracy.  That’s great.

But 1 – 1.5 MOA guns can shoot to, and can take down animals and tyrants.  And I take great pleasure in knowing that most of my guns would be illegal in California too.

But I don’t begrudge anyone their $400 Ruger rifle that will shoot 1.5 MOA, or their $3000 Weatherby that will shoot .75 MOA.  Honestly, for many people, there isn’t much difference between them.  And I advocate enjoying shooting for hunting, for target, for so-called “plinking,” and if need be for killing tyrants.

But I do have a confession to make.  If I never shoot anything, never hit an animal, never hit the target, never succeed at any contests, I still love to shoot.  I love it for the pure engineering behind it.  I love the explosion.  I love the idea of a projectile, and I love thinking about Newton’s laws.  I love the moving parts, I love disassembling them.  I just love the mechanics behind guns.  I love the machine.  God help me!  I do love it so!

There.  I’ve said it, and I feel better now.  And see David, I’m not an AR-15 snob.  In fact, I advocate that everyone enjoy shooting.  I usually have a smile on my face when I’m shooting, and I get jazzed when I go shooting with friends and family.  With Daniel it was a little different, sort of like a hard job when you have to shoot >> 1000 rounds a day for two years under duress.  But that’s a little different.  Daniel still likes shooting too.

For heaven’s sake, David, you don’t need to be so puckered.  Smile a little.  Be an advocate for others to enjoy the same passion you’ve been able to have your whole life.  Don’t be jealous and petty and selfish.  And don’t … I repeat … don’t, be an AR-15 snob.


  1. On January 31, 2016 at 10:02 pm, RustyGunner said:

    Not to perpetuate the old argument, but nothing I take to the range produces that look of unholy glee on the face of a new shooter like my $500 AK-47. Pinpoint-accurate it’s not, but it’s accurate enough, and that’s the whole point.

  2. On February 2, 2016 at 8:16 am, MattBracken said:

    It was designed to shoot minute of man, reliably, and it does.
    What’s not to love?

  3. On February 1, 2016 at 10:39 am, Billy Mullins said:

    “whole show … has now become so heavily militarized that you have to look fairly hard for something designed to kill animals instead of people.”

    Somebody ought to tell this hopeless Fudd that anything that will put a 400 lb buck on his ass will definitely drop anything on two legs as well. I got my FNAR precisely BECAUSE it has sub-MOA accuracy and can definitely drop anything south of the Colorado border.

  4. On February 1, 2016 at 1:06 pm, Heyoka said:

    That is why I got a custom AR 10 chambering in .300 WSM cause I live north of the border. And it will go clean through a steel Level III SAPI Plate. :)

  5. On February 1, 2016 at 1:42 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Hmm … I thought the WSM (despite its name) was a long action round, like the .30-06. The .308 is a short action round, like the 5.56 (.223), which is why it works in semi-auto long guns. So I’m assuming semi-auto gun rather than bolt action? The only other long action round semi-auto gun I’m aware of is the new incarnation of the BAR chambered for .30-06 (big dollars).

    Where did you get it made?

  6. On February 1, 2016 at 5:19 pm, SSG K said:

    The .300 WSM is a short action with a SAAMI COAL of 2.860″ though most factory loads are 2.800″.

  7. On February 2, 2016 at 2:10 pm, Ned Weatherby said:

    Herschel, Olympic builds some WSSM and one they call a OSSM that supposedly matches 30-06 ballistics in an AR15 (not AR10) platform: http://www.olyarms.com/shop/rifles/wssm-rifles.html

    Olympic also builds AR10 rifles in various calibers as well.

  8. On February 1, 2016 at 11:26 am, White Hat from TX said:

    “And I advocate enjoying shooting for hunting, for target, for so-called “plinking,” and if need be for killing tyrants.”

    I think a lot more people are starting to prepare for the “killing tyrants” part…

  9. On February 1, 2016 at 12:15 pm, Frank_in_Spokane said:

    From about age 16, I viewed guns as sporting goods, because I was a bird-and-bunny hunter. (And a sometimes one at that.) I recall a conversation with friends when I said, “I would never own an AR15, because you can’t hunt anything with it. But I don’t know that I would want to tell my neighbor he couldn’t have one.” (That was around 1983 — I don’t even know whether Josh Sugarmann had coined the term “assault weapon” yet, but the issue did occasionally come up.)

    Then in 1987, when I was around 26 (and we’d been married about 3 years), we were burglarized one night when we were out late. I started considering firearms as defensive tools. Some co-workers gave me their old back issues of G&A and American Rifleman so I could get “edumacated.”

    And when I came across that essay in G&A that first laid out the basics behind the Second Amendment for me, you could have knocked me over with a feather. “Whaaaaaat? SO you’re saying that, if my kids or grandkids are to grow up in a free country, I might need to take up arms against my own government someday? And the founders knew that and provided for it?”

    FF to 1994, when I read this piece in the AZ State Rifle and Pistol Assn’s Bullet Trap newsletter. As seminal a piece as Jeff Snyder’s “Nation of Cowards,” IMHO. Read and share:

    “Armed Revolution Possible and Not So Difficult” by Bill Bridgewater

    That is all …

  10. On February 1, 2016 at 2:46 pm, GomeznSA said:

    Sigh, I don’t have a clue who this gentleman is, apparently he’s a gun expert of some sort. He might want to do a bit of editing though, that rifle he paid a premium price for evidently has the most horrendous trigger pull known to man and is well over the weight limit that puts it into the crew served weapon category. I suppose most of us ciphered out what he intended to say but, seriously? Those are the type of mistakes that the hoplophobes gleefully seize on to show just how uneducated we are……………………

  11. On February 1, 2016 at 4:18 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Interesting observation. I know I’ve picked up the Ruger precision rifle, and was surprised at how heavy it is, partly due to the length and weight of the barrel. It creates a huge moment-arm due to its weight and length, and is designed to be shot with a bipod and not holding it. At least, it wouldn’t be very comfortable and pleasurable holding it and trying to keep a consistent sight picture.

    That’s one thing I love about my AR-15. And by way of correction, I probably should have titled this as pertaining to an AR-10, which is what he bought, not an AR-15.

    My mistake.

  12. On February 3, 2016 at 12:59 pm, GomeznSA said:

    Nah, you didn’t make a mistake (maybe a typo). I was primarily referring to the 131/2 pounds weight of the gun – back in the dark ages when we were taught fractions that would have meant it weighed over SIXTY pounds. Same thing applies to the (apparently) atrocious trigger pull…………….
    Technically when one goes to the larger calibers the AR-15 does morph into an AR-10, but generally they are 2 separate platforms – with the ’10’ being a bit more beefy (beefier?) although same basic design………………..not sure that we need to be that ‘picky’ though ;-)

  13. On February 1, 2016 at 11:09 pm, Jack said:

    This paragraph is so absolutely perfect, I have to repeat it! (And possibly steal it for my own use!)

    “But I do have a confession to make. If I never shoot anything, never hit an animal, never hit the target, never succeed at any contests, I still love to shoot. I love it for the pure engineering behind it. I love the explosion. I love the idea of a projectile, and I love thinking about Newton’s laws. I love the moving parts, I love disassembling them. I just love the mechanics behind guns. I love the machine. God help me! I do love it so!”

    Thanks, Herschel!!!

  14. On February 2, 2016 at 11:09 am, Ned Weatherby said:

    So Petzal finally gets an AR 308 with a gas piston (which, in many people’s minds, is the perfect answer to a nonexistent problem. ) He’s never owned one before, but I’d previously read his assessment about the armchair ninjas at the Shot Show.

    Now, he just needs one in 5.56. Some of us have one or more in each caliber, and different configurations. For instance, I have a 5.56 HBAR that will shoot dime sized 5 shot groups with 60 gr flat base HPs at 200 yards, and my wife has a pencil barrel very lightweight AR that’s also very accurate. What’s not to love?

    So, Petzal, welcome to the modern world. Glad you finally bought a rifle that was first produced around 57 years ago.

  15. On February 2, 2016 at 11:23 am, Herschel Smith said:

    Ha! Great line, ” … the perfect answer to a nonexistent problem.” I’ll steal that one, Ned. You’ll see it again on the pages of TCJ at some point. I’ll try to remember to give you credit.

  16. On February 2, 2016 at 1:51 pm, Ned Weatherby said:

    What I find really funny is the fact that all sorts of “fixes” for carrier tilt are now out there for piston guns. I believe that Ruger did a field change on its piston AR – not a recall – just a field change.

  17. On February 3, 2016 at 12:53 pm, GomeznSA said:

    IIRC the original line was ‘solution for a problem that doesn’t exist’ – or something to that effect. Might have been uttered by Jeff Cooper with the advent of the ‘wonder nines’.

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You are currently reading "David Petzal Gets An AR-15", entry #14710 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) AR-15s,Guns and was published January 31st, 2016 by Herschel Smith.

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