Why I Abandoned The AR-15

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 10 months ago


I can no longer place any confidence in the AR-15 to defend myself in a time of disaster or urban unrest. To protect myself and my family, I have completely switched over to the AKM family of weapons—a semi-automatic variant of the legendary AK-47. I know that somewhere, someone is saying out loud that I am a dumb-ass or a communist. When I first discussed this with one of my close friends, a career Army infantryman with more than 16 months of combat duty spent with the 172nd Infantry Brigade, he just shook his head in disagreement. I remember telling him over some beers, and he just kept asking “Why?” with a look of disappointment and bewilderment on his face.

The M16A2 was my primary weapon for my entire career in the United States Air Force; I knew it inside and out. I was one of the few USAF engineers I knew who loved target shooting, going to the range, hell, I even liked to clean guns. So why walk away from a weapon platform I had used or owned for over 20 years? The answer comes down to two major reasons: supportability and simplicity.

Any military or company that uses AR-15s/M4s has much deeper pockets than I will ever have. Major corporations and military units typically have a robust supply system that can provide an individual any desired replacement part they may need. This is necessary, because the variation in parts from manufacturer to manufacturer is immense, making interchangeability difficult.

The buffer spring and buffer weights alone have more than a dozen different variations depending on barrel length and number of coils on the buffer spring. Then, stop and consider the rifling twist rates in the weapon’s barrel and what projectile works optimally in them. Here is a sample of the variations and options on buffer weights alone.

[ … ]

The word simplicity might cause people to think that the AR-15/M4 is a difficult weapon to operate, and that is not the case at all. When I use the word simplicity, I think of overall use and maintenance of the weapon. How maintenance-intensive is it? What type of lubricant do I have to use for my situation?

With the AR-15/M4, there is an entire segment of the shooting world that will  launch into heated arguments about what lubricant works best. I have seen the debates between CLP versus Frog Lube versus Fire Clean. Running the gun ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ is another topic of debate. I have even heard people who say they use WD40 or Castrol Slick 50 on their AR-15s/M4s.

Properly lubricating a weapon isn’t rocket science, but improper lubrication can lead to the weapon jamming at the most inopportune moment. In the case of over-lubrication, in a dusty or sandy area, excessive dirt and debris can accrue on the weapon’s working parts, causing stoppages and malfunctions.

Consider my selection. The AKM can be lubricated by just about anything that has some degree of viscosity. Bearing grease, lithium grease, motor oil, 80W 90 gear oil, the tears of liberals, the blood of unicorns, you get the idea. There is a scene in the video below (at about the 20-second point) where you can see an AK-47—buried in the dirt and clay of Africa for 18 years—rendered operable with only a can of motor oil.

Good grief.

And AR-15s can be made to function with a dab of motor oil too.  And he acts like there’s no such thing as AR-15 stress tests out there on YouTube.  I’ve linked and embedded so many they’ve almost become boring to watch now.

So it all boils down to this after reading this tiresome and stolid article.  The author doesn’t like to think about anything, doesn’t like variability, doesn’t like to be able to modify his gun, doesn’t like variants on a theme, and doesn’t want to have to worry about the engineering mechanics behind the rifle or proper selection of components.  Therefore, he has found himself some canned excuses to jettison the AR-15.  He’s lazy.

Eugene Stoner is unimpressed.  I am too.  If this is the best that web site can do, I won’t be returning.  This piece is not even a thinker piece that makes you ponder the more complex issues behind gunsmithing or engineering.  It’s completely un-compelling.

The telltale sign that it’s going to be a bad article was in this sentence: “I was one of the few USAF engineers I knew who loved target shooting, going to the range, hell, I even liked to clean guns.”

So there you have it – what a USAF “engineer” thinks about guns.  Stick to airplanes.  Go back to something you’re good at.  I guess.

“Why I abandoned the AR-15” are words you’ll never see here at this web site except in mockery.


  1. On January 24, 2017 at 11:57 am, Archer said:

    The buffer spring and buffer weights alone have more than a dozen
    different variations depending on barrel length and number of coils on
    the buffer spring. Then, stop and consider the rifling twist rates in
    the weapon’s barrel and what projectile works optimally in them. Here is
    a sample of the variations and options on buffer weights alone.

    So, is he saying that the AKM line has no variability at all? That all recoil/buffer systems from all manufacturers are identical, and that all barrels and 7.62 mm loadings are the same?

    Somehow, I doubt that. For decades, AKs were built from the cheapest materials that could be had, often by hand. The tolerances were, shall we say, less than tight, which by definition introduces variation, and the “legendary” AKM line has produced plenty of lemons and duds.

    If my car engine were built with the same loose tolerances that give Communist-era AKs their “reliability”, it probably wouldn’t run at all, and if it did it would have little power and there would be a constant danger of blown gaskets and engine fires.

    And on the subject of lubricants: lube is lube. We can get into debates about the chemical composition and which is “better”, but functionally, the biggest differences between them are the viscosity (for laymen, the “stickiness”) and the smoke and flash points (for laymen, the temperatures at which it breaks down and catches fire, respectively). Of course “gun oil” is ideal, but you could lube your gun with WD-40 and it would work — for a while, until the WD-40 evaporates or drips off. You could also lube your gun with olive oil or coconut oil (yes, you could raid your kitchen) if you have nothing else available. Any oil that will stay where it needs to be and won’t smoke or catch fire will probably work in a pinch.


  2. On January 24, 2017 at 12:02 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Yea. If he’s really that lazy that he doesn’t want to worry about matching the parts to get the best performance, then buy a quality AR from a reputable manufacturer where it’s already tuned and don’t worry with it.



  3. On January 24, 2017 at 1:52 pm, BlakeW58 said:

    Fortunately, I think I’ll avoid the mockery of “why I left the AR-15” because I never joined. :)

    It’s one of those weapons platforms I just never cared for. Do I understand it? Yep. Do I like it, no.

    In my case, however, it is personal preference. I would never, under any circumstances, try to claim the M1 or M1A are superior platforms to the AR.

  4. On January 24, 2017 at 6:46 pm, mandaloin said:

    He doesn’t like variability in a gun so he goes with the AK. Where the stocks, forends, muzzle devices, sights, and internal components won’t interchange between nearly identical variants. Wow.

  5. On January 24, 2017 at 10:28 pm, Phil Ossiferz Stone said:

    It is our nation’s service rifle, sans the meaningless (unless you want to deliver suppressive fire as an infantryman and have the Army give you unlimited free ammo so you can do so) burst mode. It has a bewildering number of vendors making milspec and custom-snowflake parts for it. Said parts and ammo are therefore common as mud — and gratifyingly cheap, these days. Even in hard times, like in the alternate President Hillary timeline, they would still be available. It is lighter and more intrinsically accurate than its nemesis from ’47, and with the original gas system is akin to shooting an Airsoft gun in terms of muzzle flip.

    I’ll stick with the Black Rifle for now, thanks.

  6. On January 25, 2017 at 11:04 am, Col. Douglas Mortimer said:

    Yawn. Not all AKs are equal either. If he gave up the AR for an IO or RAS-47 I sure hate it for him.

  7. On January 25, 2017 at 6:18 pm, Oregon Hobo said:

    The AKM can be lubricated by just about anything that has some degree of
    viscosity. Bearing grease, lithium grease, motor oil, 80W 90 gear oil,
    the tears of liberals, the blood of unicorns, you get the idea.

    FTR, I lube my AR with liberal tears. Bacon-scented.



  8. On February 20, 2017 at 6:14 pm, Heartland Patriot said:

    The man said he was an “Air Force engineer”. That could mean a few different things. He could be in Civil Engineering (stuff like plumbing, carpentry, electrician, etc). He could be an actual engineer (with a degree) of one sort or another, meaning he was an officer (who mostly push paper/keyboards). Or he could be one of the dwindling field of flight engineers, an enlisted crew position that is primarily responsible for operating systems such as fuel, electrical and hydraulics on larger, older aircraft. None of those make him an expert on firearms. IF he had said he was in a combat career field such as Pararescue or Combat Controller, or a Security Forces (cops) arms instructor, I might feel different about his opinion. I speak as a “retired” Air Force aircraft mechanic who is also not an expert on firearms.

  9. On April 19, 2017 at 12:58 pm, David said:

    Carried some, shot little? Make mine light.

    The focus of a hobby? Let there be a cottage industry dedicated to customization.

    The AR does this pretty well. Only perhaps the 10/22 surpasses it.

    I think it’s particularly interesting that this one model spawned such a wide span of cartridges chambered, from 22 LR to the 50 Grendel.

    I understand being attached to ones choice. I don’t understand all the “mine is great, yours sucks” warfare.

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This article is filed under the category(s) AR-15s and was published January 23rd, 2017 by Herschel Smith.

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