Assault rifles of the AR15 design are particularly light rapid-fire weapons and are used in two main groups: as semi-automatic rifles in the civilian sector and as fully automatic versions by military forces. As a direct successor to Eugene Stoner's AR10, a large number of different long guns have emerged from the original single patented model, all of which share core technical elements.
The history of this type of weapon is an important factor in understanding why there seem to be so many different AR15 models today: The first assault rifle based on this principle was made by Armalite; however, the company sold its concept to Colt Industries. For those weapons sold by Colt from 1963 onwards, the collective term AR15 applied to both semi-automatic and fully automatic rifles; strictly speaking, however, the correct designation for fully automatic Colt assault rifles is CAR15 (Colt Automatic Rifle).
It becomes even more confusing when we now bring the terms M16 and M4 into play. In fact, the M16 is nothing more than Colt's classic CAR15. When the US Army "adopted" this firearm, it renamed it, but the system behind it remained the same. Colt itself continued to use the term AR15 for the civilian sector, i.e. for semi-automatic equipment. This is how it found acceptance in general language usage.
What does AR15 stand for and what characterizes such a weapon model?
AR specifically means Armalite Rifle (the original manufacturer and system founder). The number behind it is a sequential model designation, and it is important to keep in mind the distinction between semi-automatic and fully automatic models. (CAR15)
Colloquially, the successor designation AR15 has become common for all assault rifles that evolved from the AR10; regardless of the additional equipment with which the weapon is equipped and whether it is based on a semi-automatic or fully automatic operating principle.
What is remarkable about these long guns is their light weight: once the devices weighed about 2.7 kg, more modern versions are about 3.8 kg; this is due to the corrosion-resistant aluminum construction. Depending on the model, the guns can be expanded at will with various accessories. Some types have all the controls such as safety lever, magazine ejector and bolt catch on both sides of the lower receiver, which makes them equally efficient for both left and right hand use.
What are the versions of the AR15?
First, let's dispel a myth: Weapons marked Mil-Tec are manufactured to various industrial standards. This results in compatibility with a wide range of spare parts and accessories that also follow this specification. Mil-Tec can be translated as "... was built to military specifications". However, this does not necessarily mean that a weapon is also fully automatic!
In addition to the fully automatic CAR15 (can be equated with the M16), the civilian AR15 is very strongly represented. Designations such as M16 or M4 describe the respective design, while appended abbreviations such as A1, A2 or A4 represent equipment numbers. The standard design was thus supplemented by different elements in each case or provided with fine details. On an M5F, for example, the "F" stands for Freischwinger; a freely oscillating barrel. A so-called "dynamics" version, on the other hand, impresses with its particularly light weight and is even more compact than other models.
The most notable AR15 manufacturers in the European private sector today are Schmeisser, Oberland Arms and Hera Arms; less commonly heard are names like Steyr, Ruger and Haenel.
How does the AR15 weapon system work?
The design is kept very linear, which means that everything from the muzzle to the butt is on one axis. This minimizes vibration and transfers all forces acting on the gun during firing to the shooter's body. The rotational forces that cause the muzzle to be pushed away from the sighting line are thus minimized.
Part of the propelling gas, which actually accelerates the bullet, is transferred from the barrel via a gas tube directly to the bolt carrier group when the shot is fired (unless the model in question has a gas piston - this replaces the gas tube). It ends up in the expansion chamber, where it exerts pressure on all surfaces.
The gas is discharged when it passes through the so-called C-rings and the bores on the bolt. Only the recoil spring, which was initially compressed by the pressure from the bolt carrier group, maneuvers the bolt forward again. In the course of this, the next cartridge is retrieved from the magazine and placed in the barrel.
The internal bolt rotates 15 degrees as soon as the rifle is loaded and a cartridge is maneuvered into the barrel. The rotation locks itself in the closed position so that it can withstand the pressure. If the shooter now pulls the trigger, the bolt rotates in the opposite direction and moves to the rear. This causes the empty case to be ejected, and when it rotates forward again, the next one is loaded into the barrel.
What are assault rifles used for?
The main purpose of use is civilian as well as governmental defense. Military units use them as well as private security companies. Semi-automatic long guns based on the AR15 principle are also particularly popular in the prepper scene, where the ability to defend oneself and one's family is part of one's personal lifestyle. More rarely, but still one or the other model can be found in the sports sector.
Can an assault rifle be used for hunting?
Basically, it is only suboptimally suitable for hunting, but that does not make it useless: Due to its construction and mode of operation, it is rather intended for operational tactical guidance and for rapid, multiple successive firing. At best, however, this should not be necessary at all during a hunt. An AR15 hunt is therefore crowned by rather lower chances of success.
Depending on the magazine size, it may not be possible to place the gun stably on the high stand. In addition, to carry semi-automatic long guns in hunting, there are their own legal provisions regarding the number of shots.
An advantage is that it can be combined with a wide variety of accessories. This is also necessary here, because due to the magazine size, assault rifles often cannot be stabilized well without a bipod; a major disadvantage for accuracy when hitting the target. On the other hand, it is much easier to handle than, for example, a heavy bolt action rifle.
Who is allowed to own or carry a semi-automatic assault rifle in Germany?
The possession is only allowed with a green weapon possession card (WBK) or a hunting license. Both hunters and sport shooters must provide proof of the document and the weapon must be registered on the owner's WBK.
For hunters, in addition to their hunting license, they must present a valid hunting license if a semi-automatic long gun is used for hunting purposes. The hunting license also entitles the holder to carry the firearm on his own hunting ground, but the maximum number of cartridges in the magazine (interchangeable magazine) is three. This restriction does not apply to handguns.
How does a civilian AR15 system differ from military AR15/M16 types?
From the outside, civilian and fully automatic assault rifles look identical. In the interior, however, they differ, among other things, in the hammer and trigger mechanism. Some elements, such as the internal lower receiver and the likewise internal bolt, for example, have a different milling compared to the fully automatic; this ensures that the firing mechanisms cannot be replaced and that the semi-automatic rifle remains one.
Fully automatic AR15 assault rifles feature a three-stage rotary fire selector. The shooter can select his or her desired firing mode through the dial: semi-automatic, fully automatic, or three-shot unless the weapon is currently on safety. Further differences between various weapons can be found in the respective AR15 caliber.
For the gun owner, these functions and characteristics are the most essential in order to know which gun is actually in front of him. In addition, however, there are a number of other structural subtleties, the knowledge of which already opens the gates to gunsmithing and has already been put to the test in one or two comparative tests.