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Quick and dirty guide to buying an assault rifle

W

ith a new “assault rifle” ban just around the corner, it is a good time to think about purchasing your first, next and/or possibly last defensive rifle designed for all around lethality. Let’s be clear what we are talking about. This is your “shit just hit the fan” rifle. This is your things have collapsed but somehow I’m still here and we need to pick up the pieces and rebuild rifle. This is the rifle you will use to keep the barbarian hordes from raping and pillaging your land, castle and family (should they ever appear over the horizon). This is the rifle you’ll use when you join the neighborhood militia (if you neighborhood ever needs to start one). This is the rifle you are buying because the founding fathers thought every American should be involved in guarding against tyranny and that self-defense was a God given right. You know that’s still true now.

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Which assault rifle is best? The short answer is: depends what you want to use it for. Personally I own a .223/5.56 and a .308 weapon. The .223 is what I bought first because that’s the round the U.S. military uses for day to day stuff. As I learned more, I realized that the .223 might not be the best round. So I bought a .308.  Now I have choices. You’ll find endless arguments over calibers, penetration and various other factors. Every rifle and caliber has pros and cons. Here are some basics I consider important.

Calibers

The two most available rounds are 5.56 and 7.62. These go with the M16 and the AK47 respectively. Both of these types of ammunition are widely available around the world and there are millions of rounds floating around the U.S. If you buy a weapon that fires 5.56/.223 you’ll probably be able to get ammo for it in the U.S. no matter what the political situation is. I would guess the same is true of 7.62 ammo. Here is a discussion of the relative merits of 5.56 versus 7.62 ammunition that merits reading. The end result is that statistically a larger round is more likely to kill you. Either one will kill an enemy in a pinch but 7.62 packs a bigger punch. Because of the Geneva conventions, these rounds are mostly full metal jacket. That means they do not break up inside the target. That makes them less effective at killing opponents than many non-military rounds, many of which are designed to shred whatever they hit by expanding on entry.

The topic has been talked to death a time or two. As I’ve noted before, all rounds are trade offs. The 7.62mm side of the debate tends to pretend that .308 is some kind of death ray and skip over the possibility you’ll have to double tap with .308 as well. And they tend to act like 5.56mm is guaranteed to fail without double tap. Both premises don’t hold up reliably — just statistical tendencies. For an AR/carbine role, I’ll take the 5.56mm round all day — especially if I’m a notional operator who has the range time and training to use my M4 or other weapon to the fullest. As for an M4 in 7.62x51mm . . . too much recoil. Autofire is obviously bad, but even in semi it’s going to kick like a beast, which means that I’d better not need to double tap (or better not miss) because it’s going to take me longer to put the weapon back on target while the other guy is trying to kill me. The proposed 6.8mm round seems like a good idea to me — it takes bullet weight towards .308 without fully sacrificing the idea of a handy and compact assault rifle to the full size bullet, but stays light enough to carry lots of ammo and recoil soft enough to make the a minimal issue in rapid fire.

If you want to be practical I suggest purchasing something that shoots one of the two mentioned types of ammo – 7.62 or 5.56. A gun without ammo is just a big club. If the sky really does fall and you find yourself living in a Fallout 3 type environment it’s likely you’ll be able to trade for bullets of these two types. Maybe some others as well but this is a quick and dirty guide to assault rifles not a novel length diatribe. You want a quick and dirty weapon that will help you defend civilization if and when it collapses.

Costs

Costs are variable. They are rising due to unfavorable political conditions and the fact that a lot of these things are going to be black market soon. You’ll still be able to buy am “assault rifle” if you really want one but it will cost three times as much and more important, will be illegal. Military style rifles are good for hunting humans. That’s what they were designed for. If you buy right now, you’ll pay anywhere between $500-2500 for a rifle. Depends which features you want, how many magazines you buy, etc. Remember again, a rifle without ammo is useless. Budget for at least 500 rounds of ammo and keep it stored in a cool dry place. If you’re not already a good shot budget for 2,900 rounds and get some range time under your belt. In case you are wondering where I’m pulling my numbers, Marines are trained to hit a target with iron sights at 500 yards in two weeks with 200 rounds a day, not including Sundays. That means that with a competent friend instructing you (or a paid instructor) you should be a rifle expert in about 2,400 rounds. You’ll probably pay about 50 cents a round for ammo in either variety if you buy today. Ammo availability and pricing is subject to political whims just like access to guns.

Rifles

There are literally dozens of types, configurations manufacturers and variants. If you want an AK47 from a U.S. manufacturer here is a handy list. If you are partial to the M16 variants (the civilian version is called an AR15 instead) then here is that list. DPMS and Bushmaster have my loyalty. Any of their AR15 products will hold up well if you give them a little basic maintenance. I have no practical experience with AK variants and would welcome feedback on them. You don’t really need a scope or any other assorted garbage that can be hung from one of these rifles. A good sling, ammo and a cleaning kit are plenty to haul around.

The Process

The actual mechanics of legally purchasing a firearm vary from state to state. Most states will treat you better if you hold a concealed carry permit issued by the state. For instance, I live in Georgia. Because I am a CCW holder I can walk into a gun store and pick a weapon, fill out the official federal form in about 10 minutes, and walk out with the weapon and as much ammo as I can afford. Some places make you wait a while while they check up on you. Some places let the local constable decide if you are worthy of your second amendment right to bear arms. Some states (Massachusetts comes to mind) won’t let you have a military style rifle at all. You can check out your state laws here. Bear in mind that real assault rifles fire on full automatic or burst mode. These modes are currently federally restriced and require a Class III license. A Class III license requires the holder to give up Constitutionally guarenteed rights. Read Unintended Consequences for more information about federal gun laws and the slow death of American’s gun culture.

Mindset

Why would a civilian ever need an assault rifle? The short answer is because government has them. Are you going to shoot down an AC130 gunship or an Apache attack helicopter with a 5.56 or 7.62 semi-automatic rifle? No. Are you going to send a political message about your mindset by buying and refusing to surrender one of these weapons? Absolutely. This country was founded by people who were tired of being ordered around. A citizen with an assault rifle is hard to order around and even the most dedicated authoritarian is not going to abuse his or her authority when confronted by a group of citizens with these weapons. It may be scary to think about such a scenario but it’s also important to think about such a scenario. There are petty tyrants everywhere and checks and balances must always be present to keep them from rising to power. Assault rifles represent freedom of choice. They indicate independence. They radiate assurance. They are guaranteed by our founding document and in my opinion every citizen should own one and take the time to learn how to use it responsibly. Rights not exercised are always taken away by busybodies, do-gooders and powermongers.

Go learn more.

Get your questions answered at armedpolitesociety.com. Watch video reviews and AR versus AK comparisons at nutnfancy’s YouTube channel.

Comments

kitanis
Reply

Well Trevor I was planning on buying a “assualt” rifle this year.. I really was.

But when I sat down to do my taxes.. I found that that I know OWE the federal government instead of getting a return. I have to pay the Taxman with my savings instead of buying my future M-1A that I planned on buying.

Trevor
Reply

@kitanis: I’m truly sorry to hear that. Are you sure a good accountant couldn’t help you with that issue?

T F Stern
Reply

Some folks have no idea what you’re trying to say because they have already swallowed the kool-aid and believe that our government would never be a threat to its own citizens. Nice piece of writing.

Montanajack
Reply

Drink the kool aid, all will be good. I think the kool aid has been dumped in the milk. Good thing my rifles don’t like kool aid or milk, and because they are those evil assault rifles I guess big brother should tread lightly in my zip code. I shouldn’t call them evil, they have not shot anyone in my house, although they could have on numerous occasions. Maybe they are a good judge of character, I know they are properly sited and waiting for the time when they will be called into service. I love America, and so do my rifles.

Tim
Reply

Couldn’t agree more… I’m not sure I can convince my wife that an AR-15 is in the budget right now, but I totally agree with the idea of owning at least 1 if not several “assault” rifles. If nothing else, to give a little piece of mind in case the sky does fall…

kitanis
Reply

Nope Trevor.. I made a mistake this last year that is going to cost me in federal tax. Thats confirmed though the two accountants and H.R. Block. Trust me.. it will NEVER happen again.

Besides.. our new Attorney General is using the problem down in Mexico as a backdoor to a “assualt weapon” ban. I wish I had the money to sue the DOJ to Prove that legally purchased AR-15′s and the like are being sold in TX, NM, AZ and CA and transferred to the conflict in the Northern Mexican States.

Can you imagine the NUMBER of weapons that would have to be sold to be doing what he has claimed? Bushmaster, Olympic Arms, Hi-Point and the like would be claiming record sales..

So… I will have to wait a few months.. maybe purchase a good heavy barrel and build me a long range varmit weapon. I have a mandatory trip to take my mother to her 70th High School Renunion to get out of the way first.

Violary
Reply

Great quality stuff.

Jack
Reply

Gonna have to be obnoxious and pedantic. The Geneva Convention doesn't say anything about bullets to be used. It's the Hague Accords.

http://www.thegunzone.com/hague.html

Penfist
Reply

Thanks for correcting me on that Jack. I learn something every day.

Echo12
Reply

Ya know jack I agree 100% bro!

Florida Hunting Guy
Reply

This AR-15 looks like a perfect rifle but at the same time, it looks like a toy. Not safe leaving it lying around the house as it may seems… :)

freeser1
Reply

I disagere Florida Hunting Guy.

Growing up, we would go visit my Grampa, and he had rifles and shotguns lying around the house. Granted, none of them were AR-15's but we had toys at the time that looked very similar to some of his lever-action rifles. We knew the difference, and we never messed with them. I'm a firm believer that if you train your young uns, they will be 100% safe around your weapons. And if they are too young to handle them, by all means keep them out of reach and dont leave them lying around the house.

trevorsnyder
Reply

It is the job of the National Guard to decide how your weapons should be stored in your own home. This is particularly true when children are involved, since they are the property of the United States Gubmint and SFC Roy Henry (1 each).

Montanajack
Reply

knowledge and experience is the key. It is when they are curious and not trained that things get ugly quick. RESPECT of rifle, and RESPECT of life.

Florida Quail Hunting
Reply

Awesome resouce list you’ve put together here definitely a few I haven’t heard of before. Thanks!

meh
Reply

I totally agree. I recently purchased an AR-15 5.56 bushmaster and the thing is amazing. I have a little over 600 rounds on penetrator ammo, and 100 rounds of ballistic ammo for it stored in an ammo can with desiccants. I also recently purchased my glock 36 and ruger lcp and stock piled those ammo types as well. Never know when you need a nice concealed weapon :)

My next purchase will probably be a nice little tactical 12 gauge

Leadfoot97
Reply

I’ve owned handguns, rifles and shotguns since the 1960′s, and fired the m-14, m-60, and the .50 cal while in the army. I fired my first ar-15 two weeks ago and was hooked ! I ordered one a week ago from Spikes Tactical and can’t wait to get it. I made that decision based on the rumors that a ban may be re-instated, and I don’t want to be left without one. POWER TO THE PEOPLE !!!!!

Penfist
Reply

I think any new weapons ban is dead for now based on recent election results.

Al Davies33
Reply

I live in Massachusetts. I need to find out if buying a pre-banned AR15 is leagle.
Can anyone help me find the information I need? I just called my state Rep.’s office and now I’m
thinking maybe I shouldn’t of called to ask. I don’t want to get in trouble, just want to know
if it’s leagle to buy one. Or buying one that was made using pre-banned parts?

Penfist
Reply

Here’s a link Al: http://www.goal.org/masslawpages/masslawsfaq.html

Massachusetts is one of the most unfriendly states in the Union when it comes to supporting the gun rights of the individual citizen. You might want to consider moving across the border to New Hampshire or Vermont, which are two of the most liberal states when it comes to allowing citizens to engage in firearms ownership.

Loscanos
Reply

I live in Houston and the police here take their sweet time responding to emergencies, just the other day my neighbor was a victim of a home invasion and we reside in a very safe side of the city. 
 So I have decided to invest and learn to use a variety of weapons although I am mostly concern about the legal implications of owning weapons.  I am interested in a good handgun, a hunting rifle and that AR- something something I saw on TV.  You don’t supposed what I can do about my neighbors cat pooping in my flower garden?

Asmgvgctp
Reply

Wow! 
First of all, please use spell check b4 submitting a comment.
Second of all, You would like to learn about these weapons yet you are asking for advice in getting rid of a neighbor’s cat all in the same paragraph is rather concerning. 
you are speaking of the AR-15.
would advice you to contact the pound or the Houston SPCA regarding that matter my friend.
I don’t know if your neighbor would appreciate you purchasing so much firepower if they knew how you feel about their pet. 
 

Jasonreiling
Reply

great blog, but I beg to differ on Marines learning in 2 weeks at 200/day/  Week 1 is dry fire, called snapping in, and uses no rounds.  With perfect instruction and painful, focused practice on position before firing a round I will tell you that you can put 5.56 into a man sized target all day with less than 1000 rounds.  Doubt anyone will spend 8 hours a day buildng their shooting position, though, so 3K rounds sounds pretty good.  It can just be done for a lot less.

Syracusewest
Reply

Thanks for the help in trying to decide what I should buy. WTG. Wish there were alot more info for uninformed guys like me on what I should buy though. There is alot of stuff out there and more info would help me narrow my list alot. TY anyway

Faepigrl
Reply

When I was in the military the M16 was my favorite to shoot.  I was most comforatable with it and I felt I had control.  Being a 41-year-old wife and mom now….I want to get an assualt rifle that is legal and similar to a M16. I don’t like a heavy kick and I don’t remember the M16 having one or at least it didn’t bother me.  What would you recommend?  I live in NC and can get a wide variety.  I recently picked up a Bushmaster Catalog.  My son who is 13 really wants to shoot assult rifles…what could he handle?  Thanks

Michael Ryne
Reply

Very good article but there is one inaccuracy that should be addressed. The round commonly referred to as a 7.62 round which is the standard in many countries is not the same round that an AK-47 fires. The AK-47 fires a shorter round which is 7.62x39mm and the 7.62 NATO 7.62x51mm. The first measurement being caliber or width and the second being length. Both rounds would be widely available worldwide but the US military does not use and 7.62×31 rounds but does use the 7.62 NATO round in the M14 sniper rifle and M240 machine gun.

Also, another common misconception is that .308 and 7.62 are the same rounds when in actuality they are slightly different. Some .308′s can fire the 7.62 but not all and it is a good idea to check before attempting.

Thank you Trevor. I thoroughly enjoyed the article and was relieved to find an article this unbiased. Also, I am an IT professional currently deployed to Afghanistan after having served in Iraq 05-06 with 3ID. Crazy huh?

HettyT
Reply

Thanks for your well considered position.

Alan
Reply

Hey My name is Alan and I been hearing a lot about martial law.so I want to buy an assault riffle for my protection against the gov.
I live in new York city.do you think it’s possible for me to get my hands on one?

Trevor
Reply

Alan,

You may not want to hear this, but if you are worried about martial law your best bet is to make immediate plans to move out of any large population center, as those places will be the first to be affected by any large scale civil unrest. From a realist’s standpoint, you should be worried much more about the ZIP code you live in than whether or not you can get a weapon. Anyone trapped in a city like New York may survive a short-term civil disorder by using a weapon, but if the city fell under long-term martial law, you would be completely screwed unless you were trained in escaped and evasion. Even then, your primary focus would have to be on getting out of the city. Unless you have plans to set yourself up like the Duke did in that Kurt Russell movie from the 80′s, you should think seriously about relocating. In any large scale civil disturbance, weapons do not necessarily ensure survival. Ask a Syrian about that. Yes, it’s better to have a weapon than not have one when the shit hits the fan. The best strategy of all is not to stand in front of the fan waiting for the shit to emerge from the fan. New York City is the fan.

Frank
Reply

Yankee Hill Machine makes an excellent AR rifle all milspec with proper staking M16 BCG the 16″ rifle I purchased produced .68 groups at 100y with match ammo.

I like the AR because with M855 I can punch through level 3A body armor which seems to be the choice of many home invaders these days & the mass shooters are wearing 3A vests so M855 will go through these vests at 300 yards.

The 7.62×39 doesn’t go through a 3A vest at 300 yards we’ve tested them over & over with interceptor vests which are a stand alone 3A vest without plates.

I have 2 decades in the army & used to guard generals at conferences & summit meetings I also competed at the state & national level with pistol/rifle I have some experience with firearms.

I don’t hear much about YHM products but of my 3 AR rifles it’s the best made & most accurate from a 16″ barrel.

I own 1 AK which I plan on using for engagements under 100 yards but we have a farm with heavy equipment & well fortified fighting positions along with well constructed foxholes.

I see a backdoor gun ban coming because doctors are already asking if folks have guns in their homes,how many, what type & with doctors answering to the government due to obamacare watch the list of what a mental illness is expand & any doctor can send you for a 72 hour mental hold if they feel it’s needed so a lot of power in a few folks hands.

PTSD & ADD are already grounds to lose your gun rights which takes guns from most combat veterans like my dad & 7 other combat veterans in my family that haven’t ever hurt or threatened anyone so a backdoor gun ban is on the way enjoy liberal socialism.

Sanity
Reply

You all are a bunch of jackasses. If you understood politics and the distribution of power, you would know that the government will never come for your weapons. Get a grip. The only type of shit that will ever hit the fan will either be a virus or climate change. You don’t have to worry about climate change destroying your breadbaskets for another 40-60 years, so in the mean time all you have to worry about is a virus. But since no virus in history has ever knocked out more than 50% of the population you’ll be ok without having to hold off your neighbors. In such a horrible scenario the us would be under martial law and you won’t have to worry about some local warlord coming for your village. The military has will be able to move grain and other basic around the country until the epidemic has past. When the dust settles, you’ll be ok because there will be 50% less people using our current farm land. Loosen up and worry about some “real scenarios” like saving for your kid’s college instead of buying a bunch of man toys.

vermont judiciary
Reply

Heya superb blog! Does running a blog such as this require a lot of work?
I’ve virtually no expertise in computer programming however I was hoping to start
my own blog in the near future. Anyways, should you have any ideas or
tips for new blog owners please share. I know this is off subject nevertheless I simply
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Trevor
Reply

Which AR-15 did you order, if I may ask?

Trevor
Reply

Thanks for pointing out the inaccuracies, Michael – I will make corrections. Yes, the world is smaller than we think sometimes.

swmp
Reply

The easiest way to figure out what kinds of guns are legal in Massachusetts is to take a look at what a legitimate gun shop in MA is selling. Just make sure you get the class A license in Mass and you can get a good 5.56 rifle. Here’s an example of a gun shop in MA selling them:

http://www.fsguns.com/

Unfortunately everything seems to be out of stock right now…

Frank
Reply

Take a look at Yankee Hill Machine just make sure you tell them you want the M16 BCG not the AR BCG they make a fine rifle that is all milspec with sub MOA out of the box.

The recoil is such that you can fire follow up shots without coming off target, My kids both trained on the AR15 & 1911 .45 they started when they were 11 years old & now carry concealed with their own collection of black rifles so your son will handle the AR just fine.

The recoil on the AK isn’t bad either but my favorite rifles are my ARs for sure.

I’ve found things on the bushmaster that I wasn’t happy with some had AR15 BCGs with poor staking & I’ve seen them with oversized trigger pins just not the best out there for the money. CMMG makes a great milspec rifle with all of the things you should expect from an AR rifle too for a reasonable price.

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