First and foremost, shooting any type of gun for the first time can be intimidating. This is true even if you are an experienced shooter. As the most popular type of semi-automatic rifle in the world, the AR-15 is a gun that many people put high on their list of guns to shoot during their lifetime.
Yet shooting an AR-15 for the first time can be a little intimidating. The tactical look and perceived power of the rifle make them look less approachable for beginners that may not have experience when it comes to handling more advanced firearms.
While we would recommend any beginner start with a 22 rifle, the truth is that an AR-15 is really just a glorified 22 rifle with a lot more kick due to the amount of powder the ammunition has in the bullet casing. The actual bullet itself is not much bigger than a standard .22 which actually shocks a lot of people.
We wanted to throw together some AR-15 basics and accessories for our readers that may just be getting into tactical firearms. Even if you are an experienced shooter, we hope the details below will help your less experienced shooting partners get over the fear of squeezing off a few rounds with America’s beloved AR-15 platform.
What is an AR-15?
Most people are aware that an AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle used by law enforcement officials and the US Military. The cartridge is automatically ejected and a new cartridge automatically slides into the chamber from the magazine. However, few people really know what an AR-15 is or how it works beyond that.
As mentioned above, the AR-15 is one of the most popular semi-automatic rifles in the world. Though it was originally built by ArmaLite (later sold to Colt) for the United States armed forces, today dozens of different manufacturers offer their own variants on the weapon. The name AR-15 is still a Colt registered trademark so other manufacturers sell variants under different names.
The rifle itself is considered a “modern sporting rifle” which is not what most people refer to them as. Many misinformed people actually refer to the AR-15 as an “assault rifle” but the true definition of an assault rifle requires it to meet certain criteria which the standard AR-15 does not meet.
Almost all variations of the AR-15 share a few primary characteristics. These include a lightweight due to the extensive use of aluminum alloys and synthetic materials during manufacture. The AR-15 also utilizes an intermediate cartridge and are magazine-fed as well as air-cooled. They use a rotating lock bolt actuated by direct impingement gas operation or long/short stroke pistol operation.
Clean & Lube Before Shooting
Like any other type of gun, the AR-15 has its own sets of quirks. Understanding these is essential before shooting the gun for the first time.
Even if you do not own one, you should still have a basic understanding of how the rifle is broken down and how it’s cleaned. While there are many steps to gun cleaning, but the important thing to do is to make sure the gun is properly oiled. Though all guns need to be lubricated in the correct way, the AR-15 in particular demands a fresh oil job. It should be spitting oil at you when you shoot.
While cleaning and lubricating your rifle is very important, it’s even more important if you are operating a brand new rifle. Always clean off the factory packing grease and apply a fresh light coat yourself.
The video below is not ours, but it’s a great walk through of cleaning an AR-15 if you haven’t done it. This is good to watch even if you don’t own an AR as it will help get you familiar with the mechanics of the rifle.
Eye & Ear Protection
The AR-15 is loud. You will definitely need both ear and eye protection when using this gun. Without these, the AR-15 can sound like a stick of dynamite going off inches away from your head.
There are a few different choices that we plan to elaborate on another time, but you should definitely make sure you have top notch ear and eye protection before you ever step foot into a shooting facility.
Shooting an AR-15: Stances & Grip
It is important to understand how to properly fire the AR-15. Knowing how to do this will ensure that you get the most out of the experience and will also ensure that you remain as safe at the same time.
The two most common stances for shooting an AR-15 are the prone position and the standing position. The prone position is where you lay on the ground on your stomach. Standing is, well, where you stand up on both feet. You might choose a bladed-off standing stance (weak-side shoulder facing target) or a squared, athletic stance.
The way you hold the AR-15 is also very important. This type of gun has a pistol grip. You should center the grip in the “V” between your thumb and index finger of your trigger hand. Grip your AR-15 high on the back strap. Your support hand should firmly grip the handguards.
Equipping Your AR-15
We’ve already put together a few guides that you can check out below when it comes to properly equipping your AR-15. We recommend that you have at least a starting quality scope which doesn’t have to be expensive.
You can choose a basic model that functions for both distance and accuracy, or you can dial it in to closer range scopes and pick up a red dot optic for a pretty reasonable cost. If budget doesn’t matter, Holographic scopes by EOTech are a great way to go.
You should also ensure that you have a rifle case, and we recommend looking at one of the tactical rifle cases that are featured here in our reviews guide.
Bring Some Experience With You
This is always great advice. BRING EXPERIENCE with you when you shoot! This can come in the form of many different routes. Fortunately most people that want to shoot an AR will already have friends that shoot or hunt. This makes it easy to partner up and get safe shooting advice.
If you don’t have a partner or friend that shoots regularly, one of the top things you can do is take shooting lessons. There are so many valuable reasons to take shooting lessons, even if you do have shooting experience. Typical beginner classes teach about posture, grip, stance, and most importantly safety.
You can usually get a class to throw in some range time with your purchase if you take the class at a range, so this is a great chance to have an instructor that is certified teach you exactly how to handle a tactical rifle.
Always shoot safely and shoot at your own risk. We are not responsible for improper use of firearms and always recommend that you work with a trained instructor if you do not have firearms experience.
For some awesome beginner and more advanced shooting resources, check out wheretoshoot.org. This website is outstanding for beginners and provides tons of outstanding resources on learning to shoot and should help you find a place to shoot nearby your home.
Below are a few good resources to check out including a great instructional video on how an AR-15 functions including cleaning & lubricating it properly.
Breaking Down The AR-15, a Beginner’s Video: