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Back in the early 1980s, after a full day’s work, a few coworkers and I would often stop in a remote wooded location to go shooting—what we used to call “plinking.” On these sessions, we would proudly bring out our newest acquisitions. One day, I showed off my new S&W Model 29, while another guy pulled out a silver Ruger pistol and my good friend Andy Newton took out a new Colt SP1 AR-15. Upon seeing the AR, our first reaction was, “What the heck are you going to do with that?” We laughed at his having a .223/5.56mm weapon that was, at the time, a somewhat unpopular military arm struggling to find a niche in the civilian market. But once we shot it, the laughter stopped, and we were soon looking to find ARs of our own.

Gun shows usually had some ARs around the $500 price point; most cost more. Back then the prices were steep considering ARs had little hunting application, used expensive ammunition and with their carrying handles/rear sights seemed to be a dead-end in terms of firearms technology. But we still wanted the weapon, then already modified and designated the M16A2 that American GIs had used in battle. I remember seeing guys at gun shows calling home on pay phones. Their conversations usually went like this: “Yes, honey, I know it is expensive but…yes, we really don’t need it, but…but…OK.” They would then walk away as the AR stayed behind on the table.

Today we have ARs in a variety of calibers—some excellent for hunting—going for at least $1,200. The ammunition is much more effective, though still expensive, and there are now a great many makes and models on the market. Because of the widely adopted flattop upper receiver (and Reed Knight’s innovative rail system that allows an infinite assortment of sighting systems and SOPMOD add-ons), the AR is even more effective with civilian, law enforcement and military operators. However, I still hear that same conversation at gun shows, only now it’s a on a cell phone: “Yes, honey, I know it is expensive, but…” And another AR is left behind on a table.

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