The AR world has by far the biggest following of all the gun niches out there. With that, you get a large mix of people ranging from brand-new gun owners with zero experience to Special Forces operators having fun outside of work. However, too many people are learning from movies and television shows. There are a lot of rumors and just bad information being spread around by those who lack formal training.
Hopefully this will clear up a lot of the common misconceptions you may have heard and believed. There are countless misconceptions out there, but these are the eight most common sayings or beliefs that you may have heard, and I’ll explain why they are either true, false or somewhere in the middle.
AR Myths: “I’m going to pick out parts from different manufacturers and build the perfect custom gun.”
Sometimes true. Not all brands are created equal, nor with they always get along with each other. Unfortunately, there is a lot of trial and error involved here. Some parts will mix perfectly fine, but sometimes mixing brands won’t go very well. Your best bet here is to check forums or with the manufacturers themselves. If you are looking to mix two different brands together, chances are you aren’t the first one to try it. Check to see how it went for the people before you. Websites like ar15.com have forums for almost every possible category.
Most of the time you won’t have any problems and the gun will come together just fine, but it never hurts to double check before buying. While you don’t need to buy the most expensive parts out there to have a good rifle, there are definitely brands to shy away from for different reasons. So, while you may know someone who has a hobbled-together AR that works fine, it’s more luck than a tribute to the brands involved. Also, sticking with all mil-spec parts with help with compatibility.
AR Myths: “If I build a mil-spec carbine, I’ll have a replica of what the U.S. military uses.”
Not exactly true. There are actual mil-spec products you can buy, such as buffer tubes and buttstocks, etc., that will work on actual military M4s, but components like receivers aren’t going to be 100-percent “mil-spec.” Aside from an entirely different trigger mechanism (the military uses an automatic A1 setup) the very milling of the receiver itself is different—which is intentional. This keeps military guys from taking M4A1 parts home from work and dropping them into their civilian ARs to make them fully automatic.
There are minor differences here and there, but military and civilian models are fairly close. You will definitely need to pay attention to accessories like buttstocks. I have two Magpul stocks in my inventory that I used from my time in Afghanistan, but they won’t fit on my civilian ARs unless I switch to a mil-spec buffer tube. Just remember to double check before buying a product to know if it will fit.
AR Myths: “Bigger is always better, especially in terms of caliber.”
Not true. Don’t listen to all the haters here. Take the .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO, for example. People hate on it because of its size and say it lacks knockdown power. But you can get rounds that drastically boost its power and range. Special Forces have confirmed kills at 700 meters with a single 5.56mm shot.
Moving up in size, the 300 Blackout is good for suppressor use and packs a lot of power for shorter distances. The 6.8 SPC has medium-high power and a little better trajectory for medium ranges, and the 6.5 Grendel has medium-high power for medium to long ranges. Choose your calibers based on your personal needs, not on the biased opinion of others. Go with what will work for the primary role of your rifle. You may find that dropping down in caliber size is optimal.
AR Myths: “Using reloaded ammo is fine. Plus, it’s cheap!”
Mostly false. Is it really cheaper if you have to replace your gun because yours blew up when you pulled the trigger? This is an extreme example, of course, but it’s by no means unheard of. You know how a lot of guys with ARs wish they were “operators?” That applies here as well. While there are some out there who can reload well, too many cannot. Far too many.
Many learn to reload from YouTube, where some sloppy and carefree people do what they think is “good enough” work. But you can seriously mess up your gun or cause injuries with even the slightest miscalculation. And I don’t want to buy reloaded ammunition from the guy who doesn’t think it’s a big deal if his casings get just a little too much powder in them, or who doesn’t completely clean out his equipment between working.
It is generally a good rule of thumb to stay away from reloaded ammo all together. The only exception is if it is professionally reloaded through an actual company like Black Hills Ammunition.
AR Myths: “I can use Simple Green or other ‘all-purpose’ cleaners to clean my weapon.”
False! Just because you can buy it and use it doesn’t mean you should. Your weapons have special finishes to protect them. Whether your weapon is black, tan, green or any other color, you do not want to take away from the integrity of the finish. If a product wasn’t made to clean a gun, don’t use it. Many household cleaners have a lot of acidic chemicals in them that will slowly eat away at the finish over time.
The same goes for oil. You need to use the right oil. You wouldn’t put gun oil in your car, so don’t try to put car oil in your gun. In the military, we had different oils for different firearms. Small arms used CLP, the .50-caliber Browning M2 used LSA, and the MK19 40mm grenade launcher used LSAT. These guns could normally run with the others in a pinch, but it certainly wasn’t the best for them. Use the right oil type, with the right viscosity, for your firearms just like you do with your car. If you are a penny pincher, Rem Oil is super cheap and works just fine. You can then explore what else is out there later on that are a step up from that.
To the people who haven’t cleaned their guns “and it’s been 50,000 rounds”—just stop. No one believes you, and bragging about being too lazy to take care of your firearms isn’t something to be proud of.
AR Myths: “The shot should surprise you.”
Mostly false. A negligent discharge will surprise you. Aiming and taking down a target should not surprise you. You need to have full control over your weapon and know exactly when you are on target and when you want to fire. If you are in a hostage situation and there are other people around—especially in your own home, for example—you need to have full control of your trigger. Spend more time at the range and get comfortable with your weapon. Don’t let your weapon scare you. You should know when your trigger is about to break and let a round loose.
AR Myths: “I got a high-power scope, so I’ll shoot better.”
False. The scope doesn’t shoot the rifle; you do. I compare this to finances. If someone has trashy spending habits and loves debt, a consolidation loan or even the lottery won’t save them from bankruptcy—in fact, the opposite often happens. The crappy spending habits follow them no matter their status. The same goes with firearms. If you aren’t hitting a target with a short-range scope or iron sights, you won’t hit it with a longer-range optic. Chances are your fundamentals aren’t quite where you think they are.
That said, you should not go cheap on optics regardless of mission. You can have the most accurate rifle in the world, but if you don’t have a good scope on it, you won’t hit anything you’re aiming at. Don’t spend all your money on a nice rifle just to go cheap on a scope. But learn your iron sights first! Your shooting skills should not plummet just because you went back to iron sights. While you don’t need to buy the most expensive optic out there, you don’t need a scope with 40X magnification. While military snipers have adjustable scopes these days, they typically use 10X magnification for everything out to 1,000 meters. There is no reason for you to go crazy and get some obnoxious magnification level when you won’t even be shooting near that distance or are shooting massive groups at half that distance.
AR Myths: “ARs are unreliable.”
False. You can buy or build an AR that can run as reliably as AK, if not better. There is a lot that goes into this—so much so that I don’t have enough space here to go over it. But ARs have actually become some of the most reliable weapon systems out there. If you get into a discussion about it with someone and they start bringing up Vietnam-era things, just know they are using very outdated info and already don’t know the full story from back then. Today’s rifles are incredibly reliable. That said, you still get what you pay for. For example, the AR you buy from your local Walmart won’t be able to compete with one from BCM, LaRue Tactical or LWRCI, for example.
There you have it. Hopefully these clarifications were helpful. There are some more rumors out there than just what is listed here, of course, but these are the most common things that I have heard from people over the years and continue to hear to this day.
This article was originally published in “Black Guns” 2019. To order a copy, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.