Guest column: Observations of a first-time AR shooter


Lee’s note: Here’s a great guest column from longtime reader Rick Miller. Rick writes about a recent trip to the range, where he fired an AR for the first time.

Thanks, Rick!

It’s a great read.

Guns & Sensibility–The AR-15 controversy:

by Rick Miller

Many of my friends have read, ignored, or argued against my reasoned and thoughtful pro-2nd Amendment stances in person or in writing occasionally on social media, usually after some national tragedy where a nutcase goes wild with a firearm against innocent civilians.

I’m basically a shotgunner– a sportsman who enjoys the rigors and archallenges of hunting fast, wily upland birds such as quail, pheasant, and grouse, and occasionally waterfowl with a big ol’ 12-gauge scatter-gun like your dear old grandpappy did.

IF you come from a typical New England or southern family with a hunting tradition, your dad or gramps probably also hunted deer with a rifle such as a .30-06 or .308. These also deliver a big, lethal blow to the target, in fairly rapid fire too, in semi-automatic mode, just like many shotguns do, as long as you keep repeatedly squeezing the trigger.

People don’t seem offended by these because we don’t hear about violent crimes much using shotguns and deer rifles. Those don’t stir up emotions and grab headlines. We think of Grandpa, the untamed Wild West, and Teddy Roosevelt in a hunting lodge. But they are big, high-caliber, dangerous firearms, which function just exactly like a much maligned (and misnamed) “assault rifle” such as an AR-15 that the public and anti-gun activists make such a stink over.

This past holiday I had the experience of handling and firing an AR-15 for the first time. Do you know what? Aside from the militaristic appearance of blackened metal and plastic parts, it’s just a rifle. It functions just like grandpa’s deer rifle and his duck gun–one trigger pull delivers one bang. It’s quite heavy. You have to carefully aim it, peering down the sights. One shot at a time. It isn’t even as big a bullet as the deer rifles fire. And it doesn’t deliver the shoulder-punishing recoil, thunderous report, and wall-collapsing punch of a 12-gauge shotgun either.

It’s not a machine gun like Rambo or any number of militaristic Hollywood action heroes would use to deliver an onslaught in a hail of lead upon its targets, with spent rounds flying out in an arcing rainbow of tinkling brass cartridges all over the ground. It’s none of those things. It’s literally just a rifle.

Sure, it looks “mean”. But those things are mere cosmetics. If it were clad in a handsome burled wood stock and fore end with traditional woodsy engravings like shotguns and deer rifles often have, it would be the same. It’s just a well made rifle that looks mean because of the imagery associating the AR-15 with Hollywood’s and the media’s portrayal as a machine gun, which it is not.

It is legally manufactured for ordinary civilians who fancy a rugged, practical rifle, for sport shooting or defense, which is more like a “Jeep” in appearance than a “Cadillac”. Simple hardware functionality is chosen over flashy aesthetics. That’s all it is. Here are an AR-15, which fires a .223 caliber bullet, and a .30-06 rifle which fires a much bigger bullet, but otherwise the same type of rifle. One is the simple Jeep, the other the flashy Cadillac. One made of dull black metal and plastic, the other of polished steel and handsome hardwood, maybe walnut. Same thing.

So, hey, mainstream media, get real and get it straight. Neither is a so-called “assault rifle”. These are just “rifles”. Firing the AR-15 on the target range was a really fun time, too!  For the anti-gun naysayers out there, I recommend you have a friend take you to the range and try one out for the experience of it and become a better-informed person.

Are you afraid you might enjoy it?

-R. Miller, Sarasota

Rick Miller Bio: Professional biologist and naturalist, husband, father, and grandfather, and an avid upland bird hunter and amateur firearms and gun dog enthusiast. I am a lifelong New Englander recently relocated to Sarasota, and am also a working blues musician enjoying the music and culture of the warm Suncoast of southwest Florida with my wife who is my best friend. I’ve had a fun career as a published biomedical scientist in the laboratory of a major Massachusetts research hospital, an educator in academia, and most recently as a marine scientist and naturalist on the rugged coast of Maine. Born at the tail end of the ‘50s, I marvel at the changes in American culture and occasionally do freelance writing to social media for my own enjoyment from the perspective of a reasonable, open-minded, regular joe on subjects that interest me, from biology and medicine, politics, religion, culture, and family, to guns and the 2nd Amendment, cars, sports, dogs, guitars, and rock & roll. In short—the human experience in America. Follow me from time to time on Twitter @BlueMiller59


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

1 Comment

  1. on

    Great article! We’ve been dealing with a lot of the fall out over AR-15’s and such in my region (Pacific Northwest) and now my home state of Washington has become the first to require registration of all firearms sales, including private, due to the basic misunderstanding of what these rifles are and what their purpose is in the sporting world.

    All in all, I guess ignorance is better suited for some. It’s sad, as they are amazing rifles and incredibly fun to shoot.

    Thanks for the great read 🙂

Leave A Reply