It should be pretty obvious from the existing roster of Gun of the Week essays that my taste in guns runs toward the vintage end of the spectrum. I have a few reasonably modern handguns (a Beretta Px4, for instance), but almost all of my long guns are in curio-and-relic territory (in terms of type, if not necessarily their individual cases, as with my modern-repro AR-7). Offhand I can only think of one that isn't, my Taurus/Rossi Circuit Judge.
If nothing else, I'm definitely not a Black Rifle guy. The closest thing I have to a modern military rifle is my AK-alike (and that fact really has more to do with how the AK family has failed to go out of style for so damn long).
Many of you will have heard of what might be (admittedly a bit inaccurately) called the "original" black rifle, the U.S. M16, and its progenitor, the AR-15. The AR-15 platform is sort of the IBM PC of the rifle world nowadays. (Which I guess makes the AK the military rifle world's Mac. Or maybe they're more like IOS and Android? ... Anyway.) Much as virtually no rifle you will ever see described as an AK-47 in the wild actually is an AK-47, very few of the rifles one sees described as AR-15s in the press these days genuinely are AR-15s; rather, they're rifles based on the AR-15 patents, which expired in 1977—possibly sharing some parts commonality with the originals, but also quite possibly not. Just as virtually no one uses an actual IBM PC these days, ArmaLite Rifle №15 is a pretty rare animal in the twenty-first century.
The AR-15-pattern rifle has been much in the news of late, and not for good reasons. Mostly, when you hear its name in mainstream society nowdays, it's someone calling for them to be banned. Not only because they have a very high profile in the hands of the kinds of people who give the rest of us gun collectors a bad name; but also because—since they are widely available, relatively inexpensive, quite lethal, and not very difficult to operate—they have acquired a largely deserved reputation as the weapon of choice for spree killers of a certain type. The Sandy Hook killer used an AR-15 derivative. So did the Vegas shooter (although his was fitted with a pretty sketchy modification that is its own separate argument all unto itself), and the recent and still very much reverberating case in Florida involved one as well.
As the controversy around these rifles has ebbed and surged and swirled these last few years, although I've watched the controversy itself with great interest (not to say mounting dread), I haven't taken much interest in the rifles themselves. If anything, I've sort of vaguely disdained them for a while now, not because of any inherent quality they possess, but mainly because the guys you see toting them ostentatiously around in Wal-Marts on TV are making us all look like jerks and they're mostly using ARs to do it. Besides, they're so... modern. They're not my thing, particularly not in their 21st-century form.
Except... the AR-15 as a design is sixty-one years old. Older, if you count the AR-10, of which it is basically a scaled-down version. Not entirely unlike the AK (which is only ~10 years older), it seems modern because there are so many of them, and because it's still the basis of a major front-line combat rifle (two, if you count the M16 and the M4 carbine as two different rifles; even more, if you add in cousins and step-uncles like the HK416), and because people are making any number of slick modern tinsel-bedecked race-car space-laser things based on their actions; but it's an old gun. Hell, in its semiautomatic civilian form, the oldest ones are C&R-eligible now.
So yeah. Long lead-up because I felt the need to Explain My Position a little, but anyway: I've bought an AR-15. Not an actual C&R-vintage one, those are well outside my price range, but it is a genuine Colt AR-15 (ArmaLite having sold the pattern to Colt in 1959, as part of their standard corporate practice of missing out on any of their designs actually succeeding). It isn't a racing car or a space laser or anything of the kind: no accessory rails, no optical sights, no carbon fiber. Like I often feel in the cultural scrum about gun ownership today, it's sort of caught in the middle: To those who want tighter controls or outright bans, it would look like an icon of incarnate evil, while to the space laser set, it would probably seem about as contemporary as a flintlock musket.
This isn't the entry on it; you probably won't see the actual entry on it for a while, because a) it isn't even here yet and b) I don't know quite when I'll have the time and mental bandwidth to research such a sprawling topic adequately and prepare a writeup that would come close to doing it justice. Because that, I ultimately decided, is the important thing: that as a thing apart from its fiercely controversial present-day image, the story of the AR-15, the proper and historical AR-15, is interesting and deserves to be told.
Hopefully someday relatively soon.
(This particular one is also a hook into the potentially interesting sub-topic of the 1994-to-2004 U.S. "assault weapons" ban, during which it was manufactured. Hint: It isn't one of the ones that were modified to be compliant with said ban.)
Also, it'd be dope if I could get the feeling back in my shooting hand along the way. Come back, myelin. My T-cells didn't mean what they said.
Benjamin D. Hutchins, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & Forum Mod
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited http://www.eyrie-productions.com/
zgryphon at that email service Google has
Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.