Jumping into the AR-15 World
Last month, I decided to purchase an AR-15 – my first rifle purchase. Previous to this, I’ve been mostly a handgun guy, with one S&W .357 and 3 9mm models in the collection. I’d like to be able to tell you exactly why I purchased an AR-15, but I can’t really except to say they’re fun to shoot, and a great thing to have should society as we know it fall completely apart. In fact, I was pretty convinced I couldn’t shoot one, based on my experience last year with the Navy SEALS where I first had the opportunity to fire an M4. The M4 (US military designation for an AR-15) I fired had iron sites, and being cross dominant with my eyes (shoot right handed, left eye is dominant) I found it extremely difficult to fire the M4 and get sight alignment using the iron sights. It wasn’t until months later that a friend of mine offered to let me shoot his AR-15 which was equipped with a holographic red dot sight (which I didn’t even know existed) that I concluded I could indeed shoot an AR-15.
The AR-15 is produced by several different manufacturers (the platform has been around since the 1950′s and remains the rifle of choice for the US Military) but I chose the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 OR as my first AR-15. The S&W M&P 15 is considered a very respectable mid-level AR-15. Brands like Colt, Daniel Defense, and LMT are generally considered more “1st tier.” But my dealer had a too-good-to-pass-up deal on M&P 15s, and the OR model (optics ready – no sights installed) was perfect for me since iron sites aren’t particularly usable by me. The AR-15 platform is extremely modular (described by some as the “Barbie Doll” of tactical rifles) with a huge network of third party support manufacturers of stocks, rails, grips, triggers – you name it. Practically every component on an AR-15 can be replaced to create a customized rifle. I don’t plan on doing a lot of customization to my M&P15, but I do plan on replacing the grip and adding a forward grip in the near future.
One of my first purchases after that M&P 15 as a good holographic red dot sight. I debated between models from the two dominant manufacturers in the AR-15 enthusiast community – Eotech and Aimpoint. Ultimately, I settled on an Aimpoint Pro. I’ll save my discussion for why I chose the Aimpoint Pro for my product review, but here’s a photo of my M&P 15 with the Aimpoint Pro mounted on it:
When I purchased my M&P 15, I had a half-day private lesson with one of the best instructors in the business – Jeff Pedro, owner of Sim-Trainer here in Dayton, Ohio. But I was itching to get out on the range with gun once I had the Aimpoint Pro installed, so I took my son with me and taught him how to shoot the rifle as well:
The first order of business at the range was to “zero” the optic. The Aimpoint Pro has both windage and elevation controls which are quite simple to adjust. Here’s the target we were shooting at while we were zeroing the Aimpoint Pro:
Out of the box, the Aimpoint Pro was shooting low and to the left. After zeroing, here’s how it was shooting at 25 feet:
And here’s how I performed at 25 yards:
For only having shot about 200 rounds through the rifle, I was pretty pleased with this performance – at 25 yards, I was still “combat accurate.”
I have a spotting scope inbound and will take it with us to Spring Valley Outdoor Gun Range this weekend and zero the scope at 50 yards, which is what has been recommended to me. At less than 50 yards, an AR-15 typically shoots a bit low, and up to 100 yards, it will shoot high, but only to a maximum variance of 2″ in either case. So by zeroing at 50 yards, I can be combat accurate with an AR-15 out to 100 yards, which is as far as I’m likely to shoot. Look for more AR-15 related articles from me in the near future!