The AR-15: Unfit to Serve?


The AR-15: Unfit to Serve?

Here he go again: another month, another public rant from Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales about the supposed deficiencies of the AR-15. has some good coverage of Scales’ testimony, to the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, but unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve read all of this before.

Scales has a habit of republishing the same anti-AR rant again and again–Viet Nam, Wanat, the glories of the AK’s piston design, and to close it out a on a personal note a reference to the fact that he doesn’t want his young grandson to serve in the military thanks to the lousy rifle he’d be issued. Just Google “Robert Scales AR-15” to see plenty of examples of this boilerplate.

Over the years I’ve read and written a fair amount about the AR-15, but I’m not going to do attempt sort of point-by-point takedown, here. Besides, this has already been done far more thoroughly than I could manage, elsewhere (my AR neckbeard is more like a neck soul patch). I just want to make one point — or, rather, two related points, the first of which even Scales himself would have to agree with.

The operational tempo of the US military is higher than it has ever been, and this brutal tempo is in its second decade. Our Special Forces teams often do more missions in one night than their predecessors did in a distinguished career. In short, the present US military is the most combat-seasoned fighting force the modern world has ever seen, thanks to a decade and a half of the Global War on Terror.

I don’t think Scales would disagree with any of what I’ve just said. How could he? So, on to the second point.

I didn’t serve, but with a very few exceptions everyone I know who did serve comes right home and buys an AR-15. If the issue gun is so¬†terrible, I can’t imagine how it could become the overwhelming choice of our nation’s ridiculously experienced combat veterans.

You can cite ancient history or a single battle all you want, but when the guys who spent years kicking in doors and shooting at bad guys with this gun come home and buy another one just like it, that pretty much clinches it for me. I defer to experience, and there is no fighting force more experienced than the US military, and no gun that they buy in larger numbers than the AR-15.


All of that said…

In some variants of Scales’ anti-AR rant, he lays out what he thinks a future rifle should look like. I actually don’t find much fault with this recommendations for a successor to the AR-15.

He’ll typically recommend a polymer-cased round in a caliber close to .270, to which I and most other gun nerds would answer that something in 6.5 looks more likely. But still, he’s not far off, given that the 6.5 bullet is only a hair smaller than the .270.

He’ll also recommend some sort of optic, a laser, and various other doodads. I have no idea about the practicalities of paying for every grunt to have this stuff, but it all typically sounds like something I either already own or would buy at the gun store.

Anyway, despite my love of (and investment in) the AR platform, and my lack of patience with its detractors, I gotta admit, I personally kinda like a bigger bullet.

When I need to kill something around the farm, here, I reach for my “AR-10”, an LMT LM8MWS in .308. Despite everything I know about the effectiveness of the high-dollar Hornady 75gr BTHP TAP rounds I keep on-hand for my AR, I still fall prey to “bigger is better.” I just like the bigger bullet, the bigger gun, and the bigger thump. And I know I’m not alone.

I have killed some coyotes with my regular AR, but like I said, when I have some killin’ to do, I typically pull that¬†.308 out of the safe.

So, as much as I theoretically appreciate the size, weight, and terminal performance of a high-end, modern .223 round, I say bring on the polymer-cased 6.5. Who wouldn’t love more bullet, but without much extra weight? I’ll probably even pick up a 6.5 Creedmoor barrel for my LMT this year and start playing around with it.

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