Second, the idea that the AR-15 is some kind of horrifically powerful weapon is absurd. In its most common chambering, the 5.56 NATO, the AR-15 is actually underpowered compared to traditional American battle rifles like the M1873 “Trapdoor” in .45-70 or the M1903 Springfield in .30-06. The AR-15 is a .22-caliber centerfire. When its M-16 counterpart was introduced in Vietnam, it was derided as a “mouse gun” and a “poodle-shooter.” Many troops were dismayed when their .30-caliber M-14s were replaced with the new rifle.
Indeed, the M-16 and AR-15 rifle suffered a poor reputation for a couple of decades after its introduction in Vietnam, in part because ammunition issued by the Army resulted in malfunctions and jams, causing the deaths of a number of troops during firefights with the Viet Cong.
Like most technologies, however, the AR-15 has evolved significantly over time. Its popularity today exists for a number of reasons. The AR platform uses space-age materials, such as forged aluminum and plastic, which make it lightweight, durable, and weather-resistant. Today’s AR-15 is reliable, ergonomic, and user-friendly. It’s easy to maintain, and unlike traditional wood-stocked rifles, which often require custom fitting, it allows an infinite variety of aftermarket options and configurations without expensive professional gunsmithing. To use an analogy that will be understandable to red-state males (but probably unfamiliar to urban blue-staters), the AR-15 has become the “small-block Chevy” of the shooting world. Barrel assemblies (called “uppers”) can be switched out in ten seconds or less, and stocks can be easily customized to fit an individual shooter – such as a small-statured female.