RailScales® est. 2014

AR-15 Basics

AR-15 Basics

October 05, 2018

If you’re looking to learn more or want to brush up on your knowledge, this article is all about the AR-15 basics. Whether you’re simply searching for information, or want a comprehensive rundown on how to buy the best AR for your needs, you will find the figures you need here.

This article will give you a great foundation for making an AR rifle purchase, as well as upgrading one. With all that being said, let’s get started.

The AR-15

As one of the most popular sporting rifles on the market, the AR-15 is a versatile choice for many reasons. If you didn’t already know, the AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle not unlike the military versions that can be fully automatic or offer fire-selection capabilities.

When you pull the trigger on a semi-automatic rifle, they only fire one round unlike the fully automatic rifles that fire multiple rounds with the pull of the trigger.

Shooting Ability

As a lightweight rifle, the AR-15 has little recoil even when chambered with its native 5.56 x 45 mm round. Also, it’s a relatively comfortable rifle to shoot, being considered much more ergonomic than its counterpart, the AK-47. What’s more, the AR-15’s shooting ability allows many types of shooters to enjoy its modularity and ease-of-use.


The AR-15 is uniquely modular, allowing for components, upgrades, and parts to be changed out within seconds. What’s more, the two primary segments of the AR-15, the upper and lower receivers, can be swapped out relatively quickly to fit the needs of the shooter.

Specifically, the upper receiver can be switched out to serve a variety of uses. For example, your AR-15’s upper receiver can be swapped from a close-quarters combat (CQB) carbine to a long range precision rifle within seconds.

It’s good to note that only the lower receiver is the serialized firearm, and it can be mated with a wide variety of upper receivers to fit your needs without any additional paperwork. For the most part, the upper receiver can be swapped out to switch calibers. The lower receiver carries the trigger mechanism.

If you haven’t already searched online, there are a ton of top-tier aftermarket products you can add to your AR-15. For example, here are a few from Rail Scales:
Finally, as you research buying your AR-15 and the upgrades and accessories to go with it, remember that it’s your money and your purchase. As long as what you’re purchasing is legal and safe, do what you want.

A Brief History of the AR-15

In the 1950s, Eugene Stoner designed the AR-15 as an alternative to the AR-10 while working at ArmaLite. The goal was to give the light infantryman the capability to carry more rounds.

Later in 1959, ArmaLite sold the AR-10 and AR-15 rights to the gun manufacturer Colt for a variety of reasons, one being to keep up with the market demand for the ARs. What you may have not known is that the “AR” in AR-10 or AR-15 stands for ArmaLite, not assault rifle, as popular culture may have you believe.

Moving forward a few years, Colt made a few adjustments to the AR design and introduced the M16 as a military use rifle. It was an automatic (select fire) rifle and most of the M16s had a 20 inch barrel.

Later in the 1990’s, the M4 was introduced, which had a 14.5 inch barrel and utilized a shorter carbine barrel and gas system. You will find that people are split between pronouncing carbine as “car-BYNE” or “car-BEAN,” but either pronunciation is accepted.

One final historical note is that Colt owns the rights to “AR15” and “AR-15,” which means that other manufacturers have designed their own versions that are slightly different. However, the general “pattern” is still relatively the same.

Buy or Build Your AR-15?

If you’ve never owned a rifle before, and the AR-15 is going to be your first — or any rifle for that matter —, buy a complete rifle from a reputable manufacturer.

Not only will you be able to better acquaint yourself with the rifle as a complete product, but you can begin to explore various components as you upgrade them so that you do not become overwhelmed and give up building your rifle before it’s finished.

Also, a reputable manufacturer will sell you a rifle that is ready (for the most part) to fire at the range or on the hunting lease “out of the box.” When you choose to build an AR-15, the integrity of the build is on your hands.

Now, if you want to get a hybrid build, you can do that, too. You can get lowers and uppers completed so that you can build the other components. This means that you can get a lower from a reputable manufacturer and build your own upper.

Remember, buying complete rifles eliminates dozens of potential headaches. First, a complete rifle will have a warranty you can lean on if anything is to go wrong with the product. What’s more, new rifle owners tend to not know what they want or like just yet. Building a rifle that you eventually do not like is not the ideal situation.

Ideally, you want to buy your first AR-15 and upgrade it to something you absolutely love, and then go build the same version on your own. For most, this is a successful way of building their own rifle.

Here are some other benefits to buying your own rifle:
  • Factory guns will cost just about as much as building your own without the headaches. 
  • You’ll be able to sell a factory gun easier, if you ever decide to move on. 
  • Your warranty will cover a majority of any issues or defects you may encounter. 
Let’s take a look at building your own rifle. There is something intrinsically satisfying to see a challenging project to its finish. For most, the success isn’t in completing the project, but it’s in the process.

It’s best that you wait until your second or third rifle before you dive into an entire AR-15 build project. This way, you have some experience and comfortability with the rifle before you go ahead and build your own.

Rail Scales: The Best AR Accessories

Now that you have a general understanding of the AR-15, as well as other AR rifles, you can buy or build the best one for you. Also, you can upgrade your AR with the best accessories from Rail Scales. Shop online now!