Learn How to Shoot an AR-15


In the first two parts of this AR-15 Basics series we’ve looked at the history of the AR-15 and have taken a look at the main components of the AR-15. Now we will talk about shooting the AR and some tools you should have to maintain it correctly. However,
before we get into shooting the AR let’s go over the basic rules for gun safety

The Four Basic Rules are:

    1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. This means watch where the muzzle is pointed at all times.
    2. Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. When you first pick up a weapon the instinct is to find the trigger by putting your finger on it, train yourself to rest your trigger finger on the frame or trigger guard.
    3. Always keep the weapon unloaded until you are ready to use it. Never assume a weapon is unloaded. When you pick one up verify that it is unloaded, keeping rules 1 and 2 in mind while you do this. Also never hand a weapon to someone unless you clear it first.
    4. Always be sure of your target and what’s behind it. When you are shooting at a paper target remember that it’s not going to stop the bullet. Look at what’s behind the target.

These rules are especially important when shooting the AR-15;

Let’s examine the finer points of the AR-15 starting with the controls. There are 5 major components or controls for the AR-15:

  • Trigger
  • Fire select/safety
  • Forward Assist
  • Magazine release
  • Bolt Release

AR-15 Basics: Shooting the AR-15 by Gun Carrier at http://guncarrier.com/ar-15-basics-3


AR-15 Basics: Shooting the AR-15 by Gun Carrier at http://guncarrier.com/ar-15-basics-3


Starting with the trigger, you’ll find that in most cases the factory trigger is well junk, but there are a lot of aftermarket options to improve the trigger. The .308 AR shown in an earlier part of this series has a drop in CMC trigger that made a world of difference. Your finger position on the trigger and trigger the control is the same as for a hand gun.

Then you have the safety or fire selector, the forward assist that can be used to move the bolt forward and the magazine release

The shooting stance, dominate eye and natural point of aim are all important and apply. Before we get into sights and sight picture, let’s determine which eye is the dominant one. For most people the dominant eye is the same as your dominate hand but not always. Here is a way to determine which eye is the dominate one.

Point at an object about 6 feet away line your finger up with a point on that object. Focus on the object so that your finger is slightly out of focus. Now close one eye at a time, when you close the non-dominant eye the object will appear to move, when you close your dominate eye it won’t move. This is the eye that you should use when shooting.

For me my right eye is the dominant one.

Shooting an AR with iron sights is no different from shooting a handgun.

AR-15 Basics: Shooting the AR-15 by Gun Carrier at http://guncarrier.com/ar-15-basics-3


The most obvious difference is in the shooting stance between an AR and a handgun is the stance. The Isosceles stance has you square to the target but when shooting the AR you stand perpendicular to the target.

The best way to think about the stance for shooting the AR is the old fashioned fighter’s stance as shown by our friend Tara in the picture below.

AR-15 Basics: Shooting the AR-15 by Gun Carrier at http://guncarrier.com/ar-15-basics-3


Your strong hand is on the pistol grip close to your body and the support hand is on the forward hand guard as far forward as is comfortable for you.

AR-15 Basics: Shooting the AR-15 by Gun Carrier at http://guncarrier.com/ar-15-basics-3


One thing to note, with an AR all of the moving parts of the recoil system are in the buffer tube. There is nothing that will come back and hit you in the nose. You want a good cheek weld with the stock tight against your shoulder. You also want your arms close to your body. This helps with control while moving.

When you pick up a weapon the instinct is to find the trigger with your finger, you should pick a place on the AR-15 to place your trigger finger outside of the trigger guard. For me I find the magazine release and place my finger just alongside it.

AR-15 Basics: Shooting the AR-15 by Gun Carrier at http://guncarrier.com/ar-15-basics-3


Now let’s look at how to shoot the AR. Assuming that the bolt is closed or full forward with no magazine inserted and the dust cover over the ejection port closed (shown open in the pictures above), insert the magazine and give it a solid whack, and then tug on it to make sure it’s seated. Pull the charging handle towards you as far as it will go. As the bolt moves back the dust cover will pop open. Let go of the charging handle and the bolt will move forward and strip a round from the magazine, and then place it into the chamber. As soon as you chamber a round make sure the fire/safe selector is on safe. You should get in the habit of placing the weapon on safe whenever you don’t have your finger on the trigger ready to fire.

From this point on each time you squeeze the trigger it will fire one round. Once the magazine is empty the bolt will lock back, just like the slide on a semi automatic handgun. Like with a semi auto handgun a failure to fire may not be an empty magazine. And just like with a handgun you should verify that it is indeed the bolt locked back. The simplest way to do this is lower the weapon and turn it so you can see the ejection port, and verify that the bolt is locked back on an empty magazine. Now press the magazine release and the magazine will drop free, well maybe as magazines get used they get dirty or damaged so they won’t always drop free.

Once you have a new magazine inserted you can press the bolt release and it will move forward stripping a new round from the magazine. Once thing to note, under stress your fine motor skills degrade, making pressing the bolt release with your finger difficult. To overcome this just hit it with the heel of your hand.

And there you have it, a quick tutorial on the operation and shooting the AR-15. This is such a versatile weapon that just by changing the upper or adding an optic you can expand the usefulness of the AR-15 from a close quarter combat weapon to a long range shooter.

Introduction to Firearms

When planning for a survival situation, firearms are certainly a consideration.  Which firearms depend on what you want to do with them, the space available, your budget, storage capabilities and legal restrictions.  And, of course, personal preference.

Before picking up any firearm, make sure that you are intimately familiar with firearm safety.  As a refresher, 1) treat every firearm as if it were loaded.  2) never point any firearm at anyone or anything you would not be willing to shoot and 3) never put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot.  You don’t want to utter either of the most common lies:  “I didn’t know it was loaded” or “It just went off”.

Uses for Firearms

There are two primary (survival) uses for firearms and a secondary use.  Having firearms for defense is pretty much a no-brainer.  If you are being attacked, there is not much else (practical) which will give you as good a chance of surviving.  Of course, this is dependant on you being absolutely sure that you can wound or kill someone who is attacking you without cause.  And, that you are willing and able to spend the time and money to acquire and maintain proficiency with your weapons.  Don’t forget you must be willing to assume the possible eventual legal risks which sadly are often imposed on those who defend themselves.  If you have a gun for defense, yet are not willing, or able, to use it, it will likely lower your chances of survival.  In this case, it would be better to use your “defensive firearm budget” for some other purpose.

The other primary firearm use is for hunting.  This is not quite as cut and dried.  It is true that no other weapon is as effective for hunting, but there are downsides.  Primarily, when you fire a gun, everyone and everything around you knows it (unless you use a silencer or low velocity ammo/long barrel combination).  This can scare off game, and attract predators (primarily two-legged).  Then there are the legal ramifications.  There are places in even the Second Amendment protected United States where it is so annoying to own a firearm legally, that you have to carefully weigh whether it is worth it.  And even if the local laws are liberal today, who is to say when the government implements confiscation or laws so limiting, that your (relatively large) investment is savaged?

Thus, whether or not firearms are your primary means of hunting, it is strongly recommended that you acquire “primitive” hunting weapons and skills.  Arrows are a good choice, along with the bow or crossbow which fires them.  Other common options include blowguns, spear guns, bolas, spear and throwing lever (called an “atlatl”), pneumatic (air) guns and slingshots.  Slingshots can also be fitted to fire arrows.

A secondary use for firearms is for barter.  Because of the real and perceived value of firearms in a survival situation, a gun and/or ammo may be accepted in trade for something you need when nothing else would be.

Which Firearm Should You Use?

When choosing firearms, remember that for every usage, there are “best” choices.  Unfortunately, the reverse is also true; every firearm has its “specialty”, and is less effective or even unusable for other purposes.  Another point to keep in mind is re-supply.  Once you run out of ammunition, your firearm is nothing more than a finely machined stick or rock.  In order to maximize your chances of getting more ammunition, or trading the firearm to someone who has ammo, your survival firearms should preferably be a “common” caliber, even if an “uncommon” caliber is actually slightly superior for your purpose.

Classical calibers which have both adequate utility and higher chance of availability  are .22LR, 9mm, .38/.357, .45ACP, 20ga, 12ga, .223, 7.62×39, .308 and 30-06.  The 9mm and .223 are not as effective as some other common calibers, but they do have some use (particularly for training and those with physical limitations) and are so plentiful that not having something to shoot them in is a questionable decision.

Does this mean that no other caliber should ever be considered?  Of course not. Certainly, what you have already should be factored into your planning.  Just be aware that the less common the caliber, the harder it will be to get more ammo, or trade the gun or ammo.  For instance, .40 caliber has become a popular defensive round and may even be relatively available these days.  The .30-30 is popular for hunting despite being relatively low powered among the .30 caliber rounds.  A .44 Magnum/.44Spl revolver may be one of the top handgun choices for hunting and the range of ammo available makes it suitable for defense, small game and birds, and big game up to deer size.  .45LC is not particularly common, but is also very versatile if you can reload a variety of ammunition types for it, and you might even be able to fit a .45ACP cylinder to it.  With full moon clips, a .45ACP revolver has all the advantages of a revolver, with a reload speed which approaches that of an automatic.

You may want to consider a carbine or rifle in a pistol caliber you have a lot of.  This can not only act as a backup to your pistol, but can provide improved ammunition performance over the pistol.

Of course, these comments are based strictly on normal United States ammunition situation.  Make sure you include your local situation in your decision making.

Caliber Converters and Adapters

Note that having weapons for “every” likely caliber is beyond the finances and storage capabilities of most people.  An alternative is “caliber converters” or “caliber adapters”.  Each of these is a device which holds one round of a smaller sized ammunition (sub-caliber), which is loaded into a larger ammunition gun to be fired.  The device can use the barrel of the weapon if the bullet diameters are close enough, or contain its own rifled barrel for sub-calibers with smaller bullets.  It can be the length of the larger ammunition, or in break-open weapons, longer in order to gain the advantages of a longer barrel.  Some companies which offer these today include:




http://convert-a-pell.com  (shoot pellets using primers)

http://store.dinaarms.com   (click on size menu for other calibers available)




http://www3.telus.net/gamegetter  (shoot swaged lead slugs using .22 blanks)


Another option is a “rimfire conversion kit”, which converts the firearm to use .22LR normally rather than using the single shot methodology.  These are most common for the AR-15 and the 1911 style weapons, but you may be able to find one for some other firearms, including some Glocks and Sig-Sauers.  These are a super way to familiarize yourself with a large caliber weapon, and also has small game potential.  With any sub-caliber system, make sure you experiment with it before relying on it, so you are familiar with the usage, accuracy and differing point of aim when firing the sub-caliber rounds.

Types of Firearms

The common types of firearms are as follows:

  • Pocket pistol – Ineffective for any purpose except ultra short range defense when it is important to appear to be not armed
  • Revolver – Generally better for hunting, although can be used for defense utilizing”speed loaders”
  • Automatic (actually semi-automatic) pistol – Generally better for defense
  • Pump Shotgun – with appropriate accessories, a good choice for short range hunting and defense
  • Automatic Shotgun – Generally better for short range hunting, although some do have sufficient magazine capacity to be used for defense
  • Bolt action rifle – Best for long range hunting and “sniper/counter-sniper” uses
  • Lever action rifle – Adequate for hunting and better than bolt action for defense
  • Automatic Rifle – Generally better for defense
  • Break open pistol/rifle/shotgun, single or double barrel – Hunting, caliber conversion, caliber backup, trading stock

When building your arsenal, keep in mind that going through a licensed dealer, although the most reliable method, is likely to result in governmental records of your purchase, leading to eventual confiscation.  You might be able to save a bit of money by buying online and picking it up from a local dealer.  Buying from a dealer, you will need to have a background check done, unless you have a valid Concealed Carry Permit.  On the other hand, if you can manage to buy from a private party, government records are less of a concern, although then you have to have enough knowledge to avoid getting a defective or stolen firearm, or violating any laws.

In the current situation, buying large amounts of ammunition locally may be difficult and expensive.  It is worth checking out bulk online ammunition sales.  Many do not seem to have the quantity limits currently common in stores.  Plus, buying in bulk is usually cheaper, although shipping costs are likely to cut into your discount.