Hudson: AR-15 has become favorite

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Marksmanship. The ability to hit the target. In shooting sports, it is how you are measured.
Today, gun enthusiasts have never had more choices in how they hit a given target. One of the most popular, however, is the AR-15. The reason is simple. These weapons are fun to shoot.
Plus, these rifles can be highly customized to the owner’s specifications.
Originally designed for the military in the late-1950s, the AR-15 is the gun that comes to mind when you picture a typical military rifle. The military designation of the fully automatic version of the rifle is called the M16. The AR-15 is the semiautomatic version. It is used for various types of hunting, for sport and for personal protection.
Target practice, however, is the way these weapons are most often enjoyed. Practice is critical, according to enthusiast Dave Thomas of Salisbury, because good marksmanship cannot be taken for granted.
“Marksmanship is a perishable skill,” said Thomas, who is a member of the Piedmont Handgunners Association range in Lexington. “So that’s why you have to practice. Your accuracy goes away first.”
Some of the more popular activities with AR-15s are tactical shooting matches, where shooters are timed as they proceed through a course. These courses test the shooter for both marksmanship and physical stamina, since each competitor will run from station to station and then have to hit various types of targets.
The enjoyment of shooting the course, plus the bragging or the excuses that follow, are some of the best times for Thomas and other gun enthusiasts. Like any sport, sometimes it is the conversations after the competition is concluded that is the best part of the whole experience.
While these courses are fun. It is the long shots that Thomas likes the best. “For me, the rifle range, the long shots to very small targets at 200-plus yards is really enjoyable,” said Thomas, who works as the assistant manager of the body shop at TEAM Chevrolet. “It is very gratifying to hit something like that.”
Thomas says weather, particularly wind, temperature and humidity, have the most affect on a bullet as it proceeds toward the target. Accurately adjusting for these variables is the sign of a truly talented marksman.
For other enthusiasts, the AR-15 offers other challenges beyond the simple act of pulling the trigger. For instance, Rob Metcalf, an area chiropractor, began shooting high-powered rifles in competition in high school. He enjoys the fact that you can build your own AR-15 from parts to suit your own budget and needs.
“If you take something you bought as separate parts, and you put it together and take it to the range and can actually be accurate with it, that is the sense of accomplishment you get out of it,” said Metcalf, who has built several AR-15s for different purposes. “You can hunt with them, target shoot with them. You can get a lot of gratification from owning one. They are kind of like a hot rod the way you can work on them on customize them.”
That is probably the one thing that has made these rifles so popular with the public, according to Angie and David Allen, owners of the Gun Works in Salisbury. No two AR-15s are alike because each owner puts their own touches on them, with different scopes, grips, stocks and accessories, including laser pointers and lights.
For Scott Whittington, who has been an fan of handguns for a long time but is just getting into shooting AR-15s, improving his skills is first an foremost in his mind. “It is all about the enjoyment of being able to shoot a good quality gun, hitting your target and getting better with it every time I shoot that is the most exciting part of it.”
Glenn Hudson is a freelance fishing writer based in Salisbury. Contact him at