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What Is It Like To Fire An AR-15? Comfortable, Therapeutic, And Unfairly Criticized


Perhaps it wasn’t the most adult thing to call Gersh Kuntzman a “sandy vagina” after reading his article for the New York Daily News describing his experience shooting an AR-15 (ArmaLite 15—the “AR” does not stand for “assault rifle”). It’s probably even less adult to giggle every time I say or hear his surname, but I digress.

Kuntzman has an inexperienced opinion on shooting the AR-15, and he is absolutely entitled to having one and voicing it, which included a claim that one try gave him “a temporary form of” post-traumatic stress disorder. His willingness to share his opinion is not what bothers people like me, who have lots of practice with the rifle and real experience with PTSD. It is the fact that he had to have lied about his physical wounds and mental health while shooting the AR-15—unless he was doing it completely wrong. Lo and behold, he actually admitted the latter in his column.

Just in case, though, I was so very careful and vigilant this weekend when I went to the range to shoot my AR-15. I have owned it for more than a year, but I suppose one might not know when the weapon will take a turn for the worse. I was very careful not to turn my back on it. I took safety measures, as usual. I wore rubber bullets—I mean foam earplugs. After all, what if this time it really was “deafening”? I applied sunscreen, although I did forget to bring shoulder pads, Kuntzman. My bad.

What It’s Like to Shoot With an AR-15

I put the loaded magazine in slowly, and waited for it to click. When it did, a euphoric feeling washed over me. I looked up at the paper target 40 yards away. It stared back at me, playfully. I might have heard it say “nana-nana-boo-boo.” I pulled back the charging handle and let it go, then flicked the safety off. Nestling my left cheek firmly on the stock, I looked through the iron sights, down at the naughty target. I thought about how this may be the last time I hold the AR-15 without being emotionally and physically scarred. Okay, perhaps not.

I breathed out, and slowly squeezed the trigger, and—to my amazement, I hardly felt any sort of kick! Perhaps this was because the entire back half of the rifle is a freaking spring? Furthermore, the smell that followed brought me back to the first time on the firing line at military basic training next to my brothers and sisters in arms. The feeling and smells pressured me to keep going. Mmm—the sound and smell of freedom.

I put 100 rounds through my AR-15 on Sunday. I made a nifty little group of holes on the piece of paper, but it didn’t take just a couple of minutes, as Kuntzman suggested. It took hours, because you actually have to aim the weapon to accomplish the goal.

The paper taunted me no more. My ears were sufficiently protected (although I chose to shoot outside, unlike Kuntzman). The sound was not “deafening” or anywhere close to the sound of any explosion I have ever heard.

My left shoulder was bruise-free. I am about 130 pounds, and took about half of the shots standing up, the stock firmly pressed into my shoulder. Still, the barely existing kick failed to bruise me or knock me down. What a wonderful piece of protection for a small woman to have!

Ignorance Is Not a Qualification for Commentary

Since I am a lefty, I have experienced hot brass in my cleavage, so I purchased an AR equipped with a left-side ejection port. I no longer even notice the brass escaping the chamber. So I am still confused about Kuntzman’s assertion that he was “disoriented” by the brass exiting after he fired each round. Even when I use the right-handed M-16s, the occasional brass in the shirt has been only mildly annoying. Otherwise, the brass falls to the floor in a pretty uneventful fashion. Gravity can be boring and predictable. I had secretly hoped the brass would do some sort of mesmerizing and hypnotic dance in the air. Sigh.

For hours after shooting Elvira (yes, I named her), instead of feeling “anxious” or “irritable” I felt proud of my marksmanship and a little less stressed. I have experienced more soreness in my hand from shooting seven rounds through Sonny (my tiny .380) than I did in my shoulder after shooting 100 rounds from Elvira. Additionally, now I have a goal for the next time I shoot at paper targets: to beat my previous attempts at marksman greatness.

Starting at age 18, I have gained shooting know-how with the M-16 on many occasions and my AR on two other occasions, so I do know what I am doing. I am aware of the correct way to fire both weapons, and I wouldn’t be writing this article about shooting an AR-15 if I didn’t have enough experience doing so. Hint, hint. I’m just spit-balling here, but if someone is knowingly clueless about shooting the AR-15 and supposedly hurts himself doing it, that person might not be qualified to present an argument against a very popular rifle.