So you’re thinking about getting an AR-15 rifle, or you recently got one, and now you want to learn how to use it properly. You’ve come to the right place. 

In this article, we’ll dive into what an AR-15 rifle is, its different components, and, most importantly, how to properly load, fire, and handle one.

Let’s get started!

What Is an AR-15 Rifle?

Contrary to what many believe, the “AR” in AR-15 does not stand for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle.” It stands for “ArmaLite rifle,” after the company that first invented the gun back in the 1950s, not long after the Korean War.

The AR-15 is an incredibly versatile gun that was first adopted by the U.S. military in 1963 for the Vietnam War. The military version of the rifle was known as the M16, which eventually became a standard issue. Since then, different versions of the AR-15 have become widely popular. 

Components of the AR-15 Rifle

Before we dive into how to properly handle an AR-15 rifle, it’s important to know what all its different components are and what they do. 

Every AR-15 is made up of the following main parts:

  • Magazine. Standard AR-15 magazines hold 30 rounds of 5.56×45 mm or .223 Remington rounds (bullets).
  • Magazine release. This is a button that releases the magazine from the gun.
  • Chamber. This is the back end of the gun barrel, which holds the round in the firing position.
  • Bolt. This is the part of the gun that holds the base of the round while it is being loaded, fired, and ejected.
  • Bolt Release. This button closes the bolt if it is open.
  • Trigger. The trigger activates the firing pin to fire a round from the chamber.
  • Safety switch. When on, the safety switch keeps the gun from firing. 
  • Charging handle. This is a handle that loads or ejects rounds from the magazine when pulled.
  • Stock. This is the back part of the gun that is placed into the nook of your shoulder while shooting (for support).
  • Handguard. The handguard covers the barrel so you can hold the rifle. It typically also has rails that allow for attachments.
  • Sights (optics). Sights are devices that help you aim. Most AR-15s have what is called an “iron sight” that helps you line up the rifle with physical markers.

AR-15 Gun Safety

The first step to handling an AR-15 rifle is to follow basic gun safety rules. These include:

  1. Always treat the gun as if it is loaded.
  2. Never point the gun at something you wouldn’t want to shoot.
  3. Always know what’s behind your target.
  4. Never put your finger on the trigger unless you’re ready to shoot.

By following these four simple rules, you can avoid serious gun accidents that could leave someone hurt or killed.

Loading the AR-15 Rifle

Now that you understand basic gun safety, you’re ready to load the AR-15 rifle.

Start by loading the magazine. To do this, you’ll need to take the empty magazine and press 5.56×45 mm (or .223 Remington) ammunition into it, one bullet at a time. Align each round with the top of the magazine, push the round down, and then slide it back, so it is flush against the back of the magazine. Repeat this process until you’ve loaded 30 bullets or the magazine is full.

Next, insert the magazine into the gun. To do this, hold the rifle by its pistol grip with your dominant hand. Then take the loaded magazine in your other hand with the bullet tips facing the direction the gun is pointing. Push the magazine up into the gun and give it a tap from the bottom. You may want to also give it a gentle tug to confirm that it’s locked in place.

Lastly, chamber the round. Put two fingers around the charging handle and pull it all the way back. Then let go of it. As the charging handle slides back, the bolt will close and strip the top round from the magazine. Now the gun is fully loaded. To double-check that it is, you can pull the magazine out (by pushing the magazine release button) and see if the top round switched from the right to left or left to the right side. Once you’re done checking, reinsert the magazine.

Firing the AR-15 Rifle

With the AR-15 loaded, it’s ready to be fired.

Start by getting into a proper firing stance. Hold the rifle’s pistol grip with your dominant hand and put your other hand on the front handguard. Spread your legs wide apart and lean forward for extra stability. You may need to adjust the stock to fit your body if it doesn’t already. To do this, put the butt of the gun in the crook of your shooting arm. Then grip the pistol grip. If your wrist is bent, the stock is too short, and you should lengthen it. Having the proper stock length will give you more control and help you absorb the recoil better.

Next, aim the AR-15 at your target. To do this, you can use the rifle’s built-in iron sight. Just line up the rear sight with the front sight near the muzzle. Alternatively, you can invest in AR-15 accessories like rifle scopes and red dots to help make your aim even more accurate. 

Now you’re ready to shoot. Make sure the safety is switched off with your thumb. Then put your finger on the trigger and pull! Each time you fire, a hot casing will eject from the gun. Once you’re done shooting, take your finger off the trigger and switch the safety back on.

Reloading the AR-15 Rifle

If you pull the trigger and nothing comes out, it may mean your magazine is empty. In this case, the bolt will lock to the rear, and the ejection port will open.

To reload the AR-15 rifle, push the magazine release button, remove the magazine, and replace it with another full magazine (if you only have one magazine, you’ll have to reload it with bullets).

All you need to do to chamber a new round this time is hit the bolt release button, which will close the bolt. You now have a loaded gun again.

Final Thought

The AR-15 is a great rifle. But it can also be dangerous if handled improperly. Carefully follow the guidelines above, and you and those around you will be much safer for it.