Time to Rename the AR?

Time to Rename the AR?

Is it time to rename the AR?

From black guns, tactical rifles or Modern Sporting Rifles (MSR) to the inaccurate and slanderous “assault rifle,” the AR has been called more names than Slick Willie. Editor Doug Howlett thinks it should have one more—the UFF.

I was recently asked by a contributor whether I preferred he use the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF)-endorsed MSR (Modern Sporting Rifle) when referring to an AR-style rifle, the term tactical or the trademarked, but generically used, AR itself.

Throughout its 50-year history these firearms have also been called assault rifles and black guns, and I’m sure a few other terms that escape me at the moment, both from within the shooting community and outside of it.

I had to ponder my answer before responding, and I have to admit, the more I thought about it, the more uncertain I was of the correct one. As a writer myself, I like the luxury of having as many words as possible at my disposal to describe an object or action. Few things are more tedious to read than a story where the same words are used over and over again.

I’ve always had issues with the term assault rifle since it describes an action the gun can be used for, not the gun itself. It seems if someone is “assaulting” me with a weapon, and I have an AR, then it is technically a defensive rifle in my hands—and a damn good one at that.

I don’t have an issue with the MSR designation, and I certainly get the motivation behind the NSSF’s move to clarify the term for the media, most of whom often know little to nothing about guns. But it can be cumbersome. And while I’m nearly as old as the AR design itself, I, too, like to think of myself not so much old as “modern.” But my 14-year-old daughter and her friends would probably disagree.

I suppose my go-to designation would be “tactical rifle,” since it covers ARs and other military-inspired designs, is true to the gun’s utility and, to be totally honest, is just much cooler sounding.

Regardless of what you call it, it’s a great design, boasts versatility for nearly every shooting purpose, delivers minimal recoil, is accurate and with a six-position stock, can fit most every shooter with on-the-spot adjustments.

Maybe it should just be called a UFF—for Ultimate Freakin’ Firearm. That’s certainly what it is. Yeah, lets call it that.

This article appeared in the July 17, 2014 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Gun Digest Shooter's Guide to the AR-15

Gun Digest Shooter's Guide to the AR-15.


  1. For the sake of clarity I assume we all know that the AR name came from the old Armalite company, not from Assault Rifle? Granted the term seems to have been hijacked to stand for assault rifle, either intentionally or by ignorance and coincidence. To get away from that misconception I have often heard the term “sporting rifle” used. That’s not too bad.

  2. In 1964 the US Air Force introduced my unit to the AR15. We were shown a film about the weapon that had several USAF personnel demonstrating the weapon. That film is often shown these days on military and history channels and attributed to the US Army and the weapon is called the M16. I was there. The narrators called the weapon the AR15 and said that it designated it as AR15 Automatic Rifle 15. Again, I was there and remember it just as it was. I have a Colt SP1 from the original USAF design and will always remember it as AR15 USAF Automatic Rifle 15. I had to have one just like the ones we had back then.


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