No, the AR-15 is NOT “Ergonomic” – 5 Reasons Why

Honestly, I’m a little tired of seeing the cult of the AR-15 preach its superiority as an “ergonomic” platform. While the AR-15 is an excellent weapon, and lord knows I own many of them, it’s not the superior choice for a weapon platform in a sea of continuously expanding alternatives. A weapon designed mid last century for right-handed operation only cannot hold a candle to other later generation platforms.

Now, before all the fanboys get their torches and pitchforks.  The intent is not to trash the platform, which is truly reliable and battle-proven. My intent is to point out the fallacy that people often speak of when venerating the platform. The AR-15 was and is an excellent step forward, but its far from perfection and in light of new offerings is an old design where new ones have set the standard of “ergonomic”

To start, let’s have a working definition of “Ergonomic” from Google:

adjective: ergonomic
  1. relating to or designed for efficiency and comfort in the working environment.

There are two parts to the definition: Designed for efficiency AND comfort in the working environment. I specifically emphasized two portions on purpose, we’ll get to that in a moment.

What is important to note is that the AR-15 was revolutionary for its day. The weapon system combined the use of lightweight materials, in-line recoil, large capacity small caliber high-velocity rounds, and striking aesthetics, but that was for its day. The AR-15 was designed for the soldier and combat of the early 1950s, where shooters were or were forced to be right-handed and that combat was expected in relatively open spaces.

The world where these rifles are employed today is far different. MOUT, or Military Operations in Urban Terrain is the rule of thumb with notable exceptions for Afghanistan. The use of weapons transitions between both hands and the speed required to deal with malfunctions has made the AR-15 ergonomically obsolete, despite the operational success the weapon enjoys when employed by trained troops.

While I can do into a variety of detail on a myriad of topics on the weapon, I have purposefully picked 5 reasons why the AR-15 is not “ergonomic”

  1. Designed for Right-Handed Shooters & One-Sided Functions

The weapon was designed with two key design requirements, lightweight, and right-handed shooters. This created functions on the weapon decided one-sided such as the magazine release and bolt catch/release. While right-handed shooters appreciate these, left-handed shooters or righties doing off-shoulder transitions are left with a completely different manual of arms using fine motor skills. In combat, fine motor skills are bad, thought I will give credit that reloading the weapon is generally considered faster with its push-button mag release and ability to just smack it on the paddle – still its small paddle.

While efficient for one side, the design is not fantastic for both hands in the working environment by use of fine motor skills. Therefore, it is not ergonomic.

2. Charging Handle

Perhaps the only point that the fanboys will readily agree with is the charging handle. Originally designed to use two fingers (again, those pesky fine motor skills) across a weapon that was removed from the shoulder, the charging handle does indeed work to charge the weapon, but going back to the in the working environment criteria, it’s significantly lacking.

Even those that add ambi function and allow for one-handed operation have to contend with removing their face from the stock to charge a weapon. Combined with the one-sided bolt catch functions, clearing a malfunction often turns into a complex ballet of hands changing location on the weapon – not advantageous for combat which is the working environment.

One could further argue that the design is not even efficient. Charging handles are known to break under heavy and repeated usage. Combined with damage done during “mortarting” the charging handle is likely the largest weakness of the platform.

3. Mag Catch / Release 

On the opposite of the last point, this one may perhaps rile up the platform’s aficionados. One of the first rifles to employ drop-free straight magwells with a bolt release, the AR-15 was and is extremely fast to reload. However, I assert that the design is flawed for two reasons:

First, the straight push movement is prone to dropping magazines. When the weapon is used in its intended environment, the button is easily depressed. While more difficult today with the fencing, the most obvious proof of this assertion is the addition of the fencing around the magazine, to begin with. Then, as soon as one goes ambidextrous releases, the problem can get worse with the button now being available on the side of the weapon most likely touching the shooter’s body and gear when not in use.

Second, and directly relating to a literal definition of ergonomics is the location of the button itself. It is directly in the way of “straight and off the trigger” that is taught in the military and tactical schools today. If one were to actually take the instruction literally, the button would be depressed as soon as firing was complete each time. It takes conscious thought to not hit the release.

4. Bolt Catch and Release

While the paddle was revolutionary for its time, especially when compared to the AK-47 it’s an antiquated design now. In physical operation, it either requires fine motor skills of the offhand’s thumb or gross motor skills that when used, take the weapon off its intended target. Further, by using the off-hand, it takes longer for the shooter to get their weapon back into a firing stance as there is a delay between the release of the bolt to when the offhand is back on the weapon helping stabilize it.

This is compounded by the physical action for both engagement and disengagement is the same movement, separated by only a few hundred thousandths. Trying to go for the bolt catch, its all to easy to hit the bolt release and under the pressure of adrenaline, the mistake is all too common.

5. Gas Venting

I do not mean this as a criticism of the DI system – its ability to function under amazing conditions is well-documented, but in Stoner’s implementation did not foresee modern usage. In Stoner’s design the gas is primarily vented out of the ejection port and some does escape the bolt into the receiver set itself. Under normal conditions, this is perfectly OK, but with modern weapons accessory additions, notably suppressors, the venting of gas in this manner is most problematic.

I shoot suppressed as much as I can, but when setting a weapon up for non-suppressed usage, the weapon is then immediately “overgassed” by the use of standard baffle suppressors. In a piston gun, this added pressure is resolved far farward of the shooter, but in Stoner’s implementation, the extra cloud of irritating compounds is expelled close the face. Further, with poor seals in the weapon, gas can likewise escape at the eyes in sufficient quantity to distract the shooter.


I love the AR-15. In today’s market with the plethora of accessories, much of this can be addressed, but the weapon itself is not “ergonomic”. Sure, it’s better than many that came before (and a few that came after it), but it’s not the holy grail that many gun scribes ascribe it to be.

To me, the weapon is certainly usable, but calling something good because it uses AR-15 ergonomics is an insult. Simply put, there are better functionally ergonomic designs out there, though I will cede that they may be operationally inferior and often they are not.

For example, the G36, ACR, and the forthcoming Desert Tech MDR are all better functionally ergonomic platforms. They are inherently ambidextrous and looking at the usage in a working environment, the allow the shooter to keep their trigger finger on the grip and sights on target at all times.

Fortunately for us all, manufacturers recognize this and various updates to the AR-15 platform have made it to the market. Examples like LWRC and Falkor show that the lower can at least be ambi and various uppers like the Faxon ARAK, Adcor BEAR, and others show the improvements that a charging handle can bring.

What is most exciting to me is to see how the AR-15 continues to evolve into an actual functional ergonomic platform as even more companies propose, manufacturing, and display updated designs bringing Stoner’s platform from the last century to the new one.

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • Graham2


    • Joe

      JPF or PFJ?

      • Graham2

        Not saying, you could be a Roman!

  • andrey kireev

    it was ergonomic for its day and philosophies of the day, where none of the firearms were designed to be ambidextrous. And design was flexible enough to maintain its ergonomics through easy part swaps in modern history. What AR15 was back in the day is a far shot from modern AR15s we have these days, with slimline handguards, ambi charging handles and controls, flared magwells and hogue pistol grips (many of which come stock from manufacturer).No one claimed that rifle doesnt have its faults, but calling it unergonomic is just stupid.Just because old rifle in its original form doesnt fit modern trends, and what people percieve as ergonomic this or next month.

  • valorius

    And yet, even decades later, more and more nations are switching to AR platforms, the French being the latest.

    I’m a lefty and find the M16A2 and later variants to be very ergonomic.

    • Holdfast_II

      I’m a righty who shoots long arms left-handed due to extreme left eye dominance, and I’ve never had any troubles with the AR platform. I suppose I’ve just adapted until everything became second nature – that’s what endless hours of drilling will do.

    • GD Ajax

      HK 416 =/= AR/. Not the same thing except even the lower is proprietary.

      • valorius

        It’s the same thing.

      • Anonymoose

        The HK416 upper works on AR15 lowers. Same with the SIG MCX and certain other piston-driven folding stock guns that preceded it, so the legally registered part (at least in the US) is an AR15. The HK416 lower at least shares the same overall design as the AR15’s, even if details make it incompatible with regular AR uppers. Saying that that’s “not an AR” is like saying modern AR10s, DPMS-pattern .308s, and SR25s aren’t ARs.

    • Guy Slack

      Here’s a term for you: Cost/Effective

  • Dougscamo

    What is “mortarting” the charging handle? Just wonderin’ if I am hurting my AR….

    • Gary Kirk

      Pulling rearward on charging handle, and slamming buttstock down on something to free a stuck action..

      • Dougscamo

        I thought that was “mortaring”?

        • ostiariusalpha

          You have to wiggle your butt coquettishly to turn it into mortarting.

        • Gary Kirk

          Yep, wasn’t in proofreading mode at the time, my brain made it right..

          • Dougscamo

            Funny how that works….isn’t it?

          • Gary Kirk

            Need coffee before brain can engage..

  • Aerindel Prime

    All true but with exception of the beretta ARX all next gen ‘assault rifles’ cost 2-3 times more than an AR.

    • Major Tom

      At the time of development, the AR costs significantly more than existing competitors (especially the AK) or legacy systems.

      The AR is now the legacy system compared to those newcomers.

      • Jared Vynn

        The original Colt Sporter cost $190 back in 1962 which adjusted for inflation is roughly $1,500. This is still cheaper than many modern rifles like the SCAR, Tavor, etc.. it’s a little more than the ARX100 though.

      • ARCNA442

        However, almost all of the next gen rifles are mostly injection molded polymer and were specifically designed to be cheaper than the AR.

        • Major Tom

          Sounds like a case of HK syndrome aka price gouging. If that’s the case F em.

        • Uniform223

          “next gen rifles are mostly injection molded polymer and were specifically designed to be cheaper than the AR.”

          > yet strangely never ends up being cheaper than a typical entry level AR. Economies of scale does that.

          • ARCNA442

            I don’t mind if they’re a bit more expensive than a mass produced entry level rifle. The problem is when the cost nearly twice as much as their direct competitors like Colt or BCM.

      • Porty1119

        AKs are far more expensive than ARs in CONUS, especially if you want something that doesn’t hold a significant risk of catastrophic materials failure (cough…RAS-47…cough…). Tooling for stampings is not cheap to set up.

        • Major Tom

          But at the time of the AR’s development in the 1950s with the AR-10 it cost much more on the international markets than either postwar surplus, Russian AK’s, Belgian FAL’s and other things. It only reached alleged ubiquity later into the 1970s when the US was handing them out as aid and/or selling them at a loss compared to other platforms.

          The same still happens today. So many AR’s out there that it’s created a glut of falling prices relative to newly introduced competition.

          • Joshua

            The difference is working with aluminum then, vs working with polymer now can’t be compared.

            Working with polymer now, is a tiny fraction of what working with aluminum in the 50s ran.

        • john huscio

          WASRs are in the upper $500s to 650……lower than most ars and function fine for the most part.

      • Aerindel Prime

        In that case I will probably move on from the AR…in 50 years or so when the next gen ones go legacy. Although its its hard to imagine these more advanced ones ever becoming as easy to mix and match together.

  • Max Müller

    The flimsy buttons might not be ergonomic, it might not be intended for all the cool features, but the general ergonomics are good for a human body.
    What is a rifle? It needs a steel pipe, a way of getting ammunition in this steel pipe and then some nice ways to hold and grip it. Especially with all the aftermarket accessories it excells at this role. Length adjustable buttstock straight behind the barrel, pistol grips of varying sizes and grip angles, a quick to use magazine well in a biomechanicly advantageous spot, …
    The genaral shape of an AR-15 fits the general shape of the human body quite well.
    In the future i think thinks like the Sig Sauer MCX and rifles like the Scar, Msr and some HK designs will be more advantageous for a lot of reasons and they would just need the aftermarket support to exceed the AR design.
    The AR-15 has too many parts, this makes for modularity but mostly for problems with overcomplication and to many parts that can fail.
    The bolt is too long and the need for a buffer and buffer tube is ridiculous. 60 years ago they had an excuse for that, but today it’s just not state of the art. Folding stock and less weight are possible.
    Also, the ar needs thinks like staking which hurts my heart everytime. We can built tight ratches and locks nowadays. And all the pins you have to hammer in and that might come loose. Less parts and better systems to hold them in place would be much preferable.

  • Kalash

    Thank you. I have been saying these for years!

  • Joshua

    What a crap article.

    I’ll specifically point out how you act like suppressors don’t overgass piston guns.

    What a joke. You should probably get some actual time behind suppressed guns before you spout off.

    Any gun you slap a suppressor becomes overgassed and cyclic rate increases.

    When you Add a suppressor 90% of the gas to the face is coming from the bore. A suppressor doesn’t care what operating system you use.

    • Lyman Hall

      Here is a sentence that you aparently missed: “I shoot suppressed as much as I can, but when setting a weapon up for non-suppressed usage, the weapon is then immediately “overgassed” by the use of standard baffle suppressors.’

      So, what are you arguing about, fanboy?

      • Joshua

        That he doesn’t understand, or can’t comprehend the way suppressors overgass and increase cyclic rate on every gun they get attached to.

        They don’t care about operating system.

        Go be edgy somewhere else kid.

        • Lyman Hall


        • Lyman Hall

          He SAID “when setting a weapon up for non-suppressed usage, the weapon is then immediately “overgassed” by the use of standard baffle suppressors.’ which is EXACTLY the same thing YOU are saying!
          Go be pants-on-head retarded somewhere else.

          • Phillip Cooper

            (nevermind, misread)

          • Joshua

            I know you misread, but he implied it doesn’t happen with op rod guns, and only to the DI platform.

            That’s wrong.

          • Grant

            He didn’t imply that piston guns don’t have this problem. He is stating that piston guns vent the gas farther forward, away from the shooter.

            What he is ignoring is that piston guns are often louder suppressed. So you can choose gas in the face if DI or ‘piston pop’ from the gas cylinder.

            Piston systems are usually heavier too.

          • Jason Smith

            Piston guns STILL vent gas into your face. The majority of gas venting when shooting suppressed is BACK DOWN THE BORE and out the chamber. Pistons don’t prevent that and they’re no better or worse than DI guns in this area.

          • Joshua

            Suppressors send gas back down the bore when the case is extracted.

            It doesn’t matter where the gas is normally vented.

          • Grant

            Yes, when suppressed all guns have gas coming out of the bore after the case is extracted. This is independent of how an auto loading gun operates

            But, all gas operated guns also have gas at a much higher pressure venting out of the gas system. This is true even when running unsuppressed. Most piston guns vent somewhere towards the front of the gun. Others like the Tavor vent into the inside of the receiver once the action opens. DI guns vent out the 2 holes in the side of the carrier.

            If there was no increase in gas pressure in the operating system of these guns, their cyclic rate would not increase when they are shot full auto.

            It is probably true that piston pop isn’t much louder when running a supressor. You just can’t hear it over the muzzle blast when shooting without a can. When shooting suppressed though, the noise from piston guns like an AK or an AUG venting is pretty loud. I guess having an adjustable gas system is nice if it has a setting for running suppressed. At least then you can keep the cyclic rate down. I know a number of piston guns just have settings for off, normal and ‘dirty’. That would not help much. I’m also not going to run out and spend 3k for some super rifle that supposedly doesn’t have all the ergonomic and design defects of a $750 AR15. I do have a Tavor and an X95, which I think have good ergos for a bullpup. I think that most people would have an easier time with an AR pattern gun though. They also have non-adjustable pistons with the action literally in your face, so probably not the best guns to run with a can.

          • Brian

            My piston guns all have an easily adjustable gas system for using it suppressed or not suppressed. My XCR=M and also=L have 4 gas settings so you can tinker until its perfectly tuned for shooting. Perhaps thats what he means.

  • sdb

    Why many persons want to make everybody else think exactly like them, and think that everybody is wrong and they are correct.
    (GLOCK lovers vs haters, AR15 lovers vs haters………)
    For me, yes, the AR15 is the more ergonomic and instintive platform, “one tube” starting in your shoulder and to the barrels end , maybe that the reason because today, many countries militaries are adopting AR15 or AR15 style (HK 416) systems. Maybe that the reason because many spec ops of the world preffers the AR15 style instead of their country and military weapons, specially those who have bullpup weapons, exaple, UK.example Australia,Example France………
    Its only my opinion, and i know that maybe isnt the total truth, but i dont care if everybody dont think like me .
    Despite that, Nathan, i like your works and dont take this critic for you.

    • GD Ajax

      If the lower is proprietary and the upper is piston based. It really doesn’t count as an AR-15 style system.

  • Rick O’Shay

    I’m a lefty, and my AR is far more ergonomic (especially with “aftermarket” ambi controls) than any other long arm I own, with the exception of my Mossberg 500. I only say my Mossy is more ergonomic because I can use it just as easily right or left handed straight out of the box. I guess gas is less a problem for me than you, because not a single point you cited is actually a problem if you know how to approach it.

    Your argument is invalid.

  • pun&gun

    Even for a right-hander, some of the controls (particularly dropping the bolt and locking it back) are not all that ergonomic. Ideally all that would be accessible with the dominant hand.
    The buffer tube and charging handle setup also mean the stock is only adjustable in a single dimension (length). There is no way to lower the drop, and no way to raise the comb, meaning any shooter that uses the rifle has an approximate fit that must be acquired, rather than a natural fit that lines up the eyes with the irons and/or optic as soon as the weapon is shouldered. The stock also can’t be folded without expensive aftermarket components, and even then must be unfolded to fire.

  • Todd Stowe

    A stripped down base AR isn’t ambi, LWRC IC is fully ambi. SIG MCX is close to fully ambi. Can we please stop with the “fine motor skill” stuff. If you can press a mag release on a pistol, you can drop the bolt with the paddle on an AR. Snipers dial in scope corrections with “fine motor skill.” Forward charging handle – ask SCAR owners with optics how their knuckles are. If the G36 safety is anything like an MP5, it is NOT ergonomic. The only thing ergo about a bullpup is short OAL.

    • Reuven Mizraha

      What about being able to stay behind the sights while charging?

  • CommonSense23

    I’ve done testing on the SCAR when I was still in the military. The single biggest complaint is the charging handle and how everyone wants to go back to the stoner design. The AR15 has one of the best charging handle cause in no way can the changing handle effect shooting the gun.
    And as a lefty, the AR15 is extremely lefty friendly.

    • Joshua

      For a item that barely gets used the AR has it in the best place.

      If you have to constantly use a CH, your rifle sucks.

      • iksnilol

        Yet when somebody makes a rifle that doesn’t require usign the CH or the mag and bolt releases, everybody loses their minds.

        • Jared Vynn

          The Rossi circuit judge doesn’t need a charging handle, mag release or even a bolt release, it is truly an innovative repeating rifle. Just need a high capacity model in 10mm.

          • iksnilol

            I was thinking of that sci-fi AR with the auto mag release and charging.

          • Jared Vynn

            That’s the Cobalt Kinetics “evolve” right?

          • iksnilol


          • Jared Vynn

            Actually Tom R. did, I just copied it from his article quotes and all. I like the concept myself, want to see it done in a handgun like the 1911.

          • roguetechie

            Go back in time, “kick the shit out of the procurement staffs of every British Commonwealth nation”, buy like 2 years salary worth of surplus Robinson model 11 machine pistols in 1985…


          • Joshua

            If it proved to be more reliable in all conditions I’d be all for it.

            However things like that will never beat brute forcing a bolt release down.

          • roguetechie

            Which is just an oversized jumped up Robinson model 11 machine pistol.

  • GhostTrain81

    The only truly 100% ergonomic platform are eyes that shoot laser beams.

    • SGT Fish

      I was thinking the same thing. You can only ask for so much. Try shooting some old submachine guns and rifles. You’ll be holding a ppsh-41 and wondering where you put your front hand. And then try doing speed reloads with them, lol.

      • supergun

        I will take the AR 15 all day long. Over the AK 47.

    • Stuki Moi

      Nah. remote controlled gun drones is is where it’s at. Remember, “efficiency AND comfort.” If it can’t be done from the couch in ones PJ, it fails the second criterion 🙂

  • Phillip Cooper

    I don’t think you understand the meaning of some of the words you’re using.

    It’s not “ambidextrous”.

    It’s not the most ergonomic of weapons (though this is debatable), but that in no way makes it “non-ergonomic”.

    • Jason Smith

      That doesn’t pull in the views like “absolute” statements.

    • supergun

      They must be short on things to write about.

  • Christopher Wallace
    • LGonDISQUS

      Hey now, comparing this article to those with less chromosomes is disrespectful to those who had no choice in their inception. 🙁

      (Helped two ID/DD clients last year apply for a HUD/USDA mortgage, and they succeeded.)

  • R. Kenneth Thorstenson IV

    Many of your complaints are rectified by updated lower or upper designs.

    1. Right handed controls: ambidextrous controls are ubiquitous, including safety manipulation, Bolt release, and even magazine release with modified lower designs on the market. The militaries of the world simply haven’t adopted them to your liking.

    2. Charging handle: there are only 2 common uses for a charging handle in the field; charging a round when a magazine fails to engage the bolt lock, and clearing malfunctions. Both of which are sufficiently handled by the charging handle design and rare in a course of fire.

    3. Magazine release: ambidextrous designs are on the market. Additionally, the standard release works okay for lefties, just requires offhand thumb instead of firing hand forefinger.

    4. Bolt catch/release: ambi designs exist and aftermarket options are readily available. See BAD lever. The bolt stop is only needed in the field during in a malfunction, thus as long as it’s operable it’s sufficient. Reliability vastly overshadows malfunction clearing as a design requirement.

    5. Over gassing: any firearm will have gas blow back from the ejection port from suppressed fire. Additionally, piston upper designs with an adjustable gas block mediate a significant portion of your argument. Again, the militaries of the world haven’t opted for the features universally to your liking.

    • Joshua

      Adjustable gas blocks have a habit of locking up when fired extensively with a suppressor.

      It’s why a lot don’t use or like them.

      Just one more part to constantly maintain to make sure it doesn’t freeze up.

  • Keith

    Someone should do a poll of lefties instead of making assumptions about what we find ergonomic. I find ARs to be perfectly comfortable for lefty shooting.

    • Major Tom

      I’m left handed and I don’t really care about ambi controls or ergonomics. Then again I’m right eye dominant and learned how to shoot long ago right handed.

      • Colonel K

        I’m a southpaw, too. The very first time I fired an M16, hot brass went down my shirt. The instructor installed a brass deflector and the problem went away. The A2 variants have a built-in brass deflector, so it is no longer an issue. My only other complaint was the lack of an ambidextrous safety. I’ve installed ambi safeties on most of my ARs, but for those lacking them, I’ve found that keeping my thumb on the left side of the grip works, though it’s a bit awkward. Two other “issues” can be corrected by installing an extended bolt release and adjustable gas block. If the charging handle bothers you, buy an Adcor B.E.A.R. It has two charging handles, the traditional one in the rear and another one placed in the forearm (ala H&K) that can be switched to either side of the rifle. As for the magazine release, I’ve never had an issue with it. Maybe that’s one advantage of being a leftie, we don’t accidentally press the mag release when we take our fingers off the trigger. Of course, simple training would prevent such occurrences for the knuckle-dragging majority of shooters.

        • supergun

          Your ways are much better than the alternative weapons out there. I love all the other alternatives, but the AR 15 is one badd@ss weapon.

    • Guy Slack

      Except, say you’re prone on the left side of a alley corner and trying to just peak enough around the corner to get a sight picture… The brass will fly right at your body. I’ve seen it happen. In most situations, its something a lefty won’t ever notice, but enter unothrodox/contorted shooting positions and well, make sure your collar is fastened.

    • Jon Hammett

      I can shoot with both sides of my body and I’ve never had an issue with the AR. I’ve shot in unorthodox and non-conventional shooting positions right and left handed without issue. And I didn’t need an ambi safety either.

    • supergun

      That is what I was thinking. I wonder how he would shoot an AK with a broken trigger.

  • Uniform223
    • USMC03Vet

      Nailed it. Some of these TFB rant articles this months….

      • Nicks87

        I know, it’s getting ridiculous.

        • Dougscamo

          Don’t y’all know?….they get paid by the comment…. 🙂

          • Patrick R. – Senior Writer

            Shit. You caught us.

  • Don Ward

    I’m not sure if Nathan S. got the memo, but the whole gross motor skill fad espoused by tactitards is something of a joke and has been lampooned even here on TFB with the help of Phuc Long.
    If you can’t manipulate the basic functions of an AR under pressure, maybe firearms aren’t the thing for the author?

    • Joshua


    • Joshua

      You apparently haven’t been taught recent handgun skills.

      They have found that since fine motor skills can’t be used during combat it’s better to throw the gun when empty.

      This is why the XM17 has a 21 round capacity. More rounds before the magazine is empty and since ejecting the magazine and reloading uses fine motors skills they also needed a heavy enough gun that when thrown can deal some damage.

      • Jared Vynn


  • Zundfolge

    The Ergonomics of the AR are like the supremacy of Democracy according to Winston Churchill; “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”.
    Ergo, “The AR15 is the least ergonomic rifle, except for all the others”.

    • supergun

      Excellent comment. The most beautiful weapon ever created.

  • Uniform223

    Yet strangely enough all these new platforms do their best to emulate the ergonomics of the AR-15. They may make small improvements but they still use the AR-15 as a base. Much like the 1911 in some cases. Many people call it old and outdated but when you look at newer pistols they emulate the 1911’s ergonomics in terms of grip angle, safety and mag release placement. No point in re-engineering the wheel but you can always improve it and put better tires on it.

  • ActionPhysicalMan

    I’m not sure “forthcoming” is an appropriate adjective for the MDR.

    • Uniform223

      People who have been waiting for the MDR to me remind me of the person stuck in the friend zone.

      • Pseudo

        You’re just jealous. We exchanged promise rings. Desert tech and I are just waiting for the MDR to be… more mature. Yeah, until we’re both ready! Then it will be great. You’ll see.

  • Uniform223

    If I could save up the money I would want to get either the KAC SR-15 or the ADM UIC.


    Nathan, to defend your thesis, bring up a rifle that does all or most of these equally well or better.

    • I did. The ACR, MDR, and G36.

      • LGonDISQUS

        I’ll re-read.


      • iHAL

        The ACR in stock form lacks the same length of pull adjustments of a modern AR. The only real improvement is the charging handle… Until you add certain popular optics.

        The MDR is not a production rifle at present time.

        The G36 lacks many fitment adjustments common to civilian ARs and military carbines. To add the charging handle is not nearly as accessable and the mag release issue is the same as the AR (albiet this point was a non problem)

        • Guy Slack

          ITT: People who’ve never held a G36 or ACR before.

      • Guy Slack


        I love the bolt release being in the trigger well or index finger operable. That to me is a slick function for even quicker reloads.

  • ARCNA442

    I think the most important aspect of the AR’s ergonomics, like most of its success, is its modularity. Sure some next gen carbines might have have a few more buttons and switches, but I am astounded at how many can’t even have the pistol grip replaced.

    In a world dominated by the AR, why would anyone design a $1000+ rifle where you have no choice but to use the factory stock, grip, and handguard? Even the military is beginning to want a level of user customization.

    • Reuven Mizraha

      Yes it is the most customizeable gun on the market, but it’s still an AR at the end of the day for better or for worse. Some people want a different form factor and one can’t customize an AR into an AK or Tavor.

  • JeffGoldblumWatchesUpoop

    Next article on TFB: “BREAKING: Scientists discover the most effective method to pick the fly poop out of pepper.”

  • 22winmag

    For crying out loud, what about the PISTOL GRIP?

    It fills the hand less than many handgun grips. Anyone with average to large hands is forced to arch their index finger back greatly in order to get a fingertip touch for precision or semi-precision shooting. The natural finger-to-trigger contact point for most hands is beyond “hooking”… it’s the 2nd knuckle!

    At least Strike Industries has addressed this GLARING ISSUE:

  • Henry Reed

    Sounds like the KAC SR-15 solves most of your grievances.

  • kyphe

    Point 1/ when people refer to the AR platform as ergonomic it is typically in relation to specific other platforms, which renders this whole article redundant. Something does not need to be the absolute ultimate in ergonomics to be called ergonomic. It just needs to be more ergonomic than it’s main contemporary. An ergonomic chair is a chair possessing ergonomic features, not a chair devoid of all un ergonomic features.
    Point 2/ being right handed bias does not have any baring to the term ergonomic, as many objects actually lose their ambidextrous nature when made ergonomic. Ergonomic target pistol grips are one example of this.
    Point 3/ You mention a number of AR platform firearms that have addressed the issues you raise. These are AR15! These are ergonomic by your own definition! The existence of these items negates your primary claim. Remember you said AR not M16! Is that me being pedantic? Yes! Is your article based on pedantic wordplay definition? also yes.

    It is fair to say that in the current market the AR is no longer the icon of ergonomics it once was, but this is not the era it gained this reputation. Ofc writing up this article in well reasoned terms, with a headline of “The AR is no longer as ergonomic!” would be far less click baity and accusations of being captain obvious would abound

  • Gusto

    I never cared for it. But havent got much exp behind one

    Actually surprised so many people chose chassi systems for longrange boltaction rifles that mimic the ar

    And The charging handle is stoopid

    • Jared Vynn

      The pistol grip and inline stock are some of the best ergonomic designs available. With a wide aftermarket of parts offering a broad range of adjustability for individuals it makes sense to design around the platform.

  • Hoplopfheil

    Oh what I would give for a top charging AR upper…

    Say one in the classic AR 10 style, and another variation with a G36 style ambi charge handle and a slightly raised flat top.

    • Jared Vynn

      Nodakspud has a top charging upper retro style.

      • A kit I very much have on order. Too bad they are MONTHS away in lead time.

        • Jared Vynn

          It’s just like waiting on a tax stamp.

      • Hoplopfheil

        That sounds awesome but I can’t find any for sale in current production. Was it just an experiment they did?

        • Jared Vynn

          They are backordered with lead times of up to 8 months currently.

  • HellGuard

    TL;DR Author is either a Clickbait Troll or Complete. All points have no merit or solid grounding in reality.

    Also see: Do you even AR-15 Bro?

    • Blake

      Seriously. There’s not a weapon in existence that would satisfy this level of nitpicking. The logical schism that takes place when someone says “need gross motor function… these controls are too easy to press!” in the same article is astounding.

  • okto

    Jesus, did you proofread this article at all?

  • int19h

    On the subject of charging handle, wherever you place it, it’s a trade-off.

    The most obvious location is on the left side, where it can be easily racked with supporting hand. But then it digs into the body when the rifle is slung flat against it. The original AK design actually had the handle on the left, but the committee that reviewed the rifle asked it to be moved to the right for this reason.

    On the right, obviously, it’s less convenient because now you need to either use the other hand to pull it, or turn the rifle sideways to do so with your supporting hand.

    There’s a reason why so many rifle designs tried to put it on the top (like AR-10 or FAMAS, or the contraption on G36). But then it gets in the way of your rail space and optics, and if you still want to have rails, you have to put them way higher – again, like on G36…

    The T-shaped AR design in the back is not perfect, either. But it puts the handle back where the protrusions don’t matter much, while still allowing you to use the other hand to rack it. And for something that’s not used as much in normal operation (because of bolt hold open), I don’t think it’s a bad trade-off.

    • Reuven Mizraha

      I don’t think that’s a good trade off, since one thing traded off is the ability to keep your head on the gun, eyes behind the sights and barrel on target. Something you can do with a forward charging handle.

      • int19h

        You can still keep your head on the gun, because you don’t need to use the charging handle at all during normal operation, thanks to BHO. The only time you need to rack the handle is when inserting the mag on an empty gun with bolt forward (i.e. not in combat, where this doesn’t matter), and when clearing a failure (where you’ll need to take your head off it anyway).

  • S. Plankenberg

    Who started this whole thing of referring to almost every military weapon as a ” platform “?
    What’s wrong with referring to them as ” designs ” or ” systems ” like we have all along?

    I thought a ” platform ” was like a table, step, or some elevated relatively level surface area, not some new buzzword to make the user sound cool.

    I am reasonably sure I am not the only one out here who finds this whole thing somewhat annoying.

    Or maybe I am.

    • I like having multiple words for the same thing so that I can change it up when I’m writing to keep my readers engaged.

  • Kevin Harron

    Editorial QC on this blog kinda sucks lately. Might want to look into that…

  • SLi-Fox

    Damn. Took a break from Star Trek Online to read this. I could have destroyed several Borg during this time. Sigh…

  • Nathan, you should get yourself a truly ergonomic rifle like the AK-74. It fixes all the problems you list.

  • Edeco

    Stating it like it’s 1:1 between dual, right-and-left controls and ergonomic or the ability to switch the controls on one receiver and ergonomic is sloppy. Someone might say more or less, that that’s the winning doctrine and it’s obviously correct to anyone who’s a real pipe hitter. Yawn.

  • Elvis

    The AR15 is very ergonomic…it’s just not very ambidextrous. Funny, I have a pair of scissors the same way.

    That word doesn’t mean what you think it means.

  • NashobaLosa

    Well guys, I can say the ejection system results were far from ergonomic when I carried an M16A1 and M16A2 during my eight years in the Guard from 1969 – 1979 (served six, out for two, back in for two). Every single time I went to the range I came back with little red rings burned onto my right cheek and on my neck from hot brass. Yes, I shoot left handed because of left eye dominance although I am right handed. Luckily, I had grown up with firearms from my Daisy Red Rider to my first .22 at age ten and my first shotgun at age 11. Dad was an avid dove and quail hunter and we went a lot. I got to where I could limit out on half a box of .410 shells every time we went for dove and quail. So I had overcome flinching as a child and the hot brass never affected my accuracy as a man. I qualified expert every year with the M16 and the M60. But it was definitely a “dance” sometimes when operating the M16 from the left side. I always detested the M16. And I was in the very last cycle to go through Basic and AIT with an M14 at Ft. Leonard Wood. I fired expert with the M14, too as well as the M1 Garand. I have never believed in wounding the enemy with a .22 bullet, but in killing them with a .30 cal. I finally bought a Bushmaster about four years ago because Obama told us he was going to take them away, but I have yet to fire it and it sits in the safe having only been broken down and cleaned every now and then. I will be 70 in a few months so I may never fire it. I just do not feel the need to bust any caps but .22 LR, .30-06, .308, .30-30 and 7MM Mag, and sometimes a .50 cal through my old smoke pole.

  • Guy Slack

    Good write up. You challenge conventional wisdom and make some excellent points. It sucks probably the majority of people who will comment won’t actually read it.

  • Bill

    All of this is true to an extent; however, just because the AR is not an AK does not mean it is all that bad. Many if not most of the handling deficiencies have been minimized by using IDF techniques, which revolve around using the off hand for most manipulation and keeping the stong hand on the grip. I learned to do it clear back in basic as a lefty and never looked back.

  • I watched the M16/AR-15 come into existence back in the 60s.
    The thing that struck me about it at the time was the carrying handle right smack dab on top of the receiver.
    It always struck me as highly non-ergonomic, compared to the traditional rifle or carbine form factor, e.g., Winchester Model 70, Remington 700, Savage 110.
    It was located exactly where either a good set of iron or glass sights ought to be.

  • tarnishedcopper

    I own an AR as well as a “few” other rifles. My first experience in firing one was in the law enforcement academy. I wasn’t impressed with it then and still consider it mediocre. Since I am a lefty, that might be part of it, but I can shoot almost equally well as a righty. Being used to shooting M-1 Garands as a kid in NRA matches and M-1 carbines, I’m sure taints my opinion of the AR, but for one thing, I dislike the metallic ring the recoil spring makes in it every time it is fired. And a carrying handle? Not too many years ago, I bought an AK and SKS. I like both of them over the AR. And now what I hate is every retailer ‘s ad is chocked full of various variations and parts for the AR, and little else. Make my weapon of choice 7.62 or .30 cal.

  • whamprod

    I’m going to tackle this, point by point. Some of it is true, but some of it is just dumb.

    1 Designed for Right-Handed Shooters & One-Sided Functions

    I am a lefty…..have been all my life. I can’t shoot well right handed. My first rifle was an inexpensive bolt action .308 – right handed. I didn’t like the way I had to manipulate the bolt, but I got used to it. The point? Man up. Later in life, I did buy two left-handed bolt action rifles; but I would submit that “handedness” is a LOT more important in a bolt action than in a semiauto. I can do a pistol mag change faster using my left index finger on the mag release, than I can with my left thumb on an ambidextrous mag release. On an AR15 – of which I own several, I find the bolt release paddle to work very well for my left index finger. As far as the mag release, I can drop and AR mag just as easily as a right hander, and I don’t have to move my trigger hand. Right ejection? So what? It’s far enough in front of my face to be a none issue. My ONLY complaint is that when firing suppressed, smoke and gasses coming out of the ejection port are more likely to get in my nose and eyes than for a right handed shooter. But the bottom line is, cowboy up. I had an opportunity to buy a left-handed AR the other day. I passed. It just wasn’t that important to me.

    2. Charging Handle

    Yes, it is time to update Stoner’s design with a side-charging handle – reciprocal or not, I don’t care. I own a SCAR 17. I moved the charging handle to the right side of the rifle. It bothers me not one bit. Worried about your thumb? Learn to hold the rifle correctly and the problem goes away.

    SCARs are too damned expensive to buy another one, but the next time I build an AR, I’m going to see if I can do something with a side-charging handle instead of that ridiculous thing Stoner designed.

    3. Mag Catch / Release 

    See #1. Man up.

    4. Bolt Catch and Release

    See #1. Man up.
    5. Gas Venting

    I own both DI and gas piston ARs, and I shoot both suppressed. Guess what? The gas piston AR is only marginally cleaner than the DI gun after shooting suppressed.


    I love the AR15 platform too, but I think you misunderstand when someone says another platform’s ergonomics are “good” because they mimic an AR15’s ergonomics. What’s “good” about that is that the other platform will be instantly familiar to anyone who has operated an AR15 or its military derivatives, which amounts to several tens of millions of Americans. Cross platform familiarity is “good”, even if the original ergonomics on which the alternate platforms are based aren’t perfect.

  • John Wesley Bletsch

    Having carried a M-14 in Vietnam, I hated the reissue of a Mattel toy M-16, despite the hoopla the rifle was fragile & prone to stoppages. My first such stoppage was on the second magazine in test firing on full auto when the second round failed to chamber and jammed crossways in the receiver. In combat that stoppage caused the deaths of too many. To clear the stoppage it’s necessary to break the action open, remove the bolt carrier group and knock the bent round out with a cleaning rod. Cleaning rods were multiple section affairs requiring assembly by screwing them together. I think some grunts actually taped their assembled cleaning rods to their weapons to facilitate the process. All that being said, my M-14 never stopped working and was far more rugged and usable in close fighting using the weapon as an impact weapon. The M-16 was too light and fragile for that. BTW I detest the fact you must break your firing position to work the charging handle. M-14 had a finger hook on the operating rod you could use without lifting from shooting position during magazine changes. That’s a much better set up for a combat rifle.

  • supergun

    The AR carbine is small enough for a truck gun. It is very accurate at needed distance. The prices are very low. The bullets are very light and many can be carried. It holds many bullets in one magazine. It is a very light gun to carry. It can be cleaned relatively quickly and easily. Adaptability for accessories and other platforms are very simple. Almost no recoil. Pretty damn good weapon in my book.

  • LilWolfy

    Every single paragraph is a flawed argument.

    1. The AR15 bolt catch and release is in an ideal location for lefties, as is the mag release button when they come up to remove the magazine with their right hand. I’ve seen left-handed shooters manipulate the weapon with ease, especially those who train with it, and that was in the Army before all these modern tactical training circuits existed. Guys from Ranger Regiment were usually faster on the controls than RH shooters who had less experience.

    2. You use the charge handle once on your first loading of the first magazine before going outside the wire, and in the rare case of malfunctions.

    3. Mag release is perfectly placed for LH shooters for support hand thumb activation. I’m trying to think of any inadvertent mag releasing across 23 years of operational use across 5 Continents….drawing a blank on that one. Also, the concept of negation of fine motor skills being lost in combat is BS. I present to you the trigger.

    4. LH shooters have an advantage with the bolt catch and release because they can lock the bolt to the rear without removing the firing hand from the rifle. In this case, RH shooters are at a disadvantage, and I thought this would be pointed out in the article.

    5. “In piston guns, this venting is resolved far forward of the shooter.” This is patently false, and is proven so with high speed video. You get the same amount of gas venting from the chamber with an external op rod gun.