Is There Room for a Traditional Civilian Semiauto Rifle?

    We live in a world today that is completely inundated with AR-15 pattern rifles. In 2016, for just five Benjamins – sometimes even less! – you can purchase your very own fantactical black rifle and rely on it to work when you need to and shoot where you mean to. I won’t try to say otherwise: The AR-15 series is a great design, and it deserves its place at the center of the US civilian market.

    However… Sometimes there are people who want, or even need a rifle that’s not an AR-15. There are a couple of possible reasons why. First, the AR-15 has a distinctive look, and one that in some localities can have legal consequences. To many still, an “assault rifle” is a weapon of war, and while there will doubtless be many who rightly protest the contrary in my comments, that sentiment does affect how some willing gun buyers feel about their purchases. Maybe there is a need for a weapon that looks slightly more “domestic”?


    French policemen using Mousqueton A.M.D. rifles, derived from the Mini-14. These guns were selected for their domestic looks as opposed to more offensive-seeming “black rifles”.


    Second, there are concerns of stowage. The AR-15 is an extremely well-designed rifle from a shooting perspecitve, but it’s a bumpy rifle with numerous snags and protuberances that can make deploying it from behind a truck seat or other hiding place a frustrating effort. It’s possible to build an AR-15 that is much more snag free, but of course such a configuration is far from “off the shelf”.

    You could build a rifle like this to take advantage of its snag-free profile, but hardly anyone will.


    Recently, Grant Cunningham – steely-eyed wheelgun man and perimeter defense rifle advocate – raised another shortcoming of the AR-15: Height over bore (HOB). Essentially, the issue is that at very close distances (less than 20 yards), the ~2.6″ (6.6cm) offset between the bore of the rifle and the sights can under certain circumstances cause a round to miss – such as for example missing a varmint and going instead into the wall of a new truck bed! The solution to this problem is a design that allows as low a sight height as possible, something impossible with the current AR-15 family.

    There are alternatives of course; I’m sure many of you in the comments will point out that the various lever-action offerings, the Mini-14, reproduction M1 Carbines, and even the Ares SCR, offer improvements in one or more of these areas. Each of these alternatives carries disadvantages, though. Leverguns suffer from vulnerable tubular magazines, poor durability, corrosion resistance, and parts life, expensive ammunition, and needing manual operation, while the Mini-14 and its close cousin the M1 Carbine have been plagued by accuracy issues, high cost ($200+ more than competing AR-15s), and severe reactions to dust and debris.

    It seems to me that something that solves all of these issues could possibly be created and marketed at a reasonable price… But I ask: Would any of you buy one over an AR-15? Let us know in the comments!

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]