During a two-day AR-15 armorer course at Rendezvous Gun Range in Logan, gun owner Lee Pratt learned a few things about his seven-year-old rifle.
Upon disassembly and instruction from Phoenix-based gun expert Will Larson, Pratt discovered that his gas rings and gas tube were worn down.
“There are things I didn’t notice because the gun still functioned fine,” Pratt said.
His gun has fired nearly 12,000 rounds, but Larsen said it’s only a matter of time until the rifle starts to malfunction.
“The question is: At 2 in the morning when someone is breaking into his house, does it decide to fail and he gets one round off and then the gun malfunctions?” Larson asked the class.
For law enforcement professionals, he said the gun might malfunction during a shootout with bank robbers.
“Gun goes down, you go down, right? So $3.50 gas rings, or whatever your life insurance policy is or payout,” Larson said. “You’ve got to look at it that way.”
The 16-hour class held Friday and Saturday goes beyond the typical shooter training. Instead of taking the guns to the range, Larson took to the classroom and guided the group of 10 gun hobbyists and law enforcement professionals in detailed instruction of how to take apart, reassemble, test and maintain their AR-15s.
He compared it to knowing how to change the oil in your car.
“In this case here, guys can actually learn in class how to fix stuff instead of taking it to a gunsmith that charges $50 an hour … it’s a little more on the lines of a self-reliant thing,” Larson said.
Rendezvous Gun Range Manager Nate Osborne said he organized the training to try to combat the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias in which people tend to overestimate their abilities — you don’t know what you don’t know. He said that’s especially a problem in the Beehive State.
“Utah is kind of known as the black hole for firearms training,” Osborne said.
He said he wanted to host the two-day course to help change that perception. Instead of people buying a lot of different guns, he said he would like to see more education.
Matt Landfair, a law enforcement firearms writer and podcaster, said a decent AR-15 costs about $1,000 and ammunition will set you back a few hundred bucks, so spending a little bit more on training makes sense.
“The whole thing is a system, the whole thing is an investment and it’s an investment in yourself,” he said. “So we can get the best gun in the world, but if you yourself aren’t trained and you don’t know what you’re doing, what good is it?”
He agreed with Osborne that there is a lack of training in Utah. He used to host a training course in Salt lake City but in the last couple of years people stopped coming out. He isn’t sure why there isn’t much interest in Utah, but it could be because “we’re in the middle of nowhere.”
“You don’t usually get stuff like this in Utah,” Ed Robinson, a law enforcement officer, said.
He said he has notebook full of new information from the two-day course. It’s especially important in his line of work.
“For me, professionally, if our weapons aren’t working correctly, that could mean serious problems” Robinson said. “It’s not just a hobby thing; people rely on these things for their lives.”
There’s no doubt of the popularity of the AR-15. Larson said it’s been the most popular gun in the country for the past 10 years. The U.S. banned the AR-15 and several other firearms with similar features in 1994, but the ban expired in 2004.
All five branches of the military use combat versions of the AR-15, such as the M16 or M4 Carbine, so there are a lot of veterans who purchase a rifle when they come home. He said the AR-15 is lightweight, has low recoil, is easy to use and somewhat inexpensive.
The term “AR-15” is most commonly a reference to the Colt AR-15, which is the semiautomatic version of the military’s M16. While Colt still makes the AR-15, the designation is sometimes used as a blanket term covering similar rifles from other manufacturers. Some may assume the “AR” stands for “assault rifle,” but according to Armalite, the company that developed the rifle the M16 was based on, it actually stands for “Armalite rifle.”
Larson said the two of the main causes of gun malfunction are age and improper installation, but it’s all preventable if you know what you’re doing.
“If you don’t know, you don’t know, right?” Larson said to the class.