Living with the AR-15 by Robert H Boatman

Living with the AR-15
(The Complete Guide to the World’s Most Versatile Rifle for Civilians)

I must say, I thoroughly enjoy reading the Boatman books on firearms-related subjects. The father-son team of Robert and Morgan Boatman are both experienced firearms enthusiasts and accomplished writers who produce very informative works on their favorite subject matter. As an added bonus, their writing style is both direct and, quite often, humorously entertaining. While recently reviewing Robert’s book on the versatility and indispensability of the AR-15, I found him to be in top form. The book entitled: Living with the AR-15 (The Complete Guide to the World’s Most Versatile Rifle for Civilians) is a concise advocacy piece on why all free citizens of the Republic ought to have an AR, or two, or three… in their battery.

Living with the AR-15
Living with the AR-15

Without question the book is a rip roaring read covering everything from the origins of the AR-15 platform, its subsequent maturation into a robust and reliable weapon, and on to its unique modular design – all written with a decidedly Conservative bent. Sprinkled liberally (small “l”, not capital “L”) throughout the text are interesting asides where the author discusses many of the historical, military, social, and political issues which have impacted the AR platform over the years. He addresses these in rather direct, un-PC fashion, and this makes for a most interesting read of what would otherwise be dry, technical type information. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being critical of Boatman’s position on things political or social. As a staunch, freedom loving Conservative myself, with more than a passing knowledge of history, I share most of his positions.

To begin Boatman traces the origins of the revolutionary AR design back to late WWII, and work by the Germans and the Russians to field lightweight “assault rifles” chambered for relatively lighter, intermediate powered cartridges. This as opposed to fielding larger, heavier battle rifles with their correspondingly larger, more powerful cartridges. From that point onward, the arms designers’ Holy Grail was to give the infantry soldier a rifle embodying the optimum balance between firepower, lethality, and portability, for use in shorter range engagements hypothesized as being the norm in future combat. A bit later on in the post-war period Eugene Stoner, here in the U.S., began work on his AR design which would attempt to satisfy these basic criteria.

From there, the author discusses the eventual adoption in the mid 1960’s by the U.S. Department of Defense of Stoner’s innovative rifle design. The DoD designated it as the M-16, chambered in 5.56mm. When the M-16 was adopted it superseded the then-standard issue rifle, the M-14 chambered in 7.62mm. Boatman contends that the M-16 prevailed over the M-14 due to the M-14 being outdated, obsolete, and “clunky”. I would argue that this contention is somewhat erroneous in that the M-14 has remained in the active inventory since it’s adoption, and is currently being deployed, in appreciable numbers, in combat use worldwide – particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan where the need for the 7.62mm’s range and punch are required over the relatively underpowered 5.56mm round in these two respective areas. Not trying to ignite a 5.56 M-16 vs. 7.62 M-14 debate; I just want to ensure that the record on this subject is correct. For balance, it is appropriate to note that a 7.62mm version of the AR design has recently been adopted by U.S. armed forces for use in long range sniper rifle roles.

From this initial discussion of the AR platform’s military origins, the book’s successive chapters delve into the specifics of why the AR-15 (in it’s over-the-counter designation) is imminently suited to civilian usage. Civilians have been able to own the semi-automatic version of the AR-15 over the same time period that the U.S. military has been relying on the M-16 platform as our nation’s official infantry rifle. Throughout that time private sector and military improvements to the rifle have been embraced by both groups of users. Boatman focuses on the applicability of the rifle for a range of civilian applications (which have direct military/LE correlation): Self-defense, training, competition, plinking, and hunting. He makes persuasive arguments as to the merits of using the AR platform for each type of shooting.

By the 1990’s civilian usage of the AR-15 rifle was starting to grow rapidly. In part this was in regard to refinements to the AR’s design, operating system, and individual components. Additionally it was due to the rifle’s highly innovative modular design which allows the user to change upper receiver/barrel/sight configurations quickly and easily in order to set the rifle up for a range of uses. From short-barreled, red dot sight, close-quarters-battle (CQB) applications, standard configuration for basic plinking, larger-caliber conversions for hunting, accurized versions for competition, and on up to large-caliber conversions for long-range precision applications, civilians have appreciated the fact that essentially one basic AR lower receiver assembly will fit the bill for all duties. The author comprehensively addresses these wide ranging uses over successive chapters.

As of this writing one of the last major enhancements to the platform’s operating system is being addressed. The use of an operating rod in the rifle’s re-designed gas system, in order to power the action, is now being fielded on the civilian and military fronts. An active S.F. trooper friend advises that the op-rod driven uppers are in high demand amongst the SOCCOM community members. Heretofore the direct-impingement set up of the gas system somewhat necessitated extra care to be taken when selecting ammunition, and by way of keeping the breech area relatively clean. Hard chroming of the bolt assembly and the inclusion of the upper receiver’s forward-assist mechanism were eventual measures incorporated to mitigate the effects of the original gas system design. The op-rod driven gas system now fully matures the excellent Stoner design, especially when combined with the outright versatility of its modular design in relation to the plethora of upper assembly configurations and accessories on the market today.

In closing, Boatman gives sound advice to those citizens, whether they wish to acquire an AR, or enhance theirs. In a nutshell it is: Practice, practice, practice. Train realistically, and train/shoot often. Seek out knowledgeable, experienced instruction, in a variety of forms, and repetitively drill the basic tenets of said instruction. Through routine usage gain intimate familiarity with your AR in order to handle it both safely and confidently as well as to understand its capabilities.

Often times you read books such as this and they stop at the water’s edge focusing on the “hardware”, and not discussing the “software” of what’s required of the operator to be successful in employing his weapon with utmost effectiveness. In this regard, Boatman’s book is refreshing in that it drives home the free citizen’s responsibilities when it comes to what it takes to effectively exercise their God-given and constitutional rights of self-defense and firearms ownership. Living with the AR-15 (The Complete Guide to the World’s Most Versatile Rifle for Civilians) is not your average dry, just-the-facts ma’am, compendium of AR15 designs and gadgets. Boatman presents his thesis on “why” the AR is ideally suited to civilian use, as well as his overview of all of one’s AR options, in an acerbic, thought-provoking style that definitely holds your attention.

Check out Living with the AR-15 (The Complete Guide to the World’s Most Versatile Rifle for Civilians) at Robert and Morgan Boatman’s new website: Additional information, reader testimonials, and photos of the book can be found there. Biographical information on the father-son team of authors can also be found, in addition to information on their other firearm-related books. You can purchase a copy of the book in this review directly from the website.

Reviewed By: B.T. Davis