A Profile of the Average AR-15 Gun Owner

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a trade association for the firearms industry, puts out some interesting stuff once in a while. Their latest piece is a survey called “21 Findings About Modern Sporting Rifle Owners.” By “modern sporting rifle” what they mean are rifles based on the AR platform. There was a boom in sales of AR rifles from late 2008 through early 2010 (the post-Obama election firearm buying frenzy).

Eager to learn more about owners of AR-style rifles (for marketing purposes, I’m sure), they conducted a survey. Included in the survey are 21 interesting facts about AR gun owners.

  1. 60% of AR owners own more than one, with the average being 2.6
  2. 30% purchased their first rifle in 2009 or 2010
  3. 99% of owners owned some type of firearm prior to their first AR purchase
  4. 90% owned a handgun first, and 34% of those under the age of 35 owned a paintball gun first
  5. 44% of owners are current or former military or law enforcement members
  6. 51% of owners have a shooting-range membership
  7. 80% of owners purchased their AR rifle new
  8. 39% of owners purchased their most recent AR rifle at an independent retail store, with the average price being $1,083
  9. 75% of the ARs most recently purchased were chambered in .223/5.56mm
  10. AR owners consider accuracy and reliability to be the 2 most important things to consider when buying an AR
  11. 84% have at least 1 accessory on their rifle, and they spend an average of $436 on after-market accessories and customization
  12. 71% of AR owners use a scope or red-dot as their primary optics. Older owners prefer scopes; younger owners prefer red-dot optics.
  13. The 3 most-owned accessories were a sling (81%), soft carrying case (70%) and mounted scope (68%)
  14. 33% of AR rifle owners use a 30-plus round magazine most often on their rifle
  15. 25% of those who own 3 or more ARs describe their ARs as heavily accessorized (4-plus accessories)
  16. Recreational target shooting was the No. 1-rated reason for owning an AR in terms of importance (89%), home defense was next (77%), followed by collecting (63%) and varmint hunting (6%).
  17. 95% of owners said they have used their ARs in the last 12 months, and 29% of owners shoot their rifles more than once per month
  18. 25% of owners shot more than 1,000 rounds out of their AR rifles in the last 12 months
  19. 80% of owners feel they have not been able to shoot their rifle as much as they would have liked in the last 12 months
  20. Not having enough free time and the cost of ammunition are the 2 main issues preventing AR-style rifle owners from shooting as much as they’d like.
  21. The typical AR-style rifle owners is 35-plus years old, married and has some college education.

I don’t know the exact research methodology used, but I’m guessing whatever gun owner data they pulled was probably from a source that contains avid gun owners. That could skew the statistics some. For example, I know that AR style gun owners tend to really like the rifle (you’d have to if you’re spending that much money), but I question whether the typical AR rifle owner actually owns 2.6 of them. That sounds high.

The fact that 30% of all owners surveyed bought their rifle in 2009 or 2010 was a surprise. I knew that number would be high, but not that high. I knew a lot of former military and police would own ARs, but not to the tune of 44%. I guess they liked what they used, or maybe they just like it because they’re already familiar with it.

It wasn’t that surprising to me that the typical AR owner is 35+ with a college education. Nor was it a shocker that younger owners prefer red-dot optics and older owners like scopes.

If you own an AR, do the stats describe you?

– RM

BTW: I searched Google news for “AR-15” to see what turned up. The majority of results fell into 1 of 2 categories, ARs used in crimes, and police departments looking to purchase ARs. Then there was this article, from Maine even, on FBI and state police arresting a man on federal firearms charges. The guy was reportedly obsessed with training to fight and that he had:

… buried “go bags” made out of 5-gallon buckets at strategic locations on his property, and that the bags contained firearms, food, and other equipment he might need if police came to get him.

He supposedly smoked a ton of dope and had an angry streak. The story and comments are interesting – read the article here.

20 comments… add one
  • Joe May 19, 2011, 7:29 am

    Very interesting statistics! I’m with you; some figures seem a bit hard to believe while others are very much in line with my expectations.

    Joe

    Reply
  • JohnDoe 1999 May 19, 2011, 8:12 am

    Reading news stories like that makes me want my damn civil liberties back. I blame both parties. I live in CA, a semi auto AR15 with a 30 round magazine might as well be an M2 50 Caliber Machine Gun or a Stinger missile. 30 rounds in STANDARD CAPACITY!

    Reply
  • ChefBear58 May 19, 2011, 9:31 am

    Just what the rest of us need… a dope smokin’ weirdo who is all kinds of whacked out binging bad press to the survivalist/prepper community… Half the public who has ever heard of survivalists/preppers already thinks we are a bunch of lunatics who sit in a dark basement surrounded by cans of spam wearing tin-foil hats and stroking our firearms like a freakin’ pet!

    I don’t prescribe to the idea that it’s a good idea to stash firearms where they can’t be controlled (anybody could stumble upon his stash, and it would likely be a kid who has no clue about firearms safety!). My question is, how did this guy get “on the radar”? There must be some other factors involved in this.

    Reply
  • WSC May 19, 2011, 10:47 am

    The stats are not all that surprising to me. I bought an Alexander Arms 6.5 Grendel in 2008. I bought it primarily for hunting but I keep it kitted out for more self defense purposes. I have a scope with detachable mounts, but I keep my EOtech on it when not hunting. I have thought about getting a .223 upper for the range, but figure I may as well just buy another AR for that purpose. I had a very nice battery of hunting rifles pre-Katrina. I bugged out and the looters made off with several very nice hunting rifles and shotguns. I am slowly replacing them but rather than getting another Model 70, I went with the AR for its ability to do more than one thing. An AR-10 in .308 is probably next so I pretty much meet the demographic.

    Reply
    • Chefbear May 22, 2011, 4:15 am

      WSC- What’s your impression of the 6.5 Grendel? I have been mulling over which AR I want to build/buy. I was looking at the 6.5 because you can’t hunt in VA with the .223 AR. How is yours with cheaper brands of ammo? How much did it cost when you bought it? Are parts/accessories easy to find for your Alexander? I have heard that the 6.5 rounds will fit in a standard AR15 magazine, just with a diminished capacity, have you tried it? How is your 6.5 to shoot? Much recoil? Is it as easy as a standard AR to field strip?

      Sorry for all the questions, but I haven’t run across many folks who have a 6.5, almost everyone around here that I meet who has an AR either has a .308 (AR10), the standard 5.56/.223, or a pistol caliber upper (usually 9mm for some reason), I did come across a guy who had a S&W M&P .22cal AR (why someone would spend $900 on a .22, I cannot fathom!), it wasn’t an upper that he switched out, he actually bought a .22 AR!

      Reply
      • Ranger Man May 22, 2011, 9:17 am

        The 6.5 has nice ballistics, but the problem is that there is nowhere near the kind of ammo variety and availability that there is with the 5.56.

        The S&W M&P is not $900, it’s less than half that. They’re fun little toys and good for low-cost training on the same .223 AR platform (assuming you can justify the expense).

        Reply
        • wsc1964 May 22, 2011, 9:30 am

          6.5 is great. I paid just under 1200 bucks for it with one ten round and two 25 round magazines. Ranger Man is right that the ammo selection is not as great as for a 5.56 BUT what is available is very good. I have my scope sighted for the Swift Scirrocos. They are available from Alexander Arms. They are pricy but are good for hunting. I also handload them. My Eotech is sighted for the Wolf ammunition. It is relatively cheap but not like .223 or .308. It is a soft point so you could hunt with it but why. Like I said, I got it as a hunting rifle with double duty.(I live in New Orleans) All the ammo is bought up pretty much when it becomes available. I have stockpiled ammo and components for it every chance I get. Strips just like any AR and will take standard upper. Oh and it is a tack driver, even with a midlength barrel. Took three deer with it this season and headed to West Texas to shoot pronghorn and Mule deer next season.

          Reply
          • Chefbear May 22, 2011, 2:58 pm

            Awesome, thanks guys. One of the few things that I have heard about the 6.5 is that it is extremely accurate compared to some of the other calibers.

            RM- I was exaggerating the price of the S&W M&P, even at $500 or so, I can’t see why anyone would buy one that is solely .22 caliber. I could see getting a .22 upper, or conversion kit (like the one you guys reviewed a while back) for a standard AR, but to buy one that cannot swap uppers, to me seems a bit ridiculous. Looking at the sale adds for Bass Pro recently I saw the 10/22’s on sale for around $150, you could buy 2 or 3 of those for the price of 1 AR-style .22, again it just doesn’t seem worth it to me…

  • diggerwolf May 19, 2011, 11:16 am

    I wonder what’s his screen name on ar15.com?

    Reply
    • Anonymous May 19, 2011, 2:57 pm

      who?

      Reply
  • russell1200 May 19, 2011, 12:39 pm

    I prefer the 7.62, and I am older and over-educated, but otherwise it sounds accurate.

    If you look at the demographics of a typical prepper sight readership, you would get number 22 to the “tee” except that the age would be about 10 to 15 years higher.

    Reply
  • riverrider May 19, 2011, 1:46 pm

    i have 7, from 9mm to 50bmg. everybody that i know that owns one, owns at least another. i’m 48, retired military, college degree, married, have eotech’s and red- dots, but converting quickly to magnification due to eyesight. i’d say the survey was accurate:)

    Reply
  • YukonBry May 19, 2011, 4:04 pm

    I don’t own the AR, but shot it plenty in the military and elsewhere. Great weapons.

    When I was ready to buy a 5.56 weapon in 2008, the AR’s were ridculously high. I went against the adivce of many friends, and went with a new Mini-14. In my assessment the AR is more accurate and more durable. But the Mini fires any kind of ammo and keeps firing even after getting filthy. That’s what I needed; a carbine that could spend long intervals collecting dust on the gunrack of pickup, yet remain poised to pronounce divine edict upon the usuurping coyotes.

    I’d still like to have an AR. But since I have a terrific Garand and lots of loaded clips in the safe, anything in 5.56 feels like putt-putt.

    Bry

    Reply
    • Chefbear May 22, 2011, 3:09 pm

      I like the mini-14’s to, if nothing else they are great for varmint hunting and just a blast to shoot… I almost bought a pair of them at a gun show a few years back, but one of them had what the seller described as a “sticky trigger”, that combined with some cosmetic issues (one had the wooden stock spray-painted black) made me decide not to purchase them, the guy was asking $650 for the pair along with a 2-rifle hard case, a few hundred rounds of cheap, cheap ammo, a junk-lookin’ BSA scope and 2 military surplus cleaning kits. In hindsight, I probably should have picked them up, but oh-well!

      If anyone has access to the BX/PX on base, the ones that carry firearms (there is a list on the BX/PX website) have Ruger mini-14’s with synthetic stock, mounting rails, and I think they come with a soft-case for $650. I saw it in the ads they sent out for this month, so it’s worth checking out, I saw the same model in Gander Mtn the other day for around $800.

      Reply
  • 3rdMan May 19, 2011, 7:16 pm

    Except for number 2 and 8, it pretty much sums me up!

    Reply
  • Jason May 19, 2011, 8:58 pm

    One thing not mentioned in the article was the fact that he had an autographed copy of Dirt Cheap Survival in his back pocket & was an rabid follower of The Survivalist Blog. Is it really any wonder why he had anger issues & was highly aggressive?

    Reply
    • Schatzie Ohio May 19, 2011, 10:33 pm

      Come on Jason – give it a break

      Reply
      • Jason May 20, 2011, 2:50 pm

        Schatzie,

        Point taken, no excuse – thank you.

        Reply
  • EZE May 20, 2011, 5:10 am

    I’ve got 9 complete plus another lower. .22 to .308, Equip’d with irons to rails to EOTechs to scopes. Mid 40’s, college, married, no kids. I figured I was on the far side >>>>>

    Reply
  • Casey in CA May 20, 2011, 1:20 pm

    The numbers aren’t really surprising. I bought my first 2 lowers in 2008 and have built them up. Since then I have gotten 2 more stripped lowers and 1 308 stripped lower. I’m in my late 20s, married, college, and don’t have many accessories on my ARs. I prefer irons or scopes to red-dots (batteries die and more prone to failure).

    Reply

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