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I Should Compete With My AR-15 More

When I bought my first gun in 2011, I wanted a manual safety. How do I know it won’t accidentally go off without that?

When I first started carrying concealed in 2012, I was nervous about carrying one in the chamber. I’d shot competition enough and spent enough time around holstered handguns to know that they don’t just go off on their own, and yet the fear lingered. I know that nothing can reach in and pull the trigger of my gun in its IWB holster, but still… what if that did happen? The fear of the phantom unknown.

This fear leads people to carry their gun without a bullet in the chamber or to be unreasonably afraid of appendix carry. There are some actual perils associated with appendix carry, almost all of them having to do with holstering a hot gun without it going off. But what if? What if some phantom force reached in once the gun was holstered and pulled the trigger? The fear of the phantom unknown.

This fear nags at you. It frays your calm. The first few times you carry concealed, you worry about it. The first few times you carry appendix, you worry about it. As near as I can tell, the only antidote is familiarity, repetition, and time. Do what you have to do to slowly gain the confidence that there is no mysterious unknown you haven’t accounted for that will cause the striker of your holstered XDs to slip off the sear and discharge a round in to your pelvis.

Which brings me back to my AR-15. I built an AR from parts last year and bought a tricked out semi-auto shotgun in anticipation of branching out into 3 gun. That hasn’t happened, for reasons that could fill another blog post, but my spreadsheet tells me that, between sight-in and two matches, I’ve put exactly 263 rounds through the AR in the last year.

And yet, every time I press it in to service for bedside duty, I think about that free floating firing pin. I think about the tiny, almost imperceptible primer dimple it leaves every time it chambers a round. And that fear of the phantom unknown appears. “Man I hope this isn’t the time I send a 55-grainer through the wall and blow out my ear drums.”

I have every rational, sensible reason to trust the AR-15 pattern to function exactly how it has for billions of rounds in the last half century. But lacking that personal, first-hand experience with loading, firing, and unloading it repetitively, the phantom fear lingers.

About Ben

Blog contributor. Active in IDPA and USPSA, and he won't flinch if you call him a rules lawyer. Ben is a beard wearing, bacon eating, whiskey drinking, motorcycle riding, coder.


  1. A) Yes you should compete with your AR more often, because 3 gun is stupidly fun.
    B) I’ve seen AR’s slam fire in 3 Gun, (even watched Lena Miculek get DQ’d for that very reason) but those were highly tuned race guns.
    C) If not 3 gun, then take of the more calmer “tactical” Carbine classes out there. I did the Combat Focus Shooting Carbine class awhile back, and it was refreshingly clear of “Rex Kwan Do” talk.

    • A) Hmm, rifle and shotgun don’t necessarily go together for me. I’d like to get more familiarization with the carbine without having to rip my thumbnail off on the loading gate of my Remington 1100…
      C) I was thinking about our local rifle-only or 2-gun rifle/pistol matches, but you may be right. A class would probably give me a better baseline.

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