Shawn Ryan's Thoughts on the AR15 America Actually Owns

Shawn Ryan's Thoughts on the AR15 America Actually Owns

The Blue Collar AR15

In a recent Patreon video, I talked with Shawn about the merits of a budget friendly carbine with a budget friendly optic. We slung a few mags down range and talked philosophy on the economics of AR15s. We also talked about the guns you see on social media vs the guns that are actually in safes across the country. Full video on Patreon 26 min

Will The AR America Actually Owns Get the Job Done?

The main question that I had for him was whether a premium AR15 setup is worth the extra money for most people in comparison to purchasing an entry level AR from a major manufacturer and spending the remaining budget on ammo, range time and training.

Shawn's answer: The training is more important than the gear.

Shawn Ryan The Blue Collar AR15

The M&P 15 Sport used in this video is probably the most common, economically friendly, example of America's favorite rifle. It is a solid reference standard for the entry level AR15s (similar models: Sig M400, Springfield Saint, Ruger AR-556, PSA CHF Premium Series, etc). I wanted to get Shawn Ryan's opinions on the guns that most of America actually owns.


The entry level optic in this example was a no frills Primary Arms red dot. Is it an AimPoint? No it’s not. But, the whole setup also costs substantially less than the AimPoint optic without a mount. 

Is the PA sight better than not having a red dot? I think so. 

Not all of us can afford optics in the $500-$800 range. I also wonder if it makes sense to put a premium optic on an entry level carbine. If you are on a limited budget, I would argue that the cheaper optic, a case of ammo and a training course would make more sense.

The question you’ll need to answer yourself is whether or not you hit the point of diminishing returns with price, quality and functionality.

What Needs Upgrading?

Shawn covered a few things he would change and add on a bare bones setup for defense.

Plastic Iron Sights

The main takeaway was upgrading the polymer iron sights to a metal variant from an established manufacturer (Magpul, Daniel Defense, Midwest Industries, etc).

Iron sights should be on every defensive carbine as a backup in case your optic fails. They can also be used as a reference when zeroing red dot sights.

The other must have was a weapon light. If a carbine is going to be used in a defensive roll, the shooter needs to be able to ID targets. A weapon light is necessary. Shawn’s preference is SureFire but he noted that Streamlight is an option for those on a tighter budget.


The thing to hammer home here: Knowing how to use the gear you have is more important than having the coolest toys on the market. Having an expensive gun you never shoot or that is not fully set up will not help you in a defensive situation.

Jon Howard Director of Marketing | Vigilance Elite

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