I went in to Shooters Mart to by some .22 shorts for the kids to shoot through Grandma’s Ruger Single Six. After finding the ammo I inquired about the lever guns they had on hand.
I’d been casually shopping for a good ole lever action rifle for years. I’ve weighed the benefits of 30-30 vs. .357 Magnum. I’ve looked at every permutation in those calibers. I’ve shot Marlins in 30-30 and a 45-70. Every time the lever gun put a smile on my face.
While talking with the proprietor I start asking some questions.
“Should I really get a bolt gun?”
“I want to learn iron sights first, I don’t have much rifle experience.”
“Maybe I should get another .22.”
I think he sensed my avoidance of the AR-15 and said, “you’ve never looked at ARs have you?”
I hadn’t. And I didn’t really have a great reason other than the massive popularity of them. I didn’t think they were evil or anything like that (all guns are dangerous). I just plain didn’t like them. If I were to buy a semi-auto rifle I swore I’d get an AK47 because they looked better and they weren’t as fetishized as the AR-15.
He hands me a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 Sport. I start fiddling with it. Work the charging handle. Extend the stock. Look through the sights. This thing feels good. It’s still kind of ugly, like all ARs, but it’s clean. The sides are smooth, the finish is nice.
We start to talk about the good and bad. What features each one has. I try a few different brands out and keep coming back to that M&P Sport. It’s “missing” the forward assist button and the dust cover. I ask why that matters.
I understand the existence of those features, but they are not applicable to me or my use of a rifle. So I ask him, “why are these better.”
The curt response I got was great. “Well, if you’re around a bunch of AR guys and you show up without those features they’ll probably think it’s not a real AR. But, you don’t need them with what you want to do and they add weight and complexity.”
I’m 95% sold on this exact gun, but I know I need to do my due diligence and try an AK. They look evil (which is good) and they feel … sloppy. I’m sure it would function with 8 lbs. of sand in it, but it felt old and tired. If I were going for old and tired I’d start looking at the lever guns again.
I kept trying a few of the different ARs he had on hand but kept coming back to the Smith. It had the shortest pull of all of them and Dylan and Evan could both shoulder it with the stock fully collapsed. They looked at me with the “please buy it” eyes … and I did.