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Practically Shooting

I Missed an Important Anniversary!

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I just realized I missed a milestone. Last Thursday marked 30 years of AR-15 ownership for me!

On June 20, 1984, it arrived.

I had saved up the $412.90 (plus shipping) from working farm jobs, and had my closest gun shop order one from a distributor in PA. This was the model known now as an SP1, but at the time was just "an AR-15". You only had two choices then: a 20" Colt or a 16" Colt.

Colt had introduced the A2 style in the AR-15s by then, but I hadn't seen any yet. I wanted the Vietnam-era style anyway, so tried to hurry up and get one while I had the chance.

I had to order it because they weren't around then. There were some Mini-14s around and some M1 Carbines, but I knew of nobody owning an AR. I had seen three in gun shops- ever. All were big shops that could afford to leave one sitting on the rack untouched for months or even years.

The shop that ordered mine wasn't that thrilled about it, but he did it because I was a regular customer. He didn't like the looks of them. When I went to pick it up, he told me to get it out if there before someone saw it, and he was only half joking. It didn't bother me then because that was how it was at the time.

Anybody around here who bought a new centerfire rifle bought a Remington 788 for $250. If they wanted something nicer or with more caliber choices, they bought a Rem 700 or Win 70. There might be a Remington pump or even a 742 around, but their owners were radicals. A hardcore gun crank would have a rebarreled Mauser. And like I said, maybe a Mini or an M1 Carbine for a behind the truck seat gun.

An AR? No way. None of the rifles I just listed cost more than maybe $350, so anyone buying a $400 AR was unheard of. At least not by me. However, I didn't know any serious shooters like now. Some reloaded shotgun shells, but I can't think of any metallic cartridge reloaders. Maybe they were around and had an AR or two among them, but I didn't know it.

It sure wasn't a common rifle at the time.

People who saw it were amazed that anybody would buy such a thing, although they usually got my rationale once I explained it (for rough and dusty use on the farm, keeping it handy for surprise groundhogs). They were surprised such a thing was even available. Most didn't know what caliber it was, and for whatever reason ".243" was a common guess. When I'd say "No, it's a .223", that brought blank looks.

If I remember right, although brand new in the box, the serial number on mine dates to two years before I got it. I assume it sat in a warehouse for those two years.

How times have changed.

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