Gunworld's Ross Meyer describes the AR-15 as "the Barbie Doll of rifles." By that he means it's among the most customizable of weapons. Manufacturers produce all kinds of add-ons that allow a sportsman to make his rifle one of a kind, truly his own.
"You can add scopes, flashlights, lasers," he says. "You can really tech it out. And being semi-automatic, it's fun to go out and shoot." Plus, he says, "There's the military angle." The AR-15 is the gun many military vets learned to shoot in basic training. As civilians, it's the gun they already feel comfortable with and know.
Many AR-15 owners use them for "plinking" varmints.
Dr. George Winch, Jr., of Elko, says he has plenty of friends who use their rifles to keep their animals safe from coyotes. One friend, he says, has added a silencer to his AR-15 so he can sit on his back porch and shoot coyotes at night, without the noise disturbing neighbors.
Tyson Boulette, an electrician who describes himself as "a regular old family guy," works underground at a gold mine in Elko. He tells ABC News that three or four years ago he bought a version of the AR-15 made by Sig-Sauer. "I'd always wanted one," he says. "I like recreational shooting." He customized his with a SWAT-version hand-grip, a tactical flash-light and lasers mounted on the side.
Does he plink with it? "Yes, I shoot rabbits and ground squirrels."
Asked to explain the gun's appeal to a non-shooter, he says: "Some people, they have a nice Corvette in their garage. They don't drive it every day. They just wanted one. It caught their eye. They think it looks great. " He just wanted a Sig-Sauer, he says. He thinks it looks great. He likes the military style and the fact it's not too expensive to shoot. Plus, it's fun.
Fun because of the semi-automatic feature. "You can shoot 30 rounds in 10 seconds or less. It's kind of an adrenaline rush." It's comfortable, too. "The gun doesn't produce enough kick to hurt you." And, if you don't want to use the semi-automatic feature, "You can squeeze the trigger one by one and get a different feeling."