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Why is there still a forward assist on AR's?

Discussion in 'Rifle Discussion' started by CounterOfBeans, Jan 18, 2014.

  1. CounterOfBeans

    CounterOfBeans northwest Active Member

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    From what I understand, the forward assist feature (FA) was added to the M-16 design because the gun was jamming so much in Vietnam during actual combat. Obviously rifle dependability is a matter of life and death in combat, so my question is this.

    In the forty or so years since Vietnam, with all the research and development that has been put into the AR by all the various gun manufacturers, why does this gun still need a FA? AK's, SKS's, Mini-14's, M1a's, Garands etc. don't have them and as far as I know, they never did. How would the GI's storming the Normandy beaches have felt, on top of everything else they were up against, if they had to pack a gun that routinely jammed on them.

    Is the AR design so inherently undependable for some reason (i.e. prone to jamming), that the FA is still as necessary today as it was in Vietnam? When you think about it, given how so many other semi-auto guns don't have it, the AR's forward assist is like a physically built-in vote of no confidence. Or is the FA now just a commemorative nod to the gun's rough start? Or is it that nobody has ever thought to get rid of it and save manufacturing costs to boot by doing so?

    There's a lot of SHTF gun talk that goes on on this site, discussions about what guns people are willing to bet their lives on in emergency conditions. So in the event that the AR's forward assist is indeed still necessary to unjam a jam-prone gun, and if seconds count in a life/death encounter, why would the AR be such a popular defensive rifle of choice? Thanks for any insights.
     
  2. DieselScout

    DieselScout S Clackamas County Well-Known Member

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    Better to have and not want then want and not have. Its not going to make the gun less reliable.
     
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  3. billdeserthills

    billdeserthills Cave Creek, Arizony Well-Known Member

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    If only the AR-15 looked a bit less cool, the anti-gunners might have quit their incessant bubbleguming & complaining about it's assault weapon status. That, in turn
    may have caused fewer conservatives to fall in love with the easy shooting, very accurate weapon. Alas it was not to be & the end result is the AR-15 as we
    know it today. Plenty of .308 guns built on a similar platform do not have the FA, and they seem to work just fine. My personal belief and observation is that
    the people who want an AR also want the FA device, if for no other reason, just because the AR-15 was originally born with one (an FA) and nobody wants any-
    thing less than a complete AR-15, if they do want an AR-that is. I personally own a Ruger mini-14, but the AR-15's I have shot were all easier to shoot & more
    accurate. Even when built using parts from dif makers the AR-15's I have tried all worked flawlessly and accurately, but doncha dare ask an AR owner to let
    go of that FA option cause it seems that we all ,like to have the choice.
     
  4. billdeserthills

    billdeserthills Cave Creek, Arizony Well-Known Member

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    Only thing that makes the AR-15 less reliable would be to actually use the FA device
     
  5. saxon

    saxon springfield Active Member

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    no they have bolt handles with them they can slam forward or use them kick starter fasion if a round jams, try that in an AR with no forward assist
     
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  6. jbett98

    jbett98 NW Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    My 1973 Colt SP-1 doesn't have a FA and works rather well without it.
    I like the slab sided look and lately it seems to be quite popular to create a "retro" SP-1.
     
  7. CounterOfBeans

    CounterOfBeans northwest Active Member

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    OK, say you went to an auto parts store to buy a radiator hose. You told the clerk what car you had and he takes you to the radiator hose display and shows you four options of hoses that would fit your car. One of those hoses comes in packaging that includes a roll of duct tape and the store clerk recommends that you buy that one, because it's very popular. You ask: "What's the duct tape for?". He says: "Well when these hoses first came out, they had a real problem with leaks, so the manufacturer just started adding duct tape to patch the leaks rather than re-engineer the hose design. But these hoses come with really cool integrated hose clamps and water temp gauges that are molded into the outside surface of the rubber. So most people don't mind buying this hose that leaks like a sieve brand new, if it comes with duct tape."

    It kind of goes without saying that having the FA isn't going to make it less reliable. :confused: It was put on the AR as a band-aid fix to the gun's combat-proven habit of letting soldiers down. The point of this thread is not to shrug shoulders at something we've all gotten used to, but to question why it's still there after so many years of opportunity to fix the core problem that led to the need for a band-aid.
     
  8. CounterOfBeans

    CounterOfBeans northwest Active Member

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    Billdeserthills said:

    and

    and

    jbett98 said:

    The FA was added because the Vietnam-era AR was jamming during combat conditions. So to keep it apples to apples, how many of the AR operation kudos above were for AR's that were being shot in dusty, dirty, wet, etc. conditions? My guess is that the gold star shooting experiences above were at gun ranges and probably firing nowhere near the number of rounds that go down range in a combat situation. If the proverbial poo hit the fan, and those dusty, dirty, wet, etc. conditions became a reality of living life during a __________ emergency, would those same AR's get the same rating?

    It guess it would be kinda nice to get a combat report on the current M4's from a recent Afghanistan/Iraq vet about how their guns performed under tense combat conditions. Is it even fair to compare milspec M4's combat reliability to that of AR's available on the private market?

    @ Saxon - I didn't think about how the bolt handles on the other guns I mentioned actually double as forward assists when needed. Duh. All the same though, I don't think I've ever heard of AK's, SKS's, Garands & M14's being known for combat jam problems. AK's specifically are famous for being able to fire rounds dependably after all sorts of torture tests.
     
  9. saxon

    saxon springfield Active Member

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    while i am not here to bash the AR the one time i had a jam in non wet,dirty,dusty conditions i did not have a FA so i could not try to ram the round home,
    and when i tried to use the charging handle there was not enough to grasp to get leverage to eject the shell. one fast tap with a cleanig rod and pop out it came.

    the FA is also used in place of having a oprod or bolt handle is all i was saying

    in fact (dont know where teh tec manual went but)
    for NON FA AR15 for a jam it was said to bang the gun down hard on the butstock to try to dislodge a stuck round,,,,

    dont try it if you have a plastic slide stock ;)
     
  10. WAYNO

    WAYNO Oregon City Gold Supporter Gold Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Think about what you've just said.

    Every example you've given has a charging handle fastened directly to the bolt. If a round is not fully chambered, a push forward on the charging handle pushes the bolt and cartridge forward. Even a semi-auto pistol has a way to forward assist the bolt. A push on the rear of the slide for example on a 1911 is the forward assist in the event a cartridge does not fully chamber. A M-16 type rifle would have no way to push the bolt forward if it did not have the forward assist.

    Here's another example of the need for a forward assist. Say you need to chamber a round quietly. If you did so in most semi autos, and the round did not fully chamber, you'd push the bolt forward by shoving forward on the little handle on the bolt. Or push forward on the slide of a semi auto handgun. Without the forward assist, you'd not be able to push forward on the bolt of a M-16 type rifle.

    WAYNO.
     
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  11. JackThompson

    JackThompson Valley of the Demons Well-Known Member

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    I look at it this way.. The lack of an FA doesn't make the SKS or Mini14 or AK a better weapon. It just means they're missing that particular feature because nobody put it on there..

    I've had my Sks jam where I had wished I had something like a forward assist, but instead had to drop the mag and open the bolt.

    They sell a special tool for the SKS and ak47 called the "Stuck case removal tool" because it can be so difficult to remove one.

    They didn't sell that tool with the rifle, but I found myself wishing they had when I got one stuck. I got it out with a rod, but later ordered the tool.

    So, would it have been bad marketing for them to include a free "Stuck case removal tool" with every purchase? Probably.

    Lastly,
    You can't control how often someone cleans their rifle, and dirt, dust and whatever other sludge you drag your AR through will affect it's feeding aility.

    It's not Armalite's fault that wars aren't fought in pristine conditions. :)

    So far, in my experience my AR15 and SKS (with fixed magazine) have both performed beautifully, except for the stuck case once on the SKS.. (Oh, and I rattled my front sight clean off my AR last weekend! Locktite here I come!)
     
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  12. Trailboss

    Trailboss Vancouver, WA Well-Known Member

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    Because the AR platform has a cult following (unconditional, unwavering), any suggestion that the design may be less than perfect will predictably be met with scorn by it's faithful followers. It doesn't matter if the design is flawed, I don't believe that a rational discussion can take place on the topic.
     
  13. oknow

    oknow amboy wa. Well-Known Member

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    Try nudging your bolt forward with your thumb after 20 or 30 rounds if for some reason it doesn't lock in.
    Btw I have never had to use the FA other than for practice drills when I was in the corps.

    Also I would be glad if the auto parts store would throw in a role of duct tape with a radiator hose. You always have a use for duct tape. Post #7( just ribbing you)
     
  14. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    In Vietnam there was a lot of trouble when the ammo manufacturer changed the powder. I believe it was about that time that the FA was added and also the cleaning regimen was upped.
    The gun was unreliable because of the change in powder. Once that was sorted out they became reliable. But since the guns were already in production with FA, why change it? Like Jbett said, Colt didn't use them on all of their ARs, especially ones designed for sporting use.
    To this day some ARs don't come with FA. I believe many of the S&W guns don't have it and they aren't the only manufacturer that offers them with, or without depending on the model.
     
  15. The Heretic

    The Heretic Oregon Well-Known Member

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    This.

    The AK, probably the most dependable, reliable and durable infantry rifle in history, has a "forward assist"; the charging handle. Same with the M1A and a number of other rifles.
     
  16. erudne

    erudne The Pie Matrix PPL Say Sleeping W/Your Rifle Is A bad Thing? Bronze Supporter

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    I see so much fail in the OP
     
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  17. Nwcid

    Nwcid Yakima and N of Spokane Well-Known Member

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    Because most guns DO have them. They are on every auto pistol I own, every bolt gun, every lever, every pump. All but one of my 10/22's have one (uses a different style bolt), my Garand, M1 Carbine, AK, SKS, Mini-14 ect all have them. Why shouldn't my AR? What argument is there for removing it?
     
  18. oknow

    oknow amboy wa. Well-Known Member

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    If I'm not mistaken it was the gooberment that changed the powder to Save a little $.
     
  19. FireArm

    FireArm Beavercreek 97004 Well-Known Member 2015 Volunteer

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    Ar's are a gas impingment system, comparing ar's gas system to a piston system...
    FA isnt needed... but in a actual life or death situation where you are being shot at and shooting back, anything that can make a firearm fuction better or be more reliable is a good thing. Like nontilt mags, do we "need" them surely no a rifle will work with standard mag. But reliability and function are improved with it so why not...
     
  20. saxon

    saxon springfield Active Member

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    yup some 30 odd years later the AR is still being perfected ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,for reliability and function ,,,,,, un like the AK, M1 garand, M1 carbine, SKS, MINI14, M14 etc etc *runs and hide's*