An AR-15 Fit for a Woman
When it comes to the firearm industry, it is safe to say I know more than I’ve experienced. From friends whose entire wardrobes consist of hunting camouflage to stories from an uncle who is a competitive shooter, I’ve probably amassed enough knowledge to launch me to the final round of trivia night at the local bar. Though I have had the opportunity to shoot friends’ rifles, I’ve never actually owned one. Additionally, I’ve never felt 100% comfortable with any of the guns I’ve shot since they were built or bought according to the preferences of the men who owned them. As a woman of smaller stature and differing tastes, I am interested in determining what rifle is best fit for me so I can become a better, more effective shooter.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to a local shooting range to try my hand at a few different types of firearms. After shooting a .22 rifle, a CZ Scorpion, and a .22 LR pistol, I felt pretty confident. But as I approached the famed AR-15 platform for the first time, I was admittedly a little intimidated. I wasn’t sure how it would perform compared to the others, if it would be hard to handle, or if I would even hit anywhere near the target. Since the rifle had already been adjusted for some of the guys I was shooting with, the AR (like I mentioned earlier) wasn’t the best fit for me. The stock had to be adjusted, the mount repositioned, and even then, the gun still just didn’t feel or shoot like I’d hoped. Frustrated by my experience, I started to wonder if other women were having similar problems.
I like the idea of becoming more experienced with the AR-15 since it seems to present the most room for improvement. Even better, the AR-15 is one of the most common rifles in the U.S., due in part to its versatility and available customization. The prospect of customizing gives me hope I can find AR-15 accessories that make shooting easier and more comfortable for a woman like me.
My first step was simply to Google “Customizing an AR-15 for a woman.” It is frustrating and, frankly, a little offensive that the main search results are girly rifle skin wraps and traumatizing hot pink firearm parts. While I personally have no problem with an occasional dash of pink in my life, the Internet didn’t seem to understand I actually wanted to shoot a gun, not just carry one around as a fashion accessory. I’m more interested in finding answers to questions like:
- What’s the best length of pull for my height and size?
- How much of a factor is my own stability and the weight of an AR when it comes to comfort and relative ease of use?
- Are there ARs out there specifically designed for women?
- How can I use all this knowledge to create an AR that matches my preferences?
I’ll go ahead and share with you what I found to outfit my own AR-15.
An Adjustable Stock
Generally, women are shorter than men, with shorter arms and smaller shoulders. While some women prefer the trigger being farther away, others, like me, have to adjust the stock to a shorter, more comfortable length of pull (LOP)—the measured distance between the middle of the trigger and the rear of the gun (butt) that rests against the inside of your shoulder. An easy way to adjust for this is with an adjustable or collapsible stock, which locks into different positions much like the seat of your car. A fixed stock is much less common on AR-15s, and thankfully not the style I used at the range my first time. Shooting a non-adjustable firearm would’ve been a lot harder and even more uncomfortable.
Lighter Trigger Pull
Another factor worth considering is how much force the trigger requires. Trigger pull weight, without getting fancy, is basically how hard you have to pull the trigger for the gun to fire. While this doesn’t necessarily have much to do with the overall weight of the gun, a lighter trigger pull can provide for a quicker trigger press if you’re someone who gets nervous anticipating recoil or loses accuracy from a harder pull. I could live with almost any type of trigger, but if given the choice, I would prefer the lighter. Common weights can be anywhere between 4 and 8 pounds, but I wouldn’t recommend one less than 3 pounds for safety issues.
A Focus on Stability
Whatever position you’ll be shooting in, stabilizing your weapon and keeping it steady is crucial for accuracy. I personally don’t want to hold a heavy rifle while standing, so I prefer to sit down and allow a bipod to do the heavy lifting for me. Bipods are one of the simplest rifle accessories out there. Easily attaching to a rail and having the ability either to adjust leg height to support the barrel, or to fold under the rifle for convenient carrying, these tools are perfect for shooters of any skill level. Foregrips, on the other hand, will be your best friend no matter if you’re sitting or standing. Providing a gripping point other than the bottom rail itself, foregrips come in many shapes and sizes, and can even double function as a laser or flashlight.
Save Weight Where You Can
Confession time. Do you see that person across the gym lifting 50-lb. free weights for hours without breaking a sweat? That’s not me. I probably have an average amount of strength for my size, but I’m not used to the weight and feel of the AR platform since I’m more of a beginner. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t want to hold a really heavy rifle the entire time I’m shooting, and, since I don’t regularly work out the muscles required to hold a gun, my arms tire more quickly. This becomes an important factor when shooting for long periods of time. The specific AR-15 I shot was a little heavier than I was comfortable with, so reducing the weight of the gun is a key element in making my shooting experience more enjoyable. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, females, on average, exert and carry 1/2 to 2/3 than that of males, so I thought other women might be experiencing the same problem.
The unique, defining feature of the AR platform is its modular style, meaning you can basically build your own like you would a computer. The more gadgets and accessories you add on, though, the more you increase the total weight of the product. Consider rails, optics, a suppressor, and a full magazine; you could be looking at a 10- to 12-lb. weapon depending on size and materials used. If this is a concern of yours, consider choosing lighter materials or 2-in-1 optics to save weight.
So, after all of this, you’re probably still waiting for me to answer the big question I asked myself earlier:
“Are there ARs out there specifically designed for women?”
The short answer is no. If you strolled into a big sports retailer and asked for an AR-15 for a woman, you’d probably get the same type of response Google’s search results gave me. The good news, though, is that we don’t have to be limited by the men that dominate this industry. Instead, we can revel in the thousands of different options available when it comes to the AR platform. So yes, there are ARs out there designed for women, and they were built by the hands of the fierce women who now hold them. While all shooters around the world have their different preferences, especially depending on their application and skill level, I hope my own AR-15 tips can help provide some insight for women and new shooters alike.
Are you a female AR owner? List your build in the comment section.