Arrow Fat Left Icon Arrow Fat Right Icon Arrow Right Icon Cart Icon Close Circle Icon Expand Arrows Icon Facebook Icon Instagram Icon Twitter Icon Youtube Icon Hamburger Icon Information Icon Down Arrow Icon Mail Icon Mini Cart Icon Person Icon Ruler Icon Search Icon Shirt Icon Triangle Icon Bag Icon Play Video

Shawn Ryan's Thoughts on the AR15 America Actually Owns

Shawn Ryan's Thoughts on the AR15 America Actually Owns

The Blue Collar AR15

In a recent Patreon video, I talked with Shawn about the merits of a budget friendly carbine with a budget friendly optic. We slung a few mags down range and talked philosophy on the economics of AR15s. We also talked about the guns you see on social media vs the guns that are actually in safes across the country. Full video on Patreon 26 min

Will The AR America Actually Owns Get the Job Done?

The main question that I had for him was whether a premium AR15 setup is worth the extra money for most people in comparison to purchasing an entry level AR from a major manufacturer and spending the remaining budget on ammo, range time and training.

Shawn's answer: The training is more important than the gear.

Shawn Ryan The Blue Collar AR15

The M&P 15 Sport used in this video is probably the most common, economically friendly, example of America's favorite rifle. It is a solid reference standard for the entry level AR15s (similar models: Sig M400, Springfield Saint, Ruger AR-556, PSA CHF Premium Series, etc). I wanted to get Shawn Ryan's opinions on the guns that most of America actually owns.


The entry level optic in this example was a no frills Primary Arms red dot. Is it an AimPoint? No it’s not. But, the whole setup also costs substantially less than the AimPoint optic without a mount. 

Is the PA sight better than not having a red dot? I think so. 

Not all of us can afford optics in the $500-$800 range. I also wonder if it makes sense to put a premium optic on an entry level carbine. If you are on a limited budget, I would argue that the cheaper optic, a case of ammo and a training course would make more sense.

The question you’ll need to answer yourself is whether or not you hit the point of diminishing returns with price, quality and functionality.

What Needs Upgrading?

Shawn covered a few things he would change and add on a bare bones setup for defense.

Plastic Iron Sights

The main takeaway was upgrading the polymer iron sights to a metal variant from an established manufacturer (Magpul, Daniel Defense, Midwest Industries, etc).

Iron sights should be on every defensive carbine as a backup in case your optic fails. They can also be used as a reference when zeroing red dot sights.

The other must have was a weapon light. If a carbine is going to be used in a defensive roll, the shooter needs to be able to ID targets. A weapon light is necessary. Shawn’s preference is SureFire but he noted that Streamlight is an option for those on a tighter budget.


The thing to hammer home here: Knowing how to use the gear you have is more important than having the coolest toys on the market. Having an expensive gun you never shoot or that is not fully set up will not help you in a defensive situation.

Jon Howard Director of Marketing | Vigilance Elite

Comments on this post (20)

  • Jan 03, 2021

    I stumbled onto your web site and have been hooked since. I am old enough to be your grandfather, and would describe myself as an avid opponent of American imperialism, and interventions abroad. That said, I have loved your interviewing style, and after a life time of evaluating people, I would bet the house that you are simply a decent human being, and I would love sitting around having drinks and getting to know you! Keep it up, you have a talent, and a special thing going. Love your podcasts, mail bag etc.

    — richard fredericks

  • Dec 31, 2020

    Interesting perspective. With the oncoming political changes, you might consider some training on C&R firearms, which are actually well suited for prepping, An M1 Carbine is a great choice, as is an SKS. both semi-auto, accurate, reliable (moreso in rough conditions than any AR15), and most importantly, not on any “take away” list. There are also an almost infinate number of C&R bolt action rifles that would fit the bill.
    Don’t get me wrong, I am a 2nd Amendment advocate, but I think there will be a concerted effort to take away “black rifles.”

    — Steve Scott

  • Dec 23, 2020

    Very good info for the novice shooter. I’ve got entry level and brand name tools. I find myself using my Frankenstein AR the most. So, yeah, train train train.
    Merry Christmas Shawn and Mrs. Ryan

    — Jamie Cribbs

  • Dec 19, 2020

    Shawn ryan is awesome and thank you for your service! I’ve learned alot from him very intelligent man i love his videos! Merry Christmas to all! Maybe santa will restock the gummy bears I need gummy bears lol!

    — Kenan hoffmaster

  • Dec 18, 2020

    Budget (to an extent) is where it’s at..hands down..good up to 100/200m ur solid..good up to 100/200m under nods ur solid..any more than that then ur huntin hogs or huntin fact..shootin with nods is cool

    — Aaron Avanzado

  • Dec 18, 2020

    It’s the Indian not the arrow. Not PC but still accurate.

    — Dave Chen

  • Dec 18, 2020

    Shawn Ryan is a true American Asset! He served! And he continues to train the American people with a wealth of knowledge and just hard to find common sense! Happy Holidays to Shawn and His Wife!

    — Jon M. Olson

  • Dec 18, 2020

    Nice to finally see the gear over training mentality addressed.

    It’s the shooter not the gear.

    — Greg Chabot

  • Dec 18, 2020

    Bought a DPMS a few years back. Never looked back. 0 problems! 500 bucks!

    — Bryan D wilson

  • Dec 18, 2020

    I respect Shawn opinion, wish he still had training classes. Semper Fi.

    — Dave Brown

  • Dec 18, 2020

    I respect Shawn opinion, wish he still had training classes. Semper Fi.

    — Dave Brown

  • Dec 18, 2020

    Thank you for your service and for the excellent articles and videos. My AR is an Anderson with a few upgrades, Magpul sites and stock, M-LOK full barrel rails, a relatively cheap red dot system and a cheap 1 – 3 power magnifier that flips to the side, and a light . Range time and focus on the front sight keeps all within any grouping that I have in mind on a particular day. I see no need to spend a lot of money on a defensive rifle. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    — Greg Miller

  • Dec 18, 2020

    I agree.

    — Michael Swinney

  • Dec 18, 2020

    Poor workmen blame their tools. Better to have an “entry level” rifle and know how to use it than a $3,000 WonderGun you’ve only put 2 boxes of ammunition through.

    — Bruce

  • Dec 18, 2020

    Thanks for this article, was very helpful. I’m new to the Ar market and there’s so much out there it’s hard to know where to start. Looking for something solid, in addition to my handguns, for home defense to protect my family without breaking the bank. I value Shawn’s opinion and agree I’d be better off spending some cash on training before getting hot and heavy into all the latest greatest toys, etc. Wish I lived closer to Franklin TN for in person training from Shawn! Looking to get something before Jan 20. Thanks again for this article.

    — Mark Schiltz

  • Dec 18, 2020

    I fully agree. It’s better to use the tools you have and know how to use them well.

    — Steve Starks

  • Dec 18, 2020

    I could not agree more Daniel defense iron sights are awesome so their weapons.

    — Sean Stockton

  • Dec 18, 2020

    I couldn’t agree more! My neighbor spent more than three times what I spent on my AR for his. He’s shot is maybe 3 times since he got it over a year ago. Didn’t have any cash for ammo. While I take mine to the range every other month, his sits in his safe….

    — Gerald Woller

  • Dec 18, 2020

    that was a great video, and this is an equally great follow up blog. it’s got me dry training presentation and sling managent more and happy with my $150 sig romeo rd. keep ‘em comin’!

    — Barry Vaughan

  • Dec 18, 2020

    Merry Christmas All!
    I’m always impressed and learn from Shawn.
    Learn to use what you have is more important than any excuse.
    Hitting the target is more important than anything else. Nice to have state of the art, but so is the ability to have confidence. “If you can see it, you can hit it!” My Father taught me that. “Become one with the gun” has all the information needed. Yep, serious stuff. It’s supposed to be. Alvin York proved that.
    Tx again Shawn!

    — William Waggoner

Leave a comment