Comparing Bullpup And AR-15 Rifles
In Order To Make The Best Choice Between A Bullpup And A Standard AR15, We Need To Understand The Strengths And Weaknesses Of These Different Firearms.
We’re going to cover the pros and cons of both AR-15s and Bullpup rifles starting with the most important question of what a bullpup rifle is.
What Is A Bullpup Rifle?
A bullpup rifle is a firearm that has the action and magazine located behind the trigger mechanism in the rifle. This makes them largely incompatible with other rifle designs in terms of their major parts. It also changes the ergonomics of the rifle which will be covered later.
Examples of bullpup rifles are Steyr AUGs, L85 rifles, and Tavors with newer designs entering the market.
Bullpup and AR-15 Pros and Cons:
Every gun design has a purpose which creates a limit for the rifle. Since bullpups and AR-15s were generally designed for the same reason but with different goals they have different benefits and shortcomings.
Since the AR-15 is so popular we are going to start with the benefits you get from a bullpup rifle.
The overall bullpup design makes some sense of paper and does bring some useful things to the table. These include overall size, barrel lengths, and balance.
The overall size of a bullpup rifle is usually shorter than a normal rifle. This is because the buttstock area now holds the action and magazine, shortening the space needed to have a functioning gun.
While the gun is shorter in length, the height of the gun tends to be thicker on a bullpup when compared to something like an AR-15 and this can affect the performance of the rifle.
Due to the action being moved closer to the user, a bullpup rifle can have a longer barrel without increasing the length of the gun. This allows you to have the benefits of a longer barrel without having the gun get longer than a standard M4 carbine length rifle.
It also allows for a shorter, handier rifle without having short barreled rifle restrictions since it will meet the necessary barrel requirements..
Moving the action behind the trigger will affect the balance of the rifle. This shifts the weight of the rifle back towards the user and changes the point of balance.
Having the weight farther back on the gun can make it easier to control the rifle with one hand, since the gun won’t be pulled forward by its own weight. This allows the rifle to stay within your area of control better while you do reloads, live fire, and movement.
The AR-15 is one of the most popular rifles on the market today, but sometimes we need to be reminded of the benefits it provides.
The AR-15 is a very accurate rifle. This comes from a combination of the caliber, the height over bore, and the quality of the barrels.
Modern AR-15 barrels have significantly better performance for accuracy than barrels in the past. They benefit from decades of refinement and better quality steels. The height over bore of an AR-15 allows you to mount optics or scopes lower which allows you to have less sight deviation at close range without compromising at longer distances.
The AR-15 has many great triggers available to it and it has a very usable stock trigger. This comes from it being right next to the action and its general design.
The AR-15 and its related designs have had more people trained in using it than any other firearm (barring rifles like the AKM). Being familiar with the controls and manual of arms of a rifle will help you a lot when you are trying to use it.
AR-15s weigh less than older fighting rifle designs, with a stock AR-15 being roughly 7 pounds. This will quickly change depending on the accessories you put on it. But the weight savings the rifle provides allows for more or heavier accessories with less weight penalties.
While bullpup rifles can provide many benefits, they have several shortcomings. These are mostly related to accuracy, the trigger, and the controls or familiarity with the rifle.
On average bullpups tend to be less accurate than AR-15s. This is usually related to a combination of muzzle flip, less ability to brace the gun on supports, and a greater height over bore.
The muzzle flip can be compensated for by training with the rifle, but the ability to brace the gun is primarily related to how little of a forend there can be with a bullpup rifle. While the overall length savings are beneficial for moving with the rifle, it creates less area for the rifle to rest on when placed on a solid object.
The height over bore of most bullpup designs can be almost double that of an AR-15. This matters at closer ranges since you will be hitting several inches lower than you intended to if you forget about the mechanical offset of your rifle.
Since the trigger is set in front of the action, a trigger transfer bar is found in all bullpup designs. This allows the trigger to actually fire the gun but results in suboptimal trigger pulls. While this design feature is being refined, most legacy bullpups will not have extremely crisp feeling triggers. This can affect accuracy and speed, but are not deal breakers.
Bullpups come in a wide variety of patterns and are significantly different from AR-15s. This means there will be less familiarity with the rifle out of the box and takes a lot of training to get used to the rifle’s manual of arms.
Additionally the controls will change from bullpup to bullpup which adds another level of complexity to your gun collection that you may not want to deal with.
Bullpup style rifles will weigh fractionally more than an AR-15, by almost a pound. This is not that bad of a weight increase, but allows for less accessories to be added to the gun without making the rifle 10 pounds or more.
If you plan on doing a lot of walking with your rifle, this is going to matter. But if you are just going out to the range for some fun, the weight of a rifle will matter less.
While the AR-15 is extremely common it is not without its problems.
Due to the action and barrel being forward of the trigger and grip, the AR-15 is very front heavy, especially when accessories like lights and lasers are added to it. This makes it hard to use one handed and causes the gun to pull forward in the hand.
While an AR-15 without accessories can be very well balanced, few people are going to be using one without some additional accessories.
With modern twist rates you can get a lot out of an AR-15 barrel, but if you want a longer barrel for better round stability, you will be adding to the rifle’s length no matter what. Selecting barrels becomes trickier, especially when you are trying to optimize your preferred loading with the barrel length.
An AR-15 can be a relatively compact rifle. But depending on the buttstock and barrel you use, the AR-15 can be very long overall. This makes it harder to use in confined spaces, but like many of the shortcomings on a bullpup rifle, training can mitigate these issues.
Which is Better: AR-15 or Bullpup Rifle?
This will come down to preference. When we take into account logistics and parts availability, the AR-15 is better than a bullpup rifle. It also has better ergonomics for its controls.
But the AR-15 can start to lose performance when you try and make it as short and compact as possible. A bullpup rifle wins here, since it can provide longer barrels resulting in better performance in a more compact design.
If you are looking to get your first rifle or only have one rifle, the AR-15 will be your best bet in the US. But if you are merely looking to add another gun to your collection, a bullpup rifle is hard to beat.