In the past two decades, the AR-15 has evolved into an open, modular gun platform that’s infinitely hackable and accessorizable. With only a few simple tools and no gunsmithing expertise, an AR-15 can be heavily modified, or even assembled from scratch, from widely available parts to suit the fancy and fantasy of each individual user. In this respect, the AR-15 is the world’s first “maker” gun, and this is why its appeal extends well beyond the military enthusiasts that many anti-gun types presume make up its core demographic.
That's true. I've always considered the AR15 to be like lego for grownups, like Barbie for men.
Completing the gun-as-PC analogy, the AR-15 community even has its own operating system flame war — users literally refer to a critical part of the gun as the “operating system” — with proponents of the traditional direct gas impingement operating system facing off against newfangled piston operating system fanboys in gun forums across the internet. The debate has become so played out on AR forums that most threads on the topic now end fairly quickly, with a plea that the original poster just use Google. “We have had a gazillion threads on this comparison,” writes user ArtEatman in a recent Firing Line thread on the topic. “So far, there is no ‘preponderance of evidence’ after bunches and bunches of posts on both sides of the squabble that either one is better than the other.”That's true, there is still disagreement over which OS is better for the system. I'm a fan of DI (direct impingement) for all sorts of good reasons, but I understand the arguments of the guys who like piston guns.
Go read the whole article. It is from the perspective of a guy who is not a gun-nut, but who found that he could shoot the AR very well. I think, in the end, that's both the appeal of the system (for gun nuts) and the horror of the system (for the hoplophobes).. The AR system is one that's extremely easy to use. I've never introduced a new shooter to the AR system that they didn't come away with a big grin on their face.