Part of this was previously posted as a response to this post at Unc's.
The Stoner platform is a small part of a larger weapons *system* that includes a logistical tail and a fighting doctrine that emphasises massed fire over single, well-placed shots. (That is not to say that individual marksmanship isn’t important in .mil especially at the sniper or DM level, merely that *doctrine* does not rely on it. If you doubt this you haven’t been reading your FM 3-21.8.)
Ruggedness has never been a fundamental concern of the U.S. military when it comes to individual weapon system *components* because their huge logistical tail allows for rapid replacement of malfunctioning equipment thus ensuring that the weapon *system* in its totality is sufficiently reliable. Anyone who has maintained any kind of other U.S. military equipment from tanks to aircraft will tell you that it’s made up of a lot of relatively fragile parts that are all easily replaced by a trained technician. The AR platform is no exception. It is part of a *system* that includes parts, repair and resupply. Thus, individual reliablility of the AR rifle has NEVER been an over-riding concern for .mil. As long as the entire until remains combat capable money and effort that could be used to research and improve the AR platform is better expended procuring better artillery and air support. That this can sometimes have tragic consequences to the individual that is trusting his life to his rifle is considered an acceptible consequence of the overall battle.
The typical non-military shooter does not have the option of a massive supply chain. If your AR malfs due to dirt and grime at a match what are you going to do, have a spare $1500 rifle? Just take the DQ? What about when you’re hunting or responding to that bump in the night? Do you really want a rifle that has proven to require staff to be effective? That $1500 spare rifle is also $1500 that you won’t be spending on ammo, mags, optics or training.
The AK platform was designed to be rugged and has proven itself as a nearly indestructible weapon system in dozens of backwater, third-world countries. The AK has no logistical platform to support it other than the standard Soviet doctrine of supplying pre-loaded, shrink-wrapped, single-use magazines. This is much more comparative to the requirements of the individual, non-military shooter.
Yes, the AK can break. Because the Soviet Union was not interested in a massive supply chain to support troops in far-off lands the AK was designed not only to break less but to be field repairable. I can carry a firing pin, recoil spring and a complete AK trigger group in the buttstock of an AK and can completely rebuild it in the mud without tools.
While building and shooting an AR may be fun and instructive, what you end up with is a piece of the machine, not the entire machine. Unless you can build a supply corps along with the completed rifle, you’re missing one of the more important components.
Until DPMS or Daniels has its own fleet of ships, airplanes and helicopters that will drop me AR parts, tools and gunsmiths anywhere in the world at a moments notice I’m not really interested in having a fragile, expensive rifle.
This isn't to say that I'll never own an AR. The price of polymer lowers is starting to bring the price of a decent AR down to a reasonable level and simply for familiarity purposes it would be good to have one in the safe. But after Ap Sieu Quan and Wanat it's hard to take AR reliablility seriously.
For years the gunny community has been saying that the 1911 platform is finicky, complicated and requires too much gunsmithing. That in order to have a reliable 1911 you have to make it inaccurate, that in order to make it accurate you have to make it unreliable. That's it's complicated and has a lot of parts compared to a Glock. That 1911s cost more than a Glock. And after these arguments they say, "And that's why I carry a Glock!"
So, the AR is less reliable than an AK, has more parts than an AK, costs more than an AK, therefore "I have an AR!"