I won't go into the economy, the election and all of the whys involved in the record gun sales over the last few years.
Everyone is buying firearms and many new gun owners are looking at "Assault Weapons." They end up repeating what they've heard somewhere on the internet or have seen on television. Hollywood has told them that the AR platform is unreliable so it must be true.
I recently had a friend tell me that he bought an AK (Wasr) because the AR15 malfunctions too much. Of course he has yet to fire his AK and has no idea how to field strip it. He's never fired an AR15 or M16.
It's no secret where the M16's reputation for unreliability came from. It originated during the Vietnam War. There were a lot of mistakes made in the early days of the rifle being fielded. Cleaning kits were not always issued, troops weren't properly trained, and a decision was made to switch to a dirtier gunpowder than was originally specified.
The guys that had to deal with this mess are still repeating the stories about how unreliable the weapons were, and it's likely that all of their families and friends are doing the same. This has gone on for years and years.
When I was in the Marines we were just changing over to the M16A2 (And from the .45acp to the 9mm Beretta). Our rifles were relatively new weapons, and they worked very well. The carbines were extremely reliable with live ammo.
-Note that I said "Live ammo."- I was lucky enough to serve in peacetime, and we shot more blanks than live ammunition. We did get a few more malfunctions using blanks and if I were to base my view on that I would probably call the weapon a POS. However, as I know that blanks are dirtier than regular ammunition and intended for training, my views aren't built on play ammo.
When I think back to my service in the late 1980's I can remember a great deal of stupidity in how we treated our weapons. As Pat Rogers wrote below, the military over cleans it's rifles.
They were cleaned far beyond what any gun needs and we used materials clearly not intended for the rifles. How often do you use Spic N Span or carburetor cleaner on your firearms? We also routinely disassembled our weapons much further than needed. Ah... then there was the guy who was much better at disassembly than reassembly.
The crazy cleaning methods were used because of an unrealistic view of what constitutes "Clean" in the military.
I'll say one last thing about our practices in the Marines. I never saw a single magazine taken out of service, nor can I remember anyone ever numbering their mags. If your rifle malfunctioned you simply cursed, called the weapon a POS and cleared it. No thought was given to finding a pattern. You just assumed the problem was with the weapon.
I believe that the current Marine Corps is better trained and much more professional than we were.
A decade at war tends to do that.
I can't remember the last time I saw someone have a problem with an AR or M4(gery). No doubt there's more than a few guns with issues out there. I suspect however that the vast majority of the problems are with builds that didn't turn out quite right.
I enjoy watching these videos. I stand firmly behind anyone willing to abuse their firearms for our viewing pleasure.
Most of us are willing to "Talk the talk" in regards the reliability of our weapons. We pull them out of the safe, put a few rounds downrange under very controlled and ideal conditions, and then tell everyone how reliable the firearm is.
Some are willing to "Walk the walk" and I enjoy watching others thrash on their guns. A picture is worth a thousands words. A video is probably worth a million.
An outstanding write up from Mike Pannone
The Big M4 Myth
Good info from Pat Rogers
Keep Your Carbine Running
I can't believe that I'm linking to the New York Times
Examining The Complaints About American Rifle Reliability