The ecosystem around the AR-15 is definitely the biggest selling point for me. From past experience, I know that when I geek out on something hard (as I intend to do with firearms), I take time to develop knowledge + preferences, and so I expect that what I think is the best choice now is likely to change significantly later. To that end, I’ve learned to try to make decisions that are reversible or offer optionality for later decisions. Thus the appeal of the AR-15. I don’t have to pick out the perfect barrel, stock, handguard, etc. right now. I can always decide later, when I know more and can actually appreciate/make use of the enhancements. Put another way, it’s hard for it to turn out to be the wrong gun, because of how much I can transform it down the line, including as needed for SHTF. Thomas’ reply at https://theprepared.com/forum/thread/guide-to-buying-an-ar-15/ was also super helpful, to let me know what a quality baseline looks like. Writing this out, I think I’ve made my decision. A featureless AR-15 allows regular reloads, and with later modification, can become “featureful” fairly easily. A handgun is a complementary follow-up acquisition. And both will need classes to make proper, safe use of them. Thank you for the recommendations and an even bigger thank you for making The Prepared a thing overall. It’s truly transforming my life for the better.