AR-15 Handguns Review
Over the last 30 years, the AR-15 and AR-15-style rifles have established an impressive foothold in the American market. According to the National Shootings Sports Foundation, about one out of every five guns purchased in the U.S. today is an AR-15-style rifle.
Commonly referred to by gun enthusiasts as “black rifles,” these guns are lightweight, accurate, inexpensive and the ability to customize their appearance makes them appealing to gun owners. Owners can replace interchangeable parts or paint the gun a favorite color or use a favorite “skin.” Some gun owners call it the “Lego” or “Barbie” of guns because of that versatility.
On average, AR-15 owners have at least three versions of the firearm and spend more than $400 per rifle to accessorize them, according to industry research. And the weapon has become even more popular in recent years. Action heroes regularly tote AR-15-style rifles in movies and video games like the “Call Of Duty” series.
An AR-15-style rifle has also been used in six of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in the U.S. over the past decade including:
- Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012
- San Bernardino, California, in 2015
- Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2017
- Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017
- Parkland, Florida, in 2018
But the AR-15-style rifle wasn’t born in the age of the internet or from video-game culture; its origin dates back decades.
In the late 1940s, inspired by the Sturmgewehr rifle they had seen German soldiers use in World War II, the Soviets created the “Avtomat Kalashnikova” or Kalashnikov’s automatic rifle.
Shorter and lighter than traditional rifles, the gun used smaller cartridges, which allowed soldiers to carry more ammunition, and became known as the “AK-47.” It eventually evolved into the AKM and entered mass production in Russia.
Armalite, founded in Hollywood, California, first developed the AR(Armalite Rifle)-15 in the late 1950s as a military rifle. But the company struggled to sell it.
Eventually, Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, purchased Armalite’s plans for the AR-15 (and the predecessor, the AR-10) for $75,000.
Meanwhile, American troops in Vietnam were using M14 rifles on the ground in Vietnam while Viet Cong guerillas and North Vietnamese soldiers carried the lighter, superior, Soviet-made, AK-47s.
Robert S. McNamara, the defense secretary at the time, pushed the Pentagon to hurry production of a new firearm for U.S. troops.
The military selected Colt to manufacture a new, American automatic rifle. The company began producing a military grade version of the AR-15 it had purchased from Armalite, known as the M16. It would soon become standard issue for U.S. troops in the Vietnam War.
Emboldened by the success of the M16, Colt ramped up production of AR-15s available for law enforcement and civilian consumers.
A Household Name
These two lines of rifles — Russia’s AK-47 and Connecticut-based Colt’s AR-15 — become the two leading models of semi-automatic military-style rifles in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Thanks to U.S. law, civilians had access only to the semi-automatic version of these rifles.
In 1977, a patent on the AR-15’s gas system expired, allowing other manufacturers to develop AR-15-style rifles.
Since that time, sales of military-style semi-automatic weapons have exploded.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed an assault-weapons ban, which outlawed the sale of the AR-15 and other similar semi-automatic rifles for 10 years. After the ban expired, gun makers quickly brought AR-15-style rifles back to the fore