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Bushmaster's most popular firearms

By    |   Tuesday, 05 May 2015 05:50 PM

Gun maker Bushmaster touts itself on its website as the leading supplier in the United States for the most popular AR-15 type rifles, a firearm The New York Times called “The Most Wanted Gun in America.”

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And the more trouble that surrounds the gun, the better it sells, according to numerous stories. Quoting the quarterly financial report of The Freedom Group, which owns Bushmaster, Mother Jones magazine noted “Consumer concern over more restrictive governmental regulation” led to a spike in demand, and sales would have been even greater if the company had been able to make more guns.

Even before that, the 10-year ban on the sale of “assault-style weapons” — defined by Congress as semiautomatic weapons with at least two specific features such as bayonet mounts and pistol grips — led to a spike in sales of such weapons as gunmakers simply removed bayonet mounts to be able to continue to sell the weapons. The industry produced an estimated one million modified AR-15-style rifles during the ban — more than it had produced of the original version in the previous decade, according to The New York Times.

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So what, exactly, is an AR-15?

Though its design is based on that of the military M-16 rifle that came into use during the Vietnam War, there are distinct differences — some cosmetic, some mechanical and, as the website Firearms Tutorials says, some differences of opinion.

For that matter, AR-15s made by different manufactures differ widely in overall appearance, as photos on an AR-15 enthusiasts’ website show.

All agree the fundamental, and most popular, difference is that the M-16 can fire on full automatic (it keeps firing as long as the trigger is held back and there are rounds in the magazine) and the AR-15 is only semi-automatic (it fires each time the trigger is pulled, without the shooter having to manually cock the weapon).

Beyond that, as Firearms Tutorials notes, “Several things were changed from the original M-16 design. Some were simply cosmetic and others were significant reliability improvements.”

A photo of the two weapons on the Firearms Tutorials site shows two rifles that outwardly look similar, especially if the AR-15 has its optional carry handle/rear sight attached (it’s a permanent part of the M-16, but the AR-15 design made the handle one of several options that can be attached in that spot).

The smaller AR-15 also has a number of adjustable components, such as the stock, that give it a distinctly more mechanically busy appearance than the sleeker-looking M-16. One exception: Bushmaster’s competition-shooting model AR-15 has a traditional-looking stock that resembles that of the M-16.

Though many pro-Second Amendment organizations such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation bristle at the use of the phrase “assault weapon” to describe semiautomatic weapons with a military appearance, the early marketing of the weapons banked heavily on their military pedigree, The New York Times notes. The paper cites headlines in Guns&Ammo magazine from the early 1980s such as “The New Breed of Assault Rifle” and “Bushmaster Assault Systems.”

At first, the guns got lukewarm reception from reviewers and writers, The New York Times noted, for their relatively small caliber — .223, not much bigger than a .22-caliber bullet and considered too small for big-game hunting. But after the ban expired in 2004, gunmakers restored the forbidden features and uprated the weapons’ firepower.

Bushmaster and other makers of AR-15s, for example, offer not only complete rifles but modular parts from which a gun enthusiast can assemble — without having to resort to a gunsmith’s specialized tools — a customized weapon in his or her choice of caliber.

By 2005, The New York Times noted — again quoting Guns & Ammo — “... the AR has grown fangs” and the guns’ military counterparts “are turning live terrorists into dead ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

All that contributed, The New York Times said, to increased interest in the weapons. In the year after Newtown, that interest coupled with a fear of future regulation contributed to a 16 percent jump in gun sales — of which, the paper said, AR-15-style guns accounted for “a significant share.”

This article does not constitute legal advice. Check the current gun laws before purchasing or traveling with a firearm.

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Gun maker Bushmaster touts itself on its website as the leading supplier in the United States for the most popular AR-15 type rifles, a firearm The New York Times called “The Most Wanted Gun in America.”
Bushmaster most popular
Tuesday, 05 May 2015 05:50 PM
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