A Brief History of the AR-15

Development & A Brief History

Manufactured by Colt Rifles, the AR-15 is a 5.56x45mm, magazine fed, gas operated semi-automatic rifle. Colt currently manufactures the AR-15 rifles for its line of semi-automatic weapons that are marketed towards civilian and law-enforcement customers. (Source)

After WWII the U.S. Military started looking for replacements for their M1 Garand, M1/M2 Carbines, Thompson sub-machine gun etc. It was during the Korean War that the select fire M2 carbine largely replaced the submachine gun in U.S. service. Combat experience however, suggested the .30 carbine round was under powered and an intermediate round was necessary. Trials with several new weapons were and the manufacturer ArmaLite entered their AR-10 prototype in the fall of 1956. Some testers of this rifle commented that the AR-10 was the best lightweight automatic rifle ever tested. The U.S. Army, however, chose to go with a T44, now called the M14, an improved version of the M1 Garand.

It was during the early part of the Vietnam War that the M14 was put up against the AK-47. Reports from the battlefield stated the M14 was uncontrollable during automatic fire and soldiers were not able to carry enough ammunition to maintain fire superiority over the AK-47. The U.S. Military was then forced to reconsider a request to develop a .223 caliber select fire rifle 6lb when loaded with a 20 round magazine. The 5.56mm round had to penetrate a standard M1 helmet at 500 yards and retain a velocity in excess of the speed of sound while matching or exceeding the wounding ability of the .30 carbine cartridge. This resulted in a scaled down version of the ArmaLite AR-10, called the ArmaLite AR-15. Colt later acquired the AR-15 and redesigned the rifle to facilitate mass production. (Source) Colt later marketed the AR-15 to military divisions such as the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps. The AR-15 was adopted as the M16 by the United States Military (Source)

Quick Note on Bullet Caliber

So what is the difference between a .22 caliber bullet and a .223 caliber, when it’s the same caliber bullet? The answer is the masses and velocities of the bullets differ. The diameter of the bullet is the same. In a video demonstration one can see that when a .22 bullet hits a steel target the bullet compresses and leaves a larger hole than the .223. The .223 bullet which travels at a higher velocity and is a heavier bullet, travels strait through the metal target. (Source)

Is the AR-15 an assault rifle?

To find the answer to this question, let me walk you through my research. First I went to Google as one often does to find answers to questions and typed in “definition of assault rifle.”

The first answer that pops up is from a dictionary: “a rapid-fire, magazine-fed automatic rifle designed for infantry use.”

The next choice comes from Miriam Webster’s website where an assault rifle is defined as “any of various intermediate-range, magazine-fed military rifles (such as the AK-47) that can be set for automatic or semiautomatic fire; also a rifle that resembles a military assault rifle but is designed to allow only semiautomatic fire

The third search result is from a website blog called The Firearms Guide with an article on “What is and is not an Assault Rifle” Here the author states that an assault rifle is a rifle that 1. has selectable firing modes 2. can fire in fully automatic mode.

In an article by Jeff Daniels of CNBC Daniels points out that the definition of an assault rifle is a contentious issue. See the following paragraph: That said, the gun industry’s traditional definition of an “assault rifle” is a weapon the military generally uses and has “select fire capabilities,” or the capability to switch between semi-automatic or a fully automatic mode. However, the civilian AR-15s do not have the select fire capabilities, only semi-automatic settings, so the firearms industry insists they are not an actual assault rifle or assault weapon.

I would like to point out that the AR in AR-15 does not in fact stand for “assault rifle.” Rather it stands for the initial manufacturer of the weapon, ArmaLite.

Additionally, the term assault rifle has a different legal definition in different states depending on local gun laws.

The conclusion to this question based on the research seems to state that the AR-15 is indeed not an assault rifle by virtue of its lack of fully automatic firing ability.

Is the AR-15 a combat weapon?

The answers to this question based on research seem to be answered as simply as this: it depends on who you ask. I found an article by James Fallows of The Atlantic which provided answers from those who claim it is and those who claim it is not.

Take the following excerpt for example: This past Tuesday Dean Winslow, a medical doctor and retired Air Force colonel who had deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a flight surgeon, appeared before the Senate Armed Services committee. It was considering his nomination as the Trump administration’s assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. 

At the hearing, Senator Jean Shaheen, a Democrat of New Hampshire, asked Winslow about mental-health issues in the military—and specifically about the shooter in the Sutherland Springs massacre, who had been courtmartialed and given a bad-conduct discharge by the Air Force for offenses that included threatening people with guns.

Winslow answered that question, and then volunteered a view that would have gotten more attention if not for the avalanche of other news. As a military veteran with first-hand experience treating combat wounds, he said he wanted to underscore “how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy a semiautomatic assault rifle like an AR-15.

The question Dean Winslow raised—whether  a weapon designed for the battlefield should be in wide circulation among civilians—is one I’ve been addressing on this site.

However, Fallows points out a dispute from a reader where Fallows used a quote obtained from one of the engineers of the AR-15 that the gun had gone into military production as the M16 before appearing in the civilian market. The following is the reader’s statement: In your article “Why the AR-15 Was Never Meant to be in Civilians’ Hands“, your source claims that the AR-15 was not commercially available to civilians before it was standardized by the military. This is factually incorrect.

Colt sent a pilot model rifle (serial no. GX4968) to the BATF for civilian sale approval on Oct. 23, 1963. It was approved on Dec. 10, 1963, and sales of the “Model R6000 Colt AR-15 SP1 Sporter Rifle” began on Jan 2, 1964. The M16 wasn’t issued to infantry units until 1965 (as the XM16E1), wasn’t standardized as the M16A1 until 1967, and didn’t officially replace the M14 until 1969. Colt had been selling semi-automatic AR-15’s to civilians for 5 years by the time the M16A1 replaced the M14. Going off of the serial number records for the SP1, Colt had sold at least 2,501 rifles to the civilian market by 1965, 8,250 rifles by 1967, and 14,653 rifles by 1969.

The engineer mentioned above worked at Colt Firearms on the M16. The engineers comment is as follows:

There was no commercially available civilian version of the AR-15 prior to the U.S. Military’s decision to make it the default military rifle replacing the M-14, and designating it as the M16A1. I have significant personal experience with the issues experienced by the M16A1, which were the result of a combined civilian/military screw-up. [JF note: this screwup was the subject of my original article.]

The AR-15 was developed specifically as a military weapon to replace the M-14. It was probably one of the first major weapons systems to be privately developed following the DOD’s decision to privatize the design and development function. This function had heretofore been carried out by publicly funded government operations, most notably, in the case of military small arms, the Springield Arsenal.

The AR-15 derived from a design by Eugene Stoner. His original design using that architecture and operating system was the AR-10, which used the 7.62mm NATO round. Seen today, it looks like an overgrown AR-15. The Armalite Company tasked two engineers with developing a version of the AR-10 that used the 5.56mm cartridge; these engineers were Jim Sullivan and Bob Fremont.

Only after civilian manufacturers like Colt’s made boatloads of money producing M16A1’s and selling them to the government did someone (I believe it was Colt’s Firearms) decide to make and sell a semi-automatic-only version of the weapon for civilian sale. It was, of course, known as the AR-15.

I have also asked a friend who is a veteran from the U.S. Military and served in Afghanistan,  if the AR-15 was an assault rifle. His statement was as follows: “Assault rifle is the legal term. The combat version, i.e. CAR-15 or M-4, are class III weapons with automatic fire rates (full auto or 3 round burst). So the ones that have been on the market for the past decade are semi-automatic weapons that shoot assault rifle rounds.”

 

 

 

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America’s Pastime – School Shootings

America’s Pastime – School Shootings

As everyone is aware, I’m sure, there is a horrifying trend taking place in America with shootings in schools. The latest taking place in Parkland Florida. Seventeen people were murdered in cold blood by a lone teenager with an AR-15 rifle. This most likely will not be the last of such events. As recent history has shown us, another is almost certainly to make headlines in the not too distant future.

The aftermath of this shooting is no different than the aftermath of all the previous school shootings that have taken place since Columbine. Grief, fear, sadness, anger, conspiracy theories and mostly polarization on the matters of guns.

Before continuing, take a moment to think about how you would react if the news came that your child was murdered in a school shooting. Or the child of a friend, a niece or nephew. What would your reaction be if you saw a video recording of students taking cover while a fellow student is actively shooting those around you? What would you want to happen to prevent something like this from happening again? For as recent history has shown us, this will certainly happen again.

Since the Columbine school shooting on April 20, 1999 in Jefferson County Colorado, there have been 270 shootings at schools across the nation. (ABC News). Fox News anchor, Shepard Smith, recently reported that there have been 25 fatal, active school shootings at elementary and high schools in America. (Daily Beast) Smith went on to say “These sorts of mass shootings with the regularity where they occur in the United States, you don’t find that in other countries.”

Continued statistics are as follows (ABC News):

  • 141 people have been killed in a mass murder or attempted mass murder at a school since Columbine (FBI records)
  • 73% of school shooters with no prior criminal record (U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Department of Education)
  • 81% percent of school shootings where someone had information that the attacker was thinking about or planning the shooting record (U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Department of Education)
  • 68% of school shooters who got their guns from relatives or at home record (U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Department of Education)
  • The average number of shootings per week on a school or college campus in 2015 (ABC News review of reported cases)

What then is the reason that a wealthy, developed nation such as the United States has this epidemic? One side of the isle states that gun laws are too lenient and that obtaining a weapon is easy where compared to other countries. The opposition to that argument is that the 2nd Amendment protects the rights of the people to keep and bear arms. And that enacting any additional laws to hinder that ability would be unlawful and infringe on citizens’ rights.

Common arguments against stronger gun laws are as follows:

  1. There is an effort by the government to take away citizens’ rights to own guns, which is unconstitutional. School shootings are being done to further the governments cause.
  2. Laws do not prevent criminals from obtaining weapons illegally as criminals are not concerned with the law.
  3. Drugs are illegal and people are still able to obtain them.
  4. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
  5. Citizens have a right to own guns to protect their family or to hunt.
  6. If guns were not available, people would other weapons.

While several of these arguments are logical, not all of them carry the same weight. The following are my thoughts on each point above which also includes some sourced statistics and supporting documentation from those who have studied the matter more closely than I.

There is an effort by the government to take away citizens’ rights to own guns, which is unconstitutional. School shootings are being done to further the governments cause.

  1. Talking heads like Alex Jones from Infowars would have listeners (and there are many) believe that almost everything one hears from the “established media” is a government cover-up or a conspiracy to take away the rights and freedoms of American citizens. School shootings being one of them. As he stated with Sandyhook, Mr. Jones told his listeners that particular shooting was a false flag operation and that the victims of the shooting were paid actors hired by the government.
    1. As stated during Jones’ interview with Megyn Kelly, the sources and facts peddled by Jones are obtained from online searches from random unaccredited sources, not journalistic investigation or interviews.
    2. More to the initial point of an effort to have guns taken away: I don’t recall hearing one politician, Democrat or Republican, say: “We want to ban all guns. We want to make all guns illegal. We want to remove guns from responsible gun owners.” Every debate that I recall has been about banning certain types of guns, such as assault rifles, or making much tougher laws on obtaining a firearm.

Laws do not prevent criminals from obtaining weapons illegally as criminals are not concerned with the law.

  1. This is absolutely true. Criminals are not concerned with the law. However, it is surprising to hear this retort from lawmakers who put a great deal of faith in laws that are meant to protect the citizens of this country. If this is truly the case, then why have a law for anything? The law wouldn’t prevent a person from acting against whichever law forbids such an action. Laws however, are not meant for the sole purpose of prevention. Laws are in place to be enforced and hold those that defile the law accountable for their actions.

Drugs are illegal and people are still able to obtain them.

  1. Yes, people are still able to obtain drugs even though they are illegal. There are a few things to keep in mind on this line of thinking:
    1. Most of the illegal schedule I narcotics at one point were perfectly legal. Drugs such as cocaine and heroin were commonplace in pharmacies in the late 19th and early 20th century. Companies such as Bayer marketed these drugs a cure-all for what ails you. All a person needed to do was purchase these substances over the counter at their local pharmacy. It wasn’t until studies were performed on the harmful effects of these drugs and the harm they were doing to those using them that these drugs became illegal. Hence, something that was once deemed safe and normal was made illegal after realizing the negative societal effect caused by them.
    2. Again, having laws in place will not eradicate the problem. Laws hold those who break them accountable for the action. For those who state that making guns or certain kinds of guns illegal wouldn’t solve the problem, does that same person believe that drugs should be made legal and have no consequence for those who use or distribute these substances?

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

  1. This is a true statement. A gun has never, on its own accord, pointed itself at a person, pulled the trigger and killed the person. A gun is a tool that serves a purpose. In the wrong hands this means murdering innocent people. Just as in the right hands a gun could be used to stop a bad person with a gun. The issue, I believe, is keeping a gun out of the hands of those who lack the responsibility and proper mental faculties to properly handle that responsibility.

Citizens have a right to own guns to protect their family or to hunt.

  1. The exact wording the 2nd Amendment is as follows: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) was adopted, having been ratified by three-fourths of the states.”
    1. There has been debated as to the extent and exact interpretation of those who drafted this amendment in regards to “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms…” As this was drafted during the colonial times, where there was no standing military. Rather citizens formed a militia to protect the colonies and allowing firearms was a necessity to maintain independence and protection. However, the current and seemingly majority of lawmakers and citizens lean towards the interpretation of the amendment as the right of the individual citizen to own a firearm.
    2. While a gun is certainly a viable means to protect one’s family and of course hunt; should that right be extended to guns that pose more of lethal threat than a hunting rifle? Take for example the AR-15 rifle. This is a semi-automatic rifle with a good many customization options. *This weapon and other guns like it were not born for the purpose of hunting. They were not designed for protecting families from home invaders. **After a conversation with a friend I did more research into the AR-15. Please see the following article for my findings: A Brief History of the AR-15 **. As previously mentioned regarding illegal drugs, there are schedules for drugs based on addictive potential and harmful effects. Schedule I drugs such as cocaine, heroin, LSD etc. are illegal and only dispensed to those licensed to use them for clinical research. Schedule II drugs such as Oxycontin, Morphine, Fentanyl, Adderall and so forth are highly regulated, kept in a safe and only dispensed with a written prescription. Where I’m going with this is that like drugs, not all guns are the same. There are different guns for different purposes. And like Schedule I narcotics, guns such as an AR-15 don’t seem to hold a place for private consumers.

If guns were not available, people would other weapons.

  1. Of course this is a true statement. In the context of a school shooting scenario though, a student who brought in a knife would not pose the extent of danger as a student who brings in a semi-automatic rifle.

 

I must confess: I’ve shot an AR-15 at a shooting range and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Also, some of the best people I know are responsible gun owners. I am not in favor in making all guns illegal or taking away firearms from those who are responsible enough to have them. Yet in the wake of the recent 19 years of school shootings, something has to change. When these tragedies occur people jump to extremes on both sides of the isle. The one thing that is most disheartening after these tragedies occur is hearing that “this is not the time to talk about such things.” Talking is exactly what is needed. To have an actual constructive conversation on what should be done. Not to just put up a shield such as “I stand behind the 2nd Amendment” then closing one’s mind to even listening to another’s idea. And this goes both ways. The anti-gun camp need to listen just as attentive as the pro-gun camp.

The questions that I would like answered are: why is this such a unique epidemic to the United States? Countries such as Australia and England who have extremely strict gun laws have seen a dramatic reduction in gun related crimes. (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, Source 4). Would the U.S. see such results if we were to follow suite? Or, were there other socio-economic reasons in Australia and England that enabled the reduction?

For pure statistics on crime rates from around the world please visit the following link: Crime Prevention Research Center: UPDATED: Comparing Death Rates from Mass Public Shootings and Mass Public Violence in the US and Europe.  The following charts were obtained from the aforementioned website.

 

Finally, there is one aspect to these senseless school shootings that I haven’t heard mention of. That is the involvement and responsibility of the parents of the shooters. Society holds leaders accountable for the actions of their subordinates, however, there doesn’t seem to be any regard in holding parents accountable for allowing their child to obtain these weapons and bring them to school. It seems like these parents are willfully ignorant of the mindset and mental health of their children. Perhaps some of these parents didn’t care about nurturing their children and instilling them a sense of a moral compass. Or, maybe these parents were too preoccupied with other aspects of their life to notice what their child was feeling or going through to cause the child to snap. Whatever the case, the biggest factor for stopping these shootings will begin at home.

 

 

 

 

 

Has Society Lost it’s Moral Compass?

I’ve heard a lot of people state that the world has become a decadent place. One of murder, war, violence, insensitivity, rape, racism and any other horror one can think of. Those people also like to say it’s not like it use to be, when society had values and morals. For example, when they were growing up. This I say is rubbish.

If one looks closely at history, society has always been filled with violence, decadence, war, murder, rape, racism and so on. Let’s go way back to the ancient Romans. Public execution and death provided entertainment for the public at the coliseum. Christians were fed to lions. Prisoners were brutally murdered in a kind of reenactment of famous battles and the poor class was left for dead from starvation. If a person was not born into nobility he or she had a very hard life indeed. There was no opportunity to rise to a higher social class.

Moving forward many years to the English empire, the average person was destitute and starving. No hope of moving up in societies ranks. Torture was prevalent. The king and church had an iron grip on justice and wealth. There were no court systems like those of today. Torture, was a common practice to gain information from the condemned. And painful deaths awaited those who were accused of a crime. Imagine slowly dying in an iron maiden. Or being quartered, having your limbs pulled off? And once again there were nor trials for the accused. Imagine being accused of witch craft? A person would be tortured until the individual either confessed or was killed in so called experiments that would prove whether or not a person was indeed a witch or not.

Now let’s jump all the way up to the 1950’s. The so called golden age of moral values and a God fearing nation. Perhaps this was a good time, provided you were a middle class white male. For African American’s and other minorities, times were not so friendly. Racial segregation was rampant. Hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan made life dangerous for minorities. Prejudice was the norm and African American’s were looked on as a sub human group. Torture and threats came at black families on a regular basis. As well, it was difficult, if not impossible for a black man or woman to raise their social status. Jim Crow laws prevailed. Who knows where we would we would be without the bravery and messages of equality from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, just to name a few.

In conclusion yes times are bad and violence and hatred are prevalent; but, in comparison to how society has progressed, I would almost dare to say this is perhaps one of the most peaceful eras the world has seen in a long time. Yes, it could be better. But, that is up to us. And using violence and hate speech are not going to make things better. Treat others as you want to be treated.