FOX16.com

Web Extra: Understanding the AR-15

Since the tragedy in Newtown, the AR-15, a semiautomic rifle, has been at the center of the gun control debate.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Since the tragedy in Newtown, the AR-15, a semiautomic rifle, has been at the center of the gun control debate.   During a special report "A Mother's Take on Gun Control" set to air Thursday at 9 p.m., Fox16's Donna Terrell gets a firsthand look at the rifle and how it operates.

For people a little less familiar with the rifle, the AR-15 is essentially the civilian version of the M-16 rifle used by the U.S. military.  Unlike the military version, the AR-15 is a semiautomatic, firing one bullet per squeeze of the trigger. But like the M-16, ammunition is loaded through a magazine.

An AR-15 is usually capable of firing a rate of 45 rounds per minute in semiautomatic mode.

The AR-15 dates back roughly 50 years.  However, it's never been as popular as it is now.  The AR-15 is even the subject of a documentary that debuted this evening on CNBC.

A number of manufacturer produce the AR-15, but Bushmaster is the No. 1 supplier of the rifles in the United States, according to the company website.   A typical Bushmaster rifle, such as the M4 model, comes with a 30-round magazine but can use magazines of various capacities from five to 40 rounds. An M4 weighs about 6 ½ pounds and retails for about $1,300.

Their weapons are used by more than 100 police departments and by the militaries of 50 nations, according to Bushmaster. Private citizens use them for "hunting, recreation, competition and home defense and security," the website says.

Under the 1994 federal ban on such weapons, buying some variants of new AR-15s was against the law. The ban expired in 2004.
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