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Bushmaster AR-15 Semiautomatic Rifle

The Bushmaster Predator

Image courtesy Bushmaster

The AR-15, which designates a rifle platform, not a specific manufacturer's model, remains a controversial weapon. Why? Many people mistakenly believe that "AR" stands for "assault rifle." In reality, the AR-15 is a semiautomatic rifle, which means it fires one round with each pull of the trigger. True assault rifles are fully automatic weapons, such as machine guns, that have been primarily restricted from civilian ownership since 1934.

The "AR" actually stands for "ArmaLite rifle," the company that invented the design in the 1950s. ArmaLite's chief engineer, Eugene Stoner, sought to develop a revolutionary weapon, one that was lighter and offered less recoil. His early efforts resulted in the AR-10, which weighed less than 7 pounds (3 kilograms). U.S. Army officials asked ArmaLite to downsize the AR-10 in 1956, leading to the AR-15.

The military didn't show immediate interest, so ArmaLite sold the patents and designs for the AR-10 and AR-15 to Colt. Colt took the basic design and tweaked it to manufacture the M16, the primary weapon used by service personnel during the Vietnam War and beyond. But other manufacturers, including Bushmaster, began to produce civilian versions.

Today, Bushmaster remains one of the top sellers of rifles based on the AR-15 platform, and its Predator model stands as the typical form of the weapon. The 5.56 mm Predator features a 20-inch barrel and takes a five-round magazine that's legal for hunting in most states. Hunters favor it because it's easy to carry and highly accurate. With that said, many gun enthusiasts also like AR-15 models from manufacturers such as DPMS Firearms and Stag Arms.

Next, we're going to lay down our rifle and pick up a classic handgun.

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