60 minutes target
Courtesy NRA-ILA
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Last Sunday, the “news” program 60 Minutes ran a story it called “What makes the AR-15 style rifle the weapon of choice for mass shooters?”  The producer of the piece, Ashley Velie, claimed the intent was to present a story that was “completely apolitical.”  From the very outset, however, starting with the inflammatory and inaccurate title, it was clear the real intent was to vilify the most popular centerfire rifle in America.

It is simply untrue to claim that the AR-15 is the “weapon of choice for mass shooters.”  While Scott Pelley, who presents the story, opened by rattling off a number of horrific crimes that involved perpetrators using AR-15 style rifles, he conveniently ignored the many that do not.  In fact, even the virulently anti-gun Washington Post has admitted that banning AR-15s would not stop mass shootings, stating, “Most mass shooters use handguns, not (so-called) assault rifles.”

So, if this “apolitical” piece couldn’t even get the title right, what else was wrong?



Apparently, 60 Minutes’ goal was to make it seem as if the ammunition people use in an AR-15 is the real problem, as Pelley attempted to offer a lesson in ballistics.  Again, though, the report was conspicuously selective (full version here).

For comparison, the program chose to show the different ballistic performances of a .223 round fired from an AR-15 and a 9mm round from a handgun.  As most familiar with firearms know, rifles typically use ammunition far more powerful than that used in handguns.  Yet the AR-15 isn’t even considered powerful by rifle standards; many common long guns fire rounds that deliver far greater terminal performance.

So why compare these two?  According to producer Velie, 9mm handguns are the guns “that kill more people than the AR-15.”

Is that true?

Assuming it is, it’s likely because handguns of all types are far more frequently used in homicides and suicides than ALL rifles combined, not just AR-15s.  Rifles are used in a very small percentage of violent crimes committed using firearms, and AR-15s are an even smaller percentage of all rifles. And the 9mm round is certainly a popular handgun caliber.

But another problem with the ballistic comparison made for the show was the 9mm ammunition used did not appear to be what most people would use for self-defense.  The show seemed to select ammunition with a full metal jacket, rather than a hollow point round.  Why is this important?

For the show’s purpose, a 9mm round with a full metal jacket does not create as much visible damage in the ballistic test conducted.  As shown in the broadcast, the 9mm round zips right through the block of ballistic gelatin.  The .223 round, on the other hand, fragments and tumbles, causing much more visible damage to the gelatin.  This was clearly by design, as the show’s obvious purpose was to make the .223 round and the AR-15 from which it was fired seem more “dangerous.”

Had the show used hollow point ammunition in the 9mm, or ammunition designed specifically for better performance as a self-defense round, the difference in the ballistic test would have been far less dramatic.  Had the show used a handgun capable of firing a larger caliber round, like the ever-popular .45 ACP, the results would have likely created even less visible a difference.

But 60 Minutes wanted to show a stark contrast, and the producers got what they wanted.

Nevertheless, the show’s use of a full metal jacket round in the 9mm actually highlighted one potential problem with using such ammunition for self-defense: over-penetration.  As exhibited in the test, the 9mm round chosen zipped completely through the block of ballistic gelatin.  If you are using your firearm for personal protection and are in a situation where you must use it to stop a violent criminal assault, using a round designed for personal protection, rather than the full metal jacket round used by 60 Minutes, will better ensure the round you fire does not pass through the violent criminal and strike an unintended target.

Another aspect of the test 60 Minutes failed to mention is the fact that, when a law-abiding citizen uses a firearm for self-defense, the actual goal is stop the attack.  If the only way to stop an attacker is to actually shoot him, you want to be able to do so with as few rounds as possible.  The best way to accomplish this is to use a round that will cause as much incapacitation as possible.

In other words, you want your round to perform more like the .223 round 60 Minutes tested, and less like the 9mm round.

While that may sound harsh, that is the reality of using firearms for personal protection.  A firearm can only be lawfully used in self-defense when a person’s life or physical safety is imminently threatened. It doesn’t make sense to choose one for that purpose based on what is perceived to be “the least dangerous.”

And the reality is that, in the hands of law-abiding citizens, firearms are an effective means to stop violent criminals.

And that is really the problem with the 60 Minutes piece.  It spends a great deal of time talking about the horrors of mass shootings and the trials of emergency room physicians treating rifle wounds but little time discussing why law-abiding gun owners might find the AR-15 the right choice for protecting themselves and their families.

Scott Pelley concedes that, while there are “well over 11 million” AR-15s in America (an arguably lowball figure), “they are rarely used in crime.”

Nevertheless, this “apolitical” story can’t seem to grasp the fact that good guys need tools that will give them the best fighting chance against bad guys, who have absolutely no scruples about going into any confrontation “over-armed.”

Because firearms and ammunition actually are apolitical. But the advocacy of 60 minutes is not.


This article originally appeared at nraila.org and is reprinted here with permission. 

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  1. Maybe use a pellet gun versus a 50 cal. It will snow in hell when 60 minutes does anything ” apolitical “.

  2. Unbalanced reporting and faulty logic… what did wecexpect from the media? What’s next? “We shot this man in the head with a .223 and he died. We shot another man in the hand with a 9mm and he lived. AR rifles use more deadly ammo! Science confirms it.”

  3. .223 rounds are dangerous. That’s why I reload 5.56 NATO. 🙂

    I’d like to point out that no army in the world ever used an AR15 as an “assault rifle.” Many states, including Colorado where I live, forbid hunting big game with 5.56 because it isn’t powerful enough (<2000 ft-lbs).

      • The AR15 that was used in Vietnam was fully automatic (select fire) and was renamed the M16 when the semi auto civilian version was released.

        • Still an AR15 is it not? Said so right on the receiver.
          I’m just being a smartass guys, relax.

        • I can put a Ferrari logo on my Honda Civic, some will think that they are the same. Auto vs. semi is the difference between the pre M16 AR and a modern AR15. The selector switch makes it a whole new beast. Also the AR15 that the Air Force used had different tolerances from the M16 that the Army issued.

        • Nickel Plated: You’re right, the Army did indeed field AR15s. I personally saw and handled one at Ft. Dix in 1966. When the class saw it (it was the first time most of us had seen the rifle that would replace the M14), we were looking for the “Made By Mattel” logo.
          The first “M16” I qualified with was an AR15, in 1967. (I had qualified with the M14 originally.)

      • I carried an “assault rifle” in Viet Nam, and I regularly called it an M-16 for a decade or 2, before people started caring about such chicken differences, since it was actually an XM-177E2, 14.5 inch barrel (SBR), select fire (machine gun), folding stock, all so I could hook it to my parachute if I had to jump out. A regular 20″ M-16 with a fixed stock would never be referred to as an “assault rifle”. By anyone.

  4. No longer a fan of “60 Minutes” for years now. However, I find the content of such a slanted presentation as “What makes the AR-15 style rifle the weapon of choice for mass shooters?” excellent material to use when educating the anti-Second and anti-gunners the fallacy of such program content. We can’t stop everyone from sitting through such inaccurate programming; we CAN and MUST educate everyone that will listen to wise up and, likewise, turn OFF the major networks as well as the left-leaning printed publications.

    • In related news- Bullets from a rifle (even relatively weak one) poke bigger holes than bullets from a handgun. Fascinating!

  5. I don’t recall AR15s being used in the Bezlan school massacre (334 killed). Actually, I don’t think that any were used in the Paris massacre (131 killed). In fact, unless I am incorrect, no AR15 was used in the Norway massacre (77 killed).

    Maybe 60 Minutes should return to researching Texas Air National Guard memos, F150 pickup fires, Audis shifting into gear and accelerating on their own, and maybe Cohen visiting Prague to meet with his Russian friends.

  6. So. According to 60 min. my Hi-Point 9mm carbine with FMJ is more deadly than a .223?
    I knew it! Ha! a 9mm beats a .22!
    Haven’t I been saying it?

  7. Glad to see ILA can still generate articles without Ackerman McQueen, NRATV, or Mr. Cox. Jesus, there’s probably the better part of a hundred million dollars freed up between all those, lol

  8. Did 60min (get payed by Bloomberg to) copy their neighbors’ paper? I coulda sworn there was an identical TTAG article about an identical comparison between 5.56 and 9mm, about a week ago. CNN, maybe?

  9. I bet no one here can name a single mass shooting that had the shooter using a REAL AR15. All the shootings i found used AR “STYLE” platforms. I’m sure people can name all the knock offs that were used, but none of them were and Armalite or Colt AR15.

    • Joe, you must recall that when the bill which was a crime was enacted, it banned the AR-15 *by name*, most rifles had changed the name before the ink was dry, maybe haven’t changed it back. Then, you just removed the flash suppressor (or replaced it with a muzzle brake), ground off the bayonet lug, and you were good to go. Rifles were sold right on through the ban.

  10. My question for the people at 60 minutes is why there was ZERO mention in The Pulse shooting report of how many of the people would have survived had they kicked in the door, shot the guy and gotten people to EMS immediately? My follow up question is how many of them would have survived had they gotten medical attention immediately instead of bleeding out?

    I’d also be curious about ammo choice for mass shooters. I’m betting a lot of them run shitty ball ammo because it’s cheap and they can buy a ton of it for not much money.

  11. Wish they would compare the damage from a miniball to that of the AR-15. But nope they gotta vilify the low hanging fruit. Try and ban the 2nd a piece at a time.

    • The Minie’ ball was the most lethal round ever fielded by the US military. I once had a conversation with an Army surgeon on the subject and in his opinion was the only difference modern medicine would make is that you would almost always survive the amputation. And yet you can by a rifle the fires a minie’ ball without a background check.

  12. I am going to say something callous. What’s the big deal about people being killed with an AR? You are twice as likely to be beaten to death than killed by any rifle, let alone an AR.

    I think we all know the answer. The AR is often the weapon of choice when someone wants to kill a bunch of white suburban kids. Parkland was horrible but that is just a typical weekend on the South and West sides of Chicago. But those aren’t nice white suburban kids like David Hogg or Kyle Kashuv. No, those are just a bunch of n****r gangbangers so we white liberals don’t give a rat’s a$$. The Progressive hardon for the AR-15 is rooted in — wait for it — actual racism. White liberals place little value on the lives of black people so they really don’t care about all those black kids losing their lives. I would be surprised if they didn’t consider it a form of population control.

    • Gun control always has been and always will be racist and classist. It’s all right there on the surface: it’s about making sure guns don’t fall into the “wrong hands” to “keep our communities safe.”

      As you’ve noted, who the “wrong hands” belong to and who it is that live in those “communities” is quite revealing.

    • Not even “Black Lives Matters” actually cares about black lives… so you can’t just blame that on “whitey”… it seems to me though that this is just a Lefty thing to not actually have any regard for life.

      All this spewing about safety or lethality of a firearm is just a smokescreen… the objective is disarmament. The “excuse” is just cover for the objective.

  13. 60 minutes just another lying tv show CBS MSNBC abc idiots on late night talk they all have one thing in common they hate America and want to see it destroyed

  14. Next, 60 Minutes will prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt and with geometric logic that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist!

  15. I’m surprised they let as many facts in as they did. That said, I’d challenge them to compare a ballistics test for an AR versus something more similar but still FUDD-friendly: Biden’s 12 gauge or grandpa’s 30-06 come to mind.

    The basic fact that people don’t understand unless they actually bother learning about armaments is that the intermediate cartridge is a compromise- a useful one, but talking it up as particularly deadly compared to firearms in general is silly.

  16. What makes the AR-15 style rifle the weapon of choice for mass shooters?

    Not so sure it is.

    The Feds named the things that make an AR-pattern carbine the weapon for personal, and home defense, when they named it the choice for officers’ defense.

    Compact, managable, accurate, effective, reliable, available, decent capacity.

    When the last choice is to defend yourself, or end up in the hospital with a brain bleed for giving Portland Antifa free publicity (Not sure why that hypothetical comes to mind today.), you want something you can point under stress, shoot til they stop, that will stop them from hurting you.

    Not sure why 60 minutes seems to have such an issue with effectiveness of officers’ n citizens’ defensive arms.

    • It’s interesting. On the one hand, the gun banners tell us that there are mass shootings almost daily. They get info from Bloomberg sites with unbelievably large incident rates. On the other hand, the FBI reports tell us that rifles of all types combined (including ARs) are involved in fewer than 400 homicides per year.

      So, if ARs are involved in so few homicides and mass shootings are a near daily occurrence, then how are ARs a mass shooter’s weapon of choice?

      • Oh, the spin is vast. They’d be much more credible if they footnoted their factoids. Other “news” doesn’t count, nor do spin wash “fact check” sites. Link to primary sources.

        If only there were a way to perhaps embed pointers — let’s call them “links”, maybe — to refs, sources, n related discussion. Since I’m dreaming, maybe some technology to quickly look up n zoom to the other material. And back. So, you’d be kind of “browsing” through the topic.

        On “mass shootings” a couple years ago I dug through to an anti- article, in Mother Jones AIR. Their definition, which you had to work to find, was … interesting. Like a push poll, their selected sample somehow supported their agenda.

        Evil black rifles are a plague if you exclude DGUs, and have no use if you exclude their uses. Most DGUs happen when the predator notes their prey is armed, n moves on. No shooting. And the scarier the gun looks, the better for that.

  17. You have to step on the brake pedal before starting your car due in large part to this kind of story from 60 minutes. Remember “unintended acceleration”? They are old hands at purposeful misinformation.

  18. Gave up on 60 minutes after Harry reasoner died. Came time We how liberal and biased they were after that and when Dan Rather came on board that cinced it.
    I have watched it in 20 plus years.

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