It cannot be emphasized enough, however, exactly what the AR-15 is: It is a weapon of war. It was made to blow humans apart. It is successful in doing just that. The requests for DNA tests in Uvalde stand as a testament to the gun’s success, but the conclusion that the weapon excelled at blowing people apart was well documented by the U.S. military itself during early field tests.
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. conducted a survey into the impact of the AR-15 and its use on the battlefield. To put it bluntly, the survey found that the weapon, chambered with same .223 caliber rounds that Ramos used in Uvalde, was exceedingly good at killing human beings.
A copy of the survey, which was published in a Gawker story by my now-colleague Sam Biddle in 2016, shows that Viet Cong fighters hit with the weapon were frequently decapitated and dismembered, many looking as though they had “exploded.” A field report documented how an AR-15 had blown up a man’s head and turned another’s torso into “one big hole.” The weapon was lauded by soldiers on the battlefield for its effectiveness at killing adversaries and even cutting through dense jungle forest.
Some of the reports on Viet Cong soldiers killed with the weapon read like a matter-of-fact recounting from a horror film: “Chest wound from right to left, destroyed the thoracic cavity,” said the description of one AR-15-inflicted wound. “Stomach wound, which caused the abdominal cavity to explode,” said another.
Though it has become available domestically in the years since, the weapon was made for war — no matter what the National Rifle Association says — and was noted even at the time as being a significant escalation in the lethality of rifles.