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I cringe every time one of the major news outlets tries to talk about anything even remotely technical related to firearms. They inevitably get it wrong, misinforming the public and showing that they don’t actually have anyone on staff who knows a damn thing about guns (but I bet they could go for hours about the difference between a 3- and a 4-iron). Perfect point: according to CNN the AR-15 typically uses magazines with a 5 to 15 round capacity. So, in an effort to set things straight, RF nudged me to do a brief overview of the firearms used in the Colorado massacre and I plan to be as complete and truthful about their specs and designs as possible. Because that’s what we do here . . .

Smith & Wesson M&P-15 — AR-15 Style Rifle

The S&W M&P-15 is one of the most popular commercially available variants of the most popular rifle in the United States, namely the AR-15. You can pick one up just about anywhere guns are sold and according to the guys at my local Academy store, they can’t keep the things on the shelf.

The AR-15 rifle design is based on the 1950’s design by Eugene Stoner that eventually became the M-16, the standard infantry rifle of the United States since the Vietnam war. The primary features of the rifle are a the ability to accept detachable magazines and a semi-automatic action — one press of the trigger = one bullet — that removes the need to manually load each round.

The original magazine issued to troops with the M-16 held 20 rounds (CNN: 20 > 15), but the most common modern magazines hold 30. The rifle is designed to make changing magazines quick and easy, taking as little as one second to perform the action by a trained shooter.

The biggest benefit to the AR-15 platform: its ability to be easily altered to suit the shooter. Whether it’s changing out the aiming mechanism or installing a custom stock, the modifications take relatively little time and can be performed by the end user without many tools.

The AR-15 platform traditionally uses the 5.56x45mm round, which is a light projectile that travels at high velocity. It was designed to provide accurate fire at longer distances while being lightweight enough to allow the soldier to carry more ammunition. It does this at the expense of kinetic energy, meaning that it does not penetrate targets as well as other heavier cartridges. However the speedy projectiles make it ideal for varmint and small game hunting, and the AR-15 platform has exploded in this area being used to hunt everything from groundhogs to the smaller deer of the east coast and Texas.

The ease of use, accuracy and ammunition capacity of the AR-15 has made it a favorite among hunters, competition shooters and sportsmen across the country. The Smith & Wesson M&P-15 is particularly popular due to its low cost — the “standard” rifle runs around $1,300, but there are models available for around $800.

Glock 22 and Glock 23 Handguns

Glock handguns are the most popular brand of handguns in the United States. Originally designed in 1979 to replace the aging Walther handguns of the Austrian armed forces, the gun has been extremely popular among law enforcement and civilian shooters in the US and around the world. All of their models are based on a standard design and modified to accept different calibers, different barrel lengths and other features.

The standardized design leads to a number of cost saving benefits. First, since the design isn’t radically different from one version to the next, the design and R&D costs are reduced which brings down the sticker price of the firearm. Second, since the guns are based on the same design, they can share magazines between the different models. This allows someone to purchase one pool of magazines and use them between a number of different handguns instead of buying new mags each time.

The most popular feature of this handgun is the integrated safety. Instead of having a manual external safety that the shooter would need to disengage before firing, the gun instead is designed to be incapable of firing until a finger (or something rather solid) is pressing against the trigger. This provides all of the benefits of a safety while making the gun extremely easy to use.

Despite the polymer (plastic) frame, the handgun is remarkably rugged which, combined with the low cost of ownership and interchangeability of the accessories, make it the most popular handgun in the U.S.

The Glock 22 is a “full size” handgun, which means it has a longer grip and barrel for better handling and accuracy. The Glock 23 is a “compact” version designed for concealed carry use. Both use the .40 S&W cartridge which was designed to bridge the gap between the smaller 9mm Luger cartridge and the big .45ACP round by giving the shooter the power of a .45 with the magazine capacity of a 9mm. Both of these handguns are currently issued and in use by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as well as the U.S. Marshals Service.

Both guns are in the area of $600.

Remington 870 Express Tactical Shotgun

The Remington 870 is the most popular model of shotgun in the United States. Originally designed in 1951, it has been adapted for use in every facet of the shooting sports world from trap shooting to bird hunting. It’s also a favorite among law enforcement agencies due to its rugged design, amazing reliability and low cost – this model costs only about $500.

The 870 is a pump action shotgun, meaning that each time the gun is fired the forward handguard needs to be “pumped” backward and then forward to remove the spent cartridge and insert a new one. The shells are held in a tubular magazine below the barrel and are fed into the chamber automatically when the gun is pumped. The standard design for a Remington 870 holds five rounds, but the Tactical version holds seven. Also unique to the Tactical version are “ghost ring” sights, making it easier to aim, and a ported choke which reduces the recoil felt by the shooter.

The firearm used in the Aurora shootings was a 12-gauge shotgun, “gauge” being a reference to the diameter of the barrel (it’s derived by figuring out the largest sphere of lead that can be rolled down the barrel and then calculating how many such spheres would be required to equal one pound of lead). Like everything else here, 12-gauge is the most popular caliber for shotguns.

The Remington 870 Express Tactical retails for $570, but Chinese clones are available for as little as $200.

And that’s the whole truth about the guns used in the Colorado shooting.

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  1. no, t6he whole truth about the guns used in colorado is that only the goblin had guns. helpless unarmed people for the slaughter. that’s the whole truth.

  2. One small nit to pick. The Glock was originally designed for the competition to pick a new sidearm for the Austrian armed forces.

  3. Nick,

    This post is a good idea.

    To comport to the other descriptions, you might want to add info about the ammunition used in the AR-15. Or, not…

  4. “Despite the polymer (plastic) frame, the handgun is remarkably rugged”

    I think you meant “Because [of] the polymer (plastic) frame.”

  5. After I saw the picture above of the bad-guy Tactical Batman outfit, I got a flash as to what some folks will be dressing up as this coming Halloween.

  6. I think only the M&P15 Sport can be found for 650, which is the “budget” model lacking a forward assist and one or two other things. A normal M&P15 is still like 850 or so. Correct me if I’m wrong, which I may be.

  7. Off topic yet related:

    His unholiness BO is reportedly going to visit the victims in Colorado. How come he doesn’t fly south to visit the victims and families of the F&F debacle?

    Hey, I just had an idea: The pro-gun community should hold candlelight vigils for the victims of F&F across the country, and maybe for those victims in places like Chicago who are unable to defend themselves because of the gun laws.

    • Then again, holding a candlelight vigil that includes the F&F victims will alienate those gun owners who have no problem with US military sales and the politics that is so related. Focusing domestically on victims unable to defend themselves and others because of bad US gun-restrictive laws might be interesting to try out.

    • Boy, if I was a family member of one of those theater victims, I couldn’t think of any greater salt on the wound than being visited by him and putting up with his phony sympathy for the benefit of his campaign.

  8. I was certain that had there been some armed movie-goers, the number of victims would have been much less. Now that I’m looking at the armor this guy was wearing, I’m wondering if anything would have helped short of a serious-caliber rifle or a very lucky shot. Any thoughts?

    • I’ve read conflicting reports. Some say he was wearing torso armor, others say he just had a tactical chest rig with no armor inserts whatsoever.

      • I imagine we’re going to have to wait weeks before we know the accurate details regarding the armor issue, Human Being.

      • CNN had copies of his receipts from (IIRC) It looks like that was where he bought most of his clothing, but I only saw a Blackhawk tact vest.

        Does anyone else think that the booby trapped apartment was a diversionary tactic like the Norway shootings?

    • Even wearing a ballistic vest with inserts, he would have been temporarily stunned at a minimum after taking a bullet center of mass.

    • I think NTE is right…a tackle and a beat down. This guy was tooled up like those guys that knocked off that bank near LA. I heard he even had neck armor…CNN showed the list of things he bought, and I believe a tactical knife was one of the items, so one could have potentially gotten stabbed trying to jump him. Last night I saw on the news one victim was hit by ALL the weapons…the pistol, the shotgun and the rifle. Imagine taking a shot at this guy and having all of that turned toward you?

  9. I’d love to see a writeup on the tactical clothing Mr. Batman was wearing. From the pic at the start of this post, it would appear that he was fully armored. If someone had a pistol and was facing this guy, would it have done any good, or did the guy have a complete armor suit that would have rendered a handgun useless?

    • A handgun would not have been useless. Depending on how much the body armor covered and its rating, it would have meant that someone trying to stop him would have hit multiple times in the same area or had to hit him in the right place.

    • From what little I understand about body armor, Kevlar alone, without metal plates, will still beat the hell out of someone, feeling similar to being hit with a ballpeen hammer. I think the ratings for body armor are based on what caliber they can protect up to, but that “protection” includes a maximum amount of…I don’t want to say penetration, but maybe deformation, even by rounds the armor is rated as providing protection for. Essentially, you’ll still have a chisel pounded into you, but it won’t be enough to break skin and start shredding organs and whatnot.

      With steel or ceramic plates, I think you get far less of a pummeling and can take more rounds before the armor begins to fail.

      All of this information has brought to you by vague recollections of Wikipedia articles and other information sources of a dubious nature!

    • I don’t think the pic is an accurate depiction of his kit. It was just the coolest image McClatchey found on Google Images.

    • Depends on the caliber. A .45 out of a 5″ barrel would have been a challenge for any non plated vest, given a practiced sheepdog. The thing pissing me off is the stoic drama the media is stirring into an already emotionally crowded
      event. I read a post that said something to the effect that “we can never legislate away crime, we can only legislate away our ability to defend ourselves fome it.” I think that should be on a t shirt. I still believe there is a lot more truth to this tragic event than we have been told. If we ever get the complete unbiased facts is a matter for debate.

    • A bullet-resistant vest absorbs energy, but not all of it. What it does not absorb becomes like a punch – and a pretty nasty one. THe right round can crack a rib.

      Three rounds center of mass into a ballistic vest would have been at the very least a temporary fight-stopper, long enough to overpower.

  10. Can we have an article on the body armor and gear he wore? I would be curious about the effectiveness of a hand gun against him. Things like how many shots it would have taken to defeat the body armor and how the gear would have restricted his ability to respond (if it would have at all, though I suspect that the gas mask would have presented a problem). Thanks.

    • Places online have posted pics of receipts of his. He had a Blackhawk Urban Assault Vest. It is unknown if he was wearing armor under neath this, or if the media heard the word vest, and assumed it was armor.

      • Yeah, I figured it was entirely possible that the media didn’t know what the **** it was talking about and everyone jumped to conclusions.

        Maybe we could give the whole “CCW holder couldn’t have made a difference because he was wearing bulletproof armor!” thing a rest if that’s the case.

        • A CCW holder could have made a difference. My FNP-45 has a 40 Super conversion barrel in it, those should go thru level 2A armor. 1000-1100 ft/lbs depending on bullet weight.

        • I absolutely agree, Matt. The only thing that could have made a difference was if an armed citizen or police had been in the theater and returned fire. I don’t want to live in a country with a policeman posted in every public room. I would prefer what our founders provided for in our Constitution; that we as free people be able to defend ourselves.
          To me all the talk about body armor is a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking. Logic always brings you back to the fact that only civilian returned fire would have stopped this guy. I know many friends that carry handguns that would have been sufficient to take this bozo down.
          The only thing that stopped that from happening that we can say for sure is; it was a “gun-free zone.” We need to cry out for an end to “gun-free zones.” clearly, the bad guys aren’t abiding by the laws and policies that create them.
          Our slogan should be “END GUN-FREE ZONES.” We should be as loud as the gun grabbers.

  11. Guy arm with tear gas real hard shoot him with handgun in head burning sting eyes. Hard kill bad guy in head to toe body armor with handgun when got semi auto rifle shooting ever thing moves. North Hollywood shootout prove why that so hard when bunch well arm Las Angles police with handgun shotguns went up against two heavely arm bank robbers in full body armor full auto rifles. That firefight did end untill Las Angles swat team show up kill them same fire power two robbers had used.

  12. Some idiot on one of the news programs said there was no reason for a civilian to own an AR-15 because you couldn’t hunt with one. There would be nothing left of the animal. I know very little about hunting but I know that is crap. Maybe some info from some hunters about hunting with an AR would be useful.

    Some retired NYPD bomb tech also said that old USSR igniters or something like it was readily available at Army/Navy surplus and gun stores.

    • Sounds like another fool who doesn’t realize that the 2A wasn’t created to protect hunting, it was created to protect the right to resist tyranny, which is exactly why rifles like the AR15 should be in civilian hands.

    • There are plenty of people who hunt with AR-10 and AR-15.

      There is even a forum called where AR-10/15 enthusiasts gather to talk about hunting with their AR’s.

      The anti-gun given the stage will try to swing it there way. They idea in the minds they want to portray is someone is in the woods opening up in full-auto to shoot bambi.

      Many use the AR platform for big game, predator and varmint hunting.

      No, your not going to shoot a bunny with an AR but that does not mean they don’t have their purpose.

    • The irony of that claim about hunting with an AR-15 is that some states prohibit hunting with .223 because it is considered too small/underpowered/ineffective/inhumane for taking game.

    • AR15s are also useful for home defense and police applications, since they are less likely to over penetrate a wall than even pistol and 00 buck from a shotgun.

  13. Here come the anti’s calling for bans on anything that can be called tactical which means everything even my ear plugs.

  14. When it comes to guns, video games and current pop culture trends. News people are CLUELESS. When Columbine happened we had them linking Marylin Manson to the shooters even though they did not listen to them. Then acted like DOOM a 10 year old game was some new fangled thing.

    Now we have ABC news linking the wrong James Holmes because He was tea party affiliated and only cared about pushing his agenda against a organization he opposed. Here is the reality, if Holmes could not get any of those firearms he would have used his explosives instead. Then be looking at a higher death toll of maybe of 120. I am more concerned on how easier it is to make an IED that can kill more than an AR-15, that is cheaper to make, out of easily available and legal chemicals and far more destructive.

    Here is the truth, kill 5 people with a military looking rifle, the media freaks and wants to ban guns. All the celebs go out with their million mom anti-gun marches.

    Kill 500 with a homemade bomb, you get reported about for a week then forgotten about to talk about the next stupid reality show celebrity nonsense.

  15. Nick, the only nit I have to pick with your article is your pricing. NIB, after tax and transfer I would put the pistols at $600 to $625 and the rifle at closer to $1000.

  16. ignorance of the non gun masses is hard to overcome. i had a college educated man who was shocked that you could buy a glock. his reasoning was it should be banned because it had no safety. all you had to do was pull the trigger. this was years ago.

    • Are you not college educated? Plenty of college educated folks know how to handle firearms, quite proficiently. I graduated college summa cum laude and qualify yearly with my Beretta and M16A2.

  17. Nice article Nick. So when are you getting on Fox or better yet CNN to dispel all the myths? Seriously most of the reactions out there are fud and we know it.

  18. What are those things on his legs? I mean, I see the thigh protectors, I see the shin and knee pads.. but what are those things on the sides of the lower leg that look like they’re hinged at the knee?

    I tried searching with an initial term of “ballistic leggings,” but all that yields is a ton of stories about this guy and this event.

  19. It appears the boots beneath all that tacked-on crap are motorcycle road-racing boots. They even have the toe sliders.

  20. Couple of points . . . . .

    In my neck of the woods (greater Boston, north side), I’ve seen the Smith M&P 15 sport advertised for $639. Granted this is the stripped down version, but the gun is widely available.

    I also recall reading that a 100-round drum magazine was recovered from the scene. I can’t cite the source as I didn’t record it, but I can full well imagine the anti’s singing about how no one needs a magazine with capacity of 30 rounds (typical for the AR platform) let alone 100 rounds.

  21. I would expect that despite the fact he was wearing body armor, he wasn’t expecting resistance. He never exchanged fire with the cops- he gave up after 90 seconds. That being the case, if some CCW holder fired some 9mm rounds at him in the chest, I expect the shock of the rounds hitting might have caused him to turn tail and run. To be effective, rounds fired don’t always need to penetrate.

    • Or, an armed citizen at the theater could have just shot the bastard in the face, armor or no armor.

      • You try “just” shooting the bastard in the face when your eyes are affected by tear gas.

        As always, it’s easier said than done.

        • is it harder to shoot under the effects of the tear gas or just lay there and be slaughtered while you hide between the seats. the moment he walked in and began firing it no longer was a discussion on what was or wasn’t the most appropriate or difficult action. it was time to try and live. as i’ve said, i don’t claim to be a hero oran expert, i would just like the chance to use something other than foul language and harsh looks to defend my life and the lives of any loved ones with me.

  22. While fighting a semi-auto ban in Illinois along with other bad peices of pegislation, we did a little demo. We got several standard ballistic vest that had been turned in bu cops and hung them on target hangers at the range with some legislators around.

    Now I know this isn’t scientific and there are some other issues with the way we did it but it was simple to prove a point. Distance was about 7 yds.

    First up was a 9 mm Sig Couple of rounds to the chest and reeled it is. No pass through stopped with some bulging on the inside.

    Next we put up an AR-15 in 9mm same ammo — FMJ different vest. With 10 rounds there was substancial degradation of the armor. at 15 rounds we had a hole in the armor and it was useless at that point if the shooting could continue to hit that point, but by that time you would have had a few rounds in the subject.

    Next we ran one out to 7 yds and used a 1911 45ACP. The first round took the vest and wadded it up and pushed it though the hole in the backing and took it clean off the target holder. No penatration through the vest but the wearer, would have felt they got hit my a truck from our perspective.

    Next a 22-250 at 25 yards and it was like a hot knife through butter.

    The a S&W .460 with hunting ammo at 7 yds and I thought my partner missed. When we reeled it in there was a hole right in the middle. again like a knife through butter the vest didn’t even flutter.

    Point is, that even if a shooter is wearing body armor, several well placed rounds, center of mass will knock the stuffing out of them. and provide a chance for people to do something.

    • Thanks for the information, Todd!

      Somebody here (in another post) mentioned an unfortunate case where a bad guy on a spree shooting shot dead a defensive gun owner who attempted to kill him – apparently the bad guy was wearing some armor and the good guy had a 45. I don’t know more than that, because a lot of factors might have played into that. In any case, if you’re at risk of dying, why not go down fighting? You might not get lucky, but if you do, a lot of families will be really thankful.

  23. If everyone in the first 3 rows jumped up and attacked the shooter, would he have been able to shoot more than 3 or 4 people before being tackled?

    • If you’d have been one of the people in the first three rows, would YOU have tried to jump him? Luckily for them, he opened up first with the shotgun at the BACK of the theatre…I don’t think the sight and sound of a 12 GA shotgun blast encourages attacking the shooter for the average untrained civilian.

  24. So the shooter wore a very rare prototype concept uniform for future warrior? jesus christ…

  25. The federal government is comprised of the Legislative Branch (led by Congress), the Executive Branch (led by the President), and the Judicial Branch (led by the Supreme Court). These three branches were designed to apply checks and balances on each other. The Constitution limits the powers of the federal government to defense, foreign affairs, the issuing and management of currency, the management of trade and relations between the states, and the protection of human rights. In addition to these explicitly stated powers, the federal government—with the assistance of the Supreme Court—has gradually extended these powers into such areas as welfare and education, on the basis of the “necessary and proper” and “Commerce” clauses of the Constitution.

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