The AR15 rifle used in the Newtown massacre is becoming one of America's most popular firearms. How many are there?
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How many AR15 rifles are there in the US today?
US gun sales, ownership and production statistics are often difficult to get hold of - as you can tell from our look at gun sales today.
The weapon that Adam Lanza is suspected of relying on most heavily as he carried out the Newtown shootings is the AR-15 style rifle. It is modelled on the M-16 military rifle used in Vietnam. Police said that James Holmes, who is suspected of carrying out a massacre in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado in July, used an AR-15 rifle. Assault weapons were banned in 1994 but the ban expired in 2004and has not been reinstated. It was first made by ArmaLite, but is now made by various manufacturers in the United States, predominantly Smith & Wesson, Bushmaster, Armalite, Olympic and others.
We don't know how many have been sold, so we have to estimate how many are manufactured each year. A number of manufacturers now predominantly make AR15-style rifles - so if we can work out how many rifles each makes each year and how many are exported, we can get close to a final number.
And the best place to get that data is from the statistics section of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which records how many weapons are manufactured by each US company each year. The data shows just over 2m rifles produced for domestic use by these manufacturers from 2000 to 2010 - the data does not come any more recent than that unfortunately.
One blogger points out that this could mean around 20% of rifles manufactured in the US are AF15-pattern weapons.
Production is dominated by Smith & Wesson, which almost exclusively produces M&P15 rifles based on the AR15 pattern.
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Simon Rogers

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