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Engineering ‘The Black Rifle’: Why the AR-15 Is the Most Popular Gun in the U.S.


Lately, you’ve seen THIS weapon in the news
a lot. These firearms elicit emotions for millions
of Americans. Some want these weapons to be available and
unrestricted, some want to regulate them, and some want to ban them outright. But what do you know about these rifles? How do they work? And why did they become so widespread? This weapon is hotly politicized, with some
saying the data and equipment is just “too complicated” to properly debate. Which has been made even more complicated
by emotion and propaganda. So let’s try to cut through that. First, we need to know what this IS. People call this the AR-15, but it’s part
of a family of weapons that are all related to the Armalite AR-15
a gas-operated rifle that the US military adopted in the 1960s. They named it the M16, and that has variants
— the M16A1 A2, and A4. There’s also the shorter (carbine) version
called the M4. Or its variants like the CAR-15 or Colt Commando
or versions with different systems and markets like the HK-416 Canada C7 or Danish LSV M/04. And on top of THAT Colt bought the design
and uses the trademark the AR-15 which just makes things even more confusing. This one firearm family has SCORES of cousins
and configurations which is one reason people call it “too complicated” — and why many
just call this firearm family, “The Black Rifle.” So that’s what is IS, but what made it so
popular? You can trace the success of this weapon to
a few things: First: Engineering. Second: U.S. Patent Law. And Third: More engineering
So first: ENGINEERING. At its most simple, a gun is a fairly basic
machine that takes advantage of simple physics: You take a tube, you add something explosive,
and you put a projectile in front of that explosion to push it out of the tube. Firearms have been around for a millennia,
but it wasn’t until the end of the 1700s that… for the first time EVER, a firearm
had interchangeable parts. Imagine that. Before the late 1700s a gun was a hand-wrought
personal machine. Even “simple” muskets were hand-made individuals. And every gun was a one-of-a-kind possession. If it broke, parts needed to be made by a
gunsmith to fit YOUR weapon. But now with interchangeable parts, a gun
could be modified, repaired, and completely built from parts. This was a revelation — and important — hold
onto this idea. Next, more advancements made firing faster,
and eventually insertable magazines containing multiple rounds were invented,and improvements
in design generally made weapons lighter and easier to use. They also fired faster, and faster, and faster. This is because American military studies
completed during World War II and the Korean War found — when armed with an automatic
rifle that fires as long as the trigger is squeezed — soldiers shot at a large area
to SUPPRESS the enemy rather than aiming at specific targets. So, engineers shifted their attention from
shot quality, to shot quantity; In 1956, in response to the need for speed,
E.M Stoner applied for a patent that describes a simple method for siphoning expanding gases
from exploding gunpowder to operate the reloading mechanism of a military rifle. This was a big deal, opening the door for
better-performing and longer-lasting automatic weapons for military combat. In 1962, Stoner’s gas system was assessed
and accepted by the Pentagon’s DARPA.But, the government was dragging its feet to adopt
the new rifle — and by 1963 ads appeared selling a semi-automatic version of this military
weapon to the public. By 1966, the Army and Marine Corps were issuing
the rifle to troops in Vietnam, under its new name the M16. And then in 1977 Stoner’s patent expired. This is when the U.S. patent law comes into
play. Once in public domain, other companies could
take advantage of this firing system, AND another thing… the interchangeable parts. With the AR-15, Armalite and Colt don’t
just manufacture a rifle, they also provide a platform. The AR-type rifle was and IS modular.Modular
meaning, parts are so interchangeable that you can get them almost anywhere, and customize
almost every part of this weapon. Owners can take and swap out the stock, the
grip, the chamber, or the barrel — commonly called the uppers and lowers. and once the
internet came on the scene, could buy these parts anywhere. People can even 3D-print parts to build a
black rifle — someone did in 2013 and fired over 600 rounds. The Lowers are what actually (legally) constitutes
the gun. That’s where the serial number is, and the
action is contained. These interchangeable parts can alter the
type and caliber of shot, the type of magazine, and people can even add a scope (or two!),
or a grenade launcher if that’s their thing. For the military this was a feature, not a
bug… According to a piece about it in the Washington
Post: it makes the weapon ideal “for close- and medium- to long-range engagements and
the preferred weapon used to kill the enemies of the United States.” But for civilians — these interchangeable
parts meant the Black Rifle could be used in different ways. An owner could swap in different uppers for
varmint, big game hunting or target practice. Or different lowers to accommodate various
magazines or stocks. And this is how we ended up arguing about specific parts, like bump stocks. There are even parts for show guns that aren’t
even for shooting, just for being fancy. The AR-type weapon’s success in civilian
life is because it’s like a custom built motorcycle, homebrew computer, or 3D-printed
model. No two Black Rifles have to be the same. Which brings us back to why some say, ”it’s
too complicated” to debate. But it could be UNcomplicated if we just had
consistent language to address when discussing it. The AR-type weapon is one of the most popular
weapons in the world. The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates
5 to 10 million AR-platform weapons are in circulation in the U.S., but no one knows
exactly how many because in 1986, Congress made it illegal to register any firearms,
firearm owners, or transactions. So here we are. This modular weapon is a result of the world’s
militaries search for a rapid-fire, simple weapon that people of all sizes and backgrounds
could use. Hopefully, this video helps you talk to your
friends about what you DO or DON’T like about this weapon, and helps us all understand
why they seem to be everywhere. This is a tough topic to be unbiased about,
it carries lot of emotion for people.In the end, like any piece of engineering, what we
do with these Black Rifles … isn’t just the responsibility of those who created it,
those who manufacture it, those who sell it, those who regulate it, or those who use it,
but it’s about all of us. The future is in our hands. Firearms and weapons aren’t the only thing in a military arsenal. Have you ever wondered how we got photos from spy satellites before digital cameras? You can find out here! At Seeker, we share stories about science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics every day, so take a second and subscribe. If you’ve got feelings about this please comment or send us a tweet @Seeker, or me @tracedominguez, and thanks for tuning in.

100 thoughts on “Engineering ‘The Black Rifle’: Why the AR-15 Is the Most Popular Gun in the U.S.

  1. Its EXTREMELY VITAL that the facts need to be disbursed. Civilian "AR'S" do not and cannot have grenade launchers. Civilian "AR's" do not fire full automatic. Civilian "AR's" are not "machine guns". This video adds actually more concerns and confusion. The "black rifle" is how the rifle looks and its similar outline. A military AR is a "Corvette" body, engine and frame. A civilian AR has the "Corvette" body but the frame and engine of are from a Ford Pinto. To the untrained, the ignorant and those who live in fear…the mere silhouette of these rifles cause fear and anxiety. Many many many more people are killed in the US by the knife, second hand smoke, cars, and the human hand than the AR. The criminal and mentally ill's mindset and intent is the concern. A car, a bus, a plane or an explosive is far more deadly in the hands of a lunatic. Please, base your decisions based on fact….not CNN, politicians, ignorance or fear.

  2. There is SO much misinformation about the AR-15. Most anti gun people have never fired a round out of ANY firearm. I suppose because of the internet, everyone "thinks" they are an expert on whatever they might watch for a couple of minutes. The term "assault rifle" didnt exist until the 1980's and it's a FACT that the term came from the political arena to confuse people more than anything in the attempt to ban all firearms.

  3. Because it's popularly known. It's accurate, lightweight, and doesn't jam easily. But the main reason why it's bought and used by mass murderers is because they are idiots that buy the weapon that they think will do the most damage, and they pick the one most popularly known. If the gun was banned it would just be replaced by a knew popular gun.

  4. actually surprised how unbiased he was..thank you!but you forgot to mention that there are hundreds of different calibers made in the AR platform from 22lr-50bmg

  5. Yet Another propaganda video

    Lefty soy boy trying to show he has knowledge of firearms but honestly he probably doesn't know what he is saying

  6. Oh yeah firearms was a main example in the industrial revolution and interchangeable parts in shop class and then i took technical drawing.

  7. "You can even add a scope or two or a grenade launcher if thats you're thing" Wow, that's not fear-mongering at all.

  8. If you wreck your car killing someone because you were drunk driving you can't shift liability to whoever made your car. So why should it be anyone's responsibility but your own if you kill someone?

  9. My guns identify as tools. If u say otherwise you're a racist nazi, and my tools have the right to a safespace away from your facist propaganda. 🇺🇸❤😘😁

  10. I came to this video thinking it would be super biased,have to say it’s not,there are a few problems with some of the things he’s said but hey everyone else addressed that

  11. Of course he will not mention no one will buy a 3d printed firearm. It is pretty much the crappiest gun you can get.

  12. This video is generalized and a little biased. Title says video focuses on the ar-15 then proceeds to generalize an ar-15 with a m-16 yet there are DRASTIC differences between the two

  13. Yeah you can add a grenade launcher, but the civilian legal version is more of a big flare gun as you are not allowed to fire actual 40mm grenades from it. Heck 40mm won't even fit because they're like 37mm or something like that.

  14. Course it's popular, the Military LOVES the gun and it's successors!
    Also, fair bit unbiased, just facts. Neat.

  15. As an Englishman, the US relationship with firearms and the horror of multiple shootings that often plays out on the TV, looks like a massive act of self harm that is heartbreaking to watch….

  16. This is why I love USA. I think USA freedom come from the Second Amendment. I wish to get Green Card.
    The State with the most legal Gun, to me are the Freest. I have been to only about 25 States.

  17. This had a reasonable amount of accurate information, but it failed to distinguish the difference between the civilian variants and the military variants. The civilian variants are only auto loading (“semi auto” one shot for every trigger pull) while the military variants have typically “semi auto” , 3 shot burst (three shots for every trigger pull), and full auto ( continuous shot fired till the trigger is released). Hope this helps anyone actually trying to listen and learn about this argument. Instead of blindly believing what anti gun people say. Knowledge is power, and so is being able to defend yourself, your loved ones, and your country. I don’t know about the rest of you. I have a hard time believing the side that wishes to remove the ability for the people to rebel against an oppressive government. The government should fear us. Not the other way around, granted they have more toys (tanks, planes, and ships). The last thing we should be doing is widening that gap.

  18. I agree that this vid is an ok start to the broader conversation, but there are some things left out or misleadingly stated.

    One thing to note is, he says 5 to 10 million of these things are in the US alone. He makes that seem like a lot, but given the pop. of the US, that means that just over 3% of Americans own them (not accounting for illegally unregistered guns or people, and assuming each person has a max of 1 AR-which as we know, a lot of people who have one have multiple.)

    Also, I've 3d printed. A lot. There is no way even the strongest filament (even ABS) can make up the stress-bearing parts of any firearm and not totally fail. It is true you can print many parts of a gun, but not the parts that actually matter to firing a bullet. This is not made very clear in the vid but should be recognized.

  19. Lets make laws and regulations to have them baned, coz criminals are known for following laws and regulations…. Right?

  20. You can swap out the chamber aye? Do you think he meant caliber? I love hearing the uniformed trying to drive their points home on this issue. It usually means you're in for a good laugh. Ha and if you use this guys talking points on your friends, I hope they laugh you out the door.

  21. Hey, I'm turning 18 in a bit and I've decided to go with a Colt LE6920. My question is, should I get an EOTech EXPS3 or an Aimpoint T1?

  22. You guys did a pretty good job of staying objective. I applaud you for that. That makes you a better news source than 90% of those out there.

  23. To the uninformed this video sounds knowledgeable, but to those who know about guns, there are many inaccuracies.

  24. So i dont understamd what he said about the 86 gun bill. It made full auto guns illegal made after that point but i dont see how that would affects knowimg the number of legal rifles in U.S..

  25. Now I will say this, grenade launchers are very very rare and illegal to get in places. Flare launchers are different

  26. I cannot be unbiased in this subject because I firmly believe that the AR-15 is one of the most effective and yser friendly tools for defending what ever it is a person holds dear. More to the point I believe it us our right as a Americans to own whatever arms, equipment, accesories etc. that we deem necessary to defend life and liberty.

  27. When your objective is to demonize something u can make it sound like the most terrible thing in the world…example the baseball bat is made of hard steel or hickory wood the hardest wood known to man.. wow. u can swing it at 150 miles per second and if it make contact to your body it can shatter bones, knock your brains out, and kill u within seconds…get my point…u don't want to know what i can say about a 3000 pound car I would scare the shit out of U…..so remember the objective is to remove everyone weapons no matter what statics show….and to turn this country into a socialist nation….now that scares the shit out of me..

  28. Regular Kel-Tec SU-16 & Ruger Mini-14 = Hunting rifle.

    Kel-Tec SU-16 & Ruger Mini-14 with black furniture and pistol grip = Illegal assault rifle.

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