Washington Post: ‘The AR-15 thrives in times of tension and tragedy. This is how it came to dominate the marketplace – and loom so large in the American psyche. The AR-15 wasn’t supposed to be a bestseller. The rugged, powerful weapon was originally designed as a soldiers’ rifle in the late 1950s. “An outstanding weapon with phenomenal lethality,” an internal Pentagon report raved. It soon became standard issue for U.S. troops in the Vietnam War, where the weapon earned a new name: the M16. But few gunmakers saw a semiautomatic version of the rifle — with its shrouded barrel, pistol grip and jutting ammunition magazine — as a product for ordinary people. It didn’t seem suited for hunting. It seemed like overkill for home defense. Gun executives doubted many buyers would want to spend their money on one. The industry’s biggest trade shows banished the AR-15 to the back. The National Rifle Association and other industry allies were focused on promoting traditional rifles and handguns. Most gun owners also shunned the AR-15, dismissing it as a “black rifle” that broke from the typical wood-stocked long guns that were popular at the time.
Today, the AR-15 is the best-selling rifle in the United States, industry figures indicate. About 1 in 20 U.S. adults — or roughly 16 million people — own at least one AR-15, according to polling data from The Washington Post and Ipsos. Almost every major gunmaker now produces its own version of the weapon. The modern AR-15 dominates the walls and websites of gun dealers…”