AR-15 rifles have become one of the most popular rifles for sports shooters and collectors, local gun sellers say.
They have also become frequently tied with some of the worst massacres is this country's history, including the Aurora, Colo., movie theater killings in July and the tragedy Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., where 28 people were killed.
Police said they found two handguns at the scene of the elementary school -- a 9-mm Sig Sauer and a 10-mm Glock -- as well as an AR-15 style weapon, a semiautomatic Bushmaster .223 rifle, the weapon police say Adam Lanza used to kill most of his victims.
That style of rifle has grown in popularity over the past 10 years.
"The configuration has become extremely popular," said Brad Rupert, general manager of Midwest Gun Exchange in Mishawaka, which sells several AR-15 rifles.
Rupert said Bushmaster is one of the most popular manufactures of these types of rifles, but added there are at least a hundred manufacturers of the version.
The rifle can hold magazines that can carry up to 100 rounds depending on the size. The standard, Rupert said, is usually about 20 or 30 rounds.
"They're popular among target practice," he said. "Another is varmint hunting; groundhogs and coyotes."
Rupert said some people buy them for home protection.
Steve Evans, of Granger Guns, said sales spiked over the weekend in the wake of the tragedy, which he said often happens.
"They use them for whatever they want," he said. "I think most of them are for recreation."
Rupert also said there has been an uptick in sales.
"Nationally, there is a huge spike in sales over the weekend," he said. "More people are buying firearms. They see it as a reason to protect themselves.
"The overwhelming majority of customers we've talked to are purchasing their first firearm. They want to find a way to protect themselves."
The lightweight .233 bullets travel at 3,000 feet per second and explode throughout the tissue when they enter a target, the Washington Post reported.
Almost all the AR-15 rifles are semiautomatic.
AR-15s are the civilian modification of an assault rifle used by police and military forces and can cost $1,000 or more, according to the Post.
The Bushmaster .223 rifle was on sale at Dunham's Sports in Mishawaka on Sunday and Monday. It was listed at $779.99, a savings of $320.
An employee of Dunham's said they had sold out of the rifle as of Monday afternoon.
Staff writer Tom Moor: