Was The Weapon Used At Sandy Hook An AR-15?

| March 23, 2013

The Facts

Yes.  The Connecticut State Police released a statement on January 18th in an attempt to clarify the confusion generated by the inconsistent media reporting following the Sandy Hook elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Seized inside the school:

#1. Bushmaster .223 caliber– model XM15-E2S rifle with high capacity 30 round clips
#2. Glock 10 mm handgun
#3. Sig-Sauer P226 9mm handgun

Seized from suspect’s car in parking lot:

#4. Izhmash Canta-12 12 gauge Shotgun (unused)

The Rifle

The Bushmaster XM15-E2S is a variant of the AR-15 first built by ArmaLite, who then later sold the design to Colt.  The XM15 is a lightweight, 5.56 mm, magazine-fed, semi-automatic rifle, with a rotating-lock bolt, actuated by direct impingement gas operation or long/short stroke piston operation.

The official manual lists the maximum effective rate of fire of the Bushmaster XM15 at 45 rounds per minute.

Bushmaster XM15-E2S-A2

Bushmaster XM15-E2S-A2

The Shotgun

The Saiga-12 is a semi-automatic 12-gauge shotgun with a detachable magazine based on the Kalashnikov rifle design and produced in the Izhmash factory in Izhevsk, Russia. “Canta”, by the way, is the Russian spelling of Saiga. Many Saigas sold here in the United States have the Russian (cyrillic alphabet) spelling stamped on their sides.

The weapon used at Sandy Hook appears to have been modified with a Dragunov thumbhole stock.

Izhmash Saiga-12 Shotgun w/Thumb Stock

Izhmash Saiga-12 Shotgun w/Thumb Stock

The Video

The AK-styled shotgun appears to be the primary cause of the confusion, as several YouTube videos apparently mistake the Saiga for the Bushmaster lying unused in the trunk of Lanza’s car.

But while the blurry weapon seen removed from the trunk vaguely resembles an AR-15, in one sequence you can plainly see a deputy clearing the weapon from the side and ejecting a shotgun shell from the chamber in the process. Note the hand position.

Clearing Round From Saiga-12

Clearing Round From Saiga-12

But an AR isn’t cleared from the side, as the AR-15 and its variants use a charging handle located directly behind the carrying handle.

One typically clears or charges an AR-15 by holding onto the pistol grip using the extended right hand and pulling back the charging handle using the first and middle fingers of the left hand. Or by holding onto the handguard and again pulling the charging handle directly backwards with two fingers.

In either case, one of the deputies’ hands would have to be above and well behind the position of an AR’s handle and upper receiver. It’s not.

Further, the ejected shell (lower arrow) appears to be much, much larger than a single .223 round.

News Reports

Others have cited television broadcasts from the time of the shooting, in which various networks reported that Lanza used handguns instead of the Bushmaster rifle.

But the media reported a lot of false things that December day and in the immediate days following the event. They reported that Adam Lanza’s brother Ryan was the shooter. They reported that Lanza’s mother was a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary. And they reported the handguns.

And none of those things were true.

What is true is that on December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza killed his mother, then used her AR-15-style Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle to kill six adults and twenty children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He used a handgun to take his own life inside the school.

No other weapons were used in this crime. These facts were also confirmed by forensics and by the Connecticut chief medical examiner, Dr. H. Wayne Carver II.


On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster XM15 E2S semi-automatic rifle to kill six adults and twenty children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He used a Glock 10mm handgun to take his own life inside the school.

This has been confirmed by the Connecticut State Police and by the Connecticut chief medical examiner. No other weapons were used at the school, though a Saiga 12 shotgun was later found in the trunk of Lanza’s car.

GUNFAQ: http://www.gunfaq.org/2013/03/was-the-weapon-used-at-sandy-hook-an-ar-15/


  1. State Police Identify Weapons Used In Sandy Hook Investigation
  2. News Video Of Firearm Recovery From Adam Lanza’s Car
  3. Video Demonstrating Differences In Charging AR-15 vs. Saiga-12
  4. NBC: Conn. school massacre victims all shot multiple times, chief medical officer says
  5. 9 Things The Media Got Wrong About The Sandy Hook Shooting

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