KALISPELL — Stan Green of Kalispell carried an M-16 as an infantryman in Vietnam in 1969. He knew what it felt like to fire a fully automatic weapon.
About three years ago, he was surprised to learn there was an accessory he could buy for his AR-15 Bushmaster that promised nearly the same experience.
The devices, called "bump stocks'' are legal and widely available, selling for as little as $119 on one website.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that authorities found two rifles fitted with bump stocks in the room used by the shooter in Las Vegas who killed 59 people and wounded more than 500 late Monday night. Witnesses and video recording of the shooting documented quick, 50-round bursts of gunfire.
On Tuesday, Cabela's listed the same “Slide Fire” brand AR-15 stock that Green purchased three years ago for $119 on its website. The item was listed as “sold out” early in the afternoon and had been removed from the website completely by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The company’s description of the accessory read: “Maximize your fun with this safe and innovative AR-15 stock, which uses bump-fire technology to shoot as quickly as desired. The rugged, weatherproof stock is made of high-strength, reinforced polymer, delivering a lifetime of rapid-firing fun.”
At a quasi-shooting range just off the Jewel Basin Road Tuesday, Green demonstrated how the Slide-Master accessory allowed him to fire shots as quickly as he once did when he flipped his M-16 to full automatic.
As two young couples with their children took time away from their own practice with a pair of assault rifles, including a child-sized one painted in bright colors, Green and two of his friends blasted through a 30-round magazine in a matter of seconds.
“Once it starts, it just takes off,” Green said.
A semi-automatic rifle, like the stock AR-15s and similar tactical-style rifles, requires the trigger to be pulled for a round to be fired. A fully automatic weapon will fire continuously until the magazine is empty.
The bump stock devices use the recoil of the rifle to manipulate the trigger mechanism.
The accessory replaces the shoulder rest with a moveable rifle stock that includes a “support step” that covers the trigger opening. The shooter puts a finger across the step and then pushes the barrel forward with the other hand. Once the finger comes in contact with the trigger, the recoil causes the rifle to buck back and forth and the trigger is bumped at a rapid pace.
Technically, since the finger is making contact with the trigger for every round fired, the weapon remains a legal semi-automatic.
Green believes his modified AR-15 fires as fast as the M-16 that he carried in Vietnam.
He purchased the accessory over the internet, as well as a 100-round magazine that he has yet to try out.
“I thought that it would be fun to have an automatic weapon that was legal,” he said. “It is pretty fun to shoot.”
Purchasing fully automatic weapons in the United States has been restricted significantly since the 1930s. The federal National Firearms Act was amended in 1986 to prohibit the transfer or possession of machine guns by civilians, with the exception of those weapons previously manufactured and registered.
An avid hunter, Green said he has never used his AR-15 during his hunting trips. It’s pretty rare that he even takes the gun out of its case.
Green said he has received mixed reactions from even gun enthusiasts when he fires the weapon. Some are impressed by its firepower and others are uncertain about whether it should be legal to own.
The modified AR-15 goes through a lot of ammunition quickly. Green and his two friends each fired a 30-round clip.
“It can go through about 30 rounds in about 10 seconds,” he said.
Montana Shooting Sports Vice President John Mercer of Sidney said he has known several people who have installed the accessory only to remove it after the novelty wears off.
“Everyone that I have known who has had one has pulled it off,” he said. “They are a little bit awkward and unwieldy. And it’s difficult to be very accurate while using it.”
Most of the people who enjoy shooting are focused on improving their accuracy, Mercer said.
In one case, he said people attempted to hit a target at 50 yards, which was half the distance that they normally shoot, and, at best, were only able to hit the target once or twice while firing off a series of rounds.
Mercer said the shooter in Las Vegas was “in a whole different world” from the men and women he knows, whose focus is on improving their aim and hitting a target.
“I’ve never seen anyone stick with one,” Mercer said. “It’s not what they’re after.”