CBS News Scoop: AR-15 Rifles More Powerful than Handguns

This February 4, 2013 photo illustration in Manassas, Virginia, shows a Colt AR-15 semi-au

CBS News’ 60 Minutes did a report on the AR-15 rifle Sunday night and discovered that the rifle is more powerful than a handgun.

They specifically contrasted an AR-15 rifle with a 9mm handgun, and spent time talking about the different levels of penetration and tissue damage caused by a round from each.

Host Scott Pelley interviewed University of Southern California researcher Cynthia Bir who explained videoing a “9 millimeter bullet from a handgun…in slow motion.” She talked of shooting ballistic gel with the 9mm, saying, “The handgun bullet traveled about 800 miles an hour…[and] sliced nearly straight all the way through the gel.”

She then described the round fired from an AR-15 rifle, saying, “[It traveled] three times faster and struck with more than twice the force. The shockwave of the AR-15 bullet blasted a large cavity in the gel unlike the bullet from the handgun.”

Pelley was impressed. He said, “Wow. There’s an enormous difference. You can see it right away.”

In other parts of the segment Pelley worked to communicate the force of the AR-15 rifle by referencing its “high velocity ammo.”

Pelley and Bir could have gotten an even greater difference in power by comparing an AR-15 rifle to a smaller handgun, like a .380, a .32, or a .25. Conversely, they could have contrasted an AR-15 rifle with a popular hunting rifle like the 45-70 to show how the force of an AR-15 pales in comparison to that of other rifles.

Perhaps a better visual is to watch ballistic gel tests from an AR-15 rifle and one from a 30.06 back to back. (The 30.06 was the go-to rifle for deer and large game hunting for decades.)

Here is the AR-15 tested by Brass Fetcher Ballistic Testing:

Here is the 30.06 tested by Brass Fetcher Ballistic Testing:

Like many rifles, an AR-15 is more powerful than a 9mm handgun. However, when contrasted with other rifles–be they 45-70s, a 30.06, or other firearms–the AR-15 pales in comparison.

AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at Sign up to get Down Range at


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