On Friday, law enforcement officials told CNN that the gunman in Lewiston, Maine, who killed 18 people and wounded another 13 at a bowling alley and restaurant, likely used a Ruger Small-Frame Autoloading Rifle (SFAR), an AR-10-style rifle designed to fire .308 Winchester/7.62mm NATO ammunition, which is markedly more powerful than the smaller-caliber .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO ammunition typically used in AR-15s.
To learn more about the history of the AR platform and other assault weapons, click here.
Surveillance photos from the bowling alley suggest that the shooter equipped his Ruger SFAR rifle with tactical gear, including an optic or red-dot sight, a flashlight, and 20-round magazines that were taped or coupled together for faster reloading. This practice, which originated with soldiers needing to reload quickly while fighting in dense jungles in World War II, is known as using “jungle-style” magazines. In this way, the Lewiston shooter was able to bolster his Ruger rifle’s capacity to 40 rounds.
The SFAR — named the 2023 “Rifle of the Year” by the Industry Choice Awards — was designed to harness the power of the .308 Winchester in a platform closer to an AR-15 in size. According to Ruger, “the SFAR is bigger and stronger where it needs to be and remains smaller and lighter than comparable .308-sized rifles.”
The .308 Winchester, which packs twice as much energy as the .223 Remington, is a popular caliber for deer hunting and long-range shooting, and it’s used by military and police snipers. But it’s worth noting that Maine limits hunters to five-round magazines, while the Ruger SFAR is sold with 20-round magazines. Many states limit how much ammunition hunters can carry because hunting ethically means dispatching the game animal as quickly as possible, negating the need for semi-automatic rifles that can accept large-capacity magazines.
Ruger first introduced the SFAR in September 2022, weeks after the company’s CEO, Chris Killoy, testified before the House Oversight Committee regarding the use of AR-15s in the deadly Buffalo, Uvalde, and Highland Park shootings that summer. During his testimony, Killoy refused to implement new safety features or condemn the marketing of firearms to “identified extremist groups” and “domestic terror threats.” Instead, he stated that National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the gun industry’s trade association, of which he is a board member, “does not control individual member companies or their ads.”
Ruger AR-15s were used in the Boulder, Indianapolis, and Sutherland Springs mass shootings, and larger-caliber Ruger AR-10s have now been recovered in two of the country’s deadliest mass shootings: the SR-762 in Las Vegas and the SFAR in Lewiston.
In June 2022, Ruger shareholders approved a proposal for the company to conduct a human rights impact assessment, “which assesses and produces recommendations for improving the human rights impacts of its policies, practices and products, above and beyond legal and regulatory matters,” but so far Ruger has not followed through. To learn more about the company, click here.