Rifle used in Orlando massacre was designed for military use

Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle, handgun used to kill 49 in nightclub

By Ryan J. Foley, Associated Press , Matt Galka , Jim Piggott - Reporter

The weapon used in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history was designed to meet U.S. military requirements for a small, quiet combat rifle for use in close quarters.

The Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle hit the market in 2015 after years of development by the Newington, New Hampshire-based company, which markets it as an "innovative weapon system built around a battle-proven core."

"The MCX was built from the ground up ... to meet all the user benefits we needed to have for military, law enforcement," Cory Newman, a Sig Sauer design engineer, says in a company promotional video.

Investigators say Omar Mateen was armed with a Sig Sauer MCX and a pistol during the attack early Sunday at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, which left 49 people dead and 53 others injured. Mateen, who had purchased the guns legally, was killed after a shootout with police.

News4Jax reporter Matt Galka went to a gun store Thursday in Tallahassee, looking for a similar assault-style rifle and found one pretty easily. He said he could have gotten out the door pretty quickly, too.

A driver’s license, which doesn’t have to be from Florida, and a background check are all that’s required to purchase such a rifle. The rules are different for handguns, which require a three-day waiting period.

Gun control advocates say the MCX, which comes with a magazine that carries 30 rounds, is exactly the type of assault weapon that should not be available to civilians. Its light weight and ability to be fired and reloaded quickly make it an ideal gun to carry out an attack in a crowded place, they say.

"This is a flagrant and grotesque example of how weapons designed for the battlefield are sold to the civilian population in the United States," said Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, which issued a report on the weapon Thursday. "The reason that shooters use weapons like this is because this is exactly what they were designed for."

He noted the gun features a folding collapsible stock that can make it smaller and a forward handgrip that allows users to repeatedly fire without burning their hands.

A message left Thursday for Sig Sauer seeking comment was not immediately returned to the Associated Press. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry, and the National Rifle Association also did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

SIG Sauer MCX

SIG Sauer MCX used in Orlando massacre

  • Technically a sports rifle, not an assault rifle
  • Similar to AR-15 but with different mechanisms
  • Sig Sauer is piston driven; AR-15 is gas operated
  • Known for reliability, longevity and being easier to clean between uses
  • Florida law requires only simple background check for purchase, which can be done in a day

After the Orlando shooting, gun control advocates have called on Congress to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004 and prohibit the use of magazines that carry more than 10 rounds. Critics, including the NRA, say those measures would do little to stop criminals while limiting the availability of rifles that are popular for shooting, hunting and self-defense.

Sig Sauer designed the MCX after the military expressed interest in recent years in acquiring a smaller, lighter rifle for U.S. special forces and other soldiers to use.

"The Sig MCX was designed to meet a (Department of Defense) requirement for a weapon that would be as compact as possible, that focused on signature reduction, wanted something as quiet as possible and would also engage targets out to 300 meters," Kevin Brittingham, then-president of the company's silencer division, says in a company promotional video for the weapon.

The Army awarded the first contract earlier this year under its Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System program to another manufacturer. Sig Sauer's proposal had been the MCX M-R, which has some different features than the rifle used by Mateen.

The MCX rifle, which weighs about six pounds without a magazine, has a suggested retail price of $1,866.

Licensed gun dealer Mark Folmar, who owns Folmar's Gun & Pawn, said the going rate for some of his used semi-automatic rifles is a little over $600, and he’s used to seeing a spike in sales following mass shootings.

“There usually is a spike anytime the president talks about any type of gun control,” Folmar said.

Folmar said business has been normal this week.

“We’ve had so many of these in the past where the president has said he’s going to do something, I think most of the people who had the urge to run out and buy something quickly, most of those people have already done it,” Folmar said.

But numbers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show that Floridians aren’t slowing down with gun purchases.

From Sunday through Tuesday of this week, the FDLE ran more than 9,800 background checks for gun sales. The same three-day span in 2015 showed there were just under 4,500 checks run. That’s more than double following the shooting.

“I don’t believe that you can take away things so that there’s never a problem,” Folmar said. “You can teach people what they can and can’t do, and give them consequences. It’s not going to stop everybody.”

A gun enthusiast in Jacksonville echoed that sentiment Thursday.

"If a person has evil intent, then no matter what, a hammer, a knife, anything -- an assault weapon is just a weapon," Terry Daniels said. "It's not the weapon that does it, it's the idiot that uses it."

Copyright 2016 by WJXT News4Jax. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.