Stag Arms will begin shipping its new, Connecticut version of the AR-15 military-style rifle to retailers in the state this week, two months after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed into law the strict gun controls that outlawed sales of Stag’s entire product line.
The new version is in some ways a breakthrough, in other ways not. Using modified components, it fires a smaller bullet, the standard .22 round, which is much less powerful than the round typically shot by military-style weapons. The .22 bullet is specifically permitted under the Connecticut law in any firearm.
There are other companies that make a .22 version of the AR-15, including O.F. Mossberg & Sons in North Haven. So it’s not a radical design, but it gives Connecticut Stag customers access to the brand, and it gives the New Britain company sales in its home state.
Stag president Mark Malkowski said his firm worked with the state police firearms unit not only for approval in writing, but also for suggestions. The company made a few modifications that the firearms unit said would make the weapon harder to modify back into a traditional AR-15, taking larger, more powerful rounds known as the Remington .223.
Stag will assemble the first of the firearms this week after receiving components from some vendors, said Malkowski, who said he expects solid sales of the new model.
One retailer, Vic Benson of The Freedom Shoppe in New Milford, said he has already been carrying a brand of the .22-caliber AR-15.
“They’re not flying off the shelves,” Benson said. “Here’s the irony: You come in here you can buy a .22-caliber AR rifle…change the upper caliber in about two seconds. ”
Changing the upper chamber would allow the larger, .223 rounds to be fired again. “It’s illegal to do it but criminals don’t obey the law.”
The Stag version should be less easy to modify. The hope is that Malkowski’s willingness to work with the law doesn’t hurt sales any more than are already hurt. And the breakthrough is that a Connecticut company celebrating its 10th anniversary was able to move a redesigned, manufactured product onto the market in two months.
Benson, like many in the industry, has nothing positive to say about the law. “They say we should also embrace the spirit of the law but I’ll be honest, the spirit of the law is not anything I care about,” he said. As for the gun control rules themselves, he added, “What we had before was a big block of swiss cheese with big holes in it. Now we’ve got the same block with a whole bunch of little holes in it.”