The YouTube Logo with 2 ar15 rifles overlayed
Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Videos showing how to simulate or create fully automatic weapons are on YouTube, despite the platform's policies

Media Matters identified over a dozen videos, totaling over 9.7 million views, that show viewers how to achieve or simulate fully automatic gunfire or direct them to websites that sell firearms or parts

YouTube is failing to adequately enforce its policies on firearms-related content by allowing videos with links to purchase guns and accessories, videos showing how to modify weapons to have fully automatic fire, and videos showing how to simulate fully automatic fire without a bump stock. Media Matters identified a dozen videos, totaling over 8.8 million views, that show users how to achieve or simulate fully automatic gunfire, and another five videos with over 900,000 views that direct users to websites that sell firearms or gun parts. 

  • YouTube has failed to enforce its firearms policy, which prohibits content showing users how to modify guns for automatic fire or linking to sites where firearms are sold

    • YouTube’s firearms policy prohibits content that provides “instructions on how to convert a firearm to automatic or simulated automatic firing capabilities” or how to install accessories that enable automatic firing, such as “bump stocks, gatling triggers, drop-in auto sears.” [YouTube, accessed 2/18/24]
    • The policy also says that “YouTube shouldn't be used as a platform to sell firearms,” and prohibits content with “links in the title or description of your video to sites where firearms [or prohibited accessories] are sold.” [YouTube, accessed 2/18/24]
    • Last year, gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety called on the platform to stop allowing direct links to websites where firearms can be purchased. The group noted that, even though such content violates the platform’s policies, “YouTube is full of videos promoting websites where individuals can purchase weapons,” and “links to such sites are also often found in the description or comments of a particular video.” [Everytown for Gun Safety, 5/16/23]
    • Previous reporting has shown YouTube insufficiently enforces its firearms policy, allowing content to proliferate on the platform that shows users how to convert guns to have automatic firing capabilities. A 2022 CNN investigation found multiple instructional videos on YouTube that showed users how to convert a gun to enable fully automatic fire despite a policy against showing such conversions. Notably, in 2023, a YouTube user was sentenced to five years in prison after selling more than 2,000 full-auto conversion devices advertised on his channel. [CNN, 8/30/22; First Coast News, 9/9/23]
    • Per NBC, YouTube has repeatedly failed to properly enforce its policy against content showing how to create “ghost guns.” In December 2021, NBC found “dozens” of such videos. Months later, a researcher reportedly found dozens more videos on how to build ghost guns. (The term “ghost guns” refers to firearms that are sold in parts and assembled at home. Parts may lack serial numbers, making them effectively “untraceable.”) [NBC News, 12/9/21, 2/15/22]
  • Media Matters found videos showing users how to install accessories that enable automatic fire, including auto sears and gatling triggers

    • Auto sears and gatling triggers are two accessories that enable or simulate automatic fire in semi-automatic guns. Auto sears “can turn a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun in moments" and have helped fuel gun violence in the U.S. A 2022 joint investigation by Vice News and The Trace found that “more than a thousand illegal auto sears have been recovered in connection with at least 260 federal prosecutions since 2017.” Commonly known as “gat cranks,” gatling triggers use a rotating gear to fire a semi-automatic firearm with an artificially increased rate of fire, mimicking that of a fully automatic weapon. [CNN, 8/30/22; Associated Press, 3/9/24; Vice News, 7/25/22; Giffords, 11/15/17; Forbes, 4/1/21]
    • A monetized video with over 900,000 views instructs users on how to “turn any AR into a gatling gun” by installing “an alternate trigger mechanism in the form of a retractable trigger crank.” [YouTube, 2/9/24, accessed 3/21/24]
    • A video titled “AR15 FULL AUTO SEAR REPAIR JIG KIT” has over 42,000 views and instructs users on how to install an auto sear in an AR-15. [YouTube, 11/10/21]
    • A video with nearly 20,000 views shows users how to make a Glock fully automatic. In the video, titled “Do you know how to install full auto switch?” a man notes, “It's extremely illegal to do this if you do not have proper paperwork.” [YouTube, 2/24/22]
    • A video with over 35,000 views shows users how to install an auto sear to make an AR-15 fully automatic. [YouTube, 5/25/22]
    • A video showing users how to “turn your gun into a gatling gun” has over 68,000 views. The description of the video also features a link directing viewers to a website where gatling triggers can be purchased. [YouTube, 8/5/11]
    • A video with over 3,000 views instructs users on how to install certain gat cranks. The description reads: “In this video we go over how to properly and safely install your Gatcrank Turbo or Gatcrank Turbo XL.” The video’s description also includes a link to a website where users can buy gat cranks. [YouTube, 1/25/23]
  • Media Matters also found videos showing users how to simulate automatic fire through bump firing

    • Bump firing is a method of using the recoil of a weapon to simulate fully automatic fire. This technique was made easier by the invention of “bump stocks” — which were banned in 2018 after their use in a mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert — as they integrated the technique into the construction of the gun. [New York Times, 12/18/18; The Federalist, 2/22/18]
    • A 2017 video with over 7.1 million views titled “Bumpstock necessary?” contains instructions on how to simulate fully automatic fire “without that evil, crazy bump-fire stock.” In the video, both an AR-15 and an AK-style rifle are bump fired, simulating fully automatic firing, with the video’s subject remarking, “As you can see, semi-auto rifles really don’t need a bump-fire stock to shoot fast.” [YouTube, 10/8/1710/8/17]
    • A video posted in 2011, with over 68,000 views, shows a man bump firing an AR-15, with the description noting, “Its so easy to use a semi automatic weapon and shoot it like a fully auto.” The video’s description goes on to state that the user “Got Full Auto right away,” and that “this is so easy to do.” [YouTube, 4/18/11]
    • One video from 2016 with over 228,000 views, titled “How to Bump Fire an AR-15/M4,” provides a step-by-step tutorial for simulating fully automatic fire. [YouTube, 7/10/16]
    • A bump fire tutorial video posted in 2022, with nearly 30,000 views, shows step-by-step how to use a belt loop to bump fire a rifle. In the video, a man notes that he will “show you how to shoot any semi-automatic rifle at speeds like an automatic rifle.” [YouTube, 6/30/22]
    • A 2019 video with over 126,000 views demonstrates “how to bump fire an AR-15 rifle using a belt loop,” adding that the effect is “Full Auto/No Bump Stock.” The video’s description claims that the bump stock ban is a “ridiculous infringement upon our 2A rights,” and goes on to fearmonger about supposed future weapons bans, adding, “They've taken bump stocks, what's next? AR-15s? All semi-automatic firearms? Firearms in general? Anything is possible.” [YouTube, 2/6/19]
    • One video posted in 2020, which now has over 135,000 views, shows a user explaining how to bump fire a pistol using both hands. The user then attempts to demonstrate pistol bump firing with more than a dozen separate firearms. [YouTube, 12/14/20
  • Media Matters found installation and assembly videos that included links in the video descriptions to websites that sell guns or other prohibited accessories

    • Multiple videos posted by firearm parts manufacturer Midwest Gun Works contained links in the videos’ descriptions to the manufacturer’s website, where guns are available for purchase. The videos have over 760,000 combined views. [YouTube, 6/23/23, 5/19/23, 9/29/21]
    • A video showing users how to assemble firearms parts included links in the description to a website where guns and gun parts are sold. The video has nearly 135,000 views. [YouTube, 3/16/21]
    • A self-defense company posted a video showing users how to assemble an AR-15 part and included a link to their website where guns are sold. The video has over 11,000 views. [YouTube, 1/3/23]