One of the first successful semi-automatic or self loading rifles was the Remington Model 8 above. It was patented in 1900 by John Moses Browning.
Commercial production started in 1906. It was a successful design, used in the hunting fields, in law enforcement, and had limited usage in the U.S. military. The model 8 was modified a bit in 1936 and become the model 81, which was produced until 1950.
You can see that some of the design features were copied in later designs such as the AK-47. The AK features full automatic capability, which was not part of the Model 8, or its improved brother, the model 81.
Many have remarked on the eerie resemblance of the safety lever on both rifles. The models 8 and 81 had rotary locking lugs, as does the AK-47.
The power of the cartridges used in the AK and the model 8 are similar. The Model 8 and 81 cartridges tend to be a little more powerful than the 7.62×39 cartridge of the AK-47. The Model 81 was chambered in the .300 Savage cartridge, which is considerably more powerful, while the .25 Remington, the .30 Remington, the .32 Remington and the .35 Remington bracket the power of the 7.62×39 cartridge, from a bit less to a bit more.
The .300 Savage and .35 Remington cartridges are still available commercially, and would be my choice for a Model 8 or 81. Brass is available for the other calibers. They can be handloaded. There is no reason not to use one of these fine rifles if you have one.
After the Model 8, semi-automatic designs proliferated. As usual, the military establishment was conservative. The U.S. Army adopted the semi-automatic Garand in 1936, but the first production models were not manufactured until 1937. The Army had been experimenting with semi-auto designs since 1901, with design of the Garand starting in 1922. The M1 carbine was fielded in in 1942.
After WWII, millions were sold surplus, some to allies, some to private citizens. We do not have the exact numbers. The last large batch was 240,000 sold to citizens in 1963. There were 6.1 million produced in WWII.
I used the amok.wiki.com list of rampage killers, to find the first use of a semi-auto rifle in a rampage shooting. It occurred 60 years after the initial production of the Model 8 Remington, 21 years after the end of WWII.
The first recorded rampage shooting with a semi-auto rifle appears to be the Texas Tower mass murder in 1966. The shooter had an MI carbine among his three rifles, a shotgun and two pistols. How much he relied on the carbine vs the scoped bolt action rifle is unknown.
Rampage shootings and Rampage shootings with semi-automatic rifles have increased in the last couple of decades. The rifles have been available for over a hundred and ten years. What caused the increase? It isn't the availability of the rifles. Before 1968, the rifles were available by mail order. Before 1968, semi-automatic anti-tank cannon were available by mail order, as were anti-aircraft guns.
A rampage shooter before 1968 could obtain semi-auto rifles (or cannon) much more easily than today. Background checks were not required. Rampage shooters were far less common before 1968. There was only one rampage shooter with a semi-automatic rifle before 1968, in 1966.
There are numerous candidates for the increase in rampage shooters. It is probably a combination of factors.
A movement away from a Christian society toward the new paganism, atheism, and agnosticism, where there are no absolute right or wrong actions, is often postulated. Christians are sparsely represented among rampage killers, if at all, while 70 percent of people in the U.S. are self proclaimed Christians.
Several of the shooters have attacked churches or been explicitly anti-Christian. While this is hard to quantify or prove, it is likely a contributory factor.
Video games – There are mixed data on this. Video games are ubiquitous. While most rampage killers have played them, so have most people. Most rampage killers also drank water.
Psychoactive drugs – More psychoactive drugs are prescribed and used than ever before. Many rampage killers have taken or were taking psychoactive drugs. What is cause, and what is effect? Most rampage killers have mental problems. People with mental problems are prescribed and take psychoactive drugs.
The media – The clearest contributor to the increase in rampage killers that are shooters is the media and the media's attitude toward them. The copycat effect is well documented.
The copycat effect is where the media's obsession with rampage shooters, for ratings, for money, to further the media's gun control agenda, creates more rampage shooters. This helps explain the increasing numbers of people killed.
Rampage shooters who are looking for immortality in the media are often looking to “break the record”. As “the record” ratchets up, rampage shooters work harder at finding ways to kill more people.
The rampage shooter who was used to implement the highly restrictive Australian gun control scheme repeatedly said “did I break the record”? Many rampage shooters were obsessed with media accounts of other rampage shooters. Rampage shooters are given far more coverage by the media than other rampage killers.
There have been rampage shooters for a long time in the United States, at least since 1889. There have been semi-automatic rifles since 1906.
Access to common arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Semi-automatic rifles are common, even ubiquitous, in the United States. Repealing the Second Amendment would be required to make a significant reduction in the availability of semi-automatic rifles. Most rampage shooters have used other types of firearms, and multiple firearms.
A simpler, more effective solution to reduce rampage shooters is available: Stop motivating more rampage shooters with the copycat effect. The media has adopted many standards without legislation being necessary. There are easily adopted standards the media could use to reduce the numbers of rampage shooters, if they chose to do so. The “Don't Inspire Evil” initiative highlights them. No Notoriety lists several examples.
Those voluntary measures are far more likely to be effective than attempting to repeal the Second Amendment.
Read more at AmmoLand.