What is an assault rifle?

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The basics of an assault rifle are the following:

  1. Is it black plastic or wood. (Collapsable stock is a bonus)
  2. Absolutely no difference in magazine capacity
  3. Handles : pistol grips and front grips make it more maneuverable in tight quarters
  4. They both use the same sights -- but assault rifles have larger accessory rails and make have redundant system (backup flip-up sights, in case the primary breaks).
  5. Flash Suppressor

The term was invented in the early 90's to differentiate a hunting rifle, made with some plastic and accessories rails, from other less black guns.

If you notice, there's no significant differences in round capacity or cartridge strength or rate of fire (combined, those are firepower). No difference in accuracy, or lack-thereof. In fact, the two guns I drew above, are the AR-15 and a Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle precisely because you can put all the same cosmetic accessories on the Ruger, and make it virtually identical in form and function. The bottom one must be stopped, because it's used in virtually zero crimes, and a small minority of mass shootings -- but they are the most popular sporting and hunting rifles in America. The ignorant want to ban them, because they look mean.

Assault Weapons: what classifies one?

Back in 2000's the City of Trenton's Deputy Police Chief, Joseph Constance noted for a Congressional subcommittee that "Assault Rifles" are used in .02% of all crimes (that is 2 in 10,000), and he said that his police officers "had a higher chance of having to deal with an escaped tiger from the local zoo, than with dealing with a hoodlum with an assault weapon". Someone else quipped that they had a greater chance of being run over by a purple bus. It is Trenton, so they did have both of those things happen there before.

Still, when it comes to gun-control, facts and logic need not apply. People see scary looking guns on TV or the movies, and decide their neighbors shouldn't be able to own them: and like when a frat boy takes advantage of a drunken sorority girl, a new law is conceived. And since the anti-gun constituents and legislators usually don't know the first thing about boom-sticks, their laws reflect that. So they just vilify some feature, or make up terms to justify their new laws. The whole classification of "Assault Rifle" was a term invented by gun-controllers in the 1990's, because they knew "Assault weapons" had already been banned (in the 1930's), but they still didn't like the mean-looking guns.

The problem is with Natural rights, as recognized by the Constitution and 2nd Amendment in their way, there's really only two ways they can write these laws (1) too broad (2) too specific.

In the "too specific" cases, they pick on models or features, which means people change brands/models and go around them. And then in the "too broad" category, they fall into a plethora of mistakes: like going after cosmetics that have no functional penalties, or they try to ban functionality, which be challenged (and they always lose) once it gets to the Supreme Court. If they're truly vile humans, they do it full well knowing they're doing it, but it'll take 5-10 years to get it repealed. (A favorite of Kamala Harris types). Their anti-constitutional agenda is more important to them than their oath to the Law/Constitution. This divisiveness puts them against those who care about the law.

So what is an Assault Weapon?

Note the distinction between Assault "Rifle" (invented term that means black plastic) and Assault "Weapon" (which was functional attributes that have been outlawed).

NOTE: By technical definition, an assault weapon would be any weapon you could use for assault, which includes Lime Jell-O. And it helps to remember that assault with any weapon is already a major crime without the need for special bans. But there is a legal classification for "assault weapons", as in what the military uses. The Supreme Court has been very careful to not rule too closely on this, because these weapons are protected by the Constitution and the 2nd Amendment specifically, so they've mostly dodged the issue (to allow the State/Fed more freedom to intrude than they should have). But when they have ruled, it's always ruled that the government is overstepping.

By legal definition, an assault WEAPON is primarily things like fully automatic (one squeeze of the trigger delivers multiple rounds). Silencers/suppressors. And some extremely short (and thus inaccurate) guns called SBR's (Short Barreled Rifles). All those are felonies since the 1930's -- at least without expensive permitting, background checks, and so on.

So whenever someone is talking about an "Assault Weapons Ban" they're either stupid, or defrauding people -- those have been banned., and it's their responsibility to know that before talking on the issue What they're trying to do is create, "assault rifle" bans, which are look-a-like's (but not behave a-like's), and a term that was invented in the 1990's. But they aren't actual assault weapons, any more than a Porsche 911 is a formula 1 car, or your stock Mustang is a top-fuel dragster.

So what exactly classifies an assault "rifle" to the legislators? Mostly it's cosmetics. As I showed in my sketch it includes that following:

(1) black plastic instead of wood

Since plastic is lighter, more durable, and cheaper, it's quite a popular material for many sportsman and hunters. Even collapsable stocks make them easier to carry. This is partly how the AR-15's became the most popular sporting and hunting rifle's in America. I've never heard anyone intelligently argue why making a gun out of black plastic, instead of tan or green somehow makes it more lethal, but that's the biggest differentiator between a classic hunting rifle and an "assault rifle" that Pelosi and friends want to legislate away.

(2) Firepower

The cops are not outgunned, if anyone says that, you know they either don't know what they're talking about or are a liar. The police have more firepower at their disposal and are exempt from assault weapons bans and have been for years! But a good shooter with a bolt action weapon can deliver more bullets on-target than a bad shooter with a machine gun -- so like most things, it is more about training than tools.

Pretending that the "tools" argument is not just a distraction for the real problem (repeat violent criminals on our streets), there are a few ways to measure firepower: magazine capacity, cartridge strength, and rate fire

Magazine capacity

Hunting Rifles and assault rifles often use the same magazines, or someone can make extenders. But guns are designed to be quick to reload, even without magazines. There is exactly one recorded cases of someone successfully charging a mass shooter during reload (even when they had revolvers or break-action shotguns). Even if they didn't have a backup gun (which they usually do), reloads are going to be quicker than you can get to them. This is why whether they had 10 x 10 round magazines, or 1 x 100 rounds, doesn't matter -- other than the 100 round magazines is less reliable, which is why military's don't use them.

Cartridge Strength


Hunting Rifles and assault rifles use the same ammo, and most have the same rate of fire (and often capacity). The most popular rifle is called the AR-15 (short for Armalite, the company that first made it, not Assault Rifle) and it shoots one of the smallest of the centerfire Rifle Rounds available. That makes it cheaper to shoot, easier to carry around, and have less range than many hunting rifles (still good for a couple hundred yards). I included a meme which illustrates the point. But the "firepower" argument is either made by those who don't know what they're talking about, or is an appeal to those who know less.

Fire rate

The last canard is the weakest. The gun-controllers will say things like it's fully-semi-automatic, or some such. But they're trying to make a poorly formed complaint against rate of fire: each squeeze of the trigger fires a bullet automatically. This is called semi-automatic, because each pull only fires one round. Automatic or fully automatic is a machine-gun, which means as long as the trigger is squeezed, it'll keep shooting.

I wish more mass shooters would use fully automatics, the death tolls would be lower. What happens is that they shoot wildly, the gun climbs, they miss most of their targets, overheat, and run out of ammo much quicker -- this is why our army stopped giving them to most of our troops in the 70's. So banning fully autos hasn't done any good (in mass shootings), and probably did more harm than it helped.

The military M16A2 and beyond has single shot and 3 round burst (not fully automatic anymore), for just those reasons -- fully auto is hard to control, and only useful in a few situations like a mass charge by the enemy who is tightly bunched. There might be one automatic weapon per unit, and that's just to deter charges, carried by some unlucky sod that has to lug that thing around.

So what they're talking about is semi-automatics: you have to pull the trigger for each bullet. Not fully automatics, and they want to ban them.

The problem is that the majority of guns manufactured today are gas or recoil powered semiautomatics. So banning them would ban ≈70%(?) of the pistols and rifles used today. The most popular pistol used for competition today is variations of the Browning 1911 .45 ACP, and it is called the 1911 because that was the year it was first manufactured. But if you want to talk about multiple shots without reloading that goes easily back to revolvers (1800's and before), and if you read my article (2nd Amendment was for muskets) it talks about the Puckle gun and various repeaters going back to the 1600's that allowed you to shoot multiple rounds without reloading. So gun controllers, are trying to drive us back to the 1600's, without knowing enough about guns to realize it. And they wonder why the informed or the NRA resists their stupidity?

It doesn't matter if a shooter has a semi-auto, pump, lever, or even bolt action rifle -- the difference in mayhem is negligible. The deadliest American shootings are usually with pistols, or like Charles Whitman / Austin Bell Tower shooting: who killed 16 people with a bolt action hunting rifle. And the only reason he didn't get more, was because a college professor had his hunting rifle in his office and started firing back (which made Charles take cover). So rate of fire hardly matters. The average active shooter kills 3 people over an average of 5 minutes, and doesn't need to reload. 66% of the time it ended before police arrived because, the shooter fled, committed suicide, or a citizen intervened. But even if they do need to reload, in 160 active shooter incidents between 2000-2013, only one was stopped during a reload, and that one was a spontaneous event, with only one gun. (Most are premeditated, with multiple).

Since these bans make no sense for mass shooter crimes, we can also look at general crime. But 99% of generic gun crimes are committed with the cheapest guns possible -- little stolen revolvers. So these assault weapon laws can have no effect on general crimes. And mass shooters are about a dozen a year, with well over 3/4ths of them NOT being an assault rifle. So outlawing "assault weapons" is a way to attack collectors, plinkers and sport shooters, and not effective on either type of criminals at all.

So regulating firepower is a distraction and almost irrelevant -- what matters for the criminal is their ability to hit targets, and what matters most to stop them, is response time. And since 5 minutes is way too short for cops to even get there in most cases, it is either armed guards, armed civilians, or watch people die.

(3) Handles are the #2 differentiator for being an Assault Rifle

For some reason, the antigun people don't like the look of pistol grips on rifles. All rifles have a place for your hand, it is just that if the hand grip is too vertical (instead of slanted) and composite instead of wood, why THEN it is an assault weapon. If you don't think this makes sense, then maybe you will understand why gun "nuts" complain about the laws. Pistol grips and front grips make a rifle more maneuverable in tight quarters, which is why they're liked for some sport shooting.

The assault weapon for WWI, WWII and Korea (basically the M1's), and the M14 from Vietnam, are not usually considered assault rifles because they doesn't have a pistol grip. So real military weapons don't count, but fake military weapons (AR15, in lieu of M16) do count, under the laws. The AK-47 or SKS count, because it has a pistol grip, even though it is often wood. So some started creating hybrid grips, to have the same functionality as a pistol grip, but be part of the stock with a thumb-hole. It got around the law, so the lawmakers started going after it, without any valid reason.

(4) Sights are the same on both (what you use to aim)

Hunting Rifles (and Sniper Rifles) often come with fragile long range optics, and many combat weapons use a short range sights (like a red-dot or laser system) -- the latter being faster in close, but not as good for long range. But those closer range sighting systems, are popular for things like skeet, zombie control and home defense.

(5) Flash Suppressor

Another thing that seems to classify "assault" weapon is the tip of the barrel. Guns create a flash when fired -- so often there is a "flash suppressor" or compensators at the tip. These are vents that let the burning gasses escape out the side (and shields them a bit from head on) -- thus reducing the flash, if you're being shot at (be can increase it for those on the sides). At long range hunting, Animals (like deer) can move before the bullet gets there (if they happen to be looking your way, and see the flash). And if you're 're night fighting in a war zone, you don't want snipers or the enemy to see your flash if you're shooting at them. But in urban malls, or where most gun crimes happen, this little thing on the end serves no purpose at all. .

NOTE: Compensators are flash suppressors that are only vented on the top. This directional venting keeps the tip of the gun from rising (as much) when firing -- and is important for rapid fire sporting events, hunting and is used in some military weapons. But since they're a type of flash suppressor, they're snagged in the same laws. But again, they serve a purpose for someone shooting repeatedly, sighted at targets from a distance. But thats' not how active shooters, or gun crimes happen.

So attacking flash suppressors doesn't do anything of value. But it looks "mean", so they outlaw it, knowing it serves no purpose but to annoy collectors, hunters or sport shooters, then they wonder why they and the NRA resist them?

(6) Bayonet mount

There's another optional item that sometimes gets thrown into these legislations: a bayonet mount. California called it out specifically in their legislation.

To give you an idea of the utilitarian value of putting a pointy stick on the end of your rifle, the last bayonet charge by the U.S. military was during the Korean War, and that one was described by Historian S.L.A. Marshall as "the most complete bayonet charge by American troops since Cold Harbor" (aka the civil war). And there's been exactly zero people ever bayonetted in a mass shooting event, or any other robbery or murder, that I could find. So there's almost no utilitarian value in having them since black powder (when you ran out of ammo while charging): it's more for decoration and intimidation. But that doesn't stop legislators for telling collectors they can't have that piece of decoration on their toys.

(7) Accessory rails

Another thing the regulators don't like is accessory rails. These are tracks that allow you to bolt on utilitarian things like flashlights, laser sights, bipods and so on. They're also made of metal or plastic, and often serve the purpose of being integrated into a grip that you can hold. But often, they help define an "assault rifle". Now you can bolt the same accessories to a wood stocked gun: flashlights, extra sights, bipod, or buy built in parts with those accessories integrated. But if you have a convent way of taking them on or off, then that gun must be banned? (Or so the reasoning goes). This is like outlawing roll bars and spoilers because they make your car look more like a race car.

The more gun-controllers go after these cosmetics, or minor utilities, the madder gun owners get. They have some value for sport shooters, and they do nothing to alter the kill ratio of mass shooters or criminals, so regulating them is nothing more than harassment. And this is one of the reasons why groups like the NRA protests most of these bans. Everyone who knows what they're talking about, knows they're stupid. It isn't about safety, it is about capitulation to the collective.


Of course all these bans aren't going to prevent the criminals from getting these weapons -- and crimnals almost never use these guns in crimes anyway. And if criminals want to use "assault" weapons they often just smuggle-in or buy real (fully automatic) assault weapons, or they steal real assault-weapons from the military or even police. They're called criminals for a reason.

Imagine you are collector or sport shooter that wants to use the same gun that you were trained on in the military, or compete with military personelle in shooting events using the exact same tools as them (without the fully automatic mode) -- why then you must be stopped, we don't want civilians having the same tools as the criminals or Government. This isn't about firepower, or threat to society -- it is about the power of bullies to persecute minorities

Thugs don't carry $1,500-$3,500 AR-15 into a bank, when a $50 Revolver is much smaller, cheaper and easier to conceal. Bruce Willis Action movies aren't real. Hollywood has sold this false image of thugs with assault weapons, and the most gullible part of the public believes what they see on TV or in the movies, and then wants to legislate based on that ignorance. When there is a mass shooter, and one of the rare ones that has assault weapons, we find that they didn't get the guns legally, and/or they modified them illegally. So you didn't stop or slow them down, you just ignored the rest.

Classification of most things is hard. Where's a car an SUV versus CUV, what's a coupe with 4 doors? What's a laptop computer versus a sub-laptop? So trying to outlaw a sub-laptop as too portable, or a workstation as being too powerful for a home user, makes as much sense as most gun regulations. The reason the gun-controllers want to be able to regulate "assault rifles", is they know they can keep broadening that definition, and misrepresenting it, to try to get rid of all guns. Not that it helps the real problem which is gangs and crime. But if they fixed the real problems, they'd have nothing to appeal to the voters on.

But who really NEEDS an AR15?

Asking "who needs an AR15?" is like asking "who needs free speech?". Why do you need your 1st, 4th or 14th amendment rights? If you're not doing anything wrong, you shouldn't need a right to privacy, and if you aren't saying anything wrong, then guaranteeing free speech is redundant.

Of course the reality is the opposite. You don't need to justify why you get to keep your rights/liberties, others have to justify why they should get to take them away. So the proper answer to that question is, "Because, fuck you, that’s why!” If you can take someone's AR15, then what moral ground to you have to prevent them from taking your cell phone, car, Internet access, alcohol, pets, or anything else that isn’t an absolute necessity.

Assault Weapon Memes

Written: 1999.07.11 Updated: 2015.12.19 Updated: 2016.06.13