Today I am going to tackle the current debate on gun control. Well kind of. I am not going to try and persuade one way or the other. For this blog entry I am going to do nothing more than give facts. Much of what you hear about the topic from both sides is inaccurate and down right misleading. I will be neither of those things. I will also link some Youtube videos so you can take those facts and place them into real world context. I will also include appropriate excerpts from Wikipedia at the end so you can understand what exactly an "assault rifle" really is.
It may not be obvious to those who are completely unfamiliar with guns but the term “assault weapon” is essentially meaningless. It is not a term the military uses. In the modern world the vast majority of semi-automatic weapons use a detachable magazine. What differentiates an “assault weapon” from any other weapon using a detachable magazine as defined by the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban is the addition of features which essentially do nothing to make it a “military” weapon. As you will see, detachable magazines have been around and in common civilian use for 112 years. By the way, a grenade launcher is really a fanciful term when you can’t buy grenades. Call it a flare gun, which is what it really is.
Now for a bit of history.
Benjamin Tyler Henry invented the Henry repeating rifle in 1862. Not a true semi-auto, it still had to be cocked between each shot. The original Henry rifle used in limited numbers in the Civil War held 15 .44 caliber cartridges in a tubular magazine. These were 200 grain loads with a muzzle velocity of 1200 feet per second. The 1873 Henry rifle, often chambered for the more powerful .44-40 cartridge, is basically the famous cowboy rifle.Today’s modern semi-auto rifle was essentially born with the introduction of the 1905 Winchester “self loading” rifle. These came chambered as either .32 or .35 calibers with 5 or 10 round capacity magazines. While there have been improvements in loading mechanisms and magazine design the basic concept has not changed.
The submachine gun was developed in World War I (1914 - 1918). The term was coined by John T. Thompson, the inventor of the Thompson Machine Gun. Submachine guns as essentially machine guns chambered to fire pistol cartridges.
The first assault rifle is generally recognized to be the Sturmgewehr 44, introduced by Germany in World War II. Supposedly named by Adolf Hitler, the word Sturmgewehr literally means storm. Same as elements of the German army were known as Storm Troopers. Or as we would call them assault troops. The weapon was designed based upon the idea most firefights occur with opposing forces being within 300 yards of each other. See the linked video below for a very cool demonstration of this weapon.
The M1 Garand was introduced at the end of World War II. The basic difference between the M1 and the Winchester 1905 is the magazine is not detachable. Rapid loading is achieved by using a clip. This allows the gun to be fully reloaded and cocked for firing in one smooth motion.
I own and have used semi-automatic weapons with magazines in all three configurations above. Ranging from a .22 tubular fed long rifle (which holds 17 rounds by the way) up to an M1 style .308 high powered deer rifle. All of which are very much lethal weapons. Weapons similar to each one have been used as military weapons. Calibers from .22 and up have been used as military weapons.
Below are Youtube links so you can see exactly how these types of guns operate. They are every bit as lethal and in the case of a high powered rifle more lethal than an AR 15.
The following information comes from Wikipedia.
The U.S. Army defines assault rifles as "short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges." In a strict definition, a firearm must have at least the following characteristics to be considered an assault rifle:
- It must be capable of selective fire.
- It must have an intermediate power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle.
- Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable box magazine.
- It must have an effective range of at least 300 meters (330 yards).
Rifles that meet most of these criteria, but not all, are technically not assault rifles, despite frequently being called such.
- Select-fire M2 carbine are not assault rifles; their effective range is only 200 yards.
- Select-fire rifles such as the FN FAL battle rifle are not assault rifles; they fire full-powered rifle cartridges.
- Semi-automatic-only rifles like variants of the Colt AR 15 are not assault rifles; they do not have select-fire capabilities.
- Semi-auto rifles with fixed magazines are not assault rifles; they do not have detachable box magazines and are not capable of automatic fire.
The term assault rifle, when used in its proper context, militarily or by its specific functionality, has a generally accepted definition with the firearm manufacturing community. In more casual usage, the term assault weapon is sometimes confused with the term assault rifle. In the United States "assault weapons" are usually defined in legislation as semi-automatic firearms that have certain features generally associated with military firearms, including assault rifles. The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons ban, which expired on September 13, 2004, codified a definition of an assault weapon. It defined the rifle type of assault weapon as a semiautomatic firearm with the ability to accept a detachable magazine and two or more of the following:
- a folding or telescoping stock
- a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon
- a bayonet mount
- a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor
- a grenade launcher