Coffee House

America’s ‘gun culture': Does anyone actually know what an ‘assault weapon’ is?

18 February 2013

Before British coverage of the American debate on gun control goes any further, I have to hope the BBC and a lot of other Anglo-Saxons who really ought to be better informed try to find out what they are talking about. The chatter started up again last week after President Obama’s State of the Union address.

I don’t mean the ignorance here of the origin of the right to keep and bear arms protected by the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, thought there is that, too. The amendment was not an invention of James Madison, the principle author of first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights. In the Second Amendment, Madison was simply affirming the right to bear arms which the people of the 13 States had inherited from English law. Any educated American shooter will point to English documents from the 1328 Statute of Northampton to Coke’s Institutes of the Laws of England to prove it.

In fact, in protecting the right to keep and bear arms – something the British abandoned only in the 20th century – the Americans are now more English than the English.

But what really makes me cringe when I listen to anyone here talking about ‘America’s gun culture’ is their shocked talk about ‘assault weapons.’ Ever asked one of these people just what he means when he talks about an ‘assault weapon?’ I think the average British answer to that one would be: ‘Um, er.’

So here it is. The technical definition of an assault weapon is ‘any rifle, pistol, or shotgun that anti-gunners want to ban and that looks ugly and scary.’ Really. It’s true. The anti-gunners, and the unthinking British who echo them, just throw anything they want into that definition.


I have that from Dan Peterson, a writer and firearms lawyer practising in Northern Virginia. (In case you don’t know the significance of Northern Virginia, it is as close to Washington DC as you can get without actually having to leave the better governance of the South.)

I asked Peterson to follow up on his definition of an ‘assault weapon.’ So here’s more. You can cut-out and keep: ‘An “assault rifle” is a fully automatic rifle that can be carried and fired by one man, that uses rifle cartridges (as opposed to submachine guns, which use pistol cartridges), and that is used in warfare as an infantry weapon. Examples include the American M4 (successor to the M-16) and Soviet AK series.’

The technical definition of an ‘assault weapon’ is as above: ‘ugly and scary.’

According to Peterson, the anti-gunners who want to ban so-called assault weapons ‘usually begin by listing, often inaccurately, a list of manufacturers or models. Sometimes they say that any type of weapon made by a particular manufacturer, no matter what its characteristics, is automatically an ‘assault weapon.’ They include, as I said, pistols, shotguns, and rifles. They generally must be semi-automatic (one shot per trigger pull).”

‘Then there is often a list of characteristics, and if the gun has two of these characteristics, or even one, it is considered to be an “assault weapon.” These include things like detachable magazines, protruding pistol grips, flash suppressors, bayonet lugs, and folding or telescoping stocks. Note that none of these characteristics affects the firing of the firearm, but may contribute to a “military” appearance. “Assault weapons” often look like military “assault rifles” and may share some parts, but not all.’

‘Finally, the one characteristic that “assault weapons” have is that no army of any nation on earth has ever issued them as their combat weapon. Reason? They are all semi-automatic, not fully automatic or selective fire. Certain American jurisdictions ban “assault weapons” on grounds that they are “weapons of war” when in fact they are not used for warfare by any country.’

‘”Assault rifle,” in short, has a meaning, but none of the weapons being talked about in connection with American shootings or legislation is an assault rifle, properly speaking. Assault rifles are highly restricted and registered – they are classed as machine guns, and have never been used in any of these mass shootings, or in nearly any other crimes.’

‘”Assault weapon” is a political term of abuse, designed to scare the ignorant, and to stampede legislators, judges, and the public.’

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  • Marchin

    What a disjointed load of gibberish . . . .

  • the viceroy’s gin

    I’d say the author’s point is well made, given the series of posts here. The term “assault weapon” is a “political term of abuse, designed to scare the ignorant, and to stampede legislators, judges and the public.”

  • paulus

    Well we have listened to all your arguments: America is a hugh continent and it is a wilderness in many respects, hunting is a way of life, some times a necessity to arm yourself, sometimes self defence a real possibility. But all these issues can be addressed with a single carbin discharge.Self defence was the original intent of the founding father and the meaning of the right to bear arms. It was not the right to possess weaponary to infilct mass casualties, that is not self defence in English law. You cannot hunt game with an assault rifle and you cannot content yourself as an entity without respecting the right of other peope in your proximity, they have an absolute right to feel safe. The keeping of an assault rifle designed for short bursts in a confined vacinicty does not conform to this liberty.

    Liberty is only predicated on an mutual understand between neighbours, not on one who is armed to the teeth and one who is not ? arming yourself against an imaginary foe is not acceptable in Law, you only have the right to arm yourself against a neighbour. Proportionality is a one that seems to be lost

    • FMarion

      Re-read the article. You will find that it discusses the fact that while a true “assault rifle” is capable of firing short bursts, the semi automatic rifles that are now being labled “assault rifles” for political propaganda purposes have no such ability and indeed are often used for hunting.

      Moreover those rifles are very good self defense weapons, particularly if you are facing a number of armed home invaders–which is a growing problem both in the US and the UK. The saying in the US is that “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.”

      Finally, self defense is only one of the reasons for the second amendment. More importantly, it recognizes the right of people to defend themselves against an oppressive government. The founders were opposed to large standing armies (and would have been horrified by large standing federal police forces) because they were vividly aware of their misuse in the US in the ten years before the American Revolution, and accepted that similar misuse in Britain by King James II had led to the “Glorious Revolution.”

      One can argue that no such right is necessary because the US government is never going to be oppressive. The founders, however, had no such faith and the history of the 20th Century should give very little comfort to those who argue that only governments and not regular citizens should be allowed to own guns.

  • 15peter20

    “James Madison, the principle author of first ten amendments”

    Think you mean ‘principal’, son. How are we meant to treat this writer seriously?

  • jazz606

    “……….Finally, the one characteristic that “assault weapons” have is that no army of any nation on earth has ever issued them as their combat weapon. Reason? They are all semi-automatic, not fully automatic or selective fire. Certain…….”

    The FN as issued to the British Army was a semi automatic.

    • FMarion

      Jazz: Yes, the FN FAL version used by the British Army (the L1A1) was normaly semi-auto. But it wasn’t an assault weaon because it fired a full-size round. By definition, assault weapons fire less powerful rounds to allow them to be fired effectively on full auto. (If you tried to fire a FAL on full auto without a bipod, the muzzle would climb far too fast for control). So, if an army wants a rifle with semi-automatic only capability, it is going to choose a full “battle rifle” like a L1A1, rather than one that fires a much weaker assault rifle round.

  • FMarion

    Ms. Synon:

    That was an excellent piece, but it seems that many of the commentators didn’t actually get around to reading it.

    As you make clear the debate in America is over what politicians call “assault rifles” but which actually are only semi-automatic rifles. Actual assault rifles are capable of fully automatic fire; semiautomatic weapons take a new trigger pull to shoot each time. And rifles of all types aren’t often used in murders in the US–more people are killed by things like fists and clubs.

    One other point. A commentator says we should look at the Swiss “gun murder” rate rather than Switzerland’s murder rate. With respect, this is little more than a rhetorical trick. What matters is how many people are murdered, not the device that is used to kill them, and Switzerland has a low murder rate and a high firearms ownership rate. US states such as Vermont, Iowa, the Dakotas, and Wyoming show the same pattern. By contrast, the District of Columbia makes legal gun ownership almost impossible but has the highest murder rate of any US “state.” Chicago, which is almost as tough on legal firearms, had over 500 murders last year.

    Mexico, just across the border, makes it almost impossible to buy or own a firearm legally, but is awash in the fully automatic weapons used by its drug gangs. So law abiding people (the vast majority of Mexicans) are unable to defend themselves against the rampages of the relatively few who cause all the murders.

    Politicians pushing “gun control” have not only arrived at the wrong answer–they invariably have asked the wrong question.

  • darwins beard

    To be fair its the caliber of the round (bullet) that does the damage as well as the ability to fire on automatic as the bullet tumbles causing greater trauma in the case of the AK47 (I’m ex Army and can speak on experience) but a hand gun bullet or shotgun round will kill you pretty damn well too, plus as unpopular as it is to say at the moment ultimately its the person holding the weapon who is the most dangerous element, the weapons is just a tool, if someone wants to rock up to a school with petrol bombs or a knife like what happened in Germany the outcome will be the same unfortunately.

    • The Wiganer

      You are in my opinion part correct, because whilst it is the user you need to worry about you have to be suspicious of anyone who wants an assault rifle. I’m also ex army and know that guns like the AK47 and M16 are poor hunting rifles (inferior accuracy) and also poor close quarters weapons (difficult to change position quickly and the AK47 magazine is awkward in the prone position).
      An assault rifle is for attacking people. For any other role they are a poor choice of weapon.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        You should publish your treatise immediately.

        I’m certain the militaries of the world would all be interested in the reasons why they’ve all got it wrong on this matter.

        • The Wiganer

          I got my information on guns from:
          1. Using them.
          2. Direct advice from military weapons specialists.
          The right weapon for the right job. I don’t see why you are so hostile to me. I’d keep a gun if it was legal in this country. But i’d choose the Glock every time.Like firing a pop gun.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            I’m not “hostile” to you. I’m always interested in learning new information. So is the rest of the world, which is why you should publish your treatise asap. We all need to hear what you and your “military weapons specialists” have to say, which has apparently been kept hidden from the world lo these many years, to its great disadvantage, apparently.

          • Roger Hudson

            I wasn’t that upset when I gave up my Uzi carbine and AR7 after Hungerford and when I gave up my CZ75 pistol after Dunblane as I though I was taking part in a general de-arming of Britain. Unfortunately the government was just ‘picking the low hanging fruit’ and have not undertaken deep social action to stop gun violence, instead they have over armed police and just wring their hands about gun violence. Operation Trident is just not working, a rethink is needed.

          • Roger Hudson

            Glock ‘like firing a pop gun’, it’s that sort of attitude that is a problem.
            Lets get back to revolvers the size of a leg of lamb ( the Enfield).

      • FMarion

        The Wiganer:
        I agree that the AK-47 isn’t very accurate (though the Finnish variants are pretty good) but it has long had a reputation as a great close quarters weapon. You are right about the magazine in the prone position but at least ever since the North Vietnamese showed what you could do in house-to-house fighting with an AK in Hue in 1968, it has been a feared close-in weapon.

      • Roger Hudson

        Anyone who hunts with an AR15 is just a ‘Walt’, as in Walter Mitty.

  • In2minds

    They do say the UK police have assault weapons!

  • Reconstruct

    The ‘assault weapon’ idea is currently the only way Americans can begin a conversation about guns and society – definitional vagueness is probably useful.

    As for the larger debate, I urge people to lend an ear to This American Life’s piece on life in Harper High School, Chicago. I consider myself well along the libertarian spectrum, but this program – probably the most shocking I’ve ever heard – makes me thank god Britain has generally still-effective gun laws. Here’s the link – do listen to it:

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Speaking of Chicago, they have some of the most strict firearms laws in the US, and also one of the greatest body counts. Some might suggest that Chicago explore options beyond firearms laws, in addressing that daily carnage on their streets.

      • Reconstruct

        Listening to the conditions at Harper High, I’d have thought the only sort of ‘options beyond firearms laws’ that might be full-scale martial law with the aim of rounding up all the firearms that are already there. The level of fear and despair, and the utterly extraordinarily warped behaviour patterns deemed necessary for mere day-to-day survival, if accurately reported, should be intolerable to any society. It is a shame and a disgrace every bit as profound as slavery.

        As I say, until I listened to the This American Life podcast, I would not have dreamed myself capable of expressing these thoughts. Listen to it, and despair!

        • FMarion

          Reconstruct: It isn’t guns that cause that problem. Many rural high schools in America used to be filled with guns the boys would use for before and after school hunting and no one was hurt. The biggest problem in America’s inner cities these days is that almost all the kids are raised without fathers, and as a result, the boys find the structure they are looking for in street gangs, which are constantly fighting over drug turf. A very high percentage of America’s murders are committed by these boys/young men as they kill each other. So far, the various efforts to reintroduce marriage and meaningful fatherhood into communities in which those ideas have been lost have all been basically unsuccessful.

          • Reconstruct

            I don’t really want to argue with anything you say here. But do listen to the This American Life podcast, because it seems to me that it describes a situation in which the gun-violence has become so ubiquitous as to strip those boys (and girls) of agency. It seems the boys have absolutely no choice but to be in a gang, whether they like it or not (and I bet the vast majority of them loathe it, fear it). I do think the correct simile is slavery, and so I think the moral imperative here is to undo the fetters. I lean heavily towards the libertarian side of politics, but it does seem to me that the guns themselves have played and are playing an intolerable role in the situation. One thing I’m absolutely sure of: there’s no liberty in that part of Chicago. None.

            Oh, and by the way, and very obviously – none of this has anything to do with ‘assault weapons’. Their contribution to the mayhem is negligible, so the focus on them is probably best seen as just political chaff, distraction. Displacement activity.

            • FMarion

              You are right, those aren’t semi-auto rifles being used; all of them are absolutely illegal under Chicago and Illinois law, and they–like the equally illegal drugs–are omnipresent.

              It gets worse. The smarter girls in that high school will be reading books that will depress you even more. There are a number of series of “romance” books based upon the theme “thugs and the women who love them.” Go to Amazon and look up “Thugs Romance” and you will find some of the titles. The basic premise of the books, apparently, is a girl who wants to get away from the streets and violence only to fall for a handsome drug-dealing gang chief. That is the fairy-tale romance that the smarter girls are reading (the less intelligent ones don’t read). When that is the escapist literature, you know how bleak their ordinary lives are.

              Tens of billions have been spent since the 1950’s to fix Chicago’s problems, and not only have they not made anything better, it is pretty clear that the social problems are much worse. I don’t know how to fix it, but I am convinced that taking away guns (and hence the practical ability to defend oneself from non thugs), which Chicago has basically done, has made life worse for the many honest and hard working people in those neighborhoods.

    • Curnonsky

      Read this if you want some background on Chicago’s current problems:

  • HooksLaw

    it worries me that I agree with butcombeman – but this is a poorly laid out obviously slanted tendentious article. And one that too readily lays us open to the tortuous racism of Wilhelm.

    A sloppiness of labelling does not prevent the easy definition of fully automatic weapons. Hold down the trigger to spray bullets is fully automatic.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      You truly are an ignorant dolt, and know nothing about firearms and ballistics, but don’t seem to mind blathering on.

      Let’s just leave it at that.

    • ButcombeMan


      Do not be worried that you agree with me.

      I generally consider WHY a particular writer here, has written what they have written. I did in this case. People here would do well to look at the Wikepedia page of the author. It is distinctly entertaining.

      Note particularly her support for Sarah Palin.

      She is welcome to write her nonsense but she should not try it on here. Not for this audience.

    • jose garcia

      americans should ban auto weapons as soon as obama bans his secret sevice personal security and goverment officials from using them.
      enough of hypocrisy….

      end of it

    • FMarion

      Dum Dums don’t generally tumble. Rather the original Dum Dum had an exposed soft lead tip that allowed it to sometimes expand.
      As for the 5.56 it generally doesn’t tumble either. Technically, that will depend on the “yaw” of the bullet when travelling, which in turn depends on among other things bullet weight, the powder used, and how the rifling in the barrel is set up. But the knock on the 5.56 rounds has always been that it tends to have a small entrance and small exit hole and thus is not particularly good at incapacitation. To deal with this issue, the US FBI mostly uses soft tip 5.56 rounds that work almost identically to the original Dum Dum rounds–but again they expand, they don’t tumble.
      As for your accusation that the article “too readily lays us open” to racism, if you actually believe that an explanation about weapons terminology “too readily” leads to racism then you would seem to have little idea about the seriousness of real racism. And if not then you clearly owe Ms. Synon an apology.

  • Michael Roberts

    IF we’re going to poke fun at the Americans (always fun) the we have to look at ourselves as well.

    the 2012 Olympics had a list of banned items that an individual would be unable to enter the Olympic site whilst they were in their possession.

    One item was listed as a ‘Firearm’ in the belief that it meant all weapons. But, in English law, a firearm is a rifle, and a shotgun is NOT a firearm. They are technically, legally, different things.

    • Roger Hudson

      I thought I saw loads of people with guns at the Olympics, over-gunning at its worst.
      I think you will find even a tazer is a firearm, I know a flare projector pen is.

  • Daniel Maris

    Is this really of any interest to people in the UK? No. Let Americans sort out their issues on this.

  • Wilhelm

    The Colour of Crime.

    ”Blacks are seven times more likely than people of other races to commit murder, and eight times more likely to commit robbery.

    When blacks commit crimes of violence, they are nearly three times
    more likely than non-blacks to use a gun, and more than twice as likely
    to use a knife.

    Of the nearly 770,000 violent interracial crimes committed every year
    involving blacks and whites, blacks commit 85 percent and whites commit
    15 percent.”

  • Wilhelm

    Yes, Africa is a very different place.

    ”Attackers hack off the hand of a seven-year-old albino boy in Tanzania to use body part in witchcraft.”

    • Daniel Maris

      The sort of thing that used to happen in Europe. Remember the witchburning, the hanging/drawing/quatering and Dr Mengele’s experiments? Terrible savages, these white Europeans. And are you sure this hand hacking practice wasn’t introduced by King Leopold. That was the punishment from the Europeans for failure to collect rubber. Similar to the procedures introduced by Columbus to collect gold. Makes you proud doesn’t it?

      • HooksLaw

        Dr Mengele – that wonderful exponent of the Aryan thought process. I am sure Wilhelm is proud of him. Indeed I am sure he has a room set aside as homage for his great leader

        • Tom Tom

          You are truly a nutter

          • Daniel Maris

            I think you’ll find that, whatever Hooks Law’s weaknesses, it was Mengele who was the nutter.

      • Tom Tom

        Oh Daniel, Europeans cured themselves of sickle cell anaemia and it is apparently genetic and prevalent in certain races – must infuriate you

        • Daniel Maris

          Tom Tom, with that you win the prize for “Response of Least Relevance to Anything Mentioned by Anybody on this Thread – and That Includes Wilhelm, Amazingly”.

      • Daniel Maris

        Yep, as I thought. Though he’s been back since I wrote that, Wilhelm has no answer to my observations. Wilhelm likes to think his pink-skinned ancestors have been doing crosswords and listening to Wagner since the last Ice Age. But we know the truth is very, very different.

  • Wilhelm

    There is low crimes rates in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Iceland. There is high crimes rates in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Jamaica. Hmm, I wonder why that is ? White Liberals will say ‘it’s the guns’. Well, in Switzerland everyone has guns, yet they have low crime rates.

    British white liberals say incredulously ” Why do white South Africans live in gated communities and still have guns for protection.” because sometimes the security guards are in on the robbery. There’s been 7000 home invasions last year in Pretoria , Johannesburg alone.

    White Liberals think that because they live in trendy Islington, they think the rest of the world is like that, but Africa is a very different place.

    175 rapes, 50 murders in South Africa per day. Ex wife of FW De Klerk was killed by a former security guard.

    • Matthew Blott

      Why is that Wilhelm, do tell? Is this the case of, “I would say it’s because they are black but I can’t say that as I would be accused of racism.” Well your coded racism amounts to pretty much the same thing so just say what you want to say in future.

      • Wilhelm


        Had a look at your Facebook page and it makes ”fascinating” reading. You live in Brentwood and like Obama, Nick Clegg, Rhonda Pearlman, Vote for change, British Humanist society, Black Atheists of America, Left foot forward, Liverpool football club etc etc.

        Talk about a mind numbingly tiresome Liberal cliche. Why don’t you try and think for yourself Matt ? instead of regurgitating the learned Cultural Marxist script like a good little brainwashed Pavlov’s dog that was taught to you at University / college by some lefty hippy teacher back in the 1970s.

        Do you still have a poster of Che Cuevara on your bedroom wall ?

        • Matthew Blott

          Whatever, you’re still a racist.

          • Wilhelm

            ” Whatever”

            Matt, could you help me out, could you define ” Whatever” ? I’d be very grateful, thanks.

            ” Cloak of anonymity ”

            Well, some of us would call it the Cloak of Humility, take your pick.

        • HooksLaw

          I don’t give a monkeys about Blot, but you are a nasty b@r$t@rd gobsh!te stinking racist bigot who should be banned from these pages. A post about white people in the USA going berserk with automatic weapons and you bring it back to black people and Africa.

          eff off

          • Tom Tom

            White people “going beserk with automatic weapons” sounds like you should lay off the mind-bending drugs. You clearly have never lived in the USA and have no familiarity with guns. EVERY case of guns used in bizarre shootings in the US is connected with D R U GS but the Media omits to mention that bit nor how many US Schoolchildren are heavily medicated without parental authority…………

          • Wilhelm


            Better to remain silent and be considered wise instead of squawking like a demented parrot and be considered an idiot.

      • Tom Tom

        You confuse Correlation with Causation

    • Daniel Maris

      I think you’ll find the white Irish are heavily involved in crime in Australia.

    • Fergus Pickering

      The Swiss gun murder rate is eight times higher than ours. They keep shooting people with the guns they have all over the place, you see.

  • HooksLaw

    ‘assault rifle’ is a term invented to get Hitler to agree to get the first one into production.

    There has been a merger of assault rifle with conventional rifle over time with most military rifles capable of fully automatic fire now.

    There is no real ,problem. There can be no civilian use for fully automatic rifles and the citizens of the USA would be under no greater danger if they were banned from general u8se.

    • ButcombeMan

      And the point of this article is?


      Not an area in which I claim any personal knowldgte but certain States of the US do seem to have a definition of sorts, here is one example:

    • Tom Tom

      I am sure the Mexican gangs in LA will defer to whatever requirements lawmakers feel appropriate

      • HooksLaw

        And your point is? Why bring up Mexicans? How many children do they kill in their schools – whoever these ‘mexicans’ are.
        The notion that banning private ownership of fully automatic weapons will somehow endanger private life does not hold up to scrutiny. Equally i doubt it will stop mass shootings. It might make them slightly more survivable.

        I have sympathy for US gunlaws – I might have more it the NRA and their supporters argued for more responsibility in gun ownership and sale than they seem to.

        • Tom Tom

          Since you are an opinionated dimwit I append some reading material……………..I am aware that the British are world-renowned for combining unbelievable arrogance with profound ignorance and you are the poster-boy for this – but anyone with the slightest understanding of Los Angeles knows exactly which “Mexicans” I am referring to. Since you lack knowledge try watching a movie for insight…………..

        • Curnonsky

          Other than a few collectors private ownership of fully-automatic weapons has been banned in the US for decades. You clearly do not know how guns work.

          And since you ask, Mexican and Salvadorean gangs kill scores of children every year on the streets of most American cities using smuggled, stolen and otherwise illegal guns. Since they already exist well outside the law how will passing new laws have any effect on them? No, just as the hysteria about “assault weapons” shows, this uproar is more about making the hand-wringing liberal class feel good about themselves than about actually saving lives.

  • Colonel Mustard

    I think you are adding to the confusion. There is a definition of assault weapon according to the US Act and a definition of assault rifle by military convention. The L1A1 SLR (Self Loading Rifle) was a semi-automatic rifle issued to the British Army from 1954. Although it could be modified illegally to fire on fully automatic it was issued and intended for semi-automatic fire only and could not be “switched” between the two modes. Was it an “assault rifle”? Well, it was a rifle carried and used in plenty of assaults although the doctrine at the time of its introduction was for aimed fire directly at visible targets rather than the US practice of volume fire in the approximate direction of suspected targets.

    • NorthBrit

      You beat me to it re the FN rifle although the Argentinians had the fully automatic version. Which implies that a Briton with a semi beats an Argentinian with a fully functional weapon.

      • Whiskybreath

        A Briton with a semi will always beat an Argentinian, even if the Briton now must use a decidedly flaccid SA80.

        • Roger Hudson

          Flaccid? They had to change the parade drill to shift the weight from one shoulder to the other a intervals because of the weight. As HK used to be part of a British arms company why didn’t we get the HK G3?, a far better gun. No , I don’t mean the G36.

          • Colonel Mustard

            As I recall, shifting the weapon from shoulder to shoulder has always been part of the drill. I remember doing it with the Lee Enfield during a long freedom of the city march and seem to remember something similar with the odd manner in which the SLR was held.

      • Roger Hudson

        I presume you know the phrase ‘spray and pray’.

    • The Wiganer

      Most military people can tell you straight away what an ‘assault weapon’ is. It is a weapon with a shorter range but higher fire power that is used in close range combat, e.g. an assault on a hardened enemy position, hence the use of the word assault. An assault gun can range in size up to a tank mounted weapon.

      They are superior offensive weapons but inferior for defence, where your enemy will pick you off at longer range, but as most infantry fighting is now close quarters that doesn’t matter so much.

      But when someone says they use an assault rifle for hunting you have every right to think they are a weirdo. Long range, high velocity hunting rifles are the correct weapon for real hunting but they are harder to learn how to use.
      Assault weapons are also not much use in house-to-house fighting. Pistols or short carbines are far superior, with shotguns for room clearance. You don’t see special forces carrying assault rifles.
      The author ignores facts about military terminology in order to have a good rant. But he is actually more ignorant than some of the anti-gun lobby.

      • the viceroy’s gin


        So many untruths and distortions, up and down this discussion’s posts. So you fit right in to it.

        But let’s allow the SAS primary long arm to speak to a few of these untruths:

        So given the above, we must assume that either the SAS doesn’t do house-to-house fighting and does fire volumes and volumes in the approximate direction of suspected targets as per doctrine, or the above statements are nonsense.

        By the way, young man, the AR-15 is considered a high-velocity firearm, and can be and is used for hunting, although not powerful enough for ethical use on anything beyond mid sized game.

        • The Wiganer

          Thanks for that. You will notice that the SAS use a variety of weapons depending on what role they are in. Their close range weapon of choice is the HK MP5. The assault rifle has its uses; that is why it exists. So does a howitzer but you don’t pretend what they are for.

          If you step into a room and let loose with an assault rifle, you are more likely to shoot yourself with a ricochet than your enemy. Shotguns and low velocity weapons are the order of the day.

          And no the SAS don’t usually do house-to-house fighting; that is what the infantry are for. You don’t waste your best troops on attritional warfare.

          But then again, what would I know. Ex counter terrorism and I have fired the Glock, MP5, G11, M16, AK47, 357 Magnum, SLR, SA80, Walther PPK, Lee Enfield, Luger, Bren Gun and even a Browning HMG.

          I defer to your superior knowledge of weaponry. The AR-15 / M16 suffers from bullet tumble, which makes them inaccurate for ranged targets. But then, you knew that.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            As mentioned, the SAS’ long arm of choice is an assault rifle (the very one so bothersome to the gun hysterics, in fact). So again, either the SAS have got it wrong, or you do. Let me weigh this here…

            The MP5 fires a pistol cartridge, low velocity and very inaccurate at anything but close range. It would not be the weapon of choice for general deployment, which is likely why the SAS chose the assault rifle that you claim they shouldn’t use.

            The AR-15 is quite accurate out to 600 yards. You aren’t that accurate, unless well trained. Generally, as with most firearms, they’re more accurate than the user, and so with the AR-15.

            I really don’t know what you’re speaking about with this “bullet tumble” business, unique to the AR-15 platform. You may have picked that up on one of the fanboy sites. Terminal ballistics are what they are, and the forces and conditions causing them are independent of firearm type. This should be intuitive to anybody who thinks about it a bit, but perhaps you’ve never done so.

          • ACN

            I believe the ‘assault’ rifle was a product of German WWll experience. They reduced the power of the regular military rifle round reasoning that most engagements took place at no more than 300 yards. The 1000 yard plus capability of the standard (19th century) military rifle was abandoned in favour of less powerful ammunition giving reduced recoil and allowing a lighter weapon (and reduced user fatigue!) and the means of utilizing fully automatic operation with a hand held weapon if required. The Soviets following the same line of reasoning came up with the AK47. The US AR15/M16 took this considerably further using the 5.56 round originally developed for sporting use.

            Which is where we are now. An assault rifle is one having fully auto capability and therefore not freely available in the US despite what Peirs Morgan (who wouldn’t know an assault rifle from the hole in his……ear) seems to think. His opinions, and too many others, are based purely on the appearance of the weapon, not on its capabilities.
            Anyway if you are going to murder a classroom full of children then the cosmetics of the weapon seems hardly relevant!

          • FMarion

            The Wiganer: The SAS has certainly done its share of door-kicking over the past 12 years, and it has done it very well–particularly in Baghdad, where they shredded the AQI infrastructure. And if the M-16’s you fired were inaccurate, I guess they were pretty old and beat up. But I do agree with your sentiments below on the Glock–it is a terrific weapon if one learns to keep one’s finger off the trigger until it belongs there.

      • FMarion

        The Wiganer:
        Basically no one uses “assault rifles” for hunting, but the AR platform semi-automatic rifle is used all the time for hunting in the US. It is an inherently accurate rifle, and is often the weapon of choice for varmit hunters. The 5.56 mm version is also used in the south west as a deer rifle because it is perfectly adequate for the small deer there, while many hunters swap out the “upper” of the rifle to get a chamber and barrel capable of taking a larger cartridge.
        As for special forces use, it depends on your terminology. US/UK Special Forces all tend to use AR pattern “assault rifles,” though usually (but not always) with carbine length barrels. USSF and the ordinary SEAL teams tend to use M-4’s (a shortened version of the M-16) just like ordinary US soldiers. The elite US JSOC special military units tend to use HK 416’s. I believe the SAS is currently using 416’s as well. And these days all US forces use their carbines, and not shotguns or pistols for room clearance. For whatever reason the pistol/shotgun room clearing approach seems to be totally abandoned.

        • Roger Hudson

          Everybody knows the best weapon for ‘assault’ is flame and lots of it .

      • paulus

        The author is a female but your right

      • Colonel Mustard

        Doctrine changes with weapons capability and lessons learned – supposedly. To the best of my recollection the SLR was never referred to by those who used it as an “assault rifle” and was used in both attack and defence. Of course at that time the generation of Walter Mitty SAS wannabes with their techno-gun fetishes was yet to arrive.

    • FMarion

      The L1A1 is technically a “battle rifle” because it uses a full-sized cartridge, unlike the mid-sized cartridges used by assault rifles like the Stg-44, AK-47 & M-16.
      The US doctrine was the same as British doctrine at the time the L1A1 was adopted. The US adopted the M-14 at that time, which uses the same 7.62 mm NATO round, and which was primarily a semi-auto cartridge. “Spray and pray” came later with the M-16. Both the L1A1 and the M-14 were excellent rifles.

      • Colonel Mustard

        The term “spray and pray” might have come later but the “doctrine” didn’t. But perhaps “practice” is a better word which is exactly why I used it in my original comment.

        • FMarion

          Colonel: I understand the distinction you are drawing now, and I agree insofar as you are referring to the US Army’s actual practice. The US Marines, of course, always put a high value on marksmanship, but I don’t get the impression you were referring to them.

          • Colonel Mustard

            As I understood it at the time the Marines somewhat abandoned their affinity for marksmanship – or at least one target, one shot, one kill – at Hue, but I have little or no experience of them since and that battle might not be a fair assessment of their lasting doctrinal traditions.

            “Spray and pray” used to be referred to as “reconnaissance by fire” – although that was slightly different in concept, being the attempt to make an enemy disclose himself by returning fire in the assumption that the incoming fire meant he had been spotted anyway. So likely locations for him were subjected to rounds during an extended advance to contact, hoping he would commit at longer range and identify his position. The art of spotting the location of enemy fire at distance also seems to have been abandoned, perhaps due to the weapons in use nowadays.

            • FMarion

              Fortunately, both the US Marines and Army have taken marksmanship more seriously in Iraq and Afghanistan, with both deploying lots of snipers and the Army at least (not sure of the Marines) using designated squad marksmen.
              “Recon by fire” always seemed to me to be a pretty brain-dead idea, particularly if the enemy has competent indirect fire ability, though it can sometimes work.

              • Colonel Mustard

                Thank you for the update. I meant no disrespect regarding Hue. Doctrine and practice were colliding at that time. The nature of warfare is such that lessons often have to be re-learned simply because practical experience is not immortal and cannot be communicated successfully in theory.

                • FMarion

                  Isn’t that the truth? The British Army showed the world just how important marksmanship was in 1914, and the US Marines did so again in the Pacific and Korea. Yet the US Army failed to adequately teach marksmanship throughout the 20th century (despite almost always having rifles capable of great accuracy), and by Vietnanm appeared to regard the infantry as a group that was supposed to draw fire and then call in artillery and air support on the enemy. My guess is that once the troops come home from Afghanistan, the sniper and marksmanship schools will gradually close and we will be back in the same situation again.

    • Roger Hudson

      I presume you know what the army manual that went with the SLR in the 70s was called, ‘Shoot to Kill’. Even the AK 47/74 Kalashnikov is better when fired in the middle selector (semi-auto) rather than all the way down in full-auto.
      There should be a ban on all auto-loading , magazine fed, weapons.
      As for the second amendment , I think the founding fathers wanted all sane non-criminal citizens to have a muzzle loading black powder rifle or musket to be a posse civitas, not to be ant-social nutters.
      Britain should be purged of all auto-loaders, revolvers and bolt action rifles are quite enough. Show me a policeman who has fired more than 4 rounds from their weapon in any ‘encounter’ as I can’t think of any (don’t try to mention the Stockwell Station killing, it only reinforces my case).

      • FMarion

        She wasn’t a policeman, but this woman in Georgia used 5 out of the 6 rounds in her .38 revolver as she was protecting her children in the crawl space of her attic from an intruder.

        I’d say she was pretty lucky that there weren’t two intruders–and my bet is that she now gets a semi-automatic pistol that holds more rounds.

  • Tom Tom

    There is no shortage of weapons in Britain it is simply that it is illegal for law-abiding citizens to buy and register them

    • telemachus

      And with the police cuts more and more do

      • Roger Hudson

        General cuts in police numbers is not the problem, it is the poor results of Operation Trident that is the real scandal.

    • beatonthedonis

      There are some 2 million legally held firearms in the UK.

      • Roger Hudson

        Yet they can’t even sort out the fox problem.

        • Erika S

          Not all firearms in the UK are used for hunting, many are used at target clubs, and fox is not the only quarry.

          As a firearms owner you need to have permission of the land owner before you can go out and hunt on that land. There are lots of air rifle and small bore shooters who would love to help you curtail the fox numbers, but don’t have the authority to do so.

    • Spartacus

      Yes, they are mostly held by criminals….

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