Friday, December 28, 2012


Magazines and clips, above;
Pistol and revolver, below

Above: Which is the assault rifle?

As a writer, I strive for precision in my work. Don't always make it, sometimes fall way short, but the idea is, as Twain says, it is better to use the right word than its second cousin. In areas where I have some knowledge, this is usually easier; outside those, I have to look things up, and part of the problem is, that is sometimes hard when you don't know much about that for which you are looking ...

In the current hoopla over guns and controls thereof, there are folks who get bent out of shape over the language concerning certain weapons, notably the term "assault rifles."

I understand this. The media and general public get it wrong more often than not. I saw an interview recently with the Mayor of New York City, and Hizzhonor didn't know the difference between semi-auto and full-auto, and was corrected by the woman interviewing him. He brushed it off as unimportant.

Among the first rules of debate, you have to agree on the definitions of the terms. If I say "sky" and you take it to mean "ground," we don't get far out of the gate. However ...

I have, for years, tried to be precise when it comes to handguns. "Pistol" is not the same as "revolver," though most people use "pistol" to cover all sidearms. Pistols are handguns, but all handguns are not pistols.

A "clip" is not a "magazine," and while both are cartridge holders, they don't work the same way. A side-by-side comparison shows even somebody relatively uneducated about such hardware the differences. 

A bullet is not a cartridge, it is only the front end of such. Glocks don't have levers for an external safety, and neither do most revolvers. You don't routinely see .38 auto pistols.

The list goes on and on, but it's nitpicky, and I won't bore you with it. Let's get back to "assault rifles."

Here's the short dictionary definition: 

assault rifle
a rapid-fire, magazine-fed automatic rifle designed for infantry use.

Thus defining it means one needs to know what "semi-" and "fully-" mean when prefixing "auto." Here it is: 

A semi-automatic weapon
fires when you pull the trigger, once for each pull. It reloads the firing chamber, generally using the recoil from the fired round, either directly or by shunting gases, and will continue firing with each trigger pull until empty.

A fully-automatic weapon
fires when you pull the trigger and keeps firing until you let the trigger go, or it runs dry. (or jams.) The term most folks probably know for it is "machine gun," though this is not quite accurate. (Submachine guns usually fire pistol rounds, by the by.)

Semi-automatic weapons, pistols and rifles, are mostly legal for civilians in the US. Fully-automatic weapons require special federal permits, background checks by the FBI, and often the approval of your local sheriff. Nobody is making them here for civilian use any more, and they are expensive used.

What most people think of when they think of assault rifle is the AR-15. Technically, since this is a semi-automatic rifle, it doesn't qualify. However, the error is understandable, since, save for the selector switch that allows a shooter to choose between fully-auto and semi-auto (and in some cases, triplet fire) the two look exactly alike. I've fired both, and I couldn't tell which was which in a picture unless the selector was in it. There are all kinds of custom-made bits and pieces that change the look, too.

The AR-15, aka the "black rifle," is essentially the same weapon, same caliber, same magazine,  everything as the military M-16 or newer and shorter M-4, except for full-auto capabilities. Those differences are mostly internal. It was civilianized to make it widely available.

As a deer rifle, I wouldn't want it. If you dropped it into a nice walnut stock, it would still be a crappy hunting rifle. You need twenty rounds for Bambi, find another hobby, 'cause you suck at at this. 

The folks who get terribly bent of of shape by people calling an AR-15 or Bushmaster or whatever brand an assault rifle when it, you know, really isn't aren't helping the debate. It is also a nitpick of a tactic. 

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, people are going to call it that, even if it is a gull in drag.

A skilled shooter can fire one of these civilian suckers almost as fast as somebody can the full-auto versions. I've seen exhibition shooters cook off a .45 Colt slab-side pistol manually at 600 rounds per minute, which qualifies as machine-gun rate of fire. And full-auto is not as accurate as semi-auto, ask anybody who has shot both. Which is why the military's versions have selectors.

A high-capacity military-style weapon that is a dead-ringer for the U.S. Army's issue rifle–look at the pictures above and tell me which is which–save for the selector switch is splitting hairs, and anybody who pays attention is going to notice it. It was not designed for Bambi, it was designed for Charlie and Boris and Abdul, and folks who try that hunting defense are wasting their time. It's not the right tool for that job. 


Dosbears said...

You lost me at "You need twenty rounds for Bambi, find another hobby, 'cause you suck at at this."
The AR15 isn't used for deer hunting because the .223 ammo is under-powered. My pump-action Remington 7600 in .308 can take a twenty-round magazine. So fucking what?

Dosbears said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dosbears said...

Oops, I typed the captcha into the edit box.
Anyway, I'm not a hunter, but I did a compare-and-contrast on the AR15 last week:

venture220 said...

Have to side with Mr Perry on all this...AR is FUN to shoot, but hunting? Not so much. Assault rifles were designed for close (300 yard) combat to replace the heavy, powerful M-1 since people weren't fighting a mile away from each other. That being said, I'm tired of the Second Amendment being construed as "you may certainly own a weapon to hunt deer". 2nd is more about keeping the government in line than 'sure you can hunt (with a single shot, low caliber weapon'

Steve Perry said...

I have had the conversation with guys more than a few times in which they try to justify their black rifles as hunting weapons. You might have reasons for wanting such a toy, but a trying to justify it as a deer rifle, or a long-range varmint plinker, is lame.
The AR/M was designed and built as a military weapon to shoot people in big numbers at relatively close range. Taking away the full-auto capability doesn't change that.

You can go hunting tigers with a big rock, but that's not the best tool.

A pump-action, lever-actions rifle aren't used by the military these days, are they?

I've been thinking about this for a long time. Search the blog and look at my postings on gun control, assault rifles, concealed carry. I've warted on about such things pro and con many times.

You can contrast and compare all you want, you are dealing with a public that is trying to figure out ways to stop mass murder of children, and you need to pick your battles. We are eventually going to have new laws regarding guns, and nothing is absolute in our laws, it can all be altered, and some of it will be.

The pry-it-from-my-cold-dead-fingers attitude only polarizes the discussion.

So fucking what? Yeah, that helps. When you draw the line and everybody on the other side is your enemy? You shoot yourself in the foot. You are going to need folks in the middle.

Maija said...

Nicely put.

Joyce Reynolds-Ward said...

Totally with you about the ARs. Fun for targets, absolutely not called for in hunting.

And I am a hunter, as well as a teacher who won't go armed into a classroom...

William Adams said...

``Sporting'' doesn't appear in descriptions of laws for firearms in the U.S., until the Gun Control Act of 1968, which was in many ways a translated version of the gun control laws from Hitler's Nazi Germany.

I hereby invoke Godwin's Law.

Cliff said...

THANK YOU!!! This debate drives me crazy because no one is talking about it clearly. Aside from the clarification between "clips" and "magazines" (which I'll admit my ignorance on), this post echos my thoughts exactly, but with better clarity. Then again, that's why you get paid to wordsmith, and not me. :-)