Assault Rifle is Not What The Media Says

assault rifle meaningEver wondered why there’s a disconnect in the discussion around “assault rifle”? Watch the evening news, listen to it on the radio, or read it online/in print, and you’ll have a hear all kinds of confusion. If some members of the Fourth Estate – our free press promised to us under the First Amendment – weren’t so free with their use of words …well, maybe we’d feel a little differently about calling them out when they get the facts wrong.

For some reason, these people, along with certain politicians and supporters don’t believe in holding the individual behind the gun accountable for their actions. Instead, they blame the weapon to push their anti-gun agenda.

But this post is about assault rifles – so let’s get to it.

Debunking the Myths

Let’s start at the beginning with the definition of an assault rifle. We accept the definition established by the U.S.. Army:

  • “…short, compact, select-fire (i.e. both semiautomatic and full-automatic) weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges.”

Before we go further, we’re going to set an important distinction. Assault rifles and assault weapons ARE NOT THE SAME.

An assault rifle has a U.S. Army definition. It is a military weapon.

An assault weapon is NOT an automatic or semi-automatic firearm but ANY weapon used in a crime involving assault. If an assailant beats his/her victim with a hockey stick, then that stick is an assault weapon. The same is true if an assailant uses an ax, keys or a knife. If they assault a victim with a rifle, then of course the rifle is an assault weapon – regardless of what kind of firearm that rifle actually is.

More truths about assault rifles

A military assault rifle has selective fire control. At the user’s discretion, a selective fire weapon can fire semi-automatic or fully automatic. The distinction: a fully automatic weapon will fire nonstop as long as the trigger is pulled back.

Civilian look-alike rifles are not assault rifles for many reasons and one of them is because they’ve been altered to remove the selective fire ability.

The idea that assault rifles are high-powered is also false. They’re no more powerful than rifles used for hunting. In fact, the most common rifles used in marksmanship contests are the Colt AR-15 and M1A.

One more misconception is that criminals buy their guns legally. In general, few crimes are committed with guns obtained legally.


Remember, the best tool to debunk myths about assault rifles, or guns in general, is to be armed with the truth. That’s easier said than done when you consider some media doesn’t always do the necessary research before entering discussions. Unfortunately, that misinformation will become fact to millions unfamiliar with assault rifles or firearms. In some instances, it will stir emotions.

It’s your responsibility to close the gap for these people by correcting someone repeating what they heard on the news, read online or in the papers. You probably won’t change their minds or emotions. What you can do is spread some truth and let it grow. Those willing to listen are open-minded even if they don’t share your stance on gun control.

Remember, wading through half-truths about assault rifles, or any firearm, spun by gun opponents and perpetrated by some media, is confusing for just about anyone. It’s particularly hard to see folks who are comfortable around guns but aren’t yet gun owners be swayed by misinformation.

Stay tuned for more about misused terms.

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About Bret Smith

I am a long-time lover of all things outdoors. Whether hunting, shooting, fishing or just hiking and camping, I take every opportunity to enjoy nature and share it with others.

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