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Stop Calling the AR-15 an Assault Rifle or a So-Called ‘Weapon of War’

AR-15
AR-15. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The AR-15 isn’t an assault rifle and clearly not a weapon of war: Last December, it was announced that Ford Motor’s F-Series pickup truck had remained the best-selling vehicle in the United States for the 40th straight year and the industry’s top-selling truck for 45 consecutive years. A total of 726,004 F-Series trucks were sold out of dealerships last year.

The venerable pick-up’s popularity can’t be overstated, yet the large forward-heavy weight of the trucks have been noted for being more prone to rollovers and spinning out than other vehicles. In addition, a 2020 report from Lending Tree website, ValuePenguin.com declared the F-150 to be the most deadly vehicle in the United States.

That fact is important to note, as this week, House lawmakers were quick to note that major gun manufacturers in the United States earned more than $1 billion from the sale of so-called “military-style assault weapons” to American civilians in the last decade. According to a report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which was released shortly before a scheduled hearing on gun violence and the firearms industry, hundreds of thousands of such firearms are sold each year.

That data is very much in line with a report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry’s trade association, which found that more AR-15 and AK-47-style “modern sporting rifles” have been sold than all the F-150s on the road. Some 4.5 million AR-15s/AK-47s have been sold just since 2020 when Joe Biden called for a ban on such firearms.

“This is a truly significant figure that demonstrates – again – the popularity of this commonly-owned style of rifle,” said NSSF President and CEO Joe Bartozzi. “The firearm industry responds to market demand and this shows that during the elevated period of firearm sales that began in 2020, this particular style of rifle is the top choice for law-abiding citizens for hunting, recreational shooting and self-defense.”

The AR-15 in Congress’ Crosshairs

Many lawmakers would like to ban the AR-15 – as well as the AK-47 and other semi-automatic rifles – due to their similarity to the actual military assault rifles used by soldiers around the world.

“These companies are selling the weapon of choice for mass murderers who terrorize young children at school, hunt down worshippers at churches and synagogues, and slaughter families on the Fourth of July. In short, the gun industry is profiting off the blood of innocent Americans,” committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Wednesday.

However, as the NSSF and other gun rights supporters correctly point out, millions of these firearms have been sold to law-abiding citizens. The NSSF estimated that some 24,456,000 modern sporting rifles (MSRs) are now owned by American citizens, and only an extremely small fraction of those have been used for nefarious purposes. To put that in perspective, HotCars.com – a site that one would argue is very “car-friendly” – cited ValuePenguin.com’s findings, and noted that there were 10,845 fatal crashes involving the Ford F-Series between 2015 and 2020.

Yet, few lawmakers have called for that, or other similar vehicles, to be banned.

Not Military Firearms

It is important to note that many lawmakers don’t stick to the facts, however, as many have continued to suggest the AR-15 is a weapon of war, even as it should be noted too that the civilian versions lack the full-auto capabilities of the military weapons. The confusion has reportedly gotten so great that the Associated Press, which is seen as taking a lead on reporter style guides, has urged the media to stop labeling the AR-15 an “assault rifle.”

Earlier this month, the AP offered a style tip, which noted, “The preferred term for a rifle that fires one bullet each time the trigger is pulled, and automatically reloads for a subsequent shot, is a semi-automatic rifle. An automatic rifle continuously fires rounds if the trigger is depressed and until its ammunition is exhausted.”

The Stylebook’s weapons entry offers guidance on terms including semi-automatic rifle, assault rifle, assault weapon, military-style rifle and modern sporting rifle. pic.twitter.com/RvNrZp1lu2

— APStylebook (@APStylebook) July 13, 2022

Even with the AP’s stance, it is unlikely that even if the media should stop labeling every AR-15 an “assault rifle” few lawmakers will follow suit. Labeling these firearms as “weapons of war” is so much easier to make their point.

Now imagine if some reporters – such as those who regularly bicycle on public streets – described the Ford F-Series (and similar trucks) as “dangerous killing machines that have absolutely no place on public roads and should be banned – and it was better when gasoline was nearly $6 a gallon!” How would some, including lawmakers, react to such hyperbole?

A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. He also hates big trucks. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

Written By

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Suciu is also a contributing writer for Forbes Magazine.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Mario

    July 28, 2022 at 3:07 pm

    Dear Piotr: No country in the whole world can sell that waeapon as a ‘hunter one’, except yours…
    The country of the killing childs (and the killed…)
    And, of course: we are morally superior to you…
    From Europe with… Love?

  2. Mario

    July 28, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    In any civilized country, you’ll be in jail…

  3. Ripper

    July 28, 2022 at 4:15 pm

    Assault, how many deer ur pigs shoot back. There is no need for these unless you want to go to a school or mall and kill lots of people. There is no reason for these, unless you an officer of the law shooting back at drug dealers or terrorist.
    Bolt action with a good scope, 308’s my baby and good field craft.
    Don’t need a point and shoot 30 in that general area. What is it the NARA or the NRA?

  4. aaall

    July 28, 2022 at 5:16 pm

    There is no civilian use for semi-automatic rifles. If you need thirty shots, you have no business in the field. If you can’t do it with a single shot, bolt or lever action you should step back.

    Amend the 1986 firearms law to include semi-autos in the same class as “machine guns”and use the same May 1986 cut off date. Post 1986 manufacture do a buy back. If you have a Garand, Johnson, M1 carbine, or other pre-cutoff semi-auto file a form 4.

  5. Thomas

    July 28, 2022 at 6:23 pm

    Americans do not deal with Prohibition on rights. It did not work with Alcohol, nor has it worked with Drugs. It will not work with Firearms. This country is NOT Europe or Asia or Australia. As far as your liberal Bots or trolls, Europeans or otherwise. We don’t care what Britain, Australia or Germany does. Its time for Congress and the Senate to move on from guns, focus on providing security and the correct law enforcement for the issue. Prohibition of anything, DOES NOT WORK in America. Move on!

  6. KB

    July 28, 2022 at 8:11 pm

    Don’t call them “Assault rifles”? Ok, what about “artificial phallus”? As I understand it, one manufacturer even ran an ad picturing their AR-15 with the caption “Man card, renewed.”

    By the way, the mass murderers who used AR-15s were law-abiding citizens. Until they weren’t.

    Why would anyone think these were military weapons? Just because they’re based upon a design that Eugene Stoner hoped to sell to the US Army? Just because they use the cartridge used by the US Army. Because it has a 30-round magazine first developed for the military? Because the example you showed is even in camouflage colours? Some people, right?

  7. Peter Suciu

    July 28, 2022 at 8:21 pm

    With all due respect, the Second Amendment isn’t about hunting. I’ve never gone hunting in my life, and have no plans or desire to. We have a thing called grocery stores, so I’m all set.

  8. jeff

    July 28, 2022 at 9:34 pm

    I do not have to justify my reasons for owning a rifle to anyone, it is called the Bill of Rights for a reason. I find it interesting how much the gun banners sound like the Nazi’s of pre-war Germany. Or Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and a host of other communists.

  9. KB

    July 29, 2022 at 8:02 am

    No, the Second Amendment is about a “well regulated militia.” Don’t hear too much about that, though.

  10. Stefan Stackhouse

    July 29, 2022 at 1:52 pm

    A firearm that can empty a magazine of 20+ rounds into a crowded room in well under a minute is a weapon of mass murder. Sorry if that offends you, but that is the reality.

    CAN these be used for other things, such as target shooting or hunting? I suppose so. Are there alternatives that are designed for such and will perform better? Absolutely. The main purpose of the AR-15, et al., is for the rapid fire of a large number of rounds, without much concern for accuracy. If one were designing a weapon that could be used for mass murder in the hands of an untrained civilian, one could hardly do better.

    So, do you all think it is a good idea to have thousands – and maybe millions – of these weapons of mass murder in the hands of people who may not merely be less than perfectly responsible, but may include more than a few who are mentally unstable or worse? That is what we have, and it doesn’t make for a safe country for ordinary people.

  11. Loco

    July 30, 2022 at 9:15 am

    Having fired both an M16A1 (fully automatic capability – served in a USMC weapons platoon) and an AR15 (semi-automatic only, but clearly modeled after the M16 military version without automatic capability), I can assure you that either will kill many and quickly. Fire doctrine in the military generally limits automatic fire to only last ditch defense at close range as you go through the rounds too quickly on auto and accuracy is usually affected. I used to not worry to much about the AR15 as my sense was (and, for the most part, still is) that most gun owners are solid folks who can control themselves. I have always been more concerned about the concealability of semi-auto pistols which can fire almost as many rounds just as quickly, but with less accuracy. Now, with the political environment as it is, I am less certain. But, its probably too late to change much if the politicians and their ultra-followers are going to continue to be the a-holes that they are. But, certainly, age limits on purchase, background checks for everyone, waiting periods, training, etc., are more than logical approaches. I prefer the M1 carbine, M1 Garand, 1892 Winchester, etc., for fun shooting if that is what you are really after.

  12. Bill C

    July 30, 2022 at 10:11 am

    Peter, maybe you should forget about assault weapons and start up an effort to ban “Assault trucks” instead. There’s just no telling what carnage will be done by this rascally F-150.

  13. Kier

    July 30, 2022 at 11:12 am

    As a lifelong gun owner and supporter of the assault weapons ban, the fundamental question that anyone opposing gun control regulations should consider is as follows; how exactly do you propose mass murders be stopped in our country? And what exactly have you done to advance actions that will stop mass murders. If your only interest is in the protection of gun ownership rights and you do nothing to assist in stopping mass murders, it would indicate that you are comfortable living in a society where mass murders regularly occur. So, let’s focus less on gun ownership and more on eliminating mass murders. Accomplish the second and the first becomes unimportant.

  14. Bradford

    July 30, 2022 at 11:54 am

    What an incredibly stupid article to put your name to.

  15. Brent

    July 30, 2022 at 1:22 pm

    Stop using them to shoot up schools full of little kids and you can call them ‘Jimmy’ for all I care. On;y frickin’ homicidal lunatics want the damn thing in the first place. No normal person would.

  16. Doyle

    July 31, 2022 at 8:51 am

    Lots of pathetic words coming out of the mouths of a lot of pathetic people here. Their inanities about the right to own arms is comical at best but at it’s heart very odious indeed. They have the right to spew uninformed anti 2nd amendment rhetoric all they want which may cause me to laugh at their haughty pseudo intellectual nonsense but that’s America. As to what anyone from overseas says, irrelevant, who cares what they supposedly think they simply do not count. An arm is an arm and shall not be infringed is pretty specific but again that’s me, words have meaning.

  17. Bill C

    July 31, 2022 at 11:38 am

    For all you folks across the pond who enjoy looking down your noses at us poor rednecks in the US, let me remind you – thousands of years before my country came along, you guys in Europe had invented very efficient ways to kill each other by the tens of thousands. You seized territory occupied by others for nothing more than the glory of conquest (or Religion), and you kept people of every race as slaves or in servitude in your cultures. So, before you take that next long look down your nose at us, take a minute to review your own country’s history.
    Regarding the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution (the right to keep and bear arms), be advised that the founders considered it so important because, as a last resort, the 2nd Amendment protects the people from tyranny of government. Ultimately, it is the protector and guarantor of the other freedoms.
    As a young boy, I always considered tyranny to be something that only happens in communist countries, or maybe some third-world countries. But tyranny is slowly creeping into your country and mine, and I will be forever grateful that I have the 2nd Amendment and 300 million guns backing me up.

  18. tony

    July 31, 2022 at 3:17 pm

    1. as a hunting weapon its useless, not sure what you would hunt with that calibre
    2. as a home defense weapon its useless, its rounds have way to much penetration, its rounds will hit bad guys, but also your family in the next room and even your neighbours, plus try moving though a house with doors with one, you cant hold it correctly and open doors, and if you stick the barrel inside a room someone could grab it, if you want to defend your house get a handgun with the correct ammo.
    3. sports, sorry but with 20 30 rounds what is the sport, i mean do we give a qb 10 balls at the same time to throw

  19. Lester Deer

    July 31, 2022 at 6:26 pm

    AR15 as a weapon for killing people: good, but a shotgun is better at short range (like in a supermarket). You only need a rifle if you’re shooting at range (over 50 meters). Even if AR15 were outlawed, the next “mass shooting” would just use a shotgun, or several revolvers. How many dead is a “mass shooting”? Three? A lot of people can do that with one revolver and six rounds. No, you’re going to have to repeal 2A.
    Hunting: not what 2A is about. It’s about the final veto we have over our government. Don’t believe that? Cool. The left can give up their weapons, and then see what they do when Trump wins in a questionable election, SCOTUS is 9-0 right wing and elections are suspended indefinitely because of another COVID-like outbreak.

  20. Tony Whitaker

    August 1, 2022 at 6:31 am

    Come on now. I’m a gun person, and I don’t want my guns taken away, but we who want to keep our guns will not succeed if we resort to BS tactics like this. An AR-15 is an assault rifle with the fully automatic mode deleted. The user can’t fire it like a machine gun, he can only fire one shot at a time. You know as well as I do that in combat, troops rarely fire in fully automatic mode. It’s just a waste of ammo. So for all intents and purposes, an AR-15 is a weapon of war. We also can’t deny the real problems in our country with unstable people obtaining these weapons and doing terrible things with them. If we don’t compromise (it might be too late), we will lose our guns. Perhaps we should require a license to own these guns? We have to get a license to operate an automobile. It seems like a reasonable compromise to me.

  21. DT

    August 1, 2022 at 11:32 am

    It appears that few know that the AR-15 comes in calibers from a 22 all the wat up to a 50 caliber. It is a versatile gun that can be used for anything. It is not an automatic gun. It is the same as the semi autos that have been around forever. Maybe the congress should demand it be pink camo so it would not scare the nervous people.
    Re: The 2cd.It is there to stop the government from infringing on our rights.

  22. American Dude full of Love of Country, family, life, and God

    August 1, 2022 at 12:27 pm

    I don’t have an AR-15, mine is only an AR-10 (ArmaLite Rifle – the REAL name behind the “AR” abbreviation). You can pass over my house when you come to collect those AR-15s. No worries folks – it is used to put holes in paper, or that “ding” on steel plates, and for some legal hunting, and GOD FORBID … the need for self defense. You know the type of self defense – exactly like Barack Obama was hoping could be formed like he described in his inauguration speech. A civilian force just as strong and mighty (or more!) than our very own military. Also told me to make sure if I was ever in a fight – and they bring a knife – I should bring my gun. Look both of those up in your regulated search bars and Youtube… it’s there. Oh – my buddy’s semi-automatic hunting rifle is more powerful than mine and can hold lots of bullets too but is nice woodgrain finish – has never had a complaint of “assault” against it either. Never heard of a gun being a killer either – just the person using the gun is the person accused of “assault”. Hey everyone still reading … be nice to everyone, and have a great day!!

  23. Steve

    August 1, 2022 at 1:20 pm

    What we don’t need in America is someone telling us what we need and what we don’t need. All you commies in Europe and elsewhere can keep that garbage on your side of the ocean. The U.S. Constitution provides me a right to own a gun, it doesn’t say what kind it has to be, which makes it MY CHOICE!

  24. Bertram

    August 1, 2022 at 2:07 pm

    If the AR-15 is a military weapon, which militaries are using it?
    Answer – None.

    The AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle, functionally little different than any other semi automatic hunting rifle.

    Those who wish to ban all guns, and failed in that in the US, now take a more incremental approach in trying to ban specific guns by falsely associating them with military weapons, and if successful, continue their harassment of manufacturers and legal firearms owners by moving onto the next popular firearms on their lists.

    Yes, an AR-15 can fire 20 rounds in under a minute. So can any other semi-automatic rifle or handgun. But not accurately, and the AR-15 inconveniently is not the firearm of choice for criminals committing crimes.

    A criminal with an automobile or truck can do far more damage to a crowd of people in less time.

    The Second Amendment to the US Constitution protects the right of the people to own firearms for the purposes of self defense (not hunting) and it has been settled by the Supreme Court that this is an individual right, and that inconvenient bit is what means that other than this targeted harassment of specific manufacturers and gun owners, the US is unlikely to see any mass restrictions on the right of citizens to own these types of weapons in the future.

    Falsely calling something an assault rifle, or “military style” does not change the constitution or the rights granted by the Second Amendment, which unlike something like the “right” to an abortion, is actually spelled out specifically and clearly in the document.

  25. steve

    August 1, 2022 at 4:07 pm

    Don’t tread on me. I don’t need a reason to buy a semi-automatic rife.

  26. Trump Supporter

    August 1, 2022 at 10:26 pm

    A (squad) assault weapon, (abbrev. SAW) is a light machine gun, usually using a 7.62mm caliber[?] or 5.56mm caliber[?] rifle bullet. It provides fire support for a squad of infantrymen, a small group of four to ten soldiers.
    The basic use of this weapon is to force the enemy to go to ground during an assault. This permits an assault to overrun the enemy position with less hazard.

    Therefore, a SAW must be light enough for an individual soldier to carry.
    An AR15 is a “SEMIAUTOMATIC” (for the gun grabbers – one pull on trigger yields one shot).
    The AVERAGE weight of 100 rounds of 7.62 x 51 (.308 WIN) is 3.49#. Thats almost 35# per 1000 rounds. Add the weight (approx. 35#) and most men can’t carry that wight for any period of time.

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