What is an “Assault Weapon”?

There is a great deal of controversy about the permanent ”Assault Weapons Ban” promised by Obama.  Some gun owners don’t feel threatened by this ban, but armed citizens everywhere need to understand what the Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) of 1994 was and the impact it will have on our 2nd Amendment rights as a whole if permanently renewed.

The phrase “Assault Weapons” has no real definition.  It is a gun-banners coined phrase created to hopefully confuse people with “Assault Rifles”.

Now, Assault Rifles are real, and VERY regulated since 1934, and VERY rare in civilians hands since the Gun Control Act of 1986 which banned the ownership of any newly manufactured machine guns.  A true assault rifle is a select-fire (either fully automatic or burst capable) rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. This means when you hold down the trigger, it keeps firing until the magazine is empty.  It is not to be confused with assault weapons.[1]  A real AK47 will cost somewhere upwards of $15,000, a M16 upwards of $25,000.

Politician’s declare that “assault rifles” and AK47s have no place on our streets.  Well Mr. President, that was taken care of in 1934 and again in 1986.  Nobody is shooting anyone with “assault rifles” in gang violence.  The only report I’ve heard in 10 years of an “assault rifle” crime was when the POLICE armory was raided in California a few years ago.  Go figure.

So what about all these full auto videos you see?  Usually those are done with law enforcement departments, type III gun dealers (rentals available), or the very few law abiding citizens who happen to be blessed enough to have invested in a pre-1986 machine gun.  I’m very involved in the gun world, and I only know 2 people (besides LE) that have a pre-1986 firearm, and if you see me shooting them on YouTube, they were present when that happened and it was very legal (and very fun and expensive).

So what are the rifles you see in gun shops that look like “Assault Rifles”?  Those are in fact a civilian version AR-15 type rifle.  It looks like a M16 or AK-47, but that’s it.  It’s simply cosmetics.  Semi-automatic (one trigger pull, one shot) rifles have been around for over 100 years.  This semi-automatic action means that the firearm will cycle itself and load another cartridge into the chamber after firing.  So instead of having to work the bolt by hand every shot the gas/blowback system does it for you.  It simply leaves less work for the marksman to load the next round.  It does not keep firing like a fully automatic assault rifle.

Since there is no such thing as an “assault weapon” what was the ban from 1994-2004?  The ban was on manufacturing new firearms with these cosmetic features:

Semi-automatic rifles able to accept detachable magazines and two or more of the following:
  • Folding or telescoping stock
  • Pistol grip
  • Bayonet mount
  • Flash suppressor, or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one
  • Grenade launcher (more precisely, a muzzle device that enables launching or firing rifle grenades, though this applies only to muzzle mounted grenade launchers and not those mounted externally).
Semi-automatic pistols with detachable magazines and two or more of the following:
  • Magazine that attaches outside the pistol grip
  • Threaded barrel to attach barrel extender, flash suppressor, handgrip, or suppressor
  • Barrel shroud that can be used as a hand-hold
  • Unloaded weight of 50 oz (1.4 kg) or more
  • A semi-automatic version of a fully automatic firearm.
Semi-automatic shotguns with two or more of the following:
  • Folding or telescoping stock
  • Pistol grip
  • Fixed capacity of more than 5 rounds
  • Detachable magazine

As you can see, those features really do not change the firearm function by much more than looks.  The 10 year AWB had absolutely no measurable effect on crime according to the CDC, National Institute of Justice, and National Research Council. The only affect it had was on market value, a $25 magazine in 1994 cost almost $100 by 2004 until the bill sunset.  Further, so called “assault weapons” only account for 0.20% of all violent crime nationwide.  It just doesn’t add up.

The scary thing now is Obama wishes to permanently ban all such firearms and more.  He also listed handguns as part of the problem.  So what would the new AWB include?  The “assault weapon” definition is drawn up on a whim, it might even include rocks and pogo sticks if some nut kills somebody with one.  What will we have left?  Nothing if they get their way.  It’s not about “assault weapons”, it’s all about “control” and it starts by banning guns.  They just start with what they can get.

The same rifle, with different accessories. Some would be considered an “Assault Weapon” by politicians, yet it is still the same rifle.


Watch an entertaining video from Chuck Woolery on “Assault Weapons” 



Leave Comment
    • lady mis sjme

      But you see- outsiders SHARE these articles- to inform. I am VERY happy to see this simple explanation as I am new to the world of firearms, and am eager to know so I can speak properly about why it’s important that we maintain the right to bear.

  1. larry gray

    What do you think about the no grandfathering issue? They plan on sending out notices that they know you have a gun turn it in? Or, just come and take them?

  2. dalton keller

    one gun that is real common and loved by many that could/would be illegal would be the ruger 10/22

  3. Twood

    I’ll admit first thing that I don’t know anything about guns. This is an honest question. It seems you know a lot about guns — what they could do, what kind of person could use them, how they’d get them. Help us all out.

    What you don’t describe are the categories of weapons that deeply despaired people use to kill rooms full of children, or moviegoers, or teens, or people praying. And how do these people get these things? And how can we, as a nation in which guns will always be, legal or illegal, make policies to end such chaos?

    • I’m sorry, you misunderstood. These “weapons” aren’t to blame for any murders. Blame the trigger puller. If any fault it to be put on the massacres it’s the government who purposefully disarms it’s citizens and places hundreds of defenseless children in an idiotic “Gun Free Zone” i.e. “Criminals Safe Zone” to have his way with them.
      Firearms are a reality, and you cannot wave a magic wand and make them not exist, thus, you cannot keep them out of the hands of deranged murderers. The only defense of a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
      My suggestion: get training, arm yourself, stop blaming others and take responsibility for your own safety.

    • Randy in TX

      This confusion over whether the instrument or the person using the instrument is to be blamed is an ancient question. Around 730 BC the Prophet Isaiah wrote in chapter 10:15 (NIV) about this very topic in the following passage:

      “Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it, or the saw boast against the one who uses it? As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up, or a club brandish the one who is not wood!”

      Here we see God Himself, through the Prophet Isaiah ridiculing the notion that an instrument can be blamed for anything. It is silly to blame the gun and the madness of folly to legislate against guns.

    • Jim

      @Twood, The cold, hard truth is that there is no amount of policy that can prevent a person from committing a crime. There’s just no way that cops can be everywhere, all the time. (Would you really want it that way? Think Nazi Germany) What needs to change is the punishment for committing crimes with guns, and allow law-abiding citizens the right to self defense. THAT would actually do something to curb gun violence. If a criminal knows they have a gun-free zone it is safer for his shooting spree than potentially being shot to death by a citizen in a open/concealed carry zone. Ever notice how there’s no shooting sprees at gun shows? Criminal control is what we need. Law-abiding gun owners are NOT the problem.

  4. Leo Volz


    This may just be a matter of semantics, but since many non-gunners look to sites like this one for information, I feel it is important to be as accurate as possible.

    “Semi-automatic (one trigger pull, one shot) rifles have been around for over 100 years.”

    Unless we’re talking about full-auto or select-fire weapons, any gun should be one trigger pull, one shot. The primary difference with a semi-auto is no user intervention required between shots — no bolt cycling, no hammer cocking, no pump action. With the average user behind the trigger, this means faster follow-up shots, reduced loss of sight picture, and (depending on the weapon) usually less frequent reloading.

    I know, in the back of your mind, you fully understand this, and I understood what you were getting at. It’s important to relate that understanding to EVERYONE here.

    • Joel

      I don’t know what is so hard about reading, but they very accurately described what you are complaining about.

      “Semi-automatic (one trigger pull, one shot) rifles have been around for over 100 years. This semi-automatic action means that the firearm will cycle itself and load another cartridge into the chamber after firing. So instead of having to work the bolt by hand every shot the gas/blowback system does it for you”

  5. littlemike

    “What you don’t describe are the categories of weapons that deeply despaired people use to kill rooms full of children, or moviegoers, or teens, or people praying. And how do these people get these things?”

    No, that is exactly what he described. The Bushmaster rifle used in the Newtown massacre is identical to the ones the rest of us own. The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America because it is simple, accurate, safe, user-friendly, and very versatile, with modular design and a cornucopia of aftermarket components and accessories. The handguns he used were normal store-bought Glock and Sig products, just like concealed carry permit holders keep in their holsters. It is all about them being in the wrong hands.

    How did he get them? He stole them from his mother, who was a bit naive to assume that leaving them in easy access to a mentally ill son was advisable. Everybody else has to pass a rigid background check. Anyway, it is not about the equipment used, but the actions and intent of the user. A baseball bat in the hands of an MLB ballplayer can be the instrument by which sports legends can be made, but in the hands of a deranged criminal, is a murder weapon. Did you know that hands, fists and feet are used in twice as many homicides as rifles and shotguns combined? (FBI crime statistic).

    The perpetrator here only needed to find a roomful of children which he knew would be easy targets due to the protection denied to them by “gun-free zones,” and then just pull the trigger again and again and again, and then reload and pull the trigger time after time again and again and again and again, unresisted, unhindered, unstopped, with no armed guard or responsible adult carry permit holder there to defend the vulnerable victims against him.

  6. RedMister

    Y’all just need to step up and say, “No! We will not disarm ourselves if any weapon!” and be string. Stop allowing this screwed up government control who we are.. Stop bitching. Start showing!!