Sunday, August 14, 2016

Why the AR15 is an Assault Rifle and Why that is Important

The power of the gun lobby in America needs no introduction nor does the power it holds and wields over the US government. Since the 1970’s, there has been back-and-forth argument about the 2nd Amendment, the types of firearms available to civilians, and the role of government in the firearms industry. With the rash of mass murder shootings in America, there has been arise in the classical heated argument over gun rights. However, the focus has shifted on both sides of the arguement to the tool of these recent shootings: the AR15. In this article, we will examine what the AR15 is and why it is so critical to the argument over firearms in America. 

What is an Assault Rifle?
It is first proper that we begin this discussion of what the hell is an “assault rifle”. While the term is linked to the 3rd Reich and Hitler (it always comes back to Hitler doesn’t it?), the concept of a full-automatic infantry rifle dates back to the late 1800’s. Firearms developers, inventors, and soldiers have constructed various weapons over the years that were a step forward in the technological development over the bolt-action rifles. People like General Mondragon, Amerigo Cei-Rigotti, and Vladimir Fyodorov all developed processors to the first real assault rifle: the Nazi STG-44. This weapon was held back by Hitler himself and it was built in secret from 1942-1944, until Hitler learned of its existence and allowed it to be mass produced…with a new name. Hitler’s own experiences in the First World War colored his perception of infantry small arms, and once he approved of the assault rifle, he renamed it the “Storm Rifle” as a PR tool. From 1944-1945, the STG-44 struggled against allied bombings and advancements to replace the old bolt-action rifle. Why did the STG-44 success where others failed? 
That lays in one of the major criteria for an assault rifle” the intermediate cartridge. Classically, an assault rifle is classified by being fed from a box magazine, possess an intermediate cartridge that is in between a pistol round and an rifle round, effective to at least 300 yards, and be select fire. It is the last part, the “select fire” that most gun rights activists hang their arguments against their AR15 NOT being an assault rifle. Today, the assault rifle and the assault carbine are the most popular infantry small arm in the world with the Russian AK and it many copies being the most popular assault rifle model. 

The History of the AR15: From Zero to Hero
The very name of the rifle speaks to the history of the AR15. “AR” stands for ArmaLite Rifle, the company that the firearm’s creator, Eugene Stoner worked for. ArmaLite was a Hollywood California based small firearms engineering company. In the 1950’s as the US military searched for a replacement to their World War II heroes, the M1 Garand and the M2 carbine. Mr. Stoner took his experience in the aircraft industry to apply lightweight materials to a modern “Space Age” assault rifle that fires an intermediate cartridge designed for penetration and full-automatic fire. The first assault rifle that grew out of this project was the 7.62x51mm AR10, but on advice for others in the company, the AR10 was redeveloped to chamber the new .223 round (5.56x45mm). By 1957 and 1958, the new AR15 was looking for a military contract. It would take years to get the AR15 into the hands of US GIs, with the US military brass being dead set against the Space Age plastic rifle, now sold to Colt, and favored the more traditional and heavier M14 battle-rifle. 
It would take Vietnam, pressure from Defense Secretary McNamara, and General Curtis LeMay to get the black rifle into the Vietnam War. It was there in the jungle hell of Vietnam that the newly christened M16 would be tested in battle…and failed. Problems with the barrel, the gun powder type, along with a lack of cleaning kits caused serious and fatal jamming issues. To the extent that US soldiers were killed while breaking down the weapon while in combat, scarring the M16 in the minds of an generation. Soldiers in country chucked their M16s into the jungle and broke out their M14s or took AK47s off the dead bodies of their enemies. 
The problem was identified and fixed, but the jamming issues were the Scarlet Letter for the rifle for years to come. This was the low point in M16 history. In 1982, the original Vietnam-era M16A1 was replaced by the upgraded and improved M16A2 that was no longer fully-automatic, but burst-fire. During the latter part of the Cold War, the M16A2 would be the standard weapon seen throughout various conflicts, films, and recruitment posters. Given the grim reputation of the M16/AR15 in the Vietnam War, and the assault weapon ban, the “sport” models of the Colt AR15 were not popular among the gun and shooting community. Growing up at gun shows, I rarely saw the AR15 assault rifle for sale, while the UZI, FN FAL, and AK were much more popular on the sales tables. After all, during 1980's the machine pistol, like the TAC-9 were the public enemy #1 in firearms.  
In 1994, Colt developed the current M4 carbine that was improvement to the M16A2 and was a shortened version of the black rifle. The M4 carbine was slowly incorporated into Special units of the US Military until events after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 propelled the M4 onto the world stage. In the War against Terror and shitbags, the M4 carbine became the symbol of US Special Operations Forces, especially since the enemy used AK47/AK74 styled weapons. Seemingly overnight, the image of the old M16 that jammed and killed soldiers was replaced by a futuristic killer of terrorists and shitbags…and everyone wanted one. 
In this golden moment of the history of the AR15, the black rifle went from zero after Vietnam to the terrorist killing hero of today and a darling of the gun/shooting community that started buying up AR15 and rail system toys at an alarming rate. Helping the trend was the growing industry of custom AR15 companies like LaRue Tactical, Rock River, LMT, and Daniel Defense which a majority was run by veterans. From the 2010’s, the AR15, an aging warhorse, was being used to kill Bin Laden, and other terrorist throughout the global in the hands of international Special Mission Units. By the time of the writing of this blogpost, over five million AR15 assault rifles are in the hands of civilians in America and was legal in the vast majority of US States and territories. 

What is the Difference Between the AR15 and the M16?
Not much, especially if you have a Class-III firearms license. For the average buyers of an AR15, the difference between the civilian model and the battlefield M4A1 is mainly two: barrel length and full-automatic fire mode. That is it. Of course, the attachment that can be mounted to the rail system is vastly different, but that does not alter the function or classification of the military rifle. The M4A1 carbine, on average, is fielded with an 14inch barrel, with some being fitted with an 10.5inch barrel for close quarters combat conditions. While civilian AR15s are legally limited to 16inch barrels with an SBR tax stamp and semi-automatic fire without an Class-III firearms license. While the military does have access to military grade ammunition, like the green-tipped armor piecing rounds, for the most part, both the civilian and military Colt assault rifles chamber the same round with similar ballistic performance. 

Why the AR15 is Classified an “Assault Rifle”
There is no doubt that M16 and the M4A1 that are military assault rifles, but the gun community and the NRA hard and fast denies that their civilian AR15 rifles are assault rifles in the same vein. With little mechanical separating the AR15 from the M16, especially if you consider the Vietnam era M16A1 and the 1980’s M16A2, the AR15 is an assault rifle by form and function. Arguments are made that the AR15 is not an assault rifle due to its lack of an full-auto fire model, but most soldiers in combat footage fire semi-auto to converse ammunition and lower recoil. Other arguments centered around the barrel length…which is also made null and void by the length of the barrel in the M16A1 and M16A2: 20 inches. In form and function, the AR15 and M16 do not differ, and they both fire the same ammunition.  You could take your civilian AR15 to the battlefield with little perceived difference in performance, and that makes the AR15 an assault rifle. 

Owners Relationship with their AR15s
There two emotions associated with owners of the AR15: love and fear. They love their AR15s, they love to customize them, show them off at the range, and love endless discussing and research attachments for the AR15 platform. Hell, they might have two or three depending on the situation and conditions.  Then there is the fear potion of the relationship. Like anything you love, there is prospect of it being taken cruelly away and that fear of separate drives gun owners to believe the lies being shoved out by the NRA and other gun rights groups. They want to continue the relationship and live out their fantasies of being in Special Operations units via their kitted out AR15. This relationship and the emotions attachment causes the AR15 community to deny its nature to protect it from legislation and being a social pariah.

Why the AR15 is Important to the Gun Community
There two levels to why the AR15 is important to the wider gun community. One level is the reasons they discuss in the clear and open channels, then there is the shadowy reasons. In the clear, the gun community feels that the AR15 is important to defending themselves from intruders and oppressive governments. They make the case and connection that the AR15 is the modern day musket and therefore protected under the 2nd Amendment as a tool of the civilian Militia. 
Now the shadowy reasons for why the AR15 is important to the gun community. The AR15 assault rifle represents big business to the gun industry at all levels, from the manufacturer to the local gun shop. The strong sales and seemingly weekly gun nut paranoia that “they are coming to take your guns!” drives consumers into the shops to stockpile (horde) to await the arrival of the black helicopters and Obama shocktroopers. Other arguments for the civilian ownership of the AR15 and other assault rifles is the age-old trope of “home and property defense”, they cite that criminals and other evildoers (the North Hollywood Shootout of 1997) are better armed and the private citizen has very right (which they do) to defend their home and property with military armament. They also just simply enjoy shooting it, modifying it, and getting their “'Merica, fuck yeah!” on.     

Why the Gun Community Doesn't Want the AR15 to be an Assault Rifle

I think there several major reasons why the overall gun community and gun lobby does not want the AR15 to be classified as an assault rifle. First, it only reinforces the other side’s charges of banning the sale of AR15 to civilians, because at that point, it is hard to justify the sale of a military grade firearm to civilians. Also, it makes the defense of such weapons are to mount and undertake because there are few reasons why civilians need to own such a weapon especially after the slaughter they have reaped the mass shootings. Another valid reason in the minds of the gun community is that want access to these weapons for enjoyment and hunting, and if it classified as an assault rifle, it could eliminated off store’s shelves entirely. The last is the ugly truth that the American gun community has been hiding behind flowery prose to justify the simple fact that they want the AR15 because it is cool. 

So, Why is an Important to Classify the AR15 as an “Assault Rifle”?
Firstly, to set in place the right laws and protocol to prevent or retard anymore of these fucking shootings. Then to ultimately shed some light on whom we really are and why we are choosing this reality. The AR15 is a symbol of American attempting to adjust to the harsh realities of modern society and world. Despite most in the gun community hating the government and the lawyer double talk, they hid behind legality and terminology to support and defend their right to bear the AR15 despite how dangerous this weapon and others like have proven to be. All of this heated defense and vehemently denial informs us great deal about them, their community, and their central concepts of  their POV on America society. To the bulk of AR15 owners, that hunk of plastic and metal weighting in at 8 lbs is the critical component to their sense of liberty and personal freedom. Who know?  

Where Do We Go From Here?
The gun community, its Washington supporters, its lobbyist, and the gun manufacturing industry are all vocal about keeping the AR15 assault rifle in the hands of good, law-bidding Americans. Steadfast in their resolve with the AR15 not being an assault rifle, but an "assault style sports rifle" that is an useful tool for home defense, wild hog/deer hunting, and all manner of professional shooting. In addition to these reasons, AR15 supporters and lovers cite the most important reason (to them): they want it and they, under the 2nd Amendment, they can have it. This position is equal rigid on the other side of the aisle. Most liberal democrats and anti-gun activists do not simply understand the obsession with assault rifles and their seemingly integral place in the gun community. Then in the unhappy middle of this shitty mess is the moderates, who neither side is acknowledging because this is an all-or-nothing game. Since compromise is a dirty word in America at the moment, this issue could be decided by the next President and her Supreme Court the gun lobby fears. The most likely scenario is that nothing will be done with Washington paralyzed, the power of the NRA, and the inability for either side to the gray among the black&white. 
Why I Wrote this Blogpost
Since the age of six, I've been a shooter. I grew in a family that shot together, I received my first rifle on my 12 birthday, and I've been an advert MILSIM Paintballer since 2003. I am also a supporter of the US military and an military historian, writer, and reader. However, I am an atheist liberal and I vote democrat. After the Sandy Hook shooting I was sickened and insulted that gun owners and gun nuts (there is a difference) ran to their local retailers to buy assault rifles, high-capacity magazines before President Obama could ban them. I wonder what the hell was wrong with this country for people to have that reaction. Then came Orlando and the social media campaign to "educate" the public and law markers on their twisted truth of the weapon-of-choice for mass shootings and wholesale murder on an industrial level. Facebook was on fire with gun lovers' arguments to counter the outrage over the shooting and defend their AR15s from 1990's style banning. While these gun owners and gun nuts may love their AR15 and snug with them at night to prevent them being taken by the New World Order shocktroopers, they seemingly know nothing about the weapon itself and this ignorance is dangerous for all of us. It is also dangerous for us to regulate a large and vocal segment of the US


  1. You are equivocating. Assault rifle and assault weapon are two different things. The AR-15 is not a fully automatic weapon (assault rifle). It is classified _politically_ as an "assault weapon" (not fully automatic). I suggest you research this more.

  2. A pencil can be an assault weapon. Also, if get your hands on some regular paper, soak it in water, roll it into a prolonged and pointy end of spear, and let it dry. Add more layers with the same tactic. You will end up with a weapon which can be used to stub someone. Would you like to regulate the newspapers? Which object cannot be an assault weapon?

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  4. You basically said that the main difference between the AR-15 and the M-16 (M-16=select-fire, AR-15=semi-automatic) makes no difference between the two whatsoever. You fail to understand that it is exactly the AR-15's lack of select-fire capability that legally protects it from being classified as an "assault rifle", despite what the media claims about its "deadly features", in a futile attempt to demonize it.

    1. Will, your ill-researched assumptions are based on media-spread ignorance and paranoia, and are very, VERY nauseating.