The term of ‘assault rifle’ has a tricky meaning. Considering whether the term’s usage is acceptable or not is still debatable. The history of the term is somewhat controversial to some members of our upstanding gun community. Not everyone agrees whether or not assault rifles should be labelled with this term. Before we move on to the specifics of this misunderstanding, we should look back into the history of assault rifles, as well as some of the basic ways of defining an assault rifle, so that the complications behind this firearm concept can be better understood.
A Brief History of Assault Rifles
The main reason why assault rifles have a controversial air can be traced back to where their production initially began. During World War II, the Germans (then represented by the Nazi regime) were looking for a way to bring more firepower to smaller combat zones without sacrificing the accuracy and precision rifleman had grown so accustomed to with their standard issue K98 bolt action rifle. What the Nazi war machine needed was a new concept for a firearm which could combine the firepower of a quick firing submachine gun, with the range and precision of standard rifles already in use by the soldiers. Thus, the Sturmgewehr 44 (also abbreviated to ST 44) was born out of necessity to overcome previous limitations.
Since then, as is the case with any other technical innovation in a field, assault rifles witnessed many improvements and have been produced by several other counties and companies (the Soviet AK47, the US M14, etc). The problem is that the name assault rifle they are labeled with is a direct translation of this original German lineage (the “Assault Rifle 44” or “Storming Rifle”). In a way, it is natural that this name stuck around considering that it was the first invention to enter mass service and be mass produced as well. Unfortunately, the recent troubled past with semi automatic rifles in this country and its strong association to the Nazi regime in WWII has produced feelings of unease against use of this term.
Why the Current Use of the Term ‘Assault Rifle’ is Controversial
Furthermore, the same parts of the gun community which don’t approve of using the term assault rifles to name the guns usually known under this name argue that the use of this term isn’t just historically controversial, but also wrong. The well-known AR15 rifles, for example, are labeled by many as ‘assault weapons’ simply because they think the AR in their name stands for assault rifles. Those who don’t assume that, simply assume that it stands for ‘automatic rifle’ instead. However, these assumptions are wrong. In fact, the AR rifles are named like that after the company that first produced them in the 1950s: ArmaLife.
The real distinction between the term assault rifle is the connection automatically made between guns labeled as military grade weapons. Making the connection between several civilian guns (such as the AR-15 model) and the name of assault rifles is, according to many gun community voices, a deliberate attempt to create an artificial connection and make guns seem more dangerous than they really are. This is why the continued use of this term is considered part of the anti-gun agenda of demonizing fire arms and their use by civilians.
In fact, the actual definition of an assault rifle, according to most mainstream dictionaries, is ‘any of the various automatic or semi-automatic rifles, with large capacity magazines, destined for military use’. This clearly states that most guns and rifles which are today called assault rifles shouldn’t be labeled as such since they are produced and marketed for civilian use only. Even if some of these civilian-intended gun models do look like military assault rifles, they aren’t actually capable of automatic fire. They’re definitely not in the same league with military firearms, the only ones who should be called assault rifles. By that same token, we shouldn’t rewrite history and dismiss the phrase “assault rifle” to serve some sort of pro gun agenda either. Instead, we should work to preserve history and see through any unnatural agendas established by the media and special interest groups.