The ‘Fully-Auto, Military-Style, Assault Weapon’ Meme

One of the things that really wraps me around the axle about the whole “gun control” debate raging following the unthinkable horror that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary is the liberal media just can’t seem to get their facts straight when it comes to the technical aspects about guns.

The use of trigger words like military-style, assault rifle, high-capacity magazines, and full-auto are employed by many in the media for their emotional impact alone. Many times these terms are used in a hyperbolic or incorrect manner.

For example, there are big differences between a single-shot, semi-auto and full-auto firearm. But it appears that many of our MSM pundits don’t want to be bothered with facts. Well, regardless, I will attempt to explain the facts here in a simple and straightforward manner.

Now, I don’t fancy myself a gun expert, but I have been around firearms for most of my life. Additionally, I used to be a member of a WWII reenactment society and fired numerous WWII-era  (both live rounds and blanks) and modern-era weapons, both full-auto and semi-auto, i.e. K-98 Mauser, M-1 Garand, BAR, Thompson SMG, German MP-38, Russian SVT-40, AK-47, MG-42 (blanks), etc. I was trained in the use of these vintage weapons by members of the Indiana National Guard, and other gun experts, who themselves were also members of the reenactment society I belonged to in the early 90’s. This article is intended for those who are not familiar with gunspeak and terminology, not for those who are.

So, let’s get started with looking at the definition of single-shot, semi-auto and full-auto.


When the term “full-auto” is used to describe a firearm, it means the gun is a machine gun—a fully automatic weapon. As long as the trigger is depressed, bullets will come out of the barrel until you release the trigger.


When the term “semi-auto” is used to describe a firearm, it means the gun is a semi-automatic weapon, not a machine gun (fully-automatic). For each trigger pull, one bullet is fired.

Most guns available for purchase by private citizens are semi-automatic firearms, as well as single-shot.

A man fires an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle June 3, 2012 at the St. Croix Rod and Gun Club in Hudson, Wisconsin. (Credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/GettyImages)


When the term “single-shot” is used to describe a firearm, it means the gun fires only one shot per trigger pull and must be reloaded to fire another bullet. Many bolt-action rifles that are commonly associated with hunting are single-shot firearms.

Although a single-shot, bolt-action rifle may have a magazine with multiple bullets, the bolt must be pulled back to extract the fired casing and then pushed forward to load a bullet from the magazine into the gun’s chamber for firing, unlike a semi-automatic rifle that performs this cycle each time the trigger is pulled.

Remington 700 BDL 30.06 Bolt-Action Rifle with a Leupold 3x9x40 scope.

The “Assault Rifle”

The term “assault rifle” was first coined during World War II and was used to describe a weapon that was a cross between a rifle and a submachine gun. It was discovered from experience that a weapon that could fire full-auto and semi-auto selectively, with greater accuracy than a submachine gun alone, but without the length and bulk of a rifle, would be better suited for the modern battlefield, especially in urban fighting scenarios.

The assault rifle was the culmination of the marriage between the machine gun and the rifle into one compact package that revolutionized modern small arms.

One of the first true assault rifles was the German Sturmgewehr (StG-44 / MP-44). The StG-44 could fire in both semi-auto and full-auto mode via a selection lever and employed a 30-round magazine, or what the media would refer to as a “high-capacity” magazine—a relative term in this context.

German soldier actor with the Sturmgewehr 44.

By the way, there is no such thing as an “assault magazine”—a scary term I recently heard a journalist use when referring to a 30-round magazine for an AR-15 rifle.

The “Assault Rifle” Meme

The whole meme with the Obama Administration and the lapdog media is to equate fully-automatic and semi-automatic weapons as being synonymous—one and the same, particularly military-style weapons such as the ubiquitous AK-47 and the AR-15.

For example, here’s a photo of a fully-automatic AK-47 fire select lever—the middle setting is full-auto, lowest setting is semi-auto. A civilian without a proper class Federal Firearms license, which is extensive and quite costly, can not purchase a fully-automatic weapon like the one pictured.

Now, here’s a photo of a semi-automatic AK-47. Both guns are identical, except for the fact that one is full-auto and the other is semi-auto. A private citizen can legally own a semi-automatic version of the AK-47. I’ve fired one myself—lot of kick and stopping power, but not the most accurate rifle.

Since the differences between a full-auto and a semi-auto AK-47 are practically imperceptible to the untrained eye, the Democrats and the mainstream media are more than happy to exploit this to further their own political agenda.

One aspect to all this “military-style assault rifle” rhetoric often overlooked is the fact that most mass-produced military weapons are not as accurate as a sporterized rifle like the Remington 700 BDL pictured above. This is particularly true with older military guns.

Just because a rifle might look scary, does not mean it is any scarier than a rifle that doesn’t look as scary—which really shows the folly of trying to define guns by emotional terms like “scary.” But the emotional appeal is effective on the masses, thus its constant use by the Democrats and the sycophant media.

For example, let’s take the weapon that has received a lot of press lately, due to the fact it was found in the trunk of Adam Lanza’s car following the Newtown massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary: the AR-15.

The AR-15 is the civilian equivalent of the U.S. military’s M-16 service rifle—meaning: it is a semi-automatic rifle, not a fully automatic assault rifle. Once again, the visual differences between an AR-15 rifle and a full-auto military-style M-16 rifle are practically imperceptible to the untrained eye.

Bushmaster/Sendra Corp. M16. Full auto, NFA registered.

Additionally, the AR-15 style rifle is very popular and proven design. It is used by hunters, police, civilians, and the military. But it is no more lethal than a finely made bolt-action hunting rifle. Besides, any gun becomes “scary” in the wrong hands.

What is really at play here is the ongoing onslaught by the left to attack the Second Amendment itself via incrementalism—meaning: incrementally ban certain types of guns, accessories and ammo until eventually the right to bear arms will be whittled away to nothing. The whole notion of “gun control” is about one thing: control.

Recently, I showed the above quote from Patrick Henry to a gun control advocate who argued that it was all meant for a time when people had just a musket in their home, not modern-day assault rifles. What the gun control advocate fails to take into account is the musket was the “state-of-the-art assault rifle” of its day, just like the AR-15 is the modern-day version of the musket.

Some gun control advocates argue, “Why not let citizens have chemical weapons and atomic bombs too?” Well, that’s where the Second Amendment’s “well-regulated” part comes in. A “well-regulated militia” is the citizenry, by the way. It has nothing to do with folks out in the woods somewhere in Michigan who may call themselves a “militia”; it is the American people themselves.

For example, if you want to own a cannon or a fully-functional tank, you can. But you’ll have to obtain the proper class FFL (and you’ll pay for it) in order to do so. In other words, it is “well-regulated.”

The bottomline is Americans have the right to bear arms to defend themselves. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “No free man shall be disbarred the use of arms.” Free men own guns, not slaves. This right is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution; it is an inalienable right. The Second Amendment follows the First Amendment for a damn good reason. We, as Americans, have the inalienable right to worship freely, speak freely, and assemble freely. We also have the right as Americans to defend that freedom; and the Second Amendment guarantees that right, period; it “shall not be infringed.”

“When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.”

—Thomas Jefferson


About Brent Parrish

Author, blogger, editor, researcher, graphic artist, software engineer, carpenter, woodworker, guitar shredder and a strict constitutionalist. Member of the Watcher's Council and the Qatar Awareness Campaign. I believe in individual rights, limited government, fiscal responsibility and a strong defense. ONE WORD: FREEDOM!
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