Yes, Assault Rifles Are A Thing (And No, You Can't Have One)

The U.S. military’s M4 carbine is one of the most recognizable assault rifles in the world today.

It never, ever fails.

In any discussion that you have about about the intermediate-caliber, selective-fire rifles that are the primary infantry weapons of the world’s militaries today, someone is going to call them “assault rifles,” and someone else is just as quickly going to attack that person, making some sort of variation of one of the following claims:

  • “assault” is a verb and not an action, so there can’t be an “assault rifle.”
  • “assault rifle” is a made up political term to scare people away from semi-automatic rifles.
  • “Assault rifle” is “made up Left Wing terminology.”

Here are the facts.


“Assault rifle” is the technical term for any selective-fire, intermediate-caliber rifle or carbine fed from a detachable box magazine with a range of at least 300 meters (330 yards). This is the definition used by the U.S. Army, the National Firearms Museum, the National Rifle Association, and other experts.

A selective-fire weapon is one that can fire in a semi-automatic (one shot per trigger pull), burst fire (a specific number of shots per trigger pull, generally three), and/or a fully-automatic (it will keep firing as long as the trigger is held back and there is ammunition being fed) mode, with the mode typically being determined by a selector switch that also functions as a safety.

Examples of selective-fire assault rifles include:

  • Sturmgewehr 44 (the very first assault rifle. Sturm means to storm or assault. Gewehr means rifle).
  • AK-47/AKM/AK-74 and variants
  • M16/M4 and variants
  • L85 (British military bullpup)
  • Steyr AUG (Austrian and Australian military bullpup)
  • QZB-95 (Chinese military bullpup)

Examples of intermediate calibers include:

  • 300 Blackout
  • 5.45×39
  • 5.56 NATO
  • 5.8×42
  • 6.8 Remington SPC
  • 7.62×39
  • 7.92×33 Kurtz

The failed grammar Nazis attempting to claim that “assault is an action, not a weapon” or “assault is a verb” also need to check themselves.

“Assault rifle” is a compound noun, like washing machine, full moon, swimming pool, or printer cartridge.

Many people confuse the accurate technical term “assault rifle” with “assault weapon,” which is a political term coined in the 1980s by gun control supporters who intentionally wanted to confuse the public into thinking that semi-automatic firearms with military styling (such as the AR-15) are actually selective-fire assault rifles or machine guns.

Both assault rifles and assault weapons are legal to own under federal law as long as they are registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), but there are state and local restrictions on both of them. The ability of the public to purchase new-manufactured assault rifles and machine guns was curtained in 1986, with the passage of the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA), which included a provision called the Hughes Amendment, which appears to be blatantly unconstitutional, but which has not yet been challenged in court.


The trade in machine guns and assault rifles remains brisk among dealers who sell items covered by the National Firearms Act, but the purchase of these firearms is restricted to pre-Hughes manufactured firearms.

No assault rifles manufactured after May of 1986 may be sold to the general public, but they are legal to own as long as you follow applicable laws.

To the best we can determined, no legally-owned assault rifles in the hands of citizens have ever been linked to a criminal homicide in the history of the United States.

Not one.

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