Most “Assault Rifles”...Aren’t.

AR-15 Modern Sporting Rifle
Courtesy of Mike Ford

Most Assault Rifles…Aren’t.

Today’s offering is a little different than most of my usual pieces. It also has some different objectives. Today’s article is not meant so much to inform, as it is to provide some handy source material for Conservatives, most of whom already know most of this. The other objective, is my continuing effort to take back the language from the leftists, who as we all know, use the language to distort the terms of the discussion to their advantage while manipulating the voting public. In that regard, this will not be an exciting read, but I do hope it helps our team in the public debate regarding the Second Amendment.


Today, we are going talk about the Modern Sporting Rifle, commonly, erroneously and maliciously referred to by the left as an “Assault Rifle” or “Military Style Weapon/Rifle.” Modern Sporting Rifle,” is the correct, accurate term for semi-automatic rifles in all calibers, built on the AR, AK and other frames like them. We need to always use that term when discussing these weapons.

Starting off, we need to define, scope and assess…just what does make an ordinary rifle, an “assault rifle.” I won’t address “Military Style,” other than to scoff at The folks who use that term. “Style” never killed anyone. You should do the same.

To properly assess features and capabilities that define a real “assault rifle,” we need to start with two authors, one fairly famous and one famous only to military historians. I am talking about German Field Marshal and Patton nemesis, Erwin Rommel along with British Lieutenant Colonel John English. Rommel and English each wrote books on Infantry tactics, Rommel; Infantry Attacks and English; On Infantry.

Each of these warriors devoted significant ink to the battlefield environment in “the last 300 yards” to the objective. They wrote of an environment that required extreme maneuverability coupled with maximum firepower for an attacking Infantry unit to punch through a defender’s position and if necessary take that position at bayonet point.


Although never specifically defined, both Rommel and English implied the need for the following characteristics in a standard Infantry weapon: Lightweight, Rapid firing, Rugged, Bayonet Stud and Easily Maintained.

Another factor often overlooked in this analysis of capability, is the era a particular rifle was used in combat. What was once a state of the art Infantry rifle in one era, would be merely an interesting collectible today. One example of this is the Brown Bess Musket, standard issue for British Regulars and quite rightly credited with helping Great Britain establish and maintain a world wide Pax Brittanica. Back in the day, it was Great Britain’s “assault rifle.” Today, a very pricy collectible.

Brown Bess
Courtesy of the Missouri History Museum

The Brown Bess shown above was for its time, lightweight and fast loading, enabling British Commanders to maintain a high volume of fire. Of course it mounted a bayonet…all 17 inches.

Springfield ‘03
Courtesy of Swedish Army Museum

Moving forward a few decades The standard U.S. Infantry “assault rifle,” became the Springfield Armory 1903, pictured above. The ‘03 was a bolt action, lightweight weapon with a high rate of fire for its time. Note the bayonet lug. The Springfield ‘03 stayed in service throughout World War II as its eventual replacement the M-1 Garand, a semi automatic rifle, was initially not in sufficient production to equip all U.S Forces.

M-1 Garand
Courtesy of Mike Ford

Above is my personal, Match Grade Garand. Note the bayonet lug and on the right hand picture, the clips it uses instead of a box magazine, often mistakenly referred to by Leftists as a “clip.”

Wikipedia Commons

Now we come to Vietnam and the M-16A1 pictured above. The M-16 is a select fire weapon capable of firing in both the semi and full automatic modes. It also has a bayonet lug. notice how the rate of fire has dramatically increased over the decades, going from 3 rounds per minute, to over 800 rounds per minute on today’s more sophisticated weapons.

The M16 has had a number of successors, the most common from my last years in the Green Machine, was the M-4. The M4, pictured below, has is also capable of select fire—semi automatic and 3 round burst. It also has a bayonet lug.

M-4 Rifle
Wikipedia Commons

We have discussed the most critical features of an Infantry Assault Rifle—especially the features that make the weapon more lethal. Next up in this discussion, are some other features that the military finds helpful, but really don’t add to the weapon’s lethality, although they do help Leftists scare people with terms like “Military Style Assault Weapons.”

Here are some of those features:

Flash Hiders or Muzzle Brakes: These diminish the flash signature when the rifle is fired. They add not one drop of lethality to the weapon or its ammunition. Using them as a criterion that prohibits civilian ownership is foolish.


Pistol Grip: These make it easier to control the rifle and more accurately engage targets. Again, they do not make the rifle or its ammunition any more lethal.

Threaded barrel, which makes it capable of mounting a flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer, none of which enhance the lethality of the weapon

Folding or telescoping stocks: Make transportation and use in confined areas easier. No impact on lethality.

Detachable Magazines: Enable a higher rate of fire. By doing so, they can have an affect on lethality, but have been around a long time, used on a variety of weapons that don’t have the “scary look” that black metal Modern Sporting Rifles do.

Modern Sporting Rifles are not “Weapons of War” as touted by Democrats and other leftists. They are missing the two most important features and capabilities that are required in today’s era Military Assault Rifle, Bayonet Lugs and select Semi/Full/Burst fire.

Here is a picture of my AR-15. As you can see, it has no Bayonet Lug and by the close up, has only one firing mode…semi-automatic. It is a Modern Sporting Rifle. At no time, has any Army anywhere used this platform as its standard Infantry weapon.

AR-15 Modern Sporting Rifle
Courtesy of Mike Ford

Conclusion. Leftists use scary language to manipulate the voters into banning weapons that are no more lethal than a standard hunting rifle. They lie, obfuscate the truth and misuse emotion. They truly have absolutely no regard for the welfare of Americans. They believe that is just fine and dandy to deny law abiding American citizens the means of self defense. Their objective is quite clear, to disarm the populace in order to make it easier to control.


One way we can resist this, is to take back control of the language. Stop using their terms. No conservative should ever use the term “assault rifle” unless in quotes, along with a phrase that states that the term is a false, leftist term. The term we all need to start using is, “Modern Sporting Rifle.” Remember, when we cede the terms of the debate to the leftists…we lose. Modern. Sporting. Rifle.

As I said in the beginning, this article isn’t much on entertainment. It’s real purpose is to be a container of useful information to Conservatives. I hope it serves that purpose for you. In any case, please drop “assault rifle” from your lexicon (unless you are scoffing at leftist ignorance). Modern. Sporting. Rifle.

Author’s Note: You May notice strikeouts and late additions to this article. These are the result of additional information provided to me from interested readers. This article will continue to be a work in progress.

Mike Ford, a retired Infantry Officer, writes on Military, Foreign Affairs and occasionally dabbles in Political and Economic matters.

Follow him on Twitter: @MikeFor10394583

You can find his other Red State work here.


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