DefinitionThe term assault rifle
is a translation of the German
(literally "storm rifle", as in "to storm a position"). The name was coined by Adolf Hitler
[/SUP] to describe the Maschinenpistole 43, subsequently re-named Sturmgewehr 44
, the firearm generally considered the first assault rifle that served to popularise the concept and form the basis for today's modern assault rifles.
The translation assault rifle
gradually became the common term for similar firearms sharing the same technical definition as the StG 44. In a strict definition, a firearm must have at least the following characteristics to be considered an assault rifle:[SUP]
- It must be an individual weapon with provision to fire from the shoulder (i.e. a buttstock);
- It must be capable of selective fire;
- It must have an intermediate-power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle;
- Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable magazine.
- And it should at least have a firing range of 300 meters (984 feet)
Rifles that meet most of these criteria, but not all, are technically not assault rifles despite frequently being considered as such. For example, semi-automatic-only rifles like the AR-15 (which the M16 rifle is based on) that share designs with assault rifles are not assault rifles, as they are not capable of switching to automatic fire and thus are not selective fire capable. Belt-fed weapons (such as the M249 SAW
) or rifles with fixed magazines are likewise not assault rifles because they do not have detachable box magazines. However, in this case, the M249 SAW has the ability for both being fed by belt or detachable box magazine.
The term "assault rifle" is often more loosely used for commercial or political reasons
to include other types of arms, particularly arms that fall under a strict definition of the battle rifle
, or semi-automatic
variant of military rifles such as AR-15s
The US Army defines assault rifles as "short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachinegun and rifle cartridges."[SUP]
] Assault rifles vs. "Assault weapons"The term assault weapon
is a United States
political and legal term used to describe a variety of semi-automatic
firearms that have certain features generally associated with military assault rifles. The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban
, which expired on September 13, 2004, codified the definition of an assault weapon. It defined the rifle type of assault weapon as a semiautomatic firearm with the ability to accept a detachable magazine
containing more than 10 rounds, and two or more of the following:
The assault weapons ban did not restrict weapons capable of fully automatic fire, such as assault rifles and machine guns
, which have been continuously and heavily regulated since the National Firearms Act
of 1934 was passed. Subsequent laws such as the Gun Control Act of 1968
and the Firearm Owners Protection Act
of 1986 also affected the importation and civilian ownership of fully automatic firearms, the latter fully prohibiting sales of newly manufactured machine guns to non-law enforcement or SOT (special occupational taxpayer) dealers.