What Is An “Assault-Rifle”? And Other Firearm’s-Related Topics

I don’t claim to be an expert on firearms, but I have been around, shot quite a few weapons in my day, and done a lot of my own research. There are a lot of misconceptions, deceptions, and downright-lies surrounding firearms, particularly among those who aren’t educated about firearms and REFUSE to learn about them. SO, to lay some of these misconceptions to rest, I want to share the knowledge I have gleaned over the last forty-plus years. I went into the Army in 1974, and have been shooting ever-since.

You may be wondering why I would write another piece about firearms, but the simple-answer is TRUTH. As a Christian, who follows Jesus, who said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”, I believe that I I have a responsibility to stand up for the truth amidst the barrage of lies in our popular-media. Truth matters, even about firearms, particularly to Christians.

BTW, I have no intention of making a firearms piece a regular feature of my blog. Ain’t happening, because I have better things to do.

The AR-15…
The AR-15 has a certain “look” about it that screams “killer-weapon” to those who don’t know any better. It is often mis-categorized as an “assault-rifle“, but it isn’t. It is a “sporting-rifle“. The original designer and manufacturer of the AR-15 was Armalite Corporation, so the “AR” stands for “Armalite“, and the “15” is a model-number. It is a semi-automatic, shoulder-fired weapon, with a detachable box-magazine. I repeat, the “AR” in AR-15 does NOT stand for “assault-rifle”. The most important characteristic that separates it from an “assault-rifle” is that it is a “semi-automatic” weapon, requiring one trigger-pull for every shot fired. Oh, but it has a pistol-grip and is BLACK, or green, or tan, or pink, or red, white and blue, or, or, or. BTW, you can paint ANY gun ANY color you want.

The Ruger Mini-14 is chambered for the same cartridge (.223/5.56 NATO) that the AR-15 shoots, so it is every bit as capable of a weapon as the AR-15, but it doesn’t have that “look“. Even though it will accept a 30-round magazine, it has a wood stock and no pistol-grip. WHOOPEE!!!

The M-16, which I carried and shot while I was in the Army, IS an “assault-rifle“, and while they are visually and physically similar, the AR-15 lacks the “full-auto” mode which is an integral part of the M-16. They are visually and physically similar because the M-16 is a variant-of, and was developed-from the AR-15 – by the Armalite Corporation. The AR-15 came first, and in order to compete in the military market, Armalite developed the M-16. Both have had a significant number of “knock-offs” or “copies” since they were first produced. Even Mattel, the toy company, produced M-16’s for the military. I know, I shot one in Basic Training, and it wasn’t much more accurate than a toy-gun. American military weapons always have an “M as the first part of their designation.

What is a “High-capacity-magazine”?
There is a persistent myth that a weapon with a “high-capacity-magazine” is deadlier than one with a “standard-capacity-magazine“, but that is a MYTH. The shooter in Parkland, Florida only used ten-round magazines, but he still killed and wounded a lot of people. The only benefit of a higher-capacity magazine is that the shooter doesn’t have to reload as often, but that advantage doesn’t really matter to a skilled shooter, who can reload, on the run, in under five-seconds. If you don’t believe it, watch the shooters during three-gun competitions. Those folks are FAST!

To those who want to ban them, a “high-capacity-magazine” is any magazine capable of holding over ten rounds. That makes the STANDARD magazines for my pistol “high-capacity-magazines“. Solly-cholly, they are FOS. How “deadly” a weapon is depends more on the skill of its operator than the capabilities of the weapon. Sometimes I have trouble hitting the broad-side of a barn with my pistol, but a competent-shooter can drill the bulls-eye shot after shot – with my weapon. Yes, I have watched it happen.

“Background-checks”…
Any time there is a mass-shooting, and it is revealed that the shooter bought their weapon legally, there are screams for “more background-checks“. Folks, a background-check is only as good as the database being used for the check. That is where the background-check-system is breaking-down.

As a recent-example: the shooter in the Sutherland Springs, Texas church massacre used a legally-purchased weapon, which he had to have a background-check to buy. BUT, there was one huge fly-in-the-ointment; He had been dishonorably-discharged from the Air Force for domestic-violence, thus making him ineligible to purchase weapons, BUT, the Air Force FAILED to report his arrest and discharge to the FBI, which maintains the database.

The shooter at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando had been on the FBI’s “radar” and had huge “red-flags” in his background, BUT, that didn’t prevent him from becoming a LICENSED armed security guard, licensed in and by the state of Florida, able to legally-buy weapons. These are classic cases of the left-hand-not-knowing-what-the-right-hand-did. Could we be doing better? Should we doing better? Yes, but there are caveats. Until government agencies start talking to each other, and sharing their data, background-checks are not going to catch all prospective bad-actors. And what about all the stolen and illegal weapons? Background-checks won’t stop any of those…

The “Gun-Show-Loophole”…
Again, there is a HUGE misconception, among people who don’t any better, that a person can walk into a gun-show and buy any kind of weapon they want, with no paperwork or background-check. That is FALSE. There may have been a time when in the past gun-shows were littered with private-sellers selling privately-owned weapons, but that is mostly a thing of the past. Most, but not all, gun-shows now restrict sales to licensed-dealers-only, so they can’t sell anything that they can’t sell in their own showroom, and they MUST do everything “by-the-book“, including the paperwork, or risk losing their license and being arrested. Class-III weapons (select-fire/automatic) CANNOT be sold in gun-shows. If there is a mandatory waiting-period for that weapon, the buyer won’t walk out with it. NO, a person can’t buy an “assault-rifle” at a gun-show, and NO, a person can’t bypass the necessary background-check and paperwork either. The only people in Florida who can bypass the waiting-period in Florida are people who have a Florida CCW, because they have already had a higher-level background-check than is necessary to purchase a weapon. Their CCW presumes a legitimate-use for their weapons.

“Fully-semi-automatic”…
Fully-semi-automatic” was a term coined by the media after the Parkland, Florida high school massacre. It is an OXYMORON, because “fully” and “semi” are mutually-exclusive terms. “Fully-automatic“, as applied to a weapon, means that it will continue to fire as long as there is ammunition in the magazine and the trigger is pulled. “Semi-automatic“, as applied to a weapon, means that it will fire ONLY ONE ROUND with each trigger-pull. Yes, a trained and experienced shooter, shooting a semiautomatic-weapon, can shoot at least one round per second, so a 30-round magazine can be emptied in 30 seconds or less, BUT, a fully-automatic weapon can fire the same 30 rounds in under FIVE seconds. Do you see the difference?

The “bump-stock”…
After it was revealed that the shooter in the Las Vegas massacre had used “bump-stocks” to increase the rate-of-fire of his weapons, it was wrongly-assumed that a “bump-stock” turns a semiautomatic weapon into a “machine-gun“. The truth is that a “bump-stock” can only modestly-increase the rate-of-fire of a semi-automatic weapon, but DOESN’T make it “fully-automatic“. A bump-stock doesn’t turn a semi-automatic weapon into a “machine gun”. BTW, “bump-stocks” also trash accuracy. No thanks!

What is an “assault-rifle”?
An assault rifle is a shoulder-fired, selective-fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine.

The most notable characteristic of an “assault-rifle” is that it is “selective-fire“. In place of the typical SAFE-FIRE selector-switch on a semiautomatic rifle is a selector-switch which also includes an AUTO position. No, AR-15’s do NOT include an AUTO position on their selector-switch, and NO, an AR-15 is NOT an “assault-rifle“.

In the U.S., civilian ownership of machine guns (and assault rifles) has been tightly regulated since 1934 under the National Firearms Act and since 1986 under the Firearm Owners Protection Act.

“Assault-weapons”…
Even if it isn’t an “assault-rifle“, if it looks “scary“, it must be an “assault-weapon“. I’ll bet that ROCK in Cain’s hand must have looking pretty “scary” to Abel. Does that “scare-factor” make that rock an “assault-weapon“, or is it an “assault-rock“? Who are we going to blame that murder on – the “National Rock Association”?

What is a “machine gun”?
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm designed to fire bullets in rapid succession from an ammunition belt or magazine, typically at a rate of 300 rounds per minute or higher. Not all fully automatic firearms are machine guns. Submachine guns, rifles, assault rifles, shotguns, pistols or cannons may be capable of fully automatic fire, but are not designed for sustained fire. As a class of military rapid-fire guns, machine guns are fully automatic weapons designed to be used as support weapons and generally used when attached to a mount- or fired from the ground on a bipod or tripod. Many (but not all) machine guns also use belt feeding and open bolt operation, features not normally found on rifles.

By U.S. federal law, a “machine gun” is a legal term for any weapon able to fire more than one shot per function of the trigger regardless of caliber, the receiver of any such weapon, any weapon convertible to such a state using normal tools, or any component or part that will modify an existing firearm such that it functions as a “machine gun” such as a drop-in auto sear. Civilian possession of such weapons is not prohibited by any Federal law and not illegal in many states, but they must be registered as Title II weapons under the National Firearms Act and have a tax stamp paid. The Hughes Amendment to the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 banned new production of firearms classified as machine guns for most civilian applications, however, so only “grandfathered” weapons produced before this date are legally transferable.

I shot an M-60 machine gun while I was in the Army, which was a belt-fed, .30 caliber, bipod-mounted weapon. We were taught to shoot three-round-bursts, rather than “rock-n-roll“. “Rock-n-roll” or “spray-n-pray” may be fun, but they waste ammunition, and only have limited-applications in combat.

Even though a friend of mine is a Class III firearms manufacturer and dealer, licensed to manufacture and sell automatic-weapons to, he could not legally sell me any kind of “automatic weapon” or “assault-rifle“. Those may ONLY be sold to law enforcement agencies. PERIOD!

What is a “silencer”?
A “silencer” is a figment of people’s imaginations, popularized by Hollywood. The correct term is a “suppressor“, because there is NO device which can completely “silence” a gunshot. Yes, Hollywood has shown countless scenes of gunshots where all we heard was a “pfft“, but that is Hollywood, not real-life. A “suppressor” reduces the volume of the shot, but does NOTsilence” it completely. For a civilian to buy and possess a suppressor legally, they must FIRST obtain a license from the BATF – a $200 license, and have a legitimate reason for having it, because it is a “restricted-item”. That is BEFORE they can buy a suppressor and have it fitted to a weapon.

The MYTH of the “plastic-gun”…
Several years ago, when Glock introduced their first polymer-framed semi-automatic pistols, there was a huge scare that they wouldn’t be detectable with normal metal-detectors, that they really WEREplastic-guns”. This is absurd. As polymer-framed pistol still has many metal parts, including the slide and barrel, over two-thirds of the weight of the pistol is STEEL. I know. I have put over a thousand rounds through a polymer-framed Ruger. Lighter than all-steel? Yes. Undetectable? NO!

While we are on plastic-guns, there are people who are printing, or trying to print plastic-guns, but I wouldn’t bet my life and safety on one. They are NOT safe, they are NOT durable, and they are NOT accurate, and the equipment necessary to make one costs several times as much as a quality firearm. They are NOT going to become the next craze, because you would better spend your time and money buying and becoming familiar with a quality weapon, one you COULD bet your life on, if necessary.

NRA sells/manufactures guns…
FALSE!!! The National Rifle Association (NRA) began as an education, hunting and shooting-sports organization. While those are still NRA’s primary-missions, they also are working to protect American’s 2nd Amendment rights.

Concealed-carry-weapons licenses (CCW)…
Most states in the US license and permit private-citizens to carry concealed-weapons – with a license. These licenses do NOT permit the license-holder to carry their weapon everywhere. In fact, ALL states that allow concealed-carry have significant restrictions on where weapons may be carried, nor do these licenses permit the person to carry a weapon concealed in all fifty states, only in states which have reciprocity-agreements with the license-holder’s home state.

Police have the legal-obligation to protect you…
FALSE!!! It is now rare to see a police vehicle with “To Protect And Serve”, because law enforcement officers DON’T graduate from “Police Academy”, they graduate from “Law Enforcement Academy”, and yes, it DOES make a difference. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled a few years ago that Officers have NO obligation, under the law, to protect you. They may, but they don’t have to. Albuquerque Police Department had several “traffic-enforcement-only” units, and they could and did drive right past accidents and disabled-vehicles. That was THIRTY YEARS AGO. All that mattered to APD was the almighty-dollar. Do you REALLY think it has gotten any better since then? Police show up after-the-fact to do the paperwork.

I hope you have enjoyed this bit of myth-debunking and truth-telling. Maybe you will know more about what you are talking about when you are confronted with the typical lies and myths about firearms.

Steve

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Last-Call

Last-Call” is one of the most heart-wrenching parts of a funeral for a Firefighter, Police Officer or EMT that I have ever witnessed, because it drives-home the fact that we have lost a Brother or Sister who will never respond with us again. They have answered the “final-call“, the “call” to eternity.

When the departed was a Firefighter, they will take their “last-ride“, not IN an engine, but on top, on top of the hose-bed. Before our Brother or Sister is laid to rest, we memorialize them off with a solemn-ceremony…

The radio-call from dispatch; Silence; A second call; Silence; The final call; Silence… The final-announcement by dispatch that our departed Brother or Sister has answered their final-call. Sometimes “the tolling-of-the-bell“, with its rich, historic-symbology, is added to this solemn-occasion. After all is silent, a Bagpiper finishes the ceremony with Amazing Grace, sometimes in a distance. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. I have witnessed too many “Last-Calls“…

Regardless of whether they died in the line-of-duty, or otherwise, we have lost someone who was “part of the family“. Our family will never be the same again. A part of us is gone…

Have you ever witnessed the finale of a Service-Member or Veteran’s funeral; The folding of the Flag, carefully, precisely, and presenting it to the family of the departed? The firing of the gun-salute? TAPS? Only the most-callous person won’t get choked-up over that. I have witnessed this ceremony too many times, and it always chokes me up. Last October, we lost a Brother (Veteran) to suicide. That was a tough service.

Regardless of whether they died in the line-of-duty, or otherwise, we have lost someone who was “part of the family“. Our family will never be the same again. A part of us is gone…

For those who have worn the uniform of our Public Services, or while serving our country in the Military with honor and distinction, our final “Good-byes” are shrouded in solemn-ceremony, fitting-tributes to those we loved and lost. They may be gone, but they will NEVER be forgotten.

Whether we realize it or not, every passing leaves a hole in our collective human-family. We each bring our own unique additions to the mix. Some “family-groups” just memorialize their losses more than others, and I have been privileged to be part of two of those “family-groups” which do memorialize our losses. I am a Veteran and a retired Firefighter.

One day, we will all answer our “last-call“, as this life gives-way to eternity. Are YOU prepared to meet your Maker in peace when it is time for YOU to heed your “last-call“? I pray that you are.

As we, as Americans, celebrate Independence Day, may we remember those who paid the ultimate-price for our independence, and honor those who are serving to maintain our independence. Freedom is never “free“. It always comes at an enormous-cost, but it is well-worth the price. Just ask Jesus Christ…

Sola Deo Gloria!