The Orlando terrorist made the AR-15 his weapon of choice to slaughter 49 innocent Americans inside the Pulse nightclub in downtown Orlando, Florida. That act of terrorism has caused media outlets and anti-gun politicians to call the AR-15 the “mass shooter’s weapon of choice” and renewed calls for a ban on assault rifles.
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Yet by any definition of the term, the AR-15 is not an assault rifle – it simply is not capable of doing what an assault rifle does.
What defines an assault rifle?
There are many criteria such as the use of detachable magazines (something almost all modern firearms do), and the use of an intermediate cartridge such as the .223 or 5.56 caliber ammunition used by an AR-15.
But the primary difference between an AR-15 style modern sporting rifle and an assault rifle is selective fire – the ability to switch from semi-automatic and fully automatic fire.
The AR-15 rifle is a gas powered, semi-automatic rifles which means that one press of the trigger results in one round being fired. The United States military uses weapons like the M-16 and the M4 that both look like an AR-15 but provide both fully automatic fire and three-round burst fire – both of which are not possible with an AR-15.
Just because they look the same, doesn’t mean they function the same.
The AR-15 looks almost identical to the M16 and M4 carbine assault rifles for a very simple reason. It’s an almost ideal rifle with exceptional ergonomics and design — almost like the military spent millions of dollars and decades working on the design and refining it to be a very high quality rifle. Oh wait, they did.
Beyond the ergonomics and functionality, what draws people to the AR-15 is that it is heavily customizable like it’s similar looking but very differently functioning military cousins.
Users can add scopes, lasers, suppressors, slings, and various handles. They can even change out the lower portion of the gun and the magazine allowing for total customization to whatever is best for the user.
How similar do they look? Here’s a Marine aiming an M4 carbine:
In comparison, here’s a civilian holding an AR-15 rifle:
Things the media gets wrong about AR-15 rifles.
The AR-15 is not a “high powered” rifle. Yes, it has more power than a handgun – all rifles do. But when you’re talking about rifles, the AR-15’s .223 / 5.56mm ammunition is considered so low powered that it is banned from hunting large game like deer and elk because it cannot humanely take them down in one shot like most other rifle calibers can.
In some states like Washington, all big game must be hunted with a minimum of .24 caliber ammunition – relegating the AR-15 to small game and varmint duty exactly because it is a low-powered rifle.
Most hunters today choose .308 or .300 Win Mag as their ammunition of choice. The difference in size is clear in this picture:
Politicians and the media not only exaggerate the power of the AR-15, they love to tell the public that it has an almost impossible ability to fire rapidly.
Just hours after the Orlando terror attack, Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL), went on CNN and told the audience:
Congressman Grayson’s comments on national television were so farcical as to bring a $50,000 charitable challenge from conservative commentator Conrad Close:
— Conrad Close (@conradclose) June 13, 2016
Close is confident in his actions because the AR-15 cannot fire anywhere close to 700 rounds per minute because of its semi-automatic design requiring one trigger press for each round fired.
Most likely, Grayson got the 700 rounds per minute number from the military M-16 and M-4, both of which – when put in fully automatic modes that the AR-15 does not have – shoot at around 700 rounds per minute.
That was far from the anti-gun Congressman’s only factual faux pas of the day, as he claimed “a Glock pistol” can only target “three or four people”, despite the standard magazine for the Glock 17 the terrorist used holding 17 rounds.
Rather than call out Grayson for his falsehoods, CNN’s Erin Burnett agreed and said, “You’re right about that. Thank you very much.”
AR does not stand for Assault Rifle
This one gets its own category because so many people in the media repeat the lie. The “AR” in AR-15 does not stand for Assault rifle in any way. It stands for “ArmaLite Rifle” after the firm that designed the weapon in the 1950s.
Save this for article for the coming weeks as politicians and the media continue to mislead the public through either ignorance, negligence, or malice.