Why is the AR-15 not an assault rifle?

Why is the AR-15 not an assault rifle?


No self-respecting gun owner would ever call his AR-15 an assault rifle, but many who’ve never done their research think the “AR” in “AR-15” stands for “Assault Rifle.” In reality, the initials stand for “Armalite Rifle,” and this modern sporting rifle is just as deadly as a Ruger Mini-14. Both are rifles sharing the same .223/5.56x45mm caliber and both accept 30 round box magazines. They even have a comparable muzzle velocity of ~3,000 fps and, most importantly, a rate of fire of one per trigger pull. 

Ruger Mini 14 rifle
The Ruger Mini 14. Not an assault rifle.

AR15 rifle

The AR-15. Not an assault rifle.



The most obvious difference between the two rifles lies in their appearance. The Mini-14 has an unassuming wooden stock that wouldn’t make it look out of place hanging over someone’s fireplace, while the black polymer AR-15 has rails and an extended stock which make it look “scary” to anti-gun folks. What these people don’t realize is that those “scary” features have nothing to do with making the gun more effective at killing. They exist for better ergonomics and modularity and not much else. 

Firefield’s rails and laser lights, for example, are seen by these same anti-gun people as being unnecessarily militaristic. There’s something intimidating about aggressive looking edges and the color black which gives sensitive people a sense of unease. 

It seems because of people like this, the federal government, in all its wisdom, defines an “assault weapon” as a semiautomatic rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable box magazine capable of holding more than fifteen rounds and has a pistol grip and/or a forward grip. Other cosmetic features such as folding stocks, barrel shrouds, threaded barrels or attached grenade launchers also constitute an “assault weapon.” 

Once again, none of these things make the AR-15 more dangerous than its wooden Ruger counterpart. In essence, the “assault weapon” label is a product of political thought. The term is only used by people who hate guns and want to ban them, so in a practical sense, outside of law, an “assault weapon” doesn’t really exist. 

What about an “assault rifle?” Does the AR-15 fall under this blanket term? While it has a distant relationship to the “assault weapon,” the term “assault rifle” is used in a lot of popular media like movies and video games so it has a more neutral connotation than the very anti-gun “assault weapon.” 

The etymology of the word first came from the StG-44, the very first “assault rifle.” This German rifle’s designation stands for Sturmgewehr Vierundvierzig. Literally “Assault (sturm) rifle (gewehr) model of forty-four.” Named by Hitler himself, this rifle used an intermediate 7.92x33mm cartridge, smaller than the full-sized 8mm round used by the K98 Mauser. It also featured a select fire feature, enabling users to switch from semi-automatic fire to fully automatic fire with the flip of a switch. 

German StG-44 assault rifle

The Sturmgewehr literally translates to "assault rifle."

To many modern firearm users, these two features – a rifle’s select-fire capability and its use of an intermediate cartridge, define an “assault rifle.” The AR-15, however, lacks a functional select-fire feature. By design, the AR-15 is a semi-automatic civilian sporting rifle, a completely different animal from the M4 the military uses, which is a select-fire service carbine. 

In very simple terms – the AR-15 is just a semi-automatic rifle. No one should be calling it an assault weapon because it’s a made-up political term, and it can neither be called an assault rifle because of its lack of a select-fire mechanism. 

The vast array of Firefield’s optics, whether they be riflescopes like the Barrage 1.5 - 5x32 or red dots sights like the Impulse 1x28, are compatible with any modern sporting rifle with rails, whether they be AR-15s or Mini-14s. 


  • Bob Smith is wrong with his comment. The military has three round burst as well as full auto. Semi auto is simply one trigger pull at a time.

    - Scott
  • There’s currently a woman running for president who wants to ban assault weapons.2/13/24

    - Scott
  • It’s called proper education of this topic to fully understand the basic mechanics of a so-called scary weapon resembling a military gun. You depress the trigger and one projectile goes out the barrel. I have watched sensational claims that AR-15 can 1400 rpm straight just the way it is made from the factory or gun builder, that is not true, you can shave the firing pin,but you are in for a whole world of hurt with that kind of stupidity. I say proper education, when you get your concealed carry take yourself to the range and learn about your first gun purchase, learn the laws, take pistol training and learn safety.And I believe they should background check people thoroughly and if they have a history of domestic abuse or mental health they should not own one ever. My opinion take for what is worth.

    - Firearms Instructor
  • So the only difference is semi auto versus fully auto. I’d say a semi auto matic is just as effective at killing if not more. Most people couldn’t fire a 30 round clip straight. But with semi auto you get clean bursts

    - Bob Smith
  • I agree with MJH. It’s much easier to go after law abiding citizens than to go after Street criminals with guns. All phony BS!

    - Bernard R. Buckley

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