One Take on the Etymology of the Term “Assault Weapon”

I like this video for two reasons: one, it contains some great perspective on something that causes frequent bouts of confusion and deliberately obtuse misidentification (what one might call lying or bull$hit). Two, the narrator sounds like one of my friends on the Michigan State Police EST, which entertains me to no end, especially after a couple of adult beverages.

On a more serious note, this is a great video to show people that genuinely understand what an “assault weapon” really is. Play it for people that still think an AR15 is a machine-gun.

From the narrator: “While I firmly believe that Assault is a behavior and NOT a description of an inanimate item, there is a proper use for it in military nomenclature and it isn’t what the gun grabbers want people to believe. I was there, even debating Josh Suggarmann on it a LONG time ago, and this video can help clear up the lies and misconceptions before our guns and rights are used as pawns again for some perverted agenda. I hope you enjoy it.”

Note: if you know a cogent and articulate counter-argument to this video, let us know and we will consider it for publication.

To be clear ahead of time: this is an op-ed, and a long one. If nothing else, watch the first 3 or 4 minutes, I think you’ll like it.

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About the Author

Kilgore & Call
Richard Kilgore and Jake Call have been writing on and off for for many years now. You can reach them at or follow them on Instagram at @breachbangclear or Tumblr at
  • Glenno

    Interesting video with some sound logic, but also a small amount of sophistry. For example, comparing the improvements in technology in the media to the improvements in technology in weaponry and also bringing in the ballistic comparisons when the wider concerns are about rates of fire of any high powered weapon. In the latter regard, I noted that the compere did not demonstrate just how fast you can squeeze off a full magazine from a semi-auto AR-type weapon. Perhaps that might not have supported his argument as well as a few well-aimed shots squeezed off in a considered manner.

    All that said, it is a good video to show to people who do not understand the difference between a fully automatic weapon and a semi-automatic weapon and are likely to be exposed to the information and disinformation disseminated by the various interested parties to this debate.

    David, you posted an invitation to show videos showing the counter-argument. What do you think such a video might look like? While I could take issue with a couple of minor points in this video, I thought that on the whole it was factually correct, balanced and without the usual hyperbole that one might expect. I wonder what a cogent and articulate counter-argument would look like. (A touch of irony for those who don’t see it on the first pass).

  • Carl

    Yes, semi-auto weapons have been around for a long time as the presenter in the video pointed out but grandpa did not go out shooting with his Henry Rifle using a 30 round mag. While I’m pro 2nd Amendment, I’m continually amazed at all the yahoo’s who are out there with their guns and with no idea about gun safety. As a nation we require everyone who wants to drive a car pass a knowledge/safety exam, are guns any less dangerous then a vehicle?

    • Go Navy!

      I would agree with you that there needs to be more training especially if you are a CCW holder and carrying everyday. The way I look at it, you owe it to society that if you do deploy your weapon that you know what you are doing. I go through an advance handgun course every year (at least) to ensure that my skills are sharp and that I am proficient. However, the average CCW don’t do this and maybe goes to the range and shoot at paper targets for an hr.

      • Mikeb

        The Average NYC police office seems also needs the improve skills, as seen in the Shooting 2 weeks ago by the Empire state building. 9 bystanders were shot by police while none were shot by the suspect.

    • guest

      Not true. You are not required to have a license or register a car just to possess or drive a car. It is only required if you want to operate the vehicle on a public roadway. Even though by possessing a vehicle you “could” take it on the road, the requirements to license and register only apply if you “do”. Contrast that to registration and licensing requirements to simply “possess” a firearm. Nice try, and thanks for playing.

  • Go Navy!

    Good video. It shows the difference between full auto and semi auto rifle. I wish there were more videos like this educating the public. When there is a picture of an AR 15 (like Colorado shooting) is shown, the general public assumes it’s a “machine gun evil assault weapon” and that every one can get one at your local gun store for $100. The video is right….the media don’t talk ballistics…I would rather get show from a .223 than a .30 06 from Remington Bolt Action. Also when the Media talk about military weapons, they always tend to focus on AK47 or AR15. Media don’t focus on M1 Garand or M1 Carbine because they look like your hunting rifle. Finally good example of the Rugar Mini 14/30 series. I got mine as Ranch style with wood stock. Looks like a regular hunting rifle especially you put a scope on it. But the minute you put a stock (Arch Angel stock) and make it into “black rifle”, I am sure someone is going to stay is an Assault Weapon. The point that Mini 14/30 is still has the same rifle function (semi auto).

    • Glenno

      I would rather not get shot with either weapon, or any other firearm for that matter! Once you have seen up close (such as at a crime scene or post mortem) what firearms can do to the human body, you tend to think twice about making silly comparison statements like that. The funny thing is that, all other things being equal, you run a higher risk of taking multiple hits from a .223 semi auto rifle than you do from any kind of bolt action rifle. That is why the military abandoned general issue bolt action rifles more than half a century ago in favor of semi and full auto firearms – the ability to deliver high rates of fire and for the average grunt to carry more rounds.

      The reason that the media talks so much about AK47 type rifles and AR15 type rifles is their prevalence in active shooter incidents, sieges and in the firearms media. Pick up any of the major gun mags or visit any of the common firearms equipment web sites and what you will see most of are ads for rails, grips, mags, stocks, aiming devices, etc for use on ARs – not Garands!

      The AK and the AR represent the face of the perceived problem for these very reasons. The AK is the most widely used military weapon in the world (if Clint Eastwood is to be believed). The AR bears a striking physical resemblance to the weapons carried by both the US Army and Marines in all current theaters of deployment. To my knowledge, no one carries a Garand or M1 carbine anymore on active service. It seems a no brainier to me that the media would therefore concentrate on AKs and ARs.

      It would be interesting to know a breakdown of the long weapon calibers responsible for most human shootings. I suspect that .22 rimfires would be up near the top, followed by 12 gauge shotguns. I would venture that most of those firearms would come to notice in incidents such as accidental shootings, unpremeditated murders, some armed robberies and the like.

      On the other hand, if you take a look at the long weapons used by active shooters and those who engage in barricaded sieges, you will find a different pucture. Offenders most intent on killing multiple victims tend to go for the high powered, semi auto, high magazine capacity longnweapons where they have some security in knowing that single hits on victims will do maximum damage and they are more likely to be able to fend off resistance with the multiple round, rapid fire response guaranteed by a high powered semi auto with a large magazine capacity. What weapons best fill those criteria? Join the dots for yourself!

      I note that our ‘Guest’ attempted to have the last word on the motor vehicle parallel. Granted that you do not need a license to own a car and you only need a license to drive a car on the road. So who has access to large tracts of private land to drive whilst unlicensed? Farmers, their families and friend. Who else? Very few others in the community. Most people who want to drive a car have to do so on public streets or public car parks as they simply don’t have access to large tracts of private property. Car + drive + public street = need for drivers license. Therefore, while technically you are correct, practically your argument is irrelevant. Thanks for your input!

      • Go Navy!

        That is true. You don’t see a lot of websites advertising accessories for M1 Garand or Carbine. However, I have seem some aftermarket (ATI?) stocks that make M1 Carbine into an evil Assault Weapon with a 30 rd magazine. As for the M1 Garand, maybe someone will come up with a different stock and loading device to make it into an “Assault Weapon” :) It’s just a frustrating issue because adding these accessories doesn’t change how the firearm functions (it’s still semi auto). Yes, the stock, pistol grip, rails, optics, and magazine enhances the firearm. I wonder if the Media would call a ban on “Assault Handguns” if you mount a optic on let’s say on a Glock, 33rd magazine and a surefire light.

        Thanks for your back up on “guest”. While technically correct, most people drive cars in Public Streets and Roads. Therefore, the individual would have to go to a road test and demonstrate ability to operate a vehicle. I would go further that road test needs to be validated at “X” amount of period.

  • Allan Harrison

    Driving is a privilege, firearm ownership is a right.

  • Lance

    very good logic on the matter. very good!

  • Atlatl

    I think Carl’s point was that none of us would want to see U.S. citizens driving vehicles on our public roads without taking some kind of test to show that they know how to drive, and understand the rules of the road. This in his mind also applies to firearms. The analogy goes further, as most of my friends would avoid drinking and driving but have no problem with a few beers while out hunting in the woods.

  • EOD Bombbuster

    I think “guest” actually did make a point.
    Guess what, people can’t legally take guns out and shoot them on public roads, they have them in their PRIVATE homes. If you want to conceal carry your firearm in a public place it does in fact, require special permitting (CCL) in most states. His comparison to a vehicle license is valid. If I want to have a firearm in my private home only I should not have to have a license. If you want to carry concealed, apply for the permit.
    Yes, I know some people are open carrying, but I believe they do nothing to protect my RTKBA. Most only polarize the anti-gunners.
    To own a gun (just like a car) should not require a license. To carry a gun in public (like driving on public roads) should and does.


  • Al

    As a Brit and never having fired a firearm, I dont have any experience with US firearm availability, from a UK perspective I do rember some years ago that while air rifles and compound bows were fien and legal, there was a period of banning black toy plastic guns, simply because of the appearance and possible use in crimes to intimidate victims, guns had to be bright neon colours or have bright red bits stuck on the end. I could imagine that some potential gun crime victims might see a robber wielding a wooden stock granpa rifle and think, hmm, my granpa had one the them, but if the assailant had anAR15 or a weapon that appeared to look like the media/video game fully auto rifles, then they would be more compliant to be robbed etc. So its just cosmetics that are being banned, like the banning of pitbulls when there are far more violent dogs around.

  • To quote Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, a rifle is a tool. The fellow in the video clip is wordsmithing, just like the lawmakers he derides. I’ve watched dashcam video of the last moments of police officers shot with all of the weapons noted in the clip as well as the comments here. I also know of a President shot with a bolt action rifle. A desire to kill, married to a weapon at hand, can always be a deadly combination. The AR I carry at work is there for one reason – in a serious gunfight it is a superior tool to my sidearm because of its reach, accuracy and the lethal nature of the ammunition. It was designed to be stable when multiple shots are fired rapidly. In short, it was created for human combat. Does that make it an “assault rifle?” I have no frickin’ clue, and could care even less. Advocates for gun ownership and gun control play the same game, and evade the same point. How do we prevent a rifle like mine from falling into the hands of a homicidal misfit while preserving an American’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms? The all or nothing positions are counterproductive. This video talks the talk, but won’t even contemplate walking the walk toward rational gun ownership laws.

    • Glenno

      Well put Jim. It is the absence of rationality in the debate that deters so many from participating, for fear of being flamed or worse. In the eyes of the law, gun ownership is a right, but all rights carry inherent obligations and responsibilities.

      Gun ownership, freedom of speech and any other right need to be exercised with respect for others and common sense. So far in this discussion we have seen that. But if experience has taught me anything it is that pretty soon someone is going to join in and spoil it by espousing and extremist position to the exclusion of all others. At that point, the reasonable people drift away leaving the extremist thinking he has won the day and therefore must be right. If only there was a way to enshrine common sense in the Constitution!

      • As always, Glenno, we agree in large part. My quibble – I think the Framers believed they had drafted common sense into the document, as so much is unsaid. They left it for succeeding generations (a gift, in the words of Thomas Jefferson) to apply it’s principles and safeguard our rights in the society we inhabit. Not that it is “living and breathing” in the Left’s sense, but the principle that a free citizen has the right to own firearms for their own lawful purposes need not be rewritten to be applied sensibly. Unfortunately, while the guy in the video makes some excellent technical points, they are obscured by the overall tenor – that legislators have been unartful and self-serving when describing firearms as “assault weapons.” Really? It would be easier to get the perfect martini recipe from a temperence society than clear statutory language from lawmakers. What does the narrator suggest, status quo?

  • Pete Sheppard

    The strategy is ‘divide and conquer’. Back in the late ’80s, Sugarman and his ilk noted that military style ‘assault’ weapons (terms popularized by shooters, BTW) weren’t very popular, so they were the first ‘class’ of firearms targeted for eventual bans. Other types have been targeted since, such as .50BMG ‘sniper’ rifles which were originally built by ultra-long-range target shooters. Shotguns (spraying buckshot) and bolt-action scope-sighted hunting rifles (deadly sniper rifles) were on the list, as well as the various types of handguns (note how the New York Times tried to demonize the .45 *low-capacity* pistol used by the Empire State Building shooter as possibly too powerful for civilian use)

    • Glenno

      Interesting points Pete. There is a whole area of social science research devoted to what is called ‘labelling theory’. One aspect is the attachment of a label to something as a step preparatory to demonizing it in the eyes of the majority.

      There are lessons to be learned and used in defending the reasoned and reasonable use of firearms from extremists. Perhaps there is a need for groups like the NRA to be more on the front foot in sponsoring independent and balanced research rather than waiting for the Sugarmans of the world to make the running and then trying to play catch-up.

      Another lesson is the need for care by shooters in the labels they attach to weapons and classes of weapons. There are lots of women involved in the activities that fall under the general heading of firearms use. But the whole market is aimed at men. I bet it wasn’t a woman who coined the term ‘assault weapon’. Another aspect is the tendency for some shooters to try and dress their weapons up to look like the latest and greatest being used by special forces in Afghanistan. Yes, there are sound reasons for installing an adjustable stock, a rail and a better aiming device. But thought needs to be given by the designers and manufacturers of those after-market products to the message they send to the non-gun owning public.

      Call me old fashioned, but I love the look and feel of a nice piece of quality timber, fine checkering and deep bluing on a hunting rifle (though I am not a particular fan of Scrimshawing – intricate and artistic as it is). There is something elegant about that combination that simply isn’t present on a highly modified AR-15 with a Parkerized finish. My $0.02 worth.

      • Pete Sheppard

        My impression is that the shooter often makes the lasting impression. I don’t have a problem with military-accoutered arms; they can be considered an homage to those who used them serving their country–I like them for that reason.
        If I show up at the range decked out in all the ‘tacti-cool’ gear and wearing an aggressive attitude on my sleeve, it should not be surprising if some more casual shooters are turned off; remember the ‘Elmer Fudd’ dustup when a hunter expressed disdain for AR-style rifles? If we don’t show respect and consideration, the shooting community can be divided, which the antis just *love*!

  • Glenno

    More interesting commentary Pete. Perhaps we need to stop describing the utilitarian AR and AKstyle firearms in ‘aggressive’ terms and start calling the whole genre something like – ‘Military Homage -honoring those who have served, those who currently serve, and those who will serve the cause of peace in the future.’ I like it – because it is both respectful and honest while leveraging the kind of values respected by the majority.

    We now need the major players in the firearms manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing sectors to take it up as a campaign ahead of anything done by the anti-gun lobby. Perhaps they might start thinking strategically for a change, instead of being focused purely on the money they make from ‘tactical’ thinking.

  • BertoRob

    I had this exact thought as well. Also in the news was the fact that in a NY city park a couple of days ago two co-workers scuffled with one dying of a stab wound. Just by coincidence Mayor Bloomberg had been at that park that day. I am STILL waiting for Bloomberg to appear on TV demanding that knife lengths be regulated and limited to 2″ blade length for public safety.
    He needs to be honest for a change and admit that because of these financial times he had to make cuts to the police force hence there is more crime. Demanding new gun laws will take the focus off this fact for a short time but people will continue to commit crimes with weapons of convenience be it a knife, rock, gun, or stick.

    • Go Navy!

      Yes. Look at China. Since they are so tight with firearms (I believe only a very limited individuals (Govt officials, wealthy) can own firearms?), that criminals have resorted to using hammers or knives in attacks. Criminals will find a way to commit crimes. That’s the way the world is…unfortunately. More stricter gun control only limit the law abiding citizen. We need to have harsher punishment for crimes.

  • BertoRob

    Laws are only affective if they are followed. Many laws are written in response to a recent event or events by politicians looking to promote their career.
    I live in New Jersey and purchased 1 box of 50 rounds of 9mm recently at Dick’s Sporting Goods. This was the process:
    1. Go to counter in the gun/ammunition department.
    2. Ask for 1 box of 9mm.
    3. Show federal firearm id card.
    4. I am handed a giant plastic ‘anti-theft’ case, containing said 9mm ammo.
    5. I walk to the front with ammo to pay.
    6. Cashier asks for ID. I show ID as cashier processes the transaction. Entering in God knows how much of my information from the card.
    7. I leave the store.
    What was the point?

    • Go Navy!

      BertoRob: WOW! I live in the midwest. I just go to my local Walmart. Buy 300 rd of 9mm. The casher in the hunting dept checks my driver’s license to ensure I am 21 yrs old (handgun ammo). Ring up the sale for $69 approx (3 boxes of Winchester white box). I pay and I am out the door. I didn’t know that NJ requires an “Anti Theft” case for ammo. We have a Dick’s here and the procedure is a lot quicker.

  • Retired 11b

    It’s even easier here in Arizona, and in Texas, where I was last stationed. Just walk into Cabela’s, walk down 2 aisles stacked with ammo, pick out what you want, and carry it to the front counter. Show valid identification, stating you are the proper age, and voila!, off to the range!

  • Chris Dante

    I do not believe that any person should own an assault rifle. WhatI do believe is that every family should have at least one crew served, tripod mounted, belt fed weapon