Guest post: The AR-style rifle

| February 24, 2018 | 41 Comments

The Other Whitey contributes this;

In the wake of the recent and ghastly events in Broward County, Florida, we have once again been subjected to the inevitable wave of finger-pointing, strawmanning, and cries for gun control. Politicians, media personalities, activists, and attention whores are going on ad nauseam, blaming the NRA, the Republican Party, Donald Trump, and every American gun owner for the actions of a bloodthirsty psychopath who slipped through the NICS background check process because the school and local authorities never bothered to log his troubling behavior into the system. These arguments, attacking the Second Amendment in general and the AR-15 rifle in particular, reveal a remarkable level of ignorance.

One of the most common refrains is that the AR-15 “is a weapon of war, designed to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible.” Is that true in any way? No, and that claim indicates that the people making it have no idea of how wars are fought. They make it sound as if Eugene Stoner was sitting around one day and thinking to himself, “How can I make a gun that’s perfect for shooting a crowd of people just standing around?” i.e. “How can I make a gun that’s perfect for a mass murderer?” Yes, he did envision the design as becoming an infantry combat rifle. However, infantry combat hasn’t involved shooting into crowds of people since the American Civil War, after which infantry stopped lining up in crowds out in the open. No, soldiers of today—and the last 150 years—utilize cover, concealment, and fire&maneuver tactics to avoid being shot, while trying to accurately shoot an enemy who is doing the same thing. So, NO, the AR-15 is not, in fact, “designed to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible.” It is in fact designed to be a rifle that can easily and reliably be used to put accurate fire on one target at a time. There are very, very few firearms which were designed with “kill as many as possible as quickly as possible” as their driving philosophy, all of which date to the 1800s, when Napoleonic massed formations were the norm. The original Gatling Gun and Maxim Machine Gun are examples of this type of weapon, and it was because of these weapons that Napoleonic formations were giving way to skirmishers and trench warfare before the Civil War ended.
Without the other guys helpfully lining up in neat, orderly rows to get shot, that design philosophy didn’t make sense for infantry rifles. Instead, their design focused on accuracy, reliability, and ease of use. They were—and still are—designed as much to keep their users alive as to kill the enemy. This was the purpose of repeating rifles with tubular magazines, for internal box magazines loaded by chargers/stripper clips, and eventually detachable box magazines: outgun the enemy so he can’t do the same to you. This is because when you get right down to it, infantry combat for the last 150 years basically boils down to rifle duels between infantrymen. Sure, that’s a major simplification of something quite complex, as there’s suppression fire, artillery, air support, grenades, and whatnot, but the essential principle is to shoot the other guy so he can’t shoot you. So once again, the AR-15 family of rifles are designed to engage one target at a time, and do so accurately and reliably. The military derivatives of the AR-15 family do indeed have some kind of full-automatic capability, but full-automatic fire is badly misunderstood. Hollywood loves to depict crowds of bad (or good) guys being cut down by spraying bullets on full-auto at long range, or the scenery being sprayed with lead while the hero runs by, but that doesn’t work very well in real life with a rifle. It works with a machine gun, but the AR-15 is not a machine gun. A machine gun is a specialized heavy weapon used in a supporting role (frequently emplaced). A rifle is the weapon that’s issued to your basic infantryman. Around WWII, the major superpowers were in love with the idea of making a rifle with a machine gun’s firepower, but that idea proved to be impractical, as rifles are simply to light to be controllable in full-auto. Ammunition is wasted as the muzzle jumps uncontrollably, with bullets going God-knows-where. Even the M16, firing its small-caliber rounds with its compensated muzzle and recoil buffer system, is far too imprecise in full-automatic to be useful at the ranges at which combat usually occurs. This is why most of the M16s and M4s used by the military are limited to three-round bursts of full-automatic fire. Firing in bursts is useful in close-quarters fighting, where survival can depend on split-second reactions that may not allow enough time to aim the weapon as precisely as one would like.

So how about the AR-15 being a “weapon of war?” Well, that depends on which member of the AR-15 family of rifles you’re talking about. The XM16, XM16E1, M16, M16A1, M16A2, M16A3, and M16A4 could rightly be described as such, having been issued to the United States military and those of our allies in numerous conflicts since 1962. The same could be said of the XM177, XM177E1, GAU-5, M4, and M4A1 carbines for the same reason. These weapons also possess full-automatic, or at least burst, capability, which is not legally available to the overwhelming majority of civilian gun owners. A civilian AR-15 is only capable of semiautomatic fire: pulling the trigger fires a single round, cycles the bolt, and chambers the next round from the magazine, but DOES NOT fire that next round. So what is the real difference between the civilian semiautomatic AR-15 and the military full-automatic-capable M16 or M4? After all, they share most of the same parts! But the military components that give the M16 and M4 full-auto capability will not fit in a civilian AR-15 receiver. Besides, let’s look at a few examples of some other things that are, by definition, “weapons of war:” the M1 Garand semiautomatic rifle, the Lee-Enfield family of bolt-action rifles, the Colt M1873 “Peacemaker” single-action revolver seen in every western movie ever made, the Springfield M1861 .58-caliber muzzleloading percussion rifle (loaded with black powder) that equipped the Union Army at Gettysburg, the crossbow, the recurve bow, the longbow, the javelin, and the shotput that high school students compete with in Track & Field events. Human hands also meet that definition.

For the final part of this long-winded rant, let’s address the fallacy that the Founders of the United States of America who wrote its Constitution and attached Bill of Rights could never have imagined repeating weapons with a high rate of fire. There were in fact dozens of gun designs capable of some kind of rapid fire that were in production at the time, were widely-known, and were in use by private owners (including some of the Founders themselves) in the original 13 states. A simple Google search can find a wealth of information on this topic. The late 18th Century was a time of innovation, as such contrivances as the cotton gin, the steam engine, the first functional electric battery, and dozens of other technological marvels were rapidly changing the world. Additionally, many of those men, such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, were inventors who literally specialized in thinking of things nobody had thought of before. The idea that men who were envisioning vehicles that didn’t require draft animals to pull them, “candles” that ran on gas or electricity rather than a potentially-dangerous burning wick, or corrective lenses for people with poor eyesight would be bound to the idea that firearms would never be anything more than single-shot muzzleloading flintlocks charged with loose black powder is ridiculous. Both the breechloading firearm and the idea of fast-loading cartridge ammunition predated Leonardo da Vinci (who, incidentally, is widely believed to have designed, built, and used the first sniper rifle), even if the technology hadn’t yet matured enough to produce modern metallic cartridges (though that development wasn’t even fifty years away), preloaded paper cartridges which drastically reduced the time and skill needed to reload a muzzleloading gun had been in common use for centuries, and multi-shot revolvers were invented in Germany in the 1580s. All of these technologies were well-known to the men who wrote the Bill of Rights.

The gun control lobby has been using fake and/or obfuscated numbers and statistics, accused people and organizations of responsibility for things that they didn’t do and had nothing to do with, and misrepresented numerous facts. My question to the activists, media, and the rest of those screaming for gun bans is this: if you are right, then why do you have to lie to support your position?

Category: Guns

Comments (41)

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  1. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Very, very well written TOW. The way I can tell whether I like a piece is easy: if after the first few lines, I don’t start skimming, I like it. It has drawn me in. I read every word.

  2. AW1Ed says:

    Lewis and Clark had a Girandoni Air Rifle. A semi-auto that fired 20+ rounds.


    Good post, TOW.

  3. Doc Savage says:

    So…blame everything and everyone except the individuals responsible.

  4. 26Limabeans says:

    Excellent tutorial for a lot of people.
    Hope I can get my GF to read it with me answering any questions.
    She is a retired teacher. Pray for me.

  5. Roh-Dog says:

    The Gatling gun and home-built analogs using modern firearms as the host weapon are legal. For most locations, mail order of percussion cap, multi shot revolvers is permitted with no background check what-so-ever.
    Also, anyone is capable of purchasing an 80% lower, presuming the manufacturing person is permitted to own a firearm, they can finish it and own it (as long as they don’t sell/transfer it, read: “ghost gun”).
    Want to watch an anti gunners head spin ‘round in circles, explain the above to them.
    Long live the Republic.

    • Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

      The British Army back in the 1800’S used Gatling guns in their Colonies that were battery operated but they did not have the technology to maintain battery voltages so that idea was put to rest and the gun was run manually. I believe the new Gatling guns are called chain guns because a chain in the receiver part went around rotating the barrels and loading a round into each barrel. When the Mil.started to utilize them, this is how they worked but I do not know if they are operated in this way now a days.

  6. Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

    TOW; Glad that you mentioned that the school did not log in any of the complaints about the shooter. Yesterday I mentioned that on the Joyce Kaufman radio show WFTL 850AM, she mentioned that the Broward County Sheriff’s office had a hands off policy on things involved with school students so hence no paperwork and a number of cover ups involved. This was politicaly motivated. She used to have Sheriff Scott Israel on her program a few times but yesterday she lambasted him over the radio. Odd that this isn’t mentioned on the other media outlets. Latest is that 3 more Broward officers were also “hiding” outside the building while Coral Springs Officers went in. She is on Mon.-Fri 12noon-3PM.

  7. OWB says:

    Well done, TOW. And absolutely correct.

    If each of us can correct the misconceptions of only one person it would help tremendously to advance sanity.

  8. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    If the Second Amendment only applies to Black Powder Firearms then the First Amendment only applies to quill pens, parchment and antique printing presses. Feed that to the next moonbat proglodyte you come across and enjoy watching them “trigger “! 😀😎

  9. The Other Whitey says:

    Owen Benjamin screencapped an awesome picture on his YouTube show yesterday. A guy wearing a Tshirt that says:

    “Nobody needs an AR-15? Well, nobody needs a whiny little bitch, either. Yet here you are.”

  10. Mason says:

    Excellent post TOW

  11. Reddevil says:

    And now the rebuttal that will keep this thread going all weekend:

    I will preface by stating my position on gun ownership, which is that law abiding (I.e. Non- felons), mentally competent citizens have the unimpeachable right to own as many AR15 or similar rifles as they can afford to buy and safely store.

    Back to this logically flawed post…

    First, you set up a straw man argument that AR 15 opponents call it a ‘weapon of war designed to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. You then dismantle your own argument by stating flatly that the AR15 is an infantry combat rifle, but since the tactics of small unit infantry combat has changed, the nature of infantry weapons has changed, therefore the AR15 is not a weapon of war. This is logically flawed and inherently disingenuous.

    The mission of the Infantry is to close with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver in order to destroy or capture him, or to repel his assault with fire, close combat, and counterattack. In other words, attack the enemy and kill him, or stand your ground against his attack and kill him. Since the enemy’s mission is the same, you obviously what to kill more of them more quickly than they can kill you.

    Infantrymen have always used the weapon that allowed them to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible based on the technology and tactics of the time.

    Of course tactics changed, but the nature of infantry combat has remained the same since Caine slew Abel. The Civil War showed that mass formations, necessary in the days of smooth bore muskets, were folly against more accurate rfifled muskets with mass produced cartridges, as well as the repeating carbines, long range artillery, and even the Gatling guns you mentioned.

    All of these are ‘mass casualty producing’ weapons, and you are correct that the AR 15 is not one of them- it is not a machine gun. It is an infantry combat rifle, designed to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible given the tactics we experienced on the modern battlefield

    As you say, the designer intended the AR15 to be an infantry combat rifle. You are correct that today it means something different from what it meant 150 years ago. If you had handed Chamberlain a fully aoutomatic M16 on Little Round Top he would have thought it was useless because the rifle was too flimsy and short to beat people to death and the bayonet was useless, because it didn’t fit into his experience of infantry combat. Custer left Gatling guns behind because they didn’t fit into his idea of Cavalry combat. However, imagine what an infantry squad with M4s (which Chamberlain would probably not have recognized as a weapon) would have done to the 15th Alabama.

    Nevertheless, the nature of infantry combat was the same as it was when Caine slew Abel- kill the enemy before he kills you. The weapon of choice has always been whatever technology of the time allowed you to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

    Today, that is a weapon that allows you to fire repeatedly and accurately at long ranges from a covered and concealed position against an enemy who is doing the same to you in order to kill as many of him as possible as quickly as possible.

    This is actually changing as we speak because of a change in technology- body armor. The next infantry combat rifle will have a higher caliber and better penetration, because the enemy we expect to fight will probably have body armor, so to kill as many of him as possible as quickly as possible, we will have to go through body armor.

    The AR15 is a people killing machine, but it is your absolute right to own one, because the founding fathers saw it as your right to defend yourself and your duty to defend your community and the nation against any enemy, foreign or domestic, either as an individual or as a member of the militia.

    By the way, all of you able bodies between 17 and 45 are part of the militia one way or another.

    I await your responses with anticipation, but I may be slow to retort- big road trip today.

    • The Other Whitey says:

      I probably should have clarified further, but I feared I was already pushing the TLDR threshold.

      The “weapon of war designed to kill as many as possible” is not my strawman. It’s a direct quote from numerous pro-ban speeches and screeds, so if anything, it’s a response to their strawman. They talk that point up as if Stoner specifically designed his rifle to mow down rows of people, which is clearly not the case, because people in combat don’t line up that way and haven’t since before Stoner’s father was born.

      You are absolutely correct about the purpose of Infantry being to kill the enemy, but their conception of how that works is flawed, and they base their whole position on it. That flawed perception is what I am arguing against. They seem to think that it was designed specifically with mass murder in mind. The rifle is designed to be used kill the enemy as efficiently and effectively as possible, but that is done by putting accurate fire on a single target until that target is neutralized, then shifting to another target. If an infantryman needs to put down multiple targets at once, that’s what grenades (banned for civilians), artillery, tanks, and air strikes (which civilians can’t get) are for. Some may call it semantics, but I think it’s a pretty damn important distinction.

      As for “weapons of war,” I thought I made the point that while military AR derivatives are exactly that, civilian ARs are not. And even if they were, so what? There’s a staggering number of legitimate “weapons of war” in common everyday use, including the items utilized by high school track & field teams. Shotput and javelins are both highly-lethal weapons invented for the purpose of killing people, but we’re fine with training children to use them. There is also the fact that the text of the 2nd Amendment, as well as the relevant Federalist Papers, make it abundantly clear that “weapons of war” are exactly the type of arms which the right to keep and bear shall not be infringed.

      I apologize for any failures to properly explain or clarify my points.

      • Reddevil says:

        My larger point is what John makes in another post:

        The AR-15 is was designed as an infantry combat rifle specifically to kill people, and that is precisely why we have the right to own one.

        The Second Amendment doesn’t say ‘shooting targets and hunting game being essential to eating and having fun on the weekends’, it states ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…’

        It is clear that they intended for citizens to have weapons that could be used in self defense and armed combat.

        Militias were largely infantry formations, so it is clear that they intended citizens to own weapons that could be used as infantry weapons as part of a militia.

        By the way, they stated ‘arms’ not ‘guns’ or ‘firearms’. This means that if the next generation of infantry weapons is A plasma rifle in the 40 watt range, you should be able to own one.

        • Reddevil says:

          >Jonn, not John<

        • The Other Whitey says:

          I wholeheartedly agree. My original article clearly needed some further tweaking to make that point clearly.

        • Ex-PH2 says:

          Already have one, reddevil. Issued last year when I reported to Squadron IV-A.

          You’re a bit slow on the uptake there, Toots. When are you getting yours?

        • Mason says:

          Also the designed or intended purpose of something doesn’t always match what it is actually used for.

          The Jeep was a utility vehicle for moving troops. Then it delivered mail for decades and is a favorite of off-roaders.

          The Internet was developed as a technical exercise in applying network switching ala the phone system applied to computers. It then turned into a way for researchers nationwide to communicate. Now it’s used for so many things the original creators couldn’t possibly dream of.

          A box cutter is designed to open corrugated cardboard boxes. On 9/11 it was a weapon of terrorism and murder.

    • CIBMechanic says:

      My question is can you name all the armies in the world today that issue the AR15 to there troops as a weapon of war?

  12. Ex-PH2 says:

    You left out the Manchurian repeating crossbow, TOW. Not a new invention or innovation at all. 1st century, in fact.

    Also called the Zhuge, depending on who made it.

  13. Sparks says:

    Excellent article TOW and thank you Sir.

  14. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Americans were armed before there were organized militia. Whether in Federalist Paper 29/46 or the Constitution itself, exclusively focusing on the marriage of bearing arms and militia is, to me, a red herring and mistaken. Why? Because if that was the only purpose, of arming-up to serve in the militia, then the right to be armed otherwise could easily have been prohibited, with all of the necessary and utilitarian exceptions included. Not only did this not happen in the 18th century, but it didn’t happen in the subsequent centuries either. Certainly, if militia and personal arms were inextricably linked, the establishment of a standing army, especially in the 20th century, and the existence of the state guards, not to mention myriad police, would have separated the two by now, well before the NRA ever existed, with or without a Supreme Court and with or without the NRA.

  15. OldSoldier54 says:

    Hair-splitting aside, great post, TOW.

    “A bullet is the FINAL NO vote.

    Which is exactly why the Left wants to eradicate the 2A.


    Or the 7 barreled Nock flintlock volley gun

    I wonder how effective it actually was. Surely Sharpes must be an exaggeration!

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