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Member since: Tue Oct 13, 2015, 10:26 PM
Number of posts: 63

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Gunsplaining to conservatives

The great conundrum of the gun control debate comes down to, what is an assault rifle? Your average citizen looks at the visible design features, the detachable large capacity clip, pistol grip, parkerized finish, etc. and says, that's an assault rifle. To which the conservative replies, no it's not, you're such a dummy! Why, because the civilian market weapon doesn't have 'selective fire'; and they may also trot out such as the Ruger Mini 14, and say see, this weapon functions the same, but doesn't have a pistol grip for instance.

But the conservatives are being too cute by half. It's true that the civilian AR-15, as legally sold, does not come with 'selective fire', which allows a weapon to fire in fully automatic, 'machine gun' mode. But what does allow the weapon to fire semi-automatically rapidly in vast quantities, such as Stephen Paddock's feat in Las Vegas, Adam Lanza's in Sandy Hook, etc., is the cartridge, the bullet itself. This is because the assault rifle, as developed by all major militaries, beginning with Nazi Germany's, was developed to give the individual foot soldier the power of automatic fire - and the only way to accomplish this was to reduce the size of the cartridge/bullet to the point where the recoil wouldn't interfere.

Previous military doctrine, dating from before WW1, was predicated on a couple of interrelated factors - aimed rifle fire was to be accurate and lethal out to @ 1000 yards/900 meters; with a recoil to the shooter's shoulder that could be endured for several shots. The American cartridge that resulted was the .30 caliber, the 30.06. Other nation's militaries produced cartridges of similar size - the 30.06 in metric becomes 7.62 X 63; the German Mauser bolt action rifle used 7.92 X 57 for instance.

It became obvious during WW1, that most of the fighting was done within 300 yards, even 200 yards. Also, while a sniper with a scope can make good use of a 1000 yard range, an infantryman with normal iron sights can't even see a man at that range on the other side of his front sight.

Also - the thing to have, is a weapon with the option of fully automatic fire. This is not possible with a .30 caliber sized rifle - the recoil is too severe, the weapon cannot be handled. So, during WW2, the Germans, being clever, developed a cartridge that was their standard rifle caliber, but shorter - the 7.92 X 33, and developed a weapon with all the features that we all now see - large clip, selective fire, pistol grip. It was the StG44. Hitler, being Hitler, held it up for a time, but he did apparently finally give it the name 'assault rifle'.

The Russians felt the grievous effects of the StG44, and started development of what would become the AK-47, again with a shortened version of their standard cartridge.

The U.S. was a little late to the game. The U.S. replaced our WW2 rifle, the M-1 Garand, with another .30 rifle, the M14, but giving it selective fire. In the early years of Vietnam, this weapon proved uncontrollable in fully automatic fire, and the rifles were converted to eliminate that feature.

And so came the AR-15/M16. There were theories in the 50's that a smaller bullet that was faster could prove even more lethal than the established larger calibers. And so the 5.56 X 45 was developed - smaller, longer case relative to the caliber to hold more gunpowder - a faster bullet, that, famously, when it hits a body does disastrous damage inside, as detailed in the autopsy reports made available after some of the recent mass shootings.

It's a bullet that was designed to fire easily and rapidly, within the range of most combat, and achieve the most lethal results. Whether or not the weapon using it has 'selective fire' is almost a distinction without a difference.
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