They are most often seen in basic black, with a synthetic stock, pistol grip and nasty-looking long magazine, but when stacked against the average hunting rifle, the AR-15 really isn’t that powerful and its cartridge is more appropriate for shooting prairie dogs and other pests rather than game animals or people.
Yet long before the shooting in Aurora, Colo., and certainly here in the Pacific Northwest, gun prohibitionists and reporters too lazy to check have repeatedly referred to semiautomatic AR-15-type rifles as “high powered assault weapons.” The term came up again over the weekend in two appearances this writer did on the radio, one locally with KIRO and the other with a CBS-affiliate back east.
Check the image above of the author with what looks like a weapon of war. We’ll tell you more about that gun in a minute, but what you see is not an “assault rifle.”
The AR-15 rifle used by alleged Colorado gunman James Holmes fires a .22-caliber bullet weighing anywhere from 35 to 90 grains; a bullet weight that can be seriously affected by cross winds. The bullet leaves the muzzle at velocities ranging from 3,750 feet-per-second (fps) in the lighter weight to a bit more than 2,500 fps with heavier bullets. Velocity is also determined by powder charge and the type of powder used in the cartridge.
Stacked against the .30-06 Springfield, a 106-year-old cartridge first introduced as a military round that served this country in both world wars, the .223 Remington or nearly identical 5.56mm NATO used in today’s AR-type rifles are weak siblings.
The .30-06 dwarfs the .223 Remington cartridge, and propels a much heavier bullet with more than twice the muzzle energy, and is capable of hitting a target at 1,000 yards or more. Nobody is talking about banning .30-06-caliber firearms, even though they are far more capable of producing devastating wounds at close or long range, considering that bullets are much larger, weighing anywhere from 150 to 220 grains.
When they talk about the famed Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) and .30-caliber WWII-era machine gun, the .30-06 is the cartridge those guns fired. The BAR; now that’s an assault rifle that played a key role in helping this country win WWI and WWII. In technical terms, it’s a light machine gun, but it uses the very same ammunition that grandpa, dad and Uncle Joe have used for decades to clobber everything from whitetail deer to moose and even grizzly bears.
Try taking on a coastal brown or interior grizzly with a .223-caliber firearm, but first, cover yourself with pepper and salt, and maybe some barbecue sauce. Bears like their meals with seasoning.
Anti-gunners also wring their hands over “armor-piercing bullets” and demand that they be banned because “nobody needs them to hunt ducks.” True enough; not only do you not hunt ducks with AP ammunition, it’s illegal to hunt them with rifles, period.
What gun banners either do not know themselves, or don’t want you to know, is that the “armor piercing” label is rather broad and is used to demonize all ammunition.
First, we are discussing soft body armor, the vests worn by police and others that is made from Kevlar or some other space-age synthetic material. These vests are designed to stop handgun bullets. When it comes to rifle bullets, virtually all bullets fired from centerfire rifles will penetrate typical bullet-resistant vests, unless they are fitted with metal or ceramic trauma plates.
Years ago, gun rights groups led by the National Rifle Association lobbied hard against passage of “armor-piercing bullet” bans because those groups – consisting of experienced shooters and hunters – know that such bans would outlaw typical hunting ammunition. Many anti-gunners know this as well, and that was their plan. They still trot out the argument decades later because it sounds menacing and they can depend upon lazy reporters to repeat the term without checking what it actually means.
Now, about that rifle in the above photo; it may look like an “assault rifle” but only to people who don’t understand guns, only looks. It’s actually a .22-caliber semi-auto sporting rifle made by Remington that uses a rimfire cartridge, the same round used for many Olympic target shooting events. Compared to the .30-06, and even the .223 Remington, the .22-caliber rimfire, known as the .22 Long Rifle, is a wimp.
Assault on Weapons: The Campaign to Eliminatge Your Guns
Shooting Blanks: Facts Don’t Matter to the Gun Ban Crowd
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