Semiautomatic Assault Weapons—What Are They? What's So Bad About Them?
The "Father of All
The Nazi army's Sturmgewehr (STG) 44, the first assault rifle.
The STG 44 in combat action.
Deadly designs. One thing leaps out from these pictures: the
remarkable similarity of the first assault rifle to the assault rifles
currently flooding America's streets. This family resemblance is not
a coincidence. From the STG-44 "storm gun" to the Bushmaster XM-15,
assault weapons have incorporated into their design specific
features that enable shooters to spray ("hose down") a large number
of bullets over a broad killing zone, without having to aim at each
individual target. These features not only give assault weapons a distinctive
appearance, they make it easy to simply point the gun while rapidly
pulling the trigger—including firing from the hip, a procedure seldom
used in hunting anything but human beings. The most important of these
design features are:
detachable ammunition magazines (often called "clips") that hold
as many as 75 rounds of ammunition. "This allows the high volume of
fire critical to the 'storm gun' concept."9
- A rear pistol
grip (handle), including so-called "thumb-hole stocks" and magazines
that function like pistol grips.
- A forward
grip or barrel shroud. Forward grips (located under the barrel
or the forward stock) "give a shooter greater control over a weapon
during recoil."10 Forward grips and barrel shrouds also make it possible
to hold the gun with the non-trigger hand, even through the barrel
gets extremely hot from firing multiple rounds. In the case of assault
pistols (like the UZI, MAC, and Intratec TEC series) the forward grip
often appears as an ammunition magazine or a barrel shroud, a vented
tube surrounding the gun barrel.
Barrel shrouds make it possible to hold a hot barrel during firing (above).
Forward pistol grips help control recoil (below). Images and captions
from Duncan Long, The Terrifying Three.11
rifles, like this Heckler & Koch G41 invariably accept a high-capacity
magazine ("clip") and have some form of pistol grip and fore-end grip.
like the one above sold by Bushmaster Firearms for use on the UZI, are
"ventilated all around for maximum heat dissipation."
Back to Table of Contents
All contents © 2003 Violence Policy Center
The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational foundation
that conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction
policies and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America,
conducts research on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease
firearm-related death and injury.