The So-Called Assault Weapons on My Rifle Range
Several times in previous articles for PJ Media I've mentioned in passing that I am a volunteer with the Project Appleseed. A project of the Revolutionary War Veterans Association, "Appleseed" is a unique blend of heritage and marksmanship education you won't find anywhere else.
In the time I've spent since participating in my first Appleseed in March of 2012 up through my current status as an instructor in training, I've had the opportunity to see literally hundreds of participants come to the firing line. While the students and instructors come in all shapes, sizes, and ages, there is quite a bit more uniformity among the rifles students and instructors choose to bring.
A typical firing line at an Appleseed anywhere in the nation will look something like this:
If you look closely at the rifles, starting from the bottom right of the screen, you'll note something interesting.
The empty rifle grounded at the bottom right is an AR-15 or a similar firearm. The first shooter in frame is using a semi-automatic .22LR training rifle (probably a Mossberg 715T), which is also apparently the same rifle used by the next shooter in line. The next man, in the red shirt, is firing a Ruger 10/22 with a scope, and while the photo gets a little grainy after that, it appears that the next shooters in line are also shooting Ruger 10/22s.
This is very typical at an Appleseed. While we proudly boast that we'll teach students marksmanship with nearly any rifle safe to fire (depending on the condition of the firearm and the safe caliber capacity of the range's berms), the simple fact of the matter is that most shooters prefer semi-automatic, detachable magazine rifles, and for good reason.
Self-loading, semi-automatic rifles allow shooters to focus on marksmanship.
When not distracted by the machinations of working a bolt-action, pumping a pump-action, or working a lever, shooters can focus on the far more important tasks of establishing a natural point of aim and and precisely following the six steps of firing a shot. In order to accurately, repeatedly fire shots into a tight group, a shooter has to align the front and rear sights, bring the aligned sights onto the target, find her respiratory pause, focus the eyes on the front sight while focusing the mind on the the target, squeeze the trigger, and follow through.
That's hard work, despite what your experience playing Call of Duty or Halo on Xbox suggests.
Despite breathless claims that "semi-automatics are only used for killing," I'd estimate that 90%-95% of the rifles brought to Appleseed's marksmanship training are semi-automatic rifles equipped with detachable magazines of ten rounds or more. Yes, the fastest growing marksmanship training program in the nation uses firearms that politicians are calling "assault weapons."
Let that sink in for a moment.
Could it be that politicians are lying about what constitutes an assault weapon, and what they are used for?
Ruger 10/22s are the most dominant .22LR rifle on the firing line, used with either 10-round or 25-round Ruger factory magazines. Marlin 795s (like the one pictured above) are growing in popularity due to their accuracy and relatively low cost. Mossberg 702s, another semi-automatic with a detachable magazine, are also very popular.
Of course, not all Appleseed shooters use rimfire rifles, and among centerfire rifle shooters, there are clear favorites.
It may come as a surprise to some to learn that the AR-15 is the best-selling, most common centerfire rifle in the United States. Hardly an "assault rifle," the AR-15 fires one shot per trigger pull like every non-military gun made and sold. It only looks like its military cousins the M-4 carbine and M-16 rifle. When politicians claim that these and similar firearms "spray" bullets, they are not just engaging in hyperbole, they are flat-out lying to you.
One shot per trigger squeeze. That's all.
Why are AR-15s and similar rifles so popular?
For generations of servicemen that have used M-16s and M-4s issued to them since the 1960s, the familiar ergonomics of a rifle visually similar to the one "Uncle Sam" taught them to shoot was familiar and comforting. For those who've never served, the small-caliber, low-recoil, relatively weak cartridge is pleasant to shoot.
Yes, I said "small-caliber, low-recoil, relatively weak."
Once again, those who have claimed that AR-15s are "high caliber" and "high powered" and that the "effects are devastating" of this caliber—I'm looking squarely at you, lying liar Stanley McChrystal — are being serially, intentionally dishonest.
The 55-62 grain .223 caliber bullets common to the rifle are used to hunt groundhogs, coyotes, and other small game, nothing larger. The round was adopted by the military because the ammunition was far lighter and easier to carry than modern deer cartridges, with roughly half the power and range due to their modular nature. However, parts of an AR-15 can be switched out to hunt any game animal in North America, from squirrels to bears.
Of course, while AR-15s are the most popular and common centerfire rifle sold in the United States, they are far from the only rifles we see at Appleseed events. M1 Garands and M1A Springfields are particularly popular among the instructor cadre and students at our location, and we see a considerable number of Sig Sauers, WASR-10s, SKSs, and similar rifles, all of which would be criminalized by politicians that seem to have an agenda that isn't, to put it mildly, "reality based."
The truth of the matter is that there is no such thing as an "assault weapon." The term was coined out of thin air by a gun-control zealot in the 1980s, and it refers to any firearm that looks like a military gun that a politician would like to ban.
The tens of thousands of rifles that have graced our firing lines are not "assault weapons," no matter how dishonestly or loudly any politician tries to claim otherwise. They are not more powerful than deer rifles; they bear roughly half the power. They do not have more range than a deer rifle; they have roughly half the range. They do not have more firepower; they put far fewer projectiles in the air than even a common shotgun.
There are people in positions of power loudly and aggressively trying to sell you on lies.
The question is, why?
Related at PJ Lifestyle on the gun control debate: