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Hunting Rifles vs. Assault Rifles: A Clarification on Terminology and Legal Distinctions

Hunting Rifles vs Assault Rifles
Written by Dan Goldsmith
Last Update: August 11, 2023

Whether it’s the legacy media or the talking heads on Capitol Hill discussing gun control, the term “assault rifle” gets tossed around a lot. However, in our experience, the terms “assault rifle” and “hunting rifle” are often misunderstood and incorrectly represented by those who would wish to oppress our right to keep and bear arms.

In this article, we are going to clear up the misconceptions surrounding the definitions of assault rifle and hunting rifle so that you are better armed to defend your Second Amendment Rights.

What’s An Assault Rifle?

Assault Rifle

An assault rifle is a military firearm which is compact, fires intermediate cartridges, and can switch between fully automatic and semi-automatic fire.

But wait a minute, I thought the AR-15 was an assault rifle?

Sorry, but no.

 By definition, the AR-15, Tavor, AK-47, FAL, Mini-14, M1a, and any other semi-auto rifles on the market are sporting rifles and NOT assault rifles. These rifles are only capable of semi-automatic fire, meaning that one bullet is fired for every pull of the trigger.

An assault rifle is capable of switching between semi-auto and fully automatic fire. Therefore, the vast majority of rifles on the market today are NOT assault rifles.

Can I own a real assault rifle?

Yes, but it will cost you.

Although the production of fully automatic firearms has been prohibited since the 1986 passage of the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act, there are still transferrable and completely legal full auto firearms available on the market.

However, since there are an incredibly limited number of these transferable machine guns available, the cost to acquire one is prohibitive for most firearms owners and highly regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA).

For example, a fully transferable Colt M16 will run you around $36,000 or more at the time of writing. Not exactly the type of money you can find stuck between your couch cushions!

But why then is there all this fuss about banning assault rifles?

The term “assault rifle” has somewhat ambiguous origins. Some claim that it was a term introduced by gun control activists to describe any semi-automatic rifle that used detachable magazines. Others claim that it was introduced by firearms manufacturers.

Regardless of where it came from, the term is here to stay and it’s important that you understand what an assault rifle is and how gun control activists like to weaponize it to further their aims.

Anti-second amendment constituents will have you believe that the cosmetic features of a rifle define whether it is an assault rifle or not, such as a detachable magazine, vertical grip, telescoping stock, or pistol grip. However, these cosmetic changes to a firearm only change its appearance and not its classification as an assault rifle or not.

Want to show your support for your right to keep and bear arms? Check out these sweet 2nd Amendment Shirts

What’s a Hunting Rifle?

Hunting Rifle

A hunting rifle is any rifle that is used to hunt wild game. It can be chambered in very small calibers like the 22 Long Rifle (.22LR), 223 Remington, or 22-250 to hunt varmints or heavier calibers like the 308 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, or 45-70 Government to hunt big game.

Typically hunting rifles are single shot, bolt-action, or lever action. The Remington 700, Winchester Model 70, Ruger American, and Savage Axis II are all extremely popular bolt-action hunting rifles that are available in multiple calibers.

However, semi-automatic hunting rifles are available, such as the Browning BAR, M1 Garand, and AR-15.

Wait a minute, the AR-15 is a hunting rifle?

Yes, it can be!

The AR-15 is an extremely popular varmint hunting rifle, as the 223 Remington is an exceptional cartridge for taking out prairie dogs, raccoons, coyotes, and other small game at considerable distance.

The AR-15 is also extremely modular, meaning that it can be modified to fire multiple calibers. So, your standard AR-15 chambered in 223 Rem can quickly be changed to fire 300 AAC Blackout or 6.5 Grendel for deer hunting by pushing out a few pins and switching the upper receiver and your magazine.

Although the gun grabbers don’t want to admit it, the AR-15 and other semi-auto rifles are an extremely capable hunting platform.

What was the Assault Weapons Ban?

The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) was part of a larger piece of legislation signed into law by then President Bill Clinton. The overarching bill was the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 contained the banning of manufacture of certain semi-automatic rifles they defined as assault rifles.

The bill contained a sunset clause of 10 years, meaning that the ban was only in effect from 1994 to 2004 so long as it was not reinstated. Considering how many senators were voted out of office after signing this bill, it is no surprise that senators and representatives in the 2004 Congress opted not to reestablish the AWB.

The bill defined assault weapons as semi-automatic rifles that had two or more of the following features:

  • Folding or telescoping stock
  • Pistol grip
  • Bayonet mount
  • Flash hider or the means to accept one
  • Grenade launcher

The AWB did include a grandfather clause, stating that firearms produced before the bill was signed into law were exempt from the restrictions.

Numerous attempts to strike down the ban were unsuccessful in the courts and since 2004, numerous attempts to reinstate the ban have also been equally (and thankfully) unsuccessful.

Parting Shots

Although gun grabbers will always try to tell you that your scary, black AR-15 is an assault weapon and a tool only made for destruction, now you know that they are full of hot air. Your right to keep and bear arms is not only tied to the sport of hunting, but also preserving freedom. So, get out there and flex your 2A rights to hold back the ever-encroaching tide of tyranny and oppression that constantly seeks to keep you unarmed and vulnerable.

About the author

Dan Goldsmith

Hi, this is Dan. We all know firearms are dangerous, but only when one doesn’t know how to use and care for them. I have 30+ years of experience with different types of guns and for the last 10 years, I have taught numerous people how to hold and shoot a gun while staying safe and keeping the surroundings unharmed.

My neighbors are some of my biggest admirers who enjoy talking to me about their guns, firearms safety and maintenance.

Whenever I am able to catch a moment of free time, you will find me enjoying my family or heading to the range on my motorcycle. I have enjoyed shooting sports ever since my dad introduced them to me as a child.

I like to think of myself as an outdoorsman who lives his life to the fullest. I hope you will benefit from my efforts to create valuable resources on this website. Happy reading!

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