What’s The Difference Between This Semi-Auto And That Semi-Auto? Plenty.

Before the debate about a post-Vegas gun law collapses into a complete muddle as Gun-nut Nation tries desperately to stave off any significant attempt to impose even the weakest regulations on firearms, I thought it would be instructive and useful to clarify exactly what is and isn’t involved in turning a semi-auto rifle into a gun which will shoot upwards of 700 rounds a minute and therefore create a level of destruction which can only be experienced by using what we ordinarily call a machine gun, or full-auto gun.

bump              The attachment which may or may not have been on the gun used by Stephen Paddock (the Las Vegas Police Department is too busy trying to figure out what actually happened to be bothered figuring out what type of gun) was determined to be a legal accessory because it still requires that the trigger be activated for every shot, whereas with a full-auto gun, or what we call a Class-III NFA weapon, the trigger needs only to be pulled one time in order to completely empty the ammunition mag. What the bump-stock does is to use the gun’s recoil to pull and release the trigger each time, so the trigger is pulled and the gun fires at the rate which the bolt moves back and forth rather than by the speed at which someone can manually pull the trigger to shoot each round. Get it?

But here is where the confusion sets in. Because in fact there are many different types of semi-automatic rifles, but this doesn’t mean that a bump-stock will work with each and every one.  Here’s an AR-15:


              Notice that the stock is actually just a cheekpiece which screws onto a tube extended from the gun but is not connected to the frame.

Here’s a standard, semi-auto hunting rifle:


              Notice the stock is attached to the frame and if you want to remove the stock to stick on an accessory like a bump-stock, you basically have to cut away the back half of the gun. In other words, it can’t be done.

The gun industry has been trying mightily to convince consumers that the AR-15 is no different from any other ‘sporting’ gun. In fact, they have even invented a name for this product, they call it the ‘modern sporting rifle’ and they insist that there’s absolutely no difference between the gun pictured above and the gun pictured below because they both are semi-auto guns.

If one thing comes out of the debate about bump-stocks, it will hopefully be a recognition that the argument made by the gun industry to pretend that an AR-15 is no more lethal than any other type of legal firearm is an argument which will finally be put to bed.  Because what makes the AR-style gun so very different from traditional semi-auto rifles is not just that it can accept high-capacity mags that can be switched in and out without losing point of aim, not just that with a collapsible stock the gun is much more concealable and transportable than a standard-size gun, and not just that you can attach hand grips to the rails which makes it easier for the recoil to be controlled.

What makes the AR-15 too dangerous to be floating around is that it can easily and quickly be converted into, in effect, a full-auto gun.  Which is not the case with traditional semi-auto rifles like the Browning BAR rifle pictured above.

If Congress wants to really get serious about preventing the kind of terrible tragedy that played out last week in front of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, they should not just prohibit accessory products that can be fitted to an AR and turn it into a full-auto gun, they should also prohibit guns that will accept those kinds of products because here’s the dirty little secret you need to know.

Listening? There are instructions floating around for making and installing your own bump-stock on your AR, which would be [perfectly legal even if the so-called ‘ban’ is passed.

14 thoughts on “What’s The Difference Between This Semi-Auto And That Semi-Auto? Plenty.

  1. Mike, This is a very important post. Thank you. Future legislation must carefully craft definitions of an assault-style weapon so the law cannot be circumvented by the industry.

  2. No, the stock does NOT “screw” onto the buffer tube. To replace the “buttstock” one pulls down on the entire stock adjustment/release lever to make sure the adjustment pin clears the channel in the buffer tube.

    Maybe we should “outlaw” belt loops on jeans:

    I’m sure one would be able to accomplish similar results with the “standard”, semi-auto hunting rifle.

    Never underestimate the creativity and imagination of the American people.

    • Depends on the stock. Hey Alan: Now that the LVPD has been forced to completely change their story about what happened because what they originally said was disproved by the hotel employee who was first shot by Paddock, want to tell us again what a superb law enforcement organization they are and how dreadful it is that I would question their competence? And I notice that their ‘internal’ investigation as to who leaked the photos seems to have quietly been, shall we say, shelved.
      But I guess I should still be ashamned of myself for suggestting that maybe, just maybe, we are looking at the return of the Keystone Cops.

      • “Completely change their story?” I don’t believe the Las Vegas Police Department “completely” totally, entirely, wholly, thoroughly, fully, absolutely, unconditionally, in every way, in every respect, changed their story. Maybe some members of the LVPD attended one of your certification classes. After all sounds like you make good money doing so.

        Wow…I really got to you.

        In your post you show an AR-15 and below the picture you write “Notice that the stock is actually just a cheekpiece which screws onto a tube extended from the gun but is not connected to the frame.” Now you respond “depends on the stock.” Have you “completely changed your story”?

  3. You are trying very hard to maintain the fuictions that the LVPD has done a credible job investigating this case. It won’t work. Here’s how complete the change was. They gave an official statement to media on Monday that Paddock shot at the concert for 11 minutes, then stopped shooting for 6 minutes, then shot a hotel employee who was out in the hallway; this last shooting allowing the police to determine where he was located and they arrived outside the room 3 minutes later. Now why someone couldn’t see muzzle flashes from the window was never asked, but okay, let’s move on.
    Yesterday the hotel employee who was shot recovered to the point that he could be interviewed. And when he was given the ‘official’ LVPD version he said that it was completely wrong because in fact he was shot before Paddock did any shooting at the concert crowd, and that he immediately called on his walkie-talkie and told the listener his location. Paddock then began firing into the crowd and stopped before the cops shot through his door. The cops say that he committed suicide but e have yet to hear from the coroner.
    So it turns out that had the police reponded asap to the hotel employee’s report that he had been shot, for all we know Paddock may not have started shooting at the criowd at all. And when all of this was announced yesterday by LVPD who admitted that their initial time-line was incorrect, they announed second ‘internal investigation’ to figure out how come someone dropped the ball between hotel security and the LVPD, allowing what might (notice I say ‘might’ not ‘was’) have been an intervention before the shooting at the crowd began or at least fewer minutes elapsing between then the cops knew Paddock’s location and the final intrevention.
    Alan – You want to quibble over nomenclature, you go right ahead. The LVPD changed their timeline in their official report because the guy who was shot first let them know that they had it completely wrong. And the word ‘completely is correct; you can’t reverse a timeline and put incident #2 ahead of incident #1 and not call it a complete change, okay?
    I have talked to 3 different LE officers in 3 different departments, and none of them were at all positive about the degree to which the ‘official’ LVPD story has changed.

  4. Interesting…you’ve seen the official report?
    Once again, take a deep breath. This is not good for your blood pressure.
    Now tells us more about screwing off the stock of an AR-15. I believe that is one of the points for this post…semi-autos.

  5. I stand by what I said in the column about the difference between an AR and a standard hunting rifle. What that has to do with the Keystone Cops having replaced the LVPD is beyond me. You want to compare a comment I made in a column that is read by several thousand people to statem,ents made on international media about an event which is now the subject of a national debate? You go right ahead. Alan – it’s called clutching at straws.

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