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.

Maybe The Gun Industry Doesn’t Know The Difference Between An AR-15 And A Hunting Rifle, But PA Hunters Do.


Back in January, the state of Pennsylvania became the very last state to approve the use of semi-automatic rifles for hunting, a decision that was then revised when the final rules were published last week by the Board of Game Commissioners, who set all hunting rules and regulations within the Keystone State. The revision of the rule that was initially voted back in January and then put out for public review, has serious implications not just for the hunting community, but for the gun industry as well.

ceasefireThe initial regs allowed Pennsylvania hunters to use a semi-automatic rifle to hunt every type of game, which meant that hunters could tote any kind of semi-automatic (one trigger pull, one shot) rifle into the woods, including the newly-minted ‘modern sporting rifle,’ which is just an assault rifle by a different name. Now I’m not going to waste any reader’s time by going over that stupid ‘it’s not an assault rifle because it can’t be fired full-auto’ argument again. And if anyone wants to send me an email or a comment on my blog about how Mike the Gun Grabber doesn’t know anything about guns, you go right ahead. The bottom line is that the whole promotion of the ‘modern sporting rifle’ is a cynical attempt by the gun industry to create demand for a long-gun product which compensates for the fact that hunting just isn’t that popular any more.

When the rule that opened up all hunting to the AR was initially proposed back in January, the pro-gun bunch immediately began pushing the ‘modern sporting rifle’ nonsense, led of course by the NRA.  Here’s what the NRA said when the new rule was first announced: “Semi-automatic rifles simply give hunters a much greater ability to fire a timely and accurate follow-up shot, which can be the huge difference between wounding or quickly taking a game animal.”

Now that statement happens to be completely true, by the way, but what the NRA neglected to add was that the real issue involving the use of an AR to hunt game like deer, bear and elk is not the fact that a semi-automatic rifle can give the hunter a quick, second round, but that the usual AR caliber, 223 Remington or 5.56, throws a bullet which is simply not large enough to bring down a full-size game animal, even if you hit the animal with more than one shot.

Evidently, the Game Commissioners heard from enough folks to conduct a poll of 4,000 hunters, of whom a strong majority favored the use of semi-automatic rifles for hunting but did not want 22-caliber semi-autos to be approved for big-game hunting.  As a result of the public response, the January regulations were amended to allow 22-caliber, semi-auto rifles to be used only for small, fur-bearing game like woodchucks and other varmint types.

In other words, hunters in Pennsylvania clearly rejected the attempt by the gun industry to promote the idea that an AR-15 rifle is no different from any other type of ‘sporting’ gun and therefore should be approved equipment for any type of hunt. To the contrary, a majority of the folks who really know guns understand the difference between a real ‘sporting’ gun and what the industry is trying to pass off as an updated version of the gun that Grandpa used to take into the woods.

Leave it to the NRA, of course, to issue a statement about the decision of the Pennsylvania Game Commissioners which was totally, completely and almost laughably false: “Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Game Commission chose not to respect the rich hunting heritage of Pennsylvania gun owners,” said the NRA, “by rejecting the rule which would have allowed hunters to use semi-automatic rifles in some of the most popular seasons throughout the state.”

To the contrary, the Game Commission’s decision actually showed respect for Pennsylvania’s gun owners who evidently know the difference between a real sporting rifle and an assault rifle masquerading as a sporting gun.

Hunting Deer In Pennsylvania? Don’t Bring A Modern Sporting Rifle.’


At the end of this month the Pennsylvania Game Commission will hold their first quarterly meeting of 2017, and the agenda will include approval of new changes in hunting regulations which go into effect.  Hunting is a big deal in Pennsylvania; only one state (Wisconsin) issues more resident hunting licenses, and the only state which derives more licensing revenue is Colorado because buying a license to hunt elk ain’t cheap. So when the Game Commission sits down to revise hunting regulations, the changes will affect a lot of Pennsylvania hunters this year.

hunting             Yet despite these impressive numbers, the truth is that hunters in Pennsylvania, like everywhere else, are a vanishing breed.  Since the early 1980’s, the Pennsylvania deer-hunting population has dropped by more than 25%, and in a 2004 survey, more than one-third of all Keystone State hunters said that declining health and increasing age would keep them from engaging in the sport any more.

So what do you do if you’re an industry that depends, in part, on hunters to buy your products and those particular consumers tell you that they no longer want or need the products you sell? You come up with a new type of product, sell it to a new group of consumers and let them decide how best it can be used.  Voila! – the modern sporting rifle, a marketing slogan of the gun industry whose nomenclature bears absolutely no resemblance to even the remotest definition of the word ‘truth.’  But now that we have a President who also seems unable to discern the difference between the words ‘true’ and ‘false,’ what difference does that make?  Well, in the case of the Pennsylvania Game Commission it seems to make a big difference, at least when it comes to the 2017 version of their hunting regs.

What the Commission is proposing is a rule change which will define the capacity of any rifle that can be used to hunt big game, which in Pennsylvania basically means the ol’ white-tail deer.  Pennsylvania contains some of the most rural (and beautiful) uninhabited landscapes in the eastern half of the Lower 48, and the deer abound, even if the number of hunters keeps dwindling down.  And what the new regs say is that if you want to go into the woods to take a pot-shot at Bambi, your rifle cannot have a ‘total aggregated capacity’ (breech and magazine) of more than five rounds.  Which means that you can’t go hunting with an AR-style rifle and only put 5 rounds in the mag. It means you can’t take an AR-style rifle (that’s an assault rifle, by the way) into the woods to go hunting at all.  Period.

Try as they might, the geniuses in the gun marketing community have obviously not convinced the Pennsylvania Game Commission that an AR-style rifle is no different in form or function than the old, semi-automatic Remington or Winchester hunting rifles that have basically stopped selling because the kind of people who used to buy them are either too dead or too old.  The industry has been lying about ‘modern sporting rifles’ ever since Chuckie Schumer and Di Feinstein first started going after assault rifles in 1994. And the NSSF has convinced a lot of people who should know better that any rifle that can’t fire all its ammunition with one squeeze of the trigger is just another type of sporting gun which can and should be used for any kind of shooting at all.

The military rifle – M4 – that our troops use in battle theaters does, in fact, allow its user to pull the trigger once and shoot a three-round burst.  But the gun can also be set to fire one round at a time, just like any other semi-automatic rifle.  So when a soldier decides that the tactical situation calls for using his rifle in semi-auto mode, does this mean he’s going into battle with a ‘sporting’ gun?  At least the Pennsylvania Game Commission seems to understand the difference.


A Little Early But Here’s My GVP Resolutions For 2017.



The truth is that nothing succeeds like adversity, and if there’s one group that probably feels they’ve been hit with adversity it’s the community that really cares about gun violence prevention, a.k.a. GVP.  Because if this election was anything, it was something of a plebiscite on America’s gun culture and the American fascination with guns.  Talk about making the country exceptional – what other country has more than 300 million small arms stacked away in closets and drawers?  And you can’t argue with the fact that Hillary made new gun regs a major part of her pitch and Shlump made a point of promising to protect the 2nd Amendment at every campaign stop that he made. No, I take that back – the one place he didn’t mention gun ‘rights’ was when he tramped around Flint.

trump5             For many GVP advocates, having a virulently pro-gun President in the White House is a new state of affairs, which is why it’s understandable that the GVP community would feel somewhat vulnerable going into 2017.  Let’s face it, we all had visions of expanded background checks to secondary gun transfers under Hillary – was there a single pollster who told us it wouldn’t come true? But maybe, just maybe, the Age of Trump will prove to be a blessing in disguise for GVP because, if nothing else, his continued pandering to the lowest common denominator on the gun issue will waken people up to the fact that now’s really the time to get involved.

Which is why although I usually wait until after Christmas to publish my gun violence prevention (GVP) resolutions for the next year, I’ve decided to get started now.  And the reason I’m doing it early this time is because of some postings about how Vanity Fair’s subscriptions soared after the magazine was attacked by Trump, ditto a massive wave of new subscriptions for The New York Times after the results on November 8th.  So I think we need to get ready because sooner or later El Shlumpo will say something stupid or really stupid or really, really stupid about guns and GVP better be ready to respond.  So my New Year’s GVP resolutions are aimed at making my own response as effective as it can be.

Resolution #1. – I will never write anything that contains the slightest concern for, or support of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ The second that a GVP advocate says that Americans have a ‘right’ to own a gun, the other side has won.

Resolution #2. – I have absolutely no interest in trying to figure out how to communicate a GVP message to ‘responsible’ people who own guns.  If they’re so responsible, let them figure it out.

Resolution #3. –  I am not going to bother any more with explanations about the difference between a ‘modern sporting rifle’ and an AR-15.  There is no difference except that the latter is designed to kill people and the former is an entirely made-up name.

Resolution #4. – I will not entertain any discussion about whether there should be a training standard for civilians who want to carry concealed (or open) guns.  Anyone who wants to carry a self-defense gun can join the military or, if you’re too old to enlist, you can always move to Israel because up to age 60 you can serve in the IDF reserves.

So those are my New Year’s resolutions when it comes to GVP.  And if you’ve bothered to read them you’ll notice one common thread, namely, that when it comes to reducing gun violence, the GVP community needs to take a very strong, aggressive and uncompromising stance.  The fact is that 90% of the small arms being manufactured and sold in the United States are designed to do only one thing.  And if they weren’t designed to do that one thing we wouldn’t need to be advocates for GVP.  Get it?

When It Comes To Assault Rifles, The Gun Industry Has A New Friend: The New York Times.


There’s a video floating around that shows Rupert Neate, a reporter from The Guardian, being heaved out of the Shot Show because he walked up to the Smith & Wesson display and began asking a company employee about an assault rifle ban.  This conversation took place as a member of Smith & Wesson’s marketing team happily placed an assault rifle in Neate’s hands and kept referring to it as a “modern sporting rifle,” although to be fair the gun, known as the AR-15 Sporter, fires only an itty-bitty 22-caliber cartridge, as opposed to the more lethal 5.56 or .223 military calibers that most so-called modern sporting rifles use.

ar              This nonsense about how a remarkably-lethal weapon used by our armed forces has been transmogrified into a ‘sporting’ gun by the gun industry for the last twenty years has been going on since the imposition of the 10-year assault weapons ban back in 1994.  The gun industry first reacted to the ban by claiming that ‘assault’ weapons were fully-automatic guns used only by the military; hence, any semi-automatic rifle deserved to be sold in the civilian market regardless of its design. And when the ban was not renewed in 2004, the industry went whole hog in trying to convince everyone that an AR-15 gun, as long as it didn’t fire more than one shot with each pull of the trigger, was no different from Grandpa’s old Remington or Winchester hunting rifle except it had a more modern look.

In arguing against any new attempt to impose a new assault weapons ban, the gun industry has cited again and again the Koper study, published as the ban was expiring, which could not, according to the author, definitively determine the effects of the ban on rates of gun crime.  But this study, commissioned by the Department of Justice, has also been cited by proponents of a ban as showing that changing the design of assault rifles and limiting the capacity of all semi-automatic gun magazines did, in fact, result in a reduction of gun crime. So once again it’s the old story in the gun debate: pro-gun advocates saying that government regulation doesn’t work, gun-control advocates saying it does.

Out of the woodwork we now have a major gun-control voice joining up with Gun Nation to proclaim that the assault weapons ban was a dud. And the voice belongs to none other than The New York Times, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning editorialist, Nicholas Kristof, has decided to share this “inconvenient truth” with his liberal colleagues in an evident attempt to get the GVP community to be  more realistic and honest in its approach to guns.  To quote Kristof, the gun debate should be driven by “evidence of what works,” and what didn’t work, was the assault weapons ban. To quote Kristof again, the law was “poorly drafted” and didn’t reduce gun crimes during the ten years it was in effect.

Far be it from me to challenge the ability of a Harvard and Oxford-educated journalist to read his sources clearly, but I have read the Koper report several times and Kristof’s attempt to align its contents with the views of the pro-gun mob just doesn’t work. First and foremost, the report compared only a few years of data before and after the ban when nearly all of the pre-ban guns were still in circulation and a majority of pistols were equipped with hi-cap mags. Furthermore, very few police jurisdictions collected data on magazine capacity of guns picked up at crime scenes, and the vaunted tracing data of the vaunted ATF turned out to be useless at best.

If Koper’s report says anything, it says that attempting to evaluate the impact of a weapons ban which expired before sufficient data even existed was an exercise that simply could not succeed.  Which is much different from concluding that the ban didn’t work. Kristof is correct in asking for evidence, not opinions, to shape the gun debate. He might show the way by doing it himself.

Wal Mart Stops Selling ARs Because They Just Aren’t Modern Sporting Guns.


The bubble has finally burst.  Wal Mart has announced that they will stop selling AR-15 rifles as they make way for their Fall hunting line thats reflect what the company referred to as “hunting-driven Fall product mix.”  The company also confirmed that black gun sales have lagged behind sales of cheaper guns and rejected the idea that the decision was anything other than an inventory correction due to seasonal changes in consumer demand.

bushmaster logo2                Hey – wait a minute!  I thought the whole point of buying an AR was because it was a hunting rifle. After all, wasn’t it the NSSF that launched a whole campaign based on the idea that the AR wasn’t a military weapon but was something called a ‘modern sporting rifle?’  And wasn’t the whole point of the modern sporting rifle to peddle the idea that the AR was nothing other than a dumbed-down version of the military gun which could be enjoyed for sport hunting just like any other sporting gun?

The truth is that calling the AR a ‘sporting rifle’ is nothing but a complete and conscious lie.  What’s sporting about a gun that can fire 40 rounds of military-grade ammo as quickly as you can pull a trigger 40 times?  What’s sporting about a gun whose design allows you to tape two mags together, pull one out, reverse and insert the other and get off another 40 rounds in a few seconds more?  And what’s sporting about a rifle which, in the same, semi-auto version, is carried by our military in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t believe that the issue of gun violence rests on whether civilians can buy or own military-style guns.  I own both an AR and an AK, I have hi-cap magazines for both, the mis-use of such weapons accounts for a tiny percentage of the people who are killed and wounded each year by guns.  My problem with the promotional crap around the gun is that it’s just another way in which the industry tries to convince current and potential customers that a gun is a necessary and effective way for self-defense against crime.  Companies that sell AR rifles, Bushmaster, Smith & Wesson and Stag, go out of their way to blur the line between sporting and tactical, the latter a polite way of saying that guns can be used to kill people as opposed to various four-legged creatures wandering around in the woods.

The funny thing about Wal Mart’s decision to yank black guns is that the company recently won a court case which, had they lost, would have probably meant the end of AR sales after all. The country’s largest retailer was taken to Federal Court by one of its shareholders, New York’s Trinity Church, who wanted the right to let the Board decide whether they were selling any products that could cause harm to the community and therefore negatively impact the value of company stock.  Wal Mart had also previously been pressured by Shannon Watts and the Moms to take guns off their shelves.

It’s one thing to get a company like Starbucks to request that customers forego bringing guns into their cafes; after all, when you sell a cup of boiled water with a little taste of coffee beans for three bucks, you’re not usually catering to the gun-owning crowd.  But what could be more American, more traditional values, more Main Street than a Wal Mart store? A few years ago I drove Route 2 all the way across North Dakota and Montana and there was a Wal Mart in every third town. You can’t tell me that the average shopper in those stores cared one whit about whether an AR would be used for sporting or anything else.

Here’s the bottom line on Wal Mart’s decision to yank black guns out of their stores.  It’s not as if they’ll bring them back once hunting season comes to an end.  And as far as I’m concerned, it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guns.

Will Banning The Ammo Ban The Guns? Rush Thinks So.

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You know that something’s up in the gun business when Rush Limbaugh starts talking about gun control.  And what he was talking about today was the decision by the ATF to create a new standard for exempting certain kinds of so-called ‘armor-piercing’ bullets from the ban that Congress placed on such ammo in 1986.  The law was designed to prevent civilians from buying or carrying ammo whose bullets could penetrate body armor worn by police, but manufacturing exemptions were routinely granted if the ATF determined that the ammo was going to be used for ‘sporting purposes,’ which usually meant that it would be used in rifles, as opposed to handguns whose use usually served no hunting or sporting purposes at all.

The announcement by the ATF was picked up by Rush not because he cares a wit about guns, but because he could then go into a riff about how the ‘regime’ was once again using Executive actions to promote liberal policies which Congress would never pass.  By the time I turned off Rush off turned on my computer, the web was crawling with denunciations of the latest threat to 2nd Amendment rights, with the NRA calling the plan a “disaster” and the blogs following suit.  Because what the ATF is proposing is a ban on the manufacture of the 5.56×45 round, which just happens to be a cartridge designed for the AR-15.  Get rid of the ammo, get rid of the gun, right?

assault                The ATF might have left this whole issue alone were it not for the decision by gun makers to begin manufacturing handguns chambered for 5.56×45.  And this decision was based on the fact that AR-15 rifles, which had been a major part of the upswing in gun sales after the election of the Kenyan in 2008, can be turned into handguns by simply substituting a barrel of shorter length.  And since the determination of what constitutes a ‘sporting’ cartridge is based on whether it is designed primarily for rifle as opposed to handgun use, now that civilians can start walking around with AR-15 handguns, the exemptions for sporting use of the ammunition no longer hold.

What the ATF is now proposing are exemptions for this ammunition based on a much narrower definition of the kinds of guns for which such ammo would be used.  Basically, ammo manufacturers will be able to make and sell this cartridge only if it is loaded in a rimfire round (which is much less dangerous) or used in a single-shot handgun which, by definition, is rarely found in the hands of the bad guys committing all those crimes with guns.  Which doesn’t mean that AR-15 shooters won’t have anything to load into their guns, ipso facto they might as well throw the guns away.  What it does mean, however, is that the gun industry will finally have to fess up to the fact that AR-15 rifles, marketing campaigns notwithstanding, aren’t really sporting guns at all.

The AR-15 sold in the United States can actually take two rounds:  the 5.56×45 NATO cartridge with a 62-grain bullet, and the .223 Remington cartridge, normally loaded with a 55-grain shell. The difference, as you might suspect, is that the 5.56×45 penetrates more deeply, is significantly more lethal, and when loaded into a 5.56×45 chamber, tends to be a bit more accurate than the 223. The 5.56×45 was adopted by the military because of its lethality, and it’s a stretch to think of it as a ‘sporting’ round.

The gun industry is challenging the ATF ruling not because it will mean the end of ‘black’ guns, but because they want to have it both ways.  On the one hand they want to promote AR-15s as the newest style of sporting guns for hunting or just plain fun.  On the other hand, they also want to promote these weapons as the latest and greatest ‘tools’ for personal defense.  Either way, I guarantee you that the net result of Limbaugh’s rant will be a disappearance of all AR-15 ammo within the next couple of days.