Why doesn’t the military ever “assault” with AR-15s?

There’s been a lot of political talk recently about banning “assault” “rifles” like the AR-15.

How civilians don’t need “weapons of war” for hunting or self defense.

How deadly they are.

A silly man in south Texas even thought that Texans would willingly give theirs up…

But, if they’re so deadly and effective, why doesn’t the military ever use them for assaulting?

What do they use?  And why don’t they use the AR-15?

There’s a few things going on here.  A couple are review, so I’ll be quick…I need to paint with a broad stroke for brevity so please forgive any over-generalizations, but you’re encouraged to point them out in the comments:

  1. AR-15 is the designation of the model 15 long gun from the Armalite Corporation. That designation was bought by Colt.  AR-15 became the default name for semi-auto long guns with a distinct look just like Kleenex became the default name for tissues.  AR-15s with a barrel over 20″ in length are generally called “rifles” and if they’re under 20″ in length, they’re called “carbines”.
  2. The first assault weapon, or Sturmgewer (Sturm=storm as in “storm the castle” and gewer=gun), was the MP43 or StG44. One of it’s key features was it’s ability to fire semi auto or multiple rounds with a single trigger press.  Also called “select fire.”
  3. Since 1970, The US Army has defined an assault weapon as being short, compact, “select fire” weapon capable of firing semi-auto, bursts or full-auto.  Short has generally been considered to be carbine length or shorter…not longer, rifle length weapons (which is why you should ask anyone who uses the phrase “assault rifle” what they’re talking about).  Semi-auto firearms are not assault weapons and “rifles” are generally not regarded as assault weapons or used for assaulting.  As an example, the barrel length of the M14 was shortened to a carbine length 16″ and renamed the SOCOM 16 in part, so that it would be more useful as an “assault” weapon.
  4. The AR-15 is the dumbed down, civilian semi-auto version of the military’s M-16 or M-4. Saying that an AR-15 is the same as an M-4 because it looks similar is as prejudiced and ridiculous as saying that an airsoft replica is the same as an M-4 because they look similar.  At best, it’s intellectually lazy.  At worst, it’s purposely deceptive.  As an example, here’s a picture of my son when he was 6 and going through a Navy SEAL phase holding a non-functional airsoft gun that LOOKS like an M-16 or M-4 but only a fool would call it an assault weapon simply because of it’s color or how it looks.
  5. The military doesn’t assault with AR-15s because the AR-15 is not an assault weapon and the military has assault weapons like the M-16, M-4, and other select fire carbines for that job.

Now, there are some other points being made that I’ll address real quickly…

“Civilians don’t need access to weapons of war”

Since the AR is NOT an assault weapon, most are carbines and not rifles, and since they’re seldom, if ever, used by the military, that shouldn’t be a problem…but a Glock pistol, 1911, KaBar knife, Remington 870 shotgun, Remington 700 bolt action rifle, a Mosin Nagant, .38 special revolver, tomahawk, bow & arrow, and a shovel ARE all proven and widely used weapons of war.

“AR-15s should be banned because they’re extra deadly.”

First off, if you look at Table 8 of the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting statistics for 2018, you’ll see the following:

# of people killed              Weapon used

297                                        ALL rifles, including ARs, AKs, and hunting rifles of all calibers

1,515                                     Knives or cutting instruments

443                                        Blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc.)

672                                        Personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc.)

So…we can see that rifles as a whole aren’t necessarily deadly because of the comparative number of people being killed each year.

It must be that the .223 or 5.56 cartridges are extra deadly…

That the bullet explodes when it hits, causes massive internal damage, goes in the leg and out the shoulder and pulverizes everything in-between…

Anything that enters the body traveling at 2,000 feet per second is going to do serious damage.  Especially if you hit high-middle chest.


If “hunting rifles” are fine with politicians…

And ARs are extra dangerous and need to be banned because of how much more deadly they are, then why do Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey, Washington, and West Virginia all prohibit hunting deer (which generally only weigh between 100-250 pounds) with the .223 or 5.56 rounds that the AR traditionally uses?

It’s banned for hunting deer in these states because the round is generally considered to be underpowered and unforgiving unless you have solid placement and does not reliably kill a 100-250 pound animal quickly enough to be humane without proper round placement.

(To be clear, the law is not an indictment against the .223…it’s effective when the hunter does their job and places the round where it needs to go.  As an Idahoan, I CAN hunt deer with a .223 while my neighbors in Washington a few miles away can not.  I simply see this as a recognition by legislators that Idahoans are naturally superior hunters and marksmen.)

To compound it even more, the military has been trying to get away from the 5.56 for years because of how ineffective it is at stopping threats after going through walls, vehicles, trees, and other barriers.  They’re in the process of moving to a round that is more “barrier blind” as we speak.


If the stats say that ARs are killing fewer people than fists, knives, and hammers, lawmakers in several states say that ARs aren’t deadly enough, and the military says it isn’t lethal enough after passing through barriers, it makes you wonder why politicians and the media so up in arms?

Here’s what I know.

All of this talk about banning ARs is causing good people to buy ARs by the boat-load…”just in case”

But all of those ARs aren’t going to do people any good whatsoever without the skill to use them.

And most AR owners don’t practice enough or practice the right things because of range restrictions and expense.

It’s not just ARs…it’s AKs and other rifles and carbines as well.

Which is why, if you own a rifle or carbine…whether it’s for “just in case”, for home defense, for fun, or for hunting it’s so vital to have the right training and the right tools to be able to train effectively at home.

And >THIS< is the best at-home training for the defensive use of a carbine or rifle.

It was designed by military and law enforcement instructors with thousands of entries under their belts, but it’s geared specifically for use by civilians defending themselves against a violent attack in their home.

Why’s that important?

In short, the dynamics of being on your own are different than when you’re on a team.

They’re different in a war zone than in your home.

And they’re different when you are all geared up and ready for battle than when you’re just relaxing at home and suddenly find yourself in a fight for your life.

A lot of the carbine training that’s being taught today is REALLY fun and cool, but has limited practical application in a fight in your home.

This training is different.

You’ll learn shooting, maneuvering, and house hardening techniques that are specifically geared for keeping you alive through a worst-case event.

Learn more and check out this week’s summer special now by clicking >HERE<

You may be wondering what’s up with the orange and blue on the airsoft gun…

It is one of my inert non-functional training platforms.  The orange is surveyor’s tape and the blue is painter’s tape.  That trainer has stayed out in our living room 24/7 for most of a decade and I never want there to be any confusion between it and a real gun.  Not with relatives, guests, babysitters, people doing work, etc.  Nobody gets freaked out by a trainer that’s colored up like a clown car.  But having it out and available 24/7 means that I can safely practice a few minutes at a time with almost no effort at all.  And, as you know, a little bit of practice here and there is WAY more effective than trying to cram in all of your practice in 2, 4, or 8 hour chunks.




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  • FFWest

    Reply Reply March 4, 2022

    You made the following comment. “As an example, the barrel length of the M14 was shortened to a carbine length 16″ and renamed the SOCOM 16 in part, so that it would be more useful as an “assault” weapon.” Although your basic premise is true, the Springfield M1A was shortened to make the SOCOM 16. Not the M14. The M1A is a Civilian Version of the M14 minus the Select Fire or Auto mode selector. Now I am no expert in everything rifles and carbines and I apologize if I am off base here.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply March 6, 2022

      I don’t think you’re off base and I am not an expert on the M1 family of firearms, but from what I understand, the SOCOM 16 is a descendent of both the M1A and the M14 and may be either semi-auto or select fire. My understanding is that the SOCOM 16 was designed to be select fire for military use, never really adopted, and so civilian semi-auto versions are the vast majority of what ended up being manufactured.

  • William Craig

    Reply Reply November 9, 2021

    Just want to correct your germam – the correct word is sturmgewehr
    not sturmgewer. The reason I want you to use the correct term and correct spelling is because although I was born in good ole USA –
    Austin, Texas to be precise; I have lived and worked in Bayern (Bavaria) Deutschland (Germany) for the last 41 years and speak german fluently – my bayerisch ist ausgezeichnet. I served in the Special Forces Det (Europe) as a Green Beret from 1970 – 1972 and have enjoyed firearms my entire life from the time I was a Boy Scout and have my Bavarian hunting license. The first rifle I bought via Sears-Roebuck was a German Mauser 98 to use hunting in Alaska when I was 14 (about 60 years ago).

  • John Richard Stanton

    Reply Reply November 9, 2021

    Just keep in mind whenever dealing with government. Just because they have no knowledge on any given topic doesn’t mean that they won’t pass a law to deal with it. Remember the genius female head of the u.s. house of representatives who commented that we should pass obamacare and then we can read the law to know what it says.
    There is no cure for stupid, and it is a terminal condition.
    And finally, uncle joe [that’s joseph stalin who was responsible for more deaths of his own people and his “enemies” than any other dictator] told us: “It’s not who votes that counts but who counts the votes”.

  • David

    Reply Reply June 22, 2021

    My $.02 on a couple of points
    1. The term “assault” used in this discussion is not intended to do anything orher than add emotional context. An object thay isn’t capabile of assault isn’t much of a weapon.
    2. The reduced lethality of intermediate caliber rounds makes them a solid choice for practical civilian defense. My intent in an encounter would be to survive. If this can be done without actually killing my attacker, so much the better from a legal standpoint. Understand, I’m not advocating shoot to wound. The proper, effective manner of engaging a hostile threat in a life threatining situation is very likely to cause death regardless of the ttpe of platform or ammunition used. That said, we still don’t shoot to kill, we shoot to protect. If wounding still equals protection, I’m all in favor of that.
    Train, train, train, and train some more.

    • Kurt Goslin

      Reply Reply June 3, 2022

      We only shoot to “stop the threat” of bodily injury or death to ourselves or a third person. That’s the only thing you should say if involved in a shooting related event. Then request a lawyer.
      My $0.02

  • Butch

    Reply Reply March 10, 2021

    Here is a link to the text of H.R.1296. This bill if it becomes law would redefine most of our semiautomatic fire arms as “semiautomatic assault weapon.” See list here – Section 2 definitions (a)(36)

  • Joel

    Reply Reply October 20, 2020

    In your description of the actual weapons of war, you forgot the musket. It was a weapon of war when the 2nd Amendment was drafted and ratified. Therefore, one could postulate that all weapons of war are included in the right to keep and bear arms.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply October 21, 2020

      I’m not sure on that…

      I agree 100% with muskets and the modern musket equivalent. I’m not positive about cannons and artillery that shoot HE, WP, or other similar rounds. As a country, people have shown that they can’t handle castrated sparklers, bottle rockets, roman candles, and fire crackers without starting unintended fires. At the same time, I don’t want to make laws that punish most at the expense of the least common denominators…what do you think?

  • David Greve

    Reply Reply August 17, 2020

    All true. BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER. The anti crowd don’t care about the facts. They know that if they ban guns and confiscate them THEY will be safer from US. That is their goal – disarm the american public to be able to control them. Gun safety is the excuse. No amount of logical argumentation will sway them. We need to get gun owners to realize that the agenda is confiscation and that all the Democrats have that agenda.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply August 18, 2020

      I tend to disagree with your conclusion. People exist all along a spectrum between being 100% anti to 100% pro. The people at both extremes are as you describe. They are the loudest.

      But the bulk of people lie somewhere in the middle and their stance/opinion is somewhat fluid. It can sometimes be changed with facts, logic, reason, and history but emotion is a much more effective driver of change.

      When someone’s emotions swing their opinion towards the pro side, facts, logic, reason, and history act as a binding agent…a cement. Rational thought may not get them to shift from being anti to pro, but it can keep them there once they’ve made the emotional leap and are searching for logical justifications for their shift.

      Don’t give up the fight…and don’t write off everyone who is anti. Gun buying statistics tell us that there are a couple MILLION fewer anti’s right now than there were at the beginning of the year.

      At the end of the day, some will, some won’t, so what, talk to the next person 🙂

  • Randy Crawford

    Reply Reply March 13, 2020

    The over-arching purpose of rifles or carbines with small bullets (e.g. M-16 or AK-47) is to [on average] give the enemy soldier a serious wound, so that 2-4 other enemies are tied up evacuating him to the battalion aid station or equivalent. That way one bullet removes several enemy soldiers from the firefight, thus promoting the advance of personnel using such weapons.

  • John

    Reply Reply March 13, 2020

    I’m pretty sure that as soon as Jonathon finished reading your response to his reply about ARs, he promptly returned to his normal duties picking fly droppings from black pepper!

  • Ward Jamison

    Reply Reply March 13, 2020

    There is a lot of noise about banning “assault weapons” but here’s the rub. In England, firearms are banned, so they assault each other with knives. Therefore, knives are assault weapons. It follows, in the direction of degree of primitive, that sticks are assault weapons, and rocks are assault weapons. I suppose spoons could be, and books and suitcases. It’s not the weapon, it’s the nut on the handle.

  • Charles Burgess

    Reply Reply October 24, 2019

    I just wanted to say how much I benefit and enjoy your products and articles. I have a military background and have always used the basics you have packaged into your innovative products.

    Even for someone who knows this stuff inside and out, your products offer a much wider range of practice than a single person could devise themselves. Left to our own devices, we tend to repeat the familiar to the point of getting too easy, which brings progress to a plateau. Your articles and products keeps us challenged and growing in our practical shooting and tactics skills.

    Additionally, your articles and dry fire training cards offer more than weapons and tactics – I am a commercial photographer and occasional photojournalist. Professional photographers have always engaged in dryfire practive to keep their eye and shutter finger honed sharp. Shooting is shooting, whether with a firearm or camera, the skill set is remarkably similar. I’ve tried going through your drills with a camera (slight modification when necessary) – WOW!

  • Nick Thompson

    Reply Reply October 18, 2019

    I appreciate the effort by Jonathan to get the facts and details about the AR. But when you talk about the data, facts, content, and details we ignore the relevance, process, emotions and overall logic which persuades. The reason CPAs rarely walk out of the bar with the blonde is they bore her by only talking about irrelevant facts and fail to convey the emotions which she begs for to persuades her. The decision to adopt gun control for the AR will be an emotional one.

    The public won’t and doesn’t care about whether AR stands for Armalite or Armalite rifle. They do want to look back years from now and look at how they made a good decision about the issue. They have both sides claiming exact opposite positions about the AR. The early gun control act was a horrible decision-making process that was rushed into.

    We should make emotional, powerful but logically valid arguments like the one about how several states don’t allow them as a hunting weapon because they were designed to primarily wound. Or it can be stated the AR is no more or less dangerous than any other semi-auto pistol or rifle we have had for over 100 years. Gun control for a long time was a policy of keeping guns from minors, criminals and the mentally ill. We have failed at that and as a result we have had some incidents. Now some people want to change the policy because we failed to enforce a what has been a good policy. Limiting the rounds in a clip will not stop the results of guns being in the hands of the mentally ill, a criminal or a child.

    I doubt any of the public cares whether the AR-15 was designated AR for either reason. None of that changes or is relevant enough to change the final decision. The public does care whether they are manipulated or lied to by misinformation which they often get from Hollywood.

    • julie

      Reply Reply March 13, 2020

      The emotion really hangs on that attention getting word ´assault´. Calling any gun an assault rifle (or pistol) immediately conjures up images of hostility. Our media trained brains jump to images of rogue gunmen shooting up public places.
      But people don´t stop to think that ANYTHING can be an assault weapon. If I hit you hard enough in the head with a frozen turkey drumstick, you´re going down. If I hit that specific soft spot on the back of your head, you could die. BAN TURKEYS!
      Of course the big difference between turkey legs, fists, knives, machetes, or any other weapon besides a gun is magazine (not clip, sorry Nick). And this will become the true hurdle in every argument against gun control, even IF we ever get past the emotional ´assault´. Yes, more people get killed by knives, but the POTENTIAL is far greater with a semi-auto with multiple rounds of ammo stacked in a magazine. 10 or 30, it does not matter much, just slows me down a couple seconds to change out a mag. And that´s what people look at- yes, the guy with a knife can kill dozens, but probably won´t, because he will have to chase them down, or will be disarmed or injured in a counter attack. The guy with the AR15 and several mags of ammo is a far greater threat overall, and that´s what the pubic perception is, and screw the facts (FBI Table 8).
      How we get past that is going to be the key to avoiding the ban of semi automatic guns.

  • Jonathan Glaze

    Reply Reply October 18, 2019

    So I’m am generally a huge fan of your posts but this one is wrong on SO many levels. While it is true that an AR-15 is not an assault rifle; there isn’t much else factually significant about this post.
    (1) Select fire isn’t just “ability to fire multiple rounds with a single trigger press.” That’s only half of it. The other half is the ability to select between that OR semi automatic. That’s why is called select fire. So, an M-16 is an assault rifle and M-249 SAW is not.
    (2) You are right. The Army does define assault rifle. But, the definition does NOT mention that it is a short rifle. But what it does mention and that you left out was that an assault rifle uses and intermediate cartridges. So, a SCAR (military) in 5.56 IS an assault rifle and a SCAR in 7.62 is not.
    See: Army intelligence document FSTC-CW-07-03-70
    (3) AR does NOT stand for (A)rmaLite (R)ifle. It just stands for (AR)maLite.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply October 18, 2019

      Thanks for your comment, Jonathan…let’s unpack that a bit:

      1. As I said, I needed to generalize. I’ve shot enough select fire platforms to understand that you’re correct, but I’m not sure that the extra level of detail was necessary for this article. Regardless, I have added “semi-auto or” in response to your suggestion.

      2. What Army Intelligence Document FSTC-CW-07-03-70 says on page 67 is that “Assault rifles are **short**, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power…” So, yes, it does mention length. As to the SCAR-H you mentioned and the SOCOM-16 that I mentioned…there is a short barrel for the SCAR-H that makes it more manuverable for vehicle, airborne, and MOUT.

      Here’s where it gets interesting…One reason to shorten a gun is to make it long again…with a suppressor. The SCAR-H is easy to suppress. The SOCOM-16 requires some rather involved safety modifications to the gas system.

      So, why did Springfield shorten SOCOM for the military in 2004? Manuverability in vehicles,airborne,and MOUT to include assaulting. This was 34 years after the original definition that we both referred to and, during that time, it had been next to impossible to create a high powered rifle that was both compact enough and controllable enough in select fire modes to use for assaulting.

      3. According to https://www.armalite.com/history/ AR stands for Armalite rifle.

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