The Scary AR-15

The MAC-10 submachine gun was practically designed for housewives.

Regina, Night of the Comet (1984)



Although I believe the Second Amendment is a bulwark against tyranny, I have never personally had much interest in firearms.  The last time I fired a weapon was the final time I was on the rifle range with my M-16 during my Army days, now, and how did that happen?, more than four decades ago in my rear view window.    Fortunately I live in a heavily armed, and peaceful, rural area, where my neighbors more than make up for my lack of interest, and make certain that the peace we enjoy is maintained.  However my co-blogger Darwin Catholic has a strong interest in firearms and at his eponymous blog gives us some information about the AR-15:


Reading some of the pieces coming out from major venues such as the NY Times and The Atlantic over the weeks since the Parkland school shooting, it’s struck me that we can see reporters at least trying to write factually accurate stories about the AR-15 type rifles which they clearly believe should be banned, yet not having the knowledge of the subject to allow them to put the facts they report into proper context.

For instance, a NY Times piece I saw the other day tries to make the case that AR-15 rifles are practically the same as the M-16 rifles and M-4 carbines used by the military. It provides the following image comparing an M-16 to models of AR-15 used in various mass shootings, one assumes in order to make the point that they look rather similar.

Then it admits the very significant feature which distinguishes military long arms from their civilian counterparts (selective fire: the existence of a mode in which the rifle can fire multiple shots while the trigger is held down) but argues that this feature is not very important:

The main functional difference between the military’s M16 and M4 rifles and a civilian AR-15 is the “burst” mode on many military models, which allow three rounds to be fired with one trigger pull. Some military versions of the rifles have a full automatic feature, which fires until the trigger is released or a magazine is empty of ammunition.

But in actual American combat these technical differences are less significant than they seem. For decades the American military has trained its conventional troops to fire their M4s and M16s in the semiautomatic mode — one bullet per trigger pull — instead of on “burst” or automatic in almost all shooting situations. The weapons are more accurate this way, and thus more lethal.

What all of this means is that the Parkland gunman, in practical terms, had the same rifle firepower as an American grunt using a standard infantry rifle in the standard way.

The article then attempts to lay out what the author believes are the important similarities between military rifles and AR-15 type civilian rifles:

Like the military’s M4s and M16s, civilian AR-15s are fed with box magazines — the standard magazine holds 30 rounds, or cartridges — that can be swapped out quickly, allowing a gunman to fire more than a hundred rounds in minutes. That is what the police described the Parkland gunman as having done. In many states, civilians can buy magazines that hold many more rounds, including 60- and 100-round versions.

The small-caliber, high-velocity rounds used in the military rifles are identical to those sold for the civilian weapons. They have been documented inflicting grievous bone and soft-tissue wounds. Both civilian and military models of the rifle are lightweight and have very little recoil.

Now, it’s true that both the AR-15 and military rifles have detachable box magazines. However, that’s a trait that AR-15 type rifles have in common with virtually all other semi-automatic rifles and even with a lot of bolt action rifles. Detachable magazines are hundred year old technology. It’s easier to load a magazine when it’s not attached to the rifle, and it’s also easier to make sure that a gun is absolutely safe if you can simply take the magazine out and then work the action to be sure that’s no round in the chamber.


Go here to read the rest.  Ignorance and public policy are always a poor mix, and when it comes to firearms the media and the gun grabbers, but I repeat myself, have little to offer but ignorance.



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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. Seen in Facebook: Gun control advocates say the NRA and gun advocates “bully” them WITH THE FACTS.

    Also, seen on Facebook: 15+ million women now own firearms. I’m not sure the numbers are that high, but there it is.

    The little, Sandy Hook bodies were still warm when NY Gov. Thug Thugson outlawed “assault weapons.” Which are scary-looking, semi-auto firearms with pistol grips, flash suppressors and bayonet lugs, I think.

    I own a NY-legal Ruger Mini-14 in same caliber as the banned guns, semi-auto, detachable box magazines,etc. It doesn’t have a pistol grip, etc. It is “legal” as long as I don’t slip in a high-capacity magazine. FYI – It is as effective as any AR, far more so with me on the trigger. Of course, CT pushed through the same bans. And, hundreds of thousands of newly-minted, CT/NY criminals refused to comply with the ineffective, unconstitutional gun-ban laws.

    Like AGW, gun control is a huge hoax. It serves no real, societal good. Tthe left deploys it to mess with people they fear and loathe: normal Americans.

  2. Your post is certainly accurate about the mainstream press lack of firearms knowledge and how it creeps into the stories to support preconceived viewpoints. Just a few points for clarification:
    1. Semi-automatic and automatic firearms have been around for at least 100 years and the earlier versions such as the Thompson are much more deadly – what is different now is the people who use them. When the Thompson was first made you could buy it in your local hardware store with no background check.
    2. In 1938 the NFA outlawed fully automatic machine guns without a lengthy and expensive process. So the Times reporter who said there is little difference between fully automatic and semi-automatic should talk to the ATF on why you have to buy a tax stamp, be fingerprinted and endorsed by local law enforcement just to have that little difference.
    3. Yes the 5.56mm Nato cartridge is very dangerous and destructive but by its nature is less penetrating. It will usually tumble after hitting even a sheet of drywall and lose energy. If you were to use a 7.62mm Nato cartridge the penetration is awesome. Think up to three houses in a row or through a concrete block school wall or right through a car or perish the thought, 10 people. This cartridge and semi and fully automatic arms with 30 round magazines have been around since at least 1956. Its predecessor and ballistic equal the 30.06 cartridge has been around with the same types of firearms since 1906 as the name implies. No one seems to vilify all of these firearms and cartridges.
    4. The whole argument about how big magazines are the problem is also spurious as a practiced shooter can reload 10 round magazines in less that 1.5 seconds.

    What this all adds up to is what I said above. The problem is not the firearm but the person and we seem to be breeding more of them lately – could it possibly have something to do with the glorification of killing in movies and video games (often with an M-16/4), the month long news coverage of these events and/or the permissive society that makes these shooters expect to be handled with kid gloves for their whole life and explode when it doesn’t happen?

  3. Where to draw the line? If the right to bear arms shall not be infringe then the military M16 should be legal also. Guns don’t’ kill people, but they make it a lot easier. There are no easy answers because we seem not to be able to control the bad guys and their guns. Wherever the line, no doubt that thorough background & mental health checks are key.

  4. Ben, the drawing line has been fully automatic weapons and I think that has proven an effective, and accepted, boundary. In regard to US gun deaths, two-thirds of them are suicides. The availability of firearms seems to have little to do with the rate of suicide. Some of the European nations with the strictest gun laws also have high rates of suicide. Of the approximately eight thousand US homicides using firearms, eighty percent of them involve pistols. (Most of the remainder are homicides where the type of firearm used can’t be determined.) Most homicides involve urban crime, often drug or gang related. Without our urban centers, the US would have a homicide by firearm rate on a par with Sweden or Denmark.

  5. Without our urban centers, the US would have a homicide by firearm rate on a par with Sweden or Denmark.

    I grew up in a region with a population of about 1.1 million. About 45% lived in zones you’d describe as exurban, small town or rural. Another 45% lived in suburban tract development or in the more congenial core city neighborhoods. About 10% lived in the slums or sketchy neighborhoods adjacent. About 2/3 of the homicides each year occur in that slice of territory. The public order problem in that slice of the city can be addressed successfully and has been in New York City. I think you’d have to scrounge to find a gun control promoter who is the least bit interested. (Because reducing social violence is a hook, not a motive).

  6. The Violence Policy Center was incorporated in 1988 and has documents on its website carrying dates as early as 1995. It has not one item on violent crime reduction in New York City.

  7. I cannot explain it. Is it intellectual sloth? Is it intellectual dishonesty? I see no other explanation.

    Where do we draw the line? Simply, we will not tolerate one more gun law based on emotions, outright lies, and virtue-signaling. .

    It all makes sense when you assume that the left hates facts and, worse, the rotten sob’s hate us.

    Fun fact, one GA town requires all residents to own guns. In the past six years, there has been one murder in said town.

    It’s always the left against deplorable, ordinary Americans. “Do they really hate ordinary people that much? Yes, they do. For liberals, the distinction between the “dumb masses” and their enlightened selves renders life meaningful. Disdain for ordinary folks is not just an ancillary trait of liberalism. It is fundamental to the its nature.” Jeffrey Folks at “The American Thinker.”

    Why are not 93 million (McAuliffe) Americans shot down each day? You would think it likely, if you were a kleftist nut. There are 1.7 guns for each American. If guns or the NRA were the problem, you would know it.

  8. What all of this means is that the Parkland gunman, in practical terms, had the same rifle firepower as an American grunt using a standard infantry rifle in the standard way.

    What it also means is that your average hunter, armed with your average deer rifle has, in the same practical terms, the same firepower, as an American GI or an American Doughboy using the then standard infantry rifles in the standard way.

  9. Legal change of the 2nd Amendment and of laws re: guns is simple – do what the Constitution says, what it allows, what is constitutional by definition: get 3/4 of the people in each state or 3/4 of the state legislatures to amend the 2nd Amendment or nullify it. It has been done, according to the rules, many times since the Constitution was ratified. Simple. Note the wisdom of the Founders: no smug elite, no snotty group of intellectuals, no small number of totalitarians or democrats alone will be able to do this. Guy McClung, Texas

  10. Ben:
    Guns don’t’ kill people, but they make it a lot easier.

    And that is why I like them.

    I do not want to have to kill anybody, but when it comes down to me and my kids or an even average sized 20 year old guy at the door with a kitchen knife, it’s the only way that I am going to be able to effectively do anything.
    Well, I could die in a useless manner, maybe slowing him down enough that the police can get here and save at least one of my children, but that’s a really bad solution.

    Like the old joke goes: the Lord made man, Sam Colt make them equal.

  11. Incidentally: we have had someone try to beat down our door. I might have been able to beat her head in with a baseball bat, if she’d managed to get it loose (or had the intelligence to go to the door that has much more glass in it), but yelling through the door rather damaged the element of surprise needed for it, and I have no idea if I’d be able to render her physically incapable of doing harm. Drugs often have very, very strange effects.
    That’s besides the mental damage to my children if they had to watch mommy beat a woman’s skull open in front of them, or watch mommy bleed out on the floor because she had no way to effectively fight back.

    Brutal? Yeah. Beats the hell out of being a repeat of the family who was tied up with electrical cords and the house set on fire with them still in it, because they didn’t resist.
    Or the older couple where one of them got loose and managed to get ahold of a gun before the three young adult males managed to do the same to them. From memory, they only wounded one of them– but his “buddies” killed him and dumped the body in the middle of the road, so he wouldn’t give them away at the hospital.

    Criminals do not care if they are breaking the law. They care if they might get caught, generally, but more laws won’t stop them. Knowing their victims can kill them back? Tends to stop them.

  12. T. Shaw:
    Also, seen on Facebook: 15+ million women now own firearms. I’m not sure the numbers are that high, but there it is.

    I’d be surprised if it was that low– that’s only one in ten, gallup got 23%– but I’d also be shocked if most women would admit it on any phone survey.

    Then there’s the “oh I don’t own a gun- well, there’s the one my boy got me, and it’s in the dresser drawer, because he just worries so much about me being here alone now that he’s all grown up, but that’s not really my gun” type thing.

  13. If the Left succeeds in passing bans on ugly, scary AR 15 rifles, raises the age of purchasers to 21, expands background checks to cover transfers between persons related or life-long friends, or any other restrictive idea of theirs, it will accomplish nothing whatsoever, except to be a platform from which to continue their efforts to disarm the American population. The totalitarian is by definition never satisfied until they control everyone and everything.

  14. Thank you, Mary. The Totalitarian Left calls for gun-control on the basis of false premises. Their arguments are logically invalid.

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