Although it is nothing new to witness gun terminology fails in the mainstream media, it seems as though there have been a slew of them following the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. They haven’t been limited to just one or two small-town stations, either; they’ve been splashed across major networks. Even better, they’ve tumbled ineptly from the mouths of those network’s supposed firearms experts. Seems it might be time for another terminology lesson with a special emphasis on the many errors made in recent days and weeks.
An AR by any other name…
Perhaps a rose by any other name would smell as sweet – or so Shakespeare would have us believe – but an AR only has one name. While it may be a devastating blow to the mainstream media’s way of portraying the popular rifles, that name is not “assault rifle.” In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Intelligence Agency book “Small Arms Identification and Operation Guide,” an “assault rifle” is a battlefield rifle that fires automatically. Civilian ARs do not fire on full-auto, they’re semi-auto, meaning they fire one round with one squeeze of the trigger. So, what is an AR?
The AR-15 was the first incarnation, although today we also have the AR-10 platform which is quite popular- although it cannot complete with the AR-15’s fan club. In 1958, a company by the name of ArmaLite began designing a new rifle platform for the United States military with production itself beginning in 1959. Due to financial difficulties, ArmaLite ended up selling their design to Colt. Colt made a few modifications to the design and came up with the M16 which was a selective-fire rifle – yes, the M16 was fully automatic, and it was made for the military. It wasn’t until 1963 that Colt realized a civilian version of the rifle would probably do well, but at that point they came out with a semi-automatic version – meaning it would fire one round for one squeeze of the trigger – which we know as the AR-15. “AR” stands for ArmaLite Rifle, not assault rifle.
Also heard recently in the mainstream media have been references to the AR-15 as a “combat rifle,” an “assault style” rifle, and “military rifle”- none of which are accurate. The AR-15 so readily available to law-abiding citizens is simply a reasonably lightweight, magazine-fed, semi-automatic, intermediate-cartridge rifle. As for the AR-10, well, it seems unwise to attempt to bring various chamberings into the discussion for the sake of mainstream media journalists everywhere.
It’s a clip, it’s a bullet-holder thingy, no, it’s…
This just might be the most common terminology mistake made in the mainstream media. It’s neck-and-neck with the use of “assault rifle” for ARs, anyway. And, unfortunately, it isn’t limited to the media alone; gun owners everywhere confuse these terms on a fairly regular basis. Scrolling through my Facebook feed can be incredibly painful, and resisting the urge to constantly correct people sometimes takes the use of one hand to pull the other away from the keyboard. So what is a clip? Let’s start with what a magazine is, first.
A magazine actually comes in various forms but has the same basic design. It holds cartridges under pressure with help from an internal spring, a spring strong enough to push the next cartridge towards its final destiny as one is fired (the idea of explaining the action was but a fleeting thought, so I went with “final destiny” instead…catchy, no?). Magazines are most often thought of as the rectangular-shaped objects which are sometimes curved but actually come in quite a few variations including tubular, box, drum, and rotary. They can be permanent or detachable.
A clip does not have a spring – because it’s, well, a clip. Unlike a magazine, a clip does not feed the cartridges to the gun. A clip simply holds cartridges in a row so a gun’s magazine can be charged (if the idea of a clip and magazine working together is confusing, bear with me). As with magazines, there is more than one kind of clip. For example, stripper clips are used to make loading a magazine faster. You simply load the stripper clip – or purchase cartridges pre-loaded onto a stripper clip – and strip it into your magazine. Then there are the clips used for guns like the M1 Garand. Those clips are loaded with cartridges and then put into the gun, clip, cartridges, and all. If this seems confusing, there’s a fairly easy way to remember: magazines are designed to feed guns directly while clips are designed to feed the magazines themselves. If that’s still too much, keep in mind you might be whapped over the head with a rolled-up magazine – the print kind – if you use the word “clip” when referring to a magazine – the gun kind – in my presence. Capisce?
That high-capacity mag, though…
Magazines have not always been referred to as “high” capacity (or not). The mainstream media seems to have a field day with this phrase, using it in the same trembling tones one might use to describe that time you were attacked by a rabid monkey wielding a rusty machete. The fact that the terrorists in San Bernardino used what are now considered high-capacity magazines caused quite a stir. So what is a high-capacity magazine, really?
In the firearms world, magazines are typically referred to according to how many rounds they can hold, specifically, not in size estimations as though we’re describing a cup of coffee. “I’ll take one 5.56 NATO alloy Colt-manufactured high-capacity magazine, please. No whip – swimsuit season is coming.” When it comes to size, magazines are sold and purchased by number of rounds, as in 10-round mag, 20-round mag, 30-round mag. In some states there are restrictions on size, hence the “high capacity” term.
Actually, magazine restrictions have come and gone, and come again. In 1994, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was a subsection of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, banned the manufacture of particular semi-auto rifles for civilian use. It also banned the manufacture of certain magazines for said rifles, magazines deemed “high capacity.” That particular ban ended in 2004 despite many attempts to extend or revive it. It was a political response to a few events but it was the Stockton Schoolyard Shooting – also sometimes referred to as the Cleveland School Massacre – that strongly influenced its creation. It was actually an AK-47 that was used in that particular shooting and it was wielded by an unstable, violent man with a criminal record a mile long.
Today’s high-capacity magazine ban exists in 8 of our 50 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. The average regulation restricts capacity to 10 or 15 rounds but some areas, such as New York City, allow just 5 rounds. “High capacity” is a term that’s been used with increasing regularity by the mainstream media since around the 1980s, and it doesn’t look like it will change any time soon.
A quick addition: anyone who wonders why a hunter needs more than just a few rounds has apparently never zeroed a rifle, spent incredible lengths of time on target practice to ensure accuracy, or hunted. The need for more rounds takes place more than non-shooters might think, especially when hunters are after game such as feral hogs, coyotes, or rabbits. Speed and the ability to keep on shooting without wasting precious time reloading becomes of great importance. So, while the frequently-heard reply of “because I want one” is understandable in its bluntness, there are other reasons as well. (And in my personal opinion, if you want to refer to a magazine as high-capacity, take a look at a 100-round drum. Even then, we’re just inching up into a larger number of rounds. Nothing high to see here, move on.)
The demon bullet button…
In the days following the San Bernardino terrorist attack, this particular phrase seems to have baffled members of the mainstream media at an alarming rate. Perhaps most entertaining – in a frustrating, irritating way – was the apparent “gun expert” used by none other than Fox News. His name is Gregg Jarrett and he was, unfortunately, the Fox News anchor explaining California’s gun laws on the day in question. Jarrett was a defense attorney in San Francisco prior to becoming a journalist and, although he works for Fox now, he maintains an active status in California as a lawyer- often giving lectures at law schools. He has frequently served as a Fox News legal advisor on the air, but this time he was their gun expert.
It’s hard to do this justice without simply repeating Jarrett’s words verbatim, so here it is: “The guns that were used were semi-automatic rifles which are perfectly legal in the state of California. In other words, every time you press the trigger it fires one round – what is usually ten rounds in a clip. What is illegal is to turn them into assault weapons which continue to fire when the trigger is depressed and they have more than ten bullets in the magazine. That’s a high-capacity clip and as you know [referring to fellow news anchor] that’s illegal in the state of California. [Other news anchor cuts in: “So, turning it into a fully-automatic weapon?”] Exactly. An “assault rifle” is what they generally call it, but yes, fully-automatic weapon. Here’s the thing: manufacturers are allowed to build them that way with what’s called a ‘bullet button’. And it’s just a…[unintelligible]…you take the tip of a button…the press a…of a bullet…you press a button…and it turns your semi-automatic legal weapon into an illegal assault weapon. And apparently, that’s what happened here except it failed when the killers tried to do it. [Other news anchor cuts in: “So you’re saying they had to alter the weapons in a way that would make them illegal?”] That’s right.”
There are so many things wrong with Jarrett’s statements it’s difficult to decide where to begin, but fortunately we’ve covered some of this ground already. The bullet button is the main issue here, one Jarrett has undoubtedly been schooled in via internet many, many times since the broadcast. In the state of California, the restrictions on ARs and magazines are many and in order to deal with those restrictions manufacturers came up with the bullet button. Your average AR has a magazine release which is a small button the shooter presses to release the magazine from the gun. While there are some variations on magazine releases, the basics remain the same. Because California passed regulations about magazine capacity, the bullet button was created. The standard magazine release is removed, creating a small, recessed well containing the release. The shooter must use a tool or the tip of a round to reach inside and depress the lever that releases the magazine. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether a gun fires semi-auto or full-auto which means, of course, that manufacturers have not come up with this as a way to deliver full-auto weapons to the general public.
When Jarrett uttered those words, he began the spread of a myth that quickly spread through those without gun knowledge starting with another news anchor- Juan Williams. Jarrett did the entire gun industry a massive disservice by spreading terrible misinformation. When the San Bernardino terrorists attempted to alter their bullet buttons – something they were unsuccessful at, I might add – they were simply trying to make switching magazines a faster process. This is certainly not the first time the mainstream media has done damage to the gun industry by spreading false information and it will not be the last.
The words, they confuse me…
We all have a learning curve. No one knows everything about every subject. But, if you’re going to discuss firearms, know your stuff. Don’t just assume you know; know it. Just as Greg Jarrett would never have made it through law school by utilizing “The Law for Dummies” books you cannot learn about firearms without accurate sources.
Other mistakes made included one news site referring to a rifle used in San Bernardino as a “.223 caliber DPMS A-15” and went on to salivate over the fact that four high-capacity magazines were discovered in the terrorists’ home.
The mainstream media and the liberal left are missing the forest for the trees. Rather than focusing on the problem at hand – terrorism – they choose to focus on firearms. Rather than focusing on the hand squeezing the trigger, hands belonging to Islamic terrorists, they focus on the trigger itself – as if an inanimate object can take lives on its own power. This is not about guns or gun control, this is about terrorism. This is about Islam. This is about the War on Terror.
Get your facts straight, mainstream media. Better yet, get your priorities straight. There are terrorists among us and they do not care about your gun laws. They care only about killing infidels.
What is your priority?
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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