What kind of rifle is this? Most owners of such a rifle would call it an “AR” or “AR-15”. I think, when speaking to non-gun owning people about rifles like this, we should stop referring to them as “AR’s”.
The Problem: Language and Baggage
One of the biggest problems is a difference between what gun owners know: that “AR” refers to ArmaLite-15 pattern rifles, and how many other people think “AR” means Assault Rifle. An ace in the hole here for the gun community is that “Assault Rifle” is a phrase that has a technical definition. An assault rifle is a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. No one in Canada is using select fire rifles at their 3 gun events, so it’s easy to call out journalists and anti-gun writers on their faux pas. 99.9% of the time, they’re incorrect when using the term “assault rifle”.
Enter the Twisted Challenger: “Assault Weapon”
Since journalists and anti-gun crusaders were getting shut down on their incorrect use of “assault rifle” they made up their own phrase: “Assault weapon“. The definition of this phrase is wishy washy and up to the user. Basically, any firearm that looks kinda scary. The wordplay is beautifully deceptive:
- Assault the act of creating apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact with a person
- Weapon any device used in order to inflict damage or harm to living beings, structures, or systems
It’s purposefully incorrect in its construction to portray more risk than is really there. If you used the strict definition of the words, an $80 Saturday night special Lorcin would live up to the promise of being used for criminal assault better than a $2000 LMT.
What we Should be Pushing: Modern Sporting Rifle
The National Shooting Sports Foundation out of the US took a swing at the problem in 2009, and I think they got it right by creating a new classification of “Modern Sporting Rifle”.
- Modern Arguably, the modularity of the AR-15 pattern and other modern sporting rifles makes them very easy to keep up to date and modern. Some people still choose to rock the Vietnam war-era handguards, but many others are running a free float aluminum forend or at least an updated Magpul MOE forend.
- Sporting is the most important addition to this phrase. Most civilians use their rifles for poking holes in paper, hunting, and action shooting. They can be used for defense, but in-use, 99% of the time, they’re doing other things. Sporting is a great phrase because it speaks to the active, legal way that most gun owners enjoy these rifles
- Rifle Well, it’s not a pistol, so sure. This one word adds more technical definition to the class than the whole of “Assault Weapon” does.
Personally, I think “MSR” or “Modern Sporting Rifle” don’t really belong at the gun club. If I ask someone at the club “what kind of rifle is that”, and they’re holding an AR-15, I expect them to start breaking down the make/model/add-ons. We’re all enthusiasts, so I want the goods. I’d be kinda pissed if they said “It’s a Modern Sporting Rifle”. Instead, I think the use of “Modern Sporting Rifle” is a better term to use when speaking to newbies, general public, anti-gun crusaders, journalists, etc. It’s a more definitive term for a broad classification of firearms, and it does a better job than “Assault Rifle”, “Assault Weapon”, or “AR” at describing what we’re using these days to compete, punch paper, hunt, and enjoy at the range.
What I Think Should Qualify as an MSR
Pure personal opinion here, as I’m bucking what the originators thought this should cover:
- Semi Automatic
- Detachable magazine
- Easy to add a variety of optics: red dots, scopes, etc.
- Highly ergonomic, offering a variety of aftermarket stocks, grips and other options to better fit the rifle to the sportsman or woman.
I don’t think cartridge should be a variable, because something like a Nemo Arms Omen in 300 Win Mag should still be an MSR.
What I Think Shouldn’t Qualify
- Shotguns. Shotguns aren’t rifles.
- Bolt Action Rifles. Usually, those rifles fit into other descriptive categories like “Precision Rifle” or “Scout Rifle”.
“MSR” or “Modern Sporting Rifle” has some acceptance. Smith & Wesson says this about their M&P15: The new M&P15 Sport™ rifle joins Smith & Wesson’s popular line of M&P15 semi- automatic Modern Sporting Rifles. Cabela’s has a category on their website called Modern Sporting Rifle, Otis has a cleaning kit for “Modern Sporting Rifles and AR“, and Rinkor Arms describes their rifles in a similar way.
Many other industry sources struggle with a category. Remington calls their R-15 line “Autoloading centerfires”. The term is used sporadically in gun press. I’m not sure if it’ll get very far, but I think we should try because it’s a better, more descriptive phrase than what the anti’s have tried to make up and it speaks to what the rifles really do.