NSSF Defending “Modern Sporting Rifles”

Our opponents are having a field day with some of the statement from our own side deriding NSSF’s term “Modern Sporting Rifle.” NSSF is defending their use of the term here, noting:

Whenever someone in the gun-owning community mistakenly calls an AR-platform rifle an assault rifle or an automatic rifle, they are assisting anti-gun organizations and lawmakers who are eager to introduce legislation to restrict ownership of these and potentially other semiautomatic firearms. (By the way, the AR stands for ArmaLite, the company that developed the rifle in the 1950s, and not assault rifle or automatic rifle. See other MSR facts.)

NSSF is absolutely correct about this. For gun bloggers who apparently don’t know better, “assault rifle” is a well defined term for a rifle capable of selective fire, which chambers an cartridge of intermediate, and has a detachable magazine. If any of these things aren’t true, it’s not an assault rifle by definition. The federal ban on “assault weapons” had nothing to do with “assault rifles,” which were banned in 1986. The term “assault weapon” is a legal fiction concocted by our opponents. It serves no purpose other than to scare people into thinking they are supporting banning something unusual and dangerous.

I’ve always been of the opinion that the term MSR is unnecessary. An AR-15 is just a rifle, and like most everything else, advances in technology have brought us advances in rifle design, just as it has with pistols and shotguns. But most of those advances have been ergonomic and cosmetic. The fundamental principle that drives the AR-15 or semi-automatic versions of the AK-47 isn’t really remarkably different than the Remington Model 8, which was designed in 1900. There were even variants of the Model 8 that were arguably early precursors to today’s so-called “assault weapons.” It’s even easy to note the resemblance between the safety on the Model 8 and the Safety/Selector on the AK-47. What makes the modern sporting rifle modern is the fact that the furniture is synthetic, and the rifle has more ergonomic features that make it easy and comfortable to shoot and operate. Other than that, there’s not much truly new that’s happened in firearms design in 100 years.

18 thoughts on “NSSF Defending “Modern Sporting Rifles””

  1. Maybe I’m just an ol’ country boy… but whatever happened to “semi-automatic” or “semi-auto” rifle… AR-15s, Ruger Mini-14s, and M1As are all semi-automatic rifles…

    Plus, I’m not big on the semantics of using the term “modern” when referring to a basic gun design that had it’s beginnings in the 1950s and was adopted by the military in the 1960s…

    I’m just sayin’…

    Dann in Ohio

  2. I should clarify, when I say, “AR-15s, Ruger Mini-14s, and M1As are all semi-automatic rifles”… I’m referring to the typical semi-auto rifles that the average person can purchase over the counter… I know there are full-auto versions of all three I mentioned…

    Dann in ohio

  3. “Semi-automatic” still has the word “automatic” in it, and to folks unfamiliar with firearms, “automatic” means “scary machine gun.” It’s better not to use a term we need to immediately define and explain to make it sound less scary.

    You and I know that a semi-auto isn’t a machine gun. But plenty of folks who don’t know squat about guns don’t know that. Especially when they think it looks like a machine gun (thinking AR15 here). There’s a big difference between the way you or I think people should think, and the way they actually do. We shouldn’t use the language of the antis – and “semi-auto” is their language and plays right into their hands.

  4. Call it whatever you like; frankly, “modern sporting rifle” is an obvious and awkward rebranding. Call it a “military pattern rifle.”

    More important, stop apologizing for having a weapon designed to shoot persons. I won’t; the 2nd Amendment is not about hunting. Even so, the AR is a fine hunting rifle, though 5.56 is not suited for deer.

    Point out the fact that an AR-15 and its variants is perfectly designed for the purposes of the 2nd Amendment in the first place. Point out that it is the most commonly sold rifle in America right now, which fits it squarely in the “common use” test of Heller.

    Then point out that it is rarely used in crimes; when it is, it is the exception, not the rule, and same makes it newsworthy. Fact is, our opponents don’t have the facts,or history, or law, or the votes on their side. So screw ’em.

    It’s hardly unusual for military rifles to come into common civilian usage over time; in fact, that’s been the rule. I won’t apologize for owning an AR-15. In fact, I may have to buy another one. And yes, it’s designed for shooting people. So was Grandpa’s Springfield 1903. If I ever have to use it for that purpose, things will be bad, and I’ll be very thankful I have it. I hope very much, of course, that never comes to pass.

    And if I doesn’t, I’ve still got a quality rifle. it’s light, ergonomic, easy to shoot, flexible to many purposes and cartridges simply by changing an upper, adjustable for many different size shooters, and extrememly accurate. That’s a quality package, I don’t care what you call it.

    What it is is irrelevent. What I DO with it isn’t. Until I commit a crime with one, it’s none of their business,

  5. mike is right

    Which is why my preferred term is Self-Loading Rifle. And my favorite example is the 106 years old Winchester Model 1905, which was also called the Winchester Self-Loading Rifle


    The Winchester was not only semi-automatic it also used
    a detachable box magazine (unlike the Remington Model 8 which used a fixed magazine).

    Self-loading rifle is a term so simple, so self-explanatory, and so innocuous that even the news media can’t screw it up. After 26 years the media still can’t get straight the differences between semi-automatic and machine-gun. We should give up correcting them and instead push the term self-loading rifle.

    One day the fight will come to Federal court over bans on so-called “assault weapons”, which are still imposed in several States and localities. We need to start laying the groundwork today for winning that future fight. Because as it stands today the courts are unlikely to extend to self-loading rifles the protection afforded by the 2nd amendment.

  6. GMC70

    If only we could be so bold in the court of public opinion. But that path leads to defeat.

    For example, the Colorado supreme court was quite willing to gut and nullify the Colorado constitution’s provision for RKBA, in order to protect Denver’s ban on so-called “assault weapons”.

    As long as the public remains so confused that they believe these bans are outlawing machine-guns, we are likely to continue to lose in Federal court. We only handicap ourselves in the battle for public opinion when we tie ourselves in knots over the arcane insider minutia of firearms terminology. We need something simpler that the public can understand.

    NSSF and others are trying to make that term Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR). I think that term is both too bloodless, too politically correct, and yet still too vague and also subject to distortion by our anti-gun enemies. Self-loading rifle is better. It’s accurate, it’s crystal clear, and it’s even historically valid as a term used for describing semi-automatic rifles.

  7. Brad –

    I think you sell the public short. But I understand your position.

    I frankly don’t care what you call them. If “designed to shoot people” is the standard which destines a weapon to restriction, the vast majority of handguns will fail that test. OF COURSE they’re designed to shoot people.

    And most of the public understands that there may come a time when doing so is necessary, though never desirable.

    Remember – the confusion that an ‘eeevil’ black rifle is a “machine gun” is an intentional piece of deception created by our opponents, specifically to mislead the public. While I understand the power of language, I refuse to do other than call a spade a spade.

    Right now, I just want to get sleepy . . .

  8. Being stubborn for the sake of not giving in is all well and good, but refusing to acknowledge the harm a term does doesn’t eliminate that harm. We can stay on that path and stubbornly lose with our heads held high, and then pat each others’ backs and congratulate ourselves for not giving up our cherished terminology as the firearms that terminology describes become legislated out of existence. Because, ultimately, the second amendment is about protecting terminology that we’re happy to use against ourselves, isn’t it?

    Why don’t we double down and call every gun a “machine gun”? That’ll really rile them up, and maybe we can take back the word – with absolutely zero negative consequences..

  9. Of all of these rifles sold, how many have been used for sport shooting of one kind or another and how many have been used to assault someone?

  10. It’s the antis who feel the need for a specific term that describes “rifles with pistol grips that remind the mainstream of guns they see soldiers and revolutionaries shooting on CNN”. We simply don’t have that need. When you need to talk about light semiautomatic carbines, just say “light semiautomatic carbines”. In those very few cases when you need to talk exclusively about light semiautomatic carbines with one particular set of ergonomics, just say “light semiauto carbine with a pistol grip”.

    We don’t need verbal gymnastics here.

  11. There’s a reason rapeseed oil is marketed as canola oil. It’s because some people know that words matter.

    I’m sure there were folks who insisted that if it’s rapeseed oil, it should just be called rapeseed oil. But at the end of the day enough people realized that what they really cared about was selling oil, and not stubbornly clinging to words that market their product poorly.

    This is as much a marketing battle as anything else, and even if words don’t matter to you, they matter to the folks each side is trying to win over. Failing to realize that is simply failing.

  12. Hi,

    I’m writing from Europe (France, to be specific).

    I’d rather go with “self-loading rifle” or “semi-automatic rifle” but in no way ” sporting rifle/pistol”. Because that sounds like it’s only built for target shooting and target shooting is the only legitimate use for that weapon, and ultimately for any privately-owned weapon.

    Firearms are much more than just “sporting devices” (I know I’m preaching to the converted !).
    And once buyers are required to justified “need” (ie: target shooting, hunting, self-defense) in order to buy, you’re very well doomed.

    That’s what happened in most European countries: general ownership is now forbidden and you need to demonstrate why you want to buy a new firewarm. You cannot “just buy” a firearms after screening.

    Switzerland which still allows “general ownership” enjoys much more widespread gun ownership than neighboring France, Germany, Italy. And only 10-15% owners are licensed target shooters and hunters.

    “self-loading rifle” is neutral, factual and it doesn’t imply any type of “legitimate use”.

  13. Since *some* get a lot of flack about the operation of the action, maybe we should call it a Direct-Impingement Gas-Crapper Accuracy-Rifle (vs. the Fouling-Free Gas-Piston Vibrating Op-Rod Rifle)….

  14. I dunno… I kind of like having an entire state, (New Jersey), fear my 18-shot, Marlin Model 60, .22-caliber “assault rifle.”

  15. I’m mostly amused that they cited Gunmart and The Truth About Guns…

    These guys are clowns! A few quick searches would have shown them the kind of paranoia and trash that they like to engage in.

    Wait…sorry…I’m kind-of halfway running in a “people in media want to tell the truth” mode…
    My bad.

  16. In Eric’s Defense, he never uses the Term “Assault Rifle” wrong or out of context, in fact the NSSF takes his statements out of context and blames Eric for something he did not do other than say they could come with a better term which we all were thinking anyway.

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