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William R. Dietrick


This was submitted to the Denver Post editorial staff in hopes of curing their bad habit of using incorrect "buzz-words"

Infantry rifle: Long  gun, medium to high-power cartridge, either bolt-action or semi-automatic, multiple-shot, Fed by either internal magazines loaded by stripper clips, or inserted exterior magazines. Primarily used by infantry troops. Examples include the Springfield 190 IA1, the British Enfield Mks I through IV, the Garand M1, the Chinese SKS, the Ml carbine, and the M14. Many of these rifles have been converted to sporting firearms for big-game hunting. Perfectly legal to be owned by private civilians.

Sub-machine gun: Short, low-power cartridge, fully-automatic firearms, fed by externally-inserted magazines (including drums). Primarily used by paratroops and as a backup weapon for infantry providing high-volume fire support at close quarters, such as house-to-house sweeps, search-and-destroy operations. etc. Handy for paratroops as they are short and compact for heavily-loaded air-dropped personnel. Also favored by civilian police SWAT units for concentrated fire. Examples include the M3 “grease gun,” the Thompson .45, the Uzi, the Swedish K, the H&K MP5, and the M2 carbine. These are select-fire or fully automatic, and cannot he owned by civilian personnel, unless they have a Federal Class Ill firearms license. No legally owned firearm in this genre has ever been involved in a crime in this country. Semiautomatic versions of these firearms may legally be owned by civilians.

Assault rifle: Medium-length, medium-power cartridge, fully-automatic or select-fire firearms, magazine-fed, designed for infantry troops. In modern armies, these have largely supplanted the infantry rifle, as they provide nearly as good accuracy with far higher fire volume. In some cases, they mount, in addition, a grenade launcher under the barrel. Examples include the M-16, the Chinese or Russian Kalashnikov AK-47, and the Stoner weapons system. These, again, may not be owned by civilians without a Class Ill license. Some semi-automatic models of these rifles exist, and may legally be owned by civilians. The M-16 in the semi-auto version is marketed as the AR-15.

Machine gun: These are fully-automatic weapons designed to provide a continuous field of fire for troop suppression to cover advances or to protect a hardened position. Also used on troop carriers, tanks, helicopters, and jeeps/Hummers. They are either belt-fed or canister-fed, and are capable of a high sustained rate of fire with high-powered cartridges. Examples include the M60 (7.62 NATO cartridge), the Browning .50 (.50-caliber very-high-power) and the Browning .30 (.30-06 cartridge). These may not be owned by civilians without a Class III license, unless the firearm has been certified de-commissioned (rendered totally unable to fire or capable of being rebuilt to fire).

Assault weapon: A meaningless term invented by the anti-gun movement to demonize any firearm which they consider ugly. There is no accepted definition of this term. A number of municipalities (including Denver) and states (including California) have attempted to define the term, but have been unsuccessful in doing so, without also outlawing a number of perfectly legitimate hunting rifles which are functionally identical in all regards. Some have attempted to do so by banning specific firearms, and this was done with the Denver ordinance. The Denver ordinance was not based on any scientific or engineering criteria, but simply by picking “ugly” guns out of a catalog. As a result, certain firearms are illegal in Denver, but identical models of different calibers are perfectly legal. There is no rhyme or reason to their bannings, and it even includes at least one single-shot bolt-action rifle! Rifles commonly used across the State of Colorado for varmint hunting, medium-game hunting, and high-power competition are banned in Denver. The California “Assault-Weapons” Bill was an example of banning by specifying specific firearms as being “assault weapons,” but the law was recently invalidated by the courts, as the statute was determined to be unconstitutionally vague. Again, in this instance, there was no functional difference between the banned firearms and conventional hunting rifles.

Semi-automatic: A self-loading firearm, which ejects the spent shell upon firing, inserts another loaded cartridge into the chamber, and locks the bolt, readying the firearm for another shot. This type of firearm will fire once for each pull of the trigger, but the trigger must be pulled for each shot. Examples are the semi-auto pistols used by most police departments and many civilians, and many hunting rifles, both small and large caliber. Other uses include target competition, silhouette shooting, practical pistol competition, etc.

Burst-fire:  A reasonably new concept only lately introduced to the military. Few individuals can hold a rifle on target in fully-automatic mode. The recoil, even of medium-power cartridges, causes the muzzle to climb under successive shots. This has the effect of the rifle “climbing” off-target, wasting most of the ammunition. The US Army recently had their newest M-16’s converted to “burst-fire,” wherein each pull of the trigger will rapidly fire three shots. The trigger then has to be pulled again before the next burst will fire. This prevents wild, sustained, unaimed firing which wastes ammunition and does little to stop an advancing enemy. The concept is that the rifleman will aim each burst.

Fully-automatic: This firearm will continuously load, fire, eject, reload, and fire again, as long as the trigger is depressed, or until the arm runs out of ammunition. Journalists often fail to distinguish between semi-autos and full-autos, but the terms are not interchangeable. This is partly attributable to the firearms manufacturers, who have been lax in their descriptions. Browning, for instance, markets their upper-line semi-automatic hunting rifle as the “BAR,” or Browning Automatic Rifle. The true term should be Browning Semi-Automatic Rifle, or BSAR. There was an actual “BAR,” or Browning (Fully-)Automatic Rifle used by United States troops in WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam. This was a .30-06 caliber fully-automatic rifle, usually used as a heavy-suppression firearm for squads, one per company, as a rule. They are no longer in production, and are no longer issued to US troops. However, many are still in use in third-world armies. Those who are familiar with firearms have understood this historically, but to the uninformed public, there is little comprehension when they see “auto-pistol,” for instance, in a news article.


William R. Dietrick, United States Counterintelligence Corps

Chief of FBI Liaison Group-Special Agent (past)

past Legislative Director for the Colorado State Shooting Assocation

NRA Election Volunteer Coordinator for CD-4

District Captain for the Republican Party

Range officer at Aurora (CO) Gun Club