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Full-auto firearms are back in the news again. Thankfully it’s not because of a mass murderer using one (that hasn’t happened since, like, Wounded Knee[1]) but because of the now infamous comment made by RECOIL Magazine’s editor, Jerry Tsai . . .

Once more, with feeling:

Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civvies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it.

In personal correspondence with Alan Gura after the oral arguments in Heller, I berated Mr. Gura for throwing machine guns under the bus (see here for excerpts). His reply to me was something along the lines of, “look, if I had argued the Second Amendment covered machine guns, the Senate would have confirmed three more Justices just so the court could rule against us 12-0.” So what is it about full-auto weapons that inspires so much fear and loathing?

I believe primary culpability can be laid at the feet of the entertainment industry. It’s because of Hollywood that everyone knows that with an AK you can kill 50 bad-guys with a 30-round mag. But in reality, you can’t.

Because of Hollywood, everyone knows that anyone standing in a 60° arc in front of someone firing a full M-4 will be sliced in half. But as Hickok45 demonstrates, deliberately aimed fire is much more deadly than ‘spray’n’pray’. As in 3 hits out of 30 rounds in about 3 seconds on full auto compared to 4 hits in 4 shots in about 4 seconds on semi.

Because of Hollywood, everyone knows that crooks prefer full auto weapons and “civilians” have no use for them.

I did say primary culpability; I believe secondary blame goes to the FedGov in general and ATF specifically. By making machine-guns hugely expensive and hard as hell to get (assuming you live in a state that even allows you to have one) most people don’t have one and don’t know anyone who does. And, as we all know, ignorance and unfamiliarity often translate as fear.

Case in point; I have a permit to carry and often carry openly — all perfectly legal. When I first got my permit I had a number of what a friend calls moments of unusual interest involving the law enforcement community. A certain number of these were the result of a frantic 9-1-1 call. Some were due to cops not being fully up to speed on the law.

In any case . . . moments of unusual interest. I would say that I had at least a dozen interactions with LEOs regarding open carry in the first eighteen months after I got my permit. Since that time (8 years now) I have only had 3 as people have become more accustomed to the idea that not everyone with a gun is a crook.

An additional FedGov/ATF cause is the Nazi concept of “sporting purpose” which was enshrined in the Gun Control Act of 1968. “What’s that” you ask? “Nazi concept?” Indeed, Nazi concept. Briefly, in 1968 Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) received the translation of the Nazi’s Law on Weapons from the Law Librarian at the Library of Congress. The translation was made from a copy of the original German text which he had supplied to them. It was that 1938 Nazi law which had established that civilian firearms needed to be suitable for hunting and it was the Gun Control Act of 1968 which introduced the “sporting purpose” test to American law.

Unfortunately the idea that firearms must have a “sporting purpose” has now become so engrained in some that even a gun magazine editor and columnist like Jerry Tsai sees it as a litmus test, probably not even recognizing the complete artificiality of such a designation.

In fact, this process has become so arbitrary that back in January of 2011, when the ATF was looking at updating its “sporting purpose” guidelines for shotguns, they actually stated in their report:

In coming to a determination, the working group recognized that a shotgun cannot be classified as sporting merely because it may be used for a sporting purpose.

I can only hope that once the Second Amendment starts getting treated like what it actually is — the highest law of the land — people will recognize that these arbitrary and capricious limits on our rights are unacceptable.

[1] Yes I know the Gatling gun is not really a machine gun; it was a rhetorical point, deal with it.

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I am a bit of a Johnny-come-lately to the civil rights (firearms flavor) movement, having not really gotten involved until after I hit 40. I am not really a "gun guy"; I can generally hit what I aim at, but I'm not a competitive shooter. I enjoy the craftsmanship of a fine pistol or rifle, but I am not particularly knowledgeable about firearms in general nor am I a Glock guy, or 1911 guy, I'm just a guy. What I am is passionate about civil rights, especially those of the firearm flavor.


  1. Fun fact: was able to find just two murders committed with legally-registered machine guns between 1934 and 2010. Both happened after the 1986 ban on new civilian registrations. One was committed by a police officer.

  2. I like ron paul’s ” what difference does it make as to how fast it fires”. I have learned that a lot of people like the editor of RECOIL try to pump themselves up by saying things like civilians don’t need something like that. My experience has came from ex military guys that were not the infantry men, that actually use their weapons, but cooks or men on submarines that try to make their military time sound more important and awesome than it actually was. I know one guy that was on subs and he says civilians shouldnt be able to have weapons that could be used against the military…… the dumbest and most ambiguous statement I have heard. I guess I will hand over my slingshot and my butter knife. He was on a sub and probably only fired a weapon in basic. You know what they say about submariners 50 men go down 25 couples come up ( not to be disrespectful to the men and the women in the military its just funny to hear). Also from my experiences the civilian’s that have a love and respect for firearms and train with them regularly could probably be trusted more than the people Mr. Tsai speaks of that should have them.

    • Why the hate on America’s U-Boatmen? Let’s see how you hold up in a sewer pipe with 88 of your best friends. It’s even tougher when there is an odd number.

      • haha just joking about them as a whole. I would never want to be on one. I could not stand to be on one. The one guy I know that was on them is a retard though.

  3. In the Army we were taught that the only time we should put the AR on full-auto was for close-in clearance – clearing a fighting trench or clearing a room. Neither is something I’d expect to do while defending my own home, where proper placement of shots would be at a premium. Anyway, full auto on an AR is fun the first couple of times, but really nothing special after that – now a proper, belt-fed MG is a whole ‘nother story, but also not exactly suitable for home defense, though incredibly fun on the right range. Of course, with the current high price of ammo . . .

    Anyway, my view is that if select-fire ARs were suddenly legal, not much would change. Manufacturers would get to charge a premium for the feature, and new owners would rip through a couple of mags their first time out, realize “holy sh*t, this is expensive”, and generally leave their ARs on single-shot after that. After five or so years, everyone except the Brady Bunch would forget why it was even a Federal issue, though bluer states and cities would likely still ban them.

    • “… and new owners would rip through a couple of mags their first time out, realize “holy sh*t, this is expensive…”

      You beat me to the punch. You have to be George Soros to be able to afford full auto.

  4. Thank you for pointing out the Nazi origins of American gun control. Some scoff when Nazi influences are mentioned. A lot of influential people in and out of “our” government really admired Hitler-kindred spirits. Other origins include racism and government laws on what substances people ingest.

    • FDR admired Mussolini back in the early days. This is well-documented but oft forgotten.

      By the way, love your Name.

        • True the Nazis did not start gun control, however it was not the 1928 law that Dodd plagiarized, it was the 1938 law; the one that introduced the Nazi version of the “sporting purpose” test. That was the point I was trying to make, not that the Nazis invented gun control.

      • إبليس ,

        I haven’t read the SSRN paper you linked to yet, but my understanding was that European governments started passing gun control laws after World War I, as a response to

        * concerns about Bolshevism after the Russian Revolution, along with

        * the rise of labor unions, and

        * a lot of young men, who had been trained by their governments to kill, were returning from the war, and they were pretty pissed off about a lot of things

        I wonder if we’re going to see the same dynamic in the next few years, if the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can’t find work or make a decent living, regardless of what happens in November.

        When I was at an “Occupy” protest — as an observer during my lunch hour, not as a participant — I met a veteran of Enduring Freedom who was preaching the Second Amendment. Not what I expected of an “Occupy” protestor.

        One of these days, I’ll have to go to one of those protests with a “Corporations Prefer Unarmed Workers” sign, just to see what type of reaction I get.

  5. I agree with Anon. In the IDF same rule applise single shot only. We got pretty good at a quick double tap center mass. Then move to the next target. Fully auto was for Rambo and the movies.
    He is right though an MG is something else. Even there we would try good trigger control and place a single round on target down range. It isn’t that easy.

      • yes. we had the old m16 that had full auto, not the 3 round burst on the newer ones. in my experience guys tended to just go full auto at the least sign of trouble with very poor results. often the end result was depleted ammo and a weapons malfunction.

      • Pretty much. The Canadian C-7 which I carried is like the M-16A2, except it retains the full-auto of the A1 instead of the three round burst of the A2. With proper trigger control you can still fire bursts, and we did do that from the standing position at 50m, but really what’s the point? If I’m engaging in aimed fire, I want 30 trigger pulls, all of them aimed. Why trade that for 10 trigger pulls?

        The calculation changes in very close quarters, where the assumption that anything in the 180 degree acc in front of you is a legit target. That’s not so applicable in a home, church or school. For what it is worth, a former Army buddy is now a SWAT guy in Canada, and they only use semi-auto weapons (but unlike other Canadian, they get standard capacity mags) – I asked him about it, and his quite sensible position is that he could not see a scenario where going full auto in a crowded city would make sense.

      • Oh it is for like when 500 guys come over the top of the Cairo Embassy. You just line it up along the top of the wall and sweep back and forth.
        So yeah it isn’t used for much, at least not unless you are on a larger gun. They call it area fire which many have said. You could also call it suppressive fire. People tend not to poke their head around walls and such when a 50 cal is beating everything in sight to death.
        It allows you time to reposition.

    • There are certain scenarios in which a WWII infantry unit armed with M-1s, BARs and a smattering of SMGs would do just as well as their contemporary counterparts.

  6. for a large part of our history civilians and military carried basically the same weapons.muzzel loaders, single shot breechloaders and then bolt action, magazine fed rifles, even semi autos.
    it was at full auto that we began to see a divide. i personally think this was because those first full auto’s were crew served and mounted on a carriege or tripod. the average hunter, trapper, farmer or lawman probably saw no practical use for them in their everyday world.
    then hand held full auto weapons became available at about the time that modern mass media and criminal gangs made the 20’s roar.
    basically i see the aversion to full auto weapons as a near “perfect storm” of bad PR.

  7. What causes pants-crapping hysteria when it comes to FA?

    1) Hollywood, and by extension the media. Guns are evil, but FA guns are real evil. Like, double plus evil.

    2) General acquiescence to the idea that “need” has sweet crap all to do with the 2nd Amendment.

    3) Lack of experience, with firearms in general but especially FA firearms, in the general public.

    Some people get that a FA Uzi is safe enough for a small child to operate competently. However, they are a tiny minority. Every step towards the normalization of firearms in society is one step closer to changing hearts and minds on this and any other firearms issue.

  8. The senator who requested the translation is Thomas Dodd, Christopher’s father. Chris Dodd would have been 19 at the time. Incidentally, representative John Dingell is also mentioned as part of this gun control cabal. He took over his father’s congressional set when he died. Makes you wonder if we live in a democracy or an aristrocracy.

  9. Bruce, thanks for this good post.

    “I believe primary culpability can be laid at the feet of the entertainment industry”
    — Agreed. Seldom is anything external to a modern American’s own individual experiences so influential to creating values and opinions as Hollywood.

    “An additional FedGov/ATF cause is the Nazi concept of “sporting purpose” which was enshrined in the Gun Control Act of 1968.”
    — True. It was almost copied and pasted word for word. The JPFO did a great service pointing it out in that linked article. Thanks for linking to it.

  10. I have fired a few different weapons on full auto but only as a famfire. Mostly cause ammo is heavy to load back on the truck and take back to the command. Sign out x amount of rounds, shoot x amount of rounds.

    I was under the belief that the only real advantage to full auto was suppresive fire. Keep the other side heads down during a strategic retreat. Is this wrong?

    • Supppressive fire against mass attacks was the original purpose for which the MG and its Gatling gun predecesso were designed. It was too heavy and bulky to use on the attack, but was a formidable defensive weapon. It was also useful in the initial phases of an attack for suppressive/covering fire to keep the enemy’s heads down.The SMGs were developed primarily for urban warfare, although may were used in the field.

      • Actually, SMGs were initially designed for trench warfare, so you could jump in and spray a trench down with fire. If you think about it, that kind of scenario is great for full-auto. All the targets are lined up in a row, so your chances of hitting something are greatly increased.

  11. I’d want a three round burst option for my 5.56 AR, but not so much for my 6.8 or .50. As it is, they all have bullet buttons. Thanks, California. Getting rid of bullet buttons and allowing standard capacity magazines, as well as shall – issue, would be some change I could believe in.

    • Correct, no bullet buttons or magazine shrinkage for LEO’s. In fact LEO’s can get class III if I believe.

  12. “In coming to a determination, the working group recognized that a shotgun cannot be classified as sporting merely because it may be used for a sporting purpose.”

    It seems to me the insidiousness lies in the fact that any firearm can fail this test.

    • By that ‘logic’, an AR or AK pattern rifle cannot be classified as an assault weapon merely because it may be used for the purpose of committing an assault. Therefore ‘assault weapons’ cannot exist, nor can ‘sporting’ weapons. If this is true, then 2a must protect both types of firearms.

  13. Thank you for calling attention to the fact that Americans are being subjected to Nazi gun laws that were passed in preparation for committing mass murder.

    Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership is a solid group, and I advise anybody who wants to preserve our rights to consider joining. I bought the $40 two year membership and they sent me a whole box full of goodies. JPFO.ORG

  14. Jerry Tsai owns Valkyrie Tactical, which also happens to have horrible customer service according to their Facebook page.

    Thought that might be somewhat relevant…

  15. Another thing about this topic, let’s visit the Violence Policy Center and see what they have to say about automatics and semi-automatics.

    3. Civilian assault weapons are not machine guns. They are semiautomatic weapons. (Since 1986 federal law has banned the sale to civilians of new machine guns.) The trigger of a semiautomatic weapon must be pulled separately for each round fired. It is a mistake to call civilian assault weapons “automatic weapons” or “machine guns.”

    4. This is a distinction without a difference in terms of killing power. Civilian
    semiautomatic assault weapons incorporate all of the functional design features that make assault weapons so deadly. They are arguably more deadly than military versions, because most experts agree that semiautomatic fire is more accurate than automatic fire.

    Wow, what a surprising amount of truthful information, although it is still encompassed with misleading information. But there, it’s settled. VPC agrees that automatic weapons are no more deadly than semi-autos. Finally, we are finding some common ground. Wink.

  16. “3 hits out of 30 rounds in about 3 seconds on full auto compared to 4 hits in 4 shots in about 4 seconds on semi.”

    Yikes, that can be a case *against* full auto. Too many misses that could hit human backstops.

  17. Nevermind my ½ cent’s worth, here’s a few words from the Founders of the former Constitutional Republic of these United States, ( now morphed into a Federalized Dictatorship ) with regard to the intent and purpose for other statements made in what’s known ( to those who know about it ) as the U.S. Bill of Rights.
    Excerpt as follows from the little known and very rarely mentioned ‘Preamble’ to the ‘Bill of Rights’.
    “THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.”

    For those who may have missed it the first time, try readin’ it through again slowly payin’ careful attention to those key words and phrases in it.
    Misconstruction and abuse of powers? What? Our government? Unimaginable for sure.
    So what’s a declaratory and restrictive clause look like anyway?
    Here’s one.
    Amendment II
    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    Since we’re talking principles and laws here, under the category of reasonable questions with regard to all those reasonable gun control laws written and passed into law from the Federal level, here’s a couple of Q’s just for starters. Where’s the constitutionally-specified authority for gun control laws passed from the Federal level and which of the gun control laws in force are abuses of those few powers afforded to fedgov?
    Oh, and btw, what in the world were those now long dead white guys thinking when they stated a well regulated militia was necessary to the security of a free State, and why did they use the word ‘arms’ instead of just Fire-Arms?
    And finally on this one, a State free from what, exactly?
    Just asking.

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