If you somehow haven’t noticed, one of the most controversial firearm accessories these days are “bump fire stocks,” which a few states have hastily outlawed along with a supposed impending (at the time of this writing) federal ban pending according to the current administration.
In the current political climate, many people want to see bump stocks banned.
Such devices were used to carry out the Oct. 1, 2017 massacre outside the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino in Las Vegas, by a shooter who took aim at the crowd from his hotel room. This has led to gun control advocates and elected officials who want to score points with those gun control advocates calling for a ban.
Whether Trump is serious or not remains to be seen. But we still get plenty of questions about bump fire stocks so a refresher with some accurate information is in order.
For the total newbie, you’ve no doubt heard some exaggerated or otherwise conflicting information. Contrary to popular belief, a bump fire stock does not convert a semi-automatic rifle to a machine gun. It does, however, simulate it.
How does a bump stock do that? By means of a fairly simple mechanical trick. It does not a fully automatic weapon make, but it comes as close as you can without needing the license.
A bump fire stock basically adds a buffer to the stock. A bump fire stock fully attaches to the buffer tube, but doesn’t fully attach to the lower receiver. Instead, most designs attach to the trigger guard (behind the trigger) via a hook on the left side of the grip. The allows the gun to travel inside the stock housing during the recoil cycle, but also acts as a buffer.
During a normal recoil cycle, the butt of the rifle is driven backward into the shooter. With the addition of the bump fire stock, the gun basically bounces back inside the stock housing itself, sliding forward until the trigger makes contact with the shooting hand. The trigger guard hook acts as a shelf for the trigger finger, allowing the shooter to keep their trigger finger stationary rather than having to continually pull the trigger for each shot.
The rapid fire effect is achieved by pushing the trigger with the trigger finger and holding the rifle to the shoulder while pulling with the support hand. A vertical fore grip makes the process easier.
The push-pull action of the hands, combined with the travel of the rifle inside the stock results in the stationary trigger finger depressing the trigger much more rapidly than would otherwise be possible, creating a rapid fire effect in a rifle that is otherwise not select-fire capable. It’s still one round fired for each trigger pull, but the process happens more rapidly.
It’s fairly simple, really; a bump stock lets the rifle move back and forth which – combined with the push-pull movement and a stationary trigger finger – basically achieves faster fire without needing a permission slip. The ATF, for their part, looked at bump fire stocks years ago and certified them as legal under the law.
However, there are a few things that you should know about bump-fire stocks prior to purchasing one (while you still can).
True select-fire-capable firearms actually operate at a much higher cyclic rate, meaning they fire many more rounds per minute than a bump stock-equipped rifle does. An M16/M4 with full automatic capability has a cyclic rate somewhere between 750 and 1000 rounds per minute, depending on specifications.
The typical bump fire stock will yield a cyclic rate of less than 300 rounds per minute, though it does so with a standard semi-automatic firearm.
Also, accuracy is severely impeded because you aren’t holding the rifle as you normally would to enable accurate fire. Bump fire stocks wouldn’t be viable in a military setting or law enforcement setting; these devices are basically for civilian enthusiasts to experience something like full auto at the range when they otherwise would be prohibited from doing so.
Additionally – and this is important – sustained use of a bump fire stock can damage your rifle, most likely the barrel. A quality barrel can take more punishment than a lower quality barrel, but bear in mind that actual light machine guns for military use are designed for quick barrel changes to preserve accuracy and function. Your AR-15 wasn’t designed with that in mind. Thus, use with caution.
One shouldn’t think of guns as “toys.” Recreational shooting is fun, to be sure, but guns, like any tool, can be dangerous if used irresponsibly or – worse – with malice. That said, bump fire stocks are basically “range toys” in the sense that they have no real practical purpose outside of basically burning through a lot of ammo. They’re made for fun, and for fun alone.
Unfortunately, a few found their way into the hands of a madman in October of 2017, resulting in the tragedy of the Las Vegas shooting. That was the only time one had been used in a crime in the eight-plus years that they’ve been available to the public. We may never know the full story behind the Las Vegas shooter, as his reasoning is now between him and whatever deity he conceived there to be.
For the rest of us, there’s a good possibility these devices will be banned by federal law in the near future, as bump stock bans receive both Republican and Democratic support and have not been strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association. They are already banned at the state level at the time of this writing in California, New Jersey, Vermont, Florida, Maryland, Hawaii and Washington state, and some selected cities. So now you know.