There can be various reasons for people’s escalating interest in the assault rifles. You can be a gun aficionado, a major gamer, a first-time learner or just an inquisitive spectator like me who wants to know more about the much discussed weapon. There are various complicated definitions and descriptions for these primary offensive weapons, though; I would like to stick to the simplest explanation possible to avoid any complication or perplexity. In the most lucid language, the assault rifles can be described as the fully automatic military weapons with an effective range of approximately 300 metres, and with the capability of controlled fire from the shoulder.
Before we proceed, let us give a glance to the few essentials that any firearm must satisfy before it can be characterized as an assault rifle. The foremost requirement, that is, the provision to fire form the shoulder, has already been discussed above. Apart from this, the weapon should be capable of selective fire with the use of an intermediate power cartridge (between that of the pistol and the traditional rifle). The assault rifles are also known to fire from a closed bolt with the breach locked and the ammunition for the weapon is generally supplied from a detachable box magazine.
Other than the above-mentioned characteristics, the assault rifles also possess a protruding pistol grip and a muzzle device. However, these features are also common to other automatic rifles, semi-automatic weapons, battle rifles, machine guns and submachine guns. These attributes are therefore, not exclusive to the assault rifles. More recently, almost all the assault rifles are found to be equipped with bayonet, optical or night vision facility and sometimes even underbarrel grenade launcher or rifle grenade launcher.
Some people also categorize the assault rifles somewhere between light machine guns and submachine guns. However, the assault rifles typically exclude the weapons like submachine guns that are designed around the pistol cartridges and also the traditional and powerful military rifles. The submachine guns are excluded on the grounds that they do not generate the required muzzle energy to meet the range requirement. Contrarily, the military rifles are also not included because it will be impossible to control their recoil after full automatic fire from the shoulder. This leads to the use of a cartridge intermediate in power between pistol and powerful rifles.
Used as the standard small arms in most modern armed forces, these assault rifles are believed to be the products of a mature technology with little or no expectations of any further technological changes. In most of the countries, these weapons are designed with bull-pup configuration with the exception of Germany and Russia that have stuck to the conventional model together with the bull-pup styles. Though, the conventional models look a little more conservative in comparison to the latest Austrian or Israeli model, still they retain the same value and functionality as the latter.
Talking of the bull-pup configuration, it would be wise if we pay a little attention to this term too. As the name suggests, the arms with this configuration have the bull plate attached directly to the receiver and the handle with the trigger being placed ahead of the magazine veil. With such a vast use of technology in such arms, only minor improvements are possible in the field, that can help to defeat the body armor with the use of armor piercing bullets, or more powerful cartridges and the use of exotic metals like titanium or scandium. The heights of development in this field can be achieved with the advent of caseless ammunition that can reduce both the weight and cost of shell casings in these rifles. A vague idea but an incredible concept, the invention of such ammunition for the assault rifles can be a real breakthrough in itself if such research turns out to be successful.
The concept of the assault rifle began when Russian armorer, col. Fedorov designed the small-bore selective fire rifle with detachable box magazine in the year 1910. Initially, the small caliber 6.5 mm cartridge was used for this rifle but was later replaced with the Japanese 6.5mm Arisaka load, a less powerful but an easily available cartridge. These assault rifles were in rigorous use in the Russian and Soviet army till the year 1925 until the invention of the medium-power cartridge in Germany in the year 1930. These cartridges were lighter and could be fired much easily and more accurately in the full-auto mode. After a few more developments in 1943 and 1945, came the AK-1947 – the world’s first successful and most widely used assault rifle.
After this brief discussion on the history of assault rifles, let me stress on another important issue – the misconception that arises between assault rifles and assault weapons. The assault weapons, generally a political term, describe a variety of semi-automatic fire-arms that can accept a detachable magazine. The assault weapon’s ban of 1994, restricted only to the semi-automatic firearms and did not include the fully automatic assault rifles and machine guns.
Finally, the most important question, how to select the assault rifles for different situations. The selection process here is a little different from the normal, where the bigger is not always the better. You cannot also bet at the fast, light and cheap product as a single tool is not efficient at doing every job. However, the selection procedure, of the assault rifles can be based on some important criteria. The first important requirement is the dependability of the rifle, that is, how well can it perform in different environments. The other criteria is the accuracy in the functioning of the assault rifle.
The other selection criteria is based on the ergonomics, weight of the rifle, weight of the ammo and bullet trajectory. The multiple set ups of the rifle for different tactical situations, the low recoiling capability, and the availability of the replacement parts are also something to be looked into while selecting the assault rifles. Last but not the least, the ability of the assault rifles to penetrate the different types of materials also counts while selecting this special weapon. These are the few important factors that goes into selecting the assault rifles for survival use.