Assault weapon vs. assault rifle: What is the difference?

Guns that fall under the SAFE Act's definition of assault weapons that were purchased before January 15, 2013, and registered with state police before April 15, 2014, are legal to own. No new machine guns can be made or sold to civilians.

Since the Orlando massacre early Sunday morning, pro-gun pundits have come out in force to argue that the weapon used in the attack is not an assault rifle.

It wasn't supposed to be this way, of course. The initial AR-15 (AR standing for ArmaLite Rifle), designed by Eugene Stoner in the late 1950s used a system called "direct impingement".

Opponents of a ban say semi-automatic rifles and pistols are good for hunting, target shooting and self-defense, and that a prohibition would infringe on the constitutional right to bear arms while doing little to prevent crime.

Chambered in a.223 cartridge (meaning the bullet diameter is about.5cm), the AR-15's projectile velocity, depending on the type of ammunition, can be upward of 975m per second and is accurate up to about 460m.

So what is an assault weapon, how does it work and how is it different than an assault rifle? Because it's easy to load, customize - websites like offer a slew of customizing accessories, including pink accent pieces - and carry, it's the same base model used by the US military, which is how it came into existence in the first place.

The left thinks any two-handed black gun is an AR-15. The attack killed 49 people and wounded 53. The barred anyone from buying new assault weapons, naming dozens of models including the AR-15 in the ban.

The M-16 was used by US soldiers in Vietnam. It was initially notorious for jamming during combat, but it has evolved over the years into a modern firearm favored by soldiers and civilians.

While Florida doesn't have barriers to purchasing the kind of military-style rifle Mateen used, a short-lived federal law regulating that kind of weapon could have complicated his purchase.

Smith & Wesson is also a prominent manufacturer, with its M&P (military & police) line of AR-15s. While people have found ways to convert AR-15s to selective fire firearms, they aren't readily available, nor are they legal. They have limited recoil, which helps with accuracy.

Gun enthusiasts, who often shoot for sport at ranges, use the term "modular" when describing ARs because they can be easily modified with a plethora of add-ons including sights, silencers, handles, bipods, sling mounts, lights, bayonet lugs and Lego-like rails to attach even more add-ons.

A Georgia lawmaker, state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver of metro Atlanta, is renewing her efforts to restrict the sale of assault rifles, large-capacity magazines, and armor-piercing bullets in Georgia.

The history of assault weapon bans is murkier than many might remember. In fact, a new study using data from a Denver hospital showed that gunshot injuries have become more severe over the past decade and that there have been more deaths from gunshot wounds at the trauma center at the hospital during that time period.

The ban gave the state - which is home to several gunmakers including Colt, which is based in Hartford and first manufactured the AR-15 - some of the strictest gun laws in the country.

  • Jack Mann