Talk:Assault rifle

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Definition of assault rifleEdit

While the military has a definition, the Merriam Webster dictionary also uses the colloquial definition commonly used in the media and understood by the population. The AR-15 is an assault rifle under the Merriam Webster dictionary definition. Whether NRA flacks are out here or not, a properly cited definition from Merriam-Webster should not be reverted. Please undo your reversion or I will soon. Also, cite your sources on the various examples of what is an what isn't an assault rifle, or that also will be removed.Farcaster (talk) 21:06, 26 May 2018 (UTC)

  • OPPOSE CHANGE. We don't go by the colloquial definition given by Merriam Webster but by the internationally accepted and widely used technical definition of "assault rifle". So don't even try to make your edit again... - Tom | Thomas.W talk 21:09, 26 May 2018 (UTC)
It isn't up to you to decide which factual citations to include or exclude. That isn't your call. Put it in context if you want, but that's the definition whether you like it or not.Farcaster (talk) 21:46, 26 May 2018 (UTC)
@Farcaster: It is up to other editors to decide whether you can add it or not (see WP:CONSENSUS). There is no free speech on Wikipedia... - Tom | Thomas.W talk 22:49, 26 May 2018 (UTC)
Then you truly don't understand what we do out here; factual additions from credible sources is what Wikipedia is all about. Find a way to work it in if you like this article.Farcaster (talk) 02:45, 27 May 2018 (UTC)
@Farcaster: Oh yes, I truly do understand what "we do out here". Per WP:UNDUE being sourced is not a reason by itself to include anything. "Neutrality requires that each article or other page in the mainspace fairly represent all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources, in proportion to the prominence of each viewpoint in the published, reliable sources" (my emphasis), which means that the very recent addition of a "colloquial definition" on Merriam Webster doesn't merit even a mention in the article, considering that the technical definition of assault rifle has been used for ~70 years, is used worldwide, and is used in all technical literature/sources. - Tom | Thomas.W talk 07:46, 27 May 2018 (UTC)
  • OPPOSE CHANGE...For 74 years the term "Assault Rifle" has had a fixed technical definition as stated in the article. The Merriam Webster definition was only changed a couple of months ago. Also, the "Whether NRA flacks are out here or not," comment indicates potential soapboxing. --RAF910 (talk) 21:57, 26 May 2018 (UTC)
I've added several other dictionary entries below that indicate the civilian model is part of the definition.Farcaster (talk) 03:28, 20 June 2018 (UTC)
Interestingly, in another article from the same source they refer to the civilian model as an assault rifle. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Assault-Weapons-1961494 Farcaster (talk) 03:28, 20 June 2018 (UTC)
  • Oppose edit - That was a really bad edit, it said M-W defines it as a semi-auto variant of a military assault rifle. WTH? The actual definition is "any of various intermediate-range, magazine-fed military rifles (such as the AK-47) that can be set for automatic or semiautomatic fire; also : a rifle that resembles a military assault rifle but is designed to allow only semiautomatic fire". Note the "also". The also is important. You don't phrase an alternate meaning as the dictionary giving that as the proper definition of the term. Trash edit. —DIYeditor (talk) 00:34, 27 May 2018 (UTC)
You guys are quite capable of looking at other dictionary entries, which I've done for you to show most dictionaries include the civilian models in the term.Farcaster (talk) 03:28, 20 June 2018 (UTC)
  • Comment Support We describe that which appears prominently in reliable sources, rather than prescribing the "correct" definition. Definitions change over time. Merriam-Webster doesn't change or add to definitions on a whim, so I wouldn't consider this to be a mistake or oversight. My recommendation would be to focus on the conventional military/technical terminology but also mention that the term is sometimes used to refer to a wider range of non-select-fire rifles. –dlthewave 02:47, 27 May 2018 (UTC)
Exactly. It's ridiculous, inconceivable to remove the Merriam-Webster definition of an assault rifle because somebody likes the military definition better. Of course you include both, and discuss them in proper context. Not sure why this one is even under debate.Farcaster (talk) 02:24, 27 May 2018 (UTC)
Comment - The consensus, as defined states otherwise. M-W is the only one I see that states that secondary definition. What about the source I gave? Reb1981 (talk) 02:30, 27 May 2018 (UTC)
My problem with your edit is that you tried to make it (twice, why twice?) read like M-W said the primary definition of assault rifle is of a semi-automatic. M-W does not define it that way, it notes that it is also used for that meaning. Their primary definition is of the military selective fire type. I don't have a problem with noting that some people use assault rifle to mean semi-automatic versions of assault rifles (although usually I think they use the made up term "assault weapon"), I have a huge problem with how you phrased that edit. It was very sloppy. You would say that M-W offers an alternative definition of semi-auto not that M-W defines it as semi-auto. If this was intentional on your part it is one of the most misleading edits I have seen on Wikipedia. —DIYeditor (talk) 02:33, 27 May 2018 (UTC)"
If you like alternate language I'm open to that, to point out there are various definitions. Here is verbatim what M-W says: "also: a rifle that resembles a military assault rifle but is designed to allow only semiautomatic fire." I'll forgive your nonsense about sloppy, reads beautifully.Farcaster (talk) 02:50, 27 May 2018 (UTC)
M-W defines assault rifle as... anything other than selective fire rifles is not accurate and does not read beautifully. I might personally agree with incorporating the alternative definition but consensus above was that the change was not appropriate. —DIYeditor (talk) 03:13, 27 May 2018 (UTC)
The consensus doesn't really matter and you're a big part of it. You make the edit and it will stay. Ignoring a M-W definition and massive usage of the term in the media should be mentioned, obviously. Don't know why this is even up for discussion; it's fundamental. In fact, one could easily argue that the historical military definition is the one mistaken, as the vast majority of Americans would call an AR-15 an assault rifle. You guys have it backwards.Farcaster (talk) 15:28, 27 May 2018 (UTC)
By making very broad assumptions and not addressing the actual policies you are violating, is not going to persuade any editors.-72bikers (talk) 17:03, 27 May 2018 (UTC)
  • OPPOSE CHANGE.I agree with editor -RAF910, Tom, Reb1981, DIYeditor. The term was born out of a new military weapon during WW2. If one source tries to change the term is no sound reason to promote this view. all of the guns here are military rifles, to attempt to make the civilian AR 15 rifle on equal grounds of military rifles would mislead the readers, so to do so would be a big mistake.

One source that would attempt to contradict numerous sources with the length of time of this accepted view would try to place undue weight. The WP:BALASP policy states "An article should not give undue weight to minor aspects of its subject, but should strive to treat each aspect with a weight proportional to its treatment in the body of reliable, published material on the subject. For example, discussion of isolated events, criticisms, or news reports about a subject may be verifiable and impartial , but still disproportionate to their overall significance to the article topic . This is a concern especially in relation to recent events that may be in the news ." -72bikers (talk) 16:50, 27 May 2018 (UTC)

  • Oppose: The M&W change has been noted as questionable and politically motivated. [[1]] When it comes to technical definitions dictionaries aren't always the most reliable sources. We shouldn't change long established definition based on the recent whims of an editor. Springee (talk) 19:05, 27 May 2018 (UTC)
  • Oppose per WP:NOTDIC. We have one article per subject, not one article per word or phrase. The subject described by the alternate, less technical definition is covered at assault weapon. VQuakr (talk) 17:13, 31 May 2018 (UTC)

SUPPORT I'd like to see the dictionary definitions reflected in the article that indicate assault rifle and assault weapon overlap. If the concern is undue weight from a single source, here are several dictionary definitions that indicate the term "assault rifle" includes the civilian models:

  • The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition: "Any of various intermediate-range, magazine-fed military rifles (such as the AK-47) that can be set for automatic or semiautomatic fire; also: a rifle that resembles a military assault rifle but is designed to allow only semiautomatic fire."
  • The American Heritage dictionary definition: "1. A rifle that has a detachable magazine and is capable of both automatic and semiautomatic fire, designed for individual use in combat. 2. An assault weapon having a rifled bore and a shoulder stock."
  • Dictionary.com: "1. a military rifle capable of both automatic and semiautomatic fire, utilizing an intermediate-power cartridge. 2. A nonmilitary weapon modeled on the military assault rifle, usually modified to allow only semiautomatic fire."
  • Collins English dictionary: "a firearm that is capable of firing multiple rounds in a very short period."
  • The Oxford dictionary definition: "A lightweight rifle developed from the sub-machine gun, which may be set to fire automatically or semi-automatically." As you all can see, only 1 of the 5 has the exclusive narrow military definition alone.Farcaster (talk) 02:46, 20 June 2018 (UTC)
The MW definition was changed only earlier this year and isn't consistent with expert sources. We should stick to expert definitions vs dictionary definitions when there are discrepancies. The second AH definition is non-sensical as it would apply to virtually any rifle including the youth Cricket single shot .22 rifle. [[2]]. The Cricket has a rifled bore and a shoulder stock. "Assault weapon" is not defined in the AH entry. D.com is following the recent MW change. Again, this conflicts with expert definitions. The CE definition is again nonsensical as it would apply to any semi-automatic .22 rifle and arguably a number of bolt action, pump action or lever action rifles. The Oxford definition is the only one that is more or less aligned with expert definitions. Farcaster, at this point please WP:DROPTHESTICK. Springee (talk) 03:42, 20 June 2018 (UTC)
Wikipedia is about factual sources, not what you think about factual sources. I've made the case that the common definitions include the civilian models.Farcaster (talk) 11:05, 20 June 2018 (UTC)
Expert sources trump vague dictionary definitions. Consensus trumps your quest. WP:DROPTHESTICK Springee (talk) 11:17, 20 June 2018 (UTC)
Several editors above based their view assuming only one source said this, but now I've made it clear there are several dictionaries that say the same thing. Rather than exclude, why not point this out in the body of the article, perhaps in the discussion about the differences between assault rifles and assault weapons? Something like: "While the historical definition of assault rifle is X, several dictionaries now include civilian variants of the military weapons in the definition." Why is this controversial, now that you know how the various dictionaries define the term?Farcaster (talk) 11:58, 20 June 2018 (UTC)

A general-audience dictionary is not a suitable source for defining a technical term. Let's look at Merriam-Webster's definition of "gasoline:"

"a volatile flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture used as a fuel especially for internal combustion engines and usually blended from several products of natural gas and petroleum"

Now going by this definition, kerosene, diesel and fuel oil are all gasoline. You want to go add that to those pages? Bones Jones (talk) 18:57, 27 August 2018 (UTC)

Bones you would be correct only if the MW definition said "any volatile flammable liquid..." not "a volatile flammable liquid...". In fact the MW definition is exactly correct, and no it doesn't mean in any way that the MW definition indicates that kerosene, diesel, etc are the same thing - this is the logical fallacy of "affirming the consequent". Since your argument is based on a logical fallacy, I see no reason that a general-audience dictionary should not be a suitable source for defining any term, technical or not. Additionally, given that there are literally thousands of mass media news articles published in the last week alone that use this term with no qualification or technical explanation, I'm not sure how you would still qualify this as a "technical term" at all. --20twende (talk) 17:51, 6 August 2019 (UTC)
No, that's not correct at all. If you define "cat" as "a creature with four legs and teeth," you have just defined a "cat" in such a way that a dog ("a creature with four legs and teeth") is a cat. The affirmation of the consequent argument would be to conclude that a dog is therefore a cat, while my argument is that this shows the definition, as given, is not sufficient to define what precisely a "cat" is such that it is distinct from any other thing. In this case, if I have "a volatile flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture used as a fuel especially for internal combustion engines and usually blended from several products of natural gas and petroleum" in front of me, that thing is not necessarily going to be gasoline. It's ok as a layman's definition, but deeply useless if I'm, say, trying to run a refinery. This is why you have subject-area dictionaries for technical disciplines, because it is recognised that a general-audience dictionary is not sufficiently precise. Bones Jones (talk) 07:29, 2 November 2019 (UTC)

QUESTION. The consensus above was that the MW definition was not a suitable definition and should not be sourced. However, within that consensus it is clear that the MW definition has conflated Assault Rifle with Assault Weapon. Therefore it seems logical to include it under the conflation section. Its a major issue for an American dictionary to mix up a definition under political pretext. I had attempted to add it, when another user cited this discussion. However, this discussion seems to relate to the primary definition at the start of the article.CrescentHawk (talk) 18:44, 2 January 2019 (UTC)

There seems to be consensus not to use the MW definition in the article, but a statement such as the one that you added, "On March 31 2018, Webster Dictionary knowingly conflated the terms by including a semiautomatic weapon under the definition of assault rifle after the Parkland Shooting", would need to be supported by a reliable source. –dlthewave 20:52, 2 January 2019 (UTC)
Looking through news articles, only two sources seem to exist at the time - American Military News & the Federalist. Would either be considered a reliable source? CrescentHawk (talk) 21:45, 2 January 2019 (UTC)
You might want to post links here to the two specific sources that you're interested in citing for the statement, so that other editors can examine the information in context. Regards, AzureCitizen (talk) 22:35, 2 January 2019 (UTC)
I would be concerned about including this as some sort of controversy. I understand that some see it as a PC move by MW. That might be true. However, it's also possible MW added the second definition only because they have some method for deciding when language has evolved and thus the common parlance definition has extended beyond the expert definition. So MW may not be trying to push a new definition so much as just responding to how others are evolving the term. Given that the claims imply an agenda on the part of MW I would argue that WP:EXTRAORDINARY would apply to any inclusion. Springee (talk) 03:48, 3 January 2019 (UTC)
You may be right in that the links I've found are gun sources (no other media brought attention to the change at the time) - http://thefederalist.com/2018/03/31/merriam-webster-online-dictionary-changes-definition-assault-rifle/ and also https://www.gunsamerica.com/digest/merriam-webster-definition-assault-rifle/. CrescentHawk (talk) 23:39, 3 January 2019 (UTC)


I have added a badly needed POV flag to this article. There are many reasonable requests below to address the fact that modern american English uses this phrase very differently from the antiquated military usage, and I have added multiple, well-sourced edits that would help to clarify this which have been reverted for spurious reasons. In particular, please note that:

(1) The main sources for this definition date to WWII, and appears as a newly-authored military definition as late as 49 years ago, but I can find no more recently authored sources that stick solely to this definition. We all know that language changes more frequently than once a century or so, especially for frequently used verbiage, so there is no reason to assert that this usage should still be the only valid definition and/or usage of the term (2) I have spoken with US military personnel, they neither use nor were even aware of, this particular definition of the term, nor where other avid gun owners/users that I spoke with (3) Merriam Webster, Dictionary.com, and other MAIN language definition sources have been updated to include the alternative definitions that this article has stubbornly resisted (4) I did a study, pulling up the top 10 articles containing the phrase "assault rifle" from news.google.com. All 10, 100% of my sample, were using the phrase in the alternative definition that includes semi-automatic rifles. The simple fact is that modern American journalism has redefined this phrase almost completely (I would suggest that, based on this trend, the alternative definition will soon become the primary definition)

To fail to include this alternative definition, and even more so to even fail to acknowledge this alternative definition, this article takes the stance primarily promoted by gun manufacturers and gun-rights advocacy groups, which oppose of the alternative, more wide-ranging usage of the phrase because they feels it reflects poorly on the products they sell or own (or want to have unregulated ownership of). This does not meet Wikipedia's neutrality standard as I understand it.

In case you want to attack my own neutrality I am a gun owner, hunter, and NRA member - I just happen to think that this pedantic argument over the definition of this term serves only to hinder a productive discussion about firearm safety and regulation (ok, and also produce endless smug and insufferable commentary from so-called experts who frequently cite this page as a source) --20twende (talk) 17:30, 6 August 2019 (UTC)

The change is not a good idea Scrambling the distinction and common meaning is not useful. "Assault rifle" referring to weapons suitable for military use, including selective fire which is the common way to say "capable of fully automatic fire". Vs. "Assault weapon" a common term in the US with no specific definition / widely varying uses in the US, one common one being "look-alikes" that do not have the above capability. North8000 (talk) 18:26, 8 August 2019 (UTC)

There is no need to "scramble the distinction", the article simply needs to acknowledge that there is a military usage for this term and also (more recently) a common meaning, which are different. You can see from the edit history that I added 3 separate edits, with citations, exactly attempting to clarify this distinction - that there is a military term and now the same term ("assault rifle", not "assault weapon") is being commonly used in all modes of American English to denote weapons that do not meet that military definition, and instead includes certain semi-automatic rifles as well. Each time those edits were nearly instantly reverted. If this article seeks to define "Assault Rifle", it must acknowledge the separate usages/meanings. You can gripe all you want that the media is conflating the terms "assault Rifle" with "assault weapon", but the simple fact is that the term "assault rifle" has been commonly used for many years in a way that is not consistent with the military definition. Languages change, and outdated military manuals and history books cannot be used to control those changes. Imagine the confusion of an average citizen, when hearing in the media that an assault rifle was used in a mass shooting in El Paso, who then looks at this page to see that an "assault rifle" must be capable of automatic fire (meaning a gun illegal to buy in the US) only to find out that the gun was in fact legal to acquire and own. From my perspective, failure to acknowledge this alternative definition can only be politically motivated, as it would only serve the purposes of the gun lobby and gun-rights activists, who dislike the term being applied to currently legal weapons.--20twende (talk) 02:00, 9 August 2019 (UTC)
We are not a dictionary. We write articles about subjects, not words. We define the subject of this article in the first sentence of the lead, and there is not a consensus to change the subject of this article. That isn't a NPOV issue. VQuakr (talk) 03:09, 9 August 2019 (UTC)
I opposed it when this topic was discussed nearly a year back and my view hasn't changed. The scope of the article is clear. Yes, some sources incorrectly describe semi-auto rifles as assault rifles. However, adding that scope to this topic would make a mess. I do lament that Wikipedia doesn't have a good article for civilian rifles that are commonly referred to as assault weapons. I believe the article that is now the AR-15 style rifle article used to cover the topic before the name was changed. Anyway, I would support creating such an article but this isn't it. Springee (talk) 02:41, 9 August 2019 (UTC)
I disagree with the arguments and oppose the change. Assault rifles have had and continue to have a specific military meaning. Assault weapons have a general political and legal meaning. The two subjects are just different. Conflating the two in one article is an invitation to constant edit warring. And to be clear about my own neutrality, I am neither a gun owner nor NRA member.---- Work permit (talk) 12:46, 9 August 2019 (UTC)

Also, if we made the change, we would have one article that is about two completely different topics. Completely different legally (one is legal for civilians to own in the US and one isn't) functionally, (one is fully automatic ("machine gun")capable and the other isn't and usage (one is used by the military and not civilians, the other is used by civilians but not by the military) North8000 (talk) 18:42, 9 August 2019 (UTC)

Feedback from an outsider looking in: I came here specifically to learn about the definition of "Assault Rifle," and I don't think you've settled it. You have references, but I find it hard to believe they all use the exact same definition. For the sake of objectivity, it would be helpful to see some contrasting descriptions, so I can get a better understanding of what the term could mean in different contexts. Also, a user in this discussion says "the military has a definition," but there are multiple militaries around the world, and I don't see any official military publications cited in the article. (A book written by a military member is not the same as an official military publication, which is where an actual military definition would be.) I have no idea where you would find this definition, but it would be great if this article could state something like "According to the British Army, an assault rifle is..." and then cite official UK Army doctrine. (BTW, https://www.army.mod.uk does not list an "assault rifle," but it does list an "assault boat," which would be a fun addition to the assault weapon page.) I'm not making any edits, just giving you some reader perspective. Canute (talk) 14:01, 8 June 2020 (UTC)

Attribution to Adolf HilterEdit

The translation of "Sturmgewehr" as "assault rifle" is inaccurate, and appears to be politically motivated. A "Storm" in German is an infantry unit; it does not mean "assault" (nor does it translate correctly as "storm"). A correct translate of Sturmgewehr would be "infantry rifle." — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2605:6000:120A:962:F46F:1EF5:E045:9508 (talk) 02:30, 30 September 2019 (UTC)

  • Oh blah blah, "politically motivated", sure. The article doesn't say "Sturmgewehr" means "assault rifle", so there, nor is Hitler involved here.

    If you have a moment: "Sturm" means "storm". "Storm" in German means nothing; it's a name. The name "Sturmgewehr" does have a Hitlerian connection, according to one of the sources in StG 44, and you can find that here also. So, I'd say study German and read books. Drmies (talk) 02:33, 30 September 2019 (UTC)

Sturm=Storm, gewehr=rifle, literally storm rifle. It’s function though was to serve as a weapon of shock, in an assault. So Assault rifle is a fairly inaccurate translation, most languages have words that are not able to be literally translated into English and vice versa, so reasonable approximations have to be made.Oldperson (talk) 02:58, 30 September 2019 (UTC)
Supporting translation of Sturmgewehr as assault rifle. Check linguee, or Leo, which both agree; and, as Drmies already pointed out, the article Stg 44. Mathglot (talk) 07:53, 30 September 2019 (UTC)
In addition there is outside precedent for "sturm=assault" in the form of Sturmgeschütz which is almost universally translated as "assault gun." "Sturm" is as in "to storm a castle" and so is rendered in English as either "storm" or "assault:" "assault" is a better translation because it shows the precise sense in which "storm" is being used. I believe OP is thinking of Sturmtruppen which is usually translated as "stormtroopers." Also, it was already being called an assault rifle in 1945. Bones Jones (talk) 08:06, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
Sturm does mean both a strong wind and "assault" (as well as a few other meanings), see the Duden entry. In this case "assault" is better than "storm" since it can't be mistaken to mean "strong wind". Sjö (talk) 09:52, 19 June 2020 (UTC)
We have Sturmgewehr to translate, not Sturm Gewehr. Even then Sturm in military context translates to assault (eine Position stürmen = assault a position)--Denniss (talk) 10:50, 19 June 2020 (UTC)

False Naming; "Assault rifle"Edit

There is no such thing as an “Assault Rifle”.

“AR” comes from Armalite, Inc; “Armalite Rifle”

Armalite/Fairchild/Colt built rifles for the military an designated them using the letters “AR-xx” representing an Armalite Rifle model xx.

“Assault rife” should be removed from Wikipedia.

VJS Vjsimone (talk) 17:23, 18 September 2020 (UTC)

The article is full of citations from reliable published sources that disagree with the assertion that "There is no such thing as an 'Assault Rifle'." BilCat (talk) 17:38, 18 September 2020 (UTC)
Oh, for cryin' out loud—it's a descriptive term, not a trademark. And, yeah, BilCat is right: there is such a thing as an "assault rifle". I see them all the time, too, especially in the hands of military personnel. — UncleBubba T @ C ) 18:56, 18 September 2020 (UTC)

@Vjsimone: Perhaps what you meant is that the "AR" in "AR-15" does not stand for "assault rifle" and that an AR-15 is not an assault rifle. I'd agree with you there, but not with your main assertion. North8000 (talk) 19:12, 18 September 2020 (UTC)

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