Those Deadly, Depressing, SyncopatednSemiautomatic Assault Rifle BluesnThe semiautomatic rifle has been part of the Americannscene for nearly a century. In 1903 the WinchesternRepeating Arms Company marketed the first commerciallynsuccessful semiautomatic rifle. It was not designed as anmilitary arm, and no sales were made to the US Army. Thennew rifle was marketed among sportsmen and touted as angreat technical improvement over the lever- and bolt-actionnweapons that had dominated hunting since the post-CivilnWar period. Only in 1939 did the United States Army beginnlarge-scale issue of a recently adopted semiautomatic riflen(the famous M-1 Garand), and it was not until thenmid-1960’s that the American military adopted a selectivefiren”assault rifle” (the initially problem-plagued M-16) as itsnnew standard small arm.nEighty-six years after the first Winchester semiautomaticnrifle left the factory and entered a private citizen’s hands, thennation has been convulsed by a wave of controversy andndeliberately induced hysteria over the alleged menace of thenprivately-owned “semiautomatic assault rifle.” The resultnhas been massive confusion on the part of the nonshootingnpublic, generated in large measure by the ignorance,nincompetence, and poorly concealed bias of a national newsnmedia working in concert with an alliance of social activistsnW^yne R. Austerman writes from Colorado Springs.nAn Exercise in Calculated Hysterianby Wayne R. Austermannwhose ultimate goal is to deny the private citizen any right tonown firearms of any description. No one should oppose thenfree discussion and debate of the potential need for reformsnin our gun laws, but lies and willful distortions of the truthnemployed in the service of a hidden agenda have nonlegitimate part in such a process. There exists a definite neednfor someone to dispel some of the prevalent myths aboutnsemiautomatic firearms and the uses to which they are putnby the people who own them, the overwhelming majority ofnwhom are law-abiding citizens.nWhat is a semiautomatic rifle? What is an assault rifle?nThose two terms are bandied about as synonymous by thennews media and anti-gun activists, but their specific meaningsnelude most of the people who use them so glibly toncondemn an entire class of firearms. Simply put, a semiautomaticnweapon (handgun or longarm) is one that possessesnthe capability to fire single shots in quick succession by usingnthe force generated by the explosion of each cartridge in itsnchamber to set up the next shot. Early repeating riflesnutilizing lever- and bolt-action systems required the shooternto manually manipulate a mechanical loading and firingnsystem for each shot. A semiautomatic weapon requiresnthe shooter only to load a quantity of cartridges intonits magazine before firing and then to squeeze the triggernfor each successive shot. Semiautomatic weapons can bennnNOVEMBER 1989/21n