That Was Then, This is Now
The NRA and the Gun Industry Talk About Assault Weapons–From Both Sides of Their Mouths
Myth Two

Assault Weapons Merely “Look Different”

While it is true that the “actions” or internal mechanisms of all semi-automatic guns are similar, the actions of assault weapons are part of a total design package that promotes “spray fire”—unlike true sporting guns. Assault weapons look different because they are different—their looks reflect the fact that they are designed to kill people efficiently.

And while the NRA and the gun industry today put themselves through tortured gyrations in their attempts to justify the “sporting use” of assault guns, early reviews of these weapons noted their limited sporting value:

  • In 1987 the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine reviewed the Calico M-100 rifle and concluded, “The M-100 is certainly not a competition gun, hardly a hunting gun, and is difficult to visualize as a personal defense gun.”[12]
  • In 1983, Guns & Ammo reviewed the Heckler & Koch HK 94 rifle and reported, “You certainly aren’t going to enter any serious, formal matches with it….”[13]

During this period, the gun industry also actively promoted the intimidating looks of assault weapons as a sales booster:

  • A 1989 Guns & Ammo review of the A.A. Arms AP9 praised the appeal of the gun’s “wicked looks” to teenagers, noting “it is one mean-looking dude, considered cool and Ramboish by the teenage crowd….Take a look at one. And let your teen-age son tag along. Ask him what he thinks. And be sure to carry your checkbook.”[14] [emphasis in original]
  • In 1985 Guns & Ammo expert Garry James noted in his review of Colt’s 9mm AR-15 rifle that “the intimidation factor of a black, martial-looking carbine pointing in one’s direction cannot be underestimated.”[15]
  • In 1983 Guns & Ammo writer Howard French said of the HK 94 9 mm Para Carbine that “you would not get much static from an intruder eyeballing its rather lethal appearance.”[16]
  • 1981 C.A. Inc. advertisements for the Mark 45 and Mark 9 “Tommy-Gun” style carbines explicitly made the point that a “show of force can be stopping power worth having.”[17]


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