The assault rifle has been in the news a lot lately; there is much controversy surrounding this class of weapon. Where did these guns come from, and how did they become such a popular weapon for hunting?
Assault rifles were first considered during and after World War I. During the first World War, most soldiers used bolt-action rifles. These were old school. These old school rifles would shoot fast, and they were designed to be precise, but only if the rifleman had the skill to make it precise.
These bolt-action weapons were very powerful and accurate, but expensive to make. And they were better for long distance shooting; not ideal for close-up combat because they were too long and heavy to be used in tight spots.
The only alternative was really a pistols; a soldier could carry either a revolver or a semi-automatic. These would each fire a single shot each time the trigger was pulled. They did not need any assistance from the shooter (no bolt action required). Pistols were less powerful, and the speed of the bullets were slower.
The machine gun, however, was the fastest weapon. These were fully automatic; they would continually shoot ammo as long as the trigger was held back. The recoil was extreme, so a machine gun was only fired from a fixed mount or a tripod.
World War II
During World War II, American soldiers needed more firepower. The title ‘assault rifle’ was actually coined by Adolf Hitler. Towards the end of World War II, the Americans heard about a new weapon Hitler’s army was using. He wanted the gun not to be known by its technical name, but by a name that made the enemies afraid. He called it a ‘Sturmgewehr’, which translates to ‘storm weapon’ or ‘assault weapon’. This was the StG44, which was the first production assault rifle.
The assault rifle was designed to deliver more fire rapidly and effectively on the battlefield; allowing few soldiers to kill the largest numbers of enemy possible. It worked as both a rifle at combat range, and as a machinegun at close range.
As more and more armies began using assault rifles, it became impossible for others not to follow. These rifles were light and could be controlled easily. These highly effective weapons soon became the most common weapon of the world’s militaries.
The United States was actually slow to adopt this firearm. Their first true assault rifle was the AR-15 or M-16, which was first developed in the 1960s.