Associated Press Continues to Embrace "Assault Rifle" Terminology

posted on March 29, 2015
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Despite being purposefully misleading and politically driven, the terms "assault rifle" and "assault weapon" used when referring to modern sporting arms primarily built on the AR platform continue to be included in the official vernacular of the world's oldest and largest newsgathering organization, the Associated Press.

Updates and revisions made to the AP Stylebook this week regarding firearms and weapons terminology include a detailed description of what the journalistic organization considers standard usage for newspaper and electronic media editors and reporters.

The AP Stylebook was created in 1953 and continues to be the go-to guide outlining grammar, writing style and word choice for working journalists—and journalism schools—across the country and around the world.

On Wednesday, March 27, those journalists who have an online AP Stylebook account that permits access to the guide electronically received an email update on weapon terminology that included the following entry:

assault rifle, assault weapon

Terms for military or police-style weapons that are shorter than a conventional rifle and technically known as carbines. The precise definitions may vary from one law or jurisdiction to another. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, some make the distinction that assault rifle is a military weapon with a selector switch for firing in either fully automatic or semi-automatic mode from a detachable, 10- to 30-round magazine. Comparatively lightweight and easy to aim, this carbine was designed for tactical operations and is used by some law enforcement agencies. The form: an M16 assault rifle, an AK-47 assault rifle, a Kalashnikov assault rifle. An assault weapon is the civilian version of the military carbine with a similar appearance. This gun is semi-automatic, meaning one shot per trigger pull. Ammunition magazines ranging from 10 to 30 rounds or more allow rapid-fire capability. Other common characteristics include folding stock, muzzle flash suppressor, bayonet mount and pistol grip. Assault weapon sales were largely banned under federal law from 1994 to 2004 to curb gun crimes. The form: AR-15 carbine with military-style appearance.


Each soldier carried an M16 assault rifle into combat, facing enemy troops armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
Politicians debated sales restrictions on assault weapons, including military-style AR-15 carbines for gun hobbyists.

To the organization's credit, this week's AP Stylebook updates included a clear and forthright explanation of the difference between the terms "magazine" and "clip."


The ammunition storage and feeding device within or attached to a firearm. It may be fixed to the firearm or detachable. It is not a clip.


A device to store multiple rounds of ammunition together as a unit, ready for insertion into the gun. Clips are generally used to load obsolete military rifles. Clip is not the correct term for a detachable magazine commonly used in modern military rifles, assault rifles, assault weapons, submachine guns and semi-automatic pistols. See magazine.

However, it also included an obsolete and ambiguous definition and description leftover from decades long-passed:

Saturday night special

A compact, relatively inexpensive handgun.


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