What Are “Military Grade” Firearms?

In reference to a post on Cartel arms purchases, Calicut asks what “military grade weapons” are.

Military grade weapons may have something such as “tropicalization,” “ruggedizing” or some other modification to better suit it to military use. But where firearms are concerned it almost always means burst fire or fully automatic fire, or both, has been enabled.

Burst fire refers to the ability to fire a few, usually three, rounds with one pull of the trigger. Fully automatic describes a firearm that will fire until the trigger is released or the magazine is empty.

On the other hand, “civilian grade” firearms fire one shot with one pull of the trigger. They may, or may not, reload themselves after a round is fired, but no matter how long you pull the trigger, you can only fire one shot with one pull of the trigger.

So while a civilian grade rifle such as the AR-15 may look exactly like the fully automatic M-16, it is not a military grade weapon.


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A collaborative effort, Extranos Alley is primarily concerned with providing up to date data on the relationships between privately woned firearms and crime, violence, and politics. The site is maintained by nine volunteers who have given up their identity that the work here may be considered without regard to the individual data. The contributors are a diverse group, ranging from a retired physicist to a board certified psychologist.
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