“AR” – The Actual Meaning of the Acronym

Aug 5, 2022

Does the acronym actually stand for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle”?

Contrary to popular belief, the “AR” in the name of a rifle is not actually an acronym for “automatic rifle” or even “assault rifle” as people like to think. The acronym actually comes from the name of the company that originally designed and came out with this style. ArmaLite was the company that first developed these types of rifles in the 1950s, and the acronym actually means “ArmaLite Rifle”.

Well, what does the number mean?

The number within the name is just the specific ArmaLite rifle model. Take the AR-15 for example. There were 14 other versions of this same style of Armalite rifle before this one, and this was the 15th. It also just happens to be the most popular model that made it into production.

You can check out the differences between the AR-10 and AR-15 here!

ArmaLite Rifle vs. Assault Rifle

ArmaLite rifles are semi-automatic rifles, which means that they fire one bullet per trigger pull. This is in contrast to military assault rifles, which are fully automatic rifles (AKA machine guns), meaning they can fire multiple bullets with a single trigger pull. While Armalite rifles may resemble military assault weapons, they are not nearly as powerful or dangerous as those types of firearms.

So, why do people believe it stands for “assault rifle”?

The reason many people believe that “AR” stands for assault rifle is because of the way these rifles look and operate. AR-15s and AR-10s look like military assault rifles, and they can be fired rapidly. However, they are not classified as assault weapons under U.S. law, and, again, are not nearly as powerful or dangerous.

Laws regarding semi-automatic rifles:

In the United States, it is legal to purchase and own a semi-automatic rifle. There are some restrictions in place, however, such as bans on certain types of ammunition and accessories. Additionally, some states have enacted their own laws regarding semi-automatic rifles.

The states that banned ArmaLite rifles are California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. They are also banned in Washington D.C.

Federal law does not ban semi-automatic rifles outright, but there are some regulations in place that restrict their purchase and use. The National Firearms Act of 1934 regulates the sale and possession of certain types of firearms, including machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, and silencers. The act requires that these weapons be registered with the federal government and imposes a tax on their sale. In 1986, the Firearm Owners Protection Act was passed, which banned the manufacture, importation, and sale of new semi-automatic rifles that had military-style features.

It is important to check with your local law enforcement agency to determine what the laws are in your state before purchasing or using a semi-automatic rifle.

Can U.S. civilians legally own military assault rifles?

In short, no, not without facing major regulations. U.S. civilians cannot legally own military assault rifles unless they were registered within the 52-year period between 1934 and 1986. Even then, the civilian must go through extensive background checks, submit fingerprints, be added to a wait-list, and be willing to spend anywhere between 10 to 50 thousand dollars.

Here is a more detailed article concerning the legality of owning assault rifles and the regulations that come with it.


Now that you know that ArmaLite is a company that produced different models of rifles, you know that the “AR” in the name has nothing to do with meaning “automatic rifle” or “assault rifle”. So next time someone tries to tell you that the “AR” in AR-15 stands for assault rifle, you can correct and educate them on this topic!

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