Here’s their update:
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.
Just a few notes.
1. To write “military-style AR-15” is redundant. All AR-15s or AR-15-style rifles — regardless of manufacturer — are “military style” in their looks. (A side note: AR-15 is manufactured by Colt. Other manufacturers such as Bushmaster make AR-15-style rifles.)
2. A larger capacity magazine does NOT allow for rapid-fire capability by a semi-automatic weapon. It allows for fewer reloads between magazines. The capability of rapid-fire is based on the shooter’s ability to pull the trigger multiple times in the shortest period of time.
3. I don’t know what AP means by “conventional rifle.” Are they talking about a Ruger, a Savage or Remington bolt-action hunting rifle? Who knows? Without AP providing a definition of what they mean by “conventional rifle” a writer’s story could be prone to error.
4. One of the major differences between a rifle and a carbine is the barrel length. That is pretty consistent from one jurisdiction to another, and even with the military. A rifle has a barrel length of at least 16 inches (see ATF.gov). The AR-15’s barrel can come in various lengths between 16 to 20 inches, making them rifles, not carbines. So their form “AR-15 carbine” is not correct.
An M16 has a barrel length of 20 inches, thus it is a rifle, and also considered an assault rifle. An M4, is a shorter version of the M16, and has a barrel length of 14.5 inches. So their first sentence in the description “Terms for military or police-style weapons that are shorter than a conventional rifle and technically known as carbines” is meaningless.
The AP is wrong with its definition, and copy editors should dismiss it — as we do many other definitions they provide.