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An assault rifle is classified as a firearm with a selective firing mechanism that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. The select fire mechanism allows the shooter to switch between semi-automatic, full automatic, and burst fire modes depending on the situation at hand. Assault rifles must also have a firing range of at least 300 meters.


Somewhere between 1890 and 1900, Amerigo Cei-Rigotti developed a rifle that fits most of today’s standards for an assault rifle. However the rifle was only tested and not deployed. It wasn’t until 1915 that the world saw the first precursor to the modern assault rifle, the Russian Fedorov Avtomat, which remained in service with Russian and Soviet troops until World War II.

In 1942, the United States introduced the M1 Carbine and while selective-fire was initially in the plans, it was dropped from the original prototype. Later on in WWII, the M2 and M3 carbines featured the selective firing mechanism and their popularity portrayed a need for the intermediate cartridge. The M1 was used until the 1960’s when it was replaced by the M16 rifle, but it’s still used in some capacity in the armed services.

The strict conditions of the Versailles Treaty left Germany with a small army that required high quality and low costing equipment. Several designs were tried and tested, but the “Maschinenkarabiner” outperformed the competition and lead to the development of the MP44/STG 44 rifles. It was immediately pushed into development and large scale production soon yielded 5,000 units. In 1947, Inspired by the STG 44, Mikhail Kalashnikov developed the AK-47. It fired a 7.62x39mm cartridge and used an intermediate round of the same caliber as the larger Russian ammunition.

Post WWII studies on military tactics and how the war was fought revealed that most combat-causalities caused by small-arms took place at short distances; that aiming was not a major factor in causing casualties; and that riflemen rarely fired their weapon at an enemy but those equipped with rapid-fire weapons were more likely to use their weapons in battle. This combination of results led to the conclusion that a fairly short range weapon with rapid fire capabilities would be an effective general-purpose weapon.

While these studies were reviewed, the US developed its own 7.62x51mm full-power cartridge that could kill from distances beyond 500 meters which soon was adopted as a world-standard cartridge. In this time, FN Herstal from Belgium developed the FN FAL and Switzerland the SIG 510-4. The US soon deployed the M14 rifle, based on the M1 Garand. At this same time, Eugene Stoner of ArmaLite began developing the AR-10 which was eventually scaled down and renamed the AR-15. The American M16 soon followed which lead the M4A1 selective fire carbine.

As weapons continued to be developed, cartridges continued to get smaller and smaller and were considered less lethal than previous generations of assault rifle ammo. However, the lighter, smaller-caliber bullets achieved higher velocities, more favorable ballistics, and reduced the soldier’s carrying weight.

Modern Assault Rifles

As high-velocity small caliber rounds became the standard for assault rifle ammunition, new form factors, features, and materials began to shape the assault rifle. Features like sights, electronics, collapsible stocks, suppressors, drum magazines, lasers, and a variety of other options/features have made the assault rifle a completely customizable weapon. sellers update their auction listings frequently, so if you’re looking to buy assault rifles or parts, check back often.


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