Modern Sporting Rifle is A Dumb Term

Commonly Owned AR-15
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The anti-gun world loves these vaguely amorphous terms they can use to catalog whatever firearms they want. They use terms like Saturday Night Special and Assault Weapon to try and raise support for banning the most common firearms out there. The gun world isn’t exactly innocent about it, either. A few years back, we adopted the term modern sporting rifle and began playing semantics back. Modern sporting rifle, or MSR, was a term we applied to AR-15s and similar semi-auto rifles. 

It seems clever, but in reality, it was pretty dang dumb. The term was us trying to counter the term assault weapon. The thing is, we never had to counter that term with another term. We were, and continue to do, a great job of countering terms like assault weapons by just asking a simple question. “Please define assault weapon.” I’ve loved seeing it become the almost universal retort to any proposed ‘assault’ weapons ban. I see it across social media channels and forums like Reddit constantly. 

Modern Sporting Rifle – Words Matter 

Playing their game and using amorphous terms was never a route to success. Modern sporting rifle means jack all. There are modern lever actions and bolt actions, and maybe my rifle isn’t for sporting purposes. The entire concept of sporting purpose was an anti-gun talking point in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, the AR series are excellent hunting rifles and competition firearms and can be used sportingly. 

We don’t need to categorize the AR-15 as a sporting rifle, a hunting rifle, a defensive rifle, or an assault rifle. We don’t need these silly terms because we already know what an AR-15 is. It’s a semi-automatic rifle. Just call it that. By simply calling it exactly what it is, we are being honest and succinct. Keeping the conversation focused on semi-auto rifles refocuses the argument for the average person. We are calling them out and showing the world their plans involve very common rifles. 

They can use the term assault rifle, and the defenders of liberty can use the term semi-auto rifle. We can take charge of the argument and honestly point out the fact that what the anti-gun crowd is trying to do is ban semi-auto rifles, the most common type of rifle. That extends to handguns, too, not just rifles. However, my argument is against the term modern sporting rifle, and no one ever called handguns modern sporting handguns. 

Winning With Words 

Using the term semi-automatic instead of modern sporting rifle keeps the argument focused. When we use the term modern sporting rifle, the other side can argue we are being amorphous and trying to somehow divert the conversation. It also implies some odd shame in owning an AR-15 or similar rifle. If we use the proper term, semi-auto rifle, we take one argument out of their sails. We also maintain the high ground and are simply being honest. 

If their argument is, well, we aren’t banning semi-auto rifles. We are banning assault rifles. It all comes back to what’s an assault rifle. Please define the term for us. If they can’t define the term, they can’t even tell you what they are trying to do. It exposes ignorance and dishonesty. 

Using the term semi-auto rifle or semi-auto handgun can be more valuable than you likely expect. It’s the proper term, solidifies our argument, and allows us to maintain a certain degree of honesty. 

Plus, to quote my 12-year-old, modern sporting rifle ‘sounds pretty cringe’. 

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.