What’s The Difference Between Military and Civilian Firearms?

In This, That, and The Other by Jesse Mathewson

The more it changes, the more it is the same thing. Alphonse Karr 1849

Arguments against civilian ownership of firearms have been debated as far back as the innovation of firearms. I am certain at some point a Roman Cesar or Egyptian Pharaoh also launched campaigns against the evils of the civilian owned swords or spears as well. There is a reason “civilized” nations tend to want no non-government employee ownership of firearms. It is a balance of power, and this is exactly why the astute individuals who refused to sign the Constitution unless it ensured continuing ownership of firearms for all citizens did so.

Interestingly it was the delegate from Vermont who was the initial refuser of the Constitution without the Second Amendments inclusion. It is interesting because Vermont has long been a staunch ally of individual liberty, and only recently has begun to cave into Yankee demands of regulation of natural rights of self-defense. I use the term Yankee to describe those individuals who desire absolute dedication to the state and its employees regardless of the cost. I am a civilian who lives in Arizona and yes, I do not much like what has been occurring most recently in this regards.

However, before we get too far off course, I want to delve into what makes a “military grade” firearm and what makes it civilian. Military grade is a term recently coined to make up for the losses that have occurred by those intent on regulating our natural right to self-defense with their use of the term “assault rifle”. Assault rifle was coined in the 80s by a Californian legislature (Reagan’s legislature) who desired to demonize the idea of semi-automatic, magazine fed firearms. The use of military-grade as a term is actually even more ridiculous and can be easily countered with simple facts.

Military grade applies to firearms that come in military standard calibers, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or STANAG (STANdardization AGreement) calibers are as follows.

  • Handgun is 9×19 or 9 mm luger otherwise known as 9 mm parabellum
  • Small rifle is 5.56×45 (civilian standard .223 remington)
  • Large rifle is 7.62×51 (civilian standard .308 winchester)
  • There are other military grade calibers, however, they are not NATO/STANAG calibers but rather calibers used by Eastern Bloc and non-NATO signatories –

Now here is where things become a bit more interesting, military-grade the real definition of this term would mean that a firearm that is used by the military with military standard calibers is military grade. So if you use the United States Army for a point of reference, M16a2 and the M4 carbines are military grade small caliber rifles, SigP320 is a military grade handgun and the Remington 700/M14/Mk14/AR-10 are military grade large caliber rifles. It should be noted that with the exception of the handgun and the Remington 700 bolt action rifle the firearms themselves all have single shot per trigger squeeze and burst or fully automatic capability.

These firearms by definition are the only military-grade firearms in the United States. However, this also means that anything that may look similar may fall under that definition on a legal basis. This is where things get difficult, realistically what preforms the same is different than what looks the same. If looks were all it took to convict an individual than you would have a biased/discriminatory system of justice, right? So why are we okay with using how something looks to judge it in any approach? It is essential to remember a simple reality, not everyone is the same, not everyone has the same or similar circumstances. I am someone who is physically unable to flee from a threat and as I have shown in The article, Why you need to be trained and armed: or how to prevent a fire before it starts; the threat of real violence is greater than even a vehicle accident. This means that if you purchase vehicle insurance, wear seat belts and have working airbags and have no life insurance or plan for self-defense there is a gap in your preparations for life.

Civilian firearms that look like military firearms have been demonized for decades and longer. However, they are very different in function. The civilian AR15 carbine/rifle looks like the M16a2 or in some case the M4 carbine/rifles, though its function is quite a bit different. The AR15 is only capable of shooting one round per trigger squeeze/press. The AR15 is almost always built to exacting measurements, but in performance is not expected to meet or exceed rigorous military expectations. While some manufactures prefer to ensure their firearms are tested to the same specifications, they still cannot perform the same functions as a military grade firearm. Between 3 round burst (3 rounds fired with a single trigger press) and fully automatic (all rounds fired with a single trigger press) the civilian version cannot accomplish these tasks and without massive amounts of background checks and expensive licenses, the average civilian cannot own a rifle that does these things. The civilian AR15 is built without certain key changes to allow it to do these things.

The receiver of an AR15 civilian rifle does not have the appropriate cutouts for installation of the mechanical differences that allow for burst or fully automatic fire. The reality is the civilian AR15 is not designed to go to war or fight long drawn out battles. In fact, in many cases where criminals were shooting at people to cause harm using civilian AR15s they had malfunctions occur because of this reality. Military grade are designed specifically to function under adverse conditions and during drawn-out engagements. The essential thing to remember is that these are tools, and honesty are far more civilized than using a sword or bow and arrow to dispatch attackers. On a personal note I would rather be shot than stabbed. There are other minor changes that occur with some military firearms, though the large percentage of differences are based in volume and rate of fire.

Quite simply the differences between military grade and civilian are extreme. And the average civilian will never use a military grade firearm or own one. They are expensive to own and use and illegal without large fees and background checks that take several months to complete. The next time you read an article from any major news source that talks about assault rifles and military grade, remember this simple reality of journalism, what is reported is the rare event not the regular event. Normal and standard does not sell papers or airtime for advertisers. Rather it is what can be seen as extraordinary and amazing that is what you will see most often in media reports. It is important to always know facts and have access as much raw unfiltered data as possible. I suggest using FBI statistics and weigh data used against other sources to come up with a median that you can base decisions in.

Understanding that the use of AR15s in criminal activity is actually quite low when compared to overall ownership of these same firearms will make things much easier for you. In looking at concealed carry applications if others wish to use the term in reference to evil machines, than simply purchase and use handguns that are not used by your military. For the United States this means, the SIG M17 or M18 (civilian version is the SIG P320) and the phased out Beretta M9A1 or the Glock 19M (which is not available for civilians). Military grade firearms are almost always different designations and include a variety of changes from civilian. On handguns you will find that military grade handguns have a lanyard ring at the grip for securing the firearm to self in case it falls out of the holster. Additional requirements for military-grade handguns are as follows.

  • Integrated rail
  • External safety
  • Adjustable for ergonomics by means of grip inserts
  • grip panels
  • front or back straps
  • different triggers available
  • higher benched accuracy requirements

The question posed was, what is the difference in firearm types? The answer is, military arms are designed for military use, civilian arms are designed for civilian use! Since 1934 it has been illegal without special permits and background checks to own or use fully automatic firearms eg., military grade firearms. There have been dozens of small and major gun control acts passed since the founding of this country and the ratification of the Constitution. The reality is simple, guns scare people who do not have them or have experience with them. In today’s world, we want to blame anything – other than our own decisions – for events that occur. This results in several generations that believe everyone else is the problem, and they are victims.

As always thank you for reading and if I missed anything as I am certain to do, do not hesitate to comment and make suggestions. I learn from you as much as you may learn from me.

Free the mind and the body will follow – and please check out TN Concealed Carry right now!