Usefulness of handheld automatic weapons.

When I lived in the Soviet Union, I heard people say that they didn’t need or want capitalist excesses of choices or resources. The notion that being poor but proud conferred an intellectual superiority is held by a few in America as well. It manifests itself often during discussions of automatic firearms. “Full auto is inaccurate and wasteful of ammunition”, people say. I say: “Stop trying to rationalize the lack of access to modern technology as a benefit of some sort!”

The rifle above is a CMMG M47 Mutant, an AR15 designed to work with an AK47 magazine. In select-fire form, it has a cyclic rate of around 500 shots per minute. This means that a quick trigger press yields single shots. A slightly longer press gives a 2-3 round burst with excellent control. The idea that automatic weapons are uncontrollable comes mainly from 50 year old examples with drop stocks and high-power calibers, or from machine pistols that were designed to work specifically with sound suppressors for balance and recoil moderation. A 1940s STG44 is fairly controllable in automatic mode. A 2015 M47 or Keltec RDB, also with cyclic rate around 500rpm, are both very steady shooters. Due to the restrictions on automatic arms, we are in the position of estimating their usefulness by the performance of obsolete examples, a bit like saying that digital cameras are worthless because 1997 examples were very limited in capability.

The distance between her and the door to the room can be covered in half a second by a motivated home invader. Subtracting roughly 1/6s for the defender’s reaction time, that’s time for a 6–7 round burst at distances diminishing from about 7 yards to 1 yard. Hard to miss at this distance, and the lack of match accuracy doesn’t matter. Rapid incapacitation of the threat with multiple hits does matter.

Let’s talk about accuracy first. From 15 yards standing with 5.56mm RDB, I get three shot dispersion of about two inches. With M47, it was about four inches the first time I handled the rifle. My experience with it was limited to firing ten rounds, and yet I was able to control it adequately for the purpose of self-defense. Plus-minus two inches from the point of aim is quite adequate for the purpose of self-defense inside a home. The longest firing distance in my home is about that far. Some people could, after extensive training, shoot almost as fast in semi-auto — but it’s a great deal better if the defender can concentrate on other aspects, such as taking cover, minding other family members and watching the invader actions instead of having to pay attention to the trigger reset under stress.

Self-defense usually happens up close and fast. Even at full cyclic rate, a standard 30-round magazine would last about two seconds — a very long time in close quarters combat. Used more realistically, in 2-3 round bursts, one single magazine would give about ten seconds of fire superiority over a typical violent criminal looking for easy prey. There’s a good reason why presidential bodyguards have automatic rifles and submachine guns. Those are precisely the tools that enable effective close-range stopping of threats.

Properly designed automatic weapons are controllable at ranges of interest to civilian self-defense. Further out, past 25 or so yards, automatic fire still has a use: suppressing an ambush in order to provide safe exit for family members or to stop a rioting mob from overrunning a disabled vehicle. If automatic fire is not needed, almost all weapons have a semi-auto mode. The few guns lacking it have such slow firing rates that single shots are available by releasing the trigger. Automatic capability doesn’t mean that people shoot at unidentified noises. It doesn’t mean hosing down areas. It only means not having to concentrate on trigger manipulation when dealing with a short-range self-defense event. Most such events happen at under ten steps and within two-three seconds, exactly the area where rapid fire is needed and would be effective.

Another benefit of automatic mode is that open bolt design submachine guns have far less recoil than closed bolt carbines. That is especially pronounced with advanced ignition designs like the Uzi. That means slightly built or fragile defenders, precisely the kind of victim sought out by criminals for victimization, can defend themselves more effectively. With closed bolt designs, smaller caliber may be used with multiple hits to compensate for each individual bullet being smaller and slower.

Please stop carrying the water for our enemies, the government regulators. Every imposition, even if it involves a technology you consider useless, weakens us in the long run. And some technologies are not nearly as useless as we’ve been led to believe.

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14 Responses to Usefulness of handheld automatic weapons.

  1. Ray says:

    Yeh . But I still prefer my Garand. I shot pretty much “all of the above” and still prefer the M-1 Garand The 870 pump and the 1911.The 1873 and the Winchester. I served in the Army (combat arms) have used “full auto” weapons and have been shooting for longer than you have been alive. I have collected and owned hundreds of firearms over the last, almost 40 years and they are the ones I settled on as best for my shooting style. My take on “modern Full auto”? Unless you have a Dealers Permit to temporarily posses a “post 86 dealers sample ” or you just have a burning need to part with 250,000 dollars; Why bother? As I have gotten older I have sold much of my collection. The latest fad, and the hottest curiosity no longer stir me. I think I’ll just stick to the tried and tested. As they used to say at “Gunsight” “A fully automatic weapon is the most effective method ever devised for turning money into noise” and at a dollar a shot it adds up FAST.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      You have your preferences. Why not allow other people’s their preferences without that huge financial hit inflicted by the 1934, 1968 and 1986 restrictions. An M16 costs the same as an AR15 — the difference in fire control parts is so minimal. You can run the Garand and the 870 and the 1911 just fine. Can a five foot tall hundred pound female with arthritic hands do it? But she could run a sound-suppressed HK MP7 just fine without either strain or pain. Why should your preferences or government prohibitions deprive her of something that fits her physical abilities?

  2. Ray says:

    No I would let anyone who wanted; own whatever they wanted. BUT . Reality. NFA sced.II weapons are almost always . Old and badly worn. Collector pieces. OR. locked down by the 1986 FOPA. I don’t oppose ownership in any way. BUT . and this is important. It is imposable under current law for John or Jane to go down to the local G&A and buy a FA weapon made after 1986. I don’t see that law changing in any time line that allows me to live to see it. The other thing I would add is that the price for even a beat up and badly worn M16a1 or A2 with a ridiculously high round count is (the last time I looked) well in excess of the price for TEN AR-15s . The price for a really nice BAR or M-1919 is at best more than some new cars.(at worst more than some homes) How much ammo did you run thru that “mutant”? I see guys at Knob creek spend 1000$ US in an hour. Can an old lady on a fixed income afford the 15000$ for the Silencer , Ammo, Mag’s (HKs are north of 50$ EACH. For the cheep ones)and weapon at todays NFA prices? Not to mention the little detail about needing a class III FFL to get temporary custody of that fine German Chopper.(dealer sample ONLY, if you don’t sell it ,you can’t keep it) It would be wonderful to live in a country where anyone could go down to the local hardware store and buy a Thompson. But I don’t. I live in a country where being able to do that ended a long, long time ago. Unless you know something I don’t about pending legislation, or the SCOTUS makes both our day. I don’t see that changing. I think ALL Gun Laws are evil and wrong. But they ARE the law, and have been for 80 years. You are young , you might live to see America return to a pre-1932 gun friendly country, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. P.S Oleg , I am the most pro-gun rights guy you will ever know of. If I could I’d have a 14 inch railroad gun in my yard.

    • Oleg Volk says:


      I am arguing that we should work to repeal all gun control laws. We might not get machine guns in common use, but our kids might have legal plasma cannon.

      • DonM says:

        I also suggest that the Chauchat of WWI was controllable with full power ammunition and a low rate of fire. Its long recoil system spread the force of recoil out over time. Sure the US version in .30/06 didn’t work because of errors in the reverse engineering process, but the 8mm Lebel was crucial to the defeat of Germany on the battlefield.

        Several versions of the BAR had a slow rate of fire. That slow rate of fire made it controllable, as well as reducing the amount of ammunition required to suppress an enemy machine gun for the two minutes it may take to get close enough to take it out with a grenade.

      • Ray says:

        Oleg: YES! DA! I agree completely. On average it takes between fifteen and fifty years to repeal a US Federal law. IF congress sees a profit motive or that repeal has overwhelming public support. If not it takes MUCH longer. I advocate not only acting to repeal bad law , but teaching the next generation to hold Liberty dear , as they are the ones who must if it is to survive.

    • Lyle says:

      “I don’t see that law changing in any time line that allows me to live to see it.”

      There is nobility in working toward something good even though you stand little or no chance of enjoying the benefits in your lifetime. Many soldiers, for example, have died on that premise, to our benefit. An old man planting trees is another example.

      • Weston Moss says:

        You are correct Lyle. Unfortunately many have forgotten what it means to prepare the way for our children and grandchildren. I shudder to think of the nation we will leave them because we were too afraid to act.

  3. T78 says:

    I’m with you on this one Volk! I’m been saying this every since I got into guns that we the people should have access to SMG’s, PDW’s, and Fully Automatic Assault Rifles. Guns like the Uzi or even the Kriss Vector SMG would be a great option for home defense.

  4. Bill says:

    Full auto is of extremely limited utility in most criminal encounters. Sorry Oleg, you don’t get to point to the one in 1,000,000 chance to make your point. I’m not buying it.

    It’s of extremely useful utility when engaging a modern armed force in the act of revolt. That’s a good reason why modern rifles of military utility ought to be freely available to the general public. -Cause that’s what the 2nd amendment is all about.

    Full-auto vs. ant remotely credible criminal threat? OH PLEASE. Full-auto when I’m engaging in what Jefferson called the “watering the tree of liberty?” I’m down with that one. Stop fudging.

    • Lyle says:

      A) There are VP protection who carry guns with happy switches. B) LA riots or other instances of gang activity; the psychological effects alone would have been beneficial. You mount a belt-fed on your roof in plain view and homey will simply move on. Maybe you’ve even saved his life through deterrence alone. C) It’s not anyone else’s decision to make but the individual’s.

      Some people hate Glocks and Love 1911s, and etc., ad infinitum. Some think that even a semi is a waste, compared to a boltie. Don’t care. It’s not my choice to make for someone else. I have no interest in anyone’s choice but my own, and If I could afford a new, legal auto I’d take it. Better to have it and not need it. Up until 1934 it was common enough for regular citizens to have the most current military technology, for what ever reason(s) they chose– Nobody’s business.

  5. Precision270 says:

    I have ZERO problems with the meat of your essay. I do have one quibbling bit with a single word. – civilian – I really think that should be citizen. Civilian = cops too, despite their protestations. Allowing ourselves to fall into that wordsmith chasm helps to broaden their – us vs them mentality – which will eventually end with more of us and more of them dead.

    Citizen ownership of full auto is an awesome thing. We used to live in a free market system. If someone wanted to make full auto Garands, the market could decide if it was an awesome idea or a dumb one. If someone wanted to carry a Glock 18, same thing.

    If the cops can own it, why shouldn’t Dave the average Citizen? Same thing with bullet resistant technology.

  6. Lyle says:

    Very thoughtful treatice, Mr. Volk.

    Is the difficulty in obtaining a full auto a huge handicap?
    Answer; It’s none of the government’s business whatsoever and in fact they’re out of line even talking about it. That we have a branch within a government bureau dedicated specifically to infringing upon the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms is a criminal offense. All subjects of this or that technology are quite beside the point, except as evidence in the trials and sentencing of the perpetrators.

    See how that works, Y’all? The sooner we quit squabbling on the finer points of the finer points (like how many rounds a gun fires with a single actuation of the trigger), and come right out and call it like it is, the sooner the problem can be addressed and solved.

  7. revjen45 says:

    That select fire Skorpion sure gives me a serious case of gun lust.

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