The New Boogieman: Military Grade Weapons

I first heard Obama use the phrase “military grade weapons” back in August when announcing to the public that he would sign new Executive Actions (formerly known as Executive Orders) banning the future import of M1 Garands, M1 Carbines and other U.S. military surplus firearms and placing heavier restrictions on NFA trusts.

While at the Bullpup shoot this past weekend, I was chatting with Michael Kassnar of IWI about the emergence of this new buzz word on the political stage. He warned that gun grabbers in both politics and the media were adopting this new terminology to expand the scope of firearms it covered well past that of the popular phrase “assault weapons”. When I returned home I did a quick Google search, and sure enough, I found several references in recent news stories.

The same weekend I had this discussion with Michael a shooting in Chicago claimed 13 victims, however no fatalities were reported. News reports from local media said that a “military-grade assault rifle” was the culprit. Chicago top cop Garry McCarthy said at a press conference that “a military-grade weapon on the streets of Chicago is simply unacceptable”.

A September 6th news report out of New York talked about a group of police officers who were selling “military-grade” firearms to Filipino buyers. Included in the news report was an image of a suspect holding two semi-auto PS90 carbines. Another image showed a semi-automatic AR15 with a 16″ barrel lying in the back hatch of a SUV with the caption, “The arsenal included a semiautomatic rifle capable of firing bullets through airplanes, a body-armor piercing semiautomatic pistol and another rifle developed for special-ops forces.”

Firing bullets through airplanes? Really? I wonder why the author of the article didn’t mention it could shoot through hospitals, churches, schools and daycare centers too… There’s nothing like a hearty dose of sensationalism to galvanize the lemmings into supporting your anti-gun agenda.

Obama didn’t coin the phrase though, it seems to have been used by the media in the past. This report from October 28th, 2012 uses the phrase “military-grade” to describe everything from rifles to knives.

I expect to see more gun-grabbers in politics and in the media adopt this terminology to push their agendas forward. The phase “military-grade” expands the scope of the weapons it covers to include most any firearm, and even knives. A cap and ball revolver can be described as a “military-grade” weapon. A fixed blade knife can be described as a “military-grade weapon” too. Heck, militaries have used .22 rifles in training before thus making the ominous .22 caliber bolt action rifle a “military-grade weapon”.

When Obama sold the ban on repatriating WWII surplus firearms such as the M1 Garand to the public, he did so by describing them as “military-grade weapons”. This likely conjured-up images of the dreaded AK47 in the minds of the masses who would applaud the Presidents gun-grab thinking it would keep their streets safe. But the reality is, gangs don’t use M1 Garands or M1 Carbines. As a matter of fact, back in 2000 the ATF released an unpublished report to Time Magazine that detailed the top 10 guns used in crimes.

1. Smith and Wesson .38 revolver
2. Ruger 9 mm semiautomatic
3. Lorcin Engineering .380 semiautomatic
4. Raven Arms .25 semiautomatic
5. Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun
6. Smith and Wesson 9mm semiautomatic
7. Smith and Wesson .357 revolver
8. Bryco Arms 9mm semiautomatic
9. Bryco Arms .380 semiautomatic
10. Davis Industries .380 semiautomatic

I don’t see M1 Garands, M1 Carbines or even AR15’s or AK47’s listed.  How could that be? According to the President “military-grade weapons” are the scourge of the nation and must be heavily regulated — yet they’re almost never used in crime.

Over the years gun-grabbers have tried to demonize all firearms and their owners through the use of carefully chosen words and phrases. When new phrases such as “military-grade weapons” emerge, you can bet your next paycheck some gun-grabbing focus group came up with it and soon every anti-gun politician and media outlet will adopt its use. It’s up to us to counter their efforts by educating the public by casting a light of truth on their shadowy plans to undermine our Constitutional rights.


MAC is an avid shooter, former MCSF Marine, NRA member, Oath Keeper and is commissioned as a Colonel by the Governor of Kentucky. Known for his videos on the Military Arms Channel, he also writes for The Bang Switch, for Shotgun News (Be Ready!) and freelances for Guns & Ammo. MAC has been a life long shooter who has an interest in all things that go "bang" but gravitates towards military type firearms.

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  • TxFreeman

    I want to believe people couldn’t be this stupid, but I keep getting proven wrong again and again. Up until recently (1980’s?), military small arms and civilian small arms were the same thing. Sadly, I have even seen people claim the TrackingPoint bolt action rifles should be restricted to the military, cause it’s just a bad thing waiting to happen. Some of them even claim to support the 2nd. When is the public going to realize that these moves aren’t about safety, that there is an agenda going on here.

  • Richard

    Hey MAC, Great article as always. Question. Do you have a any other sources on that ATF report regarding the top ten most used guns in crimes other than the Time Magazine? I would love to read more on that.

    • MAC

      I don’t have the full report… but then I’ve not looked for it.

      • PeterK

        I thought that was an FBI report? Let me check the google-fu.

        Bah, I know I’ve seen those number you’re talking about. (which btw only prove that people use whatever gun is most plentiful to do crime, hence the emphasis on ar15’s since that is America’s rifle, baby!)

        Here’s a report on the most traced guns from the ATF:

        • PeterK

          OOOH Time says an unpublished report from the ATF. I am derp today.

    • Chris
  • bigred2989

    I wish there was a more updated list from the ATF. Also the question as to why this 2000 study not published has to be asked.

  • John S.

    Saturday night specials, plastic guns, evil assault rifles, military grade weapons, all are words to confuse the masses into going along with their agenda of banning guns for the law abiding citzen of the USA. The words may change but their agenda will never change. That is why the fight will never end, and we must never stop pushing against these people, lastly I believe that everyone should be a member of gun rights organization.

  • JasonW

    You can bet no matter what they try to pass, the police will be exempt so they can keep their “military grade” weapons. The one question I love to ask anti gun people though is about police exemptions to gun control laws. If these weapons are so deadly and should only be on the battlefield, then why do the police “need” them? What war are they fighting on our city streets that they “need” military grade weapons? I’ve yet to hear a viable answer from anyone on that one.

    • Lane

      Because the CRIMINALS have military grade weapons. These laws will keep them off the street! This is COMMON SENSE!

    • LeftThumb

      That is the absolute truth. Military grade or WEAPONS OF WAR!!!. All are image conjuring phrases that produce in the public’s imagination some scene from a violent movie, but the fact is these are the same weapons also used by all levels of law enforcement. If they felt law enforcement should be barred as well at least the argument would have some sincerity. But they’re likely reply is that law enforcement deserve to have modern weapons while the public does not. Of course that brings up your point, if they are Military Grade – Weapons of WAR what are the police using them for.

    • Lochlyn Grendelsson

      Police, DHS, FBI, etc., etc., are ALL the SERVANTS OF WE THE PEOPLE … since when may the “servant” tell the Master what the Masters may, or may not, do? How is it that the SERVANTS have better and more powerful weapons than we who “control” our servants

      • Stjjames

        A-Friggin-Men !!

  • LtKernelSanders

    A new way to hunt down gang violence, listen for the 8 pops and a ping. Seriously, how does banning the import of these rifles do anything?

    • Lochlyn Grendelsson

      Simple – it keeps them out of the hands of those who have and who would fight to save our nation.

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  • L.D. Hutchinson

    Semper Fi, Mac.

  • Richard Turner

    I always find it hilarious when people think criminals use sporting rifles and other expensive firearms to commit crimes. every gun on that list is just at or well under the 4-500$ range. i even have extended family members telling me i should sell my lr308 because supporting the black rifle industry is tantamount to supporting crime. its just silly. people need to be educated on the type of guns used in actual crimes before they even speak up in a debate about gun control.

    • Larry

      Hey the guy at the naval base used a shotgun.Our vice pres told us we should have shotgus not rifles.maybe this guy listened to him.

  • Trilby Ulyanov

    An Essay On Force, Control, and Freedom.

    “Gun Control” is nothing new. In fact, it’s been around for much longer than guns have existed. It’s been a universal phenomenon amongst human societies. And it’s never been about public safety. It has been, and always will be, an act of caste stratification and population control.
    In ancient Feudal societies all around the world, notably China and Japan and many parts of Europe and the Middle-East, peasants and plebeians were prohibited from owning weapons. When the ruling Aristocrats and feudal land-owners required a military force, their trusted retainers would issue arms to conscripted peasant-levies, and send them into battle as vanguards of the main force. After battle finished and the troops had looted the field, the retainers would retrieve these weapons and send the serfs back to work. Why were the commoners prohibited from possession of weapons?
    To prevent uprisings.
    Remember that in these points in history, society was rigidly stratified, and the only individuals who could possess arms were men who had proven their loyalty to their rulers. These men were regarded as dignified individuals, men of honour and upstanding moral virtue, while commoners were regarded as little more than productive units in the inventories of their lords and masters. Just look at the culture of respect for the Knights and Samurai of old.
    Control of the disarmed populace in turn went on to reflect and perpetuate such social stratification. Without the means to change their government by force, these societies were ruled by the strongest and wealthiest men with armies composed of a loyal minority to defend them.
    Force is, and always has been, the highest, most fundamental form of authority. All other authorities have been, and always will be, derived from the means to exert and resist force.
    In the late 1700s, the colonists of America knew this lesson from history all too well. During the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers fought against a tyrannical and oppressive government which sought to restrict the means to exert and resist force, and sought to take the majority of wealth away from the colonial population. The Second Amendment to the American Constitution was written to ensure that common citizens would always have recourse to the highest form of authority so that in the inevitable event of the ruling body no longer looking out for the interests of the common people at heart, they would be able to resort to force-of-arms to at least stand a chance of overturning a corrupted system.
    With the advent of mass-media broadcasting and the rise of the New Feudal-Capitalist caste system, the ruling elites have gained a most powerful weapon: brainwashing. No longer have religious institutions been required to control the masses. Fear imparted by widespread propaganda now does it for them. Even more perceptive people can, and often are, influenced by this conditioning process during the formative years, developing attitudes of apathy.
    Which brings us to the nature of Gun Control. A wise man once said “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself” (a quote often misattributed to Joseph Goebbels). This is the insidious nature in which the elites of the world have been consolidating their power, by disseminating lies about the nature of force and the nature of weapons. This is most evident in the conditioning of unfathomable numbers of otherwise rational individuals to believe that there are never circumstances where recourse to force of arms is justifiable, and that “non-violent” action is always the best action, which has been demonstrated by history repeatedly to rarely be the case.
    This propaganda also revolves around twisting of the facts and manipulation of popular preconceptions, with strong emotive undertones. All too often people remember the times when people use weapons to kill indiscriminately, but all too rarely are people informed of the millions of instances globally where weapons are used to mitigate unnecessary losses of life.
    Firearms in particular represented a shift in the paradigm. No longer was it only the strong, quick-witted and talented who may wield arms, but now any individual with the inclination, time and access, has means to exert and resist force. A conceptual precursor to the firearm, the crossbow, drew similar ire during the Middle Ages, where a Papal Decree was issued to prohibit their use in warfare claiming that the ability to give a common peasant the ability to defeat the armour of a wealthy Knight and thus kill him, was an aberration to the natural order. Regardless, control over such weapons and their possession by the peasants was sufficient enough that most rulers saw possession of these weapons as justifiable.
    Just as we in this day and age should understand that now, more than ever in history, possession of the means to exert and resist force is not only justifiable, but a necessity.
    Now more than ever we see a disparity between the wealthy and powerful and the poor and disempowered. Gun-control advocates live in ivory towers, and all too often the most powerful voices amongst them possess the weapons themselves, and/or retain individuals entrusted with such weaponry. This is damning evidence of the hypocrisy and elitism behind laws of personal weapon restriction. We live at a precipice of history, at the branch in the road where we may choose between a society where the minority of wealthy and strong are more equal than the majority, or a society where all men may stand as equals guaranteed by their capacity to exert and resist acts of force.
    We are already descending down the path of the former, but it is not too late to stop this decay. The hardest part is overcoming the incessant propaganda, which is the reason why I have written this essay.
    Remember; you only have the power, if you have the will.
    Blessings upon you all.

    • scott p

      Best response ever!!!!

    • twocorbies

      Excellent essay! We are indeed at a precipice. I also particularly like the Papal Decree vs. crossbow: I had not known about that.

  • LM

    As a strategic adjustment, do you think it is worthwhile for manufacturers to reconsider describing the quality of firearms as ‘mil-spec’? Nevermind it is a semantic argument designed to instill fear and loathing in the minds of voters, can we afford to simply ignore their approach and not neutralize the PR value?

  • Tony Frank

    The Powers that be truly believe that the public is that naive , and has long as they use there “catch phrases” to dupe the general public into thinking that “the government knows what is best” then it’s up to All of us to let the people that WE employee has public elected officials on ” Capitol Hill ” that we will not let them fool us .

  • Jon

    Wait until they hear my phone had a Military Grade case.

    • Jonathan Jones

      I recently began noticing that otterbox started using that to describe their cases. I too have a “military grade” phone case.

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  • Dave

    I see where this is going. He is going for all the guns either by executive order or UN.

  • steve

    Made dinner last night with military-grade knives and pots. Hope they don’t get wind of that!

  • gargamello

    I teach cub scouts knots using military-grade parachute cord. Clearly I’m actively training the next generation of extremists.

    They’ll soon say:

    Why would anyone “need” military-grade cordage? Any “reasonable” den leader would instead use yarn or jute twine. We need a “common sense approach” that ensures military-grade paracord does not end up on our streets or in the hands of our children.

    If you think that sounds absurd, take a typical gun-grabber paragraph and blank about references to “gun” and then play mad-libs with a different noun you could imagine them opposing.

    • Gee William

      You jest, but there have been people who have believed that since the 60s

  • Gee William

    Great article MAC. The truth is… ALL FIREARMS are military grade weapons. It’s the argument we as 2A supports tried to hide, shy away from, deny was that “we don’t have military weapons, we have sporting weapons, it’s not even the same thing” and that chicken is coming home to roost. All firearms are weapons of war and military grade. We as a free American society have the right to own these weapons because we have a Second Amendment to the Supreme Law of our land that specifically protects our ownership and usage of them.

    NRA President James Porter had a great president’s column in this months American Rifleman called “The ‘Weapons of War’ Big Lie”. If you’re a member and get the issue, read it. He nails this whole weapons of war/military grade non-sense, spot on!

    I’m trying to find the pdf of it, but if anyone finds it before me, please link it.

  • Rene Apolinario

    I’ve been seeing the term “Military Grade” on motherboards since 2008. Damn the Government has finally caught on cause I’m doing a lot of criminal activity with my military grade computer.

  • Pelle Andersson

    There is something strange about the shooting in Chicago and the claim that a AK-47 was used. You have 13 hits in soft targets with rifle ammo and some are children and nobody gets killed. It doesn´t fit the statistics at all when it comes to terminal ballistics. Of course everything is possible but I am always suspicious when it comes to things that so clearly don´t fill the profile.

  • Rob

    I’m going to start calling every Chevrolet Monte Carlo that passes me on the freeway a “Race car” ………

  • Dave

    right, so this means all my firearms besides my shotgun & 22’s are “military grade”, because the rest were military issue in the late 20’s and some are still used, just not by major armies.. *rolls eyes*

  • Josh B

    The only word that actually applies to this entire situation is ignorance. But for some odd reason, the ignorant do not like being called ignorant. They for some reason can’t wrap their head around it…

  • Don

    I don’t think regular citizens of the united states should possess any military-grade firearms. No self respecting citizen should settle for that middle-shelf gear when there is so much better available!


  • Chris.

    Military Grade = Built by the Lowest bidder.

  • ghostwheel

    I read on the net that Obamacare applications will require to answer a question “Do you have a firearm in your home”.

    Can someone please VERIFY this? I pay over $600 for a $7,500 deductible policy that I never use. I really need to know for certain. I had been hoping to find a less expensive policy on the exchanges but I will refuse to answer that question.

    • David Clark

      Just put all your guns in the trunk of your car while you fill out the form. After the form is mailed in you can put the guns back in your house. Problem solved.

    • jprum

      Lars Larson talked about that on his radio show today. Lars was claiming the NRA fought the bill on the firearm subject and it was pulled out. Can’t say I have read the bill heck the idiots that passed it didn’t read it. I bet there are some questions the Docs have to ask that could get your gun taken away from you.

  • Drmaudio

    We have, to a degree, gutted the term “assault rifle” by repeatedly pointing it out as a fallacy. It is now our job to point out at every opportunity that the term, “Military Grade” is meaningless, and could include every firearm made.

    One way to drive this point home is to remind people that one of the most popular hunting rifles of all time, a Remington 700, is “Military Grade” by any standard as it is issued as the M24 and M40.

  • ghostwheel

    What about my military assault canteen?

  • Jacen

    I’ve been recently hearing the phrase assault shotgun after the shooting at the Navy port.

  • Craig Smith

    Yes, my K-98 bolt-action Mauser is “military grade”. So is my Swedish M-96, the Swiss K-31, the No4 Enfield, The ’03 Springfield, even the 1873 Springfield trapdoor is “military grade”. Ya better watch out for that breach loader!
    All the mumble-mouthed qualifiers the anti’s use are nonsense to the firearm literate, but to the media and ignorant masses, they invoke fear and sensationalism.

  • C.j. Singleton

    Funny they are throwing “military grade” around when most of the ARs in this country are not made to mil spec so they are not military grade but hey since when do facts matter

  • Dustin

    So, let me get this straight…

    If I’m in the US I can no longer purchase an M1 anymore, or is that out of country?

    And this military grade is just another phrase to be tossed around by ignorant fools pushing an anti-firearm agenda?

    • Alec

      No, It has been reported that South Korea (sp.?) has a couple hundred thousand M1 carbines and some M1 garands I believe, that they wanted to sell back to the US as MIL-SURP’s…..Since the carbine can take a 30 round Mag, the big O has decided that they are too dangerous to sell to the masses. But the ones already state side are still perfectly legal for sale and purchase. Just no new imports of our own old guns that we sold to other countries…….

  • bill

    I don’t believe civilians should be denied ownership of any semiauto but doesn’t the name of this site imply their is a difference between civilian and military weapons.

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  • LeftThumb

    Military Grade, Weapons of War and even Assault Bullet. Phrases chosen to have the biggest imagination impact on the public. The amazing thing is people fall for it. It’s truly remarkable that people listen to these gun control folks when the gun control folks are painfully ignorant on guns. It’s very rare that a true gun expert is for gun control. And yet the media almost never treats a real gun expert as the authority on the subject of gun control.

  • Rational Skeptic

    “There’s nothing like a hearty dose of sensationalism to galvanize the lemmings into supporting your (enter whatever you want here) agenda.”

    Word, yo. Those commie libtard gun-grabbers are coming for you! Buah-ha-ha-ha! And Obama The Mighty Socialist wants to institute white slavery and a full-on dictatorship as soon as he takes your guns!!! AND black men want to date your daughters, but only after they’ve gotten them high on Reefers!! BUAH-Ha-ha-ha!!!

    Wait, sorry…. Which side were we talking about re: sensationalism? Oh, right, the Freedom-Defending WASPs of this nation are all calm, cool, and NEVER fall for hyberbolic rhetoric. I have to go to a socialist or liberal website for people freaking out in an echo chamber, I guess.

  • ghostwheel

    My Daily Rant on the Clinton GUN Control plan, enjoy! :

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  • Larry

    There is not one place in the constitution that describes the type of guns we can have.It says keep and bear arms.I asm keeping mine and I damn sure will bear them.When will we stand on the constitution and not on what politicans say.Revelution is on its way

  • Jonathan Jones

    There are several points that I find funny. The first is that, the only people to determine what is and isn’t “military grade” or “mil-spec” is the military.

    No one, not even the companies vying for contracts from the military, know what the military holds as standards or what specifications they use to judge what could potentially be the next tank or rifle used in the U.S. Armed Forces.

    The second point I try to make to these anti 2nd amendment people, is that “mil-spec” may mean it looks cool and can withstand different punishment than your ordinary book bag, but it is still made by the lowest bidder. “Mil-spec” gear is like the lowest quality, high quality stuff.

  • JW

    Let’s brace ourselves for more devastating claims:

    These “insert gun grabber dramatic terminology here” can:
    Shoot through six baby unicorns,
    Empower foreign terrorist groups through ill-conceived arms shipments to overseas civil wars,
    Prevent either political party from becoming a tyrannical government that oppresses the rights of lawful citizens….rrrr…. Terrorists.

    Just sayin’

  • Tionico

    Today’s “modern sporting rifle” (the AR clones of various manufacturers and styles) are about as much “military grade” weapons as GM’s Hummer 3 is a military grade patrol/assault vehicle. Or the “desert camo” clothes sold almost everywhere are “military grade combat fatigues”..

    In any case, those weaons, as proven by FBI’s own stats, are simply NOT used as crime tools. They ARE, however, used as tools of oppression by our rulint elite who want us disarmed. The more “bad stuff” they can get before the dozing public on CNN and such, the more likely they think they’ll be to disarm the whole population, their end goal. They fail to recall one small niggly detail, however: that right to own and use military grade weapons (the precise meaning of the legal term “arms” in the Second Article of Ammendment to the Constitution) is given us by God, our Creator, predates the founding of this natioin, and is NOT subject to the whims of its government. It is OURS by right of our birth. The Colonials stood fast at Lexington precisely BECAUSE King George had sent his henchman General Thomas Gage round to take up the arms of the Patriots. The Patriots said NO, and followed up with lead balls, well aimed. Gage took quite the drubbing that day. Our forebears drove those Brits right off our shores…. to stay. Including their thinking that WE THE PEOPLE should not be armed with military grade weapons.

    The kinyun needs to be straightened out….. yes, we CAN, and MUST, retain our lawful possession of our military grade weapons… in SPITE of his deranged rantings. It is our birthright and HE ain’t big enough to take it away. Nor Kerry, Holder, DiFi, Pugliugly, or anyone else anyone can name.

  • Beavis

    Good points in the article. I also think we’re doing this to ourselves. The Tacticool mall ninjas drive the industry to label everything as ‘mil-spec’ to drive creditability.

  • El Gato

    If they are military grade, they are also militia grade.

  • BillC

    I’ve got a military grade p3nis, they probably want to ban that too.

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  • Baldy

    “…where a Papal Decree was issued to prohibit their use in warfare claiming that the ability to give a common peasant the ability to defeat the armour of a wealthy Knight and thus kill him, was an aberration to the natural order.”

    … Actually, the 29th Canon (decree) of the Second Lateran Council, summoned by Pope Innocent II – 1139 A.D. stated:

    “We prohibit under anathema that murderous art of crossbowmen and archers, which is hateful to God, to be employed against Christians and Catholics from now on.”


    A well written essay. But… we must arm ourselves with the facts, so as not to equate ourselves with those who twist the facts in order to fit their anti-gun agenda, produce fear, and spread lies. That’s an anti-gun tenet. Let it NOT be ours.