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, hat’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.