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An assault rifle is a selective-fire, magazine-fed rifle chambered for intermediate-caliber cartridges. Assault rifles are designed to be adaptive to multiple roles, offering both close-range, high-volume automatic fire like a submachine gun and also being able to deliver accurate aimed fire at medium to long range. The World War II-era German Sturmgewehr 44 is often credited as the first assault rifle, and it spurred the development of similar weapons after the war. Today, assault rifles are typically the standard-issue service rifles of most military forces globally.
Most firearms experts classify an assault rifle as being chambered for intermediate-caliber cartridges, such as 5.56×45mm NATO, 7.62×39mm, and 6.8mm SPC, to differentiate them from rifles chambered for full-caliber rounds, which are classed as battle rifles.
The United States Army classifies an assault rifle as a rifle with the following attributes:
- It is issued as an individual weapon.
- It is select-fire, having at least one automatic mode (burst or auto).
- It fires a purpose-built intermediate cartridge. A select-fire rifle that fires a full-power rifle cartridge became known as a Battle rifle following the adoption of assault rifles (previously this term was more or less interchangeable with "military rifle").
- It has an effective range in the region of 330 yards (300m).
- It has a detachable magazine which is used for reloading rather than only detachable for maintenance.
Assault rifles usually serve as military service rifles, and are also used by other groups such as law enforcement. The assault rifle allows the individual infantryman to deliver reasonably precise fire, and bursts of automatic fire if necessary for maneuver or close-range combat (though not for the duration that a light machine gun would deliver).
Due to the slightly inferior range of assault rifles compared to full-power battle rifles, the concept of the designated marksman rifle evolved as they became common, in order to allow the squad to engage targets at ranges where their assault rifles begin to lose effectiveness.
- Before The Sturmgewehr: Assault Rifle Developments Prior to 1942 - The Firearm Blog