I have always hated the phrase “Modern Sporting Rifle.”

I wasn’t aware until just now when I Googled the phrase that it was coined and pushed by a single organization, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, or that it actually manages to have its very own Wikipedia page.

None of those things makes me feel any more warmly toward the phrase. Say it with me: “Modern Sporting Rifle.” It applies specifically to the AR-15, of course…

I don’t have anything against the rifle, it has evolved into a very fine rifle even for sporting purposes, but I really hate that descriptor. It offends me because it’s so transparently weasely. And it’s coined to support a defense that is so fundamentally weak.

I got to thinking about this when I read an excellent essay by Boris Karpa at The Zelman Partisans, on the subject of that very defense…

To be clear, what the anti-gunners oppose is not guns as such. They are not lying, in that sense. What they oppose is the notion of people owning weapons. To an anti-gunner, there is no legitimate application, in modern society, of private armed force. He intends to take it from you, either by outright banning the ownership of weapons, or by making it as bothersome and complicated as possible.

At first it might appear – and millions of gun owners the world around believe this – that you can compromise with these people, after all not all of us personally own guns as weapons, if we but explain to them rationally that our guns are not weapons, we can preserve our hobby…

Every gun rights organization around the world that tried to have this as their driving strategy has been utterly crushed. The reason is simple: once you’ve accepted the narrative that the only legitimate reason to own firearms is to use them in the shooting sports, most people do not empathize with your desire to participate in shooting sports.


What’s in a hobby? What’s your hobby to me? Let’s say you’re really into model trains. Say ten years from now President Chelsea Clinton reveals that she has always harbored a phobia about model trains, as she signs the executive order outlawing all model trains and instructs the killbots of the newly-renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives, Cannabis, Sugar, Cola, Robert Heinlein Novels and Model Trains to go door to door hunting them into extinction. Well…

I might sympathize with your desire to play with model trains. But I’m also indifferent to them myself, and you will not find me joining you at the barricades to defend your hobby. Sorry. It’s not an important hill, and I’m not going to die on it.

That is precisely the weak position in which certain compromisers place themselves – and me – when they try to equate this…
…with this…
Anti-gunners have what is for many people a powerful argument, emotionally, against guns. Especially scary-looking guns that so clearly were designed from the first sketches to aid in the efficient killing of people and breaking of things. Karpa puts it beautifully: The gungrabbers’ argument may be against guns but their real objection is against you and me possessing weapons. You never hear of one of them trying to disarm cops or soldiers or VIP protection details because they don’t object to those people having weapons. But they intend to disarm as many of us as possible, by any means necessary, no matter how long it takes. And if you think you’re going to stave them off or appease them by insisting that your AR isn’t really a weapon, after all, it’s a ‘modern sporting rifle,’ the very best outcome you can hope for is that you’ll be eaten last. I wouldn’t count on achieving even that.

I don’t know about yours, I’m not trying to speak for you, but I personally don’t own a gun that isn’t a weapon. I enjoy target shooting, but the purpose is training with my weapon. My argument for why I should be left unmolested in my gun ownership and use is not that I’m so inoffensive and sporty a target shootist. My argument is that I am an adult male mammal, and all such creatures just naturally possess weapons for self defense. Disarming ourselves, or permitting ourselves to be disarmed by others, is simply anti-survival. Nobody who’s got your best interest at heart would ever demand that you be helpless.

Finally, let me appeal to pure political pragmatism – which I presume was the reason behind the NSSF’s pathetic coining. What is the one area in which gun rights activists nationwide have had the greatest, most total, most grin-inducing success? Is it not…
That’s not a ‘modern sporting pistol,’ hon. That’s a concealed weapon. And the people who worked so hard to bring the right to keep and bear such arms back to life didn’t hide what they hoped to accomplish behind weasel-words. A concealed pistol is a weapon made for fighting, that is all it is, and it was never sold as anything else. And those people won back the ability to legally do what had become virtually a criminal practice everywhere for the unprivileged, and they did it by calling it what it is and patiently demonstrating to a quorum of citizens in one state after another that we all really are safer this way. Sweartagod, the thing I like most about the gun rights battle, second only to the fact that I don’t have to hide anymore, is the way the side that wasn’t obfuscating the truth won.

That’s a powerful argument in favor of the tactic. Don’t you think?

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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5 Responses to I have always hated the phrase “Modern Sporting Rifle.”

  1. Robert Eaton says:

    That was just great!! I too despise the moniker “Modern Sporting Rifle”. (Kinda sounds like an SUV accessory) Total BS. As you illustrated so well, it’s playing by the other side’s rules. We won’t win by stooping to the level of the “Newspeakers”.

  2. Or what is equally endearing, Sport Utility Rifle.

  3. eli says:

    ” Sweartagod, the thing I like most about the gun rights battle, second only to the fact that I don’t have to hide anymore, is the way the side that wasn’t obfuscating the truth won. ”

    You just won all the Internets for the next thirty days…

  4. guffaw1952 says:

    You forgot Ayn Rand novels…


  5. Kyle Miller says:

    I favor “evil black rifle” myself. “Personal Defensive Weapon” on occasion. Just a tool for putting holes in things that need them. If I were in the mood to settle a grudge, give me a pipe wrench or a nice hickory axe handle. More personal. General thuggery does not rate that level of involvement.

To the stake with the heretic!