“Assault Rifle” is a generic term for a wide number of similar designs of military-style rifles. The first successful, mass produced assault rifle was the Russian AK47 that first went into production in 1947. Military assault rifles are designed for combat at ranges from just a few feet to several hundred yards. They fire ammunition of “intermediate” power and range. For example, the Russian AK47 fires a 7.62 MM caliber bullet and the American M16 fires a 5.56MM bullet. Other features of most assault rifles include a pistol grip, front and rear iron sights, ability to attach a bayonet, detachable box magazine and possibly a folding or telescoping stock.
But here’s the really important feature: True military issue assault rifles have the capability to fire in semi-automatic mode (press the trigger and the gun fires once; reset the trigger and fire one more bullet) and also in Full auto or burst fire mode (pull the trigger and keep it held back) the gun fires, ejects the empty cartridge case, loads another cartridge, fires and ejects etc. until the trigger is released.
Military assault rifles are designed this way so that soldiers who are “assaulting” an enemy position can fire a single, aimed shot at the enemy from a long distance away, but when they get up close, can switch to full automatic fire to quickly put a lot of bullets into a group of soldiers at close range.
99.9 percent of the military-style rifles owned by Americans are only capable of firing once for every time the trigger is pulled. These semi-auto copies of the military rifles function just like semi-auto pistols. They can be purchased legally in most, but not all states and are subject to the same laws and background check as any other firearm.