An assault rifle is defined as a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine.[1][2][3][4] Assault rifles are the standard infantry weapons in most modern armies. Assault rifles are categorized in between light machine guns, which are intended more for sustained automatic fire in a light support role, and submachine guns, which fire a pistol cartridge rather than a rifle cartridge.

Examples of assault rifles include the Kalashnikov family (by far the most prolific),[5] M16 rifle, G36, FN F2000, and the Steyr AUG.


The term assault rifle is a translation of the German word Sturmgewehr (literally "storm rifle", as in "to storm a position"). The name was coined by Adolf Hitler[6] to describe the Maschinenpistole 44, subsequently re-christened Sturmgewehr 44, the firearm generally considered the first assault rifle that served to popularise the concept and form the basis for today's modern assault rifles.

The translation assault rifle gradually became the common term for similar firearms sharing the same technical definition as the StG 44. In a strict definition, a firearm must have at least the following characteristics to be considered an assault rifle:[7][8][9]

  • It must be an individual weapon with provision to fire from the shoulder (i.e. a buttstock);
  • It must be capable of selective fire;
  • It must have an intermediate-power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle;
  • Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable magazine.
  • And it should at least have a firing range of 300 meters

Rifles that meet most of these criteria, but not all, are technically not assault rifles despite frequently being considered as such. For example, semi-automatic-only rifles that share designs with assault rifles such as the AR-15 (which the M16 rifle is based on) are not assault rifles, as they are not capable of switching to automatic fire and thus not selective fire. Belt-fed weapons (such as the M249 SAW) or rifles with fixed magazines are likewise not assault rifles because they do not have detachable box magazines. However, in this case, the M249 SAW has the ability for both being fed by belt or detachable box magazine.

The term "assault rifle" is often more loosely used for commercial or political reasons to include other types of arms, particularly arms that fall under a strict definition of the battle rifle, or semi-automatic variant of military rifles such as AR-15s.

The US Army defines assault rifles as "short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachinegun and rifle cartridges."[10]

Assault rifles vs. Assault weaponsEdit

The term assault weapon is a United States political and legal term used to describe a variety of semi-automatic firearms that have certain features generally associated with military assault rifles. The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired on September 13, 2004, codified the definition of an assault weapon. It defined the rifle type of assault weapon as a semiautomatic firearm with the ability to accept a detachable magazine containing more than 10 rounds, and two or more of the following:

The assault weapons ban did not restrict weapons capable of fully automatic fire, such as assault rifles and machine guns, which have been continuously and heavily regulated since the National Firearms Act of 1934 was passed. Subsequent laws such as the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 also affected the importation and civilian ownership of fully automatic firearms, the latter fully prohibiting sales of newly-manufactured machine guns to non-law enforcement or SOT (special occupational taxpayer) dealers.


The changing face of infantry combatEdit

From ancient times, light infantry had fought in dispersed formations, while heavy infantry had fought in tightly packed formations. This continued as the sling and spear were replaced by musket and bayonet. Bright coloured uniforms (German: Blue, Russian: Green; British: Red, French: White) became a standard for unit cohesion in the midst of clouds of black powder smoke. Muskets were inaccurate at distances greater than 50 to 100 meters and were slow to reload, which lead to formation-style war as multiple ranks maximised firepower and guaranteed that at least part of the unit would be ready to fire at all times. Tight formations also aided officers in controlling their men during combat and repelling infantry or cavalry charges.

The adaptation of rifled muskets for military use in the mid-19th century increased range and power of guns and made battle from dense formations an extremely bloody affair, as witnessed by the high level of casualties in the American Civil War. Skirmisher tactics were given greater emphasis as gunpowder weapons increased in reliability, accuracy, and rate of fire. Cavalry adapted by dismounting, and using skirmisher tactics with breechloading rifles (which could be reloaded from a prone position, reducing vulnerability to enemy fire).

After the American Civil War, further developments such as the adaptation of magazine-fed rifles, rapid-fire machine guns and high explosive shells for the artillery, spelled the end of the dense infantry formation during World War I. What this meant in practice was that infantry units no longer engaged each other at long range in open fields; the high power of relatively unwieldy bolt-action rifles of the day (which had been tripled by the adaptation of smokeless powder, along with a corresponding increase in recoil and report) was no longer suited to the close-range engagement of modern warfare. Military leaders and arms manufacturers thus began grasping for a new type of weapon for this new era.

1900s–1930s: Pre-Sturmgewehr Light automatic riflesEdit

These automatic firearms generally used pre-existing rifle cartridges, with kinetic energies between 1960–5,000 J (2,200–3,700-foot-pounds), velocities of 660–900 m/s (1,445–2,950 ft/s) and bullets of 9 to 13 g (139–200 grains).

Amerigo Cei-Rigotti developed a rifle with essentially all the characteristics of an assault rifle between 1890–1900. It was tested but did not see service. The first in-service precursor of the assault rifle was the Russian Fedorov Avtomat issued for the first time in 1915 and chambered for the Japanese 6.5x50mm Arisaka rifle cartridge.[11] Like the 6.5x52mm Mannlicher-Carcano round used in the Cei-Rigotti, this was a relatively low-powered rifle cartridge already in production. The 1,960 J bullet energy of the Arisaka round from the short barrel of the Avtomat was in fact less than the 2,010 J bullet energy of the AK-47.[12] The Fedorov Avtomat, though a service rifle, was only used in small numbers. It was however highly favored by Russian and Soviet troops and saw service until World War II. Both these rifles had selective fire capability and weighed under 5½ kgs loaded.

During World War I the French Chauchat was introduced, a light machine gun and a precursor to the modern assault rifle. It was produced in large numbers (250,000). Like the later assault rifle it was capable of both single and automatic fire, and was loaded with a magazine and also featured a pistol grip. Compared to other light machine guns of the time the Chauchat was fairly light at the weight of 9 kg but it was still too cumbersome for closer quarters and had recoil that was too heavy to control when firing fully automatic due to the use of full powered rifle rounds like original French chambering of the 8 mm Lebel (8x50mmR) or variants produced later for US forces in .30-06 Springfield and other international customers in 7.92 mm and 7.65 mm rifle calibres. Despite some serious flaws it was so important to infantry combat that desperate German troops who had no comparable weapon of their own started using captured Chauchats.[13] While it was chambered for the full-size calibre and therefore did not use an intermediate cartridge, it was an intermediate weapon between submachine guns and heavier machine guns such as the Lewis Gun.

The Ribeyrolle 1918 may be the first weapon fitting the definition of an assault rifle (including select fire and portability) to use a purpose-designed intermediate round. The cartridge was based on the .351 Winchester Self-Loading case necked down to accept a 8 mm Lebel bullet. It was first introduced to the Army Technical Service on July 6, 1918. Its official designation was Carabine Mitrailleuse (English: machine carbine; German: Maschinenkarabiner). It was finally rejected in 1921 because it was not accurate enough at distances beyond 400 meters. Similar weapons were the Danish Weibel M/1932 and Greek EPK light machine guns chambered in experimental rounds considered similar to what would become the 7.92x33mm Kurz within the following decade.

The American M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) copied the Chauchat concept in a more reliable design but was not introduced or used in any significant numbers before the end of the First World War. Later developments added heavier barrels and bipods that made it more like today's light machine gun or squad automatic weapon, though it did help establish the doctrine of use for light selective fire rifles. These versions of the BAR were produced in large numbers, widely adopted, and served well into the 1960s with the U.S. military and other nations.

During World War I, submachine guns also entered service, such as the Villar Perosa, the Beretta Model 1918 and the MP18. These weapons shared many elements with assault rifles, but they fired pistol cartridges such as the 9x19 mm Parabellum. The developers of the Thompson submachine gun (also developed during the 1910s) originally intended to use rifle-powered rounds. However, a mechanical system that could handle their power was not available and the .45 ACP cartridge was chosen instead. These firearms are considered part of the submachine gun class, but were an important step in the development of assault rifles.

1930s: Automatic intermediate weaponsEdit

Continuing evolution of the intermediate-calibre automatic rifle was primarily driven by ammunition. Handgun ammunition used by submachine guns was only effective at shorter ranges. Conversely, full-sized military rifle calibres were uncomfortable to fire repeatedly, were large and lead to unwieldy and heavy rifles, and were difficult to control during fully automatic or rapid fire because of significant recoil. The cost of design and manufacture of full-size rifles ammunition was also higher. One attempt to combine an intermediate cartridge with an automatic rifle by the Italian arms company Beretta resulted in the MAB 38 (Moschetto Automatico Beretta 1938). The MAB 38 used a Fiocchi 9M38 cartridge, a higher-powered version of the 9x19mm Parabellum pistol cartridge, which could provide longer effective range up to 200 m.

In 1942, the United States introduced the M1 carbine, which was an intermediate power weapon chambered for the .30 Carbine cartridge. While select-fire capability was initially planned for the M1 carbine, this was dropped from the initial version. Later in the war, selective fire variants were made (M2 and M3). The weapon had greater range and accuracy than submachine guns, but was not as powerful as full-size automatic rifles such as the M1918 BAR. The longer barrel provided the carbine with a higher muzzle velocity than pistols and submachine guns chambered for the same .30-calibre round.

Originally the carbine was envisioned as an inexpensive lightweight weapon for issue to rear-echelon and support troops (truckers, tankers, cooks, etc.) in place of the more expensive M1911 pistol or M1 Garand rifle. The M1 series was soon found suitable for close quarter battle engagements, a concept that would be re-applied later. The M1 carbine series would remain in service with the U.S. military primary forces until supplemented and finally replaced by the M16 rifle in the 1960s; it continued to be used in limited roles, particularly by the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and many Training Commands in the various branches of the U.S. armed forces well into the 1980s.

The 1930s was also the beginning of the important German Maschinenkarabiner program of arms development that resulted in the prototype Maschinenkarabiner M35 that was however not adopted for service.[14]

1940s–early 1950s: Maschinenkarabiner, Sturmgewehr & AK-47Edit

Some of these automatic firearms used pre-existing rounds; others used new intermediate cartridges. Kinetic energy ranged between 1,400–2,100 J (1,033–1,550-foot-pounds), muzzle velocities of 600–800m/s (1,970–2,625 ft/s) and bullets of 7–9g (108–139 grains).

Germany, under the Versailles Treaty, was limited to a professional army of long service soldiers numbering only 100,000 men and forbade tanks or military aircraft. This encouraged an approach that emphasised high quality, and reduced emphasis on low cost. Infantry tactics became based on teams of General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG) supporting and supported by a section of infantry. GPMG had high rates of fire to permit small numbers of men to fire at long range to defend a wide front. Enemy soldiers, briefly exposed, would be engaged with a high rate burst of fire to cause casualties before they could take cover. Close range assaults would be conducted by units with submachine guns, for greater mobility, and higher rates of fire. This tactical approach was a refinement of the "Hutier" tactics used by Germany in the last year of WWI.

Germany, like other countries, had observed and studied the emerging demand of infantry rifles evolving since World War I, and their factories made a variety of non-standard cartridges, therefore having less incentive to retain their existing calibres. The 7.92x30 mm (Kurz) cartridge was an example of these experiments; in 1941, it was improved to 7.92x33mm Kurz Infanterie Kurz Patrone ("Infantry Short Cartridge"). In 1942, it was again improved as Maschinenkarabiner Patrone S, and in 1943, Pistolen Patrone 43mE; then, finally, Infanterie Kurz Patrone 43. The similarity in size between the 7.92x33mm German cartridge and the 7.62x33mm developed for the M1 Carbine is a curious coincidence, but was ultimately nothing more than independent yet similar solutions to the same problem. The 7.92x33mm round used the same cartridge case head as the standard 7.92x57mm Mauser and the bullet was made from the same diameter rod.

In 1942, Walther presented the Maschinenkarabiner ("automatic carbine," abbr. MKb), named MKb42(W). In the same year, Haenel presented the MKb42(H), designed by Hugo Schmeisser as a result of this program. Rheinmetall-Borsig (some said Krieghoff) presented its FG42 (Fallschirmjäger Gewehr 42, sponsored by Hermann Göring) though this was in a different role, and using a heavy 7.92x57mm Mauser cartridge, which was not an intermediate round. Wartime tests in Russia indicated the MKb42(H) performed better than the other two. Schmeisser developed it first as the MP43, then MP43/1, and finally as the MP44/Sturmgewehr 44 (abbreviated StG44, or sometimes Stg 44). It immediately entered large scale production. More than 5,000 units had been produced by February 1944, and 55,000 by the following November.

Following the end of the war, Mikhail Kalashnikov developed in 1947 the AK-47, inspired by the concept and layout of the German StG44, but is quite different mechanically. It fired the 7.62x39mm cartridge, which had been developed as model 43 for use in their SKS carbines that were developed by Simonov in 1945 and subsequently adopted as the SKS-45 . The round was similar to the StG44's in that the bullet was an intermediate round of the same calibre as the larger full-size Russian rifle ammunition.

Though it further supports claims that Kalashnikov closely followed his German counterpart, Russian historians point out that Hugo Schmeisser arrived to Izhevsk in late 1947, while Kalashnikov had relocated development of his rifle to the same premises only as late as 1948 (the development itself began in 1943). Still, Schmeisser greatly helped Soviet gunsmiths to master the cold stamping technology, which was extensively used in the AK design (this especially relates to the later stamped receiver variant).[15]

Mauser had developed several prototype Sturmgewehr 45 assault rifles, first with the Gerät 06 (Device 6) using a roller-delayed blowback mechanism originally adapted from the roller-locked recoil operation of the MG42 machine gun but with a fixed barrel and gas system. It was realised that with careful attention to the mechanical ratios, the gas system could be omitted. The resultant weapon, the Gerät 06(H) was supposedly slated for adoption by the Wehrmacht as the StG45.

The German technicians involved in developing the Sturmgewehr 45 continued their research in France at CEAM. The StG45 mechanism was modified by Ludwig Vorgrimler and Theodor Löffler at the Mulhouse facility between 1946 and 1949. Three versions were made, chambered in .30 Carbine, 7.92x33mm Kurz as well as the 7.65x35mm cartridge developed by Cartoucherie de Valence and adopted in 1948. A 7.5x38mm cartridge using a partial aluminium bullet was abandoned in 1947. Engaged in the Indochina war and being the second NATO contributor, France cancelled the adoption of these new weapons. Vorgrimler moved to Spain and began production of CETME Modelo A,B and C precursors of Heckler & Koch's G3 battle rifle and MP5 submachine gun

Late 1950s–1960s: Lighter rifles & smaller bulletsEdit

Many of these automatic firearms used intermediate cartridges with much lighter bullets and smaller calibres, but fired at very high velocity; kinetic energy ranged between 1300–1800J (960–1,330-foot-pounds), velocities of 900–1050m/s (2,950–3,450 ft/s), and bullets of 3–4g (46–62 grains).

Following the end of World War II, the U.S. Army conducted a number of studies of what happened in the war and how it was actually fought. Several things were learned which applied directly to personal weapon design. Perhaps most important, research found that most combat casualties caused by small-arms fire took place at short range. So the long range and accuracy of the standard rifle was, in a real sense, wasted. Second, the research found that aiming was not a major factor in causing casualties. Instead, the number one predictor of casualties was the total number of bullets fired.[16] Third, psychological studies found that many riflemen (as much as 2/3) never fired their weapons at the enemy. By contrast, those soldiers equipped with rapid-fire weapons (submachine guns and the early assault rifles) were far more likely to actually use their weapons in battle.[17] This combination of factors led to the conclusion that a fairly short-range weapon capable of rapid fire would be the most effective general purpose weapon for infantry.

While these studies were being digested, the United States insisted on introducing their own 7.62x51mm full-power cartridge as the standard for NATO armies. It could kill at distances of more than 500 meters (though this was increasingly seen as irrelevant). At the time, the British were developing their own 7x43mm (.280 British) intermediate cartridge for their modern EM-2 bullpup assault rifle. Due to political pressure from the Conservative Party, which agreed with the American standardisation campaign, the whole project was shelved at the eve of introduction. In Belgium, the famous arms producer FN Herstal started experimenting with the German 7.92x33mm Kurzpatrone. They built a prototype of a rifle using this cartridge, but the impending NATO standardisation forced them to rebuild it to use American ammo, giving birth to the FN FAL, Switzerland introduced the SIG 510 that still fired Swiss service full-length rifle rounds but also produced the SIG 510-4 that fired the 7.62x51mm NATO round. Bolivia and Chile adopted the SIG 510-4 as their service rifle, Bolivian/Chilean exports were licence produced by the Italian firm Beretta.

In conjunction with the 7.62x51mm Cartridge, The United States had developed the M14 rifle, which was largely based on the WWII M1 Garand, the most significant change being the addition of a 20 round detachable box magazine and selective fire capability. While initial tests looked promising, and professional rifleman were able to put on favorable demonstrations, the select-fire capabilities quickly proved unrealistic once the rifle was in the hands of a more average soldier; The 7.62mm NATO cartridge is a full power rifle cartridge and produces too much recoil to control a lightweight rifle in full automatic fire. About the same time the M-14 was entering service, Eugene Stoner of Armalite was developing a totally new rifle named the AR-10, which was still designed to fire the 7.62mm NATO cartridge. As testing of the Stoner rifle progressed, army ordinance finally decided to look more seriously at the intermediate cartridge concept, and the 5.56x45mm NATO was born. Stoner scaled down his design and renamed the smaller weapon the AR-15, which would ultimately be adopted by the US armed forces as the M-16 rifle. The M16A1 version soon followed to rectify issues found during use in the Vietnam War. The M16A2 was a further refinement and upgrade introduced in 1986 meant to use the Belgian-updated 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge with a heavier 62-grain (4.0 g) steel-core "penetrator" bullet known as the SS109 or M855. The latest incarnation of the M-16 rifle is the M4A1 selective fire carbine.

The smaller-calibre military cartridges such as the 5.56x45mm and 5.45x39mm were sometimes considered less lethal than the previous generation of assault rifle rounds, such as the 7.62x39mm, which were large-calibre bullets with reduced propellant or cases. However, the lighter, small-calibre bullets achieved higher velocities, more favourable ballistic properties, and reduced carrying weight.

One aspect of the smaller calibre ammunition that is sometimes hotly debated is its fragmentation behaviour. Stopping capability is the effectiveness of the round in completely stopping the target when it hits—either killing or fully incapacitating. Within a certain range of ballistic conditions, the lighter 5.56 mm and 5.45 mm will, upon striking tissue, first tumble and then fragment. Beyond 100 yards (91 m), or when fired from shorter barrels, such bullets can often fail to fragment upon impact because of insufficient velocity. Thus, the result in a target is a rather small .22 calibre bullet hole, instead of a much larger wound channel. Effectiveness depends on what tissues of the enemy body the round destroys. Larger destroyed areas increases the probability that sufficient damage will be done to end enemy resistance. Ultimately, any pointed (spitzer) round will tumble in soft tissue. If the jacket has a cannelure, such as the U.S. 5.56x45mm M193 round, and the bullet is in the proper ballistic state and high enough velocity, the bullet will fragment, inflicting significant blood loss and internal damage, as well as a wound channel profile that is more complex to address medically. If the bullet acts as a solid, and doesn't fragment, full effectiveness occurs only if striking the brain or spinal cord, causing immediate loss of control. There is a distinct, though lesser effectiveness if the heart, large blood vessels, or liver (which last tends to tear) is hit causing fairly quick loss of blood pressure, and consequent unconsciousness.

Part of the dispute over small-calibre rounds arises here. Blood loss leads to indirect incapacitation, but often takes longer than direct destruction of tissue. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara presented wounding ability as a reason for adoption of the M16 over the M14 as a question of battlefield efficiency - that it is better to wound an adversary than kill him, as wounded must be tended to by their comrades, taking them out of the fight and demoralising them in the process.[18] Many claim that this theory was wed to the findings of Project SALVO, but nowhere in the SALVO findings was reduced lethality of rifle rounds ever stressed or presented as an argument for adoption of a lighter/smaller calibre round. SALVO concluded that the main factor in inflicting casualties in infantry combat was solely rounds fired - aiming had negligible impact.

The theory that enemy soldiers would stop to aid a wounded comrade was questionable. The heavier 7.62 mm bullets in use were claimed to hit harder with more mass, would not deflect or destabilise as readily, and more reliably killed what it hit. (Some of the substantiated issues were later addressed in 1982 with the changes made in the M16A2, which used a heavier 62-grain (4.0 g) bullet with different ballistic characteristics from its M16A1 predecessor.)

1970s–1990s: Development of features and form factorsEdit

Many of these automatic firearms used the same rounds as in older eras, but developed new layout designs, materials, and features, like standard telescopic and reflex sights.

In the 1980s and 1990s, high velocity, smaller-calibre ammunition was becoming the standard of assault rifle ammunition. Following the trend set by the United States (which went from 7.62x51mm to 5.56x45mm), the Soviet Union developed its own smaller-calibre cartridge: the 5.45x39mm. In 1974, the 5.45x39 AK-74 became the successor to the AK-47/AKM series. Though AK-74s began utilising synthetic materials as opposed to wood, the weapon largely maintained the design of the AK-47. China in the 1980s introduced the 5.8x42mm DBP87 round, to compete with the assault rifle rounds of NATO and Russia.

One notable development in ammunition in the 1970–1980s was the German Heckler & Koch G11 rifle, which used 4.73 mm caseless ammunition. Because of German reunification and heat-dissipation issues with the caseless ammunition, the rifle never entered full production.

New developments were rifle designs that utilised modularity, new form factors, sights, electronics, and new materials. A number of bullpup rifles entered service in the late 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Although bullpup design had existed since the 1930s, the United Kingdom's EM-2 was one of the few bullpup assault rifles prior to this time. Examples of the trend include the FAMAS, Steyr AUG, and SA80. All three are bullpup rifles that make heavy use of composites and plastics, the FAMAS and AUG both have ambidextrous controls, and the AUG, and SA80 both added a low-power telescopic sight to the standard service version. The QBZ-95, SAR-21, and the Tavor TAR-21 follow a similar trend as well, with a bullpup configuration and heavy use of composites.

The German Heckler & Koch G36, adopted in the late 1990s by Germany and Spain , had integral telescopic and red dot sights and a composite exterior. The G36C, a compact variant, featured a different barrel assembly, a shorter foregrip, and a Picatinny rail in place of the standard sight assembly to accommodate a detachable sight.

Through the 1990s, modular accessories for use on rifles, of a variety of types, started to become widespread with the rapidly increasing practice of mounting Picatinny pattern rails on firearms. This was primarily driven by the growing visibility and number of tactical police, counter-terrorist units, SWAT teams, special forces, and other groups that desired the capability to specifically tailor their weapons. Tactical lights, visible lasers, weapon suppressors, infra-red lights, drum magazines, ergonomic accessories (such as vertical foregrips), folding or collapsible stocks, and a plethora of other options appeared. As these options became available to civilians, customisation of weapons other than assault rifles, such as the SKS rifle became common.

Intertwined with the growth of the modular accessories was the concept of rifles being modular themselves. While some assault rifles can be modified through the use of attachments (such as the M4 carbine with SOPMOD), other assault rifles like the H&K G36, can have their entire function modified. The G36 can be converted from a standard rifle to a compact carbine for closer engagements or a squad automatic weapon for support, simply by swapping parts. Interchangeable or quick-detachable barrel assemblies of different lengths are emerging for some weapons, with retrofit kits to provide similar capabilities on older types. The AR-15 in particular has an entire industry that has grown to make variations of every component of the rifle. A variety of upper receivers of many types of operation (bolt, direct gas impingement, gas piston, blowback) are manufactured that allow the weapon to fire different ammunition from the standard assault rifle round (from small target rounds such as .22 LR to pistol rounds such as .380 ACP) without permanently changing the rifle.

21st Century DevelopmentsEdit

21st century assault rifles tend to be refinements of innovations made in previous decades. For example Israel's IMI Tavor TAR-21 is a 21st-century assault rifle that continues earlier trends of design: it has a compact bullpup layout, uses the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge, can be set up for left- or right- handed shooters, exists in several modular variants, is made of lightweight composite materials, and comes standard with a reflex sight. However the 21st century has come up with new innovations such as improved and new types of ammunition, advanced aiming systems and multi-caliber ability. The United States funded development of a replacement for the M16 rifle, eventually leading to the XM8 rifle, an experimental 21st-century design. Based on the Heckler & Koch G36 it had similar features, but added electronics such as a laser sight, round counter, and integral infra-red and visible lights. The XM8 was a modular design: the rifle could fulfill different roles by changing the parts. Weapons manufacturer Heckler and Koch has also created a redesigned M4 assault rifle. The new weapons, the HK416 (firing 5.56x45 NATO) and the HK417 (firing 7.62x51 NATO), have updated features, but are not completely different weapons platforms. They feature a piston (not direct impingement,) action, Picatinny rails, a drop free magazine release, a bolt that is sealed from the action (reducing dirt, heat and chance of failure) and other additions.

Another trend of the 21st century is the combination of sophisticated electronics with modern rifle designs. The US spent millions on the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program, to create a more advanced combat rifle. The XM29 OICW rifle design was finalized in in the early first decade of the 21st century- it featured an integrated laser range-finder, thermal vision and night vision capabilities, and an integral smart grenade launcher. The project was canceled in 2004, but the US's experimental XM29 rifle lead to other countries developing similar systems. France's PAPOP program is currently under-way to create a computerized infantry weapon system. South Korea's prototype XK11 Korean New Rifle has a ballistics computer, a laser range-finder, and a digital scope that provides the operator with combat data and is capable of night operation through thermal imaging. The lightweight small arms technology program sets to revolutionize small arms for the 21st century by lightening the weight of individual weapons.

The futureEdit

Small arms technology including the assault rifle can be described as a mature technology. However, changes in battlefield realities can be expected to lead to technological changes. As weapons evolve, the delicate balance for assault rifle systems between power, weight, recoil and terminal effects will likely shift once again in an attempt to defeat body armour, to match the range of full-power cartridges, and to penetrate through wind shields and thin-skinned vehicles while still producing good terminal effects. Possible future directions are armour piercing or saboted sub-caliber tungsten darts, more powerful cartridges, application of new composite materials such as carbon fiber or carbon nanotubes, and use of exotic metals such as titanium and scandium. As personal body armour technology improves, for example from the development of Magnetorheological fluid-based smart materials, assault rifle designs will be forced to adapt in order to remain effective. Changes in assault rifle technology may come from maturation of other fields - as camera technology becomes more advanced, cameras may be integrated into rifles. Much research and development has already been put into integration of rifles with advanced electronics.

The future of the assault rifle may not be entirely in the design of the firearm itself, but rather in the ammunition it fires. Reducing weight and cost being one of the original reasons for the development of the intermediate powered round and subsequently the assault rifle, that goal has been taken to a whole new level with the development of caseless ammunition which does away with the weight and cost of shell casings. Limitations of current technology prevent this idea from being successful but the concept is still being researched. Recent progress with the light weight small arms technology program has made the concept of caseless ammunition a step closer to reality.

Legal ownership by civiliansEdit

Possession of functional assault rifles by civilians is illegal in most nations, but there are a few notable exceptions, including the following:


Limited civilian ownership of assault rifles is allowed under Prohibited-class licenses, but diminishing due to attrition as no new licenses are currently being issued; current owners have been grandfathered and their firearms must be turned in for destruction upon their death or lapse of license. There is a provision in the law that allows for a parent to will a prohibited weapon to their son or daughter. This child is allowed to keep the weapon in usable condition. Many semi-auto only variants are available under both the Non-Restricted and Restricted categories, while others are classified as Prohibited, depending on the particular firearm.[19]

Czech RepublicEdit

The Ministry of the Interior, under the provisions of Act 119/2002, regulates civilian ownership of assault rifles, which are classified in the Czech Republic as Category A (Restricted Firearms and Accessories).[20] In addition to a valid gun licence, the prospective civilian owner must obtain a Category A Exemption from a local police agency and demonstrate the reason for owning an assault rifle, e.g. a legitimate firearms collection. The largest rifled bore available to civilians is .50-calibre.


The Firearms Act of 1998 (amended in 2001) outlawed possession of assault rifles by the general public, although licensed collectors in good standing may be able to obtain permits for older assault rifles from the Gaming and Weapons Administration. Police must verify that the collector is able to store the gun securely to discourage theft.[21] Civilians may purchase semi-automatic versions of assault rifles.

The NetherlandsEdit

Assault rifles are considered Class 2 weapons of the Wet Wapens en Munitie (WWM) along with silencers and short-barreled rifles/shotguns as well as any high-capacity magazine. Civilian possession is illegal unless personal authorisation is obtained from the Minister of Justice.


Civilian gun licenses in Pakistan vary considerably in terms of region and class of firearm. Local police agencies can issue permits for assault rifles that are only legal in the state in which they are issued, although a licence issued by the Prime Minister will allow the rifle in question to be transported anywhere in the country. There are complaints that the licensing process has become too politicised.[22]


Assault rifles may only be owned by licensed collectors and hunters, but cannot be fired in full-automatic mode. Civilians may purchase semi-automatic versions of such firearms.


Canton police agencies may issue special permits for civilians to own assault rifles (typically as licensed collectors), but such weapons may not be fired in full-automatic mode. Civilians may also purchase semi-automatic versions of such firearms.

United StatesEdit

Civilian ownership of assault rifles or any other full-automatic firearm is tightly regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives under the National Firearms Act of 1934 as amended by Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968. In addition, the Firearms Owners' Protection Act of 1986 halted the manufacture of assault rifles for the civilian market and currently limits legal civilian ownership to units produced and properly registered with the BATFE before May 1986. Some states have enacted laws against civilian possession of automatic weapons that override NFA clearance; Kansas, on the other hand, repealed its own state law against civilian ownership of assault rifles in July 2008.[23] Civilians may purchase semi-automatic versions of such firearms without requiring NFA clearance, although some states (including California and New Jersey) enforce their own restrictions and/or prohibitions on such weapons.




Year of


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Major users
2B-A-40 1956 Soviet Union 7.62x39mm n/a
The 2B-A-40 is an assault rifle of Russian origin. The weapon uses a delayed-blowback operation and is chambered in the 7.62x39mm round. The 2B-A-40 also came as a light machine gun as the 2B-P-40.
80.002 1970s Soviet Union 5.45x39mm n/a
The 80.002 is a combined Assault Rifle/Grenade Launcher based on the AK platform that predated the similar OICW. In developing this set of designers participated V. Minaev, VI Chelikin, GA Jan. The main difference from the Kalashnikov is the presence of weapons of two adjacent shafts 5.45 mm and 12.7 mm respectively.
AC-556 1973 United States 5.56x45mm NATO United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Bermuda
The AC-556 or Mini-14 is an offshoot designed by Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. of the famous "M1" family of military rifles. The AC-556 is very similar both in the way it looks and functions to the M1 carbine, however it is chambered in the more powerful 5.56x45mm round and features a fire selector switch to allow for fully automatic fire.
Ak 5 1985 Sweden 5.56x45mm NATO Sweden
Ak 5 is the Swedish version of Belgian FN FNC. It is the main service rifle of the Swedish Armed Forces.
AK-47 1947 Soviet Union 7.62x39mm Russia, many others
The simple, easy to manufacture AK-47 was one of the earliest designs for an assault rifle. Once designed and distributed by the Soviet Union for use by the Warsaw Pact nations, it has become the most widespread, most copied assault rifle design in the world.
AK-74 1974 Soviet Union 5.45x39mm Russia, many others
The AK-74 is an adaptation of the AKM (which used the 7.62x39mm cartridge) down to the smaller 5.45x39mm cartridge.
AK-100 1990s Russia 7.62x39mm, 5.45x39mm Russia, many others
In the 1990s, Izhmash designers developed the unified complex of Kalashnikov assault rifles chambered for domestic 7.62 x 39mm, 5.45 x 39mm cartridges as well as the 5.56 x 45mm NATO cartridge to expand the export capabilities of the enterprise.These assault rifles can be supplied to traditional Russian clients and NATO standard-oriented countries.

The complex comprises assault rifles for general purpose use (AK-74M, AK-101, AK-103) and for auxiliary designation (AK-102, AK-104, AK-105). All of them feature a high degree of unification in the construction of the assemblies and parts as well as the in technology of their manufacture.

AKM 1959 Soviet Union 7.62x39mm Russia, many others
The AKM is a redesign of the AK-47 made for ease of mass production. The design is simplified somewhat which also reduced the substantial weight of the AK-47, while adding to its accuracy and reliability.
AO-38 1965 Soviet Union 5.45x39mm Never in active service
The AO-38 is the first assault rifle to use the Balanced Automatic Recoil System(BARS) to improve stability giving better accuracy over AK-74's. Its derivatives are the AK-107 and AEK-971.
AO-62 1965 Soviet Union 5.45x39mm Never in active service
The AO-62 was an AK derivative that is recoil operated with a special device that can resist recoil when the first three rounds are fired. This rifle predates the similarly operated Heckler & Koch G11 and AN-94 assault rifles.
AO-63 1986 Soviet Union 5.45x39mm Russia (Abakan Trials)
The AO-63 was intended as a more accurate alternative to the standard issue AK-74 with capabilities firing from 850 to a theoretical 6,000RPM when the two round burst selected making it effective against body armour. It was used during the Abakan trials with the AN-94 being the winner.
Armtech C30R 1986 Australia 5.56mm Caseless Never in active service
The Armtech C30R was a concept using 5.56mm caseless rectangular round similar to that used in the H&K G11.
AVB-7.62 1990s Russia 7.62x39mm/7.62x54mm Never in active service
The AB and AVB rifles were designed to reduce recoil force by using a Lever-Delayed Blowback operation and came in both Assault and Battle rifle forms. One variant was produced in Czechoslovakia in the 7.62x51mm NATO calibre. These rifles were not adopted by any military.
Barrett REC7 2007 United States 6.8 mm Remington SPC United States
The REC7 (formerly known as the M468) is the designation for an upgrade to the M16/M4. The REC7 is manufactured by Barrett Firearms Company, who are best known for producing the M82 .50 caliber sniper rifle.
Beretta AR70/90 1980s/1990s Italy 5.56x45mm NATO Italy
First born in the early 1970s, its early incarnation (the AR-70/.223) was jointly developed and built alongside the SG 530 with SIG and saw use only within some Italian Special Forces as well as exports and civilian sales. The design was later modernized to comply with NATO standards, and became in the late 1980s the main assault rifle of the Italian military, retaining such role up to date. The most widely issued version of this weapon is the SC-70/90 folding-stock variant.
Beretta ARX-160 2008 Italy 5.56x45mm NATO Italy (entering limited service as of year 2010)
The ARX-160 is an assault rifle manufactured by Pietro Beretta S.p.A.. Developed for the Italian armed forces as part of the Soldato Futuro (Future Soldier in English) program, the ARX-160 has been launched in the year 2008 as a commercial weapon system independent from the Soldato Futuro ensemble, complete with a companion single-shot 40mm NATO low-velocity grenade launcher, called GLG-160, which can be underslung to the rifle or used with an ad-hoc stock system as a stand-alone weapon.
Bushmaster ACR 2006 United States 5.56x45mm NATO n/a
CETME 1950s Spain 7.62x51mm NATO Spain
Based on the prototype Sturmgewehr 45 design, the CETME would, in turn, be influential on the design of the Heckler & Koch G3 family of rifles. The CETME was used by the Spanish military.
CETME Model L 1981 Spain 5.56x45mm NATO Spain
The CETME Model L was a similar weapon to the HK33 and HK G41. It has been replaced by a Licenced copy of the H&K G36.
Colt Canada C7 rifle 1982 Canada 5.56x45mm NATO Canada and others
The C7 is a Canadian variant of the M16. It is the service rifle of the Canadian Forces, and is also used by the military forces of Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and the Netherlands, and by United Kingdom Special Forces.
ČZ 522 1950s Czechoslovakia 7.62x45mm vz. 52 Never in active service
The ČZ 522 was an assault rifle of Czechoslvak origin prior to the Vz. 58, designed by Jiří Čermák at České zbrojovky. It used components similar to that of a German MG34 and slight resemblance to the StG-44 and StG-45.
ČZW-556 19?? Czechoslovakia 5.56x45mm NATO Not in active service
The CZW-556 assault rifle uses the delayed-blowback operation used on the Baryshev AVB platform.
Daewoo K2 1984 South Korea 5.56x45mm NATO South Korea, Fiji, Peru, Nigeria
The K2 is the primary service rifle of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces. It is based on the designs of the M16 and AK-47 although the parts are not interchangeable.
Daewoo XK8 n/a South Korea 5.56x45mm NATO Never in active service
DCR 1973 United States 5.56x45mm NATO Never in active service
The Dual Cycle Rifle (DCR) is a machine revolver-type assault rifle that used a unique gas operation with a webley-fosbery type grooved cylinder enabling 3-round burst capabilities of firing 4,900RPM.
Diseños Casanave SC-2005 2005 Peru 5.56x45mm NATO Peru
The SC-2005 is an FN FAL derivative with external parts from the IMI Galil and M4 Carbine.
EM-2 1951 United Kingdom .280 British Never in active service
The EM-2 was an experimental British bullpup assault rifle. It was designed to fire the experimental .280 British round that was being considered to replace the venerable .303 British. The rifle was never brought into service, but it did help lay the groundwork for the development of later, more successful British bullpup rifles such as the SA80.
EMERK 2010 Burma 5.56x45mm NATO Burma
The EMERK is a bullpup rifle currently in partial issue in Burma as the EMERK-1 and EMERK-3. The EMERK is roughly based on the Chinese QBZ rifle, but with additional features taken from the American M16 and British SA80.
FAD assault rifle 2008 Peru 5.56x45mm NATO Peru (not yet in service)
The FAD(Fusil Automático Doble) is a Bullpup assault rifle currently under development by SIMA Electronica, A 40mm pump action grenade launcher is also to be installed to it.
FAMAS 1978 France 5.56x45mm NATO France and others
The bullpup designed FAMAS is the service rifle of the French military. The weapon is also the primary infantry weapon of Djibouti and is used by the Philippine National Police Special Action Force.
FARA 83 1983 Argentina 5.56x45mm NATO Argentina, Venezuela
Externally resembling the Israeli IMI Galil, internally similar to the Heckler & Koch HK33, the FARA 83 was designed in Argentina to become the service rifle for the Argentine Army. The rifle was brought into service starting in 1984, but never replaced the existing FMAP FSL variant of the Belgian FN FAL which remains Argentina's main service rifle to the present day.
Floro PDW 2000s? Philippines 5.56x45mm NATO n/a
The Floro PDW is a compact carbine that has been developed the by Floro International of the Philippines for conventional forces, as a replacement for their 9mm caliber sidearms and submachine guns.
FN CAL 1966 Belgium 5.56x45mm NATO Gabon, Lebanon
The FN CAL was designed to be a lower cost, easier to manufacture alternative to the existing FN FAL, although the two guns are not directly related. The CAL never met with any significant interest and was later dropped in favour of the even less expensive FN FNC.
FN F2000 2001 Belgium 5.56x45mm NATO Belgium and others
The F2000 incorporates many advanced features into its ambidextrous bullpup design. The F2000 is currently in use by Belgian special forces and is being considered as a possible replacement for the FN FNC as the service rifle for the Belgian armed forces.
FN FNC 1979 Belgium 5.56x45mm NATO Belgium and others
A much better received follow-up to the less successful FN CAL, the FNC has been the main service rifle of the Belgian military since its introduction. Variations on the design have been adopted in several countries with the Swedish Ak 5 and the Indonesian Pindad SS1 being among the more notable examples.
FN SCAR 2007 Belgium 5.56x45mm NATO United States (experimental)
The SCAR is Belgian arms maker Fabrique Nationale de Herstal's entry into (and eventual winner of) the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM)'s SCAR competition to select a new rifle for special forces. The weapon is still in production and has not yet entered service.
Franchi LF-58 1958 Italy .30 Carbine Never in active service
The Franchi LF-58 is a carbine of Italian origin chambered in .30 Carbine. The weapon is gas operated and comes with a side folding wire stock similar to that of the LF-57 submachine gun.
Franchi mod. 641 1980s Italy 5.56x45mm NATO n/a
The Franchi mod. 641 is an assault rifle of Italian origin manufactured by Franchi. The weapon is somewhat a derivative of the CETME/H&K G3 but using a gas operation.
FX-05 Xiuhcoatl 2006 Mexico 5.56x45mm NATO Mexico
The Xiuhcoatl was designed and built in Mexico to be the next generation service rifle for the Mexican Army. Though similar to the Heckler & Koch G36, the two are different enough that Heckler & Koch elected not to pursue proposed copyright infringement claims.
Grad 2010 North Ossetia-Alania 5.45x39mm M74 Not in service yet
The Grad assault rifle is a bullpup weapon of North Ossetian origin. The weapon is chambered in the 5.45x39mm round and can be fitted with a silencer. The Grad operates on the AK Platform and is compatible with existing AK-74 components.
Heckler & Koch G11 1980s West Germany 4.73x33mm caseless Never in active service
Developed in the 1970s and 1980s as a non-production prototype platform for experimental caseless ammunition.
Heckler & Koch G36 1995 Germany 5.56x45mm NATO Germany, many NATO and others
Developed as a successor to the Heckler & Koch G3, the G36 is currently the service rifle of the Bundeswehr (German armed forces.) It is also widely used by other armies and police forces worldwide.
Heckler & Koch G41 1981 West Germany 5.56x45mm NATO Italy, Lebanon, Spain, Sri Lanka, Turkey
Produced in small numbers as an intended replacement for the Heckler & Koch HK33, The G41 never found the major military market at which it was aimed and the rights to the design were later sold to Italian arms manufacturer Luigi Franchi. Production has since been discontinued.
Heckler & Koch HK33 1960s West Germany 5.56x45mm NATO Brazil, Turkey, Thailand, others
The HK33 was designed as an addition to the successful Heckler & Koch G3 family of weapons. It was designed mostly for export and was never used militarily by the Bundeswehr (German armed forces.) The rifle has sustained moderately widespread use in various parts of the world for several decades. The weapon is also used by police forces in several countries.
Heckler & Koch HK416 2005 Germany 5.56x45mm NATO Norway, Turkey, United States, others
Designed along the lines of the M4 carbine, the HK416 was built with an eye towards taking over the market share currently held by the M4. It is currently in limited use by the United States Army and by special forces units from Malaysia, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and the United States. The rifle has also, reportedly, been selected by Norway and Turkey to become their primary service rifles.
Howa Type 89 1989 Japan 5.56x45mm NATO Japan
The Howa Type 89 is currently in service with the Japan Self-Defense Forces, Japan Coast Guard and the Japanese Special Assault Team. It has never been exported due to strict Japanese anti-export laws.
IMBEL MD2 1985 Brazil 5.56x45mm NATO Brazil
Brazilian arms manufacturer IMBEL's MD2 is based on the design of the Belgian FN FAL and is the current service rifle of the Brazilian Army.
IMI Galil 1972 Israel 5.56x45mm NATO Israel and others
Based on the Finnish Rk 62 (in turn based on the AK-47,) the Galil is used by the military and police forces in several nations including Colombia, Estonia, Israel, Italy, Nepal, and others. It is available in several configurations, some using the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge.
IMI Tavor TAR-21 2002 Israel 5.56x45mm NATO Israel and others
The bullpup designed TAR-21 has been selected to become the new service rifle for the Israel Defense Forces. The rifle is also on order for the special forces or police of several other nations.
INSAS rifle 1997 India 5.56x45mm NATO India, Nepal
The INSAS is a composite design drawn from several existing rifles including the AK-47, FN FNC, AK-74, IMI Galil, and the Heckler & Koch G3. It is the service rifle of the Indian army and has also been exported to Nepal & Oman.[1]
Interdynamics MKR 1980s Sweden 4.5x26mm MKR Never in active service
The MKR assault rifle is chambered in a small calibre rimfire round to reduce recoil but retaining good accuracy and ballistics of the 5.56x45mm NATO round, The weapon and calibre proved successful but never got beyond prototype stage .
Interdynamics MKS 1970s Sweden 5.56x45mm NATO Never in active service
The MKS assault rifle has a high rate of fire but most notably has the magazine for its grip.
Kbk wz. 1988 Tantal 1988 Poland 5.45x39mm Poland, Iraq
The Tantal is a Polish designed and produced assault rifle based on the highly successful AK-47 family of rifles.
Kbs wz. 1996 Beryl 1996 Poland 5.56x45mm NATO Poland
Designed to replace the older AK-47 and AK-74 models then in use, the Beryl quickly became the main service rifle of the Polish Armed Forces.
LAPA FA-03 1970s Brazil 5.56x45mm NATO Brazil (BOPE)
A Bullpup design far ahead of its times, produced with great usage of polymer materials, the LAPA FA-03 was manufactured only in few hundred samples. With both domestic military adoption and foreign sales crippled by Brazilian policy, this rifle is still today kept in stock by some Brazilian Police units.
Leader Dynamics T2 MK5 1980s Australia 5.56x45mm NATO Never in active service
The Leader Dynamics T2 MK5 represents an attempt to produce Australia's first domestically designed and produced gas-operated auto-rifle for the Australian Army. The rifle was never brought into service.
L64/65 1970s United Kingdom 4.85x49mm Never in active service
The L64/65 was an intermediate step in the design of British bullpup style assault rifles. Though this rifle was never used by any military force, it helped lay the foundation for the successful SA80 series of weapons.
M4 Carbine 1994 United States 5.56x45mm NATO United States, many others
A shorter, lighter version of the M16, the M4 is heavily used by the United States Armed Forces especially for close quarters combat, special operations, and other roles where small size is a major factor. The M4 and its many variants have also been exported to a number of nations around the world.
M16 rifle 1961 United States 5.56x45mm NATO United States, many others
The M-16 has been the primary service rifle of the United States Armed Forces since its introduction in 1961. The rifle has also been used, in one variation or another, by dozens of other nations making it one of the most popular assault rifle designs ever.
MSSR 1996 Philippines 5.56x45mm NATO Philippine Marines, Philippine Navy Naval Special Warfare Group (NSWG)
The Marine Scout Sniper Rifle or MSSR is a semi-automatic sniper rifle developed from the Colt M16A1 rifle by the Philippine Marine Corps Scout Snipers due to the lack of a dedicated sniper rifle, which was used since the Armed Forces of the Philippines has been plagued with the issue of having the necessary funds needed to maintain their weapons and equipment.
NIVA XM1970 1970 Sweden 5.56x45mm NATO Never in active service
The XM1970 was a combined Bullpup rifle / RPG launcher concept by SAAB Bofors.
Pindad SS1 1991 Indonesia 5.56x45mm NATO Indonesia, Cambodia, Nigeria, and United Arab Emirates
The Pindad SS1 is an Indonesian designed variation of the Belgian FN FNC specially adapted for the needs of a jungle environment. The weapon soon gained acceptance as the main service rifle of the Indonesian armed forces.
Pindad SS2 2006 Indonesia 5.56x45mm NATO Indonesia
An updated version of the Pindad SS1, the SS2 is currently being phased in as the service rifle of the Indonesian armed forces.
QBZ-95 1997 China 5.8x42mm DBP87 People's Republic of China, Cambodia, Sri Lanka QBZ-97 in service with the 911 Special Forces of Cambodia-champered for the 5.56x45mm NATO
A Bullpup design introduced to replace the aging AK47-based rifles in Chinese service, the QBZ-95 was first introduced when the United Kingdom returned control of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China. Fires the proprietary 5.8x42mm DBP87 cartridge solely intended for the Chinese military, but the QBZ-97 export variant chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO saw some foreign sales as well as civilian adaptations.
QBZ-03 2003 People's Republic of China 5.8x42mm DBP87 People's Republic of China, in limited service with the People's Liberation Army
R4 assault rifle 1980 South Africa 5.56x45mm NATO South Africa, Hatian police
Developed in 1980 for the South African Defence Force to replace the R1, which was a variant of the Belgian FN FAL, The R4 was first issued during the early 1980s. Its design can trace its ancestry back through the Israeli IMI Galil, and the Finnish Rk 62, back to the AK-47.
RH-70 1970 West Germany 5.56x45mm Germany
The RH-70 was a bullpup rifle intended to supplement and eventually replace the H&K G3 in Bundeswehr service using the same action. It somewhat had a "Thumbhole" stock and the ambidextrous ability to enable left/right-handed shooters to fire it.
Rk 62 1962 Finland 7.62x39mm Finland
Based on the design of the AK-47, the Rk 62 is the service rifle of the Finnish Defence Forces.
Rk 95 TP 1990s Finland 7.62x39mm Finland
The Rk 95 was accepted in limited numbers into the Finnish Defence Forces as a possible future replacement for the Rk 62, though this may or may not ultimately occur.
Rung Paisarn RPS-001 1986 Thailand 5.56x45mm NATO Thailand
A development of the Czechoslovak Sa vz. 58 assault rifle chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO with components from the M16A2.
Sa vz. 58 1958 Czechoslovakia 7.62x39mm Czechoslovakia and others
Easily mistaken for the oft-copied AK-47, the Sa vz. 58 is a unique design that has seen service with several nations' armies including the present day Czech Republic, and Slovakia.
SA80 1985 United Kingdom 5.56x45mm NATO United Kingdom, Jamaica, Zimbabwe, Nepal
The SA80 is the primary service rifle of the United Kingdom. Its bullpup design springs from four decades of development that saw such earlier, less commercially successful designs as the EM-2 and the L64/65.
SAR-80 1980s Singapore 5.56x45mm NATO Singapore and others
Born in the early 1980s out of the cooperation between the Sterling Armament Company of United Kingdom and Chartered Industries of Singapore, the SAR-80 was a conventional design based upon the American Armalite AR-18 fed by STANAG magazines. Saw very little rear-line use in its homeland, but has since been spotted in conflicts and civil wars in eastern Europe, Asia and Middle East.
SAR-21 1999 Singapore 5.56x45mm NATO Singapore and others
Unveiled in 1999, the SAR-21 is now the service rifle of the Singapore Armed Forces. It is also in service with the armed forces of Brunei, Indonesia, and Morocco, as well as the special forces of Bangladesh.
Safir T-16 2000s Turkey 5.56x45mm NATO Not yet in service
The T-16 is a full-auto variant of the T-15 rifle manufactured by Safir Arms.
Safir T-17 2009 Turkey 5.56x45mm NATO Not yet in service
The T-17 is a bullpup variant of the latest Turkish assault rifle concept by Safir Arms.
San Cristobal 1950 Dominican Republic .30 Carbine Cuba, Dominican Republic
A derivative of the Danuvia 43 submachine gun chambered in the .30 carbine round. This weapon is still in use with the Dominican Military Academy.
SIG SG 540 1970s Switzerland 5.56x45mm NATO Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Chad, Chile, Ecuador, France, Indonesia, Jordan, and others
The SG 540 series, consisting of the SG 540 and SG 543 Carbine in 5.56x45mm NATO and the SG 542 chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge, has entered service with the armed forces of several countries in Africa, Asia and South America as well as numerous law enforcement and security agencies. Most notably the SG 540 served as the basis for the SG 541 prototype, which would later become the SIG SG 550.
SIG SG 550 1986 Switzerland 5.6 mm Gw Pat 90 Switzerland and others
Built as a successor to the SIG SG 510, the SG 550 is the standard service rifle of the Swiss Army based on the earlier design of the SIG SG 540. The rifle has been exported for use by the armies of Chile, France, Indonesia, and Spain, and counter-terrorism units in Germany and Serbia. The SG 550 is also used by some federal agencies in the United States and by the Papal Swiss Guard at the Vatican.
SOAR 2006–present Philippines 5.56x45mm NATO The Special Operations Assault Rifle was used by Special Action force (SAF).
SOCIMI AR-831 1980s Italy 5.56x45mm NATO n/a
The SOCIMI AR-831 is an assault rifle of Italian origin based on the AR-15 platform. The weapon is gas operated and is chambered in the 5.56x45mm NATO round.
Sterling SAR-87 1987 United Kingdom 5.56x45mm NATO Never in active service
The SAR-87 was a derivative of the Armalite AR18, It was a reliable design but rejected as the SA80 was selected by the British Forces so it remained as a prototype but formed the basis of various Singapore produced weapons like the SR-88.
Steyr ACR 1987 Austria 5.56x45mm flechette Never in active service
The Steyr ACR was an entry in the United States Army's Advanced Combat Rifle program. The experimental flechette firing weapon was not adopted by the US Army and the rifle has not seen active service.
Steyr AUG 1978 Austria 5.56x45mm NATO Austria and others
The Austrian Army's main service rifle, the AUG uses a bullpup design that is modular and very adaptable. The same gun can be quickly fitted with an assortment of barrels and switched for left or right-handed operation. The AUG is used by a number of military forces and government agencies worldwide.
Stoner 63 1963 United States 5.56x45mm NATO United States (limited, no longer in service)
The Stoner 63 was a family of infantry weapons including assault rifles and light machine guns produced in the 1960s for the United States Armed Forces. The US Navy SEALs and the US Marine Corps field tested the rifles in limited numbers, but the weapons system was never widely used and had been completely phased out by the late 1980s.
Sturmgewehr 44 1944 Germany 7.92x33mm Kurz Nazi Germany (WWII)
Considered by many to be the first true assault rifle, the StG44 was the first weapon to see widespread action that combined the portability and powerful cartridge of a rifle with the automatic firing rate of a machine gun. Previous, similar designs such as the American Thompson submachine gun and M3 submachine gun had fired less powerful pistol cartridges and were, therefore, not true assault rifles.
StG45 1945 Germany 7.92x33mm Kurz Nazi Germany (WWII)
This was the last attempt for Nazi Germany to produce an assault rifle but cheaper and easier to produce/maintain etc. Like the previous and similar Sturmgewehr 44, It retained the same ammunition/ergonomics/magazines but instead used a roller-locking system that later became used in the CETME/Heckler & Koch series of weapons.
TKB-022PM 1962 Soviet Union 7.62x39mm Never in active service
The TKB-022PM was a prototype bullpup carbine designed for Armoured Vehicle crew members. It has also been one of the most unusual designs to draw mass attention to firearms enthusiasts as its external layout was bakelite and has the magazine at the very far back it required a vertically moving bolt and a separate rammer/extractor to cycle its operation. Apart from this, Russian Generals thought this weapon was complicated and far ahead of its time and didn't trust if it could withstand harsh battlefield conditions and years of storage.
TKB-059 1966 Soviet Union 7.62x39mm Never in active service
The TKB-059 assault rifle was a bullpup weapon with rapid burst capabilities. It had a unique recoil operation with the spent brass ejecting downwards behind the magazine area enabling the weapon to be used ambidextrously. The TKB-059 recoil operation was used as the basis of the AN-94.
TKB-517 1950s Soviet Union 7.62x39mm Never in active service
Designed to be an easier to produce, more accurate and reliable alternative to the externally similar AK-47, the TKB-517 was never adopted by the Soviet military.
T65 assault rifle 1976 Republic of China 5.56x45mm NATO Taiwan, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Panama
The T65 was the main service rifle of Taiwan's ROC Army from 1976 through the mid-1990s when it was phased out in favour of the newer T86 and T91 models.
T86 assault rifle 1998 Republic of China 5.56x45mm NATO Taiwan, Jordan
Similar in design to the American M16, the T86 was slated to replace the older T65 model as the service rifle of Taiwan's ROC Army, but the intended replacement was delayed and the T86 was superseded by the T91 and was only deployed in limited numbers.
T91 assault rifle 2003 Republic of China 5.56x45mm NATO Taiwan, Jordan, Kuwait
A continuation of the T86 assault rifle's design, the T91 incorporated more features from other existing weapons such as the M16 and the Heckler & Koch G36. The T91 is currently the primary service rifle of Taiwan's ROC Army.
Truvelo Raptor 2000s South Africa 7.62x39mm/5.56x45mm NATO Not in service yet
The Truvelo Raptor is an assault rifle concept from South Africa based on the Vektor R4.
TVGK 2000s Ukraine 4.92x34mm Not in service yet
The TVGK is a combined Assault rifle/ Airburst grenade launcher concept from Ukraine. It is of Bullpup configuration and is developed by KB Shar.
Type 56 assault rifle 1970s China 7.62x39mm China, many others
The Type 56 assault rifle is a Chinese copy of the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle, which has been manufactured since 1956. The Type 56 is likely the most widely proliferated AK-47 type rifle in the world having shown up on battlefields in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, South America, etc.
Type 63 assault rifle 1970s China 7.62x39mm China, Albania, Cambodia, Vietnam
Externally similar to the Chinese SKS rifle, the mechanism is more closely related to the AK-47. The Type 68 is currently no longer in service with the Chinese armed forces; during the Cold War, it has been given in quantities to Albania, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Type 81 assault rifle 1980s China 7.62x39mm China and others
The Type 81 combines elements of several earlier rifles to create a design that is externally similar to the AK-47 family of rifles, but with significant internal differences. The Type 81 was the service rifle of the Chinese People's Liberation Army from the mid-1980s until 1995.
Valmet M82 1978 Finland 5.56x45mm NATO Never in active service
Only about 2,000 M82s were built during its brief life. The bullpup style rifle was tested in small numbers by Finnish paratroopers, but found to be unsuitable.
VB Berapi LP06 2006 Malaysia 5.56x45mm NATO Not yet in service
The VB Berapi LP06 is the first assault rifle designed and manufactured indigenously in Malaysia. The weapon is of bullpup form and can be fitted with an optical sight.
Vektor CR-21 1997 South Africa 5.56x45mm NATO Never in active service
The CR-21 is a bullpup design of assault rifle introduced as a proposed successor to the South African Army's current R4 assault rifle. The rifle has not yet been selected by any military force and remains a prototype.
Vepr 2003 Ukraine 5.45x39mm Ukraine (not yet in service)
The Vepr is the first assault rifle designed and built in the Ukraine. The weapon—a bullpup modification of the AK-74--is listed by the Ukrainian government as a sub-machinegun, but it fires a rifle cartridge and is, therefore, an assault rifle. The Vepr is slated to be introduced into service with the Ukrainian Ground Forces by 2010.
VHS Assault Rifle 2007 Croatia 5.56x45mm Croatia, Kuwait, Venezuela
The VHS assault rifle was first introduced in Karlovac in 2007. In October 2008, it was published into the ground force of Croatia. It is currently the service rifle of Croatia. Venezuela and Kuwait have shown interest for the rifle.
W+F Bern C42 2000s Switzerland 5.56x45mm NATO / 6.8 mm Remington SPC Not in active service
The C42 is an Assault rifle manufactured by the Government owned W+F Bern of Switzerland. It is chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO and 6.8mm SPC.
W+F Bern StG-52 1952 Switzerland 7.5mm Kurzpatrone Never in active service
The Sturmgewehr 52 was an assault rifle heavily patterned after the German FG42 as it was fed from the side from a 30 or 40 round magazine, also fitted with a muzzle attachment capable of launching rifle grenades. It was also chambered in the 7.5x55mm Swiss service round as the StG-54 fed from the right hand side.
Wimmersperg Spz-kr 1945 Germany 7.92x33mm Kurz Nazi Germany (WWII)
One of the desperate attempts by the Third Reich to manufacture an assault rifle from existing firearm parts, most notably from Sten MKII and StG-44 components.
XM8 rifle 2002 United States 5.56x45mm NATO Never in active service
Jointly designed by German arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch, the United States Army, and the US company General Electric, the XM8 was intended to be the next generation of light assault rifle for the US Army; the project was formally cancelled in 2005, but the prototypes are sometimes still used for comparative testings with other rifle designs.
Z-M Weapons LR 300 United States 5.56x45mm NATO Never in active service
The LR 300 is a variation on the general design of the M16; it has never been used in military service.
Zastava M21 2004 Serbia 5.56x45mm NATO Serbia and others
The Zastava M21 is based on the ubiquitous AK-47 family of weapons, but chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. It is currently in service with the military of Serbia.
Zastava M70 Yugoslavia 7.62x39mm Serbia and others
The Zastava M70 is very closely related to the famous AK-47. The rifle has seen service with several armies including that of Serbia, its producer.
ZB-530 1954 Czechoslovakia 7.62x45mm vz. 52 Never in active service
The ZB-530 was an assault rifle chambered in the 7.62x45mm vz52 round. The rifle was fed from a top mounted 30 round box magazine. After the success of the ZB vz. 26 and Bren light machine guns, the Czech government felt that a lightweight derivative of these weapons as an assault rifle was to be the standard rifle of the Czech forces.