Low-Powered 'Assault Weapons'


Today's New York Times includes a rare acknowledgement that so-called assault weapons generally are not "high-powered," although media outlets (including the Times) frequently describe them that way. In a sidebar to a story about a shooting spree in Wisconsin, Fox Butterfield reports that the suspect, who ostensibly was hunting deer at the time, was carrying

an SKS 7.62-millimeter semiautomatic assault weapon not normally used in hunting animals.

"This is not a gun you go deer hunting with," said Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry trade association.

The reason the SKS is not used by hunters, Mr. Keane said, is that it is designed for combat soldiers and is therefore underpowered for killing an animal like a deer with a single shot, the goal of good hunters.

"The ethics of hunting are you don't want the animal to suffer needlessly," Mr. Keane said.

Mr. Keane said he suspected that the man accused of the Wisconsin killings was not a trained hunter, since with the SKS he was carrying, he would have had to shoot a deer several times to kill it.

If reporters need a new adjective to replace high-powered, how about scary-looking? It's not only more accurate but more reflective of the criteria embodied in "assault weapon" bans.

NEXT: The Supreme Court Can Ban Abortion?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Can anyone refer me to the text of the Assault Weapons Ban that recently expired? I'm interested to this this "Scary-looking" business.

  2. Just as an example: the above mentioned SKS rifle would have fallen under the assult weapon ban only if it had the bayonett mount on it.
    I have one that is pre-ban, with the mount, and had a second that was post-ban with the mount cut off.

  3. 7.62 mm is underpowered? He must be thinking 5.56 mm.

    7.62 mm NATO is equivalent to .308 which plenty big for deer. Some of the most popular cartridges for deer in Texas are .243 and .270 so .308 is not a problem.

    I know the SKS is Warsaw Pact which may have less power than the NATO rounds, but not that much of a difference.

  4. Sorry to go all "gun nut" on you, but the 7.62x39 is in fact a somewhat wimpy cartridge. You're thinking of the 7.62x54 which is a NATO cartridge and which is far more powerful. The kinetic energy of 7.62x39 at 100 yards is just slightly less than the 5.56 NATO. I wouldn't use either for deer, but a lot of people do. All about placement, you know.

  5. I truly hope Mr. Keane was misquoted because I'd hope that the "senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation" would actually know more about guns than he seems to.

    The SKS is a fine and popular hunting rilfe. Yeah, not the most powerful weapon around, but unless you are shooting at very long ranges or through dense branches or brush, it should be more than adequate.

  6. It's a perfectly legal firearm for deer hunting in Wisconsin.

  7. Duppy,

    About halfway down this page is a link. (the 'interactive' one)


  8. While we're at it, Jacob, it would be nice if the media revisited the criteria involved in classifying "drug paraphernalia." They are just as cosmetic as those used to identify "assault weapons."

  9. It's a perfectly legal firearm for deer hunting in Wisconsin.

    indeed, but not an ethical one, ms (or mr? -- apologies) serafina.

  10. If you have the accuracy, a .22 through the eye can be effective, but who is stupid enough to believe anything less than .273 would be effective in killing a deer properly?

    This jackass was not out to kill deer. Presumably, he was trespassing and was using a weapon designed for inflicting extreme bodily damage and death on humans. Does anyone really believe this guy was deer hunting?

  11. I'd say it's ethical for a close range shot if the proper slug is used. A hunting arrow has a kinetic energy an order of magnitude less than either of those rounds. But as long as you keep your shots to 20 or 30 yards, I don't think any hunter would argue that you're unethical.

  12. I'd just point out that there are more ways to be powerful than just the power of the projectile.

    A single-shot black powder muzzle loader might have a more powerful projectile than a .22 semiautomatic pistol, but the pistol is arguably more powerful, because it can fire far more rapidly.

  13. ...7.62x54 which is a NATO cartridge...

    7.62x51. Save the 7.62x54 for your Mosin Nagant.

  14. From what I understand, the rifle that psycho used is pretty common for hunting, and is popular because it's CHEAP. I find it suspicious that some in the media are apparently ignoring an economic explanation.

    This is all pretty much a matter of racial tension. There's apparently a large population of Laotions (sp?) who like to hunt and ignore private property. The leftists in the media say it's a simple misunderstanding. I think the whole concept of "When in Rome" is lost..

  15. I don't think any hunter would argue that you're unethical.

    well, this one would, mr rob. to my way of thinking, reducing the probability of painful death for the animal is the only respectful and ethical choice. the proper choice of weapon is part of that choice.

    i would note that this doesn't apply in the main to bow hunters -- who work hard to shoot from such close range that, in my experience, they are FAR more likely to bring the animal down in its tracks. bow hunters are generally a much more serious and powerfully ethical breed of hunter (though i do recognize i'm generalizing).

  16. because it can fire far more rapidly.

    if you rely on that as a hunter, mr jon, you have no business being out in the woods.

  17. I would just like to add that you can in fact kill an elephant with an SKS. A bunch of illegal ivory stopped being elephants because of SKS's.

    7.62x51 is more powerful than 7.62x39, but the latter aint no slouch neither. At distances it doesn't retain its accuracy or power though.

  18. This jackass was not out to kill deer. Presumably, he was trespassing and was using a weapon designed for inflicting extreme bodily damage and death on humans. Does anyone really believe this guy was deer hunting?

    I do. I used to hunt in Wisconsin, and I can tell you that he was acting exactly like any number of other Hmong hunters I encountered (except he was by himself).

    I can tell you from first-hand experience that they routinely trespass, they carry the most astonishing assortment of weapons, and they have absolutely zero regard for firearms safety.

  19. Yeah, I smoke tobacco out of that "water-pipe" all the time, officer.

  20. The SKS is indeed popular because it is cheap. You can get an unissued Yugoslavian model (with SCARY looking grenade laucher and folding under bayonet) for $150 (http://tinyurl.com/654gn) (where I got mine). You can get a perfectly good used one for $100 (http://tinyurl.com/44zuu). Equally important, the ammo is super cheap (only .22 is cheaper)-you can get 1000 rounds for $85 (http://tinyurl.com/727fn).

    The 7.62x39 it fires is plenty powerful enough to drop a mdeium-sized mammal, human or deer (it is the same round used by the AK-47). It's main hunting limitation is accuracy, especially beyond 100 yards (at least out of the SKS). It is not, however, anything near a "high powered" round. It drives a 122 grain bullet at just under 2400 feet per second, which equates out to just over 1550 foot-pounds of energy (the standard US unit of measurement). A .308 (about the same diameter bullet out of a longer cartridge), for example, drives a 150 grain bullet at 2800 fps, resulting in over 2600 ft-lbs. of energy--about 2/3rds more energy. And of course you can get MUCH higher powered rounds. Hell, a simple old-fashion lever action rifle (like the Rifelman had!)can fire one of these babies (http://www.garrettcartridges.com/products.asp) and deliver up to 3200 ft-lbs of energy (bye bye grizzly).

    Sorry to go all gun nut on you, but most Americans are dumbasses nowadays when it comes to even the most basic facts about guns.

  21. "Sorry to go all "gun nut" on you, but the 7.62x39 is in fact a somewhat wimpy cartridge."

    If you think that error is bad, in yesterday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, they claimed that the SKS was as powerful as a "30.06."

    Errrr... right.

  22. I suppose the SKS is no good for deer hunting, but the Ruger Mini-30 is? Same cartridge. By the way, 7.62mm is 30 caliber. We're not hunting water buffalo here. But maybe he wasn't hunting deer, either?

    Where I hunt, we found pot plants growing inside wire cages. Since one could lose his land by growing pot, I guess our secretive farmer decided to grow it on someone else's land. I'd imagine that during hunting season, one could go play security guard to one's plants. I'll wait for the rest of the story.

  23. "Wimpy" is a pejorative opinion, not a fact. It was not "wimpy" enough to be passed over as the standard round for the most lethal (to humans) rifle ever made, the AK-47. It performed "reliably" in third-world "wars of liberation" (in both SKSs and AK-47s) for decades--hell, our boys still grab the Kalashnikovs they can get in Iraq.

    As I said, not the ideal deer hunting round, but quite acceptable. And it would "wimp" your ass into the ground quite quickly (as demostrated this past weekend, unfortunately).

  24. Woe be unto the military that issued the mighty SKS as their "assault weapon".

    This is so asinine. The SKS was built without a detachable magazine. Gun control people should love it. In the text of the recently expired AWB, the idiots that invented the term 'assault weapon' defined their term by indicating that such a weapon has at least two naughty bits with a detachable box magazine. The SKS has NO naughty bits. It doesn't have a detachable box magazine, it doesn't have a 'protruding pistol grip', it doesn't necessarily have a bayonet lug (though this is an option), and it doesn't have a 'flash suppressor'.

    The writer of the article clearly doesn't know very many deer hunters. The SKS is a very cheap rifle that almost every good ol' boy I have ever met owns. The round it shoots is the same 7.62X39 the AK47 shoots, which is heavy and slow for a rifle round. That is not to say that it is under powered for bagging a deer at 100 yards, but it doesn't have the range of either the NATO 7.62 round or even of the 5.56mm "M16" cartridge.

    The SKS is a cheap, crappy rifle that is just about right for gettin' deer on the table on a budget. Heavier loads would probably make the thing fly apart, and it isn't accurate past 150 yards anyway, so extra range would just be wasted.

  25. "But maybe he wasn't hunting deer, either?"

    According to NPR he was arrested because his license number was displayed on his back (do you have to do that in WI?). He was found later by a game warden.


    Suspect Says Hunters Shot at Him First


    The plot thickens.

  26. The SKS is definitely cheap, mainly because all of them are military surplus. However, it is not necessarily "crappy." The design is very solid. While it wasn't meant for higher powered cartridges, it is certainly more than adequate for its purpose.

    Jason's right in that it doesn't fit the requirements of the now-defunct 922(r) ("assault weapons" ban). It is subject to other ATF rulings that prohibit its importation, along with all other foreign-sourced military-type firearms.

  27. Note that some SKSs (notably Yugoslavian ones) are importable as "curio and relic" (C&R) firearms if they are at least 50 years old.

  28. Sorry to sound "perjorative". I'm well aware of your points, and I agree heartily. I guess I don't get as attached to particular calibers as some people do. But I would still prefer a different, more macho :), cartridge for deer hunting.

    Mr. gaius, I am a bowhunter, so I know of what I speak. The point I was trying to make, poorly, is that, as I'm comfortable shooting a whitetail at 20 yards with a hunting arrow, I would sure as hell make the same shot with an SKS, no reservations. I'm just not much of a gun hunter. I like to take my time, and avoid (some) of the yahoos. Case in point. The problem comes when these guys take 200 yard shots with the SKS.

  29. Rob, I'm not a deer hunter at all, but I agree with you--a powerful round (out of a gun with more accuracy)would be better all around, for sure. But sometimes we forget that a lot of people have to live on TIGHT budgets (and others are just damned cheap). For them, the ultra-cheap SKS, with its ultra-cheap ammo, is a functional deer gun that gets the job done.

  30. My uncle hunts deer with a modified SKS all the time. It's ballistically equivalent (same weight of bullet at same velocity) to a .30-30, which was good enough for Granddad. It's still not "high-powered" except in the same absurd sense that a Browning Hi-Power is: largish magazine, and semi-automatic.

  31. Henry sez
    "It drives a 122 grain bullet at just under 2400 feet per second, which equates out to just over 1550 foot-pounds of energy.."

    Compare that to the 30/30 Win (according to some the deer-killingest round ever).

    "...150 grain factory load .... has a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2,390 fps (formerly 2,400 fps), and 1,902 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy (ME). The 170 grain factory load has a MV of 2,200 fps, and a ME of 1,827 ft. lbs."

    Neither the Marlin 336 nor the Winchester M94 are super accurate, and certainly not past 150Y, but I've found them more than adequate.

    I would think that someone used to an SKS could get similar results.

    I can't hit shit with mine but it sure is fun to shoot.

  32. "Note that some SKSs (notably Yugoslavian ones) are importable as "curio and relic" (C&R) firearms if they are at least 50 years old."

    Actually, I think you mean the Russian ones are C&R. None of the Yugos are 50+. They are nice and cheap, however--the only downside being their barrels aren't chromed. But, you get to freak out your knee-jerk gun-phobic (and willfully gun-ignorant) liberal friends when you tell them you have a gun with a grenade launcher and bayonet. That's almost worth a $100 to $150 bucks alone!

  33. Actually, Henry the Yugos are C&R also. I don't know exactly why they qualify. The Norincos (Chinese) were made for the commercial market and are not. Actual military Chinese versions can be quite valuable esp VietNam vet bringbacks.

  34. ...and avoid (some) of the yahoos. Case in point.

    indeed, mr rob! lol....

    The problem comes when these guys take 200 yard shots with the SKS.

    and this is particularly the case, it seems to me, since the advent of CWD in wisconsin. the irresponsibility factor has gone up a bit, imo.

  35. Lord Duppy, the feds have several articles on the assault weapons ban and the demise thereof at http://www.atf.gov/.

    I'd suggest the NY Times read them as well, but I'm not that optimistic.

    S 1431, the AWB replacement, cosponsored by that true believer in the Second Amendment Sen. John Kerry, is at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c108:S.1431.IS:

    Check out section 2(a)`(30)`(L) which includes "In making the determination, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that a firearm procured for use by the United States military or any Federal law enforcement agency is not particularly suitable for sporting purposes, and a firearm shall not be determined to be particularly suitable for sporting purposes solely because the firearm is suitable for use in a sporting event."

    Even under the new definition the SKS in question here would only be considered a "semiautomatic assault weapon" if it had been fitted with a removable magazine or "procured for use by the United States military or any Federal law enforcement agency."

  36. A crazy man goes into the woods alone
    with a gun to shoot something alive,
    to kill something, and he does. Surprised?

    Check out who has been living around the man.
    Check out who has been working with the man.
    This didn't JUST happen one day. It was coming!
    Check out those around you. What do you see coming?

    Support mental health and proactive measures.

    dj of raleigh

  37. I suppose it would be in poor taste to point out that this guy came close to fulfilling Tom Lehrer's "two game wardens, seven hunters and a cow"...

  38. dj: According to the guy's family, he was a nice and peaceable guy, and everyone is so surprised at this. My reaction to that is, "Yeah, right, that's what they all say." Apparently police had been called to his house twice in the past two years, and at least once once the police arrested him because he was waving a gun and threatening to kill his wife. I bet you more will come out as time goes on.

  39. Actually, Henry the Yugos are C&R also. I don't know exactly why they qualify.

    The Yugo ones are C&R because of the "Curio" part of "Curio and Relic." Curio guns are collectible because of unique origins or features, like gold plating and stuff. Also, they're "curio" because the ATF sez so. They don't have to have a reason, because they make the rules and enforce 'em.

  40. fucking gun crazed idiot americians.. you deserve all you get.

  41. It would seem that the accused, a veteran, had sufficient firearms training that the "slob hunter" sterotype isn't necessarily true. The confrontation started with the shooter ignoring the property rights of the victims.

    Ugly charges of racist epithets are being made, but even if true, the accused's own account of his actions goes way beyond a reaction to "fighting words."


    The claim that the man arrested was fired upon first can probably be upheld or debunked by ballistics experts.


  42. "fucking gun crazed idiot americians.. you deserve all you get."

    I'll accept that, noting that it includes the right to defend myself, you sanctimonious ass.

  43. "fucking gun crazed idiot americians.. you deserve all you get."

    Where to even begin with this one? Being that I don't know wich group of people to insult back again, I will have to ask you do elaborate. What is wrong exactly with liking guns? And what is all that we get that is what we deserve?

    Answer that commie!

  44. People, step one in not feeding the trolls is recognizing the trolls. And that was a troll.

  45. I'm going to do a google search and see if I can find out what a troll is. I have heard it referenced on H&R before and I know y'all are not talking about a creature that lives under bridges.

  46. Hey check this out:

    An individual who chronically trolls in sense 1; regularly posts specious arguments, flames or personal attacks to a newsgroup, discussion list, or in email for no other purpose than to annoy someone or disrupt a discussion. Trolls are recognizable by the fact that they have no real interest in learning about the topic at hand - they simply want to utter flame bait. Like the ugly creatures they are named after, they exhibit no redeeming characteristics, and as such, they are recognized as a lower form of life on the net, as in, ?Oh, ignore him, he's just a troll.? Compare kook

  47. I probably shouldn't have posted that one, as it is probably only news to me.

    But I think it is kind of curious. I have seen two types; the ones that post what seems like an entire book on a thread (such as the chick that talked about how evil Bush was), and then the one like the one above. Both of those seem to serve no purpose at all.

    I think (but am not sure) that there is another type that argues badly something that they don't believe, thus giving credence to their own arguments.

    And then there are the ones that claim to be Saddam or Hitler or OJ, or God, and they generally crack me up. Some of the funniest stuff.

    I don't think the last two things I mentioned are trolls though.

  48. I am not here to "crack" you up. What am I? Some kind of clown? Do I amuse you? What do you mean, "you're a funny guy"?

  49. From what little I saw on the news, it looked like the area that they were in was pretty heavily forested. Seems to me an SKS, like a 30-30, would be fine in those kinds of conditions, where you are unlikely to take a shot at a deer that is further than 75 yards away.

  50. Hey, c'mon, you *do* have a sense of humor. http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a5_244.html
    Especially see "More Biblical Hunor."

  51. Yeah, I got your low-powered assault weapon right here.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.