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Old February 14, 2013, 11:27 PM   #1
ScottRiqui
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What does "semi-automatic" really mean?

In light of proposed gun-control laws, I was wondering about the potential for misinterpretation and misuse, particular when it comes to the definition of "semi-automatic".

It's easy to differentiate semi-automatic from fully-automatic using the "only one bang per trigger pull" guideline, but what is the technical definition of "semi-automatic" that would keep double-action revolvers from being classified as "semi-automatic"? With the revolver loaded, you get one "bang" per trigger pull, with no additional steps required, until all of the rounds have been fired. That sounds an awful lot like the way some laws define "semi-automatic".

The most obvious thing I can think of is that a revolver retains the fired cases in the cylinder, but the FN F2000 semi-automatic rifle retains fired cases within the gun as well (at least, the first five are retained).
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Old February 14, 2013, 11:43 PM   #2
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"Semi-automatic" is an unfortunate (and in my opinion, incorrect), term for "Auto-loader". What happens with an auto loader is, after a round is fired, the mechanism automatically extracts, ejects, and reloads the chamber without any further action by the shooter. However, "Semi-automatic" seems to have caught on with those ignorant when it comes to firearms and some not so ignorant. We seem to be stuck with the term regardless of how we feel about it much like "clip/magazine".
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Old February 14, 2013, 11:56 PM   #3
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I once watched a Australian, I think it was Australian, news cast abut how dangerous Semi-automatics are. They explained semi-automatic as, "With one pull of the trigger, it fires several bullets in several seconds, as opposed to one shot per trigger pull.
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Old February 15, 2013, 12:05 AM   #4
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Surprisingly enough, existing law has a pretty succinct definition (at least with respect to rifles) in 18 USC 921(a)(28):

Quote:
utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge
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Old February 15, 2013, 12:09 AM   #5
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Quote:
What happens with an auto loader is, after a round is fired, the mechanism automatically extracts, ejects, and reloads the chamber without any further action by the shooter.
I can't think of anything to add to this.
Quote:
The most obvious thing I can think of is that a revolver retains the fired cases in the cylinder...
Not only is there no ejection, in a revolver, the action is cycled by the shooter, either using the trigger in a DA design, or by cocking the hammer in an SA design. The chambers are also loaded by the shooter.

Revolver.
  • Shooter manually loads the chambers.
  • Shooter manually cycles the action (rotates the cylinder) either by cocking the hammer or by pulling the trigger.
  • Shooter manually unloads the chambers/ejects spent casings.
Semi-automatic.
  • First round is loaded manually either by cycling the action or dropping the bolt/slide.
  • Subsequent rounds are loaded from the magazine by the energy of recoil, or the pressure of gas, from discharge.
  • The action is cycled by the energy of recoil, or the pressure of gas, from discharge.
  • Spent casings are ejected by the energy of recoil, or the pressure of gas, from discharge.
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Old February 15, 2013, 12:20 AM   #6
radom
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I prefer the more period correct term for them. Self Loading but also use auto loading.
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Old February 15, 2013, 01:05 AM   #7
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While I have no issue with the term "auto-loading firearms", I feel like it would be a lot easier for the gun ignorant to misconstrue an "auto-loader" for an "auto-fire".
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Old February 15, 2013, 01:09 AM   #8
ScottRiqui
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Thanks for the replies - looking more at specific examples of the laws, it appears they're not as vague as I remembered. Most of them include some form of the verbiage gc70 posted earlier:

("utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge").

So it appears I may have been concerned without reason.
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Old February 15, 2013, 01:44 AM   #9
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Lawmakers realize that to get their laws passed and for them to stay in place they need to use very specific definitions for the items the laws pertain to or they will be struck down by the courts for being vague and unenforceable.

As far as revolvers go, JohnKSa hit the nail on the head. If your definition of semi-auto is "one trigger pull, one bullet" then yes they could be called semi-autos. But when you start getting into the real technical definitions that should be used, revolvers don't qualify. Neither do double barrel shotguns or rifles for that matter.
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Old February 15, 2013, 07:37 AM   #10
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Average joe liberal may not fully understand, but read the wording of the laws being proposed as well as past laws. They do understand. This whole "we're gun owners so we can beat them with semantics" argument is what is going to do us in. The anti's in charge of writing these laws aren't stupid. They know what types of guns they're going after. Sitting back and taking potshots at them over definitions hurts us as it makes us look like we're trying to avoid the issue entirely and bury it with semantics.
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Old February 15, 2013, 08:32 AM   #11
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Then how would you classify the following:

Mateba

Webley-Fosbery "Automatic" Revolver

Striker 12 mechanism
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Old February 15, 2013, 08:38 AM   #12
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I used to refer to my Colt 'semi-auto' pistols as Automatics. As in auto-loading. But I don't do that any more because I don't want to confuse people that would otherwise think I am referring to some sort of fully automatic machine pistol.
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Old February 15, 2013, 09:33 AM   #13
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It all depends on the wording of the law. Some pending legislation would prohibit double-action revolvers. I heard a missionary who served in Columbia discuss how his guns were confiscated. His double-barreled shotgun was, by Columbia law, defined as a 'machine gun' and taken from him.
It is what the government in control says it is.
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Old February 15, 2013, 10:12 AM   #14
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Quote:
Shooter manually unloads the chambers/ejects spent casings.
Unless of course you're Jim March that is .
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Old February 15, 2013, 11:33 AM   #15
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Self loaders is good.
Like American Sporting rifle.
Let's beat the liberals at their own game.
Nope, no semi auto assault rifles here, only self loading sporting rifles.
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Old February 15, 2013, 02:24 PM   #16
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Describe it any way you like, define it in any manner, the following remains.

The ultimate goal of the Anti Gun Lobby, from their own mouths, is the total proscription of privately owned firearms.

Once one recognizes that simple fact, the rest amounts to ever more lipstick, on the same old pig.
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Old February 15, 2013, 03:08 PM   #17
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I thought the thing that differentiated a semi-automatic was the combination of the self-loading AND the cocking action. A double action revolver is still cocked by the shooter's mechanical action pulling the trigger through.

This breaks down somewhat when you consider DAO or striker-fired.
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Old February 16, 2013, 12:29 AM   #18
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Quote:
Mateba

Webley-Fosbery "Automatic" Revolver
The recoil action cycles the action, but the shooter still manually loads and ejects. It's a hybrid.
Quote:
Unless of course you're Jim March that is...
His contraption is another hybrid, but in the opposite sense. He still has to manually cycle the action, but the rounds are loaded and the empties ejected automatically.
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Old February 16, 2013, 02:39 AM   #19
Auto426
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Quote:
Then how would you classify the following:

Mateba

Webley-Fosbery "Automatic" Revolver

Striker 12 mechanism
All three are basically revolvers, and as such have multiple chambers that don't need to be reloaded every time the gun is fired, whereas semi-autos generally use a single chamber integral to the barrel that must be reloaded to fire the gun each time.

The Metaba and Webley both use recoil energy turn the cylinder after each shot, but as JohnKSa points out you still have to manually eject spent cases and load fresh rounds.

The Striker is at it's heart just a funny looking DAO revolver. The older models were loaded in a similar fashion to a Colt SAA, where each spent shell was manually ejected and a fresh one loaded in through a loading gate. I believe the newer models have some sort of automatic ejection system, but you still have to load each chamber in the drum manually. The Striker is already on the ATF's list of destructive devices and heavily regulated as it is.

Quote:
Average joe liberal may not fully understand, but read the wording of the laws being proposed as well as past laws. They do understand. This whole "we're gun owners so we can beat them with semantics" argument is what is going to do us in. The anti's in charge of writing these laws aren't stupid. They know what types of guns they're going after. Sitting back and taking potshots at them over definitions hurts us as it makes us look like we're trying to avoid the issue entirely and bury it with semantics.
I myself believe that semantics are important in this debate, but that's mainly because of the left's constant use of terms like "assault weapon" as a deliberate attempt to trick the ignorant into believing we gun owners are running around with select-fire assault rifles and to gain their support. Educating non-gun people on the basic differences between the various types of firearms and their capabilities will help them develop better informed opinions and win us much needed support.
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Old February 18, 2013, 11:45 AM   #20
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Not Entirely...

Quote:
So it appears I may have been concerned without reason.
Not entirely...

Quote:
The Striker is at it's heart just a funny looking DAO revolver. The older models were loaded in a similar fashion to a Colt SAA, where each spent shell was manually ejected and a fresh one loaded in through a loading gate. I believe the newer models have some sort of automatic ejection system, but you still have to load each chamber in the drum manually. The Striker is already on the ATF's list of destructive devices and heavily regulated as it is.
Yes, the Stryker/streetsweeper shotguns are at the heart, a DA revolver. And that is the issue. They are currently heavily restricted as the ATF decided that they were "destructive devices". BUT, the problem is that the 94 AWB (even though now defunct) used language about copies and guns with actions that were "substantially similar to" ...

That Fed law is gone, but many state laws that are "substantially similar to" remain, and they want to re do the Fed law, and close some "loopholes".

We were concerned about this at the time, and still are. The language "substantially similar to" is a huge slippery slope. ALL Revolvers are "substantially similar to" the Striker/Streetsweeper shotguns.

Personally, I think the plan was to restrict/ban those shotguns, then, after some years, use the "substantially similar to" clause to go after our revolvers. That would give them "some" moral hi-ground, because they would claim that the law had been in effect for years, and we didn't complain about it back when it was passed...etc...and of course, Ignorance of he law is no excuse....

Don't stop being concerned, if anything, be more concerned, because the obvious roaring of the lion doesn't stop the silent snake in the grass from biting...
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