StG 44 German assault rifle with curved magazine and wooden stock facing left
The StG 44 was adopted by the Wehrmacht in 1944. It fires the 7.92×33mm Kurz round.
AK-47 assault rifle with curved magazine and wooden stock facing left
Currently the most used assault rifle in the world along with its variant, the AKM, the AK-47 was first adopted in 1949 by the Soviet Army. It fires the 7.62×39mm M43 round.
M16 assault rifle with triangular stock facing left
The M16 was first introduced into service in 1964 with the United States Armed Forces. It fires the 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge.

An assault rifle is a selective-fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine.[1][2][3][4][5] Assault rifles were first used during World War II.[6][7][8] Though Western nations were slow to accept the assault rifle concept, by the end of the 20th century they had become the standard weapon in most of the world's armies, replacing full-powered rifles and sub-machine guns in most roles.[8] Examples include the StG 44, AK-47 and the M16 rifle.[8]

Origin of term

The term assault rifle is generally attributed to Adolf Hitler, who for propaganda purposes used the German word "Sturmgewehr" (which translates to "assault rifle"), as the new name for the MP43, subsequently known as the Sturmgewehr 44 or StG 44.[6][8][9][10][11][12][13][14] However, other sources dispute that Hitler had much to do with coining the new name besides signing the production order.[15] The StG 44 is generally considered the first selective fire military rifle to popularize the assault rifle concept.[6][8] Today, the term assault rifle is used to define firearms sharing the same basic characteristics as the StG 44.[6][8]


The U.S. Army defines assault rifles as "short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges."[16] In a strict definition, a firearm must have at least the following characteristics to be considered an assault rifle:[2][3][4]

Rifles that meet most of these criteria, but not all, are technically not assault rifles, despite frequently being called such.

For example: