Contrary to “popular belief” or what the other list/article writers (listicles? articlelists?) of mainstream blogosphere media outlets misread into the Wikipedia article on the US’ Firearm Owner Protection Act of 1986, mini-guns, or electrically driven rotary- or Gatling-style machine guns, are not legal for civilians to purchase, and are most likely not even manufactured in North America anymore. The few that had been purchased before this bit of legislation went into effect were “grandfathered” in as they say and are allowed to be owned; nobody is coming for your mini-guns, rest assured you bored Southern oilmen who most likely purchased the few of these mostly GE-made guns.
Hopefully nobody reading was expecting this article about overkill weaponry, that citizens have legally fought for and won the right to own, to include weapons from any other country than the United States–yours truly had hoped to include Canada in the fun but unfortunately their legal code is too reasonable and simply lists the specific weapons, as in the name of their manufacturer and make/model, that their citizens are prohibited from selling, owning and buying. This as opposed to the US, whose history vís a vís gun legislation starting with the 2nd Amendment has been one of constantly redefining apparently hard-to-pin-down concepts like “machine gun” and of Catch-22’s and bureaucratic loopholes that never permanently and outright prohibit/render illegal the possession and sale of semi-automatic weapons, but somehow still always manage to offend and embolden assault rifle-owning secessionists and doomsday preppers.
What is true of gun law in the US is that the federal or nation-wide ban on assault weapons instituted in the 80s included an expiration date and since 2004 is no longer in effect; each state legislature maintains the right to put such a ban in place, but only seven states and Washington D.C. have re-instated any such law. In other words, this list does not apply in CA, CT, DC, HI, MD, MA, NJ or NY. The AK-47, though not legal for civilian purchase or possession, is the most widely recognized firearm that falls in the category of assault weapon. Assault or semi-automatic weapons are defined in part as firearms that fire off more than one round or bullet per depression of the trigger and have an extended clip or magazine (fully automatic weapons differ in that they fire rounds until the entire clip has been depleted as long as the trigger is being squeezed).
Since 1934, only weak attempts have been made to crack down on ownership and sale of ridiculous and particularly deadly and destructive guns, starting with those weapons Prohibition-era thugs used to thin each others’ ranks. The fact that California is one of seven states with an assault weapons ban in place probably also stems from the state citizenry’s anxieties over organized crime and the collateral community damage it causes. Still, in most states and therefore most major US cities, assault rifles and the like are legal.
20. Home-Made Firearms
Though there are amateur gunsmiths who could pull off manufacturing a single-action rifle or shotgun or a revolver that packs a formidable punch, home-made guns are probably more likely to backfire, literally, and seriously injure or maim if not kill their manufacturer, than they are to hurt a living target. Case in point, the untimely loss of martial arts legacy Brandon Lee, came at the hands of shrapnel from a fake bullet on the set of The Crow. Because the Feds are not concerned with morons blowing off their fingers or Hollywood magic gone awry, home-made guns are legal… as long as they are not sold and are not on the short list of weapons that are regulated to the point where civilians would be hard-pressed to make it through the bureaucratic hoops, in some cases including obtaining Attorney General-approval, needed to purchase, things like machine guns.
19. Ye Olde Cannon
To paraphrase federal regulations, which are available in all their fine-printed glory on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ website, a firearm is a device that uses explosive materials to expel a projectile at high speeds. “Destructive devices” including grenades and RPG rockets are highly regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934 and not generally sold to civilians. For some reason though, muzzle-loaded or front-loaded weapons like muskets and mortars, by themselves, are not regulated. Cannons on the other hand, whether emasculated and without their (cannon) balls or not, are not regulated, because the black gunpowder needed to launch is federally regulated.
18. That 70s Flamethrower
This unnecessary invention makes the list on multiple technicalities. In legal terms, a flamethrower does not fit the definition, used in the Nat’l Firearms Act, of a firearm that must be regulated, neither is it a semi-automatic weapon any way you look at it, so no assault weapons bans apply. Furthermore, combustion is a process wherein energy and air is radiated outward from a chemical reaction much like the action of gun powder, and any contraption called a “thrower” of anything is one that technically expels a projectile, therefore, this weapon used so prominently in the South Pacific theatre (of battle) during WWII and the Vietnam Conflict is a firearm; pun very much intended.
17. Next Gen Smith & Wesson .50 Revolver
Despite several weapons with .50 caliber rounds being for all intents and purposes prohibited by webs of sticky red/bureaucratic tape, neither the rounds themselves nor revolvers or pistols that use such large diameter rounds are regulated by federal law (every other kind of gun that uses this caliber rounds is prohibited). This is because Al Capone and his ilk did not use handguns with nearly as much frequency as “Tommy” guns and sawed-off shotguns. It is for this reason too that only authorized and certified manufacturers and vendors can possess, make, or sell silencers or any parts or equipment that can be used to make silencers. Machine guns, “sawed-offs”, and guns with silencers being the original firearms for which Nat’l Firearms Act was penned and enacted in 1934.
16. Remington 870 Special Purpose Marine Magnum
Make no mistake, this is a 12 gauge shotgun, pure and simple; time-honored mechanics, designed over generations of the Remington dynasty’s metallurgic and gun-smithing experience, implemented with light-years advanced materials and machined precision. This six-shooter, meaning it has a six-round chamber/magazine, single-action shotgun, stainless (and according to the description available on Remington’s site, “electroless”) steel beauty runs just around $800.
15. The Glock
Most fans and creators of gangster rap by now know what a Glock is and that many disreputable characters whose violent tendencies and ties to organized crime might render them less than ideal candidates for gun ownership all own, or claim to own, a Glock. The MAC-10, another firearm that features heavily in more subversive genres of hip-hop is actually a machine pistol and thus is, practically speaking, prohibited, as in it would not be worth the effort to legally obtain a portable handheld machine gun if one was in the market for such a toy.
14. Optima .50 “Black Powder” Pistol
Fun fact: The “black” in “black powder” does not refer to the powder’s color but rather to the fact that the powder uses an antiquated recipe; gunpowder does mostly range from grey with flecks of white to black, with some exceptions like amber-colored cordite, but the new stuff is smokeless and much more efficient. The Optima .50 caliber is a cross between a blaster that any futuristic Harrison Ford character would wield and a dueling pistol the likes of which Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda must, by now, have dancing across his eyelids every time he closes them. The gun has a bit of the old in that it uses outdated chemistry, is front-loaded, and is a single-shot gun, meaning the user has to cock the gun between discharges, and a bit of the new with room for a scope add-on and a much bigger kick than any 19th century, Presidential pistol.
13. Thompson/Center Contender G2
Thompson/Center is the make, Contender is the model, and G2 refers to the fact that this gun is a modern take on a powerful pistol first introduced back in 1967. The G2 was introduced in 1998 and while it throws back to the retro, faux pioneer look of the original, you can bet the reboot benefits from two decades-worth of improvements in metallurgy, engineering, and firearm craftsmanship. The Contender is in many ways a handgun version of the Thompson/Center hunting rifle because, while the G2 is shorter, it actually takes similar sized rounds as its long-barreled counterpart. Specifically, the Contender G2 takes .44 caliber rounds like a Remington Magnum, .410 shotgun shells, and government issue .45-70 (45 caliber-70 grains of black gun powder) rounds, the largest allowable (without extra taxation) for hunting rifles… in a next-generation Davy Crockett pistol.
12. The 50-Caliber Desert Eagle
The Desert Eagle is at the top of many lists, of formidable and compact firearms, that can be found across the inter-web or in Guns and Ammunition and similar publications. Notable features of this handgun include, a gas-powered reloading mechanism that makes it a semi-automatic weapon and bringing its punch up to the level of the .44 Magnum and, its claim to fame, that it houses or “chambers” the most rounds (9 bullets) of any firearm of its kind. It is also quite versatile and can be modified to use a variety of different caliber rounds… not at the same time of course.
11. Ruger’s .22 Charger
Do not be fooled by the pump-action shotgun look and feel of this semi-automatic assault weapon made by Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc., a publicly traded manufacturer of semi-automatic rifles, and top of the line shotguns, revolvers, and pistols since 1968. Founded by somebody with a name that means “storm” in German and with a brand-recognizable name (Ruger) that is one letter away from a famously well-crafted German pistol used heavily during WWII called the Luger, it is hard to ignore the fact that the .22 Charger is a descendent of fascist weaponry, in all its cold hard precision.
10. Olympic Arms/OA-93 AR-15 “Pistol”
If you think the firearm pictured here looks like half of an assault rifle, you would be half-correct; while it is a take on the military-grade AR15 rifles but made to be as light and compact as a handgun, it is operated (i.e., gripped) in the way an assault rifle would be rather than with a two-handed pistol grip, and takes similarly large rounds. AR-15’s and the like can actually fire a wide range of ordnance but typically use rounds that are too large to categorize by caliber and instead are just named for their dimensions in millimeters. The Olympics Arms AR15-clone Pistol uses 5.56x42mm rounds and the gun can be purchased, for upwards of $1,000.
9. Knights Armament’s SR-30 Commercial SBR
This monstrosity is a short-barreled (a.k.a. SBR) semi-automatic rifle with a thirty-round magazine for 7.62x35mm bullets/shell casings and is simply called the SR-30. Also recently available through Knights Armament’s and authorized vendors’ websites is the SR-30 M-LOK with an advanced accessory mounting system for modifying and customizing the gun to any soldier of fortune’s specifications with a whole host of optics or scopes, flash suppressors, and other unnecessary (for the weekend gun-range warrior) embellishments to this already complex piece of gun smithing.
8. Patriot Ordnance Factory’s P308
The P.O.S.’s (patriots of state?) over at the Patriot Ordnance Factory based in Arizona have a somewhat large stable or line-up of assault rifles that look as precise, sleek, and powerful as they are and are named equally as ominously. If price and caliber are any indication, the P308 at around $2,700 MSRP and 25-round, 308-caliber magazine is the most formidable offering from the Ordnance Factory with the most innocuous name of the bunch. Runners-up include the equally disconcerting ReVolt at $2,600 MSRP and 5.56x45mm NATO rounds and the Skirmish at $2,200 and either .308s or 5.56x45mm rounds.
7. Remington R15 ‘Predator’ Carbine Hunting Rifle
It took me thirty-three years (that’s how old I am as I write this) of living, and researching for this article, to realize Remington Steele was the title character of a crime drama, played by Pierce Brosnan no less, and not a high grade metal used in things like military-owned weapons Remington Arms has been making firearms for red-state Americans since 1818, and has been in the military grade weapons game since the turn of the 20th century. This assault rifle is non-ironically marketed by Remington Arms as a hunting weapon, for taking down big game, alongside my personal favorite, the Varmint, described by Remington as an AR-15 with “hunting specific capabilities.”
6. DPMS Panther Arms’ Sporticle .308
Called the “Sporticle” because it is basically a hybrid of a hunting rifle, also known more euphemistically as a sporting rifle, and an assault rifle. From the image above, the gun looks mostly like the military’s AR-15 that DPMS Panther Arms, the most awkward-to-say name in firearms manufacturing, was trying to emulate for this weapon. Another assault weapon that uses NATO-sized ammunition (5.56x45mm to be exact), in fact none of the semi-automatic rifles sold on DPMS’ website look remotely like something used in friendly (sporting?) competition.
5. Bushmaster’s Adaptive Combat Rifle
This semi-automatic assault weapon, only banned in seven of the United States plus its unincorporated capital city, Washington D.C., is Austin, TX-based Bushmaster Firearms’ civilian-ready take on the US military’s M16 rifles, which have instead been contracted to be manufactured by none other than Remington Arms. The Adaptive Combat Rifle (ACR) feeds on 5.56x45mm NATO (i.e., by the measurement standard for bullet sizes used by NATO and other international forces). This gun was initially designed by another Austin, TX company, Magpul.
4. McMillan Arms’ ALIAS Rifle Systems
Does anybody remember Blackwater? This and other privately owned, trained, and armed security forces like it still exist and still need their guns. This would not be so disconcerting if these armed-to-the-teeth corporations were not most likely staffed by ex-military personnel, soldiers of fortune from off the grid, and stragglers from any number of anti-social demographic categories from Viking-esque motorcycle club members, to the near-feral, shotgun loving Appalachian folk. Companies like Blackwater, go to companies like Macmillan Arms, who manufacture and vend the ALIAS Rifle and CS5 (pictured here) and STAR systems.
3. Colt CM901 System
The civilian model is, in true sterile sociopathic style, plainly called: LE901-16S. Semi-automatic rifles like this are called weapons systems in this day and age, not only to hide sadistic intent behind euphemisms but also because they can be converted like Transformers action-figures between different configurations of gun stock, magazine, barrel, and scope style, with the more versatile killing machines of course reserved for military purchase but with the beauty pictured above available to non-military personnel.
2. Smith & Wesson XVR 460 Magnum
The XVR 460 Magnum made it so far up the list because this little killer, marketed as a super-modern take on the classic Smith & Wesson revolver, could just as accurately be described as a sniper rifle posing as a six-shooter. As far as handguns go though, this is the most powerful, most deadly, and most precise instrument on the market right now. At least according to promo materials available on the Smith & Wesson website, the XVR 460 Magnum has the highest muzzle velocity of any revolver in the world, earning this piece of deadly ingenuity a new designation as a high-velocity revolver.
1. Barrett Firearms, Purveyor Of Fine Rifles Since 1982
Barrett’s REC7 semi-automatic rifle is one of the weapons explicitly prohibited for purchase or sale… in Canada; the US requires only that the potential owner of a gun (i.e., the customer) pass a background check to own one of these bad boys. Barrett Firearms, Inc. became wildly successful through the design and sale of the M82 rifles used among many other places in Iraq during Desert Storm. Company founder and gun designer Ronnie Barrett, recently (Feb. 2016) donated REC7s to every Sheriff in the state Tennessee, but Mr. Barrett’s most devastating creation so far is the MRAD sniper rifle, rated 2012’s Rifle of the Year by the NRA, and that no self-respecting post-apocalyptic zombie hunter should be without.