Oddly, in the 22 years of Air Force duty and yearly shooting requirements.....never was the M-16 that I used....referred to as an "assault rifle". They always referred to it as "small arms". The instructor for the classes? He was never an "assault instructor".....he was a "small arms instructor".
The M-16.....brother of the AR-15.....has only one single unique difference with the AR-15. There is a little 'button' on the side which notes: 'safe', 'single', and 'auto'. The AR-15 can only be set to 'safe' or 'single'.
The 'auto' function? From the very first introduction episode that I can remember from boot-camp....it was the wise words of the instructor to never set the weapon to 'auto'....period. As he said....you simply will not be able to hold with precision and ensure that the dozen-odd rounds go anywhere near the target. Within a second or two....the rounds will be expended. It's a wasted magazine.
Training always went the same way. You met up around sun-up at some quiet end of the installation in some barely heated classroom. You tended to hope that the yearly class occurred in July or August.....only because of the marginally heated rooms.
Sarge would enter the room, and give a brief introduction, and then issue out the weapons. You'd spend roughly 90 minutes on an introduction and safety rules. It didn't matter if you'd been around one year or twenty years.....you got the same class over, and over, and over.
There are probably twenty key things that you really needed to know about the weapon. These were stressed over and over. If the gun jammed. If the gun had a bullet which fired but did not exit the barrel (really something that you worried about). If the gun was not cleaned properly. If the weapon was damaged.
Around noon, we'd have lunch. After lunch, we'd return and go to fire the weapon. In the early years.....we'd get around a hundred rounds to fire off. Sixty usually for practice, and then forty to qualify. By mid-90s.....ammo usage went way down and at one episode....we barely had sixty rounds to fire. Lack of funding was the reason given for less ammo.
All this talk of assault rifle versus small arms? The thing that sells the M-16/AR-15.....is the technology developments over the 1950s. It's light, with a handgripe which most people readily admit.....helps in the natural handling of the rifle. The magazine is easily filled and you can keep a dozen magazines on your person.
One of the odd things that I've come to notice from all of the mass shootings that occur....is that rarely if ever.....do they involve a guy who spent time in the Army, Air Force or Navy. There are the PTSD folks who come up occasionally.....hoping to get a death-by-cop, but generally.....people that passed through a couple of years with the military....have some mental compass that keeps them somewhat motivated to behave in society.
Perhaps because of this yearly training thing and continued exposure to the M-16.....I'm not so easily bought off by the political discussions on the gun. Behind all of this.....the statistics do amuse you at times.....more Americans are killed by blunt objects (hammers, bats, etc) than assault rifles (small arms). More people generally killed in motorcycle accidents than by assault rifles (small arms) as well.
Maybe some law does take effect and limits the sale of AR-15 rifles. But in the back of my head, I just don't see this meaning very much.