Bump Stocks: What They Are, What They Do

bump stock ban in force
Allen Breed/AP

Since the Las Vegas attack stories about bump stocks have become legion, but questions remain–basic questions like what are bump stocks? and what do they do?

Some reports actually claim the devices “enable automatic fire” (CBS News) while some pundits claim evidence suggests a bump stock allows a person to “convert [a semiautomatic] into an automatic weapon (Newt Gingrich). Such misconceptions and/or misinformation  fuel calls for a ban on the devices.

But the devices DO NOT convert a semiautomatic rifle into an automatic one. This is the first and most important point to understand.

Breitbart News reported that bump stocks were legalized by Barack Obama’s ATF in 2010. Rick Vasquez, former acting chief of the Firearms Technology Branch of the ATF, told USA Today that a bump-stocks were legalized because they are “an accessory, not a conversion device.” In other words, the devices are add-on accessories that allow a gun owner to briefly mimic automatic fire but they do not convert the gun into an automatic weapon.

Moreover, the devices are not conducive to accurate shooting. They tend to have a loose fit and wobble on the rifle’s buffer tube. This is why Breitbart News reported that bump stocks are “for novelty, not for accuracy.”

In fact, Daily Beast editor Justin Miller pointed to U.S. Army Sergeant First Class special forces soldier Tony Cowden, who suggested the Vegas attacker could have been much deadlier if he had not used a bump stock. Cowden said:

The devices are made for cheap thrills, literally. They are $200 devices that can be affixed to a gun to allow the gun owner to mimic automatic fire at the range. Consider Vasquez–the former ATF official and Marine quoted earlier–who said: “[Bump stocks are] for those guys who want to look like super ninja when they’re out on the range — they’re the people my peer group makes fun of.  If you want a machine gun, join the Marines.”

His intimation is that bump stocks do not turn AR-15s into machine guns.

It should also be noted that the semiautomatic AR-15 we purchase is not made to handle automatic fire to begin with. The amount of heat created by rapid fire is really unimaginable for those who have not witnessed it, and the gun has to be manufactured in a way to handle that heat. This is no doubt the reason the Vegas attacker had so many guns with him; as one would overheat and malfunction he would have to shift to another.

All this comes come together to reinforce the earlier point–bump stocks do not convert semiautomatic firearms into automatic weapons. Rather, they are for novelty and they work best for short bursts that mimic automatic fire at the gun range. Moreover, they render the gun less accurate.

But they are a blast for the common man who will never be able to afford a $15,000 to $50,000 machine gun. That man can work all week then take his AR-15 with a bump stock to the range on Saturday and enjoy himself as he mimics automatic fire for a few short bursts. That is why the bump stock was created. It has been cast in negative light only because the Vegas attacker used his bump stock criminally.

AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of Bullets with AWR Hawkins, a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at awrhawkins@breitbart.com


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