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Gun Safety when Converting Firearms to Automatic Weapons



gun safety

Unfortunately, there is a vast amount of interest online and throughout the gun community about converting regular firearms into AR rifles. Too many amateurs, inspired by the idea of crafting their own automatic weapons, are plunging into the process with disastrous results.

To understand why automatic and semi-auto weapons are popular is to understand why so many gun lovers are in such a rush to own one. In a word? Power. North America has had a fascination with these machines for decades. In fact, the AR-15 is the most popular gun in America today and has been since it became available in 1963. Iconic and dangerous, these impressive firearms can let loose 45-60 rounds per minute in the hands of an experienced shooter. If assault is what you want, assault is certainly what you get. The undeniable feeling of power the shooter experiences when operating them is no doubt key to why most gun enthusiasts eventually scramble to either own or create one. After all, when pulling the trigger of an automatic gun, you are essentially controlling the fate of whatever is in your sights.

Chris Michel, a master gun crafter with Utah’s popular Dixie Gun Worx, feels that the ill advised ‘DIY’ automatic rifle conversions people are increasingly undertaking are not only doomed to fail but have the potential to be deadly in the wrong hands. Educated firearms professionals such as Michel are always available for consultation should you ever be tempted to perform any modifications on your weapons. This is not the time for pride! Letting an expert help you to make modifications on your firearms or even help to ‘suit you’ with a new gun can make the difference between enjoying your hobby or being crippled by it. Any kind of modification on firearms is a safety issue and should only be attempted by a qualified and experienced gunsmith – No exceptions.

When It Comes to Firearms, Safety is Everything

The bare fact is that the majority of rifles available today are almost completely uncontrollable by amateurs when shooting. Unless a seasoned professional operates them, these firearms can become out of control killing machines in seconds. Most ‘newbie’ operators simply don’t have the technique or, in some cases, the strength, to compensate for the impressive kick these weapons have when the trigger is pulled.

As rounds are fired, guns naturally raise up sharply with each shot due the forceful expulsion of gases that push the bullet forth. It is a powerful ‘buck’ even with non-automatic weapons. If unprepared, inexperienced shooters can be left shocked and even injured. Broken collarbones are common as are shoulder and neck injuries – and this is with a factory perfect, professional model! Now imagine that gun has been converted to a shoddy, automatic weapon. Damage has probably been done in the process, the muzzle may be bent and heaven only knows what ‘mistakes’ have been glossed over. The result? Certain disaster. A multitude of bullets is fired every time the trigger is pulled and that gun becomes too much for almost anyone to handle. Bullets stream out of the muzzle, the shooter spins out of control and injury invariably follows.

Take for example, the highly publicized recent tragedy at an Arizona shooting range. The instructor’s loss of life is an undeniable tragedy, but the incident serves as an excellent example of just how powerful (and deadly) automatic weapons can be. Even though the girl shooting was given basic instruction in stance and method, when the weapon was switched to automatic the recoil become too much for her to handle. Simply too weak and inexperienced to control it, the weapon bucked out of control and unintentionally launched a bullet into the instructor’s head where he stood behind her. Not only was an innocent life lost, but the impact of the incident on the young girls emotional health will no doubt be massive.

If, lured by the power of a DIY conversion, too many amateur hobbyists end up with automatic weapons in their hands (and sub par ones at that) incidents such as these are only going to increase. North America already has a terrible reputation world wide when it comes to gun control – untrained citizens constructing automatic weapons in their garages isn’t going to make that any better.

Pointless and Wasteful

With a traditional firearm, the ammunition magazine contains a certain number of bullets that are emptied at the shooters discretion. The operator has the power to calmly aim and take the time to prepare for a safe, controlled and accurate shot. By contrast, when firing an automatic rifle, one pull of the trigger results in a rapid, uncontrollable expulsion of every bullet available.

That’s 30 out of a 30-bullet magazine emptied in one to two seconds – no direction, no forethought at all. In more experienced hands and in the case of fully automatic weapons, that number increases to a staggering 1,000 bullets per minute. That’s a lot of ammo and the potential for a massive amount of damage.

In addition, when using a semi automatic or fully automatic weapon, the chance that more than a few of the bullets will actually hit your target is low. Machine guns do not have a high level of accuracy -leaving the shooter with wasted ammunition and a relatively intact target. It’s hard to imagine a situation where this kind of aimless shooting would be necessary. Not in sport shoot surely and definitely not in hunting. Not only is it a waste of money when one adds up all those errant bullets but the lack of accuracy when aiming raises the question – what is the point at all?

Safety is Paramount

In essence, safety is non negotiable when it comes to handling and using firearms. The potential to do real harm and even unintentionally take a life is greater than most people would like to believe, and it is a real consideration when attempting any kind of home modifications. Too many dangerously unqualified enthusiasts take it upon themselves to preform these conversions at home and while the gun may still technically ‘work’, it becomes a ticking time bomb of other issues that have the potential to permanently break the firearm or worse, cause serious injury.

If you feel it is completely necessary to alter your firearm in any way, always see a qualified and experienced professional rather than relying on YouTube for tutelage. Don’t join the ranks of those who have taken on the ‘challenge’ and found themselves out of money with only a permanently broken firearm to show for it…or worse!

Shooting is an enjoyable hobby for many. Approaching it with respect and knowledge keeps it that way!

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  1. TheSouthernNationalist

    August 16, 2015 at 10:24 PM

    Fully automatics seem like a waste of ammo to me especially in a SHTF situation, ammo is going to be hard to find.
    Better off to stay with the semi auto, those full autos can be a ball and chain if you own one, there was a guy at a local gun range not too far from me that has a real M-16 (and yes ATF/FBI the guy is legit, he has the ATF tax stamp, all paper work and signed off by the local Sheriff) and he told me the thing is a pain in the ass, you have to know where it is at ALL TIMES, it must be kept in a locked gun safe, you must allow inspections by the Sheriff’s Department or ATF, anytime a report of “suspicious gun fire” is sent in guess who they come visit.
    To me its not worth the hassle, I’ll stick with the semi.

  2. Pete

    June 13, 2015 at 6:13 PM

    Oh my god, what did I just read? Is this a joke? Or something written by an anti-gunner trying to make gun people sound stupid?? Whoever this Jayson Matthews is, he either doesn’t know or doesn’t know how to explain the difference between an automatic and a semiautomatic, confuses an AR-15 with an automatic, doesn’t once explain that converted a semi-automatic AR-15 into an automatic M-16 is completely illegal…. and jesus I don’t know where else to point out the rest of the stupid dripping from this article…. “the majority of rifles today are almost completely uncontrollable…” WTF? Maybe he was just drunk when he wrote this article, that’s all I can figure.

    • Jayson Charles Matthews

      June 19, 2015 at 5:06 PM

      Totally!….wait….what? I didn’t write this, but I DO like to drink!

    • TheSouthernNationalist

      August 16, 2015 at 10:14 PM

      Well actually Pete, a conversion can be done but you will need the proper paper work from the ATF, probably permission from the local Sheriff, and a qualified class 3 gunsmith.

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