Congress passed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban as a subtitle of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that was passed in 1994. This law prohibited the sale of semi-automatic “assault weapons” manufactured after the date that the law was passed. Although the law expired 10 years after it was enacted, it is important note the impact that it made.
Up until the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was enacted, there was no previous definition of an assault weapon in a legal context.
This law defined an assault weapon as a semi-automatic firearm with certain cosmetic features. A semi-automatic firearm is a firearm that when the trigger is pulled, it automatically loads the next round and is ready to be fired again. Almost all pistols manufactured in the past century are semi-automatic except for pistol revolvers.
Semi-automatic rifles were not allowed to have more than two of the following features: a folding stock, a pistol grip, a bayonet mount (to affix a knife on the end of the rifle), a threaded barrel (to attach a flash suppressor that ), or a grenade launcher.
A pisol grip was added to the AR-15’s design to give the shooter an ergonomic way of holding the gun. Some people have made accusations that this feature is used so that a shooter can fire the rifle from their hip, as seen in many popular movies, but in reality this is not how they are used and someone shooting in that manner would have terrible accuracy.
A bayonet mount allows you to affix a knife or a grenade launcher on the end of the rifle. The grenades used in these launchers are a strictly regulated explosive and are basically impossible for civilians to obtain these. As far as the knife is concerned, when these are affixed they have a strong effect of the accuracy of the rifle. These are never used while shooting.