Public Safety Wiki

US M1 Carbine semi-automatic rifle

A semi-automatic rifle is a type of rifle that fires a single bullet each time the trigger is pulled, without the need to manually operate a bolt, lever, pump or other firing or loading mechanism. Such a rifle can fire single rounds in this manner until the firearm's supply of cartridges is depleted. They are also commonly known as self-loading rifles ('SLR') or auto-loading rifles.

A semi-automatic rifle is distinguished from a fully automatic rifle or machine gun in that it can only fire once each time the trigger is pulled. In some contexts, the term "automatic rifle" may refer to a semi-automatic/SLR rifle, not a fully automatic rifle.

Semi-automatic rifles may be chambered for pistol cartridges, intermediate cartridges, or full-sized rifle cartridges.


Semi-automatic rifles are mistakenly believed by many people to be capable of fully automatic fire or easily convertible to have that functionality. They are also mistakenly believed to be commonly used by criminals[1]. These perceptions have attracted the attention of gun control advocates, who have introduced and passed legislation restricting the sale, importation, ownership, and manufacture of semi-automatic rifles. In the United States, semi-automatic rifles with a military-style appearance were prohibited from manufacture or importation by the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was enacted in 1994 and expired in 2004. Certain U.S. states such as California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York have restrictive laws regarding to the ownership and sale of semi-automatic rifles.

Many semi-automatic-only versions (also known as "sporting" or "civilian" versions) of fully automatic rifles are available, and their external appearance can be nearly identical to their automatic counterparts. However, modern semi-automatic rifles are designed so that they cannot be converted easily to fully automatic fire. In the U.S., BATF regulations require that semi-automatic rifles be manufactured so that they cannot accept parts or modifications that would allow them to be capable of fully automatic fire.

Types of semi-automatic rifles, by country and/or designer

Commercial semi-automatic rifles

Military semi-automatic rifles (and commercial derivatives)

  • Belgium
    • FN Model 1949
    • FN FAL (has both semi-automatic and fully automatic variants)
  • People's Republic of China:
    • Type 56
  • Czechoslovakia
    • ZH-29
    • vz. 52/57
  • Egypt:
    • Hakim Rifle
    • Rasheed Carbine
  • France:
    • Fusil Mle 1917 RSC (first standard-issue semi-automatic rifle)
    • MAS-49
  • Germany:
  • Poland
    • kbsp wz.38M
  • Pakistan
  • Russia:
    • Simonov
      • SKS Carbine
    • Tokarev
      • SVT-40
  • Sweden:
    • AG-42 Ljungman
  • Spain
  • United States:
    • M1941 Johnson rifle
    • M1 Garand rifle
    • M1 carbine
    • M1A rifle (Civilian version of the M14 rifle)
    • AR-15 rifle
    • DSA Arms SA58 (license-built civilian semi-automatic only variant of the FN FAL)
  • Yugoslavia