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The .50 Caliber Rifle: Myths, Lies, Distortions & the Truth

Exposing Multiple Untruths
from Gun Prohibitionists

by Angel Shamaya
Founder/Executive Director

Reprint permission is granted for this article, provided it is printed intact,
including this intro, and our website address is included as a link.

October 29, 2001 -- The mainstream media has once again demonstrated its profound commitment to printing lies and distortions to further American disarmament. This time the target of their dishonesty is the .50 BMG caliber rifle.

Before you read this dissection of the numerous falsehoods being promoted by dedicated gun prohibitionists, I'd like you to know something about me: 

Not only do I not own a .50 BMG caliber rifle, I've never had the good fortune of shooting one.  

Defending the lying, deceitful assaults being waged against the .50 BMG caliber rifle is important for at least the following reasons:

1) The lawful, decent gun enthusiasts who own them have a right to own them, period.

2) If we do not rally in defense of this caliber, we'll have to rally in defense of the .458, the .375, the .308, etc. It is folly to wait until the gun prohibitionists attack the guns we personally own -- to "wait until they come for mine" is self-important, self-defeating, and a very poor tactical move.

3) When owners of these guns feel the support of the gun rights community, those who have been inactive will join us in the cause of liberty.

5) Every last lie being spread by the gun prohibitionists about the .50 BMG caliber rifle must be corrected, every time it is spoken or printed.

& Nonsense

& Questions

"This is a weapon...that uses a cartridge the size of a ketchup bottle."

--Bob Williamson of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (July 27, 2001 press conference in Chicago, Join Together)


Please click the image below to enlarge it. What you see is a .50 BMG caliber cartridge beside the smallest ketchup bottles available at the largest grocery store in town:

Bob Williamson of Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence is a Blatant Liar!!
Click to Enlarge

But most families don't buy the smallest sized ketchup bottle, they buy the regular or family size -- each of which is significantly larger.  Bob Williamson Pinocchio is out there making gun-ignorant people believe the .50 BMG rifle is a bazooka!


The gun "can shoot down airplanes."

--Rep. Henry Waxman (Official Statement, October 11, 2001)


Mr. Waxman's deceptive statement must be based on the fact that the .50 BMG M2 machinegun was fitted into bombers during WWII to help protect the airplanes on bombing raids -- not with shots from the ground.  Those machineguns were shooting a few hundred rounds per minute at close range in a tactical situation that allowed for multiple shots and shot placement corrections through effective use of tracer ammunition. Does Mr. Waxman know any people who own bombers or fighter jets armed with .50 BMG machineguns?

.50 BMG sports shooters invest a great deal of time, energy, money and study developing the skill necessary to hit a stationary targets at 1,500 yards. Some small percentage succeed, but most never do.

Are we honestly to believe that these same people can shoot airplanes out of the sky -- at 30,000 feet, with a gun that doesn't even have a range of 30,000 feet on the ground -- while the plane is moving at 600MPH?

To see what anti-aircraft weapons really look like, read the following pages:

"There is no legitimate civilian purpose for this gun.''

--U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich (Chicago Sun Times, October 22, 2001)

The .50 caliber guns "have no acceptable purpose."

--New York Assembly Bill 1534, "findings"

"I cannot imagine a legitimate use of this gun."

--Senator Dianne Feinstein, (Senate testimony, March 9, 2001)


Sports shooters across the nation have invested thousands of dollars each in acquiring their .50 BMG caliber rifles and honing their shooting skills to participate in legitimate competitions and recreational shooting sports including professionally-sanctioned gatherings where people use the guns for legitimate civilian purposes.

The fact that gun-hating Leftists "cannot imagine a legitimate use of this gun" is hardly astonishing -- they cannot imagine a "legitimate use" for almost any firearm. Why should the rest of the citizenry be restricted and repressed because of these bigots' alleged lack of "imagination?" 

The idea of basing our cherished freedom to own and responsibly use whatever machine, artwork, book, or any other object that we desire on whether some narrow-minded control freak can imagine a “legitimate use” for that item is a disgusting insult to our entire way of life.

Such Hypocrisy

Many of the gun prohibitionists have been saying for a long time that unless there is a sporting use for a gun, it shouldn't be legal to own. But here we have a gun that is used in legitimate sporting events and for legitimate recreational sport-shooting all across the nation and we're being told that the sporting use isn't acceptable. Such doublespeak is typical of the deceit and deviousness of gun-haters. In any case, the Second Amendment says nothing about "sporting purposes," any more than the First Amendment does.

"They're terrorists' 'weapon of choice'."

--U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich (Chicago Tribune, October 22, 2001)


1) The .50 BMG caliber is not even the "sniper weapon" of choice by our own military troops. In most common ground combat situations the .50 BMG cartridge and rifle are unnecessarily heavy and loud compared to the common .30 caliber sniper rifles.

2) There are no documented incidents of the gun being used by terrorists here. Zero. But even if there were, that is no reason to ban them, any more than 9mm cartridges should be banned because criminals misuse them. Furthermore, even if they were banned, terrorists would pay no attention to the ban, any more than they paid attention to bans on hijacking airliners, murder, and destruction of skyscrapers. A ban would merely remove the guns from the hands of law-abiding Americans -- not criminals.

3) The people who wish to ban the .50 BMG caliber rifle can only document a couple of crimes committed with a .50 BMG caliber rifle by a citizen on American soil since it was invented, and only one that actually involves someone being killed -- with a shot that could have been accomplished with any of dozens of rifles. Compared to the 40,000 deaths each year in automobiles, that's quite a record of safety and responsibility.

The bullet from this gun "can pierce tanks and concrete bunkers."

--U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich (Chicago Sun Times, October 22, 2001)



1) This is not a new cartridge -- its invention dates back to just after the First World War. After its initial use in war against tanks, the tanks were upgraded with thicker, stronger steel plating to defeat .50 BMG fire. A .50 BMG round will not penetrate any modern tank's hull.

2)  If the federal government were to use tanks against We The People again like they did at the church in Waco -- where they murdered women and children in cold blood over an alleged unpaid $200 tax on guns -- it might be possible to jam the turret by shooting into the space between the hull and the turret. But in such an unlikely scenario, anyone stupid enough to take on a tank with a rifle with a projectile that cannot penetrate the hull would be taking cannonfire from the tank and probably suffering an aerial assault from an Apache helicopter armed with rocket launchers, too. Does Mr. Blagojevich honestly think that is going to happen?  If so, it would be a first.


We are unaware of any concrete bunkers that might be attacked by people in America with this rifle, but just to clarify the truth, let's turn to the Army training manual, which says:

"It takes 300 rounds to penetrate 2 meters of reinforced concrete at 100 meters, 1,200 rounds at 200 meters. 3 meters of reinforced concrete take 450 and 1,800 rounds to penetrate at the same distances. 4 meters of reinforced concrete 600 and 2,400 rounds, respectively, at 100 and 200 meters." (Table 8-4, "An Infantryman's Guide to Combat in Built-up Area" (MOUT) field manual 90-10-1, Chapter 8, US Army, May 1993)

Who can afford that much ammo for the gun?  The low end average of $2 per round would mean someone would have to spend $600-4,800 just to get a hole through the alleged concrete wall Mr. Blagojevich wants to protect. 

And why would someone risk life and limb to be the first on American soil to put an expensive hole through a thick concrete wall?


Today, the .50 BMG rifle is used among civilians -- as is the case for many other calibers -- for recreational target shooting and competition.

The .50 caliber rifles "were designed for use in the Persian Gulf War."

--U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich (Chicago Sun Times, October 22, 2001)


Like the .30-’06 and the .45 ACP (and others), the .50 BMG has been used by U.S. troops in virtually every U.S. conflict since it was invented -- in this case dating back to its invention after World War I. The unrestricted ownership and use of common military rifle cartridges by American citizens -– such as the .50 BMG -- is a tradition dating back to the Revolutionary War.

And if we are to assume by this statement that a new rifle design is supposedly "bad," consider this:

Unlike the former Soviet Union and other socialist/communist countries, Americans’ right to own things isn’t based on need, but on the concept of individual freedom. For example, the latest Corvette goes far faster than any speed limit anywhere in this entire nation -- and people have died in America in fancy, speedy Corvettes while nobody has died from .50 BMG caliber rifle fire here. Again, even if they had, that would be no reason to ban them. If it were, cars, knives, swimming pools, plastic bags, baseball bats, hammers, bicycles and numerous other items should have been banned long ago -- because they've been misused to do harm and cause death.


"They are selling like hot cakes, all over America."

--Tom Diaz
(VPC, Tallahassee Democrat, August 22, 2001)

"These firearms are neither designed nor used in any significant number..."

--Senators Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy (Military Sniper Weapon Regulation Act of 2001, "findings")


You can always tell when politicians are preaching from ignorance -- they can't even keep their lies straight. One gun banner tells us the gun is "[not] used in any significant number," while the other tells us they are "selling like hotcakes."

The first statement is a gross exaggeration by a demagogue and yet another sign of sheer hypocrisy.  And even if they were “selling like hotcakes”, so what? The statement would be truer about cars (40,000 deaths per year) than about .50 BMG rifles (zero deaths per year).

Gun rights activist C.D. Tavares' response merits sharing:

"But if Diaz means that the increase in the popularity of this gun is relatively recent, he can take the credit for this himself. This particular gun, which doesn't even show up on a statistical radar as far as crime is concerned, is under nationally-coordinated attack by organized groups of anti-gun organizations and politicians. When any firearm is threatened with a ban, people go out and buy it before it's gone forever -- even if they wouldn't have bought it otherwise."

The statement suggesting that because few people own and use the gun, it's fair game to ban is irrelevant. The Ferrari and Maserati -- among the most powerful sports cars in the world -- are used by relatively few car owners. Does that mean we should ban them? After all, more people have died in sports cars in the last week in this nation than by the criminal misuse of the .50 BMG caliber rifle since it was invented.

How big are the engines in the assault cars these Senators drive?  Do they really need to have such large houses, or so many articles of clothing?

The projectile from the .50 caliber rifle is "capable of piercing light armor at 4 miles."

--Senator Dianne Feinstein, (Senate testimony, March 9, 2001)


The Army Military MOUT manual says "At 35 meters distance, a .50 round will go through 1" armor plate." Whatever the Senator is referring to as "light armor," if it's made to modern standards, it's highly doubtful you would get penetration with a cartridge invented just after WWI. Moreover, no shooter alive could count on accurately hitting a target at 4 miles with the .50 BMG rifle -- or any other rifle, either. The Fifty Caliber Shooters Association 4-year Champion would know:

"It is exceedingly difficult to hit a target, even a large one, on one shot at anything over 1200 to 1500 yards by even highly trained individuals. The myth that the rifle can be used to hit a target at extreme ranges RELIABLY is just that, a myth. Just because the projectile can travel a mile, doesn't mean you can hit anything with it, PARTICULARLY if you are using the dreaded military ammunition. The ammo is designed for a machine gun, and is generally only good for 2-3 minutes of accuracy. That equates to a 30-45" circle at 1500 yards with a perfect rifle, no wind or other conditions and a trained shooter."

--Scott Nye, Past President, FCSA;
FCSA National Champion 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001

To even be able to SEE a target at 4 miles requires a telescope. And there is not rifle made that can be shot accurately at even half that distance. The best trained and most experienced .50 BMG caliber shooters in the world today wouldn't waste the ammo trying for something 4 miles away. Once again, Senator Feinstein doesn't know what she's talking about.

The gun "can threaten military bases."

--Rep. Henry Waxman (Official Statement, October 11, 2001)


A military base is equipped not only with fully-automatic .50 BMG caliber guns, but also with rocket launchers, various types of modern cannons and mortars, Apache helicopters and is staffed with numerous very well-trained soldiers who are fully prepared to use said equipment to dispatch anyone stupid enough to be the first person in modern American history to attack a military base with a rifle.

Rep. Waxman should stop reading those hero novels -- or at least stop thinking they are real.

"The weapon can penetrate several inches of steel."

--Senator Dianne Feinstein, (Senate testimony, March 9, 2001)


Again, the Army Military MOUT manual says "At 35 meters distance, a .50 round will go through 1" armor plate."

We wish simple facts were able to penetrate Mrs. Feinstein’s mind.

"Many ranges used for target practice do not even have enough safety features to accommodate these guns--it is just too powerful."

--Senator Dianne Feinstein, (Senate testimony, March 9, 2001)


Many roads used for driving do not even have enough safety features to handle most of today's automobiles--the cars are just too powerful.

Or as David Moore at Ferret50 says,

"There are ranges that are not safe for .50 BMG caliber, just as there are tracks for drag racing that are not safe for Top Fuel 300+mph dragsters. No one has ever been killed by a .50 BMG rifle at a shooting range -- but there have been plenty of people killed at racing events this year."

"These weapons of war are the hottest new item in the American civilian gun market."

--Tom Diaz
(VPC, Tallahassee Democrat, August 22, 2001)


These "weapons of war" were in use long before World War II.

"The intended use of these long-range the taking of human life and the destruction of materiel, including armored vehicles and such components of the national critical infrastructure as radars and microwave transmission devices."

--Senators Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy (Military Sniper Weapon Regulation Act of 2001, "findings")


The intended use is long-distance shooting -- exactly what the gun is safely used for all across this nation.

Besides, almost anything can be used to destroy. A can of gasoline can do incredible damage to the national infrastructure. 5,000 American citizens were just murdered with box-cutters, doing tremendous damage to national infrastructure -- are we going to ban them? If not, why not?

More Americans drowned in 5-gallon buckets this past summer than have died by either accidents or criminal misuse of this gun since it was invented.

"It is indeed almost impossible to exaggerate the lethality of these weapons of war."

--Tom Diaz
(VPC, Tallahassee Democrat, August 22, 2001)



  • "...a cartridge the size of a ketchup bottle."
  • "...can shoot down airplanes."
  • " legitimate civilian purpose."
  • " acceptable purpose."
  • "...terrorists' 'weapon of choice'."
  • "...can pierce tanks."
  • "...can penetrate several inches of steel."
  • "...designed for use in the Persian Gulf War."
  • "...hottest new item in the American civilian gun market."
  • "The intended use of these long-range the taking of human life and the destruction of materiel, including armored vehicles and such components of the national critical infrastructure as radars and microwave transmission devices."


"...neither designed nor used in any significant number..."


"...selling like hot cakes, all over America."

Meaningless Nonsense

  • "These firearms are neither designed nor used in any significant number..."
  • "Many ranges used for target practice do not even have enough safety features to accommodate these guns--it is just too powerful."
  • "It is indeed almost impossible to exaggerate the lethality of these weapons of war."

Psychotic Delusion

  • "...can threaten military bases."
  • "...can shoot down airplanes."
  • "...capable of piercing light armor at 4 miles."

What are they going to tell us next -- that the .50 BMG caliber rifle can topple skyscrapers and destroy the ozone layer?

Again, we have a statement that means nothing at all. Try this, speaking of cars:

"It is almost impossible to exaggerate the lethality of these machines of transportation."

Only a sucker would buy the ruse.

Related Links

Defenders of the .50

Fifty Caliber Shooters Association
NOTE: I am a dues-paying member of this organization,
and I will renew my membership when asked to do so
-- without giving it a second thought.

Fifty Caliber Shooters Policy Institute

Proposed Legislation Against the .50

Military Sniper Weapon Regulation Act of 2001 (S.505)
New York State Assembly Bill to Ban the .50 (A-1534)
New York Senate Bill to Ban the .50 (S-742)

Previous Reports from on the .50

How VPC distorts the record to link .50 caliber gun makers to bin Laden.
Regarding Fifty Caliber Ban Legislation in New York
The Fifty Caliber Gun Must Stand
Congressman Waxman Admits He Doesn't Think
Colorado .50 Cal & Machine Gun Fun Shoot

Exposing Other Lies & Distortions from Gun Prohibitionists

Violence Policy Center
Brady Campaign/HCI
Million Mom March

Manufacturers of the .50

ArmaLite Inc.
Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc.
Christensen Arms
EDM Arms
Ferret 50
Knights Manufacturing
LAR Grizzly
McMillan Brothers
Robar Companies Inc
Serbu Firearms Inc
Watsons Weapons

Printer Version

Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property . . . Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them. — Thomas Paine, Thoughts on Defensive War (1775).

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