Assault rifles differ from conventional rifles, in that they can fire a burst of rounds, rather than just single shots, and as a result depend upon removeable magazines. In appearance the two can be similar. Unlike machineguns, very few assault rifles can fire more than six rounds at a time.

With origins in the early 1920s (along with most modern weapon variants), the basic assault rifle design of today owes much to the American M1 Garand, which ultimately still sees use today in the form of distant relatives like the M16. In Europe and Asia, assault rifle technology still revolves around the AK-47, which spawned improved variants like the AK-74, as well as providing the basic frame for other armaments like the Dragunov SVD sniper rifle, and IMI Galil series of full-size and compact long guns.

Derived from (or sometimes developed alongside of) machine gun technology, most assault rifles have closely related machinegun cousins. The AK-47, for example relates to the belt-fed clone RPK, while the AUG is available in full auto (but still magazine fed) as the HBAR.

Although not always the most accurate catetgory of weapon (with early edition AKs notorious for their wildly off-target third and fourth rounds fired in burst mode) assault rifles typically find favour in the world's militaries, and equally, terrorist outfits, due to their low cost, minor operating complexity, and durability. Conversely, police forces generally shun them for their large size, and lack of precision in urban environments; HRT and CT forces the world over seem to generally prefer submachineguns (SMGs) instead.

Most assault rifles use standard NATO class rounds, or if they don't, cheap and commonly found third-world or Soviet-bloc equivalents. While most of the Gunslinger Girls are issued shotguns (Triela) or SMGs (Henrietta and Claes), the prototype cyborg Angelica seems to prefer the futuristic and characteristically well-engineered Austrian assault rifle built by Steyr-Mannlicher, known as the AUG A-2.

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