Recently, families of some of the victims of the Newtown massacre filed suit against firearms manufacturer Bushmaster, and others in the retail supply chain whom they blame for the murders at Sandy Hook. One of the allegations in the lawsuit claims that the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used in the attack should not have been available to the public because it was “designed for military use.”
Here’s a news flash for you: nearly every firearm…ever…originated as a military arm. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some examples.
Behold, the American long rifle.
While non-rifled flintlock muskets were common to the Colonial Army during the American Revolution, the long rifle was the preferred weapon of the militia. Muzzle loading rifles are still common today, and are very popular among hunters looking to extend their deer season. What’s more, modern muzzle loaders are clearly improved technologically, and much more effective than their 18th century ancestors.
The same pattern follows with repeating rifles. The first lever action rifle to enjoy much success was the Henry rifle, introduced in 1860 and used by some Union Army units during the Civil War.
Known as the rifle “you can load on Sunday and shoot all week,” the Henry gave way to ever-improving designs, until the lever action .30-30 was one of the most popular deer hunting rifles in America.
We can see a similar progression in pistols. Care to guess how the Colt Single Action Army revolver got its name? If you said, “because it was a pistol used by the Army,” go to the head of the class!
Modern versions of the single action revolver are still very popular today with hunters, and technologically improved replicas of the old Colt SAA regularly see action in today’s cowboy shooting competitions.
One of the most well-known military pistols, and a personal favorite of mine is the famous M1911 pistol, adopted by the U.S. Army as its standard service pistol in…you guessed it…1911. Even the round it fired, the .45 ACP, was designed specifically for military use.
While the basic design of the 1911 pistol is basically unchanged for over 100 years, modern versions do feature some improvements over the original such as better sights and other ergonomic touches. In its present-day form, the old GI standby is still very popular for recreation, competition, and defense.
Sorry…got a little carried away there. What were we talking about? Oh yeah…that lawsuit that says that guns designed for military use should not be in civilian hands. They say that the AR-15 was originally made for the military, and I suppose that is true. The 1950’s technology of the AR-15 eventually morphed into the M-16 rifle which began being issued to the U.S. military in 1962.
A generation of veterans returning home wanted a rifle they were familiar with, and the civilian AR-15 began making popular inroads. Ironically, it wasn’t until the Clinton administration’s ham-fisted attempt to ban them that the black rifle really took off. Turns out that a lot of Americans don’t like being told what they can and can’t do, or what they can and can’t have. At the time of the ban, there were only a handful of manufacturers making the AR. Once the ban sunset in 2004, demand soared and gun companies responded. Today, I couldn’t name all the companies making a variant of the AR-15. It is the single most popular rifle sold in America today.
Not suitable for civilian use? Americans have a long tradition of taking military arms and improving them for civilian use. Indeed, since the founding of the Republic we’ve taken guns made for war and adapted…even improved…them for hunting, recreation, and defense. It’s the American way.
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