Weapons of war have existed since the dawn of man. From clubs and rocks, to spears and arrows, human society has evolved technology to sophisticated weaponry highly available not only to military factions, but civilians alike. Who would have thought that gunpowder invented about 2,000 years ago by the Chinese would be at the forefront of challenge to our Second Amendment?
Since the days of the musket used by the Pilgrims, the necessity for better weapons fueled the firearms industry. The advancement of technology and manufacturing processes has led to the development of our modern firearms, to include those for hunting, target shooting, and of course military applications. From the flintlock used by Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, to the lever action Winchester 73 repeating rifle that was used in the frontier days of our country, to the automatic weapons we know today, are but a few of the many that have been produced over the years.
Of the guns in our history, perhaps the most storied is the Colt .45 “Peacemaker,” known as “the gun that won the west.” It is a .45 caliber, single-action six shooter originally designed by Colt’s Manufacturing Company in 1872. Also known as the Colt Single Action Army, it was adopted as the standard military service revolver until 1892, when it was replaced by the .38 caliber Colt Model 1892 double action revolver. However, it was lacking in stopping power, so the Colt Single Action was issued to front line units, and was used in the Spanish-American War (April to August 1898) by Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders while charging up San Juan Hill in Cuba.
It takes a lengthy treatise to describe all the weapons developed over the years, with the weapons of war being the most familiar: the German Mauser, the American M-1 Garand, the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), and the old standby M-2, known as Ma Duce, the .50 caliber machine gun developed by John Browning toward the end of World War I.
The M14 rifle replaced the M1 in 1959, and in 1957 the M60 machine gun was introduced to our military. It is known affectionately as the “PIG”. When a soldier was assigned to the M-60, they are told to “hump the pig”, which in jargon is understood, but an outsider may not understand the meaning of the term. Right?
Avtomat Kalashnikova designed the AK-47 rifle in 1945, with the first fixed stock version brought into service in 1948 by units of the Soviet army. It was officially adopted by the Russian military in 1949, and has been manufactured in many countries. There are some 500 million around the world being used by armies and civilians alike.
Armalite manufacturing, founded in Hollywood, Calif., in the 1950s, developed the AR-10 combat rifle for military purposes, but lost the contest between military weapons. It licensed its designs for the AR-10 and AR-15 to Colt in 1957. Its famous cousin, the M16, first entered service in 1964, and is the military adaption of the popular Armalite Rifle AR-15. The M16 features selective fire modes of safe, semi-automatic, and fully automatic, where as the AR 15 selector switch offers either safe or semi modes. In 1969 the M16A1 replaced the M14 and became the standard for the U.S. military. It featured a bolt assist, chrome plated bore, and a new 30 round magazine. Variations of the M16 are the A2, A3, A4, and the M4 carbine. Worldwide production of the M16 and variants is around eight million units.
The military’s newest sidearm, the 9 mm SIG M17 replaces the M9 Beretta, which entered military service in 1985, and replaced the old standby .45 caliber Colt 1911. The new SIG Sauer “modular system” handgun was chosen over Glock and Beretta in 2017 to replace the Beretta M9 as the new military sidearm.
Like I mentioned earlier, it takes a treatise to discover the many weapons that have been developed over time. The common thread among them is that they all require, no demand, safe and careful handling. In the wrong hands they can be dangerous, evidenced by the recent mass shootings in schools and public places. The Armalite Rifle AR-15 is a favorite for sports shooting, but is also a formidable weapon of destruction.
Please be respectful of weapons, and remember to treat them as if they are loaded!
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Jack Evensizer is a resident of Dalton Gardens and a retired infantry grunt in the U.S. Army.