One of the major talking-points Gun-control Nation, particularly
now when some kind of gun control law may actually be coming due, is the idea
of ‘knowing’ or ‘understanding’ gun ‘culture;’ i.e., why do people own
guns? Because to pass some kind of
‘reasonable’ gun law, we need to make sure that ‘reasonable’ gun owners will go
along for the ride. Hence, the term ‘gun culture’ becomes the shorthand for understanding
why 90 million Americans live in homes that contain guns.
I happen to believe this idea to be pure nonsense and just
another manifestation of the liberal fantasy which believes that some of the
more ‘enlightened’ gun owners can somehow be made to agree with non-gun owners
on how to regulate their guns. Did gun violence prevention (GVP) messaging play a role in various
Congressional campaigns? Yes, it did.
But did all those House seats flip because gun owners voted blue instead of
voting red? Yea, right.
Anyway, back to gun culture. As far as I’m concerned,
if my Gun-control Nation friends want to really understand why Americans own
guns, it seems to me that what they need to do is stop worrying about why the
average, law-abiding redneck in Kentucky or Pennsylvania keeps some bangers in
his closet and get real by asking a question which goes like this: Why do the
people whose behavior results in the overwhelming number of gun homicides and
gun assaults own guns? This particular population’s behavior happens to account
for at least half, if not more, of the total number of all gun injuries which
we suffer from each and every year.
Who are these gun-toting and gun-wielding folks? They happen to be inner-city residents
between the ages of 16 and 34 who listen to hip-hop music all day long. And
know who they hear when they listen to hip-hop?
They hear Dr. Dre sing ‘A Nigger Witta Gun,’ or Sticky Fingaz crooning
away with ‘My Dogz is My Gunz,’ or Gang Starr belting out ‘Who Gut Gunz.’ And
then there’s always the greatest hip-hopper of all time, Tupac, who’s hit ‘Me
and My Girlfriend’ was an ode not to a real woman but to the Smith & Wesson
revolver which he carried around in his pants. The picture above is of Ice Cube
holding what he refers to in a big hit as ‘Man’s Best Friend.’
I keep hearing how the kids are turned on to guns
because they play video games involving guns. In 2017, the video industry generated 36
billion in revenues, of which roughly one-quarter came from shooting games,
which works out to $9 billion in gun-shooting video sales. Know what the
hip-hop business is worth
today? Try $10 billion, okay?
Of course the quick and easy answer which will allow
the GVP to continue ignoring this issue is the fact that most hip-hop songs don’t
necessarily evoke guns or gun violence at all. Know who these people are? Yadi
Kadafi, B.I.G., Fat Pat, Big L, DJ Uncle Al, Half A Mill, Mac Dre, Blade
Icewood? These are less than one-quarter of the hip-hop artists who have been gunned
down since Tupac was shot and killed in 1996. And believe me, this is a very incomplete
So tell me. When was the last time any GVP group ever held a candlelight vigil for
victims of gun violence like these? Do any of my Gun-control Nation friends
talk about coming together with the hip-hop community to discuss issues of
common concern? If you don’t think that hip-hop culture and gun culture aren’t
one and the same, you don’t know very much about either kind of culture – you really
Want to get a taste of what I’m talking about? Just
click here and listen for a
bit. Then tell me about how all we need to do is contact all those responsible
gun owners and get them to line up behind all our reasonable ideas to control
How difficult is it, in the wake of the 573 killed and
injured in the Las Vegas shooting of 2017, to imagine unhinged nut jobs across
the nation vying to top the Vegas shooter’s total? There are madmen enough, God
knows, and we have guns for them all. Something just shy of 300 million guns
already in circulation in this country. How difficult, then, would it be to
further imagine an ongoing National Gun Slaughter Insanity Olympics? That’s why
we buy guns for ourselves, isn’t it? To keep us safe from people with guns? I
have forearm tendinitis from swatting flies. One problem leads to another.
For each of the 35,000 killed by a gun, and for each of
the 100,000 people wounded by a gun every year in America, there are, what…
ten friends, relatives, loved ones, co-workers, and classmates for whom the
world will never be the same? Say 135,000 X 10. That would be more than a
million people each year whose lives have been turned to shit by a gun. The NRA
has five million members. How long will it be until survivors outnumber them?
We already do, of course. We just don’t understand this. We don’t know who we
are, and we’ve forgotten where we come from. The purpose of the “Survivor
Apocalypse Manifesto” should therefore be clearer still.
I’m going to make the long trek into town and buy me a Dustbuster battery-operated vacuum thingie, the portable kind you use to clean off the mats in your car. I’m going to use it to suck the flies off the windows and window ledges. There are solutions. There are things that work. Sensible gun laws save lives.
IV – The Zombification of Gun
Gun violence is a virus, a sickness deep in the body of
our nation. It was dormant like the flies. Then some change in the environment
animated the virus and it began running its fucked-up program, the sole purpose
of which is to replicate itself. Like cancer except it’s highly contagious.
That’s how it works with zombies, right? My grandson spends a great deal of
time killing zombies. He’s six-years-old. If I’d had a computer when I was six
it would have been the same for me. Maybe bad genes in our family. Or maybe
that’s just the way healthy males are in America. We’re a brutal, violent
people; it’s in our DNA. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand stayed calm,
negotiated deals with Britain for their sovereignty. We shot our way out. Then
we polished off the redskins. Now we turn on one another. Or on ourselves.
Two-thirds of all gun deaths are suicides. Mostly old white guys. And troubled
teens. White people tend to be violent toward themselves, black people toward
one another. I don’t know why. It’s just a statistic. A number. It was not a
number to my father, however. He was Wendel. She was his darling Wendy.
It is a scientific fact that dying stars emit mysterious
radiation which traverses the universe at light speed and penetrates
everything, causing constant mutation in the genetic material common to all
forms of organic life. The zombie virus is therefore constantly mutating, as is
the flu we fear every winter. That was how we got zombies in the first place. A
virus that might’ve started as chicken pox for all anyone knows. One day the
mutation took a deadly turn and people everywhere were stricken with it, soon
to be reanimated as the living dead, doomed to shuffle around, tortured by the
constant desire to gorp human flesh. It must be awful, that desire, the
relentlessness of the gorp-urge. You can hear them moan from it on the zombie
TV shows. It’s a metaphor for something that’s wrong with us, I think. This is
what Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the NRA, has in mind when he
says, “Colleges are breeding grounds for socialists who will take our guns.”
Socialists being like zombies, which he hates and fears. Socialists, and
But here’s the thing. Sooner or later, after zillions of
genetic combinations have been rolled, we’re going to arrive at, can you dig
it? VEGETARIAN ZOMBIES! A rustling in the back yard. You look out the window
and it’s them again, a pack of zombies chowing on your hydrangeas. Hey! Get
out of there! Shoo! You have to squirt them with a hose. They hate that.
Sooner or later they’ll mate with the meat eaters – I don’t think any of the TV
shows have delved deeply enough into zombie sex – causing the meat eaters to
turn veggie too, because the new mutation is stronger and more vital than the
weary old trope of whatever we did wrong to deserve the virus metaphor in the
first place. I’m going into town.
I was going to take a week off and let some of our
pro-gun friends contribute the rest of the content for this week, but a rant on
‘the failing’ NRA-TV gave me no
choice but to
respond in kind. I’m talking about a spiel by Cam Edwards who’s joined the
parade marching against that Socialist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is
attracting lots of attention from the alt-right attack-dogs because she’s using
some of the same language about Trump that Sleazy Don uses against everyone
else. After all, she had the unmitigated nerve to call Trump a racist. What
could be more contemptible than that?
But the problem facing the NRA isn’t going to just go away just because the boys in Fairfax
can serve their membership some red meat by saying something nasty or stupid or
both about AOC. The problem is much
more fundamental, namely, the fact that for the first time since America’s ‘first
civil rights organization’ began promoting itself as a true-blue defender of
everything that’s great about America (and guns), there’s serious competition
from the other side.
The last time a gun bill became law at the federal
level was 1994 – the Brady bill along with the assault weapons ban. But these
bills had two things going for them which don’t exist right now: (1). Control of
both houses of Congress by the blue team; and (2). a liberal Southerner in the
White House who could grease the legislative wheels with federal cash. Which
happens to have been the same political alignment which produced the previous national
gun law in 1968.
On the other hand, and it’s a big other, both in 1968 and again in 1994 you didn’t have the upsurge of grass-roots energy on the gun-control side of the ledger that we are seeing right now. And if Gun-nut Nation wants to continue promoting the idea that the noise being made by the other side since Parkland is nothing more than money being secretly funneled into a gun-control campaign by Socialists like Bloomberg and Soros, they can go right ahead. They happen to be wrong. Dead wrong.
The problem facing Gun-nut Nation is that a majority of
Americans have always supported gun ownership by law-abiding citizens, but the
percentage of Americans who hold negative views of the NRA has not been as high as they are right now since 1995. That
year, the annual
Gallup gun poll found that 51% of respondents held ‘mostly’ or ‘very’ unfavorable
views of the boys from Fairfax, last year the percentage was 42%, but the
number was only 34% in 2005.
What seems to be clear is that, for the very first
time, lots of Americans are now thinking about the gun issue and not thinking
about it in a very positive way. I don’t notice, for example, that the boys in
Fairfax have yet figured out how to deal with yesterday’s Senate hearing
on ‘red flag’ laws, at which time two of Gun-nut Nation’s most stalwart
supporters, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and
Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said all the
correct things about gun violence and even suggested that maybe, just maybe, a
legislative response might be coming down the road although nobody’s holding
their breath. On the other hand, if the Senate in 2020 goes the way the House
went in 2018….
So what does the NRA
do? They have no choice but to try and stick more fingers into the 2nd-Amendment
‘freedom’ dike before it springs some real serious leaks. And the way you do
that is to double-down on the red-meat messaging
which your base wants to hear. Which is why Cam Edwards filled his anti-ACO spiel with just one lie after
another, in particular alleging that her support for the New Zealand buyback
means she’ll vote in favor of the confiscation of every, single privately-owned
gun in the U.S. of A.
I’m not saying that the NRA is the Emperor without clothes. What I am saying is that this particular Emperor may be riding the wrong horse, because the NRA horse is no longer the only one in the race.
In the past, one would think that nearing 2020, we would
have a lot of flying cars, robots, and other fancy futuristic items. Plus,
fan would watch the movies, thinking how fancy those weapons look – and how
unlikely it is for us to see anything like that in the near future.
Well, it’s 2019, and while we may not have flying cars, we
have the world armory growing more and more every year. While the guns of the
past look so “western” and old-fashioned,
the world armory nowadays looks like someone dived into the Terminator 7 armory
and took the guns out from there.
So, here are some examples of guns that make it look that
the World Armory is preparing for a new Terminator movie.
· The AA12 Atchisson Assault Shotgun
As far as the
Terminator movies go, it is likely that in the 7th installment, the guns will
take a life of their own and start shooting the targets themselves. This is why
a gun such as the AA12 Atchisson assault shotgun is something you would
definitely find in Terminator 7.
This gun can fire
around 300 rounds per minute – which is perfect, especially when you have
enemies surrounding you from every corner. Plus, compared to other shotguns,
this one has reduced recoil – making it perfect when you have to get back on
your feet quick and find your other enemies.
The Armatix iP1 is one
of the safest futuristic guns – and the one you always want to have around if
you tend to drop your gun in a brawl. Considering that this gun needs a
fingertip enabled watch in close proximity – 25 cm distance, at most – there’s
almost no risk of someone using this gun against you.
So, if you drop your
gun and someone picks it up to shoot you with it, they’ll find out that the gun
cannot be fired. This would certainly save your life in a Terminator situation,
where guns are flying all around the place. It is also compact, so it is the
perfect kind of gun for a surprise.
Lt. Col. Amos Golan from the Defense Forces of Israel
created the CornerShot – a gun that would allow you to shoot a target from
around a corner. This gun was initially designed for terrorist
situations where hostages were taken – but considering its futuristic
design, it is difficult to imagine how this gun would not play a good role in
When you are in a Terminator situation, you may have a bunch
of enemies coming at you with a thirst for blood – and you will have to get rid
of all of them at once. So why not use a grenade (or a couple of them) to get
that done? This is why it is not unimaginable to think that this gun would have
a special place in the Terminator 7 armory as well.
The CDTE is practically a gun-looking grenade launcher that
would send grenades through the air like footballs. Plus, since the gun can be
tracked and detonated at any second, it makes the weapon perfect for a life or
death situation. Considering that the gun has also received the nickname The Punisher, it’s actually a perfect
fit for Terminator 7.
There’s something futuristic and sci-fi-like about this gun.
It is not exactly a bullet-based gun – and in truth, it’s not even lethal. But
it can sure be convenient when you have a bunch of angry creatures coming at
you – and you have nowhere to run.
does the PHASR rifle do? Well, it’s a non-lethal weapon, so it obviously
doesn’t kill – but it can stun your enemy. The laser that it has been equipped
with can temporarily blind the target, making them disoriented and allowing you
to make a run for it. The weapon is still being worked on – but by the time
Terminator 7 comes around the corner, so will this gun.
P90 Compact Rifle
This compact assault rifle is shaped like nothing you’ve
probably seen before, being a gun you’d most likely see in a video game – or a Terminator movie, for
instance. Only that unlike those guns from video games, this one is as real as
it could possibly be.
What makes this weapon outstanding is the fact that it has
an incredible fire rate – one that can get rid of a lot of your enemies in a
very short time. It’s a perfect fit for the Terminator 7 world – and it’s
amazing to know that such a weapon actually exists in the world armory.
When your life is on the line, you can’t always carry large
shotguns with you wherever you go. Sometimes, you may just need a small, yet
powerful gun that you can take out at short notice.
This gun is so deadly that a civilian can only buy it with
sporting ammunition; imagine what it could do with actual ammunition. It can
practically penetrate any kind of armor, giving it a Terminator 7 vibe that can
kill every target.
Plus, it is extremely lightweight despite having a large
capacity. This way, even if you have to carry the gun around for many hours,
you should not be inconvenienced by it.
When you are going full Terminator, compact weapons are your
best friends – and this super compact concealed carry gun is exactly what would
fit the Terminator 7 movie set. Whenever you would be attacked, you would have to take out the gun, unfold it – and
start shooting. It can carry around 12 bullets, making it perfect for surprise
We may not have flying cars – but we have guns that look
sci-fi enough to be thrown into the Terminator 7 movie. The world armory today
is so advanced that we are not even surprised by laser-shooting guns anymore.
They seem natural. Deadly, but natural.
So now that Democrats no longer have to fear that
talking about gun control is a big no-no on the campaign trail, how will
Gun-nut Nation respond? For the last
twenty-five years, the alliance between the GOP
and the 2nd-Amendment gang held firm, and with the exception of a
few Congressional seats in Communist states like California and New York, all a
politician needed to do was wave the ‘don’t tread on me’ flag as regards gun
‘rights’ and the issue would disappear.
Thanks to some serious spending, the media spotlight grabbed by the Parkland kids and some overreach by various pro-gun Congressional
candidates, the case can probably be made that the ability of the blue team to
wrest control of the lower chamber of Congress certainly wasn’t hurt by a more
aggressive gun-control pitch in many swing districts and might have even helped.
So the question which now looms for 2020, particularly
in key swing states whose votes will probably determine whether or not we have
to put up with that schmuck for four more years, is this: How does Gun-nut
Nation move the needle back to the center-right or at least the center of the gauge
which measures the respective strength of the two sides in the gun debate?
For the last twenty-five years, the gun-nut noise
machine has promoted itself through a combination of patriotism (2nd-Amendment
‘rights,’) and protection from crime (concealed-carry and stand your ground.)
But what made the NRA appear to be
such a fearsome political opponent was the simple fact that there was basically
no opposition from the other side. Occasionally there would be a break-through,
like the Million Moms March put together by our friend
Donna Dees Thomases in 2000, but by and large the pro-gun narrative went unchallenged
in most parts of the country, even in places where a majority of voters didn’t
Without doubt, Sandy Hook was a watershed event, because
out of the tragedy of senseless violence emerged a true, national, grass-roots effort
funded primarily by Mike Bloomberg and his friends, and organized
by a little lady from Indianapolis named Shannon Watts. For the first time the
pro-gun narrative was countered by a gun-control argument which continues to shape
the entire gun debate, namely, that you just can’t justify 35,000 or more fatal
shootings each year as representing some kind of support for ‘civil rights.’
Sorry, but the argument just doesn’t work, particularly when, every once in a
while, some of those 35,000 victims happen to be kids sitting inside a school.
So what do you do if the health and welfare of your particular
industry depends on whether the average, law-abiding American consumer can
still have more or less free access to the products on whose sale your industry
depends? You come up with a way to argue the issue which may or may not have
any connection to reality at all.
What caught my eye in this respect was an op-ed in The Daily Mississippian, ‘The Truth
About Guns,’ whose author approaches the subject without even the slightest
concern for the relevant facts. Here’s the formative statement: “States
like Illinois and California have implemented increasingly strict laws against
gun ownership, but numbers of gun deaths per capita in those states is
significantly higher than in places like Mississippi, where permits are not
required in order to own firearms.”
Ready? The gun-violence rate in
California from 2010 to 2016 was 7.92, in Illinois it was 9.29. In Mississippi, the rate was 18.15. This op-ed was published in the student
newspaper on the campus of Ole Miss, so we shouldn’t expecting the editorial
staff to operate as if they are running The
New York Times.
But I have a funny feeling that this is the kind of narrative, devoid of even the slightest concern for facts, which is how Gun-nut Nation will define its side of the 2020 gun debate. After all, the guy who’s still heading the GOP ticket wouldn’t know a fact if it hit him in the face.
To understand how American citizens today can get their hands on ammo, which rolls off the same factory lines as those that supply the world’s largest militaries, it’s important to first understand how munitions technology developed. Starting in medieval Europe, on a battlefield where a mounted knight in armor could defeat almost any number of peasants, the development of more advanced and accurate ways to destroy enemy personnel and equipment by launching a projectile is one which combines trial and error, scientific ingenuity, and private enterprise. It’s a story of power and technology dating back to the 13th century, at the height of “the divine right of kings,” and tracks the subsequent diffusion of that power held by a chosen few as the individual became capable of breaking the state’s monopoly on violence.
The first recorded use of gunpowder appeared in Europe in 1247, although China had used gunpowder for centuries before that, mostly for fireworks. The cannon appeared nearly 100 years later in 1327, with a hand-sized version making its debut in 1364. The first ordnances were made of stone, and while it might have been theoretically possible for anyone to own one, this would have been outside the financial reach of anyone but the nobility.
Stone was quickly discarded as a source of materiel for one simple reason: It wasn’t effective against stone fortifications. Thus did the first ever arms race begin, as medieval armies sought ways to fire heavier and heavier projectiles. The first recorded example of a metal ball being fired from a hand cannon came in 1425, with the invention of the hand culverin and matchlock arquebus, which led to lead balls becoming the gold standard for projectiles. This is where we get the term “bullet” – boulette is French for “little ball.”
Ammunition remained largely the same for centuries: Little balls of metal virtually anyone could make. This was true until the invention of rifling in the mid-19th century. Even this invention was, at first, not terribly useful for military purposes. Not only did the barrels quickly become useless, but the barrels often could not be fitted with a bayonet. This made early rifles impractical for military use and mostly a bit of a toy. Not until the advent of progressive rifling (which came, depending on one’s point of view, fortuitously or not, in the middle of the U.S. Civil War), did rifles become practical for military, and also widespread civilian purposes.
Copper jacketed bullets arrived in 1882, but since then the development of both military and commercial ammo has largely been about degrees rather than revolutionary innovations like rifling. The same basic design for cartridges has been in place since the late 19th Century.
Advancing technology was likely a driver in the move toward ammunition produced for commercial purposes, rather than simply military use. While in the past, it was common to simply make lead balls in front of the fire as a family after dinner, making a modern rifle cartridge is far beyond the means of most people. Further, it requires safety procedures above and beyond simply molding lead balls.
What Is the Difference Between Civilian and Military Ammunition?
For the most part, the distinction between civilian and military ammunition is largely down to marketing. However, there are some important differences between civilian and military (often known as “milspec”) including:
All military ammunition is full metal jacket. There are military treaties requiring this on an international scale, beginning with the Hague Convention in 1899. Civilian ammo is not subject to such requirements and can be full metal jacket, composite, hollow point or any other configuration.
As a rule, civilian ammunition is designed to expand upon impact. Military ammo is not, due to treaty restrictions. Military ammunition frequently passes through a target with no serious damage, whereas civilian rounds are designed for “one shot, one kill.” This is not a purely humanitarian consideration: Wounded soldiers are a greater burden for an army than dead ones.
Military ammunition comes with moisture sealant, while civilian ammunition does not. This is due to the wide array of climates that military ammunition might be used, as well as the fact that military ammunition might be stored for decades before it is actually used.
Military ammunition primers are harder than its civilian counterparts. This helps to prevent accidental discharges, the worst case scenario of which is when a weapon gets stuck in automatic fire mode.
The chamber pressures are different between military and commercial ammunition, though the degree to which they are different varies significantly from one caliber to another. As an example, the 7.62x51mm NATO and the .308 Winchester are basically the same round, but the NATO(military) version has lower pressure.
Sometimes the military version of a round can be fired through a weapon chambered for the civilian version and vice versa – but sometimes the compatibility only works one way. For example, the military weapon can fire the civilian round, but the civilian weapon cannot fire the military round. Never assume that a military and civilian round and chamber are cross-compatible.
Civilian ammunition tends to be far more consistent in terms of its dimensions than military ammunition. Because every round simply must feed and fire properly, military ammo allows for looser tolerances than civilian ammunition.
Military ammunition casings tend to have thicker walls because, as a general rule, they are subject to higher pressures than civilian rounds.
It’s common for civilians to buy military ammunition, either because they want the particular qualities of that cartridge or because they simply want to get a deal on price. For the most part, there’s no problem with buying surplus ammo provided that your weapon can handle it. You should also examine the ammunition when you receive it — as stated above, it’s not uncommon for rounds to sit in storage for decades.
The Springfield Armory and Commercial Ammunition
Today, the Springfield Armory is a historic site. However, it used to produce the lion’s share of American military hardware and, through the secondary surplus market, a good deal of the commercial ammunition floating around. All told, the site manufactured ammunition from 1777 all the way until 1968. It was both the first federal armory and one of the first American factories dedicated to the manufacture of ammunition.
The use of the location for military training dates back to the colonial days, when George Washington personally scouted and approved of the site during the Revolutionary War. The entire city of Springfield was built around the armory, which wasn’t much to speak of at the time: Little more than an intersection of rivers and roads. These features, however, are what made the location optimal for the manufacture of weaponry for the war effort. What’s more, the Connecticut River provided a natural defense against naval attack.
Shays Rebellion attacked the Armory, but was unsuccessful, as the state militia was able to defend it from attack using grapeshot. The Armory started producing ordnance in 1793, which included everything from paper cartridges and musket balls all the way up to howitzers. Flash forward to the post-Civil War period, and for a brief time this was the only federal armory in operation after the destruction of Harpers Ferry. It produced the first firearm native to America, the Model 1795, a .69 caliber flintlock musket.
The Springfield Armory was a huge driver of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. This was part of the United States military’s need for replaceable parts on the battlefield under the theory that it was easier to replace parts than it was to repair weapons on the battlefield. In turn, this made it easier for the average person to own and maintain a firearm. No longer did one have to know anything about gunsmithing or pay a gunsmith to keep a weapon in good working order. Now one could simply replace parts as they broke down.
Commercial Ammunition in America: The Big Four
For clues to where the story of commercial ammunition comes from, it’s worth looking at the history of America’s oldest weapons and ammunition manufacturers: Remington, Smith & Wesson, Colt and Winchester. These are four American brands as iconic as Coca-Cola, Levi’s, McDonald’s or General Motors. And they all play a role in the transformation of the arms industry from a martial enterprise into a commercial one.
Remington Arms is the oldest gunmaker and operates the oldest factory still making firearms and ammunition to this day. It is also the largest domestic producer of rifles and shotguns. Remington is responsible for the development of more cartridges than any other ammunition manufacturer in the world. As such, they are not just an early adopter in the world of commercial ammunition manufacturing and sales – they are also a world titan of commerce.
The transformation of Elijah Remington from a shooting enthusiast into a gunsmith gives us a bit of insight into commercial ammunition development. He designed his own flintlock rifle for a shooting competition. He didn’t win, but observers were so astonished with his custom-made weapon that offers started pouring in.
The next big name to appear on the scene was Samuel Colt. While his company did not incorporate until 1855, his game-changing percussion revolver, the Colt Paterson, hit the markets in 1836. This was the first revolver and Colt held a monopoly on the production of revolvers through his patent until 20 years later. Unlike earlier weapons designed by Springfield specifically for the purpose of the military, Colt designed his weapon and then later, in an act of shrewd business, was able to sell his design to the United States military. While the innovative design was able to give troops some firepower advantage, the weapons were also notoriously unreliable in combat and were more suited for civilian purposes.
Colt’s New Model Revolving rifle, an attempt to port revolver technology to the rifle, was likewise a hit on the civilian market. It was the preferred weapon of armed guards on the Pony Express, particularly those guarding the extremely dangerous stretch between Independence, MO, and Santa Fe, NM. This particular leg never lost any mail.
Smith & Wesson
Smith & Wesson first began tinkering around with weaponry in 1852. The fruit of their labor was the Volcanic rifle. They were also the first company of note to develop a revolver after Samuel Colt’s patent expired in 1857.
The Civil War represents a turning point in the history of American commercial ammo. Many of the pistols carried by enlisted men, and officers alike, were purchased privately. What’s more, in middle of the war, modern rifling was invented, meaning that weapons became far more accurate, useful and deadly. Handloading became a far more niche hobby – and in any event, the innovation was mostly coming out of the Big Four. Though, it was also the post-Civil War period which saw the rise of wildcatting, where amateur gunsmiths and handloaders were finding ways to improve the commercial offerings on the market.
The post-Civil War period also saw both the United States military and civilian communities turning toward the final conquest of the Old West from the native population. While the impact of the United States Army on this cannot be overstated, it was armed American civilians who settled the West, and demand for weapons and ammunition was high.
It was also the period after the end of the Civil War that saw the entry of the final of the Big Four onto the scene: Winchester. The pre-history of Winchester lies in the first company incorporated by Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson, not to be confused with the famous company bearing their name to this day. Their original company was responsible for the Volcanic rifle, the world’s first repeating rifle. Known as Volcanic Repeating Arms Company, it was largely funded by Oliver Winchester. The pair left the company and it was reorganized as New Haven Arms Company, and then as Winchester Repeating Arms Company. While Winchester was the last entrant on the market, they quickly made up for lost time by debuting the Winchester rifle, which quickly earned the sobriquet “The Gun That Won the West.”
While the Winchester rifle saw action in the United States military during the series of conquests known collectively as the Indian Wars, it was an enormously popular civilian weapon, with a whopping 720,000 sold and built. The original Winchester rifle, the Model 1866 (nicknamed “the Yellow Boy”) saw high demand all the way to the end of the century, due to their low cost. The weapon continues production to this day and is approximately as synonymous with the Old West as a Stetson.
Its successor, the Model 1873, was the first Winchester rifle chambered for the 44-40. If the Winchester rifle was the Gun That Won the West, this was certainly the “Cartridge That Won the West.” The primary market for this round was not the military, but lawmen, settlers, and cowboys for the simple reason that it could be used in both a rifle and a pistol. This eliminated the need to carry two different types of ammunition at all times and was a genius stroke of both engineering and marketing on the part of Winchester. Their competitors quickly scrambled to release their own weapons chambered for this enormously popular round. The 44-40 is, among other things, known for killing more deer than any other cartridge.
The Decline of Commercial Ammunition Manufacturing in America
As with other sectors of the manufacturing economy, ammunition and weapons manufacturing went into deep decline, beginning in the late 1960s.
Colt has a slightly different story. It ceased production entirely between 1945 and 1947, with several big retirements occuring at the end of the Second World War. However, the Springfield Armory’s destruction was a boon for Colt, as Secretary McNamara moved a lot of the business from the Armory over to Colt – which finally started seeing its profits fall after the budget cuts at the end of the Cold War.
It all began with a five-year strike. The Colt factory employees were organized by the United Auto Workers, one of the longest-lasting strikes in American history. Replacement workers took the line and there was a noticeable decline in the quality of arms, which negatively impacted the brand’s reputation. By the end of the strike, Colt was sold to a group of investors, the State of Connecticut, and the United Auto Workers. By 1992, the company declared bankruptcy. A boycott, organized in response to CEO Ron Stewart’s statements to the Washington Post that he would favor a federal permit system, didn’t help matters. In 2002, the company spun off its military, defense, and law enforcement wing entirely as Colt Defense. The company reunited in 2013, but declared bankruptcy again in 2015.
Winchester’s decline came in the late 1960s, largely due to a unionized workforce and the increased labor costs that come along with it. A number of hand-tooled weapons were discontinued because the company could not compete with the cast-and-stamped Remington competitors. Much of their product line had been replaced in 1963 and 1964. And for the commercial market, it was no longer seen as a prestige brand, but rather another company selling discount firearms for the mass market. Winchesters made after 1964 continue to be less valuable and less sought after than their earlier counterparts.
A labor dispute proved to be the beginning of the end for Winchester. The strike took place between 1979 and 1980, and ended with the company being sold to the employees as the U.S. Repeating Arms Company. It went bankrupt in 1989, and is now owned by Belgian firm Fabrique Nationale de Herstal. The New Haven plant closed in 2006. Winchester is now an ammunition brand owned by Olin Corporation. It does not produce its wares in Connecticut.
Smith & Wesson fared the best, perhaps, after being sold to American conglomerate Bangor Punta, who diversified the company’s products to include gun-related products such as holsters, as well as breathalyzers and handcuffs for law enforcement. The War on Drugs served to break the back of the company, as law enforcement agencies adopted Glock, Sig Sauer and Beretta. Between the years 1982 and 1986, Smith & Wesson profits fell by a whopping 41 percent, with ownership changing twice during the decade. A boycott organized in response to “smart guns” development nearly destroyed the company. Its current marketing is extremely commercial focused, with the main target being customers at big box stores.
Remington was able to weather the storm a little better than its competitors, in no small part because it was acquired by the DuPont Corporationduring the Great Depression. The manufacturing was moved from Connecticut to Arkansas, and from New York to Alabama. Nevertheless, the company took on hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and suffered from an increasingly diminished reputation among the commercial market.
The commercial ammunition market is now bigger than it’s ever been. Popular and common rounds can be purchased at just about any big box retailer in a state with a high degree of gun freedom. Smaller mom and pops have a smaller selection, but if what you need is common enough, you can get it there. Online retailers like us cater to virtually every ammunition need, from the common to the incredibly niche and obscure. And whatever the commercial market doesn’t cater to, handloaders and wildcatters can make.
It’s important to note that when reading the history of commercial ammunition manufacture in the United States and abroad, the commercial market takes a definite backseat to the military. Indeed, the downturns in military spending are a key factor in the downturn of American ammunition manufacturing in general. As unfortunate as it is to read, it’s simply the honest truth that the needs of the military shape the needs of the overall ammunition market in the 20th and 21st Century.
The gun industry better come up with a basic narrative to staunch what could be some serious financial problems, assuming that the AWB virus (read: assault weapons ban) begins to spread throughout the globe. Because it just doesn’t work to refer to a gun as a ‘modern sporting rifle’ when the so-called ‘sport’ results in 50 people getting killed. It also doesn’t work to refer to an AR-15 as a ‘tactical’ gun when you can hardly consider a high school, a synagogue or a mosque to be a war zone.
This search for a new excuse to continue making profits
from the sale of .America’s most popular’ rifle’ was on full display yesterday
with a really stupid op-ed in The Washington
Examiner. The writerlikened
allowing families of Sandy Hook victims who want to sue the gun maker to be just
as ‘ridiculous’ as allowing someone to sue a company which manufactures kitchen
knives after some ‘crazy person’ takes a knife out of the cupboard and sticks
it in someone else’s head.
Last week I bought a knife from an online seller whose
advertisement claimed that for $69.95 I was getting my hands on the best, most
versatile and most effective ‘tactical’ knife ever made. The advertisement made a point of promising
that with this knife in my pocket, I could defend myself from any and all
threats. There was no mention of whether I could also use this knife to slice a
loaf of bread.
course I could stick this knife in the same kitchen drawer where I keep the
utensils which I use to prepare and eat food. But I can also go down to Wal
Mart and buy an entire set of forks, knives and spoons, or a complete set of
steak knives (in a nice, wooden knife-holder) for less than $69.95. And I would
be the last person to argue that if my loony cousin Arthur escaped from the
loony bin, showed up at my house, grabbed one of those steak knives and pushed it
into my head, that my wife should be able to sue Wal Mart because they sold me
a product that was designed to trim the side of my Porterhouse filet.
exactly why the argument against banning assault rifles falls apart. Because an
assault rifle is designed to do one thing: deliver massive, military-grade
firepower into a public space containing multiple human beings who are targeted
by the guy who has the gun. And the fact that nearly everyone who owns such a
weapon wouldn’t think of using it to hurt or injure someone else, doesn’t make
this type of gun any less dangerous or any safer for civilian sale.
the most popular semi-automatic rifles ever manufactured is a gun made by Ruger
known as the Mini-14. It fires the same type of ammunition as the AR-15 (.223
or 5.56) and bears a slight resemblance to the old M-1 carbine, which was the
30-caliber version of the storied M-1 Garand. It was designed by Bill Ruger
specifically to be a lightweight, sporting gun that could be used to hunt
varmints or just have some shooting fun.
Ruger started shipping this rifle it came and still comes with a 5-shot mag. So
here was a gun that looks like a military gun, feels like a military gun and
shoots like a military gun except that Bill Ruger didn’t want anyone thinking
they were buying a military gun. In fact, Bill Ruger first characterized his company as ‘Arms
Makers for Responsible Citizens,’ but the factory
now ships what they call a ‘tactical’ Mini-14, complete with hi-cap mags.
Ruger refit its Mini-14 with a non-detachable mag that only holds 5 rounds? Of
course they could, but the gun wouldn’t sell. And this is the reason why the
gun industry has become, to paraphrase Hamlet, hoisted with its own petard. Because
they can’t have it both ways. Either we shoot for sport or we shoot to kill.
It’s as simple as that.
Coming up shortly is a debate in the U.S. Senate about a
bill which passed through the House extending background checks to all
transfers of guns. At the same this issue wends its way through Congress,
another approach to reducing gun violence is going through the courts in the
form of the lawsuit against Remington brought by some of the parents of victims
killed at Sandy Hook.
These two initiatives represent different methods for making
us safe (or at least safer) from a type of behavior which kills and injures
more than 125,000 people every year. This
behavior which is referred to as gun violence because it occurs whenever
someone picks up a gun, aims it at themselves or someone else and goes – bang!
I happen to believe that the latter approach is a much
more effective method for dealing with this problem. My proof for that
statement lies in the fact that the gun-control method embodied in the DeSoto v. Remington case aligns itself with
the way in which other countries deal with gun violence, which is the reason
why other countries have gun-violence rates far below our own.
We are the only advanced society which has decided that
the most effective way to regulate a consumer product known as a gun is to
regulate the behavior of the consumer who owns the gun. Therefore, in order to
be a legal gun owner in the United States, you have to prove that you do not
fall into a particular behavioral category which prohibits owning or buying guns.
These categories are all listed on the 4473 background check form which is
filled out when someone buys a gun, but they apply equally as well to owning a
gun, no matter how that ownership status came about. The background check bill
currently before the Senate basically extends the certification of ‘good’
behavior to any way in which someone gets their hands on a gun. But like the
current system, it is still regulating how people behave with a particular
consumer product, not how the product is designed or sold.
The majority opinion in DeSoto v. Remington correctly understood that what is at issue in
this case is not the behavior of the shooter per se, but the conscious effort
by the manufacturer to advertise the product in a way that would attract
consumers who wanted to use this gun to inflict injuries to other human beings.
To quote from the decision: “The AR-15 and M16 are highly lethal weapons that are engineered to
deliver maximum carnage with extreme efficiency.” Which is hardly how guns
designed to be used for ‘sport’ can best be described.
On the other hand, as long as a
gun doesn’t fire in automatic mode, it can be bought and sold by anyone who
doesn’t have a behavioral history indicating that the person buying or owning the gun is at risk for using
the weapon in a violent way. Adam Lanza, who shot and killed himself and 27
other kids and adults in Newtown, used his mother’s rifle but if he had waited
a few months until he was 21, he could have walked into any gun shop in Connecticut
and purchased the same gun himself.
I’m not saying that extending
background checks to secondary sales won’t have an impact on whether or not
guns end up in the wrong hands. But as long as we continue to regulate this
consumer product by believing that purchase and ownership of products as
dangerous as an AR-15 require only meeting minimal standards for lawful
behavior, the number of such guns floating around in private hands will
continue to increase. And as the number of such guns goes up, the number used
to commit violent acts will also go up.
If a consumer product is dangerous because of the way it’s designed, either you change the design or the product can’t be sold. How do you make an AR-15 safer so that it can’t be used to mow down a classroom filled with kids? You can’t.
Because I fervently believe that we must try to find
some way to eliminate the scourge of gun violence, I tend to be somewhat more
accepting of arguments for gun control than for pro-gun arguments made by the
‘other side.’ But every once in a while a narrative floats around Gun-control
Nation which is either so dumb, or so arrogant or so both, that I feel
compelled to respond with the same degree of hostility and dismissiveness that
I usually reserve for the jerks who lecture about the sanctity of their 2nd-Amendment
narrative floating around gun-control land is an article in Scientific American that claims to be based on a ‘growing number of
‘scientific studies’ which explain why white men are stockpiling guns. If these
articles represent science, Galileo must be turning in his grave, or in his
tower, or wherever he ended up. In fact, these so-called studies are nothing
more than junk science designed to appeal to an audience which may be committed
to scientific inquiry, but also happens to be an audience that doesn’t know
squat about guns.
scientific approach to understanding gun ownership claims that guns are
increasingly found in larger and larger private arsenals owned by white men “who
are anxious about their ability to protect their families, insecure about their
place in the job market, and beset by racial fears.” So says a sociologist who
her study based on interviews with a whole,
big sample of people who applied for concealed-carry licenses in Texas – she talked to 20 men. That’s some definitive
sample, I must say.
The most disturbing finding from this and other scientific investigations
into the minds of guys who are stockpiling weapons is that many of them also
harbor strong, racist beliefs and worse, often channel these beliefs into
opposition to gun-control laws and support for conservative
(read: Republican) politicians and right-wing political ideas.
Then there’s another foray into scientific research by two
sociologists at Baylor University who claim to have uncovered a connection
between white guys who use gun ownership to feel empowered after losing their
jobs. Yet white women and minorities who suffered financial setbacks did not
feel demonstrate the same affinity to guns, which obviously meant they had developed
“other sources of meaning and coping when facing hard times.” Yea, they
probably stuffed themselves with Fritos while sitting in front of the tv. Other
sources – my rear end.
Let me break the news gently to all these intrepid
researchers who are pushing the boundaries of scientific gun research to new
extremes. White men have always owned most of the guns in this country. Gun
owners have always been politically conservative and vote the Republican line.
Gun owners also tend to be less educated because guns are most frequently found
in rural areas where opportunities for higher education still lag behind.
In other words, all of these so-called scientific studies
designed to explain why a certain group of people keep acquiring more and more
guns, don’t tell us anything new about Gun-nut Nation and worse, completely
ignore the way in which gun ownership has dramatically changed over the last
You would think that, if anything, the alignment of the gun
industry with the most reactionary and racist President of all time, a
President who went out of his way to use the threat of gun violence as a motif
for explaining his political success, would motivate all these conservative,
GOP-voting, racist gun owners to stock up on even more guns. In fact, exactly
the opposite has occurred. Gun sales continue to drift downward, there has yet
to be a single month since Sleazy Don was inaugurated where NICS-FBI checks on gun transfers was
higher than the same month of the year before. Back in 2015-2016 you couldn’t
buy a new AR for less than a thousand bucks. America’s ‘favorite gun’ is now
priced at $600 or less.
The Scientific American
article isn’t science – it’s fake news. But since when do we need to rely on
facts to develop or validate any idea at all?
I purchased my first assault rifle in 1977 or 1978. It
was made by Colt, was listed in the product catalog as a ‘sporter’ and sold for
around four hundred bucks. The only difference between my A-1 sporter and the
M-16 that was issued to our troops, was that my gun contained a semi-auto sear
which because it was a ‘pre-ban’ gun could easily be swapped out for a
This alleged difference between a gun which fires
full-auto as opposed to a gun which requires a separate trigger for every shot
has been the core argument used by Gun-nut Nation to turn back any legal
challenge to what they now refer to as America’s ‘favorite’ gun. And since
there’s absolutely no difference between all semi-automatic rifles, if you ban
one of them you could ban them all, right?
For the uninitiated, this is a pretty powerful
argument, and the pro-gun noise machine buttresses their narrative by pointing
out that not only is the ammunition which loads into the AR less powerful than
the ammo used in many semi-auto hunting guns, but that most ‘mass’ shootings
occur with handguns, not the AR-style of gun. You can find these arguments in an Amicus Brief filed in the Sandy Hook case by a group known as the
Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League – I don’t have to tell you which side
There’s only one little problem with this statement
from these learned protectors of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ To be
polite, they don’t know what they are talking about. To be a little less
polite, they’re full of sh*t. And the reason I’m dispensing with polite is
because this group is consciously trying to craft an argument to take advantage
of a confusion found in just about every discussion about assault rifles, a
confusion which hopefully this column will clear up.
It has to do with how we define the phrase ‘mass
shooting.’ Actually, there is no standard definition. The FBI defines a ‘mass murder’ as the
indiscriminate killing of four or more persons in a public space whether a gun
is used or not. Other definitions push the idea that a mass killing event may
occur either in a public or private space, and still others count the number of
bodies, usually but not always four or more, regardless of whether the victims
are injured or killed.
When a group like this Connecticut gun-loving bunch
lumps together every multiple shooting with rampages which occurred at
Columbine, Aurora, Parkland, Las Vegas or Sandy Hook, they are creating a
category that is so vague they can basically say anything they want, regardless
of the facts in each individual case.
Of course most ‘mass’ shootings involve the use of a
handgun, if you define a ‘mass’ shooting as any time that multiple victims are
hit. Of course the AR ammunition load known as .223 caliber is much less
powerful that many hunting rounds, because the round my long-distance hunting rifle
takes, the .300 Winchester Magnum, is designed to smack down a muley at 400
Talking about my hunting rifle, it’s a Browning BAR, which
fires in semi-auto mode just like the AR. But there’s a huge difference between
these two semi-auto guns which the Connecticut gun-nut group failed to point
out. The magazine capacity of my Browning is 5 rounds and it loads shell by
shell from the top. The AR loads from the bottom with magazines that can hold
upwards of 30 to 50 rounds. If Adam Lanza had walked into Sandy Hook Elementary
School with a Browning BAR, he maybe would have gotten off 4 or 5 shots. In
fact because he used an AR, he banged nearly 100 rounds in 5 minutes or less.
When someone walks into a school and tries to kill everyone in sight, he has destroyed an entire community, whether that was his motive or not. And the only legal gun which will achieve that result in less time than it takes for a school resource officer to run down the hallway and intervene is an AR-15.