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20140214 American Guns and history

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It is a nice little book about 10 guns that had impact on American history. They are:

1. American long rifle. This rifle was more of a hunting gun then fighting weapon. It was shooting farther and more accurately then military musket, but it was more difficult and time consuming to reload. As result in traditional pitched battle between two military forces it would produce inferior volume of fire. However if tactics change from mass movement of formations typical for battles since ancient Greeks to “pick up high value target, shoot, and run” – new tactic of American voluntary military of war for independence, it become a powerful tool with significant advantages. Not the least of which was ability to take our commanding officers, bringing British and German military formation into confusion and disarray. This weapon did not win the war, alliance with France did it, but it was instrumental in victory and formation of American culture of independent actions.

2. The Spencer repeater. This was one of the first weapons with magazine that significantly increased firepower. Author believes that it had a significant impact on Civil war victory.

3. Colt single action revolver. Another example of fast reloading weapon. Starting from 1844 it gave American decisive advantage in Indian wars against people armed with bows and arrows.

4. Winchester 1873 rifle. Well known as “gun that won west”. It was not a military, but rather civilian self-defense weapon. It was rifle of choice in after civil war fight between settlers and Indians that obliterated remnants of independent Indian tribes.

5. M1903 Springfield rifle. As many bolt rifles of early XX century it was made from pattern provided by the Mauser design. As a main American weapon of WWI it was not that different from rifles of other countries, but its place in American history is warranted by being the weapon of mass of conscripted American soldiers in WWI.

6. Colt .45 M1911 Pistol. This weapon is special for two reasons. First it was typical American tool of American soldier. The pistol in other armies of the world was weapon of an officer. In American army regular soldier carried it also. The second reason is its design. This gun was designed so well that it lasted for nearly a century.

7. Thompson submachine gun. This weapon was designed to be a trench warfare tool, but wind up as mainly civilian criminal gun for bank robbers. I guess its value is not so much military or historical, but rather as cultural amulet of American gangster. It looks great and makes a lot of noise – perfect for movies.

8. M1 Garand – the main American rifle of WWII. Being semiautomatic weapon it provided American soldiers with superior power against German troops armed with bolt-action rifles and submachine guns. As it is always with American weapons accuracy was pretty high.

9. .38 Special police revolver. This gun was for a long time weapon of American police and detectives. As with Thompson gun it had more of cultural then historical value.

10. Finally M16 – American high tech response to Soviet AK47. As it is typical in match between Western and Soviet weapons nearly at all levels from handguns to tanks and jets it has superior technology at high price put against cheap mass production of lower technological quality, but high reliability. The experience of Vietnam war was – a cheap AK47 that nearly any Vietnam soldier would have that would always work, but would not hit a target against expensive, light weight and accurate M16 which would not always work, especially if not taken enough care of. After some modification M16 won military contest, but AK47 won cultural contest in third war becoming a symbol of fight against civilization and found its place even on flags of a few terrorist organizations.

Overall it is an interesting professional angle on American history.


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