Category Archives: The Past is Another Country

When the Army Resisted the M16A2, Part 2 of 3

The M16A2 was adopted by the Marines in 1983, and then by the Army in 1986. Shortly before its adoption, an Army contract analyzed the M16A2 — and found it all wrong for  the Army. The report is here:

This is the second of a three part series. In the first part, yesterday on, the Army contractors noted the specific solutions implemented on the A2 and the problems the Marines solved thereby, but complained that the problems and solutions were too USMC-specific. In this part, we’ll discuss just what they thought was wrong about the Marines’ product. In the third part, which we’ll post tomorrow, we’ll list the modifications that they suggested in lieu of or in addition to the A2 mods.

M16A1 (top) and M16A2.

As we recounted in yesterday’s post, the Army let a contract to analyze the Marines’ product-improved M16A1, originally called the M16 PIP (Product Improvement Program but in November 1983, type-classified as the M16A2. Did the A2 meet the Army’s needs for an improved rifle? The contractors recounted 17 improvements in the A2 versus the A1, and traced those improvements back to four or five fundamental goals of the Marine program: more range, accuracy and penetration at that range, more durability, and a burst-fire capability in place of the full-auto setting.

The Army contractors recognized what the USMC had done — and damned it with faint praise.

The M16A2 rifle was developed and tested by the U.S. Marine Corps. The purpose of this present analysis was to evaluate M16A2 rifle features as they relate to U.S. Army training and combat requirements. It was found that the M16A2 did not correct major shortcomings in the MI6Al and that many M16A2 features would be very problematic for the Army. Accordingly, this report provides several suggested rifle modifications which would improve training and combat performance.

The A1 shortcomings that the paper’s authors thought went unameliorated, or were worsened, by the A2 included:

  1. 25 Meter Setting: The M16A2 does not have a sight setting for firing at 25 meters, where zeroing and most practice firing occurs.
  2. Battlesight Zero: The M16A2 does not have a setting for battlesight zero, i.e., 250 meters.
  3. Aperture Size: The M16A2 probably does not have an aperture suitable for the battlesight, e.g., the single aperture used for most marksmanship training, the record fire course, the primary aperture for combat, etc. The 5mm aperture used for 0-200 meters is probably too large and the 1-3/4mm aperture used for 300-800 meters is probably too small.
  4. Sighting System: The M16A2 sighting system is too complex, i.e., elevation is changed three different ways, leaving too much room for soldier error.
  5. Sight Movement: Sight movements on the M16A2 result in changing bullet strike by different amounts; .5, 1, 1.4, and 3 minutes of angle (MOA)*. The sights intended for zeroing, .5 and 1.4 MOA, are not compatible with old Army zero targets or the new targets being fielded.
  6. Zero Recording: The M16A2 does not have a sighting system which allows for easy recording of rifle zero. Also, the zero cannot be confirmed by visual inspection.
  7. Returning to Zero: The M16A2 does not have a reliable procedure for setting an individual’s zero after changing sights for any reason, e.g., using MILES or .22 rimfire adaptors.
  8. Night Sight: The M16A2 does not have a low light level or night sight.
  9. Protective Mask Firing: The M16A2 has not been designed to aid firing while wearing a protective mask.
  10. Range Estimation: The M16A2 sight has not been designed to aid in the estimation of range

Let’s consider those, briefly. Note that every single one of those objections relates to the sights. There are no complaints about the other Marine improvements (not even the hated burst switch). Most of the sight squawks were because the sight was different from the sights of the A1, which were pretty much as Stoner, Sullivan et. al. designed them circa 1959 (the earlier AR-10 sights are different, but the later AR-15 prototypes and their descendants all used something extremely close to the M16 and M16A1 sights. (The USAF/USN M16 and the Army/Marine M16A1 differed only in the absence and presence respectively of a forward assist). Even the protective mask issue is basically a sighting problem — with the then current US M17 gas mask, the rifle had to be held canted to use carrying-handle based rear sights.

Complaints 1-5 relate only to the M16A2 sights, but 6-10 are just as applicable to the then-issued Army M16A1.

Even at the time, it was clear that optical sights were better than irons — scopes for distance and red dots for close-in work. Army special operators had already tested — on the flat range, in the tire house, and on the two-way range — such early red-dots and both-eyes-open sights such as the Single Point and the Armson Occluded Eye Gunsight (OEG). In the early 21st Century, universal optics would end the long run of the M16A2, and sweep away all these problems the 1986 Army contractors worried about. But there was no way to predict that in 1986, not with any certainty.

And that’s Part 2 of our story. Tomorrow, we’ll cover the modifications to the M16 that the authors recommended in place of the A2.

The paper is available on DTIC:


WWJLL? (What Would Jesus Look Like?)

He could have looked like Josephus, a Jewish rebel of 70 AD who betrayed his fellows and joined Rome (and wrote a history of the war in which he changed sides). Josephus looks like lots of modern Greeks and Jews, etc.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the broadly and deeply eclectic Lebanese-American scholar who is best known to the public, perhaps, through his Black Swan, has an interesting blast against an ahistorical view of the peoples of the Levant and the Middle East, especially the Mediterranean ones.

How did Judeans and Galileans look like at the time of Christ? Not according to your politically driven classifications; and not according to some BS in a 2001 article in Scientific American (based on “scientific” reconstruction of facial features and skin tone from … bones). And don’t assume that Jesus would have voted for neocon hawks, Salafi regime promoters, rent seeking “educated” bureaucrats and state-worshipping IYIs (intellectual yet idiots) — simply, Jesus wanted a separation of the holy and the profane, (see my article here).

No, Jesus was not a “Middle Eastern”, that is like inhabitants of the olive-oil free swath of land from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan. Near East (Eastern Mediterranean) is not the nonMediterranean or antiMediterranean Middle East (I wonder which idiot made that classification; the correct heuristic is use of olive oil). Jesus looked like a typical Mediterranean, that is, just like a Southern European, and quite standard at that, as we will see below.

Olive oil? What is this guy thinking? (And, as we often find ourselves thinking when reading him, Can we keep up?) It turns out there are two generations of hard thinking analysis behind his claim. But first, let’s let him develop the WWJLL argument for another half graf (Taleb writes in complete thoughts and in long but clear paragraphs):

The inhabitants of the cities around the Mediterranean, by his time, were already quite similar in looks, even if they didn’t speak the same languages, and (as today, in many cases) much different from those that reside say, a hundred miles inside. And we know how Western Semites looked like, which is no different from today’s Western Syrians: like Southern Europeans; like generic Roman citizens (although most Jews were technically not citizens at the time of Jesus). Strikingly, Western Syrians (a.k.a. urban Syrians) still look the same today — in my experience they are usually indistinguishable from the Ionian Greeks, Cretans, or Cypriots who are in identity politics called “white”.

Or he could have looked like Emperor Caracalla, who was part Roman, part Syrian and part Punic. Most of us have known someone who looks like this guy.

OK, so his blast at identity politics that leads his post (we picked it up below that) stands on solid ground. Historians know that the whole Med at the time of Caesar, Cleopatra, and Christ was broadly Hellenistic. Taleb posits, and history and archaeology are on his side here, that Jesus Christ may have looked like our participant in yesterday’s history lesson, Hannibal, or like any of the Syrian Emperors, even Elgalabalus (eeeew. We hope not; he’s one of those guys that makes Caligula seem not so bad).

And that olive oil thing?

I have a heuristic. If people eat the same, they look the same and use similar body language. Western Turks eat the same as Levantines, Greeks and look the same. The Middle East, say Saudi Arabia has no ratatouille, tyme, oregano, olive oil, hummus, ouzo/raki/pastis/arak, pizza (lahmajun/manousheh) etc.

Reading Taleb reminds us, if we needed to be reminded, that “the Separation of Church and State” did not spring fully formed from the brow of Jefferson or Madison, but was, in fact, the project of Christ Himself, and it did not mean the State Atheism (or its milder French or Mexican shade, Anticlericalism) it has come to mean in the West nowadays. It is in His answer to the question, “Whose face is on the denarius?“, still a much-sermonized parable even in churches that reject the message!

202 BC: Scipio Uses Hannibal’s Spies Against Him

The battle of Zama in 202 BC was the end of the line for Carthage’s brilliant general Hannibal Barca and the Second Punic War. After the Roman victory, Carthage faced terms more punitive than those of the notorious Treaty of Versailles: they were disarmed of their naval and military power, and subject to fifty years of tribute. When the Carthaginians made their final tribute payment, the Romans would soon demand the Carthaginians further disarm — and then  destroy the Carthaginian city, civilization, and people utterly in the Third Punic War.

In the  Battle of Zama which decided the Second Punic War, and greased the skids for the complete elimination of Carthage in the Third, there were many reasons for Roman victory. The Romans had logistical advantages, a better field position, far superior infantry (n quality, at least), and at least equal cavalry, thanks to some Numidian horsemen changing sides. But the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio enlarged those advantages by playing a trick on Hannibal Barca, his Carthaginian counterpart.

Now, what we know the battle is limited to the tales told by two Roman historians, Livy and Polybius, writing from a position far away and after the fact. The site of the battle has never been confirmed or even found. And the two of them  disagree about some details of this tale. But in most things, their two stories are consonant.

Plus, it’s a good story!

in ancient times spies were as much a part of warfare as they have been ever since, and then, as now, or perhaps, even more than now, a spy faced great risk with little prospect of reward. So three Carthaginian spies, who fell into the hands of Roman patrols shortly before the battle, must have commended their souls to their heathen gods and braced themselves for a miserable death.

The key question Hannibal needed the answer to, his EEI or CCIR to use more modern acronyms, was this: had Scipio’s infantry and Masinissa’s Numidian cavalry joined forces? In that case it would be better to refuse battle. Or was the enemy camp one of the forces, alone? In the latter case the African had the advantage over his Italian enemy.

In Hannibal’s Last Battle, Carey writes:

These three spies were taken prisoner by the Romans about the same time that Masinissa arrived at the camp with Numidian reinforcements. This force consisted of 4,000 light cavalry and 6,000 infantry.

Here the Roman historians’ stories diverge, and the authors consider what that signifies:

Polybius and Livy differ on the timing of these events. Livy maintains that the spies arrived after Masinissa, and reported back their numbers, while Polybius states that the Numidian king arrived the next day unobserved by the spies.320 Both authors agree that Scipio ordered the spies to be treated well and given guided tours of the camp and to report back to Hannibal what they observed. Polybius’ account would make sense if it were Scipio’s intention to mislead Hannibal into believing the Roman’s were weak in cavalry. This may be why Hannibal continued to march west towards Scipio. Livy’s account would ring true if the spies returned to Hannibal’s camp with intelligence on Roman troop strengths that worried the Punic general.

Of course, there’s another possibility: Scipio was simply playing a dominance game with Hannibal, the equivalent of a ballplayer trash-talking his opposite number, or a gorilla beating his chest. In any event, Hannibal met Scipio five or six days’ march west of Carthage, at the still unlocated field of Zama, and the two leaders met between their armies, with only each one’s dragoman in attendance.

Hannibal regretted that Rome and Carthage had ever pursued conquest on the other’s side of the great sea; was there any way to resolve the nations’ open issues without bloodshed?

Scipio’s response was long, flowery, and recounted a litany of Carthaginian misdeeds relative to Rome, ending with an offer of the only terms that would prevent the battle: unconditional surrender.

The fact is that you must either put yourself and your country unconditionally into our hands, or else fight and conquer us.

(This would have been known to Roosevelt and Churchill, both better educated than their modern counterparts, when they made their “unconditional surrender” decision in World War II).

With no way to avoid the defeat except by fighting, the fight was on, and the next day they fought. Hannibal survived and was not captured, but the Carthaginians wound up unconditionally surrendering.

At first, the Romans planned to destroy the city and enslave the citizens, but they were talked around to simply imposing harsh terms. Cary reports:

The terms Scipio set to end the Second Punic War were very harsh, no doubt set as a reminder to the Carthaginians of the truce which they broke when the convoy was attacked off the coast of Carthage in early spring 202. According to the treaty Carthage would:

  • Lose all territory outside of Africa and recognize Masinissa as the king of a greatly expanded Numidia.
  • Reduce her fleet to only ten triremes.
  • Have all her war elephants confiscated.
  • Pay an annual indemnity of 10,000 silver talents for fifty years.
  • Refrain from making war outside of Africa unless Roman permission was obtained.
  • Return all Roman prisoners and deserters without ransom.
  • Supply Rome with three month’s worth of food and supplies and pay the occupying Roman army’s wages until the treaty was ratified by the Roman Senate.
  • Pay reparations for the loss of the convoy and its supplies.
  • Finally, Scipio demanded hostages from the leading Carthaginian families to ensure their cooperation

The Roman prisoners were freed, but the fate of the deserters was different — crucifixion for Romans, or beheading for Rome’s foreign levies, as the wages of treason.

The Carthaginians met the terms, but war came soon after the tribute’s half-century ran out. The Romans had rejected an offer to repay it early, in 191 BC, because they wanted to keep their Mediterranean rival on a short leash. The Romans threatened to invade again, and demand the Carthaginians disarm. When the Carthaginians did so, handing over 200,000 sets of individual arms and equipment and 2,000 siege machines, the Romans invaded anyway, and took the city after a three-year siege, destroying it utterly in 146 BC.

To exit, here is a wargame-produced simulation of the battle of Zama in its context of the Punic Wars.



Carey, Brian Todd. (Allfree & Cairns, maps). Hannibals Last Battle: Zama and the Fall of Carthage. Barnsley, South Yorks., England: Pen & Sword, 2007.

What Can You Do With Two Deringers?

Well, what can you do with them?

  1. Hang them on the wall;
  2. Lock them in a safe deposit box;
  3. Stage duels with your friends (?); or,
  4. Assassinate President Lincoln — twice.

OK, that was in pretty bad taste, but the gun the President was murdered with was a sibling to this set, from the same Philadelphia gunsmith, Henry Deringer. The Booth gun — which was probably also one of a pair, originally — was very similar to these, but more up-market, inlaid with silver.

This rare pair is for sale by Ancestry Guns, LLC, in Columbia Missouri, via GunBroker. One wonders what stories they could tell about their travels between Henry Deringer’s Philadelphia premises almost two centuries ago and their current way station in Columbia, but whatever travels they have had don’t seem to have done their appearance any harm.

They’re remarkably well-preserved, well-finished little guns. In the side views above, the octagonal profile of the barrels isn’t obvious, but you can see it below.

As Holt Bodnson wrote in Guns magazine, “The contours of Deringer’s barrels are complex and pleasing to the eye.” 

The very limited corrosion around the lock and the nipple suggests that the members of this pair were very seldom fired. Lock and barrel are both marked with Deringer’s name and city, over 100 years before this became a legal requirement. It was, instead, a mark of the maker’s pride.

That pride paid off as many smiths and shops copied the Deringer pocket pistol, but to avoid a trademark lawsuit misspelled the name, “derringer.” Thus Henry gave his name, with the insertion of an extra “r”, to be applied to any small pocket pistol with one or two barrels.

The Booth Deringer, abandoned in the theater box at Ford’s Theater by the assassin.

As it happens, the Booth Deringer in the possession of the National Park Service — a very similar pistol to this pair — was the subject of an FBI investigation in the 1990s, due to charges that sometime in the 1960s, a Boston burglar pilfered the pistol and placed a ringer Deringer in the place of the original.

One hundred and thirty-two years after the death of Lincoln, this pistol was again an item of interest in Washington, DC. In June 1997, the U. S. Park Police and the National Park Service contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation with a request for assistance in examining the Deringer pistol used by John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The authenticity of the pistol, which is displayed at the Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site in Washington, DC, was drawn into question during the adjudication of a New England estate belonging to a member of a burglary ring that operated throughout the northeastern United States between the late 1960s and the early 1980s. Members of this ring had allegedly replaced the original Booth pistol with a replica pistol in the late 1960s, at which time the security system at Ford’s Theatre was much less sophisticated than that in place today. Curatorial records of the Booth pistol were unable to resolve the issue of authenticity, and the FBI Laboratory was subsequently assigned to determine beyond a reasonable doubt whether the Deringer pistol displayed at Ford’s Theatre is the same pistol pictured in historical photographs pre-dating the 1960s.

The FBI’s forensic experts ultimately concluded that the pistol in the hands of the Park Service in 1997 was the exact same pistol as the one photographed circa 1930, and the burglar had been lying. (It may be that the burglary ring was really a fraud ring, and sold some unscrupulous collector a faked Booth Deringer. You can’t con an honest man, they say). Do Read The Whole Thing™ at the FBI Archives, because you’ll also get a refresher in the Lincoln assassination, and a capsule history of Henry Deringer’s guns, of which this is an excerpt:

The Deringer pocket pistol achieved its greatest popularity during the mid-1850s and was a favorite of civilians seeking a compact, easily concealed firearm for use in personal defense. Although the Deringer pistol was somewhat limited by its single-shot capacity, its light weight and small size gave it a distinct advantage over bulkier, unconcealable alternatives, and the limitations of its firing capacity could be circumvented by carrying two pistols, which were sold as pairs for approximately $22 to $25 during that time period. The Deringer pistol’s ubiquity, success, and infamy as a deadly weapon is apparent in its association with a number of prominent California murders that took place during the 1850s, as well as its later use in the assassination of President Lincoln. The latter homicide ensured the permanent notoriety of the Deringer pistol while simultaneously finalizing the incorporation of the word “derringer” into the American lexicon as a common noun denoting a concealable, short-barreled nonautomatic pistol. Notably, the use of the noun Deringer refers to a pistol manufactured by Henry Deringer, whereas the use of the noun derringer (sometimes spelled Derringer) refers to a pocket pistol of any make.

As the Deringer firearms were each hand-made, there might have been profound consequences forensically:

Because each paired set of Deringer pistols included a bullet mold specific to the caliber of the two matching pistols, loss of this mold virtually precluded the proper fit of ammunition for the paired set.

Unfortunately, the forensic scientists were disappointed to learn that the bullet removed from the brain of President Lincoln had corroded in the intervening 132 years, to the point that they could draw no direct conclusions confirming the bullet as fired from the Booth gun.

Now, this pair of Deringers comes without that important bullet mold, but since they don’t seem to have been fired much (if at all) in the last 150 or so years, it would be rather unwise to shoot them. Particularly with the starting bid set at $7,500.

Ordnance and the (First) World War

Note: This post was intended to be published prior to our 27 October 16 Post, Why did Ordnance Hate the Lewis Gunwhich led to General Crozier and the US Rifle, M1917 “Enfield,” on 29 October. As a result, this post is somewhat redundant and duplicative, but there is further information in it, so we are delivering it today. 

An OCR’d version of Crozier’s book, mentioned below, is available here: Ordnance and the World War 4.pdf.  -Ed.

William Crozier, Chief of Ordnance

In 1920, William Crozier wrote a fascinating book, Ordnance and the World War, about Army Ordnance in the Great War. Crozier had been the recipient of a great deal of abuse from the press, the public, and Congress; despite Congress having appropriated $12 million as early as 1916, Ordnance stuck to a leisurely peacetime schedule until long after the outbreak of the war, and Crozier’s own preferences and enmities undermined war production.

His reason for writing seems to have been, primarily, to defend himself and his branch of the Army from criticism. The criticism was mostly well deserved; it was the Army’s own fault that it had few and obsolete machine guns.

Some times it was not: the Army was expected by the public, the press and the Congress to suddenly manifest the arms of a multi-million-man force after 50 years of austerity budgets. Crozier explained:

[T]here were four subjects, viz.: rifles, machine guns, field artillery and smokeless powder, upon which criticism centered so fiercely and in regard to which misinformation was so rife that the truth really ought to be known about them; especially as they constitute the most important items in the armament of a fighting force.1

We are, perhaps, most interested in the production of small arms, rifles, pistols, and machine guns.

During the prewar years small arms were under one of several functional divisions, with each functional division having full vertically-integrated responsibility for a given class of ordnance, from conceptual design through fielding to overhaul, withdrawal and surplusing. Such coordination as was needed between, say, the makers of artillery and artillery carriages, which were separate divisions, was effectuated by the Ordnance staff or by the Chief of Ordnance himself. Nine months into the war, this wasn’t working, and they reorganized into horizontal functional divisions rather then vertical, what we might call “market,” divisions.

That is, one division, called the Engineering Division, took over the function of design of all the fighting materiel provided by the department; guns, carriages, small arms, and all the rest. Another, the Procurement Division, placed the orders and made contracts for everything. The Production Division supervised the processes of manufacture in all factories; and the Inspection Division passed upon the quality of all materiel and workmanship.2

This change had been proposed by the Top Men brought in from industry, but as it turned out, making war materiel was not quite like making corn flakes; and the principal result of the change was that there was no line of responsibility when things become unglued — which they rapidly did, with every significant project falling far behind overly optimistic projections and schedules.

Difficulties were encountered with the new arrangement. Responsibility for backwardness of output became obscure, and was almost impossible to locate. And after several months of trial the arrangement was abandoned, and the old one, in principle, restored, with some changes of assignment of work between divisions, and some creation of new divisions to meet enlarged duties; also with some arrangements for coordination between divisions, which, in peace time, the Chief of Ordnance had been able to attend to himself.3

The US entered the war with six arsenals, of which four were germane to small arms: Springfield, which concentrated on small arms; Rock Island, which made rifles among other ordnance equipment; Frankford, which produced small arms ammunition , and Picatinny, which made the smokeless powders used in ammunition great and small.4

Before the war, the arsenals had produced most of the Armed Services’ ordnance needs, and when they could not meet those needs in a single shift, they added shifts. In retrospect, this was one of the reasons that the US was so unready for wartime production. Had they met prewar peak needs by contracting with industry, the ability to surge wartime production to much greater than prewar peak needs would have been as easy as adding shifts to factories in running production. NOTE 4. Ordnance would cling to this lesson learned for many decades; it’s why they sought industrial sources in the 1950s and 60s for the M14 and M16 rifle.5

The most important weapon with which nations go to war is the infantryman’s rifle. …

The standard rifle of the American service, popularly known as the Springfield, is believed to have no superior; but our supply was entirely insufficient for the forces which we were going to have to raise. Our manufacturing capacity for the Springfield rifle was also insufficient, and could not be expanded rapidly enough for the emergency. This capacity was available at two arsenals: one at Springfield, Massachusetts, capable of turning out about a thousand rifles per day, and one at Rock Island, Illinois, which could make about five hundred per day.6

That sounds like a lot of guns, but the Mauser-Werke in Oberndorf could turn out 10,000 and even 20,000 rifles a day. Germany averaged about 10k a day for the whole duration of the war, and ended the war with vast stockpiles of rifles and not enough soldiers to carry them.7

Until September of 1916 the Springfield Armory had been, however, running far below its capacity, and the Rock Island Arsenal, or at least the rifle-making plant, was entirely shut down, due to lack of appropriation. At the end of August, 1916, there had been appropriated $5,000,000 for the manufacture of small arms, including rifles. A considerable sum of this appropriation had to be put into pistols, of which we were even shorter than we were of rifles, but the remainder was used to reopen the rifle plant at Rock Island, and to increase the output at Springfield, as rapidly as these effects could be accomplished in the stringent condition of the supply of skilled labor occasioned by the demands of the private factories making rifles for European governments. The dissipated force could not be quickly regathered.8

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Crozier’s document — which aligns largely with similarly self-serving Congressional testimony — was his defense of the charges that he and Ordnance were prejudiced against Isaac Lewis and the Lewis gun, in favor of the dreadful Hotchkiss knock-off, the Benet-Mercié Machine Rifle. But in his book,Crozier denied any animus to the Lewis’s inventor, Col. Isaac Lewis.

In the case of the Lewis gun the charge of prejudice and unfair treatment was made by Col. Isaac N. Lewis, an officer of the army, on the active list at the time when his gun was first presented to the W a r Department, and subsequently retired.

Lewis offered his gun to the Army, for free, under one condition: that it not be tested at Springfield, which made the Benet-Mercié, and would not give it a fair test.

Crozier arranged tests by Springfield Armory, and every one of these tests found that the Lewis, then serving satisfactorily in combat with various Allies, didn’t work, and the execrable Benet-Mercié was superior.

Senator Hitchcock. And you were unable to get any one to overrule Gen. Crozier?

Col.Lewis. Oh,no. He is absolutely autocratic, Gen.Crozier. You gentlemen year after year have been hearing Gen. Crozier’s testimony in regard to the ordnance conditions in the country, and you can judge better the representations he has made than I can.

The Chairman. May I ask you in a general way what is the trouble with the Ordnance Department? You are an old Ordnance officer?

Col.Lewis. No; I am an Artilleryman. I belong to the fighting branch.

Senator Hitchcock. We have inferred that, Colonel.

Col. Lewis. I am still fighting. I am sixty years old, but I am still in the ring.

Senator McKellar. That is plainly evident.

The Chairman. What is the trouble there? If there has been a fall down in this emergency, where is the trouble and what is the trouble?

Col. Lewis. It is primarily at the present time with the man who is Chief of Ordnance. There has not been a new idea or a new development in ordnance in America in fifteen years. We haven’t a new gun to-day in our coast fortifications; that is, new within fifteen years.

The Chairman. Are the methods at fault?

Col. Lewis. It is not so much Crozier as it is Crozierism thet is at fault. That is what this country is suffering from.

The Chairman. Has he developed the Ordnance Department under this present system and method

Col. Lewis (interrupting). Certainly. It is a one-man machine, Senator.

TheChairman. How long has he been connected with it?

Col.Lewis. Fifteen years — I think, sixteen years. I think he has been Chief of Ordnance sixteen years.

Crozier, to his credit, does include Lewis’s entire line of abuse of him in the book, and then counters it. Certainly Lewis exaggerates a little (it was on Crozier’s watch that the Army adopted the M1911 pistol and began examining Browning’s machine guns and BAR). But the enmity between Lewis and Crozier clearly was real.

Who was right? We note that, unlike the US Army Ordnance Department, the British, Belgian, Italian, and Russian services all made the Lewis gun work.


Crozier, William. Ordnance and the World War: A Contribution to the History of American Preparedness. New York: Scribner, 1920.

Storz, Dieter. “Rifles: Mass Production.” 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. by Daniel, Ute et al. Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin 2014-12-16. DOI Translated by: Reid, Christopher. Retrieved from:


  1. Crozier, p. 54.
  2. Crozier, pp. 15-16.
  3. Crozier, p. 17.
  4. Crozier,p.21.
  5. Crozier, p.22.
  6. Crozier, pp. 56-57.
  7. Storz.
  8. Crozier, pp. 56-57.
  9. Storz.

Great War Poetry Minute: Arms and the Boy by Wilfred Owen MC

Owen, a British officer, composed poetry in the final year of his life, 1917-1918. He seems to have begun writing in earnest whilst confined at Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh with “neurasthenia,” aka shell-shock (or as we say today, PTSD). He had become a pacifist by his experience of war, and through his deep Christian faith. But after meeting Siegfied Sassoon, a war hero who wound up in Craiglockhart after disrupting Parliament with a pacifist demonstration, Owen formed the idea that he “must get some reputation for gallantry before I could… declare my principles.”

He returned to the Front in September 1918, telling his brother, “”I know I shall be killed. But it’s the only place I can make my protest from.” His statement was prescient: Owen, the Christian turned warrior to secure a platform from which to redeclare his Christian pacifism, quickly established a reputation for bravery, but was shot and killed on 4 November 1918, a mere week before the Armistice.  The site War Poetry UK calls him “The greatest of the war poets who have written in the English language,” which is all the more remarkable for his very short span of work, and the few poem he wrote (perhaps thirty in all), of which only five were published before the end of the war, three anonymously. His letters are quite as engaging, and as poetic in their language as anyone else’s self conscious poetry. He wrote to Sasson, enroute to the front: “This is what the shells scream at me every time: ‘Haven’t you got the wits to keep out of this?'”  

The death of Owen, the brief flash of his talent, is a microcosm of the loss to humanity that was the First World War. While he is best remembered for the bitter “Dulce et Decorum est,” this less-known poem is presented for your consideration. -Ed.


Arms and the Boy

Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade
How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;
Blue with all malice, like a madman’s flash;
And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.

Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-leads,
Which long to nuzzle in the hearts of lads,
Or give him cartridges of fine zinc teeth
Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.

For his teeth seem for laughing round an apple.
There lurk no claws behind his fingers supple;
And God will grow no talons at his heels,
Nor antlers through the thickness of his curls.


We shan’t say much about the poem itself, except that the alliteration/consonance/vowel-shift rhyme scheme (the specific term for which appears to be “pararhyme”) is unusual and vaguely disturbing, and that the poem was likely inspired by (or contrapuntal to) Sassoon’s The Kiss, which we discussed back in 2013. -Ed.

113 Years Ago Today

A later Flyer circled Huffman Prairie, OH, for an hour in 1905.

…a short flight of a flimsy and very hard to control machine changed the world, or at least, set in motion numerous changes in the world. We refer of course to the maiden flight by the powered Wright Flyer at Kill Devil Hill in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

At the time, the newspapers — the media of the day, radio, television and the internet all yet to be invented — had one of two common responses: they were shocked and amazed, or, they just flat didn’t believe it. (They weren’t the only ones. The Smithsonian Institution failed to recognize the Wrights’ primacy over their own Samuel P. Langley — something Langley himself accepted, since his own Aerodrome never successfully flew under control — for almost forty years).

But there was a set of people who did believe it. The men who were working in many of the nations of the world to fly knew that someone’s success was imminent. Many of them worked together towards this goal. (The Wrights had assistance from other pioneers like Octave Chanute and, yes, Langley, who had exchanged information with the largely self-educated brothers from Dayton).

The Wrights were truly remarkable fellows. There are several good biographies, and there is a Wright Brothers Family Foundation that preserves the family legacy (neither brother has direct descendants).

The Wrights are far from the only pioneer mistreated by the scrawling class. The press, being both (1) generalists and (2) overly impressed with themselves, have a long tradition of being blindsided from things they ought to have seen coming. But their complacency shelters them, and their distance from the in-group who are on the ground level and have the knowledge, the ground truth, about the real situation isolates them.

Fifty years from the Wrights’ wobbly first flights and splintering last landing on 17 Dec 03, various aircraft were routinely crossing oceans, carrying tons of cargo, maintaining shirtsleeve comfort at stratospheric altitudes, and doubling the speed of sound. A similar explosion of utility and power would come from the invention of the transistor, not terribly far from that 50-year anniversary of flight. That, too, went zing over the heads of the media (by then, including radio and television, which would benefit enormously from the invention).

We don’t know what the next revolution in science is, or what it will mean for military affairs. But we do know that the press will miss it.

The 1885 Assault Rifle

Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher, who deserves to be better known, was born a bit too early to challenge John M. Browning for the firearms design crown of the 20th Century, but he was fully the American’s equal in ingenuity and productivity in the 19th Century. Mannlicher, an Austrian, who armed Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, and briefly Switzerland with rifles or carbines. He produced an array of interesting early semi-auto experiments on long-recoil, short-recoil, and gas principles; and he made contributions to the design of the German Model 1888 “Commission” rifle (principally a modified version of the magazine; unlike all other Mannlicher en-bloc or packet-loading clips, and like the M1 Garand clip, the Gew. 88 clip can go in either way up). Mannlicher passed away in 1903, while automatic weapons were still in their infancy, but the designs he worked on show an agile mind with a keen grasp of the engineering problems and possibilities.

Today, we’re looking at his Model 85 Automatic Rifle, which was so far ahead of its time it took ammunition about 30 years to catch up. At that, it had some one-off interesting features. At a glance, it looks a bit like a 1941 Johnson, which is not too shabby for 1885. Writing in 1946, WHB Smith had this to say:

In 1885 we find von Mannlicher producing the first of his automatic weapons a light machine gun which, considered in connection with present-day military arms, is a marvel of original design. This arm has been given very little attention by writers on firearms, but within its crude form it houses the origins of many of the basic principles which brought fame and fortune to later designers. Perhaps those designers never saw this Mannlicher of 1885, perhaps they pioneered for themselves the paths the great Austrian inventor trod long before those later men incorporated the principles in their weapons. In any event, von Mannlichees designs show the need for complete and continuing research in the field of all arms developments. Truly there is “nothing new under the sun;” and the inventor of the future may save years of time and work, and fortunes in money, by familiarizing himself with what has been done in his field by the great ones who preceded him.

Consider for a moment this light machine gun of 1885, an arm which was not successful because it was ahead of its time; because psychologically the military was not ready for it, and the metallurgist had not yet perfected the necessary steels for the arm nor the correct brass for the cartridge cases which would give the gun complete field reliability.

We would also say that it was ahead of its ammunition. It was chambered for the big fat (11 mm). blackpowder round of the Werndl rifle. (The rifle was an analog of our Allin-conversion trapdoor Springfield, and the Model 77 cartridge was a near analog of our .45-70 round, firing a .433-inch 370-grain bullet about 1,400 feet per second with 77 grains of black powder). Mannlicher had designed two rifles for this cartridge already, one with a tubular magazine, and one fed by a seven-round detachable gravity-fed magazine.

But the praise above wasn’t all Smith had to say about this gun. Next, he compared it the Browning machine guns. Bear in mind, he is writing all this circa 1945-46, and primarily for an audience that would have had a professional familiarity with the Browning 1917/1919/M2/M3 family of machine guns. .

Comparing the principles found in this arm with corresponding ones embodied in the latest U. S. Browning Machine Gun designs shows some remarkable similarities.

First, both use a short-recoil operating system. Barrel and breechblock recoil locked together until chamber pressure has dropped to safe limits; then the barrel is halted and the breech mechanism continues back to extract, eject and reload.

Second, both employ accelerators. When the barrel is halted, the accelerator is struck a sharp blow to transmit added impetus to the breech mechanism to assure proper functioning.

Third, the essential locking systems are similar. While the locks differ radically in shape and mounting, each arm nevertheless is locked by a wedge cammed up and down from below into a recess cut in the underside of the breechblock, the wedge in each case resting on an abutment in the floor of the receiver when locked.

Fourth, in principle, both use similar cocking systems. In each a pivoted finger lever has one end passing through a cut in the bolt into engagement with the striker pin acting to cock the firing mechanism by leverage during recoil.

Fifth, the positions of the operating (or recoil) springs which are mounted in the receiver to the rear of the breechlock (or bolt), are similar.

There are other resemblances; but these, as indicated in the drawings, serve to establish Mannlicher’s astonishing grasp of fundamental principles quite graphically. Several of the basic principles found in the most modern light machine guns of American and German design—notably the operating system, the action working in an extension of the barrel, mounting and positioning of parts—were originally used in this arm; while the top-mounted magazine which became a favorite in British, Japanese and Czech design in World War II was employed by Mannlicher in 1885 and even earlier.

It is believed that two prototypes of the 1885 rifle were made, one called “repeating rifle” (Repetier-Gewehr) and one “light machine gun” (Handmitrailleuse) and that neither survives today. Indeed, we were unable to find any unretouched photograph of this rifle. These drawings, from Smith, were drawn by the Steyr arsenal’s Konrad von Kromar, probably directly from Mannlicher’s original and since-lost prototypes, and were used in connection with a 1900 World’s Fair display.

Here is Smith’s detail description of the Model 85.

Model 85 Automatic Magazine rifle (and Light Machine Gun) with Recoiling Barrel and Detachable Gravity Magazine

(Automatisches Repetier-Gewehr (Handmitrailleuse) mit rückgehenden Lauf u. aufsteckbaren Magazin M. 85)

Original Caption – 
I. Right side view with gravity magazine loaded and in place.
2. Top view with action closed. This early recoil-operated, locked breech weapon was a forerunner of many of the most successful designs of light machine guns used in World War II; and first utilized basic principles later employed in many medium and heavy machine guns also

This truly remarkable weapon was introduced decades ahead of its time. Originally developed in 1883 by Mannlicher and introduced two years later as the Model 85, it was developed at a time when ammunition did not have the necessary reliability to permit of really fine automatic weapon performance. This arm was designed to handle the original Austrian Model 77 Werndl cartridge of 11-mm (.433) caliber whose characteristics have already been discussed.

This arm however anticipated many of the essential details of the successful recoil operated weapons of today.

Like the later Browning semi-automatic sporting rifles (which we know in the U.S. as the Remington Autoloading Rifle), the German light machine-guns of 1934 and 1942, and the American Johnson rifle and light machine-gun, this arm operated on the principle of a recoiling barrel floating within a barrel casing and being locked securely to the action during the moment of firing and high breech pressure.

A barrel return spring mounted around the barrel within the casing ahead of the firing chamber, and a straight-line action return spring mounted in prolongation of the bore directly behind the bolt, provided the motive power for returning the recoiling parts to firing position after they had been thrust rearward and unlocked by the recoil of the arm when fired.

The striker shaft-collar provided a front compression point for the striker spring.

The rear of the striker head was cut away from below to permit an arm of a pivoted cocking lever to rise inside the striker head much on the basic principle used in current Browning machine-guns.

The lower arm of this pivoted cocking lever rested on a slope in the receiver where it was in contact with the pivoted sear lever.

Original Caption — 1. Right side view cut away to show all details of weapon with firing chamber loaded and arm cocked ready to fire.
Pressure on the trigger will cause the trigger lever to pull down on the sear and withdraw it from the hammer-like cocking-piece within the bolt and striker. The compressed striker spring (or mainspring) will thrust the striker forward within the locked bolt to fire the cartridge. Note that the locking tongs are mounted on top of their block and lock faces on the tong are securely engaged in the corresponding under fates of the bolt. The member directly below the head of the cartridge case is the accelerator.
2. Receiver top view showing action cocked. Note that the feeding is done to the left of the line of sight. Leading finger Is gripping cartridge in feeder ready to pull it into line of forward travel of the bolt as the bolt passes to the rear to eject the cartridge case now in the chamber. This straight line system of recoil locking and operation has many points of similarity with the very latest American and European designs.

The recoil action did prove quite similar to the later Browning designs.

The Recoil Action

When the arm is ready to fire, the barrel and action are securely locked through a special “coupling tong” arrangement located below the breech. Locking recesses on the underside of the bolt are specially shaped to be engaged by the locking tongs and also to permit camming action during forward and rearward movement to unlock and lock.

At the moment of firing, the bottom tong rests on a ledge mounted in the receiver bottom plate, while the upper tong rests in a special lock cut in the underside of the breech block. The forward end of the moveable and slideable tong rests against a pivoted lever below the firing chamber as indicated in the drawings.

As the cartridge in the chamber is fired, the recoil transmitted through the head of the cartridge case to the face of the breech block starts the action to the rear. Since the units are firmly locked together, the barrel starts back against the action of its spring simultaneously with the rearward action of the breech parts.

As the rear of the tongs reaches the cam face on the supporting block, the cam surface in the bolt forces the tongs down out of engagement with the bolt locking recess.

A cam face on the front projection works against the curved lower arm of the accelerator. This pivots the upper end of the accelerator to speed up bolt travel, while the lower arm acts as a barrel stop.

The accelerator passes on its thrust to the bolt in the same general manner as the accelerator later developed by Browning for his famous U.S. .30 and 30 caliber machine-guns.

The rearward motion of the bolt forces the head of the cocking lever within it back and down (the Browning reverses this principle) so that the upper arm may guide the striker back until the sear lever drops into the cocking notch to hold it ready for the next pressure of the trigger. The rearward pull on the striker compresses the striker spring, since the front end of the spring rests on a collar midway along the striker pin. Meanwhile, the lower arm of the sear bar, which is attached to the trigger, has been drawn completely away from sear contact. The extractor in the bolt face draws the empty cartridge case back until the case hits against the ejector and is tossed out of the rifle. Meanwhile the powerful recoil spring mounted directly behind the bolt in prolongation of the bore is compressed against the rear end cap buffer.

Original caption-
1. Right side view at end of recoil stroke. The barrel mounted within its recoil easing is locked to the breech until it travels far enough to permit the locking tong to be cammed down off its block and out of engagement with the
underside of the bolt. At that time the barrel hits its stop and rearward travel Is halted. The bolt continues to the rear carrying the empty cartridge case in its face to strike against the ejector. Impetus transmitted through the pivoting accelerator hurls the bolt to the rear with added force as the barrel travel halts. The cocking fork of the cocking-piece is thrust up as it travels up its cam face; and its upper lever end seated in a notch in the striker draws the striker back to full cock much as in the present U. S. Browning machine gun. The recoil spring directly behind the bolt is compressed. Cartridges feed down the magazine by gravity, but the bolt acts on the feeder to pull a cartridge in line for feeding. Note that the sear under influence of its spring is holding the striker cocking-piece back.
2. Feeding details. The bolt is in full rear position and is pivoting the feeder with a cartridge into the feedway. The cartridge will be picked up and chambered on a forward bolt motion.

A cartridge feeds down through the gravity magazine into the feeding chamber to the left of the line of sight in tht receiver; and the final opening movement of the bolt hits against a rear section of the mechanical feed to lever a cartridge into line with the bolt ready to be picked up by the bolt for chambering as the action closes.

The recoil spring now reacts and drives the bolt assembly forward. The bolt picks up and chambers a cartridge. The cam surface on the underside of the bolt picks up the corresponding surface on the upper locking tong, and the tongs are pushed ahead and thrust up their ramp on to their locking support. The proper bolt surface hitting the accelerator on its upper face drives it forward and pivots the lower end in ready for action on the next recoil movement. The barrel return spring meanwhile has returned the barrel to full forward position. The tongs now resting on their ledge, their locking surfaces are engaged in the underside of the bolt. When the trigger is momentarily released, during semiautomatic fire, the trigger spring moves the trigger and sear lever up into position so the lever can hook into the front of the sear ready to draw it out of contact with the cocking piece to allow the firing pin to go forward for its next firing motion.

In its anticipation of the essential mechanical principles later utilized in practically every successful recoil operated weapon, this arm was a marvel of ingenuity unsurpassed in the field of automatic development. Had suitable ammunition been available and springs rather than gravity depended upon for feed, this arm might have revolutionized warfare long before World War II, at which time arms of this design were first really appreciated,

This arm was also made with a change lever permitting full automatic fire by automatically releasing the sear lever when the trigger was held back.

In this early design, von Mannlicher had solved most of the problems of light automatic weapons design before others had even begun to wrestle with these problems. But he’d invented himself out far ahead of the ammunition of his era. The coming small-caliber smokeless ammunition, more powerful and more reliable than the old Werndl rounds of the original Model 1885, would catalyze a new generation of firearms that would more than fulfill the 1885’s promise.

Two Collector Firearms: One You Can’t Buy, and One You Probably Can’t

Let’s start with the one you probably can’t buy. It’s an amnesty-registered World War II STG44 or MP44, with the usual late-war blend of blued, phosphated and in-the-white parts.

Here’s a couple of overviews of it.

You will not find a more historical 20th Century firearm, apart from one associated with a particular individual. For this is the creation that spawned the name and the category “assault rifle.”

The description reads:

STG-44 MP44 WWII bring back w/amnesty paperwork copy included in sale. this is a true unmolested survivor!! Everything origial, mint bore. Stock was serialized to gun receiver. Bolt and op-rod do not show any numbers. Also included is the original take down tool and magazine loader. We test fired this gun and it ran flawless!!!! We own it, it is in our inventory/hands.

The reason for the last sentence is simple: a lot of Class III dealers are “selling” stuff they’re merely brokering. So these guys (Recon Ordnance of Wisconsin) want serious buyers to know that they can get started on transfer paperwork straightaway once money changes hands.

So, if it’s for sale on GunBroker, why can’t you buy it? Probably, because you’re not in the market for a $32,000 gun. Yep, it’s a no-reserve auction, but that’s the minimum bid. You’d think they’d at least throw in a couple of spare magazines.

Even the hand-scratched serial number adds to this StG’s vintage appeal. But… well… $32k.

Then, there’s the one you definitely can’t buy. This is a Roth-Steyr Repetierpistole M.07, a major arm of the Austro-Hungarian forces in World War I. Partially designed by Karel Krnka, this had the distinction of being the first automatic pistol adopted by a major power, a year before Prussia and Germany followed suit with the Pistole 08 Parabellum.

This particular example is not in the best condition that collectors love, but it’s still a collector piece, still wearing its original unit disc which identifies it as Pistol 73 of (we believe the 2nd, not 11th) Landwehr Regiment. The Landwehr was an organized reserve much like today’s American National Guard.

So why can’t you buy it? Because it was taken in a gun “buyback” in Cleveland last year and destroyed as follows:

… placed into the No. 1 Basic Oxygen Furnace iron ladle and … melted by approximately 200 tons of molten iron, at temperatures of about 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. The molten iron, along with the scraps, were charged in the basic oxygen furnace to make steel which will eventually be used to manufacture cars, household appliances and other goods.

Cleveland’s Police Chief, Calvin Williams, blames guns like this and the collectors that normally trade them — ammunition for this firearm hasn’t been a mass-production item since 1944 — for crime in his city. Meanwhile, he didn’t have the back of his own cops in a 2015 incident, leading beleaguered and unsupported Cleveland cops to “go fetal” as cops in so many other cities have done, and has led to exploding homicide statistics over the last two years.

Cleveland homicides took off when Chief Williams and other leaders embraced the Black Criminals’ Lives Matter movement in 2015. 2016 isn’t over yet, but had tied 2015’s bag limit of 120 before Thanksgiving. Not one of them was shot with an 8mm Steyr round, oddly enough.

Hat tip, the irreplaceable Dean Weingarten, who wrote:

Gems like the Roth Steyr are routinely found at gun “buy backs”. They are not found in quantity, but they are found. All the more reason for private buyers to monitor these gun turn-ins, and to rescue the valuable items from the smelter.

Williams and his senior managers studiously avoid addressing the real problem in Cleveland — urban gang violence, which occasionally spills over to claim truly innocent victims — and the weak, soft prosecutors and judges that condemn good people to death annually because they’re so solicitous of the feelings of bad people. Cleveland’s homicide detectives do a great job of finding these guys, once they kill. And in almost every case, the guy has a previous violent or gun offense that ought to have had him locked up.

But why address the crime problem when you can melt down an evil deodand from the Hapsburg Empire?

When Congress Used to Vote on Outlawing Handguns

Antigun sentiment was once even stronger in Congress, and it  In 1934, a handgun ban was part of the original draft of the National Firearms Act in Congress, but was dropped by proponents to secure passage of a narrower law restricting only machine guns and short-barreled long guns.

By the early 1970s, the ban was back, and was probably at its all time apogee, historically speaking. Anti-gun extremists in both parties supported handgun-ban and ban-enabling registration amendments to a gun-control bill introduced by the extremely anti-gun Senator from Indiana, Birch Bayh (father of the recently defeated candidate for an Indiana seat in the Senate, Evan Bayh, who shares his father’s distaste for guns and gun owners). Edited excerpt of a letter to the editor of Field and Stream, which had endorsed mostly Democrat Senators for re-election on environmentalist grounds. This letter (edited for brevity only) and a defensive-crouch response were published on p. 6 of the November, 1972 issue of the magazine:

Here is the way your outstanding senators voted on three of the amendments… [to] the Bayh gun-control bill:

  1. Hart amendment to outlaw private possession of handguns: Brooke, Harris, Hart, Kennedy, Ribicoff, Tunney, Williams. … Absent but recorded for: Javits.
  2. Kennedy amendment to require licensing-registration of all firearms: Anderson, Brooke, Case, Hart, Kennedy, Muskie, Ribicoff, Tunney, Williams… Absent but recorded for: Pell, Javits.
  3. Stevenson amendment for licensing-registration of handguns: Brooke, Case, Cooper, Hart, Hughes, Javits, Kennedy, Mondale, Muskie, Percy, Ribicoff, Stevenson, Tunney… Absent but recorded for: Pell.

Also: the following voted against the Dominick amendment providing mandatory penalties for gun possession or use during the commission of the felony: Anderson, Cooper, Hart, Hughes, Kennedy, Mathias, Mondale, Muskie, Nelson. These men don’t want to interfere with the criminal, just the law-abiding sportsman.

An editor (presumably Editor Jack Samson) responded defensively that it was “unfortunate” that the Senators who were good on the environment, as he and author Michael Frome defined “good,” were not good on the gun issue, but the gun issue wasn’t important, and maybe you could persuade a Kennedy, Hart or Mondale to change his mind.

Kennedy and Tunney, who later would combine in a secret effort to get Soviet Premier Yuri A. Andropov to sponsor an overthrow of Reagan for Kennedy in the 1984 election (Andropov didn’t snap at the bait), were strangely less comfortable with armed Americans than with Soviet power.

A direct look at Congressional reports available (for instance, here on Google Books) shows that gun bans frequently came up in that period, although they usually died in committee. Here’s that example:

16.S. 2815 introduced November 5, 1971 by Senators Hart and Harris.

To prohibit the importation, manufacture, sale, purchase, receipt, possession, or transportation of handguns, except for or by members of the armed forces, law enforcement officials, and, as authorized by the secretary of the treasury, licensed importers, manufacturers, dealers, antique collectors, and pistol clubs. Legislation pending.

But “Nobody wants to ban guns.” Horsefeathers.

In any event, S. 2815 went the way of all flesh in 1971, in this case, dying in committee. That’s why the above-mentioned Senators frequently brought up the bans as riders to other bills, in other committees. All they needed was, one time, to get enough of a gun control majority to squeeze a ban through, and they could get it on to the floor. At the time, both Houses of Congress were solidly Democratic, but the Democrats were divided between anti-gun Coastals and pro-gunners from rural states, especially in the South.

They thought that if they attached a ban to an important enough bill, there may have been enough liberal coastal Democrats, liberal New England Republicans, and other Democrats vulnerable to party arm-twisting, to pass the ban. But this high-water mark of anti-gun power produced a backlash, uniting pro-gun activists and sportsmen, and earmarking nails for the political coffins of southern Democrats and those rural-state Senators and Congressmen whose real home had become Washington and whose real values were those of aspiring prospective members of the Georgetown set. In the 1970s, Idaho could produce a Frank Church, who was on a mission to destroy the military, the intelligence agencies, and gun rights; in the 21st Century, it’s unlikely.

Nowadays, to sell a ban they have to narrowcast it; to sell registration they have to cloak it as something else, as anti-gun Sens. Schumer, Manchin and Toomey did in their “background checks” backdoor registration bill. (Only Manchin’s and Toomey’s names were on it, but Schumer’s staff wrote it and he was directing Manchin and Toomey in the effort).

Field and Stream, which surely must have counted Elmer Fudd among its subscribers, came to have second thoughts about its 1972 handgun-ban advocacy (in service of a “greater cause,” of course). By 1976 (May, November) the magazine’s E.B. Mann was writing critically of Kennedy, Hart, Bayh and Tunney and their gun-ban projects. The 1970s were, in retrospect, the high point of the coastal liberal quest to actually ban firearms, and thereafter ban attempts were narrowly focused, using a divide-and-conquer approach (much like the divide-and-conquer approach between handgun users and hunters accepted by Field & Stream in 1972) but targeted narrowly on focus-grouped and rhetoric-tested neologisms: the handgun ban was reborn as “Saturday Night Special” restrictions, long gun bans as “Assault Weapon” or “Sniper Rifle” bans, universal pre-confiscation registration reborn as “Universal Background Checks.” The new approach was predicated on the idea that you can’t recognize a Nazi if you peel off his brown shirt and issue him a personable publicist, and its high-water mark was arguably the now-sunsetted 1994 gun ban.