I grew up in a house filled with guns. Dad was in the Army, and so, of course, we had his old Army rifle, an Enfield .30-06 baseball bat of a gun. Grandad was in WWI, and so we had his rifle, too, his having died long ago and left it behind. It was a Krag .30-06 that seemed to me, as a little kid, to be 6 feet tall all by itself. It was a giant rifle.
Actually, I don't think it was the gun Grandad carried. I think it was older than that - Spanish/American War old. But we inherited it from him when he died. And Dad didn't carry the exact Enfield he owned, but he bought it later because he liked the gun. Either way, we took both rifles to various outdoor shooting ranges from time-to-time and shot them. Old .30-06 military rifles had hard walnut stocks with steel buttplates on the end. I don't know what the purpose of those steel buttplates were, certainly not to provide any comfort, but they would leave a mark in your shoulder after you fired a shot. It felt like being punched. And then you'd look inside your shirt and there'd be a reverse stamped imprint of that buttplate marking a bruise in your shoulder.
And loud, man, those guns were loud! BOOOOM! I mean, compared to the BB guns my brother and I grew up shooting a .30-06 was a literal canon. As we got older we advanced to .22 rifles. Crack! They really weren't much louder than our BB guns, although to us they were awesome. When Dad let us shoulder one of the .30-06s and fire it, we thought we'd officially grown up, like having your first beer or something.
Those rifles were SO heavy. I could see how the soldiers could use them for double-duty, firing holes in enemy soldiers and then bludgeoning their heads in with the rifle when the bullets ran out. I'd sure hate to get hit with one. It could take your head off. A baseball bat is light compared to those rifles. Truthfully if I had to choose between getting hit with a bat and an antique .30-06 rifle, I'd choose the bat.
It never occurred to me until today, following the massacre in Connecticut by a mentally disturbed man carrying an AR15 Bushmaster rifle, that my dad's interest in guns seemed to stop somewhere around the point of Vietnam-style weapons. As far as I am aware, and I haven't researched this, but apparently Vietnam was the first war in which American soldiers carried anything even remotely like the AR15, with its built-in handle on top and very non-wooden appearance. The rifles used in the military from Vietnam onward look and feel nothing like the previous military rifles. Even in the Korean War they carried the wooden-stocked M1 rifle. To this very day, enthusiasm for the old M1 rifle is very high among shooters. They love that gun. But the crowd that likes the more modern military-style rifles, the M16s and AR15s and such, seems to be a very different crowd.
And those are usually the guys who want the M16s and AR15s and the like. Its the guys in military clothing who may or may not have once been in the military. I guess that's fair, considering my dad was in the military prior to the introduction of those type rifles and maintained his interest in the very guns he was trained with, but not much that came after. I suppose it's fair that a man trained by the Army to shoot an M16 would want to buy an M16 for himself when he was older.
|A different breed|
|The Hello Kitty AR15 is the real thing|
To politicians and the media, guns that look bad-ass are scary. And anything that looks scary can be portrayed as being evil and in need of some sort of government action by otherwise worthless politicians. It's easy to call for a ban on "assault weapons", for which there is no actual legal definition, show photos of the AR15, and then go and ban the Ruger 10/22 and other totally unrelated guns instead. That's what they always do. Even more worthless was the ban on high capacity magazines. No one ever died because of a high capacity magazine. Changing magazines in a rifle takes 1 second or less. And you can strap 10 of them to your belt if you feel the need. But the high capacity magazines LOOK scary - especially the drum magazines that remind us of the gangsters with their Thompson submachine guns of the 1930s. Scary makes for good press. Scary gets on the air. Scary gets a US Senator to hold it up over his balding head and shout that he will not rest until it is illegal for anyone (except his own bodyguards) to own one.
|Typical rifle collection|
But for me, and for most shooting enthusiasts, those guns are just ugly, overpriced, glorified .22s that the government mandated to an army that had no say in the matter. And from what I hear, the soldiers that carry them into combat have been begging for something better ever since.
|Please bring me a better rifle!|
* UPDATE which wrecks my entire conclusion:
I talked to my brother-in-law about this and he said he was considering buying an AR15 to replace his old Ruger Mini-14 rifle, which he uses to shoot coyotes around his property. He heard the AR15 was incredibly accurate and it uses the same ammunition as the Mini-14 he already owns.
Then I talked to my cousin in Texas who has a problem with wild hogs and coyotes invading his property, harassing his animals and crops and endangering his kids. He said he tried shooting at the predators with an AR15 and could hit them with extreme accuracy from 200 yards away with multiple shots before they could turn and run off. He likes the gun so much for shooting wild predators and problem animals that he had a customized version made for his son to use. He used to think like I do, that these guns are useless, but after trying one out he was so impressed that he is now a believer and an owner of 2.
So my conclusion was wrong. Apparently they are great rifles for shooting 'varmints' and super accurate. For someone with a predator problem this kind of accuracy is worth the $1000+ price tag.