Sunday, November 02, 2014

Veneration and Desecration

I'm a big fan of the US Rifle, Cal. .30, M1 as an historical artifact. The only way that *BANG!*BANG!*BANG!*BANG!*BANG!*BANG!*BANG!*BANG!*PING!* could be more 'Murrican is if Mom fired it off the back of a giant bald eagle while she was making apple pie. It's got attractive lines, was machined from steel forgings, and was the best general-issue battle rifle of WWII...

Of course, that latter is largely because it was the only general issue battle rifle of WWII that wasn't manually operated; everybody else had bolt-action guns for the most part. So we won the Cool General Issue Rifle horse race with a Stanley Steamer, not because the Stanley Steamer was a great car, but because it was the only car at the track. From a purely practical standpoint as a rifle, I'm actually not that much of a Garand fan at all.

The Garand has great sights and holds eight rounds of a potent chambering, but that's about the extent of its good features, if you ask me. It's heavy; it's annoying to clean and reassemble; it has an external reciprocating, dog-legged op-rod that likes to cause problems; the safety is a negligent discharge waiting to happen; and it uses magazines charged with en bloc clips, a system originating with Ferdinand von Mannlicher that was obsoleted before the end of the 19th Century by James Paris Lee and Paul Mauser.

Its replacement, the M14, solved the magazine thing by going to interchangeable box magazines (something that other U.S. infantry longarms had been using since, oh, 1918 or thereabouts) but added a full auto feature that, for the average user of a 7.62 NATO rifle, is about as useful as a kickstand on a tank.
$15,000 collectible...?
Still, the M14 is an object of veneration in the American shooting community, perhaps even more than its forebear. Being the last steel-and-walnut traditional rifle-type-rifle before an era of plastic-and-aluminum guns with suspiciously small holes in the end, it enjoys a mystique unrivaled by most any other postwar issue arm. Shooters would pay dearly to get their hands on a by-God-for-real M14

...or $15 paperweight?
Which makes their destruction not just unconscionable from an historic aspect, but pig-headedly obtuse from a fiscal one. This was cutting off one's nose to spite one's face. Just because "Ew! Icky guns!" roughly a half-million perfectly serviceable weapons met their fate under the gas axe, with hundreds of thousands more dumped overseas.

Granted, there would have had to have been some legislative end run around the BATFEIEIO's silly "Once a machine gun, always a machine gun" interpretation of GCA '68. But this was potentially half a billion dollars (in comparatively fat mid-'90s dollars) left sitting on the table for fear that criminals might somehow find a ten-and-a-half pound gun that was most all of four feet long a handy device for sticking up Kwik-E-Marts. They could have welded the caps on the selector axles, or cut them off entirely, and sold them, but noooooo!

So that's the story behind my paperweight, which it made more sense to the government to chop up and sell as scrap than to actually use to turn a profit...