Long before the Second Amendment, firearms were used to shape the history of America.
The legendary Navy Seal and author of American Gun, Chris Kyle, even talked about some of the top guns to shape the history of the United States. And while it may seem ballsy for us to narrow to a list of eight, especially since Kyle did such a good job, we couldn’t help ourselves. Here is our take on the American guns that shaped the country’s history.
1. Spencer Repeating Rifle
Designed by Christopher Spencer, the Spencer Repeating Rifle was first adopted by the US Navy and subsequently the US Army. The rifle was quite popular during the American Civil War.
Two regiments carried Spencer Repeaters during the Gettysburg Campaign at the Battle of Hanover. Other instances of use included Battle of Nashville where more than 9000 men were armed with the rifle. John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln’s assassin, used this rifle.
It was a reliable rifle in combat situations, with the ability to fire 20 rounds per minute. This was a significant advantage over other firearms that discharged 2-3 rounds per minute. Another advantage was that its ammunition was hardy and waterproof.
2. M1903 Springfield
This bolt action rifle was a welcome advancement after humiliating performances in the battlefield by the Krag-Jorgesen and Springfield trapdoor rifles during the Spanish-American war.
There was a lot of controversy surrounding this rifle, as it mimicked the German-designed Mauser. It was so badly plagiarized that the American government was forced to pay Mauser hundreds in thousands of dollars after it lost a lawsuit brought by the foreign company.
The new ammunition was a major improvement that made the Springfield faster, more accurate and forceful than round-tripped projectiles. This gun was quite popular during the World War I.
The first instance of use was during the Battle of Belleau Wood, where the US Marines killed dozens of German soldiers and forced the rest to retreat. Its strength has been carried down to modern bolt action rifles. In addition, it remains a favorite among hunters in the country.
3. Colt Single-Action Revolver
Nicknamed “The Peacemaker,” the Colt Single-Action Revolver is known for being the gun that defined the Wild West. It was first produced in 1873 and has a cylinder that holds six rounds.
The shooter has to cock the hammer with each shot to rotate the new round into place. Its accuracy depends on the operator and how steady their hand is. The revolver was available in two calibers i.e. .44-40 and .45. Both of them had the capability to kill a beast.
The Peacemaker was carried by lawmakers and outlaws, including Butch Cassidy- a renowned bank robber. Many men involved in the O.K. Corral shootout between the Clanton gang and Earps carried this gun as well.
4. Magnum 357
This is a revolver cartridge that was first designed in the mid-1930’s in response to the S&W’s .38 Special cartridge. It was a big help to local officers when it came to engaging dangerous criminals effectively.
The classic Magnum 357 revolver uses a Remington-designed cartridge that has a 158-grain semi-wadcutter and a specially heat-treated cylinder. After he was presented with the first magnum 357, J. Edgar Hoover ordered a substantial number of .357 Mags with three different barrel lengths for the FBI.
Buyers had the freedom to specify preferred barrel lengths between 3.5 to 8.75 inches and in increments of 0.25 inches. S&W later standardized to five lengths in 1939 and discontinued production in 1940.
5. M1911 Pistol
This is a .45 caliber pistol that was first introduced in 1911 and whose variations continue to serve the United States Armed Forces. Its history can be traced to Utah, where it was first designed by John Moses Browning.
The pistol works by capturing some of the round’s recoil force to eject the spent casing before feeding a fresh round into the chamber. The magazine has a holding capacity of seven rounds.
Its simplicity is one of the major factors that makes the M1911 a favorite among many. The pistol was cheaper to make, had fewer parts and was more reliable to a fault compared to Mauser and Walther semi-automatic rifles of that time.
It was used in World War I, World War II, Korean War and Vietnamese Wars. And while it was officially retired in 1985, it is still issued by the military for special operations.
6. M1 Garand
Compared to the M1903 used during World War 1, the M1 Garand was a state of the art rifle for the World War II. While soldiers from other countries used bolt action guns, the US military benefited from semi-automatic rifle that discharged eight rounds as fast as one could pull the trigger.
It automatically loaded a new round into the chamber once the shooter fired a round, allowing the American soldiers to continue firing without taking their eyes off the target. It’s no wonder that the M1 Garand has been referred by some as the gun that saved the world.
The AR-15 was a scaled down version of the AR-10 and the first one was designed by Eugene Stoner in 1958 for ArmaLite. It has lighter bullets compared to the AR-10, making it easier for shooters to carry.
The design was tweaked by Colt after they purchased the rights from ArmaLite. This resulted in what we know today as the M16, a semi-automatic gun with a 16 inch barrel. Variations of the AR-15 are still produced today by dozens of manufacturers.
8. Thompson Machine Gun
Better known as the “Tommy Gun,” the Thompson Machine Gun remains one of the most iconic guns in American history. It came with a 50-round drum magazine, signature wooden stocks and was common among the Detroit as well as Chicago mobsters.
It was one of the most lethal weapons in the early 20th century. The Thompson Machine Gun was first introduced in 1921, a little too late to be used in the World War One.
In any case, it was way too expensive for the local police and federal police to afford in bulk. Its ability to spray .45 caliber bullets at a rate of 1500 per minute made it a favorite for mobsters who were rolling in cash. More than 1.5 million Thompson Machine Guns were made during the Word War II.
It also was a favorite among American GI’s in the Vietnamese and Korean wars.
This wraps up our list of the top 8 guns that shaped the United States of America. It may miss one here or there, but each of these firearms played a crucial role.
Which guns do you think shaped the country’s history? Have we left something out? Let us know what you think in the comment section.
Many thanks to Will Ellis from www.gunnewsdaily.com for sending us this article. Will and Chris run Gun News Daily over in the U.S and provide some great info.