It was brought to my attention that my last article “5 Guns That Define America” completely disregarded the guns that built this country. Except for the venerable 1911, the AR-15, the Mossberg 500, the GLOCK 19, and the Remington 700, I completely disregarded the guns that won our wars and kept our streets safe throughout our history. I guess I was thinking more in the present-tense sense of the word define. Even the GLOCK 19 has a rich history, but I get it. The article was bereft of nostalgia. So in an attempt to right the wrong let’s get to those guns I missed. Here’s my take on the top 5 guns that defined the old red-white-and-blue.
The American Longrifle
The American Longrifle is a gun we all have to admit belongs on this list. It was a Revolutionary War firearm that changed the course of U.S. history. Departing from its smooth bore brothers, the American Longrifle differentiated itself by being one of the first weapons in history to use rifling. This new technology made the firearm much more accurate than any of its competition. While the Red Coats struggled to hit the broad side of a barn, a Colonial Militiaman equipped with a Longrifle could take out a target at 200 yards with relative ease.
I’m sure you’ve heard of it called by one it’s many states of origin: the Kentucky Longrifle, or Pennsylvania rifle. All in all it takes the cake as number one. Even before we were Americans, this gun was setting us apart.
The best part is that you can buy these flintlocks (or percussion cap versions) without form 4473.
The Colt Single Action Army
The gun that helped win The West. The 1873 was the gun that robbed the banks, tended the cattle, and eventually cleaned up the unpaved streets. The Colt Single Action Army is and forever will be America’s Peacemaker.
The Single Action Army was first seen in 1872. After its initial testing, the design was widely adopted by the U.S. Army as the “New Model Army Metallic Cartridge Revolving Pistol.” Beyond its military carrier, the Colt was the go-to sidearm of the time. These revolvers were often paired with a rifle of the same caliber, and the 1873 helped cement the popularity of the .45 Colt. The guns are still being produced by Colt, and variations are being made by numerous companies here in the U.S. and in Italy.
The Winchester Repeating Rifle model 1873
The Winchester Model 1873 was the gun that won the west. Between 1873 and 1919, nearly one million rifles were built. First chambered in .44-40, the Winchester quickly became the first commercially available, completely reliable repeating rifle.
This 1873 and its innovations shaped a lot of the firearms that followed it. The lever action rifle eventually lost some ground to the bolt guns of the 20th century, but the basic design is still popular with whitetail hunters, guides, and ranchers. The cowboy action shooters trick them out until they run as fast as many semi-autos.
The 1873 is still alive and kicking. You can find working originals that are by no means safe queens, or look for pedestrian imports from Japan and Italy. If you really want to drool, spend some quality time perusing the work of Turnbull.
The Thompson Submachine Gun
The Thompson Submachine Gun was designed for sweeping up trenches, and changing the minds of enemy combatants during World War One. Sadly it missed the dance and never made it to The Great War. But why waste a good thing? The Thompson set forth into the civilian market, and made a lasting impression. The Tommy Gun. The Chicago Typewriter. The Organ Grinder–the gun was destined for great and horrible things. The Thompsons during prohibition were one of the main reasons why the National Firearms Act was created. I don’t want to say that the Thompson ruined a good thing, but it sure didn’t help.
The Thompson later saw use in many conflicts and lived up to its expectations. It served as a building block in gun design and redefined what we as Americans call guns.
Check out this clip. Yes there’s a damn annoying ad before the clip, but mute it and wait for the good stuff. If you haven’t seen Miller’s Crossing, you should. No one has ever accused the Coen brothers of shying away from gun play, but I’m still trying to put a rough estimate on the round count in this drum mag. I lose count at 250 or so. This is how legends are born. If you want a solid reproduction, check out Auto Ordnance.
The M1 Garand
The M1 Garand was a love child of war and innovation. First seen in 1936, the Garand unseated the reining World War champ, the 1903 Springfield. The Garand used the same 30-06 cartridge and had a similar overall size, which made the M1 Garand a natural evolution of the service rifle. The M1 Garand was America’s first semi automatic standard issue rifle. The Garand unquestionably changed how Americans fought wars, and insured our victory wherever our sights pointed. General George S. Patton named this rifle “the greatest battle implement ever devised,” and you would be hard pressed to find anyone who knows much about guns or World War II who would argue otherwise.
The irony is that the Garand’s service life was relatively short. Like the planes that helped win us the war, the Garand was quickly eclipsed by other designs. The Garand is still insanely popular. It is a gun that ages well.
Like it or not these five guns defined America, and still influence firearms today. And I know I left out the 1911–but since that was in my last list, I thought it fair. Let us know down in the comments what 5 guns you think defined America.