Whelen, if he were still around today, would likely care less if that just offended you as he cared little about ego and more about the condition of the country. But more importantly, how a Rifleman fits in.
Like our Founders, Whelen was concerned for our posterity. He was committed to these and operated from a point of urgency. More on his thoughts on that below.
Whelen served many years in the army (also as an instructor) and at one time was Springfield Armory’s director of research. In the article below, Whelen announces the arrival of a new era in rifles, sights and ammo in which he helped bring to fruition.
The idea was that this new era would usher in a higher standard of marksmanship. Whelen specifically advises that “hunter riflemen” qualify on the AQT.
Whelen was a true visionary for his time in regards to freedom and liberty and how “a nation of Rifleman” relates to a “prosperous country.” Whelen (or known as “Townie” by his friends) was known by some shooters as “Mister Rifleman”.
Today, because we are predominately, a nation of casual plinkers and “internet warriors”, current manufacturers have given us rifles (not in all cases though) that reflect that standard and which must be modified in many cases to allow even a modicum of marksmanship skills to be taught efficiently.
Ask yourself, are we that nation of Riflemen that CTW wanted to create? It says something about our Nation today when the graves of men like this are neglected, overgrown, and forgotten, instead of well maintained and much visited. Even Wicki gives him a short shrift.
Tradition based on our heritage, is the rudder that holds a nation on course.
Here is Whelen’s article, snipped/streamlined only a bit for efficiency. The original is not online since it was before the age of the cut and paste Internet.
A Message to Hunters and Rifleman of the United States-Col. Townsend Whelen, May 1932.
“I am trying to make our country a Nation of Rifleman who will forever command peace, who will preserve the sanctity of our homes, and who will conserve our game for the sportsmanship use of themselves, their sons, and their grandsons.”-Col. Townsend Whelen, May 1932.
“Gentlemen, in the past, I have tried to help you worry along with the obsolete, mediocre, quite inefficient factory rifles which our large manufacturers chose to provide for us as hunter riflemen. You came to me with your problems and I did my best to tell you how you could improve those poor arms by fitting good sights, smoothing up the trigger, modifying the stock, fitting sling swivels and making slings for them.
There was nothing else we could do because there was nothing else on the market available to us except the custom made rifles, which were far too expensive for most of us. But thank goodness, times have now changed or are about to change.
There have been available to members of the National Rifle Association for a number of years the unexcelled Springfield military rifle, and the most excellent sporting type modification of it.
In the past two years, there have also been produced two excellent, high-grade super-accurate bolt action rifles for high-intensity cartridges the Winchester Model 54 and the Remington 30-S and for small bore rifle shooting we have two excellent rifles in .22 caliber.
The Winchester Model 52 and the Springfield M1922 M1. There is one really good .22 caliber boy’s rifle on the market, the Winchester Model 57.
Within a few months I will be able to announce to you other new rifles. These rifles will have modern sights, sling swivels, fine shooting rifle slings and good clean trigger pulls-and the price will be within reach of everyone. We will even have another fine little boy’s rifle, which will embody all these improvements.
(My side note: Notice how he addresses not just some of the features a Rifleman needs, but 22 rifles. No doubt, as an Army instructor himself, Whelen knows the value 22’s serve in marksmanship. The mention of the boy’s rifle addresses the passing on the Rifleman tradition; an asset to what he calls “a Nation of Rifleman”.)
With all these fine and suitable weapons available, I will never again have to write to you about these obsolete arms; with which in their original condition no one can shoot well or learn to shoot well; and which are difficult and so expensive to remodel into halfway decent form.
I want you to have rifles that you can really shoot well; and can always use with utmost effectiveness and confidence. I shall never again recommend rifles fitted with obsolete sights that are slow to catch aim with, that have large errors of aim, that are impossible for older eyes and that shoot a foot differently at 100 yards when the sun is shining on their right side from what they do when the sun is shining on their left side.
I shall never again recommend to you a rifle with a miserable, old-fashioned stock with a comb so low that you can’t rest your cheek firmly on it to hold your eye steady in the line of aim, that has crescent-shaped butt plate that can be shot only in a cramped standing position on level ground, or that has a boy sized shotgun butt plate placed on the rifle at such an angle that it slips off the shoulder every time the rifle is operated in rapid fire. Such stocks also greatly increase the effect of recoil. They cannot be used effectively.
When we train a man or boy to a high degree of excellence in marksmanship, he simply will not use such a stock. Why should I give the ordinary man an idea he can shoot well or learn to shoot well or get satisfaction from a rifle with such a stock? He cannot.
(My side note: Many “stock” rifles, from mainstream manufacturers, especially 22’s still come with this crappy design, lack of sling swivel studs for a sling and dismal iron sights. We are repeating history in more ways than one. There is a very unflattering reason for this. The answer was above.)
Here is exactly what Whelen was talking about: There are 4 worthless features on this particular entry level 22 shown below.
Whelen addressed 3 of them above. Otherwise the internals are rock solid. Also note that Appleseeders can rejoice in the fact we designed a “training” rifle in the spirit of Whelen.
About a year ago, I explained to my readers the very great advantage that came from using a sling. It gives absolute steadfastness of aim and moreover it enables one to aim steadily even when he is trembling from exertion, cold or excitement. Given two shooters of equal skill, and equal rifles, let one use the rifle sling while the other shoots without it. The man without the sling will be seriously handicapped. I am not going to recommend such a rifle, as it will handicap you because it does not have a sling or sling swivels. I certainly would not use such a rifle.
(My side note- speaking of slings: you’ll find that “history does indeed repeat itself” – that the sling was originally a mere carrying strap, that thanks to efforts of people like
Whelen it was made a shooting aid which none of us would voluntarily forgo, that the M1907 military sling was adopted by the US Army in 1907 to provide its troops with a fine shooting aid Later the simple but effective GI web sling was used.
But for most shooters, the sling now is again relegated to being a mere carrying strap. Ignorance, apathy, and laziness in action, and no doubt the failure to remember how to squeeze max accuracy out of a rifle via sling usage.)
I have been working hard for 30 years for this day. It was just 30 years ago that I wrote my first article for Outdoor Life recommending accurate rifles with adjustable aperture sights, shooting slings, large flat butt plates and the use of accurate cartridges. The day has at last come when such rifles are available to everyone.
(My note-now that he has the rifle part handled, he moves on to the making “a Nation of Riflemen”.)
Using a modern rifle and training by modern methods, any man with fair physique and fair eyesight, with or without glasses, can quickly teach himself to: Place four out of five of his shots in a 10 inch bull’s-eye at 200 yards or a 2 ½” bull’s-eye at 50 yards from 12 to 20 seconds.
(My note-quick, how many minutes does his standard vary from a 4MOA rack grade “Rifleman” standard?)
Surely place his bullet into a vital spot on a deer or similar game at 250 yards using iron sights, or 350 yards, using a scope, with a rifle shooting a high intensity cartridge of a very flat trajectory.
(My note-as opposed to the slower velocity cartridges still in use at CTW’s time)
Catch sure aim quickly on running or jumping game. Qualify as Expert on the Army Qualifying Course.
(My side note- many rifle marksmanship schools do this, we shoot this standard at Project Appleseed. Expert is a minimum 210 points out of 250.)
He cannot do these things with obsolete, poorly sighted, poorly stocked rifles with poor trigger pulls and without a sling no matter how hard he tries.
Gentlemen we are again about to become a Nation of Riflemen, and having become that, we shall command peace for ourselves and for our posterity.
See to it you use the grandest of rifles properly as a gentleman and American should; that you never take life-human or animal-needlessly or thoughtlessly; that you never endanger the lives of others; that you kill painlessly and humanely with a single shot; that you learn to hold steadily, aim accurately and squeeze the trigger easily; that you become nail-driving marksman.
(My side note: One simply needs an ego free teachable attitude. Then if you persist, as a Rifleman does, it’s easy to score “Expert” as Whelen demands.)
And then you teach your boys to do likewise. Give them an even break. Don’t handicap them with a cheap, unsuitable, obsolete rifle. Neither you nor they nor our country will get anywhere with such weapons. A good rifleman plus a good rifle will shoot, see straight, think straight and will run our country straight.”-Col. Townsend Whelen-May 1932
Let’s not forget Col. Townsend Whelen’s words.
Remember, “Liberty is not a cruise ship full of pampered passengers. It is a man of war and we are all crew.”-Boston T. Party
TG/ Dan Bradford
More here: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=49337296