When Congress passed, and then-President Bill Clinton (D) signed, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, semi-automatic firearms had already been popularly sold to civilians for about a century. To name one, the still highly regarded Model 1911 semi-automatic pistol served as the standard-issue sidearm for the United States Armed Forces from 1911 to 1987, and, at the same time, was and is popular with American citizens for competition and self-defense.
The AR-15, meanwhile, was hardly the first semi-automatic rifle. Many popular semi-automatic rifles were made for civilians in the first years of the 20th century by Remington Arms, Savage and others. But today, when we think of semi-automatic rifles, the AR-15 jumps to mind; the thing is, even its development and introduction isn’t popularly understood.
After years of development, in 1963, the U.S. military finally ordered 85,000 AR-15s for the Army and 19,000 for the Air Force. On July 1, 1964, the U.S. military ceased production of the semi-automatic M14. Soon the similar looking but very different full-auto military version of the AR-15 was dubbed the M16. It would become the iconic gun of the Vietnam War.
When this happened, Colt had already begun selling semi-automatic AR-15s to U.S. consumers, starting in 1963. The November 1964 issue of American Rifleman reported, “A semi-automatic model of the Colt AR-15 cal. .223 (5.56 mm.) automatic rifle is now offered by Colt’s. Designated Colt AR-15 Sporter, it is made for semi-automatic use only, its magazine has a removable spacer which limits capacity to 5 rounds, and its bolt carrier assembly has a Parco-Lubrite finish. In other respects, it is the same as the AR-15 automatic military rifle produced by Colt’s for the Army and Air Force.”
When the 1994 “assault-weapons” ban sunset in 2004, Americans already lawfully owned millions upon millions of semi-
automatic firearms of every type. With the ban gone, AR-type rifles became even more popular. Now over 21 million are owned by citizens for sport and self-defense.
Those are just a few footnotes in the history of semi-automatic designs, but it’s worth revisiting this history in greater detail, because if President Joe Biden (D), U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other politicians who oppose the Second Amendment could get their way, they would have you think that semi-automatic rifles are new, unusual and too dangerous for citizens to own. This isn’t true, but they’d like to, once again, ban popular semi-automatic rifles before, perhaps, moving on to pistols.
To dispel their false history and politics, here is an abbreviated, but still profound history of the semi-automatic.
Firearms Technology has Been Evolving for Centuries
With the development of firearms in the mid-1320s, firearms designers concentrated on finding the most-efficient way to get their guns to actually fire. Lit embers, slow matches and linstocks were primitive and impractical in poor weather for igniting arms. The development of the flintlock in the early 17th century provided an efficient method for providing the primer with spark enough to ignite the main powder charge. Once that design gained acceptance, minds focused on how to make the advancement of arms more effective.
Englishman James Puckle (1667-1724) designed a repeating gun in 1718 that bore his name and that became the first gun to be called a “machine gun” in literature. The Puckle gun had a flintlock ignition system and a hand crank that rotated a number of preloaded chambers into battery so that each could be fired in turn. A revolutionary design in concept, only two Puckle guns were ever produced.
The first successful repeating rifle to see actual service in conflict was the famous air rifle designed in 1780 by Italian inventor Bartolomeo Girardoni (1744–1799) for the Austrian Army. This was a rifled carbine with an air reservoir that had a gravity-fed magazine and held twenty .46-caliber round balls. Each round was brought into battery by the flick of a thumb lever on the left side of the receiver, allowing a bullet to fall into the breech chamber. Just a cocking of the hammer primed the air chamber and a pull of the trigger released enough air pressure to propel the projectile with close to 700 feet per second velocity down range to the target, where at 100 yards it would penetrate into an inch of wood. Thought to have been used by the Austrians against Napoleon at the Battle of Wagram in 1805, it is most-famously associated as the force multiplier that Lewis & Clark used to intimidate the various Native Americans that they encountered during their Corps of Discovery between 1803-1806.
In 1818, American designer Artemus Wheeler (1781-1845) developed a revolving carbine that was field tested (without success) by the U.S. Navy. Wheeler’s carbine utilized a flintlock ignition system with a cylinder that had six .50-caliber chambers and is one of the earliest examples of the revolver as we know it today. A year following Wheeler’s revolving carbine, Boston-born Elisha Haydon Collier (1788-1856), working in England, patented a revolving handgun of similar design. There are some who postulate that a young Samuel Colt, while a merchant seaman in the far east, saw a Collier revolver, which gave him the inspiration to design his own percussion version that became the Colt Paterson revolving handgun in 1836.
The development of the percussion method of igniting firearms developed in the early 1800s, which made their use substantially more practical than the earlier flintlock method. The small percussioncap ignition system evolved into the self-contained metallic cartridge, as we know it today, by the mid-1850s.
The self-contained metallic cartridge made the development of a repeating firearm, such as the Gatling Gun (1862), a possibility. The Gatling was able to lay down a sustained rate of fire of over 600 rounds per minute, a true revolution in arms development, but it had a fatal flaw relating to its use of black powder that, when cured, would also render it obsolete.
The history of firearms is easily broken down into three distinct areas, the three P’s as we refer to them: Primer, propellant and projectile.
As we have discussed up until now, the evolution of firearms revolved around perfecting the primer or mode of igniting the main charge of propellant. The propellant, black powder, had been a constant since its invention in China around the year 800 A.D. Comprised of sulfur, charcoal and saltpeter, black powder tends to flash up instantly when ignited and is evidenced by a large cloud of white smoke. It leaves a thick residue of burnt powder called “fouling,” which, over a period of multiple shots, will constrict the diameter of the gun’s barrel, making it difficult to load further rounds of ammunition. This was not much of a concern in the age of smooth-bore muzzle-loading guns, but posed a serious problem for reloading and firing rifled arms, where the advantages of a rifle—range and accuracy—required a tight fit between the projectile and the barrel. Breechloading rifled flintlocks like the one developed by British Maj. Patrick Ferguson (1744-1780) were able to overcome this problem to a degree, but the fouling also tended to wreak havoc with most firing mechanisms after a period of time and use. With the exception of the air-rifle, black-
powder firearms tended to gum themselves up after a period of prolonged use, making innovations such as the Puckle, Wheeler, Collier and Gatling type guns unable to sustain their effectiveness under periods of extended use.
The French chemist Paul Marie Eugène Vieille (1854-1934) created Poudre B (White Powder) in 1884, and thereby changed the landscape of firearms propellants. Using a base of nitrocellulose, his new powder burned slow and hot, creating enormous chamber pressures, and left little or no fouling (residue) and very little smoke. Commonly called “smokeless-powder,” Vieille’s contribution to firearms development is still in common use today.
The advent of smokeless powder allowed firearms designers to make numerous changes to guns and how they worked. The slower- burning powder provided higher chamber pressures, increasing muzzle velocity significantly. This, in turn, led to the reduction in caliber of most small arms from .50-caliber- plus down to .30 caliber in most military arms of the period. The smaller the projectile, the further it would travel. Now rifled guns would not have to worry about fouling, so full-automatic mechanisms such as the one developed by Sir Hiram Maxim in 1884, and semi-autos, such as the ones designed by Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher (1848-1904), could not only sustain increased repeated firepower, but also contributed to greater range and accuracy.
Although Mannlicher’s semi-automatic rifle designs failed to initially gain acceptance due to the fact that their main design elements were based on cartridges still using black powder, other European arms developers such as Borchardt, Bergman, Luger and Mauser were quick to adapt the new powder to handgun mechanisms in the early 1890s. The most-successful semi-automatic handgun of the time would become the Mauser C96, or “broom-handle” pistol, which found a large following around the globe with over one million produced between 1896 and 1937.
The semi-automatic handgun is now considered to be the handgun of choice for personal protection, law enforcement and most of the world’s military forces.
Although it was European designers who began the initial development of semi-automatic handguns, it was the inventive genius of American John M. Browning (1855-1926) that greatly refined and popularized them beginning with the development of the Browning/FN Model 1899/1900 in .32 ACP. Browning’s initial pocket autos were followed up by improved models in 1910 and 1922, with millions produced in numerous countries.
In the United States, the Colt .32 ACP Pocket Hammerless Model 1903, also designed by John M. Browning, swiftly became one of the most-popular carry guns in history, with over 500,000 produced between 1903 and 1945. Weighing in at only 24 ounces and only 7 inches in overall length, it was, and still is, considered to be one of the best carry guns ever made. An identical model in .380 ACP was introduced in 1908, which widened the market that Colt had for pocket pistols.
Smith & Wesson entered the semi-automatic handgun market in 1913 with the introduction of their Model 1913 in .35 S&W auto. In a case of history repeating itself, S&W designed the pistol to fire a proprietary cartridge in hopes of capturing a share of the ammunition sales as well. The Model 1913 suffered the same fate as the S&W Schofield, another gun with a proprietary cartridge that failed to find a market. Only 9,000 of both models were made before they were discontinued.
Remington, America’s oldest firearms manufacturer, followed suit in 1914 with their own semi-automatic pocket pistol in both .32 ACP and .380 ACP. Named the Model 51, it was chambered in cartridges that the public had grown to love (and still loves). The Model 51 enjoyed better sales than the Smith & Wesson semi-auto, with some 65,000 being produced before production stopped in 1926.
Gen. George S. Patton Jr. always carried a sidearm of some sort with him, as he was well known to be quite the firearms aficionado. In the spring of 1945, Patton received a Remington Model 51 in .380 ACP as a gift from Maj. Gen. Kenyon A. Joyce. Gen. Joyce thoroughly enjoyed his own Model 51, and thought that Patton would appreciate its lightness and ease of concealment. Joyce wrote to Remington asking for one to be sent to him engraved with a presentation inscription to Patton, not knowing that the firm had not produced a Model 51 since 1926. The few that they had sold once production stopped were comprised of left-over parts and those were exhausted by 1935. Appreciating the public-relations coup that would follow if Gen. Patton was photographed wearing one of its pistols, Remington located one in a Denver gun shop and rushed it to France, where it was well received by the pistol-toting general of the 3rd Army.
One of the best-loved and most-widely manufactured semi-automatics of the 20th century was the John M. Browning-designed and Colt-manufactured Model of 1911 and its subsequent variants. This seven-shot .45 ACP pistol was the standard service arm of the United States from its adoption in 1911 until it was replaced by the Beretta M9 in 1987. It is interesting to point out that the Wright Brothers were still only known for their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, when Browning took out his first patents on what would become the famed 1911. By the time the M9 replaced it, the entire history of manned flight had peaked with travel into space; meanwhile, the 1911 was pretty much still state-of-the-art in firepower with few changes or modifications.
European semi-automatics, many featuring design elements patented by John M. Browning, commanded the market on the continent well into the latter half of the 20th century. The Mauser Models 1910/1914/1934, as well as its HSc, competed with
the Walther PP and PPK pistols and the Beretta Model 1934 for the concealed-carry market.
Perhaps the best-known and most- widely produced semi-automatic shotgun was the Browning Auto 5, designed in 1899. Manufactured between 1902-1998, it remains the most-produced shotgun of its type in history, having also been produced under license as the Remington Model 11, and Savage Model 720 and Model 745.
The Remington Model 1100, Beretta 3101, Benelli Super 90 and a host of other semi-auto shotguns have all proven their merits as superb hunting and sporting arms over the past century.
The German military arms designer Ferdinand von Mannlicher is credited with developing the first semi-auto rifles in 1884, but, as we stated before, their reliance on black-powder cartridges rendered them obsolete before they were actually manufactured.
It was the Mexican Gen. Manuel Mondragón (1859-1922) who developed the first practical military semi-automatic rifle in 1908. But it was not the first semi-automatic rifle on the market at the turn of the last century, as Winchester and Remington had produced their own semi-automatics for the civilian market in 1903 and 1905, respectively. The Winchester Model 1903 was a semi-auto in .22 Winchester Automatic that eventually evolved into the Model 63 in .22 LR. Both Remington and Winchester began production of their own Models of 1905 in harder- hitting .30- and .35-caliber chamberings, which proved to be quite popular in the civilian and law-enforcement markets in the years prior to World War I.
Winchester introduced a whole series of semi-autos designed by T. C. Johnson (1882-1934)—the Model 1905, 1907 and Model 1910—all hard-hitting, magazine-fed semi-automatics that not only found a civilian following but were so well-regarded they were ordered in substantial numbers by the French, British and Russian governments during World War I.
The development of what was then called self-loading rifles continued to evolve even as World War I turned Europe into a charnel house. The French Model 1917 was a gas-operated semi-automatic rifle chambered in 8 mm Lebel. About 85,000 were produced and issued to French troops who found that it was too heavy and jammed a lot.
John D. Pedersen (1881-1951), an employee of Remington Arms Company, designed America’s first military semi-automatic in 1917 with what was called the “Pedersen device.” By modifying a standard- issue Model 1903 Springfield rifle, Pedersen’s device could easily replace the bolt with a blow-back mechanism that was fed .30-18-caliber ammo from a 40-round magazine. Gen. John J. Pershing was so impressed with the possibilities of arming every soldier of the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.) with a 40-round semi-automatic rifle that he ordered 500,000 of them made in hopes of employing them in the big Spring offensive of 1919. Fortunately for the soldiers of the A.E.F., the Great War ended in 1918. Contracts to produce the Pedersen device were halted after only 65,000 had been made by Remington. They were kept top secret until 1932, when they were declared obsolete and all but 100 were destroyed.
Then came the M1. “In my opinion, the M-1 Rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised,” wrote Gen. Patton about the M1 Garand rifle in January of 1945. The M1 Garand rifle was the semi-automatic standard service arm of the U.S. military from 1936-1958. During its service run, nearly 6 million were produced, with 4 million manufactured during the 48 months we were involved in fighting the second World War. As the only military force in World War II fighting with a semi-automatic service rifle as their standard-issue arm, it is often credited with playing a major role in our eventual victory over the enemies of democracy and freedom. Jean (John) C. Garand (1888-1974) began working on the M1 in 1919 and perfected it in 1936. It remained in service until it was replaced by the similar, but selective-fire, .308-caliber M14 in 1958.
An entire library of books on the various semi-automatic rifles that soon followed have been written, but most concentrate on the military developments. The German G41 & G43 and its HK cousin; the Steyr -Aug, SKS, Beretta and FN rifles all dominated the battlefields of the late 20th century. And of course, America’s rifle, the AR-15, dominates the competition field and hunting grounds now, over 50 years since its introduction.
Sporting rifles such as the Remington Model 4 and 7400, the Ruger 10/22 and Mini 14 and the Winchester Model 63 have provided millions of Americans with endless hours of fun on the rifle range and in the hunting fields since their introduction in the post-World War II era.
Whether on the battlefield, carried in woods or marshes by hunters, their use at the National Matches and more, the semi-automatic has been a vital and efficient firearm that has been around for over a century and is the most-common firearm type owned by American citizens today.
With friends like this who needs enemies right? Grumpy
Numbers released Monday show that the FBI ran 192,749 National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) background checks on Black Friday 2022.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) noted that the 192,749 NICS checks on Black Friday 2022 “[rank] it third in the Top 10 Highest Days for NICS checks and…[represent] a 2.8 percent increase from Black Friday 2021.”
The FBI conducted 187,585 NICS checks on Black Friday 2021 and 186,645 checks on Black Friday 2020, Breitbart News reported.
The NSSF observed that there were 711,372 NICS checks “during the week leading up to and including Black Friday.”
The strong Black Friday NICS check numbers come after surges in gun sales during recent years.
For example, on October 6, 2022, Breitbart News reported retailers had sold over one million guns a month for 38 consecutive months.
Mark Oliva, NSSF managing director for public affairs, spoke to Breitbart News about the gun sales, noting the “38 continuous months of when background checks for firearm sales have exceeded 1 million” and added, “That’s a remarkable sustained trend and demonstrates that the firearm industry is meeting this continued increased demand for firearm ownership.”
Adolf Hitler was born in 1889 in Braunau am Inn in modern-day Austria. He was the fourth of six children born to Alois Hitler and his third wife/cousin, Klara Polzl. Three of his siblings died in infancy.
Alois Hitler, Adolf’s father, was quite the player. He was the illegitimate son of a common woman named Maria Anna Schicklgruber. Alois changed his name from Schicklgruber to Hitler in 1876. Hitler means “one who lives in a hut.”
There were tainted allegations that Alois’ father might have been one Leopold Frankenberger, a young Jewish man in the household where Maria was employed as a housekeeper. However, the possibility that Der Fuhrer might have had a Jewish grandfather, tantalizing though it might be, is likely apocryphal.
Alois tomcatted among sundry wives and mistresses before nominally settling down with Klara. He was a hard man who beat young Adolf regularly.
By contrast, Klara was a doting mother who cherished her son. Alois breathed his last over a morning glass of wine at the Gasthaus Wiesinger in 1903 at age 65. Adolf was fourteen at the time.
Adolf was almost pathologically attached to his mom, and her death from breast cancer at age 47 came as a terrible blow. His mother’s kindly Jewish physician, Eduard Bloch, attended Mrs. Hitler for free as they lacked the means to pay for her care. He was rewarded decades later in 1940 with permission to emigrate with his wife from Austria to the United States.
Dr. Bloch ultimately settled in New York City. Hitler called him a “Noble Jew.”
By 1940, being Jewish in the Third Reich was becoming hard. Their release at that time in history was truly remarkable. Bloch was subsequently interviewed extensively by the Office of Strategic Services in an effort at gathering usable intelligence regarding Hitler’s worldview.
Now It Gets Really Weird
Hitler had a tale of his service in World War 1 he would relate to friends at dinner parties. He served as a runner in the trenches and earned the Iron Cross before ending the war as a Corporal. After a protracted period without hot food, a field kitchen set up in the stretch of the trench where the young Gefreiter served and began doling out black bread and boiled cabbage.
Hitler waited in line to get his helpings, enraptured by the prospect of his first hot meal in weeks. His tray piled high with steaming cabbage he dropped down alongside his mates and prepared to dig in. In later years, Hitler described what he subsequently heard simply as the Voice. This disembodied Voice told him to stand up and walk around the corner.
He glanced about and could tell that no one else was privy to the spectral command. However, the Voice alarmed him, so he gathered his Mauser 98 rifle, stood up, and walked around the corner of the trench. The moment he rounded the corner, a French howitzer round landed where he had been sitting, killing everyone nearby. The young German Corporal was dazed and deafened but otherwise miraculously unhurt, inexplicably spared by a disembodied Voice heard only by him.
The Voice came to him many times after that as well, frequently awakening him from sleep in a state of abject panic. Adolph Hitler claimed that tale spoke to his inspired role as an agent of Providence. In retrospect, I do not debate the spiritual genesis of der Fuhrer’s supernatural protection. I might simply assert that the origin was perhaps more diabolical than divine.
Here’s the event in his own words–“I was eating dinner in a trench with several comrades. Suddenly a voice seemed to be saying to me, “Get up and go over there.” It was so clear and insistent that I obeyed automatically. I rose to my feet and walked twenty yards. Then I sat down to go on eating. Hardly had I done so when a flash and deafening report came from the part of the trench I had just left. Every member in it was killed”
The History of Hitler’s Combat Rifle
The brainchild of German firearms visionary Peter Paul Mauser, the Model 98 rifle the future dictator carried during WW1 was an evolutionary development of earlier Mauser designs. The Germans made more than nine million copies in eleven different arsenals. The gun remained in German service through 1935.
The same basic action went on to become the Model 98k that served the German Wehrmacht throughout the Second World War. The Model 98 Mauser ultimately inspired millions of similar weapons. Rebarreled versions were widely used by the Israelis during their War for Independence.
The 98 Mauser’s first combat use was during the Boxer Rebellion in China from 1898 until 1901. While not primarily remembered as a colonial power, Germany coveted colonies of its own in the latter parts of the 19th century just like everybody else on the planet. However, events soon to develop in Europe swallowed these ancillary pursuits up in the maelstrom of total global war.
Hitler’s Model 98 was a manually operated, magazine-fed, controlled-feed bolt-action rifle. The gun had a conventional open front sight and a tangent-type rear sight known as the Lange Visier. The weapon fed from 5-round stripper clips inserted from the top.
The M98 bolt included three locking lugs. Two lugs performed primary locking duties while the third lug served as a backup in the infrequent circumstance that the other two sheared under the extraordinary pressures generated by the gun’s advanced smokeless cartridge. This third lug did not typically support firing pressures unless the primary lugs failed.
There were two holes bored into the base of the bolt that were designed to direct escaping gases out the bottom of the gun and away from the firer’s face in the event of a cartridge rupture or primer failure. There was additionally a secondary component to the design that safely routed violent escaping gas down the locking lug raceway and out a cutout exit hole in the event of failure.
The M98’s controlled-feed action was composed of a large non-rotating extractor that engaged the rimmed base of the cartridge as it left the magazine and firmly managed the overall travel of the round throughout its cycle. This oversized component gripped the case positively until the empty cartridge struck the ejector and was discarded. There was also a scant cam built into the rear portion of the receiver bridge that gave the action a little boost at the final portion of the bolt-opening phase.
The timeless 98 Mauser armed the German military through two simply spectacular global defeats. At least eighty million people lost their lives in World Wars 1 and 2. Throughout it all, the Mauser 98 remained a remarkably competitive Infantry combat tool despite the breathtaking pace of technological evolution.
Adolf Hitler was arguably the most successful psychopath in all of human history. Others were responsible for larger body counts, but they were typically motivated by some misguided effort to establish a social utopia for the masses. Stalin and Mao, black-hearted devils that they were, generally killed out of stupidity.
By contrast, Adolf Hitler was the very embodiment of evil. He stole territory and murdered millions driven by the baseless idea that he was just better than everybody else. While hating people has fallen out of fashion these days, it yet remains perfectly OK to despise and denigrate Nazis in books and movies.
Speak up against Japanese wartime atrocities and you might be a racist. Call out Palestinian terrorists and you’re likely a bigot. However, it will forever be cool to hate the Nazis. As the diabolical face of the whole sordid mob, Hitler remains the modern era’s alpha thug.
Adolf Hitler was terrified of cats and would eat as much as two pounds of chocolate in a day. He regularly abused cocaine and, despite inspiring one of the worst genocides in human history, never once visited a concentration camp. Hitler collected tens of thousands of Jewish artifacts intending to create a museum to an extinct race after the war.
His nephew, William Patrick Hitler, served in the US Navy and fought against the Axis during WW2.
Hitler failed to gain entry into art school in Vienna twice. For a time he was destitute and lived in a homeless shelter.
Tales persist that Hitler had a single undescended testicle and was regularly injected with bull semen to enhance his virility. Regardless of whether that stuff was true or not, by his own admission, he did hear voices others could not. That makes him schizophrenic by definition.
The term “crazy” is mightily overused these days. So are comparisons of contemporary politicians to the unhinged Nazi Fuhrer. In the alpha lunatic Adolf Hitler, however, we see just how deep man’s capacity for darkness can become. No matter how you slice it, that guy was a lunatic.