Friday, January 30, 2009

American Riflemen

From an interview with historian Alex Rose in Popular Mechanics, on Americans love of the rifle:
You point out that colonial Americans preferred rifles to muskets. How do they differ?

The primary advantages of a musket are that it loads quickly, hits hard and is very easy to learn to use. The whole point of 18th-century tactics was to bunch your guys together and send the proverbial hail of lead toward the enemy. But the rifle, from the very beginning, was the tool of specialists. It was made by craftsmen and used by an individual. To use it properly, you had to spend many hours, weeks and months practicing.

George Washington, the essential founding father, as early as the French and Indian War and during the Revolution, was carrying a rifle. This is at a time when nobody else in the world was using rifles. There were specialized units of riflemen operating and by the time of Andrew Jackson and the War of 1812, you're getting these national myths created of the American frontiersman and his sturdy rifle. So it's really embedded in America's genes.

And frontier warfare favored the more accurate weapon?

If you were at the top of a mountain, then obviously the rifle's longer range would be great. And if you're in the wilderness, in a place where you can barely see 20 paces and your enemy is flitting between trees, you need to hit and kill with one shot. This was an American Indian way of fighting, individual on individual. Another reason for the adoption of the rifle was the need to conserve gunpowder and make more efficient use of lead. ...

Article here.

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