'And every other terrible implement of the soldier'
'And every other terrible implement of the soldier'
One of the great pleasures of collecting and restoring old firearms is
hauling them out to the range and letting a visitor find out just how good
some of our grandfathers' military engineering really was.
by Vin Suprynowicz
It can be an even greater pleasure to introduce someone who's previously
been a "Second Amendment agnostic" to the exhilaration that comes with
learning how to safely and effectively handle these historic tools of
freedom. Suddenly some appreciation dawns of what it must have been like to
stand with the Minutemen on that town green in Lexington, or to dig the mud
or snow out of your action, slam in a clip, and carefully squeeze off eight
aimed rounds of 30.06 from the unstoppable Garand.
These old-timers aren't dainty target rifles. You slam them closed with
the butt of your hand. The weight of steel across your arms, the crack of
bullets breaking the sound barrier (even through modern ear protection) are
sobering. Then, once the newcomer develops that cake-eating grin that comes
when you confirm it was him -- not the wind -- that really knocked down
those cans at 60 yards, you point waaaay down the wash, and explain that
the average infantryman was expected to hit a man-sized target over there,
at 300 yards ... that a marksman was expected to do so at 800.
"You mean you can hit something out there? I can't
even see what's out there."
"Yes. And I also mean that any trained soldier out there ... can hit you."
Suddenly all this talk about banning "assault rifles" with "magazines
that hold more than 10 rounds," or rifles with bayonets or flash hiders
(yes, that's why that collector's piece you're holding has been emasculated
with a hacksaw, like an antique table imported with only three legs) start
to come into focus.
"They made them import this SKS without a bayonet? But they're obviously
designed to carry the folding bayonet, like this older one here. Without it
the cleaning rod rattles around and falls out. And how the heck does taking
off the bayonet make the weapon any less deadly in a shoot-out? Who thinks
up this stuff?"
Any American can still learn to shoot safely, and then teach one more
person, and then another. It's wonderfully subversive.
Recently, a fellow who I took out was moved to recall that his father had
qualified as a marksman in the army, but had died before he was able to
teach his son that skill. So pleased was he to start re-learning his
father's skill that he insisted on buying me dinner, to compensate me for
my ammo costs. Two weeks later, the lad who grew up without a father won
the Republican primary, and now stands a good chance of becoming our next
congressman. Good luck selling your victim-disarmament bill of goods to him
now, Ms. Feinstein, Mr. Schumer.
Of course, the downside of hauling a collection of arms out to the range
always faced you that evening, when a half-dozen rifles leaned waiting
against the wall, and you started figuring how long you were about to spend
with cleaning rods, powder solvent, jags and patches.
(And if you find a woman who loves the smell of Hoppe's powder solvent in
her living room, fellows, marry her straight off.)
Since this has been the fate of the rifleman for centuries, I will admit
it was with the standard "Yeah, right" that I first noticed an ad in one of
the firearms tabloids a few months back for a new product modestly named
the "World's Fastest Gun Bore Cleaner," a patented rayon pull-through cord
with phosphor-bronze bristles braided right into the front. Everyone knows
the only way to clean a rifle barrel is to brush it out with a cleaning
rod, run through cotton patches soaked in solvent, and then run through dry
patches to remove the black soot, repeating again and again in a
semi-hypnotic ritual of devotional labor. Pull some fancy cord once through
the gun and rack it away? Ha!
Then I dropped by the Soldier of Fortune Expo here in Las Vegas last
month, and spotted a table full of these things, manned by the inventor,
who explained how he got to wondering -- as he was clearing out some
varmints in the frozen wilds of Idaho, cold enough to freeze your fingers
to the barrel -- why in this day of space-age materials no one had invented
a device that would clean a rifle barrel with one pull, no bent or broken
steel rods to haul around, no gouging of the rifle's delicate crown, no
I bought one of the things -- which you can roll up and carry in your
shirt pocket -- and Bruce Hedge made me a gift of a second one to fit my
pistols (the Bore Cleaner is sized precisely by caliber), my total
compensation for this rare and unsolicited product endorsement.
Because, you see, they work. After that precision-sized brush stutters
through (you want it to stutter -- that means the bristles aren't lying
over sideways because they're too long), the braided cord swipes your lands
and grooves with a surface area equivalent to 160 cotton patches. And when
the cord is dirty, you just wash it out in soapy water, to the tune of 200
to 500 uses.
Mr. Hedge's biggest problem? Other than finding enough salesmen to move
his product, and butting up against some out-of-date military specs that
are so far keeping our men in uniform from capitalizing on this
breakthrough, that would be "setting aside the $100,000 we figure we're
going to need to protect the patent."
As the man said, "This changes everything."
The "World's Fastest Gun Bore Cleaner" is from National Tech-Labs in
Boise, Idaho; tel. 208-345-5674. The product can be mail-ordered from the
Delta Force Catalog (800-852-4445) at $16.95 per unit to clean rifles or
pistols (specify caliber), $19.95 for shotguns; or from LS&B at
800-228-7925; or from Bass Pro (Redhead) at 800-227-7776.
If you shoot, you want some.
Vin Suprynowicz is one of
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