“The road to hell is paved with government intentions.”
Scarcity, sounds like a scary word doesn’t it? It defines a lack of something. Something you want, something you need. The developed western world defines much of its actions as a place where the absolute essentials of life. Food, clean water and shelter are in such an abundance that anyone with even a small amount of money can afford the essentials of life.
But what I am talking about here is just the bare necessities. After centuries of labor developed nations have built up reserves of resources that allow grander projects to be done. The most celebrated artworks of the Renaissance were the work of a relative handful of people who worked under the patronage of wealthy bankers, nobility and royalty. A popular theory nowadays states that much of this artwork was commissioned partly as a result of the Black Death. Which destroyed countless lives, but left their wealth mostly intact. Allowing the survivors to spend said wealth on grander things than their next meal. These days the abundance of wealth in the developed world allows hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people who can describe themselves as professional artists.
Cultures all over the world create their own art and technology. Sometimes the two blend together in magnificent ways. But what allows this is a surplus of resources. If you are completely focused on getting your and/or your families next meal this does not allow much time for musings on making a more beautiful world. You are probably not going to be thinking about building an aircraft while you are running from something that wants to eat you or just hurt you.
How do these artistic musings relate to guns? I first got into guns in the late 1990s. An era of scarcity in the gun community. In the U.S. there was the belief among many. Both in the gun rights and gun control community that the government was on the verge of completely banning all semiautomatic firearms and severely limiting other types of guns leading to English or Japanese style gun control with the resulting final painful death of American gun culture. Internationally small arms were of little concern. Numerous countries had passed draconian weapons restrictions and even in the military and law enforcement community development of new weapons had stalled out as a result of the ending of the Cold War. Why design new rifles when you can get brand new AKs from some post soviet “republic” for $50 each? Or slightly worn M16s from the Americans for not much more?
I own three books that were written during this period that reflect the downright apocalyptic mindset of the gun community at this time. Unintended Consequences by John Ross, Boston’s Gun Bible and Molon Labbe, both by Kenneth Royce. I still thumb through these books from time to time but more for entertainment than anything else. The Gun Bible especially is almost cartoonishly out of date. Written in an era of weapons scarcity when only a madman would invest the resources to build a factory to manufacture autoloading rifles in the United States.
The last edition of the Gun Bible especially comes across as a book from a different time. Decrying the use of “battle carbines” in 5.56 caliber upholding the M14 pattern rifle as the best combat arm available to American civilians and utterly disregarding the AR-10. Well, nowadays there are many more options available and quite a few rifles mentioned in the book are either not available anywhere except on the used market. Or have been transformed.
(Oh and a little side note, mr Royce favored the M14 over the FAL in the last edition of the Gun bible due partly to an odd malfunction where a bullet got stuck in the grooves of the barrel of his FAL. But did not leave the neck of the cartridge causing his gun to lock up in a way that was very difficult to clear. He insisted that this would have been much easier to clear in an M14 because of its positive feeding, reciprocating charging handle. Well, I happened to have the exact same malfunction with a Mauser rifle. I was shooting some ammo from an outfit called Firestone Ammunition. They had cleaned up some 1920s vintage ammo and sold it as new reloads. Frigging scam artists! Anyway the Mauser is the definition of a positive feeding action. A controlled round feed bolt action. Reliable enough to be trusted by professional hunters whose prey hunts them back. It took me ten minutes to kick the bolt open and then pound the bullet out of the barrel with a cleaning rod from an AK. If this had happened to me in combat I would have been completely out of action and all I could have done was run. This and other research has led me to conclude that “battle rifles” do not need reciprocating charging handles and the M14 is not the ultimate standard of reliability that many believe it is.)
Trust me when I say that you want to see the whole thing.
Times have changed. If there is one thing that people in the U.S. have gained from the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina. (They certainly lost plenty.) It is the knowledge of the importance of self defense. Even if you have no weapon you must fight back against an attacker. But naturally it is much easier to defend yourself with a weapon than without. Federal gun control keeps stalling out in congress and every couple of months some new firearms product is debuted which would have been revolutionary or utterly illegal during the Clinton years.
Scarcity in the gun world has been supplemented and relieved by healthy applications of brain power. Critical thinking and a spirit of defiance infuses this culture, 999 times out of a thousand it doesn’t go as far as I would like. But it is better than nothing. Governments across the globe are in the business of artificial scarcity. Of eliminating resources that would otherwise make their citizens strong and smart enough to not need an entitled class of politicians, bureaucrats and soldiers who don’t really contribute anything to advancing human civilization. Critical thinking leads to constant refinements and improvements in firearms technology. The spirit of defiance allows this culture to not only survive, but thrive.
Personally I think we have reached a post Renaissance period in the firearms community and are entering a baroque period. Designers are running out of ideas and are going in some awfully weird directions. Some of these directions are stunning, others are neutral to useless. Some are just utterly bug nuts.
The upcoming Desert Tech MDR, in my opinion this is a nearly perfect rifle
Alternative Ballistics, The Alternative, this ah, doesn’t seem like a good idea.
But not as bad as this nonsense.
On a recent Saturday Feens episode the Bad Quaker shared some history about a recent republican administrations international gun grabbing. Tons of rifles and pistols, of mostly soviet era manufacture were rounded up and destroyed. In his opinion largely because those arms may have eventually found their way onto the American market. Mr Stone neglected to mention one important point though. Many of the rifles could never have been imported because they were either military arms with full auto capability. In the case of pistols, because they may have required expensive modifications in order to make them complaint with import restrictions.
In any case, millions of small arms were rounded up and destroyed. A military grade repeating rifle represents no small investment of resources to manufacture. So destroying them is a wanton waste of valuable resources in my opinion. More than that, as reflected especially in Molon Labbe and Unintended Consequences. This is a destruction of culture and history. Guns carried in numerous battles of historical importance, thrown in a hydraulic press because of the power of some bureaucrat. Imagine the outcry if someone burned down the Louvre simply because the art there was not, “politically correct?” This though is the motivation of many within government, to watch the world burn.
One of my mentors on the subject of firearms is a trader of military surplus rifles. In the past few years he has seen the last remaining stocks of surplus rifles and ammunition dry up completely. It used to be that when sources of foreign or domestic surplus guns dried up there would be something coming in from other sources to take its place. Not anymore. Even the stuff that remains on the market is not selling all that well because the old collectors of this sort of thing are dying and most young people in the gun community want more modern weapons.
To me this is the actual tragedy of gun control as it is. It has the opposite effect on the actual free market mechanics of supply and demand. Outlawing something almost always makes people want that something more and if the demand is there then someone will attempt to supply that demand. Even if it is at great risk or expense. Many people purchasing firearms nowadays know nothing or little about guns. They are just driven by a variety of factors that tell them that they want one. This is resulting in a gun culture which, even by my standards of mental flexibility in most things, looks downright odd.
One of the biggest things that is driving this change is constant improvement in manufacturing techniques. It used to be that if you wanted to build a gun factory you needed at least twenty million dollars worth of machinery, a factory to put it in and many many people on your payroll who knew how to work those machines. Machinists skill does not come cheap. Then there is the problem of distribution, compliance with laws, market fluctuations, government contractual nonsense. (Since police and military contracts are probably going to be your biggest customer). And so on and so on.
Nowadays if you want to build guns on the cheap you can get a few machine tools from China, or on the used market. Get a few friends together, or do it yourself and start cranking out AR-15s or AKs as long as your resources will allow you to buy parts. Factories in China are willing and able to sell you literally shipping containers full of AR-15 lower receiver forgings for a reasonable price if you are able to do the final machining. But to me this is just the beginning. As technology advances the possibility emerges of manufacturing almost any firearm you desire. 3D Printing technology is in its infancy at the moment and printed firearms are in an embryonic state. But I can see a day, not too far away when big firearms manufacturers shift their efforts to being parts companies or ammo suppliers for a distributed network of manufacturers cranking out receivers to an ever growing market. This might result in a decentralization of other industries as well. Perhaps cross pollinating into decentralized car manufacturing, or other things. There are already several such projects underway to decentralize automobile manufacturing right now.
As 3D printed and locally made firearms manufacturers become more skilled with computer aided design the aforementioned baroqueness we are seeing in gun design will probably go off into even wilder directions. After awhile this might lead to a de facto nullification of the National Firearms Act. By this time the big firearms companies that remain might only make guns for military and police contracts along with guns for collectors. The kind of people who simply must have a Glock brand Glock, or a gun that the decentralized manufacturers find too expensive and/or difficult to manufacture like a revolver or an M14. I like revolvers, and I recently got a chance to shoot a full auto M14 but these are expensive to make and if someone wants them they are going to have to pay the price that greater expenditure of resources demands. Perhaps someday someone is going to build new Lugers or Lee-Enfield rifles for military history buffs. But that day is probably a long way off. Even if these guns are made though they will not have the weight of history associated with the increasingly rare originals.
That’s what I think much of this comes down to. The most efficient use of resources for the best result. People need weapons just as much as they need food, shelter and water. Weapons design and manufacturing is just about to go in some rather exotic directions. But the same pressures of supply and demand will still be there. Darwinian pressures in the firearms industry are going to be increasing as well. Some older designs will become impractical, others might become more popular. New designs will emerge, some will flourish, others will wither. Many becoming available are approaching the ragged limit of what one can do with a cartridge firing weapon and are more refined designs than many guns I have imagined.
The technology to have this decentralized, uncontrolled weapons manufacturing base does not exist just yet. But most of it does. It certainly does in the U.S. and I think that people in other countries are already moving ahead on similar, though less refined lines. The only real barrier to this scenario is the existing legal structure. However as various governments pile on law after law the only thing preventing violations of said laws will be the compliance of their citizens. That will become increasingly irrelevant as they continue to overreach and lose the Mandate of Heaven. Their destructive intentions become more pointless every day.