In a previous post I took a stab at defining what the Founders would have regarded as a “well-regulated militia:”
I submit that it is the totality of the people, armed with knowledge of this nation’s history and the role of the militia in securing our freedom. It is the bodies of Americans, keep in “fighting trim” as age and ailments allow, and souls that are not timid.
It is a citizenry proficient in the use of small arms suitable for military service, educated with a basic academic knowledge of small-unit tactics and military strategy, and dedicated to the ownership and upkeep of arms, ammunition and paraphernalia suitable of be pressed into militia service.
That seems to bear some further definition.
Tench Coxe served the first four Presidents in various roles, had a significant influence on the adoption of our Constitution and was responsible for the argument that the militia, composed of most of the citizenry, would be sufficient to overwhelm any standing army of the state. At the time Coxe argued that the right of the people to arms was so foundational that it did not need mention in the Constitution, holding:
The powers of the sword are in the hands of the yeomanry from sixteen to sixty. The militia of these free commonwealths, entitled and accustomed to their arms, when compared with any possible army, must be tremendous and irresistible. Who are the militia? are they not ourselves. Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American. What clause in the state or federal constitution hath given away that important right…. T he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the foederal or state governments, but where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.
“From sixteen to sixty,” was of course only a guideline; the first battles at Lexington and Concord saw the militia draw upon fighters barely in their teens up to Samuel Whittemore, who killed three British soldiers at the age of 80. It might stun the Founders that today many women would answer the call of the militia. Truly, the militia is the whole of the people.
But what are arms suitable for militia use?
Arguably any firearm may be pressed into service at a moment of desperation, but the Founders made it clear that they valued arms for the militia that would have been contemporaries of those used by the standing armies of the day.
For a U.S. citizen of 2012, that suggests a clear preference for AR-15 patterned carbines and rifles.
The AR-15 is a semi-automatic (one shot per trigger pull) carbine or rifle (depending on barrel length) typically chambered in either .223 Remington or 5.56 NATO. It is nearly identical in appearance to the selective-fire M4 carbine and M16 used in various forms by U.S. armed forces, and has been for sale to civilians for 49 years. It shares significant parts commonality with it’s military cousins, including the same ammunition, magazines, optics mounts, furniture, barrels, and small parts apart from the fire control group. It is the embodiment of a rifle perfect for militia use as envisions by the Founding Fathers.
Ideally, a modern militiaman would be able to engage human-sized targets to a range of 500 yards using standard 55-grain or 62-grain ball ammunition. Modular in nature, precision variants of the rifle with specialized ammunition and high-end optics can engage targets well past 1,000 yards.
A well-trained militiaman or militiawoman armed with an AR-15, five or more magazines, and several hundred rounds of ammunition is a formidable foe.
Of course, the AR-15 isn’t by any stretch the only rifle that is worthy of consideration for militia use. The semi-automatic variants of the AK-pattern rifle were designed from the ground up to serve the uneven training and poor cleaning habits of conscripted soldiers and militiamen the world over.
An AR-variant such as a WASR-10 (favorite of the Justice Department’s Fast and Furious gun-running plot) is a less expensive alternative to the AR-15, which offers more durability and short-range punch at the cost of long range accuracy. It has the advantage of being able to digest inexpensive military surplus ammunition and uses rugged magazines, and would serve a militiaman or militiawoman well in shorter range urban or heavily-forested environments.
While the AR and AK represent the standard of Cold War-era military small arms development, there are other rifles every bit as serviceable, from the durable and relatively inexpensive SKS carbine to the powerful M1A variant of the M14 Battle rifle, the venerable M1 Garand, and many others.
Investing in the firearms mentioned so far may make it seem that patriotism is a rich man’s game, but nothing could be further from the truth.
A Mosin-Nagant in excellent condition can be found in gun stores across the United States for around $100, and the 7.62x54R cartridge it fires is so effective that it is still in used 120 years after it was introduced. 440-round “spam cans” of military surplus can be had for less than the cost of the rifle. Combined with an inexpensive mount and scope, and it represents a “poor man’s sniper rifle” easily capable of hits beyond 500 yards.
The militia is the whole people, trained in the use of arms, and practiced to the point of being proficient with their firearms to their maximum range.
A free America demands martial proficiency from its citizens. Are you up to the challenge?