Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

“…but the Founder’s couldn’t have imagined more than muskets.”

Written By: Bob - Feb• 15•13

I gave up Twitter for Lent, but one of the last conver-arguments I had before signing off was with a gentleman from Chicago who was adamant in his belief that the Founding Fathers couldn’t have imagined weapon like an AR-15.

“They only had muskets.”

In his small, public-school educated mind, they couldn’t fathom more. He could not conceive of a way for the Founders to fathom the logical and inevitable progression of faster-firing small arms, despite the continual advances of science and technology they witnessed in their lifetimes.

This gentleman had assured himself that this group of intellectual giants—recognized as one of the most enlightened groups of men ever to unite at any one time and place in human history, and which included doctors, scientists, inventors, engineers, and students of history versed in multiple languages—couldn’t grasp a concept of armament technology evolution that they themselves eye-witnessed.

In the American Revolution itself, muskets like the Brown Bess and the Charleville were the “assault weapons” of the day, firing 2-3 times per minute in well-drilled hands. These weapons was far faster than the slow-loading but longer-ranged patched-ball firing flintlock rifles which were capable of hits from hundreds of yards away, but which could take up to two minutes to load.

But even the musket and rifle were far outclassed by another weapon, the Ferguson Rifle.

The Ferguson Rifle

The Ferguson Rifle

The Ferguson Rifle was developed by a British officer, Major Patrick Ferguson, as a breach-loading flintlock that fired two to three times as fast as the muskets then in use. Here’s an example of the Ferguson being used by a Colonial-era reenactor, firing 7 times in just over a minute.

Note that the reenactor was using loose powder from a powder horn, which slowed him down. Had he been using paper cartridges commonly in use, pulled from a properly structure cartridge box commonly in use at the time, he would have fired even faster, perhaps ten rounds per minute.

The Ferguson Rifle went to war in 1777, at saw action in skirmishes in the northeast and at the Battle of Brandywine. Rumors that Major Ferguson continued to carry one of his rifles up until his death at the battle of King’s Mountain in 1780 have never been substantiated.

Yes, during the course of our founding war, the men who fought and eventually won it saw the creation and battlefield use of a firearm that more than doubled the rate of fire, almost a decade before they wrote the Second Amendment. Let us make it crystal clear; they were aware that technology existed that could double the rate of fire of a rifle. They’d already seen it happen, right in front of their eyes.

When that rate of fire doubled again, you know what resulted? The modern semi-automatic rifle, fired at a rifleman’s cadence of 20 well-aimed shots per minute.

And of course, the Ferguson Rifle wasn’t the first or only development they’d seen in rapid fire weaponry.

The Puckle Gun, forerunner of the modern machine gun. Notice the patent date.

The Puckle Gun, forerunner of the modern machine gun. Notice the year of the patent.

More than a half-century (57 years) before the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” was fired at Lexington, James Puckle patented in 1718 the gun that bore his name, a 63-shot single-barreled fore-runner of the modern machine gun that could be exhausted in seven minutes (that’s 9 shots a minute), designed for repelling boarders in seaborne combat.

Russian pepperbox manufactured by Tula in 1763.

Russian pepperbox manufactured by Tula in 1763.

Pepperbox pistols, while never widely used until the widespread adoption of the percussion cap, were in use in the pre-war as this 1763 Russian Tula-manufactured pistol clearly shows.

The civilians of the Founder’s generation owned daggers, swords, tomahawks, “pepperbox” revolvers, pistols, rifles, muskets, fowling pieces, blunderbusses, hand grenades, swivel guns, cannon, howitzers, mortars and “every other terrible implement of war” that could be owned by a soldier.  The middle class of the day often bore arms (when they so desired them) superior in every way to the “lowest bidder” guns issued to conscript and recruits of the professional armies of the day.

The Founders couldn’t have imagined today’s firearms in civilian hands?

Gentlemen and gentlewomen, you would be a fool to believe they’d imagine anything less, if not a great deal more.

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  1. smitty says:

    Excellant and informative article.

    Gee, I’d be happy if my flinter would just fire reliably, rather than just fizzle the powder in the pan, though the deer are happier…

  2. Gayle says:

    What a stupid argument. The founders couldn’t have imagined automobiles either, which kill many more people than guns – should they be banned?

    • Klingonwork says:

      What an exquisite point…makes me cry. Simple and yet…genius.

      BTW, we need to add to that list of banned items that kill:

      Jet airplanes
      Plastic bags
      Anything that can explode
      Bridges you can jump off of
      Earthquakes and tornadoes
      Fountain pens
      …if anyone can think of any other items, please ban them immediately

  3. MrApple says:

    Great job on the article. I always find it fascinating how the anti-gun crowd who claims that the 2nd Amendment should only cover the protection of single shot black powder rifles employs the 1st Amendment while using the internet, cell phones, TV, and computers, all items the Founding Fathers most likely couldn’t envision either.

    • Rob Crawford says:

      What makes you think they won’t use the same argument against the 1st Amendment?

    • Mudlark says:

      Mr. Apple:

      Very good. Clearly the logic that would limit citizens to muskets would also prohibit their use of computers, tv, radio, the internet, telegraph and photography according to these Obamaites.

      Try as I might I can only find mention of an effective militia. So are we to believe that the founders intended to limit citizens to muskets a hundred years in the future?

      The statists want to disarm the citizenry, jsut as Hitler, Stalin, Castro and Mao did.

      I wonder how the Armenians, Ukranians, Chinese, Cubans, and Jews felt about their chances once these measures were in effect.

    • Al Reasin says:

      In the SCOTUS Heller decision against DC your thoughts were expressed in that the freedom of the press represented at the time knew only about print journalism and yet today radio and TV journalism are protected under the 1st Amendment.

      It is interesting that until the 14th Amendment, the Bill of Rights only applied to federal laws/actions. Once incorporated per the 14th Amendment the amendments apply to all levels of government. Freedom of the press was only incorporated in 1931 and speech in 1925. The SCOTUS McDonald decision against Chicago in 2010 incorporated the 2nd Amendment making local and state laws that “infringe” on the 2nd Amendment unconstitutional. Unfortunately, states and local governments will pass laws that are de facto constitutional and have to be individually challenged. That is why it is very important to look at the positions of local and state candidates. As I said to a meeting on the MD gun control law, when it passes, and it hard to see with an overwhelming Democrat office holders why it won’t, who is willing to be the test case and sacrifice for the good of us all to get legal standing in court to have it struck down.

  4. Publius says:

    Judging by behavior, the core purpose of the media and education establishment is to herd the public into approved lines of thought in order to make them easier to govern. Your Gentleman from Chicago is simply one more victim among millions.

  5. STW says:

    The best part about Puckle’s gun patent was that it called for round bullets for Christians and square ones for heathens. The mechanics of that would have been interesting had it ever been produced. I’m glad were are more inclusive and respective of diversity today.

  6. Comrade X says:

    New Interactive Map Shows the Number of Times Guns Have Saved Americans….

    Death before slavery!

  7. ManekiNeko says:

    Don’t forget private warships (with cannons of course).

  8. Orion says:

    So, I assume then, that these folks what want to limit me to muskets and Kentucky long-rifles will also be fine if I own the artillery pieces of the day?

    Do they mind if I bring a 6-pounder loaded with grapeshot to the next big protest meeting they have? Since it was right there with the founders, I’m sure they’ll be fine if I do…


  9. Matt says:

    You’re a bad influence, now I want one of those.

  10. Comrade X says:

    Washington State’s SB 5737 Gun Control More Draconian than Feinstein’s….

    Death before slavery!

  11. Hiram Maxim says:

    ATTENTION, DRONES: The musket was a state-of-the-art assault weapon.

  12. eddd7 says:

    Some gun control fans claim that the right to bear arms covers only flintlocks, not modern guns. So how many of the 20,000 + gun laws in the country makes an exception for antiques?

  13. eddd7 says:

    Below – Hat tip to Durk.

    The Founders also had cannons and sub-machine guns!

    There is a 22 shot full automatic sub-machine gun in the NRA museum that dates to a bit before revolutionary times.

    This was a two barrel muzzle loading pistol that had 11 wads, balls and powder charges loaded one on top of another in each barrel. Holes from one barrel to the other communicated the fire from the front load in barrel #1 to the front load in barrel #2 which, via the next hole fired the second load in barrel #1 which via the third hole fired the second load in barrel #2, etc., until all 22 shots were fired. Once the trigger was pulled, all 22 rounds would fire during the next 2 seconds. This 10 shot per second rate is typical for a modern machine gun or sub machine gun.

    This weapon was used for deterring and annihilating stage coach robbing gangs. This was not a popular weapon because of the expense of construction and the great care and skill required to load it properly; if the wadding between shots was inadequately sealed, multiple chambers in the same barrel could fire simultaneously causing the gun to blow up.

  14. jesse bogan says:

    2 of the weapons taken by the Kings soldiers at Lexington were privately owned CANNON. As the battle progressed, they were recovered by those pesky Colonials… Sorta outshoots those darned muskets doesn’t it?? Historically illiterate morons.

  15. Great minds apparently think alike: Rights don’t change, even if details do (you may have to answer a couple of multiple choice questions to get access to the whole thing)

  16. Gary Howell says:

    The very argument that your “friend” presented is lopsided and flawed because the liberals who use that argument don’t also argue that the founding fathers could have never imagined radio, television or the internet when they wrote the first amendment. If, God forbid, they won their argument, they would have to ban the internet for the same reason they seek to ban AR-15s. The truth, however, is that liberals aren’t actually interested in public safety. Because they persist toward gun control in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary of it’s benefit, it becomes undeniable that they’re not seeking public safety. They are seeking the disarmament of America so that they can rule over the people.