Nothing really Earth-shattering here. Alternatively, click here to see Popular Mechanics’ (flying cars!) full roster on one page. Or make the jump and I’ll save your mouse the wear-and-tear and list them for you. Given five minutes, most dedicated members of TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia could name at least eight of them. Go on then. I double dog dare ya. Before clicking over to their slideshow or jumping the page break, see how many you can come up with. And the first one (above) is on us. No cheating. Let the quibbling begin!

1. 13th Century and cannon – Amazing that the technology is virtually the same some eight hundred year later

2. Gatling Gun – Not the most portable gun on earth and prone to malfs but devastating in the right place at the right time.

3. Colt Peacemaker (above) – Peacemaker. Geddit?

4. Maxim gun – The magazine isn’t bad either

5. Colt M1911 – Farago reckons God hand-delivered the design to Moses

6. M2 Browning – Like the Gatling Gun except better.

7. M1 Garand – Ralph’s totemic rifle

8. Uzi – Short and sweet. And not that accurate.

9. AK-47 – You say you want a revolution?

10. Glock 17 – N-n-n-n-n-nineteen!

11. XM-25 – Interesting, yes. At least munitions-wise. Proven? No.

55 Responses to Popular Mechanics Names the Eleven (?) Most Important Guns in History

  1. 1st matchlock Musket, 2nd Kentucky rifle, 3rd Hawkins Percussion cap rifle, 4th Winchester/Henry Lever action rifle. 5th Colt 1873 SAA, 6th Maxim Machine Gun, 7th Browning 1917 machine Gun, 8th Browning M1918 BAR, 9th US rifle Cal 30, M-1 10th Mauser rifle 98K 8mm Mauser, 11th Browning machine gun Cal .50 M-2, 12th AK-47/AKM/AK-74 Assault rifle, 13th The US M-16 rifle and M-4 carbine.

  2. There’s a pretty big empty space between the Chinese hand-cannon and the Colt SAA. How about the empire winning Brown Bess? The revolutionary process of rifling barrels that transmogrified the American Civil War? No mention of Paul Mauser’s innovation or the now ubiquitous AR-15.

      • The Brown Bess and AK-47 are pretty much in the same class.
        Not very good at anything in particular, except at being grunt-proof, and being produced and used in mass quantities.

  3. I’m all for the 11 most important anything, or the 9 best or 14 coolest. They are PM’s most important and there happen to be 11 of them. Arbitrarily confining a list of important things to base 10 smacks of euro-metric-global-governing-groupthink if you ask me. Long live the inch and the horsepower! Long live the pound (mass) and pound (force)!

      • Bravo! The needle gun is the most important military firearm of the 19th Century. It was 20 years ahead of it’s time. The Minie rifle was the next most important design. It was the first rifle that could really reach out and touch somebody. It was weapon that made the Civil War the harbringer of killing fields of WWI.

    • I know the evil black rifle is a popular one here but it was adapted as an afterthought. It was originally the replacement for the M-1/2 carbine and the grease gun in the Air Force. If the 15 rounds per minute sustained ROF cited in the AWB thread is correct then a WWII infantryman carry a Garand had more firepower than today’s grunt.

      • Yes and No. A combat load of 320 rounds plus is heavy, although achievable with 5.56. The same number of rounds would be much more difficult to carry in 7.62 x 51. Obviously, the 7.62 hits a whole lot harder, and has a longer effective range. The 5.56 is much easier to rapid fire, but requires more rounds for the same effects. I’m not convinced that a heavy – barrel M4 couldn’t keep up with an M1 in terms of sustained fire, and there are a whole lot more M4 / M16 and ARs than M1s out there.

        Come to think of it, those ‘ol boys actually did have more firepower than today’s grunt in some respects!

  4. 1. 13th Century Hand Cannon.
    2. The first Flintlock. Of which the Brown Bess is an example.
    3. The American Rifle. Pennsylvania or Kentucky, started the change.
    4. Colt’s Revolving Pistol. Changed the game of personal defense.
    5. Dreyse needle gun. First mass produced breach loader.
    6. Henry Rifle. Made metallic cartridge arms popular. Resulted in the 1873 Winchester.
    7. Maxim Gun.
    8. Mauser Bolt Action Rifle. Take your Pick.
    9. M1911.
    10. M-1 Gerand.
    11. STG-44. First assault rifle. Still in use today in Syria.

    The Gatling gun was never a success. Too heavy and temperamental. It also was not the only attempt at rapid fire weapon at the time.
    The Colt Peace maker was just a refinement of earlier pistols.
    M2 MG, a serious refinement on the maxim. But only a refinement.
    Uzi, wow, a machine pistol. How original and what a short service life.
    AK-47, influenced by the STG-44.
    Glock did not do anything that had not been done already by John Browning (PBUH), except plastic.
    XM-25. X, says it all.

    • The Uzi is neither a machine pistol nor did it have a short service life.

      And yes, many of the weapons were improvements or inspired by other weapons, but had a MUCH larger impact on the firearm development.

    • The one thing the Glock did, that I think earns it it’s spot in the list, is to usher in the era of the semiautomatic side arm for LE. It may not have been first, or even the best, but it was dominant.

      I think they’re list may be mostly predicated on popular perceptions rather than technology. This would explain several of their selections.

      • S&W Model 10. The quintessential police gun from inception until the late 1980’s. I think that after 5+ generations, this poor little redheaded step child deserves some credit. More specifically as the longest serving police side arm.

        • My mod. 10 is the only handgun I will not part with. I have traded, sold and given away many guns. My gun safe is in constant flux. My .38 is never in the mix.

    • The Mauser was the most successful and most-produced bolt action rifle. Until the AK-47 came along, there was no weapon as mass-produced as the Mauser design, with many 10’s of millions of examples made by both the Germans and those who licensed the Mauser design.

      The 1911, while revolutionary to us Americans, wasn’t the real revolutionary in pistols. The first semi-auto was the C-93 Borschardt, which while too bulky, got Paul Mauser into the game with the Broomhandle pistol, which would be my nomination for one of the most influential guns of history. Browning was getting patents for his first semi-auto design even as Mauser was shipping Broomhandles.

      In the pantheon of gun designers, I believe that Mauser is very under-appreciated for his genius and the long term viability of his designs. Browning is certainly one of the most gifted gun designers to have lived, but he wasn’t the only one out there to have changed the future of firearms design.

  5. “AK-47, influenced by the STG-44.”

    But Mikhail Kalashnikov said he thought the whole design up himself while recovering from wounds in a hospital. He would not lie would he? I mean it is a just a coincidence that his rifle resembles the StG-44 and shoots a mid range cartridge. Russians never lie I am told.

  6. Why do people claim the Uzi was not accurate? Must not have much experience with it. Sure it’s not a precision rifle but easily accurate enough within its effective range.

    • If you can’t shoot a squirrel’s left testicle off at 750+ meters with it, it obviously isn’t accurate. Duh. What a piece of crap.

    • 2 based on the Luger, 2 based on the C96, and one based on an ear thermometer. Ever wonder why Reese from Terminator 1 had a laser rifle in the flashbacks/flash forwards, but in Terminator 4 there weren’t any?

      • Because the newer Terminator movies are garbage. Also “the future is not set,” thus the events in the first two movies altered the future. That quote also gave the creators of the new movies to create the aforementioned garbage.

  7. Honorable mention to 2 very looked over but very important firearms. The single shot rimfire rifle and the single shot shotgun. Most of us that weren’t born into the glock generation got our introduction to shooting on one or both of these.

  8. I’d pull the Uzi off the list, move everything from the Peacemaker down a spot, and put the Colt Patterson at #3. The XM-25 doesn’t belong either, give that spot to the AR-15.

  9. I just looked up the XM-25. This project is bareley in its infancy, how is it a top gun in US History?

    It is an interesting concept and if it is already deployed with expectations of more widespread use in 2013, then it must work well. But I dont see it belonging on this list. Not yet at least, not for a long time.

    • Because, you see, most of these magazine writers don’t actually handle guns. They just write about the guns the same way they write about everything else – vicariously. They don’t know jack about medicine, but they’re all prepared to write a 1,000 word piece on “what’s wrong with the US healthcare system,” they don’t hold a pilot’s license, but they’ll write all manner of “analysis” pieces about what caused a plane crash, and the last time they got their hands dirty was when they were eight years old, but they’ll tell you what you should be doing to maintain your car.

      When I saw the XM-25 on the list, I knew immediately that the person who compiled this list was not a shooter.

  10. With a night to think about it I have come up with my top 10 list.
    In chronological order:

    The Brown Bess. After the Royal Navy it was the weapon that won the world for Britain.

    The Minie Rifle. While the Dreyse needle gun was the first breech loading service rifle the Minie was the first true battle rifle. It gave the individual soldier the ability to pick out and kill a specific opponent at long range. The Minie ball was also the most lethal projectile ever fired from an infantry rifle. Even modern medical techniques would not be able save limbs shattered by its impact.

    Colt SAA. No need to explain.

    Winchester 73. While the Henry was first, the Winchester began the era of repeating rifles for everyman. You could call it the first black rifle.

    Mauser 98k/03 Springfield. The next leap in technology for the battlefield. The Springfield was a more powerful copy that put a match grade rifle in the hands of every soldier.

    M1911. Yes other automatics came first but the 1911 was a combat pistol. In European armies the officer’s sidearm was more a symbol of authority than a fighting tool. Not so with the 1911. It was widely issued and meant to be used in close combat.

    Thompson Submachine gun. The first and perhaps the best pistol caliber individual automatic weapon.

    The M-1 Garand. On further review it truly was the “greatest battle implement ever devised.” We got over our infatuation with the spray and pray tactics of the Vietnam War and realized that well trained infantry using good tactics and aimed semi-automatic fire will defeat the hail of lead from fully automatic fire 95 out of 100 times.

    MG-42. I am surprised that “Hitler’s buzzsaw” was not on the list. It combined the mobility of a BAR with the lethality of a Maxim.

    AK-47. Where raw courage replaced tactics this was the ideal weapon. More people have died at the hands of the AK then any weapon in history.

    Ok, I have to put the Glock 17 on the list. While less revolutionary than its fans claim it is the next and perhaps the last great gunpowder propelled handgun.

    • Nice list. AR-15 was pretty amazing for its time (though pushed too fast into war theater before the bugs were worked out). M-1 Garand was a great advantage to our troops during WW2 when the enemies rifles were bolt while ours were semiauto and nearly as accurate. Not having the original ‘assault rifle’ STG-44 with its intermediate powered cartridge on the list is also an oversight….though that AK is on some national flags, is it not.

      • If the FRG kept producing the STG-44 for the revived Bundeswehr then I would agree with you. However, it disappeared with end of the Third Reich.

        I know we all love the AR platform but the AR-15 really is not that revolutionary. It was just a small bore rifle that seemed to be the perfect weapon for a jungle war because of the large quantity of ammunition a solider could carry and fire. As stated above the Army discovered that there are only a few regimes where full auto works well and it’s not the jungle. It is urban warfare where the first couple of guys in the stack kick down the door and spray the room. That’s what the Thompson, grease gun and the BAR were used for in WWII. If you want to include an AR on the list it should be they AR-10 and not the AR-15

        Interesting side note. One of the reasons stated for replacing the M-14 in Vietnam was the difficulty hauling a big rifle around in the jungle and the damage done to the stock by tropical humidity. Funny how WWII infantrymen had no trouble using the M-1 in places like Guadalcanal, New Guinea and the Philippines.

        • They had many M-14 rifles in Vietnam with the synthetic stocks (fiberglass) as they were in the process of phasing out the Wood, just as the AR-15 was replacing the M-14. AR-10 did come first, as you noted. I think a Squad Designated Marksman combined with three or four M-4 carbines is a good combo. Hell, the best would be four or five men with 6.5 Grendel or 6.8 (that may be a future story…before particle plasma guns, anyway).

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