The Lesson of the Drilling Guns

During the NRA national convention here in the Gateway City last year, I stopped by the booth of an organization dedicated to preserving drilling guns. Pronounced “drelling”, the name comes from the German number “drei” – three in English. A typical drilling gun consists of two shotgun barrels and a rifle barrel, but they can be configured any way the shooter wants. Most drillings were made by small custom manufacturers. On display was Benny Goodman’s drilling. Goodman had an eye-dominance issue that the gunmaker addressed with a special cheekpiece to allowed Goodman to sight with his dominant eye . . .

Fast forward: in a conversation with a hunter I had the other night, the subject of gun control came up. He was of the opinion that an assault weapons ban might be OK with him, since he didn’t think and AR-15 was much of a hunting rifle anyway. I’m not a hunter, but I know people hunt with an AR’s all the time. Central to his premise, though, is that if “assault rifles” were banned, his hunting rifle would be spared.

What’s the connection between gun control and drillings? The collection of drilling guns on display at the NRA convention was made up predominantly of arms that had been imported into the US as spoils of war. After Germany surrendered in 1945, the Allies began disarming them. Many infantry weapons were seized and destroyed, firearms like the MG42 machine gun and machine pistols like the MP38. They also confiscated their bolt action Mauser rifles which were functionally identical to any hunting rifle available at the time.

But the confiscation didn’t end with just military arms. Seized hunting rifles that weren’t sent back to an Allied country were destroyed, including an untold number of these wonderful drillings. The pleasant man at the booth told me that hundreds upon hundreds of hunting arms were set up on the curb and then driven over with a tank.

The lesson of the drillings is that when a centralized authority decides to disarm citizens, hunting arms won’t be spared. That magnificent Browning Citori 725 over/under you hope to pass on to you daughter one day will go the way of those heirloom German drillings that were crushed or shipped out after the they were taken from their owners.

My new friend meant well, but history shows that — no matter how much reassurance the disarmers may give — gun control never excludes hunters. Those who love bagging ducks, shooting skeet or stalking deer would do well to remember that there’s no historical evidence that gun controllers have any more respect for hunters than they do other gun owners. Those beautiful heirloom hunting arms will eventually be tossed on the heap right alongside those ugly black rifles.