In my view, and apparently that of many others, we in the United States, and the West generally, are losing our connection to the past. Whereas our forefathers were connected to their unique national and familial histories, many people today have lost that connection. They don’t know from where they came or why their ancestors had certain beliefs. And they certainly do not understand their own history.
That leads to a number of attendant problems, not the least of which is support for anti-history, anti-national unity, and the attempts at the erasure of the past that we are now seeing. But that’s political, and this is an article about firearms.
As gun owners, I think we are in a unique position to rekindle that connection to the past. How? By owning and letting others shoot military-surplus firearms and historical reproductions.
That might sound odd, how could just shooting a firearm help you and those around you reconnect with the past? Well, if all you do is go to a gun show and buy the first cosmoline-coated Mosin-Nagant that you see, then it probably won’t work. It will just be another gun. But, however, if you do your research and learn about the guns you are buying and shooting, then that is an opportunity to learn history and feel like you are part of it, as you know own a piece of that history.
If you buy an M1 Garand and look at the markings on it, you can learn about the factory where it was made and imagine the stress of the rush to produce armaments for a military that had to quickly build itself up and head off to war in North Africa, Western Europe, and all over the Pacific. You’ll feel a connection to those that stormed the beaches at Normandy, froze and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, fought in the hellish conditions of the Solomon Islands, and were later surrounded by Chinese “volunteers” in the frozen hell of the Chosin Reservoir.
If you buy a Mauser Kar 98, which is my personal favorite among the readily available and affordable military surplus firearms, then you can use that to learn about wartime Germany and imagine what it felt like for a drafted soldier in the German Army on the Eastern Front to have to fight for an odious regime against wave after wave of Soviet peasants charge your position while you cowered due to a tremendous artillery barrage. Learning what life was like for the other side is almost as important as learning about your own.
And the value of owning, shooting, and learning about historical firearms is not just confined to military surplus weapons. Historical reproductions are almost as good. If you buy and learn about a Kentucky longrifle, you can feel a connection to the patriots in early America that fought the British Empire against overwhelming odds and won, or fought a long-running and irregular war against Native Americans in the Ohio River Valley.
Buy a Henry repeating rifle and imagine what it was like to be a Union cavalryman trying to hunt down Jesse James in Missouri, a cowboy fighting outlaws in Texas, or a railroad worker building the transcontinental railroad that had to drop his tools and pick up a rifle to battle back marauding bands of Native American warriors.
Those are just a few examples that include some of my favorite moments of history and my favorite historical firearms. There are, of course, many others. 1911 pistols, which were used from our conquest of the Philippines to the Global War on Terror. Colt Single Action Army revolvers, the gun that let us tame the West. The British Lee-Enfield, which served them well from the plains of southern Africa to the jungles of Burma.
But, whatever the firearm you choose, I think historical weapons have a unique ability to connect us to the past. If you do your due diligence and learn about the firearm you are buying and shooting, you can feel like a piece of the history you are learning about. America, and many other nations, needs to regain its connection to its past. I think that historical firearms, whether military surplus or reproductions, can help us do that.
Will is the author of the blog Gen Z Conservative.