The author (courtesy NSSF)
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By Mark Oliva

Memorial Day holds special meaning to the firearms industry. Like nearly all Americans, we pause to remember and honor those whose lives were sacrificed defending our freedoms.

For firearms manufacturers, the small arms the fallen carried into battle remind us of the unique connection of those in uniform and our industry.

There’s a collection of these firearms that has special meaning to Marines tucked away in a nondescript brick building at Marine Corps Base Quantico. Behind a locked door, in “the vault,” is what could be a priceless collection of the Marine Corps’ small arms, including what is believed to be a prototype of Henry Maxim’s machine gun. Most precious, though, are firearms carried by fallen heroes during their final acts of bravery.

Colt M-1911

“The vault” is where I met Al Houde, Senior Curator of Arms and Armor for the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Among the collection he shared is a Colt handgun. It’s marked “Model of 1911, U.S. Army.” Despite that, it was carried and used by Marine Sgt. Albert Taubert.

Sgt. Taubert was awarded the Navy Cross twice, the nation’s second-highest valor award. He was recognized first for actions in World War I when, in 1918 as a private, he captured a German machine gun and crew. He was again awarded the Navy Cross for actions in Haiti in 1920, when he attacked and killed Haitian bandit leader Benoit de Batraville. Taubert recovered the bandit leader’s .38-caliber revolver and holster, damaged from one of the rounds fired from Taubert’s .45-caliber M-1911.

Both are now in the Marine Corps Museum’s collection.

M-16A4 by FN America

Houde also brought me closer to my own combat tours. He showed me the M-16A4 carried by Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for actions during the Battle of Fallujah, Iraq. On Nov. 15, 2004, Sgt. Peralta was clearing houses when he was shot. Mortally wounded as the fighting continued, an enemy grenade was tossed into the room and Sgt. Peralta pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the blast and saving the lives of the Marines in the room with him.

Peralta was nominated for the Medal of Honor, but was awarded the Navy Cross. A ship was named in his honor.

This, though, was the rifle he carried made by FN America at its plant in Columbia, South Carolina. It bears the marks of the blast that took his life.

Seeing Sgt. Peralta’s rifle close-up robs you of words. I learned that I’m not the only one who’s felt that way. Houde said Marines and their families often linger at the museum at firearms, knowing how personal that connection is for those who fought and died in war.

Legendary Sniper Rifle Lost

Houde said some firearms are lost to time. Legendary Marine sniper Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock carried a Winchester Model 70 .30-06 during his first Vietnam tour and a Remington 700 during his second tour.

There is no record of Gunnery Sgt. Hathcock’s Winchester, and his Remington was burned up when the armored vehicle he was in struck a mine. Hathcock suffered burns and wounds in that incident that nearly took his life and, ultimately, ended his service. Hathcock died in 1999 at the age of 56.

But Houde does have one Hathcock rifle. It’s a Stevens .22-caliber bolt-action rifle. Hathcock was an avid hunter who learned to shoot with a World War II Mauser rifle and used a J.C. Higgins .22-caliber to hunt and feed his family as a child in Arkansas.

Remington 700 M-40A1

Houde had a rifle that was of personal significance. In 2004, insurgents killed a Marine sniper team in Ramadi, Iraq. Lost that day were Cpl. Tommy Parker Jr., Lance Cpl. Pedro Contreras, Lance Cpl. Juan Lopez, and Lance Cpl. Deshon Otey.

Lost, too, was the team’s M-40A1 Remington 700. I was in Ramadi that day. I was also in Iraq on a subsequent tour when another Marine sniper team recovered the rifle.

Two years after and about 20 miles from where the rifle went missing, Marine snipers observed a suspicious man on a cell phone and the profile of a rifle barrel in a car. They killed the insurgents and opened the car door to find the distinctive Marine sniper rifle.

I held the rifle in 2006, days after it was recovered. I held it again 13 years later. Like then, the words escaped me. This rifle will soon go on display at the National Museum of the Marine Corps to share this story. But inside this vault, surrounded by the firearms of generations of Marines, I held the legacy of freedom forged by the firearms industry in Ilion, New York, and carried into war by Marines who will never leave my memory.

This Memorial Day I’ll pause to remember those who gave their lives in defense of our nation. I’ll visit graves of lost friends at Arlington National Cemetery. I’ll also look forward to when these firearms will be on display at the museum, illustrating the stories of these Marines, their sacrifice and their valor.


Mark Oliva is Managing Director of Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. He is a retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant with 25 years of service, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Albania, and Zaire.

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  1. Inside the Vault: by Corpse
    A chilling story about a hungry opossum that couldn’t pry a door open.

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  2. I believe the Marine Corp designated bolt action is banned in Md. but the Rem 700 and M1 Garand is legal. Maybe the reasoning is lets see what the military used and ban it, except the semi-auto .30-06. These Dems never cease to amaze.

  3. I said I appreciated the article and the men and women who have died for our country and it was moderated out into the online ether, so I’ll try one more time here

    • shame on you saying something the liberal left wing word press moderation doesn’t like.

    • Oh ok well actually i see it up there now. It took a looong time though, unless i missed it earlier

  4. Roughly about 25 years ago I was visiting the Wright Patterson Air Force base located in Ohio. I expected to see mostly air planes but was surprised to see a chrome plated Belgian High Power Pistol with shoulder holster on display. It was the former pistol of a U.S. Air Force pilot shot down over Vietnam. The pilot managed to escape by shooting his way out of being captured with his high capacity High Power pistol.

    My Father carried a Belgium High Power pistol in a 1911 shoulder holster while fighting in Europe with Patton’s 3rd Armored, 7th division. Alas he sold the pistol in the 60’s much to my howls of protest but I still have his holster that he carried it in. About 10 years ago I happened to run across a mint condition police issue 1949 High Power with its original military holster and two matching magazines and I got the money out of my wallet so fast it almost caught fire from friction and no, the pistol was not cheap in price.

    It is interesting to note that in the books by Peter Senich “The One Round War” and “The Complete Book of U.S. Sniping” detailed the sorry history of the Remington M40 because it was not as reliable as its predecessor the original pre-64 Winchester Model 70. The Remington replacement was chosen by two Moron Military Clerks because they had heard rumors that the post-64 Winchester Model 70 was having problems (not true). The post-64 Winchester M70 actually had a stronger extractor, better mounted bolt handle, and a way more reliable trigger.The Remington Replacement gun suffered extractor failures, trigger failures, and bolt handles falling off as well as a defective 3×9 Redfield Scope who’s plasticky rangefinder melted when the sun beamed itself the through the scopes lens which melted it.

    Addendum: A number of years ago I observed two military men at our range firing a Military Remington M40 or later variation thereof and their groups did not impress me in the ls slightest. They did a wide eyed double take when I showed them my antique 1939 M70 that was re-barrled to .308. I managed to pull of a nice 1/2 inch 5 shot group at 100 yards and nonchalantly acted like I did it every day. In reality I could and have shot 5/8th inch groups on more than one occasion with this beauty (it was originally a factory 30-06 heavy barrel).

    • I always take history lessons from idiots who wouldn’t know the first thing about history.

      And I always believe their anecdotal experiences, because they would never habitually lie about anything. Amirite?

      ” …high capacity High Power pistol.”

      The Hi-Power has a 13-round standard-capacity magazine.

      See what I mean?

      • dacian was doxxed years ago. Been to his facebook page. If he’s 40 it would surprise me.

        If he’s typing he’s lying.

    • I always wear rubber boots and bring a scoop shovel when I buy gunms at dacian’s ole ladies yard sales.

    • Why do you continue with the lies? No one who has been a reader on this site for more than a month sees you as anything other than a gun grabbing troll. It’s actually sad. Self delusion isn’t a good thing.

      • To Booger Brain and the rest of you bigoted ignoramuses.

        I do not give a fk what you know about me. The last time I checked theU.S. had freedom of speech, religion and a free press, something you Jackboots hate with a passion. And I might add that the Far Right Fanatics cannot comprehend the fact that Liberals own guns too. How else do you think the Socialists beat the Russian White Army and how the Russian Army beat you right wing Nazi’s in WWII.

        And how else do you think the American people secured Social Security, Medicare, caps on medical bills, and the elimination of pre-existing conditions. It was the Liberals who accomplished all of this.

        • You accomplished nothing from your mothers basement, dacian. And the only jackboots in America now are your ss/antifa heroes.

          More and more people are waking up to the truth and declaring them in fact to be fascists. Your lies are being exposed. Thanks to that freedom of speech you hate so much.

        • “It was the Liberals who accomplished all of this.”

          By lying. Here are the 37 instances we could find in which President Barack Obama or a top administration official said something close to, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” referring to health insurance changes under the Affordable Care Act. — Politifact (even a lefty source called this the “2013 Lie of the Year.”)

          “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too. The only change you’ll see are falling costs as our reforms take hold.”

          11 Years Of ACA/ObamaCare, 11 Years Of Rising Costs — Forbes

          We couldn’t keep our medical plans. We couldn’t keep our doctors. We’re paying more, for less. And we who have insurance, are paying more for health insurance for those who can’t afford it.

          “…Social Security …”

          More lies: Here’s what the 1936 government pamphlet on Social Security said: “After the first 3 years — that is to say, beginning in 1940 — you will pay, and your employer will pay, 1.5 cents for each dollar you earn, up to $3,000 a year. … Beginning in 1943, you will pay 2 cents, and so will your employer, for every dollar you earn for the next 3 years. … And finally, beginning in 1949, 12 years from now, you and your employer will each pay 3 cents on each dollar you earn, up to $3,000 a year.”

          Here’s Congress’ lying promise: “That is the most you will ever pay.” Had Congress lived up to its promise, our maximum Social Security tax this year would be $90 instead of over $6,000. — Walter Williams

          ” …right wing Nazi’s …”

          And still more lies! The Nazis were leftists. This statement is blasphemy to the academic-media complex. Everyone knows the Nazis were degenerate right-wingers fueled by toxic capitalism and racism. But evidence Hitler’s gang were men of the left while debatable is compelling. — Paul H. Jossey

        • @dacian

          “The last time I checked theU.S. had freedom of speech, religion and a free press…”

          you are correct. the U.S. also has the right to keep and bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment.

          how funny that you seek to deny Americans of their constitutional right under the Second Amendment yet claim the protections of the First Amendment to do so.

          you are a hypocrit, a socialist nazi seeking to destroy constitutional rights by using them to deny others their rights. Its exactly what Hitler did, used the (assumed) ‘rights’ of the Aryan Race to deny rights to millions and murder them. You pathetic piece of worthless shit.

          Take your lying socialist nazi ass elsewhere.

        • A warning from Yugoslavia…for what dacian and his fellow socialists nazis are trying to do.

        • Liberals own guns? Yet everyone of your posts is about how we should disarm the population. You really are a joke.

        • The Nazi’s were as far right as you could get. Just like the Far Right in the U.S. they hated all minorities, were xenophobic, hated all other religions, hated freedom of speech, relaxed gun control laws (contrary to the U.S. far right ignorant myths about them). They hated unions and tried to crush union strikes and their benefits and tried to privatize public utility companies. Just a few of their beliefs that parallel the far right in the U.S.

          Hitler inherited Bismarck’s social programs and although he gave lip service to them he hated them with a passion and did everything he could to destroy most of them.

        • Little d
          you have the 1st Ammendment right to talk shit. I will fight for your right to do so.
          I have the right to tell you to FOAD so please do so.

        • The not-zees were to the left of you and your buddies, dacian. You do nothing but spew hatred and bigotry, just like your hero’s in the not-zees.

  5. Dacien, Funny, I put several thousand rounds through the Remington and never had a failure, nor can I fault the accuracy. The rifle performed extremely well for me in the field. Several documented 1000 meter kills. And, no I will not give any more information.
    I met Gunny Hathcock many years ago. We need more like him.
    We need more people like all of those who stood up and volunteered to serve. Too damn many today feel entitled but are not willing to step up for others and serve.
    For all who served, I thank you for your service. As one who served, I thank those who were worthy of being served. The rest can go suck eggs.

  6. Without the Marine Corps I highly doubt this country would exist. From their very beginning to present day they have rushed into the battle with incredible bravery and I am extremely grateful for all of their sacrifice. May God Bless Them and May God Bless America.

  7. LIED TO THEIR FACE: Biden admin accused of misleading veterans about VA funding.

    • Well it’s theBiden, the only thing he doesn’t lie about is the late night showers with his daughter and a nice big bowl of chocochip ice cream.
      What’s pathetic is he is still.president.
      Long live the Democrap party.

  8. Home Intruder Jumps out Window Head First After 77-Year-Old Home Owner Shoots At Him. (my note: this event happened on 25 May 2023, it made the news. Around the U.S. on 25 May 2023 there were ~2,800 victim defensive gun uses against home invaders that did not make the news but they reside in police reports around the country.)

  9. Hosts of The View Embarrass Themselves Debating AR-15s With Republican Governor.

    • The slot is all buggered because someone didn’t know it’s not a screw. It’s a pin with a slot and tab. One removes it by pushing the mag release plunger all the way through and giving it a half turn. It comes out easily that way and the two halves of the mag release separate.

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