Concealed Carry Means Fewer Murders, Says New Study

Concealed carry Quinnipiac University economist Mark Gius has
published a new study, “An
examination of the effects of concealed weapons laws and assault
weapons bans on state-level murder rates
,” in the journal
Applied Economics Letters. From the abstract:

The purpose of the present study is to determine the effects of
state-level assault weapons bans and concealed weapons laws on
state-level murder rates. Using data for the period 1980 to 2009
and controlling for state and year fixed effects, the results of
the present study suggest that states with restrictions on the
carrying of concealed weapons had higher gun-related murder rates
than other states. It was also found that assault weapons bans did
not significantly affect murder rates at the state level. These
results suggest that restrictive concealed weapons laws may cause
an increase in gun-related murders at the state level. The results
of this study are consistent with some prior research in this area,
most notably Lott and Mustard (1997).


For more background: The most recent Reason-Rupe poll reports
63 percent of Americans
don’t believe that stricter gun laws
would keep weapons out of the hands of criminals.

from Hit & Run

Rand Paul Shows Some Charm, for Festivus Grievance Airings and Against the Drug War and Peter King

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) pre-working on that human touch stuff
said to be so important to presidential candidates in these here
modern times, as he uses his Twitter
for an alternately serious and comic “airing of the
grievances” for Festivus, the invented holiday from

He’s pissed at bipartisan compromise that always adds up to more
spending; at Senate policies that stifle debate; Federal Reserve
policy that harms the poor and savers; at politicians who only
selectively support the Bill of Rights; at D.C. parking
restrictions and at people (like some of his staff) who tell him
not to wear turtlenecks on TV.

A nice spinoff from the Twittering has been Paul engaging his
Senate colleague Cory Booker from New Jersey for not retweeting him
enough, giving Paul an opportunity to
hype his own efforts at drug war reform
, including mandatory
minimum sentencing reform and industrial hemp legalization.

Late last week, one of Paul’s
presumptive opponents
in a very likely presidential run in
2016, New York Rep. Peter King, helped remind Americans why it
might be nice having a Rand Paul on their side by saying
Paul has disgraced his office
for such un-American acts as
calling out National Intelligence director James Clapper for
deliberately lying to a Senate committee.

This is exactly the kind of fight Paul can likely expect, from
GOP primary opponents likely of greater importance than the hapless
King. It was a mitzvah from King to get Paul primed for it. Paul
running in Republican primaries will be in part a fight over tribal
identity politics with the security state that imprison too many
Republicans, contrasting that ugly impulse with an actual
wide-range belief in limited, constitutional government that
respects Americans rights.

I am afraid it might be a harder fight than Paul expects, but
look forward to watching the melee.

from Hit & Run

Art Cashin Poetically Laments Bitcoins, Binge-Viewing, Boston, Baltimore, And Bargaining Brokers

“Twas the days before Christmas, and all across the street, not a human was trading…” but, as tradition demands, UBS’ venerable director floor operations – Art Cashin – unleashes his annual poem. Summing up the year in amazing alliteration, Cashin takes on Bitcoins, The Fed, the Volcker Rule, and… Anthony Weiner.


Via Art Cashin,



‘Tis two days before Christmas

and at each brokerage house

The only thing stirring

was the click of a mouse


Down on the Exchange

the tape inches along

Brokers bargained and traded

as they hummed an old song


The Fed kept on printing

yet few jobs did appear

But it’s time to move on

so they’ll taper next year


Boston won the World Series

Baltimore took the Bowl

But Tiger still struggles

to get the ball in the hole


From Bitcoins to Binge-viewing

brand new things did occur

And the Prez took a selfie

that caused quite a stir


There was a government shutdown

most folks called it a sham

And to slow down the Senate

a guy read “Green Eggs and Ham”


In Cleveland three women

finally freed of their fears

Held captive by a mad man

for nearly ten years


The Pope said he resigned

an occurrence quite rare

A new Pope named Francis

new sits in that chair


Back tried Spitzer and Weiner

they brought little to cheer

But it’s Christmastime, Alice

and Santa is near


So stop looking backwards

have a cup of good cheer

And kiss you a loved one

raise your hopes for next year


And amidst all the trading

Christmas themes we will heed

And share our good fortune

with families in need


And tomorrow they’ll pause

as we wait on the bell

To sing a tradition

a song for old “Nell”


Don’t let this year’s problems

impede Christmas Cheer

Resolve to be happy

throughout the New Year


And resist ye Grinch feelings

let joy never stop

Put the bad at the bottom

keep the good on the top


So count up your blessings

along with your worth

You’re still living here

in the best place on earth


And think ye of wonders

that light children’s eyes

And hope Santa will bring you

that Christmas surprise


So play ye a carol

by Mario Lanza

Unless you are waiting

to celebrate Kwanzaa


Hanukkah’s over

And Ramadan’s gone

Different folks, different holidays

yet each spirit lives on


Whatever your feast is

we hope you all still

Find yourself just surrounded

by folks of goodwill


Tuesday, as the bell rings

hark to your heart’s call

And as Santa would shout

Merry Christmas to All!


via Zero Hedge Tyler Durden

Paul Krugman Spastically and Irrationally Attacks Bitcoin…Here’s My Response

The last aggressive anti-Bitcoin tirade I recall from Paul Krugman was written on April 14th of this year. It was such an irrational piece of drivel that I decided to respond to his Op-ed nearly paragraph by paragraph in my piece, Paul Krugman Goes on the Attack: Calls Bitcoin “Antisocial,” which I strongly suggest you read if you haven’t already.

What is most interesting about that previous article in hindsight is that he wrote it right after Bitcoin experienced its first major crash of 2013 (there have been two thus far, both after greater than 10-fold increases in the price). While I know Krugman periodically attacks Bitcoin, it’s interesting that this latest Bitcoin hit piece also came directly after the second crash. For those who are holders of Bitcoin, this should be taken as a very positive price signal going forward. Krugman’s prior article was written the day before the abolsute low price for the decline was reached at $50/btc on April 15th. It seems that Krugman becomes particularly comfortable slamming Bitcoin only after a price crash.

In any event, his latest Op-ed is almost as bad as the first one, and so I thought it’d be worthwhile to highlight his ignorance, irrationality and blatant use of statist propaganda once again. So let’s go.

From the New York Times:

This is a tale of three money pits. It’s also a tale of monetary regress — of the strange determination of many people to turn the clock back on centuries of progress.

The first money pit is an actual pit — the Porgera open-pit gold mine in Papua New Guinea, one of the world’s top producers. The mine has a terrible reputation for both human rights abuses (rapes, beatings and killings by security personnel) and environmental damage (vast quantities of potentially toxic tailings dumped into a nearby river). But gold prices, while down from their recent peak, are still three times what they were a decade ago, so dig they must.

The second money pit is a lot stranger: the Bitcoin mine in Reykjanesbaer, Iceland. Bitcoin is a digital currency that has value because … well, it’s hard to say exactly why, but for the time being at least people are willing to buy it because they believe other people will be willing to buy it. It is, by design, a kind of virtual gold. And like gold, it can be mined: you can create new bitcoins, but only by solving very complex mathematical problems that require both a lot of computing power and a lot of electricity to run the computers.

In the three paragraphs above, Krugman in employing a strategy that anti-gold people have used for years if not decades. That it is wasteful and environmentally destructive to mine for gold since it has no real purpose. Interesting. What purpose do diamonds have Paul? Did you buy your wife a diamond ring for your engagement? Did you make sure it wasn’t a blood diamond? Aren’t people likely raped and exploited in the mining of diamonds? I wonder how many articles Krugman has written on the destructiveness of diamond mining, a gem that isn’t even rare to begin with.

I tend to notice a huge hypocrisy from statists that in reality hate gold because it is a competing monetary asset, but then attempt to explain away their disdain using another, more publicly palatable rationale such as environmental destruction. After all, gold should get some credit for having at least has two hugely significant historical purposes. It has been valued for both its beauty and durability as jewelry, as well as for its monetary attributes. Diamonds have one primary purpose only recently established due to extensive marketing efforts (also in drills but you get the point), which is as a status or wealth symbol, so you’d think Krugman and other statists would get far more hot and bothered about blood diamonds than gold; but do they? No, they don’t. The hypocrisy is obvious.

The second thing Krugman does in the latest Op-Ed is to take this faux criticism and then attach it to Bitcoin. See the following paragraph:

Hence the location in Iceland, which has cheap electricity from hydropower and an abundance of cold air to cool those furiously churning machines. Even so, a lot of real resources are being used to create virtual objects with no clear use.

No clear use? Really, Krugman? There is nothing useful about essentially costless transfers of value on a peer-to-peer basis? There is no value to monetary transfers that eliminate expensive and parasitic middlemen? There is no value to using a public key as a way to ask for payment, thus reducing  enormous security concerns caused by providing all your private information to hundreds of merchants using credit cards? No value to being able to send millions of dollars across the globe in minutes rather than days? No value to free market currencies competing with state currencies? No value to economic freedom?

There are plenty of valid criticisms of Bitcoin, and a clear and thoughtful expression of those criticisms can only help the marketplace improve free-market crypto currencies in the future. Yet the irrational, ramblings of a statist who clearly hasn’t taken two minutes to objectively analyze Bitcoin is of no use to anyone and a disgrace to a supposedly highbrow newspaper like the New York Times.

His full Op-Ed is here if you have the stomach.

In Liberty,

 Follow me on Twitter.

Paul Krugman Spastically and Irrationally Attacks Bitcoin…Here’s My Response originally appeared on A Lightning War for Liberty on December 23, 2013.

continue reading

from A Lightning War for Liberty

Obama Administration Makes Secretive Last-Minute Deadline Change to Obamacare

Deadlines? Who needs ‘em? Not when it comes to
Obamacare anyway. Today was set to be the final day to sign up for
coverage that begins on January 1 of next year. But the
administration has quietly extended that deadline by an additional
24 hours. And by quietly, I mean, with no official announcement at
all. News of the delay comes from two unnamed sources who

confirmed the move
to The Washington

At midnight Monday, the official deadline arrives for Americans
to sign up through the new federal health insurance exchange for
health plans that begin Jan. 1. But, without any public
announcement, Obama administration officials have changed the rules
so that people will have an extra day to enroll, according to two
individuals with knowledge of the switch.

Over the weekend, government officials and outside IT
contractors working on the online marketplace’s computer system
made a software change that automatically gives people a Jan. 1
start date for their new coverage as long as they enroll by 11:59
p.m. on Christmas Eve. 

The administration had already delayed the deadline by a week;
the original plan had been to cut off sign ups on December 15. But
when it comes to Obamacare, the administration sticks to its
original plans about as well as the average person
sticks to
his or her New Year’s resolutions. Obamacare’s
deadlines are aspirational more than they are

Following the rocky rollout of Obamacare’s online
exchanges, and low sign-up numbers in the federal exchange system,
the administration tacked an extra week on for potential enrollees.
The move comes after an announcement late last Thursday night that
individuals whose existing health plans were canceled as a result
of the health law would be exempt from the individual mandate to
purchase health insurance next year.  

Not to put too fine a point on it, this is a weird move:
delaying the deadline…and not telling anyone? Not officially
anyway. Even if you count the leaks to The Post as an
announcement, it’s an awfully strange way to set up an

The last-minute timing is also rather telling. The change was
made over the weekend, just before the last to sign up, right
before a holiday week in which not many people are reading the
news. That sounds an awful lot like the administration is nervous
about sign-up numbers so far and is looking for way to nudge the
totals a little bit higher without looking too desperate.

But desperate, and perhaps slightly panicked, is exactly how
this looks. With lots of plan cancellations on the horizon, and
sign up numbers running far short of what was projected prior to
the launch of the exchanges, the administration appears to be
grasping for some way to keep the law’s potential failures at bay.
Hence the slew of late-breaking amendments and updates we’ve seen
over the past few weeks. 

Remember that just a couple weeks ago, when the administration
announced another set of Obamacare-related deadline changes, a
spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

refused to say
that the administration was confident that more
people would gain coverage next January than lose it. Secretive,
last-minute changes like this don’t exactly suggest that the
administration’s confidence has increased since then. Neither
should anyone else’s. 

from Hit & Run

Obamacare Deadline Extended One More Day

Things are going so well for Obamacare that the administration has decided, at the very last minute, to extend the deadline to sign-up for Jan1st coverage through the end of Christmas Eve. As WSJ reports, this change – which follows weeks of last-minute policy shifts – gives young people and the uninsured 24 more valuable hours to decide but, as we have previously noted, initial sign-up tallies are falling dramatically short of expectations.


Via WSJ,


The deadline was originally set for midnight on Dec. 23, but contractors managing the site changed configurations to allow users to sign up for the first wave of health-law coverage through Dec. 24, people familiar with the matter said.


The change follows weeks of last-minute policy shifts for the administration. Last week, for instance, with only days before the enrollment deadline, the Obama administration said people whose plans were canceled would be exempted from a requirement that people buy coverage or pay a fee next year.



The late changes have rattled insurers and left some customers uncertain what options are available to them. Some health insurers say the changes could undermine their market by obscuring their ability to predict business risks and set prices accurately.



But initial sign-up tallies are expected to fall far short of expectations: Only 365,000 people nationwide navigated through technologically troubled online marketplaces to enroll in private plans in October and November. On Friday, President Obama told reporters a million more had enrolled in the first weeks of December, but the totals still fall short of a 3.5 million-enrollee target for the private plans by the year’s end.

Of course, with the pitchman-in-chief busy on the links, we wonder how much difference this will make…


via Zero Hedge Tyler Durden







When the God of all fiat inflated

All those in his realm were elated

Their joy was a lie

And now they must die

For hazard was all he created

The Limerick King







When they came to the end of their climb

They discovered the source of the crime

The All Seeing Eye

Shone bright in the sky

Destroyer of wealth for all time

The Limerick King









via Zero Hedge williambanzai7

Belief in God, Devil, Heaven, Hell, Miracles, the Survival of the Soul, Jesus’ Divinity, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection Are Down; Belief in Darwinism Is Up

the results of a new Harris poll:

Betty stands athwart biology, yelling Stop.

Three-quarters of U.S. adults say they believe in God,
down from 82 percent in 2005, 2007 and 2009, a Harris Poll
indicates. The Harris Poll found 57 percent of U.S. adult say they
believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, down from 60 percent in 2005,
and 72 percent say they believe in miracles, down from 79 percent
in 2005, while 68 percent say they believe in heaven, down from 75
percent. Sixty-eight percent say they believe Jesus is God or the
son of God, down from 72 percent; and 65 percent say they believe
in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, down from 70 percent.

Sixty-four percent say they believe in the survival of the soul
after death, down from 69 percent in 2005; 58 percent say they
believe in the devil, down from 62 percent; 58 percent say they
believe in hell, down from 62 percent.

Forty-seven percent say they believe in Darwin’s theory of
evolution, compared to 42 percent in 2005.

Note that while Darwin’s trendline is the only one moving
upward, his number of believers is still lower than the figures
posted by everything before it on that list. Darwinism does come in
ahead of creationism, which according to Harris has captured the
beliefs of just 36 percent of America’s adults. Ghosts get 42

from Hit & Run

Belief in God, Devil, Heaven, Hell, Miracles, the Survival of the Soul, Jesus' Divinity, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection Are Down; Belief in Darwinism Is Up

the results of a new Harris poll:

Betty stands athwart biology, yelling Stop.

Three-quarters of U.S. adults say they believe in God,
down from 82 percent in 2005, 2007 and 2009, a Harris Poll
indicates. The Harris Poll found 57 percent of U.S. adult say they
believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, down from 60 percent in 2005,
and 72 percent say they believe in miracles, down from 79 percent
in 2005, while 68 percent say they believe in heaven, down from 75
percent. Sixty-eight percent say they believe Jesus is God or the
son of God, down from 72 percent; and 65 percent say they believe
in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, down from 70 percent.

Sixty-four percent say they believe in the survival of the soul
after death, down from 69 percent in 2005; 58 percent say they
believe in the devil, down from 62 percent; 58 percent say they
believe in hell, down from 62 percent.

Forty-seven percent say they believe in Darwin’s theory of
evolution, compared to 42 percent in 2005.

Note that while Darwin’s trendline is the only one moving
upward, his number of believers is still lower than the figures
posted by everything before it on that list. Darwinism does come in
ahead of creationism, which according to Harris has captured the
beliefs of just 36 percent of America’s adults. Ghosts get 42

from Hit & Run

Mikhail Kalashnikov, Creator Of World’s Most Popular Assault Rifle, Has Died At 94

It is perhaps ironic that the creator of the AK-47 assault rifle, also known as the Kalashnikov named for its creator Mikhail Kalashnikov, and of which there are between 70 and 100 million in circulation making it the world’s most popular weapon, has just passed away from what is essentially old age, at 94. “It is difficult and sad to realize that Mikhail Kalashnikov is no longer with us. We have lost one of the most talented, memorable and committed patriots of Russia, who served his country throughout his life,” said the statement from the press secretary of the Udmurtia administration Viktor Chulkov.

RT reports that Kalashnikov, who had been suffering from heart-related problems in recent years, had been in intensive care in Izhevsk – where the plant that produces the eponymous rifles is located – since November 17. The official cause of death will be revealed following a mandatory autopsy.

More on Kalashnikov’s passing from RT:

A public funeral will be organized by the regional administration, in consultation with surviving relatives, though no date has been named so far.


For most of his life, Kalashnikov was feted as a straightforward hero.


The self-taught peasant turned tank mechanic who never finished high school, but achieved a remarkable and lasting feat of engineering while still in his twenties.


But as the rifles, inextricably linked forever to their creator by name, were more and more commonly seen in the hands of terrorists, radicals and child soldiers, the inventor was often forced to defend himself to journalists.


He was forever asked if he regretted engineering the weapon that probably killed more than any other in the last fifty years.


“I invented it for the protection of the Motherland. I have no regrets and bear no responsibility for how politicians have used it,” he told them.


On a few occasions, when in a more reflective mood, the usually forceful Kalashnikov wondered what might have been.


“I’m proud of my invention, but I’m sad that it is used by terrorists,” he said once.


“I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work – for example a lawnmower.”


Indeed, at his museum in Izhevsk, where he spent most of his life working at the factory that was eventually named after him, there is an ingenious mechanical lawnmower Kalashnikov invented to more easily take care of the lawn at his country house.


It’s not what he will be remembered for.


Considering his age and circumstances, it was hardly surprising that Kalashnikov felt he could best serve his country by creating weapons.

His life story, as presented in a prepared obit by the FT:

Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov was born on 10 November 1919 into humble surroundings in western Siberia. After basic secondary schooling he became a technician on the Turkestan-Siberian railway. When the second world war came he was drafted as a tank mechanic to the front near Bryansk in the west of Russia. Within months he was injured and it was in hospital that he became obsessed by his dream.


“I decided to build a gun of my own which could stand up to the Germans. It was a bit of a crazy escapade, I suppose. I didn’t have any specialist education and I couldn’t even draw,” he said. His first designs attracted little attention, but on release from hospital he went back to his engine workshop in Siberia to try to make a prototype.


It was not long before he was on his way to Alma-Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan, with his first model in his hand. On arrival in the town, he was arrested for carrying unauthorised firearms, but the police soon released him when he told them of his dream project.


Kalashnikov went straight to the Communist party for advice and was sent to several provincial institutes. After a determined battle with the bureaucrats, he finally made it to Moscow. But the diminutive sergeant was scorned by the top brass, including generals such as Vasily Degtyaryov, the Soviet Union’s most prominent weapons designer between the wars.


Kalashnikov was so shy that he signed his sketches “MikhTim”, the first syllables of his first names. But he persevered, and by 1949 had been awarded the Stalin Prize and made a Hero of Socialist Labour. The same year he was transferred to Izhevsk to supervise production. So secretive were the testings of the rifle that photographs were forbidden and cartridge cases had to be picked up after firing. By the mid-50s the AK-47 literally, the Automatic Kalashnikov made in 1947, was standard issue to the Soviet armed forces.


It was only in the 1960s, when he became a member of the Supreme Soviet, the then parliament in Moscow, that Kalashnikov emerged from the obscurity of Izhevsk. Even in the early 1980s, however, he was ordered not to reply to a letter from an American academic for fear of inadvertently disclosing information.


In May 1990, on his first visit to the old cold war enemy, he was introduced in Washington to Eugene Stoner, designer of the M-16, the closest thing to an American equivalent of the AK-47, which was first issued to US troops in 1961. Kalashnikov’s clothes were shabby. The few dollars in his pocket had been given by his factory and by the American institute sponsoring the trip. He later recalled: “Stoner has his own aircraft I can’t even afford my own plane ticket.”


Kalashnikov’s personal life was fraught with tragedy. He met his wife Yekaterina at an army testing range near Moscow. She was a graphic artist and helped him put his designs on paper. They married in 1943 and had four children, although he saw little of them because of his work schedule. Yekaterina died in 1977 after a long illness, and his youngest daughter Natalia moved in to keep him company, only to die in a car crash six years later.


His hearing failing him, he lived alone for his final 10 years, although Yelena, another of his daughters, would visit him on Sundays to do the cleaning. His only perks were a driver and a country dacha by the lake. On his trips abroad, usually as part of a Russian delegation to an arms fair, he would always be accompanied by Yelena, who smoothed the path with her passable English.


Kalashnikov retained the title of chief designer at the Izhevsk factory that produced the AK-47 and related models, and in his later years would go to work on designs for new hunting rifles. He was an avid shooter, and with his son Viktor and a close-knit group of friends would go hunting for elk in the snow. Relaxing after a hunt in the factory’s dacha three hours outside the town, he often took to musing about his life.


His reflections were tinged with sadness that his rifle had become the tool of terrorist groups from the former Soviet republics, to Africa to Northern Ireland. “I wanted my invention to serve peace,” he once said. “I didn’t want it to make war easier. Constructors have never been given their just deserts in this country. If the politicians had worked as hard as we did, the guns would never have got into the wrong hands.”

Some visual info on the legendary gun:


Finally, a summary on the legacy of the world’s most popular gun from Weapons and Warfare:

AK-46 prototype disassembled
Post-1951 production Kalashnikov AK rifle with milled receiver and bayonet attached, right side
 Kalashnikov AKMN rifle (Modernized, with Night sight mounting bracket on the left side of receiver), with muzzle compensator installed


The Long Road to the AK-47

No firearm in history has enjoyed the fame or popularity of the assault rifle known as the AK-47, or Kalashnikov. Created by a Soviet weapons designer at the dawn of the Cold War, it was mass-produced and distributed worldwide in the millions, leading to its canonization in the revolutionary Third World of the 1950s and 1960s. Indeed, far beyond its utility, the AK-47 became a Cold War icon, appearing on revolutionary flags, in songs and poems, and in televised insurgencies as proof of communist fervor and supposed martial superiority. And it continues to play a major role in warfare today, most visibly in guerrilla conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.

The AK-47 has succeeded so wildly because it is almost an ideal realization of the personal firearm: where most weapons have had to contend with tradeoffs between accuracy, lethality, speed of fire, reliability, cost of production, and ease of carrying and use, the AK-47 managed to find a sweet spot maximizing these traits. In fact, the weapon is so reliable, effective, and easy to use by untrained operators that its advent made it widely possible for just about any group, even with little money, modern technology, or formal military training, to mount significant, deadly assaults against a much larger and more advanced force — a fact that has transformed the face of warfare and created a revolutionary romance that still surrounds the weapon.

Since gunpowder is not static in power in the way that human muscle is, once fiery arms were invented in the fourteenth century, they would in theory constantly improve in a way that bows, slings, and swords could not. But in reality, centuries of technological stagnation followed the invention of the first gun: for example, the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century “Brown Bess” flintlock musket remained almost unchanged during its use by the British Empire over the course of more than a century. Early muskets and their predecessors had slow rates of fire and poor accuracy and reliability, and thus did not always ensure battlefield superiority over arrows, edged weapons, and hand-launched missiles. Benjamin Franklin famously advocated the use of bows by the cash-strapped Continental Army, arguing that they were cheaper, easier to use, and could send more arrows per minute than the musket could fire balls.

The problem was that the various qualities of a good handheld weapon were often mutually exclusive. Increased lethality, for instance, was usually attained by increasing the weight of the firearm and bullets, which often reduced reliability and mobility, and made weapons too expensive to outfit an entire army. So the development of personal firearms was often haphazard, especially during periods of general peace. Black-powder, muzzle-loading, smoothbore (unrifled) firearms were the norm for centuries. Only in the mid-nineteenth century did sophisticated metallurgy and techniques of mass production at last begin to usher in rear-loading models, cartridge ammunition, more powerful and smokeless gunpowder, rifled barrels, and interchangeable, machined parts. The result was a giant leap in the ability of soldiers to kill one another on a mass scale, as the ancient science of effective body armor was unable to keep pace. By the nineteenth century, the personal arms race was on.

The watershed years were those of the American Civil War, which created a race for more rapidly firing and lethal arms. The war that began with the use of muskets and Minié balls ended with the Henry repeating rifle, which allowed a skilled single shooter to load and fire up to twenty-eight times per minute. The war also saw the development of the Gatling machine gun, and, somewhat later, the Maxim, the first fully automatic weapon. The more advanced models of these machines could in theory spit out six hundred rounds per minute, allowing two-man teams to lay down a volume of fire greater than what was possible from a whole company of riflemen. The new machine guns proved revolutionary, especially in the colonial wars in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, in which small numbers of Westerners could trump numerically superior foes, sending a chilling message of technological superiority. The venerable traditions of the mounted lancer, the cavalryman, and the skilled swordsman slipped into decline with the advent of the machine gun.

But the early machine guns, though rapid-fire and quite lethal, were heavy and they often jammed, leaving their operators defenseless. And they were costly and difficult to move and maneuver. Nevertheless, during World War I, improved mobile Maxim, Vickers, and Colt-Browning machine guns reigned supreme across the trenches, overpowering the firing rates of bolt-action, clip-fed rifles. In response to the machine gun’s lethal tyranny on the battlefield, early twentieth-century tacticians began dreaming of an everyman’s mini-machine gun that would diffuse such killing power into the hands of millions of combatants.

The result was the generation of the so-called submachine gun, most prominently the German MP-18, the Italian Villar Perosa and Beretta Model 1918, and the American Thompson (or Tommy Gun). These weapons fired pistol cartridges, allowing for the employment of existing stocks; they were relatively light at around ten pounds; and they could in theory be shot at astounding rates of fire of well over 400 rounds per minute. Whereas World War I was defined by heavy machine guns battling each other in antipodal fashion across clearly defined fields of fire, battles of World War II were frequently fought in jungles, forests, and urban streets, in which the enemy was typically near and highly mobile. Submachine guns proved popular during this war — and spawned a number of cheaper imitations — thanks to their adaptability to a situation in which constant streams of bullets were directed at soldiers from every direction by constantly moving enemies, and enemies were more likely to be stopped by sudden, rapid fire than by precisely aimed shots from small, longer-barrel weapons.

Yet, for a variety of reasons, the new submachine guns could still not entirely replace clip-fed repeating rifles. While they delivered far more bullets per minute, their short barrels allowed only for poor accuracy and limited range. The less powerful pistol cartridges and greater recoil from near-continuous fire also meant that few submachine guns were deadly beyond two hundred yards — a potentially fatal limitation at the times when rifle sharpshooters had clear fields of fire at over a thousand yards. The constant rapid firing, together with the grime, heat, and filthy conditions of battle, made the submachine guns jam far too frequently. And another problem developed during the war that transcended the weapons’ advantage of rapid firing: heavily-laden soldiers simply could not carry enough additional bullets — often larger-caliber .30 and .45 ammunition — to take advantage of their guns’ voracious appetites.

On the other hand, repeating rifles, even when semi-automatic and equipped with enlarged clips and improved barrel and stock designs that allowed a good chance of hits at great distances, did not allow enough shots per minute for the increasingly close-order combat in which enemy soldiers might appear suddenly en masse, and in all conceivable landscapes. Their longer barrels and clumsy shoulder stocks certainly proved a hindrance during close-in fighting. Other tradeoffs arose as millions of combatants joined the Allies or Axis powers in a global war, allowing little time to ensure traditional marksmanship training for men from such widely disparate backgrounds. The advantages that could be gained from employing a more accurate, slower-firing, traditional semi-automatic rifle were often lost by the inexperience of the users. There had been design attempts during World War I to bridge these differences, the most successful of which was the American Browning Automatic Rifle. It was almost as accurate as a rifle, but with a weight of over fifteen pounds and a small magazine of just twenty rounds, riflemen often had to shoot from a prone position, with a barrel tripod and plenty of available magazines nearby.

But in the post-World War II era, a true breakthrough addressed the apparently irreconcilable advantages of submachine guns and repeating, clip-fed rifles. The brilliant compromise became known as the “assault rifle,” the most prominent of which was the Russian Mikhail Kalashnikov’s AK-47 (for automatic Kalashnikov, model 1947), which came into wide use in the early 1950s. Kalashnikov, who benefited from the designs of earlier German and Russian prototypes, seemingly at last solved the six-hundred-year-long dilemma of providing an accurate rifle that was not only capable of firing hundreds of rounds per minute, but was still deadly at ranges of 300-400 yards and beyond. And at under ten pounds, the AK-47 was easy to carry, simple to operate, and highly dependable. Moreover, by using a medium-sized bullet (the 7.62x39mm cartridge, equivalent to about .31 caliber) rather than larger .40 caliber rounds, the AK-47 achieved a deadly muzzle velocity of over 2,300 feet per second. In short, Kalashnikov seemed to have squared the circle by creating a light, cheap, rapid-firing, accurate, reliable, and lethal weapon that was neither rifle nor submachine gun. The gun proved perfect for revolutionaries in Third World countries, and the Kremlin would gleefully reward its new friends with mass deliveries of their wondrous weapon.

The sudden ubiquity of the AK-47 stunned the United States and Europe, and seemed to turn the so-called First World’s advantages in marksmanship and weapon craftsmanship on their heads. Illiterate insurgents, amply equipped with cheap AK-47s — now produced even more inexpensively by an array of Soviet satellite countries — suddenly had at their disposal more firepower than American soldiers. And what did it matter if Western riflemen were in theory better trained or shot a better calibrated and more accurate weapon, when mere teenagers in the tens of thousands could pepper Western troops with bullets?

The widespread export of the AK-47 marked yet another Sputnik-like moment in which state communism seemed to outpace Western entrepreneurialism. And just as the Soviets’ Sputnik success would set off the space race, and as there were other rivalries between the Soviet T-34 tank and its American counterparts, and between MiG-15 and F-86 jet fighters in the skies of Korea, so too was there a competition in assault rifle technology. Not until the early 1960s did the Americans accept that their old reliable M1 and its replacement M14 were woefully wrong for the new non-traditional theaters of the Cold War.

If a new American assault weapon were to follow in the Kalashnikov model, it would have to trump its Russian competitor with greater accuracy and lethality. This goal was seemingly accomplished with the M16 rifle, invented in the 1950s by the legendary arms designer Eugene Stoner. The sleek black assault rifle employed plastic and aluminum alloys to reduce the weight to two pounds less than the rival AK-47. And it used even smaller ammunition — the 5.56x45mm high-velocity bullet that was to become the standard NATO round.

The result was that, by all accounts, the M16 proved to be an exceptionally reliable and accurate assault rifle. Its smaller-caliber bullet was in some ways as lethal as the AK-47’s larger ammunition, as it had a muzzle velocity of over 3,000 feet per second, and the bullet tended to break up after penetrating flesh. The M16 also proved somewhat easier to handle and had less recoil than the AK-47. And soldiers could carry far more of the lighter-weight ammunition. The ensuing shoot-off between the two weapons in the Vietnam War was supposed to make clear the American gun’s advantages in rates of fire, accuracy, and lethality.

But just the opposite proved to be true — at least in the first four years of the M16’s wide use. Jamming was chronic, apparently due to initial design flaws in the gun, manufacturing problems with the gunpowder, and soldiers’ frequent failure to clean the weapon regularly amid the humidity and dirt of the jungle. In contrast, the AK-47 seemed nearly indestructible, in part due to its simpler construction and greater tolerances. In Vietnam, at least, the verdict favored the notion of an uncomplicated assault rifle that compensated for lost accuracy by achieving greater reliability, simplicity of use, and a larger bullet.

The AK-47 further exasperated Westerners by its cheap fabrication from stamped metals and its brilliant operation with just a few working parts. By the late 1960s, soldiers were taking apart, cleaning, and reassembling the weapon in about half the time required for the M16. Something that felt and looked so “cheap,” and that was produced by the Communist Bloc notorious for its shoddily manufactured products, surely, it seemed, could not be comparable to a rifle designed by the Americans, the British, or the Germans, with their far more distinguished firearms pedigree.

Yet the Communist Bloc continued to meet world demand with millions of AK-47s. And when the Soviet Union collapsed, its former republics and clients often sought to unload their stockpiles at discounted prices. Ironically, the United States eventually became the largest purchaser of the AK-47 in its efforts to supply poorer allies — such as some areas of the former-Yugoslavia, post-Saddam Iraq, and Afghanistan — with cheap, reliable assault rifles without its own large fingerprints on the arm sales. The result today is that some 75 million AK-47s have been produced, with most still in circulation, making it the most ubiquitous weapon in the history of firearms — dwarfing the M16’s eight million.

The debate between exponents of the AK-47 and the M16 has never been resolved, in part because both guns continued to evolve with subsequent improved models and have now both been superseded by more recent designs; in part because ideology and national chauvinism were inseparable from dispassionate analysis; and in part because the relative value of accuracy versus reliability is so subjective. In any case, NATO troops in general felt that their improved models of M16s by the 1980s had proved superior, even as some of the old problems of jamming and insufficient stopping power sometimes reappeared during the harsh conditions of sand and heat during the most recent Iraq War.

The story of the AK-47, amid the ongoing saga of rifle evolution, has in recent years spawned a number of popular books. The best is C. J. Chivers’s scholarly The Gun. Chivers takes a properly skeptical view of many of the claims by Mikhail Kalashnikov surrounding the birth of AK-47, and offers a sober and fair account of the acrimonious rivalry between the M16 and AK-47. In dispassionate fashion, Chivers concludes that few inventions of the twentieth century have done so much to kill so many through “war, terror, atrocity, and crime.” But after such a clear-headed analysis of the AK-47, he surprisingly offers the emotional hope that eventually the seasons, aging, and wear and tear will finally rid the world of this nearly indestructible menace — and with it the bestowing into the hands of untrained near-children the world over the power to kill indiscriminately and en masse. To this hope, one might rejoin that the fault is not in our stars, but in our selves.

Larry Kahaner’s book AK-47: The Weapon that Changed the Face of War is a lighter but nevertheless engaging story of the contemporary AK-47 as a cultural phenomenon. He too reminds us that many of the terrorist movements and insurgencies in Asia, Latin America, and especially Africa would have been impossible without the widespread dispersion of the AK-47, the ideal weapon for impoverished, poorly trained mercenaries. He points out that the acrimonious controversy between the AK-47 and the M16 resurfaced again forty years after Vietnam during the post-Saddam Hussein insurgency, when improved versions of both assault rifles collided in the streets of urban Iraq. And the verdict was again ambiguous, as U.S. troops still largely preferred their own weapons but developed a grudging respect for the insurgents’ “bullet hoses,” which shot streams of deadly large-caliber bullets at close ranges and seemed impervious to the sand and heat of the Iraqi landscape.

Then there is the book by Mikhail Kalashnikov himself. Now a nonagenarian, Kalashnikov was presented in 2009 with the title Hero of the Russian Federation, the country’s highest honor. With the help of his daughter Elena Joly, Kalashnikov wrote an autobiography, first published in French in 2003 and available in a 2006 English translation. Kalashnikov fought during the worst months of the German invasion of Russia; in 1941, in a failed counter-offensive, he was almost killed when his Red Army tank regiment was cut off and overwhelmed.

During a long subsequent illness and recovery, Kalashnikov’s innate gun-making talents were noticed. And so, despite his lack of formal design training, he was soon promoted to work with a team of Soviet engineers, quickly emerged as a senior designer, and was mostly responsible for the AK-47. The most fascinating chapters in Kalashnikov’s story are about the nightmare of life in Stalin’s Soviet Union, in which any achievement, commercial or intellectual, earned envy that in turn might translate into accusations of being a counter-revolutionary, would-be elite, often with deadly repercussions.

As Chivers and Kahaner point out, and as is discernible in Kalashnikov’s memoir, his relationship with his own deadly invention over the last two-thirds of a century has proved erratic. Kalashnikov is proud of his promotion to the rank of lieutenant general in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, and under Communist rule he was twice honored as a Hero of Socialist Labor. Yet even as Kalashnikov details the horrors of Stalinist Russia that resulted in his own family’s brutal exile, he concludes, “I consider Stalin as one of the great national leaders of the twentieth century, and as a great army leader.”

Kalashnikov takes great trouble to note that the AK-47 grew out of an effort to protect his homeland from a repeat of the sort of barbaric invasion that Hitler unleashed, adding that he did not profit, at least in Western style, from the sales of some 100 million weapons that bear his name (including variants on the AK-47). And yet Kalashnikov seems almost longingly to note the millions of dollars in profits that came to Eugene Stoner from his M16, even as he ostensibly prefers the public acclaim in Russia that was never accorded to Stoner in the United States. That same paradox characterizes Kalashnikov’s occasional regret that his invention became the signature weapon among terrorists and bandits — many of them now deadly enemies of Russia itself — juxtaposed with his pride in the astounding success of a supposedly defensive AK-47. Speaking at a ceremony honoring the sixtieth anniversary of the weapon, he claimed, “I sleep well. It’s the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence.”

So what in the end are we to make of the AK-47, given that people ultimately kill one another and design weapons that do it so effectively? A perfect storm of events explains the gun’s lethal role in eroding civilization over the last six decades. The impoverished post-colonial world was eager for the sort of advanced weapons that had characterized a near-century of endemic warfare in the more advanced West, and the Soviet Union was eager to fan liberationist movements against the West. It took the postwar glamour of international communism, the industrial muscle of the Soviet Union, and a Russian genius with no higher education but great practical savvy to at last provide millions with such parity, meeting the requirements of a new arms lethality at very little cost. The result was the tragedy of a global assault rifle that has been crucial to self-described liberationists in furthering so often the cause of tyranny.


via Zero Hedge Tyler Durden