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From the Shooting Wire for Monday, October 19
Rent from Within
Editor's Note: Today's feature by Paul Markel touches on a subject that many in the industry would prefer to ignore: the schism between hunters and modern rifle enthusiasts.
"It's just a piece of machinery. They all look the same. There's no pride in craftsmanship." remarked a noted outdoor writer and famed hunter during a recent industry event. A second like-minded individual responded, "Sure they're fine for shooting varmints or prairie dogs, but this craze will come to an end soon." Naturally, they were discussing the Stoner-based self-loading rifle in its many forms.
For more than a decade I have listened as shooting sports "purists" have denigrated and apologized for the "evil" black rifle. Not so long ago I was standing in a gun shop when one of the regulars remarked that "I can see banning some kinds of gun, I mean what does anyone need one of those for anyway?" He gestured in disgust at a couple of semi-automatic carbines on the shelf.
Most of us have read the editorials in the outdoor sports magazines, this editor or that will belittle the black rifle "fad". At best they will concede that some people might find a use for one, but not I. By the end of the written sermon they have firmly emplaced themselves on the moral high ground bidding others to follow in their lofty steps.
I've been in the industry for two decades and have present during these gatherings of purists where the Stoner design is ridiculed and belittled. I've sat quietly as those present responded "Hear, hear" and "Good show old boy."
On the other hand, I have also attended innumerable training courses and events where those in attendance used their Stoner-based rifles. Not a single time during a meal break or post-shooting socializing did anyone in the group bring up the outdated and antiquated single-shot, falling block rifle. Never once did one of these folks disparage the $5000 over-under shotgun as a complete waste of money and resources. I cannot recall an instance where an AR-15 owner has told me that he resented those who stalked and killed antelope just for sport.
Nope, can't recall a single instance of that occurring. Conversely, I have lost count of the times I have been present in a group of sportsman and outdoor types and the subject of the self-loading, gas-operated rifle has come up. It seems to be a favorite pass time for upland game and big game hunters, trap and skeet shooters, and conservationist types to bash and belittle those that would purposely own and shoot the AR platform.
No, I am not painting all hunters and birders with a broad brush. Before you get your panties in a wad be honest with yourself. How many times have you kibitzed with your buddies at the trap range and heard someone reference Stoner rifles as "assault weapons"? When was the last time you attended a benefit for the conservation of ducks, pheasant, whitetail, elk, (insert game preservation society here) and someone at your table made a snide remark about "black rifles"? Be truthful, have you heard that guy spout off about how he can understand banning some kinds of gun? Did you say anything or just nod your head?
Folks, human beings have been having this argument since the dawn of mankind. Flintlock purists saw no sporting value in those new fangled percussion cap guns. U.S. Army troops were saddled with muzzle-loading muskets when cartridge firing, repeating rifles were available. Who would ever need to shoot that fast? Many argued.
At the turn of the century soldiers and peace officers carried single-action revolvers because the semi-automatic pistols couldn't be relied upon and were untested. While we are on the subject, how many purists who see no craftsmanship or pride of ownership in a Stoner rifle would say the same thing about the Model 1911A1 pistol and its myriad clones? That pistol started life as a mass produced, faceless piece of machinery.
Purists have a real problem with the "mad rush", as one outdoor writer described it, of Americans to purchase 100% made in the USA black rifles. Those same folks see no problem buying a Krieghoff, Perazzi, Benelli, or Beretta and sending the profits back to the Old Country.
What these well intentioned, often very intelligent, folks are afflicted with is the "Reasonable Disease". If we are only reasonable and meet the other side halfway then they will be reasonable too. I have a news flash for you purist, anti-Stoner folks. The other side doesn't like you either. They will happily step over your body to get to the rest of us.
We all want to be reasonable. Just think how wonderful our world would be John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington could have been more reasonable and met the British Monarchy halfway. Being reasonable has taken us the edge of the abyss in these United States. I dare say that the founding fathers would scarcely recognize what we have become.
The bedrock foundation of the Constitution, the document that was forged after our forefathers pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, is at this moment being trampled. It has been used as a doormat for incoming congressmen, senators, and yes, even the current occupant of the Oval Office.
This did not happen overnight. We, the good citizens of the United States, have handed over our freedoms under the guise of being reasonable. We have been promised if we will only give a little that the enemies of freedom will be satisfied. They will not be satisfied. Their rotten guts are never full. Consumed by greed for power they take a bit more and a bit more. Can you placate a lion by letting him eat only your foot?
My friends, and we still can be friends, the question is not about whether the "black rifle" is good for the shooting sports industry. It is not whether the Stoner design has a place on the hunting field. The question is will we stand united to protect our freedoms from an ever encroaching enemy. Will we squabble with each other over aesthetics and operating systems or will we lock arms and say "No More!"?
Though it will pain your eyes to read and your ears to hear, the United States Constitution, at the moment the supreme law of the land, does not grant you a "right" to hunt, shooting sporting clays, compete in bull's eye matches or any sport. You hunt only as a privilege of the state. That privilege is not in any way guaranteed.
For those purists in the audience, those who look upon the Stoner design with disgust and distaste, I challenge you to take a moment to reflect. Wade past the emotion and prejudice you have harbored deep down. Be intellectually honest with yourself for a moment.
At this point in history we are in a more precarious position than we ever have been. Either we will unite and demand that our elected public servants adhere to the principles of our founding fathers and the U.S. Constitution or we will fall in the abyss of never ending government intrusion, regulation, and slavery to a system we neither understand nor recognize.
You see, the Stoner designed, gas-operated, self-loading rifle is more that just a machine. There is a definite pride of ownership, the pride that comes from the realization that you are a citizen not a servant. The lawful possession of the black rifle means that you are still a free man in a world where the free man is an endangered species.
Finally, to our grand purists, look down from your moral high ground and see this. The black rifle is a living symbol. It is a symbol not of varmint hunting but of freedom. It is the black rifle that will preserve your privilege to practice the shooting sport of your choice. Embrace this self-loading, gas-operated machine. If the black rifle is lost your nation, all that you hold dear, and your freedom will surely follow.
Markel is a former United State Marine and Peace Officer. He is currently a full-time Small Arms and Tactics instructor for the U.S. Military. Mr. Markel has been writing for the outdoor/firearms world for two decades with hundreds of articles in print.