The Committee of Safety Musket of 2002
The Committee of Safety of Massachusetts was a governing body formed to regulate the general Militia in 1774. To put this Militia in good working order (as the verb "regulate" was meant in English of that time), the Committee determined that the Militia needed to be armed with a long gun of the type in common use by the legitimate army of the time---the English Army.

The Committee of Safety directed local manufacture of a long arm that was identical to the Short Land Musket (New Pattern) carried by the English regulars. The Committee clearly intended the militiamen to be armed competitively to the regulars, whether the fight would be side-by-side, or toe-to-toe. Note well, it had a bayonet. A big one.

The original Committee of Safety musket was smoothbore, not rifled. Its range and accuracy were intentionally traded away for an arm that was cheaper and easier to manufacture, and faster to reload, because those specifications agreed with how armies of that day fought. Rifles existed then, and were common among the colonists, but hadn't been adopted broadly by any military at that time.

American militiamen, once our Independence was declared and rebellion was open, shifted away from smoothbore muskets to rifles as their doctrine and tactics evolved from attrition to maneuver. They needed the accuracy and range to use tactics that reduced the exposure of their own forces to fire. Our militiamen traded up from their smoothbore, giving up high volume of fire and commonality with the regulars, to a more-expensive smaller-caliber hunting gun that offered greater range and finer accuracy, but demanded more of its shooter in skill and planning.

Today's regular soldier carries a third-generation sturmgewehr, black gun, or "conscript weapon," a selective fire carbine with detachable box magazines that feed big stacks of small cartridges, each throwing a light bullet with diminished power. The lower-power cartridges allow the carbine to be smaller, lighter, and easier to control (go look at this post on StrategyPage and scroll down to the 14 July item.) This is the poodle-shooter.

The military tactic that calls for this kind of long arm could sacrifice range (from 1000 meters plus to, say, 300) and power (difficult to quantify without geeking out and starting gunnie arguments, so bear with me) in exchange for reduced weight and size of one round of ammunition, reduced recoil, and the ability to discharge multiple rounds with one pull of the trigger.

Colonel Cooper predicted it, and news from SFTT has confirmed it: the tradeoff towards intermediate-cartridge sturmgewehrs has not yielded the expected results. The light 5.56mm bullet don't deliver the same blow to the target as the older, heavier .30 cals do. American soldiers need to place several bullets of 5.56mm to drop a soldier that would have been felled by one bullet from the World War II calibers. The Soviet tradeoff from big-bottle 7.62mm to intermediate 7.62mm was hardly any better. Having to fire more rounds to achieve the same effect negates the logistical advantages of the intermediate cartridge, actually leaving the soldier worse off, because he may have had the opportunity to fire only one round. So if we have truly awakened and are smelling the coffee, our GIs need to trade up, as Kim du Toit recommends.

The principal reason I write this post is to echo numerous eloquent sentiments in the blogosphere, that the war on terrorism will eventually come to us, directly or indirectly, and affect us as individuals otherwise going about our own business. Each of us must examine our vulnerabilities and take such realistic countermeasures as are within reach, rather than let it catch us fat, dumb, and vaguely dissatisfied.

If you agree with that concept, don't hold your breath waiting for the Congress to put the militia in good order. They are preoccupied with erecting Maginot Lines, and hiring people to maintain them.

So you're on your own. You'll have to fit yourself out, with your own money and on whatever guidance you can collect. What would you get, or have you gotten already? If applicable, what would you get first? Please choose better than Uncle Sugar did the last time around.

Constant across all possible solutions, there are competing schools of thought, represented by tradeoff positions in 3-space:

  • money. It must be allocated among capital equipment, versus expendables, versus professional services, such as training and modifications. Prepackaged solutions cost more at small scale, but save on time and commonality.

  • time. How much will you invest in practice, skill and planning? How long you will look for that ideal component, and wait a professional to integrate it? Will you learn to build, modify, or fix your own? Will you roll your own cartridges?

  • network effects, otherwise known as commonality with friend or foe. Can you, or must you, trade with the guy down the block? Can you use what you steal from the opponent? Will liberated gear compel you to fight the way he did?

Like buying a car or a computer, your kit will express your personality, good, bad and indifferent. It will represent your doctrine (or whether you have one). Will you go for the main battle rifles suggested by Kim duToit? Or a Farnam rifle? Or clean up a WWII turn-bolt rifle, become one with it, brew the perfect round for it and so forth, like a Jedi building his own lightsaber?

Choose your requirements and doctrine realistically, and engineer your system to them. And deduct the costs of your system from your adjusted gross income.

(I've been saving this post for some weeks now, chose to publish now while there is even a shred of currency to it.)

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