The Rise and Fall of the Automatic

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The skill and training needed to accurately operate a flintlock musket signified a true marksman in the 1820’s. Loading and shooting two to three times in a minute was a success to be proud of and one had to dedicate a great amount of time to build the habit of an accurate shot. In the course of a century the automation of rifles grew to such a high rate of fire that meant no real skill was needed; just point and shoot and some ensuing damage would occur.

The year 1885 marked the first self-powered machine gun that changed the weapons game dramatically and lead to the first fully automatic rifle just a short 2 years later. Although America’s military was initially poorly- equipped in the onslaught of World War 1, the global warfare fuelled the aggressive development of American light machine guns to properly equip soldiers in the trenches of France against German machine guns. The Thompson submachine gun and the Browning automatic rifle (BAR) were the American counter parts to compete with the growing rifle development going on in many countries.

After World War 2, gun sales to the general public largely came from a massive stock of surrendered and captured weapons from various countries that were sold on the international open market. All types of automatic pistols, sniper rifles, British-made heavy machine guns, and even hand grenades, were available from suppliers all across the United States. The prices were steep at that time, but these wartime weapons easily found their way to Central and South America, Ireland, Asia and Europe into the hands of the revolutionaries of the time.

For the American arms makers Browning and Auto-Ordinance Company (who manufactured the Thompson submachine gun, now Karr Arms) sales to civilians was purely for business growth. They had invested a lot of research, time and money into development of wartime weapons and they needed to see that profit after the demand from the war subsided. As an example of the steep prices that consumers were paying: in those years a Ford Model T cost $290 and a fully automatic M1921 tommy gun with a stick magazine cost $200. A high price that many did not have a problem paying for.