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“Weapons of War” is a Worthless Term

The media and anti-gun politicians are throwing around the term, “weapons of war” a lot these days. This terminology is often used to describe AR-15s and similar looking rifles. There’s a problem with this, mainly, “weapons of war” is a completely worthless term. It simply cannot be used as an accurate descriptor since it could be applied to just about any firearm.

Brown Bess

The history of “weapons of war” in America

The original “weapon of war” in America was the Brown Bess, pictured above. This was a smooth bore musket used by the regular army in the Revolutionary War, but it was the primary musket used by the civilian population. The Brown Bess and similar firearms are what won the American Revolution. Without an armed population, armed with the same firearms the military used, the American Revolution would have not been successful.

The Founding Fathers did not win the revolution off of the back of a civilian owned population and then expect the population to turn in their rifles. But I digress, let’s return to “weapons of war” in American history.

M1903 Springfield

The photo above is the M1903 Springfield, the primary rifle used by American soldiers during World War I. This looks like a regular bolt action hunting rifle – commonly referred to as a “hunting rifle” these days. But how can a hunting rifle be the same as a weapon of war? Just 103 years ago, this was the rifle used by the average foot soldier. This was the weapon of war not half of America’s life span ago.

Let’s advance a little bit to more recent history.

M1 Garand Rifle

The ever iconic M1 Garand. The first semi auto rifle to be used at a large scale in warfare. The M1 Garand was the primary rifle of American soldiers just 72 years ago. There are still people alive today that took this “weapon of war” into combat. Yet this rifle does not include many of the features that are commonly called for a ban. The M1 Garand even uses a cartridge that is larger than the 5.56 used by our military.

Even though millions of M1 Garands saw service in the hands of the US Military, is the M1 Garand no longer a “weapon of war?”

M14 Rifle

Now let’s look at the M14, which is essentially an updated design of the M1 Garand to accept box fed magazines. Still doesn’t look anything like the “weapons of war” held in the hands of politicians calling for the banning of rifles with certain features. The M14 rifle saw widespread service in Vietnam and Korea, just 63 years ago. Variations of this rifle have even seen service in the recent conflict in the Middle East. While technically full auto, the recent versions of the rifle were primarily used in semi auto as a Designated Marksman Rifle. The military didn’t even want to use the selector switch on this “weapon of war.”

These rifles previously mentioned don’t even shoot high power cartridges such as .338 Lapua. In this campaign against “weapons of war” – why is it the AR-15 which is getting the heat, but bolt action rifles capable of hitting targets over a mile away face no scrutiny? Large caliber bolt action rifles see combat today in the hands of the US Military.

M24 Rifle

Speaking of bolt action rifles. This is the M24 – a bolt action rifle currently in service by the US Military. Aside from the black stock, it looks just like the stereotypical “hunting rifle.” American soldiers literally have this in their hand today in combat. Is this not a “weapon of war?”

Out of all of these rifles in America’s military history, none of them look like the scary black rifle anti-gun politicians are rallying against. Not even all of these “weapons of war” feature a selector switch to enable fully automatic fire. Furthermore, semi auto rifles such as the AR-15 are capable of being shot at the same rate of fire as a fully automatic M4 if you have a fast enough trigger pull.

1911 Handgun

Is the term “weapon of war” applied to only rifles? Or does it apply to handguns as well? The handgun above is the 1911, a classic handgun used by the US Military for many years. It only has a 7 round magazine, which is underneath the 10 round limit imposed by some states to ban “high capacity” magazines. Is this not a “weapon of war” even though it doesn’t include any of the features anti-gunners are clamoring to be banned?

Modern day civilian market

Ruger Mini 14

This is a Ruger Mini 14 rifle. It is functionally the same as the M14 used by the military, but it shoots .223 instead of .308. Aside from the ergonomics, it functions the same as an AR-15. It’s semi auto, feeds from a box fed magazine, and is capable of sustained fire. Does this count as a weapon of war?

Springfield Armory M1A

What about the Springfield Armory M1A? It shoots .308, the same caliber as the military’s M14. .308 is even a larger than the 5.56 used by the military in our current primary rifle, the M4. Is this rifle a “weapon of war” or not?

The Militia is the people

All of that being said, it doesn’t matter much. The point of the 2nd Amendment is to arm the population to defend itself against a tyrannical government – be it a foreign government trying to invade or our current government trying to take away control from the people. America is supposed to be by the people, for the people after all. The right to bear arms ensures the people retain power over the government.

Thanks to the recent ruling from the US Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, we have the following quotes straight from the Supreme Court.

“The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

The people have the right to bear arms, not the government. The people have the right to bear arms in order to preserve the state.

“The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. … The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved.”

The “militia” is everyone – all males able of acting in defense of the nation. This gives the people the right to keep and bear arms so the citizens’ militia is preserved. How can the people be a citizens’ militia without proper arms? Or, “weapons of war” as the anti-gun movement are calling them.


“None of the Court’s precedents forecloses the Court’s interpretation. Neither United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542, nor Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252, refutes the individual-rights interpretation. United States v. Miller, 307 U. S. 174, does not limit the right to keep and bear arms to militia purposes, but rather limits the type of weapon to which the right applies to those used by the militia, i.e., those in common use for lawful purposes.”

The 2nd Amendment limits the right to keep and bear arms to small arms that would commonly be used by a militia. The 2nd Amendment doesn’t give citizens the right to a F-22 fighter jet, or an Atomic Bomb, but arms that would be used by the militia – arms in “common use for lawful purposes.”

Even if “weapons of war” was a viable term that had any usefulness, the 2nd Amendment guarantees citizens the right to bear arms – even if those arms would be used in war.

Quick side note: notice nothing in that Supreme Court ruling mentioned anything about whether or not Americans “need” a particular firearm or not. The 2nd Amendment isn’t in the “Bill of Needs” – it is in the Bill of Rights.

Militias fight wars. The American people are the American Militia. We are allowed to bear arms for war.

Don’t like the 2nd Amendment? File for an amendment to the constitution.

Brian Purkiss
Written by

Brian Purkiss is a Christian, husband, competitive shooter, firearms instructor, proponent for individual liberty and Second Amendment rights, and a web developer. He primarily focues on USPSA and Run & Gun competitions, but enjoys most other forms of shooting competitions as well.

Images of firearms via Wikipedia

Categories: 2nd Amendment, Vault | Tags: , , , ,

2 responses to ““Weapons of War” is a Worthless Term”

  1. MarkPA says:

    I agree that “weapons of war” is a nonsensical term; nevertheless, to the extent that it might have meaning, it is precisely this genre that has the most protection under the “well regulated militia” purpose.

    Your remark: “. . . [the Brown Bess] was the primary musket used by the civilian population. The Brown Bess and similar rifles are what won the American Revolution” is either an error; or, might be so misinterpreted. The major distinction circa 1775 was the smooth-bore musket vs. the rifle whose barrel was “rifled” to improve accuracy at distance. The war doctrine in that era was for lines of musketmen to fire upon one-another with no particular effort to aim each shot at a single target. Upon firing, the line would reload as fast as possible. The rifle was antithetical to this doctrine because it couldn’t be reloaded nearly as quickly as the musket. The rifle was seen as suitable only for hunting where the rifeman had one shot to down his target before it ran away (or attacked).

    If a “weapon of war” right-to-arms applied in 1775, revolutionaries might have faced British Regulars’ muskets with like muskets only (if WoW were permitted); or, with rifles only (if only hunting weapons were permitted). It was only discovered in the Revolutionary war that rifles could play a decisive role in picking-off British officers at a great distance.

    With 20:20 hindsight, we can see what little sense the term “weapons of war” would have meant – if it had been applied – in the founding era. What should we surmise from this recognition?

    Arguably – in the 20 Century – smoothbore shotguns were NOT WoW serving exclusively for fowling. Yet, the Army Air Corps used shotguners on pickup truck beds shooting clay pidgins to train gunners on bombers. How could the concept of WoW served to inform gun-control law in the first decades of the 20th Century?

    We know 2 things with a high degree of certainty about the 2A. First, that the founding generation ratified – as an explicit purpose – the necessity of a well-regulated (i.e., capable) militia for the security of a free state. Second, that SCOTUS – in Heller and McDonald – acknowledged self-defense as a “primary purpose” underlying the right to keep and bear arms. WoW are clearly protected by the explicit purpose – there is no way out of this explicit declaration. The use of arms in self-defense is too deeply seated in pre- and post-Revolutionary legal doctrine to be excised with any ease.

    • I am well aware of the differences of rifled firearms and smooth bore firearms. Was simply a slip of the tongue, thanks for the catch.

      As for the rest of the comment, thanks for the added perspective! Very well said.

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