Probably most of you are familiar with Marko’s essay on Why the Gun is Civilization, (also widely copied and mistakenly attributed to some unknown “Maj. Caudill” ) and maybe also with the “Grail-Gun” series at Borepatch by, ASM826 – which got me thinking about how many of my own guns are “Grail-Guns,” and it seems to me that the Holy Grail was really the chalice of Civilization, so grail-guns are really our way of holding onto that surprising Relic. Interesting confluence, that.
My first rifle, the Krag-Jorgenson M1898 inspired me to learn to shoot – and I almost got into re-enacting. I was bent on acquiring several pieces of Soldiers’ kit, but while looking around the whole turn-of-the-century military re-enacting “scene” pretty much dissolved. So now I have a hat that’s worthy of the era, and an old leather belt and holster, and a 1900-dated Krag bayonet – because before the Gun was Civilization there was The Knife – and it’s a big one! I also set to reading and studying to learn more about the conflict in the Philippines where the Krag rifle saw the most action. I had never known or been taught anything about that time before, and the enthusiasm of it all inspired me to obtain the appropriate side-arm – but not the weak Colt .38 that caused the adoption of the 1911, only its immediate predecessor would do, the M1909 Colt New Service.
I enjoyed firing the old rifle in bolt-action matches at my gun-club (that I joined because my dirt-ridin’ friend who helped me learn to shoot was a member), and thereupon came the second grail; an 1944 M1 Garand from the CMP. And with the fire of Civilization ignited within me, I sought out the companion side-arm, a Colt M1911a1. Had I been from a family of Marines an Ithaca or a Remington-Rand might have been the Grail, but my dad was Navy. And it didn’t stop there, because my brother had an M1 Carbine I had to have one too. His was a Rock-O-La, and mine became a National Postal Meter Carbine. And I also needed bayonets for each rifle and carbine, and the book War Baby detailing the development and wartime production of the carbine, distributed among ten different contractors.
And as an aside for the Garand, while my Father-in-Law was dying a few years ago his roommate (briefly) at the sanitarium was an old soldier who had served in the Pacific Theater as an original Army Ranger. His short term memory wasn’t much better than the FIL, but he could go on at length about his war experience, hiking up and down the mountains of New Guinea in the mud. He said that years later he was at a WWII museum in Hawaii where a rifle was on display, and he recognized the serial-number – it was his own Garand. And so I read The Ghost Mountain Boys, about the New Guinea campaign and then Sledge’s “With the Old Breed” about the fighting at Peleliu and on Okinawa.
But apart from these small bits of study and besides reading about WWI aircraft as a kid, my Military History and tactics knowledge is slim, thus NotClauswitz – which I even spelled wrong. I was never good at playing RISK either.