A popular gun control mantra is that the founding fathers could not have envisioned assault rifles when they wrote the Second Amendment. Turns out that idea is bunk, according to an investigation by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
TheDCNF found “repeater,” multi-shot rifles from even prior to the Revolutionary period. Further, the investigation shows that founders and leaders from that time period were starkly aware of advancements in innovations in small arms manufacturing.
“Of course, semiautomatic firearms technology didn’t exist in any meaningful sense in the era of the founding fathers. They had something much different in mind when they drafted the Second Amendment,” according to a recent article by The Washington Post. “The typical firearms of the day were muskets and flintlock pistols. They could hold a single round at a time, and a skilled shooter could hope to get off three or possibly four rounds in a minute of firing.”
Thomas Jefferson tapped the famous westward explorers Lewis and Clark to explore with a gun that, according to The Washington Post, didn’t exist.
Enter, the Girandoni air rifle. The Girandoni air rifle is a repeating rifle capable of firing 22 shots in under a minute without needing to reload — and Meriwether Lewis’s air gun was one such firearm. Lewis’s rifle was a .46 caliber, magazine-fed repeating gun capable of shooting 22 shots in under a minute.
Lewis brought his gun to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he picked up a 55-foot keeled-boat for his travels down the Ohio River. On his journey, he docked September 8, 1803 at Wheeling, West Virginia for a meeting with Colonel Thomas Rodney, who was on his way to Mississippi to assume position as a federal judge per appointment by Jefferson.
Rodney documented his encounter with Lewis’s air gun, “which fired 22 times at one charge. When in perfect order she fires 22 times in a minute. It is a curious piece of workmanship not easily described and therefore I omit attempting it.”
An article published by Buckeye Firearms claims Jefferson himself actually gave a couple of the rifles to Lewis and Clark, a fact TheDCNF confirmed in a conversation with Master Gunsmith John G. Zimmerman Thursday.
At least one expert disagrees with the mantra that the founders couldn’t envision such weaponry or progress of technology.
“[The Founders] lived during the Age of Reason. They celebrated the achievements of the human mind. They had witnessed huge advances in firearms technology — i.e. matchlock giving way to the wheel lock, which, in turn gave way to the flint lock,” William Atwater, a military technology expert and curator at the United States Army Ordnance Museum in Aberdeen, Maryland, told TheDCNF. “Each and every one of these developments were huge in their day.”
Atwater said any of these developments were big news, and presumes “they would have expected small arms to continue to develop.”
He noted people of that time were constantly on the lookout for the next great thing in firearms. “The idea that firearms technology was static during the 18th/19th Century is bunk,” Atwater explained. “Everyone that used firearms was on the lookout for the next best thing so it could be utilized.”
Another innovative and powerful gun from centuries ago is the Kalthoff repeater. Originally made by an unknown inventor in the 17th Century, the gun got its name from the family who later produced it, the Kalthoffs.
The Kalthoff repeater is a musket with two magazines: one that holds the bullet balls, the other holds gunpowder. The user pulls on the trigger guard, which puts a charge of powder and a bullet ball into the breech of the gun as well as cock it. To fire the next shot, simply pull the lever guard and let the gun do the rest.
The early version of the gun could hold seven bullet balls, later models could hold 12, according to an article published by Firearms History, Technology & Development. There was even a claim that one Kalthoff could hold 30 bullet balls. Whatever the capacity, it is certainly capable of firing more than “three or possibly four rounds in a minute” as The Washington Post article stated.
Then there is the Belton flintlock, which works in a manner similar to a roman candle. Once the fuse is lit, the gun can fire multiple shots in quick succession without need for reload.
In a letter to the Continental Congress in April 1777, inventor Joseph Belton describes the gun:
May it Please your Honours, I would just informe this Honourable Assembly, that I have discover’d an improvement, in the use of Small Armes, wherein a common small arm, may be maid to discharge eight balls one after another, in eight, five or three seconds of time.
Belton tried to sell his gun to Congress but was ultimately turned down for what Congress viewed as “excessive fees.”
“Congress was interested in the invention, and it was demonstrated before noted scientists and military officers (including well-known scientist David Rittenhouse and General Horatio Gates), but was rejected due to Belton’s demand for what Congress considered excessive fees for the use of Belton’s design,” as noted in an article published on danaloeschradio.com