I was recently reading “Of Arms and Men: A History of War, Weapons, and Aggression” by Robert L. O’Connell (Oxford University Press, 1989).  Therein we find:

“Of much more significance, however, was the colonial proclivity to use what were essentially hunting guns against their Indian foes. By around 1750, the so-called Pennsylvania rifle, later famed as the Kentucky long rifle, was already considerably modified from its Alpine European prototype. Although slow loading – traditionally accomplished with a mallet and a short iron rod – did not disqualify the rifle for use in the backwoods, the nascent Americans came up with a quicker easier means, utilizing a greased patch wrapped around the ball which could then be pushed smoothly down the bore. The resulting weapon was ideally suited to conditions of sporadic aboriginal violence, where targets were fleeting and every shot had to count. Hunting and war, the essential conditions were the same, and so the population came to arm itself like none in Europe. ‘Rifles infinitely better than those imported, are daily made in many places in Pennsylvania, and all the gunsmiths everywhere (are) constantly employed,’ warned an Anglican minister writing home in 1775. ‘In marching through the woods, one thousand of these riflemen would cut to pieces ten-thousand of your best English troops.’”

O’Connell continued, “So grew the legend of the omnipresent frontier marksman, hunting Indians or British regulars with the same deadly efficiency with which he stalked game. Playing upon the myth early in the Revolution, General George Washington issued an order in which he urged ‘the use of Hunting Shirts, with long Breeches…(as) it is a dress justly supposed to carry no small terror to the enemy, who thinks every such person a compleat Marksman.’”

O’Connell confirms the general consensus that the British troops were more professional and far better trained than the colonials. However, he adds:  “But still the myth of the citizen-sharpshooter lived on. Using innovative tactics, amateur American officers learned to make the most of their troops, emphasizing skirmish, ambush, and harassment with snipers. If colonial troops were quick to desert, they also continued to volunteer their services in reasonably large numbers, albeit on a short-term basis…Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston – all the key colonial cities had been occupied, but always without decisive results. And still the countryside remained rebellious, a dangerous morass where every tree hid a potential rebel sharpshooter.”

Centuries later, similar tactics worked for groups ranging from the Viet Cong to the Taliban. Food for thought as we look at the world we now live in.


  1. “Your AR-14s won’t do you any good. Me and Corn Pop will drive our 18-wheelers to Andrews AFB, jump in our F-16s and drop nuclear weapons on you.” – Uncle Joe.

    • They have no idea how an asymmetric war would go, do they? They truly don’t realize that if they kick of another civil war the “lines” won’t be neatly demarcated like they were in the 1770s, that people on both sides live with and next to each other.

      How is that 18-wheeler gonna get to Andrews after the diesel was siphoned out and all the tires were slashed to ribbons by patriots — who happen to also be neighbors?

      Uncle Joe also assumes that his pilots will follow orders to drop Hellfires on their neighbors’ homes, or their city hall, or the hospital where their kids were born, which is a pretty big demand.

      The kind that might make pilots — who are almost universally officers, and who didn’t become pilots or officers by being mindless automatons — think twice about the legitimacy of the orders and the people giving them.

      • It’s not the pilots we have to worry about. It’s the drone operators who are basically playing a video game with real consequences.

      • REAL patriots would be sure to drain out ALL the diesel, but have YOU ever tried to slash one of those big truck tyres? Consder how tough they have to be to carry five thousand pounds weight each at seventy miles per hour, hitting all those bumps, potholes, rocks, etc.

        Nah. REAL patrios would simply remove them, wheels and all, and make sure to take the lugnuts. Same result in immobilising the truck for now.

        Then we can always come back later, refit the tyres and wheels, and have the use of the rig for OUR purposes. Those things ARE handy at times…. large economy size troop transport, for one. Relocating snaffled supplies, for another. Storing stuff as well.

        Another quick and easily reversible way of disablig sch a rig would be to simply remove the driveline. Take it with you, all the sections, including the fasteners, for refitting and later “repurposing” of the piece of equipment, as above.

        Destroying equipment disables THEM, but repurposing equipment not only DISables THEM it ENables you. Two issues solved with the same action.

      • JG,

        About drone operators, I’ve always wondered if grandmothers with good eyesight and healthy hands could be trained to fly drones. No sense having a physically fit soldier or airman sit in a seat and play real-world video games. Let seniors do that.

  2. During the Vietnam War, American reporters derided and seemed disgusted by the Viet Cong forces’ use of “guerilla tactics” against our troops. As if our own war for independence wasn’t won using those very same tactics.

    Realistically speaking, skirmishing, ambushing, harrying, and “shoot-and-scoot” are ideal for a smaller, local group to whittle down a larger, better-trained force. It should have been no surprise the VC used them; they’d have been stupid not do.

    • Right you are, Sir. On the day of Lexington and Concord, our guys used “asymetrical warfare” to amazing advantage. I get to tell the stories of a few “dangerous old men” who were “too old to fight” in theory, but performed amazing feats singlehandedly by simply using stealth and superior marksmanship. One of them is believed to have dropped somewhere between fifteen and eighteen British officers over a stretch of about ten miles along the COncord Road as the British column headed back to the shelter of Boston.

      A man named William Heath was an older gent, his hobby was militaray history. He stidied it avidly, poring over reports, maps, after action reports, etc. He also would play the curious citizen and head to the taverns where the Lobsterback officers would congregate, and sit with them joining their long discussions of tactics and military history. As our guys shadowed Gage’s weary troops returning to Boston this man suggested establishing a “moving ring of fire” surrounding each company of redcoats, keepng pace with them, keeping far enough off to avoid being fired upon but stopping taking aim and firing upon the officers of the moving retreating column. If the heat” of return fire inttensified, they’d simply disappear into the distance, shadowing until they coud again take up an offensive position. General Gage lost close to half his officers that day through this tactic. It was also used to good effect in subsequent bttles. William Heath I beleive is this Gent’s name.

      • No offense, but I suspect you have been immersed in some non- factual reading.
        1) William Heath was a Brigadier General in the Massachusetts Militia on April 19 1775 and was the ranking American officer involved in the battle. He was by no means in formal command, either legally or by practical fact. Still, where he was present and able to direct the fighting, he did so. His 2 main decisions that day were to disassemble the Charles River Bridge upstream from Cambridge to prevent a British return to Boston by way of the Boston Neck, (the land route), and the ultimate decision to break off the action once the British reached the Charlestown Neck, ending the battle. General Heath was a Patriot and a decent general officer of moderate talent. His assignments in the rest of the Rev War reflected that his talents were moderate. No offense to his memory of course.
        2) I have read quite a bit about Dr. Joseph Warren’s American spy ring operating against the British in Boston from 1773 to 1775. Warren was tasked with running this ring by the Committee of Safety and Paul Revere was Warren’s courier. I have never read anything about Heath working as a spy either before or during the war. Since Boston was nearly an island and the only land connection to the mainland was the Boston Neck, Heath lived in Roxbury, well outside the British occupation lines. British officers and private soldiers did not venture outside of the British checkpoint on the Neck unless they were under arms with a body of troops, (Lexington 1775, Mystic River raid 1774, failed Salem Raid, 1775). The only exception to those organized sorties was the well known aborted spy mission of Colonel Smith and Private John Howe a few weeks before Lexington. They were walking to Worcester dressed as Yankees to spy out the countryside and Smith was recognized in the first tavern they stopped at. Private Howe continued the spy mission alone and Colonel Smith returned to Boston. William Heath was not involved.

        3) This whole notion that General Heath suggested or ordered a “ring of fire” around Smith’s column retreating from Concord is nonsense. That is how the militias elected to fight on their home ground which featured a roadway enclosed on both sides by stone walls. Cultivated open fields predominated with more stone walls beyond making property lines etc. The terrain was fairly hilly and there were scattered trees along the roadway walls and some small clusters of woods. The Yankee Militia tended to keep back from the walls along the road the British were on and engage them from a distance across the open fields behind that secondary stonewall, any available trees, and often farmhouses. There was a near constant fire from Meriam’s Corner in Concord in Late morning all along the return trip to Charlestown at dusk. Heath was not involved until much closer to Boston. The constantly arriving fresh American militia amounted to nearly 10,000 men by the end of the day and they fired thousands of rounds from their smoothbore muskets at the British column and only killed 73 and wounded about 300. Most of this shooting was done from more then 50 yards away as I described it, which is stretching the effective range of the smoothbore fowler. They hit enough British soldiers to effectively panic them and to threaten them sufficiently that they were compelled to retreat, but I would not call it “Superior Marksmanship” by any stretch. Given the statistics off how many people were involved and the number of shots fired for every redcoat hit, I consider your tale of one guy shooting down 15 or 18 officers to be a complete fabrication regardless of where it came from. The American flanking tactics were also anticipated by the British who threw out Light Infantry companies to secure their flanks by moving parallel to the main body on both sides and sweeping the militia out from behind those firing positions behind the second stonewall barrier. The Americans had no real answer to this other than sheer numbers and that is where most of the American casualties came from.

        4) There were many irregular battles in the rest of the Revolution, Kings Mountain might be the best example. Frontier fighting against the Indians and Butler’s Rangers was of this nature, but was not characteristic of the main conflict. Lexington was the only real running gunfight of this sort and after the siege of Boston, the Continental Congress sought to form a regular army and train it to fight in the tradition European manner. Historians make much of how bad that effort went, (and it was mostly bad) until Von Steuben trained the pitiful remnants of Washington’s army in the finer points of the Prussian Drill system. His “Blue Book” on this drill was American doctrine until the War of 1812. It is a myth that Americans won the Revolution by shooting from behind cover as at Lexington. As it happens, I think that would have worked better had they stuck to it, But “commanders” like Washington need to be able to command, ( Most Lexington battle companies were led by their Captains. They fought as individual companies with little higher co-ordination in evidence, excepting my earlier comments about Gen Heath)

  3. That important to consider historically and today. More American’s than ever are armed and due to recent conflicts, many have seen action.

  4. For an assessment of the VC, read Col. Anthony Herbert’s book “Soldier”. He comments on the VC’s use of hit and run small unit tactics. He also commented on how, if given the leeway, he could train, equip and lead such small units AGAINST the communists…”fighting fire with fire” so to speak.

  5. The American Long Rifle evolved because there was a need to be efficient with scarce resources. In Europe, the resources needed to fire a gun (gunpowder, lead, flint, etc.) were readily available. Therefore, European arms were “wasteful” of these resources. The muskets in common use in Europe were all large caliber, smooth bore arms. They required a large lead ball propelled by a heavy charge of gunpowder. They were designed for fast loading rather than accuracy since the tactics, at the time, required lines of soldiers to face each other, at fairly close range, fire volleys at each other, and then finish the matter with the bayonet. Even the hunting rifles of central Europe tended to be of fairly large caliber and wasteful of ammunition resources.

    Why such large caliber muskets (about .70 caliber)? The answer is to deal with horse-mounted troops. A cavalry charge was a fearsome thing to face. The infantry developed tactics, such as forming squares, to meet it. They also needed large caliber weapons powerful enough to bring down a horse-and-rider with a single, good hit. By firing a volley and “mowing down” the front line of a cavalry charge, they could break up the effectiveness of horse-mounted troops. Therefore, the bores of European muskets were sized to bring down galloping horses rather than to just stop a man-on-foot.

    On the American frontier, these resources (gunpowder, lead, etc.) were scarce commodities. Also, on the heavily wooded frontier, facing horse-mounted Indians was not of much concern. This would change once Americans moved out onto the Great Plains. The bore of the American long rifle could be sized to kill men and common game animals. It need not be so powerful that it could drop a 1,200 lb. horse in its tracks.

    By reducing to bore from about .70 caliber to about .40 caliber, by making the barrel long to efficiently burn its powder charge (and give a good sight radius), by rifling the bore and using a greased, patched ball, America produced an arm that was far more accurate (with longer range) than anything produced in Europe. The American long-rifle was the small-caliber, high-velocity “magnum” of its day. It (typically) had a muzzle velocity of 1,800 fps or greater. The muzzle velocity of most muskets was about 1,300 fps. The combination of high (for the day) velocity, plus long sight radius, plus rifled bore and tightly fitted patched ball made for an arm that could place accurate fire, on target, at ranges 3 to 4 times that of a typical musket.

    Just as America, in the mid-20th Century, downsized from 7.62 NATO to 5.56 NATO to go the small-caliber, high-velocity route, Americans in the 1700’s did a similar thing with our long-rifles versus a standard musket. The trend toward smaller bore, more efficient firearms is not just a 20th Century trend. It has always been thus.

    The American long-rifle could use a lead ball that was only ¼ to 1/5 the weight of a musket ball. It could produce superior velocity and accuracy with a powder charge that was ½ to 2/3 that of a musket. On the American frontier, where gunpowder and lead often had to be imported from Europe and laboriously carried to the frontier over hundreds of miles, the efficient use of these scarce resources was paramount. It would be well into the 19th Century before domestic production of gunpowder and lead allowed America to be free of imported ammunition. Therefore, the American long-rifle was a logical evolution of the firearm to meet real-world conditions on the American frontier.

    • You mentioned that many muskets from the 1700s were about .70 caliber. I am fascinated to know that my 12-gauge shotguns are about .73 caliber. That means when I fire a slug through them, I am imitating the muskets of the past.

      A blunderbuss was a short-barreled shotgun. That’s what many of us use to defend our homes today, and for the past two centuries. A short-barreled (a.k.a. sawed-off) shotgun.

    • all very true and accurate, and very well put.
      I kniw frm my own study of our War for Independence that our troops were very comfortable and capable at ranges out to two hundred and many to two hundred fifty yards. Meanwhile the Regulars were trained to identify range of abut 75 yards and NOT to engage anything further than that. I also understand that the Brits were issued .69 calibre ball, and their muskets had a .72 calibre bore. To make reloacing faster they did not use a tight fitting patch. Pour in the powder, drop the ball down the barral, prime the flashpan and cock the flint hammer. Funny thing, they mostly fired in large volleys the heavy ball arching sharply then falling… and when moving they also had to take care the muzzle stayed up above horizontal… as the ball would simply roll out the barrel if the muzzle were held lower than the breech. Can’t shoot downhill, but you can send ball downhill.

      they were also trained to reload “by the numbers” making eaggerated moves and doing everything in unison durng drill. Most of that carried onto the battlefield. They would typically take up to two or two and a half minutes to reload. In contrast our guys, bring hunters and indian avoiders, learned each one their own best and fastest technique and were on their own for reloads.Our guys could accurately fire about two and a half rounds for every one they could fire. Makes a bit difference when one side has better marksmanship, faster (typically above double) rate of fire, and more than double the effective range. Toss in a fervent desire to continue living in their own land instead of enlisting for a spell then going home…. no wonder the war went so badly for the aggressors. They had no sense of their adversariy nor his capabilities.

      • Your observation on British muskets is quite accurate. The British Brown Bess musket (typically) had a bore in the range of 0.72 to 0.75 inches (as Roger notes above, about 11 to 12 gauge bore). However, an undersized 0.69 ball was used to facilitate rapid loading. As I noted above, speed of reloading and fire was valued over accuracy when lines of troops faced each other at close range. Furthermore, the musket could continue to be reloaded even with considerable blackpowder debris in the bore.

        The French Charleville Musket (also very common during this time period) used a slightly smaller bore than the “Brown Bess”. Typically, it had a 0.69 inch bore but was loaded with an undersized 0.65 round ball. Same idea but with a slightly reduced caliber when could give a slightly lighter weight musket.

    • Are you fighting for your home and land and kin and fellows, or are you just out there because you are not somewhere else?

  6. Mas mentioned how clothing suggested marksmanship. George Washington wrote that men dressed like hunters were assumed to be sharpshooters.

    I have often thought of using items as a decoy to avert eyes from the small bulge I can see where my belt goes around my inside-the-waistband gun on my hip. I always carry a flashlight on my belt, so that can be used to hide a bulge. Do you remember the TV show, “Welcome Back, Kotter”? There was a character named Epstein. He had a red bandana hanging down the side of one of his thighs. I suppose that would work to avert eyes from bulges. Look at the bandana, not the bulge.

    I usually just pull the side of my shirt out a bit, so the flap of cloth hides the bulge. Does anyone have any thoughts on hiding bulges, or using something to avert attention away from where one is carrying?

    • I have a friend who is 7ft2in tall and quite gangly. He was a machinist. Of course everyone thought it cute to ask him “how’s the weather up there” and gawk at his height.

      So he painted his toes black, got silver toe rings, and wore flip-flops to show it all off. Everyone is so startled to see his toes (this was ten years or so ago, before “absurd” was so common) that they forgot to look UP to see how tall he was.

      It will “avert attention” perhaps.

      • Chris Thayer,

        Wow! Thanks. I am 6′ 2″ tall, and people think I am tall. Your friend has another foot on me. He is one of the few people I would look up to. My brother-in-law is 6′ 7″. That’s about two meters for you metric folks.

  7. Casual, I’ll often wear a Pendleton or similar, often not buttoned, and usually one size too big for me. The wool tends to hang pretty straight and with the natural folds tends to be too ‘busy” to make a clear pattern. The plaid patterns I tend toward are larger, thus the pattern itself tends to mask the outline of anything on my person. I carry a bit behind my pelvis so as to keep the fore-and aft outline clean. I also still have a “waist” narrower than my hips below and chest above, so “things” have some space into which to disappear. Someone walking behind me will have plenty of time to observe and/or notice. This all seems to reduce the drawing of one’s eye to what I’d rather them not notice.
    More dressy, I will often don a suit or sport coat, with a suit sometimes with a vest. The double layer of fairly substantial cloth tends to smooth out lines. One thing I discovered (others pointed it out) is that if the coat has a split tail one flap of the tail can actually ride up over the butt of the gun and expose it. My cure is to take some heavy button warp and a needle and build a sort of stay tying the two halves of the flap together near the bottom seam. That way the split cannot actually open up, this one alf of the tail cannot ride up over the butt, as the tether prevents the space opening up far enough to do that.

    Winter I tend to wear loose fitting bulky coats so don’t have those problems. I live where most years, we dont get Siberia here. Though this past one we did get more than a week of sub-freezing temps. But I’ve fund in those conditions folks are more focussed on their own hazards and issues than paying mich mind to others around them. Still, vigilance is always a good thing.

    • Yeah, everyone is so focused on their phones, or whatever they are doing, I have heard open carriers remark that people hardly notice they are open carrying.

  8. It’s been a long time, but I recall reading the summary of a study that suggested that most, if not all, successful rebellions/insurrections etc, had a secure base of supply outside the country. There are numerous examples, curiously, we seem to figure in some of them, starting with the French helping us in our revolution which wasn’t limited to supply (neither was a lot of our under the table help to others).

    In the case being made here, success depends upon just how far the oppressors, and their media allies, are willing to go to remain in power. Also, just how much the inactive populace is willing to tolerate and still support the oppressors. Coupled with when and if they reach a point where they decide to become active. The media can play a most important role here.

    I heard a very instructive sermon on this many years ago. The Reverend Doctor Neimoeller spoke at a college service. While there’s some slightly different renditions of his famed “When they came for ______” parable about Germany under the Nazi regime, the version we heard that night had significant differences in the first two lines.

    “First, they came for the Communists. WE UNDERSTOOD THIS AND SUPPORTED IT.” (Can’t do italics.)


    The rest went pretty much like the readily available versions. I can’t recall those, but those first two were burned into my memory over 60 years ago. First, the government uses popular (possibly assisted by some astutely applied propaganda) belief as a justification for abridgement of rights. Then, the next phases are easier.

  9. Mark wrote:
    “Your AR-14s won’t do you any good. Me and Corn Pop will drive our 18-wheelers to Andrews AFB, jump in our F-16s and drop nuclear weapons on you.” – Uncle Joe.’

    Lost me on this. Could you say what are you referring to please?

    • Braindead Joe said several years ago that armed civilians didn’t stand a chance against the military with F16s and nukes. The worthless old turd threatened his own people with nukes!

  10. “Your AR-14s…” was an *attempted* retort by Biden (I believe during the presidential campaign circus) to someone saying the 2A ensured citizens the ability to fight back against a tyrannical gov’t gone rogue. He was arguing that a citizen force with small arms couldn’t effectively fight a national army (of course, as discussed, the Afghans, VC, and others have all done so … including the MinuteMen of our founding) ~ but buddy biden can be rather dimwitted on his best days.

    Of course the bigger gaffe was that he saying the armed forces would be called out using nukes and F15s against American Citizens …. that didn’t play nearly as *cute* as he thought it would.

  11. Recently I read an illuminating book about Daniel Boone called “Blood and Treasure.” Mention was made therein about numerous German-ethnic (presumably some of my “Pennsylvania Dutch” ancestors) gunsmiths in Pennsylvania about 1750 who had a strong role in developing Schuetzen-style rifles of great accuracy. The history of well-armed rustic locals with accurate rifles being most effective in depleting invading forces needs to be remembered and utilized by today’s planners of anti-invasion forces. The popular linsey-woolsey clothing material of colonial days might even have applications for today’s possible civilian militia garments. The fabric of political courtesy needs attention, too. I am with Dan Bongino that Mr. Donald Trump may be coming under great physical threat, and should be supplied with supplementary counter-terrorist formations where he goes, if not already so done.

    • Strategic Steve,

      Another war famous for hunters successfully resisting soldiers was the First Boer War, Dec 1880–Mar 1881. The Boers used bolt-action Mausers, which were new at the time, and could snipe from long distances.

  12. Washington didn’t have much use for militia and was always trying to build up a regular force (the Continentals). Militia didn’t have a lot of success in standup fights. Early in the war, the British underestimated them, leading to success at Concord and eventual failure at Bunker Hill but with unacceptable losses for the British. Militia acting as guerillas had more success especially in the South.

    For the best use of militia in a pitched battle see the Battle of Cowpens. Morgan had riflemen out front for attrition, then militia which were the bulk of his forces. They staged a feigned retreat which fulfilled British expectations for militia leading to headlong pursuit into the teeth of the small force of regulars. Then the militia came back. British force suffered 85% casualties.

    • At Bunker Hill, the Militia occupied the undefended Charlestown Peninsula during the night and erected a redoubt on Breeds Hill. They got lost in the dark and went too far down toward the waterfront to fortify the lower and more vulnerable hilltop. Despite having a few frigates in the harbor and a battery on Copp’s Hill in Boston, The British Assaults were repelled until the 3rd attempt when the Americans were out of ammunition. The British never again frontally attacked dug in American troops throughout the war after this experience.

  13. Indirectly related to this topic, I found the following report interesting. See the link below:

    It illustrates the failures of firearms-prohibition in Chicago. Like all left-wing policies, when tried in practice (rather than theory) they exacerbate problems rather than solve them. In the case of Chicago, firearms-prohibition not only fails to stop violence and crime, it also worsens race relations in this country and stokes racism. This story is long but worth reading in detail:


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