ARMA Editorial – April 2009
A Sword Story

Imagine if you would that there were no real handguns anymore.

Instead, there were only historical replicas of handguns.

But you love historical firearms and want to learn marksmanship.

So, you buy a replica and, lo and behold, the thing doesn't fire. It’s only a shell, a gun-like object, with no working parts.

Then other replica models you find which do appear to work are way too heavy to actually aim and fire.

You try to complain to the handguns makers. But they tell you they know what they are doing. You have no choice but to accept that. At least a few makers agree that replica handguns could be better and promise to try to make them so.

Still other gun makers specialize in fake prop guns, where their owners pretend they are shooting live rounds as they make “bang!” sounds at one another (some even believing this teaches them about real marksmanship with real firearms).

You get over your disappointment, make do with what you can, even using foam and wooden guns to practice.

Then sometime later someone else starts selling pistols they say are accurate “museum replicas.” Yay!

You start to practice shooting with them, taking them to the range over several years.

But... the guns jam, they misfire, they’re inaccurate, and occasionally they even explode in your hand. Their metal is generally too soft to accept loading a round, plus a lot of the time the handles just break off.

Tsk, tsk. You complain but are told by the gun makers that the real historical ones did all that too. Oh, you say, not realizing, and thus accept the explanation.

But you inquire. How can they know how real guns should really fire if they have no decent marksman among them who can shoot well? They tell you this is not important, to just trust them, and meanwhile please buy their new improved models.

Soon more handguns makes are on the market to meet growing interest and the manufacturers assure everyone these are now the best ever. This time they are truly accurate they tell us. (Which, apparently, wasn’t’ actually the case in the previous times they made that claim).

But then, a strange thing happens. You get to some museums of antique firearms and are allowed to examine and even shoot with many specimens. Then you do the same with ones in some private collections.

You compare them to the toy guns you know and the replicas you’ve long trained with.

The result is a newfound appreciation for the qualities of the historical originals and now you know much better what the attributes of real handguns were.

Now you begin to spread this message to firearms enthusiasts who have had the same questions and complaints about replica weapons that you’ve had.

So, when you next complain to the gun makers, they start to listen.

They agree that more people want better guns and they again promise to make them more accurate.

Other makers, however, suggest that if you just stop trying to fire their guns there would be no problem. (Meanwhile, one or two of them starts gossip about how you don’t really know good guns and are a poor shot anyway.)

But when you try to apply what you have learned of marksmanship and evaluate the newest handguns in comparison to the historical ones you handled and fired, you quickly discover the new models won’t shoot straight, won’t shoot very far, and when they do fire have no penetration. Whoa...

That’s when you make a sudden realization.

You turn to the gun makers and say, “You guys really don’t know about making accurate guns, do you?”

They stutter and stammer, hee and haw, then admit, “No, we don’t. Sorry. But please don’t tell anyone.” They even say they really do know how they could make real guns, it just would cost too much to do right, and besides, since more people like wearing pretend guns when they visit the Wild West Show that there’s no need to change everything just for the benefit of a minority of informed firearms students.

Thankfully, you eventually meet some real gunsmiths who have learned again how to hand-make quality pieces. They are further proof that the originals were indeed fine weapons. They explain just how difficult a process it is to make them properly, but reveal it can be done. They also appreciate that to know if their weapons are truly accurate they have to have a skilled marksman actually fire live rounds with them at different things. They even want such feedback on their performance to help them produce better weapons.

From this process you learn even more and truly become an expert shot. Now the old shooting manuals make even more sense. But it’s only possible because you had accurate replicas to learn with and the chance to compare them with the real things.

The day soon comes that a new gun maker offers a line of accurate reproduction handguns that work as good as the originals. They can do this now because you helped educate and influence the industry. They even offer a line of historically accurate practice guns that allow you to train safely. Wonderful!

Everyone is happy.

Except the old gun makers.

Although they improve their product a little as a result, they now have to compete with the fine replicas a more educated consumer is expecting.

Since they can't complete in quality or price they have to do it just in marketing and advertising. But it keeps getting harder and harder to do. And there they are, still telling people not to shoot with their guns, or that when they misfire they are supposed to do that.



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