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1780's American Officers Pistol - shot this handgun today.

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Buck Conner

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1780's American Officers Pistol - shot this handgun today.


Illustration by Don Troiani/National Park Service

American militia firing at the British infantry from behind a split rail fence during the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, March 15, 1781.
Second of three articles.

The original U.S. Constitution, as drafted in 1787, made no mention of gun rights and guaranteed relatively few other rights.
The Constitution actually granted the federal government considerable power over the state militias, such as power to arm and discipline them and to call them into federal service to repel invasions or suppress insurrections.

Anti-federalists — those who opposed the ratification of the Constitution – argued that the powerful new national government the framers sought to create jeopardized many important rights of the states and the people, including the independence of the state militias. If Congress had the power to arm the militias, did it also have the power to disarm them? Could the national government call up a state’s militia and send it out of state to suppress an insurrection elsewhere? (Apparently, it could.) Would a state whose militia had been thus nationalized and deployed elsewhere be defenseless? This was a special concern in southern states where the militia had duties as slave patrols, to capture runaways and to protect the white population against the possibility of a slave insurrection.

During the hard-fought campaign for ratification, James (“Father of the Constitution”) Madison and other federalist leaders proposed a compromise. If the states would ratify the draft as it stood, the leaders of the first Congress would propose constitutional amendments to explicitly guarantee that the federal government could not trample upon basic rights and civil liberties, such as freedom of speech, press and religion and the right to keep and bear arms. Those amendments, the first 10 ratified soon after the Constitution took effect, are what we call the Bill of Rights. The right to bear arms was the second one ratified.

As you know from the previous installment, it says: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Several of the state constitutions protected the right of the militia to be armed, which modern gun-rights advocates cite as evidence that owning guns was considered as fundamental to liberty as freedom of speech. Many of those state provisions refer explicitly to a right to have guns for protection of one’s home or for hunting. If the federal amendment had picked up some of that language, it would be much easier to argue that the federal right covers such individual self-defense needs and hunting pursuits.

But the fact that the first Congress left out those references, even though they were present in some of the state constitutions, is a talking point for those who now argue that the federal right to own a gun was fundamentally tied to the militias and might not guarantee the right of non-militiamen to have guns unrelated to militia work.

Nonetheless, the Second Amendment was quickly approved by the necessary two-thirds of both houses of Congress and then quickly ratified by the requisite three fourths of the (then 13) states. It soon became largely invisible for two centuries, during which it was seldom the key point in a lawsuit and never the reason for any law to be struck down. Not until 2008 would the U.S. Supreme Court squarely face the question of whether the militia language at the beginning of the amendment meant that the right to bear arms was tightly connected to membership in a militia.

In the meantime, the concept of a state militia, as it was understood at the time, would have essentially disappeared.

State militias
In the 1780s, state militias were a vital part of the national defense. In many states, every able-bodied male (an exception would be made for members of pacifist religious denominations like the Quakers) was expected to have a gun, which he would acquire and maintain at his own expense, and to be available to be called forth to defend the state or the nation. Militias of this sort played a significant role in winning the war for independence, although ultimately the colonists developed a trained professional army (led, of course, by Gen. Washington.) But that army disbanded after the war.

The assumption in the 1780s was that the national government would not have a large standing army in time of peace and that the state militias would remain the backbone of the national defense. In time of war, a national army might be created for the duration of the war. The U.S. Constitution explicitly authorizes Congress “to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.”

It’s hard for contemporary American to grasp the degree to which 18th-century Americans saw themselves as citizens of their states more so than the nation. And, in fact, if you read the kind of statements that led to the adoption of the Second Amendment, it’s clear that many of the anti-federalists did not trust that the new national government would respect the sovereignty, freedom and independence of the states. Many anti-federalists noted that the Constitution did not bar the national government from building up a permanent standing army, an army that could, if you let your imagination go down this path, be used to bully, dominate and even tyrannize the states.

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This is one in our collection, my father always wanted to shoot this pistol but never got around to it. This past weekend I got powder patch and ball together wanting to do what was never done in modern times with this pistol. Today there was no wind and nice temp. - went to the range, got some slack about my shooting distance of 25 feet off a bench with sand bags by others there.

"Hey, keep your distance I could be sick with that 19 crap." That worked for a while, then several got closer when they saw this target. For a brass barreled flinter that's over 200 years old it did it's self proud.
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Hanshi

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The accuracy is excellent for a pistols use and for that pistol in particular. While that load doesn't sound like a combat load, it would surely drop any 2-legged mammal confronting you.
 

heelerau

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I am under the impression that brass barrels chrystalize with age and become ver brittle. That aside, nice group and would have been fun to shoot !
 

Buck Conner

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The accuracy is excellent for a pistols use and for that pistol in particular. While that load doesn't sound like a combat load, it would surely drop any 2-legged mammal confronting you.
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I wouldn't want to get hit with this weak load, it would do the job at close range like said. "brass barrels chrystalize with age and become ver brittle. " by "heelerau" is correct and that was kept in mind when loaded. Probably could have built more pressure if it had been using a patched rould ball, it was loaded bare ball because of the age. Didn't want to stress the possible brittle brass barrel.

The largest part of our brass barreled guns (7 at this time), we have always kept the brass barrels crystallization with age in mind.

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toot

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why don't somebody please delete this post? as there is nothing on it? where is the MODERATOR when you need one?
 

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