Blowing holes in the great musket myth

The Minuteman Statue in Lexington, Massachusetts – CC0 Creative Commons

Once again it is high tide in the gun control debate. Over the past month and a half, it seems I can barely keep up with wave after wave of assaults on the rocky shores of freedom. Emboldened by tragedy, anti-gun forces at both state and federal levels have renewed attempts at banning semi-automatic modern sporting rifles and magazines capable of holding an arbitrary number of rounds. Along with their self-styled ‘assault weapons’ ban, the anti-gun activist crowd is bringing back a few tired myths in hopes of gaining support from gun control fence-sitters. The worst in my opinion is the musket myth.

The musket myth is one of the most disingenuous arguments used by anti-gun activists and sympathetic media alike. Proponents of the myth note the usual and ordinary firearms of colonial life were muskets and flintlock pistols – both mostly designed as single shot and equally time-consuming to reload. In this statement, the anti-gun activists are correct. But it is also the only correct statement or assumption they make about the second amendment.

The core principle behind the musket myth is that our country’s founding fathers never envisioned a modern sporting rifle, along with its semi-automatic capabilities, while framing the second amendment to the United States Constitution. We are told farmers, merchants and tradesmen kept a musket in the home as part of colonial life, namely to hunt with – and for nothing more. We are asked to believe that the framers never would have been on board with the idea of ordinary citizens having access to, and owning ‘military style assault weapons.’

Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth; let’s blow some big holes in the great musket myth.

If anti-gun activists are stipulating that the second amendment is valid for the popular, ordinary firearm of the colonial era, the musket, then they are also stipulating that ownership of the popular, ordinary firearm of our current era, the modern sporting rifle, is just as valid and equally protected under the second amendment. This same theory applies to the first amendment – quill pens and the printing press have been long antiquated by technology.

The argument that only the military should have access to semi-automatic rifles also falls flat. While muskets were the primary firearm of the colonist and citizen-soldier, they were also the issued service weapon of the British military. By definition, that makes a musket a military firearm. And all three classifications of people during the Revolutionary War era – civilian, American citizen-soldier and British troop, were possessed of the same gun, the musket.

You really don’t need to get in the weeds with scholarly dissertations about the intent of the second amendment to understand what it was written for. While numerous legal arguments and case law decisions over the many years since its adoption have certainly muddied the waters, its purpose is crystal clear when viewed through the lens of history. American colonists revolted against an over-bearing and heavy-handed government by force of arms – that is to say, equal arms. The founders knew, by firsthand experience, that without an armed citizenry, there could be no true liberty – quite aware that a government without fear of accountability has no mandate to see to its citizen’s wants and needs.

There is a very good chance we would be speaking with a British accent today if the redcoats were armed with AR-15’s and the colonists came to fight with shotguns and bolt-action hunting rifles. And while that may be an over-simplification of the matter, it is also the very simple reason we have the second amendment at all.

As for me, I’ll keep my semi-automatic musket, thank you very much. And to propagators of the musket myth, I say this – put that in your muzzle loader and smoke it.

John Floyd

About John Floyd

John is a freelance writer and lives in northeast Maine. His background includes work as a hunting and fishing guide, certified firearms instructor and as a United States Army Non-commissioned Officer. He covers outdoors topics and the politics and policies that affect traditional, rural lifestyle. He can be reached at or on Facebook @writerjohnfloyd