Why Civilians Need Machineguns June 16, 2013Posted by federalist in RKBA.
Would civilians benefit from the right to keep and bear fully-automatic firearms (a.k.a. “select-fire” or “machine” guns)? I’ve raised this question with firearms tacticians in the past, and the most common answer is, “Probably not.” This answer is usually buttressed by three arguments:
- You can’t deliver hits any more quickly with full-auto fire. After the first shot of a full-auto burst the accuracy of an unmounted gun decreases due to recoil. Hence, agencies that issue select-fire weapons prefer that shooters train to deliver three-round bursts instead of barrages.
- Reloads, running out of ammo, or overheating your gun are all more likely to get you killed in a fire fight than the inability to deliver an adequate volume of fire.
- Modern military tactics only call for fully-automatic fire in squad scenarios. Civilians don’t normally travel in squads with the full battle loads necessary to sustain a firefight with automatic weapons. (Though a militia formed in a state of emergency probably would.)
And yet, there’s this disconcerting fact that the government, which has the option, generally chooses to equip its agents with select-fire weapons. I’ve reasoned before that the argument should end there: If it’s appropriate for government agents it’s appropriate for The People. But the question is still interesting.
One does not need a vivid imagination to conjure scenarios in which a civilian militia or family would benefit from fully-automatic firearms. In fact, most military doctrine for the use of full-auto fire from man-portable weapons involves defensive uses: “breaking contact” to retreat, “denying access” to an aggressor, and “final protective fire.” As discussed in that last article by Oleg Volk, any home or business that has been attacked by a mob would have benefited from the deterrent of a machinegun defense. (Nothing says “go away” like sweeping a sector with automatic fire.)
Even individuals can find themselves in situations warranting a maximum volume of fire. For example, aggressors often attack by ramming with vehicles. To stop an incoming vehicle that threatens your life or property you’d ideally place aimed fire through the windshield at the driver. But if the vehicle is approaching too quickly or the driver takes cover behind the engine you have to stop the vehicle itself, and that requires a barrage of fire: The faster you can shoot the greater your chances of stopping or diverting it.
I was greatly amused by a clever scenario from this week’s Burn Notice, “Forget Me Not”: A bad guy had a hostage in an isolated soft building. The locations of both were unknown, but over the phone a rescuer was able to give the hostage a codephrase to get on the floor. At that point a tactical support team had a single moment to send as many lethal projectiles as possible into the building before the bad guy realized what was happening and could hit the floor himself. So they had four machinegun teams fire simultaneously for a few seconds, sweeping the entire building at torso level and getting enough hits on the bad guy to stop him.