by Dan Shea
I’m not quite sure when I transitioned to being “the old guy over there,” but it had to happen sooner or later. All the years of teasing Dolf (Goldsmith) about his duty issue Brown Bess were eventually going to catch up with me. Dolf, the late Bill Vallerand, the late Herb Woodend, all the guys I teased about being old as stone, well, they’d always get a little smile and say “Your day is coming, Dan.”
Recently I heard one not-as-young-as-he-thinks Desert Storm veteran who was instructing a class at LMO explain to this group of hard-chargers just back from Afghanistan that, “The old guy over there used sticks and large rocks to fight the enemy, and we have much more modern gear to use today.” I casually mentioned to him that we just passed the 20th anniversary of Desert Storm, and it wasn’t going to be too long before HE was looking back 40 years or so...
Like I said, it had to catch up with me. I guess the last 40 or so years of learning about small arms, from being flat out ignorant of them and filled with misconceptions, to being a Reasonably Knowledgeable Individual, has been a pretty good trip. I’ve really been rather lucky in the access to firearms and manuals as well as historical information. I’ve tried to pass on the knowledge I’ve gained to those who were sharp enough to learn it. That’s what the guys who taught me said the price was for the knowledge they handed down - you had to pass it on. Well, Herbie always wanted a pint or two as the “entrance fee” to a bit of knowledge, but that was just his Irish wiles.
I guess what I’m trying to get at here is the root of Small Arms Review magazine. A group of people who got together with the motivation to pass on the knowledge they’d gained, to preserve it, and to keep that knowledge flowing to new generations. Put it down on paper, peer review it, edit it, try to make it as fallacy-proof as possible, then publish it for the ages. I’m thinking we’ve done a pretty good job at this so far. It’s a huge amount of work every month, and for almost fifteen years every thirty days we’ve popped out another issue full of info. We can only preserve what we know today, and who knows what new information will come out of the woodwork ten years down the road; but we’re getting what’s known preserved.
We’re adding a bit more on the modern rifles in some of these issues at the request of some of our newer readers (newer = younger). I was sitting around with some more “Old Guys” a while ago, and they were talking with reverence about vintage M1 Carbines and M1 Garands and how historical they were. I got thinking a bit, and mentioned that 40 years ago, those rifles were “Modern Assault Rifles” in the minds of the ‘03 and Krag collectors and shooters. Having an M1 Garand might not have been the same as having one of the new “Space Age” AR-15 SP-1s back then or an ArmaLite AR-180, but a Garand was just out of main military service and was still in arsenals all over the world. They were still active battle rifles in the minds of many vets who collected them.
Makes me wonder about what the “vintage” M16 or AR-15 shooters will talk about 30 years down the road. When those young whipper-snappers have their pulse rifles and mega-transformer multi-caliber electronic warfare self-communicating gizzywhack guns out at the range, how are they going to look at “the old guys over there” reverently petting their OBR or M110 SASS?
Your turn’s coming, guys. Just don’t forget to pass it on...
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