For Want Of A Nail

... the kingdom was lost.

Try this on for size:  "For want of a handgun, freedom was lost."

Ridiculous, eh?  Because, after all, in this era of professional soldiers and technological military might, what good is a handgun against an army?

Much, much more than you might think:
A friend of mine owns an instructive piece of history. It is a small, crude pistol, made out of sheet-metal stampings by the U.S. during World War II. While it fits in the palm of your hand and is a slowly-operated, single-shot arm, it's powerful .45 caliber projectile will kill a man with brutal efficiency. With a short, smooth-bore barrel it can reliably kill only at point blank ranges, so its use requires the will (brave or foolhardy) to get in close before firing. It is less a soldier's weapon than an assassin's tool. The U.S. manufactured them by the millions during the war, not for our own forces but rather to be air-dropped behind German lines to resistance units in occupied Europe and Asia. They cost exactly two dollars and ten cents to make. 
Crude and slow (the fired case had to be knocked out of the breech by means of a little wooden dowel, a fresh round procured from the storage area in the grip and then manually reloaded and cocked. It was so wildly inaccurate it couldn't hit the broad side of a French barn at 50 meters, but to the Resistance man or woman who had no firearm it still looked pretty darn good. 
The theory and practice of it was this: First, you approach a German sentry with your little pistol hidden in your coat pocket and, with Academy-award sincerity, ask him for a light for your cigarette (or the time the train leaves for Paris, or if he wants to buy some non-army-issue food or a half- hour with your "sister"). When he smiles and casts a nervous glance down the street to see where his Sergeant is, you blow his brains out with your first and only shot, then take his rifle and ammunition. Your next few minutes are occupied with "getting out of Dodge," for such critters generally go around in packs. After that (assuming you evade your late benefactor's friends) you keep the rifle and hand your little pistol to a fellow Resistance fighter so he can go get his own rifle. 
Or, maybe, you then use your rifle to get a submachine gun from the Sergeant when he comes running. Perhaps you get very lucky and pickup a light machine gun, two boxes of ammunition and a haversack of hand grenades. With two of the grenades and the expenditure of a half-a-box of ammunition at a hasty roadblock the next night, you and your friends get a truck full of arms and ammunition. (Some of the cargo is sticky with "Boche" blood, but you don't mind, not terribly.)
Pretty soon you've got the best armed little maquis unit in your part of France, all from that cheap little pistol and the guts to use it. (One wonders if the current political elite's opposition to so-called "Saturday Night Specials" doesn't come from some adopted racial memory of previous failed tyrants. For even cheap little pistols are a threat to oppressive regimes.)
They called the pistol the "Liberator." Not a bad name, all in all... 
... consider what a million pistols, or a hundred million pistols (which may approach the actual number of handguns in the U.S. today), can mean to the military planner who seeks to carry out operations against a populace so armed.
Mention "Afghanistan" or "Chechnya" to a member of the current Russian military hierarchy and watch them shudder at the bloody memories. Then you begin to get the idea that modern munitions, air superiority and overwhelming, precision-guided violence still are not enough to make victory certain when the targets are not sitting Christmas-present fashion out in the middle of the desert.
... and that's just part the introduction.

Go, RTWT, if you haven't already.

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