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The Evolution of Ordnance

Jeffrey Syken

Though General George Washington founded the Springfield Armory in 1777, it was as-yet unable to produce muskets and focused on manufacturing cartridges for the imported French-made muskets and/or captured British arms used by the Continental Army. As President, George Washington visited the Springfield Armory and in 1795 the first of over nine million firearms manufactured for the armed forces of the United States was produced. In April 1968, the armory was closed and turned over to a government contractor.

In war and peace, the armory and the high-quality armaments it produced served the defense needs of the nation well. During the Civil War, the 1861 model Springfield Rifle was used by both sides and accounted for 80% of the casualties in that conflict. It was also one of the earliest examples of mass production techniques and by 1864, the Armory was producing over one-thousand high-quality rifles per day. After the Civil War – in the early 1870s, the armory produced a carbine rifle for cavalry troops that was breech-loading rather than muzzle-loading. This innovation played an important part in the westward expansion of the United States.

One advance led to another culminating with automatic weapons, some based on old ideas. A good example of this was the Gatling Gun which was invented by a doctor and introduced in the 1890s as an artillery piece. The Spanish-American War proved its worth as a close support rapid fire weapon and it was the basis for the Mini-Gun used today on modern attack aircraft. Though many features of automated manufacturing are incorporated into the manufacture of a modern firearm, there is still an element of old-world craftsmanship and a special pride in the gunsmith’s art. This is reflected in the pride of ownership of a fine firearm made with care, quality and precision.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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