5 guns that changed history

In light of fierce debate about smart-gun technology and the future of firearms, the Post's Michael S. Rosenwald compiled a brief list of iconic guns that have changed the world. (Jason Aldag, Gillian Brockell, Davin Coburn and Kate Tobey/The Washington Post)

 

If the nation’s first smart gun can overcome the fierce opposition of  Second Amendment hard-liners and make it onto store shelves, it will join other guns that have changed the world. Here are five guns that altered history — by no means a complete list, in no particular order.

Philadelphia Derringer: At 5.87-inches, the gun held just one shot. And one shot was all John Wilkes Booth needed when he interrupted President’s Lincoln viewing of “Our American Cousin” by putting a bullet in the president’s head. Booth dropped the gun, which you can see, but not fire, at Ford’s Theatre.

M1911: In the 1890s,  John Moses Browning, a godfather to the gun world, introduced a semiautomatic firing system to pistols. The 1911 became the official sidearm for U.S. armed forces in — can you guess when? — 1911. Several manufacturers make the gun today. “One thing is clear,” according to a fan site for the gun, “John Browning’s design is still alive and doing extremely well, after more than eight decades from its initial conception.”

AK-47: The most widely produced assault rifle in the world was created in the Soviet Union in the late 1940s. Used in revolutions, assassinations and old-fashioned combat, the rifle is easy to use and powerful in force. Osama bin Laden had one next to him when he was killed in Pakistan. It is reportedly on display at a private, spies-only CIA museum. The author C.J. Chivers told the AK-47’s history in his 2oo6 book, “The Gun.”


Gun designer Ernst Mauch holds an Armatix iP1, the nation’s first smart gun. Will it change history? (Photo by Sebastian Widmann for The Washington Post)

XM-25: Known as “the Punisher,”  this could become one of the country’s key weapons to fight hiding terrorists. It’s a laser-guided, shoulder-fired grenade launcher, giving soldiers the ability to decide when to set off the explosion, a nice option to have while hunting down hiding enemies. The Army has tested them in Afghanistan. Ernst Mauch, the designer of the controversial Armatix iP1 smart gun, was instrumental in the XM-25’s design at Heckler & Koch.

Bushmaster M-4 Carbine: This is the assault rifle Adam Lanza used at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It is an updated version of the AR-15, one of the most widely produced and controversial rifles in the country. The AR-15 was one of 45 assault rifles banned in Maryland — and other states — following the Newtown shootings. In protesting a crackdown on assault rifles in Maryland, Beretta announced it was moving its manufacturing to Tennessee.

What would you add to this list? Comment below.

Michael Rosenwald is a reporter on the Post's local enterprise team. He writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture.

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