07/19/2003 Entry: ""
Posted by Maynard @ 07:58 AM MST
I have in my possession some military recovered ammunition in .30-06 caliber. On the primer end of the cartridge (the non-pointy end, for those of you who can't tell a muzzle from a breech) is inscribed "LC 45", meaning the cartridge was originally loaded in the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri in 1945. Imagine, for a moment, the path this cartridge has taken to come to me.
In January 1945 the Allies were charging across Europe and hopping across the islands of the Pacific, striking nearer and nearer to the heart of evil as it manifested in that day and age. In January of that year Patton's 3rd Army had just crushed the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge, rescuing the 101st Airborne Division from almost certain defeat. The average soldier carried either an M1903 Springfield Bolt Action Rifle or an M1 Garand Semiautomatic Rifle, both of which shot the .30-06. Military doctrine at the time thought that a soldier needed a big, heavy bullet that could shoot long distances accurately. Experience, however, taught the G.I. that big and heavy was not as important in maneuver-based tactics as volume of fire. If flying bullets could keep the enemy hiding behind their defilade, the G.I. could outflank him and shoot to kill from a better position, thus giving him an advantage.
The Lake City plant is one of the nation's largest armories. It is still in operation today, producing the weapons our forces need. In 1945 they operated at full capacity, churning out countless amounts of .30-06. Each of these cartridges consisted of four components: the bullet, the brass shell, the gunpowder, and the primer. The shell holds everything together. The primer is struck by the firing pin of the weapon, which causes the preliminary ignition that lights the gunpowder. As the gunpowder burns it expands, pushing the bullet out of the gun.
Who loaded my cartridge? Was it a machine or a human? If a human, was it an old veteran from The Great War, who had once held a rifle that fired the same cartridge he loaded? Was it Rosie the Riveter, doing her part for her man in the field? What did they think of what they were making? Surely they knew the purpose of the 150-grain copper-jacketed bullet. They knew it was meant to be fired at another human being, and that it was meant to kill them. Did they care? They could not have known that it would not be used for its intended purpose. It was never fired, due in no small measure to the intimidation it represented. Our enemies occasionally choose peace instead of war because they know the skill of those who fire our weapons. They see the cost others have paid for their bloodlust and do not want to pay it themselves.
For whatever reason, the Military didn't use my cartridge. They had plenty of chance to, because it sat around through the Korean War. We still had the M1 then, but the M1903 had been almost completely retired. Perhaps it was shipped overseas in 1953, towards the end of the conflict. Maybe it sat around until the truce was called then was shipped back with the troops. Or perhaps it just stayed in North America the entire time.
The .30-06 is considered one of the best all-around cartridges for hunters, capable of taking down everything from pronghorn antelope to black (or sometimes grizzly) bear. Its lethality is one of the prime reasons the cartridge was used by the Army for close to half a century. But in 1954 the U.S. Military decided to switch to the M-14, an improved version of the M1 (with a detachable magazine that held more rounds, among other things). The M-14 was chambered for the 7.62 x 51mm NATO cartridge, also known as the .308 Winchester. This signaled the decline of the .30-06 from its place of prominence, though it would still see action in the near future.
But my round would not. It was not a match-grade (high quality, as in shooting match) round, nor was it for the rifle the Army used anymore. It found no sniper that would use it, nor did it find its way just yet to the demilitarization groups that would separate the components and sell them at a small profit to the civilian sector. In all likelihood it found its way to a warehouse somewhere on the west coast (or east coast for all I know) and sat around, perhaps disassembled, perhaps not. But somewhere along the line, most likely in the late 1990s, the cartridge went from the Military to Herdon, West Virginia, home of Talon Manufacturing Company, Inc. If not disassembled into its components by this time it was done by Talon, who removed the military grade gunpowder and replaced it with a civilian grade, which is a good thing. 50 year old gunpowder does not burn the same as the day it was made.
So after Talon it was sold to a wholesale dealer who distributed it to a network of retail dealers, one of which showed his wares on a table at the Tucson Civic Center one day last year, marking the box of ammo for $4.99. Along come I, looking for a good price on .30-06, and decide to buy a few boxes of 20 cartridges. And so ends, for the time being, the path of this bullet from 1945. Originally made to kill Nazis or Japanese, this bullet will now be sent downrange and put a hole in nothing more dangerous than a piece of paper. Because of events completely beyond my control, this bullet did not end the life of a socialist, a communist, or a civilian. What does that mean to me? It means that somewhere along the line from 1945 to 2003 we made at least some right decisions, and those decisions ended up saving lives. And it means that I have a responsibility to future generations to make the best decisions I can, aided by the Spirit of God.
wow. very cool story about you purchasing bullets. i was researching the talon company, and found your story. thanks.
Posted by rebecca @ 12/01/2004 06:04 PM MST
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