The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.
Jeff Cooper, The Art Of The Rifle
There are few things that cause tyrants (petty or grand) to worry about their plans for terror, and firearms are one of them. The petty tyrant (a.k.a. the common thief or murderer) is at least smart enough to avoid the targets he knows to be armed. The grand tyrant, on the other hand, is deluded by his own strength into thinking that he can overcome anything and anyone. He thinks that because he rules, he therefore reigns. But he does not reign in the 500 yard circle drawn around a man with a rifle and the will to use it.
“But you can’t fight an airstrike with a rifle!” Really? Ever try to fly a fighter plane with a busted canopy? An airstrike can’t take off if the plane can’t fly.
“You can’t fight a tank with a rifle?” Really? Can a well-placed shot from concealment destroy or disable a tank’s antenna, and in so doing cut it off from the supporting infantry? Can a vision port be targeted and drive the crew beneath the hatches, where they are much less effective against infantry?
“You can’t fight a trained sniper with just a rifle!” Really? Then why do snipers target marksmen and fellow snipers above all other battlefield enemies?
“You can’t take down a government with just a rifle!” Really? Michael Collins completely blinded the eyes of the British intelligence service in Northern Ireland in one day with nothing more than pistols. Imagine what he could have done with weapons that reached further.
Of all the weapons available to a revolutionary, a rebel, an insurgent, or a soldier, the rifle remains the most cost-effective way of delivering firepower against a chosen enemy, provided the correct tactics are used to employ it. There’s no munition on the battlefield cheaper than a rifle cartridge, and the basic elements of marksmanship can be taught in the course of a day. Further skill requires further training, of course, but that’s true of anything.
The rifle also remains the most moral, since it is distinct in its employment. One shot will kill at most one person, all other things being equal. Of course, there are exceptions where one shot takes out six targets because the shot hit the trigger of a bomb; and not every shot kills – as a matter of medical fact, most shots do not kill, unless delivered directly to the brain stem or the heart. But more often than not, one shot has the potential to kill only one person, which makes each trigger pull a deliberate act of the shooter – for either good or evil. A tank gunner can’t control his shell with such precision, nor can a fighter pilot contain collateral damage from his quarter-ton bomb.
Whenever one sees a civil war erupting, be it in fiction or real life, bet on the side with the winning combination: rifles, ammunition, and will.