Relics of Empires Past

I was reading an article about the war in Afghanistan in Foreign Affairs magazine yesterday when something odd caught my eye. Apparently, our soldiers are finding caches of small arms as they “sweep and clear” (read, seek and destroy) various villages in Marja, Helmland province. That came as no surprise as it is common knowledge that the CIA funneled Stinger missiles and innumerable land-mines to the Mujahideen in the 70s and 80s.

What was surprising is that the marines are finding ancient relics of empires past in the tiny opium producing villages in Marja. Among the shoulder launched missiles and other small arms, our marines are regularly finding .303 British Lee-Enfield rifles dating back to the WWI era. Many of the rifles were found to have been manufactured in India, some dating back to 1915. The ammunition they’re finding was manufactured in India up until the 1940s.

Unlike the ubiquitous Kalashinkov rifle (AK-47), the Lee-Enfield is a bolt action rifle that has a longer effective range making it well suited for amateur snipers to take pot shots at our soldiers. These rifles are nearly 100 years old and are still effective killing machines. No one knows how long they’ll last as bolt action rifles are well manufactured (especially the older ones) and have fewer moving parts than the semi-automatics that our contemporary armies are outfitted with today. With proper care and readily available surplus armory parts, these rifles could very well be in the field for another 100 years to come.

How’s that for irony?

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15 thoughts on “Relics of Empires Past

  1. It’s not irony, it’s how to fight a war in a country where guns are not produced. All weapons can kill, and basic gun function has not changed much on the past 100 years. So in order to fight all weapons must be kept no matter how old.

  2. “basic gun function has not changed much on the past 100 years”

    As proven by the 100th anniversary of John Moses Browning’s model 1911 pistol, the most popular handgun model today. Also Browning’s M2 Heavy Machine Gun is nearing the 80 year mark. Both are in U.S. service in Afghanistan today.

  3. What are you guys talking about? I think its ironic that the guns that were used to build one empire are being used to fight another. Said guns also happen to have been manufactured in India, i.e., the country this class is about. Maybe I should have just written those particular sentences and skipped the rest of the post, eh?

    I am well aware of various gun functions, but this is neither the time nor the place for that discussion.

    • Wow, I think at this point you’re really reaching.

      Would you prefer I had written “complete and utter obsolescence except for a tiny group of highly trained individuals?”

      Perhaps you could express as a percentage the amount of soldiers that carry bolt action rifles out of a modern army?

      Is it <0.001% or 0.0001%?

  4. Whoa, whoa. Let’s not forget that although this blog is an instrument for debate and discussion we still need to respect each other’s viewpoints and avoid using harsh language. I think it is ironic that weapons change sides, so to speak, but maybe it’s best not go on about the technicalities of modern or past warfare. War is a really sensitive issue and everyone has differing opinions about it. Perhaps not the best topic for a civilized discussion on a blogging website.

    • “civilized discussion on a blogging website” The internet is the last place one should look for this IMO. lawlz. Plus the “harsh” language was not directed towards the poster of this blog, but as a way to imply that modern armies cannot get the “job” done.

  5. Well you’re right about the internet thing. What I meant to say is that this is still part of a course.Call me old fashioned but I think that harsh language in any form takes away from debate/discussion, especially if one is trying to prove a point. But I don’t want to make this about swearing, so, whatever. See ya in class.

  6. I’m following the discussions, FYI. Though I’m a little more hands on than I would normally be in such a forum, I also feel the harshness was not personal. If it is I may have to come in, though I hope not to. We can discuss this in class if someone wants to make a proposal about language, etc. I’ll leave it up to you.

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