John Browning's Model 1911 pistol, an engineering wonder for its day, still serves as a design platform for much modern pistolsmithing. Old examples, especially with military markings, are now highly prized on the collector market, where they can bring hundreds or even thousands of dollars each.
Yet 16 years ago, early in the Clinton administration, the politicians declared our government would no longer sell into the civilian after-market pistols being retired from military armories.
Instead, "Guns & Ammo" magazine reported in 1996 that since Bill Clinton took office in 1992 the government had resumed for the first time in 15 years the destruction by shredding of "obsolete" firearms including 110,000 .45-caliber pistols and 30,000 M-1 Garands -- the magnificent semi-auto battle rifle that defeated Adolf Hitler.
Destruction of the weapons -- some valued by collectors at up to $6,000 apiece -- "continues at a rate of about 3,000 guns per day," the magazine reported. "Even assuming an unrealistically low value of $200 per gun, more than $60 million of historic collectibles has been reduced to worthless scrap."
Despite ongoing federal deficits, the Clintons and their cronies decided to turn irreplaceable pieces of historic American engineering into a couple of bucks worth of crushed or melted steel, useful only for manhole covers.
Now it's 2009. A new Democratic administration is finally back in power. And guess what? This time they tried for the brass ring.
On March 16 -- less than 60 days into the Obama Era -- Jim Shepherd at www.shootingwire.com/archives/2009-03-16 reported "The Department of Defense has issued a directive that bans the sale of military brass to ammunition re-manufacturers. Without that brass, a very large dent is put into civilian ammunition supplies.
"New Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS) requirements call for the 'mutilation of shell casings.' Mutilation, incidentally, is the destruction of the property 'to the extent that prevents its reuse or reconstruction,' " Mr. Shepherd noted.
"The first word of this latest decision came over the weekend when Georgia Arms' Larry Haynie released a letter notifying him of the new requirement. ... Georgia Arms was remanufacturing more than one million rounds of .223 ammunition monthly; selling that ammo on the civilian market to resellers and to government agencies all over the country.
"Tomorrow, Georgia Arms will start sending cancellation notices for .223 ammunition to law enforcement agencies across the United States," Mr. Shepherd reported on March 16. "Haynie says he may have to lay off half of his sixty-person workforce. The message is simple. The implication is chilling. ..."
Much squawking ensued. And for now, at least, it appears those who believe "Only federal agents should have ammo" have backed down.
"Responding to two Democratic senators representing outraged private gun owners, the Department of Defense announced last night it has scrapped a new policy that would deplete the supply of ammunition by requiring destruction of fired military cartridge brass," World Net Daily reported on March 31.
What did the two actions have in common -- scrapping the wonderful 1911 Colt .45s, and the (apparently reversed, for now) decision to crush, shred, and/or melt all that once-used military brass, mostly in .223 and .308, to keep civilians from buying and reloading it?
First, since crushed or shredded brass is worth only 20 percent the value of reloadable spent cases, both moves violate the federal government's fiduciary duty as a steward of the nation's resources, the duty to get as good a return as possible on surplus stuff already paid for with hard-earned taxpayer dollars.