There’s a special bond Marines have with their rifles. If you know a Marine, just ask. I was imbued with that bond between my rifle and myself more than a quarter of a century ago as a jittery and shaved-bald recruit at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. It was there I memorized The Rifleman’s Creed. I also learned to shoot, maintain and fall in love with the tool of our trade in the military.
By Mark Oliva
This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My first issued rifle was an M16-A2. It was the distinctive rifle with iron sights and carrying handle, but you didn’t want to be caught dead carrying it that way by a drill instructor. I learned that rifle inside and out. I swung that 7.89-pound rifle in unison with the rest of the platoon while we marched. I struck targets at 500 yards.
It’s a deep-seated affection that’s never faded. If anything, it’s grown. My wife will attest to that fact, pointing to a full gun safe. I was privileged to serve a career in uniform, and fortunate to start a second career in the industry that arms our law-abiding citizens, hunters, recreational shooters—and yes—our men and women in the Armed Forces.
On Sunday, Nov. 11, we pause as a nation to honor our veterans. It is a solemn day when we recognize the service and sacrifice of the men and women who protect our nation and our way of life. It’s also a moment when I can’t help but be reminded of the firearms and ammunition industry that serves the military.
We know it is the hits that count. We will hit.
Our industry has served this nation since its inception. George Washington scouted and approved the site upon which Springfield Armory was built. The factory churned our rifles, even machine guns and grenade launchers for almost two centuries that our military carried into war. John Moses Browning’s designs have seen service in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, and the wars in which I served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The military continues to search for the next best thing, fielding new M-17 modular handgun systems and searching for the next generation of military arms—even considering changing calibers. Our industry, the companies that make these rifles, pistols, machine guns and the ammunition that feeds them, are deeply invested in making sure that when our forces go into harms’ way, they deploy with the most accurate and reliable technology available.
My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life.
My life, and more importantly the lives of the Marines on each side of me, was dependent upon these firearms working in the most austere of environments. We knew this in the marrow of our bones. Rifles got cleaned before our bodies. Magazines were filled before bellies.
The firearms industry shares that same mission focus. Our member companies take deep pride knowing that our troops carry their products. They are humbled to have displayed on their company’s walls folded American flags brought back from war zones, because veterans were able to rely on those firearms to defend their lives.
My rifle and myself are the defenders of our country.
Our industry makes rifles, shotguns, and handguns that law-abiding Americans use every day. They are used to gather together for a day at a range, to hunt and put food on the table that was earned with days in the field. They are used for self-defense. It’s the freedoms for which I, and countless other veterans, want all Americans to enjoy.
I’m in good company at NSSF. Our foundation deeply cares for our military. Our staff includes veterans and the families of veterans. Our industry is full of veterans, all sharing the same thought.
It was an honor to serve in uniform. And it’s an honor now to serve those in uniform. With our deepest respect to all veterans, thank you for the freedom we enjoy. Semper Fidelis.
About the Author
Mark Oliva is Manager, Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms and ammunition and industries. He is a retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant with 25 years of service, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Albania, and Zaire.
It was about a quarter century ago that I too was issued a well worn M16 A2 rifle. When I got to the Fleet I got a slightly better conditioned Colt made M16. In my short enlistment me and that rifle became an amphibious symbiotic creature that made our hits count. Unfortunately we had to part ways when I left the Corps. So the first chance I got I went to the gun shop and got me a new pal. Couldn’t get an M16 if course, so went with the closest I could get from that shop, a Colt Match Target AR. Only problem was that it was during the Clinton ban. So I got a neutered rifle. No problem though, once the ban hit its sunset I changed the barrel, added a gas block with a bayonet lug and a compensator. Now she looks like my old pal.
Semper Fi Master Guns.
Springfield Armory is just a NAME they stamp on foreign products. The original company no longer exists and the current one is not only anti 2nd amendment (except when it serves their profit motive), it is not hiring US workers. They are located in Illinois – along with California and NJ the most anti-freedom state. I would never buy a Springfield product, unless it was made prior to 1968. THAT was the company George Washington spoke about!
I hope you are not all being hypocrites with the buy America rhetoric. As I sit in my living room typing this I cannot identify one item I know was made in America. Oh my dog sitting next to me. That is it. Love my S&W love my Beretta love my Taurus.
Taurus is made in Brazil. Great company btw. Remington is always an option if you want to buy American.
I agree with Al even glock has a factory in the USA . Springfield Arms just roll marks their name on a product. Buy American made to make it great again. Don’t forget people the socialists have won the house! We need to protect our country from the biggest threat we Veterans have ever faced. We can’t ever stand down.
Springfield Armory does have a long and storied history. But it’s just that, HISTORY. These are no longer American firearms. They are made in Croatia. A former Soviet Bloc country. I believe you do a disservice to your readers, those that do not know, by not pointing this out.
I prefer to spend my money on Made In The U.S.A products. I’ll stay with Ruger, Henry and select Remington firearms. I will never subsidize backwards countries that disarm their subjects. Buy American!
Thank you Mark, and the same to you. Whichever branch of service you chose, or in some cases, chose you, we are all brothers and sisters at arms. We stepped up to the job at hand, so others wouldn’t have to. So they, and every civilian, could sleep soundly, and wake up to enjoy the freedoms we fought to protect. If needed, I would consider it the utmost of honors to serve again. I’m older, and slower, and not quite as strong, but I love this country, and its people and will not hesitate or falter. Every non-veteran, should rest easy knowing that a fighting force larger than our standing armed forces surrounds them daily. And will not allow our great country to come under fire from outside forces, or from within.
De Oppresso Liber
Forever 18 Bravo