It's Thanksgiving again, the time of year when denizens of our former American colonies - alas, still in a distressingly successful and prolonged state of rebellion against their rightful sovereign - like to assemble as families and fortify themselves for a punishing day of shopping by scoffing a mountain of tuck while watching men in protective equipment running into one another on TV.
Refreshed, all true Americans then head out today and splurge any cash or credit they have left (after buying all the food) in a Black Friday bargain-binge consumer orgy. This practice, like many another, has now reached our shores in a small way. In this case we at Vulture Central are minded to surf the zeitgeist and accept something of an American theme this weekend - and, as we established last year, nothing seems to us more American in spirit than a celebration of personal weapons.
We're taking no particular stance here on whether the right to bear arms is a good thing or a bad one: nor on whether guns are more dangerous to their owners or their families than to possible domestic intruders, nor on the relative dangers attendant on having guns in the home compared to having swimming pools, patio gas, powered gardening implements, members of one's beloved extended family etc. Nor are we going to get sucked into the possibly even more acrimonious debate over just what kind of gun - in particular what kind of handgun - is best in a gunfight. (The .45ACP-vs-the-rest debate has already played out at great length in our comments pages. It seems likely that we might, again, get some people doubting that any Limey journo wiener could possibly know anything of guns or weapons, so your correspondent's death-tech CV is attached at the end of this piece.)
We're choosing to see personal shooters as an American thing partly because the USA - at least according to these guys - has the highest number of privately-owned guns per head of population in the world*. Also, of the world's major powers it is the only one whose recorded history has been played out only in the era of firearms. The other big hitters - Russia, China, Japan, the heftier European nations etc - have all seen much of their histories punctuated by the clash of steel and twang of bowstrings rather than gunshots, but America went straight from stone axes to muskets. There have been no samurai swordsmen, no knights in shining armour, no apple-shooting crossbow artists, no warrior monks or legionaries or longbowmen in US or colonial history. Rather, America has had its "minute men" with their flintlocks, its sixgun-packing western pistol fighters, its cops and robbers tooled up with Tommy guns (and even full-blown machine guns, on occasion**).
This being the Reg we generally prefer a bit of a tech angle - that is, where there are no obvious Paris Hilton implications to a story - and so it is that today we are again featuring only futuristic, unusual, high-tech weapons. You'll find no everyday lead-spitters here. Needless to say, heavy ordnance which can only be used from a fixed mount or a vehicle or which requires a crew of more than one is out too: weapons which can only be deployed by large organised groups are surely for the guvmint - the very people who might seek to pry one's trusty shooting iron from one's cold dead fingers - not for proud, freedom-loving individualists fixin' to defend their remote wilderness compounds.
Thus we have once again limited ourselves to weapons suitable for individual carry, and to make it sporting we have included only those which actually exist or genuinely appear likely to shortly. Again in the interests of fair play with our readers, this year we have a completely new line-up: none of last year's hardware is back for a repeat appearance.
So, without further ado, let's get on to the weapons.
*This is not a good guide to the percentage of Americans who are tooled up as in many cases one American will own several - or indeed, many - guns. It seems likely that a higher proportion of Swiss people have a gun in their house, for instance, as large numbers of Swiss men keep weapons at home in their role as military reservists.
**The Browning Automatic Rifle was carried by both sides in the ambush which ended the careers - and the lives - of Bonnie and Clyde. The BAR would generally be seen as a light machine-gun (or squad automatic weapon, in US parlance) being intended for use by a single person. It was used as such by US troops right up until the Korean War. One might note, though, that it fires full-fat rifle ammo, a thing which makes it seem in some ways more like a heavier general-purpose or medium machine gun. It was marketed to civilian customers between the wars as a "machine rifle", a term which may be familiar to some Reg readers from the scientifiction works of E E "Doc" Smith (for instance it appears in the Lensman books).