Due to the Clinton ‘assault weapons” ban (AWB), when I first became interested in modern sporting rifles there were two AR-15s on the market, Colt and Bushmaster.

Some features that we now take for granted weren’t available, and we had to use old magazines because only government employees could purchase newly manufactured mags.

Somehow, despite the ban, I was able to buy my very own Bushmaster complete with A2 front sight post and carry handle. It was an unwieldy and largely unreliable thing that’s primary appeal was its appearance.

AWB ends

In 2004, the AWB expired ending the prohibition on standard-capacity magazine sales and a full array of features and accessories became available to the public.

As much as I enjoyed the restoration of my 2nd amendment rights, the U.S. military was the primary beneficiary of a fully functional and competitive commercial marketplace.

At the beginning of the global war on terror the U.S. military issued M4s that were very similar to the boring Bushmaster I owned.

The Department of Defense scrambled to cobble together equipment for troops engaged in combat ranging from urban areas to mountain terrain at a time when the robust weapons and accessories marketplace we have today wasn’t conceivable.

Things that we take for granted today like Magpul Pmags and near bulletproof red-dot sights didn’t exist until the market was set free to create them, fueled by civilian consumers who funded the creation of new and advanced equipment.

Development surges

In the years since the AWB ended, giant leaps forward in the development of magazines, suppressors, optics, ergonomics, and reliability have completely changed the small arms landscape forever.

It’s probably impossible to know how many American lives were saved in combat thanks to these advancements, but it’s clear that there are fathers, mothers wives and husbands alive today because someone was able to develop a magazine that didn’t jam or an optic that held it’s zero in adverse conditions.

Today, the domestic small arms industry is stronger than ever. Sig Sauer’s new MCX Spear was adopted by the US army as its next generation squad weapon – a weapon that perfectly sums up the free market’s growth since the end of the ill-conceived 1994 AWB.

Without a thriving commercial market, it’s very unlikely that Sig would have been in a position to develop what promises to be an important upgrade in the Army’s overall capabilities.

The strength of the arms manufacturing sector, ammunition development, optics and advanced suppressor technology came together to produce a weapon system that wouldn’t have been possible under the arbitrary restrictions of an assault weapon ban.

Anti-gun forces

When anti-gun ideologues attack the gun industry, they aren’t just reducing the public’s access to high quality equipment, they’re restricting the engine that drives military technologies forward.

The military depends on civilian companies to develop and manufacture everything they use. That takes huge sums of money that consumers provide.

Defending the domestic firearms industry is a matter of national security.

Chris Brooks is an armorer and longtime gun-rights advocate based in Southwest Florida.