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Two Assault Rifles
A new section from Stewart Brand's Maintenance on Books in Progress
Stewart Brand continues his digression on manuals with an investigation into two assault rifles:
SOME OF THE MOST VALUED MANUALS focus on known weaknesses of the device in question. John Hall’s musket manual did that. So did John Muir’s VW manual. This digression-within-a-digression examines what was behind the most famous of all manuals dedicated solely to maintaining a flawed tool. It emerged from the Vietnam War and one of the harshest maintenance dramas in history.
In the earliest years of the war—the mid-1960s—the North Vietnamese outgunned US forces on the ground. China had provided them with AK-47s—a cheap, highly effective firearm referred to as an "assault rifle"—which means a gun that can shift from semi-automatic (bang bang bang) to fully automatic (braaaaaaaapp). The US responded by fielding its own assault rifle— a brand new, highly sophisticated weapon called the M16.