Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How many patriots didn't have guns?

Here’s a Fractured Fact in American history:

Quite a few of the colonists didn’t have guns.

Try to imagine a Revolutionary War scene, or a “Last of the Mohicans” scenario, that doesn’t include every able-bodied male walking around with a flintlock musket or pistol.

Surely, soldiers in organized units were generally pretty well armed—although in 1776 Gen. Washington complained to the Committee of Safety in Pennsylvania that militiamen were reporting for duty without muskets.

Historian Thomas Verenna says colonial American probate records suggest there were roughly only about 5.4 guns for every 10 people in 1774—gun ownership varied among the colonies, in Pennsylvania the number was closer to 3 guns for 10 people.

Guns were expensive, and colonial manufacturing capabilities were limited.

Today, a distinct minority of households have firearms. The Pew Research Center said last year that only 37% of households reported having a gun. In 1973, the percentage was 49%.

The percentage is dropping. I think that’s a good thing.

p.s. I searched online to find an illustration of a “Revolutionary soldier” or a “colonial patriot” without a gun, but I couldn’t find one


  1. All I know is that Davey Crockett owned Ole Betsy and Jim Bowie only had a knife!

  2. Just to clarify, I said that 54% of the population owned a gun--not 54% of households. In other words, 5.4 out of every 10 people owned a gun, rather than 5.4 of every 10 households. That is a huge distinction in the amount of guns owned. There were greater concentrations of gun owners in the south and New England, while the Middle Colonies had low rates of gun ownership.

    1. Tom, thanks for the correction, I have revised my post.

  3. No worries. Glad you liked the article!