Guns on a Plane

We attended a symposium at the Institute of Military Technology a while back, and one of the talks was on the development of the AR-10, given by C. Reed Knight Jr. One of the neat anecdotes he shared really brought to light the change in public and political view of guns in public life.

In late 1956, Stoner was taking one of the very first AR-10 prototypes to Springfield Armory for testing – the AR10 was a late entry into ongoing rifle tests, and it was a potentially huge opportunity for Armalite (which had less than a dozen employees at the time). Stoner was running late to make his connecting flight into Massachusetts, and ran to the gate without taking the time to check his small suitcase. The suitcase which, as it happened, had a disassembled select-fire AR-10 inside.

Early AR-10
One of the very first “production” (actually handmade) AR-10 rifles. This may have actually been the one Stoner was carrying… (Photo from collection of C. Reed Knight Jr)

He made it to the plane – a small puddle-jumper – in time to get aboard and worked his way to a seat at the back of the passenger compartment, a bit out of breath and not paying attention to anyone else, simply happy to have made the flight. Throughout the flight, he got an odd feeling about two men in the front of the plane, who were professionally dressed but seemed unusually interested in watching the other passengers. Things got stranger when the plan landed, and one of the two men stood up and asked everyone else to stay in their seats until Vice President Nixon had exited the plane. Stoner didn’t say anything, and wasn’t given a second glance.

Yep, turns out he had merrily carried a machine gun onto an airplane with the #2 political official, right past a pair of Secret Service agents. It might surprise some people today to learn that such an action did not, in fact, tear a hole in the space-time continuum, much less land anyone in jail. The past isn’t perfect in many ways, but there are some aspects of it I wouldn’t mind having back…