Firearms


The question came up recently asking what are the most beautiful machines ever made by man.  So, I thought I would post my list.  I did not chose these machines because they are the fastest, strongest or best performers in their fields.  I chose them because they spark an emotional, sensual, visceral reaction at the base of my brain — They are beautiful.

You will notice that the list is skewed toward transportation.  My personal aesthetic sensibilites undoubtedly contribute to this bias, but I also think that vehicles occupy a sweet-spot in industrial design.  They are durable enough that the effort to make them beautiful is worthwhile and yet not so expensive or purpose built that utility completely overides other considerations.  This list also specifically includes machines and not man’s other creations such as clothing, architecture or purely artistic works.  Those may have to be the subject of another list sometime.

Think I missed something?  I’m sure you’ll let me know.

10.  Bugatti Type 57S Atlantic

We start the list with a pretty exclusive beauty.  Only four were made, and only two survive today.

. . .

9.  Oil Refinery at Night

There are a number of refineries along I-15 in North Salt Lake.  I use to drive past them every day on my way to work.  In the early morning with the fog rolling in off of the Lake and the waste gas flaring, they were amazingly beautiful.

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8.  Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing

The potent radial engine out front combined with the smooth curves and delicate lines so ably capture the strength and elegance of the Art Deco aesthetic.

. . .

7.  J Class Yachts

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking.

– John Masefield

There is just something about the image of a ship, sails taught and running before the wind, that captures the imagination.  And I don’t think any other ship comes as close to the pure expression of the ideal.

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6.  Macbook Air

Pictures do not do justice to any of these machines, but especially this one.  The smooth lines and simplicity are compelling.  I still have to fondle it everytime I go into an Apple store.

. . .

5.  Supermarine Spitfire

The inclusion of this most iconic of aircraft needs no justification.  However, (because I know it will come up if more than one person ever reads this) I considered and intentially left our the P-51 Mustang.  While the Mustang is undoubtedly a more capable aircraft, it is nowhere near as beautiful.

. . .

4.  Mac Motorcycles Peashooter

I love motorcycles, and there a lot of them that could have made it onto this list.  But this offering from Mac Motorcycles so perfectly reflects an elemental motorcycleness that it had to be at the top (even though it hasn’t actually been made yet).

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3.  Harry Winston Opus X

This watch is exquisite even in these still photos, but you really must see the movement in motion to appreciate the true genius of the design.

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2.  Nemesis NXT

An aeronautical siren — a creature so beautiful and so sinister that even though you know it wants to kill you, you can’t help yearning to touch it.

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1.  Astin Martin DB9

This car balances a sublime harmony between elegance and animal athleticism.  Plenty of sports cars look fast, but this one exudes power and sensuality like the love child of Mac Truck and a Lotus Elise.

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Honorable Mentions — because 10 is never enough.

1934 Chrysler Airflow

(I had this at number 10, but the curves on that Bugatti . . . )  We like to romanticize beauty as universal and enduring, but it sometimes shows itself to be driven by cultural norms.  The flowing lines of the Chrysler Airflow push all the right buttons for me, but its initial reception generated all the enthusiam of a Milli Vanilli reunion tour.

I love this picture of the Airflow next to a Union Pacific M10000 streamliner

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General Dynamics F-16 Falcon

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Louis XIII Fowling Piece

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BMW R1100RS

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“Mallard” LNER Class A4 4468 Steam Locomotive

. . .

 

The NYTimes has discovered a new constitutional principle: “selective incorpodumbassicity.” This means that the stupidity of some voters is incorporated, using a fabricated interpretation of the 14th Amendment, to rewrite the 2nd Amendment so that legitimate gun ownership, by responsible law-abiding citizens, is treated exactly the same way as if you robbed a bank.

In Dr. Munger’s response to this NY Times editorial.

Adapting one’s product and advertising to the local culture is a key strategies for entering new global markets.

The Israeli arms firm Rafael takes the show to Bollywood with this marketing video shown at Aero India 2009 held recently in Bangalore.

Attractive women and flower festooned Spike-ER anti-tank missiles, an effective combination, I’d say.

I don’t know the statistics, but I’m willing to bet that this doesn’t happen often in Virginia.

Mansfield, England:

A BUSINESSMAN and his wife were robbed by four men who burst into their home with hammers, a screwdriver and a large bladed weapon.

The men escaped in a black car with an undisclosed sum of cash after the incident in Hermitage Avenue, Mansfield, at around 9.25pm yesterday.

Even stupid criminals aren’t willing to risk a robbery using this,

when the man’s castle might be guarded with this,

pistol

or this,

Unfortunately, as I have noted here and here, the English aren’t even allowed to protect themselves with “large bladed weapons” anymore.

hashknifeposseThe rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.

Jeff Cooper, 1920-2006

Aichmophobia: a morbid fear of sharp or pointed objects.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.

So, Stephen Tall walks into a shop and . . .

So I’m buying a new set of cutlery, when the sales assistant tells me there’s a problem: he can’t serve me. Erm, why not, I ask: I’ve brought money with me and everything.

Turns out he’s 17, and so cannot sell a knife to me. Even knives whose power of serration will scarcely trouble poached salmon. He calls over a colleague, who keys in her number to his till, and he then sells me my new set of cutlery.

Thank goodness for the protections afford by that law. Imagine the chaos that might rein if 17 year-olds were freely able to sell cutlery?

He’s old enough to join the army and die for his country, mind.

We’ve talked before about the British aversion to cutlery.  Tell me again how gun control isn’t a slippery slope.

(HT: Adam Smith Institute Blog)

I have argued on many occasions that gun violence is a result of culture and not of gun ownership or liberal gun laws.  This article in the Times shows that the British are learning exactly that.

Victorian gun crime—The Times, 03 March 2007 (emphasis added).

Illegally held guns are flooding Britain’s inner cities and a spate of fatal shootings in London has highlighted gun culture’s allure to disaffected youth. This comes despite the best efforts of the law and its enforcers to restrict the supply of guns. Yet, any man, woman or street urchin could own a gun in Victorian Britain — at least until 1870 when a licence fee was charged if they wanted to carry the weapon outside their home. And, surprisingly, there was very little gun crime.

The right to own firearms was enshrined in the 1689 Bill of Rights (the Americans had to get their ideas from somewhere) and as late as 1900 the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, was happy to declare how much he would “laud the day when there was a rifle in every cottage in England”.

There were a quarter of a million registered firearms in private hands before the First World War and the true figure was almost certainly far higher. In those years the average number of crimes involving firearms in London was 45. In 2006 it was 3,350.

True, in 1903 a Pistols Act restricted small handgun ownership to those who were not “drunken or insane”. This did not prove overrestrictive. When in 1909 unarmed police gave chase to a couple of gun-toting Latvian anarchist desperados in Tottenham, there was no shortage of passers-by who lent their pistols to the coppers.

. . .

[Later restrictive] legislation had less to do with armed robbery and more to do with the Lloyd George Government’s fear that a combination of disaffected soldiers returning from the Western Front, the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the surge in trade union membership might be harbingers of trouble. It was thus better if firearms were monopolised by the State and the more responsible classes.

. . .

In recent years, life in Britain’s cities has got far more dangerous. Since there are not more guns around, perhaps the real problem is cultural?

Ross Firestone, a commenter on the online version, notes:

Of course, the real problem is cultural.

In the rural American state of New Hampshire there are esssentially no gun laws. When I lived there as a boy I had the usual youthful arsenal: a handgun, a rimfire rifle, a shotgun and I was saving money to buy a center-fire rifle. Gun ownership is part of the culture of the state who’s motto is, “Live free or die!”. Yet the crime rate was very low then and still is.

I now live in urban Chicago. Handgun ownership is forbidden and long gun ownership is restricted so there are far fewer legally owned guns. The crime rate is 50 times that of New Hampshire.

This mirrors my own experience growing up in rural Utah and now living in the Nation’s Capital.  There wasn’t a problem with students bringing guns to school in my hometown.  Everyone just kept them in a gun rack in the back window of his pick-up.

(Via An Englishman’s Castle).