Quotations on Firearms and Shooting.

By the time you find this page, it should be obvious to you that I (Dan) enjoy the art, science, and lore of firearms. Here is my collection of many shooting-related (and weapons-related) quotations that I've run across.

Last updated January 2016


Pre-1850


Only an armed people can be truly free. Only an unarmed people can ever be enslaved.

In a polity, each citizen is to possess his own arms.

- Aristotle


Arms are instruments of ill omen...When one is compelled to use them, it is best to do so without relish...When victorious in war, one should observe mourning rites.

- Lao-Tzu, 6th century BC


From his weapons away no one should ever stir one step on the field;
for no one knows when need might have on a sudden a man of his sword.

- Hávamál (13th century Norse collection of ancient Viking poetry)


Qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.

(Who desires peace should prepare for war.)

De Rei Militari III, c. 390 A.D.
- Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus


When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.

- Jesus (Luke 11:21, NKJV)


Then He said to them, "But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one."

- Jesus (Luke 22:36, NKJV)


Though defensive violence will always be 'a sad necessity' in the eyes of men of principle, it would be still more unfortunate if wrongdoers should dominate just men.

- St. Augustine


Rome remained free for four hundred years and Sparta eight hundred, although their citizens were armed all that time; but many other states that have been disarmed have lost their liberties in less than forty years.

- Nicollo Machiavelli (1469-1527)


In these modern times, many men are wounded for not having weapons or knowledge of their use.

- Achille Marozzo, 1536


Do you know what astonished me most in the world? The inability of force to create anything. In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the spirit.

- Napoleon Bonaparte


Che è maggiore la confidenza nell'assalire i disarmati, che gli armati.

(An unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed one.)

- Cesare Bonesana, Marchese Beccaria, 1764


A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

- United States Constitution, Amendment II


The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that's good.

- George Washington


Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself.

- George Washington


A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them.

- George Washington


The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

- John Adams (to his wife Abigail on the 3rd of July 1776)


I never in my life saw better rifles (or men who shot better) than those made in America.

- Col George Hanger, British Army, Revolutionary War


The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun.

- Patrick Henry


No Free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.

- Thomas Jefferson


The said Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of The United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms...

Debates and Proceedings in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
- Samuel Adams


The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside.

- Thomas Paine


From the hour the Pilgrims landed, to the present day, events, occurrences, and tendencies prove that to insure peace, security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable.

- George Washington


He, who thinks he is his own master, and has what he can call his own, ought to have arms to defend himself, and what he possesses; else he lives precariously, and at discretion.

- James Burgh, 1774


Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property... Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them.

- Thomas Paine


A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks.

- Thomas Jefferson


Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American... The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state government, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.

- Tench Coxe, Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788


A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country.

- James Madison


To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike especially when young, how to use them.

- Richard Henry Lee, 1788


All you need for happiness is a good gun, a good horse, and a good wife.

- Daniel Boone


If the government be equitable; if it be reasonable in its exactions; if proper attention be paid to the education of children in knowledge and religion, few men will be disposed to use arms, unless for their amusement, and for the defence of themselves and their country.

Travels in New England and New York, 1823
- Timothy Dwight


Let every one, who begins shooting, take warning from the many serious misfortunes, that have, alas! too often occurred, and start with the determination of never suffering a gun, at any time, to be held for a moment, or even carried, so as to be likely to come in the direction of either man or beast.

All That Relates to Guns and Shooting, 1826
- Lt Col P. Hawker


Recollect, however, that though your gun may be perfectly safe, it may, in a moment, cease to be so by carelessness.

The Gun, or a Treatise on the Various Descriptions of Small Fire-Arms, 1835
- William Greener


The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers.

- Joseph Story, 1833


The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.

- Thomas Jefferson.


Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.

- Thomas Paine



Post-1850


The right of a citizen to bear arms, in lawful defense of himself or the State, is absolute. He does not derive it from the State government. It is one of the "high powers" delegated directly to the citizen, and is excepted out of the general powers of government. A law cannot be passed to infringe upon or impair it, because it is above the law, and independent of the lawmaking power.

- Cockrum v. State, Texas Supreme Court, 1859


As America's armed forces, you are the sharp sword of freedom.

- Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, December 2001


The Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to possess a firearm...and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

- U.S. Supreme Court, decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, 2008


It is clear that the Framers...counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.

- U.S. Supreme Court, decision in McDonald v. Chicago, 2010


If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance for survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.

- Winston Churchill


I would encourage my fellow law abiding citizens who do not yet own a gun to do the following: go shooting for the first time, choose the proper gun for self defense, purchase that gun, store the gun in a responsible manner, and become proficient at safely using that gun. Doing so may save your life one day, and can also benefit society as a whole.

- Otis McDonald, Plaintiff, McDonald v. Chicago, 2010


To me, a rifle is not for sporting or hunting. It is an instrument of freedom. It guarantees that I cannot be coerced, that I have free will, that I am a free man.

- Chinese Tiananmen Square veteran, now a U.S. Citizen, Jan 2013


Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!

- Chaplain Lieutenant Howell M. Forgy, USS New Orleans, Dec 7, 1941


An armed society is a polite society.

- Robert A. Heinlein


When I carry a gun, I don't do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I'm looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don't carry it because I'm afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn't limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation... And that's why carrying a gun is a civilized act.

- Maj. L. Caudill USMC (Ret.)


We desire the peace which comes as of right to the just man armed; not the peace granted on terms of ignominy to the craven and the weakling.

- Theodore Roosevelt, Dec 3, 1901


Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

- Dwight D. Eisenhower


Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.

- General Omar Bradley


The maintenance of the right to bear arms is a most essential one to every free people.

- State vs. Kerner, Supreme Court of North Carolina, 1921


The rifle is the weapon of democracy.

- Edward Abbey


The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure.

- Albert Einstein


The gun has been called the great equalizer, meaning that a small person with a gun is equal to a large person, but it is a great equalizer in another way, too. It insures that the people are the equal of their government whenever that government forgets that it is servant and not master of the governed.

- Ronald Reagan, 1975


It is in the light of that history that every nation today should know, be he friend or foe, that the United States has both the will and the weapons to join free men in standing up to their responsibilities.

- John F. Kennedy


We should always be, judged by our ancestry as well as by our own good sense, a race of citizen-soldiers, confident by reason of our skill at arms, that we can each contribute our full share to defend our institutions if needed.

- President, National Rifle Association of America, 20 September 1916


The value of a soldier as a fighting man is measured by his ability to shoot straight...If you ever go into battle, the consciousness that you can shoot as well as the other fellow, if not even a little better, will give you a comforting feeling of confidence...

If at the moment the piece is discharged, it is properly supported and correctly aimed, the mark will surely be hit.

How to Shoot (Including Care and Preservation of the Rifle), 1917
- Major James A. Moss


No arsenal, no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.

- Ronald Reagan


There can be no free speech, no freedom of press, no freedom to protest, no freedom to worship your God, no freedom to speak your mind, no freedom from fear, no freedom for your children and for theirs, for anybody, anywhere, without the Second Amendment freedom to fight for it.

There are no good guns. There are no bad guns. Any gun in the hands of a bad man is a bad thing. Any gun in the hands of a decent person is no threat to anybody - except bad people.

- Charleton Heston, President, National Rifle Association


We know all too well that our First Amendment rights are guaranteed only by our Second Amendment rights.

Jenn Jacques, BearingArms.com, October 12, 2015


You can't blame these guns. They all sit on this rack over here, they're stupid. They're steel, they're wooden. They sit there all day long until someone picks one up and goes and uses it.

- Hamp Dowling, owner, Eagle Gun Range, Macon, Georgia


Probably the most serious obstacle to the popular understanding of riflecraft is the fact that rifle marksmanship is dependent entirely upon individual self-control, and self-control is out of fashion in the Age of the Common Man.

Rifle marksmanship is a somewhat simpler effort than playing a musical instrument, but it is not so simple as to be achieved without effort.

The Art of The Rifle (1997)
- Col Jeff Cooper


Don't just carry a gun. Learn armed self-defense, in which situational awareness, not your sidearm, is the most important part of your defensive arsenal. If you aren't going to honestly dedicate yourself to being proactive and engaged in self-defense and committed to situational awareness, leave your gun at home.

bearingarms.com, 27 Dec 2014
- Bob Owens


The gun is not a magic talisman that wards off evil. It is a special-purpose emergency rescue tool: no more, no less.

- Massad Ayoob, November 18, 2014


Firearms should be looked upon as a kind of machinery, which no one in his senses would attempt to handle unless he knew the use of them.

Firearms should never, under any pretence, be pointed at anybody; even if unloaded, such a practice is foolish and unpardonable. No soldier except in action would ever think of doing so, and no gentleman could.

All ammunition should, as a rule, be kept in some secret and safe place, and always under lock and key.

The responsibility of those possessing firearms is great, and proper precautions and proper care cannot be too strictly enforced.

To carry a gun gracefully and properly is an art. It should never be so carried or wielded as to be a risk to the possessor, or any one.

The man who takes no pride in his gun is no sportsman.

Hints on the Use and Handling of Firearms Generally,
and the Revolver in Particular,
1885
- Lieutenant H. Onslow Curling


Only an armed people can be the real bulwark of popular liberty.

- Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.

- Adolph Hitler, April 11, 1942


The essence of good marksmanship is self-control, and self-control is the essence of good citizenship.

- Col Jeff Cooper


Cultivate and practise the habit of always holding the arm, whether loaded or unloaded, so that it points in a direction where it would do no harm if it were to go off unexpectedly.

Pistol and Revolver Shooting (1915)
- Abraham Lincoln Artman Himmelwright


Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. This is not to say that firearms should not be very carefully used, and that definite safety rules of precaution should not be taught and enforced. But the right of citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against tyranny.

- Hubert H. Humphrey, Guns Magazine, Feb. 1960


Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready.

- Theodore Roosevelt


Today, we need a nation of Minutemen, citizens who are not only prepared to take arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as the basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom.

- John F. Kennedy


A man with a gun is a citizen, a man without a gun is a subject.

- D. Michael Wiechman


If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.

- The Dalai Lama, 2001


An experienced pistol shot can easily be singled out by the extreme care and unostentation with which he handles his arms.

Pistol and Revolver Shooting (1915)
- Abraham Lincoln Artman Himmelwright


A nation skilled in the use of the rifle need never fear for their liberties, nor for those hidden dangers which acccompany an effete civilization.

The American Rifle: A Treatise, a Text Book, and a Book of Practical Instruction in the Use of the Rifle, 1923
- Major Townsend Whelan


Since Illinois enacted a law permitting more people to carry concealed firearms, more than 65,000 people got permits to do so. Rates of robbery, burglary and motor vehicle thefts have dropped significantly, and the murder rate has fallen to a level not seen in more than half a century. If only the gun control fanatics would pay some attention to facts, a lot of lives could be saved.

Thomas Sowell, 30 Sep 2014


The 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.

The Art of The Rifle (1997)
- Col Jeff Cooper


Your pistol is a deadly weapon designed to be a serious tool in the hands of a serious and responsible person. Your pistol was designed as a perfected instrument of war, able to instantly kill whatever or whoever was hit by one of its bullets and you should never, ever forget that.

- GeoJohn


When we choose to exercise our constitutional right to bear arms, we also undertake the solemn responsibility to ensure that those arms we acquire are used and stored safely.

- Bob Owens, BearingArms.com, 21 May 2015


A sixgun or automatic pistol is a tool, and a deadly one; handle them as such. From the start, consider all guns as being loaded whether you know them to be empty or not. Treat them as loaded guns and you will never have an accident.

Sixguns, 1961
- Elmer Keith


The first step – in the direction of preparation to avert war if possible, and to be fit for war if it should come – is to teach men to shoot!

- Theodore Roosevelt


The one weapon every man, soldier, sailor, or airman – should be able to use effectively is the rifle. Expertness in its use cannot be over emphasized.

- Dwight D. Eisenhower


For light to defeat darkness, for civilized society to triumph over barbarism, good men must be armed and resolute against the lawless, the violent, and the tyrannical.

bearingarms.com, 24 Nov 2014
- Bob Owens


Rest assured our America, this experiment in democracy started over two centuries ago, will forever remain the "land of the free and home of the brave" so long as we never run out of tough young Americans who are willing to look beyond their own self-interest and comfortable lives, and go into the darkest and most dangerous places on earth to hunt down, and kill, those who would do us harm.

- Lt General John Kelly, USMC. Nov 13, 2010


We are not engaged in just another job; we are practitioners of the Profession of Arms. We are entrusted with the security of our nation, the protection of our citizens and the preservation of its way of life. In this capacity, we serve as guardians of America's future

General Ronald Fogleman, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force


No profession asks more of its members than the Profession of Arms. As we state in our Airmans Creed, we have answered our nations call. It is a higher calling, and it comes with a higher standard.

We must remember above all else, we are patriots first. As service men and women we, more than anyone else, understand the price paid for freedom. We, more than anyone else, understand the sacrifices that come from willingly serving our country. We, more than anyone else, understand what it means to serve in the Profession of Arms.

America's Air Force: A Profession of Arms, July 2015


No rational person wants to harm or kill others, yet no rational person should be without the ability should it become necessary.

Mike McDaniel, former police officer, detective, and SWAT operator, and blogger for Pajamas Media


Lord Acton put it, "Power tends to corrupt," and the rifle is the instrument of power. Handle it carefully. Learn to use it well. Make it part of you and you will have moved onto a superior plane of manhood.

The Art of The Rifle (1997)
- Col Jeff Cooper


The best cover in a gunfight is behind a controlled pair of bullets heading for your opponent's thoracic cavity.

- Ignatius Piazza, Founder and Director, Front Sight Firearms Training Institute


Make good scouts of yourselves, become good rifle shots so that if it becomes necessary that you defend your families and your country that you can do it.

- Lord Baden-Powell, Scouting For Boys


Wars may be fought with weapons but they are won by men.

- General George Patton Jr.


Man is the foremost instrument of combat.

Battle Studies, 1880
- Ardant du Picq, Colonel, Armée de Terre (French Army)


While we all have our preferences, the person behind the pistol is the real weapon.

- R.K. Campbell, 2013


The sword is more important than the shield, and skill is more important than either. The final weapon is the brain. All else is supplemental.

- John Steinbeck