'Onward Christian Soldiers ...'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

As WTSP notes, a Florida man—of course it’s a Florida man—is marketing a Christian assault rifle. The gun, which of course is known as the “Crusader,” is your basic AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, but with a verse from Psalm 144 etched into the magazine:

“Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.”

The gun is also adorned with a cross and “Peace,” “War,” and “God Wills It” in both English and Latin. A spokesman for Spike’s Tactical, which is manufacturing the weapon, explained: “We wanted to make sure we built a weapon that would never be able to be used by Muslim terrorists to kill innocent people or advance their radical agenda.” The gun has a lifetime warranty, but there’s no indication whether you can take into the eternal afterlife, or whether the warranty would apply.

Is there a precedent for the idea of a weapon that specifically serves only a particular faith?

(And can Jews use the gun? After all, the psalms are traditionally attributed to David.) When Pakistan acquired nuclear weapons, becoming the first Muslim country to do so, it was commonly referred to as “the Islamic bomb,” both because it was a mark of pride to many Muslims, but also because it was seen as a threat to Israel and others, should Pakistan decide to share the technology through some sort of neo-pan-Islamic movement.

But the first thing I thought of was the Puckle gun. Patented in 1718 by James Puckle, it was one of the first revolvers designed, more than a century before Samuel Colt’s own pistol. A revolving bullet chamber wasn’t Puckle’s only innovation. He also designed the gun to have two different barrels, each firing a different kind of bullets: round ones for Christian adversaries, and square ones for “Turks,” as Muslims were broadly referred to at the time. According to the patent, these bullets were more damaging and would “convince the Turks of the benefits of Christian civilization.”

So there’s that. On the other hand, there are Pope Francis’s comments in June, suggesting that producing weapons was inherently un-Christian. “There is an element of hypocrisy [for a Christian] to speak of peace and then manufacture weapons," Francis said. (I wrote in more detail about religious denominations trying to press gun manufacturers and merchants to cease in February.)

To be safe, Spike’s Tactical should at the very least avoid making any of the guns out of used plowshares.

(Hat tip: Boing Boing)