Change doesn’t happen fast in some government offices. But sometimes, there are damn good reasons to keep things the way they are. Here are ten weapons systems that withstood the test of time–many of them are still going strong now with no end in sight.
1. M1903 Springfield .30 Cal Rifle
The .30-06 is a fantastic round, and the M1903 was capable of incredible accuracy. The old bolt-gun may look like a relic of a bygone century, but this rifle saw service in WWI, WWII, and all the way up to Vietnam. All told, the old Springfield saw active duty for more than 60 years.
2. M1911 .45 Cal Pistol
Shortly after the 1903 came a sidearm that doesn’t know when to quit. Single-action pistol fanatics are still tricking out 1911s for everyday carry, more than a century after they were adopted as the Army’s sidearm of choice. When the 1911 was replaced by the Beretta M9 in the 1980’s, fans of the old John Browning classic went ballistic. The gun is still in use by some special forces units.
3. M1919 .30 Cal Machine Gun
John Browning was a genius. The M1919 is another of his ideas. This air-cooled machine gun came into service at the end of WWI–where the machine gun was relatively new concept. The 1919 was fast and damn near indestructible, but a bit heavy for an individual gunner to carry. Still, it saw extensive use in World War II and Korea.
4. M2 .50 Cal Machine Gun
The M2, affectionately known as the “Ma Deuce” is a beast. This is another of the big guns that came into service at the end of the first world war–only this one is still hanging around. The platform is so simple and easy to maintain that there are no plans to stop using the gun. In 2015, a M2 that was still in service was determined to be 94 years old. This of the guns, tanks, planes, armor–anything from 94 years ago–and the achievements of the M2 will look truly astounding. Oh yeah–Browning again.
5. M60 .30 Cal Machine Gun
One of the most iconic firearms of the second half of the 20th century (thanks to television coverage of the Vietnam war and lots of Rambo movie posters) is the M60. The gun entered service right as we were gearing up for Vietnam. It is a .30 caliber, and light enough to carry–yet the gun gets terrible gas mileage, so carrying all that ammo was a real burden. While no longer in service with infantry, the gun is still used by some special teams and on boats and helicopters.
6. M14 .30 Cal Rifle
Debates about how much gun an infantryman needs are never-ending. The M14 was a big rifle, and it is heavy. The gun is accurate enough for use by designated marksmen. Yet the rifle was designed to be used in the role the Garand and Springfield served before. It failed at this task, miserably. As the standard American infantry rifle from 1959 to 1964, when American infantry men were mired in dense jungles with no need for long range accuracy, the M14 was overkill. Yet it has found renewed favor in the desert, where the rifle’s range is a real asset.
7. M16 5.56 mm Rifle/ M4 Carbine
There’s no real need to wax poetic about the M16, or the guns derived from Stoner’s original design. The rifle is fielded by almost everyone who isn’t fielding a variant of the AK-47. It is light. A soldier can carry numerous rounds, thanks to the lightweight of the 5.56 ammunition. With proper care, the gun will run forever, and it is incredibly modular–so pieces can be swapped out as needed with no gunsmith’s skills needed.
8. LGM-30 Minuteman Ballistic Missile
Some of the military’s most trusted assets are not guns. We’ve got ships and planes that are ancient and still in service. One of the more surprising pieces of technology that is still in service is a missile that first saw service in 1962. These multistage rockets are capable of delivering nuclear payloads anywhere on the planet.
9. B-52 Stratofortress
While we’re talking about nuclear capabilities, we should discuss the epic run of the B-52. These giants are still the backbone of the US Air Force. As long as we maintain air-superiority, there’s nowhere the B-52 can’t go. The plane has been bombing America’s enemies for more than 60 years.
10. M61 Vulcan 20mm Cannon
Perhaps the least well known gun on this whole list is the humble M61. This is another platform that is nearing its 70th birthday, and still going strong. The six barrels of the M61 rotate, keeping the gun cool. These cannons are the go-to for heavy fighting planes.