Lock, Stock, and Barrel

The Origins of American Gun Culture

by Clayton E. Cramer


In the past two decades, revisionist historians have tried to reinvent early America as a nearly gun-less nation with little or no violence—despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary.

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Cover image for Lock, Stock, and Barrel

February 2018


Pages 280
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics American History/Science and Technology

This provocative book debunks the myth that American gun culture was intentionally created by gun makers and demonstrates that gun ownership and use have been a core part of American society since our colonial origins.

Revisionist historians argue that American gun culture and manufacturing are relatively recent developments. They further claim that widespread gun violence was largely absent from early American history because guns of all types, and especially handguns, were rare before 1848. According to these revisionists, American gun culture was the creation of the first mass production gun manufacturers, who used clever marketing to sell guns to people who neither wanted nor needed them.

However, as proven in this first scholarly history of "gun culture" in early America, gun ownership and use have in fact been central to American society from its very beginnings. Lock, Stock, and Barrel: The Origins of American Gun Culture shows that gunsmithing and gun manufacturing were important parts of the economies of the colonies and the early republic and explains how the American gun industry helped to create our modern world of precision mass production and high wages for workers.


  • Proves that widespread gun ownership and gun violence existed in early America
  • Argues that revisionist claims of the last two decades about American gun culture are false
  • Provides a detailed account of how Revolutionary American governments contracted for guns
  • Shows how the American gun industry met private demand and led to an entirely new way of making almost all of the manufactured goods we take for granted today
Author Info

Clayton E. Cramer, MA, teaches history at the College of Western Idaho. His scholarly work has been cited in two U.S. Supreme Court decisions, District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010), and in dozens of lower court decisions. He has published nine books, including Praeger’s For the Defense of Themselves and the State: The Original Intent and Judicial Interpretation of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and Concealed Weapon Laws of the Early Republic: Dueling, Southern Violence, and Moral Reform.



"When Michael Bellesiles' book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture appeared in 2000, it was heralded for demonstrating that since privately owned firearms were rare when the Second Amendment was drafted, no individual right was intended. Although Bellesiles' evidence was subsequently exposed as a high stakes fraud, Pamela Haag's recent book The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture, resurrects his discredited thesis. Clayton E. Cramer, in Lock, Stock and Barrel: The Origins of American Gun Culture, provides an exhaustive array of evidence of the common use of guns, setting the record straight yet again."—Joyce Lee Malcolm, Patrick Henry Professor of Constitutional Law and the Second Amendment, Scalia Law School at George Mason University, and Author of To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right

"Relying on his skill as one of today’s best original-source researchers, Clayton E. Cramer has produced a definitive work on the historical pervasiveness of firearms in American life since the colonial era. Clearly and precisely separating what can be known from what cannot, and relying only on the former, he shows us that gun ownership and carrying has been a central component of American life since before the Republic’s independence. So, too, the commerce—gun manufacture, repair, import, and sale—that such demand naturally entailed. Cramer shows his readers that—like it or not—guns have and continue to be an ingrained part of American culture." —George A. Mocsary, Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University School of Law, and Author of Firearms Law and the Second Amendment: Regulation, Rights, and Policy

"Gun prohibitionists are once again trying to make the false argument that widespread firearms ownership was rare in early American history and occurred only later on as a result of a conspiracy by firearms manufacturers to sell guns to an ignorant American public. In Lock, Stock and Barrel: The Origins of American Gun Culture, Clayton E. Cramer tackles this revisionist 'fake news' head on, by providing extensive evidence of gunsmithing, firearms manufacturing, and the common ownership of firearms in Colonial and early American history. He traces this tradition into modern America, including the positive effect on American manufacturing techniques from the late nineteenth century onward, which were marveled at and copied by other nations, and of which we—as today’s consumers—are the beneficiaries." —Stefan B. Tahmassebi, Deputy General Counsel, National Rifle Association of America

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