The terrific combat reporter C. J. Chivers, who has written what looks like a great syncretic narrative of the Kalashnikov rifle, maintains a blog where he posts notes and marginalia from both his book and his embedded reporting. In one of his posts, Chivers shares a snapshot of the receiver of a rifle bearing a 1954 factory stamp:
What makes that interesting? This particular rifle was more than a half-century old that day I made this picture, and it was not in a reserve armory or a museum. It was still in active use, and was carried on this day, a few years ago, by an Afghan soldier on a joint Afghan-American patrol in Ghazni Province. Can you think of tools that last this long, or that you expect to? Your pickup truck? Cell phone? Refrigerator? Television? Laptop? Do you own anything that was manufactured in the 1950s and still is in regular, active use in your life? Sure, there are examples. (The original toilets in older buildings are one; older electric lamps are another, although many antique lamps have been rewired by their owners, so maybe they don’t count.) When set against almost all products, the list is not large.
This inventory of which machines endure explains a lot about why some of us enjoy guns. A well-maintained rifle, shotgun, or handgun will continue to perform what is expected of it more or less the same after twenty, thirty, fifty years. Firearms offer a shelter from planned obsolescence, so prevalent everywhere else in our material culture.
But there's one more piece of technology that belongs next to guns in Chivers' inventory of durable tools. I mean the book, of course.