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Weapon of Choice

When stockpiling guns is seen as both a hobby, and a necessity.

Location: Walkersville, Maryland
Date: February 8, 2014

Gable Higinbotham was dressed all wrong for a snowy day. His ghillie suit, an intricate netting of twigs, leaves, and dirt, is typically used by jungle snipers as camouflage. But Higinbotham wasn’t going on a hunt—he hates hunting, in any weather—so the uniform was just for show. He was out for target practice, armed with a Savage 110 BA Bolt-Action sniper rifle and a Colt M4 semiautomatic rifle, the “weapon of choice” for the U.S. armed forces. Higinbotham’s father is a longtime collector of guns and ammunition. Like many Americans, he began stockpiling when President Obama took office in 2008. Today, in a bunker beneath the family farm in Walkersville, Maryland, a safe holds more than 100 pistols, assault rifles, and shotguns. As of 2007, America was already home to more than 270 million firearmsthe most, per capita, of any country in the world. More than 100 million more have been purchased since Obama’s election.

For the past two years, photographer Matthew Borowick has traveled from Texas to New York to document the nation’s gun culture. He found that many gun owners, like Higinbotham, are collectors who plunk down tens of thousands of dollars on handcrafted firearms—the bigger and badder, the better. “In the 1970s, people would get these muscle cars,” Borowick says. “It’s the same for these guys. They tweak the guns to make them powerful enough to look like they belong in action movies and video games.” Jungle-sniper costume not included.

Starting October 28th, follow Matthew Borowick as he takes over the @NewRepublic Instagram account to share photographs from his series ‘American Gun Culture’.