Very interesting blog post about the 17th Century Firearms trade in America and impact on the Indians of the northeast.
Of all the trade goods the European introduced to the American Indian, the gun has had the most broad-ranging effect, both positive and negative, on native and settler alike. As a tool for hunting the gun helped the Indian provide more food for his community, which in turn led to a better standard of living and provided for greater population growth. On the other hand, this increased efficiency also made it possible for the Indian hunter to harvest more animals than could be removed from the environment without having a negative impact on the ecology.
Not only did the gun allow for more efficient hunting, it provided a better means of making war. This in one respect could protect a small tribe from a much stronger neighbor, but could eventually allow some nations (as in the case of the Iroquois) to utterly destroy their own weaker neighbors. The gun, as it still is today, was a helpmate when used as a tool for feeding or defending the family, and was a terror when misused as an apparatus of uncontrolled destruction.