Bubba the Gunsmith does an AK Trigger Job…

…or does a job on an AK trigger, actually. How do we know it’s Bubba? Well, we’re sure Winston Groom would agree that Bubba is as Bubba does. But also, we have other indicators. For one, the video is from Century Arms; if Bubbadom spreads like Christendom, Century’s Vermont warehouse is its St. Peter’s Basilica. For another, this is what Bubba is building:

70182-caicenturion39akstylerifle762x39milledreceiverdoublefingertriggerwoodstockusamfgnew-s1

 

What in the name of Niffelheim is that? An Americans with Disabilities Act accommodation for Apert Syndrome or some other syndactylic genetic aberration? It turns out to be available at J&G Sales. J&G is Century’s frequent partner in distribution of firearms with Century-Induced Firearms  Dysplasia, and has some quantity of these, as the bookmark on the page indicates. In fact, they seem pretty desperate to move them: not only does this model sell for less than the firm’s less-deformed AKs, they’ll throw in a drum mag, just so the boys in the warehouse don’t have to look at this horrible deformity any more.

Because our readers are made of sterner stuff, and can look upon this gorgonic beast without turning to stone, here is a close-up of the trigger:

70182-caicenturion39akstylerifle762x39milledreceiverdoublefingertriggerwoodstockusamfgnew-s4

And here’s another (all from the J&G website, obviously):

70182-caicenturion39akstylerifle762x39milledreceiverdoublefingertriggerwoodstockusamfgnew-s5

We suspect that Mikhail Kalashnikov would be spinning in his grave if he knew what they’d done to his rifle.

Now, these things may some day be collector items, like the hideous Fender paisley telecasters that came in as flower power was on the way out: so hideous when new they were desirable when old because of their rarity. No doubt some of them will be reconverted into AKs. It shouldn’t be too hard, with a trigger guard or a piece of sheet steel from which to bend one, and a couple of rivets. Just follow the video of Bubba below, in reverse.

True, he’s not trashing a rare or valuable gun for this, just one of Century’s canted-sightpost specials with tacticool furniture. But still, what’s with that trigger? In the name of all the saints, why? 

We first saw it on Max Popenker’s Russian-language blog, posted with a question: for weak fingers? If it stumped Max, who is from the land of Kalashnikov His Ownself, then it’s probably not anything from Soviet officialdom, or any of the usual satellite copiers. (The gun in the picture looks like a Yugoslavian parts kit with an aftermarket barrel and wood, but it turns out that this conversion was done on new Serbian AKs).

In a half hour of asking other experts in Soviet and bloc small arms, nobody had ever seen this thing. They were all willing to guess, though. A really ill-conceived cold-weather trigger (as ill-conceived as the absence of a trigger guard on the original Finnish M60, which the Finns repented rapidly), was the most common guess, but it doesn’t make sense. The Russians are scarcely ignorant of the fact that it gets cold in their country, and they have a perfectly suitable arctic-trigger system (and suitable gloves for firing in cold temperate-zone conditions) and have managed to run an army in their country without losing all their fingers yet.

Well, it turns out, this abortion has been offered on two Century AK variants at present. Anyway, you used to be able get this cool trigger on a black tacticool milled-receiver AK like the one in the video below, and can still order it in the sort-of-ordinary looking and rather inexpensive ($539 wholesale) AK that we and Max illustrated.

So Why So Serrated?

tipmann toy double grooved trigger

The Tippmann double grooved paintball trigger, from the Tippman Parts website.

Century is not forthcoming, any place we’ve seen, about why this trigger exists. But we were able to dope it out. Basic bottom line: it is for paintball choads coming over to real guns, who want to continue the paintball practice of firing high volumes of unaimed fire.  As Tippmann, a major maker of paintball toy guns, describes their double-trigger kit for their paintball launcher:

The added area allows two fingers to walk the trigger to a faster rate of fire. Double grooved for comfort.

The canonical name for this in the paintball world is somewhat unclear. Some call it the double finger grooved trigger, and others call it the double trigger. We call it Holy-Mother-Machree-that’s-Fugly.

And it seems to offer a false promise. On a semiautomatic AK clone, your maximum rate of fire is limited not by the speed of your human trigger reset, unless you have the reaction time of a three-toed sloth on barbiturates, or a former Disney Channel starlet on whatever they’re all on. It is limited by the mechanical trigger reset. Having two fingers rather than one to alternate pulling an unreset trigger seems futile. Given the physics of the trigger as a lever, the stronger finger has the shorter travel, and the relative travel of both is widely different, adding even more inconsistency. On the other hand, the safety hazard of exposure of a larger trigger inside the larger guard is real.

And in any shooting for any purpose other than noise making, maximum rate of fire is completely irrelevant. What you’re interested in is maximum rate of aimed fire, and that is limited not even by trigger reset but by time to bring the sights back on target.

Misses don’t count for anything except noise. We’d be willing to bet that we can take any of our rack grade semi AKs (including the Egyptian one, which has to make the Russians at Izmash weep; it brings the al-Bubba and is over 30 years old), and match the rate of fire of one of these paintball-poseur products, and beat the hell out of it when hits on targets at reasonable AK ranges (say 0-400m) are counted.

But for you completist collectors, here’s how they do it:

We were honestly surprised to see that Century’s smiths have some professional gunsmithing tools, like a Foredom (vs. Dremel) tool. The Lyman Revolution low-budget gun vise looks good and is adequate for this kind of work; all expensive Chinese-made gun vises are really suitable for cleaning and field-stripping, not for doing anything that will put more pressure on the action or barrel.

(PS. We were going to Max’s blog because we saw, from the new stats plug-in, that he linked to us. Spasibo bolshoi!)

He broke into whaaat?

Crime is what criminals do. And nothing much deters them, until they get religion (of the bible-thumping or, sometimes, 12-step kind), or they get religion (of the 124-grain, “You believe in Jesus? Say hello to Him” variety). Here’s an example of a target that would deter you or us from crime, but then, we’re not criminals, are we? It didn’t deter one young man, and now he regrets it, somewhat unconvincingly.

“What you did is absolutely intolerable in our community,” Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Marguerite Wageling told 30-year-old Ryan Mackenzie.

Cripes! What did he do? We’re a pretty tolerant community, especially the sort of nonjudgmental, “do your own thing” baby boomer hippies that are what we’ve got for judges these days. What could you do that was “intolerable?” Something really serious, like prayer in public? Well, not exactly.

Mackenzie’s vehicle was seized by State Police after he was stopped on Woodbury Avenue in Portsmouth on Dec. 29, 2011 for a traffic violation.
According to prosecutors, Mackenzie’s taillights weren’t working and it appeared he tried to evade State Police Trooper Tamara Hester when she attempted to stop him.
Hester noticed his dilated pupils and suspected he may be on drugs. A State Police drug-sniffing dog was brought in and the car was seized after the dog allegedly got a hit.
The car was impounded at in a garage at the State Police barracks on Route 125 in Epping. At some point later that night, Mackenzie showed up and broke in through the garage door.
Police had noticed what appeared to be a large white rock inside a tied off plastic baggie stuffed in a cigarette box between the driver’s seat and the center console, but Hester found it missing the next day before she had a chance to execute a search warrant.
Mackenzie pleaded guilty to breaking into the barracks, but did not admit to actually stealing the cigarette box.

So, now when this criminal makes the usual before-the-judge plea that he’s a changed man, yadda yadda, we need to bear in mind that the situationally remorseful criminal didn’t even come clean about his last caper.

Of course, if we were concerned about the “root causes,” like today’s judges, rather than simple stuff like applying the law to the set of facts before us, we’d probably want to know why he did it. Say, why did he do it?

A man who admitted battles with drug addiction

Translation: a bum who voluntarily dopes himself up, and now wants our sympathy. One word, sunshine: No.

Mackenzie, a Barrington native mostly recently living in Northwood, pleaded guilty to a felony burglary charge after the break-in on Dec. 29, 2011.

Here’s where the criminal starts to deploy the bullshit to hornswoggle the judge.

Mackenzie, who told the court that he’s no longer the “same person as the addict,” apologized to State Police for the burglary, which was discovered by a trooper and made other members of State Police potential suspects as they investigated the disappearance of a cigarette box suspected of containing drugs from Mackenzie’s car.

Consider the chutzpah of the claim that Mackenzie was “no longer the same person…” as Mackenzie. What does he think we are, dope-addled bums like he?

“I understand my actions are inexcusable and I accept full responsibility,” Mackenzie said moments before he was cuffed after being sentenced to a year in the Rockingham County jail with two months suspended.

Translation: “My lawyer told me to say this….”

After the potential drug evidence disappeared, State Police Lt. Chris Vetter told the court that anyone who had access to the evidence was considered a suspect.
“It was pretty unnerving and unsettling to all the troopers that we could be considered a suspect in this crime,” Vetter told the judge.
Assistant County Attorney Brad Bolton argued Mackenzie broke in to steal drug evidence in an effort to avoid drug possession charges.
He said it “appears that he was aware of what could happen if the drugs were found.”
But with the evidence gone, Bolton added, “The reality is we will ever know what he took out of the car. …We know what we think was in there, but we will never know.”

Well, everyone knows Mackenzie is a criminal. Crime is what he does. When he is released, does anyone think that Mackenzie will magically become an ordinary citizen, or will the centripetal force of the prison’s revolving door suck him back in?

Do we really gotta ask that?

Public defender Tony Naro argued there was more to Mackenzie’s story.
“This is a case, not just about avoiding responsibility, but also a case about addiction,” Naro said.

Well, at least the mouthpiece admits it’s at least partially about avoiding responsibility. That’s refreshing from a member of the bar. (Sigmund Freud, call your office).

Naro, who sought a sentence of 60 days in jail followed by home confinement, described Mackenzie as “someone who kicked a nasty drug addiction.”

He’s not in court for his drug addiction, but for his burglary. And whoop de do, he quit dope whilst in pretrial confinement. Frontiers in Recovery for $200, please, Alex.

Mackenzie, whose many successes as an Eagle Scout and other accolades were detailed in court,

What has that got to do with anything? He’s not in court for Scouting without a license or anything. He’s in court because he’s a thief, for Christ’s sake!

[Mackenzie] told the judge that he’s now overcome his addiction and that “it was a small part of my life” and something that he never thought could take over his life so quickly.
He said he lost the motivation to succeed as the drugs took hold.
“This has been one of the most difficult periods of my life,” he said.

via Man gets year in jail for break-in at State Police barracks – News – seacoastonline.com – Portsmouth, NH.

Translation of the last sentence in the quote above: “I didn’t like getting caught.” Give him some cheese with that whine. And process him in to his new cell without delay.

The Narkomovsky Delivery — TV, Russian, 2011

russian_soldiers_from_tvEverybody loves a good war movie or TV show, and every nation in the world has wars in its history to draw upon, some controversial and others unifying. For Russians, the controversial wars include the Civil War and the “socialist internationalism” intervention in Afghanistan; the non-controversial ones include the Napoleonic Wars and what Russians know as the Great Patriotic War and we call World War II. In recent years, there’s been a flowering of creativity in the Russian motion picture and TV arts (which have always been strong, even under the dead hand of Communism). This has produced some interesting and rare (in the Anglosphere) war films.

Because the TV shows aren’t available with English subtitles, you need to know at least some Russian (which would fairly describe our lack of mastery of the language of Chekhov and Solzhenitsyn: “some Russian”). Hence, this is a capsule rather than an in-depth review.

Narkomovskiy Oboz — “The Narkomovsky Delivery” — was a 2011 TV drama miniseries set in 1941. It begins with a zoom through a rainy window into a solitary worker at a desk: Josef Stalin. Stalin is reviewing a decree about the necessity of, and high priority for, a delivery of vodka to the boys at the front. Stalin signs the order with a flourish, and the mission is set in motion. The order is disseminated by teletype.

russian_rangerettesCasks of superior Narkomovsky vodka are loaded onto horse-carts and entrusted to a strange military unit for delivery: one tough senior sergeant (starshina) Filippov, played by Sergei Makhovikov; four Red Army women soldiers (of varying levels of martial skill and ardor), and a horse-cart driving old man and his grandson. They also have an woman doctor, shaken by the death of her doctor father in a Nazi air raid, and bound for a frontline field hospital.

They encounter streams of refugees, strafing Stukas, a corrupt KGB guy who wants to commandeer their carts so he can get on with the business of shooting suspected deserters, a political officer who’s conveying those deserters to their final destination, peasants who want to steal the vodka, and German forward reconnaissance patrols. And that’s just in the first episode. Later they’ll shoot it out with Germans and with Russian bandits, meet more refugees, and because it’s Russia, everybody endures lots of suffering.

politruk_with_tt-33While the autumn of 1941 is a bit early for the PPSh the lead actor carries, the other weapons and equipment seem correct, and the uniforms at least plausible. The other arms include lots of Mosin-Nagants, including rifles and M38 carbines (no M44s), and Nagant revolvers and TT-33s. The TTs are more likely to turn up in the hands of political officers than combat soldiers.

german_mg_teamsThe “Germans” have MG34s on their motorbikes, but the bikes are Russian ones… not that big a deal, as the Russian motorcycle is a copy of a wartime BMW. Other Germans have Mauser K98ks and MP38s and 40s, and they speak German to one another. (Where it’s needed for exposition, the Germans get Russian-language subtitles; where they’re in contact with Russian elements, which is shown mostly from a Russian POV, they are not subtitled — a subtle and effective decision by the producers and director).  That they made a real effort for accuracy shows in details like the rare camo uniforms of two reconnaissance soldiers who show up in the third episode, accurate Russian Ford trucks and Russian cars, and a period AT gun (which appears to be a Russian 45mm, a Krupp unit built under license, mocked up with solid wheels to look like a German Krupp 37mm).

Make sure you catch the Bolo Mauser 1896 in the hands of one particularly bloodless Red officer in a chilling flashback.

thrown_bayonetThe weapons sounds are fairly accurate, to include the fast rate of fire of the Russian submachine guns, and the even faster ROF of the German MGs. Also, the weapons tend to have the right amount of wear on them, unusual in a movie — the guys you’d expect to have used their firearms little have shiny, new-looking firearms, and the grunts have worn ones. Of course, there has to be some horrid Hollywood inaccuracy, and it comes when our hero takes out a German — with a thrown knife. Not just any knife — a thrown Mauser bayonet. You can throw Mauser bayonets from now to the recreation of the Soviet Union, and you’re not going to kill anybody with one. Unless you’re an actor!

Twice they use a flashback to bring you backstory on a character, and both times it’s very effective in explaining otherwise inexplicable character actions.

more_russian_rangerettesThe actors are unknown to us, but apparently they include some big names in Russia, and they’re all very competent. The women soldiers are dressed in the shapeless uniforms of wartime Russian women soldiers, not like the Hollywood version, or Lara Croft or something. (Lack of make-up doesn’t stop a couple of them from being noticeably pretty, and just like real life, they get prettier the longer you’re exposed to them). The women are not Amazon warriors, but they’re not afraid to fight for their country and their friends, even if they’re at a disadvantage. That makes them very believable, even as the idea that all these adventures befall one small element seems far-fetched.

another_politruk_with_tt-33Some things that may help you: Russian military ranks and courtesies are much like other nations’, but they don’t stand on formalities. In the service uniforms worn by some of the Russians, the collar tab color (and hat band color) denotes branch. Blue is intelligence organs, Red is political officers (who get treated with notable contempt), green is infantry.

One of the best things about this, to us, was that the bad guys were always human and understandable. Nobody was a mustache-twirling Bond villain, not even the most repulsive of the Germans, or the craven political officer. (Indeed, his character weakness is a foil for the contrast of his behavior in the last act, and before that, for comparison with the selfless sacrifice of another politruk. 

Maybe if our Russian was good, we’d hate this. Maybe Russian historians laugh at it. We found it entertaining — four episodes, about 50 minutes each. We thought it would make a heck of a 90 minute to 2 hour movie, if edited mercilessly and dubbed into English. If you can’t follow the story, at least you can enjoy the guns on the screen.

Episode 1: (Remember, these are all in Russian language, no subtitles). From the creation of the mission to imminent contact with Germans.

Episode 2: The first encounter with niemtsy — Germans. The first casualties. The mission continues.

Episode 3: Among other adventures, a showdown with ruthless armed robbers.

Episode 4: the pretty tough-to-take climax comes quite a bit before the end. But in the end, the mission is complete.

We enjoyed watching this previously unknown-to-us miniseries. We fear the limitations of language will keep many of you from enjoying it as we did, but we put it out there for those of you that are still interested.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Precision Rifle Blog

precision_rifle_blogWe don’t know how we missed this guy, PrecisionRifleBlog.com, until now. As long time readers know, we have always admired the empirical, side-by-side A-B testing, like the tests that Andrew Tuohy carried out on his own website, Vuurwapen blog, and later at the sadly moribund Lucky Gunner Labs and The Firearm Blog (just search for his name on those sites — if he did it, it’s good. He’s a young man, but he has his stuff in one bag). It reminds us of a scientific experiment. In the same vein, we have enjoyed some of the experiments that Phil Dater PhD did with barrel length, muzzle velocity, and sound pressure levels. Science FTW!

Now, wouldn’t it be neat if somebody did something like that with rifle scopes, among other precision rifle data sets? Turns out, somebody has; his name is Cal Zant and his website, Precision Rifle Blog, promises “a data-driven approach” to long-range, precision shooting. Cal delivers that, in spades. That’s why he’s the Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week.

Let’s show you one example of his coolest recent research, an incredible comparison test of high-end rifle scopes. These are the sort of scopes you’d apply to a precision rifle for target, hunting, or war.  He has conducted a well-planned and thorough battery of tests of 18 high-end scopes, side-by-side, using a pretty solid array of methodologies. Then, he ranked the scopes according to a weighting scheme that he worked out based on what respondents to a survey said was important.

best-tactical-rifle-scopes

Every step of his way, he shows his work. Disagree with his weighting scheme? All the data are there; you can draft your own and see how that changes the ranks. Some features are not important to you? Delete them from the weighting scheme and recalculate. The data are all there, and will cost you only the considerable time needed to read and consider them.

The two essential links are to the Field Test Results Summary and the Buyers Guide and Features to Look For.

But those alone don’t tell the whole story, because he’s also included in-depth links and all his methodologies. Not surprising in the STEM world, especially in engineering, the end of STEM furthest from all the theory. And even if you read all the links, you may have further questions, especially if you’re not well-versed in optics terminology. (We thought we were; the site disabused us of that notion right smartly). So he provides an extremely useful online glossary. Confused by the difference between miliradian-based (Mil) and minute-of-angle (MOA) reticles? He’s not, and you won’t be either, if you read his page on the subject. (Short version: if you’re a yards-and-inches guy, you might be happier with MOA, if you’re metricated, you’ll want a mil reticle and turrets).

You can quibble with the weighting scheme, or bellyache that your favorite scope was not included, but we’re still just struggling with the disbelief of the whole thing: that someone would do all this work for nothing but the pleasure of doing it, and then bestow it on the rest of us.

best-long-range-cartridgesAt this point, you might think that Precision Rifle is all about scopes, and it’s not. That’s just an example of what he’s got for you over there. Here’s another example — a chart from a long article on the calibers most used by National Championships’ top 50 competitive shooters. It’s interesting that the question of caliber is now down to 6 or 6½ millimeters, at least among top 50 competitors. We didn’t know that before reading it on Precision Rifle.

Go, and return smarter, grasshoppers.

About that Keene, NH Bearcat

This is Keene's Bearcat. There are many like it, but this one is Keene's. Without its Bearcat, Keene is useless. Without Keene, the Bearcat is useless...

This is Keene’s Bearcat. There are many like it, but this one is Keene’s. Without its Bearcat, Keene is useless. Without Keene, the Bearcat is useless…

Keene, New Hampshire, is a sleepy college town, left-leaning as NH goes, and the subject of a great outcry two years ago because the police purchased (or rather, had your Federal taxes buy, so maybe “requisitioned”) a Lenco Bearcat armored personnel carrier. We were part of that outcry.

Keene’s justification for the vehicle was that they needed it to defend large gatherings, like the Pumpkin Festival.

This made the entire town the laughingstock of the Western World, and parts of the Old World stretching back to the furthest conquests of Alexander the Great (we concluded, “Somewhere in North Waziristan, Gulbuddin Hekmatayar is laughing his ass off at us.” back in 2012).

Before we bring the story up to date, note that a large number of the inmates of Keene are college students at Keene State, the designated Party School of the NH System. That helps to explain What Happened Next.

So how do the people of Keene demonstrate how the police in their leafy burb don’t need any riot control vehicle? By rioting, naturally.

At the freaking Pumpkin Festival.

We are Not Making This Up®. We’d be ready to go back to that 2012 post and eat our pixels, but…

We just got done talking to a Keene cop, and they used all their resources to control the riot, except one. Which one? You got it: the Bearcat.

A perfect chance to grind patchouli-scented hippies (not to mention drunks in their fourth sophomore year) under the Bearcat’s run-flat tires, and they go all restraint, like. Lord love a duck.

Somewhere in North Waziristan, Gulbuddin Hekmatayar is laughing his ass off at us.

(Not Making This Up® is a registered trademark of Dave Barry. Used without permission -Ed).

 

Some Ranger Halloween Humor

We plucked all these photos off of the Regiment’s twisted Twitter feed, which we found thanks to Lee Williams. We start off more serious, and quickly get less serious.

Would you like to meet this guy in a dark alley? Why, he’s not even wearing his reflective belt!

Ranger Sniper

Judging from the way he’s armed, you might encounter him in a dark alley, but you wouldn’t be seeing him.

The other hand, judging from his arms, he’s already on the bubble, as the Army’s tattoo nazis try to weed guys like him out of the service.

I’m not sure these fellows are Rangers. They are, however, posing like Army Guys:

Clowning Around with Army Guys

And speaking, as we were a moment ago, about dark alley apparitions:

Ranger Alien

You thought Alien was science fiction. This guy thought it was a visual Ranger Handbook. He’s just about at a sci-fi level of kit-out, however: SCAR Mk17, Elcan w/Docter, M320 GL, etc. But the Hollywood combat mask and out-of-this-world dreadlocks make him pretty memorable.

The Regiment originally didn’t like the SCAR but it’s grown on them a lot, probably because of the high marks other ARSOF units have given it, especially with the 10.3″ barrel for CQB. The soldier above is well-situated for targets from anywhere within powder-burn range to 800 meters out. For targets beyond that? That’s what radios are for.

 

A King’s Ransom (Rest)

You could not read The American Rifleman or other high-end gun periodicals in the 1950s, 60s, or 70s without noticing that, when the writers were serious about measuring the accuracy of a handgun, they used a machine rest, and often mentioned it by name: the Ransom Rest. A Ransom Rest is a handsome assembly of machined castings, and its purpose is to take much of the human factor out of accuracy testing, much like the more complicated and heavier machine rests the military uses for acceptance testing of rifles. Bolt it down to a bench, and human shooters’ individual variation in pistol accuracy is erased. This is what the base Master Series Ransom Rest looks like:

Ransom Rest

To use it, begin with a cleared and triple-checked pistol. Remove the grips from your pistol and with an appropriate grip insert mount the pistol in the rest, using the three “star nuts” on the left plate. There is a sequence to tightening the nuts, explained in the instructions. Adjust the trigger lever (big red handle) and the trigger release finger (small red plastic-covered rod) so that the release finger contacts the trigger at center and the trigger lever is about level behind the firearm. Then adjust the gun onto target with the bolts, and bolt it down. There are some small differences in setting up the rest for revolvers and auto pistols; Glocks and other polymer pistols need more settling shots than steel or alloy-framed pistols from which the grips are removable.

And this is how it’s used (there would probably be sand or shot bags on that board, if it were not bolted down; C-clamped beats shot bags, and bolts beat C-clamps):

Ransom in Action

After each shot, the muzzle will flip up. This is the Ransom’s recoil-absorbing design, and you return the rest (not touching the pistol or the trigger lever) to horizontal.

You should fire a cylinder or mag of rounds just to set the Ransom in, and adjust if necessary. (It’s amazing how recoil exposes what you thought was “tight enough” and really wasn’t). As a rule of thumb, it will take more rounds to settle a more powerful pistol. Until it has settled properly, the rounds will string along the vertical axis.

Ransom Rests are still made in today. The manufacturer appears healthy, and they stand behind their product; they’ll refurb your old Master Series rest or other Ransom rest at a fair price.  You can buy new Ransoms at Midway or Brownell’s. But you don’t see them nearly as much in gun reviews, these days. Why is that? We see several reasons:

  • Certainly part of it is the long-running cultural shift from revolvers to auto pistols. As we’ve shown in the past whilst quoting old magazines, revolvers had a much bigger market and mind share thirty years ago, and the Ransom Rest was originally conceived in the day when target shooting was dominated by revolvers. Even when they were supplemented and even replaced it was only by a single auto-pistol at first, the M1911, to which the Rest was readily adapted. Modern polymer pistols have been harder for the Rest to come to grips with (pun sort of intended).
  • With an auto pistol, the Rest is less accurate than a good shooter firing from a sandbag, unless it is re-sighted every shot (which it probably should be, anyway, but many reviewers don’t do that).
  • The shift in the center of gun-culture gravity from professional reviews to enthusiast reviews over the years has meant a corresponding decrease in data-driven information collection. Even as chronographs have become more affordable and usable, fewer reviews of guns and ammunition contain meaningful chrono data, and very few of them are atmospherically normalized to an ISO standard atmosphere, even though the math is trivial (and some of the e-chronos will do it automagically).
  • Fad and fashion. A lot of reviewers monkey-see, monkey-do their reviews. (Nothing wrong with that, if the review you’re copying is a thorough one. Everybody has a first day on the job).

Finally, they’re expensive. But the Ransom Rest is a pretty useful thing for several purposes. The company also makes a series of rifle rests that the benchrest community swears by.

Imura-san gets the shaft — two years’ imprisonment

3D imuras guns

Imura’s printed guns, seized along with his computers and printer when he was arrested.

Japanese 3D-printing gun activist Yoshitomo Imura was convicted and sentenced to 2 years in prison for printing guns.

The Yokohama District Court handed down the sentence to Yoshitomo Imura, a 28-year-old former employee of Shonan Institute of Technology who made a number of guns with a 3D printer in his home in Kawasaki outside Tokyo last year.

Imura was arrested in May on a charge of illegal weapons possession in what media reports described as Japan’s first such case involving 3D-printed firearms.

In a very Japanese ruling, the judge seemed as upset with Imura-san’s nonconformity as he was with the guns, and condemned Imura for “flaunting his knowledge and skill”:

“This has shown that anyone can illegally manufacture guns with a 3D printer, flaunting their knowledge and skill, and it is an offense to make our country’s strict gun controls into a dead letter,” public broadcaster NHK quoted judge Koji Inaba as saying in the ruling on Monday.

Prosecutors had demanded a prison term of three and a half years for Imura. Defense lawyer Akira Noguchi had argued that Imura did not know his acts were illegal. After the ruling, he said that an appeal had not been decided upon yet.

via 3D-printed gun maker draws jail term in Japan | PCWorld.

Imura's Zig-Zag Revolver. He only fired it with blanks, but that didn't keep him out of durance vile.

Imura’s Zig-Zag Revolver. He only fired it with blanks, but that didn’t keep him out of durance vile.

Despite the legal findings, our information is that Imura designed and manufactured his “guns” to fire only blanks, which are available in Japan in calibers and cartridges that have no commonality with any live ammunition, like the 8mm blanks popular in Europe.

Mind you, we understand why Japanese officialdom gets upset when the subjects start “flaunting their knowledge and skill.” The last time somebody tried that, his name was Isoroku Yamamoto and he wound up getting their country nuked.

A Bit of Cold War History

CIA SealOver at the CIA’s FOIA files, there’s a remarkable 1983 letter (.pdf) that more or less predicted the fall of the Soviet Union. Now, predicting the fall of the Soviet Union was a Cold War hobby of many people of many nationalities. Soviet dissident Andrei Amalrik even wrote a book, Can the Soviet Union survive until 1984? Amalrik answered his question in the negative. He wasn’t so much wrong, as a few years ahead of the game.

A lot of people, especially among those with hands-on experience in the Soviet and slave-satellite system, predicted the fall of the USSR. But in the US intelligence community, those predictions were rare (and were resisted by the Soviet desk analysts). “Rare” is not the same thing as “nonexistent,” though, and today’s document is one of those rare exceptions.

This letter, from National Intelligence Council Vice-Chairman Herbert Meyer to the Director and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, was shocking in its prescience. He began by noting a marked uptick in violence and threats of violence in the late summer and fall of 1983: KAL 007, the Beirut bombings, the coup and US countercoup in Grenada, the now-forgotten Libyan invasion of Chad, terrorist murders of South Korean and Filipino politicians. Many of these events were aided, if not commanded, by the Soviet intelligence services.

He notes that the Soviet system was within decades of collapse, enumerates why, and points at some indicators of insecurity in the Kremlin:

Two Kremlin actions provide a good measure of Moscow’s domestic impotence. To boost the birthrate among Russian women — who average six abortions, according to recent, highly credible research — the Soviet Union has decided to offer Glory of Motherhood awards to women who bear large families. And to reform the world’s second-largest economy, Kremlin leaders last month ordered the execution, for corruption, of the poor devil who managed Gastronome Nº. 1, Moscow’s gourmet delicatessen. These feeble and pathetic actions are not those of a dynamic or even a healthy leadership responding to national emergency. They bring to mind neither Roosevelt in 1933 nor Reagan in 1981, but rather Nicholas II in 1910.

Meyer points out that Soviet officials who saw the possibility of Cold War victory slipping away — more likely fellows a few rungs down from the top, rather than the top-level leaders — might lose many of their inhibitions. Nevertheless, he considered the Cold War as good as won.

It has long been fashionable to view the Cold War as a permanent feature of global politics, when that will endure the next several generations at least. But it seems to me more likely that President Reagan was absolutely correct when he observed in his Notre Dame speech that the Soviet Union – “one of the histories saddest and most bizarre chapters” – Is entering its final pages. (We really should take up the President’s suggestion to begin planning for a post-Soviet world; the Soviet Union and its people won’t disappear from the planet, and we have not yet thought seriously about the sort of political and economic structure likely to emerge.) In short, the free world has outdistanced the Soviet Union economically, crushed it ideologically, and held it off politically. The only serious arena of competition left is military. From now on the Cold War will become more and more of a bare-knuckles street fight.

How not to Park your Fighter

Landing at Baton Rouge on 8 October 14, a pilot of a vintage taildragger locked up his brakes and dropped his nose expensively into the tarmac of Runway 13. Hey, it happens. But this time, it wasn’t a Cub or Taylorcraft doing a nose stand, but a multi-million dollar Focke-Wulf 190, one of a handful of airworthy examples of the Germans’ second most numerous WWII fighter.

FW 190 how not to park

The nose stand in the ultra-rare, restored fighter plane was terrifying and perhaps embarrassing for the pilot (although we don’t know if it was pilot error or mechanical failure that caused it), and expensive for the owners, but no one was hurt, and it made for some spectacular photographs.

FW 190 how not to park3

Nobody’s taken a snap like that since, what, May of 1945?

The damage to the aircraft is probably restricted to the engine, propeller, and cowlings. This particular example is powered by a Russian Shvetsov Ash-82T engine, which is common enough (that is why it is used instead of the rare original BMW 801. Both are twin-row 14-cylinder radials of just under 42 liters’ displacement; the Russian one is a downsized twin-row development of the single-row Wright Cyclone, which Russia built under license as the M-25). But the propeller was reportedly a one-off reproduction of the original, modified to fit the Russian radial. So the list of airworthy FW 190s is decremented by one for at least a year or two.

How Rare Is it?

We called it, “ultra-rare.” How rare is it? Perhaps one in a thousand of the original 20,000+ survives today, and most of them are under glass in museums, never to feel the force of lift again.

This is what the plane, N4190, looked like in a more conventional three-point attitude.

N4190

After a long restoration in France and the USA, the plane flew for the first time since WWII in 2011. Here’s a video of its first and second flights, by Karl Plausa who’s affiliated with Flug Werk (see below). The video includes some steep turns, and at about the 7 minute point he drops the gear and decelerates to a power-off stall. At about 9:20 he makes a low pass, and then brings it back for a landing. At about 13:40 a very satisfied Plausa passes on a debrief on the flight (“This is the best one I’ve flown! Nothing rattles…”) for owner Don Hansen, who shows up just about then, beaming with pride. (Technically, the plane is owned by an LLC, but it’s Hansen’s money that made this bird go).

It’s hard to say what the exact number of airworthy 190s is, because the number of museum and flying aircraft is growing, and in the 1990s a German company, Flug-Werk, committed to manufacturing 20 new FW-190s to airworthy status, with Russian engines. Flug-Werk’s Nachbau or reproduction aircraft are made insofar as possible on original tooling, and some stored original parts (notably tailwheel assemblies) have made it into their reproductions. They receive continuation serial numbers. Are they FW 190s, or not? But wait, having the original tooling, Flug Werk has supplied parts for many airworthy and museum FW 190s.

At least 5 original aircraft have emerged from restoration shops in the last five years; soon there might be 30 FW-190s loose in the world, not counting the Flug Werk repops.

Because of the conditions in the arctic, most of the surviving original FW-190s served with the Luftwaffe’s 5th Fighter Wing, JG5 Eismeer. They were recovered variously from the forests and lakes of Norway, Finland, and Russia. The Soviet Union’s economic backwardness had the silver lining of preventing the discovery of many Russian, Allied, and German aircraft on Russian territory until they had become worth restoring; most Russian recoveries happened after the fall of the USSR in 1992.

The FW 190 as a Weapon

The FW 190 was designed by a veteran of ground combat in World War I, Dr-Ing. Kurt Tank. Tank wanted to build an airplane that was biased towards combat service, at a time when most fighters were biased towards raw performance. “Nicht Rennpferd, sondern Dienstpferd,” was the way he put it to his engineers and draftsmen: “Not a race horse, but a service horse.” The airplane was designed overall to reduce the pilot’s workload, leaving his mind free to plan the fight. Dr Tank’s design philosophy meant the FW was disadvantaged at high altitudes (for example, in the defense of Germany from bomber raids), but lower down (for example, where most of the fighting on the Russian Front took place) it was a superior performer. When first introduced in 1941 it shook British complacency in the superiority of the Spitfire; the Spit, with its elegant elliptical wing, could out-turn the FW, but the FW 190 A was superior in every other performance measure.

The FW was also designed for production and maintenance — the Spitfire’s performance came from that beautiful elliptical wing, a planform dictated by optimizing aerodynamics, but fiendishly difficult to manufacture. Tank got most of the performance with a straight tapered wing, not 100% optimal from a best lift/drag to structural weight viewpoint, but close enough, and vastly easier to construct in the factory and repair in the field.

Tank’s philosophy, when it became known in the West after the war, informed the designers of the North American F-86 Sabre, as well as their own experience with the P-51 Mustang (also built to be a war horse, not a race horse).

Of course, the FW 190 wouldn’t have been a German machine if it hadn’t contained some revolutionary technology, and it did: in the form of a lever sticking up in the side of the cockpit where a small forest of levers grew in most contemporaries. Here’s a story from Aviation History on the restoration of the only one surviving with a BMW 801 and a working Kommandogerät single-lever controller. The K-gerät, or “control device,” deserves some discussion. The article mentions how special it was:

Most notably, the 801 had a remarkable single-lever power control system that automatically managed rpm, prop pitch, mixture, timing and supercharger setting according to throttle position and altitude—a system that Porsche, not surprisingly, reinvented for its PFM Mooney lightplane engine in the mid-1970s.

If you’re a pilot, you know what a big deal this is. Most high-performance piston planes of the period, and today, have at least three control levers: Throttle, which controls the flow of fuel-air mixture to the cylinders; Mixture, which controls the amount of fuel in that mixture and has to be changed as altitude and desired speed change to keep the mixture stoichiometric for the changing atmospheric conditions and performance demands; and a prop lever that controls the pitch of the prop, acting like a transmission does in a car. In addition there were various controls for various mechanical and turbochargers in the WWII era. Some pilots had to manage them on and off, some had to adjust a waste gate, some had more demands on them than that — plus, juggling the other three levers, and fighting the plane. With experience, a pilot develops the muscle memory to operate prop, power and mixture.

The single-control-lever drastically reduces pilot workload, especially in regimes of flight where power settings change a lot (like, say, combat). More recent attempts at a single-lever system have been impeded by regulatory and legal inertia — Porsche withdrew from the aviation market and recalled and scrapped every PFM after getting a taste of America’s ambulance-chasing legal culture. In the long run, the single-lever control, with the intricate clockworks of the K-gerät replaced by microprocessors and electronic fuel injection, is such a good idea that it will overcome the resistance of the FAA, which has been impeding it.

What will Happen to the Mishap Aircraft?

It will certainly be restored to flight. The damage is not superficial, but it’s not irreparable. You’d be amazed what some flying WWII aircraft looked like before their restorations began. Basically, as long as it’s just “crashed,” not “crashed and burned” or “fragmented,” these guys can rebuild it. That’s not as surprising as you might think: even in World War II, fighter-plane production was largely done by hand, and those skills are strongly maintained in the restorer community. Restoring World War II aircraft, or working on them, makes little economic sense, but there’s a seemingly bottomless pool of volunteers and below-market-rate workers who thrill to work on these pieces of living history.

We wish Don Hansen all the best in bringing Red 1 (Wk Nr 173 056) back to its flying glory.

One Side Note:

We heard someone claim that the mishap aircraft is the one owned by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, a collector of weapons like this, who wants to ban weapons for you. We want to make this clear:  It is not. The Allen machine, operated by his Flying Heritage Collection, and recovered from Russia where it flew with JG54 and was downed, perhaps, by sabotage, is interesting as the sole survivor flying with a BMW 801 engine and the Kommandogerät, but according to our information it is safe in its Washington State home; this mishap plane is the Hansen aircraft.