What would a WWII US Weapons Collection cost?

soldier with M1One of the questions that a novice collector faces is: what to collect? While it’s good to follow your heart, the fact is that unless you”ve got the resources of an oil sheik you can’t actually buy one of everything. Even a millionaire has a finite budget, even if his is larger than, say, a grocery clerk’s.

So it helps to follow your head as well as your heart, and it helps to have a theme for your collection. Some collections can be deep and entertaining with a single subject, if it’s a big one: Lugers, for instance, or Springfield rifles. But right now, American World War II weapons are riding a wave of great popularity. With the WWII generation themselves gradually going the way of rifle clubs in middle school and the 48-star flag, you’d think interest in World War guns would wane, as did, say, collector interest in Model A Fords when the elderly car collectors who remembered them from new passed on. But WWII weapons haven’t seen such a collapse in interest. If anything, more people are interested than ever before, thanks perhaps to the availability of new books and movies on the subject.

A Theme: First Step on the Way to a Plan

So let’s take up the US World War II theme, and imagine a collection. A theme is the first step on the way to a plan. A plan is the theme made concrete with priorities and a budget. The collection itself becomes, then, the plan executed. One practical way to proceed (especially for a young collector just starting out) is to get “representative” pieces at first, and then later upgrade them for higher-quality and better-condition guns. This approach will cost considerably more than just buying the very best quality example you can right from the outset, but if you are young and just starting out, you may not have the resources to do so.

Best of all: every one of these guns is available, uses readily-acquired ammunition, and is safe and fun to shoot.


In this post, we’ve defined a core collection, a complete collection, and an extended collection of World War II US Arms, and we’ll cover each set in turn. The core collection are the most important and familiar weapons used by US forces in the 1941-45 war: rifles, carbine, and pistol. The complete collection adds the remaining Title 1 standard arms that were issued by midwar, according to our reference: War Department Technical Manual, TM 9-2200: Small Arms, Light Field Mortars, and 20-mm Aircraft Guns, dated 11 October 1943. (As a bonus, we’ll provide the reference as a download. Its table of references defines the period Standard Nomenclature Lists and Technical Manuals for all standard WWII weapons to that date). The extended collection gets you the Class III individual weapons, some unusual variants and oddball weapons that were used without being standard.

Core Collection

The most important and familiar weapons used by US forces in the 1941-45 war.



Estimated Cost

Collectors’ Notes
M1 Garand



A lot of M1s are post war. Try to get a wartime one, but you can always start with a later gun as a “representative M1″and work your way to a wartime example. Best value is still with CMP.
M1 Carbine



Again, you can save with a postwar, reimport, or reproduction. But they don’t have the collector appeal, and may not hold value.



For generations these pistols were commodities, and a lot of them have been Bubba’d. Take your time to find an original one.



That’s the basic weapons of the D-Day rifle squad for you, minus the BAR.

M1911A1bSo there you have it: you can have the basics of WWII collecting, average pieces, for under $4k. If you want to add something exotic, you can pluck one “halo gun” from the next installment of this story, like a semi BAR as a collection centerpiece. (We will include the BAR in the next installment of this story — the Complete Collection). You could make your collection tentpole a 1919A4 in semi for a similar amount, maybe a little less. Or you could spend a little over a thousand for a repro semi Thompson, but again, a repro is not going to keep pace with inflation the way an original gun does. The problem is, the originals are NFA weapons, meaning that some people can never own them in their home states, and that they are extremely expensive, compared to Title I firearms of the same value. Hence, the appeal of semi reproductions.

These three guns are not only of great historical significance, they are also, each one, remarkable pieces of industrial history, and there’s a great deal to be learned about their design and manufacture, with two of the greatest gun designers who ever lived being represented here, John M. Browning and John Garand. Browning was extremely prolific and Garand is remembered almost exclusively for the M1 Rifle, but that’s enough. The third gun, the M1 Carbine and its designer David Williams, is a bit of a sleeper. Williams is an interesting character, the only major gun designer to be a former convict.

Each gun made an impact historically, as well. Few guns have inspired more copies than the M1911; the M1 Rifle provided much of the design of the follow-on M14, still in limited service today; and the M1 Carbine’s gas system was also widely copied, including in that same M14.

This little collection is enough to get anyone started in a fine collection of World War II weapons.  The guns are extremely likely to hold their value, if maintained, and they can be shot for fun, making history come alive. The collection can be acquired one gun at a time, if $4k is beyond your immediate reach. We’d recommend the pistol first, carbine next — not the other way round because carbines are in a bit of a bubble right now — and then the M1, but really, you should buy them as the opportunity strikes or in the order that you like the guns. You will find that together they tell a more coherent and complete story than they do individually.

Do they seem expensive? That depends. Are you looking at 2014 prices from the viewpoint of 1984 prices, or 2044 prices?

Tune in tomorrow for the second of three installments, the Complete Collection.

A Sick Puppy Story from DC

Gerard Darvell Williams mugshotLife in certain suburbs of DC: Gerard Darvell Williams was upset because his woman was leaving. So he killed one of her dogs and one of the dog’s puppies, and tried to kill another. That’ll show her, right, Gerry?

Gerard Darvell Williams, 32, has been charged with animal cruelty, domestic assault and battery, and destruction of property.

Police say Williams and a 29-year-old woman were involved in a dispute Monday that escalated to the point that she tried to gather her belongings and leave.

The woman told police that Williams then stabbed her pit bull, which police found dead with a stab wound to its back.

Police say they also found a dead 2-week-old puppy, and another one that appeared to have been injured by blunt force.

via Police: Virginia Man Stabbed, Killed Pit Bull | NBC4 Washington.

We’ve been pretty critical of police in cases where they’ve injured dogs, but the cops have usually had at least a colorable argument for lighting up Fido. “I was afraid for my life,” as the PBA lawyers drill them to say, anytime there’s a need to duck responsibility for their misconduct.

(Case in point: the police union is fighting the firing and demotion of the bad cops in the rare accountability story we told you about last week. Because a cop job is an entitlement, no matter how much a guy is a throwback to Neanderthal Man, or how dishonest he is, or how his credibility is so shot he can’t even be put on the stand anywhere in the state, like a convicted perjurer in some states).

But for every case of cop cruelty to animals, and you could have a blog item a day on that subject if someone wanted to make a hobby of it, there’s 1,000 cases of Criminal Man (Homo Sapiens EBTcardicus) cruelty to animals, like this crumb Williams did.

Another local story has a little more detail from the police statement:

After the parties had separated, the victim attempted to gather her belongings and leave the home. At that point, the victim stated she witnessed the accused use a kitchen knife to stab her dog.

The story continues:

Officers found the dog, an adult male pit bull, dead with a stab wound in its back. A second dog, a 2-week-old puppy was also deceased and a second puppy was critically injured — both apparently due to blunt force trauma….

Three other puppies and an adult female pit bull were also located in the home and appeared to be unharmed.

Michael Vick, the quarterback whose unpleasant character exposed itself in much the same way as Williams’s has done, got both Federal and State felony convictions and did 18 months in the Big House. Unfortunately, Williams is not a celebrity and no prosecutor will be looking to make him a springboard to a wider career.  He’s just one more routine defendant.

Note also the weapon he used. In many ways, a dog is tougher than a human, but as it has frequently been to humans, a kitchen knife was sufficient to kill the dog here.

World War 100

World War I began 100 years ago today, July 28, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war upon the Kingdom of Serbia. That wasn’t the first event that set things in motion (that was, of course, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie), but it was a very important link in the chain.

The events it sent in train were unknown to any of the players at the time.

Would they have done what they did if they knew that both of their nations would be among the casualties?

Would they have done what they did if they thought they were unleashing trench warfare, chemical warfare, and all the other grim updates to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Would they have done what they did if they knew their actions were a link in the chain that would lead directly to millions of deaths, and leave a Europe so unstable than an even more destructive war would follow, soon?


We’ll never know. They did what they thought best, and opened the Gates of Hell.

Jon Cavaiani at the LD

We write with great regret that Jon Cavaiani MOH, one of the 18 or so SF MOH recipients from the Vietnam unpleasantness, is waiting with Barb by his side to cross over sometime soon.

If you didn’t know Jon, you truly missed something, and not just because of this:

He ordered the remaining platoon members to attempt to escape while he provided them with cover fire. With one last courageous exertion, S/Sgt. Cavaiani recovered a machine gun, stood up, completely exposing himself to the heavy enemy fire directed at him, and began firing the machine gun in a sweeping motion along the two ranks of advancing enemy soldiers. Through S/Sgt. Cavaiani’s valiant efforts with complete disregard for his safety, the majority of the remaining platoon members were able to escape. While inflicting severe losses on the advancing enemy force, S/Sgt. Cavaiani was wounded numerous times. S/Sgt. Cavaiani’s conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.

He has fought the rare cancer, and the ravages of time, with the same bold spirit he brought to the fight against the North Vietnamese Army and the battle to imbue that spirit in following generations of Special Forces soldiers, which is where we came to know him.

Here’s a 2011 interview with the man:

(The reference to South Vietnam in the video is what the

His Medal of Honor award was initially posthumous, because the last American off the site saw him go down hard under a barrage of mortar rounds, and it was only after the award was written and approved that intelligence learned from monitoring DRVN communications that he had survived into captivity. As he was captured in Laos, the DRV did not report him captured, but the US insisted on his return with the other POWs and he and eight or so other named POWs whose cases were raised by Kissinger himself were transferred from DRV captivity in Laos.

While in captivity, he infiltrated a collaborators’ group, the Peace Committee, under command of the camp Senior Ranking Officer, and conducted psychological operations to disrupt their collaboration. He would have been a key witness in the court-martials of the collaborators, had Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird not gotten cold feet about prosecuting the traitors after one disloyal Marine killed himself.

He had a long recovery from his combat wounds (which were never treated by his North Vietnamese captors) and the privations of two years of Vietnamese captivity. As a guest of the North Vietnamese he lost literally most of his body weight, over 100 pounds. As the guest of the Army Medical Activity, he not only returned to Special Forces fitness but he also met and married the love of his life, an Army nurse, thereby causing chaos in rank-conscious Army protocol — where do you seat the sergeant whose wife is a captain (and they became a sergeant-major married to an, IIRC, lieutenant colonel)? The answer is, when the sergeant received the MOH, you find a way to make it work.

Jon never drew attention to his medal, and was uncomfortable with hero worship. He always insisted that he wore the medal on behalf the real heroes — the ones whose deeds went unseen, unrecorded and unrewarded, and who never came home.

After the war he served as the quietest of professionals, and commanders came to know him as a guy who could be depended on to accomplish any task with silent efficiency. His name did come in for cursing at one point, though: circa 1980, 10th Special Forces Group commander Colonel Paris D. Davis assigned Cavaiani a special project: to find a 12-mile rucksack route that ended on at least a mile of up hill. Jon did just that, through a process that can only be described as walking-in-search-of-misery and later received a gag gift from the CO: a pair of battered combat boots, bronzed like baby shoes and mounted to a plaque. Later, many a young troop would slog up the long hill towards the end point at the TASC building, grumbling that he’d like to get his hands on the guy that laid out the course. And some older sergeant would grumble back, “Good luck with that, Nguyen already gave it his best shot.”

One of the high points of Jon’s career was his service as Command Sergeant Major of the 1st SF Operational Detachment — Delta. Originally, he was rejected for the position in the low-profile unit, not because he was in any way unsuitable, but because his MOH raised his profile too much. He forcefully made the point that he was the antithesis of a glory seeker, and the unit commander reconsidered. During that period, no one heard a peep out of Cavaiani, except the other guys in the unit with him, and no one noted his absence (if they did, they assumed he’d retired). When he did retire, he pursued learning, and teaching, and finally spoke about his Medal — always to make the point that he was standing here as a substitute for the real heroes who rest in quiet graves in Arlington, or in places unknown in far jungles and mountains.

Now this remarkable life is drawing to a close, ended by a disease that couldn’t be defeated with all the spirit that beat down everyone from the North Vietnamese Army to a Delta commander who feared an MOH recipient in his ranks would be something like the circus coming to town. He had a team, as always, at the end: his wife Barb, brilliant physicians from Stanford, many old SF guys who did what they could. (Shout out, particularly, to Dick James, who acted as a shock absorber between Jon and Barb and the concerned SF community at large).

You may not have known Jon Cavaiani, but when that bright spirit transitions sometime in the next days, you may rest assured that the sun is a bit dimmer, the stars a light-year further, the very equator a mile shorter for his absence.

Ave atque vale.


On Jon Cavaiani:

PBS’s American Valor.

The Clandestine Rifle Range

Sitting with a series of sketches of a possible indoor and outdoor range, something that’s badly needed in our area, and talking about noise control, the subject turned to clandestine ranges used by guerrilla movements, and the techniques they used to keep noise down.

Urban guerrillas have always had problems conducting basic firearms and operational training. Gunshots have a distinct sound signature, and by harnessing modern technology, or good old-fashioned networks of snitches (these being far more effective than the new technology, whose only design objective was to separate flush public agencies from some of that cash), counterinsurgents can vector in on firearms training and disrupt the training or capture or neutralize the trainees, and more critically, the instructors.

Alternatively, underground operators can receive mechanical and dry-fire training only, and then their introduction to combat (against a trained enemy, mind you) is also their introduction to the sensations of live fire. Some guerrilla elements have been forced to operate that way, notably the Jewish underground in the Warsaw Ghetto (although their primary reason was want of ammunition).

Over the years, such underground groups have developed methods for training without exposing themselves. Certainly use of air weapons and small-caliber weapons can help, but in long-running insurgencies like the now-defunct Sendero Luminoso urban guerrilla arm in Peru, and the Irish Republican Army terrorist group and its offshoots, clandestine sound-deadening ranges have been developed.

The three principal approaches are:

  1. To put the range underground, in a tunnel or basement or bunker;
  2. To put the range inside a building;
  3. To use sound-deadening methods, like the tire-and-steel-drum trap that some people use on a private range out of neighborliness, or the Swiss Schallschutztunnel (noise-protective tunnel). Here’s a sketch of a tire and drum trap:


The first two have the effect of shortening the range. All three have distinctive appearances, and police or military authorities who find them will know exactly what they have found. As is often the case in guerrilla war, all possible courses of action come with non-zero risks.

The IRA as Example

In 1997, an IRA firing range was found concealed in a stand of forest in County Monaghan, Irish Republic. An overheated story in the Daily Mirror (archived link) had some details amid all the excitement.

Two firing ranges, one of them underground, were found littered with thousands of spent cartridges.

Also found nearby was a stock of 500 live cartridges for the deadly Kalashnikov AK47 rifle – the “Widow Maker” which is the terrorists’ favourite assault weapon.

The walls of the underground firing range were sound-proofed with car tyres.

The 30ft overground firing range had a look-out where IRA overlords could watch as the Provo cadets practiced with the AK47 and the handguns favoured for close-range assassination attempts and attacks on security force bases and patrols.

Gardai and Army officers believe the spent cartridges are evidence that the “murder school” had been open for its deadly business until recently.

The camp is hidden away in a dense 7,000 square acre forest.

The nearest house is five miles away and the nearest passable road – a crumbling, narrow dirt-track – is half-a-mile from the base.

Visitors would have had to leave the track and complete their journey to the camp over soft bogland on foot.

The base is thought to be one of several used by the IRA to give new volunteers the chance to practice their murder methods before being unleashed in Northern Ireland and England. An acknowledged weapons expert from within the Provo ranks – usually an experienced killer with a record of successful “hits” – will assess the apprentice marksmen while they pump high-velocity bullets into targets on the firing ranges.

It’s notable that this range had decent security in terms of its remoteness and sound-deadening equipment. The operators could have assisted in masking the range by being selective about the times and weather conditions of operation. Sound carries at night, and sound reflects in a cloud-ground wave when there’s an overcast; conversely, sound is lost in the rain. The booming basso profundo of large center-fire rounds and short-barreled pistols are heavy in the low frequencies down below 1 KHz where sound isn’t attenuated as much by distance (think of what you hear when some rap fan goes by, generously sharing his “music” with everyone within a mile).

It was simply careless of them not to remove and dispose of their brass (given that these were AK rounds sourced through the IRA’s favorite sugar daddy, Colonel Qaddhafi, probably really “steel”) remotely from the range. It’s bad operational security because the authorities can determine how many AKs fired at that range, and put each one’s firing pin and ejector signatures in the national ballistic network.

Of course, in a police state that bans even empty casings (like Washington, DC, for example), transporting the empties is itself fraught with risk.

In 1999, the Garda (the Irish police) caught 12 terrorists of the “Real IRA” splinter group at a firing range in a converted wine cellar. The Grauniad’s report:

The leader of the Real IRA, the dissident republican group behind the Omagh bombing, had a narrow escape last week. He was drinking in the Huntsman Inn with another leading hardliner as armed gardai raided the outfit’s training camp two miles away in Co. Meath. Had they known, Irish police would have waited. They now believe that he was about to head to the underground firing range, where recruits as young as 14 where being drilled.
But detectives still believe their dramatic operation on Wednesday last week has put paid to the Real IRA’s immediate plans to return to violence. The group called a ceasefire soon after killing 29 people at Omagh, but the RUC and Garda were fearing an imminent attack on security forces in Northern Ireland.

As well as arresting 10 people at the recently converted wine cellar, police recovered three guns.

Seven people were charged with weapons offences. They were remanded in custody at the special criminal court in Dublin on Wednesday, the first time tighter legislation on bail has been applied in the Irish Republic.

The director of public prosecutions is considering files on the three others. They include the 14-year-old.


That Garda operation was enabled by classical COIN counterintelligence and surveillance, the basic blocking and tackling of clandestine warfare. There was also a little signal of the futility of conventional gun control, which is very tight in both the Irish Republic and the adjacent British territory of Northern Ireland:

The Real IRA leader slipped out of the Irish Republic this year, bound for eastern Europe. The reason is now clear.

Two of the seized guns were Czech made. The other was an AK-47 from Yugoslavia. They also found a Russian-made RPG 18 rocket-launcher, six ready-to-use bombs, also from Russia, and 36 detonators, often the most difficult component of a bomb to source.

One of the largely untold stories of the Cold War is the extent to which the USSR supported terrorists worldwide, in a nihilistic attempt to undermine non-communist (and even communist but China-oriented or independent governments) worldwide.

The discovery proves that the Real IRA leader, a former quartermaster of the IRA, has opened up a new source of supply. And, despite heavy surveillance, he was able to ensure the weapons came into the Irish Republic.

Geez, did it ever occur to you that the guy you had under heavy surveillance was drawing off your surveillants from the guy you didn’t have eyes on — the one who was actually moving the weapons?

Intelligence sources believe the Real IRA leader has also successfully imported a heavy duty machinegun capable of bringing down an army helicopter.

Reporters! Anything is capable of bringing down an army helicopter, including dumb luck, the pilot, and the natural entropy that’s always at work in these complex flying machines. The miracle is that any of them stay up all the way to the intended LZ.

Although the Real IRA leader knows where the IRA arms dumps are, there is no evidence yet he has tried to take guns from them. The IRA’s AK-47s are Rumanian or Russian-made.

But Gardai seized 2lbs of Semtex from the Real IRA in Co. Wexford earlier this month. They think it came from an IRA dump.

This sort of thing did not stop with the IRA cease-fire, because the IRA insisted on maintaining its arsenal of guns and bombs. Even though Daffy Qaddhafi cut them off in the 1990s, they’re estimated to have at least 650 AKs still in inventory; enough, one expert writes, for them to operate at peak Troubles pace “indefinitely.” And they continue to train clandestinely. The Police Service of Northern Ireland arrested four IRA terrorists in connection with such a range in 2012, and the first, a 48-year-old dole recipient named Sean Kelly, entered guilty pleas last month. The methods PSNI used to detect and locate the range have not been made public.

Seaside Sunday

So, there we are, lounging by the sea. If you’re not envious, you have no idea what you’re missing. The only bad part of this is that it is in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts.

Here’s hoping all of you have a great Sunday.

It’s not just guns: a scene from the war on guitars

RIP, Ovation. This is a more upscale model, but the same color.

RIP, Ovation. This is a more upscale model, but the same color.

If you were in 10th SF Group in the early 1980s, you might remember a guy who had a funny-looking red guitar with a couple of appropriate stickers (like one from Soldier of Fortune) magazine on it. He sang the usual parodies — a pop hit “Don’t you Forget About me” came out as “Don’t you give me VD.” And the unit songs, like Bovine, Frog and Lopez’s “You Don’t Bludgeon a Seal,” which was about the cute pups of the marine mammal, not their naval namesakes, who could have that cold-water swimming $#!+, as far as we were concerned. And a few originals, like “Night Patrol”:

On a night patrol you live in fear,

That the sound of a breaking twig might reach a foreign ear.

Good people, good times, a good guitar. The guitar was truly weird, although by the time it was made in the 1970s they’d started catching on. Product of a spinoff of an aerospace company, it was the first acoustic guitar to be widely available with electronics built-in. Behind the red soundboard, with its odd pattern of holes, was a polymer bowl; the neck was a space-age graphite composite material, molded to an aluminum armature and set automatically by the factory. Every part came out of the autoclave perfect, and was fused at the perfect angle. It wasn’t entirely indestructible, but it was close. (Singer Jim Croce had one, and in its case, it was fine after the plane crash that killed him). There was very little maintenance required, an important factor for an instrument that would be palletized by team members, or worse, the group riggers under the guidance of Air Force loadmasters.

Best of all, Col. Richard W. Potter, Jr., Commanding… hated that guitar. “^$$*!! I hear a guitar.  Sergeant Major, I told you to keep that guitar off this deployment!”

We bet, when you saw “the war on guitars,” you thought we’d bring up the Government’s war on Gibson Guitar Company, which weaponized Federal agencies stretched laws to do — because the head of Gibson, Henry Juskiewicz, was a Designated Enemy of The Party. Nope. Henry can defend himself quite ably, and has done so. Google is your pal if you don’t know what we’re talking about. But that guitar that so entertained (or irritated) Green Berets at airstrips, SFOBs, isolation areas and Lord knows where else across America and Europe was an Ovation, spun off in an imaginative attempt to apply aerospace technology to guitar making. Just because the guy who ran an aerospace company, Charlie Kaman, who made rescue helicopters for the Air Force and Navy, was a guitar player who got the idea of combining the technology with his hobby — kind of like Sullivan with Armalite, actually.

Dannel Malloy, the anti-gun and anti-manufacturing Governor of Connecticut hasn’t just attacked the gun industry in the Nutmeg State, you see; he’s attacked all industry, and industry has reacted. Sikorsky, for example, moved its R&D “Hawk Werks” to another state, where they wouldn’t have to deal with Malloy’s pals, the mobbed-up unions. Because, who would want his state to be the home of the future of helicopter R&D?

Kaman, itself once a series helicopter maker itself, makes odds and ands for other defense contractors more than it makes helicopters any more. Even though its K-Max was revolutionary, today’s DOD actually would rather hire that heavy-lift capability from Russian or Ukrainian Mi-26 operators.

And Ovation finally closed its doors. A Hartford Courant writer, Dan Haar, was there, which is a delightful irony, because the Courant is all for whatever The Party decrees, and manufacturing is bad and evil, except for the Jobs, which don’t offset the Evil Profit Thing enough to survive. Or something. Anyway, here’s Haar going all sentimental with the last workers as they literally lock up the place.

Just about everyone had said farewell a few weeks earlier, when production stopped.

Back on that glum day, six or eight guys had climbed up into the tower of the 1840s mill building and rung the iron bell 47 times — one for each year Ovation made guitars at the New Hartford factory on the Farmington River.

Now, with the machines gone, just two factory employees remained: Howard Ives, a master craftsman who made the high-end Adamas line of instruments, mostly by hand; and Mark Lamanna, who joined the company just out of trade school three decades ago and rose through the ranks to head production for the past 10 years.

Lamanna stood with David Hurley on the vast, L-shaped, wooden floor, noisy with the task of making 15,000 instruments a year not long ago, now silent and empty except for two lone tables and rows of ancient wooden support columns, painted white. Hurley, whose family owns the historic building, is president of the Hurley Manufacturing Co., a spring-maker that shared the complex with Ovation.

via Closing Notes Of Ovation Plant: Memories And Music – Courant.com.

Ovation guitars are going to be made, probably to a lower standard, in some place like Indonesia or Vietnam; they’ll either be a lot cheaper or make middlemen a lot richer, and old, American Ovations will join the ranks of treasured vintage instruments.

Haar catches part of what Connecticut, America, and the world lost in this one plant closing, quoting Ovation luthier Mike DeNoi:

“I miss the people, believe me,” he said. “I spent more time with these people than my family. I know the skill level of these people. It’s such a waste; you can’t replicate this.”

That idea of needlessly lost skills kept coming up, and it’s hardly new. This complex was built by a once-great textile operation that made ships’ sails — the Greenwoods Co., which had its own village on this site, with a dam for water power. It exited Connecticut way back in 1901.

When a factory closes, its demise is a public marker in the community’s memory, like a hurricane or a flood. Waring. Fafnir. Ideal Forge. Scoville. So many more, all gone — even as we celebrate this weekend the 200th birthday of Sam Colt, linchpin of all Connecticut manufacturing.

There is a roomful of ironies in Connecticut celebrating Sam Colt even as all right-thinking people there — definitely including Haar and the Courant — demonize his products and the people who build and use them.

You might not ever have heard of Hurley Manufacturing, the remaining company in the building vacated by Ovation, but we bet you have one of their springs. Among their products is the recoil spring that Colt ships in every AR-15, M16 and M4.

Are they next?

If we were the governor of Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia or one of the Carolinas, just to name some places where manufacturing in general and gun and defense manufacturing in particular finds a welcome embrace, we’d be looking up David Hurley’s phone number.

Some thoughts on Military Traditions

SF Patch

For over 30 years this was all an SF man wore on his left shoulder — unless he was Ranger-Q’d. Vietnam SF soldiers did not get the SF Tab (they are eligible for its award, retroactively, but SF men of the 50s, 60s, 70s and start of the 80s didn’t get them at graduation).

Some military traditions come to endure for a very long time; they survive the rise and fall of units, complete service branches, and even nations and empires. Military units today conduct ceremonies and maintain traditions that date back at least to the Roman Empire.

Some of this is just transmitted in human experience, even through social and political revolutions. The French army today has some traditions that predate the revolution. The Russian army today, likewise has some traditions from the previous Soviet army, and some from the Tsarist army before that. And all are inheritors of some of the traditions of the Romans: unit standards or guidons, marching in ranks, saluting.

Then, there is the interesting comparison of the tradition that takes hold, and the tradition that fails to take hold. For example, when he was Chief of Staff, Rick Shinseki tried to get the US Army to celebrate an Army Birthday. He was mindful of the tradition of the Marine Corps Birthday, which has long taken hold of the Marine Corps, and is a reason (or an excuse, for those who need no reason) for Marines past and present to get together with their mates and celebrate their traditions of service. The imposed tradition of the Army Birthday never took hold; it was one more of the ideas you get when you not only invite the Good Idea Fairy into the conference room, you make him Chief of Staff.

Shinseki went on to head the VA, which is all you need to know about his traditions.

This weekend, we’re attending an event that is one of those organic traditions that has just grown, and has survived many decades, outliving some of the original instigators, even though it’s a very small tradition. It’s interesting because it’s unique, so far as we know, in the Special Forces and world Special Operations community.

The Team Dive started as an excuse for members of an Army Reserve Special Forces Team to get together on a non-drill weekend, catch up, and not incidentally do a dive for lobsters in the cold waters off the North Shore of Massachusetts. A number of dope deals were necessary to make this happen: they had to fix things with the Environmental Police, with the site of the dive, with the local authorities, and with the Revolutionary War fort that is absolutely closed to camping at all times, except when the Green Berets come, once a year. It’s all legal and all on the up and up (yes, the men have lobstering permits for that one weekend, and yes, they only take legal “bugs”). But it’s a minority group in the minority group, and many people who are not members went out of their way to make it the successful tradition it has now “always” been.

Some years the lobsters are plentiful. Some, they are scarce (and somebody takes the Drive of Shame to a fish market). The beer is always plentiful; as the old guys drink less, the young guys pick up the slack. The story telling is prodigious, and one of the things that makes old guys like us turn out is the grim knowledge that he who is not there to tell the story is certain to be the subject of discussion.

Nobody is sure when the Team Dive started; the best guess is sometime in the 1980s. There’s a 20-year anniversary, but it’s just the 20-year point of somebody finally keeping track. Since a typical military career is 20 years, and some guys were already retired when they came to the first one, there will be members from their 20s to their 80s, each eager to hear what’s up with the others, and to meet old friends and teammates that he hasn’t met yet.

What we think is unique is this event’s nature as a longitudinal event on a team scale. There are reasons a reserve team, not an active one, came up with this, but we know it took a lot of luck and survived many near-death experiences to be here for us today.

Your “outside” life doesn’t come in here, too much. We’ve had FBI agents and ex-cons sitting at the same table, carpenters and CFOs, teachers and technicians. Here, the stories are of night jumps and over-the-horizon swims, of violent injury and long recovery, of guns we liked and guns we respected, of the difficulty making commo when you knew the Russians could DF you in 10 seconds — and when they’d jam you sometimes, just to let you know they were on duty that night, too. There will be tales of Vietnam and Afghanistan and maybe Iraq, along with tales of the Last Good Deal in Oslo or Guayaquil or Spanish Town, Jamaica.

Some of the tales will be true, some will contain a germ of truth, and some, the listeners will listen politely to.

The tradition survived the retirement of the original members; it even survived the end of the Army Reserve Special Forces, the dissolution of the original team, ODA 111, A Co. 11th Special Forces Group, the erasure of their team house and the very street it was on from the map as the area was redeveloped. The men who served on the team when it was disbanded in 1994 found themselves, mostly, on the same new team in the Army National Guard, and so that team became the torchbearers of the tradition. By that time, someone had already figured out it was important to keep the old-timers in, and so team members from the 1960s to the 2010s were arriving from across the country last night.

Some will dive. Some will drink. Some will do both (in order, please. So far we have a perfect safety record and have one surface for every submersion).

If you wanted your team to have a team dive (or hunt, or whatever) you couldn’t just copy the way ODA 111 does it. You’d have to start, and let the tradition grow, and see where it wound up, which wouldn’t be where you expected. But it would be a good thing, as long as it did what traditions must do: percolated from bottom up, rather than be commanded from top down.

When is a Used Scope Worth $5k?

With a couple hours left to go, this scope is over $4,800 at the CMP Auction site. It’s worth a lot because it’s a rarity, of no small historical significance.

USMC Sniper scope2

Anybody can stamp “USMC Sniper” on a scope, but when Unertl did it, the scopes went to the Marine Corps scout-sniper program — he never sold one to the civilian world. So everybody who’s a fan of Marine snipers, whether they’re real ones like Carlos Hathcock or the fictional kind like Bob Lee Swagger, wants one of these scopes.

Many years ago they were rebuilt by US Optics, and stored. And they wound up at CMP. They have a mil-dot reticle.

USMC Sniper scope3

You’re on your own for a mount… but if you need this you can solve that little problem.

USMC Sniper scope1

CMP Auction here.

We want this so bad we can taste it, but then we’d need to build the whole gun, and we’re not Marines around here… better to let the authentic Marines have it, but we’d sure like to see (and shoot? Pretty please?) the gun when it’s built.

Now, we SF guys need a 1980-vintage M21 with Leatherwood ART II. Sooner or later.


The scope sold for exactly $5,000. CMP doesn’t have another scope auction scheduled at present.


Military Phonies in Politics

Ken Aden -- Special Forces phony, faker, fraud. The lesser of two weevils.

Ken Aden — Special Forces phony, faker, fraud, and 2012 Congressional candidate. The lesser of two weevils.

Today, a friend reminded us of Ken Aden, a 2012 congressional candidate in Arkansas who is a phony “Green Beret.” Aden actually managed to flunk out of SF school so spectacularly — three times, so at least he’s not a quitter — that the Command Sergeant Major of the school distinctly remembered him four years later. It was kind of sad, because Aden served creditably in the Army, he just didn’t succeed in SF, which is hardly a rare thing. What is a relatively rare thing is for a guy who did not succeed to go around claiming he did. Maybe that once was common, but nowadays everybody’s a couple of phone calls or emails away from authenticating just about anybody. Anyway, here’s the post on Aden if you want to pick at that scab. We don’t think he’s running for anything this year; he learned that lesson.

On the other hand, our post about him is so full of typos and grammatical screwups, we have to say, “No, really” about college degrees… sheesh. It was not our finest hour. Anyway, Aden threw in the sponge when his imposture was outed. He’s back in mind today because we have two guys, at least, running on their military records, when the military records haven’t exactly held up to scrutiny.

Ron Dickey, Congressional Candidate in Mississippi: SF Phony

Dickey has claimed to be a “Green Beret”. Here is an example of that claim. You may rest assured that there are many more such examples:

Ron Dickey SF phony

Dickey, whose full name is Flemron Earl Russell Dickey, has already won his contested primary for the Democrat nomination, and will be on the general election ballot 4 November 14. Is he really a Green Beret? Here are his real military assignments.

Ron Dickey real records

Dickey served honorably, completing Basic and Advanced Individual Training and assignments in Korea and at Fort Bragg. As you see, is only AIT was as a 94B, Food Service Specialist. In plain English, a cook. His SF claim hangs on this flimsy peg: he was assigned to HHC, 3rd Special Forces Group, and worked in the Group’s mess hall, where he prepared and served food for real Green Berets on a daily basis.

What the hell? Ron could claim he was a veteran, no problem. He could even say he was a support guy who worked for Special Forces, and we wouldn’t quibble. But normally, even cooks in an SFG’s HHC (or back in the day, support battalion or service company) are required to be jump-qualified, and Ron’s record shows no attendance at jump school, nor award of the parachutist badge. (Maybe it’s routine for some cooks at Bragg to be legs? All we know is that our cooks at 10th Group at Devens, and later in the Reserve and Guard SF units, were Airborne qualified).

Unfortunately, Ron’s false claims do not end there. He also claims to be a Desert Storm Veteran. He has made these claims broadly and in detail, and they are not supported by his records at all. Elements of 3rd Group did attend that party, but he did not.

Even before these false claims were exposed, Ron Dickey had an uphill fight against incumbent Alan Nunnelee, a Republican who retained his seat with 60% of the vote in 2012. The Cook Partisan Voting Index rates the district R+16 in 2014; many Mississippi Democrats are gerrymandered into another district (the 2nd).

FMI: Guardian of Valor on Ron Dickey. This Ain’t Hell on Ron Dickey.  Stolen Valor Offenders Exposed on Ron Dickey. (They have scores of screencaps of his claims; GoV has them well-organized).

Senator “Dishonest John” Walsh: Thesis Thief, and Ethics Violator

Face of a Thesis Thief

Face of a Thesis Thief: Dishonest John Walsh.

While Ron Dickey’s phonyhood has mostly been an under-the-radar phenomenon, John Walsh’s problems have exploded into the national media with a story in the New York Times. Walsh is an appointed Senator; after 30 years as a part-time officer in the Montana National Guard and full-time Guard “technician,” he ran for Lieutenant Governor after retiring. When the Governor, Bryan Schweitzer, had a chance to name a Senator, after the President named incumbent Max Baucus to an ambassadorship, he thought the best chance of keeping the seat in Democrat hands in conservative Montana was to name someone with an unquestionable military background.

Unfortunately for him and his party, he thought Dishonest John was that guy.

The current tornado of news is animated by the discovery that almost all the substance of Walsh’s 2007 War College thesis was plagiarized. From the initial story at the New York Times:

But one of the highest-profile credentials of Mr. Walsh’s 33-year military career appears to have been improperly attained. An examination of the final paper required for Mr. Walsh’s master’s degree from the United States Army War College indicates the senator appropriated at least a quarter of his thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors’ works, with no attribution.

Mr. Walsh completed the paper, what the War College calls a “strategy research project,” to earn his degree in 2007, when he was 46. The sources of the material he presents as his own include academic papers, policy journal essays and books that are almost all available online.

Most strikingly, each of the six recommendations Mr. Walsh laid out at the conclusion of his 14-page paper, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” is taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document on the same topic.

The Washington Post adds some specifics on Walsh’s thesis theft:

The first page borrows heavily from a 2003 Foreign Affairs piece written by Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a 2009 book by Natan Sharansky with Ron Dermer called “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.”

All six of the recommendations that Walsh lists at the end of his paper are taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie paper written by Carothers and three other scholars at the institute.

One section of the paper is nearly identical to about 600 words from a 1998 paper by Sean Lynn-Jones, a scholar at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a research institute at Harvard.

Walsh is ducking responsibility for the plagiarism, claiming that it was PTSD from his service as a safe-as-houses battalion commander in Iraq that forced him to plagiarize many sources, essentially adding up to the whole damned paper.

The War College has started an enquiry, according to a follow-up in the Times:

“It’s clear there is indeed strong reason to believe this is plagiarism,” said the War College’s provost, Lance Betros, a retired brigadier general. “We are initiating academic review procedures.”

Dr. Betros said he made the decision after he and another member of the War College’s staff read Mr. Walsh’s 14-page paper and used an online plagiarism detection program to review the document.

The notification letter to Mr. Walsh indicates that an academic review board consisting of War College faculty members will meet no earlier than Aug. 15. Any student or graduate facing such questions is given 10 days after receiving notification to decide whether to appear in person or provide information before the board convenes.

Dr Betros told that Times that six War College graduates have had their degrees yanked for plagiarism since 1990 (and two more for other misconduct). It seems probable that as soon as two weeks from now, Walsh will be the ninth disgraced grad.

Montana’s other Senator, Jon Tester, who is not a veteran, defended Walsh, and indicated that military ideals of integrity were passé and immaterial. After all, Tester explained, “there’s no malice in this.” So, he cheated on a course, so what? Likewise, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee came out swinging for Walsh. “John Walsh is a decorated war hero, and it’s disgusting” that people would call him on something like plagiarism, spokesman Justin Barasky, who is not a veteran, exploded, before going nuclear on Walsh’s election opponent, blaming him for the “smear” of Walsh that came about when the New York Times, a well-known tool of small-state Republican politicians, exposed Walsh’s plagiarism. 

But the plagiarism isn’t the biggest problem in Walsh’s military history, although it speaks resoundingly of his integrity. Because his political career is nugatory — the 2012 Lt. Governorship was his first office — he has cast his campaign largely in light of his military service — a service in which he not only, as has now been exposed, cheated to get ahead, but couldn’t stay there once he did.

For example, Dishonest John represents himself as a brigadier general in campaign ads, but while he wore the star on state orders, he never received Federal recognition for the promotion because of allegations of corruption in office, allegations that were proven credible. (Had he been cleared, he would have been federally recognized as a two-star Major General; instead, he had to retire as a Colonel). An Army IG investigation substantiated that Walsh had violated the DOD Joint Ethics Regulation; pressured subordinates to join and donate to a political lobbying organization he sought a position with; misused “his official title, position, and official photograph;” “improperly used his government position for private gain;” and misused Federal resources including computer systems and personnel.

The IG investigation came about because of a complaint from one of the subordinates Walsh targeted for pressure.

There’s also a question of how Walsh’s branch morphed so many times, from Armor at commissioning, to Ordnance, suddenly to Infantry prior to his deployment to Iraq — but that’s rather typical for a “political” Guard officer who is in favor in the state capital, as Walsh has been with Governor Bryan Schweitzer.


The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, a committed Democrat who could be expected to do what he could to protect Walsh, instead savaged Dishonest John’s “fact sheet” which included, among other things, a fabricated claim that he had “survived hundreds of IED explosions”:

Walsh survived hundreds of IED explosions while in a Humvee, he was targeted – by name – by Al Qaida in Iraq, and his unit endured hundreds of rocket attacks.

His unit might have, but he didn’t. In a separate story, the Post’s Aaron Blake, another typical Postie who wishes Democrats well, lit into the “fact sheet”‘s dishonest combat claims.

If surviving “hundreds of IED explosions” sounds unbelievable, that’s because it didn’t happen. Walsh’s campaign followed up with a correction (which they call a clarification), noting that he personally didn’t survive all those IED attacks.

“He survived an attack in October 2005, while his unit endured hundreds of both IED and rocket attacks throughout the deployment,” a Walsh spokeswoman said.

That’s a pretty glaring factual error, especially for a “fact sheet.”

Dishonest John has also tried to explain away his serial and pervasive plagiarism with a PTSD/TBI dodge, but if he’d been blow’d up enough to have a TBI, his records would show the Purple Heart medal, and they don’t; and, as Blake notes, he never mentioned PTSD until he was on the ropes for plagiarism.

Campaign spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua “scolded the press” and insisted that Walsh’s Xerox-strength wholesale copying was a single “unintentional mistake.” Kessler gives Walsh a well-deserved Four Pinnochios here.



In this case, the media has actually done the military’s work by unearthing and exposing an unethical officer. No doubt another investigation or three will take place, but any way you look at it, we all owe Kessler, Blake and especially the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin a cold one for shining a light on one of the hidden Courtney Massengales.