Author Archives: Hognose

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

Forgotten Engineer: Tadeusz Felsztyn

Coat_of_arms_of_Poland-officialTadeusz Felsztyn was an ordnance officer in the Army of the Republic of Poland during that nation’s brief flowering between the power vacuum created by the fall of the absolute monarchical empires of Germany and Russia in 1918, and the rise of their absolutist and totalitarian replacements, unconstrained by the codes of noblesse oblige or considerations of Christian morality that had stayed the hand of Kaiser and Tsar. In September, 1939 the Third Reich and its mirror image, the Soviet Union, crushed Poland under the “heel of a boot stepping on a man’s face, forever,” and it became a very unhealthy place to be a Lieutenant Colonel in Polish service, and doubly so for Tadeusz Felsztyn.

The name suggests he was Jewish, which happenstance of birth marked him for murder by the Nazis; and as a Polish officer he would have been marked for murder by the Soviets (an order signed by Stalin’s own hand; unlike Hitler, he didn’t rely on middle-men to commit his atrocities, possibly because he’d already had so many of the middlemen shot).

What, exactly, Felszteyn designed is not known, but he is reported to be responsible for the remarkable 7.92mm x 107mm anti-tank rifle round, used in the Maroszek-designed Wz.35 rifle. At that time, and at the outbreak of the war, he was a lieutenant colonel and almost 45 years old (he was born Sep. 30, 1894).

We were fortunately able to learn more about him. Here is a genealogical page that clearly refers to him (Colonel, mathematician, physicist, started in Polish Army at age 23), and behold! He lived to age 69, died in Pitsford, Nortants., England, in the industrial Midlands. Later, in England, he anglicized the spelling of his name to Feldstein. He appears to have died without issue, although his siblings have survivors to this day. 

Since we know he survived the war, now, we can show that he appeared before controversial Congressional hearings on the Katyn Forest Massacre in 1952. In that appearance, he gave a brief bio, before testifying on the bullets that were used in the murders, and described how he was taken prisoner by the Soviets, and how he came to survive. The Google Books view has a small snippet of this testimony (not sure why they don’t have the whole thing, as a US government document it is in the public domain). Fortunately, Archive.org has it. Because the file at Archive.org is very large (the entire hearings run 2,300 pages! and even the Archive.org splits are 30+MB each) we have excerpted the testimony over the jump.

Felszteyn’s testimony is quite interesting (it’s also quite erroneous, in that he suggests that Geco 7.65mm Browning ammunition might have been used in Soviet issue firearms. We know now that the Soviets used German-made firearms in the Katyn murders).

Zeitschrift Schiess-u Sprengstoffwesen 1931In 1939, certain of his research appears to have been published in a German journal, by the traces available of a hardcover bound volume of the journal: Zeitschrift fur Das gesamte Schiess und Sprengstoffwesen mit der Sonderabteilung Gasschutz (Journal for the Field of Gunpowder and Explosives with section on anti-gas protection). XXXIII-XXXIV. Jahrgang. (Volume 33-34, 1938-1939). Hardcover – 1939.

(Bound volumes of this journal do turn up; they’re expensive when they do). The image to the right is from the 1931 edition. (Remarkable Art Deco typography, that).

After the war, he seems to have published many books in Polish in London (if it was not another Tadeusz Felsztyn) in the period from 1945 to 1947, and then again in the 1950s and early 60s, books on general science. He also appears to have written a history of the General Anders’s Polish Army in Exile, with which he served after being released from a Russian prison camp for that purpose. (One of the great puzzles of the Katyn massacre is why only some camps of Poles were massacred, and why some were not. The Yeltsin-era openness of some KGB/MVD/NKVD archives has turned back to Cold War stonewalling).

A Very Incomplete List of Felsztyn’s Books

  • 1945: Wiara i wiedza w świetle nowoczesnych poglądów fizycznych, which translates to Faith and knowledge in the light of modern views of physics.
  • 1957: Swiat w Oczacu Wspólczesnej Nauki which translates to The World in the Eyes of Modern Science
  • 1958: Atom W Służbie Ludzkości which translates to The Atom in the Service of Mankind.
  • 1959: Rakety i Podroze Miedsyplanetarne which translates Rockets in Interplanetary Travel.
  • 1960: Poza Czasem i Przestrzenią. Zjawiska Pozazmysłowe which translates as: Beyond Time and Space: Extrasensory Phenomena.
  • 1962: Evolusjonizm which translates to Evolutionism.

No Polish family of 1939-89 avoided tragedy. His younger brother Roman died on April 19, 1919, reportedly in battle in Lvov (L’viv), which would have made him one of the last casualties of the Polish Uprising that produced independence, or one of the first casualties of the Russo-Polish War of 1919-21, which ended in a decisive Polish victory over the Soviets’ most capable general, Mikhail Tukhachevskiy (who himself would meet a similar fate to the Polish officers captured by the Soviets in 1939 — shot in the back of the head on Stalin’s orders).

Click “more” to read Felsztyn’s testimony at the Katyn hearings.

Continue reading

Battleship Musashi’s Resting Place Found

An expedition sponsored and led by investor Paul Allen has given a precise answer to a question only understood generally since 1944: where is Musashi? The general answer, of course, is, “at the bottom of the sea,” which is where most of Japan’s aircraft carriers (and naval aircraft, and naval aviators) were when the IJN’s surface combatants sortied to try to bring the US fleets to what Japanese doctrine always called for, “one decisive battle.” Japan wound up having four decisive battles, and losing all four, spectacularly.

Musashi

Musashi under way in an artist’s rendering.

In retrospect, the sortie of Musashi, like the later one of her sister Yamato off Okinawa, seems lunatic — the Charge of the Light Brigade, armored and put to sea. But the men of her complement believed that if they just showed enough spirit, fortune had to break Japan’s way. No one will ever question whether they showed enough spirit.

Musashi, tied with her sister Yamato for largest battleship ever built, died hard, with her forest of 25mm AA guns and her heavier armament taking a toll on the American naval dive bombers and torpedo bombers that dove relentlessly at the ship. One compartment after the next flooded, one system after another went down, and still they fought. With the bow awash and the ship’s speed reduced to the single digits, they were still fighting.

A thousand heroes were made that day on both sides of the fight, and most of their heroism went unobserved by anyone who would survive the battle.

Starboard anchor of IJN Musashi. The port anchor was cut away as the crew fought a list during her last hours.

Starboard anchor of IJN Musashi. The port anchor was cut away by damage-control parties as the crew fought a list during her last hours.

Along with the most comprehensive air defense battery ever fielded, Musashi had new anti-aircraft fire directors for her secondary armament, and her gunnery officers figured out that the ship’s unprecedented 18″ (460mm) main armament could be effective against torpedo bombers, by shooting into the water and knocking the necessarily low- and straight-flying torpedo planes down with geysers of displaced water. Every time a plane fell the defenders cheered. But the new gun-director jammed, irreversibly.

And no matter what they did, they couldn’t get all the planes. And matching valor for valor, the planes kept coming, and the defenses could only slow their attack, not stop it. In the end, Musashi, her captain RADM Toshihira Inoguchi (posthumously VADM), and over 1,000 of her crew went to the bottom. 1,700 other crewmen were saved, some to return to Japan, and some to be fed back into the battles for the Philippines as ersatz ground troops. The luck of the draw determined who would live and who would die; very few of the sailors repurposed as infantrymen would see Japan again, except perhaps in spirit at Yasukuni Shrine.

Where the ship was remained a mystery, as American and Japanese records offered conflicting locations for the start of Musashi’s plunge, and previous attempts to fix her position on the seabed frustrated the explorers and scientists looking for the mighty ship.

Paul G. Allen, a Microsoft billionaire whose eclectic interests include investments, private space, World War II aircraft, promoting gun bans (unfortunately) and owning the Super Bowl-losing Seattle Seahawks,  sponsored and led an expedition to find Musashi.

This week, he did.

Mr. Allen and his team of researchers began their search for the Musashi more than eight years ago. Using historical records from four countries, detailed undersea topographical data and advanced technology aboard his yacht, M/Y Octopus, Mr. Allen and his team located the battleship in the Sibuyan Sea on March 1, 2015.

Despite numerous eyewitness accounts, the exact location of the ship was unknown. The team combined historical data with advanced technology to narrow the search area. Mr. Allen commissioned a hypsometric bathymetric survey of the ocean floor to determine the terrain. This data was used to eliminate large areas for the search team and also resulted in the discovery of five new geographic features on the floor of the Sibuyan Sea. In February 2015, the team set out to conduct the final phase of the search using a BlueFin-12 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). Because the search area had been so narrowly defined by the survey, the AUV was able to detect the wreckage of Musashi on only its third dive. A Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) with a high-definition camera confirmed the identity of the wreckage as Musashi.

“Since my youth, I have been fascinated with World War II history, inspired by my father’s service in the U.S. Army,” said Mr. Allen. “The Musashi is truly an engineering marvel and, as an engineer at heart, I have a deep appreciation for the technology and effort that went into its construction. I am honored to play a part in finding this key vessel in naval history and honoring the memory of the incredible bravery of the men who served aboard her.”

While we obviously part company with Mr Allen on his support for disarming those citizens who have the ill fortune not to be billionaires, we have long admired his other ventures, including the SpaceShip One effort (where he not only funded the whole thing, but then yielded any claim on the X-Prize his team won, so that there was more to be shared among the engineers and technicians who did the work), and several no-expense-spared restorations of rare wartime aircraft.

 

We’re Busy, Here’s a Ranger!

Hey, dear readers, we’re wrapped up in a few things. A long-delayed proposal seems to have finally sold to an allied armed force and today is “oh crap, now what” day. And of course, it’s today that College Pro Painters are doing an estimate on restoring the exterior of the Manor to her 20th Century glory, and we gotta see if one of the auto paint shops around here will primer our aircraft parts for us.

On the other hand, yesterday it was above freezing. For the first time since some time in December. We broke 40 degrees F, even. And spent it chipping ice dams off the roof, or trying to. (Do you ever wish you could have your 25-year-old body back?)

So, we may get more posts done, and we may not. Meanwhile, here’s a Ranger with the Carl Gustaf RCL that replaced the late, lamented 90mm RCL in Ranger service.

ranger_rcl

That’s a crop of a great US Army photo by PFC Rashene Mincy. Taken during 2/75 range training at Camp Roberts, CA about one year ago (26 Jan 14 to be precise). We love the way she captured the fire in the muzzle and the shadow of the speeding projectile!

The 90 was last used in combat in Grenada, and that use was its undoing. The Rangers, believers in the adage that “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing,” brought every round in the US inventory to the island and unboxed them. They fired a couple dozen rounds, if that, and killed a couple of armored vehicles (BRDM, BTR-60) that had already been killed a couple of times by AC-130s — or maybe the Spectres killed v’s that had already been killed by the Ragnars, it was over 30 years ago.

Then, they ran into a force even the Rangers can’t overcome: US Air Force bureaucracy. AFIs (the blue-suit version of Army Regs) forbid the carriage of ammunition not in its factory packaging. The Rangers pleaded, wheedled, begged, threatened (OK, so maybe they threatened first) and offered to repack the ammo, but nooooo. So every stick of 90mm ammunition owned by the US Army went up in a controlled detonation, as EOD blew tons and tons of ammo that the Air Force wouldn’t take away from the island.

And, ulp! Seems like the ammo was out of production and the line long since scrapped, and the idea of redeveloping a production line for three little light-infantry battalions (even though each Ranger bat burns a brigade’s worth of live ammo a year, maybe a division’s, in the early 1980s)  was a budgetary non-starter. Enter Plan B — the Carl Gustaf, used by many of our NATO allies for decades, with some pros and cons vis-a-vis the 90 but one big one, available ammo. (The disposable AT-4 is a scion of the original Carl Gustaf, also).

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: GridDownMed.com

griddownmed_screenshot_2Also known (at least until a certain authoress sets her lawyers on them) as the Hogwarts School of Grid-Down Medicine. We’ve always been interested in field medicine. It’s a basic fact that SF guys don’t work alone; along with the indispensable weapons men, and the sometimes indispensable team leader and team tech, there are four other enlisted specializations on the team, all of which come in handy sooner or later: engineering, communications, operations and intelligence, and, last but definitely not least, medicine. An SF medic has trained, and once he’s been around for a few years, practiced, medical treatment of his team, his indigenous troops, and often local civilians (and their livestock) in the operational area. He has become an artist; his paints are an aid bag and a sharp, developed mind, and his canvas is the sick or wounded human body. He also takes on the thankless task of training his team’s cognitively-challenged bullet-launcher operators, mad demolitionists, nerdy radio hams and vainglorious officers how to keep one another alive if he and his Junior Medic get hit by the proverbial crosstown bus.

The guys who write for this site (frequent commenter, and nearly as frequent SoCal job hunter, Aesop may be joining them soon) remind us of those dedicated medics who taught us how to bring a patient back from death’s door — and made us show them we were paying attention, with live patients. They know where the bodies are buried, as the saying goes, sometimes because their error put ‘em there. And they know triage in a way you don’t “know” it until you’ve lived it: when to take their time, when the Reaper has hounded them into an all-out effort, and when efforts are futile. And they express this with the wit and sturdy black humor for which the profession is noted (see the bottom entry under “Irreversible shock” below).

shock-chart

The site is clear, thorough, and opinionated in a good way. (Hint: Jenny McCarthy will not like their opinion of her personal quest for the Ignoble Prize for Medicine. “Field medicine” doesn’t need to include arrant quackery. Nay, it needs not to).

Emergency medicine today is highly developed and systematized, and they’ve given a lot of thought to what from this system works in an off-grid situation, and what doesn’t.

One of the most intriguing things we saw here was a post (promising more to come) on manufacturing insulin in austere conditions. The glowing example is a refugee couple who rolled their own whilst besieged in Shanghai during World War II.

Another is this post about the Shelf Life Extension Program. It’s long been an open secret that we in SF, like many missionary and other austere-medicine groups, use medications past their expiration date. (We’re also kind of anal about how we store them… lots of environmental things, like UV light, can kill meds). And there’s a great post about cold weather and hypothermia — it’s simple basics, but a young woman just died an hour from here, for want of simple basics. The whole site is strongly recommended.

MarkForged: Only Government Can Have Guns

A People’s Republic of Massachusetts company, MarkForged, has taken an interesting position in a dispute with, who else, Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed in Austin, Texas: MarkForged has refused to sell a 3D printer, the Mark One, to Wilson or DD. Its reason? According to its attorney, they fear he will make a gun, and “only the US Government or government contractors can make guns.”

Of course, the US Government hasn’t made a gun since Springfield Armory closed its doors in 1968 (absent some closed-door lab tinkering, which MarkForged apparently doesn’t support, either).

It’s uncertain whether this comes from pure anti-gun animus from the staff of MarkForged; or whether this (like the FedEx/UPS attack on Defense Distributed) is driven by some clandestine Operation Choke Point; or whether their attorney is simply the Judas Goat of The Higher Education Bubble, Legal Department, and is rocking a sheepskin (to mix our ovines and caprines) from the Matchbook University School of Law and HVAC Technology.

What is certain? Wilson is pissed. And he’s not taking “no” for an answer.

(You know, that printer looks like it might be violating a 3D Systems patent on the enclosed print area, especially if they’re rocking any form of climate control. It would be amusing for open source advocates to set a couple closed-source firms’ IP attorneys at each others’ throats).

Wired got a similar tale from the company, and found that they were, shall we say, somewhat integrity-challenged:

In a statement to WIRED, MarkForged cited terms of service that “limit experimentation with ordnance to the United States Government and its authorized contractors.” In fact, the company’s terms of service page doesn’t include that statement. But it does reserve the right for the company to refuse sale to anyone, even after an order is placed.

“Our website automatically took Mr. Wilson’s pre-order, and we certainly regret that we did not catch this sooner,” MarkForged’s statement continues. “We are expediting his refund with interest.”

It’s a free country, and they can sell, or not sell, to whomever they please, of course. And everyone else can buy, or not buy.

There are other questions about MarkForged’s equipment. The guys pimping it in the video on the website are more communications and investment dudes than actual developers — the suits, not the t-shirts. That’s never a good sign, when your initial promo video has at least two guys from your venture capitalists in it. The machine, and its software, appear to require cloud connectivity, which means you can’t use it in an airgapped secure site. So much for using it for R&D on a defense contract. (That central control and storage of software will probably kneecap Wilson, even if he gets a bootleg MarkOne — no way these guys, or their “Government and its authorized contractors,” aren’t coonfingering their customers’ files). Also, they’ve been shipping printers for a while, and yet their web site is full of the sort of glowing but nonspecific testimonials that are used to sell phony diet supplements, penny stocks, and other snake oils. Where’s the real satisfied customers doing real stuff with this thing? They’ve been showing the same rice-boy car cosmetic wing parts for 18 months now, where are the applications?

And finally, there’s the fact that they might just pull the plug on you, and then lie to you and to the press about what their own paperwork says, without even giving you the merest iota of respect that would induce them to Orwell the paperwork into what they’re now saying it always said.

There’s a shakeout coming in the 3D printer world, and few tears will be shed if this firm is one that gets shaken out. But hey, they can always sell to “the United States Government and its authorized contractors.” The ones whose labs are all on the public internet. Oh, wait.

A Blast from the Past — Literally

FOOM!There is been few blasts like the one that blew up USS Maine in Havana harbor, on 15 February 1898, the forward magazine of the ship blew up at 9:40 PM. A crew of 355 was nearly annihilated; there were only 16 uninjured survivors, and 75 or 80 wounded ones. Because the mishap happened at night, and officers’ country was in the aft end of the ship, the officers survived at a higher rate.

1024px-Telegram_from_James_A._Forsythe_to_Secretary_of_the_Navy_-_NARA_-_300264The captain of Maine, Charles Sigsbee, sent an urgent cry for help via Capt. James Forsythe, commanding officer of the Key West naval station.

The investigation that ensued ruled that the ship was subject to an attack by a naval mine. It was only the first of many investigations, and there remains to this day no conclusion, although the balance of expert opinion seems to suggest a mishap aboard ship is more likely than Spanish hostile action. The destruction of Maine became a casus belli in the hysteria-induced Spanish-American War of 1898. Indeed, it was probably the most influential cause, or pretext, for the US to have initiated that war.

The Maine was an odd ship, but she was created in the 1880s and 1890s at an odd time in naval affairs. “Armored Cruisers” seemed to be what Navies needed, ships that could combine sail and steam — she was initially designed with three masts — and that would attack headlong. Accordingly, Maine had a ram built into her bow, and her two gun barbettes (mounted in left-front and right-rear sponsons) were arranged so that she could deliver her full “broadside” — four 10-inch guns — only straight ahead or straight behind.

Maine also had advanced armor for her day — Harvey Steel, an early form of face-hardened armor. But it took so long for America to build, launch and commission this pre-Dreadnought battleship (ships characterized by guns in sponsons and coal-fired steam piston engines) that she was, although nearly new at her sinking, soon to be obsoleted by that British revolution in naval arms.

Our interest, of course, is easily led from the 10″ main battery on down through the 1.5″ anti-torpedo-boat armaments to, inevitably, the personal weapons.

Julia Maine Recovered Lee Navy

Like every Naval vessel, Maine had some small arms lockers, and in February, 1898, they held the unusual M1895 Winchester-Lee 6mm (.236 Navy) rifle. The rifles, at least some of them, were salvaged and were sold by Francis Bannerman of Bannerman’s Island fame. Ian at Forgotten Weapons has an excellent video showcasing one of these rare rifles, now featured in a Julia auction. James Julia expects a five figure knock-down on this. Julia explains his documentation of provenance:

Also accompanied by a copy of pages 34 and 35 of a reprint of The Bannerman Catalog of July 1907. Page 35 lists the serial numbers of 54 6mm Lee Straight Pull Rifles salvaged from the USS Maine, including this exact rifle.

Julia Maine recovered Navy

It also lists the SNs of six 45 cal Springfield rifles recovered at the same time. These rifles were sold to Bannermens [sic] through the Navy Yard at New York in Jan. 1900. These 54 Lee rifles and 6 Springfield rifles are the only officially documented small arms recovered from the USS Maine although there have been one or two others that have surfaced in the last few years that were undoubtedly authentic. Regardless there are probably no more than about 60 or so of these relics in existence.

How many guns came by their pitting this honestly? No doubt someone will take great pride in adding this piece of history to his collection.

Bubba Got a Boring Bar

bubbas boring bar AR

This is weight savings the hard way, considering that most of what’s cut away is 7075 or 6061 aluminum. You just can’t save that much weight that way.

CubanFALThere are FALs kicking around Latin America and Africa with a big borehole like that in the magazine well — that’s because they were supplied clandestinely by Cuba, and los Pollos Cubanos used the boring bar (or maybe a fly cutter, we defer to the machinists in the audience) to remove the Batistiano Cuban crest in hopes of concealing the guns’ origin. (Lotsa luck. Western intel agencies had the manifests of the deliveries, by serial number).

We found the Swiss-Cheese-AR image here, linked from here, hat tip Nathan S at TFB.

Aero Precision has gotten into the game with some gimmicky skeletonized lowers. This is not a production item, but was an experiment:

Aero Precision SkeletorThat’s also thanks to TFB. Structurally, it might hold up or it might not (really, most of the material in the sides of the lower is there to provide dust seal, and, to a limited extent, a shear web, so there’s no reason skeletonizing shouldn’t work, structurally). But the total weight savings is nominal: 0.169 lb or about 2.7 ounces. (About 0.08 Kg for those of you who roll that way). They could probably have saved almost as much by milling off the A2 reinforcements to the pivot pin lugs and buffer tower areas.

That gives you an idea of what Bubba’s Boring Bar Blaster actually saved: less than 2.7 oz, to be sure. That’s winning the game the hard way.

Aero Precision is not alone. Daytona Defense & Tactical sells a skeletonized “Reaper” lower for $85 bare and $90 anodized black. It looks like they took many of the same cuts Aero Precision did (we’re not going to guess who was first).

Daytona Defense Reaper

So what’s the game? As you might guess from all the discussion of weight, The Lightest AR Going. There’s a Tumblr where a guy aimed for 60 ounces (he overshot but not by much), and there are several other competitors around. So a new guy’s aiming below 60 ounces. Of course, his definition of a “fully-functional AR” may not gibe with yours — one of the first parts he sacrificed was the bolt catch, shortly followed by the magazine catch (he’s making a fixed-mag 10-round firearm). And we’ve got our doubts about the long-term viability of his aluminum bolt carrier (yes, really). But even he has said, he’s not drilling the thing full of holes.

It might be that X Products got the whole Gun of Skeletor thing started by, after a skeletonized drum magazine caught the public’s eye at SHOT, making a run of the things. (Not a short run, either. For 2015 they made 1200 Skeletonized mags for SR-25 pattern .308s, and sold ‘em out). The silhouette of the skeletonized AR-15 drum has been used as a sort of trademark by the company ever since.

Hey, you want a light AR? Going to shoot it with irons? Get an old Colt SP1carbine. Yes, it will have some compromises: iron sights only, of the less precise (and slightly harder to adjust) A1 flavor. No rails or freefloated goodies. But it’s only 6 pounds and change. If you want to get to 4 pounds and below, you can only do it by accepting unpleasant recoil, shorter life, and compromised performance.

If that’s a good deal to you, or if you just want to experiment, have at it.

 

Snowden Wants to Come Home

Soon, Ed could have one of these of his very own!

Soon, Ol’ Snowdownloadin’ could have one of these of his very own! Maybe they can reuse this number — it’s cancelled. Heh.

That is, if the traitor can get a good enough deal. Apparently his Russian owner-operators are no longer keeping him in the style to which he has become accustomed.

Or maybe the Boris Nemtsov assassination reminded him what happens to people who are surplus to Vladimir Vladimirovich’s immediate requirements.

Anatoly Kucherena, the Russian lawyer who represents the former National Security Agency contractor, told a news conference.

Snowden was given political asylum in Russia in the summer of 2013 after the US revoked his passport. He now leads a reclusive life there.

“With a group of lawyers from other countries, we are working on the question of his return to America,” Kucherena said.

“Snowden is ready to return to the States, but on the condition that he is given a guarantee of a legal and impartial trial,” he said.

via Edward Snowden ‘ready to return to States’ – Yahoo News.

Snowden remains popular in some circles. A Snowden hagiography won Best Documentary at the Oscars, and Oliver Stone is making a film in the Socialist Realism style celebrating Snowden’s life and deeds.

Know Your Enemy – March, 2015 Update (Poly-Ticks)

Screenshot 2015-02-23 00.04.08We have been maintaining a link map of anti-gun organizations, illustrating the links between overt gun-ban organizations and the variety of crypto-banners that emerge, especially during election cycles. We expect that during the 2015-16 cycle more of these frauds will shedding their exposed and ruined old names, like a snake’s skin, and offer a new set of stripes or diamonds to the world… but it’s still the same damnable snake.

We know what to do with snakes, right?

The .pdf is set up to be printed on 14″ x 17″ paper, and will be updated as necessary and as we learn of new connections. Questions, comments, additions, and alterations are welcome in the comments below.

It’s sad to say that there are even some gun companies supporting these citizen disarmament groups. We suspect that this is partly because the groups have become very skillful at concealing their funding, ideology, and intentions, and partly because the nominally nonpartisan gun-ban extremists are quite partisan and share their funding, staffing, and strategy with other groups that are not playing in the gun field.

But that’s OK. Because we’re getting very skillful at winkling them out.

The Shape of Antigun Astroturf 20150302.pdf

Most Foolhardy Round Ever?

Among the more unusual and inexplicable — ah, hell, let’s just say foolhardy – loads ever manufactured for a firearm were strangely multipurpose rounds for the German World War II anti-tank rifles. These gigantic rifles fired a kinetic energy penetrator of 7.92mm from a gigantic 94mm rimless casing at blistering speeds1. But even beyond its “pinhead” appearance, the round had a peculiar feature, that is as far as we know unique in the world of ammunition.

P318 792 x 94 from kopania-rf 2

This illustration came from the Russian site Kopania.rf, which has comprehensive coverage of variants of the 7.93 x 94 P318.

While the idea of a rifle-caliber or MG-caliber AT gun wasn’t completely off the wall — many of the major powers of Europe, and some minor ones like Poland and Spain, pursued the idea in the 1920s and 30s — the particular loading of the Germans was. To an extent, it was a fairly standard API or API-T round, with a copper jacket over a steel (or later, tungsten) penetrator. Here’s what an Allied intelligence publication had to say:

“The Germans possess gas grenades, with which their parachute troops might be equipped. Ammunition for antitank rifles, models 38 and 39, includes armor-piercing tracer bullets charged with tear gas.”2

And no, this wasn’t one of those cases where the intel weenies were chasing chimeras. There really was a tear-gas capsule in the round, just forward of the tracer mixture, set in the base of the hard metal penetrator. In packaged rounds, it’s indicated by the post-number letters “Rs” for “Reizstoff” or “Irritant agent.”

pzb392

You have to wonder: what were they thinking? “We’re going to send a little hunk of tungsten” — well, they were Germans, so they were going to send a little hunk of wolfram – “to rattle around in their tank, and then we’ll really let ‘em have it: tear gas!” But that was, exactly, what they were thinking. The German ordnance officers thought the round too uncertain a tank kill, and the tear gas was one little sweetener to encourage the crew to depart their iron foxhole.

As it happened, it didn’t work. The little gas capsule usually broke off on impact and was found lying next to the tank. Sure enough, it was the steel or tungsten penetrator that did the hard work.

While this little capsule of gas may have been a technical violation of the international law of war (irritants and tear gases are a grey area), the gas aspect of the cartridge was so meager that, as far as we can tell, the Allies never uttered a word of protest, nor was there any war-crimes trials for the ordnance officers (not for this, anyway). It’s just a flaky footnote to the development of World War weapons.

The two weapons that fired this odd 7.92 x 94mm for the Deutsche Wehrmacht were the Panzerbuchse (PzB) 38 from Rheinmettal-Borsig and the PzB 39 from the Gustloff-Werke. The PzB 38 was a bit of a flop, and only 1,600 were made; they’re extremely rare today, and were problematical in the field. The weight and complexity of the PzB 38 stemmed in part from its design — unlike the WWI AT rifle, which was a scaled-up single-shot Mauser, the PzB 38 used artillery-piece design concepts — a falling block, a recoiling “carriage,” and automatic ejection.

pzb38

That’s why the Wehrmacht went so quickly from the PzB 38 to the PzB 39, which was cheaper, simpler, and more reliable — not to mention, almost 4 kilograms lighter. It dumped the recoil system and automatic breech opening — trading some punishment of the gunner, and a fast second shot, for lightness and mobility.

Surviving PzB 39s are almost as rare as PzB 38s despite much higher production, because most were converted to GrB 39s This example, SN 6242, was auctioned in 2013.

Surviving PzB 39s are almost as rare as PzB 38s despite much higher production, because most were converted to GrB 39s. Five survivors are known. This example, SN 6462, was auctioned in 2013. More images at the Auction Link.

It also wrung another 55 m/s (180 fps) out of the same cartridge. Over 30,000 of these were made, and they were deployed Army wide by Operation Barbarossa, although they never matched the intended 81 rifles per infantry division.

By midwar the 7.92  was hopeless on medium tanks, but could still penetrate light armored vehicles. You didn’t want to fire this gun at a T-34 or the frontal armor of a Sherman; it would make the guys inside mad, and then they’d want to fight. The Wehrmacht had been expecting more of the T-26s and BT-5s they faced in Spain, and the T-34 was an unpleasant shock3

A next-generation anti-tank rifle competition, calling for a semi-auto, brought forth prototypes from several firms: Mauser, Walther, Krieghoff and Gustloff. But tank armor, driven to greater thicknesses by anti-tank artillery, dimmed the prospects of the 7.92 hypervelocity round as a tank-slayer.

The Germans, facing the obsolescence of the PzB 39, had actually begun converting them to grenade launchers (Granatenbüchse 39); the GrB 39 had the standard rifleman’s cup-discharger but the larger shell meant that the wood-bullet grenade-launcher blank could drive a grenade much farther than a mere rifle could. In this capacity, the rifle soldiered on to V-E Day. This is one of those rounds, the 7.92mm Triebpatrone Granatenbüchse 318:

792x94 318TreibpG

The 7.92 x 94 wasn’t, by the way, the largest rifle-caliber round of the war. The Poles made a spectacular AT rifle in the 1930s, the Karabin Przeciwpancerny wz.35, that fired this spectacular 7.92 x 107mm round, the 7.92 DS, designed by Polish ordnance officer Tadeusz Felsztyn4 for a repeating rifle designed by Josef Maroszek. The muzzle velocity was a barrel-melting 1275 m/s (4,183 fps)5.

792x107 polish

It could penetrate even more armor at 100 and 300m than its German competitor, and was every bit as obsolete. The barrel life of these seriously oversized cartridges was, as you might expect, measured in scores or, at most, a few hundred rounds. The US experimented with AT rifles but never issued one; Britain issued the 0.55 in. Boys Anti Tank Rifle, but all were doomed by the rapid evolution of tank armor under the evolutionary pressure of world war.

The Polish round was unique among them in that it did not have a tungsten, or even steel, penetrator. While its lead-cored round could penetrate at close range because of its velocity, at longer ranges, it squashed on the outside of the armor and knocked a divot off the inside, killing the vehicle or the inhabitants with the effects of this spalling.

This image, from Williams, shows a collection of AT rifle rounds, issued and experimental.

AT Rifle Rounds

One ballistic detail about the German and Polish AT rifles — given the Mach 4 (sea level, standard day) velocity of these 7.92mm rounds, they had a very flat trajectory. That means that they didn’t need the elaborate sights of many period rifles — they were often sighted on 300 or 400 meters, and basically shot point-blank at anything on the battlefield, with no hold-over or -under, and therefore, no elevation adjustment, required.

 

Notes

  1. Depending on the rifle, its muzzle velocity was 1210 or 1265 m/s — that’s 3,970 to 4,150 fps.
  2. War Department. 1943-03 Intelligence Bulletin Vol 01 No 07. Page uncertain (repaginated electronic OCR scan).
  3. Of which, more later. We’ve come across a purported first-hand report of a first-encounter with the excellent Soviet tank, by a rare invasion survivor.
  4. Out of curiosity, we sought more information about Felsztyn. With a Jewish sounding name, and as a Polish officer, he was equally doomed whether the Nazis or the Soviets got him. What we learned deserves its own blog post!
  5. Williams, generally a solid source, says 1,220 m/s. He also gives only the lower number for the 12.7 x 94.

Sources

Hofbauer, M. Panzerfaust: WWII German Infantry AntiTank Weapons: Page 6: Tank Rifles. Archived from Geocities (defunct) in October 2009. Retrieved from: http://www.oocities.org/augusta/8172/panzerfaust6.htm

Parada, George. German Anti-Tank rifles — Panzerbüchse. AchtungPanzer.com. Retrieved from: http://www.achtungpanzer.com/german-anti-tank-rifles-panzerbuchse.htm

Popenker, Maxim. Panzerbüchse PzB-38 (Pz.B.38) and PzB-39 (Pz.B.39) anti-tank rifle (Germany).  Modern Firearms. Retrieved from: http://world.guns.ru/atr/de/pzb3-pzb39-e.html

Uncredited. The German PxB 38/39 (Panzerbuchse). Antitank.co.uk. Retrieved from: http://www.antitank.co.uk/german1.ht

United States. War Department. 1943-03 Intelligence Bulletin Vol 01 No 07. Washington, 1943.

Williams, Anthony G. An Introduction to Anti-Tank Rifle Cartridges. The Cartridge Researcher, 11/12 2004. Retrieved from: http://www.quarryhs.co.uk/ATRart.htm