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New from TrackingPoint

TrackingPoint has refreshed its AR lineup in three calibers (5.56, 7.62, and .300 Win Mag) and also offers three things calculated to increase the appeal of their precision-guided firearms: lower prices, financing, and a virtual reality glass device, the Shotglass.

If you ever wanted to break the last taboo and enjoy a shotglass while shooting, now’s your chance. This one doesn’t hold a precise measure of amber nectar brewed by Scotsmen, though:

shotglass

The Shotglass can be used to aim and fire the weapon from complete concealment cover. It can record video. It’s most likely use in the real world, though, is as a way for the spotter to direct the sniper on target. We expect we will see more of these used with TrackingPoint’s long-range bolt action rifles than with its ARs, but time will tell. If you buy a TrackingPoint PGF by 30 November 2014, the Shotglass is free; after that, it’s an additional $1k. We’ll probably discuss it in greater depth when TP puts up their Shotglass video; for now, we can’t imagine anyone who wants or has the gun turning the Shotglass down.

The lower prices are relative — they’re still nosebleed-high, just not arterial-nosebleed-high any more. For example, the 5.56 AR is $7,495.

tp_ar-newest-use-me_1

For that, Tracking Point offers:

  • Perfect impact on targets out to 0.3 miles, moving as fast as 10 miles per hour.
  • The same Tag-and-Shoot™ technology found in fighter jets
  • Advanced target tracking technology
  • Comprehensive, purpose-built shooting system.

We’ve discussed the TrackingPoint technology before, but the implementation in the ARs differs from that in the bolt guns. First place, you don’t need the guided-firearm voodoo to just shoot. The optic comes up with a crosshair reticle with mil-dots and a red dot at center. Different TP releases have called this “Standard” or “Traditional” mode. Note that the interface does give you range in this mode, but not wind speed or direction.

tracking_point_trad_mode

Next up is “Freefire” mode, which is present, so far as we know, only in the gas guns, not the bolt guns. In this mode, you range something near a group of targets, and the scope adapts to that range and to the atmospherics (note that the wind speed is displayed in this mode). The reticle cues you that the Freefire Mode has been selected, and it eliminates the mildots. Those are not necessary in this mode, because your point of aim is computer adjusted to equal your point of impact. In “Freefire” mode, the Guided Trigger is not activated: the trigger works like any AR trigger.

tracking_point_freefire_mode

In Advanced mode, the reticle changes yet again. In this case, it takes several shapes depending on whether and where the Tag has been applied. In advanced mode, the tag is applied with the red button, and then the reticle changes color and shape. The illustration below shows a tag applied to the running coyote. The blue reticle indicates that the shooter is not ready to take the shot: he is not holding the trigger back. When he holds the trigger to the rear, the color changes to red, and the weapon will fire when it is in proper alignment. At any point, the shooter can safe the gun by releasing the trigger.

tracking_point_advanced_mode

Advanced mode does something that was considered impossible for centuries: it removes most sources of human error from marksmanship. This is the sort of thing that becomes possible, when you embed a complete Linux computer in a rifle optic, and tie it in to the physical rifle several different ways.

You’ve probably noticed that TrackingPoint expresses distances in decimal tenths of a mile, rather than the yards or meters common in the shooting world, which suggests that they may see their customer base as coming from outside the present limits of the shooting world. (To which we say: welcome! While it’s cool to have a gun that can calculate all this, it’s incredibly empowering to have a head that can calculate all this, and yet, it is possible and available to you. So may your new TrackingPoint firearm be a gateway drug to a new plane of existence for you).

In any event, 0.3 mile is about 480 meters (which the US Army considers the effective range of the individual rifle platform) and 530 yards.

The guns each have a limited effective range which seems like it was programmed into the weapon as a maximum “lock range” (the system has an integrated rangefinder and environmental sensors). This may be intended to ensure that shooters have a positive experience with the precision-guided firearm, but it may also serve to ensure that the ARs don’t cannibalize the higher-end sniper and hunting rifles.

precision-guided-300-wm-semi-auto_0

The top of the AR line, the .300 Win Mag monster, offers the same claimed benefits as the 5.56 version, except that it offers “perfect impact on targets out to 0.5 miles, moving as fast as 20 miles per hour,” for a more-than-your-pickup-truck $18,995. (Our pickup, anyway: 4-banger, 2 wheel drive). (Half a mile is 800 meters or 880 yards). Unfortunately, now that somebody’s actually built an AR that’s perfectly sized as a bayonet handle, there’s no bayonet lug.

The 7.62 AR offers slightly less performance (0.5 mi, moving targets to 15 mph) for slightly less money: $14,995. If these prices seem high for ARs, well, they are, but no other ARs do these things, this well.

precision-guided-semi-auto-7.62-new

 

 

When TrackingPoint first announced the AR line this spring, there was a .300 Blackout version available. A prototype, using a Daniel Defense upper, was clearly visible in their first AR video, but the gun is not on their price list today. The TrackingPoint technology offers the potential to have a firearm that automatically corrects its zero for the Point of Impact shift common with suppressors; it can also, potentially, store several load profiles. (The ballistics-adapting capability of the weapon depends on it being fired consistently with a load whose performance parameters are known to the software).

The bolt-action rifles, which have not been updated, offer similar performance, actually, in similar calibers. Only the mighty .338 LM extends range to 0.75 miles (1200m — 1320 yards). The bolts are priced differently than their semi-auto kin, a little lower in 7.62 but the highest-price version of the .338 is near-as-dammit $28,000. With great power comes great liabilities, Spider-man. In addition to that, you might want to think hard about budgeting for the extended warranty and the software maintenance contract — software maintenance alone is a stiff $2k/year.

The electricity to drive all this juju comes from batteries in compartments in the stock or the AR and in integral battery compartments in the optics of the bolt guns.

TrackingPoint’s managers are keenly aware that the prices of these guns are an obstacle to sales, and so they have a financing program with decent terms: 10% down, 36 months, 10% interest. (They don’t say how it’s compounded or what the APR is). There’s also a 30-day, no questions asked, money back guarantee, “You can feel completely confident that TrackingPoint stands behind its products.”

We’re not sure it’s really, in their words, “the most incredible shooting system known to mankind.” But we are sure want one of these pretty badly. Just not $18-30k badly. Yet.

For $2k you can spend the day at TrackingPoint in Pflugerville, Texas, meet the staff, see the plant and fire the gun. If nothing else, you’d learn how to pronounce, “Pflugerville,” and maybe even who Pfluger was.

What the Well-Armed ISIL ASIL is Shooting

car_ammo_Count on the guys from ISIL to have rounded up whatever they could get their mitts on, in the way of small arms and ammunition. And count on the guys from Conflict Armament Research, who have already done a report on ISIL small arms (.pdf), to round up a few of ISIL’s rounds and analyze them. From their report on ammunition (.pdf of course), a snapshot of their methodology:

[The report's] findings derive from a series of Conflict Armament Research (CAR) field investigations conducted in the Kurdish regions of northern Iraq and northern Syria 22 July–15 August 2014.

In Syria, the CAR investigation team worked alongside Kurdish People’s Protection Units
(YPG) to document ammunition captured during offensives against IS forces—primarily near Ayn al-Arab (Kurdish: Kobanê) and Ras al-Ayn (Kurdish: Serekanî). In Iraq, the team worked closely with Peshmerga forces loyal to the Kurdish Regional Government to document spent cartridges from captured IS positions.

This recovered M16A4 was made by FN for a US FMS contract. ISIL presumably captured it from the Iraqi Army.

This recovered M16A4 was made by FN for a US FMS contract. ISIL presumably captured it from the Iraqi Army. A previous Conflict Arms Research report covered small arms like this rifle. 

So that’s the good news: they got on the ground in this area, and collected what rounds they could, often soon after the ISIL forces were beaten out of an area (during the summer, when these reports were made, the Kurds were holding their own. More recently, they’re retreating). And from those rounds, they drew some interesting conclusions, such as these:

The sample includes ammunition manufactured in 21 countries during a period of nearly 70 years (1945–2014). The variety and age of ammunition used by IS forces indicates a large array of ammunition supply sources, which is attributable to the group having captured materiel during numerous engagements, and against various opponents, across Iraq and Syria. China, the Soviet Union/Russian Federation, and the United States (US) are the top three manufacturing states represented in the sample. Ammunition in service with Iraqi and Syrian defence forces is also significant in the sample.

The sources of ammunition with recent headstamps skewed differently from the overall numbers. Note how small the number of recovered rounds really us.

The sources of ammunition with recent headstamps skewed differently from the overall numbers. Note how small the number of recovered rounds really is.

Turkish 9mm ammo, fresh from the factory to the pistols of ISIL executioners. But by what route?

Turkish 9mm ammo, fresh from the factory to the pistols of ISIL executioners. But by what route?

Given the rounds reported here, the two most common probable sources for ISIL’s ammunition are battlefield recovery and the international arms market. Particularly interesting were quantities of ammunition from Sudan and Iran, both nations under embargo, at least, theoretically. But as the table above shows, it’s hard to draw inferences from the very low numbers of cartridges recovered — that includes a whopping 2 cartridges from Sudan and 10 from Iran, not a case you’d want to take in front of a judge. More interesting, perhaps, are the recoveries of recent 9mm ammunition from Turkey (illustration on right). Is Turkey actively supplying the ammo? They certainly won’t admit it, but the enemies of their enemy Bashar Assad includes all of ISIL and the other groups fighting to overthrow him — and Turkey’s AKP party shares some aspects of Islamism with the shadowy wannabe Caliph leading ISIL.

Sometimes the enemy of your enemy is still your enemy.

The 5.56 ammo seems to skew from the middle oughts, when the US was supplying prodigious quantities to the Iraqi security forces.

The 5.56 ammo seems to skew from the middle oughts, when the US was supplying prodigious quantities to the Iraqi security forces.

The Conflict Arms Research analysts also noted that they recovered a lot of crew-served ammunition, and not quite so much for individual weapons. Very little 7.62 x 39 was recovered, and the recoveries of 5.56 NATO ammunition were all in Iraq, not Syria.

CAR is an international anti-gun group; you won’t go far wrong by thinking of them as Bloomberg with international aspirations. But there is one place where they diverge from such American gun-rights opponents as Bloomberg: they try to report what they observe straight down the middle, rather than beat their findings to fit some preexisting political agenda. And they are doing what no one else who reports to the public will do: go to conflict scenes and actually observe what arms and ammunition are being used. National intelligence services do that, but they don’t generally issue public reports.

We can suggest explanations for some of CAR’s findings:

  • Captured small arms are being used opportunistically, perhaps sometimes by defectors to ISIL from their enemies. Thus, you’d expect recoveries in Syria to be biased towards calibers the Syrian military uses, and likewise for Iraq. There’s no reason to haul 5.56 rifles and ammo to Syria when there are no shortages of individual weapons in Syria. This is exactly the pattern CAR documented. Opportunistic battlefield recovery arms and ammo will generally be used near the scene of their capture.
  • It’s not surprising that they recovered more crew-served ammo than rifle ammo. When an army (even an irregular one) is in retreat, it and its members tend to ‘lighten ship.” It is much more common to see non-standard ammo and crew-served ammo discarded at this time; when guerrillas turn in ammunition on demobilization, they usually turn in a much higher percentage of crew-served than of individual weapons ammunition. Thus 7.62 x 54mm far outnumbered 7.62 x 39 in CAR’s analysis.
  • Some of the findings they make are just not justified by the amount of ammo captured, either as a matter of statistical probability, or simply as a matter of common sense. This is not a trivial complaint. Inferences were drawn from a single Russian 7.62 x 54mm casing, and from a total of two cases with Sudanese headstamps. There’s just not enough meat in those quantities to hang a solid theory on.

The Court of Last Resort

the court of last resortBefore that was an Innocence Project, long before, there was The Court of Last Resort. Erroneous and false convictions have always been anathema to lovers of justice, and one of those justice lovers was a man named Erle Stanley Gardner, a man who had two highly successful careers.

If you remember the name Erle Stanley Gardner today (a lot of people remember him erroneously as Earl), it’s probably because of his second career: as a writer of legal and detective dramas. He was a hugely prolific writer, turning in 66,000 words a week, ever since he began writing for pulp magazines for 1¢ a word. (Later, his stories would run in the solidly respectable Saturday Evening Post, and he’d be paid much better). His best-remembered legal dramas featured his most famous creation, crusading defense attorney Perry Mason, who invariably got the real murderer to confess on the stand, setting his innocent client free. Gardner’s first career was as a defense attorney, so there might have been some wish fulfillment in his writing.

Even people who have never read a word of Gardner’s writing know Perry Mason, from the black-and-white TV series of that name, featuring Raymond Burr in the title role, that ran for a decade, 1957-66, and closely followed the Gardner/Mason formula. Impossible defense case, innocent client, courtroom confession, roll credits. Gardner was credited and paid as creator of the series; we don’t know how much writing he did.

(The show was successful to the end; it only ended because Burr was tired of playing Perry Mason, and the next season he was back as a detective in a wheelchair in a series named Ironside, also a long-running hit, this time in color).

But what has all this to do with The Court of Last Resort? Patience. We’re getting there. Before we return to Gardner, and Mason, we will say that in law, the Court of Last Resort is the highest authority on a given case. It is where you appeal to just before you’re all out of appeals. For a criminal defendant, it’s the last legal hope before “toothbrush day” (or before, in Gardner’s era, having your execution scheduled). Hold that thought while we discuss Mason some more.

We haven’t read the whole canon, but doubt that Perry Mason ever had a guilty client, unlike, well, every other defense attorney there ever was. Gardner had been one of these attorneys, one of the old-school guys who learned as an apprentice to a lawyer, and never attended a day of law school. He had seen guilty men walk and innocent men clapped in irons, and as a true son of the Constitution, the latter case bothered him far more than the former. But for most of his life, he could do nothing about it. It was only when his writing, originally done simply to supplement the uneven pay of a trial lawyer, made him wealthy and famous that he could do something about it. Let’s let his bio at IMDB take the story from here [brackets denote our edits]:

As a lawyer, Gardner became the bane of the legal establishment when he helped co-founding The Case Review Committee (colloquially known as the Court of Last Resort), a professional association of concerned lawyers who sought to investigate and reopen cases wherein a person might have been wrongly convicted [of a] serious crime. Beside Gardner, other founders included LeMoyne Snyder, a physician and lawyer who write well-regarded homicide investigation text books; Dr. Leonorde Keeler, a pioneer and authority in the use of the polygraph in criminal proceedings; former American Academy of Scientific Investigators President Alex Gregory (another polygraph expert who replaced Dr. Keeler after his death) [and] renowned handwriting expert Clark Sellers; and former Walla Walla Penitentiary warden Tom Smith. The Mystery Writers of America bestowed its prestigious Fact Crime Edgar Award on Gardner in 1952, for his non-fiction book The Court of Last Resort (1957), which detailed one of the Court’s first investigations.

That anachronism is in the IMDB bio. Our copy is a paperback version, dated 1954. Along with the book, The Court of Last Resort generated a short-lived TV show, sort of a reality show before reality shows were cool. The show began with a reenactment of the crime at issue.

The most prominent case the Court was involved with was the murder conviction of Dr. Samuel Sheppard, who staunchly proclaimed his innocence of the murder of his wife. The Sheppard case provided the basis for the fictional The Fugitive (1963) TV show.) During the initial phases of the Sheppard appeal, Gardner polygraphed members of the Sheppard family. He had hoped if the results were favorable, he would then administer the lie detector test to Sam Sheppard himself. However, when Sheppard family members were tested, the polygraph results indicated guilty knowledge. Consequently Gardner declined to test Sam Sheppard, and the Court of Last Resort withdrew from the case, even though Gardner believed in Sheppard’s innocence. Sheppard was later freed by a Supreme Court decision that held that Sheppard had not gotten a fair trial due to pre-trial publicity that tainted the juror pool. The Supreme Court case was won by F. Lee Bailey, who also won acquittal for Sheppard during the subsequent retrial. Polygraph tests have never been allowed into evidence in a U.S. court due to their unreliability. Gardner ended his active membership in the Court of Last Resort in 1960. The Court – which conducted preliminary investigations of at least 8,000 cases — eventually disbanded.

Some time ago we came across a copy of a possibly never-read paperback of The Court of Last Resort. Its covers were stiff and is pages brown and brittle, but we had to read it. It is striking just how closely the efforts of the Court of Last Resort in the early 1950s parallels the efforts of the Innocence Project and other civil rights efforts today.

So that was Gardner, then: a California liberal who never wanted to jail anybody, and who probably blamed the guns? No, that wasn’t Gardner. He was as keen on seeing the guilty punished as he was on seeing the innocent exonerated. And far from blaming guns, he was an enthusiastic sportsman himself, and an early activist against nascent anti-gun efforts of the 1950s and 60s.

The Law that LeakedOne example of this activism was a short story, The Law that Leaked, that ran in the outdoor magazine Sports Afield in three consecutive issues beginning in September, 1950. Almost as long ago (2007), Random Nuclear Strikes (what a name for a blog!) scanned the appropriate pages of Sports Afield and made it available to 21st century outdoorsmen. RNS has an introduction to the series, and a post that collects links to all the posts. The story is a good one — imagine a slightly more believable Red Dawn, thirty-plus years ahead of time. (In fact, if you do read the story, you’ll wonder if it wasn’t in the back of John Milius’s mind).

It’s amazing to think that 64 years ago, Erle Stanley Gardner was fighting the malevolent forces of registration and confiscation, and 64 years later we’re still fighting a new generation of the bastards. (Note that the Dave Kopel post on his recommended ten 2nd Amendment books has been nuked from volokh.com, but you can find it in .pdf facsimile of its America’s 1st Freedom print version on Dave’s website).

Erle Stanley Gardner became rich and successful and admired — and he was a college dropout. He shaped a generation’s view of the law, and he never spent an hour in a law-school class. He shaped many an American’s view of the courts and the law, and generally in a positive way.

Finally, Gardner thought that civil rights were important — all civil rights. We know this not because of what he said, but because of what he did. He’s been gone now for decades, but deserves to be remembered — and for more than just Perry Mason.

Gaston Glock: Socialist!

red_flagThere’s a complaint rollicking around in the latest lawsuit in the Real Housewives of Deutsch-Wagram story arc that’s called “Gaston Glock’s Nasty Divorce.” And it looks like the Woman Scorned has brought the weapons-grade accusations against Glock, his new popsie, and an international rogues’ gallery of shell companies and flags of convenience.

There’s enough in this multi-Harlequin-Romance-sized (and shape) complaint to entertain every gun blogger in America. And Austria. But we thought this one little quote was worth passing on:

89. Glock Sr. had to overcome substantial obstacles in order to meet this objective. The first and most obvious obstacle was that he had little experience with firearms in general, much less in designing or manufacturing them.

90. A perhaps more surprising obstacle was Glock Sr.’s Socialist political beliefs, which caused him to strongly dislike guns.

91. But Glock Sr. found a way to overcome his political beliefs, and his Socialism did not prevent him from producing a pistol. Nor did it prevent him from becoming an aggressive and highly successful Capitalist, amassing vast private wealth by selling guns, especially in the United States.

So Gaston Glock’s a commie? Or a bit bolshie, at least? And he’s accused of cheating people… over money? Color us shocked.

John Richardson at No Lawyers has the file, which we’ll also post here. It has one view of Glock history. John also has a link to Bloomberg minion Paul Barrett on the subject — one bolshie who “strongly dislikes guns” bashing another. Can we haz purges?

Helga-Glock-v-Glock-Et-Al.pdf

Perhaps we can all join in in a rousing chorus of the Internationale.  (Maybe on May Day). Until then, consider the life of a lawsuit in the American tort system, versus the life expectancy of Herr Glock, who’s approximately 86. Since there are literally billions at stake — not that anybody at Glock seems to have been counting the money honestly — this could go on enriching lawyers for generations. 

Somewhere, John M. Browning is shaking his head.

Lore of the Lorenz

Union Riflemen with two of the 300,000+ Lorenzes that saw service on both sides. Matthew Fleming collection via Civil War Times.

Union Riflemen with two of the 300,000+ Lorenzes that saw service on both sides. Matthew Fleming collection via Civil War Times.

If you go to a Civil War reenactment, you will see a remarkable thing: thousands of volunteers taking great pains to portray (and many of them, to experience, down to the taste of hard tack) the lives of the troops of the War Between the States. They have an eye for accuracy that stops just short of getting dysentery, or combat wounds (and having them treated with the ignorant brutality of 1860s medicine). They obsess over the weave of clothing, the embroidery of insignia, and, of course, weapons. The average reenactor knows a hundred times more about his rifle-musket or carbine than his actual Civil War ancestor did, and he and his friends will share their knowledge freely and openly with anyone who’s actually interested. Their enthusiasm is infectious.

And yet, you might come away with some not quite right ideas. The vast majority of Union portrayals carry the Springfield rifle-musket; the vast majority of Confederates, the Enfield. Yet both Billy Yank and Johnny Reb dipped into a deeper and wider sea of small arms. There were obsolete smoothbores — some of them retained deliberately, by regimental colonels’ preference — and penny packets of oddball breech-loaders, especially for the cavalry. Enemy weapons were routinely captured and turned on their former owners, especially by the Rebels. But the bulk of non-standard arms were imports. Even the Union, which had the only surviving national arsenal and the majority of civilian gun manufacturers who could turn their machinery to military arms contracts, couldn’t arm its recruits fast enough, and imported prodigious quantities of arms. One of the most significant of those was the Lorenz rifle. This image of a nice one was posted to a Civil War forum by Bob Owens:

lorenz

The similarities to the Springfield and Enfield are evident. (Convergent evolution. A Messerschmitt has a lot in common with a Spitfire, Mustang or Yak-3, for that same reason).

The Lorenz was the service arm of the Austrian Empire, adopted in 1854. It was roughly equivalent to the 1855 Harper’s Ferry rifle-musket or its Springfield equivalent, or to its British contemporary, the Enfield. Since the Empire adopted a new Lorenz variant in 1862, distinguished more by superior metallurgy than by design changes, selling off the old Lorenzes to avid American buyers seemed like a good idea.

Civil War arms historian Joseph Bilby describes the arm and some of its variations:

Lorenz guns were acquired from several sources; the Hapsburg armories in Vienna and private arms makers in Vienna and Ferlach. The Lorenz rifle-musket had a 37 ½ inch barrel secured to the gun’s stock with three barrel bands. The gun was made with two styles of rear sights; a non-adjustable “block,” calibrated to hit a man somewhere on the body up to 300 schritt (paces), issued to line infantry (Type I), and a leaf sight adjustable up to 900 schritt issued to noncommissioned officers and skirmishers (Type II). Both types were imported. Captain Silas Crispin, reported a batch of newly imported .54 caliber as “12,384 of them having the simple block rear sight, and the remainder – 3,144 – being furnished with elevating screws, ranging up to about 800 yards.” It seems reasonable to assume that most bulk purchases of surplus Lorenzes, Union and Confederate, probably reflected the same ratio of sight types, as they seem to correlate with Austrian army issue patterns.

Lorenzes were marked on their lock plates with the last three digits of the year of production. For example “860” designates a rifle made in 1860. The Austrians adopted a new version of the Lorenz in 1862, with a steel rather than iron barrel. These were not imported, and guns with “863” and “864” with provenance to the Civil War are contractor guns made specifically for export. These contract pieces are usually threaded for standard US nipples.

Although walnut stocked examples exist, most Lorenzes were stocked in beech, stained dark brown. The Lorenz quadrangular socket bayonet featured a diagonal mounting slot. Both of these characteristics make it immediately identifiable on a dealer’s table at an antique gun or Civil War relic show.

(Bilby goes into it at greater length in Small Arms at Gettysburg).

The South needed anything, and they bought weapons far worse than the Lorenzes, which were made by a Great Power with substantial arms-making industries, and were only a few years old. (The British sold them, along with modern Enfields, rebarreled and percussion-converted rifles that started as 18th-Century Brown Besses). The North told themselves they were just buying the Lorenzes so that Southern purchasing agents didn’t get them — they wound out buying around two for every Rebel one — but wound up issuing them, anyway. In addition to surplus Lorenz rifles from Habsburg stock, the many small manufacturers that made Austro-Hungarian Army rifles sold new guns to the buyers as well. All in all, somewhere between 300,000 and 350,000 Lorenzes made their way to the USA. Some were bored out to the standard American .58 caliber (there are a lot of variations of this out there), and some were issued in the original .54. Most Lorenz rifles were bright-finished from the factory, like the one shown above, but some were blued or browned.

Civil War riflemen varied in their appreciation for the Lorenz, suggesting to historians like Bilby that the rifles may have varied widely in quality. He quotes some primary sources on the arm:

The Lorenz was well regarded by some troops to whom it was issued, including those of the 5th New Jersey and 104th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiments. Private Alfred Bellard of the 5th praised his .54 caliber Lorenz for being “short, light and very easily cleaned, “while Quartermaster James D. Hendrie of the 104th believed his outfit’s Austrian guns to be “very superior weapons, although not so well finished as the American arms.” His colonel remembered the regiment’s guns as “rough but good and reliable.” The men of the 23rd Pennsylvania were delighted to trade in their .69 caliber rifled muskets for Austrian arms, which they found to be “most efficient firearms.” An Illinois officer regarded the Lorenz as “although a little heavy, a fine piece for service.” Leander Stillwell of the 61st Illinois considered his .54 Lorenz “a wicked shooter.” Stillwell and his comrades “were glad to get the Austrians, and were quite proud of them.” The Suckers of the 61st carried their Lorenzes until June of 1863, when they exchanged them for Enfields.

Other Yanks were not as enthusiastic. In 1863, a Union inspecting officer condemned the Austrian weapons of the 47th Massachusetts Infantry. Lorenz rifle-muskets issued to western troops in the second year of the war seem to have been decidedly inferior to those issued the previous year. William E. McMillan of the 94th Illinois’ Company E wrote that his unit’s Lorenzes were “not worth much,” while the 100th Illinois reported that its .58 caliber Lorenz guns “are roughly and improperly made and cannot be called an effective weapon. The men of the 106th Illinois complained that the Lorenz was “miserably poor,” and the 120th Illinois classified its .54 Lorenz guns as “worthless.”

The 125th Illinois was issued Austrian rifle-muskets in .58 caliber of “which not over one-half were perfect…many will not explode a cap.” The 125th’s regimental historian complained that some of the Austrian guns’ nipples “were not entirely drilled out,” and some could not mount a bayonet without hammering it on. The 130th Illinois reported that “one-third or three-eights of these arms [Austrian] are defective.”

Like Colonel Penrose of the 15th New Jersey Infantry, who exchanged his men’s Enfields for Springfields on the battlefield, Major Robert L. Bodine of the 26th Pennsylvania rearmed his regiment on the field at Gettysburg. Bodine’s men came to Gettysburg armed “with the Austrian rifle of an inferior quality, and I desired toe exchange them for Springfield rifles; which was done without the red tape processes. Quite a number of them were taken from the Rebels. Like the Jerseymen of the 15th, the Pennsylvanians picked up several Confederate-made rifle-muskets along with the Springfields. Apparently unaware of the production facilities at Richmond, Bodine reported that these guns “had gone through the renovating process, and bore the Richmond C.S. stamp.”

Lorenz guns may well have gained a bad reputation from their association with older .71 caliber Austrian “Consol” or tube-lock muskets, which were conversions from flintlock. These guns, some of which were rifled, others not, were converted by a method devised by Giuseppe Consol of Milan. The Consol/Augustin system replaced the flintlock pan and frizzen with a two-piece priming chamber and installed a new hammer.

In the last year of the war, the union was trying to get rid of all it’s nonstandard arms, including the Lorenz, but the Confederacy was importing even more of these and other foreign weapons.

NEw Market Battle Map_ColonnaOne of the most celebrated Rebel uses of the Lorenz came at the battle of New Market, Virginia, in May, 1864, where among the Confederate participants were 257 cadets of the Virginia Military Institute.  Confederate Major General John Breckinridge committed the cadets only reluctantly, but he faced a larger force of Union men under Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel. Most (over 200) of the cadets were armed with Lorenz rifles. Ten cadets were slain, or died of wounds; another 57 survived wounds. At the battle museum there is a mangled Lorenz that was carried by a wounded cadet, displayed with his description of his wounding. The cadets had, bravely but unwisely, marched in ranks into the muzzles of the Yankees’ artillery. Poor fellow never got off a shot before Union shrapnel laid him low; when the rifle was disassembled for preservation in the 1990s his Minié-ball cartridge was found intact in the breech!

In Austria-Hungary, the later model Lorenzes were converted along a similar timeline to their American Springfield counterparts to breechloading, metallic-cartridge rifles. This produced the Wentzel rifle; mechanically it is quite similar to the Allin conversion that produced the Springfield trapdoor. But the American imports were disposed of postwar. Unlike Springfields made at Springfield, the Lorenzes (and imported Enfields from minor English smiths, and Springfields made by contractors) tended to be hand-fitted and not to have interchangeable parts — not optimal in a military arm.

Given the importation of something like 350,000 Lorenzes, and the haste with which they were disposed by the Federal Government, there are believed to be many thousands of original rifles still in circulation. (Others are believed to have been used as rebar in the construction of Bannerman’s Castle in New York; orphaned muzzleloaders).

You can usually find a Lorenz or two for sale on GunBroker. The bayonet, with its trademark angled slot, is somewhat less common than the rifle. The guns are common enough that they’re underpriced compared to Springfields and Enfields of similar vintage.

Given the wide distribution of fakes, however, we would have to urge one to exercise extreme caution with a Lorenz that purports to be of Civil War, especially Confederate, and doubly especially New Market, origin, and is therefore priced above market. (Bear in mind that the battle was a Confederate victory, and the fallen Rebels’ Lorenz rifles were presumably recovered by their own side and restored to the VMI armory or reissued). Even written provenance, as we’ve seen with the recent spate of Little Big Horn auctions, can be, shall we say, questionable. American documents of the period tend to refer to the Lorenz not by that name, but simply as “Austrian rifle.”

With the popularity of reenacting, the Lorenz has been copied in both high-quality and budget replicas. One dead giveaway of a modern replica is that the barrel is steel (like the later Lorenz Model 1862, actually), whilst an original Lorenz has an iron barrel. (unfortunately, the best way to test this is the spark test — not sure what nondestructive methods are available).

So that is a bit of the Lore of the Lorenz — a rifle that most haven’t heard of, but that played a significant role in a war half a world away from its origins.

 

OT: Various Amusements

Let’s Laugh at Ebola

We suppose you could say Ebola is not funny, but this document, given this timing, is definitely funny.

come to dallas bring your ebola

Indeed. Now that we have pestilence, can we have some famine, too? Throw in a dictatorial but inept leader, and we’ve got a three-dimensional taste of Africa!

And Let’s Laugh at Unemployed Journalists

Then, there’s this headline in the New York TimesYou have to have a heart of stone not to read this without skipping happily through the rest of your day:

100-times-layoffs

 

Happiest of all at this news? The DNC phone bank, which just got 100 volunteer telemarketers in time for the midterms.

The Times has made cuts to its newsroom staff several times over the last six years. The paper eliminated 100 newsroom jobs in 2008, another 100 in 2009, and 30 more senior newsroom jobs at the beginning of last year.

Remember all the “grim milestone” reports they ran every time some poor bastard got whacked in ‘Stan, until their boy was president? Now it’s our turn. “Stalemate on 43rd Street: A Grim Milestone.” Heh. Still, there will be 1,230 of them still in the newsroom, counting wine reviewers and everybody, after the cuts. So there are still more of them to be disgorged. Come on, don’t you know The Party® needs you?

How they beat pirates, back then

Remember how, in history class, they taught you how they’re used to be a plague of Pirates of the world back in the 17th and 18th centuries, and then there were no more Pirates. They went the way of the Passenger Pigeon. Wonder why that was? Unlike passenger pigeons, pirates didn’t even taste good. But their extinction did, indeed, turn out to be wrought of the hands of mankind. Behold:

hanging pirates

An octet of gallows. Very handy if you have eight pirates all up for disposal at the same time! (No trials needed, pirates were understood to be hostis humanae generis).

Now, some people will complain that you can’t solve any particular piracy problem just by hanging pirates. You have to address the root causes of piracy (although, you have to admit, hanging them is pretty satisfying, just for the hell of it). But back in those days, we did that, too: we “addressed the root causes” by sacking and burning their villages. No pirates, no lairs, no piracy. Civilization 3, Pirates 0. And for centuries pirates were unheard of… until we stopped wringing their necks and started wringing our hands instead. Could there be a cause concealed in that correlation?

And nowadays we have technology for doing it better. Why, we could kill two plagues at one shot, as it were, by simply dumping the corpses of the Ebola immigrants in the pirate dens of Somalia.

And Then, there was this Nobel Peace Prize…

NobelUnlike the hard-science prizes, which require actual accomplishment, the Peace Prize is a popularity piece, presented by a platoon of Norwegian politicians who might have stumbled out of the Flamingo Bar in the TV series Lillyhammer. At closing time, somewhat the worse for bootleg booze. Their award usually is an binge on Stuff The Very Palest of White People Like, with an extra rich dessert of PC self-promotion and preening. And they were poised to do it again.

But from unhappy experience, our tame-Viking pols have learned that a rain of death can fall from the sky on random people when you give the Prize to someone who is young, callow, and utterly untested.  So this year, they vowed not to give the prize to an overhyped novice. They gave the award to a 17-year-old, instead.

You have to say this for the Peace Prize committee: generally, they prove that it’s not just American politicians who are assclowns.

And Speaking of Assclowns… the TSA!

tsa-bozoThere’s a meme going around… “You had one job! One job!” from some flick or other (for some reason we imagine Dr Evil delivering it to some inept underling in an Austin Powers movie, but that’s probably wrong). Lately, people have been saying that about the CDC, whose One Job of keeping Ebola out of our population fell by the wayside as social-engineering campaigns took precedence over dull old epidemiological biosurveillance. And they’re saying it (or should be) about Chuck Hagel, who’s trying to social-engineer smoking, drinking and carrying on out of the military, and engineer the first class of feminist infantry since Francisco Solano López ran out of men to draft in 1869 (look him up). But you know what we say about the TSA:

No one good, decent, honest, competent, moral, ethical or intelligent has ever been employed by the TSA in any capacity whatsoever.

TSA lives its bureaucratic life as if the Gods of the Copybook Headings depended on it alone to prove that statement true, always and everywhere. And if the TSA has One Job, it’s to keep armed terrs off airplanes, no? Well, Forbes says, “There is solid evidence that the TSA is not very good at this job, but spends a lot of money uselessly.”

Color us shocked.

How uselessly? Try the SPOT or Behavior Detection Officer program, designed to take the typical mouth-breathing TSA neckbeard and turn him into the miscegenation-product of Sherlock Holmes and Jeane Dixon. Forbes, again:

The idea behind SPOT is that government observers in airports can detect individuals who are intent on terrorism merely by looking at them and discerning behavioral clues. SPOT was begun in 2007 and employs some 2,800 TSA personnel.

Does it do any good? According to a report issued last November by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), it does not. “The subjectivity of the SPOT behavioral indicators and variation in BDO (Behavior Detection Officer) referral rates raise questions about the continued use of behavior indicators for detecting passengers who might pose a risk to aviation security,” the study concluded.

The GAO concluded that the TSA’s study purporting to validate this approach was badly flawed and recommended defunding SPOT.

So, they defunded the failed program, right? Eh, silly you, do you really think that? They actually expanded the program after learning it was a failure. This is the TSA we’re talkin’ about here, pilgrim: respect my authoritah!

Forbes also mentions the Rapescan machines, that the TSA spent over $1 billion on (not counting all the effort they put into training their perpetual Special Class of payroll patriots), and that were then scrapped.

Who’s the bozo now? Us taxpayers. Same as always.

Yep, the Airstrikes are Ineffectual. -Pentagon

FOOM!Well, we said airstrikes were going to be ineffectual (our actual phrase was, “designed to fail.” We pointed out where others, more influential than we are, said the same thing, even as the Pentagon bungled a simple website describing the strikes. We showed you reports that the strikes were ineffectual. We quoted the enemy saying they were ineffectual.

Now? The Pentagon admits they’re ineffectual. We guess that makes it official, and lets us crown your humble blog host as the Sage of Hog Manor, by his own hand, now that the latest flack’s latest Modified Limited Hangout has caught up with what we’ve been telling you for, we dunno, a month or so. The Washington Post:

“Airstrikes are not going to save the town of Kobane. We know that,” [Pentagon flack Rear Adm. John F.] Kirby said at a Pentagon briefing. “We all should be steeling ourselves for that eventuality.”

Kirby explained, with some apparent frustration, that the strategic goal of U.S. airstrikes in Syria is to destroy Islamic State infrastructure and prevent Syria’s use as a haven for operations in neighboring Iraq, not to save individual Syrian towns.

“There are going to continue to be villages and towns and cities that they take,” he said. “We all have to recognize that reality.”

Translation: “Hey, our strategy has been a complete failure. But give us credit for

If you needed any more proof that the US campaign, if “campaign” is really the word for the disconnected and fitful barrage of “kinetic message-sending” and STADMs (Strikes Targeted Against Domestic Media), is in the grip of woolly-headed air-power theorists, you get it in the next paragraph, where they admit that killing the enemy where he has troops in contact with friendlies (?) is an annoying distraction from the real main effort, blowing up stuff for the media hits.

The Pentagon considers the three days of strikes on militant positions around Kobane something of an interruption of its Syria campaign against Islamic State headquarters, oil refineries and command and control centers. The Kobane operation has been undertaken largely because the ground fight for the town’s survival has been broadcast live across the world from cameras just over the border in Turkey.

As far as the “US frustration with Turkey,” as the Post’s headline: “U.S. frustration rises as Turkey withholds military help from besieged Kobane” put it, what do you expect? The Turks are Islamists; Turkish de-facto dictator Recep Erdogan’s longtime ruling party differs from al-Qaeda and ISIL only on the question of means, not ends; and the form of their objection to US plans is that the US is not committed enough to overthrowing Bashar al-Assad and replacing him with an Islamist government, like the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.

In other words, Erdogan’s troops will fight ISIL only in the service of something very much like ISIL. This is obvious to anyone who’s paid any attention to Turkey for the last dozen or so years, and seen Erdogan’s AKP/Cemaat Islamists consolidate power and conduct a decapitation strike against the biggest threat to their absolute rule, the Army, in a series of show trials.

But meanwhile, we’re sending million-dollar Tomahawks and $40k smart bombs to blow up pickup trucks and empty buildings, and Kirby’s irate that the press doesn’t understand that these strikes can only be… ineffectual.

We have said this before, but it bears repeating: so repeat after the WeaponsMan:

  1. PGMs, no SOF on ground, result misery.
  2. No PGMs, SOF on ground,  result misery.
  3. PGMs, SOF on ground, result happiness.

But that mantra is informed by the idea that you’re trying to actually win, not simply kick the can past the election to the next scheduled bugout.

And let’s loft another one up there for all y’all to take a swing at:

  • Any enemy that’s not worth utterly destroying, is not worth fighting.

A military exists to kill things and break people. It’s a blunt instrument’s blunt instrument; trying to use it to “send a message” is like trying to use a 16# sledge to tune a piano. You will have an effect on the piano, and sound will be emitted.

The Future of Army SOF: People

arsof_2022An interesting paper from the Commander of USASOC, LTG Charlie Cleveland, draws a roadmap for the future of ARSOF. We’re going to look at one aspect of this: what it means for people.

Our take is that it means that:

  1. In the future there will be more paths to ARSOF and a more diverse force in a real way, not in a bean-counting, scare-quotes “diversity” way.
  2. Senior uniformed leadership are prepared to prioritize people over procurement. Good luck on that, when you’re swimming against the tide DOD suits and Congress trying to stroke the large prime contractors for K Street payola, but it’s a noble idea.
  3. People are the major focus of development. SOF Missions are paid for in human capital and earn their keep in human interactions. General Cleveland gets that in a way that some of the guys who have spent their pre-GO careers in more kinetic, direct-action-focused areas of SOF have done.
  4. He very cleverly plans to differentiate ARSOF from the other services’ SOF in the human plane. The Navy’s always going to have us beat at the benchpress and on the number of MSM reporters on speed dial. The Air Force will always have the edge in finicky gadgets from Q. We can live with that, because we’re going to be the thinking branch.

OK, enough big-picture opinionating from a retired sergeant, whose career was more sight-picture than big-picture most of the time. Let’s examine one excerpts from ARSOF 2022, just to begin.

1. invest in human CapitaL

Our force is the best educated, trained and equipped special operations formation in the world. Our Soldiers are capable of succeeding in the increasing uncertainty of the 21st century battlefield.

The ARSOF Soldier is our center of gravity. To ensure that our operators will succeed in the future operating environment, we will recruit, assess, select, train, educate and retain only those Soldiers with the knowledge, skills and attributes to thrive in the most demanding conditions. To retain a decisive advantage over our adversaries, we will seek a variety of solutions to optimize our human capital, including: enhanced education and training and increased diversity of human capital. To ensure the health of our force, our focus will continue to be on the preservation of our force and their families.

The big take-aways we pick up here are, translated into plain English: “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, as we have proof it works, but we’ll do it more intensively”; “We need to open up the top end of the funnel so we have more variety coming out the narrow end”; “Everybody’s going to have to hit more books, and hit them harder”; and, the big one, “We’re going to spend whatever it takes.

There are very specific objectives that support this paragraph’s goals, including more PhDs and Master’s degrees in the force, and more and better language capability on a broad front: more native speakers, more DLI training, more immersion training — all of these are vital. There’s also a call for more high-level individual and collective training, including a proposal for a joint SOF training and exercise group that’s long overdue, and a proposal for a joint ground-services strategy task force that would call on the brainpower of the Army, Marines and SOCOM.

This is all good stuff, but expensive. To train someone to functional level in a foreign language takes a year at DLI or at least two months in total immersion in the target language area, each of which is very expensive both in dollar terms and in opportunity cost. (And for the very best, you want to combine the DLI book-learning approach with immersion. Nothing makes you functional in a foreign language as well as immersion does, but having a solid grammatical, historical and cultural background from the classroom can turbocharge immersive learning). We’d also note that students who had non-native-speaker instructors at DLI (common in the 1980s and 1990s in the Russian programs) came out with horrible accents and much lower performance overall in SF type language performance than their peers who had native-speakers in basic instruction.

We know you guys will want to hear more about other aspects of it, most notably the diversity stuff, and why we think it’s beneficial, not the “PC” kind of skin-deep bogus “diversity” that colleges are chasing their tails over, but we thought we’d keep the report down to a manageable size.

The report is located here. There’s an Army press release on it also. Expect us to have more to say on it in the days and weeks ahead.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Impro Guns

impro_gunsAnother title for this blog might be, “Bubba the Gunsmith’s Wide World of Wonder.” But they call it “Impro Guns” and its URL is http://homemadeguns.wordpress.com/. This little information about who makes the blog, or why, but it features the improvised firearms often seen on The Firearms Blog.

The guns vary from crude zip guns that are arguably more hazardous to be behind than to be before, to rather sophisticated weapons that even feign manufacturer markings, serial numbers and even proof marks. They are made by tinkerers, criminals, terrorists and revolutionaries, mostly in places where governments take a totalitarian approach to firearms, but also in places where firearms are available, but criminals seek greater firepower than then can get over the counter.

There are artfully concealed guns, that look like cigarette cases or tire-pressure gages. There are even some guns captured in process, with drawings or process sheets, clandestine manufacture style:

improvised chinese guns process sheets

Impro Guns gathers all these without even falling back on the Khyber armorers in Darra Adam Khel.

A lot of them are blowback, pistol-caliber submachine guns. We’re reminded, again, of a prescient poster by Oleg Volk (that we can’t find, damn it) that showed something like a Sten and said something like, “If you ban guns, this is what crime guns start to look like.”

 

Guest Post: Jim Julia on Auctions & Integrity

James D. Julia has auctined many exotic and unique weapons, like this AR-10 prototype, over the years.

James D. Julia has auctioned many exotic and unique weapons, like this AR-10 prototype, over the years.

We contacted Jim Julia and he placed this in the comments of the Rock Island Auction Company’s guest post, which ran in this space. We are pleased to give Jim equal time and prominence. As with Rock Island’s post, we have only done light typo-fixing, formatting and grammar, and added a title and some illustrations . –Ed.

James D. Julia’s Response

Contrary to Rock Island’s misrepresentations of my company, we have a sterling reputation for honesty and fair dealing. We go out of our way to protect our clients and as you read further, you will see and perhaps agree with us that we do more than any other firearms house to protect our clients. It easy for one to say something like this but “the proof is in the pudding”. Firearms collectors are some of the savviest people in the business and results speak to our statement. In recent years, we have handled more high end, big name collector’s collections than any other firearms auction house on the planet Earth. We do not handle the greater number of firearms that is not our goal. We handle the greater number of high end, expensive, valuable firearms. In fact, for a number of years now, we have annually sold far more than any other auction house in the world. You do not get to do these types of things in this astute collecting world without having a stand up reputation and being fair and honest.

Rock Island’s trashing of me is not a great surprise and this is not the first time there has been an attempt to besmirch my company and my character through distortions by this firm.

I have been in the business for around 45 years and long ago I made the decision to promote myself and growth of my business by providing my customers with honesty, tremendous service, expertise, and the lowest commission rate in the trade. All of this does not mean I never make a mistake but it does mean I continually attempt to do what I feel is right. I realize that some competitors would rather attempt to bolster themselves by disparaging their competition and thus in their minds elevate themselves. In fact, this process of “trash talk” is unfortunately a mainstay in the political process today.

In regards to the collector/consignor RIAC references: The man is an older man from the Dakotas. He used to run a construction company and over many, many years his business employed a number of Native Americans. During this time, working with the Sioux Indians and other tribes, he acquired various items that had come down from their families. On occasion, according to his representations to us, there were cases wherein he saw and discussed a gun, but the family would not sell. In such cases, he kept a record of the gun included the SN along with the story the family related and he documented these observations in a written journal he kept.

The consignor/collector told us when visiting shows and gun shops, if he found a gun similar to one in his written journal that he would compare SN’s to see if there was a match. If there was, he bought it. He shared with us he had discovered a couple of guns recently that were in his original journal and they were now a part of the current consignment to us. It just so happens that the guns he bought from a dealer are those same guns that Rock Island mentions in their disparaging article.

When cataloging guns, we try to make full disclosure if there is provenance, it is noted in our descriptions. In those cases where the only information we have is the documentation from his written journal and/or stories he had received from the Indian families that was pointed out also.

The dispute at hand is over guns represented as being Indian related Little Big  Horn guns. This rifle, sold by Julia within the last year, was a documented LBH survivor (not captured, from the Reno/Benteen group).

The dispute at hand is over guns represented as being Indian related Little Big Horn guns. This rifle, sold by Julia within the last year, was a documented LBH survivor (not captured, from the Reno/Benteen position).

Last week, two people contacted our firm advising us that 3 of the guns offered had been in Rock Island and Little John’s auction within the recent past. As I noted above, the consignor/collector had previously revealed a couple were recent purchases. However in checking the 3 guns, I discovered a serious contradiction with one. After much consideration, I made a decision to withdraw the entire consignment from auction.
My actions were not those of a person conspiring to do wrong (as RIAC would have you believe) but on the contrary, highly conservative actions to ensure the right. The consignor/collector’s guns however are for the most part just as we represented them in our catalogs.

In regards to Rock Island’s other pontifications, they remind me of an old saying that my grandmother used to use about “the pot calling the kettle black”, which is of course an idiom used to claim that a person is guilty of the very thing of which they accuse another.

I. Regarding RIAC implication that they always attempt to do the right thing and somehow Julia’s has done something wrong because they withdrew an item or items from the auction. This is thoroughly confusing to me and the sale of a recent Carbine touted by them to have belonged to Napoleon III gives me pause for cause. The Carbine I refer to was Lot #9 in their April 20th, 21st, & 22nd, 2012 auction. RIAC specifically states in its description, “Carbine made by famous Paris gun maker Gastinne Renette for Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew, Emperor Napoleon III”. The gun was estimated at $22,500-37,500.

The buyer, trusting RIAC’s representation, purchased the gun for what he thought was a bargain and later consigned it to us, hoping and planning to make a lot of money. With good reason, if the gun indeed had definitely been made expressly for Napoleon III, it would have sold for considerably more than what it had sold for at RIAC auction. Once consigned to us, in the process of our due diligence, we became concerned to as whether it truly was made for Napoleon III. Normally, a gun such as this owned by an Emperor would carry his regal marks.

(Weaponsman comment: This Napoleon III gun has been the wellspring of a rich river of controversy for years. Here it is involved in a Federal Case in 2007/8; it isn’t illustrated at that article, but one image appears at this NRA Museum article, and the listing when the gun went under the hammer — at RIAC, as Julia describes — in 2012. The Parisian firm that made the questioned gun, Gastinne-Rennette, was known for double guns of conventional and very unconventional design; as a retailer, at least, it was still in business to sell a weapon to a possible suicide in 1932, financier Ivar Krueger, supplied arms to le Résistance during the war, and after the passage of the heirs to the business in the postwar era, wound up being acquired as, rather sadly, a brand name of fashion accessories (link en français) –Eds.).

We shared this with the consignor, but the consignor being convinced that the gun was Napoleon III’s because RIAC represented it that way. He pleaded with me not to use the phrase “purported to be”. After a great deal of consideration and because an attached newspaper article stated it was Napoleon III’s, we elected to change the wording to, “according to a newspaper account”. Shortly after my catalog went up online including the infamous carbine, we were immediately contacted by an attorney. There had been a big court case involving the carbine some years back and during this case, this attorney was responsible for an in-depth investigation of the carbine. His investigation clearly and convincingly proved what we had suspicioned, and that was that the carbine never belonged to Napoleon III. The attorney in his letter to me indicated that I was third person that he had contacted over the years about this misrepresentation. I had to go back to the consignor and share my newfound information and suggested to him under the circumstances that while I could reprint an addenda explaining all of this, I felt it was in his best interest to simply withdraw the gun, which he decided to do. Out of curiosity, I reconnected with the attorney who had told me that he had previously contacted 3 people. I asked if by chance he had contacted RIAC before they had sold this very same gun and his response to me was, not once but twice and yes, he had provided them with exactly all the information that he provided us with but RIAC apparently refused to acknowledge it when they sold the gun with their previously claimed attribution. The consignor immediately contacted RIAC with the revelation of all this information, it was pretty difficult for them not to refund the money. Which is what they did. This is the same auction house with the “holier than thou” approach pointing their finger at my firm and implying that we are not to be trusted??? As I said, an example of the “pot calling the kettle black”.

II. Guarantees: Both Rock Island Auction House and my firm provide guarantees. But there is an extraordinarily dramatic difference between the guarantee provided by Rock Island and the guarantee provide by my auction house.

  1. Rock Island: Rock Island touts their guarantee as “a guarantee of the headline” of every single item in their premier firearms auction. Should that item not be as advertised in the items headline, RIAC will make it right via a full refund”.
    1. a) Please note: they did not mention regional firearms auctions. It is my understanding they guarantee nothing with regional firearms auction.
    2. b) In regards to the premier auctions, did you notice that they say headline only. What this means is that they guarantee the title only so if the title is “Model 1886 Winchester rifle”, the title only is guaranteed. Does that give you a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing that when you buy that rifle from Rock Island, they absolutely guarantee that it is Winchester and a Model 1886, but nothing else?
    3. c) So there can be no confusion as to what is guaranteed, under point 9 in their Conditions of Sale, it states “Guarantee. All property for sale is as is, where is. All sales are final. There will be no refunds and no exchanges. RIAC does not guarantee or make warranties on any lot sold”.

Please compare that with the Julia guarantee.

  1. James D. Julia: We provide a special limited warranty for all items that we offer at auction. We are currently unaware of any other major firearms auction house in the world whose guarantee equals or exceeds ours. Every firearms auction house that we are aware of has a similar Conditions of Sale as that of RIAC. Essentially caveat emptor, buyer beware, sold “as is, where is”. At Julia’s, we do not hide behind “caveat emptor”:
    1. a. Our guarantee which is the first item on our Conditions of Sale in the front of the auction catalog and states as follows, “Guarantee: We have attempted to make a consistent effort in cataloging and describing the property to be sold. The catalog descriptions carry a limited guarantee. It is a guarantee to protect you against major discrepancies that would have a major effect upon value. Under no circumstances do we guarantee against anything less than a major discrepancy that would have less than a major effect upon the value. This limited guarantee covers authenticity. It also covers any major restoration or repairs not described. Also we guarantee against fakes, reproductions or major fabrications.
    2. b. Our guarantee is good for 45 days from the date of the auction so that all buyers have ample opportunity to obtain the item, examine it, and verify that there is no major issues with their item. Therefore, if we had made a mistake with one of the items RIAC is pontificating about, our clients unlike RIAC’s clients (at least per their Conditions of Sale in their catalog) after proving our mistake would have full right for a full money back refund.

Julia’s does not hide behind caveat emptor but our guarantee is not the only thing that we do.

    1.  Special consultants and experts. Since we hold ourselves to a higher standard and guarantee all objects, it is extremely important that we are as correct as possible. To that extent, we hire special consultants to catalog our guns. These special consultants are some of the most knowledgeable in their specific field. Many are recognized in their field as authorities and in some cases are noted authors, most are also active in the trade. They hold not only the necessary scholarly knowledge but they are also able to detect between what is right and what is wrong while at the same time coming up with a reasonably intelligent estimate.

But the guarantee together with the considerable expense for hiring special consultants, still does not ensure perfection.

    1.  Review and solicitation of input. Any of you who have ever attended a James D. Julia Auction know at the very beginning in my opening remarks one of the things I clearly state is that if you are aware of a problem or issue that was somehow missed in our cataloging process be certain to bring it to our attention before we sell the item. If something is wrong, we will:
      1.  Put a note beside the lot indicating it;
      2. Make a correction in my catalog to be announced at the time of sale;
      3. Notify all absentee bidders of this new found issue;
      4. Post a notice on the website;

Our reasoning is that if our staff and our specific consultant missed something, surely one of the many hundreds of eyes reviewing the guns will pick up what we might have missed. If someone does come to us and tell us of a problem, we always thank them for bringing it to our attention. As I have said over and over here, we try to do the right thing.

III. Regarding RIAC Attempt to Vilify Us Because One of the Cataloguers Statements in their Description: Judging our company by one statement a cataloguer made in our catalog, “fool your enemies, sell them this great fake”, is rather farfetched. As I said early on, I have a number of consultants that provide my descriptions. It is expected from them that they will:

  1. a) Attempt to describe the item correctly;
  2. b) Point out significant problems and issues;
  3. c) If they question authenticity, bring it to my attention.

I do not read all the descriptions after they are written and had I read this description, I would have extracted that statement. I know that the cataloger was attempting to express to his reader that this was such a great copy that it would fool anyone. Many of my catalogers not only bring in scholarly knowledge and valued information but sometimes they inject what they consider to be personal or humorous remarks. Such was the case here. It has nothing to do with the implication of our honesty or lack thereof. Most nearly anyone who has done business with us for any period of time, who knows our firm, knows our reputation, knows our continued and sincere efforts to be honest would likely never think the worst in a statement such as this. on the other hand, if we were an auction house that from time to time were embroiled in questionable handling of things, were we from time to time sued by people for what we did or did not do, etc.; then that rash statement could have a far greater revealing implication.

In conclusion, RIAC makes a sweeping statement about fake guns which is untrue. When these guns were cataloged, our descriptions were based on information and facts we had concerning the guns and in most cases, these guns are exactly as cataloged. In one case, I discovered a significant issue and it was because of this that I elected to withdraw the items.

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share the true facts of the matter as opposed to those of an envious competitor.

Sincerely,

Jim Julia