Category Archives: Weapons Education

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: N6CC

What’s that? It sounds like a ham callsign? And we think that’s what N6CC.com stands for, although the site breaks it out as Navy 6 Combat Coms. But what we were flagged to was the site author, Tim Sammons’s, stories of his service in the Navy on a forgotten class of small combatants, the Trumpy class PTF patrol boats. The boats were American-made licensed copies of the Norwegian Nasty class boats that were used by the maritime operations wing of SOG in the Vietnam War. Tim has great stories of the Trumpys he knew, PTF-17, -18, and -19, boats that resembled in style, construction and size the classic Elco PT boats of World War II.

cropped-PTF17-Wtrmrk1

The names? The source of Nasty is not clear; during their brief service in the US Navy they were known only by numbers. Trumpy is easier to figure out; the American boats were built to the Norwegian plan by now-defunct yacht builders John Trumpy & Sons.

 

They were powered by the bizarre and tremendous Napier Deltic diesels, strange engines with three crankshafts arranged triangularly, with cylinders in between, and two pistons in each cylinder — one coming in from each end, until they’d compressed the charge enough to fire. The Deltics were turbosupercharged, put out a staggering 3100 horsepower each (the boats had two) and could drive the wooden Trumpys to 45 knots, sea state permitting.

 

They were also armed with a small arsenal of 40mm, 20mm, .50 caliber guns and an 81mm mortar. Tim has a page specifically on armament — you guys might like that.

In Tim’s day, he patrolled the Great Lakes, but he has some interesting information about the Trumpys’ predecessors, the Nastys, in Vietnam, and the Trumpys’ ill-fated successors, the Osprey class (whose aluminum hulls were found to be too fragile for the mission).

If you want more info on the boats’ wartime adventures, see pftnasty.com and warboats.org where there are a lot of firsthand stories of these fast little combatants.

It isn’t just boats. Naturally, there’s a lot of cool commo gear on his website, including a clever hack that uses a VFO to stand in for a crystal in an AN/GRC-109 radio. (If you don’t know what that is, just crank this generator while Tim and I tune the antenna….). The hack will work with the OSS/Agency clandestine RS-1, too, which is a very close sibling of the 109.

Other cool stuff on Tim’s website include camouflaged or covert antennas and many other communications rigs, and annotated photos of the communications gear from the commo wing of the museum that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam made of the Presidential Palace of once-free Vietnam. Poor Thieu’s, or maybe by then it was Big Minh’s, situation map still is stuck to a wall in there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

At Cu Chi, he laid out $17 to fire 10 rounds out of an AK. The NVA fought capitalism before succumbing to it.

VietnamTSAK47-2-2048x1536

There’s also an interesting exploration of the wreck site of a rare B-17C (no B-17 that old survives intact).

You Don’t Think of “Beautiful” When You Hear “Skeletal.” You Should.

skeletal doubleWe like to pride ourselves on our gun knowledge, but we know there are things that we don’t know at all well. Some of these things we know we don’t know, like fine double sporting shotguns. (The scary bit is, as Don Rumsfeld knew, not the stuff you know that you don’t know, but the stuff that you don’t even know that you don’t know).

But when we look at a beauty like the Hugh Snowie/Thomas Horsley on the right (which you really must embiggen), we want to know more. Fortunately there’s an article by Douglas Tate in Shooting Sportsman: The Magazine of Wingshooting and Fine Guns that assumes you know nothing, teaches you the basics, and leaves you wanting to know more.

Before we dive into the article, take a good look at that beautiful Snowie piece. What looks like the side lockplates of a percussion fowling-piece are actually protrusions of a receiver that is so cunningly inletted into the fine French walnut stock that it looks like several pieces, when it is really only one perfectly-shaped one. The quality of the materials and work are staggering, which is par for the course in the examples that Tate shows in his article. (The pictures come in the case of current guns from the makers, who take a justifiable pride in these works of art; and in the case of vintage guns, from the auctioneers who handle these fine-art firearms).

Bar-in-wood shotguns owe their graceful good looks to their parents: They are the direct descendents of muzzleloaders and can be defined as breechloaders in which the lockplate or action body and sometimes even the knuckle and hinge pin are enclosed in a forward extension of the walnut buttstock. They come in hammer, hammerless, round-action and even bogus boxlock configurations known as “body locks” and have become desirable collectors’ items.

According to Gavin Gardiner, who has worked with Sotheby’s gun auctions since 1987, “Bar-in-wood guns were a way of maintaining the gracefulness of a muzzleloader in the early breechloading era, but the easier-to-make and stronger designs soon cast them into the shadows.”

“Pretty much all makers made them—certainly the better-quality ones, anyway. It is just that not many of them continued to make them for long. Westley Richards, Purdey and Horsley are the three that jump to mind as makers that produced good numbers, and of course we have MacNaughton, with their bar-in-wood Edinburgh-actioned hammerless gun. MacNaughton is probably the only one who has made a modern version, though I am sure if you ask, others might.”

MacNaughton is one of the last firms to make them, but it was also one of the first. In July 1867, James MacNaughton registered improvements to a slide-forward-and-drop-down hammergun that was “applicable to the conversion of muzzle-loaders into breech-loaders.” The patent illustration and surviving examples feature wood-covered actions. Common enough in the 1870s, timber-shrouded actions were felled by stronger competition. The few hammerless sidelock ejector examples surviving from beyond this era are some of the most coveted wood-covered actions.

via Skeletals in the Closet – Shooting Sportsman.

Tate goes on to describe the different types and makers of double “bar-in-wood” or “skeletal” guns, with a few illustrations to whet the appetite (and links to the makers). Of course, these guns, painstakingly handcrafted by Old World craftsmen, are not priced for the middle-class upland hunter. But anyone can look and admire them. It’s a good respite from looking at utilitarian M4s and sewer-pipe STENs, you know?

bar-wood-pairWe showed an example of Philipp Ollendorff’s work, which we learnt of from this article, in a previous Friday Tour d’Horizon post here, but we think you will enjoy the article, even if, like us, you’re not much of a hunter and your taste in shotguns runs more to a Winchester M12 riot gun or a beater no-name boat gun or breaching tool.

We’ll leave you with the brace of James McNaughton doubles on the left. We are not sure if royalty still hunts birds any more, but if you do hunt birds and want to feel like royalty, well, the kids can earn scholarships (or go to the Military or Navy Academies) if you blow their college fund on their heirlooms instead, yes?

A man after our own heart (but, alas, probably with better taste), Mr Tate closes his article with links to the two surviving bar-in-wood/skeletal gun makers, Dickson (who makes McNaughtons these days, also) for the classic Scots gun, and our previously linked Ollendorff for the Mitteleuropaïsch variety — both of which make guns of admirable beauty.

Author’s Note: For more information on bar-in-wood guns, contact Philipp Ollendorff, www.jagdwaffen-ollendorff.com; or John Dickson & Son, www.dicksonandmacnaughton.com.

Hey, your kid’s gonna learn more in Hard Knocks U anyway, you know it.

Snap, Crackle, and Pop

Well-known (and respected) trainer Kyle Defoor was conducting training at for a military unit when one of the unit’s long guns went down, due to this:

defoor bolt failure

Yes, that’s an AR/M16/M4 bolt with a single lug fully failed. Possible causes for the failure include (at a fundamental level) manufacturing error, corrosion or fatigue. It’s hard to judge from this hole, but going way out on a limb, it looks like there’s a somewhat granular failure at the left end of the fracture, with a smoother “sudden” fracture face on the right end nearer the extractor, presumably because the fatigue failure left too little of the remaining metal to bear the stress of firing locked in battery, and the remainder of the part failed from the crack due to overstress. But it could also be caused by swapping a fresh bolt into a gun with a worn barrel extension (or vice versa) in the field, so that only one lug was bearing all the tension of locking — result, failure. Or the gun may simply have been made without the locking lugs all engaging properly — it’s happened before.

A gun with a failure like this may or may not continue to fire for a while. But if overstress on one lug was a factor, the loads formerly too much for seven lugs now bear upon six — it would not be wise to bet your life on this firearm.

Kyle, though, had another issue with the failure — and the unit whose arms room coughed up the firearm that did it.

On 9 July, he posted this image to his Facebook feed, saying:

Maybe I should start to amend contracts to include an armorer and spare parts?

With a hilarious set of hastags including, but not limited to:

#‎takecareofgear‬ ‪#‎ittakescareofyou‬ ‪

…and the snark-infused:

‬ ‪#‎logisticswinswars‬ ‪#‎waistingtrainingtime‬ ‪#‎youdontpaymetoplumb‬

The part was, as you can see from the markings, a factory Colt, magnetic particle inspected, bolt (or a counterfeit thereof that somehow got into the supply system — not impossible). It had unknown hours and rounds, because Big Green is not in the habit of keeping meaningful usage and maintenance records on small arms.

Apart from spelling “wasting” wrong, there is not much to argue with in Defoor’s response. Apparently the unit in question did not provide an armorer for the range event. In most units, the armorer doubles as a supply clerk and is not thought of as necessary for a range evolution (except to manage draw and turn-in of weapons at the Arms Room). In addition, the Army has been working to reduce the number and kind of spare parts available at organizational level. This is due to politically anti-gun policies, and Army civilian political appointees who believe (however lacking the evidence may be) that Army stocks are a significant source of crime guns.

Even if the parts were by some miracle on hand, the standard Army armorer, one each, is neither trained nor authorized to replace a failed bolt. Armorers given scant and cursory training on maintenance.  Instead, their course, an add-on for supply clerks, concentrates very extensively on paperwork, records-keeping, and the process of appearing to be conducting scheduled maintenance. This is also borne out by what actual combat units and their commanders value, based on how they judge and critique their armorers. No one is ever graded on the only maintenance measure that ought to count, the combat serviceability of the unit’s firearms; everyone is constantly graded on the process, on the appearance of maintenance, and on maintenance busy work. While we’d bet nine out of ten of the readers of this blog could fix this rifle in minutes, the only thing a company, battalion or even brigade armorer can do with it is turn it in.

Military maintenance bureaucracy does all it can to limit effective maintenance of small-unit equipment, notably including small arms, optics, and radios. Problems with these are most effectively solved by trained, experienced personnel at the lowest organizational level, so naturally such personnel are just flat not available.

Instead, you must tag the weapon or other piece of equipment down. Naturally, there are different rules for weapons and weapons equipment, vehicles, radios, and special weapons (i.e. WMD-related stuff), although the Army does try to squeeze them all onto standard forms (DA-2404 for regular maintenance, DA-2407 for turn in, nowadays it’s an electronic form, DA-2407E, done in the SAMS logistics computer system).

The weapon can’t be sent directly to the level that can fix it, even when (like this) the level is obvious and the weapon could be inspected and classified by a well-coached Helen Keller. It must go up the operator-organizational-direct-depot support chain, getting a new inspection at each

Plus, while the weapon is turned in, what is Joe Snuffy supposed to shoot? No Army unit maintains operational floats or spares (unless it is, by happenstance, or the customary incompetence of all Army personnel managers and activities, understrength). So Joe will get the weapon of whoever is on sick call or leave when the unit goes to a range, unless it’s one of the very large number of units that does an absolutely crap job of tracking who is assigned each particular weapon, in which case it’s musical chairs and the last one that shows up gets a new weapon.

The Army actually tries to bill giving a guy a new rifle for every annual, semiannual or quarterly trip to the range as a plus, believe it or not: “Everybody gets valuable experience in zeroing.” (Meanwhile, of course, everyone loses confidence in the ability of his gun to hold zero).

It does not help that the standard M12 rack does not accept a rifle with optics. In the Arms Room, it’s still 1988.

Moreover, the Army’s weapons records are a chaotic mess of rack numbers, serial numbers, weapons cards, hand receipts, pencil sheets, green-and-white property book printouts (that may not put all your unit’s rifles, for example, together on the same pages), and unofficial Excel-spreadsheets and Access databases, which interface more or less (mostly, less) with one another and with the unit’s personnel assignments. This means that every time you cross-level personnel from 2nd platoon to 3rd platoon, if your arms room is nicely organized by platoons, Joe Rifleman is going to get a new rifle and be off zero until next range trip, and so is Bill Bulletician who’s coming from somewhere else… that’s another reason why no Army unit beyond the Ranger battalions and the 82nd Division Ready Battalion actually dares to ship out to combat without a trip to the zero range.

In addition to the deployment delays that come because no one has confidence in his optic zero right now, we also endure a colossal waste of time because weapons inventories are unnecessarily hard. (One of the nice things about HK 416s? Their serial numbers are highlighted. Seems like a small thing, until you’ve tried to inventory a couple hundred M16A2s by the light of a flickering fluorescent bulb that there’s no budget to replace. And if you highlight the number with paint or permanent marker, you can actually get dinged on inspection). Every arms room needs to be inventoried periodically by senior personnel who have better things to do, and many aperiodic inventories are demanded by regulations. The faster these go, the better for everyone, but the Army has a settled way of doing things that proceeds from the assumption that the net value of a soldier, NCO or officer’s time is always zero.

 

Testing Polymer Receivers to Destruction: Factory and Printed

Here’s another embedded video from Full30.com’s InRange TV, where Ian and Karl do their level best to destroy a Cav Arms polymer lower.

They step on it, stomp on it, run it over with a Jeep, and shoot holes in it, and still it keeps on shooting. One is reminded of the old Timex ads, “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” Maybe it should be “Takes a drilling and it keeps on killing (IPSC targets).”

We’re not really shocked by this. We had AKs and SKSes in the foreign weapons arms room in 10th Group that were Vietnam captures, complete with bullet and claymore holes, and they all worked. (We kind of doubt their previous owner Mr Nguyen was still in such adequate operating condition). And we’ve seen ARs take some pretty brutal treatment and keep on shooting, including carbines that would still chamber rounds after their plastic was all burned off and their magazines blown out by a helicopter post-crash fire (we didn’t shoot them, though), and an M16A1 that still functioned (albeit inaccurately) with the barrel bent 30º off axis at the FSB1 (it was under a trooper’s armpit when he executed a really craptacular PLF2, dislocating his arm and bending the rifle).

A really good design is overwrought enough that it can be degraded by wear, corrosion, or, yes, combat, a good bit before it fails to function. And a really outstanding design delivers that with the smallest weight and bulk penalty possible.

Cav Arms made quite a few of these lowers out of durable Nylon 6 before the company was singled out for destruction by the ATF, which is a long story and off this topic. (A seemingly complete technical history of the Cav Arms lower has been prepared by Russel Phagan, aka Sinistral Rifleman, who assisted in the video). A successor manufactures the lowers today. (But the most significant thing about the lower wasn’t the company’s grim fate; it was that the lower was redesigned from the ground up to be made of polymer, to take advantage of this material’s strengths, and to shore up its weaknesses).

As Ian points out towards the end of the video, a polymer lower designed to be a polymer lower is a better bet than one that is just a molding of the traditional 7075 alloy machined forging. (Conversely, a steel receiver that follows the form factor of the alloy lower is going to be overstrength and overweight). These follow from the differences in the strengths of the three materials.

Ian notes the weakness of the buffer tower if the normal lower receiver is modeled in anything other than metal, and that gibes with the results that early lower-receiver 3D printers had, substituting much weaker ABS or PLA material for the 7075. The first point of failure to be made manifest was the buffer tower area. This led to reinforced buffer towers and ultimately such heavily-reinforced lower-receiver designs as the modern Aliamanu-Phobos.

alimanu_phobos_printed_lower

Along with the reinforcements named in that slide, the massively reinforced buffer tower is evident. But even this beefy design can fail. This one started to delaminate with just 20 rounds fired. Test firing the lower:

trouble1 aliamanu-phobosHere’s the first image of the delamination. Since all the fire control group parts are above the delamination line, the weapon should still operate, but this obviously bodes ill for any probability of it surviving further testing. (Yes, these do embiggen for more of a close-up look).

trouble1 delamination 1Here’s the other side at that 20-round point:

trouble1 delamination 2

 

Firing more rounds just cause more failure, in this case it seems that the area around the grip screw also began to delaminate, releasing the grip:

trouble1 delamination 3At this point, stick a fork in it, it’s done.

Others have had much better results, including from pretty low end perimeters, and the equipment and parameters that FOSSCAD member trouble1 used didn’t seem out of step with what the successful printers did. But you can’t call this a successful print. It seems highly probable that there is some failure in the print setup or materials (moisture in the filament?) that no one has figured out yet.

That delamination is an interesting failure mode that’s fairly common in fused filament fabrication printing, is only one reason the technology is not yet ready to compete head-to-head with plastic injection molding. The much slower production of the additive process, and its higher per-unit variable cost, also argue against this for production. However, injection molding, with its generally higher fixed costs (for tooling), is unsuitable for prototyping and very short production runs. A hybrid of technologies that uses printed molds to reduce that fixed cost for short runs offers the potential of closing the gap. But a proper part is a part that is designed in conjunction with its manufacturing technology — engineered for production from Day One, with materials  chosen to meet the mission and simplify, speed up, and save money on production.

As Ian noted about the Cav Arms polymer lower (which is injection molded), it’s necessary to design the part to make best use of the materials and technology. Simply trying to reverse-engineer a popular firearm in a new material or manufacturing approach will only take you so far. It may, given enough iterations, be far enough.

Notes

  1. FSB = Front Sight Base, the triangular-shaped forging that holds up the front sight on the nose of AR-15 series rifles through the early M4A1. It also locates the gas tube and hosts the bayonet lug — a busy small part.
  2. PLF = Parachute Landing Fall, a specific roll that reduces the risk of injury when a para touches down.

Isn’t She a Beauty?

The girl, Maria Butina, isn’t too shabby either. More on her in a moment.

OlegVolk-RussianGunLawPoster

What? The beauty we were talking about is the Baby Browning in her hand. What did you mean?

Anybody who’s been in the gun world in the US in recent decades recognizes the spare, classic visual style of photographer Oleg Volk, and this is indeed Oleg’s work. (See it here on Oleg’s blog). It’s a poster meant to promote Pravo na Oruzhie, or The Right to Bear Arms, in Russia.

Ms Butina isn’t just a pretty face. She’s a founder of the Russian gun rights group of that same name, and for Russophones the website is ongun.ru. For those of you who whose linguistic attainments don’t include Russian, they have thoughtfully provided a presentation translated into English (.pdf). The president of the organization is named Igor Shmelyev, according to the website.

The main caption of the poster reads:

Powerful, long-ranged rifles for hunting and sport — legal.
But even the weakest pistols for self-defense — banned.
Where’s the logic in that?

Russian gun laws seem rather backward to Americans, and also to Russians who are interested in shooting sports, self-defense, and gun-law liberalization. The laws, for example, forbid automatic weapons and handguns to Russian citizens. Using a firearm in self-defense is as fraught with danger as it is in the bleakest US states, like New Jersey or Massachusetts.

These laws haven’t prevented Russian criminals from arming themselves, of course. (They’re criminals. Breaking laws is all in a day’s work for them, right?). But the rights campaigners have an uphill fight in a country that trusts authority a lot, and the citizenry very little. Even when pollsters describe a very restricted right, say, restricted to military veterans and off-duty soldiers and cops, support for gun rights doesn’t break 40% — yet. But the trend is positive.

There’s a long way to go, but given that positive trend and the enthusiasm of the Right to Bear Arms folks, improvements in Russian firearms law, once impossible to consider, become more possible with every passing year.  Gun rights are human rights, and Russians ought to have them. So should every person on earth.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: FreeMyCollection.com

We think we know our way around guns and gun history, but in fact we know, mostly, the success stories — the winners that went forward into widespread use, more than the many other ways that were tried and found wanting. This Civil War veteran revolver is one of those also-rans; can you identify it?

French-12mm-Pinfire-Revolver

It’s a French Lefaucheux pinfire revolver, in 12mm pinfire (about .47), introduced in 1854 and so edging Rollin White’s .22 short Smith & Wesson by a bit. Pinfire had some pros and cons. The rounds contained a primer or cap internally, including an anvil and a priming mixture, and the cartridge held a pin poised above that cap. The firearm’s hammer drove the pin into the anvil, setting off the primer and the (black) powder. Contrary to common belief, some pinfire rounds, at least, were field-reloadable. Both the Union and the Confederacy bought Lefaucheux pistols, and they were also very common as private-purchase arms for European officers before the centerfire system’s dominance was fully established.

They persisted for a very long time; Gustloff-Hirtenberg in Austria made pinfire ammunition as late as 1944 (stopping just before, or as soon as, the Red Army rolled over the plant), suggesting that the 90-year-old revolvers were still in second- or third-line service somewhere in Mitteleuropa. If the Soviets did their usual thing and carted the machinery off as reparations without checking it, they were probably pretty sore when they opened the crates and found out what they’d shipped. Needless to say, they never restarted production.

An education in pinfire and other alternative early ignition systems can be had at this weeks Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week, which is called the Cartridge Freedom Act (or by its URL, FreeMyCollection.com) but it’s basically the blog and webpage of advanced early cartridge collector and historian Aaron Newcomer. Aaron freely shares his knowledge, his expertise, and his articles for cartridge collector magazines, demonstrating a deep knowledge and fresh enthusiasm for these time capsules from the dawn of the fixed-ammunition era.

In the early days of cartridges, today’s center- and rimfire rounds were far from the only ideas tried; they’re just the only ideas that still survive today. Indeed, it wasn’t at the time completely obvious that they would be the winners, and early centerfire cartridges tended to have some differences from those today (we keep meaning to do a post on early balloon head cartridges, whose manufacture had a lot in common with rimfire cartridges of the day).

Here’s another dead branch on the evolutionary tree, cupfire cartridges. These were like a rimfire cartridge, except the “rim” was in the front of these front-loaded revolver cartridges, and the hammer struck the cup in the rear, which contained the priming mixture, against the side of the chamber. This was a dodge to get around the Rollin White patent on through-bored cylinders loaded from the rear. The cartridges are a .28, three .30s, and a .42 — even the dimensional nomenclature of these oddball rounds was different. They were popular enough to be loaded by several ammunition producers, despite being utterly forgotten — except by Aaron and other collectors, perhaps — today.

cupfire7 An advantage of cupfire was shared with center- and rim-fire: it didn’t matter how the cartridge was oriented. For a pinfire round, naturally, it mattered greatly, but there was usually a notch to make sure the pin went in the “right” way. Some time on the site will make you smarter about this kind of thing.

We were drawn to the blog when we read this thread on Reddit, and were originally going to simply blog the subject of the thread, the rare .58 Schubarth round, so rare in fact that a note card from a previous owner, Berkeley R. Lewis, Colonel, Ordnance, misstates that it is a Gallagher and Gladding round. It’s amazing that Newcomer gets this right when Lewis had it wrong. (The Schubarth patent was different from that of Gallagher & Gladding).

lewis noteThe rifle was a complicated conversion of the Springfield. Looking at this drawing, it’s easy to see how the far simpler centerfire Allin conversion (which also didn’t have any right way or wrong way to load the rounds) won out.

schubarth_scientific_america_volume5_image

The rounds were reloadable with Minié balls and, we believe, ordinary percussion caps. Here’s a picture of the egg-shaped, 2-inch-long loaded cartridge:

58schubarth

Aaron’s post on the .58 Schubarth has more pictures, including those of other rare specimens (including a fired case) of this near-unicorn rarity, from the collections of his friends and fellow collectors, and patent pictures. He’s also been answering questions in the Reddit thread.

We were meaning just to blog the .58 Schubarth, but then Nathaniel F at The Firearms Blog did, and since a lot of you read that site too, we took our post in a different direction.

Bonus thing to find on his page: there’s some really interesting stuff on excavated Civil War pinfire casings.

While the Civil War has a reputation as a muzzle-loading war, cartridge arms were coming into vogue, and by war’s end Union cavalry were predominantly equipped with breechloaders, mostly rim- and center-fire single shots, but also some repeaters.

 

Self-Defense: Where’s This Guy’s Error?

Stan Pannaman, gunshot (and beating) survivor

Stan Pannaman, gunshot (and beating) survivor.

In the story excerpt below (you can Read The Whole Thing™ at the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel) you see the story of how Stan Pannaman, a 72-year-old Vietnam veteran, used a gun to defend himself and a friend.

But his ordeal wasn’t over: he then allowed himself to be turned into a Bloomberg cliché when his assailant, career criminal Michael Q. McAuliffe, disarmed him and shot him with his own gun.

McAuliffe’s shock at what he had done caused him to discontinue the attack.

Doug Young, president of the South Florida Audubon Society and Pannaman’s fellow volunteer, described a surreal scene on the beach as he and a number of volunteers set off to monitor turtle nests about to hatch near El Mar Drive.

Michael Q. McAuliffe, turtle hater and ex-con.

Michael Q. McAuliffe, turtle hater and ex-con.

“There was a man sitting on a bench at the entrance of the beach who was giving off profanity,” said Young, 64, of Tamarac. “He got up and went toward one of the nests and very aggressively started pulling the stakes out.”

According to the Sheriff’s Office, McAuliffe hit Young and then Pannaman pulled out a gun.

“In an attempt to de-escalate the situation, Pannaman pulled a gun out of his pocket,” a sheriff’s statement said. McAuliffe, undeterred, took the gun away from Pannaman, the agency said.

Young told the Sun Sentinel that Pannaman pointed the gun at the man as he explained that disrupting a sea turtle nest is a felony and he’d better stop.

Young said that Pannaman had put the gun back in his pocket. But then McAuliffe approached Young and hit him. The trio began wrestling, he said. And then McAuliffe had the gun.

“He said, ‘I’m going to shoot,'” Young said.

Pannaman turned quickly enough that the bullet hit him in the left hip, Young said. “The guy freaked out when he saw the wound,” Young said, recalling McAuliffe throwing the gun into the sand. “He was saying, ‘I can’t believe I did this. I can’t believe I did this.'”

Police arrived on the scene shortly, Young said.

Richard Whitecloud, founder of Sea Turtle Oversight Protection, which works with Young’s group to help distressed hatchlings, said he gets reports nightly about turtle volunteers getting harassed.

“Almost every night our people are dealing with people who are rude, aggressive and pursuing the nesting females,” he said.

via Turtle-nest fight leaves one man wounded, another arrested, authorities say – Sun Sentinel.

So, Did Pannaman Err? If so, when?

In our opinion, it’s often a mistake to display a firearm in hopes of de-escalating a situation.  In case after case, reports show that this works, but then there’s the one incident out of, what? Twenty or thirty cases, maybe; no one has these numbers — where the firearm seems to trigger some atavistic urge to mortal combat in the assailant. Yet this wasn’t even a case like that. It sounds as if McAuliffe was on drugs, or is mentally ill, and if there’s one thing we can say about nut jobs, it’s that it’s nuts to try to predict what they will do.

“Never in in my wildest dreams did I think monitoring sea turtle nests was going to be a life-threatening experience,” says Pannaman in a video shot by the newspaper staff.

It’s also, again in our opinion, often a mistake to put away a firearm between the time you produce it and the time you’re confident the assailant has departed or is under control. Cops have to do this all the time — prisoners aren’t going to cuff themselves, after all — and if you talk to them about it, they don’t like it; it’s a tense and nervous time on the job. Being within inches of a bad guy with your gun in your hand and your mind on your cuffs is dangerous. And as the Tueller drill shows, an unarmed or edged-weapon-armed man can close the distance faster than you can say Jack Robinson.

Finally, it’s also, for the third time in our opinion, perhaps not a mistake but certainly sub-optimal to carry your self-defense firearm in a pocket. Yet we do it a lot, based on ongoing threat level assessments, etc. In fact, yesterday on a bike ride we ran into some marine-life volunteers, and the only firearm we had was a small pocket pistol, in a pocket, so we don’t practice what we preach. (We did not, however, shoot the volunteers).

In a more detailed interview with the same paper, Stan, a Marine combat vet of Vietnam, explains what he did and why. It’s easy to see how the combination of his rational behavior and McAuliffe’s irrational behavior ended sub-optimally, and could have been a lot worse. Once again, we’ll give you excerpts and a link where you can Read The Whole Thing™.

Pannaman and Young ran into McAuliffe as soon as they got to the beach, and he had some words for them:

I hate sea turtle people. You’re all f—ing crazy

In hindsight, they probably realize they were being addressed by an expert on the subject.

Trying to ignore the man — later identified by sheriff’s deputies as Michael Q. McAuliffe, 38 — Pannaman and Young walked to another part of the beach.

Note the first thing they did — an attempt at de-escalation. They got out of Dodge. This is a good move. Heroes in movies stand and fight, but in the real world confronting some jerk is usually a waste of your energy and bandwidth — not to mention energy. Of course, it doesn’t always work.

But McAuliffe approached, Pannaman said, and began screaming as he yanked up stakes and tore down yellow tape from around a nest site.

So far, Stan is using the situational awareness that he used as a young man in the USMC wisely. But he’s up against Bat Guano Crazy.

Pannaman said he saw McAuliffe take a swing at Young, 64. “Then he started coming at me,” said Pannaman, a retired salesman from Manhattan who is classified as fully disabled and walks with a cane. “That’s when I pulled a handgun from the pocket of my shorts.”

The small size of the Kel-Tec P32 seems to have caused the assailant to mistake it for a toy. Briefly.

The small size of the Kel-Tec P32 seems to have caused the assailant to mistake it for a toy. Briefly.

Pannaman said he did not point the gun — a .32 caliber Kel-Tec pistol — directly at his assailant, but turned so the man could see it. “He stopped,” said Pannaman. “I thought I had defused the situation.”

In fact, in the video, Pannaman describes how he displayed his Kel-Tec, and said, “Sir, I’m armed. Do not come any closer.”

This is a very, very common defensive tactic. It has a number of things going for it. It makes rational assailants stop. It uses the minimum necessary force to do that. (Had Pannaman blown McAuliffe’s head off — okay, it was a .32, “had Pannaman put a 7.65 mm hole in McAuliffe’s head,” perhaps — he’d be at risk of an Angela Corey type prosecutor deciding he was defendant material; that’s one reason, apart from simple humanity, to use minimum necessary force, it’s legally defensible).

Indeed, it looked like it worked. Again from the video of the interview with Stan (at about 1:40

I thougt the situation was defused, because he backed up… took two or three steps. He was no longer confronting me, he was no longer a threat.

It is vital after a defensive gun use like Stan’s initial one, even if the assailant breaks off his attack and bugs out, that you call the police. Why? Because the assailant may call the police. Police are creatures of habit and procedure is, and the general procedure is, the caller is the complainant and the other guy is the suspect. It’s hard to overcome this presumption that attaches to whoever is first to call, and many cases where a gun user claimed self-defense begin going sideways for him when he doesn’t make the first call. (Michael Dunn case, anyone?). Of course, Stan didn’t have time to do that, because McAuliffe only broke off the attack momentarily, as a ruse. And here’s where Stan did something else that might be seen as a mistake:

But seconds after Pannaman put the gun back in his pocket, McAuliffe “lunged at me, grabbed me and threw me down onto the sand,” he said.

As they wrestled, McAuliffe hit him in the face and gouged his head, Pannaman said. “I saw stars for a few minutes,” he said.

This is something to bear in mind when you are facing a criminal: criminals are people who, for whatever reason, are not constrained by the norms of human behavior. You know the old saying, “Trust but verify?” Well, in any dealing with a criminal, it’s not wise to trust.

From the video, Stan’s musings on his limitations:

Now, I’m a big guy, but I’m no… there’s no contest between a 38 year old guy and me at 72. No contest. And also, this guy was about 6’1″, 6’2″, weighing about 250, 260 pounds and very strong.

Now we see what may be a core of McAuliffe’s defense:

When McAuliffe got hold of the pistol, he stood up, Pannaman said, and declared, “I’m going to shoot you with your flare gun.”

“Sir,” Pannaman said, “it’s not a flare gun. It’s a real gun.”

Pannaman twisted to get out of the way of the bullet he realized was coming. It passed through his hip and lodged in his left gluteus maximus, where it will stay for now. When the swelling resolves, doctors will take it out.

When he heard the report and knew it was a real gun, he immediately stepped toward me, went down, then he says, “Are you alright? You alright?” I said, “Sir, you shot me. How could I be alright?”

The response time from the time Doug called them to the first officer showed up was less than four minutes. That’s how long this whole thing took place; it was just surreal.

That’s a good response time, a real good response time. Not good enough to prevent the shooting. There’s only one person sure to be there in time when you’re threatened with a gun: you. Anybody else might as well be in the asteroid belt; four minutes is as good as four months;.

On reconsideration, it’s harder to fault Pannaman’s decison-making than it seems at first glance. He was the guy that was there, on the scene, and the outcome was acceptable if not optimal: good guy has non-life-threatening wound, bad guy has a new zip code for a stretch of years. But that outcome resulted in part from blind luck, and Stan Pannaman’s was better than you have a right to expect. The one decision that we might have done differently is keep the gun out while dialing 911. That outcome, in 20/20 hindsight, might have been better for Stan; he’d not have been shot. And it would have been better for McAuliffe, even: charged with simple assault, he’d be out on bail and not facing much of a sentence if convicted. But we’re not at all convinced he’s rational.

Sidebar: On Protecting Marine Life

turtle_shelterProtecting marine life is serious business, and losers like McAuliffe, who have no purpose in life but to destroy things and try to spread their own misery around, are everywhere. We don’t have sea turtles nesting on our rocky shores up here, but we have very rare whale groundings (which usually end in the death of the cetacean, even if it is “rescued” and towed back out to deep water) and problems with seals, the most usual problem being some busybody deciding to “rescue” a seal pup who’s only been left ashore to free-range for a bit while Mom finds some tasty fish. We have local volunteers who watch the coast to defend the seals from, mostly, well-meaning but uneducated humans. The stories they have told us have been the “he thought he was helping” variety, not the “brute attacked the animals” kind.

The turtles have another problem, besides the many humans who want to get too close to the eggs and the hatchlings, and the occasional humans who hate turtles and turtle volunteers (as McAuliffe explained his own actions). They navigate, a bit like moths, by the stars. And like moths, they can be disoriented by bright lights. Accordingly, there are limits on lighting along the beach. Limits often flouted by beachfront homeowners, because they can usually get away with it. Which dooms the hatchlings to circle on the sand until eaten by seabirds.

Those homeowners would resent any comparison to a nihilistic thug like McAuliffe, so we won’t make one. We leave it as an exercise for the reader.

Do We Need A Bigger Bullet?

Jim Schatz, former HK USA manager (during the period of peak Because-You-Suck-And-We-Hate-You customer service, actually) always has one of the most interesting presentations when he’s up at an NDIA1 conference. The slides from this years’ NDIA are up (here), and Jim’s presentation, interesting as ever, is up here (.pdf). Jim wants us launching bigger bullets, to longer ranges.

Jim’s basic beef is probably best encapsulated in this quote from an SF team sergeant:

Few enemies would even consider taking America on in a naval, air or tank battle but every bad actor with an AK will engage with U.S. forces without even a second thought.

To boil down his argument to a single-sentence thesis: The US lacks small-arms overmatch, and only changing cartridges can get it for us. He defines overmatch by effective range. As he sees it, this is what the world looks like today:

schatz_slide_overmatch_now

As a former infantryman, Jim knows that weapons don’t square off one-against-one. On the battlefield, units from corps to squad size all maneuver to bring their organic, attached and support firepower to bear on the enemy (who is doing the same, inversely). It’s a common fallacy that (for example) because every squad in the Ruritanian army has a designated marksman, our squads should have one too. (Maybe they should, but not directly because of what the Ruritanians are doing). As you can see, Jim’s focus on range leads him to pair off sniper rifles with light machine guns, weapons which have similar effective ranges for completely different reasons, even when they fire dimensionally identical ammo.

As far as his 1000m effective range of the SVD is concerned… he must have shot one?

Here is one of his proposals for overmatch. There’s a few things screwy here (the SVD has grown  an even-more-ludicrous 500m of range, to 1500m), but that’s not important. What is important is the argument that going to an Intermediate Caliber Cartridge (something like the 6.5 or 6.8 or something all new in the 6-7mm neighborhood) for rifles and to .338 for support weapons will provide significant range overmatch.

schatz_slide_overmatch_future

The increased ammo weight can be made up in part by polymer or semi-polymer (i.e. with a metallic base) cases.

Jim at least partially neutralizes the cost-in-times-of-drawdown argument by suggesting that the new weapons go only to the tip of the spear, the guys whose mission it is to produce casualties, and take and hold ground, with these weapons. That’s only about 140k actual shooters out of the much larger service. A finance clerk needs a rifle, sure, but he or she can live with the latest-but-one.

Bear in mind that the target set is also not static, while we’re developing all these new weapons the Russians, the Chinese, and even the ragtag insurgents of the world (who have definitely, like Russia, pushed more 7.62mm weapons down to squad-equivalent level than heretofore) are acting, adapting, and changing, too. We don’t need to overmatch the enemy today with the weapons we’ll have in ten years. We need to overmatch the set of weapons the enemy will have ten years from now, in ten years.

Men can disagree about how best to get there. Assuming we stick with the M16/M4 platform, Our Traveling Reporter would have us go to the 6.8 x 43. (It was news to him that the Saudi Royal Guard has adopted this platform, in LWRC carbines, or that military 6.8 is in production for export now by Federal — formerly ATK). We would probably go with the 6.5 (x38, although the length designator is seldom spoken aloud) Grendel for its lower BC and higher sectional density (=longer effective range, flatter trajectory, more energy on target). The 90 grain Federal load in the 6.8 is very effective closer in (the 6.8 was developed with SF input as a CQB cartridge).

Some current contenders --  M855A1 5.56; 6.5 Grendel; 6.8 SPC; 7.62 NATO. From an excellent article by Anthony Williams setting out the historical context.

Some current contenders — M855A1 5.56; 6.5 Grendel; 6.8 SPC; 7.62 NATO. From an excellent article by Anthony Williams setting out assault rifle ammo in historical context, including many old, obscure, and outright forgotten attempts. Shape of the 6.5 suggests a superior BC. The 6.8 is compromised by its 5.56 ancestry and packaging (bolt head size/overall length).

This is not an entirely new or novel idea. As mentioned in the caption to the photo above, British researcher Anthony Williams has a very fine article on Assault Rifle History with lots and lots of ammunition comparison photos. Back in the 1970s, a guy whose business was called Old Sarge, based in the highway intersection of Lytle, Texas, made a quantity of 6 x 45 guns and uppers. Based closely on the 5.56, these guns (most of them were built as what we’d now call carbines) were completely conventional, but like today’s 6.8 SPC the intent was to create superior terminal ballistics. We don’t know what happened to him or what seemed to be, when we stopped in, his one-man business (he talked us out of a mod he’d done for others, an M60 bipod on an XM177).

If we have a serious criticism of Schatz’s work here, it’s that its focus solely on range as an indicator of overmatch understates the problem. Hadji with his AK and mandress has a lack of fear of our troops that stems only partly from his belief that range makes him safe (and only partly from his paradise-bound indifference to being safe). His feeling of impunity stems from a belief he won’t be engaged at all, won’t be hit if engaged, and won’t be killed or suffer significantly if hit. We need to increase the certainty that our guys will fire back, not just increase our pH, and we need to increase our pK as well. The first of these is far outside the scope of weapons and ammunition design, but it is, in our view, the most serious shortfall of US and Allied forces.

We have another beef that’s not specific to this, but that arise with any attempt to pursue range or other small-arms overmatch: it never works. There are only two ways pursuit of overmatch can finish. Either your new weapon does not constitute an overwhelming advantage, or it does — in which case everybody copies it most ricky-tick. Mikhail Kalashnikov died bothered by the fact that he never got royalties on any of the millions and millions of AKs made outside of his homeland, but the guys who really got copied were the engineers who built the StG.44. (True, the AK was better adapted to Soviet expectations, traditions, manufacturing capabilities, and training modes, but it was certainly inspired, conceptually, by the first assault rifle). It was a good idea. It was exclusive to Germany for mere months (of course, that they were losing the war may be a factor, but that the war ended was certainly a factor in slowing the adoption of assault rifles in Russia (a little) and the West (a lot).

In all seriousness, if you look at the history of firearms, you see a punctuated equilibrium. For centuries the flintlock is the infantry weapon, then the percussion lock sweeps the flints away in a period of 30 years or so (faster for major powers, or anybody actively at war). Then the breechloader dethrones the percussion rifle-musket in a couple of decades… to itself be overthrown by repeaters in 10 to 20 years. Calibers go from 11-13 mm to 7-8 mm to 5-6 mm at the same time all over the world. We’ve had a very long period now of equilibrium around the SCHV (Small Caliber, High Velocity) concept. Is it time for that equilibrium to be punctuated? Schatz says yes.

Notes

  1. NDIA: National Defense Industrial Association, a trade and lobbying group for defense contractors. Formerly the American Defense Preparedness Association (when Your Humble Blogger was a member, and they were fighting a rear-guard action to preserve a defense industrial base during the Clinton disarmament/drawdown cycle), and before that the Ordnance Association.

Sources:

Daniau, Emeric. Toward a 600 M Lightweight General Purpose Cartridge. September 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.quarryhs.co.uk/Toward%20a%20600%20m%20GP%20round.pdf ; this is a uniquely French view of this same challenge, hosted online by Anthony Williams.

Schatz, Jim. Where to Now? 3 June 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2015smallarms/17354_Schatz.pdf

Williams, Anthony. Assault Rifles and Ammunition: History and Prospects. Nov 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.quarryhs.co.uk/Assault.htm

Williams, Anthony. The Case for a General-Purpose Rifle and Machine Gun Cartridge (GPC). Nov 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.quarryhs.co.uk/The%20Next%20Generation.htm ; an earlier version was presented at NDIA in 2010: http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2010armament/WednesdayLandmarkBAnthonyWilliams.pdf

(Note that Williams’s work on this matter was sponsored by H&K, a fact that is not invariably disclosed in all documents but that Williams publicly discloses on his website).

 

“Branded — Marked with the No-Go Brand.”

What do you do when you’re branded?1 Well, when you’re a 7 1/2″ Colt 1873 Single-Action Army Revolver and Army inspectors reject you, the word is not “branded,” technically, but “condemned.” And you get pulled from the ranks of all your brothers going to Artillery troopers, and sent back to Colt. And 139 years later, you’re a puzzle and a delight to collectors — a mass-produced firearm with a one-off story to tell.

condemned SAA

No word on whether there is a ceremony with ominous drum rolls2. As a pistol you are fortunate in not having buttons, stripes, badges or accouterments to be lopped off at sword’s point.

Colt’s records show that this pistol wasn’t returned to the Army after rework (it’s possible that to the War Department, this serial number really was “branded”) but instead shipped out in a batch of 50 commercial guns to a New York dealer.

One unique feature of this weathered old draft dodger:condemned SAA notches

It also has an interesting 5 notches cut on the left side of the barrel, and also on the butt of the right grip.

 

Make of that what you will.

condemned SAA with letterA Colt letter documents the gun’s history, and Jackson Armory, a perennial source of wicked interesting firearms, has it on offer to the “very advanced collector” on GunBroker. With a starting bid of $7,000, it’s a bit (okay, thousands) too advanced for our tastes. But you have to love the way GunBroker makes it possible to click your way to an education on firearms.

Hat tip, a LEO buddy who is a prolific source of really good blogging ideas.

Notes

  1. If you’re an American of a certain age, you’ll get the TV show reference.
  2. This drumming-out ceremony from the opening credits of the TV show Branded with Chuck Connors was a real thing, and was still done as late as the late 50s or early 60s, when guys we know saw it done to a miscreant at 10th Special Forces Group at Bad Tölz.

GunLab’s Reverse Engineering

We haven’t been over there (GunLab.net) in a while, and Chuck is always up to something cool. Recently he had something nice to say about us, in a longer post on reverse-engineering; to be explicit, reverse-engineering the MP44 trunnion. But forget what he says about WeaponsMan.com, how cool is it to be making an MP.44 trunnion for (almost) the first time since a T-34 did a pivot turn on the ruins of the factory?

MP44 reverse-engineered trunnions

Here at Gun Lab we do a fair amount of reverse engineering, most of what we like to make have no drawings. However when there are drawings or solid models available we will use them. With this said I have found that most of what is available on the internet or in books is just not correct.

A case in point is the MP-44 trunnion. I have all the drawings that I have been able to find on this part, a number of different sets are out there, and when compared with the actual part have found them to be lacking. Some are just wrong and in some cases I don’t think the person has actually looked at a part.

Now, we have a set of MP.44 drawings here. We’ve actually been meaning to show a few of them to illustrate how MP.44 design features migrated into the AR-10 and thence to all its descendants. They’re terribly reproduced, no longer to scale, but they are dimensioned MP.44 drawings.

Say “Thank you,” class:

MP44_Zeichnungen.pdf

Now, you might wonder how it can be possible with apparently original (even if lousy), dimensioned drawings, you can’t just poke the numbers in and try to run the part. There are a number of reasons that you could expect drawings to diverge from shop practice. In the real world, in fact, it’s a constant battle to keep the drawings and the processes both aligned properly on the same part. In the 20th Century this got particularly bad because of engineer/draftsman/master machinist/machine operator job specialization and social stratification. Those could be four different guys whose only workshop interactions were with the adjacent guy in the org chart, and whose contacts were all correct.

There’s no way you produce stuff efficiently without the engineers going out on the shop floor, but some are loath to do that, and some shop staff are loath to have an engineer looking over their shoulders. There’s no way you produce stuff efficiently without a steel-cutter being able to walk back into the engineering spaces with a part and a problem, right to the guy who drew the drawings — but that is forbidden more often than it is allowed! So even in the best, cleanest, and least disrupted shops, lines got crossed, things fell apart, the center did not hold… wait, we got carried away there for a bit. But communications were imperfect, even in a perfect factory.

Then, add into the mix, we’re talking about the Third Reich in 1944-45. If the Germans had perfect factories, the Allies bombed them. Meanwhile, the gaping maw of the Eastern Front demanded endless human sacrifices, and in each successive draft call manufacturers could protect fewer and fewer key workers. The “fix” the government proposed for this was that they would provide labor, but that labor was at best displaced refugees from the ill-fated German settlements in the East, but more commonly slave labor from occupied nations.

Something had to go, and one of the things that went was correcting and updating drawings. Seriously, if you compare surviving German drawings to the M1 drawings, your mental picture of “German efficiency” will never recover. (Well, maybe a little when you realize that two large air forces were gamely trying to reduce German industry to the state of the Germans’ forebears in the Neander valley).

Now back to the MP-44 trunnion. We were contracted a while back with making a limited number of new trunnions for the MP-44. He sent us a very good original one and we had a poor copy of one at the shop. Using these two pieces we started the project of reverse engineering it. The easiest thing to do was look for engineer drawings off the web. These are the ones that I found.

His look like they’re from the same set we’ve got here. He has stripped them of dimensions, perhaps because he’s not working with SI (metric) dimensions, but more likely because the dimensions were not “on” compared to the physical parts he had to measure.

The measurements have been removed from these copies, however you can find them on the internet. I did use the basic drawing as a starting point. The sheets were cleaned and measurements were taken using a cmm, micrometers and pin gauges. Tolerances were set using not only the trunnion but also matching parts. When there was a doubt other parts were located to increase the measurement standards. This allowed us to come up with a reasonable solid model that we felt was accurate enough to start programing.

A CMM is a coordinate measuring machine. Think of it as a sort of 3D scanner that touches off against a part and records that position in 3D space. These can be used to gather a cloud of points, or more efficiently, to capture key dimensions.

The problem with using a CMM against a part you are re-engineering is that you’re working off one part, and you don’t know where in the tolerances that part was. (That’s also our beef with David Findlay’s excellent Firearms Anatomy books — for practical reasons, Findlay worked off a single sample of the firearm).

Given enough parts to measure, you can develop a degree of statistical certainty about where the original measurement was supposed to be. Working with most non-US products, you can also cheat a bit by knowing that engineers like to spec things in fairly round millimetric measures — dimensions that end in X.0 or X.5 millimeters, most of the time.

Anyway, here is the first post on re-engineering the MP.44 trunnion, and here is a follow-up post (in which the model turns out to need some improvement). Meanwhile lots of work improving the shop and working on GunLab’s other projects, such as the VG1-5 limited production run.

Note on an Unpleasant Subject

Technical posts like this and GunLab’s would be banned under a gag order slipped into the Federal Register by the State Department — yes, the very people who negotiated the deal to accelerate the nuclear armament of the hostage-taking terror state of Iran this week. The deadline for comments is 3rd August. As we previously wrote (more background there, at the end of a barrel-heating post):

Comments go here at Regulations.gov or by email to: DDTCPublicComments@state.govwith the subject: “ITAR Amendment—Revisions to Definitions; Data Transmission and Storage”. Ceteris paribus, this link should open in your email application with the correct subject header.

Again, there’s more at that previous post on how to comment, but at this time it’s crucial that you comment. A State Department than can censor the Internet is a State Department that has lost touch with America.