Category Archives: Weapons Education

Wednesday Thursday Weapons Website of the Week: Burr Smith

This is not Burr Smith’s (full name, Robert Burr Smith) Facebook Page — he didn’t live to see Facebook, or personal computers for that matter — but it is a tribute page to Smith, an Army Airborne, Special Forces and unconventional warfare legend, set up by his son. Hey, how many guns can you ID from this grainy picture? (Four are easy, we’ll list ’em after the jump).

Smith was a member of the famous E Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, jumping into Normandy on the night of 5/6 June 1944, and that’s not even where he became legendary.

Sorry for the day late and brevity, but… well, sorry not sorry. Go to the page. Learn about this guy. There are a few books about the secret war in Laos that will help you understand a guy who began there with White Star and was there on and off for about as long as an American was welcome.

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For the Man who has Everything: RPG-7 Trainer

Ordnance.com offered this on GunBroker (it will either sell, expire or roll over to a new listing today). It’s a live RPG-7V trainer that shoots, not rocket-propelled grenades, but 7.62 x 39mm rounds. It’s regulated to shoot to the same point that the normal PG-7V grenade hits, with  tracer ammo, but it’s all-around a great procedures and marksmanship trainer for this ubiquitous AT weapon. (And anti-personnel weapon. And anti-helicopter weapon. And anti-anything-worth-shooting weapon. And we-Afghans-are-celebrating-a-wedding weapon. And… well, you get the point).

This one’s been modified a little to color within the lines of the National Firearms Act of 1934. First, it can’t load or fire a live PG-7V or other rocket-propelled grenade round, only the subcaliber device. Second, ATF interprets a subcaliber device as a “firearm,” not any specific kind of firearm… but installing it in an RPG-7V, even one that’s been modified so that it cannot fire live rounds, creates a “short barreled rifle.” (Hey, Congress writes the laws and the ATF has to work with them). This is not some experiment that they think will be approved by ATF’s Firearms Technology Branch, but they have the FTB letter.

The shipping/handling case is also a creation of Ordnance.com. It’s an elegant set-up with laser-cut foam for the launcher, subcaliber round, ammo and accessories. The Russians and Soviet satellite forces used to ship these things in wooden crates, like everything else. Russia has plenty of lumber.

This RPG-762 kit contains the following items:

RPG-762 Rocket Launcher Training Kit

  1. Aluminum hard case, with wheels
  2. RPG-7 Rocket Launcher
  3. Optical Sight with soft case
  4. Bipod assembly
  5. Sling
  6. PG-7 7.62x39mm Subcaliber Firearm
  7. 7.62mm BoreSnake bore cleaner
  8. 15 rounds of 7.62x39mm Spotter/Tracer Ammunition
  9. 30 rounds of 7.62x39mm Tracer Ammunition
  10. Letter from the BATFE which states the launcher is not a destructive device

Overall, the kit is in museum quality condition. The Bulgarian RPG-7 rocket launcher started out as a demiled unit, and we painstakingly reactivated the fire control and have restored the launcher to like-new condition. External finish is not painted, but is a beautiful and very durable glossy powder-coated finish.

The launcher is only capable of firing the PG-7 subcaliber unit, and cannot fire live rockets. The unit was evaluated by the Firearms Technology Branch of the BATF, and it is not classified as a destructive device, but rather a trigger mechanism for the subcaliber firearm. A copy of the BATF’s determination letter will be included with the sale. The subcaliber firearm, which is chambered in 7.62x39mm, is classified as a “firearm only” by the BATF, so the subcal unit must be transferred/shipped to your FFL dealer. You will then go fill out a 4473 form and pick the subcal unit up……just as you would any other regular firearm. There is no special NFA paperwork involved in the purchase or transfer of this kit.

The subcal unit has been modified to work with the launcher, and is also approved by ATF. The subcal unit is not classified as a rifle or a pistol, but just as a “firearm”. The original barrel length was less than 16-inches, so it has been permanently lengthened, so ATF would not classify the subcal unit as a short-barreled rifle, when used in conjunction with the RPG-7 launcher.

The kit is extremely fun to set-up and shoot, and is a fantastic training aid to practice firing the real RPG-7. It is also a stunning display piece, and would be a beautiful display in your office, gun store, firing range, or man cave! The rifling in the subcal unit is over-broached, which makes the grooves extra deep. This was to allow additional blow-by of the propellant gases, and gives the 7.62mm projectile the same trajectory as the real PG-7 rocket propelled grenade that the RPG-7 fires.

You have to admit, that is a solution that is at once ingenious and simple — a Russian solution an American engineer would never think of!

The optics are in beautiful condition, and the optical sight has been sighted in with the subcal unit, and is surprisingly accurate. If you click on the video link below, you can view a YouTube video of us setting up the kit and firing it…..this video will do a better job of explaining how the kit works, than our written description here, so please take a look at the video and the photos. As mentioned previously, the subcal unit will need to be shipped to your FFL dealer. The hard case, along with all of the contents will be shipped directly to you, via UPS Ground insured.

Here’s the video, that they mention above, of this exact system in action :

Just the thing for the advanced Russian small arms collector. The launcher works with the enclosed subcaliber device / dummy round exclusively, and it can be aimed with the optic (ISTR the nomenclature is RPO-7?) or with the back-up iron sights. Yes, every RPG-7 since they were introduced some 55 years ago has BUIS… Ivan had BUIS before BUIS was cool. (The prismatic optic is extremely robust, for what it’s worth).

We’re yuuuuge RPG-7 fans here. It’s a simple weapon, but a reliable, dependable, accurate and powerful one that the US still doesn’t have a real counterpart for, a half century later. We half considered just buying this thing, rather than blogging it and letting one of you guys grab it. But we’ve decided to sleep on it. (And, funny thing: this post was a hasty fill-in because the long, technical post we worked on all day yesterday was not coming together in time. Yet, we like it better than the one we worked on much longer).

Update on the FK Brno 7.5

We have written about this pistol before, but it’s had a long and arduous trip to market, and it’s still not really here. It may finally be coming (and here’s another allegation of imminence from four months ago). In any event, we haven’t got hands on one yet — hell, we haven’t seen one for sale, but we’ve found a couple of articles by people who have handled the gun, not just the press releases. And of course, there’s the manufacturer’s website.

Despite the inventors’ denials, and the gun and ammo’s own unique technology, it clearly owes a great deal to the CZ 75 and its descendants. (That’s not a bad thing, necessarily. After all, everybody owes a great deal to the M1911 and its descendants, too). The lockwork seems similar to the precision-oriented CZ single-actions.

The pistol is manufactured conventionally, for a Czech firearm. That is to say its components are CNC milled from billet or from investment castings (possibly by Poldi, which has cast for ZB and CZ since CZ-Strakonice days, before CZ built the UB factory  in 1936).

Unique ghost ring FK sight.

But the FK Brno 7.5  offers a unique high-velocity round, a unique buffer system, and unique sights. The FK 7.5 pushes .30 caliber copper bullet at 2000 feet per second, not quite rifle speed, but better than such remarkable rounds as the long-defunct .357 Auto Mag. Its numbers make the .357 SIG look like it has the parking brake on.

 

It’s otherworldly enough to generate considerable skepticism. When the FK 7.5 first came up on the radar last year, John Zent of American Rifleman noted its sudden appearance on the market had a certain “out-of-nowhere” quality. John Roberts a Guns, Holsters, and Gear also was unimpressed by the claimed velocity, because it can be matched by a 9mm firing an ultralight 50 grain round — delivering half the FK 7.5s energy.

An FK 7.5 shortslide prototype photographed by Rob Pincus at the factory.

Here is celebrity trainer Rob Pincus, with what he promises is Part I of a multipart article. Rob was invited to the Czech Republic to try the gun during its long period in ATF purgatorio, and has some interesting comments.

A High Capacity Handgun that fires a propriety [sic] 100 grain round at over 2000fps and costs over $5000. The round, by the way, is still moving at 1500fps at 100 meters… which is the distance at which the pistol is zeroed with a unique set of sights when it comes from the factory. As others in the above links note, the gun is relatively large, fires a very powerful round and isn’t going to be cheap. FK BRNO also claims that the gun is very controllable and capable of high levels of precision. And, the only guns currently in the USA are there for government evaluation so that importation could be approved.

Per Pincus, the company considers itself primarily an ammunition research company, which builds the pistol as a way to get its ammo concept into shooters’ hands. He hits these takeaways — and elaborates on each, so you’ll want to Read The Whole Thing™:

  1. FK BRNO says that they are an Ammunition Company that also makes a handgun.
  2. FK BRNO set out to develop a handgun that delivered AK-47 performance in regard to Terminal Ballistics at ranges between 50 and 150 meters.
  3. The 7.5 round delivers high levels [of] precision.
  4. The Terminal Ballistics are even more impressive than the precision capability.

He concludes: “FK Brno have done what they set out to do.” We’ll say again, Read The Whole Thing™, and we’re looking forward to the next part.

The tactical niche this pistol fills is unclear, although it seems to overdo what the Secret Service and Federal Air Marshals Service selected the .357 SIG to do. It is, without doubt, a magnificent engineering accomplishment, and the prototypes seen so far are beautifully finished. One clue is that, in its native country, it is available in a folding shoulder-stocked version, making it a near-peer of PDWs like the HK MP7 and FN P90 / FiveSeVen combination. It also appeals to people who love that kind of engineering for its own sake.

If it’s a success, it will seem less strange in due course. If it’s not a success, it will be a footnote to firearms history of near-GyroJet proportions. Either way, we want one!

Five Reasons to Own Sixguns

Revolvers have been declining in market share for three decades, a decline which really only got going 30 years after the last major military revolver user (the UK), crawled into the 20th Century. (Actually the last major military revolver user was probably the US, which issued revolvers to aviators, and to military police men and women who had difficulty with the 1911A1, up until the adoption of the Beretta M9 — but it was always a secondary weapon). They’re now rare as police firearms, and much less common than they once were as defensive firearms.

As revolvers’ presence in the police and civilian market has declined, their presence in crime has also declined. This is logical, as most criminals arm themselves with weapons diverted from lawful uses, generally by theft or straw purchase with many cut-outs and intermediaries. This increased use of automatic pistols in crime has actually been a boon for homicide and assault investigators, as toolmark evidence matching firearms to cases (cartridge type) or cases (cartridge) from one crime scene to another, has helped close more than a few cases (investigative type). Sumdood doesn’t police his brass when he rips his dope dealer, oddly enough; and he can’t police his brass when he does a drive-by, holding his Hi-Point sideways out the window.

Logisticians might dream of caseless ammo, but homicide cops don’t.

Revolvers’ mindshare has declined. They are seldom seen in TV or movies, except in period pieces or to mark a character as kind of old-fashioned (Rick in The Walking Dead with his long-discontinued Python).

Is the declining mindshare of revolvers a cause or an effect of declining market share? Both may be the right answer; market and mind share may be wrapped in a vicious circle, or spiral.

But there are a number of reasons for the classic, 1890s-style double-action revolver’s remaining children to still be used. Consider these five reasons to shoot sixguns:

  1. They are simple and, if quality products in good condition, reliable.
  2. They are indifferent to variations in ammunition.
  3. Misfire drill? Just fire again.
  4. Time spent loading can enforce a certain pace on a shooting session, improving performance.
  5. They can be enjoyable and educational to shoot; there’s a great variety of them.

Simple and Reliable

While a revolver’s mechanism seems fiendishly complex to those not mechanically inclined, it’s a simple mechanical mechanism. Compared to a typewriter or sewing machine there’s a lot less to go on — and compared to an automatic pistol, the same is true. Some of them are better than others, especially on durability. (An old, worn Smith is less likely to have lost time or need a gunsmith than a Colt of similar vintage. Or an NIB Taurus). It’s also intuitive and easy to learn. There’s a t-shirt with a Colt SAA on it: “the original point-and-click interface.” Steve Jobs (who lifted it all from Xerox PARC anyway), eat your heart out.

Indifferent to Ammo Variations

What ammo works with your carry gun? Sure, with modern autos the days of hollow-points not feeding are mostly over, but everyone has experience with ammo their gun does not like. Doesn’t happen with a sixgun. If the gun’s right, anything that chambers goes bang. Bang-on-demand is good.

What Misfire Drill?

As we mentioned, with a revolver you just point and click. If you do get a point and click and not point and bang, your follow-up shot is a trigger pull away (a hammer cock and trigger pull, if you’re really OG and toting an SAA or something like that). No auto pistol is that quickly back in the fight (or, for hunters, on the game).

Enforces Pace

OK, here we’re making a virtue of necessity. But anyone who spends any time on ranges has seen the shooter with more ammo than sense, blowing through 200 rounds without making a great deal of effort to hit anything. Hey, it’s a free country, and if that’s how they want to make fun let ’em knock themselves out, but… there’s a lot to be said for taking that same amount of time and firing 50 rounds with care. The mechanical, muscle-memory drill of dumping cases and loading rounds can be a great time for considering what went wrong with your last six shots, and what you can do better with the next six.

After all, only the hits count, and even 3 out of 6 into the target at 7 meters is better than the NYPD does out of a 17-round Glock mag.

Enjoyable Variety

The different revolver mechanisms are a blast. Everybody who has never shot a Single-Action Army before gets a thrill out of it, the first time. Ejecting the cases and loading them is fun, and they you can tell the guy or gal, “And… they were expected to do this on a horse.” Instant connection to distant times and places. Likewise, tip-up revolves.

A favorite uncle had a Harrington and Richardson 9-shot .22; it looked like a baby Webley, and was great fun to pop it open and fountain .22 brass around.

Colt 1917

And then, there are the revolvers of 1,000 detective shows, and plenty of revolvers with interesting military history. (Colt and Smith M1917s are nice, beefy guns with a great back story and some weird engineering to let them shoot rimless .45 ACP). Early police double-action .32 pistols are fun and easy to shoot, built like jewels, and dirt cheap right now. There’s always some bragging rights in a Smith & Wesson Model 29. (Or a .500 if you’re diffident about carrying Dirty Harry’s gun, or concerned about the low power of the .44 Mag).

Everybody ought to have a revolver.

But then, the question becomes, which revolver?

More on the Origins of “Sharpshooter” with Fred Ray

Fred Ray continues to explore the origins of the term, “sharpshooter,” and we’ll suggest one small bit of evidence to support his theory:

As part of the continuing quest to find the origins of the term “sharpshooter,” I directed a query to the Museum of Military History (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum) in Vienna, Austria. The Austrians, after all, were the first to employ rifle units and true light infantry in the 18th Century, and Central Europe (the Tirol, southern Germany, and Switzerland) was the birthplace of the rifle. Their reply is worth quoting at length.

We don’t know who painted this Union sharpshooter. If you do, please let us know so we can give credit.

While they were unable to definitely say when the term “Scharfschütze” came into to use, “your assumption regarding the origins in German language and the transfer to the United States via German mercenaries in the American War of Independence seems to be totally plausible. Furthermore I’m able to confirm that the term “Scharfschütze” was established in German language long before 1795 and that it had already been employed as part of the official designation for military units before that date.”

In the military of the Hapsburg empire the term “Scharfschütze” meant those soldiers who were armed with rifles in contrast to flints [i.e. smoothbore muskets]. The origins of the employment of so called “Scharfschützen” for military purposes lie in the improvised formation of companies of professional hunters (“Jäger”) or members of shooting associations (“Schützenvereine”) in times of war. Shooting associations were sometimes called (in their own right and not to be confused with the nowadays military connotations of this term) “Scharfschützenvereine”. ….

The usage of the term “Scharfschützen” as designation for whole units is documented at least for the beginning of the 18th century (as far as I know, while there might have been even older incidents).

1st Georgia Sharpshooters, CSA. There’s a website and a book about ’em.

Do Read The Whole Thing™, because the Austrians dug deep into their archives for Fred, and traced the term Scharfschützen as a formal unit name to at least 1702, for reserve and local defense units, and to 1769 for permanent establishments. There’s quite a bit of Austrian history (which gets complex in that period) in the museum’s reply.

And our small bit of evidence: the British Army, in a great example of Churchill’s “two nations separated by a common language”, never did use the term. They had Rangers, Rifles, Fusiliers, Fencibles, and more odd names for units than you could shake a shako at. But no Sharpshooters in the British Army.

Of course, while the British were not reluctant to hire entire units of Germans, their home nation did not feature German immigration and the introduction of German culture, including riflery and decent beer. America did, and so it seems probable that one of our smaller German imports of the 19th Century was this German military term.

Berdan’s Sharpshooters, presumably at Gettysburg. More than just a primer design! Again, we don’t know the source or the artist.

Fred frequently posts interesting stuff on the Civil War blog TOCWOC. His next post after this one dealt with a couple of letters about the cruel disposal of unlawful combatants at the time. And bringing together two Civil War arms historians in one post, Fred highlights a Joe Bilby article in a great post that ranges from sniping in the Civil War to sniping today.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: NavWeaps.com

As a clever reader might deduce from the name NavWeaps.com, the site provides information on Naval Weapons, mostly from the classical 20th Century age of battleship warfare, but with an objective to cover the period from 1880-present.

Extensive technical information resides here: not only on naval guns from AA popguns to ship-shredding 18-inchers, but also on torpedoes, mines, depth charges, rockets and hybrid weapons.

While a lot of sites discuss the main armament of American, British and Japanese capital ships, few go deep into the secondary and tertiary armament of these vessels, and fewer still review the armaments of smaller combatant vessels, or any vessel of secondary seafaring nations, such as Russia, Italy or Austria-Hungary. This site doesn’t get every single gun on every single vessel… yet. But it does seem like that’s their ambition.

Looking at the rise and fall of great guns through history, it’s interesting to see how gun caliber, range, throw weight, and power rose from the dawn of the Dreadnought Era to peak in the great battleships of World War II … and has declined ever since. US Navy ships now have nothing greater than 155mm (approx. 6″) on the Zumwalt class, and 5″ guns on most cruisers and destroyers. (And the ammunition for the 155 is not being procured; the Navy instead wants to convert the Zumwalts to fire the ground forces’ 155mm guided Excalibur rounds, but their first cut at the costs for doing that is $250 million for the engineering, before buying the first bullet — and, of course, before the Pentagon’s usual cost overruns.

The “big gun” on the all-but-defenseless LCS class is a 57mm (~2.3″), also selected for Coast Guard cutters. So if the Navy that Ray Mabus built gets in a war with the Coast Guard, they’ll be at technological parity, at least.

But that was a long and bitter digression, and this post is really about NavWeaps.com. Along with the already-mentioned weapons information, there are some excellent historical articles on some aspect of naval warfare: for example, this one on German radar development.

Name That Round!

Hey, don’t be surprised if it throws you. It sure threw us, and we thought we knew guns and ammo!

Need a hint? It’s .30 caliber, and a bit of a Frankenstein monster with a rebated rim and a sharp shoulder.

Need another? It was created as a deer-taking round, gerrymandered to fit a unique state law.

Give up? Explanation after the jump.

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Homebuilt Innovation: Ultra Light .22 Bolt Repeater

This is a remarkable home made survival-type .22 rifle that is chock full of ingenuity.

It may be amateur made, but its builder, who posts on YouTube as ECCO Machine, has professional equipment, and, more importantly, skills. Most parts of the rifle are machined from billets of aluminum, titanium, and ABS plastic. The barrel is a carbon-fiber-wrapped .22 barrel liner. The bolt is made of machined titanium alloy with a welded-on handle, and it has a rare feature in a rimfire rifle, forward locking lugs.

The resulting rifle is ultralight: less that 1 lb. 3 oz. The featherweight rifle stows itself into a package less than a foot and a half long.

Unlike most amateur’s adherence to the material or materials, and process or processes that they know best, ECCO Machine’s practical use of a range of materials and methods is something worthy of a major manufacturer. Plastic, carbon fiber, aluminum, and titanium are all used in places where they’re most suitable.

The only steel or stainless-steel parts are the sear, striker, spring, screws, the barrel liner only, and a modified Savage stainless mag (with a really clever and dead-simple retaining catch that is its own spring).

The bolt’s forward locking lugs lock into a barrel extension, as in an AR; the barrel extension is also made of titanium. The rifle is readily taken down without tools. Everywhere the solutions chosen show both imagination and a practical turn of mind. For one thing, he came up with a really clever way to manage the cartridge feed by making the ejector do double duty.

There’s a really neat surprise in the grip (which he doesn’t count against the gun’s 18.9 oz weight) and the carbon-fiber stock can hold up to 40 .22 long rifle cartridges. There is a nifty titanium front sight base modeled on the classic AR FSB, and a special threaded muzzle cap that’s part of the rifle folding/stowage mechanism. (An alternate threaded adapter can convert these fine threads to the threads needed to attach a suppressor).

This video shows many more details of this intriguing firearm.

One of these should be built into ever ejection seat on every combat jet. Heck, we should build one into the RV-12.

There are several other interesting amateur builds on ECCO Machine’s YouTube channel. Hat tip, Hrachya at TFB.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Håkans Aviation Page

Håkan Gustavsson is a Swede with an unusual area of expertise: the peculiar subset of World War II fighter aces who flew and scored kills in biplanes. These two-winged holdovers from World War I often performed little better than their Great War forebears: they were slow, draggy, had open cockpits, were generally made from tube-and-fabric construction, and were armed with two measly rifle-caliber machine guns. They were sitting ducks for more heavily armed and much faster modern monoplanes.

Welcome to my site about biplane fighter aces, their aircraft and major aerial operations were biplane fighters took part.
The site also contains other aviation related subjects which I find interesting, including information about Swedish voluntary aviators from the Second World War.
If anyone could provide me with corrections/additions, feel free to email me!

 

via Håkans Aviation page – Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War.

We found one of the most interesting pages to be the one on Swedish volunteers in Finnish service. But in general there are more, and more interesting, biplanes and pilots involved in the war, on all sides, than we ever imagined.

The String Measurement

Recently we discussed some very old marksmanship in connection with Civil War sharpshooters (see this post and this one, and there’s more to come, thanks to expert Fred Ray). And a couple of commenters asked about the “string” measurement of marksmanship precision and accuracy that was used at the time, and well up into the 20th Century, before modern measurements of precision (group size) and accuracy (distance from point of aim and intended point of impact) were developed.

Fortunately, the late Steve Ricciardelli of Steve’s Pages incorporated an explanation in a list of measures of group size and central tendency:

String Measurement

This is an old method still used to determine a shooter’s skill at hitting a target. It assumes the point of aim is always the desired point of impact and is simply the sum of the distances from the point of aim to each bullet hole. Originally a string was used to gather the distances, hence the name. It is still a valid measure of total error relative to the aim point. String Measurements however cannot be used to analyze sight settings because it only measures the magnitude of error, not the direction of error. It is also not a useful measure of group size because a tight group located away from the Bullseye will produce a large String Measurement.

The string measurement is old, but it remains surprisingly useful on a real-world basis, to get a broad idea of the practical accuracy of a specific shooter and firearm combination, or to put shooters in a rough rank order (say, if grouping soldiers for marksmanship training). Now, a marksman seeking to maximize performance (think of, say, a benchrest shooter) would not want to use it, because it is important to him or her to separate the possible causes of misses; you do something different if your windage is off than you do if your group is too large.

Turns out a string is useful for something, even though ATF doesn’t say it’s a machine gun any more. (Yes, they once did. But that is another story!)