Category Archives: Weapons Education

4 Men. 3 States. 2 Weeks. = 1 Rifle + 1 Good Deed of the Day

How a blogger, an FFL, a dad and a grand-dad ganged up across the nation to show a Boy Scout a Good Deed of the Day. Now, the Story Can Be Told, as a Hollywood narrator might say.

Ruger 10:22 Boy Scout of America Rifle01

It begins with a boy approaching a milestone in life and in scouting: Eagle Scout. The top level in Scouting, Eagle is achieved by a relatively small minority of Scouts. Kyle was proud of his accomplishment, and his dad wanted to do something for him. Knowing that Kyle was into guns, Dad heard about a Boy Scout commemorative that Ruger had made. Finding ads for it online, he called number after number only to find… nope, sorry. We forgot to take down the ad. He went to his local FFL, Moti Adika of MASA Firearms in Coral Springs, FL, a guy with a strong Israeli accent. Moti knew the gun, and knew the market — and he told the Dad, gently but unmistakably, that he was screwed.

boy scout 22 stock

You see, that commemorative was offered for one year only — five years ago, in 2010. Gun distributors and dealers buy guns to resell, not to keep, and if your inventory takes five years to turn over, you’re not going to make it as a dealer of guns or anything else. “I’ll keep my eye on the auctions,” is something like what Moti said, “but you better not count on it.”

So dejected Dad mentions it to Granddad Bill, his father-in-law. They get on like a house on fire anyway — Dad’s a line pilot, and Granddad Bill is a retired Army pilot, and they both like guy stuff, Mom, and the grandkids.

Enter Weaponsman

“Wait a minute,” says Granddad Bill. “I know a guy who knows guns.” and he sends an email to your humble blogger.

But the email crosses the wires as is relocating south to deal with family turbulence. It goes unread. But South turns out to be kind of diagonally a couple of streets over from Granddad Bill, and soon enough Weaponsman and the former Hook driver are at lunch with Weaponsdad and another buddy.

“Hey,” says Weaponsdad. “Did you ever answer Granddad Bill’s email?”

“Wha?” Weaponsman intelligently replies around a sandwich of some type.

And the facts about the Dad’s urgent need for a weapons intervention lest the Dad have to conceive a Plan B for an Eagle Scout gift.

“No problem. I’ve got this for action,” Weaponsman intones, his eyes smiling behind his WileyX’s. Because  this is going to be easy, right?  Most commemorative guns stay NIB for decades. Most of them have examples in the secondary market all the time. And none of these soi-disant collector’s items ever seem to appreciate much, compared with real collectors’ items.

We learn about the rifle.  It’s a nice looking thing, with a better than standard walnut stock, a schnabel forearm, and some Boy Scout markings. It’s quite the “attaboy,” and all we need to do now is find one.

We strike out. Our favorite FFL strikes out, and reaches out to his distributors.

They laugh at him. “We just had a guy from Florida asking.” Moti? “We laughed at him, too.”

Hey, anything to bring a smile to your face, you know? That leaves the auction sites. We hit the best and brightest, Gunbroker.


The former Auction Arms, now, the NRA’s preferred auction site.


And so on down the list, with synonyms for zero piling up. We even thought about trying GunsAmerica, even though they’re assclowns and we don’t trust them as far as we could throw them, but decided that some principles are stronger than helping a Boy Scout.

So we set some snares on the auction sites and take out the 18F google-fu. Like the Dad before us, we find lots of ads. “Oh, crap, what’s the URL for that ad? We sold out of those in about a year.”

Then, the klaxon goes off.  One has been listed on GunBroker! Initial bid $550, open auction. It was a nice one, in apparently new condition, with all the paperwork and junk that comes with a new one:

Ruger 10:22 Boy Scout of America Rifle02

Some Strategic Bidding Tips

This is how we bid on that gun in order to buy it successfully, make a Scout and his Dad happy, and avoid any suggestion of a legal violation.

  • First, in a case like this where you’re bidding for friends, make sure they’re friends you trust. Your credibility on the auction site is at risk. If you win the auction and the actual buyer taps out, you’re left holding the bag (which you can only rescue by buying the gun yourself and having it delivered to you, or making an arrangement with the seller).
  • Second, when multiple guys know that someone is looking for a specific gun, coordinate lest you bid against one another. It didn’t take Moti any longer to find the BSA rifle auction than it took us; he advised The Dad to set up a GB account and bid himself. Three-way coordination was necessary to be sure than only one of us bid on the auction, so as not to drive the price artificially high for a single customer.
  • Third, in an interstate deal, take pains not to violate Federal and state law. This deal involved domiciliaries of three states: IL, FL, and NH. Rather than buy and take possession of and deliver the gun, we chose to simply bid on behalf of the buyer, who isn’t likely to use GunBroker enough to establish a login of his own. If you buy a gun for someone else, that’s potentially a straw purchase, even if the end user of the gun is definitely not a prohibited person. (ATF prefers to pursue cases like this than actual violent criminals; in one case, they put an FBI agent in prison for buying his father a Glock to get the LE discount). So in this case, we just bid for The Dad. He bought the gun himself, sending the check to the listing dealer, and receiving it from his own dealer, Moti. We never touched the money or the gun, and it did its interstate travel from IL FFL to FL FFL — it’s even more on the up-and-up than it needs to be. Do not count on your being an honest person to protect you… make it tough for a dishonest ATF agent to screw you.
  • Fourth, an early bid in a long auction just signals your interest and brings out competing bidders. It’s some bizarre group effect of human psychology that relatively few want to be the first penguin in the water, but great swathes of the public will happily dive in once the first one has taken the plunge. So bid late.
  • Fifth and Finally, don’t let an item you want slip away because you only made one bid, and don’t overpay because you got caught up in the heat of a bidding cycle. Decide what the gun is worth to you before you make the bid, and set a max bid of that amount. That both ensures you won’t lose it to a bid you’d have outbid if you could have, and just as importantly acts as a cold-blooded check on the tendency to bid in hot blood.  (This is just like setting abort criteria for a mission, or a pilot setting a missed approach point on an instrument approach — it has to be done in advance, in cold blood, fixed and briefed, and then adhered to rigidly).

As it happens, no one else bid on the Scout commemorative, and it was The Dad’s for the minimum bid of $550. With Fedex shipping, it came to $571. It’s enroute to him, per the Fedex tracking number.

And the Scout? He doesn’t even suspect it’s coming. Heh.

The GunLab VG 1-5 Project Update

Chuck at GunLab reports on the ongoing VG 1-5 project. Pre-orders have been taken (cards not yet charged) and a list established at Allegheny Arsenal. It’s not cheap, but you’re not going to be the sixth AR in line at the range with this thing.

We’re going to catch you up on the last several VG 1-5 2015 updates, a couple of which we might have mentioned before.

Chuck had made the first few receiver reinforcement plates by hand on a finger brake. It worked but it was an ugly way of doing it, especially with hundreds of the guns spoken for by eager collectors. So he made a special pressing jig. Here it is in action:

The Magazine Release Button comprises a threaded insert riveted into a pressed dome, which is made itself from a flat laser-cut washer. Both processes are shown in the video below and explained with many photos in the appropriate GunLab post from back in January.

And so, finally, we get to the latest update, from 9 Mar 15, in which a test-mule VG 1-5 is test-fired. As Chuck writes:

We looked at everything from the barrel chamber and flutes to the firing pin length. We needed to check the recoil spring length and tension. Is the buffer spring too strong or weak? Will the fire control group work properly? All the drawings showed that everything should work but these are all questions that can only be answered during a test fire.

A problem is found, is rapidly troubleshot, and a new problem is found.

While the videos are a brief and on point, and have the advantage of motion, we strongly urge going to see the actual posts, because the many photos there and the descriptions reveal details not clarified in the videos.

We have every confidence that troubleshooting will be successful. How much confidence? Well, our VG 1-5 is on order.

There are several other cool things happening at GunLab, and they are worth checking out. (If you’re typing the address in, try to remember it’s Someone has acquired the domain, but we don’t know who).


Sorry about the missing test-fire video. Should be fixed now.

Exotic Barrels Part 1: Squeeze Bores

In 99 repeating 9% of gun barrels, the caliber is what it is, and the bullet that comes out of the barrel is the same diameter it always was, just marked by the rifling. Likewise, the rifling twist is what it is, and from the point where is picks up in the leade (forward of the chamber) to the point where the bullet exits the barrel it is constant.

Then, there are the exotics, the ones that keep 99.9% from closing the gap between there and “all.” We’re going to talk about one exotic bore, and one exotic twist, in a pair of posts: Squeeze Bore and Gain Twist. Even though the names sound dreadfully like 1970s NATO codenames for Russian anti-aircraft radars, they’re both really a thing.

Squeeze Bore

The idea behind squeeze bore is to use the power of the powder to forge the projectile down in diameter. This would, in theory, do one of two things: blow the gun to Kingdom Come, or accelerate the projectile to velocities previously unheard of. It didn’t take long for people to try to reduce this theory to practice. The 1957 edition of Naval Ordnance and Gunnery, Volume 1:  Naval Ordnance, a training manual coded NavPers 10797-A, showed five different ways to get high velocities. The first is the familiar expedient of a lighter projectile, and the second, the saboted projectile used in most tank KE rounds these days, and in the .50 SLAP (saboted light armor penetrator) round. The third example, essentially beefing the gun up to take excessive pressures, doesn’t seem very practical, and the fifth was, in 1957, science-fiction stuff but is now a pretty routine way to get longer ranges in artillery. Which leaves the fourth example, D, our squeeze-bore


A very, very gradual and subtle version of squeeze bore is the choke used on some firearms. But there’s nothing subtle about true squeeze bore. The World War II German Pak 41 fired a Gerlich-designed 42mm projectile, which the barrel squeezed down to 30mm at the muzzle. At around the same time, the US developed (at Frankford Arsenal) squeeze bore M2HB barrels, which fired a special bullet that squeezed down from .50 to .30 caliber. These guns produced extremely high velocities, with kinetic energy and penetration to match.

S.PzB.41 in action (or at least, being demonstrated). Wheles were removable to lower silhouette.

S.PzB.41 in action (or at least, being demonstrated). Wheels were removable to lower silhouette. Troops show scale… this is really small for something that can ding a JS-1’s frontal armor.

Squeeze bore was primarily used experimentally in antitank weaponry. The one weapon fielded with a squeeze bore was the German Gerlich S.PzB 41. The name Schwere Panzerbüchse meant, literally, heavy anti-tank rifle, and the Germans may have seen it as a replacement for the 7.92 x 94mm PzB 39, but its lightest variant weighed around 300 lbs. It could be broken down into smaller, man-portable-for-a-short-distance, loads.

Factory photo of the stripped-down paratroop version.

Factory photo of the stripped-down paratroop version.

The effect can be approximated by firing an oversize cartridge in a smaller-caliber bore, if the throat or leade is not too tight. (If it is, you get a kB! instead). You’re more likely to get away with such an inadvertent bore squeeze if the projectile is highly malleable, like a soft lead bullet. The Gerlich system used a tungsten penetrator with an aluminum alloy jacket, including crushable skirts. The projectiles looked like this (HE/frag on the left, with a filler of phlegmatized PETN;  AP with a tungsten-carbide penetrator on the right):

28-20 squeeze bore


The S. PzB. 41 was very effective; at close range it could penetrate all mainstream Allied armor (even the KV-1 and JS-1 tanks), although its behind-armor effect was limited. The Germans were successful in making squeeze bores where other nations’ designers had failed. They mounted it on SdKfz.250 half-tracks and used it as a trailered, man-packed and airborne weapon.

A larger squeeze-bore, the Pak 41, was deployed in small numbers. The ammunition closely resembles the 28/20mm of the S.PzB.41 but is much larger: it started off at 75mm and squeezed down to 55mm. An intermediate sized version was a 4.2 cm (42mm tapering to 28mm) squeeze-bore version of the familiar Krupp 3.7cm light anti-tank gun. (German guns are described in centimeters — move the decimal point once for mm — and their squeeze-bores are known by their initial, not squeezed, caliber).

Pak 41 APBCT

Making a tapered or “squeezing” rifled bore is a challenge, if you think about it, and conventional methods of rifling such as buttons and broaches don’t adapt well to it. (Cut rifling does adapt, but at a price in complexity. But the German invention of hammer-forging barrels over a mandrel opened up mass production to squeeze bore in German plants. (A microscopic amount of taper is usually used in hammer forging, to facilitate mandrel removal. But the amount of taper in a squeeze bore is much greater).

The British made a theoretically sound and plausible attempt to work around the difficulty of drilling and rifling squeeze bores. This was a squeeze-bore muzzle attachment called the Littlejohn for the 2-pdr antitank and light-tank gun, in order to give some realistic anti-tank capability to the airborne (glider-delivered) Tetrarch light tank and various wheeled AFVs.


It squeezed the round after it had been spun to speed; the holes you can see were for pressure release. The Littlejohn was conceived by a Czech emigré, Frantisek Janacek (whose name means “little John”, literally) and was made for the 40mm Vickers S gun as well as for the 2-pdr. The ammunition featured a tungsten penetrator and aluminum carrier, must like  the German squeeze-bore ammo. The US also experimented with Littlejohn type adapters and projectiles, and discovered that firing the Littlejohn projectile from the gun without the adapter produced equivalent velocity improvements without compromising the ability to fire  ordinary projectiles. (In effect, this was using the lightweight projectile as in Illustration A at the top of this post, rather than a squeeze-bore as in Illustration D).

langsford_extruder_bulletsFor a while, there was a squeeze bore gun that anyone could buy. Australian gunsmith Arthur Langsford, an expert in rimfire rifles, used an extended leade or forcing cone to make rimfire guns that fired an ordinary .22 LR round and produced a high-velocity .20 or .17 elongated slug. The rifling didn’t begin until after the forcing cone. They seemed to work well, but didn’t catch on, and pressure and velocity deltas between various brands and kinds of rimfire ammunition were probably larger than anything SAAMI would ever tolerate. The Myra “Extruders” Langsford made are curiosities today.

In the end, squeeze bores were a possible tank solution at one moment in time, but their performance has been overshadowed by accurate fin-stabilized discarding sabot heavy penetrators, fired (usually) from smooth-bore guns.

Next, Gain Twist, an old idea that’s making a comeback.


Department of the Navy. Naval Ordnance and Gunnery, Volume 1: Naval Ordnance .NavPers 10797-A.  Retrieved from:

Langsford’s Squeeze-Bore Rimfires.Is this Near-Forgotten Idea Too Good to Die? Guns Magazine, January 2011. pp. 18-19. Retrievable from:

(Others as linked. List not completed due to time limits).

Sometimes the Worst Gun Wins, and other Lessons from History

In Smith’s The History of Military Small Arms, the author claims to see a  parallel between the introduction of the Dreyse Needle Gun and the history of military small arms in general. To wit:

Dreyse Needle Gun with fabric cartridge and projectile showing primer location at projo base. From The Firearm Blog.

Dreyse Needle Gun with fabric cartridge and projectile showing primer location at projo base. From The Firearm Blog.

When the Dreyse was introduced into the Prussian service it was a “military secret” of the first order. Like most “military secrets” it was a secret only to those naive branches of the military who never seem to be aware of what has been done in their line—those artless individuals with which every country is regularly afflicted, and who strangely enough seem to be nearly always in a position to make policy while submerging the real experts who are present in any army.1

The Dreyse shouldn’t have been a surprise to anybody, as the technology had been patented by a Swiss circa 1830, when the Prussian generals who would command Dreyse-wielding riflemen were subalterns. And while the Dreyse Needle Gun had an edge on the French Chassepot, it wasn’t that big an edge, really.

The Chassepot. Funny: the Scandinavian museum that has this one thinks it's a Dreyse.

The Chassepot. Funny: the Scandinavian museum that has this one thinks it’s a Dreyse.

The edge was that the Dreyse was able to use a metallic cartridge, even though these images show a fabric one (even though the illustration shows it with a fabric cartridge). But in the Americas, Union cavalry was armed almost exclusively with breechloaders, and in significant part with breech-loading repeaters, generally firing fixed rim- or center-fire ammunition, by war’s end. Having the Dreyse gave the Prussians a momentary advantage over the muzzleloader-toting Austrians, who soon thereafter followed such leaders as Britain (with the Snyder) and the US (with the Allin conversion) and rebuilt its muzzle-loaders into breech-loaders.

Here's another view of the Chassepot, action closed. The stylistic resemblance to the much later Mosin-Nagant repeater is eerie; did it inspire that design?

Here’s another view of a Chassepot, action closed. The stylistic resemblance to the much later Mosin-Nagant repeater is eerie; did it inspire that design?

Out in the real world, small arms development is seldom secret, and when it is, it is seldom kept secret for long. Engineering and science have long been observed to proceed, worldwide, at the same pace, and weapons of war face something akin to the evolutionary pressures faced by animals under natural selection (minus, perhaps, sexual selection, although the natural competitiveness of armies leads to a pursuit of bragging rights and pride internationally that has some parallels, but with much less power).

1898 .30-40 Krag carbine

1898 .30-40 Krag carbine

It is an interesting fact that, when two armies meet in the field, both sides are almost always convinced that their equipment is superior. When it turns out not to be for one side, an even more interesting fact is that weapons superiority is not always, or even often, decisive. No grunt came away from Cuba or Puerto Rico still believing that the .30-40 Krag, selected by the USA over the Mauser because the Krag had a simpler and easier-to-inspect magazine cut off “to save ammunition in combat,” was the superior rifle. Ordnance’s error in prioritizing that, or perhaps in accepting the priorities given to it by the generals, was clear, and the guns were scarcely still before Springfield was directed, although perhaps not in the words of a later Smith & Wesson executive, to “copy the m’f’er!”

Yet, as deficient as the US mix of Krags and trapdoors was vis-a-vis the 7mm x 57 Spanish 1893 Mauser, a technically superior rifle was not enough to make up for the many other technical and tactical deficiencies the Spaniards faced in trying to hang on to their colonies. Weapons are complex enough to present many features and capabilities, and survival-oriented officers and soldiers quickly learn to exploit their system’s strengths and overcome its weaknesses. The Germans learned to fight against the superior mobility of American and Russian tanks; the Allies learned to fight against the German’s better armor and armament. Meanwhile, a “secret” weapon is only secret until it’s used; after that, the enemy knows its effects, and his own engineers and ordnance men can figure out what the weapon was — as every nation’s scientists and engineers are at, to a first approximation, the same level of knowledge. (The classic example of the limited life of a  secret weapon is the way the Soviet Union went from ignorance of the potential for a nuclear weapon to leapfrogging US/UK development of fusion weapons in 4 years).

Napoleon’s maxim about the relative weight of the material and the moral in war is as good an explanation as any for the phenomenon: sometimes the guy with the worse gun wins.


  1. B. Smith (2013-07-13 00:00:00-05:00). The History of Military Small Arms (Kindle Locations 910-914). Kindle Edition.


Napoleon III was a Weapons Man

portrait_de_napoleon_iiiWell, OK. A Heavy Weapons man, perhaps — an artillerist who once sat down, while imprisoned, to  write an engaging and technical, five-volume history of artillery, with a title as comprehensive as his intent: The Past and Future of Artillery. Remembered today for little more than his army being pantsed in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Louis Napoleon was a remarkable, erudite, and intelligent fellow. When you marvel, today, at the beauty of Paris you’re marveling mostly at the nephew’s makeover of his capital city, not the works of his uncle or of the Bourbon dynasty (although Louis was careful to preserve the best of what came before). Those big “N” monograms on the bridges of the Seine? Not the victor of Borodino (pyrrhic though that victory was) and Austerlitz, and the vanquished of Waterloo; the nephew, who was captured with his army in a German encirclement, to the chagrin of all Frenchmen then and now.

Napoleon III also created the long-standing Legion d’Honneur, funding its stipends to recognized soldiers with money derived from the expropriation of the family of the Duc d’Orleans. (In 19th Century France, politics remained a contact sport).

Unfortunately for those of us who would read his whole treatise on artillery, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, as he was known at the time, did get relief from his prison stint in the 1840s and turned to the matters of state which would one day seat him on an imperial throne. He never seems to have resumed work on The Past and Future of Artillery, of which only the first volume was published.


While we’re attempting to find an digital copy of the English edition of this volume (hell, we’d take in en français, and does anybody know if any of his notes and illustrations for the subsequent volumes survive?), we can offer the preface to you.

There are some remarkable insights in this short preface. For example:

Inventions born before the time remain useless until the level of common intellects rises to comprehend them. Of what advantage could a quicker and stronger powder therefore be, when the common metal in use was not capable of resisting its action ? Of what use were hollow balls, until their employ was made easy and safe, and their explosion certain ? Or what could the rebounding range, proposed by Italian engineers in the sixteenth century, and since employed with much success by Vauban, avail, when fortification offered fewer rebounding lines than now ? How could attacks by horse-artillery, attempted in the sixteenth century, succeed, when the effects of rapidity in the movement of troops on the field of battle was so little known that the cavalry always charged at a trot ?

There is a mutual combination which forces our inventions to lean on and, in some measure, wait for each other. An idea suggests itself, remains problematical for years, even for centuries, until successive modifications qualify it for admission into the domain of real life. It is not uninteresting to trace, that powder was probably used in fireworks several centuries
before its propelling power was known, and that then some time elapsed before its application became easy or general.

Civilization never progresses by leaps, it advances on its path more or loss quickly, but regularly and gradually. There is a propagation in ideas as in men, and human progress has
a genealogy which can be traced through centuries like the forgotten sources of giant rivers.

For a man who is commonly and popularly dismissed as one of the least brilliant of the crowned heads of old Europe, those are some remarkably insightful lines.

Or consider this excerpt:

Fire-arms, like everything pertaining to humanity, did not spring up in a day. Its infancy lasted a century, and during that period it was used together with the ancient shooting instruments, over which it sometimes was victorious, but by which it was more frequently defeated.

The Preface alone makes it crystal clear that Napoleon III was a comrehensive student of artillery and arms, and the history of them; and that his lack of completion of The Past and Future of Artillery is a very great loss to all students of weapons.

Napoleon III on Artillery OCR.pdf

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week:

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

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


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

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

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

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

A Blast from the Past — Literally

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julia Maine Recovered Lee Navy

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

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

Julia Maine recovered Navy

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

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

Bubba Got a Boring Bar

bubbas boring bar AR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daytona Defense Reaper

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

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

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

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


Latest Printed AR Lower Test Fire

This is a more recent AR lower design, called the Alimanu Phobos. Here’s an image of it:


And here’s the source of that image, a video showing the lower and showing it being test-fired.

Here’s what the video post says:

A test-fire video of the Aliamanu-Phobos AR-15 Lower Receiver designed and printed by ArmaDelite. Printed with ABS plastic on a XYZPrinting da Vinci 1.0 printer, this design is derived from previous designs like the FOSSCAD Phobos, Vanguard and vanguard JT lower receivers. MOAR test fire videos coming soon!

We suspect that the feeding problems may be due to the reduced rigidity of the lower compared to a standard 7075 machined forging. If the positioning of the magazine with reference to the bolt carrier is not consistent, you might get results like this.

The files can be found here:

Don’t click any of the big Download buttons. This is what the actual link will look like.

Screenshot 2015-02-22 01.12.36

Annoy a totalitarian. Share gun design files.


Additive Manufacturing in Defense and Aerospace

Today, we have two links for you that will expand your knowledge of what the DOD and Aerospace world is doing with additive manufacturing.

Additive Manufacturing for Armaments

Screenshot 2015-02-19 22.56.11The first is slightly dated, because it comes from the NDIA’s 2013 Armament conference. (Yes, 2013 was a long time ago in this rapidly developing field). It is the presentation slides of Stratasys’s John Dobstetter. Stratasys (SSYS) is one of the two large publicly traded firms in the field (the other is 3D Systems, whose ticker symbol fits: DDD).

Personally, we wouldn’t cross the street to whiz on Stratasys if they were on fire, because the company is firmly antigun and pro-gun-control, but Dobstetter’s presentation is an excellent one that starts out assuming that (1) his audience knows nothing about additive, but (2) it’s a bunch of smart people who know manufacturing and catch on quickly.

Screenshot 2015-02-19 22.56.28There’s fascinating stuff about when to use additive (see the Sweet Spot slide above) and how it can be applied to every phase or stage of manufacture (see the Lifecycle Applications slide to the right). Switched-on manufacturers, like Czech airplane manufacture Evektor, are using additive parts both as tooling and as end use parts.

There are some extremely clever uses of additive, either alone or hybridized with other tools, for composite layup tooling, producing some very interesting carbon, glass and aramid (Kevlar) parts. Likewise, end uses can be hybridized, with additive-manufactured complex ends added to shafts or beams made by winding filament or tow around a simple metal mandrel.

A .pdf of Dobstetter’s presentation is found here in the archives of the 2013 Armament conference.

Additive Manufacturing for Aerospace

MIT Technology Review has an interesting article (aren’t they all? Well, in MIT Tech Review, maybe) called Additive Manufacturing Is Reshaping Aviation. In this case, they’re not talking about little piston-plane builders like Evektor or Cirrus, but the big gorillas of jet-engine production, Pratt & Whitney and GE.

prattwhitneyx299Pratt & Whitney already uses two additive manufacturing techniques to make some engine components. Instead of casting metal in a mold, the methods involve forming solid objects by partially melting a metal powder with either a laser or an electron beam.

Additive manufacturing processes can reduce waste, speed up production, and enable designs that might not be feasible with conventional production processes.

Ding ding ding… we have frequently mentioned this benefit, the ability to design things free of the shackles of traditional subtractive manufacturing.

The novel shapes and unusual material properties the technology makes possible—such as propeller blades optimized for strength at one end and flexibility at the other—could change the way airplanes are designed.

Of course, propeller blades are already optimized that way, by having taper in three dimensions. And a company named Carter Aviation Technologies has developed revolutionary propellers that use a flexible composite skin around two spars that flex like the bones in your forearm to change the delta of pitch in the propeller, whereas conventional propellers can only change the pitch itself, not its rate of change. (Hey, you could use the additive tooling that Dobstetter showed in the first cite to make all the iterations of a Carter-patent propeller that you could possibly use).

Meanwhile, engineers hold out hope for today’s amazing technology to be supplanted by better machinery — finer resolution, faster printing, better-understood statics & mechanics. Even as great as the state of the art is, the engineers must push it:

…additive manufacturing techniques need to improve to allow for higher precision. Once researchers understand the fine, molecular-scale physics of how lasers and electron beams interact with powders, [P&W engineer Frank Prelli] says, “that will lead to the ability to put in finer and finer features, and faster and faster deposition rates.”

Whatever happens with the jet engine makers and the airframers that are their major customers, we can expect more and better from additive manufacturing. While the whole thrust of the article is aerospace, it has clear applications to defense and firearms manufacturing.

And A Bonus from MIT Tech Review: Nanosteel

What happens to steel when you apply nanotechnology to it?

MIT Tech Review’s Kevin Bullis (same guy that wrote the additive article linked above) is saying things that scarcely seem possible:

An inexpensive new process can increase the strength of metals such as steel by as much as 10 times…

Can you think of a firearms application for that? Or about 100 of them? We sure can. (Saving 90% of the weight of a Browning MG in .338 LM?)

But wait! It turns out it doesn’t just strengthen the steel… it also makes it much more corrosion-resistant. It works by electroplating nanometer-thing material onto a part in nano-engineered layers. It has the effect of changing the apparent properties of the now-hybridized part.

And it’s not significantly more expensive than current plating and coating processes.