Category Archives: Weapons Education

Aerospace Concepts for Firearms Safety

What can aviation teach us about safety? A lot, if we’re willing to look at what they’ve done, how they do it, and extrapolate from the concepts they’ve used to develop new ways of thinking of safety with firearms.

For many people, this is a dull subject, that they think is beneath them. “I’ve never had an ND, so this doesn’t apply to me.” We assure you that safety matters, and that no one is immune to mishap. Often the guy who has the ND is the same guy who read the same books as you do and who made the same “tsk, tsk” sound at the accident report on his morning news site. (Or who laughed along with us at one of our A Mess of Accidents roundups). Safety begins with the sober revelation that it can happen to you.

Reduction in accidents and fatalities

The numbers don’t lie, and once-occasional fatal mishaps have become extremely rare. The last scheduled airline crash in the United States that caused fatalities. entire years pass with no deaths. Even military flying, much more dangerous that airline aviation, is enormously safer that it was fifty years ago. Fifty years ago, the services thought nothing of losing a thousand planes and crews in crashes — every year!

Certainly part of the mishap reduction story in general aviation comes via the tightening coils of the airline-centric FAA, trying to squeeze it out of existence. GA aviators often joke that the largest office in the FAA, and the only one that has command emphasis, is the Office of Aviation Inhibition. But GA has tightened up on once-accepted practices such as flying after having a few sociables with the guys (in the 1960s, one in four fatal general aviation crashes involved a pilot with ethanol in his system).

But primarily, increased safety has come about by improving training and (especially) culture, making the safe decision the default one, and the one liable to be respected by colleagues.

Aerospace Safety Concepts and Technologies

Many concepts interweave to make the solid web of today’s air safety culture. But we’re going to focus on four formal programs that made aviation safer, and that are adaptable to professional and amateur use of firearms for self-defense, public safety, and recreation.

  • CRM – Cockpit/Crew/Complete Resource Management
  • ADM — Aeronautical Decision Making
  • Tool Accountability
  • LO/TO – Lockout/Tagout

To expand on them:

CRM is nothing more or less than using all the resources at hand, informational, material, and, especially, human. The co-pilot of 1967 was more of an under-pilot. He (and in 1967, it was always a “he”) was encouraged to sit still and shut up, letting a valuable safety cross-check from a trained professional go to waste. This video from the FAA describes the history CRM.

https://www.faa.gov/tv/?mediaId=447

Since being developed in the aviation world, CRM has spread to other fields where active risk management is beneficial, including surgery, anesthesiology, and firefighting. Why not shooting?

A primitive version of a CRM technique should be familiar to all shooters: even on ranges where only a designated individual can declare the range “hot,” anybody has the right and responsibility to call “cease fire!” in the event of an unsafe act or condition. This empowers all the shooters to be an extra set of eyes and ears for the range officer, who is (loath though some of them may be to admit it) only human.

ADM is an interesting term. It is, in fact, Judgment Training, something that many old-time pilots thought was beneath them, so research psychologist Allen Diehl renamed it Aeronautical Decision Making. Nobody’s going to be enthusiastic about attending training that questions his judgment, but who would reject the chance to get some new decision-making techniques?

One key ADM technique is to develop the skills to recognize risk-increasing hazardous attitudes, and to use an “antidote,” a sort of countervailing mantra, to back oneself down from the attitude.

Aviation hazardous attitudes include such things as:

Resignation — “Whats the use? Forget it, I give up!”
Anti-Authority —  “The law is stupid. Regulations and procedures are for the little people!”
Impulsivity — “Do whatever, but do it NOW!”
Invulnerability — “It has never happened to me before, so it can never happen to me!”
Macho — “The average person can’t do this, but I’m so far above average it doesn’t apply to me!”

For each hazardous attitude, there is an ADM countermeasure.

Against Resignation — “I can make a difference!”
Anti-Authority —  “The regulations are written in blood. They are usually right.”
Impulsivity — “Wait! Think first. In an emergency, wind your watch.”
Invulnerability — “It can happen to me if I don’t take care. The laws of physics apply to everyone.”
Macho — “Taking chances is for fools; I play it safe and solid.”

The adaptability of these to the shooting (recreational, competitive, and combat) world should be all but self-evident.

The last two concepts, Accountability and LO/TO are important because many accidents happen because of failures in firearms control and storage. The military, which has relatively few accidents (for this reason) despite a wider range of ability and maturity levels than you are likely to have in your home or business, has managed to reduce weapons loss and accountability failure to a rounds-to-zero level. Other Federal agencies that do not practice similar control culture have much greater accountability problems.

Some of these concepts have already been implemented to some extent in gun safety. We’ve seen a reduction in hunting accidents since the 1950s, and a great deal of safety training .

Sometimes, though, the training and improvement that has gone before is nothing but the foundation for a better level of safety to come. This is one of those times.

Where we can improve, In General

  • Reject the idea that the current level of accidents is normal. “Is gun, is not safe,” fine, but accidents need not happen. “Is Plane, is not safe either,” but they have made planes pretty damned safe.
  • Study every accident and scour the record for learnable and teachable lessons.
  • Develop a formal Firearms Decision Making system of judgment training, and infuse it into the training culture.
  • Develop a Resource Management program with tiers for professional and amateur firearms users, and for individuals and teams.
  • Provide Accountability and LO/TO tools to the general gun-owning public.

Some of these things are already happening, but only on a sporadic, ad hoc basis. We need to get the big organizations (NRA and NSSF) behind FDM and FRM in a big way.

Adapting CRM, ADM, TA, and LO/TO to Firearms Training

Firearms Resource Management — identifies the entire ranges of resources that are available to the sport shooter, defensive gun user, police officer, soldier, and other armed professional, and works to familiarize those gun users with how to identify and use these resources. Best done with case studies.

Firearms Decision Making — teaches using case studies of decision errors with tragic consequences. Highlights hazardous attitudes and the risks contained within, and provides tips for recognizing those attitudes in self and others, and countermeasures for each.

TA & LO/TO — provides safety-oriented training and equipment to insure that firearms are maintained under positive control.

Thump with TRUMP (No, this is NOT political)

Not the least bit political… this is an entirely different TRUMP. The guy getting sworn in Friday is Trump. TRUMP, all caps, means Training Re-Usable Mortar Projectile, and here you see a demonstration of unboxing a live M2 60mm Mortar, setting it up, and setting up TRUMP rounds and firing them.

The propellant and the on-target pyro charge are 20 gauge shotgun shells loaded with black powder. Strict limits on powder weights must be observed, lest your TRUMP rounds cross the threshold where they’d become unregistered Destructive Devices, a felony violation of the National Firearms Act. This limits the range of the mortar and the spectacle of the rounds’ detonation, but it can’t be helped. The mortar itself is a registered Destructive Device, and in the USA that is handled under the NFA like a machine gun or silencer would be, requiring ATF registration prior to possession, and a $200 transfer or manufacturing tax.

“Yeah, but,” we can hear you thinking out loud, “Where are you going to get a mortar?”

They’re around, but if your local gun store is fresh out, try the guys who made the video, Ordnance.Com. They have a website and a YouTube channel, but they also have M2 mortars just like this one and TRUMP rounds for sale on Gun Broker.

They also have 81mm TRUMP rounds, and older-style 60mm inert, reusable rounds. You can use the 60mm rounds in any 60mm mortar, and the 81mm rounds in any 81 or 82mm mortar.

TRUMP. Make Artillery Great Again.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Liberated Manuals

We’re going to be the soul of brevity on this one, because there’s no magic here at Liberated Manuals, it’s just one more source of public-domain military manuals.

They describe their raison d’être as follows:

This website is a comprehensive source of government manuals, in PDF format, free to copy, republish and distribute as you want. The goal of this website is to “liberate” government manuals from the dirty hands of CDROM selling mafia. All manuals are offered at no charge.

Sure, it’s an ugly and basic website, but on the gripping hand, it’s free stuff. What’s not to like?

There’s a list and a search function at the home page. Some of the manuals include (these are all .pdfs):

And one of our personal maintenance favorites:

There’s a lot more than just gun manuals, though. Go there and take a look around!

Shootings Happen Fast, #32767

So, meet Karsten Cuthair, who looks like he’s in pain. He’s in pain because he just got shot. The dry facts of his shooting are recounted in this news story about his indictment in the Las Cruces, NM Sun-News.

Shortly after 11:30 p.m. Nov. 14, two NMSU police officers, including Officer Jarod Colliver, were dispatched to the Chamisa II Village Apartments, an on-campus housing complex.

The indictment alleges that Cuthair was assaulting another NMSU student who lived in the complex with a Glock 9mm handgun.

Footage from Colliver’s body camera shows that when he made contact with Cuthair, he commanded Cuthair to drop the gun. “Instead, (Cuthair) allegedly turned toward the officer and pointed the gun at him,” the indictment reads.

New Mexico State University Police Officer Jarrod Colliver, responding to 911 calls of a man with a gun at a campus apartment complex, fired two shots, one striking student Karsten Cuthair, 28, in the right leg. Cuthair survived.

That’s a very, very dry recounting of the story. Let’s watch it in detail. We think the lead up matters, but it’s just cops in corridors until about 1:15 in this ~4 minute video.

Some impressions we had:

  • That cop had very little time to make his shot before he was back behind cover. But he hit his target.
  • Compare the dry text of the report (“turned toward the officer and pointed the gun at him… Officer Colliver fires two shots”), that sounds like it happened with all deliberation, like a chess match, with the speed in which the whole thing actually went down, on the video. No time for complete sentences or punctuation in the actual event, was there?
  • There’s a long lead up to the shooting and a bunch of stairs. So Colliver’s heart rate was up before the shooting began.
  • Compare that dry text again to the uncertainty of the encounter. Was that a gun? (It was). Did the cop hit the suspect? (He did). Is the injury serious? (It was).
  • One question not worth asking till the situation’s under control: Why? Indeed, that doesn’t seem to be answered at all. In a defensive firearms use, it’s all about the what; there is no time for why. 
  • Some people disparage campus cops, kind of the same way some LEOs disparage armed citizens. Felons are remarkably indifferent to what the lettering on a cop’s badge says. They’re equal-opportunity cop killers. Fortunately, bullets stop them just the same, no matter who’s behind the gun. Felons are also equal-opportunity bullet magnets.
  • Cuthair does not seem to have set out with the intent to commit felonies and get shot for it. It seems as if this was nuclear mismanagement of some interpersonal situation, in the megaton range.
  • Cuthair was compliant after being shot, but seemed… sluggish. Along with his original position, supine against the corridor wall, this makes us inclined to suspect Judgment Juice. In his case, maybe, combined with some Native American ancestry? Make your Injuns and Firewater and Firesticks jokes in the comments if you like, but it’s a real thing that some individuals and some entire races have problems metabolizing ethanol. We’d bet he can’t even recollect the incident clearly.
  • The questions Cuthair asks also make him sound drunk. “We’re on the third floor, right…?” and “Who’s in command?”
  • Note the cop, once he realized that Cuthair really was shot, and was shot high in the thigh, trying to deploy a tourniquet. Someone in his department has been keeping up to date. (Still, it wasn’t an arterial bleeder, or Cuthair might have been a goner). There are some new TQs and other devices coming for dealing with high-extremity and even groin and torso wounds, but they’re probably too specialized for the individual soldier or law officer to carry — something for your medic’s bag.
  • Finally, everybody’s got Glocks… cops, suspect. You can’t get away from the Tupperware Tribbles.

And, is it just our impression, but this seems like an old No-Tell Motel or something; maybe it’s our New England snobbery or something, but it looks like a beastly place to go to college.

Cuthair was booked into the Doña Ana County jail on Nov. 18 after he was released from University Medical Center in El Paso, jail records show.

He was indicted in December on two counts of assault d/w (one against a PO, and one general) and a few related misdemeanors. Maybe the why will come out at trial. We’re glad he lived, but we’re more glad he didn’t shoot the cop or anybody else.

Act like a jerk with a gun, and you’re asking to get shot. If you’re lucky, you live to go to jail.

Hat tip, old blog friend Chris Hernandez, author of the great Afghanistan novel, Proof of Our Resolve. (Update: Dang. We’re sure Chris’s blog led us to this, but can’t find it on Chris’s blog now. -Ed).

Kyle Defoor’s Range Gun “Inventory”

For the last week-plus, top instructor Kyle Defoor has been posting his “inventory” on his Instagram account, one a day. Our Traveling Reporter, a Defoor trainee and admirer, if not outright fan, has been linking them to us, one a day, and we’ve been waiting to assemble them and give you a single overview. Here it is; this is what’s in a single top instructor’s battery these days.

His training battery comprises eight guns, some used frequently and some for special purposes. There are four ARs (all BCM, which he endorses), two Glocks, one bolt rifle (Remington 700), and one DA/SA pistol (SIG 229 Elite). For each one, he painstakingly records the details down to the scope mount and slings and holsters, and he answers some reader questions, so for any gun that interests you, go to the linked Instagram page.

The AR Rifles

They’re all from BCM, with whom Defoor is in a committed relationship, as they say. BCM also provides the iron sights for those rifles that have ’em, and Viking Tactics (VTAC) the slings. There are a selection of calibers and lengths for specific purposes.

The most-used AR is this 11.5″ 5.56 mm Short Barrel Rifle (SBR), which is used 18-20 weeks a year for both military and civilian contracts.

The accessories include interchangeable red-dot and scope optics in Bobro mounts (Aimpoint Micro T1 and US Optics SR4-C respectively), the Streamlight Protac Rail 1 with an Arisaka Defense light mount, and a Gemtech flashhider for use with the G5T. The US Optics scope is their short-range 1-4 variable, which is presently off the market as the company overhauls its short-range line; its nearest military issue equivalent is the Elcan Spectre DR, which is not continuously variable. The SR4-C is an ingenious design, with a mil reticle (several options) on the first focal plane, which keeps the mils accurate with magnification, and a 4-moa red dot on the second focal plane. (There is an excellent five-part review of this scope at the Austin Police Marksmanship Team blog. Begin with Part 2 if you’re in a hurry; Part 1 is the justification for using a scope on a patrol carbine. Then click the left arrow to read subsequent parts).

Used 18-20 weeks a year for military contractcs and for some civilian carbine classes. My scope and Aimpoint share the same mounting slot on my top rail for ease of switching depending on what the customer wants.

Note that this is the baseline AR of a pro, and it’s run on an XM177-length barrel, probably suppressed more often than not. That’s a reflection of what’s happening in special operations units, not just in the US military, but worldwide.

Here’s a longer-barreled 5.56 AR used about 6 weeks a year for military and civilian scoped rifle classes. The barrel is 16″ stainless steel with 1/8 twist rifling and a mid-length gas system. The scope is a US Optics variable 1.8-10 power in a Bobro mount.

The Gemtech suppressor he uses with this rifle is the G5T; the rest of the accessories are the same as his other ARs.

Here’s a baseline .300 Blackout gun.  It’s got a 9″ button-rifled barrel. This one is used a few times a year for “specialized military contracts,” and is set up with a Gemtech flash hider for The One silencer.

What seems to be “the usual” KD4 accessories: BCM flip-up sights; VTAC Sling;  Aimpoint Micro T1 on a Bobro Mount; Streamlight Protac Rail 1 with an Arisaka Defense light mount. One thing this carbine has got that the others haven’t is a cleaning rod secured to the rail with zip ties.

And finally, this one’s just for hunting. It’s a 16″ .300 Blackout rifle with a 1/8 button-rifled stainless barrel, and has similar accessories to the other ARs.

The scope is the US Optics variable 1-4 power Dual Focal Plane on (what else?) Bobro. Kyle says he uses it to take deer, coyote and wild boar.

The Precision Rifle

This rifle is a modified Remington 700 with a 7.62mm NATO 20″ 1/10 heavy barrel, threaded for use with the Gemtech Sandstorm suppressor.

The mods/accessories include: a KRG stock and bolt lift; VTAC Sling; US Optics 1.8-10 variable power scope, with the Horus H25 reticle, mounted in Badger rings; and the ubiquitous bipod from Harris Engineering. Defoor uses it for military contracts 4 weeks a year.

I can’t express how happy I am with the KRG stock. It makes a stock 700 about .5 MOA tighter throughout the spectrum of the caliber compared to an OEM buttstock and is LIGHT! The weight thing matters when I’m humping long distances for FTX’s and evals. Additionally, KRG has accessories that are smart, lightweight, easy to install, don’t cost an arm and a leg and work WELL! This is expected from KRG since their owner is a mil snipe with experience like myself. I have no affiliation with KRG but if you’re in the market for anything bolt gun you should give them a look before they take off and get super busy,

Listen up to that recommendation, precision shooters: Defoor has a pretty good track record at flagging the Next Cool Thing before it gets cool.

The Pistols

The fundamental pistol of Defoor’s battery is the G4 Glock 19.

His regular carry gun is used for almost all classes, and apart from his own sights and his (Raven Eidolon) or Safariland holster, the only thing not stock Glock is the barrel, a KKM.

I’ve been using match barrels in Glock pistols for over 10 years now. I started using KKM’s somewhere around 2010 or 11 — long before it become the popular barrel of choice it is now. I also used Wilson combat match barrels for Glocks back when you had to fit them. I prefer hand fitting a barrel because I can make it even more accurate.

But he recommends you be in no rush to replace the barrel:

I tell everyone my opinion is to shoot the Glock pistol stock and wait to get a match barrel when you notice groups starting to open up a bit. In my experience this happen somewhere between 80 and 100,000 rounds.

In case you were wondering why Tier 1 units that shoot obsessively day in and day out went to the Glock, a lot of the answer is packed into that paragraph above. He also points out that the match barrel is match, not magic:

A match barrel will not help you magically shoot better all of the sudden. All it does is hone good fundamentals a little more. The average difference that I have measured over tens of thousands of shooters between a stock barrel and a match barrel at 25 yards on an NRA B-8 bull is somewhere between 3-4 points or around an inch tighter- both of these metrics are with a 10 round group from the standing unsupported position.

For about four weeks a year, for certain military contracts, he uses this older G2 G19, set up with a very unusual sight: an Aimpoint Micro on a Raven Concealment Balor mount. This one has had fewer rounds through it and still has a Glock barrel.

Sometimes he’ll just mount this slide on a G19 frame that allows a weaponlight or weapon laser. Same holsters; but he has some interesting observations on the Aimpoint vs. the more common pistol red dot, the Trijicon RMR.

If you want to go the route of a red dot on a pistol using an Aimpoint Micro will give you faster results in performance than an RMR. This is due to the Aimpoint being a tube and an RMR being a flat plane red dot. I’ve had great success and starting people off with a set up like this and then transitioning them to an RMR later.

I’ve assembled dozens of guns like this one for people who are older and whose eyesight just does not allow them to shoot irons affectively anymore — it’s amazing to see the reaction of people when they can shoot and perform the way they did 40 or 50 years ago. The Micro is definitely harder to conceal and will require some adjustments of clothing and belt type, along with a quality holster like mine. Safari land 6000 series holsters can be easily modified with a Dremel to hold this set up and still maintain retention. There are multiple reasons for MIL/LE to use this setup, although I recommend to all of our clients to issue two slides; one setup like this and one with traditional sights.

Sounds like we need one of these, or a trip back to the eye surgeon. (May not be an option. Our guy, the brilliant Dr Jack Daubert of West Palm Beach, has unfortunately had to retire).

Finally, there’s the SIG 229 Elite, which is used with organizations that use SIGs, or other DA/SA guns rather than striker-fired, and that don’t have a loaner gun for Defoor to use himself while conducting training.

Nothing magical here, just a pistol. About the only unusual thing here is that he got Raven to make him a one-off holster for the gun.

I also will sometimes use this when I’m training units that shoot a Berretta 92 when they can’t supply me with one (I don’t own a 92).

And that wraps up one instructor’s training and defensive battery. Instead of having many guns (either in quantity or in battery) he has stuck to basic platforms, and plowed his efforts into training instead. There’s a lesson in that if we want to pick up on it.

Update

This post has been corrected. Kyle’s main go-to Glock 19 is a G4, not a G3 as we erroneously reported. We regret the error. -Ed.

Homesmithing News: Printed Revolver, Easy Home Rifling

Here’s the Imura Works’ latest Zig-Zag Revolver, the Flying Swallow. Imura Works is named for the Japanese martyr to the cause of home gunsmithing.

It has quick-change cylinders for rapid reloads.

Of course, this wouldn’t be that interesting if files weren’t available. But files are available — how ’bout that. The file pack includes not only the .stls that you need to print it out, but also assembly drawings that show how it all goes together.

Happy printing!

Beyond Printing: The Steel Rifled Barrel

Of course, a printed pistol has its limits; we’ve seen a lot of better examples of homemade guns made from steel. In an austere or denied environment, raw steel will always be available, but one stumbling block many small and home machinists have encountered has been rifling a barrel. But it turns out, there is a high-throughput, benchtop way to do it: electro-chemical machining (ECM). You don’t need a big ECM machine: you can improvise with innocuous parts and chemicals (table salt!). This is the whole setup:

Yep, the el cheapo battery charger is all the power supply you need. They used 33 AWG copper wire.

Here’s some results from an early series of experiments.

HERE it is! Rifling a barrel using the ECM (electrochemical machining) process by the one and only Jeffrod. This fosscad project is still in its early infancy so expect more to come! ECM is like reverse-electroplating where you are removing material instead of adding it. ECM is a very precise method and is more suitable for mass production. The ECM process can be used on hard materials that cannot be machined by other more traditional processes. Unlike the EDM (Electrical discharge machining) process, no sparks are generated with ECM between the cathode and anode.

That particular barrel used a pentagonal 3D-printed mandrel, copper wires, and three rounds of 5 minutes in a saline solution with 6 volts and 6 amps running through the wires. The rifling is 5-thousandths deep. It’s not a target barrel, but it’s a process that will produce a legal and likely functioning rifled barrel. And you can experiment with it with just some steel tubing, a bucket, wires and a mandrel. This is the mandrel, with the copper machining wires attached.

The whole process is recounted on this imgur thread, including several earlier experiments before this last barrel was produced. These barrels are a proof of concept, not in any particular caliber or chambering at this time. So we’re a long way from making, say, AR barrels, but a Sten barrel is close.

 You can’t ban guns. Make one problem difficult, and the community reacts to the damage by detouring around it. Short of lobotomizing the whole community, this is only going to grow from here.

New and Better ‘Nades in the Pipeline

It looks a lot like the M67 grenade, fielded during the Vietnam War to replace the M26, which in turn replaced the Mk2 of World War II. But in fact, the ET-MP (Enhanced Tactical Multi Purpose) grenade is a whole new thing. The differences from the M67 tell the story. It’s a little larger than a baseball-sized M67; it has a different fuze that lets right- and left-handed soldiers throw it the same way; and it is a selectable grenade that can be used as a concussion grenade (called “offensive” grenades in some armies) or a fragmentation (“defensive”) grenade. The user simply rotates a selector to the letter “F” (Fragmentation) or “C” (Concussion).

“Soldiers will not need to carry as many types of hand grenades,” Jessica Perciballi, project Officer the Enhanced Tactical Multi-Purpose hand grenade at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in a recent Army press release.

“They are currently carrying one M67 grenade that provides lethal fragmentation effects. With the new multi-purpose grenade, they can carry one ET-MP grenade and have the ability to choose either fragmentation or concussive effects desired for the situation.”

It’s weird to see a grenade fly without the spoon flying off, that’s for sure.

The effort marks the first time in 40 years the Army has set out to give soldiers a new lethal hand grenade. Warfighters lost the capability of using an alternate lethal grenade when the MK3A2 concussion grenade was taken out of service in 1975 because of an asbestos hazard, leaving the M67 fragmentation grenade.

Another feature is that the grenades are designed for ambidextrous use, meaning that they can be thrown with either hand. Current grenades require a different arming procedure for left-handed users.

The request for a multi-purpose grenade came from the warfighter in 2010, according to Matthew Hall, Grenades Tech Base Development lead. Research began almost immediately. The science and technology funding to move forward with a project came in fiscal year 2013.

“We received direct input from the Army and Marine Corps early on, which was critical in ensuring the new arming and fuzing design was user-friendly,” Hall said.

“With these upgrades in the ET-MP, not only is the fuze timing completely electronic, but the detonation train is also out-of-line,” Hall added. “Detonation time can now be narrowed down into milliseconds, and until armed, the hand grenade will not be able to detonate.”

via U.S. Army Working on a Dual-Mission Hand Grenade – Kit Up!.

The electronic fuze means it safely can do without the grenade “spoon” that was a feature of prior American grenades. The spoon worked as a grenade “grip safety” once the grenade’s pin was pulled, only allowing a hammer to fire a primer and start a chemical time delay burning when the grenade was thrown. That was why the M67 and its predecessors were designed for right-handed throwers, and awkward for lefties. (In SF, left-handed guys would often just straighten, remove, and reverse the grenade pin, which was all kinds of forbidden, but worked just fine).

The size of the grenade was determined partly by what they had to fit into it, but also by having real, junior soldiers handle dummy grenades, 3D printed in proposed form factors.

Likewise, the test troops, deliberately selected to be average and inexperienced soldiers from a cross-section of specialties, tried many different arming control designs, and provided their input before engineers selected the final one.

In addition to its human interface improvements and frag/concussion duality, engineers have also improved the stability and shock resistance of the grenades, allowing them to be stored and shipped more easily.

Consider the Double Action Auto

We’re adherents of the DA auto (by which we mean the DA/SA pistol), although we gave striker-fired (Glock) a shot. Over the last nearly 40 (wow) years, we’ve daily-carried Walther P.38, Beretta M9 and M92, and the CZ-75 (pre B) and CZ P-01, with some use of small-caliber Walther, Browning and CZ pistols for summer wear.

Ernest Langdon, a former Marine Scout Sniper instructor, is an adherent of DA/SA and particularly Beretta as well, at least partly because Beretta employs him! He can shoot better than most of us, and he makes a good case for the DA autopistol, in an interesting article at Recoil (which has come a long way from its antigun gun magazine days).

He also has a lot of advice about how to shoot it well. 

One of the first things to learn is trigger finger placement. The double action trigger pull often requires the shooter to put more trigger finger on or past the trigger than you would with a 1911-type single action. When learning to pull a double action trigger, try sticking more trigger finger in and past the trigger, providing more leverage for you to pull the trigger straight to the rear. Test this in dry fire, with the goal of the hammer falling with no movement of your sight picture at all.

The key is to pull through the double action trigger at a constant speed. It can be very fast, but it needs to be consistent. The trap that many DA Auto shooters fall into is trying to finish the DA pull by speeding up at the end. We start to pull the trigger smoothly and consistently, and then try to accelerate at the end of the pull to finish and get to the shot. For proper double-action trigger control, you want to focus on stroking the trigger. Keep a constant, consistent speed.

Real success with a DA gun comes from combining the presentation of the pistol, aiming the gun, and pulling the trigger at the same time.

It’s our own observation that, when you don’t have time to prepare your sidearm and must engage from the draw, you’re most often at contact range, and the DA trigger pull is the least of your problems. When you do have time it’s nice to be able to cock the hammer. We have pistols that allow that and some pistols that don’t because they’re DAO. But there are some pistols on the market that do, technically, allow you to cock the hammer by hand, but make it awkward to do. If you have time to set up for a shot, go ahead and set up for the shot.

That said, Langdon is right about DA trigger pull. Yes, it is longer and heavier, and it can make you miss — especially if you get frustrated that it’s not like the SA pull and jerk on it. But a well-designed DA trigger can be fast, steady and smooth and not disrupt your sight picture. And the SA pull on most DA/SA guns is better than the trigger on most striker-fireds, ceteris paribus.

This next consideration is one we hadn’t thought of.

One of the key features in a DA Auto is where the trigger pull breaks. The point at which the trigger breaks in double action mode and single action mode should be as close as possible. This allows you to train your trigger finger to go back to the same spot to release the trigger and cause the gun to fire, whether in double action or single action. Some DA autos release the hammer in double action mode at a much earlier point in the trigger pull than in single action mode. This causes an excessive amount of overtravel in double action and makes the shooter hunt for the trigger prep point in single action. I believe this makes it much harder to learn to shoot well with such a handgun.

Or as one of his photo captions tells it:

One reason Langdon favors the Beretta 92 is that the positions at which the trigger breaks in double action and single action modes are very close.

Hmmm. That makes us want to dig out the trigger gage and look at where the trigger breaks DA and SA on a cross-section of DA pistols.

One of the reasons I’ve chosen to run the Beretta 92 platform is that I feel it has the best double action pull and the closest release points for both double action and single action trigger pulls.

Well, yeah, and they pay him. There is that (grin).

In his new book, Gun Guy, Bill Wilson, president and owner of Wilson Combat says, “If you look where the trigger is when the hammer falls on a Beretta, the trigger is in basically the same place double- and single-action. When you come back to the trigger for the second shot, the trigger is in the same place. You don’t have to search for it. That’s why you can transition from double to single so easily with a Beretta.” There are also many other great DA Autos out there in many different sizes, shapes, and calibers.

Thought-provoking stuff — go Read The Whole Thing™.

Now, with both Wilson and Langdon praising the Beretta, we definitely have to A/B the 92/M9 and the CZs and whatever other odds and ends we have laying about.

Persistence of “Obsolete” Gun Designs: 5 Reasons

At a very well-stocked gun shop, the most expensive new firearm might be a Barrett .50 or a TrackingPoint precision guided weapon. But it might not. It might very well be a European trap or hunting shotgun, a well-decorated and supremely finished, but technologically simple double-barrel over-and-under, with lockwork a 19th Century gunsmith would have recognized.

A Luciano Bosis ‘Michelangelo’ 12-bore shotgun. From the Bosis website.

For about $600 a buyer can take home the latest high-tech defensive pistol, or for about the same price a basic clone of the high-tech defensive pistol of 1911. He’s well armed either way, but why has technology marched on in the pistol world, but stood still on the shotguns used by bird busters (of the meat and clay variety alike)?

Any rifle problem in the world from rimfire plinking to open-range elk hunting has a version of the AR that can conceivably be applied to it. But hunters still buy lots of bolt-action rifles, with bolts that owe their basic design to the 19th Century efforts of Mauser in Oberndorf.

Indeed, here in New England, the single-shot break-action firearm continues to hang on in the market; new production continues.

The firearms market, then, is unlike other markets. In 1960 only a few car models sold in the United States came with automatic transmission standard; by 1970, air conditioning was in that market position, by 1980 electronic fuel injection… but these technologies are nearly universal now. Why do “obsolete” firearms actions persist and thrive in a market that has seen centuries of innovation? Why does the innovative product take its place alongside the venerable one, and not replace it?

Here are some thoughts.

  1. In some cases, the innovative product does replace the venerable one. Consider the police revolver. 30 years ago, a mainstay of industry magazine publishers was “revolver vs. automatic for police.” Nowadays, if you brought that article to your editor, he or she would suggest you need your head examined. Many agencies don’t let a cop carry a revolver, any more, even off duty.

    One of Colt’s best loved guns isn’t even made anymore.

  2. The gun buyer is inherently conservative. It’s much easier to sell a driver on the benefits of fuel injection than it is to sell a hunter who’s perfectly happy with his .30-30 on the benefits of a funny-looking plastic and alloy semiauto. (This also hurts European makers who tend to make guns that “look funny” to Americans. Think HK’s hunting rifles of the 80s and 90s).
  3. There is a draw to history in old-fashioned firearms. We double-dog dare you to pick up a Colt SAA and not think about the Old West (even if the Old West of public memory was mostly the creation of dime novels and moviemakers). Ditto, a 1911 and World War II. For many in the shooting sports, the draw to history is personal and familial. If you were the unloved grandson who didn’t inherit Gramps’s Winchester 64, you pine for one; this seems especially true for bird hunters, almost all of whom were introduced to the sport by family.
  4. Sometimes you’re tied by rules. Nobody’s going to get to use a Saiga shotgun in a trapshoot this year. Some states’ hunting laws ban semiauto or detachable-mag-fed semi weapons, on the theory that they promote snap shooting and bad sportsmanship.
  5. Sometimes the older design is perfectly fit for the task. Evolution stops because it has reached a plateau or point of equilibrium (just as evolution of living things is currently thought to do, between incidences of salutary mutation). While many jurisdictions’ regulations restrict hunting weapon magazine capacity, there’s little impetus to change these laws because the game gets a vote, too, and it tends not to stick around when the guns open up. Hunting upland game birds, two shots is often one more than you can practically get off when the birds flush, and two is pretty much the limit. Same with bolts and hunting of ground game. Doesn’t matter if you’re belt-fed, one shot and Bambi is outa there. Likewise, if there is a better gun to teach a beginner the rudiments of safety and shooting than a break-action, exposed-hammer single shot, we surely can not think of what it is.

We’re “thinking out loud,” here, and there might be more than five reasons. We’re most partial to #5 of the explanations above. But you’re welcome to shoot holes in this theory. Are there other guns than the police revolver that have become eclipsed in living memory? The .25 Auto, perhaps… what else?

Have You Gymnasticated Your Gun Today?

You can, perhaps, Gymnasticating the M1 Garand via the op-rod and follower rod. Image via CMP.

Wait, what? “Gymnasticate?” What’s that?

Well, that was exactly our reaction to seeing this word in a very interesting book, Roy F. Dunlap’s Ordnance Went Up Front. Dunlap is an interesting character, about whom little is known apart from his two books — this history of his work as a small arms maintenance NCO in World War II, and a comprehensive gunsmithing manual that remains in print. Rereading Ordnance recently, these lines jumped out at us, right off of Page 94.

In the spring of 1943 an officer approached me with the idea of finding out what this M38 [German Anti-Tank rifle, per Dunlap – Ed.] could do, as he had a gun in perfect condition. I scratched my head, gymnasticated the rifle, trying to look intelligent, and finally gave my opinion it would penetrate 1/2 inch armor at 100 yards, but not much more.

Now, Dunlap went on to discover that the gun had considerably better performance than that, but what struck us funny was the word, “gymnasticated.” And Dunlap must have expected it to, for he provided a footnote:

That word “gymnasticate” may have a few of you on the ropes, but is simply an ordnance term meaning the artificial operation of the recoil mechanism of a weapon. Usually it is applied only to artillery, but is perfectly proper for any weapon operated by or having a recoil system. When you push back on the barrel of an auto loading shotgun or a Colt.45 pistol, you are gymnasticating the arm.

Auto loading shotgun? Remember, he wrote this book in 1948; in this passage he’s talking about experiences he had in North Africa in 1942 (he would later go to the Pacific Theater, putting him in position to be able to make comparisons of Allied and Axis weapons from most nations, although he only encountered those Russian small arms that were recycled for use by Germany early in the war). The Remington 58, first ancestor of the 1100, had yet to demonstrate that an effective gas-operated shotgun was a possibility. Almost all semiautomatic shotguns of the time were based on Browning long-recoil designs, and the conventional wisdom was that a gas system would not work with low-pressure and highly variable shotgun loads.

But seriously, has anyone encountered this term, “gymnasticate,” before? We haven’t seen it, but we just have books on artillery, which is not like having experience on artillery. We know we have cannon cockers in the audience. What say ye?

Meanwhile, let’s make 2017 the year in which we spread the word “gymnasticate” far and wide, in memory of Roy Dunlap, who sharpens swords in Valhalla lo these many years. And let’s all gymnasticate a gun today. The guns seem to enjoy it.