Category Archives: Weapons Education

Why Count Rounds?

The Army's experimenting with automated round-counting systems.

The Army’s experimenting with automated round-counting systems in the interests of better maintenance.

Well, back in SOT, the chief pistol instructor, the late Paul Poole, used to tell us “Never dry fire in a firefight!” In those days, CT work (only the British called it CQB then) was done with pistols, although we were experimenting with both the newfangled H&K MP5 and Colt’s oldfangled XM177s, a few of which were around but very beaten-up; Colt had a new version with a 14.5″ barrel that they said solved all the 177′s problems, except for the big fireball and ear-shredding report. 

We’d have gone to Hell to bring back the three heads of Cerberus for Poole, a Son Tay raider and Bob Howard’s recon-running-teammate, but it wasn’t just for his history: the guy was a dead shot, making steel E silhouettes ring with a .45 at 100 yards, and entertaining as hell, with a foghorn laugh: “Bwah-hah-hah! Never dry fire in a firefight!” when one of us was caught with his figurative pants down and his literal 1911A1 slide locked back. And his instruction was pure common sense and experience, and we all got better — a lot better — under his tutelage. 

Even if he did assess our personal pistol skills and make a little presentation in front of the guys: an M79. “Hognose, you need an area fire weapon. Bwah-hah-hah!” Ouch.

Later we found out that it was simply that somebody had to be the team grenadiers, and two of us were pulled for the honor. Poole just couldn’t resist making fun of us. (On the plus side, you get creepily good on a 79 with a couple 72-round crates a day to burn. Even if it does chew up the web of your hand).

But we did start counting rounds, at least, per mag. With the 1911, of course, it was easy. It would go bang exactly 7 times from start, and if you forgot in the stress of action how many bangs you had left, you dropped the old mag in your leg pocket (if you had time) and started counting from 7 again. What we didn’t do, though, is count rounds total. Only the snipers did that, and that was because their M14-based M21 sniper systems were a bit of a hothouse flower, sacrificing some of the M14′s robust Garand-based strength for excellent accuracy.

The snipers! Those guys were firing over our heads and next to us as we went in on training targets… one we recall with clarity was a set of wooden stairs with a door at the top and windows to its sides. In the door were two concrete cinderblocks and in each window was another. The snipers had to (and did) pop the blocks in the door as we assaulters charged up the stairs, popping the blocks in the windows with our .45s. The life of the M21 barrels was not long (the snipers did not clean them vigorously, to prevent muzzle wear; the M14 design doesn’t allow cleaning from the breach).

None of the 1911A1s had been built, as far as we knew, after 1945, and God alone knew how many rounds they’d seen. The 1911 would keep firing until a Magnafluxing at one of the periodic rebuilds showed cracks, usually in the slide. The round counts on the 1960s-vintage M16s and XM177E2s were also a mystery. Or even the newer CAR-15 carbines or MP5s… they got shot a lot.

But the idea the snipers had, to count the rounds so you knew when the rifle was about ready to go back to depot, was a good one. They actually logged them in a book (and this continued when the more-accurate and -durable M24 replaced the somewhat improvised M21 with its Leatherwood Automatic Ranging Telescope). The trouble is, of course, that logging rounds is a great deal of work. But if the whole Army could do it, we’d get a lot more information about how long small arms and their components are good for, and we could begin to schedule inspections and overhauls more intelligently. Too many inspections waste money, and some percentage of overhauls go and rebuild guns that don’t need it, while some other percentage of guns that need overhaul, based on their condition, don’t get picked up. (Army ordnance experts think that both of these numbers, the false positives and the false negatives, are about 40%)

For over 10 years the US Department of Defense’s Joint Services Small Arms Program and its constituent service ordnance departments have been trying, with limited success, to develop an automatic round counter for combat firearms. SOF elements have moved ahead of the JSSAP on this, thanks less to general SOF awesomeness, and more to SOF budgets, and they’re futzing around with fielding round counters now.

While the civilian market has round counters, they remain fiddly and unreliable, and many of them are focused on counting down the rounds in your magazine. The military frets less about that, and more about the problem of wear and tear on high cycle small arms. What they’re looking for is something that will give them a shortcut to understanding the condition of a firearm. They see this working in the way that an odometer lets you judge the point a car is at, in its factory-to-scrapyard lifecycle.

There are several ways that systems subject to wear and tear can be singled out for overhaul or rebuild:

  1. They can be selected due to calendar years of age since production or last overhaul. This is what historically has been done with most Army small arms.
  2. They can be selected “on condition.” This means that they are subject to frequent inspections, and weapons that failing inspection criterion or criteria are selected for overhaul. This is the other mechanism that sends Army small arms to the depot for rebuild.
  3. Or, lastly, they can be selected based on usage metrics. This is not done currently, because apart from sniper weapons, and for that matter, sniper weapons used by SOF mostly, few weapons have their usage recorded accurately and reliably.

Each of these approaches has problems. Calendar year replacement means that most parts you are replacing will probably still have many years of service in them. Likewise, many of the problems that degrade small arms accuracy and reliability can’t adequately be documented in an armorer’s condition inspection. Finally, usage metrics also are imperfect: evidence teaches us that not only the amount but also the intensity of use has an effect on weapons wear.

Why Counting Rounds Works for Weapon Maintenance

Let’s consider some real-world examples. The things that kill Stoner system rifles are barrel wear (which degrades first accuracy, then reliability) and metal fatigue in the locking mechanism, especially in the bolt (which is primarily a reliability threat.

The two real problem areas in rifle barrel wear are throat erosion and gas port erosion, both of which degrade accuracy and reliability. But the means the Army currently uses to detect throat erosion, the same taper gauge used to detect muzzle erosion, doesn’t work reliably at the back end of the barrel. It misses a high percentage of badly eroded chambers (well, actually, throats), “false negatives,” while identifying a rather high percentage of “false positive” chambers, that are still perfectly accurate. And outside of the depot, where the port can be examined with a borescope, there’s no way to judge gas port erosion at all.

 

Note that two of the seven lugs had failed. After the first one lets go, the overloaded remainder fail in rapid succession.

Note that two of the seven lugs have failed. After the first one lets go, the overloaded remainder fail in rapid succession, unless the broken lugs jam the rifle..

Fatigue undermines the bolt all over, but the bolts fail in two areas: the locking lugs, and at the hole for the pivot pin. Both are places where the metal is limited but stresses concentrate.

A locking lug failure (like the single-locking-lug failure common on the Beretta) may not immediately fail the weapon. That depends on where the broken chunks of lug go; but most places they might go will interfere with something. Moreover, as each lug fails, the remaining ones bear more burden, and they usually fail in an accelerating sequence as the burden of seven lugs is borne by six, five, four… the gun generally jams before you get to zero.

The next most common place for bolt failure is at the thinnest section of the bolt, where it’s drilled through to accept the pivot pin. Any asymmetry in forces here, which may result from even microscopic as symmetry of the park part, causes the forces to load up on one side or the other, and over a great deal of time, or if there’s a presence of a Nick or any other stress riser, crack begins to propagate on one side or the other. Even before the first side is completely cracked through, it’s weakened ability to bear loads increases stress on the other side, Waiting to a matching crack over there. The bolt can crack through on one side or on both, and is cracked through on one side, will quickly crack through on the other. A redesign of this area to reduce the diameter of the pivot pin, leaving more cross-sectional material in the bolt, or adding rollers to reduce friction, might increase durability here. It’s hard to judge whether it’s actually necessary, because bolt failures are relatively uncommon, and redesigning the pivot pin mechanism may introduce new failure modes.

Usually a crack at this point occurs on one side first, and can be spotted with the naked eye.

Usually a crack at this point occurs on one side first, and can be spotted with the naked eye before it propagates across the entire bolt.

The bolt seems to fail, whichever failure mode gets them, before the lugs in the barrel extension let go. Obviously bolt failures are catastrophic failures that take the weapon out of service either instantly or very rapidly (within a few more rounds); there is no fail-safe bolt failure mode. Bolt failures always occur during firing, never during non-firing weapons-handling, and therefore they have a potential to happen during combat, which is by definition a Bad Thing.

The current maintenance schedule sends small arms to the depot for analysis in large batches, commits weapons to overhaul that have years of useful life, or, even worse, sends them after they display failure in the field. Everyone knows that you have to turn in the rifles with the broken bolts illustrated here. What we don’t know is: can you catch the problem before it is catastrophic, or even visible, with round-counting?

So this is the why of round-counting (there are a few other wear modes, like to the gascheck rings, but this is the meat of it). First, we can use round-counters to identify specific weapons that have had higher usage than their rackmates, and that we would expect, ceteris paribus, to be be more needful of maintenance. Once we have an automated round-counting system in place, we can correlate round-counts with wear and failures systematically, and the data-collection potential gets interesting. A first-generation round counter is itself certainly useful, but still a rough device. All rounds are not equal, and that leaves us growth potential for improved future versions. We know from decades of experience, for example, that automatic fire wears guns of all kinds more severely than the same number of rounds fired semiautomatically, and that heavy, sustained automatic fire is very deleterious to accuracy. You may recall this post from last year wherein we noted that WWII armorers observed that .50 ANM2 aerial machine guns that had been fired in long bursts lost their accuracy even though the barrels gaged normally in all dimensions. An M4A1 is not a .50 but there may be analogies in the physics and metallurgy at work in each.

Round counters give us data points we didn’t have before, in other words.

(When we figure out where we stowed it, we’ll link the 2006 SOFIC presentation from which the images and many of the facts have been drawn).

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week – Torpedo of Rijeka

Robert Whitehead was a pacifist and teetotaler, who invented a weapon that's in its second century of use and development.

Robert Whitehead was a pacifist and teetotaler, who invented the naval torpedo and sold it all around the world: a weapon now well into its second century of use and development.

Here at Weaponsman, we’ve discussed naval torpedoes before. We’ve done it in the light of early American torpedoes that have been recovered from the bottom of the sea, or otherwise rediscovered, and displayed in museums or otherwise studied. But the very first torpedo, at least the first successful one, came from the forgotten Navy of the Habsburg Empire, by way of an English inventor and entrepreneur.

Fortunately, there is a place where this early history is not only not forgotten, but preserved and memorialized, and it is present on the web at Torpedo of Rijeka, our Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week this week. It’s a website founded by enthusiasts of the first naval torpedo, and the first naval torpedo factory — in their Adriatic hometown.

When Farragut said, “Damn the torpedoes,” in the Civil War, the “torpedoes” that he referred to were what we think of today as naval mines. They were tethered to the bottom or shore, and meant to inhibit naval traffic. While mine warfare is still a very important part of naval offense and defense today, the word torpedo has come to mean an underwater projectile or missile,  self-propelled with propellers or jets, and aimed at a particular target. Torpedoes can be fired along a pre-determined course or guided in some way. This guidance today can be on-board or remote, in the latter case usually wire-guided much like an antitank missile.

The inventor of the torpedo as we know it was Robert Whitehead, a Lancashire engineer who had long worked on the Continent. He was working in Trieste, then an Austro-Hungarian seaport, when he was essentially head-hunted by another firm, and moved down the coast to Fonderia Metalli de Fiume, in a port city which has had many names and flown many flags over the centuries since Roman historians noted that a tribe of rude Celts lived on the hills and a “more civilized” tribe of mariners lived in the seaport. The Romans called it Tarsatica.  By 1856, when Whitehead and his family arrived, the city was known as Fiume in Italian (which many of the inhabitants spoke, regardless of their loyalty to the Dual Monarchy), Fiume in Hungarian (technically, it was part of the Hungary half of the Empire), Sankt Veit am Pflaum in German (the lingua franca of central Europe in those days) and Rijeka to the local Croats, who had to learn one of the other languages — or better yet, all of them — to advance in society and commerce. As an empire, Austria-Hungary was a very different concept from the nations of today; one’s ethnicity was not implicated in his political allegiance to the extent it is in the post-Fourteen Points world.

Fiume was also the location of the Austro-Hungarian Naval Academy, which like any major power’s academy not only trained future naval officers but sponsored research. This included pioneering research in photography, communications, physics, and, more to our point, remote-controlled weapons. Whitehead’s company, now yclept Stabilimento Tecnico Fiumano (Technical Establishment of Fiume), at first made high-tech machinery of the era, such as steam engines for naval ships. They were tied in tightly to the Naval Academy and the local academic community; for example, technicians at what would become the Whitehead torpedo plant provided the first experimental proof of Mach’s concept of the influence of the speed of sound on aerodynamics.

A different kind of "Coast Guard," this primitive weapon inspired the naval torpedo we know today.

A different kind of “Coast Guard,” this primitive weapon inspired the naval torpedo we know today.

By happy coincidence an officer (Commander — Fregattenkapitän – Giovanni Luppis) was struggling with a remote-controlled surface boat IED he’d invented, which he called the Coast Guard. His surface torpedo — for that is what it was — had a spring-and-clockwork mechanism and steering bridles for control from the shore, and a contact fuze for detonating if someone was lucky enough to guide it onto an enemy ship. Here was a problematic gadget, but the germ of a very good idea, and Whitehead and a talented team including his son John and his right-hand man, Anibale Plöch. Unlike many Victorian Age inventors, Whitehead seldom sought patents, preferring to maintain his technical advantages as trade secrets.

And technical advantages he had.

Whitehead's (and the world's) first torpedo, 1866.

Whitehead’s (and the world’s) first torpedo, 1866.

 

To make his torpedo work, Whitehead and his team had to solve several problems: propulsion, stability&control, and effect. The last of these was the easiest: a cylindrical bronze torpedo could carry sufficient explosive to sink any modern dreadnought, and, moreover, deliver it below the water line where the ship was most vulnerable. The Empire was well-stocked with talented artillerists and engineers, and neither fuzes nor explosives required research, simply development. That part was basic engineering, not science.

The true developments were propulsive and control based. Whitehead used steam for the first torpedo, and then changed to a compressed-air-powered piston engine, for more power and quicker preparation to fire. The compressed-air engines were made in a variety of designs and layouts.

Of course, the engine is only half of a naval powerplant — the other half is the propeller.  These three recovered torpedo tails tell the story of improved propellers (they also show the growing awareness of fluid dynamics. The first torpedo was sharply spiked fore and aft — by the end of the 19th century, a blunter shape with a round nose was proven to generate less hydrodynamic drag).

1868 torpedo shows pointed end and single-screw with a duct ring.

1868 torpedo shows pointed end and single-screw with a duct ring.

1884 torpedo is a little thicker and has introduced dual counterrotating props to neutralize torque.

1884 torpedo is a little thicker and has introduced dual counterrotating props to neutralize torque. The ring was found to inhibit propeller efficiency.

1898 torpedo has a more organic shape and well-uptimized counterrotating screws.

1898 torpedo has a more organic shape and well-optimized counterrotating screws.

Devices pioneered here for control were a mechanical depth control and a variety of steering gyroscopes. John Whitehead tried to develop a torpedo gyroscope but his model was a dead end. Instead, they purchased a design from former Whitehead engineer Lodovico Obry. Much of this history is recounted on the Torpedo of Rijeka website.

The Obry gyroscope

The Obry gyroscope

In the years leading up to the Great War, Whitehead’s company, Torpedofabrik Whitehead AG, was controlled by a British syndicate of the arms and engineering giants Vickers and Armstrong-Whitworth, who’d acquired it on his death in 1905 and continued torpedo development.

After the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian empire at war’s end, the factory was acquired by an influential Italian family, and its name was changed to an Italian one, but cutting-edge torpedo development for all nations resumed. The testing station on the docks had a new level built with a catapult to simulate aerial torpedo launches.

The torpedo launch test station offered a ship-launch level, and air-launch level with catapult, and an observation level.

The torpedo launch test station offered a ship-launch level, and air-launch level with catapult, and an observation level.

The plant resumed torpedo production again after being bombed by the Allies in World War II, but ceased that production in the 1960s. The physical plant and its distinctive torpedo test tower (alas, not the original from 1866 but the upgrade from the 20th Century) still exist. The enthusiasts of the Torpedo of Rijeka website hope to establish a permanent museum to their city’s most enduring export. Rijeka today is a sun-blessed city on the Adriatic coast of Croatia, and a reasonable European vacation destination.

Whitehead had a most remarkable life. His daughter Alice married the skipper of the Austrian boat that tested and validated his prototype torpedoes; his granddaughter Agnes inherited his vast fortune, and she in turn married an Austro-Hungarian minor nobleman and naval officer that she met at a sub commissioning. The officer would later command that sub and another on his way to becoming the Empire’s top-scoring submarine ace, in which career he naturally used Whitehead torpedoes to sink English and Italian vessels (including an Italian submarine, Nereida, in possibly the first sub-on-sub torpedo battle in history).

You might have heard of the guy, who later emigrated to the United States with their kids after Agnes passed away. His name was Georg, Baron von Trapp.

Quick Consumer Tip: LOSD book, 25% off

Law of Self Defense Andrew BrancaWe have this book and we paid full freight for it, and it was worth every damn penny. You can get it for 25% off, if you act now.

Did we mention that we liked and recommend the book?

The book, The Law of Self Defense, is by the nation’s leading self-defense legal expert, Andrew Branca, a Massachusetts (of all places!) lawyer. And now you can get it for 25% off, and you can give credit to the CSGV, which is some anti-gun group. (They don’t have much of a real-world presence, they’re just more Bloomberg astroturf, which is why we forget how the acronym breaks out, but it’s something along the lines of Criminals Shooting Guns Viciously, or something like that).

You can get the book here, and put the following code in to save 25%: @CSGV.

Heh. As Andrew said in his Tweet announcing the price break, “No joke.”

So why did he give credit to his readers, in the name of the notorious anti-gun group? It’s like this: they’ve been trying to get him disinvited from the various universities where he’s been speaking on his summer lecture tour this year. They’ve been trying to shut him up. (Lotsa luck with that, kiddies).

Of course, they haven’t had any success; but that’s to be expected. Crazy Uncle Mikey Bloomberg’s money buys more persistence than it does competence.

Plus, he’s selling more books and getting more people at the seminars he’s been holding thanks to the attack. (Hmm. If a cyber attack can come from something we define as a Advanced Persistent Threat, is this inept and backfiring approach to silencing Branca more of a Retarded Persistent Threat? Could be. As he put it in his blog,  “Anyway, I certainly hope they keep it up–I couldn’t possibly afford to pay for this kind of advertising…. Indeed, I’m going to get both those tweets blown up and hung on my office wall, like animal trophies. :-)”

So what is best on a book tour? We don’t expect to hear from Andrew about that until he, and his motorcycle, are back in New England, but we would guess it sounds something like: “To crush your enemies. And hear the lamentations of their women.”

And, don’t forget you’ll be hearing the lamentations of their girly-men, too. So amble on over to the LOSD store, and get yourself (and maybe your pistol-packin’ pals; they need it too) a copy of this excellent book.

Hat tip, the estimable John Richardson at No Lawyers.

What’s Safe Pressure in a Given Cartridge and Weapon?

Screenshot 2014-04-13 23.25.51We’re lifting this from Dan Cotterman’s Handloading column in the September/October, 1983, edition of American Handgunner magazine.

Dan, wherever he is, may well forgive us, because he in turn lifted the idea from Vern Speer (of Speer reloading fame), as he freely admits:

The late Vern Speer years ago worked out an uncomplicated and quite practical method for determining relative chamber pressures. Observing, and rightly so, that different guns produce pressures in differing amplitudes, and that test data from serious laboratories using pressure guns were often less than consistent, Spear said he’d discovered a more reliable process.

Acknowledging the fact that the cartridge case is the weakest link in the chain of components, he wrote:

“If the pressures at which these cartridge cases are fired do not exceed the elastic limit of the unsupported rim of the cartridge case, then we consider that the pressures are entirely usable, regardless of what they might be.

“We fire increased loads, increasing the charge by about a grain at a time, and check the rim diameter of the cartridge case with sensitive measuring instruments, both before and after firing. If any measurable increase in diameter of the rim of the case is noted, we consider that pressure is excessive, reduce the charge about 6 percent and list it as a maximum load in our loading table:”

Speer went on to acknowledge the value of looking for other signs of excess pressure (such as difficult extraction and flattened or cratered primers), in addition to measuring rim diameter. Note also that he cited “any measurable increase” as sufficient cause for reducing a load.

The foregoing may exist as a viable means of determining relative chamber pressures, especially for the home loader who does his work physically and financially removed from costly laboratory equipment.

That’s a sensible, simple, and practical means of setting maximum pressure when you’re developing loads. It might be a better method for using with pistols than with rifles; rifle bolts tend to provide much better case-head support than the usual pistol’s chamber does, and that case-head support might mask signs of increased pressure, especially the very subtle “any measurable increase” that Speer was looking for.

We also thought that the way Speer worded his comments suggests that he found this method not only, “safe enough to use,” but also superior to the supposed gold standard of firing in a pressure rifle. Of course, it’s not going to work with large caliber Glocks: even factory loads can bulge the cases in those!

The whole magazine, of course, is interesting, as it’s a time capsule from an era 30 years ago. In those days, American Handgunner was a bastion of revolver holdouts and 1911 fiends (in those days, we were all 1911 fiends), and covered the then-hot sport of metallic silhouette shooting.

The advertisements are our favorite part of any old magazine. In this one, they include revolver holsters and 1/3 moon clips, things that are much less popular today that they were then; aftermarket products like the Metaloy hard chrome refinish, which is still available but seems to have lost market and mind share; and products we don’t even remember knowing about at the time, like the .41 Avenger conversion kit for the 1911 from SSK Industries in Ohio. The 41 Avenger was a little bit before it’s time: the big idea was to combine the flat trajectory of the 9mm with 30% more energy. The idea’s time did come in the form of the 10 mm and the .40, but nobody remembers the .41 Avenger now. Well, we don’t. YMMV.

Volkssturm Carbines, part 2 of 2

Continued from: The Genesis of the Volkssturm Carbines. Why? published March 27, 2014. 

When we last looked at the Volkssturm carbines, it was late summer or early fall of 1944, and a handful of the guns were about to be presented to Hitler as a sort of staff decision memo by Reichsminister for Armaments and War Production, Albert Speer. The weapons included several single-shot and repeating bolt guns, and a version of the famous, if very rare, VG 1-5.

Gustloff VG 1-5 - GunLab

Purportedly after doing this, Speer wrote and transmitted the following (emphasis added):

The Reichs Minister for Armaments and War Production

TAE-no. 99 10786/44 secret

Berlin, the 5th of November 1944

Pariser Platz 3

SECRET

(to: [action copies])

speer_letter_p._1Chief of the Army Arms Office, General of Artillery Leeb

Main Directorate for Weapons, Director Engineer Weissenborn

Chief of the Armaments Staff, Senior Department Head Saur

Information Copies:

Chief of Army Equipment and Commander of the Home Army, Reichsführer-SS Himmler

Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht, Field Marshal Keitel

Chief of the General Staff of the Army, Colonel-General Guderian

Chief of Army Equipment and Commander of Replacements, SS-Senior Colonel and Waffen-SS General Jüttner

Chief of the Army Staff at the High Command of the Wehrmacht, General of Infantry Buhle

Leader of the Party Chancellery, Reichsleiter Bormann

High Command of the Wehrmacht, Wehrmacht Leadership Staff / Organizational Office, Lt. Col of the General Staff Fett

Main Directorate of Ammunition, Consul-General Stahl

The following proposed People’s-Rifles (Volksgewehre) have been presented to the Führer

a)     Single-shot guns for normal rifle cartridge. From the firms:

  1. Appell, from Berlin-Spandau;
  2. Bergmann K.G., from Velten;
  3. Gustloff-Werke, from Suhl; and,
  4. Walther, from Zella-Mehlis.

b)    Repeaters for normal rifle cartridge. There were two of these, from the firms:

  1. Deutsche Industrie-Werke, from Berlin (with the 10-shot magazine of the K.43);
  2. Röchling (Coenders), from Wetzlar (with 5-shot loading strips).

c)     Repeaters with short cartridge 44. From the firm Deutsche Industrie-Werke, Berlin (two different versions with 30-shot magazines);

d)    Self-loader with short cartridge 44. From the firm Gustloff-Werke, Suhl (with 30-shot magazine).

speer_letter_p._2Reference: a) The Führer has rejected all Single-shots on fundamental grounds. Of them, the one from the Walther firm pleased him most.

Reference: b) and c) as a Repeater, the model of the Deutsche Industrie-Werke was recommended by Colonel-General Guderian and General Buhle, in that its manufacture is very simple and it is made up of very easily made assemblies (no forged parts, no tubular material, no deep-drawn sheet metal and large tolerances).  The Führer is in agreement with this recommendation, but he recommends shortening the barrel, if it can be done without significantly increasing recoil, and additionally improvement of the outward appearance of the weapon, such as rounding the receiver. Psychologically the Führer considers such a primitive weapon unfit for troop issue. The immediate start of manufacturing in a quantity of 400,000 to 450,000 pieces by using Air Force and Army barrels on hand, as well as available K43 magazines is directed, as long as the Army Ordnance Office (Heereswaffenamt) agrees and raises no objections. I would consider an output of 100,000 weapons in December, 1944, possible.

As an end goal, the Führer considers the People’s Rifle with the Short Cartridge 44 and a magazine of about 10 shots, which should not hinder the shooter in firing from the prone position; the long 30-shot magazine of the MP 44 is not to be used.

Reference d) the Gustloff-Werke’s self-loader is rejected by the shore by the Führer on the grounds of too-high cost, and too-high consumption of ammunition; further that the MP44 has about the same manufacturing and material requirements, and already is in mass production in very high quantities.

Heil Hitler, Speer.

Well, that’s a bit to think about. You’re welcome to check our translation; sorry about the so-so cell phone images of the documents.

The key takeaways

To us the big surprise in this document, which can scarcely be surprising to experts in the field because we found it in an old issue of the German magazine Waffen Revue, is the outright rejection of the VG 1–5, the Gustloff semi-automatic carbine for the short cartridge. Hitler’s reported strong opinions seem to be in line with those that might be held by a junior NCO of First World War vintage. His concern that the crudity of some of the proposed weapons would impinge on rifleman morale seems to be on target, as does his concern about a large box magazine and the prone position; his worry that they would blaze away and waste ammunition, less so. (For all that leaders and generals have fretted over ammunition wastage over the centuries, as each new development — breechloading cartridges, repeaters, semi-autos, select-fire — increased the grunt’s theoretical rate of fire, cases of grunts shooting their ammo stocks dry seem to be rather rare and restricted to situations in which said grunts were doomed and were being overrun, anyway. Joe Snuffy turns out to be a rational actor when his life is on the line).  It was interesting to learn that the short MP44 magazine found here and there (like the one famously photographed in an MP45 prototype) resulted not from the desire of engineers to have a short mag for testing, but from the dictator’s concern about his frontline grunts. 

Gustloff VG 1-5 repro - GunLab

It was also a surprise for us to see the production of the VG 1-5, which we’ve been watching go together over at GunLab (in-progress, above), compared with that of the MP 44, which has many more stamping steps. We can only presume that the MP44 had well-thought-out production schedules and tooling, and the simpler VG, which seems designed more with a view to cottage manufacture, didn’t.

Did Hitler Really Make These Decisions?

It’s hard to say. There’s no known document with Hitler’s signature (although after the July 20, 1944 attempt on his life, he seems to have signed fewer documents). Instead, there’s one from Albert Speer, saying, “the weapons were presented to the Führer”; “the Führer dismissed on fundamental grounds”, and so forth, but do we have anything but Speer’s word what we’re hearing is Hitler’s, and not Speer’s decision? And how much faith do we have in the integrity of Speer, the man who initiated the genre of self-serving Nazi bigwig memoirs? There are no answers to these questions; it does seem that in the higher levels of the Nazi hierarchy there was a fairly common practice of playing Führer’s-mouthpiece, with Himmler, Bormann and Göring among those who issued orders purporting to come from the mouth under the funny mustache itself.

A strong indication that this really was Hitler’s opinion is the reference to the aesthetics of the Deutsche Industrie-Werke repeater, and to the need for them to be improved if the soldier were to have confidence in his firearm. This sounds like a front-line combat veteran talking; and Hitler, whatever his faults, was such a veteran; Speer was not.

One indication that Speer may be on the level is that General Heinz Guderian, the great tank tactician, was quoted in the memo as well as an information addressee. Guderian had his own power base with Hitler, based not strictly on loyalty but on proven past performance. Would Speer have fibbed in a document Guderian might have brought up with Hitler himself? It seems unlikely. But the unlikely was an everyday occurrence in the 12 years of the Thousand-Year Empire.

 

ATF Says Nyet to SIG MP-X-Carbine, SIG Sees ‘Em in Court

SIG MPX-CThe Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has ruled that the muzzle brake for the SIG-Sauer MP-X Carbine model is “intended only for use” as a silencer. (We covered the introduction of the MP-X in January, 2013). The timeline of the whole SIG-ATF interaction also serves as an illustration for the glacial pace at which the payroll patriots of ATF do, or don’t do, just about anything:

  1. 4 Apr 2013: MPX-C submitted by SIG to ATF’s FIrearms Technology Branch (FTB)for evaluation.
  2. 26 Aug 2013: (note, 153 days later — ATF speed) FTB rules that the muzzle brake is a silencer. It is, says FTB, a “monolithic baffle stack. Welding it to a barrel does not change its characteristics or function.”
  3. 6 Sep 2013: (10 days later — private sector speed) SIG responds to ATF with the results of tests that show that the device does reduce recoil and muzzle rise, but that instead of silencing a weapon, the gadget the bozos at FTB think is a silencer actually increases the sound level of the rifle’s report. SIG also shows other examples of similar devices that have not been classified by the arbitrary FTB examiners as silencers — just SIGs. SIG’s letter includes comprehensive documentation.
  4. 21 Feb 2014: (141 days later — ATF speed) The FTB responds, ignoring but not disputing SIG’s evidence, and reasserting that the part looks like it might go in a silencer to FTB’s GED-level experts, therefore, it is a silencer. Amazingly, to the FTB, the fact that it does not silence, suppress, muffle, or reduce sound is irrelevant. So it’s a non-silencing silencer, and SIG can lump it.
  5. 7 Apr 2014: (47 days later — getting lawyers involved slows even the private sector down) SIG files suit in the US District Court of New Hampshire.

SIG’s is being represented by two excellent attorneys, NH’s Mark Rouvalis and Virginia-based national and international gun-law expert and legal author Stephen Halbrook.

SIG MPX-C-right

Although the technology exists to conduct clear and simple tests of suppressor noise reduction — one example protocol, developed by Dr Phil Dater, is used by the military — the ATF’s supposed experts at the Firearms Technology Branch don’t have this capability, and so they don’t evaluate items they think are suppressors or suppressor parts on it: instead, they eyeball the piece, based on their past training (which is in-house and shallow), and experience. They do not need to look at ATF precedents — FTB rulings are non-precedential, sometimes ephemeral, and each one is approached de novo. They are never retracted, unless they favor the applicant, and then they’re subject to a revocation process that’s as arbitrary and capricious as the original process was.

ATF may be relying on erroneous media reports, when the MPX was introduced, that the MPX-C muzzle brake was identical to the suppressor innards and “all you need to do is add a registered tube” to have the same suppressor.

But in a very similar case just last month, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Innovator Enterprises “Stabilizer Brake” is not a suppressor, and that ATF’s method of guessing the effects of a device based on hunches and eyeballs is “arbitrary and capricious” and not a “reasonable construction” of the law. (Here’s the write-up of the case at Guns.com and at Courthousenews.com; here’s Innovator’s complaint; here’s the Court Ruling – the last two courtesy J Frazer Law).  The judge’s opinion is definitely worth reading; it looks like the Department of Justice attorneys played fast and loose with the truth.

 

NH Criminals use a higher class of gun than their MA cousins

That’s one of our take-aways from this report on the state crime lab.  While a lot of the crime lab is dedicated to drugs and toxicology,

Three walls of a room in the state crime lab’s criminalistic department are lined with guns seized from New Hampshire crime scenes, ranging from palm-sized pistols to a rocket launcher found in someone’s apartment.

There’s also a water tank, through which bullets are shot from suspect guns before the spent bullets are retrieved and compared to evidence found at crime scenes or in bodies.

Bullets are made “a hair larger” than their intended gun barrels, so they take on unique markings, Pifer explained.

Through electronic Leica microscopes, which display split images of the ballistics evidence next to test samples, scientists can reach eureka moments when evidence links a gun to a shooter. Sometimes the science is aimed at finding criminals, Pifer said, other times it’s to determine which of several police officers at a scene fired a shot.

Thanks to crime shows, most people have an idea (if an exaggerated idea) of what ballistics evidence can do. Most people don’t know, however, how easy it is to restore defaced serial numbers.

If serial numbers have been filed off of a gun, Pifer said, his lab technicians can often restore them. Fingerprints on triggers and ammo clips can be lifted, magnified, photographed and uploaded to a federal database for a nationwide search, he said.

And finally, you have this:

While meeting with colleagues from Massachusetts, Pifer said, he learned that because New Hampshire gun laws are more liberal, the quality of guns involved in crimes here are better. In Massachusetts, he said, lab scientists get guns “sometimes held together with duct tape” and they’re afraid to test fire them, he said.

via State lab uses science in fight against crime | SeacoastOnline.com.

We actually don’t buy that chain of causation, actually. There are quite a few reasons that the criminals of NH are demographically distinct from their brothers in crime to the south — one reason is that armed criminals are much more common in Massachusetts, where armed violent crime is punished mildly if at all.

Marksmanship for the Squad Designated Marksman

In this video, You Are There™ as SSG John Arcularius of the US Army Reserve Shooting Team delivers a class on Marksmanship for the Squad Designated Marksman for designated marksmen of the 2/504 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division.

As it is classroom, mostly podium, instruction, it may be a bit slow for some of you. Pay attention, though! Even though Arcularius spends most of his time on the boring old fundamentals of marksmanship, centuries (literally!) of experience has taught the Army as an institution that the boring old fundamentals are still the best way of putting warheads on foreheads — when the “warheads” at issue are M118ER 158-grain M118LR 175-grain (thanks, Dan in the comments) slugs.

The M14 in general is not a sniper-accuracy weapon, although the M21s once built by the National Match armorers, and any gun built by one of the dwindling set of smiths initiated in the dark art of M1 and M14 National Match accuracy tuning, can be. But these rifles the SDMs have are M14EBR-RI models, which stands for M14 Enhanced Battle Rifle – Rock Island. As the name suggests, they’re built at the Rock Island Arsenal from stored M14 generic rack grade rifles. While they’re thoroughly inspected and adjusted, they’re not match guns by any means. The M14 is removed from storage, cleaned and inspected, repaired if necessary, then mated with a SAGE Industries chassis, a scope mount and an optic. Then they’re repacked with magazines and accessories and either delivered to Army units or stored against future requisitions.

The M14EBR-RI and its Squad Designated Marksman operator are meant to fill the tactical gap between the other components of the squad’s firepower and the true precision sniping systems and tactics, which are wonderful but unavailable to the rifle squad.

The Genesis of the Volkssturm Carbines. Why?

Nazis: beastly but fascinating. They caused the second most trouble and death of any revolutionaries in history (the Communists have pretty much retired that trophy for all time). They spread their evil ideology from the Pyrenees to the Caucusus. And, what’s probably the biggest source of their appeal, they had spiffy uniforms (with a tip of black hat to Hugo Boss) and terrific Teutonic technology.

Gustloff VG 1-5 - GunLab

But not all their technology was world-class. As the war ground on, the Third Reich’s foothold in Europe contracted under the relentless pressure of the USSR in the East and the US and UK in the West and South, not to mention a wide range of national resistance movements and a bothersome strategic bombing campaign. Hermann Göring had planned that Operation Barbarossa would deliver the machine tools and industrial raw materials of the vast Soviet factories into his hands; instead, the Russians’ rapid dismantling and displacement of industry — tools, fixtures, workers, and all — left him empty-handed. The new war-production overlord, architect Albert Speer, pressed every industry to do more with less. (This didn’t happen only in Germany and Occupied Europe; put a “War Finish” British revolver next to a prewar example, or for that matter, compare the beautiful, polished blue on a 1930s Tokarev pistol to a crude 1944 example).

By 1944, the Germans were running out of small arms, and they couldn’t build them as fast as they were being lost. So they began considering what were the barest minimum features a firearm needed to be militarily useful. They were losing men, as well; and desperate measures were soon in hand for personnel, as well as for armaments.

Many collectors have marveled over the crude arms issued at war’s end to the Deutsche Volkssturm, and wondered what had so depressed the abilities of the Germans, supposedly Europe’s leading technologists. But in 1945 hardened Russian, American and British forces were encountering ill-fed old men and boys armed with the military equivalent of crude zip guns. Many collectors today believe these guns to have been locally ordered and produced. But they hardly made a difference to the outcome of the war.

So, why the Volkssturm guns? Why such variety and crudity? And were they centrally planned?

The short answer is this: because they needed them, because no one source could supply enough, and yes.

The Germans were caught flatfooted by their 1943 defeats, and they were desperate to arm a replacement for the armies no longer available to defend the Reich. At the war’s outset, they did not expect or plan for continued losses and resets of small arms, and small arms planners were late to learn of the late 1944 surge plan to create a nationwide militia of 6,000,000 sort-of soldiers – who were minus the 6,000,000 arms they needed to actually be soldiers.

Japan planned from early in the war to fight with limited natural resources. That’s why, for example, Japanese rifles have chrome bores: not for the durability and corrosion-resistance benefits that have made them commonplace on modern military rifles, but because their researchers found it was a less costly substitute for expensive chrome-moly steels in increasing barrel strength. The Germans, on the other hand, did not expect to be resource-constrained. They fought the war, after all, to gain resources, including Lebensraum for the German people. Even when the war began to turn against the Axis, many German managers remained in deepest denial.

But by 1944, even Hitler had a hard time deluding himself about German expansion, and his appointed war production satrap, Albert Speer, was brutally realistic about German war production.

With entire German armies in the bag in Africa and Russia, and ongoing meatgrinders in Russia and Italy, the Germans were running short of manpower even before a second major front opened in June, 1944. The plans for the Deutsche Volkssturm, a mass-levied militia, went forward briskly. While many books seem to imply that the Volkssturm was merely a locally-raised militia beholden to regional Gauleiters, the Gauleiters were responding to a framework that was produced by Speer’s, among others’, central planning.

By November 30, 1944 the Staff Leader of the Deutsche Volkssturm (the German term is Stabsführer) envisioned a force of 6,000,000 men organized in over 10,000 battalions. The units were to be levied in four tranches and armed as shown:
deutsche_volkssturm_plans

There was a slight problem with this, the staff director admitted, after further breaking down the numbers by particular Gau, he found that the Gaus that needed the guns the most urgently – the ones that were already invaded by the Allies, or were about to be, which two unlucky groups he called the “threatened Gaus” — had, on paper, a potential of 1,450 Volkssturm-bataillonen, yet of the needed 871,300 small arms, they had on hand only 9,690 – about two rifles per company, then.

It makes the 1942 Russian forces in Enemy at the Gates look positively lavishly equipped: why, every other or every third man had a rifle! Whether the real situation in Stalingrad got as bad for the Red Army as Enemy at the Gates’s Hollywood version portrays, the situation for the Wehrmacht and especially for the Volkssturm by the late fall of 1944 was substantially worse.

By this point, facing a deliberate attack by an American mechanized battle group or a Soviet motorized infantry battalion was hard enough for fully-equipped, valiantly-led first-line German formations. For second-liners and militiamen, it was the equivalent of suicide-by-cop. But for them to even serve as speedbumps or to fill in inactive sectors of a defensive line the Volkssturm’s old men and boys needed something.

That was the genesis of the Volkssturm arms program: to produce rapidly enough weapons to put one in the hands of each of six million cannon-fodder Volkssturmmänner.

Six German firms responded, offering nine different models, of four general types:

  • Single-shot guns that used the normal German 7.92 x 57mm cartridge. There were four of these, from: Appell; Bergmann; Gustloff-Werke; and, Walther.
  • Repeaters that used the 7.92 x 57mm round. There were two of these: one from Deutsche Industrie-Werke, which used the 10-shot detachable magazine of the K.43, and one from Röchling, which used 5-round stripper clips to reload.
  • Repeaters that used the 7.92 x 33mm short cartridge. Deutsche Industrie-Werke offered two different versions.
  • One semi-auto rifle that used the 7.92mm short cartridge. This came from the Gustloff-Werke, who hedged their bet with the single-shot turnbolt gun mentioned above. This is the famous VG 1-5, whose picture (from GunLab, where reproductions are underway) graces the top of this story.

Every one had a rough-hewn stock and rudimentary, usually fixed, sights. These rifles were demonstrated to Adolf Hitler (or maybe they weren’t, actually) in the first week of November, 1944; and Hitler reportedly made his comments, issued his guidance, and selected the weapons to be produced.

To be continued.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: The Firearm Blog

Screenshot 2014-03-26 21.10.32The Firearm Blog is an excellent place to get gun news, often news that is buried on other sites or that just isn’t found anywhere else. That’s no secret to us: search Google for “the firearm blog” site:weaponsman.com and you’ll get over 100 hits, six or seven pages of them, most of those mentions being where we give Steve Johnson and his gang credit for stories we found there.

Sometimes we pass the story on. Sometimes we develop it further. Sometimes we disagree with what Steve and his writers have written, but those seven pages of Google hits tell us we keep coming back to Steve and his guys (and at least one gal, Annette Wachter).

You should, too.

Here’s what’s on there today, just on the front page:

  • A manufacturer’s release of night sights for the compact Glock 42. Tritium is your friend, although these are apparently photoluminescent (i.e., they “recharge” from being in daylight, to illuminate at night). We’ll stick with tritium, but it’s good to see a new gun getting some love from the aftermarket.
  • A report on a factory tour with the controversial Tac-Con company that makes a wildly hyped “ATF legal full auto trigger group.” We’ll probably review one of these very expensive triggers anon.
  • A shooter’s report on his first 2000 rounds through a new (well, it was when he started) FN FNS-9 longslide pistol.
  • More proof that “tactical” has gone mentally nonlinear, the “Deluxe Tactical Beer Koozie” which is a “miniature tactical vest beverage koozie.” Well, it’s meant as a gag. We think.
  • A press release on the Silencer Shop Direct program, which takes much of the NFA hassle off you — if you have a corporation or trust set up.
  • A report (lifted from Jane’s) on a Filipino purchase of $53 million worth of Remington R4s. That gets them 63,000 guns, probably select fire. These will replace the nation’s elderly M16A1s (hmmm… parts kits? We need to overturn the ATF’s barrel ban). It’ll be interesting to see if these R4s (basically, badge-engineered Bushmasters) are produced in Ilion, or if Remington assembles them in their new plant, far from Cuomostan.
  • And one that’s definitely worth linking: in the light of ATF’s shadow war on soi-disant “80% receivers” (technically, in the Bureau’s view, “receiver blanks”) and the customers who buy and complete them, Thomas Gomez of TFB posted (with the permission of Chris Garrison of Billet Rifle Systems), ATF’s Letter Of Determination as issued to Chris and BRS in February, 2013.
  • A Ruger rimfire recall. Not of interest unless you have a Ruger American Rimfire rifle, and if we own anything that ugly, it needs to have a bayonet lug and have been issued in some army. But if you have one of those homely sticks, you might need that recall info.
  • A warning about polymer-cased PCP ammo. Hey, they only tried it in two guns. Of course, it did blow up the guns, so there is that.
  • A promotional video on S&T’s (formerly Daewoo) K14 sniper rifle, a typically modern, modular gun. Here’s the video:

And there’s more stuff besides… and there will be more tomorrow. So, The Firearm Blog is a thoroughly deserving Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week.