Category Archives: Weapons Education

3D-Printed 9MM Semiauto (video rich); 3D Guns Update

As we have expected to happen for some time, and as the initial Cody Wilson “Liberator” first demonstrated, 3D-printed firearms made of common addititive-manufacturing plastics like ABS or PLA inevitably had to diverge from common steel firearms practice to take advantage of those plastics’ strength — and overcome their weaknesses.

That means that, while early prints were nothing but, for example, a plastic version of an AR lower dimensionally identical to its aluminum forbear, but destined for a short life (especially in PLA), more and more designs are innovating in different directions.

This series of videos shows the Shuty, a 9mm pistol based on kitbashing the designs of British homemade gun pioneer P.A. Luty and the AR-15 together. It uses several metal parts, including the barrel (which comes from a Glock 17), the fire-control group (AR), and the bolt (home-made). On the other hand, the magazine, upper and lower receivers, and bolt carrier, are all printed from a polymer generally thought unsuitable for firearms parts. Turns out, you can design around materials deficiencies (as the Japanese did when they used chrome bores for strength, to offset the suboptimal alloys they had for rifle barrels, decades before other nations adopted them for durability, and when their aeronautical engineers designed assemblies built-up of  7075-equivalent alloy sheet where every other skyfaring nation would use a 7075 forging).

Here is Derwood’s working Shuty, redesigned from the original, as of 1 May 15:

He says:

After several failed attempts with the Shuty, I decided to beef it up to handle the stress. The combination plastic/steel bolt works very good. After several test fires, the frame and lower is holding up well and no damage has occurred.

The plastic parts were all printed on the SeeMeCNC Orion printer, an entry-level machine, in PLA (polylactic acid), the entry-level printing material that is biodegradable and derived from renewable resources. The bolt assembly looks complex, but:

Its just three steel dowels stacked and welded together parallel with each other. the bottom smaller dowel is drilled for the firing pin. the center dowel is a spacer. the top dowel is the buffer.

Fosscad (an informal, leaderless, cellular homemade-3D-gun resistance) picked up the video and Fosscad user ma deuce posted it on 22 May 15. (Link only because it’s basically the same video, why embed it?)

Here’s Derwood’s next video, 20 May 15, showing a longer test fire. What appears to be a jam at the end isn’t, actually; what it is, is the bolt gnawing on the magazine spring because this work in progress doesn’t have a magazine follower yet — just a spring pushing the cartridges up! Oy.

Well, if you’re going to crib something, cribbing Glock’s feed ramp by using their barrel is a short cut to a working firearm. Glock reliability is not accidental, it’s a product of careful design and iterative improvement.

So that brings us to 27 May 15. It’s fully working, with firing and a mag change, two eight-round mags complete:

Derwood says it’s still evolving, and not finished yet; when he thinks it’s “finished,” he’ll release the .stl files. Until then, he tinkers on at a high rate of speed.

As a practical 9mm pistol the Shuty has its limitations. It gives you all the firepower of a Kel-Tec belly gun in a platform the size of what it is, a mongrel of AR-15 and MAC M10 ancestry. It has no sights, no stocks, and is only slightly more concealable than a basketball. Made of PLA, the stuff used in the dishes microwave dinners come in, it’s destined for a short life, by gun standards (we’ve got guns one and two centuries old here). So, as a practical pistol? A turkey. But as a proof of concept, it is enough to get would-be totalitarians “all wee-wee’d up” (in the locution of one such).

Ah, but bolts? Barrels? Too early to write about, but people are working those issues.

Some Other 3D Developments

Of course, the Shuty is far from the only 3DP pistol in development. Here one is with the Imura revolver (left) and the Songbird pistol (center):

Imura Songbird Shuty Redesign

Joel Leathers of Texas even posted the .stl files for the Glock 17 on Thingiverse. (That link 404s; the files were deleted, due to MakerBot’s political anti-gun position, but there is a story on PrintedFirearm.com. At least they didn’t unperson Joel on Thingiverse. Yet).

Glock-3_preview_featured

Of course, a printed Glock part will not be usable in a firearm as is. But we can see practical uses for the files. (How about a printed, brightly colored, safety barrel for use in mechanical training? Pennyslvania State Police?)

How has this technology progressed so fast? Some of these guys print a lot. This printer has racked up nearly two months of run time, and used over six miles of filament!

Some of these guys print a lot

This is a 10-22 with receiver and trigger housing printed. We’ve discussed this project before. (Indeed, that story from last month has a photo in it which is a crop of the one below).

10-22 with major parts printed

We’ve shown the receivers before, but here are some printed trigger housings.

10-22 trigger housing printed

AR receivers continue to be developed. This heavily-reinforced AR-10 lower design, the Nephilim (an obscure Biblical reference to a purported race of human/angel crossbred giants) by Warfairy, shows

AR10 Nephilim by Warfairy

Here at Hog Manor, we’re still on the waitlist for our printer.

If You Build It, Nanny Wants to Ban It

Banning this sort of thing is very tempting to anti-gun lawmakers, political appointees, and those executives in the ATF who see the agency’s mission as “to destoy gun ownership.” Indeed, some of the European nations with fewer checks and balances hindering their legislative range of motion have already banned this kind of experimentation.

The problem with that, is that it is but a short step from the Shuty to a select-fire submachine gun. If you drive this design activity entirely underground, the designers are as well hung for a sheep as a lamb, no?

The largely-libertarian tinkerers making these things are doing no harm to a society, and may do some good. They have no sympathy with criminals who would use this technology to harm or threaten people. But let that be the line the law draws in the sand: not the malum prohibitum “if you make this we will hammer you,” but the malum in se “if you do harm with this we will hammer you, and the maker community will help us find you.”

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: CDR Salamander

Screenshot 2015-05-28 00.04.50There are some military blogs that have been around for a long time. One of the first we recall reading was CDR Salamander — a man in the long tradition of writing Naval officers. Before there were blogs, a military person separated from the service either had to find kindred souls locally, or subscribe to things that were printed on the pulp of dead trees.  During our short interregnum between active duty and finding a Reserve SF unit, we kept in touch with the military by joining organizations, and when it came time to join the Association of the US Army we jumped ship and joined the US Naval Institute instead. The reasons were simple: the swabbies could write. Our guys couldn’t. USNI’s Proceedings is stuffed with thought-provoking ideas expressed with verve, whereas Army was, in those days, as informative and lively as a gathering of Soviet agronomists celebrating the overfulfillment of the latest 5-year plan. (We don’t know if Proceedings still rocks and Army still sucks, but they sure did, then).

And Salamander? Dude can write. (In fact, these days he publishes his deeper thoughts on the US Naval Institute’s blog, but when he does, he links them via his blog.

He has a sense of humor, as his Buzzword-Bingo-champion blog tagline suggests:

PROACTIVELY “FROM THE SEA”; LEVERAGING THE LITTORAL BEST PRACTICES FOR A PARADIGM BREAKING SIX-SIGMA BEST BUSINESS CASE TO SYNERGIZE A CONSISTENT DESIGN IN THE GLOBAL COMMONS, RIGHTSIZING THE CORE VALUES SUPPORTING OUR MISSION STATEMENT VIA THE 5-VECTOR MODEL THROUGH CULTURAL DIVERSITY.

via CDR Salamander.

Recent posts include thoughtful adumbrations on PTSD; on how idiots keep expecting airpower without ground troops to accomplish anything, in the face of a century of contrary evidence; on the decommissioning of the USS Samuel B. Robertsa ship that was attacked by the Iranians in 1987 (and bears the name of a ship that fought with distinction in the Pacific in WWII); and one of our favorites, one wondering why the Navy has the free-for-all of ideas that characterizes the USNI, while the Air Force has generals that call pilots out for “treason”, because the jocks tried to save the A-10 by calling their Congressmen. (Oops, that actual post of his is at the USNI blog; the post in his own blog just links to it. By the way, the general in question has been defenestrated).

Another truly stunning post, stunning because we’d heard nothing about it, involved the shoehorning of female Midshipmen (wait, shouldn’t that be Midshippersons? Or maybe just Misdhips?) into grudgingly tailored male uniforms in pursuit of SecNav and Social justice Warrior Ray Mabus’s declared objective of a gender-neutral Navy1.

Now, we don’t much like Mabus. While happily presiding over a decline in naval strength more profound than, and nearly as tragic as, that of the morning of 7 December 41, his focus is on happily persecuting Christians. And he’s the guy who’s named ship after ship for undistinguished politicians.

Mabus just declared, today, that he wants female SEALs within two years. He orders it done, and orders that however it is done, it won’t be by lowering standards… just “changing” them. Gender-neutral SEALs. We can’t wait to see what Commander Salamander has to say about that.

Notes

  1. Yeah, that sounds bizarre as all get-out, but Sal’s got the message traffic that supports it (emphasis ours):

1.0 Background. In conjunction with the Gender Neutral effort endorsed by SECNAV, NEXCOM via N13 has tasked Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility (NCTRF) to develop a Female Service Dress White Coat design that mirrors the Male Service Dress White Choker Coat design ….

They want to stuff all female naval officers into this male uniform (the Midshippettes have complained they can’t move their arms in the guy coats, only to be told, who knows more about what women want, you chicks or Ray Mabus?), but they’re starting with the Midshipmen, who are pretty  defenseless against the Gender Neutral buggernaut from the E-Ring. They plan to do the same to USMC officers, too.

Lessons Learned from an ND

Everybody screws up. Almost everybody gets away with it. Here’s what happened to a guy who developed complacent gun-handling habits, and “got away with it” only thanks to blind luck in the bullet’s placement, that left him with neither fatal (if he’d hit the femoral artery) or crippling (femur and/or patella [kneecap]) wounds. We don’t have his name, so we’ll call him ND Guy.

Checking out of hospital after surgery and overnight stay, ND Guy knows he's lucky.

Checking out of hospital after surgery and overnight stay, ND Guy knows he’s lucky.

It was decent of him to share his experiences and photos (on Reddit’s /r/guns and Imgur), and the Internet being what it is, he’s been beaten up for it. We think he now (1) knows what he did wrong, and (2) is very unlikely to do it again, having been given a second chance.

I was attempting to disassemble my Glock 30 like I’ve done a thousand times before so I could install a new trigger spring. I had ejected the magazine and caught it before it fully left the gun, racked the slide to eject the round in the chamber, pulled up the the slide release pins and pulled the trigger to dry fire to remove the slide. Unfortunately for me I didn’t dry fire. I had accidentally moved the magazine back up and the lifting arm grabbed another round and chambered it. I know, I should have fully ejected the magazine before I continued but this is something I’ve done hundreds of times before without incident. But it only takes once right?
My doctor told me I was half an inch away from the lower end of my femur and my patella being entirely destroyed. This meaning I would have had a greater than 50/50 chance of my leg needing to be amputated above the knee. As it turns out though, my doctor working at a level one trauma center, told me that he’d never seen a bullet wound to the thigh/knee with as little damage as this.
All in all though, the main point of this is don’t be stupid or complacent like I was. Follow proper firearm safety protocol always, even if it seems stupid or pointless. Don’t get lazy and forgetful, because when you do accidents happen.

via Always make sure your chamber is empty NSFW : Firearms.

We have pictures of his wounds on the scene, and post-op showing two zippers in his leg, overleaf (for those of you who can’t stand the sight of blood).

Continue reading

Glock Training Pistols

We’ve covered the SIRT training pistol before, but such a successful market was probably not going to be neglected by Glock forever. In fact, Glock has introduced several versions of training pistol, most of which are available only to LE/military customers, so far. They can all take rail-mounted accessories or aftermarket sights without trouble.

Cutaway Pistols

Cutaways are used for teaching how a firearm works and are useful for training both users and armorers. Sure, an experienced armorer has no problem visualizing what’s going on inside a simple machine like a Glock 17, but seeing it in front of his face brings him to that threshold of knowledge sooner.

glock_cutaway

Here’s what Glock says about these:

GLOCK cutaway models are produced for technical and firearms training. These models are always a main attraction at training classes, presentations, and tradeshows because they clearly illustrate the ingeniously simple internal mechanisms of the GLOCK pistol. They are sold exclusively to law enforcement agencies.
Cutaway pistols in are available in the following models:
Gen3 – G17, G19, G20, G21, G22, G23
Gen4 – G17

Glock T FX Training Pistol

This is a special pistol for use with nonlethal Simunitions® FX 9mm marking ammunition for training, including kinetic training and force-on-force. It is available to LE and military customers only. As the Sims come in essentially a single caliber, there is only one standard catalog Glock T FX, the Glock 17 T FX.

glock_17_t_fx

As is customary with Simunitions guns, the 17 T FX Training Pistol functions on direct blowback. The blue parts of the slide are polymer inserts to reduce the slide weight and permit the pistol to cycle with the low-powered, light-weight training rounds.

Here’s the Glock factory description:

Over the years, Police, Special Units, SWAT, and Military units around the world have proven that static shooting training, combined with simulated shooting training, produces the greatest benefits. The GLOCK Training Pistols were developed with the purpose of enabling reality-based tactical operations training using color marking or plastic projectile ammunition.

Simunitions, Inc., now a division of General Dynamics Canada, has also long furnished conversion kits and dedicated training weapons on Glock as well as other platforms.

Glock P Practice Pistol

The Practice Pistol, here a G22P, fires neither Simunitions nor live ammunition. It’s simply a trainer, designed to impart mechanical skills to those new to handling Glock pistols.  It can be loaded, unloaded, disassembled and assembled, holstered and dry-fired like a regular Glock, but it can’t chamber or fire live ammunition.

glock_22p

Here’s the Glock rundown:

Loading magazines, sight alignment, trigger squeeze, and disassembling are all part of a shooter’s training routine. The GLOCK Practice Pistol was developed to eliminate dangerous scenarios during training exercises. Identical to a GLOCK pistol in handling, weight, size, and balance, it puts the real thing in your hand, without any firing capability.

Glock R Reset Pistol

The Glock Reset Pistol is their answer to the Next Level Training SIRT trainer. It’s not as complete, requiring the trainer or organization to source a separate laser module, but it is from Glock, meaning organizations can (and do) bundle it into their pistol bid.

glock_reset_pistol

Glock says this about that:

The GLOCK Reset Pistols automatically reset the trigger without having to manually manipulate the slide. They enable safe, practical training when used with a shooting simulator. An aftermarket, laser impulse generator can be integrated in the barrel, and when pulling the trigger, the firing pin will activate and register a virtual hit on a simulator screen.

The “aftermarket lasers” they’re talking about are things like the Laserlyte cartridge laser.

Hat tip: a friend who sent us to the anti-gun gun magazine, Recoil, which had a story on the Glock trainers that got us interested in looking them up.

 

You Can’t Downsize a Downsizer

Of course, we’ve remarked before that for centuries a service main arm have all been clustered around a fairly consistent size and weight, even as utility, range, firepower have undergone revolution after revolution; likewise, practical pistols cluster around a fairly consistent size and weight. There’s no real reason that a Glock 17 would be close in dimensions to a S&W Model 10 .38  and in turn to a Colt Navy .36 cap-and-ball revolver, unless that was a pretty practical size.

Conversely, guns that are made to be the Guinness Book edge cases for large/small/heavy/light/cheap/expensive are usually sideshow freaks with little practical utility. For example, consider the ill-fated Downsizer WSP (publicity photo, larger than actual size):

Downsizer WSP

Yes, that is a one-shot .45 ACP Derringer. It was also made in other calibers (.357 was advertised and is occasionally encountered; the box suggests 380, 9mm, and .40 S&W were also available or at least planned). More than one caliber is a rather remarkable thing in a production run that was, depending on who is talking, either just over or just under 100 units (one that sold for $895 at GunAuction.com two years ago, the one shown here on red felt, was SN 146; the numbers of production pistols are thought to have begun at 100). Machined from billet stainless steel, the Downsizer had a single shot and what’s arguably the world’s worst trigger, one that makes the NYPD “shoot-the-bystanders” NY2 Glock trigger seem like a freshly tuned Olympic Free Pistol. It’s double-action-only, creepy, long, and so heavy a typical woman or child couldn’t fire it. A man can’t fire it accurately, but this is a gun made for contact range. Or, for the sheer novelty of it.

Downsizer3

On firing, the Downsizer WSP in .45 (apparently the most common variant, and the only one we’ve seen in the flesh) produces a traumatizing roar and a fireball roughly equivalent to a DShK’s, which is saying something (the Soviet 12.7 being the undisputed strongman of small arms fireball generation). Firing the Downsizer is something you do once, and are immediately glad it’s a single shot, and you don’t have to finish a magazine out of this brute). There’s no ejector, you just poke the casing out with anything handy that’s less than .45 caliber and longer than the 2.1 inch barrel.

Downsizer 1While the WSP stood for World’s Smallest Pistol, it wasn’t, really.  A number of tiny European novelty guns are smaller yet.  But it was probably the smallest made for a full-house centerfire cartridge. These specifications were on the now-defunct Downsizer home page in 2006; all that seemed to change over time on that page was the links to media reports, and the price, which crept up from $250 in 2000 to $399 to $459 to $499.

Specifications
Model WSP (World’s Smallest Pistol)
Calibers 45 ACP, 357 Magnum (Also fires 38 Special)
Capacity Single Shot
Trigger Double action only
Action Tip up barrel, push button release
Materials Stainless steel, CNC machined
Sights None, smooth snag free top
Safety Internal firing pin block
Overall Length 3.25″ (Smaller than a playing card)
Barrel Length 2.10″
Height 2.25″ (Smaller than a playing card)
Thickness 0.90″
Weight 11 oz.
Suggest Retail $499

At least one set is known with four interchangeable barrels; interchangeable barrels were never an advertised option and it may have been a prototype. It also has a 1xx serial number.

So, what killed it, apart from its impracticality? It was designed in California and manufactured in Santee, CA, briefly before a series of more restrictive gun laws banned the sales of guns whose makers did not submit them to the CA DOJ and pay a political bribe punitive licensing fee to put them on, and keep them on, the Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale. If the license expires, or the manufacturer goes out of business, merges or relocates, the certification is voided (as recently happened to all Para USA firearms with Para bought by Remington Outdoor). The pistols being sold in 2006 were still pre-2001 production grandfathered under SB15, so, while SB15 killed production of the gun.

There was absolutely no chance the novelty Downsizer would have passed the CA DOJ test, a modern equivalent of the old Jim Crow “literacy test.” (The one that involved asking people to read a newspaper headline, but giving the black people a newspaper in Chinese). One purpose of the test, after all, is to remove defensive handguns from the market in favor of “sporting” guns. And there are persistent rumors online that the ATF took Downsizer’s Dan Chapman down over something and had him continue to “operate” the company (or had agents operate it, impersonating him) for years. By 2006, messages to “Chapman” were going into a black hole. At least one buyer paid for a gun in 2000 and never received it, nor any refund.

It received listings and “reviews” in a variety of 2000-2001 gun publications, generally such positive reviews that they make one wonder if the reviewers actually fired the beast. Onetime WeaponsMan W4 ENDO had an overview of the gun, with a photo of the rare four-barrel set sitting on one of those articles.

VPO-208: Russian Gunsmiths Respond to Russian Law

We’re familiar, here in the USA, with weapons that are shaped by US gun laws. We have a variety of weird and wonderful arms that exist only because of the Gun Control Act of 1968, the National Firearms Act of 1934, and the patchwork of implementing regulations and executive orders that have shaped the US market. In addition, state assault-weapon band have resulted in oddities like California’s “Bullet Buttons.” A wide range of legislatively-midwifed Frankenguns, from the Walther PPK/S, to short barreled rifles, to pistols with SIG braces, reflect the degree to which designers are constrained by the gun-designing impulses of American politicians and bureaucrats.

It should come as no surprise that the same thing happens in other countries with large gun markets. This case in point comes to us from Russia, where gun laws are generally stricter than in the United States. There, no one can own a pistol. Most citizens can own a shotgun; but to own a rifle you have to have owned the shotgun without incident for five years.

So here comes the VPO-208: an SKS shotgun.

SKS in .366Produced by Techcrim, an Izhevsk manufacturer, the .366 by Russian measure, across the lands (.375 by ours, across the grooves), is a smoothbore or near-smoothbore gun that gets the would-be gun owner into a semi-automatic, service rifle platform, while staying within the letters of Russian law.

The ammunition appears to be made from fireformed 7.62 x 39mm casings, and is available in a range of sporting projectiles, plus a shotshell variant.

It is reminiscent of such American wildcats (some of them since turned production) as the small-head .300 Whisper, .300 AAC Blackout, .338 Spectre, and the Mauser-head-sized .375 Reaper, all of which run in the AR-15 platform. It just goes to show that this kind of innovation is hardly an American monopoly.

The first table in the advert below has three columns: “Type of projectile”; “Speed, meters per second;” and “Energy, Joules”. Here’s our conversion of this table.

Projectile Type Velocity, m/s Energy, J Velocity, fps Energy, ft-lb
LSWC poly coat 13.5 grams 640 2765 2099 2039
FMJ 11 grams 700 2618 2296 1931
FMJ 15 grams 620 2883 2034 2126
JSP 15 grams 620 2883 2034 2126

Techkrim

 

As the shot of the fired JSP shows, and these velocity and energy tables suggest, it would actually be a good short-range hunting round.

The second table, with the bullet-drop diagram, is, “Velocity and Energy of Projectile, .366 TKM with 15-gram FMJ bullet”. Here’s our translation and unit conversion.

Metric (SI) Values Muzzle 50 meters 100 meters
Bullet Drop mm 0 35 125
Velocity m/s 625 570 520
Energy J 2837 2437 2028
English Values Muzzle 50m 100m
Bullet Drop in. 0 1.38 4.92
Velocity f/s 2050 1870 1706
Energy ft/lb. 2092 1797 1495

The problem with the gun is its accuracy, as it’s basically a smoothbore. Hyperprapor suggests that it might be minute-of-E-silhouette at 100m.

But hey, it will let some Russian guys own the rifle their nation’s color guards parade with, and even let them shoot it, all with the reduced paperwork and hassle of a shotgun; perhaps a big win for them.

There are no ballistics for the shotshell, which exists, we suspect, primarily to navigate the channels of Russian weapons law. (This law does seem somewhat liberalized since Soviet days). Techcrim’s website shows that they are very active in small-caliber (.410) shotguns and shells, which seem to have more of a following in Russia than they do here. We wonder if that’s an artifact of Russian law, too.

We saw this on r/guns, posted by our old friend hyperprapor, who notes that under Russian law “paradox rifling”  is legal if it’s under 150mm long (About 5.9″).  Paradox rifling is rifling that was just engraved in the last few inches of the bore of what was otherwise a shotgun, to give it some capability with a single ball or bullet. It was named by English bespoke gunmaker Holland and Holland, who adopted the patent from GV Fosbery of Webley-Fosbery fame. Westley Richards called it “Explora” but other makers seem to have stuck with the paradox name.

And this is definitely one for the “how weird does it get” file — a smoothbore SKS that is one short hop removed from the Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver!

You can’t drill a #40 hole with a #40.7 or so Drill

OK, not gunsmithing here, but planesmithing. And something has been going wrong for a while, but we were too blind to see it.

bent drill bit

The first phase of building a RV-12 involves drilling a lot of holes. It’s not arduous; many of the holes are already drilled in the parts, although undersize; hundreds need to be finish-drilled to size; some parts need to be clecoed together and match-drilled so there’s zero relative movement when they’re riveted together; a few holes need to made in virgin metal. Once the holes are drilled, they need to be deburred (we use a single-flute deburring tool) and some of them need to be countersunk for flush rivets. (Some, in thin sheet metal, are dimpled instead of countersunk).

In the tail section, relatively few drills are used. Because the AN rivets and pulled rivets are expressed in fractional sizes, most of the holes are drilled with numbered drills, and the ones that got a workout were #12, #30 and #40. (Drill gauge is like shotgun gauge: larger numbers are smaller diameters). For instance, the right hole for a 3/32″ rivet (0.09375″) is not a 3/32 (no clearance), but a #40 (0.098) gives you about four thousandths for clearance — and tolerances.

We found making holes to be easy, but there were a lot of frustrations when it came to using those holes. We couldn’t get the countersink’s pilot in the hole all the time (we wound up using an unpiloted countersink). Clecos, the small spring-loaded pins used to temporarily join sheet metal destined to be riveted, didn’t always go. Some of this is tolerance in the Clecos, and we through some troublesome ones away. (You can never have too many Clecos when building an aluminum airplane, but bad tools need banishing or they just cause trouble). Then, when it came to riviting… the rivets didn’t fit. It was hard to fit them in. When we did, the friction was so heavy it was hard to form good heads.

On the bright side, we got some practice at drilling out rivets. So there was that.

Last night, we had an epiphany. So many of our holes were undersized, yet, you could slip the drill bit right through no problem, so we hadn’t made the holes with the wrong bits or anything like that. But we had always been using our new Hertel drill bits, the same ones we made the holes with, as measuring tool. We took up an older #30 and tried to slip it into the hole the new #30 had made, because the AN rivet spec’d for the hole wouldn’t go.

Neither would the older #30 bit. Oh, crap, were our new, high-quality drill bits undersized?

We didn’t want to think so. Therefore, we measured all three of the ones we’d used a lot.

Drill Bit Nominal size Measured size ∆ size
# 12 0.1890 0.1890 0.0000
# 30 0.1289 0.1170 0.0119
# 40 0.0980 0.0940 0.0040

(Note, we’re not claiming that our digital caliper technique is accurate to four decimal points. We just added zeroes where needed to make everything line up).

The bad news: we’re going to have to redrill every freaking #30 hole, and some of the #40s as well. (If a rivet test-fits without pressure, we know we’re good). The drill bits were actually undersized, #40 by four thousandths, and more than one hundredth.

They didn’t get that way from us using them — we’re not cutting anything but sheet 2024 aluminum alloy.

The good news: we now know why we were bedeviled by non-fitting rivets.

The moral of the story: from now on, test drill and check for size using a gage pin, every time we change sets of drill bits.

The company that made the drills is Hertel, and it was a quality (and pricy) set. The supplier was MSC. It will be interesting to see what happens when we call them with this problem.

G36: A Debacle, in a Fiasco, Wrapped in a Clusterbleep

The G36 saga keeps spreading its Sturm und Drang around the fraught world of German politics.

Our good friend Nathaniel at the Firearm Blog flagged us to a Deutsche Welle report that reminded us that there have been a lot more developments in this Neverending Story. BLUF: none of those developments suggest a rapid fix for the real problem with the rifle, no more do they suggest a way to restore lost soldier confidence in the rifle, and instead they show a military-technical problem becoming a political football. And the game is world, not North American, football, which ensures it will get kicked around a lot before it gets in the goal — if it ever gets in the goal.

Here’s video from the fight that started the whole controversy:

There are several different firefights represented in that video. But near the end of the video, the narrator mentions that the men of “Golf” platoon have been in a running firefight for 9 hours. And then, as they are withdrawing under pressure, a vehicle is struck by an IED. And “several rifles fail due to overheating.”

For all that, we don’t have audio of a lot of rifles firing on full-auto. Instead, we hear single shots and occasional short, controlled, bursts, and the longer, extremely fast bursts of the high-cyclic-rate MG3 (improved MG42). We hear enough to know that these men from the 313th Parachute Infantry Battalion are stone pros. But that’s where the problems began, back in 2010: the troops began to notice that their rifles were underperforming.

Tests, which leaders probably expected to put the modern Landsers’ complaints to rest, began to bear the troop complaints out. If the barrel was heated cherry-red, accuracy declined. Two magazines on rapid semiauto fire? Accuracy declined. If the outside air temperature was more than 23ºC at sea level (about 77ºF), not very high at all, accuracy declined. HK responds: “Hey, that wasn’t the standard we had to meet with the gun, that wasn’t the original test.” True enough, as far as it goes, but that doesn’t make the rifle combat-worthy. How much does accuracy decline? Here’s a handy graphic from Reuters via DW. At 600m, at 30º, instead of hitting an enemy in the window of a building, you might hit the building:

G36 temperature-related failure

Even at 200m, your dispersion is looking like a meter in diameter. (30ºC is about 90ºF, quite a high temperature for Europe).

The German magazine Der Spiegel (“Mirror”) has been all over this. This link should search Spiegel for “G36″ (results in German, selbstverständlich).  Here are some of the results:

At First, it Was About the Gun…

18 April 15: H&K Defends the Breakdown Rifle (which only partially gets the degree to which the neologism Pannengewehr is a putdown of the company and the firearm). HK’s majority owner Andreas Heeschen told a newspaper “Anything we make is 100% combat-ready.” On the same day (different story), Spiegel reported that H&K itself conducts the official proof tests and applies the official marks itself (which is probably not the departure from the norm that the magazine’s writers think). The responsible agency, the Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung (BWB), had delegated this authority to H&K based on past performance. Again, on the same date, the MOD reiterated that the rifle was only provisionally suited for use (another Spiegel story, same date), and that it “endangered the lives of German soldiers.”

Apart from HK’s bluster and threats of lawsuits, the only positive G36 story appearing in Spiegel came the next day, suggesting that the Kurds liked it, at least. And Lithuania and Latvia appear to be satisfied with their G36 purchases.

“With us there has been no trace of technical problems with the G36. On the contrary: the weapon is super”, Pesh Merga Minister Mustafa Sajid Kadir said. “It works without problems. We’d gladly have more of them.” Last year the Bundeswehr gave the Kurds, along with other weapons, 8000 G36 rifles for their fight against the “Islamic State” terrorist militia.

According to the Latvian Defense Ministry, the model used their is “significantly” different from the German variant. A spokeswoman said that there had been no problems in quite a long time..

Also, in neighboring Lithuania the affair in Germany is not in the news. The military command are “aware that there other nations have been confronted with problems with the accuracy and the robustness of certain parts of the G3, said Major General Jonas Vytautas Zukas, commander of the Lithuanian Army. But there is no thought of backing off from the rifle for that reason. Much more there are plans to order additional G36s. “These weapons meet the requirements of the Lithuanian Army.”

The Defense Minister moved decisively on 22 April when she said that the G36, as currently configured, had “no future in the Bundeswehr.

But Soon, it was About the Cover-Up

As it became clearer that the initial heads-up about G36 problems came from a series of firefights by German paras based in the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar-e Sharif in north central Afghanistan in 2010, and the technical verdict on the problem was largely in during 2012, the political fallout began to raise a noise level that drowned out the voices calling for a technical fix.

Spiegel found that in 2010 and 2011, the German Special Forces Command KommandoSpezialKräfte (KSK) were already looking for a G36 replacement that would be accurate to 300m and capable of selective fire. They didn’t call it a G36 replacement, instead terming it a “close range sharpshooter rifle,” but the weapons tested tell the story: HK 416, SIG 516, Schmeisser Solid and one unnamed competitor. It was a small contract: 5,000 rifles. Spiegel writes, “Insiders suspect that the competition concealed a Ministry of Defense search for a G36 replacement.” But Spiegel can’t have it both ways: was the MOD clueless, or was it scheming? It’s illogical to suggest it was both, which the magazine at least has the decency to avoid by putting the two speculations in different stories.

Various politicians in Germany were calling for the head of Thomas de la Maizière, the Defense Minister on whose watch the problem should have surfaced, but seemed to be covered up. Others pointed to the incumbent, de la Maizière’s party colleague and replacement at MOD Ursula von der Leyen, as the necessary sacrifice. Indeed, by 20 April, days before her pronouncement that the G36 had “no future,” Spiegel was contrasting her high hopes at her swearing-in to the way the chaos of the G36 affair threatened her political career, perhaps not by getting her fired now, but by blocking any further advancement for the ambitious politician.

Competing leaks have pinned responsibility for the cover-up on de la Maizière and on von der Leyen. They describe the accuracy problem various ways: “twice as bad, three times as bad” or, chillingly, noting that with the issue firearm and ammunition combination, “a hit at combat range is not possible.”  One German politician spoke up as the voice of fiscal sobriety:

In almost every armaments scandal we see the same picture: bad material was bought expensively, no one is responsible in the end, and the taxpayers have to pay.

The finance hawk? Jan van Aken of Die Linke, the rump vestige of East Germany’s communist Quislings. Van Aken is a member of the legislature’s Defense Committee.

The most recent, and damaging, release is that a former MOD official sicced a military intelligence agency on the leakers and the reporters they leak to. The Militärabschirmdienst (MAD), or Military Protective Service, is a counterintelligence agency of the Bundeswehr. The MAD appears to have drafted a plan to defend the G36, the Ministry, and HK by going on clandestine propaganda offensive against press critics. The plan was never approved, and the head of MAD transferred laterally to another job, but the scent of the problem has drawn more opposition sharks.

None of this inside-Berlin political drama has any prospect of restoring either German soldiers’ confidence in their individual weapon, or equipping them with an individual weapon in which they can have confidence. But von der Leyen will have to take measures in that direction soon. Or she will have a successor who will.

At least the Germans have alternatives. India recently gave up on the equally problematical (in different ways) home-grown INSAS rifle, and really had nothing to offer its frontline troops but old AK-47s.

Breaking: More Pistol Pain at the Pennsylvania State Police

Pennsylvania_State_PoliceWe’ve reported in the past at great length on what we’ve called the Pistol OCD of the Pennsylvania State Police (link is to a Google search of Weaponsman for PSP stories, not all of which are pistol-problem-related). They’ve been through more pistol models and calibers in fewer years than any group of two or three statewide agencies you care to name, but they’re reporting a new problem with their new Sig 227 pistols.

They have found that if they load the pistol per spec — 10+1 — they have jams, to be specific, stovepipes. They have directed the troopers to load the pistols 9+1, neither chambering a round to load a full mag, nor replacing a round and inserting a 10-round mag after chambering from the mag.

We haven’t heard of anybody else having this problem with the 227. The New Jersey State Police had such stovepipe problems with Smith & Wesson P99s that they returned to the HK P7M8 briefly before going to… drumroll please… SIGs (in 9mm, in their case).

As we mentioned, this is a new problem. The P227 already has had a troubled rollout at PSP. In an initial introductory class, an experienced firearms instructor had a negligent discharge that struck and killed one of his students, Trooper David Kedra. Later, the instructor, Corporal Richard Schroeter, would be charged with a much lighter charge than a non-trooper would face in such a killing, reckless endangerment. The Kedra family was not amused, but their concerns were blown off in a mealy-mouthed statement byDistrict Attorney Risa Ferman. (Ferman presented the case in such a way as to sway grand jurors to sympathy for Schroeter, so that Schroeter could face a mild misdemeanor, and keep his job). Some details on the grand jury testimony here.

The four other troopers who trained with Kedra on the day of the alleged shooting testified to the grand jury they did not see Schroeter make sure his weapon was not loaded, nor did he show the weapon to two other troopers to show it was unloaded. The presentment said firearms instructors in the Pennsylvania State Police typically show an unloaded weapon to at least two other troopers to verify it is unloaded.

Schroeter is such a class act that he’s refused to even apologize to Kedra’s family. He continues to insist that he checked the weapon and he was sure it was unloaded.

Systemic problems with firearms selection and training? Nah, that can’t be it.

Ironic that the P227 was selected in large part because of a rash of negligent discharges with Glocks soured PSP on the brand in general, and its pull-trigger-to-disassemble procedure in particular.

Previous WeaponsMan coverage of the PSP:

That may not be all of them, but it’s enough to give you a picture of this agency’s gun follies.

Can This Gun be Saved?

This classic old Colt Mustang .380, the original Colt knockoff of the Llama pocket-pistol knockoff of the 1911, has seen better days. Can it be saved? A customer brought it to a gunsmith who told the story on Reddit and Imgur (all these photos came from Imgur, and are linked in the Reddit thread).

Colt Mustang Before

The old Colt is still functional enough, but it’s fugly. The steel slide and barrel are pitted. The alloy frame is also corroded, and the trigger guard, integral to the frame, is nicked and generally chewed-up looking.  Can it look like new again? Click “more” to see!

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