Category Archives: Weapons Education

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Stormbringer

Stormbringer is the callsign of a former Special Forces NCO, who goes by the pseudonym Sean Linnane. (It’s a good choice of pseudonym; it suggests he’s of Irish ancestry, and you can’t throw a rock in a team house without hitting a couple such, so it doesn’t give much away). It’s also the name of his occasionally-updated, very high quality blog.

Linnane was a rough contemporary of ours, but stayed on active duty when we discovered the Reserve and Guard SF, and learned that it made far more sense as a hobby than it did as a living. Here’s what he says about himself:

Sean Linnane is the pseudonym of a retired Special Forces career NCO (1st SFG, 3d SFG, 10th SFG). I served with honor on five continents; I continue to serve in other capacities.

via Sean Linnane.

What we like about his blog is the same sort of reflective and even sentimental tales of SF lore and legend that we’ve been known to get up to ourselves. Linnane, of course, is intelligent and a clear writer — the first is mandatory, the second almost-so for an SF sergeant. (A few outstanding guys with abominable English skills have always been carried by the teams’ literati on grounds of their other contributions. In the very early days of SF, these non-English-speakers were often from SF areas of interest, like Hungary or the Sudetenland; today, they’re often from SF AOIs still, it’s just that the areas and languages are different. Plus, Hispanics have flocked to SF in throw-a-rock-you’ll-hit-one numbers, too).

His posts are interesting here, whether they’re on the curious history of Rolex POW watches (didn’t know there was a such thing before), or his own take on the warrior ethos:

Looking back, something drew me to it like a magnet, almost as if it was Fate. I was fortunate to make my way to America as an immigrant and to find my way into the greatest Army that ever marched across a battlefield. A series of good decisions and a lot of hard work got me into Special Forces where you don’t earn the Green Beret after graduation – you earn it every day, by deed and thought.

Now I’m no altruist – I’m not Mother Theresa and I’m no Boy Scout – and I know I was fortunate to fall into a profession that in many ways is a cause; I fight Evil. I got here almost by chance because growing up everybody I knew – to include my family – was against me joining the military. They made fun of my dreams and ambition to be a soldier, told me I was misguided and out of my mind.

It’s probably not for everybody, but then, neither is SF. Linnane, like many of us, was born just a little bit “off,” and when he finally “joined a minority group,” (an old SF recruiting slogan that is also a play on our fundamental theater-level organization, the Special Forces Group, about 1800 men that can overthrow a country in a month or less), he felt like he was finally at home.

We can relate.

The Spetsnaz Ballistic Knife

From the WeaponsMan.com collection: ballistic knife.

From the WeaponsMan.com collection: ballistic knife.

Here’s an item from the Cobwebbed Arms Locker here at Hog Manor. Acquired during the weapon’s brief flowering of legality in the USA in 1984, it was sold as a “Spetsnaz ballistic knife.” Recent research has convinced us what we believed at the time was true, that this knife was a US-made knife intending to capitalize on the “ballistic knife” craze. In this post, we’ll tell you what we’ve learned about these knives, and our still-unsatisfied search to see if Soviet Spetsnaz ever did issue such a toad-stabber.

And yes, we’ll tell you how it works.

The “ballistic knife” hit the weapons world like a cannon shot in 1983 or 1984. In 1978, a series of books by a Soviet defector to Great Britain appeared in the West. The officer, Viktor Belyayev, was a GRU man who had served in the Soviet Army, then in Spetsnaz reconnaissance, then finally as a GRU officer under official cover in Switzerland. He used the pen name “Viktor Suvorov,” the name of a great Tsarist era general and legend of Russian arms whose name honors a series of Russian military academies (including the one the defector graduated from). We get the impression that modesty is not among his traits. In any event, people in the West (especially the US and UK) were always curious about the Soviet Union and its secret organs, and “Suvorov’s” books were very successful. They were well written and, we know now, told both deep truths and fanciful tall tales about the Soviet services.

We were absolutely sure that the first story of the Spetsnaz “ballistic knife” came from Suvorov’s Spetsnaz, but recently reread the book in e-format and even searched for instances of knife with no joy. So where did it come from? We still like him as the source, but wonder if it was a Soldier of Fortune article or something that spawned the Ballistic Knife craze.

Florida Knife Company ballistic 2

Knife identical to ours, from a GunBroker auction.

And craze it was. In a matter of a couple years, the usual foes of liberty in Washington, led by Five Families associate and later-disgraced corrupt senator Alphonse D’Amato (R-NY), had drummed up enough hysteria to push through a bizarrely written Federal ban. Their handmaidens in many state legislatures followed suit, and there is a spotty and uneven ban in effect that has stopped the interstate manufacture and sales of these knives, although “parts kits” are intermittently available. In some states, manufacture for personal use is also banned, and you have to be leery of “constructive possession” statutes and case law. The Federal statute has some exceptions, including for military personnel.

Why any military person would want such a knife is another question. We wanted it because it was a “Spetsnaz knife,” a story which seems to have proven a total fabrication.

(Due to the length of this post — over 2600 words — it continues after the jump, with The History, The Ballistic Knife in Use, Auction Action, and Misinformation and Information subheadings).

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Revolvers In ATF Trace Data

S&W Revolver Cylinder (Note: this is a JC Blauveldt custom moon-clip job. Look closely! Nice work).

S&W Revolver Cylinder (Note: this is a JC Blauvelt custom moon-clip job. Look closely! Nice work).

We’re going to start with a disclaimer: ATF trace data is not a real solid statistical base for anything. The firearms that are traced are not a random sample, but tend to be crime guns, found guns, and recovered thefts; and the ATF discourages local PDs from requesting tracing of older guns. (For political reasons, they’re trying to drive time-to-trace, which they disingenuously call time-to-crime, down). So a gun’s presence in the data depends somewhat on how ugly it is, and how new. But it struck us that they did collect a lot of data, so the Law of Large Numbers might be working for us, a wee bit. And they break down the data by both state (or territory) and by type of firearm, allowing all kinds of creative crosstabs, in this case, pistols and revolvers by state (or states by percentages of pistols and revolvers).

It struck us further: if revolvers are more or less commonly traced than average, the data may represent the degree to which there are regional variations in automatic pistol vs. revolver preferences. (Almost all “pistols” on the ATF list are automatics, although there may be occasional oddities in there). Again, this is limited by the non-representative nature of ATF trace data.

All in all, the trace data show that ATF traced 175,361 handguns in calendar 2014. Of these, 131,562 were pistols and 43,799 were revolvers, a 75.0/25.0% breakdown. How much do individual states vary from that? Extracting the pistol and revolver data from the ATF’s spreadsheet, we made our own. First thing we ran was the MIN and MAX formulas, determining that the range of percentages was from 14% to 50%.

The first revelation: not a single state or territory saw that a majority of traced handguns were revolvers. Not one. And only one split fifty-fity, and it turned out to be a very peculiar place indeed. To give you an idea of how far out of whack that was, the next highest percentage of revolvers traced was barely more than 1/3: 33.8%.

The high scorer on percentage of revolvers was a case where the law of large numbers probably wasn’t working for us: only 18 handguns were traced in the territory of Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands, 9 each pistols and revolvers (50% revolvers). The low scorer was another territory, Puerto Rico; of the 1,030 handguns traced there, 886 were pistols and only 144 revolvers (14%).

To show that Guam was really an outlier, off 16% from the next state, here it is with the next five states in order:

top_6_revolver_trace_states

Fascinating that the second largest percentage of revolvers was traced to Guam’s neighbor (to the extent anything in the vast Pacific is a neighbor), Hawaii.

At the other end of the spectrum, Puerto Rico shows less of an outlier status, being off only 2% from the next state:

bottom_6_revolver_trace_states

We should probably have put it in the images, but this is all from Calendar Year 2014 data as reported by BATFE.

After the jump, there are some data tables and a linked spreadsheet for playing with them your ownself.

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The Quiet Special Purpose Revolver

We were sure we’d written about this before, but if we did, we can’t find hide nor hair of our previous report. So, just maybe we haven’t. Recently, we got some new information, and will share it with you.

The QSPR is an extremely rare special-purpose revolver that was developed and produced by the AAI Corporation. Formerly Aircraft Armament Incorporated, the name was abbreviated officially because they never sold any of their aircraft armament concepts. They worked on several ill-fated futuristic small arms of the 1960s (like the SPIW) and one very successful one, the M203 40mm grenade launcher.

The QSPR from the original report (the bad reproduction is due to the records being stored on microfilm or microfche).

The QSPR from the original report (the bad reproduction is due to the records being stored on microfilm or microfche).

The QSPR was made from a Smith & Wesson Model 29. Frames in white were provided to AAI by Smaith, and they were modified with a .40 caliber smoothbore barrel and the cylinders were bored out to 0.528″, leaving a minimal web between chambers. (The lost strength was made up for by the strong cartridges). The weapon was innocent of any sights — it was meant to be used at contact range, inside tunnels, although accuracy to 25 feet was claimed (and Vietnam users reported it was more accurate than their .38 revolvers). Both standard large-frame Smith and aftermarket or custom grips were tried.

The gun was issued with a flap shoulder holster and two ammo pouches holding an odd 7 rounds each.

The gun was issued with a flap shoulder holster and two ammo pouches holding an odd 7 rounds each.

The objective was to provide a weapon for tunnel combat, a weapon with reduced blast, noise, flash and yet increased lethality over the standard pistols and revolvers of the era. It was designed to produce a column of lethal buckshot at very close range, with no flash and very limited blast. Noise in the enclosed tunnels was equivalent to a .22LR firearm outdoors, which was a great improvement over the eardrum-shattering blast of the alternative, the M1911A1 .45 pistol.

Eleven QSPR revolvers were made, of which one was retained by AAI (and is still reportedly retained by a successor, Textron systems). Ten were deployed in 1969 for combat testing in Vietnam; one was reported as a combat loss. Of the existing revolvers, apart from the AAI reference piece, two (#5 and an unknown example) are in a US Army museum, and one is in the ATF reference collection. It was the missing Vietnam gun, which was used in a homicide in California and recovered, according to Dockery.

THE QSPR seems very sophisticated for a first shot, and that’s because it wasn’t. A previous S&W based tunnel revolver was a Model 10 M&P with reduced cylinder gap, a suppressor and an aiming light. It was part of a comprehensive suite of gear assembled by the boffins in the Army’s Land Warfare Laboratory and called the Tunnel Engagement Kit, illustrated here. (The vane switch in the guy’s mouth turned on the VC aiming point on his cranium). You can almost hear them saying, “Do bring it back this time, Mr Bond.” But this bit of lab genius was not what the guys needed, and so the boffins went back to the lab and cooked up the QSPR.

Different tunnel rat rig

Ladies and gentlemen, here is a recent photograph of a unicorn — a live QSPR round. This is believed to be the last and only live round in existence (the ATF caused the destruction of most of them maintained by AAI and the military museum system by declaring them suppressors). The material is high-carbon steel, because the case contains the entire energy of the round, inside a piston. An end cap is screwed on the base of the round; threads in the muzzle end act as a trap to catch a piston. A plastic sheath called a “sabot” wraps around the projectiles and is discarded, much like the sabots used with subcaliber projectiles, when the projectile column exits the muzzle. The muzzle end of the round has a silicone (we think) material applied as a sealant.

QSPR Round 01

The round has a dark finish which appears to be some kind of high-tech proto-melonite coating, although most resources describe the ammo as “blued.”

This is a schematic of the round from what appears to have been the final report on the weapon after development and combat testing in Vietnam. The report recommended further improvements and then general issue to Infantry and Ranger units. Those improvements were not pursued, and the firearm was never manufactured.

qspr_ammo_sketch

The high pressure inside the round breaks the “rim” of the piston free of an annular slot that initially retains the piston in the rearward position and forces it forward, ejecting the sabot-contained shot load, until the pressure snaps the piston rim into a similar annular slot positioned to receive it, and drives the “nose” of the piston into the muzzle-end threads. These two engagements arrest the piston’s forward motion. One purpose of the rearward slot is to retain the pistol and prevent it from sliding and ejecting the payload during normal gun handling.

This is the muzzle end of the round. As you can see, the sabot (or the sealant atop it) comes closer to the muzzle than indicated in the diagram.

QSPR Round 03

This is the breech end. As you can see, there are no markings on the round. The revolvers themselves were marked with the S&W trademark, so we suspect the lack of markings on the ammunition was more a reflection of the toolroom nature of the project than in any attempt to make a deniable or clandestine weapon.

QSPR Round 02

The missing detail from most of the reports, the reason the initial report was classified (albeit only at the Confidential level), and the cause of the QSPRs unusually high terminal effect for a handgun was in a material breakthrough. While most open source reports suggest that the projectiles in the shot column were lead, steel or even tungsten (Wolfram to you Europeans), they were actually depleted uranium.

DU is uranium from which the fissionable isotopes have been removed. It is a side product (a waste product, really) of uranium enrichment for weapons production and has a number of properties making t an excellent choice for projectiles.

While the US was developing the QSPR, Soviet scientists were working on similar captive-piston technology. But in the end, the complexity and cost of the system seems to preclude it from ever being made in more than nominal numbers. The ATF’s Firearms Anti Technology Branch has rendered research on this type of weapon in the USA functionally impossible; Russian designers, who have produced a great many widely varied quiet weapons, seem also to have moved on away from this technology.

The resources below are all worth reading but the most valuable is certainly the official report:

ACTIV QSPR Report OCR .pdf

Sources & Resources

Dockery, Kevin. Tunnel Weapon: The Bang in the Dark. Small Arms Review, Volume 5 Number 9. Retrieved from: http://www.smallarmsreview.com/display.article.cfm?idarticles=2423

Popenker, Maxim. Smith & Wesson / AAI Quiet Special Purpose Revolver / QSPR / tunnel revolver (USA), World.Guns.Ru. Retrieved from: http://world.guns.ru/handguns/double-action-revolvers/usa/qspr-silent-revolver-e.html  Note that Max’s report on the QSPR is pretty accurate but his photoshop job has the barrel a tad too long.

Schreier, Conrad F., Jr. The Silenced QSPR Revolver: An Answer to an Age-old Military Problem. Guns and Ammo Magazine, “Ordnance Department” feature, Guns & Ammo Magazine, October 1971, p. 64. Copy: Guns & Ammo QSPR Article .pdf

Weddington, David E., LTC, IN. Final Report: Tunnel Weapon. Army Concept Team in Vietnam (ACTIV), (Linked above).

 

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week 2015 35: Vitaly Kuzmin

vitaly_kuzmin_netAs you might guess from the name Vitaly Kuzminthe website in question belongs to a Russian — in this case, a Russian photographer who’s well wired into the Russian defense and security establishment, or at least, into those parts of it that Russia likes to show off.  Vitaly is an excellent photographer, whether of equipment or of action, and his site is a good visit for anybody who thinks today’s Russian military and paramilitary forces are unchanged from Soviet days.

His posts are in Russian, usually with an English translation or at least an English gist so that foreigners who don’t know the language of Tolstoy and Chekhov (the writer, not the fictional space officer, thank you) can follow along.

He has some excellent photo essays on Spetsnaz, including a multipart rundown on the weapons used by the “Saturn” corrections Spetsnaz element. (These guys are, in effect, the SWAT team for prisons in the Moscow area. While the Gulag is no more, to the relief, we’re sure, of Russians and the world, Russia has its share of criminals, and has to lock them up. Here’s their official site, in Russian of course… we wonder how many of the photos were taken by Vitaly Kuzmin!)

You might also like his archive of posts that are explicitly labeled “arms,” which includes detailed pictures of rarities like the KS-23M shotgun, used primarily with nonlethal ammunition…

KS-23M-02

 

This is not your dedushka’s 870. Note the stamped receiver: it was built to work, not to catch attention on a gun-store shelf.

Here’s the internally silenced (in the style of the Vietnam era Quiet Special Purpose Revolver, QSPR, the ammunition contains the expanding powder and kicks the projectile out with a piston) 7.62 x 41mm pistol PSS Vul:

PSS-15

This pistol is a fascinating blend of conventional and unconventional. The rough finish of the grips not only provides a good gripping surface but also (important in an assassination weapon) rejects fingerprints.

Note that the PSS has typically European slide safety (presumably a hammer-drop in the Walther/Makarov style) and butt-heel magazine catch. The sights are fixed, but highly visible, reminiscent of the TT-33 which had excellent fixed sights for its day.

PSS-23

And just so you don’t think Vitaly’s all about little popguns, here’s a type of combat vehicle that is, in 2015, unique to the Russian forces of all the world’s militaries: the BMD-4M airborne combat vehicle, called Bakhcha-U.. This airdroppable light armored vehicle is the latest iteration of a concept the Russians have been using since they were Soviets in the 1970s; BMD-1s spearheaded the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. This latest version is well armed with a 100mm main gun that can also fire ATGMs, and a 30mm coax, controlled by computerized systems.

2015AlabinoFirst-17In the 1960s through 80s, the US had a conceptually similar vehicle, the M551 Sheridan light tank. It was used in the armor unit of the 82nd Airborne Division but also in Armored Cavalry Brigades in Korea and Germany. The M551 had a lot of problems and few were sad to see it go, even though its absence adds to the “speed bump” nature of US airborne forces.

The M551 could be delivered by a C-130 aircraft at conventional drop altitudes (1,000-2,000 feet) or delivered out the back on a skid pallet by the Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System, where a gigantic ring parachute of the sort developed for the Apollo spacecraft recoveries drew it out of the back of the 130 like a veterinarian delivering a calf. When a unit had to provide a Sheridan for a LAPES drop, they never gave up their best one.

The BMD, conceived by designer Arkady Vassilievich Shabalin, is dropped from a larger aircraft (usually an Il-76, although the BMD-1 could be delivered by An-12) at a higher altitude and descends under a cluster of parachutes. An Il-76 can deliver two BMDs to the same or separate drop zones. Its integral cargo crane can pick them up and move them in on to the cargo rails. Because the parachute cluster descends at a faster rate than, say, a normal personnel parachute’s 18-22 feet per second, a secondary deceleration means is required. In the 1970s, this was retro-rockets that were part of the parachute rigging up above the heavy load. Currently, a system of airbags that inflates under the vehicle’s delivery pallet after exit from the aircraft is used.

The Russian system has always been designed with a view to the idea that the crews can be dropped inside the vehicles and be combat ready straightaway. For that reason, the Russian heavy drop system cuts away all the canopies once the pallet is firmly on the ground. Dropping BMDs with live paratroopers inside is a capability the Russian airborne arm VDV very rarely exercise, but Russian sources say it had been done in the recent past (2010) with BMD-2 vehicles.

When they drop a BMD and crew separately, the crew uses a homing beacon to find their own vehicle and get underway in minutes.

 

Plastic Homemade Lowers Under the Hammer

These tests have been on the net for a while, “a while” ranging from 3 months ago to a couple of days. We thought it would be a public service to collect them in a single post.

Note that “impact resistance” is only one type of strength. Here the material must resist both compression and shock, mostly. However, there are some ways of testing the part (even with a hammer) that can cause compression failures. Torsion is mostly not an issue with these parts. Shear comes into play especially with the printed parts, which tend to fail along print-layer lines.

Part I: Printed Lowers: ABS vs Hammer, vs PLA vs Hammer.

Part II: Printed vs Hammer, vs. Cast vs Hammer.

And, Part III: Multiple cast lowers of different materials, vs. printed lowers.

We hope these tests made an impact on you!

And who else is thinking… hmmm. What about a polymer part with a tough internal structure, and an overmold of the rubbery stuff? If you did the overmold when the inner part was still hot-out-of-the-mold fresh, the exotherm from the overmold would probably go a long way to mechanically join the two “layers.”

 

Correction /Update on the French Train Attack

As is usually the case, the initial media reports were incomplete and incorrect. Today, we have more details on the incident. Rather than a counterattack by US Marines, it was a self-organized “pack, not a herd” of young men that disarmed and disabled the attacker, a known Islamic fundamentalist named Ayoub el-Qahzzani, 26.  (Sounds close enough to Ala-kazam! to us).

three train heroes

L-R: Anthony Sadler, Aleck Skarlatos, and Chris Norman show off medals they received from Mayor of Arras, France, Frederic Leturque. Note bruise on Sadler’s nose and blood on Norman’s shirt. Spencer Stone was in hospital.

  • The four men were three young friends: Spencer Stone, an Air Force airman on leave; Alek Skarlatos, a National Guard soldier on vacation; and non-vet Tony Sadler; plus a middle-aged British man Chris Norman, who lives in France and is identified as an “IT Consultant.”
  • They disarmed ala-Kazam! and beat the snot out of him; that part of previous reports is correct.
  • He was yelling at them, “Give me back my gun! Give me back my gun!” But as Sadler put it, “We just carried on beating him up.” Good call, kid.
  • Ala-Kazam! was a member of a former terrorist cell that was rolled up before it could attack in Brussels. He was on the radar of Belgian, French and Spanish counterterrorist police.
  • Ala-Kazam! was prepared with a cover story. His cover story is that:
    1. No, he’s not an Islamist or terrorist…
    2. He was just planning a robbery!
    3. Gun? What gun? Oh, that gun. He found it under a bush in a park in Brusells.
Spencer Stone, 22, was injured in the fight, as were two passengers. This is his USAF basic picture.

Spencer Stone, 22, was injured in the fight, as were two passengers. This is his USAF basic picture. He recognized the sound of an AK being loaded, and charged the gunman when he came out of the restroom.

The cover story is amateurish, but it will be believed by those who want to believe. Already French officialdom is trying to minimize any terrorist or Islamist motive,  and certain elements of the press are going with the “how do you know it’s Islamic,” or the good old “root causes” search. In 5-4-3-2-1 expect editorials about the importance of avoiding “anti-islamic backlash,” and expect these heroes’ faces to be crowded off TV by the terrorist apologists of CAIR.

As more details emerge, they get more remarkable. Anthony Sadler’s dad, also named Tony Sadler, a soft-spoken guy who seems to just radiate good will and decency, remarked that he expected his son to learn something on his trip and then he goes…

… and seems to become France’s national hero — I’m told he might even meet the President of France. Still wrapping my head around that.

French President Hollande would probably be honored to meet these guys, actually. Any leader can always make time for good news and praiseworthy countrymen, or in this case, tourists.

Skarlatos's pre-deployment picture. He, Stone and Sadler were friends sightseeing Europe after his Afghan tour.

Skarlatos’s pre-deployment picture. He, Stone and Sadler were friends sightseeing Europe after his Afghan tour. He shouted, “Spencer, GO!” and followed his friend against the Arab terrorist.

Skarlatos, whose first name is variously spelled Alec, Alek, and Aleck in news reports, is confirmed to be a member of the Oregon Army National Guard’s 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team and an Afghanistan veteran. Oregon Guard spokesman Major Stephen Bomar said:

It’s fantastic that no matter who it was, someone stepped up to stop such a horrific event. We’re absolutely proud that it happened to be someone from the Oregon Army National Guard

Frankly, this is the best possible outcome. None of the victims will die; the terrorist has failed. Moreover, despite being armed with an AK and a basic load of ammunition, and having possibly received training in Syria, he was beaten up by an international group of civilians and off-duty troops including a part-time soldier, an Air Force junior enlisted guy, and two pure civilians, one of them old enough to be his father, from a profession (IT) noted as a refuge of nerds and the non-physical.

It was, in fact, fully in the spirit of the heroes of United 93, but with a much better outcome, and it illustrates one of the weaknesses of ISIL’s and al-Qaeda’s current epidemic-of-lone-wolves strategy: as Kipling wrote, “the strength of the wolf is the pack,” and they’re finding out that when they show up without the pack, they misclassified their targets. Not sheep at all, but able to spontaneously organize a counter-wolfpack.

Finally, Ala-Kazam! is lucky he’s just in jail, not in Hell. On a video shot by another passenger, the Americans are heard fully in charge of the situation:

US voice 1: Dude, I tried to shoot him.

US voice 2 (amused): He did!

Apparently, Ala-Kazam!’s gun had an ala-ka-jam. He may have had a handgun, also.

US voice 1: You’re also missing the handgun.

Euro voice (maybe Chris Norman?): The handgun is missing.

US Voice 2: Can we just look under chairs, and shit?

At that point, the audio on the video becomes a multilingual discussion of the search for the missing pistol.

FMI:

  • El País (Spain; Spanish language): El autor del atentado contra el tren Ámsterdam- París vivió en Algeciras. (The perpetrator of the attack on the Amsterdam-Paris train lived in Algeciras). It also identifies his weapons as an AK with nine magazines and a 9mm “Lugger” with one magazine. Oh, here’s an English translation where they spell Luger right. Pity, a Luger wasted on a bum like this. The stories contain some details on ala-Kazam!’s pre-beatdown life; for all his extreme Islam, he’d done time for dope dealing.

That’s it for now or we’ll never go live with the post!

PS: it would have been nice if the gal in the platform shoes had been one of the beaters, but apparently she’s one of the French cops. In the French media, the police spokesman telling this story of failed jihad with evident relish was by appearance and name a Frenchman of Arab heritage (as was one of the victims in the small arms attack).

Another 3D Firearm Approach: Plastic Casting

Here’s the situation: say, you want to test a new firearm or part design, and because you’re iterating rapidly, 3D printing would be ideal. But the mechanical properties of common 3DP polymers, polylactic acid (PLA) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) are insufficient, and it’s either more challenging or more expensive to print in materials with better mechanical properties, like nylon.

Lost PLA 10-22 receiver. The casting with filler and riser still attached.

Lost PLA 10-22 receiver. The casting with filler and riser still attached.

One answer, that we’ve covered before, is to use Lost PLA casting. (Indeed, industrial specialty printers are made for printing in wax for the very similar process of lost wax casting; small ones are widely used by jewelers, and at least one major investment-casting supplier to the firearms industry uses a pair of large ones every day). But while you can 3D print in your office or kitchen, metal casting requires working with a great deal more heat, and molten metal. And casting itself is a complex knowledge domain with lots of things to go wrong and a wide gulf of tribal knowledge between the amateur and today’s professionals.

So we give up, right?

Nope. Wrong. There are still several technologies open to us, like metal injection molding (which probably made the fiddly bits inside your carry handgun, unless you’re old school). But even that has some complexities, even though it shows signs of integrating really well with 3D printing. Basically, you can do the prep work, but someone with an industrial setup needs to do the actual MIM for you.

How about plastic casting? There are plastics that are a pain to 3D print, but that can be cast at room temperature and atmospheric pressure. Fosscad experimenter FP gave it a shot, and produced some gratifying results: plastic AR lowers that appear to be superior in strength to 3D printed versions.

The difference between plastic casting and plastic injection molding which is how your Smith or Glock frame is made is that injection molding is done under pressure, and casting is done in atmospheric conditions. That means that casting will usually be less dense and will be done with materials that are poured and set at lower temperatures, as a rule of thumb. Molding is commonly used on Hollywood sets and props, for example, but it also has architectural and industrial applications. Both the silicon “rubber” for the mold and the plastic for the castings come in parts that react and solidify when mixed.

Mold silicon and casting plastic

This page on imgur walks you through two complete batches of plastic casting multiple AR lowers using two different molds, one contained in a see-through plastic box and one in a wooden box.

The sequence of events is:

  1. Print and prepare (i.e. strip off support material, acetone-vapor treat, etc.) your lower or other master part (called a “pattern” in casting).cast plastic -- 3DP pattern
  2. Prepare a mold box and place your pattern in it. Include some material to form a pouring inlet, runners or sprues if needed, and an air release hole.cast plastic lower - mold box 1
  3. Prepare and mix the mold RTV and pour it into the mold box. Let it cure. Beware of exothermic reactions.cast plastic lower - mold box
  4. Once the mold has fully set, remove it from the box, and carefully cut the silicone away from the pattern, taking care to neither damage the pattern (you may want another mold; they don’t last forever) nor, especially, the mold.  Cut apart, the mold will have four parts: left, right, bottom, and core. cast plastic lower - pattern out of mold
  5. Reassemble the mold in the mold box.
  6. Mix and pour casting plastic; let it set.
  7. Open the mold and remove the cast lower. cast lower - out of the chrysalis
  8. Repeat as needed.

Initial testing suggests that these lowers are stronger than printed lowers, and there are stronger, more exotic casting plastics available. Some of this testing has already begun. Here’s a lower cast in “Simpact 85A” showing off its ability to be bent 90º and snap back to original position — probably not useful as an actual gun, but could be a stage or stunt prop.

flexible simpact lower

Next week we’ll show you some impact tests of different printed and cast lower materials, done by “Freedom Printing 3D”. These bear out the supposition that some plastics are much stronger than others.

More testing is required to determine the number of cycles the molds can bear before they begin producing out of spec parts.

Some suggestions moving forward.

  1. Rather than cut the mold open after pouring it around the pattern, use mold release compound and a cope, drag and core system to make the mold so it can be disassembled without drama. This would make for faster mold-making. But only testing will tell if this makes a good-enough mold, or if the cut-apart kind is dimensionally/structurally superior.
  2. While using a printed lower is convenient because it’s easy, and it’s also a lower design already modified to strengthen a weaker material, you could use this system on a lower carved by hand.
  3. You could even use this system to duplicate a factory aluminum lower, but the plastic almost certainly won’t be strong enough in what we’ve learned are the AR’s most vulnerable areas: buffer tower, pivot pin bosses, pistol grip boss, and trigger guard “ears.”

Today in Bubba History: Tokarev Sporter

It’s probably not fair to call this the work of Bubba the Gunsmith, because it was the work of professionals, turning what was then an awkward, ugly, unwanted military rifle in a weird caliber into something a hunter might reasonably take afield, and in the process, turning a bunch of ex-Soviet arms dumped by the Finnish Army, which had captured and tried to use them, into dollars — in this case, Canadian dollars.

Globe Tokarev 01

How were the principals of Globe Firearms Ltd. to know that some day original, unmolested Tokarev rifles would be worth real money? For that matter, how were they to know that the uiquitous .303 British round would become a rarity in North America, and the Russian 7.62 mm x 54mm become more popular? You could not have predicted either outcome in the mid-1960s, unless you were an actual clairvoyant — or certifiably insane.

Remarked with customizer and caliber.

Remarked with customizer and caliber.

This gun has now turned up on Gun Broker, with $950 asked, about what a decent condition Tokarev goes for (but there are very few decent condition guns out there — lots of purple-bolt-carrier Century imports, really). You’d have to want this oddball sporter pretty badly to go that much for it, in our opinion.

Condition is very nice. Design of the sporter stock suggests late 1950s to early 1960s.

Condition is very nice. Design of the sporter stock suggests late 1950s to early 1960s.

Up for bid is a conversion of captured SVT40’s. Bought from Finland, Globe Inc. converted the rifles caliber to what the Canadians all used…the British .303. Gun is almost new condition.

The barrel is shortened substantially, and set back so it can be rechambered for the British round. It looks like the new barrel is about 18″, nice for hunting. Rear sight is standard — obviously the elevation marks are now no longer congruent with the changed cartridge — and front sight is a standard hunter’s ramp type.

Globe Tokarev 03

The gas port has been moved way back, which allows most of the handguards to be discarded. (It may do ugly things to function, which was never the Tok’s strength, though. Or it may have solved Tok problems — we don’t know).

System is like an SKS or FAL, a gas tappet whacks the bolt carrier which cams a tipping bolt up out of battery.

System is like an SKS or FAL, a gas tappet whacks the bolt carrier which cams a tipping bolt up out of battery.

The Russian bore diameter should work OK with the British projectiles.

You can see where the tappet comes through the receiver above the barrel.

You can see where the tappet comes through the receiver above the barrel.

This gleaming bolt carrier, incidentally, is what a Tok bolt and carrier should look like — not the sick plum finish of the Century guns. Those seem to have been ineptly re-arsenaled in some Soviet or satellite depot.

This is what a Tokarev bolt carrier is supposed to look like.

This is what a Tokarev bolt carrier is supposed to look like.

The magazine has an unusual marking on it, it looks like a registration mark, maybe from the ill-fated Canadian long-gun registry, a monstrously expensive failure.

Globe Tokarev 08

Does anybody know what that marking signifies?

The Globe Firearms Ltd. sporterized, caliber-converted Tokarev is a rare period piece, a slice of a time where gun aficionados were almost all target shooters and hunters, and military collecting was a small and sparsely populated niche. That alone would make it a good thing to buy, although not at this price.

Heck, you could even hunt with it (although you’d need a lower-cap magazine, most places).