Category Archives: Support Weapons

Dahlgrens in the Rain

This morning, a steady drizzle fell, and it brought down many of the remaining leaves with it. It remained warm, to a welcome if unseasonable degree, and on our way from one place to another we found ourselves in the Norman Rockwell village of Hampton Falls, New Hampshire.

Like most small towns that existed in 1865, it has a Civil War memorial that has accreted memorials for various other conflicts in the following ages. It was constructed like many other memorials, with an obelisk aspiring to the clouds, and a display of forever-silenced cannon and cannonballs. Unlike many, if not most, such memorials, the cannon and pyramids of shot survived the scrap drives of WWI and WWII. The memorial is located in a small park which is home to various festivals and events during the warmer months, but adjacent to the busy north-south (appropriately enough!) Lafayette Road, named for the French volunteer’s use of the road in the 1820s to visit old friends from the Revolution. Lafayette Road is also US Highway 1, which runs in an unending ribbon of strip malls, motels and neon signs from Maine to Key West. Lafayette Road is on the left in this picture; the yellow building is on the other side of it.

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Thousands of people drive by this square every day and never give it a moment of thought.

Of greatest interest to you, dear reader, may be the Dahlgrens themselves. There are four of them, and four pyramids of projectiles, evenly arrayed around the memorial, in the shadow of the flagpole (were there any sun to cast a shadow today!)

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The guns appear to be in nearly new condition, although they’re filled with something — probably cement. It’s possible that they were cast at a foundry nearby, and then never delivered to the Navy due to the end of the war. It’s also possible that the Portsmouth Navy Yard had them in storage for fitting out ships. The Navy Yard is a short distance away by road or rail.

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The smoothbore Dahlgren guns have a distinctive, coke-bottle shape. They are beautiful machines, and were used in shore defense installations and on seagoing vessels alike. They often had a wooden carriage that resembled the cannon carriage of the Napoleonic wars.

These iron carriages are strictly for display.

Cannon balls may have been obsolete by 1865, but they sure did stack up nice. This pyramid has layers of 25, 16, 9, 4 and 1 ball = 55 cannonballs total.

hampton_falls13Each Dahlgren Gun is engraved with its maker, its serial number, and its weight, at least to the nearest 5 lb. This one was 4500 lbs. The others were all within 10 pounds plus or minus of this one.

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Why bother recording the weight? One possibility we can think of is for trim and balance calculations aboard ship. Three guns were cast by “C.A. & Cº,” and on one the maker name was not visible, but might well have been the same.

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Civil War Artillery.com has a useful page about cannon manufacturers, which breaks out this abbreviation as follows:

Cyrus Alger & Co.:  Cyrus Alger, who during the War of 1812 furnished the government with shot and shell, in 1817 started South Boston Iron company which at an early date was known locally as Alger’s Foundry and later became Cyrus Alger & Co.  The Massachusetts firm was a leading cannon manufacturer and when Cyrus died in 1856, leadership was assumed by his son, Francis, who piloted the company until his death in 1864.  During the war, both Army and Navy were supplied with large numbers of weapons.  The initials “S.B.F.” (South Boston Foundry) occasionally may be found on cannon, but the signature is traditionally “C.A. & Co., Boston, Mass.” or, rarely, “C. Alger & Co., Boston, Mass.”

The Serial Numbers of the gun whose maker was invisible (perhaps underneath, or marked on the muzzle) was Nº 105. The others were Nº 155, Nº 156, and Nº 157. (Without measuring them, these appear to be 32-pounder guns, of which 383 total were made by Alger and several other founders).

This gives some support to the idea that the guns came direct from production or storage, uninstalled and unfired, to the memorial. Since Alger had been casting cannon for almost 50 years at the close of the Civil War, these numbers must be unique to Dahlgren gun production at the Alger firm’s South Boston, Mass. facility.

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Today, it is a place where you can see four Dahlgren guns at once.

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And numerous plaques honor the town’s many veterans, of the nation’s many wars.

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Unfortunately, our shot of the Vietnam War honor roll was not successful, nor the one we took of the Civil War honor roll. It was a very different America in 1865 — the names were all English or Northwestern European, and many families sent five to eight men with the same surname to the war.

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The town and the veterans’ groups cooperate to tend this little memorial well.

While the Dahlgren Gun served the Union well, and Rear Admiral Dahlgren did, also, he paid a considerable price by giving his design to the nation free of charge. The USA then not only produced some 4,700 Dahlgren guns and howitzers for American used, it furnished the design gratis to various foreign nations. Alger did pay Dahlgren a royalty of 1¢ per pound of guns cast in South Boston for foreign customers, but his widow wound up in straitened circumstances and petitioned the Congress for relief.

An Old Projectile, Some Ancient History

You never know what you’re going to find on GunBroker. We found this unusual WWI Stokes Mortar cartridge, or really, projectile; and got, thanks to the seller’s description which is reposted below, an education on the human drama of the introduction of a weapon we’ve always taken for granted, the muzzle-loading infantry mortar.

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The seller explains (edited for brevity):

This is a part of very large collection I have bought in Miami. 81 mm inert Word War I British Mortar with all original paint. Please, read the history behind this munition development and deployment. The Stokes mortar was a British trench mortar invented by Sir Wilfred Stokes KBE that was issued to the British, Commonwealth and U.S. armies, as well as the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps (CEP), during the later half of the First World War.

The 3-inch trench mortar is a smooth-bore, muzzle-loading weapon for high angles of fire. Although it is called a 3-inch mortar, its bore is actually 3.2 inches or 81 mm.

Ha! Mortarmen of the world, that number ring a bell?

Near as dammit, 81 mm.

Near as dammit, 81 mm.

Frederick Wilfred Scott Stokes – who later became Sir Wilfred Stokes KBE – designed the mortar in January 1915. The British Army was at the time trying to develop a weapon that would be a match for the Imperial German Army’s Minenwerfer mortar, which was in use on the Western Front.

Success, right? Not so fast:

Stokes’s design was initially rejected in June 1915 because it was unable to use existing stocks of British mortar ammunition, and it took the intervention of David Lloyd George (at that time Minister of Munitions) and Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Matheson of the Trench Warfare Supply Department (who reported to Lloyd George) to expedite manufacture of the Stokes mortar.

The Stokes mortar was a simple weapon, consisting of a smooth bore metal tube fixed to a base plate (to absorb recoil) with a lightweight bipod mount. When a mortar bomb was dropped into the tube, an impact sensitive primer in the base of the bomb would make contact with a firing pin at the base of the tube, and detonate, firing the bomb towards the target.

Yes, they take shotgun primers.

Yes, they take shotgun primers.

The barrel is a seamless drawn-steel tube necked down at the breech or base end. To the breech end is fitted a base cap, within which is secured a firing pin protruding into the barrel. The caps at each end of the bomb cylinder were 81 mm diameter. The bomb was fitted with a modified hand grenade fuze on the front, with a perforated tube containing a propellant charge and an impact-sensitive cap at the rear. Range was determined by the amount of propellant charge used and the angle of the barrel.

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A basic propellant cartridge was used for all firing, and covered short ranges. Up to four additional “rings” of propellant were used for incrementally greater ranges. The four rings were supplied with the cartridge and gunners discarded the rings which were not needed. One potential problem was the recoil, which was “exceptionally severe, because the barrel is only about 3 times the weight of the projectile, instead of about one hundred times the weight as in artillery. Unless the legs are properly set up they are liable to injury”.

Several other kinds of mortars were tried by the various belligerents during the Great War: breech-loading mortars, rifled mortars, spigot mortars, and the French even made compressed-air-powered mortars. But the simplicity, portability and reliability of the Stokes was the category winner. While some of the above technologies found their way into World War II weapons, the majority of mortars then and now are on the Stokes model.

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The original Stokes had the benefits of simplicity and easy manufacturing, but it lacked things we now associate with this class of weapon: a fin-stabilized (or, in rare case, rifling-spin-stabilized) projectile for higher accuracy, a removable booster charge for selectable longer range, and sights. (You might ask, how does one use sights on a mortar or other indirect fire weapon, where by definition you can’t usually see the target? As one hears about relationships, “It’s complicated.” It would be a good subject for a later post).

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Mortars today are all descended from the humble Stokes, and they grew those capabilities mentioned above after the Armistice.

A modified version of the mortar, which fired a modern fin-stabilised streamlined projectile and had a booster charge for longer range, was developed after World War I; this was in effect a new weapon.

The projectile and all its history can be yours, if you follow the link to the GunBroker auction. For more information on the genesis of the 3-inch Stokes, including even a (grainy) picture of Stokes His Ownself, check out this great excerpt from a book by Bruce Canfield.

A Reproduction of a Vanishingly Rare SEAL Weapon

Up for sale on GunBroker (by a friend of the blog, actually) is an extremely rare Destructive Device. How rare it is, is a bit hard to pin down; there were 6, or 12, or 20, or maybe as many as 50 made, and then all or nearly all of them went to Vietnam for combat testing, and not many came back. This is what an original looks like:

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We know of one at the SEAL/UDT Museum at Ft Pierce, FL, and one in an in-house display at NSWC Crane (not open to the public). Our friend examined one in the War Remnants Museum (formerly the “War Crimes Museum”) in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and one at the Washington Navy Yard, which was the basis for this accurate reproduction. The weapon in question is a SEAL-specific pump-action 40mm Grenade Launcher. Here’s the repro, sans barrel.

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From the dawn of the M79, the troops wanted a multiple-shot version. The Army, though, was deep in the rabbit hole of the ill-conceived Special Purpose Infantry Weapon program and was so determined to schedule the small arms revolution, they were not interested in something so mundane as the next logical improvement of the 40mm low-pressure grenade launcher. So it was left to the SEALs to find Navy resources to make them a short run of launchers, and they did. (Some sources, like the Firearms Information File, Nazarian, and World Guns, call this, mistakenly, the EX-41, which was a different and later development. This launcher had no known name. Here’s a close-up of the action:

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The launcher was built with design elements lifted from pump-action shotguns, and parts, where possible, lifted from existing weapons like the M79. The ladder sight will be familiar to anyone who’s shot the 79, china-lake-launcher-13…and it looks like there’s provision for a peep sight as well, with a guarded front sight.

china-lake-launcher-2Loading is through a trap in the bottom;

china-lake-launcher-8…the tubular magazine (which holds 3 rounds, on top of the one chambered) rides below the barrel (file photo of real China Lake launcher); china-lake-02…the stock, trigger and trigger guard all look inherited or modified from the 79, and the safety is the same tang safety (with too-sharp edges!) as the 79. china-lake-launcher-6The serials on the originals were located on the tang adjacent to the safety (original below).

china-lake-sn-002Its singular biggest weakness was that it could not feed long or odd-shaped rounds that had been developed for single-shot launchers, but it worked fine with ordinary HE and HEDP rounds. (and on the plus side, it also can’t feed high-pressure 40mm aircraft and Mk19 rounds, which is a good thing. Think kB!). From the listing:

“China Lake Pump” 40mm Grenade Launcher as used by the US Navy SEAL’s in Vietnam. A very small number of these were handmade in the machine shop at China Lake Naval Weapons Station and sent to Vietnam. Only 4 originals are KNOWN to exist, I have personally examined serial number 013 in the War Remnants Museum in Saigon. (HCMC) This is an exact replica of the originals, made from blueprints generated at great effort from the example in the Washington Navy Yard Museum, and brand new/never fired. There are only a handful of these hand built replica’s as well, one of them being owned by Kevin Dockery, the author of “Weapons of the US Navy SEAL’s”. It can be viewed in operation on Youtube by searching “China Lake Pump”. This is a rare bird by any standard.

This one has been built as a Title 1 firearm, so that one could finish it with a 37mm launcher barrel and keep it that way if so inclined. Most buyers will probably want the full-house 40mm version, and so it will transfer as Title 1, and, if if the buyer completes Form 1 with the ATF, a 40mm barrel will then be delivered to you to complete the launcher. (As it’s not presently registered as a Destructive Device, that’s how you have to do it).

This example is currently a Title 1 firearm, same as any rifle/pistol/shotgun, and will transfer as such to your FFL dealer in the same way. After receiving it you would then file a Form 1 with ATF to manufacture it as a Destructive Device. Upon receiving your approved Form 1 from ATF and providing a copy to me, the barrel and rear sight (see pic) which is in the custody of an affiliated FFL dealer, out of my possession and control, will be shipped to you free of charge. This may be your last chance to own one of these, if HRC wins the election, it is completely possible that she could issue an Executive Order to ATF not to accept further applications to make/register DD’s. If your Form 1 is in the system before that though…

It is missing one essential ingredient, a bayonet lug. But that’s the original design. (And where would you put it?)

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It’s expensive. Starting bid of $9,500 with a B-I-N of $14,500. But hey, Hollywood, you know Matt Damon needs to wield this in his next action movie, in between appearances talking about how icky guns are. And you Hollywood guys can afford it: you have more money than the God you don’t believe in.

Update

There’s a guy out there who reverse-engineered this to make an updated version. No idea if his work is involved in this particular weapon for sale, but it’s interesting either way.

Artillery in Iraq, August 2016

artillery-02They came out of the sky in the night, using tactics invented in Vietnam and honed by generations of artillerymen since. Mobile warfare demands mobile fire support; overnight, a barren scrap of desert becomes a counter in the Game of War, a temporary home to a battery of M777 lightweight howitzers.

The Army describes a recent (August) mission involving the establishment of a forward firebase, and execution of multiple fire missions.

“Do you have eyes on?” Joseph radios to the CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilots as they approach. Given the affirmative, he watches as they float toward the landing zone. With a dull thud and a cloud of dust the guns are released onto the ground and the CH-47s turn off into the night.

The 101st is known for air assault operations and Fort Campbell, the home of the unit, is where the Sabalauski Air Assault School resides. For the team on the ground, this operation is business as usual.

“Let’s go, let’s get a move on,” Joseph says to the gun crews. Working under the lime-green hue of their night vision goggles, they move their guns and begin setting up the systems, ensuring they are prepared to execute their upcoming fire missions.

The Soldiers work through the night, and by first light they’re ready to fire.

WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS

Staff Sgt. James Johnson, the fire direction chief for Battery C, sits in the back of his fire direction center truck looking intently at his radio, waiting for a call for fire.

“This is where the magic happens,” Johnson says as he concentrates on his console.

Observers, which can consist of assets from the ISF, unmanned aerial vehicles and other aircraft, acquire targets they need hit. Once the battalion headquarters located miles away in the tactical operations receives the data, they push it to Johnson and his team at the FDC.

“We process data,” says Johnson. “They [the artillerymen on the gun line] proceed to shoot.”

A few hundred feet away from the FDC, gun crews are moving around their guns in full kit, checking and rechecking minute details, making small adjustments, waiting to spring into action once the FDC sends a message.

Just then the radio crackles and Johnson grabs his hand mic, listening to the data. He then begins his battle drill, one he’s done many times before. Johnson sends a message to the gun line, “Gun 2, fire mission.”

Down at Gun 2, the crew, led by Staff Sgt. Johnathan Walker, springs up as the radio beeps; in seconds they are at the firing position going through their crew drill.

“Come on,” Walker yells to the crew as they prepare rounds and take their positions. “Let’s make money!”

The crew members look through the sites and adjust the gun as Walker yells the fire data. Attention to detail is critical during this mission; he must remember the data for each round his crew is going to fire.

“Fire!” yells the crew chief, and a Soldier gives the firing lanyard a slight tug. The gun responds to this small motion, shaking the earth around the position as a high explosive shell is launched.

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The next gun fires soon after and the race is on between the two gun sections, a little company competition to see who can fire rounds the fastest and most proficiently. Even working in temperatures that exceed 100 degrees, the teams are driven.

“Let’s get through this!” Walker yells as he calls off the quadrant — up and down — and deflection — left and right — for the next round. Driven by their chief, the Soldiers move faster as the mission continues.

The dash endures for a while as the guns launch round after round. Dust hangs in the air after each round is fired and sweat stings the Soldiers’ eyes. The ammo carriers are running rounds weighing over 90 pounds from the holding point to the gun, heaving the shells into the firing tube. Walker’s voice grows hoarse as he yells adjustments and commands.

Finally, the last round is reached.

“Last round,” the ammo bearer says as he walks up to Walker. With a nod, Walker gets ready for his last command of the mission.

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via The gun raid: US artillerymen support Iraqi advance on ISIL | Article | The United States Army.

And that was that. After taking fire missions from a variety of sources, the redlegs secured their guns and called the Chinooks. Where did they go?  Was it to another hasty and temporary firing position? Was it back to the FOB to rest and refit?

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There are some members of ISIL who would like to know the answers to those question. And other, former, members, who are beyond knowing.

Is artillery useful in an unconventional war? Sometimes. Sometimes it’s not just useful, but indispensable.

Antitank Guns for the Man who Has Everything

We had a birthday in the family recently, and gave some thought to presenting one of these to a 16 year old. They’re all WWII vintage AT guns, and most of them are live. We’ve listed them based on asking price, from most expensive to most economical (for some values of the word “economical.”)

#1: M-1 57mm Anti-Tank Rifle 1943 Carriage Buy it Now: $65K

m1-57mm-01The American 57mm AT gun served throughout World War II, and was the main AT gun used in the peak years of the war. Effective against Japanese armor, it struggled to be relevant in Europe against better-armed and more-mobile German tanks. The US could, however, field a lot of them, and at close range they could make life miserable (if short) for Panzer crews.

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#2: British Six Pounder (57mm) Buy it Now: $35k

british-six-pounder-57mm-02The six pounder was the kissin’ cousin of the American 57mm AT gun and served throughout World War II. This one has been modified for movie duty, but is legally convertible to a registered destructive device (given ATF approval of manufacturing in advance. Unlike MGs, DDs can still be made by and for private owners). Don’t tell Governor Moonbeam, but it’s in California, and it’s actually CA-legal.

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 #3: Swedish Bofors AT (37mm) Opening Bid: $33.5k

bofors-37mm-05Thanks to the annoying Swedish habit of neutrality, the next gun lacks the combat cachet of the combatants’ pieces, but it’s, live, intact, and in beautiful condition. Of necessity, you become a reloader with any gun like this — this one comes with 15 cases. For loading data? KMAGYOYO!

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bofors-37mm-03While the mount is unique, and the muzzle brake follows midcentury Swedish practice, the gun itself seems to owe a lot to Krupp design. The Wehrmacht 37mm and the Red Army 45mm were both Krupp designs, and clearly cousins — as were the social systems the two armies fought for.

Same seller also has a carriage (no breech or barrel) available as well.

#4: WWII 25mm SA.L 1937 ANTI-TANK GUN. Opening bid $25k, Buy it now $30k

If a 37mm gun was already trending obsolescent at the outbreak of World War II, and it was, imagine how weak a 25mm gun is. Plus, this one has to wear the stigma of being from a nation defeated rather thoroughly by the Nazis in cut time: France. Still, it works, and it looks cool:

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It also has an extremely thorough description, and lots of pictures:

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Museum quality, live-firing, French WWII 25mm SA.L Mle 1937 anti-tank gun, serial number 566. This anti-tank gun was built in 1939 by the French design & manufacturing company, Atelier Puteaux, and is marked accordingly: “A.PX 1939”. These guns were manufactured and used by the French, but they were also captured and used by the Nazis, who gave them the designation: 2,5cm PaK 113(f). A quantity of the captured guns were sold by the Germans to Finland, who gave them the designation: 25 PstK/37. The gun has a muzzle velocity of 3150 feet per second, and is a very accurate weapon. We spent 165 hours performing a complete restoration on this anti-tank gun. The restoration work included: sandblasting, complete disassembly, painting, parkerizing, bluing, polishing, lubricating, new tires, reworking the recoil mechanism, and reassembly. This cannon is live firing, and has been fired several times. The gun performed flawlessly when fired…..please take a look at the video below, where we fired upon, and disabled a Ford F-150’s running engine, at a distance of 340 yards.

The chamber and rifling are in very good condition. Weighing only 618 pounds, this gun can easily be moved and fired by one adult male. The actual weight at the lunette when the gun is picked up is only 84 pounds. The gun is also very compact: 152″ in length (139″ with muzzle brake removed), 40.5″ in width, and 41.5″ in height. The cannon is equipped with iron sights, as well as an optical 3x M69C telescopic sight (very clear optics). All traversing, elevating, and depressing adjustments work completely and smoothly (see photos below).

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For the travel configuration, the cannon’s muzzle brake / flash hider unscrews from the end of the barrel, and stows above the recoil mechanism. The armor also folds up, which is also shown in the photos below. This is an all-matching numbers gun (#566). The gun includes 22 live, arsenal-loaded, rounds of 25mm ammunition. Once fired, the brass cartridge cases can be reloaded several times for additional firings. This weapon is an ATF/NFA registered destructive device, so it will be transferred on a $200 tax paid Form 4, or on a tax-exempt Form 3 to a destructive device dealer in your state. We will crate and ship this gun anywhere in the continental United States. Crating, shipping, insurance, and transfer taxes are all the buyer’s responsibility. Residents within Tennessee will be assessed state sales tax. Please take a look at all 70 photos that are included in the auction description below. This is a great opportunity to get a museum-quality piece of history, that displays as good as it shoots! Would make for a stunning display piece in any museum, gun store, shooting range, or office.

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There’s even pictures of this type of gun in German, Finnish, and what looks like Soviet(!) service at the link (Finns below):

Pst. Tykki miehistöineen

Pst. Tykki miehistöineen

Some less awesomely restored examples of this gun are also available right now, one at $15k Opening, No Reserve, and a deactivated one at $10k Opening, no reserve.

#5 106mm RCL (demilled) with Prime Mover: Opening Bid, $30k

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This is one of the things that replaced AT guns, a recoilless rifle, a US weapon of the 1950s-70s. Complete with a M-274 Mule, an offroad vehicle used by airborne forces of the period. An unusual feature was the semi-auto spotting rifle using a special .50 marking round (smaller than a .50 BMG casing.

106-w-mule04The spotting rig was a necessity because the firing signature of a 106 is tremendous, which means, a first round hit on the enemy tank is a life-or-death enterprise with this weapon. It was replaced by the TOW AT missile.

This is the most gun you can have and not need heavy truck and trailer, also one of the more fun toys we had in Nam. Comes with: 4 rds in tubes 2 more in displa manuels tripod (rare) breech cover muzzle cover optics battery pack< elec start This runs and drives as it should, not concourse cond. because we use and enjoy it. If you’ve seen one of these at Fl. MVPA events or the Melbourne Vets reunion in the last decade or so it’s this one This is one of the best equipted in the country. I also have a 25′ closed trailer for sale if this sells. will haul this and any Jeep type vehicle.

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Cool, but not live, alas.

#6 20 mm Lahti w/Spares. Opening bid $15k, Buy it Now $18k

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Here’e we’re down out of anti-tank guns into the high end of antitank rifles. This, the similar Solothurn, and a Czechoslovak weapon that was OBE and not produced in large numbers were the high-water mark of the infantry antitank rifle.

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This lot consists of 1 complete M1939 20MM lahti, w ski, 2 registered lahti receivers, 1 coffin 1 box of spare gun parts, 3 boxes of spare springs, 1 amorer box of tools, 6 boxes w 2 each magazines and 60 rounds of live 20 MM ammo. ALL NFA RULES APPLY!! $50% down and the balance upon transfer to your FFL dealer, buyer pays all shipping costs. and the ammunition MUST BE SHIPPED SEPERATLEY!!

This is live, but ammunition is extremely precious any more.

#7 D44 AT Gun 85mm Opening Bid $8,495.

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This World War II Russian AT gun is a postwar Polish clone. It is rather roughly demilled, but if not for that would be the clear bang-for-the-buck leader. These guns were widely used in Vietnam and the Arab-Israeli wars, among other 20th Century conflicts.

The shield on this cannon has been cut and re-welded (at Arsenal in Europe), a 12″ metal shaft is missing off of the breech block (replacement easy to create) and we recently repainted it so it looks good. We have discounted this cannon $500 in consideration. Otherwise in good condition. No obvious damage, little evidence of any major use. Working T & E, solid tires. Dem-illed to ATF specs, breech cut [easy weld], 85mm hole in bottom of chamber [donut whole included], hole is NOT visible from exterior of cannon.

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All demilled pieces [uncut breech block and cut ring] are included, a good ATF form 1 project, subcal to 30-50 BMG [no ATF reg needed], or oxy-propane conversion. We converted ours to a combination 30 cal, diesel fuel, and oxy-propane, sounds better than a real field piece, at a fraction of the price.

We will have INERT 85mm TRAINING rounds here in [about] 3 months.

Light enough to tow behind a jeep or a deuce.

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When you absolutely, positively have to get those damned kids off your lawn.

That’s about it for cannon right now. But if you’re feeling mortarous, other sellers can hook you up,

Want a Project? Here’s a Half-Track that Needs Everything

Every so often, we find something at auction that cries out for just the right buyer. This early World War II halftrack is just such a case.

m2-overview

m2-6120As you can see, this M2 (serial number 6120 of about 13,500 M2s made from 1940 to 1943) is lacking all its armor aft of the A pillar, plus the windshield assembly, plus all the stuff that was attached there. It does have an intact driveline that needs maintenance but does work — pretty amazing after at least 73 years.

One of the most interesting things is the original 6-cylinder flathead motor, still trucking after all these years. If you look closely right of center, you can see the “White” script trademark cast into the engine block.

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This picture shows the other side of the motor in its native habitat:

m2-original-motor

Reproduction and restoration parts for halftracks are available, but you see what we mean when we say this vehicle needs the right buyer. (Welding and riveting skills a plus!)

While the body is mostly missing (lets you pick your own variant, perhaps), the office looks pretty much untouched since GI Joe last turned it in.

m2-office

The M2 was used as an artillery tractor, mechanized MG squad bus, and reconnaissance track, whilst the more common M3 (~45k built) and less common International Harvester M5 and M9 (~11,000 built) were mostly used as infantry carriers. All variants of halftrack were made into specialized AA, field artillery / tank destroyer, and other special-purpose vehicles, and many of them were supplied to American allies both under Lend-Lease and postwar.

They soldiered on with Israel through the Yom Kippur War, and served in South America into the 21st Century. Bolivia still may operate some ex-Argentine models (or they may have run out of spares, always a problem for the poorest nation on the continent).

How this one wound up at a US Government auction this month, with a minimum bid of $7,000, is anybody’s guess, but there’s a hell of a story in there.

Minimum bid is $7k, and you’ll have to pay a 10% kicker and Illinois state taxes, and remove it within eight days of the auction close (which is 28 September).

M2 Half Track Truck
ITEM NUMBER 766646
LOCATION
Maywood, Illinois, United States. 60153
AUCTION DATE
Sep 28, time TBD

METER READING 41 Hours
SERIAL # M2 6120
White 6 Cylinder Engine, Manual Transmission, Stake Sides, Bench Seating, Tool Box, Additional Undercarriage Components

via Surplus M2 Half Track Truck in Maywood, Illinois, United States (GovPlanet Item #766646).

It does seem to have a second flatbed-load of bogie and idler wheels and other gear, all of which look like they could use overhaul. At that link there are over 100 photos and a video of the motor running (it’s image number 55 if you want to skip ahead in the gallery).

If you buy it, we’ll come out to Illinois and help you load it!

We’d Have Called it the Drone Dropper… or Drone-B-Gon

This anti-drone device is going viral. They’ve clickbaited it well by calling it the Skynet anti-drone rifle, and it can directionally jam the GPS signals a drone needs to navigate, and the wireless video downlink.

skynet-anti-drone-rifle-3The two white and black “barrels” are directional antennae in two separate GHz ranges. The backpack is the necessary power source. Anyone who’s got Electronic Warfare experience will tell you jamming is a power-intensive activity.

skynet-anti-drone-rifle-1If you look at all the pictures available on the company’s website, and watch the video (below), the whole thing appears to be built on a (partial? modified?) AR-15 receiver, with a standard M4 receiver extension and stock. A bit overkill for just something to hang an arduino, a transmitter, and some highly directional (< 10º) antennae on, but it kind of makes sense to give people a familiar interface, and the AR-15 is the point and click interface for the 21st Century.

Along with this video, there’s a new one showing a live test. They claim a “suppression ratio” (difference between the range from the Skynet operator to the drone and the drone controller to the drone) of 8:1, which means (thinking of power squares here) that this jammer has vastly more power than the controller.

The two signal rangess it can jam are 1.450 GHz – 1.650 GHz and 2.380 GHz – 2.483 GHz, but it can only jam one at a time. Available hacks for, for example, the DJI Phantom drone (the one in the video) can take the drone control out of the target range, and could practically be developed for the video range.

There are a few other problems with it, to wit:

  1. As a jammer, it is almost certainly illegal to use in the USA. The Federal Communications Commission takes a dim view of jamming, and has considerable technical and legal resources it deploys to punish violators.
  2. It’s only effective against some common commercial drones and is unlikely to have any impact on a more sophisticated government or military system, which is likely to use robust, high-availability communications, and have backup onboard navigation (usually inertial) that’s immune to jamming or meaconing.
  3. It requires clear line-of-sight to the drone, ergo, it’s only useful as a point-defense weapon.
  4. It requires a human operator and visibility of the target. (How would it work in the dark, against a drone deploying LLLTV? We suppose there’s a Picatinny rail upon which you can mount an image intensifier or thermal sight).
  5. It has the scent of early prototype all over it, and is a long way from a commercial product or (alternatively) a flexible R&D platform. But even experimenting with this thing brings you back around into the sights of the FCC.

Finally, this is, we think, the firm’s first video, from May.

All in all, it smells to us like a gimmick. And within the range of this thing, there are other ways to take out a drone (one lady pestered by paparazzi drones seeking spy shots of a celebrity neighbor demonstrated her wingshooting skills and blew the drone to Kingdom Come. The paparazzi boarded their Range Rover — apparently invading privacy pays well — and were last seen heading back for Gawker HQ or whatever glutinous sump whence they emerged).

This is not the only anti-drone product out there. As well as other jammers, there are counter-drone drones that ram them or drop nets or cables onto their rotors. All of them are similarly immature at present, and no one knows if they represent a real market segment or just hobbyists tinkering.

Wanna Get Your Crank On? With a Gat? (ling?)

Sure, there’s always a couple of vendors trying to sell Colt’s new-edition 1875, 1877 or 1878 Gatling Guns for prices around $50-60k. (There were eleven of them on GunBroker when we put this story to bed last night). What about those of you who jones for a Gatling, but can’t afford the price of a luxo car or SUV for it, or can’t get a decent trade for your first-born child?

Fear not, the cheapskate New Englanders at WeaponsMan.com have your back. Mission: save you money on a Wild West icon, so you can go bankrupt buying blackpowder or Cowboy Action rounds and getting your crank on.

Fun fact about Gatlings: they had been so well employed by one American officer that the US Army’s machine gunners — who were, mostly, under his sway — clung to the Gatling into the 20th Century, long after the armies of Europe and the modern armies of Asia had chosen automatic machine guns.

Item 1: Museum Quality Gatling Gun w Carriage 45LC Mag

Price: Buy it now for $18k, or make an bid on the penny auction — against the unknown reserve. No bids yet.

Gatling Portland 01

Great looking Gat(ling).

Seller’s been trying to unload this gat since 2015, at least on GunBroker and at the Portland, OR gun show. Initially he wanted $30k, then $25, and now he’s down to $18k. Ground shipping to your FFL (it’s a Title 1 firearm) is $600.

$18k too high? Let’s move on.

Item 2: Replica Gatling Gun in 45 Black Powder

Price: No Reserve sale with minimum bid of $10k, or actually $5 under that number. No bids yet.

Gatling Tucson 02

This one’s not as impressive as the $18k gun; it has a homemade-y look. But it’s $10k plus actual shipping from a gun shop in Tucson. The seller says:

Up for auction is a Modern Replica of a Gatling Gun, built in the 1980’s by a machinist who was also a civil war re-enactor.

6 barrels. Working Black Powder Gatling Gun, designed to fire cap and ball blanks only but barrels are .45 caliber and rifled.

Perfect for Recreations, Movies or Stage Prop. The gun has been a fixture in the shop for years and gets a lot of attention but it is time for us to change some of our decor so it is reluctantly for sale.

Item 3: GATLING GUN FULLY- FUNCTIONAL LIVE-FIRE 45 L.C.

Price: No Reserve sale with minimum bid of $7k, or actually $5 under that number. No bids yet.

While this is the price leader of the authentic(ish) Gatlings, it seems to be a high-quality piece with a lot of brass. The seller complicated his sale by not taking a single good picture of the whole Gatling, but there are some character-rich detail shots. The business end:

Gatling OK 04

And here’s the rear half, left side:

Gatling OK 03

The rear half, right side:

Gatling OK 01

And the forward:

Gatling OK 02

Sure, it’s not for everybody. Some guys will complain about its lack of Picatinny rails and others will turn it down because there is no place to mount a bayonet. The magazine capacity probably makes it illegal in Massachusetts, Colorado, California, and North Korea.

But it would be worth the price of the ammo (and the target frames) to crank this puppy up from time to time… maybe on the anniversary of the Little Big Horn.

But there you go — three options for less than the somewhat stiff cost of entry to the Colt Repro Gatling Club. Just the thing for getting your crank on.

And on the other hand, if you feel diffident about saving money on a 19th Century classic firearm, there are eleven Colt replicas available for up to $60k.

But if you feel diffident about saving money on anything under the sun, we don’t know what you are but you are not a cheapskate New Englander.

Silenced Enfield Obrez…? Uh, no.

Hey, what’s this? We found it on a Russian forum, and it almost looks like a suppressed version of one of those cut-down Mosin “Obrez” sawn-offs used by various  Russian mischief makers. But that can’t be what it really is. Where would Russians get a Lee Enfield (well, apart from any left behind by the Allied intervention in Archangelsk 1918-19)?

Enfield GL

A pre-World War I vintage “Sht. L.E. III” which breaks out to “Short Lee Enfield Mk III,” it says here:

Enfield GL 3

It has a King’s Crown and the cartouche ER, of Edward VII, who was King and Emperor in the first decade of the 20th Century. (He was succeeded by George V, King during the First World War).

It even looks a little like a suppressor if you take it down:

Enfield GL 4

But we’ll let you in on a secret — the muzzle end is wide open, like the X Products “Can Cannon.” That’s a clue. Know what it is yet?

Here it is in place, wrapped up:

Enfield GL 5

…and unwrapped. Got it yet?Enfield GL 6

It’s a grenade launcher for the light Universal Carrier, aka Bren-Gun Carrier, a tiny armored vehicle much used by British and Commonwealth forces and descended from the flimsy Carden-Lloyd light tanks of the 1920s. The launchers were meant to be used with blanks only to fire (as far as we know, only smoke) grenades. Depending on the Mark of the Carrier and where it was built, this launcher might have been built on any available .303 action — Enfield, Ross, or even Martini. Here’s a Martini one in context:

Carrier 010

Yes, the Bren gunner or TC served this launcher from the left seat, whilst the driver jockeyed the vehicle from the right (even in the Canadian models, made in vast quantities by Ford of Canada and still occasionally turning up rusty in a Saskatchewan wheatfield). This sketch shows you where it all goes in the Mark II carrier (this one set up for a Boys 0.55″ Anti-Tank Rifle crew).

carrier mk 2

It was a tight fit for several men and all their kit in this tiny armored fighting vehicle, and it was at the mercy of nearly anything the Germans or Italians chose to fire at it. But you go to war with the Army you have.

Puts British and Commonwealth nerve in a bit of perspective, to think of calling this “armor.” It’s at the very bottom of the mechanized war food chain.

Here are a couple of pictures of restored carriers. The firearms and helmets should give you some idea of the scale of these toy poodles of the tank world:

Enfield GL 7 enfield GL 8

After the jump, two videos of running carriers: one enthusiastically driven (he actually drifts a curve), and the New Zealanders Motor Vehicles Collectors Club in 2015, breaking an Aussie record for most running carriers at a display!

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