Category Archives: Weapons that Made their Mark

When CMP Got Some Carbines In…

…they sold out. In one day. Twice.

Let us explain that. They sent a message on 28 January to their mailing list:

Monday, February 1, we will begin accepting orders for a limited number of M1 Carbines for mail order. Two grades will be available, Service and Field. They include the following manufacturers; Inland, Winchester, IBM, Quality Hardware, Saginaw, Standard Product and Underwood. The manufacturer you receive will be luck of the draw, please no requests. Each customer is limited to one total Carbine this year. You will not be allowed to purchase both a Service and Field Grade. You may put down your first choice and second choice.

cmp_m1_carbine

We DO NOT time stamp orders, we only date stamp them. All orders received the same day are put in one basket. Please do not call about your order. If information is needed for your order, our sales department will contact you. Be sure to complete the checklist for the order before you send it in. Questions about orders already in-house slow down our processing which means it takes longer to send out the end product. If your payment method is a check, we will not deposit your check until your order is processed. However, some orders may go on backorder. You will be contacted prior to depositing your check should your order be placed on a backorder list. To be placed on the backorder list, you must have a form of payment with your order.

There were two grades available, in a quantity of a few dozen each. (Images below are of a Service and Field grade carbine, but these rarer Saginaw-made firearms came from the CMP auction site).

M1 Carbine Service Grade: R017SERVICE $685/each Free S&H

M1 carbine saginaw service grade

Carbines may have been rebuilt and refinished at least once and will exhibit, in most cases, varying degrees of wear on many parts and generally nosignificant pitting on metal. Metal parts are mixed USGI. While all Carbines are USGI, some may have foreign markings. Muzzle may gauge 3 or less on muzzle gauge. Stocks may be replacement marked M2 type birch, beech pot belly or USGI walnut, but may have seen heavy use with possible rebuild or other markings. Each carbine will be shipped with an empty chamber indicator, CMP Safety Manual and a CMP reprint of FM23-37. The Carbine is also shipped in a CMP hard rifle case.

NOTE: Carbines will not be sold or shipped with magazines, slings or oilers.

M1 Carbine Field Grade: R017FIELD $625/each Free S&H

M1 carbine saginaw field grade

Carbines may have been rebuilt and refinished at least once and will exhibit, in most cases, varying degrees of wear on many parts. Bores may have some heavy pitting and exterior finish may show significant wear and surface pitting. Metal parts are mixed USGI. While all carbines are USGI, some may have foreign markings. Muzzle may gauge 3 or more on muzzle gauge. Stocks may be replacement marked M2 type birch, beech pot belly or USGI walnut, but may have seen heavy use with possible rebuild or other markings or repairs. Each carbine will be shipped with an Empty Chamber Indicator, CMP Safety Manual and a CMP reprint of FM23-37. The Carbine is also shipped in a CMP hard rifle case.

NOTE: Carbines will not be sold or shipped with magazines, slings or oilers.

They received enough complete orders (with eligibility information and payment) to cover all the carbines they had, except for a few dozen they’d reserved for in-store sales.

Note that we don’t have a dog in this fight, as we didn’t read any of these messages until after the sell-out had occurred.

So then they put the remainder… under 70 M1 carbines… out in their two stores at Anniston, AL (the Talladega Marksmanship Park) and Port Clinton, OH (Camp Perry) yesterday.

CMP M1 Carbine Release in CMP Stores

M1 Carbines will be released in our stores in Anniston, Alabama, and Port Clinton, Ohio, on Thursday, February 4. Since our mail orders sold out in one day, we thought it would be wise to notify our store customers that there will be less than 35 full M1 Carbines in each store. This is the extremely limited quantity referenced in our previous email. They will be sold on a first come, first serve basis. No rifles will be held. Please bring all necessary paperwork with you to the store. No agent purchases.

There may be someone who got a carbine in the store, and already had his paperwork in for a mail-order carbine, in which case he gets the one he picked out in the store, and his mail-order paperwork is void, and someone gets plucked off the back-order list. Other than that:

CMP’S Carbine Inventory has been exhausted and we do not expect to receive any additional shipments.

Expect many of them to appear on GunBroker at a $400-600 markup, CMP’s small contribution to the neckbeard contingent, which otherwise would only be able to survive on the profits of .22LR arbitrage.

CMP does have a few premium (condition, or rarity) carbines that were culled from the pack, including an M1A1, that they offer on their auction site.

Inland M1A1 Carbine

Note that the prices get high (here’s a carbine bayonet that’s into the hundreds with eight days yet to go in the auction). With eight days to go, this M1A1 is over $2k (it will likely wind up much higher than that).

Inland M1A1 Carbine 2 Inland M1A1 Carbine 3

It’s also worthwhile to look at the auction site to see what top-notch carbines and Garands are going for, and what CMP’s Service and Field grades look like.

See what we have to look forward to on the 1911s?

Revenant Rifle

With the new movie, The Revenant, about to open, we found on the Contemporary Makers blog a fascinating story by Ron Luckenbill about the two identical rifles he built for the movie — in less than 60 days for both.

Revenant Rifle

Ron is justly proud of the work he’s done here.

Luckenbill Revenant 01

This is the gun that I built for Leonardo DiCaprio to use in his portrayal of Hugh Glass in The Revenant movie.  The movie will be released to the general public on Jan 8, 2016.  I have been getting a number of  request for photos of the gun, but was restricted from posting them until the movie release.

RV-03

I was contacted in July of 2014 by the prop master for the movie relative to building two guns exactly alike.  They were initially interested in an Angstadt rifle that I had on my web site, but I just sold the gun and it was no longer available.  After discussion other possible guns they decided to go with this Bucks Co gun that I had in stock.  I then built an exact duplicate and had both guns in British Columbia by the end of August.  It was exciting to be involved in a project like this.  I like many others am waiting to see the gun in the movie.  I hope it helps to raise awareness of the sport of muzzleloading.

 

Luckenbill Revenant 06

via Contemporary Makers.

Ron LuckenbillRon builds hand-crafted rifles in the 18th and early 19th Century Pennsylvania tradition. He has made a third copy, which he’s going to be offering for sale at the 18th Century Artisan Show this year. He also has a number of other fine rifles and fowling pieces, reproductions and originals, on his own website, where he shares further details of the Revenant rifle.

The gun was built on a moderately figured piece of curly maple in the classic Bucks County style.

Luckenbill Revenant 11

(Look at those stripes! If that’s moderately figured, we’d like to see what Ron calls fancy maple).

The build is based on an original which was handled and photographed by the builder. The hardware is copied from an original John Shuler, Sr. rifle. The barrel is a 44″ Colerain B weight 50 cal. While many original Bucks Co. rifles had English import locks, the original had somewhat larger than normal Germanic lock.

Luckenbill Revenant 03

I found that a Jim Chambers Golden age lock was a near match for the original. The carving of this rifle is somewhat atypical for a Bucks Co. gun in that it is a blend of both raised and incised carving, showing a decided Lehigh Co. influence.

 

Luckenbill Revenant 04

We don’t presume to be able to ID classic frontier rifles by state, let alone county. But we sure can admire this kind of work.

Luckenbill Revenant 09

We double-dog dare you to go to Ron’s website and not come away with a jones for these classic guns, a uniquely American extension of a German gunsmithing tradition (which is why they’re Pennsylvania rifles, and not New York or Massachusetts rifles; early German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania and points west). You can spend a lot on one of Ron’s creations, or one of the higher-end originals he has for sale. But he also has some reasonably priced original rifles and fowling-pieces, especially the later, percussion firearms.

He does make a very good point: given the antiquity of these guns, if you want a shooter, you’re probably better served by a replica than by an original. And given the current prices of the better mass-produced replicas, having a smith like Ron make you your own heirloom might not command the premium that it really deserves.

What’s up… not Doc, unfortunately. Not yet.

About a year ago we announced that, “A Second B-29 Nears Flight.” Here’s a bit of what we wrote (and the video we included) then, and we’ll bring you up to speed (with more video, pictures, and links) on the situation as it stands today. BLUF: Doc’s got to weather a Wichita winter, exposed to the elements, before the airplane can return to flight. For those unfamiliar with American geography and climate, Wichita is smack dab in the middle of the Great Plains, and Kansas gets plenty of snow — that, Doc can shrug off — and occasional hail during thunderstorms. Hail could set the restoration back by damaging skins and glazing.

Doc is important as only the second (potentially) airworthy example of the historic type. Like most surviving airworthy bombers, it didn’t have a harsh life in a combat zone; this particular plane served out its career as a radar trainer, before being condemned to — and miraculously, saved from — the violent death of an aerial ordnance target in an impact area.

If you’ve seen a B-29 fly in the last few decades, it’s been “FIFI,” the Commemorative Air Force’s flagship and the only surviving airworthy B-29 of some 4,000 built.

Until now. A single tatterdemalion B-29 was rescued from a China Lake impact area decades ago, and a restoration began in 2000. Now “Doc” (named after the Disney dwarf) is ready to fly. This video tells the story.

As we cited at the time, AvWeb’s Mary Grady wrote:

…the airplane will be ready for flight testing in the spring, and they are planning to fly the airplane this summer at EAA AirVenture, where it will join the B-29 Fifi. “It’s the first time in 60 years that two B-29s have been able to fly in formation together,” T.J. Norman, the restoration’s project manager, told the Wichita Eagle recently.

But as anyone who works with aircraft knows, sometimes “nearing flight” is an asymptote, and Doc missed his appointment at Oshkosh. AvWeb stayed on the story as Doc started strong, with a March rollout and a brass band, but… both the mechanics and the paperwork, with the FAA as always doing whatever they could to impede aviation, held things up. The team wants to use McConnell AFB in Kansas for the flight test program, but the USAF won’t even consider giving permission until the FAA grants an experimental Certificate of Airworthiness.

By the time of Oshkosh (July-August), it was clear Doc wasn’t going to make it. The plane looks ready to go — the pictures below show how far it’s come — but there are a million details, and no action from the FAA.

Doc then and now

Doc, a target on a range at China Lake in the 1980s. Thank St. Horrido for Navy pilots’ bad marksmanship!

Doc (asymptotically) nears completion, fall 2015.

Doc (asymptotically) nears completion, fall 2015.

By this fall it became clear that 15 years of restoration (plus three years of restoration planning before that) hadn’t quite done it and Doc was going to have to be stored for the winter.

A kickstarter campaign helped to raise money for the flight test program. They had an ambitious goal — $137,500 — for a thirty-day campaign, but they blew past it to almost $160k, thanks to over a thousand generous donors, five of whom donated $10,000 each.

By the time of the Kickstarter, the technical problems had been licked and a small army of volunteers had repaired, restored or remade the necessary parts. As project lead Jeff Turner, retired CEO of Spirit Aerosytems (the Wichita parts manufacturer created when Boeing spun off its Wichita operations), knows, the problems are now financial and management ones, not technical ones, including the thorny political problem of managing the FAA. As the team wrote on their Kickstarter site:

[T]he biggest challenge is no longer the restoration; but is funding the certification, maintenance and home base for this aircraft. … B-29 flight-testing and management is extremely expensive.

And then another problem cropped up: the hangar they’d been using, a generous in-kind donation, was sold. The new owners bought it to use it, and so Doc was wheeled out into the elements, just in time for a Wichita winter.

Docu B-29 outside at night

This picture was taken outdoors in early December and tweeted by Doc’s team, with a prayer request for mild weather.

Why don’t they just use their donated money to rent another hangar? There are no available hangars large enough on the airfield. And they can’t even ferry the plane to another airport, now that winter is upon them (starting the engines in low temperatures is very bad from a wear standpoint, and pre-heating the engines isn’t practical).

Here’s the last video update from Doc’s Friends Restoration Manager, Jim Murphy:

By the time Doc flies, as many people will have had their hands on the plane’s restoration as had their hands in building in back during World War II. You can keep up with Doc’s doings at: http://www.b-29doc.com.

Fun exit fact: one of the ladies who riveted on Doc (and hundreds of other B-29s) back in wartime also riveted on the restoration!

Don’t Forget Forgotten Weapons…

… although, it could be called “Remembered Weapons,” because Ian remembers all the stuff that everybody else has forgotten. True, we haven’t flagged you to his site in, what, two whole days? But when he’s posting stuff like this, you need to be over there, not here. We’ll still be here posting several times a day, but trust us, you want to see these two posts, and you want to point your RSS reader at FW so you never miss stuff like this.

Item: The Grandpappy of all MGs

Every gun begins with the prototype — no, wait… Every gun begins with an idea, but it has to pass through the stage of prototype if it’s ever going to be made concrete and marketed, adopted, and/or produced. And Forgotten Weapons is starting a new series on the Maxim, the grandpappy of all machine guns, with a great post on the prototype, which is, naturally, the granddaddy of all Maxims.

maxim_1885_prototype_01_left

One of the best parts of that post is a video Ian scared up which shows the ur-Maxim’s inner cuckoo clock. It’s ingenious, but it’s fair to say that the highly developed Maxim of the First World War was vastly simplified and improved over this design.

maxim_1885_prototype_03_feed

That, of course, just makes the engineering dead ends of the prototype even more interesting. There’s a little bit of similarity to the much later aerial weapon, the Mauser revolver cannon, in that a rotary sprocket is used to lift the cartridges after they are withdrawn by an extractor from the ammunition belt.

Item: Small Arms Development, 1945-65: the Soviet View

Victory Day parade. Rather than rest on their laurels, the Soviets overhauled their weapons after World War II, and by 1965 they'd done it a second time.

Victory Day parade. Rather than rest on their laurels, the Soviets overhauled their weapons after World War II, sending these Mosins to the warehouse, and by 1965 they’d done it a second time.

Ian got hold of a fascinating primary source document: a CIA translation of a classified Soviet analysis of small arms development after World War II. Both the intent of Soviet development and the differences between Soviet and NATO small arms doctrine and development objectives are laid bare in this document (available at the link).

Our long-held thesis that Soviet developments were primarily focused on putting automatic fire in the hands of their riflemen, whereas Western forces primarily focused on aimed semi-auto fire, is borne out from the horse’s mouth, as it were. The authors of the piece, two senior Soviet officers, see, from their point of view, 1965 NATO as making a serious error in not giving their riflemen weapons that can be effective in automatic fire at close range. Of the US Army:

[E]xperience in the operation of the M14 rifle has shown that it has extremely unsatisfactory grouping capability during automatic firing, as a result of which it is assigned to US troops only in the semiautomatic variant.

…in recent years the American army has renovated nearly all of its small arms. However, it should be pointed out that with the NATO cartridge as a basis, the USA has failed to solve the problem of developing a mobile and effective automatic individual weapon that satisfies the requirements of modern combat. For this reason the Americans have taken measures to modernize the M14 rifle, to explore other rifle designs, to develop a new 5.6-mm cartridge with reduced power, and to develop a rifle that will use this cartridge.

Ivan also prized light weight in his weaponry.

With allowance made for [the Soviets not being sure what NATO armies carried as a basic load of ammunition -Ed.] the average weight load (weapon plus unit of fire of cartridges being carried) per man amounts to: in the Soviet Army — 7.2 kilograms, in the US Army — 9.3 kilograms, in the West German Army — 10.9 kilograms, and in the French Army — 8.5 kilograms,

(This is referring to the M14 version of the US Army, the one that faced Russian occupation armies in Eastern Europe directly at the time. Elsewhere in the report, they note the emergence of the M16 as something to be watched).

Judged on the basis of these data, the weaponry of the Soviet Army is the lightest. This has been achieved by the use in our army of the 7,62-mm Model 1943 cartridge and the development for it of an automatic rifle and a light machinegun, which have made it possible to substantially lighten the weight of both the individual weapon itself and also the unit of fire carried with it.

Interesting to us that no credit at all is given to the Germans for inventing the intermediate cartridge and assault rifle concept. While the CETME rifle is mentioned as the source of the German G-3, there’s no mention that the CETME itself is an adaptation of the StG.45. (That fact may have been unknown to the Russian authors).

The authors were extremely satisfied with the state of Soviet weapons, and considered their weapons superior both individually to their counterparts, and on a unit vs. unit basis.

Rare Simonov AVS-36 Sold for $5k — as Parts

We were watching this on GB, and the price just ran away from what we wanted to pay. But we wanted the gun, as longtime students of rare Soviet weapons. We’ve mentioned it before; in May, 2012, we noted that by coincidence the US and USSR both adopted semi-auto rifles in 1938, the M1 and the AVS-36. Although the AVS was not a semi-auto, but a selective-fire rifle. Built as lightly as possible, they were problematic in service, and soon supplanted by the Tokarev selective fire (AVT) and semi-auto (SVT) rifles of 1938 and 1940. The Tokarevs were practically kissing cousins of the Simonov, being the same caliber, same size in every dimension, using similar magazines and the same gas tappet system of operation with a tilting bolt locking system (a similar locking system to the BAR, SAFN-49, and FAL).

This is the kit as all laid out

This is the kit as all laid out

This particular kit is so rare — we cannot recall ever having seen another AVS for sale in the USA, period. Here’s what the seller says:

This auction is for a complete parts assembly for an extremely rare pre WWII-early WWII Soviet Russian Simonov AVS-36 rifle. This parts assembly is all complete including the torch cut receiver and original magazine. The assembly is all matching except for the magazine and the parts that are supposed to be serialized are all matching #Y4287. The parts including the stock and handguard remain in nice condition and have never been repaired or modified. Bore is fine and bright with strong rifling with a pin in the chamber area that can be removed. These rare rifles were only manufactured circa 1936-1938. The first saw actual combat use in the Battles of Khalkin Gol in 1939, also in the Finnish Winter War 1939-1940, and in limited numbers during the early days of WWII. These rifles for any reasons proved unsatisfactory in combat and were quickly superseded by the Model SVT 1938/1940 Tokarev rifles. The AVS-36 Simonov Rifles and any original parts are rarely found anywhere in the world and are extremely desirable in this country. This would be a very rare opportunity for a collector to reweld or have a dummy receiver made for a static display. If you are lucky enough to have a complete registered rifle you would have some great parts which you would never be able to find anywhere.

The Tokarev, too, would be abandoned to return to the 19th Century Mosin-Nagant, for reasons of reliability, training base, and especially, speed of manufacture, once the USSR found itself at war with a peer competitor, Nazi Germany.

Simonov’s team continued designing firearms on the same system. Scaled up, the AVS-36 action became the mighty 14.5 x 115 mm PTRS-41 anti-tank rifle. Scaled down, it became (using some of the innovations from the PTRS, like the fixed magazine), the SKS-45 carbine that is still carried with pride by Russian honor guards. CORRECTION: see UPDATE below.

The prewar Soviet semi-automatic and select-fire rifles were an attempt to increase the Soviet infantryman’s firepower based on the same intensive study of the stalemates of World War I that produced Soviet innovations in tank and airborne forces. (The Red Army was doing tank and airborne maneuvers all through the 1930s… the US Army didn’t create airborne units and tank units capable of operating independently until the 1940s, and Armor (tanks) was not a basic branch in the US Army until 1950!)

Two things strangled the Soviet rifle development. One was, as mentioned, the poor performance of the AVS in practice, especially considering its cost of manufacture (including opportunity costs). The juice wasn’t worth the squeeze; a prefect semi was better in theory than the old Mosin, but the AVS (and AVT/SVT) were demanding and troubled guns (as was the M1 on introduction), and say what you will of the 50-year-old (then) Mosin, it was thoroughly debugged. The other thing that slew semi-auto development in the late thirties was the Great Terror, during which Stalin purged all of the power centers of the Communist Party and the Soviet State, including the Red Army. The brilliant Marshal Tukhachevskiy was shot, as were most of the men he’d mentored. Essentially all of the marshals and higher generals, and most of the lower grades of general officer and colonels, were shot or stripped of rank and thrown in the Gulag, more or less contemporaneously with the short service life of the AVS-36. The men who took the reins — it was not unusual for a division or corps commander to be a lieutenant colonel — were shaken enough that they weren’t going to make waves. The M1891 was just fine for granddad’s regiment, they’d make it work in the 1940s. (And they did).

As a result, relatively few Tokarev and very few Simonov rifles were made in the first place, and the Simonovs were captured in great stands during fighting with the Japanese at Khalkin Gol on the Mongolian border, and in the Winter War with Finland (1939-40). This particular rifle is a Winter War capture. We’ve written before about Finnish captured AVS rifles (and again here); this one might even be in one of those pictures!

Due to the ATF’s interpretation of the Gun Control Act of 1968, even a rarity like this cannot be imported, under the borrowed-from-the-Nazis “sporting purpose” test. Because it has “no sporting purpose,” (and really, no interest except to a rarefied echelon of collectors) its receiver was torch cut. Fortunately, it was imported before the ATF changed their interpretation to require the destruction of barrels as well as receivers of “non-sporting” collector guns.

(Incidentally, there was a budget amendment liberating the importation of curio and relic firearms from the Nazi “sporting” test that passed the House by a wide bipartisan margin. Why didn’t it pass? Because like all the other pro-gun language in the House budget, it was stripped out by the inexplicably NRA A-rated Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Good thing you didn’t vote for a Democrat, eh, you might have gotten an anti-gun Speaker… oh, wait).

Looking at this parts kit, we can determine a few things. It is a Finnish capture. That can be determined because it has the Finnish Army property Mark, “SA,” applied to it in various places. The seller also gets the serial number wrong, because he doesn’t know the Russian Cyrillic alphabet.

Simonov AVS-36 bolt Ch Ts 287

The two Cyrillic letters in the serial number, here in the bolt carrier handle, are Ch and Ts. So the real number is Ch Ts 287.

Here’s a view of the bolt carrier and bolt. SKS owners will see things are fairly familiar.

Simonov AVS-36 bolt and carrier top

Here is the Finnish Army property mark, in this case, on the side of the magazine. AVS-36 magazines held 10 rounds of 7.62 x 57R mm ammunition.

Simonov AVS-36 SA capture mark

Here’s another view of the parts:

Simonov AVS-26 parts

And here they are, loosely assembled.

 

Simonov AVS-36 assembledThe kit does not seem to be complete. It is missing some internals, such as the hammer. One could probably adapt SKS parts, or use SKS parts as models to scale up, to make a safe, legal semi-automatic fire control group for a rebuilt rifle.

Having a receiver machined would cost in the four figures, is our best guess. And that’s after you’ve done the reverse-engineering and made the drawings. The parts of the cut receiver are some help, but they’re clearly distorted by the torch. You might be able to get a museum that has one to let you measure theirs, at least the gross external measurements. Despite the seller’s suggestion, I do not think this cut receiver is susceptible to being rewelded — better to start over from billet.

The torch cuts on the receiver parts are ugly, and look like they're through pin locations, locking areas, etc.

The torch cuts on the receiver parts are ugly, and look like they’re through pin locations, locking areas, etc.

The GB Auction page is going to stay live for a while. When it goes away, let us know, as we archived the page this time.

UPDATE

Max Popenker points out in the comments that our description of the locking system as analagous to the SKS and PTRS is not correct. Reexamination of available AVS photos shows he’s quite right, but what is the locking system of the early Simonov?

Forgotten Weapons had a February, 2014 post on the AVS, and identifies the locking method as a block that slides vertically up and down. FW linked to this forum thread at Guns.Ru that shows detail photography of a disassembled AVS, one that appears to have been deactivated in the British style, by torching the bolt head off at an angle. From this incomplete example, it looks to uslike the AVS bolt locked with two wedges emerging from the bolt, roughly similar to the locking flaps of a Degtyaryev machine gun. Is this a locking wedge? Or a safety device preventing out of battery firing?

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Demilled AVS bolt, left side. Is that a locking wedge at center? Bolt carrier at top. Bolt carrier handle on opposite side, you can see its shadow; there’s another possible “locking wedge” on the other side below the handle. Bolt face, torched off at an angle, at 9 o’clock; firing pin at 3 o’clock. Firing pin retaining pin visible just to left of pin, it runs in the slot milled in the pin).  

The thread is also useful for images of the trigger mechanism (much of which is missing from the auction rifle) and for showing the safety, which is very similar to that of the SKS.

Forgotten Machine Weapons….

Ian at Forgotten Weapons has something new set up in his office. It’s this:

Ians Vickers Diorama

He’s had the Vickers (live, naturally) for years, but the diorama is a new idea, and now he can admire his MG from his desk even when he’s not converting money into noise and smoke, with an intermediate stage as .303 and the Vickers as catalyst. He writes (at Reddit):

What do you do with a heavy machine gun during the 99.999% of the time when you’re no tout shooting it on account of ammo cost + it weighs 120 pounds? Usually it goes in a box somewhere.

I decided to make mine into a diorama, with some sandbags, WWII British entrenching tool, helmet, and rusty barbed wire. I can still take the gun down to use, but in the meantime it’s a cool display in my office!

Ian’s definitely our kind of people, and the Reddit thread is worth checking out for the long Cryptonomicon excerpt that another redditor has posted. Vickers got infrastructure. 

And in other Ian news, there’s this:

Ian goes banzai

Relax, dude. Put down the sword. The ammo delivery’s coming, it’s just delayed…. no reason to commit hara-kiri. 

Actually if he’s going to pull that look off, he needs a hachimaki across his forehead. Tenno heiko… banzai!

By the way, if you tap that vintage wood paneling just right, it plays excerpts from The White Album. Backwards. They’ve been embedded there since its first installation in a den in the summer of Altamont….

In all seriousness, for some of the finest, most engaging gun content on the web, get on over to ForgottenWeapons.com. We know most of you readers are regulars there, but if you’ve been slacking off, go catch up on the wonders of Swiss experimental open-bolt semi rifles and oddball exotica from all the countries of the world. And if you like what you see, slip him a buck or two through Patreon. (Link’s on his site).

How the M203 Got its Sights

In the beginning, as a super-duper flechette-launching grenade-launcher infantry weapon project (the Special Purpose Infantry Weapon, SPIW) collapsed, what survived was a small grenade launcher modeled on an H&R Topper single-shot shotgun with a thyroid problem. This was the M79 bloop gun so fondly remembered by Vietnam vets. The M79 was introduced in 1961 as an infantry weapon, to restore the grenade-launcher capability lost when the M14 rifle replaced M1 rifles and carbines, which could take a grenade launcher attachment. (Grenade launcher development has always lagged rifle development in the US. Early in World War II, Springfield rifles were kept in the rifle squad for grenadiers, because there was no grenade-launcher attachment for the M1 yet, five or six years after its formal adoption).

m79_grenade_launcherThe M79 became one of the signature weapons of the Vietnam War, and a skilled bloop gunner was a valued member of a combat unit. In dismounted infantry combat the M79 had some advantages and disadvantages versus the enemy counterpart, the B-40, which was the Vietnamese licensed copy of the Soviet RPG-2 antitank weapon employed as an anti-personnel weapon. The 40mm grenade warheads were superior antipersonnel rounds, being designed as antipersonnel or dual-purpose rounds (the Soviets would later bow to the widespread use of their squad AT weapon as an antipersonnel force multiplier by just about everyone who ever used it, and make fragmentation, thermobaric and other anti-personnel  rounds for the follow-on RPG-7V, but not in time to do the PAVN and VC any good). The M79 was highly effective against troops in the open, highly accurate with training and experience, and the light, compact rounds meant that the GI could carry a lot of them. It was useless against armor, but that was immaterial to the Americans in the first years of the Vietnam War (the NVA made tank attacks, finally, in 1968).

m79-3

The grenade launcher capability was much desired, as a Human Engineering Laboratory survey of Marine combat infantry man in 1967 demonstrated. Well only a few percent of them reported carrying the M 79 as their primary weapon, several commented that they wanted more M 79’s, more and 79 rounds, and a white phosphorus round for the M791.

The problem of the thing was in its very nature. Doctrinally, the grenadier’s primary weapon was the grenade launcher, and so to carry the launcher and the rounds left him with no close-in defense weapon except an M1911A1 pistol. The answer seemed logical: make a snap-on or bolt-on launcher as an accessory for the service rifle, the M16A1.

This was tried as early as 1964, when three prototypes were tested. The best of the pack seemed to be Colt’s slide-the-barrel-to-load launcher, which was developed by Colt’s Karl Lewis in a remarkable 57 days from concept to test-fire. It was combat tested in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967 as the XM148. This picture shows the XM 148 without its extended trigger.

XM148_Grenade_LauncherAs part of that test, 5th Special Forces Group received a handful of the weapons sometime in the quarter ending on 31 January 67, and had these comments:

This item was designed to be mounted under the front hand guard of the M-16 rifle. It has an extension bar attached to the right side of the weapon to bring the launcher trigger near the trigger of the rifle. 5th SFGA is presently evaluating five XM-148’s. Two are located with Project Delta, two with Project Omega and one in IV CTZ. Results to date are excellent.2

Delta and Omega were reconnaissance projects.

In testing of the XM148, it turned out to have its own set of problems vis-a-vis the familiar M79. The Army Concept Team in Vietnam reviewed the XM148 and concluded “It did not meet Army requirements in Vietnam.”

The Army went back to the drawing board. Not one, but three launchers were developed to meet this need. An unknown firm developed a pivoting barrel grenade launcher, about which we’d like to know more.

AAI (formerly Aircraft Armaments Incorporated) developed what the Army called a pump-action grenade launcher, the XM203, by 1968. It was very similar to the version that was finally adopted in 1971, with some minor improvements.

M16a2m203_afmil

M203 on a later M16A2, nearly identical to the initial M16A1 hosted XM203.

AAI also developed a futuristic launcher on a principle called the Disposable Barrel Cartridge Area Target Ammunition principle. Lacking any official nomenclature or pet name, this beast was called the DBCATA, an acronym nearly as awkward as the full name. This 40mm grenade was a case that itself formed a throwaway barrel, and was an survivor of the years of engineering overreach called the SPIW project. (The projectile was exactly the same as the M406 used in the M79, except that the rotating band was pre-cut to interface with the rifling).

DBCATA cutaway

Its Achilles Heel turned out to be that ordinary 40mm rounds could be fired in the smoothbore, unchambered barrel — not just the standard low-pressure 40mm M79/XM148/XM203 rounds, but also the high-pressure rounds used in helicopter armament and the Mk19 crew-served grenade launcher, then being developed for the Navy’s riverine force. A high-pressure round in a low-pressure launcher turned the apparatus from a grenade launcher to an instantaneous grenade.

The comparison test concluded that the XM203 was the best of the bunch, but needed two improvements and a combat test in Vietnam to confirm the Proving Ground tests. The report of the comparison test of the three contenders is full of interesting insights. For example, for all launchers, the TOONK of firing the 40 mm round came with enough recoil to bounce an M16 or XM177 bolt back out of battery. Next time Joe went to fire his rifle, he might get a click and no bang. In the end, there wasn’t really a technological solution for this, and it was managed with training.

Here’s a training video on the then-new M203… in 1971.

When the final M203 was issued, it incorporated a number of improvements from the GLAD tests, including a folding battle sight atop the M203 handguard — the only part of the break-action launcher they’d liked — and a more robust peep sight called the “quadrant sight.”

“The system,” so often derided by the field soldier, had worked as advertised, getting him an improved weapon (which remains in service to this day). Although it was developed by AAI, the production contract went (initially, and for many years) to Colt.

An ACTIV evaluation of the M203, with 500 samples, found that it was suitable for service in Vietnam. It served for many years thereafter, and is only gradually being replaced by the H&K M320. But the ACTIV evaluation, which recommended standardizing the XM203 as the M203, reached an interesting conclusion:

The battlesight and quadrant sight are useful during training, but they are not needed once the firer becomes proficient in the pointing technique.3

They further recommended deleting the removable quadrant sight.

But by then, the M203 was in full production, and units in Vietnam were clamoring for them. The quadrant sights were never deleted, and ACTIV’s conclusion is still just right: it’s very helpful to a gunner learning to system, or getting back in the groove after some time off. But once he has his 203 knack back, it’s superfluous.

Notes

  1. Tech Note 1-67.
  2. 5th SFGA quarterly report.
    The report also notes two other new arrivals in the world of small arms, including:Submachine Gun, 5.56 mm, CAR-15. This weapon is similar to the XM-16 rifle, however, it has a shorter barrel and hand guard, a telescoping butt stock, and different type of flash suppressor. It weighs 5.6 lbs., is 28 inches long with stock closed, and has a cyclic rate of fire of 750-900 rounds per minute. 5th SFGA,will evaluate 100 CAR-15’s. They will be located in each CTZ.
  3. Reid, Final Report.

Sources

HEL Staff. Tech Note 1-67: Small Arms use in Viet Nam: M14 Rifle and .45 Caliber Pistol. Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD: US Army Human Engineering Laboratories, January 1967. Retrieved from: http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=AD0649517

Keele, Eric, and Hendricks, George. Final Report on Engineer Design Test of Grenade Launcher Attachments for M16A1 Rifle (GLAD) (U). Aberdeen, Maryland, 1968: US Army Aberdeen Proving Ground. Retrieved from: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/393211.pdf

Reid, John E. Final Report: XM203 40mm Grenade Launcher Attachment Development: ACTIV Project No. ACG-14/691. Army Concept Team In Vietnam, September 1969. Retrieved from: http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=AD0860601

Uncredited. 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. Quarterly Report for Period Ending 31 January 1967.

 

Bonus

Click “more” to see the comments combat Marines made on the 1967 Human Engineering Laboratory survey about the M79. (A lot of them apply to any grenade launcher).

Continue reading

Brown Bess: Guest Post by Rudyard Kipling

Brown Bess

The Army Musket–1700-1815

Brown Bess -- a Pedersoli reproduction.

Brown Bess — a Pedersoli reproduction.

In the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise–
An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes–
At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

Though her sight was not long and her weight was not small,
Yet her actions were winning, her language was clear;
And everyone bowed as she opened the ball
On the arm of some high-gaitered, grim grenadier.
Half Europe admitted the striking success
Of the dances and routs that were given by Brown Bess.

In the days of perukes (powdered wigs), Grenadiers of the 29th Foot fired their Brown Besses at a Bostonian mob, although they look more joyous than grim in this Colonial propaganda sheet.

In the days of perukes (powdered wigs), Grenadiers of the 29th Foot fired their Brown Besses at a Bostonian mob, and “opened the ball” of the American War of Independence. Grenadiers were selected for height and strength and were an elite force in the British Army of their day — although these Tommies look more joyous than grim in this Colonial propaganda sheet. (It embiggens).

When ruffles were turned into stiff leather stocks,
And people wore pigtails instead of perukes,
Brown Bess never altered her iron-grey locks.
She knew she was valued for more than her looks.
“Oh, powder and patches was always my dress,
And I think am killing enough,” said Brown Bess.

"Her iron-gray locks" -- a 1743 example auctioned some time ago by Rock Island Auctions.

“Her iron-gray locks” — a 1743 original auctioned some time ago by Rock Island Auctions. “The flint in her teeth.”

So she followed her red-coats, whatever they did,
From the heights of Quebec to the plains of Assaye,
From Gibraltar to Acre, Cape Town and Madrid,
And nothing about her was changed on the way;
(But most of the Empire which now we possess
Was won through those years by old-fashioned Brown Bess.)

In stubborn retreat or in stately advance,
From the Portugal coast to the cork-woods of Spain,
She had puzzled some excellent Marshals of France
Till none of them wanted to meet her again:
But later, near Brussels, Napoleon–no less–
Arranged for a Waterloo ball with Brown Bess.

She had danced till the dawn of that terrible day–
She danced till the dusk of more terrible night,
And before her linked squares his battalions gave way,
And her long fierce quadrilles put his lancers to flight:
And when his gilt carriage drove off in the press,
“I have danced my last dance for the world!” said Brown Bess.

28th Regiment forms square at Quatre Bras during the battle of Waterloo -- the "last dance" of Brown Bess.

28th Regiment forms square at Quatre Bras during the battle of Waterloo — the “last dance” of Brown Bess.

If you go to Museums–there’s one in Whitehall–
Where old weapons are shown with their names writ beneath,
You will find her, upstanding, her back to the wall,
As stiff as a ramrod, the flint in her teeth.
And if ever we English had reason to bless
Any arm save our mothers’, that arm is Brown Bess!

SARCO has Bren Gun Kits!

SARCO is celebrating Thanksgiving with some deals, but also has dug back into the warehouse and found some Bren Gun kits. These have not been on the market much lately. The good news is that two of these old torch demils include original barrels:

SARCO Bren Mk.1 kit

SARCO Bren Mk.1 kit. Included mags not shown.

They also include some magazines and accessories, which vary by mark. For example, the Mk. I illustrated above includes five .303 magazines, and an original barrel SARCO calls “good.” On the Mk.3 kit, they rate the included barrel (a Mk. 2 and not the shorter Mk.3) “very good” and include it and five magazines (which are not shown in the kit picture).

brenmk3kitbarrelnotshown

Sarco Bren Mk.3 Kit. Included Mk.2 barrel (which does fit) and mags not shown.

The bad news? Those torch-cut receivers are almost certainly not rebuildable, at least, not economically so. If the cuts fall in critical areas of the receiver, or if there’s too much material removed, there are no easy fixes.

And any rewelded receiver must be heat-treated.

Finally, they have a true rarity, although it is barrel-less at the moment: the L4A3 7.62 NATO version. This comes with just one mag, and they’re working on having a new-production barrel which will be offered at additional cost as soon as they are available.

Bren L4A3 kit. Included magazine (1) not shown.

Bren L4A3 kit. Included magazine (1) not shown.

The reweld cautions with the other kits need to be observed here, too. In our judgment, building these guns is possible (if you’re lucky about where the cuts are) but extremely challenging and time-consuming.

 

For the Man who Has Everything

Or, hey, the woman. We’d like to see Tam put 1,000 rounds through this! (Although, truth be told, it’s demilled). Available for sale on a European armor and armament sales website, along with its 203 mm howitzer counterpart, the 155 mm “Long Tom” gun was the staple US military heavy piece of World War II. The seller has a French name and a French (33) telephone code.

WWII 155 mm Long Tom

Of course, moving this gun between the USA and France is possible — it’s been done before, right? — but you can’t just click the Pelican case shut and check it like a bag.

At the time the M1 gun was developed during and just after the First World War, most world armies maintained both “guns” (which shot a smaller higher-velocity projectile a longer distance at a lower angle) and “howitzers” which shot a larger, lower-velocity projectile a shorter distance at a higher angle. Later, technical improvements in howitzers would render most guns obsolete, and today, howitzers fill both roles.

Both the 155 and 203 were US improvements on foreign guns, a WWI French 155 and the WWI British 8″ howitzer. (In inches, 155 mm is a hair over 6″). The American-designed chassis had a number of improvements, including the hydraulic “equilibrators” which made up for having the gun’s pivot point so afar aft of its center of mass, and the carriage that used eight road wheels and a two-wheeled bogey or limber to support the tow end of the trails and connect to the towing pintle of the tow vehicle. The tow vehicle was either a heavy truck or a “high-speed tractor” that used light-tank running gear.

This period Popular Science article describes and illustrates some of the then-new features of the M1 “Long Tom” 155.

The seller, Jean Petit (whose name is the French opposite of Long Tom, we note) describes it like this:

Very rare and impressive piece of history, deactivated main gun, weight 14 tons, towed by High Speed tractor or 7 ton truck, Price on application, this historic artillery is properly deactivated. Also available one each deactivated heavy howitzer 203 mm version, WW2 manufactured, probably the only one’s available in this good original condition.

M Petit has a large number of other historic pieces and vehicles for sale. The European site Milweb.net has an extensive set of interesting classifieds.

Hat tip, Miguel at GunFreeZone.