Category Archives: Weapons Technology

Mold-Your-Own Plastic Lower

Here’s something new, a kit to mold your own plastic AR-15 lower receiver, from AR15Mold.com.

freedom15_group_v3_ar15mold.com_102115_2910x1245_970_415__56758

Here’s what the kit looks like, with some cleaned-up receivers. It produces a 100%, ready to assemble receiver, as soon as it’s extracted from the mold and the mold flash is removed (The flash is visible in the purple and black receivers in the image above; mold flash should be familiar to anyone who built plastic models, a once-popular boyhood hobby). If you look closely, you can see that the toolmarks in the mold are replicated in every produced receiver. It’s unclear without examining one whether the mold is machined directly from plastic (perhaps nylon) or whether it is injection-molded itself.

ar15mold_kit_with_output

The parts you make with this kit are not injection-molded, they are cast. What’s the difference? Injection-molding is done with heat to melt a thermoplastic (or thermosetting) and pressure to force the plastic in and air out of the mold. (Sometimes it is done in vacuum). Casting is done at ambient or near-ambient pressure and temperature, using gravity to fill the mold. (Some casting is done with an assist from centrifugal force, but not in this case). AR15Mold.com does suggest heating its two-part resins to approximately 100ºF for pouring into the mold. Complete instructions come with the kit, which costs about $360 with enough resin for five lowers.

The lowers accept mil-spec uppers and internals, with some caveats. The buffer tower is longer along its X (longitudinal) axis for more strength, making a fixed, rifle stock impractical without an alternative buffer retaining pin retainer. The part is also molded at the top limit of milspec (right on the +.003 tolerance line) for a tight fit, which is okay if your upper’s mating surfaces are +0/-.003 (or minus even a little more, at the price of some rattle). If your upper’s mating dimensions are on the plus side of the tolerances, you’ll need to do some hand fitting.

The bare molds look like this, but something is missing:

ar15mold_kit_minus_small_parts

The element that is missing is the inserts. You see, a complex part like an AR lower can’t simply be molded using a two-sided mold. That’s because it has some areas that are “blind” to the sides of the mold, or “undercut” from the point of view of that side. These blind, undercut areas require inserts that, in effect, extend the mold into the “blind” area, but are removable to allow the molded part to be removed. This picture shows the “small parts” of the AR15Mold.com “Freedom 15” kit, including the “inserts” (which are white).

ar15mold_kit_small_parts

The white “inserts,” clockwise from top center, include the trigger pocket, the buffer tower (if you embiggen the picture, you can see it bears a negative impression of the threads required here), the bolt catch slot and pin, the magazine well, the mold plug, the bolt catch detent pocket, the two inserts for the two sides of the magazine release, etc., etc.

It is possible to break some of these inserts if one were to gorilla-grip them during demolding. It pays to watch all the videos before making a lower.

No mold release compound is used or required with this combination of materials, although some wax on the pins is helpful. The  casting approaches we have covered previously have used RTV cast molds, and using of mold release compound has been crucial.

For the novice at casting, the how-to videos located on the website’s video page and on the company’s YouTube channel walk you through every step. The one that is likely to be most useful to kit buyers is called “Tips and Best Practices.” Another one shows them gingerly inching an F-150 onto a bare receiver. You can see the temporary deformation of the magazine well, but the receiver survived with no lasting damage.

That inspired Angus McThag (whom we thank for discovering this firm and its kit) and his friend Marv to conduct their own torture test, with a Mazda pickup (a Ford Ranger that identifies as Japanese) at 30 miles per hour.

We are reminded of the statement made in the ARMold video that they’re not claiming their receiver is indestructible. Good thing they’re not; McThag would take it as a challenge.

The manufacturer has already demonstrated reinforcing a lower with a steel insert and fiberglass.

There is now no earthly excuse for not making your own AR-15 lower, if you want to try, and live in a jurisdiction where it’s legal, which includes most (but not all!) of the United States. The methods include (in descending order of antiquity):

  1. Manual or CNC Milling from a raw forging;
  2. Manual or CNC Milling from billet;
  3. Manual or CNC Milling to complete a partially finished alloy receiver blank (aka “80% lower”);
  4. 3D printing a plastic receiver of PLA, ABS or Nylon, among other materials;
  5. 3D printing a plastic pattern of PLA, and lost-PLA-casting the receiver;
  6. Manual or CNC Milling to complete a partially finished polymer receiver blank;
  7. CNC Milling to complete a partially finished alloy receiver with the GhostGunner micro mill;
  8. 3D printing parts of a plastic receiver and gluing them together;
  9. 3D printing parts of a plastic “bolt” receiver and bolting them together;
  10. Cold-resin casting a lower using a mold taken from another lower; and, now,
  11. Cold-resing casting a lower using this kit.

We note that the resin casting has been done before; indeed, we’ve reported on it before. What ARMold.com has done is to provide a practical and complete kit for doing this. They have submitted to Firearms Technology Branch of the ATF for a determination letter; this may take some time, but it’s highly probable the determination letter will be forthcoming, because, frankly, nothing they send you can be plausibly defined as “a firearm” within the specific language of the Gun Control Act of 1968 or the National Firearms Act of 1934, as amended.

We also note that the more recent methods, near the bottom require fewer resources and less skill than the old “take this orthotopic rectangular cuboid of alloy and mill off everything that doesn’t look like an AR lower” approach. In other words, the trendline is towards lowered cost and difficulty.

The “Maker” spirit so animates the hobby gunsmithing community now, that it probably can’t be overcome. You can’t stop the signal, Mal.

 

Classification of Automatic Weapons Actions

Chinn used this chart in 1942 (it’s in Part X in Volume 4, and can be read or downloaded at this link — warning, it’s a monster .pdf). In it, he classifies the actions of the machine guns he knew:

chinn_machine_gun_systems

His choice of classifications is interesting, and he includes some designs that are not machine guns (Webley-Fosbery, Williams floating chamber). But he doesn’t include everything, if only because he drew this up some three-quarters of a century ago, and designers haven’t been idle.

What’s missing, and why?

The first thing we note is that externally powered MGs are not on the list, but then, he does define “automatic machine gun” as “A weapon capable of sustained fire with its operating energy being derived wholly from the force generated by the explosion of the propellant charge.” That’s a reasonable definition, although we’d quibble about “explosion” and perhaps substitute “combustion,” and it excludes both the then-obsolete mechanical machine guns like Gatling, Nordenfeldt and Gardner, and the then-unimagined powered gatlings of the 1950s and beyond.

The next absence is the direct impingement gas system. At the time, it either had just gone into service, or was just about to go into service, in Sweden in the Ljungman AG42, which had been in development only for about a year before its issue. Of course, the direct-impingement system is best known to us today through the Stoner AR variant, which works completely differently (having a de facto gas chamber inside the bolt carrier), and secondarily through the French MAS-49 and MAS-49/56 rifles.

What else is Chinn missing? Is there truly nothing else new under the sun in threescore years and ten?

Blast from the Past: “Gun Pro” Correspondence Course

(This is the latest in our promised occasional substitution of a book review for When Guns are Outlawed. Let us know if you want us to stick with this feature in the comments — Ed.).

The seller warned us that this set of booklets wasn’t in the greatest condition. But we bought it anyway, and in a week or so the 1970s-vintage Gun Pro Course from the North American School of Firearms arrived at Hog Manor. We found that the actual course volumes, each of which is a photo-reproduced, triple-punched 8½ x 11 inch booklet of anywhere from five to fifty pages, were in excellent shape; only the slipcase was really in the trashed state that the conscientious seller was so careful to describe.

Whether the course was worth the money… depends. We think the used course, once the property of one Ralph D. Davis, by his ink marks in a couple of volumes, was worth the $20 or so we paid (we don’t remember the exact amount), but in its heyday it cost a lot more. It probably wasn’t worth that.

gun_pro_ad_field_and_stream_1977It was one of a variety of correspondence courses sold out of the back pages of magazines. Both small display ads and even smaller text-only classified ads promoted these courses. An example of the display ad is seen to the right; it came from Page 90 of the July, 1977 issue of Field and Stream. Similar display ads promoted the North American School of Conservation (Page 18) which offered you “the Badge of the Future,” although we doubt anyone ever got hired as a conservation or game officer after taking this mail course, and the North American school of Animal Sciences, which asked you to “Be a Veterinary Assistant!” with a picture of a big-eyed spaniel. These ads all invited responses to the same address, which would get you an “Info Pack” or “Career Kit” — a come-on to buy the course. This would have been larded with the usual direct-mail bullshit: grandiose boasts, empty promises, probably bogus testimonials with no real names: “Bill W., Akron, Ohio.” If you bought the course, it came to you in dribbles.  We’re sure people who took this course got jobs, but we doubt anyone, ever, got hired because he or she took one of these courses.

The core promise: “Make Big Money on Guns — Be a Gun Pro!” of the ad? How can we say this politely? Manure. Yeah, we like that word. That promise was manure.

The North American Correspondence Schools had addresses in Newport Beach, California and Scranton, Pennsylvania and at some time before the Event Horizon of the Internet, they completely vanished. It is possible that they were absorbed into an existing correspondence course marketing mill, Penn-Foster. That outfit also calls Scranton home, we believe.

The general consensus online is that the course was not very good. Here’s a sample of comments:

  • On The High Road, 6 March 2010: “I took both the North American School of Firearms and NRI correspondence courses 20+ years ago. TOTAL CRAP.”
  • On HandgunForum.net, 16 May 2010: “I have taken 3 gunsmithing courses. The first one was in 1975. The school was the North American School of Firearms, Newport Beach, CA (correspondence course). This course was mentioned in the NRA Gunsmithing Guide – Updated. I found it to be geared more towards the shooter than the gunsmith. The school is no longer in existence. Last year I took a “quickie” course from Phoenix State Univ. I got what I paid for.”
  • On FirearmsTalk.com, 11 June 2010: “I’ve taken 3 correspondence/online gunsmithing courses. 1. North American School of Firearms, Newport Beach, CA (mentioned in NRA Gunsmithing Guide), Phoenix State University Gunsmith Certificate program and Ashworth College School of Gunsmithing, Norcross, GA. Best by far (in my opinion) is Ashworth College and North American School of Firearms is no longer in existence (took that course in 1975) but by far the best way to learn is thru an established shop or by going to one of the accredited schools.” (We’ll come back to that last thought in a bit. This does seem to be the same guy who left the comment above -Ed.)
  • On The Firing Line, 13 July 2011:  “I took the Penn course and the North American School of Firearms course (no longer in business). They are garbage.”

We didn’t think they were that bad. The materials are certainly biased towards the complete novice… towards Bubba the Gunsmite, if he could only read. There is an overview of the history of firearms, good enough up to 1970 or so. And some of the instruction for hands-on work is useful, at least in terms of reducing the odds you will acquire the nickname “Bubba” working on your own firearms.

For example, the booklets on repairing single- and double-action revolvers, hands-on repair of which pretty much terra incognita to us, gave a useful explanation of what the parts of a revolver mechanism do, and some explicit instructions, with illustrations, for how to replace internals to restore a revolver to a proper lock-up. It’s given us enough confidence to bid on some gunsmith specials — if they come to us broken already, we have nowhere to go but up.

Of course, the booklets are full of 1970s values: there are descriptions of how to sporterize a military rifle or customize an original Colt SAA that will make a collector from now, 40 years later, cringe. And there’s absolutely nothing about the modern sporting rifle — in 1975, your choices were Colt SP1, Ruger Mini-14, or if you hunted long and hard, maybe a Valmet M62S or an FN-FAL. Those weren’t just representative modern rifles available then — that was almost all the modern rifles available then. They were also considered a bit out there by the Fudd culture of most gun magazines — they’d get reviewed in the then-new publication Soldier of Fortune, not in Guns and Ammo or Shooting Times so much. (The American Rifleman, NRA’s only membership magazine then, and Guns magazine seemed to take more interest in military-style firearms than the other mainstream gun magazines). So this class comes from an era when a gunsmith worked predominantly on revolvers and on bolt and lever action rifles, and slide and double-barrel shotguns.

But the bottom line is this: gunsmithing is a craft, and as such you can’t learn it from books. Period, full stop. Your shelves can groan with gunsmithing volumes, but if you can’t drive a set of files like you’re the Lord of All Metals, they might as well be written in Sanskrit. You can’t learn it from DVDs, either — sorry about that, AGI. It astonishes us that people who dutifully took Driver’s Ed when they were 16 before getting their driver’s license think nothing of taking machine tools to their firearms based on some time logged on YouTube. You can do that — it’s a free country — but don’t expect professional results first time out.

Any craft can only be learned by doing, or by hands-on instruction from a master craftsman. Hands-on instruction takes a lot of the painful trial and error out of learning, but rare is the master craftsman who has the patience to instruct a novice.

At $20 or $30 on the used markets, this is a good buy. More than that and you might want to let it go. And if you really want to be a gunsmith, start talking to the local guys… maybe someone will trade instruction for some help. Good old-fashioned apprenticeship is never out of style, when your objective is master craftsmanship.

Why Gun Bans Don’t Work, Part #987616

We wondered why the normally busy FOSSCAD twitter feed went radio silent over the holidays. Last thing we heard about was the new Taig mill on 15 December 2015.

Well, here’s what he was up to:

Yep, that’s the first test cut on the freshly CNC’d mill.

If you want to ban guns you have to ban tools. If you want to ban tools you have to ban raw materials, and books.

Anybody who says he “supports the Second Amendment, but…” has let that abnegatory but start him on a path that ends in a pile of blazing books.

Or blazing people.

Take our guns, we still have our tools. We will make new guns and take them back.

Take our tools, we still have our books. We will make new tools.

Take our books, we still have the knowledge in our minds. How do you propose to take that?

Poor Man’s Rapid-Fire, New and Old Methods

What do you do when you have the need for speed — for cyclic-rate ammo-to-noise-combversion speed — and your daughters aren’t worth enough at an ISIL slave auction to cover a pre-’86 transferable AR lower? Here’s Military Arms Channel with the latest voodoo AR trigger. This Franklin Armory Binary Firing System trigger fires once on trigger pull, and once on release. As far as the ATF is concerned, that’s two separate actions, and therefore it’s a perfectly legal semi-auto trigger.

You may recall we’ve been here before, with the Tac-Con 3MR trigger. We’ll look at that in a moment, but first, here’s the Franklin Armory trigger in action.

We’d have liked to know a little more about the details of how it works, but that’s not forthcoming in this video. For instance, if you have fired a shot, and then a range officer calls cease-fire, do you have to hold the trigger back while you clear your firearm, or does the safety render the weapon safe enough to clear, while pointed downrange? We don’t know, and he probably didn’t, at the time he made the video. We suppose we’ll have to buy one to try it out.

(Update: The safety works to hold the second round, you just have to hold the trigger and not let it reset while you put the safety on with your off hand. Franklin Armory has posted a video showing this).

The trigger has some training issues or perhaps teething problems. One of the ones that renders this absolutely a range toy vs. a working firearm is that it doesn’t always go bang. Really, the only reason a weapon has a safety-selector system on it is to ensure it goes bang every time the operator wants, and only every time the operator wants. The didn’t go bang happens in at least two cases: intermittently, on first trigger pull, no go bang; and frequently, when an operator’s (meaning rifle operator, not 7th dan ninja) trigger-pullin’ outruns the hardware, the hammer follows the bolt carrier down, and no go bang. 

There’s also a mag stovepipe he blames on the (Surefire) mag he’s using, but we do recall that one thing that was very strongly correlated with failure to feed, fire, and extract in the early days of the M16 was a higher-than-designed cyclic rate of fire.

He seemed to think you could train that away, which is interesting, because at the beginning of the video he suggests that this, unlike the Tac-Con, can be used by anybody with little training (and does demonstrate with his cameraman as gun test dummy).

There are two other interesting gadgets in the video, the new Magpul 60-round drum is shown briefly, and there’s a trick QD mount for the Aimpoint PRO made by Kinetic.

For consistency’s sake, here’s MAC’s review of the Tac-Con — you can see he struggles with it, in part because he’s freezing. After that, we’ll have another video of somebody else firing it… who does a little better.

OK, here’s Jerry Miculek firing it. Jerry sounds like he’s firing full-auto even when he’s shooting a Ruger No.1, so he’s pretty quick on this.

Now, the thing is, you can get (or if you’re Jerry, you already are) just about as fast with a good competition trigger, like a Geissele or maybe a Hiperfire. Here’s a comparison of splits on double-taps with the Tac-Con 3MR and the Geissele SuperDynamic 3 Gun, and with an M16 lower, all on the same upper. The results? MG, 0.10 seconds between splits. Tac-Con 0.14 , and Geissele SD3 splits the difference at 0.12.

That’s the equivalent of a cyclic rate of 600 RPM for the MG, 500 for the Geissele, and 430 or so for the Tac-Con. It would be interesting to see if (1) Jerry’s splits were much faster, and (2) how the Franklin Armory BFS stacks up next to these other rapid-fire solutions.

And just because somebody had to do it, here’s a guy who combined the Tac-Con 3MR and a a Slide-Fire bumpfire stock. If you want to hear his opinion of it, there’s about nine minutes of that to the left of where we start you in the video — at the range.

As is usual with these rapid fire gimmicks, there’s a learning curve, but he gets better with practice. At the end, he seems to dump a whole thirty rounds without any snags.

If you want his opinions at length, and a description of how he set it up, just move the video slider back to the beginning.

It isn’t — none of these speed trigger tricks is — something you’d like to use for self-defense, but it’s a great range toy. We’d reiterate that none of these gimmicks is a good idea in a defense gun or officer’s patrol carbine — not even the Geissele SD3, which is a race trigger for competition. Instead, get a Geissele service trigger like the SSA, or its equivalent in another brand you like. You’ll have almost as much speed with more safety and positive control.

The Tanks of 1918

We’ve introduced before the American involvement in armored warfare in the last months of World War I. At the time we promised you a report on the battles, and a description of the hardware involved. This is the hardware post.

While American manufacturers, notably including Ford Motor Company, quickly pledged to build tanks, their industrial production had no material affect on the war; but a time tanks were coming off American production lines, the war was over. And the first American tanks were, or were intended to be, built on foreign patterns.

Renault FT17. This one is preserved at a Polish military museum, part of the global FT17 diaspora; this tanks was probably used in the Russo-Polish War.

Renault FT17. This one is preserved at a Polish military museum, part of the global FT17 diaspora; this tank was a gift from Afghanistan to Poland for Polish support. The tank may have been used in the Russo-Polish War and captured by the Soviets, then given to Afghanistan; or it could just be a tank the Kingdom of Afghanistanw bought on the world market in the 1920s or 30s. It is the 37mm, 20-caliber variant. The US Army also used these tanks, and built a copy under license.

This was because America was fresh in the war, and largely unprepared; apart from our tiny professional military caste, most Americans hadn’t even been following it very closely. There was a vague understanding of things called “tanks,” but no grasp of their design details, let alone how to build them.

That should’ve been slightly embarrassing, because the concept of the tank came from arming and armoring the American-designed Holt tractor in the first place.

With no tanks in production, the US certainly had no tank tactics or operational art, and it set out  to learn from the experienced nations that would provide the tanks: Great Britain and the Republic of France.

After over three years of war, the British and French were eager to share what they’d learned. You might think that they’d be reluctant to give up any share of their tank production to the war’s newcomer, but their problem was a mirror image of the Americans’: the Yanks had volunteers but no experience, training, or tanks, and the European Allies had too much experience, production lines producing more tanks than they could use, and a shortage of manpower after years of blind, wasteful attrition on the Western Front. Indeed, the French and especially the English hoped that the Americans would just provide them with warm bodies, to be expended as replacements in their own bled-out regiments, under the leadership of the same guys responsible for bleeding the regiments out. The US commander, General John Pershing, forcefully declined this offer every time it was made.

The Americans would fight in their own units, under their own leaders. Decision made.

Despite that one disagreement, coalition warfare went remarkably well. American tank units — once trained — worked with British Commonwealth and French units, and even incorporated, at one point, a French tank company in their task organization. At one point, this produced a moment of combat laughter when an American unit sent their valiant French interpreter to stop and redirect a supporting French tank — only to have the turret hatches clank open, and an American TC pop out — “What the hell do you want?”

This FT17 is on display in Compiègne, France. The card-suit markings were used by French and American tank units in WWI.

This FT17 is on display in Compiègne, France. The card-suit markings were used by French and American tank units in WWI. The high-contrast camouflage was intended to break up the tank’s outline, especially versus aerial reconnaissance. The TC’s ingress and egress was through the double-door hatch in the back of the turret. Most photos in this post expand with a click.

Light Tanks from France

The confusion was obvious, because the American tankers were in a French Renault FT, the light tank America adopted from France. Attempts to build this simple, light (about 7 metric tons) two-man tank in the USA bore no immediate fruit. Ford first redrew every Renault drawing and redimensioned them in Imperial units, with the predictable result that none of the Ford parts fit the Renaults, and vice versa. Even the tracks didn’t match: the French tracks were 13″ wide, and the US copy 13 3/8″. The US-designed and built Mk VIII Liberty tank was in the style of the larger British tanks, but powered by the US Liberty engine (the engine was one of the few success stories in American war production in WWI, but the tank wasn’t). In any event, mere token numbers of the American tanks got to the American Expeditionary Force by the Armistice. The hundreds of tanks actually used were all made in France.

The other side of the Compiègne tank. Note the 8mm Hotchkiss armament.

The other side of the Compiègne tank. Note the 8mm Hotchkiss armament.

The Renault FT light tank was a product of French doctrine, which emphasized small, maneuverable tanks that could act as mobile pillboxes for the infantry in the advance. France produced a couple thousand of the FT, which came in a single 8mm Hotchkiss MG version, or in a stubby 37mm L/20 cannon version (the gun barrel was only 720 mm, about 28″, long — shorter than a lot of duck guns). The USA used both versions, organized into Light Tank Companies and Light Tank Battalions, on the Western Front.

This FT was delivered to Switzerland for tests in 1921, in hopes of a sale. It is preserved today in Thun.

This FT was delivered to Switzerland for tests in 1921, in hopes of a sale. It is preserved today in Thun.

All these pictures make the size of the FT unclear — it looks pretty big. Actually, its nearest analogy might be a 1960s VW Beetle, although it’s taller. It would fit in the average garage. This maintenance photo, from tank expert Steven Zaloga’s photobucket, gives you a better idea of the sheer size, or lack of it, of the FT:

French FT17

In Wilson, this image is identified as American crewmen receiving training on the FT17 at the 311th Tank Center at Bourg, France. The men are wearing American uniforms.

This period French manual illustration doesn’t help as the poilus inside are drawn rather small. It does show the layout of the tank, though. The FT is laid out much like WWII and modern tanks — armament in a turret, engine in the back:

Renault_FT_17_sketch

There were quite a few variations of the FT17. For example, the British tank museum at Bovington preserves a prototype with a one-piece cast turret; versions exist with spoked steel idler wheels (the big wheels up front) and with built-up wooden idlers.

Cast armor was unusual in World War I. Most tanks were protected by face-hardened armor, which is obvious when you see the shattered plates of a destroyed one.

Frenh Heavy Tank. Fix this caption.

St. Chaumond Heavy Tank. The “prow” was for negotiating trenches, the main gun a French 75, the secondary armament 8mm Hotchkisses, fired by crouching soldiers who couldn’t stand up or sit down in the cramped tank.

France had made heavy tanks too, the Schneider and the St. Chaumond. In fact, France had been developing tanks for about as long as Britain had, but seems to get short shrift in English-language sources. In any event, the large French tanks were little loved by the French, and were rejected by the Yanks:

Neither vehicle could be truly classified as a tank. Instead, they were nothing more than armored artillery carriers requiring infantry skirmishers to lead them into battle, carefully marking the routes that should follow. Underpowered and lightly armored, they did poorly traveling cross-country, and their crews suffered badly if they received direct hits from artillery fire.1

The French, by late 1917, had put their faith in the light tank; while they still operated the clumsy behemoths, their production was heavily weighted to the small FT, optimized for accompanying infantry in the assault.

The Americans turned instead to Britain for heavy tanks.

Heavy Tanks from Great Britain

Britain had a completely different concept of tank warfare than France – attempts to reconcile these differences had been unsuccessful, with each nation going its own way – and their vision was of the tank going out ahead of the infantry to make a breakthrough, which infantry would then exploit. Each British tank, then, was a sort of a landship, capable of fighting independently or in conjunction with other tanks. They normally employed a team with a cannon-and-MG-armed “male” tank “married up” with an MG-only “female.” (A tank that bore both cannon and MGs? “Hermaphrodite.” Heh.) As you might expect these landships were large and well-armored and armed for the day.

bovingtons_surviving_mark_v

A rare operating survivor: Bovington’s Mark V.

British tank models were logically, if unimaginatively, numbered in sequence from the pioneering Mark I of 1915, and the two models the Americans acquired were the Mark V and the Mark V*, which Americans usually referred to in speech and even in writing as the Mark V Star. Readers familiar with British small arms of the period will recognize the * as a marker of a modification, but the Mark V* was quite a bit different from the ones which had no stars upon thars. (Apologies to Dr. Seuss. Couldn’t resist). It was longer, heavier, and improved in many small ways.

The Mark V is what you think of when you envision the classic, lozenge-shaped tank of World War I. Relatively few of these tanks survive; most of the survivors are in Ukraine, Russia or the other former Republics of the Soviet Union, and are remnants of UK/US intervention at Archangelsk, and Western support to the White Armies in the Russian Civil War. The Soviets preserved this history to a greater extent than the Americans or Britons did. For example, two Mark Vs were preserved in Luchansk, Ukraine. They were in bad shape, with battle damage, rust, e…generations of looting, more rust, and…

Surviving_Mark_V_2

…covered in grafitti (whoever Artyom is, he’s an asshat), but the tanks were removed and restored:

Restoration in Progress Mark V

…and replaced. (In he picture below, one of the restored tanks is in place, the restoration of the park is yet to get started).

Restored Lugansk TAnk

One fascinating find during the restoration: a rifle cartridge case. But it doesn’t look like a Russian 7.62 x 54R to us; it looks like a rimless case. Could this tank have belonged to the American contingent at one time? The case looks too short to be a .30-06. The button appears to be a British Army one, too. A mystery!

Mark V artifacts Lugansk

Another fascinating find: what appears to be one of the same tanks during the Civil War, captured by the White-aligned “Don Army” of rebellious Cossacks:

Mark_V_tank_of_the_Don_army_1919

Lugansk/Luhansk is in disputed territory in the Ukraine and was seized by Russian troops and Russian-controlled militia in 2014. It has been the scene of much fighting, and it’s unclear whether the monument tanks have survived. It’s the least of the many pities of that civil war, one supposes, but a pity nonetheless.

Returning to our American tankers of a century ago: as nearly as possible, American tankers tried to keep the Mark Vs and the different V*s sorted by assigning them to different Heavy Tank Companies, which were assigned to Heavy Tank Battalions.

All tanks of the period were very unreliable; for every one killed by enemy countermeasures (artillery, mines, and the Anti-Tank Rifle) literally dozens broke down or got bogged down. An important part of tank planning was the establishment of engineering organizations to recover, repair, and return to the combat force those abandoned tanks.

This artwork, The Tanks at Seicheprey by Harvey Thomas Dunn, is in the US Army collection. Dunn observed the attack depicted in this impressionistic illustration, the first day of the St. Mihiel offensive.

seicheprey-i

It’s reminiscent of this famous photo, which is often displayed divorced from the information about it. But this is actually a photo of an American tank in combat in the Great War — a very rare thing.

us_ft-17_in_combat

This photo was taken at Seicheprey. Compare the tank’s attitude to the background tank in Dunn’s illustration. But we know the unit, the 326/344th Light Tank Battalion2, and the driver, Corporal George Heesch.

All of the world’s tank types have their ancestry in these flimsy, brittle, unreliable machines.

Surviving WWI Tanks

Some tanks were produced in very low numbers, like the German A7V. Others were mass produced — there are images of production lines for the British tanks. All in all, thousands of tanks were produced, including nearly 2,000 Renault FTs and probably another 1,000 to 1,500, maybe more, of all other types combines. Yet, only a dozen or two tanks survived, not the war, but the century between then and now. 

We know of two lists of surviving Great War tanks: Dave Maynard’s which comes up as disabled due to nonpayment, and an illustrated list found on sub-pages of the Surviving Panzers page: http://the.shadock.free.fr/Surviving_Panzers.html

That includes ….

…this list of non-FT-17 type WWI tanks surviving, including reproductions: http://the.shadock.free.fr/Surviving_WW1_Tanks.pdf

…this list of FT-17s: http://the.shadock.free.fr/Surviving_FT-17.pdf

…this list of US M1917 Six Ton Tanks: http://the.shadock.free.fr/Surviving_6ton_M1917.pdf

Notes

  1. Wilson, Dale E. Treat ‘Em Rough: The Birth of American Armor, 1917-20. p. 9.
  2. Wilson, pp. 116-117, note 53, explains that Patton’s battalions were renumbered by HQ on the eve of the St. Mihiel offensive. At the time this photo was taken, in September 1918, the unit was already the 344th but the old 326th was still the name everyone was using.

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.

How Much Accuracy & Precision Do You Really Need?

It seems illogical, but for a combat weapon, (c) might be more desirable than (a). And even (d) might work.

It seems illogical, but for a combat weapon, (c) might be more desirable than (a). And even (d) might work.

Back in September of ’13 (yeah, we have a lot of tabs to clear, don’t we?) Shawn had a really interesting post at LooseRounds.com. Not like that’s unusual or anything. But he wondered why so many people over-buy accuracy and precision for the kind of shooting that they really do.

That leads us to a parable of sorts. A few years ago, a guy asked if we wanted to buy his rifle. What sort of rifle? A Blaser, he told us, in .300 Winchester Magnum. It was accurate to 1,200 yards, he said.

And where, we asked, in the state of New Hampshire, could you fire 1,200 yards? There are some private ranges, but we do not know of one in the Seacoast region.

Russians are smart, good shooters, and brilliant engineers. They could have built an M-24 equivalent. Instead, in the early 1960s, they built the SVD. What were they thinking?

Russians are smart guys, good shooters, and brilliant engineers. They could have built an M-24 equivalent. Instead, in the early 1960s, they built the SVD. What were they thinking?

That, he explained, is why he was trying to sell it.

Not every gun is fit for every purpose, and people frequently buy more gun than they need. Shawn’s point is that this is very common with respect to accuracy.

Time after time I look through the popular gun boards and see users with Larue OBR, PredatARs and Noveske rifles doing rapid fire mag dumps at targets no further away then 50 yards. Most the time it is on man sized targets and they have mounted the popular T-1 or eotech or something there about. Why do they need a gun that shoots 1/4 MOA to hit a man sized target across the room? Some of them do not even take the gun off of a benchrest and restrict their shooting to 25 yards incredibly. I have even seen some shooting these match rifles using military surplus ball ammo. They do not even bother with the match ammo it takes to achieve the precious level of accuracy they so badly wanted and paid for. The biggest mind boggler to me is the mag dumps. Sure the rifles can handle it, but that accuracy level of the barrel will only last so long and after a certain number of rounds fired, it will go from 1/4 or 1/2 to 1 MOA or 2 or even larger depending on what goes bad or wears first.

Howard: -The first time I saw a LaRue Stealth Upper, it was being used to bump fire. All of the 5.56 OBR rifles I have seen have had either an Aimpoint or Eotech on it. Similar for Noveske rifles. Often they were just used for offhand rapid fire. The sort of shooting I witness these precision rifles used for could be achieved with any quality standard carbine barrel. While it is very nice to have a match barrel, why spend the money one one unless you actually require that accuracy.-

Shawn and Howard are right. If you are plinking, then you do not need tack-driving accuracy, and there’s more than a little suspicion that you can’t put it to use. The percentage of shooters that can outshoot their firearms is incredibly small. Shawn has made a habit of demonstrating the practical long-range accuracy of a rack-grade service rifle is considerably better than the specifications demand, or the average operator (in the sense of “one who operates a rifle” not “wannabe SWAT assclown”) can deliver.

The same is true of pistols. Mounted in a Ransom Rest, many mass-produced pistols can deliver accuracy that puts their owners to shame. Yet the desire to own the newest and flashiest, and to have accuracy bragging rights, seems unstoppable.

How to separate the pistol's potential from the pistolero's: the Ransom Rest and a grip adapter that fits.

How to separate the pistol’s potential from the pistolero’s: the Ransom Rest and a grip adapter that fits.

Money spent on accuracy not used is money wasted. In economic terms, it’s an opportunity cost. 100%, to a first approximation, of shooters, would improve their lethality and therefore their safety in an armed encounter if they put those dollars into ammo, or, especially, training. Yet the guy who balks at taking a pistol class (unless maybe he can take it from a high-speed “operator” who wears designer Multicam down to his skivvies) will drop that money on a tuned 1911. Who are you going to shoot with that 1911? If you’re the late Paul Poole, you shot F-type silhouettes at 100 yards to get people’s attention; if you’re a ranked competitor, you might need that edge when X-rings decide who takes home the trophy. But who are you going to plug with a .45? A burglar in your bedroom? A carjacker in the pax seat of your Prius?

The waste of excessive accuracy is not the only problem with high-precision weaponry. Yes, precision costs money — any gunsmith, machinist, hell, any biologist sequencing a bacterial genome will tell you that. Costs rise asymptotically as you approach the goal of perfection.  And yes, all this is bad. Because money is fungible, at the defense ministry or service finance level, a dollar spent on excess accuracy is a dollar than can’t buy training ammo, tank fuel, medical supplies or new radios (or anything else).

But the things that make for optimum accuracy alone may not be suitable for a general purpose weapon. Have you ever wondered why all M1 Garands or M14s weren’t National Match rifles? It’s not just because Uncle Same Numba Ten Cheap Charlie. It’s because some of the NM “improvements” are only improvements for the express purpose of match competition. Tighter parts fit? Hand-lapped locking lugs? A “blueprinted” or tight chamber? A smaller rear-sight aperture? All of these things are wonderful when your target is a bullseye at 500 yards, but they’re no help when your target’s the 10,000 screaming Norks or Chinamen who are coming to take your position or die trying. Indeed, since history tells us that you’ll be facing that human wave in bitter cold, blowing sleet, enervating heat or jungle monsoons, accuracy for a service rifle is defined as practical accuracy that a real-world rifleman (who is not NRA Distinguished or the owner of a Presidents Hundred tab) can employ in real-world combat.

Engineers have a saying for this. “The best is the enemy of the good.” Excess performance over practical specs has uncertain benefits but very real costs.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been unusual in their generous provision of long-shot targets. Had The Big One ever happened in Europe, a typical sniper shot would probably have been around 300-350 meters. You just don’t have anything but a fleeting target in the rolling, forested and built-up terrain.

This is why the Soviet Army issued a so-so sniper rifle — the SVD — on a very broad basis. The squad designated marksman who carried that rifle wasn’t going to be plinking NATO generals at their field desks two thousand meters away; they were there to provide a precision engagement capability that extended the area of influence of their rifle squads beyond what an AK or RPK can dominate.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: DSIAC Journals & Legacy Journals

There was once something called the Weapons Systems Technology Information Analysis Center, just a few years ago; it published great stuff like this 2008 issue of its Quarterly (.pdf) with an interesting analysis of CQB lethality of the 5.56mm round (this is an analysis of M855, not the improved rounds run by the Army and USMC — which resulted in part from this analysis.   (The study examined 16 weights of 5.56 round, two different 6.8 SPC rounds, and several competitive and control rounds from 9mm to 7.62 x 39 to .30-06).

 

5.56_controlled_pair_lethality

One key finding: we’re not just whistling Dixie with that “double-tap” thing.

So, we went looking or WSTIAC to see what they’d been up to lately. Only to find they were gone. Apart from some documents on DTIC, gone seemingly without a trace.

What happened is that several Army R&D centers merged, and along with specialty operations for things like aircraft combat survivability, what’s left of WSTIAC is now crammed into the IT- and electronics-oriented Defense Systems Information Analysis Center.

The DSIAC has its own Journal which is less interesting to us, perhaps, but still has some good articles. For instance, the current issue (Fall 2015: Volume 2 Number 4) has a fascinating article on Infrared history, even if it does misidentify the device (and even the decade) of an American system in an illustration caption.  The next issue promises information on an experimental Hoverbike; all the DSIAC journals are archived on a single page.

But what makes the site worthwhile is that the “legacy journals” of the former research centers that rolled into DSIAC are also available online. Those are the journals of:

  1. AMMTIAC: Advanced Materials & Manufacturing Technology Information Analysis Center;
  2. CPIAC: Chemical Propulsion Information Analysis Center. Replaced in 2011 by JANNAF;
  3. JANNAF: Joint Army-Navy-NASA-Air Force Interagency Propulsion Committee;
  4. RIAC: the Reliability Information Analysis Center
  5. SURVIAC: Survivability & Vulnerability Information Analysis Center, and yes,
  6. WSTIAC: the Weapons Systems Technology Information Analysis Center.

All the legacy journals are available at this link.

The quality of the articles visibly declines during the late oughts as the sponsoring services become overwhelmed with alternative energy evangelism.

Frequently a .gov or .mil link just goes dead. It’s usually just because somebody felt like reorganizing for reorganizing’s sake, and the data are often still “out there.” It’s the finding that can be a challenge. In this case, a whole bunch of defunct journals have been hanging out at that legacy-journal link.

 

Where RPDs are Reborn as Semis

Earlier this week, we visited Project Guns, a tanmall manufacturer in Florida and the home of an interesting project to recreate the Communist Bloc RPD light machine gun. The RPD is the 7.62 x 39 mm squad automatic weapon used by Soviet, satellite and “fraternal socialist” armies and “national liberation movements” from the 1950s through the 1970s. It’s a gas-operated, belt-fed truly light machine gun that evolved from the ancient pan-fed DP through the DPM and DP-46 from Degtyaryev; the RPD, Ruchnoi Pulemyot Degtyaryeva, was, in keeping with its intermediate cartridge, smaller, lighter, and handier.

These Project Guns RPDs are shown on the website, but have already shipped to their new owners.

These Project Guns RPDs are shown on the website, but have already shipped to their new owners. They’re all made on Polish surplus RPD kits — while the metal is in great condition, the wood varies from “new” to “pretty beat up.”

Along with Russian production, RPDs were made in China and several satellite countries. The quality of manufacture varies from nation to nation.

In recent years, there have been numerous attempts to build RPDs from demilled kits into working semi-autos. The best known is probably the Wiselite build, but there are several small shops out there, and DSA is currently shipping RPD semis.

Stan Szalkowski of Project Guns took time out of his production day — the company comprises Stan and a guy who’s his helper and understudy — to show us how he did it. When he invited us in he was test-fitting parts in one of a batch of guns nearing completion.

A semi-auto RPD approaches completion with careful hand-fitting on the gunsmith's bench. When it works and passes test-fire, it'll be blued, packed, and shipped to its proud new owner's FFL.

A semi-auto RPD approaches completion with careful hand-fitting on the gunsmith’s bench. When it works and passes test-fire, it’ll be blued, packed, and shipped to its proud new owner’s FFL.

The shop is neatly organized into three parts in an industrial zone of many small businesses. The main shop includes the desk Stan’s seldom at unless he’s on the phone to a customer or subcontractor, or designing a part or fixture in CAD (of which more later); the production benches and machinery, including manual lathes and mills, a Tormach CNC, presses, and of course, the gunsmith’s standard standbys: stones and files. Attached to the main shop is the stockroom, where the remainder of 150 RPD kits recently delivered await attention and some completed firearms for foreign destinations await the necessary paperwork drill: approval by national authorities, customs clearance and so forth. (Project Guns has a manufacturer’s license — in fact, as you go in the door, all the required licences are displayed on the wall in case officialdom ever comes looking). The third section of the company, which we didn’t personally see, is in a separate unit, and it is where the messy and noisy processes happen: test firing and hot blue. Each rifle is test fired for forty or fifty rounds into a bullet trap (and remediated if needed). The hot blue process is extremely time sensitive, if you want to avoid having the whole thing flash to rust; so the separate shops encourage concentration on the job at hand. There are assembly days and bluing days.

To rebuild an RPD, Project Guns uses their own receiver design, milled from solid 4130 steel for them by a large Florida machine shop. Stan bead-blasts the receivers, then fits the parts to them, test fires them and disassembled them for rebluing. Apart from the US-made barrels and receivers (and many small parts), each RPD is assembled with parts that came from a single demilled RPD. Each kit came from Poland individually boxed and serial numbered, and the boxes are used to keep each set of parts together along its course of modification and assembly.

A row of in-process RPDs. The nearest ones have their new, US-made chrome-lined barrels installed.

A row of in-process RPDs. The nearest ones have their new, US-made chrome-lined barrels installed.

While the cut receiver parts from the original guns can’t be reused (Stan has been down the path of receiver rebuilds before, but with hundreds of RPDs under his belt, having a custom receiver is much easier), the front sight, bipod and gas system must be removed from the stubs of the demilled barrel. The barrel stubs are also scrap.

The design of the receiver is modified so that full-automatic parts don’t fit. Neither the internals nor an unmodified trigger group housing from a full-auto RPD can go on to a Project Guns receiver. This is required for ATF compliance. The Tormach CNC comes in handy making the required cuts to modify the trigger group housing, operating rod/slide and other internals, as we’ll see when we talk about CAD below.

Here's one of the US-made barrels installed in an RPD. If you peek over to the left, you see a batch of customer guns -- Czech UK Vz.59s -- in for troubleshooting.

Here’s one of the US-made barrels installed in an RPD. If you peek over to the left, you see a batch of customer guns — Czech UK Vz.59s — in for troubleshooting.

The barrels are a story in themselves. The new barrels are US-made compliance parts, but they’re made for Project Guns by a major barrel maker: they’re chrome-lined like the originals. One problem with RPDs has been sight, barrel and gas system alignment. Some satellite nation guns, and some US semi builds, have been constructed with canted parts, which in a sight is inimical to accuracy, and in a gas system can be damaging to function. Stan has designed and built not only a special tool that ensures the perfect alignment of the parts, but also a specialty press for barrel installation that works with the tool.

Scratch-Built Custom Barrel Press. Barely visible on the right is the RPD barrel, sight and gas system alignment tool.

Scratch-Built Custom Barrel Press. Visible immediately to the left of the parts sorter on the right is the RPD barrel, sight and gas system alignment tool.

(He also uses a press that started off as a factory Harbor Freight press, but that he has extensively rebuilt, trued, and reinforced so that it actually works).

He showed us how he makes a custom tool, like the barrel/sight/gas system alignment tool, once he has it visualized in its component parts. (There are three parts to the tool: a base with a hole for the barrel and one for the mandrel, a mandrel that holds parts in alignment, and an insert that notches into the ejector cut in the barrel to ensure that everything’s directionally oriented and aligned properly). He envisions the part, and then sketches it in CAD. The program he uses is not something ridiculously expensive like CATIA, or something cutting-edge like SpaceClaim (which is a relatively reasonable $5000 or so). Instead, he used a combination of free and inexpensive PC software that meets his needs perfectly.

Initial design is done in the free application that’s downloadable from E-Machine-Shop. It also allows you to put your part out to bid. Stan has found that doing that, rather that working with shops he’s got experience with, can produce parts with so-so tolerances. But while the E-Machine Shop tool can produce a 3D file, it’s simply a drawing or representation — it’s not machine-ready.

For that, he uses Vectric’s VCarve Pro ($699 direct). We’re familiar with Vectric’s software (which is made in a confusing variety of versions, but they will help you find the right one for your application) for 2D cutting applications like laser cutting or CNC routing, but Stan uses it to generate tool paths. It accepts input for specific machine, for tool type (i.e. four flute end mill), size and, of course, feeds and speeds. Stan does these from experience, but a beginner can use feeds and speeds from Machinery’s Handbook and come out alright. In VCarve Pro, one can visualize the tool path in a simulation and correct it all on the screen before committing to metal. When the part looks like it’s being cut properly in the simulation, Stan saves the file to a thumb drive, and carries it a few feet to the Tormach.

The Tormach also comes in handy for the repetitive work involved in, for instance, modifying the trigger group housings. It repeats so well that if you design a fixture that doesn’t move when you remove and replace a part, you can set up the fixture and indicate in the first part, and then just run the Tormach and replace the parts without touching the indicator again.

Apart from parts modification, the in-house CNC is used mostly to make prototype parts and production tooling. Stan has a long-established relationship with production shops that make parts in mass quantities. These include semi-auto internals like linear hammers, small pins and dowels, muzzle nuts, and anything that’s unsat or not reusable in the basic kits.

Project Guns' small parts come from US short-run machine shops. After inspection, they go in this parts sorter for the assembly gunsmith.

Project Guns’ small parts come from US short-run machine shops. After inspection, they go in this parts sorter for the assembly gunsmith.

Stan has built and shipped 450 RPDs in the past, and notes that the quality of this batch of kits shows that they’re more well-used than the early batches, which were guns that had been stored new and never fired until they were demilled. With a new receiver and barrel, and many new small parts, and new bluing, the metal parts will look new, but some of the wood in this shipment shows that some of these guns were used hard by the Polish Army during its Warsaw Pact days. You can probably make a request for a more pristine or a more “characterful” RPD at this point, but there’s no assurance there’s any more kits to be had after these, and as they get used up your choices may dwindle.

Of the 150 kits he’s building, 100 are earmarked for United States customers and 50 are spoken for by a Canadian distributor, assuming the Canadian can get clearance from the Mounties, something he’s been working on for some time already. It’s pretty hard to imagine a collector firearm like this, essentially an expensive toy, finding a criminal use, but the mere look of it casts an icy blast of terror on hoplophobes.

Project Guns is not a retail gun dealer. If you want to get your name on the list for an RPD — they’re $2,500 a pop — it’s time now, and the gun will be delivered to your local FFL.