Category Archives: Weapons Technology

The DA/SA Pistol, Reconsidered

At LuckyGunner’s blog the LuckyGunner Lounge, Chris Baker has been running a series of really good articles on traditional DA/SA pistols and how he’s recently made the change to DA/SA after going striker fired for a while.

Chris Baker firing-beretta

While we call them “articles,” they’re really informational and instructional videos; but Chris and LuckyGunner present the full transcripts of the videos, which is a beautiful thing.  A video can show you, but if what you want is the words, you can read a lot faster than it takes to watch the vid. The way they set it up, you can pick your preferred learning method. ‘S’all good!

So far, Chris has presented three parts, which may be the whole thing for all we know; the first covers general double-action history.

The double action autos got to be pretty popular in the 20th century and various designs were used by Beretta, Smith and Wesson, Sig, CZ, and a lot of other gun companies.

And you probably know the rest of the story. In the 1980s, the American US military ditched the 1911 and adopted the double action Beretta M9. And then when police departments around the country started switching from revolver to semi-autos in the 80s and 90s, at least at first, most departments adopted double action semi-autos.

And then a few years later, Glock came along and shook things up.

His basic reason for defecting from the striker-fired camp, he tells us in the second part, on why he switched, is safety:

if you mess up and get on the trigger too early — which happens a lot to people under stress — or if you think you need to shoot someone and then realize you don’t, the length of travel of the double action trigger gives you an extra split second to correct your course of action before you put a bullet somewhere it doesn’t belong.

Double action pistols are also safer when it comes to holstering the gun. This is probably the most dangerous thing we do with our handguns, and it’s when a lot of accidents happen. With a double action pistol, you can put your thumb on the hammer after you de-cock, and that way, it’s impossible for the gun to discharge if you accidentally leave your finger on the trigger or you get a strap or a piece of shirt caught in the trigger guard. And if you don’t remember to de-cock the gun or thumb the hammer, then you’re really just a pound or two of pressure away from where you’d be with a striker fired gun anyway.

One reason cop shops went in for DA/SA in a big way in the 1980s is that it let you have a gun ready to fire without any fiddling, but with a long enough first-shot trigger pull that only intentional shots would be fired. Cops being cops, some of them from time to time found a way to outflank the idiot-proofing, but they’d done that with DA revolvers, too, and a DA revolver is about as safe a gun as you’re going to get without molding it out of Play-Doh.

A second reason, one that mattered to the military but not to police who generally use new ammunition, was that a DA pistol gave you a second poke at a dud primer. You will see this often mentioned in early-1980s documents, especially ones written by people with military connections. That’s probably because at the time we were still firing 1944 and 1945 headstamped ammunition from WWII production! After the adoption of the M9, the Army quickly ran through its supply of ammo that had only been feeding SOF secondary demands (like MP5s and foreign weapons training).

In the third part, on learning to use the DA/SA trigger, Chris says:

It’s only been about six months since I started the transition from primarily using striker fired pistols to using double actions for all of my personal self-defense guns, so I am by no means an expert. But I feel like I’ve started to get the hang of it, and I’ve had some good teachers, so I’m going to share a few tips that have helped me out with shooting double actions over the last few months.

The first challenge is the double action trigger itself. In order to master this, you have to actually shoot the gun double action. Some people are so intimidated by the longer and heavier trigger pull that they never actually shoot the gun this way. It’s possible for you to go to the range and just rack in the first round and now your hammer is cocked, and you could fire the whole magazine single action and never actually have to fire double action.

But if you own a double action pistol for self-defense then you have to have the discipline to decock the pistol and shoot both triggers so you can learn to run the gun the way you would if you had to draw it and shoot to defend your life. I decock the pistol after every string of fire and every drill and I never thumb cock the hammer. Whenever the gun comes off target, I decock. This is a good habit to get into anyway just for the sake of safety, but it also forces you to have to shoot that double action trigger.

There are several different variants of decock and safety on DA pistols. The Beretta 92S/92F/92SF/M9, which has a safety loosely based on Walther practice, is a bit awkward, thumbwise, for one-handed decocking. (The 92G has a decocker, which is what Wilson Combat does on their custom Berettas, and it’s nice but still in that out-of-the-way place. There are also DAO-only Berettas 92D and 96D, and all Beretta lockwork from at least the FS on up is interchangeable). We dunno what the polymer Berettas that Chris seems to prefer work like; just never tried one. SIGs have a separate safety and decocking lever, which is very handy, you just have to practice enough to make decocking second nature. CZs have to be different, and have one of two safety arrangements: a non-decocking, 1911-style safety that requires a careful manual hammer drop on a live round to decock, or a very nice decocker in the safety position.

A CZ cocked and locked. This was also possible on the very first Beretta, M92. The M92S with slide-mounted decocking safety soon replaced it.

A compact CZ cocked and locked. This was also possible on the very first DA Beretta service pistol, the Model 92. The M92S with slide-mounted decocking safety soon replaced it.

What works with you depends on the size of your hand, and how diligently you want to train on a complex system. People who are casual about shooting and indifferent towards practice might be better off with a striker-fired gun on which the trigger weight and throw never change. But striker fired guns have their own issues.

Having grown up with both SA (1911, et al.) and DA/SA (P.38) autopistols around, and going through the “wondernine” 1911->DA/SA conversion when that was a thing, we didn’t consider that many young shooters didn’t have hands-on with this system, but Chris sure did, and that’s what makes his articles especially valuable to today’s shooters. Maybe they’ll think better of those of us who still shoot these coelacanths of the range.

Rifles: 2nd Half of the 19th Century

We have commented before on how interesting it is that no firearms advance gives any nation a lasting advantage. This takes place both because everybody who is not experiencing success copies others’ successes with alacrity, and because technology tends to advance at about the same rate everywhere, as equally bright people work to develop new ideas on the shoulders of the same body of prior work.

Reasons notwithstanding, you can pick just about any period in history and watch the armies of the nations of the world advance together, as if they were in step. Let’s pick the second half of the 19th Century, which began with everyone more or less on the same sheet of music — call it Movement I, maestoso, with Minié or other displacing balls fired from muzzle-loading rifle-muskets — and at the end of a rapid flurry of advances was playing a livelier gavotte on repeating bolt-action rifles firing fixed centerfire ammunition.

Experimental 45-70 Springfield

In the middle of the 19th Century, the question was: how do we get from rifle-musket to breechloader? Conversions were the answer almost everywhere.

We’ve made rather a dog’s breakfast of too many metaphors there. We promise to stop; we’ll stick to declarative sentences, here on out.  In military service, service long-arms passed through four stages between 1850 and 1900, almost regardless of nation. Here’s a little graphic illustrating what we mean.

rifle_history_1850-1900Germany is an outlier here, in part because we selected Prussia as our representative German state (the German Empire wasn’t unified under the Prussian crown yet at the start of this period. Had we chosen Bavaria it might have looked more like the other nations).

At the end, we just didn’t have room for the definitive bolt-action repeater, the Mauser 98!

If Germany was a leader, looking at the dates, the United States was a bit of a laggard; the 1888 Springfield was fundamentally unimproved from the 1865 Allin conversion. Imperial Russia, often thought of as backward, doesn’t look nearly as bad. (Of course, adopting a rifle is one thing; producing enough of them to arm the Russian Army is a whole other challenge). It would be interesting to add other powers, such as Spain and Sweden, and perhaps some of the more advanced South American lands, to the chart.

Although we like our bright colors, the next step ought to be to make a proper Gantt chart of it, in which you’d see how much variation there was in years of adoption, visually.

By the way, the individual steps are not nearly as neat and clear as the graphic implies. This comprehensive and illustrated analysis of the Enfield P.53s progress to the Snider is representative. Like the Allin conversion in the USA, the Snider won out over many possible alternatives in testing. (And here’s a great page on the Martini-Henry, the Snider’s follow-on). For every repeater, breech-loader, and conversion that was adopted, there were many also-rans.

Army’s New Compact Semi-Auto Sniper System (CSASS)

We’re far from the first with this story, but we hope that means we can get it right. (Not everybody has). First, a picture:

Army Compact Sniper System 2

Then, the key facts:

  1. The Army wanted a new semiautomatic sniper system to replace the Knight’s Armament Company M110, the more general issue version of the successful Mk11 SOF SASS. They wanted to meet or exceed the performance of the M110, suppressed, in a lighter, more compact firearm.
  2. Every single entry was SR-25/M110/AR-10 based.
  3. Unlike some Army procurement boondoggles (cough Modular Handgun cough) the competition proceeded without much drama. A shortlist was developed, more tests conducted, and a contract awarded.
  4. The winner was Heckler & Koch Defense Inc, the Virginia-based subsidiary of the Oberndorf firm.

Enough facts, here’s another picture:

Army Compact Sniper System

Here’s the meat of HK’s press release, available with more boilerplate on their website:

Ashburn, Virginia —Heckler & Koch Defense Inc. was awarded a contract worth up to $44.5 million from the U.S. Army for a new compact sniper rifle. The Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS) will provide the service with a small, lightweight, highly accurate weapon, addressing a critical need to replace older and heavier rifles currently in use.

Under terms of the award, HK Defense will produce up to 3,643 rifles. The new HK rifle is a lightweight variant of the 7.62 mm G28 in use by the German Army. The HK CSASS capitalizes on the proven G28 design, meeting the Army’s requirements for accuracy, reliability, and size. Heckler & Koch will also provide spare parts, support, and training to the Army.

“This award represents another significant achievement for Heckler & Koch,”said Wayne Weber, President of Heckler & Koch USA. “The HK CSASS rifle is a substantial upgrade over the Army’s current sniper rifles, enhancing accuracy and reliability while providing for a handier, more compact arm. It also confirms Heckler & Koch as a leader in providing small arms to the U.S. military.”

Knight’s Armament, which competed but didn’t make the shortlist, issued a statement that’s a model of corporate class, and perhaps a gentlemanly brushback against some of the subtext in Weber’s statement:

For over a decade Knight’s Armament Company (KAC) has produced the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) for the U.S. Army. The M110 semi-automatic rifle was the first purpose built U.S. semi-automatic sniper rifle fielded.

The Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS) competition was driven by evolving requirements pioneered by KAC products in use by today’s warfighter. Government competition drives industry innovation. Industry’s common goal is getting the best product to the warfighter as quickly as possible. Knight’s Armament Company congratulates the winner of the CSASS program.

Knight’s Armament Company continues its long tradition of innovation, design and manufacture of premier small arms, small arms accessories and night vision for the U.S. military.

While the contract looks great for HK — who wouldn’t want to land a $44.5 million account? — it leaves the company facing considerable risk. That number is what HK stands to take in if the full 3,643 firearms are ordered. But the contract only guarantees a buy of 30 rifles for QA/QC testing (and possibly an Operational Test as well). That would leave HK trying to recoup its development costs against only about $375k in revenue. So how different is the CSASS from the earlier G28 version of the HK 417? Here’s a G28, “Patrol” variant:

HK G28 Patrol Rifle

Among the immediately visible changes:

  1. Changed scopes;
  2. Delete forward assist. In fact the whole upper is different (on Bundeswehr G28 it’s steel and significantly heavier);
  3. Changed furniture;
  4. Delete muzzle brake, add suppressor;
  5. Color
  6. back-up iron sights (CSASS uses Troy’s at 45º).
  7. Modular rather than 100% picatinny rails.

The whole package costs the US a good stiff amount, about $12,000 — but less than the same number of M110s or Mk 11s would go for!

Silencerco SWR Radius Rangefinder

Silencerco says the objective of its Silencerco Weapons Research subsidiary is “to bring advanced technology to the public at an attainable price.” We had not heard of that, or of SWR for that matter, until they came up claiming mission accomplished: “with the announcement of a capability-heavy range finder for only $999, we’ve done just that.”

Have they? Here’s a silent (apart from music and maybe gunshots) video of the SWR Radius in action.

This video describes some of the capabilities:

Sure, it’s not TrackingPoint, but TrackingPoint is not available for pre-order at $995, either.

The Tracking Point system includes several other modules, such as an air data computer that accounts for atmospherics (density, ambient pressure, altitude, temperature), a ballistics computer that knows the bullet performance at a given range, an aiming point module that adjusts the digital reticle on to target, a target reference module that “understands” where a marked (“tagged”) target is in three dimensions, and trigger control that, in a digital update to the way a Contstantinesco gear interrupted fire of a World War I fighter plane unless the propeller was clear of the trajectory, only allows the trigger to fire when the aimpoint is on target.

A unit like this, if it were able to output data through an RS232/RS422 port or something like that,  could be a component of such a system, and if the rangefinder alone succeeds, the likelihood that SWR builds in this direction is increased.

Of course, the one nut that even TrackingPoint has yet to crack is wind.

None of these developments are really, in the truest sense of the word, inventions. They’ve all been around for a century, manually calculated and optically ranged, in naval gunnery, and for most of a half century (including laser ranging) in tank gunnery. The new development is this technology reaching levels of portability and affordability where it can be installed on (or in) an individual weapon.

There are  couple less in-your-face developments embedded in the Radius. One of these is the display of not just one, but the top three range returns. This is a big deal if you’re engaging a target screened by vegetation, a chain link fence, or any of the other embuggerments that give a laser rangefinder a false return.

Another is the selectable use of visible and IR laser. The two lasers coalign, so that the laser can be boresighted or sighted-in with the visible laser, and then switch to the IR for actual field use, and use it with confidence.

This suggests that, while full firing system integration à la TrackingPoint is one way this can go, there are other ways. For example, a unit integrating this laser capability (in milspec strength) with current IR/visible laser floodlight and point illumination would be catnip to the military services.

How would you use this? No manual is posted yet, but a .pdf spec sheet is available.

And as an exit video: here, they’re hinting at some future capabilities.

Dude, where’s my jetpack?

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: NylonRifles.com

nylonrifles_dot_com_websiteWe have a brief one tonight, and it’s off our usual topic of service weapons. And thereby hangs a tale. If you were fortunate enough to grow up in the 1960s, you not only experienced a golden age of pop music and auto design, you also grew up in era of the Space Age, atomic energy, and the incredible wonder material, Plastic. These things together were going to revolutionize everything. We saw this at the 1964 worlds fair in New York. By the turn-of-the-century, people would be working or vacationing in orbit or on other planets, keeping their personal helicopters with plastic bubble canopies their garages, and commuting by jet pack.

While the future is not what it used to be, we can look into the past and see that Remington offered a Space Age rifle to its customers: the Nylon 66. We always thought them name came from the year of introduction — 1966, when even the Beatles had a Rubber Soul — but 1966 just when we first saw one. It actually was introduced in 1959, and was named after the material used for the rifles unitary stock/receiver, DuPont’s Nylon 6/6.

It seemed like a brilliant idea. After all, the boys in the field had a “plastic” gun, isn’t it time the casual plinker had one, too?

Lots of Nylon 66s

The Nylon 66 also had Buck Rogers styling with swoopy, “artistic” (traditionalists said “cartoonish”) lines. Indeed, your opinion of the Nylon 66 was unlikely to be neutral: early adopters loved ’em, and traditionalists — and most gun buyers are traditionalists — were aghast. When Uncle Jim showed up with one of these new rifles, our Winchester suddenly seemed frumpy, dowdy and cobwebbed next to this new ray gun. (What can we say? At that age, we actually did read comic books).

The story of the Nylon 66 and its plastic stablemates is told at NylonRifles.com

nylon_66_maintenance_manual

One thing the site offers is a collection of old manuals, including maintenance information.

While there was a great deal of engineering in the Nylon 66 — worked out by both DuPont and Remington working together — it gave a strong impression of being fashion forward, and in 15 or 20 years they looked as dated as the 1966 Plymouth Barracuda, unlike the “classic” Winchester. One fashion decision was for the gun to load its tubular magazine through the butt, which prevented the N66 from having the clunky underbarrel magazine tube of most semi .22s, but at the cost of lower ammo capacity. Did that matter, in a plinking and small-game gun? The squirrels weren’t shooting back; suppressive fire wouldn’t fill the pot.

DuPont was in it to win it, “it” being a share of the plastic rifle market, and was behind Remington as the New York gunmaker expanded the line. In time, or at various times, it included guns with green and black stocks, chromed (not nickeled!) rifles, magazine-fed Nylons (the Nylon 77), special models for high-volume retailers, and .22 short Nylons for shooting galleries (remember them?) Most of these models were short-lived. The shortest lifespans were for the bolt-action versions — gaudy Space Age styling applied to the traditionalist’s choice of action was a pretty good way to count down sales to zero.

Anyway you look at these guns: as marketing lessons learned, as examples of engineering problem-solving, or as cultural and historical artifacts, they’re fascinating. Which brings us to our Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: NylonRifles.com. NylonRifles.com is a bit haphazard, but it’s more information on these guns than you’re going to find anywhere else. Here’s the site’s own overview:

There were about 1,050,000 Nylon 66s made. The standard model had a brown stock (called Mohawk Brown) with blue metal. It was a tube fed through the stock semi auto. Variations included a green stocked version (Seneca Green), a black stock and chrome receiver version called “Apache black” and a black stock rifle with a blued receiver cover called the “Black Diamond”.

via NylonRifles.com » Introduction to the Remington Nylon Rifles.

Naturally, the images in the post come from the site.

The last gasp of the Nylon 66 came in 1989, with the costly injection-molding molds on their last legs. It would have cost Remington a fortune to keep producing what was, by that point, a retro-60s-nostalgia piece. And the Chinese were making a decent knockoff that was already underselling the genuine Remington with its aging but fully-amortized and -depreciated production tooling.

Gun Maintenance by Sound Principles

Remember what we’ve said about maintenance before: a gun is a machine, and maintenance is like maintenance of any other machine. Every firearm contains several classes of parts. Some of these parts may be so over-engineered they’ll never fail; other, parts that the manufacturer expects that you will replace (like the battery in your car, or springs in your gun, or wipes in an old-style suppressor); and still other parts can be expected to wear out depending on how hard you use them — parts that will fail due to wear or fatigue if not replaced pre-emptively.

Failure from overstress is another thing entirely. You can blow up any gun with Uncle Bubba’s Dynamite Hot Loads, even a perfectly produced firearm straight out of the box for the first time with the dealer’s hang tag still dangling from the trigger guard.

The parts you need to prepare to replace are the ones subject to physical wear and to fatigue failure. And there are several ways to do it. You can replace parts that are subject to wear and fatigue failure:

  1. When they actually fail. A lot of people do this, and if it’s not a machine that you depend on for life, Replace On Failure works just fine.
  2. When an inspection reveals that the parts are showing signs of imminent failure. At the risk of overstating the obvious, this means you have to conduct inspections on some sort of a schedule timely enough to find bad parts before they fail… or your Replace On Condition plan becomes unplanned Replace On Failure.
  3. When a certain interval has passed, which might be a calendar schedule or might be number of operating hours or cycles. This approach is called Replace On Schedule; and whether it’s a good or a bad plan depends on the devilish details of the case.

Modern firearms are much more reliable than their historical forbears. And modern ammunition is, as well, plus it also tends to be noncorrosive.

Another part of maintenance is cleaning. How frequently should you clean your guns? The answer may surprise you. Given modern designs and materials, noncorrosive ammunition, and reliable modern systems,  the real requirement to clean an AR or a Glock is this: when it absolutely needs to be cleaned because the mung buildup has begun to interfere with the firearms’ functions.

Here’s a picture of Kyle Defoor’s glock, as it came up for on-condition maintenance and was immediately scheduled for a cleaning.

DeFoor Funky Glock

 

The pistol was essentially never cleaned. You’re looking at 7,500 rounds of baked-on range mung, and it was still working, but the slide had started slowing down.

Many people overclean their weapons, wearing the protective finish off and exposing their guns to the risk of corrosion. How come, when Kyle’s pistol shows it’s not necessary (and many others, Mountain Guerrilla comes to mind, have gone even longer between cleanings on rifle platforms). If it’s designed right, manufactured right and assembled right, it’ll keep rocking, or, as in this case, Glocking.

So why do we overclean? History, and culture. Used to be priming compounds like fulminate of mercury or lead picrate, and some chemicals in propulsive powders, were deadly to firearms. Thorough, frequent cleaning was the last line of defense. Now it’s come full circle — cleaning can actually put fine old firearms at more risk than leaving them alone!

3D Printing Roundup, Number Whatever (Video / Image rich)

Did you know 2016 is the Year of Building Your Own Gun? It is. Get to it!

OK, here’s a new video on printing and assembling the Bolt lower, a bolt-together AR lower.

We’ve featured the Bolt many times before (including links to its files) but this is a new video. The names involved (Ma Deuce, RollaTroll, FOSSCAD, FP [Freedom Print]) should be familiar to everyone.

The Bolt looks like it easily would be modified for assembly with rivets, if you don’t like the idea of parts unscrewing themselves. Several mods of the Bolt already exist, like one by Warfairy adopting the profile of the Vanguard lower, and dispensing with any provision for a safety.

Homemade Charger How To

If 22 is your thing, here’s an Instructable (!) on doing a pistol based on the Ruger Charger design.

3DP Ruger Charger

The creator is another old familiar name, Buck Ofama. Sounds vaguely foreign; do you think that’s his real name?

Reminder, Here’s the Latest File Repository, “Ishikawa”.

Can’t go the mile if you ain’t got that file.

https://confab.fosscad.org/126/official-fosscad-mega-pack-v4-8-ishikawa-release

Some New Stuff — no Files yet

Ambi mag release for the Glock-mag Gluty pistol, based on Glock and AR parts.

Gluty ambi mag release

Treillage (sp?) competition stock from Warfairy — gives lots of adjustments on a regular carbine receiver extension. How it looks on the gun:

printed stock on firearm

How the parts break down, color coded:

treillage stock

Bear in mind that anything that’s still just a rendering, puts you on the bleeding edge of the tech when you go to print and use it. But for some of us, that’s half the fun!

New Videos from Guy in a Garage

We’ve already seen GiaG print, remove support material, and assemble a Vanguard AR lower in ABS plastic. But he’s been on a roll lately.

Here, he takes the Vanguard to the range — 300 Blackout with his homemade suppressor. (He blanks out his suppressor markings for privacy. Not that “they” don’t know, as it’s a registered receiver). After firing 60 rounds at the range, he analyzes the condition and performance of his lower.

Want to make your own suppressor like he did? Here he covers the regulatory issues.

He has printed at least three different AR lowers. Here he preps and assembles a Phobos, in ABS:

Here he preps and assembles a Charon, again in ABS:

Important note, he previously printed an early model and it was “off” dimensionally — this one is the 4.0 version.

And here’s a range safety bolt/chamber block for the AR. If printed in nylon, these would be oxen strong and easily dyed orange…. unfortunately we don’t know if he has released the files.

Some of these accessories are cooler than entire 3D Printed guns.

Case Trimmer Insert

Reloaders swear by the $70 Little Crow Gunworks’ WFT — World’s Finest Trimmer. The WFT2 version lets you use the same trimmer for multiple calibers with a $30 interchangeable insert (instead of a whole second trimmer). So Guy in a Garage printed his own insert for the WFT2 for .300 Blackout. This video shows it and tests it out.

Is this the first Registered 3d Printed Firearm?

Michigan has some weird laws. (Every state has a few). So the guy who made this Washbear is arguably the first manufacturer of a registered 3D Printed firearm, unless some poor wretch in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, the Cosanostrian Emirate of Cuomostan, the Alternative State of California, or some other dystopia has done so already.

Registered Washbear

The cylinder has lined chambers, and is printed of Taulman 618. If you look closely, the pistol unlike the standard Washbear, has a frame made in two parts and joined by screws (and glue). That’s because this builder’s printer wasn’t big enough to print the whole Washbear frame in one shot.

The whole Imgur thread is worth reading in depth, as almost every picture has an informative caption. Enjoy!

How about some Tech on Carbon Fiber filament

Is “carbon fiber” and other exotic filament for normal FFF printers really that much stronger? Joe Binka, Lead Design Engineer for large-format-printer maker 3D Platform, wanted to know, so he did a very engineer thing and, making a test coupon and testing the coupons to failure, evaluated all the extra-strength filaments he could get his mitts on. (3D Platform’s printers use the same FFF technology as all open-source FFF printers, and can use all the same materials). The results were a little surprising.

3DP materials test-result

In this color map, redder is better and greener is worser. Joe discovered that while polycarbonate was the strongest, it was such a pain in the neck that he recommended the runner-up, PC ABS, instead. Polycarbonate…

is a pain to print with. It warps and curls really bad and I would rather avoid it if possible.

…. If I need a really strong material, I’m going to go with the PC-ABS over the carbon materials. It’s just much easier to deal with.

Joe has promised to add new materials to the chart, as they crop up.

Before There Were Many 9MM Ultra Compacts, There Was One

Devel ASP 12Before there was the current rich supply of ultra compact 9 mm pistols, someone had to have the idea for the first time. In fact, the idea of a small 9 mm carry gun was widespread long before any factory produced one.

The market answered, after a fashion: cut-down versions of pistols were produced. Some of them weren’t cut down much, like the P-38K and the Colt Commander. Others were not really practical, like Baby Lugers, and always appealed more to collectors than self-defense carriers.

SW-semi-model-chartBut the natural host for these first-generation pocket nines in the 1970s and 1980s was America’s first pistol designed for what was then a European cartridge, the 9 mm Smith & Wesson Model 39. The M39 was a postwar design that sought to blend European and American design concepts, and not only did that but produced an attractive firearm at the same time. It combined a Browning-style tilting-barrel, and a Walther-like SA/DA operating system with a slide-mounted safety/decocker. Mag release and slide stop were also Browning style, and the barrel was positioned in the nose end of the slide by a collet bushing modeled on the one in the Colt Gold Cup.

The M39 was single-stack before single-stack was cool, and entered the market in 1954-55 after years of development. If you want to foray into the weeds of Smith auto pistol history, Chris Baker took a shot at decoding Smith’s nomenclature mess with the M39 and its legions of successors at Lucky Gunner Lounge last year, also producing the infographic on the right, which appears correct but incomplete.

But the reason that the M39 yielded those early conversions were (1) it was readily available, and (2) there was nothing vital and hard to relocate in the parts of the gun that a compact conversion hacked off. This picture from an S&W forum shows three cut-down 39s: from l-r, an Austin Behlert special on a Smith 59 (basically, a double-stack 39), a full Devel on a 39 with ambi safety, and a full devel (no ambi safety) on a 59.

Behlert Devel Devel

The first, and most exotic small Smith was the ASP, made beginning in 1970 by New York artist and espionage agency hang-around Paris Theodore, who partnered initially with George L. Nonte. This ASP picture comes from the same forum as the shot above, and illustrates the somewhat industrial finish on ASPs.

asp2

The magazine was patented, specifically for the unusual laid-back pinky rest. The open side made the transparent/translucent segment of the grips practical.

One of the ASP features that will never show in a side view is that about 40% of the width of the reshaped trigger guard was milled away on the strong side of the customer, to provide faster access to the trigger. Theodore claimed that an ASP had 212 modifications from the factory M39.

Theodore’s spy stories seem to have been cut from whole cloth, but he died young — here is an interesting, if credulous, obituary in the late, lamented New York Sun. A definitive ASP was trimmed in height and length, dehorned and softened in its angles, and fitted with a patented “Guttersnipe” trough sight and see-through grips to facilitate round counting.

The Devel was devel-oped (you may groan) by Charlie Kelsey. They tended to be better finished and often had fluted slides to reduce weight. Here are three Devels, a 59 and two 39s.

Three Devels

This is a Devel on a Smith 39-2 from a current GunBroker auction, but supplied with two ASP magazines.

Devel ASP 09

The seller says this about it:

Smith & Wesson Model 39-2 Devel Custom chambered in 9mm with a 3.5″ barrel. Used but in good shape! Frame and slide have some handling wear, couple scratches, and little bit of finish wear around the edges. Comes with two hard to find ASP magazines! Please look at the pictures for details.

Devel ASP 05

The cut-down for Devel and ASP alike was usually 3/4 of an inch to the barrel and slide, and about a half inch to the butt. The package usually included replacing the collet bushing with a plain bushing, on reliability grounds, and bobbing the hammer.

Devel ASP 06

As you can see, the gun is not only shortened but also “softened” or “dehorned,” but it’s not what Devel called a “full house” custom, as it lacks the squared-off trigger guard and lightening flutes in the slide.

Factory compacts like Smith’s own 3913 crippled the market for these niche firearms, and both ASP and Devel folded, victims of the success of their own product.

Like Paris Theodore, Charlie Kelsey died prematurely, but while Theodore lost a long and debilitating battle with disease, Kelsey was found shot and burned in a ditch in Georgetown, Texas. While there were indications he may have been suicidal, he certainly can not have set his own dead body on fire. His murder has never been solved.

 

Of course, true Dedicated Followers of Browning would not be caught dead with a 9mm flyswatter: their pistol-shrinker of choice was Detonics, or Behlert (who called his bobbed .45 the Bobcat). But that’s another story!

 

3D Update for 8 April 2016

Here’s a few things that may be useful or entertaining to people working with, exploring, or just interested in this technology.

AR-15 Printed Lower: Print Bed to Ready to Load in 20 min

This video shows what appears to be the real time assembly of a FOSSCAD Vanguard lower from the print bed to a complete (if sightless) AR.

We’d quibble about some of his shortcuts and techniques — no, a piece of copper wire is not a suitable substitute for a roll pin, and while it’s neat that he used 3D printed pivot and takedown pins, how are they retained? Oh, they’re not — but we’ve been telling you for years that this technology was maturing, and now we’re showing you.

We suspect this fellow’s channel is going to be worth watching in the future.

Shuty MP-1 by Derwood Night Fire (10 sec. video).

We’ve discussed the gun before, here’s a video of it shooting at night.

Unlike his earlier versions of the Shuty, Derwood won’t be publishing these files on SendSpace. He also notes that the MP-1 still is limited; 18 rounds is all it takes to soften the thermoplastic around the barrel. Of course, he’s already working on improvements, as an intellectual exercise in home workshop engineering.

The media reaction to his firearm has been… interesting. Even 3D Printing industry journalists are journalists at heart, and can’t see this except through the prism of their anti-gun politics. For example, Benedict at 3Ders.org tut-tuts that “the relatively new phenomenon of open-source, downloadable firearms seems to promise a greater deal of harm than good,” whines that, “the maker circumvented all gun control laws, creating a totally legal weapon without so much as an ID check,” and closes with, “So is it sensible to put lethal weapons in the hands of all and sundry with an internet connection and 3D printer?” Andy Greenberg at Wired, long prone to involuntary incontinence in his Aeron over this issue, hyperventilates similarly: “Deadly, working guns that anyone can generate with a download,” that have “spooked gun control advocates” — those unnamed “gun control advocates” being named, naturally, “Andy Greenberg” — and “successfully circumvented all gun control laws”.  Our only question to Benedict and Greenberg is, “With your string of pearls in one hand and your blankie in the other, how do you type your articles?”

3D Printed Rimfire Stuff

We had been unaware of the 3D action over on RimfireCentral.com, a membership forum. Lots of 3DP based threads there, including:

 

Spud Gun Camera Module

GoPro Spudgun roundNow we get silly. Here’s a “projectile” that lets you fire a GoPro camera from a spud gun and recover the camera, rather than see it dashed to pieces. Well-engineered, with spring-loaded stabilizing fins just like “real” FS smoothbore rounds. You’re on your own for more martial applications, and mind the Destructive Device laws.

Yes, this is very silly. And?

Mark One Reinforced Printing

This is the Mark One in action. This is not ours, it’s Sumdood’s, but we finally have time to work on ours this week! The Mark Two is even cooler as it can winkle the reinforcing fiber into smaller areas… the Mark One can’t turn the reinforcing around a corner any smaller than the size of a quarter.

 

Exotic Fibers for Everyday Printers

Of course, the Mark Forged printers require proprietary fibers. But exotic fibers are becoming available to open-source printer users as well. Here’s an enthusiastic young Australian named Angus showing off a quadcopter frame with arms of four different materials: common ABS and PLA, and exotic Thermoplastic Polyurethane (rubbery) and Colorfabb Carbon Fiber (rigid).

One of Angus’s really good ideas: using a raft of ABS as the basis for the exotic print. (A “raft” is an expendable base laid down underneath the “money” print). The sales page for the TPU says don’t use rafts, and that’s because they mean, rafts of TPU. He also didn’t heed the warning about using steel nozzles with the carbon fiber, and he explains why.

Instead of laying continuous fiber reinforcement like the Mark Forged printers, the Colorfabb XT-CF20 “Carbon Fiber” filament seems to have sort of chopper gun microfilaments in it. The trade off is less reinforcement strength vs. more flexibility of employment.

Of course, the Mark Forged printers also use nylon as their basic material. Nylon. as we have seen, has significant advantages over PLA or ABS. (One of the nicest things about it is it does not emit a noxious smell).

Check out his channel, Maker’s Muse, it’s full of interesting stuff. He also has a video on “metal” filaments that you may have seen advertised.

Taulman3D Materials

Speaking of materials, especially nylon variations, but also a “better” PLA and an elastomer, all kinds of new stuff from taulman3D. Lots of horses for lots of courses there, and that link’s just their new stuff.

Update

Know those Shuty 4.0 MP-1 files that derwood wasn’t going to release? Well, he didn’t, but….

 

What Does this Rock have in Common with These Guns?

It’s poll time! What does this funny looking rock have in common with these guns?

Cabot Rock Guns

What do the rock and the gun parts have in common?

 
pollcode.com free polls

Answer? You know it: after the jump!

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