Category Archives: Weapons Technology

A cool 1911 graphic

We saw this blurbed at Instapundit:

1911_graphic

The full thing by artist Jacob O’Neal is something you have to see. Because as cool this is, even clicked-to-embiggen, this is just one small part of it, as a static graphic. The real thing offers several views, and is animated. 

Boy. Sure wish we’d had this back in Weapons School, when two of us ran a study hall late into the night to try to save the guys who had been recycled from the class before us. (We did, but it was hard work — mostly by them, we just happened to be college boys with good study habits who could help out).

Go to his animations site, animagraffs.com and enjoy Jacob’s artistry. Along with the gun he’s got jet and piston engines and a tarantula. Then come back, hear?

Back now? Was that 1911 animation cool, or what? So, now go see the animated infographic he did for SilencerCo some time back. (And all you 1911 bashers who wanted a Glock, guess what’s hosting the SilencerCo Osprey in the graphic?)

Guy’s a talented artist. Some website looking for differentiation ought to commission him. (We don’t think we can afford him without crimping the toy budgets).

Ghost Gunner Update

You guys may remember the Ghost Gunner, the open-source CNC mill that we ordered a couple of months ago. According to the makers, the initial units should be shipping RSN1. Cody Wilson hasn’t been on the blog since November, but we didn’t share that update with you guys yet.

The first news is that the machine itself has been tweaked since it was announced.

Ghost Gunner Mk III

Improvements in our Mark III design:

* Single piece powder coated 1018 steel exoskeleton to improve rigidity per unit weight
*Reinforced A36 steel end plates to further improve rigidity
*A new open source GrBLDC brushless motor controller shield for Arduino.
*Oversized 125W NEMA 23 BLDC motor, electronically throttled to 72W.
*Spindle incorporation of industry standard ER11 collet system, supporting tools up to 5/16”

Those are all good improvements, although the steel exoskeleton looks like a manufacturing twofer that saves weight and reduces cost, with no net change to rigidity over the original design. Hey, if it can make the specs he claims, we’re all for it. But the ER11 collet is a big improvement over any proprietary system, as quality ER toolholders are readily available.

The ER system was developed by the Swiss company Fritz Weber Maschinenbau AG (now Rego-Fix) in 1972 and has become a standard. It allows a range of tools to be held in a single holder, which is nice; there are several ER sizes (larger number is larger) and ER11 handles a tool shank to 1/4″ / 6.5mm or so (Wilson says 5/16″). For a ½” shank, you’d need ER-20s. It is not a quick change tool holder, but the holders can be changed in the collet fairly quickly. This thread on Practical Machinist has some details (they’ve had some good luck with import tool holders, and discuss how to check them for run-out).

Back to GhostGunner, here’s what’s up:

For the rest of November we are setting up our work shifts and finishing our packaging. We begin assembly the first week of December and are still on pace for our Holiday fulfillment. Not too shabby, eh?

As for new orders, we’re thinking we will open them again in January. But you can always reserve a spot for the next round of machines on our waitlist.

This has been really fun. Ghost Gunner is still an open source project, and we will be releasing the designs and software as soon as possible. Stay tuned, ghost gunners.

via Ghost Gunner.

We’re a little concerned that we haven’t been contacted, because their lame order page ate the Address 1 line for Hog Manor (& Rong Brothers Aeroplane Works), and replaced it with the digit “4”, and we’ve been unable to reach anybody to make a correction. A bit discouraging, but it’ll work out.

They had no problem charging our credit card the same day, that’s for damn sure. Since it’s Wilson, we’re just glad we didn’t have to pay him in Bitcoin.

Still and all, we are in (IIRC) the third hundred or so — the $1299 batch.

Ghost Gunner Mk III w gun

What excites us about Ghost Gunner is not routing out AR lowers, the one canned application that comes with it, but the potential of using it to automate other small manufacturing gigs. We’re already thinking about setups for engraving and for modifying an A2 forging receiver to A1 profile. We’re going to need Wilson to fulfill his promises of open-source file formats, etc. A .dd format is a useless thing if it’s not documented and there’s no software that writes it. We’d feel a little more comfortable if the machine would take GCode.

But then again, it seems to be all open-source built, Arduino, GRBL, etc., so it probably can.

It may wind up being an expensive toy that gets used as a sweater rack, like a fat guy’s treadmill (wait… we just described our exercise room right now. And us). It wouldn’t be the first.

If there are developments from GhostGunner, they’ll probably be tweeted by the Defense Distributed or Cody Wilson accounts:

https://twitter.com/DefDist

https://twitter.com/Radomysisky

The FOSSCAD channel is unrelated, but also worth watching. Apparently the real goings-on go in in IRC, and only announcements pass in Twitter.

https://twitter.com/fosscad

Notes

1. RSN – Silicon Valley/Startup Culture acronym for “Real Soon Now.” Sometimes serious, sometimes ironic. Here, we’re not sure. They seemed to be on track in November, so we think maybe serious.

Tank Turret Rotation in WWII

a rollin foxholeLet’s adumbrate about tanks again. Fascinating things, although we always took Willie and Joe’s words to heart: a movin’ foxhole attracks th’ eye. (Alas, the only version of that classic we could find does not embiggen). Anyway, our interest has been more, shall we say, historical curiosity than professional.

To put it another way, we’re all about studying them, but we’re just as glad we spent our career under the sky and stars rather than under some inches of cold-rolled.

The nature of tank war is the nature of all war, in general, with some specialized details particularly adapted to the idea of fighting a mobile machine, and units of these mobile machines.

In armored warfare as in any other, the ability to fire the first shot is the guarantor of life. The ways you can get the first shot include:

  1. Seeing the enemy first. This has some impact on tank equipment as well as tactics. Some tanks are ill-equipped for observation in a 360º plane, making them very vulnerable for an off-axis attack. Of course, the crews train to fight the tank they have, and will develop methods to minimize this weakness.

    M26_Fireball

    T26 Pershing named “Fireball”. The 88mm mantlet penetration killed the tank and two of the five crew. Germany, 1945. They probably did not see the Tiger 100m ahead that hit them, but they were backlit by a fire. The Tiger also hit their muzzle brake with another shot.

  2. Concealment and firing from ambush. As many an infantry school instructor has crowed to students at once excited and aghast: “Ambush is murder and murder is fun!” This rewards a tank that can fire from concealment, without making a lot of noise that alerts the enemy’s dismounted scouts, without a lot of movement to betray the position. In addition, there are great advantages in the defense to be able to fire from a hull-down position. (And to a small turret, which complicates the enemy’s target solution).
  3. Outranging the enemy through superior accuracy or terminal ballistics. The components of accuracy are optic, gunner, gun, and integration. While it’s obviously important to hit the enemy first, it’s also important not to hit the enemy at a range beyond that where you can kill him. Otherwise, you’ve exposed yourself and blown your first-shot advantage for nothing.
  4. Getting on target faster. Here optics — including a good field of view for the gunner — and superior speed and control of main gun aim are the objective. If your turret slews very fast, that’s good, but not if the fast slew can’t produce fine control.
  5. Having more tanks, so that the enemy was servicing another target when your first shot kills him. This is a production and reliability play, but also rewards commanders for ingenuity in bringing their forces to bear in greater numbers at a decisive point.

The next best way to win the fight was having the first effective shot because your tank was harder to hit (or, harder to kill). This is clearly a less desirable position to be in than the one where you drop your tungsten calling card into the enemy’s brisket when he still was unaware you were there.

By World War II (and still today, apart from some unusual vehicles in both cases) the design of a tank was stabilized as a rear-engine vehicle with a rotating armored turret carrying primary and (most) secondary armament. The gun was placed on target in elevation by the gunner raising or lowering the barrel, and in azimuth by the gunner (with direction and sometimes assistance from the commander) slewing the turret.

Caught in the open: fate of many a tank and crew.

Caught in the open: fate of many a tank and crew.

In a textbook illustration of the principle of convergent evolution, WWII tanks of all nations were more alike than they were different. But different nations’ main battle tanks rotated their turrets differently — and some were effective despite a much slower rotation than their peers, which seems illogical.

  • British and Russian tanks rotated electrically. If you ever owned a ’60s British car, you have to have some sympathy for the grimy crews and mechanics struggling to keep the ancestor of Lucas electrics humming. British tanks used spade grips for the controls to rotate the turret. The British had a mode switch which let the gunner control traverse on a “coarse” or “fine” setting. The T-34 used electric for coarse and manual for fine traverse. The T-34/76 used separate wheels for electric and manual, attached to the same traversing gear. In the T-34/85, though, the same handle was used as a lever for electrical control and a crank for manual — ingenious! Rather than explain a T-34’s system, which used the same controls for manual and electric traverse, we’ll let the Military Veterans Museum show you in this 1-minute video:

  • Germans used a hydraulic system, driven by power take-off from the main engine. This was a mechanically simple and reliable system, but it had a key deficiency, as we’ll see. The Germans used foot pedals to slew the turret — left pedal went left, right pedal, obviously, right. The gun was then laid with final precision using a manual handwheel.
  • American tanks used a hydraulic system, but drove it electrically. Instead of a PTO from the main powerplant, like a tractor, the hydraulic system was energized by a pump driven by an electrical motor. Also, only the Americans applied stabilization gyroscopes to tank main armament, beginning with the M4 Sherman (on the early Sherman, in elevation only). This gave the tank a rudimentary shoot-on-the-move capability, and perhaps more usefully in tank fighting, reduced the amount of displacement needed to get on target after moving. When hydraulic system production threatened to constrain tank production, some American tanks were fitted with an electrical system also. The electrical substitute system was designed to have similar performance. American tanks used hand controls to slew the turret, and a foot pedal to fire the armament.
  • Most Japanese tanks had manual traverse only. Indeed, some light tanks and tankettes simply had a machine gun turret where the gunner moved the turret by leaning on the machine gun! While Japanese artillery and naval guns often featured bicycle pedals for traverse, the larger tanks had crank wheels to traverse the turret for coarse position. For fine position, the gun itself usually had a few degrees of traverse, and separate hand wheels. While Japanese naval optics led the world, their tank and AT optics lagged, as did most other aspects of tank development. Late in the war, electric traverse was incorporated in the Chi-Ha and Chi-Nu tanks; early Chi-Has, the bulk of those encountered by the Allies, were manually operated.
  • Some early and light tanks of many nations had manual rotation, and almost all power-rotating turrets had manual as a back-up. For example, the Panther had not only the gunner’s fine-tuning handwheel, required because of the lack of precision in the hydraulic system, but also a hand-lever for the gunner and a separate wheel for the loader. Having backups like this was important, because reliability of the systems on WWII tanks was not all that great. Engines, which were often modified or derived from aviation engines, lasted a few hundred hours before an overhaul was required, and hydraulic or electric motors were scarcely more durable. The tanks used at the peak of the war in Europe were war babies, designed once combat was underway and designed and manufactured with all due haste. They hadn’t had a long debugging cycle. Wartime memoirs are full of tales of operating with one or more systems degraded.

While in theory any system can be engineered to give you any rate of rotation, the German approach of shaft-driven hydraulics had a weakness: the turret could only power-traverse if the main engine was running. For the fuel-critical Germans, this was always a problem. This approach also meant that the speed of rotation depended on engine speed. You only got full-speed rotation at full throttle; at anything less, it was degraded.

How fast could turrets rotate?

The vaunted Panther tank had, in its first iteration (Panther Ausführung D), one of the slowest-turning turrets in the war, taking a full minute to traverse 360º. The gearing on the turret was changed in the Ausf. A, the next version, and all subsequent Panthers, giving the tank a competitive 15-second full-circle. But that didn’t last; a November, 1943 decision to govern the engine to a lower max RPM reduced slew rate to 18 seconds on Panthers from that point forward — if the crews didn’t learn about and adjust the governors. This was done to try to increase engine reliability: more Panthers were being lost to breakdowns than to Allied gunfire.

What’s interesting is that even though the early Panther turret was quite slow, it was still fast enough to track all but the fastest-moving tanks. All greater speed than a circle-a-minute buys, then, is ability to change targets, or get on a sighted target, faster.

The American system spun a Sherman turret 360º in fifteen seconds, too. The system in the M36 tank destroyer had the same performance, also. (Not surprising as the automotive  gear in the tank destroyers was lifted from the Shermans).

The undisputed slewing champ of WWII tanks was the Russian T-34, which could bring its turret all the way around in 12 seconds.

We couldn’t find any credible information on the slew or traverse rate of Japanese tanks.

The final lesson in all of this brings us back to convergent evolution: despite the different approaches taken by the major tank producers of the era, their performance was roughly similar (excluding the lagging Japanese, who deemphasized tank development and production because of their limited production capacity, and overwhelming naval requirements).

Sources

Directorate of the Armored Forces of the Red Army. T-34 Tank Service Manual. Translator unknown. Retrieved from: http://www.allworldwars.com/T-34%20Tank%20Service%20Manual.html

Green & Green, Panther: Germany’s Quest for Combat Dominance. pp. 107-120.

Military Intelligence Division. Japanese Tank and Anti-Tank Warfare. Washington: War Department,  1 Aug 1945. Retrieved from: http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/cgsc/carl/wwiispec/number34.pdf (bear in mind that as a wartime intelligence document, this is not fully-processed history!)

Zaloga, Steven J. Japanese Tanks 1939-45. Oxford, England: Osprey, 2011.

Zaloga, Steven J. M4 Sherman vs. Type 97 Chi-Ha. Oxford, England: Osprey, 2012.

Sudden Jihad Syndrome Strikes

Or, if you’re an expert on Islam like our Vice President, this is just “workplace violence.” Because Islam is the Religion of Peace™.

And if you dare to say different, they’ll cut your ^$&$&!! head off. Infidel!

Item: Jihad Boy

hudson taylor clarkOr Hudson Taylor Clark, as he was known before his conversion to Islam, alarmed his family with his visits to jihad websites. When county sheriffs did a welfare check on him Friday 5 December, they found him muttering:

Dear God please forgive the disbelievers. Praise be to Allah.

It seemed clear that he was on the cusp of committing some islamic sacraments, but he hadn’t done anything yet, so the coppers could only note that he was alive and declined assistance.

Then, he walked out of his family’s house at about 1400 on Saturday 6 December, telling them he wasn’t coming back.

They called the local (Cañon City, CO) police and officers began looking for Clark.

Meanwhile, Clark found a way to beat Colorado’s new gun laws: he grabbed a handgun from the shelves in Victory Defense, a gun shop, and tucked it in his waist. Clerks saw his clumsy attempt at shoplifting, and followed him; they got the gun back, but he threatened them with a large folding knife.

“Don’t touch me or I’ll cut you.” Having recovered the gun, the clerks backed off. Clark did make off with a holster and ammunition, but without the gun they were of no immediate use to him.

And called the cops. Now they had an idea where to find Clark. The Cañon City Daily Record:

Clark then left the scene, [Cañon City Police Department Chief Paul] Schultz said, and was found 10 minutes later … by CCPD Cpl. Andrew Sanders.

“Mr. Clark did not respond to the officer’s commands to stop and talk to him,” [Schultz] said. “Our officer went up, tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around with a eight-inch knife … Then without saying anything, stabbed corporal Sanders under the left arm toward the armpit and then continued to encroach upon him.”

Schultz said the officer told him to stop after he was injured, but he didn’t comply.

“He continued to encroach upon Corporal Sanders with the knife, which was open obviously,” he said. “Corporal Sanders then fired his handgun in self-defense, striking Mr. Clark five times.”

He was shot twice in the left arm, once in the right arm, once in the abdomen and a bullet grazed across his chest, Schultz said.

Clark was shot at while he was somewhere between four and six feet away, he said.

From what we’ve read elsewhere, Sanders nailed Clark with 5 out of 6 shots, after taking a hit from a large knife. It would have been nice if more of them were bang in the boiler room, but it was eminently successful in stopping Clark’s attempts to stab him.

More from Chief Schultz:

The suspect at this point dropped to the ground, never lost consciousness, was bleeding profusely and continued to make comments. Next to him was the Koran, which fell out onto the ground and during this first aid situation at this point, he did ask for his Koran.

Sanders was treated and released; Clark has a long stint in hospital, and a longer stint behind bars, ahead of him. He’s fortunate to be alive. He’ll be back in court for the next legal round on Christmas Eve. Allah that, Jihad Boy.

One hopes they’re serving ham in jail.

In the hospital, he asked police if he’d hit Sanders with his knife thrusts. He was smiling when he said it.  Meanwhile, Sanders didn’t need to ask if he’d hit Jihad Boy.

Item: The Love Sheikh

For a long and involved look at the Sydney cafe hostage situation, which ended with the gunman having put on some weight in 65-grain increments, and the hostages all freed, several of them wounded, the Daily Mail in the UK has excellent coverage. There’s a good infographic showing the escapes of several hostages over time, and good quotes from people on the ground.

The latest update: Along with the Sudden Jihad Syndrome mullah, two of his hostages are dead and four injured or wounded. The 34-year-old man and 38-year-old woman killed, and a woman and a police officer were injured by gunfire. It’s unclear whose fire killed the hostages; the wounded woman appears to have a rifle-caliber wound in the shoulder, and the policeman has shotgun pellet wounds. The hostage-taker carried a shotgun.

For a capsule version, Australian newsman Tim Blair at The Telegraph (OZ) has it covered in his blog here and here, whence we saw this video showing the stack and assault from one angle. It went down shortly after 0200, Sydney time.

Items of note: The Aussie cops are using M4s or equivalent. Good choice. They had various optics — looked like mostly EoTechs in the grainy video — and handguns in drop holsters. Pretty standard kit.

The terrorist attack locked down the central business district of Sydney for two days.

The terrorist attack locked down the central business district of Sydney for two days.

Many are making much of career criminal and Islamic cleric Man Haron Monis aka Sheikh Haron aka Mohammad Hassan Manteghi being a “self-proclaimed” islamic cleric. But all mullahs are, especially in Sunni islam which is non-hierarchical; there’s no Pope or formalities of ordination to advance one over the other. You don’t get a Mad Mullah Matriculation suitable for framing in your mud hut in a Waaziristan training camp.

Monis / Haron / Manteghi called for an ISIL flag, and while waiting for it, displayed the black flag bearing the shahada or Islamic profession of faith, which has come to mean terrorism everywhere.

His past crimes appear to include various rapes and kiddie-diddling (after one woman he “counseled” Guru Pitka-style came forward, there was a flood of them), and the murder of his ex-wife, although police think it was his current girlfriend who committed the actual murder; our sheikh of many names merely set her corpse on fire. He also sent “sympathy cards” to the families of Australian soldiers slain in Afghanistan — sympathizing with their killers. At the time of the attack, he was out on bail for 40-plus rapes, and accessory to murder (bail. Why?).

Nice guy.

This is the latest of several ISIL-inspired lone wolf or small cell attacks Down Under. Meanwhile, a couple of others who were caught in the planning stage were in court.

The other writers at The Telegraph have, of course, deeper coverage of the issue, but Blair hits the high points. The Age (Melbourne) has what appears to me to be a leftier viewpoint — a lot of hand-wringing about how people will get the wrong (?) idea about Moslem terrorists.

Item: The Mosque that Ate Santa

The extremist mosques in Cambridge and Boston that radicalized the Boston Marathon have claimed a new casualty in their jihad: Santa Claus. Ever politically-correct, Principal Jennifer Ford of the Andrew Peabody School banned the stout elf after complaints from a radical moslem parent. The “Christmas Concert” which had always featured a St. Nick appearance had long since been renamed a “Winter Concert” in keeping with Ford’s vision of state atheism as established religion.

Even many local Moslems think this is over-the-top, for which they’ll probably be targeted by mosque leadership. Apostates!

The Islamic Society of Boston was founded by an al-Qaeda sheikh now in prison for terrorism (BOP #47042-083), and it shows. It is primarily funded by Saudis.

And There Are Always Those who Miss The Point

Case: Megan Garber of The Atlantic, who complains that car service Uber used surge pricing during the siege. Because whiny urbanites are entitled to transportation, you know.

 

Gun Oddity: Beretta ‘Combo’

We prowl the halls of GunBroker, half looking for stuff to buy, and half looking for edutainment. This is an example of the latter, in that we never knew it existed: a Beretta 92/96 Combo, which appears to be a factory set with slide/barrel/recoil-spring units in 9mm and in .40 S&W.

beretta 92-96 combo case

Here’s the seller’s blurb:

For sale a Beretta 92/96 Combo, 9mm and 40s&w. As far as I can tell it is unfired, Has the original blow-molded case, original box and all paper work. Barrels and lower are stamped COMBO. Also has extra grips. I will pay for transfer using my local FFL if picked up locally. When I say rare, look around, you won’t find many… IF any! I can send more pictures if you are a serious buyer.

beretta 92-96 combo

Looks legit to us. The number of these that were produced isn’t visible in any official document, but web pages here and there offer up claims of 500 or 2,500. They come up for sale from time to time, at a premium over a 92 or 96 in equivalent condition.

There is a great deal of modularity in the M92 (etc) design, and the 92 and 96 have identical frames. Therefore, they are convertible simply by swapping complete upper (slide-barrel assembly-recoil-spring), and, of course, the magazine. The recoil spring assembly can be reused, but it’s easier to just have a whole unit to swap. (Also, the recoil spring is probably the single most life-limited part in the Beretta, especially the 96, which has the same spring as the 92 but punishes it more).

There are some limitations on swapping, mostly involving odd-lockwork guns and early (pre-92FS) guns. You can even get some use out of just a 92 barrel in a 96 slide, although the reverse won’t work. However, the newer “Brigadier” slide (the one with the thickened area by the locking block) may have fewer interchange options.

What’s amazing is that guys will still write that you can’t swap uppers from 9mm to .40 on Berettas. This Combo is living proof that Beretta thought you could!

Dae-who? (answer overleaf)

Here’s a rare assault rifle, one you don’t see often in its standard select-fire iteration out in the world, and one you see even less often in its semi auto US import version, the importation of which ceased in the 1990s and has never been resumed.

We’ll have the answers for you after the jump. Tell us in the comments if you knew it on sight!

Continue reading

Forgotten Weapons on the Development of the 1911

Through blind luck, the current Rock Island Premier Auction has one of every major variant of Browning-Colt production (even, very low production) pistol from the earliest Model 1900 “sight safety” locked-breech pistol through the 1911, 1911/24 Transitional, and 1911A1 issue pistols. These are three of the oldest: a 1900, a 1900 converted to 1902 (lacking any safety whatsoever), and a 1902 military (square butt and lanyard ring).

early_coltsThrough blind luck and directed expertise, but mostly directed expertise, Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons noticed this, and used those pistols — and a Savage 1907, one of Colt’s competitors — to do an impromptu video on 1911 developmental history.

ian_and_colt_variations

Except… it’s not least bit impromptu. It’s a real pro job! A half hour plus of awesome gun history. Go thither and enlighten thyself.

And you’ll know what you’re looking at when you encounter one of these, somewhere down the road:

colt_1900_sight_safety

It’s the granddaddy of them all, the “sight safety” pistol that Colt just called the Colt Automatic Pistol — after all, in 1900 it was their first and only one — and that collectors call the M1900 Sight Safety. The name comes from the safety, which was the rear sight: with the hammer cocked, it can be rotated down to block the firing pin.

Normally, we’d embed the video, but we’d really like you to go check out Ian’s presentation, because he also links to each pistol’s page at the RIA auction. At RIA, each pistol’s page also includes links to other vintage Colts.

What’s “RHA” in Penetration Specifications?

Anti-tank, anti-armor, and armor-piercing ammunition needs to have a specification describing its penetration. Now, any scientific test would be buried in disclaimers and details. What muzzle velocity, what distance, what angle, what atmospheric conditions. But there are certain norms.  It’s customary to convert ambient temperature and pressure during the test to an international standard atmosphere, 59ºF and 29.95 inches of mercury. It’s customary to convert slanted armor to its thickness equivalent along the axis of the shot. And it’s customary to describe penetration as distance, millimeters or inches, in a specific medium, RHA.

The Armor of this Russian T-34/76, with armor thickness and obliquity noted. All armor was RHA.

The Armor of this Russian T-34/76, with armor thickness and obliquity noted. On this specific model, nearly all armor was RHA (the 52mm thick turret front may have been cast).

RHA is Rolled Homogeneous Armor and it’s the most common of three types of steel armor that was commonly used in World War II. The others were Cast Homogeneous Armor and Face-Hardened Armor. In general RHA was the gold standard at the time, with CHA and FHA used for specific purposes. There are some terminological differences, of course: the British called RHA machineable armour, because it could be practically cut with machine tools; FHA was very difficult to cut on its armored face, due to heat-treating giving it a very hard, but brittle if overstressed, surface. RHA, conversely, is strong but ductile, which enables it to shuck off more and harder hits. The British breakout of FHA, which Americans call face-hardened armor, is flame-hardened armour.

Panther mantlet penetrated by US 90mm gun in Aberdeen testing.

CHA Panther mantlet penetrated by US 90mm gun at 800m in Aberdeen testing. Only some guns and some specific projectiles could penetrate here.

The US transitioned to mostly RHA early, as did the USSR (all T-34 hulls were entirely RHA, and both RHA weldments and CHA castings were used for turrets). British and German tank production started the war using face-hardened armor, and changed midwar. All armies used cast homogeneous armor for some purposes. For example, the Germans used it in the commander’s cupola and in the mantlet or gun shield of all Panzer V Panther tanks. The US made Shermans with cast turrets and with both cast hulls and welded RHA hulls.  The initial Panther model, Ausführung D, was made with face-hardened armor for the hull and turret (apart from the two cast parts mentioned above). In July 1943, they changed to RHA for the glacis (the upper front plate), and a year later they began using RHA on the sides.

As a rule of thumb, RHA is the best of these steel armors, with the best protection from penetrating and HE attacks, but it has some deficiencies. It is hard to form in anything but flat plates. CHA can be cast in almost any shape.

Heat treating is used to bring RHA to a specific hardness. The hardness of steel armor is measured on the Brinell hardness scale. As a general rule, the thicker the armor the lower the Brinell scale value, and therefore hardness of the metal, will be. The FHA plates of WWI armored vehicles, which were 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick, had a Brinell hardness of 420-650. The RHA for the WWII generation vehicles ranged from 220-390 or so. For example, these are the German specified values (for both RHA and CHA):

Thickness Range (mm) Brinell Hardness

16-30

309-353

35-50

278-324

55-80

265-309

The reason for this decline in hardness with increase in thickness was the state of the production art, and it was fairly universal across the belligerents’ RHA armor. The Russians’ armor was the hardest by Brinell measurement.

Penetration of a Panther glacis. This may have been FHA, judging from the Greens' analysis of these Aberdeen tests.

Penetration of a Panther glacis. This may have been FHA, judging from the Greens’ analysis of this series of Aberdeen tests.

FHA was hardened to a higher level (Brinell in the 500 range), but only a few mm deep. The idea was to have more resistance to penetration on the surface, but more ductility in the rest of the armor to prevent brittleness and fractures, or spalling of chunks off the inside of the armor. Spalling was the kill mechanism of the British HESH (High Explosive Squash Head) round of late-war was designed to produce. The US later produced a version called HE-Plastic or HE-P.

The more you study armor penetration, the stranger it gets. For example, a long rod penetrator like the APFSDS rounds used in modern tank guns can actually perforate armor thicker than it can penetrate, by causing failure in the armor plate; it can also perforate the armor deeper, through that failure mechanism. That’s completely counterintuitive, but penetration and perforation curves from live testing demonstrate it.

Late in the war, shaped-charge warheads became a problem. Using WWII-era understanding of lining materials and explosives, effective shaped charges tended to be larger than most tank main gun calibers. Instead, they were deployed by short-range rockets like the German Panzerschreck and the US 2.36″ rocket launcher, and other infantry weapons, such as Russian drogue grenades, the British PIAT and the Japanese lunge mine (which is exactly what it sounds like, a shaped charge on a stick for a suicidal human attack on tanks. They were used on Okinawa and were made in the hundreds of thousands for the anticipated defense of the home islands).

armor-penetration-table

Penetration curves like this are typical of kinetic-energy penetrators, like these US 90mm shot types. Shaped charges do not depend on kinetic energy for their penetration, and thus, their effect on target is range-independent, as long as the delivery system can deliver the shaped charge to the target. The same shaped charge will work the same in a 3000-m ATGM or at the end of a 1.5 meter lunge mine.

The hardness of armor had much less influence on shaped charge penetration. But as a shaped charge has an optimum standoff distance, detonating it early reduces its ability to burn its way through armor. This led to various kinds of appliqué armor, some factory and some improvised. The Germans were a step ahead here. They had already added stand-off plates called Schürzen to many combat vehicles (including the Panzer III, IV and Panther) as a countermeasure against Russian anti-tank rifles. The Schürzen were homogeneous, but not very hard — only Brinell 105 or so. Schürzen were ineffective against conventional tank and antitank guns, but would sometimes fragment or deflect the steel or tungsten-cored 14.5mm Russian anti-tank rifle projectile, which otherwise could penetrate the side armor of those tanks at close ranges (~100m). The effectiveness of Schürzen against shaped-charged warheads was an unexpected but welcome bonus.

As we said, armor penetration is a weird science. The Schürzen, for instance, had almost zero effectiveness against the 14.5 if struck absolutely square on, at a 90º angle, but got much more effective as the angle increased even a few degrees.

Sources

Farrand, Magness, and Burkins. Definition and Uses of RHA Equivalences for Medium Caliber Targets. Interlaken, Switzerland: 19th International Symposium of Ballistics, 7–11 May 2001. Retrieved from: http://ciar.org/ttk/mbt/papers/symp_19/TB151159.pdf   (That site has the whole proceedings of the symposium).

Green, Michael & Gladys. Panther: Germany’s Quest for Combat Dominance. Botley, Oxford: Osprey, 2012.  (A very worthwhile book, rich in technical detail, with excellent notes and index and a wealth of photographs).

Uncredited, Armor-Piercing Ammunition for Gun, 90-MM, M3. Washington: Office Of The Chief Of Ordnance, January 1945. Retrieved from: http://www.lonesentry.com/manuals/90-mm-ammunition/index.html  (Lone Sentry is a former W4, and is highly recommended for this sort of period material).

Numerous other sources were used en passant but the bulk of the information in this post is from Farrand et. al. and the Greens.

Improvised Weapons in Africa

“While expertise is high and growing in the art of weapons manufacture, the know-how in the production of cartridge [sic] and other ammunition is still lacking.” — Abdel-Fatau Musah, pull quote from the report in the Brown Journal of World Affairs, Spring 2002.

Weapons recovered by South African police in 2010.

Weapons recovered by South African police in 2010.

Abdel-Fatau Musah is an anti-gun activist sponsored by Holocaust collaborator George Soros’s Open Society Initiative for West Africa, and while much of what he wrote in a 2002 article in the Brown Journal of World Affairs, Small Arms: A Time Bomb Under West Africa’s Democratization Process, was tendentious nonsense, he made some comments on improvised weapons that illustrate a point we keep hammering on: you can’t really ban guns, because you can’t uninvent the technology. From the thatched secret armories of Mindanao to the Tribal Trust Lands of Pakistan, humans who believe they need to arm themselves find entrepreneurs that arm them.

Improvised firearms are not new; they were once a reaction to colonialists' disarmament schemes. Smoothbore gun used by Mau-Mau terrorists in the 1950s.

Improvised firearms are not new; they were once a reaction to colonialists’ disarmament schemes. This smoothbore was built and used by Mau-Mau terrorists in the 1950s.

These third world armories have yet to produce a John M Browning, but it just might happen. As Musah notes, after deploring the existence of massive war stockpiles and ill-protected government armories, and blaming the great powers for the fact that the end of colonialism could be mistaken for the end of civilization in much of Africa, if there’s no handy stockpile a gunsmith will invent himself and start building one.

And the more he does it, the better he gets.

If one looked up the Small Arms Survey of 2001 for the list of arms producers, one would find that only Nigeria and Guinea possess the capacity to produce limited quantities of light weapons and ammunition in West Africa. Throughout the sub-region, however, cottage industries with the capacity to produce sophisticated firearms and imitation assault rifles dot the countryside. Originally established to meet local demands for hunting, these secret factories have grown in expertise and capacity to satisfy ever-growing demands brought about by general insecurity.

He also notes that the unauthorized gunsmiths react rationally to government pressure.

To avoid detection and repression, producers in Ghana have established networks of parts manufacturers, with each cell specializing in the production of specific components of the rifle. The components so produced separately—barrels, triggers, butts—are later assembled at a secret location for distribution. While expertise is high and growing in the art of weapons manufacture, the know-how in the production of cartridge [sic] and other ammunition is still lacking. The high rate of inward smuggling of ammunition is a consequence of this fact; this dependence offers options to control the overall trade.

He writes the conclusion to that paragraph as if he didn’t understand what he just said in the preceding lines.

If you try to restrict ammunition, yes, they’ll just make that, too. It’s not rocket surgery.

FIR 11307

Here’s another Mau-Mau blaster from the IWM. We struck out on images of the recent Ghanaian weaponry. Even the Impro Guns blog doesn’t have any.

Ghana, for instance, banned the local manufacture of firearms in 1962. Ten years later, they amended the Arms and Ammunition Act to allow manufacture with a license — and no license has ever been granted, or, for that matter, applied for. Yet guns are widely made.

Ghana, under the ECOWAS treaty and with the help of the EU and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a German foundation named after a Weimar era politician. The foundation’s politics are best understood by its veneration of the Karl Marx Haus in Trier, Germany, where it maintains a library of the “scientific socialism” it supports, and a hagiographic museum of the man who inspired the world’s greatest mass murders. It even says the baroque setting of Marx’s birthplace will “take you captive with its charms.” Well, if there’s one thing Marx’s ideology produced, it’s plenty of prisoners!

The Polish officers of 1939 were not available for comment, neither were the Old Bolsheviks of 1936-38, the 18 million who went into the Gulag, the millions that never came out, etc., etc.,

In Germany, the FES seems to overlap politically with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, which is descended from the East German quisling government and which has an anti-semitic tilt (ironic, as Luxemburg was Jewish. But many of the founding “Communists” of East Germany were resprayed Nazis, and by 1945 the original Communists, many of them Jewish, had been exterminated under red star as well as swastika, so maybe not so ironic).

ECOWAS, the EU and the FES consider minimum small arms regulations to be national and international registration, extremely restrictive may-issue permitting, and confiscations “as needed”.

His ultimate conclusion is even further afield — that SALW (the international ban seekers’ term for “Small Arms and Light Weapons”) — need to be controlled internationally, like nuclear weapons. 

At least two problems with that conclusion arise:

  1. the nuclear nonproliferation regime is extremely costly, which has only been justified by a strong international consensus for it at most times; and,
  2. the nuclear nonproliferation regime has failed repeatedly, and is failing again with respect to Iran.

No one is likely to sanction homegrown revolver development like they do, say, homegrown enriched-uranium manufacture. And as he noted with respect to the Ghanian bush gunsmiths, bans have consequences, but never the intended ones.

This is just one more attempt by Africans and their enablers in international organizations to try to shift the blame for misconduct by African individuals and governments onto other powers.

What’s the Opposite of “Advanced”?

We leave answering the question as an exercise for the reader after watching this video, about 15 minutes long. Here you see the 1989-90 contenders for the Advanced Combat Rifle, a program that would have replaced the issue M16A2 rifle which was still being fielded into some low-priority units, replacing 20-25 year old M16A1s, at the time.

The video begins with a rather sloppy three-minute history of American infantry weapons (you’ll cringe at the assertion that the first Army bolt-action was “made by Krag-Jorgensen,” or that the 1903 Springfield “wasn’t much better than the Krag.”  The video also makes a curious claim — one not seen in the doctrinal literature — that the M16A2 had an effective range of 550 meters.

The reason for the program is explained: the actual combat accuracy of the rifle in soldiers’ hands degrades far below its mechanical potential. So the ACR program was hoping to double the real-world effectiveness of the individual weapon.

The four vendors trying to grab the contractual brass ring were:

  • AAI, with a flechette-firing M16 cousin, complete with early ACOG;
  • Colt, with a product-improved M16, including an adjustable carbine-like stock, four-position selector, duplex (two-bullet) ammunition, and an available Elcan scope (similar to the model later adopted as the M145 machine-gun optic);
  • H&K, with an Americanized version of their ill-fated caseless G11; and,
  • Steyr-Mannlicher, with an oddball AUG derivative firing polymer-cased rounds with flechette projectiles.

At about 10 minutes in, the video presents the modifications made to Buckner Range on Fort Benning to evaluate the novel weapons.

In the end, none of them was sufficiently superior to the issue M16A2, or sufficiently well-developed already, to justify further development.

We thought for sure we’d put this video up before, but while we’ve talked about some other boneheaded procurement events — like in this post on the Objective Family of Weapons two years ago — we don’t appear to have actually done it.