Category Archives: Weapons Technology

Bubba the Gunsmith does an AK Trigger Job…

…or does a job on an AK trigger, actually. How do we know it’s Bubba? Well, we’re sure Winston Groom would agree that Bubba is as Bubba does. But also, we have other indicators. For one, the video is from Century Arms; if Bubbadom spreads like Christendom, Century’s Vermont warehouse is its St. Peter’s Basilica. For another, this is what Bubba is building:



What in the name of Niffelheim is that? An Americans with Disabilities Act accommodation for Apert Syndrome or some other syndactylic genetic aberration? It turns out to be available at J&G Sales. J&G is Century’s frequent partner in distribution of firearms with Century-Induced Firearms  Dysplasia, and has some quantity of these, as the bookmark on the page indicates. In fact, they seem pretty desperate to move them: not only does this model sell for less than the firm’s less-deformed AKs, they’ll throw in a drum mag, just so the boys in the warehouse don’t have to look at this horrible deformity any more.

Because our readers are made of sterner stuff, and can look upon this gorgonic beast without turning to stone, here is a close-up of the trigger:


And here’s another (all from the J&G website, obviously):


We suspect that Mikhail Kalashnikov would be spinning in his grave if he knew what they’d done to his rifle.

Now, these things may some day be collector items, like the hideous Fender paisley telecasters that came in as flower power was on the way out: so hideous when new they were desirable when old because of their rarity. No doubt some of them will be reconverted into AKs. It shouldn’t be too hard, with a trigger guard or a piece of sheet steel from which to bend one, and a couple of rivets. Just follow the video of Bubba below, in reverse.

True, he’s not trashing a rare or valuable gun for this, just one of Century’s canted-sightpost specials with tacticool furniture. But still, what’s with that trigger? In the name of all the saints, why? 

We first saw it on Max Popenker’s Russian-language blog, posted with a question: for weak fingers? If it stumped Max, who is from the land of Kalashnikov His Ownself, then it’s probably not anything from Soviet officialdom, or any of the usual satellite copiers. (The gun in the picture looks like a Yugoslavian parts kit with an aftermarket barrel and wood, but it turns out that this conversion was done on new Serbian AKs).

In a half hour of asking other experts in Soviet and bloc small arms, nobody had ever seen this thing. They were all willing to guess, though. A really ill-conceived cold-weather trigger (as ill-conceived as the absence of a trigger guard on the original Finnish M60, which the Finns repented rapidly), was the most common guess, but it doesn’t make sense. The Russians are scarcely ignorant of the fact that it gets cold in their country, and they have a perfectly suitable arctic-trigger system (and suitable gloves for firing in cold temperate-zone conditions) and have managed to run an army in their country without losing all their fingers yet.

Well, it turns out, this abortion has been offered on two Century AK variants at present. Anyway, you used to be able get this cool trigger on a black tacticool milled-receiver AK like the one in the video below, and can still order it in the sort-of-ordinary looking and rather inexpensive ($539 wholesale) AK that we and Max illustrated.

So Why So Serrated?

tipmann toy double grooved trigger

The Tippmann double grooved paintball trigger, from the Tippman Parts website.

Century is not forthcoming, any place we’ve seen, about why this trigger exists. But we were able to dope it out. Basic bottom line: it is for paintball choads coming over to real guns, who want to continue the paintball practice of firing high volumes of unaimed fire.  As Tippmann, a major maker of paintball toy guns, describes their double-trigger kit for their paintball launcher:

The added area allows two fingers to walk the trigger to a faster rate of fire. Double grooved for comfort.

The canonical name for this in the paintball world is somewhat unclear. Some call it the double finger grooved trigger, and others call it the double trigger. We call it Holy-Mother-Machree-that’s-Fugly.

And it seems to offer a false promise. On a semiautomatic AK clone, your maximum rate of fire is limited not by the speed of your human trigger reset, unless you have the reaction time of a three-toed sloth on barbiturates, or a former Disney Channel starlet on whatever they’re all on. It is limited by the mechanical trigger reset. Having two fingers rather than one to alternate pulling an unreset trigger seems futile. Given the physics of the trigger as a lever, the stronger finger has the shorter travel, and the relative travel of both is widely different, adding even more inconsistency. On the other hand, the safety hazard of exposure of a larger trigger inside the larger guard is real.

And in any shooting for any purpose other than noise making, maximum rate of fire is completely irrelevant. What you’re interested in is maximum rate of aimed fire, and that is limited not even by trigger reset but by time to bring the sights back on target.

Misses don’t count for anything except noise. We’d be willing to bet that we can take any of our rack grade semi AKs (including the Egyptian one, which has to make the Russians at Izmash weep; it brings the al-Bubba and is over 30 years old), and match the rate of fire of one of these paintball-poseur products, and beat the hell out of it when hits on targets at reasonable AK ranges (say 0-400m) are counted.

But for you completist collectors, here’s how they do it:

We were honestly surprised to see that Century’s smiths have some professional gunsmithing tools, like a Foredom (vs. Dremel) tool. The Lyman Revolution low-budget gun vise looks good and is adequate for this kind of work; all expensive Chinese-made gun vises are really suitable for cleaning and field-stripping, not for doing anything that will put more pressure on the action or barrel.

(PS. We were going to Max’s blog because we saw, from the new stats plug-in, that he linked to us. Spasibo bolshoi!)

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Precision Rifle Blog

precision_rifle_blogWe don’t know how we missed this guy,, until now. As long time readers know, we have always admired the empirical, side-by-side A-B testing, like the tests that Andrew Tuohy carried out on his own website, Vuurwapen blog, and later at the sadly moribund Lucky Gunner Labs and The Firearm Blog (just search for his name on those sites — if he did it, it’s good. He’s a young man, but he has his stuff in one bag). It reminds us of a scientific experiment. In the same vein, we have enjoyed some of the experiments that Phil Dater PhD did with barrel length, muzzle velocity, and sound pressure levels. Science FTW!

Now, wouldn’t it be neat if somebody did something like that with rifle scopes, among other precision rifle data sets? Turns out, somebody has; his name is Cal Zant and his website, Precision Rifle Blog, promises “a data-driven approach” to long-range, precision shooting. Cal delivers that, in spades. That’s why he’s the Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week.

Let’s show you one example of his coolest recent research, an incredible comparison test of high-end rifle scopes. These are the sort of scopes you’d apply to a precision rifle for target, hunting, or war.  He has conducted a well-planned and thorough battery of tests of 18 high-end scopes, side-by-side, using a pretty solid array of methodologies. Then, he ranked the scopes according to a weighting scheme that he worked out based on what respondents to a survey said was important.


Every step of his way, he shows his work. Disagree with his weighting scheme? All the data are there; you can draft your own and see how that changes the ranks. Some features are not important to you? Delete them from the weighting scheme and recalculate. The data are all there, and will cost you only the considerable time needed to read and consider them.

The two essential links are to the Field Test Results Summary and the Buyers Guide and Features to Look For.

But those alone don’t tell the whole story, because he’s also included in-depth links and all his methodologies. Not surprising in the STEM world, especially in engineering, the end of STEM furthest from all the theory. And even if you read all the links, you may have further questions, especially if you’re not well-versed in optics terminology. (We thought we were; the site disabused us of that notion right smartly). So he provides an extremely useful online glossary. Confused by the difference between miliradian-based (Mil) and minute-of-angle (MOA) reticles? He’s not, and you won’t be either, if you read his page on the subject. (Short version: if you’re a yards-and-inches guy, you might be happier with MOA, if you’re metricated, you’ll want a mil reticle and turrets).

You can quibble with the weighting scheme, or bellyache that your favorite scope was not included, but we’re still just struggling with the disbelief of the whole thing: that someone would do all this work for nothing but the pleasure of doing it, and then bestow it on the rest of us.

best-long-range-cartridgesAt this point, you might think that Precision Rifle is all about scopes, and it’s not. That’s just an example of what he’s got for you over there. Here’s another example — a chart from a long article on the calibers most used by National Championships’ top 50 competitive shooters. It’s interesting that the question of caliber is now down to 6 or 6½ millimeters, at least among top 50 competitors. We didn’t know that before reading it on Precision Rifle.

Go, and return smarter, grasshoppers.

A King’s Ransom (Rest)

You could not read The American Rifleman or other high-end gun periodicals in the 1950s, 60s, or 70s without noticing that, when the writers were serious about measuring the accuracy of a handgun, they used a machine rest, and often mentioned it by name: the Ransom Rest. A Ransom Rest is a handsome assembly of machined castings, and its purpose is to take much of the human factor out of accuracy testing, much like the more complicated and heavier machine rests the military uses for acceptance testing of rifles. Bolt it down to a bench, and human shooters’ individual variation in pistol accuracy is erased. This is what the base Master Series Ransom Rest looks like:

Ransom Rest

To use it, begin with a cleared and triple-checked pistol. Remove the grips from your pistol and with an appropriate grip insert mount the pistol in the rest, using the three “star nuts” on the left plate. There is a sequence to tightening the nuts, explained in the instructions. Adjust the trigger lever (big red handle) and the trigger release finger (small red plastic-covered rod) so that the release finger contacts the trigger at center and the trigger lever is about level behind the firearm. Then adjust the gun onto target with the bolts, and bolt it down. There are some small differences in setting up the rest for revolvers and auto pistols; Glocks and other polymer pistols need more settling shots than steel or alloy-framed pistols from which the grips are removable.

And this is how it’s used (there would probably be sand or shot bags on that board, if it were not bolted down; C-clamped beats shot bags, and bolts beat C-clamps):

Ransom in Action

After each shot, the muzzle will flip up. This is the Ransom’s recoil-absorbing design, and you return the rest (not touching the pistol or the trigger lever) to horizontal.

You should fire a cylinder or mag of rounds just to set the Ransom in, and adjust if necessary. (It’s amazing how recoil exposes what you thought was “tight enough” and really wasn’t). As a rule of thumb, it will take more rounds to settle a more powerful pistol. Until it has settled properly, the rounds will string along the vertical axis.

Ransom Rests are still made in today. The manufacturer appears healthy, and they stand behind their product; they’ll refurb your old Master Series rest or other Ransom rest at a fair price.  You can buy new Ransoms at Midway or Brownell’s. But you don’t see them nearly as much in gun reviews, these days. Why is that? We see several reasons:

  • Certainly part of it is the long-running cultural shift from revolvers to auto pistols. As we’ve shown in the past whilst quoting old magazines, revolvers had a much bigger market and mind share thirty years ago, and the Ransom Rest was originally conceived in the day when target shooting was dominated by revolvers. Even when they were supplemented and even replaced it was only by a single auto-pistol at first, the M1911, to which the Rest was readily adapted. Modern polymer pistols have been harder for the Rest to come to grips with (pun sort of intended).
  • With an auto pistol, the Rest is less accurate than a good shooter firing from a sandbag, unless it is re-sighted every shot (which it probably should be, anyway, but many reviewers don’t do that).
  • The shift in the center of gun-culture gravity from professional reviews to enthusiast reviews over the years has meant a corresponding decrease in data-driven information collection. Even as chronographs have become more affordable and usable, fewer reviews of guns and ammunition contain meaningful chrono data, and very few of them are atmospherically normalized to an ISO standard atmosphere, even though the math is trivial (and some of the e-chronos will do it automagically).
  • Fad and fashion. A lot of reviewers monkey-see, monkey-do their reviews. (Nothing wrong with that, if the review you’re copying is a thorough one. Everybody has a first day on the job).

Finally, they’re expensive. But the Ransom Rest is a pretty useful thing for several purposes. The company also makes a series of rifle rests that the benchrest community swears by.

Imura-san gets the shaft — two years’ imprisonment

3D imuras guns

Imura’s printed guns, seized along with his computers and printer when he was arrested.

Japanese 3D-printing gun activist Yoshitomo Imura was convicted and sentenced to 2 years in prison for printing guns.

The Yokohama District Court handed down the sentence to Yoshitomo Imura, a 28-year-old former employee of Shonan Institute of Technology who made a number of guns with a 3D printer in his home in Kawasaki outside Tokyo last year.

Imura was arrested in May on a charge of illegal weapons possession in what media reports described as Japan’s first such case involving 3D-printed firearms.

In a very Japanese ruling, the judge seemed as upset with Imura-san’s nonconformity as he was with the guns, and condemned Imura for “flaunting his knowledge and skill”:

“This has shown that anyone can illegally manufacture guns with a 3D printer, flaunting their knowledge and skill, and it is an offense to make our country’s strict gun controls into a dead letter,” public broadcaster NHK quoted judge Koji Inaba as saying in the ruling on Monday.

Prosecutors had demanded a prison term of three and a half years for Imura. Defense lawyer Akira Noguchi had argued that Imura did not know his acts were illegal. After the ruling, he said that an appeal had not been decided upon yet.

via 3D-printed gun maker draws jail term in Japan | PCWorld.

Imura's Zig-Zag Revolver. He only fired it with blanks, but that didn't keep him out of durance vile.

Imura’s Zig-Zag Revolver. He only fired it with blanks, but that didn’t keep him out of durance vile.

Despite the legal findings, our information is that Imura designed and manufactured his “guns” to fire only blanks, which are available in Japan in calibers and cartridges that have no commonality with any live ammunition, like the 8mm blanks popular in Europe.

Mind you, we understand why Japanese officialdom gets upset when the subjects start “flaunting their knowledge and skill.” The last time somebody tried that, his name was Isoroku Yamamoto and he wound up getting their country nuked.

What TrackingPoint Must Do to Sell to SOF

Tracking Point ProductsWe think the guys running TrackingPoint know what they have to do. In fact, we think they’re already doing these things. But here’s what, from our point of view, is missing from the current iteration of TrackingPoint hardware and software for real penetration into the upper tier SOF market.

So, Who Do You Hit First?

SF Recruiting Poster pick it upIf we were their marketing consultants (we use our MBA, but not like that), we’d also press them to focus on sell-in to certain SOF elements that are image leaders in the international SOF community. Sell, for example, to SAS, and you will have Peru, the UAE, the Netherlands, and many other nations very interested in your product line (Indeed, sell to SAS or to their US counterparts, and you’ll get sale after sale, worldwide). It’s important, also, not to over-discount the stuff to your lead customers: confidentiality agreements are fine and good, but they probably can’t keep, say, American shooters from telling the foreign shooters they’re training with or competing against, what a good deal you gave ‘em.

Another possible launch customer is FBI HRT. As their history of reckless shots and whacked non-targets shows, they could use the marksmanship boost. Meanwhile, despite their record, they’re very influential on local police procurement. Tag/track/release technology is just the ticket for police marksmen who never get enough time for training, and yet have to make more consequential and more constrained shots than a lot of military snipers. (A military sniper, outside of some rarefied CT or HR gigs, almost always has the option to no-shoot. FBI or police sniper, scope-on a crim threatening a hostage, might lack that luxury).

Who Don’t You Hit?

While the Marine Scout Snipers could use the hell out of this thing, it’s too foreign to Marine marksmanship culture, which is a master-and-apprentice culture that demands effort, even hardship, and eschews automation or corner-cutting of any kind. So we’d put these excellent Marine precision marksmen way down the list, right now. We’ve worked with enough 8541s to know that they like to do things the hard way, and they take particular joy in doing it the hard way faster than an Army guy can do it the easy way, and take a positively indecent glee in breaking the dogface’s easy-way technology. Bringing this to the Marines first means that they will use their considerable intellect and energy to break your machine and send you away with a duffel bag of expensive pieces (so they’re great for finding unimagined points of failure — there is that). Bringing it to them after selling it to the Army is not a panacea. It might be even harder, because they will be energized to demonstrate that the Army did Something Stupid, because if Marines believe three things about the Army it’s that: we have too much money, too little guts, and way too little brains.

You’ll probably need a Marine sniper on board to sell to Marine snipers. Once you do, you won’t get quite the global reach that you do by selling to SAS or its American counterparts. But you get in with the world’s greatest military image machine, and there is that. 

You have to be very careful about selling in to Hollywood. (One TrackingPoint precision guided rifle is already in the hands of the most successful firm that supplies movie and TV weapons and armorers). The reason is that an inept display of your product can hurt sales. (It would be very Hollywood to put the TrackingPoint system in the hands of a villain, to be overcome by someone like a Marine sniper or James Bond willing to use superior skill and old school firearms).

What’s Missing From 1st-Gen Tracking Point

While the extant system has undeniable SOF applications, it also has limits, and some technical improvements — none of which are impossible or require TrackingPoint engineers to schedule an invention — would increase its marketability in military precision riflery circles.

Emission Control / Encryption / ECCM

It’s great that you have a computer in a scope, and it’s the wave of the future. But the computer can be located by enemy SIGINT. The video and wifi links need strong encryption, and in addition they need to be controllable so that emissions can be closed down. Even third world enemies often use electronic support measures these days, and so you need some RF low-observability measures, and you also need to have electronic counter countermeasures to ensure usability of the system in an electronic environment.

Two-way communications

This one engenders some risk, but there should be a capability for the opetator to hand off control of the PGM’s optoelectronic systems to someone’s telepresence from a support station. Or even from another field station.

Intelligence gathering MASINT capability

There is everything in this weapons system that’s needed, for instance, to remotely measure a prison camp or a suspected SS-20 missile TEL. This capability would also tie in beautifully with the improved communications and encryption capabilities mentioned above.

A Ballistic Development Interface, SDK or App

Now that we have that in-scope computer, fully integrated with the hardware of the firearm, we need to have a way to make it more adaptable to different ammunition loadings, including one-time, single-mission loads. And that has to be done at the unit level; otherwise you’ve got a potential breach of compartmentation.


This is a sales stopper with top tier units. They develop their own long range capabilities, including, at times, loads, and they do it because they think they, like benchrest shooters, can handload a more consistent, higher-precision round than even premium ammo suppliers can do.

Demonstrated, Documented Durability

The running joke is that a soldier or marine can break a ball from a ball-bearing — just leave him alone in a room with it, and you’re a half hour from looking at a broken ball, and hearing, “Uh, I dunno, sarge. It just broke!” (Bearing-ball, hell, these guys could do that with a wrecking ball). You want your machine to be wrecking-ball strong.

Demonstrated “Fail Safe” mode.

The capability of the system has to degrade gracefully. If you’re sneakin and peekin’ on Day 38 of a “14-day mission,” dead batteries can’t leave you in shoot-randomly mode (let alone, can’t-shoot mode). Even an ACOG, which is probably harder to break than the gun it’s atop, has cast-in backup sights. But with a TrackingPoint gun’s scope being dependent on a CCD display at the shooter end, you can’t afford to have dead batteries.

Full Auto Stabilization Mode

We can’t be the only ones who looked at this and thought, “tag, track & x-act really could up the game of a door gunner and/or Boat Guy.” Hell, those Chenoweth sandrails might come back from the dead, if the gunners in them could actually hit things instead of just contribute morale-raising decibels to a fight. Imagine this Hollywood concoction, except real, and with the boost in hit probability than TrackingPoint promises.

You know you want one (more on the movie gun soon).

Note that these are just for the military employment of tracking point, as combat weapons technology. We haven’t even addressed the utility of tracking point for big game hunting, which is what the thing was developed for in the first place. Its applications for everything from African plains game to heliborne predator control seem self-evident. We haven’t even hinted at the potential for a rimfire TrackingPoint squirrel slaughter system, something that would sell itself once the price comes down.

As we all know, the guys running TrackingPoint are not stupid. They are probably thinking of most if not all of these things already. If not, hey, our rates are reasonable; drop us a line.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Tubalcain’s Machine Shop Tips

If you want to work on guns, you have to be able to work metal. Fortunately, metalworking is not brain surgery. Unfortunately, it is very complex and requires hands-on experience to develop any kind of skill whatsoever. So it’s good to have guides to the terra incognita of metal work, whether it’s something as simple (or is it?) as metals recognition, or as complex as making, installing and setting up repair parts for a broken lathe.

At one time, the only way you could get help gaining the experience to work metal was by apprenticing yourself to a master, or taking years of shop classes. But that was then, and now there’s YouTube, home of all kinds of how-to videos (some of them by Bubba or at least his mentors). But many of the instructional videos are of high quality. We’d like to single out “Tubalcain’s” series of videos as particularly useful to the beginner or learning machinist or metal worker.

We first found his videos when getting the hang of foundry, but this week discovered that someone had organized them all on a web page.

This extensive list of “Tubalcain” YouTube videos was sent by mrpete222.  To access them go to his YT channel and scan down the list.

The name “Tubalcain” is a Biblical reference, and an apt one.

From Wikipedia:

“Genesis 4:22 says that Tubal-cain was the “forger of all instruments of bronze and iron” or an “instructer of every artificer in brass and iron” . Although this may mean he was a metalsmith, a comparison with verses 20 and 21 suggests that he may have been the very first artificer in brass and iron. T. C. Mitchell suggests that he “discovered the possibilities of cold forging native copper and meteoric iron.” Tubal-cain has even been described as the first chemist”


This is definitely a page you’ll want to come back to. It’s edifying just to have one of these videos playing on another monitor while working — or we think it is. Hell, we may even learn something.


A 3D Lower we Missed: Vz61 Škorpion

Here’s one we missed in this morning’s roundup: Czech Vz.61 Škorpion. Less than a minute of 3D revolution for you:

The Škorpion (the symbol on the “Š” makes it an “Sh” sound, so it sounds like “Shkorpion” in its native tongue) was a personal defense weapon designed by CZ, then a “Narodni Podnik” or “National Enterprise” in the former Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in 1958-59 and adopted in 1961. (The Vz. stands for “vzor,” meaning “model.” Silly Czechs, they have a different word for everything!)

There’s a great deal of noise about the Škorpion having been designed for Czechoslovak special operations forces or espionage agents, which can best be classified as bullshit. The weapon was for officers, radio operators, support troops and others whose primary mission reduced both their requirement for and ability to carry a regular sized rifle. In other words, it was a conceptual successor to the M1/M2 carbine; the Poles developed a weapon that fit this same niche at about this same time.

At the same time as the Škorpion’s development, the Czechoslovak military was converting from a traditional semi-auto battle rifle in intermediate cartridges, the Vz. 52 and Vz.52/57, to a modern assault rifle in an intermediate cartridge. (The Czechoslovak engineers developed a short-lived 7.62 x 45mm cartridge, which was replaced by the Warsaw Pact standard 7.62 x 39 for interoperability’s sake). The Vz. 58 assault rifle that came out of these efforts resembles an AK in profile, but is a completely different weapon, with different magazines, operating system and manual of arms.

The folding-stock variant of the Vz. 58  is reasonably compact and eliminates some of the justification for the Škorp. So it gradually became sidelined in Czechoslovak forces; many years later, after the fall of Communism and the peaceful and orderly separation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia into separate states, most of the Škorpions were removed from service and sold; many of them wound up in the USA as parts kits, and more were rebuilt as semiautos with new lower receivers and other modifications. The semi Škorps are available on the market as pistols, or as Short Barreled Rifles under the provisions of the National Firearms Act.

Returning to the printed lower for this gun, the usual plastics from low-end printers using the fused filament fabrication (FFF) process, ABS and PLA, are unlikely to be durable enough in the long term. Of course, the .stl files can be used to print many more types of material also, or to operate subtractive machinery like a CNC mill. And more durable plastics, such as Nylon 618, are already available; a $6k carbon-fiber printer is on the market, and carbon-fiber-reinforced filament for lower-cost printers is also on the way.

Exercise caution before printing the file and assembling a parts kit on to it, as you run the risk of violating several paragraphs of 18 USC §922. To make a legal SBR, it must be registered in advance on a Form 1. To make a legal semi, it must not accept full-auto parts that would make a conversion possible, and must fire from a closed bolt. To make a legal machine gun, you must have a manufacturer’s license and a demo letter, and have an approved Form 1 in advance. We don’t know how the video maker handled the legalities. Bear in mind the ATF is watching this area closely and, as an institution, prefers to pursue licensing or other paperwork violations, which are slam-dunk easy-to-prove felonies, over cases against violent criminal organizations, which may require long investigation and expensive, risky techniques.

The Latest in 3D Printed Gun Developments

As we predicted, last time we looked at this, 3D printing is evolving to better adapt the available materials in consumer printers to the requirements of firearms applications. No more is it true that a printed receiver, even printed of low-end materials like PLA on a low-end consumer printer, is destined for a short and unreliable life. And people are taking printing in new directions.

The Continued Evolution of the Printed AR Receiver

The first printed AR receivers were clones of their aluminum forebears. And they broke. Boy howdy, they broke. You may recall that between the M16A1 and M16A2, even the forged 7075-T6 aluminum receiver was redesigned for greater strength. Material, and strength, was added to the pivot pin supports into the buffer tower area, which are the most vulnerable areas of any A. receiver

Let’s start here:

3d printed disaster-no

That looks like what 3-D printer enthusiasts call a “rage print.” Printer rage occurs when something goes wrong in the 3D programming, and instead of making a nice, neat, three-dimensional part, your printer prints a bunch of gooey plastic strings going in random directions. That’s exactly what this looks like. But that’s not what this is. It’s actually a new support-layout software that allows saving filament (even though the most common filament, PLA, is a 100% recyclable thermoplastic). We think it’s Autodesk MeshMixer. The supports look like a thready mesh, but there’s an AR lower under there.

If you look at the lower closely, you’ll see that it differs in detail from a metallic lower, whether it’s the stock 7075 forging or the too-cool case-hardened billet that Trumbull uses for its work-of-art ARs. It’s much thicker in places, which helps to make up for the lower strength of the soft plastic. We mentioned earlier that this was inevitable; just as designs and evolved to take advantage of new materials before, we have to expect designs to evolve to take advantage of these new materials, and new ways of manufacturing parts with them. This model, the Hermes, includes an integral buffer tube and stock, making the weakest part of the AR lower (the buffer tower-buffer tube interface) a single part:


Here’s a couple more-evolved minimalist AR lowers, the Phobos (yellow) and Vanguard (red):



Vanguard and Phobos lowers

Simplifying the lower reduces its print time and its likelihood of print errors. Thickening its parts reinforces weak areas and eliminates stress risers. Note that these are “as printed” without extensive acetone smoothing.

Here’s the Phobos, with its minimal magazine tower, built into a firearm.

Phobos printed on DaVinci01


It is optimized for the C-Products Beta magazine.

Phobos works with c-products betamag


Here is a close-up. The increased thickness, for strength and durability, is clear. So is the rough surface finish. This example was printed on a DaVinci printer, an inexpensive printer ($500) from

Phobos note thickness and finish

Here is the Phobos on range test. 100 rounds so far, successfully, as of 10 October 14.

Phobos in action

Are they militarily useful yet? Not really. Only as a prototyping technology, but it’s already been used that way. For instance, when Taiwan developed a new buttstock for its service rifle, they used 3D printing to produce ergonomic test samples.

But one can’t help but be reminded of Franklin’s retort to a woman who questioned his interest in the Montgolfiers’ pioneering balloon ascents: “What use is it? Madam, what use is a newborn baby?”

Revolver Developments

It’s not our cup of tea, really, but there’s quite a few people working on mechanically operated revolvers. Some of these look like the ancient Mauser zigzag revolver; others look more like something that would come with a Nerf trademark on it. Some seem to resemble both:

Imura revolver rendering

That’s the Imura revolver, named for Japanese 3D firearm experimenter (and criminal suspect, thanks to that) Yoshitomo Imura.

The Regulatory Angle

Of course not everybody thinks additive Manufacturing applied to firearms is a good idea. Indeed number everyone thinks that manufacturing firearms is a good idea most of your familiar with California Democrat Mike Honda’s bill to criminalize all home gunsmithing. The bill is certainly DOA in Congress in an Election Year, when even liberal pols are willing to denying Mike Bloomberg three times, like Peter.

Meanwhile, police and regulatory agencies in the US, Britain and Australia have been willing to lie about the technology to spread FUD. Here’s a line from an article at

Although police forces from around the world are warning technology enthusiasts not to attempt to use 3D printers to make plastic guns, because each time they have been tested the weapons have exploded.

Of course they have, because the cops/authorities have lightened the infill to make grenades, not pistols. If you hollow out a 1911 barrel, it’ll blow up, too. That’s far from the only mistake in the article, which claims to be an overview and timeline of 3DP weapons. For example, there’s this pseudo-engineering mumbo-jumbo:

 Two factors in engineering still need to be overcome, these are; high stress resistance materials that resist knife edge loads and high temperature flashes.

Huh? “Knife-edge loads?” Somebody’s having hot flashes, and it’s not the guns. If you look back up at the start of this post, you’ll see how the AR receiver has evolved to be something effective that can be made of low-tensile-strength polymers. And then there’s  this howler:

Solid Concepts… [used] a direct metal laser sintering printer to create a replica of a 1911 Browning .45 pistol. To date this weapon has fired over 600 shots successfully. … printing such a gun to resell is not currently economically feasible.

Except, of course, that Solid Concepts is already printing, and selling, them. Which they do sort-of note in the article, in the bit in the ellipses.

Not everything in the article appears to be nonsense, but in particular, the idea that printed guns are proven to explode needs to be stepped on. Hard. Sabotaged guns are proven to explode: not the same thing.

And to Make Regulators’ Heads Go High-Order Again…

It’s bad enough, from the standpoint of a domineering regulator, that people are using technology to make firearms without a “Mother, may I?” from On High. But it’s gone beyond that. Japanese technologist Yoshitomo Imura has taken the whole thing in a meta direction by designing printable technology for making guns. His current designs include a 3D printer (not that that’s anything new; many printers are capable of printing their own parts) and, more remarkably, a 3D printed micro milling machine.


Certainly there are valid objections: the technology is not there to print a sufficiently rigid mill, the unit can’t match the rigidity of even a low-budget Chinese unit, etc., etc.

To which we say, “What use is a newborn baby?”

In a world where the products, the tools, and even the tools that make the tools are all fundamentally digital, banning guns isn’t just difficult. It’s impossible. Any attempt at “control” will be reminiscent of the manner in which the USSR and its slave satellites struggled, never succeeding, in mighty efforts to ban information – until they ultimately collapsedWhen banning books didn’t work for them, they tried banning typewriters. Certainly the Mike Hondas of the world will go after the digital information needed to print gun parts, but information continues its trendline towards greater freedom and independence.

What’s this 1911-based frame… whatchamacallit?

Every once in a while, something comes along that does a pretty good Stump the Monkey on is. This is one of those. Collector/Dealer Bob Adams thinks it might have been some kind of a test fixture.

Unknown device or test fixture possibly made from a ca. 1918 Colt 1911 frame. Fitted with what appears to be a large threaded ring. Equipped with two vertical uprights at the top of the ring and a hole on the left side. The grip safety has been replaced with a solid backstrap/mainspring housing. The non-functional half slide is not original to the device. There is no longer any provision for a breech locking mechanism, nor any way to secure a slide on the rails, so it could not function as a firearm. This appears to have been an unfinished or scrap frame extensively remanufactured into some unknown device or test fixture and is not a firearm. It may have been a fixture for testing hammer fall impact, or firing pin spring strength, firing pin protusion, or ???? Any ideas?

1911 whatsit 01

via Adams Guns.

We’re not so sure about that. It looks to us like those big threads were meant to receive a big barrel, and the two blocks — rear sights? suggest it might have been a long barrel. We also note the one piece backstrap (replacing the stock 1911’s mainspring housing and grip safety) doesn’t fit entirely well:

1911 whatsit 02

Could those gaps have to do with a removable stock? Perhaps the gun was meant to have some sort of single-shot action and a Marble Game Getter style stock that clipped on here. But we think it is more likely to have been a firearm than a fixture. Bob disagrees.

What do you think?

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Impro Guns

impro_gunsAnother title for this blog might be, “Bubba the Gunsmith’s Wide World of Wonder.” But they call it “Impro Guns” and its URL is This little information about who makes the blog, or why, but it features the improvised firearms often seen on The Firearms Blog.

The guns vary from crude zip guns that are arguably more hazardous to be behind than to be before, to rather sophisticated weapons that even feign manufacturer markings, serial numbers and even proof marks. They are made by tinkerers, criminals, terrorists and revolutionaries, mostly in places where governments take a totalitarian approach to firearms, but also in places where firearms are available, but criminals seek greater firepower than then can get over the counter.

There are artfully concealed guns, that look like cigarette cases or tire-pressure gages. There are even some guns captured in process, with drawings or process sheets, clandestine manufacture style:

improvised chinese guns process sheets

Impro Guns gathers all these without even falling back on the Khyber armorers in Darra Adam Khel.

A lot of them are blowback, pistol-caliber submachine guns. We’re reminded, again, of a prescient poster by Oleg Volk (that we can’t find, damn it) that showed something like a Sten and said something like, “If you ban guns, this is what crime guns start to look like.”