Category Archives: Weapons Website of the Week

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Soldier Systems

Screenshot 2014-07-23 22.17.21If you were to Google soldiersystems site:weaponsman.com, you’d see we’ve cited this useful site from time to time, but it’s never been our W4. How we overlooked it, we’re not sure. Time to rectify that oversight.

About 90% of what’s on Soldier Systems.net is press releases from military, weapons, tactical-gear (and “tactical” gear) vendors, and that kind of thing. Think of it as a kind of heads-up, a PEO Soldier for the rest of us. There’s also a little filler or crap — airsoft and other toys and novelties. Hey, their site, their rules, and it’s easy enough to scroll past the greasy kid stuff and on to useful things.

But while they usually just deliver the facts as they’re given ‘em, it’s on the occasions when they go into depth that they’re most interesting to us. An example is their SHOT Show coverage.

Still, they have incredibly weird and wonderful stuff all the time, because the range of press releases they suck in include not only the usual guns, and knives, and 300 variations of crap made of Cordura, but also oddities like Chain Mail Shoes (why? Well, why not?) and the Cash Cannon (a clever idea, but it’s either out of stock or vaporware).

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Warriors Publishing Group

Screenshot 2014-06-25 10.57.29Their tagline pretty much says it:

We Publish Books You Like to Read

They’re the Warriors Publishing Group and they are affiliated with Hollywood military adviser turned actor Dale Dye, and his Warriors Inc. advisory business. Dye, a Vietnam USMC vet and Marine Mustang who retired as a Captain, singlehandedly transformed the Hollywood war-film process by training actors and extras on weapons, tactics, and military deportment in condensed “boot camps”. He is the singular reason that gun handling in today’s films is miles above the gun handling in the classic films of the fifties and sixties, and for that alone everyone who strains his ocular equipment towards a big or small screen needs to say three Hosannas and a Hail Chesty in the general direction of Camp Pendleton (which for us is close enough to the general direction of LA-based Dye. If you’re closer to the West Coast the angles may be all wrong).

Fun fact about Dye: at least on his second, longer tour in Vietnam, he was a combat correspondent, who put a good deal of emphasis on the “combat” part of the title. He experienced, among other delights, the Tet Offensive in Hue, one of the USMC’s legendary battles of the 20th Century.

Dye is also a novelist of some talent. Several of Dye’s books are published by Warriors, unfortunately not including his great Run Between the Raindrops. 

If Dye is one tentpole author in the Warrior’s Publishing tent, the other has to be John DelVecchio. He was also a combat correspondent, but in the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile), the Army’s helicopter-mounted fire department in Vietnam, in 1970-71. DelVecchio’s The 13th Valley is a truly great novel of Vietnam, written when the experience was still fresh in his mind. He has two further books, one dealing with the challenges of veterans’ reintegration, Carry Me Home, and another with the miseries of Cambodia, For the Sake of All Living Things. Fortunately, Warriors has republished these three classics.

Along with those two, WPG also includes books by other authors we haven’t heard of, but certainly hope to.

The boss of Warriors Publishing is longtime Warriors Inc. manager Julia Dewey Dye, PhD, (née Rupkalvis), Dale’s wife and a sought-after theatrical military advisor in her own right.  (They met on the set of Starship Troopers). She has a book out that sounds interesting, Backbone: History, Traditions, and Leadership Lessons of Marine Corps NCOs. (That link is to the Kindle edition, but the hardcover’s the same price). She cites some famous Marine NCOs and former NCOs who are, or ought to be, legends in the Corps. (Some of them, you’ll go, “Dang, I never knew…”) Naturally, it’s published by Warriors.

They do indeed seem to publish books we like to read.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: US Government Surplus

Screenshot 2014-06-19 14.03.23Yes, we’re backdating this into place a day late. So sue us.

But here are two sites where you can buy US Government Surplus — direct.

  • Government Liquidation is an auction site. Imagine eBay designed by bureaucrats, selling only leftover government crap — nodules of treasure amid mountains of trash.
  • Uncle Sam’s Retail Outlet is a place to buy small lots of stuff. Exercise great care here, as they often offer new stuff for a price that is greater than you can get the item from, say, Amazon, and Amazon offers more of a guarantee than you’re going to get from any government operation. (Uncle Sam’s does offer free shipping on many items).

Most of us will never need a K-loader, a rough terrain forklift, or a Unimog-based engineering vehicle. But it’s nice to know that there’s a place for them to find new owners, and it’s entertaining to just browse the sites for the sheer “whazzat” value.

Why, for instance, has the Retail Outlet been trying for months to sell off a stash of Brazil National Flags? Why did Uncle Sam buy XBOX 360 games?

They do not ever sell weapons — the Carter Administration cracked halfway down on that, the Clinton Administration finished the job, and the Obama Administration requires the destruction even of parts. Indeed, a lot of useful gadgets and machinery must be scrapped, for reasons that may make sense to .gov or to the lobbyists that run it, but aren’t immediately apparent.

But some useful accessories do show up. For example, 1970s-80s ammo pouches and 2000s era field gear are common on both sites. Hardigg and Pelican cases show up. And currently, for anyone wishing to relive their youth as a buck private/airman/seaman apprentice/etc. there’s currently a pallet of floor buffers. Kids have discipline problems? Generations of drill instructors can’t be wrong.

For most users, the government liquidation site is too hard to use, and the lots are too large. But if you’re close to one of the bases, you might be able to get, for instance, a long-bed lathe for short money.

We’re actually looking for a couple of GI bunks to add to the ambience of the gun room, if we can cut a deal with a contractor to put a 3/4 bath in.

 

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: CommandPosts.com

Screenshot 2014-06-04 22.49.33Under the pressure of time and duty, we were inclined to skip the W4 this week, but the mysterious forces of Serendip aligned in such a way as to present us with an interesting site: CommandPosts.com.

The site is a military history site with the support of some heavy-hitting authors and their publishers. The writing we saw was of conspicuous quality.

We were particularly taken with the small section about or, in the Command Posts parlance, “focus on,” the Son Tay raid of 1970. This improvised mission was a sophisticated joint special operation that can be compared, in its imaginative conception, daring execution, and outsized psychological effect compared to its military utility, to the Doolittle Raid of 1942. The target was a North Vietnamese prison camp known to house American POWs. Unbeknownst to the raiders, the PAVN had closed the camp due to flooding, and the raid hit a dry hole.

Son-Tay-from-Low-Altitude

Fortunately for the aficionado of such history, there are several good books, by analysts, historians and participants, on the raid. Some of the Command Posts posts on the Son Tay raid are excerpted from certain of those books. Specific links include:

There’s much more there, including many suggestions of interesting books on a wide range of military history subjects. You can find many flimsy excuses and even a couple of solid reasons to spend some time exploring Command Posts.com.

In 2014 the site was subsumed into a new, less-focused and considerably less interesting, site, the History Reader. So there will be no new posts on Command Posts; military history posts will be, it seems, buried in the general history site. But there’s content enough remaining in the archives at Command Posts to keep you all entertained for a while.

Enjoy!

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Office of Naval Research

Screenshot 2014-05-22 02.27.55Why do a bunch of gun guys want to look at what the ONR is doing? Because the ONR is working on one of our favorite themes: what’s next? By that we mean that current projectile weapons technology is a very evolved version of late 19th century breakthroughs such as breech loading, smokeless powder, fixed ammunition, gas- and recoil-operated automatic weapons, and (for artillery) recoil-managing carriages.

Those inventions revolutionized the weapons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and they continue to be exploited even in the latest designs, but the pace of innovation is slower, the effect of innovation is more peripheral or marginal, and the character of innovation is evolutionary, not revolutionary. We could say we’re at a technological plateau, or apogee. (Think of where the internal combustion piston engine was circa 1945 — at a pinnacle of power and efficiency.

Some other trends can be perceived if you look at things in the long (real long) haul. These include a centuries-long trend for projectiles to be launched with smaller calibers, higher velocities, and greater accuracy. But these trends too have hit a plateau.

So the ONR is looking for breakthrough technologies. One thing that they, and the Army, have explored in the past is liquid propellants. We may write something about that, but the bottom line there is that the great potential runs up against insuperable (so far) safety issues. There are many things the next great gun should do, but one thing it should not do is blow itself up.

WNUS_Rail_Gun_Theory_picSo the breakthrough currently being explored is the electromagnetic rail gun. Here is their overview of the program on a single page and here’s a web version. The potential is staggering: 50-100 nm range initially (230 nm stretch goal); Mach 7.5 (5,600 mph). In  gunnery terms, feet per second, that’s 8,370 (2550 m/sec for those of you still using Robespierre’s revolutionary units).  The fastest common To give you some velocity comparisons, that’s not quite as fast as the X-43 scramjet experimental platform, and not quite the orbital speed a geostationary satellite is going. It covers a kilometer in 392 milliseconds. (For comparison’s sake, the fastest guns issued today are smoothbore tank guns firing discarding-sabot fin-stabilized subcaliber penetrators. The APFSDS round in the 120mm M256 gun on the Abrams is pretty fast at 5,500 fps, and the Russian 125mm makes 5,900 fps).

 

 

Navy-railgunORD_Railgun_GA_CONOPS_lg

This is the most recent test video ONR published (last month). Their gun accelerates an irregular shaped projectile to hypersonic speed.

This image, from RIA/Novosti (!) shows the principle of operation in more detail than the image above:

How Railgun works

Its current weakness is its power consumption, but the Navy has the most experience in the world with one potential source of unlimited power: shipboard reactors. The Army, too, is working on railguns, but doesn’t have that handy reactor in its tanks.

The ONR railgun program is now well into Phase II. The Phase I objectives were set, and the Phase II objective is, broadly stated, to transition from a research and development program to an evaluation and acquisition one.

But the railgun isn’t the only thing the ONR is up to, by any means. Writing in the Wall Street Journal this week, ONR head RADM Matthew Klunder reports that, while the railgun will be going to sea in a couple of years, the Navy is already planning to test a laser cannon at sea this year, and is working on other innovations, like unmanned helicopters for supply delivery or medevac.

Advanced technologies that were once the stuff of science fiction are also in the pipeline. This summer the Navy will deploy a laser cannon at sea for the first time and plans to test an electromagnetic railgun on a ship in 2016. The laser cannon delivers an invisible beam of energy with pinpoint accuracy that can take out an incoming plane, drone or boat. The electromagnetic railgun—using electricity rather than gunpowder—will defend against incoming missiles and opposing ships, and project power far inland by launching low-cost guided projectiles hundreds of miles at hypervelocity speeds over Mach 7.

Breakthrough technologies like these give commanders the option to deter, disable or destroy threats from greater distances. In addition, there is no limit to how many rounds a laser can fire, and at just $1 per shot, laser cannons will save the Pentagon (and taxpayers) many millions once fully deployed.

Both the railgun and the laser have the potential to save future ships from the fate of such naval tragedies as HMS Hood, or the USS Maine for that matter, where detonation of a ship’s magazine was a key factor in the loss of ship and men. The railgun can be effective with dumb metal kinetic-energy projectiles, and the laser fires a beam of light — neither is as hazardous to store as plain old HE shells.

Here’s the website, and here’s their YouTube channel (warning, annoying autoplay).

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Combined Arms Research Library

Screenshot 2014-05-15 00.38.46When a soldier goes through many Army schools, he has to write a paper of some kind. These papers range from a few pages to the book-length theses of the War College, and exhaustive Area Studies done at the Special Forces Operations & Intelligence Course. They vary widely in quality, too: some of the Sergeant Majors Academy papers are an ordeal to read.

If the paper isn’t classified, it tends to wind up on the Combined Arms Research Library, a web page where anyone (like you!) can enter a search term and receive near-instant edification.

There are cool things here. Remember the two Merrill’s Marauders papers a week or two back? They came from here. There’s lots more good stuff just waiting for your search — or for your serendipitous discovery. Like:

There’s a whole section of World War II Operational Documents. In fact, there are 15 collections in all that can be accessed here:

  1. Bruce C. Clarke Library Digital Repository
  2. Center for Army Lessons Learned Repository
  3. CGSC Student Papers
  4. CGSS Student Papers, 1930-1936
  5. Combat Studies Institute (CSI)
  6. Command and General Staff College Foundation
  7. Fort Leavenworth History
  8. Frontier Army Museum
  9. General Military History
  10. Master of Military Art and Science Theses
  11. Military History, 1900 – 1939
  12. Military Review
  13. Obsolete Military Manuals
  14. Operational Leadership Experiences
  15. School of Advanced Military Studies Monographs
  16. The Nafziger Collection of Orders of Battle
  17. US Army Artillery School
  18. US Army Combined Arms Center Repository
  19. USASMA Digital Library
  20. World War II Operational Documents

These documents are quite a wide range, and one search window accesses them all. It’s a Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week that you can get lost in.

Enjoy.

http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/CGSC/CARL/index.asp

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Bearing Arms

Or as its full title goes, Bearing Arms—Saving Liberty and Lives. This is Bob Owens’s gun site. Owens has blogged for over a decade at his personal site, once ConfederateYankee.mu.nu, and now bob-owens.com. But BA is an interesting mix of gun policy, gun politics, and a little bit of gun tech.

Bob seems like a likeable fellow, and his site reflects that personality. We personally enjoy reading it.

We didn’t really have time for a full-on W4 this week, so we’re just going to give you this suggestion: get thee hence and see if you like it.  And then c’mon back here tomorrow, where we’ll have something new and cool for you, too.

http://bearingarms.com/

Wednesday Weapons Website: Straight Forward in a Crooked World

Screenshot 2014-04-30 18.50.57It was a single essay that got us to label Straight Forward in a Crooked World as our Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week. It was an essay explaining why it’s a moral ever ever too deep into the motivations of criminals. Bottom line, they chose to be criminals:

So the next time you watch the news and see some horrific crime take place don’t think “what kind of parents did they have?”

That’s a key point that is often overlooked. Which is going to send us on a long digression from the website. Right now, the media, liberals, and friends of criminals — but we three-peat ourselves — are weeping bitter tears over the ugly execution of a monster named Clayton Lockett. To pick just one of these media malefactors, Molly Hennessy-Fiske in the LA Puppy Trainer Times found the execution “botched,” “violent,” a “horror.” Most of Hennessy-Fiske’s story hinges on an interview with Lockett supporter and anti-death penalty activist Dean Sanderford. Like Sanderford, Hennessy humanizes Lockett and dehumanizes his victim. She minimizes the crime, writing that “Lockett, 38, was convicted of shooting a 19-year-old woman in 1999 and burying her alive.” Compare her antiseptic description of the crime with what Lockett actually did

Clayton Lockett and two accomplices decided to pull a home invasion robbery…. [Teenager Stephanie] Neiman fought Lockett when he tried to take the keys to her truck.

The men beat her and used duct tape to bind her hands and cover her mouth. Even after being kidnapped and driven to a dusty country road, Neiman didn’t back down when Lockett asked if she planned to contact police.

The men had also beaten and kidnapped Neiman’s friend along with Bobby Bornt, who lived in the residence, and Bornt’s 9-month-old baby.

Lockett later told police “he decided to kill Stephanie because she would not agree to keep quiet,” court records state.

Neiman was forced to watch as Lockett’s accomplice, Shawn Mathis, spent 20 minutes digging a shallow grave in a ditch beside the road. Her friends saw Neiman standing in the ditch and heard a single shot.

Lockett returned to the truck because the gun had jammed. He later said he could hear Neiman pleading, “Oh God, please, please” as he fixed the shotgun.

The men could be heard “laughing about how tough Stephanie was” before Lockett shot Neiman a second time.

“He ordered Mathis to bury her, despite the fact that Mathis informed him Stephanie was still alive.”

Get that? That’s what Lockett, who supporters like Sanderford and Hennessy-Fiske believe had an absolute right to live, did to Stephanie Neiman, 19, who had just graduated from high school two weeks earlier and, to monsters like Lockett, and Sanderford, and Hennessy-Fiske, deserved to die. That’s why Hennessy-Fiske doesn’t want you to know what Lockett did: she’s on his side.

She similarly minimizes the crime of the next monster cued up for execution in Oklahoma, admitting that he raped and killed an infant. But she does not mention that Charles Frederick Warner was tried, and convicted, of raping the child to death, and was sentenced to die by a jury of his peers; and that murder groupies like Sanderford managed to overturn his trial on technicalities, and that, after an intervening mistrial, a second jury found him guilty of kidnapping and raping the child to death, and sentenced him to die a second time; or that he raped the 11-month-old baby girl named Adriana both vaginally and anally; or that he was also found guilty of raping a five-year-old in an unrelated case; or that:

Medical testimony in his second trial, which began June 16, revealed that Adriana was violently shaken and her skull was fractured in two places.

Her jaw and three of her ribs were broken. Her lungs and her spleen were bruised and her liver was lacerated, according to testimony. The baby’s brain was swollen and hemorrhaging was discovered in her eyes and around her brain.

…Warner was with the baby when she was injured. The baby’s mother, Shonda Waller, was at the grocery store…

Adriana Waller weighed 5 pounds. Molly Hennessy-Fiske doesn’t care to let you know that. The pedophile monster Charles…

“Warner never displayed any remorse for his actions and remained indifferent throughout both trials,”

…and she doesn’t want you to know that, either. Her focus is on sympathy for Lockett and Warner.

To hell with that.

(As an aside, consider “Hennessy-Fiske.” Isn’t a hyphenated name pretty much a red flag of Chronic Intergenerational Clue Deficiency Inbreeding Syndrome in anyone who doesn’t, say, command the 17/21 Lancers, have multiple Knights of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in the family tree, or serve as one of Her Majesty’s Ladies-in-Waiting?).

Straight Forward (yes! this is where the digression returns to earth) tells you how to deal with guys like that:

The crime rate didn’t drop because criminals were being found shot dead in the gutter every morning.

Crime rates dropped because the criminal faced a choice. The choice to try and attack someone who may or may not be able to kill them. When your chosen profession is that of the criminal you look for easy prey. The moment a criminal no longer knows who is and is not easy prey they begin to lose the return in their investment….crime as a job. Getting shot is bad for business since there is no worker-comp insurance.

So the next time you watch the news and see some horrific crime take place don’t think “what kind of parents did they have?” .

You choose to wake up everyday and go to work, or better your life.

You choose this.

Crime is a choice made by the criminal. Give them no inherent excuse for their behavior.

Don’t be Dean Sanderford or Molly Hennessy-Fiske, morally no better than Lockett or Warner (indeed, given their wealth and privilege, that they support these monsters suggests they’re morally worse). Don’t weep for the hardships of that downtrodden minority, Felon-Americans. To Hell with them.

After that single essay, we binge-read the whole thing. Don’t expect a daily post there; instead, there’s only a post from time to time, just a couple a month. (Which makes binge-reading the whole thing a rewarding effort to knock off in a single sitting). But those occasional posts tend to be quite high quality posts.

Matthew Allen is the blogger behind Straight Forward, and he’s a professional bodyguard, a rather unusual profession. In fact we don’t know anyone who’s a professional bodyguard, Except for a lot of former SF, Ranger, and Marine recon guys who now do PSD work for Government clients. None of the stuff he says conflicts with their war stories (unlike, say, the 80s books of supposed bodyguard Leroy Thompson). There’s a degree of common sense in his advice.

We recommend this short interview with Allen in St Louis Magazine; he’d be a fun guy to trade war stories, or tips, with.

Finally, a section of his blog is called “Dark Arts for Good Guys.” It’s hands-on practical advice for people who go to bad places, or perhaps, have the bad place come to them. It’s basically psychological preparedness. Good stuff. A little bit of it is about guns, but most of it is about mindset — and mindset is to gun set as ten is to one, as Napoleon would have said if they said “mindset” in the early 19th Century.

Here’s a one line excerpt from one of those, but you really should read them all:

The reality is people are going to die in the chaos from bad men.That is the unfortunate reality of evil. It doesn’t really ever change its mind, only direction. You have to change their direction.

The next few lines of the same post are some home truths about suicide bombers:

Suicide bombers are often portrayed as martyrs for their cause. The bravest of their sect willing to sacrifice their own lives. As a leader you don’t send your best and brightest off in a vest full of C4 and ball bearings. Rather (like any cult) you look for the poor, the weak, the outsiders who have no purpose (canon fodder). Telling them that their families will be better off financially and they’ll be Valhalla for the sacrifice.

Just to be sure after the vest is strapped on its not uncommon for someone to shoot a needle full of heroin into their arm to keep them calm (and a remote detonator handy in case any thoughts of self preservation kick in).

We’ve personally never seen heroin or other injectables used, but our experience with suicide bombers is the Islamic variety, and while they’re all about killing male, female, and child noncombatants, they’d never ever violate Mohammed’s strictures on drug abuse. The remote detonator, though, is SOP among Arab terrorists and their fellow votaries of Southwest Asia.

Perhaps you are beginning to see why we recommend to you Straight Forward in a Crooked World. It is well written, interesting, and our only disagreement with one of Allen’s points has been a de minimis quibble. One cannot live by WeaponsMan alone; go hither and learn, grasshoppers.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week – Torpedo of Rijeka

Robert Whitehead was a pacifist and teetotaler, who invented a weapon that's in its second century of use and development.

Robert Whitehead was a pacifist and teetotaler, who invented the naval torpedo and sold it all around the world: a weapon now well into its second century of use and development.

Here at Weaponsman, we’ve discussed naval torpedoes before. We’ve done it in the light of early American torpedoes that have been recovered from the bottom of the sea, or otherwise rediscovered, and displayed in museums or otherwise studied. But the very first torpedo, at least the first successful one, came from the forgotten Navy of the Habsburg Empire, by way of an English inventor and entrepreneur.

Fortunately, there is a place where this early history is not only not forgotten, but preserved and memorialized, and it is present on the web at Torpedo of Rijeka, our Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week this week. It’s a website founded by enthusiasts of the first naval torpedo, and the first naval torpedo factory — in their Adriatic hometown.

When Farragut said, “Damn the torpedoes,” in the Civil War, the “torpedoes” that he referred to were what we think of today as naval mines. They were tethered to the bottom or shore, and meant to inhibit naval traffic. While mine warfare is still a very important part of naval offense and defense today, the word torpedo has come to mean an underwater projectile or missile,  self-propelled with propellers or jets, and aimed at a particular target. Torpedoes can be fired along a pre-determined course or guided in some way. This guidance today can be on-board or remote, in the latter case usually wire-guided much like an antitank missile.

The inventor of the torpedo as we know it was Robert Whitehead, a Lancashire engineer who had long worked on the Continent. He was working in Trieste, then an Austro-Hungarian seaport, when he was essentially head-hunted by another firm, and moved down the coast to Fonderia Metalli de Fiume, in a port city which has had many names and flown many flags over the centuries since Roman historians noted that a tribe of rude Celts lived on the hills and a “more civilized” tribe of mariners lived in the seaport. The Romans called it Tarsatica.  By 1856, when Whitehead and his family arrived, the city was known as Fiume in Italian (which many of the inhabitants spoke, regardless of their loyalty to the Dual Monarchy), Fiume in Hungarian (technically, it was part of the Hungary half of the Empire), Sankt Veit am Pflaum in German (the lingua franca of central Europe in those days) and Rijeka to the local Croats, who had to learn one of the other languages — or better yet, all of them — to advance in society and commerce. As an empire, Austria-Hungary was a very different concept from the nations of today; one’s ethnicity was not implicated in his political allegiance to the extent it is in the post-Fourteen Points world.

Fiume was also the location of the Austro-Hungarian Naval Academy, which like any major power’s academy not only trained future naval officers but sponsored research. This included pioneering research in photography, communications, physics, and, more to our point, remote-controlled weapons. Whitehead’s company, now yclept Stabilimento Tecnico Fiumano (Technical Establishment of Fiume), at first made high-tech machinery of the era, such as steam engines for naval ships. They were tied in tightly to the Naval Academy and the local academic community; for example, technicians at what would become the Whitehead torpedo plant provided the first experimental proof of Mach’s concept of the influence of the speed of sound on aerodynamics.

A different kind of "Coast Guard," this primitive weapon inspired the naval torpedo we know today.

A different kind of “Coast Guard,” this primitive weapon inspired the naval torpedo we know today.

By happy coincidence an officer (Commander — Fregattenkapitän – Giovanni Luppis) was struggling with a remote-controlled surface boat IED he’d invented, which he called the Coast Guard. His surface torpedo — for that is what it was — had a spring-and-clockwork mechanism and steering bridles for control from the shore, and a contact fuze for detonating if someone was lucky enough to guide it onto an enemy ship. Here was a problematic gadget, but the germ of a very good idea, and Whitehead and a talented team including his son John and his right-hand man, Anibale Plöch. Unlike many Victorian Age inventors, Whitehead seldom sought patents, preferring to maintain his technical advantages as trade secrets.

And technical advantages he had.

Whitehead's (and the world's) first torpedo, 1866.

Whitehead’s (and the world’s) first torpedo, 1866.

 

To make his torpedo work, Whitehead and his team had to solve several problems: propulsion, stability&control, and effect. The last of these was the easiest: a cylindrical bronze torpedo could carry sufficient explosive to sink any modern dreadnought, and, moreover, deliver it below the water line where the ship was most vulnerable. The Empire was well-stocked with talented artillerists and engineers, and neither fuzes nor explosives required research, simply development. That part was basic engineering, not science.

The true developments were propulsive and control based. Whitehead used steam for the first torpedo, and then changed to a compressed-air-powered piston engine, for more power and quicker preparation to fire. The compressed-air engines were made in a variety of designs and layouts.

Of course, the engine is only half of a naval powerplant — the other half is the propeller.  These three recovered torpedo tails tell the story of improved propellers (they also show the growing awareness of fluid dynamics. The first torpedo was sharply spiked fore and aft — by the end of the 19th century, a blunter shape with a round nose was proven to generate less hydrodynamic drag).

1868 torpedo shows pointed end and single-screw with a duct ring.

1868 torpedo shows pointed end and single-screw with a duct ring.

1884 torpedo is a little thicker and has introduced dual counterrotating props to neutralize torque.

1884 torpedo is a little thicker and has introduced dual counterrotating props to neutralize torque. The ring was found to inhibit propeller efficiency.

1898 torpedo has a more organic shape and well-uptimized counterrotating screws.

1898 torpedo has a more organic shape and well-optimized counterrotating screws.

Devices pioneered here for control were a mechanical depth control and a variety of steering gyroscopes. John Whitehead tried to develop a torpedo gyroscope but his model was a dead end. Instead, they purchased a design from former Whitehead engineer Lodovico Obry. Much of this history is recounted on the Torpedo of Rijeka website.

The Obry gyroscope

The Obry gyroscope

In the years leading up to the Great War, Whitehead’s company, Torpedofabrik Whitehead AG, was controlled by a British syndicate of the arms and engineering giants Vickers and Armstrong-Whitworth, who’d acquired it on his death in 1905 and continued torpedo development.

After the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian empire at war’s end, the factory was acquired by an influential Italian family, and its name was changed to an Italian one, but cutting-edge torpedo development for all nations resumed. The testing station on the docks had a new level built with a catapult to simulate aerial torpedo launches.

The torpedo launch test station offered a ship-launch level, and air-launch level with catapult, and an observation level.

The torpedo launch test station offered a ship-launch level, and air-launch level with catapult, and an observation level.

The plant resumed torpedo production again after being bombed by the Allies in World War II, but ceased that production in the 1960s. The physical plant and its distinctive torpedo test tower (alas, not the original from 1866 but the upgrade from the 20th Century) still exist. The enthusiasts of the Torpedo of Rijeka website hope to establish a permanent museum to their city’s most enduring export. Rijeka today is a sun-blessed city on the Adriatic coast of Croatia, and a reasonable European vacation destination.

Whitehead had a most remarkable life. His daughter Alice married the skipper of the Austrian boat that tested and validated his prototype torpedoes; his granddaughter Agnes inherited his vast fortune, and she in turn married an Austro-Hungarian minor nobleman and naval officer that she met at a sub commissioning. The officer would later command that sub and another on his way to becoming the Empire’s top-scoring submarine ace, in which career he naturally used Whitehead torpedoes to sink English and Italian vessels (including an Italian submarine, Nereida, in possibly the first sub-on-sub torpedo battle in history).

You might have heard of the guy, who later emigrated to the United States with their kids after Agnes passed away. His name was Georg, Baron von Trapp.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: The Firearm Blog

Screenshot 2014-03-26 21.10.32The Firearm Blog is an excellent place to get gun news, often news that is buried on other sites or that just isn’t found anywhere else. That’s no secret to us: search Google for “the firearm blog” site:weaponsman.com and you’ll get over 100 hits, six or seven pages of them, most of those mentions being where we give Steve Johnson and his gang credit for stories we found there.

Sometimes we pass the story on. Sometimes we develop it further. Sometimes we disagree with what Steve and his writers have written, but those seven pages of Google hits tell us we keep coming back to Steve and his guys (and at least one gal, Annette Wachter).

You should, too.

Here’s what’s on there today, just on the front page:

  • A manufacturer’s release of night sights for the compact Glock 42. Tritium is your friend, although these are apparently photoluminescent (i.e., they “recharge” from being in daylight, to illuminate at night). We’ll stick with tritium, but it’s good to see a new gun getting some love from the aftermarket.
  • A report on a factory tour with the controversial Tac-Con company that makes a wildly hyped “ATF legal full auto trigger group.” We’ll probably review one of these very expensive triggers anon.
  • A shooter’s report on his first 2000 rounds through a new (well, it was when he started) FN FNS-9 longslide pistol.
  • More proof that “tactical” has gone mentally nonlinear, the “Deluxe Tactical Beer Koozie” which is a “miniature tactical vest beverage koozie.” Well, it’s meant as a gag. We think.
  • A press release on the Silencer Shop Direct program, which takes much of the NFA hassle off you — if you have a corporation or trust set up.
  • A report (lifted from Jane’s) on a Filipino purchase of $53 million worth of Remington R4s. That gets them 63,000 guns, probably select fire. These will replace the nation’s elderly M16A1s (hmmm… parts kits? We need to overturn the ATF’s barrel ban). It’ll be interesting to see if these R4s (basically, badge-engineered Bushmasters) are produced in Ilion, or if Remington assembles them in their new plant, far from Cuomostan.
  • And one that’s definitely worth linking: in the light of ATF’s shadow war on soi-disant “80% receivers” (technically, in the Bureau’s view, “receiver blanks”) and the customers who buy and complete them, Thomas Gomez of TFB posted (with the permission of Chris Garrison of Billet Rifle Systems), ATF’s Letter Of Determination as issued to Chris and BRS in February, 2013.
  • A Ruger rimfire recall. Not of interest unless you have a Ruger American Rimfire rifle, and if we own anything that ugly, it needs to have a bayonet lug and have been issued in some army. But if you have one of those homely sticks, you might need that recall info.
  • A warning about polymer-cased PCP ammo. Hey, they only tried it in two guns. Of course, it did blow up the guns, so there is that.
  • A promotional video on S&T’s (formerly Daewoo) K14 sniper rifle, a typically modern, modular gun. Here’s the video:

And there’s more stuff besides… and there will be more tomorrow. So, The Firearm Blog is a thoroughly deserving Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week.