Category Archives: Weapons Website of the Week

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week 2015 35: Vitaly Kuzmin

vitaly_kuzmin_netAs you might guess from the name Vitaly Kuzminthe website in question belongs to a Russian — in this case, a Russian photographer who’s well wired into the Russian defense and security establishment, or at least, into those parts of it that Russia likes to show off.  Vitaly is an excellent photographer, whether of equipment or of action, and his site is a good visit for anybody who thinks today’s Russian military and paramilitary forces are unchanged from Soviet days.

His posts are in Russian, usually with an English translation or at least an English gist so that foreigners who don’t know the language of Tolstoy and Chekhov (the writer, not the fictional space officer, thank you) can follow along.

He has some excellent photo essays on Spetsnaz, including a multipart rundown on the weapons used by the “Saturn” corrections Spetsnaz element. (These guys are, in effect, the SWAT team for prisons in the Moscow area. While the Gulag is no more, to the relief, we’re sure, of Russians and the world, Russia has its share of criminals, and has to lock them up. Here’s their official site, in Russian of course… we wonder how many of the photos were taken by Vitaly Kuzmin!)

You might also like his archive of posts that are explicitly labeled “arms,” which includes detailed pictures of rarities like the KS-23M shotgun, used primarily with nonlethal ammunition…

KS-23M-02

 

This is not your dedushka’s 870. Note the stamped receiver: it was built to work, not to catch attention on a gun-store shelf.

Here’s the internally silenced (in the style of the Vietnam era Quiet Special Purpose Revolver, QSPR, the ammunition contains the expanding powder and kicks the projectile out with a piston) 7.62 x 41mm pistol PSS Vul:

PSS-15

This pistol is a fascinating blend of conventional and unconventional. The rough finish of the grips not only provides a good gripping surface but also (important in an assassination weapon) rejects fingerprints.

Note that the PSS has typically European slide safety (presumably a hammer-drop in the Walther/Makarov style) and butt-heel magazine catch. The sights are fixed, but highly visible, reminiscent of the TT-33 which had excellent fixed sights for its day.

PSS-23

And just so you don’t think Vitaly’s all about little popguns, here’s a type of combat vehicle that is, in 2015, unique to the Russian forces of all the world’s militaries: the BMD-4M airborne combat vehicle, called Bakhcha-U.. This airdroppable light armored vehicle is the latest iteration of a concept the Russians have been using since they were Soviets in the 1970s; BMD-1s spearheaded the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. This latest version is well armed with a 100mm main gun that can also fire ATGMs, and a 30mm coax, controlled by computerized systems.

2015AlabinoFirst-17In the 1960s through 80s, the US had a conceptually similar vehicle, the M551 Sheridan light tank. It was used in the armor unit of the 82nd Airborne Division but also in Armored Cavalry Brigades in Korea and Germany. The M551 had a lot of problems and few were sad to see it go, even though its absence adds to the “speed bump” nature of US airborne forces.

The M551 could be delivered by a C-130 aircraft at conventional drop altitudes (1,000-2,000 feet) or delivered out the back on a skid pallet by the Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System, where a gigantic ring parachute of the sort developed for the Apollo spacecraft recoveries drew it out of the back of the 130 like a veterinarian delivering a calf. When a unit had to provide a Sheridan for a LAPES drop, they never gave up their best one.

The BMD, conceived by designer Arkady Vassilievich Shabalin, is dropped from a larger aircraft (usually an Il-76, although the BMD-1 could be delivered by An-12) at a higher altitude and descends under a cluster of parachutes. An Il-76 can deliver two BMDs to the same or separate drop zones. Its integral cargo crane can pick them up and move them in on to the cargo rails. Because the parachute cluster descends at a faster rate than, say, a normal personnel parachute’s 18-22 feet per second, a secondary deceleration means is required. In the 1970s, this was retro-rockets that were part of the parachute rigging up above the heavy load. Currently, a system of airbags that inflates under the vehicle’s delivery pallet after exit from the aircraft is used.

The Russian system has always been designed with a view to the idea that the crews can be dropped inside the vehicles and be combat ready straightaway. For that reason, the Russian heavy drop system cuts away all the canopies once the pallet is firmly on the ground. Dropping BMDs with live paratroopers inside is a capability the Russian airborne arm VDV very rarely exercise, but Russian sources say it had been done in the recent past (2010) with BMD-2 vehicles.

When they drop a BMD and crew separately, the crew uses a homing beacon to find their own vehicle and get underway in minutes.

 

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Sturgeon’s House

sturgeons_houseWe thought we’d mentioned this before. Maybe we did. The eponymous owner of Sturgeon’s House uses a photo of the science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, who he most likely isn’t (the writer expired decades ago, although we’re told his 1954 More Than Human is still fresh).

In any event, the site is primarily a set of forums inhabited by some people you will recognize from around the serious gunosphere. There are forums for air, naval, strategy, archaic weapons, and of course, small arms. If you go there, a little exploration will tell you more than we can.

You will find more here than you will have time to read, if you’re remotely interested in the same stuff.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Handguns of the World

Before we dive into this website, we want to ask you a question: what is the serial number of this Browning Hi-Power?

Numberless Hi-Power L

Oh, you want to see the other side? OK. Here it is:

Numberless Hi-Power

Didn’t find it? That’s because it’s not there. Trick question! This Hi-Power is one of a small (and, we think, unknown and unknowable) number of firearms assembled in the war-wracked FN plant in Liège after Allied forces drove out the German occupiers, who had been merrily building and employing these pistols since the fall of the Low Countries in May 1940. The only markings on this firearm are the marking on the frame in front of the trigger guard, and a single German WaffenAmt marking (WaA140) on the rear of the barrel. Not only is this time capsule innocent of any serial number, it’s also lacking any proof marks (he says… but isn’t that what the trigger guard marking is, a Liège proof?).

This is what the serials would have looked like, had the gun been produced under Nazi inspection a few months or even weeks earlier (image from this forum):

Typical Wartime HiPower Serials

This is one of the guns for sale at David Rachwal’s modestly titled Handguns of the World web site, which is, for those of you with cash on hand, a boutique of collector-quality vintage firearms. If you’re not in spending mode, it’s a worthwhile site for the education and entertainment value alone.

Some of the firearms are mystifying. Here’s an 1869 Bavarian Werder, looking like a prop from Firefly:

1869 WerderWe’ve never heard of that one before, but it’s growing on us.

Here’s a .35 caliber Dreyse needle fire — revolver. We didn’t know a firearm like this existed until pulling it up on David’s site. Obviously it’s a dead end branch of the revolving firearm tree, but no less interesting for that!

Dreyse .35 Needle Fire RevolverIf these are not exotic enough for you, David has a fine and comprehensive collection of Gyro-Jet rocket pistols. These 60s artifacts are extremely rare today. David’s are not for sale but he has graciously shared photographs of them with the public here:

GyroJet_041_1

 

Shortly stated, if you don’t find something you like and something that’s entirely new to you at this website, we’ll be very surprised. On the few things where we have a handle on values, such as Hi-Powers and Walthers, the pricing is reasonable; on everything, the firearms are interesting.

Enjoy!

 

 

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week 2015 32: ICE News

ICE patchIf you want to see what our elite corps of investigators of criminal aliens are doing, and by inference, what they’re not doing, look at the rogues’ gallery of literal rogues they’re putting away at ICE News, the official catchall for the agency’s press releases.

Sad but true: a long-serving ICE Special Agent of our acquaintance just learned about this site himself.

It’s hard to say what is creepier: that these people exist, or that they’re most likely going to be given a pass on their crimes, if they’re illegal aliens and the crime isn’t murder.

The cases show a remarkable range of human malefaction. There’s the immigration lawyer who pled guilty to identity theft; the international counterfeit veterinary medicine ring; the ballsy guy who pretended to be an ICE agent himself, so he could shake down detainees’ families; the guy running his own Nigerian scam; a (now, former) Fort Hood soldier who ran an alien smuggling conspiracy on the side; the NYPD officer dealing oxycodone; the sushi chef wanted in Mexico for murder; and more guys dealing nuclear-weapons stuff to Iran or collecting kiddie porn than you can possibly imagine. And that’s just in the last couple weeks.

Mexican Procurator General cops put the habeas grabbus on Julio Cesar Reyes-Rodriguez, 42, the murderous sushi chef, at the San Ysidro, CA, border crossing. Maybe they can find him work in the carcel kitchen!

Mexican Procurator General cops put the habeas grabbus on Julio Cesar Reyes-Rodriguez, 42, the murderous sushi chef, at the San Ysidro, CA, border crossing. Maybe they can find him work in the carcel kitchen! Just not near the knife block (he slashed a woman to death in a Mexico City cab). Hasta la vista, Julio.

Kiddie diddlers and other nations’ wanted murderers are among the “politically correct” wrongdoers that ICE can still bust, and who will be extradited to face foreign charges or deported once their US sentences are over.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: N6CC

What’s that? It sounds like a ham callsign? And we think that’s what N6CC.com stands for, although the site breaks it out as Navy 6 Combat Coms. But what we were flagged to was the site author, Tim Sammons’s, stories of his service in the Navy on a forgotten class of small combatants, the Trumpy class PTF patrol boats. The boats were American-made licensed copies of the Norwegian Nasty class boats that were used by the maritime operations wing of SOG in the Vietnam War. Tim has great stories of the Trumpys he knew, PTF-17, -18, and -19, boats that resembled in style, construction and size the classic Elco PT boats of World War II.

cropped-PTF17-Wtrmrk1

The names? The source of Nasty is not clear; during their brief service in the US Navy they were known only by numbers. Trumpy is easier to figure out; the American boats were built to the Norwegian plan by now-defunct yacht builders John Trumpy & Sons.

 

They were powered by the bizarre and tremendous Napier Deltic diesels, strange engines with three crankshafts arranged triangularly, with cylinders in between, and two pistons in each cylinder — one coming in from each end, until they’d compressed the charge enough to fire. The Deltics were turbosupercharged, put out a staggering 3100 horsepower each (the boats had two) and could drive the wooden Trumpys to 45 knots, sea state permitting.

 

They were also armed with a small arsenal of 40mm, 20mm, .50 caliber guns and an 81mm mortar. Tim has a page specifically on armament — you guys might like that.

In Tim’s day, he patrolled the Great Lakes, but he has some interesting information about the Trumpys’ predecessors, the Nastys, in Vietnam, and the Trumpys’ ill-fated successors, the Osprey class (whose aluminum hulls were found to be too fragile for the mission).

If you want more info on the boats’ wartime adventures, see pftnasty.com and warboats.org where there are a lot of firsthand stories of these fast little combatants.

It isn’t just boats. Naturally, there’s a lot of cool commo gear on his website, including a clever hack that uses a VFO to stand in for a crystal in an AN/GRC-109 radio. (If you don’t know what that is, just crank this generator while Tim and I tune the antenna….). The hack will work with the OSS/Agency clandestine RS-1, too, which is a very close sibling of the 109.

Other cool stuff on Tim’s website include camouflaged or covert antennas and many other communications rigs, and annotated photos of the communications gear from the commo wing of the museum that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam made of the Presidential Palace of once-free Vietnam. Poor Thieu’s, or maybe by then it was Big Minh’s, situation map still is stuck to a wall in there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

At Cu Chi, he laid out $17 to fire 10 rounds out of an AK. The NVA fought capitalism before succumbing to it.

VietnamTSAK47-2-2048x1536

There’s also an interesting exploration of the wreck site of a rare B-17C (no B-17 that old survives intact).

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Wolfram Alpha

wa screenshot mainThis is not a weapons site at all, but it is extremely useful, and beyond its immediate utility, its potential is staggering. It came to mind recently when we were looking at some undersized holes, and couldn’t remember the decimal size of a particular numbered drill bit. We did the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass: asked Siri, the voice processor in the iPhone. She used Wolfram Alpha to tell us.

The website parses natural language (sometimes perfectly, sometimes comically) and can answer a wide range of questions.

The brainchild of Steve Wolfram, the genius behind Mathematica, Wolfram Alpha has a goal that is nothing short of staggering:

Wolfram|Alpha’s long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone.

We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.

Wolfram|Alpha aims to bring expert-level knowledge and capabilities to the broadest possible range of people—spanning all professions and education levels.

Our goal is to accept completely free-form input, and to serve as a knowledge engine that generates powerful results and presents them with maximum clarity.

Wolfram notes that when computers first began to spread in academia, government and industry, everyone assumed the day would come when you could just ask the computer anything, and it would answer. The television shows of the 1960s especially popularized this idea, but to Steve’s frustration, the computers of today just could not do it.

In the end, Wolfram Alpha is as much an attempt to deliver a new qualitative variety of encyclopedia, a quest they trace to Pliny’s Encyclopedia of 78 AD and further back to the invention of numbers and arithmetic 20,000 years before Christ, on a timeline of human knowledge  that’s breathtaking in its depth — and in the way it suggests both a secular trend of accelerating knowledge growth, and that clusters of roughly contemporaneous knowledge growth suggest a punctuated equilibrium in that growth.

Wolfram Alpha can be used for practical purposes, too. To get a general idea of the properties of a material, just type it in.

 

It has limitations. We struck out trying to get it to calculate end mill feed rates (perhaps we haven’t found the right syntax yet). And if you need the Young’s Modulus for 6061T6 and not for generic “aluminum alloy,” you’re SOL. And asking it to compare the Young’s Modulus of steel and aluminum, we got this:

wa_screenshot

It’s a comparison, alright, but not a terribly helpful one as it sits.

For over a decade, then, WA has felt like a public beta, but when it works there’s nothing quite like it, and for simple timewasting mind-expansion, it’s hard to beat.

Wednesday (?) Weapons Website of the Week: The Diplomad

(Yes, this was supposed to hit on Wednesday. We’re playing catch-up this weekend. -Ed.)

the_diplomadThe Diplomad is not a weapons blog, but it’s a blog by a guy who would have weaponized our foreign policy, if he had been in charge. But this is the State Department we’re talking about here: a bunch of reality-light college kids who are determined to play “lions lay down with lambs,” and moreover, convinced that the moral superiority of being the lamb in that scenario is its own reward.

We would have been terrible misfits in the Department of State, and we get a sense that W. Lewis Amselem, who outed himself only after retirement, was a misfit there too. He’s our kind of guy.

The original Diplomad blog was anonymous, and closed down at one point, presumably because the Diplomatic Security Service was on Amselem’s trail; fortunately, there are few safer ways to secure your backtrail than to put DSS, the armed and credentialed equivalent of the TSA, on exposing it.

Amselem was already legendary in the Department (both among angry leadership and closeted corners of competence) for a 1993 cable he wrote, tying the department’s fuzzy-thinking affirmative action bureaucracy in knots with its own words. A taste:

If you are serious about racial labels, then Department medical services should be brought in to determine degrees of racial “purity.” You can hire phrenologists and other experts on racial traits. There are lots of those people now unemployed in South Africa or under false names in Paraguay (better move on this last group fast, they’re getting old).

He reprints the entire cable here. It was a monument of snark, and made him beloved among a certain type of foreign service officer; conversely, it made him Target For Today every day in the department’s executive suites. Here’s one more snippet:

Diversity zealots are toying with explosive issues; no matter how “civilized” we think we are, eventually, as we have  seen in Yugoslavia and only God knows how many other places, we all will come out to defend our ethnicity, race, religion,  etc.–and at times violently. Call it tribalism or whatever  you want, but it’s there under the surface. Let it stay there; don’t stir it up with misguided polices.

Of course, his cautions were ignored, and the DOS is more of a mess today than it was twenty years ago when he wrote the cable.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: CDR Salamander

Screenshot 2015-05-28 00.04.50There are some military blogs that have been around for a long time. One of the first we recall reading was CDR Salamander — a man in the long tradition of writing Naval officers. Before there were blogs, a military person separated from the service either had to find kindred souls locally, or subscribe to things that were printed on the pulp of dead trees.  During our short interregnum between active duty and finding a Reserve SF unit, we kept in touch with the military by joining organizations, and when it came time to join the Association of the US Army we jumped ship and joined the US Naval Institute instead. The reasons were simple: the swabbies could write. Our guys couldn’t. USNI’s Proceedings is stuffed with thought-provoking ideas expressed with verve, whereas Army was, in those days, as informative and lively as a gathering of Soviet agronomists celebrating the overfulfillment of the latest 5-year plan. (We don’t know if Proceedings still rocks and Army still sucks, but they sure did, then).

And Salamander? Dude can write. (In fact, these days he publishes his deeper thoughts on the US Naval Institute’s blog, but when he does, he links them via his blog.

He has a sense of humor, as his Buzzword-Bingo-champion blog tagline suggests:

PROACTIVELY “FROM THE SEA”; LEVERAGING THE LITTORAL BEST PRACTICES FOR A PARADIGM BREAKING SIX-SIGMA BEST BUSINESS CASE TO SYNERGIZE A CONSISTENT DESIGN IN THE GLOBAL COMMONS, RIGHTSIZING THE CORE VALUES SUPPORTING OUR MISSION STATEMENT VIA THE 5-VECTOR MODEL THROUGH CULTURAL DIVERSITY.

via CDR Salamander.

Recent posts include thoughtful adumbrations on PTSD; on how idiots keep expecting airpower without ground troops to accomplish anything, in the face of a century of contrary evidence; on the decommissioning of the USS Samuel B. Robertsa ship that was attacked by the Iranians in 1987 (and bears the name of a ship that fought with distinction in the Pacific in WWII); and one of our favorites, one wondering why the Navy has the free-for-all of ideas that characterizes the USNI, while the Air Force has generals that call pilots out for “treason”, because the jocks tried to save the A-10 by calling their Congressmen. (Oops, that actual post of his is at the USNI blog; the post in his own blog just links to it. By the way, the general in question has been defenestrated).

Another truly stunning post, stunning because we’d heard nothing about it, involved the shoehorning of female Midshipmen (wait, shouldn’t that be Midshippersons? Or maybe just Misdhips?) into grudgingly tailored male uniforms in pursuit of SecNav and Social justice Warrior Ray Mabus’s declared objective of a gender-neutral Navy1.

Now, we don’t much like Mabus. While happily presiding over a decline in naval strength more profound than, and nearly as tragic as, that of the morning of 7 December 41, his focus is on happily persecuting Christians. And he’s the guy who’s named ship after ship for undistinguished politicians.

Mabus just declared, today, that he wants female SEALs within two years. He orders it done, and orders that however it is done, it won’t be by lowering standards… just “changing” them. Gender-neutral SEALs. We can’t wait to see what Commander Salamander has to say about that.

Notes

  1. Yeah, that sounds bizarre as all get-out, but Sal’s got the message traffic that supports it (emphasis ours):

1.0 Background. In conjunction with the Gender Neutral effort endorsed by SECNAV, NEXCOM via N13 has tasked Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility (NCTRF) to develop a Female Service Dress White Coat design that mirrors the Male Service Dress White Choker Coat design ….

They want to stuff all female naval officers into this male uniform (the Midshippettes have complained they can’t move their arms in the guy coats, only to be told, who knows more about what women want, you chicks or Ray Mabus?), but they’re starting with the Midshipmen, who are pretty  defenseless against the Gender Neutral buggernaut from the E-Ring. They plan to do the same to USMC officers, too.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: A View From the Porch

a_view_from_the_porchDespite the name, Tam Keel’s website isn’t really a view from her porch. Not usually, anyway. (And it isn’t always about what its URL suggests: books, bikes, boomsticks… in fact, those things usually show up in the exact inverse frequency). So what is in, then? It’s a view from her home in Indiana, or from the range (she gets there a lot, and is carving out a career as a “real” gun writer) or from the road as she drives around and takes photos of things that catch her eye.

Her scope is grand and her curiosity infectious, and her command of the language is truly master-class. She uses that command, frequently, to afflict, perhaps not the comfortable in the barnacled phrase of Finlay Peter Dunne, but perhaps, to afflict the smug and sanctimonious. 

Plus, we agree with her a lot, and that is a known indicator of genius to the military mind:

Today, for example, she’s had a post agreeing with Chris Hernandez (and your WeaponsMan) about the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy meltdown (she’s a genius!), an update on a SIG P320 she’s testing (for a dead-tree mag, we “thimk”); one on Sudden Jihad Syndrome in reference to the Garland, TX botched attack (more genius!), and a thoughtful and balanced post on the new Russian Armata T-14 tank (which we mean to write about, as Silicon Valley vaporware firms say, Real Soon Now, but this post brings her to Triple Secret Genius or something).

If you like her blog, you may not like WeaponsMan, but if you do like WM you will almost certainly like hers. If it seems slow over there, give her some time, there’s a lot of volatility in her posting schedule, and a little patience will be rewarded with something that will make you either smarter or happier — often, both.

We can relate to some of her interests (guns! cars! Even old film cameras, although we’ve moved on from those) more than others, but that’s OK, she’s always got something good for all of us to read .

A Brief Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Waffenkultur

Cover of the current issue.

Cover of the current issue.

Most of you can probably figure out what Waffenkultur means, knowing that the German language has an affinity for compound words, and that Waffen is the word for Weapons. And yes, while there are some false cognates between Deutsch and Englisch, as it happens, kultur is a true cognate, nearly the same in both languages. So the name of the publication is Weapons Culture.

Its subtitle is, “The Open-Source Magazine for Weapons Users.” It’s been published since 2011 and all issues can be found on the website.

It’s published online for the whole German-speaking (well, -reading) world, which may not include all of you. You can download the issues as .pdfs, or read them online; so for our fellow Americans who are convinced that the secret to communicating with any foreigner is louder, slower English, you can run them through Google Translate.

Cover of the first issue, 30 Sep 2011.

Cover of the first issue, 30 Sep 2011.

Run through Hoggle Translate, the contents of the latest issue (link’s to the .pdf):

  • More than just a “plop”: Suppressors on the hunt
  • Black Label M4: Long Term Test Intermediate Report
  • Made in Bavaria: TPG-3 A5 by Unique Alpine
  • Old Acquaintance: Aimpoint Micro T-2
  • IWA 2015: What we noticed (IWA is a large annual trade show in Nuremburg. 2015’s set a new attendance record)
  • EnforceTac 2015: Riding the Security Updraft (a report on a sub-expo devoted to law enforcement and security “stuff”).
  • Quality Close Up: The Gamsbokk Tacstar Professional (review of high-end field pants)
  • Interceptor: Foul Weather Jacket MIG 2.0 by Carinthia
  • Let’s blow some shit up: Tannerite exploding targets  (This was in English in the contents!)
  • Book Recommendations

Update

Here’s the link to the main site. Apologies for not including it A brief word about the contents: high-end modern guns and gear for the modern Teuton. (Not historic stuff).  Frederick the Great would probably approve.