Category Archives: Unconventional Weapons

One of these Guns is Not Like the Others

Sing along with us, kids:

One of these guns is not like the others;
One of these guns just doesn’t belong.
Can you guess which gun is not like the others,
Before I finish my song?

(Puzzled international readers, that’s from a long-running and hell-for-saccharine TV kids’ “educational” show which everybody’s mother made him watch at least a few times). Now that we’ve had our sing-along, here’s the photo. Which one doesn’t belong?

ghanahomemadeguns

The photo ran a couple months ago in the always entertaining Impro Guns website, with this heading:

Locally produced firearms seized in Ghana

And all of the pistol-things on the table are, indeed, the sort of thing you’d expect from Ghanaian village blacksmiths — except the Luger P.08 that’s the second one back on the right.

Wonder what its story is? Unfortunately, some Ghanaian copper has probably already either thrown it into a smelter, or sold it back onto the black market.

The constant panoply of odd creations that turn up on Impro Guns illustrate many things, but one of the major ones is, “What a simple machine a gun is to build,” and another, “How universal the desire for firearms is,” Most of these improvised guns are made where strict gun control reigns, or tries to. A great many of them are made by criminals and terrorists. Others, however, seem to be the product of hobbyists, and still others, made by or for people who simply feel a need for self-defense, a need that is never met perfectly by The State.

Indeed, in most strict gun control jurisdictions, the state makes nearly no effort to step in and defend its disarmed populace. Look at LA or Chicago, with hundreds and thousands of murders respectively, most of which go unsolved even though none of them seem to be committed by criminal masterminds. So at some point, the peaceable and formerly law-abiding person breaks out and builds himself, or has built for himself, a tool of self defense.

The criminal element, meanwhile, skips simple defensive handguns and long guns, and goes right to making suppressed automatic weapons, as the police in Australia have discovered. The Australian gun ban (semi-autos and pump and lever shotguns) has not seriously inconvenienced the criminal element, which is well armed with auto weapons on the conceptual level of the Sten or Mac-10. Criminals used to avoid these weapons because of the disparity in consequences for getting caught with one, vis-a-vis a revolver. Now, a criminal is as well hung for a sheep as a lamb, and goes direct to St. Valentine’s Massacre capability.

The only consequences you can always count on are unintended consequences.

Note: we’re still running late here, over 12 hours behind schedule, for which we beg your forbearance. Your Humble Blogger has been a bit under the weather, and dealing with it by drinking plenty of fluids, skipping PT (unfortunately) and spending plenty of time snoring in the recliner with Small Dog Mk II. These are wondrous and joyful activities indeed, but they don’t get the blog written on schedule. Bear with us — Ed.

We’d Have Called it the Drone Dropper… or Drone-B-Gon

This anti-drone device is going viral. They’ve clickbaited it well by calling it the Skynet anti-drone rifle, and it can directionally jam the GPS signals a drone needs to navigate, and the wireless video downlink.

skynet-anti-drone-rifle-3The two white and black “barrels” are directional antennae in two separate GHz ranges. The backpack is the necessary power source. Anyone who’s got Electronic Warfare experience will tell you jamming is a power-intensive activity.

skynet-anti-drone-rifle-1If you look at all the pictures available on the company’s website, and watch the video (below), the whole thing appears to be built on a (partial? modified?) AR-15 receiver, with a standard M4 receiver extension and stock. A bit overkill for just something to hang an arduino, a transmitter, and some highly directional (< 10º) antennae on, but it kind of makes sense to give people a familiar interface, and the AR-15 is the point and click interface for the 21st Century.

Along with this video, there’s a new one showing a live test. They claim a “suppression ratio” (difference between the range from the Skynet operator to the drone and the drone controller to the drone) of 8:1, which means (thinking of power squares here) that this jammer has vastly more power than the controller.

The two signal rangess it can jam are 1.450 GHz – 1.650 GHz and 2.380 GHz – 2.483 GHz, but it can only jam one at a time. Available hacks for, for example, the DJI Phantom drone (the one in the video) can take the drone control out of the target range, and could practically be developed for the video range.

There are a few other problems with it, to wit:

  1. As a jammer, it is almost certainly illegal to use in the USA. The Federal Communications Commission takes a dim view of jamming, and has considerable technical and legal resources it deploys to punish violators.
  2. It’s only effective against some common commercial drones and is unlikely to have any impact on a more sophisticated government or military system, which is likely to use robust, high-availability communications, and have backup onboard navigation (usually inertial) that’s immune to jamming or meaconing.
  3. It requires clear line-of-sight to the drone, ergo, it’s only useful as a point-defense weapon.
  4. It requires a human operator and visibility of the target. (How would it work in the dark, against a drone deploying LLLTV? We suppose there’s a Picatinny rail upon which you can mount an image intensifier or thermal sight).
  5. It has the scent of early prototype all over it, and is a long way from a commercial product or (alternatively) a flexible R&D platform. But even experimenting with this thing brings you back around into the sights of the FCC.

Finally, this is, we think, the firm’s first video, from May.

All in all, it smells to us like a gimmick. And within the range of this thing, there are other ways to take out a drone (one lady pestered by paparazzi drones seeking spy shots of a celebrity neighbor demonstrated her wingshooting skills and blew the drone to Kingdom Come. The paparazzi boarded their Range Rover — apparently invading privacy pays well — and were last seen heading back for Gawker HQ or whatever glutinous sump whence they emerged).

This is not the only anti-drone product out there. As well as other jammers, there are counter-drone drones that ram them or drop nets or cables onto their rotors. All of them are similarly immature at present, and no one knows if they represent a real market segment or just hobbyists tinkering.

One Man’s Trap is Another Man’s Treasure

This image, which does embiggen, shows a variety of trap guns that are among the many treasures in James D. Julia’s October Auction. Trap guns (which are also called “spring guns,” and other names) were common means of poacher and burglar control from the fifteenth through the 19th centuries. Basically, it’s a firearm arranged to be set up unattended and fired by a tripwire. Such a booby trap could easily be rigged with any firearm and a basic understanding of pulleys, of course, but purpose-made trap guns were cheap and low-maintenance.

JuliaOct16AlarmandTrapGuns

A 1983 American Society of Arms Collectors article[.pdf] by Melvin Flanagan runs through some of the historic trap guns and helps make a tentative identification of some of these… at least, that is, until Julia publishes a final catalog. Numbered from top to bottom:

  1. Sure-Shot trap gun, in which the same tripwire swung the gun on target and then fired it. Designed by Charles D. Lovelace and made in several varieties by several firms from 1913;
  2. Unknown;
  3. W. Cameron trap gun, patented 1891;
  4. Unknown;
  5. Reuthe Trap Gun, fourth model. Frederick Reuthe earned the first US patent for a trap gun in 1857;
  6. Unknown;
  7. A probable 20th-Century fake, probably made in the vicinity of Omaha, Nebraska;
  8. Unknown.

Trap guns were used by the British Army to secure armories during the Colonial gunpowder-raids period in 1773-1775, and, according to Colonial Williamsburg’s history of the powder magazine, was instrumental in the initial overthrow of King George III’s governor in Virginia, Governor Lord John Murray, the 4th Earl of Dunmore (a Scots title). Dunmore had been a career soldier, and later Governor of New York before being named to the wealthier Southern colony. He was a gun-control believer, and sought to confiscate, disable (for instance, by having the locks of the militia’s muskets removed), and to the extent possible, spirit away onto HM’s ships, the arms and ammunition that might feed a rebellion. He set stringent security measures on the magazine at Williamsburg. But on the night of 3-4 June, 1775, a spring gun that was one of those security measures set history in motion:

[A] spring-gun trap set at the Magazine wounded two young men who had broken in. A furious mob stormed the building June 5. Rumors that the royal marines were returning brought out the militia. June 8, Dunmore fled to H.M.S. Fowey. British rule in Virginia was at an end.

SM-70 illustration as a poster: "Wanted: East Germany. The World's Last Headhunter Reservation."

SM-70 illustration as a poster: “Wanted:  Visit East Germany. The World’s Last Headhunter Reservation.” (Thanks to an anonymous reader for the correction — Ed.)

Trap guns have little military application, except as generic booby traps by unlawful combatants. They were used, along with several types of antipersonnel mines, along the inter-German border by the quisling regime in East Germany. Some East German trap guns were converted cartridge-firing firearms, but from 1970 a special purpose directional mine called the Splittermine Modell 1970 was set up at intervals to booby-trap the expanded-metal fence that was one of the many security layers of the Berlin Wall.

Trap guns gradually fell out of favor, especially after World War II as courts came around to the idea that criminals’ rights were more important than victims’. In the USA, the key rulings were Katko v. Briney (1971) and McComb v. Connaghan (1990) in which career criminals (Katko and McComb) were held to be unlawfully killed. At least one other booby-trap dead burglar case was resolved with the acquittal of the booby-trapper, but he used electricity, not a trap gun.

Despite these rulings, trap guns and booby-traps are not banned, per se, in many jurisdictions. But it’s hard to imagine a situation in which an attorney would advise a property owner to deploy such devices. They’re a use of deadly force that is not being used to protect life and limb; they seem to fail several prongs of the use of deadly force test.

Consequently, the trap gun is an artifact of a lost period in history, and a collector’s item… some of which are coming available at auction.

How Anti-Soldier Lawyers Banned a Kind of Ambush

(File photo of Navy Recon Doc Michael Conti firing a sniper rifle in training).

(File photo of Navy Recon Doc Michael Conti firing a sniper rifle in training).

Two men from the IED cell padded silently down the road. Abdul and Roshanullah had two 107mm rocket warheads, a cell-phone detonator, and detailed instructions, including a sketch map of their emplacement point. The rest of their cell waited for them to return.

At a point where the road crossed a filled area, the two HIG men — many Afghans changed allegiances more frequently than their shalwar kameez, but once you were Gulbuddin Hekmatayar’s man, you were always Gulbuddin’s man — slipped down the side of the fill to the mouth of the culvert. This one hadn’t been fitted with a grating yet, but even if it had, they had been prepared.

There was just enough starlight for Abdul to see Roshan’s grin. This was going to be easy! First, the blessing: “Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem,” In the Name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful…

High on a hill facing the culvert, nearly half a mile away, a sniper team leader whispered, “Send ’em.”

The wind was fortuitously towards the hill, and at the culvert, all that there was to hear was the thwack of bullet impacts. Then one of the men — Roshanullah, not grinning any more — groaned and moved.

Thwack. 

All was still.

An hour before sunrise it was visibly getting light in the valley, and the five armed men who came down the road moved from cover to cover, nervously. They were breaking every tactical rule that had kept them alive this long, but their leader wanted to lay his own eyes and hands on the IED team.

They all died within the span of one and a half seconds. With five targets, both snipers, the spotters, and the team leader had all taken one. That was breaking a tactical rule too, but the difference was, the rulebreaking worked for the ISAF snipers. They recovered their 360º observation as soon as the shots were sent, also.

The team met the road clearance unit for a ride into the FOB. Intelligence collected from the dead laid bare the workings of the cell, and the telephone carried by the deceased IED cell leader allowed the Afghan NDS to identify two key HIG facilitators; one fled to Peshawar and the protection of ISI, but the other was reputed to be singing like a canary.

It was a successful operation until the Staff Judge Advocate spoke up, taking, as usual, the side of the enemy, and demanded the snipers be charged with war crimes — for shooting armed unlawful combatants carrying out combat operations!

Believe it or not, Army lawyers have defined this tactic as a “baited ambush” and have worked hard, if not to make it a “war crime,” at least to create a grey area in which it is the slightly less felonious “violation of the laws of war” and possibly a “war crime.” Lawyers, of course, love grey areas which take decisions out of the hands of decision-makers and deliver them, instead, to the captivity of cabals of, what else, lawyers.

For example, Army judge advocate LTC Chris Jenks — clearly, from his writing, the sort of SJA who joined the Army for personal gain, hostile to the guys with guns who make up the actual Army part of the Army — wrote in The Army Lawyer1 that this tactic “comes close to, if not enters, the law of war violation continuum….”2

Certainly this is an example of why it is impossible to win a war without first staking out the enemy’s fifth columnists, to wit, about 95% of SJAs, on culverts like the ones in our hypothetical, and letting the enemy have their way with them.

Jenks also doesn’t think the troops should enjoy a victory:

Members of the unit filmed the artillery strike and can be heard laughing and cheering, which presents additional challenges to a command.3

One gets the impression that his spectator sport is golf or tennis, not football or hockey. And he grew up in the age of scoreless soccer, and participation trophies.

Jenks makes a few clumsy gropes in the direction of understanding military necessity, a concept he, not surprisingly, has not picked up by osmosis merely by donning a bestowed uniform bearing an unearned rank. But he still concludes that hunting over bait is outside of the fish and game regulations of scoreless-soccer SJA war:

Ultimately, in the absence of an armistice or suspension of fire, engaging combatants attempting to recover their dead and wounded is not a per se violation of the law of war, but utilizing known—or even suspected—enemy wounded and dead as “bait” for such targeting enters the continuum and, at some point, will constitute a violation of article 15.

(The reference is to Article 15 of the First Geneva Convention of 1949). Jenks continues:

The more time that passes following the engagement, the closer the engagement is to U.S. forces, and the more control U.S. forces have over the “field of battle,” the more likely the failure to search for enemy wounded and dead becomes to violating the Geneva Convention.4

We bet we can guess what Scoreless Chris Jenks thinks about whether pirates should be held hostis humanae generis or treated with kid gloves in Article 3 courts, just based on the way he reasons himself into coming down on the side of our hypothetical decedents Abdul and Roshanullah here.

Army lawyers are entertaining, if you don’t have to operate like Combat Houdini, kicking off every patrol with their manacles and straitjacket on you.

Sources

Jenks, Chris “LTC”. The Law and Policy Implications of “Baited Ambushes” Utilizing Enemy Dead and Wounded. The Army Lawyer, June 2010. DA PAM 27-50-445. pp. 91-94.

Notes

  1. The Army Lawyer is a monthly magazine in which the judge advocate fifth column coordinates their attacks on combat troops.
  2. Jenks, p. 91 fn 1.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Jenks, p. 93.

Banned in Boston: Death Rays and Phasers

Marvin and his Illudium PU-36 Space Modulator are Banned in Boston

Marvin the Martian and his Illudium PU-36 Space Modulator are Banned in Boston

We are not making this up. The State of Massachusetts, ground zero for the world hoplophobia movement, has banned any “weapon from which an electrical current, impulse, wave or beam is designed to incapacitate temporarily, injure or kill.” That’s clearly a ban on death rays and phasers, just in case they might be invented! It would also seem to cut off any possibility of some citizen militia arming up with photon torpedoes and phased pulse rifles in the 40 megawatt range. Men of Northeast Shooters Forum, you have been warned: govern yourselves accordingly.

Invent a working example of any of these, and you get 2½ years in the State House of Correction, with all the pervos and hardened prestoopniks (like two of the last three heads of the State Senate, for instance).

Now, while the wise legislators (heh) of the Massachusetts General Court have ensured that the rabble in such dodgy places as Lexington and Concord aren’t amassing pulse cannons and storing hogsheads of electrons for potential insurrection, the law does make an exception for such of the King’s servants as are required to enforce the King’s Peace upon His bumptious subjects. Straight outta the statute (emphasis ours):

No person shall possess a portable device or weapon from which an electrical current, impulse, wave or beam may be directed, which current, impulse, wave or beam is designed to incapacitate temporarily, injure or kill, except: (1) a federal, state or municipal law enforcement officer, or member of a special reaction team in a state prison or designated special operations or tactical team in a county correctional facility, acting in the discharge of his official duties who has completed a training course approved by the secretary of public safety in the use of such a devise….

Yes, they misspelled “device” in the statute book. Morons.

And there’s another exception, for the suppliers of the King’s servants (and here they resume spelling “device” right):

or (2) a supplier of such devices or weapons designed to incapacitate temporarily, if possession of the device or weapon is necessary to the supply or sale of the device or weapon within the scope of such sale or supply enterprise. No person shall sell or offer for sale such device or weapon, except to federal, state or municipal law enforcement agencies.

Anything else, while we’re banning science-fiction weaponry?

A device or weapon sold under this section shall include a mechanism for tracking the number of times the device or weapon has been fired.

Sure, because if you’re going to ban future weapons you might as well imbue the ones used by your servants with futuristic capabilities!

The secretary of public safety shall adopt regulations governing who may sell or offer to sell such devices or weapons in the commonwealth and governing law enforcement training on the appropriate use of portable electrical weapons.

Government: full employment for all the kids from the Special class. Think of the numbers of people who write these regulations, and thank a merciful God that they are not embedded in some company that is doing something productive, hardening its arteries and reducing its employees’ mean IQ.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Nuclear Archives

FOOM!

FOOM!

It’s obsolete, it’s defunct, and it hasn’t been touched in nine years. But it’s still worth looking at. It’s the Nuclear Weapons Archive, last updated in 2007 after a rocky ride around various sponsoring non-profits and hosting sites, and it’s full of interesting nuclear documents, like this short British run-down on what it will take to make His Majesty’s first nuke, as of 1947. (The link is to a .pdf).

Another, similarly defunct site that was a parallel and cooperative site with the Nuclear Weapons Archive was the Trinity Atomic Web Site, which appears to have assumed ambient temperature in 2005, but exists in a sort of undead (and un-updated) state.

But if you really want to understand the technical factors involved in the production of the first A-Bombs, factors that are often glossed over by highly verbal but innumerate and scientifically weak writers, you need to buy one book: Atom Bombs by John Coster-Mullen.

Coster-Mullen is not a professional historian or archivist, but you would never know that from his book. (He is actually — we are not making this up! — a truck driver). Through sheer determination and hard work, he mastered the subject and wrote the definitive work on it (with equally definitive documentation and illustrations). If you go to the Amazon link, and select all buying options, the seller coster60 is the author himself.

Original and Reproduction Liberator Pistols

A few years ago — well, maybe a quarter century ago — Liberator pistols were extremely rare. Originals are still uncommon. While many thousands of the disposable firearms were made, with the intention of dropping them onto occupied territory there is little evidence any were so used.

FP-45 Liberator for Sale 2

Two things could be gained by dropping arms like this behind enemy lines: the first is that they might be used against the enemy as intended. But the second, more subtle, intent was psychological: certainly some, probably most, of the dropped weapons would fall into the hands of the enemy, inducing a great worry about partisans, perhaps even a debilitating paranoia. (There are several historical examples of faux guerrilla operations used either to bedevil enemies or to get loyal enemy leaders shot as traitors).

In the end, the US and UK conducted massive airdrops to partisans in France and Norway, but the drops were of more militarily useful American and British arms and ammunition. (There were also airdrops to “partisans” in Holland, but these turned out to be pseudo networks run by Abwehr counterintelligence. Most of the agents dropped by SOE were interrogated and shot on arrival. It’s that kind of business).

FP-45 Liberator for Sale 1

The Soviets dropped supplies to the partisans they supported in the East, but we have seen no evidence they dropped any lend-lease weapons, or were privy to the classified Liberator project — at least officially. The Liberators were sent, in small quantities, forward, to OSS elements in the China-Burma-India theater and the Mediterranean at least. None of these seem to have done anything but tinker with them, and those samples seem to have been the source of all existing free market Liberators.

Business end. Original Liberators were unrifled, unmarked, and intended to be used at contact range.

Business end. Original Liberators were unrifled, unmarked, and intended to be used at contact range.

This example is offered on GunBroker. The auction text (from the reputable collector-gun dealer, Jackson Armory) asserts that these guns were dropped to resistance elements. While we agree that they were made for that purpose, we’d need to see evidence that any were so dropped — and we haven’t seen any such evidence.

Calling the sights "rudimentary" is an insult to rudiments.

Calling the sights “rudimentary” is an insult to rudiments. (Actually, they’re more prominent than on many contemporary pistols, but any alignment they may have with the path of the unstabilized bullet is a matter of coincidence).

The sellers say this of the gun:

RARE WWII FP-45 “Liberator” .45 Pistol. Stock # MMH282805RT. No Serial #. This is a genuine (NOT a post-War reproduction) FP-45, .45acp “Liberator” pistol, a crude pistol made by the Guide Lamp Division of General Motors. These guns were air-dropped to Resistance Fighters in Europe during WWII. The all-metal pistol has lots of patina and tarnishing, the bore is dark, the action functions correctly

via Genuine WWII FP-45 “Liberator” Pistol .45acp. 45 : Curios & Relics at GunBroker.com.

The question arises is, is it genuine? Now, in 1990 the answer would have been “definitely.” It  was considered, at that time, too hard to copy, having been made by an industrial stamping process that would require very expensive dies.

Then, there were a small handful of Liberators circulating among collectors and museums — no more than a couple dozen, maybe at a stretch 100. (Some say a couple thousand, with about 300 still new in the box, but that seems astronomically high to us). These had all passed through some grey area between manufacture under US Government contract and present modern ownership without any sign of an official, legal sale; they were never sold through the NRA or DCM, unlike .45s and M1917 revolvers, but they may have been given away by officers with authority to dispose of surplus property while winding up operations. We are not lawyers here and are not about to teach a class in property law, but we’d just like to point out that many firearms passed through such a valley of shadow in their history; it doesn’t so much weaken the claim of the current owner — in our distinctly non-legal opinion — as it simply introduces a break in provenance.

Trying to prove provenance of a firearm like this, that was conceived in darkness, stockpiled by two clandestine agencies with an interregnum in between, and proceeded to the civilian market by unknown paths and in unknown hands, is a challenge like proving one’s descent from classical antiquity: the conventional wisdom is that it can’t be done. Somebody may be running around with Julius Caesar’s blood in his veins, but you can’t prove it’s you.

The risk of fakes finally arose with the production of new Liberators.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Vintage Ordnance Liberator reproductions

The makers of the reproduction, Vintage Ordnance, who actually reproduce three versions of the Liberator, including the final production version (like the original one for sale by Jackson Armory) and two engineering prototypes (!), are keenly aware of the utility of their product to fakers, and so have taken measures to make their reproduction harder to transmogrify into a fake.

Our reproduction has a rifled barrel and discrete markings to comply with Federal law and hopefully prevent it from being unscrupulously sold as an original antique. We mark the serial number on the front of the grip frame and our company information, model and caliber designation on the underside of the barrel behind the trigger guard. All characters are the minimum 1/16” high.

Some of these, like marking and rifling, are required by law; the OSS didn’t need no stankin’ laws (and the marking law didn’t come about until 1968). Other changes in the materials and manufacture of the reproduction make it, while good enough for a Hollywood close-up, different in physical properties from an original.

Liberator for Sale in the Linked Auction.

The Vintage Ordnance repro in Hollywood close-up. This one is cocked.

These measures complicate the life of any low-life intending to convert a Vintage Ordnance reproduction to a phony “authentic” Liberator (indeed, they compound his fraud with the felony of defacing a serial number), and give the inspector something to look for; but even with a seller we trust (Like Jackson Armory), we’d want a hands-on inspection before laying out $2,400 for this firearm.

Shooting a Liberator was once one of the perks of going through SF weapons school, but a funny thing happened: over the years, they all broke, and no replacements were forthcoming. (After sitting for years in a warehouse, most of the Liberators had been scrapped). The zinc alloy (Zamak-3?) cocking piece is subject to both fracture and corrosion.

Zamak cocking piece is the firearm's weak point.

Zamak cocking piece is the firearm’s weak point.

The Liberator was designed to be, literally, disposable; the intent was to fire one shot and then throw it away, in favor of whatever the fellow you shot had been carrying. If you needed to reload it, you’d better have brought your friends with their Liberators to cover you.

Breech open. Seen here on the reproduction (note telltale rifling).

Breech open. Seen here on the reproduction (note telltale rifling).

It is all at once unpleasant to fire, with tremendous muzzle blast and recoil; slow to load; inaccurate beyond contact range; and, not remotely safe. It’s not only not drop safe (indeed, it’s likely to fire if dropped in a loaded state!), but it’s also liable to fire if the cocking piece slips out of your fingers. There’s no real “safety,” you can just rotate the cocking piece to the side… it makes the “safety” of the Mosin-Nagant rifle look like something from the pages of the Journal of Contemporary Advances in Human Factors.

The way to get through a whole box of ammo with a Liberator? Bring enough friends! Or go to a busy range. Everybody wants to shoot it once.

The availability of both originals, occasionally, and reproductions make a Liberator collection something to consider. For under $5k you could have new models of each engineering version, plus an original for the authenticity cachet, and with some placards you’d have a show-winning display (if there are any shows that welcome educational displays any more).

In the end, it’s a novelty gun, a footnote to history, for the price of a nicer 1911 variant that will provide much more durability and comfort to the shooter.

It’s a Knife! It’s a Gun! It’s… Any Other Weapon

Any Other Weapon is a portmanteau category in which the ATF throws things that it wants to discourage, using one of its most powerful tools: the Pigovian tax and glacial bureaucratic delays of the National Firearms Act. The most common AOWs are things like ultra-compact shotguns and disguised weapons like cane and belt-buckle firearms. This unusual device, the GRAD RS1, conceals the action of a .22 revolver in the fat grip of a knife that roughly resembles an AK bayonet.

Grad RS1 knife pistol

ATF says:

The GRAD RS1 is a knife with a revolver concealed within the handle of the knife. The revolver will hold 5 rounds of .22 caliber ammunition (some models will hold 6). The projectile is fired over the top of the blade by depressing the trigger into the handle of the knife. Only a handful of these were made.

The GRAD RS1 is considered an “Any Other Weapon” under the NFA.

This particular Grad is from the ATF’s reference collection, and the photos are ATF official.

Nuclear Attack, for Real (Nagasaki)

"Bockscar" at the USAFM in Dayton, OH (it embiggens)

“Bockscar” at the USAFM in Dayton, OH (it embiggens)

This is Los Alamos National Labs’ archive film of the “Fat Man” atomic bomb as dropped on Nagasaki in August 1945. It comes to us via the Restricted Data1 channel on YouTube.

To us one of the most salient discoveries is that you can’t nuke a city without duct tape, or as we called it in the Army, “100-mile-an-hour tape.” Bockscar was probably traveling at well over 100 (over 200 in fact) indicated airspeed when it released Fat Man, but Fat Man still had the seam around his nose sealed with the ubiquitous tape. (At about 0:40 in the video).

The author of the RD Channel, Alex Wellerstein, describes it like this:

This silent film shows the final preparation and loading of the “Fat Man” bomb into “Bockscar,” the plane which dropped the bomb on Nagasaki. It then shows the Nagasaki explosion from the window of an observation plane. This footage comes from Los Alamos National Laboratory. I have not edited it in any way from what they gave me except to improve the contrast a little — it is basically “raw.” I have annotated it with some notes on the bombing and what you can see — feel free to disable the annotations if you don’t want them.

He also maintains an excellent blog, of the same title, at this location: http://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com Further details on the Nagasaki raid —  and this video — at the Nuclear Secrecy Blog. Do read the comments as, with a couple of exceptions, Alex’s blog, like this one, benefits from an informed and thoughtful commentariat.

Elsewhere on his blog, he also addressed a historical mysterywhy was Kokura, home to Kokura Arsenal known to every collector of Japanese firearms, and Fat Man’s primary target, spared; whilst Nagasaki, the secondary target, was destroyed?2

Terrain model of Kokura Arsenal, the primary target. Saved by 10/10 obscuration on the day of the raid.

Terrain model of Kokura Arsenal, the primary target. Saved by 10/10 obscuration on the day of the raid. (USAAF official via Nuclear Secrecy blog).

His cautious conclusion: while there’s a case for obscuration due to an earlier fire-bombing raid on an upwind city, and a case for deliberate obscuration by Japanese defensive measures, two of which possible measures he describes. Ultimately, he concludes:

In the end, it doesn’t really matter which of these things happened. The bare fact is that Kokura didn’t get bombed and Nagasaki did. But I find looking into these kinds of questions useful as a historian. Too often it is easy to take for granted that the explanations given in narrative works of history are “settled,” when really they are often resting on very thin evidence, thinner perhaps than the historian who writes them realizes. I don’t think we really know what happened at Kokura, and I’m not sure we ever truly will.

His first sentence reminds us of something we say to people who have disturbing memories or survivor’s guilt: “In combat, there’s no right or wrong, there’s just what happened and what you did.”

Alex’s is an elegant and responsible historical blog — much recommended.

 

Pity They’ve Stopped Making These

Has Hognose slipped his moorings? you may think. Since when have they stopped making 1911s? Well, they haven’t of course, but they’ve stopped making 1911s like this, and it’s a crying shame:

wooden 1911

What’s special about this 1911 is that it’s not a gun, but it’s made from wood, in this case, Gaboon Ebony.

wooden 1911 01The black, smooth surface of the ebony makes it hard to believe it’s wood. But the gun is as wooden as the case:

wooden 1911 02

While it’s hard to believe the ebony version, one made of black cherry, walnut and figured maple is a little easier to recognize for what it is:

wooden 1911 03

The amazing thing is that this CNC’d Colt, copied from the craftsman’s grandfathers WWII gun, is as accurate inside as it is out. wooden 1911 04

Unfortunately, no more of the replica 1911s are being made (the first one had 650 hours of CNC machine setup and process engineering in it). However, you can see them online at WoodCaliber.com, and you can buy, if not t he guns, the incredible 1911 cases:

1911 display case

The case retails for $395. The guy also uses his impressive CNC skills to make OEM and replacement rifle stocks, also. You can find more information at woodcaliber.com.

Hat tip, Katie Ainsworth at The Firearm Blog.

Unrelated Bonus (well, unrelated except in coming from TFB): if this didn’t tickle your fancy, this interesting TFB post by Nathaniel F., on machine human interface and the quest for the Average Human, probably will. We knew usability engineers usually design things to be usable for the middle 90% of the human race (from the 5th to the 95th percentile range in any relevant dimension), but we didn’t know how that got started. Mirabile dictu, the Air Force did it).