Category Archives: Unconventional Weapons

To the Wall!

The Wall Gun, that is. This monster is up for sale in Rock Island’s December Premiere Auction.

belgian-wall-gun

The marlinspike looking thing was meant, they assume, to go into a socket in a fortress wall. (It appears to be well forward of the point of balance, for some reason). In most respects, this 5’2″ long, 33-lb .75 caliber rifle is just an overgrown percussion rifle-musket. A way big one.

How big is it? Here’s a snapshot.

wallgunvsgarand-768x1365

And it’s also about the weight of three of those M1s.

It is a breech-loading(!) percussion gun, so was probably made between 1840 and 1870, but there are no guarantees. The sights resemble those used in the latter half of that period, as on an 1853 Enfield or 1861 Springfield. The unusual breech-loading mechanism is shown below.

Such guns may have been equipped with multiple removable chambers to promote rapid fire.

We also find the spring-steel pistol grip interesting. We do not recall having seen such a thing anywhere else in the world of firearms. Anybody?

This rifle comes from Belgium. Belgium has very little in the way of defensible positions on its borders. Accordingly, it has not only often been overrun itself, it has provided the unhappy battlefields for many a Great Power throwdown, from Waterloo to the Bulge. (Even earlier, Julius Caesar fought local Germanic tribes here).  Its defense in the First World War was armed neutrality, which failed spectacularly; after a postwar period of alliance with France and especially Britain, its strategy in the Second was ultimately the same (Belgium broke the alliances and declared neutrality in 1936, after the Anglo-French alliance didn’t react to Nazi repudiation of Versailles and militarization of the Rheinland), with an even more spectacular failure resulting. Fortresses were a major part of Belgian defense plans at all time of Belgian independence; some fortresses held out in World War I (think of Namur) but they were made irrelevant by technological and strategic advances by 1940 (consider the fate of Eben Emael and its brigade-sized garrison, defeated in detail by 78 gliderborne combat engineers).

In any event, fortress weapons were a Belgian specialty, one of several rational responses to the very difficult problem which is the defense of a small coastal nation from much larger neighbors.

RIA has relatively little information on the weapon, apart from what may be gained by inspecting it. It might reward European patent research. They do offer some general thoughts on the class of arms.

These guns can essentially be described as massive longarms. Initially designed as muskets, but developing into rifles as the technology became available, these guns are roughly the height of a man and accompanied by an appropriately large bore. If their size wasn’t enough to identify them on sight, the presence of a large hook or post on their bottom usually will. Used to help mitigate recoil, the use of such hooks can be traced back to the earliest of firearms, such as the arquebus and hand cannon. Posts or spikes (also called “oar locks”), as seen on the firearm featured in this article, are more indicative of the weapon’s placement at fixed positions in a fortification, as opposed to hooks which could be used on fences, bulwarks, trees, window sills, etc. While the post style may not be usable in as many locations as the hook, it would allow for easy swiveling and pivoting once in position. Not all wall guns have such devices.

Despite their many designs and firing mechanisms over the years, they were valued for pretty much three things: range, accuracy, and punch. Any one of those is a huge advantage should your opponent not have them, but all three is downright devastating. Though playing the intermediary role between small arms and artillery, these oversized longarms often served with artillery, and with notable success.

RIA doesn’t know of any tactical guidance for the employment of these monsters, but notes that it must have been highly limited and readily countered by a thinking, adapting enemy.  The US used them in the Revolutionary War (in flintlock, naturally) and that and a little more history is embedded in the Rock Island Auctions blog post. Read The Whole Thing™.

Large guns like this were often used as “punt guns” by market hunters, but those were even larger-bore smoothbores, used to take many waterfowl (usually, sitting waterfowl) in one shot. Four- and even two-bore punt guns exist, monsters even against this .75 in. rifle. Market hunting was once common, especially in the USA, but was outlawed even here in the 20th Century, after causing at least one species extinction (passenger pigeon).

If you’re looking for something a noodge more modern, we can recommend this article by Pete at TFB on a couple of catastrophic silencer failures… at least one of which turned out to be entirely exogenous.

Inland’s Repop of the Ithaca M37 Trench Gun

It’s become fashionable to resuscitate the names of old gun manufacturers, when the original firms have left the gun market or are tuning up their harps in the Great Beyond of corporate afterlife… pining for the fjords, as it were. One of the latest is Inland, originally a division of General Motors that was pressed into service making war materials, including firearms (notably M1, M1A1, M2 and M3 Carbines) during World War II. We’ve shown you the Inland carbines before. They’re nice enough, but are up against originals that are still available in quantity.

m37-display-1

But another Inland repop is a bit surprising — the M37 military shotgun. To tell the truth, we didn’t know that the USG ever used the original M37 of the Ithaca Gun Company. We always had Winchesters (M12s, which were good, and M1200s, which weren’t) and in more recent years Remington 870s or Mossbergs which we think were COTS purchases, not from the regular procurement system. As far as the Ithaca M37 goes, we seem to recall seeing it in Vietnam photos of Marines.

We never found much use for a combat shotgun, although a running buddy in Afghanistan liked the high/low mix of M14 and sawn-off 870. The one time he fired the 870 around us, he was responding to an Afghan’s insistence that nobody in the village knew where the lock to the cave door was. (Yes, there is a such thing as a locked cave door in Afghanistan. Or there was before Bryan blew it to Kingdom Come. After which, the village elder remembered where he left his key ring, mirabile dictu. Allah truly does work in strange ways, habibi).

m37-display-2

 

Anyway, Shawn at Loose Rounds shares Bryan’s fondness for the military 12-bore, and the new M37 spoke to him:

[W]hen I got to the NRA 2016  show… I wanted to see that M37 in the worst way. I was not let down.  After just a few minutes of handling it, I asked for a T&E sample.

Sample in hand, he took these atmospheric M37 pictures with Vietnam-era web gear and uniforms, including some things popular in SF, like the Bata boots and the Gerber Mk II fighting knife.

m37-display-3

Then he traced the ancestry of the M37 from John Browning on down:

The Ithaca as a military “trench gun” is likely not as well known by many. The action of the shotgun would look familiar to a lot of hunters out there.  Though the first thing you may think when seeing its action is the Mossberg 500, it and the 500 are really a simplified version of the most excellent Remington Model 31  shotgun. The M31 itself an evolution from the M17. The Model 17 designed by no less than John Browning himself.

When Shawn gets a T&E sample, he doesn’t take a few pictures and send it back. He wrung this thing out for months. Some conclusions:

The short riot/trench shotgun is a pleasure to handle. It’s fast and easy to work with and the slick action is as fast as lightening. The original M37s would indeed “slam fire”  but this one will not. As I understand it, this was done at the request of Inland when having the guns put together for them by Ithaca prior to the converting to “trench gun.” I know some will gripe about this, but let it go. It’s a fact of modern America that lawyers and sue happy anti-gun activists would salivate at trying to prove the gun defective in court. For those who do not know,” slamfire” refers to the lack of a disconnector in the originals that lets the hammer fall as long as you hold the trigger back. Just like the M12 and M97 etc.

Do go to LooseRounds.com and Read The Whole Thing™. There are videos of the gun being fired, pictures of targets shot for accuracy, etc.

 

Will the US Air Force Sign Lloyd’s Open Form?

Once-classified image of a Mark IV nuclear bomb, a descendant of the WWII "Fat Man" plutonium bomb.

Once-classified image of a Mark IV nuclear bomb, a descendant of the WWII “Fat Man” plutonium bomb. Click to embiggen.

A Canadian diver, Sean Smyrichinsky, was harvesting sea cucumbers off British Columbia when he found something that Mother Nature didn’t put there. When he described it to locals, he got the surprise of his life: they think what he found was an atomic bomb missing since it was jettisoned from a struggling B-36 in 1950.

It’s not confirmed, yet, but the US and Canadian Navies are responding to the site. Quoth the Beeb:

The story of the lost nuke has plagued military historians for more than half a century. In 1950, American B-36 Bomber 075 crashed near British Columbia on its way to Carswell Air Force Base in Texas. The plane was on a secret mission to simulate a nuclear strike and had a real Mark IV nuclear bomb on board to see if it could carry the payload required.

Several hours into its flight, its engines caught fire and the crew had to parachute to safety. Out of a 17-person crew, five didn’t make it.

Map of where the lost nuclear bomb might have landedImage copyrightROYAL AVIATION MUSEUM OF WESTERN CANADA
Image captionPeople have been searching for the lost nuke for years

The American military says the bomb was filled with lead and TNT but no plutonium, so it wasn’t capable of a nuclear explosion. The crew put the plane on autopilot and set it to crash in the middle of the ocean, but three years later, its wreckage was found hundreds of kilometres inland.

Dirk Septer, an aviation historian from British Columbia, says the US government searched the wreckage but couldn’t find the weapon.

“It was a mystery to everyone,” he told the BBC. “It was the height of the Cold War and they were just paranoid that the Russians would get a hold of it.”

Crew members have said they dumped the bomb in the ocean first, fearing what the payload of TNT could do on its own if it were detonated.

Canoe near Haida GwaiiImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe Haida Gwaii islands are a remote area off the coast of British Columbia

A spokesperson for DND told the BBC the department had conferred with its American counterparts, and that the object the diver found could very well be the bomb. The American military do not believe the bomb is active or a threat to anyone, he said, but Canada is sending military ships to the site to make sure.

Quite a remarkable thing, if this really is found.

So the question becomes, will the USAF sign Lloyd’s Open Form? (That may be out of date, but it’s what shipowners and/or captains used to have to do to promise to pay rescuers/salvors). And what’s the salvage of a nuke worth?

Sources: BBC report, The Telegraph.

Can Cannon… Can’t

As you may recall, we were early adopters of the XProducts Can Cannon, which is great fun to fire. (We’re still waiting, by the way, for X Products to contact us about fixing it so we don’t have to use it only on a registered SBR lower). But it never occurred to us to fire it at anything. The guy at The Wound Channel on Yoot Oob is not like that:

And, as you’ll see, his Can Cannon is great at breaking cans, not so good at breaking anything else. A windshield, weakened by being taken out of its perimeter support structure of an automobile? For crying out loud, a pumpkin? 

Can’t almost anything smash a pumpkin? Well… watch the video. The Can Cannon can’t.

We suspect he’s using very light beer cans, not stout name-brand soda cans, which we’ve found best. But we haven’t tried busting stuff at point-blank range; it’s more fun trying to hit stuff at longer range, which is quite a challenge with unstable cans in the smoothbore Can Cannon.

Update

While XProducts never contacted us, their website does describe how to get the Can Cannon legalized here. The original version is not legal, except on a registered (NFA MG or SBR) lower. We’ll have to do that when we’re back home, and then we can use it on whatever lower, not just an SBR one.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Horst Held

horst_heldWhy would we make a single dealer the Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week? Well, Horst Held is not just any dealer. Not when you take into consideration the historic significance and quality of the collector pieces Horst is selling. Even if some of them are priced in the nosebleed range, his collection is broad enough, deep enough, historic enough, and packed enough with odd curiosities — like the flintlock revolver currently on the front page — to be an education in itself.

We first came across his site while trying to decode the mysteries of the repeating pistols of Weipert (Vejprty), Bohemia. For example, he has two Gustav Bittners in stock. Given the prices he has placed on them, all we can do is look, but he has characteristically included numerous photographs of these peculiar and historic “missing links” between the first single-shot and double-barrel cartridge pistols, and the true semi-automatic service pistol which came along in a few years and rendered the repeaters, operated lever-action (usually by action of the trigger guard), obsolete.

Bittner Repeating Pistol, (7.7mm?) cased with tools, ammo and en-bloc clips, from Forgotten Weapons. We believe this pistol to be in the personal collection of Horst Held.

Bittner Repeating Pistol, (7.7mm?) cased with tools, ammo and en-bloc clips, from Forgotten Weapons. We believe this pistol to be in the personal collection of Horst Held.

He also has a page on those strange hybrid weapons that incorporate a pistol or revolver and some kind of knife or sword blade, with an awful lot of examples, not including the rare Elgin Sword Pistol. The Elgin may be rare in absolute terms, but it’s common compared to his examples, like this Dumonthier revolver with a folding bayonet!

horst-held-dumonthier

And then there’s a Dreyse needle-fire — but it’s not the celebrated Prussian rifle of 1870, but a double-action needle-fire revolver.

But there’s far more here than just that. If you can look at this site and not learn anything, we’ll be very surprised — “By the heathen gods that made ye, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.”

And if you look at the site, you’ll almost certainly be entertained. You may not want to spend thousands on exotic antiques, but you’ll marvel at the ingenuity that went into some of these artistic creations, even as you wonder at the thought processes of the designer who thought it might be practical.

Comparing Nuclear “Deals”: South Africa and Iran

FOOM!

FOOM!

The Foreign Policy Institute has an interesting, brief comparison of the Iran deal, which they opposed, with the nuclear disarmament of South Africa.

They point out that the President said this, announcing the Iran deal:

An unprecedented inspections regime.

The most comprehensive and intrusive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated.

The most vigorous inspection and verification regime by far that has ever been negotiated.

Pretty much every word of that was a lie. There is, essentially, no independent inspection; there is no verification; there is instead a date certain that erases even the fiction of inspection. Iran, of all nations, has been put on the honor system, as if “honor” means anything to mohammedan savages, anything but a handy excuse to murder your daughter or sister.

The contrast they use depends on a fantastic report, Revisiting South Africa’s Nuclear Weapons Program, that does a thorough analysis of the rise and fall of this historically unique program — the only time in history that a nuclear power unilaterally disarmed. The document is here with links to free .pdfs. FPI describes it thusly:

Revisiting South Africa’s Nuclear Weapons Program provides a detailed account of the development of South Africa’s nuclear program, from its embryonic stages, in the 1950s, as a nuclear research and development center to its eventual production, beginning in the late 1970s, of six nuclear warheads. According to the authors, Pretoria, in the program’s early years, likely wished only to acquire the option to develop nuclear weapons but harbored no desire to operationalize this capability. Ultimately, however, the apartheid regime altered its strategy largely in response to rising fears of Soviet expansionism, hoping that the mere possession of the warheads — rather than their actual use — would deter aggression.

It’s actually quite a good study of a little-known armament program.

FPI then contrasts South African open disarmament with Iran’s mockery of international engagement, whilst maintaining a clandestine nuclear arms and delivery systems (the ballistic missiles are a key nuclear technology, after all) program.

The essential difference, however, seems to have been missed by FPI’s Tzvi Kahn. The RSA, unlike the Islamic Republic of Iran, wanted to disarm. (It’s also a fact that they didn’t want to leave a nuclear capability in the hands of a nation that has potential to give rise to a Mugabe or Amin). The Iranians are not the least interested in disarming. It sounds like madness, but their cult preaches to them that they will rule the world, and they mean to do just that. Nuclear weapons are a means to that end. Iran has no interest in disarming, and must be disarmed by force or economic pressure — neither of which is palatable to an administration more attuned to Iran’s aspirations and interests than to America’s.

Terrorism: Economy of Force

ISIL flagOne of the consequences of our contretemps with the Russians is that we’re experiencing a Great Relearning of things they learned in long conflict with Chechen and other Islamists. One of them is this: attacking terrorist funding and logistics only goes so far, because compared to national armies or security services, terrorism runs on a shoestring budget. It is by its very nature an economy of force operation.

Recent analysis of high-profile terror attacks inspired by ISIL in France bears this out. We have edited the excerpt below: we have inserted values in $USD based on today’s rounded exchange rate ($1.22=£1), further rounded to the nearest $500 or so.

The string of attacks in France, which have killed more than 200 people in less than two years, were funded by jihadis selling cheap ‘made in China’ clothes and accessories on the black market, as well as insecure consumer loans.

Researchers at the Centre for the Analysis of Terrorism in Paris combed the bank accounts of bloodthirsty jihadis behind the Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan and Nice attacks.

The perpetrators of the January 2015 attacks, which targeted Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket – Amedy Coulibaly and brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi – spent a combined total of £23,000 ($28,000).

More than £18,000 ($23,000) was used to buy a range of heavy weapons, including two sub-machine guns and two semi-automatic pistols, and a rocket launcher.

Heavy weapons? Well, it’s an English paper. If they looked in many of our readers’ gun rooms or safes, they’d go up like Guy Fawkes. FOOM!

Between them, Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers killed 17 people: 12 people were killed in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo newsroom, and four people were killed in the attack on a Jewish supermarket. A female police officer was also shot dead by Mr Coulibaly.

The November 13 Paris attacks – when shootings at the Bataclan theatre and bomb blasts left 130 people dead and hundreds more wounded – were the most “expensive and complex” said the CAT researchers, and cost the radical Islamists a total of £73,000 ($89,000).

According to French weekly le Journal du Dimanche, where the study was published, ISIS chiefs gave each terrorist £2,600 ($3,000) to spend on the attacks – the rest they paid for themselves.

Two of the attackers, brothers Salah and Brahim Abdeslam, ran a bar in Molenbeek, Belgium, and took money directly from the till.

Hasna Aitboulahcen, the cousin of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the ringleader behind the Paris massacre, gave the terrorists £3,500 ($4,500) before blowing herself up.

The extremists spent £24,000 ($30,000) on travel, £17,000 ($21,000) on secret hideouts, and £14,000 ($17,000) on suicide vests and guns, including six AK-47 rifles.

In addition, the ISIS executioners spent £10,000 ($12,000) on rental cars, and £7,000 ($8,500) on phones and fake ID.

The Nice attack, which took place on July 14 whilst crowds were busy celebrating Bastille Day, the French ‘Independence Day’, was the least expensive, and cost ISIS fanatic Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel no more than £2,200 ($2,500).

Mr Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who has been described as a “sex-obsessed, pork-eating alcoholic”, used the money to buy a gun and to rent the 19-tonne lorry he used to plough through the Bastille Day crowds. The ISIS convert killed 86 people during the attack, including 30 Muslims.

CAT researchers also said that suspected terrorists’ bank accounts should be checked on a regular basis, as keeping an eye on their financial transactions could help prevent future attacks.

via How European ISIS terror attacks cost just £2,000 | World | News | Daily Express.

You should be reassured that, while the Diverse Vibrancy coming to a refugee shelter near you could very well kill you, at least they won’t be profligate spendthrifts whilst doing you, and they will dispatch you in a practical, economical manner.

The linked article says that surveillance of the suspected jihadis’ bank accounts might help to expose them — a few paragraphs where it describes how several of them scammed the necessary money off of cash businesses and thefts. That’s what passes for deep thinking in Journalistan.

Jamming their money up, or watching their money, is not going to be effective when they need very little money. It’s reminiscent of the great extremes and risks our special operations forces and airmen took to bust trucks on the Ho Chi Minh trail, when the while North Vietnamese combat effort in South Vietnam needed only 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of supplies of all classes daily. It sounds like a lot, but consider this: you not only had to bust trucks, you basically had to bust all of them, because the enemy ran his whole war on less than 2-3 trucks a day. But MacNamara never thought that one all the way through. (Show us your shocked face, on a screwup by Mac?)

An Overview of US Defense Posture, 2016.

feeling-luckyThe problem with many official pronouncements that emanate from the E-Ring is credibility. Most of the denizens of that Ring are so ate-up with policy and partisanship, that even when they refrain from slanting their output to fit the party line, the knob-polishers and horse-holders who grovel ambitiously around the penumbrae of their campfires have slanted their inputs so as to please them.

In other words, one of the hardest things, when you’re Boss (or close to it), is getting the Regular Joes and Janes to tell you unvarnished truth, and not what they think you want to hear.

So that is some background to the word we got from a friend currently performing a period of penance in the Pentagon for his sins as a senior special operations officer. The word is that Pentagon planners are increasingly referring to outside documents to get a handle on what’s really happening in Defense. One document that came up is the Heritage Foudation’s frank and scathing 2016 Index of US Military Strength: Assessing America’s Ability to Provide for the Common Defense, available here. (Big .pdf). We’ve actually discussed this document before (or perhaps the 2015 version), but it’s worth looking at again.

The document focuses on the three regions where threats to vital US interests have arisen or can arise: Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. It weighs US military power by yardsticks of capability, capacity, and readiness.

The conclusions are sobering:

…little has been done to arrest the decline in our nation’s physical ability to confront … challenges. (p.xiii).

America’s “hard power” has deteriorated still further over the past year, primarily as a result of inadequate funding that has led to a shrinking force that possesses aging equipment and modest levels of readiness for combat. (ibid).

America’s continuing decline in military hard power is thoroughly documented and quanti ed in this report. (p.1).

In aggregate, the United States’ military pos- ture is rated as “Marginal” and is trending toward “Weak.” (p. 12).

Essential maintenance continues to be deferred; fewer units (mostly the Navy’s platforms and the Special Operations Forces community) are being cycled through operational deployments more often and for longer periods; and old equipment is being extended while programmed replacements are problematic. (ibid).

[USAF] “readiness” dropped from “strong” to “marginal.” Although difficult to categorize, the readiness decline is best attributed to reports that under half of the service’s combat air forces meet full-spectrum readiness requirements. (p.13).

…our comparative military advantage is starting to wane, but even as American military power declines, the demands made on the military are increasing. (p.46).

The decline in the size of the active-duty force caused by reduced budgets has sparked tension among the Active, Guard, and Reserve components over their respective missions and corresponding resources. (p.61).

Many NATO Countries spend less on defense than the New York Police Department. (p.81).

One of the key weaknesses and most mismanaged areas of defense over the last two administrations has been the nuclear balance. If it continues to deteriorate, it will probably be impossible to prevent former US allies and nuclear dependents from going their own way with their own independent deterrents.

heritage_nuclear_balance

rainbow-powered-unicornsThe reasons we’ve had two administrations’ worth of nuclear decline are varied, but certainly the largest factors are the last administration’s focus on counter-goatherd operations, on the one hand, and the present administration’s quixotic pursuit of unilateral nuclear deterrent and “peace” at any price. You could say that the former results from short-term thinking and lack of a horizon focus, and the latter results from sheer childish naivety.

The same naivety that thinks that our nukes are destabilizing tends to be comorbid with belief in other kinds of magical thinking, like Gun Free Zones. It’s not a partisan political problem, this magical cognitive fuzz: does anyone remember the No Child Left Behind Act, which solemnly explained how, over time, all children would be elevated to be Above Average?

Say what you will about education, but basic numeracy seems absent inside the Beltway and along the Acela Corridor.

missile-launch-toon

Actually, the cartoon misses the teamwork in the new, Diversity-Forward Military. Instead of one stout guy, the missile must be launched by a 90-lb. woman, a dwarf, and a pygmy.

One of the most disturbing parts of the document is the appendix that lists major systems and their scheduled replacements — if any. For example, the Navy has no replacements in mind for its cruisers, just a low-low mix of destroyers and defenseless, offenseless, “presence” LCSes. The submarine force is subject to massive cuts by attrition. In every defense regime, manpower, units and both quantities and kinds of forces are being cut without respect to requirements.

Eliminating variety of forces is the kind of thing that looks good to managerial types who want to apply MBA quantitative figuring to readiness. The problem is that this simplifies the enemy’s task in developing countermeasures for your forces. You not only need a certain level of capability, you need enough variety in your capability to be unpredictable to the enemy. This is very hard to get across to a zero-time-under-rucksack “Defense Intellectual” with a green eyeshade, who has risen to sit in the Aeron chair of command critic.

The next edition is due sometime next month, November 2016, and the word inside the Ring is that it will describe an even bleaker situation.

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.