From time to time, people, especially young people, ask this question. We’re not gun design engineers, although we’re fascinated by their work; we’re, relatively speaking, dilettantes.
So when we got a chance to see a real job listing for a real senior design engineer to do real firearms design, our first thought was to share it with you guys and gals. (Well, actually, our first thought was… “Crap. We’re not remotely qualified.” But our next thought….) Anyway, here is the list of prerequisites:
Education and Experience Requirements
Four year degree in physical engineering required. Mechanical engineering preferred.
5 plus years related experience in an engineering environment required. Manufacturing environment preferred (firearms manufacturing is ideal).
Duties require effective verbal communication skills, visual acuity to product details along with drawings and computer screen data, and the physical ability to work and move in a factory environment.
Firearm Design Experience Required
Ability to work cross-functionally internally and externally.
Knowledge/experience with SolidWorks CAD system preferred.
The job is with a large, publicly held company (Vista Outdoor, the sporting spinoff of ATK), and the benefits package seems decent. Note that they don’t want an operator-boperator, gun-plumber, or machinist. They want a design engineer who can work on the screen and then go on the shop floor to find out why the parts don’t match the computer file. “SolidWorks preferred” but we bet if you came from a CATIA shop they’d still snap you right up if you met their other prerequisites.
Note that they’re looking for a degreed engineer, but not a PE. That should help narrow down what they’re planning to pay for this guy.
What will a Senior Firearms Design Engineer be doing? Here’s what the listing says:
Responsible for the design and development of new firearm products. Duties include development of concept print/plans, design of products, tolerance specification, and other similar duties pertaining to product design.
What about some specific duties?
Develop and design new company products.
Develop and produce concept prints, plans, drawings for new products and/or modifications/enhancements to existing products. Design features and functions for the products.
Specify materials, dimensions and tolerances, inspection standards, etc. for the components and parts.
Develop details drawings.
Oversee and guide projects assigned to less experienced design engineering personnel.
Keep abreast of developments in the market. Review competitor’s designs and products.
Analyze market place requests, customer requirements, etc.
Analyze company ability and desire to meet requirements and/or requests and make appropriate recommendations to management personnel.
Maintain a working liaison with other departments and engineering sections. Provide support for sales personnel to contribute technical assistance to customers.
Assist QA personnel provide technical support for vendors, develop inspections for parts, and/or to qualify vendors.
Work with other engineering units to resolve problems, develop processes, etc.
Perform other similar duties as required by responsibility or necessity or as requested.
The downside? Well, it is at Savage in Westfield, Massachusetts; there are nice places to live around there (apart from the politics and outside the inner city, it’s Norman Rockwell’s America) but it’s a very expensive place to live, with staggering taxes; and MA is a Brueghelian environment for a gun guy these days. (And it gets worse every time the gun control pols’ constituents shoot each other up in Roxbury and Mattapan).
Three possibilities here: someone left Savage one key designer short, perhaps during last year’s layoffs; the company is about to get a bunch of investment earmarked for new products; or Savage managers see the opportunity to poach some talent from a struggling neighbor (cough Colt cough).
If the job sounds like it you want it, you’re qualified, and Westfield isn’t all that impossible for you (like, because you’re currently 40 minutes south in equally anti-gun Hartford?), then “apply online at www.vistaoutdoor.com to Job ID: 29438,” as the listing says.
Remember that a lot of the industry is located in anti-gun places, but it’s moving gunwards every year, and success in this job would open doors in many other manufacturing plants in our industry. (That’s one reason why you will always see competitors treating each other with regard and respect at industry shows — apart from the fact that gun folks tend to be polite folks. It’s a small industry, in people terms, and yesterday’s competitor is tomorrow’s colleague).
Savage is also looking for a senior quality manager. We leave digging up the details of that job as an exercise for the reader.
Of course, you can’t have it if you’re in Libya, North Korea, New York, New Jersey or Massachusetts because it’s a big assault Johnson, but what it is, is a rare Johnson LMG kit, restored onto a semi Johnson M1941 rifle receiver, producing a legal semi-auto Johnson LMG. And you can have it — if you win the auction.
Manufactured on the original Johnson 1941 semi auto receiver , using original US GI LMG parts , semi auto only . Excellent condition , park. military finish ,mint original barrel , beautiful wood furniture. Test fired only. The gun fires , extracts and reloads 100% , very accurate. The gun comes with bipod and 3 magazines. Shipping to an FFL or C&R holder. The gun will be shipped from FFL in PA.
There are a number of these around. By “a number,” though, we’re probably talking about a single digit number. The parts kits are rare, and the rifles are valuable enough to collectors that it’s hard to make the case for sacrificing one.
Johnson guns get their collector cachet from their rarity1 and their use in training and combat by elite elements including the Paramarines, the Marine Raiders, the Canadian-American First Special Service Force (all ephemeral, hostilities-only WWII units), the OSS, and Brigada 2506, the Bay of Pigs invaders. The Marines and Cubanos only used the rifles; the FSSF, only the machine guns. Any surviving Johnson has some part of this history.
Because the Johnsons were not standard arms with standard doctrinal spare parts and maintenance support, they were withdrawn and replaced with US standard rifles and auto rifles/LMGs. Carefully packed away, all of them except for probable OSS/CIA stocks were surplused after the war.
We don’t know what it will go for. The current bid in the $8k neighborhood has not met the reserve (the rifles sell for $4k and up). Some comments, and the rest of the photos, after the jump.
We normally never make a second post on a Sunday, but here’s a deal from SARCO that pumpkins at the end of the weekend (specifically, at 0900 Monday), so here it is, however late. We’ve been happy SARCO customers for so many years we’d have to cut off a leg and count the rings to be sure… a long time. The junk they have changes over the years, but them having fascinating junk is something you can always rely on.
Initially, they only offered free shipping on this stock and some other items this weekend, but then they came back later Saturday and cut the price on the stock to a pretty sweet $120. The stock is ready to go on, but you have to reuse the barrel retaining spring from your original. Some buyers have noted some minor fitting is necessary (others have not needed to do any).
The gestalt of the repro is right. If the photo is representative, it’s a very close match to an original we once had (the metal parts on the original were more typical WWII gray-green Parkerizing, which Parkerizing gurus assure us is patina of age).
But at $120 it’s a really good deal, in 2015. (This isn’t 1985 when the carbine was $120, sorry).
Better still, if you need more than one, the price drops to $103.31 with a purchase of three. Assembled, with a carbine, sling, and the missing spring, it looks like this:
(The oiler which holds the sling in place on a wood-stocked M1/2/3 is missing from that photo. It would snap in to this side of the “cheek piece.” The other side has a thin, natural-colored leather pad).
The stock is a repro and will not enhance the value of your original M1 (indeed, it may detract; if you do swap stocks, retain the original to preserve resale value). With M1s banned from reimportation due to the Obama Administration ruling them “assault rifles,” the firearm is popular enough to be reproduced by several makers, and they’re fun to shoot and give you that “Band of Brothers” vibe. While plinking with an M1 Garand feels like blasphemy (shouldn’t we be chasing X-rings?), plinking with the M1 Carbine is like a grown-up’s .22. (OK, with today’s ammo prices, a rich grown-up’s .22).
Hmm. Last time we bought an M1A1 stock (an original, even), we had to build a carbine in it. (Then we swapped the carbine for an AK. Not our most brilliant investment. Hey, AKs were rare before the mid eighties). Now, we don’t actually have a carbine. If we bought one (or more) of these stocks… but the gunsmithing benches are covered with plane parts. What to do?
ATF’s Firearms Technology Bureau continues to showcase its enthusiastic participation in “a-pen-and-a-phone” government. Their latest strike has been to declare the X Products Can Cannon (which we have had sitting around, and haven’t shot) to be a very, very weird and risky neither-fish-nor-fowl, embedded in the limbo between categories, and threatening every owner with decades of incarceration from an unwitting malum prohibitum violation.
The Can Cannon is not a Title 1 firearm, and it is not a Title II firearm either — until you attach it to an AR lower. Do that, and per ATF you have committed the unlicensed manufacture of a Title II National Firearms Act Firearm, except in one very narrow circumstance.
You see, if one were to dismantle the Can Cannon, he would have a very short smoothbore barrel that might fire a ball round. (It probably would, but not safely; in any event, ATF does not seem to have actually tried this). Therefore, while it itself is not a firearm (just like, say, an XM177E2 upper is not a firearm), putting it on an AR lower “manufactures” a short-barreled rifle, just like putting an XM177E2 upper on an AR lower would. Since a SBR is an NFA firearm, congratulations! You have just “manufactured a Title II firearm without a license,” a serious felony punishable with a decade or two in Club Fed.
Ah, but what if you put it on a pistol? The short barrel would be of no consequence, then; pistols are supposed to have short barrels. The ATF says in that case you’ve created an “Any Other Weapon” — and it’s still an NFA weapon and a “manufacturing without a license” felony. As they explain it, the barrel of the Can Cannon (which is intended for blanks) is smoothbore, and that makes it an AOW.
It seems clear that ATF began with an a priori determination that the Can Cannon led to people having the wrong kind of fun, and therefore It Must Be Banned. To do this, Kingery, the Jerry Sandusky of firearms analysis, had to molest the law until it was practically unrecognizable.
This is not new behavior from ATF. In 1996, and again in 2004, the ATF classified a 14″ shoelace as a machine gun. (In 2007, in the face of mounting ridicule, they withdrew the rule). In 2010, they attempted to ban Chore Boy scrubbing pads. Each of these ridiculous ban letters was written by a different Firearms Techology Branch head or acting head.
What This Means To…
X Products: They need to redesign the Can Cannon to resolve ATF’s loopy classification. They have done this and have resubmitted to Kingery for further disapproval.
We are submitting a revised design to address the issues in the B.A.T.F.E’s determination letter. We will update our customers throughout this process.
They really don’t have any choice but to keep doing this until something happens, whether it’s Kingery or his minions approving the changes, them being replaced in an administration change or it becoming clear that “examination” by FTB of this weapons accessory is the 21st Century equivalent of a Jim Crow literacy test, where everybody had to show they were literate by reading a newspaper headline, but blacks got the headlines in the Chinese newspaper.
Can Cannon Owners: It means if your CC is on a lower right now, you’re a felon, dude, so take it off straightaway and don’t install it again until X-Products and ATF are done antler rattling. There is one exception: if you have a licensed SBR lower, you can install the Can Cannon upper on that. (We put a toe tag on ours last night, “install only on Colt serial number…..”)
The ATF: Well, it’s one more thing you can arrest somebody for, to draw attention away from the fact that you’ve provided more guns to cop killers than any single entity in history. (But hey, most of the cops were only Mexicans, so who — at ATF — cares?)
When we started this blog, we were soon contacted by Ian McCollum of ForgottenWeapons.com. Ian shares our love for some of the oddball firearms and enjoys exploring the thinner branches of the firearms genealogical tree. But he contacted us to offer his help and throw out some ideas for monetizing the blog. We were disinclined to do that at the time, but his kind offer was noted.
We expect, when we have a book to sell, it will be linked here. And that will make all the labor on the site since 1/1/2012 worth it, no?
But in any event, Ian has tried very hard to bring his stories out with minimal disruption to his readers. He has ads, but they’re unobtrusive ads from industry firms. He lets auction houses cover his expenses — to report on some of the exotica they have at upcoming auctions. He has an Amazon referral program ID and gets a few cents when you follow a link on his site to make a book.
He had a “paid membership” that got you into a very good s/n ratio private forum, but all these things together were not covering his expenses. And that makes perfect sense: as income streams go, each is but a trickle. While this is a guy who deserves a Niagara of money, what he’s got is more like the wadis of our old stomping grounds, or, perhaps, the dusty arroyos of his own. So he’s asked us, his readers, fans, and (we say this boldly without ever having laid eyes on the man in person), friends, to step up and pledge to support him.
As a retired soldier with an uneven income, your humble blogger was still able to step up and make a donation. And in fact, Ian is not asking for much from any of you: $1 per month. We’re sure he’ll appreciate more from those of you who can swing it.
It doesn’t buy you anything special, we think. He’s not going to paywall his site. (That’s for tree-bark losers like the New York Times). He’s just going to continue reporting, based on the level of income he gets. At press time on this post, he had about $1,700 a month pledged. If he can get to $3k he can cover domestic travel which will lead to more and better reports and videos. If he can get to $5k, he can get some new stamps in his passport (and visit exotic places where exotic weapons lurk, is the big idea).
The CIA has released its Presidential briefing documents from the Kennedy (1961-63) and Johnson (1963-69), including a guidebook to the documents.
CIA released today [16 Sep 15 — Ed.] roughly 2,500 previously classified President’s Daily Briefs (PDB) from the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson administrations at a public symposium at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, TX, entitled The President’s Daily Brief: Delivering Intelligence to the First Customer.
The declassified documents are posted at http://www.foia.cia.gov along with a 40-page color booklet describing the documents and the PDB process during this period.
While a few PDBs have been publicly released over the years, the release of roughly 2,500 PDBs is unprecedented. The PDB contains intelligence analysis on key national security issues for the President and other senior policymakers.
Only the President, the Vice President, and a select group of officials designated by the President receive the briefing, which represents the Intelligence Community’s best insights on issues the President must confront when dealing with threats as well as opportunities related to our national security.
Actually, the President doesn’t always trust the VP with this kind of information. LBJ never received a brief until they had to give it to him, when Kennedy was slain. We’re reminded of the arm’s-length relationship of FDR to his two VPs, the Communist Henry Wallace whose allegiance to the USA was never entirely certain, and Harry S. Truman, who came, unlike Wallace and FDR, from the “wrong” social class.
This public release highlights the role of the PDB in foreign and national security policy making during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.
It should be a legendary chronicle of half-assery and upscrewing, then. The trouble spots are the familiar ones to students of the 1960s.
(Note that that graphic goes to 1977. It’s likely that if it stopped with Nixon’s inauguration, some nations like Cuba, the Congo and Vietnam would be even more prominent, and some that only arose as crises in the 1970s, like Angola, Lebanon and Chile, would drop off).
This collection includes the President’s Intelligence Checklists (PICLs) — which preceded the PDB — published from June 1961 to November 1964, and the PDBs published from December 1964 through the end of President Johnson’s term in January 1969. These documents offer insight on intelligence that informed presidential decisions during critical historical events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the 1967 Six-Day War, the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and Vietnam.
The documents have been extensively redacted, despite their age. (Intelligence sources and methods, and information which may embarrass foreign powers, are evergreen).
Our attempts to download the briefs and the accompanying booklet have not borne fruit this morning — as these documents exist at the nexus of interest by historians, the press’s JFK cult, and conspiracy nut jobs, the Agency server’s getting hit on like the only woman at a Dungeons and Dragons convention.
At first glance it looks strange… a military Mauser, partly sporterized, with the full-length military barrel, and with what looks like a NATO rifle mag (maybe an M14 mag) tacked on (we’ll soon see how literally that can be taken) and what appears at first glance to be a high-magnification, but funny-shaped, Leupold scope (note gold band, a Leupold trademark).
Here’s the other side, before we close in:
Nicely shaped, 1960s-70s style sporter stock, but this thing is looking pretty homely. Let’s take a closer look at the mag and how it’s attached.
Oh. Oh my. Spot welded to a Mauser floorplate, maybe not from this Mauser originally. The crudity of the work is front and center. Maybe it’ll look better flipped over? Allez! Other side:
Lord love a duck.
Frank’s description is, as usual for his high-volume business, laconic:
You are bidding on a German Mauser 19. This is in good condition. There are some welded spots on the mag and scope mount. The caliber for this firearm is 7mm.
As we’ve sees, his idea of “good condition” includes not only monkey-crude gunsmithing, but also plenty of rust. But the scope mount has to be better, hasn’t it?
Umm, maybe it hasn’t. Looks like a spot-welded mount with an attached Picatinny rail and made-in-China Picatinny mounts.
Note the initials Sharpie’d on to the firearm. Classy, eh? J.B.O. might be a cop’s initial from an evidence tag (for “Molesting a Mauser in the 2nd Degree” maybe) or it could be Bubba’s marque. So is the nose end of the scope mount better?
No, definitely not. What is going on there where the scope contacts the rear sight?
And of course, the scope isn’t a Leupold at all, but a marque at the other end of the respect scale:
But there are some unusual markings on the nose end of the scope. Can you make them out? Something Magnum?
What kind of scope is a “Monroe Gas-Magnum”?
We won’t keep you in suspense. This kind:
Yep, it’s Bubba all the way down. A tube from a shock absorber.
There is no such thing as a Mauser 19, so the rifle is probably, given that the barrel looks stock, an M93 or even an M91, which had a homely protruding Mauser-designed magazine, when in factory condition. (91 for 19 would be an easy transposition error by some form-filler somewhere). The DWM name doesn’t narrow it down much, as DWM was created from Ludwig Löwe & Company (by Löwe’s brother Isidor) in 1896 and operated from then onwards (the Löwe family sold out to the Quandt family in 1929).
These early Mausers were important weapons in various South American wars, in the Spanish-American war (where they conclusively demonstrated the Mauser’s superiority to the then-current American service rifle, the .30-40 Krag) and in the Boer War (where the British learned to respect them, at least, for the first time — lessons take some repetition to make an impression on the British military mind). This one, of course, has little value except as an example for the others.
This is what a Phoenix does, right? Something like this?
The Daily Beast is not an organization you can trust for sympathetic coverae of veterans, and when it does appear, like this, there’s obviously an agenda behind it (in this case, the Administration’s war on inefficient, overpriced for-profit schools, on behalf of its constituents, the administrators and faculty of inefficient, overpriced non-propfit schools).
But they do have a point: lots of vets are blowing their “free” GI Bill money on education programs that have a low or negative return on investment.
The point they don’t have is that the non-profit, traditional schools are grubbing for this money just as hard as the likes of the University of Phoenix, and posting similar dreadful graduation and financial numbers. But that’s not the subject, the subject is the greedy, money-grubbing for-profit schools, not the greedy-money-grubbing non-profits.
For the University of Phoenix, which is the largest for-profit higher education institution in the U.S. with an emphasis on online programs, a federal investigation is the latest in a long series of disasters that could topple a once-thriving enterprise.
With this latest investigation, University of Phoenix is under particular scrutiny for recruiting veterans. AP reports that the school’s online program has collected over $488 million in tuition and fees from veterans, not including the hundreds of millions in GI Bill money that individual campuses have collected. Over the last several years, the school has come under fire for allegedly soaking up this GI money while leaving veterans strapped with debt.
Half a billion in GI bill money for the online programs alone. Did you know that some employers do not accept the online degrees as equal to traditional butts-in-seats degrees. (Apparently, it’s not really college unless in includes binge drinking and other forms of undergrad mischief).
New federal rules require schools with career-training programs to produce graduates who can repay their student loans in order to receive federal student aid. For a school that already has notoriously low graduation rates, this bar may be out of reach.
According to Department of Education data, the University of Phoenix online campus has a graduation rate of 7.3 percent and a loan default rate of 19 percent—5 percent higher than the national average. A report from the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) claims that 24,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans were enrolled in the online program last year.
An online education can be a quick way to grab a ticket, for a motivated, self-starting student, a phrase which describes many vets. You’re a high risk of dropping out of any school if you’re not (1) a motivated self-starter, and (2) focused on a goal complex that includes your long-term target (a degree or an education — not always equivalents) as well as short-term goals (“six to nine credits this term while holding my regular job.”) In the Army, we use the metaphor of a Trainfire range and call those short term goals “50 meter targets” and long term goals your “300 meter targets.” Just like on the range, you have more time to hit the distant target in your education planning.
Earlier [in July], that CIR report prompted Senator Richard Durbin to ask the Department of Defense to investigate allegations pertaining to the school’s recruiting on military bases.
In response to Wednesday’s news of the FTC investigation, Durbin released a statement saying, “I wish I could say I am surprised by the news that the FTC is investigating the University of Phoenix for unfair and deceptive practices, but these allegations are all too familiar when it comes to the for-profit college industry.”
Look, you know things are topsy-turvy when Dick “Turban” Durbin, the guy whose contempt for our forces is best illustrated by several instances of calling us Nazis, is promoting himself without visible irony as a veterans’ protector. Uh, thanks, Dick, but why don’t you go assist some clowns from your own state?
We hate Illinois Nazis… and Illinois national-socialists who call us Nazis, too.
The biggest thing that leads to educational failure these days is lack of focus and plan. The old rich vein of money your granddad told you about, “Go to college and get a job,” where it doesn’t matter a whit where you went to college or what you learned there, is just about played out. You need to understand what it’s going to cost you (including opportunity costs) to pursue that heart’s desire of yours, and what it’s going to help you make it back. Ignore data that talk about averages, because there’s only one you, and you’re probably not average.
The average wages reported by college grads are skewed high by three things:
They’re based on self reporting, and people who earn crap salaries either lie or don’t answer the surveys, eliminating their low wages from the averages;
They include all the Ivy League trustafarians who would be guaranteed a job in Pater’s hedge fund anyway;
The colleges have a strong incentive to put a thumb on the scales, and they do.
So you also have to sanity check the numbers they’re telling you. For example, many low-end and online (even non-AACSB-accredited) MBA programs tell you how much an MBA can make, quoting you the starting salaries of Harvard and Wharton MBA grads — who are either egg-headed quants, or the above-mentioned trustafarians who will never actually work a day no matter what they’re paid. I guarantee you no one from a second-tier MBA program makes that kind of money, and a no-name MBA is likelt to leave you with debt and no benefit.
Online degrees are a great deal for one class of worker: government workers. Most of them will automatically get more money, as long as the degree is accredited. For people working in the productive economy, there’s no automatic raise.
This doesn’t have anything directly to do with the ongoing dick-measuring contest between two large auction houses, but there remains truly a plague of fakes industry-wide. Here are a few reasons we said that:
Each auctioneer has identified prominent lots offered by the other, that have been misrepresented.
The NRA National Firearms Museum takes a great interest in fakes and forgeries; we’ll have some links (mostly to video) below.
There’s at least one book on Firearms Fakes and Forgeries, although we found it disappointing.
We’ve personally seen misrepresented guns in local gun shops and at auction. While this has been partly because of shopowner ignorance, it’s human nature that the errors have always been in terms of a higher valuation for the gun.
The Auction Lots
We’re not going to dive deep into the claims made by auction houses and online auctioneers — this post is going to be a monster even without that — but we will note that we’ve seen fakes and misrepresented guns on GunBroker a lot.
You may remember the incident some months ago where we identified an NFA firearm represented as a Colt AR-15 Model 601 as, actually, a 601 receiver that had been stripped of almost all its rare original parts, which were replaced with generic M16 and M16A1 bits. For those not in the market, a complete parts kit for a Colt M16 (model 604) or M16A1 (603) can be had for under $1k. A buyer might pay that for certain 601 components, if he was planning to restore a gun like this one. (We have no indication that the dealer knew he was selling a mixmaster). Another problem with a mixmaster is more subtle, and legal: the AR-15 Model 601 is the only M16 variant on the Curio and Relic list at this time. But ATF regulations are clear that a modified gun loses its C&R standing.
Our previous listing hotlinked the GunBroker photos, which unfortunately have gone dead, but the same dealer is selling a Colt 601 that may be the same gun (photo above) — but if it is, many of the inaccurate parts have been replaced by 601-correct parts (or reproductions thereof). Either that, or it’s a different 601, and it appears it does have some M16A1 parts on it (stocks). Given the same dealer’s recent history, we’d be extremely leery of this gun without prepurchase inspection by someone expert in early AR-15s. These guns are an example of a grey area: not exactly fakes, but not original, either.
We’re even seeing this in the retro AR world: generic ARs with a couple of “retro” features, misrepresented as accurate clones of the XM177E2 or the Son Tay Model 629. (One manufacturer is so notorious for this that he’s changed his name at GunBroker several times to escape bad feedback).
The NRA Resources
Here are links to some NRA Resources on Fakes
The Leon “Red” Jackson’s Fabulous Fake Collection. Dallas collector/dealer Jackson spent his entire career removing fakes from the market: he donated his fakes to the Museum, where they remain in the Vault (forever, under the terms of the gift) under NRA HQ. In this video, the fake collection is explained starting at about 4:00, and then Phil Schreier shows a fake “stretched” Colt Paterson and illustrates some of the red flags on fakes.
What is a fake? An essay by Jim Supica, extracted from the Blue Book of Gun Values.
Case 54 at the Museum (which may have been renumbered Case 79A) contains 11 counterfeit 19th Century handguns. Unfortunately the descriptions contain long descriptions of what the actual pistol was or the history of its maker, and merely a line or two explaining why it’s counterfeit. Sometimes the answer is obvious, like with this crude engraving job and amateur-looking faux-Tiffany grips.Here’s a video of the Museum’s Phil Schreier describing just how this gun is fake — with a sad story about a fellow who was taken for $80,000 for a similar fake firearm:
At least one book tries to address this problem: The Gun Digest Book of Firearms Fakes and Reproductions, by Rick Sapp. The cover promises that the reader will, “Know what to look for; tell the difference; buy with confidence!” We didn’t get quite that out of it. Just now, handling the book, it’s not as bad as we first thought and contains a lot of good information, but it’s badly organized, with the photos thrown in seemingly randomly (if a photo caption catches your eye, don’t expect to find material on the issue depicted in the photo anywhere near it… but it may be in the book somewhere). Still, it’s the only book we know, and it has some good examples of eye-popping forgeries.
Guns we’ve Seen Ourselves
The most common thing is an attempt to use an ephemeral story, verbal or, occasionally, written, to inflate the value of a gun. One extremely common example is to misrepresent an uncommon commercial 7.62mm American Eagle Luger as an extremely rare US Army Test 7.62mm firearm. We probably see that in person or online five or six times a year! Luger collecting in general is a hotbed of forgery.
Sometimes the story doesn’t try to change the gun, just tries to attribute it to somebody higher-speed. Again, this is epidemic with German WWII stuff, like SS provenance. Some of that is the result of mild exaggeration. (Not every pistol could have been carried from “a dead SS officer,” but it’s amazing how many SS officers we killed by the time elderly GIs, and their sons and grandsons, got around to telling the story). Sometimes it’s something more serious; I don’t think there’s an FFL out there that hasn’t handled guns, wittingly or unwittingly, without fake Waffenamt markings and/or bogus SS runes. (Few SS guns had any SS indicia stamped on them, actually). A cursory search online should find you the stamps that make these markings, often sold with a wink-and-a-nod for “restoring” WaA’s. Yeah, riiiiiight. Like 17-year-olds buy fake IDs to save wear and tear on their own drivers’ licenses, eh?
We’ve even bought a couple of such guns, after doing our due diligence. One of them is a Chinese Type 56 SKS that came from Fayetteville, NC in 1983 (before SKS imports) with this verbal story:
It was captured by a unit in Cambodia in 1970. It was then presented to a member of that unit with a brass plaque on the buttstock. (The plaque is gone, but you can see marks from the four brads that held it). Then, his ex-wife sold it after throwing him out and divorcing.
That story is reasonable, plausible, and not inconsistent with the evidence. (The non-import-marked gun does have the brad marks, was unfired with grease in the barrel on acquisition — it isn’t now — and was of manufacturing details and serial number block similar to a quantity of Cambodian-captured SKSes then held in Arms Room Nº4 for SF training). But there’s no positive evidence of the truth of the story: no capture papers, no plaque, no identification of the unit or the individual in question. The story is as likely to be bullshit as not; it should not change the value of the gun, in our opinion, and we paid the then-going rate for a Vietnam bringback SKS in good condition for it. We’d be churlish not to pass the story on, and we’ve written up a provenance for the gun that recounts the story (while noting that it is completely undocumented), but we don’t believe it’s worth more than any non-import-marked SKS.
Then, there’s the Bubba’d Nagant. This firearm was presented in the 1980s by a now-long-defunct gun shop, Bay State Arms in Southboro, MA, with the following story:
This was part of a larger collection, and was represented to us as an NKVD short-model M1895 Nagant revolver. It was shortened for secret police use. It has no front sight because it was meant to be used as a point-blank execution pistol and didn’t need sights at all.
Unlike the Type 56 tale, this firearm’s story was not reasonable or plausible for several reasons. There’s no historic indicator that the NKVD used short-barrel Nagants. The pistols used in the Katyn massacre, for example, are extremely well documented to have been 7.65 x 17SR (.32 ACP) pistols the NKVD acquired from Nazi Germany, at the time a Soviet ally. And the barrel shortening appears to have been done by Wile E. Coyote his ownself, because Bubba would not stoop so low. The front couple inches of the barrel were hacked off, crookedly; there’s no front sight, and no attempt at muzzle crowning. It looks more like a bob job executed by a street criminal than even a botched effort at kitchen gunsmithing. It came with an unmarked and incredibly cheap and flimsy shoulder holster that might have originally been made for a throwaway H&R or Iver Johnson .32, but certainly wasn’t ever in an NKVD arsenal.
Now, here’s what happened at the shop: Bob at Bay State was a knowledgable and ethical gun dealer, who sold us many thousands of dollars worth of rare and exotic firearms, and never was anything but straight with us. He told this story as what the seller told him, with one eyebrow raised in disbelief, and at the end of the story, we both said almost in unison: “Of course, that’s bullshit.” Because, of course, it is. We bought the Nagant because (1) it was so cheap, maybe $30, and (2) Nagants were, at the time, exceedingly rare (yes, you may find that hard to believe, but it was a much rarer Korean or Vietnam bringback than a Tokarev, SKS or Mosin). On examination, the gun turned out to be a Belgian-made Nagant without the famous gas-seal mechanism of the Russian service pistol; it appears to be 7.5mm in caliber, not 7.62mm. Despite being disfigured by the hack job and neglect, it clearly was originally extremely well made, with tight fit and the remains of gorgeous flame blue on some parts; it might have evolved into a collectors’ item of some kind if Bubba had not had at it with some household saw.
Note that there’s a difference between a gun with a story, where the story doesn’t change the value, and a fake. The difference? That the seller does not attempt to secure a higher value by passing the story on. You could argue that our “Trophy” SKS and Bubba’d Nagant were “fakes,” because there’s an apocryphal story attached to each. But we’ll pass the stories on with the guns, because they came with the guns.
Sometime we’ll tell you about the Taliban Beheading Sword that sits next to the fireplace. Now there’s a story.