Category Archives: Consumer Alert!

Guest Post: A Plague of Fakes

We’ve been wanting to write about fakes for a while. But we’ve been handed this guest post by the guys at Rock Island Auctions. We’ll have editorial comment on the subject of fakes, later, but right now, we’re going to give it to you the way it came in, with no editorial adjustments except for an added title, and typo and grammar fixes, which if substantive, will be in brackets: [ weaponsman insert]. -Eds.

A Plague of Fakes

by Joel R. Kolander, Rock Island Auctions.

“Fool your enemies, sell them this great fake.”

Quote from James D. Julia March 2014 Firearms Auction Catalog, Lot 2230

In the business of firearms auctions, it is simply an unavoidable fact of life that one is going to come across what is known as a spurious firearm.  For those unfamiliar with the term, “spurious” is the most gracious way of calling something a fake.  Phony.  Bogus.  At its most innocent, a fake or counterfeit item can be sold as such.  Someone may want that Russian Contract 1911 pistol with spurious Cyrillic text, as a representation of the original but at only a fraction of the cost.  In fact, many replica cars are sold just the same way.  You wouldn’t find me turning down a replica of a 1968 AC Cobra, but I’m definitely not going to pay the same price as the original.  There is a market for such pieces given that they are priced accordingly and disclosed as such to the buying public.  Much like the AC Cobra example, replicas can be extremely desirable and a lot of fun.

Sometimes, collectors, and even auction houses, can make mistakes in good faith.  Perhaps they [are] in possession of such a meticulously crafted forgery that it is impossible to tell the difference save for some of the world’s foremost experts.  Is anyone to be held to blame in such an event, except the forger?  No, for both parties acted in good faith and intent with what they thought was a “real” object.  However, if after the fact the buyer were to find that their item was not 100% as claimed, then it would be the duty of the seller to make it right.  It is exactly scenarios like this why Rock Island Auction Company offers a guarantee of the headline of every single item in their Premiere Firearms Auctions.  Should that item not be as advertised in the item’s headline, RIAC will make it right via a full refund.  We even put it in the front of every Premiere Auction Catalog right there in the Terms and Conditions.

Honesty and integrity are two qualities indispensable to an auction house, or any selling business.  It’s as simple as knowing that if you burn someone once, they’re not going to return, and if there are too many people who question their transactions, the sellers carefully built reputation can nose-dive faster than German U-boat.  Businesses stand to gain much more from positive experiences and good word-of-mouth advertising, than they could ever achieve by being less than completely truthful.

It is with that dedication and responsibility to fairness, that we can examine the last kind of spurious arms: out-and-out fakes maliciously sold as the genuine article for profit.  It goes without saying that the faking of firearms hurts the collecting community.  Not only is it fraudulent, it erodes trust, and could potentially lower the prices of authentic items.  Jim Supica, current Museum Director of NRA Museums, once detailed several types of fraud in an article he wrote for the Blue Book of Gun Values.

  • Aging and modifying a modern reproduction or replica firearm to pass it as an original
  • Altering a common model to make it appear to be a rare model
  • Adding modern engraving to an older gun, and passing it as original period engraving
  • Creating false historical documentation or attribution of historical usage.
  • Altering a firearm to a more valuable configuration – for example, rare barrel length, uncommon finish, special grips, or fancy stock, rare caliber.
  • “Upgrading” a low grade gun to resemble a higher grade by the same maker.

As we mentioned before, even Rock Island Auction Company is not immune to these types of guns, and the obvious recourse is to make it right.  We have done so on numerous occasions, most notably on an episode of our T.V. show “Ready, Aim, Sold!” when we found we were dealing with a fake Winchester 1 of 1,000.

You may wonder what causes an article of this type to be written.  It is the need to distance ourselves from several potentially spurious firearms previously in our possession and sold by RIAC, and currently being offered for sale at James D. Julia Auction.  In their auction is a collection with many firearms with claims of provenance to the Battle of Little Bighorn, Gen. George Custer, and several Native American warriors.  However, the claims of provenance appear downright false, and we know because we have previously sold some of the firearms in question.  We would like it to be known that Rock Island Auction Company never sold any of the guns in this collection with any of their current provenance claims and did not sell them to the current consignor of James Julia.  Two of the firearms in question were sold by RIAC, to a dealer, within the last 14 months.  A third, a single action revolver with alleged ties to Cheyenne chief Two Moons, was previously turned down by RIAC from this same Julia consignor, when its lack of documentation was discovered. However it was sold in a previous James Julia sale for an enormous amount of money.

Colt 1860 Army sold in RIAC’s June 2013 (on top) Regional Firearms Auction.
Hammered for $2,000


SAME Colt 1860 Army, listed in Julia’s Oct 2014 sale as “used by Nicholas Black Elk at the Little Bighorn Battlefield.”
Estimate: $8,000 – $12,000


Southerner Single Shot sold in RIAC’s February 2014 Regional Firearms Auction.
Hammered for $1,000



SAME Southerner Single Shot, listed in Julia’s Oct 2014 sale as “used by Oglala Sioux warrior Charging Hawk to kill George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn.”
Estimate: $25,000 – $40,000


A fourth firearm was sold by Little John’s auction house during their May 2011 sale.  It is also being listed again with questionable claims.

Colt 1860 Army Listed in Little Johns May 2011 Auction Estimate: $1,500 – $3,000

Colt 1860 original auction

SAME Colt 1860 Army, listed in Julia’s Oct 2014 sale as,
“found by Nicholas Black Elk at the Battle of Little Bighorn.”
Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000




Now, since we have discovered these questionable guns, James D. Julia has pulled them from their website catalog.  We do not know what their plans are with these guns, but we are hoping it is a transparent act in the spirit of honesty to help return some peace of mind to the collecting community. Further, we wonder what recourse the buyers of the same consignor items in the Julia sale in March have? However, as it currently stands, we are not optimistic for a positive outcome for the people for the following reasons.

The first reason lies in the listing for a facsimile Colt Walker sold by them in their sale held in the spring of 2014.  In the items description, after touting what an excellent fake the gun is, the following sentence appears in the item’s official description.

“Fool your enemies, sell them this great fake.”

Julia Fake Walker

Those are words you will never find at Rock Island Auction Company.  As discussed earlier, to sell guns openly disclosed as fakes or replicas is one matter, but to encourage deception of another firearms collector is something that no collector or investor should abide.  This sort of sentiment, in combination with the wild claims of provenance, should cause grave concern to any buyer who purchased some of the $240,000 of items sold by this collector in the James D. Julia March 2014 auction.  We began this article by stating that every auction house will, from time to time, receive fake guns.  Julia’s is no exception and we await to see how they not only handle the items currently removed from their website, but also the $240,000 worth of  items sold this past March. Let it be known yes we sold some of these guns previously, we as in RIAC yet we have no ties to this obvious deception now on going in the next James Julia sale.

“A gun with a story and no documentation, is just a gun with a story.”

The Issue with Gun Publications

shootingtimes The issue with gun publications, whether they’re the paper kind or the online kind, is that they’re generally so dependent on the goodwill of manufacturers that they tend to puff everything. We’re going to pick on one article at Shooting Times, from earlier this year: a comparo of seven budget ($400-900) 1911 clones. The guns were from an array of mainstream handgun makers: Magnum ResearchAmerican Tactical Imports,  Auto-OrdnanceRugerParaSpringfield, and Taurus.


First, a disclaimer: there’s nothing especially bad about this article, and the author, Paul Scarlata, is a real gun expert who generally knows what he’s writing about. So we want you to understand that while we did single this article out, it was not because there’s anything specially wrong with it. Quite the contrary: we singled it out as typical of the optimistic evaluations gun writers tend to give to the hardware that the nice guys at the gun companies lend them to test.

First, let’s have a thought experiment. What would your requirements for a 1911 be? What features or performance would be mandatory (“must haves”) and what would be positive, but not mandatory, “should have” characteristics?

Let us propose one absolute requirement: it would have to work. That is, function: go bang and load the next round when the bang button is bumped, hit the target, that sort of thing. Ideally, it would have to work with a wide range of common ammo, and it would have to work almost all the time — an issue 1911 wasn’t terribly accurate, but it approached the quality control Holy Grail of six-sigma reliability with issue 230-grain hardball. None of the tested budget 1911s was a GI, milspec gun; most of them had all kinds of add-on features: extended triggers, skeletonized hammers, beavertail grip safeties, beveled mag wells. Most of this junk is marketing box-checking on a mass-produced gun. Most of the guns also used industrial processes that saved time, some of them doing it at the expense of quality, interchangeability (which was not tested) or reliability.

We learned through lots of gunsmithing that most of the things you did to a 1911 to make it more accurate had a deleterious effect on reliability. Adding target or tactical competition features to a low-cost mass produced .45 almost guarantees problems. And Shooting Times found the problems — and glossed over them.

First, two of the guns had key-activated locks. These feel-good gadgets add complexity without adding safety.

But the reliability of the guns was really the shocker. Each gun didn’t have to do a 6,000 round torture test; it had to make it through a mere two staged drills, the first comprising 2 13-round runs through a field course, and the second, 3 9-round runs against plates. So each pistol had to function (for each of five shooters) for 53 rounds, or a total of 265 rounds per pistol.

After that, there is a subjective rating score with thirty possible points, five each for “reliability, accuracy, ergonomics, recoil control, trigger, and sights.”

The test was not begun until Scarlata had fired-in each gun with three brands of ammunition. Here the looming problem was foreshadowed:

I experienced several failures to feed or go into battery with the JHP ammo.

Afterwards each pistol was disassembled, cleaned, and lubed, which would be the only maintenance they would receive. If any of them choked during the shootout, we would attempt to clear the problem at the range and keep shooting.

When the test begins, we find the writer making excuses for the shaky guns. They were new; they weren’t shot-in yet. They seemed to be getting better in the second round. It was just some failures to feed and premature lockbacks… nothing big. (Huh?)

And from there, we see that the factory mags were supplemented, for the rest of testing, with premium magazines from well-known vendors.

The first to fall was the Auto Ordnance 1911, a Kahr product.

On the last run of the field course, Dick Jones experienced the first problem of the day when the rear sight of the Auto-Ordnance Thompson 1911 fell off. When we attempted to reinstall it, we discovered that the setscrew was cross threaded and could not be loosened or tightened. It had apparently been tightened just enough at the factory to hold the sight in place, but firing several hundreds of rounds jarred it loose. Because of that the Auto-Ordnance pistol was retired, and none of us were able to shoot it during the plate rack stage.

And then there were six left, moving on to the plate stage. More excuses (“…thanks to temperatures hovering in the mid-90s and the fact that there was no shade, they all got quite hot…”), and then the next one bites the dust:

…the ejector on the ATI FX45 sheared off, preventing me from completing the third rack of plates and one other shooter from using it at all.

And then there were five. Only five guns completed the course, two went down with hardware failures. But these guys applied tee-ball grading standards; the sightless AutoOrdnance (which was also noted for FTFs with JHPs) was given 13 out of 20 on “reliability.” And the ATI, down hard with a failed ejector? They gave that 12 out of 20.

Other guns that were singled out as failures to feed included the MRI Desert Eagle 1911G, and Taurus PT-1911, but none of the contenders were reliable enough to score 20 out of 20 points for “reliability.” But they were all 60% or more of the way there — including the two clunkers that fell apart during the test.

And that says something unkind about today’s commercial firearms market. Out of a sample of 7 guns, 2 of them (28.6%) failed in a very brief and mild round of testing. That’s a pretty lousy result.

Holy Fallschirm! Original FG42 falls short… of $300k. Barely.

The standount seller at the Rock Island Auction last week was the German FG42 Type II, lot number 1465. It blew through the estimate of $160-240k and was finally knocked down at $299,000. Here’s a picture (and it does embiggen).


That’s plus a buyer’s premium of 15 to 17.5% (low end is cash or wire transfer; high end, credit card). Here’s the other side for you to look at, assuming you were not the guy who took it home (or will take it home sometime in 2015 when ATF completes the Form 4) for a price higher than the average house in this country.


Here’s Ian from Forgotten Weapons running it down (video courtesy RIA).

The German words Ian is groping for at about 9 minutes are Einzelfeuer (single-fire; semi-auto) and Dauerfeuer (continuous fire; full-auto). The same words that lead to the S-E-D markings on a G3.

FG42 in combat 4We would just add to Ian’s history (which is spot on) that German — and Allied — airborne forces in World War II were not just parachute forces. They also were power users of a weapon whose entire history was contained in the war and a couple of postwar years: the combat glider. This German para is in front of a DFS 230 glider (we think the picture is from the rescue of Mussolini at Gran Sasso, but it could be from the Balkans).

The glider had the signal advantage that it landed all the troops together, safely, with all their stuff. German paras particularly tended to put their stuff in bundles. The bundles hung under their Ju52 jump planes and dropped with color-coded chutes: your squad’s gear had a red chute, the other platoon had a green one, that sort of thing. The parachutes were not steerable and a German para could do little to prepare to land, as his chute made a single connection between his shoulder blades. His Parachute Landing Fall was, typically, knees->elbows->face. That’ll leave a mark, and it increased the appeal of gliders.

Apart from springing  Il Duce, the most important glider ops were a strike on the Belgian fortress Eben Emael in May 1940, and an attack on the mountain hideout of Josip Broz “Tito” in 1944. The first used the same small DFS 230 gliders and was a great success. The Yugoslavian raid used larger gliders, but their quarry slipped away.

The FG42 did not have a very large effect on these combat operations, but it was just one advantage the German para tried to have on hand (in the later ops, obviously. In Belgium and Holland they had K98k rifles, and MP38s). But it remains an important part of the German paratroop legacy.

Here’s RIA’s write up:

This is just an exceptional example of a super rare late WWII Fallschirmajagergewehr FG 42 Paratrooper Rifle, with the original issue Luftwaffe marked ZF4 sniper scope and original mount. These rifles were exceptionally unique weapons that were developed by the German engineers that was way ahead of anything that the Allies had.

This rifle design married the concept of both the basic German infantry rifle with the fully automatic “light rifle” weapon, somewhat akin to our Browning BAR and later developed further by various countries in the post-War years. Some of the more notable weapon designs that used this concept were the FN/FAL and M14 rifles, which used a full sized rifle round in both the semi-automatic and fully automatic mode.FG42-8



One of the most unique aspects of this weapon was that it fired from a “closed bolt” when shooting in the semi-automatic mode and an “open bolt” in the fully automatic mode, which aided in reducing cook-offs. Some of the other easily identified characteristics of this rifle are a horizontal 20 round box magazine, a “brass deflector” on the right rear side of the receiver, a permanently attached folding bipod, and folding front and rear sights.

These rifles were developed fairly late in WWII at the direction of Herman Goring and were specifically issued to only German Paratroopers. It is estimated that only appropriately 5000 were ever manufactured with most being destroyed after the war with very few surviving intact examples know today. This example is a mid-production Second Model that has the more horizontal grip with the bakelite grip panels and laminated buttstock and two piece wooden forend.

There is a typo in that last paragraph. This rifle, which is indeed a 2nd Model, has a more vertical grip than the 1st Model, which had metal grip surfaces.

This rifle is complete with an original WWII German “Luftwaffe” issued and marked ZF4 sniper scope, with the original scope mount/ring set. The scope is a standard ZF4 scope that has been marked with a large “L” on the left side signifying it for Luftwaffe issue. The top of the receiver of these rifles were specifically machined with a long dovetail type base designed to accept the two scope rings. The rings each have a single locking lever that allowed easy installation and removal of the scope depending on the specific combat scenario; general combat or in a limited sniping role.

The top of the receiver is marked: “fzs(the wartime code for the Krieghoff Company)/FG42/02314″. The left side of the scope is marked “Gw ZF4/57309/ddx (Voigtlander & Sohns)” with the large “L” signifying Luftwaffe issue following the standard markings. This wonderful light combat rifle has the late war green/gray phosphate finish on the receiver and barrel assembly with a blue/black painted finish on the lower trigger group/housing assembly. This exceptionally scarce rifle is complete with the original ribbed compensator on the end of the barrel which installs on the same muzzle threading as the included cup-style grenade launcher, the original folding bipod, spike bayonet and one original magazine.

Condition: Excellent with 97% plus of the original WWII combination phosphate/blue type finish with minor handling/firing wear. The scope and rings are also in excellent condition with 95% of their original finish. The wooden forend and buttstock are also in excellent condition with their nice original finish with minor handling marks from light use. A few English selector markings have been hand-added to the trigger group. Truly a super rare and very unique WWII FG 42 Paratrooper Rifle with all of the extremely rare accessories!

We’re guessing that the new owner will not be taking it to the range to blow off some Yugo 7.92 x 57 corrosive any time soon. We congratulate him on his purchase (and congratulate RIA on the ~$45k buyer’s premium, plus any sales commission, they’re getting for facilitating this sale).


This is an incredibly historic firearm, you see. While the FG42 didn’t change the course of a single battle in a long war, it did change the course of firearms history. The US Army Ordnance Branch became infatuated with it and copied it several ways, trying to simplify it and adapt the MG42 belt feed to the FG42 operating system and design. The result was the M60.

And the designers of the M60, if they ever knew, didn’t seem to take note of the strong resemblance the FG42 receiver, bolt, and operating rod have to those of an earlier weapon: the Lewis Gun. Our assumption is that Louis Stange, looking to make a light automatic weapon, chose the most successful light automatic weapon of World War I as his point of departure. (The FG has some Lewis DNA, but it’s a far cry from a monkey-see-monkey-do copy of its WWI ancestor. Stange added numerous features, including the innovative closed-bolt-semi, open-bolt-auto operating system).

NOTE: The preceding line originally described the operating system of the FG42 backwards. It has been corrected. Thanks to Chris W. in the comments for catching the error.

Other auction results are available in RIA’s writeup. This was a quite successful auction for them, with $11.9 million in sales.


Today Only: Tales from the Teamhouse Volume III, Free Download

tales from the teamhouse IIIForget whether this one has a Hognose story or two in it, think they’re in earlier ones. That means this one’s probably better. These were collected back in the 1990s and published under the auspices of the late Ben “The Plunderer” Roberts, a Vietnam SF soldier turned real-estate entrepreneur.

These are a series of books of stories and reminisces of SF soldiers from the 1950s to today. Normally they’re available in paperback, but the Kindle format is new. A great many of the original authors are now no longer with us, including SGM Reg Manning, CSM Rudy Cooper (a three-war vet), and many others.

Today only, Kindle download of Volume III is free at this link. (As long as the price shows as $0.00, click the “Buy Now” button).

Tales from the Teamhouse Volume II is also available on Kindle, but they cost actual money. Some grifter thinks he’s going to get $350 for the paperback of Volume II… good luck with that. Volume I is only available in hard copy at the moment.

There’s always some rumors about a Volume IV. For that to happen, I think Old Mountain Press (run by Tom Davis, a Navy and Army SF vet) needs to see that Volumes I-III have a following.

Prototype AR-10 on the Block!

This one is a big deal. A commenter flagged us to it, and we took our time getting to this “Original Armalite AR-10″ because we figured: “Ho hum, Dutch Artillerie Inrichtingen AR-10, interesting but we’ve written about ‘em already. A lot.” And… well, when we finally looked at the AR, it wasn’t a mass-produced gun from the Portuguese or Sudanese contract at all, but one of the earliest, hand-built prototypes, a gun that would not only be a centerpiece in an AR collection or modern military arms collection, but would be a centerpiece in many museums. 

Julia AR-10 #38 right

Several things mark it as a prototype, including its front sight base without any gas cut-off, and especially the pepper-pot flash suppressor, but there are other markers as well.

It’s up for bid at the James D. Julia fall firearms auction, of which more in a moment. Julia accepts bids by phone, email (using a bid form available on their website) or, of course, in person.  First, here’s what Julia says about it:

SN 1038. 308 cal. 21″ bbl. This extremely attractive and early AR-10 includes one 20 round magazine and has light brown hand guards, hand grip and buttstock. It also has a perforated muzzle break giving it an extremely unusual, yet attractive, appearance. Marked on left side of magazine well with the Armalite winged horse logo and model designation as well as “Hollywood, Calif. U.S.A.” address. Firing mechanism functions smoothly when operated by hand. This weapon appears fully functional. PROVENANCE: The class III weapons formerly on loan to Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. CONDITION: Overall appearance and finish is 98% with virtually no loss of finish on metal parts and perhaps just the very slightest of handling marks and slight brassing at the muzzle. There are some small places on the stock and hand guards where there has been a scrape, revealing black material underneath. Bore is shiny and bright with some slight frosting close to the muzzle. Bolt face is extremely fine. This weapon has been fired, but not very much. 4-51756 JWK73 (15,000-20,000) – Lot 10


The Julia firearms staff, like rival auction house Rock Island’s, are true professionals. They  seldom make an error; they tend to extreme conservatism in their descriptions, which is probably why they’re not using the word, “protoype.”

Julia AR-10 #38 serial

We use the word with confidence for the following reasons:

  1. There was no true production of AR-10s in Hollywood or Costa Mesa. All were toolroom jobs, built by hand, and no two were quite the same (same is true of California AR-15s).
  2. The serial number, “1038,” is almost certainly gun number 38 produced, with a leading 1000 inserted to provide an aura of maturity around what was, in 1955, a very radical design.
  3. The gun lacks some of the features of all production AR-10s from Artillerie Inrichtingen.
  4. The furniture is clearly hand-poured. A contemporary Guns Magazine article showed some “production” photos from the Hollywood shop, and one of them shows hand-mixed resin being poured from a Dixie cup. (We wrote about the process here).

While original AR-10s, meaning the production guns from Artillerie Inrichtingen, are exceedingly rare (only a few thousand were produced), enough that both transferable pre-68 imports and US-receiver semiauto conversions are very rare, prototype ARs almost never see the light of day. They are all in private collections or museums. Many of the most historic guns are in Reed Knight’s Institute for Military Technology, and you can expect, if you’re bidding on this, museums and the most advanced collectors will be bidding against you. That makes Julia’s pre-sales estimate of $15,000-20,000 seem low; we’d be shocked if this historic rifle didn’t go for half again Julia’s top estimate.

Yes, we do like the original AR-10. As we’ve said:

  1. In May 2012: GunBroker Rarity: Semi AR-10, then About that AR-10… and Some AR-10 News and Views.
  2. In June of that year: an AR-10 in Photos (this is the same gun in the May posts. We also started a second photo essay on this gun but didn’t finish or post it; it molders in the queue).
  3. In November, 2012, we dealt with a t-shirt that was a great idea, badly implemented, by announcing that We Hate Bad History. Principal beef was that the artist displaced the AR-10 from its proper place as the grandsire of the AR line.
  4. In September, 2013 we mentioned the early AR-10 experiments with composite barrels in an article on a new composite AR barrel: Composite barrel: old idea, but this time it works.
  5. In November, 2013: We can’t buy ‘em all: Original Portuguese Armalite/Sendra AR-10
  6. In January, 2014: we explored How Armalite (1955-60) Made Stocks & Furniture, and covered An intriguing scope mount (on a Dutch AI AR-10 in the Springfield Armory museum).
  7. In July, 2014: Jerry Miculek meets the Original AR-10 (this was an original AI full-auto gun).
  8. We also posted (thanks to a commenter) a 1960 Aberdeen Proving Ground Report On: A Test of Rifle, Caliber 7.62-mm, AR-10. (.pdf naturally).

Yes, we want it. However, we need to color within our budgetary lines here.

The gun was one of the Evergreen Ventures Class III collection. The collection was a separate corporation, but displayed the same vision of the fantastic Evergreen Air Museum in McMinnville, Oregon (which we’ve been privileged to visit). The funds for all this flowed from a large and successful air freight company, Evergreen International, which didn’t survive the transition from the entrepreneurial to professional management.

Some other highlights of the collection, which is now being auctioned by the James D. Julia auction house in Maine as part of the house’s annual Fall Firearms Auction (they also have a Spring Auction) in early October, along with other firearms treasures, such as an eye-popping Winchester Model 21 shotgun collection, a collection of gorgeous Colts, Sharps and other frontier guns, the third installment of the Dr Geoffrey Sturgess European pistol collection, the Dr Douglas Sirkin collection of early firearms, and the former Springfield Armory, LLC, artillery collection. Some celebrity pieces are at the auction, also, including Eleanor Roosevelt’s revolver, presentation pieces for Napoleon III and Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Tom Custer’s Spencer repeater. Here’s a sort of highlights reel. The auction is so richly provisioned with fine and rare firearms that this AR-10 prototype didn’t even make the highlights!

Civilian-legal IR laser illuminator

PEQ-2 on an M4 clone. This unit was IR only -- note blue lock keeping switch on low power. TNVC image. Click to Embiggen.

2000-vintage PEQ-2 on an M4 clone. This unit was IR only — note blue lock keeping switch on low power. TNVC image. Click to embiggen.

At the start of the war in Afghanistan, we had the AN/PEQ-2 TPIAL, which is actually something pretty useful under that welter of characters. Let’s break out the descriptive acronym: Target Pointer/Illuminator Aiming Laser. What a TPIAL is, is a laser floodlight and laser sight, slaved to one another so they both align with the weapon’s zero, both working in the infrared regime where it cannot be seen with the naked eye.  The PEQ-2 was a decent unit but only worked with night vision, was bulky and took up a lot of your rail, ate batteries like Godzilla carboloading for the Tokyo Marathon, and had a bad tendency to get knocked off zero, or knocked clean out of the fight, if clobbered pretty hard. In time it was replaced by the PEQ-15 ATPIAL. (“A” for “Advanced” Target Pointer/Illuminator Aiming Laser, naturally).

ATPIAL-C on a similar weapon. Note size difference.

ATPIAL-C on a similar weapon. (This is what PEQ-15 looks like, too). Note size difference between this and PEQ-2 above.

The PEQ-15 has a number of advantages over the PEQ-2. It was smaller, lighter, and more durable. The battery life is even longer (not long enough, but it is an improvement). It has an ingenious “saddlebag” cross-section that lets it mount to the top rail of your carbine without interfering with any ordinary iron or optical sight. Taken together, these things mean it screws up the balance of your carbine less than the PEQ-2 does.

The -15 has a visible as well as an IR laser pointer (selectable), which lets you use the pointer as a day sight if they day isn’t too bright, and lets you use it at night to intimidate enemies or as a pointer for allies without night vision capability. Best of all, it cost less to manufacture, so Uncle Sam could buy and issue more of them, and they became a standard part of a grunt’s kit rapidly.

But there was a problem with these, for the civilian market. The military lasers are Class 3B lasers, and are not remotely eye-safe. (There are lockout switches to prevent military users from inadvertently engaging high-energy mode in noncombat applications). The FDA, which regulates lasers in the USA, does not permit the sale of these devices to members of the public without licenses (which the FDA chooses not to grant).


So L3 Communications, the makers of the PEQ-15, have made a civilian-legal Class 1 version, which they call the ATPIAL-C (“C” for “Commercial”). It’s basically the PEQ-15, made on the same production line out of most of the same parts, just without the high-energy mode. Even side by side they’re hard to tell apart. (Look at the laser safety label — the ATPIAL-C has a triangular warning icon, as befits its lower-energy laser, and the PEQ-2 the red starburst of an eye-unsafe laser). What you give up with the -C model is some range on the laser pointer, a lot of the range on the laser floodlight, ability to focus that light, and 100% of the risk of putting someone’s eye out or having the authorities take your eBay PEQ-15 away because it was originally stolen from Uncle Sam.

The ATPIAL-C is available for pre-order for $1200 from Tactical Night Vision Company (they charge your card when you order; shipping is supposed to be in November). TNVC has an exclusive deal with L3, at lest for the time being, for these things.

A Different Auction: some Vietnam, USSR, Japanese militaria

If these patches are authentic, something we can't judge, there's a lot of collector interest.

If these patches are authentic, something we can’t judge, there’s a lot of collector interest. One of them appears to be an original RT Habu patch. Patches like this were not worn in the field, where team members were “sterile,” but on “party shirts” back on base.

We occasionally mention gun auctions on here, and we’re behind on getting word to you on some new ones with some very great rarities on offer. But we interrupted our normal schedule to notify you of an auction with some Vietnam and other rare militaria.

A small Pennsylvania auction house, Savo Auctioneers, is offering these items and similar ones (plus a lot of beer-company bar signs and other odds and ends) in an auction tomorrow. You can find the key stuff, including the address and how to set up for phone bid, at the link below:

THU, AUG 14 @ 5:00 P.M.

Preview @ 1:00 P.M.


via Auction: Thu, Aug 14 @ 5:00 P.M. at Savo Auctioneers, LLC.

We’ll have a few more pictures below, with captions of our own.

SF recon patches - savo

Two RT patches in this lot. The Lang Vei patch rings false to us — not sure why. The 11 RRU (“Radio Research Unit”) was not SF, but an ASA formation. All ASA used the cover name “Radio Research” in Vietnam. Task Force 1 Advisory Element (TF1AE) was the new (cover) name for CCN, after SF “officially” left Vietnam in 1971; this “Commo” patch would have been the base station guys, the RTs’ vital link to the world — and support. 

SF recon patches 2 - savo

The RT Fork patches look like original ones, but what’s “CCM”? And the chrysanthemum patch, we have no idea at all about.

Vietnam patches

Mostly Marine and Navy patches, but there’s an RT Habu patch in this lot.

For us, naturally, the money stuff is the SF historical patches, but there are also some unusual Japanese orders and decorations, and some relatively common Soviet ones, often with award books number-matched to the medal as was Soviet practice.

Soviet V-J MedalThis Soviet medal is one you don’t see every day — a medal commemorating the Soviet victory over Japan (the USSR joined the war on Japan after the Nazis were defeated in Europe, after a long negotiation in which Stalin basically got everything he wanted from a dying FDR.  (Like all the images here, it embiggens). Most people don’t know that the USSR declared war on Japan, but they did. One result of that is North Korea, one of Vladimir Vladimirovich’s less tractable vassals to this day.

There are numerous other Soviet awards and decorations, most of them seemed at a glance to be common commemoratives (“70 Years of the Soviet Armed Forces,” that sort of thing). Many are in better shape than this somewhat worn and stained old soldier. They would look good on the wall with a Mosin.

unknown japanese medalAnd… while we’re on the subject of unusual medals, we know nothing about this except that it’s Japanese, and beautifully designed.

It looks a little like the Legion of Honor, but with undeniably Japanese artistic lines, quite unlike the parallel awards in Western lands.

There are several other Japanese medals in the auction. We don’t know if they’re wartime Imperial or postwar medals; the Empire was never very big on medals for common soldiers, but they tended to shine their generals and admirals up pretty well.

Now, we need to get to posting about some of the exotic firearms about to go on the block.

Hat tip, a Pennsylvania SF vet who treasures his anonymity.

Stag Arms Introduces 9mm Carbines

A few days ago, Stag introduced a series of 9mm carbines that have some similarities to the Colt workhorse of DOE and police fame, and have a few new features. The Model 9 is available in right or left-handed, and in Tactical or (we guess, to steal from David Ogilvy, “diffident about tactical”) regular trim. This is a regular, RH-oriented Stag Model 9:

Stag Model 9

That’s the factory photo. It does embiggen with a click. The Stag 9 upper is much like the Colt’s, with no ejector port door and a polymer ejected-case bumper, as is the blowback, non-locking bolt/carrier unit. Unlike Colt, which uses an insert in an ordinary AR lower, the Stag has a dedicated lower, that’s broached (or more likely, wire-EDM’d) only for the 9mm mag, same mag as Colt’s. Here’s the Tactical version in left hand, with the mag in:

Stag Model 9TL

The rounded rectangular protrusion on the upper forging that, on a locked-bolt rifle, gives the cam pin a place to rest, serves no purpose on the 9mm AR, but it’s there because the gun is only economical because the same forging is used for the 9mm upper, and the one for other, more usual AR calibers.

As you can see, “tactical” gets you a free-floating handguard and pop-up sights. Both handguards take Diamondhead rails; the non-“tactical” version has a conventional “gas block” although it taps no gas from the non-ported barrel, and it comes without sights (or, in marketing-speak, “optics ready.”

On the principle than only a fool invents a new feed system when he doesn’t have to, the Colt mag is based on the venerable Uzi mag, and is available in 20- and 32-round lengths (as opposed to the Uzi’s 25 and 32). Of course, no one has tried Uzi mags in the introduced-last-week Stag 9mm yet, but people have had mixed, mostly bad, luck with Uzi mags in Colts, and people have had all kinds of bad luck with just about everything in non-Colt 9mm ARs — making a 9mm AR that runs is harder than it looks. Making a 9mm that runs on a wide range of ammo is really hard, because the recoil impulse varies so widely, and any blowback system is optimized for a specific recoil impulse. That was one advantage of HK’s old MP5 and its roller-locking system. Even though the MP5 could be fussy about hollow points, it didn’t sweat bullet weight and powder charge changes too much.

A 9mm AR is always a bit homely, if not deformed, looking, but they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The pistol caliber submachine gun or carbine has always had a niche, and that niche is, mostly, indoors. So the optimum 9mm AR (assuming, ceteris paribus, the thing works) might actually be a small SMG or SBR, much like the special Colt Model 633 that was used by DOE. The 633 had a controllable rate of fire by using a special hydraulic buffer, different from that in other Colt 9mms. Stag’s press release has no details of their 9mm buffer, except that it is different from that in their other rifles. At the reasonable, sub-$1k list of the basic 9mm, a hydraulic buffer is unlikely.


The 9mm SMG had a run in the conventional military from 1918 to circa 1965-70, when assault rifles replaced most of them. It had a second lease on life in the 70s and 80s as a special operations CQB weapon. It was replaced by the 5.56mm carbine in military special operations for specific reasons, having to do with the 9mm’s range envelope. There have always been problems transitioning from the 9mm’s close-combat sweet spot to engage targets further out. A specific combat operation in Grenada in 1982 where American SOF found themselves outranged by meatheads with assault rifles was, if not the cause, the catalyst for the change.

But the police don’t have that reason to move to the 5.56 and they’re doing it, as far as we can tell, both because reliable 5.56 carbines are far easier to come by, and, perhaps, because of a certain “operator” cachet. They may be making an error. A 115 grain 9mm JHP will still overpenetrate in an indoor setting, but not like an M855A1 round will, and the 9mm (with modern defensive ammo) will do a decent job of putting an armed and hostile Wealth Redistribution Engineer down. It’s a tough call for the cops, though, because their rifle-engagement callouts are so rare, you can’t really say what the “usual” one is like. You can make some statistical inferences, but every new call is a roll of the dice, and it may turn out the capability needed is the barrier-blind penetration that a 9mm leaves on the table.

Having a 9 with the same manual of arms of the 5.56 is a plus. The Stag and Colt keep most of the key muscle memory points the same as on the rifle-cartridge AR. Even the very different, non-AR SIG MPX sought this same positive training transfer by keeping key fingerings (trigger, safety, mag release) identical to the AR.

If the Stag runs reliably, and there’s no reason to expect it not to, it gives 9mm carbine users another option besides trying to wring another year out of vintage and weary MP5s, going to the SIG MPX, going Colt or ditching the pistol round for 5.56. And on stuff like this, it’s good to have choices.

The technical stuff rom the Press Release:

Both the Model 9 & 9T series boast a 1/10 twist 16” heavy barrel, blowback action, a 6-position adjustable buttstock, and as always they are available in right & left hand configurations. The safety, charging handle, and magazine release function the same as any AR-15. However we have designed the actions of the rifles from the ground up. The rifles accept standard Colt style 9mm AR magazines which insert into the integrated magazine well in the lower receiver. The integrated magazine well won’t come loose or have feeding issues accompanied with drop in magazine blocks. Differences from a standard AR-15 can also be found in the lower receiver with a specially designed hammer, magazine catch, and buffer. In the Upper half, the bolt and carrier are one piece with a modified ejection port cover and brass deflector.

The Model 9 and 9T have different configurations. The Model 9 has a railed gas block and drop in Diamondhead VRS-T modular handguard with no sights. The Model 9T is the tactical version with a free floating 13.5” Diamondhead VRS-T modular handguard and aluminum Diamondhead flip up sights for faster target acquisitions. Both rifles will accept the Diamondhead rail sections for extreme customization.

For more information, and for the specs on each model, Read The Whole Thing™.

Be the Guy who Kicked Jesse Ventura’s Ass

Pred suit3No, not Chris Kyle. The other guy. Dude in Kirkwall, Scotland is selling a complete Predator suit for £4,800. We know some of you retired frogs working PSD have the money for the ultimate party suit.

If you don’t want to go to SEAL conventions and see Jesse leave by the back door, you could always stuff and mount it, in between your grizzly and lion mounts. From the ad:

Here I have an original Pete Mander AVP Predator suit, I am selling this as I really need the money for moving house.

The suit was fully custom made by Pete Mander and is unbelievably realistic, the suit is perfect down to the last detail.

The suit consists of (from the head down) :-

1- A set of latex and rubber dreadlocks.

2- Very real looking predator face mask.

3- The Scar & Celtic Biomasks.

4- Adjustable shoulder cannon.

5- 2x shoulder armour.

Pred suit4The ad, on the British sales website Gumtree, goes on and on in the sort of detail you’d expect from some cat in Scotland whose proudest possession is an $8,000 Predator costume. (What odds he works in the software industry?)

Technically, this is the later Predator from the movie AVP: Alien vs. Predator, but it’s definitely close enough for Hollywood. It’s got to be close enough to ruin Ventura’s day.

And you could probably make the money back PDQ in free drinks from frogmen.

When is a Used Scope Worth $5k?

With a couple hours left to go, this scope is over $4,800 at the CMP Auction site. It’s worth a lot because it’s a rarity, of no small historical significance.

USMC Sniper scope2

Anybody can stamp “USMC Sniper” on a scope, but when Unertl did it, the scopes went to the Marine Corps scout-sniper program — he never sold one to the civilian world. So everybody who’s a fan of Marine snipers, whether they’re real ones like Carlos Hathcock or the fictional kind like Bob Lee Swagger, wants one of these scopes.

Many years ago they were rebuilt by US Optics, and stored. And they wound up at CMP. They have a mil-dot reticle.

USMC Sniper scope3

You’re on your own for a mount… but if you need this you can solve that little problem.

USMC Sniper scope1

CMP Auction here.

We want this so bad we can taste it, but then we’d need to build the whole gun, and we’re not Marines around here… better to let the authentic Marines have it, but we’d sure like to see (and shoot? Pretty please?) the gun when it’s built.

Now, we SF guys need a 1980-vintage M21 with Leatherwood ART II. Sooner or later.


The scope sold for exactly $5,000. CMP doesn’t have another scope auction scheduled at present.