Category Archives: Consumer Alert!

One Man’s Trap is Another Man’s Treasure

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


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

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

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

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

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

SM-70 illustration as a poster: “Wanted: East Germany. The World’s Last Headhunter Reservation.”

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

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

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

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

Why are Rock Island Auction Catalogs so Expensive?

It’s a lot of money for an auction catalog: one costs $60 in the USA and $75 overseas, and it’s $165 or $210 respectively for a subscription for three Premiere Auctions (which also gets the Regional Auction catalogs, containing pieces without such nosebleed prices as the one-of-a-kinds that fill the Premiere auctions). What chump would pay those prices, and why?

We do, and we’ll tell you. First, there’s getting a package that weighs something like 8 pounds, and that makes you take out your letter opener.


Then, there’s what you see when you pop the lid.


This catalog, for the Premiere Auction taking place from 09-11 September 2016, is actually three glossy, beautifully printed volumes. They are spiral bound to lie flat, and inside there are hundreds and hundreds of heirloom  and investment-quality guns. The photographs are made with a technician’s craft and an artist’s eye, and the page layout rivals the best work in coffee-table books. And it’s an auction catalog, for crying out loud!

The catalog cover above is a row of historic early semi-auto prototypes, of which any one could b the centerpiece of a million-dollar collection. They have enough of these that reading the catalog is an education in early semi-auto blind alleys and also rans.

Rare Walthers? This is one of two AP prototypes, more or less identical and consecutively marked, that are being offered individually and as a pair. Each is likely to

bring a six-figure sum.


There are more rare and historic Colts and Winchesters than you can shake a peace pipe at:rock_island_catalog04

And Lugers. See what we mean about the photography and layout?


Here’s a Luger to conjure with — marked with The Man’s own monogram, (GL), it’s an experimental designed to work with heavier loads. The toggle is “reversed,” with the finger-grip cocking pieces normally attached to the rear link of the toggle attached to the front one instead.

rock_island_catalog07 rock_island_catalog06

Rock Island’s interest in getting the greatest possible amount for these firearms means they go all out to photograph them well and document their unique features and provenance.

There are a few lots in this auction that ran our Czech firearms gong. Along with a couple of ZH29s, an interwar semi rifle designed by the great Vaclav Holek and built in very small quantities for tests (including in England and  the USA), there were some great Czech and Bohemian pistols.

We’ve featured this very Bittner repeating pistol, built by the ethnic-German gunsmith Gustav Bittner in Weipert (Vejprty), Bohemia Province of the then Austro-Hungarian Empire, in the late 19th Century. At the time (if we recall rightly) it was offered for sale by Horst Held. This strange early pistol fit into the same sort of niche as the Volcanic pistol, in the interstices between single-shot and semi-automatic pistols. The trigger ring worked like a lever-action’s lever to reload from a Mannlicher-style en bloc clip. These pistols in any condition are rare; this is the nicest one we’ve seen.


Several Weipert gunsmiths worked on similar ideas. This next is a lesser-know Czechoslovak-related pistol:


In the period between the wars, the Czechoslovak Republic required a difficult-to-get permit for small pistols, defined by barrel length. This produced a quantity of domestic and imported guns with longer barrels. Most of the interwar long-barreled pistols, whether of Czechoslovak, German, Austrian, Spanish or other manufacture, tend to sport Czech proof marks.  There’s no mention of whether this Walther Model 1 has the Czech proofs, but we’d bet the guys at Rock Island a beer that it does.

Of course, not all good stuff is Czech! There’s also a good offering of Class III firearms.


Clockwise from upper left: Japanese aircraft MG; MP-40; German MG tripod; Madsen LMG with tripod and on bipod. There are actually a couple of MP-40s, including a DLO tube gun.

Yes, the catalog will make you lust after guns you can’t afford. C’est la guerre, Legionnaire! But as a wish book and reference it stands alone.

When 30 Rounds Will Almost Do It

There are times when you just feel unarmed with only 30 rounds in your magazine. Perhaps you feel diffident about stuffing some big monster like a 60-round Surefire or a Beta C-Mag in your magwell, because you only need a couple more rounds.

Sure, you could fall back on an MP-40 or STEN and have a handy 32 rounds but, well, you have all the ergonomics of the state of the art eighty years ago, and all the range and firepower of a pistol caliber round. There have been 40-round AR mags around for 40 years or so — Stirling used to make them for the AR-180 and AR-15 both — but nobody makes a 32 round AR magazine.

Correction, nobody made a 32-round AR mag. Behold, the Daniel Defense magazine:


These were announced a SHOT Show or two ago, but they’re showing up in stores now, and available online from Daniel Defense or from resellers like Midway and Brownells (Brownells also has 10-packs for a $1/mag savings. Midway might match that offer if you ask them).

In a local store, this is what the package looks like:


Now, we haven’t tried this magazine yet. We’re recommending it only on the strength of Daniel Defense’s rifles, rails and other products, which have been uniformly superior in our experience.

Of course, Daniel is quick to warn you that if you live in Libya, North Korea, New York or Massachusetts (Heil Healey!) you can’t have one.

Absent, of course, regime change.

Daniel Defense lists them as working with 5.56, .223, and .300 BLK in DD rifles and standard AR-15s; perhaps based on the problems Magpul has had, they make no claims of STANAG compatibility. (The thickening at the point below where the mag exits the AR magwell may be a problem with some other designs and even the 416). The only way to be sure is to test the mags, if you have a non-AR rifle or an AR with an unusual magwell design. Likewise, we can’t think of any reason it would not work with the .204 Ruger, for example, but DD makes no claim it does.

There are lots of magazine types and designs available now, and almost all of them work better than the early GI 30-rounders. (In our experience, the GI 20-rounders were better made and more reliable than the early off-brand 30s). There’s a lot of fad and fashion in magazine preferences — some of us are old enough to remember the Last Big Thing before MagPul, which was the black stainless HK “maritime” magazine. That was a fad — they’re pretty good magazines, but so are GI mags now, which a few years ago were redesigned again for the M4-cut feed ramps in the current barrel extension.

The ultimate proof of a mag is in test firing in the specific weapon in which it will be used. Do not waste time trying to repair a magazine that is prone to failure. Either destroy it, or label it clearly so that it only used in training (where occasional malfunctions build character … and skills). Don’t fall into the Army trap of treasuring the sunk cost of a failed magazine so much that you risk your life and your mission on it.

Retro American Service Rifles, Part 2: M16A1 from the Great State of Texas

Mostly, retro black rifles have been the province of individual builders and small gunsmiths. In the last year, Troy and Colt have gotten into the game with their respective carbines (Colt’s isn’t cataloged yet, but they’ve showed it; Troy sells GAU-5 and XM177E2 clones). But a company in Texas is offering something different from the CAR-15 variants that Troy is selling and Colt has promised (but not yet cataloged): M16A1 rifle clones.

Built with original M16A1 parts on a Brownell’s M16A1 lower (something that Nodak Spud OEMs for Brownell’s), the firearms match the profile and details of the iconic Vietnam-era rifle.

Say hello to My Little Friend:

my little friend

Yep, that’s a semi M16A1 with a (very real) M203, available in several states of NFA-ness (registered Destructive Device (DD), parts to register yourself on a Form 1, unregistered non-DD 37mm launcher or dummy). We believe the 203 is an LMT.

my little friend alternatives

Here’s the Tony Montana view:

my litle friend tony montana view

They are asking a rather mainstream $3,300 for the DD version. Sure, you could build it for less if you took your time and scrounged parts. But not for a whole lot less.

Texas Machine Gun & Ordnance is working to launch a full line of clones, plus other fun stuff (like flamethrowers).

Texas Machine Gun line

Their website is currently an early-days work in progress. But they have several auctions on GunBroker. Among them is an upper modeling the short Colt carbines from the classic caper movie Heat, a non-NFA “XM177” tribute (which uses a later barrel, the wrong diameter at the front sight base, unfortunately), an IDF Clone, and an “M4 GWOT Home Starter Kit” that shows they have a sense of humor (emphasis ours):

Texas Machine Gun & Ordnance “GWOT Home Starter Kit”. This is as close to the off-the-rack, sign the DA2062, M4 many of us were issued in the Global War on Terror. The rifle has a complete kit of Knights Armament rails, MaTech BUIS, and engraving to match an M4. The barrel is a 14.5 pin & welded extended A2 flash-hider, to make it non-NFA. For maximum authenticity, the package also includes a crisp, refreshing can of Rip-It energy drink, reflective belt to ward off all dangers, USGI 30rd magazine, and case. All items are new, except the BUIS, which shows some handling wear.

Gen-you-whine GWOT accessories. Note the authentic background!

Gen-you-whine GWOT accessories. Note the authentic background!

We laugh now. In 2116 collectors will be haggling over genuine reflective belts. (But will they be haggling in Arabic, or Mandarin?).

Here are a couple examples of their base M16A1 clone, priced at $1,225 plus $50 shipping to your FFL:


Their description:

This is one of Texas Machine Gun & Ordnance’s new retro rifle line, that’s a SEMI-AUTO ONLY M16A1 replica (it’s not a machine-gun). It is available with either a grey A1 style lower, or a black one that is engraved to match a USGI M16A1. It is also available with your choice of a duckbill, 3 prong, or M16A1 flash-hider. Stocks are used by in excellent condition, and all internal parts are brand new, with Sons of Liberty Gunworks’ BCGs. Gun comes with one 20rd magazine, sling, and case.

Here’s the receiver, showing the Brownell’s lower with TXMGO’s added crest and engraving.


For those of you still in the clone market, here’s a viable alternative to build-it-yourself and local armorer builds.







Novel 3D Printed Revolver Takes a Wrong Turn

Here’s an interesting 3D Printed Revolver of a design that we have not seen before — not the revolver, nor the drawings, nor the .STL files. There are a lot of revolver designs on GrabCad, for example, but not this one.

3D Printed Revolver

This .22 Magnum revolver strongly resembles the North American Arms mini revolvers, but doesn’t quite match their current product line. For example, here’s the current .22 Magnum model, NAA-22MS:

NAA 22 magnum

The barrel and the cylinder pin arrangement are different, but items like the spur on the trigger, the arrangement of the cuts, notches and marks in the rear of the cylinder, and location of  the hammer pin, all suggest an NAA design. However, the plastic gun has a visible trigger pin, and the NAA gun does not.

The printed gun appears to be molded of ABS or possibly nylon, which suggests that you’d risk injury by firing this thing. The cylinder of the original is (usually stainless) steel. A cylinder made to the same dimensions of material of vastly different physical properties will not match the original for safety — and ABS particularly, is a dreadful match for steel.

We might be bozos, but we're smarter than you goons who bring carry-ons with guns in 'em!

We might be bozos, but we’re smarter than you goons who bring guns in your carry-ons!

And then, there’s where the gun turned up — in a carry-on bag, at the security lines in the Reno airport, last Thursday: 4 August 2016. We are not making that up; the TSA may be the most inept team of chiflados to entertain us since Moe, Larry and Curly, but every week they find lots of guns that someone has tried to board an airplane with — usually, they note, inadvertently.

Unfortunately these sorts of occurrences are all too frequent which is why we talk about these finds. Sure, it’s great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the line is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested. The passenger can face a penalty as high as $11,000. This is a friendly reminder to please leave these items at home. Just because we find a prohibited item on an individual does not mean they had bad intentions; that’s for the law enforcement officer to decide. In many cases, people simply forgot they had these items.

It’s pretty sad when we can’t really make fun of the TSA on this occasion, because people in our own community — and that’s who this is, whether we want to admit it or not, our gun-using friends and neighbors — are acting even more foolishly.

And yet, this past week the TSA had their usual haul of about 70 pistols, 90% of them with loaded mags, and about 30% of them with a round chambered. Week prior? About 70 firearms, 90% loaded, about 40% chambered. Week before that? About 70 firearms, 90% loaded, about 36% chambered… we could keep going back for a very long time, and there are about 70 people screwing up and getting caught with a live firearm in their carry-on bag. Every. Damned. Week.

That’s not the TSA’s fault, people. That’s our fault.

It’s (look at the clock, and tell yourself the time). Do you know where your gun is?

Hat tip, Pete at The Firearm Blog.


Need a Centerpiece for your German WWII Collection?

How about an authentic, combat-deployed, Normandy-captured 88? Yep, the 8.8 CM Flak 36, lovingly and freshly restored by the now defunct Normandy Tank Museum, whose former displays — all of them, apparently — are hitting the auction block next month.


The good news: this is probably the best 88 in the world. The bad news? While it’s offered at no reserve, they expect it to go for €70,000-130,000. There are also a number of tanks and armored, amphibious and soft-skinned vehicles representative of the armies that met in Normandy in 1944, as well as small lots with mannequins and artifacts.

The auction is being conducted by French auctioneer Artcurial; the catalog website is bilingual French-English, there’s a .pdf press release and the catalog (.pdf of course) is downloadable.

The catalog has an excellent précis of this individual artillery piece’s history:


This fine example of a German “Flak 88” was assembled in 1942 by the Bischof-Werke in Sud Recklinghausen using components supplied by a multitude of manufacturers in both Germany and her Occupied Countries.

Here is just a small list of the many diverse companies who sent their output to Recklinghausen for incorporation into this deadly cannon:

  1. Gunsight optics by Steinheil Sohn of Munich;
  2. Electrictal system by Merten Gebruder of Gummersbach;
  3. Gun breech and heavy castings by Schoeller-Blecknaan of Niederdonau and Maschinenfabrik Andritz of Graz, Austria;
  4. Gun barrel and collar by Skodawerke in Dubinca, Slovakia;
  5. Electro-mechanical instruments by Siemens Schuckert of Budapest;
  6. Cable drum holders by Biederman & Czarnikow of Berlin;
  7. Cable drum reels by Franz Kuhlman of Wilhelmshaven;
  8. Major steel castings by Ruhrstahl AŽG of Witten-Annen;
  9. Bogie winches by VDM Luftfahrtwerke AŽG of Metz;
  10. Winch gearboxes by Gasparry & Co of Leipzig;
  11. Air brakes and fittings by Knorr Bremse, etc.


And of its provenance:

Origin and condition

This weapon has a true Battle of Normandy provenance. It was painted in the standard “Dunkel Gelb” or dark and finish [sic] and supplied in 1942 to a Luftwaffe anti-aircraft division where it found its way to Normandy in early 1943. By June 44, it was positioned in defense of a German Command Center located in an occupied chateau near to Cherbourg.When the Cherbourg pensinsula was over-run by the Allies in July/August, our weapon was captured intact by the Americans who, deciding it might be of some use, painted it olive drab green and presumably had some intention of using it.

As the Liberation of Europe continued, this 88 was left behind and was eventually destined to become a hard target on a firing  range. To this end, it was daubed with great splashes of bright orange paint but, thankfully, was rescued after the war by the French Army who repainted it in their own color and who most probably used it for training and educational purposes. After all, it was a very advanced weapon for its day and possessed many innovative technical features.

Finally, our weapon left French military service and passed through the hands of scrap dealers until nally being shut away in a huge barn by an eccentric collector – it has to be remembered that back in the 1970’s there was not a great deal of interest in German WW2 hardware.

And so it languished, becoming covered in grime and dirt until 2014 – all the time the multiple layers of paint ©aking and peeling and ending up a bizarre variegated hue. The Normandy Tank Museum rescued the weapon  and placed it in the hands of their highly experienced German restoration expert who, over a period of 8 months, brought the sad relic back to the amazing condition one sees today.

Missing or badly damaged parts have been replaced with locally sourced original replacements – an example of which was a set of the 3 part “Trilex” wheel rims and locking ring which our restorer found amidst a load of farmer’s scrap dumped in a forest when walking his dog.

The 4 brand new wheels and cartridge cases came from the Finnish Army who used them as practice rounds up till the 1980’s. They are obviously empty but, interestingly, are dated June 1944. The fuse nosecones are 3 anti-aircraft and one anti-tank. So a weapon with true Normandy provenance and a major rarity these days as many of the surviving and displayed “88’s” are of Spanish origin. This cannon is one of true German manufacture- a fact which adds significantly to its value.

The 88 was a revolutionary gun and its carriage, in particular, was copied not only by larger German AA guns used for homeland defense against the Allied bomber offensive (in 10.5 and 12.8 cm flavors), but also by American and Soviet AA gun designers.

Retro American Service Rifles, Part 1: M14

Vietnam Memorial Soldiers by Frederick Hart

You can get an Vietnam era rifle without getting bronzed, it turns out.

If you can afford a collection of service-type rifles, and have checked the key World War II blocks, two of the most iconic weapons are the guns of the Vietnam War: the M14 carried by the Marines and some Army units in the war’s earliest years, and the M16A1 carried by most US soldiers from 1965 on, and by the ARVN from 1970. Here’s examples of M14 clones that you can take home: an early M14 clone with an interesting history (thanks to OTR for sending this one in), and a rare M21 that was a deliberate “contract overrun” the manufacturer made for himself while producing a short run of snipers for a Special Forces unit.

Tomorrow, look for low-production M16A1 clones from a new vendor. If you’re well-off and generous, either would make a nice gift for the Vietnam Vet in your family.

The M14 was developed over 12 years at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, and what the taxpayers got was, basically, a slightly larger M1 with a larger box magazine, a slightly more compact (but ballistically equivalent) cartridge, a fairly useless select-fire capability, and a much better (from weight and accuracy standpoints) gas system. It was the last hurrah of the Springfield Armory (and its high cost for low innovation was one of the things that sank Springfield with the too-influential SecDef, Robert S. MacNamara). But the men who carried it (especially, the Marines who trained with it) loved the gun.

It was quickly adapted to target shooting by Marine and Army marksmanship units, and continued in this role for many years after the adoption of the M16A1 due to public (and competitor!) belief that the M16 design did not have the accuracy potential to be competitive at High Power or Service Rifle competition. (Someone who has only competed in these events recently might be surprised to hear that; now, the old Garand action guns struggle to compete with modern ARs). It was target shooters, first, who demanded competition-legal M14 clones. Former servicemen who’d used the rifle in training or combat were also a demand nexus.

M14: An Early Semi Clone

Before there was an M1A, there were other attempts at making semi commercial M14s. In fact, Lee Emerson, in Volume 4 of his M14 Rifle History and Development, Fifth Edition, lists no fewer than 19 manufacturers. The high-visibility and high-volume producer has certainly been Springfield Armory, Inc., of Geneseo, IL and Texas. But prior to 1989 significant quantities of Chinese rifles (marked Polytech or Norinco) were imported, Smith Enterprises and LRB Inc. have and continue to make high-end M14 clones, and numerous smaller builders have come and gone.

AR Sales M14 01

One of the earliest was A.R. Sales Company, which shared a location in South El Monte, California, with later M14 producers Federal Ordnance (Fed Ord) and National Ordnance. According to Emerson, 225 receivers were manufactured by A.R. Sales. Marked “Mark IV” (there is no sign of Marks I through III), and with 200 serial numbers from the range 1 to 225 and all 25 from 226-250, they were mated to surplus M14 parts by A.R. Sales’s armorers. A.R.’s (and Fed Ord and Nat Ord) receivers were investment cast and finish machined.

This rifle is Serial Number 34.

AR Sales M14 06

Because there was no selector or provision for one, the unsightly notch in the wooden M14 stocks was fitted with a plug carved to match. (This approach would later be used by others, too).

AR Sales M14 05

Is that a little bit of touch-up on the finish?

This A.R. Sales rifle was produced, shipped and sold in 1972. The auction is a model of how to set up a GunBroker auction (except that there’s no “M14” in the title for search convenience!): there are 68 (!) photographs, including close-ups of every feature and flaw in the rifle, and the complete provenance of the gun, which is proven by documents.

AR Sales M14 07

Amazing. The seller says this:

A letter from I.I. Karnes of A.R. Sales to customers and potential customers said that you could hold your position for an order with a $15 deposit. All rifles had National Match barrels (this one certainly does) but they weren’t glass-bedded or NM accurized.

Opening bid is $2,650; high for a generic M1A type clone, perhaps, but the originality and provenance of this rifle must tempt any American service rifle collector. If you want a lot of M14 clones, you ought to have this one; and if you only want one, why not make it one with a story?

M21: A One-Off

Smith Enterprise built a series of M21s for the newly-forming 1st Special Forces Group in 1984. Ron kept one as a personal rifle, sold it to another M14 enthusiast some 20 years later, and it’s now for sale again.

Smith M21 overview

These rifles were marked with the SF Crest before being heat-treated. All but Ron’s with this mark went to 1st Group. (Why mark a firearm with an OPSEC violation? Your guess is as good as anybody’s on that). All the others had selective fire provisions, so this is the only legit crested M21 that will ever be on the private market.

Smith M21 CrestWe believe that these were originally configured like the 1980s M21s we fired, with a Leatherwood ART II scope in a GI mount. This one has been set up since 2005 with a Leupold Mark IV (NTTAWWT, it’s what the Army did after the ART II).

Smith M21

This is a very high-end collector rifle and the seller expects a very high price.

Originally, we meant to cover some new M16 clones as well, but we found more to say about these M14s than we expected. Look for the ’16s tomorrow or Thursday morning.

There are Still Deals Out There

The new $100 is ugly as they come, but you'd still rather hang on to 'em than spend more than you have to.

The new $100 is ugly as they come, but you’d still rather hang on to ’em than spend more than you have to.

OTR called and asked if we wanted in on a deal. A Pennsylvania dealer, who is known for getting lots of local LE turn ins, had a batch of .38 revolvers: Smith and Wesson Model 10s and S&W Model 15s.

The Smith Model 10 is the original Military & Police, the company’s bread and butter product for decades. The six-shot, .38 Special revolver came in several barrel lengths, 4″ and 6″ being the most common, and featured fixed sights. From the 1920s through the 1980s, this (and its Colt Official Police competitor) was the quintessential cop gun.

The shop had them, unmarked police turn-ins, for $285. They varied in condition but were generally good or better, with some holster wear but little wear internally. (This is typical of cop guns, the median example of which is carried daily and shot annually).

The Model 15 (also called at time the Combat Masterpiece) is fundamentally the same gun, but with adjustable sights and a ramped front right. These were trade-ins from the same department, and were priced at $299.

OTRs New Smith

Did we want one? (OTR would then deliver it to a local FFL to us, straightforward and perfectly legal). The above one is the Model 15 that followed him home. He says the trigger is, “Nice,” which is pretty much what we’d expect for a Smith trigger of this vintage.

At $300, a gun like that was a deal five or ten years ago. It’s a better deal today, despite the popularity of autoloaders having relegated revolvers to near-antique status. For 80 years or so, American cops kept the peace with Smiths and Colts like this, and for that reason if no other,

We begged off because we still have a pile of pistols we’re sorting out. Literally.

Pile of Guns - 1

The Randall, we already had. (We needed something to open the boxes). Everything else is new to us, some of it stuff we’ve wanted for a long time, some of it bycatch. Some of the bycatch may be heading for the auctions itself before too long, along with an overall space clearing of the safes.

But we don’t have a really typical cop revolver…

A Sad Scope Story

An AR newbie posted the following to Reddit, under the alarming title, “Frustrating Weekend of Zero”. See if you can figure out why his weekend was frustrating.


So I just added a new Sig Sauer M400 Enhanced to my family this last month, and got a shiny new Barska to go atop it. I finally found a range that was outdoors and had a 50 yard target to me to get a 50/200 zero on.

This is the Barska scope on an AR from the Barska website. Note that it is not made to be used with a flip-up BUIS -- without messing up eye relief. But that's the least of its problems.

This is the Barska scope on an AR from the Barska website. (And yes, it’s on a full-auto post sample lower). Note that it is not made to be used with a flip-up BUIS — without messing up eye relief. But that’s the least of its problems. 

Some of you will have sussed the answer already. For the rest of you, we’ll drag a red herring in the form of his first couple frustrations…

First frustrating bit is that they tell me AFTER pay range fees for the day that no FMJ is allowed on the outdoor rifle range. Ok…so I buy their up priced ammo just to save me a trip to the closest store (~10 miles away) for range/target 5.56 ammo.

First: what odds that ammo restriction is on the range’s website?

Second frustrating thing was the staffer. I started with the iron sights at the 50 and the RSO there is literally pestering me every firing iteration about how I should be zeroing it at 25 yards. Anyhow, I get it nice and zeroed at the 18 round mark. 3 rounds each group. Still feeling pretty OK at this point. On goes the scope.

A lot of outdoor ranges are requiring frangible ammo now under EPA, etc., pressure. Until the bureaucrats are displayed along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway like Spartacus’s army, our only choice is to live with it. But he put the scope on, and as we are fond of saying, Then His Troubles Began™.

By the way, if anyone here has a similar setup be aware that the rail on the M400 is BARELY long enough to fit both the scope of this length and the rear sight on it. I had to put the sight on the forward-most slots and the sight on the rear-most. It actually extends a couple of mms over the bolt handle.

One of those “sight on the forward-most and sight on the rear-most”  was obviously meant to be the “scope.” The normal thing to do would be for the scope to be forward, but we have limited confidence in this guy’s gun savvy.

For most people, back-up iron sights are somewhere between an affectation and a gimmick. With a solid scope, you will not need them.

Anyways, the next frustrating part is that this scope is not intuitive to zero in. Even with the manual in hand. I field boresight to get on paper with the RSO looking at me like I have lost my mind. Looking down the open bore and then getting the scope close to where I can see it. This gets me on the paper. I quickly realize that this scope has these “locking rings” to keep the adjustment wheels from moving. The frustrating bit is that if they are locked in, you cant adjust (duh) but if they are TOO lose, the knobs will turn without clicking and without moving the sights at all. So its a freaking pain to sight in this scope.

This: “I quickly realize that this scope has these “locking rings” to keep the adjustment wheels from moving,” makes us wonder if he did anything with that manual except wave it around as a magic talisman. On the other hand, is the manual on any Chinese scope any good?

One gimmick that is a red flag for low-quality Chinese glass is the multi-color reticle.

One gimmick that is a red flag for low-quality Chinese glass is the multi-color reticle.

Because here we’re getting to the root of the problem: in terms of optics, nothing from China that’s exported here is any good. (Chinese optics on their own military firearms are fine, but that’s not the lowest-bidder crap they send us). Even if the manual weren’t in an uncharming patois with English, Chinese, and Christ-knows-what elements to it, the scope itself is likely to have any of a number of problems: DOA, reticle out of place, won’t hold zero, won’t adjust, fogs up, etc. etc. etc. It’s not just Barska, which name is a watchword for bottom-drawer, Airsoft-quality junk, but TASCO (These Are Simply Crappy Optics), Leapers, NCStar, Simmons, and any other trademark that’s now emblazoned on the products of Peoples Re-Enlightenment Prison & Factory #4628. (ETA: UTG, BSA, same junk with a different name).

This character had the no-system-to-the-adjustments problem, which is not universal but pretty common on the Walmart & Dick’s, etc., scopes.

My grouping every 3 rounds was fine, so I don’t think firing moved the sights at all, but the adjustments were crazy. 12 clicks down to put me twice as far as I wanted, from about 4 inches above the target to 4 below. So I went 6 up…then 4 more up, then 4 more up, then 2 more up to get on target. Made no sense to me. Regardless I finally get it zeroed and Ive been in the heat for hours now. I am done and relieved to be done with it. I start tightening the lockdown rings on the scope…and I hear them making clicking noises. **** me…I knew I just ruined my zero, and I know that although I reversed the exact same number of clicks that this scope is funky. My zero is probably gone after all that work. I went from frustrated to plain pissed off, and at that point just decided to call it a day and head home. I will at least be on paper next weekend and go from there.

Elsewhere in the thread, he explains that the Barska scope was a gift. He amended his post to include:

Since I am getting a lot of comments about the scope. I understand that its not top quality. But it IS gift quality. And thus I use it. It is in itself not a bad scope to use for shooting. My groups are good, sights are stable during and after firing…its just a pain to adjust. I am just hoping that after I get it locked in I will never have to touch the adjustments again.

Unfortunately, a scope that seems to hold zero but that has no logic to its adjustments is unlikely to continue to hold zero. Our heart goes out to this guy. A well-meaning relative has given him something that looks like a scope, and that is, in true Chinese-maker style, laden with advanced-sounding features, but deficient in quality control and basic functionality.

His basic choices at this point are:

  1. Return the scope (and risk disappointing his relative) in the fond hope that another one with be without problems;
  2. Live with it, and “hope” it doesn’t get worse, which is clearly what he’s decided to do;
  3. Start saving for a real scope.

“Just as good for half the money” is not a term that has any grip in the low end of the optics market. (The high end? Maybe). And any expenditure is wasted, even $59, if it’s on a scope that you can’t trust. 

A Chinese scope is not automatically bad. Maybe one in four will take zero, hold zero, adjust correctly, and last for years. Two in four will start off like that and fail on at least one of those in twelve months or less — usually, much less. And the fourth is DOA, like this fellow’s. That is not a product you can trust, and right now China, Inc. can sell as many of these things as they can make at a profit, so they have little incentive to improve the product. There’s nothing different about Chinese people that makes it hard for them to make scopes, but their industrial and social organization is at odds with modern quality control practices. In plain English, even when they have a QC process in place, they’re incentivized to cheat on it, and they do.

How will you know when the Chinese make a good scope? When they proudly put a Chinese name on it. Ain’t happened yet.

The good news is that you don’t need to spend a fortune or buy a trusted name (Leupold, Nightforce, Trijicon) to have a decent scope. You can seek out a used scope from when Simmons, Bushnell, Tasco, etc. were not badge-engineered Chinese junk. (The fact that these names are now applied to Chinese scrap-value scopes depresses the prices of the older, higher-quality glass!)

Look for scopes made in the USA, Japan, or the Philippines. (Many of the Filipino scopes are made with lenses ground and coated in Japan, so they tend to punch above their weight in clarity & light transmission).

As a rule of thumb, your optic should cost you about what your gun did. (Hark! We hear squawks of alarm). It’s not an “accessory,” it’s a vital component of your fire control system. But assuming Chel$ea Clinton hasn’t taken up shooting, the rest of you may need to compromise on your optic.  The good news is that you can without going all the way to the bottom of the barrel.

For $100 more than the scope from the Peoples’ Re-Enlightenment Prison & Factory #4628, you can get a Filipino-assembled scope that will have had some quality control at the factory. You won’t be playing in Nightforce territory and the Schmidt undt Bender snobs will still sneer at you, but you’ll be spared the miserable weekend this guy just had, trying to zero a shoddy scope.


AR-10 Sniper Reweld — On GB and Sold in a Flash

Seeing that this had already come, and gone, on GunBroker, was a bit like being King Arthur and the boys and hearing that the French knight would not join our quest for the Holy Grail, ’cause “‘E’s already got one.”

original AR10 sniper 01

Some lucky knight has now got the Holy Grail of early AR collecting, albeit a rewelded semi-auto version; but it’s as near as an ordinary mortal will get to the original as long as the Hughes Amendment stands.

Well, here it is, deep from the recesses of my collection, the legend of legends……………….For sale one each original 1960 Portuguese AR-10 sniper rifle manufactured by “Artillerie Inrichtingen (AI) of Holland.

original AR10 sniper 03

No-this isn’t a pretend AR-10 such as the contemporary Armalite, DPMS, or any of the other .308 AR-15’s, THIS IS A REAL AR-10. Original AR-10’s in and of themselves are scarce; this is an EXTREMELY RARE sniper rifle.

He’s got a point there. The only other one of these we’ve seen was in a government museum.

original AR10 sniper 04

I’ve had it since 1995 (which is the last time I shot it) and it’s time to pass it on to somebody else. The rifle is complete and original. The lower receiver was expertly welded together from an original band saw cut and de-milled Portuguese AR-10 by Lloyd Hahn who received permission from the ATF before he did the work so it’s all done in compliance with the law (I don’t do “grey area’s).

original AR10 sniper 02

Unlike the various after-market AR-10 receivers such as Central Kentucky Arms, Specialty Arms, H&H, Telco, Sendra, etc. this actually looks like an original AR-10 lower (cuz’ it mostly is) receiver markings and all.

The aluminum H&H is pretty good, but it doesn’t duplicate the original markings, except for the serial number.

original AR10 sniper 12

SCOPE-original Delft, 3.6 X 25, excellent condition with clear optics

original AR10 sniper 19

*UPPER RECEIVER-a real sniper upper (in case somebody should ask, it would next to impossible to correctly machine the proper sniper scope cuts in an ordinary Portuguese upper) *You may notice a piece of tape behind the ejection port in the photos, no it ain’t holding the rifle together ;-)I put that on in 95’ to mitigate any brass “dings” on the upper receiver.

original AR10 sniper 14


BARREL-NO Shaw repro, it’s a very good condition Portuguese with a shiny bore (most Portuguese aren’t)

Again, the seller is on the level here. Our AR-10 barrel is “pretty good for a Porto” and the usual run of them is more in the “what were they doing with these things, growing potatoes?” condition.

original AR10 sniper 20

STOCK-Unlike most Portuguese stocks this one has an excellent rubber butt pad. There are however several very small cracks in the stock which have been expertly repaired.

The early fiberglass stocks were brittle and the resin degraded under ultraviolet light.

original AR10 sniper 10

HANDGUARDS-The fiberglass is in excellent condition with no cracks or scuffs, most Portuguese bipod handguards are a little “scruffy”, this is the best Portuguese bipod handguard I’ve ever held in my hands.

Haven’t seen one this good (including the one in the museum), ourselves.

Bipod-good-very good condition fully functional with no rust, mostly original finish. MAGAZINES-four come with the rifle.

Well, at least we’ve got more mags than that.

original AR10 sniper 17

Thanx for looking! PS-This is the same sniper rifle which was featured in the book, “The ArmaLite AR-10 Rifle”. Hit “Buy it now” and I’ll throw in the book with the sale,

via ORIGINAL ArmaLite AR-10 SNIPER Rifle (Portuguese) : Semi Auto Rifles at

The “Buy It Now” price was $12,000, and the running joke is that half of it was for the rare Maj. Sam Pikula book. (Which has fortunately been replaced, finally, by a better book after decades out of print).

Exit question: was the knight in question Reed Knight? He has most variants of AR-10 in his collection, but we don’t think he had the ultra-rare sniper.