Category Archives: Consumer Alert!

SIG Wins Army MHS Contract – Up to $580 Million

A version of the SIG P320 modular pistol has won the Army’s Modular Handgun System contract, and has been tasked to provide pistols, accessories such as holsters and suppressors, and ammunition.

The pistol will replace the M9 and M11 pistols over the next ten years; then those firearms will join the M1911 and M1873 in honored retirement.

Is this what they want? The SIG P320 family. The compact is the “Goldilocks” midsize — about the same size as a G19.

The DOD slipped the contract out on the last day of the outgoing Administration, perhaps because of noises from the Senate that were encouraging incoming Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis to cancel the program, the initial phase of which has already cost $350 million. Alternatively, it could simply be that the Army’s bureaucracy at Picatinny just got done shuffling the papers today.  Complete text of the DOD contract announcement:

Sig Sauer Inc., Newington, New Hampshire, was awarded a $580,217,000 firm-fixed-price contract for the Modular Handgun System including handgun, accessories and ammunition to replace the current M9 handgun.  Bids were solicited via the Internet with nine received. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of Jan. 19, 2027.  Army Contracting Command, Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, is the contracting activity (W15QKN-17-D-0016).

OTR notified us from his sources at around the same time that one of our readers flagged us to Soldier Systems Daily in the comments to another post.  Soldier Systems Daily was, as far as we know, the first publication online with the story. CWCID.

The P320 has been well received, more so than the hammer-fired P250 that had teething problems that cost it the Federal Air Marshals Service contract some years ago. Tam Keel put a thousand or two rounds downrange from one last year; the NRA awarded it the Golden Bullseye for Handgun of the Year in June.

Stand by for an announcement from SIG (their PR shop works slowly and indirectly at the best of times). This is where their press release would be, if they had one.

This may fill in some of the blanks that we don’t know from the one-paragraph DOD contract announcement:

  • What color? The contract suggested the military preferred a brown or FDE shade of weapon, like the P320 Compact shown dismantled above.
  • What caliber? SIG submitted both 9mm and .40 S&W firearms.
  • Pure striker-fired, or with safety?

If the news hits before our post goes live in about 11 hours, we’ll add an update below.

Congratulations to the hard-working team at SIG, and condolences to the eight other teams that competed for this contract. The problem with any such competition is that choosing a “best” from a field of very good firearms (or anything else) is inherently subjective and difficult. If you recall the JSSAP trials that yielded the M9, runners-up included SIG’s then-flagship P-series DA/SA pistols, Smith & Wesson’s generation of DA/SAs, and several others that, like the SIG and Smith, found markets elsewhere, just as the rejects, this time including Smith and Glock among others, will this time.


The Firearm Blog has some details from SHOT, still sketchy, and this photo of what is the winning firearm, the P320 Compact, presumably in 9mm, with ambi manual safety. Nathaniel promises to keep that page updated, if and when the SIG bigs issue a statement.

TFB says this is the M17, or as close as SIG has at the show.

Here are some pictures of the P320 MHS manual safety firearm as submitted. These are all originally from SIG sources, although we ganked them from here and there over the last two years of the MHS program. The full size and compact submissions:

There’s a great deal of interchangeability. Eli Whitney, eat your heart out.

Here’s a close-up of the manual safety. It seems well-designed both to avoid snags and to be positive in operation. 

This does put the SOF Glock contracts at risk, for budgetary reasons. It would be very hard to quantify the superiority of the G19 over this pistol. Meanwhile, the SOF pistols come out of SOF specific money, Major Force Program (MFP) 11. MFP-11 is a finite amount; if SOF were to specify pistols that were a standard Big Green (Blue, Haze Gray, etc) NSN, the service would buy the pistols out of its general-purpose forces money, and that would leave the MFP-11 money for other SOF uses (other SOF-peculiar weapons, communications equipment, engineeer equipment, etc.).

This contract is big news in Gun Universe but back on Soldier Planet it’s not that big a deal. A pistol is almost always a secondary weapon, and the dirty little secret is that just about any service pistol will do — the SIG, the Glock, the SEALs’ P226, the Beretta, hell, the 1911. In combat, your big killers are your air and artillery, and then, your machine guns, and then, your rifles. The pistol is there for the same reason that there is a reserve canopy in your parachute rig — a backup, and a confidence builder.

Where to Find SHOT News

The SHOT Show is on, and we’re not there, but there’s some interesting releases being made, and there’s a lot of media covering it, mostly, well. Here are the ones we’re reading:

  • The Firearm Blog. They’ve got quite a team on site gathering information.
  • Shooting Illustrated (an NRA publication). All their SHOT 2017 news should be on their SHOT Show page.
  • The Gun Feed. Always the best for daily gun links. More gun news than you can read! And they’ve been posting SHOT roundups.
  • A single thread that has the declining-with-thread-length quality that ARFCOM is famous (or infamous) for.

It’s hard to cherry pick stuff from everything there, but we’ll pull out two posts we liked.

There’s some great news for anyone using the AR platform for hunting varmints (4-legged type): the .22 Nosler. Read down into the comments on that post to see Daniel E. Watters compare it to some forgotten (except, by him!) experimental and wildcat cartridges of many years ago.

And at TFB, Nathaniel F has an update with photos of a display mockup of the M110A1, an HK product that won a Compact Semi-Auto Sniper System bid to replace the existing M110s, which were made by Knight’s Armament Company.

What’s an Original 1911 Worth?

Well, this one didn’t draw a bid… even for a penny.

And a penny bid would have taken it… it was a no reserve auction.

Obviously, you didn’t see it, and we didn’t see it. And no, they didn’t relist it that way.

We’re guessing that this was an error by the seller, a pretty high-volume FFL.

(The link to the auction is still live at press time. At some point it will go stale).

Had someone bid the cent, he’d either have gotten a gun valued between $1k-2k for $35.01 plus his transfer fee (there was a $35 shipping charge, which is fairly standard), or the seller would have had to plead error, welsh on the sale, and risk getting toxic feedback.

The pistol was a relatively uncommon M1911 (not A1) pistol. The 1911A1 was introduced in 1927, and all the vast quantities of pistols that were made from then to 1945 were A1s. But the original 1911 was the World War I pistol, and some original 1911s — rebuilt several times –served right up to the last days of the .45.

We’re kind of glad this sale didn’t happen… we all like to get a bargain, but who likes to see a seller get ripped off, even due to his own error? We all benefit from a healthy gun-industry economy, including manufacturers, importers, and retailers.

Of course, if someone had snagged the 1911 for very short money, the seller would have had one positive result from it: he’d never, ever make that mistake again.

Hudson H9: Striker Fired 1911

Somewhere, the acolytes of the Order of the Browningian Brothers are digging through the corners of their monastic cells, finding and gathering sword and sandals, and embarking on a quest to lop off a head.

For at 0900 today, the latest profanation of the 1911 As JMB Wrought It hits the market, or at least, SHOT Show. The Hudson H9 has been teased a bit on the company website and at Recoil magazine that we can make some statements about what it is and what it isn’t.

It is, basically, a 1911 form factor frame, widened to accept a double-column, single-feed magazine, that may hold 20 rounds; the frame houses a trigger that moves straight back — As JMB Wrought It. Some of the pictures show a Glock-like trigger safety, albeit hinged at the bottom of the trigger…

….but the patent drawings show a very conventional 1911 style trigger and trigger bow. Likewise, the patents show an ambidextrous manual safety, ambi slide release, and a coventional 1911 grip safety. The prototypes show a manual safety on the left side only but an ambi slide release.

The weapon is easily taken down by a takedown catch that moves 90º. Prototypes are made of billet steel (slide) and CNC milled billet aluminum (frame). Production slides are machined from drop-forged blanks. Teaser images shown by Hudson show a 3D printed development dummy gun…

… and half-machined billet prototype frames.

Other teaser images were posted, challenging viewers to choose beauty or function… or both.

The pistol does indeed look like a kitbash of a Glock and a 1911. The slide looks like it escaped from one of Gaston’s sweatshops… apart from the “long face”:

And indeed, its most unconventional feature visually is its long face or deep chin, containing a patented recoil mechanism. The patent application for this feature is dense lawyerese, prolix and vague, and runs to 42 pages (an additional design patent is just a couple of pages), so it’s rather difficult to discern just what exactly they’re claiming (lawyers love this… it guarantees their guild lots of chances to run the meter).

The objective of the new recoil system, in which a groove in the barrel acts as a pivot point around a steel crossbar that is also the take-down latch, is apparently to reduce muzzle flip and allow the barrel to be seated lower in the firing hand than is possible with a conventional 1911 where the recoil mechanism is over the trigger rather than in front of it as in the H9. With that, and the weight of a fullsize pistol loaded with lots of rounds, the H9 could be just the ticket for speed shooters, guaranteeing fast follow up shots.

Hudson claims that test-firing validated this:

The first round left the chamber and with it all concern vanished. Thanks to the extremely low bore axis, the felt recoil and muzzle rise were virtually imperceptible. All the pieces had finally fallen into place.

That is a predictable result from a lowered bore axis, and it gibes with what users of other lowered-bore pistols like the Steyr and the Caracal (which is to be reintroduced at SHOT) have experienced.

We do note that the H9 exploded view from the patent…

… doesn’t match the disassembled shot Recoil posted, the more conventional barrel lugs of which suggest a more conventional locking arrangement.

In any event, the low bore axis of the H9 appears to be a reality.

We hope to update this post (and we hope we don’t have to correct it) once the reveal is made.

For more information:

Finally, Hudson’s Director of Training is well-known Ohio instructor Chris Cerino, a former cop and Air Marshal and a top competitor. Chris is facing a pretty tough challenge right now – cancer. And chemo’s kicking his ass. If you’re a former student, worked with him here or there, or want to drop him a word of support or encouragement, his family set up a Facebook page. Don’t expect an answer, because 100% of his energy has to go into beating the big C so that he can get back to a new normal. If you’re a praying man or woman, you know what to do.


After the reveal, there’s more information on the Hudson Manufacturing website. We did have one error above, the basic mag holds 15 rounds (we thought the 20 rounds in the ammo box in one of the photos was A Clue®. Nope, it was A Prop®). Also, the manual safety is optional, and there’s no mention of a grip safety, even though the prototype and patent illustrations showed one.  Some excellent “upgrades” are standard on this gun including a Trijicon night front sight, G10 VZ grips and Hogue lower backstrap. Alas, no threaded barrel?

The list price is $1,147 and the H9 will be sold only through channels (jobbers, distributors). Here’s a quick table of specs (metric are our calculations from Hudson’s figures, rounded).

MSRP:  $1,147.00
imperial metric
Overall Length (in/mm)
7.625 194
Overall Height (in/mm)
5.225 133
Overall Width (in/mm)
1.24 31
Barrel Length (in/mm)
4.28 109
Empty Weight oz/g
34 966
Trigger pull (lb/kg)
4.5 – 5 2.05 – 2.72
Trigger travel (in/mm)
0.115 3
Sight Radius
6.26 159

The KM17s Follows the Leader

Australia, which now prides itself on being semi-auto-rifle and homicide-free, once not only designed and manufactured such rifles, but exported them. The Australian Leader rifle in 5.56 never won any contracts we’re aware of. But a quantity of them sold here, and they have won some converts. It shares some mechanical features with the Armalite AR-18 series, and seems like it could work well.

Ian did a very good video on the Leader rifle at Forgotten Weapons.

Various versions including 7.62mm and bullpup versions were tried, and a version of the bullpup went into production by Bushmaster, ending when Cerberus yanked Bushmaster’s chain. A review in a recent American Rifleman brought to our attention the re-launch of a much improved version of the bullpup as the KM17S556. Like Charles St. George of Leader nearly 40 years ago, the head of K&M Arms, Ken McAllister, envisions a whole line of these rifles; success of the 5.56 model that has been making the review circuit will enable all that.

Bullpups have been in the news a lot, thanks largely to the Israeli adoption of the modern Tavor, which has also been an export success for Israel Weapons Industries, with about 20,000 Tavors a year finding new homes in America, despite a boycott maintained by dozens of smelly campus hippies as part of the Boycott, Divestment, Stink movement. Perhaps due to rapid modification of the issue gun and the slower pace of ATF approvals, the design of the civil and military Tavors has diverged, but the rifle remains popular despite a high price. (Almost $2k before optics). Other bullpups come and go, including AUGs, MSARs (an American AUG knock-off), and two models from Kel-Tec; the compactness of the bullpup system always intrigues buyers. The original AUG and a Croatian design, as well as FN’s 5.56 and PDW bullpups, continue in military service here and there, even though Steyr seems to have thrown in the towel on bullpup designs, and is returning to a conventional layout.

The Leader of 1978 is unrecognizable in the KM17S, apart from its internals. It has a three-lug bolt, a gas tappet design (like Tokarev, Simonov, and Saive FN designs) and is designed to quickly field-strip without tools into three large assemblies.

(NRA photo)

The Leader and all its successors are designed for easy manufacture. On the Leader, the upper receiver was pressed steel. On its bullpup derivations, it’s a machined aluminum extrusion — very fast and inexpensive to produce, in quantity.

Its path from Australia to Maine to Arizona has been long and has seen many minds and hands work on it; if McAllister can produce and distribute them to the legions of bullpup fans out there, the Leader may have a new lease on life. If so, it will be an overnight success — a generation in the making.

The original inventor of the Leader was an Aussie named Charles St. George. He developed the Leader T2 in the 1970s and modified it many times with the hopes of selling it to the Australian defence (as they spell it!) forces. Many improvements were developed for the military M18, such as ambidextrous dual non-reciprocating charging handles, and persist in its descendants today. The military bought the AUG instead — Australia still manufactures a version locally —  and St. George’s bullpup version, which he called the T18, never was produced as such in quantity. Instead, he licensed it to Bushmaster, which produced it in small quantity from about 1992 to 2005. At some point in time, Leader went paws up and a small quantity of continuation T2s were made by a firm called Australian Automatic Arms; at least some of these had wood stocks in a “postban configuration” per the US 1994 gun ban law, as seen here on Forgotten Weapons. Per Ian, importation to the USA of the Leader was only about 2,000 units.

Meanwhile, McAllister had a machine shop in Chandler, Arizona, called K&M Aerospace. Apart from the custom aerospace and automotive manufacturing he did, he began to make parts to customize and improve bullpup rifles after getting hooked on the platform by a Bushmaster M17S that he picked up. His upgrades included trigger improvements, weight reductions, rails systems, even cheekpieces, and he began to manufacture replacement parts for the M17 community. From there, it seemed a short step to manufacture, although the KM17S’s path from decision to market — if it is, really, indeed on the market now that reviews are showing up — was over five years long.

The bullpup design appeals to owners who would like to have a modern rifle with a different style or flare. It has proven to be a very hard sell to armies, but there’s certainly demand for bullpup rifles out there, and K&M’s design is unique in the market in not being largely polymer. (It’s mostly steel and aluminum). The NRA found it shot 2-inch groups.

For More Information:

Free Novel by Nick Cole

Nick Cole is an actor and writer, who lost his publisher over the excellent novel CTRL, ALT, Revolt! last year. (We reviewed it here in one of our capsule-review roundups).

At the time (21 October, it says here –>), we also bought another Nick Cole novel, The Red King. It’s a strange apocalyptic tale that merges the we-got-nuked category of apocalypse with the omigawd-zombies category. While we suppose that’s not entirely original (weren’t Godzilla and The Great Behemoth products of nuclear bombs raising scary creatures?), Nick’s play on the book is original.

We forget what we paid for it, probably $2.99, but it was well spent, and now we want to share with you the fact that Nick has made it free for some time (I dunno how long, it’s Nick’s call) on Nick explains it:

I just wanted to start out 2017 with a Free Book for anyone who wants to get lost in an adventure and take a break from all this end of the world doom and gloom.  It’s a book about the end of the World!!!!  Except fun!  Think Lost meets The Walking Dead.

Of course, Nick has a couple of sequels out now, in what he’s calling the Wyrd series, and surely he hopes people like Your Humble Blogger who read and enjoyed The Red King, buy his other books and enjoy them, too.

And he wants you to get hooked on this kind of apocapopcorn crack, too. So go for it!

We do say that we found his characters… interesting. The protagonist, Holiday, is not especially likable, but you wind up rooting for him anyway. (Joe Finder has done this, too, given readers an unpleasant protagonist who still wins your sympathy and support, even if you are glad all your friends and family members are better people).

Most people who read The Red King will probably like the action scenes best, but Nick has a good ear for dialogue. Maybe that comes from his acting chops, maybe not. Here’s an example, in which Holiday is given some harsh if oblique criticism by Frank, a Vietnam vet:

“Fun guys are for Saturday night,” began Frank anew. “But you see, all this end of the world jazz… this ain’t Saturday night anymore. This is survival now. End of the world type stuff. Back in ‘Nam we didn’t have room for fun. That was for the college kids burning their draft cards and smoking marijuana. Calling us baby-killers so they could make their professors proud of ‘em. In ‘Nam it was serious. Every day for thirteen months and sixteen days. I knew guys that got it early and guys that got it at the end. Taking it seriously made a difference. At least sometimes.”

A bat flapped overhead in the dark, its leathery wings beating at the stillness and heat of the night.

“Other times,” continued Frank after drawing on his cigar. “Someone else got it because another guy didn’t do his part. Usually because he was too busy goofing off. All because he just wanted to have some fun. And that’s where we are now, kid.”

Cole, Nick (2015-12-23). The Red King (Kindle Locations 3135-3142). Nick Cole. Kindle Edition.

Nick provides this shortened link:

Which enlongenates to:

Amazon has it listed under Science Fiction, but there’s no droids or phasers here, just a post-nuclear, zombie-filled LA. Kind of like Rodney King Riots that never end.

We hope you enjoy The Red King as much as we did.

How Many Johnsons Does One Man Need?

New Market Arms has a range of Johnson M1941 rifles including a rare tolroom prototype. A couple of them are for sale on GunBroker — thanks to commenter Josey Wales for tipping us off — and more are on the website. We want them all, but we’ve already got a couple of Johnsons, and how many does one need?

The right answer, of course, is “need doesn’t enter into it” with these rare and historic firearms.

The rarest of them is this tool room prototype, numbered S-3. (And see the GunBroker auction here).

This is a very rare, one of only six manufactured, Johnson Automatics Model 1941 Tool Room Sample Rifle in .30-06, that is still in its military configuration.

An amazing set of almost 200 photos of this rifle is available. It includes comparison between this pre-production and production Johnsons that are of great interest to all Johnson students and collectors.

An agreement was ultimately reached between Johnson Automatics and the Universal Windings Company that resulted in the establishment of the Cranston Arms Company of Cranston, Rhode Island, which would produce Johnson’s Model 1941 Rifle. Cranston Arms also produced Johnson’s Model of 1941 Light Machine Gun, which shared several design features with his semi-automatic rifle. Cranston Arms (a subsidiary of Universal Windings), Johnson Automatics, Inc. and Johnson Automatics Manufacturing Company (JAMCO) set up shot next to Universal Windings and produced its first assembly line rifle, serial number S-1 in April 1941. On April 19, 1941, the employees gathered at the factory rifle range for the first firing of serial number S-1. As Bruce Canfield states in his book, “Maynard Johnson picked up the first rifle off the line and carefully loaded it. He took aim at the target located at the other end of the 100-yard range, carefully squeezed the trigger and fired the rifle. To his astonishment, and the other witnesses’ shock and amazement, the rifle did not extract and eject the spent cartridge case and it failed to function as a semiautomatic. It is reported that Johnson nearly bit his frequently present cigar in half in irritation, frustration and rage.”

Canfield goes on to explain that the rifle could only be operated by direct manipulation of the bolt. The rifle was quickly unloaded and disassembled with all of the component parts compared against the blueprints. It was quickly discovered that Cranston Arms had failed to properly machine one of the bolt cams. The bolt was machined to specification, reinstalled into the rifle and the rifle was loaded for firing. This time Johnson’s rifle performed perfectly.

This particular rifle, Serial Number S-3, was probably manufactured the same day or within a day or two of rifle S-1 noted above. It is believed that only six of these tool room sample rifles with the “S” prefix were manufactured. The full production rifles were serial numbered in accordance with Dutch military policy, in serial numbered blocks of 9,999 rifles. The first block from serial number 0001-9999 did not have a prefix. The second block had prefix “A” and the third and final block of production had prefix “B.”

S-3 is interesting because, unlike the early R-models, it’s almost exactly like production guns. The differences are small and subtle and are detailed on the sales page,

As noted, this particular Johnson M1941 Rifle is serial number S-3 and is one of the initial tool room sample rifles manufactured by Cranston Arms. As can be clearly seen in the comparison photos, this tool room sample differed slightly from the final production model as Cranston and the Johnson team made some additional refinements prior to commencing main line production.

This rifle is in fine condition. The original barrel is in its original 22” military configuration with the sight protective ears and the bayonet lug. The front sight assembly is slightly different than production models with the machining and height of the front sight post slightly shorter on this tool room sample than the later production models. The front sight pins remain correctly staked in place and have never been removed. The barrel has 98% of its original finish. The barrel has strong rifling and a mirror bore so this will be an excellent shooting rifle. The muzzle gauges at approximately 0.5 and the muzzle crown remains perfect.

The Barrel Bushing has the correct “.30-’06” and “41” markings stamped on the face. The font is different, however, than later production rifles. Near the breech it has the “O [Gladius Sword] I” in a circle stamp found on all early Johnson 1941 Barrels. It is also correctly marked “J.A./30-06,” still crisply stamped. The Locking Bushing is in excellent condition with normal wear on the lugs. This bushing is also slightly different than production models in that the lugs here are more squared whereas the lugs on later production models were slightly rounded. The breech face remains in the white. The threads can be seen, which also differs from later production models. Both the Barrel and Locking Bushing have the matching assembly number “6664K” stamp. None of the M1941 Johnson Rifles were serial number matching so all of the Johnson 1941 Rifles will have different numbers on the bolt and barrel. The original Bayonet Lug is present. The first tool room rifle, serial number “S-1,” did not have the bayonet lug attached. It is unclear if serial number “S-2” had a bayonet lug so this could be the first of the Johnson rifles with this lug configuration.

The Receiver retains virtually all of its original parkerized finish. It has the correct “CRANSTON ARMS CO.” triangle on the right rear of the receiver. Significantly, it does not have the star stamp above the triangle. The star indicated original Dutch acceptance according to Bruce Canfield, prior to Japanese occupation of Dutch possessions in the Pacific and before these rifles were then offered to the Marine Corps. Since this was a tool room sample, it would not have received the Dutch acceptance star since it was never intended to be shipped to the Dutch. The Receiver markings are still very crisp on the top of the receiver. These markings include Johnson’s patent information, “JOHNSON AUTOMATICS” over “MODEL OF 1941,” and the manufacturer’s location, “MADE IN PROVIDENCE, R.I., U.S.” The font and size of the receiver markings are slightly different than later production models. Below that is the serial number “S-3.” All of the stampings remain crisp. The ventilated forward portion of the receiver, which becomes a ventilated top handguard, retains virtually all of its original parkerized finish.

The Rear Sight Assembly is in very fine condition and it also differs slightly from later main line production rifles. The Windage Knob is in fine condition and adjusts perfectly. The Aperture remains in its original military configuration. The Rear Sight Protective Wings retain virtually all of their original finish and differ slightly than later production models. The Rear Sight Elevator has a different font than later production models. The numbers on the right side still have the original paint that has yellowed slightly.

The original Firing Pin Stop Assembly is present and it retains all of its original blue finish. The original Firing Pin is present and it differs from later production models by slight machining differences towards the point. The Firing Pin retains virtually all of its original parkerized finish. The pin has the assembly number “J9303” on the side along with a “0” stamp towards the front. The Firing Pin Spring remains in the white.


The Bolt Catch Assembly is present and differs from later production models by the length of the machined channel.

This Johnson Model 1941 comes with a very rare and original Dutch Model leather sling. .

This Johnson Model 1941 Rifle also comes with an original and very rare Johnson Model 1941 Bayonet and leather scabbard.

This is an extraordinarily rare Johnson Model 1941 Tool Room Sample Rifle and is just the third of these pre-production rifles manufactured.

What is its provenance?

This rifle was purchased by an employee of Cranston Arms when the rifle was manufactured and was passed down through his family to his grandson. This rifle is in the exact condition it was when it was manufactured in 1941 and undoubtedly was fired by Maynard Johnson himself.

On the website, New Market is asking $16,000 for S-3; on GunBroker, bids in the $7,500 range did not meet reserve and it’s relisted. There is a buy-it-now of $

In addition to S-3, New Market has several more Johnsons for sale.

They do provide, with each listing, a very solid capsule history of the Johnson M1941, which appears to be a distillation of Bruce Canfield’s book (this is a good thing; we recently recommended it to specialists in a book-review roundup (Weaponsman Expert Book Reviews #5). (If you want early Johnson history beyond this, there’s more at the sales page for S-3, and of course the most comprehensive answer is the Canfield book).

The history of the Johnson 1941 Rifle, and its designer, is a very interesting one that began on the eve of WWII. The designer of the rifle was Melvin Maynard Johnson, Jr., who graduated from Harvard University and Harvard Law School. He was also an avid firearms enthusiast from a young age and, around the same time that he graduated from law school he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve. Johnson took advantage of his association with the Marine Corps to pen various articles for the Marine Corps Gazette in the early 1930s. One of his articles was a general critique of the new M1 Garand Semi-Automatic Rifle. Johnson took issue in his article with the M1s “gas trap” design and its en block clip loading design, as well as several other issues with the rifle.

Melvin Johnson began an early relationship with the United Automatic Rifles Corporation in the early 1930s, initially in his role as an attorney, and began to provide the company with mechanical and engineering work on various rifle designs. The relationship did not survive but it solidified in Johnson the desire to experiment with and develop his own weapons designs. One of his first experiments, undoubtedly as a counter to the gas operated M1 Garand design, was in recoil operated automatic weapons design. Johnson eventually partnered with Marlin Firearms to build a semi-automatic rifle and light machine gun, both of which used a vertical feed design through the use of Browning Automatic Rifle 20-round magazines. The magazines developed several problems during tests at Fort Benning but Johnson was undeterred and continued developing both weapons. This led Johnson to begin work on a rotary magazine design.

In the late 1930s, Johnson founded Johnson Automatics, Incorporated, which would be the operating entity that would own the patent rights (and hopefully obtain manufacturing rights) for all of Johnson’s weapons designs. Johnson then began a determined effort to sell his designs, and his weapons, to the US Army and Marine Corps and various countries, including Great Britain and France. The rifle design that Johnson settled on, which he felt was superior to the M1 Garand rifle, was what became his Model 1941 Rifle. This rifle had a detachable barrel, a 10-round rotary magazine, and was recoil operated. The US Army, however, had settled on the M1 Garand rifle, which was then in production at Springfield Armory. Johnson continued to believe that his rifle design was just as good as John C. Garand’s design and he began to lobby members of Congress in an attempt to reopen the weapons tests that led to the adoption of the M1. Congress eventually held several rounds of hearings and, after an additional series of “head-to-head” tests, the M1 Garand was deemed superior by the Army. This left Melvin Johnson continuing to try and win a contract from the Marine Corps, which had not formally adopted a replacement for the 1903 Rifle, and from various foreign governments. Melvin Johnson had finalized his Model 1941 design by this point and now needed the assistance of an established manufacturing business to go forward with large-scale production.

An agreement was ultimately reached between Johnson Automatics and the Universal Windings Company that resulted in the establishment of the Cranston Arms Company of Cranston, Rhode Island, which would produce Johnson’s Model 1941 Rifle. Cranston Arms also produced Johnson’s Model of 1941 Light Machine Gun, which shared several design features with his semi-automatic rifle. Only a limited number of M1941 rifles had been shipped to the Dutch in the East Indies prior to the Japanese capture of Dutch possessions in the Pacific in early 1942. Some of these rifles were ultimately captured by the Japanese near the airfield at Tarikan and the port of Balikpapan in 1942. The rest were evacuated and used by the Free Dutch forces fighting in Timor through 1943. Some of the Dutch M1941 rifles were even used for a time by Australian forces fighting in Timor. The remaining M1941 rifles were then embargoed to keep them from being sent to the East Indies and possibly captured by the Japanese.

After the United States entered the war in December 1941, demand for military arms soared. By this time, the Marine Corps had followed the Army’s lead in adopting the M1 as its standard battle rifle, but M1 production was initially unable to meet demand. In addition, much to the Marine Corps’ chagrin, the Army had first priority on available supplies and on future output from Springfield Armory and Winchester, the two manufacturers of the M1 Rifle. As a result, the Johnson M1941 rifle was adopted by the Marines for issue to Marine Raiders and to newly-formed Para-Marine airborne units (because the barrel could be removed for ease of jumping the weapon), and these rifles saw action in the Solomons campaign of 1942. As M1s became available to Marine units, the Johnson rifles were withdrawn from combat use. Only a few thousand of these arms had been procured by the U.S. government before production ended in 1944, and, in addition to their limited use with the Marine Corps, some Johnson rifles were issued to clandestine O.S.S. operatives. Because the rifle was never officially adopted by the US military, and because WWII prevented any opportunity Johnson may have had for robust foreign sales, the total number of Johnson 1941 Rifles manufactured was very small, only about 30,000. Johnson Model 1941 Rifles were serial numbered in groups of 10,000, with the first 10,000 having no prefix, the second group with prefix “A,” third group with prefix “B.”

For the tool room prototype, he provides more history.

The prices seem high to us (one of our Johnsons cost us $4k, and one $700 — decades earlier, when a 1911 was $225) but New Market has sold Johnsons they were listing for $6,250 and $7,500 recently.

Who Doesn’t Make ARs? Not Savage (any more)

Well, not Savage any more. Numerous leaks of sales information online (the models are shown on several jobber and distributor sites already) makes it clear that new “Savage MSRs” are coming, including an AR-15 called the “MSR-15” and an AR-10 called, you guessed it, the MSR-10. Street price will run from around $700 to nearly $2,000.

All are direct-impingement operating system and there is a lot of use of Blackhawk! parts, which helps the Massachusetts company meet its price points. But surprises include non-reciprocating side charging handles on the AR-10s and a 6.5 Creedmoor chambering.

Savage MSR-15 Patrol

Specific models include the entry-level MSR-15 Patrol, the mid-length gas-system MSR-15 Recon, and MSR-10s in Hunter (carbine barrel) and Long Range (20″ rifle) trim.

Savage MSR-15 Recon

Brand MFG Part Nº UPC Model family Model Caliber Barrel Length Magazine List Price Street Price (est)
Savage 22900 0-11356-22900-7 MSR 15 Patrol .223 Wylde 16.125 30RD $852.00 $700.00
Savage 22901 0-11356-22901-4 MSR 15 Recon .223 Wylde 16.125 30RD $999.00 $800.00
Savage 22902 0-11356-22902-1 MSR 10 Hunter .308 Win 16.125 20RD $1,459.00 $1,300.00
Savage 22903 0-11356-22903-8 MSR 10 Hunter 6.5 Creedmoor 17 20RD $1,459.00 $1,300.00
Savage 22904 0-11356-22904-5 MSR 10 Long Range .308 Win 20 20RD $1,999.00 $1,850.00
Savage 22905 0-11356-22905- MSR 10 Long Range 6.5 Creedmoor 20 20RD $1,999.00 $1,850.00

Savage MSR-10 Hunter Creedmoor (.308 appears identical). Note that the image shows a conventional charging handle, although the specs and description promise a side charger.

All these models feature Blackhawk! parts, with the Patrol including “Flip-Up rear sight, M-LOK handguard, Pistol grip, 6-Position buttstock, & Blaze trigger” from the accessory maker. at the other extreme, the Long Range (for which we do not have a photo) uses the Magpul Precision Rifle Stock (PRS) Gen 3, and an M-LOK  but does retain the Blackhawk! Blaze 2-stage trigger. All the AR-10, er, MSR-10, variants, come without sights.

Barrels are finished with QPQ Melonite. At least initially, you can get any color you want, so long as it is black. Expect to see this new Savage tribe introduced at next month’s SHOT Show. A lot of SHOT new products are leaking or being teased now that Christmas is over. (The Firearm Blog is a good place to watch for them).


What Can You Do With Two Deringers?

Well, what can you do with them?

  1. Hang them on the wall;
  2. Lock them in a safe deposit box;
  3. Stage duels with your friends (?); or,
  4. Assassinate President Lincoln — twice.

OK, that was in pretty bad taste, but the gun the President was murdered with was a sibling to this set, from the same Philadelphia gunsmith, Henry Deringer. The Booth gun — which was probably also one of a pair, originally — was very similar to these, but more up-market, inlaid with silver.

This rare pair is for sale by Ancestry Guns, LLC, in Columbia Missouri, via GunBroker. One wonders what stories they could tell about their travels between Henry Deringer’s Philadelphia premises almost two centuries ago and their current way station in Columbia, but whatever travels they have had don’t seem to have done their appearance any harm.

They’re remarkably well-preserved, well-finished little guns. In the side views above, the octagonal profile of the barrels isn’t obvious, but you can see it below.

As Holt Bodnson wrote in Guns magazine, “The contours of Deringer’s barrels are complex and pleasing to the eye.” 

The very limited corrosion around the lock and the nipple suggests that the members of this pair were very seldom fired. Lock and barrel are both marked with Deringer’s name and city, over 100 years before this became a legal requirement. It was, instead, a mark of the maker’s pride.

That pride paid off as many smiths and shops copied the Deringer pocket pistol, but to avoid a trademark lawsuit misspelled the name, “derringer.” Thus Henry gave his name, with the insertion of an extra “r”, to be applied to any small pocket pistol with one or two barrels.

The Booth Deringer, abandoned in the theater box at Ford’s Theater by the assassin.

As it happens, the Booth Deringer in the possession of the National Park Service — a very similar pistol to this pair — was the subject of an FBI investigation in the 1990s, due to charges that sometime in the 1960s, a Boston burglar pilfered the pistol and placed a ringer Deringer in the place of the original.

One hundred and thirty-two years after the death of Lincoln, this pistol was again an item of interest in Washington, DC. In June 1997, the U. S. Park Police and the National Park Service contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation with a request for assistance in examining the Deringer pistol used by John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The authenticity of the pistol, which is displayed at the Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site in Washington, DC, was drawn into question during the adjudication of a New England estate belonging to a member of a burglary ring that operated throughout the northeastern United States between the late 1960s and the early 1980s. Members of this ring had allegedly replaced the original Booth pistol with a replica pistol in the late 1960s, at which time the security system at Ford’s Theatre was much less sophisticated than that in place today. Curatorial records of the Booth pistol were unable to resolve the issue of authenticity, and the FBI Laboratory was subsequently assigned to determine beyond a reasonable doubt whether the Deringer pistol displayed at Ford’s Theatre is the same pistol pictured in historical photographs pre-dating the 1960s.

The FBI’s forensic experts ultimately concluded that the pistol in the hands of the Park Service in 1997 was the exact same pistol as the one photographed circa 1930, and the burglar had been lying. (It may be that the burglary ring was really a fraud ring, and sold some unscrupulous collector a faked Booth Deringer. You can’t con an honest man, they say). Do Read The Whole Thing™ at the FBI Archives, because you’ll also get a refresher in the Lincoln assassination, and a capsule history of Henry Deringer’s guns, of which this is an excerpt:

The Deringer pocket pistol achieved its greatest popularity during the mid-1850s and was a favorite of civilians seeking a compact, easily concealed firearm for use in personal defense. Although the Deringer pistol was somewhat limited by its single-shot capacity, its light weight and small size gave it a distinct advantage over bulkier, unconcealable alternatives, and the limitations of its firing capacity could be circumvented by carrying two pistols, which were sold as pairs for approximately $22 to $25 during that time period. The Deringer pistol’s ubiquity, success, and infamy as a deadly weapon is apparent in its association with a number of prominent California murders that took place during the 1850s, as well as its later use in the assassination of President Lincoln. The latter homicide ensured the permanent notoriety of the Deringer pistol while simultaneously finalizing the incorporation of the word “derringer” into the American lexicon as a common noun denoting a concealable, short-barreled nonautomatic pistol. Notably, the use of the noun Deringer refers to a pistol manufactured by Henry Deringer, whereas the use of the noun derringer (sometimes spelled Derringer) refers to a pocket pistol of any make.

As the Deringer firearms were each hand-made, there might have been profound consequences forensically:

Because each paired set of Deringer pistols included a bullet mold specific to the caliber of the two matching pistols, loss of this mold virtually precluded the proper fit of ammunition for the paired set.

Unfortunately, the forensic scientists were disappointed to learn that the bullet removed from the brain of President Lincoln had corroded in the intervening 132 years, to the point that they could draw no direct conclusions confirming the bullet as fired from the Booth gun.

Now, this pair of Deringers comes without that important bullet mold, but since they don’t seem to have been fired much (if at all) in the last 150 or so years, it would be rather unwise to shoot them. Particularly with the starting bid set at $7,500.

CZ Go kB!

Pistols are supposed to go bang, but not like this:

The owner and shooter are alright, but as you can see, this gun is a write-off. Closer look, with the casing laid on top:

The pistol is a polymer-framed CZ P-07. CZ-USA has, from examining the pictures, put the blame on the ammunition (Winchester white box ball, lot number Q4172). Winchester has yet to weigh in.

The lot number of the detonated case is Q4172. Another lot that has been reported to produce a kB! is K7190.

Facts and pictures from this thread at Reddit. More pictures after the jump.

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