Category Archives: Future Weapons

Washbear 3D Printed Revolver Update

Back in September, we introduced the Washbear, the first successful 3D printed .22 revolver (although it looks like a pepperbox, it has a rudimentary barrel), and we promised you more information, including the files, when it was time.

It’s time.

James R. Patrick has continued to develop theWashbear and he now has it working even better. In addition, the files are available. This is his rendering of the current version:

Patrick Washbear Release Rendering

It is all 3D printed, except for one roofing nail (firing pin), one elastic band (mainspring), and a grip-enclosed steel mass if one must meet the requirements of the United States’ Undetectable Firearms Act.

This video is a design analysis by Patrick himself, followed by a brief video of a shooting session of a version printed by FP (FreedomPrint) of the FOSSCAD group. There are two separate cylinder designs: a eight-shot cylinder, with steel liners, for printing in ABS filament; and an six-shot cylinder that requires no liners if printed in nylon filament. The cylinders are interchangeable. There’s no reason you couldn’t print a nylon, lined, 8-shot cylinder, too, for increased strength.

It is designed with more attention to safety than to perfect function at this point. The clever mechanism rotates the cylinder half-way on trigger release, so that the DAO trigger only has to move the cylinder half-way — but also so that the firing pin rests on the cylinder between chambers, in between shots, rendering the firearm drop-safe. (We would suggest making a notch in the cylinder’s rear face to receive this firing pin, locking the cylinder between shots and ensuring the cylinder can’t be torqued sideways and initiate an out-of-battery fire, for added safety. That would not be a factor in a center fire version, which would probably require materials advances). James Patrick notes that the current mechanism leads to a suboptimal trigger press.

Well, it’s early days.

Again, back in September, we promised you the files when James was ready to release them. He released them this past weekend. You can download the zipfile from Sendspace here. Follow that link and click on the blue button:

Note that James’s own website remains blocked by some antivirus software. Should you not be under that handicap, it’s here:

Are we still the best place to get technical firearms news on the web, or what (they said modestly)?




Source Document: FBI Pistol Solicitation

500px-US-FBI-ShadedSeal.svgGents, you saw it here first. The complete FBI new pistol solicitation, which we mentioned back on 7 November, is now available verbatim and in full detail.

Have at it:

FBI Pistol Solicitation Bid, Oct 2015.pdf

Don’t say we never gave you nothin’.

We’re impressed by the thoroughness of the document. For example, it gets into the weeds on just about every facet of the firearm’s design. It goes so far as to suggest the color of magazine followers, and the design of floorplates:


Not only must all mags have a “toe” on the floorplate (as shown in Fig. 1)  to aid extraction, but magazines for the Inert (red) training pistol and Simunitions (blue) force-on-force training pistol must have color-coordinated floorplates.

As previously reported, the FBI knows what it wants in terms of safety, or at least a safety: none. No safety catch, no decocking lever, no grip safety, no magazine safety, no way to cock the pistol except by manipulating the trigger. Sounds like it’s right up Glock’s alley, except, as our previous report noted, no finger grooves.

For a government solicitation,the FBI’s is quite legible. As we said, have at it.

What to Make of Paris so far (not much), and of Status-6

Tomorrow's HeadlinesWe’re not going to bite at analyzing the Paris attack while it’s still not all wrapped up. Unlike the guys whose output is already set for tomorrow’s newsstand (image right), we are not under a deadline on this. We’ll just offer several points and move on to news from Russia.

  1. Initial media reports are almost always wrong. This has been ameliorated somewhat by the press’s discovery that they can pluck stuff off twitter, instead of from the twits on their staff. Some press don’t get that — NBC, for instance, had Bryant Gumbel all concerned about the fate of Al Gore’s Who Wants Me To Be A Bigger Billionaire telethon. (Gore fans, relax; ManBearPig lives).
  2. Initial body counts are almost always high. This attack seems rather poorly synchronized and disorganized compared to the record holder among these small arms attacks, the one in Bombay. Ergo, this attack is probably not going to break Bombay’s record body count (160).
  3. The attack is visibly and obviously another amish attack mohammedan sacrament. As a GEICO ad might say, if you’re an imam you incite murder, that’s what you do. That means tomorrow you can expect stern warnings about the coming backlash against peaceable Muslims. These backlashes are always descending, but they never seem to take tangible form — they’re vaporware. Kind of like peaceable Muslims.
  4. We’ve already seen the usual politicians unleash their Platitude Generators,  Crises For Use in, Mark VII, talking about “our shared values.” Know who doesn’t share those values? If you guessed the schmos with AKs and the splodydopes in guncotton waistcoats, give yourself a cookie.

And that’s all we’re going to say about it, right now.

Meanwhile, in Sochi, Russian Federation….

Because something really interesting happened in Russia this week. A “leak” showed a classified briefing slide about a previously unannounced underwater-launched weapon. The “leak” has been extensively promoted on government-controlled news site Russia Today (

Status-6 leak

That’s a leak? On a state-controlled broadcast?

The slide describes a stealthy, 1.6-meter diameter, long-ranged torpedo which carries a ~5-20 megaton nuclear and radiological warhead, designed to persistently irradiate entire regions of a coastal target nation. In fact, Status-6 has a claimed autonomous range of over 10,000 kilometers, which really puts it more into the class of an autonomous undersea vehicle — if it’s real.

According to the slide it can be carried by two new Russian sub types, which just saw themselves elevated on free world target lists. The warhead is supposedly capable of both nuclear destruction and of persistently irradiating an entire enemy coastline, suggesting a dirty bomb or cobalt bomb. The US and USSR agreed in principle during the initial 1970s talks for the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty not to deploy such doomsday weapons, but they never wrote that into the agreement, and the treaty has lapsed.

It turns out, Bill Gertz wrote this program up based on a Pentagon leak to him two months ago, noting that the DOD had code-named the Russian port-buster Kanyon.

Russia is building a drone submarine to deliver large-scale nuclear weapons against U.S. harbors and coastal cities, according to Pentagon officials.

The developmental unmanned underwater vehicle, or UUV, when deployed, will be equipped with megaton-class warheads capable of blowing up key ports used by U.S. nuclear missile submarines, such as Kings Bay, Ga., and Puget Sound in Washington state.

The US has dismantled all of its multi-megaton warheads as part of the Obama Administration’s program of unilateral nuclear disarmament. It retains a small stockpile of 1.2 megaton B83 bombs, but those too are scheduled to be decommissioned.

In the Soviet era, a torpedo called T-15 could deliver a megaton warhead to a harbor. All such torpedoes are believed to have been decommissioned, but Status/Kanyon is a more capable, modern update of this old Soviet concept — if it is real. Gertz notes that, despite indicators of coastal mapping by Russian AGI vessels, deployment of a strike UUV is probably years away.

Using such a warhead against a civilian target is arguably a violation of international law, but that doesn’t seem to faze the Russian leadership. If the warhead even exists. If the torpedo or AUV really exists. Because a propaganda leak is equally effective if the “secret weapon” is real, or if it is notional.

Of course, if it was a leak, and this is something real, the guy responsible is probably going to be a test pilot on one of these torpedoes. Hals und beinbruch, Ivan.

Why the “Leak”?

This “leak” appears from here clearly as a brush-back pitch thrown at the United States and its allies. Yet it seems likely to be counterproductive, if that is really its intent. It would raise the stakes of antisubmarine warfare, a much neglected field in the shrinking US Navy, and inspire countermeasures that Russia really, really wouldn’t like.

But we’re probably looking at it the wrong way. That’s not leaked for our benefit. Its target audience is, in our estimation, inside Russia. The message is: we are strong, we are invincible, nobody had better mess with us. It is a bluff, yes, but he’s bluffing his own people, not the Americans.

For Some Good Information

In addition to Bill Gertz’s column mentioned above, read Jeffrey Lewis’s posts at Arms Control Wonk:

Don’t neglect the comments. He has some astute and technically proficient commenters.

He also wrote a column in Foreign Policy that transcended the usual soporific house style:

At the risk of understating things, this project is bat-shit crazy. It harkens back to the most absurd moments of the Cold War, when nuclear strategists followed the logic of deterrence over the cliff and into the abyss. For his part, Putin seems positively nostalgic.

What sort of sick bastards dream up this kind of weapon? Whether or not the Russians ever build it is almost beside the point. Simply announcing to the world that you find this to be a reasonable approach to deterrence should be enough to mark you out as a dangerous creep.

Of course, then Lewis makes his own bat-guano-crazy argument, that rather than develop a military response to this thing, or (giving him the benefit of the doubt), in parallel to the military response, we need to “think about making better use of international norms against nuclear weapons.” Yes, because Vladimir Vladimirovich is as impressed with “international norms” as his role model Josef Vissarionovich was with the Pope.

“The Soldier got a good cheek weld on the soft, warm fur of the stock.”


3d_printed_hairScience fiction? Right now it is, but it’s now science fact that it’s possible to add integral hair to 3D-printed items. Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University illustrated this using the most common form of plastic 3D printing, fused deposition modeling (also called Fused Filament Fabrication by some vendors).

They can make short, thick, rigid bristles, or soft, downy hair. The result makes hairs, fibers or bristles that taper naturally, almost organically, to a point. They write:

In this work, we introduce a technique for 3D printing soft strands, fibers, and bristles (Figure 1), using conventional fused deposition modeling (FDM). Our work was inspired by the peculiar phenomenon that occurs during the opera- tion of a handheld glue gun: when a person extrudes hot glue material and moves the gun away, a “string” of residue often forms unintentionally (Figure 2). The shape, length, and thickness of the resulting stringy material varies based on how much glue was extruded and how fast the user moves away from the extrusion point. This artifact often annoys users, but in this work, we exploit the phenomenon.

The scientists, Gierad Laput, Xiang ‘Anthony’ Chen, and Chris Harrison came at the problem from a human-computer interaction background and approach (they all work at CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute).

The bristles are deposited integrally as the brush is produced.

The bristles are deposited integrally as the brush is produced.

They did not use a high-end printer, but achieved their results with a Printrbot Simple, a ~$350 kit printer. They found that one way or another they could control the density, length, thickness, color, and distribution of the hairs or fibers. The hairs are also amenable to many kinds of post-processing. For the best results, they extrude the hairs horizontally, in the X or Y axis.

You can easily imagine some potential future developments, like a bespoke “hair” extruder that would lay down an array of hairs at once. Laput, Chen and Harrison have demonstrated the concept; now it’s up to the rest of the world to reduce it to practical applications.

Like a fur-bearing rifle stock. That’s perfectly and individually sculpted to your cheek weld.

They have also named the process: furbrication. Perfect!

The pre-publication paper (it is to be presented at a conference this month) is here on Laput’s server.  Hat tip, Caleb Garling at MIT Technology Review.

There are people who are not in the gun culture that think we are too attached to our firearms now. What’s going to happen when our guns are as soft and warm as a cuddly bunny?

Cyber Gun Aimed at Low-Information Generals

This image comes to you from the US Cyber Command’s booth at the AUSA convention, basically like SHOT show for the Army, complete with a keyword where the Chief of Staff sets the tone and introduces the buzzwords for the next year.


Wuzzzat he’s holding? A phased pulse rifle in the 40-megawatt range? Not exactly. This year, the Chief’s thunder has been stolen by that futuristic gadget, the Cyber Rifle. It’s a promotional gimmick from — who else? — the Army Cyber Institute at West Point. Appropriately enough it has been promoted by tweet.

It can open doors!

And zap drones! (If the Army gig doesn’t work out, they could sell this thing to every celebrity wedding planner from Malibu to Montauk).

The Cyber Gun isn’t a real weapon, although as you can see from the close-up, it’s built on AR-15 receivers. It’s more of a technology demonstrator, but even more than that, it’s a capabilities briefing in memorable, physical form. Captain Brent Chapman (the grinning fellow wielding the “rifle” in the “bunker lights and door” video) built it from COTS components, including a Raspberry Pi1, Wi-Fi module2, Kali Linux3, and Yagi antenna4 (since those may be terra incognita to some of our more firearm-oriented readers, there are definitions in the notes). It cost $150 to buy the parts, and 10 hours to build and test the Cyber Rifle.

Captain Chapman wasn’t entirely breaking new ground here. A very similar rig, made for mobile penetration testing, is in this 2013 blog post. Of course, it doesn’t look like a rifle.

So why does the Cyber Rifle, which is really a simple computer running some hacking tools with an antenna, look like a rifle?

Well, we mentioned how the Chief of Staff uses his speech to give impetus to ethe Army’s newest, shiniest buzzwords. No buzzword is shinier, now, than cyber. The Army has created a Cyber Branch (it took 35 years for SF to get a branch, but we didn’t offer the possibility of non-fighting slots for Academy grads that incline that way), and has selected its initial cadre of officers and NCOs. And here’s how we know that cyber’s a big deal with this Chief of Staff:

COS Milley visits ARCYBER

That’s the new boss, Mark Milley, in the Army Blue uniform, an outfit that looks like it’s on loan from the guards at Lenin’s Tomb. (He’s got a lot of sparkly baubles. Which one is the Hero of Socialist Labor?). Gen. Milley looks a bit bemused by the whole thing, but cyber is big with Big Green (source).

One of the many stories written about the Cyber Rifle in the last few days hints at the reason:

All of the tech was placed onto the rifle frame, making it easier for senior military leaders to appreciate.

“Easier for senior leaders to appreciate…” gee, that sounds a lot like “Generals are thick, make it look like a rifle or they’ll never understand how a computer can be an offensive weapon.”

But they wouldn’t really say that, would they?

Well, here’s another story with a quote from Capt. Brent Chapman:

The rifle shape, meanwhile, is mostly for kicks. ” By putting all of this stuff on the rifle frame, it also makes it very easy for senior leaders to consume,” Chapman says. “Aim. Shoot. Crash. “

In a last-ditch defense of Capt. Chapman’s career, he said that before General Milley visited his display; the Chief of Staff didn’t inspire the statement.

As far as we know.


  1. A low-cost single-board computer made originally to promote programming education to kids. Same idea (single-board comp) as Arduino, but oriented to programming, not sensing and control of physical stuff.
  2. This is the same circuit that’s in your phone and computer for getting on your WiFi network. It’s available in various forms, a USB dongle is usually used with Raspberry Pi and other small circuit boards. To support the Yagi, you need a dongle that supports an external antenna.
  3. Probably best explained by Adafruit:

    Kali Linux is a distribution especially aimed at penetration testing and network security applications. (It’s a successor to Backtrack Linux.) Kali isn’t intended as a general-purpose desktop OS for end users. Instead, it’s a collection of useful tools for monitoring, exploring, and attacking networks. It comes out of the box with tools like Wiresharknmap, and Aircrack-ng, and is particularly useful in situations where you just want a disposable machine/installation with some network tools.
    This is the software that runs on the computer, it includes the operating system and integrated hacking tools.

  4. A Yagi is a highly directional antenna array that works best for a narrow frequency range (or a single frequency). In fact, if you’re of a certain age, you’ve seen or owned one: the traditional TV antenna. The Yagi has a long axis, which is structural, not electronic; it is crossed by orthogonal elements, one of which is the actual transmitting element (or driven element, a dipole), one of which (behind the dipole) is a reflector, the remainder of which are towards the direction of transmission (or direction of the transmitter, for a receiving antenna) and are called directors.
    The thing on the nose end of the Cyber Rifle that looks like the rostrum of a sawfish? That’s the yagi, and the black nubs are the elements — the rearmost one is the reflector, the one just before it is the driven element — the only one wired to the transmitter — and all the ones forward of that are directors. WiFi is a perfect application for a Yagi because of the known, fixed frequency. (It would also be an antenna you’d consider for GPS meaconing, for the same reason).
    Fun fact: The Yagi wasn’t invented by Yagi, a Todai professor. It was invented, mostly, by his colleague Uda. But Yagi wound up with the credit. Make of that what you will.


“Impossible” Alloys of the Near Future

Steel-Aluminum alloy? Any metallurgist would tag you as a n00b for bringing it up. “Can’t do it. Incompatible. It’s the metallurgical equivalent of dogs and cats lying down together. Winds up with crystallized, embrittled aluminum weakening the steel.” Three Korean scientists, all stereotypically named Kim, from the Pohang University of Science and Technology have almost managed to pull it off — after many years of theory, trial, and error, and standing on the shoulders of previous researchers, as always. The lead investigator is Hansoo Kim.

The resulting material has properties that sound like Ayn Rand’s fictional Rearden Metal — light, strong, potentially cheap. It exceeds titanium alloys, hitherto the lightest and strongest alloys known, for lightness and strength. Yet the aluminum that lightens the alloy doesn’t embrittle it — it leaves it ductile, or workable. That’s why this research has potential outside of the metallurgist’s lab.

The secret appears to be accepting that Fe-Al “intermetallic compound” inclusions (they call this compound B2)  within the metal will be somewhat brittle, and managing their size and dispersion so that they lighten the resulting steel without embrittling it. They did this by adding nickel, which “catalyses the precipitation of nanometre-sized B2 particles in the face-centred cubic matrix of high-aluminium low-density steel during heat treatment of cold-rolled sheet steel.” In much the way that windows don’t break and make a skyscraper fall because they’re not load-bearing structures, these fracture-prone B2 particles are individually so small and so widely and evenly dispersed that a crack has no pathway to propagate. Think of it as rip-stop steel at the nanometer scale.

This work is evolutionary as much as it is revolutionary. It builds on previous work on TRIPLEX steels, which are steels with significant amounts of manganese, aluminum and carbon serving to modify iron’s physical properties (and that in turn builds on 1970s research in the USSR). Previous TRIPLEX research by Springer and Raabe (details linked below) found that while holding manganese and carbon content constant at 30% and 1.2% respectively, strength went up as up to 8% aluminum displaced some of the iron in the balance.

steel strength with aluminum

strength with various levels of aluminum in alloy (Springer & Raabe).

Springer and Raabe, and others, built on Soviet work that developed high-strength but very brittle iron-aluminum steels.

How can a material be strong and brittle? They’re separate properties. Strong suggests how far you have to go to make the metal fail. Brittle suggests a material that then fails abruptly by breaking. It doesn’t deform. (Imagine a car that, crashed into a tree, shattered into shards rather than got dented). But that’s not just a problem for designers: it’s a hell of a problem for manufacturers, for many of our steel-processing approaches expect steel to be ductile. We bend it on anvils or stamp it in dies; we shear it with cutting tools; we curve pipes around; we hydroform it. All of those processes depend on the ductility of the metal.

The tables and graphs in the paper in Nature (one of the two most prestigious peer-reviewed journals in the world) suggests that this novel aluminum-bearing steel alloy not only has superior balance of strength and ductility to TRIPLEX, but also offers real ductility advantages over typical titanium-aluminum-vanadium alloy. (If you’ve ever worked with titanium, you know ductility is not its strong point).

nature steel-AL alloy figure 1

What do alloys like this mean for firearms? The three Dr Kims are excited about automotive and aviation applications, because those are the primary users of large quantities of lightweight alloys (and have been turning increasingly to more exotic materials, like carbon fiber, carbon-carbon, and lithium alloys, in pursuit of lighter strong materials). But the technology that shows up on the auto line and in the aerospace factory does make it to firearms, especially as every firearms designer now alive is alert to how 1940s aviation technology enabled Stoner, Sullivan et. al. to revolutionize firearms design in the 1950s and early 60s. If nobody in your engineering shop is getting SAE’s Aerospace Engineering, you’re either committed to traditional materials and processes, or a me-too design shop.

While the material itself is of great interest, the scientists think that the process will be, in the long run, far more important because it will allow the invention of entire classes of previously “impossible” alloys.

The process has one major hurdle before it can be commercialized: a method must be found to prevent the oxidation of the steel, in-process. Technologies used on conventional steels won’t work, and building the foundry on an airless asteroid solves the oxidation problem, but leaves you with the steel somewhere other than the planet where it’s required.

And right about now, perhaps in some unexpected corner of the world, a grad student is mulling this problem, and sometime soon a light will go on in his head….

For more information

Popular Mechanics article for laymen:

Nature article (abstract, references and tables only w/o subscription):

Information on TRIPLEX steel-AL alloys (Forerunner of this research):

Inside the T-14 Armata

People have been wondering exactly how the crew is laid out and works together in the new Russian T-14 Armata tank. Here is an answer, as what appears to be a pick-up crew (test crew? journalists?) sets up and fires the Armata’s main armament. Some comments after the brief video.

They’re going to have to go a lot faster than this in combat, but see comments on the crew above the video. A well-drilled crew, comfortable with live-firing the tank, should slam through this. These guys are leisurely, relaxed. “Ogon?” (Fire). (pause) “Ogon!” (pause). FOOM. Those pauses go away with practice.

The high level of automation in the Armata is evident here. It’s a well-thought out tank, and with the whole crew in the same can, crew coordination is simplified. In the flight-training world, there’s a general consensus that it’s easier and more effective to teach in a side-by-side environment. Curtis LeMay himself threw a wobbler when Boeing prepared a jet for him (the XB-52) with a tandem crew as in the previous jet (B-47), and he made Boeing change it for the production jets. Putting the TC, gunner and driver side-by-side has the same benefits in a tank that it does in a jet bomber.

We’re a little concerned about the idea of touch screens in a combat vehicle. Again in aviation, we’ve discovered that two things are problems with touch-screens in aircraft. In turbulent conditions, it can be hard to hit the button you want. And worse, it’s possible to hit a button you don’t want. Now, this is not an insuperable problem. The avionics makers have worked out some solutions and/or work-arounds, including backup manual knobs, user-controllable delays on keys (i.e. you have to hold it for a half-second to activate it), and even environmentally adaptive delays (the delay increases if the accelerometers in the Air Data and Altitude/Heading Reference System see accelerations characteristic of turbulence). So if they can solve it for an airplane moving at hundreds of kilometers an hour through three-dimensionally through a moving, changing medium, the Russians can solve it for a tank juddering over the ground at a max of dozens of K and taking the occasional hit.

The touch screens of the Armata look like COTS computers running application, not a bespoke interface. This has both pros and cons, something the Russian engineers certainly understand.

Tanks normally operate best opened up and lose considerable situational awareness when combat forces them to button up. NATO tankers in particular like to fight their tanks from open cupola. But the Armata seems designed to give its TC best situational awareness when he’s reclining in his couch, not head up out of the turret. This is in keeping with Russian/Soviet tank doctrine that expects tanks to operate on a battlefield swept not only by small arms, tank, and mortar and indirect fire, but also by billowing clouds of chemical and biological weapons. In that environment, the TC in an climate-controlled compartment with the rest of his crew is miles ahead of the guy who might be out of his turret, but sweating in a MOPP4 suit and squinting through a gas mask, or in any US tank where NBC protection is an afterthought.

Finally, this is a tank that exists in platoon or maybe company strength. It’s still a test article. It could evolve in other directions. The Russians are not going to send these to their sheep-dipped units in eastern Ukraine, let alone their “USA is nutless, so we might as well” expeditionary force in Syria. When they do sell them to allies that might use them in combat — probably, Iran, and probably, soon, because they want foreign sales to subsidize Russian Army production — the allies will not get the full version. Of course, a tank that is so very dependent on software makes the production of what Soviet guys back in the day used to call their “monkey model” for export relatively easy.

It also enables a couple of logistic things that haven’t been done quite this way before. For example, Russian Army tanks could be very quickly reconfigured and flown to an ally in extremis, as the USA did with Israel in 1973, and also, Russian crews could be rapidly airlifted and fall in on an ally’s monkey-model tanks, flashing them to full Russian Army standard with a firmware upgrade. This would be an improvement on the US’s Cold War REFORGER prepositioned unit sets, by getting the allies to store, maintain and exercise the unit sets unless and until Ivan needs them.

Even if this tank is never produced in more than limited quantities, it is a revolutionary tank that must be taken seriously. We expect to see some of these concepts influencing future Western developments.

BREAKING: Tracking Point is Back!

TrackingPoint ARWe received minutes ago the word that Tracking Point, last seen nearing belly-up in bankruptcy protection, is back in business, accepting orders, shipping product, and resuming development. In fact, founder and new CEO John McHale is so enthusiastic about the relaunch that we’ve received, if we’re counting right, (3) releases in a matter of minutes around 0930 Eastern Daylight Savings Time (including one link that 404’d. Patience, John).

Rather than plus up McHale’s comments with our opinions, and further delay getting this up (and thereby getting beaten by our friends at TFB, which we probably will anyway because there’s a small army of them), here’s the release:

TrackingPoint Emerges From Restructuring a Leaner and Stronger Company
Founding Management Team Returns To Lead TrackingPoint Forward

Pflugerville, Texas (September 15, 2015) – TrackingPoint announced today the successful completion of a financial and operational restructuring. The company is accepting new orders while fulfilling its backlog of existing orders. In the spring of 2015, TrackingPoint temporarily suspended production and deliveries in order to put the company back on a strong financial footing. TrackingPoint previously announced 2014 year-on-year unit growth of 281%, and its management indicated that the rapid growth subsequently outstripped the company’s ability to manage its operations.

TrackingPoint’s founding team of John Lupher and John McHale has returned to manage the company going forward. John Lupher reassumes his founding role as Vice President of Engineering, while John McHale, formerly Chairman, returns to his original role as CEO. “We were successful early on, so John Lupher and I decided to go back to our roots and take TrackingPoint to the next level”, said McHale. Frank Bruno, Chief Operation Officer, and Richard Wierzbicki, Chief Financial Officer, bolster the team to ensure the company operates efficiently going forward.

The company has a five person board of directors that includes Eric Olson, the first Navy Seal to rise to the rank of four-star Admiral. Olson, a Navy Seal for 38 years and retired former Commander of the US Special Operations Forces, helps lead TrackingPoint’s defense strategy and initiatives. “I’m glad to see TrackPoint moving forward with renewed focus on law enforcement and the military. “This is innovation at its best, with a real and meaningful purpose for security forces and war fighters”, said Olson.

“This is a new beginning for TrackingPoint,” said McHale. “We will focus intently on the consumer, continue to innovate, and operate in a way that ensures long term success.” The company’s investors include the Friedkin Group, Goff Capital Partners, and McHale Labs.

About TrackingPoint

TrackingPoint is based in Austin, Texas, and created the first Precision-Guided Firearm, a revolutionary new shooting system that puts fighter jet lock-and-launch technology in small arms, enabling shooters to make shots previously considered beyond human ability. For more information, please visit

tracking_point_advanced_modeWe’ll be digging further into this, but in our opinion this is good technology; a glimpse of the future for hunters, snipers, and in time, combat troops; and innovation that deserves to be rewarded in the marketplace.


The biggest obstacle to wider adoption of the TP technology is price (they have a lot of RDT&E to amortize). McHale has made a small nod in the direction of affordability with the announcement of a $500 discount on any TP precision-guided firearm system purchased between now and year’s end.

New Army Pistol Solicitation Padded, Targeted at Large Contractors

On the way out? Beretta M9

On the way out? Beretta M9

At the end of August, a new solicitation for the Army’s new XM17 Modular Pistol project came out. The usual suspects are competing for it, including Beretta, SIG Sauer, Springfield, and Smith & Wesson  among others, and the S&W contender is claimed by the company (in a stock-analysts’ conference call) to be in very good shape, but the tests are a long way from completion — in fact, they’re not yet underway.

The solicitation is 315 pages long, most of it bureaucratic boilerplate. The real statement of work begins on Page 188, and it looks like the one thing they don’t want to do is buy a handgun from a handgun manufacturer. Instead, they aim to throw the contract to a large, high-overhead defense/aerospace prime contractor who will assemble the package with components from many disparate vendors, each one marked up obscenely.

Some points that caught our eyes included these:

  • They have 150 days from 28 August, 2015 to submit their proposals, so the deadline is 25 January 2016 — conveniently, three days after the end of the SHOT Show.
  • It’s not just for a gun, but for every associated accessory (holsters, mag pouches, cleaning kits), training, “blue barrels” for simunitions training, and all kinds of other cruft. What this does is (1) pad the hell out of the contract — suggesting someone is getting a kickback, and (2) exclude small contractors, firearms-only manufacturers,
  • Vendors can offer two firearms,  “full-size” and “compact,” or they can offer one firearm that can apply to both requirements, perhaps through modularity. But they also have to provide dummy guns, training cutaways, and high-touch VIP guns . Again, this contract padding helps exclude small contractors and favor the General Dynamics type  bloated aerospace prime.
  • Vendors must offer suppressors (if they offer regular and compact guns, they have to offer regular and compact suppressors). Nothing suggests anyone in Ordnance has the experience or ability to evaluate these devices, and nothing suggests there’s any advantage to buying these rarely-used devices from the pistol vendor — this is just more contract padding. Somebody’s setting himself up a nice retirement.
  • The solicitation does not specify caliber, nor does it specify ammunition type. So something like JHP ammo or Russian-style ultra-high-velocity projectiles are not ruled out.
  • The selected vendor must be willing to provide a technical data package and licensing to USG.
  • The selected vendor must provide handgun and ammunition. This means the contract is deliberately slanted to large defense primes like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.
  • The ammunition for this pistol will receive a new designation: ball will be XM1152, special purpose XM1153, dummy XM1156 and blank XM1157.
  • “Special Purpose” is an alternative to ball with improved terminal performance, in other words, probably a JHP, but they don’t specify hollow point or anything else.
  • Terminal performance of ball and SP rounds will be evaluated compared to M882 9mm ball from the M9 pistol (current standards).
  • While this is not a standard article of military kit, Ordnance Corps hate loading mags as much as anybody, so the mags for the new pistols must be compatible with the UpLULA p/n UP60B loader — or, if the vendor’s mags are incompatible, or he prefers a different mag loader, the vendor must supply three dozen loaders that work with his mags. However, UpLULAs are the one accessory that isn’t jammed into this padded contract.
  • Reliability counts. The objective is 2,000 Mean Rounds Between Stoppages (MRBS) at a 90% confidence level.

The proposal shows signs of being ineptly edited, beyond having every pistol accessory up to the kitchen sink thrown in. For example, from the Executive Summary of the Proposal (the only thing that anyone who isn’t competing is likely to have had time to read):

The MHS procurement is intended to be an open caliber competition, which means the choice of caliber is left to the discretion of the Offeror. Offerors are permitted to submit up to two (2) proposals configured to the specific caliber it chooses for evaluation. If an Offeror chooses to submit two (2) proposals, their submissions must each be chambered in a different cartridge of the Offeror’s choosing. In addition, each proposal must be submitted independently from each other.

Note that that paragraph, above, is self-contradictory. You can submit two proposals for your specific caliber, it says here — but only if there are two different calibers. Well, that’s Army Ordnance for you: the guys who examined the smokeless Mauser and bought the .30-40 Krag. (Well, until Mauser-toting Spaniards made a believer out of the combat arms, and Ordnance belatedly discovered enough good in Mauser’s design to copy it slavishly).

Each proposal will consist of either a two (2) handgun solution (one full size and one compact), or one (1) handgun solution that meets requirements for both a full size and compact weapon, plus the following ammunition: ball, special purpose, and dummy drilled inert (DDI), as well as, accessories (to include spare parts).

It is when you look at all the accessories that are swept into the contract, that you realize something is not on the up-and-up. This contract was either written by someone used to writing big-ticket contracts for things like jet fighters to Boeing or Lockheed Martin, or by some big contractor like Boeing or Lockheed Martin themselves.

Gee, why would they do that?

Exercises for the reader:

  • When was the last time you bought the same ammo brand for your pistol as the pistol is itself?
  • Do you seek out Toyota brand gasoline for your car?
  • What are the odds that a firm that makes a superior handgun is also the one that makes the most superior suppressor and best possible ammo pouch?

Some Straight Talk About Handguns

Everyone goes nuts about handguns, but in fact, they’re of nugatory military value. They add, slightly, to a special operator’s combat value, principally by boosting his confidence that he can stay in the fight if his long gun goes down. Most non-SOF combat arms troops don’t carry handguns (weapons crews, officers, senior NCOs do) and the number of enemy killed with handguns by non-SOF in nearly 15 years of war is probably in the single digits. Add SOF kills, and you’re in the double digits. (Not because we’re all awesome pistoleros but we do carry the sonofabitches).

Then, there’s the combat power of the handgun, which is by design low. Even a scroungy, anemic rifle (M1 Carbine, say) is going to give you more hits on target and more terminal effect than any pistol you have any reasonable hope of training GI Joe and GI Jane to shoot. We currently issue a good and well-accessorized carbine.

For what pistols are useful for, they might as well buy more M9s (or 1911s, for crying out loud). Yes, a rail for a light or laser is nice, but who will issue the lights and lasers? And do we want to make suppressor capability, something that is very, very, very rarely used even by the troops that have it now, a mandatory part of the cost of every pistol in the inventory?

At a time of dwindling resources, this padded, bloated contract is the wrong thing at the wrong time. It blows mass quantities of money on something that’s of marginal military utility, and by so doing starves other programs that can improved combat results.

Indeed, whoever wrote this is not working for the United States (even though we taxpaying chumps are paying him), but for one or more contractors. Finding the office that this came from and making all the heads there roll will improve our combat capability and our financial stewardship of public funds.

Plastic Homemade Lowers Under the Hammer

These tests have been on the net for a while, “a while” ranging from 3 months ago to a couple of days. We thought it would be a public service to collect them in a single post.

Note that “impact resistance” is only one type of strength. Here the material must resist both compression and shock, mostly. However, there are some ways of testing the part (even with a hammer) that can cause compression failures. Torsion is mostly not an issue with these parts. Shear comes into play especially with the printed parts, which tend to fail along print-layer lines.

Part I: Printed Lowers: ABS vs Hammer, vs PLA vs Hammer.

Part II: Printed vs Hammer, vs. Cast vs Hammer.

And, Part III: Multiple cast lowers of different materials, vs. printed lowers.

We hope these tests made an impact on you!

And who else is thinking… hmmm. What about a polymer part with a tough internal structure, and an overmold of the rubbery stuff? If you did the overmold when the inner part was still hot-out-of-the-mold fresh, the exotherm from the overmold would probably go a long way to mechanically join the two “layers.”