Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

Some Thoughts on Police Trade-Ins

Favorite FFL emailed his list of customers to say that he had some police trade-ins:

Available starting tomorrow at 9AM are these police department trade in guns.

Bushmaster XM15E2S 5.56mm rifles.  16″ barrel, collapsible stocks, will come with one 30rd mag.  Used, cosmetic blemishes from being in cruiser racks however mechanically sound.  We also have a special going with our Cerakote vendor to get $25 off a refinish with Cerakote gun coating if you so desire.  $475

File photo of a Remington 870 tactical police shotgun

File photo of a Remington 870 tactical police shotgun

Remington 870 Police Magnum 12ga pump shotguns. These have 18.5″ standard barrels with sights.  Two have BlackHawk recoil reducing stocks and two have regular stocks with side saddle shell holders. These also will have some finish wear as well but are mechanically sound.  $325

They’re going to be gone by now, probably; he just had single-digits of each.

Meanwhile, SF Buddy on the phone described his new score:

An HK imported Benelli shotgun that the local detectoves used to use. They have changed (not upgraded) to Mossberg pumps.

Aside: asks your humble host: “Wha’s wrong with a Mossberg pump?”

Turns out, lots of things, but basically, the single aluminum alloy op-rod is prone to bending when used hard. When Army Mossbergs had this problem, the answer was, per Mossberg, a thicker aluminum op-rod… result? One thicker bent aluminum op-rod.

He’s very pleased with the new gun so far. It was a lot more expensive than the above-referenced 870s, but it was a good buy for an HK-era Benelli.

Pros and Cons of Police Trade-ins

Police trade in weapons when they buy new ones, in most states and cities. This lets them save a lot of money on this vital equipment, while keeping their equipment pool up to date (and sometimes, even, under warranty).

The strengths of these weapons usually are:

  1. The weapon design and manufacture was generally good. Police agencies seldom buy junk. When they trade them, it’s more likely to be because they are out of fashion than any real substantive difference between the new guns and the old.
  2. Police weapons are usually chambered for what is thought at the time to be an effective cartridge. All 20th and 21st-Century police firearms can be effective on homo sapiens, to the extent that a handgun can be, with well-selected or handloaded rounds.
  3. The weapons are usually little shot and in good mechanical shape. 90% or more of cops would sooner attend a Free Mumia rally that shoot a single round more than minimum to qualify, so few of these weapons are shot out.
  4. The weapon was subject to some kind of periodic maintenance and inspection.
  5. The police provenance may give you an entertaining story to go with the gun. Or not.

 

PSP Patch Beretta 2

The Pennsylvania State Police is one agency that disposes their used handguns — in this case, a Beretta 96.

 

Weaknesses of these weapons usually are:

  1. Because PDs so dependably follow trends, you’re probably picking up something from one trend ago.
  2. They generally only come in limited configurations. If you prefer, say, the 9mm to the .40 S&W, you don’t get to choose, the way you would with a new gun.
  3. The weapons are usually in fair to poor cosmetic shape, and may not have been cleaned in a long time — if ever.
  4. Cop trades, unless a very large agency suddenly gluts the market or the agency’s version of the gun had market-toxic lawyer “improvements” like a New York or DAO trigger, tend to be priced a little higher than similar used guns.
  5. Police guns are bought by collectors as well as users, especially if the firearm is marked with police identification.

G36: German Gun Mag Thought They Had the Answer Last Year

A German gun magazine publisher conducted an investigation of the G36 last year, with the assistance (of course) of H&K. Running online under a title that translates to the rather optimistic “Overheating Problem Cleared Up,” the short version of the article combines reporting on the alleged accuracy problem with a range report on the rifle. (Vielen Dank to the anonymous tipster who sent it to us).

Heckler-und-Koch-G36-BW

A key paragraph of the report:

For about two years, negative reports of the supposedly deficient performance of the HK G36 in combat. have been multiplying in TV und print media, such as Report Mainz, Frontal 21, Spiegel and BILD. The core of the allegations has always been that an HK G36 fired until hot will disperse its shots so widely that the enemy can no longer be safely combatted. The Bundewehr introduced a Close Combat Shot Cycle (Einsatznahen-Beschuss-Zyklus or EBZ) in March, 2012, in which the entire basic load of 150 cartridges is fired in 20 minutes. On the basis of the EBZ the manufacturer carried out in-house experiments with ten various  G36s manufactured during the years 1996 to 2008.

The article describes HK’s shock at learning that the weapon failed tests — new tests, that hadn’t been part of the firearm’s original adoption — and the range results obtained by company in those tests, and by the magazine’s shooters using a rack-grade G36 and following both slow fire and EBZ protocols.

The 134-page invesigative report by Heckler & Koch, “Assault rifle G36 Investigation of dispersion and aiming point behavior of the Weapon in Fired-Hot Condition” (Sturmgewehr G36-Untersuchung zum Streuungs- und Treffpunktverhalten der Waffe im heißgeschossenen Zustand) exactly describes the test conditions, the technical procedures and the results, which have been compiled meticulously. Certainly there is an increase in group size with forced rapid fire in shot-hot conditions, as there are with any other weapon; the HK G36 is no exception.

See what they did there? They’re not saying “our gun doesn’t do this,” after tests that show, well, that it does; they’re making a tu quoque argument: “others do it too!”

Cold bore, all was well....

Cold bore, all was well…. 10 shots in a 78mm/ roughly 3″ group

The article does go on to suggest that variable and out-of-spec bullet-jacket thicknesses, not the rifle itself, causes the dispersion problem (which they confirmed as about doubling group size when hot, from a 20 cm (~8″) group at 100m, to 40 cm (~16″)).

The original article teaser (in German) is here; or you can try your luck with a mechanically brutal Google translation auf englisch. The article reportedly appeared in the April 2014 German magazines Caliber and Visier, so we’d like a scan or .pdf if anybody has it (you can send it to hognose at networkimpossible.com). We’d also really like to have a copy of the 134-page HK report. (If you’re listening, HK USA, send us the report and we’ll do a certified translation for you for free).

Remember, by the time Caliber and Visier ran this article, the “media whirlwind” (as they call it) over the G 36 had been going on for over two years. Obviously this predates the recent results in which independent testing also showed an unacceptable increase in dispersion when the rifle was rapid-fired in hot environmental conditions. And the media whirlwind, spun up further by new revelations, shows no sign of abating.

German Sturm und Drang over G36

The German media continue to run article after article criticizing the Bundeswehr’s G36 service rifle, and the procurement process that put the H&K product into the German Landser’s hands. The rifle has been extremely controversial from its introduction, but particularly since 2011.

HK G36

Of the various charges out there now, the one that has stuck, according to reports from the field and from German news media, is that the weapon loses all accuracy when it gets hot. The dispute has multiple facets or sides, including the Bundeswehr, H&K, the MOD’s current leaders, its former leaders, opposition politicians, and the German media; each such interest seems to be at war with all the others.

Here are a few of our translations of German news-magazine and blog headlines and subheads. Note that (1) these hasty hacks aren’t official, certified translations (if you want those, they come with a bill), and (2) the articles linked are in German, of course. Some of them may have English translations: look for a small British or British&American flag icon on the website.

G36C disassembled

ITEM: Spiegel, 7 Feb 14: Problems with Bundeswehr Standard Weapon: Legislature stops procurement of G36

After even more reports on the problems of the G36 assault rifle, the Bundestag pulls the emergency brake: The Committee on Budgets has immediately canceled all further orders of the weapon.

ITEM: Spiegel, 12 Mar 14: Examination of the Bundeswehr rifle G36: Whitewash from the Ministry of Defense

A serious accusation of the House of Ursula von der Leyen: Defense Commissioner [Hellmut] Königshause accused the Ministry of attempted manipulation of an examination of the G36 assault rifle. Negative outcomes were, in Berlin, not wanted.

ITEM: Stern, 29 Nov 14: Ministry Tried to Massage Weapons Report

The Defense Ministry is reported to have tried to influence the Experts’ Report on the deficiencies of the rifle G36. Certain formularions were used to try to “retouch” the weapon’s accuracy problems.

ITEM: Spiegel, 30 Mar 15: Bundeswehr: Tests Prove Deficient Accuracy of the G36

For months, there have been doubts about the Bundeswehr’s standard rifle . Now technical tests have demonstrated that the G36 is inaccurate when it’s fired hot. Minister von der Leyen is alarmed.

ITEM: Spiegel, 31 Mar 15: Bundeswehr Rifle G36: Heckler & Koch Accuses von der Leyen of a Targeted Campaign.

The negative reports about the Sturmgewehr G36 have occasioned strong conflict between the manufacturer and the Bundeswehr. Gunmaker Heckler & Koch said it was “shocked” by the decision of Minister von der Leyen

ITEM: Stern, 1 April 15: Von der Leyen has a Commission Investigate the Rifle Problem

A commission has been assigned by Federal Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) to investigate more deeply the problems with the Sturmgewehr G36 and the consequences thereof.

ITEM: Stern, 8 Apr 15: Leadership of MOD was Already Warned in 2011

The G36, the standard rifle of the Bundeswehr, fails under heat and no longer shoots accurately. A report from the Federal Accounting Office reveals: the problem has been known for years, but has been concealed.

(Note: this is the article that occasioned HK’s “Position Paper Nº. 3″ on the G36, available from HK here).

ITEM: Stern, 12 Apr 15: Two Commissions are to Investigate the G36 Affair simultaneously.

The MOD is having the affair of the troubled Sturmgewehr G36 investigated by two Commissions simultaneously. Sie sollen nach der Vorlage eines Berichts zur Treffsicherheit der Standardwaffe der Bundeswehr am kommenden Freitag eingesetzt werden.

There are many more articles. Here, for example, is a search string that will find all of Stern’s:

http://wefind.stern.de/stern/search?query=G36+gewehr

And here is Spiegel’s:

http://www.spiegel.de/suche/index.html?suchbegriff=Gewehr+G36

What it Means So Far

In the German Armed Forces, the G36 is on the bubble, even after the military has accepted hundreds of thousands of these rifles already. The MOD is seriously considering selecting some different rifle as an interim rifle. HK thought they could lobby their way out of trouble, and they have failed; as the only likely complete solution provider inside Germany, the bad odor they are now in with the major parties (CDU, SPD, and even the anti-defense Greens) means they have an uphill fight to either prevent the replacement of the G36, or provide the substitute.

G36E

This would be a really good time for HK to engineer a solution to the high-temp accuracy problem. It’s hard to believe that their tests do not show the same thing Bundeswehr and independent tests have found, that when the gun is hot from firing it can sling bullets as much as 50 cm (half a meter, just under 20″) from point of aim at 100 meters. Cold-bore the G36 is as accurate as any 5.56mm NATO rifle and more accurate than some, but there’s clearly something off in the largely-polymer rifle’s heat management.

You may recall that the G36 forerunner considered and nearly adopted by the US Army, the XM8, also came a cropper on heat-management issues (among many others).

HK’s only winning response at this point is a reengineered G36 that handles these heat issues with aplomb. The lack of confidence in the weapon in the Bundeswehr is not strictly a Bundeswehr problem, because an abandonment of the rifle by the German Armed Forces would be such a vote of no-confidence that its foreign sales would largely evaporate. (Some units might still be moved the way many Latin American and African rifles are adopted, with transfers to numbered Swiss bank accounts).

Meanwhile, other European, especially German and part-German, arms companies are looking at what they have to fill the racks in German arms rooms. FN can offer SCARs, SIG/Sauer the 500 series, Steyr the AUG. Israel may offer the Tavor, but the odds of a European nation, especially Germany, adopting an Israeli firearm approach zero. In addition almost everybody, even HK, can offer an M16/M4 clone. Some German SOF elements already have experience with the M4A1 and HK416, and there are points of preference for those carbines over the G36K they’re supposed to be using.

The US DOD would facilitate co-production if the Bundeswehr were seriously interested in guns similar to US-pattern ones, which it’s probably not. But the service has signaled it’s going to so something, and something big, about its G36 problem.

Finally — did anyone else notice the irony that, in Germany the press is crucifying their military for shortcomings of a service rifle most of the troops are happy with, and suggesting that they just buck up and buy the foreign alternative (such as the M4), while in the US the press from time to time crucifies the military for shortcomings of a service rifle most of the troops are happy with, and suggests that they just buck up and buy the foreign alternative (such as the G36)?

(In the interests of fairness, we provide links to and translation of the most recent HK Position Papers on the G36 overleaf. Click “more” to read them. –Eds.)

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FN Teases New Civilian Versions of Military Weapons

This press release was so tempting that we had to double check — was it really dated April 10, not April 1? Turns out, it is (well, some versions are dated April 9).

(McLean, VA – April 9, 2015) FNH USA is excited to announce that three new products, including a brand-new product line, will be making their first appearance on the FNH USA Booth #2324 at the 2015 NRA Annual Meetings in Nashville, TN. Expected to be released in the Fall of 2015 are the mil-spec FN M249S™, a semi-automatic version of the U.S. Military’s M249 SAW light machine gun and two new additions to the company’s modern sporting rifle line, the FN 15™ M4 and M16 Military Collector Series.

Are they serious?

fn_m249s

Serious as a heart attack.

Holy schnikeys, a semi-auto Minimi from none other than FN? True, we’d rather have the full-auto one (personal aside to William Hughes: may your soul’s torment in Hades never cease), but given the laws we’ve got, we’ll take it. The bad news is that, while they’re teasing the product now for a fall 2015 launch, they didn’t put a lot of prep into the website — it’s still all full of holes.

Machine Gunners Depend on Riflemen

And FN is also introducing two new “Military Collectors” versions of the M16 Rifle and M4 Carbine. These include DOD-like code labels on the magazine wells, unlike FN’s sporting AR-series guns which feature a very large FN logo on the mag well. As the press release puts it:

web_mil_coll_v2

The FN 15™ Military Collector’s Series M4 and M16 bring to market military replica rifles made to FN’s exacting specifications. The semi-automatic rifles are chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO and feature M4 -profile 16 and 20-inch 1:7” RH, button broached and chrome-lined barrels, respectively. Each UID-labeled lower receiver is equipped with an ambidextrous selector switch, just like its select-fire big brother.

The web page for the Military Collectors carbines is better fleshed out than the M249S page.

Both of these product lines will find a niche market, and they’ll also help FN manage production when faced with the herky-jerky and unreliable nature of military orders. So it’s a win for FN, for the .mil (by helping to absorb overhead that would otherwise fall on the DOD budget), and of course, for those who want to own and shoot these firearms.

We want, we think, one of each. You?

SIG-nificant Shipping Update: MPX pistols, SBR

Back in January, 2013, we were pretty excited when SIG announced the MPX submachine gun, along with civilian-legal pistol, carbine and SBR variants. The piece we wrote then put this part-polymer MP5 analogue with AR-like ergonomics in its tactical, technical and historical context, but rereading it now, we were excited about this thing. We really wanted an SBR-SD version (and still do, and when we’re back in New Hampster we’ll enquire at the Pro Shop).

MPX-SD-Detail-L

It’s also just the thing for PDs looking at dog-eared 1980s MP5s and cringing at what HK wants for replacements; the SMG version is priced a lot more attractively than the German firearm.

And then, of course, came the long wait for shipping, compounded by SIG and the ATF going to war (well, going to law, actually) over SIG’s design for a convertible carbine/SD variant. That one is still generating billable hours, so the very welcome news that MPX variants are shipping must except, at this time, the MCX carbine. But the first three variants are shipping, says SIG on Facebook:

Good news, SIG SAUER fans! The 9mm SIG MPX is now in full production and shipping! Three variants are on their way to distributors as we speak (Pistol, Pistol with SBX brace and Short-Barrel Rifle).

And they include this triumphant picture (you know the embiggen drill):

” 9mm_mpx_shipping

That looks like the new building to us, too. Well done, SIG.

The shipping variants include the pistol (illustrated), the pistol with folding SIG brace (naturally), and the SBR. No caliber conversions or variants, but these are coming: SIG has staked its future on modularity, it seems clear from the firearms it’s promoting on the SIG Evolution website. (That’s for specs and tech. For promotions and news, the place to look is the facebook site, or the Promotions page on the website).

The polymer magazines are molded for SIG by Lancer.

If you’ve been waiting to decide on one of these until you can see and handle it in your LGS, the hour is soon at hand. Hmmm… wonder if they’ll sell us an SBR now and let us trade it on an SBR/SD when it’s ready?

HK’s Other 4.6: the HK36 in 4.6 x 36

HK LogoAround 1970, Heckler & Koch was doing well, but their restless engineers were thinking: what’s next? One thing we learn from history is that no weapons system lasts forever, and there was maybe one more go-around in the company’s present line of roller-locked weapons, trading some militaries’ 7.62 NATO weapons for 5.56 NATO ones. But what could offer stingy weapons procurers enough reason to stop sitting on their wallets?

HK 4.6 x 36mm, made 1971. For sale here. It seems likely that there was only one lot.

HK 4.6 x 36mm, made 1971. For sale here. It seems possible that there was only one lot each of the “soft core” (lead, this) and “hard core” (tungsten carbide) FMJ.

The company explored many ideas, in two major strains. One is now well-known: caseless ammunition with a radically new action and new modes of fire, which became the G11 through many, many series of tests and evaluations in the 1970s and 1980s. The second was, perhaps, meant as a technical backstop if the G11, a technical stretch, proved infeasible. It became the HK36 — not the G36, the technical backstop HK had to create after the G11 failed, but the very obscure G36. The rifle existed in, perhaps, three prototypes. It used a unique 4.6 x 36mm intermediate cartridge.

HK 36 factory photo, as published in Full Circle.

HK 36 factory photo, as published in Full Circle. This is the configuration we call Prototype 3.

The Big Ideas: Weight and Spoonery

When we referred to this as the “other” 4.6, we’re referring, of course, to the fact that this is not 4.6 x 30 HK round used in the familiar (at least, in appearance) MP7 series widely used by US and foreign special operations forces. The 4.6 x 30 is the latest of HK’s many attempts to make an even smaller caliber round, but it was aimed at a different objective: the short-range SOF and LE submachine gun, making most shots inside 100 meters; it has very light bullets (31-40 grains for warshots) and is a hair over half the weight of 9×19 or 5.56×25 ammo, allowing a reduction in operator burden (or an increase in ammo load, naturally).

The 4.6 x 36 was developed in the 1960s to meet a different requirement entirely: that of a normal assault rifle intermediate cartridge, with engagement ranges mostly inside 300 meters. Two ideas drove the 4.6 x 36: reducing ammunition and system weight for a given effect, arguably the longest-standing trend in firearms design, and increasing terminal effect in the intended target, to wit, enemy homo sapiens. The first objective drove the reduction in caliber and length. To get to acceptable lethality, higher chamber pressures (51,200 psi CUP) were accepted, but the light projectiles (42 grain hard core/54 grain softcore) didn’t reach outlandish velocities (2,600-2,800 fps). It required a fast barrel twist to stabilize the light projectiles; 1 turn in 6.3″ was selected. HK claimed the round shot flat, allowing it to print to point of aim from 0 to 300 meters without any need for range compensation by the shooter or the sight.

The “spoonery” of the subtitle refers to an invention of Dr Gunther Voss of CETME, which remained in symbiosis with HK itself at least at the time he applied for German and US patents in 1964 and 65 (his US Patent, 3,357,357, was granted in 1967).

Voss Loffelspitz US3357357-0

…to provide a rifle bullet wherein the tip of the bullet is of an asymmetric shape. When this bullet strikes the target, forces are generated which accelerate the bulet inclination.

It is stil another object of the present invention to provide a rifle bullet wherein the turning moment produced by the inclination accelerating forces increases and the bullet inclination is produced more rapidly when the distance between the bullet center of gravity and the bullet tip is greater. It is possible to increase the effect produced by the bullet tip asymmetry through the backward displacement of the bullet center of gravity.

The CG change could be produced by a dual-material cored bullet (later Russian rounds would take this approach, without using Voss’s tip).

Voss 4.6 x 36 Löffelspitz (l.) with 5.56 x 45 for comparison.

Voss 4.6 x 36 Löffelspitz (l.) with 5.56 x 45 for comparison.

Voss further believed that by increasing terminal velocity with the subtly asymmetric bullet tip he called the Löffelspitz or “spoon tip,” he could reduce caliber without losing lethality, and without having to “underspin” the bullet, which was widely understood to be Armalite’s approach to small caliber lethality.

In addition to the effective range increase, a bullet with these characteristics offers the advantage of the possibility of reducing its caliber without decreasing the detaining power obtained with the calibers used until now.

“Detaining power” is a euphemism used throughout the patent application. But clearly, the one biggest Big Idea in the HK36 was this ammunition.

The Three Known Prototypes or Versions

It is possible that some of these are actually the same rifle before and after rework. The fairly comprehensive (to its date) HK reference The Gray Room does not include a picture of an HK 36, suggesting that this may not have been preserved by the firm (or it may not be in display condition). Full Circle only includes handout publicity pictures.

The receiver of the rifle is very slender and short and, while surviving weight figures (6.3 lb empty) generated by marketing personnel based on prototypes are hard to reconcile with real in-service weights, it should have been much lighter than other HK rifles and more competitive with AR-15 based contemporaries.

Prototype 1 had a very conventional HK roller-lock styled receiver and magazine well, and very conventional HK (as far back as CETME) drum sight. It showed a relatively early plastic HK lower marked 0-1-30 and had an unusual sliding buttstock, clearly inspired by the Colt CAR-15, even though the HK36 did not require a buffer tube.

hk36 prototype 1

 

Prototype 2 also had a fixed magazine well, but the drum sight had been replaced by an, also Colt- or Armalite-inspired, carrying handle/sight mount. A reflex sight is contained within the after third of this sight, but we’ve never seen pictures of it, or of its reticle; we do note that apart from Prototype 1 (above), all HK 36 photos appear to be innocent of any foresight or any provision for iron sights. This image was featured in the 1975 Jane’s Infantry Weapons edited by FWA Hobart. Hobart reproduced a factory brochure for the rifle inside the book. He also, at the same time, featured this firearm in an article in National Defense, the magazine of the (then) American Defense Preparedness Association (which was earlier the Ordnance Association, and would later be the National Defense Industrial Association). By this time, possibly unknown to Hobart, the HK 36 was destined for the back burner as the caseless project was beginning to look feasible.

hk36 prototype 2

That picture doesn’t really do the sight-tower justice. It would be preserved in the next prototype and we’ll see it from some more angles.

Prototype 3 took another turn in the direction of space age looks with a fixed stock with a high center so that the recoil thrustline is barely offset from the stock centerline. This would have the  effect of reducing muzzle rise in high-rate fire, including auto- or burst-mode fire.

HK36b

The selector now has four positions: 0, 1, 25, and 3, for a three-shot burst. This appears to have been a burst at normal cyclic rate.

The unusual magwell appears also to be a little bit inspired by Armalite concepts: a disposable waffle-reinforced magazine insert made of aluminum.

hk36mag

Changing a magazine was a Heath Robinson task on the HK 36; it appears from surviving photos that you have to move the mag well latch to the rear which would let the spring-loaded side door open and then you could insert the 25-Round magazine insert into the well and press the side door closed. At this point you could resume fire.

It may have been even more complicated than that. This is how Major Hobart explained it in the National Defense article (via Full Circle, p. 346):

The magazine is charged as follows:

At the bottom of each side is a milled button attached to a spring-loaded chain carried inside the magazine. When the buttons are pulled down, the chain is extended and held out. This pulls down the magazine platform and compresses the magazine spring. The rear of the magazine is open, and the 30-round box is placed on top of the followers. A further pull on the chain releases the holding catch.

The magazine platform rises under the cartridges and passes inside the containing box. The chain is taken up into the magazine. The first round is now in position for loading, and when the bolt comes forward the top cartridge is fed into the chamber. The magazine is sealed against the entry of dirt, snow, etc. As subsequent rounds are fired, the magazine spring drives the follower farther up inside the ammunition box. When the last round is fired, the bolt is held open. When the chain is pulled down, the empty box is ejected, the magazine spring is fully compressed, and the platform is pulled down to allow the next ammunition pack to be inserted.

(This is what happens when you ask a room full of guys whose names terminate in Dipl. Ing. to simplify something). HK claimed that this would “reduce weight and cost.”

It’s unfair to judge the magazine system based only on images and descriptions, but the temptation to pass judgment is strong. In any event, it is not the only ergonomic question mark with these firearms. The usual HK selector switch seems to call for the usual double-jointed thumb, especially on the burst setting; also, a stock weld of any type looks practically impossible, whether you’re using the fixed or sliding stock versions. (In true HK roller-lock fashion, they’re easily interchangeable. HK was modular before modular was cool).

The close-up of Prototype 3 shows the unusual shape of the forward carrying-handle pillars, and the only reason we can think that they’re bowed out like that is to keep them out of the field of view of the mysterious reflex sight. At around this time, HK was working with Hensoldt on a reflex sight for the G11; this might be the same sight.

Note that these “Prototype numbers” are not anything assigned by HK, but something that gun watchers have applied to these photos over the years as they’ve surfaced. We’re not aware of any picture showing more than one HK 36 in any one place at any one time, so it’s quite possible that there was only one prototype, and it went through several different reconstructions. It’s also possible that at least some of the weapons in the factory photos are actually mockups or dummies, and were never built as working firearms. The existence of quantities of the 4.6 X 36 ammunition argues for the existence of functioning prototypes.

What Happened to the HK36?

We know, in broad terms, what happened with the project. As the 70s wore on and the G11 project for a 4.9 mm (later 4.7 x 21) caseless Wundergewehr came together technically, the HK 36 and its unique 4.6 x 36 mm round vanished back into the swamps of, if not Mordor, at least Oberndorf. The G11 project was all-consuming, and it was this close to Bundeswehr adoption and standardization, having demonstrated a 100% pH improvement over the G3 rifle, when it was overcome by events. The Berlin Wall crumbled, and Germany entered the phase of Wiedervereinigung – the reunification of a nation divided in twain for almost 50 years. With the defense demands that resulted from this unexpected boon, including the challenges of merging two completely incompatible sets of armed services, it would have been irresponsible to sink great resources into rifle re-armament — so they kicked that can down the road, and stuck with the obsolescent G3.

The G11, which had already been rejected by the US Army when it cancelled the Advanced Combat Rifle procurement program in 1990, went into the lockers, too, and HK was briefly without a future in the infantry rifle market (right when worldwide Police/SOF enthusiasm for its submachine guns was running out of steam).

When HK found its future again, it wouldn’t be roller-locked or caseless. So one of the salient facts about the HK 36 is that it was, indeed, the last of a long line that began with the Mauser Werke StG 45. For that, as well as its innovative ammunition and concept, it deserves to be remembered.

We are aware that this post is far from comprehensive, but we think it tells the story of this rare experiment to the extent that it’s been made public. If there is a single thorough article on the HK 36 in the Intertubes somewhere, we did not find it. The best and most authoritative sources, based on factory information, are those 1975 Jane’s and National Defense articles, and three short pages in Full Circle, which reproduces much of the ND article’s content. 

Benchwork with Bubba: Mosin Edition

On this lovely weekend day, as a light snow sprinkles on us in seacoast New Hampshire (Dear God, winter can end any time), we settle in to spend some quality time with our favorite (in entertainment terms)  gunsmith, Bubba. If you’re a habitué of Reddit’s /r/guns, you probably caught this beauty last week, but if not, here it is in all its… glory. It is stunning, for some values of “stunning.”

Tula bubbad Mosin 001Obviously, the guy who posted this bubba’d Mosin on Imgur is having some fun with it, as he carefully photographed it with the props of booze and cartridges. The booze? He explains, “Alcohol for scale and realism.” Gives you the full Bubba. (He is a Marine vet of Afghanistan and has another Imgur page with info about the weapons he used).

This gun seems to hit the high points of Bubbadom on several levels.

  • It started with a Finnish M39, a collector Mosin. The front sight was removed along with the last few inches of the barrel. We doan need no stankin’ sights. The rear sight, however, was left on, because removing that is Hard To Do.
  • The stock is hacked down and the Modern Art forearm tip grafted on.
  • The whole thing is painted OD. Can’t tell if it’s a brush job or rattle cans. When his phone doesn’t ring, it’s the Maaco Crappy Auto Body franchise not offering him a job in their DILLIGAFF Paint Shop.
  • That bolt handle… ugh. First, the workmanship looks like a reject from a Teach Yourself Welding class. Second, that bolt handle is extended and the weirdo industrial knob (which has more than a whiff of Harbor Freight about it)  is cleverly located forward and underneath the trigger entirely; believe it or not, the idea behind modifying rifle bolts, back in the days of Peak Sporterizing, was to make the bolt easier and faster to operate, as well as to clear a scope and mount. Tula bubbad Mosin 002
  • Given that this guy has the metal-shaping skills of Katy Perry, this Acme bolt handle didn’t clear the stock, so he chiseled a gouge in the stock for it to rest in. That part is left in the original bare birch or whatever for contrast. Scandinavian Design FTW!
  • Rather than apply his welding savoir-faire to the trigger, he took the coward’s way out and added a big wide trigger shoe. Because he who dies with the most mods on his gun, wins.
  • The Thalidomide bolt handle still didn’t clear the scope and mount, so you can see some crude saw (note toolmarks) has been used to chop off the after end of the scope.
  • The $10 bargain basement scope (he thinks, a Center Point) and mounts are guaranteed to last at least until the gun is fired. No, handled. Until the gun is handled.
  • The stilt-high see-through mounts are meant to be used with iron sights, by people who buy $10 scopes and therefore need to go to backup any time they hunt outdoors in weather (when was the last time you hunted indoors?). Therefore a cheek weld is impossible.
  • So a hunk of foam is Ace-bandaged on to the stock to make a sort of rustic cheekpiece.

Bubba Facit, as the Romans might have said.

There are actually two versions of the Imgur post, here and here, with very slight differences in the wording, but the same pictures.

Somewhere in Finland, a guy who spent a hunk of the last century turning Mosins into finely crafted moose and elk hunting rifles is weeping inconsolably.

4 Men. 3 States. 2 Weeks. = 1 Rifle + 1 Good Deed of the Day

How a blogger, an FFL, a dad and a grand-dad ganged up across the nation to show a Boy Scout a Good Deed of the Day. Now, the Story Can Be Told, as a Hollywood narrator might say.

Ruger 10:22 Boy Scout of America Rifle01

It begins with a boy approaching a milestone in life and in scouting: Eagle Scout. The top level in Scouting, Eagle is achieved by a relatively small minority of Scouts. Kyle was proud of his accomplishment, and his dad wanted to do something for him. Knowing that Kyle was into guns, Dad heard about a Boy Scout commemorative that Ruger had made. Finding ads for it online, he called number after number only to find… nope, sorry. We forgot to take down the ad. He went to his local FFL, Moti Adika of MASA Firearms in Coral Springs, FL, a guy with a strong Israeli accent. Moti knew the gun, and knew the market — and he told the Dad, gently but unmistakably, that he was screwed.

boy scout 22 stock

You see, that commemorative was offered for one year only — five years ago, in 2010. Gun distributors and dealers buy guns to resell, not to keep, and if your inventory takes five years to turn over, you’re not going to make it as a dealer of guns or anything else. “I’ll keep my eye on the auctions,” is something like what Moti said, “but you better not count on it.”

So dejected Dad mentions it to Granddad Bill, his father-in-law. They get on like a house on fire anyway — Dad’s a line pilot, and Granddad Bill is a retired Army pilot, and they both like guy stuff, Mom, and the grandkids.

Enter Weaponsman

“Wait a minute,” says Granddad Bill. “I know a guy who knows guns.” and he sends an email to your humble blogger.

But the email crosses the wires as Weaponsman.com is relocating south to deal with family turbulence. It goes unread. But South turns out to be kind of diagonally a couple of streets over from Granddad Bill, and soon enough Weaponsman and the former Hook driver are at lunch with Weaponsdad and another buddy.

“Hey,” says Weaponsdad. “Did you ever answer Granddad Bill’s email?”

“Wha?” Weaponsman intelligently replies around a sandwich of some type.

And the facts about the Dad’s urgent need for a weapons intervention lest the Dad have to conceive a Plan B for an Eagle Scout gift.

“No problem. I’ve got this for action,” Weaponsman intones, his eyes smiling behind his WileyX’s. Because  this is going to be easy, right?  Most commemorative guns stay NIB for decades. Most of them have examples in the secondary market all the time. And none of these soi-disant collector’s items ever seem to appreciate much, compared with real collectors’ items.

We learn about the rifle.  It’s a nice looking thing, with a better than standard walnut stock, a schnabel forearm, and some Boy Scout markings. It’s quite the “attaboy,” and all we need to do now is find one.

We strike out. Our favorite FFL strikes out, and reaches out to his distributors.

They laugh at him. “We just had a guy from Florida asking.” Moti? “We laughed at him, too.”

Hey, anything to bring a smile to your face, you know? That leaves the auction sites. We hit the best and brightest, Gunbroker.

Nada.

The former Auction Arms, now GunAuction.com, the NRA’s preferred auction site.

Zip.

And so on down the list, with synonyms for zero piling up. We even thought about trying GunsAmerica, even though they’re assclowns and we don’t trust them as far as we could throw them, but decided that some principles are stronger than helping a Boy Scout.

So we set some snares on the auction sites and take out the 18F google-fu. Like the Dad before us, we find lots of ads. “Oh, crap, what’s the URL for that ad? We sold out of those in about a year.”

Then, the klaxon goes off.  One has been listed on GunBroker! Initial bid $550, open auction. It was a nice one, in apparently new condition, with all the paperwork and junk that comes with a new one:

Ruger 10:22 Boy Scout of America Rifle02

Some Strategic Bidding Tips

This is how we bid on that gun in order to buy it successfully, make a Scout and his Dad happy, and avoid any suggestion of a legal violation.

  • First, in a case like this where you’re bidding for friends, make sure they’re friends you trust. Your credibility on the auction site is at risk. If you win the auction and the actual buyer taps out, you’re left holding the bag (which you can only rescue by buying the gun yourself and having it delivered to you, or making an arrangement with the seller).
  • Second, when multiple guys know that someone is looking for a specific gun, coordinate lest you bid against one another. It didn’t take Moti any longer to find the BSA rifle auction than it took us; he advised The Dad to set up a GB account and bid himself. Three-way coordination was necessary to be sure than only one of us bid on the auction, so as not to drive the price artificially high for a single customer.
  • Third, in an interstate deal, take pains not to violate Federal and state law. This deal involved domiciliaries of three states: IL, FL, and NH. Rather than buy and take possession of and deliver the gun, we chose to simply bid on behalf of the buyer, who isn’t likely to use GunBroker enough to establish a login of his own. If you buy a gun for someone else, that’s potentially a straw purchase, even if the end user of the gun is definitely not a prohibited person. (ATF prefers to pursue cases like this than actual violent criminals; in one case, they put an FBI agent in prison for buying his father a Glock to get the LE discount). So in this case, we just bid for The Dad. He bought the gun himself, sending the check to the listing dealer, and receiving it from his own dealer, Moti. We never touched the money or the gun, and it did its interstate travel from IL FFL to FL FFL — it’s even more on the up-and-up than it needs to be. Do not count on your being an honest person to protect you… make it tough for a dishonest ATF agent to screw you.
  • Fourth, an early bid in a long auction just signals your interest and brings out competing bidders. It’s some bizarre group effect of human psychology that relatively few want to be the first penguin in the water, but great swathes of the public will happily dive in once the first one has taken the plunge. So bid late.
  • Fifth and Finally, don’t let an item you want slip away because you only made one bid, and don’t overpay because you got caught up in the heat of a bidding cycle. Decide what the gun is worth to you before you make the bid, and set a max bid of that amount. That both ensures you won’t lose it to a bid you’d have outbid if you could have, and just as importantly acts as a cold-blooded check on the tendency to bid in hot blood.  (This is just like setting abort criteria for a mission, or a pilot setting a missed approach point on an instrument approach — it has to be done in advance, in cold blood, fixed and briefed, and then adhered to rigidly).

As it happens, no one else bid on the Scout commemorative, and it was The Dad’s for the minimum bid of $550. With Fedex shipping, it came to $571. It’s enroute to him, per the Fedex tracking number.

And the Scout? He doesn’t even suspect it’s coming. Heh.

The GunLab VG 1-5 Project Update

Chuck at GunLab reports on the ongoing VG 1-5 project. Pre-orders have been taken (cards not yet charged) and a list established at Allegheny Arsenal. It’s not cheap, but you’re not going to be the sixth AR in line at the range with this thing.

We’re going to catch you up on the last several VG 1-5 2015 updates, a couple of which we might have mentioned before.

Chuck had made the first few receiver reinforcement plates by hand on a finger brake. It worked but it was an ugly way of doing it, especially with hundreds of the guns spoken for by eager collectors. So he made a special pressing jig. Here it is in action:

The Magazine Release Button comprises a threaded insert riveted into a pressed dome, which is made itself from a flat laser-cut washer. Both processes are shown in the video below and explained with many photos in the appropriate GunLab post from back in January.

And so, finally, we get to the latest update, from 9 Mar 15, in which a test-mule VG 1-5 is test-fired. As Chuck writes:

We looked at everything from the barrel chamber and flutes to the firing pin length. We needed to check the recoil spring length and tension. Is the buffer spring too strong or weak? Will the fire control group work properly? All the drawings showed that everything should work but these are all questions that can only be answered during a test fire.

A problem is found, is rapidly troubleshot, and a new problem is found.

While the videos are a brief and on point, and have the advantage of motion, we strongly urge going to see the actual posts, because the many photos there and the descriptions reveal details not clarified in the videos.

We have every confidence that troubleshooting will be successful. How much confidence? Well, our VG 1-5 is on order.

There are several other cool things happening at GunLab, and they are worth checking out. (If you’re typing the address in, try to remember it’s gunlab.net. Someone has acquired the gunlab.com domain, but we don’t know who).

UPDATE

Sorry about the missing test-fire video. Should be fixed now.

Sometimes the Worst Gun Wins, and other Lessons from History

In Smith’s The History of Military Small Arms, the author claims to see a  parallel between the introduction of the Dreyse Needle Gun and the history of military small arms in general. To wit:

Dreyse Needle Gun with fabric cartridge and projectile showing primer location at projo base. From The Firearm Blog.

Dreyse Needle Gun with fabric cartridge and projectile showing primer location at projo base. From The Firearm Blog.

When the Dreyse was introduced into the Prussian service it was a “military secret” of the first order. Like most “military secrets” it was a secret only to those naive branches of the military who never seem to be aware of what has been done in their line—those artless individuals with which every country is regularly afflicted, and who strangely enough seem to be nearly always in a position to make policy while submerging the real experts who are present in any army.1

The Dreyse shouldn’t have been a surprise to anybody, as the technology had been patented by a Swiss circa 1830, when the Prussian generals who would command Dreyse-wielding riflemen were subalterns. And while the Dreyse Needle Gun had an edge on the French Chassepot, it wasn’t that big an edge, really.

The Chassepot. Funny: the Scandinavian museum that has this one thinks it's a Dreyse.

The Chassepot. Funny: the Scandinavian museum that has this one thinks it’s a Dreyse.

The edge was that the Dreyse was able to use a metallic cartridge, even though these images show a fabric one (even though the illustration shows it with a fabric cartridge). But in the Americas, Union cavalry was armed almost exclusively with breechloaders, and in significant part with breech-loading repeaters, generally firing fixed rim- or center-fire ammunition, by war’s end. Having the Dreyse gave the Prussians a momentary advantage over the muzzleloader-toting Austrians, who soon thereafter followed such leaders as Britain (with the Snyder) and the US (with the Allin conversion) and rebuilt its muzzle-loaders into breech-loaders.

Here's another view of the Chassepot, action closed. The stylistic resemblance to the much later Mosin-Nagant repeater is eerie; did it inspire that design?

Here’s another view of a Chassepot, action closed. The stylistic resemblance to the much later Mosin-Nagant repeater is eerie; did it inspire that design?

Out in the real world, small arms development is seldom secret, and when it is, it is seldom kept secret for long. Engineering and science have long been observed to proceed, worldwide, at the same pace, and weapons of war face something akin to the evolutionary pressures faced by animals under natural selection (minus, perhaps, sexual selection, although the natural competitiveness of armies leads to a pursuit of bragging rights and pride internationally that has some parallels, but with much less power).

1898 .30-40 Krag carbine

1898 .30-40 Krag carbine

It is an interesting fact that, when two armies meet in the field, both sides are almost always convinced that their equipment is superior. When it turns out not to be for one side, an even more interesting fact is that weapons superiority is not always, or even often, decisive. No grunt came away from Cuba or Puerto Rico still believing that the .30-40 Krag, selected by the USA over the Mauser because the Krag had a simpler and easier-to-inspect magazine cut off “to save ammunition in combat,” was the superior rifle. Ordnance’s error in prioritizing that, or perhaps in accepting the priorities given to it by the generals, was clear, and the guns were scarcely still before Springfield was directed, although perhaps not in the words of a later Smith & Wesson executive, to “copy the m’f’er!”

Yet, as deficient as the US mix of Krags and trapdoors was vis-a-vis the 7mm x 57 Spanish 1893 Mauser, a technically superior rifle was not enough to make up for the many other technical and tactical deficiencies the Spaniards faced in trying to hang on to their colonies. Weapons are complex enough to present many features and capabilities, and survival-oriented officers and soldiers quickly learn to exploit their system’s strengths and overcome its weaknesses. The Germans learned to fight against the superior mobility of American and Russian tanks; the Allies learned to fight against the German’s better armor and armament. Meanwhile, a “secret” weapon is only secret until it’s used; after that, the enemy knows its effects, and his own engineers and ordnance men can figure out what the weapon was — as every nation’s scientists and engineers are at, to a first approximation, the same level of knowledge. (The classic example of the limited life of a  secret weapon is the way the Soviet Union went from ignorance of the potential for a nuclear weapon to leapfrogging US/UK development of fusion weapons in 4 years).

Napoleon’s maxim about the relative weight of the material and the moral in war is as good an explanation as any for the phenomenon: sometimes the guy with the worse gun wins.

Notes

  1. B. Smith (2013-07-13 00:00:00-05:00). The History of Military Small Arms (Kindle Locations 910-914). Kindle Edition.