Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

Loose Rounds on the M14

We have a soft spot in our heart for the M14 rifle, even though we experienced it in the service primarily as the M21 sniper system, a fiddly, unstable platform with, “no user serviceable parts inside.” (Seriously. The operator was not permitted to field-strip the gun — that was strictly for the armorers who built the thing. You could swab out the bore, but they’d rather you didn’t). Some of the fiddliness was caused by the Leatherwood ART II scope, an early bullet drop compensator telescopic sight. The Leatherwood was adopted, we always suspected, because Jim Leatherwood had been an SF guy, not because the scope was incredibly great. The replacement of the M21 with the M24 bolt gun, a gun that was developed primarily by SF marksmen (snipers and competitive shooters), was met by hosannas. Its Leupold mildot scope took the onus off the scope’s internals and put it on the shooter, and we liked that.

m24army4

So when Shawn at Loose Rounds penned a post critical not as much of the M14 but of its somewhat unsupported legend of battlefield prowess, he was aiming right up our alley. He has technical support in that post from Daniel Watters, arguably the most knowledgable man on post-WWII US small arms developments not to have written a book. And his arguments are generally supported  by the M14-related books in our collection, some of which appear in footnotes or Sources.

The M14’s history is interesting. It had a long and arduous gestation, involving many false starts and dead ends, before finally settling on a weapon that was a little more than an M1 with a box magazine and improved gas system. This whole process took 12 years (from 1945 to 1957) and cost a surprising fortune, considering that what came out of it was essentially an M1 with a box mag, useless selective-fire switch, and improved gas system.

From the operator end, it looks just like an M1, except for that dopey and wasteful giggle switch,  but you can actually reload an M1 faster.

us-rifle-m14-POV-candrsenal

The M14’s prototype, the T44, came this close (Max Smart finger gesture) to losing out to the US-made FN-FAL version, the T48. The final test found the two weapons roughly equivalent.1 Previous tests greatly improved both arms, and made one lasting improvement in the FAL hat benefited FN and foreign operators: the incorporation of the “sand cuts” in the bolt carrier.2 One deciding factor was that the FN rifle did not have “positive bolt closure,” a way to force the bolt closed on, say, a swollen cartridge. (Never mind that that’s a crummy idea, it was Army policy. Some say, in order to accept the home-grown, Springfield-developed T44 instead of the foreign-designed FAL, but that’s certainly not written down anywhere important).

The M14 went on to have a surprisingly difficult time in manufacturing — surprising because it had been sold on extensive commonality with M1 Garand design, and sold as producible on M1
Garand tooling. All manufacturers (Springfield, Winchester, Harrington & Richardson, and TRW) struggled to make the guns. (Stevens calls M14 production, in a chapter heading, “A Tragedy in Four Acts.”3 In H&R’s case it was not surprising, as H&R had struggled with an M1 contract and only had an M14 contract because of political corruption in the Massachusetts congressional delegation, TRW, which is generally thought to have produced the best rifles of the four manufacturers.4

The M14 was supposed to replace the M1, but also the BAR, carbine, and SMG. Until you see them side by side, most people assume the 14 was smaller than the M1 (image: Rifle Shooter mag).

The M14 was supposed to replace the M1, but also the BAR, carbine, and SMG. Until you see them side by side, most people assume the M14 was smaller than the M1. This “M14″ is actually a civilian Springfield M1A.  (image: Rifle Shooter mag)..

In fact, only a few M1 parts are interchangeable with the M14, including most internal parts of the trigger housing group, and some of the stock hardware, A few other parts, like the extractor and rear sight aperture, interchange but aren’t quite “right.” (The M14 extractor works better in either rifle; the M1 and M14 sights are calibrated in yards and meters respectively).5

The M14 had a short life as a US service rifle, and a controversial one. (Congress, for one, couldn’t believe the amount of money that had been spent for a relatively marginal improvement over the M1). But it has had a long afterlife as stuff of legend. And this where Loose Rounds’ most recent effort in mythbusting comes in. Here is a taste:

Go on to any gun forum, and it won’t take you long to find people willing to tell you how great the M14 is. How accurate,like a laser, tough as tool steel with no need to baby it or clean it. powerful as a bolt of lightening, and how well loved it was by those early users who refused the M16 because they wanted a “real” weapon made of wood and steel…. .. But, is all that really true? Maybe it is a triumph of nostalgia over common sense and reality. One truth is, it was never really liked as much as people think they remember.

The M14 was having major problems even before ARPA’s Project AGILE and a Defense comptroller reported the AR15 superior to the M14;the famous Hitch Report stating the AR15 , the M1 and the AK47 superior.

(Loose Rounds then quotes those exact conclusions from those reports, which are also referenced in many of the Sources we list at the end of this document).

My own Father had this to say. Dad was in Vietnam from 67-68 in the 4th Infantry Division.

“I liked the M14 in basic, It was the first semi auto I had ever fired. It got old carrying all that weight fast running every where all day and night. I qualified expert with it. Once I was issued an M16 right before we over seas, I never looked back.”

For every person who has told me how great the thing is, I have found two who had nothing by misery and bad experiences from it. I myself among them.

The M14/M1a  will be around for as long as people will continue to buy them.  Certainly there is nothing wrong with owning them liking them and using them. By no means is it useless or ineffective.   But its legendary reputation is something that needs to be taken with a grain of salt and careful study of the system if you intend to have one for a use your like may depend on.

If you are curious  posts on shooting rack M14s and custom service rifle M14s with Lilja barrels fired at 1,000 yards can be found here on Looseorunds using the search bar.  There you can read of the M14/M1A compared against the M1 Garand and M1903.

When we sat down last night to start writing this, we were going to analyze their post in great depth, but we can only suggest you go Read The Whole Thing™. The M14 is very beloved, but then, many soldiers come to love their first military rifle quite out of proportion to its qualities. (Indeed, we feel that way about, and retain a limerent attachment to, the M16A1, while recognizing that progress has left the original Army M16 behind).

If nostalgia drives you, LRB has this rifle on a new T44E4 marked receiver in stock -- for nearly $3k.

If nostalgia drives you, LRB has this rifle on a new T44E4 marked receiver in stock — for nearly $3k. We want it but not $3k bad!

Indeed, there is a space on the gun room wall marked out for an M21, sooner or later. But that;s where it is likely to stay most of the time. (Shawn’s post at Loose Rounds has some details about the fiendish difficulty of keeping one of these in accurate shooting trim).

Notes:

  1. Stevens, North American FALs, p.106; Iannimico, p. 62.
  2. Iannimico, p. 59.
  3. Stevens, US Rifle M14, pp. 197-224l
  4. Emerson, Volume 1, pp. 41-70
  5. Emerson, Volume 3, pp. 129-130.

Sources

Emersom, Lee. M1 History and Development, Fifth Edition. (Four Volumes). Self-published, 2010-2014.

Iannimico, Frank. The Last Steel Warrior: US Rifle M14. Henderson, NV: Moose Lake, 2005.

Rayle, Roy E. Random Shots: Episodes in the Life of a Weapon Developer. Bennington, VT: Merriam Press, 1996.

Stevens, R. Blake, North American FALs. Toronto: Collector Grade Publications, 1979.

Stevens, R. Blake, US Rifle M14: From John Garand to the M21. Toronto: Collector Grade Publications, 1979.

Ay, yi yi yi yi Relief….

This guy seems to shop at al-Bubba the gunsmith:

Aye Relief

 

These ISIL imb-isils are answering the shouted question, “How many brain cells have you got?” Note the cat in the second line with two fingers, and the guy in the back, behind the clown with the Syrian-flag headband, holding up all five fingers? They’re the brains of this outfit.

But Bubba is their armorer. Putting the scope where the rail is, not where the scope needs to be, is a bit like the drunk who was looking for his car keys a couple of blocks from where he lost them, “because there’s a streetlight here!” Let’s zoom in a little closer on this lash-up, because the picture’s kind of dark. We’ll lighten it with an Auto Levels tool and see if that helps the Bubba job stand out (it embiggens, but has lousy resolution).

isil_bubba-d_up_ak

The scope is on a who-needs-a-jeezly-cheekweld height mount, and seems to be mounted at an angle to the bore better measured in degrees than in Minutes of Angle or Miliradians. But wait, what’s that opposite the scope?

Why, yes, it is two fore-grips, because Allah helps those who keep a grip, evidently. The clown is gripping a Grip-pod, and right behind it there’s a folding grip, which looks to us like the Command Arms product. (Funny. Grip-pod doesn’t list ISIL when they mention “Who Uses Grip-Pod“. We thought “there is no such thing as bad publicity!”)

And, of course, for extra Tactical Operator fetish points, al-Bozo here is pulling the old two-magazines-and-electrical-tape spare ammo storage trick. Somewhere, Gecko45 just had a nocturnal emission.

This Arab assclown is undoubtedly more of a threat to himself and those around him than he is to any enemy other than an unarmed child, but then, that’s the history of Arab arms in a nutshell, isn’t it?

Despite that, these inept brain-deads have been beating, defeating, hell, clobbering, the guys that were well disposed to us in particular and to civilization in general. We live in interesting times.

 

How Did the FG-42 Selector Work?

We were asked that yesterday and we pontifically pronounced, “it fired from the open bolt in automatic mode, and from the close bolt in semi.”

This one's an SMG Guns semi clone. Pretty, though, innit?

This one’s an SMG Guns semi clone. Pretty, though, innit? Images do embiggen with a click.

Then we rested back on our laurels as Gun Expert and —

“Well, how did they make it do that?”

“*!” Hmm… How did they? “Let me get back to you on that.”

Fortunately, several references on the shelves explain it in terms our walnut sized brain could grasp. It turns out it was very simple, when you consider how complex some of the other design options made the FG. And it imposed some trade-offs, costing the rifle significant semi-auto accuracy as the price of that mechanical simplicity. Let’s walk you through it.

It worked exactly the same on the First and Second model of the FG, by the way; so we will use images of both in this post.

FG42-0034- grip FW

This image is from a crudely DEWATted Second Model FG that was examined by Forgotten Weapons. There’s a great set of images there, and the gun’s internals are mostly present and correct.

The selector switch is on the left side of what we’d call the grip frame. (The German manuals call this part the Lager which can mean holder or receiver, too, but we’ll stick with “grip frame”). The selector swings through 180º of travel; knob forward covers an “E” for Einzelfeuer (“single fire,” semi-auto), and knob rear clicks on to “D” for Dauerfeuer, (“continuous fire,” automatic). Note that the letter that shows is the antonym of the function you get. Don’t ask us; Hermann Göring was not available to take complaints.

FG-42 exploded view

Comparing the Bedienungsanleitung (manual) image of a First Model to the photo of the second model above that, we can see how the trigger works. The trigger pivots on a pin forward of, and slightly below, the selector switch. The axis of the selector switch is also the axle of the sear (in the diagram, Part B8 Abzughebel, literally “trigger lever”). The sear nose (Fangnase, “catch nose,” B8a) is the hardened end of the sear that engages a notch (if you learned engineering English in Britain, a “bent”) in the operating rod (Verschlußführungsstück, “bolt guiding piece,” Part D10).

There are, however, two notches in the op-rod. One is towards the front end, and mostly right of center. One is towards the tail end, and mostly left of center. You can make out the two notches in this Forgotten Weapons photo.

FG42-0003_FWRotating the selector moves the sear laterally either right to align with the front-end notch, or left to align with the tail-end notch. If it aligns with the tail-end notch, a disconnector (Unterbrecher, literally “interrupter”, B9), works by disengaging the trigger from the sear until the trigger is released (i.e., normal semi-auto trigger reset). Thus the selector engages the sear nose with either the nose-end notch, which holds the op rod and bolt assembly to the rear, or the tail-end notch, which holds the op rod and firing pin only to the rear, allowing the bolt to lock fully into battery.

Releasing the trigger releases the op-rod, then. If the weapon is on full automatic, the bolt and op-rod come forward, the bolt locks, the op-rod finishes its full travel, and the firing pin initiates the cartridge. The whole thing cycles again and continues to do so until the operator releases the trigger. When he does, the bolt is held in automatic battery — to the rear.

These schematics are from Allson & Toomey's Small Arms, pp. 226-227.

These schematics are from Allsop & Toomey’s Small Arms, pp. 226-227. The depiction of the selector in these drawings is how we came to understand that the selector (“change lever” in British English) covers the appropriate letter for type of fire selected.

If the weapon is on semi (selector knob swung 180º to the front), the trigger releases the op-rod, which brings the firing pin down on the primer. The bolt then cycles, but returns to semi-auto battery, closed bolt on a live cartridge, regardless of trigger position. The disconnector rides in the notch forward of the rear notch (here “bent”) only to disconnect when in Semi.

fg42mechanism13_11

If you’re feeling envious of FG-42s, you can buy an excellent semi repro from SMG Guns, you can pay more than a new luxury car for a transferable, or you can take the following image, a pile of steel, wood and aluminum, and a set of files and try to do what SMG did:

FG-42 Type II exploded view

It may take a while. Best of luck to you!

Now, the FG42 wasn’t the last word in open/closed bolt hybrid firing mechanisms. As mentioned, having the whole op rod and firing pin move was inimical to accuracy. This not only increased the motion of the firearm on firing, but it increased lock time substantially, giving that motion more time to work on sending your projectiles wild. But that was a tradeoff that designers at Rheinmettal accepted for their simple and reliable open/closed bolt mechanism.

As we’ve seen, waste heat is a real killer of combat weapons in automatic fire, and by extension, a potential killer of the men who fire them. Firing from an open bolt reduces the incremental temperature increase per automatic round fired, by allowing more air to circulate and more of the potential radiative area to be exposed to ambient-temperature cooling air. This has the side effect of moving the critical temperature area or point further up the barrel from its usual position 5 to 8 inches in front of the chamber.

Firing from an open bolt also prevents cook-offs. Contrary to common misconception, cook-offs are usually not instantaneous but result from a round remaining chambered in a hot barrel for some seconds or minutes. For a cook-off to be instantaneous (and risk an out-of-battery ignition) the temperature has to be extremely elevated. For a routine cook-off, which can take some time to happen, the biggest danger is that no one is expecting the weapon to fire, and people may be in an unsafe position forward of its muzzle at that point.

The FG42 was a remarkably good weapon, like many WWII German weapons. Not good enough for them to win the war, fortunately; it was the very devil to produce (ask Steve at SMG!) and was produced in the sort of numbers that would be a rounding error, or the scrappage involved in training some new line workers, in American, British or Russian production. The US produced, for example, about 40 times as many BARs as Germany produced FG42s; Russian production of the pan-fed DP28 LMG was easily double that. (German production wasn’t as dismal as you might think. They produced more rifles and carbines of all types than the USA did. But they did have a tendency to engineer something very good, and then fail to build it in numbers that would make a difference).

GhostGunner Update

It looks as if Defense Distributed’s original intent, to ship the initial batch of GhostGunners by Christmas, ran into the buzzsaw called reality, and the machines did not ship on time.

The [GhostGunner] team worked all through December to begin fulfillment just before Christmas Day, but due to two of our US suppliers missing their original and revised December delivery deadlines, we have been at the mercy of factors outside of our control.

The bottleneck came down to our steel enclosures.

enclose1

Though we are now delayed over ten days in our internal shipping schedule, we are fully prepared to begin fulfillment when we receive sufficient enclosures, which should be as early as the first week of January.

It’s not ideal news, but we are fully staffed for final assemblies and have run a really great catchup game in our V&V.

The delays have allowed some improvements to the machine. They’ve brought circuit-board production in-house:

Final GG software testing continues uninhibited and we’ve established our own board production to cut even more costs.

circuit board

This presumably means their own GrblO (pronounce “garble-oh!”) board, And, perhaps more usefully for end users, the machine will ship ready to handle 80% lowers that do not have the rear pocket milled out, as well as the ones that do. As late as November 2014, they were still saying that only the lowers with the pockets milled out would work.

Ghostgunner test

Unlike every other technology firm, they can’t put their software or firmware on the web, and they can’t even post their user manual.They have run into difficulties, not unexpectedly, with the various Fed agencies that are supposed to license technology “exports,” which theFed defines as having happened when you put software on the Internet.

At least one GhostGunner did make it into private hands, in Texas, where it showed up at a demonstration at the state Capital. Guns.com has a full report, complete with video, but we thought these quotes from Cody Wilson show that he’s playing a somewhat different game than your average entrepreneur:

I thought CATI [Come And Take It Texas] demonstrated the machine, and presented themselves, like men truly jealous of their Liberty.

As for my own objectives, if I can’t get you to stop asking permission from your Government, I can at least demonstrate its overcoming at its front steps.

Food for thought, that.

Personally, we just think a programmable, highly-rigid, easily fixturable and open-source CNC endmill has a lot of uses around here. Our revolution is a technological, not political, one. But freedom is the greatest and yet, the least harmful, of intoxicants, is it not?

Did this Rifle Sleep for a Century?

How often have we held a gun, and thought, or even said aloud: “If it could only speak! What stories might it tell?” But our stories about these guns usually begin in a gun shop or auction listing, not quite the tales of romance and intrigue we imagine. Conversely, the gun in this picture certainly has a dramatic story to tell — if only it could.

Nevada Park Winchester 73 20 on tree

That story is told in a press release from the National Park Services’s Great Basin National Park in Nevada (.pdf), And in photo captions on the Parks Facebook page. Here we elaborate on those captions photos a little, but the bottom line is that Nobody really knows the story of where this came from and how we got to its resting place next to the tree. Nobody knows what its owner’s story was, or why he never came back for the rifle. The gun looks like it was rested there deliberately, but whoever left it there didn’t expect it to next be touched by human hands in November, 2014.

Why didn’t he come back for his rifle? Did he get lost? Did the rough terrain, arid climate, or hostile natives and animals account for him? Nobody really knows. It’s a true Old West mystery.

It’s obviously a Winchester ’73, but that doesn’t narrow it down much. They were made from the original year until well within the 20th Century.

Nevada Park Winchester 73 28 as found

The Park Service:

With time, sun, wind, rain and snow aging the gun it blended almost perfectly with the tree it was leaning against.

We’ll have many more photos of the gun, and the text of the Park press release, after the jump. All of these official National Park Service pictures embiggen dramatically when clicked.

Update:

This video has a great look at the gun, and the Park Service pro tells the story of finding the gun in her own words! Thanks to the original poster, and to Sixgunner in the comments.

The Park Service is hoping the publicity will bring forward more clues into this 19th-Century mystery. Now, there’s a lot of speculation about a hunter, or an Indian. (The video contains an outlaw story, and that just might be it, too). But we wonder if the gun was lost in the mid 20th Century in the making of a movie? An early Winchester was, then, just an old gun. But the remote location suggests that’s probably not it — movies are made near roads, by preference.

It would make a pretty good book, to give 10 writers this information and let each tell the story of the rifle and its last owner. Anyway, let’s let that idea percolate, and click “more” to see some of the photos.

Continue reading

Mike Pannone: Making an M4 Run like a Gazelle

This article has been around for years, but it’s still worth reading. Mike Pannone is a fellow 18B and someone with nearly immeasurable M4 experience. He was an instructor for, and one of the designers of, AWG’s combat shooting school, which prepared a lot of guys for successful combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. A friend who was the SJA at AWG raved about that course. Mike is pretty well known in the shooting and training community.

Worked for us.

Worked for us.

Mike has very extensive comments on the M4 at Defense Review, which stem initially from a discussion of fouling. We’ll just quote his conclusions from this piece below, and also recommend his article on reliability issues, and his follow-up on diagnosing the root cause. Conclusions from what we suppose you could call the “fouling piece“:

Fouling in the M4 is not the problem. The problem is weak springs (buffer and extractor), as well as light buffer weights (H vs. H2 or H3). With the abovementioned drop-in parts, the M4 is as reliable as any weapon I have ever fired, and I have fired probably every military-issue assault rifle fielded worldwide in the last 60 years as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant (18B). An additional benefit of the heavier spring/weight combo is that it transmits the energy impulse of the firing cycle to the shoulder over a longer duration, lowering the amount of foot pounds per second and dramatically reducing the perceived recoil. Follow-on shots are easier to make effectively, and much faster, especially at 50 meters and beyond.

I reliably fired 2400 rounds (80 magazines) on a bone dry gun, and I would bet that is a lot more than any soldier or other armed professional will ever come close to firing without any lubrication whatsoever. So, disregard the fouling myth and install a better buffer spring, H2 buffer, enhanced extractor spring and a Crane O-ring (all end user drop-in parts). With normal (read “not excessive”) lubrication and maintenance, properly-built AR-15/M4 type rifles with carbine gas systems will astound you with their reliability and shootability.

via The Big M4 Myth: ‘Fouling caused by the direct impingement gas system makes the M4/M4A1 Carbine unreliable.

There is a great deal more to the article than that; we just gave you a little bit. (For example, if you read the whole thing, he provides the sources for the upgraded parts he uses).

Mike’s articles are collected at the CTT Solutions website, although the articles link back to DR.

507th Follow Up

We have a few small details to add to this morning’s 507th post.

Some bright spark at the El Paso Times requested, after hearing how the unit managed to have M16A2s, M249s and an M2 all go tango uniform in combat, something that seemed reasonable to the reporter: all the records about the weapons. We didn’t find the original article online, but believe that this repost here is authentic.

…all records and documents about the weapons that jammed during the March 23 ambush that led to the death of nine Fort Bliss soldiers were destroyed in the Iraqi attack and that there is no way to trace the weapons’ histories.

The Army, responding to an El Paso Times request under the Freedom of Information Act, said any official information about the weapons used by Fort Bliss’ 507th Maintenance Company was lost on a supply truck taken into combat.

The disclosure that the records were lost shocked, bewildered and further angered relatives of soldiers who were killed in the early morning ambush, which is among the worst losses for the U.S. military during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In addition to the nine Fort Bliss soldiers killed, two from the 3rd Forward Support Battalion were killed, five soldiers were wounded, and seven soldiers were taken prisoner.

“Capt. Troy King (507th commander) stated that he does not have any historical data on weapons involved in the enemy contact,” June Bates, Fort Bliss freedom of information officer, said in a written response. “He lost his motorpool truck and all documentation.”

Bates said King’s records, which were kept in the motor pool, were stored in his supply truck, which was also “involved in the enemy contact.”

This is a little bit disingenuous, because even in 2003 the 507th, like any unit, would have had a property book maintained on computer at a higher level. For example, the 507th’s superior unit would have had a computer run of all the unit’s property, which would have to be reconciled at intervals (annually, or at a change of command, or on deployment/redeployment) with the property actually on hand. Most everyone who’s served a hitch in the Army has endured a property inventory. In 2003, it would have required unit commanders and logistics officers/NCOs to work off a green-and-white-banded, impact-printed inventory. This document records every single piece of organizational property by NSN, quantity, and, in the case of sensitive and serial-numbered items like weapons and optics, serial number.

So all of the 507th’s paperwork could go up in smoke, but two pieces of information clearly at hand were the serial number inventory of the unit’s weapons as-supplied-by-higher, plus, the serial number inventory of the surviving weapons. The only thing you can’t do without the company level records is determine what individual was assigned which weapon. You might be missing nine M16A2 rifles, and know their serial numbers, but you can’t say that this one was the one used by SGT Walters and this other one was 1SG Dowdy’s. Those assignments are lost (although there’s a long-shot possibility some of the soldiers who lost their weapons but survived, the wounded and captured troopers, might actually know their rifle’s serial number. About 1 in 20 soldiers seems to memorize this).

The paper doesn’t seem to know what they were asking for, or where to get it from, or how to ask for it. Soldier-hating journalists that they were, they were looking for some “gotcha” that they didn’t get.

The El Paso Times had requested the history of 31 weapons the soldiers carried during the ambush. The request sought information about weapon repairs, the weapons’ ages, and the manufacturer and condition of each weapon assigned to the 507th soldiers involved in the attack.

The Army does not maintain longitudinal records on individual weapons at all, which may be a mistake. This is one of the reasons for the shot-counter initiatives we’ve seen in these pages several times. We’ve also seen that, while the Army insists they’re fully equivalent, an arsenal-rebuilt weapon is statistically less reliable than a new one. Those two claims are actually both true, as impossible and contradictory as that sounds. The reason is, the Army has a criterion-referenced standard for weapons that both new and rebuilt weapons must meet. But, unlike the Army’s own depots, where a reject just goes back through until it passes, it’s a big deal when a new weapon coming in from an industrial manufacturer like Colt, FNH or General Dynamics-Saco doesn’t meet standard, and it leads to some pain and suffering for the manufacturer. As a result, they inspect parts, processes and weapons to a higher standard to ensure that the low tail of the bell curve still clears the Army’s criterion.

Because personnel files were lost in the ambush and no duplicates exist, the 507th is now trying to re-create the information. Also, [Ft Bliss Spokesman Jean] Offutt said, some of the weapons the 507th used haven’t been recovered.

“But shortly before the soldiers deployed, all of the weapons were certified and serviceable,” Offutt said. “The weapons were fired on the firing range before they deployed.”

Again, all that means is that the weapons were Technically Inspected (TI’d) prior to the deployment and met in-service standards for that particular weapon. As we’ve also often stated, in-service standards are considerably lower than initial-acceptance standards, because they make allowance for wear and tear, and all the slings and arrows of field use by the American GI, which can include using a pistol for a hammer, and a rifle barrel for a pry bar. The example we use in explaining the standard is the M16A1 technical standard for group size: a new gun must meet a fairly loose specification of 4 MOA, but a gun is not taken out of service for dispersion until its groups are over 7 MOA.

Please read the comments on the earlier post. Kirk has a particularly good one, but it’s not the only good one by any means.

It’s all fine and good to practice maneuver warfare and tell yourself you’re punching through the enemy’s resistance and bypassing his pocketed troops. but if you’re going to do that, having the Tail-End Charlie of your corps movement be a combat service support unit that is completely lacking in the experience and mindset of combat arms units is not a good idea.

The soldiers of the 507th did well when you consider that they were a unit expected to be, “in the rear, with the gear,” but found themselves fighting against enemy regulars, regulars, and even tanks.

Their sacrifice was not in vain, because the Army has considerably increased weapons and combat training for support and service support soldiers since then. Today’s maintenance, supply and technical soldiers may suddenly be thrown into a fight like this, but if so, they’ll have some training to fall back on; They won’t be as far over their heads as the 507th was that day in 2003.

Salem, NH Cops: Better to be Lucky than to be Good

An old saying goes, “It’s better to be lucky than to be good.” A Salem, NH cop was breathing easier Monday after citizens turned in a Colt Commando carbine that he lost Tuesday afternoon. He put the rifle, in a soft “tactical” case, on top of his cruiser and forgot about it, driving off and going blithely about his shift until midnight shift change, when he went to take the rifle out of the trunk, and realized… he’d never put it in there in the first place.

colt_6933

11.5″ Commando, semi-auto SBR, Colt product LE6933. Colt marketing photo.

 

A frantic search was unavailing, but a citizen had picked up the weapon and secured it, and brought it in the next day.

salem nh lost rifle case

This rifle case was briefly on a WANTED poster in Salem, NH

 

The police are keeping the name of the embarrassed cop secret, so far.

A ‘good Samaritan’ couple returned a missing rifle to Salem police Wednesday afternoon that had been lost by a police officer. The officer had left the Colt M4 Commando 5.56mm semi-automatic rifle atop his cruiser’s trunk as he headed out for patrol Tuesday afternoon.

The officer, who was not identified in a news release asking for the public’s help in finding the rifle, put the patrol rifle, which was stored in a black canvas carrying bag, on the trunk of his cruiser about 3:45 p.m. as he was preparing for duty, according to the release.

He drove out of the station, forgetting to put the rifle in his trunk. He was sent out on several calls after leaving the parking lot.

Police believe the bag containing the rifle fell off the trunk as he drove out of the parking lot.

The officer did not notice the rifle missing until the end of his shift, about 11:45 p.m., the release said .

via ‘Good Samaritan’ couple returns missing Salem police rifle | New Hampshire.

Ironically, the police did not seem to appeal for public assistance in finding the rifle, instead threatening anyone who had picked it up. Despite that, the citizen did the right thing, and they would likely have done it even earlier had they known it was a police weapon. The M4 was not marked with the department’s identification.

This XM-177/GAU-5 is an early example of what evolved into the Colt Commando.

This XM-177/GAU-5 is an early example of what evolved into the Colt Commando. Springfield Armory National Historic Site photo. 

Gun control advocates, and many police, seem to think that the police are the only ones that can be trusted with such a weapon. In this instance, it looks like the citizens took better care with it than the cops did.

PPShooting Around Corners

Waffen Revue 25 - StG44If you’re the kind of gun and history geek (hey! own it) we generally attract to the blog, you’re already familiar with the Krummlauf (“crooked barrel”) attachment to the German MP.44 series assault rifles.

The Krummlauf  is well-documented in books like Small Arms of the World, surviving period documents, and that sort of thing. It was made in several versions, differing in the degree of “bend” (30, 45, and 60º IIRC) and could be used for firing from cover (down), or the whole weapon could be turned over for firing around corners (sideways). It had its own 1.5x optic, and the extended, curved barrel was both vented for relief, and rifled.

Whether it was intended for urban warfare (firing around corners in the assault), armored warfare (firing from behind cover in a halftrack) or positional warfare (firing from trenches) is a matter of speculation. The problem with this kind of specialized weapon, for the Germans or anybody, is that you only need it once in a while, but you have to carry it all the time. That is, if you’re going to have any hope of having it with you on the rare occasion when you do need it.

There’s a number of surviving Krummlauf attachments and MP44 Krummlauf hosts, at least a half dozen, with at least two on the NFA registry (there are probably more that those numbers). One was auctioned recently by Rock Island and has a very complete description, with an explanatory video by Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons, on its auction page.

grease_gun_around_corners_ps_march_52The US experimented with something similar, but vastly simpler. We deleted the German prismatic sight, and didn’t even make a complete barrel, creating something more like a bullet trough for a spray of 230-grain solids to go off in the general direction of the enemy. This has been widely reported to have been done by the OSS. The historical writeups are thinner than on the Krummlauf, but they’re there. The gun seems to have first come to public attention in the Korean War era. For example, it was featured in Popular Science magazine in March, 1952 (image left). The article suggests that the gun was meant to be used, and hints that there might have been an optic, but, “Sights are secret.” The gun was also featured in LIFE in 1953, and those photos turn up online here and there.

LIFE OSS curved barrel

But we never knew until we stumbled over it on the excellent PPSH41.com site, that there were at least two Russian variants of the same thing for the PPSh-41, which was made in staggering quantities. Unlike the common PPSh, these variations are extremely rare, probably for the same reasons of impracticality that limited distribution of the German and American ones. The more sophisticated showed a similar design approach to the Krummlauf, with the added benefit of being easily convertible in direction. This video shows the gun:

curve-barrel.mov

curve-barrel.mpg 

The second was a bent-down version, called in one reference the Model 1945, that looks more like a gimmick than a real, working gun.

ppsh-45 curved

It honestly looks like someone heated and bent a regular PPSh. (As we’ve seen from our recent M4 at Wanat series, heating barrels can be A Bad Thing®).

PPSh-Curved1

We’d love to have the whole who-shot-John on these, but we don’t. Maybe some commenters can help.

One of the most interesting questions is this: were the American and Russian “corner guns” simply examples of convergent evolution, or did they come about after examining German Krummlauf units?

Ian notes, in his video about the Krummlauf, that the Germans tried doing an open trough like the later American Grease Gun modification, but gave it up and went with a rifled curved bore instead.

The Mauser K98k: a Commando’s View

These days, the venerable 98 Mauser has been elevated to a mythical position among the world’s firearms. It is, many writers say, the ne plus ultra of the military turnbolt repeater. To these fans, this position is demonstrated not only by its decades of service in every corner of the world, but also by its impact on every subsequent turnbolt, from the 03 Springfield and the Arisaka Type 38 (1905), to the Remington 700, Winchester Model 70, and Weatherby Mark V, all of which took something from the German original.

Mauser K98k from world-guns-ru

Yet there is an interesting fact about the Mauser’s history: while many nations were impressed by it and adopted it, the only major one to do so was the United States, who found its Krag-Jorgensen rifles and .30-40 Government rifle cartridge woefully outclassed by the Spaniards’ 1893 Mausers in the Spanish-American War. Superior rifles didn’t save the Spanish cause, but nobody who was on those battlefields had any doubt as to who had the best rifles.

The elevation of one of the volunteer regiments’ colonels, and an avid shooter and hunter, to the Presidency (that promotion itself the product of gunshots) might have had something to do with it. The British had a similar Mauser experience in the Boer War, and were close to the adoption of a rifle with numerous Mauser features (the Pattern 13 and ’14 Enfields) when war intervened and someone in the War Office thought it the wrong time to change. So they entered the Great War wedded to the SMLE Mk. I.

Lee enfield Mk1

After the war ended, though, the British were satisfied with their SMLE. The French also didn’t think the Germans had a better rifle (even though most arms historians are pretty sure they did). Like the Americans and Russians, they were thinking about semi-autos for the future (France would later adopt an odd but serviceable turnbolt, the M1936). None of those nations came out of World War One thinking the Germans had better rifles.

And they didn’t enter — or exit – World War II thinking that, either.

Here’s a opinion worth noting from Peter Young. Who’s that? Well, to lay the whole thing out, it’s Brigadier Peter Young, DSO, MC, MA, FSA, retired. Or it was, when the wartime officer turned historian wrote the Foreword for John Weeks’s World War II Small Arms. In it, Young records being less than impressed with German rifles and riflery, even when it had its very best chance to make an impression on him:

It is interesting to see that the Germans, whose military skill is so much admired, were also capable of making mistakes. The production of the Model 98 Karabiner is a case in point. Having been missed by numerous German riflemen between 1940 and 1945, I have often wondered why the Germans, so skillful with mortar and light machine gun, we’re such rotten shots with the rifle. Well, now I know:

“Unfortunately,” the author writes (without considering my feelings!), “It was a relatively awkward rifle to shoot, and the bolt action was most disappointing. The sight radius was short, which did not make for good shooting.”

MP40_German_Stalingrad_illustration

In Nº.3 Commando, which I commanded in Italy and Normandy, we were always glad to acquire Lugers or “Schmeissers”, and sometimes used the MG 34. Nobody ever bothered to keep a German rifle. The firepower of the platoon is a decisive factor in infantry combat, and by giving their men a rifle that was so much less effective than the Garand, or even the old Lee Enfield, the Germans were making life unnecessarily difficult for themselves at section level.

Now, that should put the cat among the chickens. Neither Glock nor H&K fanboys can hope to equal the shining, white-hot ardor of German WWII armament fanboys. But this is the word of one who most assuredly Was There™.

Weeks, in the book, does note the German attempts to leapfrog the 19th Century rifle: the G43, which was never built in large numbers, the MP.44, which he’s remarkably (and we think, unfairly) dismissive of, and the daddy of all German techno-fantasies, the FG.42: Weeks loves it as much as any other writer, but recognizes that its production in Wehrmacht-sized quantities was never a possibility. Even the much simpler K.98k with its decades of production engineering could never be built in quantities enough to arm Germany’s mass levies.

FG42-Right

To some extent, what Young is describing is simply “the-devil-you-know effect”; not many Germans picked up M1s, either (although photographs indicate that it did happen). His Commandos’ taste for Lugers and MP.38/40 submachine guns may be partly explained by the British practice of being fairly stingy with the issue of the British analogues of these arms, especially the pistols.

The problem with the K.98k is, quite simply, that at the outbreak of of WWII its basic action was 40 years old, and based upon a design that was about a decade older than that. The many German experiments with upping their combat firepower at section level shows that the German Wehrmacht did indeed recognize that the shortened version of their World War I Gewehr 98 was only a stopgap when they introduced it amidst their rearmament program of 1935.