Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

Where RPDs are Reborn as Semis

Earlier this week, we visited Project Guns, a tanmall manufacturer in Florida and the home of an interesting project to recreate the Communist Bloc RPD light machine gun. The RPD is the 7.62 x 39 mm squad automatic weapon used by Soviet, satellite and “fraternal socialist” armies and “national liberation movements” from the 1950s through the 1970s. It’s a gas-operated, belt-fed truly light machine gun that evolved from the ancient pan-fed DP through the DPM and DP-46 from Degtyaryev; the RPD, Ruchnoi Pulemyot Degtyaryeva, was, in keeping with its intermediate cartridge, smaller, lighter, and handier.

These Project Guns RPDs are shown on the website, but have already shipped to their new owners.

These Project Guns RPDs are shown on the website, but have already shipped to their new owners. They’re all made on Polish surplus RPD kits — while the metal is in great condition, the wood varies from “new” to “pretty beat up.”

Along with Russian production, RPDs were made in China and several satellite countries. The quality of manufacture varies from nation to nation.

In recent years, there have been numerous attempts to build RPDs from demilled kits into working semi-autos. The best known is probably the Wiselite build, but there are several small shops out there, and DSA is currently shipping RPD semis.

Stan Szalkowski of Project Guns took time out of his production day — the company comprises Stan and a guy who’s his helper and understudy — to show us how he did it. When he invited us in he was test-fitting parts in one of a batch of guns nearing completion.

A semi-auto RPD approaches completion with careful hand-fitting on the gunsmith's bench. When it works and passes test-fire, it'll be blued, packed, and shipped to its proud new owner's FFL.

A semi-auto RPD approaches completion with careful hand-fitting on the gunsmith’s bench. When it works and passes test-fire, it’ll be blued, packed, and shipped to its proud new owner’s FFL.

The shop is neatly organized into three parts in an industrial zone of many small businesses. The main shop includes the desk Stan’s seldom at unless he’s on the phone to a customer or subcontractor, or designing a part or fixture in CAD (of which more later); the production benches and machinery, including manual lathes and mills, a Tormach CNC, presses, and of course, the gunsmith’s standard standbys: stones and files. Attached to the main shop is the stockroom, where the remainder of 150 RPD kits recently delivered await attention and some completed firearms for foreign destinations await the necessary paperwork drill: approval by national authorities, customs clearance and so forth. (Project Guns has a manufacturer’s license — in fact, as you go in the door, all the required licences are displayed on the wall in case officialdom ever comes looking). The third section of the company, which we didn’t personally see, is in a separate unit, and it is where the messy and noisy processes happen: test firing and hot blue. Each rifle is test fired for forty or fifty rounds into a bullet trap (and remediated if needed). The hot blue process is extremely time sensitive, if you want to avoid having the whole thing flash to rust; so the separate shops encourage concentration on the job at hand. There are assembly days and bluing days.

To rebuild an RPD, Project Guns uses their own receiver design, milled from solid 4130 steel for them by a large Florida machine shop. Stan bead-blasts the receivers, then fits the parts to them, test fires them and disassembled them for rebluing. Apart from the US-made barrels and receivers (and many small parts), each RPD is assembled with parts that came from a single demilled RPD. Each kit came from Poland individually boxed and serial numbered, and the boxes are used to keep each set of parts together along its course of modification and assembly.

A row of in-process RPDs. The nearest ones have their new, US-made chrome-lined barrels installed.

A row of in-process RPDs. The nearest ones have their new, US-made chrome-lined barrels installed.

While the cut receiver parts from the original guns can’t be reused (Stan has been down the path of receiver rebuilds before, but with hundreds of RPDs under his belt, having a custom receiver is much easier), the front sight, bipod and gas system must be removed from the stubs of the demilled barrel. The barrel stubs are also scrap.

The design of the receiver is modified so that full-automatic parts don’t fit. Neither the internals nor an unmodified trigger group housing from a full-auto RPD can go on to a Project Guns receiver. This is required for ATF compliance. The Tormach CNC comes in handy making the required cuts to modify the trigger group housing, operating rod/slide and other internals, as we’ll see when we talk about CAD below.

Here's one of the US-made barrels installed in an RPD. If you peek over to the left, you see a batch of customer guns -- Czech UK Vz.59s -- in for troubleshooting.

Here’s one of the US-made barrels installed in an RPD. If you peek over to the left, you see a batch of customer guns — Czech UK Vz.59s — in for troubleshooting.

The barrels are a story in themselves. The new barrels are US-made compliance parts, but they’re made for Project Guns by a major barrel maker: they’re chrome-lined like the originals. One problem with RPDs has been sight, barrel and gas system alignment. Some satellite nation guns, and some US semi builds, have been constructed with canted parts, which in a sight is inimical to accuracy, and in a gas system can be damaging to function. Stan has designed and built not only a special tool that ensures the perfect alignment of the parts, but also a specialty press for barrel installation that works with the tool.

Scratch-Built Custom Barrel Press. Barely visible on the right is the RPD barrel, sight and gas system alignment tool.

Scratch-Built Custom Barrel Press. Visible immediately to the left of the parts sorter on the right is the RPD barrel, sight and gas system alignment tool.

(He also uses a press that started off as a factory Harbor Freight press, but that he has extensively rebuilt, trued, and reinforced so that it actually works).

He showed us how he makes a custom tool, like the barrel/sight/gas system alignment tool, once he has it visualized in its component parts. (There are three parts to the tool: a base with a hole for the barrel and one for the mandrel, a mandrel that holds parts in alignment, and an insert that notches into the ejector cut in the barrel to ensure that everything’s directionally oriented and aligned properly). He envisions the part, and then sketches it in CAD. The program he uses is not something ridiculously expensive like CATIA, or something cutting-edge like SpaceClaim (which is a relatively reasonable $5000 or so). Instead, he used a combination of free and inexpensive PC software that meets his needs perfectly.

Initial design is done in the free application that’s downloadable from E-Machine-Shop. It also allows you to put your part out to bid. Stan has found that doing that, rather that working with shops he’s got experience with, can produce parts with so-so tolerances. But while the E-Machine Shop tool can produce a 3D file, it’s simply a drawing or representation — it’s not machine-ready.

For that, he uses Vectric’s VCarve Pro ($699 direct). We’re familiar with Vectric’s software (which is made in a confusing variety of versions, but they will help you find the right one for your application) for 2D cutting applications like laser cutting or CNC routing, but Stan uses it to generate tool paths. It accepts input for specific machine, for tool type (i.e. four flute end mill), size and, of course, feeds and speeds. Stan does these from experience, but a beginner can use feeds and speeds from Machinery’s Handbook and come out alright. In VCarve Pro, one can visualize the tool path in a simulation and correct it all on the screen before committing to metal. When the part looks like it’s being cut properly in the simulation, Stan saves the file to a thumb drive, and carries it a few feet to the Tormach.

The Tormach also comes in handy for the repetitive work involved in, for instance, modifying the trigger group housings. It repeats so well that if you design a fixture that doesn’t move when you remove and replace a part, you can set up the fixture and indicate in the first part, and then just run the Tormach and replace the parts without touching the indicator again.

Apart from parts modification, the in-house CNC is used mostly to make prototype parts and production tooling. Stan has a long-established relationship with production shops that make parts in mass quantities. These include semi-auto internals like linear hammers, small pins and dowels, muzzle nuts, and anything that’s unsat or not reusable in the basic kits.

Project Guns' small parts come from US short-run machine shops. After inspection, they go in this parts sorter for the assembly gunsmith.

Project Guns’ small parts come from US short-run machine shops. After inspection, they go in this parts sorter for the assembly gunsmith.

Stan has built and shipped 450 RPDs in the past, and notes that the quality of this batch of kits shows that they’re more well-used than the early batches, which were guns that had been stored new and never fired until they were demilled. With a new receiver and barrel, and many new small parts, and new bluing, the metal parts will look new, but some of the wood in this shipment shows that some of these guns were used hard by the Polish Army during its Warsaw Pact days. You can probably make a request for a more pristine or a more “characterful” RPD at this point, but there’s no assurance there’s any more kits to be had after these, and as they get used up your choices may dwindle.

Of the 150 kits he’s building, 100 are earmarked for United States customers and 50 are spoken for by a Canadian distributor, assuming the Canadian can get clearance from the Mounties, something he’s been working on for some time already. It’s pretty hard to imagine a collector firearm like this, essentially an expensive toy, finding a criminal use, but the mere look of it casts an icy blast of terror on hoplophobes.

Project Guns is not a retail gun dealer. If you want to get your name on the list for an RPD — they’re $2,500 a pop — it’s time now, and the gun will be delivered to your local FFL.



“The Best Portfolio They’d Ever Seen” –Bill’s 1942 semi conversion

Here’s a firearm you might not have seen, unless you’ve been to the National Firearms Museum in Virginia. It looks very familiar, at least to deer hunters of a certain vintage, but a little… well, different.

ruger savage 99 prototype left

Let’s begin by going back to the 1890s when the concept first was tried. One of the first semi-auto firearms made by John M. Browning was a semi conversion of a lever-action rifle. It proved the concept of gas-operated firearms and led directly to the Browning-designed Colt Model 1895 “potato digger.” Nearly fifty years later, the above rifle was created by a young man named Bill, using an updated version of the same concept. Here’s the other side.

ruger savage 99 prototype right

And here’s a close-up of the action and operating rod.

ruger savage 99 prototype charging handle

In 1942, Bill did the same basic thing JMB had sone — convert a lever to semi — with a Savage 99 lever gun in the deerslaying .250-3000 round. But he did it using a gas piston and operating rod similar, conceptually, to the M1 Garand. He used this as a calling card when he went to Springfield Armory and applied for a job. They called his converted Savage “the best portfolio they’d ever seen.” It’s in the National Firearms Museum now.

ruger savage 99 prototype top view

And yeah, they hired him. After the war Bill went out on his own.

You might have heard of Bill… Bill Ruger.

Ruger went on to bring new manufacturing processes and technologies into gun design; someone would probably have begun using investment castings if he hadn’t, but we probably wouldn’t have seen anything like the laminated parts of the Ruger Mark I pistol (because who has ever copied that idea?

His legacy in the gun culture is muddled, because he also became an anti-gunner, or at least an appeaser thereof. But his whole complex career began with this one carefully-finished rifle.

springfield_entranceIf you were to show up today, on the site that was once the downtown section of the Springfield Armory, with a rifle of your own invention, you’d probably be thrown in jail for years by the People’s Republic of Massachusetts. The actual Springfield Armory Museum has not one, but something like five, “Victim Disarmament Zone” and “Criminal Support Zone” stickers on it!

But in 1942, it was still an armory, still a place where guns and the manufacturing of them were designed and built. And the country had not yet lost its ever-lovin’ mind over firearms.

Perp Locked Up, Guns Remain At Large, in the Case of the Filched Firearms

500px-US-FBI-ShadedSeal.svgBecause the newspaper reporter missed it, we have to drag it out of her story for you. The Worcester, MA, Telegram: 

James Walter Morales of Cambridge was arrested without incident Wednesday night in New York by the FBI and the Nassau County Police Department, authorities said.
According to an affidavit filed in connection with the case, Mr. Morales was at the Army Reserve facility on North Lake Avenue on or about Nov. 12 to obtain copies of his discharge papers.

Want to bet it was bad, or borderline, paper?

A surveillance video from a nearby building depicts Mr. Morales spending about six hours, from 6:43 p.m. until shortly after midnight, going back and forth from his car to the armory with duffel bags. The FBI declined to comment when asked if the six M-4 rifles and 10 Sig Sauer M11 9 mm pistols that were stolen have been recovered. According to the affidavit, the M-4 rifles are capable of firing a single shot, or a three-round burst for each single pull of the trigger.

That’s the indicator that they haven’t recovered the firearms. If they had, they’d be crowing about it. Ever known the FBI to be reticent about a success? We neither. If the Bureau is being reticent, the success didn’t happen.

At the time of the theft, Mr. Morales was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet, according to the affidavit. Investigators said he cut off the device at 8:48 a.m. Monday.

We’re getting a vibe here that he’s not one of nature’s noblemen, and when the postman comes, he’s not bringing the monthly MENSA chapter newsletter.

Authorities said Mr. Morales got into the building by breaking a window of a kitchen located near the drill room. They were able to identify the suspect through a DNA analysis of blood the thief left after he used a power saw and pry tool to cut a hole into the roof to access the gun vault.

FYI, a “drill room” or “drill hall” is a large, gymnasium-like concrete-floor area in an Army Reserve or National Guard building. It normally has a big door so large trucks can be loaded inside, and its wide floor is used as a place to hold formations during monthly training “drills.” Off the drill hall, smaller rooms are used as offices, supply rooms, and armories. The Arms Room is usually accessed through the supply room’s outer door, and is strongly vaulted and equipped with a moderately sophisticated alarm system, which regulations require to be in use at all times.

This drill hall had a de facto waiver for the alarm system during ongoing construction, which someone must have told Morales was the case. Not real bright, that.

Morales was ID’d by DNA. For decades, the military has taken a DNA swab of all personnel. The claim was that it was for battlefield ID, but the real reason was to build the FBI’s DNA database. (The same mechanism used to build a national fingerprint file). As veterans commit fewer crimes than their non-vet cohort, this tool has been limited for crimefighting, but the FBI is also attracted to its potential for population control, as they keep getting greater and greater domestic warrantless surveillance powers.

In this case, though, the DNA swab they took from Morales paid off in a crime solution — or part of one. The guns are still out there.

Investigators were able to obtain Mr. Morales’ phone number from his Facebook page. They located a second phone number for him from the Probation Department at Middlesex Superior Court. Authorities executed a search warrant to track the phone to Mr. Morales, according to the affidavit.

Is that how they got the warrant, or simply the “parallel construction”? As always in cases with Federal agencies tapped into NSA’s universal domestic surveillance, you’ll never know — even if you’re Morales’s defense attorney. (Probably a Designated Diver from the Public Defender’s Office, anyway).

It’s not like Morales is a sterling character. He’s enough of a perv that even Massachusetts has laws against him, although note they kindly enabled this crime wave by dropping his bail:

Mr. Morales was indicted by a Middlesex grand jury on May 19, on charges of aggravated rape of a child, forcible rape of a child, and indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14 (two counts). His bail was later reduced from $25,000 to $5,000. A condition of his release was that he wear an electronic monitoring device. A warrant was issued for his arrest on Nov. 16, after the Probation Department notified the Middlesex District Attorney’s office that he was not being monitored by GPS. Mr. Morales was scheduled to appear at a previously-scheduled pretrial hearing on Nov. 17.

Well, that was the day after he cut off his GPS anklet and burglarized the armory, so at least they caught the dead bracelet quickly.

Mr. Morales is expected to make an appearance Friday in U.S. District Court on Long Island and then to be taken to Worcester to face charges in U.S. District Court. He is charged with unlawful possession of a machine gun, unlawful possession of stolen firearms (two counts), and theft of government property.

via Arrest made in theft of weapons from Worcester armory – News – – Worcester, MA.

Note that the criminal-friendly MA prosecutors are already dealing him some wild cards. He stole sixteen firearms, but they’re not piling on with 16 counts. He isn’t even in court yet, and he’s already had 13 felony charges go away.

keep-calm-and-carry-a-fbi-badgeAnd he has something the FBI really wants: knowledge of where the 16 missing Army guns went.


We’ve seen the FBI’s warrant affidavit, and this story tracks it closely. We did note that the FBI agent, Colgan Norman, apparently can’t spell “hangar,”  and it made us wonder if he was one of these FBI agents (YouTube link).

Ceremonial Stoners

Here’s a picture of some men with some rifles. Want to ID the men? And the rifles? We’ll give you a hint: the rifles are Stoners, as in, one of the guns Eugene Stoner designed and/of progeny thereof. The men probably are not stoners.


The picture definitely embiggens enough for you to ID the rifles (although not quite enough to read the rollmarks). Answers after the jump.

Continue reading

Randy Shughart Memorial M14

From the M14 Forum comes this story of one man’s attempt to replicate the firearm of the man who inspired him to serve — US Army special operations soldier Randy Shughart, MOH. Shughart and his team leader Gary Gordon committed themselves to defend a helicopter crash site in Mogadishu in October, 1993, in the certain knowledge that those at the crash scene were doomed without them — and that the imbalance in forces was so great that they were likely only adding themselves to the death toll.

Shughart Memorial Plaque

The Delta snipers’ sacrifice, as depicted in the movie Black Hawk Down, not only inspired this man to serve himself, but made him want a replica of Shughart’s M14.

Shughart Memorial M14

He didn’t start with the rifle you see here. He began with something more or less out of the box that approximated the Shughart rifle, but its approximate nature quickly came to grate on him.

I thought it was close enough to the movie prop, but as I learned more
I realized how much I missed. The scope mount is an ARMS 18 split
rail instead of a full rail, the barrel should have been a full length
22”, and I had never paid any attention to the M1907 leather sling.
Now, most people wouldn’t care about the small details. If you take
any M14 and add a red dot, it instantly becomes cool and pretty
accurate. Not much more to be done after that. But for me, this was
the rifle of choice for a childhood hero.

I wanted to honor him, and I wanted to do it by recreating the rifle
he used on his final mission. I had no idea how much time,
money, and effort this project would demand.

via NEW OP Replicating SFC Randall Shughart’s M14 – M14 Forum.

He didn’t spare the time, money and effort, even deciding that he wanted all Winchester parts for his build (complicating it and making it more expensive). He even used a rare James River Armory receiver with a rewelded Winchester heel from the M14 Forum Group Buy. We dunno what the armorers, who were building the original guns, were using but we’d guess they were either using generic GI parts, National Match where possible, or TRW parts which have a reputation of being more perfectly in-spec than Winchester or Springfield Armory parts. The fact is, the US Army has or had records of what rifle Shughart had when he and Gordon stepped off the helicopter into legend, but those records are classified and will probably be destroyed if they have not been destroyed already.

One of the most interesting parts of the journey was tracking down the correct optic. Absent the emergence of actual documentation, it seems certain that the optic Randall Shughart had on his M14 was an Aimpoint 5000.

Consequently, this rifle is as close to Shughart’s firearm as an ordinary mortal is likely to get, except perhaps for the scumbag Somali somewhere who’s trying to trade the original for a bag of khat.

Shughart Plaque 2

The rifle will be displayed in a case with the two illustrated plaques, a private tribute to a man whose sacrifice was the highest display of public virtue.

Perhaps this would be a more appropriate post on Memorial Day, than on Veterans’ Day, but the guy just finished the rifle… and yes, he will be taking it to the range.

The Fracas over Finger Grooves is Not New

Finger grooves are one of the perpetual battles of the firearms arorld. Some firearms have ’em, some don’t. And some shooters like ’em, some don’t. We propose a radical idea: whether or not you like the grooves probably depends on how the grooves fit your hand.

This all came to the fore because the new FBI solicitation demands that the next FBI pistol not have finger grooves. Some people, like the guy at pistol-training we linked to in that recent post, and Todd Green, see this as a blatant attempt to eliminate Glocks (which have grooves or bumps since Generation 3) in favor of SIGs (which do not have grooves).

This is all complicated by the fact that the ATF gives extra import “points” on the Nazi-derived1 “Sporting Purpose” test for “thumb rests” and other deformities on a grip. When the ATF drafted the checklist in 1968, a prominent thumb rest was a common characteristic of target pistols.

Typical 1960s target pistol -- a Hi Standard Supermatic Trophy with a fluted bull barrel and a prominent thumb rest. Great, unless you're left-handed.

Typical 1960s target pistol — a Hi Standard Supermatic Trophy with a fluted bull barrel and a prominent thumb rest. Great, unless you’re left-handed. (LH grips were available then ex-factory, but the factory went belly up ages ago).

Such a rest was not found on defensive pistols. (The Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 both assumed that there was no legitimacy to defensive firearms use, and only formal target shooting and hunting were legitimate justifications for owning firearms, an assumption still strong in parts of the ATF today). So it found its way onto the Sporting Purposes Checklist, and that’s why your Glock has two vestigial ears which may or may not be in your way.

Hands Come in Different Sizes

This seems obvious, but it isn’t always taken into account in product designs: human hands vary widely in size, strongly correlated with human size. Human interface designers have long known this and customarily work with hand sizes that represent from the 5th to the 95th percentile of homo sapiens. (Until recently, military equipment designers mostly worked with the 5-95 percentile male hand, which is larger than the female hand or combined male-female hand sizes). If you’re in the 1st or 99th percentile in hand size, you’re going to struggle finding the right firearm for your jewel-like or ham-sized mitts, respectively. Even if the designers used ergonomic best practices, which as we’ll see, they probably didn’t.

Firearms are more likely to be designed by an individual or small team than by a large industrial combine with a staff of human interface design specialists. This was especially true historically, where designers usually just built the gun to fit their own hands. (This makes us wonder if, for example, Ludwig Vorgrimler or someone responsible for the HK G3 safety-selector switch was double-jointed or otherwise deformed, but that’s a question for another day). As a result there are some firearms that fit only some hands out there. This is often to blame for uneven reviews of a gun: it fits one reviewer perfectly, and another poorly, leading to a cascade of performance and preference differences.

The sad thing is that all the research on hand size is out there, available to anybody to use. You don’t have to be Northrop Grumman to think about what makes a good fit for a good range of users, and you don’t have to be U-Isaac Newton to do the math required.

But as we’ll see, the debate over finger grooves has been around for a while.

Finger Grooves, 1980s

In the early 1980s, Marine Corps experimenters looking for more accuracy and range from the M16 developed the M16A2, and with it, brought the finger rest that has ever since blessed (or cursed) the AR-15 platform. The initial model was actually built up with epoxy body filler by one Marine officer to suit his hand, and then copied by Colt. And then copied by everyone else. If you like the feel of an A2 grip, you have a hand about the same size as one retired Marine. That not everyone has the same size hand is one of the reasons there are forty-elebben different AR grips on the market.

Not including, for the simple reason that manufacturers including Colt modified their A1 molds to make the A2 molds, the original A1 grip.

Finger Grooves, 1920s

Of course, the most famous 20th Century finger grooves were on the grip of the M1921 Thompson Submachine Gun, and like later ones, they were controversial. They were designed to be ergonomic, but the ergonomics of the Tommy gun don’t fit everybody,

STL Police Thompsons

But the battle over finger grooves didn’t start with John T. Thompson and his “trench broom.” We can go way, way back.

Finger Grooves, 1780s

The muskets of the world at the time of the American Revolution were more alike than they were different, because military technology tends to converge rapidly when innovations happen. The differences between the muskets of the world powers — England, France, Prussia, Spain — were more alike than different at this point. All were flintlock muzzle-loaders of ½ to ¾ inch caliber, with smoothbore barrels of forty-odd inches, and stout walnut stocks enabling usage as a pike with a fixed bayonet. The differences between them — it would have scandalized their ordnance officers, but it’s true — came down to questions of styling.

Like the finger grooves. England’s Brown Bess in all its versions and Spain’s Model 1757 didn’t have them. France’s .66 caliber Model 1777 did; this was sort of a G3 version of the 1766 and 1768 Charleville muskets. This picture of what we believe to be an Indian (dot, not feather) -made replica (from here) shows them clearly.

French 1777_11

Colonial muskets had been mostly copied from stout English models, but as the war ground on and more French aid came in, and French arms acquired by a purchasing commission led by Benjamin Franklin, American practice became to copy the more gracile French designs. The first US Musket, the Model 1795, was clearly a kissing cousin of the “G2” Model 1766, without the grooves.

In 1816, Springfield Armory improved its musket design, by more or less knocking off the ’77 French firearm. It did make one small change.

Springfield deleted the finger grooves.


  1. The Sporting Purpose test was copied into US law from the Nazi 1938 Gun Control Act by Senator Thomas Dodd, a man who appears to have been the only one to attend the Nuremberg Trials in 1946 (as an assistant prosecutor, no less) and come away with admiration for the Nazis. The Nazis, for their part, had found the test in a previous Weimar-era law, and adapted it to their own purposes. This despicable fellow was not in office when his (and Himmler’s) bill was signed into law by LBJ, because he’d been censured out of the Senate for corruption. (It was another time; that would never happen today, when they’re all crooks). His son Christopher inherited the seat and continued in his father’s anti-gun and personally corrupt tradition, until his career, too, was terminated by his corruption.

Three Guns You Don’t See Daily

The first is, if not a Bubba job, or at least a really screwed-up M1 carbine. What you’re looking at is the receiver ring (into which the barrel is secured) on the right with the operating rod in the foreground, and the receiver behind, looking like squirrels have been gnawing on it.

Hosed M1 Carbine

Most likely reason the receiver is messed up like that: note the name. It’s a Plainfield commercial M1 carbine, made on a cast receiver with a mix of GI and copy parts. And the receiver is not, shall we say, heat-treated to GI standards. Source: Reddit’s /r/guns.

The next is also from /r/guns but it’s the antithesis of a shoddy Plainfield carbine. It’s an uncommon M1911 clone, the Norwegian pistol Model 1914.

Norwegian M1914 Colt Auto

As you can see, these pistols, which were made in the Norwegian Kongsberg armory, were close copies of the M1911 (made under license) with the only modifications being the large, glove-friendly slide stop. Some of them were used by the Germans after the Norwegian defeat in the spring of 1940.

Finally, another oddity (or maybe, rarity is the word) for sale on GunBroker — a rare, registered Destructive Device M29A1 mortar. (The heading at the auction mistakenly calls it a 60mm mortar — this is actually an 81mm mortar).

Live M29 destructive device mortar

The Blogbrother recently motivated his son to a higher standard of effort in high school by having him tote something heavy around the block. “This is what manual labor feels like. Manual labor is what high school drop-outs and flunk-outs do.” What better way to illustrate the importance of an education than introducing the education-resister to the glories of least common dollar employment?

Now, anyone with any time as an 18B or 11C will have some memories of carrying components of this system, and perhaps having that carrying serve double-duty as penance for something or other. NCOs are good like that.

There’s Accurate, and there’s the One Mile Club

Steel silhouette used for the 1 mile club shoots. Barrel of the rifle visible right. The holes are from short range (300-800 yard -- that's short?) hits with the .300 UM and the one-mile load.

Steel silhouette used for the 1 Mile Club shoots. Barrel of the rifle visible right. The holes are from short range (300-800 yard — that’s short?) hits with the .300 UM and the one-mile load.

Like many an obsession, it had a casual start.

It all started with an off hand comment.

We saw what you did there.

A friend and I had been shooting to 1,000 yards and a little beyond for years and while talking to a 3rd friend one day and telling him about the D&L sports ITRC and a recent article in The Accurate Rifle magazine about it, I mentioned a section at the end about participants of the match having a choice to “join the One Mile Club”.

The best I can recall, the idea was the shooter got as many rounds as he wanted at the target 1 mile away but, after having made the hit, had to zero back down and make a 100 yard  shot.  The person got only one chance at the 100 yard target after scoring the 1 mile hit or else they would not be counted as one of the OMC according to whatever rules  they had decided on locally.   This had stirred up some talk among the us local long range shooters and got the gears turning.

And that’s how Shawn Thompson and his friends got started on making a one mile shot with a mass-produced  commercial rifle and optics. (They’s not complete fools. They handloaded the ammo).

With the gears turning, as he put it, Shawn and his friends planned to build and/or modify rifles for a one-mile man-sized target. In the end, the mod that was most necessary was a scope base with mils enough to correct for bullet drop. The guy that planned to build a custom rifle just for the one-mile friendly competition, and went so far as to buy a new Model 70 long action, in the end, didn’t bother.

To make the one-mile hit, everything has to go right, but Shawn and the gang proved that it can be done. (As others have done before them, like the guys at the match he was reading about). Shawn didn’t like the idea of building a chassis-hosted, ultra-heavy-barrel, near-crew-served “race gun” for this one task.

My friend continued to cling to the idea of building a gun just for the shot, but this had very little appeal to me. Then as now, I only wanted to make the hit with something a man could carry by himself and [that] was portable and practical. …

The idea was to use something standard. No wildcats and no full custom rifles. That was to be our starting attempt. To work with something factory made and if it was not adequate to the task we would move on from there.

As the friends were booting around the idea, “a windfall came into the gun store” in the form of a Remington 700 in .300 Ultra Mag with a 28″ heavy fluted stainless barrel. It came with an H-S Precision stock. (We’re not H-S P fans. Yes, it’s a good basic stock, well proven on production sniper rifles, but the company takes pride in endorsement by indicted-but-beat-the-rap FBI button man Lon Horiuchi. Mauser, conversely, has the good decency not to mention the morally equivalent Einsatzgruppen when listing its famous users).

Steel silhouette used for the

It’s all COTS stuff. Quality stuff, but still COTS.

A Nightforce rail (40 MOA) and Badger Ordnance rings, a Leupold VX-III 8-32 scope, a little trigger work, and the mile master was coming together. For convenience’s sake, a bipod; for accuracy’s sake, a level. (The displacement caused by a little bit of cant isn’t little any more after flying for a mile).

By the summer of 2005, they were ready to try for the mile marker. With careful load development, they did indeed produce a load (using a Berger VLD bullet and a powder load they’re keeping confidential) that got them on target on their first day of shooting at the 1 mile target (they had tested the load at shorter ranges). They hadn’t expected success so soon, but the rifle, load, and optic all performed just right, and the environment was perfect — no wind, no mirage, they could spot the shots from the firing line.  The shooters began to realize that they could do it on this day, with this set of tools, if they did their parts.

As soon as the ballistic software data from the chart was dialed in and the shots started to fall around the target, and we overcame our surprise, we knew we were going to do it.

We … started to make the attempt in earnest. My friend who I originally discussed the project with was first to make the hit after I coached him onto it. Next was the owner of the rifle and the gun store. I went next and will never forget making the hit on my third shot.

The target was placed in the middle of a huge powdery dirt area and a shooter could easily see the misses. The time of flight allowed recovery from recoil and muzzle blast enough to watch through the optic. I will never forget firing, my friend excitedly saying “hit” and as I was about to ask “you sure” I heard the distant, very faint “ding”.

The particular steel gong I chose for the target was used for a variety of reason, one being it range very loudly though we doubted we would actually hear it. On that day of perfect conditions, we indeed could. We all got one hit on the target before running out of ammo. Between 3 of us we used up 50 rounds of the hand loaded ammo but got only 1 hit each.

That’s pretty remarkable, hits on a man-sized target at one mile’s distance. We’ve never done that. The funny thing is, this remarkable achievement deserves everyone’s respect, and yet Shawn is just now writing it up, ten years later. It was the shot that started him on the long-range shooting that first brought to wide attention.

Before you criticize the few hits from 50 shots, bear in mind that at that range this load required a holdover of between 260-292 clicks (closer to 292, as a mile is 1760 yards).

The 1 mile project propelled into other projects like a 1,233 yard hit on the same target with a stock surplus K31 with GP11 ammo using a special scope base …. And a few other special shots were made over the years. One was the original iron sighted 1,000 yard shot you may have read about here.

In my opinion it stands as an excellent example of my pet subject, that a rifleman with standard equipment can do amazing things with skill and practice. The shots were taken from prone, using a variety of sand bags and bipods. Nothing extraordinary, really. An entire market and training industry has arisen since, …dead set to convince you that a standard factory made rifle can not do this type of thing.

I always recommend new shooters start at the quality factory rifle level since it will be a while before you will be able to shoot better than the rifle anyway.

Do go Read The Whole Thing™. You might think that we’ve excerpted the guts out of it, but there’s plenty more there, including Shawn’s recommendations on where not to save money if you choose to take up extreme long-range shooting, many more pictures of the gun including its laminated-on dope sheet, and the names of the four members of the Pike County One Mile Club.


Two Coming Auctions from Rock Island

We’re not affiliated with them in any way, except as a satisfied customer. But RIA has two auctions coming up that may be of interest to you. Even if you are not a buyer now, you can benefit greatly from the catalog photos and descriptions, and they can be highly entertaining reading.

Note that in our experience all auctioneers’ estimates on most lots are lowballs, designed to encourage bidders.

RIA Online Auction Friday 6 November

First things first: you can get your bids in now (and sign up, if you like, for Outbid Notification) for the nearly 900 lots in this upcoming auction. Of interest to our readers, perhaps, is this unusual piece of history, a Remington-made French Mle 1907/15 carbine.

Remington 1907-15

French weapons are under-loved by collectors. But this is a rare Remington foreign contract gun, a much rarer survivor than the Remington Mosin-Nagants which didn’t leave on schedule, which means it’s likely to sell well despite being in what might be called, uncharitably, beater condition. (Indeed, it has a crudely applied recoil pad, so it may not be a factory carbine at all, but a Bubba sporter. The sling swivel looks aftermarket, too). Still, it’s a century-old artifact that comes with several stories you can use it to tell — WWI production by “neutral” US for the Allies; Remington contract manufacturing; the loss of a generation of French youth in fruitless trench war, leading to mutiny in the short term and French enervation in the long. Or you could tell the story of the “sporterizers” that Bubbafied a generation of military rifles in the 1950s through the 70s. All these stories and more can be told with the prop on hand, one short rifle that would have its own story to tell, if only it could speak!

Perhaps less interesting to you, but remarkable to us, is a collection of derringers and small pistols including a knuckle-duster and a Remington-Eliot four barrel, and quite a few wall-hanger vintage and antique shotguns like this Parker Brothers Damascus-barreled 12-gauge:

Parker Brothers shotgunThat, hung over your mantel with your own BS story about how it was Great Uncle Ichabod’s, would instantly vault your stock higher with the upland hunters around here. Guns of this era are also interesting to study as examples of the gunsmith’s art in an era when most machinery ran from steam, water power, or the smith’s own muscle and sinew. Of course, this 1889-era antique is not safe to fire, but isn’t every home better for the incorporation of original art in its decor?

There are dozens and dozens of Winchesters, including this 1907 Police Rifle that just shouts, “Stop in the name of the Law!”

Winchester 1907 police rifleTake that, evildoers.

There’s also 14 Walther lots, 76 Colt lots, 12 Mauser pistols including 4 Broomhandles, a lot of three Mauser rifles (a WWI G.98, a WWII K.98, and a K.98 converted to a single-shot .22), and all kinds of other oddities and endities.

December 4-6 Premiere Auction

If the Rock Island online auctions are cool, the Premiere Auctions are absolute zero. It’s a bit mind-boggling. Want a rare Volcanic pistol? They’ve got two to choose from, of this incredibly historic firearm that is the nexus between the legendary names Winchester and Smith & Wesson. More of a long gun guy? They have a rare Volcanic detachable-stock carbine — but no, not exactly; they have consecutively numbered pair. (Alas, the stocks are missing from both).

There are over 400 Winchester lots, including many rare and unique pieces.

To parallel our statement about the online auction, the Premiere auction offers 29 Walther lots, including this rare-as-unicorn-ivory VG1 “last ditch” rifle:

Walther-coded VG1 rifle

….and a P-38 prototype, 830 Colt lots, 69 Mauser pistols including 7 Broomhandles, and all kinds of other oddities and endities, almost all of which are finer, rarer, or better provenanced than their online-auction counterparts.

The Rock Island Auction Blog is a great way to stay in touch with upcoming auctions, and they have great little historical articles.

Five Rare Colt MGs on GunBroker — From One Seller!

Here’s some good Class 3 stuff from a single dealer on GunBroker. It feels like a single collection of Colt weapons being liquidated, but in any event five of the six firearms he’s offering are rare Colt machine guns. (The sixth is an ordinary Sig M400 AR).

In chronological order, they are:

Colt BAR R75A Machine Gun RARE

Here;s what the vendor says about it:

Up for bids is something you don’t see everyday. A Colt BAR R75A. Next to the Colt Monitor, it does not get more rare when it comes to BARs. This one was made with a quick change barrel, and pistol grip. It appears to be unfired! I can not guarantee that, but it is in excellent condition – especially for its age.


This weapon is in my inventory, on a form 3 ready for a fast transfer to your dealer. Can be transferred on a form 4 if purchased within PA. Will ship with one twenty round magazine. The last R75A that went up for sale 8 years ago sold for $85,000. I am starting this auction 20K below that.

We;d observe that, rare as it is, it is less in demand than a GI style BAR. It, and the FN MOdel D, are probably the best BARs for someone into the “shooting of” rather than the “history.” Of course, if this thing really is unfired, it probably won’t be shot by its new owner.

H&R M16A1 US Property Marked Machine Gun

The Pennsylvania dealer selling these weapons has a “rare” M16A1 variant — only a couple hundred thousand were made! But two other things make this A1 rare — its minty condition, and its availability as a transferable MG.

H&R M16A1

There were some 246,000 rifles made by H&R under the contract.  The serial numbers ran from 2,000,000 to 2,246,000 (approximately). Serial numbers through 2,999,999 were reserved for H&R but never used. This shows this rifle (2,244,611) to be one of the very last H&R military firearms. The numbers  Relatively few made it from GI status (as this one was, with its PROPERTY OF US GOVT rollmark) through the po-po to the NFA Registry before the 1986 cut-off on new machine guns. Here’s what the dealer says.

Up for bids is a new, unfired Harrington & Richardson M16A1. The H&R M16A1s are one of the rarer variants, and do not pop up often. Has the “Property of US” roll mark. Still has the plastic red cap on barrel. Will ship with the original twenty round magazine. Gun is in excellent condition.

The pictures (many more at the link) show that he’s not exaggerating the condition. The gun is as new in all respects, including complete lack of the usual military acceptance stamp in paint, or any indicia of an arsenal rebuild. It seems to have gone right from the Worcester, Mass. factory, to a GI warehouse, to someplace whence it could get on to the registry, without passing through the usual GI abuse.

It  was made during the single batch of contract M16A1s made by H&R during 1968-70 and appears in all respects to be a “time capsule.” Note the mix of solid and dimpled takedown pins.  It’s invisible in this picture, but in one of the others you can just make out that the upper receiver has casting flash on the front and rear outside surfaces of the carrying handle, something that is absent from Colt-made firearms.

Colt AR15 Model 639 Machine Gun New

This is a type that also exists in very small numbers on the transferable market. It is the commercial market version of the XM177E2 Submachine Gun, the most successful first-generation Colt “carbine,” and the direct forerunner of the M4 series.


The vendor says this about it:

Up for bids is a rare Colt Model 639 Machine gun with registered matching flash enhancer/suppressor. This gun is in new, unfired excellent condition. These guns don’t pop up often, especially in this condition. Would make an outstanding investment.

Colt M231 Port Firing Machine Gun NIB US Property 

This transferable rarity has not much practical use — as the later, more common, version of the M231, it’s completely without any stock (it was meant to lock into swivels in a Bradley) or sights (it’s aimed with tracers, like a fire hose). It has a fire-hose rate of fire, too.


The vendor says this about it:

Up for bids today is a rare find. A brand new Colt M231 Port Firing Gun with US Property roll mark and government inspectors mark. M231s are one of the rarest variants in the M16 platform on the NFA registry. Fires from an open bolt at around 1100 RPM! Has threads in the forearm to screw into a firing port on the side of the Bradley Assault Vehicle. This is a transferable machine gun, and a great investment. It has had one owner since it left the Colt factory. … Will ship in the original box, and a thirty round magazine.

This next picture shows a US Army acceptance stamp, missing from the M16A1 above but present on this M231. It is the white paint marking on the front of the magwell.

M231 04

For plinking, an 1100-rpm open-bolt subgun with no sights has its joys, but the earlier wire-stocked version is a little more practical (or a little less impractical, maybe). Of course, a gun like this is more likely to be kept in its unfired condition by a doting collector than taken to the range to burn off your excess Wolf 55-grain.

The M231 is a unique American combat weapon,  a true oddity that has even been phased out, almost, of mech-infantry service (most of the firing ports have been removed from the vehicles to accommodate other improvements).

Colt RO633 DOE Sub Machine Gun SMG RARE

This is another one that is extremely rare, at least, in a fully-transferable state. It’s a special ultra-compact Colt 9mm SMG made to compete with the MP5K for the affections of the tactical teams guarding sensitive nuclear site. The R0633 won out, no surprise if you’ve shot the K a lot, but was never produced in large numbers.

Colt R0633 DEA 9mm SMG

Up for bids is something you don’t see everyday. This is a factory Colt DOE 9mm RO633 sub machine gun. As you know, the RO635 is the full size SMG. There are only a few hundred transferable examples of these on the NFA registry. There are less then 6 transferable DOE RO633 examples. This is truly a rare gun, that you may never see again. Will ship with one Colt 30 round magazine and factory box.Pr maube an unfired MG is really worth 150% of what a fired example goes for?

Most of these would be a fine stand-alone centerpiece to a Colt or US martial or LE arms collection.

None of the guns (not even the M400) has drawn a bid. In our opinion, the seller has placed the opening bids too high for the market.

And for people who wonder about past GunBroker exotics posted here, that one guy is still flogging his Johnson. People must be clinging to their cash reserves in an election year.