Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

Stag Arms Introduces 9mm Carbines

A few days ago, Stag introduced a series of 9mm carbines that have some similarities to the Colt workhorse of DOE and police fame, and have a few new features. The Model 9 is available in right or left-handed, and in Tactical or (we guess, to steal from David Ogilvy, “diffident about tactical”) regular trim. This is a regular, RH-oriented Stag Model 9:

Stag Model 9

That’s the factory photo. It does embiggen with a click. The Stag 9 upper is much like the Colt’s, with no ejector port door and a polymer ejected-case bumper, as is the blowback, non-locking bolt/carrier unit. Unlike Colt, which uses an insert in an ordinary AR lower, the Stag has a dedicated lower, that’s broached (or more likely, wire-EDM’d) only for the 9mm mag, same mag as Colt’s. Here’s the Tactical version in left hand, with the mag in:

Stag Model 9TL

The rounded rectangular protrusion on the upper forging that, on a locked-bolt rifle, gives the cam pin a place to rest, serves no purpose on the 9mm AR, but it’s there because the gun is only economical because the same forging is used for the 9mm upper, and the one for other, more usual AR calibers.

As you can see, “tactical” gets you a free-floating handguard and pop-up sights. Both handguards take Diamondhead rails; the non-”tactical” version has a conventional “gas block” although it taps no gas from the non-ported barrel, and it comes without sights (or, in marketing-speak, “optics ready.”

On the principle than only a fool invents a new feed system when he doesn’t have to, the Colt mag is based on the venerable Uzi mag, and is available in 20- and 32-round lengths (as opposed to the Uzi’s 25 and 32). Of course, no one has tried Uzi mags in the introduced-last-week Stag 9mm yet, but people have had mixed, mostly bad, luck with Uzi mags in Colts, and people have had all kinds of bad luck with just about everything in non-Colt 9mm ARs — making a 9mm AR that runs is harder than it looks. Making a 9mm that runs on a wide range of ammo is really hard, because the recoil impulse varies so widely, and any blowback system is optimized for a specific recoil impulse. That was one advantage of HK’s old MP5 and its roller-locking system. Even though the MP5 could be fussy about hollow points, it didn’t sweat bullet weight and powder charge changes too much.

A 9mm AR is always a bit homely, if not deformed, looking, but they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The pistol caliber submachine gun or carbine has always had a niche, and that niche is, mostly, indoors. So the optimum 9mm AR (assuming, ceteris paribus, the thing works) might actually be a small SMG or SBR, much like the special Colt Model 633 that was used by DOE. The 633 had a controllable rate of fire by using a special hydraulic buffer, different from that in other Colt 9mms. Stag’s press release has no details of their 9mm buffer, except that it is different from that in their other rifles. At the reasonable, sub-$1k list of the basic 9mm, a hydraulic buffer is unlikely.

 

The 9mm SMG had a run in the conventional military from 1918 to circa 1965-70, when assault rifles replaced most of them. It had a second lease on life in the 70s and 80s as a special operations CQB weapon. It was replaced by the 5.56mm carbine in military special operations for specific reasons, having to do with the 9mm’s range envelope. There have always been problems transitioning from the 9mm’s close-combat sweet spot to engage targets further out. A specific combat operation in Grenada in 1982 where American SOF found themselves outranged by meatheads with assault rifles was, if not the cause, the catalyst for the change.

But the police don’t have that reason to move to the 5.56 and they’re doing it, as far as we can tell, both because reliable 5.56 carbines are far easier to come by, and, perhaps, because of a certain “operator” cachet. They may be making an error. A 115 grain 9mm JHP will still overpenetrate in an indoor setting, but not like an M855A1 round will, and the 9mm (with modern defensive ammo) will do a decent job of putting an armed and hostile Wealth Redistribution Engineer down. It’s a tough call for the cops, though, because their rifle-engagement callouts are so rare, you can’t really say what the “usual” one is like. You can make some statistical inferences, but every new call is a roll of the dice, and it may turn out the capability needed is the barrier-blind penetration that a 9mm leaves on the table.

Having a 9 with the same manual of arms of the 5.56 is a plus. The Stag and Colt keep most of the key muscle memory points the same as on the rifle-cartridge AR. Even the very different, non-AR SIG MPX sought this same positive training transfer by keeping key fingerings (trigger, safety, mag release) identical to the AR.

If the Stag runs reliably, and there’s no reason to expect it not to, it gives 9mm carbine users another option besides trying to wring another year out of vintage and weary MP5s, going to the SIG MPX, going Colt or ditching the pistol round for 5.56. And on stuff like this, it’s good to have choices.

The technical stuff rom the Press Release:

Both the Model 9 & 9T series boast a 1/10 twist 16” heavy barrel, blowback action, a 6-position adjustable buttstock, and as always they are available in right & left hand configurations. The safety, charging handle, and magazine release function the same as any AR-15. However we have designed the actions of the rifles from the ground up. The rifles accept standard Colt style 9mm AR magazines which insert into the integrated magazine well in the lower receiver. The integrated magazine well won’t come loose or have feeding issues accompanied with drop in magazine blocks. Differences from a standard AR-15 can also be found in the lower receiver with a specially designed hammer, magazine catch, and buffer. In the Upper half, the bolt and carrier are one piece with a modified ejection port cover and brass deflector.

The Model 9 and 9T have different configurations. The Model 9 has a railed gas block and drop in Diamondhead VRS-T modular handguard with no sights. The Model 9T is the tactical version with a free floating 13.5” Diamondhead VRS-T modular handguard and aluminum Diamondhead flip up sights for faster target acquisitions. Both rifles will accept the Diamondhead rail sections for extreme customization.

For more information, and for the specs on each model, Read The Whole Thing™.

Training Smarter: Low Ready on Army BCT Ranges!

e-type_silhouetteApparently we got out ahead of our knowledge recently when we said that the conventional Army maintained cold range practices, and only some ARSOF were using hot range practices.

We thought we said that in answer to a comment on this blog, and now we think we might just have done it on another blog (’cause we can’t find the sucker), maybe Tam’s. Tam is on record that she thinks requiring extraneous manipulation of weapons on the range, creating the false idea that the weapons are now “safe,” and making people fear a loaded gun (even his or her own!), is a bad idea. We couldn’t agree more, but pointed out — to someone, somewhere — that such extraneous gunhandling, mythical “safe gun,” and situational hoplophobia, is how Big Green did it. Turns out, we was wrong.

This was, indeed, the “Way it Used to Be,” but over the last dozen-plus years of war, the Army’s gotten smarter (admittedly, they’re rising up from a low baseline here). There have been a large number of training changes, even in Basic Rifle Marksmanship, which are oriented towards the idea that the end product is not hitting targets on a range, but being able to “fight with a rifle.” That’s a quantum improvement, and it appears to have changed some of the Army’s excessive safety orientation. Here’s a chart of some of the differences:

army_bct_changes_2008

It’s taken from this PEO Soldier document from 2011. To break out some of the acronyms, BRM is Basic Rifle Marksmanship, taught to all soldiers in initial entry training. ARM is part of Advanced Individual Training for infantrymen. “Up and Downrange” referred to the way weapons had to be carried on the range: muzzle up, and pointed in towards the impact area at all times. The Army still clears weapons at the end of a firing evolution, but the trainees continue to handle their weapons as if they were hot, in the expectation that soon enough they will have to go about their business, confidently and safely, with a hot weapon.

The first bullet point in the comparison chart is the reason that we hot range advocates are hot range advocates: Students are trained to be comfortable with a rifle, not to fear it. You train as you fight, or should fight.

The Trainfire range system was a sort of physical world video game, in which any hit on the E-type silhouettes (used from 100 to 300 meters range) of F-type partial silouettes (for targets inside 100m) caused the silhouette to drop. These were used in field firing practice and for rifle qualification. The Trainfire system could also be cheated or gamed in several ways, for instance, a shot short of the target would often throw enough rocks, dirt, or debris onto the target as to make it drop.

The Army has finally woken up to what everyone else (including many armies) knew decades ago: optical sighting systems are superior, period. Ten years ago, using an optic was “cheating.” Now they understand it’s “training.” (The Army’s standard optic is the M68 Close-Combat Optic or CCO. The same designator is used for the Aimpoint Comp M2 and Comp M4. In the conventional Army, certain specific troops also get an ACOG M150, but that’s not used in basic combat training). Train as you fight.

Even ten years ago, range firing, even for qualification, was “admin”: if your weapon failed or jammed, you got a mulligan, called in Army range fire an “alibi.” Stages were designed to use the rounds you had in a given magazine, so that your mag change was never on the clock. Now, the qual fire is more releastic. If you have a jam, you have to conduct immediate action and reengage your targets — just like in combat. If you run out of ammo, well, they taught you how to reload an M4, do it and drive on. Just like in combat. And some of the e-hadjis (or enemy of your choice) out there in the target array will take multiple hits to be incapacitated — just like in combat.

As noted on the slide the minimum qualification (“Marksman”) on Trainfire or reduced-distance ranges was (and is) 23 hits out of 40. (Bear in mind, this might be done in any weather, so it’s not a completely unrealistic evolution — just mostly unrealistic). The max qualification, Expert, required and requires 36 hits.

In the long run, these training changes will produce soldiers who are more confident and more effective with their individual weapon, especially if in-unit sustainment training also makes similar advances.

This cultural change won’t happen overnight. It needs to have sustained command emphasis, and we need to have young people come up, especially in the NCO ranks, who trained like this, to replace those sergeants and sergeants major who aren’t bright enough to follow the reasoning of the policy, and can only do what they saw others do before them. So firming up this policy may require 25 or 30 years of emphasis and effort, but it will produce more lethal combat units, and support and service-support units far more capable of self-defense, one soldier at a time.

The biggest threat to this change is, indeed, personnel policy. Currently, the Army gives little weight to combat experience and is throwing experienced combat leaders out, while promoting combat-shy ticket-punch collectors, who rode to the sound of their careers while the Army was off fighting a war (the current Sergeant Major of the Army, who spent most of the war hiding out in Army schools and did one, late, tour as a sergeant major on a FOB, exemplifies this perfectly). But the same current Army leadership doing that are the guys who signed off on this, which illustrates, perhaps, that the leaders are doing the best as they see it.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Pre98.com

French 1935A pistols are common -- but not in this condition.

French 1935A pistols are uncommon, not “rare” – except in this condition, and with an Indochina period rig. In stock at Pre98.com.

There are lots of dealers of 20th Century guns, but Scotty Benedict makes a business of selling the sort of guns you usually only see at national auctions: mint, rare, and mint and rare guns are the bulk of his offerings. His website is the slightly misleading URL, Pre98.com (as most of his inventory is 20th Century). The online catalog of goodies is at shop.pre98.com. Inventory is updated extremely often.

We have been around since 1989 dealing mostly in WW2 arms and militaria. Our specialties are mint condition firearms and very nice holsters….. We decided to open this web site to give you exclusive access to what we have in stock in the way of firearms and accessories. We will continue to improve the site and hope you will visit often to see what we have dredged up.

There will also be some rare and desirable commercial guns. This site gives you exclusive access to the firearms and accessories that made it into my inventory. Now you don’t have to wait for a gun show to see what I have found.

Gathering the best items is too big of a job for one person to handle. I have a virtual army of collectors who regularly channel new goodies into the pipeline. As a very serious and advanced collector myself, my eye is trained to be quite discerning about what we pick up. I take great pride in the herd that we bring to market. I personally guarantee the authenticity of each item and the accuracy of its description.

Since most of my customers are serious collectors, almost all of our business is with Curio and Relics (C&R) licensees and FFL transfers. When you find that special gun you’ve been looking for, we’ll work with you to make the buying process as painless as possible while complying with all applicable firearms regulations.

via Pre98.com – Home.

One of the neat things about Scotty is that he keeps records of some of the best pieces he has sold in the past, so you can not only jones over the guns you can’t afford now, you can jones over the ones you couldn’t afford last year (but some other lucky fellow did).

We have not personally bought from Scotty, but we just looked at literally every item in his inventory. Nothing is cheap, but he is correct in noting that he has among the best examples of both common (think 1911 or Garand) and uncommon (Broomhandle, French 1935A, VIS Radom, etc.) firearms on the market. For example, this mint commercial Broomhandle comes with the original stock:

Mauser C96 Broomhandle

Price? We’ve bought cars for less. Here’s Scotty’s description:

In 98% original very crisp condition, we have a very rare Model 1896 flatside large ring C96 Mauser Broomhandle pistol that is still with the factory original matching numbered stock. This pistol was manufactured in the middle of 1900 and was exported to America and sold by the famed New York firearms firm Von Lengerke & Detmold and is so marked. This pistol has a mint bore and is in exceptional condition, you just do not see these early Broomhandles that look this good and never with a matching stock. This is one of the most sought after and difficult Broomhandles to obtain. These flat side large ring C96′s are very interesting pistols. The firm marking will make an highly sought after pistol like this even more desirable,.

Yes, the Broomhandle is x-pensive. There’s an original, prewar engraved PPK that’s even more expensive. He also has not one, but four non-import Makarovs to choose from.

Not everything is priced to give you High Altitude Cerebral Edema, though. For instance, here’s a nice, solid and representative 1944 M1 Carbine:

M1 Carbine 1944

Scotty calls it good-plus, original, and has priced it just a nudge above an average carbine at $1,450. So there are some within reach of t he working man; the others, he must plan to sell to VA managers or something. But they sure are beautiful to look at.

If you like what you see at Scotty’s site, his friend Jim has similar quality stuff at LegacyCollectibles.com, too.

‫Allah hu Fubar! FOOM!

Oldest trick in the guerrilla warfare book. A little something extra in the occasional mortar round, or in this case, 7.62 x 39mm cartridge.

The US did this as a psychological operation in the Vietnam War, designed to shake the NVA’s confidence in their Russian and Chinese weapons suppliers. The Germans did it to the Russians in World War II.

Now, is someone doing it to the jihadis? Or did this guy just get a bad ice cube in his cocktail of death-to-whomever this morning? We can’t say. Certainly, Comblock ammo manufacture was a bit dodgy, and some of the Arab and Iranian ammo plants make Vodka Friday at Soviet State Arsenal No. 5376 look like a routine day shift at a Swiss medical device factory.

Of course, in 2014, when your AK reverts to kit form in your very hands, somebody’s got you on GoPro or cellphone video. Smile, Hadji, you’re an intertubes celebrity. Pity he didn’t get this on Ian’s new high-speed camera.

Veterans, 50; Army, 0 (Springfields, that is).

This morning’s Springfield post triggered a way overdue follow-up. Way back in January 2012, we wrote, apropos of Springfield rifles:

But one volunteer cemetery firing party, at Ft. Snelling, Minn., is holding out, grimly hanging on to their WWI-era bolt-actions, spurning an offer of WWII vintage M1 Garand rifles. The Army Times has the story.

It’s weird to see one of our posts with a two-digit number… but we’re not sick of the blog yet, just a bit buried in research. Anyway, we came across this old post and wondered what ever happened to the Fort Snelling vets, who wanted to keep their 50 loaner Springfields. (The Army, cleaning up inventories of obsolete weapons, wanted to pull them back and issue them 15 Garands instead. Why 15? Because a law from Congress restricts them to that number, now).

The fate of the Springfields was uncertain, had the Army repo’d them. The current Administration is on record that surplus rifles are a driver of urban crime, which is why they have banned reimportation of M1 rifles and carbines. (Yes, these relics are seldom if ever used in crime. You argue the point with Eric Holder, we give up). So they might have gone through CMP to auction, but they might have met the “Mexican speedwrench” so beloved of gun controllers.

The fate of the honor guard was clearer. With 50 Springfields, they can field 5 to 7 simultaneous firing parties and a few operational floats, a necessity in a cemetery that does 20 funerals a day. With 15 Garands, they’d have 2 parties, leaving 60% of the vets to go into the ground unsaluted.

The Army suggested using a tape recording or .mp3 file.

Fortunately for the vets of Fort Snelling, a local Congressman got involved and, with him leaning on the Army, they discovered that their “good enough for government work” welders didn’t need to practice on the 1903s after all.

We missed the Army’s decision, which was taken ‘way back in February, 2012, but in the face of determined Congressional resistance, they sounded retreat — at least for now.

This is one it feels good to see the Army lose.

One hopes it will not be 2+ years late, next time we update a story we ran. But better then than never, n’est-ce pas?

 

Springfield Rifles: What’s the Difference?

The US model 1903 Springfield rifle was made in five major versions. New entrents to collecting American martial arms sometimes struggle to tell these very similar rifles apart, but actually it’s pretty easy. Here’s a Springfield cheat sheet to take with you to the fun show:

From GlobalSecurity.org. Note that the stock on the A3 is more commonly like the one shown on the A1.

From GlobalSecurity.org. Note that the stock on the A3 is more commonly like the one shown on the A1.

 

  • The US Rifle Model 1903 was originally made for the M1 Cal. .30-03 cartridge, and service rifles were rechambered to the improved .30-06. There were metallurgical problems with early serial number receivers and bolts, and firearms under number 800,000 from Springfield Armory and 286,596 from Rock Island Arsenal should not be fired, because those are the numbers beyond which improved heat treating methods are known to have resolved this problem. (The bolts aren’t numbered, but any bolt that has a handle “swept back” rather than bent at 90º to the bolt axis is good to go).
    This is the business end of an early (pre-1905) rod bayonet Springfield.

    This is the business end of an early (pre-1905) rod bayonet Springfield.

    A few very early models had rod bayonets, and these were mostly converted to Model 1905 16″ knife bayonets after 1905 (at the insistence, we’ve noted, of Theodore Roosevelt) so they’re extremely rare. The rear sight was a ladder sight that went through several iterations, mounted forward of the front receiver ring. It could be used as an open tangent sight or raised and elevated for volley fire to ranges of almost 3,000 yards. A variant of the 03 called the US Rifle M1903 Mark I was adapted for use with the Pedersen device. Most of these were made in 1918-1919 and they wound up issued as ordinary 1903s. They are not especially rare, but make good conversation pieces. Another rare variant (illustrated) used the Warner & Swasey telescope commonly fitted to the Benet-Mercié “automatic rifle” — it had a terrible time holding zero, but that’s what American snipers had Over There.

The rifle lasted decades more, but the sight didn't.

The rifle lasted decades more, but the sight didn’t.

  • US Rifle Model 1903A1 is identical to the 1903, except for the stock, which has a pistol grip.
  • US Rifle Model 1903A2 is another extreme rarity: a Springfield altered to be a subcaliber device for conducting direct-fire training on various artillery weapons on small arms ranges. The stock, handguards, sights were removed and the gun could be fitted into a 37 mm sleeve for use in a 37mm gun, or the 37mm adapter could in turn be fitted in a larger-caliber adapter for 75mm, 105mm or 8 inch (203mm) artillery. They were generally made from 1903s and will have the “A2″ notation hand stamped after the 1903 on the receiver ring. A brass bushing on the muzzle, just under an inch (0.994″) in diameter, adapted the bare barreled action to the adapter. A few have the A2 electro-penciled in place, it would take a Springfield expert to tell you if that’s authentic (the example Brophy shows is stamped). Most of the A2s were converted back into ordinary rifles, surplused, or scrapped at the end of the war as the Army had abandoned subcaliber artillery training.

M1903A2_Ord18292

  • US Rifle Model 1903A3 is a wartime, cost-reduced version of the 1903A1. Remington had been tooling up to make the 1903, not for the US, but in .303 for the British. WIth American reentry into the war, Remington converted back to making a simplified 1903. The A3 reverts to the straight (no pistol grip) stock, uses a stamped trigger guard, and has a ramp-mounted peep sight like the one on the M1 Carbine. This sight is simpler than the Rube Goldberg arrangement on the 1903, and actually has greater accuracy potential thanks to around 7″ greater sight radius. It is the version most commonly found on the market, and was carried by soldiers in the first months of the Pacific War, and by Marines for longer. Until a working grenade launcher was developed for the M1 and issued in late 1943, an Army rifle squad armed with M1s still had one or two grenadiers armed with M1903A3s and grenade launchers. By D-Day, most combat units had the M1 launchers. Remington (and Smith-Corona) produced 1903A3s from 1941 to February, 1944.

M1903A3 sight

  • US Rifle Model 1903A4 is a 1903A3 fitted with a Weaver 330C or Lyman Alaskan 2 ½ Power optical sight. The Weaver sight is 11 inches long and adds a half-pound to the weight of the rifle, bringing it to a still very manageable 9.7 pounds. The Lyman is a tenth of an inch shorter and a 0.2 pounds heavier (the Lyman was very rare in service compared to the Weaver). Both have an eye relief of about 3 to 5 inches. Very late in the war, the M1C came into service, but the 1903A4 was the Army’s primary sniper rifle throughout the war. Note that several vendors have made replicas of the M1903A4, some of which (like Gibbs Rifle Company’s) are clearly marked. All 1903A4s were made by Remington.

There you have it — the main variants of the Springfield Rifle in a short and digestible format.

Land of the Lost… Guns: Afghanistan

So, we saw this at Miguel’s, which led us to Fox News, which led us to the Washington Times, which still didn’t give up the primary source document. We wanted the primary source document because the numbers in the Times’s story didn’t add up.

The essential claims in these media versions of the story are:

  1. The Afghans have lost or sold off tens of thousands of the guns we gave them; and,
  2. The databases are poisoned with many duplicates; and,
  3. Most or many of the US-provided weapons were never entered in the database; therefore:
  4. Accountability for weapons in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANA/ANP) is nonexistent.

Here are the numbers as we pulled them from the report, and as the media spun ‘em:

The narrative is that the Afghan National Army has lost tens if not hundreds of thousands of small arms, and that as a result We Are Doomed. It took some doing (anyone who thinks Obamacare’s website was uniquely mishandled has spent no time among the web gardens of the .gov or .mil) but we did unearth the document.

Two Databases Stood Back-to-Back, Refusing to Say a Word…

The problem is at once more complex, more nuanced, and more interesting than that. And for gloom and doom fans, we’re probably still doomed. The bottom line is that the US’s incredibly complex and inefficient inventory systems, which famously do not talk to one another, also don’t mesh with the inventory system we provided to Afghanistan. Three completely different (and fundamentally incompatible) IT systems track US-provided small arms in OEF. Those systems include:

  • SCIP, the Security Cooperation Information Portal, used in the USA by logisticians supplying materiel to American allies worldwide.
  • OVERLORD, the Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database, developed in-country by the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A), the latest of several names for the US training HQ in-country.
  • CoreIMS, the Core Inventory Management System, a US-spec COTS inventory database that has been foisted off on our valiant Afghan allies.

Here’s a graphic from that famous primary source document that the Times and Fox wouldn’t show you, preferring to predigest your informational meal. (Here’s a link to the document: SIGAR 14-84.pdf. We’ve saved a copy in case the link goes  tango uniform). This shows what the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction thinks the process is:

dod_weapons_inventory_process

 

So what we have turns out to be, not vast numbers of guns vanishing as they take each step along the pipeline, but three different and incompatible databases having data that are at odds with one another.

Which database is right? Who knows? Could be any of them. Or none of them! In fact, all three databases could have wide discrepancies, and yet none of them have totals close to what actually exists in inventory.

But it turns out, if you actually read the SIGAR report instead of act like a Media Luminary and Skim Until Shocked, the auditors did that, and as it turns out, some of the numbers are before they deep-dove the data, and some of the numbers don’t represent what they appear to represent. Yes, Afghan inventories are a mess, but they’re not the mess the news stories describe. A spot check of weapons in storage at the ANA Kandahar depot, for example, found the weapons in the crates the database said they’d be in, and traced every weapon back in inventories that matched the weapons on site. A similar exercise at the ANP 22 Bunkers Depot appeared to have similar results, but the inspectors didn’t have time to complete the inspection.  True, other depots and units had more fragmentary records, and the ANA Central Supply Depot’s records were far off from what was inventoried on site. But by Afghan standards, it wasn’t all that bad.

Remember that the idea of weapons inventories was something that Afghans have never done, except when compelled by Soviet or NATO allies. That they don’t do it as well as the US DOD, while using a stack of incompatible and user-hostile systems imposed from outside, shouldn’t shock anybody.

If you’re an old Afghan hand, one fundamental error in this whole process will have jumped out at you from the very beginning: trying to impose a sophisticated Western computer system (actually, multiple systems; a fourth incompatible database called ULTRA, Universal Listing of Transactions for Record Accounting, is under construction for the ANP) on a nation of Iron Age illiterates. Illiteracy was 94% to 97% when we first went into Afghanistan (the Taliban had closed all schools except madrassas). Illiterates make weak computer operators, something that American loggies never considered for a minute before deciding to spin up the Afghans in Microsoft World. Results predictable:

According to CSTC-A officials, efforts to develop the capabilities of ANSF personnel to manage the central depots have been hindered by the lack of basic education or skills among ANSF personnel and frequent turnover of Afghan staff.

Gee, there’s a shocker. We impose US-style personnel turbulence and military bureaucracy on an ally where most of the population is illiterate and borderline innumerate, and as Wilkins Micawber might say, “results, misery.”

The Duplicate Serials Problem: Not Such a Big Deal

Then, there’s the duplicate serial numbers problem , which comes to rise for two reasons:

  1. The procurers, developers and operators of the system did not understand that different weapon makes and models may indeed use the same serial numbers, and different manufacturers may use the same serial numbers for their versions of the same firearm, and so they erred in trying to use serial number by itself as a unique key;
  2. Lack of communication between databases

Even the authors of the report don’t seem to find that their discovery of some duplicate numbers is meaningless. Here’s their table from the report:

sigar_serial_number_dupes

¡Ay, Chihuahua! (Old Afghan phrase). Yes, it’s not just an Afghan thing to have two weapons with the same serial number. Heck, the USA did it:

M1 Rifle Serial 1,608,803: these two receivers were sold by CMP at auction recently.

M1 Rifle Serial 1,628,802: these twin receivers were sold by CMP at auction recently.

Someone who knows weapons can clear these three discrepancies in about two tenths of a second. Like this:

  • DX2383 needs to be reconciled by eyes-on physical inventory, because it’s possible that this represents two different guns, but because an AMD-65 is a variant of AK-47, it’s equally possible that this is one gun described two ways. Several manufacturers made AK variants using serial numbers of this pattern, so only physical inventory can establish whether we’re talking about one gun or two here.
  • 178203 is obviously two different weapons, and a properly constructed database would not confuse an M203 with an M249 of the same serial number.
  • A598 is the very same problem, Russian-designed-weapons style.

As anyone who’s ever accounted for any significant quantity of firearms can tell you, serial numbers are only likely to be unique on a single type (i.e. make/model/caliber) of weapon made for a single customer by a single manufacturer. Now, we’re not sure what other US arms have duped serial numbers like the M1 example above. (We know M16A1 rifles and XM177 “submachine guns” had absolutely unique numbers because manufacturers had independent sN blocks).

But this duplication is spun by SIGAR, in their ignorance of firearms, as a major problem, and it is spun in turn by the media as a Chicken Little sky-is-falling moment. It’s only a problem because the database designers and auditors are ignorant of the limits of serial numbering.

We certainly admit that the SIGAR report does identify some real challenges facing Afghan services on weapons-inventory issues, and it points up the poor visibility into those issues that US service elements, including CSTC-A, have into Afghan inventories. As far as the weaknesses of Afghan inventory controls are concerned, this is news to us in which way? We were pleasantly surprised to see that some Afghan National Police elements are tracking their assigned weapons using Microsoft Excel. This means they have some literate cops, who can even use computers — that’s miles ahead of 2002, let us tell you. But the SIGAR is shocked by this, and by the fact they’re not using some high-dollar, centralized, fiddly data management system instead of Excel.

Crawl, walk, run, people. Trying to drop Afghans into RDBMS management when they not only haven’t got the hang of Excel, but are largely utterly unlettered, is asking for trouble.

One is reminded of Lawrence’s maxim not to do things for the locals, but to let them do it themselves, however imperfectly.

What would a WWII US Weapons Collection cost?

soldier with M1One of the questions that a novice collector faces is: what to collect? While it’s good to follow your heart, the fact is that unless you”ve got the resources of an oil sheik you can’t actually buy one of everything. Even a millionaire has a finite budget, even if his is larger than, say, a grocery clerk’s.

So it helps to follow your head as well as your heart, and it helps to have a theme for your collection. Some collections can be deep and entertaining with a single subject, if it’s a big one: Lugers, for instance, or Springfield rifles. But right now, American World War II weapons are riding a wave of great popularity. With the WWII generation themselves gradually going the way of rifle clubs in middle school and the 48-star flag, you’d think interest in World War guns would wane, as did, say, collector interest in Model A Fords when the elderly car collectors who remembered them from new passed on. But WWII weapons haven’t seen such a collapse in interest. If anything, more people are interested than ever before, thanks perhaps to the availability of new books and movies on the subject.

A Theme: First Step on the Way to a Plan

So let’s take up the US World War II theme, and imagine a collection. A theme is the first step on the way to a plan. A plan is the theme made concrete with priorities and a budget. The collection itself becomes, then, the plan executed. One practical way to proceed (especially for a young collector just starting out) is to get “representative” pieces at first, and then later upgrade them for higher-quality and better-condition guns. This approach will cost considerably more than just buying the very best quality example you can right from the outset, but if you are young and just starting out, you may not have the resources to do so.

Best of all: every one of these guns is available, uses readily-acquired ammunition, and is safe and fun to shoot.

M1_Carbine_Mk_I_-_USA_-_Armémuseum

In this post, we’ve defined a core collection, a complete collection, and an extended collection of World War II US Arms, and we’ll cover each set in turn. The core collection are the most important and familiar weapons used by US forces in the 1941-45 war: rifles, carbine, and pistol. The complete collection adds the remaining Title 1 standard arms that were issued by midwar, according to our reference: War Department Technical Manual, TM 9-2200: Small Arms, Light Field Mortars, and 20-mm Aircraft Guns, dated 11 October 1943. (As a bonus, we’ll provide the reference as a download. Its table of references defines the period Standard Nomenclature Lists and Technical Manuals for all standard WWII weapons to that date). The extended collection gets you the Class III individual weapons, some unusual variants and oddball weapons that were used without being standard.

Core Collection

The most important and familiar weapons used by US forces in the 1941-45 war.

Weapon

Type

Estimated Cost

Collectors’ Notes
M1 Garand

Rifle

$1,300

A lot of M1s are post war. Try to get a wartime one, but you can always start with a later gun as a “representative M1″and work your way to a wartime example. Best value is still with CMP.
M1 Carbine

Rifle

$1,200

Again, you can save with a postwar, reimport, or reproduction. But they don’t have the collector appeal, and may not hold value.
M1911A1

Pistol

$1,300

For generations these pistols were commodities, and a lot of them have been Bubba’d. Take your time to find an original one.
Totals

3

$3,800

That’s the basic weapons of the D-Day rifle squad for you, minus the BAR.

M1911A1bSo there you have it: you can have the basics of WWII collecting, average pieces, for under $4k. If you want to add something exotic, you can pluck one “halo gun” from the next installment of this story, like a semi BAR as a collection centerpiece. (We will include the BAR in the next installment of this story — the Complete Collection). You could make your collection tentpole a 1919A4 in semi for a similar amount, maybe a little less. Or you could spend a little over a thousand for a repro semi Thompson, but again, a repro is not going to keep pace with inflation the way an original gun does. The problem is, the originals are NFA weapons, meaning that some people can never own them in their home states, and that they are extremely expensive, compared to Title I firearms of the same value. Hence, the appeal of semi reproductions.

These three guns are not only of great historical significance, they are also, each one, remarkable pieces of industrial history, and there’s a great deal to be learned about their design and manufacture, with two of the greatest gun designers who ever lived being represented here, John M. Browning and John Garand. Browning was extremely prolific and Garand is remembered almost exclusively for the M1 Rifle, but that’s enough. The third gun, the M1 Carbine and its designer David Williams, is a bit of a sleeper. Williams is an interesting character, the only major gun designer to be a former convict.

Each gun made an impact historically, as well. Few guns have inspired more copies than the M1911; the M1 Rifle provided much of the design of the follow-on M14, still in limited service today; and the M1 Carbine’s gas system was also widely copied, including in that same M14.

This little collection is enough to get anyone started in a fine collection of World War II weapons.  The guns are extremely likely to hold their value, if maintained, and they can be shot for fun, making history come alive. The collection can be acquired one gun at a time, if $4k is beyond your immediate reach. We’d recommend the pistol first, carbine next — not the other way round because carbines are in a bit of a bubble right now — and then the M1, but really, you should buy them as the opportunity strikes or in the order that you like the guns. You will find that together they tell a more coherent and complete story than they do individually.

Do they seem expensive? That depends. Are you looking at 2014 prices from the viewpoint of 1984 prices, or 2044 prices?

Tune in tomorrow for the second of three installments, the Complete Collection.

Off Buying Guns

Sorry for limited gun content the last couple of days, been finalizing a deal to buy a small US WWII collection, all original stuff except, alas, for the M1 SMG, which is a recent Kahr-produced Short Barreled Rifle.

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit we never owned a 1903A3 before. It was actually still part of SF Light Weapons training back when your humble editor stumbled through that evolution.

As far as the Kahr is concerned, we’ll see if it’s any good when the Form 4 clears, sometime around when the Sun goes nova at the rate ATF has been doin’ ‘em. It’s a small fraction of the cost of buying one (and a small multiple of the cost of the one we’ve rented in Manchester from time to time). If we don’t like it, we’ll GunBroker it off.

We’re working on something others have worked on before us: trying to pin down what was the first submachine gun. The candidates are the Villar Perosa, which we discount on not being a shoulder-fired individual weapon; its individual-weapon offspring the OVP and Beretta M1918; and our original candidate for the honors, the German Bergmann MP.18. We only know the name of the designer of the Bergmann (Hugo Schmeisser). As is usual on any real quality post, it takes time to research these things, and not enough of the primary sources are digitized and online.

It’s time to show Jerry Miculek being cool

Now, our usual reaction to Hollywood dual-wielding gunplay is the same kind of sneering that Simon Pegg’s character gets to early in Hot Fuzz, when he’s still a responsible police officer who takes firearms seriously, not influenced by Hollywood tropes, unlike the character asking him.

But if you’re Jerry Miculek, you can pull it off. And actually hit stuff:

Frankly, we wish we shot like this guy back when we shot as much as this guy.  (Of course, we had never heard of Jerry then, and just wished we could shoot like Paul Poole. Whose reaction was: “Bwah-haw-HAW! Boy, you ain’t gonna ever shoot like me. Instead, we gonna make you a 79 gunner — you need an AREA FIRE WEAPON! Bwah-haw-HAW!” RIP, Paul; YSMFDYND, ‘cept you did).

Anyway, can you do what Jerry does here? Don’t think we can. Pretty sure we’re not gonna try.

True, he didn’t do it “whilst leaping through the air,” as Nick Frost’s character asked Pegg, but we’d hate to call Jerry on that, ’cause he might pull it off, too.

Best supporting role: the SIG arm brace (or equivalent), which turns any AR pistol into an effective cousin of the innovative but commercially unsuccessful Gwinn/Bushmaster Arm Pistol.