Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

The tale of the Fyodorov Avtomat of 1916

Alexander Vershinin has a breezy article on the 1916 Avtomat of Vladimir Grigoryevich Fyodorov, a gun generally recognized to be the first exemplar of a class that would be known as “assault rifles.” They are generally defined as being:

Fyodorov "Avtomat," 1916.

Fyodorov “Avtomat,” 1916.

  1. Shoulder-fired weapons;
  2. Firing from a detachable box magazine of 20 or more rounds;
  3. Capable of selective fire; and,
  4. Using an “intermediate” cartridge (more powerful and longer-ranging than a pistol’s, less powerful than a late 19th/early 20th-Century infantry rifle’s).
  5. And usually of an “intermediate” size between submachine guns and infantry rifles: about 30-40″ long  or roughly 1m, with a barrel of 14-20″ or 35-50 cm.

The classic Assault Rifles (MP/StG 44, AK, AR-15) all meet this standard, and the Fyodorov is close. Its cartridge, the 6.5mm Japanese cartridge, was less powerful than Russia’s standard 7.62 x 54mm rifle round, but really was a full-sized infantry cartridge.

Vershinin writes:

If the Soviet-era legend is to be believed, it was Tsar Nikolai II who hobbled Russian production of the automatic rifle from the outset.
“We don’t have enough ammunition,” he supposedly told the designer as he presented blueprints for the new weapon. But this story is far from the reality – the automatic or assault rifle was in fact developed in Russia almost entirely by lone gun enthusiasts before the 1917 Russian Revolution.

The subtext to what Vershinin is saying is that, as every Russian and student of things Russian knows that Soviet-era sources are often loaded with myth and morality stories. They’re full of mighty workers and peasants (think Stakhanov), tragic and doomed heroes (a Russian specialty, think Pavlik Morozov), and bumbling functionaries of the ancien régime, like the Tsar in the above story. It seems improbable that Nicholas would inject himself into Army ordnance decisions, but maybe he did. You didn’t need to have a Tsar to have your Army reject some progressive idea, though. The records of other countries, which had neither absolute monarchs nor revolutionaries determined to remake man himself, are full of questionable ordnance decisions, often made by some brigadier or colonel in the armaments end of the professional army.

v_g_fyodorov

This handsome, well-mustachioed gent is Vladimir Grigoryevich Fyodorov at his military academy graduation. He’d go on to design the Avtomat, lead an arsenal for the Soviet Union (later called the Degtyaryev Plant), and write a book on weapons design & history.

The vanguard in this field was Vladimir Grigoryevich Fyodorov, who wrote his name into the annals of gunmaking as the designer of the world’s first assault rifle.
The idea of arming infantry with rapid-fire automatic weapons was born in the upheaval of the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese war. Light machine guns had begun to appear on the frontlines and quickly demonstrated their effectiveness. If it were possible to equip each man with such a weapon, his value as a fighting unit would be multiplied manifold.

Now here Vershinin seems to be on to something. The Russo-Japanese War was a little-studied (in the West, anyway) bloodbath that saw the debut of the murderous weapons (breechloading artillery with recoil systems, machine guns, barbed-wire entanglements) that would make all three fronts of World War I into a Brueghelian nightmare.

via Fyodorov’s feat: The story of the world’s first assault rifle | Russia Beyond The Headlines.

The Avtomat was ahead of its time, but the Imperial Russian Army seemed to recognize that and equipped some units with the new weapon. It passed out of general use, but turned up in small numbers during the Russo-Finnish winter war of 1940:

Russians with Fyodorov Automat

Vershinin frames the design history — it was originally designed as a long rifle for Fyodorov’s own 6.5 mm cartridge, and only later cut down to carbine size and adapted to use stocks of captured Japanese ammo — and notes that historians today can only speculate as to why the gun went out of service. People at the time probably knew, but the Russian Empire was facing defeat, collapse, a tragic and bloody Civil War, and a destruction of archives and loss of talent to exile on a scale seldom seen. Vershinin, a historian himself, lists some of the possibilities. Perhaps some day, some archivist will find the answer, written in Fyodorov’s own hand.

When CMP Got Some Carbines In…

…they sold out. In one day. Twice.

Let us explain that. They sent a message on 28 January to their mailing list:

Monday, February 1, we will begin accepting orders for a limited number of M1 Carbines for mail order. Two grades will be available, Service and Field. They include the following manufacturers; Inland, Winchester, IBM, Quality Hardware, Saginaw, Standard Product and Underwood. The manufacturer you receive will be luck of the draw, please no requests. Each customer is limited to one total Carbine this year. You will not be allowed to purchase both a Service and Field Grade. You may put down your first choice and second choice.

cmp_m1_carbine

We DO NOT time stamp orders, we only date stamp them. All orders received the same day are put in one basket. Please do not call about your order. If information is needed for your order, our sales department will contact you. Be sure to complete the checklist for the order before you send it in. Questions about orders already in-house slow down our processing which means it takes longer to send out the end product. If your payment method is a check, we will not deposit your check until your order is processed. However, some orders may go on backorder. You will be contacted prior to depositing your check should your order be placed on a backorder list. To be placed on the backorder list, you must have a form of payment with your order.

There were two grades available, in a quantity of a few dozen each. (Images below are of a Service and Field grade carbine, but these rarer Saginaw-made firearms came from the CMP auction site).

M1 Carbine Service Grade: R017SERVICE $685/each Free S&H

M1 carbine saginaw service grade

Carbines may have been rebuilt and refinished at least once and will exhibit, in most cases, varying degrees of wear on many parts and generally nosignificant pitting on metal. Metal parts are mixed USGI. While all Carbines are USGI, some may have foreign markings. Muzzle may gauge 3 or less on muzzle gauge. Stocks may be replacement marked M2 type birch, beech pot belly or USGI walnut, but may have seen heavy use with possible rebuild or other markings. Each carbine will be shipped with an empty chamber indicator, CMP Safety Manual and a CMP reprint of FM23-37. The Carbine is also shipped in a CMP hard rifle case.

NOTE: Carbines will not be sold or shipped with magazines, slings or oilers.

M1 Carbine Field Grade: R017FIELD $625/each Free S&H

M1 carbine saginaw field grade

Carbines may have been rebuilt and refinished at least once and will exhibit, in most cases, varying degrees of wear on many parts. Bores may have some heavy pitting and exterior finish may show significant wear and surface pitting. Metal parts are mixed USGI. While all carbines are USGI, some may have foreign markings. Muzzle may gauge 3 or more on muzzle gauge. Stocks may be replacement marked M2 type birch, beech pot belly or USGI walnut, but may have seen heavy use with possible rebuild or other markings or repairs. Each carbine will be shipped with an Empty Chamber Indicator, CMP Safety Manual and a CMP reprint of FM23-37. The Carbine is also shipped in a CMP hard rifle case.

NOTE: Carbines will not be sold or shipped with magazines, slings or oilers.

They received enough complete orders (with eligibility information and payment) to cover all the carbines they had, except for a few dozen they’d reserved for in-store sales.

Note that we don’t have a dog in this fight, as we didn’t read any of these messages until after the sell-out had occurred.

So then they put the remainder… under 70 M1 carbines… out in their two stores at Anniston, AL (the Talladega Marksmanship Park) and Port Clinton, OH (Camp Perry) yesterday.

CMP M1 Carbine Release in CMP Stores

M1 Carbines will be released in our stores in Anniston, Alabama, and Port Clinton, Ohio, on Thursday, February 4. Since our mail orders sold out in one day, we thought it would be wise to notify our store customers that there will be less than 35 full M1 Carbines in each store. This is the extremely limited quantity referenced in our previous email. They will be sold on a first come, first serve basis. No rifles will be held. Please bring all necessary paperwork with you to the store. No agent purchases.

There may be someone who got a carbine in the store, and already had his paperwork in for a mail-order carbine, in which case he gets the one he picked out in the store, and his mail-order paperwork is void, and someone gets plucked off the back-order list. Other than that:

CMP’S Carbine Inventory has been exhausted and we do not expect to receive any additional shipments.

Expect many of them to appear on GunBroker at a $400-600 markup, CMP’s small contribution to the neckbeard contingent, which otherwise would only be able to survive on the profits of .22LR arbitrage.

CMP does have a few premium (condition, or rarity) carbines that were culled from the pack, including an M1A1, that they offer on their auction site.

Inland M1A1 Carbine

Note that the prices get high (here’s a carbine bayonet that’s into the hundreds with eight days yet to go in the auction). With eight days to go, this M1A1 is over $2k (it will likely wind up much higher than that).

Inland M1A1 Carbine 2 Inland M1A1 Carbine 3

It’s also worthwhile to look at the auction site to see what top-notch carbines and Garands are going for, and what CMP’s Service and Field grades look like.

See what we have to look forward to on the 1911s?

Here’s a Different Retro AR-15

The first thing we’re going to say is: it’s pretty. It’s meant to be a stylish upgrade to the Vietnam-era rifle, but it diverges from that not just cosmetically (with the beautiful walnut furniture and decent Cerakote job), but mechanically (with a heavy barrel, late-style generic lower, and .223 Wylde chamber). It’s styled after the XM16E1/M16A1 style gun that was used by the ground combat services in 1965-67.

AR-15 retro wood 04

It’s a gun that’s meant to be fun to shoot and to give an impression of an early AR — or as the seller puts it, a “resto-mod.” If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it comes from the 1990s California classic car scene, where outfits like Mustangs Plus (whose Ron Bramlett, we believe, coined the term “restomod”) would do a cosmetic restoration on a classic car, while upgrading its systems to late 20th-Century standards of safety, convenience and performance with things like disc brakes, air conditioning, five- and six-speed transmissions, and fuel injection.

This is a “resto-mod” build using an authentic Vietnam era m-16 upper receiver, front sight assembly, and bayonet. The lower is a new Delaware Machine AR-15 mil-spec receiver.”

“Delaware Machinery” and “mil-spec” are only passingly acquainted. The DM lowers can be in tolerance, out of tols high, or out of tols low, and sometimes things that should be square are a few degrees off. Most of them do go together alright, and if they don’t, it’s usually just a matter of custom fitting. Still, that’s the other end of the pool from a prestige lower.

One good thing is that there are no large logos on the magwell with this firm’s lowers.

AR-15 retro wood 02

Everything on the Rifle has been Cerakoted except for springs, detents, and the buffer. The wood stock furniture is real American Black Walnut. The receivers, sight base, compensator, and bayonet grips are a blend of Cerakote Graphite Black and Burnt Bronze. The rest of the parts are Graphite Black. Having all parts Cerakoted dramatically reduces friction which means less oil, less fouling, and less cleaning. The rifle has been pre-broken-in and burnished with Sentry Solutions Smooth-Kote. The rifle comes with the bayonet, bayonet sheath, 3 magazines, and a padded soft rifle case.

It is a nice looking rifle. If you only want one sort-of-retro AR, and you don’t think $1,800 buy it now is too much (we don’t know where the reserve is on this auction), maybe it’s for you.

There are numerous departures from retro “restored,” notably the heavy barrel with it’s .750 diameter through the front sight base (instead of the period-correct .675)

One good thing about this build is that the seller (and presumed builder) is providing comprehensive information about the firearm.

Everything is new EXCEPT the UPPER RECIEVER, FRONT SIGHT BASE, SIGHTS, CHARGING HANDLE, BAYONET, and SCABBARD. These parts are deemed to be authentic Vietnam era parts due to their design and forging marks “C H” on the upper receiver. “C H” stands for Colt Harvey forging (Harvey being the forging company used by Colt for the early m16 rifle). It should be noted that all of the components came to me as a complete upper half, which was in pretty poor condition, at the time, requiring the need for an overhaul. As can be seen from the pictures, you can tell the upper has been through a lot; there are dings all over. All parts were thoroughly degreased, sharp raised edges filed down, blasted smooth, and then coated with Cerakote H series finish. Below are the details on individual parts which were used on this build.

AR-15 retro wood 03

RRA Parts Kit
RRA Carrier with Chromed bolt (Also Cerakoted)
RRA National Match 2-stage semi-auto trigger
Stainless Steel Firing pin and Cam Pin
JP Enterprises® 3.5 lb trigger spring kit
KNS Perma Pin
HBAR Match Grade Chromoly Barrel 20″ 1 in 8″ twist .223 Wylde chamber
Bushmaster® rifle length Buffer and spring
M1918 leather sling
Walnut stock set from Black Guns Wood

AR-15 retro wood 01

via Custom retro AR-15 Wood Stock rifle with bayonet : Semi Auto Rifles at GunBroker.com.

Again, only you know if this is right for you.

And Now for a Bit of Philosophy

The gun is well done; it’s not a Bubba job. But one wonders if some day we will regret these sort of restomods as much as we regret the amateurish and ugly hack jobs that generations of Bubbas have inflicted on Mausers and, now, Mosins. We’ve been meaning to write about this but Tam posted a link to McThag’s impassioned jeremiad (hmmm… was there ever a jeremiad that was not “impassioned”? Methinks we adjective too much) about hack jobs on, specifically, Mosins.

I am sick of seeing Bubba rape kiv/27’s. I am sick of seeing Remington and NEW [New England Westinghouse — rare WWI contract guns. -Ed.) receivers drilled and tapped. I am sick of seeing US marked M1915 stocks shortened and cut for Timney triggers.

Far too often, Bubba makes changes he can’t reverse. Regret comes 20 years later when the supply of old guns dries up and the crufflers start fighting over what’s left. The Mosin that’s $240 on Gunbroker now was $150 last year. It was $70 five years before that.

Already modded guns are listed on Gunbroker for less than $500, and there’s no bidders. In Econ 101, we call that a market indicator.

That made us look at this site, where a Bubba enabler suggests committing all kinds of crude butchery on unsuspecting Russian service rifles.

At one point, he suggests you put your Mosin in a cheap plastic imitation of a sniper chassis stock, because “the look is incredible” (of course) and to save weight. Except the stock he recommends weighs more than the typical birch stick Ivan used, back in the day.

Q: What’s the value of a $150 Mosin in a $140 stock with a $80 muzzle brake and a $30 saw-off-bolt-on 90º bolt handle?

A: About $50.

And that’s why we’re of two minds about the whole Retro Black Rifle Restomod thing. We do believe that well-done smithing has its value, but when collectors enter a market everything takes third place to originality and condition. Now, no gun built from a “parts kit” extracted from a rare Class III weapon is going to be truly original, and an original retro AR is, thanks to the market distortions introduced by a Jersey grifter named Hughes, priced out of the range of most who would like one. So the market is a chaotic mess from the jump.

And with that, we think we’ve argued ourselves around to a position. To wit: it’s everyone’s right to customize their own property any way that suits ’em. We would hope that these customizations were done professionally (like this one), and added real value (like the creator of this one thinks he has done, from the asking price); and that Bubba entertains himself hot-rodding lawn tractors or building a Hemi Gremlin or something. But we can’t stop you from doing whatever you want to do, and we wouldn’t want to live in a world where we could.

And with that, we reserve the right to continue to condemn the actions, abilities and ancestry of Bubba the Gunsmite and all his legions. Fair?

Mold-Your-Own Plastic Lower

Here’s something new, a kit to mold your own plastic AR-15 lower receiver, from AR15Mold.com.

freedom15_group_v3_ar15mold.com_102115_2910x1245_970_415__56758

Here’s what the kit looks like, with some cleaned-up receivers. It produces a 100%, ready to assemble receiver, as soon as it’s extracted from the mold and the mold flash is removed (The flash is visible in the purple and black receivers in the image above; mold flash should be familiar to anyone who built plastic models, a once-popular boyhood hobby). If you look closely, you can see that the toolmarks in the mold are replicated in every produced receiver. It’s unclear without examining one whether the mold is machined directly from plastic (perhaps nylon) or whether it is injection-molded itself.

ar15mold_kit_with_output

The parts you make with this kit are not injection-molded, they are cast. What’s the difference? Injection-molding is done with heat to melt a thermoplastic (or thermosetting) and pressure to force the plastic in and air out of the mold. (Sometimes it is done in vacuum). Casting is done at ambient or near-ambient pressure and temperature, using gravity to fill the mold. (Some casting is done with an assist from centrifugal force, but not in this case). AR15Mold.com does suggest heating its two-part resins to approximately 100ºF for pouring into the mold. Complete instructions come with the kit, which costs about $360 with enough resin for five lowers.

The lowers accept mil-spec uppers and internals, with some caveats. The buffer tower is longer along its X (longitudinal) axis for more strength, making a fixed, rifle stock impractical without an alternative buffer retaining pin retainer. The part is also molded at the top limit of milspec (right on the +.003 tolerance line) for a tight fit, which is okay if your upper’s mating surfaces are +0/-.003 (or minus even a little more, at the price of some rattle). If your upper’s mating dimensions are on the plus side of the tolerances, you’ll need to do some hand fitting.

The bare molds look like this, but something is missing:

ar15mold_kit_minus_small_parts

The element that is missing is the inserts. You see, a complex part like an AR lower can’t simply be molded using a two-sided mold. That’s because it has some areas that are “blind” to the sides of the mold, or “undercut” from the point of view of that side. These blind, undercut areas require inserts that, in effect, extend the mold into the “blind” area, but are removable to allow the molded part to be removed. This picture shows the “small parts” of the AR15Mold.com “Freedom 15” kit, including the “inserts” (which are white).

ar15mold_kit_small_parts

The white “inserts,” clockwise from top center, include the trigger pocket, the buffer tower (if you embiggen the picture, you can see it bears a negative impression of the threads required here), the bolt catch slot and pin, the magazine well, the mold plug, the bolt catch detent pocket, the two inserts for the two sides of the magazine release, etc., etc.

It is possible to break some of these inserts if one were to gorilla-grip them during demolding. It pays to watch all the videos before making a lower.

No mold release compound is used or required with this combination of materials, although some wax on the pins is helpful. The  casting approaches we have covered previously have used RTV cast molds, and using of mold release compound has been crucial.

For the novice at casting, the how-to videos located on the website’s video page and on the company’s YouTube channel walk you through every step. The one that is likely to be most useful to kit buyers is called “Tips and Best Practices.” Another one shows them gingerly inching an F-150 onto a bare receiver. You can see the temporary deformation of the magazine well, but the receiver survived with no lasting damage.

That inspired Angus McThag (whom we thank for discovering this firm and its kit) and his friend Marv to conduct their own torture test, with a Mazda pickup (a Ford Ranger that identifies as Japanese) at 30 miles per hour.

We are reminded of the statement made in the ARMold video that they’re not claiming their receiver is indestructible. Good thing they’re not; McThag would take it as a challenge.

The manufacturer has already demonstrated reinforcing a lower with a steel insert and fiberglass.

There is now no earthly excuse for not making your own AR-15 lower, if you want to try, and live in a jurisdiction where it’s legal, which includes most (but not all!) of the United States. The methods include (in descending order of antiquity):

  1. Manual or CNC Milling from a raw forging;
  2. Manual or CNC Milling from billet;
  3. Manual or CNC Milling to complete a partially finished alloy receiver blank (aka “80% lower”);
  4. 3D printing a plastic receiver of PLA, ABS or Nylon, among other materials;
  5. 3D printing a plastic pattern of PLA, and lost-PLA-casting the receiver;
  6. Manual or CNC Milling to complete a partially finished polymer receiver blank;
  7. CNC Milling to complete a partially finished alloy receiver with the GhostGunner micro mill;
  8. 3D printing parts of a plastic receiver and gluing them together;
  9. 3D printing parts of a plastic “bolt” receiver and bolting them together;
  10. Cold-resin casting a lower using a mold taken from another lower; and, now,
  11. Cold-resing casting a lower using this kit.

We note that the resin casting has been done before; indeed, we’ve reported on it before. What ARMold.com has done is to provide a practical and complete kit for doing this. They have submitted to Firearms Technology Branch of the ATF for a determination letter; this may take some time, but it’s highly probable the determination letter will be forthcoming, because, frankly, nothing they send you can be plausibly defined as “a firearm” within the specific language of the Gun Control Act of 1968 or the National Firearms Act of 1934, as amended.

We also note that the more recent methods, near the bottom require fewer resources and less skill than the old “take this orthotopic rectangular cuboid of alloy and mill off everything that doesn’t look like an AR lower” approach. In other words, the trendline is towards lowered cost and difficulty.

The “Maker” spirit so animates the hobby gunsmithing community now, that it probably can’t be overcome. You can’t stop the signal, Mal.

 

SIG MPX Changes Horses Midstream

When the SIG MPX was introduced, we thought it was likely to replace all the worn-out MP5s collecting dust in police armories everywhere, as well as become a popular 9MM SBR. Now SIG has done a major change in the platform, with some major (barrel-change compatibility) and minor (groove in the upper rail) modifications. As a result, SIG MPX owners are confused, and SIG has delivered a video attempting to cut through the fog their own stuttering product launch has created.

If you want to convert from the base 9mm to .40 S&W or .357 SIG, then you need a G2 upper.

Because this isn’t what SIG originally promised, they will sell owners of G1 9mms the G2 upper package in .40 or .357 for the price of a barrel conversion kit. You need to call them with your serial number.

If you have a G1, the barrel conversion kit is still all you need to change the length of your barrel.

If you have a G2, the barrel conversion kit is all you need to change length and/or caliber. 

If you have a G1, to change caliber you need to add an entire G2 upper. You can use your original lower and bolt.  Here’s a graphic that may be a little clearer:

SIG MPX Options

For a company that’s invested heavily in modular firearms, this was an unnecessary own goal, but they seem to be doing what they can to limit the impact.

To tell if your SIG is G1 or G2, you can call them with the serial number… or you can look at the top of the receiver. If there’s a normal Picatinny M1913-compatible rail there, it’s a G1. If the rail is grooved for a low-mounted sight to work, it’s a G2. (It’ll still hold M1913-compatible sights and accessories just fine).

There are G1 and G2 magazines… but SIG says they are “optimized” and not required for the appropriate generation upper.

Also, aftermarket AR-15 triggers do work in the MPX, but may wear out sooner because the MPX  cycles harder than an AR-15 — at least, harder than a DI one. A trigger pack that works well in a piston AR will probably work well here. Using an aftermarket trigger does NOT void your SIG warranty. You’ll have to ask your trigger maker what it does to their warranty.

The SIG rep closes the video with some excuses for the spotty availability of two items: magazines, which everybody wants, and stocks. Lots of people planned to SBR a pistol, which can be done by adding a stock (SIG has no factory SBRs at the moment). The supply of SIG’s two sliding stocks — one fits the MPX and MCX, and one is MPX-only — is so thready that guys are getting the Form 1s back in less time than it takes to get the jeezly stock from SIG.

Note to SIG customer service, if there is such a thing: if you’re getting beat on turn-around by the government’s most glacial and least accountable bureaucracy, you really ought to light a fire under your supply chain. Government doesn’t have to worry about competition, you do.

Found: Fast, Furious, Fifty.

We didn’t actually believe the spin on this that we saw on a national broadcast news network in the health club. Their take on it was, essentially, “The ATF was right all along! Gun smuggling went all the way to the top of the cartels!” We had a slightly different take on the news that one of the two Barrett .50 caliber rifles found with many other weapons in El Chapo’s lair was a weapon provided to straw buyers for the Sinaloas through the good offices of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In our view this just exposed the criminality — unpunished criminality, hell, rewarded criminality — of the whole enterprise.

This image shows some of the guns found in Chapo's hideout: the AR does not have an M203, but a 37mm launcher. His biggest firepower is the RPG.

This image shows some of the guns found in Chapo’s hideout: the AR does not have an M203, but a 37mm launcher. His biggest firepower is the RPG. The Barrett is an M82 or an M107 — the semiauto rifle.

To recap the ATF’s Operation Gunwalker, of which F&F was a component, in a single, accurate paragraph:

Senior ATF and DOJ leaders sought to prove that guns from legitimate commerce in the USA were fueling violence by Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations, by letting intercepted guns pass and waiting for them to show up at crime scenes, especially homicides, in Mexico and the United States. This would be the “bloody shirt” that ATF acting director Ken Melson and Attorney General Eric Holder could wave before Congress to justify new ATF powers, multiple reporting, and a renewed “Assault Weapon” ban, with confiscation of extant firearms.

The whole thing was an attempt, then, to get people killed the better to promote their shared political agenda. It went off tracks because these geniuses never figured that they would be getting their own Federal agents killed with the Federally-furnished firepower, and that this (the death of Brian Terry, and later, other agents via ATF gunwalking) would cause a rebellion in their own ranks.

Another Chapo hideout gun, an AR15 with a 37mm launcher that apes an M203, but isn't the same thing.

Another Chapo hideout gun, an AR15 with a 37mm launcher that apes an M203, but isn’t the same thing.

Their story was that they were trying to take down the cartel by following trafficking up the chain, but the level one up from the straw-buyer mooks was, it turned out, entirely paid and controlled informants for another Federal agency (FBI). While this was found out very late by the ATF SACs and middle managers actually managing the gunwalking, it was known from the beginning by the US Attorneys, who supervised both the ATF gunwalking and the FBI penetration.

Another look at Chapo's guns. Note at least 2 Barretts on the right, and also on the right.

Another look at Chapo’s guns. Note at least 2 Barretts on the right, and also on the right, mostly off the page, a possible third.

While the vast majority of the F&F guns were cheap Century import AKs, at least 34 .50 caliber rifles were among the weapons whose delivery to the cartels was blessed by ATF SAC William “Gunwalker Bill” Newell and US Attorney Dennis K. Burke. A handful of these have been recovered previously, but only one of two .50s found in El Chapo’s armory was definitely an F&F gun. The provenance of the other is being closely held by ATF at this time.

One of the Fast & Furious Barrett rifles recovered earlier in Mexico. This one is a bolt-action.

One of the Fast & Furious Barrett rifles recovered earlier in Mexico. This one is a bolt-action single-shot M99. So far, these weapons do not seem to have been used much by Mexican cartels. They are more prestige items and intimidation tools. But it’s not wise to attribute restraint to criminals.

That’s what you have to bear in mind when you read these news articles about Fast & Furious, which the press uses for a very long-running gunwalking operation that began years before the F&F imbroglio, and continued for years beyond — indeed, it’s cloaked in law enforcement compartmentalization, but it may continue until today, given that ATF managers and DOJ leaders have not forsaken their dream of an empowered, expanded ATF enforcing a renewed and more stringent gun ban.

While the spin, that somehow the presence of an ATF-supplied gun in this particular Bond villain’s hideout “proves” that ATF was right, will probably emerge as a media talking point, some of the early reporting has put blame where it is due: on the brain-dead ATF managers and

Of course, media often display pathologically low levels of Vitamin Clue when talking about firearms. Here’s the deep thinkers of Fleet Street, the Daily Mail:

A .50 caliber rifle designed to shoot down a helicopter found inside El Chapo’s Mexican hideout was sold through the government’s failed Fast and Furious weapons program, it has been reported.

Ow. No, you ninny, it wasn’t designed to shoot down helicopters. The Army has several ways to do that that are a lot better than launching single shots from shoulder-fired rifles.

The weapon, which typically requires a bipod to be fired because of the extreme recoil, was found inside the property in Los Mochis where the Sinaloa Cartel kingpin was recaptured on January 8.

Requires a bipod because of the extreme recoil? OK, we get it, you featherbrained imbecile, guns are not your thing. That’s OK. They’re not for everybody. But there are people who could have stopped you from making a fool of yourself, if you’d only asked them.

The principal reason for a bipod on any weapon this size is the firearm’s own size and weight, not its recoil. An M82’s recoil is quite manageable; 90-lb. chicks can shoot it just fine. They probably can’t carry it very far (it weighs 35 lb). But they can shoot it.

According to agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the serial number revealed the rifle came from the government program, Fox News reports.

Meanwhile, Barrett showed up at SHOT Show with this:

barrett_with_bling_2

Image from the AR15.com Instagram feed.

Could you think of a more perfect gift from “Gunwalker Bill” Newell and his successors, to the sicario-in-Chief of some bloodstained cartel, than a blinged-out Barrett? True, this one, while well blued and well decorated, falls short of the gaudy, tacky decoration preferred by Mexican gang leaders. Here’s a close-up — you can see the scroll is too little, too tasteful…

barrett_with_bling

Image from the AR15.com Instagram feed.

… and there’s not nearly enough gold plating. Still, it’s an idea that the top supplier of arms to the Sinaloas’ sicarios, ATF could run with.

But still, some people insist it was wrong to ship all this hardware to Guzmán (aka El Chapo) and his merry men. As if law enforcement should be enforcing, not shattering, laws. How silly is that?

You would never learn this next detail from the room-temperature IQs in the ATF Chief Counsel’s Office, but arming rebels in a nation’s sovereign territory is a casus belli. That’s “act of war,” for the educationally-challenged (including the payroll patriots in that CCO, eh?)

The last time we went to war with Mexico, we wound up having to govern vast swathes of formerly Mexican territory. Let’s not do that again!

SHOT Show 2016

First impression, from 2,000 miles away: in terms of new products introductions, it was lighter than recent years. It is perhaps the case that manufacturers and importers are not waiting for SHOT, but introducing new products at the NRA show or even in the middle of the year, if that’s when they’re ready. We’re not there, but the press conferences on the schedule look like we didn’t miss much.

That said, there were a lot of intros at the range day and in booths, not in the press conference setting; and there’s a few new firearms and more action in optics and accessories.

General Trends

Things that extend the AR platform remain popular, and a bunch of new ones are out there, including many new calibers including mass-produced .300 Win Mag ARs (as opposed to the handcrafted custom jobs we’ve seen already). Our favorites for the moment are the Monster Hunter International limited editions from JP Rifles.

Concealed Carry firearms are red hot. But as we’ve found out in the search for Blogfather’s pocket pistol, it’s a market that is, perhaps not saturated, but well-fed by an array of producers. The much-liked (until they were all recalled) striker-fired Caracal pistols from the UAE (but designed by the same guy that designed the Steyr) came back at the show.

Suppressors are also accelerating in the market. SilencerCo previously demo’d versions of the company’s integrally suppressed 9mm, the Maxim, but the new version uses SilencerCo’s own frame — and G17 magazines — instead of an M&P host. A definite .22 host is the new S&W Victory Model, which Shooting Sports Retailer reports is designed to be a modular system — with an aftermarket ecosystem — from the very beginning.

Price sensitivity is a real thing, and every stratum of the market is reacting. Colt has a new AR version at a $699 list price point; if it’s a quality gun, that puts them nose-to-nose with less venerable names. But TrackingPoint also has the .300 HogOut, a special .300 Blackout precision guided firearm that’s optimized for putting the whack on feral pigs — at a lower price than previous Tracking Point ARs.

When Are SHOT New-Gun Introductions Available?

This varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and is also influenced by the popularity and manufacturability of the new firearm. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the firm, the sooner after SHOT they’re shipping. Large firms? It can be a year, or more than one year; they may use the show to tease a firearm that’s months out, or even complete vaporware. For example, our friendly local FFL just got a couple examples of the Glock G40 MOS Hunter (a long-slide 10mm with optic), one of the new SHOT Glocks — from SHOT 2015. SilencerCo said their Maxim9 will ship … although there are no guarantees! — before the end of 2016.

Where to Learn More

We’ve found a number of sites to be particularly useful. But first among them are these official sites from NSSF. We think that you will be able to get to them all without an NSSF membership.

And these blogs or web magazines are covering the show: The Firearm Blog (timely, detailed reports); Guns, Holsters and Gear (good!); Guns.com; and Shooting Sports Retailer. (Edited to Add: We forgot Soldier Systems Daily! They’re more gear than guns, but they cover guns and accessories and are very prolific. Sorry ’bout that, Chief).

Right now, there is more information on those links than any of us can use today. But, like the judge said to the octogenarian he’d just given a thirty-year sentence: “It’s okay, Bugsy. Just do as much as you can.”

 

Revenant Rifle

With the new movie, The Revenant, about to open, we found on the Contemporary Makers blog a fascinating story by Ron Luckenbill about the two identical rifles he built for the movie — in less than 60 days for both.

Revenant Rifle

Ron is justly proud of the work he’s done here.

Luckenbill Revenant 01

This is the gun that I built for Leonardo DiCaprio to use in his portrayal of Hugh Glass in The Revenant movie.  The movie will be released to the general public on Jan 8, 2016.  I have been getting a number of  request for photos of the gun, but was restricted from posting them until the movie release.

RV-03

I was contacted in July of 2014 by the prop master for the movie relative to building two guns exactly alike.  They were initially interested in an Angstadt rifle that I had on my web site, but I just sold the gun and it was no longer available.  After discussion other possible guns they decided to go with this Bucks Co gun that I had in stock.  I then built an exact duplicate and had both guns in British Columbia by the end of August.  It was exciting to be involved in a project like this.  I like many others am waiting to see the gun in the movie.  I hope it helps to raise awareness of the sport of muzzleloading.

 

Luckenbill Revenant 06

via Contemporary Makers.

Ron LuckenbillRon builds hand-crafted rifles in the 18th and early 19th Century Pennsylvania tradition. He has made a third copy, which he’s going to be offering for sale at the 18th Century Artisan Show this year. He also has a number of other fine rifles and fowling pieces, reproductions and originals, on his own website, where he shares further details of the Revenant rifle.

The gun was built on a moderately figured piece of curly maple in the classic Bucks County style.

Luckenbill Revenant 11

(Look at those stripes! If that’s moderately figured, we’d like to see what Ron calls fancy maple).

The build is based on an original which was handled and photographed by the builder. The hardware is copied from an original John Shuler, Sr. rifle. The barrel is a 44″ Colerain B weight 50 cal. While many original Bucks Co. rifles had English import locks, the original had somewhat larger than normal Germanic lock.

Luckenbill Revenant 03

I found that a Jim Chambers Golden age lock was a near match for the original. The carving of this rifle is somewhat atypical for a Bucks Co. gun in that it is a blend of both raised and incised carving, showing a decided Lehigh Co. influence.

 

Luckenbill Revenant 04

We don’t presume to be able to ID classic frontier rifles by state, let alone county. But we sure can admire this kind of work.

Luckenbill Revenant 09

We double-dog dare you to go to Ron’s website and not come away with a jones for these classic guns, a uniquely American extension of a German gunsmithing tradition (which is why they’re Pennsylvania rifles, and not New York or Massachusetts rifles; early German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania and points west). You can spend a lot on one of Ron’s creations, or one of the higher-end originals he has for sale. But he also has some reasonably priced original rifles and fowling-pieces, especially the later, percussion firearms.

He does make a very good point: given the antiquity of these guns, if you want a shooter, you’re probably better served by a replica than by an original. And given the current prices of the better mass-produced replicas, having a smith like Ron make you your own heirloom might not command the premium that it really deserves.

Poor Man’s Rapid-Fire, New and Old Methods

What do you do when you have the need for speed — for cyclic-rate ammo-to-noise-combversion speed — and your daughters aren’t worth enough at an ISIL slave auction to cover a pre-’86 transferable AR lower? Here’s Military Arms Channel with the latest voodoo AR trigger. This Franklin Armory Binary Firing System trigger fires once on trigger pull, and once on release. As far as the ATF is concerned, that’s two separate actions, and therefore it’s a perfectly legal semi-auto trigger.

You may recall we’ve been here before, with the Tac-Con 3MR trigger. We’ll look at that in a moment, but first, here’s the Franklin Armory trigger in action.

We’d have liked to know a little more about the details of how it works, but that’s not forthcoming in this video. For instance, if you have fired a shot, and then a range officer calls cease-fire, do you have to hold the trigger back while you clear your firearm, or does the safety render the weapon safe enough to clear, while pointed downrange? We don’t know, and he probably didn’t, at the time he made the video. We suppose we’ll have to buy one to try it out.

(Update: The safety works to hold the second round, you just have to hold the trigger and not let it reset while you put the safety on with your off hand. Franklin Armory has posted a video showing this).

The trigger has some training issues or perhaps teething problems. One of the ones that renders this absolutely a range toy vs. a working firearm is that it doesn’t always go bang. Really, the only reason a weapon has a safety-selector system on it is to ensure it goes bang every time the operator wants, and only every time the operator wants. The didn’t go bang happens in at least two cases: intermittently, on first trigger pull, no go bang; and frequently, when an operator’s (meaning rifle operator, not 7th dan ninja) trigger-pullin’ outruns the hardware, the hammer follows the bolt carrier down, and no go bang. 

There’s also a mag stovepipe he blames on the (Surefire) mag he’s using, but we do recall that one thing that was very strongly correlated with failure to feed, fire, and extract in the early days of the M16 was a higher-than-designed cyclic rate of fire.

He seemed to think you could train that away, which is interesting, because at the beginning of the video he suggests that this, unlike the Tac-Con, can be used by anybody with little training (and does demonstrate with his cameraman as gun test dummy).

There are two other interesting gadgets in the video, the new Magpul 60-round drum is shown briefly, and there’s a trick QD mount for the Aimpoint PRO made by Kinetic.

For consistency’s sake, here’s MAC’s review of the Tac-Con — you can see he struggles with it, in part because he’s freezing. After that, we’ll have another video of somebody else firing it… who does a little better.

OK, here’s Jerry Miculek firing it. Jerry sounds like he’s firing full-auto even when he’s shooting a Ruger No.1, so he’s pretty quick on this.

Now, the thing is, you can get (or if you’re Jerry, you already are) just about as fast with a good competition trigger, like a Geissele or maybe a Hiperfire. Here’s a comparison of splits on double-taps with the Tac-Con 3MR and the Geissele SuperDynamic 3 Gun, and with an M16 lower, all on the same upper. The results? MG, 0.10 seconds between splits. Tac-Con 0.14 , and Geissele SD3 splits the difference at 0.12.

That’s the equivalent of a cyclic rate of 600 RPM for the MG, 500 for the Geissele, and 430 or so for the Tac-Con. It would be interesting to see if (1) Jerry’s splits were much faster, and (2) how the Franklin Armory BFS stacks up next to these other rapid-fire solutions.

And just because somebody had to do it, here’s a guy who combined the Tac-Con 3MR and a a Slide-Fire bumpfire stock. If you want to hear his opinion of it, there’s about nine minutes of that to the left of where we start you in the video — at the range.

As is usual with these rapid fire gimmicks, there’s a learning curve, but he gets better with practice. At the end, he seems to dump a whole thirty rounds without any snags.

If you want his opinions at length, and a description of how he set it up, just move the video slider back to the beginning.

It isn’t — none of these speed trigger tricks is — something you’d like to use for self-defense, but it’s a great range toy. We’d reiterate that none of these gimmicks is a good idea in a defense gun or officer’s patrol carbine — not even the Geissele SD3, which is a race trigger for competition. Instead, get a Geissele service trigger like the SSA, or its equivalent in another brand you like. You’ll have almost as much speed with more safety and positive control.

Back From Bubba’s Brink on a Budget

Here is an AK as prepared by Bubba the Gunsmite. It has been given a good gun smiting, both in its tacticool appendages, and in its horkworthy finish. That paint job — is Bubba actually blind from a bad batch of white lightning?

bubbas_ak-74

It was posted to Arfcom by a guy wondering what it was, and whether he got a good deal swapping a police trade-in Glock worth maybe $350 for it (and a bunch of low-quality mags). The AK is a Bulgarian kit with its original barrel, built up on a high-quality Nodak Spud LLC receiver. (Yes, their AK stuff is just as outstanding as their AR stuff). Apart from the sprayed on crapkote finish, front rail with a questionable VFG, and love-it-or-hate-it Hogue grip, the 5.49mm rifle has a homemade bumpfire stock, on a cheap plastic (polyethylene?) “buffer” tube held on with (we are not making this up) a wood screw. The new owner wanted a “tactical” AK with rails and all, but didn’t want an eyesore. 

As bad as the gun looks in overview it’s worse close up:

Bubbas AK-74 action

You could call that the “Been there, done that, got tagged by a Bronx graffiti ‘artist'” look. But as bad as the outside of this Bubba job was, the inside was worse yet:

Bubbas AK-74 internals

The collective wisdom of the Arfcom thread was to strip and refinish it — or have a pro do it — and install Magpul Zhukov furniture in a Bulgarian-like plum finish. The Zhukov allows the use of a top rail only.

AK-47 (not 74, obviously) with Magpul Zhukov furniture in black. Magpul photo.

AK-47 (not 74, obviously) with Magpul Zhukov furniture in black. Magpul photo.

But the guy was on a tight, tight budget. He couldn’t swing the Magpul stuff ($200 plus shipping)

Can you heal a sick AK in a tiny home workshop, on a rock-bottom budget?

Here’s what Adam decided to do:

  1. Strip the old finish;
  2. Refinish with a modern coating. He chose Norell’s MolyResin in semi-gloss black;
  3. Replace the Bubba-built bumpfire rig with a conventional stock, perhaps a Magpul CTR in due course;
  4. And do it all himself.

Skip ahead to Results

Here it is “afterward,” still well endowed with tactical gingerbread, but at least not so badly finished as to make Mikhail TImofeyovich weep:
De-bubbad AK74

Although, not exactly well finished either:

De-bubbad 74 2

But still, let’s compare that to the status quo ante: 

Bubbas AK-74 action 2

Not so bad in that light, eh? Really, this thing started out looking like all five of the Lee Sisters — Ug, Home, Ghast, Beast and Gnar. Indeed, the finish was so bad it made the underlying metalwork look bad (which it wasn’t): for example, the rear trunnion rivets look like they’ve got a “smiley” on them (a common result of using an undersized set tool) but it’s just an optical illusion produced by the paint and wear.

The bare metal pins were an oversight, but — that’s the way they are on a factory AK-74, either bare metal or blued.

The finish was done with Norell’s MolyResin ceramic-metallic coating, and the orange peel can caused by a variety of things, including too much paint to quickly, not preheating the work to 100ºF or so, and not properly preparing the work. For any spray-on coating, metal needs to be prepared a little differently than it is for a soak-in coating like Parkerizing. Norell highly recommends abrasive blasting. (Or, if you’re equipped to do it, you can simply parkerize the bare-metal firearm — but you need to remove the old finish first).

Here’s how Adam did it. The longest journey begins with a single step, disassembly. Fortunately, the gun-disassembly tricks and tips that were gunsmith secrets a generation ago, are now available to anyone with a computer. Of course, this has just made more work for gunsmiths as guys (sorry ladies, it’s always a guy) who can’t follow instructions or a video, take short cuts, break things, or can’t reassemble them continue to bring them in — in a basket, or a brown paper bag. If you see a guy in Market Basket tonight answer the checkout question with “paper,” he’s probably bringing us his Glock in the morning.

Bubbas AK-74 disassembly 2

Here he is using the Tipton Gun Vise in the one role for which it’s really suited, a photo stand.

When we see the tight spaces guys like Adam work in, we are more grateful for our second-class (at least) workshop, which we don’t have to share with a water heater. (Or an F150, or lawnmower, snowblower, washer and dryer, or any of those other things we see guys working around). Having lived in small apartments and government quarters we will say that when you have to work in a small space, it helps a lot to keep it picked up and organized — that makes it seem bigger even though it takes a lot of time to be constantly shuffling things in and out of “put away.” We believe that in the end, organization saves more time than it costs.

Here’s another view of the AK at about the same stage of dismantling.

Bubbas AK-74 disassembly

And here it is further along, after most of the weird paint job has been stripped. It clings grimly to the trigger guard and internal parts, but you can see the factory blued finish on the Bulgarian barrel and trunnions, and the Parkerizing on the Nodak receiver. It looks like it took a little scrubbing (note how shiny the rivet heads are).

Bubbas AK-74 semi stripped

At this point, if you want to strip the finish, you have no options but bead blasting and/or chemical warfare. Adam went all chemical. He made a solvent trough out of a section of steel gutter from the hardware store, two end caps, and epoxy to hold them in place (in fact, he used leftover Brownell’s glass bedding compound. It worked fine). He lay the AK barreled receiver, with the barrel plugged at both ends, in there, and added a gallon of acetone. Almost immediately an black chemical began to swirl away from the barrel, like an octopus squirting ink. As the acetone evaporated away, the remaining chemical turned purple with the “octopus ink” that’s the old bluing salts leaving the barrel.

If you look real closely, there's an AK in there.

If you look real closely, there’s an AK in there.

With the old finish off, he resprayed it with MolyResin black semigloss, and baked the finish on, with the results you’ve already seen. In a few days’ part-time work he’s removed an unwanted personalization from a Bubba’d gun and made one that is not only more to his own tastes, but also more readily sold to the next owner, and certainly worth more than the $350 value of the Glock plus the ~$150 value of the materials he bought for the project (some of which, like the stripping solvent trough, are reusable).

Some suggestions, if he ever does it again:

  1. Using a more reliable thermometer than the one built into any non-industrial oven. They’re built to a price, not to a quality level, and the difference between 300º and 325º F matters a lot more to a MolyResin job than it does to a pork roast.
  2. More cycles of stripping and baking the firearm. It’s amazing how much gunk hides in the little interstices of a
  3. Completely stripping the firearm, until there are no vestiges of earlier paints, bluing, or parkerizing.
  4. Thoroughly removing all the finish solvent. This usually suggests another round of baking.
  5. Metal-preparation in accordance with the intended finishing medium. For bluing, you want a high gloss. Norell’s makes very specific recommendations for media-blasting pre-MolyResin. Those are based on many years of experience — it’s a lot faster to learn from their experience than from your own.
  6. Pre-heating the gun before application of MolyResin. (This depends on the specific MR product and degree of gloss you’re shooting for).
  7. Using an airbrush instead of an HVLP sprayer (although Norell’s recommends either).
  8. Very thin coats, not trying to get the thing to finish color in one application.

Still and all, the post-refinish AK is considerably better than the original Bubbafied state. And one has the impression that the owner will not be content with this stage of affairs, but will further improve the firearm.