Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

Is this gun ad “in poor taste?”

Michelangelo's DavidThat’s what Armalite admits after pulling the ad in a welter of condemnation from various official Italian sources. The ad depicts Michelangelo’s David armed with the David’s Sling of today, a .50-caliber sniper rifle. (The image embiggens).

Here’s a brief take from National Review:

The gun maker ArmaLite ran an ad as part of its “A Work of Art” campaign that features Michelangelo’s David holding a sniper rifle and has come under fire for it — from the Italian government, which owns the statue and claims it’s intellectual property.

In response to the ad, Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini recently tweeted, ”The advertisement image of an armed David offends and violates the law. We will act against the American company to make sure it withdraws the campaign immediately.”

Angello Tartuferi, director of the Accademia Gallery in Florence, where the statue is on display, told La Repubblica newspaper that Italy owned the copyright to David, saying “the law says that the aesthetic value of the work cannot be distorted. In this case, not only is the choice in bad taste but also completely illegal.”

ArmaLite has apologized for the ad and withdrawn it, saying it was “in poor taste.” “We deeply regret that ArmaLite offended anyone by this media campaign,” the company’s statement said. The ad was for the AR-50A1, a .50-caliber sniper rifle.

Now, who knows what evil dwells in the heart of Italian copyright law, but this is certainly not a copyright violation here in the USA.

And, is it in poor taste? We don’t think so. One of 2014’s projects is to build a larger gun room (or, to be accurate, to have one built for us) and we’d love to have a poster of this hanging there.  What do you think?

Resource: Armalite Tech Notes

ArmaLite logo sm.pdfOn Armalite’s website, they have a section of Tech Notes which is quite useful. Of course, it’s intended to help them sell their AR clones and other rifles, but a lot of it is of quite general application for and by anybody.

For example, they have a useful Tech Note on how to analyze performance claims in rifle marketing materials. Here’s an excerpt from that on accuracy:

Let’s say that three manufacturers (Companies AAA, BBB, and CCC) each produce 1000 M16A1 rifles. All three companies test their rifles under identical conditions. Each rifle is fired one 10-shot group with M855 military ball ammunition from a return-to-battery rest in a benign indoor range. Based on the testing, each company writes a marketing ad.

  • Company AAA claims that their rifles fire groups as small as 1.5 MOA. {Best case}
  • Company BBB claims that, on the average, their rifles fire groups of 2.2 MOA. {Average case}
  • Company CCC claims that every one of their rifles will shoot groups smaller than 4.8 MOA. {Worst case}

If you were going to purchase a rifle, which company’s rifle would you choose. (You don’t get to “hand select” the rifle. You just get a random rifle from that manufacturer.)

The reality is that the rifles built from all three manufacturers are probably all quite similar. In order to guarantee that all 1000 rifles will meet or better 4.8 MOA (Company CCC’s claim), the average rifle needs to shoot about 2.2 MOA (Company BBB’s claim) and the best rifles probably shoot about 1.5 MOA (Company AAA’s claim.)

In fact, the Army required that EVERY M16A1 rifle delivered to them meet 4.8 MOA. In order to meet that requirement, manufacturers found that they needed to produce rifles that averaged about 2.2 MOA, and that their best rifles would often shoot about 1.5 MOA.

In the example above, Armalite says, they give their averages as data, but they do point out that without more information, even an average makes comparisons impossible. You need more information. A statistically-educated man would be able to make a comparison of two tests made under equivalent conditions, if he had the average and Standard Deviation, or some measure of variance that could be massaged into SD.. Of course, a true data geek would want to see the entire cross-tabs on the whole test population. 

An even more useful tech note is from Armalite honcho Mark Westrom, and evaluates hits vs. firing rate. It’s hard to choose what to excerpt from this very interesting paper, so we’re tempted to just tell you to Read The Whole Thing™, but here’s one pearl of wisdom:

Consider a soldier armed with a weapon with an endless supply of both ammunition and targets. He may fire a single shot in a given time period (i.e. one minute) and have a certain chance of hitting the target. He may also choose to fire two shots in that minute. The two shots are apt to be aimed less accurately than a single shot because of the time allowed, but the probability of achieving at least one hit is increased because two shots were fired. The efficiency of ammunition use may have declined, but the probability of achieving at least one hit has risen. With each additional shot in that minute the accuracy of each shot will tend to decline, but the number of hits expected in the minute will continue to rise. Eventually the shooter is firing so fast, and the shots are so wild, that the number of hits starts dropping. The various theories of efficiency of marksmanship appear at different places on the curve thus generated, and their logic and usefulness can be evaluated from a standpoint that means more than a traditional percentage score.

This concept is by no means new. It is, as the saying goes, intuitively obvious to the casual observer. One Nineteenth Century writer noted that, “as rapidity of fire increases, a point is soon reached beyond which the percentages of hits decrease…but up to that point at which carelessness or hurry in aiming causes an excessive decrease in the percentages, the whole number of hits may increase” (emphasis added).

Screenshot 2014-03-09 16.07.16

The area of the curve at the far left of figure 4, region A, provides the most efficient use of ammunition, and it would appeal to the traditional marksman and his slow fire techniques. It’s also useful to the contemporary soldier who has a limited supply of ammunition….

On the other hand, a soldier who chances upon another opponent, or group of opponents, may not care how much ammunition remains at the end of a minute. He cares whether he remains at the end of the minute. …This man would employ rapid semiautomatic fire to operate in the higher parts of the curve, region B, where casualties are produced fastest.

Areas of the curve to the left produce maximum casualties per unit of ammunition. Areas at the top of the curve produce maximum casualties per unit of time. The area of the curve where hits per minute starts to drop off, region C, represents less efficient use of both ammunition and time, and represents increasingly ineffective firing technique unless intended as suppressive, area fire.

…and here’s another, relating to the first (and heavily edited for brevity)

Once the issues related to the curve are understood, we should develop those talents, conditions, or actions that increase the hit rate, i.e. raise the curve. A number of possibilities appear useful

Aim every shot. Even machineguns must be sighted if at all possible. There can be no exceptions for blanks.

Make it a Tradition. Aiming every shot should not be a training imperative: it should be a tradition. Rifle cleaning provides an interesting example of a task that is raised to a tradition.

Establishing a tradition of aiming every shot rests properly with the NCO Corps. From the first day a soldier or Marine handles a rifle, he should be driven to bring the rifle to the firing position every time he pulls a trigger, whether in training or merely lowering the hammer to turn the rifle in to the arms room.

Support the tradition in training. Current training teaches the wrong lessons. Each target is addressed by one cartridge. The correction to this is simple. Issue sufficient ammunition to allow for misses. Reward the shooter based on targets ultimately hit. Reward him further with a few points based on ammunition remaining. The highest scores obviously continue to go to the best shots, who both hit many targets and return with ammunition, but all are trained to engage.

Avoid burst or automatic fire. It is essentially useful for room to room fighting or trench clearing. Three shot burst if largely useless for both close combat and longer range fighting. It is truly the worst of both worlds. Both automatic fire with the M-16A1 and Burst fire with the M-16A2 should be strenuously discouraged by the same NCOs who reinforce the act of aiming every shot. This is especially important during training with blanks, because soldiers enjoy automatic fire as a matter of play…

So now go Read The Whole Thing™.

Let’s look inside a state of the art AR factory

The DD Mk18 Upper is used by US SOF.

The DD Mk18 Upper is used by US SOF.

Most firearms manufacturers treat what’s going on inside their plants as if they were Lockheed’s Skunk Works: everything is a secret, it’s a big secret, you can’t see it, and bedamned if we’ll let you see a picture of it.

Now, the real secret is, most of the arcane knowledge that goes into the manufacture is what technologists call “tribal knowledge”: it’s the sort of thing that’s passed on by word-of-mouth, by hands-on action, by doing, and seeing, and doing again until it’s perfectly right. Before the rarefied academic term “tribal knowledge” came down the pike, we used to call this “know-how.”

DD_Advantage_CMM

In Georgia, an Advantage coordinate measuring machine checks dimensional compliance on a Daniel Defense lower, which is CNC machined from an aluminum alloy  forging.

So a truly modern company may not be afraid to show you how it runs, because they know the real secret stuff is inside the head of their tool and die makers, their moldmakers, and their production designers, and nobody’s going to reverse-engineer the line without having a similar level of “tribal knowledge” himself.

Daniel Defense is a truly modern company like that, and Marty Daniel’s company has provided a partial photographic walk-through of their Black Creek, Georgia and Ridgeland, South Carolina facilities on their website. They’re proud of their high-tech machinery! And for a machine geek, it’s a delightful way to spend some time.

In Georgia, precision machinery makes and measures parts.  It’s striking how little the factory of 2014 looks like the factory of 1914, and how much some of the legacy factories like Remington  in Ilion, Smith & Wesson in Springfield, and Colt in Hartford, still look like the factory of 1914. The floor of the plant is clean as a hospital; the swarf and chips and coolant and oil, all the mess that comes with production metal-cutting, is contained inside the machines. 

Daniel’s barrels are cold hammer forged in Black Creek, and are available bare, with front sight bases or gas blocks, assembled into complete Daniel uppers (which is how SOCOM buys them), or as complete Daniel Defense guns, in a wide variety of lengths, weights, and calibers. Hammer forging produces extremely uniform barrels (enough that it causes forensic ballistic guns some trouble tracing slugs in one particular deceased felon to the right one of the police Glocks that fired at him), and was originally developed in Germany before World War II. Its first use in the USA was by TRW on the M14 contact, and it reduced the cost of barrel manufacturing greatly, especially in terms of reduced scrap and waste.

This Micro-Vu Excel automated measuring center is used to inspect parts. It costs about $60k, but has much more throughput than a manual machine or optical comparator.

This Micro-Vu Excel automated measuring center is used to inspect parts. It costs about $60k, plus accessories (looks like this one has the optional rotary axis), but has much more throughput than a manual machine or optical comparator. It’s made in California, USA.

The South Carolina plant is just as modern, maybe even more so. A high-speed broaching system cuts mag wells in lower-receiver forgings with a single tool. At least three different kinds of machines — a spindle engraver and laser markers and engravers — are dedicated to marking parts.

There is an endless variety of machine tools in the world, and in the world of gun production they come in and out of fashion. For example, the most common machines used on the M1 Garand receiver were broaching machines, horizontal milling machines, and shapers — all of which are less common in gun manufacture today; horizontal mills and shapers are as good as obsolete, although some manufacturers still use them).

This is the Sunnen barrel hone, a specialty product from the company that practically invented honing.

This is the Sunnen barrel hone, a specialty product from the company that practically invented honing.

Often there are many roads to Rome. Rifling, for instance, can be cut a groove at a time, all at once with a pull-through button, or all at once with a broach, as well as formed-in by cold hammer forging. The bores can be left as is, or finished with honing or lapping; they can also be chromed several different ways for several different reasons. (Daniel Defense uses a Sunnen honing machine, which appears to be one of the few metalworking machines they have that’s not from a Japanese or other Asian company; lapping is often done one hand-made barrels by custom barrelmakers).

Automated CNC machines have incredible power, but they can’t do everything. For example, even a five-axis CNC machine can’t cut the M14 receiver to match the official drawings.

Many manufacturers use parts that are formed to net shape or near-net shape by such modern methods as metal injection molding and investment casting. Some parts can be sintered from powder into shape inside a female mold. And traditional metal manufacturing methods still have their applications. Those are things like cutting parts from billet, plate or sheet, pressing parts in dies, or forging or casting them to near-net shape.

In the end, the part has to do what it’s engineered to do: no more, no less. Materials, manufacturing methods, and finish all factor in to that, and all are considered when converting a part from its toolroom prototype through definitive drawings into something that can be mass-produced economically. (These days, of course, a CAD drawing may precede a physical prototype, and 3D parts files can be test-assembled virtually before the first stick of metal is cut.

Even then, all you have is… parts. While things like cars and computers can be assembled, at least partially, robotically, rifles tend to be hand assembled and then inspected by hand. That’s how Daniel does it. (The parts, of course, are inspected by machines as well as the Mark I eyeball before ever making it to a gunsmith’s assembly bench). Finally, the guns are test fired and packed for shipment to dealer, wholesaler, or government customer.

When the AR was a Novelty…

This Colt AR-15 Model 601 might have been the very one tested by American Rifleman. It's Serial Number 000115. (The stocks once wore green paint over the brown fiberglass).

This Colt AR-15 Model 601 might have been the very one tested by American Rifleman. It’s Serial Number 000115. (The stocks once wore green paint over the brown fiberglass). And yes, the picture embiggens.

The political news website The Daily Caller has an interesting reprint of the American Rifleman’s initial, 1962, review of the AR-15 rifle. Nowadays, ARs are extremely common, and most of the people who shoot them, for business or for pleasure, weren’t reading American Rifleman in 1962. In fact, most of them weren’t alive 52 years ago. So if you’re one of those Johnny-come-latelies, or if you’ve not and misplaced your copy in the last half-century, here’s a snippet of the DC’s reprint for you. (Note: for reasons explained below the excerpt, the Daily Caller links have been replaced with links to the American Rifleman version).

It was interesting, to us, that, “Many features of the AR-15 are of European origin and not generally familiar to American shooters.…” Fact is, we’ve lost sight of just how revolutionary the AR was when it first hit. Thumbing through the actual magazines, comparing them to today’s versions, brings the point home even more starkly. All the guns and activities in all the articles and ads scream: “Elmer Fudd was here!” So the bemused tone of the following time capsule from 1962 is not out of place.

The AR-15 rifle was developed by the Armalite Division of Fairchild Engine & Airplane Corp., with the great personal interest of its then President, the late Richard S. Boutelle. It is mainly a scaled-down copy of the Fairchild Armalite AR-10 rifle, which had been offered for some years in 7.62 mm NATO and other military calibers. A composite steel-aluminum barrel and a complicated flash suppressor originally used in the AR-10 proved unsuccessful. The AR-15 has an all-steel barrel and a short form of the Army-developed bar-type flash suppressor instead.

Many features of the AR-15 are of European origin and not generally familiar to American shooters, but they were already long tried and have worked out well in this case.

The AR-15 can be hinged open somewhat like a double-barrel shotgun, permitting easy bolt removal and bore inspection. This feature goes back to the Czech ZH or ZB 29 rifle. It will be recognized as a feature of the Fabrique Nationale rifle which has been adopted as standard by Belgium, Great Britain, Canada and Australia. As the T48, the FN was very thoroughly tested by the United States in competition with the Springfield-designed T44, the latter ultimately winning adoption as our M14.

The rear sight of the AR-15 is built into a fixed carrying handle, like that of the British EM 2 rifle which was considered at about the time the 7.62 mm NATO caliber was standardized, and which was even adopted for a short time by Great Britain. The ejection port is covered with a hinged lid, which keeps dirt out of the action and flies open automatically at the first shot as in the German Sturmgewehr 44.

The stock is straight, with separate hand grip. This conformation has been used in many full-automatic shoulder weapons. It brings the recoil force almost in line with the shoulder and thus helps to control the tendency to rise in full-automatic fire. It also adapts well to breech mechanisms which, like the AR-15, have a long receiver and the action spring in the buttstock.

For operation of the breech mechanism, gas is led back from a point about two-thirds up the barrel through a tube above the barrel and within the fore-end. This is much like the Swedish M42 Ljungman rifle, and the later French MAS 1944 and 1949 rifles. A gas-tube system also was used in the Swiss SK-46 rifle. The operating gas is introduced between the two parts of the bolt, forcing the head to unlock and then forcing both parts to the rear.

The gas-tube system obviously eliminates an operating rod or slide and on that account has sometimes been stated to be a material design simplification. However, eliminating the operating slide requires that the bolt be made in two parts, instead of the usual one-piece bolt, so the number of parts remains the same as before. The moving parts must be given a certain mass to carry through the cycle after the initial gas impulse, and elimination of the operating slide requires a correspondingly heavier bolt. Thus both the number of parts and their weight remain substantially the same as in other designs.

Likewise, the extensive use of aluminum has not resulted in an unusually light rifle. The AR-15 weighs nearly 1/2-lb. more than the steel Winchester rifle.

The receiver, including the carrying handle, the trigger guard and the grip, is made of aluminum alloy. The magazine also is made of aluminum alloy, as in a number of other present-day rifles. Aluminum is easily fabricated and can be anodized to a superior non-reflective and durable finish. Necessary strength is provided by a steel barrel extension into which the bolt head locks.

Stocked With Plastic

Fore-end and buttstock are of a light green plastic. This has a pleasing feel and appears to be quite successful. The fore-end stands clear of the barrel and is lined to resist barrel heat. The rear sight is a simple two-leg peep, adjustable laterally. The front sight is adjustable vertically. These adjustments are readily made with a point of a cartridge as the only tool. They are intended for zeroing only. Obviously such sights are not meant for target shooting, but they are reliable in service. Firing trial by The Rifleman staff in 1959 showed the AR-15 to be very easy and pleasant to shoot in semiautomatic fire. The inherently light recoil of the small cartridge is further reduced in effect by the straight stock. Functioning was notably positive, regular and reliable.

It’s really a good and thorough review, so Read The Whole Thing™ (link goes to the American Rifleman site).

The Colt Model 601 AR-15 that the Rifleman tested was, they noted, functionally identical to the Fairchild Armalite gun they’d tested earlier. They visited the Colt factory to see how the company was making ARs (on conventional machine tools, without much specialty equipment, although if they had to increase production they planned to retool). And the article closes with a stirring charge to the Army to stick with the (then-new, after all) M14 until the revolutionary project SALVO, “a future infantry weapon far more effective than any conventional shoulder rifle,” was ready. (That would have been a hell of a long wait).

We’re grateful to the Daily Caller for bringing this story to our attention, but we’re not too thrilled with how they delivered it. First, it’s broken into three pages (which lets them mislead their advertisers about their hit count. Lame). Next, they love pop-up ads. We will never boycott a pop-up advertiser, because we always slam the pop-up closed before their pitch can load, and we don’t think we’re the Lone Rangers on that. The vast majority of the money spent on this offensive, intrusive advertising is wasted. (If somebody does let the page load, this slimeball door-to-door-salesman approach probably actually damages the advertiser’s reputation). But most seriously, they deliver the text of the article without the illustrations.

It turns out that that’s because they lifted the article whole from the American Rifleman website, where it was recently featured on a blog page, again, without the images. We never go to the American Rifleman website; we get the magazine, but the site is incredibly crappy and disorganized, with blaring autoplay videos and all the excesses of bad 1990s web design, except maybe the [blink] tag. It was only blind luck that led us to American Rifleman’s  blog post, and we discovered that, unlike the Daily Caller knockoff, it’s all on one page, at least; and unlike most of the pages at American Rifleman (and all of the pages at Daily Caller) it’s free of hard-sell pop-up and autoplay cruft. So we went back in this post and changed the links all to the American Rifleman version except for this Hat tip to the Daily Caller. Fair play to give them that.

How’s your countersniper skillset?

Have a look at this set of photographs of Bundeswehr snipers shot by German photog Simon Menner. If you click on through to the Daily Mail, there’s a slide show with over a dozen of these brain teasers. This one is the only one where they have the sniper stand up. The others, they just circle the hide in red. You’ll do well to spot a third of them — even with the red circles.

spot the sniper hidden

A successful sniper has to be good at two things: shooting a rifle and blending in with their surroundings, as to not be seen by the intended target.

As German artist Simon Menner recently found out, military snipers are incredibly skilled at the latter – often blending into their surroundings so well that they can’t be seen even if you know where to look.

Menner recently was granted permission to photograph German Army snipers as they blended into several landscapes. What he captured on film was the incredible way in which these snipers can make themselves nearly invisible to the naked eye – even in broad daylight.

In many cases, spotting the sniper is nearly impossible – all you can see is the business end of their sniper rifles jutting out of what appears to be a rock, or a bush, as the rest of their bodies and equipment are completely camouflaged. And chances are that if you’re close enough to notice them, it’s already too late – trained snipers are capable of accurately shooting targets that are more than a mile away.

In a series of photos taken by Menner, a sniper is hiding somewhere in the landscape. In another set of the same photos, the snipers’ location is circled in red – which doesn’t do much to help recognize these war-time chameleons.

via Can you spot the sniper? Photographer’s amazing images of elite troops’ camouflage techniques (Hint: They look a lot like a rock) | Mail Online.

Even embiggened the snipers don’t show you a lot, only this one who stood up really helps:

Spot the sniperThis is a bit unrealistic, and was probably related to a hides or stalking class. After all, most nations that employ snipers employ them as teams, at a minimum, a two-man sniper-spotter team. But a good sniper can indeed make himself disappear, and your first indicator he’s out there is when somebody falls dead.

Then you hear the shot.

 

 

An Olympic Note

…from John Richardson at No Lawyers, who looks back at the biathlon of 50 years ago, and sees a number of interesting firearms. In those days, he explains, biathlon was truer to its military roots: they had to shoot at ranges from 100 to 250m, five shots at each 50m increment. That pretty much compelled the use of a centerfire cartridge.

Finnish M-N M28-57

Then as now, biathlon was dominated by the Nordic nations, If you stretch the idea of Nordic to include snowbound Russia. Sweden made a number of interesting adaptations of its 6.5 x 55mm service rifles. The Soviet Union and Finland adapted the Mosin-Nagant, Finland in its native 7.62 x 54, and the USSR in a special 6.5 x 54mm caliber. The rifle shown above is a Finnish biathlon rifle of this period, built on an octagonal Mosin-Nagant receiver. You can see the Mo-Nag’s distinctive magazine just peeking out from the deep target stock.

Only in 1978 did the IOC change the rules to specify a rimfire rifle.

AG42_biathlon

In 1962, or perhaps it was 1960, the Swedes came out with folding stock rifles. These were all based on military rifles; the most interesting of them was certainly the semi automatic Ljungman AG42 illustrated above, which has had its normal wooden stock replaced with the folding stock of an M45B “Carl Gustav” submachinegun. The folding stocks turned out not to be as important to the handling of a biathlete’s gun as the sling/harness, which has evolved into quite a trick piece of gear.

Despite their military routes, these rifles show just as much careful custom gunsmithing as the Anschutz and Izmash biathlon rifles of today. But 1960s athletes wouldn’t have been caught dead with sponsors’ bumper stickers on their rifles. If you’re interested in this remarkable era of biathlon in Olympiads past, take a look at John’s site, where he has a link-rich post and lots of photographs.

Update

Imagine our surprise when we found that we, and Richardson, are not the only ones thinking of Biathlon history now. Ian McCollum (the guy behind Forgotten Weapons) has a great post on the history of the sport all the way back to its beginning as the Military Patrol team event in 1924, at The Firearm Blog. To Ian’s excellent story we’d only add that the Nordic countries continue to conduct military biathlons as training events. For example, one of the culminating exercises of the Norwegian Home Guard Ski School in Dombås is a 30 kilometer biathlon, with the service rifle (in our day, the AG3; from what we hear the Home Guard will be slow to follow the Army to the HK416, instead their AG3s have been updated with rails).

‘Legendary’ 704 bolt guns to return

You might not have heard of the Ed Brown bolt actions — Brown is much better known for pistols — but they used to make a hell of a bolt-action rifle on what was an improved clone of a Remington action. Until 2006, this was the Model 702 and from 2006 to 2010, it was the Model 704. But in August of 2010, Ed Brown Products pulled the plug on its bolt rifles, perhaps to address the pistol backlog. Ed Brown never restarted production of the gun — but it’s coming back anyway.

 

ed-brown-rifle

The Model 704 has a Mauser-style controlled feed instead of the 700’s push feed. One difference between the two is in the design and action of the extractor. In a Mauser, or a 704, the cartridge from the magazine comes up under the extractor and the extractor holds it from the very beginning and controls its path into the breech. It is a very positive feed. In the 700, the cartridge is pushed out of the magazine and into the chamber, very much like the cartridge from an M16 or AK magazine. As in those gas guns, the extractor doesn’t snap over the cartridge rim until the cartridge is seated and the bolt is closing its last millimeter.

An Ed Brown Damara hunting rifle.

An Ed Brown Damara hunting rifle’s action. Fluted bolts are primarily for styling and secondarily for weight reduction in a bolt gun. (Unlike, say, the Sterling SMG, where their primary benefit is trapping combustion by-products and foreign matter. They can do that here, but it’s less of a concern). 

One pro of the push feed system is that it makes it possible to design a bolt with 360º coverage of the bolt head. In theory, this could lead to a stronger gun. In practice, the world is not littered with the carcasses of detonated Mausers, Model 70s and Springfields (well, let’s leave low-number Springfields out of this). One pro of the controlled feed system is that it eliminates a couple of failure to feed failure modes, especially double-feeds — but Africa is not carpeted in the bleached bones of would-be hunters whose push-feed Remington 700s or Weatherby Mark Vs doubled, either. In fact, either gun, well designed and crafted, is more than strong and reliable enough.

The Brown action has the controlled feed of a Mauser or Winchester M70, with the plunger ejector of the Remington or Weatherby instead of the Mauser’s slotted bolt — a nice, and hard-to-execute, combination of technical features. Like most modern bolt guns it has a three-position safety: safe, and bolt locked (best position for hunting, keeps the bolt in battery ’til you need it); safe, and bolt unlocked (best for unloading safely; two-position safeties require you to dump the mag or unload through a hot action); and fire.

ed-brown-action

Brown guns were premium priced and delivered premium performance. Brown models included a dangerous game rifle in serious African big-game calibers (the “Express”, which replaced the earlier “Bushveld”); a medium hunting rifle (“Savanna”), a light hunter (“Damara”) and a varmint gun. Each had an appropriate McMillian stock, and many had a Shilen match trigger and other premium components. These guns were just an optic away from hunt-ready; a common comment by Brown rifle hunters is that they did not need to customize the rifle in any way.

In addition to the hunting rifles, they made a Tactical (what else?) model in 7.62 NATO or .300WM, and an “M40A2 Marine Sniper” in 7.62 or .30-06 for the traditionalist, a rifle that duplicates a Vietnam era M40 except for the Brown action.

Gee, it’s a shame all this cool stuff went out of production in mid-2010, huh? But it’s coming back! Trop Gun Shop of Lancaster, PA (one of the first vendors to pull out of the Reid version of the Harrisburg gun show, last year) has a manufacturing arm ready to start producing the Brown actions, although they seem to have different plans for the models:

 

TROP MANUFACTURING ANNOUNCES THE ACQUISITION OF THE ED BROWN 704 RIFLE

LANCASTER, PA – (January 6, 2014) Trop Manufacturing, LLC announces its acquisition of the Ed Brown 704 rifle from Ed Brown Products, Inc. Under the brand Legendary Arms Works, the storied, but formerly elusive, 704 action, will be joined by the recently acquired High-Tech Specialties stocks and Bansner’s Ultimate Rifles to produce one of the finest, most durable sporting rifles in America, under the direction of master gun builder Mark Bansner.

Referred to by Guns & Ammo magazine as “the most significant advance in bolt action rifle technology in over 100 years,” the 704 action features controlled round feeding, mechanical ejector and 3-position safety. Ed Brown Products had ceased production of the rifles in 2010. Trop Manufacturing has now acquired the means to produce these rifles and, in doing so resurrects, the Ed Brown 704 action.

Trop Manufacturing’s creation of Legendary Arms Works marks the genesis of a new era of sporting rifle manufacturing in America. Incorporating American-made component parts with excellence of craft means a new standard of shooting and hunting rifles in the market.

About Trop Manufacturing, LLC –

Trop Manufacturing, LLC is a rifle manufacturing company located in Lancaster, PA. USA-made components are vital to Trop Manufacturing and as a result, no component part of rifles built by Trop Manufacturing is produced outside of the USA.

via Press Release – TROP Acquires Ed Brown 704 Rifle | Trop GunTrop Gun.

This does at least three things. First, it brings the 704 back to life. Did you get that we were pretty high on the Ed Brown 704? Second, it makes whatever Brown models Trop’s new Legendary Arms Works doesn’t reproduce into instant classics — even more than they already were. Third, it may produce the rifles from a business that is more, shall we say, customer oriented, than Ed Brown Products, whose customer service has been known to extend to “and the horse you rode in on.” (And don’t get us started on his stolen valor shtick, naming a pistol model Special Forces. Other vendors have licensed names or symbols from the association, which helps take care of the widows and orphans).

Ed Brown has a reputation, though, for quality guns: a halo that the handguns extended to these rifles until people figured out just how excellent this rifle action is; now the rifles extended the halo, too. It will be interesting to see the guns out from the other half of Brown’s reputation, and especially to see where Legendary takes this modern classic next.

The MP5 is not dead yet

We in the combat-American minority community tend to think of the MP5 as something passé: H&K blew the chance to sell millions of the things to the US military when they resolutely refused to re-engineer it for .45. Instead — during the Because you suck, and we hate you period explained here — making a 10mm version for black-clad Federal ninjutsu teams exclusively. That was one of the more boneheaded moves in the history of firearms marketing: FBI and ATF have about 5000 Special Agents each; the Army could have bought many times that number of .45 versions. The FBI, at least, still uses the 10mm MP5 lightly. The ATF’s best day with the gun was fatally backshooting one of their own agents with it through a wall at Waco.

H&K's most common MP5 variant, the MP5A3.

H&K’s historically common MP5 variant in SOF world, the MP5A3.

Meanwhile, SOF discovered the limitations of the MP5, with which they’d been deeply in love. The weapon did not have the simplicity and durability of a STEN gun or M3 grease gun. But the principal problem was the limitation of the MP five to a pistol cartridge. It didn’t matter what pistol cartridge were talking about: it was a short range proposition, great for door kicking, but when the occasional longer shot came up the MP5, like any submachinegun, couldn’t deliver the goods. The parabolic trajectory of the 9 mm around, let alone something like the .45 that we wanted but they never built, meant that you were out of business at 200 yards. The high quality and accuracy of the MP5 with its locked breech was the only reason you were still in business at 200 yards.

This all came to ahead in Grenada in 1983. It was a win for the USA, but it was an ugly win. Navy A6 aircraft bombed an 82nd Airborne Division position. The Rangers transported hundreds of tons of ammunition to the island, including every single 90 mm round in the inventory, which the Air Force then would not let them re-embark on the aircraft: so it wound up being blown in place. reporters, steeped in the anti-military ethos of the 1960s, were running all over the island looking for American atrocities that didn’t happen. So they latched onto the fact that some paratroopers “liberated” the Cuban Ambassador’s Mercedes for local transportation, and demanded those guys be prosecuted for a “war crime.” And the SEALs, and their MP5s, had a bunch of problems.

The SEALs’ problems are recounted generally online by the SEAL/UDT museum. One SEAL element and their rubber boats never assembled with their teammates, and those four SEALs remain missing to this day. But while the operation was still on, our friends in ARSOF HQ at Fort Bragg were already hearing complaints from frogmen whose MP5s had been outranged in the fight. Apart from the four men of ST6 lost at sea, none of the engaged SEALs died (a number were wounded, and decorated for valor). They were around, they were vocal, and everyone in the community heard the bark of these SEALs.

By the invasion of Panama in 1989, while there were still MP5s in the arms rooms, the hot ticket for all-round use was a short rifle that Colt called the M16 Carbine. The first ones were M16A1s with the sliding stock and short gas system of the old XM177 series, and a 14.5″ barrel. (The longer barrel, same as the rifle from the gas port forward, gave the short gun a similar pressure curve to the rifle, and increased reliability and durability over the Vietnam era CAR-15, at the cost of not looking quite as cool). The Navy, in fact, wound up leading the charge to replace both long rifles and short SMGs with an intermediate-sized, more capable carbine.

When the Oberndorf metalsmiths came out with a new submachine gun, the largely polymer UMP, the reaction in American special operations circles was a shrug: that ship had sailed. This time, they even made it in .45, but it was too late. 20 years earlier, they could have sold 300,000 .45 MP5s to the US Army. We’d be surprised if they sold 300 UMPs to the SOF world.

So we always assumed that the MP5 had gone out of production along with the rest of the roller-locked generation of H&K weapons. Imagine our surprise when we learnt it not only hasn’t, but has recently been upgraded.

MP5MLI- HK official

The gun was of course subject to many improvements in its life cycle. (Digging in some old boxes that hadn’t been cracked since the 1980s, we found evidence of that: straight and curved MP5 magazines in an old Rhodesian-style pouch). But HK is calling the new version the “Mid Life  Improvement,” which may not be entirely honest (isn’t it more of a “last gasp?”) but works as a portmanteau for holding all the current improvements:

  • Pickatinny rail on the receiver. The rail is proprietary, quick-detachable, and is claimed to return to zero. This is officially called the QRTR: Quick Release Top Rail.
  • More rails, left right and underneath the modular slimline forearm. These rails are detachable with a tool.
  • The stock is now a three-position one. The old stocks were either in or out and so not ideal for use with body armor. A small change (and one some units had made with a file!) but a welcome one.
  • Polymer parts in a new brownish color, including the trigger housing, the butt, and even the cocking handle knob.
  • A new finish which is claimed to provide better durability, and infrared-observation protection, compared to previous finishes. It has a distinctive color, RAL 8000 (RAL is a European color-matching firm like Pantone in the USA). The Germans call in a brown/green (braungrün) and in some photos, it does look like sort of a brown/green — almost like a World War II Olive drab, maybe a little more brown than that. But in HK’s official images, like the one leading this article, it’s much lighter, like a mustard brown. Better yet — the tank modelers say RAL 8000 is the color used by the Deutsche Afrika Corps in 1942. The guys who have test driven the gun call it “babyshit brown.” (Hey, we report, you decide). Anodizing, powder coating, and ceracote-type finishes being what they are, MP5 MLIs and G28 DMR rifles (also being shipped in RAL 8000) often are color-mismatched from part to part.

HK MP5 MLIThe HK system, of course, was always designed to be modular in the first place. Because of its compactness and caliber the MP5 offered less interchange with the full-size rifles and MGs than they had with each other, but people forget how radical the idea of knocking out two pins and going from a sliding, compact stock to a full-size stock with a good cheek weld was, back in the 1970s. You could honestly say that these guns were modular before modular was cool. 

It’s a pity that HK can’t export the HK 94 to the USA, but as a German company they’re in a hell of a jam between restrictive American import laws, and restrictive German export laws, and the two sets of laws are restrictive in different ways.

Hat tip: Bag Full of Guns, which probably got it from somewhere else, but that photo site is where we found it.

Here is the grandpappy of your M240

Larry Vickers runs through the history of the Browning Automatic Rifle. Three minutes.

In our time in the Army, we were brought up by Vietnam era or earlier vets who swore by this thing. Because they still existed in strategic caches and other storage, they were still part of the SF weapons man’s qualification until the end of the strategic cache program in the 1990s.

As Vickers relates, the BAR underwent no major changes throughout its official wife, which lasted from 1918 to 1958. The bipod and carrying handle were added, and an option for semi automatic fire was deleted, because at the slow rate of fire, it was easy to fire single shots by trigger manipulation. Those changes were complete by the mid-1920s, and the BAR was the base of fire of the infantry squad throughout World War II and the Korean War.

Even after the nominal replacement of the BAR by the M60 GPMG, National Guard, ARVN (both until circa 1970), and other foreign armies continued to use the ancient weapon. The Army’s replacement for the BAR in the squad automatic rifle role was for many years simply a standard infantry rifle, M14 or M16, fired in the automatic mode. This was unsatisfactory, especially to old-timers who remembered the BAR, and went to the development of the SAW. The Marines have since reverted to a rifle as the squad automatic weapon, the M27 IAR.

BAR men swore by their weapons, and SLA Marshall, whose research was very influential despite the later discovery that much of it was faked, did make the claim that fire in an infantry squad usually began at the BAR gunner and spread from him to the other squad members.

The BAR was the first US weapon to be frequently shipped with a plastic stock, beginning in 1944. The plastic BAR stock is designed to be the same weight as the original stock of black walnut, but is significantly stronger. (Plastics and composites would not be exploited for weight reduction until the later M14 rifle program).

The BAR was not without its limitations. While it was very reliable, it was complicated. We SF students had 78 parts to account for, disassembling the BAR against a time standard — something that was possible, but challenging. It was also very heavy for an infantry automatic weapon.

The BAR  managed to live on, in a way. While BARs were built, in peacetime, by Colt in the USA, the same design was made for the European market by Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre in Herstal, Belgium. Many BAR aficionados consider the FN Model D, which was available in several calibers and had a pistol grip, to be the ultimate BAR.

Its reliable mechanism was inverted by FN designers (M. Saive and M. Vervier) and used as the basis for the belt fed MAG general-purpose machine gun. That of course has replaced the dreadful M 60 in United States service, and been subject to many other developments since then.

Hat tip: Bob Owens at BearingArms.com.

 

Canned Garands

These guns demonstrate storage proven for 12 years without corrosion or mildew in an airtight, dry can.

These M1s were stored in 1947, shielded against corrosion or mildew in an airtight, dry can. When some of the guns were examined a dozen years later, they were good as new. Click to embiggen.

Garand collectors have long known about these, as stored and recorded by Springfield Armory, but as far as we know, nobody’s found one yet. In 1959, Armory officials told the local newspaper that a few cans recently arrived (of which, more later) were the last survivors of the cans the Armory filled in 1947 and 1948 — apart from a few in the collection of the Armory’s museum.

Right after World War II, the Armed Forces went from something like 12 million men, mostly armed with M1 Garands, to a tiny fraction of the size. Logistical problem: trainloads of surplus Garands.

For the first time in a long time, Springfield produced no service rifles in the years immediately after World War II. (Production would resume in a few years, when Korea kicked off). But even when issuing those wartime M1s out as needed, the United States Army had too many rifles to handle. (This problem was just about universal after the war: the victorious nations demobilized most of their forces, and the vanquished no longer had any armies to arm).

Some M1s and other GI weapons went to friendly foreign nations, especially formerly occupied nations rebuilding defense forces from zero. And some small arms came in from the field too beat up to save (they were parted out, or set aside to be parted out). But some new guns and some repaired and inspected guns were not going anywhere. The supply exceeded the demand, and the problem became, how to store them?

It didn’t seem prudent to just throw them away or scrap them. After all, the M1 was a front-line combat rifle, still technologically ahead of most of the world. And they could be nice trinkets in international diplomacy. But a rifle left alone tends to rust. So the Armory developed a method of preservation that would thrill the heart of any survivalist: they sealed racks of rifles into special-purpose steel drums. Developing the methods, equipment and materials took almost two years, and then the excess guns were canned in 1947 and 1948. No one seems to know how many were so treated.

A process for packaging small arms for long periods of indoor storage, known as ‘canning,’ was developed at Springfield Armory to preserve new or reconditioned small-arms weapons.
Weapons preserved in this manner will be serviceable, free of rust and fungi and ready for immediate use for an estimated period of fifty years.

A can of similarly-treated .45s. Image snarfed off the net -- doesn't embiggen much.

A can of similarly-treated .45s. Image snarfed off the net — doesn’t embiggen much.

Rifles, pistols, carbines, sub-machine guns and machine guns have been secured within hermetically sealed metal containers in which the atmosphere is controlled. In so far as possible the weapons are secured in such a manner as to produce a uniformly balanced pack.

The atmosphere in each container is maintained at a low relative humidity to prevent rusting and growth of fungi and is in equilibrium with the wood components. To control this atmosphere, several pounds of moisture-absorbing material are placed in each container,hen seam welded and embossed with a varying number of rolling hoops depending on the length.

The pressed steel covers have a one inch flange and an embossed centering ring which serves to hold the gun rack on the axis of the container. One cover is pressed into the shell and then rotary seam welded and tested for leaks by internal air pressure of ten rounds per square inch. A rectangular identification plate is seam welded to the opposite cover. The plate contains information as to stock number, contents, modification work order, volume, weight, serial number of the container and the date packed.

Seamless aluminum tubes of one-eight inch wall thickness are used for individual packing of Caliber .50 Aircraft Basic and Heavy Barrel Flexible machine guns. Aluminum covers with one inch flange are pressed from sheet alloy. One cover is assembled with a rear bracket support. This support is a spot-welded assembly, channel shaped to secure the rear end of the weapon. A cup is used to protect the muzzle of the gun. The gun is also supported forward of the receiver with a formed disc.

Rifles, carbines and sub-machine guns are assembled to a gun rack. The rack is made up of a center post, (standard steel pipe) with spacing units welded in place to locate the weapons. Formed discs or end plates with muzzle and butt-plate indents are welded on each end of the center post to prevent endwise movement of the guns. The formed edge of the end plate fits over the centering ring which is embossed in the cover. Padding material is placed between the weapons and rack to cushion shock and to prevent marring of weapons.

Pistols are packed in trays which are pressed from low carbon steel and shaped to fit the silhouette of two pistols with extra magazines. In assembly the pistols with magazines are placed in position on one tray. Another inverted tray is placed on top to form a single unit.

Matching ears and slots on each tray allow them to be locked together. Ten units, or twenty pistols with extra magazines, are stacked in each container.

Weapons are cleaned prior to canning by immersion in a tank of selected volatile solvent which removes acid forming greases and other foreign compositions that might produce corrosion. They are then immersed in a tank of Soft Film Rust Preventive AXS-1759, Grade #2j.

This compound has moisture displacing properties and a minimum tendency to become gummy or varnish over a long period of time.

After evaporation of volatiles from this compound, the film resulting is about .0005 inch thick. This allows unpacking and firing the gun without cleaning, thus avoiding the difficult removal of heavy compounds from weapons as preserved in the past.

Following this coating of preservative, the weapons are assembled to the gun rack along with accessories, which consist of magazines, slings, oilers for rifles, spade gips and charging handles for machine guns. These are secured in specially designed holders. Slings and bags of desiccant such as Silica Gel, are tucked in between the weapons and center post of the rack.

Cotton webbing pads and half-inch box-strapping bands are placed around the weapons assembled to the gun racks, drawn up tightly and secured with strapping seals.

The assembled packs are put into the containers, properly centered and the top cover with name plate assembly pressedThe hermetically sealed containers are tested by immersion in clean water heater to 180 degrees F. The internal air pressure rises to about three pounds per square inch in two minutes. All surfaces and seams are carefully examined while the container is under water. Defects are repaired by oxy-acetylene welding and the container retested.

Accepted steel containers are prepared for painting by vapor degreasing, bodnerizing and drying. The containers are spray painted with two coats of olive drab enamel (U.S. Army Specification 3-181, Type V). Each coat is baked for five minutes by infra-red lamps, allowing ten minutes between coats for cooling. This cooling period prevents the internal temperature from exceeding 200 degrees F, above which a breakdown of phosphate coatings and the preservative compound may occur. During an overrun of fifteen minutes on the paint line conveyor after the final coat, the paint air dries to ‘Full Hardness.’ Painting of the aluminum containers is omitted as the material was selected for its non-corrosive properties. Instructions for opening are stenciled on each shell.

A specially designed portable ‘can opener’ was developed to facilitate opening the containers of various models and weighs about thirty pounds. This tool may be considered a giant version of the ordinary kitchen utensil. It can be used as a single unit or it may be used in conjunction with a platform base for opening on a production basis.

The portable opener consists of a gear reduction unit that operates two serrated drive rolls which are designed to provide the force necessary to cause a set of cutting discs to cut through the shell thickness of the containers. The two cutting discs are located on a pivoted arm. A vise clamp arrangement allows the discs to be set to the desired depth of cut. In operation, the serrated drive wheels are placed on the inside of the container flange and the pivoted arm is tightened, with the cutting discs located below the seam weld on the flange.

The opener may be operated manually with a hand crank, or if electrical power is available, it can be driven with a one-half inch portable drill.

When used in conjunction with the platform base, the portable unit is inverted and properly located in the base. The platform base is equipped with a one-third horsepower motor. The power is transmitted by means of a worm gear arrangement to the portable unit’s drive stud. Containers are placed upright on this composite unit and opened in the same maner as described with the portable unit.

Containers were subjected to various rough handling conditions in laboratory tests prior to acceptance. These tests included four-foot falls with the containers landing at various angles along with vibration tests to simulate most phases of transportation handling. Containers were then tested for hermetic seal and opened for examination and contents. Results indicated that although the containers were badly dented, they retained their hermetic seal and the weapons were not damaged in any way.

An additional test was conducted to simulate air transportation of containers. In this test the loaded containers withstood fifteen pounds per square inch of internal air pressure without any indication of distortion or leakage.

The canning method of packaging weapons for long periods of storage has proved to be superior, in certain respects, to previous methods used, in that (1) reduces breakages due to handling, (2)

Alas, whatever (2) was is not reported at the museum site, but we suspect it had to do with corrosion and/or mildew resistance.

Gun can kit… just add a welder.

Gun can kit… just add a welder.

For those of you thinking about caching weapons, note the extreme effort this took. Two years of development by professional engineers to work out the system. Then, each can had to be subjected to some tough tests, including immersion in water and heating to 180ºF. (Read the excerpt carefully to see which tests were done simply to validate this means of storage, and which were done to every can to ensure it was sealed).

Don’t forget, these packages were not meant to survive immersion in the sea, burial in the earth, or even outdoor storage: they were meant to be kept indoors in warehouses. Our experience with cache recovery indicates that entropy is always doing its best to have its way with your cached weapons and equipment. As the extremes to which Springfield Armory went to safely store weapons demonstrate, if you want to protect your stuff from the ravages of time, life, and oxidation, you need to get pretty extreme.

This can is cutaway for museum display.

This can is cutaway for museum display.

So why haven’t these Garand Cans turned up? Our best guess is that they took the can opener to them during the Korean War, especially when US and ROK forces lost tens of thousands of rifles in the defeats of the early war years. (And yes, along with the special cans, there was indeed a special can opener). Indeed, in 1959 when a few “cans” of M1s came back to the Armory from a depot in Schenectady for conversion to National Match rifles, the newspaper reported: 

M-1 Garand rifles made at the Springfield Armory and ‘canned’ in special hermetically-sealed cannisters were returned from the Schenectady, (N.Y.) depot for conversion to National Match weapons.

The rifles, removed from their sealed chambers, were found to be in perfect working order.

The ‘canning’ of weapons at the Armory, following World War II was a major gunplant project. Methods of packaging and preserving small arms weapons for a long period of storage posed quite a problem when hundreds of thousands of M-1 rifles were returned to depots for field servicing.

Solution of the problem was assigned to the Armory in July 145. Final design and development of an acceptable storage container was accomplished in 1946 and 1947 by the Armory’s research and development division.

The process eventually developed at the local Army Ordnance installation assured serviceable weapons free of rust and fungi, ready for immediate use upon removal from the storage containers.

Production of these containers was completed by June 1948. Besides the M-1 rifle, the carbine, Browning automatic rifle, M-3 machine gun and caliber .45 pistol were also canned for storage.

The specially developed cans shipped back to the Armory are believed to be about the last in existence. However, several of these special containers with weapons sealed in have been on display at the Benton Small Arms Museum at the gunplant for the past several years.

CMP has never seen guns in these cans, and the supposition in the collector community is that no more exist, unless M1s were shipped overseas in these cans and never unpacked at their destinations, which seems unlikely. About 300,000 M1s and unknown quantities of other firearms were canned in this manner. There are internet legends and rumors of canisters being holed and thrown in the sea, but that seems improbable as the canisters were always a Zone of the Interior (what we’d now call CONUS) depot project. The cans might have to be holed to sink given the volume of air trapped inside with the 170 lbs of guns and can, so that detail is plausible anyway.

If anyone does find one, it will be clearly labeled:

BOO1-004196/RIFLE, U.S., CAL..30 M1/W/SLING/COND. CODE NO. 23/M.W.O. THRU W2/DRY AIR – NO PRESSURE/7.5 CU. FT. 170 LBS/CONTAINER NO. SA 013xxxx/ORD. DEPT. U.S. ARMY/month-year (i.e. “3/47″/

Happy hunting.