Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

What’s the difference between M1 and M2 carbines?

Back in the 60s through the 80s, the M1 Carbine was the gateway drug to a life of gun collecting for many young Americans. It was as light and handy as a .22 (in fact, Ruger’s popular 10-22, and several other Ruger firearms, consciously copied the M1′s envelope and handling). It had next to no recoil, and they were common as dirt: millions of them were made (over five million and less than eight million), and even after distributing them generously to every friendly nation on the planet, there were still hundreds of thousands to flood the surplus market. 

The M1 was delivered in four versions: the M1 was the original, semi-auto gun with a wood, usually walnut or birch, stock. It had a characteristic slot in the stock for a sling, which was pinned to the stock by a metal tube containing gun oil for maintenance. The M1A1 was a paratrooper version with a folding steel stock with a leather cheekpiece. The stock was flimsy and its lockup (open or closed) was not positive, but it made a compact, handy gun even more so. (The oiler had a bracket it clipped to in the stock). The M2 added a selector to the left of the receiver ring that allowed the operator to select full- or semi-auto fire. The gun itself differed only in a few parts: the operating rod and hammer, and had three parts the semi gun did not: trip rod, auto disconnector, and, of course, the selector. M2s also had a superior magazine catch with three points of engagement instead of two, but this was retrofit on many, many M1s. The M3 was an M1 M2 (see comments for explanation of correction –Ed.) set up to take the Infrared Sniperscope, the first US night vision sight, instead of iron rear sight.

This video shows you the differences between the two guns.

The same guy has posted WWII-vintage videos on the M1 and M2 that are worth viewing if you’re a fan of these obsolete but ingenious weapons. The American Gunsmithing Institute’s armorer’s video on the M1/M2 carbines has a better explanation of the operating cycle than this one, but AGI would take a dim view of us posting that. They get something ridiculous like $40 for it.

As the video should make clear, there is very little mechanical difference between M1 and M2 carbines.

From time to time one hears about BATFE trying to make a constructive possession case on an M1 that has some M2 parts. This is not entirely on the level, as the M2 parts were in many of the M1s surplused and the ATF never objected then. Without all the M2 parts, no carbine will fire on automatic. With all the M2 parts, any M1/2/3 carbine will be a select fire gun. This means that you do have constructive possession exposure if you own a carbine and a full set of auto parts. It’s fairly ate-up, but that’s the law.

The carbine is interesting for many other reasons, including the short-stroke gas piston. It also was widely reproduced in civilian versions, many of which have upgrades or changes from the GI version. The later Universal carbines, for example, have an operating rod made from a thick steel stamping instead of the forged, machined or cast parts seen elsewhere.

The carbines were used with a straight 15-round magazine in WWII and Korea. GIs loved it for its handling and low recoil; against that, they disliked its limited effective range and weak terminal ballistics. General Jim Gavin was so disappointed in his carbine on Sicily that he threw it away and used an M1 rifle instead, choosing that for his Normandy jump also.

In US service, the carbine was replaced, sort of, by the much more unwieldy M14 rifle. (No one believes this unless they’ve put the two side-by side, but the M14 is longer as well as deeper than the M1 Garand). A carbine-sized weapon was still needed, which is why SF in Vietnam received the XM177 series “submachine gun” and why an evolution of that weapon was ultimately adopted as the M4 Carbine.

The M1/M2 carbines got a second lease on combat life during the Vietnam War. While to Americans the signature weapon of the war will always be the M16A1, the newer weapon was not supplied to ARVN regulars until after 1970. Prior to that point, both regular ARVN formations and irregulars like SF’s Civilian Indigenous Defence Groups were equipped with US WWII-vintage weaponry. The carbine quickly endeared itself to the small-statured Vietnamese troops.

We recall hearing a Vietnam-vintage SF friend discuss his choice of a carbine as his patrolling weapon. His M2 never let him down, and he liked having weapons commonality with his Cambodian indig (most of the irregulars recruited by SF in Vietnam were ethnic minorities).

Ending today – Accuracy International .338 auction

From time to time we flag a deal that we think is exceptional, or a gun that’s rare and interesting. This is both of those: an Accuracy International .338 Lapua sniper rifle with a Nightforce scope. This combination is a true, proven, 1000-meter man-buster. It would also be great for hunting elk somewhere other than Colorado, like, say, Wyoming, where hunting tourists are still welcome. Of course, you’d get a hairy eyebrow from Fudds and even outfitters for bringing this homely plank on a hunt, but they’d change their tune when they saw how it hit.

You will get a Accuracy International AX338 in 338 Lapua, 1 Nightforce 5.5x22x50mm Zero Stop .250 MOA with the MOARF2 Ret.

This was my personal rifle. I have shot 15 rounds in it to get the scope on target at 500 yards. I then put it out at 950 yards and put 5 in a paper plate. This is a sweet setup. We are going to throw in 50 Rounds of Hornady 250gr BTHP Match ammo. (This is what I sighted with) Also Winning bidder will get a custom Tan Pelican Case #1370.

Gun is complete with Harris Bipod, 1 Mag, Muzzle Break [sic] and all factory paperwork.(AX338 with 27″ Barrel, Butt Spike, Adj Stock and Loaded).

AI AX338-nightforce01This auction ends today, and as we draft this at 0030 or so it hasn’t made reserve. The buy-it-now price is reasonable for a gun like this, particularly with the scope, accessories and rounds of expensive ammo included.

Of course, this is one of those “internet sales” over which the media and anti-gun zealots (pardon the repetition) are wroth these days. Here’s how it works: the gun is in the hands of an Oklahoma FFL dealer. If you are in Oklahoma, you must complete the NICS check to pick up the gun. If you are not in Oklahoma, the OK dealer must send it to your dealer — who will require you to complete the NICS check before he or she releases the gun to you. (Your dealer will also charge a reasonable fee for this service).


Now, anyone who is interested in a gun like this, or reads a blog like this one, knows those facts. (This is, you might say, not an optimum starter rifle; it’s for someone who has exhausted the range capacity of some excellent weapons). But it seems as if no one in a newsroom from Kauai to Kennebunk has an inkling of these facts.

The same FFL has some other interesting stuff in hand as well, including a Sako .338 Lapua if your checkbook doesn’t stretch to the SOF-approved Accuracy International unit.

Tracking Point — new videos

Late last week, in anticipation of the NRA Annual Convention, Tracking Point released new video. This one shows two features: the way the precision-guided firearm can compensate for motion of target or shooter, and the precision cold-bore first shot capability.

Right now, precision guided firearms are very expensive, and are only the province of extreme shooters and early adopters. We predict that that will change, and this kind of precision technology will be increasingly common — and much less expensive, as economies of scale kick in — going forward.

Ivan’s .50 sniper rifle: the OSV-96

The OSV-96 is a Russian heavy sniper rifle with some unique features.

The OSV-96 is a Russian heavy sniper rifle with some unique features.

The Russian Army has always gone its own way, whether it was Tsar Nicholas’s guys adopting the Mosin and a wheeled carriage for the Maxim, or the Red Army’s flowering of innovation under Tukhachevskiy, which gave the Russian nation tank doctrine, world-leading paratroop operational art, and modern weapons like the ill-fated Tokarev SVT.

They’ve also proven adaptable, and willing to adopt a foreign idea when it’s adaptable to the benefit of the rodina. The classic example is the assault rifle, a German concept refined and improved to yield the AK-47 and its many progeny. But you can also add the more recent adoption of the 9mm Parabellum pistol caliber, a German round that gradually took over much of the world, and à propos this post, the .50 caliber sniper rifle. Russians are no novice operators of large-caliber rifles: they deployed 14.5mm weapons early in WWII as anti-tank rifles. But the .50 sniper is an American concept, begun on the battlefields of Vietnam with scoped machine guns, and evolved into a long-range precision system largely as a private venture by Ronnie Barrett.

The OSV-96 is one of Russia’s entries in the .50 sniper stakes, and it has some unique features. This may be the heavy sniper rifle being used in the Syrian video we posted previously.

OSV-96 folding. Click to enlarge. From Max Popenker's

OSV-96 half folded, showing the locking lugs and folding mechanism. Note the Russian take on an optic-mounting rail. Click to enlarge. From Max Popenker’s

Perhaps most interesting and unique is the weapon’s ability to fold back on itself for transport. That reduces the length of the weapon from about 1.75 meters (roughly 69″, 5’9″)  to 1.15 (45″, 3’9″, about 6″ longer than an M16A1), which, as the video shows, allows the rifle to be carried in urban fighting or in the back of a BMP combat vehicle. The folded length of 1154 mm is remarkable, given that the barrel is 1000 mm (39″) by itself. This is only possible because the fold of the weapon comes right at the end of the chamber. The analogous weapon that readers of this page are most likely to be familiar with is the Barrett, which with the standard 29″ barrel is 57″ long, and can only be shortened for transport by being disassembled (the upper and lower receivers can be detached by releasing two pins, much like an AR-15). The advantage, then, goes to the Russian design by a nose (you can see the simple folding process in the movie).

OSV-96 12.7mm sniper rifle — specifications
Type of Cartridge 12.7 x 107mm sniper cartridge, 12.7 cartridge for large-caliber machine guns
Firing regime semi-automatic
Accurate firing range to 1700m
Magazine capacity 5
Mass without optic 12.9 kg
Dimensions folded 1154mm x 132mm x 196mm
Length, combat-ready 1746mm
Source of information: the OSV’s Manufacturer, KBP Tula

Like most large-caliber rifles, the OSV-96 produces recoil forces that would be at the ragged edge of human tolerance without technologies to manage the recoil. One is the standard, near universal one on this class of weapon: a muzzle brake that vents gases back, counteracting recoil force with an unpleasant magnification of muzzle blast for the operator and anyone nearby. Some sources claim that the barrel being free-floated and attached only to the receiver at all times and to the bolt only when in battery also reduces recoil; this does not seem logical to us (a free-floating barrel has accuracy, not recoil-reduction benefits.

The weapon appears from photographs to have a multi-lug, interrupted-thread bolt, reminiscent of the breechblock of many heavy artillery pieces. The gas operation appears to be similar to that of the SKS or the pre-WWII Simonov and Tokarev rifles (or, for that matter, to the FN 49 and FAL). The gas piston drives a pushrod which in turn drives a bolt carrier to the rear. All those rifles, however, operate with a Browning-style tipping bolt, and the OSV’s bolt rotates to lock and unlock.

There are not many .50 sniper rifles chambered for the Russian 12.7 x 108mm round, rather than the generally comparable NATO/Browning 12.7 x 99.

Apart from these features, it’s fairly standard stuff: gas operated, rotating bolt, usually fired prone from the bipod, 5-round detachable magazine, accepts day or night optics. The gun’ weight is 12.9 kg (28.4 lb). That’s only slightly better than the recoil-operated Barrett at 14 kg (30.9). There is a shorter-barreled (20″) Barrett on the market for private sales, but what it gains in tractability it loses in effect, with lower velocity. The Barretts we used in the US military were all long-barrelled, or perhaps we should say, the Barretts we had, because we never really did find a good time to employ them. They were fun to play with, but they were never quite the answer for the tactical questions we faced. The latest USGI Barrett is the M107A1, which cuts the gun’s weight to about 26 lb. by several engineering improvements, notably the substitution of a lot of titanium alloys for steel. As a bonus, some of the Ti-alloy structures are stronger and endure high temperatures better than steel, but the material is a bear to machine, making titanium structures expensive and time-consuming (ergo, even more expensive) to produce. This may explain why the OSVs observed to date are innocent of any titanium parts, even though Russia has vast deposits of titanium ores.

The video makes a modest and probably realistic claim of accuracy to 1,700 meters for the OSV-96; that same claim is repeated in other official KBP materials. The Russians reportedly manufacture special precision ammunition, their equivalent of Western “special ball,” “match”, and other high-precision ammo like the Raufoss Mk 211. The OSV can also fire ordinary 12.7 machine gun ammunition as used in the DShK and NPV without ill effect on the gun, but at the price of degraded accuracy. (The tracers seen plinking man-sized targets at 700m in the video are probably MG ammo).

As a bonus, at the end of the video, a video for another Tula product plays. It’s the GSh-18 pistol, a weapon at least as unusual as the OSV; in fact, we found the OSV video by following up on a posting on the GSh-18 at Forgotten Weapons that included this video.

More OSV-96 information is available at Max Popenker’s World.Guns.RU site. There’s an excellent photographic walk-around by Yuri Pasholok that’s worth many thousands of words, too.

Have you seen this rifle?

This Philadelphia Police Department hasn’t, recently (perhaps not this exact rifle, but a select-fire M16A1 exactly like it).

Phillys Missing M16A1


Which is a problem because it’s supposed to be in their academy’s arms room. The department has over a thousand of the rilfles (1,386 to be exact... well, 1,385 for now). They were presented by the Department of Defense, and the PD is slowly converting them to semi-auto — it doesn’t train its officers to use, or allow them to patrol with, full-auto weapons. But they came up short one of the unconverted guns on a recent inventory, something they do very occasionally (inventory, not come up short — updated for clarity).

Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who’s always willing to talk to the press about how irresponsible private gun owners are, is a bundle of quivering excuses, one of which is that his department hasn’t previously lost a weapon on his five year watch. He seems to have forgotten the series the Daliy News ran in 2011 recounting at least eight missing weapons, some of which were automatic weapons. The suspected thieves included department officers. The files for missing weapons were kept isolated in a cabinet with the computer label, “FUBAR storage.” The principal suspect was the stepson of a department big wheel; Ramsey reacted, alright, but only to punish the whistleblowers.  The whistleblowers sued. (Maybe those links will jog the Commissioner’s memory?).

Now, it’s quite possible (indeed, it’s the most likely explanation) that someone miscounted, and no rifle is missing at all. If they’re really missing one, they don’t have a lot of leads. There was no real control of who had access to the arms room, and the inventories seem to be irregular, haphazard and partial. Until this month’s short inventory, the last complete one was in December, 2012, according to Ramsey.

Commissioner Ramsey and Lt. Testa (shown), former head of the Firearms Imvestigation Unit, are accused of a coverup of previous missing weapons.

Commissioner Ramsey and Lt. Testa (shown), former head of the Firearms Investigation Unit, are accused of a coverup of previous missing weapons.

The missing-rifle crisis caused the department to look at its weapons room physical security, and they found it pretty weak. They’ve since improved locks, alarms, and added video surveillance for the first time. They’re also going to take a full 100% inventory of department-owned weapons, also, apparently, for the first time.

For someone who grew up in the Army’s systematic and deep weapons inventory system, this is pretty puzzling. Yeah, it’s hard to get a good count when you’re all tired, and the weapons are worn and the serials half filled-in by arsenal refinishes, but you can’t call the arms room secure until you have a by-serial-number count from two officers or senior NCOs (E-7 and up) that agrees with your inventory. If every mess kit repair battalion in the National Guard can accomplish this at the end of every drill weekend, a bad count makes Philadelphia look pretty foolish.

On the bright side, even if the Department lost control of the weapon and it ended up in criminal hands, they’ve got to lose about 3,000 more to break the known record, held by the ATF’s southwestern region and Phoenix division, in conjunction with their good friends, the Sinaloa Cartel.

PS: honest, we’re not bashing cops here. They’re pretty much bashing themselves… read those links.

Remington… and Tracking Point?

Remington has this teaser video out. It’s been in all the usual places, and hints that they’re announcing something big on May 3 at the NRA Annual Meeting. They call it “Venture X.”

We assess that Venture X is some kind of partnership with, and possibly even acquisition of, Tracking Point. Why? Here are the indicators:

  • Hints that the venture involves a technology company.
  • Resemblance of the Venture X “X logo” to Tracking Point’s Network Tracking Scope reticle, which, to our recollection, was formerly used as a Tracking Point logo.

Screen shot 2013-04-16 at 4.47.57 PM

Screen shot 2013-04-16 at 4.46.18 PM

Boy, them’s some similar-lookin’ X’es.

  • Reuse of video we’ve already seen from Tracking Point in the Remington teaser. Some of that video shows Tracking Point’s mag-fed rifle.
  • The redaction, in the teaser video, of the scope, not always the rifle, and the size of that redaction, big enough to conceal Tracking Point’s sophisticated, active scope.
  • Images in the video (of both guns and of CAD imagery) showing a bolt-action rifle with a pronounced forged Picatinny rail, as would be needed to accept such a scope.
  • If you join the “Venture X” email list, your list membership is processed by Tracking Point associated nodes:

Now, there are indicators that don’t point to Tracking Point. For example, there doesn’t seem to be any way for the trigger of the CAD-file rifle to interface with the Network Tracking Scope in the way that Tracking Point’s own hardware does. And at one point, the drawing on the page and the part a man is handling both represent a polymer shotgun stock.

But we assess those as distractors, just as we assess the many hints of “top security” (dogs, locks, access control, the word “Confidential” on an iPad, etc) as just part of the fun of the video tease. Ergo, Remington and Tracking Point are sittin’ in a tree… and the child of this miscegenation will be unveiled to all of us at the NRA meeting.

Bulletin: IWI Tavor rifles reaching customers

From Oleg Volk comes the news that production IWI Tavor semiauto rifles are reaching end users in the US. If you’re on the waiting list, your time may soon come.

The Tavor is the latest bullpup battle rifle in a crowded field (FAMAS, AUG, L85). Like them, it is quite compact even with a rifle-length barrel. It has a lot of rails  (see below) for the latest Mepro and other Israeli sights, although Oleg’s friend set this one up with American optics. The Tavor is supposed to have excellent ergonomics, reliability, and accuracy; something that can’t be said about all its competitors (we’re lookin’ at you, L85). Tavor foreend - Oleg Volk

For some of Oleg’s classic photography of one of these in desert tan, go to this link at his blog. He has one in basic black that he’ll be shooting — in the photographic sense, but we hope in the other also — soon.

It was also pleasant to see someone else knows the deuterocanonical book of Judith, or at least its long tail in western art and culture.

A key source of historical small-caliber, high-velocity thinking

While small caliber high velocity (SCHV) infantry projectiles are a result of a very long-standing trend, with velocities increasing from the time the atlatl let the human throw a spear harder and velocities steadily following a downward path as research and enabling technology converge, most readers probably haven’t read the key documents. Many of them are linked by Daniel Watters at The Gun Zone, and formal American SCHV research (which was being replicated by researchers overseas) goes back at least as far as the 1920s.

That said, a very key document in the development of the 5.56mm M16 from the NATO caliber AR-10 was this Ballistics Research Laboratory report by R. H. Kent, The Theory of the Motion of a Bullet about its Center of Gravity in Dense Media, with Applications to Bullet Design. It This version dates from 1957, but is a reprint of  1930 report. (Thanks to Dan Watters for the correction in the comments. We guess that’s what explains why the reference round is the .30 M1 cartridge, not the WWII vintage .30 M3 ball).

One set of interesting findings from the abstract:

It is pointed out that a large value of k may be obtained by the use of bullets having light noses and it is indicated that for a given muzzle energy there will be greater energy absorbed from light bullets than from heavy bullets. The theory is applied to the effect of the caliber on the amount of energy absorbed in the medium. Itisdiscoveredthat at short ranges, the amount of energy absorbed will tend to increase as the caliber is reduced.

The paper is not fully accessible to you unless you can read sheet music (equations) and are comfortable with differential calculus. But there are insights even an MBA can find. For example, after revealing the experimental result that bullets in animal tissue perform much like bullets in water, Kent compares the effect of medium density (air or water) on the projo’s “stabillity factor,” which is a variable influenced by bullet design and spin:

“s” is known as the stability factor of the projectile. In air, near the muzzle, its value is 2 for the Cal .30 M1 bullet, but in water, near the muzzle, its value will be only 1/400. Thus, so far as our computations are concerned, it may be neglected.

He goes on from there to demonstrate that the twist of the rifling has no material effect on the stability of the projectile in the denser medium, a conclusion that is at variance with, if nothing else, early AR-15 sales claims.

But there were definite advantages to the SCHV projectile. These conclusions explain a couple of them:

[I]t may be seen that for ranges of more than four inchea in water, the greatest energy is absorbed from the smallest bullet. If the bullet were to hit an object like a bone, the smallest bullet would show a still greater superiority as far as the amount of energy absorbed i s concerned.

From the preceding discussion, it may be seen that if the caliber of the infantry rifle is reduced, that no reduction in effectiveness at short ranges will be obtained, and that in fact at these ranges the stopping and shocking power will probably increase. At long ranges, the srnaller bullets will have lost more velocity than the larger bullets and will thus have a smaller energy absorption at long ranges. This characteristicofthesmallerbullet should prove advmtageous since, at mch ranges, it is probably desirable that the bullet wounds eh&l not be lethal.

Others, of course, were flatter trajectory at shorter ranges (which happen to be the most typical combat ranges), and reduced recoil.The ultimate conclusion of Kent’s report, stripped of its bodyguard of scientific cautions:

[C]onsiderable improvement in the effectiveness of the infantry weapon may be obtained by a reduction of the caliber below that which now exists….

And of course, he followed that up with a call for — what else? — more research!

This is one of the foundational documents of 20th Century weapons science, and if carefully read, you can see the genesis of the peculiarly base-heavy 5.45 Russian round, as well as our own 5.56.


This post has been updated in two ways. A correction from Daniel E. Watters has been included in the text. And we have cleaned up some messy pronoun misuse that got by our layers and layers of editors.

Syrian Jihadis Firing a .50

Here you have, perhaps, some of that nonlethal assistance we’ve finally given to Syrian resistance forces, after all the guys friendly to us were whacked by Assad or their extremist rivals, and nobody’s left to receive the goodies but guys who are either Al-Qaeda, Iranian stooges, or some new and even more extremist Islamist barbarians.

Hat tip Pat Dollard, who suggests this is “Obama sending Al-Qaeda Navy SEALs sniper rifles.” Steady on, Pat. There’s another possible explanation.

AS-50s in the hands of AI's own shooters on BBC's Top Gear program.

AS-50s in the hands of AI’s own shooters on BBC’s Top Gear program.

This “Syrian Resistance” propaganda video shows Syrian jihadis firing an Accuracy International AS50 semi-automatic sniper system. The AS50 is AI’s flagship weapon, and is only available to select governments; they don’t even have it on their website. (They do have the discontinued bolt-action AW50 and its successor AX50, which should give you some ideas of how they think about the extreme-range gun and its MG-sourced round).

This video (and possibly Pat’s story, uncredited?) led to a rather overdramatic article, calling the AS50 “the world’s most powerful rifle,” and attributing near-magical properties to the weapon.

AI AS-50 2The AS50 is a good rifle, but it’s not magic. It’s a similar capability to the Barrett M107 (etc.) and the Serbu BFG-50A, but at a multiple of several times the price. You could argue that it’s less powerful than those worthy guns, as it has a smaller magazine (a 5-round single-stacker, instead of the 10-shot double-stack the Barrett and Serbu share). There are claims that the AS50 is much more accurate, but if AI is making those claims they’re not making them publicly, and we defy you to find an independent test of a production AS50 on the net, let alone a comparo between it and its competitors. AI itself makes quite humble, realistic range claims for its other .50s (1600m). One AS50 strength is that it is more compact and lighter than the now-standard-issue Barrett. Lighter is relative; it still weighs substantially more than a general purpose machine gun, and three times the weight of most sniper rifles. Here’s another video (thanks again to Pat Dollard for finding it).

AI’s has had financial woes and has struggled to fill orders, even for US Government customers. Along with those customers, known buyers include the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia. While Pat Dollard was right to flag this as interesting, he’s premature to blame the provision of this weapon on the Obama Administration; Occam’s Razor suggests that the Saudis, probably the second largest financiers of terrorism after Iran (and the largest financiers of Sunni terror), are the source of the Syrian jihadis’ weapons.

Some wonder, to paraphrase Hillary, what difference it makes who wins in Syria. The Assad regime, a bona fide terror sponsor, is the face of authoritarian evil, despite the admiration that the New York literary set always has for a dictator with a good line and some visual style. And his jihadi opponents, while they squabble among themselves over fine points of Moslem supersitition, are the face of totalitarian evil — even more dedicated enemies of American interests than their Baathist opponents.

We have no friends among Islamists of any kind, and it’s more than a bit tiresome to see the same persons, news agencies, and institutions who were trying to sell the idea of “Yuri Andropov, closet pro-Western reformer” in the seventies, now breathlessly peddling “the reformers of the Taliban/Syrian Jihad/Hamas/Pasdaran/Moslem Brotherhood”, the target for the new appeasement. Or collaboration. It’s bad enough that they were unchastened by their misread of Communism; “no one could have known!” they wail, as if we who knew and were shouted down never existed. But they pronounce confidently on what Islamists believe, without any understanding of Qutb, of the Wahhabi/Salafists, or of the Deobandi movement.

They do not want peace with us. They want us to submit. Or die. In that, they are much like the Soviets. But the Soviets were materialistic and practical; these new enemies cannot, unlike Khrushchev, Brezhnev or, yes, even Andropov, be deterred. They teach murder and even death as sacraments in their blood cult.

Yet that’s who the bozos in the foreign policy establishment and the national command authority have put forward as our new allies in the region. There was a time when there was pro-Western resistance potential in Syria, but that time was squandered, and the pro-Western students and professors were the first casualties of Assad’s Baathist crackdown, any survivors the first victims of Islamist purification. They now dwell in dungeons or graves.

When the Syrian fight is over, what happens to the AS50s? Simple, they’ll be used by terrorists against US and allied targets.

Serbu Firing-Pin Failure, illustrated

Serbu Firearms of Tampa, Florida has had a failure of the firing pin in their BFG-50A .50 caliber semiauto. It looks like this.

Good News-Bad News

Here’s what Serbu said on their Facebook page, March 6th:

Bad news: Your BFG-50A firing pin may look like this.
Good news: You won’t even know it, because the gun will still fire!

Apparently a vendor didn’t follow the drawing and apparently we didn’t catch that fact. If your firing pin DOES look like this please contact us about a free replacement!

In the comments below the post, owner Jay Langston asked if that was indeed his hosed firing pin; Serbu owner Mark Serbu confirmed, and Jay commented that the gun did fire in that condition — 60% of the time. Not quite the “good news” Serbu trumpeted, but quite interesting.

Considering the failure, that’s a quasi-safe failure mode. The gun doesn’t appear to be made more dangerous (we seem to recall that the Serbu pin floats like an AR; a spring that required a return spring might be somewhat hazardous in this mode, possible to fire uncommanded on bolt closing, but remember too we’re talking about a .50 caliber gun; a light tap isn’t going to set those primers off). And the gun isn’t made completely inert.

Still, you might want to add a spare firing pin to your spare parts kit. (The wear parts on every gun are different, but good and cheap spares to have on hand are firing pins, extractors and springs, trigger-mech parts, and mag-retaining tackle).

It’s not unusual to find guns that have broken parts and still function. Once, we replaced a missing M16 extractor spring with a section of a twig of green wood; it got us through two days of range fires. Not recommended, but we had no spare parts kit (and immediately built one after that!)

The AR ancestry of the Serbu firing pin is evident here. (Like an AR, the BFG-50A also has a direct impingement gas system, although it works more like the original Ljungman than the AR; the bolt of the BFG doesn’t form an expansion chamber). The gun externally resembles the Barrett M82 (and its descendants), and it takes M82 mags, but that first fact (resemblance) is driven by mission — how different from a Barrett can a semi .50 get? —  and the second (mags) is simply a common-sense decision on Serbu’s part. Ask any 7.62 combat rifle shooter how he feels about having three different box mags in stock. Now, the Serbu’s bolt mechanism is quite different from the Barrett (or from the AR).

Unlike the Barrett, we haven’t shot the Serbu yet. We shot the Barrett a lot at the range — it’s a blast to fire! — but never really had a tactical solution for a .50 semi rifle. It’s a niche gun. Or a plinker for the filthy rich — there is that angle. They look like a stand-up company.

It would be interesting to see just how they say the subcontractor that made the pin deviated from the drawing. It looks to us like the failure of the part was due to a flaw in the steel, or bad heat-treating. There was a small crack at first that then suddenly sheared (you can see part of the crack is soiled, but most is clean and fresh-looking). A flaw in the steel might have been detected by Magnafluxing or dye penetrant inspection, we think (dye penetrant is used more with nonferrous metals, because Magnaflux works fine on magnetic steels).  Might bad heat-treat also have been detected by a sharp Magnaflux operator? We don’t think so. For stuff like that you have to trust your subcontractors’ processes and their integrity.

Subs that do aerospace work are often burdened with systems that make this kind of checklist-able compliance pretty routine. Despite that, you still get the occasional commuter propjet that crashes because someone sanded a propeller hub wrong, or small-plane cylinder that lets go at night over a cold, wet bay because somebody’s QA inspectors missed a big inclusion in the casting.