Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

A Wild West Story, Complete with a Presentation Winchester

Hendry N. Brown, during a stint on the right side of the law. (Does embiggen a little).

Hendry N. Brown, during a stint on the right side of the law. He does look a bit charismatic to us. (Embiggens a little).

Hendry N. Brown (sometimes “Henry”) was a man who moved fluidly from one side to the other of the law, and was a character who begs to have a Western made about him. Today, Medicine Lodge, Kansas, is smack dab in the middle of the United States, but in April, 1884 it was on a steadily civilizing frontier. A rough 17 years prior, Medicine Lodge Creek had been a rude outpost where the Kiowa and Comanche signed a peace treaty with the United States, a treaty that is apparently still held in the National Archives; but in 1873 a settlement was established there, and by 1880 it had been formally incorporated. There was a downtown, with a brick courthouse, and other public buildings; and, germane to this story, a bank and a Town Marshal.

It was still a pretty rough place. The first newspaper in town, the Barber County Mail, one Cochran, had, for reasons unclear, offended the locals, and absent tar and feathers, he was coated with sorghum molasses and sandburs, and ridden out of town on a rail. Rescued by another group of townsmen, he opted to leave the town anyway and had one of them make him an offer for his business, and journalism in Medicine Lodge tragically continued. (This puts Jill Abramson’s whining about her loss of her half-million-dollar job into a certain perspective, doesn’t it?).

Brown was well known around town. After a youth spent in the company of criminals, including Billy the Kid, which gained him a certain notoriety, he had gone straight as the town Marshal of Tuscosa, Texas, and later, Caldwell, Kansas. As a lawman, he brought order to Caldwell:

While assistant marshall, Brown had numerous items appear in the newspaper attesting to his fearlessness. For a short time during October of 1882, Brown left the police force and went to the “Strip” to hunt for rustlers. After rejoining the police force in the middle of October 1882, Brown was appointed as Marshall.

How he brought order was right out of a Hollywood Western: he shot the disorderly. As the Kansas Historical Society writes,

Caldwell’s tough cowtown reputation had worsened in the months before Brown’s arrival as the city recorded four murders (all of them lawmen) and eight lynchings.

In the face of such lawlessness, Brown was a welcome addition to the town’s police force. The Caldwell Post, advocating “a little bit of fine shooting” to keep order in the town, bragged he was “one of the quickest men on the trigger in the Southwest.”

Brown shot two men dead in Caldwell’s main street in 1883, as the historical marker on the site of one of the shootings records.

Brown's Winchester's Presentation Plate. Kansas SHS. (Barely embiggens).

Brown’s Winchester’s Presentation Plate. Kansas SHS. (Barely embiggens).

Brown settled in well; he fell in love with and married a local girl. He hired an old friend, big Ben Wheeler, as Assistant Marshal. In January, 1883, the grateful townspeople presented him with an engraved (and some sources say, gold-plated) Winchester repeater. The rifle, Brown’s most prized possession, had an elliptical plate with an inscription that read:

Presented to City Marshall H.N. Brown for valuable services rendered in behalf of the Citizens of Caldwell Kas., A.N. Colson, Mayor, Dec. 1882.

Several sources suggest he actually took the Winchester along on his ill-starred expedition to Medicine Lodge.

Brown's gang of robbers, hauled back to Medicine Lodge and hobbled with ankle chains. l-r: Wesley, Brown, Smith, Wheeler. (Click to embiggen).

Brown’s gang of robbers, hauled back to Medicine Lodge and hobbled with ankle chains. l-r: Wesley, Brown, Smith, Wheeler. (Click to embiggen).

How Brown squared his life as a lawman with his return to bank robbery is unknown, or why he did it. But in a little over a year from receiving the presentation rifle, he led a robbery of the town bank in Medicine Lodge. Wheeler joined him, as did two local cowboys, William Smith and a man known variously as John Wesley and Harry Hill. Unlike Brown, none of the other three had a criminal history.

They were about to get one, but they wouldn’t have long to enjoy it.

Shortly after 9:00 a.m., during a heavy rain storm, four men rode into town from the west. There were few people on the streets and the men were able to hitch their horses to the bank coal shed. The bank had been open a short time. Mr. Geppert, the cashier, had just begun work settling the monthly accounts, while Bank President, E.W. Payne, sat at his desk writing. Three of the four members entered the bank, one going to the cashiers window and one going to the lattice door in the rear of the office. When ordered to throw up their hands, Mr. Geppert complied while Mr. Payne seized a revolver. Four shots were fired by the robbers, two were received by Mr. Geppert and one by Mr. Payne. Rev. Friedly, who was standing across the street, heard the shots and alarmed Marshall Dean, who was standing in front of Herrington’s & Smith’s grocery store. The Marshall opened fire on the robbers and they also returned shots. The robbers broke for their horses and rode out of town. In a few minutes a group of well mounted, well armed, determined men were in hot pursuit. The posse was headed by Barney O’Conner, Vernon Lytle and Wayne McKinney.

Those that remained in town rushed into the bank only to find Mr. Geppert laying dead in the vault, weltering in his blood with two holes in his chest. Mr. Payne was lying near the vault groaning with pain. The pistol ball had entered behind his right shoulder blade, probably grazing his spine. Hope for his survival was doubtful.

The Medicine Lodge bank-robber posse (This one doesn't embiggen, sorry).

The Medicine Lodge bank-robber posse (This one doesn’t embiggen, sorry).

The robbers escaped at first, but the posse quickly tracked them and surrounded them in a ravine. The entire town turned out to join the armed encirclement, and the thwarted thieves gave themselves up. The posse members were surprised to find that the robbers were men that they knew and didn’t regard as criminals, prior to that day. But the deaths of Geppert and Payne (who succumbed the next morning) changed the calculus. Both men were well-respected; Geppert left a wife and son, and Payne a wife and nine children.

The Kansas State Historical Society suggests that Brown committed the robbery because he was “living beyond his means.” According to a letter to his wife Maude, written on what he never knew would be the last day of his life, Brown’s objective was, quite baldly, to get money:

…it was all for you, my sweet wife, and for the love I have for you. … Oh, how I did hate to leave you on last Sunday eve, but I did not think this would happen. I thought we could take in the money and not have any trouble with it; but a man’s fondest hopes are sometimes broken with trouble.

Well, of course; no one ever robbed a bank for any other reason but for money, and they always think they can get away with it. Historically, most have wound up with neither money nor liberty, yet even 130 years later they still do it. And some of them have wound up dead.

Brown denied firing any shot, and said only one man fired, in his letter to his wife (transcribed completely at the link). And Wheeler is the man who fired the two shots that killed Geppert (who had his hands up!), so perhaps he also shot Payne. But the Kansas State Historical Society thinks that Brown did it. Regardless, all the robbers seem to have fired at Marshal Dean and their pursuers.

One more act in this frontier drama remained to play out. Medicine Lodge was a civilized town, a part of the United States. It had a courthouse and a judge as well as a bank and a newspaper. But its people were still rough frontiersmen, and their idea of justice was not the idea current in what was then the refined city of Philadelphia, but a rough frontier justice. Geppert was dead and Payne dying, and someone had to pay. The Caldwell Journal  — the newspaper owned by the dying Payne — wrote that, “The impression prevailed that before many hours the bodies of four murderers would swing in the soft night air.” 

A mob gathered, as Brown had feared. In the ancient pages of Tacitus, in today’s streets, and certainly in 1884 Kansas, in  a mob is a thing with a life of its own.

When the part returned to Medicine Lodge, they were placed in jail and were surrounded by a crowd of angry citizens who cried “Hang Them!”. Later that night, three shots fired rapidly broke the silence. By this signal a crowd of armed men marched to the jail and demanded the prisoners. The sheriff refused but the sheriff and the posse were overpowered and the jail doors opened. The prisoners in the cell made a sudden dash for freedom and shots rang out from everywhere. Brown ran a few steps from the jail and fell shredded with gunshots. Wheeler was then captured and was badly wounded. Smith and Wesley were captured at the jail door. Wheeler, Smith and Wesley were taken by the crowd to an Elm tree in the bottom east of town and told that it there was anything they would like to say, to say it now for their time of life was short.

At the last Wheeler showed weakness and begged for mercy. Wesley was also upset, but answered by requesting that his body be sent to friends in Vernon, Texas. When the ropes were ready they were fastened around the robbers’ necks and were tossed over a limb. In a few minutes the bodies hung swinging in the wind.

The jail where Brown and his men were held was torn down long ago, and the site redeveloped. In 2000, at least, it was the site of the 1st National Bank drive-through window.

Of course, any true weapons man will be thinking: whatever became of Brown’s prized Winchester? It was in the possession of Sheriff C.F. Rigg, who intended to dispose of it as Brown had desired — return it to his widow in Caldwell. But it was stolen from Rigg, and for a long time its whereabouts were unknown until it surfaced in the hands of a Texas collector. It came, by a circuitous route and at great expense, to the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka in 1977, where, as of 2000, it could be seen by appointment; it’s now on display in the main gallery.

And so we have one more illustration of the sad fact that crime does pay, just not in the coin the criminal intends to collect. For the four doomed robbers of Medicine Lodge didn’t get a dime from the robbery for which they threw away their lives and their previously good reputations. “The wages of sin is death,” is not only Scripture but also a fairly practical guide to the consequences of violent criminality — then, or now.

Let’s Make AK Mags

In this no-foolin’ great video, you see how AK-47 magazines are made, set to less-annoying-than-usual-for-YouTube music.

The crew file in to a hangar, which has industrial machinery set around its periphery (and is cleaner than we’d expect), and take their place at the machines. Here is the video; below it (although we really enjoyed watching this one on full screen) are the steps and the time hacks where you can see them, plus a few words on our impressions.

0:00 We start off in space and zoom in to Europe. Where are we going? East side of the Adriatic — inland — Bosnia! Northern Bosnia. (The manufacturer is the Matra Group, in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and this is their promo video). Banja Luka is in the Republic of Srpska, a Serbian enclave whose origins lie in the troubles of the 1990s; The Matra Group shares an address with several other manufacturing businesses.

0:10 Workers in blue jackets file in. A sheet of metal stands waiting, ready to be fed into a press. Some wear blue baseball caps with a company logo, Kosmos (another of the businesses at this address, and possibly the parent of ). We see a brief shot of a digital readout scrolling.

0:27 Half a minute in, it’s mag-making time. Gloved workers carefully hand-feed a sheet of steel into a sheet-metal brake. It’s making the big, unwieldy sheets into strips that can easily be fed by one man into a machine.

0:50: On to a punch press. What’s it stamping out? Mag-half blanks. Here you see the classic curved shape of the AK mag for the first time, but it’s only a flat sheet.

1:10: The mag-half blanks are given a quick eyeball inspection and placed into a plastic tray. When the tray is full, they’ll go for further processing. It’s interesting just how manual the process is.

1:26: Another punch press (or maybe the same one with different dies?) is at once punching out and forming a bulge in parts that will clearly be mag followers. A worker has to feed a strip of steel by hand, and triggers the press with a foot pedal. The future followers are caught in a plastic tray, too. Note that everybody is wearing gloves — the edges of freshly stamped or punched parts are sharp! Despite the gloves, this plant would give an OSHA inspector the screaming willies.

1:47: Another press punches the holes or dimples in the sides of the follower that retain the magazine spring. (We skipped the process that bent the followers into a U shape). At 1:57, a worker gives the follower an eyeball inspection.

2:03: Next step, the blanks are carefully placed into a forming die, and the characteristic ribs of the AK mag are pressed into place. It looks like the locating pins for the die also help locate the magazine-half blank. Each die does two magazine halves simultaneously, side-by-side, a left and a right. Can’t tell from the video if there is one press that does two dies (four halves) at once, or two separate presses operating individually.

2:33: The worker removing the halves test-fits them together. From this angle it looks like there are two separate presses stamping the halves.

2:38: the halves are checked on a machined gage.

2:40: What’s this? A forge? We weren’t expecting that, but yes, a part of the AK mag is forged steel, it turns out. Workers remove a small, glowing steel billet from the furnace and place it, with tongs, into a forging die.

2:48: Wham! The part is forged. As a worker sprays and removes it, you can see it’s the tab on the back of the mag that engages the magazine catch. They dwell on this process for a while as it’s colorful and interesting.

3:00: A line of rough forgings have their final shape on the outside, but the mag-facing side has a lot off forging flash — all the mass of the billet that was surplus to the needs of the catch.

3:05: We see the first auto-fed machine, a Rube Goldberg contraption that is stamping out small blanks. These blanks will form the front magazine catch of the magazine, the point where it hooks in

3:20: Even this automated machine needs human tending. While the feed in is automatic, a worker stands by and winds up the scrap as it comes out of the machine.

3:38: Magazine lips are stamped out, fed, as usual in this factory, by hand.

4:08: The magazine rocker catch (front catch) is formed from the blanks we saw being punched out a 3:05.

4:15 (or so): The rear magazine catch forgings go into a press and have their forging flash sheared off.

4:38: A vertical milling machine, liberally spraying coolant, moves along a line of jigged magazine left-halves, surfacing them where they will fit into the rifle. The process is repeated for the right halves. We reckon the purpose of this is to ensure dimensional accuracy of the finished mag.

5:00: An enormous horizontal mill with a cutting disk trims a part to precise dimensions. Can’t make out what part this is under the coolant.

5:20: Vertical mill again. Can’t see what it’s doing at all, but it has an end-mill in it.

5:40: Spot-welding the magazine halves together. The jig, which provides rollers for the mag to move in relative to the single-point spot-welder, is ingenious.

 

5:42: another camera angle shows us the paired electrodes of the spot welder that welds the seam on the back of the magazine.

5:54: A single-point spot welder is used to attach: the nose cap and catch once in the frontal face of the mag (we see this operation from 4 angles); the same part, twice on each side;

6:07: Another single point welder adds the spot welds in the frontal aspect of the mag (inside the banana curve).

6:14: A special-purpose four-point spot welder welds the forged mag catch onto the rear of the mag.

6:17: Large array of bluing tanks.

6:24: freshly blued mag bodies.

6:30: We close with shots of complete mags and their components

These mags are interesting. Like Chinese magazines, but unlike most Eastern European ones, they only have two fore-and-aft reinforcing ribs at the base of the mag, and not three more ribs at the back. But unlike Chinese mags, they have the prominent back rib of all other steel AK mags.

Hat tip, Miguel, who got it from ENDO, who…

Miguel adds, à propos the mags:

Over-engineered? Yes. But they last forever. Some years back, I bought a bunch of “rescued” AK mags from the Balkan conflict, some in what appeared to be really bad shape and with dirt and even rest of vegetation inside. Some naval jelly, elbow grease and Krylon later I had a whole bunch of perfectly functioning AK mags. Only two of them were not recoverable and that was because the metal of the body was out of spec. Still I ended up with 2 spares sets of springs, followers and base plates.

We’ve had similar luck, including making a simple die to force dents out of AK mags. But it practically takes an Act of God to dent them in the first place.

UPDATE:

Because this AM post was late going up, we’re going to hold the 1100 post until 1400 to give this one some time to be seen on top.

Seeing a Bullet’s Trace

This can be seen in some other situations. For example, .45 ACP rounds on a humid day leave a visible trace, and target and trick shooters have used that fact to help them better themselves for years. But here is a short NSSF video on using “trace” — the wake of the bullet — to spot and call a miss on a long rifle range.

For most rifle shooters, you’ll need a pretty long range (and fairly still or at least steady-state wind) to see this. The video was shot at 600 meters or so. Gusts, together with surface and obstacle friction, break up the air masses too much for this to be visible in gusty winds.

Still, it’s a neat pro trick.

Gilboa Constrictor

OK, it’s really called the “Gilboa Snake,” but our name is way better, no?

Gilboa  Snake

Anyway, what it is is a unique dual-upper AR-based weapons system from Gilboa Rifles of Israel; it was a surprise at the NRA Show and people are talking about it, although nobody in the USA has one yet thanks to the political police at the BATFE and the laws they enforce (for which you can thank your Congressman and Senator).

The Snake has a trigger system that only fires the left barrel. The left barrel’s gas system itself then cycles the reload for its barrel whilst firing the right barrel. The right barrel’s gas system reloads the right barrel, and then your trigger is reset to fire again. Since every trigger pull (or press, for you NRA terminology pedants) fires two barrels and therefore two shots, it’s a “machine gun” under the National Firearms Act and therefore it is banned from manufacture and sale in the USA, under the Hughes Amendment.

So Gilboa, which is a gun-making branch of an Israeli defense firm, Silver Shadow, started by retired paratrooper LTC Amos Golan, is redesigning the gun to have two separate triggers, one for each barrel. This loses some of the benefits of automatically firing two rounds with a delay measured in (says Gilboa) nanoseconds: the slight dispersion around the single aiming point that increases hit probability, and the ability to put two rounds very close together in space and time to defeat barriers like auto windshields.

The mechanism sounded at first like some update of the old siamesed Gast machine gun, but it’s really quite different; the Gast’s twin barrels and twin mechanisms were mirror images of one another, and the gun operated by recoil.

The receivers, upper and lower alike, are machined from billet 7075-T6 aluminum. The two barrels are set 3 centimeters (a little over one inch) apart, and are harmonized to converge on the single point of aim at 100 meters (although this can be altered). Each side of the gun ejects to its side and has its own ejection port, ejection port cover, and cartridge deflector. There is a single central Picatinny rail along the top of the receiver and forearm. There is no buffer in the stock, so a pistol Snake is a possibility, as are all kinds of detachable and folding stocks.

 

Gilboa Snake

According to an Israeli magazine article (.pdf) hosted on Gilboa’s website, the gun fires from an open bolt, another thing that must change for US sales.

The Gilboa is no lightweight. With 9.5″ barrels it weighs a good nine pounds, and that’s not counting two loaded magazines. Normal 20- and 30-round box magazines will fit, but most drum magazines will not.

Gilboa’s initial design was the well-publicized Corner Shot add-on for the Glock pistol. Their initial Gilboa Assault Rifle was a much more conventional single-barreled AR-based rifle. All in all, they offer 11 different major versions of the rifle, most in either piston or direct impingement variations. One can be excused for wondering if they have more variations than actual serial numbers so far, but Gilboa has one of Israel’s top weapons men in Efraim Yaari, formerly of IWI. Yaari is, as we understand it, principally responsible for the design of both the single-barrel Gilboa and its siamese-twins sibling, the Snake.

To close, here’s a look at another one of the other Gilboa variations: a 9mm SMG using Glock magazines.

Gilboa 9mm

 

The Gilboa guns have a certain aesthetic to them, one that’s a little bit reminscent of the Glock itself. Certainly Amos Golan will be gladdened if his guns are anything like as popular as the once-oddball Austrian pistols. Thirty years later, polymer pistols are normal. In 2044, will most rifles have double barrels and actions?

What’s a WWII Carbine worth?

T3 Carbine serial numberWell, maybe about a grand or so. What if it has a low serial number? And is in really good condition. Well, that elevates the price a little.

What if it’s an M3 with sniper scope? Well, a lot more. For one thing, the M3s were all select-fire — a selective-fire M2 carbine, on the National Firearms Registry and Tracking Record database (in other words, civilian-transferable) is worth quite a bit, maybe $10k.

With the M3 infrared sniper-scope, then, the price ascends; it’s now a rare and historic weapon (the second night vision system used in combat, and the first American one, and the first US production system).

 

But what if it’s a T3, not an M3, one of the original run of a very short number of experimental, prototypical systems? Then… the sky’s the limit. We have now launched from the pinnacle of rare and historic weapon into the stratosphere of extremely rare collection centerpiece, and the price must rise accordingly. (This T3, also, appears to be semi-auto only, simplifying transfer and possession — some states still ban private ownership of Class III toys).

T3 Carbine with Scope Left

But what if it’s the prototype, complete with provenance from the inventor and a ton of information about the thing? We have now rocketed from extremely rare collection centerpiece into the rarefied interstellar space of unique historic museum piece, and you can expect that if you bid for this gun at Rock Island’s upcoming auction, you’ll be bidding against some pretty big museums. Not to mention the first rank of US Martial Arms collectors.

Here’s how Rock Island Auctions describes the piece (paragraph breaks added, and a couple of obvious typos fixed — grammatical howlers were left alone as an exercise for the reader):

This is the Original Inland Division T3 Carbine serial number 00306 along with the Prototype M2 Infrared Sniper scope that was used by Mr. William Garstang in 1943/44 when he developed this system for the US Army. There is solid supporting documentation, original letters and photographs of Mr. Garstang and his wife holding this exact T3 Carbine/M2 Sniper scope set-up in their house when he was working on this design, that authenticates this entire lot.

The T3 Carbines were developed and produced on an extremely limited basis with less than 1000 total ever made in their own serial number range. As all carbine collectors know 99.9% of all these carbines were demilitarized after WWII, with the only true examples known to have survived having been retained by either the Inland Division or Winchester factories as display models. One or two may have been retained by the optical companies.

This one being the original T3 carbine/M2 Sniper scope set-up remained in Mr. Garstang’s personal possession while he worked on the design in 1944 and then after WWII until 1976 when he sold it. The documentation that accompanies this lot are letters from Mr. Garstang to one of the past owners briefly explaining how he had this weapon along with a discussion about an article he wrote in 1946 for the Electronics Laboratories, Inc. company newsletter, “The Electronic Beacon”. This article discussed his involvement with the design work and specifically listing the serial number of this carbine. Also accompanying this lot is a copy of the magazine that shows Mr. Garstang on the cover as well as several pictures on the inside with him at his company in 1945/46 showing several civilian and military officials when he demonstrated this design.

Also accompanying this lot is a copy of the December 1946 issue of “Mechanics Illustrated” which has another article by Mr. Garstang about his small electronic company and work he did during WWII and in the post war years, with a mention of his numerous electronic patents (over 50) he held. This article also shows his wife holding this carbine and M2 scope setup in their home.

These T3 carbines were specifically designated to be used with the M2 Infrared Sniper Scope. This was the original “see in the night” design on which all following night vision devices were based. These T3 carbines and infrared sniper scopes saw service towards the end of WWII especially on Luzon and Okinawa.

The primary difference between a T3 carbines and a standard M1 carbine is that the T3 carbines had a one piece integral scope base brazed and pinned on top of the receiver. This integral base may have been one of the primary reasons for the removal and demilitarization of this model from Army inventory as it was later replaced by the standard M3 Infrared Sniper scope conversion package, with the separate long mounting bar. This allowed all standard carbines to be converted for use of the infrared system and then back into a standard M1 carbine.

This one-piece integral scope mount forced a relocation of the nomenclature and serial number from the top of the receivers to the right rear side of the receiver. This carbine has the following markings; top of the barrel “INLAND MFG. DIV./GENERAL MOTORS” and the right side of the receiver “U.S. CARBINE/CAL. 30 T3″. The top rear portion of the receiver heel is marked “INLAND DIV/0306″.

The carbine still retains all of its original issue parts, and factory parkerized finish. Some of the noted parts are a type three barrel band with bayonet lug, a flat blue bolt, the magazine release with only a single capital letter “M” on the side, a parkerized trigger and a parkerized unmarked push button safety. The carbine is fitted with a late four rivet hand guard and a super rare all original T3 carbine stock. The stock has the Inland “IO” proof in the sling slot with a large crossed cannon ordnance cartouche on the right side of the butt stock. The left side of the stock has been correctly modified and is fitted with the original “silent” on-off switch as designed by Mr. Garstang for the T3 carbine. The carbine has an original T3 stock that has the large squared off bulbous forend where the original M2 Infrared lamp and pistol grip assembly is mounted.

The M2 electronic telescope or sniper scope that is mounted on top does not carry a nomenclature plate (which would be correct for this model being a prototype, prior to full production) and is only marked with “D-5637-7-1″ on the underside of the body of the scope.

In addition to the items noted above, this lot contains the following additional original accessories: the original M2 power pack and M2 battery for this model (uncharged brand new) an original hand-held, “snooper-scope” pistol grip mount assembly, an original first pattern green plastic/rubberized designed backpack/carrying pouch with original 1936 straps that carries the power pack and battery, (this is not the later black rubberized backpack), an original green canvas carrying case to carry the carbine with the scope and emitter lamp when installed on the carbine, an original spare electron tube (still in the original WWII box), for the electronic telescope an original WWII green canvas web belt with double M1 carbine magazine pouch with two magazines, an original M4 M1 Carbine bayonet and scabbard made by A.C.C., an original T-23 designated M1 carbine flash hider, marked “Hider-Flash-T23/Carbine/CAL.-30″, a super rare field recharging cable that allows the power pack battery to be charged by Jeep battery, a super rare electron tube, removal tool, and an original (unaltered) hard back War Department Technical manual (TM 5-9341) dated June 1945 showing complete operation of the M2 scope, with disassembly procedures wiring diagrams etc. still marked secret and signed by William Garstang on the back cover.

To adequately store and show this rare carbine and scope set-up, the previous owner purchased a small steamer trunk with metal corners and edges that he had converted to a complete “turn-key” display set up. Inside is a custom designed storage areas made from oak that has compartments for the T3 carbine, M2 telescope and lamp/pistol grip assembly, and all the aforementioned accessories all packed inside the trunk.

RIA sees this going for $35,000 to $65,000, and who are we to disagree? (That sum does not include a “buyer’s premium” of 17.5%, which goes to the house). In our past experience, Rock Island, like most auctioneers, tends to understate probable selling prices slightly, especially on exotic lots; this encourages more bids and, in the end, gets the house and the consignor the best possible price, and helps those of us interested in the market understand it. (All markets run on pure information).

T3 Sniperscope Display

The condition of the T3 set is described as follows:

Excellent plus, totally original overall. The T3 carbine retains 99% correct original parkerized finish with only slight wear on the correct blue bolt from cycling the action. The stock and hand guard are also excellent plus, showing only minor handling marks in a few areas with clear sharp cartouche and proofs.

The mounted infrared lamp and pistol assembly and the actual electronic M2 telescope are also like new showing 99% original finish with minor edge and high spot wear. All the various accessories; M4 bayonet and scabbard, web belt and magazine pouch etc. are all excellent. The magazines and pictures are all original and also excellent.

This carbine (00306) and its attached original prototype M2 scope, being the prototype “rig” used for development of the infrared M2 program would be the first successful infrared weapon system in history, put into production, making carbine 00306 and its scope the “first of the first” infrared weapon system in history. The M1 infrared scope program plagued by design and technical problems was rolled into the M2 program and never reached full production stage. This significant example of World War II history best exemplifies our technological edge over our enemies and is worthy of being in the Smithsonian Museum!

Here’s RIA’s Kevin Hogan’s preview of the auction as a whole:

There are hundreds of sporting arms, 250 US martial arms including, for example, five Johnson M1941 rifles and an original USMC 1903A1 sniper rig, 175 German weapons, including at least three MP43/44s and a Himmler inscribed presentation Walther PP, and numerous weapons from other nations, including an extremely rare (in the USA) Izhevsk Dragunov SVD. There are also some fine edged weapons, if you roll that way (and we do).

There also seem to be none of the “five rifles with a mix of junk and jewels” that we’ve noticed at some earlier auctions. In most cases, where a lot comprises a pair of weapons, it’s a logical pair. All in all it looks like a great auction.

Aimo Lahti

Aimo Lahti

Aimo Lahti with a Suomi KP/31.

Aimo Lahti was born 118 years ago today in Viiala, Finland. He was the greatest gun designer in Finnish history, which makes him a big frog in a pretty small pond. But he was influential far beyond the borders of his Scandinavian homeland.

As a Finnish biography by Simo Kärävä says:

Asesuunnittelija Aimo Johannes Lahti (28.4.1896 Akaan Viiala – 19.4.1970 Jyväskylä), jonka suunnittelemat aseet tulivat 1930-luvun sotilaille ja suojeluskuntalaisille sekä sotiemme veteraaneille tutuiksi usein toistuneen koura- ja olkatuntuman kautta, on jäänyt ihmeteltävän vähälle huomiolle sotia ja puolustusvoimia käsittelevässä kirjallisuudessa sekä tämän vuoksi myös melko tuntemattomaksi muille suomalaisille, sotilaita ja aseharrastajia lukuun ottamatta.

via Aimo Lahti.

Lahti-designed 20mm AA gun VKT 40.

Lahti-designed 20mm AA gun VKT 40.

Yeah, that. There’s really no run-on sentence like a run-on sentence in Finnish. Anyway, Aimo is little known in the Anglosphere, but his name rings a bell because two of his best-known guns bore his own name: the Lahti M/35 automatic pistol (also adopted in Denmark and in Sweden as the M/40) which combined the natural-pointing grip angle of the Luger with a completely different mechanism, and the Lahti M/39 semiautomatic antitank rifle, advertised for years in the pages of American Rifleman and other 1960s gun magazines. The M/39 was the object of every boy’s envy, later, even if by 1939 it was already marginal medicine on tanks. Lahti would use the same basic mechanism in the beefier VKT 40 anti-aircraft gun, usually seen as a twin mount.

He also co-designed the standard Finnish light machine gun of the Winter and Continuation Wars, the Lahti-Saloranta L/S 26. (It would be replaced by Russian DP LMGs which were captured in vast quantities). He was also responsible for some of the Finnish improvements to the Mosin-Nagant rifle, and for a modified Maxim for aerial and AA use called the VKT. All in all he designed over 50 weapons, counting designs like the M/27 rifle (a modified Mosin).

Suomi_submachine_gun_M31_1_(1)

Lahti’s most influential gun did not bear his name at all. It was the Machine Pistol (“Konepistooli” or KP) 31, the famous “Suomi” (a word which just means “Finland.”) While by 1931 this submachine gun was not entirely revolutionary, we need to bear in mind that the 1931 model was an update of a 1926 model, which in turn was an update of a 1922 run of prototypes. That makes the Suomi, for all intents and purposes, a contemporary of the early Thompson, yielding primacy only to the Thompson and the German MP18.

Like those guns, the Suomi featured sturdy, machined parts and a wooden stock and was very heavy, especially with a loaded drum magazine. The first Suomi drum was unreliable; it was replaced, while a new drum was being designed, by the four-column “casket” mag, that squeezed the four columns down to a single feeding position. The casket mag was a Suomi original that has echoes today in some Russian designs and the Surefire 60- and 100-round magazines.

Suomi 50-round Casket mag. From ARFCOM.

Suomi 50-round Casket mag. From ARFCOM.

The Russian submachine guns of the mid-20th Century all owed a great deal to the Suomi design. The PPSh drum is a rather direct copy of the second, reliable Suomi design and shares its 71-round capacity. The Soviet designers were never slow to adapt a foreign idea that could be turned to Soviet military purposes.

Sweden, which built Suomis under license, used the Suomi mags as the feed system for their indigenous submachine gun, the M45 Carl Gustav (and M45 “Swedish K” mags work in a Suomi). But that’s another post.

After the Continuation War ended in 1944, Finland was occupied by a Soviet-dominated Allied Control Commission (there were a couple of token Brits) and by Finnish communist quislings who had been indoctrinated for years in the USSR and were determined to bring the joys of the Russian Revolution to Finland. However, the Finns had hidden tens of thousands of arms, and the thought of the whole nation rising in guerrilla warfare terrified the Soviets a little and their puppets a lot. The Finnish communists reinvented themselves as a political party, competing at the ballet box, and their secret police withered away when their Soviet puppetmasters withdrew.

The spiteful Soviets, whose troops had been shot full of holes by many Lahti designs, demanded that that the Finn retire from arms design, and he did, living on a pension until 1970. His only child became a Finnish Air Force aviator and perished during the Continuation War.

There is a biography of Lahti, Aimo Lahti: Finnish Weapons Designer by Maire Vaajakallio, but it is, alas, only available in the Finnish language.

One Way to Make an AR go Kaboom

One really good way is to fire a .300 BLK in a 5.56mm rifle. Here’s a story of such an event, from a bystander who talked to the lucky (to escape serious injury) shooter, who was transformed in milliseconds from an AR owner to a former AR owner in possession of some scrap metal.

Once we determined the shooter was physically OK, I wanted to get out of their business, so I didn’t get any photos of the rifle, but I can describe the damage. In short, it was pretty much totaled. Perhaps the Magpul front hand guard, rear stock and trigger group can be salvaged. That’s about it.

The magazine blew up, along with spring and follower. And you can see what happened to the other rounds in the picture here. I *believe* the fact that he was using a polymer magazine may have saved the shooter from additional injury. The explosion clearly took the path of least resistance. Perhaps a metal magazine would have allowed more pressure to go in other directions in addition to out the magazine well.

The magazine well on the lower was bulged out. Kind of like an Elmer Fudd cartoon shotgun. The upper receiver was also bulged out from the explosion.

The bolt and carrier were both trashed – bent all to hell and completely stuck in the upper and barrel extension.

I assume the barrel extension and barrel were trashed, but as everything was fused together, there was no way to tell for sure until they rip things apart. Shoving a .308 inch diameter bullet into a .223 inch hole is asking for damage I would think.

While I was not shocked at the damage to the aluminum upper and lower, I was surprised at how much the bolt carrier and bolt were trashed. That’s hard stuff there.

Yeah, it’s hard stuff, but a 5.56 NATO load is already creeping close to the limit load of the system, with respect to chamber pressures. Eliminate the possibility for that load to be tapped off by a gas route out of the chamber and down the barrel, and bad things happened.

With the brief opportunity I had to look, that’s about all I could tell. But now I was curious. Would similar rounds allow the .223 rifle to go into battery? I decided to try under much safer conditions.

via R.I.P. One AR-15 Rifle – Another 300 Blackout / .223 Kaboom.

And what he did was remove the BCG from a 5.56 rifle and see if a .300 BLK would drop into the chamber. The answer was what we think of as The Universal Answer to Everything™: “It depends.” In this case, it depends on the bullet; any .308 bullet can be loaded in the Blackout, with the lighter projectiles for maximizing velocity and heavier projectiles for subsonic use with a suppressor. Result of his experiment: A small, high-velocity bullet in the .300 would chamber, at least, most of the way; a large, subsonic bullet (200+ grain) wouldn’t.

In case you’re wondering why the US .mil doesn’t use the .300 BLK, this is one answer. Captain Murphy’s law always was, “if anything can go wrong, it will,” and while the original Murphy was a flight-test engineer, he sure as dammit could have been a weapons man with an insight like that. If it is physically possible for Private Joe Snuffy (or his Marine opposite number, Lance Corporal Schmuckatelli) to assemble a firearm improperly, or load it improperly, he is absolutely going to do it. Like the poor bastard in the example above, who was fortunately not seriously injured.

People I know who do use ARs in many calibers don’t take advantage of the capability to reuse the mags with multiple calibers. It’s just asking for trouble — better to dedicate mags to special-purposes like .300 or, say, blanks. (It is very embarrassing to fire a live round with a blank-firing adapter on the rifle, and it usually totals the rifle).

blue-ar15-mag

Blue=Inert, standard NATO/US code color. You can get anodized mags in several different colors. As long as you pick a system and stick to it, you won’t fire the wrong thing in the wrong place.

Go ahead, whine about magazine prices. What about replacing a whole AR like the fellow whose misplaced .300 round trashed his rifle?

One last thought. We are not fond of the Forward Assist, a gadget that was added to the M16A1 very late in the adoption game, at the insistence of armchair ordnancemen who had actually used the same reason (“lack of positive bolt closure”) to reject the T48 (FN FAL) in favor of the T44 (developed Garand that became the M14). And here is one reason not to be fond of the FA.IF you are forcing the bolt carrier into battery, why are you doing that? It just might be that you have the wrong round chambered.

Volkssturm Carbines, part 2 of 2

Continued from: The Genesis of the Volkssturm Carbines. Why? published March 27, 2014. 

When we last looked at the Volkssturm carbines, it was late summer or early fall of 1944, and a handful of the guns were about to be presented to Hitler as a sort of staff decision memo by Reichsminister for Armaments and War Production, Albert Speer. The weapons included several single-shot and repeating bolt guns, and a version of the famous, if very rare, VG 1-5.

Gustloff VG 1-5 - GunLab

Purportedly after doing this, Speer wrote and transmitted the following (emphasis added):

The Reichs Minister for Armaments and War Production

TAE-no. 99 10786/44 secret

Berlin, the 5th of November 1944

Pariser Platz 3

SECRET

(to: [action copies])

speer_letter_p._1Chief of the Army Arms Office, General of Artillery Leeb

Main Directorate for Weapons, Director Engineer Weissenborn

Chief of the Armaments Staff, Senior Department Head Saur

Information Copies:

Chief of Army Equipment and Commander of the Home Army, Reichsführer-SS Himmler

Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht, Field Marshal Keitel

Chief of the General Staff of the Army, Colonel-General Guderian

Chief of Army Equipment and Commander of Replacements, SS-Senior Colonel and Waffen-SS General Jüttner

Chief of the Army Staff at the High Command of the Wehrmacht, General of Infantry Buhle

Leader of the Party Chancellery, Reichsleiter Bormann

High Command of the Wehrmacht, Wehrmacht Leadership Staff / Organizational Office, Lt. Col of the General Staff Fett

Main Directorate of Ammunition, Consul-General Stahl

The following proposed People’s-Rifles (Volksgewehre) have been presented to the Führer

a)     Single-shot guns for normal rifle cartridge. From the firms:

  1. Appell, from Berlin-Spandau;
  2. Bergmann K.G., from Velten;
  3. Gustloff-Werke, from Suhl; and,
  4. Walther, from Zella-Mehlis.

b)    Repeaters for normal rifle cartridge. There were two of these, from the firms:

  1. Deutsche Industrie-Werke, from Berlin (with the 10-shot magazine of the K.43);
  2. Röchling (Coenders), from Wetzlar (with 5-shot loading strips).

c)     Repeaters with short cartridge 44. From the firm Deutsche Industrie-Werke, Berlin (two different versions with 30-shot magazines);

d)    Self-loader with short cartridge 44. From the firm Gustloff-Werke, Suhl (with 30-shot magazine).

speer_letter_p._2Reference: a) The Führer has rejected all Single-shots on fundamental grounds. Of them, the one from the Walther firm pleased him most.

Reference: b) and c) as a Repeater, the model of the Deutsche Industrie-Werke was recommended by Colonel-General Guderian and General Buhle, in that its manufacture is very simple and it is made up of very easily made assemblies (no forged parts, no tubular material, no deep-drawn sheet metal and large tolerances).  The Führer is in agreement with this recommendation, but he recommends shortening the barrel, if it can be done without significantly increasing recoil, and additionally improvement of the outward appearance of the weapon, such as rounding the receiver. Psychologically the Führer considers such a primitive weapon unfit for troop issue. The immediate start of manufacturing in a quantity of 400,000 to 450,000 pieces by using Air Force and Army barrels on hand, as well as available K43 magazines is directed, as long as the Army Ordnance Office (Heereswaffenamt) agrees and raises no objections. I would consider an output of 100,000 weapons in December, 1944, possible.

As an end goal, the Führer considers the People’s Rifle with the Short Cartridge 44 and a magazine of about 10 shots, which should not hinder the shooter in firing from the prone position; the long 30-shot magazine of the MP 44 is not to be used.

Reference d) the Gustloff-Werke’s self-loader is rejected by the shore by the Führer on the grounds of too-high cost, and too-high consumption of ammunition; further that the MP44 has about the same manufacturing and material requirements, and already is in mass production in very high quantities.

Heil Hitler, Speer.

Well, that’s a bit to think about. You’re welcome to check our translation; sorry about the so-so cell phone images of the documents.

The key takeaways

To us the big surprise in this document, which can scarcely be surprising to experts in the field because we found it in an old issue of the German magazine Waffen Revue, is the outright rejection of the VG 1–5, the Gustloff semi-automatic carbine for the short cartridge. Hitler’s reported strong opinions seem to be in line with those that might be held by a junior NCO of First World War vintage. His concern that the crudity of some of the proposed weapons would impinge on rifleman morale seems to be on target, as does his concern about a large box magazine and the prone position; his worry that they would blaze away and waste ammunition, less so. (For all that leaders and generals have fretted over ammunition wastage over the centuries, as each new development — breechloading cartridges, repeaters, semi-autos, select-fire — increased the grunt’s theoretical rate of fire, cases of grunts shooting their ammo stocks dry seem to be rather rare and restricted to situations in which said grunts were doomed and were being overrun, anyway. Joe Snuffy turns out to be a rational actor when his life is on the line).  It was interesting to learn that the short MP44 magazine found here and there (like the one famously photographed in an MP45 prototype) resulted not from the desire of engineers to have a short mag for testing, but from the dictator’s concern about his frontline grunts. 

Gustloff VG 1-5 repro - GunLab

It was also a surprise for us to see the production of the VG 1-5, which we’ve been watching go together over at GunLab (in-progress, above), compared with that of the MP 44, which has many more stamping steps. We can only presume that the MP44 had well-thought-out production schedules and tooling, and the simpler VG, which seems designed more with a view to cottage manufacture, didn’t.

Did Hitler Really Make These Decisions?

It’s hard to say. There’s no known document with Hitler’s signature (although after the July 20, 1944 attempt on his life, he seems to have signed fewer documents). Instead, there’s one from Albert Speer, saying, “the weapons were presented to the Führer”; “the Führer dismissed on fundamental grounds”, and so forth, but do we have anything but Speer’s word what we’re hearing is Hitler’s, and not Speer’s decision? And how much faith do we have in the integrity of Speer, the man who initiated the genre of self-serving Nazi bigwig memoirs? There are no answers to these questions; it does seem that in the higher levels of the Nazi hierarchy there was a fairly common practice of playing Führer’s-mouthpiece, with Himmler, Bormann and Göring among those who issued orders purporting to come from the mouth under the funny mustache itself.

A strong indication that this really was Hitler’s opinion is the reference to the aesthetics of the Deutsche Industrie-Werke repeater, and to the need for them to be improved if the soldier were to have confidence in his firearm. This sounds like a front-line combat veteran talking; and Hitler, whatever his faults, was such a veteran; Speer was not.

One indication that Speer may be on the level is that General Heinz Guderian, the great tank tactician, was quoted in the memo as well as an information addressee. Guderian had his own power base with Hitler, based not strictly on loyalty but on proven past performance. Would Speer have fibbed in a document Guderian might have brought up with Hitler himself? It seems unlikely. But the unlikely was an everyday occurrence in the 12 years of the Thousand-Year Empire.

 

ATF Says Nyet to SIG MP-X-Carbine, SIG Sees ‘Em in Court

SIG MPX-CThe Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has ruled that the muzzle brake for the SIG-Sauer MP-X Carbine model is “intended only for use” as a silencer. (We covered the introduction of the MP-X in January, 2013). The timeline of the whole SIG-ATF interaction also serves as an illustration for the glacial pace at which the payroll patriots of ATF do, or don’t do, just about anything:

  1. 4 Apr 2013: MPX-C submitted by SIG to ATF’s FIrearms Technology Branch (FTB)for evaluation.
  2. 26 Aug 2013: (note, 153 days later — ATF speed) FTB rules that the muzzle brake is a silencer. It is, says FTB, a “monolithic baffle stack. Welding it to a barrel does not change its characteristics or function.”
  3. 6 Sep 2013: (10 days later — private sector speed) SIG responds to ATF with the results of tests that show that the device does reduce recoil and muzzle rise, but that instead of silencing a weapon, the gadget the bozos at FTB think is a silencer actually increases the sound level of the rifle’s report. SIG also shows other examples of similar devices that have not been classified by the arbitrary FTB examiners as silencers — just SIGs. SIG’s letter includes comprehensive documentation.
  4. 21 Feb 2014: (141 days later — ATF speed) The FTB responds, ignoring but not disputing SIG’s evidence, and reasserting that the part looks like it might go in a silencer to FTB’s GED-level experts, therefore, it is a silencer. Amazingly, to the FTB, the fact that it does not silence, suppress, muffle, or reduce sound is irrelevant. So it’s a non-silencing silencer, and SIG can lump it.
  5. 7 Apr 2014: (47 days later — getting lawyers involved slows even the private sector down) SIG files suit in the US District Court of New Hampshire.

SIG’s is being represented by two excellent attorneys, NH’s Mark Rouvalis and Virginia-based national and international gun-law expert and legal author Stephen Halbrook.

SIG MPX-C-right

Although the technology exists to conduct clear and simple tests of suppressor noise reduction — one example protocol, developed by Dr Phil Dater, is used by the military — the ATF’s supposed experts at the Firearms Technology Branch don’t have this capability, and so they don’t evaluate items they think are suppressors or suppressor parts on it: instead, they eyeball the piece, based on their past training (which is in-house and shallow), and experience. They do not need to look at ATF precedents — FTB rulings are non-precedential, sometimes ephemeral, and each one is approached de novo. They are never retracted, unless they favor the applicant, and then they’re subject to a revocation process that’s as arbitrary and capricious as the original process was.

ATF may be relying on erroneous media reports, when the MPX was introduced, that the MPX-C muzzle brake was identical to the suppressor innards and “all you need to do is add a registered tube” to have the same suppressor.

But in a very similar case just last month, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Innovator Enterprises “Stabilizer Brake” is not a suppressor, and that ATF’s method of guessing the effects of a device based on hunches and eyeballs is “arbitrary and capricious” and not a “reasonable construction” of the law. (Here’s the write-up of the case at Guns.com and at Courthousenews.com; here’s Innovator’s complaint; here’s the Court Ruling — the last two courtesy J Frazer Law).  The judge’s opinion is definitely worth reading; it looks like the Department of Justice attorneys played fast and loose with the truth.

 

Bullets with dimples?

Nammo Reduced Range

Nammo BNT 6 Reduced Range 7.62 x 51 mm

We all know that dimples can make a smile irresistible. But a bullet?

Nammo is making 7.62 x 51mm rounds with dimples, and it’s about their physical attraction — sort of. That’s if you’ll accept the meaning of “physical” as in “laws of physics,” and to be more specific, aerodynamics. By making the projectile more physically attractive to the air it passes through — sort of, reversing centuries on progress in making wind-cheating bullets — they can make rounds that work for training on tight, urban ranges.

The Nammo BNT 6 Reduced Range load contains a unique dimpled round weighing 6.2 grams or about 95.7 grains, so it’s very light for a 7.62 round. Its muzzle velocity is in the usual NATO ballpark at 860 m/s (2822 fps). At short ranges (<200m) Nammo claims that the round is equivalent to the usual NATO loads. But it spends its energy very rapidly and can be used in a range fan of only 1500m. (The standard NATO round demands a 4 kilometer range safety area minimum, without safety margins).

The dimples are the key. They are optimized for the round’s Reynolds Number and increase drag two ways, in terms of downrange motion, and, more critically, in terms of spin (which, if we’re doing the back-of-the-envelope right, implies two different RNs based on the different surface velocities). The increased drag and reduced weight make for a projectile that sheds its velocity (both rotational and longitudinal) much more rapidly than normal.

These are quite a different thing from the dimples used to increase the boundary-layer size and reduce drag on golf balls and some experimental target bullets. (Yes, that’s an April Fool’s spoof. And it fooled us on first reading).

Nammo BNT 6 in a belt. (Nammo photos).

Nammo BNT 6 in a belt. (Nammo photos).

BNT 6 is also available in standard links for MG training (including firing from vehicle crew positions), but at present, is only available in ball, not tracer. (A tracer and a “dim tracer” for use with night observation devices are in development). Like most recent Nammo introductions, BNT 6 is “green,” leaving no toxic contaminants behind. BNT stands for “Ball, Non-Toxic,” in the company’s nomenclature, and the BNT 6 projectile reportedly has a soft-steel core only. (Nammo’s combat-load BNT rounds have soft-steel cores with hardened-steel penetrators).

The technology could be adapted to 5.56, at least in theory, if Nammo had a customer for the reduced-range rounds.

Most of the demand for such a round is in Europe, where training areas are at a premium; several European ammo makers often reduced-range non-toxic rounds, although none of them are using the Nammo dimples. (Ruag, for example, uses a near-cylindrical copper round with a central spike). We were unable to find a patent filing for the BNT 6 style projectiles, but suspect one exists.

While the principal use for such reduced-range loads is training, Nammo points out that it’s also useful in urban-warfare and CT applications or “populated sensitive areas,” where minimizing the beaten zone of rounds that miss their targets is a priority.