Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

A correction: Syrian Snipers have CHINESE .50s

Some time back we posted that the Syrian jihadis had gotten hold of Accuracy International AS50 .50 caliber sniper rifles. We posted several pictures, and sure enough there was a greater variation between various examples of the AS50 than there was between the Syrian weapon and the AS50. Here’s the video again

But we were probably wrong. According to CJ Chivers, best known for his New Journalism style book about the AK-47, the weapon is a Chinese M99. A close comparison of the video from our older post to pictures of the M99 shows that Chivers is correct, at least about those particular rifles in the video. Look at the video (screenshot below), and compare it to the image from the M99 from Max’s world.guns.ru. (World.guns.ru is one of the more authoritative small arms sites out there).

This is the Syrian jihadi shooting the .50.

This is the Syrian jihadi shooting the .50.

This image from World.Guns.RU shows the ChineseM99 from the same angle.

This image from World.Guns.RU shows the ChineseM99 from the same angle. The scope is different, but the gun is the same.

The scope is different, in the two pictures, but the gun is the same. The two bright metal scope mount fasteners are the same on both guns (although some of Chivers’s photos from Syria show round black fasteners on Syrian rebel M99s). Both the M99 and the AS50 have an extensible stock with upper and lower rails and a gap in between. But the daylight between the upper and lower rail on the AS50 is rectangular. On the Chinese M99, the daylight between the upper and lower is irregularly shaped — just like the Syrian jihadi’s gun. The reason for this appears to be that the protrusion from the upper rail is the adjustment lock that must be pressed to slide the stock in or out. See below:

syrian_50_sniper_closeup chinese_m99_closeup_wg_ru

The M99 is an export weapon, used by China in 12.7×108 but exported in both that round, used in the DShK and NSV among other weapons, and 12.7×99 Browning. The weapons in use in Syria are reportedly chambered for the Russian 12.7x108mm round. The rounds are ballistically equivalent.

The gas and bolt systems of the two guns are also different. The Chinese M99 uses a direct impingement system, often used in .50 sniper rifles to reduce weight, and a rotating bolt. The AI weapon uses a short-stroke gas piston and a tipping bolt (like a Tokarev, Simonov or Saïve design). According to World.Guns.ru’s specifications, the Chinese weapon is about 2.1 kilograms (4.6 pounds) lighter than its British counterpart.

Many people still think the People’s Liberation Army of China is still the Korean War vintage levée en masse, poorly equipped, barely trained, and armed with crude hand-me-downs to be thrown away in human-wave attacks. That image wasn’t even true in 1950 (except, perhaps, of former Kuomintang formations that shuffled up the line to death with Communist formations in their rear), and it’s positively not true in 2013. In our experience, Chinese weapons were even before 1990 often the best finished and most trouble-free of the guns made in the Eurasian communist nations. In the decades since, they’ve only gotten better.

The Past is Another Country: Evans Rifle

The Evans Rifle was made in several versions in the late 19th Century. It had a patent date of 1868, but production of several versions lasted from 1873 to 1879, when the company went paws up.  It doesn’t look like the classical lever-action rifle — after all, this was the high-tech of the day, and they were inventing the classical lever-action as they went — but to our eyes it’s beautiful.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But what sold nearly 15,000 Evanses into a market saturated with war surplus guns wasn’t the eye appeal, but the firepower. It was the assault rifle of its age, toothsome enough even today to make, say, Mike Bloomberg wet his bed: a .44 caliber, black-powder repeater with a 34-round magazine. It resembles a hammerless Spencer, but is larger (and it has a hammer, just an internal one. Like the Henry/Winchester and unlike the Spencer, operating the lever charges the rifle and cocks the hammer. The guns were available as rifles and carbines in several levels of finish. The weapon does not appear to be as robust as its contemporary Winchester lever-actions (which had their own issues).

It was designed by a dentist, Warren R. Evans, with the help of his brother, and until the rise of Bushmaster, it was the only rifle mass produced in the state of Maine, at Mechanics Falls, to be precise.  (Bushmaster is gone, decamped to Ilion, NY when a five-year stay-put guarantee to the former owner ran out; its former plant is now home to Windham Weaponry, which reminds us, we have something to say about them, soon).

Evans Rifle MagazineThe magazine forms the load-bearing structure of the butt, with wood trim above and, in the later models, below, to make it resemble a traditional rifle. The magazine is the most unusual feature of the Evans, and is often described as a rotary magazine. It isn’t, really; you see rotary magazines in the Savage 99, the Johnson 1941, and the Ruger 10-22, and you can see they’re nothing like the Evans. The Evans mag is more properly called a helical mag; it moves the cartridges towards the breech with an Archimedean screw. In this, it resembles the Calico, the Russian Bizon,or various Chinese and Nork AK mags.

Screen shot 2013-05-26 at 2.55.49 PMThe Evans was not, then, an evolutionary dead end, although it was dormant for a century. There is some proof those later inventors were aware of it (two Calico patents cite Warren Evans’s patent). There’s never been a reproduction, even though at the time the gun was well-received and was endorsed by none other than Indian fighter Kit Carson. Fortunately for collectors, Evans Rifles are well-represented on the market. With about nine to twelve main variations, a complete collection of Evanses is not an unattainable goal, for someone that wants to have a really unique collection.

Several antique dealers have Evanses in stock; as pre-1898 antiques they can ship without legal formalities to most states and even some foreign nations. One such dealer is antique-arms specialist Jimmy Amburn, whose Evanses can be seen here; he also informs us he has an extensive supply of spare parts.

The Evans fired one of two proprietary .44 caliber cartridges, and this article (whence we lifted the magazine photo) has some vintage case-making and loading rules of thumb. We’d be very surprised if anyone has fired one of these in a long time. Then again, if we had one, or Ian at Forgotten Weapons did, you bet your life we’d shoot it. With a string, first time.

An Evans is reportedly a challenge to the gunsmith’s art. One of its little peculiarities is that it has quite a few screws and almost no two are the same length — but they are all the same diameter and thread. This kind of design is just asking for bad assembly, given the sheer quantity of Bubba The Gunsmiths who have had the chance to handle these in the last 1.2 centuries or so. This may be why Evans rifles in pieces, or pieces of Evans rifles, are less rare than intact examples. The springs are also prone to fatigue and overload failure, and the mechanism in general is intolerant of Bubba’s gorilla-grip approach.

M1 (etc) Carbine overhaul manual

… we may as well share with you the overhaul manual on the M1/2/3 carbines. You know, these things:

M2 Carbine

This edition of FM 9-1276 was published in 1947 and it contains a lot of useful information, including the overhaul flow chart we’ve already shown you, and the very interesting inspection and rebuilt-weapon serviceability standards.

Most gun-culture types have a certain fetish for MilSpec and seem to think that military specs are always higher that civilians’ standards. Well, it depends on the civilian! But the military has looser requirements than you might think, and one characteristic of these requirements is that a weapon in the hands of troops is not required to meet standards of a weapon freshly rehabbed, or one being mothballed (figuratively) for that matter. For example, when the M16A1 was standard issue, one could be turned in for higher-echelon maintenance if the barrel was shot out. How shot out? The depot didn’t want to see it if it could still achieve seven (!) minutes of angle. Needless to say, crappy-shooting M16A1s were pure hell for a unit armorer to get rid of.

There are a few examples of this very, very low bar attending to the M1 (and M2 and M3) carbines. One of the most interesting is the high tolerance for pitting in the inspection standards. A barrel was only unfit if the pits were wider than a land or a groove, or longer than 3/8″. Pitting across most of a groove? Well, that was OK, then. Just so long as it’s not all the way across.

Anyway, here goes:

M1_Carbine_TM9-1276.pdf

Why Carbine parts don’t match

If you pick up a typical M1 Carbine (or almost any US military surplus weapon, but let’s stick to carbines for reasons that will become obvious) at a gun show, you’ll find that it’s a mélange of parts from various makers and vintages. But occasionally, someone will have a gun that is, for example, all Inland parts. Obviously, the first one is a parts-gun junker, and the second one’s “as issued” back in W-W-Two, right?

WWII_M1_Carbine

carbine-overhaul-flowchart-1947Maybe not right. It could actually be the other way around: the first gun is just the way some GI carried it in WWII or Korea, and the second was carefully assembled from parts to catch a collector’s eye. Whaaat?

It has to do with how carbines were handled, maintained, and redistributed in the theaters or war and in the Zone of the Interior, as the US was still often called in the mid-20th Century. The flow chart on the left (which you’ll probably have to expand to read) spanned two pages of the M1/2/3 Carbine overhaul manual (FM 9-1276) and explains the steps in an overhaul.

Not every gun got overhauled, but every time Ordnance units got their hands on a gun, it was considered for it. To decide if they needed to do it, they had to inspect the gun, of course. Ordnance got guns when they were turned in by armorers as having “issues”, turned in as entire unit sets by traveling units, recovered from battlefields and field hospitals (to this day, if you enter a hospital with a weapon, some Gorgon of a nurse will take it away from you, muttering incantations to the Gods of Geneva), and various other means fair and foul. At lower echelons, any guns passing inspection or readily reparable would quickly go back out to line units as battlefield replacements.

Guns that needed depot attention would be greased up in Cosmoline and packed together in wooden crates, and shipped to that facility, where they’d enter the top left of the chart. They’d be taken out of the crates, which themselves would be sent to a specialty shop for repair and reconditioning, and dismantled. Individual parts would be inspected — some by eyeball, and some using gages — and repaired, if possible; serviceable parts whether from inspection or repair benches would be refinished and then go to a central parts bin.  (U/S parts were discarded).

In addition to the parts from the incoming carbines, the parts bins also held parts acquired under replacement-parts contracts, some makers of which never made complete carbines, only individual parts. None of the parts in the bins were labeled to a particular serial number of carbine. It was by way of this parts bin that most USGI carbines became mixmasters.

M2 Carbine

A very few parts were not removed from a carbine in this process. If the front and rear sights were serviceable, they stayed on board (Carbine rear sights were staked firmly in place, four times; front sights are simply a bear to remove and replace). And if the gas system worked and wasn’t visibly corroded, it wasn’t always disassembled. It’s possible to test the carbine gas system, on a field-stripped weapon, by the simple expedient of plugging the chamber with a finger or thumb, and blowing into the muzzle.

At the other end of the depot’s small arms bay, technicians (probably different ones from the ones stripping carbines at the intake end of the production line) would assemble carbines from the refinished, repaired or recertified parts in the parts bins. It had to pass a complete inspection and a live-fire function test, or it was repaired until it did. After test firing, the weapon was cleaned, inspected again (and sent again to the repair bench if need be, in which case it would be reinjected  at the test-fire station again), and greased and packed.

Then, cases of carbines (the same cases that carbines came in in, after they, too, were overhauled and repaired as necessary) were shipped to users worldwide, or stored in the depots until called for. The cases held 10 M1 or M2 carbines, and weighed 83 pounds, measured 39 3/8 x 10 3/4 x 10 3/4 inches, and displaced 4 cubic feet; 10 M1A1s in the same case weighed 91 pounds.

As you see, this means that the odds are astronomical against any carbine that has been through this process still possessing parts made by its original maker. Modern guns are made with precision, interchangeable parts with almost zero hand fitting, and this high-throughput WWII-vintage overhaul system took maximum advantage of that.

So if you have an Inland carbine with all Inland parts (or Winchester, etc.) then that gun either has never been through the overhaul process, or has been carefully reassembled by some collector, carefully hoarding parts over the years. And there’s no really obvious way to tell; even a couple of late-carbine parts might have been refitted to an early carbine at the unit level, and the Air Force, which kept toting carbines into the 1960s, was especially slapdash about rebuilds and repair parts (a tradition they kept up with M16s and GAUs).

Our advice: don’t get too wound up about Carbine originality — if you do, you’re probably going to get fished sooner or later. The officers, signalmen, medics, mortarmen, support troops and others who toted these in every theater of war, didn’t worry overmuch about these details. Neither should we.

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 world.guns.ru.

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 world.guns.ru.

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: http://tracking-point.us5.list-manage.com/subscribe/post?u=f84a5a0a235e5b02766356bdf&id=1970e29d4d

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.