Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

Twist Rate Affects Ballistic Coefficient

Bryan Litz with, once again, some science that makes our hair hurt, and that’s even in his cut-down version with minimal traumatic math. In a post excerpted from his latest book, Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting, Litz discusses the results of tests with a rifle and a series of barrels manufactured by the same barrelsmith to differ only in twist rate, and be identical in all other aspects — a controlled experiment.

The Litz Lab -- a precision rifle with a set of barrels differing by only a single variable.

The Litz Lab — a precision rifle with a set of barrels differing by only a single variable.

Through our testing, we’ve learned that adequate spin-stabilization is important to achieving the best BC (and lowest drag). In other words, if you don’t spin your bullets fast enough (with sufficient twist rate), the BC of your bullets may be less than optimal. That means, in practical terms, that your bullets drop more quickly and deflect more in the wind (other factors being equal). Spin your bullets faster, and you can optimize your BC for best performance.

Any test that’s designed to study BC effects has to be carefully controlled in the sense that the variables are isolated. To this end, barrels were ordered from a single barrel smith, chambered and headspaced to the same rifle, with the only difference being the twist rate of the barrels. In this test, 3 pairs of barrels were used. In .224 caliber, 1:9” and 1:7” twist. In .243 caliber it was 1:10” and 1:8”, and in .30 caliber it was 1:12” and 1:10”. Other than the twist rates, each pair of barrels was identical in length, contour, and had similar round counts.

There’s quite a lot to get your skull around here, and even when you Read The Whole Thing™ (which you’re totally gonna do, right?) there’s stuff that’s hard to understand.

It led to quite a lot of barrels to keep organized!

It led to quite a lot of barrels to keep organized!

We wonder what the mechanism is that, in effect, raises the drag (and BC) of an underspun bullet, and what we think it is is a form of precession. Instead of spinning perfectly around its longitudinal axis, the bullet wobbles a little bit off axis. Instead of going along a perfect line, and therefore staying in a single point, as viewed in 2D from dead ahead, the point of the bullet is describing, when reduced to two dimensions, a small circle… in three dimensions, the point is spiraling towards the target even as the bullet’s center of mass is proceeding directly targetwards. There are several ways that this could raise the drag of a typically supersonic bullet. One is simply that the off-axis bullet may present a larger frontal area (or larger average frontal area, if the precessing bullet has a changing frontal area) to the slipstream. Another is that flow might separate irregularly from the tail of the bullet. Turbulent, separated flow induces buckets of drag. There are probably others that we don’t get because, unlike Bryan Litz, we’re not aerodynamicists by training.

Linearity of the results is striking.

Linearity of the results is striking. A 0.87 correlation quotient is an extremely solid result. 

One thing that Litz points out is that you may be getting very satisfactory groups, and still not optimum BC. Why does that matter? If your groups are OK and your BC is suboptimum, who cares? Well, BC (as Litz shows, practically a function of gyroscopic stability) also influences accurate range, for example.

It’s a common assumption that if a shooter is seeing great groups and round holes, that he’s seeing the full potential BC of the bullets. These tests did not support that assumption. It’s quite common to shoot very tight groups and have round bullet holes while your BC is compromised by as much as 10% or more. This is probably the most practical and important take-away from this test.

Like all of Litz’s research, this is some fascinating stuff. The same series of tests also showed that twist rate affects muzzle velocity, but very little. It’s intuitive that a higher twist rate would, by imparting more friction to the projectile, decrease muzzle velocity. The results, though, showed that while twist rate affects MV a statistically significant amount, that amount is extremely low. As Litz puts it, himself, in a couple of  the comments to the post:

The scatter in the data and the R squared value indicate that only about 1/2 the variation in MV is due to twist rate (Correlation Coefficient is 0.55) which means that random noise has as much effect as twist rate. This is discussed further in the book, as well as similar results presented for a different bullet in which the relationship was even weaker, and the correlation was lower.

Remember that the correlation quotient between twist rate and BC was 0.87. Random chance probability is 0.50, so unlike the twist-to-BC correlation, the twist-to-MV correlation is weak as water… but it’s still there. It’s a measure of Bryan Litz’s painstaking care in collecting this data that the 0.55 correlation even shows up in the data table, but it does, as a low double-digit variation in MV with each change in twist rate!

Linear, but barely perceptible, results. Amazing.

Linear, but barely perceptible, results. Amazing. As Litz notes, the experimental variation is smaller than the SD of the individual data points — if the relationship weren’t completely linear it would probably be invisible. It only shows up on the chart because of the suppressed zero value on the scale. 

The point in presenting these results is to show that the effect of twist rate on MV is VERY minor, and can almost be said to be statistically “in the noise”. ….

The long and short of it is that regardless of caliber and bullet weight, twist rate has very little effect on MV. You’ll see more fps difference per inch of twist on a .220 Swift just because you’re dealing with higher velocities. In other words, the percentage of MV change due to twist is pretty consistent.

That’s an example of how the comments are as good as a second, followup post in terms of their educational value. If you had asked us, we’d have said that, so long as the bullet was stabilized at some minimum level, twist rate would have had a minimal effect on accuracy, but a larger one on MV. And yet Bryan Litz’s results are exactly the opposite of what we’d have said on instinct. Obviously we didn’t understand this as well as we thought!

So read the post and comments — and keep reading till you understand it all, which may take those of us who are reformed infantrymen more than one reading. And if you want a deeper dive in the physics of accuracy, Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting, and Litz’s other books are available from Applied Ballistics directly or from (at a glance, it looks like you save money by going to Applied Ballistics).

What’s After Tracking Point?

We’ve been pretty high on precision guided weapons technology since the first time we saw a TOW do its thing. (And Javelin and other current weapons have answered most of the complaints about TOW since then). But in recent years, the promise of PGWs has migrated down into the small arms world, thanks to the same combination of Moore’s Law, free-flying science and nitty-gritty engineering that gives us everything from rapid genome sequencing to haptics and 3D printing.

We’ve been pretty impressed with the precision-guided rifles and Tag / Track / XACT technology of Tracking Point. So what comes after that? DARPA says: precision-guided, steerable bullets. They call the program, in a felicitous acronym, EXACTO, Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance. Like the Javelin and the Tracking Point PGW, it seems to tag a target and then pursue it relentlessly.

DARPA recently released the above video, along with this blurb:

DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program, which developed a self-steering bullet to increase hit rates for difficult, long-distance shots, completed in February its most successful round of live-fire tests to date. An experienced shooter using the technology demonstration system repeatedly hit moving and evading targets. Additionally, a novice shooter using the system for the first time hit a moving target.

This is not too different from what TrackingPoint does now, in terms of results. What is different is how the EXACTO round functions.

This video shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are moving and accelerating. EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that can impede successful hits.

You can see from the video that they’re getting hits on their e-type silhouette, but they don’t appear to be getting center of mass hits. Still, it’s an admirable case of the dog walking on his hind legs, and this suggests that the science is licked, and what remains from here on out is simply engineering. (Not trivial, engineering, but once the science has shown that something is possible, it’s up to the engineers to find elegant and practical ways of doing it).

One significant difference between this and Tracking Point’s technology (so far) is that TP uses a bespoke or customized weapon; according to DARPA, EXACTO works with an ordinary rifle, only the optoelectronics and ammunition are changed.

It’s not rifle-caliber, as usually designated, yet; this demo is with a .50 caliber smart projectile.

“True to DARPA’s mission, EXACTO has demonstrated what was once thought impossible: the continuous guidance of a small-caliber bullet to target,” said Jerome Dunn, DARPA program manager. “This live-fire demonstration from a standard rifle showed that EXACTO is able to hit moving and evading targets with extreme accuracy at sniper ranges unachievable with traditional rounds. Fitting EXACTO’s guidance capabilities into a small .50-caliber size is a major breakthrough and opens the door to what could be possible in future guided projectiles across all calibers.”

The EXACTO program developed new approaches and advanced capabilities to improve the range and accuracy of sniper systems beyond the current state of the art. The program sought to improve sniper effectiveness and enhance troop safety by allowing greater shooter standoff range and reduction in target engagement timelines. For more information, please visit the program page.

via 2015/04/27 EXACTO Guided Bullet Demonstrates Repeatable Performance against Moving Targets.

OK, so let’s visit the program page, shall we?

Turns out, there’s not all that much there. We do get an uninformative 3D rendering of an EXACTO projectile, but that’s about it. There is a suggestion that the steering of the bullet is aerodynamic in principle.

exacto projectile_fullThere is this brief update on where the project stands:

The EXACTO 50- caliber round and optical sighting technology was developed to greatly extend the day and nighttime range over current state-of-the-art sniper systems. The system combined a maneuverable bullet and a real-time guidance system to track and deliver the projectile to the target, allowing the bullet to change path during flight to compensate for any unexpected factors that may drive it off course.

Technology development in Phase II included the design, integration and demonstration of aero-actuation controls, power sources, optical guidance systems, and sensors. The program concluded with a system-level live-fire test.

In 2009, the project was described as follows [.pdf]:

Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO)* *Formerly Laser Guided Bullet.

(U) The Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program is developing a system that provides sniper teams with the ability to identify and engage targets with heretofore unobtainable range and accuracy against stationary and moving targets under difficult environmental conditions, either day or night. The system uses a combination of a maneuverable bullet and a real-time guidance system to track the target and deliver the projectile to target. Technology development includes the design and integration of aero-actuation controls, power sources, and sensors. The components must fit into the limited volume (2cm to the third power) of a 50-caliber projectile and be designed to withstand a high acceleration environment. When integrated and tested, this system will greatly increase the effectiveness of two-man sniper teams, regardless of the environmental conditions and the time of day. The EXACTO technology is planned for transition to the Army by FY 2012.

FY 2009 Plans:

– Design guidance system.
– Design maneuverable projectile.
– Construct all novel 1x scale components.
– Measure component and subsystem performance in appropriate environments.

An Air University paper said this of EXACTO, comparing it to aviation precision guided munitions programs:

Foot soldiers are often left out of consideration when money is spent on precision weapons. The DARPA Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) is a command-guided .50 Cal sniper round designed to put long range, pinpoint precision in the hands of a common soldier. The system works by tracking a target with an infrared spotter’s scope that doubles as a command- guidance tracker. The .50 Cal bullet is fired and responds to trajectory commands sent by the scope (which tracks the target and bullet). The system accounts for wind, moving targets, and provides accuracy at range that normally requires years of sniper training to achieve. The EXACTO program not only gives sniper capabilities to common foot soldiers, it ensures a kill on the first shot, and enables moving target capabilities that have until now only been available to tactical aircraft and UAVs. In this case, the range is far shorter than HTV-21 or T32, but the strategic implications of super-sniper-battalions may prove even more deterring to an enemy force. For years, the real practical advantage US soldiers held over adversary soldiers came in the form of the air power watching over. EXACTO aims to enable America’s soldiers to enjoy technological advantages its airmen have enjoyed for decades.3

Although EXACTO was indeed scheduled to conclude in 2012 [.pdf], and some DARPA pages refer to it in the past tense, but the live fire test video shown here was shot in 2015 and only released in April (in-house, 10 Apr 15, to the public, 27 Apr 15).


  1. HTV-2: Hypersonic Test Vehicle-2.
  2. T3: Triple Target Terminator-3, an experimental missile that combined a ramjet sustainer with a rocket booster in the form factor of a pre-existing missile.
  3. Nielsen, Michael B. (Maj., USAF). Addressing Future Technology Challenges through Innovation and Investment . March, 2012: Air University, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

Part-Original Colt Armalite Model 601 on GunBroker

A very rare M16 variant, fully transferable, is up for auction on GunBroker. It’s the retro AR guy’s Holy Grail — an original Colt Model 601. It has a low serial number (605), meaning it was one of the first production ARs, making it a gun of notable historical significance. It’s being offered by a reputable seller (Frank Goepfert/Midwest Tactical).

That’s the good news. The bad news? It’s going to be very expensive. They’ve set a buy-it-now of $35K, and the no-reserve auction is already bid up to over $19,000 as we draft this (we suspect it will be higher yet; ordinary M16A1s bid up to this level all the time). And the ugly news? While the gun is described as original in the auction writeup, which we excerpt below, it’s not. Not even close. After the blurb, we’ll tell you what’s missing, and what’s “off” about this rifle.

Colt Armalite model 601. These were the gun that started it all. They are considered the first production M16. These primarily went to military buyers but a few were sold to LE, some of which made it into civilian hands. The 601 is the only M16 on the C and R list! The “01” would be one of my personal top picks for an NFA investment due to the limited number available, the Colt name and the fact that they are a C and R gun. The gun you are bidding on is in nice condition. We have it here on hand. The bore is good, all parts are original and the gun works perfect. The caliber for this firearm is .223. According to the ATF paperwork, Colt Ind. is the maker for this firearm. This will transfer direct to your c3 dealer tax free from our inventory on a Form 3 without delay after payment is made. This is the fastest type of transfer so approval and shipment to your ffl should not take long.

via M16 Colt Armalite Model 601 C and R : Machine Guns at

Note how the mag-well bosses in the lower receiver match the upper receiver exactly.  That is a 601 characteristic; by the 603 model (with the forward assist, the one that went to the Army for general issue in Vietnam) these did not align perfectly any more.

While this rifle clearly contains some rare and hard-to-find 601 parts, like the dimpled pins, straight ribbed magazine release and bolt release, and slightly-differently-cut 601 upper and lower receivers, it’s also got a lot of later-AR pollution on it.

The characteristic green-then-black- oversprayed brown mottled fiberglass 601 furniture appears to have been replaced with more durable, but dirt-common, M16A1 furniture.

The early-601 barrel has been replaced by a not-quite-as-rare and distinctly different 1967-vintage chrome-chamber-only M16A1 barrel, a so-called MP-C barrel, and the early barrel, FSB and flash suppressor are not included with this firearm.

This is the C that marks chrome chamber, quite rare in its own right but not correct for a 601:

The bolt carrier group has been replaced by a common M16 or AR BCG.

It’s also been refinished a later, darker shade of anodizing.

Whoever buys this will have to spend thousands (and probably take years, waiting for parts to come on the market, or for repros to be manufactured) to really own a 601 — and even then it will be a restored firearm, not an original. For example, the last set of 601 handguards we saw in really nice shape was five or six years ago, and the guy wanted $1,500 for them.

So how to appraise this semi-601? Its mixmaster status means that it’ll never have the appeal to auction with Rock Island, James D. Julia, or even Poulin unless that long and costly resto is done, and even then, some of the deepest-pocketed collectors will shy away from it (unless it’s described inaccurately or dishonestly… but now the Intertubes know that this firearm, SN 000605, was a mixmaster as of April 2015, and the Internet never forgets).

The bottom line? It is what it always is.

Caveat emptor.

SIG MPX QC Trouble? Or One Guy Got One Lemon?

We are big fans, in theory, of the SIG MPX. We’ve been following the saga of the gun itself, and of the company’s battle (a losing battle, so far) to get their innovative muzzle-brake-converts-to-suppressor-with-a-registered-tube version approved by ATF. We like the look of this modernized take on the MP5 form factor, and now people are starting to get them out in the field. And that, as Art Spiegelman wrote of his dad’s experiences, is where the troubles began.

Several versions of the MPX are shipping -- but this one looks dead for the forseeable future.

Several versions of the MPX are shipping — but this one looks dead for the foreseeable future.

Bearing Arms had a report on a problem with a production MPX. The problem was experienced by a guy named Darrell with a YouTube channel he calls “Tactical Existence” (really?); his tagline (gagline?) is: “Tactical is not just a word it’s mindset & a lifestyle.” (Punctuation his).

You don’t say.

Anyway, the guy’s website has the MPX video at the top. However, he does not show the MPX malfunctioning out of concern for his own liberty.Initially, he loved the MPX, firing it with the SIG Brace against his cheek and fastened to his arm. But then it began to double on him. His explanation:

We started with a fresh case of PMC 9mm brass ammo, and much to our surprise the gun almost immediately started to have serious malfunctions. At first we weren’t sure if the guns having some weird sort of bumpfire situation, or if it was something more serious like a double fire. After running a few quick test there was no doubt that the gun was in fact having a double fire malfunction. The weapon would fire with a pull of the trigger and then again on the reset of the trigger. this is a big problem because as most of you already know if you are in possession of a firearm that fires more then one round with a single pull of the trigger it’s your fault no matter if it is or not, well in the eyes of the ATF anyway.

That’s a reference to US v. Olofson, right there, although he might not know the name of the case he understands its legal import. And that’s why his video isn’t embedded here — since it doesn’t show the failures, it’s not really of interest to us, but we understand why he didn’t want to put incriminating evidence, at least as the ATF sees it, on the web.

The cause of the double-fire was a bit unusual:

After figuring out that we had an issue I took the lower receiver off the gun to inspect the trigger group. I found that the trigger group pins had walked out of the gun and was causing the hammer not to catch the disconnector. We then put the pin back in the gun and test fired to see if this fixed the problem, which it did for a second anyway. After about 20-25 rounds both trigger group pins were starting to walk out of the receiver again, at this point we stopped shooting the gun and called Sig for repair.

We’re not really sure how you fail to notice the pins walking out of the gun in the first place. The original AR-15 trigger module design used the springs themselves, riding in grooves in the pins, to retain the pins and was very effective at doing that. People who’ve had pins walk have usually had grooveless pins, the el cheapo kind.

Here is a video showing the trigger mechanism of another guy’s MPX at about 3:22 to about 3:50. At 3:36 you can see two pins, one of which has faint grooves and one, no grooves at all, in the upper left quadrant of the video. (We’ve cued it up to start at 3:02. You can wind it back if you want the whole thing).

This guy had the trigger mechanism out to replace the trigger spring with a lighter one, to reduce the trigger pull.

The MPX enters a crowded market for 9mm carbines and submachine guns. (The gun’s original design concept was a product-improved MP5). It’s not the market’s incumbent entry (that position is held in the LE market by the MP5, still marketed in a desultory way by HKUSA, and in the civilian market by 9mm AR clones), and it’s not the low cost entry (that would be the CZ Skorpion Evo, less than half of what scalpers are getting for MPXes right now, and with mags perhaps 1/4 of the SIG’s Lancer polymer mags). So it’s vital for SIG to get this right.

The modular rifle-caliber suppressor-host SIG MCX, which shares some components and concepts with the pistol-caliber MPX, has also had, in some examples, feeding problems. This suggests SIG still struggles with QC, but seems completely unrelated to the walking pins in this one example of the MPX.

The fanboys at have been watching this for some time. This link picks up the MPX thread on p.24 in March and you can continue forward from there, including a discussion of the Tactical Existence report. Several forum members have fired more rounds that Darrell managed to do, and none have had walking pins. A more common problem cited by the forum members is a complete lack of spare mags, so far.


  1. Darrell is thinking, no doubt, of US v. Olofson, where a guy was convicted for a gun that ATF SSA Jody Keeku and the amateur gunsmiths of Firearms Technology Branch spent four months massaging; they bubba’d it until it doubled 50% of the time. David Olofson spent several years behind bars (he’s been out for years now, but he’s a felon forever). Showing the MPX doubling would be giving the ATF all the evidence they need to throw Darrell in prison on the Olofson precedent, not that they really pay any attention to precedents.




Got that letter from the examiner. (Actually, our FFL got it some days before we did). BORK. So what’s the problem?

This is a file (factory) photo of the gun in question.

This is a file (factory) photo of the gun in question. Ours is used and was a good buy… although we’re coming up on a year without putting our mitts on it, yet.

Turns out a paperwork glitch on our end. The CLEO signature was fine, but no one put the CLEO title in the title block.

So back it goes to ATF.

The purchase (an M1 Thompson SBR by Kahr) was done in July, 2014, but we didn’t get our form to the ATF until November (that’s not ATF’s fault, but ours). So it took, from the time they’ve had the form, a hair over five months for this technical rejection. We’ll put the Chief’s title on it (they did send details on what was wrong with the Form 4 and how to fix it) and send it back, and then it goes back to the same examiner rather than wait another five months in the queue. Which is nice.

We may have the Thompson at the range one year after buying it.

Well, largely our fault for missing such an obvious detail.

How long is it taking for ATF to process these forms?

We’re going to give you an answer you’ll hate: it depends. There may be some elements of go-slow in the Administration’s approach to ATF doing its duties — certainly many of the senior personnel in ATF are anti-gun and politically partisan — but it really seems to be explained well enough by ATF’s finite number of examiners getting slammed by an explosion in quantity of NFA submissions. Here are the last two years, thanks to NFA (it does embiggen):

NFA Stamp Wait TimesOne of the interesting results here is the general downward trend in wait time, both for trust submissions and for paper submissions. A few outlying trust e-File submissions have gotten same-day service, and Form 4 trust submission review times have suddenly trended up in 2015. (ATF does report they’ve had some problems with badly formed trusts that were set up without a specialized attorney).

The trendlines get even more interesting if you go back to the full dataset on NFA Tracker, which takes us back to 2006, before the advent of the World’s Greatest Gun Salesman.


Again, it embiggens if you click it. As you can see here, prior to 2009 transfers seemed to be a 30-60-90-day thing, although the data is pretty thin at that point. In January 2011, approval times started to increase rapidly until by the fall of that year, and for the next 12 months, approval times clustered close together, centered on a median of about 180 days or six months.

Then, after the 2012 elections, the delays skyrocketed again. peaking at nearly a year in the summer of 2013, and then descending.

It’s also significant, we think, that all kinds of forms and filing methods seem to have been treated similarly until around September 2013, when some (principally, e-Filed forms) began to show much more rapid adjudication than paper forms of similar type.

This data pattern looks to us more like an agency struggling to serve more customers than it has ever had to handle before, than the fruits of any kind of conspiracy.

We could simplify life for the NFA Branch and its examiners by changing the law so that SBRs, SBSes, and suppressors are handled as Title I firearms. Handling these within the strictures of the NFA does not prevent or solve crimes, after all; these weapons are little used in criminal activity, and the ones that are so used, are almost always stolen. Therefore removing these low-crimefighting-value firearms registrations from the pool would reduce the workload on the examiners and let them focus on efforts more useful to actual crimefighting.

Some Thoughts on Police Trade-Ins

Favorite FFL emailed his list of customers to say that he had some police trade-ins:

Available starting tomorrow at 9AM are these police department trade in guns.

Bushmaster XM15E2S 5.56mm rifles.  16″ barrel, collapsible stocks, will come with one 30rd mag.  Used, cosmetic blemishes from being in cruiser racks however mechanically sound.  We also have a special going with our Cerakote vendor to get $25 off a refinish with Cerakote gun coating if you so desire.  $475

File photo of a Remington 870 tactical police shotgun

File photo of a Remington 870 tactical police shotgun

Remington 870 Police Magnum 12ga pump shotguns. These have 18.5″ standard barrels with sights.  Two have BlackHawk recoil reducing stocks and two have regular stocks with side saddle shell holders. These also will have some finish wear as well but are mechanically sound.  $325

They’re going to be gone by now, probably; he just had single-digits of each.

Meanwhile, SF Buddy on the phone described his new score:

An HK imported Benelli shotgun that the local detectoves used to use. They have changed (not upgraded) to Mossberg pumps.

Aside: asks your humble host: “Wha’s wrong with a Mossberg pump?”

Turns out, lots of things, but basically, the single aluminum alloy op-rod is prone to bending when used hard. When Army Mossbergs had this problem, the answer was, per Mossberg, a thicker aluminum op-rod… result? One thicker bent aluminum op-rod.

He’s very pleased with the new gun so far. It was a lot more expensive than the above-referenced 870s, but it was a good buy for an HK-era Benelli.

Pros and Cons of Police Trade-ins

Police trade in weapons when they buy new ones, in most states and cities. This lets them save a lot of money on this vital equipment, while keeping their equipment pool up to date (and sometimes, even, under warranty).

The strengths of these weapons usually are:

  1. The weapon design and manufacture was generally good. Police agencies seldom buy junk. When they trade them, it’s more likely to be because they are out of fashion than any real substantive difference between the new guns and the old.
  2. Police weapons are usually chambered for what is thought at the time to be an effective cartridge. All 20th and 21st-Century police firearms can be effective on homo sapiens, to the extent that a handgun can be, with well-selected or handloaded rounds.
  3. The weapons are usually little shot and in good mechanical shape. 90% or more of cops would sooner attend a Free Mumia rally that shoot a single round more than minimum to qualify, so few of these weapons are shot out.
  4. The weapon was subject to some kind of periodic maintenance and inspection.
  5. The police provenance may give you an entertaining story to go with the gun. Or not.


PSP Patch Beretta 2

The Pennsylvania State Police is one agency that disposes their used handguns — in this case, a Beretta 96.


Weaknesses of these weapons usually are:

  1. Because PDs so dependably follow trends, you’re probably picking up something from one trend ago.
  2. They generally only come in limited configurations. If you prefer, say, the 9mm to the .40 S&W, you don’t get to choose, the way you would with a new gun.
  3. The weapons are usually in fair to poor cosmetic shape, and may not have been cleaned in a long time — if ever.
  4. Cop trades, unless a very large agency suddenly gluts the market or the agency’s version of the gun had market-toxic lawyer “improvements” like a New York or DAO trigger, tend to be priced a little higher than similar used guns.
  5. Police guns are bought by collectors as well as users, especially if the firearm is marked with police identification.

G36: German Gun Mag Thought They Had the Answer Last Year

A German gun magazine publisher conducted an investigation of the G36 last year, with the assistance (of course) of H&K. Running online under a title that translates to the rather optimistic “Overheating Problem Cleared Up,” the short version of the article combines reporting on the alleged accuracy problem with a range report on the rifle. (Vielen Dank to the anonymous tipster who sent it to us).


A key paragraph of the report:

For about two years, negative reports of the supposedly deficient performance of the HK G36 in combat. have been multiplying in TV und print media, such as Report Mainz, Frontal 21, Spiegel and BILD. The core of the allegations has always been that an HK G36 fired until hot will disperse its shots so widely that the enemy can no longer be safely combatted. The Bundewehr introduced a Close Combat Shot Cycle (Einsatznahen-Beschuss-Zyklus or EBZ) in March, 2012, in which the entire basic load of 150 cartridges is fired in 20 minutes. On the basis of the EBZ the manufacturer carried out in-house experiments with ten various  G36s manufactured during the years 1996 to 2008.

The article describes HK’s shock at learning that the weapon failed tests — new tests, that hadn’t been part of the firearm’s original adoption — and the range results obtained by company in those tests, and by the magazine’s shooters using a rack-grade G36 and following both slow fire and EBZ protocols.

The 134-page invesigative report by Heckler & Koch, “Assault rifle G36 Investigation of dispersion and aiming point behavior of the Weapon in Fired-Hot Condition” (Sturmgewehr G36-Untersuchung zum Streuungs- und Treffpunktverhalten der Waffe im heißgeschossenen Zustand) exactly describes the test conditions, the technical procedures and the results, which have been compiled meticulously. Certainly there is an increase in group size with forced rapid fire in shot-hot conditions, as there are with any other weapon; the HK G36 is no exception.

See what they did there? They’re not saying “our gun doesn’t do this,” after tests that show, well, that it does; they’re making a tu quoque argument: “others do it too!”

Cold bore, all was well....

Cold bore, all was well…. 10 shots in a 78mm/ roughly 3″ group

The article does go on to suggest that variable and out-of-spec bullet-jacket thicknesses, not the rifle itself, causes the dispersion problem (which they confirmed as about doubling group size when hot, from a 20 cm (~8″) group at 100m, to 40 cm (~16″)).

The original article teaser (in German) is here; or you can try your luck with a mechanically brutal Google translation auf englisch. The article reportedly appeared in the April 2014 German magazines Caliber and Visier, so we’d like a scan or .pdf if anybody has it (you can send it to hognose at We’d also really like to have a copy of the 134-page HK report. (If you’re listening, HK USA, send us the report and we’ll do a certified translation for you for free).

Remember, by the time Caliber and Visier ran this article, the “media whirlwind” (as they call it) over the G 36 had been going on for over two years. Obviously this predates the recent results in which independent testing also showed an unacceptable increase in dispersion when the rifle was rapid-fired in hot environmental conditions. And the media whirlwind, spun up further by new revelations, shows no sign of abating.

German Sturm und Drang over G36

The German media continue to run article after article criticizing the Bundeswehr’s G36 service rifle, and the procurement process that put the H&K product into the German Landser’s hands. The rifle has been extremely controversial from its introduction, but particularly since 2011.

HK G36

Of the various charges out there now, the one that has stuck, according to reports from the field and from German news media, is that the weapon loses all accuracy when it gets hot. The dispute has multiple facets or sides, including the Bundeswehr, H&K, the MOD’s current leaders, its former leaders, opposition politicians, and the German media; each such interest seems to be at war with all the others.

Here are a few of our translations of German news-magazine and blog headlines and subheads. Note that (1) these hasty hacks aren’t official, certified translations (if you want those, they come with a bill), and (2) the articles linked are in German, of course. Some of them may have English translations: look for a small British or British&American flag icon on the website.

G36C disassembled

ITEM: Spiegel, 7 Feb 14: Problems with Bundeswehr Standard Weapon: Legislature stops procurement of G36

After even more reports on the problems of the G36 assault rifle, the Bundestag pulls the emergency brake: The Committee on Budgets has immediately canceled all further orders of the weapon.

ITEM: Spiegel, 12 Mar 14: Examination of the Bundeswehr rifle G36: Whitewash from the Ministry of Defense

A serious accusation of the House of Ursula von der Leyen: Defense Commissioner [Hellmut] Königshause accused the Ministry of attempted manipulation of an examination of the G36 assault rifle. Negative outcomes were, in Berlin, not wanted.

ITEM: Stern, 29 Nov 14: Ministry Tried to Massage Weapons Report

The Defense Ministry is reported to have tried to influence the Experts’ Report on the deficiencies of the rifle G36. Certain formularions were used to try to “retouch” the weapon’s accuracy problems.

ITEM: Spiegel, 30 Mar 15: Bundeswehr: Tests Prove Deficient Accuracy of the G36

For months, there have been doubts about the Bundeswehr’s standard rifle . Now technical tests have demonstrated that the G36 is inaccurate when it’s fired hot. Minister von der Leyen is alarmed.

ITEM: Spiegel, 31 Mar 15: Bundeswehr Rifle G36: Heckler & Koch Accuses von der Leyen of a Targeted Campaign.

The negative reports about the Sturmgewehr G36 have occasioned strong conflict between the manufacturer and the Bundeswehr. Gunmaker Heckler & Koch said it was “shocked” by the decision of Minister von der Leyen

ITEM: Stern, 1 April 15: Von der Leyen has a Commission Investigate the Rifle Problem

A commission has been assigned by Federal Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) to investigate more deeply the problems with the Sturmgewehr G36 and the consequences thereof.

ITEM: Stern, 8 Apr 15: Leadership of MOD was Already Warned in 2011

The G36, the standard rifle of the Bundeswehr, fails under heat and no longer shoots accurately. A report from the Federal Accounting Office reveals: the problem has been known for years, but has been concealed.

(Note: this is the article that occasioned HK’s “Position Paper Nº. 3″ on the G36, available from HK here).

ITEM: Stern, 12 Apr 15: Two Commissions are to Investigate the G36 Affair simultaneously.

The MOD is having the affair of the troubled Sturmgewehr G36 investigated by two Commissions simultaneously. Sie sollen nach der Vorlage eines Berichts zur Treffsicherheit der Standardwaffe der Bundeswehr am kommenden Freitag eingesetzt werden.

There are many more articles. Here, for example, is a search string that will find all of Stern’s:

And here is Spiegel’s:

What it Means So Far

In the German Armed Forces, the G36 is on the bubble, even after the military has accepted hundreds of thousands of these rifles already. The MOD is seriously considering selecting some different rifle as an interim rifle. HK thought they could lobby their way out of trouble, and they have failed; as the only likely complete solution provider inside Germany, the bad odor they are now in with the major parties (CDU, SPD, and even the anti-defense Greens) means they have an uphill fight to either prevent the replacement of the G36, or provide the substitute.


This would be a really good time for HK to engineer a solution to the high-temp accuracy problem. It’s hard to believe that their tests do not show the same thing Bundeswehr and independent tests have found, that when the gun is hot from firing it can sling bullets as much as 50 cm (half a meter, just under 20″) from point of aim at 100 meters. Cold-bore the G36 is as accurate as any 5.56mm NATO rifle and more accurate than some, but there’s clearly something off in the largely-polymer rifle’s heat management.

You may recall that the G36 forerunner considered and nearly adopted by the US Army, the XM8, also came a cropper on heat-management issues (among many others).

HK’s only winning response at this point is a reengineered G36 that handles these heat issues with aplomb. The lack of confidence in the weapon in the Bundeswehr is not strictly a Bundeswehr problem, because an abandonment of the rifle by the German Armed Forces would be such a vote of no-confidence that its foreign sales would largely evaporate. (Some units might still be moved the way many Latin American and African rifles are adopted, with transfers to numbered Swiss bank accounts).

Meanwhile, other European, especially German and part-German, arms companies are looking at what they have to fill the racks in German arms rooms. FN can offer SCARs, SIG/Sauer the 500 series, Steyr the AUG. Israel may offer the Tavor, but the odds of a European nation, especially Germany, adopting an Israeli firearm approach zero. In addition almost everybody, even HK, can offer an M16/M4 clone. Some German SOF elements already have experience with the M4A1 and HK416, and there are points of preference for those carbines over the G36K they’re supposed to be using.

The US DOD would facilitate co-production if the Bundeswehr were seriously interested in guns similar to US-pattern ones, which it’s probably not. But the service has signaled it’s going to so something, and something big, about its G36 problem.

Finally — did anyone else notice the irony that, in Germany the press is crucifying their military for shortcomings of a service rifle most of the troops are happy with, and suggesting that they just buck up and buy the foreign alternative (such as the M4), while in the US the press from time to time crucifies the military for shortcomings of a service rifle most of the troops are happy with, and suggests that they just buck up and buy the foreign alternative (such as the G36)?

(In the interests of fairness, we provide links to and translation of the most recent HK Position Papers on the G36 overleaf. Click “more” to read them. –Eds.)

Continue reading

FN Teases New Civilian Versions of Military Weapons

This press release was so tempting that we had to double check — was it really dated April 10, not April 1? Turns out, it is (well, some versions are dated April 9).

(McLean, VA – April 9, 2015) FNH USA is excited to announce that three new products, including a brand-new product line, will be making their first appearance on the FNH USA Booth #2324 at the 2015 NRA Annual Meetings in Nashville, TN. Expected to be released in the Fall of 2015 are the mil-spec FN M249S™, a semi-automatic version of the U.S. Military’s M249 SAW light machine gun and two new additions to the company’s modern sporting rifle line, the FN 15™ M4 and M16 Military Collector Series.

Are they serious?


Serious as a heart attack.

Holy schnikeys, a semi-auto Minimi from none other than FN? True, we’d rather have the full-auto one (personal aside to William Hughes: may your soul’s torment in Hades never cease), but given the laws we’ve got, we’ll take it. The bad news is that, while they’re teasing the product now for a fall 2015 launch, they didn’t put a lot of prep into the website — it’s still all full of holes.

Machine Gunners Depend on Riflemen

And FN is also introducing two new “Military Collectors” versions of the M16 Rifle and M4 Carbine. These include DOD-like code labels on the magazine wells, unlike FN’s sporting AR-series guns which feature a very large FN logo on the mag well. As the press release puts it:


The FN 15™ Military Collector’s Series M4 and M16 bring to market military replica rifles made to FN’s exacting specifications. The semi-automatic rifles are chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO and feature M4 -profile 16 and 20-inch 1:7” RH, button broached and chrome-lined barrels, respectively. Each UID-labeled lower receiver is equipped with an ambidextrous selector switch, just like its select-fire big brother.

The web page for the Military Collectors carbines is better fleshed out than the M249S page.

Both of these product lines will find a niche market, and they’ll also help FN manage production when faced with the herky-jerky and unreliable nature of military orders. So it’s a win for FN, for the .mil (by helping to absorb overhead that would otherwise fall on the DOD budget), and of course, for those who want to own and shoot these firearms.

We want, we think, one of each. You?

SIG-nificant Shipping Update: MPX pistols, SBR

Back in January, 2013, we were pretty excited when SIG announced the MPX submachine gun, along with civilian-legal pistol, carbine and SBR variants. The piece we wrote then put this part-polymer MP5 analogue with AR-like ergonomics in its tactical, technical and historical context, but rereading it now, we were excited about this thing. We really wanted an SBR-SD version (and still do, and when we’re back in New Hampster we’ll enquire at the Pro Shop).


It’s also just the thing for PDs looking at dog-eared 1980s MP5s and cringing at what HK wants for replacements; the SMG version is priced a lot more attractively than the German firearm.

And then, of course, came the long wait for shipping, compounded by SIG and the ATF going to war (well, going to law, actually) over SIG’s design for a convertible carbine/SD variant. That one is still generating billable hours, so the very welcome news that MPX variants are shipping must except, at this time, the MCX carbine. But the first three variants are shipping, says SIG on Facebook:

Good news, SIG SAUER fans! The 9mm SIG MPX is now in full production and shipping! Three variants are on their way to distributors as we speak (Pistol, Pistol with SBX brace and Short-Barrel Rifle).

And they include this triumphant picture (you know the embiggen drill):

” 9mm_mpx_shipping

That looks like the new building to us, too. Well done, SIG.

The shipping variants include the pistol (illustrated), the pistol with folding SIG brace (naturally), and the SBR. No caliber conversions or variants, but these are coming: SIG has staked its future on modularity, it seems clear from the firearms it’s promoting on the SIG Evolution website. (That’s for specs and tech. For promotions and news, the place to look is the facebook site, or the Promotions page on the website).

The polymer magazines are molded for SIG by Lancer.

If you’ve been waiting to decide on one of these until you can see and handle it in your LGS, the hour is soon at hand. Hmmm… wonder if they’ll sell us an SBR now and let us trade it on an SBR/SD when it’s ready?