Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

Origins of the BAR, Part III: The BAR in WWI Combat

Val Browning with a BAR "Somewhere in France."

Val Browning with a BAR “Somewhere in France.”

The BAR was desperately sought by the AEF, and the officers of the Ordnance Corps recognized its brilliance immediately: while the equally brilliant M1917 water-cooled machine gun was subject to a degree of jiggery-pokery prior to adoption, the BAR was adopted, as is, at its very first demonstration.

But as we have seen, manufacturing took time to get started. There were drawings, and process sheets, and tools, and jigs and fixtures to prepare. John M. Browning typically worked in steel, and provided working prototypes: he never drew a set of production drawings in his life, and indeed, he is not noted for involving himself in questions of production, only of design. Therefore, the process of turning the BAR from his hand-tooled prototypes to a mass-producible arm for a citizen army took effort, which took time: about three months from contract kickoff with the outbreak of the war to first BARs with the AEF in France. Let’s go back to our expert, George Chinn:

In July 1918 the B.A.R’s arrived in France in the hands of the United States 79th Division, which was the first organization to be equipped with them and took them into action on 13 September 1918. The 80th Division was the first American Division already in France to be issued the weapons. It is an interesting fact that First Lt. Val Browning, son of the inventor, personally demonstrated the weapon against the enemy.

The B. A. R. was more enthusiastically received in Europe than the heavy water-cooled gun, and requests for purchase by all the Allied Governments were made immediately after it arrived overseas. The French Government alone asked for 15,000 to take the place of the inferior machine rifle, then being used by both French and American troops. The latter weapon was found so unreliable that many were actually thrown away by troops during action.

However, the War ended so soon after this that the bulk of the American forces were still equipped with machine guns supplied by the British and French.

While there exist some AARs praising the performance of the M1917, which went into combat about ten days later than the BAR, we’re not aware of primary source documents about the BAR’s performance. But while the contribution of a handful of BARs to the war effort might have been de minimis, the gun would embed itself in the American military postwar.

There is an interesting sidebar to the story of the BAR in France, as Tom Laemlein wrote in American Rifleman in 2012:

American divisions deployed to France after July 1, 1918 (including the 6th, 7th, 8th, 29th, 36th and 79th) carried the BAR with them. Incredibly, upon their arrival in France, most of these divisions had their BARs replaced with .30-cal. M1918 Chauchats, by order of Gen. John J. “Blackjack” Pershing. The first recorded use of the BAR was with the 79th Infantry Division, and that was not until Sept. 22, 1918, during the beginning of the Meuse-Argonne offensive. Just three other divisions would carry the BAR before the end of World War I.

General Pershing determined the best course of action would be to wait until most of the U.S. divisions could be fully equipped with BARs (and with a ready supply of the rifles and spare parts available) to gain the full advantage of deploying the new rifle. General Pershing also feared that if the BAR were deployed too quickly that the Germans would inevitably capture one, and seeing its great capability would reverse-engineer the weapon and make it their own.

Records of the Automatic Arms Section of the AEF present the status of automatic rifles in France as of Sept. 8, 1918: “At the present time 18 U.S. divisions have been equipped with the Chauchat. No more divisions will receive this weapon in the future. At the present time there are nine U.S. divisions equipped with the caliber .30 Chauchat. However this gun has proved to be not at all satisfactory, the cartridges sticking in the chamber after the gun becomes slightly hot. For this reason the gun has been issued as an emergency weapon and will be withdrawn as soon as the Browning Automatic Rifles are available. At the present time 27 U.S. divisions have been equipped with the Chauchat Auto Rifle, and two divisions with the British are using the British .303 Lewis machine guns. All divisions over and above this number have been equipped with the Browning Automatic Rifle.”

There’s even another interesting sidebar in there, relative to the Lewis gun, the British counterpart of the BAR at this time (1918). Lewis was not a Briton; he was, in fact, an American ordnance officer whose gun, due to branch politics, was never considered seriously by the US Army.

Finally, another American Rifleman story reproduces the text of a 17 September 1918 report b the Automatic Arms section of the AEF’s Engineering Division about what the report calls the “Browning Machine Rifle” or BMR, a name which apparenly didn’t stick. While the rifle had been in combat by the time, that’s not reflected in the report. A couple of interesting points:

The similarity in appearance between a B.M.R. and our service rifle is so great that when the guns are in the field that they cannot be distinguished from each other at a distance greater than 50 yds.

And the tactical employment envisioned was not the “walking fire” about which so much has been written. Instead:

The gun will be used for the most part as a rapid firing single shot weapon. It can be fired from the shoulder, kneeling or prone, the greatest accuracy, of course, being obtained in the latter position with the front of the forearm resting on some rigid body. In cases of emergency where the ammunition can be supplied, and where a large volume of fire is necessary, this gun will be fired automatically. Five hundred rounds were fired in 3½ minutes under field conditions, but this figure is a maximum for fire volume. Under ordinary conditions 300 rounds should be placed as a limit for continuous automatic fire except in cases of emergency.

Do Read the Whole Thing™. Automatic fire was envisioned as something to be used “In cases of emergency where the ammunition can be supplied, and where a large volume of fire is necessary.” That just goes to show that doctrine was evolving dynamically in 1917-18, and that it would evolve further in later years. By World War II, not only was the M1918A2 version not used “as a rapid firing single shot, weapon,” it couldn’t be: it had no semi-auto setting, and offered a low cyclic rate option in its place.

In the end, it’s impossible to avoid the thought that the BAR did achieve one very important result in World War I: it showed what was possible in wartime production.

By Popular Demand: More BAR vs. BREN Video

R. Lee Ermey compares the BREN and the BAR in live fire, and comes to a surprising (to him) conclusion.

And here’s another BAR vs. BREN test — an accuracy competition, using vintage ammo, against B-27 silhouettes, at 100 yards.

That’s it for straight BAR-BREN comparisons. Now, there are some comparisons to other guns. First, the BAR vs. BREN vs. 1919. It’s a little slower that some of the other videos, but there’s more information in it, too.

Part II. He appears to be incorrect in attributing BREN design to simplifying the BAR, but some of his points about manipulation of the weapons are very good. One thing he is missing is that the BREN and the BAR were not deployed identically. (In fact, the BREN was employed, by doctrine, more like the Germans employed their MGs: don’t take our word for it, read our friends at Think Defence, who have dived into British wartime and prewar primary sources).

Now we go a little further afield. Here’s Ian and Karl of Forgotten Weapons and Full30 running a match with FG42 and BAR.

And Here’s a lively British guy we haven’t encountered before comparing the  Bren to what he calls the “Spandau,” the MG42.

(At least American GIs were referring to the old MG08 and 08/15, which were still turning up in Europe in 1944-45, as the Spandau. Period documents call the MG34 and 42 … the MG34 and -42).

What he calls “German kit fanboys” really didn’t like that video, and he made a rebuttal of their various rebuttals (which he answered in the long description of the first video). There’s some good information in these videos but the guy’s style is not for everybody.

Personally, we think he needs to amp up the humor a little, as he’s already got a bit of a Monty Python vibe to his channel.

Our conclusion: every combatant in World War II provided his grunts with some kind of light, portable weapon (and this evolved as the war continued). The weapons designs show differences in national preferences and approaches, but are more alike than different in their performance and tactical value. And we’re never going to get tired of arguing about the pros and cons of each.

Have at it in the comments, but please check your guns at the door.

“Say Hello to My Little Friend!”

You too can greet people like Al Pacino, improbably cast as a youthful Marielito thug in Brian de Palma’s Scarface, did, if you drop a bit of coin on this. Actually, you can do it more quietly, because this M16A1/M203 is suppressed.“Tony Montana, political ref-oo-gee from Cuba” was many things, but quiet wasn’t one of ’em.

Jackson M16A1 01Flip side:

Jackson M16A1 02Just the thing, for when your betrayed Colombian partner wants to hold you to his interpretation of “free trade.” Along with the registered and transferable Colt M16A1 lower:

Jackson M16A1 05Which has a later Colt M4 upper on it (note the forged-in “C” below the rear sight and behind the forge’s keyhole trade mark):

Jackson M16A1 04…you also get a Colt M203, in what looks like the full-house 12″ barrel:

Jackson M16A1 06Jackson M16A1 03…but with the circa-1990s dual-purpose mount for A2 and M4. (If you buy this and just want the M16, drop us a line about the 203. Seriously). And yes, you can use the KAC SOPMOD I rail kit with this (not the bottom rail, obviously). We know ’cause that’s what we did.

But, now for the bad news. We might have been fibbing a mite about the “bit of coin” part. The stinging three $200 transfer taxes (which gives ATF three shots at delaying your transfer!) are pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things: thanks to anti-gun politicians William Hughes and Charles Rangel, who jammed through the Hughes Amendment on a bogus voice vote in the middle of the night, it’s got an asking price of forty freaking thousand dollars.

If we pay that for anything that does’t come with a deed, the lawyer and the court need to assure us that the paperwork is final and she really is out of our life for good, and has no further comebacks on us. In writing.

Jackson M16A1 07Still, it’s kind of a nice gun.

Troy XM177E2 Shipping…? Extensive UPDATE

Troy XM177 AR15 MagIt looks like the firearm we’ve mentioned before is shipping, at least to writers. Guns & Ammo’s “Book of the AR-15” magazine has it on the cover and has a review inside, beginning on Page 6, with an interesting combination of insightful points and egregious errors.

The magazine’s on newsstands now; we bought it at the Walmart in Big City.

We’ll try to elaborate on this post later today, but first shot suggests:

  1. Steve Troy has really put a lot of work into making an accurate repro of the classic MACV-SOG recon trooper’s personal weapon. In fact, there’s so much work this really has to be a limited production product.
  2. There are some hidden improvements that improve the function of the firearm compared to its historical prototype. For instance, it has 1:7 rifling and M4 feed ramps.

Let’s elaborate on both of those points first, then we’ll get to the “egregious errors”.

Details of the Troy XM177E2

Receiver: We assumed that Troy would be cutting some kind of deal with Nodak Spud for the company’s perfect A1-style receivers. It turns out that Troy is taking a modern M4 style lower and reprofiling it to A1 shape. This requires the later-production reinforcements to be removed, particularly from the pivot pin bosses and the buffer tower area. If you’re not going to run a bayonet assault course with this XM177E2, and we can guarantee you’re not, you’re unlikely to see failure there. (In many years of using A1s with this same lower, we never saw a failure of a receiver, except in a rifle that fell 800 feet (or maybe 1250, it might have been before we lowered static-line jump altitudes in the late eighties) and hit like 6.6 lbs of bricks. We did see a lot of A1 barrels bent.

The rifle naturally differs in marking detail from original XM177s, which were made by Colt. The trademarks and name and address are Troy’s, not Colt’s. Apart from that, though, they’re marked in as retro a style as one might ask, including US GOVERNMENT PROPERTY, SAFE / SEMI / AUTO markings and even a small “ring” that creates the illusion of an auto sear pin. To prevent owners from being jacked up by uninformed cops and agents, the shelf area is blocked, and a note that the rifle is REPLICA and SEMI-AUTO ONLY is placed on the receiver top, where it’s only visible when the takedown pin is punched out and the upper and lower receivers separated. That does mean that this firearm is an unsuitable host for a drop-in auto sear, but a DIAS is a rare thing these days.

Barrel: The barrel is claimed to be a perfect external match for the XM177E2 profile, except that it is ¾” longer, to allow a pinned and welded false moderator to make the barrel assembly legal Title 1 firearm length. The bayonet lug is ground off (as it was on original E2s). It’s impossible to tell from the available photos whether the profile just behind the moderator is correct (there should be a slight thickening here, as there is just behind the flash hider of an A1). The article says in different places that the front sight is an A1 and an A2 type. (The A1 is round in cross-section and tapered with five points of adjustment, the A2 is square-sectioned with four). The rear sight is an A1 type with A2 aperture.

Stocks: Here some of the most remarkable work was done: the six-hole early Colt handguard halves are reproduced, from the photos, accurately, and the plastic-covered aluminum alloy stock, long a sought-after part for retro-AR builders, has been duplicated. It’s unlikely that the plastic is the original vinyl acetate, and more likely it is a modern polymer (more easily handled, with fewer HAZMAT constraints), but the article only says “polymer.” The pistol grip is an original surplus M16A1 part (used).

Performance: In their testing, it was a 2½ inch gun over 5-shot groups at 100 yards. This far exceeds the military specification but it’s not great for a modern carbine. It’s adequate for most things you’d hunt with an AR, and perfectly fine for home defense, but most Troy XM177E2 buyers are buying for the nostalgia vibe more than as practical shooters. It’s not a dreadful choice as your only AR (especially if you’re buying in the context of a US martial rifle collection)

Disclaimer: Troy contributes $50 from each XM177E2 sale to the Special Forces Association and the Special Operations Association. Your humble blogger is a full life member of both organizations. Troy’s generosity to these groups has not influenced our opinion of its rifle — as we have yet to handle one, we’ll form that opinion when we do — but we are thankful for the company’s support of Special Operations veterans.

Tentative Conclusion: It’s an interesting rifle and we’re going to look for one to try out. We’re really interested in comparing it to the forthcoming Colt version. Competition should improve the breed!

Errors in the Article

We hate errors, but we make them as much as the next guy, so we understand how they get out there. Still, the sheer quantity of them in the Book of the AR-15 article was a disappointment. For example, it suggests that 55-grain bullets didn’t work well with 12-inch rifling; it’s actually the 63-grain M855, plus any heavier bullet like common 75 and 77 grain match ammo, that isn’t stabilized by 1-in-12 rifling. (The faster rifling in this rifle works well with all ammunition weights, so it’s something of a moot point).

For another example, it suggests the original XM177s did not have chrome-lined barrels (they did). It also elides the various dead-end forerunners of the XM177E2, including not only the first two 177 types, but also Colt’s Models 605, 607 and 608, all of which contributed to the definitive carbine design. The article is correct, however, to note that this original firearm was the forerunner of just about every short and adjustable AR derivative in military and civilian use today.

 

Oddball Auction: The Iron Duck

In the M16A1-era Army, we often encountered a training aid like this, but we never encountered one just like this. The one that we encountered was the “rubber duck”: a dummy M16A1 or, later, M16A2 made by overmolding a solid rubber lower and stocks over a deadlined barrel or barreled upper. In this way, the Army recycled scrap M16 parts to make training aids for those evolutions in which a rifle was either certain to be messed up, or at high risk of damage or loss.

Iron Duck02

These training aids were made by a shop on the post that could turn out all kinds of interesting things, everything from a very convincing looking AT-3 Sagger missile pack to the not-quite-exact training aid one used to learn how to set timers on an atomic demolition munition. In our day, it was called TASC, the Training and Audiovisual Support Center, and it had all kinds of cool stuff you could sign out and play with, er, conduct “Army training, sir!” with. 

Iron Duck03

The auction was closing as we pulled it up, so the link won’t last (never mind, it’s been relisted). But it says this is no rubber duck, but an iron duck. If so, it’s the only one we’ve ever seen.

Cast Iron M16 dummy rifle. This is a cast iron training rifle made by TAD CS training Aids of Georgia. It is a very cool piece that must have been used at FT. Benning at some point though information on this particular item and the company that made it is scarce. Very cool and heavy piece of equipment.

via Cast Iron M16 dummy rifle : Other Collectibles at GunBroker.com.

The “company” is not a company, but obviously a newer name for TASC. TASC used to put its name (and sometimes its on-base phone number) on the rubber ducks this same way. TAD is the newer (1990s?) Army term for “Training Aids and Devices”.

Iron Duck03

As you can see, it appears to have a real (and no doubt u/s, if you could somehow detach it) barrel and front sight base.

Iron Duck07

On rubber ducks, you could actually fix a bayonet, although we’re not sure why you’d want to.

One difference from the rubber duck is that this is kind of crudely molded. With the rubber ducks, you can actually read the serial number of the M16A1 that was used for a pattern. On this one, not so much.

Iron Duck04

What an iron (or aluminum, maybe?) duck would be useful for is hard to say. Training people to surface dive and recover a rifle in the water, maybe?

All in all, a fun wall hanger for the Retro Black Rifle guy. Here we are still weeping over our auction success last week, so we’re reluctant to bid.

So How New Are “Assault Weapons”?

SP1SN00628_closeupOne claim we keep seeing in the media is that “assault weapons” are something new, either new just before they were banned in the 1990s, or new since the ban expired in 2004. This is nonsense. Sure, the term is a neologism coined by national socialist Josh Sugarmann in the late 1980s, but the sort of rifles and pistols he applied that terminology to were already in common and customary use over a decade prior.

Using the definition in the 1994 law, or better still, using the definition the media seems to fall back on, “anything that will take a double-row magazine,” we see that dozens of such were available even 40 years ago.

What high-cap semi-autos were available 40 years ago?

Handguns

Beretta DA Auto Pistol (.380, 12-round magazine).
Browning P35 High Power (9mm, 13 rounds). (Several models).
LES P-18 (9mm, 18 rounds)
Smith & Wesson M59 (9mm, 14 rounds)
Universal “Enforcer” M3000 (.30 carbine, 30 rounds).

Rifles

Armalite AR-180 (5.56mm, 5, 20 & 30 rounds).
Colt AR-15 Sporter (5.56mm, 5, 20 & 30 rounds)
National Ordnance M1 Carbine (.30 carbine, 15 & 30 rounds). (Several models).
PJK M-68 Carbine (9mm, 30 rounds).
Plainfield Machine Co. Carbine (.30 carbine, 15 & 30 rounds). (Several models).
Ruger Mini-14 (5.56mm, 5 & 20 rounds). (Several models).
Springfield Armory M1A (7.62 x 51mm, 10 & 20 rounds). (Several models).
Universal 1002/1003 Autoloading Carbine (.30 carbine, 15 & 30 rounds). (Several models).
Valmet M/62S Rifle (7.62 x 39mm, 30 rounds) (Two models).
Valmet M/72S Rifle (5.56 x 45mm, 30 rounds) (Two models).

Source

Amber, John T., Ed. Gun Digest: 30th Anniversary 1976 Deluxe Edition. Northfield, IL: DBI Books, 1975. pp. 281-329.

Conclusions

There’s nothing new under the sun. Forty years ago, in the throes of the foreshortened Ford Administration, American gun buyers could buy AR-15s, M1 Carbines and clones, an M14 clone, and two different AK clones. They could also buy several handguns which came standard with a magazine holding over 10 rounds. All in all there are 15 models listed with features that would frighten Congress. Some of these weapons were already quite old; the AR-15 SP1 was 13 years old; the various carbines originally had been made from parts surplused after World War II ended some 30 years prior.

On the handgun side, they had 12-, 13-, 14- and even 18-shot capacities to choose from. These were not all entirely new novelties; the Browning High Power was already over 40 years old.

On the rifle side, Sterling began producing 40-round AR-15/AR-180 magazines at this time.

Note also that the 1976 Gun Digest was produced in 1975 (in order to ship before its cover date). In the 1977 Gun Digest, the HKs start showing up.

murderrate

Since then, these weapons have only multiplied around the nation, and the murder rate, 8.7 in 1976, has dropped to about half that, primarily due to mandatory sentencing removing predators from the ecosystem.

It would be interesting to continue this examination of old Gun Digest annuals, and see whether the “availability” of models of “assault weapon” tracks the murder rate. Murder rate is used as a proxy for crime rate because police managers have become adept at reclassifying crimes, but they have a much harder time making a dead body disappear — a conundrum that has been the undoing of many a nefarious plot.

 

The 5.7 OG, Video Follow-Up

Here’s an NRA “I have this old gun” video on the Johnson Spitfire, with all the usual suspects (Phil Schreier, Martin K.A. Morgan, Mark A. Keefe IV, etc.) and a little of the history we discussed yesterday. There are also some clear pictures of the folding stock variant.

“Yes, it’s a footnote to the history of the M1 Carbine,” says Morgan. “But it’s a darn interesting footnote!” We agree.

The 5.7 OG

Mel Johnson holding a sporting Spitfire with his rifles and MGs displayed.

Mel Johnson holding a sporting Spitfire with his rifles and MGs displayed.

Long before FN differentiated their small .22 caliber centerfire pistol round by calling it the 5.7, another 5.7 launched in a big media splash and went nowhere — even though it’s father was one of the most distinguished firearms designers of the 20th Century.

The 5.7 Original Gangsta round is often called the 5.7 Spitfire, although its official name was actually the 5.7 MMJ, after the initials of its inventor: Melvin M. Johnson of Johnson Rifle and LMG fame. Johnson began working on a 5.7 x 33 necked version of the US .30 Carbine cartridge in 1961, and introduced the cartridge in his own M1 Carbine version, the 5.7 Spitfire, in 1963. While he always intended the round to be a light, handy, high-velocity carbine round, he did round development in a bolt-action with a custom Sako barrel, achieving MOA accuracy. In the Spitfire carbine, 3″ groups at 100 yards was more standard, but Johnson did make a 2.25″ 5 shot group in 5 seconds from the carbine once, in 1962.

He had initially hoped for 3,000 fps but…

… this raises the pressures over the 40,000 PSI mark (.30 carbine standard) which, as Johnson says, “Is not so good for the M1 carbine extractor.”1

57 vs 30 carbine ammoyFinal performance was about 2,800 fps with a 40-grain full metal jacket bullet.

The Spitfire wasn’t just a rebarreled carbine. Rakusan noted that…

The carbine itself undergoes considerable change to accept this new cartridge. The barrel is relined and rechambered. The gas port is altered, giving twice the operating gas compression ratio of the original .30 carbine and about 20% more power in the driving spring, this plus cartridge design assuring positive feeding. With the 18″ barrel (Johnson also has a military version with a 12″ barrel) the overall length of the new carving is 35″, 27 1/2″ with the stock folded, 1 1/2″ longer than the requirements of the Federal Firearms Act. This short, handy length is achieved by a folding wire stock which also acts as an optional fore-end grip.

In 1964, Johnson would sell you a Spitfire from his New Haven business address for $130, or convert your M1 Carbine for $73. In addition, a shorty military/NFA version was available which, with the folding stock, was a mere 21″ long folded thanks to a 12″ barrel. In addition to the military Spitfires, some were finely finished sporting arms (NRA image below):

sporting_johnson_spitfire

While most modern articles about the 5.7 MMJ and 5.7 Spitfire seem to talk it up as a military gun, the 1964 Shotgun News article stresses sporting applications: “short-range varmint hunting.”

Mel Johnson writes that he was impressed by George Lindsay’s remarks in “The Hornet’s Big Enough,” published in the 17th edition of the Gun Digest, which stated, “Even out West, fences are going up. People are closing in– and somebody is sitting on my rock.”

For too many varmint hunters the days of wide open ranges are gone, and most of the hunting must be done in semi- populated areas. Here is where the 5.7 spitfire will shine– remember, it was designed primarily as a short-to-medium-range varminter.3

Johnson was still promoting the Spitfire and seeking investors when he passed away of an unexpected heart attack on a business trip to Boston. He was 55 years old, and without him, the light went out of the project, although family tried to continue it. Periodically someone tries to resurrect the project, notably IAI in the early 90s.

The 5.7 Spitfire was tested informally by SF in Vietnam (where some carried carbines because that’s what most of their CIDG carried). No one really knows how many Spirfires were made and converted; they’re rare today, but seem to draw little collector interest, perhaps because of the wildcat round. Making the ammo is not as onerous as people think, and custom-loaded (and 5.7 Johnson headstamped) ammo is available, at a price. A Spitfire would be a nice addition to a Johnson collection.

Sources

Canfield, Bruce N. (with Robert  L. Lamoureaux and Edward R. Johnson). Johnson Rifles and Machine Guns: The Story of Melvin Maynard Johnson, Jr., and His Guns. Lincoln, RI: Adrew Mowbray Publishers, 2002.

Rakusan, J. 5.7 Spitfire, in Amber, John T. (Ed.). Gun Digest, 1964. Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1964. p. 166.

Notes

  1. Rakusan, J. 5.7 Spitfire, in Amber, John T. (Ed.). Gun Digest, 1964. Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1964. p. 166.
  2. Ibid. 
  3. Ibid. 

One Cool Tool

US Tool Manual Bolt Extraction Device 556-308Here at the Wile E Coyote Institute for Applied Aeronautics (and Gunsmiting) we occasionally find a tool we really like. Here is one such tool that not only belongs in your shop toolbox, but in your range kit, and that goes double if you’re a unit or department armorer (or a small department’s go-to gun guy), or an SF guy that has to run ranges for the Third World, or a range officer at a range open to the public (almost the same thing).

We’ve all seen the stoppage you get when an overpressure round, or maybe a nasty chamber in an unlined barrel on a bargain-basement AR, solidly stuck. It’s like the thing brazed itself in there! It’s hard to get enough leverage on a charging handle to move the bolt carrier back and unlock that damn-near-welded bolt. If the carrier is fully forward, you can separate upper and lower and attack the carrier from underneath, but if it’s back just a few millimeters it’s hard to separate the upper and lower.

You can get a similar problem with a double-feed, commonly caused by crummy or worn-out magazines. Your gun is out of action until you can reduce the stoppage.

And then there’s the circumstance, when some schmo brings the seized rifle in to the shop after getting the case stuck and then letting it sit for three months in the salty sea breeze, hoping that time heals all wounds.

The US Tool & Design Manual Bolt Extraction Device is simplicity itself: a lever with a yoke at one end that can be inserted through the magazine well and pry the bolt carrier back. That lets you open things up and get the gun back into action, or at least, troubleshoot the problem. Here’s an image showing how it works, with the upper absent for clarity:

US Tool Manual Bolt Extraction Device 02

It’s available in three versions: compact 5.56mm and 7.62mm versions, and a double-ended dual-caliber variety. (Of course these will work with other calibers on the same platform, so order the 5.56 one for .300 BLK, for example; the critical sizes are the bolt and bolt carrier).

US Tool Manual Bolt Extraction Device three versions

The dual-ended one is perfect for the shop workbench, and we could see the other attached by a clip to the rails on one’s field rifle. It would give you a way to clear this kind of stoppage in combat.

US Tool Manual Bolt Extraction Device

Here’s what they say about their tool, for which they’ve applied for a patent:

The Manual Bolt Extraction Device (MBED) is designed to be used in the event of a malfunction where you need direct access to the bolt carrier group (BCG) and the leverage provided by the charging handle is insufficient. The MBED is effectively used to clear the most common stoppages such as a double feed where the second round is wedged above the BCG. The MBED can also be used to clear an over pressured round or any stoppage where the casing is stuck in the chamber and has seized function of the rifle.

The MBED can be used to aide in any stoppage where direct access to the bolt carrier is needed. The AR-15/AR-10 platform does not allow for the user to have access to the bolt like the AK47, M1 Garand or M14 style rifles. The charging handle gives minimal leverage to the bolt carrier group and requires multiple tools and at least two individuals to clear these stoppages. The MBED is a single tool that a single individual can use to get the rifle back into working order in a short amount of time.

This is simple and that’s what makes it brilliant. We’re ordering one for the bench and one for the range bag, at least until we can figure out the rail clip that we want to make. You can buy the MBED here: https://www.ustoolanddesign.com/products/manual-bolt-extraction-device

Thing from the Vault: Barnett Enfield (Real, or Darra Adam Khel?)

Some of you who have hung out with us have seen this long gun and its cousins, and heard the story of how it came to catch a C-17 ride home wearing a GI souvenir tag, and palletized in a purpose-built wood box with a number of its brethren. Exactly how and why your humble blogger became the FFL Type 02 (Pawnbroker) equivalent for a remote and allegedly Taliban-infested valley is a story to be told face to face, but suffice it now to say that such a thing happened, and a variety of antique oddities lounge about Hog Manor in consequence thereof.

afghan_enfield_01_-_16_overview

We are about the furthest thing you can imagine from expertise on British black powder guns, so our answer to the question in the title is more a matter of supposition and deduction than it is of confidence. But we believe the rifle to be a Pashtun copy, made at some unknown time by hand, probably by the gunsmiths of the Adam Khel tribe in their home city, Darra Adam Khel.

Some of the reasons are: the light-colored no-name wood of the stock; the uncertain-looking brass parts, which look more like they were cast by cottage industry than by a mid-19th Century industrial plant; the spiral seam in the barrel, where it was made by hand-forging a rectangular bar in spiral form around a mandrel; the flimsy sheet metal piece opposite the lock; the weird heads, threads and alignments of the screws.

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On the other hand, the engraving is clear and without misspellings. Since many Darra gunsmiths are illiterate in any language, you frequently see mirror-image letters and other wierdness in inscriptions. The lock date (1869) is much too late for a P53 Enfield, but it could be a P59, a similar musket made in smoothbore strictly for the use of native troops in British India. So it could be a P59 that has, over the last near sesquicentury, become the host to many repaired and replaced native parts.

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Click more to see some more of the uneven and sometimes crude construction, and many character-rich repairs, of this venerable firearm.

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