Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

Ow! Defoor Disses the ACOG

Defoor borrowed this elderly ACOG from the element he was training.

Defoor borrowed this elderly ACOG from the element he was training.

When the Elcan Spectre DR came online to replace the ACOG TA01NSN, we loved it — for about 30 minutes. It was a beautiful piece of glass (at its staggering price, it should be) and the dual magnification — a flip of a lever migrates you from 1 to 4x and zero holds like a rock — was that rare thing, a marketing feature that action guys could actually use. It was bulkier than the ACOG, but had less stuff to snag on your stuff. But lots of us fell out of love with it nearly as fast. Its weak spot was that, while it was stronger than the typical sporting scope, it was no match for the ACOG’s anvil-like qualities. (Over time, of course, operators could break the early ACOGs too). Trijicon is really good about standing behind these old scopes and will go through one and update the tritium, for example, for a reasonable charge ($150 last we checked).

But that was then, and this is now. And here comes Kyle Defoor to put down our favorite (if elderly) combat optic. He writes:

Getting some time on the ACOG this week. Some dudes still use it/are issued it as their primary. My department is to show them how to use whatever they got as good as they can.

To be a professional in this biz you got to be able to show up and shoot whatever, whenever completely stock and sometimes use the gear of the customer if you don’t have what’s needed……and with that, thanks to the guys for loaning me one to rock while we trained together.

And he accompanied it with the usual entertaining array of hashtags:

#defoorproformanceshooting #acog #training #carbine #5days #runwhatyoubrung #makethebestofit

And therein lies a valid point. There’s always going to be something new and technically a bit better than last year’s (or in the case of  the TA01 ACOG, decade’s) model. Chasing an optimized “best” rig is not worth the trouble for most people. First, if you are a pro user some guy way up the chain from you is probably going to dictate what you use, or if you’re lucky, dictate what options you have to choose from.

This “dictation” isn’t too restrictive in some cases, like if you’re a SEAL, PJ, SF, etc. But in some other cases, like an Army support troop or Marine rifleman, you will be told what you will be carrying and will be ordered to like it. At that point, you can whine about it, sign up for selection (where, should you succeed, you will discover that you’re still working for The Man, just at a higher level), or take Kyle’s advice and run what you brung and make the best of it.

Fortunately, the baseline weapons and optics available to grunts today are quite good stuff. The fact that they don’t have this year’s shine on ’em, or weren’t on the cover of REAL OPERATORS BUY THIS magazine last month, doesn’t matter. Real operators can operate with sticks and stones, hell, with their bare knuckles; any step up from that is gravy. And you too can shoot better and more effectively with the weapons you have now, and money and time spent on ammo and training will almost always have a return on investment far beyond what you get from money and time spent picking out and acquiring new and better gear.

If you’re going to be using a carbine over a wide range of, well, ranges and lighting conditions, etc., the ACOG is still a good choice. If your most likely employment is close up, or even indoors, then a red dot is the way to go. And in both cases, training and practice can let you extend the use of either to ranges where the other selection would have been optimum.

Armalite Images at Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Via the former Fairchild, FAEC, Fairchild Republic, etc., archives, the National Air and Space Museum has acquired a number of original Armalite publicity and industrial photographs. Thanks to armeiro on this thread in the ARFCOM Retro Forum, we’ve had a look at ’em.

NASM Caption: Exterior of an Armalite company building, possibly the firm's initial headquarters at 6567 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, California. The sign bears the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation's flying horse insignia; Armalite was a division of the Fairchild Corporation.

NASM Caption: Exterior of an Armalite company building, possibly the firm’s initial headquarters at 6567 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, California. The sign bears the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation’s flying horse insignia; Armalite was a division of the Fairchild Corporation.

We can confirm that that does appear to be the door of 6567 Santa Monica, still standing today, according to this Real Estate listing, and this Google Map image. The building is so subdivided that that unit is now a single 700 square foot shop or office. The now somewhat threadbare brick building has been whitewashed, and has grown a layer of ornamental stone near the (now single) door, and the parking lot’s been rearranged for more spaces, but it’s clearly the same place.

So if you live in LA, you can go and stand on the steps where Stoner, L. James Sullivan, and all the Armalite innovators went to work.

Technically, we’re violating NASM’s copyright restrictions by rehosting these images, but we’re (1) doing it as Fair Use and (2) feeding them some corrections and updates. Like this one:

Here’s a guy the Museum calls “an unidentified man” demonstrating “an Armalite AR-10 battle rifle equipped with an ENERGA anti-tank rifle grenade.” The ENERGA grenade was a Belgian design in worldwide use at the time. We’re pretty sure most of you can identify the gentleman in question.


He is Eugene Stoner! NASM also dates this photo “circa 1960,” but by 1960 AR-10 production was underway at AI (based, of course, on earlier engineering of the production rifle), and Armeiro identifies this specific prototype:

This particular unit was a one off prototype from the second U.S. AR-10 model,it has a early design bipod and a reinforced barrel end section in order to fire ENERGA anti-tank rifle grenades,as seen in the photo.

This specific prototype is in the Reed Knight collection. We would guess the photo to be nearer to 1956 or 1957, assuming a prototype was still being used for publicity photos that late. Note that the rifle Stoner holds does not appear to have the canonical AR-10 top mounted gas tube; in early prototypes it came off the right side of the barrel. (This may have been due to an Army Ordnance objection to top mounted gas tubes as risky to shooters; in reality, Army Ordnance of the day was hostile to anything competitive with in-house designs, and the AR-10 was a potential M14 slayer).

Here’s an AR-5 prototype (survival rifle, bolt-action centerfire ancestor of the .22 semi AR-7), taking a ducking with a bathing beauty:


Born about 1940, this pretty lady is probably somebody’s great-grandmother now! But she can’t match that floating AR-5 for progeny.

In another error, the NASM refers to the “AR-5 Parasniper Rifle.” The Parasniper was the first Armalite product, before that name was even formalized, a bolt-action rifle that used aluminum forgings and fiberglass stocks to achieve lowest-in-class weight. It was retroactively numbered the AR-1.


The FN 49, the Rifle that Didn’t Change the World


A couple of SAFNS enjoy retirement. (All images embiggen with a click).

If the FN Model 1949, also called the SAFN (Semi-Automatic FN), had been, as intended, the FN 36, or at least the FN 38, it might have changed the world. But its development took longer than planned and was interrupted by war — its designer exiled, its plans hidden, and then, its manufacturer in ruins and needing to rebuild.

During his exile, Dieudonné Saive supervised the construction of over 50 prototypes of versions of the rifle that later would become the SAFN, for his British hosts at Enfield. Some of these prototypes still exist today, but the British Army was never serious about a semi-auto during the war; British soldiers and leaders were happy with the old reliable Enfield bolt action.

Saive returned to an FN whose only boast was that it was less destroyed that most other Continental gun factories, despite the consequences of Allied bombing and German looting. But even as clean-up and restoration continued, he worked to bring his long-delayed semi-auto rifle design to life.

One benefit of this long gestation was that the SAFN was rather thoroughly debugged when it shipped, and it suffered fewer of the teething problems that other rifles that had had a more direct path to production, like the Tokarev, the M1 Garand, or even the AK, did.


But, it launched into a market saturated with high-quality arms that were surplus to the needs of downsizing military victors (and entirely-disarmed vanquished). An FN salesman could, were he worthy of the name at all, make a case that the SAFN was a better rifle than an M1, or the Mausers still used around the world at the time. But that case, assuming arguendo that it was strong when the cost of an M1 equaled the cost of an FN 49, was appreciably weaker and harder to make when the M1s were flowing at one-half, one-quarter, one-tenth of the cost of new production. Or free. The United States had literally millions of surplus M1s, and they rearmed many of the nations of Europe, giving guns in hopes of gaining influence — or as a reward for wartime alliances.

Some nations, like France, developed their own rifles in pursuit of national independence. “Thanks for your M1s, but we need a French rifle as soon as possible/” Indeed, in the fifteen years after World War II, many more nations than are in the business today developed their own firearms, even small nations like Indonesia, Egypt, and the Dominican Republic. It was a far cry from today’s consolidated market, where much of the world is content buying ARs and AKs from distant lands. (Indeed, the four former gun-making nations mentioned in this paragraph are using or going to imported ARs, AKs, or a combination thereof).

Venezuela was one of the nations that bought the SAFN. Notice the fine figure of the stock.

Venezuela was one of the nations that bought the SAFN. Notice the fine figure of the stock.

Other nations were on the outs with, or at least cautious about becoming dependent on, the US or USSR; between the World Wars they had bought from the neutrals, Belgium and Czechoslovakia, and with CS no longer neutral, the Belgians had a look in. And in this market context, FN designer Dieudonné Saive launched what may have been the finest World War II generation semi-auto rifle. Just in time for the world to have absorbed and fallen for the German intermediate cartridge assault rifle concept.

Technical Information

The SAFN is an old-school combat rifle, with wood (usually French Walnut, often highly figured) stocks, and the balance of the components being steel, often machined from forgings. It is heavy, compared to the modern standard, but it’s about equivalent to its contemporaries, the M1 Garand or the French MAS Mle. 1949 (the Tokarev SVT is noticeably lighter). The most common finish on original guns is paint over parkerizing, which makes for an ugly, chip-prone, but corrosion-resistant coating. These guns are all human retirement age (production was from 1949-1956), and barrel conditions of existing samples vary widely (they survived the heyday of corrosive ammunition, and the barrels were not chrome-lined).

The bolt and gas system of the SAFN strongly resembles that of its Soviet contemporaries, the Simonov and Tokarev semi-auto rifles; it is unlikely that copying was going on, rather than parallel, convergent evolution. A version of the tipping bolt had been used on several FN products, including the Browning Automatic Rifle. A solid benefit of the SAFN over its competitors was its toolless-adjustable gas system, which was not only good for adjusting to different lots, makers or types of ammunition, but enabled the rifle to fire rifle grenades (with special blanks). The rifle grenade launcher was a common SAFN accessory, as was a bayonet. (Bayonets are common, but many Mauser bayonets fit, too).

FN 49 muzzles. Top: the cutts-compensator like Flash Hider of the Venezuelan. Below: typical muzzle, in this case Egyptian.

FN 49 muzzles. Top: the cutts-compensator like Flash Hider of the Venezuelan. Below: typical muzzle, in this case Egyptian. Both show the adjustable gas port off well.

The biggest limitation the SAFN faced in the postwar environment was its prewar magazine concept. The magazine was not user-detachable, but was filled from above, using ordinary Mauser stripper clips, or a new FN-developed 10-round stripper. With this magazine, the provision of automatic fire capability on Belgian and some export SAFNs was truly puzzling: why? The rationale for this decision is lost in time, but it seems probable that the customers asked FN to do it.


FN 49 (here Venezuelan, Ser. Nº. 4955), shows off its stripper clip guide and magazine follower. The bolt is held back by the magazine follower until rounds are loaded — or it can be held back with the bolt catch visible opposite the operating handle.

This view from the left shows the bolt hold-open catch on the side of the receiver.

This view from the left shows the bolt hold-open catch on the side of the receiver.

As a semiauto rifle, the SAFN was, in its day, a good equivalent of the M1. Some people recommend it as a practical rifle, but in 2016, that’s just silly. If you must have steel, walnut, and a fixed magazine, the M1 has plentiful spare parts and knowledgable gunsmiths and accuracy specialists. The SAFN belongs in the safes and gun-rooms of collectors, and can certainly go to the range as much as you like.

SN 1949 SAFN Production & Sales

SAFN 1949 Variants
Nation Caliber Distinguishing Marks Production Quantity Notes
Venezuela 7 x 57 mm Venezuelan Crest 8,003 First sale (4,000 in 1948) Unique compensator/flash suppressor
7.5 x 57 mm No sales known
Argentina (Navy) 7.65 x 57 mm “ARA” for Armada Republica Argentina, and Argentine Crest 5,541 Some sources say 5,537
Belgium 7.62 x 63 mm “ABL” for Armee Belgique 88,173 .30-06, convertible to select fire, not US importable
Belgian Congo 7.62 x 63 mm Crest w/lion 2,795 .30-06, all select fire, not US importable
Brazil (Navy) 7.62 x 63 mm Brazilian crest & Anchor 11,001 .30-06
Colombia 7.62 x 63 mm Colombian crest 1,000 .30-06
Indonesia 7.62 x 63 mm “ADRI” and Eagle 16,100
Luxemburg 7.62 x 63 mm “AL” for Armee Luxembourgois 6,003
Argentina (Navy) 7.62 x 51 mm NATO, detachable mag No new guns, converted from 7.65mm. Mag is NOT an FAL mag.
Egypt 7.92 x 57 mm Eagle or Crown, Arabic numbers 37,641 Some sources say 37,602. Century imports may have replaced stocks
total 176,257
Venezuelan crest on a 7mm FN M1949.

Venezuelan crest on a 7mm FN M1949.

Crown of King Farouk and crest of the Kingdom of Egypt (Kingdom 1922-1952, Farouk's sovereignty  1936-52)

Crown of King Farouk and crest of the Kingdom of Egypt (Kingdom 1922-1952, Farouk’s sovereignty 1936-52)

Why the Short Run?

FN produced Mauser rifles (for military purposes, anyway) for over 60 years; in fact, the company was founded to build Mausers for the Belgian Army, and for export. But the SAFN lasted just seven years in production (and after the Belgian & Egyptian contracts were filled, by 1952-3, production was desultory. As you can see in the table above, those two contracts were the bulk of the rifles produced: roughly 126,000 out of 176,000, leaving only 50,000 for all other variants).

What happened?

Our pair of FNs. Venezuelan Nº 4955, not import marked; and Egyptian Nº 11507 (mismatched, refinished, imported by Century Arms).

Our pair of FNs. Venezuelan Nº 4955, not import marked; and Egyptian Nº 11507 (mismatched, refinished, imported by Century Arms). Note that the Egyptian rifle bears its serial numbers in Western and Arabian numbers. The receiver cover of the Nº 11507 is from a different rifle, Nº 12979. (Possibly 13979, as the Arabian numeral is hard to read).

What happened is that technology moved on, and the SAFN was obsolete even as Belgian craftsmen inspected the rifles on the line. No one knew that more than M. Saive, who was already at work on the Next Big Thing — and it would really be that. The FN-FAL (Fusil Automatique Leger, Light Automatic Rifle) would build on the SAFN’s reliable bolt and gas system, and add the sought-after features of select-fire (fairly useless in a 7,62 x 51 light rifle) and a detachable 20-round magazine (no soldier ever said “no” to more ammo). The FAL’s success was much greater, both technically and commercially, vindicating Saive’s vision and arming scores of nations from the 1950s through the 1990s — including many former SAFN and FN Mauser customers.

More Pictures Coming Soon?

Our photo models today are a relatively common 8mm (7.92 x 57 mm) Egyptian rifle, as imported, modified and sold by Century Arms, and a relatively rare Venezuelan model. While Venezuelans are often found in excellent condition, making them prized by collectors, this one is an exception: it’s fairly beaten-up, and was clearly stored in a pile with many other FN-49s: it’s got dings in the annular shape of the end of an FN-49 operating handle (part of the bolt carrier) all over its stock!

Behold, some dings.

Behold, some dings.Note the telltale mark of another FN 49, just under the “D’Armes” in the rollmark. 

More photos may be added after the jump, time permitting (if there isn’t a more link below this, we haven’t added the images yet).


Cammack, Mark. FN 49 Rifle – A Brief Overview. AmmoLand, 13 Jan 2016. Retrieved from:

Peterson, Phillip. Collectors Love The FN-49 Rifle. Gun Digest, 24 May 2011. Retrieved from:

Poyer, Joe. The SAFN-49 Battle Rifle (A Shooter’s and Collector’s Guide). Tustin, CA: North Cape, 1998. 

Stevens, R. Blake. The FN49 – the Rifle That Ran out of Time. Toronto: Collector Grade, 2011.

Stevens, R. Blake. The Metric FAL. Toronto: Collector Grade, 1989.

Get Shorty

That’s what Kyle Defoor recommends, anyway:

Defoor BCM SBR

The version on Instagram labels the gear clockwise from the light: Streamlight LLC (light), Aimpoint USA (micro red-dot), Bobro Engineering (QD sight mount), Bravo Company USA (the gun, grip, rail, etc.), and Arisaka Defense (the light mount). Kyle adds:

Lo vis carbine classes makes everyone appreciate 20 rd mags, Aimpoint Micros and of course shorty barrels.

Rail system is KMR, barrel is an 11½” 1/7 barrel from BCM, running a Gemtech suppressor.

Here’s his trick for running several optics and several guns whilst holding zero.

aimpoint on bobro defoor


My RDS and LPV share the same rail slot on all my carbines and each optic is marked for what it’s zeroed to. This makes for ease of travel when doing multiple courses where customers use different optics and for quickly grabbing whichever I need at the time and knowing its solid. It’s also a great option for owning only one carbine and getting the most out of it.

If you’re not reading his Instagram feed, you should probably consider it.

France Goes 416 — TFB

The Firearm Blog is reporting that French firearms media are reporting that the fat lady has sung for le Clarión, and the successor to the uniquely French bullpup is the rifle that personifies Germany’s payback for America’s theft of the Mauser action in 1903: the HK 416. So here, approximately third-hand, we tell you France has acquired German weapons.

The HK 416, like the SCAR, has seen combat with SF and other SOF. It's an OK but heavy piston AR.

The HK 416, like the SCAR, has seen combat with SF and other SOF. It’s an OK but heavy piston AR.

Historically, it was usually the other way around — in great piles, under broad tricolors missing the red and blue bits. But now France and Germany are united, more or less, under the European Union of Napoleon IV, alias Jean-Claude Juncker; and it makes sense for them to all use German, (via Lobachevskiy), arms. Indeed, one of the French requirements was that the new design be European, and the 416 is arguably more European than the million “refugees” from whom Germans are hiding their daughters, and the peculiar Frenchmen who make their beaten wives burka up, and who are prone to detonation in public places.

Of course, the Germans have yet to bite the Geschoß and declare for the 416, but everyone knows that’s how the long saga of the HK G36 ends. The only reason anyone’s watching that film any more is to see how the hero gets to the closing credits.

A previous downselect had narrowed a five-gun field to two, again according to TFB.

HK416 for France

It’s a measure of the market right now that four of the five contestants are excellent and combat-proven firearms. (The outlier is the VHS-2, which is fairly new).

The French COTS rifle purchase is an interesting comparison to the American way of doing things. It was announced in 2014, the downselect came in July, 2016, and the selection by September of 2016. Compare that to the US military’s thrashing and flailing on rifles, pistols, and even the XM25 Punisher grenade launcher, or, as the US Army’s love of jargon names it, Counter-Defilade Weapon. The US has probably spilled more dollars along the Via Dolorosa of its pistol-evaluation Calvary, without making a decision, than France will spend to buy about 100,000 416s — half carbine length, and half shorties.

The 416 and the SCAR were both known quantities in the Armée Française. Both weapons have been used successfully by special operations and rapid deployment forces for years.

It is possible that some of the 416 production (possibly, just assembly) will be done by an HK subsidiary in France, Europe’s open borders notwithstanding.

Meanwhile, it’s time to bid the homely Fusil FAMAS (and the French arsenals who made France’s infantry weapons for most of the last three centuries) adieu, and at least this time the German rifles glistening on parade on the Champs Elysées will be in French hands, so there is that.

Amazing Long-Range Shot: 4,000 meters

That’s roughly 2 1/2 miles. Now, a few caveats are in order: the shooters had considerable equipment, they were shooting at a target larger than man-sized, and they had one hit (#3, they’re pretty sure) out of four shots at that range. Still, that shot is amazing. 

Rifle that took the shot. Sako TRG, Hensoldt scope. Orange rectangle is LabRadar.

Rifle that took the shot. Sako TRG, Hensoldt scope. Orange rectangle is LabRadar.

Erik B at The Firearm Blog has a long report and, if you’re interested in LR shooting, it’s incumbent on you to Read The Whole Thing™.  A tiny taste of his 3k-plus word report (which seems to be first hand by the shooters, and is much more detailed than the write-up on their Facebook Page). They started at 100 m to establish zero:

375 Cheytac zero was done with five shots. Scope turret bottomed to zero, impact was 26.8 mrads high. Last two after windage adjustment were very close each other. This elevation was used as base for further calculations, as zero POI offset value in ballistic application. Just before shooting started, I found out that my bubble level was sitting on table back home. This was serious setback. During both zeroing and shooting, reticle and rifle must be in absolute vertical level. This was difficult, as there wasn’t horizon reference visible. Velocities were compared constantly, with each and every shot.

Then to 1000 m to confirm zero. Then to 3000 m. They ran into problems with ranging binoculars (Steiner & Vextronix) “stalling out.”

Shot count was 15 when we got everything finally sorted and good hit on target. Good meaning that everything matched. That particular shot MV (MV = bullet muzzle velocity) was same we used on ballistic software and actual elevation adjustment matched perfectly to QTU firing solution on same time. Also most importantly and with that particular shot, I knew shot was good. As mentioned, maintaining readiness and bubble where it should to fire in 1-2 seconds after permission from ballistician-on-duty was extremely cumbersome thing to do.

Consistent muzzle velocity is key. Their loads were within a small range, but a 1 m/sec change in muzzle velocity causes an 80 cm vertical shift in impact point — meaning 1 fps change alters that impact point almost 10″ in the same direction. So you see that firing at 4000 meters is really at the ragged edge of what’s possible with field-employable sniper-type equipment, in 2016. At 4000 m:

[T]arget was fine-positioned and checked for clear line of sight, and first time I realized how long distance it actually was. It was far, ridiculously far. Very hard to even see with bare eye, but surprisingly still ok visible with 3.7x (or so) magnification. Target was ok, and we received permission to shoot.

Third, or possibly, fourth, shot was heard to connect by a forward observer.


Yeah, it’s not people-shooting precise (or hunting practical) yet, but the journey of a thousand miles (or 4,000 meters) begins with a single step.

The guys behind the shot are the Finnish precision-shooting shop and school, FinnAccuracy. They report on the conditions of the shot on their FB page:

Athmosperic conditions, Vaisala + Kestrel used:
– 22C / 71.6F. RH 78%. 996mbar / 29.41 inHg
– Worth mentioning also Labradar velocity radar. It worked like a charm and really eased things up during actual shooting. Precise MV knowledge is everything with such a long flight times.
– Bullet flight time to 4000m = 11.2 seconds. Gyroscopic spin drift + Coriolis effect only shift bullet approximately 8 meters / 9yds at 4km distance.
– Ballistic calculations done with Quick Target Unlimited

The reason that they think #3 was the money shot is because its MV was closest to their calculated value. #4, the other possibility, had a slightly higher MV on the radar, which they think put the round over the target. They have high confidence in the Canadian-developed LabRadar, which claims a 0.1% accuracy.

Stay tuned – we might have someting in mind for future too.

They were only half way through their planned range session when they scored the 4,005 m shot, and they have extensive manufacturer support from Sako (maker of the gun) and Lapua (whose Scenar bullets they used in .375 Chey-Tac handloads). They had previously said they have further ambitions in long range shooting, but…

It hs been a long way and we would like to do more like this- but we also have optics/accessory business to run. 

It’s true that a shooter 2½ miles out is not out of the reach of an enemy’s organic weaponry (mortars, artillery, tank main guns) but his signature even in the open is going to go unmarked by people in his target area. While this is a long way from being a practical sniping distance, at this time, when FinnAccuracy started off they were connecting at 2,000 m with .338 Lapua Magnum and that was a long way from being a practical sniping distance, then.

Non-Factory Cutaway AR (Semi M16A2 Clone)

You don’t see many cutaways. Here’s a shot of a Colt M16A1 cutaway:

Colt M16A1 in Museum

This one was done by a little shop called Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company — you may have heard of them — for a retiring worker, and resides in the Cody Museum — you may have heard of it.

So one of the ARFCOM retro heads, “Trimdad” of Oklahoma, got it into his head to do a cutaway of this: M16A2 clone with M203. By himself. With a Dremel tool. Here’s the thread.

A2 Cutaway 01

Here’s a shot to compare with the Cody Museum Colt:

A2 Cutaway 09Here’s an overview:

A2 Cutaway 03

And some close-ups. The receiver:

A2 Cutaway 04

The bolt and gas subsystem:

A2 Cutaway 05

The trigger group (note that this lacks the auto sear of the factory gun):

A2 Cutaway 07

The business end:A2 Cutaway 08

And the buttstock and its features:

A2 Cutaway 06

It all came about because he had parts for an A2 build, but not for an authentic A2 build (kind of a big deal in the retro world). As he puts it:

This one started because I had some A2 parts I was saving for a clone, but they weren’t Colt parts do I decided to sacrifice them . The upper is a dpms with a strange texture on it. The lower was a 80% A2 that braceman couldn’t sell.  The barrel is a FN that was rusted and shot out. The 203 is a Colt licensed airsoft and the rest was laying at the bottom of the parts box.

The airsoft nature of the 203 is evident on close up of its left side — you can see the circular marks from the ejector pins used in injection molding.

A2 Cutaway 02

Since these live, mostly, on the “inside” of the firearm, as it’s displayed (and it is a firearm — the lower would actually function, with a functional upper), the giveaway doesn’t really matter.

Moral of story: a Dremel does not turn you into Bubba, any more than a Glock turns you into some cop killer from Black Criminals’ Lives Matter. The tool is fine and good, but it’s what a man does with it that cements his place in the universe.

Well done, Trimdad.

He’s also done an A1. Next? Maybe an M4… complete with a sectioned ACOG, or maybe a Chinese Fake-COG. We’re guessing it’ll be awesome.

Why are Rock Island Auction Catalogs so Expensive?

It’s a lot of money for an auction catalog: one costs $60 in the USA and $75 overseas, and it’s $165 or $210 respectively for a subscription for three Premiere Auctions (which also gets the Regional Auction catalogs, containing pieces without such nosebleed prices as the one-of-a-kinds that fill the Premiere auctions). What chump would pay those prices, and why?

We do, and we’ll tell you. First, there’s getting a package that weighs something like 8 pounds, and that makes you take out your letter opener.


Then, there’s what you see when you pop the lid.


This catalog, for the Premiere Auction taking place from 09-11 September 2016, is actually three glossy, beautifully printed volumes. They are spiral bound to lie flat, and inside there are hundreds and hundreds of heirloom  and investment-quality guns. The photographs are made with a technician’s craft and an artist’s eye, and the page layout rivals the best work in coffee-table books. And it’s an auction catalog, for crying out loud!

The catalog cover above is a row of historic early semi-auto prototypes, of which any one could b the centerpiece of a million-dollar collection. They have enough of these that reading the catalog is an education in early semi-auto blind alleys and also rans.

Rare Walthers? This is one of two AP prototypes, more or less identical and consecutively marked, that are being offered individually and as a pair. Each is likely to

bring a six-figure sum.


There are more rare and historic Colts and Winchesters than you can shake a peace pipe at:rock_island_catalog04

And Lugers. See what we mean about the photography and layout?


Here’s a Luger to conjure with — marked with The Man’s own monogram, (GL), it’s an experimental designed to work with heavier loads. The toggle is “reversed,” with the finger-grip cocking pieces normally attached to the rear link of the toggle attached to the front one instead.

rock_island_catalog07 rock_island_catalog06

Rock Island’s interest in getting the greatest possible amount for these firearms means they go all out to photograph them well and document their unique features and provenance.

There are a few lots in this auction that ran our Czech firearms gong. Along with a couple of ZH29s, an interwar semi rifle designed by the great Vaclav Holek and built in very small quantities for tests (including in England and  the USA), there were some great Czech and Bohemian pistols.

We’ve featured this very Bittner repeating pistol, built by the ethnic-German gunsmith Gustav Bittner in Weipert (Vejprty), Bohemia Province of the then Austro-Hungarian Empire, in the late 19th Century. At the time (if we recall rightly) it was offered for sale by Horst Held. This strange early pistol fit into the same sort of niche as the Volcanic pistol, in the interstices between single-shot and semi-automatic pistols. The trigger ring worked like a lever-action’s lever to reload from a Mannlicher-style en bloc clip. These pistols in any condition are rare; this is the nicest one we’ve seen.


Several Weipert gunsmiths worked on similar ideas. This next is a lesser-know Czechoslovak-related pistol:


In the period between the wars, the Czechoslovak Republic required a difficult-to-get permit for small pistols, defined by barrel length. This produced a quantity of domestic and imported guns with longer barrels. Most of the interwar long-barreled pistols, whether of Czechoslovak, German, Austrian, Spanish or other manufacture, tend to sport Czech proof marks.  There’s no mention of whether this Walther Model 1 has the Czech proofs, but we’d bet the guys at Rock Island a beer that it does.

Of course, not all good stuff is Czech! There’s also a good offering of Class III firearms.


Clockwise from upper left: Japanese aircraft MG; MP-40; German MG tripod; Madsen LMG with tripod and on bipod. There are actually a couple of MP-40s, including a DLO tube gun.

Yes, the catalog will make you lust after guns you can’t afford. C’est la guerre, Legionnaire! But as a wish book and reference it stands alone.

Here’s a Guy’s UZI SBR Build in Progress

An Uzi build is one of the easier ones you can do, thanks to the gun’s simplicity. This builder lucked into a bag-o-parts containing an already-modified semi-auto bolt and striker assembly. He chose to build a carbine and then submit for registration as a Short Barreled Rifle. He described his build on Imgur and in Reddit.

I found a seller with a Ziploc bag containing an Uzi parts kit with all the semi-auto components (sear, top cover, bolt assembly + buffer) needed for a complete semi-auto build for just $300. After verifying that I’d only need a receiver and barrel to complete it, I couldn’t resist buying it.

bag o uzi parts

He chose to use an already assembled, Title 1 semi receiver from McKay Enterprises ($239). McKay also sells flats, non-FFL bent but not welded receiver shells, long barrels and other Uzi parts. With the supply of parts kits drying up, they may be tapering off this business.

With only a barrel and receiver to add, he was able to quickly build the gun up. An Uzi is a really simple, blowback operated, low-parts-count weapon even with the added complexity of the semi system.

uzi first assembly

It worked right out of the box, a testament to the simplicity of the design and the quality of the McKay receiver. He then finished the in-the-white receiver with Alumahyde, and redid the stock.

Uzi after refinishing

IMI Uzis may have been blued — he says his was — but FN Uzis we’ve handled were semi- or glossy paint over parkerizing.

On the factory Uzi, the wood stock is detachable This is not legal on a 16″ barreled Title 1 Uzi in the USA, because with the stock removed the whole thing is under 26″, making it an unregistered SBR. Therefore, he permanently fashioned the stock. (The semi version can’t be fired without the stock, but the law is the law).

With the alternative folding stock, the carbine with 16″ barrel just breaks 26″ and is Title 1 legal. Here it is with a dummy barrel in it, showing what it’ll look like when his SBR application comes back.

Uzi with folder

The detachable wood stock was used on early Uzis, but by the time of the Six Day War, the folder was more common.

He’s got, assuming he buys a short barrel and doesn’t turn down his 16-incher, about a grand into the firearm. That’s because he got lucky on the parts kit including the semi parts.

A 9mm carbine like this has no real tactical place or purpose any more, but it’s a great range toy, evocative of the submachine gun era. And the Uzi is great for a first build or first-but-AR build. You need no special tools, just the skills to assemble the parts.

Retro American Service Rifles, Part 2: M16A1 from the Great State of Texas

Mostly, retro black rifles have been the province of individual builders and small gunsmiths. In the last year, Troy and Colt have gotten into the game with their respective carbines (Colt’s isn’t cataloged yet, but they’ve showed it; Troy sells GAU-5 and XM177E2 clones). But a company in Texas is offering something different from the CAR-15 variants that Troy is selling and Colt has promised (but not yet cataloged): M16A1 rifle clones.

Built with original M16A1 parts on a Brownell’s M16A1 lower (something that Nodak Spud OEMs for Brownell’s), the firearms match the profile and details of the iconic Vietnam-era rifle.

Say hello to My Little Friend:

my little friend

Yep, that’s a semi M16A1 with a (very real) M203, available in several states of NFA-ness (registered Destructive Device (DD), parts to register yourself on a Form 1, unregistered non-DD 37mm launcher or dummy). We believe the 203 is an LMT.

my little friend alternatives

Here’s the Tony Montana view:

my litle friend tony montana view

They are asking a rather mainstream $3,300 for the DD version. Sure, you could build it for less if you took your time and scrounged parts. But not for a whole lot less.

Texas Machine Gun & Ordnance is working to launch a full line of clones, plus other fun stuff (like flamethrowers).

Texas Machine Gun line

Their website is currently an early-days work in progress. But they have several auctions on GunBroker. Among them is an upper modeling the short Colt carbines from the classic caper movie Heat, a non-NFA “XM177” tribute (which uses a later barrel, the wrong diameter at the front sight base, unfortunately), an IDF Clone, and an “M4 GWOT Home Starter Kit” that shows they have a sense of humor (emphasis ours):

Texas Machine Gun & Ordnance “GWOT Home Starter Kit”. This is as close to the off-the-rack, sign the DA2062, M4 many of us were issued in the Global War on Terror. The rifle has a complete kit of Knights Armament rails, MaTech BUIS, and engraving to match an M4. The barrel is a 14.5 pin & welded extended A2 flash-hider, to make it non-NFA. For maximum authenticity, the package also includes a crisp, refreshing can of Rip-It energy drink, reflective belt to ward off all dangers, USGI 30rd magazine, and case. All items are new, except the BUIS, which shows some handling wear.

Gen-you-whine GWOT accessories. Note the authentic background!

Gen-you-whine GWOT accessories. Note the authentic background!

We laugh now. In 2116 collectors will be haggling over genuine reflective belts. (But will they be haggling in Arabic, or Mandarin?).

Here are a couple examples of their base M16A1 clone, priced at $1,225 plus $50 shipping to your FFL:


Their description:

This is one of Texas Machine Gun & Ordnance’s new retro rifle line, that’s a SEMI-AUTO ONLY M16A1 replica (it’s not a machine-gun). It is available with either a grey A1 style lower, or a black one that is engraved to match a USGI M16A1. It is also available with your choice of a duckbill, 3 prong, or M16A1 flash-hider. Stocks are used by in excellent condition, and all internal parts are brand new, with Sons of Liberty Gunworks’ BCGs. Gun comes with one 20rd magazine, sling, and case.

Here’s the receiver, showing the Brownell’s lower with TXMGO’s added crest and engraving.


For those of you still in the clone market, here’s a viable alternative to build-it-yourself and local armorer builds.