Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

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.







Retro American Service Rifles, Part 1: M14

Vietnam Memorial Soldiers by Frederick Hart

You can get an Vietnam era rifle without getting bronzed, it turns out.

If you can afford a collection of service-type rifles, and have checked the key World War II blocks, two of the most iconic weapons are the guns of the Vietnam War: the M14 carried by the Marines and some Army units in the war’s earliest years, and the M16A1 carried by most US soldiers from 1965 on, and by the ARVN from 1970. Here’s examples of M14 clones that you can take home: an early M14 clone with an interesting history (thanks to OTR for sending this one in), and a rare M21 that was a deliberate “contract overrun” the manufacturer made for himself while producing a short run of snipers for a Special Forces unit.

Tomorrow, look for low-production M16A1 clones from a new vendor. If you’re well-off and generous, either would make a nice gift for the Vietnam Vet in your family.

The M14 was developed over 12 years at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, and what the taxpayers got was, basically, a slightly larger M1 with a larger box magazine, a slightly more compact (but ballistically equivalent) cartridge, a fairly useless select-fire capability, and a much better (from weight and accuracy standpoints) gas system. It was the last hurrah of the Springfield Armory (and its high cost for low innovation was one of the things that sank Springfield with the too-influential SecDef, Robert S. MacNamara). But the men who carried it (especially, the Marines who trained with it) loved the gun.

It was quickly adapted to target shooting by Marine and Army marksmanship units, and continued in this role for many years after the adoption of the M16A1 due to public (and competitor!) belief that the M16 design did not have the accuracy potential to be competitive at High Power or Service Rifle competition. (Someone who has only competed in these events recently might be surprised to hear that; now, the old Garand action guns struggle to compete with modern ARs). It was target shooters, first, who demanded competition-legal M14 clones. Former servicemen who’d used the rifle in training or combat were also a demand nexus.

M14: An Early Semi Clone

Before there was an M1A, there were other attempts at making semi commercial M14s. In fact, Lee Emerson, in Volume 4 of his M14 Rifle History and Development, Fifth Edition, lists no fewer than 19 manufacturers. The high-visibility and high-volume producer has certainly been Springfield Armory, Inc., of Geneseo, IL and Texas. But prior to 1989 significant quantities of Chinese rifles (marked Polytech or Norinco) were imported, Smith Enterprises and LRB Inc. have and continue to make high-end M14 clones, and numerous smaller builders have come and gone.

AR Sales M14 01

One of the earliest was A.R. Sales Company, which shared a location in South El Monte, California, with later M14 producers Federal Ordnance (Fed Ord) and National Ordnance. According to Emerson, 225 receivers were manufactured by A.R. Sales. Marked “Mark IV” (there is no sign of Marks I through III), and with 200 serial numbers from the range 1 to 225 and all 25 from 226-250, they were mated to surplus M14 parts by A.R. Sales’s armorers. A.R.’s (and Fed Ord and Nat Ord) receivers were investment cast and finish machined.

This rifle is Serial Number 34.

AR Sales M14 06

Because there was no selector or provision for one, the unsightly notch in the wooden M14 stocks was fitted with a plug carved to match. (This approach would later be used by others, too).

AR Sales M14 05

Is that a little bit of touch-up on the finish?

This A.R. Sales rifle was produced, shipped and sold in 1972. The auction is a model of how to set up a GunBroker auction (except that there’s no “M14” in the title for search convenience!): there are 68 (!) photographs, including close-ups of every feature and flaw in the rifle, and the complete provenance of the gun, which is proven by documents.

AR Sales M14 07

Amazing. The seller says this:

A letter from I.I. Karnes of A.R. Sales to customers and potential customers said that you could hold your position for an order with a $15 deposit. All rifles had National Match barrels (this one certainly does) but they weren’t glass-bedded or NM accurized.

Opening bid is $2,650; high for a generic M1A type clone, perhaps, but the originality and provenance of this rifle must tempt any American service rifle collector. If you want a lot of M14 clones, you ought to have this one; and if you only want one, why not make it one with a story?

M21: A One-Off

Smith Enterprise built a series of M21s for the newly-forming 1st Special Forces Group in 1984. Ron kept one as a personal rifle, sold it to another M14 enthusiast some 20 years later, and it’s now for sale again.

Smith M21 overview

These rifles were marked with the SF Crest before being heat-treated. All but Ron’s with this mark went to 1st Group. (Why mark a firearm with an OPSEC violation? Your guess is as good as anybody’s on that). All the others had selective fire provisions, so this is the only legit crested M21 that will ever be on the private market.

Smith M21 CrestWe believe that these were originally configured like the 1980s M21s we fired, with a Leatherwood ART II scope in a GI mount. This one has been set up since 2005 with a Leupold Mark IV (NTTAWWT, it’s what the Army did after the ART II).

Smith M21

This is a very high-end collector rifle and the seller expects a very high price.

Originally, we meant to cover some new M16 clones as well, but we found more to say about these M14s than we expected. Look for the ’16s tomorrow or Thursday morning.

Amateur turned Pro: The Amazing Owen Machine Carbine

One of the most remarkable weapons of World War II (and the two or three decades beyond) was the 9mm Owen Machine Carbine, an Australian weapon that bridged the gap between cottage industry and professional production rather neatly. Designed by an amateur, it remains to this day the first and most successful Australian-designed weapon to be standard in the Australian Forces. (The follow-on F1 was a modified British Patchett/Stirling, with the magazine placed as per Owen). It was also the only weapon to come from the factory in bands of green and yellow paint.

Owen SMG

The colorized picture below from New Britain shows two Owens in their native habitat: the artist who did the colorization missed the guns’ camouflage coats! The gun is simple, reliable, and almost ideal for jungle warfare: the lack of long-range targets eliminates the cartridge’s weakness at range, and the vertically-arrayed magazine, that you think would snag on everything, is actually much more easily maneuvered than a bottom-side magazine, let alone the left-side mag of the Sten or Lanchester.

wwii colourised owens

Owens were used as late as the Vietnam War, in which the Aussies were one of only two US allies that took combat missions (the other being South Korea).

“Machine Carbine” was the British term of art for any shoulder-fired, pistol-caliber weapon, what the Yanks called a “Submachine Gun.” (Many European languages use the equivalent of “machine pistol” and “machine rifle” for pistol- and rifle-caliber automatic weapons). But the Sten and Lanchester were both known by the then-standard term,”Machine Carbine.”

The designer of the Owen was one Evelyn Owen. In his early 20s, he designed an experimental .22LR submachine gun — and then put it away, and essentially forgot about it. It was a neighbor, Vincent Wardell, who was a manager for Lysaght Newcastle Works in Port Kembla, Australia who first figured out that Owen’s prewar .22 design had some potential for a military submachine gun.


Owen Precursors, Prototypes and Trials Guns 1939-41. Australian War Museum, via Forgotten Weapons.

The story of the prototype evolution of the Owen is weird, wonderful, and well told already by Ian at Forgotten Weapons, but ultimately Wardell, his brother, Owen, and some other Lysaght workers overcame obstacles from the Army (they wanted prototypes in .32 ACP, .38/200 (.38 S&W), and .45 ACP as well as 9mm) and developed a simple and highly reliable submachine gun. In fact, it was more reliable than the weapon the British urged their Australian cousins to make, the Sten.

The secret to this reliability isn’t just simplicity — a Sten is just about as simple as an Owen is, really. But the vertical arrangement of the magazine provided two great benefits: the magazine didn’t have to fight gravity, and, with the ejection port on the bottom, gravity tended to clear the chamber area out of any malejected casing or debris. You would think that the bottom-facing ejection port would be inimical to reliability, but if it had any tendency to collect jungle goop, such a tendency was offset by the breech area’s self-cleaning nature.

The magazines were made of heavier-gauge steel than Sten or MP40 magazines, in part because the ejector is simply a raised part of the rear of the magazine. But this also helps reliability.  There were two distinct Marks (Mark I and Mark I*) and many small running changes during the gun’s production run of about 45,000.

By 1942, Australia was still waiting for a Sten data package, but the Owen was crushing the Sten in trials. About this time, someone decided that each one would be painted in a disruptive green and yellow camouflage, and the first gun off the line was squirreled away for the Australian War Memorial:

owen job one

Yes, that’s the paint job they came with. On the ones that didn’t go direct to a cushy museum, the paint gets scarred and scraped very easily (as you can see starting to show in places, even on this museum queen). Note that the grips are a hard, Bakelite-like plastic, and are not painted; the buttstock is made of wood, and it is painted.

Evelyn Owen did not have the long career of his submachine gun. Sources seem unanimous that, mustered out of Australian service at war’s end, he drank himself to death in 1949. The Owen would soon after that be called on to address human-wave attacks in Korea, where it acquitted itself well.

A uniquely Australian firearm, and a rare example of an amateur-designed weapon that outperformed its professionally-designed peers.

Shooting Austro-Hungarian Arms

Our research on Czechoslovak and Bohemian gun designs and designers has caused us to dive surprisingly deep into Austro-Hungarian arms. A lot of the key designers of Habsburg empire were either Czechs (ethnically) or were ethnic Germans resident in the majority-Czech Kingdom of Bohemia, one of many small historical kingdoms subsumed into vassalage to the Austrian and Hungarian dual crowns. We’re going to see some designs that the ethnic Czech Austro-Hungarian citizen Karel Krnka worked on.

Here’s Ian from Forgotten Weapons, boldly holstering a Roth-Steyr 1907 (primarily designed by Krnka, who presumably got paid, if not credited) for a three-gun match. “Boldly” because the gun is a little, uh, different, from what others are running. It has good sights — for 1907 — but a fixed ten-shot magazine reloaded by stripper clips.

Ian did alright, considering he was short about one stripper clip to really shoot the

Now, let’s get on with the 19th Century Werndl rifle. Designed by Josef Werndl and Karel Holub, it replaced the Wenzl rifle, which was a breech-loading conversion of the muzzle-loading Lorenz rifle-musket (which was widely used by both sides as a substitute weapon in the US Civil War. The M1867 Werndl rifle went into production in Werndl’s new factory, which would put the town of Steyr on the world map. These following videos from the Hungarian Cap and channel use the M1867/77 variant, chambered for a larger-capacity 11mm (.41) cartridge and still in second-line use during the First World War.

From the above video, the conceptual but not mechanical similarity to the US Allin conversion/trapdoor and the British Snider system is obvious.

Josef Werndl was a remarkable character. From the design of the rifle, he built a manufacturing empire, the Österreichische Waffen Gesellschaft at Steyr, which became the great Steyr works. When he passed away, the grateful citizens of Steyr ercted a massive bronze statue showing Werndl on top, holding a brace of these rifles, while below him four workers build the guns.

Josef Werndl Monument Steyr Werndldenkmal

Here’s a close up of old Joe:


Karel Krnka, the principal designer of Ian’s Roth-Steyr pistol, couldn’t break into the rifle cartel of Werndl’s OWG and Friedrich Mannlicher’s eponymous firm, so he decamped to Britain where he worked on repeater for a while, before returning to the Austrian Empire for the Roth-Steyr pistol job.

More Werndl shooting (and reloading):

Here they are making the steel ring at 100 meters with a pair of Werndls (one minute video):

And finally, here’s a look at the old girl’s terminal ballistics:


The 24-gram bullet retained 100% of its weight, mushroomed to twice its 10.9 mm (.41 caliber) diameter, and generally put a serious wound on the gelatin pack. The rifle was clearly a good equivalent of the other early single-shot, .40-50 caliber rifles of competing world powers at the time.

The Werndl rifle would be replaced in Austro-Hungarian service by the Mannlichers, which would be made in Werndl’s old plant in Steyr, and in a new one constructed in Budapest. But that’s another story!

Shoot Like an Egyptian! Two Rare Rifles, One Auction.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the great European empires that had ruled most of the world continued their retreat from Africa and Asia, and many new nations became independent. Other nations which had longer if interrupted history of independence — Egypt is at issue here — found themselves realigning away from former colonial or commonwealth “protectors” and pursuing more nationalistic ends.


This often produced, especially when home-country nationalists returned from education abroad full of hopeless, emotional Marxian economics, a reach for self-sufficiency in all things (including armaments) that seems, in retrospect, irrational to the point of insanity. But Egypt tried to develop indigenous weapons including surface-to-surface missiles and transonic jet aircraft; naturally, it also tried to make its own small arms, as did such other gunmaking powerhouses as the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Indonesia.

Egypt, having chosen a mathematically insupportable course of action, then dialed up the strange in its selection of inspiration: its homegrown weapons were based on Swedish prototypes. The Misr or “Egypt” submachine gun was a simple and direct copy of the Carl Gustav M45B, but for rifles, Egypt made a modified copy of the Swedish Ljungman AG42B — at first. 


The rifle’s similarity to the AG42 is clear, up close or at a distance.


Early Hakeem rifle, chambered in 7.92/8mm mauser. One 10 round magazine and bayonet. The bayonet is missing the locking screw but is otherwise in good condition. Bore is in good condition with strong lands and grooves. Overall finish is good or better. Not too many dings from being in an armory. Imported by Century Arms International (small import stamp on barrel just behind the muzzle brake). The Hakeem was produced between 1950 and 1960. According to my research, this is an early model Hakim with minimal production stamps all in Arabic Script. Later production guns would have duplicate information engraved in English as well as Arabic. The information I have found also states that the bayonets were only produced during the first year.


The bayonet’s similarity to the Swedish version is clear.

The second rifle looks, at a glance, like an SKS, but that’s mostly just an artifact of the copy of the SKS’s bayonet and stock, and the use of the same cartridge.

Hak-n-Rash-07 Hak-n-Rash-08

Egyptian Rasheed carbine chambered in 7.62 x 39mm. 10 round magazine, and folding bayonet. Ladder sight marked in Egyptian. Left side stamp marks: Serial number in what appears to be both Arabic and English, “Rasheed Made in UAR” then also in Arabic script. Bore is in excellent condition with strong lands and grooves. Bluing is in excellent condition. Wooden stock shows normal wear for an armory weapon with small dings and scratches, armory mark painted on the butt.

Action's clearly a scaled-down Hakim.

Action’s clearly a scaled-down Hakim.

That mark appears to be the Arabic numeral “3”.

The action is a bit tight against the magazine and causes the bolt to drag a bit too much preventing full lock up. A good gunsmith can fix this problem.

via Egyptian Duo: Hakeem Rifle & Rasheed Carbine : Semi Auto Rifles at

The initial bid asked for this auction is $1600 for the pair.

Rifles and Reliability — 70 Years of Progress

Let's play with found data, shall we?

Let’s play with found data, shall we?

In an interesting commentary that accompanies the third in an ongoing series of videos he did on Winchester’s also-ran G30M rifle and related prototypes, Ian McCollum at Forgotten Weapons reports these results from the 1940 Marine Corps tests of then state-of-the-art M1 Garand and Johnson semi-automatic rifles.

Ultimately the trials were won by the Garand, with the G30M placing third in total malfunctions and broken parts. This had involved 37 different tests and more than 12,000 rounds through each rifle. The Garand had 1,480 total malfunctions and 49 parts broken, replaced, or repaired. The Johnson had 1,547 and 72 respectively, and the G30M 2,864 and 97 (roughly double the number of problems as the Garand).

These numbers are indicative of just how far we’ve come in firearms reliability in ¾ of a century. This table shows (assuming 12,000 rounds as our denominator, which is close enough because our purpose here is comparison) that as reliable as those rifles were for their day, hey were pretty buggy by today’s standards. Looking at the percentages really makes the data pop.

Assuming a “malfunction” equals a stoppage, we’ll label those percentage of stoppages and we’ll label the parts breakages “failures.”

USMC Rifle Test 1940





% #



1480 12.3% 49 0.4%


1547 12.9% 74 0.6%
Winchester 2864 23.9% 97


Now, those numbers are good for the era! As you might expect, the Garand, which had had the most development, was the most reliable, with the Johnson closely behind. The Winchester prototype, designed by Ed Browning and updated by David Marshall Williams, was about twice as prone to stoppage and breakage as the Garand, but as you can see if you watch Ian’s video of these rare prototypes at the Cody Center, they were pretty raw, hand-tooled prototypes and probably could have been further improved with more time. Like the Johnson, though, they were out of time, pursuing the pretty-darn-good M1 Garand in an adoption stern chase in which they had no chance of overtaking the leader, unless they were really strikingly better at something. But the advantages of the Johnson and Winchester designs were small, and on key reliability numbers they were at a disadvantage.

But the think that really struck us is, how much less reliable these 1940 weapons were than a modern AR or AK. While many other things have been improved in service rifles since the 1940s, rifle reliability is probably the greatest. Yes, you can seize up an M4 pretty good if you burn through hundreds of rounds on cyclic rate, but you’d be doing immediate action a lot more often on a World War II era rifle.

This is borne out by data from the many, many M16 and M4 tests. For example, in the worst M4 test ever, the notorious and outlying 2007 extreme dust test, ten M4s fired 6,000 rounds per rifle with 1.4% stoppages. (You can download the .ppt of the test results at this post at The Firearm Blog).


And this number was over 4x the number of failures in an earlier iteration of the same test, a result the Army Research Lab has never explained insofar as we know.

Now we can’t compare the 1940 and 2007 tests directly and say that the M4 is nearly ten times more reliable than the M1. But we are pretty confident that an apples to apples test would show the new rifle as significantly more reliable.

It is also our experience, although we can’t back it up with bench data, that the current rifles like the M4 and the AK-74 are substantially more reliable than 1950s and 1960s rifles like the FN-FAL, H&K G3, and M16A1.

Of course, if you want reliable cycling, it’s hard to beat the rifle the Marines used as a control in the 1940 tests — the US Rifle Cal. .30 M1903, your basic turn-bolt Mauser action.

This is completely aside from the points Ian was making in his great series of videos. Certainly the Marines, like every armed service, tried their best to give their servicemen a rifle that was the State of the Art, and their combat performance with that rifle bears out the judgment of their ordnance officers and the Commandant at the time. That the Marines no longer carry the once-beloved M1 just proves that today’s ordnance officers and Commandant are still trying to  give their servicemen (and now, -women) a rifle that is the State of the Art.

In monarchies, the passing of a monarch is often announced with a cry: “The King is dead. Long live the King!” Maybe that’s how we should think about service rifles? The 1903, M1, M14, M16 and now M4 have all worn the crown. One day, the M4 will pass on to the museums and some future counterpart of Ian will study it, but a new King shall sit upon the rifle throne.

via Forgotten Weapons, which you guys are reading every day… right?

AR-10 Sniper Reweld — On GB and Sold in a Flash

Seeing that this had already come, and gone, on GunBroker, was a bit like being King Arthur and the boys and hearing that the French knight would not join our quest for the Holy Grail, ’cause “‘E’s already got one.”

original AR10 sniper 01

Some lucky knight has now got the Holy Grail of early AR collecting, albeit a rewelded semi-auto version; but it’s as near as an ordinary mortal will get to the original as long as the Hughes Amendment stands.

Well, here it is, deep from the recesses of my collection, the legend of legends……………….For sale one each original 1960 Portuguese AR-10 sniper rifle manufactured by “Artillerie Inrichtingen (AI) of Holland.

original AR10 sniper 03

No-this isn’t a pretend AR-10 such as the contemporary Armalite, DPMS, or any of the other .308 AR-15’s, THIS IS A REAL AR-10. Original AR-10’s in and of themselves are scarce; this is an EXTREMELY RARE sniper rifle.

He’s got a point there. The only other one of these we’ve seen was in a government museum.

original AR10 sniper 04

I’ve had it since 1995 (which is the last time I shot it) and it’s time to pass it on to somebody else. The rifle is complete and original. The lower receiver was expertly welded together from an original band saw cut and de-milled Portuguese AR-10 by Lloyd Hahn who received permission from the ATF before he did the work so it’s all done in compliance with the law (I don’t do “grey area’s).

original AR10 sniper 02

Unlike the various after-market AR-10 receivers such as Central Kentucky Arms, Specialty Arms, H&H, Telco, Sendra, etc. this actually looks like an original AR-10 lower (cuz’ it mostly is) receiver markings and all.

The aluminum H&H is pretty good, but it doesn’t duplicate the original markings, except for the serial number.

original AR10 sniper 12

SCOPE-original Delft, 3.6 X 25, excellent condition with clear optics

original AR10 sniper 19

*UPPER RECEIVER-a real sniper upper (in case somebody should ask, it would next to impossible to correctly machine the proper sniper scope cuts in an ordinary Portuguese upper) *You may notice a piece of tape behind the ejection port in the photos, no it ain’t holding the rifle together ;-)I put that on in 95’ to mitigate any brass “dings” on the upper receiver.

original AR10 sniper 14


BARREL-NO Shaw repro, it’s a very good condition Portuguese with a shiny bore (most Portuguese aren’t)

Again, the seller is on the level here. Our AR-10 barrel is “pretty good for a Porto” and the usual run of them is more in the “what were they doing with these things, growing potatoes?” condition.

original AR10 sniper 20

STOCK-Unlike most Portuguese stocks this one has an excellent rubber butt pad. There are however several very small cracks in the stock which have been expertly repaired.

The early fiberglass stocks were brittle and the resin degraded under ultraviolet light.

original AR10 sniper 10

HANDGUARDS-The fiberglass is in excellent condition with no cracks or scuffs, most Portuguese bipod handguards are a little “scruffy”, this is the best Portuguese bipod handguard I’ve ever held in my hands.

Haven’t seen one this good (including the one in the museum), ourselves.

Bipod-good-very good condition fully functional with no rust, mostly original finish. MAGAZINES-four come with the rifle.

Well, at least we’ve got more mags than that.

original AR10 sniper 17

Thanx for looking! PS-This is the same sniper rifle which was featured in the book, “The ArmaLite AR-10 Rifle”. Hit “Buy it now” and I’ll throw in the book with the sale,

via ORIGINAL ArmaLite AR-10 SNIPER Rifle (Portuguese) : Semi Auto Rifles at

The “Buy It Now” price was $12,000, and the running joke is that half of it was for the rare Maj. Sam Pikula book. (Which has fortunately been replaced, finally, by a better book after decades out of print).

Exit question: was the knight in question Reed Knight? He has most variants of AR-10 in his collection, but we don’t think he had the ultra-rare sniper.

Bleg: World War II Suppressors

Business end of typical Maxim silencer.

Business end of typical Maxim silencer.

We’re working on a technical post on the suppressors of World War II. We know of the following:

Germany: Pistole 27(t) late war suppressor, MP 40 suppressor (limited production) K.98k suppressor (ditto).

Great Britain: Welrod, High Standard .22, Luger, Maxim suppressors (SOE was disappointed), Mk IIS Sten. De Lisle carbine.

United States: M1911A1 .45, integral M3/M3A1 SMG, Colt .380, High-standard .22 (entirely different from the British development).


USSR: none (this does not seem right, given the Soviets’ extensive use of “diversionary” and special operations elements, and their broad conception of intelligence and reconnaissance operations).

Italy: none

Japan: none

Minor powers: none

Help a brother out here. What else is unknown out there? I expect the bulk of the article is going to be on the P.27(t), which is known from several surviving samples, and the British stuff, which is very well documented.

Sniping and Satisficing

Russians are smart, good shooters, and brilliant engineers. They could have built an M-24 equivalent. Instead, in the early 1960s, they built the SVD. What were they thinking?

Russians are smart, good shooters, and brilliant engineers. They could have built an M-24 equivalent. Instead, in the early 1960s, they built the SVD. What were they thinking?

We had an epiphany while at a foreign weapons course, zeroing in on a target with a Romanian FPK with a badly maladjusted scope. Fortunately, the instructor was an ace spotter, so he was able to talk us on to heart shots by using Kentucky windage — aiming, in fact, at the silhouette’s hand in his pocket to pop him just (our) right (his left) of the sternum.

It wasn’t the optimum way to fire the gun, but it worked. It was satisficing, not optimizing.

A McMillan .338 LM with a Nightforce or Schmit & Bender scope might well be an optimum sniper weapon, but the organizations that spring for weapons like that are few and small. A small, poor country like Communist Romania could put an FPK in every  or every other rifle squad. The USSR did something similar with the similar-looking (but better designed and made) SVD (Dragunov Sniper Rifle, in its Russian acronym). What were they thinking?

These weapons would not impress M24-equipped SOF snipers, or M40-wielding Marine Scout Snipers. But they were adequate for their task. They gave every rifle unit a few precision riflemen that could engage point targets out beyond the effective range of assault rifles. They got all the other benefits of snipers, too: ISR through direct observation being, perhaps, the most important.

The Soviet and Warsaw Pact (now Russian and CIS) program was a success even though it was not up to SF or Marine standards. But, thing is, it didn’t have to be. For the Russian architects of Soviet sniping doctrine, which drove the development of the SVD rifle, “good enough” was, well, good enough. They chose to satisfice, not optimize, a decision that met all their needs while working within their constraints.

Satisficing is often a more satisfying process than optimizing. If something is optimized for particular requirements, it may be less adaptable than something that was just good enough. And it’s entirely at the mercy of the wisdom and foresight of the guys who write those requirements. (Six years after adoption, for instance, even Army Ordnance figured out that the nifty-neat magazine disconnector that let you use a Krag like a Trapdoor really wasn’t enough of a killer feature to pick it over the Mauser, after all).

The US has many riches in Small Arms Development, but consistency is not one of them. Consider two development programs that brought contracts to H&K over the years: the Offensive Pistol and the Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System. Both of these contracts were successful, in that the US military procured (or in the case of the CSASS, is procuring) at least some of the systems. But both might have gone better, had a satisficing approach been taken instead of a maximizing one.

The Offensive Pistol was a special operations project mostly driven by a SEAL wish-list. It produced a pistol that checked every box, but that was nearly as bulky and heavy (with its suppressor) as a carbine. Despite the weight, though, the Mk 23 pistol was handicapped by being a pistol that fired a pistol cartridge. That meant it could never be a sole weapon, the guy using the Mk 23 (presumably in clearing a linear or confined target) needed to have a carbine too.

Mk 23. This one from Cranston Gun and Coin in Rhode Island.

Mk 23. This one from Cranston Gun and Coin in Rhode Island. Without something for scale, the size of it isn’t obvious…

Here we see how the Mk 23 dwarfs even the pretty big .45 ACP USP Tactical (from this thread on HKPro).

Here we see how the Mk 23 dwarfs even the pretty big .45 ACP USP Tactical (from this thread on HKPro).

The Mk 23s are out there, but I’ve never heard of anybody using them for anything but playing on the range, or stylin’ and profilin’. It was optimized for its set of specifications, but nobody ever said, “Wait a minute, we say we want it to do X and handle Y, but did we ever do X and Y with a pistol before? Why not?”

In the case of the CSASS, the Army (in particular) had another firearm that was developed from a telephone-book-sized stack of requirements and specifications, the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System. The M110 SASS had the same thyroid problem as the Mk 23: it was unweildy for the ways the soldiers wanted to use it.

The M110 SASS came with lots of cool gear, but few of the end users were well trained on the system.

The M110 SASS came with lots of cool gear, but few of the end users were well trained on the system. And it was too long and unwieldy, hence, the compact semi-auto sniper system competition started to find a less unwieldy

The maker of the original M110, Knight’s Armament Corp., offered to modify the existing M110s to meet the new spec for short money but the Army wasn’t having any of that. They wanted all new guns, and hang the expense.

The CSASS, a cousin of the German G 28 (HK calls this variant the G28E), is basically a piston .308 AR, but it’s optimized for the new specification.

das-hk-g28e-im-cal-7-62mmx51What happens when the users of that rifle make contact with the enemy and suggest some changes? Or, somewhat more cynically, what happens when some new action officer replaces the old and brings a new set of prejudices to bear on the problem? Will the CSASS have as short a run as the M110 did? And be replaced, as it was, by what’s essentially the same gun?

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Partisan Rifles

partisanriflesThis is a site that deserves a lengthy write-up, but for now we’ll just hit the high points. We do promise you that, if you are interested in obscure European 20th-Century history, or in Mittel- and Eastern European firearms, spending time at Partisan Rifles will reward you handsomely.

The author of the site, who goes by the nickname — we are not making this up! — “Hairy Greek,”  expresses clearly what his site is all about:

This site is dedicated to rifles from the Balkans region – the former Yugoslavia (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia), Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania, and also Italy, Austria, Hungary, Russia, and Turkey – especially those rifles with soldier graffiti on them.  I cover anything I can get my hands on, which is mainly WWI to WWII, though there are many examples from the earlier Balkan Wars, and recent Croatian and Bosnian Wars.  While not technically in the Balkans, I have found some fascinating rifles from the Spanish Civil War, and will include those also.

Balkans-region rifles from the 1800’s and earlier have shown me that decorating rifles was a common practice, possibly stemming from Turkish or Middle Eastern decorations.  This tradition has been carried on well into the 1990’s.  A number of the region’s rifles bear initials, names, cities, dates, kill counts, and political symbols on them.  Most of these markings were made by non-government irregular forces, or militia members.  These markings create a historical journey by showing who used the rifle, where and when.  For example, the above rifle was most likely captured from the Italians by Tito Partisans in WWII.

Every old firearm has a story to tell, and on some of these the story is carved right into the wood of the stock. Fascinating site.

PS — he’s got some really flashy Montenegrin Gassers, a revolver we discussed recently.