Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

The Big Lie About Wanat (COP Kahler), Part 1 of 2 (long)

The Big Lie principle, as elaborated by Hitler and Goebbels, is that if you tell a small lie, you’ll be caught on it, but if you tell a really big, even outrageous whopper, people will tend to believe it. It’s an insight into human psychology which helps explain how those two second-stringers wound up seizing the levers of the most advanced nation in 20th Century Europe and running it into the ground, to the detriment of scores of millions worldwide. But right now, it’s making the rounds in our little world, as hired shills for foreign manufacturers lie about one battle to pad their own paychecks. This lie is so bold and blatant that many have come to accept it as true, even though official documents tell another story.

The lie is that, “9 American Infantrymen died on 13 July 08 at COP Kahler at Wanat, Afghanistan, in the Waygul Valley of Nuristan province, because their M4 Carbines jammed”. This lie clearly doesn’t hold up if you read the historical papers, professional analyses, and interviews with survivors. What does hold up is a story of incredible devotion, dedication and heroism on the part of the Americans there, and of intelligent, bold and fearless attacks on the part of their enemies. But there are some facts the foreign-firm lobbyists don’t tell you.

  • to start with, that they’re paid lobbyists.
  • Then, that most of the killed were not using M4s at the time they were killed.
  • Then, that those that were did not have jammed rifles.
  • Then, that the survivors who did have jammed rifles, used the rifles far beyond their duty cycle, because (1) they hadn’t been trained on the limits of the weapon and its duty cycle, but mostly, (2) they hadn’t any other option: their crew-served weapons went down due to failure, ammunition exhaustion, or destruction by accurate enemy MG and RPG fire, leaving them with ugly choices: go cyclic for long periods with rifles, or get defeated. Getting defeated was not a survivable option.
Indefensible: COP Kahler viewed from an aircraft, looking south. It is the tan area at center. COL Ostlund photo.

Indefensible: COP Kahler viewed from an aircraft, looking south. It is the tan area at center. COL Ostlund photo.

This was the plan to which COP Kahler was built. It was opened just days before the attack.

This was the plan to which COP Kahler was built. It was opened just days before the attack.

Why, then, does this story persist? It persists because it fits a narrative much beloved of the anti-military writers of the Acela Corridor, many of whom are unsophisticated and trivially spun by lobbyists. The Atlantic magazine is a fine illustration of this. In a recent article by a defense-industry lobbyist and retired general, whose conflicts of interest they have never disclosed, they printed:

The M4, the standard carbine in use by the infantry today, is a lighter version of the M16 rifle that killed so many of the soldiers who carried it in Vietnam. (The M16 is still also in wide use today.) In the early morning of July 13, 2008, nine infantrymen died fighting off a Taliban attack at a combat outpost near the village of Wanat in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province. Some of the soldiers present later reported that in the midst of battle their rifles overheated and jammed. The Wanat story is reminiscent of experiences in Vietnam: in fact, other than a few cosmetic changes, the rifles from both wars are virtually the same. And the M4’s shorter barrel makes it less effective at long ranges than the older M16—an especially serious disadvantage in modern combat, which is increasingly taking place over long ranges.

OK, perhaps in a future post we’ll break that out, bullshit by bullshit. For example:

  • The M4 is a lighter version of the M16 Rifle, yes, and the 2015 Corvette is a modified version of a car introduced in 1953. There are very few parts in an M4 that are the same as the ones this guy’s artillery battery struggled with at FSB Bertchesgaden almost 50 years ago. Most of those parts are in the trigger group, and there’s always the charging handle. Apart from those, from muzzle to buttstock, from sights to magazine, it’s a new gun.

But we’re not going to do that today. Instead we’re going to address this insidious and false claim:

  • [N]ine infantrymen died fighting off a Taliban attack at a combat outpost near the village of Wanat. So far, so good. (At least he notes that they did fight off the attack; a lot of careless reporters say they were overrun).
  • Some of the soldiers present later reported that in the midst of battle their rifles overheated and jammed. Yes. You see what the author is doing there? He’s making the inferences, without saying in so many words, that their guns killed them. This is one of those things that is “true, but….” Those grunts were not killed by their guns. They were killed by the enemy, and as we’ll see, the malfunction of weapons systems was real, but not decisive. You could argue that bad training, worse officer leadership in the planning phases (the officers provided magnificent leadership under fire), and incredibly-bad site selection were responsible, instead.  (The location selected for COP Kahler was the bottom of a bowl, with mountains about 7,000 feet higher surrounding the outpost 360º. It’s hard to imagine a less defensible position, yet these guys defended it). But in the end, they were infantrymen in a hard fight with a determined enemy, and guys get hurt doing that.

So let’s explore the action at Wanat for a minute. Click “More” to continue. This is a long one.

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Law-Driven Innovation in NZ

We saw this very cool .22 rifle on Reddit and Imgur — but the story behind the rifle was even more interesting, to us, because it’s a tale of human adaptation to that most inhuman of human adaptations, bureaucracy.

Every jurisdiction — nation, state, province, municipality — has more or less authority to regulate guns, and that means that there’s a lot of variation worldwide. And gun enthusiasts in those countries produce innovations, sometimes, that are driven by the peculiar aspects of their national laws. Take this rimfire bolt-action from the island paradise of New Zealand (these pictures do embiggen greatly if clicked:

NZ Norinco SBR folded

 

OK, that’s the transport mode, with the stock collapsed. Here’s what it looks like, stock extended.

NZ Norinco SBR3

Pretty cool? Want one? Er, wait, while we digress into international gun law.

Many nations try to ban all but hunting guns, or ban handguns. (Handguns tend to be preferred by criminals, due to their concealability). In nations that ban or highly restrict handguns, there tend to be restrictions on minimum size of rifles and shotguns. The New Zealand restrictions on what is an A-License Category firearm drove the development of the rifle you see here.

The US NFA as an Example

The US has an equivalent law, and it, too, originated as an attempt to ban or highly restrict handguns. The original intent of the sponsors of the National Firearms Act of 1934 was to ban (or technically, restrict, but de facto ban with a Pigovian Tax) pistols and revolvers, as well as machine guns, silencers, and cannons. Their lawyers told them they could not structure a ban as a ban, but could slide it through as a tax measure. But their vote-counters told the New York, Chicago and Boston liberals behind the law that they’d never sell a pistol ban to representatives and senators from the West or South.

So the law passed with the machine-gun and silencer restrictions, and restrictions on short-barrel rifles and short-barrel shotguns which were originally meant to prevent outflanking the pistol ban that was deleted from the bill. (The secondary purpose of the law was to ensure that the agents of the famously corrupt Prohibition Bureau didn’t lose their government jobs, as numbers of them had some connection to a politician).

Most every American gunnie can quote you the barrel length restrictions in the NFA. Rifles must have barrels of 16″; shotguns, 18″. But there are also overall length restrictions of 26″ for both weapons. This technical distinction means it is possible to have a weapon with a perfectly legal barrel length, but given a pistol-grip or other short stock, or a bullpup configuration, the weapon is illegal. (What does ATF call a weapon like that, that cannot be a “short-barreled rifle” or “short-barreled shotgun” because, well, the barrel isn’t legally “short”? The term of art is “weapon made from a rifle”

atf_weapon_made_from_a_rifle

 

…or “weapon made from a shotgun.”

atf_weapon_made_from_a_shotgun

 

Legally, the difference between SBR or SBS and “weapon made from” in the USA is not that great. Both a short-barreled long-gun, and a “weapon made from” a long gun, require a registration under NFA and approval and tax paid ($200) prior to manufacture. Possession of one without your legal and tax ducks in a row en avant is a major Federal felony with a decade in prison as the “prize.”

Of course, that’s US law, and New Zealand has its own.

The New Zealand Law and Its Variance from the US NFA

New Zealand is a different country, and her representatives have written, not surprisingly, entirely different laws. By and large, Kiwi laws are restrictive, comparable not to the USA in general but perhaps to the USA’s more restrictive jurisdictions, such as Massachusetts or Illinois.  Firearms of non-sporting types must be registered, and owners must be approved by the police as having a “good reason” to own that type of weapon. Self-defense is explicitly excluded as a reason.

Like there used to be in Massachusetts, there are “classes” of license, although in NZ they get quite complex:

  • Class A or “standard” license: sporting shotguns and rifles, and air guns.
  • Endorsement B: pistols for target shooting, which may be used at police-approved target shooting clubs, only
  • Endorsement C: collect pistols or “restricted” weapons, but not necessarily to shoot them
  • Endorsement E: to own and fire the dreaded “assault weapons,” which are called “Military Standard Semi Automatic (MSSA)” in Kiwi law.

An interesting peculiarity of New Zealand law is that you must be licensed to shoot these weapons even if you do not own them. Apart from some provisions for rentals by professionals, an unlicensed person may fire only Class A, sporting, arms, under the direct supervision of a licensee

Gun licenses are managed by the police. Their website says:

Someone will arrange to visit you. They will interview you and check your firearms security arrangements. They will arrange to interview your referees.

You will have difficulty being deemed ‘fit and proper’ to possess or use firearms if you have:

– a history of violence
– repeated involvement with drugs
– been irresponsible with alcohol
– a personal or social relationship with people deemed to be unsuitable to be given access to firearms
– indicated an intent to use a firearm for self-defence.

There are some bizarre requirements. For instance, if you don’t keep your firearms at home, it doesn’t matter– you still have to install a security system. (Maybe some top NZ rozzer is getting a kickback from the alarm manufacturer). But it’s their country, they set their own rules.

What the Kiwi Inventor Did and Why it’s Cool

So, our New Zealander wanted to update and improve a fairly conventional Norinco .22 sporting rifle, whilst keeping it legal on a standard “A” license. He envisioned this:

NZ Norinco SBR2

 

 

With a sliding stock to make it even more compact. (The suppressor is legal and unregulated, as near as we can tell, in his island nation. Other country, other rules). But the NZ equivalent of the US SBR law means a gun ceases to be sporting (which makes it, what? “Not cricket?”) if it’s shorter than 762 mm.

No matter how inept you are with the metric system, if you’re a gun guy who knows that .30 caliber is 7.62 mm, you ought to be able to figure out that the customizer of this gun, who goes by the Reddit handle CPT Tooks, needed to keep his gun 30 inches long (gee, even longer than our silly SBR law). But the New Zealand law has one marked superiority over the US equivalent — if the weapon can’t be fired in its retracted mode, it is only measured in the mode it can be shot in. As you can see, Tooks’s stock guards the trigger when forward. He says:

I have been working on this one for a while now. Its a suppressed .22lr with a collapsible stock. It started life as a full length Norinco JW15. My goal was to create a stock that could be as compact as possible that would not infringe the New Zealand A-Cat. rifle length law when it is folded down. As you can see when the rifle is less than legal length for a rifle in NZ (762mm) you can no longer engage the trigger. length collapsed = 470mm

That’s 18.5 inches, for all of us bitter clingers to the measurement standards of the Laws of Aethelberht.

NZ Norinco SBR

Here are some more of Tooks’s comments, edited out of the relevant Reddit thread:

I modeled the stock in CAD (Solidworks) and printed it on my 3D Printer. So I just made the stock to fit the Norinco’s action. Cut the barrel down to 7 inches, re-crowned it and made the suppressor for it. Done.

My 3D printer is an Up 2 plus, its print area is 200x200x200mm. the stock is printed in 8 parts and joined together.

The trigger slides inside the stock.

I made the suppressor as well. I printed it.

NZ has no limitations on short rifle barrels, or suppressors. He does not seem to have made the suppressor on the 3D printer, but if you look closely at the pictures of the stock, the telltale lines of additive manufacturing are given away.

I print suppressors on .22lr, .17hmr and .22mag- they are pretty big like the one on this gun but they do work great!. (ABS- If done right its easily strong enough for rim fire). I have put 500+ rounds through my mk1 model with no failure. I live in New Zealand so its not illegal to make suppressors.

He is still responding in the thread.

In the USA it’s not illegal to make suppressors, but it’s restricted. Tooks is not averse to releasing  his designs, but wants to do it in a manner that will get him paid, rather than just dumping them on the net.

Here in the USA, someone would have to convert his stock design to a weapon which is available here, as Norinco imports have been banned since 1989. The ATF interprets the SBR law differently, depending on whether the stock is folding or detachable. If a rifle has a folding stock, it is measured in the extended position, on the presumption that it is meant to be fired that way, even if it can be fired folded. That’s why an Uzi carbine with a metal stock and a 16″ barrel is a Title I firearm, and an Uzi with the same barrel and a detachable wood stock is not. (It is a Weapon Made From a Rifle). Both are about 24 ½” long. Likewise, if you rig the Uzi’s metal stock to be removable, it is no longer a Title I firearm but a Title II NFA arm.

Some states are weird about this, also. Michigan considers rifles that are operable when folded to be SBRs banned under state law if under 26″ (which includes all those Uzis). Folding stock rifles that fold to between 26″ and 30″ and are operable folded, like the AK or most folding M1 Carbines, are classed as “pistols” in that state, and must be registered if you are a resident… but in an unintended consequence of the attorney-general ruling that created this law, are legal to carry loaded, concealed, or in a car, with a pistol license from any recognized jurisdiction! Yes, in Michigan, you can’t carry a fixed-stock AR or AK loaded in your car, but if you can fold it to between 26″ and 30″ you can call it a pistol and be armed to survive in Detroit.

The Cuban Winchester

These days, with Cuba in the news and our President bowing and scraping to los hermanos pollos Castros, is a good time to reflect on the arms of the Cuban Revolution. A recent biography of one of the many tragic figures of the war, Comandante Americano William Morgan, contained a few brief paragraphs about a homemade gun, the “Cuban Winchester.”

One night, [former Second Front training officer Regino] Camacho came over to Morgan, and the two began talking. The other rebels watched as the two huddled over an old Winchester, piecing together the parts to put it back together. They had patched up their differences.

By the morning, the two had devised a homemade assault rifle. Using the frame of a 1907 Winchester and combining it with other parts, they created a base so the gun could fire with interchangeable barrels, depending on what ammo was available. They called it the Cuban Winchester.

This book (The Yankee Comandante by Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss) does have different details from other sources, but the authors have made scant attempt to document their sourcing, and no source at all is given for this. On top of that, Sallah and Weiss clearly have no interest in or understanding of firearms; a picture showing Comandante Morgan posing with his rebel girlfriend describes their arms, an M1 Thompson and an M1 Carbine, as “assault rifles.” But it interested us enough to track down other references to the Cuban Winchester, such as they are, and to tentatively conclude that the gun was a one-off for propaganda purposes.

We were able to find a video online from which we’ve taken some stills of the actual weapon. The actual video is embedded near the end of this post. (The images do embiggen but they’re originally pretty grainy scans from halftone, from Guns magazine in October, 1959[.pdf]).

cuban_winchester_closeup

Remembering something about this, we hit the Unconventional Warfare Operations Research Library, and in its needs-better-organized 3,000+ volume stacks, we found the following in Robert K. Brown’s Merc: American Soldiers of Fortune from the 1980s:

As Morgan later related in an interview with author Brown: “The Cuban Army periodically sent out two thousand to three thousand troops in offensive thrusts into the mountains to hunt us down and destroy our small bands. We were always outnumbered at least thirty to one. Some twenty or thirty of us would stay on the soldiers’ backs; we wouldn’t let them alone. As soon as one group would break off another would take up the attack. That was how we had to fight. Why? We needed the guns.”

Weapons were indeed a problem. The 26 July Movement was getting most of the foreign support going to the Cuban revolutionaries. Their public-relations personnel and contacts in the United States were better than any other group at the time. Even when weapons were shipped to the Second Front, Castro’s men frequently managed to intercept them.

Morgan found an experienced gunsmith who had seen action in the Spanish Civil War and in a number of South American revolutions and intrigues. Captain Camacho, as he was called, scrounged up welding equipment, lathes, and a forge, to set up the revolution’s army. He invented unique, effective weapons to compensate for the guerrillas’ shortfall, making them out of parts available or captured locally. An inventive genius, one of his more widely known items was called the “Cuban-Winchester” by those who used it. He used the frame of a .44 lever action Winchester rifle produced in the 1890s and combined it with parts from Winchester semi-automatic rifles, M-1 Garand rifles, and a few handmade parts. He reamed out his own barrels and, depending on what ammo was available locally, the user could select .45 ACP, U.S. .30 carbine, or 9mm caliber by switching barrels. The weapon could utilize many different types of pistol magazines, including the efficient Luger 32-round “snail drum.”

Morgan reported that this gun bad limited accuracy, but was highly regarded due to its firepower. He himself preferred British 9mm submachine guns, due to their light weight and the light weight of the 9mm ammo. During the guerrilla experiences, he noted the difference a heavier gun and ammo made when trying to move fast and far.

Morgan’s interview with Brown was previously used in a brief Guns Magazine report in October, 1959 (p. 17); Guns has put the entire issue online (.pdf), and here is the story:

THEY “‘ROLLED THEIR OWN” IN CUBA

CUBAN CHOPPER WAS ASSEMBLY OF WINCHESTER RIFLE. M-l CARBINE. AND HAND-MADE PARTS IN THREE OPTIONAL CALIBERS.

PRODUCT OF CUBAN ingenuity and Yankee drive is the “Cuban Winchester,” emergency weapon of the revolution. Commandante William Morgan, an American fighting with the Revolutionary Army, thought up the idea in searching for greater firepower. Together with Captain Camacho, grizzled old gunsmith who had fought in the Spanish Civil War, the recent Venezuelan fracas and other South American scrapes, they put together 10 of the conglomerate arms pictured — prize creation of Camacho’s machine shop in the hills which also turned out grenades, machine guns, home-made cannon and anti-tank mines. It took three or four men about two weeks to complete one gun. In this little gem, the slide. recoil and trigger mechanism are a blending of M-l Carbine and handmade parts inside a Winchester .351 Self-Loading frame. The stock is whittled out by hand. Rebored interchangeable barrels allowed Morgan’s men to fire .45, 9mm, or .30 Carbine ammo, depending on what was for supper that night. Ammo capacity depended on the type of magazine used: either altered Star pistol clips or a drum.

According to Morgan, the short barrel length limited accuracy to “about 25 yards. However, it threw enough lead to allow us to even up the odds a little, as well as give confidence to the men,” the 30-year old ex-paratrooper told me. “Morgan’s combat experience included a world wide assortment of weapons, but he prefers the British Sten or improved Sterling submachine guns. He described the British weapons as having less recoil and weight yet a greater effective range than the American Thompson or M3 grease gun. “Furthermore,” he emphasized, “weight difference between 9 mm ammo and .45 makes a hell of a difference in favor of the 9mm when you’re off on a 40 mile hike in the Cuban backwoods.”

cuban_winchester_stripped

The gun is also mentioned, briefly, in Aran Shetterly’s The Americano: Fighting with Castro for Cuba’s Freedom, another bio of Morgan. Shetterly describes Morgan (pp. 160-161) as

[P]osing with a “Cuban Winchester” (a regular bolt-and-lever Winchester rifle that the weapons doctor, Regino Camacho, had turned into a semiautomatic).

Previously, Shetterly introduced Camacho (p. 56):

 Like young baseball players being handed their first uniforms, bats, and gloves, Menoyo’s men thrilled at the sight of the shipment of arms. It was an odd assortment of weapons from shady dealers and pawnshops from Miami to New Jersey. There were 50 Italian carbines, a Thompson submachine gun and two English Stens that could fire 550 rounds per minute, two Springfield rifles, a Garand, five Remington semi-automatic rifles, one M1 and two M3’s, carbines, and thousands of rounds of munition [sic]. Menoyo handled the Sten to Morgan, knowing that he was one of the few men in the group who could handle a submachine gun.

In addition to the weapons, there were tents, uniforms, knapsacks, lanterns, and other essential tools and supplies, including a few old military helmets. One of these was a big, heavy Nazi helmet that a pawnshop proprietor had tossed in with the guns. Only one young man, a country boy named Publio, had a head big enough to wear it – and he did.

Every piece of hand-me-down war refuse would find a home. The weapons that didn’t work would be investigated and retooled by a bespectacled Spanish machinist named Regino Camacho. Camacho could turn a rifle into a submachine gun, or fit the clip of an American repeating rifle into the equivalent Italian firearm.

The single “Cuban Winchester” ever seen in photos appears to have been made from a .351 Winchester 1907 semiauto, based on the photos, not a lever action. This was a simple blowback design, meant to be a less expensive competitor to Remington’s expensive Browning-designed Model 8. It is fitted with a new stock including a pistol grip, a new forearm with the operating handle relocated to the right side, a cut-down barrel, and a strange drum magazine made from the drum of a 1st Model Luger TM.08 “snail” drum, and the body of a straight magazine of some kind.

The weapon is claimed to have been made in a quantity of 10, but Morgan’s Second Front were excellent propagandists and poor narrators, so all we know for sure is that one was made. No image shows more than a single firearm.

Moreover, no picture we have shows more than one single firearm or any variation that suggests more than one existed. In addition, no photo shows anything that might be the interchangeable barrel mechanism, and all pictures appear to show the same 1st Model TM.08 snail drum, a unit that was designed for the 9mm cartridge and would not adapt well to some of the rounds claimed for the “Cuban Winchester.”

Is this, perhaps, a propaganda weapon designed to promote the 2nd Front? Or, perhaps, even, to conceal the 2nd Front’s actual weapons sources? Did it even function? In some details it resembles the gangster specials of the 1930s, like the Hyman Lebman guns made for the Dillinger gang, as recounted here in 2013.

Replica of the Hyman Lebman Dillinger Gun, which may have inspired Camacho.

Replica of the Hyman Lebman Dillinger Gun, the original of which may have inspired Camacho.

A tragic figure, Morgan was a subordinate leader to Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo in something called the Second Front of the Escambray, a revolutionary group whose opposition to Batista was grounded in Enlightenment republican thought and values, as opposed to the Movimiento 26º de Julio whose values were those of Marxism-Leninism. They quickly came into opposition with the dominant Communists after the Revolution, and tried to play double-agents between the Communist Castro brothers and Che on the one hand, and the staunchly anticommunist Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo. Morgan and Menoyo had been betrayed by the US Ambassador, who at the time was operating under the sway of Castro’s and Che’s ostensible charisma. Not knowing whether or not they could trust Morgan, Castro and Che solved the problem their usual way, having Morgan shot after their victory. His wife was allowed to emigrate to the United States in the Mariel boatlift. Menoyo escaped to the USA, but would be betrayed on a later mission to Cuba and spend decades in prison.

Despite Morgan’s boast to Brown of being an “ex-paratrooper,” he was no such thing. Morgan was an Army veteran, but as if often the case among would-be mercenaries, he was a failure as a soldier, earning only a dishonorable discharge. The state of Cuban guerrilla training in the late 1950s was such that even such an undistinguished and brief career made him a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind.

None of these books is entirely trustworthy about Morgan. The Brown book lapses into mercenary fandom, and the new biography, written by two Toledo Blade journalists, commits the usual journalistic sins; true to newsroom culture, they don’t let themselves be distracted from good storytelling by a meaningless quest for accuracy. For example, while there are multiple legends of such things as Morgan’s death, the narrative-happy journos pick the one that most serves their narrative arc, and don’t even inform their readers that there are others.

Here is the video, from JMantime, whose channel has a lot of weapons-related content. We’re not aware of any photos of the Cuban Winchester other than the handful in this video, which were all in Brown’s Guns magazine article.

 

Sources:

Brown, Robert K., and Mallin, Jay. Merc: American Soldiers of Fortune. New York: McMillan, 1979.

Sallah, Michael, and Weiss, Mitch. The Yankee Comandante: The Untold Story of Courage, Passion, and One American’s Fight to Liberate Cuba. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2015.

Shetterly, Aran. The Americano: Fighting with Castro for Cuba’s Freedom. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2007.

Apart from the sources listed above and linked in the article, there’s a trove of Morgan-related material at LatinAmericanStudies.org, including a good bit of primary source material, and many of the Toledo Blade stories that were fleshed out into Sallah and Weiss’s book. Retrieve from: http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/morgan/

Afghan M4 Makeover, Step 2: Knight’s RIS

We’ve unboxed it, and dressed it up (down?) with the actual buttstock from our 2002-03 tour of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and “other places,” a stock retired from military service to an ignominious end in a dumpster (kind of like what the VA does to us, now that we think about it).

Now it’s time and past for the next phase in our Makeover. We’ve taken care of the proximal end of our combat appendage, now we need to move closer to the distal end and add a 2000-era SOPMOD I style rails system. The 6920 came with the latest version of CAR-15 inspired handguards. Again we weighed it; the scale has given us 6.5 and 6.6 pounds (Sunday, it gave us 6.60 pounds and 6 pounds 8 ounces. Wait, what?) We suspect the variations are environmental. We haven’t recorded temperature, but it’s in a basement held steady at about 40% humidity by dehumidifier.

m4a1_sopmod_pre_rails_on_scale

You can see a hint of the rails to come at the bottom of that image! At this point, we’ll insert a jump to keep the blog’s front-page manageable, because this post is ~2400 words and lots of big pictures which embiggen substantially. (We apologize for the quality of the pics, which are cellphone specials. We really need to get a DSLR again).

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Afghan M4 Makeover, Step 1: Vintage Stock

We remember seeing the 6921 as it shook out of the box yesterday. It came with a maybe-good-we-dunno Rogers Super-Stoc, which is not what we had in the hills of the Hazarajat.

unbox_20_new_stock

So we needed to go to the parts box for an original Colt Fiberite stock, of which we had a number even before putting in the order for the carbine.

But it turned out, we had a guardian angel looking out for us. One day, while the 6921 sat waiting for the stamp, we got a ring from an old friend who was then still in the old unit.

“What was your rack number?” Easy enough to remember. Jeez, we inventoried the team, and even the unit, weapons often enough. (The Army requires frequent serial number inventories which must be done by two officers or senior NCOs). Normally used and broken weapons parts are turned in, but the unit had a shipment of new SOPMOD stocks, and someone somewhere made a decision that the decade-plus-old, war-weary and well-worn stocks, were dumpster food. It would cost more to collect and ship them to DRMO than they could possibly bring at auction. So they were thrown out.

Needless to say, any of the guys who wanted one, brought one home. And our buddy — God bless him — brought ours home.

unbox_28_revert_to_fiberlite_stock

Dang. A real piece of the exact gun we had in Afghanistan, is the first part of our reproduction of that stalwart companion. Who else can say that?

Now, practically, the stock is inferior to the Rogers stock on several planes. It’s a little looser and shakier on the stock extension. The Rogers has the trick locking lever, which is nifty. Neither one really has a good cheek weld, but the Rogers curved buttplate is a lot more ergonomic.

And, of course, there are other superior stocks out there. But, like the Marine mantra about This is my rifle, “there are many like it, but this one is mine.” Not to go all seagull or anything.

(Note: we were wrong yesterday if we said the initial weight of the 6921 with the Rogers was 6.6 and then we established it was 6.5 after weighing the rifle with the Fiberite stock. As this photo, which we didn’t look at when writing the post, reveals, the second set of weights was 6.6, meaning the 6.5 was the initial weight result).

There’s a long way to go in our M4 Makeover. Next installment? Rails and foregrip.

Colt M4LE Model 6921 Unboxing

Objective: build the best possible transferable replica of an Afghanistan, early war, Special Forces carbine. Specifically the one we toted around Kandahar, Bagram, and on Operation Roll Tide with the 3rd Battalion of the Afghan National Army in the Khamard and Madr Valleys of central Afghanistan.

We started with noting what a young(er) WeaponsMan toted around the hills: an early M4A1 to which the SOPMOD I kit came as an afterthought (and because our company was remote from, and in a different state from, Battalion and Group HQ, we didn’t get the whole kit until we returned, because the Group S4 ratholed it and forgot about it. Supply, a most under-appreciated field of endeavor). We figured the nearest we could come to it was a Colt LE M4, as it would have roll marks similar to the combat-carried weapon, and the correct barrel length. We ordered the gun two years ago, and it came quickly to our FFL.

unbox_01_box_end

The trip to the workbench was long and eventful. An attempt to set up new trust came unglued, and after a second attempt, we moved forward with an individual purchase. (And yes, that means when we get the trust straightened out we’ll have to pay another two bill transfer tax to put it in the trust). Then, of course, ATF fell far behind in approving NFA transfers. They finally got the paperwork after all of our delays in March, 2014; in October, at the 6-month point, we called NFA Branch for an update.

“It’s all good,” the examiner said. “There’s nothing wrong with your packet, and it’ll probably be approved.”

“Great!”

“…in January.”

“Oh. Well, thanks. Out here.”

But the examiner underpromised and overdelivered. In November, we got a call with the welcome note: “Your stamp’s here!”

Cool. Two months early! We couldn’t pick it up till this month, so it was like getting an early Christmas gift.

You’ve seen the box; overleaf, there’s a photo-rich set of detail pictures of the carbine after the jump below. The photos are unretouched except for cropping, setting levels, erasing serial numbers (a bit silly, as the guys who scan the net for serial numbers already have this one) and stripping EXIF data.

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What’s with all the new M1 Carbines?

From the 1940s to the coming of the M4, when you talked about “a carbine” in the gun shop, everybody knew you meant the Carbine, the US .30 Carbine M1. Which was produced from 1942 to 1945 in such numbers that it took us until about fifty years for supply to tighten up.

Suddenly, there are new M1 carbines available, which has turned a drought of “shooter” quality guns into a flood of reasonably priced GI-spec carbines. We believe two things are driving this: the first is increased interest in the 20th-Century weapon thanks to movies and TV shows like Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and Saints and Soldiers (a little-known series of movies that have a much higher profile in the WWII buff and reenactor community). The second is the belated realization that once-common M1 carbines had become collectors’ items, their prices bid up into the stratosphere.

An original M1 Carbine.

An original M1 Carbine, as carried at Sicily, Anzio, D-Day, and Iwo Jima, among others. Typical early carbine with crossbolt safety and flip-up aperture sight.

Clinton and Bush administration decisions to destroy these carbines rather than release them through surplus sales or the CMP helped the supply dry up, as did the Obama administration’s insistence that these were “crime weapons,” banning their reimportation from the US allies who once depended on them just as GIs had (Clinton had also banned reimportation, which was quietly resumed after his retirement).

The Capsule History of the M1 Carbine

The M1 Carbine was not the original Personal Defense Weapon — decades before the Army wanted something like it, the first PDWs were the stocked Mauser ’96 and the Lange Pistole 08 —  but it was an unusual idea when it was first proposed.

Several vendors competed for the contract. The Winchester design, which used a bolt and operating rod familiar to any M1 rifle operator, and a novel short-stroke gas system designed by a felon (!), won. While Winchester would build nearly a million of them between 1942 and 1945, over 50% of the guns were made by divisions of General Motors: Inland Manufacturing and Saginaw Steering Gear. Others were made by business machine vendors and even a juke-box manufacturer, Rock-Ola Co. You could amuse yourself for life just trying to collect one of each version of carbine that was produced during the production run of the gun, which barely exceeded three years.

Along with the variations in manufacturers, there were “high wood” and “low wood” stocks, a bayonet lug added in 1945, a select-fire version (yclept M2), a night-vision variant (M3), and, briefly, a paratrooper variant with a rickety folding stock (M1A1).

They were not intended as frontline combat weapons, except as personal weapons by the members of crews such as mortar crews. Paratroopers used them, with mized results. General James Gavin used one in Sicily that jammed badly, and he became an exponent of the M1 Rifle ever after. Marine Sterling Mace, in his memoir Battleground Pacific (we recounted his other thoughts on weapons in October) even used it as a put-down for rear-echelon Marines: “carbine Marines,” as opposed to riflemen who went out to close with the Japs; of course, Mace carried, until a leadership job took it out of his hands, the king of rifles, the BAR.

After WWII the military began to dispose of its carbines, and they were once very common (production was 6.2 million from 9 contractors, not counting Irwin-Pedersen, none of whose ~3,500 carbines was accepted by the Army). After all, some 6.2 million of them were made, and the US would never need so many rifles again. Many of them were supplied to allies. Short-statured nations particularly liked the M1 and M2 carbines. The late Ben “the Plunderer” Roberts swore by the M2 Carbine in Vietnam; he had access to other weapons, but, “I liked having the same weapon and the same round as my little people.” We still very occasionally see an M1 Carbine carried by a guard somewhere.

On the Civilian Market

Large numbers of carbines and lots of ammunition were released in the 1960s. The Army committed to the M14 and M16A1 rifles, which replaced all the carbines in inventory from 1957–72 or so. The carbines struggled to find a niche. Everyone who handles the compact gun likes its ergonomics and its light weight, but its round fell into an “uncanny valley” between rimfire plinking ammo and big-game hunting ammo. Most states would not allow the use of a .30 Carbine against big game such as deer and elk.

A few police departments used them, or to be more precise, trained with and issued them. They were used very occasionally by criminals. (The weirdo Symbionese Liberation Army of the 1970s was fond of carbines amateur-converted to full auto).

But the carbines still sold. Indeed, commercial copies with more or less interchangeability with the GI carbine were made by Plainfield, Universal and Iver Johnson. In addition, Melvin Johnson of Johnson Rifle fame (no relation to old Iver) designed a 5.7mm variant of cartridge and carbine called the Johnson Spitfire, which is itself a rare collector’s item today. A variety of other stocks (including an MP40-like underfolder and an M3 Greasegun-like slider) were sold on the market and sometimes turn up in your local gun shop. The production of all these commercial variants has long ceased (many of them are well-documented on the website M1CarbinesInc.com).

Prior to the Obama administration, many carbines were reimported, but that is now streng verboten. It’s possible that CMP, which receives arms directly from the USG rather than through importing channels, may get some more, but it’s not highly likely.

Over the decades the original M1s have been retired into collections, become corrosion casualties or are sitting forgotten in closets. These legacy guns occasionally show up on gun turn-ins, where clueless cops show them to muddled media as “assault weapons we got off the street”. But the supply of existing carbines was low when demand spiked after their above-mentioned movie appearances.

Enter the New Carbines

The vendors of current carbines, two of whom have revived old WWII trade names, include:

  • Kahr — Kahr Arms was the first of the new-line vendors to produce the old-school carbine. Kahr acquired the Auto-Ordnance brand and inventory from Numrich in 1999 and has produced carbines under that trademark; the original Auto-Ordnance firm founded by James T. Thompson produced carbine parts, including 50% of the required receivers, for IBM’s carbine contract, so bringing carbines to Auto-Ordnance seems logical, but… they actually came by accident. A Kahr partner firm, Saeilo Manufacturing Industries, made carbine receivers for Israel Arms International, which went paws up in 2003. Stuck with unpaid-for receivers anyway, and tooling it received as a bankruptcy settlement, Kahr went ahead and brought a carbine to SHOT to gauge interest. The carbine has been in production since, and several models are made.
    1. The Model 130 represents the D-Day era carbine visually. It has a walnut stock and handguard and a 15-round magazine. It has a cross-bolt “push” safety, and no bayonet lug, like early M1s. It’s also available as the Model 140, in ten-shot ban-state configuration. Both have an MSRP of $846.
    2. The Model 150 is the  M1A1-styled gun. It has the same (correct for 1942-44 production) safety and barrel band, but the M1A1-style stock. It has an MSRP of $933 and is the most economical route to stylin’ like Malarkey and the guys from Easy Company on your next range trip. We do note that while the M1A1 looks stone cool, the stock is actually pretty horrible (note that our experience is with GI M1A1s, not with any of the current copies). It’s not very rigid and doesn’t lock positively, either open or closed.
    3. The Model 160 is the “tactical,” folding-plastic-stock version. It has the stamped-steel handguard found on commercial Universal carbines (but never on a GI one). We guess every manufacturer has to have one of these variants, because they sell, but at $860 there are a lot of better “tactical” options out there. If you actually want a practical folding stock, this one is much better than the GI solution.

In addition to these current Auto-Ordnance models, some now-discontinued early models had more “commercial carbine” features, like stamped-steel handguards, and birch stocks.

Important note: Kahr’s parts and processes are not similar to GI. Key parts including receiver, slide and trigger group housing are cast. Interchangeability with GI carbines is limited. And Kahr has struggled with quality control.

Note #2: Kahr is in the process of building a new factory and headqurters in Pennsylvania. As of November, the steel frame was up. Whether the Auto-Ordnance line will move to PA is unknown; certainly production from New York is going there, and we wouldn’t be shocked to see Kahr’s Worcester, Massachusetts plant, where the carbines are made, close. This may disrupt production.

Note #3: Kahr’s website (and the separate Auto-Ordnance site, which annoyingly isn’t linked from Kahr) load like they’re under attack by the Norks or somebody. Sloooow.

  • James River Armory — This firm, best known for its restorations of WWII rifles and careful reproductions of WWII sniper rifles, has revived the Rock-ola brand (not only for carbines, where it’s correct, but for M14s, which were only made by Winchester, Springfield, and TRW). Right now, JRA catalogs a single Rock-ola carbine style, which from the photographs resembles a late-WWII, 1945-production gun. It has a bayonet lug, an adjustable aperture sight like the one on the 1903A3, and a rotating safety. It sells for $1,194. JRA’s Rockola reciever is machined from billet steel.

On the JRA website, Mark Hartman, who shares our love for history and process engineering, explains why they chose this name as a tribute to the production warriors of WWII:

Production of the M1 Carbine is fascinating since the only contractor with any experience in the arms industry was the developer, Winchester. Ten additional companies were tasked with producing the rifle and what they accomplished is beyond amazing. In short within only a few months of receiving a contract Rockola Music Company completely transformed its production capabilities to making almost every part on this rifle and actually delivering completed rifles at a rate exceeding 10,000 per month. Coming from a modern perspective this is mind boggling. The company would have had to completely retool, add thousands of new employees, virtually all would need to be trained, engineer and fixture dozens of complex precision parts all with nothing more sophisticated than drafting tables and slide rules. The quality of Rockola’s supervisors, engineers, and employees had to be exceptional to pull off what they did. Any M1 Carbine collector will tell you that their product was among the best of the carbines produced.

We literally spent months with original blueprints and original parts creating the receiver into computer solid model and programmed for CNC production. Rockola pulled off the entire rifle in less time. The challenges they faced were unbelievable. Our victory in WWII started with companies like Rockola and this was repeated by small to mid-sized manufacturers all over the country doing war work. I remember a class on logistics at Quantico when I was a young Lieutenant, we figured training, tactics, and leadership won battles until an instructor commented that logistics is how war is won, (of course we didn’t understand, thinking “why die, go supply.”) In reality, he was right. The logistical support we needed started on the home front with companies like Rockola. This incredible support is what allowed the US Serviceman to defeat the enemy and win the war.

A long excerpt, but worth sharing. Indeed, go Read The Whole Thing™.

  • Fulton Armory  — Fulton builds their carbines to order. They say expect 8-10 weeks for delivery. They use old receivers and a mix of old and new parts (including new barrels and stocks) to make several versions of the carbine, including M1, M1A1, and updated railed variants, one with a plastic folding stock, and a fixed-stock one they call the M3 Scout Carbine. Their carbines are all list-priced at a stiff $1,500; they do have a reputation for using nice figured wood in their stocks. Numerous upgrades are available, including chrome bores. Fulton is also a good source for parts, accessories, tools and gages. (They have both throat and muzzle erosion gages, nice to have if you’re hunting quality carbines, in the small gun shops of America).
  • Inland Manufacturing — the name is being revived by a Dayton firm that builds its guns from bought-in parts on cast receivers. It  is the latest carbine maker to throw their hat in the ring. According to our information, it’s a separate firm, but connected to Springfield Armory and Rock Island Armory.

They plan to make three models, which will ship in the new year:

  1. The M1 1944 which is wood stocked and has a barrel band ($1049 MSRP)
  2. The M1 1945 which is wood stocked and has a bayonet lug ($1049), and
  3. The M1A1 1944 which has an M1A1 stock and barrel band ($1179).

inland m1a1

The Inland carbines are made on a cast receiver and have late sights and safety. They are distributed by MKS Supply.

An inspector inspects a barrel on a barrel-straightening machine, at the original Dayton plant of Inland Division of GM in WWII.

An inspector inspects a barrel on a barrel-straightening machine, at the original Dayton plant of Inland Division of GM in WWII.

What’s next, Winchester? (The Illinois firm Springfield Armory and its sister company Rock Island Armory produced some carbine receivers in the 1980s, and numerous other companies have had short runs of commercial carbines).

Dae-who? (answer overleaf)

Here’s a rare assault rifle, one you don’t see often in its standard select-fire iteration out in the world, and one you see even less often in its semi auto US import version, the importation of which ceased in the 1990s and has never been resumed.

We’ll have the answers for you after the jump. Tell us in the comments if you knew it on sight!

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US Rifle Co-Production in the Cold War

During the Cold War, one of the many types of leverage exploited by the “belligerents,” the USA and the USSR, was armament sales. But as the nations in each power’s camp got more sophisticated, they wanted to develop or at least manufacture their own weapons.

The problem with that was that interests in the superpowers’ own nations wanted to export weapons, not export weapons-making technology. We know now that the USSR’s command economy allowed the export of AK-making technology to literally dozens of countries, some of which had no business building a plywood outhouse, let alone modern 20th Century weaponry.

The US was much more diffident about exporting rifle-making technology and rifle designs to our allies, or entering into co-production agreements. In the case of the M16, this was complicated by the government’s lack of ownership of the key intellectual property, making an M16 agreement necessarily a three-way negotiation with the rights holder, Colt.

Finally, towards the end of the period, US salesmen were handicapped by US laws that criminalized the quaint foreign custom of bribe-taking, and more to the point, criminalized the American who paid the bribe. This ensured that a number of contracts went to H&K and FN, whose salesmen — and whose cops — were not so, shall we say, rigid in their thinking.

Only three nations received the rights to manufacture US rifles from the US government, although others may have negotiated those rights for the M16 and M4 with Colt directly (subject to export licensing, of course).

There are US political and economic interests that strongly favor selling completed rifles instead of committing to coproduction, even as coproduction becomes the norm for many other defense articles from the F35 on down. US government contracts are often perceived by contractors and  their workforces as producing feast-or-famine instability. And in the height of the Cold War during the 1950s-70s, the US defense contractor workforce was largely unionized, and the unions were a force in American politics at the time. The unions had zero interest in production happening in a non-union, or even in some other union, shop in some FISH1 country in Asia or Africa, and used their influence to torpedo what deals they could.

Taiwan ROC: The M14 Rifle

On 23 January 1967, Taiwan’s Nationalist Chinese government (still recognized by the USA as the legitimate government of all China at that date) inked a Memorandum of Understanding with the USA for rifle, machine gun, and ammunition production. It provided a very rare authorization for unlimited quantities of M14 rifles and M60 general-purpose machine guns. (Why “unlimited”? Perhaps they were thinking the Taiwan government might get all China back).

Government-furnished machinery, tooling and process information that had been provided to Harrington & Richardson of Worcester, Mass. for the M14 contract was part of the deal. H&R had produced M14s according to Springfield Armory’s processes, not according to the more economical processes developed by TRW from automotive experience. Lee Emerson, who admits that information on the Taiwan program is hard to come by, writes:

The Memorandum of Understanding grants license to the Government of Taiwan to produce M14 rifles known as the Type 57. The January 23, 1967 memorandum states that Taiwan will purchase tools, components, material, documentation, technical assistance and assemblies from Fiscal Year 1967 through Fiscal Year 1969. As agreed to in the Memorandum of Understanding, the U. S. government sold some of the M14 rifle production machinery used by Harrington & Richardson to Taiwan in 1968. One complete set of fixtures and inspection gages was supplied to the Government of Taiwan by Springfield Armory. By November 1968, nineteen machine tools had been accepted by the Government of Taiwan out of 150 offered by the U. S. government. This assistance effort was coordinated by MAAG China. The Memorandum of Understanding also required that the Taiwanese T57 items produced would be interchangeable logistically with USGI M14 items.

The project wound up in 1979. By then the Taiwan government had produced 149,596 M14 rifles (Emerson says over a million, which seems unreasonable until you realize the 300,000 man ROC armed forces have reserves of nearly four million), 10,725 M60 machine guns, and more than 250 million rounds of 7.62 NATO ammunition. In Taiwan ROC service, the rifle is referred to as the T57. We have struck out on finding authentic images of the T57, this receiver is from a Taiwanese toymaker’s airsoft toy and is therefore somewhat suspect:

Taiwan M14 markings

The latest Taiwanese version of the M14 is the XT98 sniper, a crudely welded prototype of which was caught at a trade show in Taiwan in 2011 by Steve Johnson of the Firearm Blog. This is one of Steve’s photos (more at the link).

xt_98_1-tfb

According to Johnson, the rifle was displayed by the Taiwanese Military Combined Logistics Command, Arsenal 205, which is their national armory. It appears to be a steel or aluminum chassis into which a legacy M14 is dropped; there has been no reported M14 production since the coproduction project went inactive in 1979.

While the US has had more success in recent years giving M14s away than it had when the weapon was still in significant US military use, no other nation ever bought the M14 as a service weapon, or developed a coproduction agreement.

Taiwan’s next rifle, the T65, was a kissing cousin of a Colt M16 improvement, the gas-piston Model 703, produced without recourse to any Colt license nor any government-to-government coproduction agreement. The Colt 703 was never manufactured, apart from toolroom prototypes.

Republic of the Philippines: M16A1 Rifle

Lots of nations bought M16s, but they bought them either through US Military Assistance Plan dollars. (Or they just ripped off the design, as noted above about Taiwan). Only a few nations sought coproduction. One of these was the Republic of the Philippines.

On 17 May 1974, the US and the Philippines, a close US ally since independence (actually, since 5 years before independence, as many Filipinos fought valiantly against Japanese invasion and occupation alongside Americans) signed a Memorandum of Understanding for rifle coproduction. It had no expiration date, but in place of the “unlimited” restriction in the Taiwan M14 contract, it authorized 150,000 rifles. The serial numbers have “RP” prefixes.

Elisco Filipino M16

 

Elisco Filipino M16A1b

The project concluded in January, 1982. By then Filipino arsenals had produced 166,314 M16A1 rifles. US documents do not account for the discrepancy between authorization and production. Subsequently, the Filipino firm Elisco Tool seems to have concluded a license with Colt directly for additional M16A1 rifles and carbines.

Singapore: M16A1 rifle

Chartered Industries of Singapore negotiated a deal, not with the US Army Security Assistance Command or some other branch of the US government, but directly with Colt Industries. Unlike the government-to-government exchanges, terms of this B2B deal have not been made public.

The rifles were marked with the following rollmarks (left side of magwell):

MADE IN SINGAPORE BY
CHARTER INDUSTRIES
OF SINGAPORE LIMITED
UNDER LICENSE FROM
COLT INDUSTRIES
HARTFORD CONN, USA
PATENTED
SER 000000

The serial numbers have no national prefix, unlike their Filipino and Korean counterparts. The right side had a CIS logo engraved on the magazine well.

CIS is known to have chafed under the terms of the deal. When it was sold to them, they were encouraged to plan to amortize machinery and plant under a production quantity supported by exports, but the deal they finally signed allowed them no export sales.

South Korea: M16A1 rifle

On 31 March 1971, The ROK concluded a Memorandum of Understanding with the USA for rifle coproduction. It authorized 1,166,000 M16A1 rifles, which were duly built by 1984 at the latest, when the program was wound up.

According to Retro Black Rifle, the Korean rifles’ markings included (right side):

MADE IN KOREA
UNDER LICENSE FROM
COLT’S HARTFORD, CT
U.S.A.

…and (left side):

Made by Daewoo
Colt 603-K
Markings:
M16A1
K000000

But it makes little sense for a rifle intended to be used by Korean draftees to be marked in English (RBR does note that the selector switch is marked in Korean Hangul script). An archived thread in ARFcom’s Retro Forum provides photos purporting to be one of these contract M16A1s (so-so pics, but they do embiggen):

Korean Retro M16A1 right Korean Retro M16A1

 

Like the Singaporeans with their Colt contract, the Koreans found the terms of their coproduction agreement with the USA uncongenial. They interrupted payments to Colt when certain Colt patents expired, triggering a lawsuit (it appears to have settled on neutral terms).

South Korea benefited by the technology transfer, perhaps, but they couldn’t use it to sell friendly Asian nations further quantities of M16A1 rifles. (It is a standard clause in coproduction agreements that no third country sales are authorized. This is presumably for political as well as economic reasons). In the end, Korean engineers at Daewoo Precision Industries (now ST-Motiv) used some concepts from the M16 and some from other firearms (including the AK and the FAL) to develop the K2 rifle and K1A1 submachine gun. Colt sued them for infringement on Colt’s patents but was not successful.

Notes

1. FISH country: an acronym indicating the nation in question is a Fly Infested $#!+ Hole, pronounced as “fish country”

Sources

Army Security Assistance Command. Security Assistance Coproduction Status Report and The Status Report Of Coproduction Programs. Washington: US Army, 31 December 1993. Retrieved from: http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/International_security_affairs/other/614.pdf

Emerson, Lee. M14 Rifle History and Development.  Available in four volumes at: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/m14rhad This is the most comprehensive M14 book (and yes, we do have them all). Volume 1 is the most critical to military-weapons buffs; the full set of four volumes is a bracing ~$170; A text-only version from 2013 is available as a free download here: http://www.m14.ca/books/M14_RHAD_Text_Only_Edition_131215.pdf. If you’re seriously interested, we firmly recommend buying all four volumes, which almost pay Lee back for his research. (Indeed, we just bought a fresh set to replace an outdated and incomplete set). With reference to the Taiwan guns, Lee has posted an excerpt: http://m14forum.com/m14/69027-taiwan-t57-m14-rhad-expanded.html 

Retro Black Rifle (various pages, notably: the Foreign Model Guide at: https://bpullignwolnet.dotster.com/retroblackrifle/ModGde/4nGde.html )

Some Sniper Rifle Happenings

There’s a few things going on in the world of sniper rifles.

Remington

We hear that Remington has abandoned its plan to sell the M24 sniper rifles in its inventory to serving soldiers and veterans, and sold the remaining inventory to a Sturgis, South Dakota FFL who is auctioning them off to all bidders, a couple at a time. Reportedly, Remington unloaded the guns because the pressure of layoffs (which continue) at Ilion, NY, made it impossible to continue the veterans program. This image is one of the auction guns:

M24 SWS on GunBroker

 

We recently saw one of these rifles, acquired by a friend through the complicated Remington paperwork drill. It was indistinguishable from a new rifle, with a new barrel, receiver and stock and a nearly new scope; only the rings and case looked used. He’s only fired some ball ammo through it, but it’s more accurate than the ones we had at the unit, so far.

Because the dealer is selling them to collectors and hobbyists, he’s making a lot of money on each one and they’re selling for a premium over what Remington was charging. But part of Remington’s deal with the Army was, apparently, that they weren’t allowed to sell the parts they reacquired from decommissioned Army M24s directly to “the public.” By selling to an FFL they get around that restriction, inserted into the M2010 contract by antigun US Army lawyers.

US Army

The Army (especially SOCOM elements) is generally pleased with the KAC M110 Semi Automatic Sniper System (SASS), but the guys in the field have been bitching about one thing — the gun’s size, and especially its length, which ranges from “too long” to “ridiculously long with the suppressor on.” (This has also driven the popularity of the Mk17 SCAR-H to some degree). Even in Afghanistan, where there’s a premium on long-range terminal performance and where much of the country has been deforested by lack of land management,  there are places where you have to maneuver the thing between trees (the locations used for the movie Lone Survivor really do resemble a lot of the terrain in RC-East, for example). And it’s always a bear to get in and out of vehicles.

The FN entry is based on the SCAR-H. Images taken at AUSA by Soldier Systems Daily.

The FN entry is based on the SCAR-H. Images taken at AUSA by Soldier Systems Daily.

So naturally, there’s a solicitation for a CSASS, a Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System. Basically, what they’re looking for is a short M110. We learned of this via The Firearm Blog (update here on the FNH contestant, which is SCAR based) which you really should be reading regularly, and have been following it idly, only to find the solicitation closed on 6 November 2014 (Note that this may not be up indefinitely; sooner or later they take solicitations down). A number of vendors are submitting ten sample guns. There is a bit of a crapshoot in it, as the guns will be tested with M118LR ammunition, and the vendors wanted to tune their guns to the specific lot to be used — which was pointedly not made available to them.

FN, at least, got "Compact" largely from a shorter suppressor than the M110.

FN, at least, got “Compact” largely from a shorter suppressor than the M110.

Because these weapons are semi only, expect the losing bidders to put some of their ten sample entrants on the market, sooner or later. (Knight’s, at least, has done this in previous years, as well as make small quantities of contract overruns available). FNH has already pledged to sell their version, a very similar version of which is in production in FNH’s South Carolina plant as the SOF Mk20, to the public). The package will be an NFA weapon because of the suppressor.

USMC

The Marines have decided they want a modular stock for their M40 sniper rifle, and they’ve granted a contract to Remington. There is some Marine tilt on it here and there, but basically it’s  the short-action version of the modular stock that Remington developed back in XM2010 days for the Army’s .300 Win Mag sniper rifle, which replaced the M24s that Remington rebuilt for the GI and vet market, before letting that project drop to chase more GI contracts.

This is typically Marine frugal. They’ll hang on to their old .308s, but they have been casting envious eyes at the Army’s and Navy’s modular chassis guns.