Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

Rifling: A Gross History of a Technology

Prominent rifling in a 19th-Century Henry Deringer rifle.

Prominent rifling in a 19th-Century Henry Deringer rifle.

Nobody knows who invented rifling, or when. Long before anyone rifled a barrel, men knew that spin would help stabilize a projectile. The fletching of arrows and crossbow bolts to impart spin, to increase inflight stability and terminal accuracy, was known a very long time back — even in preliterate, neolithic cultures.

Rifling was one of those technologies (another example is wheellock) that was used on sporting arms, but not widely adopted for military arms. Sporting arms could tolerate reduced reliability and rate of fire, and increased cost; military arms had to be cheap, robust and rapid fire; early rifles required the lead slug to be hammered down the barrel, not something practical when Vikings, Huns, Hussites or what have you are bearing down on you. In the decades around 1770-1810 most world powers at least experimented with rifles, with many of them retaining it as a specialist weapon for individuals or small units. This state of affairs persisted until the invention of hollow-based, self-sealing bullets like the famous Minié ball allowed a rifle, finally, to be fired as rapidly as a musket. (Even as late as the Civil War, some old-fashioned commanders insisted on having their regiments equipped with smoothbores, in pursuit of a reloading-speed benefit that no longer existed).

How rifling has made, like how everything else in a firearm is made, has changed a lot over the years. Machines and technologies have come and gone. But in low-rate production, a skilled and experienced barrel maker can still make an extremely accurate barrel using the most primitive technology, much like the gunsmiths of 1780 did.

Many superstitions and myths have grown up about rifling rates and designs — which can be optimized for any given weight of bullet and caliber. But the benefits of unusual rifling designs appear to be, in the real world, illusory.

This image is a first rough shot at a taxonomy of rifling methods, based on a first read of Clifford F. LaBounty’s Rifling Machines and Methods, a book that will be added to the book page in due course. We have been thinking of designs for a rifle machine, whereby the design can be propagated in order to support clandestine gunsmithing. We thought of something like John Browning’s hardwood rifling machine, updated, but it seems wiser to first undertake a survey of available and historic technologies.

rifling_methods

Historically, low-budget small-run, small-shop and independent prototype rifling has usually been done with a single-point scrape cutter, as it is the most readily improvised tool. Some technologies have power budgets and capital demands that put them out of the reach of the home and shop barrel maker.

Corrections and extensions of the chart are most definitely requested. Again, this is a first rough attempt.

Sources

LaBounty, Clifford F. Rifling Machines and Methods. Maple Falls, WA: LaBounty Precision Reboring, 2011.

 

Artifact of a Training Dream

It started as this mystery gadget...

The mystery was the identity of this gadget…

Simulators have always been the Next Big Thing ever since Ed Link conned the Army Air Corps into believing that they could teach instrument flying on the ground. (After a series of planes came tumbling out of overcasts in pieces, the ferry command that was in charge of delivering aircraft and crews to Great Britain for the World War stopped trusting pilots with an Air Corps instrument card, and started retraining them). As the ferry command found, a simulator could be a good adjunct for live training, but it was a poor substitute. 

In the 1970s, the Army followed the siren song of simulation and developed a training device called the Weaponeer. The dream was: rifle training without rifles. Or ammunition, or ranges; and it worked, to a degree — like that 1940 Link simulator. Weaponeer was a very robust arcade game built around a modified rifle (then, an M16A1) that tried to simulate the experience of firing a rifle. It actually “kicked” with a fairly accurate recoil. It also simulated the accuracy of the weapon pretty well, its cycling, and even magazine changes with bolt lockback on an empty mag. The gadget shown above was inserted in a modified magazine shell and could be “loaded” with zero to thirty “rounds.”

A soldier uses the Weaponeer marksmanship training system. US Army photo from 1990.

A soldier uses the Weaponeer marksmanship training system. US Army photo from Fort Devens, MA, 1990.

Weaponeer was invented and initially debugged by 1973, and widely adopted and fielded in the Army by the early and mid 1980s. In some places it worked well (for instance, as a mechanism for instructors to observe green trainees that were struggling with basic rifle marksmanship, and break them of bad habits, or for members of an element that needed to maintain proficiency in a non-permissive overseas environment in which they could not go to military ranges). In other situations it did not work as well. Some service support units, never fond of going out to messy rifle ranges, used it to “qualify” in shirtsleeve conditions.

It was not extensively exported. These Kuwaitis being trained by an American sergeant are among the few foreigners to have used the system.

An instructor explains the weaponeer marksmanship training system to Kuwaiti soldiers during a marksmanship course. The soldiers are being trained in combat techniques in preparation for conflict with Iraqi forces presently occupying Kuwait. Fort Dix 8 Jan 91

An instructor explains the Weaponeer Marksmanship Training System to Kuwaiti soldiers during a marksmanship course. The soldiers are being trained in combat techniques in preparation for conflict with Iraqi forces presently occupying Kuwait. Fort Dix, NJ:  8 Jan 91 via the National Archives.

In any event, the artifact at the top of the post turned up recently, and with it being vaguely M16-magazine sized and shaped, its new owner turned to the ARFCOM Retro Forum for answers. He got them, including these detailed pictures that explain how the magazine insert works. Read The Whole Thread™, which also has more pictures.

weaponeer-magazine-insert-1

weaponeer-magazine-insert-2

An appendix to the marksmanship training manual (Appendix A-6 to FM 3-22.9) gives more information.

The Weaponeer is an effective rifle marksmanship-training device that simulates the live firing of the M16-series rifle. The system can be used for developing and sustaining marksmanship skills, diagnosing and correcting problems, and assessing basic skills.

weaponeer-set-up

Characteristics. The Weaponeer operates on 110 to 130 volts AC, 10 amperes, 50 or 60 Hz, grounded electrical power. (A stand-alone voltage transformer is provided for overseas units.) The recommended training area for the Weaponeer is 10 by 23 by 8 feet. The operational temperature range is 40 degrees to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The Weaponeer must be protected from the elements, and should not be subjected to excessive vibration, high dust levels, or condensing humidity. The M16A1/A2 attached to the Weaponeer is demilitarized and does not require the usual weapon security.

The rifle, with the exception of smoke and cartridge ejection, operates normally, and has the same weight and balance as the standard weapon. An infrared aiming sensor simulates round trajectory and hit point to an accuracy of better than one-minute-of-angle. The recoil rod that attaches at the muzzle end of the rifle simulates recoil. Recoil is provided in both semiautomatic and automatic modes of fire, and is adjustable from no-net force to 30 percent more than that of a live M16. Sound is provided through headphones and is adjustable from 115 to 135 decibels. Special magazines are used. One magazine simulates a continuous load; the other (used to train rapid magazine change) can be loaded with 1 to 30 simulated rounds. Selectable misfire can be used to detect gun shyness and drill immediate action. The front and rear sights are zeroed the same as standard rifles.

As you can see, that describes the magazine insert that the ARFCOM member got hold of.

The Weaponeer range can be raised or lowered to accommodate all firing positions. The target assembly contains four targets: a scaled 25-meter zero target and three pop-up targets are standard. E-type and F-type silhouettes at ranges from 75 meters can be used on the Weaponeer. Known-distance and various other types of targets can be used and be displayed in fixed or random sequences. Target exposure times may be set to unlimited or from 1 to 30 seconds. The fall-when-hit mode can be selected with the KILL button.

The operator’s console contains the system control buttons, graphics printer, and video feedback monitor. The back of the console has counters that total rounds and hours, and a storage bin for storing magazines, printer paper and ribbon, headphones, two wrenches for assembling the Weaponeer, and a small allen wrench for aligning the rifle sensor. A remote control, which attaches to the back of the console, enables a trainer or firer to operate select functions away from the console.

Feedback. The Weaponeer provides feedback to help trainers to teach and soldiers to learn marksmanship skills.

  1. Fall-When-Hit Mode. Lighting the KILL button enables the fall-when-hit mode. When the button is activated, targets fall when hit. This feedback provides the same hit or miss information as a train-fire (RETS) range.
  2.  Real-Time Aiming Point Display. When a firer aims on or near a target, his aiming point relative to the target is continuously displayed on the video screen. The aiming point display allows the trainer to teach and verify aiming techniques, and to continuously monitor the firer’s steadiness, techniques, time on target, trigger squeeze, and recovery from recoil.
  3. Immediate-Shot-Impact Display. When a shot is fired, its impact relative to the target is immediately displayed on the video screen as a blinking white dot (Figure A-12, left target).

    Fig A-12: Replay of shot.

    Fig A-12: Replay of shot.

  4. Replay. After a shot is fired, a real-rate display of how the firer engaged the target can be replayed on the video screen.
    1. The target to the right in Figure A-12 shows the type of information that can be replayed on the video screen after a series of shots are fired. To show the sequence, the dots have been numbered.
    2. To show a replay, the firer first selects the shot he wishes to replay by operating the EACH SHOT button. Then he presses the REPLAY button. Some Weaponeers record and store replays for just the first three shots.
  5. Shot Groups. The impact location of up to 32 shots is automatically stored in the Weaponeer memory and displayed on the video screen. Each impact is indicated by a white dot, which blinks when indicating the last shot. All 32 shots can be fired and displayed on a single target, or split among a combination of targets. The CLEAR button erases all shots from the Weaponeer memory
  6. Printer. A hard-copy printer is provided for postfiring analysis, for firer progress tracking, and for record keeping. Pressing the PRINT button causes the target displayed on the video to print. (Sample printouts are shown in Figure A-13.) Some Weaponeers can print the three pop-up targets at the same time by holding in the REPLAY button and pressing the PRINT button.

    Figure A-13: Weaponeer printouts.

    Figure A-13: Weaponeer printouts.

Use of the Weaponeer. In BRM, the Weaponeer is used to evaluate the firer’s ability to apply the four fundamentals. It is used throughout the program to help diagnose and remediate problems. In the unit, the Weaponeer should be used much like it is used in BRM. Concurrent use of the Weaponeer at the rifle range provides valuable remedial training.

  1. The preferred training configuration for the Weaponeer is shown in Figure A-14. One trainer operates the system while three to six soldiers observe the training. Soldiers should rotate, each receiving several short turns on the system. Where high throughput is required, consolidation of available Weaponeers may be considered.

    weaponeer-training-config

    Figure A-14: Weaponeer training configuration.

  2. When training soldiers on the Weaponeer:
    1. Proceed at a relaxed pace, and emphasize accuracy before speed.
    2. If possible, train with small groups, allowing each soldier several 10- to 15-minute turns on the device.
    3. For remedial training, try to relax the soldier. A nervous soldier will have trouble learning and gaining confidence in his marksmanship skills. For sustainment training, encourage competition between individuals or units.
  3. In Figure A-14, five soldiers are being trained. One is firing and four are observing, awaiting their turns on the device. The video screen is carefully positioned just outside the vision of the firer, but the firer can easily turn his head to see replays and hit points. The position of the trainer is also important so he can see both the firer and video screen. This is a good position for detecting and correcting firing faults. When the firer is in the standing supported firing position, the console should be placed on a table so the trainer can see the video screen above the firer’s rifle (Figure A-15). Observers can see the targets, firer, and video screen and learn procedures that speed up training and help avoid firing faults.

    Figure A-15: Training arrangement (supported firing position).

    Figure A-15: Training arrangement (supported firing position).

Unfortunately, the Army does not appear to have released Weaponeer devices as surplus, but has destroyed them instead. It would be a fun thing to have in your man cave, if you could keep it working. For a while in the late 1980s, dozens of these things were dead in units all around the world.

Without a whole Weaponeer, the device the original poster has is of no utility, but it’s an interesting artifact.

Here is some further information on Weaponeer.

Hand Work in Making 1903 Springfields

During World War I, the national arsenals kept manufacturing the M1903 rifle, while industry was asked to manufacture the M1917. The arsenals decided to document their manufacturing processes anyway, just in case… and the process was published in a book, postwar, by Fred Colvin and Ethan Viall.

While the title of the book is United States Rifles and Machine Guns, it’s almost entirely about the manufacture of the 1903 — part by part and process by process. One gets the impression that the arsenals didn’t actually have a really systematic set of process sheets before someone asked them to make them up for war production; that before that request, this was all tribal knowledge contained in the foreheads of foremen and minds of machinists.

The sheer complication of 1903 production is one take-away from this book, but another thing that really struck us was that this 20th Century rifle, an icon of mass production, was not entirely produced by machines. Along with many machine setups and many trick jigs and fixtures, there are significant hand operations. Here’s one example. If you have a Springfield (or a Mauser, close enough), pull out the bolt and look at its face. See how the bolt face is relieved or “counterbored,” so that the head of the cartridge case is supported? This Is the two-step operation that produces that counterbore. And while the rough operation is done with a powered drill, the finish operation is done with a hand tool. First, let’s look at the rough cut:

springfield_bolt_face_counterbore_-_machine

OPERATIONS 45 AND 45½, COUNTERBORING FOR HEAD SPACE, ROUGH AND FINISH
Transformation: Fig. 725.
Machine Used: Pratt & Whitney 14-in. upright three-spindle drilling machine.

Work-Holding Devices: Drill Jig, Fig. 726; bolt handle stops against a stop, while clamps are drawn down on body by an equalizer bar.

The bolt is on the left, the jig on the right. We’ve omitted Figure 727, which is a scaled three-view providing more detail the drill jig in Figure 726 and the way it locks in the bolt. It’s obvious that getting this right (or wrong) has serious implications for headspace, which affects safety and accuracy.

The hand operation’s setup is shown below. It too requires a specific jig. Since here we’re in the forty-something’th operation on the bolt alone, and almost every operation needs one or more jigs or fixtures, the tooling requirement for an early-20th-Century rifle plant is mind-boggling.

springfield_bolt_face_counterbore_-hand

Why the hand operation? Our best guess (because the book doesn’t say why) is that, while the Pratt drill press was great at removing a lot of metal, it didn’t have the precision needed (“safety and accuracy,” right?), so a finer cutter in a hand fixture finishes the cut to exact depth and desired surface finish.

As Europe slid into war again, the arsenals were making a new rifle, the US Rifle M1. One suspects this book was the guide for industry as they, once again, produced a version of the 1903, this time with countless manufacturing simplifications. Many manufacturing processes were simplified (and more hand operations eliminated) as the war replaced and supplemented prewar craftsmen with wartime hires longer on enthusiasm than experience.

Incidentally, for the set-up seen here, the book even shows how the cutters and pilots are made, and their dimensions. (There are separate rough and finish cutters). It doesn’t show all the gages that must have been used by both the set-up men and operators of the machinery, let alone the inspectors.

It does show enough that you could probably set up your own Springfield factory and do it exactly the way they did it back in 1917 — if you could find a supply of 1917 Connecticut River Valley gun-industry craftsmen to make all these cuts for you. And if you could get some billionaire to fund you. (Well, there are two famous billionaires competing for the same job right now, one or the other will be looking for opportunities in a couple of weeks). Good luck!

General Crozier and the US Rifle, M1917 “Enfield.”

A comment by Daniel Watters on our Wednesday post about the Lewis gun made us dig back into that same book, Ordnance and the World War, because we remember Brig. Gen. William Crozier being somewhat defensive about the 1917 Enfield as well.

us-1917-enfield

If you didn’t download it then, here it is: ordnance_and_the_world_war_4.pdf (The digit 4 just refers to our serial attempts to fix the non-searchable nature, bad OCR, and humongous file size of the original, which can be found in Google Books, and also in a different version at Archive.org. It took us several tries to get it right — kind of like World War I gun designers).

1917-enfieldA note about terminology: some collectors are snippy about calling the 1917, which was an American sheen on a British-designed rifle of general Mauser action, an “Enfield.” Of all the millions of these “Enfields” made, none were made at the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock, England, which was working flat out to make Short Magazine Lee Enfield Mark I and I* rifles for the war, apart from the initial, experimental Pattern 13. With nothing sufficing to make enough rifles for the meat grinders of the Western Front, Dardanelles, and to a lesser extent Middle East fronts, Britain reached out to American manufacturers to modify the Pattern 13, which had been designed for an experimental 7mm rimless cartridge, for the service .303. And they were, in fact, building these rifles when the USA entered the war, having the same problem with its excellent M1903 Springfield rifle — too little production base for the millions needed.

William Crozier, Chief of Ordnance

William Crozier, Chief of Ordnance

We’ll let General Crozier take it from here, for a bit. We pick up on page 56 of his book; and we have added only some paragraph breaks for comfort of the modern reader, and some explanatory interjections.

The most important weapon with which nations go to war is the infantryman’s rifle. This remains a fact notwithstanding the greatly increased impor- tance of artillery, the extensive use of the machine gun, the revival of such early weapons as the hand- grenade and the trench mortar, and the introduction of new ones such as the aeroplane and asphyxiating gas. The rifle was, therefore, a matter of very early concern with the Ordnance Department upon entering into the war, as, indeed, it had been for a considerable time before.

The standard rifle of the American service, popularly known as the Springfield, is believed to have no superior; but our supply was entirely insufficient for the forces which we were going to have to raise. Our manufacturing capacity for the Springfield rifle was also insufficient, and could not be expanded rapidly enough for the emergency. This capacity was available at two arsenals: one at Springfield, Massachusetts, capable of turning out about a thousand rifles per day, and one at Rock Island, Illinois, which could make about five hundred per day. Until September of 1916 the Springfield Armory had been, however, running far below its capacity, and the Rock Island Arsenal, or at least the rifle-making plant, was entirely shut down, due to lack of appropriation.

The money was coming. (The appropriation Crozier mentioned below was also the first real money provided for machine gun procurement, as we’ve already discussed). But physical plant and money, it turns out, are not the only constraints on defense production. Skilled manpower quickly surfaced as a second bottleneck.

At the end of August, 1916, there had been appropriated $5,000,000 for the manufacture of small arms, including rifles. A considerable sum of this appropriation had to be put into pistols, of which we were even shorter than we were of rifles, but the remainder was used to reopen the rifle plant at Rock Island, and to increase the output at Springfield, as rapidly as these effects could be accomplished in the stringent condition of the supply of skilled labor occasioned by the demands of the private factories making rifles for European governments. The dis- sipated force could not be quickly regathered. Fortunately, it had been the policy of the Ordnance Department to keep on hand a considerable reserve of raw material, so that little delay was caused by lack of this important element. We had in April, 1917, about 600,000 Springfield rifles, including those in the hands of troops and in storage; and the ques- tion was as to the best method of rapidly increasing our supply of rifles, of sufficiently good model to justify their procurement.

Note here that Crozier is satisficing, not optimizing; he’s not demanding a rifle the equal of the Springfield (which is a fine example of the genus Mauser, and was more or less forced on the Army after the superiority of Spain’s M1893 7mm Mauser to the US .30 Rifle and Carbine (Krag) was made evident in 1898-99). He just wants rifles of “sufficiently good model”. The logical place to turn is to American industry, where small arms are in production for several European nations. (The US maintained a fig leaf of neutrality by a “cash and carry” policy for arms from 1914-17; we wouldn’t ship them to belligerents in American bottoms, but if you sailed into an American harbor, we’d help you load all the arms you could afford. Getting them home was your problem. This fair-sounding policy actually favored the Allies, because of British sea dominance).

Six manufacturing establishments were making rifles in the United States for foreign governments, and of these, three, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, of New Haven, Connecticut, the Reming- ton Arms Company of Ilion, New York, and the Remington Arms Company, of Eddystone, Pennsylvania, were making what was known as the Enfield rifle, for the British service.

m1917-eddystone

The British called this rifle the Pattern 1914 or P14 rifle. Yes, the “Eddystone Arsenal” was a Remington plant all along. Two of the other three lines — Remington and New England Westinghouse in Chicopee, Mass. — were making Mosin-Nagant rifles for Imperial Russia, as were plants in France and Switzerland. The third was a Remington production line for French Berthier M1907/15 rifles. If he considered the Mosin or Berthier rifle, he didn’t write about it. (Some so-called Colored units in France would be armed with Berthiers, but they were French-supplied rifles. The Remington order appears to have been rejected by France, as the Mosins were by Russia after the Revolution).

The capacity of these three plants was sufficient for our purpose, and as their contracts with the British Government were running out, and the general type of the rifle which they were making was a good one, it was not difficult to decide that these plants should be used to supplement those at Springfield and Rock Island, which should, of course, be stimulated to their utmost production.

To make the Enfield rifle work in the US Army, it had to be converted to US ammunition, or replace the Springfield and .30-06 round entirely, or, the Army had to live with two incompatible rifle rounds. Crozier really didn’t like that third option.

Certain other questions, however, at once arose. The British type of ammunition, for which the Enfield rifles were being made, was not a very good one, in that the bullet was of low velocity and the cartridges, having a projecting rim at the base, were likely to catch upon one another in feeding from the magazine, and to produce a jam. In addition, this ammunition was not interchangeable with our own, and could not be used in the Springfield rifle. The manufacture, for ourselves, of the Enfield rifle as it was being made would, therefore, have entailed the use of two kinds of ammunition in our service,—and one of these not a very good kind,—or else the abandonment of our Springfield rifle and the complete substitution of the Enfield, with the corresponding throwing out of commission of the Springfield and Rock Island plants and the Government ammunition factory at the Frankford Arsenal.

You see where he’s going with this, right?

There was another difficulty about the Enfield rifle. It was being independently manufactured at the three factories, and there was not only very poor interchangeability of parts in the product of a single factory, but as between the three factories the parts were not interchangeable at all. Under these circumstances, and in view of the moderate supply of Springfields on hand and the manufacturing capacity of the arsenals, it was decided that the new Enfield rifles should be manufactured for use with the United States’ ammunition, and that the manufacture should be standardized so as to effect practical interchangeability of parts throughout.

Here is a period video of M1917 Enfield production. Note the non-trivial amount of hand and eye work here. We’re not sure which of the three plants this is.

It was considered that the Springfield rifle situation justified taking the time required for these changes, of which the first would necessarily appeal strongly to any military man, and the one involving interchangeability could, fortunately, be considered with the aid of an officer who was very familiar with the Enfield rifle as it was being manufactured at the three private factories. This officer was Colonel John T. Thompson, formerly of the Ordnance Department, who had been retired from active service and was in the employ of the Remington Arms Company in connection with their rifle manufacture for the British. I called Colonel Thompson back into active service and placed him in charge of small arms and small arms ammunition, and had the benefit of his expert and especially well-informed advice in deciding that the interchangeability wanted would be worth its cost in time.

Yeah, he’s talking about that Thompson. He goes on to recount some of the abuse he, the Ordnance Department, and the Army took for this decision to modify the M1917, which necessarily delayed  its delivery to the front. Here’s a very technical beef with the interchangeability decision from one Senator Chamberlain (Crozier quotes his statement at greater length).

Here were the engineers of these great arms companies, who got together and finally agreed upon a program for the manufacture of these guns, and concluded that they would manufacture them with seven interchangeable parts, and they started to manufacture the gauges, the jigs, and dies, and everything necessary for the manufacture of guns with seven interchangeable parts. After the Ordnance Department had practically accepted the suggestion, it went to work through a distinguished ordnance officer and changed the plan from 7 to 40 interchangeable parts, and finally raised it to over 50 interchangeable parts, with the result that everything had to be stopped for awhile that additional gauges might be made. This may have resulted in improvement, but why the delay in the midst of the smoke of battle?

In fact, the delay was estimated at about 30 days, net over what it would have taken to resume P14 and .303 production. While there was a short period in which soldiers were mobilized before sufficient rifles were on hand, nobody failed to get a modern rifle and train with it before it was time to ship out.

With different lettering, the same poster was used to sell war bonds. Note the M1917s. One man is Eskimo, one white, and one Alaskan Indian.

With different lettering, the same poster was used to sell war bonds. Note the M1917s. One man is Eskimo, one white, and one Alaskan Indian.

The M1917 acquitted itself well in combat. Sergeant Alvin York, of the not-airborne-yet 82nd “All American” Division, was one celebrated US Enfield user. The point the critics tried to make was that it could have been on hand sooner. While that may be true, the cost of getting the first Enfields a month earlier would have been a bifurcation of small arms ammunition logistics for the duration of the war. And, of course, the Enfield had a second wind in the Second World War (Alaska Territorial Guard, right).

If there was criticism of the wartime production of the US Rifle M1903, it didn’t rise to a level where Crozier felt he had to address it. And the criticism of his Enfield decisions, while it really stung him (he seems to have been a thin-skinned fellow), was trivial compared to the beating he took over the issue of machine guns and artillery. History ought to record that his decisions on the Enfield were sound and reasonable, and did put first-class rifles in the hands of American doughboys.

The limitations of the defense industrial base forced the United States to use two different infantry rifles in the First World War, but they were both excellent rifles, and were interoperable with respect to ammunition.

Russian Marksmanship Card, circa 1945

Here’s a Soviet Marksmanship Card that appears to be from the Second World War era (Great Patriotic War to the Russians). Because it is posted on LiveJournal, which is anti-gun, you must click past an “over 18 warning” to follow the link (it is on an interesting Russian blog); that feature breaks Google Translate, so you have to read Russian to read the blog (or the post).

ru-marksmanship-card

That’s not as disabling as it might be, because you have to read Russian to read the card. That’s a pity, especially for Mosin-Nagant fans, because the card is densely packed with information on how to use this rifle. We don’t know how widely these were disseminated to Soviet troops (or what was on the back of them — there must have been something?), but a lot of thought and ballistic knowledge went into the card’s creation. The soldier who mastered this card, and better yet memorized much of its contents, would truly be a master of his Mosin-Nagant rifle or carbine.

The card contains 16 numbered items, some of which are tabled together.  Item 1 is a simple ruler along the top edge of the card, which is how we know for sure this was meant as a pocket card and not as a wall poster.

For example, this diagram, which is part of Item 9 on range estimation, comes after a list telling you what you are likely to see near and at distance. It lets you use the rear sight notch as a range finder, given average size Nazis. (The caption says “rifle-rangefinder”). Did you know your 91/30 could do that?

rifle_sight_distance_estimation

The targets appear to have British helmets, which is not unusual in interwar Soviet manuals, but this document “feels like” it was produced towards the end of the World War, probably in 1945.

Most rifles can be used this way. For instance, the front sight blade of an M16A1 or A2 is the width of a man’s chest (or an E-type silhouette target) at exactly 175 meters. If the manufacturer of your iron-sighted rifle did not provide such a table for you, you can make your own with known distances (or a laser rangefinder) and a man-sized silhouette.

Next let’s estimate lead on running-man targets, and windage in a stiff wind (4 m/sec), at common combat ranges. Soviet marksmanship trainers were quite ambitious, inculcating confidence in the accuracy of the service rifle to 800 meters.

 

rifle_lead_and_wind_estimationThese calculations are based, of course, in the time of flight of the bullet, and if you noted, we snipped out only part of the table, which comprises Items 2-6 of the card (the image above is the graphic part, minus explanatory text, of Items 4-6. Expanding the image to include the legends and Items 2 and 3 on the left we see that Item 2 is the actual time of flight, in seconds and hundredths of seconds. The open numbers are for the rifle, and the circled numbers for the (presumably, M1944) carbine, which is a convention honored throughout the card.

rifle_lead_and_wind_estimation_w_time

Item 3 is windage in a 4 m/sec wind, measured in body-widths (figury); part 4 lead on a 3m/sec running man, and part 6 an illustration of what they mean by the windage in Part 3, assuming a 90º crosswind. The text block there tells you to double the windage in double the wind, and halve it in half. (Hey, it’s a card for Army privates, least common denominator).

Item 10 is a penetration table, running from Steel Plate (6mm) to Soft Wood (85 cm) in no particular order. Some items on this list would not be much use to Mosin users in Cuba or Vietnam, like Snow (3.5 meters), but were certainly important to anyone fighting for the soil of Russia itself.

rifle_penetration_estimation

While the Mosin rifle is long obsolete (even Russian honor guards usually carry the successor SKS), modern 7.62 x 54 mm ammunition is remarkably similar in ballistics to this wartime load; only the quality control has changed (it’s better now). It will still take about 1.47 seconds for your round to go 800 meters, and the amount you’ll need to adjust for wind or lead a running target still complies with Newton’s Laws in the same exact way.

Just because something is old, doesn’t mean the men who invented and applied it were primitive. As this illustrates, they probably have a lot to teach us!

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Carbines for Collectors

carbines_for_collectorsCarbines for Collectors is a website that has outrun its own name. Originally, it had pages on some of the key bolt-action carbines of the 20th Century, but over time it has evolved to contain a great deal of information on many weapons and the historical periods and events that they helped shape.

One of the reasons that this site may have been overlooked is that there are relatively few embedded pictures. Instead, the pages are mostly text, and the pictures are mostly linked. This does mean it loads lightning fast, and you don’t have to load pictures you don’t care about. But if you’re a visual learner, clicking back and forth might be frustrating for you.

carbines_for_collectors_mx_36Despite the dense, high-quality content, it is a very simple collection of pages menued off the index page. Navigation is a snap, and if you want to learn the ins and outs of, say the rifles of the Spanish Civil War (an extremely complex period) or a specific rifle like the Mexican Modelo 1936 (left) then this is for you.

It isn’t only about rifles; there’s some good pistol content, too, and it isn’t just for collectors, because there’s plenty of meat for history buffs. It also has excellent pages that try to explain the small arms history of specific countries.

There are good essays on, for instance, the small arms of Bolivia (below)…

carbines_for_collectors_bolivia

…or of many other nations, and even some small crew-served weapons like the Japanese 50mm “knee mortar” grenade launcher.

RK Smith, Dan Reynolds, and Cliff Carlisle are credited with this site, but at least some specific pages are written by well-known authorities — we noted that Ruy Aballe was responsible for the pages on Spanish pistols.

All in all, Carbines for Collectors is a good site for anyone interested in the military weapons of the world, especially those of the mid-20th Century.

The Colt Combat Unit

That’s a bit of a hard-core name for a relatively ordinary (but new to Colt) carbine that was just announced. Here’s the official press release, and we’ve got the released pictures. It turns out that the term applies not just to a midlength carbine, but to a group of shooters and trainers that helped develop it; Colt is calling them, the Colt Combat Unit, too.

Presumably available at reasonable rates for group instruction, county fairs, or African regime changes? We actually don’t know what Colt is going to do with the CCU, as in, group of Colt-promoting pros.

The CCU, as in, midlength carbine, is a TALO Distributors exclusive.

ccu-rifle-rh

The Colt Combat Unit™ carbine offers many of the features you love about the Colt M4 platform, but now Colt is introducing its first production mid-length gas system. “Producing a mid-length gas system was the logical next-step for us, and it’s long overdue,” said Justin Baldini, Director of Product Marketing for Colt. “Shooters will find that by moving the gas block closer to the muzzle as this mid-length gas system does, the felt recoil is more constant with what is fielded by our troops carrying a 14.5” barrel M4.”

ccu-rifle-lh

The Colt Combat Unit™ carbine was developed with the help of legendary trainers Mike Pannone, Ken Hackathorn, and Daryl Holland. It features a Magpul® SL® buttstock and pistol grip as well as a MOE® trigger guard. The carbine is the first to feature Colt’s new mid-length gas system. It has a low profile gas block which allows for the use of its M-LOK® capable Centurion CMR free floated forend. The Colt Combat Unit™ carbine (SKU – LE6960-CCU) has an MSRP of $1,299 and is available exclusively from TALO Distributors.

Everywhere, the Carnabetian Army marches on, each one a Dedicated Follower of Fashion. But hey, this is exactly what some people want in a carbine: mid-length gas, free-float, M-LOK and Magpul gear. Its weight isn’t mentioned, but it should be pretty light.

colt-combat-unit-carbine-daryl-holland

We also note that Colt has been pricing their firearms aggressively, especially when you consider that:

  1. Being a union shop (UAW) means higher costs in wages, benefits, and quality control than an open shop.
  2. They are located in the highest-tax state in the union, which adds to their costs; and,
  3. After their latest bankruptcy, they still have a crushing burden of debt, a vastly overmarket (in a high-priced market) plant lease, and senior management more interested in making money by playing Wall Street grifter than in making money by making guns.

And despite all that, Colt continues to make new, interesting and well-made guns, and sell them at competitive prices. Sometimes 150-plus years of tradition does create momentum, enough that some parasitic drag isn’t overwhelming.

When You Don’t Bubba a Mosin…

…You can actually hit stuff with it… if it’s a right one.

Bog standard 91/30. Good iron sights, approved by ordnance officers of late Tsar and Lenin and Stalin (who were, not to put too fine a point on it, the same ordnance officers). Field rest. The original poster of the video writes (we have only added paragraph breaks):

The M91/30 Mosin Nagant with 7N1 ammo is a formidable long range rifle system. In this video (made available to you by popular demand) Rex Reviews demonstrates just how effective an unmodified military rifle can be in experienced hands.

This rifle is in 100% original military configuration and had NOT been equipped with any optical sights, yet it slams steel at 944 yards as easy as anything else on the shelf.

Many assume these rifle like this (purchased for under $100) must need modification to shoot well… but what many fail to realize is that these rifles were not designed by sporting companies for recreational activities, they were designed by teams of engineers with massive government resources for life-and-death purposes.

These rifles were designed to be harmonically balanced and were inspected to meet serious military manufacturing and design specifications. In a nutshell, they are ready to roll off of the shelf! Ask Simo Häyhä (the White Death) if I’m telling the truth…

It rings the bell at more meters than you’d give it credit for (and more meters that lots of people can see a man-sized target without optical aids). Lots and lots of meters. (944 yd. is 893 meters).

Why did Russia and its Soviet successor empire stick with this 19th-Century bangstick for so very long? Because it was good, in all that word means in reference to a military arm: it was simple, dependable, low-maintenance, hard-hitting, and more accurate than any but a tiny percentage of the men who carried it.

Nothing that Bubba can do to a Mosin (except, we’ll grant, scope it, where the common Soviet solution was sub-optimal) will do anything much to improve the work of those long-dead Russian designers, engineers, and craftsmen.

Tracking Point: Precision has a Lower Price

We’ve been big boosters of Tracking Point throughout all its business and technical drama, and why not? The company leverages technology to make a rifleman (or -woman, or gelding, even) more effective at that first, cold-bore shot, night or day.

That’s a big thing.

There’s a big real-world gap between potential and performance, and it’s very apparent on that cold-bore shot.

The thing that’s limited (to put it mildly) take-up of the technology has been the sting of early-adopter prices: $20-30k for a Tracking Point Precision Guided Firearm.

m300-price

Now the company has an offer that brings Tracking Point ballistic potential closer to the average AR-toting schlub’s financial potential. For a limited time, their M300FE 5.56 mm Precision Guided Firearm is for sale with the most popular options, night vision, included for under $6k.

tracking_point_m300fe_table_1

We didn’t get around to blogging this the first time they sent it to us this week, so they enlisted a new spokesman: St. Nicholas.

tracking_point_santa

 

They point out:

Santa is a conservative. He wears red and never wishes anyone “Happy Holidays!” He’s bringing you Christmas early because he is concerned about what will happen after November 8th. It’s time to get ready – for Christmas and whatever else might be coming our way.

 

The lower price is temporary, officially, and the best deal is only available to the first hundred buyers. That includes a grab bag of extras and further deals:

 

First 100 Orders 

  • FREE Gen-2 Night Vision $2495 value!
  • Immediate Delivery –  Order Today, Ships Today!
  • $200 off ShotGlassTM!
  • Special Financing 90 days same as cash!*
    *Extended Financing available with payments as low as $137 per month

As they put it in their email, “Don’t becwait for the tree to go up! Santa will be backlogged.”

The capabilities of the M300FE are a combination of the full-house Tracking Point technology and some simplification to reduce costs. For example, special low-trajectory high-velocity ammunition is required (which is sold by Tracking Point, naturally). Because of the ammo’s point-blank to 300 m capability, they can dispense with integrating a laser ranger into the 22 calculations used in setting up every shot.

Some of the capabilities are software-limited, like target speed and lock range. You can track a target at a target velocity of up to 10 MPH — sufficient for foot-borne humans, certainly, but likely to fall short when taking shots on running hogs.

Utilizing TrackingPoint’s new high-velocity UltraFlatTM ammunition the M300-FE shoots point-blank range out to 300 yards so there is no need for an internal laser range finder.

The operation of the system sounds like it’s a little simplified from the earlier tag, track, exact system:

tracking_point_m300fe_table_2

As a shooter pulls the trigger the target is acquired, tracked, and measured for velocity.  By the time the shooter completes his squeeze the target is inescapably captured and instantly eliminated.

It does, however, include the four modes of all current TP firearms: Suppressive Fire, Precision Fire, Auto-Acquire and Night.

Suppressive Fire mode video:

Precision Fire video:

Auto-Acquire Mode (useful for multiple shots on single targets):

Night Mode with Gen2 NV (as included with the first 100 M300FEs, free of charge):

 

This mode does not seem to be included in the M300FE: Precision Movers.

The ShotGlass system is an unusual extension of the rifle’s capability. Essentially, there’s no need to be behind the rifle to shoot it (although you do have to have access to the controls, especially the trigger). There’s no need for the shooter to expose himself, just the rifle. He sees in the ShotGlass glasses exactly what he’d see looking through the rifle’s digital “scope.” It’s an extra-cost option (

For more information:

And no, this doesn’t make snipers obsolete. Actually, technology like this should increase the advantage of the trained sniper, both in his shooting and scouting

An M1 Comes Home

It’s not every day that you hear about a rifle lost on a French battlefield coming back, through the family of the soldier who carried it, to an American museum. But it’s happening with a World War II M1 Garand rifle like the one in the picture — one that was carried by a young American paratrooper in the D-Day invasion.

M1 Springfield NM - RIA

Martin Teahan was a tough kid from the Bronx, so it’s probably fitting that the story was told through Bronx descendants and in the Bronx Times. And Teahan was one American kid among many whose grit and excellence forever united the American Airborne and the nation of France in the context of martial enterprise, so perhaps it’s fitting that a French Colonel and an American General got involved.

Bronx native Jimmy Farrell is awaiting the return of an M-1 rifle that belonged to his uncle Martin Teahan who served in World War II as part of the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR).

Teahan, an Irish-American, was killed on June 6, 1944 in Picauville, Normandy after he had been scouting a position.

After his capture, a German soldier killed him.

Farrell, 60, said Colonel Patrick Collet, a French Army Paratrooper commander, contacted his sister Liv Teahan on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, to let them know the uncle’s rifle was recovered.

“It was the luck of the Irish,” Farrell said with a laugh.

Collet, while visitng a French farmer, had noticed that a rifle the farmer had was engraved with the name “Martin Teahan”.

He then made an effort to contact the family.

Farrell, who served in the U.S. Army from 1974-1977, said that in June he and his wife Monica visited the colonel in Normandy and got a chance to hold the rifle.

The Farrells and GEN Mark Milley and his wife at Teahan's grave in Normandy.

The Farrells and GEN Mark Milley and his wife at Teahan’s grave in Normandy.

“I felt the cold metal of the weapon on my fingertips, and envisioned my uncle, bravely marching forward through enemy territory,” said Farrell.

Afterwards, Farrell said he and his wife got a chance to visit Teahan’s grave site where they met U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley.

Farrell, now a resident of East Brunswick, NJ, said his uncle’s south Bronx roots played an important part in Teahan’s toughness.

Teahan, like many in his day, cheated his way into the paratroopers. He joined underage with a forged parental signature.

Farrell intends to donate the rifle for display at the 82nd Airborne Museum or at the Pentagon. It’s a good story; go Read The Whole Thing™.