Category Archives: Industry

Everything Comes Full Circle: Haenel StG is Back

“So what?” you say. “It’s another AR. Yawn.”

haenel_cr223_gross_04

Ah, but whose AR? It’s the CR 223, made by CG Haenel of Suhl, who once made the MKb42(h), which then became the MP43, MP44, and StG 44. The CR 223 is made for the European market, primarily for European governmental use; we’re not expecting to see them on these shores, but it’s always interesting to see a dormant trademark wake and shake itself back into relevance.

haenel_logo_alt_01

Old Haenel Logo (pre-1945)

C.G. Haenel, the traditional manufacturer from Suhl, is now offering its own version of a semi-automatic rifle in the popular AR 15 standard. The Haenel CR223 in the .223 Rem. calibre is an indirect gas-pressure loader that is fully compatible with the basics of this class. For Key Account Manager Björn Dräger, the development is a step towards new rifle classes – at the same time the company is building on from old expertise. C.G. Haenel in Suhl developed the world’s first type 44 assault rifle in the 1940’s – a rifle that not only created this rifle class but also had a decisive influence on all subsequent constructions of the same type.

Note that there’s a hint in there of more AR-like developments to come from this revived company in the ancient gunmaking center of Suhl.

The new logo is a modernization of the old.

The new logo is a modernization of the old.

If you blow up the rifle picture, and look through the slots in the forend, the gas piston system seems to be a cousin of the HK 416’s. According to Eric B at TFB, Haenel is a subcontractor to HK for some parts.

The lower receiver appears to be milled from billet and is different from that of a 416. The rifle is also available in Simunitions “blue gun” and inert “red gun” training modes, and again per TFB, has just been adopted by the Hamburg, Germany, police. (Indeed, it was that TFB article that got us looking at Haenel).

Haenel also makes a very interesting sniper rifle, the RS8 (7.62 NATO, .300 WM) and RS9 (.338LM). The RS9 was selected as the G29 mid-range sniper rifle for the Bundeswehr this year.

This is the Compact version of the RS8, although all the RS rifles have a clear family resemblance.

It has its own action using a bolt with two flights of three lugs each.

bolt-locking-end

That bolt deserves a fair amount of study. Look at the extractor, and also note the prominent gas-relief hole. The other end of the bolt shows an interesting low-profile safety and cocking (or is it loaded?) indicator:

safety-and-cocking-indicator

If you look at the bolt from an industrial point of view, there are components of it that are expensive to make, and other parts that are made inexpensively. As much thought seems to have gone into the manufacture as into the design.

There are many variations (including an integrally suppressed one rifled for subsonic .308!), but the company seems to pride itself on a complete systems approach, delivering to the using agency a complete package from fully-accessorized hardware, to maintenance, to training.

C.G. Haenel traces its roots to 1840, when it was founded by Carl Gottlieb Haenel, a member of the (then, Royal) Prussian Rifle Commission. It made arms and bicycles. (A less odd combination than you might think. Many other companies did this in the 19th and 20th Centuries, like FN in Belgium). Haenel’s own firm made the rifle approved by that commission, and later the Imperial German Reichsrevolver, and during the First World War, the Mauser 98a rifle.

After the war, with military weapons production verboten, new engineer Hugo Schmeisser led the introduction of pocket pistols of his own design.  Schmeisser came from a gun-making family; he had worked with his father Louis at Bergmann, where he became interested in automatic weapons, and his brother, also named Louis, became the sales executive of Haenel in the 1920s. Working intitially in secrecy, Hugo developed from the MP.18 the MP.28. Unable to produce machine pistols (submachine guns) for export under the terms of Versaillles, Haenel made a small quantity for the German Polizei (making the Hamburg cop sale some 80 years later particularly fitting) and arranged to have them mass-produced for the international market by Bayard of Belgium (which had long ties to Suhl).

The firm barely survived the Depression, but Hitler’s 1934 repudiation of the Treaty of Versailles lifted the crippling restrictions on both domestic military sales and arms exports. The military ordered vast quantities of weapons. (The common Haenel Waffenamt marking is fxo). Suhl was occupied by US forces in April 1945, and handed to the USSR in June. The Soviets removed the machinery, tools, and drawings from the plant as partial payment for the German destruction of much of European Russia.

Corporate history gets vague during the period of Soviet occupation, 1945-90, but what happened was that the Haenel trademarks were at one time in use by the West German Merkel firm, mostly on air guns, while the former Haenel plant became part of the “Ernst Thälmann” weapons factory complex, and in East Germany the Haenel trademark was used on some sporting arms, including different air guns.

In 2008, the Merkel group set up a new C.G. Haenel firm in Suhl, restoring its title, trademarks and lineage, and that’s the one producing these new firearms.

So, What Use is TrackingPoint?

Here’s the deal that’s currently on. Tuesday they let us know that they’re down to 50 of them left, so they might be gone by now.

And here’s what it can do. Duel 1: 350 Yards, Off Hand, on a windy Texas day. Bruce Piatt is a National Champion — dude can shoot. But he gets one miss and one on the edge. (He’s using decent combat gear, including what looks like an FN carbine, and a 4×32 ACOG). Taya Kyle was at the time a novice shooter. She puts two in center of mass, using the Precision Guided Weapon.

Here’s a capability that you just don’t have without the PGM. Duel 2: Blind Shots, 200 Yards. Being able to engage the target without exposing yourself to enemy observation and fire is a completely novel thing. Sure, we’ve seen Talibs shoot at our guys like this, but these “Blind Shots” are aimed shots.

Yes, this is a completely unfair test, because it asks Bruce Piatt to do the impossible. With the ShotGlass, for Taya Kyle it’s possible.

Several of you have asked, why not spend the money on training and improve your skills? Bruce did that. He’s world-class good. (Yeah, soldiers and Marines shoot at this distance, but we’re shooting larger targets, and from a prone or foxhole supported position.

Taya didn’t do that, and yet, by exploiting the technology, she outshot Bruce. That is not to say Bruce’s skill acquisition was wasted time! After all, he’s lethal without all the gear. And he’d just be even better (more accurate and faster) if he was using the technology.

What use is Tracking Point? When we first started writing about it, we reminded you all of something Ben Franklin said. During his residence in Paris, one morning he was on his way to see an ascent of the pioneering French aeronauts, the Montgolfier brothers. And an intelligent lady, bemused by the American’s enthusiasm for this novel applied science, asked the great man, “What use is it?”

“My dear lady,” the prescient Philadelphian replied, “what use is a newborn baby?”

A century from now, weapons that don’t range and track targets for you, whether you’re a soldier or a hunter, will be nostalgia items, like muzzleloaders today.

Update:

Here’s the Shooter’s Calculator, a way to work your dope (at least initially) if you’re still doing the math somewhere other than inside your Tracking Point Precision Guided Weapon. Sent in by a reader who prefers to remain anonymous.

Update II:

If the embeds do not work (at least one Eurostani reports they are blocked at his location) then these raw HTML links to Vimeo might work.

https://vimeo.com/193109385/

https://vimeo.com/193110497/193109385

https://vimeo.com/193394792/

If the raw links don’t work, we don’t know what to try next.

HK Gives Up on non-NATO Exports

HK LogoReuters has picked up a DPA report that HK is out of the export business, except to NATO nations, and very close NATO allies. And not all NATO nations: Turkey is off the list.

The company, one of the world’s best-known gunmakers, will in future only sell to countries that are democratic and free from corruption and that are members of NATO or NATO members’ partners, DPA said, citing company sources.

It said this change in strategy would rule out deals with countries such as Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Brazil, India or even NATO member Turkey.

Reason for the change? Due to a policy change by the Bundesregierung, the company can’t export anyway.

German restrictions on arms exports to the Middle East have weighed on its business, contributing to a 90 percent collapse in operating earnings last year.

The company sued the German government last year for failing to approve a deal to supply Saudi Arabia with parts needed to make its G36 assault rifle.

The deal had been approved in 2008 despite concerns about human rights abuses in the Gulf kingdom, but the German government changed its approach on arms exports two years ago.

G36 and G36K

Oh, silly business, you thought you had a deal.

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has sought to curb sales of tanks and small arms in particular since taking office late in 2013, arguing that guns such as assault rifles were the weapons of choice in civil wars all over the world.

Gabriel’s an interesting cat. His father was an unrepentant, unreconstructed National Socialist, but Sigmar is just a socialist. He did inherit his father’s anti-Semitism, and calls Israel “the apartheid state.” He is an enthusiast for trade with Iran (German businesses such as Siemens have long supplied technology for the Iranian nuclear program). He is enthusiastic about Mohammedan migration into Germany and supports dual citizenship, and his first wife was a Turkish woman with dual citizenship, Munise Demirel.

Gabriel opposes the German mission in Afghanistan, but supports the Russian mission in Ukraine.

Selling weapons is highly sensitive in Germany due to the country’s World War Two history.

Somehow we don’t think a politician who cheers the ayatollahs and flies his hatred of Jews like a flag is “highly sensitive… to the country’s WWII history.”

It is the world’s fifth- biggest exporter of major arms, according to the SIPRI research institute, and the industry employs about 80,000 people.

Heckler & Koch, which listed some of its shares on Euronext via a private placement last year, also came under pressure last year when some of its former employees were charged with breaching laws on trade and weapons of war by selling arms destined for four Mexican states.

Right now, Thomas Wiegold has nothing on this at Augen Geradeaus, but that’s where definitive information will appear if he chooses to write it (in German).

Spiegel has an article. (German language). We thought these lines stood out (our translation):

In a good dozen cases, Heckler & Koch is presently waiting for the permission of German officials for the export of weapons. So Saudi Arabia needs components, that it requires to use a long-finished rifle factory. Should the export not be permitted, high (sums of) financial insurance will be lost, which have been guaranteed in Saudi Arabia, according to Heckler & Koch.

Hey, because what’s more important, the tens of thousands of Germans who work in this industry, and the continuing defense technical base that weapons exports support, or virtue-signaling to ones international socialist peers? You’ve got Sigmar Gabriel’s answer to that one.

The Strange Times of the “Suicide Specials”

“The poor,” the Bible advises us, “have always been with us.” And they have always had as much right to life, and as much right to protect theirs, as the rich — and perhaps,, more need to protect themselves, given that the poor workingman is economically sorted into the same neighborhood with the criminal class, crime paying rather poorly at levels below that of elective office.

A Hood Arms "Robin Hood" in .22. Not safe with modern ammunition!

A Hood Arms “Robin Hood” in .22. This is better than average condition for a Suicide Special — they are very prone to nickel flaking and rust. Not safe with modern ammunition!

In those lands and times when the crown does not forbid to the working man firearms, a large and legitimate demand arises for cheap firearms, and features of styling and gimmick are often applied that either imitate higher-quality firearms, or are flashy and appeal to people who know little about guns. In today’s environment, you have Hi-Points, Jimenezes, and to some extent Taurus firearms. Before 1968, you had cheap Spanish and other imported .25s and .32s. But in the period from approximately 1870 to 1890, you had suicide specials.

suicide-specials-websterThe term itself was coined, sources agree, by Duncan McConnell almost 70 years ago, when firearms collecting was, as always, centered on high-end guns. McConnell wrote about these guns and was the first to apply the term Suicide Specials; ten years later, in 1958, Donald B. Webster, Jr., of Bangor, Maine, published a book about them with Stackpole. Webster’s book was, he writes:

[A] culmination of over three years’ work. Most of the material has been compiled… from personal information, or information supplied by other collectors. Almost no documentary material was available, and what little there was was often found to be incorrect.

Suicide Specials are such a complex subject that this work is only an introduction…. a great deal is still unknown. Thee are a great number of problems left to confront the student of Suicide Specials, and the field is wide open.

Nowadays, of course, we have documentary evidence… even if it’s Webster, a secondary source. Webster notes that there was good reason for collectors to neglect these guns for many years: they simply weren’t that important.

A Lee Arms "Red Jacket." in .22. By far the most popular caliber for these rimfire revolvers -- it was cheapest!

A Lee Arms “Red Jacket.” in .22. By far the most popular caliber for these rimfire revolvers — it was cheapest! Engraving is common on some makes and never seen at all on others.

For one thing,Suicide Specials are unique in that they have almost no historical significance.They never won any battles, neither had they any part in the winning of any frontier, with the exception of an occasional brawl. Their only purpose was to provide a gun-toting era with concealable armament at the least possible cost.

A couple years after that, Rywell’s short pamphlet (which we just picked up for 30¢) was published. Rywell’s pamphlet is a somewhat disorganized history of Suicide Specials (which made us pull out Webster, and write this post), and a detailed history of one manufacturer, the Norwich Arms Co. of Connecticut.

This Bacon Governor was also made in Norwich.

This Bacon Governor was also made in Norwich.

After you’ve seen one or two of them, like pornography, “You’ll know ’em when you see ’em,” but the primary characteristics of a Suicide Special are:

  1. Single action revolver
  2. Solid frame, pull cylinder pin to reload. The cylinder pin is your ejector.
  3. Spur trigger
  4. Rimfire (in descending order of frequency found: .22, .32, .38, .41, .30).
  5. Nickel plated

They are often found without a maker’s name, sometimes with a brand or trade name. (The same manufacturer would sell retailers and retail chains an “exclusive” brand name, so that they needn’t fear the hardware store down the street underselling them by a penny or a dime). The brand names often are somewhat threatening, and a little optimistic, given the quality of the guns: Arbiter, Avenger, Defender, Excelsior, Faultless, Old Reliable, Penetrator, Protector, Rattler, even Terror. Everyone who has written about these at length has tried to compile a list of these fanciful brand names, and, some of them, to match names to manufacturers; and every one of them has given up. The purpose of the name, of course, was to sell the gun. (That’s unchanged. How many modern equivalents of Suicide Special customers bought a Taurus Judge?)

The other side of the "Robin Hood" shown above. There's a grand name for you.

The other side of the “Robin Hood” shown above. There’s a grand name for you.

They also tend to be cheaply made, of inferior metals and workmanship. They were made in various small factories, mostly in the Gun Valley, and these factories didn’t pay as well as Colt in Hartford, or Smith & Wesson or the national Armory in Springfield. (If the Armory had orders; if not, it laid men off and they found work in the other factories, at lower wages). Buyers of these guns were extremely price-sensitive.

Not all of them were junk: Forehand and Wadsworth of Worcester, the sons-in-law of Ethan Allen, whose production of Suicide Specials was small, made high-quality ones that Webster compares favorably to Colt pocket revolvers. The company was sold to Hopkins & Allen, which in turn sold to Marlin-Rockwell.

It is no accident that Suicide Specials appeared on the market in 1870. There were a few attempts before, but Rollin White had sold his 1855 patent on the bored-through cylinder to Smith & Wesson, which produced revolvers resembling the Suicide Special (but of higher quality) from 1858 on. Other Gun Valley makers were quick to try to imitate the Smith .22 Nº 1 and .32 Nº 2, only to learn that S&W intended to defend their patent in court. After the first couple infringers lost, the remainder settled quickly, or at least, responded positively to a Cease and Desist letter from Smith’s lawyers. But White’s basic patent expired in 1869. (That patent, by the way, is why Union cavalrymen had breechloading and even repeating cartridge carbines by 1865, but not cartridge revolvers). Thus, the explosion of Smith-alikes from 1870 onward.

White continued to contest other patents until his death in 1892. As Rywell records, it “kept him agitated.”

The small revolvers are found with five, six and seven-shot cylinders, with the lower count common in the larger calibers like .41, and the seven-shot common in .22s.

This unfortunately cut-off picture is a .32 rimfire Otis A. Smith.

This unfortunately cut-off picture is a .32 rimfire Otis A. Smith. As you can see, it’s a five-shot gun.

By 1890, the Suicide Special was too far behind the public taste, and, many municipalities and states were trying to outlaw gun-carrying. While this often was masked as a “good government” or “taming the frontier” measure, what really drove it was animus to the sort of people who bought these guns: immigrants, especially Irish, Italians and Eastern Europeans in the North, and blacks and “white trash” in the South. Most cops would not dream of enforcing local gun laws against a local, say, banker or landlord; but those guys could buy the Smith or Colt.

And this one is a "Dog," that is also marked, "Cast Steel." Or maybe that's the instruction book? If it doesn't fire, "cast" it at your assailant....

And this one is a “Dog,” that is also marked, “Cast Steel.” Or maybe that’s the instruction manual? If it doesn’t fire, “cast” it at your assailant…. The engraving and shape of the side plate mark it as a bit upscale (and is the grip ivory?). The cheapest Suicide Specials had a circular sideplate with a slot — because it doubled as the hammer screw! Here, they’re two separate parts.

And, technology had marched on. By 1890 “revolver” implied double action, and the more rapid reload of a swing-out cylinder, break-action revolver (in the small, Suicide Special follow-on type, they were called “Bulldogs”), or at the bare minumum a loading port and ejection rod arrangement like Colt’s single- and double-action revolvers of the day. In addition, foreign competitors began importing very inexpensive firearms into the USA, taking advantage of lower skilled labor costs in Europe than in Gun Valley.

While the Suicide Specials died a cold market death, a couple of the makers survived well into the 20th Century, notably Iver Johnson and Harrington & Richardson. They continued making small, cheap revolvers (and nickeling many of them) but followed the market away from the pull-pin solid frame single action. (H&R, at least, did make some pull pin revolvers into the 1970s, if not beyond). Unlike the Suicide Specials, an Iver Johnson or H&R from the 20th Century smokeless powder era is safe to shoot. (Do not be beguiled by a modern .22 fitting in a 19th-Century Suicide Special. Those two things were not made to go together).

One thing that continues to puzzle us is this: why were they all nickeled? (There are exceptions, but they are rarer than nickel guns in current production). Because the market demanded it? Because the buyers were easily gulled by shiny surfaces? Because the nickel finish would take, at least initially, more handling than traditional bluing? Because it cost less? Because it could be done with unskilled labor? Because the process was new, and created a fad? None of the sources we have read can really answer this question.

(Thanks for bearing with us on images. They’re in place now. -Ed).

Sources

Buffaloe, Ed. “Suicide Specials.” The Unblinking Eye. Retrieved from: http://unblinkingeye.com/Guns/SSs/sss.html

Rywell, Martin. The American Nickel-Plated Revolver 1870-1890: A History of and a Guide for This Classification for the Firearms Student or Collector. Harriman, Tennessee: Pioneer Press, 1960.

Uncredited. “Suicide Specials. Gun-Data.com. Retrieved from: http://gun-data.com/suicide_specials.htm

Webster, Donald B. Suicide Specials. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1960: Stackpole.

 

WWII British Gun Factory, “Night Shift,” 1942 (full) – YouTube

Let’s continue in the vein of production videos — here are Brits, mostly women, cranking out firearms to replace the piles left on the beach at Dunkirk.

Freely downloadable at the Internet Archive. “Shows a normal work night of workers, particularly women, at a British gun factory. Consists mostly of special-effect shots of factory equipment and personnel. The workers dance, sing, and eat lunch at 1:00 a.m. and have tea at 4:00 o’clock.” National Archives Identifier: 38643

via WWII British Gun Factory, “Night Shift,” 1942 (full) – YouTube.

It’s interesting to consider how primitive this factory is, compared to one in our modern day, 70-odd years later. And yet, this factory is gigantic overkill, if your standard of comparison is the minimum installation needed to manufacture effective arms.

Inland’s Repop of the Ithaca M37 Trench Gun

It’s become fashionable to resuscitate the names of old gun manufacturers, when the original firms have left the gun market or are tuning up their harps in the Great Beyond of corporate afterlife… pining for the fjords, as it were. One of the latest is Inland, originally a division of General Motors that was pressed into service making war materials, including firearms (notably M1, M1A1, M2 and M3 Carbines) during World War II. We’ve shown you the Inland carbines before. They’re nice enough, but are up against originals that are still available in quantity.

m37-display-1

But another Inland repop is a bit surprising — the M37 military shotgun. To tell the truth, we didn’t know that the USG ever used the original M37 of the Ithaca Gun Company. We always had Winchesters (M12s, which were good, and M1200s, which weren’t) and in more recent years Remington 870s or Mossbergs which we think were COTS purchases, not from the regular procurement system. As far as the Ithaca M37 goes, we seem to recall seeing it in Vietnam photos of Marines.

We never found much use for a combat shotgun, although a running buddy in Afghanistan liked the high/low mix of M14 and sawn-off 870. The one time he fired the 870 around us, he was responding to an Afghan’s insistence that nobody in the village knew where the lock to the cave door was. (Yes, there is a such thing as a locked cave door in Afghanistan. Or there was before Bryan blew it to Kingdom Come. After which, the village elder remembered where he left his key ring, mirabile dictu. Allah truly does work in strange ways, habibi).

m37-display-2

 

Anyway, Shawn at Loose Rounds shares Bryan’s fondness for the military 12-bore, and the new M37 spoke to him:

[W]hen I got to the NRA 2016  show… I wanted to see that M37 in the worst way. I was not let down.  After just a few minutes of handling it, I asked for a T&E sample.

Sample in hand, he took these atmospheric M37 pictures with Vietnam-era web gear and uniforms, including some things popular in SF, like the Bata boots and the Gerber Mk II fighting knife.

m37-display-3

Then he traced the ancestry of the M37 from John Browning on down:

The Ithaca as a military “trench gun” is likely not as well known by many. The action of the shotgun would look familiar to a lot of hunters out there.  Though the first thing you may think when seeing its action is the Mossberg 500, it and the 500 are really a simplified version of the most excellent Remington Model 31  shotgun. The M31 itself an evolution from the M17. The Model 17 designed by no less than John Browning himself.

When Shawn gets a T&E sample, he doesn’t take a few pictures and send it back. He wrung this thing out for months. Some conclusions:

The short riot/trench shotgun is a pleasure to handle. It’s fast and easy to work with and the slick action is as fast as lightening. The original M37s would indeed “slam fire”  but this one will not. As I understand it, this was done at the request of Inland when having the guns put together for them by Ithaca prior to the converting to “trench gun.” I know some will gripe about this, but let it go. It’s a fact of modern America that lawyers and sue happy anti-gun activists would salivate at trying to prove the gun defective in court. For those who do not know,” slamfire” refers to the lack of a disconnector in the originals that lets the hammer fall as long as you hold the trigger back. Just like the M12 and M97 etc.

Do go to LooseRounds.com and Read The Whole Thing™. There are videos of the gun being fired, pictures of targets shot for accuracy, etc.

 

War Production: Propellers and Browning M2 .50s

They started with a factory that built refrigerators. But refrigerators is not what the War Production Board wanted Frigidaire to be making. So they converted one plant, and built new ones, including training new workers — many women — to replace drafted men.

The new products in Frigidaire’s Dayton, OH factories? Constant-speed propellers for training and combat aircraft, and Browning machine guns, mostly for the Air Corps.

The machine guns are mentioned near the beginning, in the context of the 250,000th Frigidaire M2 being produced on 22 June 1944, but after a long period of discussing propeller production, they go to the MG factory at approximately 9:42 in the video. Right after that, it shows an interesting test-fire cell for solenoid-fired MGs.

Frigidaire – These People – How a Frigidaire plant converts to Service goods production during 1940s.

via Frigidaire – For the Forces – Production During The 1940s – YouTube.

The technical information about the production of the guns is one aspect of this video, but what now seems like over-the-top patriotism is an interesting sociological aspect as well. We could use a little more of that can-do victory spirit, eh?

Investing in Guns

No, this is not in the sense of what many of us have said once or more times: “But honey, it’s an investment.” Actual individual guns are an “investment” the way politicians describe programs that sluice money to their voters as “investments”; they’re things we wanna buy, and it sounds a lot better to say we’re “investing” than admit we’re really “splurging.” Do we really need another Brno Mannlicher M95 Ruck-Zuck? Even if production was only 5,000?

brno_m95_right

Well, what’s need got to do with it? The M95 is lonely and needs companionship. Who needs a reason, when you can deploy a flimsy excuse?

brno_m95_left

Besides, now there’s only 4.998 left to go.

Still, that’s not the “investing” we’re talking about. We’re talking about investing in gun manufacturing and sales. There are several ways to do this, including stock in publicly held companies, equity in or credit to private firms, and derivatives.

These are all ways for the market to provide capital to businesses. Businesses need capital to operate and especially to grow; and business growth creates profits, which rewards the managers, workers, creditors, owners and any other capital providers. Stock makes you a part owner, so does private equity; private credit (such as a loan) makes you a creditor, and derivatives… well, they’re those same things but abstracted a layer or two.

Let’s take them back to front, ending at stock. Derivatives are for the advanced investor who is both sophisticated and capable of using and understanding the analytical abstractions on which they’re based. Moreover, in this market you’re not only playing against people who know more than you do, but against computers that can run more sophisticated quantitative analyses faster than you can. If you’re ready to invest in derivatives, you knew it before this blog post.

Equity plays and loans to private firms are also for the advanced investor. The SEC requires investors in these highly risky investments to be “qualified investors,” which is a term of art but encompasses the idea that you are sufficiently well-off to make the investment and sufficiently aware to realize that you can lose the whole thing. The SEC does not want moms and pops (or their brokers!) gambling the grocery money on this kind of thing, and the risk here tends to be high enough that it is gambling. Most people who are not qualified investor material will never hear about these private placement opportunities (which is all for their own good). Every successful investor remembers the private equity home runs and the good solid performers. But very few ever weigh those against the good ideas that ate the entire investment and still died in a fickle marketplace.

That leaves stocks. The average investor is almost always better served by no-load mutual funds than by individual stocks, but individual stocks can be fun, and you can win with them if you invest in what you know. Gun industry stocks include a limited selection of manufacturer stocks and some channel (especially retail) stocks.

The conventional wisdom is that gun sales, and gun stocks, would have gone stratospheric in a Hillary Clinton win, given Mrs Clinton’s commitment to restrictive and even confiscatory gun control measures (she has in the past held up the British and Australian gun confiscations as salutary examples).  And therefore, that these stocks were bid up overly high in a bubble in anticipation of Clinton’s victory; so therefore, the stocks will be hit hard with her defeat.

This conventional wisdom is expressed many places. For example, in Howie Carr’s “Winners and Losers” column in the Boston Herald, Carr wrote:

Loser: Gun stocks. People will still be stocking up, but they don’t have to worry about buying them this weekend. Smith & Wesson stock took a tumble in early trading yesterday, but long-term it’s still a solid HOLD.

Howie mentions Smith because he’s writing in a Massachusetts paper, and Smith is a MA company. (Other firearms produced in the People’s Republic include Savage and some Kahr guns). Smith & Wesson Holding Company is one of three firearms manufacturer stocks that are publicly traded. Those three are (in alphabetical order):

  1. SWHC: Smith & Wesson Holding Company, Springfield, MA.
  2. RGR: Sturm, Ruger & Co, Southport CT and NH
  3. VSTO: Vista Outdoor, the former commercial side of ATK, mostly known for ammunition but owning some gun brands.

Note the many names that are not on that list. SIG-Sauer, Colt, Remington Outdoor, Glock, Beretta and most other household names are privately held.

We expected the gun stocks to take off after the election, which Hillary Clinton was projected to win. She lost and the stocks fell again, on the assumption that panic buying would not happening, and anticipation of such buying was inflating the stocks.

We have seen something else happening, though. While there’s been plenty of panic buying (especially in 2012-14), there’s also real organic growth in the shooting sports, collecting, and most especially self-defense. There are a lot of first-time buyers in the stores. Previously underserved communities like women and racial minorities have increased both their percentage of new buyers and their profile in the shooting sports and self-defense movement. We expected that a sell-off would be a short term panic, but wouldn’t alter the long-term fundamentals of the stock. So we resolved to buy on the drop.

Resolved to buy, but to buy what? Smith is very volatile — catnip to market-timers, but not ideal for a buy-and-hold strategy. VSTO is a complicated company with a lot of brands and we didn’t have a good handle on its strategy. Ruger, though, is in nice shape. While they did plus up inventory in anticipation of an election surge, this is the time of year when inventory can be readily moved. Moreover, they pay a nice dividend. Accordingly, we bought 1000 shares on the next day.

How’d that Work Out for you?

On Tuesday, Election Day, November 8th, RGR closed at 64.30, with the networks still joyfully predicting a Clinton coronation. It opened the next morning — long after hangdog anchormen delivered the election news — at 55.35. Contrary to the media’s expectation, stocks as a whole rose strongly through the day, but the gun stocks, especially Smith and Ruger, moved down against the rising market.

At about 10 AM we gave our broker a buy order, seeing Ruger at $55 as a buying opportunity. The trade was executed at approximately 56.40 during a short-lived rally, and Wednesday closed about flat at 55.15. Thursday it ticked up, them dove at midmorning and again in the afternoon, closing at 48.15. Friday saw a slight uptick, then a selloff, ending at 47.50. Yesterday it recovered to 50.75. What will it do for the rest of the week?

Here it is graphically. You can see this graph interactively at Finance.Yahoo.com.

rgr_stock

As a result we’re actually down about $6/share at this writing, and have a paper loss equivalent to, well, a lot of Rugers. However, we bought it to hold, and expect it to recover and exceed the pre-election price. Yes, we could have lost less (and even made a dollar per share) if we’d held off a day. And we don’t know what the future holds. But we know these facts about Ruger:

  1. It beat revenue and earning estimates and showed strong year-on-year growth just days before the election.
  2. Most of its revenue growth has come from new products, including items that were never threatened by Hillary’s proposed AWB, like small carry pistols.
  3. Ruger is trading at a 52-week low, going into the hot sales quarter for its highly seasonal products. (Most hunting seasons and Christmas fall in Q4). Yet its fundamentals haven’t changed.
  4. Ruger pays a dividend, and  substantial one. (It’s currently 41¢ a quarter. At $56 that came to around 3%). So there is upside potential apart from stock appreciation.
  5. The price to earnings figure (11.65 at today’s close) suggests the stock is undervalued compared to the historical market average (share price 20-25 times earnings-per-share). Note that a company has to have earnings to have a P/E ratio; at earnings of 0 P/E becomes infinite at any price. (SWHC and VSTO also have attractive P/E ratios).
  6. Meanwhile, Ruger has products at popular prices. Case in point (this is a current price from Surplus City Guns in Feasterville Trevose, PA near Philadelphia). Ruger and Surplus City may not make much on each gun, but at this price they will make much by selling many. ruger_lcp__deal

Therefore, we are fairly confident that we will do well holding this stock for a year or more. Could we be wrong? Of course we could. Ruger could go the way of Studebaker-Packard.

Why Ruger and not Smith? We’ve been watching these firms for years. Smith is simply more volatile than Ruger. That means if one was perfect at market timing, one has the potential to make more buying Smith on downswings and selling it on upswings. We believe market timing to be a mug’s game, and if we were any good at it, we wouldn’t have bought Ruger at $6 more than it’s selling for today.

Disclaimer: as recounted above, the author holds a 1000 share position in Ruger, bought on the morning after the election.

CZ Factory Promo & Tour Videos

After a very long and overly artistic 1-minute intro, this video (4:53) shows tantalizing glimpses of production in CZ today. One of the most interesting things is the injection molding of what appears to be wax patterns for casting pistol frames and many other parts. The patterns are only shown momentarily as ejector pins kick them out of the molds. Great stuff.

Here’s another production video, well narrated. (Duration 7:03). One thing you don’t often see is the laser bore sighting system that gets them most of the way to sighted-in without having to expend rounds. (They do, of course, expend rounds. Every CZ comes with a test target).

You may remember this video visit to the plant by Army Recognition website, which we’ve featured here in the past.

Welcome to a new week at WeaponsMan.com. We’ve got a lot of good stuff cued up for you, including something from our recent visit to New Orleans, some more manufacturing and smithing stuff, and a treat or two from the vault and/or footlocker. Life is good.

Rifling Technology Videos

In keeping with our recent discussion of Rifling Methods, we thought we’d show you some variants of production rifling machines.

First, here’s how a modern small-to-medium sized-business does it — Krieger Barrels, which uses cut rifling, in a high tech way:

And now for old school, as in a century ago, cut rifling. Here’s a Pratt & Whitney sine bar hook-cutter cut rifling machine, restored. (Krieger, as you’ve just seen, also uses a similar P&W machie). This represents an example of World War I vintage technology, but can still produce accurate barrels. The single-point hook cutter was not replaced because the newer tech (in this case, mostly, broaching, a WWII vintage technology) could make barrels better. It could make barrels faster, an important benefit in wartime production.

The big oval structure above the bed of the machine is a marker of the Pratt and its foreign clones. The owner of this one comments:

This Sine bar hook cut rifling machine was originally owned by “old man Savage”. It then was bought from him by an Arizona gunsmith named Bill Sucalie. The diamond rifler, gundrill and gun barrel reamer was bought by Bill from Old man Savage all at the same time. Bob Blake my grandfather purchased Bill’s Gunsmith buisness in 1966 to where Bob and my father Dave Blake ran a Barrel Making shop for about 5 Years. We had kept the equipment all of these years and have remained gundrill speacialist ever since. We have now restored the rifling machine and here is the first barrel it has cut in over 40 years.