Category Archives: Industry

Too Busy To Write, Here’s Sumdood’s Video (Ian on Colt)

Here’s Ian of Forgotten Weapons with a capsule history of Colt, currently holding down the title of the Most Mismanaged Company in the Gun Racket. Seemed timely, with Colt having purged the Custom Shop lately, in an overall downturn in the industry that has seen Remington lay off a couple of hundred employees, mostly factory workers in Ilion, New York, but also including a senior executive bloodletting. Can more drama for Colt be right around the corner?

Some day, B-School students will study the machinations of the last few rounds of Colt owners… if the guys studying them aren’t law students doing a block on white-collar crime.

But through all that, the company has made some fantastic guns. As the current owners seem intent on demonstrating, there’s a lot of ruin in a great marque.

You can find Ian’s videos on YouTube, but the quality of the videos is better, and the advertisers pay him better, on Full30.com. You do want him to get paid, right? Any time there’s nothing happening here, go to Full30 and watch some of his videos. He needs the money!

“Rifle of Tomorrow,” As Seen Yesterday (1982)

There’s always a market for prediction about the future, and they’re always hostages to fate. So, today, we’ll open a time capsule from 1982 (specifically, from the November-December issue of the US Army’s branch magazine, Infantry, as seen at right) and see how whether one officer’s prediction panned out — or whether it just panned. Subject of prediction, or perhaps more honestly, subject of advocacy: a new rifle for the Army in the last quarter of the 20th Century.

The officer in question was a Texas Army National Guard officer named Noyes Burton Livingston III, about whom we know only that he’s still alive, was married at least three times (triumph of hope over repeated experience, or maybe he went SF), and is well-remembered as a writer for Iron Horse, a motorcycle magazine.

The United States infantryman has fought on many battlefields over the years, always doing his best on each with whatever rifle he happened to have at the time. And his potential battlefield continues to change and expand.

Through the use of thermal energy, ground surveillance radar, night vision devices, and intrusion warning systems, detection and engagement ranges are increasing in distance but decreasing in time. As a result, the U.S. infantryman will no doubt eventually get a new rifle to carry into battle — and he will need it.

So far, so good. Not a bad prediction for 1982. Indeed, the observation that “detection and engagement ranges are increasing in distance but decreasing in time,” for the grand European battle that the Army of 1982 was fixated upon, was a keen insight.

His present rifle, the M 16A1, is a good weapon. It is well made, lightweight, and accurate at battlefield ranges. It is handy to shoot, and it disassembles easily. In fact, it is almost everything a marksman or a service support soldier could ask for. Unfortunately, though, it is not designed to fill the basic requirements of the soldier who has to stake his life on it, the infantryman. So we need to begin thinking now about what kind of rifle we would like to have to replace it. We must not leave it to chance, as we have sometimes done in the past.

Of course, at that time the Army and Marines were both experimenting with new rifles, a project that would lead in less than a year to USMC and later Army adoption of the M16A2. But Livingston had no way to know that at the time.

No matter how much warfare changes, though, the infantryman’s war will still be brutal and intimate, and his rifle must be designed with that in mind. He must also believe in its capabilities and should be encouraged to use it. Besides shooting rapidly and accurately every time it is called on, an infantryman’s rifle must be able to double as a club, a spear, or a crutch. It may also have to help make a litter, form part of a hasty ladder, or scoop out a hurried fighting position. In short, it must function when everything else has failed.

That seems to sum up his requirements, and as you see, he’s putting a lot of weight on non-rifle functionality. Now he gets into specifics:

How should an infantry rifle be made to meet these high expectations? First of all, it cannot I;le encumbered with a carrying handle. We have all seen the classic example of a soldier running in training, one hand on his helmet and the other clutching his MI6 by the carrying handle, like a commuter with his lunch pail chasing a departing bus.. The handle makes the weapon easy to carry, but not easy to fire quickly.

A rifle must be built to fit naturally in a carry that lends itself to an attitude and position of readiness. The firing hand must grasp the small of the stock near the trigger, and the off hand must grab it slightly forward of its center of balance. A soldier should have to move only one hand to point and fire his weapon, not both.

He’s missing the main purpose of the “carrying handle,” which is not, mirabile dictu, to carry the firearm. It’s there to provide a home for the rear site that works with anthropometric dimensions and the desire to provide a straight-line stock.

Initial Armalite military rifle designs had ordinary drop-heel stocks, but then evolved into the straight-line stock, and the first model of what would become the AR-10 provided a front sight on a Johnson-inspired triangular base and a rear sight on an FG-42-like folding stalk. Here’s the 1944 Johnson for comparison.

The “carrying handle” was an attempt to make a virtue out of the necessity of making a more rigid rear sight base.

We ought to mention that at this particular point in time, the Army’s culture, and particularly Ranger and Infantry culture, was absolute death on slings. Why? Well, slings encourage the soldier to carry the rifle some way other than at the ready.

Of course, this fixation on ready carry suggests that every soldier is always and everywhere mere moments from a small arms engagement, and at that, so few mere moments that he would not have time to change his grip on his gun.

It also assumes that a soldier would be so suicidally stupid as to not carry the gun at the ready whilst in the presence of the enemy. But then, Infantry is primarily written and read by officers, who are aware that enlisted men are stupid, but sly and cunning, and bear considerable watching.

Likewise, while a pistol grip may be necessary for a light machinegun, it is a liability on a rifle. Given a rifle with a pistol grip, a soldier cannot drop to the ground into the prone position without removing one hand from his weapon to break his fall. If he does not use the pistol grip, but holds onto the stock to let the butt of the rifle strike the ground instead, he must release his hold before he can reach the grip and shoot. The same soldier cannot cease firing and jump up to rush forward without removing his firing hand completely from his weapon to grab the stock and push off with it. It is extremely difficult to hold onto a pistol grip and get up another way.

Once up and running, this soldier cannot fire his remaining rounds and then lunge effectively at his opponent with his bayonet, or follow up with a butt stroke, without completely losing hold of his rifle with his strongest hand. Although bayonet fighting may be a relatively small thing,when it is all an infantryman has left, it is everything, and close combat is no place for changing hands or coming in second best.

OK, he’s really stressing the heck out of the non-rifle applications of rifles, isn’t he? But we’d suppose he would argue that you can make a better club and halberd out of a rifle without compromising its rifle functionality. His rifle now looks like this:

Let’s get a little deeper into his conceptual design.

TECHNIQUES

A pistol grip also discourages the use of several important shooting techniques. With such a grip, a soldier’s arm follows the angle of his firing hand when he is holding onto his rifle, causing his elbow to press against the side of his body while he fires. This eliminates the shoulder pocket that the weapon’s butt is supposed to fit into to lessen the effect of recoil, steady the weapon, and keep it from slipping off his shoulder. Without a good shoulder pocket, it is hard for a soldier to maintain a firm stock weld with his cheek, to make his head move with the rifle as it recoils, and to keep his eye aligned with the sights.

A rifle should have a semi-pistol grip to improve marksmanship and to allow the soldier to hold it while running, leaping, and crawling and still have his firing hand in position to pull the trigger. It should also have a semi-straightline stock with a raised comb. The gas cylinder and operating rod should be above the barrel to reduce muzzle climb when the rifle is fired. Because the small of the stock would drop to form the semi-pistol grip, the rifle cannot have a buffer behind the receiver as the MI6 does. There are many existing weapon designs, such as the FN-FAL, the AK, the AR18, the SiG 540, and the Valmet M62, that can be modified to fit a traditional rifle stock.

In a rifle of this type, there would be no gas tube — as in the MI6 — to blow contaminants into the rifle’s action or gas and excess lubricant into the firer’s eyes. The bolt would lock fully until it was withdrawn by the operating mechanism, instead of using a delayed blowback principle, so varying qualities of ammunition could be used.

Actually, if you want to use a wide range of ammo pressures (because the pressure is what the gun “feels”, and what influences the gun), it’s hard to beat the HK roller-delayed system. Blowback and gas-unlocked systems both have narrower ranges of impulses that they can tolerate — at least, as far as they’ve been designed so far.

The barrel would be heavy enough to support a bayonet, and its bore and chamber would be chrome-plated to resist corrosion and wear.

The rifle would share many of the beneficial features of the M16 and its contemporaries. The receiver would be split into an upper and lower group held together by takedown and pivot pins. This would allow placing the rear sight at the back of the receiver, instead of at the front, by doing away with a bolt cover like the one found on the AK. This placement would permit using a rear sight aperture and a longer sight radius.

The lower receiver group would incorporate a sturdy integral magazine well and a winter trigger guard that would swing forward against the magazine when released. It would accept MI6 aluminum or nylon magazines and would have all the weapon’s controls accessible from the firing position. The selector lever would be manipulated with the firing hand thumb, and the magazine catch button would be worked by the trigger finger. The bolt catch would be released by the thumb of the loading hand after a loaded magazine was inserted.

When the firer pulled back on the charging handle to lock the bolt to the rear, the bolt catch would be engaged with the firing hand thumb.

That would actually be an ergonomic improvement on the AR-15’s generally excellent ergs, would it not?

EJECTION

The upper receiver would have a covered ejection port on its right side and a charging handle fixed to the bolt carrier on its left. There would be no bolt forward assist on the receiver as the charging handle could be pushed forward to close the bolt. Placing the charging handle on the left side would allow the action to be cycled from a firing position without the firer moving his firing hand or the weapon, as must be done with the MI4 or MI6. The charging handle would be at the left front of the receiver where it would not strike the non-firing hand. Its motion would be hidden from the firer’s view by its speed and by the rear sight’s elevation drum, which would also be on the left.

The rifle would be a little longer and slightly heavier than the MI6. It should fire at a moderate cyclic rate from the closed bolt position with the bolt remaining open after the last round was ejected. Automatic fire should be limited by a 3- or 4-round burst control mechanism. It would have a concave recoil pad to hold it in place during automatic fire, and it would accept an MI6 clothespin bipod.

Heh. We see the 1980s fad of the burst control raising its ugly head. Bad substitution for training troops. The military has finally, if not completely, killed this bad idea 35 years later. Bring more fire, lest it respawn.

The new rifle’s flash suppressor, sling swivels, bayonet, bayonet—stud, and front sight assembly would be the same as those on the MI6. Its rear sight would be similar to the one on the MI4. The fiberglass stock would be made like the MI6’s, and the easily gripped triangular handguards would be held on with a slipring in the same way. The stock should not be constructed to fold or collapse because that feature would make it less rigid. In addition to the standard 20- and 30-round MI6 magazines, a short magazine that fits flush with the bottom of the magazine well should be issued for civil disturbance and ceremonial duties.

A couple of interesting ideas there, including the need for robustness of the stock. But then again, he sees it as primarily a club with a sideline in shooting, so why not? The flush magazine, delete the useless 3-round-burst, and it would even be NY/CA legal! (They’d surely find some way to ban it).

Many excellent weapons made by friendly nations, and some by not so friendly ones, are available that we can examine and test during the process of developing our own rifle. It is important to keep in mind that our rifleman does not need the most sophisticated design possible, one such as the Austrian STG 77, the French MAS, or the Swedish MKS, but he does deserve an infantry weapon that fits the conditions under which he must fight.

He makes an interesting point. In the M16A2 tests no foreign weapon was seriously compared or tested. Indeed, no systematic survey of the field has been made before any recent American small arms procurement decision.

This proposed rifle is offered to support, not replace, the squad and platoon automatic weapons. It would first serve the rifleman with aimed semiautomatic or limited burst fire, Its adoption would result from the recognition that infantry combat is more than a “mad minute” fought by individuals. An updated yet traditional rifle would reaffirm the infantryman’s role and signal a return to the tactics of soldiers fighting together. Fire superiority would become the product of superior fire by the unit, not random fire by its members.

If we begin now to plan for the rifle of the future, perhaps when the time comes for a quick decision on a replacement for our present rifle, we will have the right one waiting in the wings.

M16A1 (top) and M16A2

Well, we got the M16A2 at the time, so make of that what you will.

Sources

You can download the Army Infantry magazine for Nov-Dec 82 here, or see the archive as a whole here. However, that version is pdf image only. We have an OCRd copy of the Nov-Dec 82 issue here: NOV-DEC1982.pdf

Your Ghost Gunner Results: Good, Bad or Mixed?

The WeaponsMan Ghost Gunner, early in its testing, hogs one of the gunsmithing benches with a Mac and a PC (we were checking that a connection problem was not emulation-related. It wasn’t, it was a driver issue).

John Crump has an interview with Cody Wilson at AmmoLand.com. It brings us up to date, but if you’ve been following Wilson and Defense Distributed it doesn’t really break any new ground. But what interested us was the colloquy on the Ghost Gunner. In the interview, John said this about the CNC mill, a device we know and have used a little.

John Crump: Why did Defense Distributed decide to make the CNC machine, The Ghost Gunner (GG)?

Cody Wilson: We needed to make a product we could sell to raise the money to sue the State Department over Liberator. I’m being totally serious. GG came from ideas given to us through the course of Wiki Weapon and the success of DEFCAD. People often suggested we should make a CNC and stop being silly with the printables.

John Crump: The Ghost Gunner 2 is truly revolutionary. Why do you think the NSSF decided not to give membership to Defense Distributed which basically banned DD from shot show?

Come and Take It: by Cody Wilson
Come and Take It: by Cody Wilson

Cody Wilson: Honestly I think it’s the simple trouble of the association. We are suing the DDTC, a bureau in the State Department that enforces export controls and is a group the NSSF has to make very nice with so they can pretend to continue to influence policy directions. Nevermind that they have humiliated themselves with DDTC’s most recent guidance on gunsmithing, not to mention the outright disaster that the last six year of “export control reform” have been. Great work NSSF!

Cody Wilson is probably right about why NSSF wants to keep him at arm’s length: he has no interest in playing nice with others; his Spirit Diplomat is Gavrilo Princip.

But John Crump’s positive description of the GG produced this response in the comments to the article:

I bought and received a GG machine in March 2016. I read all the instructions several times and sent several emails with questions and then began to mill out a lower AR.

The machine milled it out well until about 5 minutes into the job and then the bit became stuck in the aluminum block and the milling program shut down after the bit broke free.

I contacted GG in Texas and I told them I do not understand why the machine did whet it did nor did I know how to correct the problem as I am {{{ NOT }}} a mechanical engineer nor am I a computer programmer . I told them I only have a 10th grade education and asked if the machine was idiot proof, they said it was….. I felt safe!

In Feb of this year, GG sent me a email telling me I had to order a new second generation spindle as the old part did not work very well (as I learned). It is now one year after I first received my GG machine. I still have 9 unmilled lowers and one damaged unfinished lower and a GG machine that is locked up and won’t work. Basically I have given up on it all!

A year has passed and I have not yet milled out my first lower AR15 lower! ……….. PERFECT!

We have to say that our experience with the GG was different than what Ben describes, too, but it was not without glitches. We have successfully milled out lowers with both the Windows and Mac versions of the software. We had some difficulty with setup, early on, and Defense Distributed’s Ben Denio was extremely helpful in getting things sorted out and in production.

We’ve also had one head-crash, trying to cheat a little and use a lower without a 100% milled out takedown pin pocket. In our case, the head crash did no permanent damage, but did cause an overload indicator to light up and we had to reset the whole machine (instructions are included in the manual, but they’re hardly crystal clear).

The manual is difficult to follow and we suspect that it would truly be a nightmare for a less computer-savvy person.

One final problem that we’ve had is that we get fine lines between each depth of the trigger pocket cut. We believe that that is due solely to our GG being on a wheeled cart, and moreover, set on a thin rubber mat on top. The axes of the machine move with considerable vigor, and it is not heavy enough to hold itself down. We suspect that these lines will resolve, giving us an appropriate surface finish, if we lock the GG down better.

File Photo of a GG.

The GG community, such as it is, really feels the lack of the forum originally envisioned for open-source solutions sharing. It didn’t happen, not by any fault of Cody’s, Ben’s, or anybody’s at Defense Distributed, but because the State Department took it in its Deep State head to ban anyone talking about making guns. (Rifle-caliber small arms need to come off ITAR, but that’s a whole other issue).

We seem to recall that several WeaponsMan readers have also bought a GhostGunner, and also have had mixed, but mostly positive, results with them. Perhaps we can share some solutions here, and troubleshoot the woes of Ben Miles and anyone else experiencing technical problems.

Future Firearms Prototyping Enabled by 3D Printing

We’ve been on to the 3D Printing thing for years now. In fact, we have mentioned it in a staggering 165 posts, going back five years. In a post on 8 March 2012, we wrote:

Several new manufacturing technologies are creating an “Army of Davids” effect on arms manufacture. These are partly driven by computing technology and Moore’s Law, which makes uneconomical manual process suddenly automated — computer controlled machining and manufacturing, and partly driven by materials and manufacturing technology advances, like high-strength composites and 3D printing.

These technologies have the potential for great societal and economic benefit, but at the cost of making governments lose control of arms and ammunition manufacture. As we’ve seen with drugs, failure of a prohibition policy seems to lead to wider and more annoying (to the non-criminal majority) prohibitions.

In addition, traditional manufacturing technology including casting and machining have become more available to the general public recently, due to increased performance, smaller size, and vastly lowered cost of the tools required.

The half-decade since has seen an increase in all these trends. For 3D printers, most of whom are restricted to low-strength plastics like ABS (styrene) and PLA, and the edge cases are 3D printing nylon with fiber reinforcement, being able to print metal has been the Holy Grail, a seemingly unattainable, but highly desirable, object. Our own blog has contained the words “3D” “print” and “metal” in 52 posts in that same period, almost a third of all 3DP references.

So where are we today, in the first quarter of 2017? We can report that the technology to print 3D metal directly and indirectly is still industrial-priced, but it remains the subject of much effort, and the industrial price is a fraction of what it was five years ago. In particular, we’ll look at three ways to print and produce metal parts — one we mentioned before which didn’t pan out, and two new ones, one which has been commercialized and one which is freshly invented.

Sinterhard Filament: Failed Kickstarter.

You can’t win them all, but this was a big disappointment. The idea was simple: new filaments would contain a plastic binding agent as a substrate, and carry a payload of powder metal. The plastic could then be burned out and the net-shape powder metal part sintered to solidity in an industrial oven, Unfortunately, the project appears to have failed.

The sintering part of the process was never in doubt; it’s been used for automotive and firearms parts for a very long time. But if you can’t feed the material to print the parts, you have to fall back on the sort of mold technology that sintering has long relied upon.

But there were technical problems. For example, loading enough metal into the plastic for the sintering to work had a tendency to make the plastic too brittle to be rolled onto a feeder spool. There were also issues with nozzle wear.

The technical problems may have been overcome. It was other business problems, including the anti-business stance of the local community (Sinterhard came from Massachusetts) that appear to have knocked Sinterhard off any probability of early success.

The principals do continue research, they say, but it’s hard to imagine this project succeeding.

MarkForged Metal X

We’ve been as remiss in writing about last year’s Mark X as we’ve been in using our original Mark One or upgrading it to the Mark Two. But if the nylon with fiber reinforcement (Kevlar, carbon fiber, fiberglass) of the earlier Marks was something, this year’s Mark X is the defense and aerospace prototyper’s dream machine (<2 min video):

It’s an industrial machine that has industrial costs (budget $100k) and requirements (480v three-phase power; a floor that will support a 2500 lb. machine). But it does produce metal parts… by a sintering process remarkably similar to what Sinterhard tried, and failed, to achieve. The MarkForged process, though, appears to be entirely encased in the machine — not requiring the separate 3D printing and part sintering workflows that Sinterhard envisioned.

The materials currently available and shipping are stainless steel 17-4 and 303; materials in beta test include 6061 and 7075 aluminum, titanium 6-4, and tool steels A2, D2 and M2, and for all you turbine and rocket designers out there, Inconel 625. (Make the GyroJet great again!)

MarkForged calls their process ADAM — Atomic Diffusion Additive Manufacturing.

Speed time from design to strong metal parts with this accessible and compact process. ADAM prints your part using a bound metal powder rod that transforms into a dense metal part in one easy step. Bulk sintering provides crystal growth through all axes giving your parts excellent mechanical properties in all directions.

ADAM also enables the creation of unique geometries such as closed-cell honeycomb infill. Parts can be printed like the structure of bones – a closed cell inner core encased in a solid outer shell. This geometry is not possible using traditional subtractive manufacturing processes or DMLS.

The brake handle above illustrates (top complete, bottom cutaway) this type of construction which is, as they say, not possible to make using milling or powder-based Laser Sintering processes.

Comprehensive information on the MarkForged website.

Vader Systems MagnetoJet Technology

Vader Systems is not named after the fictional character, but after the principals of the company, inventor Zachary Vader and his father Scott Vader. They have invented an entirely novel 3D metal process that is best suited (at present) for aluminum alloys and others that liquefy in a similar temperature range. A magnetic field is used to deposit droplets of the molten metal, where it bonds to the adjacent droplets to make a solid part.

Here’s the how it works:

And here’s an overview of the advantages of this system, with Zach and Scott explaining the particular advantages of their system over other metal additive technologies.

It can be fast: this video shows the manufacture of a small cylinder in real time (with, later, an inset of the droplet production shot with a high-speed camera). The part is only near net shape, but it’s sufficiently solid to be brought to final net shape with traditional subtractive methods. Of course, just as the resolution of inkjet 2-D printers improved rapidly, the same process is likely to take place with metal 3-D printing, bringing the manufactured part closer to the golden ideal of print-to-true-net-shape.

Vader is finalizing the design of a printer which is planned to ship in 2018  — it will not be consumer priced, though (probably $250,000), and is a forerunner for future systems that would use a gang or array of nozzles to produce much higher metal throughput.

Aurora Labs S-Titanium Pro

It’s only fair to mention that Australia’s Aurora Labs claims to be shipping their S-Titanium Pro, a multimode printer that sells for $50k (FOB Down Under, net of GST), runs on open-source software, and can reportedly use a wide range of powdered metals. The company website is a bit confusing but a .pdf brochure is somewhat clearer as to what Aurora offers.

Is this a Record for a Colt AR-15 Sporter? $4,000!

A most surprising sale at GunBroker in which hot bidding led to a relatively ordinary Colt AR-15 Sporter (Serial SP1 11001) selling for a mighty high four large.

There are reasons it might have gone that high. For one thing, as pictures showed, it was in very, very good condition, and if we know one thing about collectors, “Condition, condition, condition” is as much their mantra as “Location, etc.” is to realtors. This rifle shone as if new.

It also had a memorable serial number that tracked it to 1968.

SP1s of that period still retained most early-production AR-15 features, because as rolling changes replaced parts on the .mil side of production, any leftover parts of the old, obsolete variety were diverted to civilian SP1 production. Early parts include a front sight base that has been ground smooth front and rear, and a second-type three-prong flash suppressor. The three-prong was eliminated from new production of military firearms in 1966, but would remain in inventory until the A1s were replaced with A2s, twenty years and more later.

Another early feature is the “Edgewater” buffer, so called because it was packed with edgewater washers.

While the three-prongs are common as a loose part, the Edgewater buffer, scaled down from the one used in the original AR-10, sells for hundreds when one is available.

One of the few late M16A1 features was a Parkerized bolt carrier, cut for forward assist. The previous chrome finish was easier to clean but was thought to conceal the development of cracks; military officers also complained about the rifle’s shiny bolt in the field.

Here’s how the seller described the gun:

OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL EARLY PRODUCTION EARLY 1968 COLT AR-15 RIFLE IN INCREDIBLE NEAR MINT CONDITION! IT IS 100% ALL CORRECT AND ALL ORIGINAL FROM END TO END!

He also noted that it was a re-listing due to a deadbeat buyer. Hopefully, second time did the trick. Here’s some more of his description (paragraphs added for legibility):

This is a stunning AS NEW near mint “Early 1968 (January, 1968.) ” production Colt AR-15 SP1 semi-automatic rifle with its original and unaltered parts.

This rifle has NEVER had any parts replaced or exchanged at any time. Nothing has ever been reworked or refinished.

It has the early style upper receiver with no provisions for a forward assist. The lower receiver has the Colt three line markings with the 6 digit serial number “SP1, GREAT Serial Number 11001” indicating production in January 1968, the 4th full year of Colt AR 15 production.

It is fitted with the early original Colt marked parts such as the original non-chrome lined barrel. Barrel has the MP marking on the right side under the sight post. The barrel is fitted with the early three-prong flash hider with fine checkered split washer. It still retains its original first generation (and very rare) old style, large head, two-piece type recoil edgewater buffer.

Note also the front sight is finished smooth front and back with NO drain hole. Later on, they added the drain hole and the flashing ribs remained front and back.

It is also fitted with it original black plastic pistol grip, early triangular handguards with no L and R markings on the inside shields.

The stock is also the early version that lacks any provisions for the internal storage compartment. It is correctly fitted with a solid rubber/plastic buttplate with no provisions for the later trap door. Rear stock has swing sling swivel. (Those were later changed to a fixed configuration).

Complete with one original Colt marked AR-15 20 round magazine.

(Also note, that by mid to late 1967 the bolt carriers had the notches for the forward assist which is correct for this rifle. Those assists were only on the Military M16a1 Models and not the commercial rifles. However, the carriers were still used on the commercial AR15s and only modified at the rear bottom base of the carrier (milled back a bit) to deactivate it’s a ability to shoot in full automatic mode. So the notched carriers are completely correct for this gun. I’ve seen several and it’s totally right! They would not be correct for SP1’s from 64 through 66. And perhaps to about mid 67.)

Condition: Outstanding near mint with 99.9% of its original Colt parkerized/anodized finish on all the parts with the least bit of wear on the most moved parts. The bolt carrier assembly retains 98% of it’s original finish. The plastic components are near mint! Mechanically as new.

This is probably one of the finest early Colt AR15’s that remains in existence today. It’s a truly high end collectible museum quality piece that is completely original and 100% all correct as issued in early 1968. These are sure getting incredibly hard to find at all, let alone this nice!

For a long time SP1s were unwanted by collectors and even by the rabid retro heads, leading to many rifles like this being parted out to make M16 clones. This auction is an early sign that it is a more rewarding path to keep a high-condition SP1 intact. (That’s good, as worn rifles are currently like African rhinos: due to the rarity of one or more parts, they’re worth more dead than alive!)

Now that this mint-condition rifle has sold for $4k, expect a spate of neckbeards to list shagged-out beater SP1s with a starting bid of $4k, and wonder why the things don’t sell. But anyone sitting on a minty early SP1 might want to start thinking about following prices, and perhaps adjusting his insurance. Remember: Condition, condition, condition. And if the market doesn’t clear, price is not set right.

The A400M Airlifter is in Trouble. How much trouble?

It was a tempting deal for European nations: an airlifter with the capability of the C-17 for the operating cost of the old standby, the 1950s-vintage C-130 Hercules. Plus, it would be all-European and not subject to the winds and williwaws of American politics and foreign policy, which tend to strike Europeans as puzzling at best, and bat-guano crazy at times.

.

Airbus Industrie was going to do this by applying all its advanced processes and technologies from its airline experience to the A400M Atlas. Nations with fleets of aging C-130s and Transall C-160s rushed to sign up, and planned their airplane retirements for the arrival of the new cargo lifter in 2011.

They’re still waiting. What went wrong? France24:

Originally planned for 2011, the plane’s launch was delayed until 2013.

The A400M’s delivery has also run into substantial delays due to a string of technical problems and different requests from the governments.

An A400M plane crashed during a test in May 2015 near Seville in Spain, killing four of the six people on board and seriously injuring the two others.

And new faults were discovered in the propellor engines last year.

They’re actually turboprops, of course.

Airbus A400M Compared to the two US competitors. Wall Street Journal graphic.

On Wednesday, Airbus said its profits nosedived in 2016 due to charges related to problems with the plane.

Speaking to reporters when the group announced the results, [Airbus CEO Tom] Enders said that Airbus needed “the cooperation of clients… to push the programme forward and end the haemorrhaging.”

It turns out, what Tom is gathering the customers for next month in Madrid is a bit of the old hand-out begging: Airbus is being crucified, financially speaking, by penalty clauses in the A400M contracts, and he wants the buyers to waive further penalties.

Which certainly suggests we haven’t seen the end of delays.

Airbus delivered 17 A400M in 2016, compared with 11 in 2015 and has delivered two of the military transport planes so far this year.

But the Germans alone were counting on 12 planes in 2016, and didn’t get them all.

Who pledged to buy A400Ms? (The grounding from a 2015 test-flight accident was long ago lifted).

Still, the project, after a half-decade of delays and billions over budget, is at least delivering airplanes, and they can take off, land, navigate, and haul cargo. So far, the crews love and trust the new ship.

That’s all fine and good, but as is common for new airplanes with a lot of new engineering, they’re not being delivered with all capabilities. For example, they can’t air-deliver paratroops or cargo, yet. The promised self-defense system (anti-missile countermeasures) is still a prototype. A helicopter air-refueling package hasn’t shipped, forcing France to go shopping for C-130s to support special operations and SAR helicopters, or forego the benefits of substantial investment in refueling systems on the receiving side.

The delays have cost Germany alone €300 million, by requiring a life-extension for its Transalls, some of which are fifty years old.

Thomas Wiegold of AugenGeradeaus.net calls it “a question of perspective,” (Awful German Language warning, although quotes from English sources remain in English). Wiegold notes that while the Luftwaffe and therefore the German MOD is unhappy with the plane, the RAF and therefore the UK MOD are well pleased by it. (The RAF also operates Hercules and C-17 cargo aircraft).

Airbus, for their part, is hinting that buyers must be prepared for either more cost overruns or more delays, because “Airbus is too important to Europe.” Ender is making the argument, implicitly, that Airbus now is too big to fail. The Germans, for their part, seem to be sticking to the contract, saying in effect, “This is what you signed, live up to it. Or compensate us for the costs your failure to perform has imposed on us.”

The latest problem relating to cracks in combustion chambers of the engines is just one more setback, but setbacks, delays and overruns are the norm and not some rare exception, in extreme engineering tasks like this.

We’re reminded of the one engineering manager at North American Aviation who, on military or NASA contracts, always came in on time and on budget. Company executive Tex Johnston (the former Boeing test pilot who famously rolled the KC-135/B707 prototype during a public demonstration), asked the prodigy how he managed it, when everyone else always underestimated.

“Well, I get my three best engineers to make an estimate.”

“Ah, and then you average them!”

“No, sir. Then I add them up.”

And that’s how it goes in cutting-edge engineering. Especially with a demanding customer who’s spending Other People’s Money (like a single MOD, let alone a bunch of them).

How Many Rifles, and Where Are They?

Nick Jenzen-Jones has a new and interesting working paper at the Small Arms Survey in Geneva (Here’s the Abstract and the PDF). The title of the paper is dry but promising: Global Development and Production of Self-loading Service Rifles 1896 to the Present. 

As always with the Small Arms Survey, this is a publication more aimed at non-proliferation NGOs and quangos than at enthusiasts, but that does not make Nick’s painstaking work any less interesting or useful to us.

Painstaking? It is. He goes deep into the history of semi-automatic and select-fire rifle production over a century and a quarter, and makes a valiant effort to make sense of conflicting numbers that come more from estimates, propaganda, wild guesses, and serial-number sleuthing than they do from any real solid reporting.

Here is a discussion of AK production, probably the toughest nut to crack for those who want to know, “How many?”

AK-type rifles are the most common self-loading service rifle in the world today by a considerable margin, and are thought to constitute in excess of 40 per cent of the total number of self-loading rifles produced up to the present day. Their ubiquity means that they are encountered in almost every modern conflict zone. Nearly 200 variants, copies, and derivatives of the AK rifle have been identified to date.

According to Russian sources, IZHMASH (now Kalashnikov Concern) only patented the weapon’s design in 1997, and in 2006 Russian Federation AK-type rifles accounted for only 10 per cent of the world’s production of this type

The Soviet-era practice was to share their design and engineering widely to encourage production in nearby “fraternal socialist” allies, and to promote industrial development in distant allies. Nations as diverse as India, Iraq, North Korea and Egypt would never have produced AK clones without direct Soviet assistance (the Egyptian plant was even supervised by Soviet engineers, initially, and used every single process of its Soviet prototype).

So the modern Russian inability to issue a concrete figure of AKs produced is an understandable result of previous policies, as well as of Izmash and Amtorg/Rosoboronexport giving up control of the design of the firearm. The AK’s very simplicity led to further proliferation of manufacture, especially after the 1960s change from machined receiver to stamped with machined and stamped parts riveted in place.

But the paper goes far beyond AKs to discuss the entire history of the self-loading rifle.

Here’s a snip of Table 1 from the paper, which should give you an idea just how thorough and historically interesting it is:

Sure, it’s missing some firearms that were produced in the millions, including the M1/2/3 Carbine (~5.5 million in WWII alone, if memory serves), the G/K 43 (perhaps under a million), and the  AG 42 and Hakim. But all of those are obsolete firearms washed away by the tide of ARs, and, especially, AK. And some of them, like the M1 Carbines, are mentioned elsewhere in the report. Sure, you can quibble with the numbers. But the original table includes extensive sourcing and notes. He appears to be, from his notes, excluding firearms produced for civilian markets including non-militarized law enforcement, which means he’s not capturing the bulk of AR production.

Cached weapons, like these Port Said 9mm SMGs (a license-built Carl Gustav M45B ‘Swedish K’) recovered after decades underground, can last a very long time.

Production, of course, is only half of the conundrum, and Nick tries to understand and estimate inventory shrinkage and diversion, demilitarization and destruction, and wear-out. The problem with that, of course, is not only that there are no comprehensive prior numbers to be exploited as found data, but also that rifles are fiendishly durable goods; and are valuable enough that many possessors will take care to maintain and store them properly, if they can and know how. He makes this note:

International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops in Afghanistan captured several well-worn but functional examples of AK and AKM rifles manufactured in the 1950s (Iannamico, 2015).

In fact, in Afghanistan in 2002, our team captured, along with tons of common AKMs and a mountain of World War II weapons, a quantity of prewar Mauser rifles and ZB-26 machine guns, and very first model AK-47s that were 1940s production with a primarily stamped receiver, that pre-date the familiar machined AK-47 receiver. Along with them, we turned up some real oddities like a Ross. All were functional, although there was no ammunition for the .303 and 7.92mm weapons in the caches.

One can quibble with this aspect or that of what Nick has written is, but the fact is that this is the single most comprehensive look at world service rifle stockpiles. Were the numbers to be graphed, they’d need to have really large confidence-interval indications, like error bars or something, because the data are squirrelly, but that’s not his fault. Indeed, to produce a readable, informative document out of such a primordial chaos of data is a signal achievement. We predict that this paper will be widely cited in future scholarship.

Five Reasons to Own Sixguns

Revolvers have been declining in market share for three decades, a decline which really only got going 30 years after the last major military revolver user (the UK), crawled into the 20th Century. (Actually the last major military revolver user was probably the US, which issued revolvers to aviators, and to military police men and women who had difficulty with the 1911A1, up until the adoption of the Beretta M9 — but it was always a secondary weapon). They’re now rare as police firearms, and much less common than they once were as defensive firearms.

As revolvers’ presence in the police and civilian market has declined, their presence in crime has also declined. This is logical, as most criminals arm themselves with weapons diverted from lawful uses, generally by theft or straw purchase with many cut-outs and intermediaries. This increased use of automatic pistols in crime has actually been a boon for homicide and assault investigators, as toolmark evidence matching firearms to cases (cartridge type) or cases (cartridge) from one crime scene to another, has helped close more than a few cases (investigative type). Sumdood doesn’t police his brass when he rips his dope dealer, oddly enough; and he can’t police his brass when he does a drive-by, holding his Hi-Point sideways out the window.

Logisticians might dream of caseless ammo, but homicide cops don’t.

Revolvers’ mindshare has declined. They are seldom seen in TV or movies, except in period pieces or to mark a character as kind of old-fashioned (Rick in The Walking Dead with his long-discontinued Python).

Is the declining mindshare of revolvers a cause or an effect of declining market share? Both may be the right answer; market and mind share may be wrapped in a vicious circle, or spiral.

But there are a number of reasons for the classic, 1890s-style double-action revolver’s remaining children to still be used. Consider these five reasons to shoot sixguns:

  1. They are simple and, if quality products in good condition, reliable.
  2. They are indifferent to variations in ammunition.
  3. Misfire drill? Just fire again.
  4. Time spent loading can enforce a certain pace on a shooting session, improving performance.
  5. They can be enjoyable and educational to shoot; there’s a great variety of them.

Simple and Reliable

While a revolver’s mechanism seems fiendishly complex to those not mechanically inclined, it’s a simple mechanical mechanism. Compared to a typewriter or sewing machine there’s a lot less to go on — and compared to an automatic pistol, the same is true. Some of them are better than others, especially on durability. (An old, worn Smith is less likely to have lost time or need a gunsmith than a Colt of similar vintage. Or an NIB Taurus). It’s also intuitive and easy to learn. There’s a t-shirt with a Colt SAA on it: “the original point-and-click interface.” Steve Jobs (who lifted it all from Xerox PARC anyway), eat your heart out.

Indifferent to Ammo Variations

What ammo works with your carry gun? Sure, with modern autos the days of hollow-points not feeding are mostly over, but everyone has experience with ammo their gun does not like. Doesn’t happen with a sixgun. If the gun’s right, anything that chambers goes bang. Bang-on-demand is good.

What Misfire Drill?

As we mentioned, with a revolver you just point and click. If you do get a point and click and not point and bang, your follow-up shot is a trigger pull away (a hammer cock and trigger pull, if you’re really OG and toting an SAA or something like that). No auto pistol is that quickly back in the fight (or, for hunters, on the game).

Enforces Pace

OK, here we’re making a virtue of necessity. But anyone who spends any time on ranges has seen the shooter with more ammo than sense, blowing through 200 rounds without making a great deal of effort to hit anything. Hey, it’s a free country, and if that’s how they want to make fun let ’em knock themselves out, but… there’s a lot to be said for taking that same amount of time and firing 50 rounds with care. The mechanical, muscle-memory drill of dumping cases and loading rounds can be a great time for considering what went wrong with your last six shots, and what you can do better with the next six.

After all, only the hits count, and even 3 out of 6 into the target at 7 meters is better than the NYPD does out of a 17-round Glock mag.

Enjoyable Variety

The different revolver mechanisms are a blast. Everybody who has never shot a Single-Action Army before gets a thrill out of it, the first time. Ejecting the cases and loading them is fun, and they you can tell the guy or gal, “And… they were expected to do this on a horse.” Instant connection to distant times and places. Likewise, tip-up revolves.

A favorite uncle had a Harrington and Richardson 9-shot .22; it looked like a baby Webley, and was great fun to pop it open and fountain .22 brass around.

Colt 1917

And then, there are the revolvers of 1,000 detective shows, and plenty of revolvers with interesting military history. (Colt and Smith M1917s are nice, beefy guns with a great back story and some weird engineering to let them shoot rimless .45 ACP). Early police double-action .32 pistols are fun and easy to shoot, built like jewels, and dirt cheap right now. There’s always some bragging rights in a Smith & Wesson Model 29. (Or a .500 if you’re diffident about carrying Dirty Harry’s gun, or concerned about the low power of the .44 Mag).

Everybody ought to have a revolver.

But then, the question becomes, which revolver?

HK433 and the German Competition, Part III

So far, in Part 1 and Part 2, we’ve given you just about everything that Hah und Kah has put out about the new assault rifle family, the HK433. It’s importance for HK is that it’s the company’s entrant in the Bundeswehr competition to replace HK’s own G36. The G36 ran into troubles with shot dispersion in hot conditions, both hot environments and when the gun itself heats up; after a long and unpleasant series of legal maneuvers, German courts ruled that the government was not entitled to recover damages: the G36 met every Bundeswehr requirement, and the hot-conditions test was not anticipated, and so wasn’t a requirement. The rifle’s poor performance in these conditions was a surprise to everybody, including the team that designed it.

And, despite the problem, the German troops that carry the G36 remain generally happy with it; for all the Sturm und Drang in the press (this has been an ongoing Page One story in Germany), troop confidence is not as shaken as you might think. There is no groundswell of German Landsers demanding their G3s back (let alone Opa’s K98k). So the competition has to produce a rifle that’s better than the G36, not only in the view of the theoretically objective testers, but perhaps more importantly in the eyes of the Gefreiter mafia.

While HK’s own HK433 has to be considered the favorite, it’s a big contract (and a German sale increases your odds of selling to fans of German engineering worldwide, including many Third World armies that are larger than the Bundeswehr). So everybody’s going to chase it.

So who else is playing? The German station N TV has a report on the competition, and we’ll translate some passages for you, starting with a shortened version of a paragraph we did in Part I.

Out with the old G36, in with a new standard rifle for the Bundeswehr. …. The firms Sig Sauer s well as Rheimetall in collaboration with Steyr Mannlicher have recently indicated that they want to get the big contract from the Federal Defense Ministry. Now the former top dog and G36 supplier Heckler & Koch chimes in.

After delays the RFP for the major contract should be issued in the first half of 2017, reports the Defense Ministry. Actually a start at the end of 2016 had been envisioned. Due to painstaking preparation of the conract conditions, an “adjustment of the internal timeline” became necessary. The supply of new rifles should begin in 2020 and end 2026; originally 2019 has been named as a possible starting year.

Heckler & Koch and the Defense Ministry? Wasn’t there something about that? Officials and the department head, Ursula von der Leyen, had accused the firm of accuracy problems with the G36 in sustained fire and heat, and demanded damages. But the Koblenz State Court issued von der Leyen a setback in 2016: the judges ruled that, measured by the contract conditions, the rifle had no deficiencies. .

Essentially, the problem they found with the rifle was not a performance measure they specified when they were buying rifles, last time out. The courts ruled that Minister von der Leyen was in the position of someone who bought a car without air conditioning, and then demanded the dealer fix the AC.

But the Minister held to her decision to muster 167,000 G36s out at the end of this decade. In order to find a modern replacement, the Ministry is preparing a request for proposals….  Yet it’s not surprising that the Swabian gunmaker has thrown its hat in the ring. “You have to consider – Heckler & Koch is the official supplier to the Bundeswehr”, Wolf-Christian Paes from the Internationalen Konversionszentrum in Bonn explains. “We want the contract absolutely, for us it is also strategically important,” says Scheuch. His firm is heavily leveraged, but recently has reported better financials.

Does Heckler & Koch start off with a black mark for the big contract, due to the contretemps with the Ministry? “It’s going to be an objective competition,” company head Scheuch says. “The procurement branch of the Bundeswehr is large, versatile, and well organized — any disadvantage from a the person opinion of any individual involved is not a threat.”

Legal experts agree. “That’s not forced optimism from Heckler & Koch”, says contract lawyer Jan Byok from the offices of Bird & Bird. There will be “no whiff of discrimination”. If that were the case, the contract would be legally disputable — something the Government wants to avoid. In a pan-European contest, all participants have equal chances, Byok said.

Weapons expert Paes sees it similarly: from the Bundeswehr he has heard that H&K has considerable understanding there: the firm has provided what was ordered. Had they wanted rifles , that even in continuous fire remained highly accurate, they’d have had to pay more — but that didn’t happen, Paes says.

And then the writer takes a shot at handicapping the field:

Weapons experts see H&K somewhat advantaged, relative to foreign firms: should the US manufacturer Colt join in the competition, the “Bund” would probably prefer the German firm, somewhat, said Paes. “It’s an announced objective of the Government’s industrial policy, to retain manufacturing competence in the country.”

In 2016 H&K got a big contract from the French Army — and defeated the Belgian gunmaker FN. Such successes have consequences for the Bundeswehr contract, lawyer Byok said. … H&K also supplies the armies of Spain, Great Britain, and US special operations forces.

SIG-Sauer also wants the contract. But the Schleswig-Holstein subsidiary of a US business has only 120 employees, H&K on the other hand has 850. Is SIG-Sauer too small? A business has to have a certain minimum size to meet contract terms, says attorney Byok.

They could handle the contract in any case, a SIG-Sauer spokesman reports. “For one, because we have just now already expanded production capacity, for another, because the development of such a contract would take place over a longer period of time.  How the race ends is unclear. One thing is certain, for lawyer Byok: the contract will draw the attention of the entire small arms industry. Along with Colt and FN, the Italian gunsmith Beretta and the Czech firm CZ should throw their hats in the ring: “That would be everybody, who has a name and a rank” [in the industry].

That actually winds up being just about the whole article. Let us know if you spot any translation errors.

Exit thought: since nobody has seen the contract yet, what’s the over-under on it having some provision for limited dispersion of rounds from an overheated gun?

Ukraine to Buy 7.62 x 39 mm M16s… from Blimp Impresario?

We remember where we met Igor Pasternak — at the EAA Airventure in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the world’s largest airshow — but we don’t remember when. It might have been in the 1990s, or in one of those Augusts of the early oughts we didn’t spend in places named Stan.

Pasternak is a fast moving guy, bursting with energy, with a shock of hair that seemed to be stood up by the electricity within, as if he is his own Van Der Graaf generator. And he burned, inside, with the fire of the True Believer. There are several sub-strains of aviation that attract, well, wild-eyed zealots: one of them is lighter-than-air aircraft. Pasternak was a lighter-than-air True Believer: airships, dirigibles, blimps; the Age of the Zeppelin was ripe for return. And, indeed, he’s had some success with his company Aeros, making both airships (lighter-than-air-craft that can fly under control) and aerostats (tethered balloons) for military uses, even though his real passion is for really large airships for cargo transport.

So it’s kind of amazing to see him and Aeros showing up as the Ukraine’s next vendor of military rifles. But a quick check shows that Worldwide Aeros Corp. has a manufacturer FFL at the same Montebello, California address as Aeros, the blimp guys.

But Aeros will not be building any rifles in its California digs — instead, they will set up the Ukrainians to build their own. From the Ukrainian press:

Sergei Mykytyuk, the director of Ukroboronprom subsidiary Ukroboronservis, told journalists at a January 3 press conference in Kyiv with Aeroscraft CEO Igor Pasternak and Ukroboronprom director Vladimir Korobov, “The first weapon for the pilot project will be manufactured in Ukraine – a model M16 automatic rifle designated the WAC-47. Weapons manufacture to NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] standards is an important part of the development and reform of the Ukrainian military-industrial complex.” Aeroscraft’s Mr. Pasternak added, “The M-16 project was conceived some time ago, as the Ukrainian armed forces, border guards and National Guard will, with time, switch to NATO standards.”

Ukraine’s decision to manufacture assault rifles compatible with NATO standards represents the most decisive break yet with the remnants of its Soviet military-industrial complex heritage. Moreover, it is a significant symbol of Kyiv’s ongoing interest in eventual membership in the North Atlantic alliance.

As for Ukraine’s interaction with the North Atlantic Alliance, Ukroboronprom noted, “Ukrainian soldiers are already participating in joint maneuvers with NATO, there are joint teams with Lithuania and Poland, and the creation of a similar unit with other NATO countries Romania and Bulgaria has been proposed. Furthermore, Ukraine consistently participates in joint peacekeeping operations. And in each case, one of the problems is logistics. For example, in the Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian brigade [LitPolUkrBrig], Polish soldiers use the Beryl assault rifle, caliber 5.56×45, while Ukrainian soldiers use the automatic AKM or AKMS, caliber 7.62×39.” The introduction of the WAC-47 in significant numbers to the Ukrainian armed forces would eliminate this logistical bottleneck (Ukroboronprom.com.ua, January 10).

More details of the supposed contract appear in the Western press, but many of these details are not credible. Indeed, there is a lot of nonsense being written about this contract.

In order to modify a Ukrainian M16 to use NATO ammunition, the bolt and barrel will have to be replaced, Brian Summers, a U.S. Army veteran and weapons expert, told The Daily Signal.

“The only items that would have to be replaced are what I would describe as items that would normally be replaced based on use,” Summers said. “The magazines are ammo specific, and would have to be changed to the specific caliber.”

The M16 rifle has two main components—an upper and lower receiver. According to Summers, for a Soviet-caliber M16 to use NATO ammunition, only the upper receiver needs to be modified by replacing the bolt and barrel.

The M16 weapons system is “one of the most versatile weapon platforms in configuration and caliber,” Summers said. “Your troops essentially can train on one platform and when switching over to a new caliber do not need to be retrained in a new weapons system … Core of the platform, lower receiver, does not change and any optics can be moved.”

In the 1990s, Colt Defense LLC, the original M16 producer, produced a special civilian version of the military assault rifle designed to use Soviet 7.62×39 mm ammunition.

“I own this variant and if I want to fire 5.56 mm [NATO ammunition], I simply switch the upper receiver with 5.56 mm bolt and mags,” Summers said. “Two minutes to change.”

Exercise for the reader. Take an AR, any 5.56mm AR. (Most of you have one). Take an AK magazine, any 7.62mm AK mag. (Most of you have one of those, too). Insert Mag A in Magwell B. Wait, what? (The Colt version, long discontinued, uses proprietary magazines, seen with a 7.62 upper and a crude mag made from a 5.56 mag and an AK mag. It was discontinued in part because it doesn’t work terribly well).

A regular AK mag doesn’t go. If you’re a weapons expert, or even an ordinary retired 18B, or even just any one of the ten million Americans that buys an AR every year, you know that. If you’re the kind of “weapons expert” that Newsweek finds, like this guy, you don’t know that. If you’re a reporter, you live your life in the death-grip of the Dunning-Kruger effect about everything, and you can’t tell a phony weapons expert who’s never seen an AR and AK in the same place at the same time from the real thing. But you work for Newsweek, where everything  is “too good to check.”

In our opinion, the success of this program is uncertain. The Ukraine does have the aerospace industry necessary for AR parts manufacture, but the guy who’s going to teach them how to do it appears to have no significant background in firearms production. Now, of course, Gaston Glock has no significant background in firearms production before the Glock 17, and neither did many of the aeronautical-engineering experienced engineers at Armalite before the various 1950s Hollywood projects that would culminate in the AR-10 and AR-15. Perhaps some day we’ll all be lining up to buy awesome caliber-convertible carbines from Kiev.

But that’s not the bet that the oddsmakers would put the house money on.