Category Archives: Industry

Sten Gun Manufacturing, 1943 or So

This footage survives because it was documenting something thought remarkable at the time — entire ordnance factories operated mostly by women. But if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may be more interested in what these British ladies are doing in the Royal Ordnance Factory at Enfield: manufacturing STEN Mk II submachine guns.

The guns and their near-cottage-industry manufacturing processes are both interesting. The guns are clearly Mk. IIs, but there appear to be two variants of the tee stock — perhaps the film crew was there at the exact moment of a running change, or perhaps the stocks came in from subcontractors and a degree of variation in appearance was the norm.

The industrial processes in use include some automatic rifling machines, but it looks like a lot of manual labor went into a STEN. It was only the el cheapo gun of legend because these ladies of Enfield were getting paid such token sums. In the short video, you’ll see brazing, welding, and hand-riveting with a hammer. There has to be a video somewhere of Guide Lamp cranking out Grease Guns, and you can imagine the automotive industry process engineers shaking their heads if they saw how a STEN went together.

Some men work in the plant, too, but the original filmmaker’s focus was on the women. Men have had held some jobs exclusively, including test-firing completed STENs, but women are doing a lot of things that they’d never have applied themselves to pre-1939. After the war, it was no longer unprecedented for women to work outside the home, even in industrial crafts, and England (and the world) never reverted to the status quo ante.

As a bonus, in keeping with the theme of women in war production, here’s a film about how they did it at the Willow Run B-24 plant (Ypsilanti, MI).

Tracking Tease

Got a phone call yesterday from a friend at a range in West Virginia. Three guys including a former SF man, a former SEAL (range officer), and a dealer/gunsmith/armorer without military service cracked the box on a new TrackingPoint .300 WM rifle on a long range.

This is file photo a standard TP XS3 rifle. Don't know yet what exact model our guys had.

This is file photo a standard TP XS3 rifle. Don’t know yet what exact model our guys had.

Quick take-aways:

  • Best packaged gun any of them had ever seen. In the gunsmith’s experience, that’s out of thousands of new guns.
  • Favorably impressed with the quality of the gun and the optic. It “feels” robust.
  • It’s premium priced, but with premium quality. Rifle resembles a Surgeon rifle. “The whole thing is top quality all the way, no corners cut, no expense spared.” They throw in an iPad. The scope itself serves its images up as wifi.
  • First shot, cold bore, no attempt to zero, 350 meters, IPSC sized metal silhouette: “ding!” They all laughed like maniacs. It does what the ads say.
  • Here’s how the zero-zero capability works:  they zero at the factory, no $#!+, and use a laser barrel reference system to make automatic, no-man-in-the-loop, corrections. Slick.
  • The gun did a much better job of absorbing .300WM recoil than any 300WM any of them have shot. With painful memories of developmental .300WM M24 variants, that was interesting. “Seriously, it’s like shooting my .308.”
  • By the day’s end, the least experienced long-range shooter, who’d never fired a round at over 200 meters, was hitting moving silhouettes at 850 yards. In the world of fiction where all snipers take head shots at 2000m with a .308, that’s nothing, but in the world of real lead on target, it’s huge. 
  • It requires you to unlearn some processes and learn some new ones, particularly with respect to trigger control. But that’s not impossible, or even very hard.
  • They didn’t put wind speed into the system, and used Kentucky windage while placing the “tag.” This worked perfectly well.
  • An experienced sniper or long range match shooter, once he gets over the muscle memory differences, will get even more out of the TrackingPoint system than a novice, but
  • A novice can be made very effective, very fast, at ranges outside of the engagement norm, with this system.

As Porky Pig says, for now, “Ib-a-dee-ib-a-dee-ib-a-dee-That’s all, folks!” But we’re promised more, soon.

Everybody is really impressed with the Tracking Point system. No TP representative was there and as far as we know this is the first report on a customer gun in the field, not some massaged handpicked gunwriter version. And as far as we know this is the first report on a customer’s experience with both experienced school-trained snipers and an inexperienced long-range shooter. The key take-away is the novice’s ringing of the 850m bell on moving targets. That’s Hollywood results without the special effects budget, and with real lead on real target. No marketing, no bullshit, just hits.

We asked about robustness. This isn’t like the ACOG you can use as a toboggan on an Afghan stairway and hold zero (don’t ask us how we know that one). But it seemed robust to the pretty critical gang shooting it Friday.

We wish Chris Kyle were here to see this. Maybe he already has!

Stand by for more on TrackingPoint, and on more on this range complex when the principals are willing to have some publicity.

PC Plod seizes “3D Printed Gun Parts” — that weren’t.

Hot-Fuzz-2The Greater Manchester (England) Police are looking staggeringly inept after a highly publicized raid that seized “gun parts” turned out to be nothing of the sort. Working on a tip, the Manchester rozzers seized a MakerBot Replicator 2 and a number of works in progress that they trumpeted in a media event as “gun parts.”

Greater Manchester Police have seized a 3D printer and suspected “homemade” gun components during police raids in Manchester. Detectives initially said the parts are being testing to see whether the gun were viable.

They said more than that. The pointy-headed flatfeet trumpeted that they’d seized gun parts including a “gun clip” and a “trigger.” But they hadn’t, actually: the “gun parts” were Replicator 2 spares. The “clip” was a filament spool holder, and the “trigger” a feed pawl for the filament feed. Fail.

“Gun Clip,” per the Greater Manchester Police.

Filament spool holder, per Makerbot. Heh.

Police have issued a new statement following earlier claims after the 3D printing community pointed out they may be harmless printer upgrade parts.

“We need to be absolutely clear that at that this stage, we cannot categorically say we have recovered the component parts for a 3D gun,” write the police in the statement.

“Can’t categorically say,” PC Plod? Taking time to walk this one back, apparently. You know, the longer it takes to admit you blew it, the more embarrassing it is. People in the 3D community recognized the parts almost instantaneously when the first press release hit:

3ders user Chris Thorpe says “they’re replacement parts for a MakerBot”, and user Joo and Kit F point out that “gun clip” is a spool holder for the Replicator 2.

via 3ders.org – 3D printer ‘gun parts’ found in Manchester raid may be parts for a printer | 3D Printer News & 3D Printing News.

Still, despite the British cops twisting in the wind as bunglers, it’s very different from the bungling our Yank cops get up to. Nobody’s been shot (not even the dog). Or beaten up, or thrown on death row because some payroll patriot in the evidence locker lost the DNA proving him innocent. So, there is that.

One hopes the media will be there when a red-faced policeman — undoubtedly one much lower-ranking that the one that ordered the raid — brings back the MakerBot.

Incidentally, you can’t really make guns on a MakerBot very well, as they only really support polylactic acid (PLA), and PLA isn’t strong enough. The Liberators the Australian police and the BBC blew up were deliberately made flimsy, by using PLA and as little as 20% infill (the instructions specify ABS or nylon, and 100% infill). They also used 9mm parabellum ammunition in the .380 chamber. Gee, shocking it blew up, eh?

Printed AR Lowers Continue to Evolve

The mainstream media have left this behind for now, although another round of ZOMG Invisible Ghost Guns!!1!!!1!! is never too far in the future, and indeed in Calfruitopia a “Ghost gun ban” bill which criminalizes build-your-own firearms is on the desk of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh er, Governor Brown. (We regret the error. They’re easily confused). But printed AR lower designs continue to evolve.

The process is largely an iterative one, driven by trial and error, with the errors exposed by testing. This photo shows you a handful of the iterations that have been tried, rejected, and improved, and tried again.

Printed Lowers

This is hardly the first time iterative engineering has been applied to this 60-year-old design. Armalite modified the prototype AR forging for greater strength where prototypes were weak, and Colt modified production receivers for greater strength where service found them vulnerable to failure (i.e. from Model 601 to Model 602 to 603, and from 603 to 703; for the last, compare the profiles of the buffer tower and front pin areas of an M16A1 and A2 lower receiver).  In just the same way that Colt reinforced the lower receiver of the M16 for greater service durability, the experimenters working with FDM plastic lowers have reinforced those same vulnerable areas (and others) to adjust for the different  properties of their material, relative to the forged 7075 aluminum alloy of the original.

Note the reinforced buffer tower and greater material thickness near the top of the control cavity.

Note the reinforced buffer tower and greater material thickness near the top of the control cavity.

Right now, they’re getting the strength back by simply beefing these areas up and changing shapes and angles to eliminate designed-in stress risers. It time, it’s possible that an arrangement of ribs or stiffeners may provide the required strength while allowing material usage and print time to be reduced again, but for right now, it looks like a lower with massive lugs in the front, a cut-off mag well, and reinforced areas along the top of the control cavity will get the job done.

mpOYpPt

We don’t have info, yet, on the performance of the FOSSCAD Vanguard in the field, but it does build in to a firearm:

jt printed lower Assembled into AR best jt printed lower Assembled into AR

JT printed lower

Another goal of the tinkerers has been to improve the buildability of the lower on ordinary, consumer-grade 3D Printers. The first working LR was printed by Have Blue on a commercial Stratasys machine that cost a king’s ransom when new. This example was printed on a DaVinci 1.0 printer, a unit  that uses 0.6 kg filament cartridges and prints only in polylactic acid (PLA) plastic. It’s made by XYZPrinting in Taiwan and is available for $500 from Amazon and other resellers. As the Amazon reviews should show you, this is a low-end printer indeed. Yet, it produces a functional Lower Receiver.

The JT Vanguard on the DaVinci print bed, with support material that is readily removed.

The JT Vanguard on the DaVinci print bed, with support material that is readily removed.

This is one genie that cannot be rebottled. The technology is marching inexorably toward greater capability: more speed, better resolution, better materials, lower cost. Luddites like California’s Governor Brown and State Senator Kevin de Leon who would ban this technology are the equivalent of the Stasi, trying to keep East Germans in line by registering typewriters lest someone express an unauthorized idea.

Even the mighty shoguns of Japan, who had power that todays power-lusting politicians can only fantasize about, could not arrest the march of technology — they could only delay it, locally, and at the cost of national weakness.

Meanwhile, while California politicians are winding up to throw their wooden shoes into the machinery, technology stays ahead of them on fleet feet — probably shot in Made-in-USA New Balances. Manufacturing’s not dead, but some states can kill it locally if they like.

All images from FOSSCAD.

UPDATE

Here’s another FOSSCAD Vanguard being printed, this time on a Printrbot (another entry level printer). And here’s the Imura Revolver, named after open-source gunsmithing’s first martyr.

Beretta’s Smart Gun for PDs, Military: iProtect Analyzed

Beretta presented a novel smart-gun concept at a recent defense expo overseas, which they called iProtect. This video shows how it works, using an RF-enabled gun with multiple sensors.

Here’s another video, with Beretta executive explaining how the gun works with the Robocop t-shirt.

You don’t have to be Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden to be a little creeped out by that.

Supposedly, the Beretta technology provides comprehensive surveillance but not control of the firearm, at least at this time. One consequence of that is that it is fail-safe: if the central office drops off the net (anyone remember the first responder commo chaos of 9/11?) the nifty features don’t work, but the gun just reverts to being a plain-vanilla PX4 Storm. This PX4i is, in fact, a PX4 with some minituarized sensors deployed in it:

iprotect_firearm_sensors

Many gun vendors and writers are appalled by this idea, but the iProtect needs to be understood, both in terms of its intended niche, and its likelihood of succeeding there. Neither indicates that Beretta intends (or has produced) a threat to civilian gun owners with this technology. More realistically, this is a technology demonstration for future potential developments in law enforcement and military weapons, rather than a practical product in 2014.

Here’s Beretta’s brochure on the technology, to give you more depth than is available in the videos, although the videos are probably a better overview of this complex and interdependent system.

How Times do Change

In 1999, when other gun makers including SIG and Colt were making balky “smart guns,” Beretta issued a manifesto denying their interest in any such thing. Beretta wrote:

Although the concept of a “smart gun” or “personalized gun” has received public attention recently, we believe that careful consideration has not been given to potentially dangerous risks associated with these concepts. In our opinion, such technology is undeveloped and unproven. In addition, Beretta strongly believes that “smart gun” technology or “personalized” guns (hereinafter also referred to as “smart gun” technology) could actually increase the number of fatal accidents involving handguns.

But that was then, this is now. 

Back in the bad old 90s, the anti-gun Clinton administration and their allies in Congress and in state legislatures were pushing hard for smart guns as a means to disarm citizens and centrally control armed police. (Some officials then and now believe that cops should lock their guns in a station arms room at shift’s end, and a few PDs actually do this). The policymakers pushing this saw technology in the automotive and computer worlds (we dunno, like the chip-in-the-key in our ’89 Corvette that used to occasionally turn on the alarm for no particular reason? that they imagined would adapt to guns, no problem. They disregarded many things, like the different volumetric envelope in a car and a gun, and made no bones about their nominal “safetyt” push really being all about citizen disarmament. A key problem with the high-tech push was that politicians have never successfully scheduled an inventiuon in the past, and they didn’t this time, either. By the time quasi-working “smart guns” were going bang six times out of ten, the would-be launch customers — various anti-gun officials of the Clinton Administration — had moved on to K Street at the change of administrations.

SIG-Sauer-P229-EPLS_001SIG’s late-90s entry, the SIG P229 EPLS, illustrated some of the problems with these arms. To be set to fire, a PIN had to be entered on a keypad on the gun’s nose, and a time period entered. So, for example, policemen would have their guns enabled only for the duration of their shifts. The pistol was not fail-safe in any way: the failure mode was that, if the electronics borked, the gun remained on the last setting indefinitely, whatever it was.

The 229 EPLS was unreliable and never went into series production; 15 or so prototypes and pre-production test articles were made, some of which may have been released to collectors according to this article at Guns and Ammo.

Colt made an effort to spin off a smart-gun subsidiary, called, we are not making this up, iColt. There is no sign of it today; Colt’s perennial dance with the threat of bankruptcy was mortal to any engineering resource-suck with such an uncertain path to returns.

The “Smart Gun” that’s in the news: Armatix iP1

Beretta’s plan for intelligent duty firearms, iProtect, is radically different from the publicity-focused smart-gun maker, Armatix. Armatix’s designer is Ernst Mauch, the prime mover of HK during its decades-long phase of HK: Because You Suck, and We Hate You hostility to nongovernmental customers, and he brings his superior, anti-customer attitude to Armatix. The company’s strategy is to have its gun mandated by authorities: it has come close in New Jersey, and one candidate in the Democrats’ Sep. 9th primary for Attorney General of Massachusetts (Warren Tolman) has promised to ban all other handguns if elected. (Yes, Massachusetts law and case law does give that official this power. No word on whether he has a stake in Armatix).

The gun itself is a poor design, kind of like some of Mauch’s later HK abortions (UMP, M8). Its reliability approaches 19th-Century lows: few reviewers have gotten through a 10-shot magazine without a failure to feed, some of which seem to relate to the magazine and in some of which the slide does not go into battery. Armatix’s idea of fail-safe electronics is this: if the electronics fail, they brick the gun, therefore it’s safe.

Because the fragile Made in Germany electronics aren’t ready for centerfire prime time, the gun will be available only in .22 long rifle for the foreseeable future. For a .22 it’s bulky, and it has only average accuracy.

Pity it doesn’t have the red HK on it. Then, at least the fanboys would buy it.

The iProtect system is not like the Armatix, or other Smart Guns

Like SIG in the 90s, Beretta began with a decent pistol and then added the electronics to it, in Beretta’s case the underrated Px4 Storm. Like SIG, there’s a bulky “light” on the rail that contains the brain. The gun is truly fail-safe: if the electronics go paws up, the gun doesn’t. In fact, the operator can dismount the “brain” at any time.

Unlike Armatix, iProtect has not been launched with noises about the authorities having an ability to remotely brick the firearm. And it does not brick itself if the battery runs down. Beretta also addressed another weakness (or at least, inconvenience) of battery-powered gear by making the black box’s battery wireless rechargeable.

The “brain” is not really the key to the system, though: the key is the Black Box’s networked communications abilities. First, it talks to the sensors on the gun itself, monitoring the position of the gun and its controls much the same way a Digital Flight Data Recorder monitors the position of an airplane’s control surfaces and flight control inputs. The brain transmits that information to a central control console. Since all of the smarts are in firmware and software, they can be updated more or less on the fly to add new capabilities (and, no doubt, to squash bugs. It’s practically impossible to write a program more useful than “Hello, world!” without introducing bugs).

 

But the gun’s communication with the central office is only part of it, because it’s also networked to a smartphone or other communications device, and to a special t-shirt that monitor’s the officer’s position, activity, and health status of the carrier (if you’ve ever worn a chest strap when exercising, you’ll get the general idea).

And a key feature of iProtect, absent from other smart guns, is geolocation. The gun knows where it is — and tells the office, many times a second. This complicates things for those criminals who would murder a cop for his gun (like Dzhokar and Tamerlan Tsarnayev did after they bombed the Boston Marathon finish line). It’s one thing to have a gun that’s so hot it’s radioactive, but it’s a whole other game to have one that’s constantly phoning home and otherwise subject to electronic track & trace.

Of course, it also complicates things for cops who would spend their shift cooping behind a strip mall, or unofficially 10-7 at Krispy Kreme. If you’re That Guy, the relative smartness of your gun is not going to affect your police work in any way, anyway.

Problems with iProtect?

Unlike Armatix, iProtect is not a play to disarm the public; it’s a play to increase the information flow in police dispatch offices. There it runs into a problem, in US law enforcement: the Beretta system is best used by intelligent cops and intelligent, expert even, dispatchers. But many large metro departments in the USA — exactly the target market for iProtect — have upper as well as lower bounds for cop IQ. (These departments also tend to have low closure rates on cases requiring in-depth, imaginative investigations, oddly enough). But at least the typical cop is a man or woman of average smarts. The dispatchers are a different thing. It the USA it’s a low-paid, low-status occupation, and it tends to attract people who are a half-step above the welfare lines: the same sort of people who work, if that’s the word, in the DMV or other menial clerical jobs in local government. One consequence of this is the periodic dispatch scandals like this one, a rather trivial violation that went, as usual, unpunished; or this more serious one that ended with a dead caller, a fired dispatcher, and one more illustration of the sad fact that when seconds count, police are minutes away. Literally none of the dispatchers at a modern urban police department has a place in the high-tech, high-demand dispatch center envisioned by iProtect.

The 80-IQ dispatcher is a mountain that iProtect must climb if it is going to sell here in the USA — and it’s a mountain it probably can’t summit. But even the dispatcher problem is secondary to the real Achilles Heel of iProtect: it’s a proprietary, closed system. It not only works with the PX4i, it only works with the PX4i. It only works with Beretta’s own high-tech undershirt. It only works with the Beretta communications and dispatch system.  It requires the agency to recapitalize everything at once. Line cops don’t think of budgetary and logistical problems, but chiefs and commissioners spend most of their time on them.

It’s also self-evident that iProtect has no real utility at this time for the private or individual owner, or even to the rural sheriff’s office or small-town PD: it’s only of interest to large police departments, the only users that can resource it properly. (In the long run, the sheriffs of sparsely populated counties might really like the geolocation capability, though; it goes beyond geolocating the police car, something modern tech already can do, and tracks both the officer and his or her sidearm. That’s a big deal for situational awareness if you’ve got a wide open range and very few sworn officers).

So what’s the verdict?

iprotectIn sum, the iProtect system is an ingenious adaptation of modern communications technology to the police defensive-firearm sphere. It poses no direct threat to gun rights, although cops may find being monitored all the time a little creepy. (Welcome to the pilot’s world, pal). But as it sits there are obstacles to its adoption. These obstacles are organizational, cultural and financial — we don’t yet know how well the system works, but assuming arguendo that all Beretta’s claims about it are true, there don’t seem to be technical obstacles holding it back.

Like the plain old dumb guns that just sit there until animated by human will, the good or evil of a smart gun is in the intent of the mind behind it.

Redundancies at Remington, Sackings at Savage

dithers_fires_dagwoodLayoffs are in the news this week, with skilled workers getting the boot for reasons of both politics and business.

105-150 jobs cut at Remington in Ilion, New York, as the company relocates from the hostile ground of Cuomostan to more congenial climes. Hat tip Bob Owens, who says:

We’re not just seeing gun rights and gun jobs lost as a result of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s spiteful NY SAFE Act. We’re seeing the destruction of American history, and the slow death of a small town, all in the drunken pursuit of political power.

Well, what do you expect? “Elections have consequences,” one of the most gifted politicians i history is reported to have said. Syracuse.com reports that the AR lines (notably Bushmaster) and 1911 pistol are moving to Huntsville because they are threatened by Cuomo’s Orwellian-labeled SAFE Act

Politics don’t seem to be the main driver in another 95 redundancies at Savage in Westfield, MA, or 25 further layoffs in an Ontario, Canada facility. Savage does not make guns threatened by most states’ legislation, even New York’s, but its home state of Massachusetts has passed a new law that makes the required permit for a long gun (or BB gun) a may-issue license, depending on the whims of police. The real driver of the layoffs, though, is Savage’s purchase by Alliant Techsystems (ATK).

Savage has a long, and turbulent, history, according to MassLive.com:

ATK’s $315-million purchase of the Savage Sports Corp. went through in July 2013. The Savage Arms Co. was first organized in 1894 by Arthur Savage in Utica, N.Y. In 1920, the company bought Stevens Arms of Chicopee.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, the company was passed from owner to owner, including a stint as part of Black & Decker. Savage declared bankruptcy in 1988 when it was losing $25 million a year.

Ronald Coburn took over that year and brought Savage out of bankruptcy by cutting costs and focusing on bolt-action rifles, an area of the firearms business in which Savage developed a specialty.

In 1995, Coburn and his investors bought Savage and its subsidiaries for $33 million.

Coburn retired in February 2013 just as the sale to ATK was announced.

ATK plans to spin off all its sporting-goods suppliers into one firm, Vista Outdoor, keeping the defense industry suppliers in the original firm. ATK will remain, and Vista will become, publicly held firms. Those plans are proceeding, and now ATK plans, once it has shed Vista, to merge with Orbital Sciences Corporation. The details of the ATK-Vista-Orbital agreement are found in this SEC filing, which we don’t think has been linked elsewhere in the gun press.

The precise terms of the agreement get quite complicated, as you might expect would happen in a break-up and followup merger of such large firms.

Don’t be a Dick’s: Anti-Gun Gun Store’s Income Sinks

Ah, let us taste the sweet nectar of Schadenfreude.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. (DKS) on Tuesday reported net income that declined by 17 percent in its fiscal second quarter, and beat analysts’ expectations.

The Coraopolis, Pennsylvania-based company said profit fell to $69.5 million, or 57 cents per share, from $84.2 million, or 67 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

Dick’s Sporting Goods shares have declined $14.59, or 25 percent, to $43.51 since the beginning of the year.

via Dick’s Profit Sinks on Higher Costs, Restructuring Charge | Fox Business.

Revenues actually rose slightly, and they beat the analysts by a couple pennies, because the analysts were already expecting them to decline. So the stock ticked up a hair. But here’s a couple of fine points from Yahoo Finance.

Screenshot 2014-08-21 00.37.35

 

The first, the big chart, is the six month performance of the stock. Next, look at the lowest section of the graphic, which tracks Dick’s for over ten years. It took a hit like everyone in the Great Bath of 2008, but then recovered — until it went Full Bloomberg. Note how 2014 (far right) doesn’t look like the previous years. Only two analysts have issued recommendations on the stock in 2014, and they split (Hold and Buy).

Compare Smith & Wesson over the same period. We think of Smith as the most volatile of the gun stocks, but look how big the squares of this graph are! The stock has varied, but over a $5 range; and the June peak was a 52-week, post-Recession, and all-time (since 1998 or so, when the chart begins) high.

Screenshot 2014-08-21 00.49.02

Dick’s has been looking for a way to get back into the growing, profitable end of the gun market without bringing down the wrath of the Bloomberg Rent-a-Moms, who were praising it when it threw the gun culture overboard.

Stag Arms Introduces 9mm Carbines

A few days ago, Stag introduced a series of 9mm carbines that have some similarities to the Colt workhorse of DOE and police fame, and have a few new features. The Model 9 is available in right or left-handed, and in Tactical or (we guess, to steal from David Ogilvy, “diffident about tactical”) regular trim. This is a regular, RH-oriented Stag Model 9:

Stag Model 9

That’s the factory photo. It does embiggen with a click. The Stag 9 upper is much like the Colt’s, with no ejector port door and a polymer ejected-case bumper, as is the blowback, non-locking bolt/carrier unit. Unlike Colt, which uses an insert in an ordinary AR lower, the Stag has a dedicated lower, that’s broached (or more likely, wire-EDM’d) only for the 9mm mag, same mag as Colt’s. Here’s the Tactical version in left hand, with the mag in:

Stag Model 9TL

The rounded rectangular protrusion on the upper forging that, on a locked-bolt rifle, gives the cam pin a place to rest, serves no purpose on the 9mm AR, but it’s there because the gun is only economical because the same forging is used for the 9mm upper, and the one for other, more usual AR calibers.

As you can see, “tactical” gets you a free-floating handguard and pop-up sights. Both handguards take Diamondhead rails; the non-“tactical” version has a conventional “gas block” although it taps no gas from the non-ported barrel, and it comes without sights (or, in marketing-speak, “optics ready.”

On the principle than only a fool invents a new feed system when he doesn’t have to, the Colt mag is based on the venerable Uzi mag, and is available in 20- and 32-round lengths (as opposed to the Uzi’s 25 and 32). Of course, no one has tried Uzi mags in the introduced-last-week Stag 9mm yet, but people have had mixed, mostly bad, luck with Uzi mags in Colts, and people have had all kinds of bad luck with just about everything in non-Colt 9mm ARs — making a 9mm AR that runs is harder than it looks. Making a 9mm that runs on a wide range of ammo is really hard, because the recoil impulse varies so widely, and any blowback system is optimized for a specific recoil impulse. That was one advantage of HK’s old MP5 and its roller-locking system. Even though the MP5 could be fussy about hollow points, it didn’t sweat bullet weight and powder charge changes too much.

A 9mm AR is always a bit homely, if not deformed, looking, but they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The pistol caliber submachine gun or carbine has always had a niche, and that niche is, mostly, indoors. So the optimum 9mm AR (assuming, ceteris paribus, the thing works) might actually be a small SMG or SBR, much like the special Colt Model 633 that was used by DOE. The 633 had a controllable rate of fire by using a special hydraulic buffer, different from that in other Colt 9mms. Stag’s press release has no details of their 9mm buffer, except that it is different from that in their other rifles. At the reasonable, sub-$1k list of the basic 9mm, a hydraulic buffer is unlikely.

 

The 9mm SMG had a run in the conventional military from 1918 to circa 1965-70, when assault rifles replaced most of them. It had a second lease on life in the 70s and 80s as a special operations CQB weapon. It was replaced by the 5.56mm carbine in military special operations for specific reasons, having to do with the 9mm’s range envelope. There have always been problems transitioning from the 9mm’s close-combat sweet spot to engage targets further out. A specific combat operation in Grenada in 1982 where American SOF found themselves outranged by meatheads with assault rifles was, if not the cause, the catalyst for the change.

But the police don’t have that reason to move to the 5.56 and they’re doing it, as far as we can tell, both because reliable 5.56 carbines are far easier to come by, and, perhaps, because of a certain “operator” cachet. They may be making an error. A 115 grain 9mm JHP will still overpenetrate in an indoor setting, but not like an M855A1 round will, and the 9mm (with modern defensive ammo) will do a decent job of putting an armed and hostile Wealth Redistribution Engineer down. It’s a tough call for the cops, though, because their rifle-engagement callouts are so rare, you can’t really say what the “usual” one is like. You can make some statistical inferences, but every new call is a roll of the dice, and it may turn out the capability needed is the barrier-blind penetration that a 9mm leaves on the table.

Having a 9 with the same manual of arms of the 5.56 is a plus. The Stag and Colt keep most of the key muscle memory points the same as on the rifle-cartridge AR. Even the very different, non-AR SIG MPX sought this same positive training transfer by keeping key fingerings (trigger, safety, mag release) identical to the AR.

If the Stag runs reliably, and there’s no reason to expect it not to, it gives 9mm carbine users another option besides trying to wring another year out of vintage and weary MP5s, going to the SIG MPX, going Colt or ditching the pistol round for 5.56. And on stuff like this, it’s good to have choices.

The technical stuff rom the Press Release:

Both the Model 9 & 9T series boast a 1/10 twist 16” heavy barrel, blowback action, a 6-position adjustable buttstock, and as always they are available in right & left hand configurations. The safety, charging handle, and magazine release function the same as any AR-15. However we have designed the actions of the rifles from the ground up. The rifles accept standard Colt style 9mm AR magazines which insert into the integrated magazine well in the lower receiver. The integrated magazine well won’t come loose or have feeding issues accompanied with drop in magazine blocks. Differences from a standard AR-15 can also be found in the lower receiver with a specially designed hammer, magazine catch, and buffer. In the Upper half, the bolt and carrier are one piece with a modified ejection port cover and brass deflector.

The Model 9 and 9T have different configurations. The Model 9 has a railed gas block and drop in Diamondhead VRS-T modular handguard with no sights. The Model 9T is the tactical version with a free floating 13.5” Diamondhead VRS-T modular handguard and aluminum Diamondhead flip up sights for faster target acquisitions. Both rifles will accept the Diamondhead rail sections for extreme customization.

For more information, and for the specs on each model, Read The Whole Thing™.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Pre98.com

French 1935A pistols are common -- but not in this condition.

French 1935A pistols are uncommon, not “rare” — except in this condition, and with an Indochina period rig. In stock at Pre98.com.

There are lots of dealers of 20th Century guns, but Scotty Benedict makes a business of selling the sort of guns you usually only see at national auctions: mint, rare, and mint and rare guns are the bulk of his offerings. His website is the slightly misleading URL, Pre98.com (as most of his inventory is 20th Century). The online catalog of goodies is at shop.pre98.com. Inventory is updated extremely often.

We have been around since 1989 dealing mostly in WW2 arms and militaria. Our specialties are mint condition firearms and very nice holsters….. We decided to open this web site to give you exclusive access to what we have in stock in the way of firearms and accessories. We will continue to improve the site and hope you will visit often to see what we have dredged up.

There will also be some rare and desirable commercial guns. This site gives you exclusive access to the firearms and accessories that made it into my inventory. Now you don’t have to wait for a gun show to see what I have found.

Gathering the best items is too big of a job for one person to handle. I have a virtual army of collectors who regularly channel new goodies into the pipeline. As a very serious and advanced collector myself, my eye is trained to be quite discerning about what we pick up. I take great pride in the herd that we bring to market. I personally guarantee the authenticity of each item and the accuracy of its description.

Since most of my customers are serious collectors, almost all of our business is with Curio and Relics (C&R) licensees and FFL transfers. When you find that special gun you’ve been looking for, we’ll work with you to make the buying process as painless as possible while complying with all applicable firearms regulations.

via Pre98.com – Home.

One of the neat things about Scotty is that he keeps records of some of the best pieces he has sold in the past, so you can not only jones over the guns you can’t afford now, you can jones over the ones you couldn’t afford last year (but some other lucky fellow did).

We have not personally bought from Scotty, but we just looked at literally every item in his inventory. Nothing is cheap, but he is correct in noting that he has among the best examples of both common (think 1911 or Garand) and uncommon (Broomhandle, French 1935A, VIS Radom, etc.) firearms on the market. For example, this mint commercial Broomhandle comes with the original stock:

Mauser C96 Broomhandle

Price? We’ve bought cars for less. Here’s Scotty’s description:

In 98% original very crisp condition, we have a very rare Model 1896 flatside large ring C96 Mauser Broomhandle pistol that is still with the factory original matching numbered stock. This pistol was manufactured in the middle of 1900 and was exported to America and sold by the famed New York firearms firm Von Lengerke & Detmold and is so marked. This pistol has a mint bore and is in exceptional condition, you just do not see these early Broomhandles that look this good and never with a matching stock. This is one of the most sought after and difficult Broomhandles to obtain. These flat side large ring C96’s are very interesting pistols. The firm marking will make an highly sought after pistol like this even more desirable,.

Yes, the Broomhandle is x-pensive. There’s an original, prewar engraved PPK that’s even more expensive. He also has not one, but four non-import Makarovs to choose from.

Not everything is priced to give you High Altitude Cerebral Edema, though. For instance, here’s a nice, solid and representative 1944 M1 Carbine:

M1 Carbine 1944

Scotty calls it good-plus, original, and has priced it just a nudge above an average carbine at $1,450. So there are some within reach of t he working man; the others, he must plan to sell to VA managers or something. But they sure are beautiful to look at.

If you like what you see at Scotty’s site, his friend Jim has similar quality stuff at LegacyCollectibles.com, too.

It’s not just guns: a scene from the war on guitars

RIP, Ovation. This is a more upscale model, but the same color.

RIP, Ovation. This is a more upscale model, but the same color.

If you were in 10th SF Group in the early 1980s, you might remember a guy who had a funny-looking red guitar with a couple of appropriate stickers (like one from Soldier of Fortune) magazine on it. He sang the usual parodies — a pop hit “Don’t you Forget About me” came out as “Don’t you give me VD.” And the unit songs, like Bovine, Frog and Lopez’s “You Don’t Bludgeon a Seal,” which was about the cute pups of the marine mammal, not their naval namesakes, who could have that cold-water swimming $#!+, as far as we were concerned. And a few originals, like “Night Patrol”:

On a night patrol you live in fear,

That the sound of a breaking twig might reach a foreign ear.

Good people, good times, a good guitar. The guitar was truly weird, although by the time it was made in the 1970s they’d started catching on. Product of a spinoff of an aerospace company, it was the first acoustic guitar to be widely available with electronics built-in. Behind the red soundboard, with its odd pattern of holes, was a polymer bowl; the neck was a space-age graphite composite material, molded to an aluminum armature and set automatically by the factory. Every part came out of the autoclave perfect, and was fused at the perfect angle. It wasn’t entirely indestructible, but it was close. (Singer Jim Croce had one, and in its case, it was fine after the plane crash that killed him). There was very little maintenance required, an important factor for an instrument that would be palletized by team members, or worse, the group riggers under the guidance of Air Force loadmasters.

Best of all, Col. Richard W. Potter, Jr., Commanding… hated that guitar. “^$$*!! I hear a guitar.  Sergeant Major, I told you to keep that guitar off this deployment!”

We bet, when you saw “the war on guitars,” you thought we’d bring up the Government’s war on Gibson Guitar Company, which weaponized Federal agencies stretched laws to do — because the head of Gibson, Henry Juskiewicz, was a Designated Enemy of The Party. Nope. Henry can defend himself quite ably, and has done so. Google is your pal if you don’t know what we’re talking about. But that guitar that so entertained (or irritated) Green Berets at airstrips, SFOBs, isolation areas and Lord knows where else across America and Europe was an Ovation, spun off in an imaginative attempt to apply aerospace technology to guitar making. Just because the guy who ran an aerospace company, Charlie Kaman, who made rescue helicopters for the Air Force and Navy, was a guitar player who got the idea of combining the technology with his hobby — kind of like Sullivan with Armalite, actually.

Dannel Malloy, the anti-gun and anti-manufacturing Governor of Connecticut hasn’t just attacked the gun industry in the Nutmeg State, you see; he’s attacked all industry, and industry has reacted. Sikorsky, for example, moved its R&D “Hawk Werks” to another state, where they wouldn’t have to deal with Malloy’s pals, the mobbed-up unions. Because, who would want his state to be the home of the future of helicopter R&D?

Kaman, itself once a series helicopter maker itself, makes odds and ands for other defense contractors more than it makes helicopters any more. Even though its K-Max was revolutionary, today’s DOD actually would rather hire that heavy-lift capability from Russian or Ukrainian Mi-26 operators.

And Ovation finally closed its doors. A Hartford Courant writer, Dan Haar, was there, which is a delightful irony, because the Courant is all for whatever The Party decrees, and manufacturing is bad and evil, except for the Jobs, which don’t offset the Evil Profit Thing enough to survive. Or something. Anyway, here’s Haar going all sentimental with the last workers as they literally lock up the place.

Just about everyone had said farewell a few weeks earlier, when production stopped.

Back on that glum day, six or eight guys had climbed up into the tower of the 1840s mill building and rung the iron bell 47 times — one for each year Ovation made guitars at the New Hartford factory on the Farmington River.

Now, with the machines gone, just two factory employees remained: Howard Ives, a master craftsman who made the high-end Adamas line of instruments, mostly by hand; and Mark Lamanna, who joined the company just out of trade school three decades ago and rose through the ranks to head production for the past 10 years.

Lamanna stood with David Hurley on the vast, L-shaped, wooden floor, noisy with the task of making 15,000 instruments a year not long ago, now silent and empty except for two lone tables and rows of ancient wooden support columns, painted white. Hurley, whose family owns the historic building, is president of the Hurley Manufacturing Co., a spring-maker that shared the complex with Ovation.

via Closing Notes Of Ovation Plant: Memories And Music – Courant.com.

Ovation guitars are going to be made, probably to a lower standard, in some place like Indonesia or Vietnam; they’ll either be a lot cheaper or make middlemen a lot richer, and old, American Ovations will join the ranks of treasured vintage instruments.

Haar catches part of what Connecticut, America, and the world lost in this one plant closing, quoting Ovation luthier Mike DeNoi:

“I miss the people, believe me,” he said. “I spent more time with these people than my family. I know the skill level of these people. It’s such a waste; you can’t replicate this.”

That idea of needlessly lost skills kept coming up, and it’s hardly new. This complex was built by a once-great textile operation that made ships’ sails — the Greenwoods Co., which had its own village on this site, with a dam for water power. It exited Connecticut way back in 1901.

When a factory closes, its demise is a public marker in the community’s memory, like a hurricane or a flood. Waring. Fafnir. Ideal Forge. Scoville. So many more, all gone — even as we celebrate this weekend the 200th birthday of Sam Colt, linchpin of all Connecticut manufacturing.

There is a roomful of ironies in Connecticut celebrating Sam Colt even as all right-thinking people there — definitely including Haar and the Courant — demonize his products and the people who build and use them.

You might not ever have heard of Hurley Manufacturing, the remaining company in the building vacated by Ovation, but we bet you have one of their springs. Among their products is the recoil spring that Colt ships in every AR-15, M16 and M4.

Are they next?

If we were the governor of Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia or one of the Carolinas, just to name some places where manufacturing in general and gun and defense manufacturing in particular finds a welcome embrace, we’d be looking up David Hurley’s phone number.