Category Archives: Industry

Reactions to the SIG MHS Win

New Hampshire Reacts

As you might imagine, local media here in the ‘Shire is a little bit excited over this, especially as SIG is saying that these pistols will be produced here in what we call the Portsmouth plant (it’s actually across the Newington line — the former Pease AFB, where the factory is, straddles the town line. These towns are in Rockingham county, in the lower right corner of the map on the right). On the one hand, newspapers (the Portsmouth Herald, Foster’s Daily Democrat of Dover, and the Manchester-based Union Leader) all went with the press release rewrites or cribbing from military-news websites, and have no local reaction in their stories. On the other hand, local talk radio, and the comments at the newspapers’ stories, have been highly positive. On the gripping hand, gun-culture folks encountered at FFLs (it was a pick-up-the-GunBroker-haul kind of day) were beyond positive. Grouchy old men were emitting giddy chuckles.

SIG-Sauer Reacts

SIG itself totally confounded our expectation of a slow media response and got pictures of their XM17 winners (full-size and compact, replacing the M9 and M11)…

…and a press release out Friday — maybe late Thursday, SHOT time. Text of the press release:

SIG SAUER, Inc. announced today that the U.S. Army has selected the SIG SAUER Model P320 to replace the M9 service pistol currently in use since the mid-1980’s. Released in 2014, the P320 is a polymer striker-fired pistol that has proven itself in both the United States and worldwide markets. The P320 is the first modular pistol with interchangeable grip modules that can also be adjusted in frame size and caliber by the operator. All pistols will be produced at the SIG SAUER facilities in New Hampshire.

The MHS Program provides for the delivery of both full size and compact P320’s, over a period of ten (10) years. All pistols will be configurable to receive silencers and will also include both standard and extended capacity magazines.

“I am tremendously proud of the Modular Handgun System Team,” said Army Acquisition Executive, Steffanie Easter in the release. “By maximizing full and open competition across our industry partners, we truly have optimized the private sector advancements in handguns, ammunition and magazines and the end result will ensure a decidedly superior weapon system for our warfighters.”

Ron Cohen, President and CEO of SIG SAUER, said “We are both humbled and proud that the P320 was selected by the U.S. Army as its weapon of choice. Securing this contract is a testimony to SIG SAUER employees and their commitment to innovation, quality and manufacturing the most reliable firearms in the world.”

Well done, getting the word out, Ron and guys. We take back all our snide comments about your media shop.

Not Everyone Excels at Publicity

We’re not so thrilled with the MHS Team; in a world of increasing government transparency, they’ve emitted a lot more squid ink than information. When will we get a report on the course of the tests and how the various contenders did? The Army released this information from all the tests that led up to the 1911, and we got some information from the tests that led up to the M9. But the MHS Team has been treating the public like mushrooms: kept in the dark, and fed on horse $#!+.

A Glock Fanboy Reacts

Hey, you knew it was coming. Here’s Pete in The Firearm Blog. A taste:

Fanboy? Sure, call me names, throw rotten food at your devices, raise your torches and pitchforks. Listen to some Nickleback for crying out loud. But even if you pray to a different god, be it Sig, S&W, FN or some pot metal creation you got at a show a few years back – Deep down, you know the US Army should be carrying GLOCKs as their new handgun.

Read The Whole Thing™.

What’s a Nickleback?


SIG Wins Army MHS Contract – Up to $580 Million

A version of the SIG P320 modular pistol has won the Army’s Modular Handgun System contract, and has been tasked to provide pistols, accessories such as holsters and suppressors, and ammunition.

The pistol will replace the M9 and M11 pistols over the next ten years; then those firearms will join the M1911 and M1873 in honored retirement.

Is this what they want? The SIG P320 family. The compact is the “Goldilocks” midsize — about the same size as a G19.

The DOD slipped the contract out on the last day of the outgoing Administration, perhaps because of noises from the Senate that were encouraging incoming Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis to cancel the program, the initial phase of which has already cost $350 million. Alternatively, it could simply be that the Army’s bureaucracy at Picatinny just got done shuffling the papers today.  Complete text of the DOD contract announcement:

Sig Sauer Inc., Newington, New Hampshire, was awarded a $580,217,000 firm-fixed-price contract for the Modular Handgun System including handgun, accessories and ammunition to replace the current M9 handgun.  Bids were solicited via the Internet with nine received. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of Jan. 19, 2027.  Army Contracting Command, Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, is the contracting activity (W15QKN-17-D-0016).

OTR notified us from his sources at around the same time that one of our readers flagged us to Soldier Systems Daily in the comments to another post.  Soldier Systems Daily was, as far as we know, the first publication online with the story. CWCID.

The P320 has been well received, more so than the hammer-fired P250 that had teething problems that cost it the Federal Air Marshals Service contract some years ago. Tam Keel put a thousand or two rounds downrange from one last year; the NRA awarded it the Golden Bullseye for Handgun of the Year in June.

Stand by for an announcement from SIG (their PR shop works slowly and indirectly at the best of times). This is where their press release would be, if they had one.

This may fill in some of the blanks that we don’t know from the one-paragraph DOD contract announcement:

  • What color? The contract suggested the military preferred a brown or FDE shade of weapon, like the P320 Compact shown dismantled above.
  • What caliber? SIG submitted both 9mm and .40 S&W firearms.
  • Pure striker-fired, or with safety?

If the news hits before our post goes live in about 11 hours, we’ll add an update below.

Congratulations to the hard-working team at SIG, and condolences to the eight other teams that competed for this contract. The problem with any such competition is that choosing a “best” from a field of very good firearms (or anything else) is inherently subjective and difficult. If you recall the JSSAP trials that yielded the M9, runners-up included SIG’s then-flagship P-series DA/SA pistols, Smith & Wesson’s generation of DA/SAs, and several others that, like the SIG and Smith, found markets elsewhere, just as the rejects, this time including Smith and Glock among others, will this time.


The Firearm Blog has some details from SHOT, still sketchy, and this photo of what is the winning firearm, the P320 Compact, presumably in 9mm, with ambi manual safety. Nathaniel promises to keep that page updated, if and when the SIG bigs issue a statement.

TFB says this is the M17, or as close as SIG has at the show.

Here are some pictures of the P320 MHS manual safety firearm as submitted. These are all originally from SIG sources, although we ganked them from here and there over the last two years of the MHS program. The full size and compact submissions:

There’s a great deal of interchangeability. Eli Whitney, eat your heart out.

Here’s a close-up of the manual safety. It seems well-designed both to avoid snags and to be positive in operation. 

This does put the SOF Glock contracts at risk, for budgetary reasons. It would be very hard to quantify the superiority of the G19 over this pistol. Meanwhile, the SOF pistols come out of SOF specific money, Major Force Program (MFP) 11. MFP-11 is a finite amount; if SOF were to specify pistols that were a standard Big Green (Blue, Haze Gray, etc) NSN, the service would buy the pistols out of its general-purpose forces money, and that would leave the MFP-11 money for other SOF uses (other SOF-peculiar weapons, communications equipment, engineeer equipment, etc.).

This contract is big news in Gun Universe but back on Soldier Planet it’s not that big a deal. A pistol is almost always a secondary weapon, and the dirty little secret is that just about any service pistol will do — the SIG, the Glock, the SEALs’ P226, the Beretta, hell, the 1911. In combat, your big killers are your air and artillery, and then, your machine guns, and then, your rifles. The pistol is there for the same reason that there is a reserve canopy in your parachute rig — a backup, and a confidence builder.

MagPul Relocation: The Cost to Colorado

During the 2013 debate over Colorado’s anti-gun proposals, which included a ban on standard-capacity magazines, Colorado-based Magpul threatened to relocate, and other Colorado injection molding companies realized that they’d have to follow their largest customer, at least in part. We covered this debate extensively.

The other molders had once had customers like OtterBox, a maker of phone cases, but OtterBox and its imitators relocated production to China, leaving the entire Front Range injection-molding industry hanging by the thin thread of Magpul contracts.

Now, four years later, it’s time to assess the economic cost of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s virtue-signaling (and positioning for a stillborn 2016 Presidential run). And Colorado politicians were grieved to find that, not only has Magpul relocated its manufacturing and HQ to Wyoming and Texas, but it’s now landed a contract to make magazines for the USMC.

In 2013, when Democrats controlled the state House, Senate and governor’s office, Colorado passed a 15-round limit as a measure to curb mass shootings, particularly in the wake of the 2012 Aurora theater assault that left 12 people dead and more than 70 wounded. Among James Holmes’ weapons was a semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round drum magazine.

The political and legal fallout came swiftly. Gun rights supporters recalled two legislators and another resigned.

By resigning, she mooted the recall, and let Hickenlooper appoint another anti-gun extremist, which he did.

State sheriffs sued in vain to block the law. The economic cost is still adding up.

Magpul moved its production, distribution and shipping operations to Cheyenne and its headquarters to Texas last year. Besides principle, the move was fueled by cash—the  Wyoming State Loan and Investment Board ponied up $8.3 million

At the time the deal closed in September 2014, the Wyoming Business Council said Magpul would pay back about $3.7 million, but Laramie County, Wyo., stood to gain another $14.3 million in taxes, income off leases and other benefits from growing its workforce.

Hickenlooper’s Folly, a punitive strike on Colorado gun owners rather than targeting the state’s plentiful criminals, keeps paying dividends… for other states. One of the things Hickenlooper accomplished was throwing the state Senate to his opposition, an opposition embittered by the anti-gun laws and their consequences:

Frustration was in the voice of Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham Tuesday.

“My take is there is no big surprise here,” said the Republican leader from Canon City. “You tell a company they can’t sell a product in your state, when it’s a good product and a popular product. They move across the state line, they get a lot of support and they get a big contract. We lost not only the jobs they had when they were here, we lost  the jobs they’ve grown into since and we’re losing all the jobs they’re going to grow into in future years with this contract.”

It’s actually worse than than, Kev. It wasn’t just Magpul that got on the bus to Texas and Wyoming. Colorado also lost a bunch of out-of-state hunters and fishermen. They also lost Michael Bane’s TV productions — probably small money as politicians reckon money — after all, politicians all seem to retire to houses made of gold bars. But he’s influential in the sporting world, and he used to be a walking, talking, tv-casting advertisement for Colorado outdoor sports.

Can you think of an animal you can hunt in anti-gun Colorado that you can’t hunt in pro-gun Wyoming? We can’t. Maybe Michael can.

How many jobs are we talking about?

Magpul took about 100 employees out of Colorado in early 2015. When the gun law was passed in 2013, it had about 200 workers in a 100,000-square-foot in Erie. The payroll has since grown to 380 and added a second shift in 185,000-square-foot facility in Cheyenne.

Got that? 380 workers in Laramie County are now working two shifts to make magazines and other products, and the company’s hiring. Meanwhile its Colorado headcount went from 200 to 100 (2015) to 0 (2016). Colorado not only lost the 200 jobs, but the 180 gained so far in Cheyenne, and the jobs gained in Texas as well.

And that’s not counting the rest of the Colorado injection molders, several of whom are supposed to have set up in and around Cheyenne.

And that’s not counting the cost of reintegrating laid-off Coloradans. By early 2014, less than a quarter of Magpul’s Cheyenne workforce had been with the company in Colorado — just a couple dozen people. That suggests around 150-180 of the Colorado workers got the chop in situ. Thank you, Governor Hickenlooper.

State Senate President Grantham notes that the Marine switchover increases the odds that the other services, too, will adopt Magpul magazines. He’s missing something, though: the armed services are not the major buyer of standard rifle magazines. With some two million AR-15 type rifles selling every year, civilian demand for these basic accessories far outstrips military demand; and Magpul’s regular product improvement schedule lets them resell new product to already satisfied customers, with none of the politics and bureaucratic tomfoolery of military contracts.

Sig Sauer Expands… But Not in NH, in AR

SIG Sauer is expanding… but outside its home state. And the reasons are surprising: the cost of energy is too high, and the available talent pool is too shallow.

New Hampshire also has an unfavorable business tax position even compared to the other New England states, thanks to punitive business taxes installed by previous governors, but that was not mentioned by a SIG spokesman on a recent local TV show.

Gun maker Sig Sauer, which employs more than 1,400 people in the Granite State, is expanding to Arkansas, where power is much cheaper than it is in New Hampshire. The company is building a 70,000-square-foot facility.

“It’s energy supply. We don’t have enough of it,” Sig Sauer Facilities Director Jeff Chierepko said.

During a taping of New Hampshire’s Business with Fred Kocher, Chierepko said New Hampshire was the first choice for expansion, but a look at the numbers changed the company’s decision.

In New Hampshire, the cost of industrial power sits at more than 12 cents per killowatt per hour. In Arkansas, it’s less than half that price, an annual savings Chierepko puts at around $1 million.

“Business has to do what it has to do (to) remain competitive. Hopefully there is a message being received,” Chierepko said.

SIG is not the only business looking elsewhere to grow. Another problem is the low unemployment rate in the Granite State.

Sig Sauer is also facing a problem finding talent. The company set aside space at its headquarters for a community college training program to give workers the skills they need in the company. Despite that effort, though, there are still 200 job openings at Sig Sauer in New Hampshire.

But SIG had a massive layoff, while at about 2/3 current headcount, a couple of years ago… and it has so-so ratings on a couple of job-hunting websites, and Looking at the reviews in detail, though, current employees seem happier than former ones (those layoff victims?), and the biggest thing the current workers seem to complain about is too much overtime (and that comes right back to their view they’re understaffed, eh?)

via Sig Sauer expands to Arkansas, cites power costs for out-of-state move.

Pakistan May be Adopting a CZ Bren Variant

There is much more certainty expressed about this in the gun press in the USA than in the Pakistani or Czech media, but it looks like Pakistan may have reached an understanding with CZ-UB for a next generation military rifle.

The Paki competition has been no secret, nor has their desire (1) to make the gun locally and (2) to be free to export it. Some manufacturers have hung up on the first condition, but the second has been more problematical: who wants to compete with his own design, manufactured by well-educated and skilled, but much less expensive, Pakistani labor? In addition, Pakistan, burned before by on-again, off-again American sanctions, doesn’t trust American suppliers. Still, there have been a number of entries (alphabetically by manufacturer):

  1. Beretta ARX-200 — Beretta is hungry for a high-profile sale of its decent rifle, which has not been able to break out of the pack on the international market.  This was always considered a longshot entrant.

  2. CZ-806 Bren2 — CZ-UB has also provided a previously unseen variant, the CZ 807 in 7.62 x 39 mm, for the Type 56-2 part of the contract, and is offering the 806 in 5.56 plus a variant in 7.62 NATO with 14″ or 16″ barrel. CZ’s production costs are low enough to make the Bren very competitive. 

  3. FN-SCAR-H  — adopting this rifle would be popular with the troops, but there may be cost issues. US SOF have used it  for some years and opinions are split. FN could really use a major sale of this excellent weapon. The NATO 7.62 caliber is widely used by today’s Pakistan Army and this could directly replace the elderly G3s, whose design dates to the early 1950s (although HK roller-lock guns are still in production by POF).

  4. Kalashnikov AK-103 — Kalashnikov Concern too could use a high-profile export sale, but having been burned in the past by global copying of Soviet-era Kalashnikov weapons without bourgeois capitalist royalties, they’re reluctant to bless a lower-cost producer to export their designs. (It may come down to royalty rates — and the degree to which the famously trusting Russians trust the famously upright Pakistanis). Another plus would be that most extant accessories like magazines and pouches work fine with the updated AK. The 7.62 x 39 Bren, on the other hand, requires a new, proprietary polymer magazine (although it should fit fine in most AK mag pouches).

  5.  Zastava M21 — The Croatian bullpup, another longshot, was eliminated early, but expect the Croats to keep showing up at competitions, and tweaking their firearm based on feedback. They also submitted a conventional layout carbine in 7.62 NATO, based on the former Yugoslav M76 sniper rifle (for which they did produce 7.62 versions for export, even though the native gun was in 7.92 x 57 mm).

POF and CZ-UB have, according to Pakistani and Czech media, reached a memorandum of understanding about co-production and ultimately Pakistani production of the CZ-UB design, which has been interpreted as a signal of a CZ win in the competition, but might not be that at all, but an earlier milestone — i.e., a co-production agreement if CZ wins.

The Nature of the Competition is Unclear

While the Pakistan Army wants to replace both its G3s and its Chinese Type 56-2 AKs, what isn’t clear is whether this is one competition for one rifle, or two competitions for two rifles, in two calibers. Both of the current rifles have their fans in the South Asian nation’s forces, the AK for its compactness and doglike reliability, and the G3 for its range and ability to digest less-than-perfect ammunition. But the last matters less as POF ammo QC has improved, and the Pakistan Army is professional enough to train with whatever it gets from its lords and betters, rifle-wise.

Some sources have already reported that the CZ 807 in 7.62 x 39 has won the nod to replace the AK, and that this gives the CZ 806 in 5.56 or the future 7.62 x 51 variant the inside track to  replace the G3.

Having weapons chambered or both NATO and former ComBloc calibers has logistic consequences, but given that Pakistan can produce indigenous weapons and ammo in both calibers, it also has operational benefits. For example, Pakistani troops can interoperate with any conceivable ally (and they often do, as UN peacekeepers) without fretting about ammo supply.

The Threat Pakistan’s Generals See

While Pakistan has been engaged in bitter antiterrorist operations (and Pakistani politics is sufficiently complex that sometimes Pakistani officials find themselves on both sides of a fight), the Army’s focus is and has been since inception on war with India. Pakistan has fought major wars with India in 1947, 1965, and 1971, and limited wars in 1985 and 1999. Pakistan has also made an ally of China, with India allying with Russia, but Pakistani generals now fear a two-front war in the case of Chinese-Indian rapprochement, something made possible by Russian weakness and US abdication in the region. Thus, Pakistan weapons procurement is driven largely by the need to match India and exploit asymmetries to offset India’s demographic and economic superiority. The Pakistani service also knows its forces have come a long way since the US invaded Afghanistan next door, and would like to see their equipment improved to match — hence the timing of this planned move up from 1940s and 50s weapons designs.

For more information

Steyr / Rheinmetall Enters the G36 Replacement Competition

At least three manufacturers are competing in the evolving process of selecting the Bundeswehr’s replacement for the unsatisfactory G36 individual rifle. The participants include H&K, SIG-Sauer, and Steyr, which is partnering with Rheinmetall. (Gun history buffs, Rheinmetall is huge now, but evolved from an ancient gunmaking firm… Dreyse, of Prussian needle-gun fame). Dreyse was based in Sommerda, but Rheimetall calls Düsseldorf home today.

G36: Los! (Out with it. Here a G36E clone).

The story is told at the indispensable German defense blog, Thomas Wiegold’s Augen Geradeaus! (“Eyes front!”). Our meatball translation:

On the standing theme of the G36 and future assault-rifle of the Bundeswehr, at year’s end we’ve got a new data point: Three German enterprises will compete for the provision of the new standard weapon for German armed forces. Along with Heckler & Koch, which already supplies the G36 and has had success with the HK416 in France, and the Eckernforde-based business SIG-Sauer, the German defense concern Rheinetall is stepping in — with a weapon from the Austrian manufacturer Steyr Mannlicher. The Austrians were defeated by Heckler & Koch in the competition for the new Bundeswehr rifle in the early 1990s.

(Thomas, if you read this, you’re welcome to use any part of our translation on your site, should you want to put up an English post. We know your English is good but your time is limited, and there’s great interest in the non-German-speaking world in the Bundeswehr’s decision process).

In any event, he goes on from there to quote from a story in the Vienna newspaper Kurier, which says that Steyr is developing an AUG successor called the Gewehr bei Fuß or Foot-Soldier’s Rifle. The model being offered to the Germans is called the RS556.

The Austrian journos think that Steyr lost back in 1994 because of politics — EU Brüderschaft be damned, German officials wanted German soldiers carrying German guns. With 60% of the value added in the manufacture of the proposed Bundeswehr RS556 version being Made In Germany, they think the away team has a better shot. Our translation of part of the Kurier report:

The Austrian weapons manufacturer already had a shot in Germany in 1994, when its legendary Steyr Universal Rifle AUG (Sturmgewehr 77) had the best result in tests, according to reporting at that time. Yet the German manufacturer, Heckler & Koch in Oberndorf, received the contract for 176,544 military rifles for its Sturmgewehr G36.

So what is the RS556? Essentially, it’s a reformation of the AUG’s technology into an AR-15 form factor. Indeed, at a distance, it’s hard to tell it from a SIG or a 416. So however this shakes out, the AR is going to notch up another win. From the same Kurier report:

The new RS556 indeed looks like an American weapon, but it is the further development of the Steyr Sturmgewehr 77. With just a handgrip and no tools the barrel can be changed. Ther eare three barrel lengths available, and the rifle can be employed as assault rifle, submachine gun or light machine gun according to length.

You may recall this was a selling feature of the AUG, although not one that seemed to be prized by end users. It looks like the Steyr RS556 is also fully ambidextrous.

Due to a special surface coating, the rifle also works without gun oil, which is an especially large advantage in desert operations. The gas system and the rotary-locking bolt are inherited from the earlier StG 77 (AUG).

The AUG had some success, arming Austria, Australia (in a local version; bad news for ill-educated Yanks who always confuse those entirely different countries), some of the UAE forces and (briefly, because nobody paid to maintain them) the US Immigrations & Customs Enforcement agency. (ICE now uses M4s in either semi or surplus configuration, which have mostly replaced the late lamented AUGs and the not-as-lamented MP5s).

Twists of Fate, and Rifling

What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate.  -Donald J. Trump.

We’re not sure about twists of Fate, but a number of you have asked us about twists of rifling. The question usually comes in the context of AR-15 rifles and their clones, with rifling twists of 1:14. 1:12, 1:9, 1:8 and 1:7 all having been used.

Can you calculate optimum twist for a given caliber and projectile? Yes, you can. There are two equations that are commonly used, Greenhill’s and Miller’s.  Let’s start with the newer one, Miller’s, which was originally proposed in Precision Shooting in March, 2005:

Miller assumes a spitzer-pointed, boat-tailed projectile. In Imperial measurements:

T is twist
30 = a constant representing: standard atmospheric conditions, and a bullet speed of approximately Mach 2 (2800 fps at sea level in standard atmospherics). If you need real precision, Miller does provide more complete equations for that, but these approximations work for rifle velocities.
m = projectile mass, decimal grains
s = gyroscopic stability factor
d = diameter, decimal inches
l =  length in calibers (i.e. length is “l” times the caliber of the projo).

Greenhill’s rule dates originally to 1879, and is frequently used by gunsmiths as it is (or was. anyway) taught as part of gunsmithing school, repeated in Hatcher’s Notebook, and included in Patrick Sweeney’s rifle gunsmithing book among many others. Sir Alfred Greenhill of the Royal Armories at Woolwich developed a number of more complex equations. (More complex than Miller’s, too). But he also provided “Greenhill’s rule of thumb.” Sweeney describes this as follows:

“The length of the bullet in calibers, multiplied by the twist rate in calibers per turn, is 150.”

The constant 150 is good for velocities to about 2800 fps. For higher velocities, as often seen with small-caliber rifles, use 180.

Some notes on twist

As a rule of thumb, the more twist, the more stable the bullet. A bullet must meet a threshold of stability to be accurate. The less twist beyond minimal stability, the less accurate the bullet, in theory, but practical accuracy doesn’t drop off until a bullet is very overstabilized. In small calibers, varmint hunters will tell you a too-fast twist will cause bullets to self-destruct from centrifugal force before overspin hurts their accuracy.

You also need enough excess stability to account for atmospheric changes. As a rule, air density decreases with increased altitude above sea level, and air density decreases with rising temperatures. Less dense air needs less spin than more dense air. This is why the original AR-15 prototypes were found to lose accuracy during Arctic testing by the Air Force — important tests for guys who might have to defend ammo igloos in Iceland, antennas in Alaska, or missiles at Minot. These prototypes had barrels made by Winchester for Armalite in 1:14 twist, then the standard .22x varmint-rifle twist (no one pops prairie dogs in -20F weather). A change to 1:12 solved the problem, at least, for 53-55 grain bullets like those in what would become M193 ball ammunition. (Lighter weight tracer rounds have always been hard to stabilize and trajectory match in 5.56mm). The change to 63 grain ammunition drove the change to a 1:7 rifling twist.

These same calculations may not scale to all types of large-caliber, high-velocity artillery pieces such as tank guns. That’s because air is not truly dimensionless; air molecules don’t scale up as projectiles do. Aerodynamicists and exterior ballisticians can compensate for this scale effect by incorporating Reynolds Numbers in their calculations. For rifle ammo, it’s not necessary or useful.

For those who just want a cheat sheet

Simplified from Sweeney, Gunsmithing Rifles, pp. 109-110

5.56 and other .22 centerfires:

Bullet weight grains Twist ratio 1:inches Velocity
> 70 8 any practical
≤ 70 9 any practical
≤ 63 12 any practical
≤ 55 14 any practical
≤ 55 15 ≥ 4100 fps
≤ 55 16 ≥ 4300 fps

Note that this is really for civilian use in “normal” climactic conditions. For military purposes where you must meet a +140ºF/-40ºF standard, you should go one twist increment slower per bullet weight increment, and understand that you will lose some ability to use weights at the extremes removed from your selected optimum round. Not much of a factor in a military application, where the fewer different DODAAC codes (ammunition stock numbers), the better, as far as the logistics elements are concerned.

7.62 NATO and other .308 centerfires:

Bullet weight grains Twist ratio 1:inches Velocity
> 220 8 any practical
≤ 220 9 any practical
≤ 170 12 any practical
≤ 168 14 any practical
≤ 150 15 any practical

Note again that this is for civilian/sporting/normal-climactic-conditions use.  And that it applies to supersonic rounds only. You must redo the calculations for the slow, heavy bullets used in suppressed applications!

For those desirous of plug-in calculators:

For those desirous of more sheet music:


USA in 2016 Sets a Gun Sales Record

Yes, it’s true, the records aren’t all in. But it’s kind of like the election projections: enough of the results are in for us to say with absolute confidence that American consumers have bought more guns in 2016 than in any year before in history.

This is what the year-over-year NICS data looks like, excluding yet unreported December. A substantial new record of 24.7 million NICS checks, even if not one single solitary gun sells in December.


This is what the year-over-year NICS data looks like, with December (conservatively) forecast. A new record of over 27 million.

That looks to us like a graph of an ongoing preference cascade.

Sources of Data

As you may recall, there is no one true gold-standard number for gun sales. Each of these has some particular strengths and weaknesses. All of these statistics come directly or indirectly from government collections.

  1. DOJ FBI NICS results. The strength of this data is that the FBI reports it very quickly, and that the FBI report is automated and highly likely to accurately count the number of completed NICS checks. Regardless of the Bureau’s recent test-fitting of the mantle of Partisan Political Police, there does not seem to have been any attempt to play with this data. But NICS has specific problems. As the Bureau puts it, “A one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a background check and a firearm sale.” The confounding noise in this data includes:
    1. Multiple sales on one NICS report are possible. (Personal record is 8 or 9 here). This inflates NICS numbers.
    2. Sales of used firearms are included (probably the biggest single distortion, this deflates NICS as a measure of new-gun sales, but not as a measure of gun demand).
    3. Some states waive NICS for permit holders (if they become DQ’d, their permits are yanked, so the permit demonstrates that a holder is not a DQ’d person).
    4. Some states use NICS for non-sales purposes, including one that runs every permit holder every month; this tends to inflate NICS.
  2. NSSF Adjusted NICS results. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the actual “gun lobby” of manufacturers and other licensees that the media think the NRA is, tries to apply a statistical adjustment to the FBI NICS to correct for the causes of imprecision noted above. NICS produces an Adjusted NICS meant to track new-gun sales more closely. Adjusted NICS are always well below FBI NICS, and our gut feeling is that the figure runs conservative (that is, low). These figures are available only to NSSF members (although NSSF has never minded us sharing our analysis of them).
  3. Department of the Interior Pitman-Robertson gun excise tax collections. What these give us, unlike all the others, is not an approximation of unit sales, but an approximation of dollar sales. Sales to law enforcement and the military are excluded, and amounts collected for handgun and long gun sales are segregated. It is most useful in year-over-year longitudinal comparisons.
  4. ATF Annual Firearms Production, Import & Export Reports. These unquestionably produce the most accurate data and allow us to calculate domestic production exactly. But they have two flaws that keep them from being too good to be true. First, they do not distinguish between production for the government market and the domestic civil market. Second, it takes forever for the ATF to complete this data. When it is done for 2016, we’ll probably be in the 2019 market. (As far as we can tell, ATF plays this data straight, despite the agency’s general reputation for deficient integrity, and even though Deputy Director Thomas Brandon spent the fall on a tour of Acela Corridor media, lobbying for gun control laws and promoting pro-gun-control candidates).
  5. Gun manufacturer and retailer reports to government entities, notably the Securities and Exchange Commission. These are interesting in a year-over-year and sense-of-the-market fashion, but they are too sparse (only a handful of the thousands of licensees report to the SEC)

The most interesting thing about all these various metrics is the degree to which the slope of the trendlines agrees, across all of them. They are all highly correlated with one another, far beyond the usual weak-as-water correlations common in the social pseudosciences. That gives us confidence that if one metric’s up, the others are probably up similarly in proportion. Still…

How Can We Say there’s an Annual Record with One Month Left?

Of course, as of 8 December we don’t have final data for even the FBI NICS, the most rapidly reporting of these numbers, so how can we say there’s a record?

Well, the FBI NICS numbers for the first eleven months of 2016 are in, and the total exceeds 2015’s record number (23,141,970, in case it was not at the tip of your tongue. That was over 2 million higher than 2014 or 2013). FBI’s 2016 year to date is 24,767,514, and there’s still a month — the biggest sales month — to go.

Normally, we run a naïve forecast throughout the year. It takes no account of the heavy seasonality in gun sales and NICS checks, and simply takes an average of all the months of this year that have reported so far, and “assumes” that average will be the result for still-unreported months. On this metric, we have known for months that 2016 would be a record; for example, once we got our hands on September’s numbers, we were forecasting 26.5 million NICS for the year, conservatively (conservatively because November and December are historically the peak months), even though under 20 million NICS were complete at the time. Our new forecast for 2016 is 27,019,106. Given that the arithmetic used creates false precision, you read it here first: NICS checks for 2016 will probably exceed 27 million.

But they’ve already set a record of 24,767,514. That’s almost double the last year of the Bush presidency (2008).

So far this year, two weeks this year, have been among the Top Ten NICS weeks since FBI started counting (1998), and Black Friday barely edged out last year’s Black Friday for the all-time one-day crown (data here; .pdf)

The NSSF Adjusted NICS numbers display a similar trend as the unadjusted FNI NICS, at a lower number and with greater variability: still, it does produce a new record forecast for 2016.

Without the forecast, though, the adjusted NICS as of 11/30/16 do not exceed the totals as of 12/31/15. We suspect that this may represent buyers increasingly seeking bargains, and thus buying used (excluded from Adjusted NICS but not FBI NICS) rather than new. Anecdotal evidence (oxymoron alert!) is that this year’s buyers are happily buying, but more price-consciously than last year’s. We’d welcome other suggested explanations.

Data Sources:

FBI NICS data:
NSSF Adj NICS data: available to members at the “members” tab, then “research.

Everything Comes Full Circle: Haenel StG is Back

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


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


Old Haenel Logo (pre-1945)

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

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

The new logo is a modernization of the old.

The new logo is a modernization of the old.

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, What Use is TrackingPoint?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Update II:

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

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