Category Archives: Industry

What’s the Opposite of “Advanced”?

We leave answering the question as an exercise for the reader after watching this video, about 15 minutes long. Here you see the 1989-90 contenders for the Advanced Combat Rifle, a program that would have replaced the issue M16A2 rifle which was still being fielded into some low-priority units, replacing 20-25 year old M16A1s, at the time.

The video begins with a rather sloppy three-minute history of American infantry weapons (you’ll cringe at the assertion that the first Army bolt-action was “made by Krag-Jorgensen,” or that the 1903 Springfield “wasn’t much better than the Krag.”  The video also makes a curious claim — one not seen in the doctrinal literature — that the M16A2 had an effective range of 550 meters.

The reason for the program is explained: the actual combat accuracy of the rifle in soldiers’ hands degrades far below its mechanical potential. So the ACR program was hoping to double the real-world effectiveness of the individual weapon.

The four vendors trying to grab the contractual brass ring were:

  • AAI, with a flechette-firing M16 cousin, complete with early ACOG;
  • Colt, with a product-improved M16, including an adjustable carbine-like stock, four-position selector, duplex (two-bullet) ammunition, and an available Elcan scope (similar to the model later adopted as the M145 machine-gun optic);
  • H&K, with an Americanized version of their ill-fated caseless G11; and,
  • Steyr-Mannlicher, with an oddball AUG derivative firing polymer-cased rounds with flechette projectiles.

At about 10 minutes in, the video presents the modifications made to Buckner Range on Fort Benning to evaluate the novel weapons.

In the end, none of them was sufficiently superior to the issue M16A2, or sufficiently well-developed already, to justify further development.

We thought for sure we’d put this video up before, but while we’ve talked about some other boneheaded procurement events — like in this post on the Objective Family of Weapons two years ago — we don’t appear to have actually done it.

No, Colt Didn’t Default

Colt Defense Roll MarkingThis was reported in the comments to our Colt post, but deserves a post of its own. From Guns.com:

Colt Defense LLC will not default on a major payment since it secured a new $70 million loan, according to Monday’s filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The iconic Connecticut-based company said it will use the secured term loan from Morgan Stanley Senior Funding Inc. to make the $10.9 million interest payment to bondholders. Although due yesterday, Colt has until Dec. 15 to make the payment in full.

Colt said the new loan “will provide it with the time and flexibility necessary to support its medium and long term objectives.”

The cash injection will also go towards repaying all of the amounts outstanding under Colt’s existing $50 million term loan agreement from July 2013.

via Colt secures $70 million loan to avoid default.

We’ll be speaking to our own Morgan Stanley guy, who’s not involved with the group that did this, but we can’t see them making their money back by 2018 or in 2018 without a plan either to flip the company to a new hedge fund, or to take it public. It will need far better results than it has had to go public; a previous attempt to go public, filed for in 2005, collapsed in 2006, although it doesn’t seem to have been formally withdrawn until 2011.

We did discover that the interest rate on this loan is loanshark high, as you might expect for in extremis financing: 8% cash plus, this was interesting 2% payment-in-kind interest. That’s a 10% compound rate; Tony Soprano was unavailable for comment. And the loan is secured, which is why it is being used first to pay off amounts owed under the technically defaulted ABL Credit Agreement (which is also secured senior credit, “senior” in financing terms meaning it would take priority over other debt in bankruptcy).

One wonders what the payment-in-kind is. Product, at wholesale value, letting the lenders cash in again?

Colt’s extant debt is also at high interest levels. For example, $250 million borrowed in 2011 was borrowed at 8.75% and is due in 2017.

If large amounts of this $70 million just go into the pockets of the hedgies like the previous refinancing proceeds did, the company’s still doomed, in this iteration. But, as Daniel Watters noted in the comments to our previous post, the can’s been kicked down the road, and they buy some time to sell or IPO — or find another expensive loan to pay the previous expensive loan.

This loan does not seem to require interim amortization payments, unlike the facility that just precipitated this default… it just sits accruing interest on paper until Colt pays it, or fails to. This is another indicator that the financiers are seeing an exit some time before the drop-dead date of 2018.

Ironically, the guys that own Colt are personally anti-gun, and big supporters of the ban-happy Senator Charles Schumer, but that’s pretty common in the hedge fund world. You would think that people who oppose guns that much would avoid putting themselves in a position where they need to sell massive quantities of them to break even, but as as we’ve seen, they don’t need to actually make a success of a company to get stupendously rich from it. No more than the tick has the best interests of the dog at heart.

Primary Documents

Here are the most recent Colt filings on the SEC’s database:

  • 19 November 2014: 8K Amended Item 5.02: John Magouirk, SVP and COO, 51, is out, with a one-year salary continuation (and non-compete, presumably for that period). Scott Anderson, 52, is in, to that position. He has no firearms industry experience, but is a finance guy who has worked elsewhere in manufacturing. He reports to Dennis Veilleux, CEO, who remains in place.
  • 19 November 2014: 8K Amended Item 9.01 Exhibit 10.1: Magouirk’s separation agreement. He will be paid $7,210 a week for 52 weeks ($374,920) not to come to work. (Not having him around is apparently very valuable). The lettered Exhibits to the document suggest that no one else  is being let go in conjunction with this change.
  • 18 November 2014: 8K Amended Item 1.01: this is where the loan is described. (This is the source for our description of it in the penultimate paragraph before “Primary Documents.”)
  • 18 November 2014: Colt Defense LLC press release. Basically reiterates the facts of the loan as in the 8K 1.01, and includes Colt’s one-paragraph “about Colt Defense LLC” blurb.

Colt Defense LLC has generated a mountain of SEC paperwork over the years. Its most recent financing activities can be found with this SEC “EDGAR” Database search, yielding 53 documents going back to 2011. Note that additional documents can be found by using other Colt firm names over the years, including Colt Finance Corp, the holding company that wraps around Colt Defense LLC.

At least in 2005, the Connecticut Development Authority had significant ownership of Colt (16.2%) and an employee ownership plan had another percent or so.

Gun Marketing Between the Lines: Taurus, Beretta (Updated)

ITEM: Look Out for the Bull!

A site called Grand View Outdoors has a “review” of the new Taurus Model 180 Curve pistol that could have been written by Taurus’s PR people (maybe it was). (ETA: See UPDATE below). So you see what we’re talking about, here’s Taurus’s promo video:

And here’s Taurus’s web page on the new gun. OK, so that’s the 180 Curve, a melted-looking pocket pistol that’s supposed to hug your body shape and that holds 6 rounds of .380. It has a DAO trigger and the crappy Taurus locking system.

A lot of these details aren’t being mentioned in the stories online here and there, yet they’re easily found or deduced based on stuff Taurus themselves posted. As you can see from this picture, it has an unusual feature for a .380, a locked breech, Browning tipping-barrel style:

Taurus-Curve-180CRV-5Note also the complete absence of protruding sights. Taurus explains that that’s because of their new sight system, which appears to consist of a sort of sight post and crosshairs decorating the back of the gun. Here are two pictures showing that — with no clue as to what it would be like in low light:

Taurus-Curve-180CRV-6

 

Taurus-Curve-180CRV-2

It seems to be held together, in part, by Allen-key screws.

As you can see in the video, it looks like the mag doesn’t drop free. In addition, it has a magazine disconnect (Taurus’s term) or mag safety: mag’s out, can’t shoot. The magazine safety was always a lousy idea, even when it was implemented by John Moses Browning Himself; when Browning put one in, it was usually because a customer or manager made him do it, and he always did it in a way you could pin it out or remove it. (So many have been taken out of BHPs that some BHP owners don’t know that theirs originally came with the unpopular feature).

Shooters seeing the Curve for the first time might be a bit skeptical about how the handgun actually handles. With its weird shape, curved magazine and boxy lines, can the Curve actually shoot when it counts?

That’s a good question. How will they answer it?

After firing several boxes of .380 at an indoor range near Taurus’s Miami, Florida-based U.S. headquarters, it’s pretty clear the shapely Curve has no problem throwing lead down range. Most shooters experienced few if any malfunctions and the included laser sight made hitting the mark a breeze.

If you read that graf between the lines, you see it was a press junket near Taurus HQ, where an unknown quantity of journos collectively fired “several boxes” of ammunition through, presumably, selected “press guns,” and… “experienced few if any malfs…”

Wait, what? Were there malfunctions? A “few” in “several boxes” of ammo presumably provided by the maker of the GD gun? Newsflash: that’s not “carry gun” reliability. That’s more like “the reputation Taurus is really trying to shake.” But “if any”? Well, did the gun jam or didn’t it? And what’s with the mag having to be pulled out of the magwell in the video? Is that intentional (i.e., crappy magazine safety) or unintentional (i.e., crappy QC)?

The article also claims that the mag withdrawal is due to the mag being curved, but the photos with the article (all seem to be Taurus handouts) and the photos on Taurus’s site show that it isn’t; the grip is curved but the mag is not.

Ph_Curve_Back_W_Magazine

But like anything in life, the Curve isn’t going to be everything for everybody looking for the perfect concealed carry handgun. For one, sized similar to a smartphone, the Curve is little (think Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380). If you’ve got big hands and long fingers, the grip is a little tougher to negotiate and the trigger doesn’t break without negotiating a better pull.

via Taurus Bends The Handgun Market With New ‘Curve’ | 2014-11-18 | Grand View Outdoors.

Is it just us, or is that last sentence unintelligible?

And is it just us, or is the writing visibly worse on a lot of so-called professional, advertising-supported sites than it is on private enthusiasts’ sites? Maybe these guys were just having a bad day.

Now, the Curve is priced very low ($392.42 list, suggesting it may sell for around $350), and with its integral light and laser, and small size, our guess is that they are going to sell these by the boxcar load. Will Taurus have QC problems? Only time and a large quantity of guns in the field will tell. Taurus doesn’t have the best reputation in this area (to put it bluntly, they’ve squandered the good reputation they once had). It is very concealable, and it’s probably better to have “a” gun than to go unarmed because it’s not the “right” gun.

If you remember the Remington R51, you might not be the first in line for one of these. Wait and see is a good policy. And a good question to ask the guy at your LGS, when you’re buying any unknown quantity that’s been around long enough to have made some sales: “Have any of these come back for warranty work?” A small shop, the guys will know right away. Big box stores they won’t (and they might tell you whatever they think will close the sale).

So, that’s Taurus and how they got glowing promotional media from someone with scant exposure to the firearm in question. Let’s move on.

ITEM: Beretta publishes video showing jammed Beretta.

Seriously, this is an own goal, or to mix sports metaphors, an unforced error. What were they thinking? Here’s a still from a video clip of infantry officer trainees shooting Beretta M9s, that was included in a Beretta promo video.

Screenshot 2014-11-17 22.01.34

The slide’s jammed about 3/8″ out of battery and has been for about 3.5 seconds at this point. The still is taken from a Beretta promo video, visible at this link at beretta.com.

And at about 5:11 in the video, the soldier in the right foreground fires, and the gun jams out of battery. They cut the video off there, but not before showing the jam.

It’s all part of a new site Beretta has in place to promote the now-venerable M9/M92 series pistols. The site’s a great idea, but they managed to put up a video showing their flagship gun, which hardly ever jams, jamming. What were they thinking?

What these two incidents have in common

The commonality between the Taurus launch with its unknown number of jams, and the Beretta video with it’s visible jam, is that in both cases professional marketing operations went out in public with something that was distinctly off message. Unforced error again. In the first case, Taurus was (mostly) saved by the gun press’s incredible ability to deny or explain away malfunctions happening right in front of their eyes. In Beretta’s? Our best guess is that the video was edited from a pile of b-roll by someone who was a video pro, not necessarily a gun guy or gal, and the four seconds of failure to return to battery were brief enough that Beretta’s gun guys overlooked it until it was up on their website in front of God and everybody.

There’s no such thing as a firearm that never fails, but your marketing materials will be assumed by the public to have been scrubbed of failures, making the escape of failures into the wild doubly embarrassing.

UPDATE

See the response by Christian Lowe in the comments below. Christian was the reporter for GrandView Outdoors, and he provides more detail about the gun, about the range experience (his Curve never malfunctioned, but he thought someone else’s did), and some insight into the process of writing his article. Thanks!

Is Colt Going Paws Up? Why? An Analysis (Updated)

The Tales as they are Woven

colt_logo_mThere are an awful lot of stories that begin with a WSJ brief, picked up from an SEC filing. Here are a few of them:

Colt, which didn’t file its annual report on time because of accounting and liquidity issues, also said it’s uncertain it can make a $10.9 million bond interest payment Nov. 17.

colthartford01Colt, whose credit rating was cut by Standard & Poor’s today to CCC-, has been struggling to service its $308 million of debt after losing U.S. contracts due to defense budget pressures and amid dissipating concern that the government will limit the ownership of firearms. Consumers rushed to buy weapons after shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, and Aurora, Colorado, fueled speculation that federal restrictions would increase.

TFB does note this:

 Colt is suffering from a loss of military contracts to FN and Remington, as well as a depressing commercial market. 

Colt Defense Roll Marking

TFB’s call is closer than Bloomberg’s (as is the Journal’s) but they’re all missing a lot of the factors making up a perfect storm for Colt Defense LLC.

Some Background: Colt Defense LLC SEC Filings (latest first)

  • FORM 12b-25: Notification of Late Filing. Filed 12 Nov 14. This report is the one covered by the above stories. Its purpose is to excuse Colt’s failure to file an SEC Form 10Q (Quarterly Report) due on 28 September 2014. This did not buy Colt a great deal of time; the form says that, even with the permission for late filing, “the subject quarterly report or transition report on Form 10-Q or subject distribution report on Form 10-D, or portion thereof, will be filed on or before the fifth calendar day following the prescribed due date,” which would be 3 October 2014; if Colt did meet that deadline, the form has not been posted to SEC’s website.
  • FORM 10Q from the quarter ending 29 June 2014, Filed 15 Sep 14. This, the firm’s last submitted financials, is a treasure trove of interesting information that largely foreshadows the present cash crunch.

Some Background, II: Older Stories on Colt’s Financial Situation

  • Why Colt Can’t Shoot Straight, by Paul Barrett. This Bloomberg story from around the time of Memorial Day is written from the point of view of an anti-gun activist (for example, he goes to anti-gun Richard Feldman of the astroturf “Independent Firearms Owner’s Association” for his token pro-gunner quote). And it’s published by Bloomberg, but it remains the most comprehensive explanation of Colt’s recent three-decade glissade from one full-retard management plan to the next. It doesn’t factor in Colt’s bungling of military contracts, but does a pretty good job at exposing some of the financial grifting that’s hollowed out the company.
  • Tough Times Continue at Colt, as the Gun Company Restates Its Financials, by Paul Barrett again.

Analysis: Why Colt is Set to Default, and What Happens Next

BLUF: Colt is set to default because decades of mismanagement bordering on (at least, bordering on, maybe fully crossing over into) management corruption. Other factors, such as Colt’s neglect of the civilian market, overdependence on Federal contracts, reluctance to take on board the consequences of recent lost bids, Colt managers’ support of gun restrictions, almost $200 million wasted separating and merging the company, and Colt’s highest-in-the-industry costs, and union problems, are instantiations of that general tendency to mismanagement, not causative in themselves.

Most of Colt's best loved guns aren't made anymore.

Most of Colt’s best loved guns aren’t made anymore, like this Python.

To put it another way, they are the opportunistic infections that the doctors are fighting ineffectually as the company lies on its feverish deathbed. The company’s own management and ownership constitute the virus that defeated its century-old immune system and left it open for a thousand small parasitical wounds to kill it.

The management is so bad it must almost make sense for the workers to have joined the UAW, even though the result has been collapsing product quality, frequent production problems, and inability to manage worker quality.

Why Colt is Set to Default

It’s quite simple really. Colt owners sold bonds to recapitalize the company, expecting that they would pay off the bonds from ongoing earnings. They did not earn enough to make the payments. The 12B filing notes that they would probably not be able to make an interest payment due on 17 November 2014 — that was today — but that they have a grace period to catch the payment up, until 15 December 2014.

Bonds are one of the two main ways that companies can raise money. In the final analysis, you can either raise money by borrowing, going into debt, and bonds are a form of doing that, or you can sell equity, which is offering someone a share of ownership in your company. If bonds are issued by a solid company, they pay a relatively low return, because they’re almost a sure thing. (The lowest returns on bonds are on US Government bonds, because the chance of actual default is vanishingly low). Bonds from a shaky company like Colt have to offer a higher return, or no one would buy them. The difference between the costs of risky bonds and low-risk ones is the risk premium. As a rule of thumb, the greater return an investment offers, the more risky it is — the more likely to default, or even to vanish and leave you stripped of your capital.

Colt has an extremely heavy debt load (over $300 million), as a result of financial shenanigans from the Wall Street hedge fund maklers that have been its last two generations of owners. They did one leveraged buyout of themselves, and then they did it again with the bogus division of the company into two firms, and then a third time with the remerger of Colt Manufacturing into Colt Defense. (That was also necessary because of the broad and deep failure of Defense to secure and hold government contracts, and the inability to secure timely payment for some of the contracts it secured). All in all, the owners have taken scores of millions, possibly hundreds of millions, in capital out of the company. They will lose their stock in a reorganization, the lenders will lose the amounts they lent, and creditors are likely to be zeroed out as well.

Essentially what they have done is:

  1. Borrow more than the company is worth. We’d love to see the prospectuses that faked out fellow hedgies and other qualified investors.
  2. Award most of the borrowed money to themselves;
  3. Run the company as if they’re not really interested in making a profit from operations, having already enriched themselves by financial manipulation.

That #3 covers a multitude of sins, including failure to spend on R&D, several abortive forays into support for gun controls and gun-control politicians (Schumer and Malloy among others), starving Manufacturing of capital to even maintain production of popular models, rolling over and playing dead for a new contract with UAW-represented employees, and over-dependence on hail-Mary-pass government contracts.

What Happens Next

Someone could offer Colt more debt, although it would have to be someone with some extremely brilliant plan our small minds can’t imagine, or someone extremely stupid and staggeringly wealthy (call it the “Arab prince” solution). This is unlikely to happen. Colt could restructure or sell some part of the company off, and thereby defuse this crisis by making the payment to its bondholders on time. Or Colt could default.

The elegant Paterson revolver was the antecedent and ancestor of the 1847 Walker -- and all revolvers since. (And Colt went bankrupt for the first time making them).

The elegant Paterson revolver was the antecedent and ancestor of the 1847 Walker — and all revolvers since. (And Colt went bankrupt for the first time making them).

If and when Colt defaults, a lot of things happen, and most of them are bad for everybody. At this point, any of the other debtors can force Colt to treat their debt as due immediately — it becomes a prisoner’s dilemma game where no one can hold back. And this is debt which Colt can’t, of course, pay. Colt owes tens of millions (at least) and has about one million dollars in cash on hand.

(This is like you missing a credit card payment and the card company demanding you pay the whole balance, now – that is, if you’re one of the poor unfortunates who runs a balance. Colt can’t repay everything, now; it can’t even pay its equivalent of the “minimum monthly payment” on your credit card. It’s like the kid who borrowed $160k to get a degree in Womyn’s Studies and can only get a job pouring coffee for a progressive coffee shop).

Colt has, in the meantime, failed to open its new factory in Florida, and that project was already teetering on the precipice of litigation; Colt’s financial news gives that a push on the pro-litigation side, ensuring that more of the firm’s too-little money will be squandered on lawyers.

Honest accounting, not something the Colt managers seem very familiar with, would require them to admit they’re insolvent and seek reorganization (Chapter 11) or liquidation (Chapter 7) under the protection of the bankruptcy courts. Most of Colt’s creditors, from employee pension plans to suppliers, to the Osceola, Florida underwriters of the Colt move, are unsecured and will lose the bulk of whatever they were expecting from Colt. They may wind up with some share of the new company’s equity, proportionate to the size of Colt’s indebtedness to them. The Colt workers may soon be former workers, and will see their pensions thrown into the PBGC and paid out at pennies on the dollar.

And the former executives ride off into the sunset with the bulk of the leverage money — perfectly within the letter of the law.

(If any of you are bankruptcy lawyers, you know that what we have written is a gross oversimplification).

In the end, something called Colt will survive making firearms somewhere — maybe in the soulless West Hartford plant, using some of the former workers; maybe in Florida, employing the freshly-pardoned criminaliens, at minimum wage.

UPDATE

No, Colt didn’t default: it got a slightly-after-the-last-minute loan after technically defaulting on the 17 November payment. See the details in this follow up post.

The Walther PPK/S: Gun Built by Ban

It’s no secret that we are big fans of the Walther PPK. This pocket pistol, introduced in 1931, was a compact version of Walther’s excellent PP, whose initials stand for Police Pistol in its native German. Walther, which had previously made several models of high-quality but otherwise unremarkable small pocket pistols, introduced the PP in 1929. It was the first shot of a revolution; it became the model for most double-action/single-action auto pistols that would follow it, using a trigger bar that runs along the right side of the frame to activate its sear, and containing a then-patented decocking safety.

The PPK was the inevitable compact version; its German name, Polizei Pistole Kriminal, essentially means Detective’s Police Pistol. (You would not be the first student of German to laugh at the idea that regular beat cops are called a name that translates literally as Order Police, and detectives are Criminal Police, Kripo for short. We’ve known a few criminal police, too, but that’s what linguists call a “false cognate.” End of digression).

Even though both are pocket pistols by American standards, and were manufactured primarily in .32 ACP, the PP was normally carried by beat cops in a flap holster, and the PPK carried concealed. Both the PP and PPK were popular with German military officers, who until 1945 were allowed (and sometimes required) to privately purchase personal sidearms. Staff officers and aviators and others who didn’t really have a need to haul around a big 9mm horse pistol checked the pistol box with a little PPK. The Carl Walther firm in Zella-Mehlis, Thuringia (a suburb of the gunmaking center of Suhl), prospered.

This is an original WWII-era PPK. Note the short grip frame and the fragile wraparound grip.

This is an original WWII-era PPK. Note the short grip frame and the fragile wraparound grip. It was banned from importation to the USA in 1968, despite being an extremely rare crime gun.

The PPK was the same width as the PP, but its length (and sight radius) was reduced, and its height (and magazine size) was also reduced (the PPK held six rounds, then considered perfectly adequate). This made it as small as some of the more sloppily engineered .25s of the day. Instead of a solid backstrap with grip scales, the PPK has an open backstrap that is covered with a plastic (bakelite, originally) grip. The original grips are extremely prone to cracking and many PPKs today sport replacement or reproduction grips, but they made for a lighter and more concealable gun when new.

A number of PPs and PPKs were imported into the USA before the war, where the technical advancement of the pistol and its high price compared to domestic arms or cheap Spanish imports won it a very selective user base, and relatively few sales.

After the war, the wave of captured PPs and PPKs increased their popularity, and new ones began to be imported. With Zella-Mehlis and Suhl bombed flat and, after an American withdrawal to a mutually agreed line, behind the Iron Curtain, Walther produced guns at a former licensee in Alsace (Manurhin) beginning in 1952, and at a new factory in West Germany.

(Time for another digression of sorts. You can find pistols from 1952-1985 or so production marked Walther and marked Manurhin. The Walther marked pistols received roll marks, heat treatment of the slides, and final assembly in Ulm, Germany, and were proofed and inspected there, with German marks. The Manurhin pistols were finished, proofed and inspected in Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France, with French marks. Yet Alsace (Elsaß) was German from 1870-1918 and 1940-45 — maybe 1944. Because Walther and Manurhin used different heat treating methods, the slides of Walther pistols often don’t color-match the frames very well, and Manurhin ones match perfectly, usually).

As a result of this strange history and the usual churn of importers here in the USA, PP and PPK pistols are found with a very wide range of slide markings and proof marks, but except for 1940s production guns, which may have been sabotaged by slave labor, all are sure to be of high quality.

How a Gun Law Attacked the PPK

In the 1960s, Interarms of Alexandria, Virginia was the importer of the PP series and all was going swimmingly, until two political assassinations (Martin L. King and Robert F. Kennedy) led to a wave of gun-control legislation. American politics at the time was very different from politics today — gun control’s adherents were found in both parties, with opposition largely restricted to Southern Democrats and Western Republicans; and Democrats controlled, and had for years, both Houses of Congress and the White House. Two bills passed, the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. (So, giving bills Orwellian names is nothing new).

The new laws were supported by the NRA and American gun manufacturers, because they also gave the manufacturers something that they wanted: protectionism. It was no skin off Colt’s or Smith & Wesson’s nose if foreigners wanted to sell their cheesy little guns here, but it was a major threat to high-cost, low-quality manufacturers like Harrington & Richardson or Iver Johnson. Rather that write the transparent ban on imports the manufacturers wanted, instead imports were subjected to a Sporting Purpose test (something drawn by Connecticut Senator Thomas Dodd from Nazi and Weimar gun control laws, which he had come to admire, and placed in early drafts of the bill — before Dodd was censured by the Senate for his unrelated (we think) but legendary corruption, which would end his career this same year.

The Sporting Purpose test, as it was conceived, made it an object of US law that only hunting and organized target shooting are legitimate reasons to own firearms, and by implication, defense of self, others or property explicitly is not. As originally passed and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, these laws banned the import of military surplus weapons of all kinds (one objective of the manufacturers), and applied a “points test” to the importation of pistols. These laws have been modified by subsequent legislation (and by ATF regulation; the ATF Office of Chief Counsel holds that the “sporting purpose” test invalidates the 2nd Amendment), but the sporting purposes test and the pistol points test survive. (The law also banned the import of Class III weapons for private sale, under the sporting purposes test. The weapons in the market called “pre-May” or “pre-86″ dealer samples were brought in between October 1968 and May 19, 1986, under provisions of this law).

ATF_Form_4590_-_Factoring_Criteria_for_WeaponsThe points test was applied by ATF Form 4590. This image is a vintage form. The current version is ATF Form 5530.5.

Note that, while the ATF has taken up the cudgel of this law with great joy, the cudgel itself was crafted by the legislature, and signed into law in due course; it was upheld rapidly by 1960s liberal courts, and so only can be disposed of the same way it was spawned.

The sponsors of the law meant to come back and apply the points test to domestic production, but they never had the votes — some of the nation’s most anti-gun politicians shrank from voting to shutter factories in their home states of Massachusetts and Connecticut. (And some, like Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Dodd, who would be replaced by his equally crooked son after a brief interregnum, didn’t).

Now, the lip-service the gun bansters paid to just wanting to ban the bad guns would seem to have excepted the jewel-like PPK, but the little gun was caught on the horns of the points system. The points test counts: length, width, depth of the gun (larger is better); caliber (larger is better); target-shooting gingerbread like adjustable sights and thumb-rest grips; and safety mechanisms (more, and more fiddly, seems to please the Bubbas at Firearms Technology Branch better). The dimensional requirement from Form 4590 was (and on 5530.5 is):

The combined length and height must not be less than 10” with the height (right angle measurement to barrel without magazine or extension) being at least 4” and the length being at least 6”.

So the PP just barely sneaked through (especially in .380; the .32 version was borderline on points). But the PPK was hopeless as its overall dimensions were too small. The term used by the bansters at the time for a small handgun, implying a cheap and disposable nature, was
“Saturday Night Special,” but the application of the law didn’t affect any of the domestic shoddy pot-metal  .32S&W revolvers, but did catch the safe-as-houses PPK.

With Continued Demand for a Suddenly Banned Gun, What’s Next?

By this time, the James Bond books, favorites of the late John F Kennedy, and the hugely successful movies had given the PPK new cachet, so Interarms was sitting on a stack of wholesale orders for guns it couldn’t bring into the country. It had a few potential courses of action, not including smuggling the guns and everybody going to jail (that was ruled right out).

  • They could send the checks back to the wholesalers. If you ever met Sam Cummings of Interarms, you knew this was not on. Indeed, smuggling probably didn’t get dismissed as quickly as this approach.
  • They could make the PPK in the USA. Walther wasn’t keen on this COA, and Interarms would have been taking a huge risk even if they could talk their German partners into it. Because Dodd, LBJ and others have sworn to come back and extend the “Saturday Night Special” ban (which is how they thought of the silly points system) to domestic production. Interarms did produce PPKs in the late 1970s, as this image from a 1979 catalog shows, but by then it was clear that the “Saturday Night Special” ban threat had passed. The failure of the gun control acts to influence crime was already patent.

PPKsia79_page_3

  • Or, they could modify the PPK to pass the points test, maybe.

It turned out that modifying the PPK wasn’t all that hard. It only needed about half an inch of height to pass the points test. The vast majority of Americans preferred the .380 caliber, which gave them a little headroom, although in time . (Hint: if you just want a PPK for some fun shooting, the .32’s a lot more pleasant to fire, even though the ammo’s more expensive, usually). And the half inch was easily come by: simply adapt the PP frame to the shorter PPK slide. As a side benefit, buyers of the new version would get an extra round in their mags.

A more imaginative marketer might have tried to get a Bond tie-in, or named it after Dodd, who indirectly created it, and sent the crooked ex-Senator a penny of graft for each one, in his involuntary retirement. It would have been publicity gold, but the industry was intimidated and more shy about controversy in those days, and the launch of the gun called it the PPK/Special or PPK/S. It was a US-only model of the already venerable gun (not many pocket pistols were still popular after their 35th Anniversary. Especially in a nation still in love with revolvers). The marketing materials played up the “Special” and played down the fact that this was merely a natural reaction to a dumb law.

Typical stainless US-made PPK/S up on GunBroker right now.

Typical stainless US-made PPK/S up on GunBroker right now.

At first, to a Walther fan, the PPK/s didn’t look right. The PP was familiar; the PPK was familiar; the S looked sort of deformed. Over time it grew more common. Nowadays, people have many options of smaller, lighter guns that pack a bigger punch, so the PP series has faded from actual employment as a defensive handgun. And they’ve been produced in many more variants in Germany, France and the USA, blued, stainless, and two-tone, engraved and plated, and copied even farther afield. But of all the variations, the PPK/S was the one created by a gun ban.

A Challenging Refinish Job on a Colt 1902

This comes to us from Guns and Gunsmiths, a website that primarily seems to exist to promote the video courses of the American Gunsmithing Institute. But there are also a good number of tips and tricks on the site that serve to extend the information in the courses, some of which really stand on their own as “war stories” of real-world gunsmith tasks. An example was this tale of a tough refinish job on a Colt 1902 auto pistol that was in really bad shape. Unfortunately there are no “before” pictures at the site, and the only “after” pictures are small ones, like these here.

Some smiths would not work on such a rare gun, but when it’s really trashed, customization or restoration could be a good idea. (There are shops that specialize in this work). In any event, it’s the client’s gun, and his money; only he knows what’s valuable to him.

This gun came to me looking pretty bad. Rust pitted, worn, beat up, actually. My client wanted me to restore it to as new as possible. It wasn’t possible to make it “like new” for a number of reasons, which we will go into, but it was possible to make something that looked worse than this Google photo (1) into this shown in photo 2. Actually, my client wanted it to be a little bit customized. He wanted it to be as close as possible to original color for the frame and slide, but he wanted a Peacock Blue for the screws and pins. The hammer and lanyard ring swivel was to be Color Case Hardened. That was the easiest part. He, being somewhat of a craftsman himself, was going to make custom hardwood grips for it.

The first problem was the frame and slide, as they were in terrible condition. The only way to get rid of the rust pits and dings on the sides was to have them surface ground by my trusty machine shop (everyone needs one of those). Further examination also showed that someone else had worked on this gun, as evidenced by the rather plain Bakelite grips and for some odd reason, the extractor pin hole at the top of the slide had been welded over. This needed to be drilled out. The extractor itself was broken. The weld had also been poorly done, leaving some pits and small sink areas in the top of the slide. To restore the contour, those areas needed to be filled in as well. The problem was the steel was porous enough that bubbles kept popping up until it was obvious that further effort would be non-productive.

via Nitre Blue Colt 1902 | Guns And Gunsmiths.

Unfortunately, after some welding repairs, he decided that he ought to punt the job to Turnbull. Turnbull does great work, but due to the welding having introduced different alloys into the metal, didn’t think they could get a blue up to their standards. Therefore, they declined to work on the 1902, and sent it back. It’s impossible to say whether they’d have taken it on in the state he began with. He was ultimately able to make an attractive pistol out of this sow’s ear, but he didn’t make money on the job, when the opportunity cost of his time is factored in. (He explains all this in depth if you Read The Whole Thing™).

Now, we’ve said this before, and don’t mean to disparage the AGI or its instructors when we say: you are not going to learn to be a gunsmith by sitting on your ass watching videos, any more than you’re going to get ready to join SF by watching John Wayne slaughter NVA extras in The Green Berets. You have to get out there and do, as this guy, Clint Hawkins, has done. And he’s done everyone a favor in describing some of the errors he made, so that you don’t repeat them on a chemical hot-bluing job. For example:

The slide at first looked like it had gotten caught in a sand pit. Thorough cleaning showed nothing wrong with the surface, although it needed to be polished again. What caused this? Aha! In my haste, I had not cleaned the steel wool. The salts didn’t want the oil but the steel did. Steel wool looks clean, but isn’t. Cutting off a fourth of a pad and rinsing it in about a pint of lacquer thinner gave a pretty brown result. Another rinse in fresh thinner gave clear and we’re good to go.

He also had some troubles with temperatures — both getting the colors indicated on the temperature-color chart, and getting the tank to the required temperature to begin with. But in the end, Clint’s client was delighted with his new-old 1902, Browning’s first locked-breech production pistol. By all means Read The Whole Thing™.

No, really, the SKS is “the Next Garand?”

A headline to that effect — actually in the form of a question — at Shotgun News nearly made us throw something. In which ate-up worldview, on which backwards planet, and in which topsy-turvy, mixed-up, tossed-up, never-come-down belief system is the SKS the next Garand? One of them was a US service rifle for almost 40 years (the National Guard went direct from Garands to M-16s), a frontline service rifle for 21-24 of those years (1936-57/60), has combat cred from two victorious wars, and was described by a legendary (if hyperbolic) general as “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” In addition, it dominated High Power and Service Rifle target shooting for decades, too, even after the M14 and M16 replaced it in the services’ rifle racks. Indeed, the article hits most of these M1 high points. Meanwhile, the SKS had a mere flash-in-the-pan period as a frontline service rifle in Russia, and was even the second banana in its one great war (the Vietnam conflict, where the preferred NVA weapon was always the AK).

Well, SGN’s Keith Wood was looking for a provocative title, and he sure as hell found one. But as we read the article, our seething subsided. Wood wasn’t dinging the M1, and he was talking instead about something where the SKS seems to be emulating the Garand — market appeal. The Garand was for years in very good supply vis-a-vis demand, thanks to the production of millions; but now the limited (if high) production and survival rates are having an impact, as a constraint on supply; ergo, prices rise. Wood thinks that SKSes may see similar price rises, perhaps not soon, but sooner or later. Here’s the crux of his argument:

When I began hitting gun shows with my dad back in the late 1980s, I recall seeing crates of new SKSs, still in cosmoline, for sale at a mere $79 per rifle ($75 if you bought the entire crate). I don’t recall the country of origin of those rifles, but I believe that they were Chinese Type 56s. Even though I probably had the money in my pocket from working odd jobs, the old man wouldn’t let me take one home — “junk” he said (he has one now). Today, a Chicom SKS will run you north of $300. Even adjusted for inflation, the price has more than doubled in those 25 years. “Surplus is drying up” Jacob Herman at Century Arms International told me when I inquired about the overseas availability of rifles such as the SKS. As fewer guns become available, prices will climb — thus, $300+ SKSs.

Though over 6 million Garands were built, not all of them stayed in the U.S. to be sold as surplus. Garands were shipped to armies all over the world where they have sat in warehouses since later designs were adopted by the armies of those nations. For decades, the best place to purchase a Garand has been through the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) — many CMP Garands were sourced from these overseas stockpiles. CMP Garands start at $595 today, and wait times are as long as 9 months. If you don’t want to wait for a CMP rifle, you can buy one off the used market, but be prepared to pay closer to $1000 for a serviceable example. With an executive order preventing many overseas M1s from being re-imported by the CMP, that price is certain to rise further as supplies diminish. Garands are fairly expensive today, but they weren’t inexpensive rifles when they were brand new. The $85 price tag that the Department of War paid for the M1 in the 1940s calculates to almost $1400 in today’s dollars, which means that Garands are actually less expensive today than they were seven decades ago. There was a time though, that Garands were dirt cheap. During the 1950s and 60s, M1 Garands and Carbines were available as surplus for less than the U.S. government paid for them in the 40s. Relatively speaking, the Garand was as available and inexpensive in those days as the SKS was in our recent past.

The heart of the matter is pure economics. You have two rifles that were produced in seemingly endless numbers and sold as surplus for a song. As supplies constrict due to natural or regulatory factors, prices rise. We’ve seen it with Mausers, ’03 Springfields, M1 Carbines, Garands and, yes, even SKSs. Barring unforeseen supplies or future policy changes that will flood the U.S. market with old military rifles, we will see prices of all surplus arms continue to climb. At some point, we’ll likely look back at even today’s high prices longingly as ‘the good ole days.’

We note that SKS prices have already dropped once: when they were allowed to be imported in the 1980s, pent-up demand was quickly sated. Those collectors that had paid handsomely for Vietnam bringbacks (up to $1000) suddenly were looking at the same gun, merely import-marked, with a $139 retail price (or even lower, as Wood noted). If investment is part of your gun-collecting plan, that’ll leave a mark, and the market is always subject to such fluctuations and corrections.

But before you make investment part of your gun-collecting rationale, we have some bad news for you.

A Firearm is Seldom a Wise Investment

Unless your alternative is something like hookers and blow, firearms are generally a rotten investment, and that’s the inner MBA talking, not the gun geek. (The MBA is the one you want to listen to at investment time). Some firearms appear to have appreciated well, when in fact they’ve merely held their value or appreciated slowly. For example, take a nice Winchester-made Garand purchased in 1978 for $600. Today it’s worth $1500. It was originally purchased by the War Department, Wood notes, for $85 (a lot of money, in 1945). So it looks at a glance like the value has more than doubled since ’78, and grown almost 20-fold since its manufacture.

But that makes a common error — it fails to account for the time value of money. And it makes another error — it fails to account for inflation. On inflation grounds alone, firearms are a weak investment. Here’s that M1 Garand example, and a 1980 and 1988 SKS examples to go with it:

Appreciation Original Values 2014 Values
Rifle Year Value …of Gun …of Cash (CPI) …of Cash (Invested) Inflation Factors
Winchester Garand 1978 $650 $1,400 $2,373 $9,744 The gun appreciated, but not in real-dollar terms. In 1978 dollars, the Garand is now worth $384! The Invested column is based on the S&P 500 Compound Annual Growth Rate, adjusted for inflation.NOT adjusted, the results are: $36,569.
Chinese SKS, non import marked 1980 $450 $350 $1,300 $6,597 Investment? You lose money, compared to simply holding even with inflation. In 1980 dollars, this VN bringback SKS is worth $91.50 Not adjusted for inflation, S&P 500 returns $20,048.
Chinese SKS, import marked 1988 $130 $250 $375 $867 In constant 1988 dollars, this gun is about a wash at $124.25.You still would have done better in the S&P 500. Not adjusted, $1,751.
©2014 WeaponsMan.com

The basic calculators we used are the Inflation Calculator at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the stock-market Compound Annual Growth Rate Calculator at MoneyChimp.com.

If you play with these calculators until you understand them, you can save yourself a lot of money on graduate school. Even sophisticated investors often fall into the trap of working in floating rather than constant dollars. (If you want to know how much a gun you bought in 1980 has appreciated, you must figure the appreciation in either 1980 or 2014 dollars, or you’re working with inconstant units and will get a pleasant, but false, number).

Likewise, time value of money is a hard concept to internalize. It’s a measure of opportunity cost; it’s what potential for that money you lose when you invest it in, say, an SKS. You can’t put the same dollar into your brokerage account and your gun safe.

As you can see, an investment in an S&P 500 index fund beats almost any tangible personal property or collector’s item. Most small investors try to pick individual stocks, and wind up not doing as well as an index fund.

However, not everyone has the discipline to invest in an index fund and keep their jeezly mitts off the money for two or three decades. If you are THAT guy (or gal), a safe full of firearms is a sort of forced savings; guns, if maintained, lose their value much less rapidly than other items like cars or home remodeling, and don’t lose all value the way consumption items like jewelry, electronics or vacations do.

X Products AR Can Launcher

There’s modular, and there’s crazy modular. Here’s an AR upper with a twist — it contains a plugged, ported barrel, and launches an ordinary 12 oz. soft drink can out to 100 yards. Coming soon from X Products, you can preorder it (as an upper) now with a $20 deposit.

Can_Cannon_Right_Hand_View_with_Logo

More fun than anyone should have… The Can Cannon is a patent pending launching device that uses a propriatary gas ported barrel and pressure tube to launch heavy, thin wall objects, without burning a hole in them or directing hot gas directly into them. Currently set up for launching full un-opened 12oz soda cans, when used with standard mil spec blanks it can reach an average distance of 105 yards!
Why would you launch a soda can? Because it’s fun! Plus, it’s an incredibly fast and fun decoy to shoot at. Every demonstration leads to more smiles and laughs than any product we’ve ever introduced. BATFE approved design is not considered a Destructive Device or firearm.

via AR-15 Soda Can Launcher – Accessories Launcher – X Products.

Expected cost of the whole thing will be $399 or less (again, this is upper only) and it works with GI M200 blanks.

X Products is, of course, well known for its line of 50-round drum magazines for ARs and various other rifles in 5.56, 7.62 and 9mm. One is shown above in the Can Launcher, and the one below is in a Black Rain Ordnance AR.

X-15_Drum_in_Black_Rain_Rear_ViewThe metallic X Products drums are heavy for a 50-round mag, but reliable (although they can be… selective… about the supposedly-STANAG weapons they’ll work with, X is pretty up-front with this information).

You’re probably wondering a few things. Like: how does X make this work? And how did they get ATF to sign off on this as a non-gun? And we wouldn’t be Weaponsman.com if we didn’t have answers for you.

That big, soda-can-caliber cylinder threads on like a free-floating fore-end, but the barrel of this AR is radically different. It’s short, and ported, and capped. When you drop a can in, it rests on the cap and creates a de-facto high-pressure-low-pressure system like that going on inside a 40mm grenade.

The blank’s high pressure in the barrel exits through the ports into the large area behind the can, pressurizing it and sending the can downrange with a satisfying toonk!

The pressure in the “low pressure chamber” behind the can is sufficient to launch the can.

The ATF, for their part, appears satisfied that the capped blanks-only barrel is not intended for live-ammunition use. (And indeed, if you tried it, you would not be pleased with the result).

There are videos of this in action at the link above. So, how much did we like it? Enough to put ourselves down for one:

order_screenshot

 

We have absolutely no earthly, practical use for the thing (X Products suggests launching decoys for training gun dogs, but our dog only thinks he’s big enough to do that). But we are buying it because it’s neat, it will be fun if we can figure out where to shoot it, and because imagination ought to be encouraged, and we know no better encouragement than the profit motive.

 

Here’s an AR training aid of sorts

We have our doubts as to whether an injection-molded plastic part, even one with brass inserts, will be serviceable as a practical AR-15 lower. Even the manufacturer says so. (Yes, we now you can build a lower out of anything, but even the forged-aluminum-alloy originals wound up benefiting from reinforced pivot pin receiver bosses and a beefier buffer tower). But just for showing off how an AR trigger mechanism works, they’re the cat’s ass!

unpolished ghost gun receiver

We are proud to offer our Clear Stripped Lower Receiver we are calling the “Ghost Gun.” This lower is made as a training tool and product showcase model that is usable but is not designed for the rugged use that our fiber-reinforced Nylon models are. We designed this model to showcase trigger and internal function for teaching and industry usage. This receiver is made from a UV stabilized Nylon that is highly resistant to oils and lubricants. It also weighs in at 3.6oz ( the lightest receiver that has ever been made) Any high quality parts kit can be installed but minor fitting might be required.

flame poliched ghost gun receiverThe manufacturer, Tennessee Arms Co. LLC, offers the “ghost” receiver for under $60; a flame-polished version, which makes the surface of the plastic smooth and clear, is an extra $10, or you can do it yourself with a propane torch (and a great deal of caution). Or you can use the receiver in its standard, translucent mode (seen in the image at top).

Another good use might be to show off different AR triggers on a shop counter.

Because it is a complete receiver, it must ship to an FFL (or export in accordance with law). They do reiterate the warning about durability on their sales page:

This receiver is only intended as a teaching tool and for product showcase. If regular hard use is intended please purchase one of our Fiber-Reinforced Nylon models.

via Ghost Gun- Clear Stripped Lower Receiver – Tennessee Arms Company, LLC.

Along with the clear receiver, which they say is a clear aliphatic polyamide (Nylon), TN Arms also makes opaque receivers of other nylon polymers. Nylon has a long history in firearms; the first mass-produced plastic receiver was nylon (the Remington Nylon 66), as are Glock receivers.

The injection molding of the receiver seems to have been quite a challenge, with two brass or bronze inserts, limited draft, and areas that have to be cored, including the magazine well, trigger pocket, and mag release pockets, to name a few. We’d like to see that mold! (And we wouldn’t like to pay the bill for it!)

Bubba the Gunsmith does an AK Trigger Job…

…or does a job on an AK trigger, actually. How do we know it’s Bubba? Well, we’re sure Winston Groom would agree that Bubba is as Bubba does. But also, we have other indicators. For one, the video is from Century Arms; if Bubbadom spreads like Christendom, Century’s Vermont warehouse is its St. Peter’s Basilica. For another, this is what Bubba is building:

70182-caicenturion39akstylerifle762x39milledreceiverdoublefingertriggerwoodstockusamfgnew-s1

 

What in the name of Niffelheim is that? An Americans with Disabilities Act accommodation for Apert Syndrome or some other syndactylic genetic aberration? It turns out to be available at J&G Sales. J&G is Century’s frequent partner in distribution of firearms with Century-Induced Firearms  Dysplasia, and has some quantity of these, as the bookmark on the page indicates. In fact, they seem pretty desperate to move them: not only does this model sell for less than the firm’s less-deformed AKs, they’ll throw in a drum mag, just so the boys in the warehouse don’t have to look at this horrible deformity any more.

Because our readers are made of sterner stuff, and can look upon this gorgonic beast without turning to stone, here is a close-up of the trigger:

70182-caicenturion39akstylerifle762x39milledreceiverdoublefingertriggerwoodstockusamfgnew-s4

And here’s another (all from the J&G website, obviously):

70182-caicenturion39akstylerifle762x39milledreceiverdoublefingertriggerwoodstockusamfgnew-s5

We suspect that Mikhail Kalashnikov would be spinning in his grave if he knew what they’d done to his rifle.

Now, these things may some day be collector items, like the hideous Fender paisley telecasters that came in as flower power was on the way out: so hideous when new they were desirable when old because of their rarity. No doubt some of them will be reconverted into AKs. It shouldn’t be too hard, with a trigger guard or a piece of sheet steel from which to bend one, and a couple of rivets. Just follow the video of Bubba below, in reverse.

True, he’s not trashing a rare or valuable gun for this, just one of Century’s canted-sightpost specials with tacticool furniture. But still, what’s with that trigger? In the name of all the saints, why? 

We first saw it on Max Popenker’s Russian-language blog, posted with a question: for weak fingers? If it stumped Max, who is from the land of Kalashnikov His Ownself, then it’s probably not anything from Soviet officialdom, or any of the usual satellite copiers. (The gun in the picture looks like a Yugoslavian parts kit with an aftermarket barrel and wood, but it turns out that this conversion was done on new Serbian AKs).

In a half hour of asking other experts in Soviet and bloc small arms, nobody had ever seen this thing. They were all willing to guess, though. A really ill-conceived cold-weather trigger (as ill-conceived as the absence of a trigger guard on the original Finnish M60, which the Finns repented rapidly), was the most common guess, but it doesn’t make sense. The Russians are scarcely ignorant of the fact that it gets cold in their country, and they have a perfectly suitable arctic-trigger system (and suitable gloves for firing in cold temperate-zone conditions) and have managed to run an army in their country without losing all their fingers yet.

Well, it turns out, this abortion has been offered on two Century AK variants at present. Anyway, you used to be able get this cool trigger on a black tacticool milled-receiver AK like the one in the video below, and can still order it in the sort-of-ordinary looking and rather inexpensive ($539 wholesale) AK that we and Max illustrated.

So Why So Serrated?

tipmann toy double grooved trigger

The Tippmann double grooved paintball trigger, from the Tippman Parts website.

Century is not forthcoming, any place we’ve seen, about why this trigger exists. But we were able to dope it out. Basic bottom line: it is for paintball choads coming over to real guns, who want to continue the paintball practice of firing high volumes of unaimed fire.  As Tippmann, a major maker of paintball toy guns, describes their double-trigger kit for their paintball launcher:

The added area allows two fingers to walk the trigger to a faster rate of fire. Double grooved for comfort.

The canonical name for this in the paintball world is somewhat unclear. Some call it the double finger grooved trigger, and others call it the double trigger. We call it Holy-Mother-Machree-that’s-Fugly.

And it seems to offer a false promise. On a semiautomatic AK clone, your maximum rate of fire is limited not by the speed of your human trigger reset, unless you have the reaction time of a three-toed sloth on barbiturates, or a former Disney Channel starlet on whatever they’re all on. It is limited by the mechanical trigger reset. Having two fingers rather than one to alternate pulling an unreset trigger seems futile. Given the physics of the trigger as a lever, the stronger finger has the shorter travel, and the relative travel of both is widely different, adding even more inconsistency. On the other hand, the safety hazard of exposure of a larger trigger inside the larger guard is real.

And in any shooting for any purpose other than noise making, maximum rate of fire is completely irrelevant. What you’re interested in is maximum rate of aimed fire, and that is limited not even by trigger reset but by time to bring the sights back on target.

Misses don’t count for anything except noise. We’d be willing to bet that we can take any of our rack grade semi AKs (including the Egyptian one, which has to make the Russians at Izmash weep; it brings the al-Bubba and is over 30 years old), and match the rate of fire of one of these paintball-poseur products, and beat the hell out of it when hits on targets at reasonable AK ranges (say 0-400m) are counted.

But for you completist collectors, here’s how they do it:

We were honestly surprised to see that Century’s smiths have some professional gunsmithing tools, like a Foredom (vs. Dremel) tool. The Lyman Revolution low-budget gun vise looks good and is adequate for this kind of work; all expensive Chinese-made gun vises are really suitable for cleaning and field-stripping, not for doing anything that will put more pressure on the action or barrel.

(PS. We were going to Max’s blog because we saw, from the new stats plug-in, that he linked to us. Spasibo bolshoi!)