Category Archives: Industry

HK’s Other 4.6: the HK36 in 4.6 x 36

HK LogoAround 1970, Heckler & Koch was doing well, but their restless engineers were thinking: what’s next? One thing we learn from history is that no weapons system lasts forever, and there was maybe one more go-around in the company’s present line of roller-locked weapons, trading some militaries’ 7.62 NATO weapons for 5.56 NATO ones. But what could offer stingy weapons procurers enough reason to stop sitting on their wallets?

HK 4.6 x 36mm, made 1971. For sale here. It seems likely that there was only one lot.

HK 4.6 x 36mm, made 1971. For sale here. It seems possible that there was only one lot each of the “soft core” (lead, this) and “hard core” (tungsten carbide) FMJ.

The company explored many ideas, in two major strains. One is now well-known: caseless ammunition with a radically new action and new modes of fire, which became the G11 through many, many series of tests and evaluations in the 1970s and 1980s. The second was, perhaps, meant as a technical backstop if the G11, a technical stretch, proved infeasible. It became the HK36 — not the G36, the technical backstop HK had to create after the G11 failed, but the very obscure G36. The rifle existed in, perhaps, three prototypes. It used a unique 4.6 x 36mm intermediate cartridge.

HK 36 factory photo, as published in Full Circle.

HK 36 factory photo, as published in Full Circle. This is the configuration we call Prototype 3.

The Big Ideas: Weight and Spoonery

When we referred to this as the “other” 4.6, we’re referring, of course, to the fact that this is not 4.6 x 30 HK round used in the familiar (at least, in appearance) MP7 series widely used by US and foreign special operations forces. The 4.6 x 30 is the latest of HK’s many attempts to make an even smaller caliber round, but it was aimed at a different objective: the short-range SOF and LE submachine gun, making most shots inside 100 meters; it has very light bullets (31-40 grains for warshots) and is a hair over half the weight of 9×19 or 5.56×25 ammo, allowing a reduction in operator burden (or an increase in ammo load, naturally).

The 4.6 x 36 was developed in the 1960s to meet a different requirement entirely: that of a normal assault rifle intermediate cartridge, with engagement ranges mostly inside 300 meters. Two ideas drove the 4.6 x 36: reducing ammunition and system weight for a given effect, arguably the longest-standing trend in firearms design, and increasing terminal effect in the intended target, to wit, enemy homo sapiens. The first objective drove the reduction in caliber and length. To get to acceptable lethality, higher chamber pressures (51,200 psi CUP) were accepted, but the light projectiles (42 grain hard core/54 grain softcore) didn’t reach outlandish velocities (2,600-2,800 fps). It required a fast barrel twist to stabilize the light projectiles; 1 turn in 6.3″ was selected. HK claimed the round shot flat, allowing it to print to point of aim from 0 to 300 meters without any need for range compensation by the shooter or the sight.

The “spoonery” of the subtitle refers to an invention of Dr Gunther Voss of CETME, which remained in symbiosis with HK itself at least at the time he applied for German and US patents in 1964 and 65 (his US Patent, 3,357,357, was granted in 1967).

Voss Loffelspitz US3357357-0

…to provide a rifle bullet wherein the tip of the bullet is of an asymmetric shape. When this bullet strikes the target, forces are generated which accelerate the bulet inclination.

It is stil another object of the present invention to provide a rifle bullet wherein the turning moment produced by the inclination accelerating forces increases and the bullet inclination is produced more rapidly when the distance between the bullet center of gravity and the bullet tip is greater. It is possible to increase the effect produced by the bullet tip asymmetry through the backward displacement of the bullet center of gravity.

The CG change could be produced by a dual-material cored bullet (later Russian rounds would take this approach, without using Voss’s tip).

Voss 4.6 x 36 Löffelspitz (l.) with 5.56 x 45 for comparison.

Voss 4.6 x 36 Löffelspitz (l.) with 5.56 x 45 for comparison.

Voss further believed that by increasing terminal velocity with the subtly asymmetric bullet tip he called the Löffelspitz or “spoon tip,” he could reduce caliber without losing lethality, and without having to “underspin” the bullet, which was widely understood to be Armalite’s approach to small caliber lethality.

In addition to the effective range increase, a bullet with these characteristics offers the advantage of the possibility of reducing its caliber without decreasing the detaining power obtained with the calibers used until now.

“Detaining power” is a euphemism used throughout the patent application. But clearly, the one biggest Big Idea in the HK36 was this ammunition.

The Three Known Prototypes or Versions

It is possible that some of these are actually the same rifle before and after rework. The fairly comprehensive (to its date) HK reference The Gray Room does not include a picture of an HK 36, suggesting that this may not have been preserved by the firm (or it may not be in display condition). Full Circle only includes handout publicity pictures.

The receiver of the rifle is very slender and short and, while surviving weight figures (6.3 lb empty) generated by marketing personnel based on prototypes are hard to reconcile with real in-service weights, it should have been much lighter than other HK rifles and more competitive with AR-15 based contemporaries.

Prototype 1 had a very conventional HK roller-lock styled receiver and magazine well, and very conventional HK (as far back as CETME) drum sight. It showed a relatively early plastic HK lower marked 0-1-30 and had an unusual sliding buttstock, clearly inspired by the Colt CAR-15, even though the HK36 did not require a buffer tube.

hk36 prototype 1

 

Prototype 2 also had a fixed magazine well, but the drum sight had been replaced by an, also Colt- or Armalite-inspired, carrying handle/sight mount. A reflex sight is contained within the after third of this sight, but we’ve never seen pictures of it, or of its reticle; we do note that apart from Prototype 1 (above), all HK 36 photos appear to be innocent of any foresight or any provision for iron sights. This image was featured in the 1975 Jane’s Infantry Weapons edited by FWA Hobart. Hobart reproduced a factory brochure for the rifle inside the book. He also, at the same time, featured this firearm in an article in National Defense, the magazine of the (then) American Defense Preparedness Association (which was earlier the Ordnance Association, and would later be the National Defense Industrial Association). By this time, possibly unknown to Hobart, the HK 36 was destined for the back burner as the caseless project was beginning to look feasible.

hk36 prototype 2

That picture doesn’t really do the sight-tower justice. It would be preserved in the next prototype and we’ll see it from some more angles.

Prototype 3 took another turn in the direction of space age looks with a fixed stock with a high center so that the recoil thrustline is barely offset from the stock centerline. This would have the  effect of reducing muzzle rise in high-rate fire, including auto- or burst-mode fire.

HK36b

The selector now has four positions: 0, 1, 25, and 3, for a three-shot burst. This appears to have been a burst at normal cyclic rate.

The unusual magwell appears also to be a little bit inspired by Armalite concepts: a disposable waffle-reinforced magazine insert made of aluminum.

hk36mag

Changing a magazine was a Heath Robinson task on the HK 36; it appears from surviving photos that you have to move the mag well latch to the rear which would let the spring-loaded side door open and then you could insert the 25-Round magazine insert into the well and press the side door closed. At this point you could resume fire.

It may have been even more complicated than that. This is how Major Hobart explained it in the National Defense article (via Full Circle, p. 346):

The magazine is charged as follows:

At the bottom of each side is a milled button attached to a spring-loaded chain carried inside the magazine. When the buttons are pulled down, the chain is extended and held out. This pulls down the magazine platform and compresses the magazine spring. The rear of the magazine is open, and the 30-round box is placed on top of the followers. A further pull on the chain releases the holding catch.

The magazine platform rises under the cartridges and passes inside the containing box. The chain is taken up into the magazine. The first round is now in position for loading, and when the bolt comes forward the top cartridge is fed into the chamber. The magazine is sealed against the entry of dirt, snow, etc. As subsequent rounds are fired, the magazine spring drives the follower farther up inside the ammunition box. When the last round is fired, the bolt is held open. When the chain is pulled down, the empty box is ejected, the magazine spring is fully compressed, and the platform is pulled down to allow the next ammunition pack to be inserted.

(This is what happens when you ask a room full of guys whose names terminate in Dipl. Ing. to simplify something). HK claimed that this would “reduce weight and cost.”

It’s unfair to judge the magazine system based only on images and descriptions, but the temptation to pass judgment is strong. In any event, it is not the only ergonomic question mark with these firearms. The usual HK selector switch seems to call for the usual double-jointed thumb, especially on the burst setting; also, a stock weld of any type looks practically impossible, whether you’re using the fixed or sliding stock versions. (In true HK roller-lock fashion, they’re easily interchangeable. HK was modular before modular was cool).

The close-up of Prototype 3 shows the unusual shape of the forward carrying-handle pillars, and the only reason we can think that they’re bowed out like that is to keep them out of the field of view of the mysterious reflex sight. At around this time, HK was working with Hensoldt on a reflex sight for the G11; this might be the same sight.

Note that these “Prototype numbers” are not anything assigned by HK, but something that gun watchers have applied to these photos over the years as they’ve surfaced. We’re not aware of any picture showing more than one HK 36 in any one place at any one time, so it’s quite possible that there was only one prototype, and it went through several different reconstructions. It’s also possible that at least some of the weapons in the factory photos are actually mockups or dummies, and were never built as working firearms. The existence of quantities of the 4.6 X 36 ammunition argues for the existence of functioning prototypes.

What Happened to the HK36?

We know, in broad terms, what happened with the project. As the 70s wore on and the G11 project for a 4.9 mm (later 4.7 x 21) caseless Wundergewehr came together technically, the HK 36 and its unique 4.6 x 36 mm round vanished back into the swamps of, if not Mordor, at least Oberndorf. The G11 project was all-consuming, and it was this close to Bundeswehr adoption and standardization, having demonstrated a 100% pH improvement over the G3 rifle, when it was overcome by events. The Berlin Wall crumbled, and Germany entered the phase of Wiedervereinigung – the reunification of a nation divided in twain for almost 50 years. With the defense demands that resulted from this unexpected boon, including the challenges of merging two completely incompatible sets of armed services, it would have been irresponsible to sink great resources into rifle re-armament — so they kicked that can down the road, and stuck with the obsolescent G3.

The G11, which had already been rejected by the US Army when it cancelled the Advanced Combat Rifle procurement program in 1990, went into the lockers, too, and HK was briefly without a future in the infantry rifle market (right when worldwide Police/SOF enthusiasm for its submachine guns was running out of steam).

When HK found its future again, it wouldn’t be roller-locked or caseless. So one of the salient facts about the HK 36 is that it was, indeed, the last of a long line that began with the Mauser Werke StG 45. For that, as well as its innovative ammunition and concept, it deserves to be remembered.

We are aware that this post is far from comprehensive, but we think it tells the story of this rare experiment to the extent that it’s been made public. If there is a single thorough article on the HK 36 in the Intertubes somewhere, we did not find it. The best and most authoritative sources, based on factory information, are those 1975 Jane’s and National Defense articles, and three short pages in Full Circle, which reproduces much of the ND article’s content. 

Firearms Reverse Engineering

One thing about the people of the gun: we’re conservative. By that, we don’t necessarily mean that we want 15 carrier groups back, eager to cut taxes and services, or sorry that mandatory chapel was gone by the time we went to college. There are actually card-carrying ACLU members and ivory tower socialists among us, but they’re conservative about their guns. For every reader who’s up to date on polymer wonder pistols, there’s about three who wish you could get a new Python. (The reason they can’t is that they don’t want it $3,500-4,000 bad, which is what an old-style hand-made perfect Python would cost to make today). Or a new Luger. For every one of you guys following the latest in M4 attachments (hey, let’s play “combat Legos!”), there’s a few who’d buy a new MP.44, if they could.

Every once in a while, gun manufacturers decide to satisfy these consumer yearnings with product. Sometimes, they succeed. Sometimes, the 10,000 guys who told them they were down for a semi-auto Chauchat turn into 10 guys who buy one and the businessmen get to undergo the intensive learning lab called Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The question becomes, if you are raising a zombie firearm from the dead: how? Even the original manufacturers tend not to have prints and process sheets for >50 year old products, and if they do, the documents are ill-adapted to the way we do things now. If your original product was made in Hiroshima or Dresden pre-1945, or Atlanta pre-1865, odds are the paperwork burned. If the company went tango uniform even ten years ago, rotsa ruck tracking down the design documents.

So, you’re sitting here with a firearm you know you could sell. You have the rights to reproduce it, because any patents and copyrights and trademarks are either in your possession or expired or defunct. Your problem is reverse engineering. It turns out that this is a very common problem in the firearms industry, and the path is well beaten before you.

Some Examples of Reverse-Engineered Drawings

People can do this with some calipers, a dial indicator, and some patience. Rio Benson has done that for the M1911A1.

Screenshot 2015-04-03 09.58.55

He explains why he thought a new set of documents were necessary in a preface to his document package:

Historically, when the drawings for John M. Browning’s Colt M1911 were first created, there was little in the way of ‘consensus’ standards to guide the designers and manufacturers of the day in either drawing format or in DOD documentation of materials and finishes. For the most part, these were added, hit or miss, in later drawing revisions. Furthermore, due to the original design’s flawless practicality and it’s amazing longevity, the government’s involvement, and the fact that in the ensuing 100-plus years of production the M1911 design has been officially fabricated by several different manufacturers, the drawings have gone through many, many revisions and redraws in order to accommodate all these various interests. These ‘mandated by committee’ redraws and revisions were not always made by the most competent of designers, and strict document control was virtually non-existent at the time. All of this has led to an exceedingly sad state of credibility, legibility, and even the availability of legitimate M1911 drawings today.

He modeled the firearm using SolidWorks 2009, with reference to DOD drawings available on the net, and his own decades of design and drafting-for-manufacture experience. The results are available here in a remarkable spirit of generosity; and if you want his solid models or his help producing this (or, perhaps, on another firearm), he’s available to help, for a fee.

findlay-stenIn a similar spirit, experienced industry engineer David S. Findlay whom we’ve mentioned from time to time, has published two books that amount to the set of documents reverse-engineered  from an M1A1 Thompson SMG and from a Sten Mk II. The limitations of these include that they come from reverse-engineering single examples of the firearm in question, and the tolerances are based, naturally, on Findlay’s experience and knowledge. So his reverse-engineering job may not gibe with the original drawings, but you could build a firearm from his drawings and we reckon the parts would interchange with the original, if his example was well representative of the class.

Nicolaus M1 Garand bookOn the other hand, Eric A. Nicolaus has published several books of cleaned-up original drawings of the M1 Garand, the M1D, the M1 and M1A1 carbines, various telescopes, etc.

Nicolaus’s books provide prints like the Findlay books do, but they’re not reverse engineering. They’re reprints of the initial engineering, cleaned up and republished. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Sometimes the Industry needs Reverse Engineering

A perfect example is when planning to reintroduce an obsolete product. Most manufacturers that have been around since the 19th Century never foresaw the rise of cowboy action shooting, but now that it’s here, they want to put their iconic 1880s products in the hands of eager buyers. Or perhaps, they need to move a foreign product to the US (or vice versa). In this case, reverse engineering the product may be less fraught with risk than converting paper drawings which use obsolete drawing standards, measures and tolerancing assumptions. You may recognize this reverse-engineered frame:

reverse-engineered_walther_frame

If you are exploring a reverse engineering job, there are several ways to do it. The first is in-house with your own engineers. (You may need to ride herd on them to keep their natural engineers’ tendency to improve every design endlessly in check). The next, is to outsource to an engineering consultancy that does this. The third is to use a metrology and engineering company, like Q Plus Labs, from whom we draw that pistol-frame example. They say:

[W]e offer numerous reverse engineering methods and services to define parts or product. Q-PLUS provides everything from raw measurement data to parametric engineering drawings that correspond to a 3D CAD solid model! We also offer reverse engineering design consulting to point you in the right direction.

  • Digitizing & Scanning
  • Measurement Services
  • 3D CAD Solid Modeling
  • Engineering Drawings

In other words, you can go there to have them do, essentially, what Rio Benson did with the 1911 with your product. They can digitize an item from 3D scanning, or they can take a drawing and dimension it from known-good examples. Given enough good examples, they can actually determine tolerances statistically and substantiate them to a level that will satisfy regulatory agencies such as the FAA. (This lack of a range of parts and statistical basis for the tolerances is, in our opinion, a rare weakness in Findlay’s single-example approach).

Reverse engineering has gone from something in the back alleys of engineering or attributed to overseas copycats, to something firmly in the mainstream of modern production engineering.

Printed 10/22: Several Ways to Make Your Own Rimfire

In the world of rimfire rifles, the Ruger 10/22 lives in the equivalent mindspace of the AR-15 in Centerfire World: it’s the center of an entire ecosphere of modular customization. You can buy any component for a 1022 that you might like, except the receiver. Wait! Belay that: there are also aftermarket receivers1 and even “80%” receivers2. And then, there’s 3D printing.

A printed Ruger 10/22-based pistol.

A printed Ruger 10/22-based pistol.

There are several ways to 3DP a 10/22 receiver that’s a fair ringer for the pukka article.

Printed 10-22 with original 9 Mar 15

For years a drawing and 3D model [IGES] of the receiver has been available online. (We downloaded it years ago from CNC Guns, where Justin Halford may have intended to mill it from billet). It was only natural that people would think of duplicating it on a 3D printer in PLA or ABS. And it’s definitely been done. Voilá:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTv6xgaSghY

Indeed, 3D printed guns pioneer Have Blue posted about success printing a 10/22 receiver over two years ago. He may have been overlooked because it was an aside to his experiments with AR lower receivers. Here’s what it looked like on the printer:

10-22 as printed

And here’s what one looks like with the support material removed. This one was printed on Veterans’ Day, 2013 (Remembrance Day for our British and Commonwealth cousins):

This printed receiver image has been in our media library since February.

This printed receiver image has been in our media library since February, but it was already a year old then.

But there have been a bunch of new stories in 2015 addressing this3, and we have seen that a couple of the original gun-printers from way back have taken to the net again to point out their primacy, from 2013, and helpfully to organize it into a simple step-by-step process (but one, as you will see, that needs considerable machining tools and knowledge to correct for issues with the IGES file or the print). Most if not all of that detail was in Have Blue’s original post from St Patrick’s Day, 2013. But here’s the new iteration of that, from a new-ish site, Printed Firearm.

 

In comments to his post, Have Blue noted that

My hunch is that accuracy/precision will be pretty much the same with the printed receiver when using the factory iron sights (as both are mounted to the barrel itself). However, if using a receiver mounted scope or aftermarket rear iron sight, I expect to see very poor accuracy – given that the barrel would tip down with every turn of the clamp screws during the initial barrel mount, it’s not conducive to accuracy. The printed receiver is far more flexible than an an aluminum receiver, and is really quite impractical at this point (I wouldn’t want to do mag dumps in the summer due to heat concerns, to answer your other question).

But that’s where we were in 2013… “What is the use of a newborn baby?” as Franklin is said to have replied, when asked, what was the use of the Montgolfier Brothers’ balloon.

Since 2013’s initial reconnaissances of the 3D-printing world, we’ve seen printing evolve with new materials, vastly improved printers, and other individuals have solved some of the 10/22 printing problems Have Blue had to machine his way out of, by modifying the 3D file and printing the corrections (and adjustments for shrinkage, etc.) into the receiver. For example, the receiver can be printed in sections, oriented for accuracy and strength, and then epoxied together.

Here’s a pistol “Ruger Charger” version which was done just that way (in fact, the image is from this video) from 2014.

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=b3e_1404502736

This is one cat that is just not susceptible to being rebagged. The authorities can’t issue the crackdown they’re dreaming of, without cracking down on a great deal of unrelated economic and technical growth and development.

GSL printed 10-22

Some European authorities have chosen to extend bans to other parts, perceiving that the manufacture of, say, bolts and especially barrels is beyond new technology or cottage industry in general. (They are very mistaken about this).

Pretty amazing stuff, but then, this is the twenty-first century.

Notes

  1. An incomplete list of 10/22 aftermarket receiver makers includes: KIDD (link is to a reseller), MOA Guns (review of their stainless 10/22 receiver), NoDak Spud, Tactical Machining (here’s a review), and Volquartsen Custom, each with some selling points or improvements built in.
  2. Makers include Select Fire LLC and Tactical Machining (uses this completion jig). Scare quotes because, while “80%” has some currency in gunners’ discussions, it means zilch to ATF Firearms Technology Branch. In their (legally binding) opinion, something is a receiver — and therefore a firearm — or it isn’t, and percentages don’t enter into it at all.
  3. The one that caught our eye was this one at Guns Save Lives.

Ghost Gunner Latest Update

Over the transom from Cody Wilson. We’ve been seeing for some time that (1) he’s got a working shipping solution, which he’s not talking about publicly to keep Holder’s minions from chokepointing it, and (2) he’s got the MarkOne carbon-fiber printer by MarkForged that the company, good Massachusetts Party members all, refused to sell him. (There’s a shock, not). Now he comes with this on the GG. BLUF: technical problems, not shipping ones, have added a week or two’s delay to shipping and stretched, but not broken, the budget. Meanwhile, his guys have tuned up some things, such as workholding:

Lower

Over the jump to hear it in his words:

Continue reading

How To Sole-Source a Contract: ICE’s Next Pistol, S&W M&P

So, the gang at ICE want to buy a new pistol. The initial contract solicitation, a Request for Information, is here (the meat of it is in the bit called the Statement of Work [.pdf]).

They’re buying the Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm, even though that firearm is mentioned nowhere in the solicitation, which is ostensibly a request for several makers to provide guns for a run-off.

s_w_m_p

 

How do they get from a multi-vendor solicitation and, presumably, evaluation, to the apparently preselected M&P without mentioning either the pistol itself, or even the fact that “the fix is in”, in any of their documents?

Welcome to the wacky world of government contracting, where sole-sourcing a contract is generally forbidden — and common.

How do they do it? When they’ve decided what they want, they look at characteristics that set the preferred item they want apart from its competitors, and then they write those characteristics — whether they’re important, or not — into the Statement of Work.

For example, this SOW requires that the pistol have a polymer frame (so long, most SIGs, Berettas, etc), and that it have a consistent trigger pull on every shot (so long, every DA/SA automatic). At this point, only a plastic striker-fired gun or a DAO model is possible — and the trigger pull requirements rule out the DAO pistol (it has to be from 5-8.5 pounds pressure). So by this point you’re down to Glock, M&P, and Glock’s imitators. The solicitition demands an ambidextrous slide release: Tschuß! to the Austrian.

 

At this point, the new SIG P320 may still be in the running, because it has a striker-fired system, a polymer frame, and an ambi slide release. But the word we get suggests the fix is in; a few other detailed requirements like front sight configuration firm it up: and ICE’s solicitation writers have written a new-pistol acquisition document that complies strictly with the letter of the law, whilst turning the law on its head and sole-sourcing Smith pistols.

Now, they’re good pistols and most of the agents have fallen out of love with the current standard SIG in .40. (The agency has long been planning to revert to 9mm, as modern duty ammunition is almost as effective as .40 and the reduced blast and recoil translate to more hits on target, in the hands of real agents).

Of course, while we say, “they’re good pistols,” anyone who looks can find examples of agencies that had problems rolling them out. For example, NC Highway Patrol gave up on M&Ps in .357 SIG in 2013, and Texas DPS slow-rolled a rollout after having problems in early 2014.

Chris Costa also encountered a batch of M&Ps with abysmal accuracy problems last December, as reported at Monderno and on Chris’s Facebook page at the time. The photos show rounds keyholing at pistol distances!

On the Departure of Byron T. Jones

ATF BadgeHe didn’t want to work with you, you know. He didn’t want to give you a fair shake. He wanted to put you in prison — and that was whether you were an industry executive, a firearms end user, or one of his own agents. Whoever you were, if you came under the scrutiny of the “in crowd” in his agency, Byron T. Jones hated you and wanted to destroy you, quite impersonally. Fortunately, he was as incompetent at that as he was at running the agency.

The outgoing ATF director, who so fancied himself a Second Coming of J. Edgar Hoover that he styled his name B. Todd Jones, slipped a brief notice of his resignation into Friday night’s press releases, after deadline for the nightly news.

He had been on the skids since he overreached with his attempt to ban 5.56mm M855 and SS109 ammunition. Pro-gun legislators wanted his scalp for trying, and anti-gun ones wanted his scalp for failing. After a quick canvass of the Dreaded Private Sector to figure out who-needs-a-favor-or-three-at-DOJ,  frightened managers at the NFL bought immunity from Federal investigation on several grounds — by offering him a bolt-hole. He leaped.

Jones’s Legacy: Broad-Based Failure.

On Jones’s watch the ATF failed to investigate systemic gunwalking by Bureau employees to violent Drug Trafficking Organizations, failed to punish the malefactors inside the agency who did this (instead, most were promoted or got other sweet deals), and failed to protect whistleblowers. Indeed, Jones redoubled agency retaliation. Jones turned the organization into partisan political police; everyone knows now that your voter registration is a factor in every ATF investigative and prosecution decision. Every ATF agent and operations inspector reports today to two masters, his supervisors and The Party; and if he will not report to The Party his supervisors cheerfully do it for him, while steering promotions and advancements to those who hold the right Party card.

Attorneys from the Chief Counsel’s Office and DOJ attorneys fed false information by ATF have produced a serious of decisions calling the credibility of the individual attorneys and their investigations into question. But even if these investigations produce indictments — something that the outgoing Attorney General has said will not happen on his watch — the real malefactors, the senior managers, are as immune as the heads of the Sinaloa Cartel are in their lair in Sinaloa.

Old ATF Hands Saw it Coming

Two of the most-retaliated-against agents in Bureau history called Jones’s departure mere days or weeks in advance.

Jay Dobyns, on 6 March, at Clean Up ATF:

Way to go Jones and Company. You’re legacy will be that instead of saving and rehabilitating a troubled agency you ended up tanking it. Taking bets that Jones leaves ATF in the next couple months and leaves everyone else holding the bag.

And Vince Cefalu, on 13 March.

Words starting to swirl that the B Todd is haulin ass soon. We told you his lack of investment in ATF would be apparent. Came in to tank the agency and leaves when Holder can’t protect him anymore. Can anyone name ONE significant policy with long term goals that this regime has contributed? He came in, threatened the agents and padded his resumé.

Jones’s exit announcement hit on the evening of 19 March. Jay and Vince called it, eh?

Holder (l.) and Jones (r.)

Holder (l.) and Jones (r.)

Whether the exit was driven by the abortive bullet ban, or by several cases in which judges have complained about dishonesty by ATF witnesses and attorneys, or simply, as Vince suggested, because Jones lost the “top cover” of his friend Eric Holder, he’s gone in a few days.

We’d like to say ATF would be in better hands, but Brandon isn’t “better hands.”

 

The GunLab VG 1-5 Project Update

Chuck at GunLab reports on the ongoing VG 1-5 project. Pre-orders have been taken (cards not yet charged) and a list established at Allegheny Arsenal. It’s not cheap, but you’re not going to be the sixth AR in line at the range with this thing.

We’re going to catch you up on the last several VG 1-5 2015 updates, a couple of which we might have mentioned before.

Chuck had made the first few receiver reinforcement plates by hand on a finger brake. It worked but it was an ugly way of doing it, especially with hundreds of the guns spoken for by eager collectors. So he made a special pressing jig. Here it is in action:

The Magazine Release Button comprises a threaded insert riveted into a pressed dome, which is made itself from a flat laser-cut washer. Both processes are shown in the video below and explained with many photos in the appropriate GunLab post from back in January.

And so, finally, we get to the latest update, from 9 Mar 15, in which a test-mule VG 1-5 is test-fired. As Chuck writes:

We looked at everything from the barrel chamber and flutes to the firing pin length. We needed to check the recoil spring length and tension. Is the buffer spring too strong or weak? Will the fire control group work properly? All the drawings showed that everything should work but these are all questions that can only be answered during a test fire.

A problem is found, is rapidly troubleshot, and a new problem is found.

While the videos are a brief and on point, and have the advantage of motion, we strongly urge going to see the actual posts, because the many photos there and the descriptions reveal details not clarified in the videos.

We have every confidence that troubleshooting will be successful. How much confidence? Well, our VG 1-5 is on order.

There are several other cool things happening at GunLab, and they are worth checking out. (If you’re typing the address in, try to remember it’s gunlab.net. Someone has acquired the gunlab.com domain, but we don’t know who).

UPDATE

Sorry about the missing test-fire video. Should be fixed now.

Most Recent Ghost Gunner Update

We received the following from Cody Wilson on 7 March 2015. We could pontificate at great length on what he’s saying here, but we’d rather just pass it on. It wasn’t on the GG website.

Ghost Gunners,

No doubt many of you heard of our recent shipping snafu with FedEx. If you haven’t, Wired had a relatively thorough coverage. The short story is that FedEx has capriciously declined to ship the machine, citing the mere suggestion of a legal controversy in doing so.

You and I know there isn’t any. But for better or worse the chatterati does not. So firstly, I’d like to assure you that only FedEX has actually declined to ship the product and that, as a very last resort, USPS is bound as a government agency to ship it. We are not without shipping solutions, and I would like to thank many of you for offering your help when you learned we had been left hanging. This has so far been only another unexpected annoyance.

On Monday I’m making a test shipment with our new preferred shipper. And shortly thereafter you backers in the first group will be seeing your fulfillment emails.

Two
***

Though you haven’t heard from me in a while, these GG boxes have been on the move and, before it became unpopular, were actually shipped by FedEx and another courier from independent locations. We’ve even tested air shipment.

P1020477
P1020476

Someone’s interested in our work.

***

As for the manufacturing, our supply problems are completely reversed. Since the middle of February we’ve been receiving more parts from our new supplier than our previous two were able to provide in months. The GG shop is full of workers and we’ve finalized all of our assembly and testing processes.

Ten
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Nine

I can only thank you for your patience as we are toyed with by those who have the power to delay us. Everyone here laughs at the pained lengths to which our enemies go to frustrate us. We are so eager to show what we have made for you.

My next email is a shipping update.

The production pictures were, to us, the most interesting part. We’re really excited about trying this thing out (and also, about trying to program it to do new stuff. We just spend a lot of time making a dishwasher repair part out of sheet metal — that kind of thing is fun but the repetitive part of it was not).

We strongly suspect that Defense Distributed’s shippers are being hassled by The Man, and we strongly suspect that it is happening because, as with the M855 imbroglio (the ban’s prospects still not over, quoth the ATF, just delayed), the forces of the bansters vastly overestimate the popularity of their means and their ends. (Yet, deep down, they must know their ideas are unpopular, because they go to great extremes to conceal them and mislead the public about their ideas and objectives. For example, the college campus carry bills now under consideration in Florida have produced a Bloomberg opposition ad that misrepresents the bills as allowing grade school students to carry!)

Bubba the Gunsmith has a Rationale This Time

A casual look at this Taurus Judge (or similar) might make you think that Bubba the Gunsmith has been gunsmiting [stet] again. But it turns out there’s a reason for this being so smitten: read on, after casting eyes on the Bubbalicious product.

Here come de judge

This particular member of the Five Lee Sistersdoes of course look like Bubba has been let loose with the Delrin and aluminum, and a $2 knockoff of a Knight’s Armament Co. foregrip. For what purpose would anyone attach this thing to the gimmick of a gun? Because he wants powder burns and lead splatter in his weak hand’s wrist?

It turns out there is a method in this madness, and the clue to it is in this picture. If you look at the engraving on the gun, it has the Taurus “Judge” name on the barrel, and a different marking on the receiver: OC armory, Laguna Hills, California. That’s because Mike Penhall of OC armory is the Bubba who manufactures this pistol into an NFA “any other weapon.”

Why does Mike do that? Because it’s the only way a Californian can legally own a judge.

Excuse us, a capital-J judge. We don’t think it’s legal to own a small-J judge, even in California’s weird legal system, but we expect judges there are bought and sold just like there are they are anywhere else.

Bubbas own JudgeBy adding the fore grip, Mike has transformed the pistol into in AOW. Judge pistol? Banned in CA. Judge AOW? A pile of paperwork, a long wait, and a five dollar transfer tax. But legal in CA.

A lot of people on the net are hyperventilating over this picture, and declaring that this firearm is illegal (right). That’s why wise men don’t get legal advice from the Internet. Given OC Armory’s 07 FFL, it’s perfectly legal, under both federal and state law.

And there you have it. A rational reaction to an irrational gun law, which presents as an example of Bubbasmithing!

Notes

  1. The Five Lee Sisters are, of course, Ug, Home, Ghast, Beast, and Gnar.

Additive Manufacturing in Defense and Aerospace

Today, we have two links for you that will expand your knowledge of what the DOD and Aerospace world is doing with additive manufacturing.

Additive Manufacturing for Armaments

Screenshot 2015-02-19 22.56.11The first is slightly dated, because it comes from the NDIA’s 2013 Armament conference. (Yes, 2013 was a long time ago in this rapidly developing field). It is the presentation slides of Stratasys’s John Dobstetter. Stratasys (SSYS) is one of the two large publicly traded firms in the field (the other is 3D Systems, whose ticker symbol fits: DDD).

Personally, we wouldn’t cross the street to whiz on Stratasys if they were on fire, because the company is firmly antigun and pro-gun-control, but Dobstetter’s presentation is an excellent one that starts out assuming that (1) his audience knows nothing about additive, but (2) it’s a bunch of smart people who know manufacturing and catch on quickly.

Screenshot 2015-02-19 22.56.28There’s fascinating stuff about when to use additive (see the Sweet Spot slide above) and how it can be applied to every phase or stage of manufacture (see the Lifecycle Applications slide to the right). Switched-on manufacturers, like Czech airplane manufacture Evektor, are using additive parts both as tooling and as end use parts.

There are some extremely clever uses of additive, either alone or hybridized with other tools, for composite layup tooling, producing some very interesting carbon, glass and aramid (Kevlar) parts. Likewise, end uses can be hybridized, with additive-manufactured complex ends added to shafts or beams made by winding filament or tow around a simple metal mandrel.

A .pdf of Dobstetter’s presentation is found here in the archives of the 2013 Armament conference.

Additive Manufacturing for Aerospace

MIT Technology Review has an interesting article (aren’t they all? Well, in MIT Tech Review, maybe) called Additive Manufacturing Is Reshaping Aviation. In this case, they’re not talking about little piston-plane builders like Evektor or Cirrus, but the big gorillas of jet-engine production, Pratt & Whitney and GE.

prattwhitneyx299Pratt & Whitney already uses two additive manufacturing techniques to make some engine components. Instead of casting metal in a mold, the methods involve forming solid objects by partially melting a metal powder with either a laser or an electron beam.

Additive manufacturing processes can reduce waste, speed up production, and enable designs that might not be feasible with conventional production processes.

Ding ding ding… we have frequently mentioned this benefit, the ability to design things free of the shackles of traditional subtractive manufacturing.

The novel shapes and unusual material properties the technology makes possible—such as propeller blades optimized for strength at one end and flexibility at the other—could change the way airplanes are designed.

Of course, propeller blades are already optimized that way, by having taper in three dimensions. And a company named Carter Aviation Technologies has developed revolutionary propellers that use a flexible composite skin around two spars that flex like the bones in your forearm to change the delta of pitch in the propeller, whereas conventional propellers can only change the pitch itself, not its rate of change. (Hey, you could use the additive tooling that Dobstetter showed in the first cite to make all the iterations of a Carter-patent propeller that you could possibly use).

Meanwhile, engineers hold out hope for today’s amazing technology to be supplanted by better machinery — finer resolution, faster printing, better-understood statics & mechanics. Even as great as the state of the art is, the engineers must push it:

…additive manufacturing techniques need to improve to allow for higher precision. Once researchers understand the fine, molecular-scale physics of how lasers and electron beams interact with powders, [P&W engineer Frank Prelli] says, “that will lead to the ability to put in finer and finer features, and faster and faster deposition rates.”

Whatever happens with the jet engine makers and the airframers that are their major customers, we can expect more and better from additive manufacturing. While the whole thrust of the article is aerospace, it has clear applications to defense and firearms manufacturing.

And A Bonus from MIT Tech Review: Nanosteel

What happens to steel when you apply nanotechnology to it?

MIT Tech Review’s Kevin Bullis (same guy that wrote the additive article linked above) is saying things that scarcely seem possible:

An inexpensive new process can increase the strength of metals such as steel by as much as 10 times…

Can you think of a firearms application for that? Or about 100 of them? We sure can. (Saving 90% of the weight of a Browning MG in .338 LM?)

But wait! It turns out it doesn’t just strengthen the steel… it also makes it much more corrosion-resistant. It works by electroplating nanometer-thing material onto a part in nano-engineered layers. It has the effect of changing the apparent properties of the now-hybridized part.

And it’s not significantly more expensive than current plating and coating processes.