Category Archives: Industry

Why Count Rounds?

The Army's experimenting with automated round-counting systems.

The Army’s experimenting with automated round-counting systems in the interests of better maintenance.

Well, back in SOT, the chief pistol instructor, the late Paul Poole, used to tell us “Never dry fire in a firefight!” In those days, CT work (only the British called it CQB then) was done with pistols, although we were experimenting with both the newfangled H&K MP5 and Colt’s oldfangled XM177s, a few of which were around but very beaten-up; Colt had a new version with a 14.5″ barrel that they said solved all the 177′s problems, except for the big fireball and ear-shredding report. 

We’d have gone to Hell to bring back the three heads of Cerberus for Poole, a Son Tay raider and Bob Howard’s recon-running-teammate, but it wasn’t just for his history: the guy was a dead shot, making steel E silhouettes ring with a .45 at 100 yards, and entertaining as hell, with a foghorn laugh: “Bwah-hah-hah! Never dry fire in a firefight!” when one of us was caught with his figurative pants down and his literal 1911A1 slide locked back. And his instruction was pure common sense and experience, and we all got better — a lot better — under his tutelage. 

Even if he did assess our personal pistol skills and make a little presentation in front of the guys: an M79. “Hognose, you need an area fire weapon. Bwah-hah-hah!” Ouch.

Later we found out that it was simply that somebody had to be the team grenadiers, and two of us were pulled for the honor. Poole just couldn’t resist making fun of us. (On the plus side, you get creepily good on a 79 with a couple 72-round crates a day to burn. Even if it does chew up the web of your hand).

But we did start counting rounds, at least, per mag. With the 1911, of course, it was easy. It would go bang exactly 7 times from start, and if you forgot in the stress of action how many bangs you had left, you dropped the old mag in your leg pocket (if you had time) and started counting from 7 again. What we didn’t do, though, is count rounds total. Only the snipers did that, and that was because their M14-based M21 sniper systems were a bit of a hothouse flower, sacrificing some of the M14′s robust Garand-based strength for excellent accuracy.

The snipers! Those guys were firing over our heads and next to us as we went in on training targets… one we recall with clarity was a set of wooden stairs with a door at the top and windows to its sides. In the door were two concrete cinderblocks and in each window was another. The snipers had to (and did) pop the blocks in the door as we assaulters charged up the stairs, popping the blocks in the windows with our .45s. The life of the M21 barrels was not long (the snipers did not clean them vigorously, to prevent muzzle wear; the M14 design doesn’t allow cleaning from the breach).

None of the 1911A1s had been built, as far as we knew, after 1945, and God alone knew how many rounds they’d seen. The 1911 would keep firing until a Magnafluxing at one of the periodic rebuilds showed cracks, usually in the slide. The round counts on the 1960s-vintage M16s and XM177E2s were also a mystery. Or even the newer CAR-15 carbines or MP5s… they got shot a lot.

But the idea the snipers had, to count the rounds so you knew when the rifle was about ready to go back to depot, was a good one. They actually logged them in a book (and this continued when the more-accurate and -durable M24 replaced the somewhat improvised M21 with its Leatherwood Automatic Ranging Telescope). The trouble is, of course, that logging rounds is a great deal of work. But if the whole Army could do it, we’d get a lot more information about how long small arms and their components are good for, and we could begin to schedule inspections and overhauls more intelligently. Too many inspections waste money, and some percentage of overhauls go and rebuild guns that don’t need it, while some other percentage of guns that need overhaul, based on their condition, don’t get picked up. (Army ordnance experts think that both of these numbers, the false positives and the false negatives, are about 40%)

For over 10 years the US Department of Defense’s Joint Services Small Arms Program and its constituent service ordnance departments have been trying, with limited success, to develop an automatic round counter for combat firearms. SOF elements have moved ahead of the JSSAP on this, thanks less to general SOF awesomeness, and more to SOF budgets, and they’re futzing around with fielding round counters now.

While the civilian market has round counters, they remain fiddly and unreliable, and many of them are focused on counting down the rounds in your magazine. The military frets less about that, and more about the problem of wear and tear on high cycle small arms. What they’re looking for is something that will give them a shortcut to understanding the condition of a firearm. They see this working in the way that an odometer lets you judge the point a car is at, in its factory-to-scrapyard lifecycle.

There are several ways that systems subject to wear and tear can be singled out for overhaul or rebuild:

  1. They can be selected due to calendar years of age since production or last overhaul. This is what historically has been done with most Army small arms.
  2. They can be selected “on condition.” This means that they are subject to frequent inspections, and weapons that failing inspection criterion or criteria are selected for overhaul. This is the other mechanism that sends Army small arms to the depot for rebuild.
  3. Or, lastly, they can be selected based on usage metrics. This is not done currently, because apart from sniper weapons, and for that matter, sniper weapons used by SOF mostly, few weapons have their usage recorded accurately and reliably.

Each of these approaches has problems. Calendar year replacement means that most parts you are replacing will probably still have many years of service in them. Likewise, many of the problems that degrade small arms accuracy and reliability can’t adequately be documented in an armorer’s condition inspection. Finally, usage metrics also are imperfect: evidence teaches us that not only the amount but also the intensity of use has an effect on weapons wear.

Why Counting Rounds Works for Weapon Maintenance

Let’s consider some real-world examples. The things that kill Stoner system rifles are barrel wear (which degrades first accuracy, then reliability) and metal fatigue in the locking mechanism, especially in the bolt (which is primarily a reliability threat.

The two real problem areas in rifle barrel wear are throat erosion and gas port erosion, both of which degrade accuracy and reliability. But the means the Army currently uses to detect throat erosion, the same taper gauge used to detect muzzle erosion, doesn’t work reliably at the back end of the barrel. It misses a high percentage of badly eroded chambers (well, actually, throats), “false negatives,” while identifying a rather high percentage of “false positive” chambers, that are still perfectly accurate. And outside of the depot, where the port can be examined with a borescope, there’s no way to judge gas port erosion at all.


Note that two of the seven lugs had failed. After the first one lets go, the overloaded remainder fail in rapid succession.

Note that two of the seven lugs have failed. After the first one lets go, the overloaded remainder fail in rapid succession, unless the broken lugs jam the rifle..

Fatigue undermines the bolt all over, but the bolts fail in two areas: the locking lugs, and at the hole for the pivot pin. Both are places where the metal is limited but stresses concentrate.

A locking lug failure (like the single-locking-lug failure common on the Beretta) may not immediately fail the weapon. That depends on where the broken chunks of lug go; but most places they might go will interfere with something. Moreover, as each lug fails, the remaining ones bear more burden, and they usually fail in an accelerating sequence as the burden of seven lugs is borne by six, five, four… the gun generally jams before you get to zero.

The next most common place for bolt failure is at the thinnest section of the bolt, where it’s drilled through to accept the pivot pin. Any asymmetry in forces here, which may result from even microscopic as symmetry of the park part, causes the forces to load up on one side or the other, and over a great deal of time, or if there’s a presence of a Nick or any other stress riser, crack begins to propagate on one side or the other. Even before the first side is completely cracked through, it’s weakened ability to bear loads increases stress on the other side, Waiting to a matching crack over there. The bolt can crack through on one side or on both, and is cracked through on one side, will quickly crack through on the other. A redesign of this area to reduce the diameter of the pivot pin, leaving more cross-sectional material in the bolt, or adding rollers to reduce friction, might increase durability here. It’s hard to judge whether it’s actually necessary, because bolt failures are relatively uncommon, and redesigning the pivot pin mechanism may introduce new failure modes.

Usually a crack at this point occurs on one side first, and can be spotted with the naked eye.

Usually a crack at this point occurs on one side first, and can be spotted with the naked eye before it propagates across the entire bolt.

The bolt seems to fail, whichever failure mode gets them, before the lugs in the barrel extension let go. Obviously bolt failures are catastrophic failures that take the weapon out of service either instantly or very rapidly (within a few more rounds); there is no fail-safe bolt failure mode. Bolt failures always occur during firing, never during non-firing weapons-handling, and therefore they have a potential to happen during combat, which is by definition a Bad Thing.

The current maintenance schedule sends small arms to the depot for analysis in large batches, commits weapons to overhaul that have years of useful life, or, even worse, sends them after they display failure in the field. Everyone knows that you have to turn in the rifles with the broken bolts illustrated here. What we don’t know is: can you catch the problem before it is catastrophic, or even visible, with round-counting?

So this is the why of round-counting (there are a few other wear modes, like to the gascheck rings, but this is the meat of it). First, we can use round-counters to identify specific weapons that have had higher usage than their rackmates, and that we would expect, ceteris paribus, to be be more needful of maintenance. Once we have an automated round-counting system in place, we can correlate round-counts with wear and failures systematically, and the data-collection potential gets interesting. A first-generation round counter is itself certainly useful, but still a rough device. All rounds are not equal, and that leaves us growth potential for improved future versions. We know from decades of experience, for example, that automatic fire wears guns of all kinds more severely than the same number of rounds fired semiautomatically, and that heavy, sustained automatic fire is very deleterious to accuracy. You may recall this post from last year wherein we noted that WWII armorers observed that .50 ANM2 aerial machine guns that had been fired in long bursts lost their accuracy even though the barrels gaged normally in all dimensions. An M4A1 is not a .50 but there may be analogies in the physics and metallurgy at work in each.

Round counters give us data points we didn’t have before, in other words.

(When we figure out where we stowed it, we’ll link the 2006 SOFIC presentation from which the images and many of the facts have been drawn).

ATF’s eForms — paws up for now

If you use the ATF’s eForms program, you probably know this already, and you’d been expecting it for some time: the eForms system that is used by many businesses is hors de combat.

While some may see this as part of the normal slow-walking that ATF does with forms when their preferred politicians are in power and they can, it’s more likely something much more routine: a Government IT project run without clarity, competence, and finally, consequences (for failure), breaking down as those projects always do.

But in any event, if you’re a business, SOT, Trust “responsible person,” or other e-filer, for the time being, you e-cain’t. Or as the Bureau puts it:

Due to maintenance, the eForms system is unavailable. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you in advance for your cooperation and patience.

In the interim, all imports forms (Forms 6 Part I and 6A), NFA forms (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9 and 10), and AFMER reports (Form 5300.11) must be submitted via paper, including any eForms in draft status.

The ATF has struggled with recent changes to the eForms system, and SOTs and Trustees have been complaining about delays, glacial page loads, lost forms, and a panoply of other problems.

From time to time the Bureau has shut down the system. For example, in October of last year it was shut down with many other government services in an attempt to wring more money out of Congress. As David Goldman wrote at the time, in an inadvertent slip, “there is surly a cost.”

What’s Safe Pressure in a Given Cartridge and Weapon?

Screenshot 2014-04-13 23.25.51We’re lifting this from Dan Cotterman’s Handloading column in the September/October, 1983, edition of American Handgunner magazine.

Dan, wherever he is, may well forgive us, because he in turn lifted the idea from Vern Speer (of Speer reloading fame), as he freely admits:

The late Vern Speer years ago worked out an uncomplicated and quite practical method for determining relative chamber pressures. Observing, and rightly so, that different guns produce pressures in differing amplitudes, and that test data from serious laboratories using pressure guns were often less than consistent, Spear said he’d discovered a more reliable process.

Acknowledging the fact that the cartridge case is the weakest link in the chain of components, he wrote:

“If the pressures at which these cartridge cases are fired do not exceed the elastic limit of the unsupported rim of the cartridge case, then we consider that the pressures are entirely usable, regardless of what they might be.

“We fire increased loads, increasing the charge by about a grain at a time, and check the rim diameter of the cartridge case with sensitive measuring instruments, both before and after firing. If any measurable increase in diameter of the rim of the case is noted, we consider that pressure is excessive, reduce the charge about 6 percent and list it as a maximum load in our loading table:”

Speer went on to acknowledge the value of looking for other signs of excess pressure (such as difficult extraction and flattened or cratered primers), in addition to measuring rim diameter. Note also that he cited “any measurable increase” as sufficient cause for reducing a load.

The foregoing may exist as a viable means of determining relative chamber pressures, especially for the home loader who does his work physically and financially removed from costly laboratory equipment.

That’s a sensible, simple, and practical means of setting maximum pressure when you’re developing loads. It might be a better method for using with pistols than with rifles; rifle bolts tend to provide much better case-head support than the usual pistol’s chamber does, and that case-head support might mask signs of increased pressure, especially the very subtle “any measurable increase” that Speer was looking for.

We also thought that the way Speer worded his comments suggests that he found this method not only, “safe enough to use,” but also superior to the supposed gold standard of firing in a pressure rifle. Of course, it’s not going to work with large caliber Glocks: even factory loads can bulge the cases in those!

The whole magazine, of course, is interesting, as it’s a time capsule from an era 30 years ago. In those days, American Handgunner was a bastion of revolver holdouts and 1911 fiends (in those days, we were all 1911 fiends), and covered the then-hot sport of metallic silhouette shooting.

The advertisements are our favorite part of any old magazine. In this one, they include revolver holsters and 1/3 moon clips, things that are much less popular today that they were then; aftermarket products like the Metaloy hard chrome refinish, which is still available but seems to have lost market and mind share; and products we don’t even remember knowing about at the time, like the .41 Avenger conversion kit for the 1911 from SSK Industries in Ohio. The 41 Avenger was a little bit before it’s time: the big idea was to combine the flat trajectory of the 9mm with 30% more energy. The idea’s time did come in the form of the 10 mm and the .40, but nobody remembers the .41 Avenger now. Well, we don’t. YMMV.

ATF Says Nyet to SIG MP-X-Carbine, SIG Sees ‘Em in Court

SIG MPX-CThe Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has ruled that the muzzle brake for the SIG-Sauer MP-X Carbine model is “intended only for use” as a silencer. (We covered the introduction of the MP-X in January, 2013). The timeline of the whole SIG-ATF interaction also serves as an illustration for the glacial pace at which the payroll patriots of ATF do, or don’t do, just about anything:

  1. 4 Apr 2013: MPX-C submitted by SIG to ATF’s FIrearms Technology Branch (FTB)for evaluation.
  2. 26 Aug 2013: (note, 153 days later — ATF speed) FTB rules that the muzzle brake is a silencer. It is, says FTB, a “monolithic baffle stack. Welding it to a barrel does not change its characteristics or function.”
  3. 6 Sep 2013: (10 days later — private sector speed) SIG responds to ATF with the results of tests that show that the device does reduce recoil and muzzle rise, but that instead of silencing a weapon, the gadget the bozos at FTB think is a silencer actually increases the sound level of the rifle’s report. SIG also shows other examples of similar devices that have not been classified by the arbitrary FTB examiners as silencers — just SIGs. SIG’s letter includes comprehensive documentation.
  4. 21 Feb 2014: (141 days later — ATF speed) The FTB responds, ignoring but not disputing SIG’s evidence, and reasserting that the part looks like it might go in a silencer to FTB’s GED-level experts, therefore, it is a silencer. Amazingly, to the FTB, the fact that it does not silence, suppress, muffle, or reduce sound is irrelevant. So it’s a non-silencing silencer, and SIG can lump it.
  5. 7 Apr 2014: (47 days later — getting lawyers involved slows even the private sector down) SIG files suit in the US District Court of New Hampshire.

SIG’s is being represented by two excellent attorneys, NH’s Mark Rouvalis and Virginia-based national and international gun-law expert and legal author Stephen Halbrook.

SIG MPX-C-right

Although the technology exists to conduct clear and simple tests of suppressor noise reduction — one example protocol, developed by Dr Phil Dater, is used by the military — the ATF’s supposed experts at the Firearms Technology Branch don’t have this capability, and so they don’t evaluate items they think are suppressors or suppressor parts on it: instead, they eyeball the piece, based on their past training (which is in-house and shallow), and experience. They do not need to look at ATF precedents — FTB rulings are non-precedential, sometimes ephemeral, and each one is approached de novo. They are never retracted, unless they favor the applicant, and then they’re subject to a revocation process that’s as arbitrary and capricious as the original process was.

ATF may be relying on erroneous media reports, when the MPX was introduced, that the MPX-C muzzle brake was identical to the suppressor innards and “all you need to do is add a registered tube” to have the same suppressor.

But in a very similar case just last month, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Innovator Enterprises “Stabilizer Brake” is not a suppressor, and that ATF’s method of guessing the effects of a device based on hunches and eyeballs is “arbitrary and capricious” and not a “reasonable construction” of the law. (Here’s the write-up of the case at and at; here’s Innovator’s complaint; here’s the Court Ruling – the last two courtesy J Frazer Law).  The judge’s opinion is definitely worth reading; it looks like the Department of Justice attorneys played fast and loose with the truth.


Are your hands and feet “registered as deadly weapons?”

Guam is a strange place. A few years ago, a Congressman was concerned that if more Marines were posted to the island, it might capsize — which says more about the intellects in Congress than it does about the island, we reckon.

This certificate is phony… and it's $140 more than Guam's.

This certificate is phony… and it’s $140 more than Guam’s.

But law professor Eugene Volokh has found a place where the old urban myth about “hands and feet registered as deadly weapons” is actually true: the US Territory of Guam. He quotes the statutes (law profs are always doing that!):

Any person who is an expert in the art of karate or judo, or any similar physical ar[t] in which the hands and feet are used as deadly weapons, is required to register with the Department of Revenue and Taxation.

A karate or judo expert required to register by the provisions of this Chapter shall be a person trained in the arts of karate, judo or other hand-to-hand fighting technique, whereby the hands, feet or other parts of the body are used as weapons, who shall have completed at least one level of training therein and shall have been issued a belt or other symbol showing proficiency in such art.

via ‘These hands and feet are registered as deadly weapons … in Guam!’.

Then, if you whale the whey out of some islander with your kung-fu, hai-ku or what have you, you can be charged with aggravated assault. He didn’t mention a penalty for not registering, although the actual statute says failing to register is a misdemeanor. It’s hard to imagine Guamanian cops going from door to door seeking incriminating black belts.

But it is a reminder that the ultimate weapon is a trained human mind, the weaponized Brain Housing Group that’s the key to employment of all weapons, including the weapons God gave you.

Volokh has some fun with the idea that Guam could make some serious money selling registration certificates to off-island karatekas. It’s not like people aren’t already doing that with utterly meaningless certificates. By all means Read The Whole Thing™.

Hey, we know ching-chang-bang. Does that count?

Why the Army camo project failed, and is failing

Soldier Systems Daily has one answer. This guy:

“This guy” is COL Robert Mortlock, a guy who hasn’t been with troops in 20 years, and then was a platoon leader in a chemical battalion in Germany. (He did have a company command, but of support troops pampering the caddidiots at West Point). He subsequently became an acquisitions officer, where he’s worked just about exclusively on failed big-ticket programs: several schedule-an-invention missiles, and the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Future Combat System. These were ill-conceived and badly-managed programs that turned entire 463L pallets of money into vaporware.

Now he’s brought those same skills to bear on the camouflage program, and what we’ve got is a massive, one-size-fits-all, four-hundred-moving-parts boondoggle, with an earmark for every congressional district and a bonus for every beltway bandit, and nothing for the combat troops but another screwing and a chance to go to war in the abominable day-glo ACU.

They already have a perfectly good camouflage pattern, OCP, or Crye Multicam. The principal problem, for a Beltway guy, is there’s too little growth, graft, and gratification in it; last year, Crye was willing to sign off a license for under $700,000. And this was after a four-phase competition which Crye Multicam won. If the Army wanted unlimited rights to modify the pattern, which it did, the cost went up substantially (to over $20 million)… but that was less by far than the hundreds of millions spent in on-again, off-again testing (all of which has confirmed the unsuitability of Universal Camouflage Pattern of the ACU, always the worst pattern tested and much worse than solid colors or any other camouflage), or the $10 Billion squandered procuring UCP uniforms and equipment, all of which expose our troops to detection and fire.

Even the combat-shy Mortlock admits that the troops like OCP/Multicam. Crye explained a few weeks ago to SSD how the Army — which means Mortlock — has been double-dealing with them right along. If you want the whole tragic story of this inept quest for less day-glo camo, read the whole SSD camo category from oldest to newest.

The Genesis of the Volkssturm Carbines. Why?

Nazis: beastly but fascinating. They caused the second most trouble and death of any revolutionaries in history (the Communists have pretty much retired that trophy for all time). They spread their evil ideology from the Pyrenees to the Caucusus. And, what’s probably the biggest source of their appeal, they had spiffy uniforms (with a tip of black hat to Hugo Boss) and terrific Teutonic technology.

Gustloff VG 1-5 - GunLab

But not all their technology was world-class. As the war ground on, the Third Reich’s foothold in Europe contracted under the relentless pressure of the USSR in the East and the US and UK in the West and South, not to mention a wide range of national resistance movements and a bothersome strategic bombing campaign. Hermann Göring had planned that Operation Barbarossa would deliver the machine tools and industrial raw materials of the vast Soviet factories into his hands; instead, the Russians’ rapid dismantling and displacement of industry — tools, fixtures, workers, and all — left him empty-handed. The new war-production overlord, architect Albert Speer, pressed every industry to do more with less. (This didn’t happen only in Germany and Occupied Europe; put a “War Finish” British revolver next to a prewar example, or for that matter, compare the beautiful, polished blue on a 1930s Tokarev pistol to a crude 1944 example).

By 1944, the Germans were running out of small arms, and they couldn’t build them as fast as they were being lost. So they began considering what were the barest minimum features a firearm needed to be militarily useful. They were losing men, as well; and desperate measures were soon in hand for personnel, as well as for armaments.

Many collectors have marveled over the crude arms issued at war’s end to the Deutsche Volkssturm, and wondered what had so depressed the abilities of the Germans, supposedly Europe’s leading technologists. But in 1945 hardened Russian, American and British forces were encountering ill-fed old men and boys armed with the military equivalent of crude zip guns. Many collectors today believe these guns to have been locally ordered and produced. But they hardly made a difference to the outcome of the war.

So, why the Volkssturm guns? Why such variety and crudity? And were they centrally planned?

The short answer is this: because they needed them, because no one source could supply enough, and yes.

The Germans were caught flatfooted by their 1943 defeats, and they were desperate to arm a replacement for the armies no longer available to defend the Reich. At the war’s outset, they did not expect or plan for continued losses and resets of small arms, and small arms planners were late to learn of the late 1944 surge plan to create a nationwide militia of 6,000,000 sort-of soldiers – who were minus the 6,000,000 arms they needed to actually be soldiers.

Japan planned from early in the war to fight with limited natural resources. That’s why, for example, Japanese rifles have chrome bores: not for the durability and corrosion-resistance benefits that have made them commonplace on modern military rifles, but because their researchers found it was a less costly substitute for expensive chrome-moly steels in increasing barrel strength. The Germans, on the other hand, did not expect to be resource-constrained. They fought the war, after all, to gain resources, including Lebensraum for the German people. Even when the war began to turn against the Axis, many German managers remained in deepest denial.

But by 1944, even Hitler had a hard time deluding himself about German expansion, and his appointed war production satrap, Albert Speer, was brutally realistic about German war production.

With entire German armies in the bag in Africa and Russia, and ongoing meatgrinders in Russia and Italy, the Germans were running short of manpower even before a second major front opened in June, 1944. The plans for the Deutsche Volkssturm, a mass-levied militia, went forward briskly. While many books seem to imply that the Volkssturm was merely a locally-raised militia beholden to regional Gauleiters, the Gauleiters were responding to a framework that was produced by Speer’s, among others’, central planning.

By November 30, 1944 the Staff Leader of the Deutsche Volkssturm (the German term is Stabsführer) envisioned a force of 6,000,000 men organized in over 10,000 battalions. The units were to be levied in four tranches and armed as shown:

There was a slight problem with this, the staff director admitted, after further breaking down the numbers by particular Gau, he found that the Gaus that needed the guns the most urgently – the ones that were already invaded by the Allies, or were about to be, which two unlucky groups he called the “threatened Gaus” — had, on paper, a potential of 1,450 Volkssturm-bataillonen, yet of the needed 871,300 small arms, they had on hand only 9,690 – about two rifles per company, then.

It makes the 1942 Russian forces in Enemy at the Gates look positively lavishly equipped: why, every other or every third man had a rifle! Whether the real situation in Stalingrad got as bad for the Red Army as Enemy at the Gates’s Hollywood version portrays, the situation for the Wehrmacht and especially for the Volkssturm by the late fall of 1944 was substantially worse.

By this point, facing a deliberate attack by an American mechanized battle group or a Soviet motorized infantry battalion was hard enough for fully-equipped, valiantly-led first-line German formations. For second-liners and militiamen, it was the equivalent of suicide-by-cop. But for them to even serve as speedbumps or to fill in inactive sectors of a defensive line the Volkssturm’s old men and boys needed something.

That was the genesis of the Volkssturm arms program: to produce rapidly enough weapons to put one in the hands of each of six million cannon-fodder Volkssturmmänner.

Six German firms responded, offering nine different models, of four general types:

  • Single-shot guns that used the normal German 7.92 x 57mm cartridge. There were four of these, from: Appell; Bergmann; Gustloff-Werke; and, Walther.
  • Repeaters that used the 7.92 x 57mm round. There were two of these: one from Deutsche Industrie-Werke, which used the 10-shot detachable magazine of the K.43, and one from Röchling, which used 5-round stripper clips to reload.
  • Repeaters that used the 7.92 x 33mm short cartridge. Deutsche Industrie-Werke offered two different versions.
  • One semi-auto rifle that used the 7.92mm short cartridge. This came from the Gustloff-Werke, who hedged their bet with the single-shot turnbolt gun mentioned above. This is the famous VG 1-5, whose picture (from GunLab, where reproductions are underway) graces the top of this story.

Every one had a rough-hewn stock and rudimentary, usually fixed, sights. These rifles were demonstrated to Adolf Hitler (or maybe they weren’t, actually) in the first week of November, 1944; and Hitler reportedly made his comments, issued his guidance, and selected the weapons to be produced.

To be continued.

Dannel Malloy creates 115 jobs — out of his state

ptrindustriesDannel Malloy, the peace-love-dope-child governor of the state of Connecticut, has said from time to time that his priority is to create jobs. And he’s finally done it! Props to the Great Man. Of course, the jobs he’s created are in South Carolina, as Connecticut businesses flee the tax, regulatory and legal environment he’s created. This is especially true of gun companies — the only one paying lip service to staying in CT is Colt, and they’re expanding out of state.

One Connecticut company reached a milestone on Monday, with the first PTR-91 receiver to be manufactured in South Carolina and engraved with PTR’s new home, “Aynor, SC.”

ptr_aynor_sc_job_1[PTR Industries purchasing manager Bob] Grabowski gave WMBF News a behind-the-scenes tour Monday to show the complexity of the gun manufacturing process, proudly displaying the first steel receiver to be stamped with Aynor’s name.

The sheet of steel is cut, punched, and finally stamped to make the receiver of the guns. Economic experts hope this puts Horry County on the map as a target for other gun plants.

“We can brag to other manufacturers that we are the home to PTR industries, and now every weapon they make and distribute has ‘Made in South Carolina’ stamped on it,” said Brad Lofton with the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation.

Soon, the county hopes to host Ithaca Gun Company, as well.

“Part of the economic development process is to take off the watch and grab the calendar, there are a lot of things that go into it,”explained Lofton.

Right now the MBREDC is working with a contractor to push building plans forward as the company considers moving to an already-existing facility.

“They will provide anywhere from 80 to 115 jobs,” said Lofton.

STAG Firearms is another possibility, as the MBREDC continues to pursue that company to come to the coast. Lofton explained right now, STAG is considering between South Carolina and Texas.

“Texas is tough, there’s no personal income tax and it’s a friendly second amendment state, but why wouldn’t you want to be in Myrtle Beach with 65 miles of coast?” Lofton said.

With PTR Industries being the first to open in Horry County, the gun plant hopes others will follow their lead and move lock, stock, and barrel to the Grand Strand.

“It’s a friendly business environment, there’s lots of room to grow down here and a lot of people looking for jobs, good quality people for this industry,” said Grabowski.

You know it’s a Read the Whole Thing™er. And when you do, you can also watch the video, and be shocked by the apparition of not one, but several TV reporters who are visibly proud of this new industry and thrilled to have it in their state and region. Truly, the singularity is upon us.

Bob makes a great spokesman for PTR Industries, and everybody in the SC plant makes a great spokesman for not expanding in Connecticut. We’ve reported previously on PTR’s decision, which wasn’t an easy one — after all, the founders and the workers all have homes and family ties in CT. But the white heat of hate emanating from the golden dome of the state capitol, and especially from the governor’s mansion on Prospect Street, made the decision an easy one.

Previous reporting on the move or PTR, or articles on other gun-firm moves that referenced PTR’s.

28 Jun 13: Gun makers in ban states: we’re outa here.

1 Jul 13: More on the PTR move.

8 Aug 13: Gun Making Behind the Patchouli Curtain.

13 Sep 13: Friday the 13th Friday Night Follies.

21 Oct 13: Goodbye Gun Valley, hello Gun County.

17 Feb 14: Assortative Relocation, Remington, and You.

A 3D Printing Story

3d-printer-guide-0314-mdnThis story at Popular Mechanics is somewhat grandiosely titled, “Everything You Need to Know to Start 3-D Printing.” While it might not contain everything you need to know, it is a pretty good description of one guy’s trials and errors getting started, and it has a helpful sidebar that shows some of the currently available printers and their pros and cons. Here’s a taste:

Before investing in my own printer, I decided to get some experience on someone else’s. I asked around at my local co-working space, Tigerlabs, in Princeton, N.J., and found a tenant who let me use his MakerBot Replicator 2 in exchange for a couple of the rockets I hoped to make and a generous spool of printer filament (about $50).

3D printers build things by depositing successive layers of material, a process called additive manufacturing. Most use a mechanism that’s like a cross between an inkjet printer and a hot-glue gun: A plastic filament feeds into a heated printhead, which dispenses hot goo that quickly cools and hardens. Early homemade printers used replacement line from string trimmers as feedstock, but today’s machines run on specially made material.

Those serious about 3D printing use machines that handle all kinds of plastics, most commonly ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and PLA (polylactic acid), but also materials such as nylon, fiber-reinforced plastics, and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) derived from recycled soda bottles. ABS is popular because it’s strong, inexpensive, and easily modified with tools after printing. On the downside, ABS emerges from the printhead as a thick syrup that flows slowly and shrinks as it cools, making high-precision printing a tricky affair.

It’s a short and pithy article so you’ll want to Read the Whole Thing™. the author,, is trying to make parts for model rockets; but with 3-D printing, the part you’re trying to make is less important than the technology you’re trying to use.

The author is not terribly experienced at 3-D printing, but that’s one of the things that makes this article useful; in our experience, people with a lot of 3-D printing experience tend to forget the unholy Frankenstein monsters they made in the early stages of their learning curve. People who are real additive manufacturing boosters, like us, also tend to be more willing to excuse the technology’s failures, flaws and foibles.

We walked off with some valuable takeaways from this article:

  • It pays to experiment with a borrowed or hired printer, before you commit to buying one.
  • There is no substitute for the knowledge gained by hands-on experience. (This is so near universal in its applicability, that it just may be a natural law).
  • This inference follows logically from the last conclusion: that the time to get started in this is right now.
  • Even the simple prints that he used quickly exceeded the capability of the closed-source printer he was using. (This is almost certainly a software problem, because the differences between the various plastic 3-D printers’ hardware are not that great).

The sidebar is a three-image slideshow with printers recommended for three levels of interest — hobbyist, maker, or entrepreneur. It is the first place we’ve heard of the CEL Robox, whose “printhead can be swapped out for a stylus cutter, a milling head, or a 3D scanner.” That sounds promising to us, although we think everybody understands you’re not going to have much luck milling steel with a machine made from plastic and aluminum, and a look at CEL’s website — their original product was a sort of universal power tool kit for home workshop types in Europe — indicates that, while the Robox is .

Like many of the new 3D Printers, the Robox was funded on Kickstarter. Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and similar websites are useful places to hang out to get a sense of what’s coming next in additive manufacturing, if you’re not ready to geek out on some of the resources we’ve mentioned previously. (That is a link to a google search of Weaponsman for “3D printing” — or it should be. We wrote this in a place that defaults to a foreign Google search engine so we may have handbuilt the query to wrong, let us know in the comments).

Via Robox, we learn that an Australian team is making 3D-printed horseshoes that conform perfectly to a horse’s hooves — “horse-thotics,” they’re calling ‘em. They don’t say how they’re doing it but since they mention titanium, it’s probably some form of laser sintering (DMLS or SLS, maybe). Will the soldier or cop of this century have a weapon that conforms to his own physiognomy? We live, friends, in interesting times!

Is this gun ad “in poor taste?”

Michelangelo's DavidThat’s what Armalite admits after pulling the ad in a welter of condemnation from various official Italian sources. The ad depicts Michelangelo’s David armed with the David’s Sling of today, a .50-caliber sniper rifle. (The image embiggens).

Here’s a brief take from National Review:

The gun maker ArmaLite ran an ad as part of its “A Work of Art” campaign that features Michelangelo’s David holding a sniper rifle and has come under fire for it — from the Italian government, which owns the statue and claims it’s intellectual property.

In response to the ad, Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini recently tweeted, ”The advertisement image of an armed David offends and violates the law. We will act against the American company to make sure it withdraws the campaign immediately.”

Angello Tartuferi, director of the Accademia Gallery in Florence, where the statue is on display, told La Repubblica newspaper that Italy owned the copyright to David, saying “the law says that the aesthetic value of the work cannot be distorted. In this case, not only is the choice in bad taste but also completely illegal.”

ArmaLite has apologized for the ad and withdrawn it, saying it was “in poor taste.” “We deeply regret that ArmaLite offended anyone by this media campaign,” the company’s statement said. The ad was for the AR-50A1, a .50-caliber sniper rifle.

Now, who knows what evil dwells in the heart of Italian copyright law, but this is certainly not a copyright violation here in the USA.

And, is it in poor taste? We don’t think so. One of 2014′s projects is to build a larger gun room (or, to be accurate, to have one built for us) and we’d love to have a poster of this hanging there.  What do you think?