Category Archives: Industry

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!)

What TrackingPoint Must Do to Sell to SOF

Tracking Point ProductsWe think the guys running TrackingPoint know what they have to do. In fact, we think they’re already doing these things. But here’s what, from our point of view, is missing from the current iteration of TrackingPoint hardware and software for real penetration into the upper tier SOF market.

So, Who Do You Hit First?

SF Recruiting Poster pick it upIf we were their marketing consultants (we use our MBA, but not like that), we’d also press them to focus on sell-in to certain SOF elements that are image leaders in the international SOF community. Sell, for example, to SAS, and you will have Peru, the UAE, the Netherlands, and many other nations very interested in your product line (Indeed, sell to SAS or to their US counterparts, and you’ll get sale after sale, worldwide). It’s important, also, not to over-discount the stuff to your lead customers: confidentiality agreements are fine and good, but they probably can’t keep, say, American shooters from telling the foreign shooters they’re training with or competing against, what a good deal you gave ‘em.

Another possible launch customer is FBI HRT. As their history of reckless shots and whacked non-targets shows, they could use the marksmanship boost. Meanwhile, despite their record, they’re very influential on local police procurement. Tag/track/release technology is just the ticket for police marksmen who never get enough time for training, and yet have to make more consequential and more constrained shots than a lot of military snipers. (A military sniper, outside of some rarefied CT or HR gigs, almost always has the option to no-shoot. FBI or police sniper, scope-on a crim threatening a hostage, might lack that luxury).

Who Don’t You Hit?

While the Marine Scout Snipers could use the hell out of this thing, it’s too foreign to Marine marksmanship culture, which is a master-and-apprentice culture that demands effort, even hardship, and eschews automation or corner-cutting of any kind. So we’d put these excellent Marine precision marksmen way down the list, right now. We’ve worked with enough 8541s to know that they like to do things the hard way, and they take particular joy in doing it the hard way faster than an Army guy can do it the easy way, and take a positively indecent glee in breaking the dogface’s easy-way technology. Bringing this to the Marines first means that they will use their considerable intellect and energy to break your machine and send you away with a duffel bag of expensive pieces (so they’re great for finding unimagined points of failure — there is that). Bringing it to them after selling it to the Army is not a panacea. It might be even harder, because they will be energized to demonstrate that the Army did Something Stupid, because if Marines believe three things about the Army it’s that: we have too much money, too little guts, and way too little brains.

You’ll probably need a Marine sniper on board to sell to Marine snipers. Once you do, you won’t get quite the global reach that you do by selling to SAS or its American counterparts. But you get in with the world’s greatest military image machine, and there is that. 

You have to be very careful about selling in to Hollywood. (One TrackingPoint precision guided rifle is already in the hands of the most successful firm that supplies movie and TV weapons and armorers). The reason is that an inept display of your product can hurt sales. (It would be very Hollywood to put the TrackingPoint system in the hands of a villain, to be overcome by someone like a Marine sniper or James Bond willing to use superior skill and old school firearms).

What’s Missing From 1st-Gen Tracking Point

While the extant system has undeniable SOF applications, it also has limits, and some technical improvements — none of which are impossible or require TrackingPoint engineers to schedule an invention — would increase its marketability in military precision riflery circles.

Emission Control / Encryption / ECCM

It’s great that you have a computer in a scope, and it’s the wave of the future. But the computer can be located by enemy SIGINT. The video and wifi links need strong encryption, and in addition they need to be controllable so that emissions can be closed down. Even third world enemies often use electronic support measures these days, and so you need some RF low-observability measures, and you also need to have electronic counter countermeasures to ensure usability of the system in an electronic environment.

Two-way communications

This one engenders some risk, but there should be a capability for the opetator to hand off control of the PGM’s optoelectronic systems to someone’s telepresence from a support station. Or even from another field station.

Intelligence gathering MASINT capability

There is everything in this weapons system that’s needed, for instance, to remotely measure a prison camp or a suspected SS-20 missile TEL. This capability would also tie in beautifully with the improved communications and encryption capabilities mentioned above.

A Ballistic Development Interface, SDK or App

Now that we have that in-scope computer, fully integrated with the hardware of the firearm, we need to have a way to make it more adaptable to different ammunition loadings, including one-time, single-mission loads. And that has to be done at the unit level; otherwise you’ve got a potential breach of compartmentation.

tracking_point_trad_mode

This is a sales stopper with top tier units. They develop their own long range capabilities, including, at times, loads, and they do it because they think they, like benchrest shooters, can handload a more consistent, higher-precision round than even premium ammo suppliers can do.

Demonstrated, Documented Durability

The running joke is that a soldier or marine can break a ball from a ball-bearing — just leave him alone in a room with it, and you’re a half hour from looking at a broken ball, and hearing, “Uh, I dunno, sarge. It just broke!” (Bearing-ball, hell, these guys could do that with a wrecking ball). You want your machine to be wrecking-ball strong.

Demonstrated “Fail Safe” mode.

The capability of the system has to degrade gracefully. If you’re sneakin and peekin’ on Day 38 of a “14-day mission,” dead batteries can’t leave you in shoot-randomly mode (let alone, can’t-shoot mode). Even an ACOG, which is probably harder to break than the gun it’s atop, has cast-in backup sights. But with a TrackingPoint gun’s scope being dependent on a CCD display at the shooter end, you can’t afford to have dead batteries.

Full Auto Stabilization Mode

We can’t be the only ones who looked at this and thought, “tag, track & x-act really could up the game of a door gunner and/or Boat Guy.” Hell, those Chenoweth sandrails might come back from the dead, if the gunners in them could actually hit things instead of just contribute morale-raising decibels to a fight. Imagine this Hollywood concoction, except real, and with the boost in hit probability than TrackingPoint promises.

You know you want one (more on the movie gun soon).

Note that these are just for the military employment of tracking point, as combat weapons technology. We haven’t even addressed the utility of tracking point for big game hunting, which is what the thing was developed for in the first place. Its applications for everything from African plains game to heliborne predator control seem self-evident. We haven’t even hinted at the potential for a rimfire TrackingPoint squirrel slaughter system, something that would sell itself once the price comes down.

As we all know, the guys running TrackingPoint are not stupid. They are probably thinking of most if not all of these things already. If not, hey, our rates are reasonable; drop us a line.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Tubalcain’s Machine Shop Tips

If you want to work on guns, you have to be able to work metal. Fortunately, metalworking is not brain surgery. Unfortunately, it is very complex and requires hands-on experience to develop any kind of skill whatsoever. So it’s good to have guides to the terra incognita of metal work, whether it’s something as simple (or is it?) as metals recognition, or as complex as making, installing and setting up repair parts for a broken lathe.

At one time, the only way you could get help gaining the experience to work metal was by apprenticing yourself to a master, or taking years of shop classes. But that was then, and now there’s YouTube, home of all kinds of how-to videos (some of them by Bubba or at least his mentors). But many of the instructional videos are of high quality. We’d like to single out “Tubalcain’s” series of videos as particularly useful to the beginner or learning machinist or metal worker.

We first found his videos when getting the hang of foundry, but this week discovered that someone had organized them all on a web page.

This extensive list of “Tubalcain” YouTube videos was sent by mrpete222.  To access them go to his YT channel and scan down the list.

The name “Tubalcain” is a Biblical reference, and an apt one.

From Wikipedia:

“Genesis 4:22 says that Tubal-cain was the “forger of all instruments of bronze and iron” or an “instructer of every artificer in brass and iron” . Although this may mean he was a metalsmith, a comparison with verses 20 and 21 suggests that he may have been the very first artificer in brass and iron. T. C. Mitchell suggests that he “discovered the possibilities of cold forging native copper and meteoric iron.” Tubal-cain has even been described as the first chemist”

via MACHINE SHOP TIPS.

This is definitely a page you’ll want to come back to. It’s edifying just to have one of these videos playing on another monitor while working — or we think it is. Hell, we may even learn something.

 

Ave Atque Vale: The Gun Wire

the_gun_wire_end_of_the_lineIt’s been a while since one of everyone’s go-to gun news sites went radio silent. The Gun Wire, a former Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week, seems to have gone belly up.

The site launched slowly in the summer of 2011, and by December was rollicking right along. Until recently, it posted dozens of stories, and a score of videos, every single day. It was a resource we had come to love.

They last posted news stories about 28 September 14 and videos 2 October. Their Facebook page hasn’t been updated since 18 September, almost a month ago.

It’s dead, Jim.

It had a good three years. The information we have is that the founders have packed it in. The site’s archive will stay up as long as the hosting fees are paid, but don’t look for the daily, Drudge-like gun news aggregation any more.

We don’t know what is causing this; we hope it’s just burnout, and nothing more serious. We always enjoyed the site and seldom missed a day.

The other gun-news aggregator is still live, thank God, but The Gun Wire was one of the stars in our daily firmament of information, and we will miss it. Ave atque Vale to the site, and best wishes for life and prosperity to its former staff.

A 3D Lower we Missed: Vz61 Škorpion

Here’s one we missed in this morning’s roundup: Czech Vz.61 Škorpion. Less than a minute of 3D revolution for you:

The Škorpion (the symbol on the “Š” makes it an “Sh” sound, so it sounds like “Shkorpion” in its native tongue) was a personal defense weapon designed by CZ, then a “Narodni Podnik” or “National Enterprise” in the former Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in 1958-59 and adopted in 1961. (The Vz. stands for “vzor,” meaning “model.” Silly Czechs, they have a different word for everything!)

There’s a great deal of noise about the Škorpion having been designed for Czechoslovak special operations forces or espionage agents, which can best be classified as bullshit. The weapon was for officers, radio operators, support troops and others whose primary mission reduced both their requirement for and ability to carry a regular sized rifle. In other words, it was a conceptual successor to the M1/M2 carbine; the Poles developed a weapon that fit this same niche at about this same time.

At the same time as the Škorpion’s development, the Czechoslovak military was converting from a traditional semi-auto battle rifle in intermediate cartridges, the Vz. 52 and Vz.52/57, to a modern assault rifle in an intermediate cartridge. (The Czechoslovak engineers developed a short-lived 7.62 x 45mm cartridge, which was replaced by the Warsaw Pact standard 7.62 x 39 for interoperability’s sake). The Vz. 58 assault rifle that came out of these efforts resembles an AK in profile, but is a completely different weapon, with different magazines, operating system and manual of arms.

The folding-stock variant of the Vz. 58  is reasonably compact and eliminates some of the justification for the Škorp. So it gradually became sidelined in Czechoslovak forces; many years later, after the fall of Communism and the peaceful and orderly separation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia into separate states, most of the Škorpions were removed from service and sold; many of them wound up in the USA as parts kits, and more were rebuilt as semiautos with new lower receivers and other modifications. The semi Škorps are available on the market as pistols, or as Short Barreled Rifles under the provisions of the National Firearms Act.

Returning to the printed lower for this gun, the usual plastics from low-end printers using the fused filament fabrication (FFF) process, ABS and PLA, are unlikely to be durable enough in the long term. Of course, the .stl files can be used to print many more types of material also, or to operate subtractive machinery like a CNC mill. And more durable plastics, such as Nylon 618, are already available; a $6k carbon-fiber printer is on the market, and carbon-fiber-reinforced filament for lower-cost printers is also on the way.

Exercise caution before printing the file and assembling a parts kit on to it, as you run the risk of violating several paragraphs of 18 USC §922. To make a legal SBR, it must be registered in advance on a Form 1. To make a legal semi, it must not accept full-auto parts that would make a conversion possible, and must fire from a closed bolt. To make a legal machine gun, you must have a manufacturer’s license and a demo letter, and have an approved Form 1 in advance. We don’t know how the video maker handled the legalities. Bear in mind the ATF is watching this area closely and, as an institution, prefers to pursue licensing or other paperwork violations, which are slam-dunk easy-to-prove felonies, over cases against violent criminal organizations, which may require long investigation and expensive, risky techniques.

The Latest in 3D Printed Gun Developments

As we predicted, last time we looked at this, 3D printing is evolving to better adapt the available materials in consumer printers to the requirements of firearms applications. No more is it true that a printed receiver, even printed of low-end materials like PLA on a low-end consumer printer, is destined for a short and unreliable life. And people are taking printing in new directions.

The Continued Evolution of the Printed AR Receiver

The first printed AR receivers were clones of their aluminum forebears. And they broke. Boy howdy, they broke. You may recall that between the M16A1 and M16A2, even the forged 7075-T6 aluminum receiver was redesigned for greater strength. Material, and strength, was added to the pivot pin supports into the buffer tower area, which are the most vulnerable areas of any A. receiver

Let’s start here:

3d printed disaster-no

That looks like what 3-D printer enthusiasts call a “rage print.” Printer rage occurs when something goes wrong in the 3D programming, and instead of making a nice, neat, three-dimensional part, your printer prints a bunch of gooey plastic strings going in random directions. That’s exactly what this looks like. But that’s not what this is. It’s actually a new support-layout software that allows saving filament (even though the most common filament, PLA, is a 100% recyclable thermoplastic). We think it’s Autodesk MeshMixer. The supports look like a thready mesh, but there’s an AR lower under there.

If you look at the lower closely, you’ll see that it differs in detail from a metallic lower, whether it’s the stock 7075 forging or the too-cool case-hardened billet that Trumbull uses for its work-of-art ARs. It’s much thicker in places, which helps to make up for the lower strength of the soft plastic. We mentioned earlier that this was inevitable; just as designs and evolved to take advantage of new materials before, we have to expect designs to evolve to take advantage of these new materials, and new ways of manufacturing parts with them. This model, the Hermes, includes an integral buffer tube and stock, making the weakest part of the AR lower (the buffer tower-buffer tube interface) a single part:

hermes1-8

Here’s a couple more-evolved minimalist AR lowers, the Phobos (yellow) and Vanguard (red):

 

 

Vanguard and Phobos lowers

Simplifying the lower reduces its print time and its likelihood of print errors. Thickening its parts reinforces weak areas and eliminates stress risers. Note that these are “as printed” without extensive acetone smoothing.

Here’s the Phobos, with its minimal magazine tower, built into a firearm.

Phobos printed on DaVinci01

 

It is optimized for the C-Products Beta magazine.

Phobos works with c-products betamag

 

Here is a close-up. The increased thickness, for strength and durability, is clear. So is the rough surface finish. This example was printed on a DaVinci printer, an inexpensive printer ($500) from XYZPrinting.com.

Phobos note thickness and finish

Here is the Phobos on range test. 100 rounds so far, successfully, as of 10 October 14.

Phobos in action

Are they militarily useful yet? Not really. Only as a prototyping technology, but it’s already been used that way. For instance, when Taiwan developed a new buttstock for its service rifle, they used 3D printing to produce ergonomic test samples.

But one can’t help but be reminded of Franklin’s retort to a woman who questioned his interest in the Montgolfiers’ pioneering balloon ascents: “What use is it? Madam, what use is a newborn baby?”

Revolver Developments

It’s not our cup of tea, really, but there’s quite a few people working on mechanically operated revolvers. Some of these look like the ancient Mauser zigzag revolver; others look more like something that would come with a Nerf trademark on it. Some seem to resemble both:

Imura revolver rendering

That’s the Imura revolver, named for Japanese 3D firearm experimenter (and criminal suspect, thanks to that) Yoshitomo Imura.

The Regulatory Angle

Of course not everybody thinks additive Manufacturing applied to firearms is a good idea. Indeed number everyone thinks that manufacturing firearms is a good idea most of your familiar with California Democrat Mike Honda’s bill to criminalize all home gunsmithing. The bill is certainly DOA in Congress in an Election Year, when even liberal pols are willing to denying Mike Bloomberg three times, like Peter.

Meanwhile, police and regulatory agencies in the US, Britain and Australia have been willing to lie about the technology to spread FUD. Here’s a line from an article at 3Ders.org:

Although police forces from around the world are warning technology enthusiasts not to attempt to use 3D printers to make plastic guns, because each time they have been tested the weapons have exploded.

Of course they have, because the cops/authorities have lightened the infill to make grenades, not pistols. If you hollow out a 1911 barrel, it’ll blow up, too. That’s far from the only mistake in the article, which claims to be an overview and timeline of 3DP weapons. For example, there’s this pseudo-engineering mumbo-jumbo:

 Two factors in engineering still need to be overcome, these are; high stress resistance materials that resist knife edge loads and high temperature flashes.

Huh? “Knife-edge loads?” Somebody’s having hot flashes, and it’s not the guns. If you look back up at the start of this post, you’ll see how the AR receiver has evolved to be something effective that can be made of low-tensile-strength polymers. And then there’s  this howler:

Solid Concepts… [used] a direct metal laser sintering printer to create a replica of a 1911 Browning .45 pistol. To date this weapon has fired over 600 shots successfully. … printing such a gun to resell is not currently economically feasible.

Except, of course, that Solid Concepts is already printing, and selling, them. Which they do sort-of note in the article, in the bit in the ellipses.

Not everything in the article appears to be nonsense, but in particular, the idea that printed guns are proven to explode needs to be stepped on. Hard. Sabotaged guns are proven to explode: not the same thing.

And to Make Regulators’ Heads Go High-Order Again…

It’s bad enough, from the standpoint of a domineering regulator, that people are using technology to make firearms without a “Mother, may I?” from On High. But it’s gone beyond that. Japanese technologist Yoshitomo Imura has taken the whole thing in a meta direction by designing printable technology for making guns. His current designs include a 3D printer (not that that’s anything new; many printers are capable of printing their own parts) and, more remarkably, a 3D printed micro milling machine.

imura_printed_micro_mill

Certainly there are valid objections: the technology is not there to print a sufficiently rigid mill, the unit can’t match the rigidity of even a low-budget Chinese unit, etc., etc.

To which we say, “What use is a newborn baby?”

In a world where the products, the tools, and even the tools that make the tools are all fundamentally digital, banning guns isn’t just difficult. It’s impossible. Any attempt at “control” will be reminiscent of the manner in which the USSR and its slave satellites struggled, never succeeding, in mighty efforts to ban information – until they ultimately collapsedWhen banning books didn’t work for them, they tried banning typewriters. Certainly the Mike Hondas of the world will go after the digital information needed to print gun parts, but information continues its trendline towards greater freedom and independence.

At Least We Built Afghan Capability Wisely, Right?

Er, wrong. The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (i.e., the “Poor Bastard who Has to Add Up All the Fraud, Waste and Abuse”) looked at our provision of about a half a billion dollars to buy Alenia G-222 aircraft for the Afghan Air Force to operate. So, the money was spent, the turboprop transports were delivered… and then they sat. For a couple years.

brand_new_g222s__sitting_in_november

These pictures were taken in November, 2013. Some of the planes were parked a little haphazardly, but none of them needed more than some spares and overdue scheduled and preventive maintenance. That’s what it would have taken to return these nearly new planes, worth some $25 million each, to the sky. (Corrosion, the dread slayer of sitting aircraft, is not much of a factor in arid Kabul).

g222s_parked_a_bit_haphazardly_but_reparable

Then, this year, they were scrapped. Well, 16 of the 20 were scrapped, on the QT. The USAF got 6¢ per ton for the metal; there are 4 more that survived just because they happened to be out of the country when this spate of vandalism took place. None of the planes had more than a hundred flight hours on it; many of them had flown fewer than 10 hours since delivery. The whole fleet flew a total of 234 hours in their one year in-country.

g222s_reduced_to_scrap

But the waste on the airplanes and engines and avionics and all that — on its way to be squashed into jingle trucks as scrap aluminum — is the least of it. There’s the human waste of the crews who were trained and didn’t fly, and the opportunity cost of the years spent stumbling down this rathole.

The Air Force canceled the G-222 support contract, grounding the planes, in hopes of getting the Afghans, who couldn’t maintain the G-222s, C-130s instead — at $40 million each. So it will cost over a billion dollars to replace the capability we just wasted six or so years and half a billion dollars on, and scrapped for 6¢ a pound. Assuming the winds don’t change in the Air Force, and they decide the Afghans should have C-17s with inlaid gold bars in the pilot seats or something like that.

Would You Be Shocked to Learn a “Bozo” is Behind This?

The official promoting the C-130 boondoggle currently is Undersecretary of Defense Christine Wormuth, as her signature shows:

wormuth_signature

Got it? They have almost one C-130H crew, so they need moar C-130s than the pair they’ve already got, which are mostly sitting like the doomed G-222s did.

And awwww…. she recycles. Fun fact: she almost wasn’t confirmed in this job, due to her poor performance at DHS. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) put a hold on her nomination because of her refusal to face the islamist threat, saying:

They can nominate any bozo they want, the way it is now. I mean, look at the ambassador nominees. People who have never been in the country are clueless who are now going to be made ambassadors.

So now we will see less and less qualified people nominated by the President of the United States.

Under the so-called “nuclear option,” McCain’s objections to the “less and less qualified” “any bozo” Wormuth were ultimately overruled on a party-line vote. And now, having failed upward, she’s blowing billions with boozy abandon.

But hey, that’s nothing new. Last year the SIGAR found another $800 million waste (.pdf) in other Afghan Air Force aid. The SIGAR website is packed to the gills with fraud and corruption (here are some cases, but skip around, it’s a target-saturated environment).

Here’s Another Scope of Tomorrow: Sandia’s RAZAR

Sandia National Labs is better known for playing around with things that go boom and make entire grid squares vanish, than it is for small arms. But the RAZAR scope (Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles) is right in our wheelhouse:

Sandia operates two laboratories for the Department of Energy, but has been known to turn its talents to DOD work.

Sandia says: “RAZAR adaptive zoom is a revolutionary method whereby true optical zoom is accomplished by cooperatively varying the focal lengths of multiple active optical elements in the system.” In effect, this gives you at a minimum the dual magnification of the Elcan SPECTR we’ve used, but without having to take your hand off the rifle. It also offers all intermediate magnifications and fields of view between its extremes. Sandia, again:

RAZAR, and its component lenses, are market leaders from a performance standpoint. It can zoom in milliseconds and perform 10,000 actuations on two AA batteries. The weight, power, and speed requirements for mechanical zoom make them pro- hibitive. RAZAR allows target engagement at diverse ranges and provides several distinct advantages including speed and high resolution at varying distances.

The interface at present is a plus arrow and a minus arrow, fitted on the forearm rail much like a vane switch used with a light. A better interface, if you had a RAZAR with a very wide range of magnification, would be four buttons: plus or minus increment buttons like the current design, plus zoom-to-the-max and -min buttons.

They patented the technology in 2005 (US Patent Nº 6,977,777) and are actively trying to license it to industry. Really trying. Interested?

The RAZAR is actually only one of several Sandia optics developments that are highly interesting. Foveated lenses are another; they developed these to give UAVs a light, compact wide-angle lens but it’s not hard to think of ground forces applications for such a device. And then there are variable radius synthetic mirrors… you can see an overview of these technologies in this promotional PDF from Sandia.

Hat tip: Thanks to John in the comments for getting us started on this.

How’s that Ghost Gunner Selling?

Ghost Gunner promo picAs of this morning, of 410 pre-order units offered for sale since October 1, 372 have been sold. (NOTE UPDATE NUMBERS BEFORE GOING LIVE)

Pledge $1299

162 orders

Limited (38 left of 200)

via Ghost Gunner. That was at midnight. By 1100 EDT today (only 0900 in DD’s Texas home), 181 orders had been laid against of the third increment of 200 units, with only 19 left unspoken-for.

These are true orders, paid for with credit cards (already charged) or Bitcoin (fully transferred), not unenforceable pledges.

Raised by this initiative: $340,328 (that’s 10x $999, 200x $1199, and 162x $1299) UPDATE: $365,009 (that’s 10x $999, 200x $1199, and 1181x $1299. Let it never be said we don’t show our math).The price for a unit is expected to be around $1,500 when the pre-order is over and regular production is underway. If the batch sells out, which even at the declining sales rate could be within 24 hours, Defense Distributed’s take will be $389,690 — with zero  going to Kickstarter or Indiegogo fees, because those businesses are anti-2nd-Amendment and don’t want this business.

The first batch of 10 for $999 sold out before 0800 Central Time 1 Oct 14, launch day. Next batch of 200 x $1199 sold out 2 Oct — within 24 hours of launch, according to DefDist tweets. A third batch of 100 was then launched, sold out 4 Oct 14, and extended to at least another hundred units. (It seems likely that they will extend the pre-order again if the remaining units sell. But having to actually build and deliver these things has to be a little bit daunting).

Tentative conclusion: Americans want to build their own guns, and are willing to spend to do it. (Sadly, they may be more willing to spend than they are willing to learn. You’ve always been able to do what the GhostGunner comes configured to do, with a manual mill and a simple jig, or even with a drill press, if you’re willing to accept some reduction in quality. Some guys have done it with a Dremel tool, but they may be named Bubba).