Category Archives: The Past is Another Country

Will the Military Obey Unlawful Orders?

An officer's commission (here, a Continental Commission signed by President of the Con. Congress John Hancock). Enduring question: are you commissioned to obey orders, or sustain principles?

An officer’s commission (here, a Continental Commission signed by President of the Con. Congress John Hancock). Enduring question: are you commissioned to obey orders, or sustain principles?

The answer to that is, unquestionably, yes. You probably shouldn’t delude yourself on that score. Back in March, Commander Salamander noted this exchange between Brett Baier and Presidential candidate Donald Trump (exchange edited for brevity):

BAIER: [W]hat would you do, as commander-in-chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?

TRUMP: They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.

BAIER: But they’re illegal.

TRUMP: …They then came to me, what do you think of waterboarding? I said it’s fine. And if we want to go stronger, I’d go stronger, too, because, frankly…


… that’s the way I feel. ….We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding. That’s my opinion.

BAIER: But targeting terrorists’ families?


TRUMP: If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.

This, Sal analyzes as follows:

There has been a lot of huff’n and puff’n from many who presently or once wore the uniform, including your humble blogg’r, roughly of, “We will not. No one will follow those illegal orders. We will just refuse.” The more I’ve thought about it, the more I think my initial instinct is wrong.

That might be an internal dialog, but once a senior officer looks you in the eye, and even if you make a protest says, “The JAG stated …” or “The Justice Department ruled that … “, there are very few who will resist. Anyone below 4-stars that does refuse will simply be fired and someone will step forward to execute the order in their place within minutes. That one person will have a clear conscience, but will also have a dead-end career, professional exile, and nothing will actually have changed.

In the main, orders will be followed.

This is a retired officer talking, who has held the nation’s Commission and done the nation’s duty at sea and ashore, and everything he says is 100% in line with what we observed in three decades of combined Active, Reserve and Guard service, most of it in SF with very good and very ethical officers.

He also cites an analysis by Rosa Brooks (again, edited brutally for brevity) that goes like this:

Military resistance is no safeguard against a future president — Trump or anyone else — who’s determined to have his way.

Laws can be manipulated, and they can be changed, especially when a president wants them manipulated or changed. The U.S. military has a strong rule-of-law culture, but it also has a strong commitment to civilian control of the armed forces.

If history and social psychology have taught us anything, it’s that most people, civilian and military alike, will go along with the instructions of those they perceive as authority figures…

….numerous lawyers in the armed forces have expressed private concerns about ….[it really doesn’t matter what, although she has concrete examples –Ed.]. But here again, don’t expect a mutiny or a coup.

Sal returns to the more general problem, and says (edited, for a third time, to the high points):

[T]here is nothing that our GOFO community have done in peace that would lead me to think that there would be any concerted effort to stand up and say, “No.” in times of crisis.

Amen. He does cite some rare examples, such as then-General Rick Shinseki’s resistance to the Iraq war (which was based, if you know Shinseki, on partisan politics, not integrity, but let’s roll with it and give the General the benefit of the doubt), and after that, Vice-Admiral Thomas Connolly’s falling on the proverbial sword over MacNamara’s insane TFX and its F-111B Naval offshoot. Connolly’s response to a Senatorial question about the thrust needed to get the porky jet off a carrier deck is legendary:

[Gerald E.] Miller [then a Connolly aide and later an Admiral himself] remembers vividly that Admiral Connolly swallowed hard, then declared, “There isn’t enough thrust in Christendom to fix this plane.”

Sal admitted he was out of examples, at that point; in the spirit of purple-suited late pop stars jointness, we’d like to vector him to two famous examples from Army service.

  1. Chief of Staff Matthew B. Ridgeway. A World War II hero and Korean War leader, Ridgeway resisted the Presidential and civilian national security establishment’s attempt to all but eliminate the Army and go to an all-nuclear defense posture to enable massive defense cuts. Ridgeway was prepared to fall on his sword rather than withdraw the Army from Europe . Here’s a somewhat partisan view of the thing[.pdf] by officer turned political analyst Andrew J. Bacevich (he wrote it to demean military criticism of his beloved Clinton Administration). Eisenhower pushed Ridgeway into retirement and replaced him with the model of the modern political GO/FO, Kennedy Family Made Guy Maxwell D. Taylor.  (Taylor, too, would leave angry with Ike, but would receive new high offices from his Kennedy pals).
  2. Major General John K. “Jack” Singlaub’s 1977 resistance to Carter Administration policies which favored a US withdrawal from South Korea and Korean reunification under Kim Il Sung, which led to Singlaub being fired, forced to retire, and, in an act of the pettiness for which Carter and his defense suits from Harold K. Brown on down were known, denied disability benefits. We’ve covered that previously (and linked to this paper [.pdf] on the situation).
Ancient History? (Carthage, proof that war doesn't solve anything... oh, wait).

Ancient History? (Carthage, proof that war doesn’t solve anything… oh, wait).

What brings this ancient history to the surface? And it is ancient history: Shinseki’s resistance to his lords and betters took place 13 years ago, Singlaub’s 39, Connolly’s 54 or so, and Ridgeway’s over sixty years in the past. The lesson, then, is not that officers do stand up to orders that they thought unlawful and immoral (Ridgeway’s opposition to policies that targeted enemy civilian population centers; Connolly’s to an aircraft that threw naval aviators’ lives away; Singlaub’s to Carter’s encouragement of a second Korean war and the enslavement of South Koreans) or simply unwise (Shinseki’s turned-out-correct insistence that higher force structure would be needed for a contested occupation).

One word: Martland. Martland was not persecuted directly by soldier-hating suits like Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy (a career politician) or Secretary Designee Eric “Fabulous” Fanning. Martland’s NCOER was deliberately crafted to harm him. It was prepared and signed by officers and NCOs who knew they were uttering a false instrument, knew they were rejecting the Army Way of criticizing subordinates face to face and in private, knew they were taking up arms in a political battle, and doing it on the side of falsehood, and injuring a good man who had done a good thing, because the Army had drifted off into a foamy pink froth of values that were politically constructed and inconstant. What would those people do with an unlawful order?

People who saw in their commissions, their documents of appointment of rank, their assignment to positions, not as a place to bring their own morals and character to bear, but a place where they would stake all on unthinking obedience? And rationalize it afterward?

That way? Go that way if you will. Be ready to board the boxcars. Your turn will come.


Before There Were Many 9MM Ultra Compacts, There Was One

Devel ASP 12Before there was the current rich supply of ultra compact 9 mm pistols, someone had to have the idea for the first time. In fact, the idea of a small 9 mm carry gun was widespread long before any factory produced one.

The market answered, after a fashion: cut-down versions of pistols were produced. Some of them weren’t cut down much, like the P-38K and the Colt Commander. Others were not really practical, like Baby Lugers, and always appealed more to collectors than self-defense carriers.

SW-semi-model-chartBut the natural host for these first-generation pocket nines in the 1970s and 1980s was America’s first pistol designed for what was then a European cartridge, the 9 mm Smith & Wesson Model 39. The M39 was a postwar design that sought to blend European and American design concepts, and not only did that but produced an attractive firearm at the same time. It combined a Browning-style tilting-barrel, and a Walther-like SA/DA operating system with a slide-mounted safety/decocker. Mag release and slide stop were also Browning style, and the barrel was positioned in the nose end of the slide by a collet bushing modeled on the one in the Colt Gold Cup.

The M39 was single-stack before single-stack was cool, and entered the market in 1954-55 after years of development. If you want to foray into the weeds of Smith auto pistol history, Chris Baker took a shot at decoding Smith’s nomenclature mess with the M39 and its legions of successors at Lucky Gunner Lounge last year, also producing the infographic on the right, which appears correct but incomplete.

But the reason that the M39 yielded those early conversions were (1) it was readily available, and (2) there was nothing vital and hard to relocate in the parts of the gun that a compact conversion hacked off. This picture from an S&W forum shows three cut-down 39s: from l-r, an Austin Behlert special on a Smith 59 (basically, a double-stack 39), a full Devel on a 39 with ambi safety, and a full devel (no ambi safety) on a 59.

Behlert Devel Devel

The first, and most exotic small Smith was the ASP, made beginning in 1970 by New York artist and espionage agency hang-around Paris Theodore, who partnered initially with George L. Nonte. This ASP picture comes from the same forum as the shot above, and illustrates the somewhat industrial finish on ASPs.


The magazine was patented, specifically for the unusual laid-back pinky rest. The open side made the transparent/translucent segment of the grips practical.

One of the ASP features that will never show in a side view is that about 40% of the width of the reshaped trigger guard was milled away on the strong side of the customer, to provide faster access to the trigger. Theodore claimed that an ASP had 212 modifications from the factory M39.

Theodore’s spy stories seem to have been cut from whole cloth, but he died young — here is an interesting, if credulous, obituary in the late, lamented New York Sun. A definitive ASP was trimmed in height and length, dehorned and softened in its angles, and fitted with a patented “Guttersnipe” trough sight and see-through grips to facilitate round counting.

The Devel was devel-oped (you may groan) by Charlie Kelsey. They tended to be better finished and often had fluted slides to reduce weight. Here are three Devels, a 59 and two 39s.

Three Devels

This is a Devel on a Smith 39-2 from a current GunBroker auction, but supplied with two ASP magazines.

Devel ASP 09

The seller says this about it:

Smith & Wesson Model 39-2 Devel Custom chambered in 9mm with a 3.5″ barrel. Used but in good shape! Frame and slide have some handling wear, couple scratches, and little bit of finish wear around the edges. Comes with two hard to find ASP magazines! Please look at the pictures for details.

Devel ASP 05

The cut-down for Devel and ASP alike was usually 3/4 of an inch to the barrel and slide, and about a half inch to the butt. The package usually included replacing the collet bushing with a plain bushing, on reliability grounds, and bobbing the hammer.

Devel ASP 06

As you can see, the gun is not only shortened but also “softened” or “dehorned,” but it’s not what Devel called a “full house” custom, as it lacks the squared-off trigger guard and lightening flutes in the slide.

Factory compacts like Smith’s own 3913 crippled the market for these niche firearms, and both ASP and Devel folded, victims of the success of their own product.

Like Paris Theodore, Charlie Kelsey died prematurely, but while Theodore lost a long and debilitating battle with disease, Kelsey was found shot and burned in a ditch in Georgetown, Texas. While there were indications he may have been suicidal, he certainly can not have set his own dead body on fire. His murder has never been solved.


Of course, true Dedicated Followers of Browning would not be caught dead with a 9mm flyswatter: their pistol-shrinker of choice was Detonics, or Behlert (who called his bobbed .45 the Bobcat). But that’s another story!


Weapons Training, Special Training School 103, SOE

Fairbairn's early techniques were codified in this book.

Fairbairn’s early techniques were codified in this book.

The following is a description of firearms instruction at STS 103, which author David Stafford describes as, “one of a network of SOE training schools, and the only one in the Western Hemisphere.” (Other schools were in North Africa, Haifa and elsewhere around the Med, and in Singapore for the Far East). It shows that even 75 years ago, even before the word “mindset” was coined, this abstraction was valued far above practical skills.

Weapons training for OSS and SOE would evolve, but it was based, and remained based, on the work of William Ewart Fairbairn, a man who studied fighting with singleminded intensity, and who along with E.A. Sykes trained the Shanghai colonial police, at a time when Shanghai was a arguably the global leader in applied interpersonal violence and a Shanghai cop had to be quick with hands, feet, knives, and firearms.

As well as being suitably trained for silent killing and on armed combat, the recruits might also have occasion to use weapons, so Camp X gave them weapons training. Sharing the language of the OK Corral, SOE was interested in gunfighting. Since an agent’s life might very well depend on how well he had been taught, instructors would not let a bad shot out of the camp. They instilled in the student mind the impression that he was actually killing the target and to shoot as though his life depended on it. “As with every sport, provided that the principles taught are sound, practice makes perfect.” The principles so diligently instilled in practiced had as their goal, within the constraints imposed by time and the supply of ammunition, “to turn out good, fast, plain shots”. Whether in the use of machine carbines like the Tommy gun or in action with a pistol, the principle was the same: “tremendous speed in an attack with sufficient accuracy to hit the vital parts of a man’s body, for killing at close quarters demands aggression and extreme concentration.”

There were certain obstacles in producing these good, fast, and plain shots. One was the recruits’ previous experience. Instructors presumed that many of their students had some “revolver training in the old style” and, while being careful not to denigrate such skills has might have already been acquired in skeet shooting, had to impart the innovative “instinctive method” of firing.

The first point was that a pistol was not a weapon of self-defence but of attack – it was a combat weapon. Armed with the weapon under consideration, usually a .22 Hi-Standard or .32 Colt, the instructor conjured up a dramatic encounter while on a mission:

Picture in your mind the circumstances under which you might be using the pistol. Take as an example a raid on an enemy occupied house in darkness. Firstly consider your approach. You will never walk boldly up to the house and stroll in as though you were paying a social call. On the contrary, your approach will be stealthy. You will be keyed up and excited, nervously alert for danger from whichever direction. You will find yourself instinctively crouching; your body balanced on the balls of your feet in a position from which you can move swiftly in any direction. You make your entry into the house and start searching for the enemy, moving along passages, perhaps up or down stairs, listening and feeling for any signs of danger. Suddenly on turning a corner, you come face-to-face with the enemy. Without a second’s hesitation you must fire and kill him before he has a chance to kill you.

This method of course meant that an agent would never fire standing straight up, nor in any of the “fancy stances” common to competition shooting, and never have time to use the sights. Since recruits under such conditions might be worried about the accuracy of their name game, they practiced “instinctive pointing”,”the natural way that any man points at an object when he is concentrating”. Students stoodt directly in front of each other and pointed, at the instructor’s commands, to such targets is the exact centre of each other’s stomach, or left foot or right eye. When doing so, no one actually looked down his finger. Rather, “instinctively”, the arm, with the finger extended, came in to the center of the body. Here the finger, and of course its extension the gun, was in position right down the line of eyesight. Such pointing gave the shooter a natural control over direction and elevation when firing.

Applegate shootingAfter demonstrations and practice in holding the pistol or crouching in the firing position, the recruits were ready for some of the more elaborate target exercises using live ammunition. For example, using the .22, students were to imagine that they were outside a German beer cellar, automatics loaded and drawn. In the old style of attack, in order to position themselves for firing, they would have to rely on a totally silent approach. This, of course, was not only dangerous but impossible. SOE felt their method was much superior: “you have reached the doorway of the cellar by a stealthy approach, making no sound whatever. Very quietly turn the handle of the door as far as it will go, And then, preparing yourself for the effort, you kick the door open and kill your targets before they have a chance to realize what has happened.”

If this all sounds rather like a B-grade movie, reads like a spy novel, or looks like a TV SWAT team in action, it’s because SLE instinctive firing was so successful that after the war this innovation swept through commando schools, boot camps, and police academies alike, replacing forever the older shooting style.

Indeed, Rex Applegate, an American instructor trained by Sykes and Fairbairn, would adapt his training notes and syllabi into a postwar book, Kill or Get Killed, that was extremely influential. (The picture above is of Applegate, and it is from this book, which stayed in print for decades).

The gunfighting style of 1942 does look extremely dated today. SOE (and later, OSS) training emphasized instinctive, point shooting, without reference to even the limited, low-profile sights of a wartime or prewar pistol. Nowadays much better sights are used much faster, and pistols are routinely shot two-handed. At the start of World War II, the Japanese alone trained for two-handed shooting; this picture shows that by 1944 Jedburgh teams were training to shoot two-handed, but even long after the war Applegate continued to train one-handed point shooting.

Jeds point shooting 1944

One suspects that William Ewart Fairbairn — by all accounts something of a drip while off duty, having no interests broader than instruction in impartial and immediate unchristian mayhem, and means of delivering same — would approve.


Stafford, David: Camp X: OSS, “Intrepid,” and the Allies’ North American Training Camp for Secret Agents, 1941-1945. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1987. (pp. 97-99).

Keeping Your Remington .45s Straight

10x10_Remington-Logo_V01We recently read an article by Philip Schreier that corrected a bit of confusion that we didn’t even know we had about “Remington” made M1911 and 1911A1 pistols. The article was a sidebar to an article on Remington’s 200th anniversary in the current (April, 2016) American Rifleman. 

Remington is the oldest industrial firm in the Americas still making its original kind of product, which reinforces, perhaps, how important firearms manufacturing was to early American industrial development. But the company’s long and tangled history explains how three different runs of “Remington” 1911s have come to exist.  Here’s a timeline:



Note: Timelines ending in “2017” are ongoing. Who knows where they will end… or where they will go next?

Simple, eh? All the corporate history is in the lower part of the timeline — at the top, you can see the three 1911 production events, including the two wartime production contracts. The first contract was actual for half a million .45s, but on the German surrender in 1918, the contract was canceled and only 22,000 Remington .45s had been made, making it a relatively rare GI .45. These pistols were made in Remington’s ancestral Ilion, NY plant. This rather battered example, Serial Number 2900, has retired to the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia:

Remington UMC M1911 Nº 2900. Source.

Remington UMC M1911 Nº 2900. Source.

The Bridgeport, Connecticut plant whose location was marked on this slide was one of four 1,000,000+ square foot plants constructed by the company between 1914 and 1918 (the others were small arms plants in Ilion, Eddystone, PA, and an ammo plant also in Bridgeport). Both of the Bridgeport factories were destroyed in approximately 2010-13. As the National Firearms Museum recounts, Remington-UMC did not find it easy to fulfill its contract. Prior to 1917, only Colt, Springfield Armory (in very low quantities), and the Norwegian State Armories had produced the .45 pistol, and the Norwegians didn’t expect their modified pistol to interchange with American 1911s. Colt’s technical data package was wanting:

Colt provided technical assistance in the form of sample pistols and production drawings, but problems quickly arose. In addition to numerous discrepancies, these drawings contained only nominal dimensions and no tolerances. Finding it easier to make their own blueprints based on measurements obtained from the Colt-produced sample pistols rather than reconcile more than 400 known discrepancies, Remington-U.M.C. created a set of “salvage drawings” that were later used by other contractors as well. The Army suspended its contract with Remington-U.M.C. on December 12, 1918, but allowed the company to manufacture additional examples to reduce parts inventories on hand. All told, nearly 22,000 M1911s were delivered to the government before Remington-U.M.C. shut down its production line.

In the summer of 1919, the company turned over its pistol manufacturing equipment to Springfield Armory, where it was placed in storage until the Second World War.

The problem with the data was that Colt processes in 1917 were little improved from processes in the Civil War, with drawings mediated by the tribal knowledge of skilled workmen and foremen on the shop floor. For a modern, high-throughput plant with less-skilled labor, this wasn’t going to work.

In the grand scheme of things, the trickle of pistols from Remington-UMC in 1918 was a thunderous success; other contractors failed to produce anything, produced only hand-fitted prototypes (North American Arms of Quebec), or produced only parts (Winchester and Savage, to name two). Winchester had a contract, like Remington’s, that initially called for half a million pistols; like all WWI production contracts, it was voided after the Armistice, and the parts produced went into spares bins at Springfield Armory. And for the rest of the 20th Century, Remington Arms and its gun-making successor firms would not make another .45 auto.

Remington-Rand, on the other hand, was the spinoff of the sewing-machine-and-typewriter part of the company. (It’s also the company that gave us the Remington electric shaver, not part of this version 1.1 graphic). In World War II, Remington-Rand got a contract to make M1911A1 pistols, and they definitely delivered, thanks in part to a far superior technical data package. Remington-Rand was set up not far from Ilion in the larger industrial city of Syracuse, NY. Remington-Rand was the largest single producer of WWII M1911A1s, with 900,000 produced. Here’s one of them:

Remington Rand M1911A1 Serial 091674. Source.

Remington Rand M1911A1 Serial 091674. Source.

Ergo, there are no Remington M1911A1s, and no Remington-Rand M1911s, except insofar as GI rebuilds and part shuffles have created mixmasters.

This was all pretty simple, straightforward, and easy to keep track of, until Remington, which hadn’t made pistols since the excellent Model 51, re-entered the pistol market in 2011 with a bang — from a .45 caliber 1911. These pistols, available in several models and finishes, are not GI .45s but incorporate many currently popular features, especially in “enhanced” trim. Even the base version (shown) has larger, more visible sights.


The initial run of 1911 R1s was produced in Remington’s ancient plant in Ilion, New York.

At the insistence of the triumvirate that ran New York at the time, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-Too Big To Jail), Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-BOP Inmate Number Pending), and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-BOP Inmate Number Pending), Remington relocated 1911 production and the associated jobs to Huntsville, Alabama in 2013. The 1911 R1 remains in production there.


“JPM, Jr.” M1911A1:The Homepage for the Collector of the Model 1911A1 .45 Cal Service Pistol. Retrieved from:

Remington Outdoor Company. Remington History, n.d. Retrieved from:

Schreier, Philip. Remington, Typewriters, M1911s and The Rand Co. The American Rifleman, April, 2016, p. 82.

Torres Occasio, Keila. RemGrit Buildings Set to Fall. Connecticut Post, 1 April 2012. Retrieved from:

Uncredited. Remington Knives. All About Pocket Knives. Retrieved from:  (This information was used in the timeline only).


The Social History of the HK MP5

Maybe if they'd looked like this cop they'd have been less intimidating. Frankfurt Airport.

Maybe if they’d looked like this policewoman they’d have been less intimidating. Frankfurt Airport, 21st Century, the MP5 soldiers (cops?) on.

As a yout’, the German airport police were intimidating. They seemed to come in three sizes, with three different weapons: Ordinary-sized cops with ordinary auto pistols; incredibly big gorillas with leather jackets and tiny little PPKs or similar way down in thigh holsters (to accommodate their simian arms); and very young, skinny, pimpled kids with big ugly MP5s. It was almost as if the gun they gave a cop was inversely proportional to the officer’s own size and innate intimidation capability. “Karl-Heinz is not so scary, ja, ve better giff him ze big gun, nicht wahr?

The submachine guns were the roller-delayed HK MP5, a weapon that had been in production since 1964 but that only became a fixture in German airports after the terrorist attack on the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, an attack that put Arab terrorism on the map in the civilized world for the first time. The Fürstenfeldbruck police intervention, the one that ended with the hostage takers and hostages alike quick-fried to a crackly crunch, hadn’t collapsed into a disaster because the cops were outgunned, but because they were unprepared. Even the Israelis, who knew they were targets, hadn’t anticipated this kind of attack, made possible because the Arab terrorists at the time had European Communist helpers, leaders and planners.

But one outcome of the attack was submachine guns returning to public view in Germany for the first time in nearly 30 years. The SMG of choice was the MP5, a scale-down of H&K’s G3 rifle for the 9mm cartridge, originally developed as a military weapon. Since its 1964 introduction, the MP5 had found favor not only with militaries already using G3 variations like West Germany and Norway, but also with police forces.

Even the terrorists were seduced by the iconography of the MP5. Here, a Rote Armee Fraktion emblem, Germany 1980s.

Even the terrorists were seduced by the iconography of the MP5. Here, a Rote Armee Fraktion emblem, Germany 1980s.

Police have long used submachine guns worldwide, although they haven’t fired them much off the range. Savvy cops have long understood that an intimidated bandit is more likely to give himself up without a futile fight, so armories long contained these weapons. After 1972, they came out, not so much because the PFLP, PLO, Red Brigades and Baader-Meinhof Gang would be intimidated, but because the traveling public would be reassured: these airport cops are ready for anything!  So those intimidating cops were simply security theater, something that would be elevated to comic levels in the next 40 years.

Meanwhile, the cops that used submachine guns discovered that the MP5s were better for their purposes. Firing from a closed bolt, they were much more accurate when employed as pistol-caliber carbines than the Thompsons or Reisings they replaced, and they weren’t any less reliable. And around this time, SWAT rose to prominence.

Several police departments in the United States had hostage situations that ended badly, with most police chiefs, political animals that they are, defining “badly” as “bringing career-ending publicity.” And smart cops began thinking about how to winkle out a hostage taker or group of them, rescue the hostages, and, as the saying goes, restore order. Their answer was training and teamwork, and they largely worked it out on its own. The two agencies that led the way were the LA Police Department and LA Sheriff’s Office — and this was in the days when California was still a trendsetter for the nation. At first, they cleared structures with their regular cop guns — revolvers and riot guns. But at this time, the automatic pistol was starting to rise, and that became the weapon of choice for SWAT, briefly. Soon, they latched on to the MP5, and by the mid-1970s, SWAT cops could stack up and clear a building with MP5s or handguns. This all took place sub rosa and out of the public eye, although there’d be occasional news stories on this new unit and training the California cops were up to.

If you remember Nomex flight suits and MP5s you're at least middle-aged.

If you remember Nomex flight suits and MP5s you’re at least middle-aged.

In some nations, terrorism was seen as a military threat requiring a military response. Britain assigned the job, nationwide, to what became the CRW, Counter Revolutionary Wing of the SAS, a unit that had the counterterrorist tasking on a rotating basis. The SAS interfaced, discreetly, with the LAPD and others, and they too became exponents of the MP5. The Germans, for political reasons, kept their CT unit out of the police and the military by assigning it to the Border Guards. It was well armed with military style weapons, including the MP5. This too took place in the shadows.

When the US stood up a CT capability (of which, more tomorrow, as it was a multi-headed hydra from the very beginning) it was natural to liaise with the police and the British cousins who’d been doing this for a while. And one lesson they took away was to use the MP5. A very few MP5s and MP5ks were in the inventory for SF foreign weapons training, but more were ordered.

In initial years, American CT operators did not use the MP5 much, just as police north and east of LA County hadn’t that much interest in the knobbly German submachine gun. Our CT guys evolved a system of using pistols for building clearing that worked well. The conventional wisdom was that even a short MP5 was too long for true close-quarters combat, and, given enough training and practice, everybody got good enough with an accurized .45.

The Britons, meanwhile, cottoned to the MP5. It worked for them; the added solidity of a shoulder weapon meant more hits (and fewer wild rounds); and if it came to impact weapons, a buttstroke from an MP5 put a terr out with less mess and drama than a pistol-whipping with a 1911.

SAS raid2Then, the SAS took down a terrorist hostage-taking in, of all places, the Iranian embassy in 1980.  The men who took hostage the diplomats of the world’s greatest terrorist-sponsoring state were members of a forgotten separatist movement, who wanted to separate their Arabic-speaking province from Iran. The SAS hit them hard, and moreover, in daylight, in front of cameras. The iconic photos of the Prince’s Gate 16 raid had every world leader from Leonid Brezhnev to Idi Amin wanting a similar capability in his armed forces that Margaret Thatcher had in hers, and the iconic photos were full of MP5s.

Thus, in 1980, began the Decade of the MP5, even though the weapon itself was over 15 years old. Having been caught by the news cameras, the gun was now front and center before feature film cameras with such 80s exponents of gun bans as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone dual-wielding MP5s in childish Hollywood fantasies. But while the assclowns of Hollywood posed with them, special operations forces worldwide trained and, when the time came, fought with them.

It was the US Navy who planted the seeds of the end of the MP5’s long run, in two separate places and at two separate times. The first was the invasion of Grenada in October 1983. A Cuban- and Soviet-sponsored group overthrew the already leftist government and shot them, and “invited” Cuban troops to  the island to join Cuban engineers already building a military airfield, which was to feature hardened aircraft shelters for jet bombers. To the surprise of the revolutionaries, American force got there before Cuban did. Many lessons were learned from the imperfect special operations that supported the air and sea landing of combat forces. One of them, a lesson learned hard by a SEAL element, was that a 9mm submachine gun is outranged even by mooks with AKs, SKSs, and Czech 7.82 x 45mm Vz 52 rifles. By the invasion of Panama at the end of the decade, even hostage-rescue oriented units (which still were a current thing) had come to prefer rifle-caliber carbines.

Around that time, the Naval Special Warfare Center at Crane, Indiana, began its long run of modular AR development, picking up where ARMS and other early modularizers had left off. Nowadays, most AR development is done outside the military, and SOF units adopt what they like… and what proves out in SOF spreads quickly to the conventional forces (who, themselves, have sponsored and adopted some developments).

Funny thing: as the MP5 lost its popularity, and its civilian version was blown off the market by a 1989 George HW Bush executive order and the 1994 Un-Fudd Weapon Ban, it never really went away. It’s still in HK’s catalog (and has had some small updates, nodding towards modularity) today, even as the company’s efforts were shifted behind two successive would-be successors (UMP and MP7). And two other firms have introduced light, locked-breech, submachine guns and carbines, the SIG Sauer MPX and the CZ Skorpion Evo, both of which are entirely modern designs in a form factor very close to the MP5. And thanks to the tiered market created by the Hughes Amendment, those PDs that bought and registered MP5s in the USA in the blush of popularity between 1980 and 1986 now find that they can trade in one registered Form 4-able MP5 for 7 to 10 of the new guns.

So, now, over 50 years after its introduction, the MP5 isn’t dead, yet. But the silhouette of one will always evoke a certain era, in those of us who lived through the MP5’s finest hour.

What GI Joe Knew about Landser Fritz’s Small Arms

Here’s a once-classified (if mildly so) World War II training film that teaches American GIs how to recognize, operate, field-strip and reassemble four basic German infantry weapons: the Kar.98k rifle, the MP.40 submachine gun, and the MG-34 and -42 general purpose machine guns.

If you ever wondered how the three different feed arrangements for the MG-34 worked, or what that big washer on a Kar.98 stock was for, this movie has your answer. If you knew all that, enjoy learning what was thought to be important, sensitive information to pass to American GIs.

There are a few errors in the film. They even correct one with a title card: no, don’t disassemble the MP.40 (or anything else!) with the magazine in place. Another is referring to the MP.40 as the Schmeisser, which came about, as we understand it, because some early MP.38 magazines noted that the dual-column, single-feed magazine was made according to a Schmeisser patent. 

If you ever caught yourself wondering why everybody used to call an MP.38 or .40 a “Schmeisser,” showing this video to 12 million or so GIs may have been a factor.

The classification with which this video is marked, “Restricted,” is long defunct. (In some postwar documents, it is labeled “Restricted — Security Information.”) It is not to be confused with the sensitive “Restricted Data” marking used for nuclear weapons information, much of what is still not classified, and is marked “Formerly Restricted Data.” RD/FRD was not an Army/Navy or DOD clearance, but an Atomic Energy Agency, later Department of Energy, clearance.

Regular Army/Navy “Restricted,” on the other hand, was a notch below the first true stage of classification, “Confidential.” It was often used on things like this that discussed enemy and/or threat weapons, tactics, or operational art.

A civilian might suspect that classifying such things is a classically military example of blockheadedness, but the reason for the secrecy is not because some cretin in the Pentagon thinks it would be dangerous to show the  Germans how to field-strip their own machine guns, but because we’d rather not have had the Germans knowing what we know about their guns.

And this video, in Wehrmacht hands, would have told them something about our understanding of their weapons policy. By this point, the Wehrmacht had been combat testing the intermediate-round assault rifle for months if not a year, and this film makes no mention of the Mkb.42 (H) and )(W) or the MP.43. Our best guess is that the Germans were testing these new weapons primarily on the Eastern Front, not in the Western Desert or Italy where they were engaging American or British forces. But in the end that is only speculation.

The movie itself is a fact, a primary source for all of you, from World War II. Source here if you’d like to download an MP4 copy or grab embed code for your own blog.

Kipling’s Epitaphs of the War

Kipling Grave st_marys_ads-03We present the following with little in the way of editing; these epitaphs range from biting couplets to formal structures, and their author, while always a towering talent among English letters, ranges herein from the enthusiastic warrior of 1914 to the bereaved father of war’s end, who gave his only son to the Festival of Baal that was the Western Front in the Great War.

The Epitaphs often seem pointed and individual, but Kipling denied that. Some of these were written for memorials, and some of those were not used.

Kipling based many of these on ancient Greek forms, although he himself admitted he was essentially unlettered in Greek, and only knew those classics in translation. More background at the Kipling Society.


Epitaphs of the War

By Rudyard Kipling

Equality of Sacrifice

A. “I was a Have.”   B. “I was a ‘have-not.’”
(Together). “What hast thou given which I gave not?”

A Servant

We were together since the War began.
He was my servant—and the better man.

A Son

My son was killed while laughing at some jest.    I would I knew
What it was, and it might serve me in a time when jests are few.

An Only Son

I have slain none except my Mother.
(Blessing her slayer) died of grief for me.


Pity not!    The Army gave
Freedom to a timid slave:
In which Freedom did he find
Strength of body, will, and mind:
By which strength he came to prove
Mirth, Companionship, and Love:
For which Love to Death he went:
In which Death he lies content.

The Wonder

Body and Spirit I surrendered whole
To harsh Instructors—and received a soul…
If mortal man could change me through and through
From all I was—what may The God not do?

Hindu Sepoy in France

This man in his own country prayed we know not to what Powers.
We pray Them to reward him for his bravery in ours.

The Coward

I could not look on Death, which being known,
Men led me to him, blindfold and alone.


My name, my speech, my self I had forgot.
My wife and children came—I knew them not.
I died.    My Mother followed.    At her call
And on her bosom I remembered all.

A Grave near Cairo

Gods of the Nile, should this stout fellow here
Get out—get out!    He knows not shame nor fear.

Pelicans in the Wilderness
A Grave near Halfa

The blown sand heaps on me, that none may learn
Where I am laid for whom my children grieve . . .
O wings that beat at dawning, ye return
Out of the desert to your young at eve!


Two Canadian Memorials

We giving all gained all.
Neither lament us nor praise.
Only in all things recall,
It is Fear, not Death that slays.

From little towns in a far land we came,
To save our honour and a world aflame.
By little towns in a far land we sleep;
And trust that world we won for you to keep!

The Favour

Death favoured me from the first, well knowing I could not endure
To wait on him day by day.    He quitted my betters and came
Whistling over the fields, and, when he had made all sure,
“Thy line is at end,” he said, “but at least I have saved its name.”

The Beginner

On the first hour of my first day
In the front trench I fell.
(Children in boxes at a play
Stand up to watch it well.)

R.A.F. (Aged Eighteen)

Laughing through clouds, his milk-teeth still unshed,
Cities and men he smote from overhead.
His deaths delivered, he returned to play
Childlike, with childish things now put away.

The Refined Man

I was of delicate mind.    I stepped aside for my needs,
Disdaining the common office.    I was seen from afar and killed . . .
How is this matter for mirth?    Let each man be judged by his deeds.
 I have paid my price to live with myself on the terms that I willed.

Native Water-Carrier (M.E.F.)

Prometheus brought down fire to men,
This brought up water.
The Gods are jealous—now, as then,
Giving no quarter.

Bombed in London

On land and sea I strove with anxious care
To escape conscription.    It was in the air!

The Sleepy Sentinel

Faithless the watch that I kept: now I have none to keep.
I was slain because I slept: now I am slain I sleep.
Let no man reproach me again, whatever watch is unkept—
I sleep because I am slain.    They slew me because I slept.

Batteries out of Ammunition

If any mourn us in the workshop, say
We died because the shift kept holiday.

Common Form

If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.

A Dead Statesman

I could not dig: I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

The Rebel

If I had clamoured at Thy Gate
For gift of Life on Earth,
And, thrusting through the souls that wait,
Flung headlong into birth—
Even then, even then, for gin and snare
About my pathway spread,
Lord, I had mocked Thy thoughtful care
Before I joined the Dead!
But now? . . . I was beneath Thy Hand
Ere yet the Planets came.
And now—though Planets pass, I stand
The witness to Thy shame!

The Obedient

Daily, though no ears attended,
Did my prayers arise.
Daily, though no fire descended,
Did I sacrifice.
Though my darkness did not lift,
Though I faced no lighter odds,
Though the Gods bestowed no gift,
None the less,
None the less, I served the Gods!

A Drifter off Tarentum

He from the wind-bitten North with ship and companions descended,
Searching for eggs of death spawned by invisible hulls.
Many he found and drew forth.    Of a sudden the fishery ended
In flame and a clamours breath known to the eye-pecking gulls.

Destroyer in Collision

For Fog and Fate no charm is found
To lighten or amend.
I, hurrying to my bride, was drowned—
Cut down by my best friend.

Convoy Escort

I was a shepherd to fools
Causelessly bold or afraid.
They would not abide by my rules.
Yet they escaped.    For I stayed.

Unknown Female Corpse

Headless, lacking foot and hand,
Horrible I come to land.
I beseech all women’s sons
Know I was a mother once.

Raped and Revenged

One used and butchered me: another spied
Me broken—for which thing an hundred died.
So it was learned among the heathen hosts
How much a freeborn woman’s favour costs.

Salonikan Grave

I have watched a thousand days
Push out and crawl into night
Slowly as tortoises.
Now I, too, follow these.
It is fever, and not the fight—
Time, not battle,—that slays.

The Bridegroom

Call me not false, beloved,
If, from thy scarce-known breast
So little time removed,
In other arms I rest.
For this more ancient bride,
Whom coldly I embrace,
Was constant at my side
Before I saw thy face.
Our marriage, often set—
By miracle delayed—
At last is consummate,
And cannot be unmade.
Live, then, whom Life shall cure,
Almost, of Memory,
And leave us to endure
Its immortality.

V.A.D. (Mediterranean)
Ah, would swift ships had never been, for then we ne’er had found,

These harsh Aegean rocks between, this little virgin drowned,
Whom neither spouse nor child shall mourn, but men she nursed through pain
And—certain keels for whose return the heathen look in vain.

On a Memorial Tablet in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-on-Avon

We counterfeited once for your disport
Men’s joy and sorrow: but our day has passed.
We pray you pardon all where we fell short—
Seeing we were your servants to this last.

On a Panel in the Hall of the Institute of Journalists

We have served our day.

When the Army Spoke Esperanto

The Army went through a phase of maintaining a very stylized maneuver enemy, the Aggressor Army, complete with its own uniforms, helmets, and operational and tactical doctrine. The idea was to give the American Army a dissimilar enemy to fight, and it was generally a success. It existed from the early 1950s to, on paper, the 1970s, but really died during the Vietnam War. Circa 1979, the old Aggressor doctrine was flushed away and replaced by a new, and better focused, Opposing Forces (OpFor) maneuver enemy. Aggressor was very deliberately modeled on nothing in particular (for reasons of diplomacy, partly, but mostly because it’s not possible to predict your next enemy). But given the firmer situation in the 1970s and 80s, OpFor was deliberately and accurately modeled on the units and operational art of the USSR (and, for units oriented to the Far East, North Korea).

During the Aggressors’ heyday, from approximately 1959-64, they had not only uniforms and helmets with a silly crest, but also a political party (the “Circle Trigon”) and their own language, Esperanto. The Army explained at the time that Esperanto was used:

[T]o provide United States forces, portraying AGGRESSOR, with a different language, the use of which will enhance intelligence play and add realism to field exercises

Here are some clips of Esperanto-speaking Aggressors in a few-minute snippet taken from a longer The Big Picture public information movie:

The Army actually published an Esperanto manual in 1959 for this purpose. After three pages of introductory material, the following ninety-odd pages were a complete grammar and adequate vocabulary of the artificial tongue.


Esperanto was primarily a movement of European intellectuals, which has an interesting history, and still survives among a smattering of fanatics worldwide. Some have even raised their kids to be native Esperanto speakers, which allows them freely to communicate with the hundreds of other native speakers worldwide — and which contradicts the intention of the language’s creator. Still, it is the most widespread and successful of many attempts to deliberately contrive an artificial language.

Zamenhof's Esperanto book -- published in Russian.

Zamenhof’s Esperanto book — published in Russian.

The founder and inventor of Esperanto was a remarkable fellow, a polymath named Ludwik Łazarz Zamenhof, who lived in Bialystok in what was then Russia (it was relocated to Poland after the creation of that state, and almost re-Russified when Russia shifted Poland west after WWII). Zamenhof was an eye doctor and also a grammarian of Yiddish (he knew many languages, including the now-moribund artificial language Volapük), and he got the idea that the ethnic hostility he saw daily between Bialystok’s Poles, Russians, Belorussians, Jews and Germans might be eased if they had a manufactured second language to share.

While there had been many artificial languages, which linguists call “constructed languages,” most had hopes of replacing world languages. Zamenhof’s insight was that rather than trying to replace native languages, a constructed language could find room to grow as a second language, a potential lingua franca in the Babel that was Bialystok — and many other European languages.

The language was supposed to be internationally and politically neutral, but there was no way it could come from its source without being laden with left-leaning assumptions, mostly of internationalism and world peace, which gave it at once a natural consistency and natural enemies, some of whom were quite deadly, like the Nazis.

Indeed, things didn’t end well for Zamenhof. He was gone before World War II, but his family was exterminated almost to the last member — one grandson is known to have survived the Auschwitz extermination camp. In the end, peace came to eastern Europe only when assortative relocation (and ethnic cleansing) had separated the Poles to Poland, Russians to Russia, Germans to Germany, and Jews to Israel or America — and large numbers of all those ethnic groups to their graves.

Theodor Schwartz, father of Gyorgy Schwartz — you know the son as George Soros, an Aggressor in his own way — was a die-hard Esperanto fiend, who even wrote his wartime memoir in Esperanto (It has been translated into English, edited extensively, and published under the title Masquerade under Theodor’s postwar name, Tivadar Soros. It is a fun read but Schwartz/Soros is not a reliable narrator).

Esperanto survives as an academic quirk and a refuge of the sort of bookish Unique and Special Snowflake™ who wants to do something aspie with his spare time, but lacks the intellect for chess or the physical coordination for the Society for Creative Anachronism. It also is a favorite among various worldwide nativists and occasional tin-pot dictators who feel oppressed by the global reach of English as a language of instruction, commerce, and science.

Esperanto worked for an Aggressor language to a point — it was easier to learn than any actual foreign language, and it sounded, thanks to Zamenhof’s ancestry and location, nastily Slavic). In the end, it died before the rest of the Aggressor program, in approximately 1970, because even the limited time needed to learn “Aggressor” Esperanto was too long to take away from such training priorities as painting rocks white and picking up pine cones.

Here’s the full Aggressor Big Picture for you:

One always has the sense that the MI weenies in particular, as personified by their avatar Bradley Manning, always took the dress-up a little bit too seriously.

As far as Esperanto goes, sometimes life imitates art. One of America’s real enemies, the Ayatollah Khomeini, issued fatwas promoting the use of Esperanto as a replacement for hated English in commerce. Aggressors speaking Esperanto? It’s not just in old black-and-white documentaries any more!

Who Died in World War II?

American dead in WWII were a relatively small minority. (Here, Arlington Cemetery in Washington).

American dead in WWII were a relatively small minority of the world’s casualties. (Here, Arlington Cemetery in Washington).

We know that a lot of Russians died, as did a lot of Germans and Poles… and a whole bunch of Japanese, right? It turns out that interesting facts emerge when you make the best estimate of World War II deaths by nation, and by alliance (Allies vs Axis), convert them to a percentage of the population ante bellum, and then put them in rank order.

Paul Mirengoff of PowerLine did this in an excellent post, based on historian Tomek Jankowski’s doorstop Eastern Europe. You might as well go there and Read The Whole Thing™ now, because you know we’re going to tell you to do that at the end, but for those of you who wish to hang here, we’ve provided a couple of snippets.

Let’s start by comparing the death tolls of the winning side, the Allies, and the losing side, the Axis.
Jankowski estimates that the Allies lost nearly 48 million people, compared to fewer than 12 million people on the Axis side. It strikes me as astonishing that the winning side would suffer four times as many deaths as the losers.

This is astonishing. It is axiomatic in military circles that, in human terms, losing is expensive. For all the death and destruction in the line of battle, the units and the armies that were annihilated, historically, have been the ones that broke and ran. Shorn of their unit cohesion and scattered into fleeing, disorganized bands and panicked individuals, they were hunted down in the kind or brutal extermination or enslavement that has come to be known by the sanitary euphemism, “mopping up.”

But that wasn’t what happened in World War II, although high casualties during retreat or defeat did beset Russia, Poland and, to a lesser extent, Germany.

Now let’s look at the death count by country in terms of percentage of population killed. Poland, not atypically, suffered the most. It lost an estimated 16 percent of its population.

After Poland comes the Soviet Union, which lost around 14 percent of its population.

Then come Lithuania, Latvia, and Greece, all at between 11.2 and 13.7 percent.

What do those countries all have in common? Brutal enemy occupation, in the case of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia by two bestial, totalitarian powers.

The percentages are amazing, too. If you live in an American city of any size, there are parks, squares and monuments named after the fallen from World War II, and there are dozens and dozens of them. But the USA was, compared to the nations of old Europe, scarcely touched by the war’s toll. 16 percent of Poles, about one in six (over half of them from Poland’s Jewish community, which was done to death). 14 percent of the much larger population of Russia… such a bolus of human loss and suffering as to outstrip one’s powers of description.

After that, finally, we come to Germany at 9.4 percent. Thus the chief aggressor, and the loser, is in sixth place.

German Casualty Names on a Cenotaph in Sologubovka War Cemetery.

German Casualties listed on a Cenotaph in Sologubovka War Cemetery.

We have some question about Jankowski’s numbers here, because we have always seen the German total at around 12 million (compared to the Soviet at 20). Jankowski puts all Axis losses at under 12 million; it would be news to millions of Japanese and tens of thousands of Italians (not to mention Hungarians, Romanians, Bulgarians and the poor Spanish bastards of the Blue Division) that they weren’t actually dead.

What about Japan, the other major aggressor? It lost an estimated 3.8 percent of its population. This puts Japan in 14th place, behind some of its victims (the Dutch East Indies and French Indochina) and just slightly ahead of the Philippines.

Italy, despite some horrific fighting there, didn’t make the top 20.

Much of the “horrific fighting” in Italy was between German and Anglo-American forces, even before the Italian volte-face. Italians had staggering casualties in both East Africa and the Western Desert, but those casualties were disproportionately POWs, not KIAs. At the end of the war, they took ship home. The casualties of the German Luftlandedivision and their opposite numbers from the 36th “Texas” Division along the ridges of central Italy are still buried there.

Also, the American, British and German leaders in Italy all seem to have been committed to a “correct” war that was, insofar as possible, sparing of civilian noncombatants. On the Eastern front, it was war to the knife, knife to hilt, no quarter asked or given. If you were taken prisoner (by either side) in Italy, you made your way home some time after VE Day. If you were taken prisoner (by either side) in, say, Crimea, your most probable outcome was death in captivity.

Here’s another striking fact, one that explains why the defeated countries lost around 36 million fewer lives than the victors. 74 percent of Axis deaths were military personnel; only 29 percent of Allied deaths were.

Again, we can’t help but suspect that Professor Jankowski has severely undercounted German casualties from the Allied bombing.

 This is because the Axis waged war against civilian populations. They relied on terrorizing civilians, using them for slave labor, and in some cases simply exterminating them in order to rid the world of their kind and/or to create space for settlers.

That was a qualitative difference between the sides in this war. Even the totalitarian Soviets just wanted to rule people. The Nazis wanted to improve the human breeding stock by culling the “unfit,” a somewhat flexible concept that encompassed, on “racial” grounds, Poles and Russians, but not Japanese.

Like we told you we’d tell you, do go there and Read The Whole Thing™.

Now that you’re back with us (or stubbornly still with us), the thing that got Mirengoff thinking about Jankowski’s numbers, which are almost too big to understand — “a statistic,” in the apocryphal Stalin quote — was the rumor that President Obama is planning a trip to Japan to bow down before the Emperor du jour, and express his regrets for nuking a previous Emperor’s cities and beating his Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere in the 1940s unpleasantness.

Some ideas are really so stupid that you need an Ivy League education (Choom Gang variant) to have damaged your Brain Housing Group sufficiently to contain them.

A Mystery in Springfield

Meet Colt XM16E1 Serial Number 50,000, held by ATF SA Allan Offringa on a visit to the Springfield Armory Museum.

SA Allan Offringa w sn-50000

The ladies flanking him are forensics types: Nancy McCombs of the California State DOJ, Katherine Richert of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, and Lily Hwa of the Houston PD. Might as well keep the names with the picture, yes?

This M16 has some sort of a gold finish, and is a bit of a mystery gun. Most likely it was dressed up because of it’s serial number: 50,000. It was made in 1963, and Springfield Armory National Historic site notes a rumor that it may have been intended for presentation to President John F. Kennedy, himself something of a gun buff (Kennedy accepted a gift of an AR-15 at some time, and that rifle is in a collection in the USA). It didn’t come to the Museum until 1966.

XM16E1 SN50000 left

Springfield describes the rifle like this:

U.S. ASSAULT RIFLE XM16E1 5.56MM SN# 050000
Manufactured by Colt, Hartford, Ct. – Special presentation XM16E1 assault rifle. Gold finish and black plastic stock and black sling. Weapon has forward assist. 85,000 manufactured under Contract “508” at a cost of $121.84 each. Weapon complete with 20-round detachable box magazine and in good condition. There is some belief that this weapon was intended for presentation to President John F. Kennedy.

Magazine housing: COLT/AR15/PROPERTY/OF U.S. GOVT./XM16E1/CAL. 5.56MM/SERIAL 050000.

Weapon transferred to the Museum on 8 February 1966. At that time weapon was appraised at $250.00.

Army card #8986 – “Presentation weapon.”

XM16E1 SN50000 right

Contrary to common belief, there is no definitive difference between an “XM16E1” and an “M16A1” except the roll mark, which was changed when the rifle was finally standardized on 28 February 1967. All of the changes that collectors discuss as if they marked the transition from XM16E1 to M16A1 were actually running changes on the production line: the closed-end “birdcage” flash hider, the protective boss around the magazine release, and the parkerized instead of chromed bolt and carrier, were among the hundreds of changes that the M16A1 rifle experienced during the first three or four years of its long production life. Every XM16E1 and M16A1 from Day 1 of production had the forward assist.

Number 50,000 has some markers of a very early production rifle. The stock appears to be Type C (it’s hard to tell without a comparison in the picture). The magazine is a very early “waffle” type. The lower receiver is one of the earliest forgings, with no protective boss and a reinforcement line that lines up from lower to upper receiver. (It is possible that, when the receiver change came through, one or more of the now-surplus older forgings was set aside for use on “specials” like this presentation gun. Colt often used obsolete parts on tool-room prototypes, and was still using slick-side first-generation forgings on SP1 semi-autos into the late 1980s). This firearm is not semi-auto — you can see the sear pin quite clearly above the safety/selector, thanks to the contrast between the Parkerized pin and the gold-finished lower receiver.

The gold finish must be some kind of plating or paint. Is it possible to get plating to adhere evenly over aluminum (the receivers) and steel (the barrel) at all?

By the time this gun arrived at the Springfield Museum, the writing was on the wall for Springfield Armory. This gun’s page at the Museum website includes extensive quotes from a news story that also ties Colt (maker of this M16) and Springfield: in 1966, Colt was recruiting soon-to-be-unemployed Armory workers for its busy plant an hour south, down newly built Interstate 91.

Springfield Union, July 1, 1966 – “Business & Industry. Colt Firearms Div. Gets Recruits from Armory. Hartford Plant Said Capable Of Matching Job Skills Exactly.
Springfield Armory workers, apparently resigned to the projected closing of the installation by the Department of Defense, are responding in undisclosed numbers to a recruitment program at Colt’s Firearms Division of Colt Industries, Hartford, Conn.
That word came Tuesday from Bruno Czech, personnel director of the firearms manufacturing concern, who said that recruitment for the Hartford plant from Greater Springfield in on the increase.
Workers Hired – Skilled and unskilled workers are being hired by Colt’s which now has a training program in operation for the first time in its history.
The facility manufactures hand guns, shotguns, machine guns, the AR15 rifle and military pyrotechnics.
Czech said that although the firm is generally recognized as a military producer, more than 60 per cent of its sales are commercial.
Plans for an increase in military production of heavy weapons systems had in part resulted in an expected 30 per cent increase in employment by the end of the year, he said.
Armory Conference – ‘When the proposed Armory closing was announced by Secretary MacNamera,’ Czech said, ‘we conferred with officials there pointing out that we desired capable workers and that if the closing became a reality, we would definitely offer positions in our plant.

One wonders how it felt for former Springfield workers to be offered work on the production line of the M-16 — the very rifle that many of them blamed, fairly or not, for their unemployment.