Category Archives: Machine Guns

How to FOOM! a Springfield

Here’s a Springfield M1903A1 rifle that’s been subjected to a bit of the ol’ FOOM.

M1903 fired with 8mm "S" Patrone

As the image’s text makes clear, the cause of this kinetic reversion to kit form was chambering and firing a German “8mm” cartridge, which is what American users called the 7.92 x 57mm Mauser cartridge for most of the 20th Century. The nominal .317 bullet of the German “S-Patrone” has two possibilities: it can swage down to .308 and exit before pressure peak exceeds the strength of a Mauser action (which is what the ’03 is), or, well, not. This image is what “not” looks like.

The plate is from a remarkable manual that collects images and lessons learned from a variety of American small arms: TM 9-2210 Small Arms Accidents, Malfunctions & Causes, dated 1942. A digitized version is available from archive.org.

The weapons are those that were common in US service in the years before the manual’s date: Springfields, the 1917 Enfield, the Browning machine guns, the 1911.45 caliber pistol, and the 1917 .45 caliber revolver. The M1 rifle is notable for its absence, six years after its original acceptance. (Perhaps GI’s hadn’t kB!’d enough of them yet).

Apart from the .30 caliber weapons, whose 7.62 x 63mm chambering was a comfortable fit — at least, until fired — for the 7.92 x 57 round, you couldn’t blow these guns up by putting the wrong ammo in. You needed to use proof rounds (which shouldn’t ever pass into troop hands) or bad ammo. Here’s an illustration of some Springfield barrels that were fired with bore obstructions.

Springfield Rifle Obstructed Barrels

The original text explains what each bore obstruction was, but the archive.org file is missing a significant number of pages, and so does not. Obstructions can include cleaning rods or materials, grease (as in Cosmoline for storage), or a previously-fired bullet from a squib round. (See the bullet seized in the barrel, third barrel from the top).

Even the oversized S-Patrone might only have cause a bulged barrel, if it were a conventional jacketed lead bullet. If it was the late-war jacketed steel bullet, the pressure wasn’t going to be sufficient to swage it down — and the receiver and barrel wasn’t going to suffice for retaining  the barrel.

In addition to user-operation problems, the Springfield Rifle was also plagued by manufacturing deficiencies. The manual contains a number of illustrations of barrels and rifles destroyed by faulty manufacturing, particularly excessive temperatures (in manufacturing).

Springfield Overtemp Barrels

The manual advises the would-be investigator that a key indicator of this type of failure is that the barrel has burst whilst the cartridge case does not show such markers of overpressure as a bulged case, blown primer, or separated case head. If the case appears normal in all respects, chances are good the round made normal pressure, and the gun failed for some other reason, probably metallurgical.

 Cracked rifle barrel -- bad metallurgy

Likewise, a barrel that fails due to obstruction has a way of telling you how it happened. An obstruction near the chamber causes such a rapid overpressure that the case head usually blows out and the receiver of the firearm suffers. An obstruction midway down the barrel leads to a bulge, if a bulge is enough to release it; otherwise it leads to a blown-out barrel. And an obstruction near the muzzle usually just causes a split.

Despite the missing pages, this obscure manual is a worthwhile read. Along with these shattered Springfields, there are similarly enlightening pictures and tales of busted Brownings and pranged pistols.

We’re willing to digitize & host a better copy, if we can get our hands on one. (The UWORL hosts a Fujitsu book scanner).

Classification of Automatic Weapons Actions

Chinn used this chart in 1942 (it’s in Part X in Volume 4, and can be read or downloaded at this link — warning, it’s a monster .pdf). In it, he classifies the actions of the machine guns he knew:

chinn_machine_gun_systems

His choice of classifications is interesting, and he includes some designs that are not machine guns (Webley-Fosbery, Williams floating chamber). But he doesn’t include everything, if only because he drew this up some three-quarters of a century ago, and designers haven’t been idle.

What’s missing, and why?

The first thing we note is that externally powered MGs are not on the list, but then, he does define “automatic machine gun” as “A weapon capable of sustained fire with its operating energy being derived wholly from the force generated by the explosion of the propellant charge.” That’s a reasonable definition, although we’d quibble about “explosion” and perhaps substitute “combustion,” and it excludes both the then-obsolete mechanical machine guns like Gatling, Nordenfeldt and Gardner, and the then-unimagined powered gatlings of the 1950s and beyond.

The next absence is the direct impingement gas system. At the time, it either had just gone into service, or was just about to go into service, in Sweden in the Ljungman AG42, which had been in development only for about a year before its issue. Of course, the direct-impingement system is best known to us today through the Stoner AR variant, which works completely differently (having a de facto gas chamber inside the bolt carrier), and secondarily through the French MAS-49 and MAS-49/56 rifles.

What else is Chinn missing? Is there truly nothing else new under the sun in threescore years and ten?

Iranian Capture of US Boats

Here’s a picture sent out by Secretary Kerry’s special friends, the Iranian government.

Navy Surrender3 It shows Navy sailors and officers surrendering to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. There is a dispute about what happened — one of their boats was disabled, and they say they were in international waters, the Iranians said they weren’t.

Navy Surrender8

The US boats (one of them on right) surrendered to small craft of the IRGC (left) with no attempt at self-defense.

The question could be answered by the several GPS devices on the boats. The Iranians, however, chose to retain them with the US State Department’s blessings, when it returned the crewmen. It’s unknown whether the Iranians returned the small arms and the cryptographic and communications equipment on the boats.

That the Iranians kept the GPS units suggests that our boats were in international waters. That no US ship or aircraft responded to defend them suggests that maybe they were not — or resources are just too thin in the region, after a decade of dismantling the Navy.

The two boats went together into Iranian captivity.  The boats appear to be riverine support craft, not Special Operations Combatant Craft. But we’re not experts in boat details… that’s the Navy’s department, the Frogs and the Boat Guys would know.

Tied up to the pier by their Iranian prize crews.

Tied up to the pier by their Iranian prize crews.

Prediction: some admiral, somewhere, is more worked up over the boat being dirty than he was by the boat being captured. 

Navy Surrender9

The next morning, the two boats were tied up alongside the Boston Whaler copies that outsailor’d ’em.

The Iranians gleefully displayed their trophies. Trophy weapons:

Navy Surrender5

The Elcan Spectre DR 1-4 power scope seen on the M4A1 is, or used to be, a special operations signature optic. But again, these do not appear to have been SOF sailors.

Navy Surrender6

More after the jump. The Navy and the nation should both hide their faces — neither covered themselves with glory here today.

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A Rare Gun Turns Up in a Terrorist Attack

It's hard to identify in screenshots, but if you watch the whole video at the DailyNews link, you can make out the silhouette of the Spectre M4 -- or, possibly a converted Spectre HC.

It’s hard to identify in screenshots, but if you watch the whole video at the NY Post link, you can make out the silhouette of the Spectre M4 — or, possibly a converted Spectre HC.

The latest in a series of palestinian terror tantrums that had already killed 20 Israelis and 2 foreigners (one American and on Eritrean) claimed two more Israelis killed and about eight wounded in a submachine gun attack in Jerusalem.

A stateless Arab has been identified as the attacker. His motivation? The usual terrorist manifesto, the Koran he left behind in the bag he’d used to conceal his weapon. But, rather than use a common and garden AK, he slew his Jews with an exotic and rare weapon, and that’s where we come in.

The New York Post says:

There were conflicting reports about the weapon used — with some witnesses describing it as an AK-47, others an Uzi submachine gun and at least one an M-16 assault rife.

Images aired by Israeli media also show a discarded ammo magazine that appeared to be from a Spectre M4 machine gun– a weapon rarely seen in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Reuters reported.

Recovered 30-round Spectre mag. This magazine fits no other weapon known to us.

Recovered 30-round Spectre mag. This magazine fits no other weapon known to us.

Simta co-owner Dudi Malka described the gunman as a “fairly short, light-skinned man holding an M-16 gun,” Haaretz daily reported.

According to the Daily Mail, the terrorist threw the weapon in a trash can as he fled; the Israeli authorities recovered it. His backpack was found to contain terrorist literature, to wit, the Koran.

The weapon was a SITES Spectre M4 submachine gun, a rare 9mm weapon made in Italy, and later, in Switzerland. It was designed by Roberto Teppa and Claudio Gritti and made from 1984-1997 in Turin by Societa Italiana TEchnologie Speciali, SITES. Some additional arms were made until 2001 by Greco Sport SA in Massagno, Ticino, Switzerland (an Italophone canton). Greco Sport went paws up and appears to have been liquidated on 20 June, 2006.

In addition to the submachine gun version that the maker tried to interest world armies in, a semi-automatic pistol version was briefly imported into the USA before the 1994 assault weapons ban slammed the door on imported large pistols.

It did not sell well, as it was priced higher than shoddy Tec-9s and similar horse pistols, and import (different attempts by FIE, Mitchell Arms, American Arms) ended in 1993, well before the AWB took effect. Numbers imported were probably under 2000. It has gotten a new lease on life after being featured in the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, but the orphaned firearm is no longer a practical weapon despite its interesting features. (Of course, that doesn’t affect its use by a homicidal jihadi who’s expecting to throw his worthless life away, anyway).

Here’s one for sale, NIB, on GunBroker.

Spectre HC semi pistol 2The seller says:

Italian SITES Spectre HC semi-auto pistol AKA SITES Spectre Falcon or M4 semi-auto still in box with 2 original SITES 30 rd “casket” magazines, SITES speed loader, and forward grip which is still in unopened plastic. The original buyer never fired it so is in like new condition except for the box/packaging has some normal wear so am classifying it as “New Old Stock”. This one is in 9mm and was imported by American Arms, Inc sometime before 1993 and have not been imported since. These are no longer in production and is a great find, especially in this condition. Don’t let this one pass you by!

This next picture shows it from nearly the angle that the first surveillance video shows the terrorist.

Spectre HC semi pistol

It’s a penny auction with an unknown reserve; no bidders yet.

Here’s another one, not quite as mint as the first…

Spectre HC semi pistol second example right…with a more laconic description:

-USED- Sites Spectre in 9mm. 6″ barrel. One 30rd magazine, ambi safety a decocker. Adjustable sight. imported from 1990-93. Clean pistol. There is some wear from the charging handle. Original box and mag loader. No owners manual.

Spectre HC semi pistol second example right

He’s asking $1,500 to start and has, not surprisingly, no bidders.

The SITES Spectre was designed originally as a compact, advanced 2nd-Generation submachine gun in 9mm, in hopes of getting some of the cop money that was flowing to Oberndorf. It had extremely practical, ergonomic controls and a grip that was clearly borrowed from H&K.

Spectre HC semi pistol second example close-up

The US semi version, seen here, fired from a closed bolt, but so did the submachine gun. The SMG, called the Spectre M4, can be distinguished by its folding stock, which lies along the top of the receiver when folded.

Spectre M4 SMG with 50-round magazine.

Spectre M4 SMG with 50-round magazine.

All magazines were of the “coffin” type, and are normally found in 30- and 50-round denominations. All magazines are rare, but the 50-round mags, which were not intended to be sold into the USA, are extremely rare. Magazines sell, on the rare occasions they appear, for hundreds of dollars.

The Spectre M4 also has a unique trigger system, as described at world.guns.ru:

The trigger group is more similar to handguns, then to SMG – it is double action without manual safety but with decocker. So, Spectre could be carried with loaded chamber and hammer down and then fired immediately simply by pressing the trigger.

On the semi-auto pistol version found in the USA, the Spectre HC, the forward lever is the safety, which falls right to thumb (in either hand), and the trigger is DA/SA. The aft lever is a safe decocker that works independently of the safety. Thus it’s a bit like a SIG 22x series handgun in its manual of arms, except for its polymer-covered operating handle forward rather than having a pistol slide.

Max also notes that the bolt was designed also to pump air through the ventilated foregrip, cooling the barrel. The gun was assembled with few “user-serviceable parts inside” and extensive use of e-clips.

It will be interesting to see if Israeli police can determine where this crumb got hold of a Spectre. It is possible that the manufacturers sold into the Arab world, or to Iran (most foreign weapons sold to Iranian “police” are passed on to terrorist groups), and it’s possible, though unlikely, that it was originally a US-market semi. Against that possibility, the surveillance video seems to show automatic fire, and converting a Spectre HC to reliable full-auto fire would not be a slam dunk.

Don’t Forget Forgotten Weapons…

… although, it could be called “Remembered Weapons,” because Ian remembers all the stuff that everybody else has forgotten. True, we haven’t flagged you to his site in, what, two whole days? But when he’s posting stuff like this, you need to be over there, not here. We’ll still be here posting several times a day, but trust us, you want to see these two posts, and you want to point your RSS reader at FW so you never miss stuff like this.

Item: The Grandpappy of all MGs

Every gun begins with the prototype — no, wait… Every gun begins with an idea, but it has to pass through the stage of prototype if it’s ever going to be made concrete and marketed, adopted, and/or produced. And Forgotten Weapons is starting a new series on the Maxim, the grandpappy of all machine guns, with a great post on the prototype, which is, naturally, the granddaddy of all Maxims.

maxim_1885_prototype_01_left

One of the best parts of that post is a video Ian scared up which shows the ur-Maxim’s inner cuckoo clock. It’s ingenious, but it’s fair to say that the highly developed Maxim of the First World War was vastly simplified and improved over this design.

maxim_1885_prototype_03_feed

That, of course, just makes the engineering dead ends of the prototype even more interesting. There’s a little bit of similarity to the much later aerial weapon, the Mauser revolver cannon, in that a rotary sprocket is used to lift the cartridges after they are withdrawn by an extractor from the ammunition belt.

Item: Small Arms Development, 1945-65: the Soviet View

Victory Day parade. Rather than rest on their laurels, the Soviets overhauled their weapons after World War II, and by 1965 they'd done it a second time.

Victory Day parade. Rather than rest on their laurels, the Soviets overhauled their weapons after World War II, sending these Mosins to the warehouse, and by 1965 they’d done it a second time.

Ian got hold of a fascinating primary source document: a CIA translation of a classified Soviet analysis of small arms development after World War II. Both the intent of Soviet development and the differences between Soviet and NATO small arms doctrine and development objectives are laid bare in this document (available at the link).

Our long-held thesis that Soviet developments were primarily focused on putting automatic fire in the hands of their riflemen, whereas Western forces primarily focused on aimed semi-auto fire, is borne out from the horse’s mouth, as it were. The authors of the piece, two senior Soviet officers, see, from their point of view, 1965 NATO as making a serious error in not giving their riflemen weapons that can be effective in automatic fire at close range. Of the US Army:

[E]xperience in the operation of the M14 rifle has shown that it has extremely unsatisfactory grouping capability during automatic firing, as a result of which it is assigned to US troops only in the semiautomatic variant.

…in recent years the American army has renovated nearly all of its small arms. However, it should be pointed out that with the NATO cartridge as a basis, the USA has failed to solve the problem of developing a mobile and effective automatic individual weapon that satisfies the requirements of modern combat. For this reason the Americans have taken measures to modernize the M14 rifle, to explore other rifle designs, to develop a new 5.6-mm cartridge with reduced power, and to develop a rifle that will use this cartridge.

Ivan also prized light weight in his weaponry.

With allowance made for [the Soviets not being sure what NATO armies carried as a basic load of ammunition -Ed.] the average weight load (weapon plus unit of fire of cartridges being carried) per man amounts to: in the Soviet Army — 7.2 kilograms, in the US Army — 9.3 kilograms, in the West German Army — 10.9 kilograms, and in the French Army — 8.5 kilograms,

(This is referring to the M14 version of the US Army, the one that faced Russian occupation armies in Eastern Europe directly at the time. Elsewhere in the report, they note the emergence of the M16 as something to be watched).

Judged on the basis of these data, the weaponry of the Soviet Army is the lightest. This has been achieved by the use in our army of the 7,62-mm Model 1943 cartridge and the development for it of an automatic rifle and a light machinegun, which have made it possible to substantially lighten the weight of both the individual weapon itself and also the unit of fire carried with it.

Interesting to us that no credit at all is given to the Germans for inventing the intermediate cartridge and assault rifle concept. While the CETME rifle is mentioned as the source of the German G-3, there’s no mention that the CETME itself is an adaptation of the StG.45. (That fact may have been unknown to the Russian authors).

The authors were extremely satisfied with the state of Soviet weapons, and considered their weapons superior both individually to their counterparts, and on a unit vs. unit basis.

Rare Simonov AVS-36 Sold for $5k — as Parts

We were watching this on GB, and the price just ran away from what we wanted to pay. But we wanted the gun, as longtime students of rare Soviet weapons. We’ve mentioned it before; in May, 2012, we noted that by coincidence the US and USSR both adopted semi-auto rifles in 1938, the M1 and the AVS-36. Although the AVS was not a semi-auto, but a selective-fire rifle. Built as lightly as possible, they were problematic in service, and soon supplanted by the Tokarev selective fire (AVT) and semi-auto (SVT) rifles of 1938 and 1940. The Tokarevs were practically kissing cousins of the Simonov, being the same caliber, same size in every dimension, using similar magazines and the same gas tappet system of operation with a tilting bolt locking system (a similar locking system to the BAR, SAFN-49, and FAL).

This is the kit as all laid out

This is the kit as all laid out

This particular kit is so rare — we cannot recall ever having seen another AVS for sale in the USA, period. Here’s what the seller says:

This auction is for a complete parts assembly for an extremely rare pre WWII-early WWII Soviet Russian Simonov AVS-36 rifle. This parts assembly is all complete including the torch cut receiver and original magazine. The assembly is all matching except for the magazine and the parts that are supposed to be serialized are all matching #Y4287. The parts including the stock and handguard remain in nice condition and have never been repaired or modified. Bore is fine and bright with strong rifling with a pin in the chamber area that can be removed. These rare rifles were only manufactured circa 1936-1938. The first saw actual combat use in the Battles of Khalkin Gol in 1939, also in the Finnish Winter War 1939-1940, and in limited numbers during the early days of WWII. These rifles for any reasons proved unsatisfactory in combat and were quickly superseded by the Model SVT 1938/1940 Tokarev rifles. The AVS-36 Simonov Rifles and any original parts are rarely found anywhere in the world and are extremely desirable in this country. This would be a very rare opportunity for a collector to reweld or have a dummy receiver made for a static display. If you are lucky enough to have a complete registered rifle you would have some great parts which you would never be able to find anywhere.

The Tokarev, too, would be abandoned to return to the 19th Century Mosin-Nagant, for reasons of reliability, training base, and especially, speed of manufacture, once the USSR found itself at war with a peer competitor, Nazi Germany.

Simonov’s team continued designing firearms on the same system. Scaled up, the AVS-36 action became the mighty 14.5 x 115 mm PTRS-41 anti-tank rifle. Scaled down, it became (using some of the innovations from the PTRS, like the fixed magazine), the SKS-45 carbine that is still carried with pride by Russian honor guards. CORRECTION: see UPDATE below.

The prewar Soviet semi-automatic and select-fire rifles were an attempt to increase the Soviet infantryman’s firepower based on the same intensive study of the stalemates of World War I that produced Soviet innovations in tank and airborne forces. (The Red Army was doing tank and airborne maneuvers all through the 1930s… the US Army didn’t create airborne units and tank units capable of operating independently until the 1940s, and Armor (tanks) was not a basic branch in the US Army until 1950!)

Two things strangled the Soviet rifle development. One was, as mentioned, the poor performance of the AVS in practice, especially considering its cost of manufacture (including opportunity costs). The juice wasn’t worth the squeeze; a prefect semi was better in theory than the old Mosin, but the AVS (and AVT/SVT) were demanding and troubled guns (as was the M1 on introduction), and say what you will of the 50-year-old (then) Mosin, it was thoroughly debugged. The other thing that slew semi-auto development in the late thirties was the Great Terror, during which Stalin purged all of the power centers of the Communist Party and the Soviet State, including the Red Army. The brilliant Marshal Tukhachevskiy was shot, as were most of the men he’d mentored. Essentially all of the marshals and higher generals, and most of the lower grades of general officer and colonels, were shot or stripped of rank and thrown in the Gulag, more or less contemporaneously with the short service life of the AVS-36. The men who took the reins — it was not unusual for a division or corps commander to be a lieutenant colonel — were shaken enough that they weren’t going to make waves. The M1891 was just fine for granddad’s regiment, they’d make it work in the 1940s. (And they did).

As a result, relatively few Tokarev and very few Simonov rifles were made in the first place, and the Simonovs were captured in great stands during fighting with the Japanese at Khalkin Gol on the Mongolian border, and in the Winter War with Finland (1939-40). This particular rifle is a Winter War capture. We’ve written before about Finnish captured AVS rifles (and again here); this one might even be in one of those pictures!

Due to the ATF’s interpretation of the Gun Control Act of 1968, even a rarity like this cannot be imported, under the borrowed-from-the-Nazis “sporting purpose” test. Because it has “no sporting purpose,” (and really, no interest except to a rarefied echelon of collectors) its receiver was torch cut. Fortunately, it was imported before the ATF changed their interpretation to require the destruction of barrels as well as receivers of “non-sporting” collector guns.

(Incidentally, there was a budget amendment liberating the importation of curio and relic firearms from the Nazi “sporting” test that passed the House by a wide bipartisan margin. Why didn’t it pass? Because like all the other pro-gun language in the House budget, it was stripped out by the inexplicably NRA A-rated Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Good thing you didn’t vote for a Democrat, eh, you might have gotten an anti-gun Speaker… oh, wait).

Looking at this parts kit, we can determine a few things. It is a Finnish capture. That can be determined because it has the Finnish Army property Mark, “SA,” applied to it in various places. The seller also gets the serial number wrong, because he doesn’t know the Russian Cyrillic alphabet.

Simonov AVS-36 bolt Ch Ts 287

The two Cyrillic letters in the serial number, here in the bolt carrier handle, are Ch and Ts. So the real number is Ch Ts 287.

Here’s a view of the bolt carrier and bolt. SKS owners will see things are fairly familiar.

Simonov AVS-36 bolt and carrier top

Here is the Finnish Army property mark, in this case, on the side of the magazine. AVS-36 magazines held 10 rounds of 7.62 x 57R mm ammunition.

Simonov AVS-36 SA capture mark

Here’s another view of the parts:

Simonov AVS-26 parts

And here they are, loosely assembled.

 

Simonov AVS-36 assembledThe kit does not seem to be complete. It is missing some internals, such as the hammer. One could probably adapt SKS parts, or use SKS parts as models to scale up, to make a safe, legal semi-automatic fire control group for a rebuilt rifle.

Having a receiver machined would cost in the four figures, is our best guess. And that’s after you’ve done the reverse-engineering and made the drawings. The parts of the cut receiver are some help, but they’re clearly distorted by the torch. You might be able to get a museum that has one to let you measure theirs, at least the gross external measurements. Despite the seller’s suggestion, I do not think this cut receiver is susceptible to being rewelded — better to start over from billet.

The torch cuts on the receiver parts are ugly, and look like they're through pin locations, locking areas, etc.

The torch cuts on the receiver parts are ugly, and look like they’re through pin locations, locking areas, etc.

The GB Auction page is going to stay live for a while. When it goes away, let us know, as we archived the page this time.

UPDATE

Max Popenker points out in the comments that our description of the locking system as analagous to the SKS and PTRS is not correct. Reexamination of available AVS photos shows he’s quite right, but what is the locking system of the early Simonov?

Forgotten Weapons had a February, 2014 post on the AVS, and identifies the locking method as a block that slides vertically up and down. FW linked to this forum thread at Guns.Ru that shows detail photography of a disassembled AVS, one that appears to have been deactivated in the British style, by torching the bolt head off at an angle. From this incomplete example, it looks to uslike the AVS bolt locked with two wedges emerging from the bolt, roughly similar to the locking flaps of a Degtyaryev machine gun. Is this a locking wedge? Or a safety device preventing out of battery firing?

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Demilled AVS bolt, left side. Is that a locking wedge at center? Bolt carrier at top. Bolt carrier handle on opposite side, you can see its shadow; there’s another possible “locking wedge” on the other side below the handle. Bolt face, torched off at an angle, at 9 o’clock; firing pin at 3 o’clock. Firing pin retaining pin visible just to left of pin, it runs in the slot milled in the pin).  

The thread is also useful for images of the trigger mechanism (much of which is missing from the auction rifle) and for showing the safety, which is very similar to that of the SKS.

Forgotten Machine Weapons….

Ian at Forgotten Weapons has something new set up in his office. It’s this:

Ians Vickers Diorama

He’s had the Vickers (live, naturally) for years, but the diorama is a new idea, and now he can admire his MG from his desk even when he’s not converting money into noise and smoke, with an intermediate stage as .303 and the Vickers as catalyst. He writes (at Reddit):

What do you do with a heavy machine gun during the 99.999% of the time when you’re no tout shooting it on account of ammo cost + it weighs 120 pounds? Usually it goes in a box somewhere.

I decided to make mine into a diorama, with some sandbags, WWII British entrenching tool, helmet, and rusty barbed wire. I can still take the gun down to use, but in the meantime it’s a cool display in my office!

Ian’s definitely our kind of people, and the Reddit thread is worth checking out for the long Cryptonomicon excerpt that another redditor has posted. Vickers got infrastructure. 

And in other Ian news, there’s this:

Ian goes banzai

Relax, dude. Put down the sword. The ammo delivery’s coming, it’s just delayed…. no reason to commit hara-kiri. 

Actually if he’s going to pull that look off, he needs a hachimaki across his forehead. Tenno heiko… banzai!

By the way, if you tap that vintage wood paneling just right, it plays excerpts from The White Album. Backwards. They’ve been embedded there since its first installation in a den in the summer of Altamont….

In all seriousness, for some of the finest, most engaging gun content on the web, get on over to ForgottenWeapons.com. We know most of you readers are regulars there, but if you’ve been slacking off, go catch up on the wonders of Swiss experimental open-bolt semi rifles and oddball exotica from all the countries of the world. And if you like what you see, slip him a buck or two through Patreon. (Link’s on his site).

SARCO has Bren Gun Kits!

SARCO is celebrating Thanksgiving with some deals, but also has dug back into the warehouse and found some Bren Gun kits. These have not been on the market much lately. The good news is that two of these old torch demils include original barrels:

SARCO Bren Mk.1 kit

SARCO Bren Mk.1 kit. Included mags not shown.

They also include some magazines and accessories, which vary by mark. For example, the Mk. I illustrated above includes five .303 magazines, and an original barrel SARCO calls “good.” On the Mk.3 kit, they rate the included barrel (a Mk. 2 and not the shorter Mk.3) “very good” and include it and five magazines (which are not shown in the kit picture).

brenmk3kitbarrelnotshown

Sarco Bren Mk.3 Kit. Included Mk.2 barrel (which does fit) and mags not shown.

The bad news? Those torch-cut receivers are almost certainly not rebuildable, at least, not economically so. If the cuts fall in critical areas of the receiver, or if there’s too much material removed, there are no easy fixes.

And any rewelded receiver must be heat-treated.

Finally, they have a true rarity, although it is barrel-less at the moment: the L4A3 7.62 NATO version. This comes with just one mag, and they’re working on having a new-production barrel which will be offered at additional cost as soon as they are available.

Bren L4A3 kit. Included magazine (1) not shown.

Bren L4A3 kit. Included magazine (1) not shown.

The reweld cautions with the other kits need to be observed here, too. In our judgment, building these guns is possible (if you’re lucky about where the cuts are) but extremely challenging and time-consuming.

 

Where RPDs are Reborn as Semis

Earlier this week, we visited Project Guns, a tanmall manufacturer in Florida and the home of an interesting project to recreate the Communist Bloc RPD light machine gun. The RPD is the 7.62 x 39 mm squad automatic weapon used by Soviet, satellite and “fraternal socialist” armies and “national liberation movements” from the 1950s through the 1970s. It’s a gas-operated, belt-fed truly light machine gun that evolved from the ancient pan-fed DP through the DPM and DP-46 from Degtyaryev; the RPD, Ruchnoi Pulemyot Degtyaryeva, was, in keeping with its intermediate cartridge, smaller, lighter, and handier.

These Project Guns RPDs are shown on the website, but have already shipped to their new owners.

These Project Guns RPDs are shown on the website, but have already shipped to their new owners. They’re all made on Polish surplus RPD kits — while the metal is in great condition, the wood varies from “new” to “pretty beat up.”

Along with Russian production, RPDs were made in China and several satellite countries. The quality of manufacture varies from nation to nation.

In recent years, there have been numerous attempts to build RPDs from demilled kits into working semi-autos. The best known is probably the Wiselite build, but there are several small shops out there, and DSA is currently shipping RPD semis.

Stan Szalkowski of Project Guns took time out of his production day — the company comprises Stan and a guy who’s his helper and understudy — to show us how he did it. When he invited us in he was test-fitting parts in one of a batch of guns nearing completion.

A semi-auto RPD approaches completion with careful hand-fitting on the gunsmith's bench. When it works and passes test-fire, it'll be blued, packed, and shipped to its proud new owner's FFL.

A semi-auto RPD approaches completion with careful hand-fitting on the gunsmith’s bench. When it works and passes test-fire, it’ll be blued, packed, and shipped to its proud new owner’s FFL.

The shop is neatly organized into three parts in an industrial zone of many small businesses. The main shop includes the desk Stan’s seldom at unless he’s on the phone to a customer or subcontractor, or designing a part or fixture in CAD (of which more later); the production benches and machinery, including manual lathes and mills, a Tormach CNC, presses, and of course, the gunsmith’s standard standbys: stones and files. Attached to the main shop is the stockroom, where the remainder of 150 RPD kits recently delivered await attention and some completed firearms for foreign destinations await the necessary paperwork drill: approval by national authorities, customs clearance and so forth. (Project Guns has a manufacturer’s license — in fact, as you go in the door, all the required licences are displayed on the wall in case officialdom ever comes looking). The third section of the company, which we didn’t personally see, is in a separate unit, and it is where the messy and noisy processes happen: test firing and hot blue. Each rifle is test fired for forty or fifty rounds into a bullet trap (and remediated if needed). The hot blue process is extremely time sensitive, if you want to avoid having the whole thing flash to rust; so the separate shops encourage concentration on the job at hand. There are assembly days and bluing days.

To rebuild an RPD, Project Guns uses their own receiver design, milled from solid 4130 steel for them by a large Florida machine shop. Stan bead-blasts the receivers, then fits the parts to them, test fires them and disassembled them for rebluing. Apart from the US-made barrels and receivers (and many small parts), each RPD is assembled with parts that came from a single demilled RPD. Each kit came from Poland individually boxed and serial numbered, and the boxes are used to keep each set of parts together along its course of modification and assembly.

A row of in-process RPDs. The nearest ones have their new, US-made chrome-lined barrels installed.

A row of in-process RPDs. The nearest ones have their new, US-made chrome-lined barrels installed.

While the cut receiver parts from the original guns can’t be reused (Stan has been down the path of receiver rebuilds before, but with hundreds of RPDs under his belt, having a custom receiver is much easier), the front sight, bipod and gas system must be removed from the stubs of the demilled barrel. The barrel stubs are also scrap.

The design of the receiver is modified so that full-automatic parts don’t fit. Neither the internals nor an unmodified trigger group housing from a full-auto RPD can go on to a Project Guns receiver. This is required for ATF compliance. The Tormach CNC comes in handy making the required cuts to modify the trigger group housing, operating rod/slide and other internals, as we’ll see when we talk about CAD below.

Here's one of the US-made barrels installed in an RPD. If you peek over to the left, you see a batch of customer guns -- Czech UK Vz.59s -- in for troubleshooting.

Here’s one of the US-made barrels installed in an RPD. If you peek over to the left, you see a batch of customer guns — Czech UK Vz.59s — in for troubleshooting.

The barrels are a story in themselves. The new barrels are US-made compliance parts, but they’re made for Project Guns by a major barrel maker: they’re chrome-lined like the originals. One problem with RPDs has been sight, barrel and gas system alignment. Some satellite nation guns, and some US semi builds, have been constructed with canted parts, which in a sight is inimical to accuracy, and in a gas system can be damaging to function. Stan has designed and built not only a special tool that ensures the perfect alignment of the parts, but also a specialty press for barrel installation that works with the tool.

Scratch-Built Custom Barrel Press. Barely visible on the right is the RPD barrel, sight and gas system alignment tool.

Scratch-Built Custom Barrel Press. Visible immediately to the left of the parts sorter on the right is the RPD barrel, sight and gas system alignment tool.

(He also uses a press that started off as a factory Harbor Freight press, but that he has extensively rebuilt, trued, and reinforced so that it actually works).

He showed us how he makes a custom tool, like the barrel/sight/gas system alignment tool, once he has it visualized in its component parts. (There are three parts to the tool: a base with a hole for the barrel and one for the mandrel, a mandrel that holds parts in alignment, and an insert that notches into the ejector cut in the barrel to ensure that everything’s directionally oriented and aligned properly). He envisions the part, and then sketches it in CAD. The program he uses is not something ridiculously expensive like CATIA, or something cutting-edge like SpaceClaim (which is a relatively reasonable $5000 or so). Instead, he used a combination of free and inexpensive PC software that meets his needs perfectly.

Initial design is done in the free application that’s downloadable from E-Machine-Shop. It also allows you to put your part out to bid. Stan has found that doing that, rather that working with shops he’s got experience with, can produce parts with so-so tolerances. But while the E-Machine Shop tool can produce a 3D file, it’s simply a drawing or representation — it’s not machine-ready.

For that, he uses Vectric’s VCarve Pro ($699 direct). We’re familiar with Vectric’s software (which is made in a confusing variety of versions, but they will help you find the right one for your application) for 2D cutting applications like laser cutting or CNC routing, but Stan uses it to generate tool paths. It accepts input for specific machine, for tool type (i.e. four flute end mill), size and, of course, feeds and speeds. Stan does these from experience, but a beginner can use feeds and speeds from Machinery’s Handbook and come out alright. In VCarve Pro, one can visualize the tool path in a simulation and correct it all on the screen before committing to metal. When the part looks like it’s being cut properly in the simulation, Stan saves the file to a thumb drive, and carries it a few feet to the Tormach.

The Tormach also comes in handy for the repetitive work involved in, for instance, modifying the trigger group housings. It repeats so well that if you design a fixture that doesn’t move when you remove and replace a part, you can set up the fixture and indicate in the first part, and then just run the Tormach and replace the parts without touching the indicator again.

Apart from parts modification, the in-house CNC is used mostly to make prototype parts and production tooling. Stan has a long-established relationship with production shops that make parts in mass quantities. These include semi-auto internals like linear hammers, small pins and dowels, muzzle nuts, and anything that’s unsat or not reusable in the basic kits.

Project Guns' small parts come from US short-run machine shops. After inspection, they go in this parts sorter for the assembly gunsmith.

Project Guns’ small parts come from US short-run machine shops. After inspection, they go in this parts sorter for the assembly gunsmith.

Stan has built and shipped 450 RPDs in the past, and notes that the quality of this batch of kits shows that they’re more well-used than the early batches, which were guns that had been stored new and never fired until they were demilled. With a new receiver and barrel, and many new small parts, and new bluing, the metal parts will look new, but some of the wood in this shipment shows that some of these guns were used hard by the Polish Army during its Warsaw Pact days. You can probably make a request for a more pristine or a more “characterful” RPD at this point, but there’s no assurance there’s any more kits to be had after these, and as they get used up your choices may dwindle.

Of the 150 kits he’s building, 100 are earmarked for United States customers and 50 are spoken for by a Canadian distributor, assuming the Canadian can get clearance from the Mounties, something he’s been working on for some time already. It’s pretty hard to imagine a collector firearm like this, essentially an expensive toy, finding a criminal use, but the mere look of it casts an icy blast of terror on hoplophobes.

Project Guns is not a retail gun dealer. If you want to get your name on the list for an RPD — they’re $2,500 a pop — it’s time now, and the gun will be delivered to your local FFL.

 

 

Perp Locked Up, Guns Remain At Large, in the Case of the Filched Firearms

500px-US-FBI-ShadedSeal.svgBecause the newspaper reporter missed it, we have to drag it out of her story for you. The Worcester, MA, Telegram: 

James Walter Morales of Cambridge was arrested without incident Wednesday night in New York by the FBI and the Nassau County Police Department, authorities said.
According to an affidavit filed in connection with the case, Mr. Morales was at the Army Reserve facility on North Lake Avenue on or about Nov. 12 to obtain copies of his discharge papers.

Want to bet it was bad, or borderline, paper?

A surveillance video from a nearby building depicts Mr. Morales spending about six hours, from 6:43 p.m. until shortly after midnight, going back and forth from his car to the armory with duffel bags. The FBI declined to comment when asked if the six M-4 rifles and 10 Sig Sauer M11 9 mm pistols that were stolen have been recovered. According to the affidavit, the M-4 rifles are capable of firing a single shot, or a three-round burst for each single pull of the trigger.

That’s the indicator that they haven’t recovered the firearms. If they had, they’d be crowing about it. Ever known the FBI to be reticent about a success? We neither. If the Bureau is being reticent, the success didn’t happen.

At the time of the theft, Mr. Morales was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet, according to the affidavit. Investigators said he cut off the device at 8:48 a.m. Monday.

We’re getting a vibe here that he’s not one of nature’s noblemen, and when the postman comes, he’s not bringing the monthly MENSA chapter newsletter.

Authorities said Mr. Morales got into the building by breaking a window of a kitchen located near the drill room. They were able to identify the suspect through a DNA analysis of blood the thief left after he used a power saw and pry tool to cut a hole into the roof to access the gun vault.

FYI, a “drill room” or “drill hall” is a large, gymnasium-like concrete-floor area in an Army Reserve or National Guard building. It normally has a big door so large trucks can be loaded inside, and its wide floor is used as a place to hold formations during monthly training “drills.” Off the drill hall, smaller rooms are used as offices, supply rooms, and armories. The Arms Room is usually accessed through the supply room’s outer door, and is strongly vaulted and equipped with a moderately sophisticated alarm system, which regulations require to be in use at all times.

This drill hall had a de facto waiver for the alarm system during ongoing construction, which someone must have told Morales was the case. Not real bright, that.

Morales was ID’d by DNA. For decades, the military has taken a DNA swab of all personnel. The claim was that it was for battlefield ID, but the real reason was to build the FBI’s DNA database. (The same mechanism used to build a national fingerprint file). As veterans commit fewer crimes than their non-vet cohort, this tool has been limited for crimefighting, but the FBI is also attracted to its potential for population control, as they keep getting greater and greater domestic warrantless surveillance powers.

In this case, though, the DNA swab they took from Morales paid off in a crime solution — or part of one. The guns are still out there.

Investigators were able to obtain Mr. Morales’ phone number from his Facebook page. They located a second phone number for him from the Probation Department at Middlesex Superior Court. Authorities executed a search warrant to track the phone to Mr. Morales, according to the affidavit.

Is that how they got the warrant, or simply the “parallel construction”? As always in cases with Federal agencies tapped into NSA’s universal domestic surveillance, you’ll never know — even if you’re Morales’s defense attorney. (Probably a Designated Diver from the Public Defender’s Office, anyway).

It’s not like Morales is a sterling character. He’s enough of a perv that even Massachusetts has laws against him, although note they kindly enabled this crime wave by dropping his bail:

Mr. Morales was indicted by a Middlesex grand jury on May 19, on charges of aggravated rape of a child, forcible rape of a child, and indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14 (two counts). His bail was later reduced from $25,000 to $5,000. A condition of his release was that he wear an electronic monitoring device. A warrant was issued for his arrest on Nov. 16, after the Probation Department notified the Middlesex District Attorney’s office that he was not being monitored by GPS. Mr. Morales was scheduled to appear at a previously-scheduled pretrial hearing on Nov. 17.

Well, that was the day after he cut off his GPS anklet and burglarized the armory, so at least they caught the dead bracelet quickly.

Mr. Morales is expected to make an appearance Friday in U.S. District Court on Long Island and then to be taken to Worcester to face charges in U.S. District Court. He is charged with unlawful possession of a machine gun, unlawful possession of stolen firearms (two counts), and theft of government property.

via Arrest made in theft of weapons from Worcester armory – News – telegram.com – Worcester, MA.

Note that the criminal-friendly MA prosecutors are already dealing him some wild cards. He stole sixteen firearms, but they’re not piling on with 16 counts. He isn’t even in court yet, and he’s already had 13 felony charges go away.

keep-calm-and-carry-a-fbi-badgeAnd he has something the FBI really wants: knowledge of where the 16 missing Army guns went.

Update

We’ve seen the FBI’s warrant affidavit, and this story tracks it closely. We did note that the FBI agent, Colgan Norman, apparently can’t spell “hangar,”  and it made us wonder if he was one of these FBI agents (YouTube link).