Category Archives: Machine Guns

Someone’s Flogging His Big Johnson

Of course, you can’t have it if you’re in Libya, North Korea, New York, New Jersey or Massachusetts because it’s a big assault Johnson, but what it is, is a rare Johnson LMG kit, restored onto a semi Johnson M1941 rifle receiver, producing a legal semi-auto Johnson LMG. And you can have it — if you win the auction.

big Johnson 13

Manufactured on the original Johnson 1941 semi auto receiver , using original US GI LMG parts , semi auto only . Excellent condition , park. military finish ,mint original barrel , beautiful wood furniture. Test fired only. The gun fires , extracts and reloads 100% , very accurate. The gun comes with bipod and 3 magazines. Shipping to an FFL or C&R holder. The gun will be shipped from FFL in PA.

big Johnson 02

via 1941 Johnson LMG light machine gun semi m1941 : Semi Auto Rifles at

There are a number of these around. By “a number,” though, we’re probably talking about a single digit number. The parts kits are rare, and the rifles are valuable enough to collectors that it’s hard to make the case for sacrificing one.

Johnson guns get their collector cachet from their rarity1 and their use in training and combat by elite elements including the Paramarines, the Marine Raiders, the Canadian-American First Special Service Force (all ephemeral, hostilities-only WWII units), the OSS, and Brigada 2506, the Bay of Pigs invaders. The Marines and Cubanos only used the rifles; the FSSF, only the machine guns. Any surviving Johnson has some part of this history.

Because the Johnsons were not standard arms with standard doctrinal spare parts and maintenance support, they were withdrawn and replaced with US standard rifles and auto rifles/LMGs. Carefully packed away, all of them except for probable OSS/CIA stocks were surplused after the war.

We don’t know what it will go for. The current bid in the $8k neighborhood has not met the reserve (the rifles sell for $4k and up). Some comments, and the rest of the photos, after the jump.


  1. 30,000 Johnson M1941 rifles were made, a large percentage of which survive, but only about 3,000 were machine guns according to ATF Form 2s filed by Johnson Automatics. The Johnson M1944 machine gun appears to have been produced only in prototype quantities.

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Extra: Another SA80 Chart, and the Defense Industrial Base

Here’s another SA80 chart from the aforementioned HK presentation. It was not presented because, as you can see, the legend is garbled. The numbers look a little better, but we’ll get to those after we fix the chart.



Thinking about the garble, it occurred to us that the garbled “words” had the characteristic frequency count (at a glance) of a substitution, not transposition cipher; therefore, perhaps the characters had been subjected to a Caesarian cipher like ROT-13. Why, we have no idea; this is Ernst Mauch era HK, where “you suck and we hate you” was corporate policy.

Indeed, LZ and OVZ are clearly meant to be IW and LSW, and are the letters 3 spaces further along the alphabet. We quickly built an Excel decoder1 and determined that the lines below were not Caesarian +3.  E u x q h l, for example, yields H x { t k o when subjected to +3. That can’t be it!

Changing to -3, E u x q h l decodes as B r u n e i. More like it. D o d v n d becomes A l a s k aN x z d l w breaks out as K u w a i t, and Z d u p l q v w h u (the “u” is there, it’s almost invisible against the blue background) becomes W a r m i n s t e r. Exactly where the narrative tells us the 2001 tests took place! Here’s a corrected slide.



Why HK went to NDIA with a jacked-up slide, and why they jacked it up like this, are mysteries for the ages, but we’re inclined to think that it could have been sheer bloodymindedness on the part of Powerpoint. Powerpoint has bugs on its bugs sometimes. Couple that with a presentation handed off to someone to deliver who was a gun expert, not a computer jockey, and therefore couldn’t fix it. It also could be that HK didn’t go to the show with a bad slide. It might have been perfectly fine in PowerPoint and been botched by NDIA’s or DTIC’s conversion to .pdf. A vast quantity of data is lost in this conversion every show (including every video), so it’s not hard to imagine a perfect slide from HK going garbled in this process.

In any event, we have ungarbled it for the ages, although lots of luck getting the correction back into DTIC. Not going to happen.

Now, as to the numbers in this slide, they look better than the ones previously addressed, but they’re still not good for the LSW. The rifle numbers are OK and you’d get similar numbers from anything good (yes, even AK). While the LSW numbers show that HK really worked their Teutonic tushes off to try to make a silk purse of this sow’s ear, it’s still a sow’s ear. Reliability numbers of 89 to 94 percent sound great, until you break it down to failures per magazine. Here are some reliability percentages from the HK tests; the two on the left are from the 1999 tests, the four on the right  from Alaska, Brunei, Kuwait and Warminster testing in 2001.



99 01 AK 01 Bru 01 Ku 01 Warm
96% 86% 95% 90% 89% 94% Reliability percentage
28.8 25.8 28.5 27 26.7 28.2 Average good rounds per 30-round mag
1.2 4.2 1.5 3 3.3 1.8 Average failures per 30-round mag

Is 95% reliability reliable enough for you? That best-case reliability (tested, remember, by the same guys selling the modifications to the MOD) yields three failures in every two magazines in the light support weapon L86A2.

If your car was 95% reliable, you’d be late to work three days every two months. If you still had the job after that.

It’s amazing that dogged German engineering could come so close to triumph over what we’re really hesitant to call bad design just because the “design” of the L85 was so haphazard in the first place. History records how designers like Kalashnikov and Garand and Stoner adopted and adapted parts concepts from earlier designers’ best ideas. But those guys knew what they were doing. It’s sad to see that by the 1970s, Enfield Lock was reduced to copying (and borrowing) parts from other firearms without understanding them or doing proper engineering substantiation or testing. They may not even have known what it was they didn’t know, and the proceeded to give the British Army a rifle that was so much less than such a good organization deserves. They were unskilled and unaware of it — a Dunning-Kruger index case.

It would have been something to hear the muttering in Oberndorf as various Herr Professor Doktor Dipl.Ing guys finally got a chance to examine the documents on what they were committed to re-engineer, when they realized it had never been engineered in the first place.

There is also a lesson here that goes far beyond the tragedy of the L85 or the world of small arms for that matter: it’s that there is a price for neglecting or ceding your defense industrial base. For reasons of policy and politics, Britain went in 100 years from a hotbed of firearms RDT&E, engineering and manufacture to a nation which can’t design an infantry rifle or pistol and will henceforth have to import them. Germany is very close to the same position today: their export controls and the G36 fiasco make it increasingly likely that some future German prime minister will have to go to his or her future French counterpart (Marine le Pen?) and ask to buy guns. Bismarck would be fit to be tied.


  1. To do this, convert the character to its ASCII code, with the Excel CODE() command, where the parenths are full of the cell reference you want to convert. Then you have a number to which you can apply any numeric operator — all we need here is addition and subtraction. Then take than number and convert it back to an ASCII character with the CHAR() command.


Just How Bad Was Is the SA 80?

Here’s an old HK document bragging up their rebuild of Britain’s buggy SA 80 assault rifle, circa 2007.  Whilst it’s marked “Commercial in Confidence,” a rough equivalent of the US’s proprietary information markings, it was presented at a public NDIA Conference (the 2007 Small Arms Conference) and it’s still available in DTIC’s document repository.1

HK Future Requirements 2007 Bantle_210PM.pdf

The Original L85A1 rifle

The Original L85A1 rifle

Without the audio or video of the presentation, making sense of the slide deck is a challenge, as the document was not made by fluent English users. You learn that after HK was contracted to un-screw the unreliable Enfield in 1996, the processes included “Weapon Measurement 4 Weapons,” “Evaluation with Various Ammunition,” and HK’s personal bugbear, “Firing at Different Temperations. [sic]” By 1997 HK thought it had some answers, and then it took another year to hash out a contract to fix 100 each of the rifle (Individual Weapon) and squad/section automatic (Light Support Weapon) units. The actual modification of the firearms took only six months, or half the time of contract negotiations — who do these guys think they are, with all this bureaucracy, Americans?

Why was the L85A1 so unreliable? This dissassembled view gives a clue. The innards were copied from the AR-18 -- indeed, the prototypes used Sterling-made AR-180 parts. Simply copied, not engineered at all.

Why was the L85A1 so unreliable? This dissassembled view gives a clue. The innards (bolt, gas system, barrel/magazine alignment) were copied from the AR-18 — indeed, the prototypes used Sterling-made AR-180 parts. Simply copied, not engineered at all.

Here are the firing cycles HK used for the 1999 tests:

Individual Weapon Firing Cycle
Sequence Rate (rounds / min) Duration sec Rounds fired Comment
1 30 40 20 40 secs
2 10 360 60 6 minutes
3 30 60 30 1 minute
4 10×4 60 40 10 bursts of 4, 1 min.
totals   520 150 150 rounds in 8:40

And here are the firing schedules used with the support weapon.

Light Support Weapon Firing Cycle  
Sequence Rate (rounds / min) Duration sec Rounds fired Comment
1 60 180 180 3 minutes
2 0 60 0 1m cooling
3 60 180 180 3 minutes
4 0 120 0 2m cooling
5 60 150 150 2:30
6 0 600 0 10m cooling
7 30 600 300 10 m, lower rate
8 0 120 0 2m cooling
9 60 150 150 2:30
totals   2160 960 960 rounds in 36:00

We note that those firing schedules, especially the rifle schedules, are very light compared to what is expected in modern combat and combat training. It’s nothing to burn through 5 magazines during a single practice hit during SFAUC, or any other CQB/MOUT training evolution, and you will burn through them in well under 8:40. And rates of fire in defensive operations, under the pressures of a modern, complex attack, are much higher.

The initial trials results in 1999 showed a very great improvement in both weapons (and exposed just how crappy the originals had been). But they didn’t go far enough. Results in Arctic firing tests, conducted in Alaska, were particularly shabby.


We can all agree that a weapon achieving 5% or even 22% reliability on that mild test cycle is junk, and that HK’s improvement of the firearm was near-miraculous. (We do wonder how much of it was just bringing indifferently-manufactured SA80s up to blueprint spec). But while the numbers speak for themselves, they don’t say this is a good firearm — even post-overhaul.

Now, 96% reliability sounds good, but that means, on average more than one malfunction or failure per magazine! And 86% reliability means, on average, more than four failures per 30-round mag. Of course, that beats the relative inutility of the unmodified guns, but you have to wonder why the MOD didn’t just send the SA80 to the knackers’ yard after these dismal tests.

Results in hot weather trials in Kuwait that summer were better, but not much better and probably within the margin of error of the test design.


You can’t help but think that what HK had at the end of this round of tests was a much better firearm than the British Army had had before — but still a piece of junk.

At this point, the UK considered ditching the SA80 and buying Stoner systems from Colt or Diemaco, but given that HK was then owned by Royal Ordnance (soon itself bought by BAE), it seemed sensible to give the contract to HK, and brag up the 98.5% reliability number — which was, you see, the very best result, in one style weapon, from one test. This produced the SA80A2, which had the following differences from the original (source):

  1. A new cocking handle, made of shaped nylon polyamide, which doubles as a cartridge case deflector;
  2. A new magazine, which is slightly longer, more curved and comes with a smoother spring feed action;
  3. The LSW has a heavier barrel;
  4. A new gas plug and cylinder made from superior materials;
  5. The catch spring has been widened to prevent jamming in the gas feed during re-assembly;
  6. The gas blowback cycle has been improved;
  7. One-and-a-half locking nuts removed from the barrel extension / chamber to accommodate a different extractor shape, which should also guide empty cases away from the ejection port;
  8. An all-new bolt head that has a larger, more robust extractor;
  9. The cartridge ejector has a new rim and a stronger multi-wire spring;
  10. The carrier has been polished to reduce the friction between it and the top-most cartridge in the magazine;
  11. A new sturdier firing pin has been installed, made from high-strength, quenched and tempered steel, with the stop moved from the rear to the front;
  12. The ejection port has been enlarged to improve the round ejection pattern;
  13. The magazine housing has been reinforced with additional welding to prevent it breaking;
  14. The weight of the hammer has been increased by 9g to prevent misfires caused by ‘bouncing’;
  15. The bolt release catch has been strengthened;
  16. A new recoil spring with a higher compression has been installed to even out the rate of fire.

HK received approximately $180 million for the upgrade of these rifles, about $400 each for the weapons that were done. Meanwhile the Army had been downsizing and so barely more than half of the initial buy were upgraded.

These were the weapons with which the British Army went to Afghanistan in 2002. (SAS were deployed earlier, but they were carrying M4s and Minimis). The regulars also used the Minimi in Afghanistan; as the L110A1 it has de facto replaced the unreliable L86 Light Support Weapon.

Since then, a Picatinny rail fore-end (developed for the firearm by Daniel Defense of the USA) has been added and Magpul E-mags have replaced the reliable but expensive HK steel “maritime” magazine.


You’d need more nearly A/B equivalent tests to be sure, but it seems that even after modification the SA80 is not even in the same reliability grid square as more popular weapons like Stoner and Kalashnikov system weapons, or even HK’s own much-maligned G36.

And while the LSW tests appear to have actually loaded up the weapon with heat — almost 1000 rounds in a half hour — the rifle firing tests were much lighter than a troop unit is likely to experience in a position defense.  In other words, as grim as these reliability figures are for the SA80 series weapons, they’re nowhere near the worst case for those weapons.

All this raises the question: how do weapons whose performance goes nonlinear at high sustained rates of fire get adopted in the first place? Our belief is that the initial testing protocols do not test the weapons sufficiently. A routine part of procurement of, for example, aircraft, is the provision of static test airframes or articles that are tested to failure or destruction. It’s clear from the dismal performance of the unmodified SA80 on these extremely mild firing programs that this weapon was not only not tested to failure or destruction, it was not remotely challenged during its original adoption. If it had been, the sorts of fixes the HK engineers used to raise the reliability of the weapon from nonexistent to merely worst-in-class could have been implemented way back in the 1970s when the British Army was shaking the thing down for the first time. Or pretending to.

How do you prevent an oversight like the one that gave some of the world’s most professional soldiers a weapon they couldn’t count on? We see that oversights are more likely to happen on in-house and sole-source projects, rather than on COTS and competitive projects. We think that helps point the way to a broadly useful prophylactic measure: more independent analysis (from varied independent analysts) and independent review of testing protocols and results. Also, weapons must be tested to and beyond the edge of the performance envelope, including testing to failure/destruction.

Is it wasteful to test toolroom prototypes, built for tens of thousands of dollars each, to destruction? Not if you think it’s wasteful to spend tens of millions on redesigning and rebuilding your combat arms after they’re fielded.


  1. NDIA’s document stash has recently been reorganized with a new website, just as amateurish as the last, and a new search function which can’t find much. The good news: trying to find specific documents you used to have links to, DTIC’s incompetent organization instead serves up serendipitous finds like this!

New Military Arms from Poland

Coat_of_arms_of_Poland-officialJane’s has been to an armaments exhibition in Poland (MSPO in Kielce, PL) where Polish armories have displayed new Polish small arms to the public for the first time. These arms comprise a modular family of 5.56mm small arms, the Modular Small Arms System, whose key gimmick is that the whole family interchanges to standard or bullpup lower-receivers, and a further improved UKM-2000P general purpose machine gun, which was already an improved, NATO-caliber evolution of the PKM, now with improved modularity and ergonomics.

I: The Modular Small Arms System

The Modular Small Arms System (hereafter MSAS to save typing, if you please) is a product of Fabryka Broni “Łucznik”– Radom Sp. z o.o. which looks intimidating to an English speaker, but means “Archer” Arms Factory, LLC in Polish, and is actually easy to spell and pronounce with a little coaching, because Polish is a phonetic language: Fab-REE-ka BRO-nee WOOCH-neek gets you pretty close. (You can’t fool a Pole, but he will probably appreciate you trying. The Polish language does not deserve its reputation for difficulty). Fortunately for non-Polish-speakers, FB Łucznik publishes their website in English as well as in their native language; unfortunately for us, they don’t have the MSAS information up there yet.

FB Lucnik Radom 90 years_drzwiotwarte_a4_netThis month is Fabryka Broni’s 90th aniversary. Fabryka Broni has made the Beryl AK-based assault rifle for the Polish military, the Glauberyt 9mm submachine gun, and traces its history back 90 years to its forerunners in inter-war Free Poland, before Nazi and Russian occupations (the USSR occupied eastern Poland from 1939-41 and the whole country from 1944-45. Apart from the roughly half of Poland annexed to the USSR [for which some German territories, stripped entirely of movable property by the Red Army, were given Poland as compensation], unlike some other slave states such East Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, that were kept under or put back under the Red Army boot, the USSR armed forces withdrew in 1956 and let Polish quislings run the country).

FB’s forerunners were the producer of Polish “Radom” Mauser 98-pattern rifles and the well-regarded 9mm VIS Radom pistol before and during the war, and later produced weapons, mostly of Soviet pattern, for the Polish Warsaw Pact forces.

The end of the Cold War required Polish forces to adapt to new tactics and interoperability challenges as part of NATO, but it also unleashed the nation’s considerable design and engineering talent and produced a variety of interesting firearms.

Here’s the MSAS in bullpup mode:


The picture is less than ideal, but visible variants include rifle, carbine, and short CQB variants. Common AR add-ons like COTS suppressor mount/flash-hiders and Surefire magazines are depicted, along with FB’s own compact grenade launcher and a sight resembling the original snap-on M203 peep sight. There’s no visible provision for a bayonet. Visible features include modular rail attachments, an adjustable gas system, and an ambidextrous selector/safety lever. Charging handle and ejection seem to be convertible to left or right. The rifle clearly uses a great deal of modern polymer structure.

Here’s the conventional-stocked MSAS modules. This picture’s a little lower-rez than the bullpip one, but the conventional rifles’ and carbines’ AR ancestry and SCAR-like folding stock are evident. The ability to accept an AK-like bayonet is an interesting feature.



In both bullpup and conventional layout, the “standard” barrel length is 16″ (406mm), not the more customary 14.3-14.5″ (~360-370mm). A shorter barrel length is available. The operating system used allows the stock to fold.

The grenade launcher is also an interesting module, and one that has export potential (as do the rifles themselves).

In the meantime, this is not a theoretical, proposed or prototypical weapons system, but is now in production for the Polish Armed Forces. Exactly which variants the Poles are buying remains to be seen.

II: The UKM-2000P Improved GPMG

First, our Polish friends need a better name for this thing. Because it really seems like the cat’s pajamas as a general-purpose machine gun, based as it is on the reliable PKM, but updated to use NATO ammunition, and accept modern attachments. This is made by another Polish arms concern, ZMT (Zaklady Mechaniczne Tarnow, or Tarnow Machine Factory).


Source: Remigius Wilk photo via Jane’s.

A lot of new engineering has gone into the MG, and as a result it has fewer legacy PKM parts than it looks like. Indeed, over 2/3 of the parts are new since the first NATO MGs, the UKM-2000, went into service fifteen years ago:


@Weaponsman 2015, data from Jane’s.

According to the ZMT catalog (English version), the changes from the UKM-2000 were the direct result of combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of requests from Polish troops. The company says:

Changes include introducing a new, folding telescopic buttstock with a cheekpiece and rear support, integral Picatinny rail and a three-rail fore-end system on the gas cylinder tube to improve the weapon ergonomics and reliability. The modified UKM-2000 is equipped with a new bipod and ergonomic pistol grip and a new cocking handle and safety selector as well as an improved tactical sling and a 100-round soft ammunition bag. Additionally, shell extractor and ammunition button had been modified [sic] and the breechblock covers latch was added to keep it in the open position. The modified UKM-2000 may be equipped with a shorter 440 mm (17.3″) barrel with an effective flash hider.

According to Jane’s, it’s durable and reliable.

The modernised UKM-2000P is more reliable than the original UKM-2000P (test guns fire 37,000 and 53,000 rounds) and can fire all 7.62×51 mm rounds – both NATO and non-standard. It can be loaded by any type of link belt, including German DM60. The steel ammunition box was replaced by a 100- or 150-round soft bag. ZMT introduced a new folding and telescopic stock for both dismounted soldiers and paratroopers; an ergonomic handgrip; a front grip; and a carrying handle.

Poland placed a $6.53 million contract for the delivery of 378 modernised UKM-2000Ps (30 in 2015, 138 in 2016, 106 in 2017, and 104 in 2018) back in June, although this only came into force on 28 August after the successful trials of two prototypes.

The original 2000 version could accept NATO standard disintegrating links, but it couldn’t interoperate with the German fixed link belts (even though those are also a NATO standard). While it seems like a PKM with a NATO caliber conversion and some cosmetic changes, that’s not only not true, it’s not even bad if it were true.

A Polish trooper with a camouflaged version of the original UKM-2000.

A Polish trooper with a camouflaged version of the original (and much less modular) UKM-2000.

Commenter Kirk was just saying that NATO needed something like a PKM. Well, the Poles were miles ahead of him.

Along with the GPMG, ZMT makes Poland’s heavy machine guns including a .50-caliber powered Gatling, sniper rifles, light grenade launchers and mortars, and some aircraft and vehicle armament mountings and interfaces.


Fabryka Broni „Łucznik”- Radom Sp. z o.o. website. Retrieved from: (Note: the MSBS family is not on the website, yet).

Wilk, Remigiusz. MSPO 2015: Fabryka Broni unveils full MSBS-5.56 rifle family. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, 2 September 2015. Retrieved from:

Wilk, Remigiusz. MSPO 2015: ZMT unveils modernised UKM-2000P machine gun. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, 4 September 2015. Retrieved from:

Zaklady Mechaniczne Tarnow website. Products catalog (English language, also available in Polish, Portuguese and Arabic). (The “Modified UKM-2000” on p. 10 appears to be a slightly earlier version of the UKM-2000P.

Zaklady Mechaniczne Tarnow website. Main Page:

Zaklady Mechaniczne Tarnow website. UKM-2000 Page: (Note: the UKM-2000P is not posted yet).

G36 Replacement: Not so Schnell, Sparky

The Firearm Blog is reporting that Germany has moved to purchase a limited quantity of HK417s and machine guns to replace 1200 G36s for troops rotating into combat zones, in light of the G36’s problematic performance when hot (either through firing or in ambient conditions of high heat). They provide what appears to be a machine translation of a German newspaper article. A number of people with weak reading comprehension have posted on places like HKPro that “Germany adoped the 417 to replace the G36.” Not so schnell, Sparky; what Germany did (and what TFB seems to have reported) is buy a small quantity of 417s (and a similar quantity of 5.56 light machine guns) to give its deployed troops some improved small arms capabilities. That’s all.

The 416 and 417 are already in service with the KSK special operations element, and the 417 has been tested as the G27; a variant based on the as-similar-as-it-can-be-under-German-laws US civilian HK MR762 is more generally issued as the G28, as a designated marksman’s rifle. That article doesn’t mention that half of the small buy (1200 weapons total) are for the 5.56mm MG4 light machine gun, already accepted by the Bund also.

We decided to check the German news magazines. Der Spiegel was a case of “Im Westen nichts neues1,”, as a search revealed that the last report they had on the G3 was on Lithuania throwing it over in early July.

Competitor Stern was all over this story, but all of its stories are variations on the same thing (we translate the most detailed below). And the official spin is not that the 417 (which is the 7.62 NATO version of the 416, really nothing magic — just a decent piston AR) is replacing the G36 but that it’s supplementing them to provide “optimization of the weapons mix.” Indeed, the 417s that are being acquired are 600 examples of the already-enroute-to-acceptance G27P designated marksman rifle; in addition, 600 MG4 light machine guns are on order from H&K.

27 August 2015: Bundeswehr Chooses Other Rifles After G36 Failures.

(Our translation follows) (Link to original German-language story).

After the failure of the G6 assault rifle, the Bundeswehr sent 1200 rifles of another type into action overseas. The G36 is back in the headlines again.

After all the trouble over the assault rifle G36 the Bundeswehr is sending 1200 rifles of other types into operations overseas. This comprises 600 each rifles of types G 27P and MG4, said a spokesman for the Defense Ministry to the news agency AFP.

The HK MG4 closely resembles the FN Minimi and its derivatives, but has some novel features, like downward ejection.

The HK MG4 closely resembles the FN Minimi and its derivatives, but has some novel features, like downward ejection.

The spokesman made these comments in a report in the Süddeutschen Zeitung. He said it was not about a replacement for the G36, rather much more an “optimization of the weapons mix.”

The Bundeswehr has approximately 170,000 examples of the G 36. After years of criticism and assorted,sometimes contradictory, reports, Federal Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (of the CDU party) revealed at the end of March (2015) massive problems with the accuracy of the G36 in high ambient temperatures or with many shots fired rapidly.

G36 and G36K, the rifle in the eye of the media storm.

G36 and G36K, the rifle in the eye of the media storm.

The manufacturer, Heckler & Koch, disputes the deficiency. And, despite the dispute over the G36, the firm got the nod for the additional rifles for deployed forces. According to a press release from the Ministry, the purchase decision was made by State Secretary for Armament Katrin Suder.

The G27P and MG4 are already used in the Bundeswehr. According to a Ministry statement, the G27P is still still awaiting some precision tests, but it’s expected that the rifle will be able to be deployed by the second half of 2016.

The Ministry also has ordered 600 machine guns of type MG4. Acquisition of all these small arms should cost about €18 million. They’ll be paid for in “a regular annual financial authorization.”

Our conclusion: if the Bundeswehr was replacing the G36, they’d be buying a ton of weapons. Instead they bought 600 DMRs and 600 light machine guns — we think they’re doing just what they said, giving their guys some improved support weapons, since they’re over there mixing it up in Afghanistan.

In addition, more LMGs on hand mean less temptation to blaze away full-auto with service rifles. If they begin to overheat an MG4 barrel, it takes only a second to pop in a spare.

This doesn’t mean that the HK416 and 417 aren’t potential choices for the Bundeswehr; but so is some kind of rebuild to make the G36 more effective in internally or externally overheated conditions. All three of these are plausible, possible, defensible choices for the MOD. We’d bet a large quantity of the Deutschmarks that the Germans regret ever giving up, that replacing the G36 with the 417 alone is not going to happen. 416, maybe. (If they were giving up on 5.56 they wouldn’t be buying new light MGs in that caliber, nicht wahr?)

HK MR762

HK MR762, kissing cousin to the G27P rifles mentioned in the story.

In addition to the recent “replacement” kerfuffle, the G36 also appeared in a small way in a parliamentarians-hit-the-press squabble about armament exports. All German parties pay lip service to reducing armament exports for the same sort of emotional, rhetorical reasons that are often used for domestic gun control; but despite that, the Euro value of German arms exports has gone up, thanks to sales of refueling tanker aircraft to Great Britain and sales of components that went into French transport vehicles for Saudi Arabia. Challenged by the far-left opposition parties, the Greens and the Left (the former East German Communists, who dream of a return to the Stasi state and Russian slavery), the Socialist Party minister with the defense-export portfolio indignantly replied that, hey, they were serious about export controls too, they refused to sell the Saudis “tanks, G36s or other small arms!”

Sounds like the Saudis dodged a bullet, or rather, some dozens of them all traveling in random directions from G36s in the broiling desert. The Saudis are some very cagey desert Bedouins, however, and they try to spread their weapons purchases around the Free World so that they don’t get caught out by a single-nation embargo at some future date — not that they predict that might happen, but they like to manage their risks.

Meanwhile, embattled H&K has taken to posting anonymous testimonials to the G36 on its website, in a PR counteroffensive against its key customer, the Bundeswehr and the MOD. For example. We’ll follow up with a translation of some of these in the next day or so.

Bottom line, then: The Bundeswehr has bought a few HK designated-marksman rifles and MGs for delivery next year, for overseas-deployed forces. This does not telegraph anything about a general replacement of the G36 — yet.


Nathaniel F at the Firearm Blog has an update linking back to this post. We note that he always goes the extra mile to put out good information! The initial article he had was confusing even in German, and did give the impression that this supplemental buy was the replacement for the G36. We’d comment over there, but TFB requires Discus or Facebook, etc., and those are verboten to us for work reasons. So it may sometimes look like we and they are yelling across the Internet at each other, when we’re actually on the same sheet of music (even if not always on the same measure).

Update II

We note that in the translated text both the 600 DMR rifles (G27P) and the 600 light MGs (MG4) are lumped together as “rifles.” That is because in German, they are both called rifles (as strange as that sounds), because both are a type of Gewehr, therefore the word Gewehr can mean both rifles and machine guns. Because German customarily forms neologisms by compounding, MGs have always been called Maschinengewehre (literally “machine rifles.”) This also serves to distinguish them from submachine guns, which auf Deutsch are “machine pistols.” Even though the term “machine rifle” long preceded the invention of the SMG, the two terms have a solid Teutonic logic, as the MG fires rifle rounds and the SMG pistol cartridges. We could have cleaned up the English by using a more generic term like “arms” or “small arms” but (1) that would have diverged more than we usually like from the original, and (2) this isn’t the kind of translation we take money for, it’s the kind we do in five minutes, dictating into the computer (usually with a few autodictation howlers).


  1. “In the West nothing new,” a German war-diary equivalent of the American “NSTR” (Nothing Significant to Report”), was the German title of Erich Marie Remarque’s World War I novel which is known in English as All Quiet on the Western Front. 

Crew Drill, Service of the Piece, M1917 Browning. With Kids.

Everyone knows you shouldn’t turn a nine-year-old (or several) loose with a submachine gun. Let alone several nine-year-olds.

Here’s one good, clean, wholesome alternative that’s fun for the whole family!

That’s the ticket. Crew drill develops physical strength, teamwork, and the most important kind of discipline kids can have, self-discipline.

Thanks to the commenter who tipped us to this, it really made our day.

Brrrrrt! Legal Full-Auto-Like Firepower

Karl and Ian from and Forgotten are not strangers to this site. They have something cool and new: a customized slide-fire rifle designed to make slide-firing easy as falling off a log.

(Note: link removed while we fix embed code. Bear with us!) Should be fixed now, apologies.

The company that makes their trigger, KE Arms, has since introduced its own line of complete slide-fire rifles they call the Poor Man’s SAW (minus the bipod, the importance and details of which Karl explains in the video) and several variations of parts and components. Listen carefully to Karl; he tells you what features are important, and what has and hasn’t worked, in the video. Then go forth and build your own.


Do We Need A Bigger Bullet?

Jim Schatz, former HK USA manager (during the period of peak Because-You-Suck-And-We-Hate-You customer service, actually) always has one of the most interesting presentations when he’s up at an NDIA1 conference. The slides from this years’ NDIA are up (here), and Jim’s presentation, interesting as ever, is up here (.pdf). Jim wants us launching bigger bullets, to longer ranges.

Jim’s basic beef is probably best encapsulated in this quote from an SF team sergeant:

Few enemies would even consider taking America on in a naval, air or tank battle but every bad actor with an AK will engage with U.S. forces without even a second thought.

To boil down his argument to a single-sentence thesis: The US lacks small-arms overmatch, and only changing cartridges can get it for us. He defines overmatch by effective range. As he sees it, this is what the world looks like today:


As a former infantryman, Jim knows that weapons don’t square off one-against-one. On the battlefield, units from corps to squad size all maneuver to bring their organic, attached and support firepower to bear on the enemy (who is doing the same, inversely). It’s a common fallacy that (for example) because every squad in the Ruritanian army has a designated marksman, our squads should have one too. (Maybe they should, but not directly because of what the Ruritanians are doing). As you can see, Jim’s focus on range leads him to pair off sniper rifles with light machine guns, weapons which have similar effective ranges for completely different reasons, even when they fire dimensionally identical ammo.

As far as his 1000m effective range of the SVD is concerned… he must have shot one?

Here is one of his proposals for overmatch. There’s a few things screwy here (the SVD has grown  an even-more-ludicrous 500m of range, to 1500m), but that’s not important. What is important is the argument that going to an Intermediate Caliber Cartridge (something like the 6.5 or 6.8 or something all new in the 6-7mm neighborhood) for rifles and to .338 for support weapons will provide significant range overmatch.


The increased ammo weight can be made up in part by polymer or semi-polymer (i.e. with a metallic base) cases.

Jim at least partially neutralizes the cost-in-times-of-drawdown argument by suggesting that the new weapons go only to the tip of the spear, the guys whose mission it is to produce casualties, and take and hold ground, with these weapons. That’s only about 140k actual shooters out of the much larger service. A finance clerk needs a rifle, sure, but he or she can live with the latest-but-one.

Bear in mind that the target set is also not static, while we’re developing all these new weapons the Russians, the Chinese, and even the ragtag insurgents of the world (who have definitely, like Russia, pushed more 7.62mm weapons down to squad-equivalent level than heretofore) are acting, adapting, and changing, too. We don’t need to overmatch the enemy today with the weapons we’ll have in ten years. We need to overmatch the set of weapons the enemy will have ten years from now, in ten years.

Men can disagree about how best to get there. Assuming we stick with the M16/M4 platform, Our Traveling Reporter would have us go to the 6.8 x 43. (It was news to him that the Saudi Royal Guard has adopted this platform, in LWRC carbines, or that military 6.8 is in production for export now by Federal — formerly ATK). We would probably go with the 6.5 (x38, although the length designator is seldom spoken aloud) Grendel for its lower BC and higher sectional density (=longer effective range, flatter trajectory, more energy on target). The 90 grain Federal load in the 6.8 is very effective closer in (the 6.8 was developed with SF input as a CQB cartridge).

Some current contenders --  M855A1 5.56; 6.5 Grendel; 6.8 SPC; 7.62 NATO. From an excellent article by Anthony Williams setting out the historical context.

Some current contenders — M855A1 5.56; 6.5 Grendel; 6.8 SPC; 7.62 NATO. From an excellent article by Anthony Williams setting out assault rifle ammo in historical context, including many old, obscure, and outright forgotten attempts. Shape of the 6.5 suggests a superior BC. The 6.8 is compromised by its 5.56 ancestry and packaging (bolt head size/overall length).

This is not an entirely new or novel idea. As mentioned in the caption to the photo above, British researcher Anthony Williams has a very fine article on Assault Rifle History with lots and lots of ammunition comparison photos. Back in the 1970s, a guy whose business was called Old Sarge, based in the highway intersection of Lytle, Texas, made a quantity of 6 x 45 guns and uppers. Based closely on the 5.56, these guns (most of them were built as what we’d now call carbines) were completely conventional, but like today’s 6.8 SPC the intent was to create superior terminal ballistics. We don’t know what happened to him or what seemed to be, when we stopped in, his one-man business (he talked us out of a mod he’d done for others, an M60 bipod on an XM177).

If we have a serious criticism of Schatz’s work here, it’s that its focus solely on range as an indicator of overmatch understates the problem. Hadji with his AK and mandress has a lack of fear of our troops that stems only partly from his belief that range makes him safe (and only partly from his paradise-bound indifference to being safe). His feeling of impunity stems from a belief he won’t be engaged at all, won’t be hit if engaged, and won’t be killed or suffer significantly if hit. We need to increase the certainty that our guys will fire back, not just increase our pH, and we need to increase our pK as well. The first of these is far outside the scope of weapons and ammunition design, but it is, in our view, the most serious shortfall of US and Allied forces.

We have another beef that’s not specific to this, but that arise with any attempt to pursue range or other small-arms overmatch: it never works. There are only two ways pursuit of overmatch can finish. Either your new weapon does not constitute an overwhelming advantage, or it does — in which case everybody copies it most ricky-tick. Mikhail Kalashnikov died bothered by the fact that he never got royalties on any of the millions and millions of AKs made outside of his homeland, but the guys who really got copied were the engineers who built the StG.44. (True, the AK was better adapted to Soviet expectations, traditions, manufacturing capabilities, and training modes, but it was certainly inspired, conceptually, by the first assault rifle). It was a good idea. It was exclusive to Germany for mere months (of course, that they were losing the war may be a factor, but that the war ended was certainly a factor in slowing the adoption of assault rifles in Russia (a little) and the West (a lot).

In all seriousness, if you look at the history of firearms, you see a punctuated equilibrium. For centuries the flintlock is the infantry weapon, then the percussion lock sweeps the flints away in a period of 30 years or so (faster for major powers, or anybody actively at war). Then the breechloader dethrones the percussion rifle-musket in a couple of decades… to itself be overthrown by repeaters in 10 to 20 years. Calibers go from 11-13 mm to 7-8 mm to 5-6 mm at the same time all over the world. We’ve had a very long period now of equilibrium around the SCHV (Small Caliber, High Velocity) concept. Is it time for that equilibrium to be punctuated? Schatz says yes.


  1. NDIA: National Defense Industrial Association, a trade and lobbying group for defense contractors. Formerly the American Defense Preparedness Association (when Your Humble Blogger was a member, and they were fighting a rear-guard action to preserve a defense industrial base during the Clinton disarmament/drawdown cycle), and before that the Ordnance Association.


Daniau, Emeric. Toward a 600 M Lightweight General Purpose Cartridge. September 2014. Retrieved from: ; this is a uniquely French view of this same challenge, hosted online by Anthony Williams.

Schatz, Jim. Where to Now? 3 June 2015. Retrieved from:

Williams, Anthony. Assault Rifles and Ammunition: History and Prospects. Nov 2014. Retrieved from:

Williams, Anthony. The Case for a General-Purpose Rifle and Machine Gun Cartridge (GPC). Nov 2014. Retrieved from: ; an earlier version was presented at NDIA in 2010:

(Note that Williams’s work on this matter was sponsored by H&K, a fact that is not invariably disclosed in all documents but that Williams publicly discloses on his website).


GunLab’s Reverse Engineering

We haven’t been over there ( in a while, and Chuck is always up to something cool. Recently he had something nice to say about us, in a longer post on reverse-engineering; to be explicit, reverse-engineering the MP44 trunnion. But forget what he says about, how cool is it to be making an MP.44 trunnion for (almost) the first time since a T-34 did a pivot turn on the ruins of the factory?

MP44 reverse-engineered trunnions

Here at Gun Lab we do a fair amount of reverse engineering, most of what we like to make have no drawings. However when there are drawings or solid models available we will use them. With this said I have found that most of what is available on the internet or in books is just not correct.

A case in point is the MP-44 trunnion. I have all the drawings that I have been able to find on this part, a number of different sets are out there, and when compared with the actual part have found them to be lacking. Some are just wrong and in some cases I don’t think the person has actually looked at a part.

Now, we have a set of MP.44 drawings here. We’ve actually been meaning to show a few of them to illustrate how MP.44 design features migrated into the AR-10 and thence to all its descendants. They’re terribly reproduced, no longer to scale, but they are dimensioned MP.44 drawings.

Say “Thank you,” class:


Now, you might wonder how it can be possible with apparently original (even if lousy), dimensioned drawings, you can’t just poke the numbers in and try to run the part. There are a number of reasons that you could expect drawings to diverge from shop practice. In the real world, in fact, it’s a constant battle to keep the drawings and the processes both aligned properly on the same part. In the 20th Century this got particularly bad because of engineer/draftsman/master machinist/machine operator job specialization and social stratification. Those could be four different guys whose only workshop interactions were with the adjacent guy in the org chart, and whose contacts were all correct.

There’s no way you produce stuff efficiently without the engineers going out on the shop floor, but some are loath to do that, and some shop staff are loath to have an engineer looking over their shoulders. There’s no way you produce stuff efficiently without a steel-cutter being able to walk back into the engineering spaces with a part and a problem, right to the guy who drew the drawings — but that is forbidden more often than it is allowed! So even in the best, cleanest, and least disrupted shops, lines got crossed, things fell apart, the center did not hold… wait, we got carried away there for a bit. But communications were imperfect, even in a perfect factory.

Then, add into the mix, we’re talking about the Third Reich in 1944-45. If the Germans had perfect factories, the Allies bombed them. Meanwhile, the gaping maw of the Eastern Front demanded endless human sacrifices, and in each successive draft call manufacturers could protect fewer and fewer key workers. The “fix” the government proposed for this was that they would provide labor, but that labor was at best displaced refugees from the ill-fated German settlements in the East, but more commonly slave labor from occupied nations.

Something had to go, and one of the things that went was correcting and updating drawings. Seriously, if you compare surviving German drawings to the M1 drawings, your mental picture of “German efficiency” will never recover. (Well, maybe a little when you realize that two large air forces were gamely trying to reduce German industry to the state of the Germans’ forebears in the Neander valley).

Now back to the MP-44 trunnion. We were contracted a while back with making a limited number of new trunnions for the MP-44. He sent us a very good original one and we had a poor copy of one at the shop. Using these two pieces we started the project of reverse engineering it. The easiest thing to do was look for engineer drawings off the web. These are the ones that I found.

His look like they’re from the same set we’ve got here. He has stripped them of dimensions, perhaps because he’s not working with SI (metric) dimensions, but more likely because the dimensions were not “on” compared to the physical parts he had to measure.

The measurements have been removed from these copies, however you can find them on the internet. I did use the basic drawing as a starting point. The sheets were cleaned and measurements were taken using a cmm, micrometers and pin gauges. Tolerances were set using not only the trunnion but also matching parts. When there was a doubt other parts were located to increase the measurement standards. This allowed us to come up with a reasonable solid model that we felt was accurate enough to start programing.

A CMM is a coordinate measuring machine. Think of it as a sort of 3D scanner that touches off against a part and records that position in 3D space. These can be used to gather a cloud of points, or more efficiently, to capture key dimensions.

The problem with using a CMM against a part you are re-engineering is that you’re working off one part, and you don’t know where in the tolerances that part was. (That’s also our beef with David Findlay’s excellent Firearms Anatomy books — for practical reasons, Findlay worked off a single sample of the firearm).

Given enough parts to measure, you can develop a degree of statistical certainty about where the original measurement was supposed to be. Working with most non-US products, you can also cheat a bit by knowing that engineers like to spec things in fairly round millimetric measures — dimensions that end in X.0 or X.5 millimeters, most of the time.

Anyway, here is the first post on re-engineering the MP.44 trunnion, and here is a follow-up post (in which the model turns out to need some improvement). Meanwhile lots of work improving the shop and working on GunLab’s other projects, such as the VG1-5 limited production run.

Note on an Unpleasant Subject

Technical posts like this and GunLab’s would be banned under a gag order slipped into the Federal Register by the State Department — yes, the very people who negotiated the deal to accelerate the nuclear armament of the hostage-taking terror state of Iran this week. The deadline for comments is 3rd August. As we previously wrote (more background there, at the end of a barrel-heating post):

Comments go here at or by email to: DDTCPublicComments@state.govwith the subject: “ITAR Amendment—Revisions to Definitions; Data Transmission and Storage”. Ceteris paribus, this link should open in your email application with the correct subject header.

Again, there’s more at that previous post on how to comment, but at this time it’s crucial that you comment. A State Department than can censor the Internet is a State Department that has lost touch with America.

You Know You Want One. Which One?

One of the coolest guns ever let loose on an unsuspecting world was the “Schmeisser” (as the Allies called it, although Hugo Schmeisser had nothing to do with it; it did use his magazine patent) MP.38 and MP.40 submachine guns.

MP40 goepfert

Arguably the first of the second-generation submachine guns, the MPs incorporated all of the canonical 2G traits: notably folding stocks and industrial pressing and screw-machine parts for rapid manufacture. (The canonical 2G is probably the Sten, whose stock was removable, not folding, but which set records still unbeaten for economy and crudity of manufacture for a major power’s service weapon. The US 2G SMG, the M3 “Grease Gun,” was a model of fit and finish, at least as far as mass-produced pistol-caliber bullet hoses went).

The MP has a number of reasons it’s technically interesting, but its lasting appeal these days stems from three things:

  1. Someone collects anything having to do with the Third Reich, and this was a signature personal weapon of that grim regime; there is no weapon more commonly associated with the Blitzkrieg that you can hang on your wall. (Maybe a Stuka or Panzer III, if you had a really big wall?)
  2. After the war, it was (and to some extent still is) Hollywood’s go-to Bad Guy Gun. Everyone from Smersh, to KAOS, to Blofeld’s Nehru-jacketed (or were they jump-suited?) minions seems to have an MP40. They even show up in space operas and 1930s gangster films — almost always in the hands of the bad guys.

    MP40 with movie villains and Nazis (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

    MP40 with movie villains who were also Nazis (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

  3. It looks cool in that certain way of many German weapons. It has a certain Bauhaus-meets-Bridgeport, Industrial Age look to it. It is one of the most identifiable silhouettes in the firearms world, even now.

MP40 drawing

As a bonus, they fire common, readily available ammunition.

At the time, the MP. 38 was a revelation, if not a revolution. It was a stamped weapon (the receiver appears to have been pressed on a mandrel) that didn’t feel flimsy or cheesy.

What brought this to our attention is the sheer number of MPs are available on GunBroker right now. There’s usually one or two, but this week there are seven of them, most of them original, transferable, C&R guns. (Two are tube guns offered at what we think is too high of a reserve). Almost all of them are offered by Frank Goepfert (you may remember the “Colt 601” receiver that was a mixmaster that we commented on a couple of months back. The high bidder had thought it was an authentic and complete 601, and Frank allowed him to roll the auction back — correct move in our opinion.

MP40 on Gunbroker

If we were bidding today — and we’re not — it would be this one, rather than one of Frank’s, we’d bid on. Some of his are in much nicer finish condition, but this one just seems like the best match of authenticity, vibe, accessories, and, potentially, deal. Look for it to sell in the mid teens.