Category Archives: Weapons Themselves

You never know what you’re gonna catch

Groff and his "catch"

Groff and his Lake Winnebago “catch”

Sometimes when you go fishing you catch a fish. Sometimes you don’t. And sometimes you catch something completely different. That’s what happened in a Wisconsin lake, where a fisherman hauled in a gun — an 18th- or early 19th-century flintlock. The Green Bay Press-Gazette reports:

Ray Groff of Fond du Lac has been fishing all his life but when he pulled up anchor on a recent windy day off the shores of Lake Winnebago this seasoned enthusiast was taken aback.

“It was around 11 a.m. on Sept. 4 and as soon as I saw the barrel I knew what it was,” he said.

There — hooked on the end of his anchor — was a flintlock musket, rusted and weathered by the passage of time.

“This is crazy. It’s like one of those tall fish tales,” he thought as he held the ancient musket in hand and turned his 14-foot Lakeland fishing boat toward shore near Clarence’s harbor.

The 47-inch heavy iron barrel was coated with zebra mussels and a large portion of the wooden stock was missing — eaten way after centuries of resting at the bottom of the big lake.

A piece of flint was still lodged in the corroded firing mechanism of the old muzzle loader. It was frozen in a half-cocked position.

You want to Read The Whole Thing™, if only for the video we took these screenshots from. The gun appears to be in surprisingly good condition for a couple of centuries in the sedimentary muck; and it’s possible to see its lock is in the English style, not the French, and its conformation seems more like a military musket than a fowling piece. The large trigger guard — it isn’t just the effects of foreshortening and a wide lens — may also be a clue to its heritage. It might have been a trade musket, lost by some forgotten Winnebago Indian; a French and Indian War surplus piece; or something that fell out of a voyageur’s canoe.

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 11.32.25 AM

The flint still sits in the jaws of the hammer, ready to strike a spark, if only the action weren’t rusted solid.

We frequently find ourselves wishing what guns might say, if only they could speak. This is certainly such a case. When this gun sank into the silt of Lake Winnebago, Germany and Italy weren’t countries yet, most of the world was ruled by kings, and the only known forms of motive power were human and animal muscle, wind, and water current. That was a while ago.

We hope that he will take the gun to be professionally conserved, or atmospheric oxygen will make short work of it; and a conservator will probably be able to get the gun examined by an expert in period arms, and determine a few more details about this fascinating find.

Update:

Have a look at some of these Revolutionary War American-made muskets in comparison to Mr Groff’s find.  Number 3 looks close, and to our surprise it’s largely French Pattern 1717 (We thought the hollow-in-the-hammer of the Charleville 1777 was characteristic of all French muskets. We were wrong).

Understanding Army Manual Numbers

"Ze same vay a Cherman officer learns everytzing! From ze manual!"

“Ze same vay a Cherman officer learns everytzing! From ze manual!”

OK, many of you collect US Army weapons, or have Army weapons or their civilianized counterparts (like AR-15s or M1As) in your collections. As you probably know, the Army publishes fairly good manuals about these guns, Field Manuals and Technical Manuals. Now, you can’t learn everything, unlike the German officers in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, “from ze manual!” but you can learn quite a lot, especially with the higher-suffix technical manuals.

Say what? Yes, there’s a code to these numbers but it’s a code you can break. Understanding these numbers will be a great benefit to you — even most soldiers, even armorers and maintenance experts, don’t understand this system.

To understand the manuals, you need to understand just a little about the Army maintenance system. The Army divides maintenance tasks by level or “echelon,” with the operator (or crew, for a crew-served weapon like a .50 MG or an M4 Sherman tank) at the bottom end and Depot Maintenance at the high end. Each higher level is authorized and required to do more. On an M16, for example, an operator can only clean and field-strip the rifle, although his unit armorer may let him replace broken handguards. The operator usually isn’t allowed do anything that would require him to apply a tool to the gun, or to remove a part that isn’t removed for normal cleaning. The Depot, conversely, can replace the barrel or any other part and completely overhaul and zero-time the rifle, preparing it for reissue as meeting new rifle specs.

In all there are five levels of maintenance, with the first two taking place at the unit level, and the top three going to increasingly remote, and increasingly well-equipped, maintenance organizations. These echelons existed in the same way in World War II as today, even though hardly anything issued then is still in the field. (The M2HB machine gun is an exception).

  1. Operator/Crew Maintenance (also known by code letter C)
  2. Organizational Maintenance (code letter O)
  3. Direct Support Maintenance (formerly “Field” maintenance, code F)
  4. General Support Maintenance (formerly “Heavy” maintenance, H)
  5. Depot Maintenance (code letter D).

Screen shot 2013-05-05 at 9.50.24 AMThe most common Army manuals are Field Manuals, which describe Army doctrine, and Technical Manuals, which describe equipment. So while an FM covers marksmanship training, when you want to maintain or repair weapons, you’ll be playing in the TM garden. Here’s a typical Army TM number: TM9-1005-317-10. Every single digit of that carries meaning!

To decode the manual, break it down into parts. “TM” obviously tells us it’s a Technical Manual and not an FM, Training Circular (TC), Graphic Training Aid (GTA) or some other kind of publication. The 9 tells us who’s responsible for the TM.

  • 1 — Aviation
  • 3 — Chemical
  • 5 — Engineer
  • 7 — Infantry
  • 9 — Ordnance (now called the Tank & Automotive Command, it’s also responsible for small arms)

“1005″ is a code for the Federal Supply Class of the manual’s subject. One of these numbers appears in the National Stock Number/NATO Stock Number of any item in the supply system. The numbers you’ll be most interested in with respect to weapons are:

  • 1000 — small arms, general
  • 1005 — Small Arms up to and including 30mm
  • 1010 — Small Arms above 30mm
  • 1340 — Anti-Tank Weapons
  • 6920 — Training Aids and Devices

It’s obvious that 1005 is the sweet spot for gun collectors, including as it does every shoulder fired weapon between .22 and 30mm, and a TM-9-1005-anything is going to be useful to us. Crossing the next hyphen brings us to a three-digit number, in the case of our example 317. Now this is the identifier of the particular end item, and you have to know these numbers, or be able to look them up. We happen to know that “317″ happens to be “Pistol, Semi-automatic, 9mm, M9,” the standard GI version of the Beretta 92FS. (OK, the manual’s sitting in front of us. So, for that matter, is the pistol). The pistol’s NSN, by the way, is

1005-01-118-2640

But decoding NSNs is a question for another day, perhaps. You do recognize the FSC of 1005 is the leading segment of the NSN. All firearms will lead with 1005, unless they’re big enough to be 1010 (common examples of the latter are the M79, M203, M320 and Mk19 grenade launchers).

There’s one area left of the manual number, and that’s -10. And that’s depressing news, because it’s only the basic operator’s manual. Remember the five levels of maintenance? Yep, a dash-ten is user (operator) maintenance only. Dash-twenty’s organizational, Dash-fifty’s the depot manual.

Here’s the manual in .pdf form for download: Berreta M9 9mm TM_9-1005-317-10 The Army’s been trending away from paper pubs for 25 years, but older small arms manuals, at least, still come both ways.

Some manuals don’t end in “0″. The last digraph might be -12 (pretty common), -23, -45 or even a trigraph like -25P or even this strange arrangement: -25&P. What this means (taking the examples in order):

  • -12: Echelons 1 and 2, so, operator or crew and unit maintenance;
  • -23: Echelons 2 and 3, so, unit and direct support (WWII-era “field”) maintenance;
  • -45: Echelons 4 and 5, so, heavy and depot maintenance;
  • -25P: Echelon 2 through 5 Parts manual. This contains none of the maintenance procedures, but all of the parts (this is usually found with parts and tool lists. Special tool listings for higher echelon maintenance look promising, but the tools are listed by NSN — it’s usually a challenge to find them that way at Brownells’s or wherever).
  • -25&P: the ampersand indicates that this manual contains the parts & tool list and the maintenance procedures for the item in question. This is a good manual to have, if it’s published for your weapon!

Not all manuals are made for all echelons. For some small arms items, the government has negotiated extended warrantees and sometimes just sends a gun or weapon sight back to the manufacturer and lets them sort it out or exchange a new one.

And of course, not every NSN has a manual, only major end items (a replacement M9 locking block — a very popular service part — has an NSN but it’s covered in the maintenance manuals). And some NSNs, especially way-complex systems from the era of paper manuals only (the old Shillelagh missile system springs to mind) have multi-volume manuals, with the volumes distinguished by a slash and number at the end of the TM number, /1 for example.

This article draws on personal experience, but was based solidly on Chuck Ruggiero’s Armorer’s Manual, a 1998 document used in armorer training in the National Guard and elsewhere. Highly recommended, and almost mandatory for an Army armorer (even though there’s no specific training course for unit armorers, there should be, and an updated version of this should be the textbook).

One last comment: the longest-running and most bitterly-fought war the USA has ever seen has been the battle between the Army and Navy, which has raged unchecked since 1775. Thanks to that kind of interservice squabble, every service has its own manual numbering system, but because most services use the same weapons, they have for many years used same manuals, with the sole inter-service concession of up to five manual numbers stamped on each cover (see the M9 operator manual in this post for an example). Therefore, you only need to learn one system to find almost all manuals in US service.

That’s not a gun, mate…

THIS is a gun.

8 bore rifleNo, it’s not a shotgun, even though its calibre is gauged in “bore” like a shotgun. But while shotguns peak out at 10-gauge for hard-core waterfowlers and 12-gauge for general sporting and self-defense use, this puppy is an 8-gauge (to be persnickety, 8-bore) rifle.

What on earth would you hunt with an 8-bore? Elephants? Why, yes. Also cape buffalo, rhino, hippo, man-eating lions and tigers, and other dangerous African and Asian game. In its day, this W.J. Jeffery double rifle was the serious hunter’s field tool. It has sight leaves for 100 and 200 yards, and fired a massive, thousand-grain .875-inch bullet from lathe-turned brass casings, propelled by black powder. It manages recoil the traditional way — by weighing 17-plus pounds. (So the next time you think some 19th-Century Great White Hunter was a pansy for having a gun bearer, pick up three M16s and walk around with ‘em in your arms all day).

8 bore with shells

Several English smiths made eight and even four bore rifles, and each maker designed his own cartridges — there’s no such animal as a standard 8-bore casing or load that could be interchanged among disparate weapons.

Large-bore black powder elephant guns are one of the many side currents in John Ross’s legendary novel of the gun culture, Unintended Consequences, which is unfortunately long out of print.

This particular 8-bore is up on GunBroker, offered by a highly reputable seller fairly local to us, but, alas, priced beyond our reach. An excerpt from the write up (there’s more, and more photos, at the link) follows.

This Jeffery double rifle in 8 Bore was made in 1893 and is, as they say, the real thing. With 24” barrels having somewhere between a 1:68” and 1:72” twist in the 11 groove rifling it’s clear that bullets between 950 and 1200 grains will be stabilized nicely at 1500 or so feet per second delivering in the neighborhood of 6800 foot pounds of energy to whatever happens to be very unlucky that day – twice.

With the Empire’s numerous (while far flung) pockets of dangerous game, the London gun makers responded to officer’s and gentleman’s requests for something of a “stopper”. So the 8 Bore was refined. Only a few makers rose to the top and Jeffery was a pioneer there.

This example features a round body Jones type under lever action which was chosen for its extreme reliability, durability and strength. The 5/8” wide rib is matted from the doll’s head to the express sight and again from the muzzle to 4-1/2” behind it. The front sight is a tapered bead of platinum while both the 50 and 200 sights have a thin platinum centerline inlay. The locks are appropriately large back action with rebounding hammers. There is tight floral engraving on the doll’s head and screw heads while the locks, guards, tangs, grip cap, forend iron and frame have a tastefully simple line bordering with subtle flourishes here and there. The stocks are beautifully figured walnut with single border checkering and the wood has that great depth that only age brings. Sling hook eyes are present on the lower barrel rib and the butt toe line. It appears that the original horn or hard rubber butt plate has been faced off to a thickness of 5/16” (5/8” at the point of the heel tang) on to which a ¾” custom pad has been glued (LOP is 13-3/8” & 14-3/8”). It weighs in at 17 pounds, one ounce. This rifle was made to put ivory on the bearer’s back and it certainly did.

via W.J. Jeffery & Co 8 Bore Double Rifle Made 1893 : Antique Guns at GunBroker.com.

By all means, Read The Whole Thing™.

We’re not even hunters, really, and are generally much more interested in combat weaponry than in hunting tackle. But this thing stirs every impulse of want in our imperfect human souls, and like the most interesting military weapons, it draws an involuntary exclamation out of us:

“The stories this gun could tell if it could talk!”

If you can afford the staggering, but probably fair, price, perhaps it will come home and talk to you.

In which we ID a gun here, ’cause comments there don’t work

So a blog, “Gears of Guns,” has an “ID that gun” post, and no one has got it yet. Geez, that’s right up our alley.

Here’s the gun:

9A91

Another view:

9A91 separated

Of course, that’s obvious, isn’t it? Maybe it isn’t, so we’ll walk you through it. Starting just forward of the cheekweld, looks like an AK receiver cover. Interesting folding charging handle. No sights, clearly meant to be used with an optic mounted on the left-side rail, and clearly meant to be used with the detachable suppressor. The grips resemble former Soviet practice; the stock current Russian. And the magazine is straight, suggesting it’s for a cartridge without a lot of taper, but the mag clearly has two different widths, so it’s for a necked cartridge, and one much longer than the pistol round you’d expect in a sub-gun sized package like this.

So, what is it? It is indeed a Russian suppressed carbine. The magazine holds 20 rounds of 9 x 39mm, which is a 7.62 x 39 case blown out to hold a 9mm cartridge. It’s generally a long, subsonic round (there are a good dozen weapons that chamber it); think of it as an analogue to the .300 Whisper. This weapon is used primarily by Russian police reaction and CT forces, by border guards, by Ministry of the Interior mobs-for-jobs, and other, mostly non-military, users. To the best of our knowledge it has not been exported.even to Russian clients in the “near abroad.”

If it has a nickname, we don’t know what it is, only its weapons-catalog nomenclature, 9A91.

So we tried to post that on the site, and he had the same Captcha bug that Forgotten Weapons used to have occasionally. Maybe a lot of others had the answers before us.

LAPD chases rogue cop, lets other crimes drop

chris-dorner-11NOTE: This was set to be published on 2/12 at 20:00 but for whatever reason it didn’t go. So it’s going up backdated, but was actually sent live on 2/13 at about 17:39. The only edit is this comment, but the rest of the post is clearly OBE. Published for completeness only. 

The LAPD’s stunning mismanagement of the search for rogue LA ex-cop Chris Dorner continues. In fact, it has so obsessed the police department that they’re not responding to 911 calls or other crimes. Their focus is on protecting the fifty LAPD officials named in Dorner’s manifesto and ambushing people driving vehicles like Dorner’s, and that’s where it’s going to stay until they kill him.

“We’ll continue to go until we have Mr. Dorner in custody, and the threat has ceased,” LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman said Monday.

That is a tall order – costly not in dollars, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said, but also in public safety.

“While this continues, our ability to do other things — to respond to 911, to do criminal investigations, to do community relations events, is crippled,” Beck said.

via LAPD “Crippled” by Dorner Search, Limited in Response to Other Crimes | NBC Southern California.

Reportedly, the LAPD’s arsenal includes Predator and Reaper armed drones on loan from the military, which are potentially a bad mix with the department’s irresponsible use of force so far.

don't shoot not dornerIf they’re looking to discredit Dorner’s manifesto message that the department is badly led and reckless about use of force, they’re doing it wrong.

Meanwhile, LA residents, doubly victimized by the police’s “fangs out” approach to the Dorner hunt and neglect of regular policing, have tried to protect themselves. They’re deploying “Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Not Chris Dorner” signs, bumper stickers, and t-shirts.

Good idea. Make it big enough so the drone can see, folks.

Update

Looks like the endgame for Dorner. He apparently was holed up in a cabin, holding two innocents hostage. He fled and released them, but was sighted by a wildlife officer and exchanged gunfire (to no effect on either side). After wounding two more cops, he’s supposed to be barricaded in a cabin. BBC Story. LA Times LA Now Blog has extensive coverage.

Dorner’s as good as dead now. The police are not interested in taking him alive. He, conversely, is probably not interested in living, but he may want to take more cops with him. How he goes on that will pretty much drive whether he commits suicide in the next few hours.

Wednesday Weapons Website: Everyday No Days Off (ENDO)

Screen shot 2013-01-23 at 9.39.01 PMIt’s not all that special… it’s “just” a gun blog. But Everyday No Days Off, or ENDO as it’s called in the community, is one of our favorites. It has a certain… attitude. We were reminded of that when we saw the image here linked at GunsSaveLife.com, with a hat tip to ENDO. The graphic came from a Chicago Tribune story or editorial (if you think you can tell the difference you haven’t been reading the Trib) that was intended to explain the arcana of gun-ban legislation to the paper’s dwindling cohort of readers.

Chicago-Tribune-Assault-Forward-Sling-MountThree stories at ENDO in the last few days that we particularly liked:

  • Another media cock-up: Time Magazine (what, they’re not dead? Could have fooled us) ran an infographic about all the terrible things an AR-15 could do… while displaying the distinctive silhouette of an A-47. Once again, while purporting to emit facts about guns. Every PS3-owning kid in America knows the difference, but none of Time’s “layers of editors and fact-checkers”. Screen shot 2013-01-23 at 9.30.29 PMThe Emperor’s junk is in the breeze.
  • And best of all, the completely NSFW recording of a 1990 public-access call-in show asking, “Should New Yorkers be allowed to have handguns?” (22 1/2 years later, the official answer still is, “only if they’re government functionaries, politically connected, or criminals — which is a bit threedundant). But the video is funny. Host Ken Sander is complacently swollen with liberal conventional wisdom, but you have to respect the way he takes the telephonic abuse, most of which questions his parentage or orientation, in his stride.

Is the SMG dead? Not at SIG

Most of our readers know the broad history of submachine guns (machine pistols in euro-speak). A submachine gun is normally defined as having three characteristics: pistol cartridge, shoulder weapon, automatic or selective fire. The weapon rose, and fell, for reasons we’ll get into below the video as we enumerate the generations. But until very recently the pistol-caliber SMG was in the doldrums, dumped by one of the opinion-driving SOF units that once favored it after a very well-known operational failure, and replaced by ever more compact and ergonomic carbines.

Still, vendors keep introducing new SMGs. Colt even makes several awkward 9mm AR-15 variants to give law enforcement and site security customers the familiar ergonomics of the top carbine withe the ballistics of its main competitor for those roles, the MP5. Now here comes SIG with a new SMG, aimed at the MP5 rather directly.

SIG clearly borrowed both MP5 and AR characteristics liberally, whilst adding their own twists, the best of which is definitely the quick-change barrels and stocks. Anyone who’s ever changed an AR or H&K barrel knows it’s a non-trivial adventure. The weapon is more compact than the MP5, with the superior ergonomics of the AR platform. But the targeting of the weapon at the LE MP5 market is crystal clear. And it’s not subtle: SIG uses the same model suffixes as the Oberndorf outfit. About the only thing they could have done to better salt H&K’s wounds would be to make the thing accept H&K magazines (maybe they do. The magazine and its catch area look very similar).

And yes, civilians, we hear there will be a semi-auto, NFA/SBR version for all y’all, as well as a 16″-equivalent Title 1 carbine — one more thing SIG does to thumb its nose at a longtime competitor, whose disdain for the non-governmental shooting public occasionally soars into the stratosphere of outright contempt. Of course, that depends on there being a civilian market, something that’s not really a lock at this time.

One interesting fact: launch calibers are .40 and .357. No 9mm yet… just the two most popular Federal law enforcement agency pistol rounds. Interrrrresting.

SIG has been excellent at getting new products out lately… now it has to work on its quality reputation, which has been taking a beating.

History of SMGs and where this fits

In the beginning, there was steel and wood: Lanchester SMG.

In the beginning, there was steel and wood: Lanchester SMG.

The first submachine guns were created by designers frustrated by the trench impasse of World War I warfare, and who built new weapons of unprecedented short-range firepower. They adapted service pistol rounds to simple blowback actions (complicated blowback actions, we’re lookin’ at you, James T. Thompson), and used traditional gunmakers’ art. Those were 1st Generation SMGs, and many armies entered World War II with them. (Germany was a rare exception, having adopted  a 2nd-generation weapon before the war).

The Swedish M45B was copied in Egypt as the "Port Said." It is a typical 2nd-Genrration SMG.

The Swedish M45B was copied in Egypt as the “Port Said.” It is a typical 2nd-Genrration SMG.

The second generation applied automotive and industrial mass production techniques to make those SMGs faster, easier and cheaper. Instead of machined steel and walnut, we have stampings, automated-screw-machine output, and wire and tubing, The same armies that started WWII with 1st Generation guns ended it with 2nd Generation weapons. (Japan was a rare exception, which put little weight on SMGs and never got beyond a 1st-generation gun).

While the most famous 3rd-generation SMG is the UZI, the Czech Vz23-26 were arguably fielded first. This is a Vz26 (7.62x25, folding stock).

While the most famous 3rd-generation SMG is the UZI, the Czech Vz23-26 were arguably fielded first. This is a Vz26 (7.62×25, folding stock).

The third generation was manufactured like the second, but featured a bolt that wrapped around the barrel rather then sat behind. Given the large mass of the bolt on a blowback 9mm or .45 caliber gun, this made for a more compact and controllable gun. But by the time these weapons were in general use, assault rifles which offered most of the portability, all of the selective fire, and much greater range than the best previous SMG were in common use. Armies often specified, when contracting for new rifles, that they replace both battle rifles and submachine guns, and in influential armies like America’s and Russia’s, that’s exactly what happened.

H&K's most common MP5 variant, the MP5A3.

H&K’s most common MP5 variant, the MP5A3.

Some people consider the H&K MP5 a fourth generation. It was actually more like the term the British used for their Sten and Lanchester SMGs: a machine carbine. While a few armies adopted it, mostly armies that clung to a full-power rather than intermediate-cartridge rifle, it quickly found a niche in police and hostage rescue operations. This was somewhat unexpected for H&K, but they went with it, even making .40 caliber versions for American police. (The customer is never wrong when he approaches you with buckets of currency).

Suppressed MP7s and pistol abandoned by French SOF, along with their casualties, in a failed hostage rescue Somalia.

Suppressed MP7s and pistol abandoned by French SOF, along with their casualties, in a failed hostage rescue in Somalia this weekend.

Some further argue that there is a fifth generation — weapons like the FN P90 and H&K MP7 that are meant to be intermediate weapons between the pistol and the intermediate-cartridge assault rifles. Thee weapons are designed for bespoke cartridges that are not exactly (or not normal) pistol rounds, thus failing one of the SMG tests (pistol round, shoulder fire, auto capable). They’re more realistically descendants of the M1 carbine, and they’ve found market acceptance hard to come by. The MP7 has a small niche in special operations, but one wonders if it hasn’t been largely a cool-factor thing, like Chippewa boots in the 70s and 80s or a Suunto watch today. There just isn’t much it does that an AR doesn’t do better — a 416, if you’re one of the fanjugend. 

So what killed the SMG, and will the SIG MPX succeed?

What killed the SMG is simple: AR-platform carbines began to approach the MP5 in size, while being miles ahead in capability.

This came home to the special operations community in October 1982, when the invasion of Grenada marked the high water line of SOF’s love affair with the H&K MP5. One special operations  element found itself pinned down by a pesky sniper, armed with nothing but MP5s, and badly outranged. Indeed, to call the enemy shooter a “sniper” probably exaggerates his capabilities, as he didn’t kill any of the friendlies. He was just some Grenadan or Cuban schmo with an ordinary rifle, but if a guy 250 yards away from you has you under accurate rifle fire and all you have to shoot back at him is an 8″ barrel 9mm, that’s sniper enough to keep your head down. No SOF element ever again hit a target, beach, DZ or LZ without an answer for that 250-yard ‘tard.

The versatility of the AR platform truly threatens several specialist platforms. But with the MPX, SIG is betting that “horses for courses” will still animate special operations and police gun buyers. We don’t have pricing information yet, but we’ll bet that with production in the USA (likely in SIG’s new factory in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, not far from where this video was shot) they’ll be very tempting, especially for police agencies looking to replace worn MP5s. They’re clearly aiming at an MP5 replacement with better adaptability (convertible barrels, stocks, even calibers), better ergonomics (how long were the thumbs on the guy that designed the awful CETME selector the MP5 still has, anyway?), and better training commonality with carbines — all for less money than Brand H. We’ll see if law enforcement agencies are tempted.

Christmas suggestion for that kid ready for gun No. 1

Red Ryder BB GunNot long ago, we reported that Ted Nugent thought this simple starter BB gun was the greatest gun ever, because of the sheer number of would be hunters, shooters, and gun collectors who started with one, including the Nuge his ownself.

The Daisy Outdoor Products Red Ryder Gun

via Amazon.com: Daisy Outdoor Products Red Ryder Gun Brown/Black, 35.4 Inch: Sports & Outdoors.

It’s available from Amazon for ridiculously little money, especially if you have Prime, and you can still get it delivered in time for what the schools are calling Holiday. And the rest of us are calling Christians.

For those diffident about online shopping, some WalMarts have them in the sporting goods section for about $29. It is not the greatest air gun — it’s hard for young muscles to operate, and its smooth bore means it’s accuracy is limited. But it’s Tradition with a capital T. (No one even remembers who Red Ryder was, apart from the guy who had a BB-gun named after him. Kinda like rockers who don’t know who Les Paul was).

Seriously, hook a kid today. Your best defense against people like Slick Dick Blumenthal, Joe Scarborough, Joe Manchin, Wayne LaPierre and all the others would leave you defenseless, is to build a new and greater generation of the gun culture.

The charge to them is not different, materially, to the charge to the living from the dead in the famous war poem:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch. Be yours to hold it high.

If you break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, although we lie

In Flanders Fields.

There are many ways to defend freedom. A first gun in the hands of a new shooter is a good way.

(Of course, he asked for an AK-47).

Over at Forgotten Weapons…

.. while we’ve been light on gun content this week, Ian at Forgotten Weapons is on fire. So if you’re jonesing for gun tech:

  • What Mikhail Kalashnikov really learned or borrowed from German arms designers to whom Stalin had made an offer they couldn’t refuse. (They got the gun designers, and reaction-propulsion guys; we got Dornberger, Lippisch and von Braun. We love guns here but you have to admit we got the best of that one). Of course, one is reminded of the line from the Alistair MacLean book, Ice Station Zebra, and the subsequent movie: “The Russians put our camera made by our German scientists and your film made by your German scientists into their satellite made by their German scientists…” which is a bit unfair to Russian (and American and British) ingenuity, but funny as hell.
  • One heck of a Christmas List for the lover of oddball guns (as opposed to the oddball lover of guns, who might be satisfied with dull and boring guns and parts). One of his suggestions is going under the tree for a gun-happy WeaponsMan stepson, who’s not quite old enough to be turned loose with his own AK yet.

The Past is Another Country: Ultimax 100

Going through a box of old stuff we found all kinds of treasures that may appear in these pages later: Rhodesian uniforms and web gear; a Munich streetcar Zeitkarte; an East German Praktika camera that once belonged to a border-crossing spy; an alleged Spetsnaz ballistic knife. But one thing we also found was a brochure for the best machine gun we never quite adopted, the Ultimax 100.

The Ultimax was made in Singapore, and we wanted them badly in SF and special missions units in the early 1980s. As Maxwell Smart might say, “missed it by that much.” We kept trying to buy the damn things with discretionary funds and someone kept substituting other MGs, including the FN Minimi which would later become the M249. The Minimi was and is OK, apart from its issues with magazines (which trace, ultimately, to the same dimensional problem that would lead the M27 to have problems with aftermarket mags: the M16/AR-15 series weapons have a magazine well which is generally not too precisely close to, and usually larger, than the drawings in the technical data package required).

Now, we were not privy to the actual decision-making so all the information on why things were and were not bought is 100% hearsay. The Ultimax was magazine-fed and the ordnance powers that be reputedly were sold on the advantages of belt feed. The initial MkI Ultimax 100 did not have quick-change barrels. Yadda, yadda. And it was made overseas, in Singapore no less.

But the Ultimax was, conceptually, as American as monster trucks. Its designer was L. James Sullivan, who started as a draftsman at Armalite in AR-10 days, and went on to cut his own broad swath across the world of small arms design, with the Ruger Mini-14 and M77, and the Beta CMag among his accomplishments. And — here we are on much stronger ground, because we shot it several times, usually on Range 44 at Bragg — it was one hell of a sweet-shooting light MG. We’d go so far as to say the most accurate and easiest-shooting machine gun ever made. Period. Full stop.

The Ultimax appears to hold no secrets from outside. It is a 5.56mm, gas-operated, magazine-fed weapon (it could take modified STANAG magazines but usually used its own 60- and 100-round drums). It has a conventional rotating bolt, a folding bipod and a plastic stock, removable for compact transport. It fires from an open bolt and the selector switch offers only Safe and Fire, which is full-auto. It is trivial to fire single shots, but you cannot expect rifle-level accuracy from this open-bolt gun. The gas system has six selectable positions (about three or four more than anyone imagines needing). It is light (10.3 lb empty and 14.3 lb combat-loaded with 100-round drum) and handles easily. It was optimized for smaller Asian hands during production, and we could have used an inch or two more trigger pull and a larger foregrip. Other than that, we’d change little.

Sure, it’s ugly, but have you ever pondered the aesthetics of an M249? If it’s beauty you want, and wall-hanging is your objective, you need a Spanish AMELI. But if your plans include shooting, particularly at pop-up, shoot-back targets, the Ultimax would be a good choice. We mentioned that there’s no secret visible from the outside; instead, you get initiated into the Ultimax secret when you fire the thing. It has less perceived recoil and less movement during firing than any machine gun you care to name. Holding it on target during full-auto fire, even from a standing, unsupported position, is child’s play.

The secret is in Sullivan’s timing of the mechanism to deliver a recoil pulse slowly — over the entire period between two rounds firing on cyclic rate. The same force, delivered over a longer time, meant a lower, steadier recoil impulse. He called this the Constant Recoil principle, and the result is an MG that can deliver aimed fire from every assault position, specifically including offhand, with more accuracy than any other 5.56 LMG.

The attached brochure (here it is: Ultimax_100_brochure_1982_compressed.pdf) is a clever multiple-folding arrangement with two two-page and one four-page spreads, so it doesn’t make the transition to .pdf all that well. But we bet you’ve never seen it before. The Ultimax reps, who might actually have included Sullivan, handed us the brochure one day in 1982 or 1983 at either Fort Bragg or at Mott Lake Compound. (Sorry, CRAFT disease strikes). It was one of several opportunities to shoot the gun, which always has left us grinning even more idiotically than usual. Not many machine gun vendors urge you (1) to fire longer bursts and (2) to stand up and fire their gun offhand. These guys did, and we were sold on Sullivan’s Constant Recoil Principle long before the first drum was empty.

But we never did buy it. The problem with the Ultimax was not the gun, apparently. It was that Singapore was, for reasons that we do not comprehend, on the State Department naughty-boy list. The gun is still in production, and it’s up to Mark V. Singapore bought over 10,000 of them for its own forces and has sold tens of thousands elsewhere (we’ve run into them in Latin America). They’re great guns, but they’re a footnote to history when you consider the tens of millions of ARs and AKs that have been made. (Probably more like 100 million AKs).

So that’s why we call the Ultimax the best machine gun we never quite adopted. It might even be the best 5.56mm machine gun ever.