Category Archives: Weapons Themselves

The Education of Bubba

Here’s a thread in ARFcom’s Build It Yourself forum where the consequences of gorilla (no, not “guerrilla”) gunsmithing come home to roost.

The modular nature of the AR let Our Hero (who just joined ARFcom, and thus dwells in Baby Duck World) assemble a working one first shot:

I built my first AR, took it to the range and it shot great. No malfunctions and great groupings.

Since he titled his thread, “Shouldn’t have messed with [it]” we have already had some foreshadowing of the fact that he did not leave well enough alone, and he didn’t:

I didn’t like the compensator I had though so I bought the standard A2 style flash hider. Put my upper in the action block and into my vise.

Anybody see what’s about to go wrong here? Class? Bueller? Anyone?

We’ll explain. The action block is for protecting the receiver, which although forged 7075 is still only a thin-walled alloy forging, while removing, installing, and especially torquing a barrel. We’re going to emphasize what’s next: action blocks are not for removing muzzle devices. Why not? Well, consider the following as a crude illustration of an AR barrel, with the letter E being the chamber and barrel [E]xtension, the letter A being the gas block or FSB, and the letter D in brackets being the muzzle [D]evice:


So what our novice protagonist did was secure “E” and apply torque at about “D” — 16 or 20″ distant. The barrel is fairly stiff and acts more like a torque tube than a torsion bar, delivering most of that torsion efficiently to the interface between the barrel extension and the upper receiver — where nothing resists that torque but the barrel nut, a little, and the locating pin on the extension which fits into a matching groove in the upper receiver. The locating pin is just for lining the barrel up consistently; it’s not made to bear torque loads, but it is steel and the aluminum alloy slot it rides in is even less able to resist. The pin can bend, but it’s steel. What usually happens is that it springs the upper receiver or cuts the metal of the upper.

What happened here:

The comp came off no problem but the crush washer did not so I got a screw driver gave it a few taps and it came off but damaged the threads on the barrel a little.

Repeat after WeaponsMan, please: “The right tool for the right job.” In fact, write that down. There will be a test. Because all of life is a test — an IQ test.

If you have a crush washer that will not come off, you can thread it off. Don’t worry if you have to mark up its perimeter with pliers or even grind flats on it to get purchase with a wrench, because then you’re going to throw it away. Many fasteners, from the rod bolts on your 350 Chevy to the crush washers on muzzle-devices, are made for one use only.

If you gouge the threads, the right thing to do is to chase them with the right size die. WWBD, though — What Will Bubba Do?

It didn’t look too bad so I put on the new flash hider and it wasn’t too hard to get on I attributed it to the damaged threads but when it got down to the crush washer I had to put some serious torque on it to get it to line up but it went on.

Yeah, ’cause nothin’ fixes threads like cross-threading something else over them. Note also the calibrated Bubba torque wrench, with its precsion torque meter:

  1. Faint city-boy torque;
  2. Some torque;
  3. Some serious torque;
  4. King-hell torque.

Well, “some serious torque” may not be what the -50 says but the proof of the pudding, etc., so how did Our Hero Bubba do at the range?

at 25 yards it was shooting 8 inches high and 6 inches to the left I knew it would change my POI a little but I had to adjust my sights as far as they would go to zero it again and I know that is not right and I am not okay with that since I didn’t have to adjust the sights at all the first time I went out.

He didn’t say anything about the size of the group changing yet, just point of impact (POI) shift. any muzzle device causes a point of impact shift. Ceteris Paribus asymmetrical devices cause more of a shift than symmetrical ones. The M16A2 flash suppressor is asymmetrical — two “slots” are not milled out, so that no gas escapes in that direction. Those slots should be oriented down, to reduce the amount of dust that’s kicked up when the gun is fired. And so you do have to expect

Quick rule of thumb: a fresh AR upper should work with the windage and elevation near the center of their travel. (A few clicks off absolute center is OK. Most of the way to the end of travel, is not OK). If it doesn’t, Bubba is In Da House.

He’s also violated the Golden Law of Troubleshooting: change only one thing at a time. But for a Bubba, he wises up quickly, and makes one change:

So I took of the muzzle device off and found out I cross threaded it and thought that was the issue so I shot it again with no muzzle device and same thing 8 inches high 6 inches left but still a great grouping its just not where I want it to be.

He found the POI change was the same with the A2 flash suppressor and without it:

i dont think its anything with the muzzle because I shot it with the cross threaded flash hider and with no muzzle device just exposed threads and it shot in the exact same spot for both

Ergo, it wasn’t the A2 cage per se that changed his point of aim. But something did it. Without examining the bubba’d upper, we can’t diagnose it, but our guess is that it was a consequence of either damaging the muzzle crown in his enthusiastic attack on the crush washer, or of torque damage to the barrel assembly or its seating in the upper receiver.

Amazingly — it is ARFCom, after all — he got good advice about what his problem might be, and he began to take it. His responses:

[D]oes this mean I need a new barrel or upper receiver or just take it all apart and re torque everything down to specs?

…I will take it apart as soon as I get home from work and see what she looks like. And my die to re thread the muzzle is supposed to come in today….

Barrel is a gov profile barrel. I learned my lesson and ordered all the correct equipment for my next build….

Ok took it all apart and everything looked fine except for the feed ramps but I could hardly tell they didn’t line up its barely noticeable. Put it back together torqued it all to specs and took it to the range. its shooting in the same exact spot maybe just an inch lower this time but still way off. So I have no idea whats going on

The bit about the feed ramps not  lining up tells us he did torque the barrel out of its place in the upper receiver, and the consistent and continuing shooting to a point of impact eight inches out from the point of aim strongly suggests the receiver is hosed, probably where the barrel alignment pin sits.

In the end, he (with a lot of help from the board) came to the understanding that he needed to try a new upper. He lacks the tools, information and skills to inspect his present upper.

Update: I can zero the rifle but I have to adjust the front and rear sights to their extremes which I am not ok with. It is to the point that when I shoulder the rifle I need to remove my cheek from the stock to get a clear sight picture (sure optics would work) but the poi is out of my comfort zone. So I ordered a new upper from Anderson and just my luck the upper is botched and my bcg hangs up about halfway in and my charging handle won’t fit either. So I’m calling them on my lunch break to see what they can do for me.

One suspects that he’ll learn a lot, and in the end have a shootable rifle, but right now he doesn’t. Contrary to what is said in the thread, a displacement of point of aim can come from a damaged crown (without necessarily opening up the groups) but his problem is almost certainly a bubba’d upper receiver.

Eight inches is rather badly out of spec. He can’t even use this thing as a burglar defense gun now, unless the burglars where he’s at are broader in the chest than the skinny meth heads we have around here.

What he should have done, and the things he did right

So, what should Bubba have done, and his rifle would be good and accurate?

He should (as he undoubtedly knows now), have clamped the barrel forward of the FSB (or, with an FSB block, at the FSB) before R&R’ing the flash hider. He definitely should have gotten some advice before putting his back into the wrench on the flash suppressor.

But he did some things right. He asked for help, and most of the comments in his thread gave it to him. He didn’t act on his first impulse, which was to reef on the barrel again, clamping it with a Reaction Rod instead of an action block. (A Reaction Rod is the cat’s ass, but doesn’t address the problem of applying force 15-20″ away from where the barrel’s anchored). Few things can produce more expensive scrap metal faster than impatience at the armorer’s bench.

And a Final Warning

One last warning. Many people take on a flash suppressor replacement as a first attempt at customization. There are a million different kinds to try out. And it’s so tiny, it’s trivial, right?

No, not right. This guy’s results explain why that’s not necessarily a good idea: Just because of part is small, doesn’t mean it’s easily handled, or susceptible to trivial customization. Make your first experiments in AR-smithing on some part of the firearm that is not critical to accuracy and reliability. (That means, not the barrel).

Springfield Rifles: What’s the Difference?

The US model 1903 Springfield rifle was made in five major versions. New entrents to collecting American martial arms sometimes struggle to tell these very similar rifles apart, but actually it’s pretty easy. Here’s a Springfield cheat sheet to take with you to the fun show:

From Note that the stock on the A3 is more commonly like the one shown on the A1.

From Note that the stock on the A3 is more commonly like the one shown on the A1.


  • The US Rifle Model 1903 was originally made for the M1 Cal. .30-03 cartridge, and service rifles were rechambered to the improved .30-06. There were metallurgical problems with early serial number receivers and bolts, and firearms under number 800,000 from Springfield Armory and 286,596 from Rock Island Arsenal should not be fired, because those are the numbers beyond which improved heat treating methods are known to have resolved this problem. (The bolts aren’t numbered, but any bolt that has a handle “swept back” rather than bent at 90º to the bolt axis is good to go).
    This is the business end of an early (pre-1905) rod bayonet Springfield.

    This is the business end of an early (pre-1905) rod bayonet Springfield.

    A few very early models had rod bayonets, and these were mostly converted to Model 1905 16″ knife bayonets after 1905 (at the insistence, we’ve noted, of Theodore Roosevelt) so they’re extremely rare. The rear sight was a ladder sight that went through several iterations, mounted forward of the front receiver ring. It could be used as an open tangent sight or raised and elevated for volley fire to ranges of almost 3,000 yards. A variant of the 03 called the US Rifle M1903 Mark I was adapted for use with the Pedersen device. Most of these were made in 1918-1919 and they wound up issued as ordinary 1903s. They are not especially rare, but make good conversation pieces. Another rare variant (illustrated) used the Warner & Swasey telescope commonly fitted to the Benet-Mercié “automatic rifle” — it had a terrible time holding zero, but that’s what American snipers had Over There.

The rifle lasted decades more, but the sight didn't.

The rifle lasted decades more, but the sight didn’t.

  • US Rifle Model 1903A1 is identical to the 1903, except for the stock, which has a pistol grip.
  • US Rifle Model 1903A2 is another extreme rarity: a Springfield altered to be a subcaliber device for conducting direct-fire training on various artillery weapons on small arms ranges. The stock, handguards, sights were removed and the gun could be fitted into a 37 mm sleeve for use in a 37mm gun, or the 37mm adapter could in turn be fitted in a larger-caliber adapter for 75mm, 105mm or 8 inch (203mm) artillery. They were generally made from 1903s and will have the “A2″ notation hand stamped after the 1903 on the receiver ring. A brass bushing on the muzzle, just under an inch (0.994″) in diameter, adapted the bare barreled action to the adapter. A few have the A2 electro-penciled in place, it would take a Springfield expert to tell you if that’s authentic (the example Brophy shows is stamped). Most of the A2s were converted back into ordinary rifles, surplused, or scrapped at the end of the war as the Army had abandoned subcaliber artillery training.


  • US Rifle Model 1903A3 is a wartime, cost-reduced version of the 1903A1. Remington had been tooling up to make the 1903, not for the US, but in .303 for the British. WIth American reentry into the war, Remington converted back to making a simplified 1903. The A3 reverts to the straight (no pistol grip) stock, uses a stamped trigger guard, and has a ramp-mounted peep sight like the one on the M1 Carbine. This sight is simpler than the Rube Goldberg arrangement on the 1903, and actually has greater accuracy potential thanks to around 7″ greater sight radius. It is the version most commonly found on the market, and was carried by soldiers in the first months of the Pacific War, and by Marines for longer. Until a working grenade launcher was developed for the M1 and issued in late 1943, an Army rifle squad armed with M1s still had one or two grenadiers armed with M1903A3s and grenade launchers. By D-Day, most combat units had the M1 launchers. Remington (and Smith-Corona) produced 1903A3s from 1941 to February, 1944.

M1903A3 sight

  • US Rifle Model 1903A4 is a 1903A3 fitted with a Weaver 330C or Lyman Alaskan 2 ½ Power optical sight. The Weaver sight is 11 inches long and adds a half-pound to the weight of the rifle, bringing it to a still very manageable 9.7 pounds. The Lyman is a tenth of an inch shorter and a 0.2 pounds heavier (the Lyman was very rare in service compared to the Weaver). Both have an eye relief of about 3 to 5 inches. Very late in the war, the M1C came into service, but the 1903A4 was the Army’s primary sniper rifle throughout the war. Note that several vendors have made replicas of the M1903A4, some of which (like Gibbs Rifle Company’s) are clearly marked. All 1903A4s were made by Remington.

There you have it — the main variants of the Springfield Rifle in a short and digestible format.

Three Contenders for the Belt (belt of 5.56 in M27 links, that is)

Here’s Jeff “Bigshooterist” Zimba on belt-fed ARs. You know you’re in for detailed, accurate information and a lot of enthusiasm when Jeff steps up to the camera. You also will get better than the usual YouTube signal-to-noise and filler-to-fact ratios with Jeff on the job:

Jeff’s just slightly mistaken about the original belt-fed, backpack AR-10: it was a pre-Colt Armalite project, and wasn’t picked up by Colt. The video he refers to was a Fairchild promotional video, and here is a version of it. We apologize for the poor quality. The belt-fed version shows up (initially, in Gene Stoner’s hands!) at about 12:30. The weapon’s belt feed does resemble the later Ciener AR-15 conversion, but uses a nondisintegrating belt feed.

Returning to Jeff Zimba’s presentation, his technical points on the Ciener conversion, which is mechanically similar to at least one of the Armalite prototypes, are accurate and informative. It had a number of features that made it rather fiddly, dependent on some design oddities, and generally flawed. Nonetheless, it worked; it could just do with some improvements. Jonathan A. Ciener has been many things in the firearms community, including an innovator; but nobody ever accused him of being keenly attuned to customer sentiment, and the modifications and improvements were left as inspirations to others.

The Valkyrie BSR Mod 1 (BSR = “Belt-fed Semi-automatic Rifle”) is fundamentally an improved Ciener mechanism. The improvements are significant in convenience and function, and Jeff explains them in great detail.

The ARES Shrike is a completely different mechanism that uses a MG-42-like feed mechanism. This gives it some significant advantages over the others. It uses standard links, feeds like every standard belt-fed out there for the last 60-plus years, and can be moved to any standard lower with only one reversible modification (unlike the surgery the Ciener and Valkyrie belts require). Unlike the Ciener and Valkyrie, it alters the AR system to be gas-tappet operated. The operator interfaces with the ARES by a folding, nonreciprocating charging handle on the left side, and an extended bolt release that is the only part that must be changed on a standard AR lower.  The ARES also has quick-change barrels, a necessity for high sustained rates of fire.

All of the weapons Jeff demonstrates also can fire from magazines. Ares Defense does make a version of their belt-fed for military and LE customers that lacks magazine feed, the AMG-1 (the version with both belt and mag feed is the AMG-2. There’s also an AMG version with the quick change barrel and tappet gas system, but mag-fed only).

Jeff doesn’t say, but the Valkyrie and ARES belt-feds are still available. Valkyrie Armament also has the modified M27 links, and belt start and stop tabs that are required by its rifle (they should work with a Ciener conversion, but we’d call Valkyrie to check, before ordering).

Hat tip, the Gun Wire.

SMG History on the Block: German MP18-1

Here’s a true piece of submachine gun history: a German MP.18–1 submachine gun, a very early, first-generation, Bergmann-built Hugo Schmeisser design.

MP18-1 left

Schmeisser was the son of designer Louis Schmeisser, who also worked at Bergmann and created the early Bergmann auto pistols. Hugo is one of the true greats of 20th Century weapons design in his own right, but, oddly enough, he is credited more in the popular mind for a gun he didn’t design, the MP 40, than the many guns he did, including the revolutionary MP.18. We’ll explain below how that probably came to pass.

Discounting the curious and tactically unsound Villar–Perosa, the first real submachine gun was the MP.18. (Maxim produced a model only in the late 19th Centuryl he didn’t follow up). It was blowback-operated and fired in full-automatic only (at a rather low rate of fire, thanks to heavy reciprocating parts). The weakness of the MP18, apart from its weight and cost of manufacture, was its magazine feed: it used the 32 round snail drum of the Artillery Luger. (A snail “drum” is not a true drum, exactly, but a box magazine oriented in a spiral to save space. It’s very tricky to design). The snail drum was awkward, hard to load, heavy, and made the MP18 unwieldy, but the gun still proved its worth in the hands of German Storm Troops in the last year of the Great War.

MP18-1 right

After the war, Schmeisser patented an original design for a 20-round double-column single-feed magazine and a suitable magazine housing (the patent was not filed in the USA until 1931, possibly due to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles). This gun is one of the 20-round versions.

Schmeisser US1833862-2 According to Small Arms of the World by Smith and Ezell, these guns were not new production, but were modified by Haenel, and (several other sources suggest that Bergmann lost its production facilities at war’s end, and continued only as a design shop). Some online sources assert that during the war, Schmeisser’s double-column mag had been rejected by the Army in favor of the snail drum, officially the “Trommelmagazin 08″ or TM08, that was already in production for the Artillery pistol. We haven’t seen a definitive source that says that Schmeisser’s stick mag was ready for prime time in 1918.

This gun on offer is one of those postwar MP.18-1s with the 20-round box mag.  Its condition is amazing for a nearly-century-old weapon an ocean away from its home:

MP18-1 right2

This is a excellent German MP18.1 that I have had for a long time. It is in beautiful original condition as you can see by the pictures. It is all matching except for the bolt. The bore is excellent and shiny. It has all the original finish and is NOT re-blued. The magazine housing is marked S.B.848 and the stock is marked “1920” so I’m sure that it was used in the Weimar as a Police Weapon.

MP18-1 b

The “1920” marking was applied to all Reichswehr (the Weimar Republic’s 100,000-man rump army) weapons when a postwar law banned automatic weapons for the general public. (This early German gun control law was to lead to greater things, but let’s not digress).

It is on a form 3 and is fully transferable on a form 4, though it can NOT be transferred on a C&R. If you have any question or need more pictures please ask.

via German MP18 1 9mm MP18-1 : Machine Guns at

The MP.18 was redesigned by Hugo Schmeisser into a slightly improved version, the MP.28, which had a selector switch. It continued in production, spawning many variants. The Schmeisser designs went on to be extremely influential, as well as to serve in many other wars, including the Spanish Civil War, the Sino-Japanese Wars leading up to World War II (including in Chinese-copy versions), and of course in World War II, where it was often found in the hands of the SS. It also inspired the British Lanchester, a fairly direct copy of the MP.28 which actually could use MP 18 and 28 box magazines, although the Lanchester also had 32 and 50 round magazines of its own. This makes the MP 18 not only the progenitor of all submachineguns, but also the granddaddy of the Sten. The Japanese Type 100 was also a modified copy of the MP.28, a weapon the Japanese had encountered in Chinese hands. The Finnish Suomi and Russian PPD also were inspired to one extent or another by the German design, and the.

Schmeisser’s box magazine design was patented, as shown above, and was widely used in subsequent guns. It’s generally accepted that the misnomer “Schmeisser” for the MP40 came about because many MP38 and MP40 magazines were marked with “Schmeisser D.R.P.” (Deutsches Reich Patent) in recognition of this patent.

The gun is extremely durable. The receiver is machined from a thick tube, unlike the thin tubes common in Second World War submachine guns. The bolt likewise is machined from a single block of steel. The weapon fires from an open bolt, automatic only, although experience makes single shots possible. The original WWI versions had no manual safety. This one has a bolt notch safety. (All open-bolt SMGs are only safe with a mag out, period, unless the safety locks the bolt forward on an empty chamber. A safety like this just instills false confidence).

MP18-1 right3

Mullin notes that, other things being equal, a full-stocked SMG always provides a better firing platform than a folding or sliding stock. We concur. Sliding stocks have had something of a renaissance due to body armor, but for the recreational shooter an early subgun like an MP.18 (or a Thompson for that matter) is a joy to shoot.

MP18-1 broken open

While the operating system of the gun was very simple, the internals were not. The bolt was driven by a telescoping spring guide/firing pin mechanism clearly antecedent to that of the later Vollmer designs that would culminate in the MP40. What killed the MP.18 and its successors in the end was the difficulty and expense of machining its solid steel parts. Second-generation submachine guns would have stamped, die-cast, and other parts taking advantage of improvements in 20th Century automotive mass-production industrial processes.

MP18-1 stripped

We’ve used more of the pictures than we usually do in these auction reports, because this is such a gorgeous, unmolested original gun. If we hadn’t just taken a huge income hit (thank you, ISIL), we’d be on this like a lawyer on an ambulance.

Because the MP.18 isn’t as sexy as later guns, it’s unlikely to be bid up anywhere near Thompson, BAR or M16 territory, and might even sell down in the Sten price range. But this gun is a true piece of history. Its next owner will have something to be proud of, and it may turn out to be a good investment. (Personally, we don’t “invest” in anything subject to corrosion, although we’ve been known to delude ourselves that we did that).

After this, you might want more information on this rare and historic firearm. There’s a minimal write-up in most editions of Small Arms of the World. In the 11th Edition it begins on p. 338. (The book, not the unrelated Small Arms of the World website. There’s probably a good writeup on the website, too, but we’ve been locked out by login problems over the last few weeks… we hope to get them resolved today. SAW’s technical staff have been very helpful). There’s a better writeup, but scarcely a thorough one, in Hobart, on pp. 116-117.

How does the MP.18 stack up today? Mullin’s verdict in The Fighting Submachine Gun: A Hands-on Evaluation was:

The M1918 feels like a good, sturdy, long-lasting weapon. It does have a few drawbacks to it (such as weight and slam-firing bolt-design defects), but once modified to a standard box design, it has all the features necessary to make an effective SMG with very few that are superfluous to the job. This is quite a compliment to those original German designers back in 1918.

Peterson (p. 151) suggests that the gun may be worth $17,000 to $22,500, depending on whether you call its condition “very good” or “excellent”; a snail-drum wartime gun would be worth only 10% more. No one has bid on this gun, at $13,500 opening bid and no reserve. What’s up with that?


Hobart, FWA, Pictorial History of the Sub-machine Gun

Mullin, T. The Fighting Submachine Gun: A Hands-on Evaluation.

Peterson, P. Standard Catalog of Military Firearms: The Collector’s Price and Reference Guide. 

Smith, WHB and Ezell, EC, Small Arms of the World, any edition.

A very good photo thread on the MP.18 and successors at Accurate Reloading:

Note that there are a couple of errors and unsupported statements in the photo thread.


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.


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


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

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:


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.


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, 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.