Category Archives: Foreign and Enemy Weapons

Will Israel Nuke Iran First?

BLOWING UP PARADISEDefense intellectual and former Strategic Defense Initiative planner John Bosma argues in the American Thinker that for Israel the options are closing rapidly, and the least bad option may be to make a nuclear preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, aiming to disrupt development but also to kill the maximum number of scientists and technicians, and to leave any surviving facilities fatally irradiated.

Far from producing peace, Bosma claims, the deal negotiated between two preferentially antisemitic teams could be extremely destabilizing; it…

…also augurs the possibility of a nuclear war coming far sooner than one could have imagined under conventional wisdom worst-case scenarios. Following the US’s betrayal of Israel and its de facto detente with Iran, we cannot expect Israel to copy longstanding US doctrines of no-first-nuclear-use and preferences for conventional-weapons-only war plans. After all, both were premised (especially after the USSR’s 1991 collapse) on decades of US nuclear and conventional supremacy. If there ever were an unassailable case for a small, frighteningly vulnerable nation to pre-emptively use nuclear weapons to shock, economically paralyze, and decapitate am enemy sworn to its destruction, Israel has arrived at that circumstance.

Why? Because Israel has no choice, given the radical new alignment against it that now includes the US, given reported Obama threats in 2014 to shoot down Israeli attack planes, his disclosure of Israel’s nuclear secrets and its Central Asian strike-force recovery bases, and above all his agreement to help Iran protect its enrichment facilities from terrorists and cyberwarfare – i.e., from the very special-operations and cyber forces that Israel would use in desperate attempts to halt Iran’s bomb. Thus Israel is being forced, more rapidly and irreversibly than we appreciate, into a bet-the-nation decision where it has only one forceful, game-changing choice — early nuclear pre-emption – to wrest back control of its survival and to dictate the aftermath of such a survival strike.

via Articles: Thinking About the Unthinkable: An Israel-Iran Nuclear War.

A limited Israeli strike could produce the nuclear disarmament of Iran that Obama and Kerry had claimed, before some of the terms of the deal put the lie to their statements, that they sought. Nuclear weapons are one effective solution to the underground bunkers used by Iran to shelter its systems.

Israel cannot  service this target set with conventional weapons — its stocks are not deep enough, and it’s clear that they can’t rely on the United States, at least under this Administration, for resupply.

The deliberate American silence over Iran’s genocidal intentionality sends an unmistakable signal to Israel that the US no longer recognizes a primordial, civilizational moral obligation to protect it from the most explicit threats imaginable. It is truly on its own, with the US in an all-but-overt alliance with its worst enemy. The shock to Israel’s leaders of this abrupt American lurch into tacitly accepting this Iranian intentionality cannot be understated. Iran is violating the core tenets of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, a US initiative after the Tokyo and Nuremberg war-crimes trials to codify genocide as a crime against humanity. Now the US is silent.

But this shift is also recent. Every US government prior to President Obama would have foresworn nuclear talks with such a psychopathic regime or would have walked out in a rage upon such utterances. Yet Iran’s genocidal threats have had no discernible effect on Obama’s canine eagerness for a deal.

The two main factors Bosma sees making the nuclear option “almost mandatory” for Israel are the Iranian government’s continued propaganda and doctrine calling for nuclear weapons explicitly for the extermination of Jews, and, as recounted above, the US’s sudden tilt to the Iranian position. But he also lists a number of other reasons, which we’ll paraphrase:

  1. Iranian nuclear progress is self-sustaining and can’t be stopped with conventional weapons or sanctions. For Israel, it is a matter of nuke, or be nuked.
  2. Iranian progress is concrete hardening has essentially neutralized such weapons as the 30kp Massive Ordnance Penetrator, meaning it’s nukes or nothing.
  3. The presence in the agreement of a new US-Iranian limited military alliance targeted against Israel.
  4. The Russian agreement to deliver to Iran S-300 anti-ballistic and anti-aircraft weapons. This dual-purpose weapon is in the improved Patriot class and complicates strike planning (to put it mildly). The weapons are enroute to Iran already. (Russia is also delivering nuclear weapons delivery technology, including ICBMs). Some of these Russian missiles come with Russian mercenary crews. In addition, with Russian and Iranian assistance, the terrorist group Hezbollah has been converting its ineffective rockets into precision guided munitions with defense-evading technology.

While Bosma’s grim predictions may never come to pass, his position has a certain logic. (We believe it won’t come to pass because the Israeli government will shrink from following that logic to its inevitable end). In any event you should Read The Whole Thing™. It’s a brief but very information-dense piece.

If the Israelis did take this approach to survival, how would they do it? Given that the US Government is likely to share any intelligence indicators of a strike with Iran, Israel will have to proceed under an unprecedented cloak of secrecy. But at this point, their very least worst option for the long term survival of Israel and its people may well be to nuke Iran.

This is one consequence of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for lofty intentions, standing alone.

Submarines: The Soviet Sub Experience in WWII

This remarkable documentary is an English dub of an episode of a Russian TV series. In English the series, which ran in the UK in the dubbed version, is called Soviet Storm, and this is episode 13.  (Fear not the language; while the charts and maps still appear in Russian, the narration is professionally rendered in native English). This episode deals with the sea war, which really means, essentially, the sub war. The video shows why: when the Soviets tried surface operations, the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe cleaned their clock. So Stalin’s sailors took their war below the surface, at great risk, but also, to great effect.

At the start of the War, for instance, the Red Navy was weak in surface power, but it had a numerically strong submarine fleet — not as big as the Germans’ but the Soviets weren’t trying to contest the Atlantic convoy routes.

We didn’t know about the 25-mile-long submarine net barrier that the Germans erected in the Gulf of Finland, from the Porkkala-Udd peninsula to Naissar Island and Makilyuto Island off Tallin.

The guts and daring of the Soviet skippers and crews you learn a little bit about here are not much different from their Allied or enemy counterparts. So are their fates — the Baltic Fleet lost nearly half of their subs in 1942. A sunken sub usually bore its entire crew down to the eternal depths; if sunk on the surface, there might be a handful of survivors. As we saw recently with the cunning mine trap the British laid for U-Boats, mines are deadly to submarines; German and Finnish minefields accounted for many of the Russians’ subs whose fates are known.

For a clearly nationally-oriented production, it’s notably even-handed, with neutral phrasing during a discussion of disputed Soviet sub incursions into Swedish waters. Likewise, neutral phrasing handles the  There is a very interesting treatment of German attacks on Halifax-Murmansk PQ convoys; it hadn’t struck us before that the first seven convoys got through without a scratch, because it took the Germans a while to react to the problem.

Unfortunately, there’s very little about Soviet sub technology. It seems to have been at par with that of other nations at the start of the war, but the thrust of this document is operational, not technical. There’s also nothing about the training or life of submariners, whether they were ace commanders, long-service salts or new recruits on their first patrol. These omissions merely whet our appetite for more knowledge of Soviet sub technology, tactics, techniques and procedures, and for some first-hand accounts.

Also, be aware that the show is very dependent on CGI, and the CGI is dated and blocky by today’s standards.

This link should work to take you to a playlist of all episodes:

Today in Bubba History: Tokarev Sporter

It’s probably not fair to call this the work of Bubba the Gunsmith, because it was the work of professionals, turning what was then an awkward, ugly, unwanted military rifle in a weird caliber into something a hunter might reasonably take afield, and in the process, turning a bunch of ex-Soviet arms dumped by the Finnish Army, which had captured and tried to use them, into dollars — in this case, Canadian dollars.

Globe Tokarev 01

How were the principals of Globe Firearms Ltd. to know that some day original, unmolested Tokarev rifles would be worth real money? For that matter, how were they to know that the uiquitous .303 British round would become a rarity in North America, and the Russian 7.62 mm x 54mm become more popular? You could not have predicted either outcome in the mid-1960s, unless you were an actual clairvoyant — or certifiably insane.

Remarked with customizer and caliber.

Remarked with customizer and caliber.

This gun has now turned up on Gun Broker, with $950 asked, about what a decent condition Tokarev goes for (but there are very few decent condition guns out there — lots of purple-bolt-carrier Century imports, really). You’d have to want this oddball sporter pretty badly to go that much for it, in our opinion.

Condition is very nice. Design of the sporter stock suggests late 1950s to early 1960s.

Condition is very nice. Design of the sporter stock suggests late 1950s to early 1960s.

Up for bid is a conversion of captured SVT40’s. Bought from Finland, Globe Inc. converted the rifles caliber to what the Canadians all used…the British .303. Gun is almost new condition.

The barrel is shortened substantially, and set back so it can be rechambered for the British round. It looks like the new barrel is about 18″, nice for hunting. Rear sight is standard — obviously the elevation marks are now no longer congruent with the changed cartridge — and front sight is a standard hunter’s ramp type.

Globe Tokarev 03

The gas port has been moved way back, which allows most of the handguards to be discarded. (It may do ugly things to function, which was never the Tok’s strength, though. Or it may have solved Tok problems — we don’t know).

System is like an SKS or FAL, a gas tappet whacks the bolt carrier which cams a tipping bolt up out of battery.

System is like an SKS or FAL, a gas tappet whacks the bolt carrier which cams a tipping bolt up out of battery.

The Russian bore diameter should work OK with the British projectiles.

You can see where the tappet comes through the receiver above the barrel.

You can see where the tappet comes through the receiver above the barrel.

This gleaming bolt carrier, incidentally, is what a Tok bolt and carrier should look like — not the sick plum finish of the Century guns. Those seem to have been ineptly re-arsenaled in some Soviet or satellite depot.

This is what a Tokarev bolt carrier is supposed to look like.

This is what a Tokarev bolt carrier is supposed to look like.

The magazine has an unusual marking on it, it looks like a registration mark, maybe from the ill-fated Canadian long-gun registry, a monstrously expensive failure.

Globe Tokarev 08

Does anybody know what that marking signifies?

The Globe Firearms Ltd. sporterized, caliber-converted Tokarev is a rare period piece, a slice of a time where gun aficionados were almost all target shooters and hunters, and military collecting was a small and sparsely populated niche. That alone would make it a good thing to buy, although not at this price.

Heck, you could even hunt with it (although you’d need a lower-cap magazine, most places).

This is Why We Don’t Click on faux-viral Clickbait

Lame, lame, lame. One of those buzzfeed- and gawker- like “clickbait” aggregators teased customers with this come-on:


The airplane, of course, is a Dassault Rafale, and while it’s homely from this angle, it’s probably one of the most beautiful fighter planes flying today. It flies, primarily, for its nation of origin, la belle France, where it’s the latest product of Dassault Systems, formerly Avions Marcel Dassault and before that, before The War, Avions Marcel Bloch. 

It’s hard to imagine what the USA has to do with France’s latest and best-ever fighter jet; the picture is why you don’t want to mess with France. But the idiots who posted that image remind us of the founder of Dassault, and thereby hangs a tale.

Marcel Dassault, née Marcel Bloch, is definitely someone you should know, unlike the miniwit marketeers who come up with these unimaginative, stupid (and in this case, dishonest) advertising come-ons.

Bloch, a son of a successful doctor, was captivated by aviation in his youth and studied under Louis Breguet, and then at the novel École supérieure d’aéronautique et de constructions mécaniques, which had just opened in Paris. His first success was a propeller that produced greater thrust than previous models, and came to be widely used in French aircraft of the First World War. Between the wars, his company Société des Avions Marcel Bloch became successful and provided several of the Armee d l’Air’s key types.

Two calamities befell Bloch in short order: the Communist Front Polulaire government seized his company in 1936, expropriating him and his family; he was kept on, on salary, to oversee production of his designs in the new firm, SNCASO. Meanwhile, Bloch started over from zero with a new start-up to promote new designs — they could seize his work product, but not his mind. But then came calamity #2: Germany invaded France in 1940. The Nazis were willing to overlook Bloch’s Jewish ancestry if he would be willing to build airplanes for the Greater German Reich. He refused, and life got harder. His brother Darius Paul Bloch (who went by Paul, and was a senior military officer) went underground with the Resistance, but Vichy collaborators seized and imprisoned Marcel and his wife and children.

Marcel was sent to a Vichy-operated concentration camp at Drancy, France, then to the authentic SS-run variety at Buchenwald. The camps were incubators for many all-but-forgotten pathogens, and at liberation Marcel was 53, infected with diphtheria — and paralyzed.

He did not recover from paralysis until 1953, but by 1949 had already restarted his company, and changed both its, and his, name. Paul, now a General in the French forces, had used the code name “tank” while underground: in French, “Char d’assaut.” Marcel liked the sound of that, and with a slight twist he and his family became Dassaults, and their firm Avions Marcel Dassault.

Dassault’s personality was said to be somewhat stiff, proper, aloof and formal, yet he has a relaxed smile in most portraits, even formal ones where he’s posing stiffly. He was described by many as “driven”; certainly he drove his company to success after success. This RAND paper (.pdf) describes the company’s unique culture as of the 1980s: quintessentially French, and yet completely unlike any other business in that laid-back, bureaucratic nation.

AMD produced the famous Ouragan, Mystère, and Mirage jets, which equipped French forces and many export customers, including Israel. Israeli success with these jets definitely produced more orders, but after 1967 De Gaulle, who was not significantly less anti-semitic than the Nazis he’d once fought, embargoed further jets and seized the money that had been paid for them.

Somehow, after that, the Israelis managed to get their hands on enough documents to start production of Mirage clones. Certainly an espionage operation in Switzerland was part of it, as was a Lebanese defector who brought his jet along. But there were already charges that Marcel Dassault had helped the Jewish state, under the table, although we’ve never seen anything a court would call “evidence.”

Some people said that Dassault wanted to help his fellow Jews. But he had converted to Roman Catholicism soon after the war.  A private man, his reasons were his own.

Marcel Dassault retired in 1971, after a career that spanned from wood-and-fabric biplanes to Mach 2+ jets. The company he established today exports, along with the beautiful Rafale, the successful Falcon business jets and industry-standard CATIA and Solidworks engineering and modeling software.

If You’re Not Reading Forgotten Weapons, You’re Wrong.

If you’re not reading Forgotten, you’re wrong.

You’re wrong because they have stuff like this test of a 32-round Luger snail drum.

Lots of people own Artillery Lugers (technically, Lange Pistole 08). But only some of us shoot them.

You’re wrong because they find an obscure Army museum with the weirdest experimental .45 submachine gun we’ve ever heard of — and one that’s not in the standard references.

You’re wrong because Ian and Karl do stuff like shoot matches on video with world War I rifles, and soon, field gear. (We’re guessing that they find that, for the technology of the day, WWI field gear was rather practical, and less contemptible than we of a century later think).

You’re wrong because nowhere else will you consistently see such wondrous oddities as this Swiss Furrer double submachine gun, based on a pair of inverted Luger actions.

swiss furrer forgotten weapons

It makes us think that (1) the Swiss stereotype of complexity in mechanical design may not be just a stereotype, and (2) there’s probably some psychoactive chemicals in certain Swiss mushrooms… because, really, who would think of this?

You’re wrong because the site has a deep and fascinating archive of primary documents and of photographs of rare firearms.

In short, if you’re not reading FW, you’re wrong, period, full stop. So go there. Do that.

Canuckistan Rolls Back Ban on Two Semi-Autos

Good news for Canadian fans of SIG and CZ service rifle clones:

They’re back! The saga of the Swiss Arms and Cz858 in Canada has finally come to a close. A year ago it looked like these rifles were about to be banned and seized, but that decision has finally been reversed. Here’s a timeline of the highlights and a gallery of the firearms in question.

Back from the Ban: SIG SG553 and Cz Vz 58 clone.

Back from the Ban: SIG SG553 and Cz Vz 58 clone.

Reddit user TVPressPass provided a handy timeline:

Feb 26th 2014 – RCMP Reclassifies the Cz858 and Swiss Arms rifles to prohibited firearms. These have been imported for 12 years and there are millions of dollars worth in the country.
March 19th 2014 – The Public Safety Minister introduces a limited amnesty
Winter 2014 – Bill C42 is Developed and Introduced
June 18th 2015 – C42 is granted royal assent and formally becomes law.
July 31st 2015 – Rifles return to former status. Owners can now hunt and target shoot freely. These can now be bought, sold, and imported again.

via Canadian Prohibition Reversed! A Gallery of the Recently Reinstated Swiss Arms and Cz858 Rifles : guns.

Some background in the press release here:

And more in this CBC article:

The Mounties, like the US FBI, are nominally nonpartisan, but have a militantly anti-gun leadership. On gun policy, they tend to align and coordinate with the anti-gun parties, the LDP, PQ, and Greens. They are unlikely to restore Canadians’ guns seized or turned in under their now-overturned ban; while the Canadians have considerable civil rights there is nothing like the American prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures or taking of property without just compensation in Canuckistani law.

On the other hand, Canadians have a few gun rights and privileges that Americans do not. For example, Canada still allows imports of some Chinese weapons, giving Canadians some low-cost, high-quality service rifle clone options. The US banned these imports by executive order (anti-gun President George H.W. Bush) in 1989.

What Can Beretta’s AR Competitor, the ARX-160, Do?

Like any other gun, depends on who’s shooting it, eh? Here’s Jerry Miculek.

Your mileage may vary. (Hat tip, One of the best parts of it (for us) was at about 5:20 into the video where Jerry comes in from the rain and compares the ARX’s features to the Bushmaster ACR; IWI Tavor and the FN SCAR.  Here, Jerry’s millions of rounds of experience is interesting, although a service rifle needs to shine off the range, too. (And all of those, except the ACR, are proven military rifles; so, of course, is the competitor that Jerry admits all of these are striving to beat, the AR-15 series).

A few years ago we played around with a Beretta pistol-caliber carbine (CRX) and liked it. It took M9 magazines, which we have in great profusion, and was easy and fun to shoot, and like most Berettas throughout history, attractive to look at.

The pistol-caliber carbine was a fun plinker, but not a great defensive gun. A 5.56 will always be a better defensive round than any handgun round. And we recall thinking, “If they put some of this engineering into a 5.56 carbine, they’d be on to something.” Looks like Beretta may have been thinking along the same lines.

The Beretta is sold as the ARX-100 and the ARX-160 in 5.56 (we can’t explain the two names, although it might be European arms export laws). In addition, there are low-quality licensed .22LR knockoffs out there, which makes searching GunBroker a pain in the neck.

The ARX has some interesting features. (For another video with a review of it, check out this page, again at It’s all-ambidextrous (convertible left or right-handed), which should get a left thumb up from 10-15% of you. It has a slightly-AK-ish short-stroke piston system, but with an adjustable gas cylinder that lets you up the impulse if you have a temporary problem with anemic ammo or a fouled, sluggish gun. It has a quick-change barrel that should let you change caliber, but none of the promised conversions are shipping yet.  The box markings show that Beretta plans to ship this rifle in .300 Blackout as well.

Beretta 5.56mm ARX shows that the .300 Blackout version is coming... of course, so's Christmas.

Beretta 5.56mm ARX shows that the .300 Blackout version is coming… of course, so’s Christmas. From an over-list-price for-sale ad on GunBroker.

It also has some limitations. As Jerry notes, the flip-up sights don’t cowitness with an EOTech (they do, with an Aimpoint Comp M2). The magwell is a strict STANAG well, so it doesn’t always play nice with aftermarket magazines; specific mags that are known not to fit are Gen 3 PMags and Surefire large-caps. If you really love your X Products drum (and who doesn’t?) then you probably want to check it out before dropping coin.

In fact, however much you think you want this example of Italian style, or just to add the neutered civvy version of the current Italian Army service rifle to your collection, it might be strategically wise to hold off for a while. The current sales in GunBroker include a lot of sellers that look like they’re hoping to make above the manufacturer’s recommended list price, suggesting that pent-up supply is still excess of demand.

We do note something interesting about the Italian Army’s adoption of the ARX, and that’s that it’s one more announcement of a military power going to a compact carbine rather than a long (20″ or so) barreled rifle. The ARX comes standard with a folding and telescoping stock, so it fulfills the long-promised potential of a single weapon for crew members, technical troops, assault troops, and line infantry. This is something that’s on our mind with the USMC finally announcing that their riflemen’s M16s are going to be replaced with M4s. (They’re also replacing M16-based Designated Marksman’s Rifles, sort of, by assigning that task to the Auto Rifleman and his HK M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle).

Of course, while the Marines don’t leap till they’re sure, some armies have used carbines for a long time. Russia (then the USSR) went to a carbine in 1944 in the middle of the Great Patriotic War, replacing long rifles, and their postwar semi- and select-fire rifles were also in the compact carbine format with roughly 16-18″ barrels. Indeed, they’ve never gone back to a long barrel except for crew-served and support weapons.

In Italian service, the ARX replaces other 5.56 rifles (the AR 70 / AR 90) and also some submachine guns (PM 12S). It is part of a mix with 5.56 and 7.62mm machine guns and precision rifles.

Isn’t She a Beauty?

The girl, Maria Butina, isn’t too shabby either. More on her in a moment.


What? The beauty we were talking about is the Baby Browning in her hand. What did you mean?

Anybody who’s been in the gun world in the US in recent decades recognizes the spare, classic visual style of photographer Oleg Volk, and this is indeed Oleg’s work. (See it here on Oleg’s blog). It’s a poster meant to promote Pravo na Oruzhie, or The Right to Bear Arms, in Russia.

Ms Butina isn’t just a pretty face. She’s a founder of the Russian gun rights group of that same name, and for Russophones the website is For those of you who whose linguistic attainments don’t include Russian, they have thoughtfully provided a presentation translated into English (.pdf). The president of the organization is named Igor Shmelyev, according to the website.

The main caption of the poster reads:

Powerful, long-ranged rifles for hunting and sport — legal.
But even the weakest pistols for self-defense — banned.
Where’s the logic in that?

Russian gun laws seem rather backward to Americans, and also to Russians who are interested in shooting sports, self-defense, and gun-law liberalization. The laws, for example, forbid automatic weapons and handguns to Russian citizens. Using a firearm in self-defense is as fraught with danger as it is in the bleakest US states, like New Jersey or Massachusetts.

These laws haven’t prevented Russian criminals from arming themselves, of course. (They’re criminals. Breaking laws is all in a day’s work for them, right?). But the rights campaigners have an uphill fight in a country that trusts authority a lot, and the citizenry very little. Even when pollsters describe a very restricted right, say, restricted to military veterans and off-duty soldiers and cops, support for gun rights doesn’t break 40% — yet. But the trend is positive.

There’s a long way to go, but given that positive trend and the enthusiasm of the Right to Bear Arms folks, improvements in Russian firearms law, once impossible to consider, become more possible with every passing year.  Gun rights are human rights, and Russians ought to have them. So should every person on earth.

The Case of the Purloined Panther, and the Boosted Bronzes

Everybody in the small Baltic Sea village of Heikendorf near Kiel knew the old man was a collector. A retired financier, his name is not being reported, or it’s being reported with just a last initial, as German custom reports those under criminal charges, as “Hans-Dieter F.”  Everyone, it seems, but the German authorities. The locals knew about his Panther tank too — as recently as 1978, he’d used its go-anywhere capability to help neighbors out in a particularly bad winter, remembered as Schneekatastrophe 1978 by the Burgermeister. But the German authorities take a hard line on this type of collecting, and they sent the Bundeswehr to collect the Panther, and the man’s other treasures.

It's been a while since a German recovery vehicle crew recovered a Panther.

It’s been a while since a German recovery vehicle crew recovered a Panther.

They turned the turret around so that the long 75mm gun would be safely in the footprint of the low-boy.

They turned the turret around so that the long 75mm gun would be safely in the footprint of the low-boy.


The other treasures included a torpedo, a V-1 buzz bomb…


V1 pilotless aircraft

…and a complete 8.8CM Flak (Flugzeugabwerkanone, anti-aircraft cannon) gun (the legendary “88”,)

flak gun recovery

Ironically, it was a search for Nazi art that brought the authorities to the unnamed man’s Heikendorf door. Searchers seeking both looted art from Jewish owners (which brought them to the collection of the late Cornelius Gurlitt in Munich’s Schwabing district), and Nazi art thought to have been torn down at war’s end, have had success this year with works long thought lost. Before his passing in May, Gurlitt (whose father, art dealer to Adolf Hitler, is thought to have bought the works, often from from distressed sellers) reportedly instructed his representatives to assist in returning looted works to the descendants of their original owners. Many of Gurlitt’s works were thought lost; Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Monet and Renoir did not appeal to Hitler, who considered modern art “degenerate,” and some of the works in the Gurlitt collection long have been considered missing and probably destroyed by art experts. German analysts continue to catalog and review the 1,280 works seized from Gurlitt’s apartment and 60 more from his Salzburg, Austria country seat.


From Gurlitt’s paintings, the investigators followed threads to plastic art, that is, sculpture. The missing sculptures were not the ones looted by the Nazis, but the ones made by Nazis (here’s an overview of top Nazi sculptors and their works). The Bronze Horses of the Nazi sculptor Josef Thorak from the grounds of the Reichstag turned up in a shed in the Palatinate.

Two recovered bronze sculptures made for Adolf Hitler's imposing Reich Chancellery that have been missing for years are stored in a police compound in the western German town of Bad Bergzabern May 22, 2015. Police said in a statement they raided 10 addresses in five states across Germany on Wednesday and were investigating eight suspects aged between 64 and 79 for holding the art works or selling them on. Josef Thorak and Arno Breker custom-made the art works for Hitler's Chancellery, which was designed by his architect Albert Speer and from which he planned to rule a Greater German Reich. After World War Two, the works were moved to a military barracks north of Berlin before disappearing in 1989. REUTERS/Staff

Larger-than-life bronze horses by Thorak in a police warehouse, Bad Bergzabern, Germany. The sculptures had been captured by the Soviet Army and were last seen in East Germany in 1989. The main damage seems to be holes that may have been used to attach lifting eyes, suggesting that the horses were removed before the Chancellery was destroyed by bombing and artillery.

Berlin, Neue Reichskanzlei (Reich Chancellery); built 1938 by Albert Speer). - Partial view of the North-Eastern facade with horse sculpture by Josef Thorak. - Photo, 1939.

Berlin, New Reich Chancellery. Built 1938 by Albert Speer, destroyed 1945. Partial view of the North-Eastern facade with horse sculpture by Josef Thorak. -Photo, 1939.

This led to at least one of Arno Breker’s signature sculptures, “The Armed Forces” (once half of a pair of “The Armed Forces” and “The Party”, about 40 tons of bronze apiece) guarded the doors of the Reichskanzlei) turned up badly damaged, reportedly having spent 50+ years in an East German scrapyard.

(Another Breker statue, the relief “The Watchmen,” was offered to collectors by the same people trying to sell some of the other Nazi art). Detectives pursuing the Breker statues discovered the North German collector —  they have been coy about where “The Armed Forces” turned up, but it was in the Kiel area — but what he was hiding in his home turned out not to be a dramatic bronze from the Nazi era.

In the end, the Panther went quietly into captivity.

In the end, the Panther went quietly into captivity. It appears to have a mix of early and late Ausf. G features — not unusual. 

Local authorities said he lived quietly, even by the standards of the quiet town.  The State’s Attorney has seized all the hardware on suspicion of violating Germany’s ultra-strict Kriegswaffenkontrollgezetz, which translates to Law for the Control of Weapons of War. Senior State’s Attorney for Kiel, Birgit Hess, is preparing possible charges.

How do you put an evidence tag on a 50-ton tank? The German answer seems to be packing tape.

How do you put an evidence tag on a 50-ton tank? The German answer seems to be packing tape.

The accused’s lawyer says it’s all a misunderstanding: “It’s demilitarized,” in accordance with the law, attorney Peter Gramsch says. So is all the other hardware.

If the attorney is right, the authorities might indeed have to return the collection to Klaus-Dieter.  These items are worth a very large sum of money, and that goes for both the weapons and the artwork. Most of them seem to have been acquired from scrapyards in legitimate purchases, but the State’s temptation to simply keep these valuables for its own museums is going to be hard to overcome.

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.