Category Archives: Foreign and Enemy Weapons

Land of the Lost… Guns: Afghanistan

So, we saw this at Miguel’s, which led us to Fox News, which led us to the Washington Times, which still didn’t give up the primary source document. We wanted the primary source document because the numbers in the Times’s story didn’t add up.

The essential claims in these media versions of the story are:

  1. The Afghans have lost or sold off tens of thousands of the guns we gave them; and,
  2. The databases are poisoned with many duplicates; and,
  3. Most or many of the US-provided weapons were never entered in the database; therefore:
  4. Accountability for weapons in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANA/ANP) is nonexistent.

Here are the numbers as we pulled them from the report, and as the media spun ‘em:

The narrative is that the Afghan National Army has lost tens if not hundreds of thousands of small arms, and that as a result We Are Doomed. It took some doing (anyone who thinks Obamacare’s website was uniquely mishandled has spent no time among the web gardens of the .gov or .mil) but we did unearth the document.

Two Databases Stood Back-to-Back, Refusing to Say a Word…

The problem is at once more complex, more nuanced, and more interesting than that. And for gloom and doom fans, we’re probably still doomed. The bottom line is that the US’s incredibly complex and inefficient inventory systems, which famously do not talk to one another, also don’t mesh with the inventory system we provided to Afghanistan. Three completely different (and fundamentally incompatible) IT systems track US-provided small arms in OEF. Those systems include:

  • SCIP, the Security Cooperation Information Portal, used in the USA by logisticians supplying materiel to American allies worldwide.
  • OVERLORD, the Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database, developed in-country by the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A), the latest of several names for the US training HQ in-country.
  • CoreIMS, the Core Inventory Management System, a US-spec COTS inventory database that has been foisted off on our valiant Afghan allies.

Here’s a graphic from that famous primary source document that the Times and Fox wouldn’t show you, preferring to predigest your informational meal. (Here’s a link to the document: SIGAR 14-84.pdf. We’ve saved a copy in case the link goes  tango uniform). This shows what the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction thinks the process is:

dod_weapons_inventory_process

 

So what we have turns out to be, not vast numbers of guns vanishing as they take each step along the pipeline, but three different and incompatible databases having data that are at odds with one another.

Which database is right? Who knows? Could be any of them. Or none of them! In fact, all three databases could have wide discrepancies, and yet none of them have totals close to what actually exists in inventory.

But it turns out, if you actually read the SIGAR report instead of act like a Media Luminary and Skim Until Shocked, the auditors did that, and as it turns out, some of the numbers are before they deep-dove the data, and some of the numbers don’t represent what they appear to represent. Yes, Afghan inventories are a mess, but they’re not the mess the news stories describe. A spot check of weapons in storage at the ANA Kandahar depot, for example, found the weapons in the crates the database said they’d be in, and traced every weapon back in inventories that matched the weapons on site. A similar exercise at the ANP 22 Bunkers Depot appeared to have similar results, but the inspectors didn’t have time to complete the inspection.  True, other depots and units had more fragmentary records, and the ANA Central Supply Depot’s records were far off from what was inventoried on site. But by Afghan standards, it wasn’t all that bad.

Remember that the idea of weapons inventories was something that Afghans have never done, except when compelled by Soviet or NATO allies. That they don’t do it as well as the US DOD, while using a stack of incompatible and user-hostile systems imposed from outside, shouldn’t shock anybody.

If you’re an old Afghan hand, one fundamental error in this whole process will have jumped out at you from the very beginning: trying to impose a sophisticated Western computer system (actually, multiple systems; a fourth incompatible database called ULTRA, Universal Listing of Transactions for Record Accounting, is under construction for the ANP) on a nation of Iron Age illiterates. Illiteracy was 94% to 97% when we first went into Afghanistan (the Taliban had closed all schools except madrassas). Illiterates make weak computer operators, something that American loggies never considered for a minute before deciding to spin up the Afghans in Microsoft World. Results predictable:

According to CSTC-A officials, efforts to develop the capabilities of ANSF personnel to manage the central depots have been hindered by the lack of basic education or skills among ANSF personnel and frequent turnover of Afghan staff.

Gee, there’s a shocker. We impose US-style personnel turbulence and military bureaucracy on an ally where most of the population is illiterate and borderline innumerate, and as Wilkins Micawber might say, “results, misery.”

The Duplicate Serials Problem: Not Such a Big Deal

Then, there’s the duplicate serial numbers problem , which comes to rise for two reasons:

  1. The procurers, developers and operators of the system did not understand that different weapon makes and models may indeed use the same serial numbers, and different manufacturers may use the same serial numbers for their versions of the same firearm, and so they erred in trying to use serial number by itself as a unique key;
  2. Lack of communication between databases

Even the authors of the report don’t seem to find that their discovery of some duplicate numbers is meaningless. Here’s their table from the report:

sigar_serial_number_dupes

¡Ay, Chihuahua! (Old Afghan phrase). Yes, it’s not just an Afghan thing to have two weapons with the same serial number. Heck, the USA did it:

M1 Rifle Serial 1,608,803: these two receivers were sold by CMP at auction recently.

M1 Rifle Serial 1,628,802: these twin receivers were sold by CMP at auction recently.

Someone who knows weapons can clear these three discrepancies in about two tenths of a second. Like this:

  • DX2383 needs to be reconciled by eyes-on physical inventory, because it’s possible that this represents two different guns, but because an AMD-65 is a variant of AK-47, it’s equally possible that this is one gun described two ways. Several manufacturers made AK variants using serial numbers of this pattern, so only physical inventory can establish whether we’re talking about one gun or two here.
  • 178203 is obviously two different weapons, and a properly constructed database would not confuse an M203 with an M249 of the same serial number.
  • A598 is the very same problem, Russian-designed-weapons style.

As anyone who’s ever accounted for any significant quantity of firearms can tell you, serial numbers are only likely to be unique on a single type (i.e. make/model/caliber) of weapon made for a single customer by a single manufacturer. Now, we’re not sure what other US arms have duped serial numbers like the M1 example above. (We know M16A1 rifles and XM177 “submachine guns” had absolutely unique numbers because manufacturers had independent sN blocks).

But this duplication is spun by SIGAR, in their ignorance of firearms, as a major problem, and it is spun in turn by the media as a Chicken Little sky-is-falling moment. It’s only a problem because the database designers and auditors are ignorant of the limits of serial numbering.

We certainly admit that the SIGAR report does identify some real challenges facing Afghan services on weapons-inventory issues, and it points up the poor visibility into those issues that US service elements, including CSTC-A, have into Afghan inventories. As far as the weaknesses of Afghan inventory controls are concerned, this is news to us in which way? We were pleasantly surprised to see that some Afghan National Police elements are tracking their assigned weapons using Microsoft Excel. This means they have some literate cops, who can even use computers — that’s miles ahead of 2002, let us tell you. But the SIGAR is shocked by this, and by the fact they’re not using some high-dollar, centralized, fiddly data management system instead of Excel.

Crawl, walk, run, people. Trying to drop Afghans into RDBMS management when they not only haven’t got the hang of Excel, but are largely utterly unlettered, is asking for trouble.

One is reminded of Lawrence’s maxim not to do things for the locals, but to let them do it themselves, however imperfectly.

O.S.S. Film: Seven Weapons of the Germans

This film is dedicated to the idea that the viewer may want to operate the principal infantry weapons of the German Wehrmacht. It describes them and walks through their operation, assuming a basic familiarity with their American counterparts and keying on the differences.

In retrospect, it’s clear the USA had the advantage in three weapons in particular, the basic infantry rifle (the M1 providing superior firepower to the Karabiner 98), the pistol (1911 vs. Pistole 08) and the hand grenade (the Mk.2 delivering far more killing and wounding potential than the Stielhandgranate 24). Submachine guns were a wash, although the German provision of higher quantities as the war went on was notable; and German and US mortars were broadly equivalent, except for the 4.2″ rifled mortar which has a complicated set of pros and cons versus its German 120mm smoothbore analogue. The Germans had the edge in machine guns by any reasonable measure.

While this film is dedicated to the idea that combat soldiers should be able to pick up and employ any foreign weapon in extremis, field results were uneven. In June 1944, many Allied paratroopers picked up German weapons to supplement their own firepower or replace lost or damaged weapons. This didn’t always work well.

In combat, all senses are at work, including hearing, and the very distinct sound of a German machine gun meant that the American that grabbed one found himself drawing American fire every time he lit up. There are quite a few such stories.

In Vietnam and some of the African guerrilla wars, a clue to the origin of fire was that American and most Western tracers of the 1960s were red, and Russian and Chinese ones were green. The average war-movie watcher would never see that (because real tracers can’t be used in movie making!) but the average combat soldier will never forget it.

O.S.S. Training Film: the German Infantry Squad

By and large, all infantrymen of all nations from the era of cartridge firearms “went to the same schools.” But there are subtle national and organizational differences. This OSS-developed training film from World War II shows some of the peculiarities of German infantry tactics, as observed by American and Allied intelligence.

The OSS had a Field Photographic Branch that made a large quantity of such films, although few were in color; it was staffed, in part, with Hollywood talent on both sides of the camera. This particular film unfortunately appears truncated at both ends and we’re seeking a full version.

They mention the distinctive woodpecker sound of the MG34 (which has a rate of fire much faster than Allied weapons like the M1919, or the submachine gun carried by the German sergeant. However, they don’t call it out when it occurs. You can hear it in the soundtrack, which appears to be largely dubbed; it is the fast one, quite unmistakeable. An MG42 is about 1/4 still faster than that!

As noted by the narrator (whose voice sounds very familiar; is he one of the legions of actors who found wartime employment with Bill Donovan?), the German Wehrmacht devolved rather more command authority on sergeants than Allied armies, with the one most likely to do so being the American, and the least likely, the French and Russian, who then had little respect for NCOs. (The Russians would, in the end, achieve similar excellence by a proliferation of junior officers doing jobs the NCOs would do in the West).

German practice also was unusually fluid with respect to officer selection and promotion. An effective sergeant in 1940 might well have been an effective colonel in 1944. This happened across the German services, except for the surface ships of the Kriegsmarine, who hewed to older naval traditions. The only Allied forces that offered similar advancement to other ranks were the Allied air forces, although the US did not employ sergeant pilots at all once the war got cooking, and in the British service advancement to officer rank also depended on things beyond pure performance and leadership potential (such as perceived class).

The high flexibility of German tactics and excellent tactical leadership pushed down all the way to squad level is one reason that the Wehrmacht, man for man, outfought the much larger Allied armies until overwhelmed. Many German ideas (including the highly mobile general purpose machine gun, which enabled these flexible tactics) were adopted worldwide in, and after, the war. But the German Wehrmacht is still a wellspring of ideas for the military leader, even today.

It is tragic that such a fine force fought with such valiant tenacity in such a bad cause. But that, too, is part of the nature of war. We can admire the valor of King Leonidas and his warrior elite, without wanting to have been part of a nation that assessed every newborn for warrior potential and fed the rejects to the wolves; we can thrill to the story of Hannibal’s doomed audacity, while relieved that no one expects us to make human sacrifices to Baal; we can ride, through the magic of the written word, with Stuart or Mosby while having no truck with slavery.

In some way, the warrior and war experience is universal, and we can consider it apart from history’s judgment on the warriors’ society, a cruel, cold, dispassionate judgment that no society long can escape.

Gabriel and Savage’s Crisis in Command is a widely read professional book of the 70s and 80s that contrasted the leadership style (and results) of the Wehrmacht, with that of the United States Army in Vietnam, much to the detriment of the Americans.

Apart from the MG34, a couple of other weapons are called out in the video. The sergeant’s MP40, or, as the moviemakers call it, incorrectly, “Schmeisser,” was dismissed as a mere noisemaker, deadly only at close range.

And the Stiehlhandgranate 24 comes in for discussion. As they note, it was an offensive, concussion grenade, which served to injure personnel and destroy equipment by blast, not fragmentation (later in the war a frag sleeve was made that could be slipped over the sheet metal casing of the explosive end of the grenade).  It was an improvement of WWI grenades containing ammonium nitrate and tolite fillings inside a similar sheet metal, non-fragmentation can, and contained about a quarter-kilogram of TNT, about half the total weight of the grenade.

And the narration says, “Often six or seven of these potato mashers are tied together for a demolition charge.” The narrator is quite right; the Germans called this a Geballte Ladung, or “concentrated charge.” It was taught to engineers as well as infantry as an improvised anti-tank and anti-bunker tool.

The term geballte Ladung is also used colloquially where an English speaker would say, “a whole mess,” or perhaps, vulgarly, “a shitload,” of something.

Haunting video of Japanese World War II Tanks

Some of them have been reclaimed by the jungle. Some, shattered by American fire. Some, parked in rows and left at war’s end. Some lie where salt water is reducing them to iron oxide day by day. Most of them have been looted, and some defaced by graffitti.

You may find the new-agey music with its Bolivian wind instruments and whatnot fitting, or you may like it. Personally, we’d have gone with something with traditional Japanese instruments, but then, we’re not making the video,it churlish to squawk about the decisions of the guy who actually made it.

The split, shattered armor of some of the tanks is mute testimony to the fate of the crews. Most Japanese families have a story of men who went to war, and whose fate is unknown, except that they did not return. Apart from a few prominent war criminals who faced the gallows at war’s end, the price of expansionist Japanese militarism was paid mostly by conscripted private soldiers on all sides.

Japanese tank technology was about where European tank tech was in the years running up to the war. The Japanese were engaged for a decade in China before taking the USA on, and their tanks, based on 1920s Vickers designs (which were world-leading at the time) and similar to English, Italian or Russian machines of the era, didn’t need much improvement to be effective against Chinese infantry and cavalry forces.

Most of them were only equivalent to the early-war US M3 Stuart light tank, if not outclassed by it. The best common Japanese tank, the Type 97 Chi-Ha, was outgunned and outarmored by the American M4 Sherman, a tank that was marginal in the ETO. It also didn’t help the warriors of Nippon that they had few anti-tank guns, and those were of inferior calibers. Lacking the evolutionary pressure of the tank battles of the ETO, Japanese tank development stagnated. Had the Home Islands been invaded, they’d have been helpless against Pershings.

They’d have rolled out anyway, fill of fight and Yamato damashii. It’s just as well that war was never fought. How many of those doomed tankers went on to have creative jobs and happy families in the postwar State of Japan?

The Japanese forces, scatttered across specks of islands in the vast Pacific, fought with immense bravery, but struggled always with logistics. The reason many of these tanks were captured intact is not that the Japanese ran out of fight, but because they ran out of fuel and/or ammunition.

 

Stephen Hunter: Sniper’s Honor

snipers honorThe latest Bob Lee Swagger novel by Stephen Hunter is out, and Sniper’s Honor is his best in years — maybe the best ever. It introduces new and fascinating characters, new places and times, and, for the fans of firearms out there, new weapons (new to the series, at least; some of them are historic, even legendary) and tough situations for them to be employed in.

Yeah. We liked it.

In fact, we bought it at about 1500 Monday and finished it Tuesday. So we read it like it was a competition, and first-drafted this review while basking in the satisfaction of an enjoyable story, enjoyably ended.

The story skips around from Ukraine in 1944, where two brutal armies clashed, to today, where disparate people in disparate places — Idaho, London, Lviv, Moscow, Israel – struggle to resolve the fate of characters who went, seemingly overnight, from celebrities to nonentities. Certainly the Nazis made people disappear. So did the Soviets. But what ever could make the Nazis and Soviets both broom significant personalities out of their intelligence archives? To reveal that question to you is to reveal a little bit of a spoiler, because Hunter takes his time getting his characters to the point where they’re even starting to ask the right questions — but the answers they get never fail to shock and surprise. The plot’s twists and turns are, at once, easy to follow but confounding to one’s sense of resolution, until things are finally tied up at the end.

Some of the characters include: a pair of Washington Post reporters; a Ukrainian partisan general (loosely modeled on the real, and controversial, Stepan Bandera); a Nazi economist who we would swear is modeled on Robert S. Macnamara with an anti-Semitic twist; an officer serving a dishonorable state as honorably as possible; an imaginative Israeli intelligence analyst; an American hired gun; an Arab serving with the little-known Moslem legion of the SS; a playboy turned paratroop officer; a school teacher who is more that what he seems.  Now, some of these characters are central to the plot, and some are tangential, but all are interesting.

The primary characters, of course, are the snipers: Bob Lee Swagger, Vietnam legend now settling into retirement, or trying to, and Ludmilla Petrova, a fatalistic Russian sniper who knew it was not her fate to survive the war, but whose actual disposition came to be erased inexplicably from history.

One failing that has vexed us in previous Hunter books stems, we think, from his weapons experience, which is as a competitive shooter, not in the military. He usually concentrates mightily upon the sniper as single combatant, the knight of the one-on-one trial of arms. There is much less of that in this book, which seems to recognize for the first time that snipers, too, are part of military units and ply their trade with others. Even though the title, “Sniper’s Honor,” refers to just such a sense of chivalry, this book makes great strides describing military units’ operations. There is much less Lone Hero-ism in Sniper’s Honor than in any previous Hunter book.

It’s available from the usual suspects like Amazon, although the paperback isn’t coming until after Christmas. The currently available editions are the hardcover and a very overpriced Kindle version. We beat the Amazon price by about $4 by buying the book at a BJ’s Wholesale Club outlet.

The book is guaranteed to be entertaining, but if you’re a gun geek, there are a few odds and ends that aren’t quite right. At one point, Swagger carefully loads 30 rounds in a series of magazines that are famous for holding 32 rounds, for example. But that’s the kind of nitnoy complaint you will find with this book, if you must have something to complain about.

We did have one larger objection, and that was to the weapon used for the critical 1,000-yard shot. While the weapon has a degree of legend built up around it, we doubt anybody ever got 1,000 yard cold bore hits with issue ammunition and that weapon. Some folks may have done it recently with handloads, but it didn’t happen with WWII GI ammo. Did. Not. Happen. But it’s a critical plot point in the book.  Conversely, the accuracy potential of the M1891/30 with PU scope is higher than Hunter gives it credit for.

Ugly fact: even though they’ve become a staple of Hollywood,  1,000-yard shots were not the currency of a World War II sniper of any nation.

But that we’re even thinking those things after reading a 400+-page bestselling novel tells us this: that Stephen Hunter has sent this book right down our alley.

Jerry Miculek meets the Original AR-10

The ace competitive shooter briefly got hold of an original AR-10, thanks to Reed Knight of Knight’s Armament Company.

And he shoots it, a little, in this video. He records 633 RPM in a burst, which is about right. The AR-10 is much more controllable in auto fire than other 7.62 NATO firearms, but that’s only relative to such horrid muzzle-climbers as the M14, the FAL, and the G3. (What’s the worst of the bunch? The para G3A3, by miles).

The gun is a “transitional” model with mostly Portuguese features, but the charging handle resembles that used in the Sudanese gun (and is a lot like the ones on Nodak Spud’s AR-15 “prototype” upper receivers) rather than the more complicated Porto one, and the upper lacks a serial number, which all Portuguese guns had.

We’ve known about the original AR-10 for a long time, and like Jerry and Reed, we really like it for its light weight and high quality. We have a semiauto gun built with a billet alloy receiver and an original parts kit, and enjoy it a lot.

Those guns are robust military rifles, and the surviors, mostly Portuguese guns, were subjected to all kinds of abuse in the field. The sophistication of the design is indicated by the fact that the only parts that didn’t hold up were the fiberglass furniture and the barrels — a lot of ex-Porto barrels are pitted, or shot out, but others are in fine condition. The difference was probably the maintenance they got — by and large, Portugal gave these rifles to elite paratroops, which is usually a maintenance plus, but they were used far from home in African guerrilla wars, usually a maintenance minus. It’s a risky gun to buy sight unseen.

Knight is quite correct about the limited production. Artillerie Inrichtingen never earned out the money it invested in AR production, with the only two sales being the small ones to Portugal and Sudan. Its sales arm seemed to be snakebit by bad luck — for example, they negotiated a deal with the armed forces of Cuba, just before Cuban strongman Fulgencio Batista was overthrown by Communists. The Cubans not only never paid for the few ARs delivered, they distributed them widely to guerrillas and terrorists. (Indeed, a number were recovered by Cuban-sponsored rebels in the Dominican Republic in 1965. Apart from one or two retained for Army museums, they were destroyed).

By the best estimate, a couple of thousand of original AR-10s survive in whole or in part, mostly in nations that allow or did allow conversion of full- to semi-auto weapons. A number were destroyed in Australia when that country passed several gun bans about 10 years ago. The numbers of AR-10s in the USA may be as low as a hundred registered automatic weapons, and a few hundred semis like ours. So Jerry’s right to be excited about the privilege of firing an original. It’s not like today’s nine and ten pound .308s.

Once, there were millions of original AR-10 magazines available (AI overproduced them), but Knight used them in his initial SR-25s, causing the supply to evaporate. An original magazine now is probably worth more than some guns.

The airplane that Reed Knight talks about after the range session was the Swiss-made Pilatus Porter, which Fairchild manufactured as the Fairchild Porter and, in prototype and short-run mode, as the AU-23 STOL gunship. Oddly enough, the AU-23 production tooling and rights are for sale right now. Drop us a line in comments if you’re interested and we’ll put you in touch with the sellers.

A New Capital Ship for the Royal Navy: HMS Queen Elizabeth

The story reads like a press release from the Admiralty and the Air Staff, maybe because it is. The signatories are the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, and the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford. But the op-ed in Britain’s daily Telegraph also gives some feeds and speeds of the freshly-christened HMS Queen Elizabeth, the largest and most capable aircraft carrier to ever fly the White Ensign of the Royal Navy.

class-at-sea_preview

At 65,000 tonnes, HMS Queen Elizabeth will pack a heavyweight military punch.
In the years ahead, she will be equipped with the Lightning II. Placing the UK at the forefront of fighter jet technology, Lightning II will provide a true multi-role aircraft that will surpass the majority of weapons systems in production today, or envisaged in the foreseeable future.
A fifth generation, survivable, low observable, multi-role aircraft, Lightning II will be able to undertake a wide range of mission types from both Land and Sea. In addition to the Carrier Strike role, the new aircraft carrier also has a deck big enough to airlift one thousand Royal Marine commandos or soldiers ashore by helicopter.

The naming of the ship is one thing; her building is still far from complete, and then she must be armed, manned, and equipped. She is two to four years from being an effective unit in the Royal Navy, depending on how things go with the inevitable budget cuts.

The Lightning II is the jet we know in the States as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The RAF/RN version will be V/STOL capable, using technology roughly similar to that in the now-retired Harrier and Sea Harrier aircraft that were the technological marvels of the Falklands War over 30 years ago. (The USMC still operates Harriers, as do some other navies, but the British ). A mock-up of the aircraft was present at the christening.

HMS QE Christening

As well as military flexibility, HMS Queen Elizabeth and her embarked forces provide political and diplomatic choice, from a piece of independent, sovereign territory.

In disaster relief operations, she can be placed close in, to offer help in rebuilding shattered lives.

In times of crisis and tension, she can offer a visible coercive presence or position out of sight, a flexible means of escalating and de-escalating as the national or international will dictates.

And, able to roam across the international waters, she will offer a mobile sovereign air base.
HMS Queen Elizabeth will be the centre-piece of Defence’s Joint approach to warfare.

The air group which will operate from her 4-acre deck will be manned by both Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots. But her air missions will not be confined to fast jet carrier strike.

The embarkation of Army Apache attack helicopters in HMS Ocean for operations in Libya in 2011 already provides a blueprint for other types of inter-Service cooperation in the years ahead.

HMS Queen Elizabeth will not only host UK assets; we will work with our key allies to maximize our future capability.

The US long ago worked out joint maritime helo ops, initially in special operations, but increasingly across all services’ aviation arms. The British used V/STOL fighter-bombers and seagoing helicopters imaginatively and effectively in the Falklands, and they could get up to some quite interesting things with a powerful ship like this.

HMS-Queen-Elizabeth-deck-plan

Indeed, HMS Queen Elizabeth will not only be the centre-piece of the nation’s maritime armada (named ‘the Response Force Task Group’), but the beating heart of the United Kingdom’s Joint Expeditionary Force.

And with her lifespan of 50 years she will enjoy a lengthy reign at the head of the nation’s future joint expeditionary capability.

During this long, value for money, working life she will be a platform for innovative technologies, both manned and unmanned. And, from a nation known for its inventiveness, this will include technology not yet imagined – after all, her last Commanding Officer has yet to be born!

HMS Queen Elizabeth is also serving as a turbocharger for deeper international partnership and coalition building.

Already Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel are being trained in ‘carrier skills’ in the United States. Our personnel are also serving within the French Carrier Strike Group.

These international exchanges — select American and French officers also serve exchange tours with allied air arms — serve the dual purpose of lubricating alliances with bonds of friendship forged on operations, and disseminating operational developments alliance-wide.

Of course, no British ship goes to sea without British traditions. In the case of HMS QE, this plaque shows that joint operations are built into her in the very shipyard:

HMS QE plaque

As part of the arrangements with the US, the first UK Lightning squadron will form up in the United States in 2016, prior to returning to the UK in 2018.

Not only is this generosity of partnership enabling the UK to regenerate its carrier strike capability, it is also laying strong foundations with our key strategic partners as we look to share responsibilities in the years which lie ahead.

via HMS Queen Elizabeth: The jewel in the crown of UK Defence – Telegraph.

The ship is the latest in a line of illustrious British capital ships to bear this name. The second carrier in the class, well under construction, also will bear a historic name: HMS Prince of Wales. The most famous prior Prince of Wales, of course, was the ill-fated King George V class battleship which survived a gunfight with DKM Bismarck (unlike her squadronmate, the weakly-armored battlecruiser Hood) only to be sunk in October December 1941 (Ugh. Embarrasing — Ed.) by Japanese land-based torpedo bombers.

The Telegraph also has a more technical description of the ship, likely to be of interest to us, linked in that article. Another excellent source of information on the ship is the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, an industry group of her builders.

While the ship is the first carrier of this size ever built by Britain (she is first of a class of two, and is approximately two to three years from commissioning and service), the USA has been building carriers this size or larger since the late 1940s, and the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov and former Russian carrier Liaoning (China, former Russian Varyag and Soviet Riga) are in this class.

 

Of course, not all the media is, shall we say, on board with HMS QE. The BBC irritated retired sailors and officers by referring to the HMS Queen Elizabeth as a “boat.” Well, that’s what you get with layers and layers of editors, one supposes.

Privates Popping Paper Pandas?

panda target

Note: not the Nork target, we found this on pinterest… it’s from an old archery set!

The event in the title could only happen in North Korea, where weirdness goes to metastasize. But according to Chosun Ilbo, a daily in South (i.e., non-weird, or maybe we should say, less-weird) Korea, the Norks are actually taking shots at panda targets, much the same way that DHS-HSI Special Agents practice on targets of pregnant women and kids, or kids shoot at zombie targets.

The North Korean Army reportedly used images of pandas as shooting targets when leader Kim Jong-un visited a military detachment in Hwa Island, South Hamgyong Province.

A source said on Thursday said Kim Jong-un arrived on the island by boat from Wonsan on Monday.

Kim watched a live-fire artillery drill there, the source added. “I heard from a senior officer from the detachment that they used images of pandas as shooting targets.”

Pandas are the national symbol of China and a sign of a friendly diplomatic relationship.

via The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News from Korea – N.Korean Army Uses Pandas as Shooting Targets.

This seems to be saber-rattling in the direction of China, which is not only stupid, but has to mark the Kim dynasty as the greatest set of ingrates to ever sit upon a throne. They only have a country because of the sacrifices of millions of Chinese people, many of whom died far from home so that North Korea could not be free.

And this is how Kim repays them. The Kims are not only ingrates, it seems like their IQ undergoes some kind of reproductive mitosis, dividing in half every successive generation.

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 GunBroker.com.

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?

Sources: 

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: http://forums.accuratereloading.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/7811043/m/589109167/

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

 

A Little Gun with Big Consequences

His last words were, “It is nothing.” But he was terribly wrong.

Even as badly maintained and pitted as it is, this FN M1910 Browning in .380 ACP has the classic lines John M. Browning designed into it over a century ago. It’s still a not-bad choice for a backup or concealed carry pistol, although most of them are in the hands of collectors. Not many collectors would want one in as terrible and pitted condition as this one, but then, this is not just “one.” It’s “the” pistol that fired the shots that ended the Age of Kings, mortally wounding Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Dual Monarchy and his wife Sophie.  That assassination, by a Bosnian Serb pan-Slavic nationalist named Gavrilo Princip, led Austria to threaten Serbia (which had sponsored the assassination, providing this gun and other arms) with invasion. The Austrian threat produced a Russian counterthreat, a German counter-counterthreat, and Franco-British agreement to stand by their treaty obligations to Russia — if it came to that.

Gavrilo Princips Browning 1910

In the end, as we all know, it did come to that, to the detriment of nations and of generations.

Franz Ferdinand was an important figure. For one thing, the Emperor and King, Franz Josef, was old and unwell, and FF was his designated heir (he himself came to the position through tragedy, when the then-heir, his cousin Rudolf, committed suicide in 1889). From then, Franz Ferdinand was ready to take the reins. No one in the Habsburg court had thought out the fate of the monarchy beyond that, except that Franz Ferdinand’s and Sophie’s children were not eligible — their marriage was a love match between unequals, and so morganatic, a dynastic term meaning the kids’ blood was permanently attainted with the non-royalness of Sophie. It was only after the murder of FF and Sophie that Franz Josef began preparing Franz Ferdinand’s nephew Charles, who had been enjoying himself as an Army officer, for national leadership. They didn’t have long, as Franz Josef passed away in 1916, catapulting Charles onto the dual throne. All these consequences from a few pistol shots!

The murder is described in a book called Sarajevo, quoted at length in Wikipedia:

One bullet pierced Franz Ferdinand’s neck while the other pierced Sophie’s abdomen. … As the car was reversing (to go back to the Governor’s residence because the entourage thought the Imperial couple were unhurt) a thin streak of blood shot from the Archduke’s mouth onto Count Harrach’s right cheek (he was standing on the car’s running board). Harrach drew out a handkerchief to still the gushing blood. The Duchess, seeing this, called: “For Heaven’s sake! What happened to you?” and sank from her seat, her face falling between her husband’s knees.

Harrach and Potoriek … thought she had fainted … only her husband seemed to have an instinct for what was happening. Turning to his wife despite the bullet in his neck, Franz Ferdinand pleaded: “Sopherl! Sopherl! Sterbe nicht! Bleibe am Leben für unsere Kinder! – Sophie dear! Don’t die! Stay alive for our children!” Having said this, he seemed to sag down himself. His plumed hat … fell off; many of its green feathers were found all over the car floor. Count Harrach seized the Archduke by the uniform collar to hold him up. He asked “Leiden Eure Kaiserliche Hoheit sehr? – Is Your Imperial Highness suffering very badly?” “Es ist nichts. – It is nothing.” said the Archduke in a weak but audible voice. He seemed to be losing consciousness during his last few minutes, but, his voice growing steadily weaker, he repeated the phrase perhaps six or seven times more.

A rattle began to issue from his throat, which subsided as the car drew in front of the Konak bersibin (Town Hall). Despite several doctors’ efforts, the Archduke died shortly after being carried into the building while his beloved wife was almost certainly dead from internal bleeding before the motorcade reached the Konak.

It took about a month of cabled threats and ultimata, and then it was game on. Game would stay on for the next four-plus years, ending with Northern France and Belgium in ruins, Russia in an unholy revolution that brought forth a new Dark Age across Eurasia, Britain and Germany spent, with the cream of their youth interred in distant fields — if their remains were found at all. The last unconstrained kings in Europe were gone, Nicholas II and his whole family shot down like dogs, and Wilhelm II and his whole family in comfortable, if bitter, exile. Accidental king Charles I of Austria-Hungary died shortly after his family’s exile to Portugal.

But hey, the Serbs got their Serbian-dominated pan-Slavic Balkan nation.

Princip didn’t live to see it. He died soon after being sentenced to 20 years (the enlightened Habsburg were soft on crime, especially when committed by yout’s — Princip was 20), of complications from TB.

In the end, of course, Yugoslavia was short-lived, as nations go. It would be torn apart by civil war started by another malignant Serb, but that’s another story. (And against those two monsters, the Serbs did give us Nikola Tesla, so their accounts balance, unless you ask Edison).

The murder weapon fell, with a collection of Franz Ferdinand and Sophia artifacts and ephemera, into the hands of a priest, who dreamed of helping Austria-Hungary establish a museum in the memory of the murdered royal. But he hadn’t reckoned on Austria-Hungary and the dual monarchy themselves falling to the continental cataclysm that would extinguish as many hopes as it did lives over the next years. On his death, it passed to his order, and a group of Catholic monks had no real use for it, and no idea of how to get rid of it, so they hung on to it until quite recently. They didn’t take care of it, and it rusted deeply and badly. In time, the religious order passed the old father’s Franz Ferdinand collection to a museum in Vienna, perhaps fulfilling some portion of the late priest’s earthly desire.

There is something that draws one’s eyes to this Browning. It’s just a gun, just a tool. But the unintended consequences of the few shots this old gun fired should remind all of us never to shoot without due consideration.

One wonders what Gavrilo Princip would say about that.

Hat tip, John Richardson, who said:

If you don’t think the .380 Auto aka 9mm Browning isn’t a powerful round, show me another pistol cartridge that was used to start a world war. For it was with a FN Model 1910 chambered in .380 Auto (or 9mm Browning to be more precise) that Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg 100 years ago today in Sarajevo.

via No Lawyers – Only Guns and Money.