Monthly Archives: April 2012

Some days you eat the bear…

Some days the bear eats you.

And then, some day the government cracks down on you for whacking the bear. Ask Ted Nugent, who wound up pleading guilty to a game-law misdemeanor in Alaska last Tuesday. The avid hunter said his violation was inadvertent:

“I would never knowingly break any game laws,” Nugent told the court. “I’m afraid I was blindsided by this, and I sincerely apologize to everyone for this.”

According to the [plea] document, Nugent illegally shot and killed the bear in May 2009 on Sukkwan Island in southeast Alaska after wounding another bear in a bow hunt. The bow incident counted toward a seasonal limit of one bear in that location. Nugent and his lawyer, Wayne Anthony Ross, said neither of them knew about that law.

Nugent thought he had complied with the one-bear limit, but on an earlier hunt he had wounded, but not killed, a bear while bowhunting. Unknown to him, that wounded but presumably escaped bear counted against his one-bear limit, so his later rifle kill of a bear was illegal.

The law wasn’t only news to the rocker and author of his own game cookbook, Kill it and Grill it. It was news to the judge, too.

The judge said he wasn’t aware of the “sort of one-strike policy” either.

“It probably is not widely known, and if there is a side benefit to the agreement reached here today — since apparently newspapers are interested in Mr. Nugent and his doings — this probably will serve to alert a great many hunters to that very issue and may, in fact, prevent violations in the future and court activity for a whole slew of folks.”

via Rocker and gun rights advocate Ted Nugent pleads guilty in illegal Alaska bear kill – The Washington Post.

The sentence meted out was appropriate, if that is sincerely the judge’s goal: two years’ probation, one year of no hunting in Alaska or on Forest Service land, and he must make a public service announcement on his TV show. The content of the announcement was not specified, but it must be approved by the prosecutor who brought the charges against Nugent.

No word on whether Nugent and his family ate the bear in question, or whether it’s been in an evidence locker in Ketchikan since the 2009 violation.

Weapons Website of the Week: Corbin bullet swaging

Reloading ammunition gives you powers you wouldn’t otherwise have. You can produce ammo for that exotic weapon you currently can’t shoot, whether it’s a .30 French M1935A pistol, or a 14.5mm Simonov PTRS anti-tank rifle. You can also reduce your cost per round fired, which is a big deal if you’re burning a lot of ammunition (Class III-niks, we’re lookin’ at you). Finally, you can make higher-quality ammunition than you can buy. The nation’s top competitors (and some military and LE snipers) use hand-loaded ammunition, which allows shooter, rifle, and cartridge to be tuned to a singe ultra-precision mechanism.

Most people are at least generally aware of reloading, if only because they see RCBS or Hornady reloading tools in shops and in advertising.But reloaders don’t have to accept the same mass-produced components found in mass-produced ammunition — at least, not all of them.

A round of fixed rifle or pistol ammunition comprises four general components: the cartridge case, which is reusable, and three expendable components: primers, powder, and projectile (“bullet”). Most reloaders save their casings (or collect their buddies’ casings) and purchase the other three components, but there’s one you can build at home. Modern smokeless powders are beyond safe home construction, and drawing brass into cases is a tough, complex and capital-intensive industrial process. But you can make your own bullets.

“Aha,” you think. “Cast lead bullets. Like the Minuteman with his powder horn and round-ball mold. OK for practice wadcutters, maybe, but not to feed my AR/AK/G3/FAL.” Because you can’t make high-quality copper-jacketed bullets at home.

Or can you? Which brings us to the Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Corbin. They will not only sell you the equipment, and teach you the skills, to make your own swaged (rhymes with “aged”) bullets, they’ll even help you set up as a manufacturer of custom bullets — an industry that is heavily populated with Corbin’s customers.

The website is high in educational value, but rather low in organization, and it suffers from a woeful 1990s HTML design with every eye-gouging interface deficiency of the era, except — thank a merciful God — the BLINK tag. The Site Map only adds confusion, but you can figure things out beginning with the How-To pages or this FAQ.  This page on making specific types of bullets is also very interesting. Wanna make bullets for your .50?  Ever wonder how those bullets that have a section of jacket dividing between front and rear lead cores? The answers are here, although you may suffer many diversions trying to find them.

You may, after reading the information there, decide bullet swaging is not for you. But you’ll know an awful lot more about how bullets are made.

Of course Corbins isn’t the only company that will get you into making your own bullets. RCE, run by one of the original principals of Corbin Manufacturing Co., Inc., offers hand presses and a hydraulic press that competes with the top of Corbin’s line, and has an excellent downloadable book (albeit an incomplete work-in-progress at this time) about bullet swaging. So, there you have it: two excellent bullet-swaging websites for the price of one.

The so-called “605″ upper receiver

Colt M16 showing an XM16E1 forging with the forward-assist boss milled off. These upper receivers were made in early 1965. Image: from AR-15.com.

One of the more unusual “retro” M16 pieces is this upper receiver, which is an XM16E1/M16A1 forging processed into a a conventional M16 (no forward assist) part by milling off the forward receiver boss. There have been two stories going around about this unusual part: one, that it was a Colt prototype piece, and the other, that it was made for the Air Force. The second is the correct one, as we’ll explain below; and we’ll also provide primary documentation of how it came to be.

Thanks to that same documentation, we can set the upper bound of possible production at approximately 62,000 pieces. It stands to reason, then, that the appearance of this receiver on Colt prototypes like the celebrated Model 605 carbine is simply a case of Colt using, as was logical, leftover parts for toolroom prototypes.

The now-extinct (well, discontinued) NoDak Spud clone receiver. Image: NDS via Arfcom

For a while, NoDak Spud LLC made a replica of this upper receiver, but they have sold out and discontinued it. They called it the NDS-605 and sold it primarily to would-be builders of clones of that specific 6o5 prototype.

The Black Rifle, the best-regarded secondary source for M16 history,  had the basic facts of the matter correct, along with a photograph of one of the Air Force M16s (Colt model 604) so equipped. But, as is typical for that book, no direct sourcing for its statements are included.

This discussion thread on AR-15.com, like many threads there, advanced a lot of ideas without a lot of supporting evidence. Informed supposition or speculation is not necessarily anathema, when it’s all you have. The thread does include photos of an original upper of this nature.  But in the end, the last poster concludes that, sure, Colt did it, but “Don’t ask me why.”

Well, we at Weaponsman have a clue about that, and we have the primary source to explain it for you and take it out of the realm of informed supposition or speculation. Here’s the change history for Colt’s first M16/XM16E1 contract, Appendix 11, page 11-9 (for any of these, click to expand):

Once approval was won for the process, it was not long before Colt was actually asking for permission to execute it (same page, 11-9):

 

That request was approved 17 February 1965. And in April, 1965, they did it again (page 11-11; click for full size):

 

The narrative major-change history that is part of the same document igoes into a little more detail about why (Page 11-28):

In January, February, and March 1965, Colt’s subcontractor for the M16 upper receiver forgings was behind his delivery schedule. In order to meet the deliveries scheduled for the U.S. Air Force, Colt’s requested and received permission to utilize XM16E1 upper receiver forgings (with the bolt assist device) in fabricating MI6 upper receivers by milling off the forward assist boss.

An original Colt “605″ upper, then, dates without question to Q1 Calendar 1965; the 62,278 number probably represents an upper bound on the number produced, and they were used in production in at least February, April and probably Match of that year. They were originally used in Colt Model 604 / USAF M16 Rifles. Some have suggested that Colt previously requested that the Air Force accept XM16E1 uppers with the forward assist, and the Air Force rejected them, but we haven’t seen documentary proof of that, like this document here proves the use of the receivers and the contemporary reasoning behind so doing.

Originally, the USG meant to order small quantities of AR-15s that would be used by special operations forces, and certainly wouldn’t supplant the Army’s in-house development, the M14, which was a slightly longer, heavier, M1 with a detachable box magazine. This plan was overcome by events. The powerful Air Force Chief of Staff, Curtis LeMay of bombing-of-Japan and Strategic Air Command fame, insisted on the M16. It also kept beating the M14 in tests, no matter how heavily Army Ordnance rigged the test in favor of their own gun. Soldiers who tried it mostly did not want to go back to the heavy, awkward, slow-firing  M14.

The document is a treasure trove of M16 historical information, as is the whole 12-volume report of which it’s part. Its cut-off date for information appears to be around 1 October 1967 (the last approved changes to contracts were on 23 September 1967), but we’re still extracting data from it and may have missed an explicit statement of information cut-off date. Best of all, it provides a contemporaneous and authoritative explanation of when, what and most interestingly, why many running changes were made in the vital first three years of M16/XM16E1/M16A1 production.

Lord Love a Duck… another gun safety “bad example”

As God is our witness, there are some people whose only reason to be on this earth must be to serve as an example — a bad example — for the rest of us.

Take Michael Deel. We don’t care where you take him, but please take his sidearm away from him first. You see, according to reporter Duncan Adams of the Roanoke Times, on Saturday Mr Deel somehow touched off a .45 cartridge, and put the bullet through his hand. (Sorry about the wrong extremity in the picture, but it does illustrate the general idea). Hands being somewhat thin by nature, and .45 slugs tending to move at about 950 feet per second until they encounter resistance, the bullet kept on motoring through the hand and into the next object: Mrs Michelle Deel, the shooter’s wife.

The Roanoke couple got to share the experience of an ambulance ride and ER visit, and their injuries were fortunately not life-threatening.

A count of exactly how many gun-safety rules were violated in this little enterprise defies precise calculation, but that’s not what makes us say. “Lord love a duck.”

Nope. It’s where the accident happened: in a gun safety class. We are not making this up. You couldn’t make this up.

Instructor Thomas Starke was out of the room when he heard the shot, so he doesn’t really know what happened, either, except in the macro sense (“Dude had a negligent discharge”).

As many an Army instructor has said over the years. “Son, you are a no-go at this station.” That applies to Mr Starke as well as Mr Deel. Sign them both up for retrain and retest.

On the plus side, after an experience like this, Mr Deel will probably not make such a gross error ever again. But ideally, the reason you attend class is to try to learn from the other guy’s experience rather than suffer the stress and pain that comes from learning from your own.

Local Wannabe Pleads NG

McDowell ten years ago. All that bling he's wearing -- PH, wings, trident, VN -- is phony. Image: POW Network.

Which ought to mean “No Good” in the case of Robert McDowell, but means “Not Guilty” in the legal system. The Portsmouth Herald’s update on his plea at Seacoast Online  just states the barest facts of the instant criminal accusations against Robert McDowell, but omits his long history of self-inflating assclownery — for that, you have to dig deep in the archives, hit his page on the POW Network, or go to this Weaponsman post from March and endure our snark to know the details of his false claims.

McDowell is charged with stealing the identity of a tenant of his to write letters to the editor to the local paper, advocating McDowell’s position on various issues, including lavishing fulsome praise on a politician who just happened to be wrestling in the bedsheets with McDowell at the time. The ID theft victim was a serving Marine, who was away in Afghanistan whilst “his” opinions on controversial issues were getting played up in the paper. (The letters were punchy and narratively-consistent, prize qualities that editors value over mere truthfulness — they’re in the infotainment business, after all).

If you look in to our Fourteen Points on him, which may not have the import of Woodrow Wilson’s (or may: how’s that League of Nations doing these days?) you’ll see the full depth of depravity of this cashiered and disgraced former Naval officer. Suffice it to say that the ribbons he’s wearing in that snapshot ain’t his.

It’s unlikely that McDowell’s long history of deception and misconduct will be admissible in this court, even though his previous entanglements, his history of complex and durative fraud, and  his abject drumming-out of the naval service pretty much summarize his character. Perhaps the prosecutor can introduce these matters to impeach McDowell as a witness, if his attorney is foolish enough to let him testify.

Hey, Mr/Ms District Attorney, if you need someone to testify on the harm that conmen like McDowell have caused the veteran community, we at Weaponsman.com stand ready to take the stand. We have real medals and stuff, even (modest ones, but then we have a lot to be modest about — like the subject of this article, who would be in much less trouble had he been modest in words and deeds in keeping with his modest — or worse — attainments).

Engagement Dynamics of a Police Gunfight

This January, 2010 dash-cam video has been making the rounds by email again (it first went around in April of that year, after a coroner’s jury ruled it a good shoot). It’s worth posting in order to discuss the engagement dynamics.

Hamilton Montana – Police Car Stop Shots Fired – YouTube.

Ross Jessop was a young cop with less than two years on the job at the time. While most commentary in the engagement-dynamics community and in cop-shops everywhere has emphasized the suddenness of the event and the degree to which it took Officer Davis by surprise, the Billings Gazette notes that he knew already that Davis, a man known to be violent when drinking, was drunk; and Jessop was already on edge as he approached the vehicle.

This makes the professionalism in his approach even more impressive. Here’s the Gazette:

On Jan. 1, [Jessop] came on shift at 4:45 p.m. He was scheduled to get off work 10 hours later at 2:45 a.m.

Jessop first saw Davis that night talking to two Hamilton police officers.

The men were questioning Davis about some battery cables that had been cut on his girlfriend’s car earlier that night. Jessop saw Davis shake the officers’ hands and go back inside.

The officers told Jessop that Davis was heavily intoxicated and had been warned not to drive.

Not long afterward, Jessop spotted Davis’ Lincoln Navigator driving north on Second Street. He pulled in behind and followed the vehicle as it turned on Adirondack Street. When Davis used a turn lane to drive straight through the next intersection, Jessop turned on his lights.

Davis crossed the railroad tracks on Fairgrounds Road and pulled over on a patch of dirt almost directly across from the fairgrounds entrance.

Jessop activated his spotlight.

And then the officer saw something that he’d never seen before during a traffic stop. Davis reached out and slowly adjusted his mirror so he could see the officer.

“That’s very unusual,” Jessop testified. “Our spotlights are very bright and they hurt your eyes.”

Most people immediately turn their mirrors so the light is reflected away from their face.

“At that point, I was caught off guard,” he said. “I approached with a little more caution than I usually do.”

Jessop could smell the alcohol on Davis as soon as he neared the window. He asked the man how much he’d drank that night.

“Plenty,” came the reply.

Jessop said the face that stared out the window that night was hard to describe.

“It was argumentative … very sure of himself, almost cocky.”

In the story — do read the whole thing — Davis’s friends describe him as a mean, violent drunk, and say that he’d told two of them that they weren’t going to see him again, and let them know he had the gun. It’s impossible to know what he meant by that;  in any event, he was very drunk.

Smith & Wesson .41 Magnum Model 657. A gun like this is what Davis is believed to have had.

Fortunately for Officer Jessop, Davis was inadvertently playing an inverse game of Russian Roulette — along with five live rounds, Davis’s Smith & Wesson .41 Magnum contained one fired casing. Nobody knows when or where (or at what or at whom) Davis fired the other round, but that empty casing providentially came to be next one up when Davis decided to kill Jessop.

(Aside: a .41 Mag is a pro’s gun, it’s very rare to encounter one in the hands of a criminal. Criminals like guns that are cheap, which the .41 Mag isn’t at all, or guns that have a tough-guy reputation; they’d prefer a .44 Magnum to the more controllable .41. And Davis was a criminal, a repeat violent felon and ex-con who’d done time for assaulting a cop on the Hamilton, Montana police force — the same one that Jessop worked for. Davis couldn’t buy or own a gun legally).

Jessop asked him what he meant by plenty. A split second later the officer was staring down the barrel of a .41 mag-num Smith and Wesson pistol.

“The end looked bigger than a quarter,” Jessop said.

That is, in fact, a common psychological effect of having a gun pointed at you at close range. A .41 looks quarter-size; a shotgun looks like an M-79.

Jessop heard a click.

Davis pulled the trigger and the hammer fell on an empty round.

That click is audible on the YouTube video, immediately before Officer Ross Jessop says a naughty word — for which he may reasonably be excused.

“My very first thought … after I realized it was a revolver was I was terrified. Absolutely terrified,” Jessop testified. “I recall thinking I wasn’t going to see my wife again. I wasn’t going to see my mom, my brothers, or my sisters, or my coworkers or my dogs. I was terrified.”

Jessop moved his face away from the threat as fast as he could.

“I did hear the click,” he said. “I remember stopping. I was actually hoping it was just a joke … I remember thinking why would you do that to an officer?”

And then he saw Davis’ head readjust.

“I remember thinking the reason he’s readjusting his head is he’s going to shoot again,” Jessop said.

He ran toward the back of Davis’ vehicle, while drawing his Glock, Model 22.

This displacement was an excellent move. It complicated Davis’s target solution, which Davis fortunately was not able to mentally resolve well enough to score a hit on Jessop. It helped Jessop that Davis’s mind was clouded by alcohol. One is reminded of the old Irish joke: “Sure and Uncle Denny took a shot at one o’ the Black an’ Tans, but th’ curse of th’ dhrink was upon him, and he missed.”  But let’s return to Ross Jessop’s testimony.

He heard a gunshot.

“My next thought was I had to defend myself and eliminate the threat to me,” Jessop said. “I don’t recall drawing my weapon. I do remember my first shot. I was conscious that I was shooting my gun.”

Jessop thought he’d fired seven or eight rounds. It turned out he’d fired 14.

What we’re seeing here is “reversion to training” — a man under intense, existential psychological stress, operating at the level of muscle memory without his higher-brain functions even being engaged, and therefore not forming memories of specific acts that were so drilled that they were, literally, instinctual.

Six bullets hit Davis’ vehicle, including the one that drove through the passenger and driver’s seats and into Davis’ back.

About average for a police shooting these days. Combat is extremely stressful and enervating, and the complex processes of marksmanship suffer.

After Davis’ vehicle stuck the power company’s building and came to a stop, Jessop loaded his rifle and got in his car and moved closer.

Ravalli County Attorney George Corn asked him why after he’d just been nearly killed did he move closer to his assailant.

“My duty as an officer is to make sure the community is safe,” Jessop said. “I had no idea if I hit him or not. My thought was to get close enough to keep the area safe and keep myself safe.”

Watch the video again with Officer Jessop’s thoughts, above, in your mind.

Some armchair critics have criticized Jessop’s conduct in this shooting. We see a lot less to criticize. Here’s the Weaponsman bullet-point analysis.

  • He remained professionally courteous right up until a gun is in his face. Then he reacts, and says a naughty word, for which any sentient being will excuse him.
  • What you see Davis’s stainless-steel hogleg shoved in Jessop’s face, understand that from this point on what’s happening, mostly, is Jessop reverting to his training. This is the point of modern stress-inoculation training: the guy makes a faster-than-the-speed-of-thoughr transition from merely alert to rapidly and effectively responding.
  • Saved by the deus ex machina of the empty casing, he ran out of the KZ to a safer place, increasing the distance, moving to a position that provided some minimal cover and concealment and that gave Davis a difficult shooting angle, and providing a nonstationary target. All of these greatly complicate the target solution for the criminal shooter. Even in the hands of a sober assailant, a handgun is an imperfect tool that will conspire with conditions to produce many misses under combat stress. Anything you can do that makes it harder for him is a good thing.
  • Some have criticized Jessop for shooting from behind, and for continuing to shoot as Davis drove off. Those critics are fools. Once the drunken suspect began to shoot, the reasonable thing to expect the officer to do is to continue to engage Davis until Davis’s threat was eliminated.
  • As soon as possible Officer Jessop holstered his sidearm and rearmed himself with a more effective rifle. Never take an open hand to a knife fight, a knife to a gun fight, a gun to a rifle fight, or a rifle to an artillery fight. Only in Hollywood do you tool down to the opponent’s level and have a fair fight. Out in the real world, you want to make that fight as unfair as you possibly can.

The jury took one hour to rule the shooting justified. That one hour is a group of good people facing the simplest of decisions, providing a decent interval to signal that they took their duty seriously.

Some policemen will watch this video and conclude that, since any meeting with the public can go from “license and registration, please” to gunplay without warning, the right answer is to treat every ticket-writing opportunity as a felony stop, or to scream and yell and threaten your way through your shift in order to make it back home safely. in our opinion, that’s the wrong message.  Ross Jessop approached his suspect as, to steal a Special Forces buzz phrase, “a quiet professional.” It is likely that in thirty more years of carrying a badge, he’ll never again encounter a human malignancy like Davis again. If he can maintain a vigilant state and the same quiet professional demeanor he used to approach Davis, he’ll leave a reservoir of goodwill for the police, which benefits forces and individual officers in myriad ways.

We’re not saying it’s easy. The nature of a cop’s job means that you’re not encountering nature’s natural noblemen at the pinnacle of their humanitarian luminosity, most of the time.

Travis Mills update

Paratrooper Travis Mills, to whom we introduced you last week, is recovering in Walter Reed Army Medical Center and continues to make a great recovery from devastating injuries. Sunday, he was moved out of the ICU! He’s also had visits from a four-star admiral, entertainers, and — best of all — his wife Kelsey and daughter Chloe are at his side. For regularly updated information go to TravisMills.org.

If you’re a praying man or woman, there’s a family that deserves one.

Travis will have the best possible revenge on his would-be killers: he will live, and live well.

Historic Naval Guns to Guard Phoenix War Memorial

Schematic of one of Missouri's turrets with its 16-inch naval rifles. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Some of the biggest guns ever made were on battleships, and two of these immense naval rifles are going to anchor a new World War II memorial in Phoenix, Arizona.

The massive guns symbolically bookend the conflict, actually: a 14-inch naval rifle came from USS Arizona, sunk in the Pearl Harbor attack that plunged America into the war, and a 16-inch naval rifle came from USS Missouri BB-63, the ship on which Japanese and Allied representatives signed the Japanese surrender that ended the war.

It’s great that these weapons will be used in this manner, as eternal reminders of the course and cost of that immense war, and it’s even better that this use saves the from the Department of Defense’s previous plan — which was to melt them down.

The following is an excerpt from the Mohave Daily Star’s report:

At a special ceremony near the capitol, Arizona’s Secretary of State Ken Bennett, BNSF Railway and Phoenix Rotary 100 announced the arrival of a 14-inch gun barrel from the USS Arizona and a 16-inch gun barrel from the USS Missouri. The historic naval “rifles” will be incorporated into a complete World War II Memorial.

“Today is a special day in our effort to build a memorial that honors the sacrifice of our WWII veterans,” said Bennett. “We’re thrilled that BNSF has delivered such important elements of the monument to Phoenix.  Without the company’s help and commitment to honoring our veterans this project would not have been possible. But BNSF’s support shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone as the company has a long record of supporting veterans.  Whether it be taking on projects like these or the company’s commitment to consider hiring veterans before other applicants, BNSF exemplifies what it means to be a good corporate citizen.”

via Mohave Daily News > News > Local > Historic gun barrels to become part of World War II Memorial.

The 16-inch rifle was the largest weapon the US deployed, and one of the largest ever sent to sea (the record holders were the Japanese Yamato and Musashi’s Type 94, 460mm/18.1 inches). Larger guns were built and used on land (the Nazis had a 31.5 inch monster).

By all means visit the Mohave Daily News article, where the details on the near-scrapping of the historic guns and of the massive volunteer effort that moved the massive guns.

Some ask, why does an infantry/individual weapons blog like this periodically discuss air and naval weapons. Well, they’re weapons, they’re interesting and they’re historic, and they have a technology all their own. That makes them a legitimate target, as far as we’re concerned.

Sunday is for cheating

No, not like the Secret Service guys on their wives with coin-operated Colombianas. Cheating on our end-of-week report, which will be put up sometime today but backdated to 1800 Saturday. So we’re cheating.

If you don’t like it, you can have a refund of your Weaponsman.com subscription fee! See you Monday with more substantive posts.

A pet peeve… “ordnance” vs. “ordinance.”

The stuff you shoot at criminals, misunderstood youf, zombies, and malignant votaries of The Religion of Peace is ordnance.

The stupid rule that does not let you discharge your Davy Crockett nuclear recoilless rifle within the city limits is an ordinance.

Ordnance = arms and ammunition, particularly in reference to manufacture, logistics and maintenance thereof.

Ordinance = rule or regulation, particularly at a municipal level.

Get it. Got it? Good. Don’t be like way too many in our industry. Like McMillan in this otherwise worthwhile white paper on the differences between a tactical stock and a hunting stock.