Monthly Archives: August 2013

Let’s build Retro: Should have been Part 1: Why?

Why build your own gun?

This question has both practical and psychological dimensions. And it doesn’t just apply to guns! Why build anything you could buy professionally-assembled? Most people are perfectly content with store-bought guns, and ARs in particular are available in a broad range of configurations, qualities and price points — there’s something for just about anybody. By building your own — even assembling something as modular an an AR-15 — you’re joining a minority group, and you ought to have a clear idea of why you do it.

You can build just about anything. After all, someone else built everything you see.

You can build just about anything. After all, someone else built everything you see. This is another ERA customer’s car, not our friend’s. They can be individualized, like ARs.

People do build their own, of course, which can be as easy as buying upper and lower assemblies and snapping in push pins, or as hard as machining your own metal parts and carving or molding your own stock. And there are parallels to the gun builders: a friend of ours built (with a great deal of professional help from ERA Replica Automobiles) a stunning replica of a 1965 Cobra. Many friends and acquaintances have built and even designed their own aircraft. They do it for the same reasons that people build guns.

For Education and Recreation

That’s actually what the FAA’s rule about building your own plane says. They want to discourage small, low-rate-production shops that can’t comply with literally tons of expensive and arbitrary certification rules (kind of like Lockheed, Douglas, Ryan, Martin and Boeing were in California (the first three), Baltimore and Seattle back in in 1930). But if you want to design, and build, and fly something radically new, knock yourself out.

Many of the innovations and trends in the AR market come from people being creative with the platform for their own purposes. Sometimes, when you follow the Education and Recreation path and you’re in the grips of the Dunning-Kruger effect, you create a monster, and not in a good way. But sometimes you create The Next Big Thing.

And always you learn and have fun. Education and Recreation, right? And the Education part is not to be underestimated. If you have never detail-stripped your AR, assembling one from a pile of loose parts will leave you with a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the design. And Recreation? It’s fun, and it’s hard to beat the satisfaction you have when you unrack a rifle and show a friend, “Yeah, this is my favorite. I built it.”

There can also be a social recreation aspect. Build parties are a blast! And just building with another person has both recreational and educational advantages. For one thing, it makes the time pass faster. For another, two sets of eyes make for a better, smoother assembly process.

To get something the market doesn’t offer

Here's one kind of AR your corner gunshop probably doesn't have.

Here’s one kind of AR your corner gunshop probably doesn’t have: based on a Valkyrie beltfed upper.

Some economists might call this market failure, but when you want something odd, the chances are the market does not provide it. If you want an AR-15 prototype, your options are trying to pry one loose from Reed Knights (not. gonna. happen.) or another elite collector (same. deal.) or to build your own clone. Hell, if you want an AR configured like your old Army M16A1, you’re screwed if you have to depend on today’s AR vendors. They’re all tacticool; you can hunt up an old Colt SP1 or roll your own.

That exact project was our threshold drug to Retro Black Rifle Disease. (But we’re not really addicts. We can quit at any time).

Of course, you can take customization too far.

Of course, you can take customization too far.

Another common build that isn’t well-served by the market is a very light AR. People in ban states also have bizarre state compliance parts, and for some of them the only way to get an AR is to build your own.

You can get the parts for almost anything. Want a pintle-mounted, belt-fed AR? It can be done. In our case, we’re doing a tribute to the carbines carried on the Son Tay Raid, one of the greatest special operations missions in history.

Same gun, well accessorized.

Same gun, well accessorized.

We think the Son Tay Colt 630 is beautiful, but it’s a free country, and if a Californistan-compliant Hello Kitty AR is your preference we’re all for that. It’s a free country, and we think the Hello Kitty AR looks good, too: if you accessorize it properly.

The picture on the left should give you some ideas. However, that sort of accessory is beyond the (admittedly flexible) scope of the blog, so you’re on your own.

100000-dollar-billTo save money

This is probably the worst or weakest of the reasons, but it still operates. If you want a Son Tay carbine, you can look for a Colt Model 630 on the NFA registry and for sale. There are very few, and they come up very seldom. And when they do change hands, it’s for collector money: $30,000 or so.

You can build a clone for $1,200 or less.

You can also build a very-cheapest-possible scrounged-parts AR for short money, perhaps $700, and a very-cheapest-possible AK for $300. This requires patience, scrounging, and a little luck, and assumes parts and parts-kit prices will revert over time to the status quo ante. This has been delayed and disrupted by the Panic of 2013, as well as by various government attacks on gun rights, such as the ATF’s reclassifying of barrels as non-importable “weapons,” and ATF and State Department hostility to reimportation of AR parts and even such ancient and obsolete weapons as M1 rifles and carbines and their foreign equivalents.

To Sum Up

There are several reasons to build your own firearm, and all of them are good reasons, although they might not apply to you personally or to the particular situation. For every single builder, some reasons will be more important than others.

The best reason of all is this: you want to, and it’s a free country. (In most States, anyway).

We look forward to walking you through a build in the next couple of weeks. While it’s possible to build several ARs in a day, it isn’t if you’re writing about it!

Let’s build Retro: Part 1: Planning the build

Dick Meadows (c.) models what we're building -- sort of.

Dick Meadows (c.) models what we’re building — sort of.

To successfully build a cosmetically Retro AR-15, you need to plan the build and build to the plan, or you risk committing a Bubba The Gunsmith level atrocity on your firearm.

There are good sources of retro information out there, but the good sources of parts are drying up. This is due in part to a crackdown by the government and ATF on availability of surplus parts, especially barrels. One of the better sources of retro barrels is police guns which are being updated, but the smiths and armorers doing this now realize that these barrels are not scrap, if still serviceable, and price pressures have driven barrel prices up.

You can go insane with fealty to detail on a retro build, which is another reason for a plan — and a budget. Our goal is to build a cosmetic copy of the Son Tay Raid CAR-15. It should build to a lightweight and accurate gun, because it’s a 13-year-old kid’s first (supervised, naturally) build. We’ve got most AR armorer tools so that’s not an issue.

This XM177 (from World.Guns.RU) closely resembles the Son Tay guns. They lacked a forward assist and mounted SinglePoint sights.

This XM177 (from World.Guns.RU) closely resembles the Son Tay guns. They lacked a forward assist and, for Son Tay, mounted Normark SinglePoint sights which were bought from Armalite for the task force.

Thanks to the endless modularity of ARs, we can always modify our Colt Model 630 / early USAF GAU-5/5A clone for greater accuracy. To get it built and out of the planning stage, we need to execute the planning stage first.

So our first tasks are to: decide how accurate the build will be. Thanks to Congressman Hughes and Tax Chiseler Chuck Rangel, we can’t build an MG. Building an SBR is fine and good but no help with a gun that we’ll expect a kid to use. So we’re going to make a compromise there, and use a 16″ carbine barrel. (Other options are to go SBR or go to a shorter barrel with a pinned flash suppressor).

We’re going to make three other concessions to practicality: we’re going to use a non-Colt, non-vinyl-acetated-aluminum stock, we’re going to use a modern barrel with faster rifling, and we’re going to use — at least at the beginning — a generic lower parts kit. We also may substitute an Armson OEG for the correct AimPoint on this build.

Why the substitutions? The Colt stocks are rare and expensive. The original 1:12 barrels are rare, expensive, and won’t stabilize heavier projectiles, including 62 gr. NATO and 77 gr. match. (Current barrels also have improved feed ramps). And original LPKs are harder to come by right now.

These substitutions, except for the 16″ vs. 11.5″ barrel, should be nearly invisible without close examination. They should produce a six-plus pound, naturally handling AR that will exude a Vietnam vibe but digest a wider variety of ammunition.

We’ll keep you posted as we wrench this thing together and take it out to the range.

For background on the raid, start here with an official DOD Doc Dump. Included are a planning/briefing document, an interview with one of only two SF participants without prior Vietnam combat, and a JCS AAR.

For background on the guns, this thread at M4Carbine.net is a good resource, as is the whole site retroblackrifle.com, especially the page on the Colt Model 630, and the retro section of ARFCOM.

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have RVs

After: John C Heldstab as an arrested perv.

After: John C Heldstab as an arrested perv.

The RV was the tool that this pervo prestoopnik used to seduce a — prepare to be grossed out — 8 year old boy. Perv is 71 and will be going up the river for 10 years — incidentally the span of time he buggered the kid — so his kiddie-diddling days are pretty much over, except that it’s state time, whence a perv can still be paroled in short order. We’ll see.

The plea deal broomed a bunch of kiddie-porn and other lesser charges to get him to plead to some serious felonies. The perv had guns and had a half-hearted attempt at suicide (or suicide by cop) as the warrant was served on him. Of course, it wasn’t the gun that made him do it.  And while he loses his right to guns as a felon, he doesn’t lose the ‘weapon’ he used to injure the kid.

The Portland Oregonian’s Emily Smith reports:

John Christian Heldstab, 71, of Beaverton, faced 29 charges related to the abuse. In a plea deal, he pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree sodomy and one count of first-degree sex abuse and agreed to a 10-year prison sentence.

Judge Kirsten Thompson’s courtroom was nearly empty when Heldstab answered her questions with short, quick replies. “Yes, ma’am,” he said to each of the four charges she read from his plea agreement.

Before: Heldstab in uniform briefing the press. This was around the time he started 'de-briefing' the boy.

Before: Heldstab in uniform briefing the press. This was around the time he started ‘de-briefing’ the boy.

And now for the part we didn’t tell you, the part that was important enough for Smith to lead her article with it: John C. Heldstab isn’t just a pervo prestoopnik, but he’s a retired US Army officer. Not just any officer, but a two-star general. During the military response to Hurricane Andrew in Florida in August, 1992, Heldstab briefed the press on military support to the disaster (From about 2 minutes to about 7:20 in the video, then he comes back on to answer questions). You might remember the hurricane as the one that destroyed Homestead Air Force Base south of Miami.

Lord love a duck. The Jarheads will never let us live this one down. What’s more, two guys who served under him (not that way!) say he was a great general and a great boss. (Just don’t take an RV trip with him — and his wife). It just goes to show you never really know a guy. Lord love a duck.

Guns at the Business End

OK. Think of it as a gun ID quiz. We got them all (which almost makes up for our M249/240 screw-up yesterday). They’re an eclectic blend of classics and stuff only Hollywood takes seriously. Post your guesses in the comments.

7 Guns point blank project

Note that they are not to scale. You can see a larger image with a click.

Background: it’s a photo series called the Point Blank Project. They’ll sell you a print if you want a wall-sized Glock. We’ll put an answer key below the fold this afternoon. (Update: it’s there).

Continue reading

You’re Killin’ Us

behind bars

The Atlantic, a magazine that prides itself on being an opinion leader but is actually more of an opinion follower, specifically of the opinions of the Acela Corridor highly-verbal, nigh-innumerate Credentialed Class, found the perfect vessel for its latest progressive gun-control argument: a convicted murderer, in the early stages of 28 years to life in Attica, which was the predictable culmination to his life in crime.

They even found a white murderer in Attica, which is a small minority within a minority, perhaps 20% of all Attica-dwellers are white (.pdf), and some of them are nonviolent felons — white collar criminals and such. (But this fits with Atlantic sensibilities: they seldom have more than their one token black writer).

Of course John Lennon (his real name!) is looking to get out closer to his minimum parole eligibility date, which is January 4, 2030, and not his max date, which is never, so he expresses  remorse for his life of crime in the leaden, learned tones of the inmate, something the Atlantic’s editors, having never been closer to a criminal than the Senate gallery, completely failed to detect. He cries crocodile tears for his victim, a friend whom he blew away in the routine course of conducting his drug business. (Stray thought: was he somebody at The Atlantic’s dealer, and that’s how they know him?)

He goes on to express his desire for — in a most remarkable coincidence — the exact gun control measures desired as a first step by The Atlantic and the Democrat Party’s leadership.

But the shootings and killings in the world I know have continued and will continue unless we refocus on the root of the problem: our gun culture, and the easy access it affords criminals.

Where the Atlantic turns for public policy perspicacity: Attica.

Where the Atlantic turns for public policy perspicacity: Attica.

Wrong answer, Yardbird. The root of the problem is not the existence of these tools, and it’s not even the use people like you make of these tools; it’s the existence of people like you.

He committed his murder, of course, with a weapon that was not legally accessible to him. He says he used an M16, which is subjected to strict Federal regulations and a complete ban in New York. And of course as a many-times-convicted felon, he couldn’t buy a gun anywhere, let alone in extreme anti-gun New York, where only the criminals need not fear the police. And he makes the laughable argument that he and his fellow criminals are primary drivers of drug demand.

Bottom line, criminals create an indirect demand for gun manufacturers and merchandisers. Like most criminals, I created an extraordinary demand for the gun sector.

Don’t flatter yourself, dirtbag. Every gun used by every criminal in every crime doesn’t add up to a half-percent of gun sales a year. Your whole, worthless, life is a rounding error, in economic terms.

He blames the guns, not himself, for his current plight, even as he acknowledges, in the formulaic phrases of a well-coached parole-seeker, formal responsibility. 

Engulfed in an orgy of violence, my last month of freedom was chaos. Home invasions, robberies, murder — at the center of it all were guns…. [W]ithout a gun I would not have killed….[O]ur free-market gun culture is out of control.

 

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have SUVs

Assault TahoeThis guy lived to 78 without an injury like this, and bang! He was nailed by a bozo in a Tahoe. He’s now in an ICU with serious brain injuries. So who was the doer? Somebody in a rush to get there? Somebody whose cell-phone gabble was more important that the lives of others? Somebody driving 70 while referreeing a fight between kids in the back seat? Or somebody who was drunk, stoned, wanted or otherwise unwilling to stop and wind up in prison?

We don’t know yet, because the Tahoenaut bugged out. But whoever he is, wherever he is, he’s got to be worried. He must know that the cops solve most of these cases — frequently because a friend, relative, neighbor, or body shop owner dimes the hit-and-runster out. Occasionally, because the sort of sphincter muscle that does this just can’t stop driving like the sphincter muscle he is, and every cop in three counties is looking for this particular orificial vehicle right now.

Theodore Takacs, 78, of Nashua, was on his motorcycle, heading down the Exit 5 northbound on ramp to go onto the highway when witnesses said he was passed by a black Chevrolet SUV.

The SUV hit the motorcycle, which rolled over and ended up on the shoulder of the ramp.

Tackacs was ejected and suffered severe head injuries. He was transported to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua, but later taken by helicopter to a Boston area hospital for further treatment.

The SUV did not stop. Police are asking the public for help in locating it and the driver. The SUV should have scrape marks and paint transfer on its passenger side, according to state police.

via State police seek hit-and-run driver in Nashua motorcycle crash | New Hampshire Public Safety.

The mentality that commits a hit-and-run is not significantly different from the mentality that commits a strongarm robbery or drug-turf homicide, but the doer often comes from a less downscale socioeconomic background (only on TV are murderers power-tripping CEOs and government agents. In the real world, they’re usually illiterate street criminals who make subminimum wage for their crimes). Sure, some hit-and-runs are your typical, empty-eyed, far-left-of-the-bell-curve chronic losers, but others are middle class and even well-to-do people who have internalized the relentless “me, me, me!” message of Hollywood and Madison Avenue. Me is the ethic and mantra of a large segment of the Baby Boom generation. “Sorry for my treadmarks upside your head, but what about me?” seems to be the way these folks think.

Then, you wind up with courts who treat this felonious assault (for that’s what it is) any differently from one with a gun or a knife. There is a big difference from a pedestrian or vehicle collision where the driver stops to render assistance and one where the driver boogies, and that should be reflected in what your town prosecutor does with the two cases. Some prosecutors have their fangs out all the time and don’t get that.

But we’re not done with the inane reactions to this crime. (For that’s what it is, make no mistake: whatever the defense attorney ultimately says about “mistakes” is bullshit). Naturally, since the doer used an SUV rather than, say, a Prius (a very common vehicle in road rage incidents by the way… something about the feeling of entitlement?), you have the SUV-control people coming out of the woodwork.

One of the commenters at that story typifies the blame-the-SUV crowd:

And driving an SUV…shocking. Ive noticed lately that some drivers of those things are the most aggressive. Ive been terrorized by a few and its plain pathetic.

Lady, it’s not the Tahoe with a jerk in it, it’s the jerk in the Tahoe. He’d be the same jerk in anything on wheels. The parallel to gun crimes suggests itself.

Of course, any analysis of SUVs’ costs should also consider the benefits.

We hope that Mr Takacs is able to pull off an against-the-odds recovery and get back on his bike. And we hope that the cops nail the Tahoe jockey. In their place, we’d start with insurance claims in NH and MA for that make, model and color vehicle. We’d bet that this self-centered jerk makes a claim of his car being hit-and-run to explain lack of another driver’s report. Then we’d follow up with the body shops.

Exercise for the reader: what makes the public in the hardscrabble city of Nashua, New Hampshire safer: a Tahoe ban, or finding and incarcerating this driver? How about ten years’ loss of license when he gets out of crowbar motel? There’s a law change we could back.

Marines Let ’em Rip

These Marines are Military Police stationed on Okinawa (would Marines say aboard Okinawa?):

A Marine MP crew lets rip with an M240B. USMC photo by LCPL Brandon Suhr.

A Marine MP crew lets rip with an M240B. M249. USMC photo by LCPL Brandon Suhr.

CORRECTION: The MG in the picture above is a 5.56mm M249. We originally misidentified it — following the original PR — as an M240. Yeah, that’s a pretty embarrassing screw-up, and for the Marine photog in question, but he’s just a Lance and we’re supposed to be the freaking weapons experts around here… d’oh!  The article below has been thoroughly edited, extended and corrected. Added content is underlined. We will now beat our face, and then beat our boots just for Airborne variety. -Eds.

Marine MPs on Oki recently trained with crew-served weapons, including (among others) the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, being supplanted in the Marine rifle squad by the M27 IAR, and the excellent M240, the infantry company’s all-purpose MG.

 

The M249 is the US variation on the FN Minimi. Unlike its bigger brother, there are some more significant changes in the design between the US and original version. The Marines have never been thrilled with it as a squad automatic weapon, preferring a true, magazine-fed auto rifle. The issues with the M24 which they finally adopted in the form of the M27 — a Marine-spec HK416 — in 2010. Selection and procurement of the M27 took five years of RDT&E beginning with several (primarily) commercial, off the shelf ARs. For a while at least, infantry companies equipped with the M27 will also have 9 M249s available, but the IAR is a better fit for Marine infantry doctrine and is getting good reviews from field Marines. For one thing, it’s a lot lighter than the 22-lb. M249.

The M240 is the US version of the venerable, proven and excellent all-round FN-MAG general purpose machine gun, which the US finally adopted to correct the 1950s error that rejected this weapon in favor of the inferior M60. The name MAG stands for Mitrailleuse À Gaz, “Gas-Operated MG” in the gun’s native Walloon (French). There are several versions, but the current M240B is somewhat typical of current ground forces weapons. It’s light, for a 7.62mm MG. (There’s even a lighter, titanium-receiver version, the M240L, which has a shorter service life). It’s very reliable.  Before the 240B, the Marines converted tank guns as the M240G. (In the armor world, the reliable 240 was a quantum leap in reliability over the alternatives that preceded or competed with it, including a dreadful tanker version of the M60 and the Rube Goldberg M37). The Army never used the 240G; it’s never been as tight with a taxpayer dollar as its Marine brethren.

The M240, in all its versions, is actually a great-grandson of John Moses Browning. To make the MAG, Browning’s Belgian co-worker and protégé, Dieudonné Saive, took the tipping bolt and op-rod of the BAR and flipped it over so that, instead of locking into a recess in the top of the receiver, it locked into the bottom — freeing the top for a belt-feed mechanism which Saive, no casual reinventor of wheels, lifted from the German MG-42. The MAG was a great success; even nations that passed on the companion FAL rifle bought MAGs. Even the US finally climbed on board the MAG train.

The US belt is a "disintegrating" type, made of individual links that come apart when the cartridge is pushed out.

The US standard belt is a “disintegrating” type, made of individual links that come apart when the cartridge is pushed out. This is a belt 

The US made one error when converting the MAG to the 240. They eliminated the satin-chromed interior of the gun, which added strength and durability and makes a Belgian-made MAG a joy to clean. But other than that, it’s the good old MAG; parts interchange, and have the same Nato Stock Numbers. It’s never happened yet, but if we need a part, we can get it from the Danes or Brits, or vice versa. It will even feed NATO’s other standard belt, the nondisintegrating, reusable type used by German machine guns and preferred by Germany and Italy. If it’s NATO ammo in a belt, the MAG will eat it without a murmur.

There was a time when MPs didn’t do a lot of heavy weapons training, and support and service-support troops in general never took up these weapons. As the press release from which we lifted these great photos makes clear, today’s MPs train with the full spectrum of crew-served guns: M249, M240, M2HB, and Mk19. Not just MPs; this is increasingly common for even service-support troops, who might find themselves on a gun on an FOB’s perimeter wall or a truck’s weapons station, and it’s as true for the Army and other services which deploy to Derkaderkastan as it is for these Marines.

The key to proficiency is practice. These Marines are getting there.

The key to proficiency is practice. These Marines are getting there.

This wasn’t always the case. In the 1980s it wasn’t unusual for a roomful of soldier, even NCO, students to contain exactly zero who knew how to load, unload, and maintain the crew-served guns of the day, the M60 and M2HB. The peacetime services (especially the Army) tend to elevate other priorities over combat skills — until the next war happens, and you have a 507th Maintenance Company that shows you why even rear-echelon techs and clerks need to have firepower and the skills to make it run.

Now if they only could get out from under the small minds fixated on safety glow belts…

 

Sunday Recovery

Saturday was spent on the go, with some time searching for a missing (and almost certainly eaten) cat, five hours’ driving, an airshow, a really good seaside lunch, and a movie (not a Saturday Matinee candidate).

Sunday is for recovery of body and soul. We may get the two missing Saturday posts (Saturday Matinee and TW3) up, though.

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have fists and feet

Reginald Jenkins

Reginald Jenkins. Portsmouth PD photo

The victim’s first mistake was to lend Reginald Jenkins $20. It wasn’t a lot of money, but then Jenkins wasn’t exactly a good credit risk: a career petty criminal, he was, as is his usual, homeless and unemployed.

The victim’s second mistake was to ask Jenkins for the $20 back.

When multiple police officers arrived at the scene, they found a man on the ground, covered in blood, with his left eye “turning purple and swelling up,” the officer wrote. As the man was being treated by paramedics, he told police he was beaten by Reginald Jenkins, after he asked Jenkins for $20 he owed him.

“After the first couple of punches, (the victim) does not know what happened,” the officer wrote in his affidavit. “He told me he just ‘got his a** kicked’ for asking Jenkins for money owed to him.”

via Police: Beating, broken bones were over a $20 debt | SeacoastOnline.com.

It wasn’t just a beating. According to witnesses, Jenkins knocked the other man down and then continued punching and kicking him. According the hospital, Jenkins fractured his victim’s left orbital bone — that’s the ridge around his eye socket, which explains the swelling and discoloration the cops observed — and left cheekbone. (This also tells us one interesting but probably irrelevant fact: Jenkins must be right-handed). If he hadn’t stopped kicking and started running when he heard sirens, he might well have killed the bad-luck Good Samaritan who lent him the $20.

Gun bansters — consider Piers Morgan for one — often argue that guns make a crime more serious. But most victims of crime shootings recover from their injuries, just as this victim will recover from his beating. And some victims of beatings do not recover.

But if there’s one lesson to be learned in all of this, it’s: don’t lend your money (or considering where he’s going to be for the next few years, your prison-commissary scrip) to Reginald Jenkins.

Dueling M25 / XM25 Stories

XM25-in-actionTwo different stories were making the rounds about the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement system — AKA the 25mm smart grenade launcher — recently. One says it’s cancelled and the other says it’s about to be generally fielded: about as  far apart as two tales can get.

Story 1: it has been canc’d due to a February accident.

This is partially true. There was a mishap in which there was a double feed and that caused a primer initiation with the gun out of battery. The soldier was injured, gun destroyed. The Army pulled them all back from theater in early March and sent them back to the manufacturer, ATK (H&K and L3/IOS Brashear have also taken part in system development). The reason for doing this this was: an accident like that was supposed to be impossible, therefore they need to inspect all fielded XM25s. There were, if we recall correctly, three double feed incidents but in only this one was the GI injured (not very seriously), and in one previous one the primer and propellant fired out of battery, destroying the gun with no injuries to the GI. The February mishap happened on a training range in Afghanistan.

XM25

XM25

Prior to the accident, the gun was popular with the troops that carried it. It was hard to point to a specific combat success or even identify a single Talib whacked by it, but its capabilities have been used for suppression and to permit small patrols to break contact and continue mission. The guy who carries the XM25 carries it as his main weapon, giving up his carbine for the exotic ability to put airbursts on defiladed targets in direct fire more rapidly and precisely than mortars can.

This led to the Senate Armed Services Committee, controlled by anti-military liberals, to zero out the gun’s future budgets in a vote which made a big splash of news in June. Here’s the press release from Carl Levin, the thoroughly anti-soldier committee chair, about the wonders of this committee mark-up. And here’s what he says about the XM25, which he calls a “troubled or unnecessary program,” in it.

Cuts $69.1 million in procurement for the XM25, Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) due to system unreliability and an Army decision to reconsider other weapons available to meet its requirement for a grenade launcher system that can fire programmable air burst munitions.

Frank Gaffney saw Levin’s intentions in 2009:

The anti-military chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, has gleefully announced that he intends to strip funds for weapon systems from the budget. Likely consequence: the armed services will be unable either properly to “reset” the equipment and capabilities that have been used so intensively over the past seven years or be prepared for the next conflict. History teaches that such a posture invites foreign aggression and costs far more than is saved through short-term and short-sighted cuts.

Well, Levin is who he has always been. Can’t change that. And our democratic processes have put him in the driver’s seat on the Senate side of the military budget. So expect things to be cancelled and money to be redirected to redistributive activities. Can’t change that, either.

But this cancellation is not all that it appears. Note that, due to the snags attendant to the mishap and its investigation and any required design remediation, production in FY 14 wasn’t going to happen anyway. So this is a kind of typical Washington sham cut. Funding for RDT&E is still in place.

Thanks to Levin’s cut, there have been numerous news stories in the general and trade press — some of them just this month — declaring the gun dead. (We’re told one was in the dead-tree Aviation Week, but we can’t find it online. But the budget is far from finished, the Senate is only one house of a bicameral legislature, and who knows what strange chaos will come out of the inevitable conference committee. After all, it’s not like any of these guys are any good at budgeting.

Story 2: It’s about to go to general issue.

Now recently, the story has burbled up that the XM25’s type classification and general production and fielding was imminent. Like the above story, it’s partially true. Here’s an example of this story at The Firearm Blog, which was a snippet of a much more comprehensive article at SOFREP. And here’s a similar one at Defense Tech, and one at Military.com.

All of those stories (and a number of their clones) are rewrites of an Army press release from 9 Aug 13, that the original writers did not link to for whatever reason. (TFB actually excerpted and linked the SOFREP article, which seems to have gotten the PR through the military.com rewrite, but added lots of SOFREP’s own content). Here is the Army release so you can read it yourself, rather than us too rewriting and inadvertently transmogrifying it somehow.

Our take on it is a little different than these other respected journalists and bloggers, after going back to the Army release.

The Army said something rather different from “imminent”. They said that a year from now they may be able to go to LRIP and produce 1,100 of these things and field them to infantry and SOF. The combat units would not have them until 2015. The Army press release was 9th August, and is clearly the source for the Military.com and Defense Tech posts (they both use the quotes and attributions in the release).

So what we have here, with the best intentions, is a kind of journalistic game of Telephone with the message getting distorted a little as it’s passed along.

Low Rate Initial Production is essentially a production shakedown phase. Right now, the XM25s have been built by hand, and each very short run of prototypes has been different than the one before as both the gun and ammo makers & system integrators, ATK, and the electro-optic system makers, L3, respond to troop surveys and comments, and react to incidents, deficiencies, and maintenance difficulties. It’s one thing to make a gun in the lab, something else to make something your techs can take to the flat range and shoot, and then it’s a whole new world of hard to make something you can issue to your median Army rifleman. (Especially if your intent is to issue it to the next 11B when this one turns it in).

XM25 at a technology display.

XM25 at a technology display.

As you might imagine, being gun guys, something crafted individually by hand is crazily more expensive than something built in series production, even if the whole process is distorted by the cost-plus inflation escalators built into defense procurement regulations. So one reason the Army wants to move this along towards production is to make it “affordable”: which in this case means $35k for a gun and $55 per round. The current costs are more like mid six figures per gun and four figures per round, but then, there have never been more than a dozen or so of these hand-crafted prototypes in the field so far.

So for several reasons, LRIP is a big step up from hand-crafted prototype guns and craft-brewed ammo. At that point, you know the GI isn’t going to break it by looking at it, you’ve got the identified failure modes out of it, and you have a design that’s stable enough you can commit to producing hundreds or a thousand of. They’re not saying they’re at this point now, but they say they expect to be at this point in a year, in August 2014, which means the LRIP will happen mostly in the 2015 budget (which kicks off 1 Oct 2014). The budget the Senate is grandstanding over is the 2014 budget, which runs from 1 Oct 2013 to 30 Sep 2014.

The Army brass sniffs a little at the soldiers’ nickname for the gun: the Punisher. So who’s out of touch here, the guys who carry the thing and hope to punish the enemy with it, or the deskbound officers that fret that “punish” connotes images too atavistic for “staffs, distinguished and doddering generals, and dear little regimental officers who would be deeply concerned over their general’s bowel movements or their colonel’s piles….”

One more thing…

We would call attention to one more thing that has not been highlighted in the other stories: the XM25 is back in action in Afghanistan, with the Army reporting five guns in the field.