Monthly Archives: October 2013

SAFE Act bags another “dangerous criminal”

Lockport_NY_PDAnother New Yorker has lost his permit, his guns and may yet lose his liberty for having three rounds of ammunition too many — ten instead of seven.

LOCKPORT – A Lockport man who found himself at the center of controversy two weeks ago when he was charged under an unpopular section of the SAFE Act, limiting ammunition in a magazine, has been ordered by a Niagara County judge to hand over his pistol permit and all his handguns.

Paul A. Wojdan, 26, of Parkwood Drive, was a passenger in a vehicle pulled over by Lockport police Oct. 12, when he was charged after surrendering a loaded semiautomatic handgun in a holster retrieved from the glove compartment.

Although the gun was legal, the ammunition wasn’t. He had 10 rounds of 9 mm ammunition in the magazine, violating the new law, which limits a magazine to seven rounds. He was charged with unlawful possession of an ammunition feeding device, a misdemeanor.

Last weekend, Niagara County sheriff’s deputies were sent to Wojdan’s home to confiscate his pistol permit and handguns.

Wojdan told deputies he had received a “notice of objection” from the Niagara County Pistol Permit Office. Handguns seized included a Glock 9 mm pistol, a Walther .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol, a Springfield 40-caliber semiautomatic pistol, a GSG .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol and an Iver Johnson .22-calber semiautomatic pistol.

via Man ordered to surrender permit, handguns – City & Region – The Buffalo News.

The report interviews Lockport Chief of Police Lawrence M. Eggert and hints that Wojdan may have been targeted by Eggert and Officer Adam Piedmont because Wojdan “appears on his Facebook site as a supporter of gun rights and has posted a number of pictures of himself carrying weapons.” We’re told that Eggert has referred to Wojdan’s two centerfire and three rimfire pistols as an “arsenal.” He has no idea.

Eggert expressed outrage that the public was criticizing him and his black-shirted officers.

“One of the comments said, ‘When are you going to start loading people into cattle cars?’ ” Eggert said.

Eggert has made it pretty clear to the Buffalo News that the answer is: minutes after Cuomo gets the law through.

[T]he department’s role is to enforce the law, whether it is popular or not.

“It’s on the books, and if we see it, we have to do something about it,” Eggert said.

A lot of people have commented on this case. But one thing we haven’t seen anyone comment about is the weapons that deputies seized from Wojdan, or the one that Eggert’s blackshirts grabbed when they stopped a car in which Wojdan was a passenger for speeding.

The things that struck us about Wojdan’s guns:

  • They’re all inexpensive for what they are; workingman’s guns, not collector pieces.
  • The two centerfire guns are models and calibers often carried by police.
  • And… one of the .22s was imported by ATI, the company that just announced they were leaving New York over this law.

Rudolf Hoess on gallowsThe law itself is bad enough; aggressive enforcement by Dirty Harry wannabees like the Lockshirts may actually accelerate its overturn, even in 50-shades-of-blue New York. But gun law bloggers (like the 2nd Amendment Foundation) have suggested that Piedmont didn’t have probable cause to examine the magazine, so Wojdan may escape conviction. (Of course, the revocation of his permit is administrative not legal, and even an acquittal wouldn’t restore it).

The probable cause issue might give the Lockshirts a way out or a public-relations disaster, but they’re not talking like they want one.

And we really shouldn’t criticize Lawrence Eggert or Adam Piedmont. After all, they were just following orders.

Cuomo drives another NY manufacturer & importer out

American-Tactical-Imports-logoRochester, New York’s loss is Summerville, South Carolina’s gain as American Tactical Imports relocates 117 jobs from a hostile to a welcoming environment. The firm will spend $2.7 million setting up the new plant and warehouse.

New York politicians did not comment on this latest move, but in the past have spoken of firearms industry employers and their employees with contempt. ATI’s most popular firearms have been banned in New York since Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed through the so-called SAFE act on an emergency basis

Here’s an ad for American Tactical’s products, specifically, home defense shotguns:

As an importer, their line changes frequently. Possibly their best known gun at present is the imitation .22LR StG-44. That gun currently shows as out of stock and they’re blowing out the wooden shipping boxes, which were also made — by the Amish, ATI proudly notes — in New York. It’s uncertain whether we’ve seen our last .22 Sturmgewehr, or whether they’ve just run down inventory in preparation for the move. It may be the latter, as many other popular ATI products also show out of stock on the manufacturer/importer’s website.

Summerville is not in Horry County where many other unwanted New York and New England gunmakers have found new homes, but in Dorchester County, near Charleston where ATI’s products frequently enter the country.

While the proximity to the Charleston port of entry was cited by the company, it was only the second of the two main factors: the primary one was given in an ATI news release.

ATI believes it is imperative that a firearms importer and manufacturer do business within a state that is friendly to the Second Amendment rights of the people.

One typical news report from New York didn’t mention that part of the ATI release:

A Rochester-based company that makes firearms, ammunition and tactical equipment is relocating its headquarters in Dorchester County, South Carolina officials announced Monday.

The state Department of Commerce said that the $2.7 million investment by American Tactical Imports, currently located on Airpark Drive, would mean more than 100 new jobs for the Summerville area.

At its new South Carolina facilities, ATI is also setting up a distribution center and a limited firearm assembly. The company is also moving its customer service operations and sales office to the Summerville site, officials said.

via Local firearms company relocating to South Carolina | www.WHEC.com.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s welcome to ATI stood in sharp contrast to Cuomo’s don’t-let-the-out-door-hit-ya-where-the-good-lord-split-ya kiss-off. “We celebrate American Tactical’s decision to invest in Dorchester County,” a statement from Haley said.

It’s unlikely the idled workers in Rochester will find equivalent manufacturing or skilled warehouse employment, but Cuomo and other New York officials believe their menu of welfare benefits is competitive.

ATI is noted for importing a range of rimfire guns that emulate centerfire modern sporting weapons, and in more recent years, as a manufacturer of cheap AR clones.

Note: we reached out to ATI’s publicist with a couple of questions, and held this post for 36 hours for his comments, but received no reply at all. (If you think we rate a brush-off — after all, our readers are not in their end of the market — be a man and give us the brush-off).

Not all enemies are foreign

Some are domestic. Like… domestic cats. We thought, since we’ve been pretty heavy on the animal-lover side, we’d give a guy who developed a weapon that deals summarily (and in his design, non-lethally) with pesky neighborhood moggies that spray your stuff… there are a million ideas here for the handy WeaponsMan.

Plus, it will make you laugh.

Craig Turner did not see complete success with this iteration of the cat popper, so he built another version, and that’s on YouTube too… but if you like this video (and can tolerate a bit of salty language), his outtakes video is even funnier.

The SAWs that never WAS: Part 2, the XM-248’s forerunner, XM235

In Monday’s installment, we gave you the overview of the SAW program as of 1979, and we looked in depth at the least radical design, the magazine-fed M16 variant, XM-106 automatic rifle, a product of the Army’s own Ballistic Research Laboratory. Today’s installment will fill you in with a little more on the competition and its history, and will go into a little depth — unfortunately, a little depth is all we have — about the XM-248 and especially its forerunner, the XM-235.

To recap, as of the beginning of 1979 four candidates were being compared for a concept of a Squad Automatic Weapon that was then (barely) filled in the infantry fire team by giving one guy a stamped-steel bipod and permission to set his selector to Crowd Control. Along with the XM106, which was an M16A1 with some concessions to firing high rates and volumes of automatic fire, the contenders at this point were three belt-fed 5.56mm light machine guns: Ford Aerospace’s XM248, FN’s XM249 and H&K’s XM262.

XM248

The XM-248 is a good-looking gun with a straight inline mechanism and a very clever belt feed that had the potential to be more positive, but less upsetting to accuracy, than the typical feed tray that’s been standard on GPMGs ever since the MG34 instantiated the category way back during the Great Depression.

To understand the XM248, we have to roll back a bit, to the very dawn of the SAW program in 1975 (the term “SAW” dates to 1970, and the idea of an intermediate gun between the rifle and the 23+lb M60 GPMG dates to 1966). The Army’s Training and Doctrine Command had noted that a war in Europe was possible, and Europe was vastly more built-up than in the last war. Even then, much of the fighting was in cities — dismounted infantry terrain. A squad automatic weapon that could deliver fire in high volumes would benefit such a squad, in what the Army now calls Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) and then called Military Operations in Built-up Areas (MOBA). So in 1975, the Army began designing in its own labs, and calling for, from industry, a new weapon, at the same time it began to evaluate M16 improvements that would lead (through a winding path blazed mostly by the USMC) to the M16A2. Both improvements were aimed at MOBA as well as just generally increasing the lethality of the squad, and drew upon TRADOC studies that said fire volume was more important than fire precision.

6x45mm_compared

The 6.0x45mm cartridge, centered between the 5.56 and 7.62 NATO.

The new SAW — the squad’s volume-fire weapon — would use either an optimum cartridge or the standard rifle cartridge. (Each approach had its adherents). The first round of paper SAW candidates were chambered for disparate cartridges, including a new experimental 6mm and the standard 5.56mm. The 6mm fired a 105-grain projectile at 2450 fps (6.8g/.747m/s) compared to the M193 round’s 55gr/3250fps (3.5g/990m/s), giving the new MG a range beyond 800m. One of the main drivers of the 6mm caliber wasn’t anything to do with ball ammunition — it was that given the tracer technology of the time, no known compound could trace to and beyond 800m in daytime, and be contained in the volume of a 5.56mm projo. Army ordnance guys really liked the 6mm; loggies, and the senior generals who would have to square a new caliber with our NATO allies, were more reserved, for entirely non-technical reasons.

Because it was no longer in production or actively being promoted, the Stoner XM207E1 was out of the picture. In any event, the Army’s ordnance officers had a strong prejudice against it: the SEALs loved the gun and used them until there were no parts to be had, but the Army considered it too maintenance-intensive to be reliable in the hands of draftees with GT Scores of 80. Likewise, Colt’s CMG-2; and like other guns rejected before the contest began, they fired the 5.56mm cartridge, which didn’t meet the Army’s desire for an 800m+ weapon.

xm233The three contenders in the 1975-76 round were made for the 6×45 cartridge and given sequential model numbers. XM233 (left) was Maremont’s entry. As you might expect from the maker of the M60, it looked like a baby 60. The XM234, a spindly-looking thing, was prototyped by Philco (about which, more below). And the Army’s own Rodman Laboratories (at Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois) developed a radically new concept which was labeled XM235.

Two more-familiar 5.56mm guns that were being developed in Europe and entirely outside the Army competition at the very same time were not considered at this time: the FN Minimi and the H&K HK23. Ironically, they were rejected specifically because they were 5.56mm weapons. But we haven’t heard the last of the little round and these two commercial guns, either, because in Developmental Test/Operational Test 1, they, and a heavy-barreled variant of the M16, were used as controls and benchmarks for the “real” 6mm guns.

Philco’s 6mm gun was called the XM234, and it looked like this:

xm234

And that picture is almost all we know about it. At the time, we recall reading, and laughing about, the idea that Philco had entered a gun in the Army competition. Philco was the subsidiary of Ford that made the radios and 8-track players (don’t we keep telling you, The Past Is Another Country? Some of us lived there). And so, the idea of it making machine guns was pretty funny. But Detroit automakers are no slouches on mass production, and the Army has often turned to them when it needed quantity and quality. In World War II, the Navy threw a young officer named Henry Ford II out so he could take over from his ailing father and take charge of Ford’s war production, which included guns, gun parts, and complete B-24 Liberators. GM made M3 grease guns, and later would produce M16A1s with considerably less drama than Colt, despite a rather lacking Technical Data Package. So, Philco probably could make a gun; auto manufacturing technology was effective for guns; and mechanical engineering is the same discipline of materials, statics and mechanics for a gun designer that it is for a guy designing a valve train or power-steering mechanism.

By the time the 11th Edition of Small Arms of the World, from which a number of these facts and photos are taken, was published in 1977, the defense branch of Philco had taken on the more dignified name, Ford Aerospace & Communication Corporation.

There’s very little information about the Philco entry available, especially online;  and at the end of the first phase, DT/OT1, in December, 1974, both its gun, the XM234, and Maremont’s weren’t what Army evaluators were interested in. But they really liked the Army’s entry, the XM235:

xm235

The XM235 had been developed by a dedicated team at Rodman, led by Curtis D. Johnson and including at least 7 more dedicated engineers, who all signed on to the patent US # 3,999,461 on the gun (USPTO link) (Google Patents link).

General Arrangement from Patent 399,461 is unmistakably the XM235.

General Arrangement from Patent 399,461 is unmistakably the XM235.

One of the controls also fared well at the tests: the FN Minimi was as reliable as the best of the 6mm guns, and more so than the H&K. It used then-special FN ammo (SS109) which didn’t interchange with the riflemen’s 1:12 M16s. Nobody liked the HB M16 as a SAW.

At this point, the Army dropped the idea of the 6mm round. It not only complicated Army logistics to have a third entire caliber, but it would be hard to sell to NATO, where American allies had already had two Yankee cartridges rammed down their throats. So the SAW was going to be 5.56mm. How were they going to get the 5.56 to perform “beyond 800m” as the spec had said? They weren’t. So the new spec was “up to 800m.”

This set the Army up for the next round of testing, but they needed someone to produce the XM235. The prototype that so impressed everyone at DT/OT1 was handbuilt, and the Rodman guys weren’t manufacturing or production engineers. The answer seemed obvious: let Maremont and Philco, uh, Ford Aerospace, bid on producing the the XM235. Ford won the bid, and engineers being engineers, began improving the design even as they committed to building a couple of dozen prototypes in 5.56 for testing. The 5.56 quasi-production variant of the XM235 was the XM248.

Let’s take a look at the XM235 technically and see why it was so admired at the time. We’ll push back Ford’s many changes that produced the XM248 till tomorrow. (This post is already 1500 words long!)

The Rodman engineers began with a clean slate and the understanding that, other things being equal, automatic weapons firing bursts had always been less accurate than rifles firing single aimed shots. This wasn’t invariably a bad thing, as it allowed for the natural dispersion of a burst to “correct” in a way for a gunner’s aiming error, but it was terribly wasteful of ammunition.

Engineers being engineers, they asked why the automatic guns were less accurate, and they concluded that several things degraded the accuracy of automatic weapons:

  1. Parts of the mechanism were moving whilst bullets were still in the barrel.
  2. Whether operated by recoil or gas, the operating mechanism reflected excess energy back into the weapon, what the developers called “high restitution” from rebounding parts.
  3. Extant light machinegun designs had overly high rates of fire (650 to 1000 rpm).
  4. Peak recoil was high (500-1200 foot/pounds – 2,200-5,300 N).

Those items, taken together, degraded accuracy. So the characteristics sought in the 235 design were:

  1. A long motion of recoiling parts.
  2. A soft cycle without the hammering of buffers on stops often seen in LMGs.
  3. Rate of fire reduced to 500 rpm, little more than half that of an M16A1 with M193 ammo loaded with WC846 powder.
  4. Reduced recoil impulse (to 200 lb-ft) and reduced recoil effects on muzzle movement by careful placement and design of stock and grips, gas system, and so forth.
  5. A change in belt handling to reduce the stop-and-go motion of the belt
  6. Placing parts that induced motion inimical to accuracy (the belt feed, for instance) close to the weapon’s center of gravity, to reduce the moments these parts induced for a given force.

In addition, the engineers wanted to design a weapon with world-class reliability and maintainability. They wanted it to be made up of field replaceable modules, and readily field-stripped in 10 seconds. They wanted to reduce the parts count relative to the M60 (they cut the parts count by 40%).

The receiver was extremely unconventional. What looks like the receiver in pictures is a sheet metal cover with no structural function. The fore-end likewise is a simple stamped cover. The actual receiver comprises two long tubes, a forward end cap that joins the tubes to the barrel, and an aft end cap that contains a sophisticated hydraulic buffer. The bolt carrier rides between the tubes, and connects to upper and lower pistons and springs, which ride inside the receiver tubes (which do double duty as gas tubes). The bolt carrier also contains, of course, the bolt, which has three lugs like an AK bolt, dual extractors and a plunger ejector.

The bolt carrier also drives, in its long travels, a rotating cam tube that turns a feed sprocket that lifts the feed belt with rotary action. There is no reversing or reciprocating motion orthogonal to the direction of fire — unlike the classic MG34/MG42-inspired feed tray cover, or that of the Browning or Maxim for that matter.

XM235 exploded view

A spring-loaded firing pin rode in the bolt, and the fire control and related switchgear were contained in the pistol grip. In order to hang the belt container exactly on the center of gravity, the pistol grip was also hung on the center of gravity front-to-rear but offset to the right. Several effects came packed with this: moments of any operator input on the pistol grip were reduced, because it was at an arm of nearly zero, increasing accuracy; the weapon gave the gunner unprecedented control; and the weapon required right-handed operation. The Army liked the former two, but were keenly aware that about 10% of troops are left-handed. The weapon also required left-handed operation because it was, in effect, a bullpup design. Previous Army skittishness about bullpup safety may have been reduced by measures taken to prevent an out-of-battery firing, and the bolt’s location within the heavy carrier and the solid sheet-metal receiver cover.

Ford Aerospace had the order to produce 18 production-ready XM248s, which were to be the XM235 in 5..56 (instead of the abandoned 6.0×45) with a few improvements. (In the end, they’d make two versions). The improved XM235 was the XM248. Then, post-Vietnam budget cuts savaged the SAW program. The money was there to make the XM248s, but not to test them. The XM235 had been set to compete against the Minimi — if the Minimi could be lightened enough to meet spec — and a couple of USMC-sponsored heavy-barrel M16s (again). That is, in fact, where the 1977 11th Edition of Small Arms of the World left the competition: uncertain, and potentially cancelled entirely. The budget for the competition had been cut so much that the Army had no money for testing the 18 5.56mm XM248s that Ford delivered under their contract, or anything else. IF FN was going to lighten the Minimi, they’d have to do it on their own — contract money wasn’t forthcoming. H&K was fuming on the sidelines, believing their HK23 had been unfairly DQ’d. And Army squads still had, by MTOE, an “automatic rifleman” whose only concession to firepower was a tinny little bipod for his M16A1; alternatively, they could carry a heavy M60 and its heavy ammunition along.

Tune in tomorrow as the XM235 emerges from its Ford chrysalis as the XM248 — and becomes the most advanced light machine gun the US Army ever rejected.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week – Retro Arms Works.com

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 9.53.32 PMThis is a late, and retro post (meaning we’re posting it Thursday, and backdating it to Wednesday. But a retro post is appropriate here because the Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week is John Thomas’s Retro Arms Works. We’ve never met John in person, but we “know” him through the Retro Forum at AR15.com.  And we’re proud to display his workmanship on several of our guns, including an AR15 prototype clone.

The website is lean: it exists primarily to show off his workmanship and provide contact information. The guy is good, reasonable, and prompt. And he has a passion for retro ARs and other historic weapons. His services include machining and several kinds of finishing. Here’s a few words of wisdom yanked from his FAQ:

We specialize in “retro” AR15 parts, but we work on modern parts as well.
When you anodize or parkerize, can you perfectly color match another part? No, anodizing and parkerizing are not like painting. Different metals take the colors differently. Temperature, time, voltage & amperage (for anodizing), all have an effect on the final product.  I will finish your part in a color consistent with what would commonly be found on a GI part.

Can I send you my complete firearm, AR15 lower receiver, or serial numbered part? No, gun parts are my specialty, not firearms.  Consequently, I do not have a Federal Firearms Licence and can only accept parts, not firearms.  I do accept 80% receivers for work, as long as you have done no work to them.

Can you make a special/unusual part for me? I do custom lathe and mill work on request.  If what you need done is beyond my capabilities, I won’t hesitate to let you know.

What is your normal turn-around time on parts? Under ordinary circumstances, I have parts done in 10 business days or less.  Obviously, if you have a particularly large order, or are having some special work done, it will take some extra time.

Do you work on anything besides retro AR15s? Yes, I can help you out with most firearms related projects.

via About – Retro Arms Works.com.

The best time to call is Monday through Friday, 8:00 am central time to 5:00 pm. He accepts cash, checks, money orders, and sufficiently enticing trades if he’s in the mood.

We’re a little bit queasy about sharing our “retro connection” with the internet at large, but John’s skill deserves to be celebrated, even if it means we have a longer wait next time….

He threatened two cops with a loaded gun… and lived

muzzle endOf course, he has legal problems. If the police come to your house because you’re having domestic problems, nothing you can do with a gun is going to improve the situation.

The police in cozy Hampton Falls, NH, in the persons of Chief Robbie Dirsa and Officer Joe Lister, came to Jeff Guyette’s house for that reason. Under New Hampshire law, the police take any weapons owned by the subject of an Restraining Order. That’s pretty standard, and it’s black-letter law. There’s no gun registration in NH, so it’s heavily dependent on the cooperation of the RO subject. (He’s not a “suspect” — an RO is administrative, and in NH as elsewhere it’s a fairly standard negotiating tactic in divorces; for good or for ill, that’s what the lawyers have made of it).

Dirsa said, “In a small town, it’s often like that — you know the people and whatnot — so it’s always difficult” when things go awry.

“I’ve known (Guyette) and his wife for a long time and never expected that (December incident),” Dirsa said.

Dirsa noted that often when officers are serving restraining orders it can touch a nerve for the person being served.

Guyette was well-known to the police, but not in that way. His dog used to get out and go hang around the police station down the street, and Guyette or his wife would collect the animal.

But as they were collecting Guyette’s weapons, the man made a decision which did make him a suspect. Seacoast Online’s Nick B. Reid reports:

“And in the process of doing so, he, I guess, made a choice that he shouldn’t have made, in that he ended up grabbing a loaded gun and not putting it down when ordered to do so,” Dirsa said.

According to the indictment, Guyette “place or attempted to place the two officers in fear of imminent bodily injury.”

Dirsa said he and Lister “ended up wrestling (the weapon) away from (Guyette), and he subsequently was arrested.”

“He was kind of resistant, but not to the point of really being a big issue,” Dirsa said, then “he just changed his mind at some point and made it unpleasant for all of us.”

In an urban police department, among strangers, Guyette would have been shot dead. In rural New Hampshire, he lives to face charges in Superior Court (which tells us at least one of the charges is a felony; initial misdemeanor charges are adjudicated in a lower circuit called District Court). He was indicted and arraigned last month.

He now has more problems than he had when the police came to his door, but he’s still alive to have problems. (And if he beats the felonies, which he probably can by pleading out to a lesser charge, and gets the restraining order lifted, he can probably get his guns back. As long as he’s not still acting like a lovestruck moose).

There are situations where some woman might be worth getting shot over, but the one that left you and has a restraining order on your ass is not the one you need to take a slug for. All the powers in the universe should be crying out to you: time to say, “Next!”

If the case is as reported, Mr Guyette is only alive because of the forbearance, professionalism and sang-froid of a couple of small-town cops, who took a risk to disarm and subdue a guy because he was a neighbor. They would have been able to justify blowing a tight pattern of .40 caliber holes through his liver — to the other authorities, at least, if not to their own consciences.

All in all, a decent outcome from a potentially sour situation. One hopes Guyette realizes just how fortune has smiled on him, takes whatever sanction the court duly metes out, and is grateful.

Shredding the Idea of Shredding Guns

Gun Death Row in Chicago. White Shirts mark CPD officers who do clerical work because they're bozos. From the Redeye article linked below.

Gun Death Row in Chicago. White Shirts mark CPD officers who do clerical work because they’re bozos. From the Redeye article linked below.

Steve Chapman at the well-named Reason magazine reports on an old folly in Chicongo, newly brought to light:

In the course of their duties, Chicago police come into possession of all sorts of contraband: jewelry, video games, bicycles, cars. They sell the stuff through online auctions that are open to the public. They also confiscate some 10,000 firearms each year, with an estimated value of $2 million. They sell them and put the $2 million through a shredder.

Just kidding. It would be insane to shred large stacks of perfectly good money. What they actually do is destroy the guns. That way, there’s no money to destroy.

via Demolishing Guns and Common Sense – Reason.com.

Chapman finds defenders of this inane policy, naturally: people who have sunk their bloodsucking tackle into the public jugular:  Adam Collins, the sort of cop who makes you glad he works in an office talking to reporters instead of on the street abusing citizens, and Mark Iris, a university professor (not the one late of the FBI’s Most Wanted list, though). It comes down to an irrational frame of reference:

There is a common assumption in Chicago that guns are the equivalent of free-roaming cobras, being lethal and unmanageable by any means except elimination. The more guns, in this view, the more murders and mayhem.

That’s not an unusual position among the left, which tends to excuse the criminal and blame the tool. It’s more than just the old common-law concept of the deodand. Some writers plunge down the rabbit hole, anthropomorphizing the guns and ascribing to them a personalized malevolence only proven in humans and higher primates: “For the firearms behind some of Chicago’s most violent crimes, death row is a West Side warehouse….” one Rachel Cromidas emotes. Remember, Officer Krupke, the criminal’s just “misunnerstood.” It’s his weapon that’s “behind his violent crime.” Maybe it displayed Satanic runes upon its blue steel surface, or whispered phrases from Steven King’s nightmares on moonless nights. The gun must pay, else we might punish the operator.

Chapman, to be sure, doesn’t buy this.

….Guns in the hands of criminals are bound to lead to senseless bloodshed. But guns in the hands of upstanding citizens are no more likely to be abused than chainsaws or baseball bats.

In five words: a gun is a tool. We reported today on the criminal use of a machete in the Gun-Free Zone of New York City. And we recall one day in South America, watching a hard-working campesino cut hay with just such a tool. Over several hours, he cut so much hay that he dulled the blade; he then sharpened it on a stone (not a sharpening-stone; a plain ordinary river rock with one of its rounded surfaces ground flat by years of machete-sharpening duty). And went back to cutting hay.

We doubt that diligent farmer ever hurt a hair on anybody’s head, and it wouldn’t occur to him to do it with his machete. So what’s the difference between him and the guy in New York? Who had the exact same tool, but used it to do unspeakable evil?

The difference is entirely within the brain housing group of the tool user. You can’t get anywhere by examining the tool. Chicago shreds $2 million a year because they’re afraid to face the human implications of the possibility their Iraq-beating death toll is not due to the tools.

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have machetes

bloody-macheteIn deepest Bloomtopia, in the heart of the greatest gun-free zone in the western hemisphere, a mass murder of five took place. The suspect, Ming Dong Chen, is a 25-year-old illegal immigrant from China, who’d been receiving mental health treatment intermittently from the New York authorities. Apparently, the Bloomberg approach of ingoring the mentally ill and small crimes — cops have recently been told to “back off” the homeless — while pursuing non-violent gun owners relentlessly isn’t working, at least, not if your goal is anything to do with violent crime.

Who could have anticipated that?

A crazed man turned a Sunset Park, Brooklyn, home into a slaughterhouse late Saturday, leaving a 37-year-old mom and her four young children stabbed to death.

Ming Dong Chen, a 25-year-old suspect — preliminarily identified as the children’s mentally troubled older cousin — was arrested after being subdued at the scene, his feet bare and soaked in blood.

Cops seized a machete and scissors from the home as evidence, a law enforcement source said.

The suspect, who neighbors said lived at the home, didn’t flinch as cops led him in handcuffs from the house of horrors, witnesses said — even as one of the children was removed from the house on a stretcher.

The top of the little boy’s yellow pajamas had been cut open at the front by paramedics in their struggle to save him.

He was pronounced dead early Sunday morning at Maimonides Hospital.
“He [the suspect] was bizarrely calm,” said one neighbor, who asked that his name not be used.

“He was completely composed and answering their questions — even as they brought out two black bags with the kids in them,” the neighbor said.
“He was still calmly answering their questions as the stretcher with the bloody child was rolled right past the car,” the neighbor said. “Again, he seemed unfazed.”

 

The children’s father came home from work too late to save his family, according to neighbors and law-enforcement sources, who stressed early Sunday that their information was still preliminary.

Police identified the victims as 1-year-old William Zhuo, a 5-year-old Kevin Zhuo, a 7-year-old Amy Zhuo, 9-year-old Linda Zhuo and  37-year-old Qiao Zhen Li.

The mother’s sister was present but unharmed, and called 911.

“The father walked in and grabbed [the stabber] and tried to stop him but it was too late,” said one law-enforcement source.

via Killer butchers woman and her 4 kids | New York Post.

Boy, it’s sure a good thing New York wouldn’t let him have more than seven rounds in a magazine. Way to keep the public SAFE. Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be fair to lock up the insane, because their right to be nuts is, the ACLU patiently explains, superior to the right of this woman and these children 0– one of them an infant — to live.

Of course, the illegal alien angle is there, as it so often is in violent crime. Break one law, get benefits for life — no wonder they aren’t deterred by laws. This guy is probably shocked he got arrested. After all, he’s just butchering the people that lazy Americans won’t butcher. The Post is all over this like the scent of corruption on a Congressman — they’re the source of the information that the doer was an illegal — and no doubt they’ll have further updates in the days ahead. One of the updates is that one of the victims was beheaded, and another update is that Ming (the Merciless?) did it because the family was better off than he, and he didn’t think that was “fair.”

Dang, Bill deBlasio just lost one voter. But wait, it’s New York, they’ll bring him an absentee ballot in prison — and tell him how to fill it out.

Illegal immigration is criminal behavior. The best guide to future behavior is past behavior. What do those mean, when taken together? Look at the FBI’s Most Wanted lists. The current Ten Most Wanted List only has nine at-large fugitives on it (one perv — who was a university professor, naturally — was just caught) but four of the nine are foreigners: one Honduran, two Mexicans, one Ukrainian who also has Russian and Israeli passports. (Zero Arab terrorists. Not a priority for the Holder DOJ). Just doing the crimes lazy Americans won’t do. Or consider the Ten Most Wanted Murderers (this is one place the terrorists have been demoted to, along with a terrorist-ghetto list that’s predictably 90% Arabs), they’re mostly imports: one Malian (he’s the terrorist), four Mexicans, and a Costa Rican (the other Hispanic names on the list — quite a skew in this data set, eh — are Americans or have no nationality listed).

The Violent Crimes Junior Varsity top ten (these are the ones who haven’t been charged with murder. Yet): there’s only one man whose nationality is unlisted but was born in Mexico (so he could as easily be a US citizen), one Ukrainian skinhead who was involved in a fatal gay-bashing, and one Venezualan who’s wanted for two counts of negligent homicide. But the other seven are our own natives. These crimes, then, Americans still seem to take pride in doing. Go Team USA.

Exit question: The Boston Marathon bombers were on so many welfare subsidies that it raised them to the upper middle class. Their parents, who had returned to Russian Chechnya, were still receiving welfare by electronic transfer from Massachusetts. Since New York will not be beaten by Massachusetts on liberal coup-counting (even if the Yankees were done for the season long before the Red Sox this year), what will the Post be telling us this week about Ming the Merciless’s welfare bennies?

Can you meet the Commando standard?

2 cdo patchWe can’t meet the Commando standards of 1940, can you? Some things, yes, and some things, no. Now, in the peak of youth, we could have done it. Here’s an extract from “Service in a Commando” by Lt. Col. AC Newman, who was OC of No. 2 Commando when he drafted this document.

Before they get to the nuts and bolts of physical standards and training requirements, the Commandos want to know what sort of character a recruit has:

Irregular warfare demands the highest standards of initiative, mental alertness and physical fitness, together with the maximum skill at arms. No Commando can feel confident of success unless all ranks are capable of thinking for themselves; of thinking quickly and of acting independently, and with sound tactical sense, when faced by circumstances which may be entirely different to those which were anticipated.

And what sort of mind:

Mentally. The offensive spirit must be the outlook of all ranks of a Commando at all times.

Here’s the part where a middle-aged stout body with only one working ankle is going to have trouble:

Physically. The highest state of physical fitness must at all times be maintained. All ranks are trained to cover at great speed any type of ground for distances of five to seven miles in fighting order.Examples:

  • Fighting Order (seven miles in one hour (march & run).
  • F.S.M.O. (Full Service Marching Order) (15 miles in 4 hrs) ; 5 miles in one hour (marching) (25 miles in 8 hrs) ; 9 miles in two hours (marching) (35 miles in 14 hrs).

After all these distances and times, troops must be ready, in para (a) to fight, and in para (b) to fight after two hours rest.

Now, back in the day, we could’ve done that, and often did. But it’s a pretty high standard. (listing the 15-mile event first suggests it is of major importance. The usual SF endurance event is a 12-mile rucksack march over mixed dirt and paved roads, to a time which has historically varied from 2:30 to 3:30. It’s an ass-kicker, as 15 miles in WWII Tommy Atkins rig would be, also).

We’re assuming Fighting Order and FSMO are pretty close to our concepts of Combat Load and Sustaining Load. Our event was done with 45 to 65 lbs in the ruck, as the full SF sustaining load might well be over 100 lbs., which is inimical to rapid movement.

The interesting bit there is the complete absence of such PT requirements as form indirect measures of combat fitness. They don’t care how many pull-ups, push-ups, crunches you can do, or how fast you can run 1, 2, or 26 miles: you need to walk, and haul your kit, and be ready to rock on arrival. They don’t even care if you can swim, but you’d better be comfortable in boats regardless: “[T]he sea comes to be regarded as a natural working ground for a Commando.”

There’s also map reading and compass work, night evolutions, cliff climbing, and unarmed combat. Everybody will be able to use the radios; conduct urban combat; forage for his own food; treat gunshot wounds.

Interestingly enough, there’s no mention of marksmanship or skill with rifles, pistols, or other small arms. It may have been so understood as to have gone unsaid. Demolitions did get mentioned:

All ranks will have elementary knowledge of demolitions and sabotage. All ranks will be confident in the handling of all types of high explosives, Bangalore torpedoes, and be able to set up all types of booby traps.

And, as every viewer of commando movies knows, a Commando needs to be able to drive the Mercedes staff car, Hanomag halftrack, or steam engine he’s just carjacked from some unlucky German:

All ranks in a Commando should be able to drive motor cycles, cars, lorries, tracked vehicles, trains and motor boats.

Barely two things are missing that form part of the modern SF / SOF pipeline: parachuting, which in 1940 was a technological and combat elite of its own, and survival, evasion, resistance and escape training. Of course, they could have skipped the Resistance Training Lab part, as beginning in 1942, all Commandos captured were either shot on the spot, or transported to concentration camps for execution.

Col. Augustus Charles Newman, VC, OBE, TD, DL (he went by "Charles"!)

Col. Augustus Charles Newman, VC, OBE, TD, DL (he went by “Charles”!)

Newman himself just barely dodged that bullet, being captured after the famous St. Nazaire Raid (in which HMS Campbelltown acted as a seagoing time bomb, wrecking the only French drydock which could handle DKM Tirpitz). Newman was taken captive just before the Commando Order was published; he survived the war to receive his VC for St. Nazaire, and to serve in the SAS.

All in all it sounds like a hell of a place to hang out, exactly the kind that would attract just the right (and for the conventional army, the wrong) sort of fellows. But there were limits to the freedom, and Commando powers came with Commando responsibilities, enforced by a terrifying threat:

Any falling short of the standards of training and behaviour on the part of a Special Service Soldier will render him liable to be returned to his unit.

“Back to the Royal Welsh Cannonfodder with you, Taffy…” You can just see it happening. No doubt the threat alone kept most potential miscreants in the rank well in line.

The influence of the British Commandos of World War II on today’s American SF and SOF is not coincidental. Our World War II Ranger Battalions were formed and trained in the Commando mold, the earliest of them in the Commandos’ own training centers. The reason today’s Rangers wear unit scrolls, and introduced shoulder tabs into the US Military?  That’s the influence of the cousins acrosss the pond. And late in the Korean war, the Ranger companies which had been expended as infantry in the face of Chinese human-wave attacks were disbanded, to free up the personnel slots for the new Special Forces organizations. Many of SF’s early founders had Ranger backgrounds, and transmitted Col. Newman’s Commando ethos into the new organization. When the Ranger battalions came back (originally as a scheme to cut and eliminate SF!) and other units stood up, the Commando ethos and a surprising number of Commando procedures continue to live on.

You could do worse than organize a unit today, selecting and training your personnel according to Newman’s 17 points.

Colonel Newman’s entire 17-point memo is available in .pdf at the Commando Veterans’ website. Enjoy.

Where Small Arms R&D is going next

It's probably not going to be a disintegrator ray gun. Dang.

It’s probably not going to be a disintegrator ray gun. Dang.

Because the XM248 segment of the story is taking longer than we had hoped, we’re going to go for a practical first down again (an American football analogy, for our overseas readers: we’re going to do something easy, but possible, instead of something extremely difficult). As we’ve been immersed in the surprisingly lively RDT&E world of the 1970s, where weapons systems with roots as far back as WWII and Korea were being uprooted by new technology, we began to wonder, what’s going on today? 

And in the world of small arms, the answer is, surprisingly little. The Army is somewhat satisfied with the weapons that they field now. This is partly because the current suite of weapons is pretty good. It’s also because the Army has other priorities that are higher. Army leaders have said that their problem areas for science and technology are as shown in the slide (source .pdf).

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 11.30.27 PMYou’ll notice that most of these have no bearing on small arms development. They’re all very serious problems, but with one exception, tinkering with guns isn’t going to solve any of, say, the top ten.

The exception, the place where small arms is going next, is weight reduction. This is nothing new: for 4,000 years infantrymen have bitched about their burden, and for 4,000 years commanders have admitted that the grunts have a point but have done little to alleviate the problem.

There’s a dynamic at work here: when advances reduce the burden, new gear gets stacked on the rifleman (as it did on the fusilier, musketeer, arqebusier, pikeman, or hoplite in days of yore). If the command doesn’t replace the 20 pounds’ respite that science and procurement brought you, the GI himself will, usually with ammunition.

What sort of technology will reduce weapons weight?

The last time it was successfully done, it was done by applying aerospace technology to weapons design. We refer, of course, to the crusade of the original ArmaLite from its Hollywood offices and later Costa Mesa plant, during the long pregnancy of the Space Age in the 1950s. Stoner, Sullivan et. al. drafted a variety of industrial materials and processes for guns that had been little used in the industry before, and never used explicitly for weight reduction as an initial design objective.

It was radical then, but it’s old hat now. The space age technology of 1960 — forged 7075 aluminum alloy and fiberglass, later molded Fiberite® plastic — is now not too exciting. Even the exotic material of 1960, the titanium structure of the secret A-12 spyplane, is now much more widely used. A few things that are likely to see more use in the years ahead:

  • Aluminum-lithium alloys. Used in F-15 wing skins and Airbus 380 skins. May be too light for gun structures without new processes.
  • Aluminum-scandium alloys. These are already showing up in lightweight pistols.
  • Titanium alloys. These have come downmarket — and small arms systems have gotten so expensive — to be within reach. However, Scandium alloys approach Ti alloy strength, and are more easily machined and welded.
  • Carbon-fiber and carbon-carbon structures. These could reduce the weight of stocks by 50%. ATK, which is no stranger to small arms, has achieved 20-40% reductions by redesigning metallic aerospace structures in carbon composites.

There are even more exotic materials on the horizon. Nanomaterials in particular offer benefits that will probably require complete systems redesign to be fully exploited. Indeed, they’ll probably require new basic research in the nanoscale dynamics of the mechanism inside the gun and the projectile inside the barrel.

Materials have the potential to reduce the weight of ammunition as much as weapons. The low-hanging fruit here is polymer cases. They’re hard to do because brass does a lot more than just hold the case together; so far, plastics have failed miserably at providing the gas seal that brass case obturation does. But a polymer case would get 90% of the weight-savings benefit of true caseless ammunition. Caseless, of course, would get 100% of the potential, which is why the idea won’t die, but as everyone who’s tried to make caseless guns (notably H&K) knows, that extra 10% of potential costs you several multiples of 100% of your original effort.

Another way to reduce ammunition weight is simply to ensure that more rounds fired are hits. Future ways to improve this tend to focus on electro-optical systems, but more mechanical accuracy in the service firearm is possible — and desirable.

Finally, new manufacturing technologies make possible manufacturing with a precision previously unimaginable. Additive manufacturing processes enable the design of parts previously unimagined, including parts with blind hollows inside. (It sounds like this would weaken the part, but most loads are carried on or along surfaces).

The bottom line: we’ll see a weapon again as light as the 6.6 lb. (3 KG) M16A1. But it will have much greater capabilities.