Monthly Archives: December 2015

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have the Prison Infirmary

BehindPrisonBars001If you thought Obamacare was awesome, you should see what single-payer looks like. Inmates have it already, and all the ones that lived love it.

Cynthia Goodman, who was serving a three-year prison term, was among those who died in 2013. Her death predated Corizon getting the health care contract by a few months. Kat Jones, who said she was with Goodman before she died, said Goodman bled to death in a prison bathroom.

Goodman was a kidney dialysis patient, Jones said.

“She kept complaining that she was bleeding from her port. She complained for more than a month. We gave her clothes because she would bleed all over them. She would tell them but they would just send her back to the dorm,” Jones said.

“One morning she got up early with me. We were both in wheelchairs. She got into the shower and started screaming for help. I got in there and blood was spurting from her port, all over the walls on the ceiling, on the floor, people were screaming. Everyone was frozen and didn’t know what to do,” she recalls.

“The sergeant came and kept calling medical, but no one answered. He took her out the door, but she died,” said Jones, who was later interviewed by prison inspectors about the death.

“They tried to say she was picking at her skin, that she was picking at the port. I know that isn’t true. She complained for over a month.”

Well, that’s one way to stop an inmate complaining — let her bleed out. Works every time.

Of the 57 deaths at Lowell over the past decade, only one — a disputed suicide in 2008 in which the inmate allegedly hanged herself while handcuffed — has been categorized as anything other than “natural.” Ten recent deaths remain under review.

via Rats, bugs and ‘natural’ deaths at Florida women’s prison, the nation’s largest.

The “natural” deaths included Cynthia Goodman’s botched dialysis shunt.

Kids, if you needed another reason to stay out of prison, here it is. Prison docs make the rotating staff at your HMO look like a listing of the recipients of the Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize in Medicine.

Well, unless your HMO is the VA. For you poor wretches, maybe the jug is a step up.

 

The Tanks of 1918

We’ve introduced before the American involvement in armored warfare in the last months of World War I. At the time we promised you a report on the battles, and a description of the hardware involved. This is the hardware post.

While American manufacturers, notably including Ford Motor Company, quickly pledged to build tanks, their industrial production had no material affect on the war; but a time tanks were coming off American production lines, the war was over. And the first American tanks were, or were intended to be, built on foreign patterns.

Renault FT17. This one is preserved at a Polish military museum, part of the global FT17 diaspora; this tanks was probably used in the Russo-Polish War.

Renault FT17. This one is preserved at a Polish military museum, part of the global FT17 diaspora; this tank was a gift from Afghanistan to Poland for Polish support. The tank may have been used in the Russo-Polish War and captured by the Soviets, then given to Afghanistan; or it could just be a tank the Kingdom of Afghanistanw bought on the world market in the 1920s or 30s. It is the 37mm, 20-caliber variant. The US Army also used these tanks, and built a copy under license.

This was because America was fresh in the war, and largely unprepared; apart from our tiny professional military caste, most Americans hadn’t even been following it very closely. There was a vague understanding of things called “tanks,” but no grasp of their design details, let alone how to build them.

That should’ve been slightly embarrassing, because the concept of the tank came from arming and armoring the American-designed Holt tractor in the first place.

With no tanks in production, the US certainly had no tank tactics or operational art, and it set out  to learn from the experienced nations that would provide the tanks: Great Britain and the Republic of France.

After over three years of war, the British and French were eager to share what they’d learned. You might think that they’d be reluctant to give up any share of their tank production to the war’s newcomer, but their problem was a mirror image of the Americans’: the Yanks had volunteers but no experience, training, or tanks, and the European Allies had too much experience, production lines producing more tanks than they could use, and a shortage of manpower after years of blind, wasteful attrition on the Western Front. Indeed, the French and especially the English hoped that the Americans would just provide them with warm bodies, to be expended as replacements in their own bled-out regiments, under the leadership of the same guys responsible for bleeding the regiments out. The US commander, General John Pershing, forcefully declined this offer every time it was made.

The Americans would fight in their own units, under their own leaders. Decision made.

Despite that one disagreement, coalition warfare went remarkably well. American tank units — once trained — worked with British Commonwealth and French units, and even incorporated, at one point, a French tank company in their task organization. At one point, this produced a moment of combat laughter when an American unit sent their valiant French interpreter to stop and redirect a supporting French tank — only to have the turret hatches clank open, and an American TC pop out — “What the hell do you want?”

This FT17 is on display in Compiègne, France. The card-suit markings were used by French and American tank units in WWI.

This FT17 is on display in Compiègne, France. The card-suit markings were used by French and American tank units in WWI. The high-contrast camouflage was intended to break up the tank’s outline, especially versus aerial reconnaissance. The TC’s ingress and egress was through the double-door hatch in the back of the turret. Most photos in this post expand with a click.

Light Tanks from France

The confusion was obvious, because the American tankers were in a French Renault FT, the light tank America adopted from France. Attempts to build this simple, light (about 7 metric tons) two-man tank in the USA bore no immediate fruit. Ford first redrew every Renault drawing and redimensioned them in Imperial units, with the predictable result that none of the Ford parts fit the Renaults, and vice versa. Even the tracks didn’t match: the French tracks were 13″ wide, and the US copy 13 3/8″. The US-designed and built Mk VIII Liberty tank was in the style of the larger British tanks, but powered by the US Liberty engine (the engine was one of the few success stories in American war production in WWI, but the tank wasn’t). In any event, mere token numbers of the American tanks got to the American Expeditionary Force by the Armistice. The hundreds of tanks actually used were all made in France.

The other side of the Compiègne tank. Note the 8mm Hotchkiss armament.

The other side of the Compiègne tank. Note the 8mm Hotchkiss armament.

The Renault FT light tank was a product of French doctrine, which emphasized small, maneuverable tanks that could act as mobile pillboxes for the infantry in the advance. France produced a couple thousand of the FT, which came in a single 8mm Hotchkiss MG version, or in a stubby 37mm L/20 cannon version (the gun barrel was only 720 mm, about 28″, long — shorter than a lot of duck guns). The USA used both versions, organized into Light Tank Companies and Light Tank Battalions, on the Western Front.

This FT was delivered to Switzerland for tests in 1921, in hopes of a sale. It is preserved today in Thun.

This FT was delivered to Switzerland for tests in 1921, in hopes of a sale. It is preserved today in Thun.

All these pictures make the size of the FT unclear — it looks pretty big. Actually, its nearest analogy might be a 1960s VW Beetle, although it’s taller. It would fit in the average garage. This maintenance photo, from tank expert Steven Zaloga’s photobucket, gives you a better idea of the sheer size, or lack of it, of the FT:

French FT17

In Wilson, this image is identified as American crewmen receiving training on the FT17 at the 311th Tank Center at Bourg, France. The men are wearing American uniforms.

This period French manual illustration doesn’t help as the poilus inside are drawn rather small. It does show the layout of the tank, though. The FT is laid out much like WWII and modern tanks — armament in a turret, engine in the back:

Renault_FT_17_sketch

There were quite a few variations of the FT17. For example, the British tank museum at Bovington preserves a prototype with a one-piece cast turret; versions exist with spoked steel idler wheels (the big wheels up front) and with built-up wooden idlers.

Cast armor was unusual in World War I. Most tanks were protected by face-hardened armor, which is obvious when you see the shattered plates of a destroyed one.

Frenh Heavy Tank. Fix this caption.

St. Chaumond Heavy Tank. The “prow” was for negotiating trenches, the main gun a French 75, the secondary armament 8mm Hotchkisses, fired by crouching soldiers who couldn’t stand up or sit down in the cramped tank.

France had made heavy tanks too, the Schneider and the St. Chaumond. In fact, France had been developing tanks for about as long as Britain had, but seems to get short shrift in English-language sources. In any event, the large French tanks were little loved by the French, and were rejected by the Yanks:

Neither vehicle could be truly classified as a tank. Instead, they were nothing more than armored artillery carriers requiring infantry skirmishers to lead them into battle, carefully marking the routes that should follow. Underpowered and lightly armored, they did poorly traveling cross-country, and their crews suffered badly if they received direct hits from artillery fire.1

The French, by late 1917, had put their faith in the light tank; while they still operated the clumsy behemoths, their production was heavily weighted to the small FT, optimized for accompanying infantry in the assault.

The Americans turned instead to Britain for heavy tanks.

Heavy Tanks from Great Britain

Britain had a completely different concept of tank warfare than France – attempts to reconcile these differences had been unsuccessful, with each nation going its own way – and their vision was of the tank going out ahead of the infantry to make a breakthrough, which infantry would then exploit. Each British tank, then, was a sort of a landship, capable of fighting independently or in conjunction with other tanks. They normally employed a team with a cannon-and-MG-armed “male” tank “married up” with an MG-only “female.” (A tank that bore both cannon and MGs? “Hermaphrodite.” Heh.) As you might expect these landships were large and well-armored and armed for the day.

bovingtons_surviving_mark_v

A rare operating survivor: Bovington’s Mark V.

British tank models were logically, if unimaginatively, numbered in sequence from the pioneering Mark I of 1915, and the two models the Americans acquired were the Mark V and the Mark V*, which Americans usually referred to in speech and even in writing as the Mark V Star. Readers familiar with British small arms of the period will recognize the * as a marker of a modification, but the Mark V* was quite a bit different from the ones which had no stars upon thars. (Apologies to Dr. Seuss. Couldn’t resist). It was longer, heavier, and improved in many small ways.

The Mark V is what you think of when you envision the classic, lozenge-shaped tank of World War I. Relatively few of these tanks survive; most of the survivors are in Ukraine, Russia or the other former Republics of the Soviet Union, and are remnants of UK/US intervention at Archangelsk, and Western support to the White Armies in the Russian Civil War. The Soviets preserved this history to a greater extent than the Americans or Britons did. For example, two Mark Vs were preserved in Luchansk, Ukraine. They were in bad shape, with battle damage, rust, e…generations of looting, more rust, and…

Surviving_Mark_V_2

…covered in grafitti (whoever Artyom is, he’s an asshat), but the tanks were removed and restored:

Restoration in Progress Mark V

…and replaced. (In he picture below, one of the restored tanks is in place, the restoration of the park is yet to get started).

Restored Lugansk TAnk

One fascinating find during the restoration: a rifle cartridge case. But it doesn’t look like a Russian 7.62 x 54R to us; it looks like a rimless case. Could this tank have belonged to the American contingent at one time? The case looks too short to be a .30-06. The button appears to be a British Army one, too. A mystery!

Mark V artifacts Lugansk

Another fascinating find: what appears to be one of the same tanks during the Civil War, captured by the White-aligned “Don Army” of rebellious Cossacks:

Mark_V_tank_of_the_Don_army_1919

Lugansk/Luhansk is in disputed territory in the Ukraine and was seized by Russian troops and Russian-controlled militia in 2014. It has been the scene of much fighting, and it’s unclear whether the monument tanks have survived. It’s the least of the many pities of that civil war, one supposes, but a pity nonetheless.

Returning to our American tankers of a century ago: as nearly as possible, American tankers tried to keep the Mark Vs and the different V*s sorted by assigning them to different Heavy Tank Companies, which were assigned to Heavy Tank Battalions.

All tanks of the period were very unreliable; for every one killed by enemy countermeasures (artillery, mines, and the Anti-Tank Rifle) literally dozens broke down or got bogged down. An important part of tank planning was the establishment of engineering organizations to recover, repair, and return to the combat force those abandoned tanks.

This artwork, The Tanks at Seicheprey by Harvey Thomas Dunn, is in the US Army collection. Dunn observed the attack depicted in this impressionistic illustration, the first day of the St. Mihiel offensive.

seicheprey-i

It’s reminiscent of this famous photo, which is often displayed divorced from the information about it. But this is actually a photo of an American tank in combat in the Great War — a very rare thing.

us_ft-17_in_combat

This photo was taken at Seicheprey. Compare the tank’s attitude to the background tank in Dunn’s illustration. But we know the unit, the 326/344th Light Tank Battalion2, and the driver, Corporal George Heesch.

All of the world’s tank types have their ancestry in these flimsy, brittle, unreliable machines.

Surviving WWI Tanks

Some tanks were produced in very low numbers, like the German A7V. Others were mass produced — there are images of production lines for the British tanks. All in all, thousands of tanks were produced, including nearly 2,000 Renault FTs and probably another 1,000 to 1,500, maybe more, of all other types combines. Yet, only a dozen or two tanks survived, not the war, but the century between then and now. 

We know of two lists of surviving Great War tanks: Dave Maynard’s which comes up as disabled due to nonpayment, and an illustrated list found on sub-pages of the Surviving Panzers page: http://the.shadock.free.fr/Surviving_Panzers.html

That includes ….

…this list of non-FT-17 type WWI tanks surviving, including reproductions: http://the.shadock.free.fr/Surviving_WW1_Tanks.pdf

…this list of FT-17s: http://the.shadock.free.fr/Surviving_FT-17.pdf

…this list of US M1917 Six Ton Tanks: http://the.shadock.free.fr/Surviving_6ton_M1917.pdf

Notes

  1. Wilson, Dale E. Treat ‘Em Rough: The Birth of American Armor, 1917-20. p. 9.
  2. Wilson, pp. 116-117, note 53, explains that Patton’s battalions were renumbered by HQ on the eve of the St. Mihiel offensive. At the time this photo was taken, in September 1918, the unit was already the 344th but the old 326th was still the name everyone was using.

Back From Bubba’s Brink on a Budget

Here is an AK as prepared by Bubba the Gunsmite. It has been given a good gun smiting, both in its tacticool appendages, and in its horkworthy finish. That paint job — is Bubba actually blind from a bad batch of white lightning?

bubbas_ak-74

It was posted to Arfcom by a guy wondering what it was, and whether he got a good deal swapping a police trade-in Glock worth maybe $350 for it (and a bunch of low-quality mags). The AK is a Bulgarian kit with its original barrel, built up on a high-quality Nodak Spud LLC receiver. (Yes, their AK stuff is just as outstanding as their AR stuff). Apart from the sprayed on crapkote finish, front rail with a questionable VFG, and love-it-or-hate-it Hogue grip, the 5.49mm rifle has a homemade bumpfire stock, on a cheap plastic (polyethylene?) “buffer” tube held on with (we are not making this up) a wood screw. The new owner wanted a “tactical” AK with rails and all, but didn’t want an eyesore. 

As bad as the gun looks in overview it’s worse close up:

Bubbas AK-74 action

You could call that the “Been there, done that, got tagged by a Bronx graffiti ‘artist'” look. But as bad as the outside of this Bubba job was, the inside was worse yet:

Bubbas AK-74 internals

The collective wisdom of the Arfcom thread was to strip and refinish it — or have a pro do it — and install Magpul Zhukov furniture in a Bulgarian-like plum finish. The Zhukov allows the use of a top rail only.

AK-47 (not 74, obviously) with Magpul Zhukov furniture in black. Magpul photo.

AK-47 (not 74, obviously) with Magpul Zhukov furniture in black. Magpul photo.

But the guy was on a tight, tight budget. He couldn’t swing the Magpul stuff ($200 plus shipping)

Can you heal a sick AK in a tiny home workshop, on a rock-bottom budget?

Here’s what Adam decided to do:

  1. Strip the old finish;
  2. Refinish with a modern coating. He chose Norell’s MolyResin in semi-gloss black;
  3. Replace the Bubba-built bumpfire rig with a conventional stock, perhaps a Magpul CTR in due course;
  4. And do it all himself.

Skip ahead to Results

Here it is “afterward,” still well endowed with tactical gingerbread, but at least not so badly finished as to make Mikhail TImofeyovich weep:
De-bubbad AK74

Although, not exactly well finished either:

De-bubbad 74 2

But still, let’s compare that to the status quo ante: 

Bubbas AK-74 action 2

Not so bad in that light, eh? Really, this thing started out looking like all five of the Lee Sisters — Ug, Home, Ghast, Beast and Gnar. Indeed, the finish was so bad it made the underlying metalwork look bad (which it wasn’t): for example, the rear trunnion rivets look like they’ve got a “smiley” on them (a common result of using an undersized set tool) but it’s just an optical illusion produced by the paint and wear.

The bare metal pins were an oversight, but — that’s the way they are on a factory AK-74, either bare metal or blued.

The finish was done with Norell’s MolyResin ceramic-metallic coating, and the orange peel can caused by a variety of things, including too much paint to quickly, not preheating the work to 100ºF or so, and not properly preparing the work. For any spray-on coating, metal needs to be prepared a little differently than it is for a soak-in coating like Parkerizing. Norell highly recommends abrasive blasting. (Or, if you’re equipped to do it, you can simply parkerize the bare-metal firearm — but you need to remove the old finish first).

Here’s how Adam did it. The longest journey begins with a single step, disassembly. Fortunately, the gun-disassembly tricks and tips that were gunsmith secrets a generation ago, are now available to anyone with a computer. Of course, this has just made more work for gunsmiths as guys (sorry ladies, it’s always a guy) who can’t follow instructions or a video, take short cuts, break things, or can’t reassemble them continue to bring them in — in a basket, or a brown paper bag. If you see a guy in Market Basket tonight answer the checkout question with “paper,” he’s probably bringing us his Glock in the morning.

Bubbas AK-74 disassembly 2

Here he is using the Tipton Gun Vise in the one role for which it’s really suited, a photo stand.

When we see the tight spaces guys like Adam work in, we are more grateful for our second-class (at least) workshop, which we don’t have to share with a water heater. (Or an F150, or lawnmower, snowblower, washer and dryer, or any of those other things we see guys working around). Having lived in small apartments and government quarters we will say that when you have to work in a small space, it helps a lot to keep it picked up and organized — that makes it seem bigger even though it takes a lot of time to be constantly shuffling things in and out of “put away.” We believe that in the end, organization saves more time than it costs.

Here’s another view of the AK at about the same stage of dismantling.

Bubbas AK-74 disassembly

And here it is further along, after most of the weird paint job has been stripped. It clings grimly to the trigger guard and internal parts, but you can see the factory blued finish on the Bulgarian barrel and trunnions, and the Parkerizing on the Nodak receiver. It looks like it took a little scrubbing (note how shiny the rivet heads are).

Bubbas AK-74 semi stripped

At this point, if you want to strip the finish, you have no options but bead blasting and/or chemical warfare. Adam went all chemical. He made a solvent trough out of a section of steel gutter from the hardware store, two end caps, and epoxy to hold them in place (in fact, he used leftover Brownell’s glass bedding compound. It worked fine). He lay the AK barreled receiver, with the barrel plugged at both ends, in there, and added a gallon of acetone. Almost immediately an black chemical began to swirl away from the barrel, like an octopus squirting ink. As the acetone evaporated away, the remaining chemical turned purple with the “octopus ink” that’s the old bluing salts leaving the barrel.

If you look real closely, there's an AK in there.

If you look real closely, there’s an AK in there.

With the old finish off, he resprayed it with MolyResin black semigloss, and baked the finish on, with the results you’ve already seen. In a few days’ part-time work he’s removed an unwanted personalization from a Bubba’d gun and made one that is not only more to his own tastes, but also more readily sold to the next owner, and certainly worth more than the $350 value of the Glock plus the ~$150 value of the materials he bought for the project (some of which, like the stripping solvent trough, are reusable).

Some suggestions, if he ever does it again:

  1. Using a more reliable thermometer than the one built into any non-industrial oven. They’re built to a price, not to a quality level, and the difference between 300º and 325º F matters a lot more to a MolyResin job than it does to a pork roast.
  2. More cycles of stripping and baking the firearm. It’s amazing how much gunk hides in the little interstices of a
  3. Completely stripping the firearm, until there are no vestiges of earlier paints, bluing, or parkerizing.
  4. Thoroughly removing all the finish solvent. This usually suggests another round of baking.
  5. Metal-preparation in accordance with the intended finishing medium. For bluing, you want a high gloss. Norell’s makes very specific recommendations for media-blasting pre-MolyResin. Those are based on many years of experience — it’s a lot faster to learn from their experience than from your own.
  6. Pre-heating the gun before application of MolyResin. (This depends on the specific MR product and degree of gloss you’re shooting for).
  7. Using an airbrush instead of an HVLP sprayer (although Norell’s recommends either).
  8. Very thin coats, not trying to get the thing to finish color in one application.

Still and all, the post-refinish AK is considerably better than the original Bubbafied state. And one has the impression that the owner will not be content with this stage of affairs, but will further improve the firearm.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: CIA CSI

CIA SealEverybody knows what the CIA is: Christians In Action, right? But what’s the CSI? Crime Scene Investigators? Cold-blooded Snakes and Iguanas?

Sadly, no.

It is the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence, the clandestine agency’s overt, academic arm. It produces material of great interest to historians and history buffs, as well as stuff that agent handlers and intelligence analysts read in hopes of improving their respective tradecraft.

One of the best products of CSI is its professional quarterly, Studies in Intelligence. It is written in-house for the benefit of Agency employees and their interagency partners, and is a rare magazine that is stamped with a security classification and that must be accounted for as a classified document. However, each issue, excerpts from Studies, usually dealing with espionage or intelligence history, are declassified and find there way to the Studies in Intelligence page maintained by CSI. Among the declassified excerpts are usually all of the book reviews from the relevant issue of Studies. 

Along with the declassifiable bits of new issues of Studies, there are also now-it-can-be-told declassifications, like this one (.pdf) of a 1989 article by an early-1960s Saigon station chief. (They promise that “two compendiums” of declassified and unclassified Studies articles are coming Real Soon Now™). There were a lot of coups d’etat in the Republic of Vietnam in that period, including this one that most Vietnam scholars never heard of:

One “coup that wasn’t” led the Ambassador in August 1964 to order the departure of the legendary Lou Conein, the OSS veteran whose intimate relationships with most of the Vietnamese military hierarchy made him an invaluable resource during this period. Conein’s downfall in 1964 was precipitated by the unscheduled midnight move of a couple of US Army armored personnel carriers through the streets of Saigon, without the Vietnamese MP escort called for by standard practice. The APCs were unable to find their way to the pier where they were to be outloaded for movement north, and they pulled up outside the entrance of the Headquarter’s compound of the Vietnamese Navy, where Premier Khanh had secretly decided to spend the night. Khanh judged these vehicles to be precursors of a coup attempt; he alerted the US AmbassadOr, and he then fled by boat. The Ambassador alerted the Station Chief, who directed Conein to canvass his contacts to determine who might be “making the coup.” Conein called each of his friends, which included most of the members of the top military leadership council, inquiring whether they were mounting a coup. When the generals met the next morning and compared notes, they wrongly concluded that the CIA had been trying to stir up a change of government, leading the Ambassador to decide that Conein had outlived his usefulness to the Station.

Of course, while Studies in Intelligence is our favorite part of the CSI website, it’s far from all of it. For example, there are the Sherman Kent papers on analytical tradecraft, and a great deal of historical information, including complete books on such CIA developments as the U-2 and the A-12 Oxcart spyplanes. (Here’s a complete U-2 flight manual — from 1959 — declassified).

CIA museum_insectovothopter_dragonfly_operational_007And still further, apart from the Center for the Study or Intelligence, the CIA website has other cool stuff, like the CIA Museum’s Artifact of the Week.  This week it was the Insectothoptera micro-drone before drones were cool: 40 years ago, in fact, the CIA was flying a convincing “dragonfly” with a 90mm wingspan (right). It had limitations that prevented it from going operational. At least, at that time.

It does make you wonder what they’ve got for technology now. 

Don’t Forget Forgotten Weapons…

… although, it could be called “Remembered Weapons,” because Ian remembers all the stuff that everybody else has forgotten. True, we haven’t flagged you to his site in, what, two whole days? But when he’s posting stuff like this, you need to be over there, not here. We’ll still be here posting several times a day, but trust us, you want to see these two posts, and you want to point your RSS reader at FW so you never miss stuff like this.

Item: The Grandpappy of all MGs

Every gun begins with the prototype — no, wait… Every gun begins with an idea, but it has to pass through the stage of prototype if it’s ever going to be made concrete and marketed, adopted, and/or produced. And Forgotten Weapons is starting a new series on the Maxim, the grandpappy of all machine guns, with a great post on the prototype, which is, naturally, the granddaddy of all Maxims.

maxim_1885_prototype_01_left

One of the best parts of that post is a video Ian scared up which shows the ur-Maxim’s inner cuckoo clock. It’s ingenious, but it’s fair to say that the highly developed Maxim of the First World War was vastly simplified and improved over this design.

maxim_1885_prototype_03_feed

That, of course, just makes the engineering dead ends of the prototype even more interesting. There’s a little bit of similarity to the much later aerial weapon, the Mauser revolver cannon, in that a rotary sprocket is used to lift the cartridges after they are withdrawn by an extractor from the ammunition belt.

Item: Small Arms Development, 1945-65: the Soviet View

Victory Day parade. Rather than rest on their laurels, the Soviets overhauled their weapons after World War II, and by 1965 they'd done it a second time.

Victory Day parade. Rather than rest on their laurels, the Soviets overhauled their weapons after World War II, sending these Mosins to the warehouse, and by 1965 they’d done it a second time.

Ian got hold of a fascinating primary source document: a CIA translation of a classified Soviet analysis of small arms development after World War II. Both the intent of Soviet development and the differences between Soviet and NATO small arms doctrine and development objectives are laid bare in this document (available at the link).

Our long-held thesis that Soviet developments were primarily focused on putting automatic fire in the hands of their riflemen, whereas Western forces primarily focused on aimed semi-auto fire, is borne out from the horse’s mouth, as it were. The authors of the piece, two senior Soviet officers, see, from their point of view, 1965 NATO as making a serious error in not giving their riflemen weapons that can be effective in automatic fire at close range. Of the US Army:

[E]xperience in the operation of the M14 rifle has shown that it has extremely unsatisfactory grouping capability during automatic firing, as a result of which it is assigned to US troops only in the semiautomatic variant.

…in recent years the American army has renovated nearly all of its small arms. However, it should be pointed out that with the NATO cartridge as a basis, the USA has failed to solve the problem of developing a mobile and effective automatic individual weapon that satisfies the requirements of modern combat. For this reason the Americans have taken measures to modernize the M14 rifle, to explore other rifle designs, to develop a new 5.6-mm cartridge with reduced power, and to develop a rifle that will use this cartridge.

Ivan also prized light weight in his weaponry.

With allowance made for [the Soviets not being sure what NATO armies carried as a basic load of ammunition -Ed.] the average weight load (weapon plus unit of fire of cartridges being carried) per man amounts to: in the Soviet Army — 7.2 kilograms, in the US Army — 9.3 kilograms, in the West German Army — 10.9 kilograms, and in the French Army — 8.5 kilograms,

(This is referring to the M14 version of the US Army, the one that faced Russian occupation armies in Eastern Europe directly at the time. Elsewhere in the report, they note the emergence of the M16 as something to be watched).

Judged on the basis of these data, the weaponry of the Soviet Army is the lightest. This has been achieved by the use in our army of the 7,62-mm Model 1943 cartridge and the development for it of an automatic rifle and a light machinegun, which have made it possible to substantially lighten the weight of both the individual weapon itself and also the unit of fire carried with it.

Interesting to us that no credit at all is given to the Germans for inventing the intermediate cartridge and assault rifle concept. While the CETME rifle is mentioned as the source of the German G-3, there’s no mention that the CETME itself is an adaptation of the StG.45. (That fact may have been unknown to the Russian authors).

The authors were extremely satisfied with the state of Soviet weapons, and considered their weapons superior both individually to their counterparts, and on a unit vs. unit basis.

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Condom Machines

At first, this looked like a real whodunit to the police investigating a bizarre crime in Germany. The evidence? Reports of an explosion, and a shattered condom machine. Someone must have really needed a condom urgently, and been out of cash?

blown up condom machine

Officers were alerted to the explosion Friday in Schoeppingen, near the Dutch border, and found cash and condom packets lying on the ground apparently untouched.

A local hospital informed police that a 29-year-old had died after being brought in by two other men. They initially said he had fallen down stairs, but police said Monday one of them later admitted the victim’s injuries were related to the explosion.

They say the three men apparently got into a car after triggering the explosion, but the 29-year-old didn’t close his door and was hit by debris when the machine exploded.

via Germany: Man dies after blowing up condom machine | News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News | KOMO.

In German practice, none of the perps are identified by name, not even the deader. Explosion looks like a small improvised explosive, and it makes us wonder if (1) someone has been reading Inspire or Dabiq, and, (2) if therefore this is one of those new immigrants bring diverse vibrancy to the vibrant diversity that is Germany.

Trust us on this: you will really, really not like the Germans if you get them all wound up. True, we taught them a lesson in 1918 and they’ve been mostly at ease since then, with a few exceptions here and there….

Never Knew This about Grant

US_Grant_in_1885He knows the capsule biography of Ulysses S Grant. Academy cadet, Brilliant equestrian, struggling alcoholic, Civil War general, President beset by a corrupt cabinet.

At the very end of his life, but it was clear he was going to die, he wrote, and then when too weak to write, dictated, one of the better sets of memoirs to come out of the War Between the States. That’s what he’s doing in this picture of Grant as a frail old man.

Everybody seems to know he was a lush, and that’s why his first Army career tanked (no pun intended), but nobody seems to remember he was a kindly, gentle and sensitive man, loath to say a bad word about anyone. That his acceptance of Lee’s surrender was respectful of the pride of his Confederate peer and that of Lee’s officers and men was not just due to the timbre of the times, but was Grant’s personality coming out.

We were fascinated to learn that he was, like characters as distant from him in personality as Hitler and Churchill, an avid painter. Unlike those worthies, though, he seems to have been really good. It’s hard to judge, because there are only a few photos of original Grants on the web, but here’s one.

painting_by_us_grant

(Apologies for the size/resolution. It was the best we could do).

Perhaps it was common knowledge, but as we’re fond of saying, “not so common that we knew it.”

Rare Simonov AVS-36 Sold for $5k — as Parts

We were watching this on GB, and the price just ran away from what we wanted to pay. But we wanted the gun, as longtime students of rare Soviet weapons. We’ve mentioned it before; in May, 2012, we noted that by coincidence the US and USSR both adopted semi-auto rifles in 1938, the M1 and the AVS-36. Although the AVS was not a semi-auto, but a selective-fire rifle. Built as lightly as possible, they were problematic in service, and soon supplanted by the Tokarev selective fire (AVT) and semi-auto (SVT) rifles of 1938 and 1940. The Tokarevs were practically kissing cousins of the Simonov, being the same caliber, same size in every dimension, using similar magazines and the same gas tappet system of operation with a tilting bolt locking system (a similar locking system to the BAR, SAFN-49, and FAL).

This is the kit as all laid out

This is the kit as all laid out

This particular kit is so rare — we cannot recall ever having seen another AVS for sale in the USA, period. Here’s what the seller says:

This auction is for a complete parts assembly for an extremely rare pre WWII-early WWII Soviet Russian Simonov AVS-36 rifle. This parts assembly is all complete including the torch cut receiver and original magazine. The assembly is all matching except for the magazine and the parts that are supposed to be serialized are all matching #Y4287. The parts including the stock and handguard remain in nice condition and have never been repaired or modified. Bore is fine and bright with strong rifling with a pin in the chamber area that can be removed. These rare rifles were only manufactured circa 1936-1938. The first saw actual combat use in the Battles of Khalkin Gol in 1939, also in the Finnish Winter War 1939-1940, and in limited numbers during the early days of WWII. These rifles for any reasons proved unsatisfactory in combat and were quickly superseded by the Model SVT 1938/1940 Tokarev rifles. The AVS-36 Simonov Rifles and any original parts are rarely found anywhere in the world and are extremely desirable in this country. This would be a very rare opportunity for a collector to reweld or have a dummy receiver made for a static display. If you are lucky enough to have a complete registered rifle you would have some great parts which you would never be able to find anywhere.

The Tokarev, too, would be abandoned to return to the 19th Century Mosin-Nagant, for reasons of reliability, training base, and especially, speed of manufacture, once the USSR found itself at war with a peer competitor, Nazi Germany.

Simonov’s team continued designing firearms on the same system. Scaled up, the AVS-36 action became the mighty 14.5 x 115 mm PTRS-41 anti-tank rifle. Scaled down, it became (using some of the innovations from the PTRS, like the fixed magazine), the SKS-45 carbine that is still carried with pride by Russian honor guards. CORRECTION: see UPDATE below.

The prewar Soviet semi-automatic and select-fire rifles were an attempt to increase the Soviet infantryman’s firepower based on the same intensive study of the stalemates of World War I that produced Soviet innovations in tank and airborne forces. (The Red Army was doing tank and airborne maneuvers all through the 1930s… the US Army didn’t create airborne units and tank units capable of operating independently until the 1940s, and Armor (tanks) was not a basic branch in the US Army until 1950!)

Two things strangled the Soviet rifle development. One was, as mentioned, the poor performance of the AVS in practice, especially considering its cost of manufacture (including opportunity costs). The juice wasn’t worth the squeeze; a prefect semi was better in theory than the old Mosin, but the AVS (and AVT/SVT) were demanding and troubled guns (as was the M1 on introduction), and say what you will of the 50-year-old (then) Mosin, it was thoroughly debugged. The other thing that slew semi-auto development in the late thirties was the Great Terror, during which Stalin purged all of the power centers of the Communist Party and the Soviet State, including the Red Army. The brilliant Marshal Tukhachevskiy was shot, as were most of the men he’d mentored. Essentially all of the marshals and higher generals, and most of the lower grades of general officer and colonels, were shot or stripped of rank and thrown in the Gulag, more or less contemporaneously with the short service life of the AVS-36. The men who took the reins — it was not unusual for a division or corps commander to be a lieutenant colonel — were shaken enough that they weren’t going to make waves. The M1891 was just fine for granddad’s regiment, they’d make it work in the 1940s. (And they did).

As a result, relatively few Tokarev and very few Simonov rifles were made in the first place, and the Simonovs were captured in great stands during fighting with the Japanese at Khalkin Gol on the Mongolian border, and in the Winter War with Finland (1939-40). This particular rifle is a Winter War capture. We’ve written before about Finnish captured AVS rifles (and again here); this one might even be in one of those pictures!

Due to the ATF’s interpretation of the Gun Control Act of 1968, even a rarity like this cannot be imported, under the borrowed-from-the-Nazis “sporting purpose” test. Because it has “no sporting purpose,” (and really, no interest except to a rarefied echelon of collectors) its receiver was torch cut. Fortunately, it was imported before the ATF changed their interpretation to require the destruction of barrels as well as receivers of “non-sporting” collector guns.

(Incidentally, there was a budget amendment liberating the importation of curio and relic firearms from the Nazi “sporting” test that passed the House by a wide bipartisan margin. Why didn’t it pass? Because like all the other pro-gun language in the House budget, it was stripped out by the inexplicably NRA A-rated Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Good thing you didn’t vote for a Democrat, eh, you might have gotten an anti-gun Speaker… oh, wait).

Looking at this parts kit, we can determine a few things. It is a Finnish capture. That can be determined because it has the Finnish Army property Mark, “SA,” applied to it in various places. The seller also gets the serial number wrong, because he doesn’t know the Russian Cyrillic alphabet.

Simonov AVS-36 bolt Ch Ts 287

The two Cyrillic letters in the serial number, here in the bolt carrier handle, are Ch and Ts. So the real number is Ch Ts 287.

Here’s a view of the bolt carrier and bolt. SKS owners will see things are fairly familiar.

Simonov AVS-36 bolt and carrier top

Here is the Finnish Army property mark, in this case, on the side of the magazine. AVS-36 magazines held 10 rounds of 7.62 x 57R mm ammunition.

Simonov AVS-36 SA capture mark

Here’s another view of the parts:

Simonov AVS-26 parts

And here they are, loosely assembled.

 

Simonov AVS-36 assembledThe kit does not seem to be complete. It is missing some internals, such as the hammer. One could probably adapt SKS parts, or use SKS parts as models to scale up, to make a safe, legal semi-automatic fire control group for a rebuilt rifle.

Having a receiver machined would cost in the four figures, is our best guess. And that’s after you’ve done the reverse-engineering and made the drawings. The parts of the cut receiver are some help, but they’re clearly distorted by the torch. You might be able to get a museum that has one to let you measure theirs, at least the gross external measurements. Despite the seller’s suggestion, I do not think this cut receiver is susceptible to being rewelded — better to start over from billet.

The torch cuts on the receiver parts are ugly, and look like they're through pin locations, locking areas, etc.

The torch cuts on the receiver parts are ugly, and look like they’re through pin locations, locking areas, etc.

The GB Auction page is going to stay live for a while. When it goes away, let us know, as we archived the page this time.

UPDATE

Max Popenker points out in the comments that our description of the locking system as analagous to the SKS and PTRS is not correct. Reexamination of available AVS photos shows he’s quite right, but what is the locking system of the early Simonov?

Forgotten Weapons had a February, 2014 post on the AVS, and identifies the locking method as a block that slides vertically up and down. FW linked to this forum thread at Guns.Ru that shows detail photography of a disassembled AVS, one that appears to have been deactivated in the British style, by torching the bolt head off at an angle. From this incomplete example, it looks to uslike the AVS bolt locked with two wedges emerging from the bolt, roughly similar to the locking flaps of a Degtyaryev machine gun. Is this a locking wedge? Or a safety device preventing out of battery firing?

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Demilled AVS bolt, left side. Is that a locking wedge at center? Bolt carrier at top. Bolt carrier handle on opposite side, you can see its shadow; there’s another possible “locking wedge” on the other side below the handle. Bolt face, torched off at an angle, at 9 o’clock; firing pin at 3 o’clock. Firing pin retaining pin visible just to left of pin, it runs in the slot milled in the pin).  

The thread is also useful for images of the trigger mechanism (much of which is missing from the auction rifle) and for showing the safety, which is very similar to that of the SKS.

“We’re Not Wor-” uh, Humbled to Appear in Such Fine Company

Doug Ross at DirectorBlue has long done an annual award for the top 50 blogs on what he sees as his side of the blogosphere. We were absolutely shocked when one of our regular commenters, Doug (presumably not Ross), pointed out that we were on the 2015 Top 50 list, and we had to go see for ourselves.

Holy Mother Machree:

best_firearms_blogger_2015

Well, we’ll be damned. For crying out loud, look at the guys we’re on the list with. Bob Owens has been around since Christ was a corporal. (Hmmm…. that’s an Army expression, but we wonder, what’s its etymology? Could it have been “since Christ was incorporate” or “corporeal” — and been corrupted by some Neanderthal-browed grunt? But we digress. And Bob’s not quite that old, we think). And, John Lott… that guy literally wrote the book, to wit, More Guns, Less Crime, and has had a formative role in the concealed-carry revolution that has turned something tightly permitted in a minority of states 30 years ago, into the law of the land everywhere except a few reactionary holdouts that cling to Jim Crow gun laws.

You know that thing in Wayne’s World, “We’re not worthy?” Yeah. Party on, Garth.

There’s also a “gun blog” category that’s also populated by heavy hitters, including, deservedly, Bob again (Bearing Arms is his site):

best_gun_blogger_2015

Bob, and The Stranger at Extrano’s Alley (who occasionally comments here), and The Truth About Guns, the irresistible site of the master of gunny clickbait Robert Farago and a cast of young and presumably will-write-for-food yout’s. Seriously, everything Farago puts on that site is at the red end of the “Wait But Why Clickability Scale,” even when it’s as wrong as a window crank on a submarine porthole.

waitbutwhy clickability scale

We’re just Indians in this tribe, and we can think of many we’d recognize before ourselves (which is part of why we have a Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week, which most of this years firearms/guns honorees have been singled out for, before). But we’re humbly grateful for the recognition. It’s nice to see your overnight success recognized after four years of daily blogging.

And if you followed a link here from Director Blue, stick around and see if WeaponsMan.com agrees with you. There are anodyne blogs out there; we try to be, to coin a word, cathodyne.

Update

Meanwhile, we’ve been singled out for another honor, apparently, by the SJW entryists running a library network in the dependably red state of Indiana. You can’t be anti-gun when you’re on the public nickel among the gun-happy Hoosiers, so look at the flimsy excuse they selected to ban us. Received by email:

You haven’t been seeing me around yur blog because it’s been kicked off the local server I use for wireless; it seems they think that military veterans talk too dirty:
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Content Denied

Your current group (Indiana Public Libraries) and policy (Indiana Public Libraries) do not allow you to visit the requested site (http://weaponsman.com/).

Sites in this category (Profanity) are currently blocked.

If you feel this is incorrect, please contact your content filtering administrator.

***********************************************

There is a category called Profanity, that’s surprise number one. And we’re in it, surprise number two. They’ve obviously never heard us do something to an RV-12 part (do you know if you get careless about securing the part you’re countersinking, you can actually turn a the 38th round hole of 40 or so that you were countersinking in a structurally vital stub spar into a figure-eight-shaped countersunk hole? No lie. There was profanity and blasphemy in the air). But that sort of profanity stays in the workshop (and Van’s always has a pleasant lady to take our call, which is 100% profanity-free, at $21 per stub spar and some $50 for next day air across the country. Wish us luck on the replacement spars). We try to keep it off the blog; we don’t censor the commenters, except for our single banished Nazi admirer, but they’re not a damning-and-blasting bunch. (Well, blasting maybe, but not that kind).

Obviously, they’ve categorized us as Profanity to serve some end other than protecting the virginal eyes of Hoosiers from naughty words. We leave speculation about what end that is as an exercise for the reader.

We suppose any recognition is nice, but on balance, Doug’s was a lot nicer!

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Vibrators

CensoredYes, we know we just had a similar-sounding case on Saturday. But we swear, this is a different case of Sex Toy Violence, in this case, including a fatality but not including the Sawzall.

A married dad-of-two living next door has been arrested after DNA analysis of semen recovered from the scene.

He was released on bail after going before a judge who was told autopsy results showed she died from asphyxia thought to have taken place during a sex game that spiralled out of control.

Totally sympathize. Happens to us all the time.

The death is believed to be the result of a tragic accident, Portuguese newspaper Jornal de Noticias reported.

The extensive genital injuries appear to have been caused by the object found near the body.

The neighbour who found herm Ana Martins, said: “She was lying in the bed, naked from the waist down and with a vibrator.

“I noticed only two small bruises on her face, but there was blood on the sheets and a picture of her husband resting on her chest.”

The victim, who was a widow of a sailor, was “very active” and “liked to make jokes with men” added Ms Martins.

The victim was a 91-year-old pensioner.

via Woman aged 91 suffocated during sex game with married neighbour, 49 – Mirror Online.