Monthly Archives: May 2016

Whatever Happened To… Stainless Steel Shotshells?

We’re not referring to those shotshells containing stainless (or not) steel shot, designed by environmentalists to embugger waterfowl and upland hunters.  We’re talking about shotshell cases that were made of stainless steel, to let owners safely fire modern black powder loads in ancient — even Damascus-barreled — breech-loading shotguns.

This 1878 Colt (now on Gun Broker) is an example of the kind of gun that could use these.

This 1878 Colt (which just now sold, or didn’t, on Gun Broker) is an example of the kind of gun that could use these.

 

They were once manufactured by a company in Yuba City, California (one suspects an offshoot of the then-beginning-to-struggle SoCal aerospace industry) named Conversion Arms, Inc., and promoted nationally. But since then, they’ve vanished without a trace.

Here’s what the late John T. Amber, for many years editor of Gun Digest, wrote about them in the 1979 annual:

Stainless steel shotshells

Modern smokeless powder shotgun cartridges are a no-no for old shotguns made long ago – the outside hammer guns, with or without Damascus (twist) barrels, even many early hammerless guns – and factory loads powered by black powder are hard to find, impossible to locate in many areas.

This Union Machine Co gun is Belgian proofed. It's in remarkable condition -- the bores on these old guns are often trashed by corrosive cartridges of the day.

This Alger Arms Co gun (not Union Machine as the picture filename says, our error) is Belgian proofed. It’s in remarkable condition — look at the case hardening, still visible! The bores on these old guns are often trashed by corrosive cartridges of the day. This one doesn’t appear to be — $825 starting bid on GB. This was the sort of gun the conversion cartridges were meant to save.

Now there’s a good solution – Conversion Arms, Inc. (PO Box 449, Yuba City, CA 95991) has just introduced all-stainless steel 12-ga. shotshells (2 ¾” and 2 ½”) formed at the base to take standard number 11 percussion caps. No loading or priming tools are needed – simply fill with black powder, 50 to 70 grains of FFG being suggested, add a card wad or plastic shot cap, pour in 1¼ oz. of shot, place a card was over the pellets and push the cap on the integral nipple.

You can, of course, vary the shot load, too, but in any setup use a fair amount of pressure on the over-powder wad and on the over- shot wad for best combustion and performance. A wooden dowel or “short starter” works well, and snug-fitting cork or felt wads can be substituted if space permits.

CAI sells these S. S. shotshells for $7.95 each or two for $14.95 postpaid, and a detailed instruction pamphlet on their use is included. They’re guaranteed for life.

Of course, a lifetime guarantee may not be for your lifetime, but the company’s — whichever comes first. The guarantee only works if the company hangs around. California Secretary of State records show that Conversion Arms, Inc. was registered in 1977 and at some time after that — the records don’t say — was delisted for failing to pay taxes. (That usually happens when the company goes paws up).

English Hooper (probably W.C.Scott) damascus barrels. Another GunBroker sale (higher end).

English H. Hooper (probably made for Hooper by W.C.Scott) damascus barrels. Another GunBroker sale (higher end).

 

Amber’s write-up seems to have been that old journalistic dodge, a paraphrased press release, but it makes us wonder why this idea flopped. We’ve often looked at some beautifully crafted old Damascus gun and passed it up, just because there’s no shooting it. (Maybe there is, now, with cowboy-action driven blackpowder loads. We dunno). But these simple shells would have made it possible to pattern Ol’ Betsy and take her hunting again, and that’s something. Why did they die? Were they too odd a product? Did they appeal to too narrow a public? Was the price too high? In 1979, a cheap imported double-barrel shotgun still listed at $179. The rock bottom of the market, the H&R Topper Youth Shotgun and its Iver Johnson knock-off, were $65 and $55 respectively. It may just be that for the few of us crazies who want to shoot an old shotgun more than the latest trap gun made in a workshop in Italy where Michelangelo once apprenticed in the stock-carving shop, brass black powder cartridges available now are good enough.

This all happened almost 20 years before the Internet went public and interactive, and so, before the event horizon of the net, we were unable to find a single write-up or photo of these things online.

As we mentioned, there is an alternative: although the shells don’t reinforce the chamber the way stainless steel ones did, Rocky Mountain Cartridge sells lathe-turned brass shotshells and a loading kit (.pdf). The prices vary by gauge and length; the chambering of most old American shotguns, 12 gauge 2½”, costs $75.00 for a minimum-order box of ten (.pdf) — the same unit price of one of the Conversion Arms shells, but in deflated 2016 dollars. The loading kit is another $60 or so.

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Thumbs

wile e coyote strangledSure, the press is making a big deal out of the strangle-er being an Uber driver, but it’s more interesting to us that she was a stragle-er in the first place. Don’t most people seem to just kind of pick up,  without needing to be told by a judge and a jury of their peers, that it’s not OK to try to choke the living snot out of somebody?

But apparently the strangle-er, one Yolande McAllister, didn’t get that message from her mom, so she’s going to have to take it up with the authority figure in black robes. You know what they say: strangle in haste, repent in crowbar motel.

A 32-year-old Uber driver has been charged with assault in the third degree, strangulation and disorderly conduct after an incident that occurred last week on the University of Delaware campus. Police say the driver, New Castle resident Yolande Mcallister, attacked a 19-year-old college student at the residence hall where he was being dropped off after an argument turned violent.

“They had a disagreement and it escalated from there,” Capt. Jason Pires, spokesman for UD Police, told Newark Post Online.

The incident reportedly occurred at 10 PM in the parking lot of George Read Residence Hall on Laird Campus. Police say Mr. Mcallister repeatedly struck and attempted to choke the student passenger, who was later taken to Christiana Hospital and treated for face and neck injuries.

via Uber Driver Charged With Strangling Student In a Dorm Parking Lot | Observer.

The strangle-ee is apparently going to live, which is about the outcome you expect from You Go Grrl Crazy Lady™ trying to choke out a normal, healthy male. (Most of us who have dated or married redheads have personal experience). Fortunately, all our enemies have promised never to strangle anybody, so all our infantrymen can be girls now. Now, that’s what we call progress. Actually, we don’t, but the You Go Grrl Crazy Ladies™ are all over it, like ugly on an ape.

 

100 Years Ago Today: The Battle of Jutland

Going into World War II, there were two major surface ship actions of the Dreadnought era that everybody knew: Tsushima Strait, the battle that woke the world up to the Empire of Japan as a nascent power in 1905, and the battle of Jutland, the one great battleship fight of the First World War. It was a tough, inconclusive battle fought in uncooperative weather between two mighty fleets and their screening forces, which in 1916 (especially in foul weather) meant destroyers and other small surface reconnaissance vessels.

The battle, named for the Danish peninsula off which it reached its climax, was inconclusive; both sides lost ships and thousands of men, but it can be called a British strategic victory, as the Kaiser’s fleet never sortied in such strength ever again.

Jutland has been beautifully reconstructed as an informative animation, produced, directed and narrated by Nick Jellicoe, grandson of the British admiral, Lord Jellicoe.

This is one that is worth watching in full screen. Also, if you go to the Vimeo website, Nick has been engaging people in the comments there. No doubt he will be running flat out right now, as this is the actual anniversary and he’s a big wheel in the Centenary; but his devotion to telling  the story of his grandfather, and his officers and men, as well as their German opponents, is appreciated by all of us.

Things that we found most fascinating include the consequences of imperfect information and restricted information flow; the technical aspects of 1916 naval gunnery, including the German night-fighting technology (the main battle was fought by daylight, in the afternoon, but the night tech is interesting); and Nick’s well-developed argument that being thwarted here led to the German decision to resume unrestricted submarine warfare, a decision that would ultimately sink the German Empire by drawing the US out of its cherished neutrality. (While President Wilson was strong for joining Britain and France, it wasn’t a popular position until after the Lusitania sinking).

Hat tip, the Old Salt Blog, which also has a report by Rick Spilman on the restoration of the only ship from Jutland which still survives, the cruiser HMS Caroline.

The DA/SA Pistol, Reconsidered

At LuckyGunner’s blog the LuckyGunner Lounge, Chris Baker has been running a series of really good articles on traditional DA/SA pistols and how he’s recently made the change to DA/SA after going striker fired for a while.

Chris Baker firing-beretta

While we call them “articles,” they’re really informational and instructional videos; but Chris and LuckyGunner present the full transcripts of the videos, which is a beautiful thing.  A video can show you, but if what you want is the words, you can read a lot faster than it takes to watch the vid. The way they set it up, you can pick your preferred learning method. ‘S’all good!

So far, Chris has presented three parts, which may be the whole thing for all we know; the first covers general double-action history.

The double action autos got to be pretty popular in the 20th century and various designs were used by Beretta, Smith and Wesson, Sig, CZ, and a lot of other gun companies.

And you probably know the rest of the story. In the 1980s, the American US military ditched the 1911 and adopted the double action Beretta M9. And then when police departments around the country started switching from revolver to semi-autos in the 80s and 90s, at least at first, most departments adopted double action semi-autos.

And then a few years later, Glock came along and shook things up.

His basic reason for defecting from the striker-fired camp, he tells us in the second part, on why he switched, is safety:

if you mess up and get on the trigger too early — which happens a lot to people under stress — or if you think you need to shoot someone and then realize you don’t, the length of travel of the double action trigger gives you an extra split second to correct your course of action before you put a bullet somewhere it doesn’t belong.

Double action pistols are also safer when it comes to holstering the gun. This is probably the most dangerous thing we do with our handguns, and it’s when a lot of accidents happen. With a double action pistol, you can put your thumb on the hammer after you de-cock, and that way, it’s impossible for the gun to discharge if you accidentally leave your finger on the trigger or you get a strap or a piece of shirt caught in the trigger guard. And if you don’t remember to de-cock the gun or thumb the hammer, then you’re really just a pound or two of pressure away from where you’d be with a striker fired gun anyway.

One reason cop shops went in for DA/SA in a big way in the 1980s is that it let you have a gun ready to fire without any fiddling, but with a long enough first-shot trigger pull that only intentional shots would be fired. Cops being cops, some of them from time to time found a way to outflank the idiot-proofing, but they’d done that with DA revolvers, too, and a DA revolver is about as safe a gun as you’re going to get without molding it out of Play-Doh.

A second reason, one that mattered to the military but not to police who generally use new ammunition, was that a DA pistol gave you a second poke at a dud primer. You will see this often mentioned in early-1980s documents, especially ones written by people with military connections. That’s probably because at the time we were still firing 1944 and 1945 headstamped ammunition from WWII production! After the adoption of the M9, the Army quickly ran through its supply of ammo that had only been feeding SOF secondary demands (like MP5s and foreign weapons training).

In the third part, on learning to use the DA/SA trigger, Chris says:

It’s only been about six months since I started the transition from primarily using striker fired pistols to using double actions for all of my personal self-defense guns, so I am by no means an expert. But I feel like I’ve started to get the hang of it, and I’ve had some good teachers, so I’m going to share a few tips that have helped me out with shooting double actions over the last few months.

The first challenge is the double action trigger itself. In order to master this, you have to actually shoot the gun double action. Some people are so intimidated by the longer and heavier trigger pull that they never actually shoot the gun this way. It’s possible for you to go to the range and just rack in the first round and now your hammer is cocked, and you could fire the whole magazine single action and never actually have to fire double action.

But if you own a double action pistol for self-defense then you have to have the discipline to decock the pistol and shoot both triggers so you can learn to run the gun the way you would if you had to draw it and shoot to defend your life. I decock the pistol after every string of fire and every drill and I never thumb cock the hammer. Whenever the gun comes off target, I decock. This is a good habit to get into anyway just for the sake of safety, but it also forces you to have to shoot that double action trigger.

There are several different variants of decock and safety on DA pistols. The Beretta 92S/92F/92SF/M9, which has a safety loosely based on Walther practice, is a bit awkward, thumbwise, for one-handed decocking. (The 92G has a decocker, which is what Wilson Combat does on their custom Berettas, and it’s nice but still in that out-of-the-way place. There are also DAO-only Berettas 92D and 96D, and all Beretta lockwork from at least the FS on up is interchangeable). We dunno what the polymer Berettas that Chris seems to prefer work like; just never tried one. SIGs have a separate safety and decocking lever, which is very handy, you just have to practice enough to make decocking second nature. CZs have to be different, and have one of two safety arrangements: a non-decocking, 1911-style safety that requires a careful manual hammer drop on a live round to decock, or a very nice decocker in the safety position.

A CZ cocked and locked. This was also possible on the very first Beretta, M92. The M92S with slide-mounted decocking safety soon replaced it.

A compact CZ cocked and locked. This was also possible on the very first DA Beretta service pistol, the Model 92. The M92S with slide-mounted decocking safety soon replaced it.

What works with you depends on the size of your hand, and how diligently you want to train on a complex system. People who are casual about shooting and indifferent towards practice might be better off with a striker-fired gun on which the trigger weight and throw never change. But striker fired guns have their own issues.

Having grown up with both SA (1911, et al.) and DA/SA (P.38) autopistols around, and going through the “wondernine” 1911->DA/SA conversion when that was a thing, we didn’t consider that many young shooters didn’t have hands-on with this system, but Chris sure did, and that’s what makes his articles especially valuable to today’s shooters. Maybe they’ll think better of those of us who still shoot these coelacanths of the range.

Their Tank will be a Memorial

Sultab-Yakub tank in Kubinka

If you were headed to Kubinka to see this tank, you can turn back now….

In war, you never get it all your own way. You win some, and you lose some. In the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon in 1982, de facto Syrian territory at the time, Israel won some — sweeping the Valley clean of Syria’s latest surface-to-air missiles and destroying 29 MiGs in a day — and they lost some, when an exposed tank battalion was nearly surrounded and defeated in detail at the battle of Sultan Yacoub.

The Israelis withdrew with most of their 50-plus casualties, of whom 20 were dead. The Syrians captured some broken-down and disabled Israeli tanks — American 1950s-vintage M48s with many Israeli upgrades, including reactive armor — and three survivors of one tank crew: Zechariah Baumel (also an American citizen), Zvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz. The Syrians marched the three captives off and they were never seen again. The most intact of the tanks was presented by Syrian king-in-all-but-name Hafez Assad to his patrons, the Soviet Union. After analysis by Soviet technical intellience officers, it wound up in the museum of the Russian armored forces at Kubinka near Moscow.

Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu recently asked for a favor from his fellow head of state, Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Would he consider returning the tank? Turns out, he would. He signed the order this weekend and Israeli and Russian officers are working together on the shipmen of the tank today. Netanyahu:

There has been nothing to remember the boys by and no grave to visit for 34 years now. The tank is the only evidence of the battle and now it is coming back to Israel thanks to President Putin’s response to my request.

It is probably the only tank in the history of the world to be shipped anywhere on humanitarian grounds.

One wonders what else the two presidents found to talk about, and whether there is a quid pro quo in the works for the return of the tank.

 

 

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have New Age Beliefs

New-AgeDoctors? What do they know, primitive barbers? We’re going to treat our kid’s diabetes with our new-age feels! Because medical-industrial complex, or something.

Guess how that worked out?

Alex Radita, 15, weighed less than 37 pounds at the time of his death in May 2013. His physical condition was so disturbing, many of the emergency responders who found the emaciated child inside the family’s home had to seek psychological services.

“It is hard to imagine what Alexander experienced in the last days, weeks and months of his life,” prosecutor Susan Pepper said in her opening statement.

“It must have been painful. It must have been profoundly lonely.”

The Raditas once had their son seized by B.C. social services after he nearly died from untreated diabetes — the same allegations they now face in relation to his death, according to Pepper.

“At some point the accused knew their plan was killing their son or they knew he was likely to die and they accepted this consequence,” said Pepper. “They knew this and yet they continued their plan.”

After their entanglement with the British Columbia authorities, the cruel, neglectful parents moved to Alberta, where authorities didn’t know their history of extreme child abuse and neglect. (Canada, like the USA or Germany, has a federal system where things like family law and basic criminal law are usually matters for the subordinate jurisdiction. Some criminals exploit this).

Police said at the time that Alex, who had Type-1 diabetes, died from a bacterial infection that arose from complications stemming from neglect and starvation.

The Raditas had several adult children who also lived in the home, but none of them were ever charged.

The family had moved from B.C. several years before Alex’s death, where court documents show his parents had a history of refusing to treat the boy’s illness.

The trouble began in 2000, when Alex was first diagnosed with diabetes at age three.

\The child was hospitalized several times before B.C. social services officials seized him for a year. He was returned to his parents in 2005.

via Alex Radita, 15, weighed 37 pounds when he died, parents murder trial hears.

Alex Radita, emaciated and nearly dead, at his birthday party shortly before his death.

Alex Radita, emaciated and nearly dead, at his birthday party shortly before his death.

As the trial continued, the parents’, particularly the mother’s, conviction that they knew better than mere doctors seemed to become even more clear as lawyers wrangled over whether to admit or exclude even more evidence of neglect and abuse.

Rodica Radita expressed to doctors and social workers over and over again that she did not accept her son’s diabetes diagnosis and was reluctant to treat it, according to evidence the prosecution wants allowed in the murder trial of the Calgary mother and her husband, Emil.

After his diagnosis, Alex went years without seeing medical professionals and was hospitalized several times, once when he was near death after his parents failed to properly treat him.

Throughout the years, Rodica told medical staff she did not agree with the diabetes diagnosis and did not want to give Alex insulin. At one point, she said she believed the insulin was giving Alex cold sores and resisted increasing the amount he was getting.

At one point, a hospital refused to release the kid back into his parents’ custody, noting that they were mired in unshakeable denial about his medical condition. Unfortunately, the hospital ultimately relented, and the parents just kept abusing and neglecting Alex until they killed him.

There’s a lot of people out there practicing medicine by blog and you-tube. If they don’t agree with a doctor’s diagnosis or treatment plan, they’ll just search the intertubes until they find one they like better.

A milder version of that is the person who does not like what the doctor is telling him, and selects a homeopath (practitioners of a notorious, legendary quackery) to tell him what he wants to hear, while giving him placebos. (By definition, homeopathic “remedies” can’t contain therapeutic levels of anything).

Ask your doctor about, say, vaccination (that usually smokes out these “alternative medicine,” really “alternative to medicine”  barbers). If he ducks like a quack, it’s past time to change doctors.

“Happy Memorial Day?”

American dead in WWII were a relatively small minority. (Here, Arlington Cemetery in Washington).Somebody’s going to say it, or a lot of somebodies: “Happy Memorial Day.” And a veteran’s going to throw a wobbler. Or at least, grind his teeth.

Or, that other favorite, “This day is all about you. Thank you for your service.”

As readers of this blog certainly know, Memorial Day is not on occasion to celebrate those many of us who survive. At least, not in the USA. We’ve got a day for that, in the bitter month of November, for good and historical reasons. That’s the day for those who returned upright and animate. This day is to honor the ennobled among us, the ones that did not. And so many of us vets are thinking about absent friends, today; it may not be an occasion for happiness.

We are about to argue the opposite.

Nobody died so that you can mope around bewailing his fate. Let us consider an alternative way to think about him, about them. Let us, rather, take comfort and find joy in the fact that they lived, however briefly; let us remember them not as they died in a flash of HE, that unforgettable sound of a rifle-bullet impact, or an unstoppable running-down on the operating table; but rather, as they live: full of life and life’s joys, or even more honestly, life’s passions.

Surely you can call up that friend, or relative, or friend’s relative, in your mind. This was a person with a distinctive smile, a laugh, and a gait that you could spot in a throng at a hundred yards. Bring that picture into your mind, that man (or, perhaps, woman) in color and in three dimensions.

Now, take that fallen hero — for the foundation of our little world stands on the shoulders of these, and that makes them heroes if nothing else does — along with you. To the cookout, to the ball game, to the beach, to the water park.

Expect others to look at you funny, as you’re attentive to the old friend’s envy of your home or kids — or his mockery of your current state of physical fitness.

Don’t be surprised if he takes the last hot dog or the last beer — or if he leaves it for you. Either way, that’s just the kind of guy he was, wasn’t he?

We have been bringing our dead friends to holiday festivities for some years now. We haven’t told anybody, because we enjoy, most of the time, just passing as regular, sane, non-vet Americans. But now it’s time to let the secret out of the bag.

Maybe a pshrink would say it’s a coping mechanism or something, but like Tom Cruise, we stay away from those guys (maybe they could help Mr Cruise, but it’s still a free country, and that’s his business, not ours).

Anyway, when some smiling, secure, comfortable citizen looks at you and says, “Happy Memorial Day,” look right in his or her eye, shake hands if it’s suitable, and say, “Happy Memorial Day” right back. Say it like you mean it, because you’re saying it for two.

And if you’re sensitive to it, if you’re really tuned-in, that pressure on your shoulder is a squeeze from a dead hand, telling you it’s OK.

Happy Memorial Day.

 

Deal Alert: Polymer 80

We’re forgetting that for Muggles, Memorial Day is a time of great sales. We received a very nice email from Polymer80, leading with the right sentiment. We already had a Polymer80 pistol-lower unboxing post roughed out for this week, so it was on our mind, too. We just didn’t check email ’til this morning. Here’s our excerpt from their email — plus the all important code.

Honoring the Fallen

We want to take this time to acknowledge those who have sacrificed their lives for Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness.  Your courage will always be remembered.

God Bless America.

Save 20% OFF ALL 80% Polymer AR Receivers, 80% Pistol Frames, and AR Accessories this Memorial Day Weekend*.

At check-out use promo code:  p80memday2016

*Does not include BBS Kits. Expires May 31st, 2016

Shop Polymer80

New Dealer SpotLight

Still looking for the illusive [sic] Glock Gen3 parts for your PF940 Pistol Frame? We have a new source just recently added to our family of dealers.  Visit Trick Glocks and check out their e-store, they currently have 30 kits ready to sell with another 70 on the way!

Their website url is: https://www.trickglocks.com/
You can also visit their Facebok Page: https://www.facebook.com/trickglocks

As we mentioned, we have two Polymer80 Glock-off frames here and were planning an unboxing post. We weren’t sure where we were going to get parts (we were probably going to just strip our own G17), and so we’ll check out Trick Glocks, too, but only after this post goes live. (We’ve got a thing about taking advantage of our readers. To be specific, we don’t do it!).

UPDATE

We’ve just been to parts seller Trick Glocks’s website, and we’re not impressed.

It looks like they spent a lot on the polish and shine. Then when we went to actually buy stuff, the sales cart engine is… unfinished. It looks like it’s working in general, because some things are selling out, but after a flaky dance with registration and prove-you’re-real and emails to click on, it then hissed at us:

Your City must contain a minimum of 4 characters.

We can assure them, our town contains lots of characters; our very dead-end street has more than four characters. But the name of the town has only three, which is not all that rare in this part of the world. At least 14 towns in the Northeast (NH, NY, MA, ME, VT) bear three-letter names, often since some time in the 17th Century. We were jolly well here first, but apparently our money’s no good with him.

To put it in three-letter words: Him? Huh. Fie. Heh.

UPDATE II

And the contact page on their web site doesn’t work, either….

What Did a Luger Cost? (Updated)

This Commercial Mauser Luger was made very close to these cost figures -- in 1939. From the Sturgess collection, now for sale by Jackson Armory.

This Commercial Mauser Luger was made very close to these cost figures — in 1939. From the Sturgess collection, now for sale by Jackson Armory. ($3,450!)

Well, that depends. There’s a lot of different ways to look at this question. But what we’re going to do, is look at what it cost to manufacture a Luger. As it happens, the great book Mauser Pistolen has a table of Luger production costs in 19401. From there we can calculate would it cost in 1940 dollars, and from there it’s possible to make an estimate of its production cost in 2016, in today’s dollars. Let’s start by transcribing the original document, from the collection of Mauser Pistolen co-author Jon Speed. We’ll apply our MBA-fu and a little search online to translate the quaint old German accounting terms.

Table 1: P.08 with Haenel Magazine — Full Cost Accounting

Item Item (English) Cost, 1940 RM
Werkstoff Material 1.82
2 Haenel – Mag. 2 Haenel Magazines 5.32
Summe SubTotal 7.14
Fertigungslohn Direct Labor 10.21
Werkstoffgemeinkosten @6.8% Material Overhead @6.8% 0.49
Betriebsgemeinkosten @182.7% Factory (Business) Overhead @182.7% 18.65
SubTotal SubTotal 36.49
Kostenabweichung @7.6% Cost Variance @7.6% 0.78
Summe SubTotal 37.27
Zuschlag für Ausschuss @2.2% Surcharge for Spoilage (waste/scrap) @2.2% 0.82
Herstellkosten Manufacturing Costs 38.09
Verwaltungs- u. Vertriebsgemeinkosten @3.8% Administration & Sales Costs @3.8% 1.45
Umsatzsteueuer aus RM47.10 beziehungsweise RM 47.50 @2.0% Sales tax on basis of RM 47.10 or 47.50 @2.0% 0.94
Selbstkosten per Stück Our costs per unit 40.48
Private sale cost 47.50

OK, now  convert to period dollars. UCSB Historian Harold Marcuse has posted a useful table of exchange rates here. (He also, to digress for a moment, spent a portion of last year embroiled (with some allies, like Prof. Atina Grossman of Cooper Union) in a battle of wits with the relatively unarmed Erich Lichtblau of the New York Times over fabrications and exaggerations in Lichtblau’s America-bashing “history” of the postwar area as published in a book and the Times — something that will not surprise anyone who’s read Lichtblau in any form). So what did it cost Mauser to make a Luger in 1940, converted to 1940 dollars? Marcuse’s set of tables includes two tables that cover 1940, but they agree: RM2.5 = US $1 for that year. So let’s add a  column, and see what that adds up to.

Table 2: Full Cost Accounting, RM and $US, 1940.

Item Item (English) Cost, 1940 RM Cost, 1940, USD
Werkstoff Material 1.82 0.73
2 Haenel – Mag. 2 Haenel Magazines 5.32 2.13
Summe SubTotal 7.14 2.86
Fertigungslohn Direct Labor 10.21 4.08
Werkstoffgemeinkosten @6.8% Material Overhead @6.8% 0.49 0.2
Betriebsgemeinkosten @182.7% Factory (Business) Overhead @182.7% 18.65 7.46
Summe SubTotal 36.49 14.6
Kostenabweichung @7.6% Cost Variance @7.6% 0.78 0.31
Summe SubTotal 37.27 14.91
Zuschlag für Ausschuss @2.2% Surcharge for Spoilage (waste/scrap) @2.2% 0.82 0.33
Herstellkosten Manufacturing Costs 38.09 15.24
Verwaltungs- u. Vertriebsgemeinkosten @3.8% Administration & Sales Costs @3.8% 1.45 0.58
Umsatzsteueuer aus RM47.10 beziehungsweise RM 47.50 @2.0% Sales tax on basis of RM 47.10 or 47.50 @2.0% 0.94 0.38
Selbstkosten per Stück Our costs per unit 40.48 16.19
Private sale cost 47.50 19.00

While what Mauser got from the HeeresWaffenAmt (Army Ordnance Office) for each Luger is not immediately apparent (it’s probably somewhere else in that excellent book), we know what they charged a German military or police officer seeking to privately purchase a Luger: RM 47.50 (that’s in another of Speed’s period documents on that same page). In American, $19.

These costs were reduced about one Reichsmark per unit from the previous year, but Mauser’s costs in 1936-37 were lower and highly variable over time, suggesting that the ~5% difference might just be normal variance over time. It’s surprising that you don’t see cost reductions considering that Mauser produced the Luger for about ten years, beginning in the early ’30s when they took over production from then-corporate sibling DWM in Berlin (drawings, parts, and one engineer, August Weiss, were sent to Oberndorf). Other evidence in the book suggests that Mauser had quite modern management for its day.

Well, there’s the outrageously-expensive Luger for you — compare that to the US cost for the 1911A1, about $14-15 in 1940. Adds up if you’re making hundreds of thousands of them (Mauser and DWM together produced about 2 million Lugers, according to Weiss).

Another image of that same Luger at Jackson Armory.

Another image of that same Luger at Jackson County Armory.

There are several different ways to calculate what a 1940 dollar is worth today (which was news to us, MBA and history degree and all). Marcuse also recommends the site measuringworth.com, which has this interesting discussion of which value comparison indicator is “right”. (The answer, it turns out, is “it depends.” Isn’t it always?)

Using Measuring Worth’s seven-index calculator, we get values for a 1940 dollar varying wildly from $13.40 (using the GDP deflator methodology) to $169 (using relative share of GDP).

one_1940_dollarAs it turns out, GDP deflator is a good measure of “how much it cost compared to the present cost of materials or labor”, but so are worker wages, which as you can see (for an unskilled worker) is double the CPI (reflecting a rising standard of living in the last 3/4 of a century); and relative share of GDP is a good measure of the national weight assigned to such a project.

The common Consumer Price Index which we’ve used for previous longitudinal price comparisons is close to the low end, at $16.90. A perfect methodology does not exist, but it might require us to use different metrics for different components of the Luger’s cost structure. Instead, we’ll just use the GDP Deflator and the Relative Share of GDP to get the min-max:

Table 3: Full Cost Accounting, RM and $US, 1940 and 2014

Item Item (English) Cost, 1940 RM Cost, 1940, USD Value, 2016 by GDP Deflator Value, 2016, Relative Share of GDP
Werkstoff Material 1.82 0.73 9.78 123.37
2 Haenel – Mag. 2 Haenel Magazines 5.32 2.13 28.54 359.97
Summe SubTotal 7.14 2.86 38.32 483.34
Fertigungslohn Direct Labor 10.21 4.08 54.67 689.52
Werkstoffgemeinkosten @6.8% Material Overhead @6.8% 0.49 0.2 2.68 33.80
Betriebsgemeinkosten @182.7% Factory (Business) Overhead @182.7% 18.65 7.46 99.96 1260.74
Summe SubTotal 36.49 14.6 195.64 2467.4
Kostenabweichung @7.6% Cost Variance @7.6% 0.78 0.31 4.15 52.39
Summe SubTotal 37.27 14.91 199.79 2519.79
Zuschlag für Ausschuss @2.2% Surcharge for Spoilage (waste/scrap) @2.2% 0.82 0.33 4.42 55.77
Herstellkosten Manufacturing Costs 38.09 15.24 204.22 2575.56
Verwaltungs- u. Vertriebsgemeinkosten @3.8% Administration & Sales Costs @3.8% 1.45 0.58 7.77 98.02
Umsatzsteueuer aus RM47.10 beziehungsweise RM 47.50 @2.0% Sales tax on basis of RM 47.10 or 47.50 @2.0% 0.94 0.38 5.09 64.22
Selbstkosten per Stück Our costs per unit 40.48 16.19 216.95 2736.11
Private sale cost 47.50 19.00 254.60 3211.00

We’d be very pleased to be pointed to any such cost accounting details from other nations/periods/firearms.

Updates

This post has been updated. Total Luger production has been added, and the paragraph noting that earlier costs were higher has also been inserted (Mauser Pistolen contains another, earlier cost breakdown table on p. 226 that shows these costs for the years 1936-38, with 1937 costs broken down by quarter. Plenty of data in that book for anyone interested in a deeper dive than this.

Sources

Weaver, W. Darrin, Speed, Jon, and Schmid, Walter. Mauser Pistolen. Cobourg, Ontario: Collector Grade, 2008.

Williamson, Samuel H.  Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present. Measuring Worth, n.d. Retrieved from: https://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/

Williamson, Samuel H. Choosing the Best Indicator to Measure Relative Worth. Measuring Worth, n.d.. Retrieved from: https://www.measuringworth.com/indicator.php

Sunday Sleepwalking

Ever have one of those days without energy?

Got up, came downstairs, sat down, woke up three hours later. We’re not the Lone Ranger in this. Plaintiff II meant to attend a newly ordained priest’s first sermon, and arrived in time for the applause. He who slept through services in a plush recliner will not be the first to cast a stone, and the padre apparently thought it was funny.

In our defense that is a very comfortable chair. In fact, we hear it calling, and the calls will probably overwhelm us after lunch.

Yesterday was 86 degrees out, and we did some yard and lawn and airplane work, and bought a tool box at a neighbor’s yard sale, and got somewhat cooked with all of it. Today it’s in the low fifties, cloudy, with a fresh breeze. Bicycle wasn’t fun.

The tool box was a large double-stack Craftsman Pro box with a lot of Snap-On and Mac tools, and a story. Our neighbors are retiring to Florida. He is not a mechanic; his son was, a motorcycle mechanic. (There are some oddball Harley tools in the box, we think). After the son perished in a bike accident, the box of tools sat, until it was time to move. He put a reasonable price on the toolbox. We didn’t bargain (unusual for us, cheapskate New Englanders).

There is nothing of interest in the lawn work, except that we’re playing with a manual reel mower. It can’t cut any high grass, but seems like a great workout once the power mower gets us ahead of things. It’s silent and very neighborly.

Finally, the airplane. What we thought was a couple of nights’ work assembling the flaperons turned out to be more work than we expected (or that the plans let on). Flaperons are control surfaces on the trailing edge of a wing that serve as both ailerons (lateral control surfaces that roll the aircraft around its longitudinal axis) and as flaps (surfaces that change the effective camber of the wing, providing increased lift, and a steeper ascent and descent, at low airspeeds). All airplanes since about 1914 have ailerons, which were Glen Curtiss’s clever end run around the Wright Brothers’ patent on wing-warping; all airplanes that cruise at 100 knots or more have flaps (and many slower ones do, also). Combining the flap and the aileron lowers part count and empty weight (these are good things), and trades off a little control-system complexity for increased structural simplicity.

By and large, the parts fit extremely well. We are impressed and more with the quality of the Van’s RV-12 kit. We have encountered exactly one place where we believe the kit could be improved, one place (well, several places relating to the same thing) where the plans are a little off, and, we think, about four places where we had to refer to the builder forum at Van’s Air Force. (In addition to that, some bracket machining that would have been trivial for us but has caused other builders of earlier kits great stress is now done for you at the factory. Gotta love Van’s). For us, the journey is the reward, but you can also buy one already built at a factory.