AECA Export Licensing is No Joke

hsi_badgeA small local corporation and two of its principals are now felons, thanks to playing fast and loose with export licensing on two aircraft fuel gauges. A long investigation by HSI, ICE and DCIS investigators led to arrests and guilty pleas this month.

Charges were filed on May 14, 2014 alleging that Netria exported aircraft parts to Malaysia without a license from the U.S. Department of State, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

The investigation into Netria began as a result of an inquiry by Netria to a Department of Homeland Security undercover storefront, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service working together.

Evidence gathered established that Netria had exported two Lockheed Martin Fuel Quantity Indicators; items designated “defense articles” on the United States Munitions List in violation of the Arms Export Control Act.

via Netria sentenced on violation of Arms Export Control Act – News – – Portsmouth, NH.

The company was sentenced to probation (how does that work? Checking in with your PO has got to be a production!) and fines; the two executives haven’t been formally sentenced yet.

As part of their plea agreement, Netria was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to forfeit $12,560.

In addition, William F. McKone and Raymond L. Southworth, Jr., who comprise the board of directors of Netria, pleaded guilty to one count of violating the AECA.

The offense is a malum prohibitum one and there’s no real defense to it; the charged executives of the Netria corporation flew a trial-balloon of “ignorance of the law,” but that didn’t fly, as they’d had some training on the law’s terms.

Selling fuel gages, and even C-130 cargo plane parts, to customers in Malaysia might easily have been licensed, if the real end users were Malaysian. (The problem with this off-the-books stuff is a lot of it goes via shell companies to regimes that are supposed to be laboring under international sanctions. This is one of the ills export licensing is supposed to cure).

The HSI special agents who investigate these cases are former ICE agents, redeployed since the Department has abandoned most enforcement of immigration law.

In Case of Blizzard, Keep Calm and Shovel On

keep-calm-and-shovel-on-112The local TV stations are predicting that we’re going to get hammered with snow and wind, maybe 7 or 10 or 31 inches of the white stuff in 40 or 50 or 70 knot winds. The reporters are reporting this with the sort of glee that sportscasters everywhere but New England have lavished on Tom Brady’s undersized balls lately.

Now, this may be nothing much. After all, a big storm is to local TV what a missing plane is to CNN, or a lost blonde somewhere to Fox News: an excuse to cover it like the NSA monitors on Eric Holder’s enemies list. So some percentage of the storm predictions are simply wishful thinking by TV newspeople, the kind of dysfunctional humans who might set kittens on fire for the entertainment value of watching them burn. We looked at the aviation weather forecast and it looks like a bad-end-of-normal winter storm to us.

For the love of Mike, that’s what happens in wintertime: it gets cold, and precipitation comes down in the solid state of matter, to wit, snow. You’d think snow had never fallen this side of Narsarssuaq before, from the caterwauling and carrying on in the media.

But Here’s Something to Read if We Get Snuked1

But what if we do get snuked, and wind up off the air? How will you ever fill your blog-reading hours? Well, we have a few posts that will post on schedule. And in addition to those, we can send you over to this massive index post at The Firearm Blog:

In which, they link to all one-hundred-sixty-nine of TFB’s SHOT Show posts. Now, they run the gamut from stuff we’re kind of interested again to yawn-another-AR to things that make you just go, “Huh?” (Like the fact that you can have an artificially-distressed finish put on your gun to conceal the fact you’re a total poser. Yes, really). But no matter who you are, you’ll find something you like. We liked the Colt 1918 Self-Loading Rifle, a license-production Ohio Ordnance BAR with Colt markings and a deep, rich blue finish. We didn’t like the price tag quite so much ($8,799) but we reckon the entire batch will sell. (That means 1,000, netting Colt a topline of nearly $9 million, a lot of which will stick to retailer and jobber fingers).

Colt 1918 SLR TFB

If your taste runs more in the Teutonic direction, then Ian McCollum, familiar from his Forgotten Weapons home base but wearing his TFB hat for this report, tells us that new MP-44s and MP-38s are really, no kidding, no fooling, coming from Germany to the USA, and they’ve already cleared the significant hurdle of ATF tech approval for import. (Of course, it’s not as if their word, even in writing, means anything, as their volte-face on the SIG brace shows). Anyway, here’s the MP-38. Just looking at it gives us an urge to storm Eben Emael.


Now, not everyone gets the jones for foreign and obsolete hardware like we do. Some people want only the trendiest and most mod-ly. We got that covered. While ARs are kind of dull these days, not in .338LM (8.6 x 70) they’re not. Meet Ulfbehrt.


Yes, he’s named for the Viking sword marking we’ve discussed here before, the meaning of which is not documented, but only speculated upon. As we wrote in 2013:

No one knows who, or what, Ulfbehrt was. The name does not exist in surviving documents at all. Was it a man’s name? Perhaps not, as swords with the name were made for some 200 years. The name of a lost god? A name for the product, an early trademark? No-one knows.

There are so many mods to this Alexander Arms design, it looks closer to a Barrett than to an AR in some ways — which is fitting because of the .338 LM’s almost .50-like ballistics. But internally it’s not an AR at all — it’s more like a Degtyaryev machine gun in its flap locking system (There were a lot of them: DP-28, DA, DT, RP-48, DShK, RPD, and we’re probably forgetting a few). It just shows that the ergonomics battle is over, and the AR stands triumphant.

As these three posts show, there’s something for everyone there. There are not only more photos and information at each of those articles, there’s still the other 166 to look at.

We’ll be Back, That Is, If We Go Away at All

We survived the Blizzard of ’78 (a friend of our cousin got out his show car and went around pulling people out of snowbanks. We should probably mention that Charlie’s show car was an M3 halftrack). Indeed, we drove home from work in the Blizzard, in a 1969 Pontiac Catalina with a huge engine, a two-speed slushbox automatic, and skinny bias-ply tires, which is how most people rolled in those years before SUVs were a thing, and when Toyotas had paint the faded the first year and fenders that were a fine filigree of rust by the third, and most Hondas came with only two wheels.

So we’re fully expecting to survive this one. Our power, maybe not. Blogbrother installed an automatic generator this year so we may all wind up surfing his couches for a couple of days, if the news stations get their wish and the storm is a real disaster.


  1. “Snuked” — nuked by snow. Yes, we totally made that up.

Snowbound Sunday

Well. we’ve missed all the others, and this time the shoe’s on the other foot. A few miles to the south, the People’s Republic got a relative dusting, but we got schmacked.

It was worth it just to see Little Dog in snow up to his shaggy eyebrows and ears.

We’re at a transitory holdup on the airplane project as we’re waiting on tools (needed number drills, had fractions and metric, except for the two or three number drills one needs for ARs — #3, #40, #42). Numbered drills are used to get the proper amount of clearance under ASME and ASTM standards, where the next 64th or 32nd of an inch would be too small or too large. In the metric world, such clearance requirements can necessitate an odd sized drill bit, which can take some finding.For example, the AR drills mentioned are used, in order, for: the pistol grip screw hole, (which is then tapped 1/4-28); the pivot pin & takedown pin detent holes; and the bolt release hinge-pin hole. The other AR holes can all be drilled with fractional drills, but you can finesse the pivot-pin and hinge-pin holes (which are called out at 0.25 ± .001) by cutting them slightly undersize with a Letter D or metric 6.26mm drill, and then ream to finish size.

We suspect a lot of shops just fudge the clearances!

Since we don’t know what surprises lurk in the next sections of the plans, we just ordered a set of standard gage sized, letter and number, drills (which takes us down to #60). MSC Direct will have the drills to us this week. (We also bought $400 worth of other tools that were on sale. Because tools, and MSC is great to deal with).

We’re kicking around ideas for a new logo for Something based on this:



That would seem to cover it. Vintage weapon, in depth, combat focus. But we’d get the name in there, somewhere, too. Our colors are a little dark, too.

Fun fact: while the M16A1 is a lot shorter than the Springfield M1795 Musket that has adorned the CIB (in more or less stylized version) since 1943, and the Infantry branch insignia since 1924, it’s a lot higher, vertically, making for completely different proportions. It was tough getting even this far. But then, we are not artistes around this place, except maybe with an M16A1 like in the picture.

That Was the Week that Was: 2015 Week 04

That was the week that was TW3We’re now two-four for on TW3s for 2015. OK, so this one is a day late (and, presumably, a dollar short; you can apply for your refund at refunds@dev/nul). Well, actually, it’s about 12 hours late; does that make it 50¢ short? But it’s here, and that’s something.

As commenters have noted, nobody really cares about these TW3s except us. They’re one way we keep track of what we’re doing here. And they have a benefit for you, the reader: you can use the story listings here to go back and see what you may have missed.

We’ve come up with an art solution to issues discussed previously in this space, but it may take a while. The name of the solution is engaging an artist. There are people who have a talent for this stuff, and who go to school for it. Why not reward them? And beautify the blog while we’re at it? (Before you ask, her replacement will still be clothed. This is a blog for the whole gun-happy family. Except for cousin Jabbar, the Islamic convert who wants her in a burkha — we’ll see him in Hell first).

The Boring Statistics

This week saw more info posted than last. We posted 27 posts, and a total of about 20,000 words, up from 25 and 17,000. If there were any milestones, we didn’t see them. Comments were moderate at 197 so far. Mean and median post length were 730 and 655, compared to last week’s 702 and 485 respectively. The mean close to the median suggests only that the posts were fairly balanced in lengths — long posts had offsetting short ones, and vice versa.


We have had 179 comments as of press time, up from last week’s 153 (these numbers aren’t fixed in concrete, as posts can accept comments for — we forget, 30 or 90 days? Something like that). The most commented post was, oddly enough, Sunday Spending with 22, probably because the airplane project tickles readers’ fancy, and we replied to a lot of the comments so half of them are probably ours.

The Week in Posts

Here’s the recap of our posts for this week The links may not be live till later, maybe even tomorrow:

Going Forward

We’re still having fun, sometimes with guns, sometimes with research, sometimes building non-gun stuff like the RV, and we hope you’re having fun with us.

Saturday Matinee 2015 03: American Sniper (2014)

American Sniper posterBy now you’ve already seen the trailer of American Sniper, and a good number of you have already seen the movie. You’ve certainly seen some of the other reviews, and some of the media controversy the film has stirred up. Thus, the question becomes: what can we add, without spoiling it for those who have yet to see the movie?

Hey! Impossible mission? Sounds like it’s right up our alley.

There’s several levels in this story: it’s a bio, a war story, a tragedy. It’s also a tale of a man’s and a family’s progress amid challenges that are expected, and the other kind of challenges, the ones that just happen to you regardless of what your own thoughts and desires might be.


Clint Eastwood’s version of American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper, is an incredibly on point and accurate portrayal of Chris Kyle. It sticks fairly close to the story in Kyle’s book (we’ll mention some of the deviations). We previously reviewed that book in these pages, and we liked it a lot. (We also reviewed his posthumous American Guns). We even reviewed Kyle’s only TV-series appearance, with several other SOF vets and several second-call Hollywood stars, on the “reality” show Stars Earn Stripes, in which a gang of surprisingly nervy Hollywood and sports celebrities competed in military-themed events, with cash donations to military charities at stake. So it’s fair to say that, before his murder, we were watching indulgently as Kyle grinned his way to the strange status of America’s Celebrity SEAL.

Eastwood and, especially, Cooper, have been blueprint-faithful to the character of Chris Kyle, even when they’ve diverged from his true story for the sake of Hollywood storytelling. The movie is, with some irritating exceptions, true to the many experiences of today’s SOF quiet professional: motivations, training, combat, the almost indecent thrill of combat victory and the indescribable heartache of combat loss.

The movie is particularly good about handling the process of reintegration to home, family, and stateside life in general. It is almost too good, almost creepily good. A lot of vets will be watching  some scenes, the impact of which we won’t spoil with detailed descriptions, and think: “Crap, was I like that when I came back? I guess I was.”

You do not have to go far to find a reviewer praising the film for its “message,” or condemning it, for the same reason. These reviewers are missing the story entirely. The message is a deep and personal one. It is that, as Sienna Miller says as Taya Kyle, “You don’t think this war has changed you, but it has.” And that’s the message — how war does change you, but if you’re lucky and grounded, like most of us, like Chris Kyle, with his solid family, it doesn’t change your character. For really, what ever does?


Many of the reviewers who are deep into the politics of the film (politics that are scarcely there in the first place) are merely projecting their own beliefs onto the movie. Eastwood didn’t make an all-American flag-waver, like Wayne’s The Green Berets, here. He also didn’t make a typical Hollywood Iraq War emetic, either. The fans of the latter genre have been bashing American Sniper in close formation; the two most (unintentionally) entertaining were Dennis Jett’s review in The New Republic, which he wrote after seeing the trailer, and some acting coach’s strangled cry of heartache, that gets to his real issue in the fifth or sixth paragraph… George Bush!!1! 

For the record, George Bush does not appear in this movie. But he does show up in a certain kind of review.

Acting and Production

Cooper, most successful as a comic actor until now, is going to have a long and deep dramatic career, if this is any indication. He’s so incredibly good that people may forget that he was “the guy from the Hangover movies” before being cast as Kyle (Cooper also shared production credit). And Sienna Miller is absolutely convincing as Taya Kyle. It was only after seeing the movie that we saw an interview clip which told us she’s English, blonde, and beautiful in a Hollywood-glamorous way. Somehow she made a perfect showing as American, brunette, and beautiful in a girl-next-door way. The usual American or Brit trying to fake the other’s accent is dreadful. Miller isn’t. Hell, after seeing this, she could probably pull off Blofeld in the next Bond. We wouldn’t bet against her.

The rest of the cast is there for the exposition, mostly; Kyle’s ties with his teammates are implied more than shown.

We don’t have any idea how they got some of the shots they did, but I suspect that they’ve done some novel, or at least rare, technical stuff behind the cameras. We saw the movie with Kid and three other friends in an IMAX theater (the smaller sort that’s in a metroplex, not one of the big, purpose-built “real IMAX” ones) and were impressed. The audio was clear, which it isn’t always, these days.

AmericanSniper_firing position

We complain all the time about movies set in “Iraq” or “Afghanistan” that look like they were shot in the same California hills that have seen 500 B-westerns, and in “Hadji villages” that are clearly the same old “Mexican village” or “Dodge city” backlots with a day of half-hearted set dressing. We won’t do that here. The locations that stood in for Iraqi ones were fairly close. There are some giveaways in the picture above, like all the red brick. Still, somebody cared enough to try.

Accuracy and Weapons

Guns are front and center in any sniping story, and you want the guns to be right. The guns that screen-Kyle uses track closely with the ones that real-Kyle said he used in the book. In his early tours, he totes a Remington 700 in .300 Win Mag with a McMillan stock. (You can even read the rollmark, “Remington 700,” on one shot). On his last tour, he does have a McMillan .338. Defensively, he carries a short-barreled M4 (predating the Mk18) or Mk18. He and other SEAL snipers also use gas guns (Mk11, Mk12) and this is all accurate. Other SEALs carry Mk46 and Mk48 machine guns. For pistols, the SEALs carry SIG 226s, which are correct, as opposed to the Beretta M9s in Lone Survivor. The SEALs shoot suppressed a lot, and, mirabile dictu, the sounds are the sounds of suppressed rifles, not the usual Hollywood whifffff. The suppressor is the SOPMOD-correct Knight’s Armament Company QDSS-NT4.

The guns of the Iraqi enemy are not neglected, either. Iraqi snipers use Dragunovs and PSLs, but also, a weapons cache reveals a stashed Tabuk. Not many people in Hollywood could tell a Tabuk from Timbuktu, so somebody went out on a limb to get that detail right. Bravo Zulu, whoever you were. (According to IMFDB, it was film armorer Independent Studio Services, who had Two Rivers Arms Company build the Tabuks). All the other stuff in the cache is stuff you find in a good cache: AKMSes, Russian-pattern ‘nades, RPG-7Vs.



SVD Reticle

This is what an SVD looks like from the operator end. The dashed, curved line lets you range a 1.7m high man from 200 to 1000m. Using the holdover chevrons depends on what range you zeroed at.

One small detail — when they show the view through an American sniper scope, they show a generic mildot reticle, or generic mill-crosshatch. Close enough (and we don’t presume to know what SEAL Team Three was running in Iraq). But they show something similar for the Dragunov, instead of the Dragunov’s crosshair + stadia lines for ranging + hold-over chevrons.

This may have been because, while the information on the Dragunov scope is useful to you if you’ve been trained to use it, it isn’t much use at all if you’re trying to watch a movie through it.

Nobody’s too worked up about reticles. But we’ve heard some complaints because some liberties have been taken with the facts of Kyle’s story, to punch the plot up and to provide some closure. This includes several deliberate departures from Kyle’s book and previous interviews. These include:

  • Telephone calls home on a satphone whilst in combat (but they did get the particular satphone model SOF were carrying during those years exactly right, a detail that amazed us).
  • A sniper duel with a named sniper who was supposedly an Olympic medalist. This appears to have been Hollywood punch-up; Chris was hunting a specific sniper, but didn’t get a chance to get him. According to Wikipedia (yeah, we know, that’s “according to random Internet bullshit), the sniper duel aspect was added to the screenplay when Steven Spielberg was involved as director.
  • An Iraqi torturer who punished “collaborators” with an electric drill. This actually did happen, but it does not appear to have happened to anyone tied to Kyle.
  • A pair of very long sniper shots. One is Kyle’s and does duplicate both the distance and the difficulty of a shot he actually took, but the movie changes the circumstances (sorry for vagueness; trying to avoid spoilers). The other is taken by an Iraqi with a Dragunov at nearly 2,000 meters. In expert hands, with match or sniper ammo, the Drag is a minute-of-angle gun, but in fact Iraqi sniper shots tend to be short range urban shots (<400m, often <200m, and sometimes <100m).

The ugly fact is that, while movies kind of rely on the plot being wrapped up neatly on schedule, for those of us whose tours are not going to be made into movies, there’s no closure to be had. Just a lot of open-ended questions really. You have to work it out on your own. (And come to think about it, Chris Kyle’s real life was like that, even though a version of it has been made into a movie).

The bottom line

American Sniper is the best movie about the Iraq War you’re likely to see in 2015. It’s one of the best depictions of the burden of war on warriors since… hmm… 12 O’Clock High. (Many movies since have gripped the third rail of preachy didacticism instead of the audience heartstrings they were reaching for). It’s also one of the best Eastwood directing efforts, and he’s been doing that a long time (lord love a duck, the guy is 84 years old!) Dulce et decorum est that it has already earned more for its producers than all of the preachy war-is-heck-no,-make-that-ick crap that Hollywood has sluiced out over the last dozen-plus years. Put together.

As a SEAL film, it beats the last quality leader, Act of Valor, on the strength of what Hollywood really does well, when it all comes together: script, acting, direction, cinematography. As a SEAL film, it beats the last box office leader, the deeply flawed Zero Dark Thirty. 

As a Special Forces veteran, we’re profoundly heartened that there is such a thing as a SEAL film genre, and that we have not got one. Frankly, we’d rather be the ones reviewing films about them, than having a bunch of frogmen reviewing films about us. 

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film.

  • DVD page:

That’s going to take a while.

  • IMDB page:

  • IMFDB page:

  • Rotten Tomatoes review page:

  • Wikipedia  page:


When Guns are Outlawed, only Outlaws will have Shovels

Firefighting ShovelIn a strange Pennsylvania case, a 13-year-old murder may be finally closed by a conviction, based on the way the court case is going. And the murderer, who killed a man and woman to rob them, may actually be sentenced to death.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Although he seems only to have used the shovel for burying his victims. The murder? He did that by strangulation. Two more victims of human evil and the widespread availability of guns, we guess. But mostly, human evil.

A man charged with killing a pharmacist and the pharmacist’s girlfriend looked sweaty and had a pick and shovel nearby on the day that authorities say he buried the victims’ bodies, a witness testified Friday.

Robert Steiner testified in the trial of Hugo Selenski, who’s charged with strangling Michael Kerkowski and Tammy Fassett and burying their bodies in his yard in May 2002.

Steiner, 78, had just sold the 7-acre property north of Wilkes-Barre to Selenski’s girlfriend and was still living there when Selenski told him he “had something to do at the house.”

The following day, Steiner came home from work and saw Selenski and another man, Paul Weakley.

“They looked sweaty, like they were doing something hard,” Steiner told a jury. “Their feet were muddy.”

via Witness: Man accused of killing, burying 2 seen with shovel –

The story indicates that the decedents, like many murder victims, may not have been entirely on the shiny side of the law themselves. As a result, the cops didn’t suspect foul play when they disappeared — they thought the victims had, instead, taken it on the lam.

Prosecutors alleged Selenski and Weakley strangled Kerkowski and Fassett as part of a robbery plot. Weakley has already pleaded guilty to federal charges in the case and plans to testify against the 41-year-old Selenski, who has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The trial opened nearly a dozen years after investigators found at least five sets of human remains — including those of Kerkowski and Fassett — buried in Selenski’s yard. In 2006, a jury acquitted Selenski of killing one of the other victims and deadlocked on another but convicted him of abusing their corpses. The fifth body has never been identified.

Kerkowski had pleaded guilty to selling hundreds of thousands of doses of painkillers to drug addicts out of his pharmacy in northeastern Pennsylvania, and he was awaiting sentencing when he and Fassett were reported missing by his parents.

It gets even weirder and worse. While Kerkowski and Fassett were moldering in the graves in Selenski’s yard, Selenski convince Kerkowski’s parents that he was on the run and communicating through Selenski. This let Selenski shake the parents down for money, ostensibly for people that Selenski knew weren’t going to get the money, because he’d murdered them himself.

The prosecutors are seeking the death penalty on this one.

The Other Revolution of 1775

In April, 1775, the Revolutionary War opened with a bloodless British victory in Lexington, followed by an easy victory in Concord… followed by a sanguinary and hard-fought retreat that made the British relief force’s (QRF, 18th-Century style) leader, Brigadier-General Lord Hugh Percy, bitterly aware he hadn’t won at all.

Colonial propaganda print of the Battle of Lexington. Both sides gave orders not to fire, and afterward insisted the other fired first; historians have little hope of ever sorting it out.

Colonial propaganda print of the Battle of Lexington. Both sides gave orders not to fire, and afterward insisted the other fired first; historians have little hope of ever sorting it out.

First, the operation was a mission failure: Francis Smith’s soldiers and John Pitcairn’s Royal Marines hadn’t captured the men and most of the stores they were after, but they did precipitate an open rebellion. Despite Smith’s leadership and courage in the embittered retreat, and Percy’s, in coming after him, each command had taken unsustainable casualties. Their recent operations, where they sortied against suspected enemy arms dumps, were over. They were besieged in Boston. And this wasn’t supposed to happen to His Majesty’s army! Percy wrote, in grudging admiration of the rebels:

Whoever looks upon them as an irregular mob will find himself much mistaken. For my part, I never believed, I confess, that they would’ve attacked the Kings troops, or have had the perseverance I found in them yesterday. They have men among them who know very well what they were about.1

But, while the scale of the outbreak of organized violence was new, the fight itself had been a long time coming. In 1773 and 1774 hostility to the Crown and the British regulars who had descended upon restive Boston in 1768 had risen to a level tantamount to war. (The British forces came, not to defend the colonists against foreign or Indian threat, as in the past, but to keep the Americans in line). In Worcester, a day’s march west of Boston, patriots had seized the courthouse and sent His Majesty’s representatives packing in the fall. In Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a day’s ride to the north, tipped off by that rascal Paul Revere, they’d seized Fort William and Mary from a caretaker force in December 1774. This was a bloodless demonstration of armed rebel might, making off with His Majesty’s cannon, powder and shot, before the Navy could land men (which they did: too late to capture the rebels, who slipped away). The colonials, resurrecting methods that had been honed by Indian raids in the prior century, were masters of asymmetric warfare — they could mobilize, and organize, and demobilize, in such as way as to put force against weakness, but evaporate against force. Such was the militia, the minutemen.

don troiani minutemen

Painting of Minutemen, by Don Troiani

All across New England, rising tensions struck hardest against civilians who were loyal to King George III and England. These tended to be well-to-do landowners, professionals, and leaders of society, but they often fled with little more than the shirts on their backs. They wound up under the protection of the Crown, in the only place in New England where the Crown could protect them: under the guns of Boston.

The refugees bedeviled Governor Sir Thomas Gage. Gage was, in Rebel propaganda, and therefore in many later American history books, as a heartless, bloodthirsty monster, but in fact he was a cautious and sensitive soldier who had little taste for war on fellow Englishmen, and was incensed that the rebellious colonials did. Gage sympathized with these refugees, but he couldn’t easily feed and house them.

For all his concern for the dispossessed Loyalists, Gage had little sympathy to spare for his own redcoats. They were the sweepings of the workhouses and jails, or boys so poor that the miserable life of a soldier was a step up. And they were treated much like livestock, casually beaten and abused, fed just enough to keep them alive, and paid very little. (Enlisted men in the Navy fared no better, which is why the Navy used pressgangs). The Army as an institution had a grudging respect from Britons, and an Army officer could be a gentleman of a somewhat discounted sort, but soldiers themselves were not viewed much differently from the beggars and thieves with whom contemporary London teemed. (The above-mentioned Lord Percy was a rare exception; gout-wracked and irascible, he nonetheless believed in leading by superior example, not by the lash, and he was generous and gentle with his men, forbidding floggings in his regiment. He saved his ire for General Lord Howe, with whom he could not get along).

Unless one lucked into Percy’s 5th Regiment of Foot, one’s life as a musket-bearer for HM George III was a life of hardship, circumscribed by cruelty, and motivated by dispensations that tended to 0% carrot and 100% stick. Iron discipline was enforced by the lash and the noose; it was thought quite a fine thing that the lobsterback feared his NCOs more than any imaginable enemy.

These reenactors are a lot more ragged in their formation and fire than the real Redcoats would heve been.

These reenactors are a lot more ragged in their formation and fire discipline than the real Redcoats were, or ever would have been.

You could say that the British Regulars who stood and delivered at Concord, and who kept order throughout the bloody retreat on 19 April 1775, had been quite literally “whipped into shape.” But it was a functional shape, and the red uniforms of the British Army were known and feared worldwide. By far and away, any British formation in the Colonies in 1775 was vastly more powerful than any similar-sized body of their irregular enemy, simply by dint of their greater experience at drill.

But the enemy was culturally different, and here was the revolution. He joined the fight, not because it was a Hobson’s choice between the King’s shilling and the gallows, but because it was his fight. The colonial American was much less observant of class distinctions than his peers from metropolitan England. Peerage in America was something remote, a reference to a motherland that more and more colonists had never seen. (There was not, for instance, any lord whose seat was Boston or New York).

The colonists were, as one loyal officer wrote home, “Drunk with liberty.” Colonies founded in New England by groups akin to the Levellers of the English Civil War lacked the instinctive class deference that characterized metropolitan England. The citizens there wanted to rule themselves, for good or for ill.

Part of the change would be an Army and Navy of volunteers with the natural rights of free men, not a formation of pressmen, serfs, slaves or helots (all of which have some point of comparison to the state of the English ranker of 1775). The liberty-oriented American volunteer would cause his own army some difficulty over the years: short enlistment terms and elected officers were both troublesome in the US Civil War. But the British Army’s class stratification and peculiar institutions weren’t done causing trouble for Britain, either. (Two words: “purchased commission.”)

Today, there’s been some cultural convergence in the evolution of the two armies that descend from the ones that glowered at each other across no man’s land on Roxbury Neck, during the siege of Boston. The US and British Armies are more like one another, culturally, today, than either one is like its 1775 forebear. But there are also some differences which stem, in part, from those very different origins.


  1. Quoted in Ketchum, p. 25.


Ketchum, Richard M.  Decisive Day: The Battle for Bunker Hill. An Expanded and Fully Illustrated Edition. New York: Anchor, 1962.

How Did the FG-42 Selector Work?

We were asked that yesterday and we pontifically pronounced, “it fired from the open bolt in automatic mode, and from the close bolt in semi.”

This one's an SMG Guns semi clone. Pretty, though, innit?

This one’s an SMG Guns semi clone. Pretty, though, innit? Images do embiggen with a click.

Then we rested back on our laurels as Gun Expert and —

“Well, how did they make it do that?”

“*!” Hmm… How did they? “Let me get back to you on that.”

Fortunately, several references on the shelves explain it in terms our walnut sized brain could grasp. It turns out it was very simple, when you consider how complex some of the other design options made the FG. And it imposed some trade-offs, costing the rifle significant semi-auto accuracy as the price of that mechanical simplicity. Let’s walk you through it.

It worked exactly the same on the First and Second model of the FG, by the way; so we will use images of both in this post.

FG42-0034- grip FW

This image is from a crudely DEWATted Second Model FG that was examined by Forgotten Weapons. There’s a great set of images there, and the gun’s internals are mostly present and correct.

The selector switch is on the left side of what we’d call the grip frame. (The German manuals call this part the Lager which can mean holder or receiver, too, but we’ll stick with “grip frame”). The selector swings through 180º of travel; knob forward covers an “E” for Einzelfeuer (“single fire,” semi-auto), and knob rear clicks on to “D” for Dauerfeuer, (“continuous fire,” automatic). Note that the letter that shows is the antonym of the function you get. Don’t ask us; Hermann Göring was not available to take complaints.

FG-42 exploded view

Comparing the Bedienungsanleitung (manual) image of a First Model to the photo of the second model above that, we can see how the trigger works. The trigger pivots on a pin forward of, and slightly below, the selector switch. The axis of the selector switch is also the axle of the sear (in the diagram, Part B8 Abzughebel, literally “trigger lever”). The sear nose (Fangnase, “catch nose,” B8a) is the hardened end of the sear that engages a notch (if you learned engineering English in Britain, a “bent”) in the operating rod (Verschlußführungsstück, “bolt guiding piece,” Part D10).

There are, however, two notches in the op-rod. One is towards the front end, and mostly right of center. One is towards the tail end, and mostly left of center. You can make out the two notches in this Forgotten Weapons photo.

FG42-0003_FWRotating the selector moves the sear laterally either right to align with the front-end notch, or left to align with the tail-end notch. If it aligns with the tail-end notch, a disconnector (Unterbrecher, literally “interrupter”, B9), works by disengaging the trigger from the sear until the trigger is released (i.e., normal semi-auto trigger reset). Thus the selector engages the sear nose with either the nose-end notch, which holds the op rod and bolt assembly to the rear, or the tail-end notch, which holds the op rod and firing pin only to the rear, allowing the bolt to lock fully into battery.

Releasing the trigger releases the op-rod, then. If the weapon is on full automatic, the bolt and op-rod come forward, the bolt locks, the op-rod finishes its full travel, and the firing pin initiates the cartridge. The whole thing cycles again and continues to do so until the operator releases the trigger. When he does, the bolt is held in automatic battery — to the rear.

These schematics are from Allson & Toomey's Small Arms, pp. 226-227.

These schematics are from Allsop & Toomey’s Small Arms, pp. 226-227. The depiction of the selector in these drawings is how we came to understand that the selector (“change lever” in British English) covers the appropriate letter for type of fire selected.

If the weapon is on semi (selector knob swung 180º to the front), the trigger releases the op-rod, which brings the firing pin down on the primer. The bolt then cycles, but returns to semi-auto battery, closed bolt on a live cartridge, regardless of trigger position. The disconnector rides in the notch forward of the rear notch (here “bent”) only to disconnect when in Semi.


If you’re feeling envious of FG-42s, you can buy an excellent semi repro from SMG Guns, you can pay more than a new luxury car for a transferable, or you can take the following image, a pile of steel, wood and aluminum, and a set of files and try to do what SMG did:

FG-42 Type II exploded view

It may take a while. Best of luck to you!

Now, the FG42 wasn’t the last word in open/closed bolt hybrid firing mechanisms. As mentioned, having the whole op rod and firing pin move was inimical to accuracy. This not only increased the motion of the firearm on firing, but it increased lock time substantially, giving that motion more time to work on sending your projectiles wild. But that was a tradeoff that designers at Rheinmettal accepted for their simple and reliable open/closed bolt mechanism.

As we’ve seen, waste heat is a real killer of combat weapons in automatic fire, and by extension, a potential killer of the men who fire them. Firing from an open bolt reduces the incremental temperature increase per automatic round fired, by allowing more air to circulate and more of the potential radiative area to be exposed to ambient-temperature cooling air. This has the side effect of moving the critical temperature area or point further up the barrel from its usual position 5 to 8 inches in front of the chamber.

Firing from an open bolt also prevents cook-offs. Contrary to common misconception, cook-offs are usually not instantaneous but result from a round remaining chambered in a hot barrel for some seconds or minutes. For a cook-off to be instantaneous (and risk an out-of-battery ignition) the temperature has to be extremely elevated. For a routine cook-off, which can take some time to happen, the biggest danger is that no one is expecting the weapon to fire, and people may be in an unsafe position forward of its muzzle at that point.

The FG42 was a remarkably good weapon, like many WWII German weapons. Not good enough for them to win the war, fortunately; it was the very devil to produce (ask Steve at SMG!) and was produced in the sort of numbers that would be a rounding error, or the scrappage involved in training some new line workers, in American, British or Russian production. The US produced, for example, about 40 times as many BARs as Germany produced FG42s; Russian production of the pan-fed DP28 LMG was easily double that. (German production wasn’t as dismal as you might think. They produced more rifles and carbines of all types than the USA did. But they did have a tendency to engineer something very good, and then fail to build it in numbers that would make a difference).

Friday Tour d’Horizon

So, here are a number of things that ought to be written about but might not be if I didn’t squeeze them in.

Shot Show

Franklin Armory has a three-position trigger that fires first shot on pull and second on release. They call it the Binary Firing System. Here it is demonstrated with what the ATF now says is felonious use of a SIG brace.

Then, the ATF booth got — as is customary at shows — redecorated by people who are not fans of partisan political police.


Of course, the ATF couldn’t “Legalize It!” even if they wanted to. That particular bozosity is Congressional bozosity, and it does . The fact that most of them would never want to — that is ATF bozosity. 

Speaking of ATF bozosity, SIG has made an initial response, and said it’s considering its response in depth, to ATF’s ruling suddenly revoking the letter it issued to SIG for the SB-15 Arm Brace. Guns Save Lives has the release.

Knife Turn in in UK

Words fail. So here’s a picture.

get a life bin that knife

The non-profit promoting this notes that in England and Wales, where guns are banned, 36% of homicides take place with a “sharp instrument.” (We say, try tuning it a semitone lower). Their 31 bins in the Greater London area (“away from CCTV” they promise) have collected some 11,000 knives. And of course, the banners are working on the knives, now, too.

An Exorcism in Moscow

We’ll let the article do the talking:

The two men, Oleg Basov… and Yevgeny Avilov… are shown carrying five-litre bottles of holy water marked with a cross from a church across the square.

They move barriers in front of the mausoleum and throw the water at the doors and steps, shouting “Rise up and leave!” several times before being detained.

On Monday, Orthodox Christians celebrated Epiphany, a holiday marking the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river that people commemorate by immersing themselves in icy rivers and lakes.

What demon were they commanding, “Rise up and leave!”? Well, they conducted their little stunt at Lenin’s mausoleum in Red Square. Yeah, that demon.

Grim policemen seized them bodily and threw them in jail. Devil worship dies hard in Russia!

And Your Betters are Meeting in Switzerland

Thousands of the world’s millionaires, billionaires, celebrities, and wannabe royalty are meeting in Davos, Switzerland. They’ve flown in, in a fleet of nearly 2,000 private jets, spawning the mother of all carbon footprints, to consider what austerity measures ought to be imposed on the middle and working classes in the name of the Great Goddess Gaia.

Move over, Lenin. You’ve been replaced.

A Couple Recent Police Uses of Force

New Jersey: Andrew Branca has one where the passenger in a car appears to have pulled a gun on a cop who was telling him over and over, “Don’t f’in do it. If you do it I’ll kill you.” He did it. The cop killed him. Meanwhile, the driver of the car was holding his hands where the cop’s partner could see them. Him? Nobody shot him. He wasn’t trying to kill a cop. The passenger, it turns out, was a man of convictions, loads of ‘em: he had a long record, including a previous occasion of shooting at cops. (So why was he out? New Jersey).

In our opinion, the cop did well enough but he should probably try to clean up his language. Don’t alienate the grand jurors, just in case your next shooting isn’t this patently righteous.

California: In San Jacinto, CA, Deputy Sultan of the Riverside County SO went into a crawl space after an armed felon, and emerged mortally wounded. After negotiations got nowhere, Sultan’s fellow deputies fired tear gas into the space, and when the skell emerged, gun is hand, continued negotiations in ballistic mode. Scratch one felon. But that’s a bad exchange ratio, even taking into account that Sultan was a Belgian Malinois.

There actually have been a lot of police shootings lately (meaning cops shooting criminals, criminals shooting cops, and some news in a case where a cop spraying-and-praying shot a bystander — so they probably deserve a recent shooting roundup of their own.

A Cop in Trouble

From the People’s Republic of Massachusetts:

Edward Fleury was freed on personal recognizance after his appearance Tuesday in Hampshire Superior Court on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and 22 counts of improper storage of firearms.

Prosecutors allege the 57-year-old Fleury pointed a loaded gun at a friend outside a Belchertown bar in August. A subsequent search of Fleury’s home uncovered 22 guns police say were improperly stored.

Ed Fleury was the chief of police in Pelham, MA.

And a Revolving Door Judge

In St. Louis, Circuit Court judge Margaret Niel doesn’t think thugs should go to prison. So she doesn’t send them there. No wonder some locals think they can assault cops and beat up store owners to steal from them.

Some Black Lives Don’t Matter

In Detroit, two skells took teenagers looking to score dope into a field and shot and robbed them. Convicted, one of them cried out at his sentencing hearing, “Black lives matter!” Not his. He’ll be spending it in prison, unfortunately for everyone else who has to spend some time in prison with the worthless crumb.

Poly-Ticks: Two Anti-Gunners Charged with Corruption

In New York, Assembly leader-for-life Sheldon Silver (D) was arrested under charges of corruption that span practically his entire career and involve millions in bribes. The open question is whether Andrew Cuomo, an intimate Silver ally, goes down too. These guys launched the so-called SAFE act.

In Pennsylvania, it seems the Grand Jury did return a true bill on felony perjury charges against Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D). She is an anti-gun extremist from the far end of loony: one of the things she has done as AG is repudiate previous AG’s reciprocity agreements with other states.

Hardly a surprise there. Another politician is retiring from Congress with a net worth of $70-100 million, mostly from earmarking rich contracts for her husband.  They’re all crooks.

VA Lassitude Kills Another Vet

Norman SpiveyThe lede pretty much tells the story of a Georgia vet who got the Animal House treatment 1 from the VA.

Norman Spivey, a U.S military veteran who had to fight for more than a year to get a cancer checkup from the Veterans Administration in Atlanta, died of cancer Saturday at his home in Douglasville.

via Veteran who had to wait for VA cancer check-up dies of cancer.

Spivey wasn’t trying to get a “cancer checkup” per se, but a normal and routine colonoscopy — the kind anybody who doesn’t depend on the VA for “care” can schedule a couple weeks out with a phone call.

While the VA finally got around to moving him off the phantom waitlist to the real waitlist to actually scheduling his colonoscopy, the cancer cells in his body were multiplying. By the time the VA actually got around to dropping him on a yable and commanding, “Up periscope!”, he was in a bad way:

The colonoscopy revealed stage four colon cancer….

The key fact about stage four cancer? There isn’t any “stage five.” The VA’s docs discovered that his cancer had spread to his liver and lymph nodes. They told him that his only chance was chemotherapy. But they couldn’t set it up, it had to go through channels.

VA-veterans-affairsAnd then, the heartless barbers at the VA put him back on the waitlist. “See ya. Wouldn’t want to be ya. Bwahahahaha.”

When the Stage Four diagnosis was made — in July — Norman and his wife Gayla got the patented VA runaround. He wound up in a local emergency room, where he learned more about the disease than the VA bothered to tell him. That’s when a local TV station got interested in his plight:

“He has stage….”

Gayla paused, taking a breath, trying to say the words.

She continued, “stage four colon cancer that’s spread to his liver. I have pictures of his liver. They can’t do radiation because of the liver.”

So, Gayla said she and the hospital have been trying, since that weekend, to ask the V.A. to approve immediate chemotherapy for Norman.

“There’s been three different case workers here at this hospital working on this [and calling the V.A.] for almost two weeks, now,” Gayla said.

“So really, this is my only chance,” Norman said.

No response from the V.A.

The guys at the TV station thought that was wrong, if not exactly unusual, so they called their PR contact at VAMC Atlanta.

Then somebody called back, for the first time.

When it was a medical problem, frankly, nobody at the hospital gave a good goddamn. When it became a PR problem, then it got what we call in the military “command emphasis.”

If you’ve been thinking of relying on the VA (or any government branch) for health care, it might be time to rethink that. Norman Spivey isn’t here to tell you, any more, but it’s the patient who pays the price for all that “free” medicine.


  1. Animal House? Yeah, remember this: “You f’d up. You trusted us!”