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!”

When Guns are Outlawed, only Outlaws will have Fire

flamethrowerBurn, baby, burn. It’s not just for 60’s hippie radicals any more. Well, it’s a college story from NYU, where nobody ever grew up since then, so maybe it is.

A college student is accused of setting a classmate on fire in his dorm, then singing and recording her putting out the flames.

Jaime Castano was arraigned Tuesday on assault and reckless endangerment charges.

The incident occurred at his New York University dorm in August.

Wait, what? This guy set someone on fire six months ago and he was still traipsing around free in January? What fresh hell is this?

NYU says the delay in reporting the incident stemmed from its practice to give deference to a victim’s wishes to involve police. It says it’s clarifying its policy so similar cases are reported immediately to police.

Ah, okay. It was some idjit university administrators, pedestaling themselves and pretending to play cop, investigator, judge, jury and executioner. That explains everything, these days.

Castano was expelled in September. His attorney couldn’t be reached for comment.

Sure, because it’s definitely enough punishment to be tossed out of a third-string university, when all a guy did was set a girl on fire. Totally.

Court papers say Castano’s cellphone video showed the 19-year-old victim asleep with flames on her clothing.

And naturally, this depraved hominid took video of his crime. Don’t they all, nowadays? How do you get “street cred” for a crime if there’s no video?

The 20-year-old Castano was ordered held on $50,000 bond or $25,000 cash bail.

The victim suffered burns to her torso.

via NYU student accused of setting classmate’s clothing on fire – New York News.

But hey, the president and deans of NYU thought they really showed the guy. They expelled him. And then they concealed the crime from the authorities, which is, even in New York, a fresh crime of its own.

What, are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?

Exercise for the reader. To steal a word from John Lennon (and nicely bookend this post with 60s hippies top and bottom, “Imagine….”  Specifically, imagine that Jaime Castano shot his unfortunate classmate with a firearm, rather than burned her with an accelerant, an equivalent violent crime. Would the administrators have been so eager to act as his accessories after the fact?

We’ll Be Watching the Patriots, not the Football

Whether the ball is inflated more or less is a true #FirstWorldProblem, and wasn’t on the menu of the original Patriots for whom Belichick and Brady’s band of spheroidal-ball abusers are named. Fortunately, the original Patriots are coming to TV in a scripted historical miniseries, beginning this Sunday, 25 Jan 15, at 2100 R (2000 Central Time). It will run on three Sundays, for two hours each. No, no; as clarified in the comments, “Three consecutive nights (Sunday, 25th; Monday. 26th: Tuesday, 27th) 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm ET.” Thanks, Qajagon, whoever you may be.


We’ve mentioned before that we see the American Revolution as an insurgency, and we think that some of the issues related to that will be covered in the new History Channel miniseries, Sons of Liberty. It covers the initial events of the revolution, taking place in and around Boston in 1772 to 1776, including such high points as the Boston Massacre, the Tea Party, the initial battles of Lexington and Concord, the reinforcement of the Regulars, and the Battle of Bunker Hill. (It culminates, apparently, in the Declaration of Independence).


These battles were a fairly self-contained first phase of the Revolution. They were followed by the Colonial move to seize Fort Ticonderoga in the New York wilderness, and reinforce Charles Town and Dorchester Heights with the cannon (after an epic overland move), forcing the British and the throngs of loyalist refugees seeking their protection to abandon Boston and displace to New York and/or Canada. We don’t think those events are shown in this series, nor are some of the key events we’ve discussed here before, like the expulsion of the court from Worcester, or the raids on Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth. Paul Revere’s Ride is shown accurately (including its ignominious end, under the gun of a British officer; Dr. Samuel Prescott, whom Revere and his fellow rider William Dawes had picked up along the way, escaped and made it to Concord alone).

We grew up around the places where these events happened, and their history used to be taught in depth. As a result, many fictional depictions of the early Revolution sets our teeth on edge. But this one looks to have general historical accuracy, although there will no doubt be other issues with it.

For example, the actors speak in modern accents, rhythms, and language. This is probably intended to keep modern viewers interested.

But we think it will be a pretty good look at the underground and auxiliary, as well as the celebrated “Minutemen” militia that became the armed or guerilla element of the resistance to British rule. There is some effort spent on the intelligence side of the war, including an espionage ring that touched General Thomas Gage himself.

On the plus side, there are some great actors in this show. Fans of Breaking Bad will be pleased to see Dean Norris (“Hank Schrader”) in the role of larger-than-life Ben Franklin. Cousins Sam and John Adams, the radical firebrand and the even-handed lawyer, are played by Ben Barnes and Henry Thomas; John Hancock (Rafe Spall), Dr. Joseph Warren (Ryan Eggold), and Paul Revere (Michael Raymond-James) round out the headlining Patriots. George Washington (Jason O’Mara) makes a later appearance. On the British side, General Gage (Marton Csokas), his American wife Margaret (Emily Berrington), and Major John Pitcairn (Kevin Ryan) are represented. The battle scenes are small and closely shot (cable TV budget, after all) but the props and armory seem reasonable, based on previews.


On the minus side, the show’s website is packed with spam and malware, including a pernicious   malware that tries to force connections to and collect personal information. Optimatic is supposedly an SEO tool (a fly-by-night business that attracts everything but legitimate businessmen in the first place) but testing seems to show it does not work. It does, however, collect information on you. So we’re not linking to the website.

Now, despite the category we put this in, it’s not a real review; we’ve only seen a few promos and squibs. We may have a review after we watch the first episode Sunday.

A Taxonomy of Safeties

There are several kinds of safeties that are used on service weapons to ensure that only the proper and deserving people are shot. They generally interface in some way with the firing mechanism of the firearm. They may act on the trigger, the hammer or striker, or the sear, or (in some fiendishly clever arrangements) more than one of the above. It is generally thought better to positively lock the striker or firing pin than merely to lock the sear or trigger. If the mechanism fails due to parts breakage, it is easier to design a fail-safe mechanism if the striker or firing pin is immobilized.

Safeties Classified by Operator Volition

Safeties can be classified based on the degree of volition required to use them. An applied safety must be consciously put on, in most cases. An automatic safety is unconsciously applied as the pistol is taken up. Examples of automatic safeties include:

  1. the Glock Safe Action trigger and its many copies and derivatives;
  2. the grip safeties characteristic of many Browning designs, such as the M1911 .45 and the FN M1910 pocket pistol;
  3. similar grip safeties on open-bolt submachine guns such as the Madsen and the Uzi. (An open-bolt SMG poses peculiar safety problems);
  4. transfer-bars and other means to ensure a weapon can’t fire unless the trigger is pulled;
  5. mechanisms that hold a firing pin back until a weapon with a locking breech is fully in battery (the disconnector often does double-duty as this part);
  6. Firing-pin immobilizers as in the Colt Series 80 and newer M1911s (an earlier firing pin safety, the Swartz Safety, was used in commercial Colt 1911s from circa 1937 to 1940, and is used by Kimber today);
  7. A heavy, smooth trigger pull such as that on a traditional Double Action revolver or a DA/SA autopistol can prevent unintentional discharges. However, some heavy triggers (like the Glock NY2) have a bad enough effect on accuracy as to threaten bystanders with unintentional shooting.
  8. Magazine safeties, an obsolete European concept;
  9. Half-cock notches (in British/European English usage, these may be called half-cock “bents.”)

Contrasting with these automatic safeties, that do their work without conscious application by the operator, there are Applied or volitional safeties. Applied Safeties are usually classified by what part of the firing mechanism they work on, and so examples of Applied safeties break down into:

  1. Safeties that lock the trigger. The simplest of these are the crude trigger-blocking safeties on an SKS or Tokarev SVT. More complex trigger-locking safeties are found in the AR series of rifles and the FN-FAL;
  2. Safeties that lock the firing mechanism (which may be further divided into those that lock the firing pin, like the Walther P.38 or Beretta M92, and those that lock the hammer, like the US M1 Rifle, or
  3. The bolt holding notch in many 2nd-generation submachine guns. (These are reminiscent in a way of the safety of the Mosin-Nagant rifle, which requires the cocking piece to be rotated and caught in a notch). The case can be made that this is a firing mechanism lock, because the bolt with its fixed firing pin is the firing mechanism.
  4. Safeties that lock the sear. Examples include the .45 M1911, its younger brother the BHP, many other auto pistols, and most general purpose machine guns. Some require the weapon to be cocked to lock the sear, others allow locking the bolt forward (the RPD LMG and the Sterling SMG are examples of this).
  5. Safeties that disconnect the trigger from the sear. This is found in the Bren gun and many other Czech designs, historically. The ZB 26 and its derivatives were quite cunning: in one position, the selector brings the trip lever to engage the semi notch, which is in the upper side of a window in the sear. In the other position, it engages the auto notch in the lower side. In the intermediate, “safe,” position, the  trip lever clears both notches and the weapon does not fire.

Note that automatic safeties, too, can be broken down as working on the trigger, the firing mechanism, and the sear, also. So safeties can also be Classified by Operation.

Safeties Classified by Operation

It is possible to classify safeties in the first place by their means of action:

  1. Trigger safeties
  2. Firing-mechanism (striker, hammer, firing pin) safeties
  3. Sear safeties
  4. Disconnecting safeties.

This is true, obviously, for both automatic and volitional safeties, and classifying them this way puts their mode of action forward as more important than their mode of engagement, which (applied/volitional or automatic) becomes a secondary trait.

One More Trait: Must the Firearm be Cocked?

It is only possible to engage many safeties when the weapon is cocked or ready to fire (presuming a chambered round). Familiar examples include the AR series rifles and the 1911 pistol and other Browning hammer designs. Other safeties engage regardless of the energy state of the striker or hammer, for example the AK, the Remington Model 8 (a Browning-designed trigger mechanism that was deeply influential on 20th and 21st Century firearms designers, including Garand, Kalashnikov and Stoner), and the RPD light machine gun.

Combination Safeties

While a weapon may have multiple safeties that do different things (or multiple modes that engage the same safety, as in the safety lever and grip safety of early Lugers), it’s possible for a single cunningly-designed safety to disable multiple points of the firing chain at once. For instance, the Lee-Enfield safety is a model of versatility: it locks the striker, locks the bolt closed (preventing the chambering of a round), and disconnects the striker from the sear. The M1911 or Browning High-Power safety locks the slide closed as well as locks

It’s also possible for a volitional safety to be combined with other functions. The most common example of this is the combined safety/selector switch of most modern assault rifles, like the M16 or AK-47.

To Sum Up

There are a great but finite number of ways to design safety features on modern firearms. Careful study of prior art allows today’s designer truly to stand on the shoulders of the giants in the field. John Browning left no memoir or technical book, nor did John Garand, John D. Pedersen, Gene Stoner; and the many memoirs of Mikhail Kalashnikov are disappointing to the technical reader. But each of these geniuses spoke to us in the art of his designs, and they are still available for us to study and to try to read what their art is trying to tell us.

We have not, in this limited post, attempted to discuss “best practices” or the pros and cons of any individual safety design. Very often, the designer will be limited by the customer’s instructions or specifications. (For example, the grip safety of the 1911, which 1970s and 80s custom smiths often pinned in engagement as a potential point of combat failure, was requested of John M. Browning by the US Cavalry. The other military branches didn’t feel such a need, but the horse soldiers did, and Browning first added it on his .38 caliber 1902 Military pursuant to a similar request). Thus, even as a designer, your safety design decisions may not be your own.

Notes and Sources

  • This post has been modified since it was first posted, to expand it.
  • This post will be added to The Best of WeaponsMan Gun Tech.

This post owes a great deal to the following work:

Allsop, DF, and Toomey, MA. Small Arms: General Design. London: Brassey’s, 1999.

Chapter 13 is an extensive review of trigger mechanisms, including safeties, and while their classification of safeties is different from ours, their explanations are clear and concise.

Thanks to the commenters who not only recommend this long out-of-print book, but also sent us a link to a bookstore that had it (it’s a copy withdrawn from a military library, as it turns out). This out-of-print work is less technical and deep, but considerably more modern, than Balleisen; its examples are primarily British.


When Seconds Count, the Police are 19 Calls Away

minh nguyenThere’s some questions, but not many answers, in a tragic murder in Virginia last week.

[38-year-old Minh] Nguyen allegedly broke in through the front door of his ex-wife’s home around 9:30 p.m. Thursday. Once inside, Nguyen opened fire on [Corey] Mattison, his former wife’s new husband, striking him multiple times.

There are no new crimes. Just new jitbags committing the same old crimes. How many guys have been whacked, over the years, by their woman’s creepy ex? No one has ever tried to count, but it’s the kind of thing that gets a knowing grunt out of a homicide investigator. Part of having seen it all, for those guys, is seeing it all over and over again.

No idea whether the woman in question knew her husband was bat guano crazy and potentially violent, or whether she had gotten a restraining order, but the record shows that nothing whatever restrained Nguyen: not law, not morality, not any available defenses.

Maybe she and her new husband put their trust in the police. If so, that trust was badly misplaced:

Loudoun County Sheriff Michael Chapman told that authorities received 19 emergency phone calls in total from the residence. When deputies arrived, they found the victim dead outside the home, Chapman said.

Why do cops carry guns anyway? Let us explain. That’s for the homicidal criminals they run into. For the homicidal criminals you run into, the police carry chalk. 

So they can draw a line around your cold, dead body.

Still, these police show signs of Holmes-level Clouseau-level detection, here:

While the motive and sequence of events is still under investigation, Chapman said, “there were clearly domestic-related issues with the suspect.” Nguyen had two children with Denise Mattison, who married Corey Mattison nearly six months ago.

No $#!+, Sherlock.

Denise Mattison told ABC News that her husband’s final actions spared her children, who were home at the time, from being harmed.

“He was my knight in shining armor,” she told the network. Mattison reportedly ran for the door, leading the shooter away from the children, who were able to hide in a room upstairs and call 911.

That was an interesting choice of words, by the bereaved Mrs Mattison. Because back in the old days, one of the markers of a knight was that he had the king’s leave to bear arms.

Now, arming oneself is not a panacea. If Corey Mattison had been armed this whole thing might have gone exactly the same way, and he would have been bringing a firearm into a home with small kids, which is (if we’re honest) a nonzero risk than needs to be properly mitigated. But it also would have offered the potential of a better outcome: Nguyen dead, and Mattison alive.

via Tech mogul charged with murdering ex-wife’s husband | Fox News.

To our amazement, none of the news stories have noted the strange fact that the victims got off 19 phone calls before the police rolled up. This may be something other than a dilatory police response, but it doesn’t look good, and normally the mediots would fix on that.

Instead, they’re fascinated by the irrelevancies, that Nguyen was a Silicon Valley founder (of the annoying Plaxo address-book-scam app, it figures) and Mr Mattison was a former pro athlete. Do those things matter? Or does it matter, only, that Mattison gave his life to lead an evil man away from his kids, an act of Biblical nobility; and that Nguyen overthrew all his previous attainments to take on himself the title, “murderer”; that last, an act of Biblical betrayal?

Update: Plaxo insiders are running like hell away from Nguyen, suggesting that his connection to Plaxo was minimal or nonexistent. Given that they work for a company that built itself on spam, none of them are in a position to bitch about ethics.

Update II: Nguyen fled from the scene to his mother’s house. Here’s what happened next:

Nguyen… was captured by his own mother. Search warrants reveal that when deputies responded to the town home, they found Nguyen in the garage, being held down by his mother.

The two were struggling over control of the firearm, the warrants showed. Nguyen’s mother told deputies to take the gun, and Nguyen was arrested.

Well played, Mrs. Nguyen. We regret that your son was a disappointment to you, and wish you and your family all the best in this difficult time.

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Knives

bloody-knifeIn the Gun Free Victim Disarmament Zone that defines New York City, no one has guns. Except the cops. Nobody but the cops, then. Well, and the criminals who aren’t impressed by laws. That’s it: nobody except the cops and the criminals.

Except, the criminals don’t even need guns to do their crimin’. A good old sharp instrument will do nicely. Case in point:

Police say a man was found dead from stab wounds in front of a building near Times Square.

The 36-year-old victim was discovered around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Police responded to the area after receiving a 911 call of an unconscious male on the sidewalk on West 40th Street.

He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

via Man found stabbed dead near Times Square – New York News.

Since it was near Times Square, has anyone looked into the “victims” of the NTY’s Thanksgiving and Christmas layoffs? It could have been a robbery gone bad, by a reporter who’s new to violent crime! If so, it’s a more honest career than the one he left behind.

What’s the over-under, on, presuming the police finally ID the perp, him having a mugshot in the system already?

But the former Mayor, and the current one, who together presided over the retrenchment from Guiliani levels of public safety and who seem to be more tolerant of crooks than cops, say that guns in the hands of non-criminals would worsen the situation.

If you Strike at the King, Strike Not to Wound

easter 1916 firing squadAs we get closer to the TV debut of the potentially-interesting Sons of Liberty miniseries, let’s consider one example of the colonial resistance, in light of how similar resistance fared nearer to the center of British power projection, to wit, in Ireland.

Every book references the mortal risks that the signers of the Declaration of Independence took, and yet readers don’t seem to take them seriously, in part because King George III’s men had scant success in bringing the signatories in. These days, little thought is given to just how serious those risks were. The punishment for treason against the Crown was specified, as of 1776 and for many years thereafter, as to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

In 1798, Irish rebels, the United Irishmen, inspired in part by the American and French Revolutions, threw a national uprising which was put down savagely. They didn’t seem to have a Declaration of Independence equivalent, but those who were caught by British forces were either summarily executed in the field (a common fate of rebel rank and file) or tried, and then hung (the most common fate of leaders). One key leader, Theobald Wolfe Tone, cheated the hangman by cutting his own throat on Death Row.

Only 5 years after that, Irish republican Robert Emmet led a new rising, and sought to justify it with a Proclamation that seemed to owe equal parts to the American Declaration and Emmet’s own prolixity. He declared:

In calling on our countrymen to come forward, we feel ourselves bound, at the same time, to justify our claim to their confidence by a precise declaration of our views. We therefore solemnly declare, that our object is to establish a free and independent republic in Ireland: that the pursuit of this object we will relinquish only with our lives: that we will never, unless at the express call of our country, abandon our post, until the acknowledgment of its independence is obtained from England; and that we will enter into no negotiation (but for exchange of prisoners) with the government of that country while a British army remains in Ireland. Such is the declaration which we call on the people of Ireland to support.

And we call first on that part of Ireland which was once paralysed by the want of intelligence, to shew that to that cause only was its inaction to be attributed; on that part of Ireland which was once foremost, by its fortitude in suffering; on that part of Ireland which once offered to take the salvation of the country on itself; on that part of Ireland where the flame of liberty first glowed; we call upon the NORTH to stand up and shake off their Slumber and their oppression.

We will not imitate you in cruelty; we will put no man to death in cold blood, the prisoners which firstfall into our hands shall be treated with the respect due to the unfortunate; but if the life of a single Irish solder is taken after the battle is over, the orders thence forth to be issued to the Irish army are neither to give or take quarter. Countrymen if a cruel necessity forces us to retaliate, we will bury our resentments in the field of battle, if we are to fall, we will fall where we fight for our country.1

Fully impressed with this determination, of the necessity of adhering to which past experience has but too fatally convinced us; fully impressed with the justice of our cause which we now put to issue. We make our last and solemn appeal to the sword and to Heaven; and as the cause of Ireland deserves to prosper, may God give it Victory.

God did not grant Emmet the Victory he prayed for in this document. Instead, in remarkably short order, He, or capricious Fate, delivered Emmet whole into the hands of the British Army, and he rapidly was tried, convicted and sentenced to be, what else? Hanged, drawn, and quartered. The sentence was at least partially carried out2, and Emmet’s body disposed of in a location that remains unknown to this day.

easter 1916 stampsWhen the Irish revolted again at Easter, 1916, they had a new Proclamation, admirably less wordy and more focused, but still owing a debt to the American document; in this case, seven leaders appended their signatures.

In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom. …

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the last three hundred years they have asserted it to arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations. …

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God. Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, in humanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

It was signed, at least on the printed handbill version (no actual signed version survived the Rising and its suppression, if one ever actually existed), by Thomas J. Clarke, Sean Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Padraig (signing as P. H.) Pearse, Eamonn Ceannt (pronounced “Kent”), James Connolly, and Joseph Plunkett. Irish histories saying that the document was “signed in blood” by the seven appear to be exercising literary license, or to use its term in the Irish Gaelic language, blarney.

Easter 1916 destructionAll seven were captured, alive, by the British as the Easter Rising collapsed (one was wounded) under massive bombardment (the area around the GPO in Dublin looked like a bombed city). All were tried in military courts for treason in wartime and all were shot, along with many other leaders.

In the end, of course, the Irish got their independence, but all of the leaders who put their names on a document calling for it didn’t live to see it. Some of them expected such an outcome. Padraig Pearse, the foremost poet among the slain leaders of 1916, saw death coming, and s: “If you strike us down now, we shall rise again and renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland; you cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom; if our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom then our children will win it with a better deed.”3

That may appeal to the moody Irish lover of the bleak Lost Cause, but it’s a cautionary tale for anyone inclined to give up on political process and go kinetic, in any place and nation.


  1. The full text of the 1803 Proclamation is available here:
  2. Emmet was hanged and beheaded, but perhaps not drawn and quartered — not that it makes him feel any better.
  3. The quote is from Pearse’s ringing, if futile, speech at his court-martial, which was of course spread far and wide by sympathizers, to the consternation of the British who had sought to suppress Irish resistance by holding the courts-martial in secret.

Kalashnikov, Made in USA

That news has the gunosphere going nuts. For the range of comment, you can look at this thread on Reddit — sane and sensible commentary scattered like gold nuggets in a poor vein of, well, the more usual kind of comments. But to the delight of gunnies, the main thrust of the article is that “real Kalashnikovs” will now be made in the USA. That sets the Redditors, particularly, off on jags and spasms of hope and longing for SVDs, SVD-M, Groza, Val and on and on and on.

A Facebook fan site, the AK Operators Union, put it this way:

AK News BOMB!!!! Kalashnikov concern is in process of opening production here in USA. If everything will go well, we will see first, made in USA Kalashnikov Concern AKs later this year!!! All calibers will be produced, including Saiga 9 in 9mm.

(That’s a good site for new AK products at SHOT, by the way). Kalashnikov Concern, a renaming of long-struggling Izmash, is not one of the success stories of the Russian economy right now, thanks to sanctions. We haven’t seen 2014 numbers yet, but even in pre-sanctions 2013, the company lost almost $3 Billion (yes, with a B).

The firm’s US importer, or perhaps we should say, former importer, put a brave face on it at SHOT.

Kalashnikov USA

No idea whether she’s domestic or imported. But if you look closely, there’s a rifle in the picture, and it’s an interesting one, despite our usual disdain for “tacticool AKs”. Because it looks left-handed. We found the pic linked on Reddit.


It’s a nice imaginary parade and it must be nice to beat a drum in it.

Well, there’s nothing we like more than a parade. So here we come to rain on it.

What’s really going on here is simple: the US importer of Concern Kalashnikov arms, RWC Group, of Tullytown, PA, has the US rights to the name and to sell the guns, but RWC’s boss, Tom McCrossin, enjoined from importing anything from Russia, and even from contact with CK or Izmash under the latest sanctions. It can sell the guns it already had warehoused and approved before the sanctions hit, but anything in Russia, stays in Russia.

Russian guns stay in Russia. Russian tooling stays in Russia. Russian ideas and concepts stay in Russia. So the only possibility is for them to be reverse-engineered here, unless RWC got hold of that information antes de the sanctions declaration.

There’s no political solution to this

The US is unlikely to end sanctions on Russia, with Russia still occupying Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Russia is even less likely to depart from what they do not consider an occupation, but rather a correction of a historical error.  Looking at the Russian point of view, Khrushchev’s assignment of territory from one administrative republic to another in a monolithic, Russian-dominated Soviet Union wound up with long-Russian territories departing when the Republics grabbed their independence. The Donbass area and the Crimea have long been ethnically Russian (especially since Stalin ethnically cleansed the Crimea, but that’s another story). These policies, especially when sold as protection of ethnic Russians minorities ill-treated by locals in the Near Abroad, are enormously popular in Russia.

Russian demo dollies show off new Kalashnikov branding -- in Moscow. Here, it's contraband.

Russian demo dollies show off new Kalashnikov branding — in Moscow. Here, it’s contraband.

It’s much like the situation with Chinese imports, where an anti-gun Administration (In this case, GHW Bush) took the opportunity to get a twofer and punish the “gun nuts” and the Chinese at once for Tienanmen Square. Over a quarter-century later, those sanctions still stand and are not even an irritant in Sino-American relations. Nope, the Russian import ban is probably for good.

So here’s what’s possible

CK branding can apply to American-made Kalashnikov clones. This will be a delight of the sort of fanboy who thinks that an Armalite brand AR-10 is somehow the most “authentic,” because the company making it bought Armalite’s brands, whereas it’s likely that not a single part interchanges from an original Armalite-licensed AR-10. It’s a bit like a guy, behind the times in 1957, buying a badge-engineered Studebaker from his Packard dealer because he always bought Packards.

What determines whether these AKs are good is not the brand that goes on, but the construction that goes in. In the short term, the way for them to maximize profit is to build an el cheapo AK and slap Kalashnikov’s name all over it. Presumably they have some arrangement with CK for royalties, in which case they’ll have to escrow the money. Probably forever. This means they probably can’t be the low-cost provider in the legendarily price-sensitive US AK market. But they can market their clone with the, “Everything else is just a clone,” tagline and see how that works.

In the long term, they might build a better and more sustainable business by taking care to make premium AKs with processes as near to the Russian firm as they can reasonably replicate; this also would leave them in better shape if or when the sanctions regime falls, but we just don’t see it falling. And the market for premium AKs is some small subset of the market for generic AKs.

What’s not happening, and why

Here’s what’s not coming: US-made SVDs, Krinkov SBRs, and other exotics that the already-got-the-easy-stuff collectors of AK-pattern rifles are jonesing for. The business case for these weapons is unchanged since before sanctions, and the business case did not support manufacture beforehand. (Some specialists make a few Krinkovs up from parts kits, but the annual demand for these may be in the single digits of units, at least at the prices the specialists must charge, $3k and up). The regulatory compliance regime (and months-long delays involved) kneecap SBR sales already.

The only reason that the US plant is happening is because the importer has been regulatorily dropkicked out of the import market. They have to do something other than import Russian guns, or fold when their stocks run down. Their way out is to attempt domestic manufacture. We wish them luck; we’re among those guys who have enough basic AKs but if they make a good product, we can always make room for one more.