Something Good, if Limited, from ATF (for a change)

The ATF has proposed removing some items from The US Military Imports List, thereby deregulating the import of these items. It’s uncommon enough that even a citizen-oriented, constitutionally-chartered agency releases a grip on anything at all; to see it from the high-handed and expansionist ATF is extremely rare.

But here it is, right in the Federal Register. Note that two Lists control the import and export of arms, ammunition, and Significant Military Equipment: The The United States Munitions List, which is controlled by the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls of the lotus-eaters in the State Department, and the United States Munitions Import List (Title 27 Part 447), which is controlled by the ATF. The two lists are not the same and are not especially in agreement with one another; this has to do with the ATF import list.

The Department is removing from the USMIL Category I—Firearms, paragraph (e), ‘‘Riflescopes manufactured to military specifications and specifically designed or modified components therefor.’’ The defense articles currently covered by Category I, paragraph (e) are readily available through diverse domestic commercial sources and they do not present a significant concern for trafficking or diversion into illicit channels. The defense articles currently covered by Category I, paragraph (e) do not warrant import control under the AECA. The Department reserves this paragraph.

In Category III—Ammunition, the Department is removing and then reserving paragraphs (c), ‘‘Ammunition belting and linking machines,’’ and (d), ‘‘Ammunition manufacturing machines and ammunition loading machines (except handloading ones).’’ These defense articles are costly, difficult to maintain, too heavy for easy transport, and readily available from domestic vendors in the United States. These defense articles do not pose a trafficking and diversion threat warranting import control under the AECA.

In addition, in Category IV—Launch Vehicles, Guided Missiles, Ballistic Missiles, Rockets, Torpedoes, Bombs and Mines, the Department is removing and reserving paragraph (f), ‘‘Ablative materials fabricated or semi-fabricated from advanced composites (e.g., silica, graphite, carbon, carbon/carbon, and boron filaments) for the articles in this category that are derived directly from or specifically developed or modified for defense articles.’’ Such materials are a low threat to domestic security and are readily available in the domestic market.

Those first three items: Military-quality riflescopes, belt-linking and ammo-loading machines, and ablative composites are, as ATF asserts, widely available in the USA. The ATF may also have been feeling political heat from the aerospace and medical industries due to advanced composites imports being at the mercy of ATF’s notoriously slow bureaucrats.

Next up on the list, the ATF is backing down from micromanaging the import of dual-use and former naval vessels:

In Category VI—Vessels of War and Special Naval Equipment, the Department is clarifying paragraph (a) to read: ‘‘Vessels of War, if they are armed and equipped with offensive or defensive weapons systems, including but not limited to amphibious warfare vessels, landing craft, mine warfare vessels, patrol vessels, auxiliary vessels, service craft, experimental types of naval ships, and any vessels specifically designed or modified for military purposes or other surface vessels equipped with offensive or defensive military systems.’’ The new text focuses precisely on defense articles that might threaten domestic security or enable terrorist activities. Further in Category VI—Vessels of War and Special Naval Equipment, the Department is revising paragraph (b) to read: ‘‘Turrets and gun mounts, special weapons systems, protective systems, and other components, parts, attachments, and accessories specifically designed or modified for such articles on combatant vessels.’’ The new language focuses on defense articles that might threaten domestic security or enable terrorist activities. Also in Category VI, the Department is removing and reserving paragraphs (c) and (d). Mine sweeping equipment, harbor entrance detection devices, and related components and controls have numerous domestic suppliers and are low threats to domestic security. Additionally, the Department is revising the note in Category VI to clarify that the examples of vessels of war provided in Category VI must be armed and equipped with offensive or defensive weapon systems to be considered a defense article on the USMIL.

Note that the paragraphs are not being entirely deleted — they’re being “removed, and reserved.” Those include two in Category II (“Ammunition”) and one in Category IV (“Launch Vehicles, Missiles, etc.”) This suggests that the ATF may intend to add new materials to the USMIL, and this action is merely clearing some space on the list.

But what the ATF is actually doing with reference to tanks and armored vehicles is not at all clear from the NPRM. Here’s what they say:

he Department is updating Category VII—Tanks and Military Vehicles by removing and reserving paragraph (g), ‘‘Engines specifically designed or modified for the vehicles in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), and (f) of this category.’’ The defense articles listed in Category VII, paragraph (g) are substantially the same as those commercially available in the domestic market and not likely to be diverted for criminal use. The Department is revising paragraph (h) and including two explanatory notes. The Department is also adding a new paragraph (i), with a corresponding new note to Category VII to clarify that this category includes within its scope other ground vehicles that meet four technical parameters in the Wassenaar Arrangement’s Munitions List Category 6.


What’s Safe Pressure in a Given Cartridge and Weapon?

Screenshot 2014-04-13 23.25.51We’re lifting this from Dan Cotterman’s Handloading column in the September/October, 1983, edition of American Handgunner magazine.

Dan, wherever he is, may well forgive us, because he in turn lifted the idea from Vern Speer (of Speer reloading fame), as he freely admits:

The late Vern Speer years ago worked out an uncomplicated and quite practical method for determining relative chamber pressures. Observing, and rightly so, that different guns produce pressures in differing amplitudes, and that test data from serious laboratories using pressure guns were often less than consistent, Spear said he’d discovered a more reliable process.

Acknowledging the fact that the cartridge case is the weakest link in the chain of components, he wrote:

“If the pressures at which these cartridge cases are fired do not exceed the elastic limit of the unsupported rim of the cartridge case, then we consider that the pressures are entirely usable, regardless of what they might be.

“We fire increased loads, increasing the charge by about a grain at a time, and check the rim diameter of the cartridge case with sensitive measuring instruments, both before and after firing. If any measurable increase in diameter of the rim of the case is noted, we consider that pressure is excessive, reduce the charge about 6 percent and list it as a maximum load in our loading table:”

Speer went on to acknowledge the value of looking for other signs of excess pressure (such as difficult extraction and flattened or cratered primers), in addition to measuring rim diameter. Note also that he cited “any measurable increase” as sufficient cause for reducing a load.

The foregoing may exist as a viable means of determining relative chamber pressures, especially for the home loader who does his work physically and financially removed from costly laboratory equipment.

That’s a sensible, simple, and practical means of setting maximum pressure when you’re developing loads. It might be a better method for using with pistols than with rifles; rifle bolts tend to provide much better case-head support than the usual pistol’s chamber does, and that case-head support might mask signs of increased pressure, especially the very subtle “any measurable increase” that Speer was looking for.

We also thought that the way Speer worded his comments suggests that he found this method not only, “safe enough to use,” but also superior to the supposed gold standard of firing in a pressure rifle. Of course, it’s not going to work with large caliber Glocks: even factory loads can bulge the cases in those!

The whole magazine, of course, is interesting, as it’s a time capsule from an era 30 years ago. In those days, American Handgunner was a bastion of revolver holdouts and 1911 fiends (in those days, we were all 1911 fiends), and covered the then-hot sport of metallic silhouette shooting.

The advertisements are our favorite part of any old magazine. In this one, they include revolver holsters and 1/3 moon clips, things that are much less popular today that they were then; aftermarket products like the Metaloy hard chrome refinish, which is still available but seems to have lost market and mind share; and products we don’t even remember knowing about at the time, like the .41 Avenger conversion kit for the 1911 from SSK Industries in Ohio. The 41 Avenger was a little bit before it’s time: the big idea was to combine the flat trajectory of the 9mm with 30% more energy. The idea’s time did come in the form of the 10 mm and the .40, but nobody remembers the .41 Avenger now. Well, we don’t. YMMV.

Spring at Last Sunday

Here in the Granite State we’re having a late spring this season. We’ve still got a little snow on the ground (it will be gone before the temperatures get cold again later this week). Nothing’s up but crocuses yet. The trees and bushes are barely budding, and we’re still dealing with the tons of oak leaves (not an exaggeration, “tons”) that dropped after last year’s early snows made it impossible to pick them up.

But when the sun is shining and it’s bicycle weather one’s attitude has nowhere to go but up. Hope you’re having a great Sunday, too. See you on the blog tomorrow.

That Was the Week that Was: 2014 Week 15

That was the week that was TW3It’s 15 of 14, and we missed 14 of 14 but hope to fill it back in. We also want to be younger, slimmer, and able to run again, but we might actually succeed in posting last week’s TW3 this time. But we wouldn’t hold our breath if we were you. On the other hand, we did post on time this week. There is that.

This week has a 1-day blog micro-hiatus on Wednesday, and a 1-day real hiatus as we spent a day in a 3D Printing seminar Friday. It was worthwhile and we learned a new technique which we hadn’t known was possible, printing dies for hydroforming (we’re presuming sheet aluminum, but we’re not sure). We got some hands on with a close cousin of the 3D Systems printer one might use for printing wax-casting patterns, which might have some real-world applications to bringing some obsolete parts back to life around here. We already knew you could do lost-PLA casting with printed parts, and make molds for short-run injection molding. Still, the parts that were manufacturable by some of the best-developed technologies like SLS (selective laser sintering) and SLA (stereolithography) really impressed us.

We think there’s nothing less than a new age of customization coming. After centuries of mass production going back

We have two AK builds and more AR builds than we can count on the shelves and workbench, and then we need the workbenches clear for airplane parts.

The links to this week’s will all be live when the post goes live. Enjoy!

The Boring Statistics

Our article count was a very low 22, the lowest to date this year. Word count was also a low-ish 16,000 or so (with over 4,500 of them going up on the last day of the week, Saturday). We had only five posts that broke the long-post threshold of 1,000 words, but none of them were over 2,000. (indeed, except for this recap which barely does, none of them hit 1,500).

The mean and median post sizes were 709 and 694 respectively, suggesting that there were most posts were closer to average than usual. There was one sub-100-word post, which is usual; and seven total sub-500-word posts. We did exceed our minimum desired post count of 19. So far this year we’ve almost 400 blog posts (392, to quibble), and this week we went over over 2000 comments for the year.  

Comments are low at 101, as of press time, much lower than last week’s 121; this is perhaps accounted for by the fewer posts this week. The barrage of Facebook-launched spam seems to have followed Facebook stock this week, and tailed off.

Thanks for commenting! We always say this and we always mean it.

Most Commented Post of the Week

Our most commented post was the story on the last five major shootings at military bases, and the military’s counterproductive approach to these events: Five Years (+), Five Shootings, Five Findings (which we just noticed doesn’t really have five findings), with 20 comments and runner-up was A Lieutenant’s Advice, a young academy grad’s heartfelt heads-up to his following cohorts, with 13. These two posts represent about a third of the week’s comments, and another 11% or so went to Saburo Sakai’s Wounds, and Lew Jones, a post inspired by comments last week; conversely, some posts had no comments at all. (We’ve stopped reading too much into that, and actively resist posting things for their comment-bait value. Usually).

The Week in Posts

Here’s the recap of our posts for this week:

We hope you enjoyed this week’s content. We enjoyed bringing it to you!

Here’s how we did on last week’s promises:

We had the same promises as usual, the same ones we make for next week.

  1. We did get the Volkssturm Carbine follow-up posted, but we still owe the Bull and Greek posts.
  2. We did make our minimum posting rules.
  3. We could have had more tech posts.
  4. We did drop the ball on a WWWW. We actually started two, and neither was really good enough, so we didn’t finish ‘em.
  5. And we did get the Matinee and the TW3 up on time.

For Next Week

Our goals are unchanged:

  1. to catch up the long-festering back posts mentioned above, now back up to just two features (Gerald Bull, and the Greek Insurgencies). We also have some other stuff that has sat way to0 long in the draft queue, which is up to 247 posts at this writing (some of which ought to just be deleted). We’re really serious about the two posts that finish the Greek series, but they’ve been harder than we expected.
  2. to post three times a day, six days a week, of which:
  3. one gun-tech or -industry post and one SOF, UW, or war-related post up daily. The other post and any extras are “free fire.”
  4. a WWWW, on Wednesday.
  5. a Saturday Matinee, and a TW3 before the week ends at midnight Saturday.

The draft queue is approaching 250, so it’s time to dynamite some of that stuff out and entertain you guys.

See you with a TW3 on Saturday! (Again!)

Saturday Matinee 2014 15: Gardens of Stone (1987)

gardens_of_stone_dvdUsually, we have no problem either summarizing or forming an opinion of a movie. This one is a rare exception; even after watching the DVD twice, and giving it two weeks of reflection, we’re still not entirely certain how we feel about it.

It’s a powerful film that has several different ambitions: it wants to be a coming-of-age film, it wants to be a powerful antiwar and anti-military statement, and it wants to entertain people. As a result, it motors back-and-forth between different sets of tone, imagery, and feeling. Some of this ambivalence reflects the ambivalence in the underlying source material, the late Nicholas Proffitt’s novel, which is thoroughly tied up in his own rejection of his own military experience. (Proffitt dropped out of West Point and spent three years’ penance in the Old Guard, the Army’s ceremonial unit which guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and performs burial ceremonies in Arlington National Cemetery. His long out-of-print novel is beloved of Old Guard vets for its realistic portrayal of their unique ceremonial duties; a disproportionate number of the reviews on the book’s Amazon page are from ex-Old-Guardsmen) .

We found the novel to be pretentious in the way that certain materials beloved of the New York literati tend to be; naturally it was a brobdingnagian bestseller, as it burnished every stereotype the Manhattan crowd has. They are quite certain they understand us military warmongers, despite the fact that most of their families last had a brush with military service when they paid a stand-in for the draft in 1863. They understand us because they read the occasional book by someone like Proffitt who was in the Army — and didn’t much care for it. 

The film is saved from the Looney Tunes shallows of literary novels by powerful performances by names familiar and less-so. We’ll discuss them below.

Funeral Arlington (Gardens of Stone)It’s worth watching if only for the mostly realistic depiction of Uncle Sam’s flash honor guard (all the services maintain a similar contingent, but the Army’s Old Guard, and its partner Pershing’s Own Army Band, have arguably the greatest range of responsibilities). And you’ll see the capable direction of Francis Ford Coppola, who as always draws the best out of his actors.

Acting and Production

gardens of StoneSeveral of the key roles are played by Hollywood heavyweights, including James Caan in an excellent turn as the frustrated career sergeant, Clell Hazard. His best friend and immediate superior is ably played by James Earl Jones. And who’s his love interest, who loves the man but hates his profession? Anjelica Huston. The kid Hazard takes under his wing, Jackie Willow, son of Clell’s old and since-deceased buddy, is played perfectly by D.B. Sweeney. Sweeney is one of those names little heard of today, but he’s worked steadily and is a solid journeyman actor. (He’s also someone known for supporting the military with combat-zone tours, among other things). He’s completely convincing as a youth who wants to go to OCS and Vietnam before the war is over. Caan — in one of the great performances of his life, and a comeback after many years off the screen — and Jones are perfectly convincing as senior NCOs who totally understand the young man’s desire to test himself in combat, and can’t communicate that they’ve been there and it’s not special enough to get your head shot off over.

These deep and rich characters owe a lot to Proffitt’s original story, and his awareness of dynamics and friendships across the enlisted ranks. Other characters that truly come to life include Huston’s anti-war journalist and Dean Stockwell’s hard-bitten company commander, Captain Thomas. Laurence Fishburne does an excellent job with a small part as a junior sergeant.

Accuracy and Weapons

Hazard M14 Gardens of StoneThe movie is highly accurate in its technical details, in part because the Army provided assistance. Some scenes were shot on location at Arlington National Cemetery, with the support of the actual old guard and Pershing’s own. (The Army assistance required Coppola to delete some of the scenes from the book).

Weapons aren’t really key to this film, as the unit is primarily ceremonial unit. The color guards, two guards and other old guard members do carry highly polished and 14s, which is absolutely correct for the mission and the period. In a brief scene of field training (yes, the Old Guard goes to the field), 1911s and an M60 also make an appearance. These are all correct, as are the uniforms. They’re even careful with details like Caan’s character having a star on his CIB (indicating service in Korea as well as Vietnam) and Jones’s having two stars (making him a WWII, Korea and Vietnam vet, not at all unusual for a senior infantry NCO in the 1960s).

Some scenes of Vietnam fighting are grainy newsreel footage. But by and large the Vietnam events take place offscreen, and only impinge on the Washington players through television and letters. This makes for gripping storytelling.

There are some continuity botches: for example, long after we are told it is 1969, Clell Hazard watches TV news reports of fighting in the Tet Offensive of late January to early February ,1968. But by and large the film does an excellent job of evoking an era that was already nearly 20 years in the past when the movie was in production.

The bottom line

Gardens of Stone is an internally conflicted film, and considering that, it’s as good a prism as any, through which to view the Vietnam experience of soldiers, as well as of civilians. Most people, whether they fight in the war, protested against it, or stay home and basically trying to ignore it, have some degree of inner conflict over the war.

Wes effective is the bookend opening and closing which frames most of the movie as a flashback. Since in the opening scenes we see Jack Willow being buried, and his widow receiving the flag of honor, there isn’t much potential for suspense in the movie. Instead, it’s more of a character study.

Personally, we spent 30 years around characters like that, and don’t need to study them. Your mileage may vary. But the film is worth seeing, if for no other reason than to see James Caan at the peak of his powers, and the Old Guard doing their everyday mission, “with the thanks of a grateful nation.”

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film.

  • DVD page:

(single movie DVD):

($5 4-pack, but kind of crummy digitization):

  • IMDB page:

  • IMFDB page:

  • Rotten Tomatoes review page:

  • Wikipedia  page:

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have taxicabs.

delorean time taxiNothing gets more bitter than taxi medallion disputes. Cities limit the number of medallions in order to favor cronies or insiders, and as a result, taxi operators engage in range wars that only the direction of John Ford could possibly bring to the screen.

Your city doesn’t even have to be big to have one of these disputes going on, it just has to have some central-planning commissar micromanaging the medallions, and next thing you know, it’s sheep man versus cattle man and devil take the hindmost. Like in sleepy Portsmouth, NH, population 28,000 or so, of whom only the welfare class seems to take taxis anyway (and the taxis look that way):

A city cab driver says he was cut off by a competing cabbie who tried to “run (him) off the road” in the midst of ongoing disputes about medallions to operate cabs in the city.

“He used his vehicle to endanger me,” said John Palreiro, owner of Great Bay Taxi.

John Palreiro, owner of Great Bay Taxi, provided this surveillance video, which he says shows another cabbie cutting him off and forcing him into another lane in Portsmouth around the 1-minute mark.

Palreiro said another taxi driver drove into his travel lane, from right to left, in the area of Maplewood Avenue and Congress Street. He said the incident occurred at 7:10 p.m. on March 20 and has been reported to police.

The incident, he said, was filmed by a 360-degree video surveillance system he has installed throughout his cab and a copy of the video was provided to police. He said he saw and identified the driver, but because that driver has not been charged with any wrongdoing, he is not being named in this story.

“I saw him when he drove by me,” Palreiro said. “If I was a newbie driver, I might’ve jerked the wheel and gone onto the sidewalk and possibly hurt a pedestrian.”

Palreiro said he was driving a Ford Focus that recently was assigned the city’s taxi medallion No. 13 and that he was cut off by a white Lincoln Town Car taxi that used to have medallion No. 13.

via Cabbie claims another taxi driver tried to force him off road |

We watched the video at the link, and we didn’t embed it here because we’re just not seeing it. Sure the cabbie was driving like a jerk, but what’s special about that? Most every driver drives like a jerk sometimes, and cabbies seem to be perma-jerks. They drive with a weird combination of slow-crawling the open highways while banzai-charging traffic. Does anybody know what’s up with that?

This guy strikes us as a bit paranoid, with his video system in his cab. But maybe he’s onto something. After all, even paranoids have real enemies.

As far as his “assailant” goes, while there’s copious evidence that automobiles can be deadly weapons, this attack, if attack it was, was a massive fail, particularly with the so-called “assailant” driving a V-8 “assault Crown Vic”. If you’re going to ram somebody, by Gadfrey ram him; don’t make some half-hearted feint at it. Neither of these cabbies would last a shift on the mean streets of the South Bronx.

DOD Took Wrong Lessons from Navy Yard

This is the guy whose reaction to the murder of disarmed victims has been to try to disarm them further for the next killer: USD(I) Michael Vickers.

This is the guy whose reaction to the murder of disarmed victims has been to try to disarm them further for the next killer: USD(I) Michael Vickers.

In a report on the Navy Yard mass shooting written by the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, a political appointee, the Department of Defense never addressed the defenselessness of the victims. Instead, they doubled down on the failed policy of victim disarmament.

We saw the result of this bad DOD policy recently at Fort Hood, although the Army and military-in-general brass are stupid enough that this guy’s (image right) pigheadedness didn’t singlehandedly kill the three Hood victims.

Privately-owned Weapons on DoD Installations

Although DoD policy regarding privately owned weapons is adequate, enforcement and verification is difficult. It is impractical to search every vehicle entering an installation for illegal weapons. Additionally, without conducting exhaustive searches of facilities and residences, it is impossible to verify illegal weapons have not been smuggled onto DoD installations. Commanders must balance security with access and privacy concerns.

Title 18 U.S.C., Section 930, prohibits any individual from knowingly possessing or presenting a firearm or dangerous weapon in a Federal facility. The December 3, 2010, Secretary of Defense message on privately owned firearms (POF) directed all DoD components to require mandatory registration of POF for all personnel who store POF on an installation (whether or not they live on the installation). U.S. Navy policy for POF aligns with this DoD policy, requiring any weapon brought onto a Navy installation to be registered with base security forces.

In other words, Department of Defense facilities already have the kind of laws which obtain in Chicago, the murder capital of North America. Is it just us, or does the DSD(I) seem to regret the impracticality of “exhaustive searches of facilities and residences”?

Hey, those “exhaustive searches” sure prevented attacks on our guys in Iraq and Afghanistan, and made ‘em love us, or what?

So, it sounds like he’s going to recommend a double-down on the policy that failed and just killed a whole bunch of people. Let’s see:


  • Installation commanders develop strategies to check vehicles and personnel entering DoD installations and facilities for POF.
  • Conduct a follow-on review to examine installation security and law enforcement resource requirements to implement an adequate personnel, property, and vehicle inspection program.
  • Ensure notices of provisions are posted conspicuously at each DoD installation in public entrance in accordance with subsections (a) and (b) of Title 18, United States Code, Section 930 (Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in Federal facilities). DoD Vulnerability Assessment Capabilities to Identify and Mitigate Physical Security Gaps Vulnerability assessments are critical to commanders’ ability to identify vulnerabilities and mitigate risk.

Yep, a total double-down. That’s what DOD did, and the result is already three more corpses, every one killed as much by the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and the Army’s General Ostriches, as by the whackjob shooter his own self.

So who is (or was, at the time of the report?) the USD(I). There’s a surprise in that, because the guy is Michael Vickers, who, before he became a political tool, was an actual SF operator. After that, he was involved at several levels in clandestine aid to the 7 mujahideen groups, at least three of whom actually fought the Russians in Afghanistan (the others saved the ammo to fight each other, which they did in 1992 as soon as they overwhelmed the Russian puppet government of Comrade Najib and hung him from a tree). Contrary to media myth, Osama bin Laden was not among the mujahideen aided, but Gulbuddin Hekmatayar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, who have led resistance to the USA, were. (Hekmatayar avoided fighting the Russians, and Haqqani was one of the muj who fought them fiercely).

We don’t blame Vickers for the mess that Afghanistan has become. (Indeed, the blame accrues mostly to the Afghans, who happily fight each other, when we or Ivan are not around, and sometimes even when we are). But he’s wrong about DOD gun policy. He was wrong in December 2013 when he wrote this, and he’s wrong in April 2014, where the DOD is doubly doubling down again.

Part of this comes from the senior levels of officer corps, to which one can only rise with a degree of contempt for enlisted men and women. An example of this is former Chief of Naval Operations and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen, who said:

“I’m not one, as someone who has been on many, many bases and posts, that would argue for arming anybody who is on base. I think that actually invites much more difficult challenges.”
“Certainly we have to do everything we can to protect everybody that’s on base,” Mullen said. “But I’d be much more in the camp of … focusing on the individuals rather than routinely allowing arms on any military base in the country.”

Did you see that? He’s against arming anybody who’s on base. He’s for victim disarmament. He’s a supporter of Lopez (I), Savage, Lopez (E), Alexis, and Hasan, the five fiends. If you want to feel a chill, consider this: he’s also a supporter of the coming sixth.

Volkssturm Carbines, part 2 of 2

Continued from: The Genesis of the Volkssturm Carbines. Why? published March 27, 2014. 

When we last looked at the Volkssturm carbines, it was late summer or early fall of 1944, and a handful of the guns were about to be presented to Hitler as a sort of staff decision memo by Reichsminister for Armaments and War Production, Albert Speer. The weapons included several single-shot and repeating bolt guns, and a version of the famous, if very rare, VG 1-5.

Gustloff VG 1-5 - GunLab

Purportedly after doing this, Speer wrote and transmitted the following (emphasis added):

The Reichs Minister for Armaments and War Production

TAE-no. 99 10786/44 secret

Berlin, the 5th of November 1944

Pariser Platz 3


(to: [action copies])

speer_letter_p._1Chief of the Army Arms Office, General of Artillery Leeb

Main Directorate for Weapons, Director Engineer Weissenborn

Chief of the Armaments Staff, Senior Department Head Saur

Information Copies:

Chief of Army Equipment and Commander of the Home Army, Reichsführer-SS Himmler

Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht, Field Marshal Keitel

Chief of the General Staff of the Army, Colonel-General Guderian

Chief of Army Equipment and Commander of Replacements, SS-Senior Colonel and Waffen-SS General Jüttner

Chief of the Army Staff at the High Command of the Wehrmacht, General of Infantry Buhle

Leader of the Party Chancellery, Reichsleiter Bormann

High Command of the Wehrmacht, Wehrmacht Leadership Staff / Organizational Office, Lt. Col of the General Staff Fett

Main Directorate of Ammunition, Consul-General Stahl

The following proposed People’s-Rifles (Volksgewehre) have been presented to the Führer

a)     Single-shot guns for normal rifle cartridge. From the firms:

  1. Appell, from Berlin-Spandau;
  2. Bergmann K.G., from Velten;
  3. Gustloff-Werke, from Suhl; and,
  4. Walther, from Zella-Mehlis.

b)    Repeaters for normal rifle cartridge. There were two of these, from the firms:

  1. Deutsche Industrie-Werke, from Berlin (with the 10-shot magazine of the K.43);
  2. Röchling (Coenders), from Wetzlar (with 5-shot loading strips).

c)     Repeaters with short cartridge 44. From the firm Deutsche Industrie-Werke, Berlin (two different versions with 30-shot magazines);

d)    Self-loader with short cartridge 44. From the firm Gustloff-Werke, Suhl (with 30-shot magazine).

speer_letter_p._2Reference: a) The Führer has rejected all Single-shots on fundamental grounds. Of them, the one from the Walther firm pleased him most.

Reference: b) and c) as a Repeater, the model of the Deutsche Industrie-Werke was recommended by Colonel-General Guderian and General Buhle, in that its manufacture is very simple and it is made up of very easily made assemblies (no forged parts, no tubular material, no deep-drawn sheet metal and large tolerances).  The Führer is in agreement with this recommendation, but he recommends shortening the barrel, if it can be done without significantly increasing recoil, and additionally improvement of the outward appearance of the weapon, such as rounding the receiver. Psychologically the Führer considers such a primitive weapon unfit for troop issue. The immediate start of manufacturing in a quantity of 400,000 to 450,000 pieces by using Air Force and Army barrels on hand, as well as available K43 magazines is directed, as long as the Army Ordnance Office (Heereswaffenamt) agrees and raises no objections. I would consider an output of 100,000 weapons in December, 1944, possible.

As an end goal, the Führer considers the People’s Rifle with the Short Cartridge 44 and a magazine of about 10 shots, which should not hinder the shooter in firing from the prone position; the long 30-shot magazine of the MP 44 is not to be used.

Reference d) the Gustloff-Werke’s self-loader is rejected by the shore by the Führer on the grounds of too-high cost, and too-high consumption of ammunition; further that the MP44 has about the same manufacturing and material requirements, and already is in mass production in very high quantities.

Heil Hitler, Speer.

Well, that’s a bit to think about. You’re welcome to check our translation; sorry about the so-so cell phone images of the documents.

The key takeaways

To us the big surprise in this document, which can scarcely be surprising to experts in the field because we found it in an old issue of the German magazine Waffen Revue, is the outright rejection of the VG 1–5, the Gustloff semi-automatic carbine for the short cartridge. Hitler’s reported strong opinions seem to be in line with those that might be held by a junior NCO of First World War vintage. His concern that the crudity of some of the proposed weapons would impinge on rifleman morale seems to be on target, as does his concern about a large box magazine and the prone position; his worry that they would blaze away and waste ammunition, less so. (For all that leaders and generals have fretted over ammunition wastage over the centuries, as each new development — breechloading cartridges, repeaters, semi-autos, select-fire — increased the grunt’s theoretical rate of fire, cases of grunts shooting their ammo stocks dry seem to be rather rare and restricted to situations in which said grunts were doomed and were being overrun, anyway. Joe Snuffy turns out to be a rational actor when his life is on the line).  It was interesting to learn that the short MP44 magazine found here and there (like the one famously photographed in an MP45 prototype) resulted not from the desire of engineers to have a short mag for testing, but from the dictator’s concern about his frontline grunts. 

Gustloff VG 1-5 repro - GunLab

It was also a surprise for us to see the production of the VG 1-5, which we’ve been watching go together over at GunLab (in-progress, above), compared with that of the MP 44, which has many more stamping steps. We can only presume that the MP44 had well-thought-out production schedules and tooling, and the simpler VG, which seems designed more with a view to cottage manufacture, didn’t.

Did Hitler Really Make These Decisions?

It’s hard to say. There’s no known document with Hitler’s signature (although after the July 20, 1944 attempt on his life, he seems to have signed fewer documents). Instead, there’s one from Albert Speer, saying, “the weapons were presented to the Führer”; “the Führer dismissed on fundamental grounds”, and so forth, but do we have anything but Speer’s word what we’re hearing is Hitler’s, and not Speer’s decision? And how much faith do we have in the integrity of Speer, the man who initiated the genre of self-serving Nazi bigwig memoirs? There are no answers to these questions; it does seem that in the higher levels of the Nazi hierarchy there was a fairly common practice of playing Führer’s-mouthpiece, with Himmler, Bormann and Göring among those who issued orders purporting to come from the mouth under the funny mustache itself.

A strong indication that this really was Hitler’s opinion is the reference to the aesthetics of the Deutsche Industrie-Werke repeater, and to the need for them to be improved if the soldier were to have confidence in his firearm. This sounds like a front-line combat veteran talking; and Hitler, whatever his faults, was such a veteran; Speer was not.

One indication that Speer may be on the level is that General Heinz Guderian, the great tank tactician, was quoted in the memo as well as an information addressee. Guderian had his own power base with Hitler, based not strictly on loyalty but on proven past performance. Would Speer have fibbed in a document Guderian might have brought up with Hitler himself? It seems unlikely. But the unlikely was an everyday occurrence in the 12 years of the Thousand-Year Empire.


Savage Bucks Industry Trend — with Big Layoffs

Screenshot 2014-04-10 22.36.11Savage Arms employed about 600 people when it was bought by defense giant ATK in 2013. Now about 440 people go to work at the company’s Westfield, Massachusetts facility, after the latest batch of 37 were shown the door this week. The company’s workforce is already 27% smaller (26 point repeating 6, to be pedantic about it) than it was at the time of the acquisition. It’s either struggling to sell its products in the hottest market ever, or was the first victim of the market’s regression to the mean, or ATK is eliminating positions made redundant by the acquisition — which seems unlikely, with the layoff count so high in less than a year, but it’s possible.

Savage makes well-regarded, attractively-priced and accurate bolt-action rifles, a line of rimfires, and the excellent  Savage Range Systems “snail traps” that are ubiquitous on indoor ranges these days. The company recorded $200 million in revenue in 2013.

A local news report notes that, “The door is open to more layoffs.” Commenters expressed fear that the company would move, like most other local employers have done. (Westfield is west of Springfield, in the Connecticut River valley, which was once known as Gun Valley from the profusion of gun makers there, but is now full of idled and ruined plants and welfare pathologies). One expressed the dread that Savage would be gone within three years.

Since it was Massachusetts, of course, another commenter expressed delight at the possibility:

Good, they are nothing but a manufacturers of death tools. Would be glad to see them shut down. This nation doesn’t need any more guns what so ever. And the employees should be ashamed of themselves for helping make such a filthy tool that has caused nothing but deaths.

When yet another commenter criticized him, the pseudonymous gun-hater delivered a double dose of enlightenment:

Cars are not manufactured to kill like guns are STUPID!!!!! It goes to show your level of IQ. Cars on the other hand are manufactured to provide transportation while working as hard as possible to keep its occupants safe during a accident. And that’s the HUGE difference between car makers and gun makers IDIOT!!!! But I’m sure your dumb dumb type will never realize those differences, so please don’t complain when gun violence keeps going up!! And for any chemical manufacturer that is making chemicals to kill, the same thing stupid, shut them down!!! And the rest of your argument attempt with doctors, seriously?!? Are you really that stupid, Oh wait, of course you are!!!

 And then got angrier… and more illiterate:

A gun related death occur every few second you dope! Do please cut the drug use as it rendering you useless and stupid!! My goodness, don’t you have any dignity? I guess when people are as dolt as you they do not!!
And by the way, democant’s and republicant’s are on the same team of use the people they are stupid mentality!!!

But he wasn’t done:

Its been the mentality of your type to start the wars and fuel communism you smelly uneducated IMBECILE!! Go take a history class and learn the belief system of those individuals. an, are you really that dumb about the human past and present or are you just playing dumb online? And stupid says what!!!

I don’t follow nor believe in fairy tales so I don’t have a messiah you silly dope!

I wouldn’t mind seeing a vid of you getting your ass taken out!! Go choke on horse meat F A G!!

The only cattle is your type!

LMAO!!! No, that’s quite all right, my brain doesn’t eat manure like the rest of you!!

While we’ve met enough people from Massachusetts to think that Gun Rage Guy quoted above is far from alone, there were also commenters that had more to contribute. For example, this post ought to be considered before we start lining up to lynch ATK:

Savage has been increasing their worker count at that plant for almost a decade to meet increased demand. Recent spikes in firearms sales, caused by fear of government action, have now started to subside. You can’t blame Savage for laying people off when demand turns off from all-time historic peak levels. This is not a sign of an evil company or that they will be leaving town. It is simply a rationalizing of the workforce from historically high numbers

We see demand subsiding, but to a level that will probably sustain itself higher than the then-record levels of 2011 or 2012. So a wise company would be planning new product introductions to tempt all those new shooters who have just been created.

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have welding torches

welding_torchYou have to love Boston. There, fire and police authorities sat on a fire investigation for a couple of weeks, so as not to distract from the spectacular funerals for two firemen, and the mayor’s chance to make a speech on TV.

The cause of the fire? Reckless welding. It has Boston Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis outraged:

Now we know what had been rumored for days — officials say the inferno at 298 Beacon St. that took the lives of Boston fire Lt. Edward J. Walsh Jr. and firefighter Michael R. Kennedy was set off by sparks from a welder’s torch.

But apparently what the cops, fire investigators and Suffolk prosecutors have yet to figure out is whether or not firing up a welding torch in the middle of 40 to 50 mph winds meets the legal standard of “wanton and reckless behavior.”

If it doesn’t, I’d say it comes damn close.

Back on Wednesday, March 26, Boston was spared the snow that hit the Cape and Islands … but not the wind.

So if you are attempting to weld an iron railing in the vicinity of a wooden shed, with blizzard winds whipping across Storrow Drive from the Charles River, and you go ahead and ignite that torch, do you meet the standard for “wanton and reckless behavior”?

Or are you just guilty of gross stupidity that borders on the criminal?

via Gelzinis: Welders at least guilty of stupidity | Boston Herald.

Of course, while this is an accident, for some values of the word “accident,” welding torches have been used in homicides before, like this one in Houston. A woman apparently did it, too — who says welding is always a man’s job? (Here’s an overview of the case).

In Bathurst, Australia a torch was one of the tortures to which a teenage apprentice was submitted, in an apparently out-of-control case of newbie hazing. He killed himself.