Category Archives: Weapons Books

Everybody Must Get Stone(re)d!

SEAL with Stoner 63. March 31, 1968, Vietnam. Image: USN

The Stoner 63A, of course. What did you think I meant?

The Stoner was the original modular weapons system. With a snap, crackle and pop of parts, it could go from a carbine to a rifle to a light machine gun, much like the spy toy guns that were popular in its native 1960s. Because it was such an important pioneering project, and because it was used by the elite Navy SEALs (mainly for its ultra-lightweight 5.56mm machine-gun mode, something other weapons couldn’t yet match) in Vietnam, it has become a legend. Because they were very few, very narrowly distributed, and burdened by heavy government regulations, they are very rare today. Combine legend with rarity and you soon cross over into the land of myth. There’s been a paucity of hard information out there on this exotic weapon, especially when weighed against the interest in it.

Even with today’s explosion of gun books, the Stoner 63 has been neglected. Paladin Press has a typically thin book on the system. Weighing in at a mere 34 pages it’s basically just a repop of a factory instruction manual. But it’s the only game in town.

Stoner 63A tri-fold brochure, one of the files in the collection at the link.

Or it was. No more. A poster in AR15.com’s Retro forum posted a comprehensive dump of Stoner 63A information, including factory brochures (right) and detailed engineering reports. There are data points from all along the Stoner’s Stations of the Cross: developmental information, troubleshooting information, problems found and solved during its brief tour as the Army’s XM207.

It’s not the coffee-table opus from Collector Grade Publications that a WeaponsMan would like to have, but it’s enough information that we could write that opus.

But who are we kidding? We have a blog to maintain, plus day jobs, plus there has to be time for going to the range. You are going to have to write that book.

We think you have to be an AR15.com member to download the materials. Go for it. Registering is simple, free, and painless. And you need to get started on that book.

Wednesday Weapons WebsiteS of the Week: Gun Manuals

There's a manual for everything out there. Sometimes a multilingual one.

OK, last week we missed the W4: Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week.

Sorry ’bout that. Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear… you know.

But to make up for last week’s omission, this week we have not one but several good, practical websites for you. And they all offer gun manuals.

A Short History of Gun Manuals

Gun manuals are a fairly recent thing. For many years, shooting and maintaining weapons was tribal knowledge, passed down from father to son. If you needed a written set of instructions to load and unload a Smith & Wesson Model 10 or a Winchester 86, you probably were better off with a rubber gun. But several trends have made manuals common: product liability laws, ambulance-chasing attorneys, and an urban society in which many deracinated hunter-gatherers are suddenly moved by the atavistic urge to pursue animals or various forms of targets with projectile weapons. As a result, almost any weapon whose rights belong to an extant company has a current manual, and it’s yours for writing to the company (and it’s yours sooner if you enclose a self-addressed envelope with enough poatage to cover the manual). It’s pretty hard to beat a deal like that: authoritative information for free.

But can we make a deal?

But of course, today’s consumers want to beat a deal like that. Free is good, but free right now is the standard of the Internet. Fair enough, at least for current and recent models most of the manuals (and a lot of catalogs and other good information) are available in .pdf form on the company website. Can we beat a deal like that? Free and now?

How about an even better deal?

Well, maybe. Because, you see, most people have weapons from many different manufacturers, some of which may sleep with the corporate fishes. (Unless you are a fanboy, then everything you own is from one place, and you can go to the H&K website and call it a day. See ya. Narrow ends of the bullets to the front of the mag. Just sayin’). And so, there are a variety of resources available for you on the net. Which brings us to:

The Sites this post is All About:

  • “Steve’s Pages” was probably the first and best online manual repository. It’s still regularly updated, and it’s still probably the best. If you can’t find a manual for a gun here, it might be too rare to risk shooting.
  • Vintage Gun Leather, a dealer in old holsters, has quite a few manuals for old guns also. Their main page is buggy, because it’s full of hacks for obsolete versions of Internet Explorer, but the manual page works the bomb.
  • Thumper’s Hole has mostly military and surplus manuals, and also has some website article captures in the “Tips and Tricks” how-to section. We’re not quite sure who Thumper is… we recall one was a bunny that associated with Bambi, and another Bambi and Thumper were cute bunnies who gave James Bond some trouble.

These sites include not only current and recent weapons, but old weapons and military weapons. For example, the Swedish Ljungman AG42B, the first weapon to have the direct-impingement gas system now known primarily as an AR-15 feature, is represented by this excellent English translation of the Swedish Army’s last AG42 manual for reservists.

The manuals do vary in quality, however; some are crude black & white scans or scans of photocopies, and the photographs are an inky blur. Line drawings, however, seem to survive even the most inept copying process. So you have to look at the manual before you decide if it’s useful to you or not.

There’s a lot of overlap between the sites, so take care not to overload these generous fellows’ servers by downloading things you  already have, or don’t need. Which brings us to…

A Few Words on Etiquette

The people who post these manuals do so as a public service, and are to be admired for that. Please respect their bandwidth and take only the manuals you need; and then keep them so that you don’t have to download the same manual again. This leaves more bandwidth for the next guy, and helps ensure that these great resources are there for other shooters — future shooters, even. So don’t be greedy with these resources. And if you have manuals these men don’t, consider sharing.

How to use the manuals

Most of them are pdfs, and can be read in Acrobat, Adobe Reader on most platforms, or Preview on the Mac. They can also be read in some e-reader applications. It’s not practical to bring all the manuals for your dozen guns out on range day (let alone the dozens of manuals for all your buddies’ guns). On a Kindle or iPad, it suddenly becomes practical to bring the information along with the weapons. No more wondering what way to turn what, to adjust point of impact. That makes these manuals better than the paper kind.

On the other hand, you can’t burn them for heat if it’s a cold and blustery day. Dead-tree books will always retain that advantage.

And that was the Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week, even though it was four websites. See you next week with another!

Want Bonnie & Clyde’s Guns?

I dunno, maybe you’re a movie fan — the 1960s Beatty/Dunaway antihero film hasn’t aged well in my opinion, but more arty types still adore it. Maybe you don’t like cops — they killed nine of them, some of them, perhaps, with these guns.

If the guns are what the auctioneer, Mayo Auction & Realty of Kansa City, MO, claims. It’s hard to say. While the provenance on these two weapons is rock solid back to the 1960s, it gets a little thready prior to that. The story: a cop who survived an ill-fated raid in Joplin, MO, in 1933 (unlike two of his brethren), took these guns home and later passed them on to a friend. The guns are a 1921 Thompson, SN 4208, and a Winchester 97 pump shotgun, SN 670715. These particular guns don’t appear in the usual photos of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, but they definitely did have a Tommy Gun. Even without the association with two notorious criminals, the Thompson has made its mark and has its own legions of fans (a good place for TSMG lore: the “Unofficial Tommy Gun Page“).

The owner amnesty-registered the Thompson in 1968, so it’s legally transferable on an ATF Form 4 —  and a transferable 1921 Thompson is worth quite a lot of money. How much? Well, maybe not the $89k this guy is asking as a starting bid for a minty one, but probably more than the $7,600 this other guy is asking for a parts kit, which can be legally assembled a couple of ways, but not into a Form 4 transferable, original Colt Thompson.

The Winchester 1897 is a classic shotgun, but they were made for over sixty years (counting the similar predecessor 1893 model) and in vast numbers (six million plus), and they practically never wear out, so without the Bonnie & Clyde provenance it’s not really worth very much. It’s an awesome gun, though.

This exposed-hammer, all-steel, slide-action shotgun was designed by John Moses Browning, the Leonardo of gun designers.

The 1921 Thompson is interesting for a number of reasons. It was one of the earliest weapons still taught in SF Light Weapons school when I attended (it has since been dropped). At the time, WWII and prewar weapons were still found all around the world in caches and war stocks. Some nations even held such old hardware as second-line and reserve weapons. But that was 1983, and since the armies of the world have bought millions of modern assault rifles.

The TSMG is an archetypal 1st Generation submachine gun. SMGs are shoulder weapons, capable of automatic fire, that fire a pistol cartridge. The first generation of SMGs were made of machined steel and shaped wood (usually walnut), and beautifully finished.  The 1921 and 1928 Thompsons were also mechanically different from the simpler wartime M1 TSMG. They used an H-shaped locking block that was made of aluminum-bronze alloy —  the Blish Lock (after the American naval officer who postulated a principle of metallic adhesion under pressure) or the “adhesion lock.” In time, testing showed that the effect of the adhesion lock was trivial, so it was deleted from the M1 version. Bottom line on the Blish lock, file it under “it seemed like a good idea at the time.” No other service weapon ever had it.

The TSMG was conceived while WWI was still raging (all combatants were working on portable automatic weapons, but only Germany got a submachine gun, the MP18, to the troops by Armistice). So it is quite an interesting time capsule.

It’s also a joy to fire, if not to carry in the field. (True of both the beautiful 1921/28 Colt commercial versions and the roughhewn wartime M1). It’s quite heavy and its cyclic rate is low, so it’s controllable on automatic fire. The weight also means it’s accurate at combat ranges in semiauto mode, despite the weight of the bolt that flies forward when the trigger is pulled. The ergonomics are remarkable for the day, with all the controls falling readily to hand — at least for right-handed shooters.

Original Thompsons are rare now, in the hands of collectors, and (as we have seen) painfully expensive. But that doesn’t mean you need to be a Saudi prince to shoot one. There are a number of ranges that will cheerfully rent you one –usually you have to buy their ammunition. If you don’t enjoy it there’s something wrong with you.

But all that said, and notwithstanding my admiration for the Tommy Gun and its designer (engendered by this book as much as by the weapon itself), isn’t there something a bit… off… about celebrating the celebrity of Bonnie and Clyde? They were tawdry, violent criminals. One would hope a healthy society could distinguish between being Public Enemy Number One, and, you know,  actually being Number One.

One would hope.

Anyway, auction’s on the 23rd, info’s at this link, and if you buy the Tommy I’ll buy the ammo.