Monthly Archives: August 2014

Slow Start Sunday

Safely in Indiana farm country with three friends, three of their kids, one elderly Jack Russell (whose old age has tuned him down to a delightfully serene level — for a Jack), and, at last count, eight cats, of which several used me for a warm bed last night.

One of the cats has no tail, courtesy, the vet thinks, of a cat-hating neighbor who used it as an Official Throwing-Kitty Cat Handle. The suspect has a sign on his lawn, celebrating a certain famous trade union: he might have made Right to Work Republicans of the cat’s family.

We are enjoying the company of the critters, because the other humans sleep. We regret not filling Saturday’s dance card here, but 14 hours in a car will do that to you. We suspect blogging will remain light until Tuesday (and Tuesday we have a real-world work problem that may tie us up all day).

Our Host here flies the line for an airline you would know. He’s a veteran of the Army and the Air Force, and is one of the few people who have Black Hawk, Boeing, F-16, and Fokker in his logbook. We defer to him on all matters of piloting, that’s for sure. He’s also, like many pilots, a gun guy. Last night we played with a FLIR thermal, watching the critters gambol in the dark. We had forgotten one of the key limitations of thermals: they can’t see through insulated glass. One of many reasons the dream night-sight is one that combines image intensification with thermal imaging, something that’s issue now but very expensive.

In order to get the FLIR unit, as with all night vision, our friend had to certify that he would not export the unit. He makes sure it is not in his bag before he takes an overseas flight, just so he’s never accused of an inadvertent ITAR violation.


Circumstances prevented this post from going up until Sunday was nearly over. The Road Trip continues.

A Millennium of Burdens: What The Grunt Carried

This incredible photo essay at the Telegraph has an image with the equipment a British soldier war at a significant battle at various historical inflection points — as they put it, from Hastings to Helmand. You absolutely, positively should Read The Whole Thing™, and also go through the photo essay.

We’ll pick out one for you — the Battle of Tilbury, in 1588. (Regular readers may be more interested in the Helmand trooper’s gear, or the one from Arnhem or the Somme. We found every single one fascinating). Tilbury wasn’t actually a battle; it was an assembly of troops, in anticipation of a battle, and it is best remembered for the speech purportedly given by Queen Elizabeth I to her assembled troopers:

I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.

In the end, there was no battle because the Royal Navy had thoroughly cleaned the clock of the Spanish Armada (that’s why that 1588 seemed naggingly familiar to you) and the armies of the Spanish King and the Duke of Parma were unable to land.

1588 trainband caliverman, Tilbury
1 Black woollen doublet with a leather jerkin over the top; the black cloth indicated relative wealth of the soldier
2 Venetian hose
3 Petticoat – holds the trousers up (comes from the word little coat)
4 Ruff
5 White braes – underpants- and white linen shift
6 Cabaset (helmet) with a broad rim which provided good cover to face and back of neck. The helmet has cheek pieces that fold down.
7 Copintank felt hat with African imported ostrich feathers
8 Shoes
9 Gloves
10 Piece of horn
11 Costrel – water bottle
12 Scabbards
13 Drinking tankard and earthenware pot; the stated rations for army facing Armada was two pounds of beef, two pounds of bread, a pound cheese and eight pints of beer
14 Knife and pricker – forks weren’t in wide use, although Elizabeth I was using one
15 Bowl and spoon
16 Grey woollen bag with playing cards, dice and pouch
17 Rapier
18 Side sword
19 Sword belt and pouch; hanging below is a chain with a pricker and brush for cleaning the gun
20 Powder flask for priming powder – to set the gun off with
21 Powder flask for coarser powder that would go down the barrel of the gun
22 Brown pouch with a pocket gold sundial; the mirror was attached to a cord and encased in a walnut-wood ball, stuffed with sweet-smelling herbs. Usually worn around the neck
23 Fire lighting kit including flint and striker and tinder
24 Yard of match – the cord that burns to give fire to the gun
26 Worm – for clearing blockages
27 Ramrod
28 Bag of 20 caliver lead balls
29 Caliver – before Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1559 gunsmiths around the country would make the muskets used in battle to their own specifications. The new queen insisted on standardisation, and so the 20-bore caliver was introduced
30 Money bag with gold coins

via Military kit through the ages: from the Battle of Hastings to Helmand – Telegraph.

Here is the picture with the photo key:


Our biggest take-away was how little the load of the infantryman has changed through the centuries, and how brutal the actual business of ground combat always was, and still is. Few pieces of gear exist in every loadout (at least one does: every set of gear has a spoon), and the weapons provide increased range and hit probability, but the grunt’s burden is relatively constant throughout.

We suggest there may be a Law: the infantryman’s burden expands to the maximum he can bear, always and everywhere.

The photo essay begins here.

UW: When it’s Gotta Go: Destroying Documents

FOOM!In the process of setting up a few safes (separate ones for guns and documents, thank you very much), we ran across some old Destruction Priority tags and stickers from some old community work. Checking the regs in hopes of finding out which was which taught us that, as something standardized, they are apparently now long since deprecated, especially with the English labels these had, like “Destruction Priority: Charlie” and so forth. Apparently, if you don’t work through your destruction priorities, you have just handed the Adverse Party his exploitation priorities. D’oh.

It did get us thinking about destruction plans, because even the most security-conscious operation can’t help generate paper, and paper (and nowadays, e-files, which are several orders of magnitude worse from a data-destruction standpoint) will not only hang you in the Unconventional Warfare environment, it will also roll up your cells, réseaux, networks, call them what you will. And hang all of them. Which would be on your conscience, if you hadn’t hung first.

We’ve seen good destruction plans that would have left the enemy with the bitter taste of ashes. We’ve also seen finger-drill destruction plans that merely checked a box, while guaranteeing that the enemy would have many hours of productive reading if he rolled the site up. In the bad old days, the Warsaw Pact actually had special operations forces targeted on certain repositories of Allied information, and at D minus a certain value the race would already have been “on” at these sites. The WarPac operators would have won some of those races, and lost others.

You can do a number of things to limit your exposure, including never writing down what you can memorize (exercising the mind and mnemonics help here); using a good code or cipher (but you would be astonished how readily amateur codes are broken, and how hard professional codes are to use); and relentlessly purging working papers and minimizing archival material and working aids.

But there’s always something. You can’t collect signals intelligence without working aids containing frequencies and call signs. You can’t conduct and communicate target reconnaissance without producing a target folder. You can’t exploit enemy personnel vulnerabilities without personality files, link lists, etc. Even running human sources from a position itself embedded in the enemy’s population, which is about as exposed as one is likely to get, you need some paper to operate with efficiency. And the capture of that paper is life or death for the sources and for the operation. (Not for you. Capture is pretty much death for you, so you take great pains not to get captured).

And the way the USG teaches source management or agent handling these days, it produces reams of paper. Much of which is, frankly, more use to an enemy than to us. But so far, we’ve only covered the collection phase of the intelligence cycle. Even more paper gets generated in the analysis phase.

So how do you manage the destruction of that information, should bug-out time come? (No doubt, US activities across the Mideast have been thinking about this since Benghazi signaled just how Washington has their collective back). Let’s begin from some first principles:

  1. Your objective is to buy your network 24-48 hours to go underground or escape. More than that is not realistic.
  2. Keep the barest minimum of paper. Shred, mulch or burn as you go.
  3. Periodically review your “barest minimum” — and pare it down every time.
  4. Paper is better than computer files. If you put it on a computer, you have lost control of it.
  5. Encryption can buy time. Low quality encryption cannot buy enough to justify the effort.
  6. Dividing the who from the what can help. Cover names can be helpful. (Perhaps we’ll elaborate this one in the future).
  7. Chemical destruction <- chemically assisted burning <- burning <- shredding.

Chemical destruction is not practical for most nongovernmental, non-industrial-scale installations, so we have to rule it out.

Shredders are problematical. Unless you are a huge activity, your shredder handles only a few sheets of paper at a time. The shredders that can take whole burn bags need power, and take time to render the paper within unreadable. Shredded material can be reconstituted, although to do it from a Level 6 shredder takes time and specialized software. (Iranian revolutionaries recovered the material the CIA shredded in what they thought was a state-of-the-art shredder in 1979, simply by deploying an army of students to work on lining up the shreds. Newer shredders crosscut to counter that approach, and naturally, there is a counter to the counter). Burning shredded matter adds another step, but shredded paper (unlike paper in books, binders or folders) burns rapidly. Post-burning, the ashes must be stirred to eliminate ghost material.

Burning is much faster, but has its limitations, assuming you’re talking about burning the whole thing, not the shredder product.

A once-classified NSA report explains one of these limitations:

The conventional procedure on land has always been destruction by fire. There is no doubt but that this can be highly effective. As anyone who has attempted it knows, however, paper burns slowly when in quantity and particularly when in the form of books and pamphlets. Even a modest-sized book can be thrown in the middle of a fire and yet, after an hour, remain more than half readable. The problem is largely one of adequate oxygen.

You should Read The Whole Thing™, because it’s informative and, like many IC internal documents, entertainingly written. They suggest either “agitating the material” (recommending “an enlisted man with a poker” for that purpose) or adding “a high concentration of oxygen,” which has the advantage, in combat conditions, of not being susceptible to enemy countermeasures, such as shooting PFC Burn Stick, which rings down the curtain on his agitation of the burning material.

Chemically-assisted burning is simply what rockets do: boost the fire by providing our own oxidant, and that’s where NSA is going in the above document. Despite having that much in common with a Saturn V, using chemical oxidant to destroy documents isn’t rocket science — it’s not much higher-tech, really, than PFC Burn Stick’s death-defying efforts in the preceding paragraph.

Now, you do need a chemical oxidant. If you’re experimenting with liquid-fueled rockets you might have some high-test peroxide around the lab, and some other nitrates will also do what we’re about to walk through, but for most people the answer is Sodium Nitrate. And you do need a container: a steel drum will do.

Mixtures of paper and sodium nitrate, which is a substance resembling ordinary salt, should burn rapidly and fiercely and, if the proportions are right, undergo complete destruction in a very few minutes. An added benefit is apparent even before experimental tests. The end product of the burning will consist largely of sodium carbonate. At the temperatures encountered this will be a liquid and should actually dissolve the ash. In this way the danger of text being recovered as ghosts on the white flaky ash is eliminated.

So the solution is this: prepare 100 pounds of nitrate for every 65 pounds of paper. In an open 55-gallon drum, (or a proportionate but smaller charge in steel bucket). Do not ventilate the drum or bucket: remember, the nitrate is providing the oxygen for combustion. Begin with a thin layer of sodium nitrate, then alternate: divide your volume of paper into quarters, your nitrate into fifths, and load nitrate-paper-nitrate-paper until you get to the last layer, nitrate. In this case, the reaction goes better if the paper is together in stacks or in books. Put a steel wire screen over the top (this holds down any papers that might otherwise rise on the column of flame. Apply a match. Woosh! It actually starts off slowly, and then gets going at a frightening rate — until it’s out of paper, then it stops abruptly, leaving liquid slag solidifying in the bottom of the barrel.

Not much is critical, except the initial layer of nitrate at the bottom, and the screen at the top (don’t use aluminum or plastic screen. It will melt).

Sodium nitrate is not as cheap as it was when NSA drafted that guidance 50-plus years ago, but it won’t break the bank; you can get it from bulk suppliers like this on eBay (expect to pay about $200/100lb, delivered; the same vendor can ship smaller lots), from Grainger in small quantities (but you’re paying a premium for highly refined nitrate, which you don’t need), or simply as “Chilean Nitrate” 16-0-0 fertilizer, used by organic farmers for nitration, which is less pure than chemical nitrate but plenty good enough to burn your secrets. If you have a lot of secrets, you can go on Alibaba and buy it by the containerload, FOB China.

Sodium nitrate is not as closely watched as ammonium nitrate, because it’s not as readily repurposed to explosives. It’s widely used in chemical manufacturing and in extractive industries.

NSA’s experiments with destruction resulted in the Army developing a document destruction kit, which it labeled E-12 (this is according to the article; we’ve never seen one, and suspect it’s long obsolete). The one thing it added was an igniter mixture of nitrate and wood flour as an aid to rapid starting. You can make that yourself if you like (you can also use 50% nitrate and 50% table sugar). The Army found that a crew of two could pack and ignite a barrel in 3 minutes. Ten to twenty minutes later, the barrel is empty but for “greenish liquid slag.”

Bonus: this’ll do your hard drives, too. Just throw them in with the paper as you load the drum. Nothing should be left but blackened steel screws and other steel parts: the aluminum cases, the disks and the cache chips will leave no trace but salts in the slag.

Recover that, hostile intelligence service.

Here’s the file at NSA:

If you’re diffident about going to NSA, and would rather they intercepted you reading this file here, here it is: emergency_destruction.pdf


Road Trip!

road-trip-signThe font of weapons expertise and otherwise inexpert opinion is enroute West at oh-dark-thirty to help a friend pick up a car in Indiana. (Hey, free car from his brother). This is the kind of friend who bails a guy out of jail and even though that one’s been repaid in kind, a wise man hangs on to friends like that.

The need for departure means the office reorg (which freed up the old desk for, we hope, moar gunzmithing!) didn’t quite get done. The professional movers who moved the desk in the first place lost half the cam screws needed to put it together. Even 10 years ago, that would have been curtains for the desk. Today? Go to Amazon and search for “cam nuts and cam screws.” Yowza.

All we needed to do was measure the one cam screw the Unibrow Brothers Moving & Storage Co. didn’t lose, and then order the matching one, and they’d be waiting for us on the return home. Of course, with the office in mid-reorg, where’s all the rulers?

Well, Putin’s in the Kremlin, President Obama is on the links, and the ISIL guy is hanging upside down in a tower somewhere, waiting for night to fall so he can feed…. Oh, wait, the measuring rulers? Beats us with a yardstick. Down to the shop, measure it with a micrometer. So the Win goes half to Amazon and half to Mitutoyo, although using a micrometer to measure a cam screw is kind of like calculating your weight to four significant places.

Somewhere, a wise old grandfather who always urged, “the right tool for the right job,” is faceplanting in his coffin. He’d really have liked Mitutoyo metrology gear, though. Good thing he doesn’t know that Plan B was to use a DRO to measure the thing.

Of course, we had to order $136 worth of books to get the $5 worth of cam screws, because of some new Prime shipping restriction. Well, and we wanted the books. There was that.

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have gravity

wile_e_coyote_gravityOne more for the “nothing good happens at 0235” file, although, in a certain Darwinian way, some good comes of it: think of it as evolution in action.

In Crook County, near Chicongo, 16-year-old Dallas Harden met an untimely end. He was remembered, by his friends, as — what else — an “aspiring rapper.” Unfortunately he was not a respiring rapper, for his feeble chest was insufficient to hold up the 17-ton slab of brick-faced precast concrete that fell on him. The concrete fell, not because shit just happens, but because young Harden and his friends had just stolen the steel rods that held it in place.


His friend Chris Wright — not one of the two friends who survived Harden’s spectacular failure of a Wealth Redistribution Engineer phase test — had some memories of Harden that seem almost comical, in the light of his grand exit. CBS Chicongo:

“Every time, being with him was an adventure,” he said. “We always had fun. There hasn’t been one moment that we didn’t have fun.”

Harden enjoyed rap music and was pretty good at rapping, Wright said.

“Dallas was a really good guy. I just don’t understand how this happened.”

Well, Chris, if you’d had the sort of friends who paid attention to school rather than schemed up nocturnal requisitions, you’d have had it all explained to you one of the times you went through third grade. See, there’s this thing called, “gravity.” And it’s not just a good idea: it’s the law. Your flat former friend managed to perturb a stable system, which sought new stability by converting potential energy into kinetic energy — and Dallas Harden into the human equivalent of roadkill.

Other family members give us another look into the values of their demographic:

A woman who said she was the aunt of one of the 15-year-olds, the boy who called 911, said her nephew told her that the boys were looking for scrap to “make money from it.”

You know, “to make money from it.” For the love of God, these people think of stealing as just another job.

“One of the pipes came loose, and another pipe, Dallas was trying to kick it, and when he did, the wall came down on him. They tried to get the wall off them, but the wall kept coming down,” she said.

Yeah, that gravity thing. It’s in all the books. No books in your house, are there? Maybe, to reach your family, we have to put it on The Bling Channel or something.

“Why put your life in danger like that? Is it an adrenaline rush to know that you all can get caught?” she asked.

Well, generally, people steal because they:

  1. are greedy and want something for nothing;
  2. lack morals or a conscience;
  3. are strongly narcissistic (products of “self-esteem education”);
  4. simply enjoy destroying things and harming others, because it gives them a feeling of power; or,
  5. Any combination, including all, of the above.

Alsip police Lt. Jay Miller said there’s no fence around the yard, only “No trespassing” signs.
“They probably figure it’s pretty hard to steal things that heavy,” Miller said of the company.

Once again, behold! The mighty power of the prohibitive sign.

Never underestimate the urban underclass. Never in the course of human events have so many worked so hard to avoid productive paid physical labor.

The steel rods were “instrumental” in keeping the construction walls in place, and when Harden removed one or more of them, the walls fell, police said.

via Police: Teen Crushed To Death In Alsip Was Stealing Metal Rods « CBS Chicago.

Looks like this time, being with him was a misadventure.

Life itself is an IQ test every day. Dallas Harden, you are a no-go at this station.

In Red Square he’s on display, but in Berlin Lenin Stays Buried

German Communists nostalgic for the days of Stasi surveillance and torture have failed in an attempt to have a gigantic “socialist realism” statue of Russian dictator Lenin exhumed for display.

The real Lenin statue gets the chop: 1991.

The real Lenin statue gets the hook: 1991. German Communists want him back.

Lenin, creator of the Soviet Union, the lawless government which held the undisputed world record for mass murder until the rise of Mao Tse-Tung, was imposed on East Germany by a massive 22-division Soviet army, the Group of Soviet Forces Germany, and a regime of German quislings. Many of the first-generation Stasi were Gestapo retreads, who served their Soviet masters as ruthlessly as they’d served Nazi ones. Only the uniforms changed.

Curators of an exhibition about the German capital’s monuments had proposed to including the Russian revolutionary’s 1.7-metre (5.6ft) head in their show, scheduled for spring 2015. Between 1970 and 1991, the statue had stood on Lenin Square in Berlin’s Friedrichshain district. After its removal, it was cut into 129 pieces and buried in a pit in Köpenick.

Lenin wasn’t melted down because he was a low-budget stone statue: the Workers’ and Peasants’ proletarian paradise couldn’t afford bronze. (People remember him as metallic because he, or at least his prop version was upgraded to bronze in the Ostalgie flick, Good-bye Lenin). 

Movie Lenin gets the hook: Good-Bye Lenin's prop.

Movie Lenin gets the hook: Good-Bye Lenin’s prop. Communism is the terrorist totalitarian ideology that never gave up, just got tenure at university and dreams of a comeback.

But last week the Berlin senate rejected the curators’ proposal to excavate Lenin’s head, arguing that they didn’t know its precise location and would therefore have to dig up the entire pit, long overgrown with shrubs and trees: too costly an undertaking for the city’s cash-strapped authorities.

Politicians and historians have criticised the decision.

What politicians? What historians?

Members of the leftwing Die Linke went as far as suggesting that the mayor, Klaus Wowereit, was ideologically motivated: “They are even still scared of that stupid old head,” the MP Wolfgang Brauer told the Taz newspaper.

Ah, those politicians. Die Linke is the euphemism for the former Socialistiches Einheitspartie Deutschlands, the guys who brought you the land mines along the Berlin Wall, hundreds of murders,  torture chambers in every city in their dystopian cesspool, and systematic and pervasive surveillance. Brauer is a guy who wants to bring all that back. (Complete with Russians to do his thinking for him? Probably).

via Berlin’s giant Lenin statue may have been lost, say city authorities | World news | The Guardian.

It’s all about the art and the history, Brauer mumbles (his mouth is full of Brezhnev’s private parts, still). Hey, didn’t Arno Breker sculpt another famous 20th-Century leader? Where’s that sculpture if it’s all about the history?

Of course, if you want to see Lenin, his mausoleum in Red Square welcomes his devotees daily (and worship of the rotted mummy of the syphilitic old goat is expected). Thanks to Vladimir Vladimirovich, the man’s mortal remains have a continued appeal as a tourist attraction that the many monumental statues of him that slave labor erected across half the globe have not done.

Redundancies at Remington, Sackings at Savage

dithers_fires_dagwoodLayoffs are in the news this week, with skilled workers getting the boot for reasons of both politics and business.

105-150 jobs cut at Remington in Ilion, New York, as the company relocates from the hostile ground of Cuomostan to more congenial climes. Hat tip Bob Owens, who says:

We’re not just seeing gun rights and gun jobs lost as a result of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s spiteful NY SAFE Act. We’re seeing the destruction of American history, and the slow death of a small town, all in the drunken pursuit of political power.

Well, what do you expect? “Elections have consequences,” one of the most gifted politicians i history is reported to have said. reports that the AR lines (notably Bushmaster) and 1911 pistol are moving to Huntsville because they are threatened by Cuomo’s Orwellian-labeled SAFE Act

Politics don’t seem to be the main driver in another 95 redundancies at Savage in Westfield, MA, or 25 further layoffs in an Ontario, Canada facility. Savage does not make guns threatened by most states’ legislation, even New York’s, but its home state of Massachusetts has passed a new law that makes the required permit for a long gun (or BB gun) a may-issue license, depending on the whims of police. The real driver of the layoffs, though, is Savage’s purchase by Alliant Techsystems (ATK).

Savage has a long, and turbulent, history, according to

ATK’s $315-million purchase of the Savage Sports Corp. went through in July 2013. The Savage Arms Co. was first organized in 1894 by Arthur Savage in Utica, N.Y. In 1920, the company bought Stevens Arms of Chicopee.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, the company was passed from owner to owner, including a stint as part of Black & Decker. Savage declared bankruptcy in 1988 when it was losing $25 million a year.

Ronald Coburn took over that year and brought Savage out of bankruptcy by cutting costs and focusing on bolt-action rifles, an area of the firearms business in which Savage developed a specialty.

In 1995, Coburn and his investors bought Savage and its subsidiaries for $33 million.

Coburn retired in February 2013 just as the sale to ATK was announced.

ATK plans to spin off all its sporting-goods suppliers into one firm, Vista Outdoor, keeping the defense industry suppliers in the original firm. ATK will remain, and Vista will become, publicly held firms. Those plans are proceeding, and now ATK plans, once it has shed Vista, to merge with Orbital Sciences Corporation. The details of the ATK-Vista-Orbital agreement are found in this SEC filing, which we don’t think has been linked elsewhere in the gun press.

The precise terms of the agreement get quite complicated, as you might expect would happen in a break-up and followup merger of such large firms.

The US Army Always Respected the AK

That’s one major take-away from a November, 1964 Springfield Armory classified report on a Chinese Type 56 AK variant, which the Armory received in late 1963 with a request that it be examined and compared to a Soviet-made AK already in their possession for “for similar and dissimilar features of design, fabrication, workmanship and construction.” We found this document in the archives of Small Arms of the World; for subscribers to that most excellent website, it’s available at this link. If you’re not a subscriber, this would be a good time. (Note: see the update at the end of this story for a free link to the file).

Springfield was asked to examine the Chinese AK by the US Army’s technical intelligence brain trust, the Foreign Science and Technology Center. Was the Chinese AK a worthy adversary? Surely it wouldn’t be as well made as its Russian prototype, let alone its American and Western competitors. Would it?

The report included an extremely detailed comparison of Chinese to Russian parts.

The report included an extremely detailed comparison of Chinese to Russian parts, and an analysis of what the parts weighed and did.


This is the Soviet AK described in the report, which remains in the collection of the Springfield Armory museum. It has since acquired a sling and a later magazine.

This is the actual Soviet AK described in the report, which remains in the collection of the Springfield Armory museum. It has since acquired a sling and a later magazine.

We have traced the original Russian rifle to Springfield Armory, where it remains in the Museum collection. The Museum has recorded facts about it that were not known to the 1964 report writers. This AK was made in Tula circa 1954, and Springfield notes:

Weapon transferred to the Museum from the Aberdeen Proving Ground on 2 December 1960. At that time weapon was appraised at $250.00.

Springfield has a photo of Elena Kalashnikova (Mikhail’s daughter) at the exhibit, and the label on the exhibit says:

AK47 – During the summer of 1962 one thousand AR15 rifles were sent to the Vietnamese who liked them better than the larger and heavier M1s and B.A.R.s. A ‘system analysis’ of the AR15 and M14, based on their use in Vietnam, made extravagant claims for the AR15 and resulted in an evaluation of the two American rifles and the Soviet AK47.

The evaluation referred to is the one discussed here. Apparently the exhibit does not note (although the curators must know) that this AK is the very AK that was analyzed in the report!

The Chinese AK’s whereabouts are unknown at this writing. The Museum has a Type 56, but it’s Serial Number 11103261 and was accessioned from the Watervliet Arsenal Museum on 25 August 1972. The following picture is the image of the Type 56 from the report:

In all respects, the Chinese Type 56 turned out to be identical to the earlier Tula AK-47, apart from markings and within manugacturing tolerances.

In all respects apart from trivial wood-furniture differences and the newer, lighter magazine, the Chinese Type 56 turned out to be identical to the earlier Tula AK-47, apart from markings and within manufacturing tolerances. It’s hard to tell from this picture if the front sight guard features the Russian-style “ears” or the full hood with a light hole that became a signature of Chinese AKs. In the right-side picture, it looks like “ears” to us, and in the left-side shot, a full hood!

In the end, they concluded that there were very few differences between the machined-receiver Soviet AK, serial number AA3286K, and its Chinese clone Type 56 SN 2021164, made in factory 66. The Chinese used a solid wood buttstock instead of the Russian laminate, and made their magazine of .0275″ sheet metal instead of .036″ for the Russian, and noted that the Chinese (but presumably not the Russian) magazine was ribbed for reinforcement; this saved approximately 3 ounces weight. As the Chinese magazine illustrated is the same as the common improved Russian magazine with three reinforcing ribs on the heel of the mag (these ribs were later deleted from Chinese mags), it seems probable that this weight saving was a Russian improvement vis-a-vis the original slabsided magazine.

Given that Russian and Chinese manufacturers work in international units, the nominal gauge for the magazine’s sheet steel was probably 0.7 mm (Chinese) and 0.9 or 1.0 mm for the Russian slabsided mag. These are roughly, but not exactly, 23 gauge and 20 gauge sheet steel respectively. Thinner steel (a higher-numbered gauge) is generally easier to form as well as lighter. Other than the wood of the stock and the design of the mag, their 1960s-vintage AK from China was identical to their 1950s Russian comparison. Their parts were identical in dimensions to a few hundred-thousandths of an inch and tenths of an ounce in weight. They seemed to be made to identical plans, and within identical tolerances. There’s no indication that the Arsenal experts tried interchanging the parts, but their careful analysis implies that the parts would interchange.

They looked at the weapons in detail, and came away impressed and respectful of Russian and Chinese manufacturing.

They looked at the weapons in detail, and came away impressed and respectful of Russian and Chinese manufacturing.

The weapons were weighed empty, without mag, sling, and cleaning/toolkit (the small kit that fits in the AK’s butt trap was missing from both sample weapons). They were also weighed with empty mags and with a mag loaded with 7.62 x 39mm ammunition (the ammo used was of Finnish manufacture). The scope of the task did not include firing, to the evident disappointment of the Springfield engineers (one of their recommendations was for a follow-up live-fire; it’s unknown if it came to pass).

The comparison to American firearms did not injure the Eastern weapons. The Chinese and Russian weapons were well made and their metal parts were machined as well as an American service rifle’s parts would be. There were toolmarks visible in places where it didn’t matter, and other parts were polished to as smooth-surfaced a microfinish as Springfield itself would do. They did notice that in the fine point of anticorrosion surface finishes, the Comblock weapons came up second best: little was left of the original rust bluing on the AKs, and the bolt and bolt carrier were completely unfinished from the factory.

The reviewers also noted many of the features for which Kalashnikovs have become known over the next 50 years: robust parts; simple field-stripping into few, large assemblies; parts clearances that imply high reliability and high toleration of rude field conditions. They thought the weapon specially suitable for guerrilla and short-range, close-quarters warfare, a verdict that neither its original manufacturers nor modern experts could dispute.

One is left with the overriding impression that, while the design and manufacture of this weapon did not shake the confidence of the Armory engineers in their own organization’s craft, they did respect it as a noteworthy design of high manufacturing quality.

Also, although the report does not say this explicitly, it’s clear that the ability of the communist bloc to transfer the manufacturing technology of the AK rifle from its Russian home in Izhevsk to Factory 66 in China bespeaks a self-replicating capability of then-enemy arsenals that had a high potential to be a force multiplier for them. The 2nd Model, machined-receiver AK is not some rude Sten gun that can be produced in guerrilla workshops: its series manufacture requires quality steels and 20th Century machine tools, production engineering, and precision manufacturing and measurement techniques. We can’t tell from this single report whether the Chinese attempt to set up an AK factory in the 1950s went smoothly or suffered difficult teething troubles; we can be sure than in eight years or less any problems were fully resolved and the Chinese plant was producing firearms almost indistinguishable from their Soviet prototypes.

This original report was classified Confidential at its origin and later regraded, first Restricted (a now-long-defunct lowest level of classification) and finally Unclassified. It is no longer a secret that the USA was interested in the small arms of competitor states fifty years ago. This treasure was found by the Small Arms of the World staff in a British archive, and this sort of thing is exactly why you ought to subscribe to the site (and the related dead-tree magazines, Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal).

There were numerous other reports evaluating the AK and its ammunition in the pre-Vietnam era. We do not have copies of all; some we know only from bibliographies and reference lists in extant documents, but we’re still looking for them. Some of them included:

  • Ordnance Technical Intelligence, OIN 13042, 7 May 1956, Firing Test:, Soviet 7.62 mm Assault Rifle Kalashnikov (AK), MCN 9866.
  • Ordnance Technical Intelligence, OIN 13270, ? April 1959. Wound Ballistics Tests of the Soviet 7,62 mm Bullet, MCN 8300.
  • USATEC letter report on Comparative Evaluation of U. S. Army Rifle 7.62mm, M14; Armalite Rifle Caliber..223, AR-15: Soviet Assault Rifle AK-47; 12 Dec 62.

  • (S) Rifle Evaluation Study (U). US Army Combat Developments Command. 20 Dec 62. In this document, the CDC compared the M14, an improved squad-automatic version of the M14 developed by the US Army Infantry Board, the AR-15, the AK-47, and the vaporware Special Purpose Infantry Weapon (SPIW), and recommended M14 adoption be slowed and AR-15s be bought for units not committed to NATO. Declassified and available at DTIC.
  • (C) Exploitation Report- Comparison of 7.62mm Assault Rifles- Chinese Communist Type 56 and Soviet Model AK. (U). Springfield Armory. November 1964. That’s the document discussed in this post, declassified and available (to subscribers) at Small Arms of the World. (We strongly recommend subscribing, if you’re interested in this stuff. Many historical reports that didn’t make it to DTIC are at SAotW via the National Armories at Leeds, who kept their copies and allowed Dan Shea’s gang to digitize them). 
  • Foreign Materiel Exploitation Report- Rifle, 7.62x39mm, Type 68, Communist China. From HP White Laboratory. April 1973. This is also at Small Arms of the World archives, thanks to the Ezell archives held at National Armories. (Note, this is a large .pdf, 16.7 Mb per SAotW, and you’ll need a subscription there to get it). 

UPDATE 1702R 20140821

Ross Herman at Small Arms of the World was kind enough to post a free-access public link to the ForeignMaterial Exploitation Report. It’s here:

Many thanks to Ross for this. We didn’t even ask him, he just did it!

We will add this story to Best of WeaponsMan Gun Tech this evening.

Obama Strikes Back for Foley Murder — with Leaks

American journalist Jim Foley was murdered on camera by the slugs of the cult of the moon god and his murderous, pedophile prophet. The US’s passivity on the murder, hell, the US’s passivity on the advance of the soi-disant Caliphate in Syria and Iraq (and the advance of completely unrelated Shia extremists in Yemen, which also caught the “policy establishment” napping golfing), has become such a domestic political problem, that the Administration, as sensitive to domestic press as they are blind to American interests overseas, felt compelled to do something.

So, what did they do?

Leaked a JSOC operation.

You can read the report of the “senior administration official” (Rice? Power? Hagel? Kerry? Someone indifferent to the success and survival of our special operators, so it could be any of those duds)’s classified-dump to chosen sock-puppet Nancy Youssef of McClatchy.

The purpose of Youssef’s article about the raid is transparently to combat the reputation of the President as someone with more dedication to improving his chip shot than correcting his record of national security weakness and failure. Like her reporting on the slaying of Osama bin Laden, she makes Obama the hero of the piece:

The U.S. operation was authorized by President Barack Obama after several threads of intelligence indicated where the hostages were being held, senior administration officials said in a briefing to reporters.

This political leak is reminiscent of the 1980 leak by Jimmy Carter of the US development of stealth aircraft. That leak was ordered by Carter in an attempt to undermine the public’s understanding of his weakness on defense and lack of  effort and effect in foreign policy.

It was deliberate — a briefing by senior officials of reporters  — and contained details that expose TTPs needlessly.

The raiding force consisted of members from nearly every U.S. military service and was supported by fixed wing, rotary and surveillance aircraft. They arrived at the site by air, conducted a search by foot and when they discovered that the hostages were not there, left, the officials said, taking hostile fire along the way.

One operator was injured when fired upon while in the air.

Gee, it breaks our heart than only one of your enemies was wounded, Nancy (and “senior officials”). Better luck next time, since you’ve done what you can to help the enemy out.

Many feared Obama on foreign and defense policy prior to his election. “Jimmy Carter: Now Available in Black” was one wag’s contribution to the Twitter debate. But Glenn Reynolds has been saying for years that the Carter failure was a best case for the Obama years.

It really says something that American warriors willingly put their lives on the line to rescue reporters, while the reporters in turn apply their bylines to try to get the warriors killed.

If they were golf pros in Martha’s Vineyard, these “senior officials” and reporters might care about them.

Nancy Youssef, the other reporters, and you leakers: God damn your souls.

Government Corruption — in the National Guard

camp grayling signThis is a Michigan story that hasn’t gone national, but it probably should. An insular, highly political National Guard unit had become so corrupt that mass sackings of leadership and full-timers were required to get it back under control. The Detroit Free Press reported that the investigation found, “widespread theft, moonlighting, destruction of government property and nepotism” at the lakeside Maneuver and Training Equipment Site (MATES) at Camp Grayling (in the north of the state’s lower peninsula). 

The Freep also noted that  the “scandal… extends to the nearby city of Grayling… with allegations of longstanding and too cozy relationships between those who buy supplies and services for the Maneuver and Training Equipment Site (MATES) at the base and vendors and contractors.”

The fix remains in: the criminal investigations the investigating officer recommended never transpired. But the officers and NCOs whose corruption and incompetence wasted millions in Army equipment, supplies, and labor, remain fired.

Of course, some of them are fighting it: a government job of any kind is seen as an entitlement that no misconduct or criminality should shake.

Camp Grayling“Many … employees thought it was allowed to ‘look the other way’ when theft (wood, copper, diesel, time) was occurring, and the majority aimlessly followed direction when told to throw thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment away,” investigating officer Col. Scott Doolittle said in a January memorandum to Gen. Gregory Vadnais, adjutant general of the Michigan Army and Air National Guard.

[The report] referenced a “Grayling mafia” and said the MATES suffered from “toxic leadership” and lack of discipline.

“I am concerned for the safety and well-being of all persons who have come forward and provided detailed accurate statements against persons who are ‘well-connected,’ ” Doolittle said in the memo to Vadnais.

Of the seven “well-connected” Guard members named in Doolittle’s report, two “toxic” lieutenant colonels slunk off into retirement, two NCOs dual-hatted as Guardsmen and civilian employees were dealt a two-week suspension from their jobs, and two more were fired. A fifth NCO was not punished.

The two fired NCOs (who were fired in their capacity as civilian National Guard employees) are fighting for their right to steal from the public. They’re represented by experts at ripping off the public, their union. (Yes, these dual-role Guard pogues have a union).

The findings of the report, per the Freep:

■ MATES personnel threw away “hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of new and used equipment and parts,” including shock absorbers, engine and transmission parts and electronic equipment, on the orders of Golnick and McNamara, so the facility would look better for an April 2013 inspection.

■ Several people who worked at the facility were running businesses on the side using government equipment and time, including a stock trading operation and a lawn care business.

■ Theft was widespread and worsening, and appeared “to have started with nuts/bolts, progressing to tools, progressing to bigger tools, to time, to copper, to diesel (fuel), and to wood.”

■ Theft of time involved abuse of leave time, such as “trash can” leave, in which leave time would be requested and granted but the request would be thrown in the trash so there was no record of it having been used.

■ Lack of discipline, with personnel not wearing proper uniforms and addressing one another by their first names.

■ “Fractured or completely broken” communication, with the mutual animosity between Golnick and McNamara so strong that McNamara told the investigator he only talked to Golnick when he had to.

■ Nepotism in which relatives were hired and, in some cases, reported to relatives.

■ An inappropriate too-close friendship between Golnick and Reed, who are both married to other partners. He spent considerable time in her work area and the two worked out and socialized together. Doolittle’s report said there was no direct evidence they had a sexual relationship, but their closeness made many at the facility uncomfortable and some felt Reed received favored treatment.

■ Doolittle said he heard it was common to give base business to friends who lived in Grayling, and one supplier gave two MATES employees a chartered fishing trip and allowed hunting on his land.

In our experience (in all three components: USA, USAR, and ARNG) the fulltime Guard was very political in both senses of the word. (The M-day guys just wanted to soldier, or for some of them, to play soldier).

The various defenestrated Michigan Guardsmen have an excuse for everything; the bottom line is, since that’s the way Camp Grayling always did it, they don’t see where they did anything wrong.

One of the strengths of National Guard units is that they build strong relationships over time. One of the vulnerabilities of Guard units is the exact same thing.