Monthly Archives: October 2014

A More Flexible Benchloader?

If you ever had to load hundreds (or thousands) of M16 magazines, the second greatest thing ever invented was the stripper clip and stripper-clip-guide system. The mag is easy enough to load by hand, but it’s time-consuming to do it by onesies. Still, the GI system is only the second-best. The best is Maglula’s machined Benchloader, if you’ve got loose rounds: drop the mags in, drop the rounds in, schoooonk, you’re done. Machinery FTW! How it works is not rocket surgery, but here’s a link to a demo of the device from Brownells so you can see it in action; it’s .mp4 video so we couldn’t embed it in WordPress. And here’s a photo of it:

maglula benchloader

Standard Benchloader

The Israeli company’s patented (7,059,077) Benchloader has had two limitations: the first is range of mags. The original Benchloader was limited to 30-round GI mags. It couldn’t handle the 20-round mags we still like (although we have an idea for an adapter), or newer things like Magpul PMags (people are always confusing Maglula and Magpul, but they’re entirely different companies), or even the near-GI-dimensions steel H&K Maritime mags that many SFers swore by in our day. So there’s a “standard” and a “universal” version, but the “universal” version just gets you a few other 30-round mags: HK 416/SAR-80; Beretta AR-70/90; and Magpul, Thermold, Orlite, and SIG polymers (we hear it works with Lancer polymers too, but Maglula doesn’t claim that). Note what it doesn’t work with: 20- and 40-round alloy mags, non-STANAG curvatures like the original 1960s Colt mags, any of the snail and drum mags, and Surefire Suomi-style mags.  And limitation two, it was X-Pensive. How expensive? Try $430, for either version. Not all our ARs cost that much!

"Universal" Benchloader

“Universal” Benchloader

Caldwell mag charger

Caldwell Mag Charger, a $70 plastic alternative.

If you handle a Benchloader, you see part of why it’s so costly. It’s machined from aluminum alloy,  anodized, and a precision product all around. And another contributor to the high price is that it has had little competition, at least until the 2013 introduction of the Caldwell Mag Charger, which is a little more fiddly but works with ammo dumped in from 50-round boxes. (Too bad GI ammo comes in 20-round boxes, if it’s not in strippers).

But now Maglula is introducing am injection-molded plastic version, the Range Benchloader, that promises to sell for about $170 and work with a wider range of magazines. Some blogs (like The Firearm Blog and MyGunCulture are claiming it works with Surefire mags, and we’re also hearing claims it works with Beta C-mags; we note that Maglula is not making those claims, yet*; we’d want to see it do it before we committed the money for that purpose. (We do note that graphite lube is critical to reliable functioning of C-mags, in our experience. The manufacture suggests a squirt every 20 rounds, and we’re not sure what the best way to do this with a Range Benchloader would be, without some experimentation).


Maglula rendering of the Range Benchloader

Note the polymer mag catch, and that the mag is free below that, allowing odd-shaped magazines -- in theory.

Note the polymer mag catch, and that the mag is free below that, allowing odd-shaped magazines — in theory.

We think that the Range Benchloader would ideally be attached to something beefier for loading larger mags, something that would support the mags in roughly the way the original Benchloader did, and we’re not sure how long its polymer magazine catch will hold up in real use.

We’re also not too sure how it will work with odd-shaped magazines. In theory, both it and the Caldwell entry can take them, but the Range Benchloader is designed with feet under it, to be laid on a range bench for support. The mag, if it were wider than STANAG, would have to hang off the edge of the bench. Would that work?

Underneath, the Range Benchloader has feet.

Underneath, the Range Benchloader has feet. It looks like it also has two sockets for permanently screwing down to a support or bench.

Only one way to know. Anybody want to see it tested against the original Benchloader and the Caldwell Mag Loader? It might be a while. Maglula has shown only these renderings, and is only promising the Range Benchloader in January, 2015. (The company also makes a variety of smaller loader/unloaders, particularly useful for all those double-stack pistol mags, and Benchloaders for some exotics, like Galils or those AUGs and G36s that use non-STANAG mags. They also make an ingenious loader that applies GI stripper clips to Mini-14 magazines. Here’s a link to a .pdf of their one-page 2014 catalog).

* the Maglula page on the Range Benchloader only claims compatibility of the same mags already claimed for the Universal Benchloader, plus the Lancers we mentioned above: specifically “M16 / AR15 / M4 USGI (NATO STANAG 4179); Magpul PMAG; Lancer; H&K metal 416/SA80; Beretta AR 70-90; Thermold; Orlite; SIG Arms (black AR mags). Maglula also notes that it comes with a carry case.

Friday Tour d’Horizon

The objective is to clear out our extra tabs, and make up a little for the slow posting this week, by throwing all the links at you that we wanted to post about this week, and didn’t.

Guns and Stuff

Does anybody know what happened to Rutgers Gun Books? We’re not the only ones to have benefited from their great customer service, albeit not in a while. But the website comes up unregistered.

Speaking of books, the American Society of Arms Collectors has a web page of recommended books. Biased towards collectors of American martial arms made before the manufacturing and materials revolution of the 1960s. Bunch of other good stuff at their website (we were there looking at their serial number lists, check the left sidebar).

“Applied Ballistics” is company name and mission statement all in one. Bryan Litz and Nick Vitalbo at Applied Ballistics are names you need to know, if you need to understand and develop the ability to make the smallest deviations from intended point of impact at the greatest range under the most varied conditions.

Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you. That seemed to be what was on the bear’s mind the second time the bruin broke into Victor Peters’s house. (Warning, autoplay spam). The first time, it came for the dog food on Peters’s porch. The second time, he’d moved the dog food, and the bear seemed willing to settle for him — till he shot it (his other precaution had been loading his gun at night). The quarter-ton bear was removed by authorities. “It was the biggest bear I’ve ever seen,” said Peters, a former wildlife officer who’s seen a few bears. Hat tip, Dean Weingarten (whose recounting of the story does not have autoplay spam).

This Canadian Company makes a very good compact AR-15 stock, reminiscent of the simple M231 Firing Port Weapon stock but higher quality and more ergonomic. (It still lacks a decent cheek weld, a failing of many compact stocks, but sometimes compactness trumps utility). Just the ticket for a PDW or SBR on the AR platform. It’s “available” at Brownell’s but has been temporarily out of stock, well, permanently.

Don’t bring a machete to a gunfight. You’ll lose, like this guy. So sad. (Not really).

In New York, another genius attacked a group of cops with a hatchet. He’s cold on a slab, but in true NYPD fashion, the ill-trained New York cops with their inaccurate New York Trigger Glocks shot and nearly killed a bystander, too. The cops were all recent Academy graduates. Unfortunately, one of the cops, 25-year-old Taylor Kraft, was critically wounded with a hatchet blow to the head. The other wounded cop and the bystander have been treated (surgically in the bystander’s case) and will probably recover. The press has been reporting this as “a disturbed loner,” but was it Sudden Jihad Syndrome? You be the judge, here’s a screencap of his Facebook page:


SF History and Lore

Knives — yes, SFQC grads and long-tab earners (who have not had their tab yanked) can still get a Yarborough knife. The procedure is fairly straightforward, and if there’s interest we’ll put it on here. And for present and former soldiers of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), there’s a Harsey-designed commemorative just for you. Order here; you will be expected to document your bona fides. 

Unconventional Warfare

A jury convicted four former Blackwater Worldwide employees, members of a State Department personal security detail, for a variety of crimes stemming from a 2007 gundight, including one charge of murder (for a marksman who shot one Iraqi) and many charges of manslaughter (for three carbine-armed guards who shot about two dozen other Iraqis, killing about half of them). The managers who instigated the attack were granted immunity, for the testimony the prosecutors wanted, so the outcome isn’t entirely surprising. (The immunity bit is buried in one of the last paragraphs of the Washington Post story, which appears to have been fed them by the prosecution).

The Ukrainian secret services have found a weapons cache and arrested an agent, in the aftermath of an attempted assassination of a Ukrainian pol. They blame the secret services of a bordering nation — any guesses whom? The cache contained two Igla-M MANPADS and was mined.

Igla-M gripstock.

Igla-M gripstock reportedly found in a cache in Ukraine..

A few days before that, they caught a saboteur with plastic explosive molded into a candle in the shape of an ancient Russian “Bogatyr” warrior.

UKR splodey head PM577image002

That’s a plug-ugly decoration, even if it wasn’t high-explosive.

In other Spy Stories, in 1971, the recovery of imagery of a HEXAGON satellite was underway, and the mid-air recovery of the data package (including film) failed because the recovery parachute failed. The data unit hit the sea at about 350 knots, and kept booking towards Davy Jones’s Locker, finally embedding itself in primordial muck 16,400 feet below mean sea level. A manned submersible, DSV-1 Trieste II, was sent to recover the priceless data. Now declassified (with redactions) in the CIA’s Electronic Reading Room. Release of the documents triggered a symposium at the National Air and Space Museum (TV stream).

You know, the first counterinsurgents were the empires of antiquity. So it helps to read that “old” stuff. And it might help to have a Dictionary of Roman Military Terms.


Laws and Cops and Stuff

The Justice Department is claiming Executive Privilege for 15,662 documents that tell the story of Operation Fast & Furious, one of the ATF’s several gunwalking initiatives that provided deadly weapons to Mexican drug cartels, to drive crime up and create impetus for more US gun control laws. The index to the documents is 1,323 pages long. (Ayn Rand and Dostoyevsky are reportedly jealous). Sharyl Attkisson is on it, no shock considering this is the story that got her fired from CBS for lèse-majesté.

Here in New Hampster, we have a different view of violent crime than, say, a Chicagoan or Angeleno might. Here’s a typical, initially alarming, report from the nearby “Big City” (population 28k), culled from the police blotter.

5:54 a.m.: A 911 caller reported a disturbance at Motel 6, reported a woman being tortured in some woods and said someone was “shot in the face.” After police responded to an area off Gosling Road, where the crimes were reported, police determined there were no emergencies and arrested Bradley Paradise, 46, of 1338 Woodbury Ave. #2, on a charge alleging criminal trespass.

Imagine being that cop or cops, responding to a report of violent crime, no doubt on razor’s edge (every cop for miles around knew the police chief murdered and at least some of the DTF cops wounded by a small-time dope dealer in 2012), and you wind up with… a freakin’ trespasser. The area where this took place has a number of seedy motels and bars, but even the “big city” goes for years without murders. But it’s gotta be life-shortening to have all that adrenaline etc., dumped into your bloodstream, to have the danger fizzle out. The rest of that blotter is some dull stuff. Being a cop is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of exasperation, most places, most times.

And then there’s the kid who swears revenge on the whole school. With a gun.

Police said the student responsible for making the threat confessed to Detective Joseph Byron….they don’t believe the student planned to carry out the threat. The school has taken disciplinary action against the student.

In 1974 he got laughed at. In 2014, he gets an introduction the court system in all its glory. All of life is an IQ test, and some 16-year-old just failed.

Meanwhile, back in New York, Frank Serpico is still a pariah at NYPD, not for being a bad cop, but for turning bad cops in. In a long essay at Politico, Serpico writes that it’s not just a New York problem:

And today the Blue Wall of Silence endures in towns and cities across America. Whistleblowers in police departments — or as I like to call them, “lamp lighters,” after Paul Revere — are still turned into permanent pariahs. The complaint I continue to hear is that when they try to bring injustice to light they are told by government officials: “We can’t afford a scandal; it would undermine public confidence in our police.” That confidence, I dare say, is already seriously undermined.

“I tried to be an honest cop in a force full of bribe-takers. But … police departments are useless at investigating themselves….” Serpico writes. Read The Whole Thing™. Here’s another graf that really struck us:

Today’s uncontrolled firepower, combined with a lack of good training and adequate screening of police academy candidates, has led to a devastating drop in standards. The infamous case of Amadou Diallo in New York—who was shot 41 times in 1999 for no obvious reason—is more typical than you might think…..It’s like the Keystone Kops, but without being funny at all.

We don’t think things are as bad as he makes out, but any organization is useless at investigating itself. Serpico’s 6-point plan for a better police is outstanding. We already said Read The Whole Thing™, so why are you still here?


We’ll spare you nonsense about the midterm elections in this posting. Instead, we’ll just direct you to retiring Senator Tom Coburn’s annual tradition, the Waste Book. The Waste Book chronicles government waste, so it’s as massive as government itself. There’s plenty of military and weapons wastage in there, along with the usual squanderathon that’s modern Washington.

Towards a Nobel War Prize

NobelThe Nobel Peace Prize, administered by a gang of left-wing Norwegian politicians, has become a laughingstock. PJ O’Rourke notes that it has been bestowed about four times for actually making peace, and some 65 times for “wishful thinking.” Essentially, it’s a Big Gong for Stuff White People Like. O’Rourke has, naturally, a modest proposal:

I propose a Nobel Prize for just that. The Nobel War Prize. There are, after all, worthy and decent wars. What was America supposed to do after Pearl Harbor, put the keys to the Golden Gate in an airmail envelope and send them to Tojo?

Peace creeps to the contrary, you can usually tell who’s right and who’s wrong in a war. Which is more than can be said during peace, witness peacetime politics.

There are always lots of wars going on so the Nobel Committee would never have to skip a year….

Despite it being at the usually worthless Daily Beast, you should go Read The Whole Thing™, it’s O’Rourke after all.

Wars produce heroes widely recognized by the public. Nobel War Prizes could have been given to Marshal Foch, George Orwell, Winston Churchill, the French Resistance, the U.S. Marine Corps, the Tuskegee Airmen, Charles de Gaulle, FDR, Ike. This is an improvement on the Permanent International Peace Bureau, Charles Albert Gobat, and Ludwig Quidde. The Nobel Foundation’s P.R. profile would be considerably raised.

We’re not sure Orwell rates, although you should probably read Homage to Catalonia before reading the sort of tripe about the Spanish Civil War that the veterans (or, probably, wannabees) of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade infected American schoolbooks with. Spain fought a bloody Civil War, but they dodged a long Soviet nightmare.

After all, war never solved anything, except for slavery, colonialism, Naziism, Japanese imperialism, the Persian conquest of Europe, the Moslem conquest of Europe, and the spread of pernicious Carthaginian Baal-worship.

Then there’s what often comes after a war, which is usually less silly than what comes after a Nobel Peace Prize. Look at the U.S. and Great Britain. Once we got past that 1776 thing we’ve been—with a brief time-out for the War of 1812—road dawgs.

The Southern States and the Northern States after the Civil War? We’re so close that we date-swapped the political parties that had been screwing us.

If you want peace, have a war. Just make sure to have a good, prize-winning one.

via Up To A Point: What We Really Need Is a Nobel War Prize – The Daily Beast.

The “date-swapped” line alone is explanation enough of why someone at the Daily Beast cuts paychecks to O’Rourke, despite his politics being at odds with essentially all of his stablemates there.

10th Legion Inscription from Destroyed Arch Found in Jerusalem

The new discovery.

The new discovery, outdoors undergoing conservation.

Israelis could be excused for not wanting anything to do with the Roman Legion X Fretensis, which occupied Judea for a long period and suppressed the Maccabee and Bar-Kochba Revolts in counterinsurgency campaigns of the type common in classical antiquity: brutal and sanguinary.

But Israeli archaeologists were thrilled to announce the rediscovery of a long-lost inscription dedicated to the Roman Emperor Hadrian by the Legion in 129 or 130 AD. The tag end of the inscription had long been known, but the upper part turned up in reused stones that had been the lintel of an arch of triumph.

To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power for the 14th time, consul for the third time, father of the country (dedicated by) the 10th legion Fretensis (2nd hand) Antoniniana.

via Stone engraved to Roman emperor Hadrian discovered in Jerusalem | Israel | Jewish Journal.

hadrian_statueHadrian was a remarkable emperor, known for Hadrian’s Wall in Britain and for his famous villa/palace. But his rule of the inhabitants of Judea was marked by cruel conquest. Jerusalem was destroyed, and a city named “Aelia Capitolina” built on its ruins. The arch celebrated Hadrians’ troops’ eradication of Jewish resistance; the statue of Hadrian (on the right) was also erected to celebrate this victory. It’s unknown who pulled down and broke up this statue of Hadrian; it could have been Jews getting some cultural revenge, or it could have been iconoclastic Ottomans, although iconoclasts usually destroyed the noses or faces of statues, in addition to pulling them down and breaking them up. (Will archaeologists be unearthing Lenins in 2000 years? One hopes not).

An archaeologist conserves the new-found inscription honoring Hadrian.

An archaeologist conserves the new-found inscription honoring Hadrian.

Outside of Judea, Hadrian was often viewed (including by European historians) as a model of the benevolent despot. In Judea, that was not his image, as a review of the history of the Bar-Kochba revolt indicates. After the initial, AD 70, revolt led to a Jewish defeat, Rome imposed a harsh peace, and on taking the reins of power, Hadrian cranked up the pressure on his Judean subjects, demanding they convert to Roman religion and abjure their ancient faith. Titus had already razed the Temple; Hadrian planned his city, Aelia Capitolina, with a temple to his god, Jupiter, and the Jews grudgingly accepted that — until he banned two Jewish religious practices that had long struck Romans as barbarous: castration and circumcision. (Jews do not practice castration; Hadrian may have been misinformed). That and other offenses against Jewish belief were enough to bring the Jews to the brink of revolt. In 132 AD, Roman engineers constructing the new Roman city collapsed the Tomb of Solomon, venerated by Jews as a holy place. Fuel-air mixture, meet spark. The rebellious Jews, led by Simon bar-Kochba, seized the countryside and knew better than to engage the Roman legions directly.

The rebels did not dare try to risk open confrontation against the Romans, but occupied the advantageous positions in the country and strengthened them with mines and walls, so that they would have places of refuge when hard pressed and could communicate with one another unobserved underground; and they pierced these subterranean passages from above at intervals to let in air and light.

[Cassius Dio, Roman history 69.12.3]

(Now you see where Hamas got the tunnel idea). Even sending a top general, Julius Severus, didn’t win the war; Hadrian actually had to come himself. (We have a vision of him saying, “Severus, you had one job.“)  Somewhere between four and seven Legions were deployed; one, XXII Deiotariana, vanishes from history after this war. One source suggests it was annihilated; it might also have been disgraced, or lost its eagle.

The X Legion had been through that disgrace in Parthia, after Crassus led them to defeat at Cannae (another emperor later ransomed the eagles back after an interval). So it was going to celebrate any victory it got.

Going back to Cassius Dio again (courtesy of that same source), we see that Hadrian won by a counterinsurgent campaign that resembles more closely German campaigns against Russian partisans or America’s crushing of the Indians than the kinder, gentler COIN of today.

Severus did not venture to attack his opponents in the open at any one point, in view of their numbers and their fanaticism, but -by intercepting small groups, thanks to the number of his soldiers and under-officers, and by depriving them of food and shutting them up- he was able, rather slowly, to be sure, but with comparative little danger, to crush, exhaust and exterminate them. Very few Jews in fact survived. Fifty of their most important outposts and 985 better known villages were razed to the ground. 580,000 were killed in the various engagements or battles. As for the numbers who perished from starvation, disease or fire, that was impossible to establish.

[Cassius Dio, Roman history 69.13.2-3]

The last stand of the rebels was in Betar, in the desert southwest of Judea; rather than an Alamo storm, the Romans simply starved the last of the Jewish resisters out. Tradition holds that the head of Bar-Kochba was brought to Hadrian, who said over the grisly sight, “If his God had not slain him, who could have overcome him?”

hadrian_killing_jewThere were still mopping up operations, but the war was over. Along with the new name for Jerusalem, Judea itself got a new name — Palestine. The survivors of the Jewish armies were sold into slavery or put to the sword — in this fanciful carving, by Hadrian himself.

Victorious, but weakened by Roman losses during the long campaign of no quarter, Hadrian returned to Rome.

The part of the inscription discovered by a French archaeologist in the 19th Century.

The part of the inscription discovered by a French archaeologist in the 19th Century.

After he was gone, and after the Romans were gone, someone knocked down the plaque and broke it up. A part was found the century before last by French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau, and the remainder turned up on a dig this year — it had been used to pave a well. The arch-shaped lower part, the original discovery from the 1800s, is on outdoor display at the Studium Biblicum Franciscan Museum in Jerusalem.


Latin inscriptions did not fare well in Judea in the millennia that followed the retreat of Rome. Very few have survived, and to have one that is both complete and readily dated is rare indeed. Over a century passed between the discovery of the two parts of the inscription.

And enough time has passed that even the Israelis are excited about it, maybe more excited than today’s Romans.

As we used to say in 10th Group, Ave Caesar! Morituri te Salutamus.

A Working Man’s Gun Auction: 1030R 8 Nov 14 (Saturday)

Savo Auction 8 Nov PUMPED-001When the election’s over, whichever bunch of corrupt anti-gun knuckleheads wins, you’ll probably want to console (or prepare?) yourself with a new gun. Our Pennsylvania pals send us the page from the next outing for Savo Auctioneers in the Philadelphia area. What’s nice about this auction house is that it has pieces that are desirable, yet attainable to normal human beings, not to those of you who have to make the tough decision between a new gun and a new Bentley this year.

Along with items that RIA or Julia wouldn’t bother with or would put in a mass lot with three other guns you don’t want, Savo, being a smaller house, has rather more reasonable terms and a lower buyer’s premium. (Against that, they have a little less expertise. For example, one lot they offer is a “bayonet,” unspecified. It’s actually a Czech Vz58 bayonet, a common piece at the moment). Everything’s on the page, but here are the basic feeds and speeds:

Sat, Nov 8 @ 10:30 A.M.

14 Kennedy Drive
Archbald, PA 18403

Preview @ 9:00 A.M.

Firearms, Militaria, Antiques & More

via Auction: Sat, Nov 8 @ 10:30 A.M. – Savo Auctioneers, LLC.

The catalog shows some nice Winchesters. These are highly desirable collector pieces, both the classic Model 12 shotguns (which are in 16, 20 and 28 gauge) and the 1906 .22. They will likely be bid well up to real retail, as will the practical hunting guns (judging from its observance, the most important holiday in Pennsylvania is the First Day of Deer Season. NTTAWWT). But this kind of auction is a great place to buy up something idiosyncratic: many of the bidders are FFLs who will stop when they can’t make a profit on a piece, and not bid at all on items that they fear would hang around on the shelves.

There’s also a lot of militaria in this auction, and some interesting knives and bayonets. The auction is small enough that you can see it all on one page. Here are a few items that caught our eye, not necessarily the nicest stuff. All pictures embiggen.


Let’s start with one of the strangest hermaphrodites to ever put a 7.62 NATO round downrange, the La Coruna FR8 looks like something conceived by Bubba in a moment of Ebola fever, but was actually a product of a Spanish arsenal, the eponymous La Coruna. Two versions were made, the FR7 (based on 1893 7mm Mausers, the ones that so impressed us in the Spanish-American War that we promptly adopted a copy of the Mauser action), and the FR8 (based on the M1916 Large Frame Mausers). To this action, the barrel and associated hardware of a CETME or H&K was grafted on, and the whole thing shortened to a carbine that some find attractive and some fugly. Draw your own conclusions:La Coruna FR.308


Another interesting long gun is this  1898 .30-40 Krag “carbine.” We use the scare quotes because a lot of Krag rifles were carbine-ated by early surplus dealers like Bannerman, and this example appears to have a rifle serial number. (Also the carbine versions of the M1898 were M1899, and this guy’s receiver is marked ’98). It would serve well enough as a whitetail gun, if you wanted a bolt equivalent to the old standby Winchester 94, or would serve as a representative Krag that didn’t take up all the wall space of a rifle. These things must have seemed modern as tomorrow to troopers trading in Trapdoor Springfields — until they ran into high-velocity, strip-loaded opposition in Cuba and the Philippines.1898 .30-40 KragMoving to short guns, here’s one of those “the stories it could tell if it could only talk” guns. Small .32s like this were the bread-and-butter self-defense guns of 100 years ago (they are generally chambered in .32 S&W or .32 Colt, which are the same cartridge by two different companies who did not deign to speak one another’s name. Third parties, like H&R, Ideal, or Iver Johnson, who manufactured this example, generally went with .32 S&W. Single-layer nickel plating was a common finish on these pocket pistols. This one is hammerless, with a trigger safety (lookee here, Glock fans), and… paper tape around the grip. This may be because the original grips, probably hard rubber, are crumbling, or it may have been an attempt to keep fingerprints off the gun. Like we said, the tales it could tell! A lot of these guns are fine to shoot given a careful review by a smith, but they’re not economically repairable if anything breaks. On the other hand, they’re not really worth anything, and a working one is a blast to shoot.

Iver Johnson .32SW


Waaaay up the revolver class scale, but made around the same time, is this curiously finished Colt Official Police. By the midcentury decades, cops carried this (or the Police Positive) or its S&W equivalent, the Model 10. Believe it or not, the round-nosed, FMJ .38 special was considered a real manstopper. Of course, those police departments were stepping up from the anemic .32 S&W or the larger .32 Long Colt /.32 S&W long (yes, they did the same thing). On the .38 Special, Smith insisted it was the .38 S&W Special, and everyone else, including Colt, just called it the .38 Special. For a 20th-Century American, this silhouette said, “Cop gun”.

Colt Official Police .38Before we move on from that pretty Colt, note the unusual finish of nickel-plate and gold-plated controls. It’s lethal jewelry! The better condition of this gun than the tape-handle IJ above is partly because this showpiece has clearly been handled less in the last century. It may also be because the plating is higher quality, thicker, and atop better-prepared metal. That could be true whether the plating was done by Colt or by some post-manufacture smith.

It would be interesting to get a letter from Colt and see if this revolver shipped like this. If so, that would add to the value considerably. Most owners don’t do that because the letter takes time — and they don’t want to see their bubble burst.

The next one is something completely different: a 2-shot, rotating barrels, percussion derringer. Derringers are interesting; a Philadelphia gunsmith named Henry Deringer made well-crafted pocket pistols in the mid-1800s, and achieved boundless notoriety when one of his pistols was used in the century’s most shocking murder, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln at the hand of an actor who led a stumblingly incompetent gang of Rebel irredentists. Many smiths and small manufacturers thought to capitalize on Deringer’s unsought fame, and the custom became to add a second “r” to a generic “derringer” to keep Mr Deringer’s lawyers away from your profits. Today, a “derringer” is any one- or two-shot small pocket pistol. Defensively, they’re long obsolete.

While this could be a period piece, the loose fit, oak grips, and imitation of Remington rimfire derringer styling makes us suspect it’s a more recent production, possibly even something built from a kit. It’s in the .36 caliber of the Colt 1851 Navy and many other Civil War era guns.

percussion derringer .36Hopefully, that gives you a little taste of what Savo’s got. You might also like the USAAC flying helmet or Soviet service uniforms that are part of the auction, the original US WWI style helmet, or American and German fighting knives that appear (from a single picture, mind you) to be genuine. Other things are going to be auctioned in the May 8 sale, but the firearms are first up.

All information you might want for bidding is on Savo’s site, linked above.






Bubba the Gunsmith does an AK Trigger Job…

…or does a job on an AK trigger, actually. How do we know it’s Bubba? Well, we’re sure Winston Groom would agree that Bubba is as Bubba does. But also, we have other indicators. For one, the video is from Century Arms; if Bubbadom spreads like Christendom, Century’s Vermont warehouse is its St. Peter’s Basilica. For another, this is what Bubba is building:



What in the name of Niffelheim is that? An Americans with Disabilities Act accommodation for Apert Syndrome or some other syndactylic genetic aberration? It turns out to be available at J&G Sales. J&G is Century’s frequent partner in distribution of firearms with Century-Induced Firearms  Dysplasia, and has some quantity of these, as the bookmark on the page indicates. In fact, they seem pretty desperate to move them: not only does this model sell for less than the firm’s less-deformed AKs, they’ll throw in a drum mag, just so the boys in the warehouse don’t have to look at this horrible deformity any more.

Because our readers are made of sterner stuff, and can look upon this gorgonic beast without turning to stone, here is a close-up of the trigger:


And here’s another (all from the J&G website, obviously):


We suspect that Mikhail Kalashnikov would be spinning in his grave if he knew what they’d done to his rifle.

Now, these things may some day be collector items, like the hideous Fender paisley telecasters that came in as flower power was on the way out: so hideous when new they were desirable when old because of their rarity. No doubt some of them will be reconverted into AKs. It shouldn’t be too hard, with a trigger guard or a piece of sheet steel from which to bend one, and a couple of rivets. Just follow the video of Bubba below, in reverse.

True, he’s not trashing a rare or valuable gun for this, just one of Century’s canted-sightpost specials with tacticool furniture. But still, what’s with that trigger? In the name of all the saints, why? 

We first saw it on Max Popenker’s Russian-language blog, posted with a question: for weak fingers? If it stumped Max, who is from the land of Kalashnikov His Ownself, then it’s probably not anything from Soviet officialdom, or any of the usual satellite copiers. (The gun in the picture looks like a Yugoslavian parts kit with an aftermarket barrel and wood, but it turns out that this conversion was done on new Serbian AKs).

In a half hour of asking other experts in Soviet and bloc small arms, nobody had ever seen this thing. They were all willing to guess, though. A really ill-conceived cold-weather trigger (as ill-conceived as the absence of a trigger guard on the original Finnish M60, which the Finns repented rapidly), was the most common guess, but it doesn’t make sense. The Russians are scarcely ignorant of the fact that it gets cold in their country, and they have a perfectly suitable arctic-trigger system (and suitable gloves for firing in cold temperate-zone conditions) and have managed to run an army in their country without losing all their fingers yet.

Well, it turns out, this abortion has been offered on two Century AK variants at present. Anyway, you used to be able get this cool trigger on a black tacticool milled-receiver AK like the one in the video below, and can still order it in the sort-of-ordinary looking and rather inexpensive ($539 wholesale) AK that we and Max illustrated.

So Why So Serrated?

tipmann toy double grooved trigger

The Tippmann double grooved paintball trigger, from the Tippman Parts website.

Century is not forthcoming, any place we’ve seen, about why this trigger exists. But we were able to dope it out. Basic bottom line: it is for paintball choads coming over to real guns, who want to continue the paintball practice of firing high volumes of unaimed fire.  As Tippmann, a major maker of paintball toy guns, describes their double-trigger kit for their paintball launcher:

The added area allows two fingers to walk the trigger to a faster rate of fire. Double grooved for comfort.

The canonical name for this in the paintball world is somewhat unclear. Some call it the double finger grooved trigger, and others call it the double trigger. We call it Holy-Mother-Machree-that’s-Fugly.

And it seems to offer a false promise. On a semiautomatic AK clone, your maximum rate of fire is limited not by the speed of your human trigger reset, unless you have the reaction time of a three-toed sloth on barbiturates, or a former Disney Channel starlet on whatever they’re all on. It is limited by the mechanical trigger reset. Having two fingers rather than one to alternate pulling an unreset trigger seems futile. Given the physics of the trigger as a lever, the stronger finger has the shorter travel, and the relative travel of both is widely different, adding even more inconsistency. On the other hand, the safety hazard of exposure of a larger trigger inside the larger guard is real.

And in any shooting for any purpose other than noise making, maximum rate of fire is completely irrelevant. What you’re interested in is maximum rate of aimed fire, and that is limited not even by trigger reset but by time to bring the sights back on target.

Misses don’t count for anything except noise. We’d be willing to bet that we can take any of our rack grade semi AKs (including the Egyptian one, which has to make the Russians at Izmash weep; it brings the al-Bubba and is over 30 years old), and match the rate of fire of one of these paintball-poseur products, and beat the hell out of it when hits on targets at reasonable AK ranges (say 0-400m) are counted.

But for you completist collectors, here’s how they do it:

We were honestly surprised to see that Century’s smiths have some professional gunsmithing tools, like a Foredom (vs. Dremel) tool. The Lyman Revolution low-budget gun vise looks good and is adequate for this kind of work; all expensive Chinese-made gun vises are really suitable for cleaning and field-stripping, not for doing anything that will put more pressure on the action or barrel.

(PS. We were going to Max’s blog because we saw, from the new stats plug-in, that he linked to us. Spasibo bolshoi!)

He broke into whaaat?

Crime is what criminals do. And nothing much deters them, until they get religion (of the bible-thumping or, sometimes, 12-step kind), or they get religion (of the 124-grain, “You believe in Jesus? Say hello to Him” variety). Here’s an example of a target that would deter you or us from crime, but then, we’re not criminals, are we? It didn’t deter one young man, and now he regrets it, somewhat unconvincingly.

“What you did is absolutely intolerable in our community,” Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Marguerite Wageling told 30-year-old Ryan Mackenzie.

Cripes! What did he do? We’re a pretty tolerant community, especially the sort of nonjudgmental, “do your own thing” baby boomer hippies that are what we’ve got for judges these days. What could you do that was “intolerable?” Something really serious, like prayer in public? Well, not exactly.

Mackenzie’s vehicle was seized by State Police after he was stopped on Woodbury Avenue in Portsmouth on Dec. 29, 2011 for a traffic violation.
According to prosecutors, Mackenzie’s taillights weren’t working and it appeared he tried to evade State Police Trooper Tamara Hester when she attempted to stop him.
Hester noticed his dilated pupils and suspected he may be on drugs. A State Police drug-sniffing dog was brought in and the car was seized after the dog allegedly got a hit.
The car was impounded at in a garage at the State Police barracks on Route 125 in Epping. At some point later that night, Mackenzie showed up and broke in through the garage door.
Police had noticed what appeared to be a large white rock inside a tied off plastic baggie stuffed in a cigarette box between the driver’s seat and the center console, but Hester found it missing the next day before she had a chance to execute a search warrant.
Mackenzie pleaded guilty to breaking into the barracks, but did not admit to actually stealing the cigarette box.

So, now when this criminal makes the usual before-the-judge plea that he’s a changed man, yadda yadda, we need to bear in mind that the situationally remorseful criminal didn’t even come clean about his last caper.

Of course, if we were concerned about the “root causes,” like today’s judges, rather than simple stuff like applying the law to the set of facts before us, we’d probably want to know why he did it. Say, why did he do it?

A man who admitted battles with drug addiction

Translation: a bum who voluntarily dopes himself up, and now wants our sympathy. One word, sunshine: No.

Mackenzie, a Barrington native mostly recently living in Northwood, pleaded guilty to a felony burglary charge after the break-in on Dec. 29, 2011.

Here’s where the criminal starts to deploy the bullshit to hornswoggle the judge.

Mackenzie, who told the court that he’s no longer the “same person as the addict,” apologized to State Police for the burglary, which was discovered by a trooper and made other members of State Police potential suspects as they investigated the disappearance of a cigarette box suspected of containing drugs from Mackenzie’s car.

Consider the chutzpah of the claim that Mackenzie was “no longer the same person…” as Mackenzie. What does he think we are, dope-addled bums like he?

“I understand my actions are inexcusable and I accept full responsibility,” Mackenzie said moments before he was cuffed after being sentenced to a year in the Rockingham County jail with two months suspended.

Translation: “My lawyer told me to say this….”

After the potential drug evidence disappeared, State Police Lt. Chris Vetter told the court that anyone who had access to the evidence was considered a suspect.
“It was pretty unnerving and unsettling to all the troopers that we could be considered a suspect in this crime,” Vetter told the judge.
Assistant County Attorney Brad Bolton argued Mackenzie broke in to steal drug evidence in an effort to avoid drug possession charges.
He said it “appears that he was aware of what could happen if the drugs were found.”
But with the evidence gone, Bolton added, “The reality is we will ever know what he took out of the car. …We know what we think was in there, but we will never know.”

Well, everyone knows Mackenzie is a criminal. Crime is what he does. When he is released, does anyone think that Mackenzie will magically become an ordinary citizen, or will the centripetal force of the prison’s revolving door suck him back in?

Do we really gotta ask that?

Public defender Tony Naro argued there was more to Mackenzie’s story.
“This is a case, not just about avoiding responsibility, but also a case about addiction,” Naro said.

Well, at least the mouthpiece admits it’s at least partially about avoiding responsibility. That’s refreshing from a member of the bar. (Sigmund Freud, call your office).

Naro, who sought a sentence of 60 days in jail followed by home confinement, described Mackenzie as “someone who kicked a nasty drug addiction.”

He’s not in court for his drug addiction, but for his burglary. And whoop de do, he quit dope whilst in pretrial confinement. Frontiers in Recovery for $200, please, Alex.

Mackenzie, whose many successes as an Eagle Scout and other accolades were detailed in court,

What has that got to do with anything? He’s not in court for Scouting without a license or anything. He’s in court because he’s a thief, for Christ’s sake!

[Mackenzie] told the judge that he’s now overcome his addiction and that “it was a small part of my life” and something that he never thought could take over his life so quickly.
He said he lost the motivation to succeed as the drugs took hold.
“This has been one of the most difficult periods of my life,” he said.

via Man gets year in jail for break-in at State Police barracks – News – – Portsmouth, NH.

Translation of the last sentence in the quote above: “I didn’t like getting caught.” Give him some cheese with that whine. And process him in to his new cell without delay.

The Narkomovsky Delivery — TV, Russian, 2011

russian_soldiers_from_tvEverybody loves a good war movie or TV show, and every nation in the world has wars in its history to draw upon, some controversial and others unifying. For Russians, the controversial wars include the Civil War and the “socialist internationalism” intervention in Afghanistan; the non-controversial ones include the Napoleonic Wars and what Russians know as the Great Patriotic War and we call World War II. In recent years, there’s been a flowering of creativity in the Russian motion picture and TV arts (which have always been strong, even under the dead hand of Communism). This has produced some interesting and rare (in the Anglosphere) war films.

Because the TV shows aren’t available with English subtitles, you need to know at least some Russian (which would fairly describe our lack of mastery of the language of Chekhov and Solzhenitsyn: “some Russian”). Hence, this is a capsule rather than an in-depth review.

Narkomovskiy Oboz — “The Narkomovsky Delivery” — was a 2011 TV drama miniseries set in 1941. It begins with a zoom through a rainy window into a solitary worker at a desk: Josef Stalin. Stalin is reviewing a decree about the necessity of, and high priority for, a delivery of vodka to the boys at the front. Stalin signs the order with a flourish, and the mission is set in motion. The order is disseminated by teletype.

russian_rangerettesCasks of superior Narkomovsky vodka are loaded onto horse-carts and entrusted to a strange military unit for delivery: one tough senior sergeant (starshina) Filippov, played by Sergei Makhovikov; four Red Army women soldiers (of varying levels of martial skill and ardor), and a horse-cart driving old man and his grandson. They also have an woman doctor, shaken by the death of her doctor father in a Nazi air raid, and bound for a frontline field hospital.

They encounter streams of refugees, strafing Stukas, a corrupt KGB guy who wants to commandeer their carts so he can get on with the business of shooting suspected deserters, a political officer who’s conveying those deserters to their final destination, peasants who want to steal the vodka, and German forward reconnaissance patrols. And that’s just in the first episode. Later they’ll shoot it out with Germans and with Russian bandits, meet more refugees, and because it’s Russia, everybody endures lots of suffering.

politruk_with_tt-33While the autumn of 1941 is a bit early for the PPSh the lead actor carries, the other weapons and equipment seem correct, and the uniforms at least plausible. The other arms include lots of Mosin-Nagants, including rifles and M38 carbines (no M44s), and Nagant revolvers and TT-33s. The TTs are more likely to turn up in the hands of political officers than combat soldiers.

german_mg_teamsThe “Germans” have MG34s on their motorbikes, but the bikes are Russian ones… not that big a deal, as the Russian motorcycle is a copy of a wartime BMW. Other Germans have Mauser K98ks and MP38s and 40s, and they speak German to one another. (Where it’s needed for exposition, the Germans get Russian-language subtitles; where they’re in contact with Russian elements, which is shown mostly from a Russian POV, they are not subtitled — a subtle and effective decision by the producers and director).  That they made a real effort for accuracy shows in details like the rare camo uniforms of two reconnaissance soldiers who show up in the third episode, accurate Russian Ford trucks and Russian cars, and a period AT gun (which appears to be a Russian 45mm, a Krupp unit built under license, mocked up with solid wheels to look like a German Krupp 37mm).

Make sure you catch the Bolo Mauser 1896 in the hands of one particularly bloodless Red officer in a chilling flashback.

thrown_bayonetThe weapons sounds are fairly accurate, to include the fast rate of fire of the Russian submachine guns, and the even faster ROF of the German MGs. Also, the weapons tend to have the right amount of wear on them, unusual in a movie — the guys you’d expect to have used their firearms little have shiny, new-looking firearms, and the grunts have worn ones. Of course, there has to be some horrid Hollywood inaccuracy, and it comes when our hero takes out a German — with a thrown knife. Not just any knife — a thrown Mauser bayonet. You can throw Mauser bayonets from now to the recreation of the Soviet Union, and you’re not going to kill anybody with one. Unless you’re an actor!

Twice they use a flashback to bring you backstory on a character, and both times it’s very effective in explaining otherwise inexplicable character actions.

more_russian_rangerettesThe actors are unknown to us, but apparently they include some big names in Russia, and they’re all very competent. The women soldiers are dressed in the shapeless uniforms of wartime Russian women soldiers, not like the Hollywood version, or Lara Croft or something. (Lack of make-up doesn’t stop a couple of them from being noticeably pretty, and just like real life, they get prettier the longer you’re exposed to them). The women are not Amazon warriors, but they’re not afraid to fight for their country and their friends, even if they’re at a disadvantage. That makes them very believable, even as the idea that all these adventures befall one small element seems far-fetched.

another_politruk_with_tt-33Some things that may help you: Russian military ranks and courtesies are much like other nations’, but they don’t stand on formalities. In the service uniforms worn by some of the Russians, the collar tab color (and hat band color) denotes branch. Blue is intelligence organs, Red is political officers (who get treated with notable contempt), green is infantry.

One of the best things about this, to us, was that the bad guys were always human and understandable. Nobody was a mustache-twirling Bond villain, not even the most repulsive of the Germans, or the craven political officer. (Indeed, his character weakness is a foil for the contrast of his behavior in the last act, and before that, for comparison with the selfless sacrifice of another politruk. 

Maybe if our Russian was good, we’d hate this. Maybe Russian historians laugh at it. We found it entertaining — four episodes, about 50 minutes each. We thought it would make a heck of a 90 minute to 2 hour movie, if edited mercilessly and dubbed into English. If you can’t follow the story, at least you can enjoy the guns on the screen.

Episode 1: (Remember, these are all in Russian language, no subtitles). From the creation of the mission to imminent contact with Germans.

Episode 2: The first encounter with niemtsy — Germans. The first casualties. The mission continues.

Episode 3: Among other adventures, a showdown with ruthless armed robbers.

Episode 4: the pretty tough-to-take climax comes quite a bit before the end. But in the end, the mission is complete.

We enjoyed watching this previously unknown-to-us miniseries. We fear the limitations of language will keep many of you from enjoying it as we did, but we put it out there for those of you that are still interested.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Precision Rifle Blog

precision_rifle_blogWe don’t know how we missed this guy,, until now. As long time readers know, we have always admired the empirical, side-by-side A-B testing, like the tests that Andrew Tuohy carried out on his own website, Vuurwapen blog, and later at the sadly moribund Lucky Gunner Labs and The Firearm Blog (just search for his name on those sites — if he did it, it’s good. He’s a young man, but he has his stuff in one bag). It reminds us of a scientific experiment. In the same vein, we have enjoyed some of the experiments that Phil Dater PhD did with barrel length, muzzle velocity, and sound pressure levels. Science FTW!

Now, wouldn’t it be neat if somebody did something like that with rifle scopes, among other precision rifle data sets? Turns out, somebody has; his name is Cal Zant and his website, Precision Rifle Blog, promises “a data-driven approach” to long-range, precision shooting. Cal delivers that, in spades. That’s why he’s the Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week.

Let’s show you one example of his coolest recent research, an incredible comparison test of high-end rifle scopes. These are the sort of scopes you’d apply to a precision rifle for target, hunting, or war.  He has conducted a well-planned and thorough battery of tests of 18 high-end scopes, side-by-side, using a pretty solid array of methodologies. Then, he ranked the scopes according to a weighting scheme that he worked out based on what respondents to a survey said was important.


Every step of his way, he shows his work. Disagree with his weighting scheme? All the data are there; you can draft your own and see how that changes the ranks. Some features are not important to you? Delete them from the weighting scheme and recalculate. The data are all there, and will cost you only the considerable time needed to read and consider them.

The two essential links are to the Field Test Results Summary and the Buyers Guide and Features to Look For.

But those alone don’t tell the whole story, because he’s also included in-depth links and all his methodologies. Not surprising in the STEM world, especially in engineering, the end of STEM furthest from all the theory. And even if you read all the links, you may have further questions, especially if you’re not well-versed in optics terminology. (We thought we were; the site disabused us of that notion right smartly). So he provides an extremely useful online glossary. Confused by the difference between miliradian-based (Mil) and minute-of-angle (MOA) reticles? He’s not, and you won’t be either, if you read his page on the subject. (Short version: if you’re a yards-and-inches guy, you might be happier with MOA, if you’re metricated, you’ll want a mil reticle and turrets).

You can quibble with the weighting scheme, or bellyache that your favorite scope was not included, but we’re still just struggling with the disbelief of the whole thing: that someone would do all this work for nothing but the pleasure of doing it, and then bestow it on the rest of us.

best-long-range-cartridgesAt this point, you might think that Precision Rifle is all about scopes, and it’s not. That’s just an example of what he’s got for you over there. Here’s another example — a chart from a long article on the calibers most used by National Championships’ top 50 competitive shooters. It’s interesting that the question of caliber is now down to 6 or 6½ millimeters, at least among top 50 competitors. We didn’t know that before reading it on Precision Rifle.

Go, and return smarter, grasshoppers.

About that Keene, NH Bearcat

This is Keene's Bearcat. There are many like it, but this one is Keene's. Without its Bearcat, Keene is useless. Without Keene, the Bearcat is useless...

This is Keene’s Bearcat. There are many like it, but this one is Keene’s. Without its Bearcat, Keene is useless. Without Keene, the Bearcat is useless…

Keene, New Hampshire, is a sleepy college town, left-leaning as NH goes, and the subject of a great outcry two years ago because the police purchased (or rather, had your Federal taxes buy, so maybe “requisitioned”) a Lenco Bearcat armored personnel carrier. We were part of that outcry.

Keene’s justification for the vehicle was that they needed it to defend large gatherings, like the Pumpkin Festival.

This made the entire town the laughingstock of the Western World, and parts of the Old World stretching back to the furthest conquests of Alexander the Great (we concluded, “Somewhere in North Waziristan, Gulbuddin Hekmatayar is laughing his ass off at us.” back in 2012).

Before we bring the story up to date, note that a large number of the inmates of Keene are college students at Keene State, the designated Party School of the NH System. That helps to explain What Happened Next.

So how do the people of Keene demonstrate how the police in their leafy burb don’t need any riot control vehicle? By rioting, naturally.

At the freaking Pumpkin Festival.

We are Not Making This Up®. We’d be ready to go back to that 2012 post and eat our pixels, but…

We just got done talking to a Keene cop, and they used all their resources to control the riot, except one. Which one? You got it: the Bearcat.

A perfect chance to grind patchouli-scented hippies (not to mention drunks in their fourth sophomore year) under the Bearcat’s run-flat tires, and they go all restraint, like. Lord love a duck.

Somewhere in North Waziristan, Gulbuddin Hekmatayar is laughing his ass off at us.

(Not Making This Up® is a registered trademark of Dave Barry. Used without permission -Ed).