Monthly Archives: December 2014

That Carter has a lot to answer for

This is a screencap of a real tweet (we dunno how to embed the actual tweet) from the network once known as the History Channel.


Is there anything that stinks more than TV? The guys who claim to be history experts can’t even nail down a major event within two centuries.

And… “colonist” troops? Well, who else was available to fight against the Dynamic Duo of British Imperialism, King George III and Lady Thatcher?

We probably shouldn’t be so shocked. Civics education these days means twelve years of iterative exposure to the same single shallow lesson about the Greatest American Ever, His Excellency Field Marshal Grand Exalted Luminescence Martin Luther King. So maybe the writers for the network are twenty-somethings, whose brains can be expected to be filled with mush. That would explain why they don’t know what happened in the Revolutionary War, what the armies engaged were called, or, well, much of anything about anything.

One of the many people who tweeted a response to the still-uncorrected, brain-dead Valley Forge tweet, Katie Warchol, made a plausible excuse for the History Channel: “Clearly, an intern wrote this.”

Great Googly Moogly, have you watched the channel, Katie? An intern writes all of it. And they’ve been doing their part in the hiring of the (mentally) handicapped. There’s no other explanation for some self-esteem snowflake arriving at the exit of grade school without a firm grasp on the significance (and timing) of Valley Forge.

The empty-headed bozos at the History Channel might be out of their depth writing about, you know, history. But hey, they can make them some UFO videos.

Maybe they should try making a “histology channel” or something. Because they’re certainly a rolling cluster*&^% as a History Channel.

Tune in next week when the History Channel explores the English Civil War, featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Phillips Heads.

Did we mention that TV basically sucks?


Two Rare Fed Revolvers on Gun Broker

Before law enforcement went to all auto pistols in the 80s and 90s, there was a last flowering of .357 revolvers. The sweet spot seemed to be a 3″ or so barrel on a stainless six-shooter from one of the big manufacturers. Many of these were acquired by the government, but since the Clinton Administration the Feds have preferred to dispose of them by destruction rather than sale. These are examples of the 20th Century law enforcement revolver at its highest level of evolution.

Smith & Wesson Customs Service Special

Here’s a special-order Smith that was made for the Customs Service, in the last gasp before going to auto pistols.


The seller, Paul Bailey says:

Here’s a rather rare S&W stainless .357 revolver (with the 3 inch barrel). When I purchased it yrs.ago, I was told that S&W only made a few thousand of these for the U.S. Customs Service, and then quite a few were destroyed by the government (go taxpayers!). The pistol is in fine condition / no problems as you can see by the photos … It’s not in NEW _ MINT cond… but it’s super nice.

Bidding’s at $750 but reserve not met.

Postal Inspectors’ Ruger .357 non-catalog “PS-3” Speed Six

And here’s the Postal Inspectors’ equivalent.



This seller says:

Ruger Speed Six 357 Mag. originally issued to the US Postal Inspectors. These were initally issued in the 80’s and returned in the 90’s when the postal service transitioned to auto pistols.

If you’re looking for a bit of law enforcement history, or looking for a high-quality revolver, you can’t go wrong with these auctions.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: The Art of Battle

the_art_of_battleEvery once in a while you stumble over something where, although the execution is ragged, the concept is so staggeringly brilliant that you’d tolerate even “slipshod,” and “ragged” is positively welcome. Such a concept is The Art of, which delivers informative animated presentations that let you visualize famous battles in motion. “It’s like a museum, except not boring,” they claim.

The animations are ugly. The colors were selected by a fugitive from the Fashion Police. For some battles, there’s not even an ugly animation, there’s just a plug-ugly PowerPoint presentation. But if it’s ugly and it works, is it really ugly?

Land battles are divided into historical bins: Ancient (to AD 500), Medieval (501-1500), Gunpowder Battles (1501-1850) and Modern (1851-present). The divisions feel somewhat arbitrary, but they are only one way of looking at the battles; you can look at them by war, by faction, by commander, even by tactic.

There’s a rough-and-ready tutorial on some basic tactics. What makes it worthwhile is that each concept of maneuver is paired with historical examples of the maneuver succeeding in battle, and failing. For example, a “counterattack from a strong defensive position” succeeded for Babur against the Afghans at Panipat in 1526, but failed for the Gaul Vercingetorix’s stronger army against Julius Caesar at Alesia in 52 BC.

The Art of Battle scores most dramatically when it covers battles that are less well-known. A classic example is the battle of Kohima-Imphal in Burma in 1944, in which a British field army under William Slim, accepting very high casualties, closed with, defeated in detail, dispersed, pursued, and all but annihilated a smaller (but still formidable) Japanese field army under Renya Mutaguchi. Slim’s forces suffered 11% casualties, enough to make the unit combat-ineffective by most measures, but Mutaguchi’s force suffered over 50% casualties, most of them during the rout phase. (That will not surprise historians. A defeated army suffers its greatest casualties after it breaks and runs).

This site is no substitute for a terrain walk on the battlefield with an able historian (or an insightful serving or retired soldier). It’s no substitute for a stint at military academy. But nobody is saying it is. What it is, is, a great set of military history tutorials that has something for the beginner as well as for the experienced student of armed social action. If you watch your way through these potted battle scenarios, you’ll be better informed about military history than 97% of your fellow citizens.

The Case of the Bargain Optics, 1964

weatherby_scope_robberyFrom a Weatherby ad:

Like phantom smoke arising from a dead campfire, Weatherby Imperial Scopes were appearing magically in the advertisements of national magazines (and in stores) where they had never been before. And they were priced so low it led you to believe they were obtained as prizes in Cracker-Jack boxes. Of course they disappeared faster than a buck in a tamarack swamp. (Imagine what would happen if the Crown Jewels went on sale in a dime store.)

As you know, Roy Weatherby believes in the fine art of hunting. And he also holds that every serious hunter should have a Weatherby Imperial Scope with its exclusive binocular-type focusing and precision optics for greater luminosity. But not to the extent that he was altogether delighted to see products as superior as the Weatherby Imperial being sold below cost … at a profit to people who weren’t even Weatherby Dealers. There was a bear in the barnyard somewhere. So we started tracking down the mysterious “shipments.”

Back in the long shadows of the warehouse there were telltale, empty spaces. The sturdy cases, carrying the precision-made Imperials, were missing. Not just one or two scopes had skipped … but hundreds of them. Vanished! The hounds lit out on the trail, found the “fence” and tracked down the felons.

Understandably, a great many hunters profited by being able to buy the incomparable Weatherby Imperial Scope at a price that was, to say the least, philanthropic. (When you steal something, it’s not hard to sell it at a profit.) But we think hunters would be more than willing to pay what a Weatherby Imperial is worth. After all, you can’t make an Imperial with all its features, such as dual-dial adjustments for windage and elevation, for less than the starting price of $69.95. Especially when you consider the Lifetime Guarantee against defects, backed by Roy Weatherby himself. (Naturally, he can’t guarantee any of the hi-jacked scopes. He didn’t deliver them to an authorized Weatherby Dealer.)

We grant that a Weatherby Imperial Scope is enough of a prize to tempt thieves. But we disapprove of this method of distribution. We’d rather you bought one the regular way … from your Weatherby Dealer. This way, the guarantee is good, your dealer makes a profit…and Roy Weatherby can afford to keep producing this most wanted (even stolen) telescopic sight in the world. See all five models at your Weatherby Dealer.

This ad ran 50 years ago, in 1964.  For example, it’s on Page 16 of the October, 1964 Guns magazine. Those old magazines are a trip, and an education: a trip in time travel, and an education in how much the gun culture has changed in a half-century.

It’s a general commonplace that the stories in magazines tend to be more descriptive, and the ads tend to be aspirational. In 1964, Weatherby was a premium brand, as the price of $70 in dollars that predate the guns-and-butter inflation of the LBJ 1960s and the gross economic mismanagement of all three of the 1970s Presidents. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator, the 2014 equivalent of that scope’s list price is $532.86, so in real purchasing-power terms, the price of a quality scope hasn’t changed much.

Of course, the $500 scope of today will be better than a Weatherby Imperial of the LBJ years on several axes of measurement. The 1960s scope most often has a very fine crosshair reticle, which evaporates in low light.

Weatherby Imperial AdThe Imperial scope had some unusual features that were unique then and are still a bit odd by today’s standards. It had two turrets, both at 12 o’clock and so close as to be conjoined, almost siamesed, with nested knobs or rings in the forward turret for fine adjustments (inner was windage, outer elevation) and one knob in the after turret for focus. Gross adjustments were done with the scope base screws when setting the scope up, so as not to use up too much travel and/or get the reticle out of center of the scope whilst getting sighted-in.

Weatherby never made scopes themselves, but they had private brand scopes made with the Weatherby name for 40 years, from 1954 to 1994. In 1954, Roy Weatherby himself selected Hertel & Reuss of Kassel, West Germany; after visiting several other scope factories, he thought the Kassel company had the best handle on producing quality optics.

The Imperial scope was made in several magnification ranges by Hertel & Reuss from 1954 to 1973, when it was replaced by the Premier line, made by Asia Optical in Japan. The Premier scopes were renamed Supreme in 1983. Asia Optic also made the Mark XXI scope from 1964 to 1989.

Hertel & Reuss was founded by Otto Hertel and Eduard Reuss in 1927. As a maker of all kinds of optics, it survived the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich and its defeat, and the rocky dawn of the Federal Republic — even German Reunification in 1992. But the company had left the rifle-scope market well before it ceased trading in 1995. A successor company owns the Hertel & Reuss trademark and applies it to opera glasses made in the old university town of Marburg. The original Hertel & Reuss plant, where the Weatherby riflescopes and other precision optics were made, now is a European call center for the schlock TV sales outfit, QVC.

This .300 Weatherby Magnum was made in California, and is topped by an Imperial scope in Buehler mounts.

This sharp .300 Weatherby Magnum was sold from South Gate, California, and is a German Mauser action topped by an Imperial scope in Buehler mounts. It has (in our humble opinion) much more classic lines and trim than some of the more over-the-top Weatherbys. A well-used elk gun, but still beautiful; this picture is from a closed auction at (Our basic training drill sergeant, Vietnam vet Antenor “Tony” Arguello, was a Weatherby fan. Wonder how he’s doing these days?)

Weatherby Imperials are the most-sought Weatherby scopes by Weatherby collectors. You may hear the sentiment that a German Weatherby rifle ought to have a German Weatherby scope. But the scopes are not worth a king’s ransom; a used, good-condition Imperial sells for $200-300, max. One not in good condition is just about worthless.

Gilbert Parson of Parson’s Scope Service (aka Parson’s Optical Manufacturing) in Ross, Ohio can still service the Imperial scopes; ABO Inc, in Miami, can handle Weatherby’s Japanese scopes. But given the advances in the last 50 years and the high cost of skilled repairs, it may be wiser to replace rather than repair these old warhorses.

Gun Buying: How to Do it Wrong

We believe but are not certain this Hoang is the suspect.

We believe but are not certain this mugshot is the suspect, Kenneth A. Hoang, from a previous arrest.

We’re normally all for guys buying guns, but Daniel Terrill at reports that Ken Hoang did it wrong. How? According to charges in US District Court in Texas, by using OPM — Other People’s Money. Without OPP — Other People’s Permission. Namely, he lightfingered the guns by using a credit card from a previous job, from which some boss had fired him in a rare act of business precognition.

Kenneth A. Hoang has been charged with six counts of wire fraud for using the company American Express Company card to buy more than $23,400 on guns, among other things, according to the indictment filed in a Texas federal court on Dec. 11.

TurboCare, Inc., a subsidiary of the engineering company Siemens AG, employed Hoang and issued Hoang the credit card for business expenses, but failed to retrieve the card after firing him in August 2012 for insubordination and missing work.

via Texas man indicted for spending thousands on guns with company credit card.

Hoangs-Purchased-guns-lgA list of firearms from the court case shows that Hoang had some strong preferences, for name-brand .45 caliber pistols (Para, Kimber, Glock, Sig, etc) and high-end ARs (he bought an HK, a Colt, and three Noveskes, among others).

We guess, if you’re spending OPM, you don’t have any incentive to economize.

But the firearms were less than 10% of what Hoang is alleged to have charged on his card during his wild spree. They were worth about $24,000 but he charged over $330k.

An FBI presser has more details:

According to the charges, Hoang was employed by TurboCare Inc., a subsidiary of Siemens AG until he was terminated in August 2012. While employed there, TurboCare had issued Hoang an American Express card to use for business purposes, according to the indictment. Following his termination, Hoang allegedly did not return the card and illegally used it to make purchases for personal use.

The indictment alleges that beginning on or about July 10, 2013, Hoang used the credit card make numerous purchases totaling more than $330,000 before Siemens discovered the fraud and cut off the card. Included in the purchases Hoang allegedly made with the card were 17 firearms.

If convicted, Hoang faces a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment and a possible $250,000 fine on each count.

Hoang does have a previous arrest record, for financial-related crime. We believe this mugshot is him, from this previous arrest. We will remove it if we turn out to be mistaken.

The Christmas Gun, and Some Advice for Britons

You know you’re on target when you start taking flak from Britain’s low-class tabloids, like the Daily Mail. When you’re driving even the oiks’ own oikophobia to a Nigel-Tufnel-esque 11, you’re doing something right. And the Scrooges at the Mail are alarmed that we give one another guns for Christmas over here. “What, are there no prisons?” the editor asks. “Are the workhouses closed?”

Mail freaks over gun gifts

The Mail has a bunch more Christmas guns at the link, complete with a tone like a Shakespearean actor who just had Larry the Cable Guy stumble on to his set. Unsurprisingly, for dwellers in the wannabe Gun-Free Zone that’s modern Britain, they confuse a BB gun for a firearm at least twice — but then, so do the gun laws of such backward jurisdictions.

Really, free people do fine with guns. You guys should try it. We owe you a cultural revolution as payback for the Beatles, anyway.

Some advice for Britons facing their frightening first firearm:

  • Guns are not slimy, merely cool and smooth to the touch.
  • Listen to and heed the safety briefing.
  • Hold the firearm firmly and with confidence. It may help to pretend you’re one of your own Victorian forebears, like Sir Harry Flashman or Blackadder or somebody like that, from before you gave the keys to the nation to any of the recent ninnies. (Not that our ninnies are any better).
  • We think you’d benefit from liberalizing your laws, but we recognize your human right to organize your laws any way that suits you. Please extend us the same respect and we’ll get on swimmingly.

Likewise, we think other jurisdictions with strict gun laws might do well to liberalize theirs, but should any of our deprived friends from Penzance to Petropavlovsk find himself in the northeastern USA, drop by and we’ll take you to the range to shoot all the stuff that’s illegal back home. We promise you will get home with the same number of bullet holes you have now. (We used to say “zero bullet holes,” but our friends come from a somewhat more ventilated demographic).

Previous British attempts to persuade us to keep your royals’ mugs on our currency, to dine on the parts of the animal the hunter normally discards (and the slaughterhouse turns into pet food), and to play football without any hands, have not been crowned with success. So keep the persuasion low-key and don’t expect much, and we in turn will not try to replace your cultural touchstones, like David Bowie or Mr Bean, with our cultural touchstones, like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood.

You did, however, sell us an entire sealift of Beatles records, back in the day, so there is that.

H/t Stranger at Extrano’s Alley, who also charts out British vs US crime rates. Doing the math that he did not put in his post, if you count murders as stated by the crime stats (542 for the year ending 30 Jun 13), and take the UK mid-2013 population estimate from the Office of National Statistics (remembering to discard Scotland and NI to match data with the crime data, which are England and Wales only),  you get 0.93 compared to the US’s much higher 4.5. However,the UK uses an idiosyncratic definition of homicide which excludes all cases in which a suspect has not been both identified and convicted — so cold cases and even open cases that are presently in the courts are not “homicides,” although the victims are no less dead. If you count murdered bodies, US-style, instead of murder convictions,the England and Wales rate is around 2.8 per 100,000 living inhabitants — still lower than the overall US rate, but higher than some US states, and very close to the US homicide rate for whites (that’s 2011 data, see p. 4 of the .pdf). The higher US homicide rate is driven by much higher rates (17+ per 100k!) in our very much larger black population.

Law-Driven Innovation in NZ

We saw this very cool .22 rifle on Reddit and Imgur — but the story behind the rifle was even more interesting, to us, because it’s a tale of human adaptation to that most inhuman of human adaptations, bureaucracy.

Every jurisdiction — nation, state, province, municipality — has more or less authority to regulate guns, and that means that there’s a lot of variation worldwide. And gun enthusiasts in those countries produce innovations, sometimes, that are driven by the peculiar aspects of their national laws. Take this rimfire bolt-action from the island paradise of New Zealand (these pictures do embiggen greatly if clicked:

NZ Norinco SBR folded


OK, that’s the transport mode, with the stock collapsed. Here’s what it looks like, stock extended.

NZ Norinco SBR3

Pretty cool? Want one? Er, wait, while we digress into international gun law.

Many nations try to ban all but hunting guns, or ban handguns. (Handguns tend to be preferred by criminals, due to their concealability). In nations that ban or highly restrict handguns, there tend to be restrictions on minimum size of rifles and shotguns. The New Zealand restrictions on what is an A-License Category firearm drove the development of the rifle you see here.

The US NFA as an Example

The US has an equivalent law, and it, too, originated as an attempt to ban or highly restrict handguns. The original intent of the sponsors of the National Firearms Act of 1934 was to ban (or technically, restrict, but de facto ban with a Pigovian Tax) pistols and revolvers, as well as machine guns, silencers, and cannons. Their lawyers told them they could not structure a ban as a ban, but could slide it through as a tax measure. But their vote-counters told the New York, Chicago and Boston liberals behind the law that they’d never sell a pistol ban to representatives and senators from the West or South.

So the law passed with the machine-gun and silencer restrictions, and restrictions on short-barrel rifles and short-barrel shotguns which were originally meant to prevent outflanking the pistol ban that was deleted from the bill. (The secondary purpose of the law was to ensure that the agents of the famously corrupt Prohibition Bureau didn’t lose their government jobs, as numbers of them had some connection to a politician).

Most every American gunnie can quote you the barrel length restrictions in the NFA. Rifles must have barrels of 16″; shotguns, 18″. But there are also overall length restrictions of 26″ for both weapons. This technical distinction means it is possible to have a weapon with a perfectly legal barrel length, but given a pistol-grip or other short stock, or a bullpup configuration, the weapon is illegal. (What does ATF call a weapon like that, that cannot be a “short-barreled rifle” or “short-barreled shotgun” because, well, the barrel isn’t legally “short”? The term of art is “weapon made from a rifle”



…or “weapon made from a shotgun.”



Legally, the difference between SBR or SBS and “weapon made from” in the USA is not that great. Both a short-barreled long-gun, and a “weapon made from” a long gun, require a registration under NFA and approval and tax paid ($200) prior to manufacture. Possession of one without your legal and tax ducks in a row en avant is a major Federal felony with a decade in prison as the “prize.”

Of course, that’s US law, and New Zealand has its own.

The New Zealand Law and Its Variance from the US NFA

New Zealand is a different country, and her representatives have written, not surprisingly, entirely different laws. By and large, Kiwi laws are restrictive, comparable not to the USA in general but perhaps to the USA’s more restrictive jurisdictions, such as Massachusetts or Illinois.  Firearms of non-sporting types must be registered, and owners must be approved by the police as having a “good reason” to own that type of weapon. Self-defense is explicitly excluded as a reason.

Like there used to be in Massachusetts, there are “classes” of license, although in NZ they get quite complex:

  • Class A or “standard” license: sporting shotguns and rifles, and air guns.
  • Endorsement B: pistols for target shooting, which may be used at police-approved target shooting clubs, only
  • Endorsement C: collect pistols or “restricted” weapons, but not necessarily to shoot them
  • Endorsement E: to own and fire the dreaded “assault weapons,” which are called “Military Standard Semi Automatic (MSSA)” in Kiwi law.

An interesting peculiarity of New Zealand law is that you must be licensed to shoot these weapons even if you do not own them. Apart from some provisions for rentals by professionals, an unlicensed person may fire only Class A, sporting, arms, under the direct supervision of a licensee

Gun licenses are managed by the police. Their website says:

Someone will arrange to visit you. They will interview you and check your firearms security arrangements. They will arrange to interview your referees.

You will have difficulty being deemed ‘fit and proper’ to possess or use firearms if you have:

– a history of violence
– repeated involvement with drugs
– been irresponsible with alcohol
– a personal or social relationship with people deemed to be unsuitable to be given access to firearms
– indicated an intent to use a firearm for self-defence.

There are some bizarre requirements. For instance, if you don’t keep your firearms at home, it doesn’t matter– you still have to install a security system. (Maybe some top NZ rozzer is getting a kickback from the alarm manufacturer). But it’s their country, they set their own rules.

What the Kiwi Inventor Did and Why it’s Cool

So, our New Zealander wanted to update and improve a fairly conventional Norinco .22 sporting rifle, whilst keeping it legal on a standard “A” license. He envisioned this:

NZ Norinco SBR2



With a sliding stock to make it even more compact. (The suppressor is legal and unregulated, as near as we can tell, in his island nation. Other country, other rules). But the NZ equivalent of the US SBR law means a gun ceases to be sporting (which makes it, what? “Not cricket?”) if it’s shorter than 762 mm.

No matter how inept you are with the metric system, if you’re a gun guy who knows that .30 caliber is 7.62 mm, you ought to be able to figure out that the customizer of this gun, who goes by the Reddit handle CPT Tooks, needed to keep his gun 30 inches long (gee, even longer than our silly SBR law). But the New Zealand law has one marked superiority over the US equivalent — if the weapon can’t be fired in its retracted mode, it is only measured in the mode it can be shot in. As you can see, Tooks’s stock guards the trigger when forward. He says:

I have been working on this one for a while now. Its a suppressed .22lr with a collapsible stock. It started life as a full length Norinco JW15. My goal was to create a stock that could be as compact as possible that would not infringe the New Zealand A-Cat. rifle length law when it is folded down. As you can see when the rifle is less than legal length for a rifle in NZ (762mm) you can no longer engage the trigger. length collapsed = 470mm

That’s 18.5 inches, for all of us bitter clingers to the measurement standards of the Laws of Aethelberht.

NZ Norinco SBR

Here are some more of Tooks’s comments, edited out of the relevant Reddit thread:

I modeled the stock in CAD (Solidworks) and printed it on my 3D Printer. So I just made the stock to fit the Norinco’s action. Cut the barrel down to 7 inches, re-crowned it and made the suppressor for it. Done.

My 3D printer is an Up 2 plus, its print area is 200x200x200mm. the stock is printed in 8 parts and joined together.

The trigger slides inside the stock.

I made the suppressor as well. I printed it.

NZ has no limitations on short rifle barrels, or suppressors. He does not seem to have made the suppressor on the 3D printer, but if you look closely at the pictures of the stock, the telltale lines of additive manufacturing are given away.

I print suppressors on .22lr, .17hmr and .22mag- they are pretty big like the one on this gun but they do work great!. (ABS- If done right its easily strong enough for rim fire). I have put 500+ rounds through my mk1 model with no failure. I live in New Zealand so its not illegal to make suppressors.

He is still responding in the thread.

In the USA it’s not illegal to make suppressors, but it’s restricted. Tooks is not averse to releasing  his designs, but wants to do it in a manner that will get him paid, rather than just dumping them on the net.

Here in the USA, someone would have to convert his stock design to a weapon which is available here, as Norinco imports have been banned since 1989. The ATF interprets the SBR law differently, depending on whether the stock is folding or detachable. If a rifle has a folding stock, it is measured in the extended position, on the presumption that it is meant to be fired that way, even if it can be fired folded. That’s why an Uzi carbine with a metal stock and a 16″ barrel is a Title I firearm, and an Uzi with the same barrel and a detachable wood stock is not. (It is a Weapon Made From a Rifle). Both are about 24 ½” long. Likewise, if you rig the Uzi’s metal stock to be removable, it is no longer a Title I firearm but a Title II NFA arm.

Some states are weird about this, also. Michigan considers rifles that are operable when folded to be SBRs banned under state law if under 26″ (which includes all those Uzis). Folding stock rifles that fold to between 26″ and 30″ and are operable folded, like the AK or most folding M1 Carbines, are classed as “pistols” in that state, and must be registered if you are a resident… but in an unintended consequence of the attorney-general ruling that created this law, are legal to carry loaded, concealed, or in a car, with a pistol license from any recognized jurisdiction! Yes, in Michigan, you can’t carry a fixed-stock AR or AK loaded in your car, but if you can fold it to between 26″ and 30″ you can call it a pistol and be armed to survive in Detroit.

Small- and Home-Shop Rifling Machines

One of the things that many builders find daunting about the idea of manufacturing firearms completely from scratch, is manufacturing a rifled barrel. There are two tough nuts to crack with barrel making. The first is deep hole drilling, which is still called in industry “gun drilling,” because the technology of deep hole drilling, which today has many industrial applications, was initially developed for making gun barrels. Gun drilling will be dealt with separately; today, we’re going to talk about rifling a drilled (and, usually, reamed to precise size) barrel blank.

There are at least four processes used in industry to make barrels:

  • Cut rifling: A cutting tool is drawn through the bore, using either a spiral guide or a system of gears. This method is used on most high-precision target barrels. It can be used for constant-twist or gain rifling, with an appropriate means of rotating the drawbar.
  • Broached rifling: A carefully machined broach, a tool made of very hard material, is drawn through the bore in a single pass, stripping off material from the grooves of the rifling with teeth of gradually increasing depth. It cuts all lands and grooves at once, and produces a constant twist. The broach must be pulled, not pushed, and requires both a heavy, powerful, and specialized machine, and a specialized broach for each caliber, twist, etc. A barrel-rifling broach costs thousands of dollars (for comparison, a steel precision broach for doing the M16 mag well in 7075 forged aluminum is $10k for the tool alone).
  • Button rifling: In this process, a carbide or other hard-material “button” is forced through the barrel.It cuts all groves at once (and smooths all lands at the same time), and can only produce constant-twist rifling.
  • Cold hammer forging: the barrel is forged by a hammering machine, forcing an oversize bore to close in around a mandrel that is a mirror image of the intended rifling. Developed in Germany, it was first use on H&K weapons, then on TRW’s M14 contract. FN produces barrels this way, also. This forms the lands, grooves and usually the chamber also, all at once around a very expensive precision mandrel.

Of these, the only ones practically adaptable to the small-shop or home shop are cut and button rifling; you can’t hammer-forge or broach barrels on the cheap. It’s what MBAs call “capital-intensive.”

Home Rifle Cutting Lathe Attachment

This elegant lathe attachment, developed by an Australian gunsmith named Tony Small, uses a worm and spur gear to drive the rotating tool for cut rifling, while the barrel is held stationary through the chuck of the lathe. The handwheel drives a (nylon? Delrin?) idler wheel (the big wheel) which in turn drives Interchangeable gears, which are actually the speed-change gears from the lathe, to control the speed of rotation and thereby the rifling twist rate.

The drawbar attaches to the worm wheel and to the rifling cutter with precision tapered cross pins. Because his drawbar is 1/4″ diameter, he’s limited to calibers larger than that, ruling out all the .219-.224 calibers, but it would scarcely be rocket surgery to fabricate a drawbar for small calibers. All components except the speed-change gears were fabricated by Tony, including the worm and wheel. More information about this attachment is available on Tony’s website. That includes images of front and back of lathe chuck and worm wheel, an image of cutting the worm wheel (with a fly cutter in a milling attachment), and a custom-made short chuck he made to de facto extend his lathe’s travel compared to the factory chucks. There’s also a great deal more information in the comments to his YouTube video.

His lathe appears to be a Grizzly unit or something very similar. It is not a lathe that is out of hobbyist reach, even though he’s a professional.

The signal advantage of Tony’s machine is versatility. He can cut a wide variety of rifling pitches and calibers with a single machine. By making his own speed-change gears and perhaps another indexing plate (his present one accommodates up to 8-groove rifling) he could extend that, and make literally any barrel he can have a drilled blank for. This is well-suited for his custom-rifle business in Australia, where he handcrafts rifles for demanding shooters and hunters. (Do take the time to look around his site, and you’ll wish his information about his past work was more boastful, with more pictures of his classic, beautifully fitted and finished firearms. This rifling-machine post will still be here when you come back).

The disadvantages are that he has to make his own tools, and that it is unsuited for series production. It takes far longer to cut-rifle than to button- or broach-rifle a barrel. That is partly why cut rifling these days is the preferred technology of high-end barrel makers.

Hand Cutting Wooden Pattern Machine

This is a very primitive, 18th-Century machine (on 16th-Century principles), in a living-history exhibit. It was a live presentation, so it’s somewhat damaged by all the spectator conversation caught on the mic, but this shows  the principles that were used on John Browning’s original sine-bar rifling machine (on display in his shop museum in Utah, it may have been his father Jonathan’s). Browning’s machine was all made of wood, not just the pattern. Of course, the greater rigidity of steel is superior.

This is a more “cottage industry” modern version, a home-fabricated all-metal version for short, i.e. pistol, barrels:

And here’s the crudest version, a failed attempt. This primitive machine is also made mostly of wood (warning: very slow video, very annoying music). It’s an experiment that falls well short of success, but points the way for better approaches:

Sine-Bar Cut Rifling Machines

Here is an American Precision Museum video of a 3D reconstruction of their 1853 Robbins & Lawrence Sine-Bar rifling machine. In this case, instead of a wooden pattern, an iron sine bar driving a rack and pinion imparts the twist:

The exact same principles were used in this sine-bar rifling machine, purportedly “Old Man Savages’s,” recently restored)… (see on YouTube to see the comments)

…and in the famous Pratt & Whitney rifling machines. This one is a circa 1900 one, probably a Nº. 3, but they were produced up to 1945. They are still around, but according to the video maker, most of the ones available these days are well beaten-up, and too expensive for the small shop anyway. There are two videos, and the comments in the original YouTubes here and here are worth reading, too. Part 1:

Part 2:

Home Button Rifling

Here is home-shop or small-shop rifling of a short barrel using a button and a 10-ton manual press to push it through. The manual press means the theoretical speed advantage of button rifling isn’t really achieved. It seems it would be straightforward to substitute a hydraulic press.

For comparison, here is an industrial button rifling machine:

Buttons are widely available, direct from the manufacturers. Danjon Mfg. Corp (warning: crappy autoplay music), for instance, prides itself on selling to the one-man shop as well as to massive Remington. (Remington has used Danjon buttons for something like 50 years).

The advantages of cold-forming a barrel’s bore with button rifling include superior surface finish, surface, and ability to hold very precise dimensions. To get the best of these advantages, the bore must be drilled and then reamed to a very precise size to begin with. Disadvantages include an inability to cut really deep grooves; this process is limited to a depth of about 4 thousandths of an inch (.004″), max.

We Nearly Missed the 2014 Blue Falcon Stolen Valor Tournament

Where “Buddy” is only half a word….

Every year, the military blog This Ain’t Hell has what they call the Blue Falcon Stolen Valor Tournament, where the worst phony wannabee dipsheetz of the last year go head-to-head in a voter-driven tournament of whatever the antonym of military excellence is.

The crapulent contenders have already been boiled down to four, which include (in alphabetical order):

  • Bernath_DanielDaniel Bernath, a lawyer (ptui), whose recent response to being outed as a poser when his claims to be a Navy CPO were proven false, was kind of epic: he added a false claim to have been a SEAL. It’s kind of amazing anyone makes false SEAL claims, because of all the SOF orgs anywhere, the SEALs have kept the best and most definitive records, and you can always find out whether someone is a bona fide SEAL in very short order. Needless to say, Bernath has never been any closer to being a SEAL than having a real one, Don Shipley, call him out as a poser. (Most of the stuff on that uniform is phony).


  • Chevalier_DennisDenis Chevalier, who claims to be an LTC Air Force pilot, but whose actual military record is… a little more limited. Like, 20 days in the National Guard in Texas. Hell, even previous winner John Giduck, a phony SF and Ranger officer, actually made it 58 days, almost to the end of basic training. This guy’s a bigger loser than a previous champion loser… it’s just like the Olympics, just when you feel this area of human endeavor is maxed out, along comes some guy with a record-breaking performance. It ought to be an Oscar category: “Worst performance by an actor playing a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.” But then the actors would be PO’d at him for pretending to be an actor.


  • Church_DerekDerek Church, who parades around in an XXXL uniform with SSG stripes, an 82nd combat patch, and a variety of unearned gongs including a Ranger beret, what looks like a CIB (grrrr….), and a Ranger Regiment beret. Note the mixed ribbons and medals, and marvel at this guy’s lack of self-awareness (not to mention, fashion sense). Yep, he’s the very model of a modern combat Ranger. Don’t they all have more “Chins” than the Taipei phone book? His actually military service peaked at PFC in the National Guard, which grueling duty he didn’t complete two full years of. (NTTAWWT, the Guard we mean, for the folks that stayed in — which Church didn’t — and did a deployment — ditto).


  • visconi_FrankFrank Visconi. Visconi was actually an honorably-discharged Marine Vietnam Vet. He was a supply clerk (which we’re sure you’ll agree, is a much underappreciated field of endeavor). Visconi, in later years, began claiming combat awards including the Purple Heart, about which his story has changed. He attempted to get the awards inserted in his military records but failed, and failed spectacularly: on appeal, he actually brought the case to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which shot him down, noting that the Bronze Star and Purple Heart citations he provided were determined by the appropriate authorities to be, quote, “not authentic.”

We know what you’re thinking. Because it’s what we thought: “Why can’t they all win, or is it, lose?” Well, that’s just they way life is sometimes. You only get one best friend, one worst enemy, and one Blue Falcon Stolen Valor Tournament champion for 2014. But you do get to vote for two out of the four, and soon, for one of the two finalists.

For the other three, there’s always next year. Although Rumor Control says that past winner, military impersonator John Giduck is stirring, in his mountain fastness….

50 Years Ago, the Guns on Magazine Covers were Single Shot

This is How Much the Gun Culture has Changed: 50 years ago, the guns on magazine covers were single-shots.

Welcome to the covers of Guns magazine — from 1964. Here are the first six months:


The covers are:

  • a lion trophy;
  • bandleader turned benchrest competitor (and shop owner) Artie Shaw
  • a highly-decorated Sharps carbine;
  • an oddball 14mm smoothbore double pistol;
  • handloading editor Kent Bellah demonstrating his two-handed handgun-hunting hold; and,
  • a photograph of two custom flintlocks in the collection of Churchill’s of London, one of which was made for King George IV circa 1790.

So we have two hunting-themed covers, one celebrity target shooter, and three antique firearms. See anything missing? We’ll see if it shows up in the second half of the year:


and these are:

  • A solid-gold and rosewood percussion deringer (yes, it worked; the one-off pistol sold for $6,000 in 1964);
  • a peculiar indoor Schuetzen rifle;
  • two Colt 1851 revolvers from the Mormons’ museum in Salt Lake City;
  • A Danish flintlock rifle, similar to a Kentucky rifle but very ornate;
  • three Winchester Model 94 lever-actions; and,
  • a percussion rifle of great significance: made by Eliphalet Remington in 1816 for his friend and neighbor Peter Pontious, it was at the time (1964), and probably still is, the oldest documented surviving Remington.

What didn’t show up, of course, is a modern military or military-style weapon, or even a semi-auto. Most of the guns shown on the cover of Guns 50 years ago were single-shots. It wasn’t just the covers that were missing these rifles; there are very few stories inside the magazines about military weapon development. Don’t take our word for it; download the magazines and check them out yourself. Guns has made them freely available for us.

The cover-girls of 2014? We can see the covers here (and read them online for free, or download digital editions, but you have to pay for those). They are:

  1. Daniel Defense AR in .300 AAC Blackout.
  2. The Taurus CT-9 “tactical” 9mm carbine and matching PT111 G2 “Millennium” pistol.
  3. The Armalite AR-31 “tactical” bolt-action rifle in 7.62 NATO.
  4. SIG-Sauer P227 .45 ACP service pistol.
  5. Ruger AR in 7.62 NATO.
  6. Colt USMC M45 .45 ACP service pistol.
  7. Customized Mossberg 590A1 “tactical” shotgun and matching Taurus Tracker (5-shot .44 Magnum) pistol.
  8. Springfield Armory (the company) SOCOM 16 in a green polymer stock (this is a snubnosed version of the M1A rifle. It is not used by SOCOM in any capacity; that’s just marketing).
  9. The disaster intro of 2014, the Remington R51 pocket pistol (if you’ve got XXXL pockets, maybe). Before it turned disaster.
  10. S&W .460 Magnum. (You can hang up your .45 now, they do make a .46).
  11. Robar SR-21 bolt-action precision tactical rifle.
  12. Two compact Kimber pistols.

Compare: except for two revolvers and a pump shotgun, everything that made the 2014 covers is semi-auto. There are no semi-autos in 1964; the only repeaters are revolvers, lever-actions and a boxlock double-barrel. There are no celebrities in 2014, and no hunting or target-shooting photos. There are no antiques: everything is new (and not to put too fine a point on it, made by a firm that can buy advertising in Guns. So far, the 2015 issues have a knife on the cover, too: doubles their appeal to advertisers).

The very last issue of Guns for 1964 did show a glimmering dawn of things to come. On Page 20-21, a spread introduced a radical new gun from Colt, which they called the “AR-15 Sporter.”



“Kids today! First it was the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, then that little Ford Mustang. Now a plastic and aluminum gun that looks like something Buck Rogers dropped off from the 25th Century. Fifty years from now, do you think that people will look back and wonder what the people of the 1960s were thinking?”

We’re not sure, but history records that most of them (the Beatles, perhaps, excepted) were smoking stuff that didn’t get them high.