August 8th, 2018 by asjstaff

Building And Shooting The Vintage Ordnance Co.’s Reproduction Of The FP-45 Liberator

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRANK JARDIM

Clandestine weapons like the World War II FP-45 pistol, later dubbed the Liberator by the Office of Strategic Services in 1944, have always intrigued me. It remains the rarest of American martial handguns from the conflict, with original examples usually starting in the $1,500 range for rusty, damaged pieces and the best examples, with their impossibly rare waxed shipping boxes, bringing over $7,000. Myths and misinformation hide the pistol’s real story; they weren’t wildly inaccurate junk guns that exploded after a few shots, and they were never tossed out of airplanes over occupied Europe en masse.

The Vintage Ordnance Co. creates a build-it-yourself kit of the FP-45 Liberator, which cosmetically matches an original Liberator (left) well.

The Vintage Ordnance Co. creates a build-it-yourself kit of the FP-45 Liberator, which cosmetically matches an original Liberator (left) well.

THE FP-45 PISTOL was inexpensive by design. Constructed mostly of welded, stamped sheet metal parts with a die-cast zinc cocking piece, each gun cost the federal government a bit over $2, boxed for delivery with 10 rounds of .45 ACP ammunition. Only 5 inches long and weighing a pound, this single-shot pistol was conceived as an instrument of chaos in the darkest times of the war. The idea seems to have originated with a Polish military attaché in March of 1942. His request for assistance with arming resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied areas was important enough that it reached the attention of the American assistant chief of staff for intelligence (G-2) of the War Department General Staff. In a little over two weeks, the Joint Psychological Warfare Committee completed a detailed plan of action and recommended urgent implementation, which was supported by Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall.

Attempting to build this kit based on the original Liberator’s (right) plans might prove frustrating.  Many modifications were made without documentation.

Attempting to build this kit based on the original Liberator’s (right) plans might prove frustrating. Many modifications were made without documentation.

They recommended a light, simple, inexpensive, powerful handgun that could be dropped from aircraft – or other distribution methods they might contrive to suit the circumstances – to litter the countryside of occupied nations. Once delivered in theater, these little handguns would subject the enemy’s garrison troops to great mental anguish because even though they would find some of the weapons, they would never know how many they didn’t find. Hopefully, their anxiousness would be heightened by some fatal closerange headshot casualties too. The expectation was that at least some of the weapons would be found by those intrepid souls who dared to resist the yoke of totalitarian rule forced on them by Germany and Japan.

 
SIX MONTHS LATER on August 21, 1942, one million FP-45
pistols had been completed. The FP designation stood for “flare projector,” and was part of a subterfuge to mislead enemy spies. Manufacturing was done in total secrecy at General Motor’s Guide Lamp factory in Anderson, Ind. The assembly work took an astonishing 11 weeks. Three hundred employees worked around the clock to put together the 23 individual parts that made up each pistol in an average of 6.6 seconds. It took them less time to assemble it than it took the average shooter to load and fire the weapon. It was a manufacturing tour de force, and Guide Lamp would later receive the contract to make the M3 submachine gun, which also utilized efficient welded sheet-metal stampings.

 When building the replica FP-45, author Frank Jardim focused on using tighter tolerances and materials than the original (top) to ensure it was safe to shoot.

When building the replica FP-45, author Frank Jardim focused on using tighter tolerances and materials than the original (top) to ensure it was safe to shoot.

WITH 100 BOXCARS OF FP-45S at the Allies’ disposal, differences of agreement, some political and some practical, arose about how to best utilize them. In the end, the majority of the pistols were destroyed, but a significant number – perhaps 383,000 – were at least sent to active theaters of war with no record of their return.

General Dwight Eisenhower, Allied commander in the European theater, got 500,000 FP-45s. He felt that air dropping them wasn’t a practical use of his precious air resources that were better utilized dropping bombs on the enemy. Contrary to the tales of mass airdrops, usually involving second-hand oral history from some now-deceased relative who did it, there is no written evidence showing that the FP-45 was ever distributed in any significant quantity in France.

Ralph Hagen, in the research for his superb book The Liberator Pistol, collected and conducted many interviews with key people involved in American-, British- and even German-military intelligence and clandestine operations from the time, as well as accounts from French resistance fighters. None of them could support anything other than a token distribution in the theater, if that!

Cosmetically, this replica has a rifled barrel and discrete markings that comply with federal law. The original does not have either.

Cosmetically, this replica has a rifled barrel and discrete markings that comply with federal law. The original does not have either.

Of the half-million weapons sent to England, less than 1,000 guns were sent to Sweden, and some small unknown quantity was issued for the D-Day operation. There is also one known veteran account of an FP-45 being used by a 101st Airborne paratrooper at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. He stated that he was given the pistol and an orange flare cartridge to signal his position to armored American units trying to relieve the surrounded soldiers.

More of Eisenhower’s 500,000 FP45s went to the British War Office than anywhere else. The 30,000 they received went to the Suez, India and Gibraltar. What happened to them there is not known. This is the case with most of the pistols sent into the active theaters of the time. Once they arrived, any written record of how they were ultimately used has yet to be found and probably no longer exists.
IN THE PACIFIC THEATER, General Douglas MacArthur was much more interested in the FP-45 pistol than his European counterpart. MacArthur requested and received 50,000 guns in total, which he appears to have made use of. Unlike the other theaters of war, there is solid written evidence that the pistols were distributed in the field. MacArthur himself indicated in a report that he had used the first 8,000 guns to arm native villagers in the Solomon Islands of Tulagi and Guadalcanal. American veterans returned home from this area with souvenir FP-45s.

The pistols were clearly used by the Philippine guerillas, and I have personally found original guns there. Some were delivered by submarine. Others may have arrived by airdrop, though the complexity of finding anything airdropped into the jungle suggests that wasn’t likely. Airdrops on the coastline, however, were made.

The second largest shipment of guns from America numbered 200,000 and was delivered to Calcutta (now Kolkata), India, in July of 1944. Forty thousand went on to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and another 44,000 to Burma. The rest were destroyed after the war.

The third largest shipment was 100,000 guns destined for Jorhat, India, in August of 1943. Their ultimate destination was China. There is evidence that the pistols did make it into the hands of the locals, guerillas and bandits alike, but exactly how many will never be known. The only recorded image of an FP45 pistol in theater during World War II shows the pistol in the waistband of an Asian man in Kunming, China.

In July of 1944, another shipment of 40,000 was delivered in Algiers, Algeria, and some of these guns are known to have made their way to guerilla operations in Greece.

Easily understandable drawings detailed how guerilla forces were to load and unload the original FP-45, along with where to find more bullets.

Easily understandable drawings detailed how guerilla forces were to load and unload the original FP-45, along with where to find more bullets.

THE NUMBER OF FP-45 pistols actually used to fire a shot in anger is a matter of speculation only. Guerillas can’t be faulted for poor record keeping. It’s probably pretty hard to write a report with a Nazi or Japanese patrol hot on your trail. But for most of my adult life I’ve wondered what it was like to shoot an FP-45. If I was a Greek partisan in Thrace, or a Philippine guerilla in Luzon in 1943, could I actually make a one-shot kill with this clumsy-looking gun? I decided to make a replica of the Liberator.

The motto of Vintage Ordnance Co. LLC is “Just like the originals, only better,” and if there was ever an antique gun that could stand to be better, it’s the FP-45. From an engineering and design standpoint, the FP-45 is brilliant. However, in the assembly department it’s often pretty sloppy. Many are quick to call the original guns junk, but I disagree. The original guns were at least as good as they needed to be and probably a little better. By the spring of 1942, the Axis powers had already conquered most of Europe and Asia. There was certainly no time to waste making the FP-45 a masterpiece of fit and finish. It was actually the first mass-produced US military small arm made of spot-welded, sheet-metal stampings. They may not have looked all that great, but apparently they all fired. According to the project managers, every one of the million units built in the summer
of 1942 was test fired for inspection.

In creating the Vintage Ordnance Co. replica, I worked from the original plans and corrected against the actual pistol. The existing plans alone were not enough to build an accurate replica. Inconsistencies between the finished product and the plans were often dissimilar, which was typical due to the urgency of production. Often, design adjustments were made on the factory floor and never recorded on the drawings. Guide Lamp only expected their FP-45 to have a 50-round usable life, which was plenty for its intended purpose. Collectors today would find that unacceptable. The “Better than the originals” objectives of my project centered on using stronger, tighter tolerances, materials, precisely controlled welding and accurate headspace. All of those improvements ensured my reproduction FP-45 was strong and safe to shoot without the built-in expectation of failure that makes firing an original a fool’s errand.

I made the barrel, tube strap (breech ring) and cover slide (breech block) out of 1050 medium-carbon cold-rolled steel for greater strength. It’s the same steel Browning Automatic Rifle receivers were made of. I tightened the chamber tolerances to meet commercial standards and addressed the terrible headspace problems of the original that allowed them to batter themselves apart under repeated firing. Also, my reproduction zinc cocking piece is cast from a denser alloy for greater strength.

Cosmetically, the replicas differed from the originals in a few ways: the reproduction has a rifled barrel and discrete markings to comply with federal law, and hopefully prevent it from being unscrupulously sold as an original antique. I marked the serial number on the front of the grip frame and company information, model and caliber designation on the underside of the barrel behind the trigger guard. All characters are the minimum 1/16 inch high.

In the course of prototype testing, I fired over 100 rounds over numerous sessions. It took a day to recover enough from the pounding this little pistol gave me to go at it again and finish the testing. These marathon firing sessions with high-pressure .45 ACP 230-grain loads were the most unpleasant experience in my 30-plus years of shooting. The recoil is very stout for sure, but it is aggravated by the small grips and the grip angle. In my hand, I found that I had to angle my wrist upward to the limit of its range of motion to get proper sight alignment. I simply can’t hold the pistol tightly enough to prevent it from snapping my wrist back past that limit. I didn’t feel it so much in the first 10 rounds, but it got progressively more painful to shoot the pistol.

Another recoil characteristic was the tendency for the Liberator’s zinc cocking piece to move backward against the spring pressure, causing the point of the guide pin to stick in either the right or left side of the tube strap. This expedites reloading, but I have no reason to believe that it was an intentional design feature. Some ultrafast video recording showed that the cocking piece’s rotation under recoil appeared to be caused by the back of it hitting the shooter’s hand.

Though distributed by the Allied forces in the European and Pacific Theaters, the FP-45 saw rare use, if much at all during the war.

Though distributed by the Allied forces in the European and Pacific Theaters, the FP-45 saw rare use, if much at all during the war.

I SHOT THE PISTOL rested for accuracy at 6 yards and later 20 with results similar to Ralph Hagan’s tests of his original gun including some random
keyholing, which he highlighted in his book The Liberator Pistol: Development, Production, Distribution. I shot two groups at each distance. Sight picture is somewhat obstructed by the guide-pin boss on the cocking piece. The cocking piece was originally designed without it. All bullets were clearly cut with rifling when recovered.

At 6 yards I found the pistol to shoot approximately 9½ to 10 inches above the point of aim and slightly to the right. Both groups were 3¼ minute of angle, which is certainly suitable for the pistol’s intended purpose. With a few practice shots, a partisan or guerilla fighter could easily get a feel for the Kentucky windage required to put the bullet on target. I found that I could consistently burst gallon jugs of water with a one-hand hold before the recoil got the better of me.

At 20 yards, the point of impact was about 30 inches high and groups tripled in size from 8½ to 14½ inches despite my best efforts. This was clearly beyond the useful range of the original weapon, so it comes as no surprise that the replica performed in a similar manner. A target pistol this is not. The FP-45s trigger pull is not conducive to good accuracy. They take a lot of squeeze to move the cocking piece back and get the connector cammed off the sear. I measured it between 10 and 11 pounds.

The FP-45 Liberator is renowned as one of the rarest American martial handguns from WWII.

The FP-45 Liberator is renowned as one of the rarest American martial handguns from WWII.

At a hair over 1 pound, this little pistol packed a powerfully lethal punch. It took two shots to get the hang of it. An inexperienced shooter could certainly master it for closerange work with the 10 bullets provided. I can’t help but imagine that any resistance fighter who may have fought with an FP-45 must have let out a great sigh of relief as he stooped over the motionless body of his adversary, picked up their Mauser or Arizaka rifle and disappeared into the night. ASJ

 

Editor’s note: Author Frank Jardim founded Vintage Ordnance in 2008. For more on the company’s products, go to vintageordnance.com.

Posted in History Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

March 28th, 2018 by Danielle Breteau

Chiappa’s Little Badger Survival Rifle

Review and photographs by Frank Jardim
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The Chiappa Little Badger weighs less than 3 pounds and has an overall expanded length of 31 inches.

 

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The Little Badger is rugged and mechanically simple, just as any perfect survival rifle should be.

I first encountered the Chiappa Little Badger single-shot, I pegged it as a survival rifle. It comes in basic black, either in 22LR or 22WMR, both of which are fine for small game. With an overall length of 31 inches, it is already small, but it also folds over and onto itself, creating an extremely compact triangle about 16.5 inches tall and 8 inches across the base. It weighs less than 3 pounds, making it only slightly heavier than large center-fire pistols.

The Little Badger’s overall design principal is minimalistic. The Chiappa engineers gave the little gun everything it needs but resisted the temptation to load it down with things it didn’t.

For example, it has no foregrip other than four 4-inch pieces of Picatinny tactical rail attached to the flats of the barrel shroud. They form a good gripping surface and give the shooter a place to mount a 4X scope and perhaps a tactical light for hunting nocturnal creatures, like raccoons and opossums. If you mount a scope, the factory offers a horizontal bar you can attach to the grooved thumb portion of the hammer that lets you cock it from either side of the scope. Also, there is no safety other than a half-cock notch on the hammer. A survival rifle should be rugged, and mechanically simple. The Little Badger fits the bill.

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The Little Badger has an exposed hammer and is a break-open-action single-shot with a robust ejector that can lift the spent case halfway out of the chamber. The action is unlocked by pulling back on the finger lever in front of the trigger guard and bending the muzzle down at the hinge.

The factory sights are M1 Carbine-style fixed front with an adjustable rear. The large knob allows for precise click adjustments for windage, and elevation is adjusted using a sliding rear aperture that has six different positions, four of which are numbered, but this slide can easily be pushed out of place if you aren’t careful. The sights, like the rail, ammunition holder and buttplate, are made of plastic, which didn’t appeal to me, but this is not an expensive rifle with an MSRP of $225, and they worked fine. My only concern is that they might not prove durable enough for long-term field use. Then again, my testing was not destructive and these parts might prove fully adequate. The rifle’s receiver, barrel shroud and trigger guard are made of hard zinc alloy. The hammer, trigger, action-release lever, extractor, all the screws and pins, barrel and wire buttstock are made of steel.

The wire buttstock was surprisingly comfortable, and its length and comb height can be adjusted to a limited degree by loosening the screws that hold the left and right sides of the receiver, pulling the upper and lower legs of the stock in or out, and then retightening. I found that my eye naturally lined up with the sights, so I didn’t change a thing.

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A practical feature on this Chiappa is the 12-cartridge holder built into the buttstock. The simple friction-fit slots hold the rounds steady, but is not so tight that the bullets couldn’t be knocked loose if you dropped the rifle on a hard surface or went thrashing through the brush.

During accuracy testing, I shot from a sandbag rest at 25 yards. To get shots on my point of aim, I set the elevation slide to “2.” My best results came from Winchester 22LR, 36-grain, copper-plated hollow points, which turned out an average group size of 1.42 inches and an average velocity of 1,199 feet per second, measured 12 feet from the muzzle. A close second was the Federal Lightning 22LR 40-grain, solid lead bullet, which turned out groups averaging 1.54 inches and an average velocity of 1,204 fps. I experimented by plinking with a mixed bag of loose ammo that I had accumulated over the years and found that the rifle seemed to shoot quite well overall. I started to feel as though I couldn’t miss with it, which I credit to an excellent trigger. This is a survival rifle with a target rifle’s trigger. It breaks crisply at just under 5 pounds. Tin cans, milk jug caps, broken PEZ dispensers and squirrels, beware! There is a new sheriff in town and it is a Little Badger.

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The barrel comes handily threaded at a half inch by 28 threads per inch for a suppressor.

I had a lot of fun shooting this rifle. In the process of evaluating it, I concluded that this is a great rifle to teach youngsters to shoot with. Its small scale and light weight made it easy for them to hold. It is a single shot, which takes a lot of the is-that-magazine-empty anxiety out of the instructional process. Using the round ammo holder in the stock, young students feel they have responsibility for their rounds, and allows you to visually keep track of it so no one ends up having unauthorized ammo for show-and-tell back at school. We all know these days that that will lead to expulsion from school for the student, and potential life imprisonment for you.

In many respects, this rifle is a reincarnation of the old Quackenbush and other youth bicycle rifles. Inexpensive, small, light, collapsible for easy transport and intended for fun wherever a kid’s (or grown-up’s) feet might pedal them, this type of rifle was very popular around 1900. The Little Badger even comes with its own light nylon backpack carrying case, adorned with a Little Badger head. The Chiappa Little Badger is a kid-sized gun that any boy or girl could easily learn to shoot with, and then keep for the rest of their lives. ASJ

Author’s note: You can get more information on this and other Chiappa products at Chiappafirearms.com

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Review and photographs by Frank Jardim

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

February 12th, 2018 by Danielle Breteau

Exclusive interview by Frank Jardim
Caylen Wojcik was a U.S. Marine Corps scout sniper for eight years as a trainer and warrior. He served as the chief sniper in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II, conducting 100 sniper missions until he was seriously wounded during Operation Phantom Fury. He returned to training duties during his recovery and now works in the private sector for Magpul Industries as its director of training of Precision Rifle Operations. He is a man who knows what it’s like to be behind a sniper rifle in battle. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

Frank Jardim You’ve spent a good deal of your life preparing snipers for battle and being a sniper in battle. What do you think is important for people to know about snipers?

Caylen Wojcik It doesn’t take long for commanders to identify the extreme effectiveness and lethality of a well-trained and equipped sniper on the battlefield. I think with the duration of our current conflict that snipers will ultimately benefit, for many years to come, as their effectiveness on the battlefield is solidified, without question. It’s important to understand that not everyone can become a sniper. Snipers aren’t cut from a “sniper cloth,” nor do they magically acquire skills with an application of “sniper dust.” Being a sniper requires more than just marksmanship skills. Snipers are highly intelligent, extremely resourceful, incredibly disciplined and above all, undeniably passionate about the science and art of sniping. Those traits cannot be cultivated. The skills, however, can be cultivated and honed through effective training. It’s important to remember that snipers’ continue to be effective problem solvers on the battlefield.

FJ How do you explain the relative celebrity of present-day snipers compared to those from previous wars, when they remained virtually unknown outside of their units and the shooting community? (I don’t recall anybody making a movie about Carlos Hathcock.)

CW In terms of factual events, the only movie I’ve seen (or know of) about a sniper besides American Sniper is Enemy at the Gates, which was a rendition of the Soviet sniper Vasily Zeytsev, who was a Russian hero of WWII, and was incredibly lethal during the Battle of Stalingrad. Snipers pride themselves on being silent professionals, as their passion for the job is enough for personal satisfaction. Very few snipers, if any, will actively seek out recognition for their accomplishments, as it usually finds them.

FJ Were snipers used as effectively as they could have been in the units you fought with? Did commanders understand how to deploy expert riflemen?

CW Sniper employment is a steep learning curve for both the sniper and the commander, especially if it’s their first time around in combat. Commanders in the past had very little, if any, training in how to employ snipers on the battlefield. Young snipers, learning sniper employment on a fundamental level at the Scout/Sniper Basic Course, need to be excellent communicators of their capabilities and limitations with their supported unit commanders. In my experience, once we got the major bugs worked out and both the commander and sniper understood each other, things went smoothly and effectively. Having been at war for the past 13 years, there are many seasoned commanders and snipers who are passing on those lessons learned to make both sides run more smoothly.

FJ Have the current infantry rifles and training helped or hurt basic combat marksmanship among typical soldiers?

CW I’m not currently on active duty, nor have I been since the Marine Corps adopted the ACOG as their primary sighting device on the service rifle. Several of my peers are now Marine gunners who are directly responsible for the development of that system and they speak highly of the increased average qualification scores. The addition of requiring Marines to qualify on combat marksmanship is also a huge step forward from my time when only known distance rifle qualification was scored. More emphasis on close-quarters marksmanship and weapons manipulation was definitely required to adapt to our modern battlefield. ASJ

Posted in Long Range Tagged with: , , , , , ,

September 13th, 2017 by asjstaff

The Army’s best combat pump shotgun is back: Inland’s reissue of Ithaca’s M37 Trench Gun.

Two top-shelf Ohio-based firearms manufacturers have partnered to bring collectors and shooters a fine reissue – I hesitate to call it a replica – of the vintage U.S. Army Ithaca M37 Trench Gun.

This retro military model is made by the Upper Sandusky-based Ithaca Gun Company for their Dayton neighbor, Inland Manufacturing. The latter is best known for their excellent reproductions of World War II M1 carbines.

The American martial tradition is no stranger to shotguns. Militiamen employed fowling pieces in battle during the Revolutionary War, and the Confederate Cavalry wielded sawed-off shotguns in the Civil War.

It was during World War I that you might say the Army got serious about shotguns. It was, after all, the biggest war they had fought to date. Close combat in the trenches, and especially night fighting, favored the massive firepower of fast-shooting pump shotguns.

Each 00 buckshot round blasted out nine .33 caliber pellets, increasing the chances of a lethal hit on the enemy. WWI trench guns could shoot exceptionally fast because they lacked a trigger disconnector.

This allowed them to fire with every pump of the action as long as the trigger was held back continuously. Today we would regard this as a safety flaw, but to the doughboy standing in an enemy trench in 1918, that extra bit of speed was regarded as an edge.

The Germans hated facing shotguns, and even filed a formal complaint that using shotguns was a violation of the rules of civilized warfare – to no avail. The trench gun was born. While it distinguished itself in battle, the trench gun was by no means a common frontline weapon. Records suggest that fewer than 40,000 were procured during the war, compared to more than 2,500,000 service rifles.


WHAT DISTINGUISHED THE
military trench gun, with its 20-inch barrel and cylinder bore, from the era’s civilian riot gun (what we would today call a tactical shotgun) was the military’s addition of a barrel heat shield, bayonet lug and sling swivels.

The 16-inch M1917 Enfield bayonet could be fitted to the muzzle, and the heat shield on the barrel was added to allow the soldier to safely grip the hot barrel during bayonet fighting. The riot gun was made for civilian troubles and the trench gun for war.

In WWI, civilian riot versions of Winchester Models 1897 and 1912 and the Remington Model 10 were modified as trench guns. In WWII, shotguns from quite a few other manufacturers were procured to meet the pressing needs of a much bigger war.

The standard models were all pump action: the Winchester M12 and M31, Remington M31, Stevens M520, and rarest of all (with less than 1,500 produced), the Ithaca M37. Still, it wasn’t enough, and the venerable Winchester M97 joined other pump and even semiauto models from Stevens, Savage and Remington to arm American soldiers for rear-area guard duty and combat action on the front lines.

Since these weapons were obtained directly from civilian manufacturers, they were usually finished in the same blued steel as civilian models. Combat use of the shotgun in WWII was largely a Pacific Theater affair, where the dense jungles and close-range encounters favored its strengths. Both United States Marine Corps and Army infantry units equipped the point man of patrols with a trench gun, and Marine units institutional memory of the trench gun’s role in fighting the Japanese in the jungles in WWII was carried over into our next jungle war against the Communist forces in Vietnam 20 years later.

By the mid 1960s, military stocks of trench guns and their M1917 bayonets were running low and new contracts were let for both. The guns came from Stevens (M77E), Ithaca (M37) and Winchester (Models 1200 and 870). The majority of these new shotguns were in the riot configuration. Trench guns from the Vietnam era are quite rare.

Those Ithaca M37 trench guns that were delivered were virtually identical to the WWII model, differing in their markings and their parkerized finish. The Stevens M77E was the most commonly issued shotgun in the Vietnam era, followed by the Ithaca M37.

THE MODEL 37 WAS BASED on John Moses Browning’s improvements of an old Remington design when Ithaca introduced it in 1937. It was a fine sporting shotgun, and proved to be an excellent combat shotgun.

It was the lightest shotgun in the American arsenal, at least a pound less than its peers, with the exception of the graceful Winchester M12, which was still half a pound heavier. The M37 was a couple lighter than the old M97.

Despite being light, it was very strong and well suited to the battlefield. The top and sides of the Model 37 receiver have no openings, so the action is much easier to keep clean because nothing can fall into it from above. Because it loads and ejects from the bottom, it was essentially ambidextrous.

It was also exceptionally strong. The inverted “U” design of the receiver protected the shooter from injury in the event of a case rupture and the barrel attached to the milled steel receiver by means of an interrupted thread like a cannon breech.

They were built to last generations, and can take a beating better than any other pump shotgun. In fact, the huge Los Angeles and New York City Police Departments eventually adopted this model for use.

During the Vietnam War, the Ithaca M37’s performance and reliability earned it the reputation for being the best combat shotgun in the Army’s arsenal.

INLAND MANUFACTURING’S reissue of the M37 trench gun has all the quality and ambiance of an original gun without the multithousand dollar price tag. Since it is actually made by Ithaca, the quality of manufacture is superb. Collectors of martial shotguns should not sweat buckshot worrying that these trench guns will be passed off as originals.

Though they are marked “RLB” with an Ordnance Corps flaming bomb on
the left side of the receiver like WWII era trench guns, the marks are not stamped in the metal like the originals are. Furthermore, the guns are marked with Inland’s name on the receiver and other historically incongruous laser engravings on the barrel indicating manufacture in Lower Sandusky, Ohio. Other differences include a 3-inch chamber instead of 2¾-inch, and, perhaps the most obvious marking never encountered on a vintage gun – the admonition “READ OWNERS MANUAL.”

As if that isn’t enough, you should know by now that WWII-era trench guns were blued, not parkerized. I guess an unscrupulous seller might change the barrel and claim this was a WWII-era M37 refurbished for use in Vietnam, but they can’t get around those receiver markings without a lot of metal work.

The reissue’s stocks are natural oiled walnut like the original military guns. The heat shield, brass front sight bead and bayonet lug look great too. I tested an original M1917 bayonet and it was a perfect fit. The slide release is on the right front side of the trigger guard. Unlike a Remington 870 or Mossberg 500, it requires very little motion to actuate.

The safety is a sliding push button type at the rear of the trigger guard. The action is smooth and solid with no ricketiness in it. In fact, the whole gun feels immensely solid. It weighs only 6 pounds, 11 ounces, but it feels like you could butt stroke an enemy senseless with it. Unlike the original gun, it will not fire continuously if pumped while the trigger is held back. Surely you had to see that coming.

Shooting the M37, you do sense its light weight in the felt recoil. The butt plate is just thin hard rubber so your shoulder gets it all. The 2¾-inch Winchester Super X and Federal Premium 00 buckshot I tested recorded average velocities of 1,242 feet per second and 1,243 fps, respectively, out of the M37’s 20-inch barrel. (Both were advertised at 1,325 fps.) The Federal Premium was much more consistent in shot to shot velocity with a standard deviation of 17 to Winchester’s 89.

Velocity was recorded at 15 feet from the muzzle with an excellent and very reasonably priced Competition Electronics PRO CHRONO digital chronograph I got from Brownell’s to replace the one I foolishly loaned to a friend who, unbeknownst to me, turned out to be a cold-blooded killer of chronographs. This one I’m keeping close hold on.

I SHOT MY TEST PATTERNS standing, offhand, at 25 yards, a range I thought would reasonably simulate a jungle encounter based on my limited experience hiking Bataan Peninsula jungle trails in the Philippine Islands.

I shot five-round test strings. That is actually all the M37 can hold if you fill the magazine and put one in the chamber. The early 1940s was not the era of high-capacity shotgun magazines. When you consider that the military rifles used by most nations at that time typically held only five rounds, a five-shot trench gun doesn’t seem that bad.

I chose standard 2¾-inch, nine-pellet loads to simulate the old brass cased military M19 loads used before plastic shells became common in the 1960s. My target was 22 inches wide by 25 inches high with a 3-inch aiming point. The cylinder bore (no choke of any kind) threw lethal patterns every time, but rarely did all nine pellets hit the target every time.

The Winchester Super X put 34 out of 45 pellets (75 percent) on the target. The Federal Premium put 37 of 45 pellets (82 percent) on the target. Both loads shot about 9 inches above the point of aim. The Winchester load seemed to pattern a bit more random than the Federal Premium, but, aimed at the enemy’s belt buckle, both would deliver devastating multiple hits to the upper body. As for the pellets that didn’t hit my generously wide 22-inch sheet, they could easily have hit another enemy soldier.

Broad patterns can cause collateral damage in a civilian encounter, but in wartime the ability to hit multiple targets with a single round is a good thing. While I see Inland’s M37 Trench Gun as aimed for the collector and historic military reenactor market, you wouldn’t be underarmed using it for personal defense. If they could fight their way through a few major wars, they’ll undoubtedly do fine after the EMP apocalypse.

The M37 shoots well, is virtually foolproof, and that 3-inch chamber opens up a lot of modern lethal and nonlethal load options. If short 12-gauge rounds will feed reliably, that might be one way to increase the M37’s magazine capacity. I know these mini-shells are made by Aguila, Herter’s and Nobel Sport, but could not get any in time to test the gun for this article.

If the M37 has a flaw, it is that in its trench gun configuration, it can’t be taken down without a screwdriver. The heat shield needs to be removed before the barrel can be rotated the necessary ¼ turn to dismount. In addition, you can’t take apart the receiver of any M37 without a long straight screwdriver to remove the bolt that holds the butt stock on.

That bolt is inside the buttstock, accessible only after removing the buttplate. On the upside, you don’t really need to take it apart to clean it. The only dirt you’re likely to get in it is some carbon from your smoking shells as they are ejected.

By design, it is a clean action. The online advertised retail price
for this top quality reissue of the M37 Trench Gun is about $1,200. That might seem like a lot to some. It’s more than your typical used civilian Ithaca Model 37, but thousands less than any M37 Trench Gun. One thing is unmistakable when you handle and shoot it. It is made as well as any gun can be made, and your great grandchildren will still be shooting it. For more info, visit inland-mfg.com or call them at (877) 425-4867.

Story and photos by Frank Jardim

Posted in Shotgun Tagged with: ,

May 13th, 2017 by asjstaff

The Civilian Marksmanship Program is currently leading a renaissance in firearms precision and accuracy with a massive new instructional range facility and more than a thousand sanctioned matches each year.

STORY BY FRANK JARDIM • PHOTOS BY TIM HEADY

The acronym CMP stands for Civilian Marksmanship Program, and if it sounds familiar, that’s because it’s been around for 114 years. Once a government-funded program administered by the U.S. Army, it was reformed as a private, self-supporting, nonprofit in 1996. Its core mission is instructing the citizenry, and particularly the nation’s youth, in the principles of safe firearms handing and cultivating the knowledge and skills required for precision shooting.

The Talladega Marksmanship Park is equally impressive from the air. (CMP)

A marker explains why an Army camp is named after a Navy man.

Great shooting requires practice, and the CMP promotes that through their support of 5,000 local affiliated shooting clubs and state organizations that run CMP-sanctioned courses and competitive shooting matches across the country. That amounts to over 1,400 sanctioned matches a year attended by more than 10,000 shooters. The CMP codified the competition rules and trains and certifies the range officers who run the matches. They also train and certify master instructors who teach thousands of new shooters each year using CMP course materials in more than 100 sponsored clinics nationwide.

Through their online Competition Tracker system, they maintain the match scores for every shooter in every CMP competition, as well as a listing of all upcoming matches, making it easy for shooters to find out when and where they can compete, register for those matches, and track their progress up to the national level.

Reflecting its military roots, high-power military service rifle and service pistol competitions have always been a major component of the CMP. However, they are by no means the whole show. To paraphrase the American poet Walt Whitman, “The CMP is large. It contains multitudes.” Today, its 30 instructional and competitive programs also include air and .22 rimfire pistols and rifles.

A closer look at the Kongsberg Target System.

AN EMPHASIS ON PRECISION marksmanship is the common element is all CMP matches. These are not running-and-gunning, action-style, three-gun, speed or steel matches. CMP competitors shoot traditional bull’s-eye targets at specific distances from established positions (prone, sitting, kneeling and standing), usually with iron sights. Sometimes rifle shooters can use a sling.

Not to diminish the challenges of other shooting sports, which often pose a high level of difficulty in other methods and techniques, but the CMP fosters in its competitors
a great deal of personal discipline and technical knowledge.

Competitors prepping their gear before going to the ready line.

A Kentucky Junior Service Rifle competitor competes in a local CMP match.

The CMP high-power rifle competition, for example, with its 200-, 300- and 600-yard stages, allows shooters the chance to develop their understanding of some of the most difficult (and interesting) technical aspects of shooting. To put the bullet in the X ring, the shooter needs to understand trajectory, adjust the sights for the bullet’s drop, evaluate the wind speed and direction to calculate the required amount of windage compensation, and deal with any heat mirage that may blur the view of the distant target.

The view from the rear of the ready line during a USAMU rifle class at Camp Perry.

Akin to the “World Series” of shooting sports, the CMP holds their National Matches every summer at Camp Perry, Ohio. Bordering Lake Erie, the Camp Perry ranges are considered by many to be the largest and best in the county. Among the 6,000 participants from all the CMP disciplines, you will always find America’s finest military and civilian marksmen.

The National Matches, a tradition at Camp Perry since 1907, also include top quality training seminars for novice and advanced shooters. A newcomer to competitive shooting could attend a one- or two-day CMP– USAMU (U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit) Small Arms Firing School for rifle or pistol (or both) and learn the basics of firearms safety and marksmanship on the spot.

I HAD THE CHANCE TO TALK with CMP’s Mark Johnson to get the scoop on what accomplishments he was most excited about this year. Johnson is not the type of chief operating officer to sit behind a desk all day, evidenced by the fact that we talked by phone as he was driving back from a CMP competition in Oklahoma.

A shooter rolling with the recoil of his service rifle.

While he paid respectful homage to the National Matches, which he refers to as the CMP’s “crowning jewel,” it was the growth and success of the Junior Air Rifle Camp that he seemed to find most exhilarating. These weeklong summer camps are held around the country with a goal to teach 9- to 12-year-olds safety and marksmanship lessons of universal value. Participants bring their own equipment and the fee is a nominal $285 per youth and $50 for their adult coach. As of this writing, 14 of the 16 camps are already full.

You might be surprised to learn that the most popular competitive shooting sport among precollege boys and girls is three-position air rifle shooting. Its growth shows no sign of slowing down, so this particular competition is helping to develop our next generation of marksmen.

The U.S. Army Mobile Ordnance Maintenance truck stands by to service military and civilian competitor rifles.

But just because kids love it doesn’t make it a kid’s sport. The 10-meter, three-position (prone, kneeling and standing) competition is also an international sport and an Olympic event. In fact, those Junior Air Rifle camps that Johnson is so proud of boast multiple Olympian alumni, and two medalists, including 2016 Gold Medal winner Ginny Thrasher (see American Shooting Journal, September 2016).

The CMP actually sanctions two classes of air rifle competitions for juniors that differ only in the equipment needed. Sporting Air Rifle competition uses basic target rifles that cost $105 to $525 and requires no specialized shooting clothing. Precision Air Rifle uses Olympicgrade guns that cost $850 to $1,275 and require the full complement of target shooting clothes and accessories. By the way, those prices are from the CMP online store and represent a discounted cost only available for qualified club members.

Apparently, kids are having some success convincing their parents to let them give the less costly Sporting Air Rifle a try (or perhaps it’s the other way around), as it has become a major entry point into competitive shooting for them. Three-Position Air Rifle can be a life-long hobby and college students can compete in NCAA matches or via Junior ROTC programs as well.

Many competitors continue to use the rifle designed by the namesake of the Talladega Marksmanship Park range, John Garand

Another thing Johnson was really proud of was the CMP’s new Talladega Marksmanship Park in Talladega, Alabama. This is the third, and by far the largest, modern instructional range facility they have constructed, and it is the most technologically advanced in the world. The two others are 80-port indoor air rifle ranges at their Camp Perry, Ohio, and Anniston, Alabama, locations, where they also operate retail stores.

THE NEW MARKSMANSHIP PARK is huge, covering 500 acres, with rifle, pistol and shotgun ranges. At maximum capacity it could accommodate 3,000 shooters at once, and transportation around the ranges is provided.

The facility includes a 13,000-square-foot clubhouse with classrooms, lounge, and a Creedmoor Sports Pro Shop. Inside, visitors can follow the progress of competitors on monitors if the Alabama heat or humidity gets to be too much for them.

The park has an amazing combination 200-, 300- and 600yard rifle ranges, a 100-yard multipurpose range and a 50-yard pistol range, all equipped with state of the art Kongsberg Target System (KTS) electronic targets and scoring monitors which detect, record and display every round the shooter fires. This means you can maximize your shooting practice time because you don’t ever have to leave the firing line to change targets. You don’t even need a spotting scope. And, for fans of shotgun sports, there are trap, sporting clays and five-stand courses.

The facility plays host to the whole gamut of CMP Games and matches, including the popular GSM (Garand, Springfield, Vintage Military) matches where shooters use as-issued historic rifles. The CMP knows there’s more to shooting than just the black bull’s-eyes, so you’ll also find a wide variety of popular action shooting sports like 3-Gun, Steel Challenge and IDPA. Even better, Marksmanship Park is open to the public and charges only $20 to shoot all day.

Over the years, the CMP had often made surplus military rifles and ammunition available to qualified club members at reasonable prices. In fact, if you have ever heard that you could get a surplus M1 Garand rifle directly from the government, that’s part of the CMP program. At this point, however, virtually all of those M1 rifles and carbines, M1903 Springfield and M1917 Enfield rifles are sold out.

The good news is the profits from the sale of those historic rifles funded an endowment that will keep the CMP in operation, training new generations of marksman, for the foreseeable future.

In light of the recent shift in political control since the last election, I asked Johnson if there might be some possibility of more M1 rifles turning up. He told me that had I asked that question six months ago, the answer would be no. But since then, one of the last great stockpiles of M1s, currently held by the Philippine government, just might be making its way home from the islands.

So keep your fingers crossed, and get yourself involved with the CMPaffiliated club in your area. Only qualified club members will be able to buy these rifles should they become available. “How do I qualify,” you ask? It’s very simple. Just join a CMPaffiliated club and shot in a CMPsanctioned match.

There are plenty of targets at the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s new Marksmanship Park in Talladega, Alabama, and each shooting bay is equipped with state-of-the-art Kongsberg Target System (KTS) electronic targets and scoring monitors which detect, record and display every round the shooter fires. (CMP)

You can find vast amounts of additional information about the CMP and its great programs when you visit TheCMP.org. ASJ

Posted in Training Tagged with: , , , ,

December 3rd, 2016 by asjstaff

The Operator Model tactical brass recovery system from TBR really works.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY FRANK JARDIM 

The hinged anodized aluminum frame provides a rigid mounting point to attach the unit to the rifle and support the bag.

The hinged anodized aluminum frame provides a rigid mounting point to attach the unit to the rifle and support the bag.

Lew Grasser is a Marine Corps veteran who owns and operates Tactical Brass Recovery (TBR) in New Salisbury, Ind. He’s spent a lot of time watching spent cases eject from AR-platform rifles, AK-47s, SCARs and even TAVOR bullpups and tactical shotguns. He has tested scores of rifles and ammunition types and recorded the results, noting what is consistent, what is variable and what is bizarrely rare. He’s even made high-speed video recordings of ejecting cases so he can study their movements in slow motion.

Lew Grasser tested scores of rifles and ammunition types before he developed the Tactical Brass Catcher.

Lew Grasser tested scores of rifles and ammunition types before he developed the Tactical Brass Catcher.

He’s done all this research to design and build the brass catcher he wished he had during his active-duty days. The TBR Operator Model is the culmination of years of research and experimentation, and is far and away the best designed and most practical brass catcher I have ever seen.

The Operator Model retails for $220, which may seem like a lot of money. However, in testing I found its features were exceptional. For one thing, it actually catches the brass. I don’t mean some of the brass. I mean it catches all of the brass, and not just a magazine’s worth. The bag capacity is 150 5.56mm cases or 75 7.62x51mm cases. In addition, it not only catches the spent cases, but also holds them captive in the lower part of the bag, keeping them out of the action where they could cause a jam. The top of the catcher is designed with enough depth to prevent the newly ejected case from bouncing right back into the rifle’s action. It also has an inner fabric curtain that effectively prevents the brass in the bag from slipping out the way it came in, even if the rifle is tilted or manipulated on the run.

AS THE NAME SUGGESTS, military and law enforcement applications were foremost in Grasser’s mind during product development. The unit is light but exceptionally rugged. The hinged, ⅛-inch-thick anodized aluminum frame serves as the rigid mounting point to attach the unit to the rifle and support the bag. The bag itself is made of heavy canvas that won’t melt like nylon bags. It has a zipper in the bottom to empty it.

The unit mounts to the front handguard on the right Picatinny rail section via an American Defense-made quick-release throw-lever.

The unit mounts to the front handguard on the right Picatinny rail section via an American Defense-made quick-release throw-lever.

The bag comes in 16 colors, including most common modern camouflage schemes. Laser-cut ABS plastic parts support and reinforce the bag and mate it closely to the receiver. The fit is close, but it doesn’t come in contact with your rifle’s receiver very much, and the ABS plastic is much less likely to damage the finish where it does. The whole device is rigid, yet flexible. If you were to fall and mash this catcher between your rifle and a hard place, there’s enough give in the aluminum and plastic components that isn’t likely to damage, or even scratch, anything. The unit is assembled with 18-8 stainless-steel button head screws and nyloc locking nuts. It weighs only 12 ounces.

It mounts to the front handguard on the right Picatinny rail section via an American Defense-made quick-release throw-lever. It locks securely and won’t come loose unless you press the release bar in the lever and rotate it 180 degrees. You can take it on and off in less than a second. Once on, the catcher is held in place with a five-position, tensioned, ball-detent locking hinge of Grasser’s own design. This might seem like overkill, but it conveniently allows for a choice of positions to facilitate storage of the weapons equipped with the bag in vehicles, racks or cabinets.

The honeycomb pattern atop the unit provides strength and rigidity while allowing a clear view of the action and chamber at all times.

The honeycomb pattern atop the unit provides strength and rigidity while allowing a clear view of the action and chamber at all times.

TO USE THE BAG, you pivot it against the receiver and fold up the plastic top of the bag so the scissor arms on each side are fully extended. The tension on the elbow of the scissor arms comes from a nyloc nut. I expect that as the joint wears, it would be a simple thing to tighten it up with a partial twist of that nut. It is elegant in its simplicity. I was able to keep my ejection port cover closed with the Operator Model attached; but whether you can or can’t do the same will depend on your handguard.

Bag capacity is 150 5.56mm cases or 75 7.62x51mm cases.

Bag capacity is 150 5.56mm cases or 75 7.62x51mm cases.

The ABS plastic top of the brass catcher is cut with a honeycomb pattern to provide strength and rigidity while allowing the shooter (or range officer) a clear view of the action and chamber at all times while the catcher is in place. An important added benefit of this honeycombed lid is that gases from firing are continuously vented up and out of the bag. A solid bag or box would capture the gases and force them to vent back into the action and along the side of the receiver where they could get into the shooter’s face and optics.

The virtue of a product that actually delivers on its promises should appeal to you, whether you are a Special Response Team officer who doesn’t want his team members falling on his fired cases during a hot building entry, a competitive shooter, or a reloader who simply wants to recover all your brass.

For more information, you can visit the TBR website at TacticalBrassRecovery.com, e-mail contact_us@tacticalbrassrecovery.com or call (502) 716-8405. ASJ

Bag capacity is 150 5.56mm cases or 75 7.62x51mm cases.

Bag capacity is 150 5.56mm cases or 75 7.62x51mm cases.

 

Posted in Gear Tagged with: , , , ,

November 16th, 2016 by asjstaff

For more than 50 years, Triple K has been a ‘go-to’ manufacturer for American-made magazines, grips and leather products.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY FRANK JARDIM

Scores of firearms-related businesses have come and gone, but family-owned Triple K has produced their American-made core product line for more than 50 years.

Many shooters know the California-based company for their popular civilian and police holsters and leather equipment, and gun collectors worldwide know them as the first, best and often only source of replacement magazines for vintage autoloading pistols and rifles.

More recently, they’ve developed an equally solid reputation for reproduction rubber and wood grips and buttplates for all manner of historic handguns and shotguns. The company’s slogan is “If it’s rare, obscure or collectable, Triple K has you covered,” and they truly do. I called them once for magazine for a century-old Belgian Bayard pocket auto. Not only did they have it in stock, company president Kurt Krasne knew the part number by heart.

A Triple K employee creates one of the company’s leather holster products at the factory in San Diego, Calif.

A Triple K employee creates one of the company’s leather holster products at the factory in San Diego, Calif.

HIS FATHER, JERRY KRASNE, CREATED Triple K in 1963, and named it after his children – Kim, Kurt and Karen. In 1946, Jerry’s father and grandfather had started a family department store that sold inexpensive men’s clothing and World War II military surplus, and Triple K was originally an offshoot of that business. Jerry graduated from Stanford with a BA in economics and joined the business in 1952. He expanded the store to include firearms and sporting goods. They were increasingly successful, but Jerry recognized there were bigger business opportunities outside their local retail market in manufacturing.

The early 1960s were the heyday for the importation of collectible firearms, and Jerry saw barrels of otherwise great World War I-era Spanish Ruby automatic pistols coming into the country that were virtually unmarketable for lack of magazines. He decided to get into the magazine manufacturing business and sought out the skilled workmen and machinery he needed to do it.

The first magazines he manufactured included models for Beretta 1934, Browning 1910, and Walther Model 4, and he sold them from a one-page catalog sheet. Today, Triple K makes and stocks about 1,100 different magazines, and continues to seek out vintage pistols so they can reverse engineer the magazine and add it to their line. They have produced over a million magazines and are the largest maker of obsolete magazines in the world.

Triple K’s next major product line was leather cowboy holsters and gunbelts. At the time, the Western was the most popular film genre in America and it seemed like a good idea to feed the market Hollywood had created for buscadero rigs. Jerry bought a single sewing machine and hired a man to run it, and gradually acquired more equipment and know-how by buying out closing businesses. The family department store also had a lot of police customers from the local station on their street, and soon Triple K was manufacturing all types of leather duty holsters and equipment for law enforcement.

This pair of replacement grips for a vintage Colt pistol is one of thousands available from Triple K.

This pair of replacement grips for a vintage Colt pistol is one of thousands available from Triple K.

ALL OF TRIPLE K’S LEATHER PRODUCTS begin as 100-percent American vegetable-tanned leather hides, which are inspected and laid out by hand on pneumatic presses for die cutting, then dyed, and sewn into holsters, belts, slings, saddle bags, cartridge belts, ammo pouches, shooting bags, concealed carry purses, rifle scabbards, handcuff cases, baton carriers, and dozens of other finished leather products for shipment to distributors worldwide. They offer most leather products in walnut oil (brown), plain (natural), and black finishes, and in plain or basket-weave pattern.

Not only do they still make those low-slung cowboy-movie buscadero rigs, but they also make a replica of the holster worn by Han Solo in the Star Wars movie franchise. You won’t find that one in their catalog, though; it’s one of many private-label leather products they manufacture for many other retailers, including Cabela’s.

In 2013, Triple K acquired Vintage Gun Grip Industries Inc., a Florida company that specialized in reproduction grips for collectible firearms. Vintage had even more grips products than Triple K had magazines. Each grip set is hand-poured and cast from precise molds made from the thousands of original historic grips in their reference collection. Need a set of black hard-rubber grips for your 1892 Colt New Army Revolver, Frommer Liliput, M1934 Beretta, or Remington .41 rimfire double derringer? Triple K will make them for you, and if you need the screw hardware, they can sell you that too. Screw hardware cost between $5 and $16.

Most grip sets cost $34, which represents the labor to make them more than the material. Many are in stock, but if they have to pull out the molds, it will take a couple days to get them poured, cured, sanded, cleaned and shipped to you. Be patient. You could not do it yourself for less or any faster.

MANUFACTURING BUSINESSES don’t typically run three distinctly different operations, but Triple K is far from typical. For founder Jerry Krasne, the business was simply an extension of his hobby, and to this day the company mirrors his passion for gun collecting, shooting and hunting. In order to make a magazine properly, you need to have the gun it fits into, so Jerry sought out examples of every vintage autoloading pistol in existence and created one of the largest and most varied reference gun collections in private hands.

Eventually, he started recording information on the weapons, along with excellent line drawing, and published them in The Triple K Encyclopedia & Reference Guide For Auto Loading Guns. Now in its 16th edition, it remains a key reference guide for collectors. Looking through the book, it is nothing short of astonishing to realize that Triple-K makes magazines for virtually every pistol and rifle in it.

Kurt, Kasey and Jerry Krasne represent three generations of Triple K.

Kurt, Kasey and Jerry Krasne represent three generations of Triple K.

Magazines vary in cost but generally run around $38 to $44 for the rarer vintage guns. These are usually made up in runs of 40 to 50 magazines and stamped from laser-cut blanks, which are then hand-welded. I asked how many years it would take to sell 50 1910 Izarra magazines, and Kurt informed me that sometimes he is quite surprised at how quickly what seems like a lifetime supply is depleted. They will sell one or two now and then, and out of the blue collectors can start ordering five at a time and then the company has to make more. Fortunately, their manufacturing process is now so refined they can quickly set up the tooling to efficiently make small runs.

Magazines for more common guns generally cost less because they make a lot more of them and use more efficient production methods, like fine blanking and automatic welding. For example, a standard magazine for the 1911 Colt is $16 and $30 for the German P08 Luger. Triple K also has magazines for weapons still in current production (for example, Glock, SIG, Beretta, Smith & Wesson, AR-15 and AK-47). They stock no fewer than 17 different magazines for .45 ACP Colt 1911s.

For more information, visit triplek.com, or call (619) 232-2066. ASJ

Posted in Industry Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

October 1st, 2016 by asjstaff

The M240 SLR from Ohio Ordnance Works is an excellent replica of the M240 light machine gun, and it is a pleasure to shoot.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY FRANK JARDIM

Variants of the M240 general-purpose light machine gun may have earned a reputation for ruggedness and reliability on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, but this 7.62x51mm NATO belt-fed beauty has provided U.S. Army and Marine Corps infantryman with hard-hitting firepower since the 1990s. And, although the weapon is heavier and more complicated than the Vietnam-era M60-series light machine guns it replaced, those drawbacks are far outweighed by the simple fact that it works much better.

In the “up” position, the M240 SLR’s ladder rear sight provides graduations up to 1,800 meters, or nearly 2,000 yards. Also seen in this view are the gun’s cocking handle and safety.

In the “up” position, the M240 SLR’s ladder rear sight provides graduations up to 1,800 meters, or nearly 2,000 yards. Also seen in this view are the gun’s cocking handle and safety.

The M240 was designed in the 1950s, and manufactured by Fabrique Nationale (FN) for the Belgian military as the FN MAG 58. It was eventually adopted by the armed forces of Britain, Canada, Australia and many other nations. Rather than sheet metal stampings, its receiver is made of heavy machined steel components riveted together like vintage Browning machine guns of the previous century, such as the M1919 series light machine gun and M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun.

The United States military first took an interest in the weapon as a coaxial machine gun for tanks in the 1970s. It was very successful and proliferated on various vehicle mounts through the 1980s before it was employed in a ground role.

BOB LANDIES of Ohio Ordnance Works (OOW) in Chardon, Ohio, outside of Cleveland, specialized in making semiautomatic versions of historic American machine guns like the Browning Automatic Rifle and M1917 water-cooled heavy machine gun for collectors. So when the M240 was seeing heavy use in ground combat against Iraqi troops and later al-Qaeda insurgents, Landies hatched the idea of making a semiautomatic version to satisfy shooters in the military collector market. Following a year of design and development work, OOW patented the M240 SLR (Self Loading Rifle).

There’s nothing about the military’s FN gun that’s cheap, and the same holds true with its replica. That’s reflected in its $13,917 retail price. But before you have an aneurism, consider that you can’t own a real military full-auto M240 because there are virtually none for sale to civilian collectors. The closest thing to it would be a vintage original FN MAG 58, but that gun looks different and is going to start at $100,000 anyway. So, if you must have a shooting replica of the iconic, battle-proven M240 light machine gun in your collection, you’re already shopping in the luxury gun market.

The front sight blade is narrow, so it doesn’t obscure the target and allows for precise aiming.

The front sight blade is narrow, so it doesn’t obscure the target and allows for precise aiming.

The Ohio Ordnance Works model will live up to expectations. It comes in a custom hard case, and the color instruction manual is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Be warned, this gun is addictively fun to shoot. However, if you have the coin to buy it, you can probably spring for the ammo and other accessories without too much financial strain.

There hasn’t been any good bargain military surplus 7.62mm NATO around in a long time, but relatively cheap, steel-cased, berdan-primed offerings from Russian makers Tula, Bear and Wolf can be had for as low as 37 cents a round in 500-round cases. Brass-cased, boxer-primed Winchester or Federal ammo sells in bulk for 75 to 85 cents a round in the typical military 147-grain FMJ load.

Each M240 SLR comes with 5,000 M-13 disintegrating links, which ought to be a lifetime supply for the average shooter, assuming you take a minute or two to recover them off the range with an old speaker magnet after you shoot. Making up your belts can be done by hand while watching TV, but it is faster and easier on the hands to use a special tray-like belt linker that loads 20 rounds at a time. Expect to pay around $200 for one of these, but the time saved will be well worth the price, and OOW makes a very nice aluminum belt loader for $225.

 

After opening the top cover (left), you load the M240 SLR by pushing the belt into the feed tray from the left side of the receiver until it hits the built-in stops.

After opening the top cover (left), you load the M240 SLR by pushing the belt into the feed tray from the left side of the receiver until it hits the built-in stops.

WITH A FEW 250-ROUND belts loaded up, I headed to Knob Creek Range in West Point, Ky., southwest of Louisville, to test out the M240 SLR at various ranges out to 300 yards using the built-in bipod and excellent iron sights. When the ladder rear sight is folded down, you aim through an aperture machined onto the back of it with settings up to 800 meters. Beyond that distance you can flip the ladder up and there are graduations up to 1,800 meters.

When the ladder is up, the rear sight changes to an open “U” notch machined into the ladder slide. The front sight blade is quite narrow, which I liked because it didn’t obscure my target and allowed for more precise aiming. All of your elevation and windage adjustments to zero the rifle are done from the front sight, and once you lock it in place, it stays in place.

The manufacturer warns that the rifle should never be cocked while the safety is on because it can seriously damage the trigger group. Because of that warning, I didn’t load the gun until I was on my belly ready to fire, and I kept the safety off except when I had to interrupt firing to take notes.1610-ordnance-04a

To load the rifle, you depress the two knurled tabs on either side of the rear of the receiver top cover to open it, and push the belt into the feed tray from the left side of the receiver until it hits the built-in stops. You hold the first round of the belt against the stops with your left hand while your right hand pushes the cover down, snapping it into place and securing the belt in the action.

Once you’ve done this, you can pick the rifle up and shoot from other positions and on the move and the belt won’t fall out. Be careful to keep the belted ammo clean. Don’t drag it on the ground behind you as you shoot and move.

The rifle’s integral bipod is made of heavy welded stampings. It’s very steady, and locks solidly under the gas system when not in use. Since the rifle weighs nearly 27 pounds (a couple pounds heavier than the old M60), I used the bipod for all my testing. The broad curved buttplate sits easily on top of your shoulder when shooting prone. I grabbed the wrist of the buttstock with my off hand to hold it firmly against my shoulder.

Past experience with belt-feds taught me that the barrel gets very hot, very fast, and I didn’t want any part of my body to touch it. The barrel assembly has a foregrip in the form of a built-in lower handguard with a strip of Picatinny rail solidly screwed on the left and right side and a snap-on ventilated heat shield on the top.

The M240 SLR also features a threaded quick release barrel.

The M240 SLR also features a threaded quick release barrel.

A rugged carrying handle is built into the barrel assembly, and it folds down so it doesn’t obstruct the sights. Like the military full-auto M240, this semiauto version has a quickchange barrel. To remove the barrel, grasp the carrying handle and depress the small lever underneath it while rotating it into the vertical position. This unlocks the interrupted threads that secure it in the trunnion, and allows the whole assembly to slide forward off the gun for cleaning.

This should go without saying, but when picking up the rifle by its carrying handle, don’t touch that little lever! If you do, you may embarrass yourself by dropping the rear two-thirds of the rifle on the ground in midstride. A blunder like that could take years to live down.

The barrel assembly has Picatinny rails solidly screwed on the left and right (shown here) side, and a snap-on ventilated heat shield on the top.

The barrel assembly has Picatinny rails solidly screwed on the left and right (shown here) side, and a snap-on ventilated heat shield on the top.

AS WITH ANY BELT FED GUN, there’s lots going on mechanically, and you can feel all those moving parts doing their thing while you’re shooting. Cases eject from the bottom directly below the action, and the links are tossed about 10 inches to the right in nice piles. And recoil is mild enough that my 8-year-old son had no issues shooting the M240 SLR.

Unlike the full-auto version, the semiauto fires from a closed bolt, and I expected that this would improve accuracy. To evaluate its capabilities, I tested Black Hills Gold .308 Win Match loaded with 155-grain Hornady A-Max bullets, white box Winchester 7.62 x 51mm loaded with 147-grain FMJ bullets and Federal American Eagle .308 Win. loaded with 150-grain FMJ boat-tail bullets.

The author thoroughly enjoyed testing the SLR in the field.

The author thoroughly enjoyed testing the SLR in the field.

I fired three five-shot groups, each at 100 yards from the prone position using the bipod. The Black Hills match lived up to its reputation and produced an average group size of 2.83 inches, with the best group being 2.44 inches. This was despite the plastic tips getting ripped off some of the bullets during the chambering operation.

The M240 was tested using rounds from Winchester, American Eagle and Black Hills.

The M240 was tested using rounds from Winchester, American Eagle and Black Hills.

The Federal load averaged 3.10 inches, with the best group being 2.69 inches. Winchester followed closely behind with a 3.33-inch average, and the best group again being 2.69 inches.

Though I didn’t shoot as well as I could have (I was having a problem with my contact lenses drying on my eyes), that’s still some decent shooting with open sights. The rifle was better than I was that day, and is surely capable of more. It has a Picatinny rail machined into the top cover where the military customarily mounts optics. If I had the right scope, I bet I could have gotten the minute-of-angle performance others have found the rifles to produce.

You can see some great video clips and get more info about the M240 SLR and related accoutrements on the OOW website at ohioordnanceworks.com or call them at (440) 285-3481. ASJ

The Ohio Ordnance Works M240 SLR replica will live up to your expectations.

The Ohio Ordnance Works M240 SLR replica will live up to your expectations.

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , ,

September 30th, 2016 by asjstaff

The Century Arms UC-9 Carbine remains a popular semiauto version of the classic Uzi.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY FRANK JARDIM

The classic Uzi 9mm submachine gun was developed by Uziel Gal in the 1950s for the Israeli military, and in its day was considered an excellent combat weapon. And although guns with similar features had become pretty standard by the end of World War II, the Uzi changed the paradigm for submachine guns with its compactness, ergonomics and easy handling.

These reasons are also why the gun continues to be replicated by a variety of manufacturers. One of these, Century Arms, Inc., has found success with their semiauto version, the Centurion UC-9.

The original Uzi was made mostly of welded metal stampings and had a rock-solid metal collapsible or fixed wooden buttstock. It featured a simple blowback design, utilizing the weight of the heavy bolt alone to keep the action locked, and the recoil energy of the fired casing to cycle it. The firing pin was machined into the bolt face, and the weapon fired from an open bolt. Though very heavy – over 9 pounds loaded – its good balance permitted one-handed firing.

This compact balance was achieved by setting the 10inch barrel deep in the stamped sheet metal receiver so its breech was above the trigger. The bolt encased the barrel breach to about the midway point and the magazine was inserted up through the grip frame. All of the mechanical operation of firing took place directly above the gripping hand rather than in front of it, as on a typical, much longer submachine gun (such as the MP40). The Uzi grip was positioned on the receiver slightly rear of center to counter the effects of recoil.

The Uzi saw use in the hands of good guys and bad through the 1980s, and was a staple in movies and on TV. Anyone who remembers seeing the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan on the news knows it was used by our Secret Service too. Seemingly out of nowhere, an agent pulled one out and stood watch as other agents wrestled the attacker to the ground. It remains perhaps the second most recognizable submachine gun in the world after the Thompson.

The Centurion UC-9 utilizes many original Uzi part designs, coupled with an American-made semiauto-only bolt and receiver.

The Centurion UC-9 utilizes many original Uzi part designs, coupled with an American-made semiauto-only bolt and receiver.

ISRAELI MILITARY INDUSTRIES (IMI), the original maker, first offered semiautomatic versions of the Uzi, and these guns are rightly considered the best. Other clones, both domestic and Chinese, soon followed. And, as parts kits from demilitarized IMI- and FN-made subguns flooded into the American market, several other firms started making receivers for gun-building hobbyists to assemble their own semiauto guns.

The Centurion’s semiauto grip assembly and safeties.

The Centurion’s semiauto grip assembly and safeties.

Century Arms, already famous among collectors for their semiauto copies of post-World War II select-fire military weapons, set about producing their own finished semiauto carbine. Their Centurion UC-9 utilizes many original-part designs coupled with an American-made semiauto-only bolt and receiver.

The UC-9 is mechanically identical to previous Uzi clones. It has a 16-inch barrel instead of the 10-inch one found on the submachine gun. One caution: 10-inch barrels for it are available on the parts market, but before installing one, you will

 The rear aperture uses a 100-yard and 200-yard flip rear sight, but elevation and windage are easily adjusted at the front sight

The rear aperture uses a 100-yard and 200-yard flip rear sight, but elevation and windage are easily adjusted at the front sight

need to register the gun as a Short Barreled Rifle (SBR) with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and pay the appropriate taxes.

It fires from a closed bolt using a striker and modified trigger components. The extra spring in the striker makes the bolt more difficult to pull pack than the fullauto version. The top cover is original, but the ratcheting mechanism is deactivated. That feature kept the bolt from flying forward and accidentally discharging a round if the cocking handle slipped from the shooter’s grasp, and is useless on a closed-bolt semiauto.

The UC-9 will accept 25- and 32-round magazines.

The UC-9 will accept 25- and 32-round magazines.

The receiver has a rounded bar welded along the inside of the right side of the frame behind the ejection port. The semiauto bolt has a corresponding groove cut down its right side to clear this bar. Because of the bar, a full-auto bolt will not fit in the receiver. The bottom left side of the bolt is milled away to accommodate the striker mechanism beneath it. The arm of the striker has a cut to engage the sear in the trigger mechanism. A portion of the bottom on the right side of the bolt is also relieved so it will clear the other side of the sear.

The Century Arms Uzi clone field strips easily into just a few parts.

The Century Arms Uzi clone field strips easily into just a few parts.

The safety in the grip assembly is marked only “F” for fire and “S” for safe. The thumb selector is blocked internally and cannot be pushed forward into what would normally be the full-auto position, though a stamped line indicating the “ghost” location is still there.

There are a few other differences between the semiauto Uzi and its full-auto ancestor. The semi’s push pin that holds the grip assembly onto the frame is larger (9mm versus 8mm), its sear is lighter and smaller, and machinegun barrels won’t fit because of changes in the mounting points. All these changes allow the firearm to be sold as a normal semiauto long gun.
OVER THE YEARS, Century Arms has received criticism regarding the quality control of the classic modern military firearms they re-engineered into legal-to-own semiautos. In their defense, much of this criticism has stemmed from a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. As any gun manufacturer will tell you, it’s hard enough making something work perfectly when you design and build it from scratch, and Century’s semiauto military clones are short-run projects compared to your typical sporting arm. It’s the difference between a few thousand units and tens of thousands.

I’ve never had a problem so serious that I had to return a firearm. I’ve heard of some over the years, but to my knowledge Century took care of each customer. And, in my opinion, on those occasions when Century didn’t get it right, they got it mostly right and it was a matter of some fine adjustment to get it perfect. The way I see it, at the low price point they sell these collector firearms at, mostly right is still a bargain.

Shooters of smaller stature will have no problem firing the Centurion UC-9 at the zombie of their choice.

Shooters of smaller stature will have no problem firing the Centurion UC-9 at the zombie of their choice.

THE ACCURACY OF THE UC-9 I tested surprised me in light of the short sight radius and less than comfortable metal stock. The rear aperture is set for 100 and 200 yards, but elevation and windage are easily adjusted at the front sight and I zeroed for a more realistic 50 yards for my testing. I set my chronograph up 15 feet from the muzzle. The UC-9’s weight made felt recoil light.

The most accurate load during testing was Federal American Eagle 124-grain FMJ, which averaged 2.38 inches at 1,232 feet per second, with the best group being 2.25 inches. All of the other loads I tested were 115-grain FMJ, and I achieved the following results:

CCI Blazer Brass averaged 2.59 inches at 1,396 fps, with the best group being 2.31 inches. Black Hills averaged 3.66 inches at 1,382 fps, with the best group being 2.19 inches. Winchester USA Forged steel case averaged 3.63 inches, with the best group being 3.75 inches, and Remington averaged 4.59 inches with the best group being 3.75 inches.

The author believes the UC-9 displays solid workmanship. Here is a comparison of some front-of-frame welding on an FN subgun (left) and the Century Arms UC-9.

The author believes the UC-9 displays solid workmanship. Here is a comparison of some front-of-frame welding on an FN subgun (left) and the Century Arms UC-9.

The heavy, 12-pound single-stage trigger pull was sort of like pushing a refrigerator, but once I got it going, it moved along pretty easily.

Out of hundreds of rounds shot in testing, I had a handful of failures (ejection and sometimes chambering) that seemed related to the squared-off tip of the firing pin penetrating the cartridge primer. More common was a chambering failure of the first round from a fully loaded magazine. It would commonly get hung up at a 45-degree-angle point on the feed ramp and rim in the feed lips. However, the more I shot, the less this issue occurred, and I attribute it to the old military-surplus magazine, which I neither cleaned nor oiled.

General workmanship of the UC-9 was very good despite what some web critics claim. I compared the welding on the front of the frame to a part from a genuine FN demilled subgun, and the UC-9 was just as well executed, if not better.

There’s no practical advantage to a very heavy 9mm semiauto carbine like this, but if you have pangs of nostalgia for this historically important design, the UC-9 is a worthy clone at an affordable price.

Frank Thomas fires the Century Arms Centurion UC-9 at a recent Zombie Shoot event in Kentucky.

Frank Thomas fires the Century Arms Centurion UC-9 at a recent Zombie Shoot event in Kentucky.

The MSRP is $749, but actual selling prices are closer to $650, and magazines are as cheap as $10 each.

For more on the UC-9 and other Century Arms firearms, visit centuryarms.com or call (800) 527-1252 to locate a dealer near you. 

Posted in Firearms Industry Showcase Tagged with: , , , , , ,

April 12th, 2016 by asjstaff

The Prentis Henry Rifle No. 19 Witnessed Generational Strife

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRANK JARDIM

One tangible connection to the human cost of the Civil War can be found in the Frazier History Museum in Louisville,  Ky., in the form of a beautifully engraved Henry repeating rifle, serial number 19. The original owner was Connecticut native George Dennison Prentis, who was the editor of the Louisville Journal from 1830 to 1860 and a staunch abolitionist. After succession, he was an outspoken advocate of the Union even though his newspaper was absorbed by the pro-Confederate Louisville Morning Courier. On July 14, 1862, he wrote a report for the newspaper that praised the Henry.

This particular Henry rifle, with the serial number 19, originally belonged to George Dennison Prentis, then given to his son Clarence. It can now be found at the Frazier History museum in Louisville, Ky.

This particular Henry rifle, with the serial number 19, originally belonged to George Dennison Prentis, then given to his son Clarence. It can now be found at the Frazier History museum in Louisville, Ky.

“It behooves every loyal citizen to prepare himself upon his own responsibility with the best weapon of defense that can be obtained. And certainly the simplest, surest and most effective weapon that we know of, the weapon that can be used with the most tremendous results in case of an outbreak or invasion, is one that we have mentioned recently upon two or three occasions, the newly invented rifle of Henry.”

It is very likely that his Henry was a gift from the manufacturer. The Connecticut-based New Haven Arms Company hoped to make the Henry the standard-issue rifle of the Union Army and sought favorable endorsements in hopes of securing government contracts. As a matter of fact, a similar engraved rifle was presented to President Abraham Lincoln.

Ultimately, 1,731 Henry rifles were sold to the US Government for a $63,943 (about $50 each). Far more (approximately 10,000) were bought by individuals and state regiments like the 66th and 7th Illinois and the 97th Indiana. The rifles were highly prized on the battlefield. Confederates described the Henry as “that darn Yankee rifle that they load on Sunday and shoot all week.”

Over a century after being hidden by Confederates at the end of the Civil War, this rifle was found in a Memphis, Tenn., basement.

Over a century after being hidden by Confederates at the end of the Civil War, this rifle was found in a Memphis, Tenn., basement.

THE PROGENITOR of the Winchester repeaters, the Henry was a technological marvel in its time. It fired a .44-caliber, self-contained, metallic, rim-fire primed cartridge. The magazine held 15 shots, and one more could be loaded in the chamber, giving it more firepower than any other rifle on the battlefield. It was accurate by the standards of the day too, equipped as it was with a graduated ladder rear sight. Army tests showed it could keep 100 percent of its shots inside a 25-inch circle at 500 yards and a 48-inch circle at 1,000. Bullet weights were either 200 or 216 grains over 26 to 28 grains of black powder, giving it a muzzle velocity of 1,125 feet per second and a muzzle energy of 568 foot pounds. Ballistically it was between today’s .44 Special and .44-40 WCF of the same bullet weight, which leads me to wonder how much energy it had left at 200 yards, much less either of the Army test ranges. Compared to the standard rifled musket of the era, the .44 Henry was a pipsqueak, and that insured it would never be selected for general issue to troops. However, at ranges of less than 100 yards the Henry’s accuracy and power were perfectly adequate, and its speed and firepower proved devastating to the enemy in  close combat.

THE HISTORY OF GEORGE PRENTIS’S Henry rifle is not a happy one. Though he supported the Union, his two sons, William Courtland and Clarence J., believed in the merits of the Confederate cause and actually fought for the South. William took his father’s rifle to war and died leading his troops in the Battle of Augusta, Ky., on September 18, 1862. The rifle and the sad news made their way back home to George. The Henry left his home again, for the last time, when his remaining son joined the Confederate cause. Reaching the rank of colonel, Clarence survived the war and his father pleaded that he be shown clemency. The rifle never came home. Hidden by Confederate soldiers, it was rediscovered a century later in a Memphis, Tenn. basement. ASJ

The Henry repeating rifle holds a longstanding legacy for its accuracy and being a technological marvel in its time.The Henry repeating rifle holds a longstanding legacy for its accuracy and being a technological marvel in its time.

Posted in History Tagged with: , , ,