June 7th, 2017 by asjstaff

In this segment of WW2 firearms, two lucky shooters from Iraqveteran8888 Youtuber got a chance to fire the M3A1 “Grease Gun” and in doing so they were in awed by its raw power. Watch as they shoot this historic firearm, showcasing how forceful it still is today.


According to Wikipedia, “The original M3 was an answer to the somewhat complex design and high production cost of the M1A1 Thompson during World War II.” This ‘Grease Gun’ was made cheaper for WWII, and used actively up until Desert Storm.

Did you notice how accurate the firing was? It was by no means created for precision shooting as it’s main purpose was for area shooting.

This gun was semi accurate up to 75 yards, so if you’re looking to get your own soon be sure to shoot within this range. Chambered for the .45ACP cartridge, it is notable for its very low rate of fire – 350-400 rpm, which made it quite controllable and easy to shoot for relatively inexperienced troops.

Photo from GettyImage
Sources: Iraqveteran8888, Johnny Certo, Wikipedia, ForgottenWeapons

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Posted in Assault Guns Tagged with: , , ,

March 16th, 2017 by jhines

A gun specialist and a trauma specialist gives us an answer by reproducing a scene from the 1986 war film, Platoon. With the assistance of a fast camera, we will get a good idea on the degree of harm. The M16 slug 5.56 (.223) is known for its “tumble” which is essentially what causes the harm.

Nonetheless, while most lead center slugs do this after they enter the tissue, the M16’s speed also adds to the injuries. From a distance of 30 feet, what will happen to the ballistic gel mannequin? What will be the impact to the imperative organs? Let’s see!



Video Transription
Paul Dalby is a weapon’s expert with more than 30 years’ experience testing firearms and explosives.

“What I’m holding here is the iconic M16 Assault Rifle. This particular example being a Vietnam veteran. It’s a 5.56 caliber weapon, fed from a 20-round box magazine. It’s accurate to 500 meters, and fires at a rate of 700 rounds per minute.”

To show the damage caused by a single M16 bullet to the human body, Paul will fire into a block of Ballistic gel that has the same density as human tissue. A high-speed camera shows the extent of the damage caused by the bullet.

Adam Brooks is a trauma surgeon and expert in ballistic injuries. He’s treated similar wounds on the battlefield and will be examining the extent of the bullet’s impact.

“This Ballistic Gel is very much like incising tissues of the body, and I’ll try and cut along the track of this round, so we can get an idea of the damage that it’s done. So here’s the entry of the bullet, for the first five or six centimeters, very little in the way of destruction or damage to tissues, but then as the round slows down and turns on its side in the tissue, we get this cavitation effect. All the energy’s dumped into the body, and you get tearing and huge amount of trauma to tissues. And then finally, you can see how the round has twisted, turned on its axis to the point where it’s pointing backwards here and come to rest, still within the body.”

If just a single shot from an M16 rifle causes such devastation to a human body, what will be the effect of tree direct hits to the chest?

To recreate the scene from Platoon, this Ballistic gel mannequin will represent Sargent Elias. Inside are representations of the vital organs: The heart and lungs, liver, and kidneys. Paul will be firing in semiautomatic mode from a distance of 30 feet. The same shooting distance as in the movie.

“Weapon clear.”

Every one of Paul’s bullets hit their mark, but have they missed the vital organs, as they did in Platoon?

“He’s been hit low down, just taking the edge of the kidney out, and that’s going to bleed, you can see the blood around the model. He’s got two other injuries, here and here. Both of which have caught the edge of the right lung. Although the lung has been deflated a little bit, it’s not an immediately life-threatening injury.”

So Elias could have survived Barns’ assault, to later reappear from the jungle, only to meet his maker at the hands of enemy fire. But after surviving three bullets to the chest, would Elias really have been able to run into the clearing?

“Elias could have got up and run, for a period of time.”

Sources: Smithsonian Channel, Paul Dalby, Adam Brookes


Posted in Hollywood and Pop Culture Tagged with: , , , ,

February 17th, 2017 by asjstaff

In the 1820s, Samuel Hawken joined his brother Jacob at his St. Louis shop, and together they made rifles that helped make history.

Story And Photos By Mike Nesbitt

 

The author poses with a Hawken in full period regalia (JERRY MAYO)

When Jacob Hawken first began making his “mountain” rifles, he incorporated features into each gun that were well thought of based on his experience. Hawken wanted his rifles to be the very best available and, therefore, desired by the most people. His strategy worked, because these days, they are the rifles we remember the most from the early to mid-1800s.

Dan Phariss, a highly regarded gunsmith and black powder historian, may have said it best: “The Hawken, the fully evolved mountain rifle, be it full or half-stock, was the final evolution of the American muzzleloading hunting rifle.”

In my opinion, no other muzzleloading rifle ever surpassed the classic percussion Hawken rifle.

MOUNTAIN MEN NEEDED A RIFLE that was dependable, one that could last a whole year or more in the wilderness. Generally, it had to function without the possibility of major repairs and need for replacement parts, although trapping brigades sometimes had blacksmiths or gunsmiths traveling with them. But with Hawken, that strength and dependability was built right into their rifles.

A Hawken-style rifle and some plunder from the rendezvous era.

For example, muzzleloading rifles were often susceptible to damage with breakage to the stock right at the wrist. To strengthen that area, Hawken rifles and their replicas have the long upper tang, as well as the extended trigger plates. Those two iron or steel pieces reinforced the wrist of the stock at both top and bottom, and screws from the tang go through the stock to anchor the trigger plate.

Unlike many modern modular 70 designs, the barrel is the literal backbone of muzzleloading rifles, as it provides the foundational support for all of the other parts and pieces. With that in mind, the Hawken rifles had heavier barrels than most other models. It could be that this was because Hawkens were expected to make more frequent use of heavier loads, but that explanation isn’t as probable as the brothers simply seeking a stronger foundation for their rifles.

This S. Hawken-style rifle was made in the early 1970s by Green River Rifle Works.

Gunmaker Dave Dolliver shoots a flintlock Hawken he built for the author in 2002.

The locks and triggers used in the Hawken design were also the finest available at that time, and were another reason that they were the finest shooters in the world. Finally, the Hawken shop was one of the first to embrace the percussion ignition system, and while many historians believe the Hawken brothers also manufactured flintlocks, none of these have ever been located.

Some believe the role of the Hawken rifle in western history has been exaggerated, or that the Hawken brothers are being given more credit today than they deserve. But This if nothing else, the Hawken rifles were clearly recognized as being the gun to have if you could afford one. That is not just because they were more expensive than most other rifles at the time, but also because – in the diaries, ledgers and account books of the time – Hawken rifles were frequently the only rifles that were mentioned by name.

The percussion Hawken the author uses the most currently is Three Aces. Also built by Dave Dolliver, it is a .54 caliber with a 35-inch barrel.

Three Aces is shown with a group fired offhand at a recent competitive shoot.

For example, in the inventory listings of what the American Fur Company shipped to Fort Union, in what would become North Dakota, in 1834, a notation indicates “4 rifles, Hawkins.” Another early reference appears in a list of goods taken west by French Canadian trader and fur trapper Etienne Provost in 1829: “2 rifles, Hawkins ($25.00 each).” Those are just two examples (both notations appear in the book Supply and Demand: The Ledgers and Gear of the Western Fur Trade by Olsen and McCloskey). Other rifles were not generally named to this level of detail, but Hawken rifles (and some pistols) always seem to be mentioned by name. In other words, if it wasn’t a Hawken, it was just another rifle.

The upper rifle is a full-stock Hawken-style big game rifle in .58 caliber, while the lower is a lightweight Hawken designed for use by sportsmen.

Although their popularity was not as widespread as their rifle siblings, many Hawken pistols were carried west to the mountains.

For comparison, the price of a “trade rifle” (a rifle made for the fur trade, to be sold or traded to trappers, red or white) as made by Henry, Leman, Tryon or others could be purchased for around $12. At more than twice that amount, Hawken rifles were truly expensive guns.

Details like these serve to remind us how respected and desirable the old Hawken rifles were. Those reminders emphasize the fact that Hawken rifles were certainly on the “roll call” at rendezvouses of the period. At today’s, the caplock Hawken is just as much at home on the good list, and much in demand. There just isn’t anything that spells “mountain doin’s” like an authentically made classic Hawken.

The author’s father made this half-stock Hawken in the mid-1970s, and nicknamed it “Ol’ Horsefeathers.”

HAWKEN RIFLES EVOLVED OVER TIME, starting with the early J&S Hawkens firearms and ending with the S. Hawken rifles, which continued to be manufactured for nearly 20 years after Jacob Hawken’s 1849 death. The differences between the early and late rifles are primarily minor details, such as the use of a single pin to hold the entry pipe for the ramrod on the S. Hawken rifles in place instead of two as used on the J&S Hawken models. But the truth is that each original Hawken rifle was a unique, handmade creation, with no two being exactly alike.

In my 40-plus-year quest to acquire as much Hawken information and experience as I can, I’ve handled – and admired – several original Hawken rifles. But believe it or not, I have never fired one. All of my shooting with Hawken-style rifles has been accomplished with more recent duplicates of these famous guns, many of which have been very exacting copies and that performed in an amazing fashion.

However, Art Ressel, long-time proprietor of the original Hawken Shop in St. Louis, once showed me six Hawken rifles, all laying on a bed. He let me handle them all I wanted, for as long as I needed, and asked me if I could find the one rifle in that group that was not a real Hawken. Although it took me over an hour – a very treasured hour – I’m proud to say that I finally identified the imposter. What finally gave it away? The reproduction had eight-groove rifling while all of the others had seven grooves in their barrels.

The author fires one of his many Hawken-style rifles. (JERRY MAYO)

In short, the Hawken rifle was a highly desired and reliable firearm of the iconic mountain men who blazed trails and helped settle the American West, and it deserves its place in the historical saga of that important period in our nation’s growth, expansion and development. ASJ

Posted in Black Powder Tagged with: , , , ,

December 19th, 2016 by asjstaff

Need a last minute gift idea that is sure to drop jaws and turn heads? GovPlanet is auctioning off over 300 Military Humvees tomorrow! Visit GovPlanet.com to view their guaranteed inspection reports and bid on your own piece of Military history!

CA

California Auction

AK

Alaska Auction

CA- http://ironp.net/2hMGndt
AK- http://ironp.net/2hARnMK

Posted in Industry News Tagged with: , , , ,

November 11th, 2016 by asjstaff

PHOTOS COURTESY OF DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED

(second from the right) Marine Sgt. Alexander Munoz, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, lines up with the 5th Marines, as the platoon sergeant gives them orders to clear a building in the second push during Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004 (Courtesy Photo)

A platoon sergeant orders Marines to clear a building in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004. 

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These airmen are all smiles after returning from Europe in 1945. (NATIONAL ARCHIVES) 

Parris Island recruits continue to train on Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Marine Corps recruits prepare for a martial arts training session. 

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Newly freed prisoners of war celebrate as their C-141A aircraft lifts off from Hanoi, North Vietnam, on Feb. 12, 1973. 

Bernice Haydu, a Women's Airforce Service Pilot, or WASP, during World War II, stands next to an AT-6  Texan at Page Field near Fort Myer in Florida, Feb. 20. The WASPs flew the AT-6s during their phases of training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. (Department of Defense photo by Navy MC2 Glenn Slaughter)

Bernice Haydu, a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II, stands next to an AT-6 Texan. 

ATOH legacy flight

World War II-era P-51 Mustangs fly in formation. 

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Army Major Zach Rolf poses for a photograph with his father and Vietnam War veteran, Lynn Rolf.

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Marines and sailors serving in Iraq hold up Thanksgiving Day cards made by a kindergarten class from Island Creek Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., in 2007.

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Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class William Holland drives an inflatable boat in the Caribbean Sea as part of relief efforts following Hurricane Matthew last month.

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 71st Anniversary

Edgar Harrison and Delton Walling, Pearl Harbor survivors, applaud during a Dec. 7, 2012, remembrance ceremony at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Honolulu.

SD attends start of the Rolling Thunder demonstration ride

Rolling Thunder participants gather on May 29, 2016. The annual ride brings together veterans and others seeking to pay respects to those who have served.

Interior shot of the cockpit area of Commemorative Air Force World War II B-29 Bomber aircraft “Fifi” at the Manassas Regional Airport during “Arsenal of Democracy” media day on May 7th, 2015.  B-24, B-17, and B-29 aircraft from World War II participating in the Washington D.C. flyover to celebrate the 70th anniversary of V.E. day, flyover operate from the Manassas Airport. The press were invited to photograph the practice activities and interview American WWII heroes.  (Department of Defense Photo by Marvin Lynchard)

A look through the cockpit of a World War II B-29 bomber sitting on display. 

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Captain Louis Zamperini (left) makes a broadcast to the United States after spending 28 months in a Japanese prison camp. (NATIONAL ARCHIVES)


Posted in Community Tagged with: , , ,

July 1st, 2016 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: , , , , , , , , ,

May 14th, 2016 by asjstaff

‘Sky Cops’ Protect Bases, Bombers, Missile Fields, And Take On New Roles

STORY BY TROY TAYSOM

Editor’s note: Part I in this series last issue covered the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations. 

The United States Air Force is a unique service for a multitude of reasons. It was the first branch of the service to allow women into combat roles (security police) and has an entire career field dedicated to protecting air bases, aircraft, Air Force personnel and nuclear weapons. All of the other services require individual units to provide security for themselves, i.e. an Army aviation unit’s members, including her mechanics, are armed and trained as riflemen. In the Air Force, only one group is trained in the art of Air Base Ground Defense (ABGD).

Chuck Norris started his martial arts training when he was an air policeman in Korea. Besides Norris, the “Sky Cops” have a storied past full of unsung heroes, hard-fought battles and the distinction that not a single air base was ever overrun during the Vietnam War – and not for lack of trying on the North Vietnamese’s part either. It has taken nearly 70 years for this career field to gain its true identity. Here is that story.

POST WORLD WAR II
In 1947 when the Air Force was officially separated from the Army, the need to protect not only the aircraft but now a cache of nuclear weapons became paramount. The old-time bomber pilot and commander Curtis LeMay saw the need for a unit to function like the infantry, but on Air Force bases. These airmen needed to be versed in the use of small arms, crew-served weapons, and squad- (fire team in the Air Force), platoon- (called a flight) and company- (called a squadron) level tactics. These units needed to be highly specialized in the deterrence and detection of unauthorized people or groups attempting to access a base (especially ones with nuclear missions) or missile field. The Strategic Air Command led the way in developing their APs into highly trained soldier airmen, known unofficially as “SAC Trained Killers.”

During the Korean War, very few air bases came under attack. The APs were basically law enforcement on the base and guarded aircraft. No tactical plans had been implemented, let alone training for a base attack. The Air Force was lucky, but their luck would be tested mightily in the next go-around. The SAC model wasn’t followed by units in Korea, as the nuclear weapons were kept stateside.

VIETNAM
As the Vietnam War ramped up in the 1960s, so did the need for the Air Force’s presence in and around America’s ally in Southeast Asia. The U.S. focused most of its air bases in South Vietnam and Thailand, with others further away in places like Guam and the Philippines. Those bases located on the mainland endured the greatest risk of attack, as they sat close to enemy forces. Amazingly enough, few of the Air Force bases came under attack in the beginning years of the war. The tactics and mindset were still very Korean War-oriented. Many APs arrived at bases in Southeast Asia to find no weapons had been sent for them to use. Other bases had WWII leftovers – Browning Automatic Rifles (BARs), .30-caliber Browning machineguns, grease guns, Colt .45 ACP 1911s and M1 Carbines.

I spoke with Senior Master Sergeant Pete Piazza (retired) at length about what the Sky Cops (as they were lovingly dubbed) endured from 1966-72. Piazza served three tours of duty in Vietnam as an AP and then as a SP. He witnessed firsthand the Air Force go from no real idea of how to defend a base to being awarded the Silver Star for his actions at Bien Hoa Air Base on Jan. 31, 1968, during the Tet Offensive.

Piazza took charge of his bunker when his leader, Capt. Maisey, was killed by a rocket. A staff sergeant at the time, he spent the next eight hours running through heavy machinegun fire, rockets and sniper fire to keep his men fully supplied with much-needed ammunition and water. Piazza was quick to educate me on a couple of little known facts.

“Ninety percent of the SPs that were at Air Force bases when Tet started had never seen combat,” he told me.

Air police, security police, security forces – the protectors of our country’s air bases and overseas assets have had several names, but the job they’ve done has never wavered. (TROY TAYSOM)

He also said something that intrigued me: “The Air Force was the only branch of the service that didn’t have one of their bases overrun by the enemy.”

Why was that? Men just like Piazza. But ask him and he’ll say, “I was just doing what everybody else was doing.” While humility is the true sign of a hero, I will have to disagree with Pete on this one. Silver Stars aren’t just handed out, especially to enlisted USAF airmen.

Undoubtedly, there were others who performed as bravely as Piazza did on that January day so long ago. I can’t possibly find and speak to them all; some, including his direct supervisor, Capt. Maisey, were killed on that day and in the days to come as Tet raged on. Piazza certainly wasn’t part of any “chair force.” He was every bit an infantryman that day as Audie Murphy and Chesty Puller.

Ask any soldier and he or she will tell you: Whoever owns the night has the advantage. The SPs were some of the first units in the Vietnam War to receive ANTVS-2 scopes, nicknamed “Starlight” because of their use of ambient star and moon light. These scopes were some of the first real attempts at night vision and changed the face of war forever. The riflemounted scope gave the user night vision out to 400 meters, while a crew-served weapons version, the ANPVS-4, worked out to 1,000, and an off-weapon version, the ANPVS-5, allowed sight out to 1,500 meters. For those airmen who had them, night shifts became a little less nerve racking.

One asset was in great supply, and gave the SPs another advantage at night – military working dogs, MWDs or K9s. The Sky Cops would walk the perimeter at night with their dogs. The SPs couldn’t see any better just because they had a dog, but the dogs could sense the presence of intruders, and on more than one occasion they stopped enemy sappers before they had the chance to breach the perimeter fence. For whatever reason, the Viet Cong also had a healthy fear of these K9s and kept their distance as word spread of their presence on the air bases. At the height of the K9 program, in January 1967, there were 476 dogs deployed. The dog handlers carried a special version of the M16, called the GAU-5/A. It was shorter and allowed the handler to control the dog and fire the rifle one-handed if needed.

It wasn’t until after Tet that the Air Force wrote its first definitive, battle-tested, air-base ground defense manual to be used in the years ahead – especially during the Cold War.
THE MAYAGUEZ INCIDENT
On May 12, 1975, Cambodian naval ships captured the S.S. Mayaguez, a U.S. merchant marine ship, in international waters. Negotiations broke down and a rescue mission was planned. The closest unit with combat experience was the 56th Security Police Squadron stationed at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. After the CH-53 Knife helicopters plus some HH-53 choppers left the base, Knife 13 disappeared from radar 40 miles out. It is widely thought that mechanical issues caused the crash. All 18 security policemen and four crew members and a linguist died.

Moments before take-off, a picture of the ill-fated Sky Cops in Knife 13 was taken. Thirty minutes later all 23 passengers were dead. The image leaves a haunting legacy of sacrifice and how short life can be in a combat zone.
COLD WAR
As the Cold War heated up, America’s nuclear arsenal followed suit. Most nuclear assets came under the purview of the USAF, and more specifically SAC. SAC was the brain child of LeMay and was arguably the best run major command in the Air Force. SAC operated bases for bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons, as well as bases that
supported missile field operations. These wings were subject to remarkably stringent inspections, the failure of which would result in the firing of the senior staff of the wing.

The USAF was the first branch of the military to deploy female snipers and has since trained multiple women in this role. (USAF)

The SPs were responsible for several missions on SAC bases: the protection of the weapons storage areas, where the nukes were stored; and the physical guarding of the B-52s and KC-135s, air refuelers, that were on “alert.” Being on alert required the aircrews to live in a special facility next to the aircraft. At the sound of the klaxon, the crews rushed to their aircraft and were ready for take-off to top secret destinations. The SPs guarded all of these locations, day and night, 24/7/365. At places like Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, guard duty tested one’s desire to be a cop.

Missile fields also demanded the attention of the SPs. These fields were vast and remote. Cops worked seven days straight, often living out of campers attached to the back of pick-up trucks. The missile fields weren’t located in tropical locales either. They were spread across states like Montana, Kansas, Wyoming and South Dakota. Working conditions for the cops were less than ideal; in fact, at times the conditions resembled the Arctic Circle more than the continental United States. But defend these locations the SPs did, and to this day, still do. In 1997 security police career fields of law enforcement and security specialist were merged into one field and renamed Security Forces. This change gave the cops more flexibility in manning assignments, as well as providing cross training.

MODERN-DAY WAR ON TERROR

The USAF’s modern-day Security Forces function even more like infantry units than the cops in the past. They have all the weapons of the infantry – the M240, M249B, M4, M9, M203, 81mm mortars and M24 sniper systems. They are the first service to deploy female snipers and have now trained multiple women in this role.

Couple of Ravens in back of C-17 Aircraft - Photo by J Hines

Couple of Ravens in back of C-17 Aircraft – Photo by J Hines

The Air Force’s cops continue to become a “high speed, low drag” group. They have a squadron that is airborne qualified, stationed in Georgia. This group of cops even made a combat jump with the Army into Iraq. Air Mobility Command has also developed a group called the Ravens. In this group of Security Forces, airmen accompany aircraft into dangerous regions of the world where there is no on ground security for the aircraft. These men and women travel the world providing security for these USAF assets and serve as Force Protection advisors to aircrew members. Other major commands have similar.

In addition to guarding U.S. Air Force missile fields, “Sky Cops” also protect the nation’s bomber fleet. Here, Airman 1st Class Arlando Budd, assigned to the 509th Security Forces Squadron, provides security near a B-2 Spirit at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. (SENIOR AIRMAN NICK WILSON, USAF)

The Air Force continues to change with the times. It just so happens that the “Sky Cops” are leading the way when it comes to installation, asset, nuclear and personnel security. The lessons learned in the Jungles of Vietnam and Thailand, as well as the lessons of the Cold War in Europe and the frozen missile fields and bomber facilities of America are the foundation under which the new generation of Sky Cops continue to grow and evolve. ASJ

Posted in Law Enforcement Tagged with: , , , , , ,

May 4th, 2016 by asjstaff

History, Tradition And Heritage At The New Musket Range

Story by Larry Case

Although not a soldier himself, Rudyard Kipling was familiar with the British army, their weapons and methods of fighting. No doubt he had soldier chums who were happy to tell him about the best girl they had, the Brown Bess musket.

From about 1722 to 1838 the Long Land Pattern musket (Bess’s official name) was the standard-issue long arm for all land forces in the British military. This weapon fired a .75- to .78-caliber ball. As this was the era of British expansion, Brown Bess saw duty around the world. From India to Waterloo all the way over to those pesky American colonies, this was the gun that did most of the fighting, and when mounted with the standard 17-inch bayonet it was deadly indeed! Think of an M1 Garand that stayed in service for over 100 years!

THE ORIGIN OF THE NICKNAME Brown Bess for this pattern musket seems to be uncertain. Some say it was an affectionate reference by the British soldiers to Queen Elizabeth I. King George I was, in fact, German and did not speak English (go figure), and others think it could have been an interpretation for the German braun Buss or brawn Buss, meaning strong gun or brown gun. (Büchse is an old German word for rifle, in the sense of a hunting weapon.)

Situated on 301 acres, Colonial Williamsburg allows visitors to be completely immersed in the time period. All the people who work and live here are well versed in the history and wear period attire. (COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG)

Situated on 301 acres, Colonial Williamsburg allows visitors to be completely immersed in the time period. All the people who work and live here are well versed in the history and wear period attire. (COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG)

Most experts on this musket, however, seem to think it is more likely the overall appearance of the weapon: dark brown wood on the stock and a barrel that often had a brownish tint due to the method of “bluing” the metal at this time known as russeting.

History is wonderful and if you are as crazy about guns as I am, you could get lost in the details and minutiae of any firearm. I will admit, however, that there is something better than just reading about it – hands-on shooting. The feel of the gun, the burning powder in your nose and getting your hands dirty – there is no substitute for this.

So, where can you actually learn to load and fire a Brown Bess musket? Glad you asked! Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, of course!

This 301-acre historic site features hundreds of restored, reconstructed and historically furnished buildings. Costumed interpreters tell the stories of the men and women in this 18th-Century city – black, white and Native Americans were all here. Some were slaves, some were indentured and some were free. When you come here, you will learn the challenges these people faced and you can also learn to fire the Brown Bess!

(COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG)

(COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG)

BRAND NEW THIS YEAR, Colonial Williamsburg has opened a firing range where guests can learn to load and fire this treasured musket. If you enjoy history (which you probably do if you are visiting Colonial Williamsburg), take the time to feel history in your hands by shooting these historical treasures.

Even though we were visiting the colonies and not Her Majesty’s home in England, the day my wife Helen and I visited Colonial Williamsburg, we were treated like royalty. Joe Straw, public relations manager for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and all of the staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome.

Brown Bess

OUR FIRST STOP was the gunsmith shop. To be honest, I could have spent the entire day in there. As with much of Colonial Williamsburg most of this sweeping landscape is just like stepping back in time. Try to imagine walking into an 18th-century gunsmith shop. It’s all here! The guns, the powder horns, the tools and every accoutrement that you can think of and some you might never have realized existed, all with the absolute authenticity and attention to detail that Colonial Williamsburg is known for.

The gunsmith shop is like stepping back in time. All of the muskets and tools, including barrel rifling, engraving and carpentry tools, are handmade in the same tradition and manner that they were created in the 18th century. (COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG)

The gunsmith shop is like stepping back in time. All of the muskets and tools, including barrel rifling, engraving and carpentry tools, are handmade in the same tradition and manner that they were created in the 18th century. (COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG)

I stood in awe of the blacksmith’s shop next door as a flat piece of metal was repeatedly heated, hammered and forged around an iron rod, transforming it into a rifle barrel. I had always been curious about this process and wondered how it was even possible. There I stood as sparks danced with each blow of the hammer and black smoke rolled.

I was very fortunate to spend some time with George Suiter, the master gunsmith here. Suiter has been working in this gunsmith shop for over 30 years and after about 10 minutes of speaking with him I had already forgotten more about making these rifles than I would ever know. Suiter makes these Colonial-era “rifle guns” right in this shop and people can order their very own. The waiting list is quite lengthy, currently eight to nine years, and on average a rifle will fetch about $20,000.

“The best way to preserve a trade is to practice it,” Suiter told me, “ … and that is what we do here at Colonial Williamsburg.” He assured me that one would never find tools in this shop which were not true to the time period.

(COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG)

(COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG)

I also spent some time talking to Erik Goldstein, curator of mechanical arts and numismatics. Goldstein is the coauthor of The Brown Bess: An Identification Guide And Illustrated Study Of Britain’s Most Famous Musket. This is, at the very least, an exhaustive study of the British Land Pattern musket. I do not believe you could be a serious student nor a proper collector without owning this book.

JOE STRAW WAS ULTIMATELY ABLE to hustle me out of the gunsmith shop and took Helen and I to the musket range. A highly capable group and just as knowledgeable in their craft awaited us. You will find this level of commitment and passion all over Colonial Williamsburg, and this is also depicted in the clothing and demeanor.

Portraying a Colonial-era militia man, armorer Justin Chapman met us at the range with a host of well-trained helpers. Chapman gave us an extensive safety and background briefing on the Brown Bess, as well as a period “fowling piece.” The “fowler,” we were told, would be a muzzleloader that would have likely been used by colonists at the time. A predecessor to the modern shotgun, it could be loaded with bird shot or ball load, making it very versatile for the hunting colonist.

This Brown Bess’s loaded pan is primed to fire. Notice the 18th century version of a safety – a leather cover on the frizzen. (Inset) Williamsburg’s blacksmith shop is perpetually in motion as they create the barrels, among many other items, from bare metal by repetitively heat treating and hammering the soon-to-be musket barrel. (COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG)

This Brown Bess’s loaded pan is primed to fire. Notice the 18th century version of a safety – a leather cover on the frizzen. (Inset) Williamsburg’s blacksmith shop is perpetually in motion as they create the barrels, among many other items, from bare metal by repetitively heat treating and hammering the soon-to-be musket barrel. (COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG)

Both the Brown Bess and the fowler are smoothbores (no rifling in the barrel). They could be loaded quickly, but are not especially accurate over 50 yards. For the European style of combat used at the time, where armies marched in formation to within range of their foes and then sent volleys of lead chunks at them, the Brown Bess was a deadly weapon; for the long-range shooter, not so much. A British soldier was expected to be capable of firing four shots in one minute. After a few volleys of fire, a charge was ordered using those wicked triangular 17-inch bayonets. The line that could stand against such a charge was stalwart indeed!

(COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG)

(COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG)

MY WIFE HELEN HAD the privilege of being the first visitor to fire a round on the brand new musket range here. I enjoyed watching her do that as much as anything on this trip. There is something about watching a new shooter that warms the heart. The look on her face after the smoke and boom of her first shot was priceless. When she was asked if she wanted to shoot again, she immediately replied, “Of course!”

When it was my turn to shoot, I found that it was not difficult to hit the NRA target, as the musket was more accurate than I had expected. The Brown Bess has no front sight, but the small lug where the bayonet attaches serves as one. Again, this was not meant to be a sniper rifle. Quick and easy to load, I could see how shooting this type of muzzleloader could be addicting. Straw had to drag me off of the range before we all froze
to death – it was a cold March day – and I shot up all the powder and ball in the county.

The latest at Colonial Williamsburg is the musket range – now open to the public. (LARRY CASE)

The latest at Colonial Williamsburg is the musket range – now open to the public. (LARRY CASE)

The author’s wife Helen Case (right) stands with a Colonial Williamsburg guard and demonstrates the length of the Brown Bess complete with bayonet. (LARRY CASE)

The author’s wife Helen Case (right) stands with a Colonial Williamsburg guard and demonstrates the length of the Brown Bess complete with bayonet. (LARRY CASE)

AT THE END OF THE LONG DAY, Helen and I would not be denied another stroll down Colonial Williamsburg’s streets. It was a blustery evening with not many visitors around. I stood and peered down Duke of Gloucester Street; nobody was in sight outside of those in period attire. Far down the street I could see a soldier in uniform hastening into the evening gloom. Trouble was coming, but in the end came freedom and the rise of the greatest country the world had ever seen. Just for a minute I imagined it was 1774, and I was there. ASJ

Posted in Black Powder Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Black Powder, fine to course
March 28th, 2016 by asjstaff

Part I of III- Invention to Explosion

Story and photographs by Bob Shell

It is believed that the Chinese have been using black powder for about a thousand years and they are generally credited with its invention starting with fireworks. Around 700 years ago someone came up with the idea that if you put some black powder in a tube with a rock it would expel the rock out at sufficient velocity to make it a weapon. Another early idea was to use reinforced bamboo to shoot arrows and darts. No one knows who thought of this, but they did indeed change the world. The general consensus is the Chinese and Arabs were among the earliest to use guns in war.

Black powder today is just that – black. But black powder from centuries ago used to be gray and much weaker. Today, it is common to find powders that include a mixture of saltpeter, charcoal and sulphur.

The guns of the 13th century bore little resemblance to today’s weapons, and the blackpowder formula is essentially the same as it was then, although the older powders were weaker and gray in colored. One of the few improvements included making powder with water, so it could be made into a cake-like compound. That seemed to make it more reliable and safer. A popular formula today is 75 percent saltpeter, 15 percent charcoal and 10 percent sulfur. There are and have been other formulas used throughout the centuries, and as time went on they improved the formula and strength. Even today, powders are better than just a few years ago.

A pile of coarse black powder

One big difference between black powder and smokeless or substitute powder is that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms considers it an explosive. Smokeless powders are only categorized as propellants requiring much less effort to store and sell.

What are the characteristics of this ancient propellant? First, it is considered an explosive as opposed to a propellant such as smokeless powders and black-powder substitutes. This means that it is highly regulated and harder to buy. If you want to sell black powder, you have to get a special license issued by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATFE or ATF), and you must have special storage containers. Many gun stores don’t want to be bothered with these burdensome regulations, so they just sell the substitutes. I imagine there are areas where it may be prohibited all together. Because of this, many muzzle-loading fans use a substitute such as Pyrodex, Cleanshot or Blackhorn 209. These substitutes work well, however, for someone who is a stickler for the authentic they just don’t cut the mustard.

Black powder is messy, so some shooters avoid it rather than learn to work with it. That is a shame because black powder is capable of producing excellent accuracy. In the 1880s, black-powder rifles produced results that are respectable even by today’s standards. In 200-yard rifle matches, it wasn’t uncommon to have a competitor shoot a 10-shot 2-inch group.
I have done a lot of chronographing and my accuracy with these loads has generally been excellent with both muzzle loading and cartridge firearms. As a sidenote, when chronographing black powder, you usually have to stand at least 5 feet further away from the start screen, because the smoke will obscure it and prevent you from getting a reading. This is especially true with the larger calibers.

Black powder cartridges are still made for all sorts of firearms. (Left to right) .50-70 left, .50-90 and the .50-140.

When getting into black powder there are a few things that you need to be aware of. First of all it’s explosive, and you need to keep it away from open flames or sparks and even static electricity can cause a detonation. It will ignite with very little encouragement, so you need to keep that in mind. Always use nonsparking and nonstatic electricity devices when using it. Also, I shouldn’t have to say this but never ever attempt to grind black powder to make it finer. This will cause an explosion and serious injuries to anyone in the area. From time to time people have made the six o’clock news attempting such a stunt. If you are careful, it is perfectly safe and stable. Black powder isn’t for the careless or negligent so, if you are such a person I urge you not to handle it. Many shooters including myself have handled it for many years without incident. Terrifying I know.

There are four basic grades of black powder, each with their own purpose. In an effort maintain simplicity, here are the basics:

  • FG A course powder suited for small cannons and large-caliber rifles from about .58 caliber on up.
  • 1½ FG A high-grade Swiss powder used for match shooting.
  • FFG Used for muzzle-loading rifles from .45 to .58 especially with mini or maxi balls. This powder can also be used for patched round balls.
  • FFFG Used for cap-and-ball revolvers, cartridge handguns and small-caliber rifles. This powder can also be used for blanks and shotgun loads.
  • FFFFG This is a very fine powder whose primary use is priming a flintlock. It can also be used for blanks and in small derringers.
    Man shooting with black powder

    Half of the fun of black powder is the large amount of satisfying smoke it creates. If you are chronographing your shots, however, you might consider standing back 5 to 15 feet further than you would normally so that the smoke does not obscure the screen.

There is a little overlap in usage, but I wouldn’t deviate a great deal from these recommendations for best results. There is a Swiss powder that is graded differently, but we will get into that later. If you can’t get black powder you need to be aware of the substitutes that are available.
Pyrodex is the oldest known substitute available, and performs very much like black powder. It is corrosive, just like black powder and should be loaded and cleaned in the same manner. It offers FFG and FFFG grades as well as a cartridge grade that is made for loading obsolete calibers.
A noncorrosive powder is Cleanshot that has been around for a few years. It is a course powder, but works well and gives somewhat higher velocities than black powder and Pyrodex. Like the others, FFG and a FFFG grades are available. This powder leaves a white residue in the barrel and cases, but doesn’t seem to harm anything.
A new product on the market is Blackhorn 209. Originally designed for inline muzzle loaders, I have found that it works extremely well in cartridge firearms. It is clean burning and gives the most velocity per grain than any substitutes out there. It is mildly corrosive so cleaning is necessary. I am currently experimenting with it in a conventional muzzle loader. My only setback so far is it seems a bit harder to ignite. I mention these substitutes because in some areas they are more readily available.
One thing to keep in mind is never load smokeless powders in a black-powder muzzle loader. This is a recipe for disaster. They simply are not designed for the stronger propellants.
We will see you for Part II: Loading and shooting black powder in April. ASJ

Black Powder, fine to course

Black powder has a long history and they are not created equal. They come in an array of coarse grains as well as composition. The grains shown here are classified as (left to right): FFFFG L, FFFG L, FFG and FG R, which refers directly to their coarseness and helps identify how it should be used.

Posted in Black Powder Tagged with: , , , ,

March 26th, 2015 by Danielle Breteau

Story by Frank Jardim

In 1944, the War Department Basic Field Manual FM 21-75, Infantry Scouting, Patrolling and Sniping defined the sniper as “… an expert rifleman, well qualified in scouting, whose duty is to pick off key enemy personnel who expose themselves. By eliminating enemy leaders and harassing the troops, sniping softens the enemy’s resistance and weakens his morale.” That definition remains consistent through the broader history of sniping, before and since, whether the weapon was a crossbow or a high-powered, telescopically sighted rifle.

Lie and wait

A sniper and spotter settling into a concealed position

The sniper is an incredibly efficient fighter, compared to the typical infantryman. Consider that in World War II, American infantry units fired 25,000 rounds to kill just one enemy soldier. By the Korean War, that figure jumped to 50,000 rounds, and the select-fire M14 and M16 infantry rifles of the Vietnam War only seem to have produced more misses, requiring the expenditure of 200,000 rounds to kill one enemy combatant. Nowadays, it’s a quarter million rounds of spraying and praying to kill a single Taliban.

By comparison, on average, a sniper requires only 1.3 bullets to kill an enemy. During the Vietnam War, it was noted on many occasions that a handful of snipers accounted for more enemy killed than the entire infantry battalion (and sometimes even regiment) they were assigned to.

It was the wildly disproportionate contribution of snipers in the Vietnam War that set the stage for the first permanent peacetime sniper training programs. The U.S. Marine Corps set theirs up first at Quantico, Va., in 1977, and the U.S. Army followed suit at Fort Benning, Ga., in 1985. Snipers were finally on the TO&E (Tables of Organization & Equipment) of combat units, which meant they would always be ready for deployment. The rigorous training programs ensured the accumulated knowledge, gained from combat experience, would be preserved and ready when it was needed.

130326-A-DK678-006Another critically important achievement of the USMC Scout Sniper and U.S. Army Sniper Schools was the creation of the U.S. military’s first purpose-built sniper rifles. Again, the USMC led the way with the M40A1 and the U.S. Army followed with the M24 Sniper Weapons System. Both were based on the Remington 700-bolt action rifle, chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. Prior to that, snipers used standard service rifles, specially selected for their accuracy and equipped with telescopic sights or commercial, off-the-shelf sporting rifles, as was the case in the black powder era and the Vietnam War. The upside of using the standard service rifle as the basis for a sniper conversion was complete parts and ordnance maintenance support from the normal supply channels. The downside was that the most accurate service rifles were not nearly as good as the best commercially available hunting rifles. The accuracy of the service rifle was always hampered by hand guards, stacking swivels and bayonet lugs hanging off the barrel – items totally useless to a sniper.

It is ironic that a country built on a tradition of rifle marksmanship took nearly 200 years to formally embrace the sniper, the man that represents the military apex of that long tradition. In each major war, through Vietnam, our armed forces began with no snipers and had to create training programs, usually in the theater of operations, to train them on the spot. Training varied from none to good, but the typical formula that has made many a successful American sniper is a rural background with early and continuous exposure to hunting or competitive, rifle shooting.

It is ironic that a country built on a tradition of rifle marksmanship took nearly 200 years to formally embrace the sniper

Time after time, at the conclusion of the war, the sniper schools were closed and the snipers faded away. The knowledge they gained in the deadly art of hunting men faded away with them and had to be re-taught in the next war. This happened because America’s senior military leaders saw the sniper as a specialist, of small importance compared to the conventional infantry, artillery, cavalry (and later armored) forces who massively outnumbered him. From the general’s point of view, snipers didn’t win wars; huge armies did.

During the American Revolution, volunteers from the frontier colonies took their long rifles to war. No British soldier within 400 yards was safe, and 200-yard, one-shot-kills were common. Riflemen terrorized the British, on the march and in garrison, picking off officers and noncommissioned officers from hidden positions. Without any formal guidance, they were doing exactly the same mission as snipers do today, but the British had far greater respect for them than General George Washington. Slow to load and lacking the capacity for a bayonet, the rifles and the unruly men who wielded them were ill-suited to the linear tactics of the day. General Washington thought the riflemen were more trouble than they were worth and didn’t want them in the Continental Army.

Trey Dominick USMC Scout Sniper

 In the American Civil War, snipers were called sharpshooters and recruited for their marksmanship skill. The percussion-lock rifled musket and minie ball of the period greatly increased accuracy, without sacrificing speed of loading, and made the battlefield a much deadlier place. Some sharpshooters made use of early telescopic sights and many used their personal weapons in battle. The breech-loading Sharps rifle was popular among Union sharpshooters because it could be loaded lying down, behind cover. The standard muzzleloading, rifled musket required the soldier to stand up to load it, thus exposing himself to enemy fire. Confederates favored the British Whitworth rifle, when they could get it. With its unique hexagonal-shaped, fast-twisting bore, instead of conventional cut rifling, it fired a six-sided bullet accurately just over a mile. It was the first military rifle built for long range accuracy. A Confederate sharpshooter, armed with a Whitworth rifle, killed Union General John Sedgwick at the Battle of Spotsylvania from a range of 800 yards.

During WW I, the skill sets and standard operating procedures of our present-day snipers were developed and codified in no-man’s land and the trenches. By that time, the bolt-action rifle reached the pinnacle of its development as an infantry weapon. It had a five- to 10-round magazine and fired a much smaller caliber, high-velocity and aerodynamic bullet, propelled by smokeless powder, up to 3 miles.

Once he had a suitable modern weapon, the scout sniper emerged in a form identical to the present day. Now actually called a sniper, he can engage targets at 1,000 yards with more precision than luck. Whether shooting from behind or in front of friendly lines, he selects his hiding place carefully and uses camouflage to conceal himself and his spotter. He may wait for hours or days to get a shot at his target. When and if he does fire, it is rarely more than a few shots before he must move to avoid detection. (Smokeless powder makes it much more difficult for the enemy to locate his position.)

Sniper rifles are now commonly equipped with telescopic sights. Germany, thanks to their world-renowned optics industry, initially dominated the battlefield by putting 20,000 scoped rifles (some of them civilian hunting rifles) in the hands of its best marksmen. The Allied nations had to play catch up. The United States Army fielded the ungainly 6x magnification prismatic Warner & Swasey scope, mounted on the .30-06 M1903 Springfield Rifle. It looked strange and it was clumsy, but it worked. It had over twice the magnification of most scopes of the day.

PHOTO 3 Military Sniper on a rooftop

The rooftops of the buildings in Iraq and Afghanistan created some of the most intensely-hot shooting platforms which created yet another obstacle for these Snipers

 

By World War II, telescopic sights improved and rugged, domestically made ones with fair weather resistance, like the 2.5x-power Lyman Alaskan (military M81/M82), were mounted on the standard .30-06 M1 semiautomatic rifle. The old M1903 Springfield, with an improved 10x-power Unertl scope, served the USMC, and the simplified M1903A4, with a 2x-power M73B1 scope was a substitute standard for both services.

In World War II, the United States was almost continuously on the offensive. Both the Japanese and Germans often used snipers, suicidally, to cover their withdrawals and stall the allied advance. The greatest threat to a sniper is another sniper, so U.S. Army infantry platoons commonly designated a scout sniper in the headquarters section to be employed at the commander’s discretion.

Contrary to our image of the American sniper as a lone wolf on the battlefield, they also fought as platoons. When the Marines invaded Betio in the Tarawa Atoll on Nov. 20, 1943, Lt. William D. Hawkins led his platoon of scout snipers on a mission, far in advance of the main forces. They hunted down, and eliminated, enemy machine gunners and snipers to protect the advance of their fellow Marines at the long pier. They fought with grenades and flamethrowers, as well as precision rifle fire. Lt. Hawkins died in the battle, but his ferocity in combat earned him the Medal of Honor.

The snipers role in the Korean War bore similarities to World War I: static lines, an attrition strategy and costly frontal attacks. Once again, the precision contributions of the hastily trained snipers (now equipped with M1D sniper rifles and 2.2x-power M84 scopes) was overshadowed by the mass slaughter wrought by concentrated small arms and artillery fire. Korea was a big war fought in a small place. If machine guns had trouble stopping human-wave attacks used by the Communist Chinese, what could snipers possibly do?

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The legendary Carlos Hathcock (left) in Vietnam

By contrast, snipers made undeniably significant contributions in the Vietnam War and all the wars that followed it. The nature and scale of combat changed in a manner that favored the sniper. Vietnam was a big war, but only in the aggregate. It was fought in small engagements over a large area and a long period of time. In this environment, the sniper was on more equal terms with the enemy. Combat actions in Grenada, Beirut, Iraq and Afghanistan were likewise small in scale, compared to the World Wars and Korea.

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Carlos Hathcock mounted a scope on an M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun and used it to make the longest recorded sniper kill in history.

The superior equipment, training and communication of today’s snipers makes them the deadliest warriors on the battlefield. In Vietnam in 1967, USMC scout sniper legend Carlos Hathcock mounted a scope on an M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun and used it to make the longest recorded sniper kill in history. His 2,286-meter record stood until 2002, when a Canadian sniper broke it by 24 meters in Afghanistan using a MacMillan Tac-50 bolt-action rifle in the same caliber. Hathcock’s improvised, ultralong-range, sniping demonstration was a harbinger of things to come. In 1990 the U.S. Army purchased the .50-caliber BMG M82 Barrett, semiautomatic sniper rifle for use in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in Iraq. Later it would be standardized as the M107. This rifle was used by Army Ranger Sgt. Bryan Kremer in Iraq, in March 2004, to make the 2,300-meter kill that now stands as the farthest for an American sniper. His was the fourth-longest kill shot in recorded history.

For the record, the credit for the farthest kill goes to British sniper Craig Harrison, who made an incredible 2,475-meter shot with an Accuracy International L115A3 rifle in .338 Lapua Magnum. The .338 Lapua round was designed to outrange the powerful .300 Winchester and extend the sniper’s lethality to 1,600 meters. Chief petty officer Chris Kyle used a McMillan Tac-338 bolt-action rifle in .338 Lapua Magnum to make his farthest kill, at 1,920 meters, against an enemy combatant about to fire an RPG at a passing American convoy.

Army Ranger Sgt. Bryan Kremer made a 2,300-meter kill in Iraq that now stands as the farthest for an American sniper.

In World Wars I and II, American snipers were expected to make 600-yard hits. This was reasonable, in light of the limitations of their service-rifle-based sniper rifles, and the ordinary ball ammunition they had to use. Today’s sniper is expected to hit the target at twice that range. The sniper’s skills remain the same, but his tools have greatly improved. Laser range finders, bipods, high-magnification scopes, night-vision scopes, match-grade ammunition, rugged specialty rifles built to take the abuse of combat and deliver competition accuracy, and excellent, often continuous communication, all contribute to getting the bullet where the sniper needs it to go, with greater accuracy than ever before possible.

The film American Sniper has grossed over $250,000,000 as of this writing, making it the most popular war film in American history. Its themes resonate with the public right now and are sure to generate an increased interest in long-range rifle marksmanship that will serve the cause of freedom well in wars to come. The film tells a slightly fictionalized account of the life of the aforementioned SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, who learned to shoot as a boy in rural Texas, perhaps not unlike our sharpshooters of yore, and became one of the most successful snipers in U.S. military history, saving countless American lives on the battlefield with his shooting ability. ASJ

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