WTF Autoglove?

So I was just informed about the “Autoglove”.

Picture taken from their website, click on the picture to visit their website.

It is a glove with some sort of electronic plunger to press a firearms trigger for you quickly.

First, stuff like this goes to show how stupid our gun laws are.

Secondly, you have to be impressed with how the free market will come up with a solution to any perceived problem.

Third, I am very curious if this will actually be approved by the ATF or not.  Previously they did not allow for the electric actuating of triggers.

I wouldn’t recommend this thing to anyone.  I believe you would quickly see shooters lose control of weapons with it.  What we really need is this unconstitutional NFA act abolished so silly law work arounds would be unnecessary.

Arms Unlimited Shipping

I work at a company that makes a great product at a good price.  We pack our product individually in padded envelops in a cardboard box.  That is one thing I think is rather hokey and could be done in a way that would look a great deal more professional.  One of our competitors sold their product in a box with custom cut foam.  I think that made their product look to be high end.  Now they replaced that with shrink wrapping their product to a piece of cardboard.  Now that cheap, crappy looking, and is just annoying for the customer.

I recently made a purchase from Arms Unlimited.  They have some good prices and they are now also offering a knock off of the Norgon ambidextrous magazine catch for the AR15.

I was very disappointed when I received the parts I ordered loose in a USPS shipping bag.  The bolt carrier groups, gas tube, and forward assist that I ordered were all scratched up from rubbing against each other.  Not very impressive.

But, I did get what I needed, and with any luck I’ll have a review of the Arms Unlimited Norgon knockoff for you guys soon.

Inland MFG “jungle M1 Carbine ” Review & Accuracy Test

Inland Mfg has been on a pretty good roll since they brought the old name back online and started producing weapons that could have been  if only they had continued.    I have already tested and reviewed their M1 carbine and their excellent USGI M1911A1.  If you read those reviews you know I was impressed with both.   The first M1 I tested rated pretty highly with me, though the same gun got a bad rap by some later testers who didn’t mention the hell I had put it through in my abusive testing.   I couldn’t make it fail me no matter how hard I tried while keeping my abuse within reality.  This  Jungle Carbine, as the company calls it is just as tough, possibly more accurate and has a nifty little new feature easy to miss.

The  Jungle M1 Carbine comes in a very nice box that keeps it packed nice and tight. Not really something that matters about the guns function, but to me sometimes attention paid to these kind of details can give you a hint about how seriously the maker takes other aspects.

The inside has the gun snug in foam , with sight and bolt handle protectors.  It came with two 15 round mags and a new Inland 30 round magazine. It also came with the owners manual etc, and the ever present lawyer lanyard.

Looking at the blister pack the 30 rounder cam in, I noticed on the back the specs for other mags Inland offers,  I did not know they had a 10 rounder. But that is good to know.  If you decided you wanted to hunt with the gun, this would make finding a magazine limited to the legal capacity for hunting a lot easier.

The mags all seem to be made to the mil specs of all other real USGI  M1 carbine mags I have seen and owned.  They worked as they should with no problems.  It can be dicey getting surplus mags that work in my experience so its good to know you can get new ones that are up to snuff.

The carbine has all the markings as other models in all the right places,  This mimics the USGI models and the originals.  Just like the WW2 models, this one has all the same small details attended to.

The buttstock has the logo and the slot for the oil bottle  that also works as the mounting point for the sling.  The wood of the stock on the test model is a nice walnut, darker than the first test gun and has the look  you associate with originals with their darker stocks.  Some people I showed the first model , thought the lighter color of the wood some how was off to their eyes.  I had to point out to them that they are used to seeing stocks oiled and reoiled over 60 years.

Of course the new Inlands have something hard to find on originals. A top handguard that actually matches the rest of the stock.

The fire controls are all standard M1 carbine.  These having the button safety as opposed to the lever.  The mag release being forward of the safety. Something some people have said they have had trouble with in the past.  It is what it is though. The guns being made correctly to the originals more than trying to modernize or correct anything.

The bolt operates the same as all others, cycle to chamber a round, with a button at the rear , used to manually lock the bolt back for administrative purposes or light cleaning or malfunction clearing. The mag will not lock empty on a 15 round man but it will on a 30 rounder.

Now on to accuracy testing.

I was able to make a very solid shooting set up for the gun. I took advantage of the slot in the stock and was able to lock it down almost like a vice.

After testing all the option of ammo which is basically different versions of ball ammo and some soft point, I selected the most accurate loads.  I used the PPU ball and some OLD remington soft points.   I then went on to shoot at 100, 125, 150 and some at 200 yards.

I have read a lot about the guns limited range and accuracy.  I get sick of this as it always seems to be more talk than action by those worthies.  I decided to shoot this gun  for accuracy in a way that would better show its potential on a man sized target in a self defense capacity.

First group at 100 yards.  I intended to shoot 10 rounds but lost count as you can see.  I fired this iron sight like I did all groups, and from the bench and bags.  The small peep is not good for my oddball eyes as a larger peep is easier for me.  So to make up for the peep not working well for my eyes and to make sure I got all I could out of it, I made sure to use the sand bagged/locked down set up.

The 125 yard group is shown on the targets “head”.  I have seen some guys who couldn’t do this with an M4 using an ACOG.   Not to say this is some how my ability, as I said the gun was nearly locked into a vice or as vicelike as I could manage, which was pretty good. I simple lined up the sights then worked the trigger while making  sure the gun didn’t slowly move off target.   After seeing this performance, I really wished I could pull the same set up off with other model rifles.

Above is the 150 yard group, Same set up.  The group isn’t much bigger than the first two.  Which ideally is what you would want, but I am sure it may surprise a decent amount of naysayers.   Not as good as a decent AR15 of course. but that is not a fair comparison. This was a PDW meant to replace the handgun.  This is still good enough to make a head shot possible if you could hold steady enough in the field.  Probably unlikely in combat  or any field shooting.  Making tight groups in the field is obviously a lot different than the range but you would be surprised how many seem to never want to acknowledge that little factoid.  Making hits accurately at any distance and in the field in any position  is something I wish we had more competitions that strove to replicate.

Group above is the 75 yard group. This is the closest I fired at this target and the group I set as the zero of the sights.  That is actually a 10 round group. This was fired with the  remington ammo that is so old I am not even going to bother showing because it couldn’t be found anyway. If  did show it, some one would go buy new made remington ammo and when it didn’t shoot as well blame me or be really let down.  The ammo was so old in fact, that some of it misfired.   I show this last because I originally didn’t intend to show it since the ammo can’t be purchased.  But on second thought, it is worth showing just to give an idea of my  zero and how well the gun will do within the range most people think is  “far” for it.

I had only 5 rounds left and fired at this tiny man shaped target at 200 yards .  I fired semi off hand  and hit it twice solid and a glance shot on the top (readers) left.   The other rounds landed so close I thought I hit it.  The entire target is a little bigger than the cardboard man sized Q target’s “head.”    The gun and round will make hits further.  You can find me making hits at 300 with the first test M1 I was sent.   The gun would make a great trunk gun or walking pack rifle or self defense gun if you live in a commie state.  No doubt it is still as handy today as it was in the 40s and 50s.

The reliability and function of the gun was as it should be,  I had no malfunctions other than ancient ammo being duds.  The gun worked though I left it un-oiled.  I fired  an uncomfortable amount of 30 carbine through it. Uncomfortable because of the price.  The gun had a hair over 500 rounds through it. All I could find at cabellas and every local guns store  and some old trashed looking stuff salvaged from a defunct pawn shop that had been collecting rust and dust since Rome fell.

Now to the new feature and something that make it more appealing to some.

The cone like flash hider/muzzle device may look funny to some, or familiar to others.   You may have seen something like it on the Bren, the British Enfield  “jungle carbine”  bolt action and possibly M1 carbines cut down and used by US  advisors, Special Forces  or Vietnamese troops  in Vietnam.   I’m not going to pretend to know the actual history of how any of those came in use and in association with use in jungles. Maybe Dan will have some insight to add or one of the wonderful  commentators who have started posting here more from weaponsman.   I will say that it looks pretty cool and it can be removed to allow you to thread on a sound suppressor. Or, the name it is known by if you are a left wing anti-gun kook, a silencer.  That is a pretty neat little perk I think.  This would allow mounting of a can to a gun that would look just like any USGI M1 but with a suppressor,  That would make for a neat package to me.  Of course you could attach other muzzle devices that  would work with the bore size.

The Jungle carbine otherwise is a gun made  for the smaller niche of Vietnam era Advisor type weapons. In the early years when US advisors and ARVN troops used the WW2 US family of weapons Many SF troops  would modify weapons to make them handier for jungle fighting.  Inland in fact makes a model they dubbed the Advisor which is a “pistol.”  That is to say the ATF  says that is what it is anyway.  It mimics a cut down M1 in a way a Green Beret would have  modifies it for easier jungle carry.

The small size and light recoil of the M1 made it popular with Vietnamese troops.  The communists and RVN troops both appreciated it s attributes.  You can see it in the hands of various units and factions in many pictures of the war.   In a time before the M16 became issued to ARV troop, no doubt it was much desired when compared to the M1 Garand  for the smaller sized Asian users.

No doubt in the hot jungles and hills and rice paddies, the M1 carbine would have been an easy rifle to carry.   Pictured above is the jungle carbine as used by an “advisor” wearing  ARVN airborne camo and using the M56 web gear. The M56 general purpose ammo pouches having been made in a transitional time and will hold the 30 round M1 carbine mags, M1 garand block clips, 40mm grenades, regular fragmentation grenades, M14 mags and BAR magazines. Of course a little later on , they held M16 twenty round mags.  A versatile pouch though it does have its flaws and draw backs.   Uniform and webgear from mooremilitaria.  If you are a collector of vietnam war gear and uniforms or just want some repro to wear and use, Moore militaria is your answer.   If you want a carbine, Inland is your answer to that.

Lastly., some ammo from 1952.  M1 carbine .30cal on  the original strippers. Ball and tracers 30 cal carbine.

 

KAHR ARMS P45 Part 2 Accuracy Test

The last time we took a look at the Kahr P45  in the first part to my review. I covered it’s various attributes and features.   http://looserounds.com/2017/05/21/kahr-arms-p45-part-1/

Now we will take a look at how the gun does in accuracy testing.  I did the testing in my usual manner. I shot 5 shot groups of various ammo I could get my  hands on at 20 and  25 yards from a a bench with sand bags.  Ammo was of the the type to be used for duty or self defense and some ball and target ammo handloads included.   All groups are shot slow fire  to the best of my ability to  try to give the gun every chance to show us what it has.

Per request I also started the practice of shooting handguns meant for defensive use at longer ranges. The idea being the possible need to stop a terrorist who may have explosives strapped to himself.

First off we have the Hornady 185 gr  SWC handloads.  A personal favorite accuracy load of mine that I won’t be sharing the load data for.  The load is a go to for accuracy testing and the gun loved it as much as most others.  The markings are the sharpie drawn square I drew for the target.    All groups are at 20 yards unless  marked.

The next load is my personal carry ammo.  The barnes 185 gr solid copper HPs in a +P load.   My 1911s shoot well with it and the extra weight of the gov model tames it.    The Kahr with its plymer frame and light weight made for painful shooting.  The gun also didn’t seems to like it as much as the M1911s.

The next group is a well know favorite of many.  Many of the local LE officers use it as their duty ammo.  I have never been in love with it to the same degree as others but  that’s just a personal choice.  This was group  is about what all other groups fired with the GD looked like.  I could not get it to shoot any tighter.

Next I tried some 230 grain lead practice and plinking ammo. It is common to use this as a plinking and practice load.  The gun didn’t like it to put it mildly.

Next up is another popular load.  The Winchester ranger T load,  a 230 gr HP that is basically the much hyped “black talon” without the evil black.  It was and is a common and popular police and carry loading that many still like to use.  It was so so.

 

The Federal HST is another common and some what popular self defense rounds at least locally..  I have never used it much beyond shooting it as a test load in pistol reviews, If you carry it and are thinking of a P45, here is how it did in the T&E sample.

The next two are both FMJ 230 gr ball rounds.  Not much to say about factory ball that you don’t already know,

This group is fired from my other self defense carry load.  This is the Corbon  185gr +P solid copper HP.  It is the same bullet as the barnes load without the grey/black coating.  This load shoots great in my 1911s and does well in this gun.   To no surprise  at all, it was rough shooting the hotter loads through the P45. The grip texture and the polymer frame are not comfortable to a guy like me used to the weight of the M1911. But it is an excellent SD load.

This is the Corbon  load in the 165 gr solid copper round.  It is again the same Barnes solid copper HP bullet in 165 grains  but not a +P loading.  This round is tailored for the shorter sub compact handguns with shorter barrels.  I use it as the standard carry  ammo in the Colt Defender.   It also works fine and is much more pleasant in the P45.  If i was going to carry the P45 this is the SD load I would use in it.

Above is a 10 round 25 yard group  fired with the target load of 185 SWCs.    The  loads are excellent in the P45.  Maybe it just likes 185 bullets period? It seems so on the surface anyway.

The same load fired a 50 yards as promised.  I fired two mags at the orange square not quite off hand but nor from bags and a rest.   It was more or less semi-supported as I rested my hands on something while standing up.   I would have shot 50 from bags and the bench but  didn’t realize that was the last of it I had until after I had shot this target.   Anyway, if you had to take an emergency  long range pistol shot I would think you would have to do it without sandbags and a bench anyways.    Maybe you could get into prone  to  steady yourself if you had time but who could really say?   It’s always worth seeing how a handgun or rifle would do offhand anyway.

 

The gun had no problems for me. I fired  896 rounds with no problems using a variety of bullet styles and  pressures.   I purposefully never lubed the gun and never had a problem.  The trigger is not what I would call great as I am of course a 1911 guy but I think it is fine for the striker style.  It took me considerable dry fire practice for 5 nights in a roll to get used to it.  No fault of the gun this is just a fact of life for a guy born with a M1911 in his hand.  All of the controls are easy to hit and I can’t fault it with anything.   It would make a good CCW pieve for the new owner looking for a solid reliable pistol without spending a lot.

 

 

 

Firearms Reverse Engineering : Best Of Weaponsman

Since the passing of our friend Kevin, AKA “Hognose”  we have been  running a “best of” spot of Kevin’s articles.   Best of being a bit of a misnomer as every thing he wrote qualifies.   We will continue posting Kevin’s writing as a tribute to him and an effort to make sure it always exists some where as  we are alive .

 

Firearms Reverse Engineering

One thing about the people of the gun: we’re conservative. By that, we don’t necessarily mean that we want 15 carrier groups back, eager to cut taxes and services, or sorry that mandatory chapel was gone by the time we went to college. There are actually card-carrying ACLU members and ivory tower socialists among us, but they’re conservative about their guns. For every reader who’s up to date on polymer wonder pistols, there’s about three who wish you could get a new Python. (The reason they can’t is that they don’t want it $3,500-4,000 bad, which is what an old-style hand-made perfect Python would cost to make today). Or a new Luger. For every one of you guys following the latest in M4 attachments (hey, let’s play “combat Legos!”), there’s a few who’d buy a new MP.44, if they could.

Every once in a while, gun manufacturers decide to satisfy these consumer yearnings with product. Sometimes, they succeed. Sometimes, the 10,000 guys who told them they were down for a semi-auto Chauchat turn into 10 guys who buy one and the businessmen get to undergo the intensive learning lab called Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The question becomes, if you are raising a zombie firearm from the dead: how? Even the original manufacturers tend not to have prints and process sheets for >50 year old products, and if they do, the documents are ill-adapted to the way we do things now. If your original product was made in Hiroshima or Dresden pre-1945, or Atlanta pre-1865, odds are the paperwork burned. If the company went tango uniform even ten years ago, rotsa ruck tracking down the design documents.

So, you’re sitting here with a firearm you know you could sell. You have the rights to reproduce it, because any patents and copyrights and trademarks are either in your possession or expired or defunct. Your problem is reverse engineering. It turns out that this is a very common problem in the firearms industry, and the path is well beaten before you.

Some Examples of Reverse-Engineered Drawings

People can do this with some calipers, a dial indicator, and some patience. Rio Benson has done that for the M1911A1.

Screenshot 2015-04-03 09.58.55

He explains why he thought a new set of documents were necessary in a preface to his document package:

Historically, when the drawings for John M. Browning’s Colt M1911 were first created, there was little in the way of ‘consensus’ standards to guide the designers and manufacturers of the day in either drawing format or in DOD documentation of materials and finishes. For the most part, these were added, hit or miss, in later drawing revisions. Furthermore, due to the original design’s flawless practicality and it’s amazing longevity, the government’s involvement, and the fact that in the ensuing 100-plus years of production the M1911 design has been officially fabricated by several different manufacturers, the drawings have gone through many, many revisions and redraws in order to accommodate all these various interests. These ‘mandated by committee’ redraws and revisions were not always made by the most competent of designers, and strict document control was virtually non-existent at the time. All of this has led to an exceedingly sad state of credibility, legibility, and even the availability of legitimate M1911 drawings today.

He modeled the firearm using SolidWorks 2009, with reference to DOD drawings available on the net, and his own decades of design and drafting-for-manufacture experience. The results are available here in a remarkable spirit of generosity; and if you want his solid models or his help producing this (or, perhaps, on another firearm), he’s available to help, for a fee.

findlay-stenIn a similar spirit, experienced industry engineer David S. Findlay whom we’ve mentioned from time to time, has published two books that amount to the set of documents reverse-engineered  from an M1A1 Thompson SMG and from a Sten Mk II. The limitations of these include that they come from reverse-engineering single examples of the firearm in question, and the tolerances are based, naturally, on Findlay’s experience and knowledge. So his reverse-engineering job may not gibe with the original drawings, but you could build a firearm from his drawings and we reckon the parts would interchange with the original, if his example was well representative of the class.

Nicolaus M1 Garand bookOn the other hand, Eric A. Nicolaus has published several books of cleaned-up original drawings of the M1 Garand, the M1D, the M1 and M1A1 carbines, various telescopes, etc.

Nicolaus’s books provide prints like the Findlay books do, but they’re not reverse engineering. They’re reprints of the initial engineering, cleaned up and republished. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Sometimes the Industry needs Reverse Engineering

A perfect example is when planning to reintroduce an obsolete product. Most manufacturers that have been around since the 19th Century never foresaw the rise of cowboy action shooting, but now that it’s here, they want to put their iconic 1880s products in the hands of eager buyers. Or perhaps, they need to move a foreign product to the US (or vice versa). In this case, reverse engineering the product may be less fraught with risk than converting paper drawings which use obsolete drawing standards, measures and tolerancing assumptions. You may recognize this reverse-engineered frame:

reverse-engineered_walther_frame

If you are exploring a reverse engineering job, there are several ways to do it. The first is in-house with your own engineers. (You may need to ride herd on them to keep their natural engineers’ tendency to improve every design endlessly in check). The next, is to outsource to an engineering consultancy that does this. The third is to use a metrology and engineering company, like Q Plus Labs, from whom we draw that pistol-frame example. They say:

[W]e offer numerous reverse engineering methods and services to define parts or product. Q-PLUS provides everything from raw measurement data to parametric engineering drawings that correspond to a 3D CAD solid model! We also offer reverse engineering design consulting to point you in the right direction.

  • Digitizing & Scanning
  • Measurement Services
  • 3D CAD Solid Modeling
  • Engineering Drawings

In other words, you can go there to have them do, essentially, what Rio Benson did with the 1911 with your product. They can digitize an item from 3D scanning, or they can take a drawing and dimension it from known-good examples. Given enough good examples, they can actually determine tolerances statistically and substantiate them to a level that will satisfy regulatory agencies such as the FAA. (This lack of a range of parts and statistical basis for the tolerances is, in our opinion, a rare weakness in Findlay’s single-example approach).

Reverse engineering has gone from something in the back alleys of engineering or attributed to overseas copycats, to something firmly in the mainstream of modern production engineering.

 

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

How low will they go?

$360 dollar AR15 for sale here.

Prices on guns are at an amazingly low price.  I know that gunshops I have talked to are hurting for sales.  Now is really the best time to buy if there is something you want, and a terrible time to be selling.

To paraphrase a quote, “The problem with being in a golden age is that you don’t know it is a golden age when you are in it.”  Take advantage of this time while it lasts.

101 Uses For Ammocan

The online surplus website Old Grouch’s Surplus  sent out an email with a neat list of ideas if you are like me and have more of these than you know what to currently do with.

1- Make a portable wood stove
2- Lockable center console for your Jeep or UTV
3- Tool Box
4- Waterproof storage in your boat
5-Computer case
6- Pistol Storage
7- Field Toilet (line with a plastic bag to dispose of, don’t ruin your can!)
8- Waterproof and airtight seed storage
9- Flammable storage (paint cans, sprays)
10- Cache
11- Waterproof document storage
12- Seat around the campsite
13- Nut and bolt storage in the garage
14- Waterproof first aid kit
15- Ham Radio go-box
16- Foot Stool
17- Live trap, rigging the lid like a deadfall
18- Spare gun parts storage
19- Parts washer you can shut and store the fluid in
20- Store pistols
21- Store spare parts for guns, machines etc
22- Store fire starting equipment dry and safe
23- Planter
24- Faraday cage
25- Store and sort fired brass
26- Store gunpowder
27- Store magazines
28- Make a lockbox for your game cameras to keep the them secure
29- Store tire chains
30- Store emergency supplies in your car
31- Make custom motorcycle saddlebags
32- Oil drop pan
33- Store oils and grease in the car or truck to avoid leaks
34- Mount speakers inside in your Jeep
35- Make a Geocache
36- Store chain to keep it from getting everything dirty
37- Store receipts in your car until you can file them
38- Fill with chain or concrete to make weights for tractor or mower
39- Cigar humidor
40- Solar power system with battery inside and panel on top
41- Urn for a veterans ashes
42- Storage for kids toys
43- Storage for paint, markers and art supplies
44- Hide the stuff you don’t want your wife to find in an ammo box mixed with all the boxes of ammo
45- Store family pictures
46- Make a radio with speakers mounted in it
47- Transport power tools and batteries to jobsites dry and secure
48- Lunch box
49- Waterproof case for electronic game calls
50- Mailbox
51- Mount on trailer to hold straps, tarps & chains when not in use
52- Dog bowl when camping- store food in the can and open to serve
53- Mount to spare tire rack on a Jeep or SUV for extra storage space
54- Nesting box for chickens
55- Gun cleaning supply storage
56- Full with sand to use as exercise weights
57- Add foam padding for transporting sensitive electronics
58- ATV gear storage- mount to the racks for Waterproof storage for straps, emergency supplies, etc
59- Quench tank for blacksmiths
60- Battery box for deep cycle batteries
61- Camp food storage to keep critters big and small out
62- Ice chest, line the sides with Styrofoam for insulation
63- Soak your feet after a long day on the trail
64- Pack grab and go survival kits in them and give them as gifts
65- Bolt under the hood of a Jeep to store tools that won’t get stolen when you run topless
66- Store plumbing and electrical fittings at home or in a service truck
67- Store loose change
68- Mount one on your tractor to hold tools and one to hold chains and pins
69- Mount electric fence charger inside to protect from weather and damage
70- Boot scraper
71- Keep shoe polish and gear stored airtight
72- Stack like Legos to make furniture like chairs and benches
73- Ballot box
74- Essential oil storage
75- Shadow box with one side replaced with glass
76- Store poker chips & cards
77- Herb garden mounted on the wall
78- Store coffee and supplies on camping trips
79- Birdhouse
80- Giant emergency candle case that shuts for storage
81- Gift box for groomsmen
82- Store liquor bottles camping
83- Ash can for fireplace or wood stove
84- Knife storage
85- Keep spare computer cables, phone chargers stored neatly.
86- Mount as toolbox under truck flat bed or utility bed
87- Store pet grooming supplies
88- Keep pesticides and weed killers locked where kids and pets can’t get them
89- Keep weed trimmer string organized instead of all over the place
90- Wheel chock
91- Hunting Scent Storage
92- Cash box
93- After hours drop box for keys, money etc
94- Rocket stove
95- Case for Rasberry Pi projects
96- Hidden storage up under desk
97- Flotation device (when empty, don’t try this full of ammo!)
98- Keep your welding rods dry
99- Wash basin
100- Burn Box for documents
101- Keep your ammo in, of course!

A Short History of Chrome Bores

Again this week we have a post from our friend Kevin O’Brien, owner and author of weaponsman.com.  Kevin AKA Hognose, passed away earlier this year and in a back up effort we will be running  “The Best of weaponsman”  which could be every technical article he  wrote. 

 

For some 500 years it’s been known that rifling would impart spin and therefore stabilization to a ball or bullet. Spiral grooves probably evolved from straight grooves only intended to trap powder fouling; by 1500 gunsmiths in Augsburg, Germany, were rifling their arquebuses. This gave rise to an early attempt at gun control, according to W.S. Curtis in Long Range Shooting, An Historical Perspective: 

In the early 16th Century there are references to banning grooved barrels because they were unfair. Students of the duel will recognize this problem arising three hundred years later.

Curtis, 2001. Curtis notes that why rifling was twisted is unknown, and that it may have been incompletely understood. He has quite a few interesting historical references, including one to a philosopher who explained that if you spun the ball fast enough, the demon (who dwelt in gunpowder, which was surely Satan’s own substance) couldn’t stay on and guide your ball astray. (Curtis’s work is worth beginning at the beginning, which is here).

By the mid-19th Century, the Newtonian physics of the rifled bore had been sorted out, the Minié and similar balls made rifled muskets as quick-loading as smoothbores, and the scientific method allowed engineers to test hypotheses systematically by experimentation. So smoothbores were gone for quite a while (they would return in the 20th Century in pursuit of extreme velocities, as in tank guns).

Rifling had several effects beyond greater accuracy. It did decrease muzzle velocity slightly, and it did increase waste heat in the barrel. The first of these was no big deal, and the latter was easily handled, at first, by improved metallurgy. But rifling also helps retain highly corrosive combustion by-products in the bore; and corrosion was extremely damaging to rifling. Pitted rifling itself might not have too much of an effect on accuracy (surprisingly), but the fouling that collected in the pits did. Corrosion also weakened the material of barrels, but most military barrels had such great reserves of strength that this was immaterial, also.

Fouling and pitting have been the bête noire of rifles from 1498 in Augsburg to, frankly, today. A badly pitted barrel can only be restored by relining the barrel, a job for a skilled gunsmith with, at least, first-class measuring tools and a precision lathe with a long bed. Relining has never been accepted, to the best of our knowledge, by any military worldwide.

Chrome Plating is Invented: 1911-1924

One approach has been to use corrosion-resistant materials for barrels, but that has been late in coming (late 20th Century) because it is, of course, metallurgy-dependent. Early in the 20th Century, though, American scientists and engineers developed a new technology — electroplating. George Sargent, of UNH and Cornell, worked with chromium as early as 1911, and Columbia scientists developed a commercially practical process of using electrodes to deposit chromium by 1924. Meanwhile a New Jersey professor worked with a German process.

The two groups of professors formed start-ups, the Chemical Treatment Company and the Chromium Products Corporation. At this point, chrome plating has not been applied to firearms. Electroplating had been used for guns for decades, of course, but that was nickel plating — eye-pleasing, but soft and prone to flaking, not suitable for bores, and not remotely as corrosion-resistant as chromium.

(This article is rather long, so it is continued after the #More link below. We next take up the application of this process to rifle bores).

Chrome comes to bores in the lab: 1925-32

One thing that had held chrome plating back was lack of a practical quality control method. George Dubpernell discovered a practical test almost by accident: chrome would adhere to copper, but copper would not adhere to chrome. This was later supplanted by NDT methods, but it was essential to the growth of chrome in industry.

Olin’s and Schuricht’s patent of 1932 (not 1935, a rare error in Emerson),  US Patent 1,886,218, applied chrome plating to small arms and sporting weapons’ bores. They applied for the patent in 1927, and note, as is now well known, that bores must be made slightly oversized to account for the dimensional changes from chrome deposition. They also, interestingly, saw chrome plating as a way to restore worn rifling and eroded barrels. We’re unaware of any such use being brought into practice in the intervening decades.

Meanwhile, in 1937, T.K. Vincent noted that:

Chromium plating of small arms barrels results in longer accuracy life. However, the cost of plating is excessive compared to the results obtained.

The longer accuracy life results from taming the bugbear of bore erosion. By 1942, in a thorough study of bore erosion of guns large and small (from 3″ naval guns to small arms),  Burlew noted a report by Russell that considered chrome plate a “bad” material from a bore-erosion standpoint, except “when made very adherent”; in that case it was an “excellent” material, roughly five to nine times better than ordinary plating. Chrome-plated steel barely edged out bare steel, and all beat exotic metals like Inconel and Monel; the least erosion was found in the chrome-plated barrels with the thinnest chrome plating (0.0005″), although all these tests were of a 12″ naval gun, and their applicability to small arms might not be direct or proportional.

The technology of chrome plating continued to advance, even as weapons designers struggled to bring the technology’s benefits to bear on practical small arms.

Adoption of chrome by the world’s militaries — early adopters

The Empire of Japan was the earliest nation to chrome the bores of its rifles. The Japanese had different reasons, perhaps, than other nations. In Japan, supply of high-quality steel was insufficient to wartime requirements. This is especially true after 1940, when the United States imposed sanctions on the island nation, which depended on imports for almost all resouces; and even more true as unrestricted submarine warfare, which was ordered implemented even as the Pearl Harbor strike force was recovering on their carriers, began to strangle the home islands.

Casting about for a way to work with the second-rate steels they had, the engineers at Sagami Arsenal, which was used for ammunition storage and for war production (Japan’s only 100-ton tank was built here; it was too heavy to move to the seaport for deployment) set upon a 1937 patent. They concluded that chrome-plated mild steel could substitute for some high-speed and high-carbon steels, and from 1940 that’s what Japanese engineers did. The history of a Japanese firm explains:

The Japan Science Council reported then Government to recommend the policy to apply hard chrome plating on the low grade steel as the alternative to high grade one, such as special steel or high-speed steel, under the difficult external trade conditions to get them, the invention, Patent No.131175 (1937), “the method to deposit hard and thick metal chrome plating” by Minoru Araki, the former president of Company, being as the technical foundation. It was followed by the request to establish a specialized company of hard chrome plating (industrial chrome plating) from National Headquarters of Aviation, Sagami Arsenal, and customers.

As a result, the next rifle adopted by Japan, the Type 99 Arisaka 7.7mm rifle, had a chrome-plated bore. As David Petzal writes for Field and Stream, they were “the first military barrels ever to have this feature.”

The industrial and materials-science reasoning behind Japanese chroming is missing from most US sources. Gordon Rottman (a fellow SF veteran) writes that , “the Japanese had the foresight to produce the type 99 with a chrome-plated board to prolong barrel life, ease cleaning, and protect it from tropical rust.”

In addition to the Type 99s, all of which were intended to be made with chrome-lined bores, all Type 100 submachine guns, some late Type 38 6.5mm Arisakas, and some late Type 14 “Nambu” pistols had chrome-lined bores. By late in the war, ever more serious materials shortages meant that chrome bores were one of the features deleted from late production guns (like such Type 99 features as a monopod).

The United States initially chromed only large-caliber artillery bores. From Navweaps.com:

In the 1930s, the USN started to chrome plate the bores of most guns to a depth of 0.0005 inches (0.013 mm). This was “hard chrome,” which is not the kind that you find on your father’s Oldsmobile. This plating increased barrel life by as much as 25%. The plating generally extended over the length of the rifling and shot seating. Chrome plating has also been found to reduce copper deposits.

All along, as a large body of scientific papers at DTIC reveals, US small arms developers continued to work on chrome for small arms. US engineers were aided in this by their very great extent to which chrome was being used in the automotive industry. Springfield Armory developers would have had access to many papers being produced at the same time by the SAE, and Springfield of course worked closely with the developers, themselves, of chrome industrial processes.

But chrome was not standardized for US small arms bores until after World War II — in fact, not until the mid-1950s, well after Japanese and Russian adoption of the technology. As we’ve recounted here before, the first US weapon to be manufactured new with a chrome bore was the M14 rifle. Around the same time, chrome bores were used in developing a 7.62 mm NATO conversion kit for the Browning light machine guns, and replacement barrels that were manufactured for Legacy weapons like the M1 rifle, started to be manufactured with chrome bores as well.

Because chrome bores lost some definition in the rifling, and therefore some accuracy, National Match rifles continue to be produced with standard bores. But the advantages of chrome in the field could not be overlooked.

The M16 rifle was initially produced without a chrome bore. There are two reasons for this: first, the M16 was a product of a private industry initiative, and not the usual Army development system. The disastrous fielding of the M-16, with the bare bore combined with very poor maintenance practices and some units, led to the Army adding a chrome chamber, and then finally a chrome bore to the weapon.

Another assembly of the M-16 was chromed, and this led to a lot of problems. The part in question was the entire bolt carrier group. Early on, a number of the bolts and bolt carriers failed. This turned out to be due to metallurgical problems, specifically with heat treating (that will sound familiar to anyone who has followed the M14 history), the deficiencies of which were masked by the plating, and also with hydrogen embrittlement of the steel carrier during the chroming process. The specification was changed to require the bolt to be Parkerized, except for its internal expansion chamber, and the inside of the bolt carrier key, which are still chromed (chroming only a single surface of a part does not risk hydrogen embrittlement).

Early chrome BCGs that were properly heat-treated and passed testing were allowed to remain in M16A1s by the Army, but they were not allowed to be deployed OCONUS. The reason given (in the M16 maintenance manual, TM9-1005-319-23&P) is simply to prevent glare off a chrome bolt carrier from exposing soldiers’ positions.

The USSR‘s reasons for introducing chrome plating (whether for corrosion control, ease of cleaning, or metallurgy) are unknown to us, but extensive collector interest makes it clear when the feature was added: 1950. No known 1949 SKS or AK rifles have chrome bores, some 1950 models do, and almost all 1951 and subsequent guns do. Chinese AK and SKS rifles were produced with chrome bores from their introduction in 1956. Some satellites’ bores were not chromed, notably Yugoslavia’s pre-1970s. (Yugoslavia was technically not a “satellite,” but it was a Eurasian communist country).

For practical purposes, this means that all Soviet and Chinese spec AKs will have chrome bores. In addition, gas pistons are also chromed. This greatly facilitates cleaning, and prevents corrosion in a highly corrosion-prone part of the system.

Russian small arms of larger caliber, including the 37mm tube of the RPG-7V, are also chromed.

Adoption of chrome by the world’s militaries – later adopters

Belgium, a small country that looms large in world firearms exports thanks to FN, was not an early adopter of chrome bores. The entire production of the FN-49, including all ABL, SAFN, and AFN rifles, left the FN factory with conventional steel bores. Much later, metric pattern FALs received, first, chrome chambers, and later chrome bores. What makes FN interesting enough to comment on here is their  use of chrome extended to the internal parts of their MGs and the insides of their receivers, making MAGs and Minimis very easy to clean.

US variants of these FN guns don’t have these parts chromed. The initial MAGs and Minimis purchased using using special funding vehicles by select US special operations units, had these features. In subsequent US production, the chroming was eliminated, and those parts of the M240 and M249 are Parkerized. We don’t know if this was done to save money, because the Army simply preferred the Parkerized coating, or because of the Army’s bad experience with chromed bolts on the M16A1.

Britain adopted chrome bores well after World War II, including some retrofits like the L4 Bren Gun from at least the L4A4 version to the final L4A9. As noted above, Britain’s inch-pattern FALs did not receive chrome bores.

Chrome chamber vs Chrome bore

Industrially speaking, each of these had its own pros and cons. Chroming the whole barrel was more expensive, increased demands for both manufacturing and inspection precision, required the rifling to be cut slightly oversize (to allow for the chromium deposition), and led to much greater waste. Chroming the chamber was a compromise that enhanced extraction — a sticky problem with many automatic arms — without the costs and problems associated with full-length bore chroming.

But the US experience showed that half a loaf (chroming the chamber only) didn’t get the job done. While the chamber became very resistant to corrosion, GI’s inspection of the bore often stopped with a glance in the chamber area, and if the chamber was gleaming, they’d assume the rifle was good to go — eveb as combustion byproducts and deposits ate away at the rifling.

Meanwhile, chrome bores let the manufacturers do things that were difficult or even impossible with conventional manufacturing processes. As noted above, the Japanese were able to use chromium plating to substitute for lack of chromoly steel. In the USA, Springfield Armory discovered that by slowly withdrawing the barrel, chamber first, from the chromium bath they could create a squeeze-bore effect due to the higher deposition of chrome on the parts of the barrel that were in the chrome bath longer. (Methods of altering the depth of chrome depositions produced at least two patents, 2,425,349 and 2,687,591; the second is Springfield’s process).

Chrome’s cost rises

In the 1970s, the chost of chromium suddenly went through the roof: the two greatest producers, Rhodesia and the USSR (ironically, two defunct nations, today) were locked out of the US market, the former by sanctions and the latter by international politics. (Note that around 1974 the styles of American cars began to use less chrome plate and more body-colored and black molding. This fashion was driven in part by costs).

Today, the biggest driver of rising plating costs is new environmental regulations. Chromium, like most metals, is something you really don’t want to breathe in.

Quality chrome plating is still expensive, and cheap plating produces a lot of waste. Some gun parts makers have chosen to, essentially, ignore the waste and ship products with poor (or zero!) nondestructive testing and inspection, sacrificial sample examination, or other valid QC.

Chrome plating today & tomorrow

Plating has to fight to maintain its place vis-a-vis other anticorrosion technologies, including noncorrosive metals (i.e. stainless steel) and superior steel coatings like Melonite, but it has a very strong position as an erosion fighter, particularly in barrels subject to high temperatures (think automatic fire).

Some scientists are working on electroplating as a means of additive manufacturing. Laugh if you like, but the plating industry of today was entirely based upon laboratory discoveries.

And gun engineers continue to apply new kinds of chromium treatment to bores. A recent patent application by Rheinmettal covers depositing a different thickness of chrome in the lands and the grooves of a rifled barrel.

One of the biggest changes is that a chrome-plated bore, if made with sufficient care, may be as accurate or more accurate than a bare bore. (For example, SAK manufacture M16 replacement barrels seem to outshoot many target barrels). But this may not be as big a change as you think. According to Emerson, in 1962 Springfield Armory made a small quantity of chromed National Match barrels. They discontinued the practice not because the barrels were bad, but because they were much more expensive to make than bare barrels, and they were not any better. But they were atdid fully comply with national match standards at the time.

Chrome-lined barrels are currently the standard in military small arms. This will change if and when something better comes down the pike – and not before.

References

Burlew, John S. The Erosion of Guns, Part One: Fundamentals of Ordnance Relating to Gun Erosion. Report No. A-90 Progress Report. Washington: National Defense Research Committee, 8 Sep 42. Retrieved from: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a422462.pdf

Burlew, John S. The Erosion of Guns, Part Two: The Characteristics of Gun Erosion. Report No. A-91 Progress Report. Washington: National Defense Research Committee, 31 Oct 42. Retrieved from: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/b280242.pdf

Curtis, W.S. Long Range Shooting, An Historical Perspective. Research Press, 2001. Retrieved from: http://www.researchpress.co.uk/longrange/lrhistory.htm

Dubpernell, George. History of Chromium Plating. Products Finishing magazine, 13 Nov 12. Reprint of Plating & Surface Finishing from 1984. Retrieved from: http://www.pfonline.com/articles/history-of-chromium-plating

Emerson, Lee. M14 Rifle History and Development. Online Edition, 2007. 

GlobalSecurity.org. Sagami Depot, Japan. n.d. Retrieved from: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/sagami-depot.htm

Koka Chrome Industry Ltd., Company History. n.d. (2011 or later). Retrieved from: http://www.koka-chrome.co.jp/en/company/history.html

Olin, John, and Schuricht, Alfons. Gun barrel and process of finishing the same. Washington, 1932: US Patent No. 1,886,218. Retrieved from: http://www.google.com/patents/US1886218.

Rottman, Gordon. Japanese Army in World War II: the South Pacific and New Guinea, 1942–43. 2005: Osprey Publishing. (p. 36).

US Army, Technical Manual: Unit and Direct Support Maintenance Manual (Including Repair Parts and Special Tools List): Rifle, 5.56mm M16A2; Carbine, 5.56mm M4; Carbine, 5.56mm M4A1. Washington, DC, 9 Apr 97

Vincent, T.K. Development of Chrome Plating of Guns. Abstract only (have been unable to find the full text). Aberdeen Proving Ground: Ballistics Research Labs, 1937. Retrieved from: http://oai.dtic.mil/oai/oai?&verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=AD0701179

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).