Category Archives: Scattered Shots

Build verses buy your first AR?

 

I saw again recently someone suggesting that a first time AR15 buyer build their own AR15 so that they would be better familiar with the parts and operation.  I think a person could learn the parts and operation of a firearm just fine without building one.

By all means build a custom AR if you want too, but I highly recommend buying a good factory built AR15 for your first one.  Having built quite a few ARs myself, and seen many more built, there are all sorts of mistakes a person can make.  I’ve seen incorrectly aligned gas blocks, gas tubes, hammer springs reversed or under the trigger pin (allowing the trigger pin to walk out.  Loose barrel nuts, loose castle nuts (allowing the stock to rotate and or the buffer retainer popping out and jamming the action), and more.  The AR15 is a pretty simple weapon, but simple does not mean that you cannot mess it up.  A factory built gun will generally be assembled correctly and you will have a warranty if there are any issues.

The best thing about the AR family of weapons is the massive amount of aftermarket parts.  It can be overwhelming, and not all of it plays nice together.  With more and more companies producing parts, they are not all interchangeable.  For example, many hand guards now do not fit correctly on various billet uppers due to these aftermarket billet uppers using different dimensions then a milspec upper.

If you buy a complete rifle from a reputable manufacture, you know the parts they choose to use will work.  If you build your own, you will need to do a little research.  Sometimes trying to just buy all the best individual components will leave you with something that won’t work together.  For example, some years back a few companies were making enhanced bolt carriers.  A guy I knew purchased the LMT enhanced bolt carrier since it was supposed to be better than a standard one.  He built a SBR with it, and found it didn’t work (The LMT carrier might not have been the only issue with it, but I’m using as an example).  The LMT enhanced bolt carrier was tuned and built for a 14.5 inch barrel or longer.  This guy just saw that there was an “upgraded” part, bought it, and never realized it wouldn’t work for him.

I could go on with more examples, but if you’re going to get an AR for serious use, or if you are not very familiar with them, it is recommended you buy a factory AR15 from a reputable company.

5 Reasons for the AK’s Legendary Reliability

 

Since the untimely passing of our friend, Kevin  AKA Weaponsman, we will be running  “the best of weaponsman.com” in his memory.

 

5 Reasons for the AK’s Legendary Reliability

AK-47The Avtomat Kalashnikova obrazets 1974g and its successors have an enviable reputation for reliability, especially under adverse conditions. There are a number of reasons for this, and we’ll go into them in some depth here. First, though, let’s say what is not a cause:

  • It’s not because of blind luck.
  • It’s not because the weapon is orders of magnitude better than its worldwide competitors. Indeed, by the end of WWII a very high standard of reliability had come to be expected, and weapons that did not meet this standard were mercilessly eliminated, like the Johnson M1941 and the Tokarev SVT.
  • Mikhail KalashikovIt’s not because Kalashnikov the man had genius that was lacking in other men. His competitors in the field, from Browning, to the Mauser-werke engineers of the 1940s to Stoner, were certainly men of genius as well. (Heck, so were Tokarev and Johnson). He’d have been the first to tell you he was just a thinking engineer.
  • It’s not because of breakthroughs. Almost every feature of the AK is recycled from somewhere else. What Kalashnikov did was synthesize them in a new way.

The Kalashnikov rifle is not, in fact, a universally superior design. Compared to its worldwide competitors (the FN SAFN and FAL, the CETME and G3, the M14 and M16 series, to name the most important), it is less accurate, less flexible/adaptable, and less ergonomic than every other. It offers less practical range than any other; and at the other extreme of range, it is the worst bayonet handle. It weighs more than some, has the heaviest magazines by far, and has an inferior weight-to-firepower ratio to most. It is inaccurate from the shoulder in full-automatic fire, yet it is designed to be fired, preferentially, on full automatic.

The strengths of the AK have overcome these deficiencies to make it incredibly common worldwide. Those strengths, compared to its competitors, include a somewhat lighter weight of ammunition, a larger standard magazine, great simplicity of operation and ease of manufacture, and that vaunted reliability, perhaps its most salient characteristic.

Design features of the AK which contribute to its reliability include:

1. Simplicity

The AK is almost as simple as a hammer. It is simple to build and manufacture (we’ll go into some specifics below). It uses no space-age materials, not even any aeronautical technology, just 19th-Century steel and iron and wood. (Much later, Kalashnikovs would have composite magazines and composite furniture. The US put composite stocks on BARs by 1944, and had them ready for the M1 and M14 in the 1950s, but an AK would not have a composite stock in its home nation for another forty years). There is no advanced machinery needed to produce an AK — indeed, one can be built (and they have been built) with hand tools and no precision measuring equipment, not even a micrometer. The rifle itself has no parts that cannot be filed, ground or machined from steel, or hammered from sheet metal, or riveted or welded from parts made this way. Most auto repair shops have the tools needed to build an AK, apart from rifling the barrel; the necessary materials are in the same shop’s scrap pile.

The AK’s operating system is simple and proven, a long-stroke gas piston system and a rotating bolt. Unlike the dainty bolt of the AR system (lifted itself from the M1941 Johnson) with its 7 precision locking lugs (and one false lug on the extractor), the AK bolt has two locking lugs, oversized, overstrong, and remarkably tolerant of undersized contact patches with the locking recesses of the trunnion. (Factory AKs have wide disparities here, especially those made by some of the more slipshod non-Russian, non-Chinese factories. The guns all seem to headspace correctly, operate normally, and fire reliably).

The AK does have one part that is a highly complex weldment: the magazine. The magazine and the feed path in general is very simple, straightforward, and repeatable, which is why the mag clearly got a lot of engineering hours. Gun designer David Findlay, who’s worked at Remington, Marlin, H&R 1871, and Smith & Wesson, says**:

Feed-system design, though, is one of the most important aspects of any weapons performance. A great deal of testing must be done to ensure good performance. Small variations and subtleties in magazine dimensions can have enormous impact on gun reliability and function.

Findlay wrote these words in explaining the engineering of the feed path of the Thompson Submachine Gun, but they’re generally applicable, and go a long way to explaining why Mikhail Kalashnikov lavished so much care on the magazine design. The fact that the receiver of the AK has received many modifications, but that the only change to the magazine is in reinforcing ribs and later magazine-body materials seems to hint he got it right.

An old engineer’s quip is that the designer’s objective is to “simplicate and add lightness.” (This has been attributed, among others, to automotive engineer Colin Chapman and aerospace engineer Burt Rutan). Mikhail Kalashnikov started off by “simplicating” most of the potential for trouble out of his design. (He didn’t make “adding lightness” a priority).

2. Environmental protection

Every designer has long known that foreign matter — mud, dust, and what have you — are the bitter enemies of reliable function in the short term, and that corrosion, rust, is the long-term destroyer of gun reliability. If you examine an AK you will see that it’s hard for foreign matter to intrude into, say, a dropped rifle. The safety, modeled loosely on that of the Remington Model 8 (a Browning design), does double duty in sealing the gap between the receiver and the nonstructural receiver cover. In operation, the charging handle, which is part of the bolt carrier, reciprocates in the open slot that the safety/selector seals shut. That seal and the lack of other large entrees into the receiver keep the interior clean.

Unlike Browning or Stoner, Kalashnikov was limited by the Soviet industrial base; he couldn’t call out exotic materials or sophisticated protective treatments, so early AKs were all steel and rust blued, an attractive finish that was weak at preventing corrosion. Some critical parts, though, notably the gas port area, the gas piston, and the bore, received hard chrome plating, and the weapon is designed in such a way that rust or pitting on other parts just does not matter in terms of reliable function or accuracy. It’s not unusual to find AKs in the field with all kinds of surface rust and pitting on their exteriors, only to find that the vitals, protected by chrome plating, have held up, and the guns still shoot within the modest (and sufficient) standards of a new AK.

3. Lack of small, dainty (and fragile) parts

A field-stripped AK contains nothing you’ll need to grope for if you drop it in tall grass (or mud, or a stream) in the dark. The pieces are big and robust, deliberately so, and this philosophy extends to the internals.

heartbreak ridge AK47 2

Nothin’ dainty about it.

The story of the development of any weapon you care to name involves interesting (and sometimes distressing) breakages. The FN, for example, was prone to firing-pin failures (the answer, which took the experts of three countries to fix, was to reduce the hardness of the part, as measured on the Rockwell C scale, and to shot-peen its surfaces: problem solved). The very first AR-10 tested by the US government had a bullet emerge from the side of the barrel in testing, not exactly a confidence-builder. (They gave up on an AL alloy barrel with a steel liner, then, which neutralized the gun’s weight advantage over the extant M14). Indeed, the AR-10 had terrible problems well into its development and production, and the Portuguese were still solving problems with it during their colonial wars in the 1970s. Many of those same problems, and a set of new ones, struck during development and production of the M16. The AK presumably had problems with these, but because the information was closely held at the time, archives have not fully opened, and most of the principals passed on without leaving technical memoirs, we know about only a few of them (for example, the failure of the first model stamped receivers, which caused a change to a machined-from-billet receiver).

The internals, though, seem to have been robust from the very beginning. Kalashnikov’s point of departure was the Garand trigger group, which itself borrowed from Browning. (Stoner would choose that same point of departure). This is part of the brilliance of the design: he wasn’t inventing for the sheer joy of inventing, but to make something that worked. That means, where he didn’t have a way of doing it better than someone else, he borrowed happily.

Borrowing aside, the Kalashnikov’s departures from Garand practice (apart from those required to render the weapon selective-fire, and to improve the Garand’s sub-optimal safety) showed a lot of interest in making things sturdier. The hammer spring, for instance, is made of two wires coiled together, giving some small redundancy; it also does double-duty in the AK as the trigger return spring.

4. Minimal use of tight tolerances

There are some parts of a gun that absolutely must fight tightly to ensure accurate, safe, and yes, reliable operation. On the AK, almost all of those are permanently assembled at the factory (the barrel into the trunnion, for example). The trigger mechanism is designed with a lot of slop and play in it, which is why AKs have that typically very long, smooth trigger pull with a surprise let-off (SKSes are similar), but it isn’t that way to manage the trigger pull: it’s there so the mechanism will be positive and safe the first time and the 1,000,000th time.

The only moving parts with truly tight tolerances are the fit of the bolt lugs into the trunnion, which affects headspace. For safety and accuracy headspace has to be right on. But the non-bearing surfaces in the trunnion are opened up enough that dust and dirt has somewhere to pack into, other than interfere with the tight fight of bolt to trunnion. John Garand considered the wise use of tolerances key to the legendary reliability of the M1*. Like the AK, its only critical tolerances in the operating mechanism come from the interface of the lugs of the rotating bolt with the mating recesses of the receiver.

5. Use of very loose tolerances everywhere else

Garand deliberately eschewed the use of a bolt carrier in place of an operating rod. He considered the competing bolt carrier and tipping bolt design (as used in Tokarev, Simonov and FN rifles) more troublesome both in production and in service because they had more critical tolerances. While the AK uses a bolt carrier, its fit to the bolt and receiver is if anything even less critical and looser than Garand’s op-rod.

What Rayle (and Garand) thought of as an innate flaw in bolt-carrier vs, op-rod systems, the need for precision tolerances both on the locking/headspacing feature of the bolt and its receiver, and also on the interface of the bolt with the bolt carrier, turns out to be an innate flaw in the Browning (Tokarev, Simonov, Saive, Vervier, etc). tipping bolt. The AK’s bolt can interface with its carrier just as loosely as the M1s does with its operating rod, with no harm to the functioning of the rifle.

This is not to say that nothing on the AK is manufactured with precision. (That would be the STEN). The beauty of the AK, from an engineering design viewpoint, is that nothing is manufactured with unnecessary precision.

To Sum Up

aklgcolcopyThese things, taken together, suggest that the AK is narrowcast at its original role as a submachine gun replacement for the semi-literate peasant conscript army of a nation lacking depth in precision manufacturing. It was the perfect gun for the Red Army in World War II, even if it came a little too late. It was also, therefore, the perfect gun for the continuation Soviet Army.

Unlike the service rifles of the USA or Germany, or the first-generation battle rifles of the West in the 1950s, the AK was manufactured without an excess of precision which limited its adaptability as, say, a sniper rifle. (The AK’s then-unique use of an intermediate cartridge also did this). But it suited Soviet doctrine of mass attacks and mass fires well. Unlike the NATO rifleman, the Soviet soldier, although instructed in semiautomatic fire on ranges, was also extensively drilled in live-fire obstacle courses, and was expected to run them firing on full-automatic, from the hip. He was the heir of the submachine-gun battalions of the Battle of Berlin, and planned to fight the same way, as mechanized infantry guarding the flanks and securing the obstacle-ridden forests and towns to enable the great tank attack. Hence, the first click off safety on an AK is full-auto, contrary to every successful NATO selective-fire rifle.

The same adaptations, design decisions, and production practicality that made the AK a perfect replacement for Ivan’s retired PPSh submachine guns, made the AK a perfect weapon for terrorist groups, “national liberation” movements, and under-resourced armies of newly free colonies worldwide.

Like the Mauser before it, the AK is a universal gun. And like the Mauser, the AK will be with us until something better supplants it. And “better,” in this case, will be defined by history and by nations, not necessarily by gun experts.

 

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* John Garand’s comments come from Rayle, Roy E. Random Shots: Episodes in the Life of a Weapons Designer. 

** Findlay, David S. Firearm Anatomy: Book I: The Thompson M1A1 Submachine Gun. p. 76. San Bernardino, CA, 2013: Findlay, David S.

This entry was posted in Foreign and Enemy Weapons, GunTech, Industry, Rifles and Carbines on by .

About Hognose

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

The site owner is a former Special Forces weapons man (MOS 18B, before the 18 series, 11B with Skill Qualification Indicator of S), and you can expect any guest columnists to be similarly qualified.

Our focus is on weapons: their history, effects and employment. This is not your go-to place for gun laws or gun politics; other people have that covered.

Assorted chatter.

I’m never really sure what to say on occasions like Memorial Day.  I think SoldierSystems summed up my thoughts a little more elegantly then I could have said.

I’m happy and upset with the Razer brand.  I’ve long been a fan of Razer mice, so when I was looking for a wireless headset I ended up getting a Razer Man-o-War.  Really awesome headset.  Some time ago I broke one of the pads on it, so I contacted them and asked if I could buy a replacement pads.  They said they didn’t have spare parts, but they would be willing to take my broken headset back, give me full store credit for it, and free shipping on my next order.  I was surprised, and took them up on the offer.  Irritation finally set in when after receiving back my old headset they dragged their feet a couple of weeks before giving me that store credit.  But now all is well and I have a replacement on its way.  I thank Razer for replacing my broken headset, I just wish they would have done it faster, or better yet just sent me a replacement pad.  In the end, for about $12, I have a brand new headset on its way to me.

Gulf Coast Armory

I swung by Gulf Coast Armory to drop some stuff off for Cerakote.  When I was looking at some of the work Jeremy has recently done, this caught my eye.  A cross between the Superman logo and the Autism Society puzzle pieces.  I really love how that piece looks.

Gunner Wade on Silencers

Where the hell was this guy when I was in?

I still run into many people who believe that silencers drastically degrade accuracy and velocity.  Unfortunately this myth is still common in many popular video games, and all too many people believe that to be a fact.  A good deal of the pro gun youth only know firearm info from the games they have played.

It is true that some of the early pistol and submachine gun silencers that relied on wipes, mesh, or large internal volume to keep .22 and 9mm rounds subsonic did reduce velocity and accuracy/precision.  Modern designs don’t do that, and can actually give a small increase in velocity.  I’ve seen some rifles shoot tighter groups when shot suppressed.

Kinetic Concepts Tactical Rhodesian Kydex Holsters

The fellows over at KCT have made up some their excellent Element I  IWB kydex holsters done in Rhodesian camo for the guys at Rhodesian Arms.com.     After seeing some other pictures on KCT’s instagram account I was impressed. I have always loved this cam pattern,

If you like it, get in touch with KCT as they have said they are willing to work something out with you so you too can have one of these special run holsters.

 

GM94 Grenade Launcher

I was pointed to this youtube video about the Russian GM94 43mm grenade launcher.

Now, I don’t know Russian, so I have no clue what they are saying.  My first impression is that it looks like a handy launcher.  Our M203s and M320s are single shots, and the M32 6 shot launcher is somewhat awkward.  This seems like it would be easier to pack and deploy than the M32.  Being able to fire 3 rounds quickly would certainly be handy.

I doubt very many of us have any experience deploying thermobaric grenades, but I certainly would love too.  They are suppose to be more reliable and effective then fragmentation grenades for incapacitating or kill in their effective radius.  We have been fielding thermobaric rounds in our SMAWs, and even have one for the 40mm launchers (XM1060).

In the end, this video above is worth the watch just for its cutting edge computer graphics.

The Best of “Weaponsman” Part 1 (M16A1 Maintenance Survey in Vietnam)

As we reported last week and as everyone familiar with this website knows, our friend Kevin O’Brien, AKA “Hognose”, passed away. Kevin was a good friend of looserounds and  we often shared info back and forth for a variety of gun related topics.    Not 100 percent  sure that weaponsman.com has will be available in the coming years I will be running a weekly ( or maybe more or less often) “best of post” of some of Kevin’s best stuff  from his website to save  it for all and as a tribute to our friend.

 

M16A1 Maintenance Survey in Vietnam

By Kevin O’Brien ” Hognose”

We’re looking at a declassified report from the US Army Weapons Command in 1968. The report is available to subscribers to Small Arms of the World in their archives. And we came across the following little gem, which we’ve already served with several Vietnam-SF buds. Emphasis ours:

The first USAWECOM survey team stayed in Vietnam from 21 October1965 until 2 December 1966. (4) While the primary purpose of the team (5) was to provide maintenance instruction to a nucleus of officers and men from each brigade, who would then teach their own units, direct support organizations wece also instructed.

The team taught maintenance in every major USARV unit except the 1st Air Cavalry Division. (6) Students brought their own weapons, magazines, ammunition, cleaning materials, and accessories to class. A detailed inspection of each student’s equipment revealed that with the exception of the weapons of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, the 173d Airborne Brigade, and the 5th Special Forces, all the weapons were poorly maintained.

The footnotes (4) and (5) refer to the team’s report and describe the makeup of the team — led by an ordnance LTC with four experts from USAWECOM and three from Colt. Note 6 explains why the Cav wasn’t trained — they said they were having no trrouble with the M16A1, and asked only for instructors to work with its divisional maint battalion small-arms shop.

So what was jacked up about the GIs’ guns?

The most common faults observed were:

  1. Excessive oil on the weapon
  2. Carbon buildup in the chamber, bolt, and bolt carrier group
  3. Overloading of magazines with 21 rounds of ammunition
  4. Oil and grit inside magazines (frequently accompanied by lubricated ammunition); and
  5. Failure to replace worn or broken extractors and extractor springs.

Other deficiencies noted frequently were shortages of technical manuals, cleaning equipment, and repair parts, and a general lack of knowledge of the M16 rifle among officers and noncommissioned officers.

At first it may seem strange that soldiers were unfamiliar with their weapons, but you have to remember how this report fits into American small arms history. The M16A1 was a standard — in Vietnam, only. The rest of the Army still soldiered on with the M14, and an awful lot of people in Army Ordnance still had their noses out of joint that Westmoreland had ordered a lot of weapons that were Not Invented Here (the M14, like the M1 before it, was developed in-house by the Army). Some of them wanted the M16 to go away. Others wanted it to fail. Still others were captivated by the small-caliber, high-velocity concept and the M16’s brilliant ergonomics, and determined to help make it work. And many were of a type with Army men of all nations and all times: given a mission, intent on carrying it out.

We thought it was interesting that three airborne units (the 101st was still nominally Airborne at this time, although it would only have the name as n honorific by the time it left Vietnam) had few worries with their M16s, although it seems like the 1st Cav didn’t either. So why were the airborne units squared away, when most of the legs weren’t? Turns out that it wasn’t due to the higher quality of troops in the supposedly all-volunteer paratroop units, but had a more mundane explanation:

The 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, the 173d Airborne Brigade, and the 5th Special Forces were the only units surveyed that had received training with the M16 for a significant period of time prior to deployment to Vietnam. Men in other units had been given training in marksmanship but little or no instruction in care and cleaning of the rifle.

On a follow-up visit, intended to cover maintenance of the very maintenance-intensive XM148 grenade launcher, a subsequent team discovered that many of the M16s turned in for maintenance (which might not be typical of all M16s in the field; a working weapon doesn’t get turned in for maintenance) had pitting in the chamber. They did the math and came up with a statistical prediction that 10% of all 16s in Vietnam would need a replacement barrel every three months. That correlated nicely with field complaints of extraction and ejection problems. One answer was to add chrome plating to the chamber (later, the whole bore) of all M16A1 rifles, and this report seems to be where that suggestion was first committed to official writing. This suggestion was not exactly rocket surgery: at the time, the Russians had been doing it for 20 years.

The chrome chamber weapons have “MP C” or “C MP C” markings on their barrels. The later Vietnam-era chrome bore weapons are marked “C MP B.” After the war, the marking changed to “C MP CHROME BORE” and that’s what most of the small supply of surplus M16 barrels say. The bore chroming is not a sign of a particular model of M16, it’s simply a running change, one of many hundrendrds

A lot more interesting stuff in this report. There is a CYA aspect to some of it, for sure, but it’s a window into a problem (M16 Jamming, circa 1966) of which much has been written, usually without reference to primary sources like this.

About Hognose

Kevin  O’Brien  was a Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

The “Bloody Angle” Battle of Spotsylvania Couthouse

In the last year of of the US Civil war, US Grant had taken command of the Army and had began his   efforts to maneuver  R.E. Lee’s  Army of Northern Virginia into a position to be destroyed or taken.  After the efforts of the Wilderness, Grant learned why  “Old Mars Lee ” was so feared and respected by the men of the Army of the Potomac.

The series of attacks and counter attacks and  marched and counter marches  had brought both Armies to Spotsylvania.  As usual Lee had anticipated what Grant had in mind and had his men there to throw up earth works just in time.   The union army assaulted the CSA works numerous time to be repulsed.  A Junior Officer came up with a tactic designed to breach the Rebel line earlier in the battle and after showing promise it was decided to try again on a large scale.

After a rainy night delayed the attack, the Northern men assaulted In a sector of the rebel lines  known as the “The Mule Shoe”.,one of the most horrific 24 hours of the war took place. In  the 200  yard long   area that saw some of the heaviest and gruesome fighting , it became known as “The Bloody Angle”

 

The intense action took place at a section of a rebel salient known as the angle where the fighting reached an unprecedented level or savageness.  As the Union attacked and gained the  muddy works the close fighting became hand to hand.  The ground , already wet with the rain and now blood, churned under the feet of the soldiers of each side as they locked into combat.  The Lee re-enforced as Grant sent more until  a staggering amount of men crowded a small area fighting to break the line and to hold the line.

“Nothing can describe the confusion, the savage, blood-curdling yells, the murderous faces, the awful curses, and the grisly horror of the melee.”

The fighting in the bloody angle was non stop for near 24 hours before the CSA engineers  built up works 500 meter to the rear and the units withdrew unit by unit. The Unions troops completely exhausted and no doubt mentally shattered even if only temporary, withdrew from the taken by now useless works.

For those 24 hours in the angle, the veterans of the war had not seen anything like it.  Men fought hand to hand and fired at each other muzzle to muzzle.  Balls flew through the air like a swarm o bees. The wounded fell and as they tried to regain their feet became trampled down and into the mud by the men still fighting. sometimes 3 and four men deep.  Accounts of survivors tell of men brought up to a blood rage and fighting beyond  exhaustion. Some killing beyond their own physical limits but pushing on anyway. Blood lust seem to over take many of the men as they attempted to kill and maim with by any means.  All the while the fight taking place in mud. filth blood, body parts and internal organs spilled on the ground while the wounded and dead piled up.

This went on for 24 hours before the battle ended.  Those in it or saw it never forget it.

Horace Porter,  a member of Grant’s  “military family”wrote of it later.

“The appalling sight presented was harrowing in the extreme. Our own killed were scattered over a large space near the “angle,” while in front of the captured breastworks the enemy’s dead, vastly more numerous than our own, were piled upon each other in some places four layers deep, exhibiting every ghastly phase of mutilation. Below the mass of fast-decaying corpses, the convulsive twitching of limbs and the writhing of bodies showed that there were wounded men still alive and struggling to extricate themselves from the horrid entombment. Every relief possible was afforded, but in too many cases it came too late. The place was well named the “Bloody Angle.”

One story that always turns up of accounts of the fight is of the unbelievable amount of firepower used during the fight. Tells of all the trees standing cut down by musket balls. Then those felled trees further getting shot up until nothing was left of them bigger than a match book.   One tree that was noticed by all during the fight was a large oak hit by so many minnie balls, that nothing of it remained but a 22 inch stump.    The stump was saved after the battle by a local and found its way later into the Smithsonian.  That stump pictured above.   The remains  of a large strong oak reduced to a stump attest to the wall of lead those men fought in.  You could say there was more lead in the air than oxygen and I doubt vets of the fight would think it a joke.

 

 

 

Photo above is from Smithsonian.   Obviously I have let out much of the details just  to take a look at the stump and some of the horrible hand to hand slaughter that produced it, The battle was part of a much larger story of the campaign  and  is as compelling as all  of the Civil War and the men who fought it.  I   recommend further reading for a full appreciation of the fight because this post barely starts to scratch the surface.

 

The Civil War A Narrative , Foote

Clouds of Glory,  Korda

Campaigning with Grant, Porter

 

 

Kevin O’Brien ( AKA “Hognose” of weaponsman.com ) Our Departed Friend

Tonight we learned something we had feared was coming over the last few days.  Kevin O’Brien,  known to most of his readers as Hognose, has passed away.  Kevin’s brother updated his brother’s website a few days ago with news that his brother was in bad condition in the hospital and gave an email address for people who knew Kevin more than as a reader of his website.  The details received privately had us greatly worried.  With no sign of recovery his family did what most would want their families to do, let Kevin pass on peacefully.

Kevin’s website weaponsman.com was started almost at the same time as this website, and we have been following him since the start and vice versa. Kevin wrote about us in his “Weapons website of the week ” column and the track back is how we found him.   He said many nice things about our work on his website and it was much appreciated at a time when this site was a two man show.

I got to know Kevin a little more personally via emails thanks to the introduction made by Daniel. I often would send Kevin copies of pictures I  or one of the others took at industry shows and he was usually the first person I shared new gun news with or inside info. I was glad to get to know him better.

If you have not read his website, please do so.  His brother has announced he will take it down soon and much will be lost. If you are not one of his regular readers, you don’t know what you are missing.  In my opinion his was the best gun blog on the web.  He did not do reviews or have the same format as us, but his site was a true blog and it is very  entertaining, It is filled with vast technical data on many weapons and has stories told from Kevin’s long  Army career as he was a Special Forces ( Green Beret).  The name of the site came from his job in the SF “weaponsman” among other things he did in the Army,   “WeaponsMan is a blog about weapons. Primarily ground combat weapons, primarily small arms and man-portable crew-served weapons. The site owner is a former Special Forces weapons man (MOS 18B, before the 18 series, 11B with Skill Qualification Indicator of S), and you can expect any guest columnists to be similarly qualified.”

Some of his most darkly funny posts are the “when guns are outlawed then only  outlaws will have , knive, poison, trucks, pillows, gravity etc etc.,  He would often end those posts with something like “Hug your loved ones tight as you never know when it may be the last time.”   Sadly this is true for all and we lost Kevin all too soon.

I am going to miss Kevin.  I spent a lot of time on his website reading and commenting , If you go there you will most always see a comment from me or Daniel in the comment section of nearly every post.  Indeed is commenters are often subject experts   themselves and were always well behaved and spoken,  It was like the barbershop for firearms and military vets and firearms historians to go hang out at instead of working on their own stuff.

We hope Kevin has found peace, and we offer our condolences to Kevin’s Brother and Father and offer whatever assistance we can give if we can some how help ease their grief,.

Below is the post from his brother and a link.  If his brother updates with more info we will try to edit and add it to this post.

Good bye Kevin, we are all diminished.

www.weaponsman.com

 

Kevin O’Brien

I’m sorry to have to tell you all that my brother Kevin O’Brien, host of this blog, passed away peacefully this morning at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Let me start with some housekeeping.  First, the email address hognosecommunity@comcast.net remains active and you may get more and better updates there.  I say this because frankly I’m having trouble posting here.  I don’t know Kevin’s WordPress password and I’m afraid that if I restart his computer, I will not be able to post any more because the password will not autofill.  Therefore I can’t guarantee I will be able to make more updates on the blog.

We are planning a celebration of Kevin’s life for all of his friends some time in early to mid-June, here in Seacoast NH.  I will have details in a couple of days.  All those who knew and loved Kevin, including all Weaponsman readers, are welcome, but we will need an RSVP.  Again, I will make details available to those who write to hognosecommunity@comcast.net.  This is not restricted to personal friends of Kevin, but space will be limited, and we will not be able to fit everyone.  It will be a great opportunity to share memories of Kevin.

We will be looking for stories and pictures of Kevin!  Please send to the email address.

I expect that some time after the celebration, I will be shutting down the blog.  No one other than Kevin could do it justice.

Finally, you should know that Small Dog, whose real name is Zac, has found a home with other relatives of ours.  Of course the poor guy has no idea what has happened to his beloved friend but his life will go on.

Now I’d like to tell you more about Kevin and how he lived and died.  He was born in 1958 to Robert and Barbara O’Brien.  We grew up in Westborough, Mass.  Kevin graduated from high school in 1975 and joined the Army in (I believe) 1979.  He learned Czech at DLI and became a Ranger and a member of Special Forces.

Kevin’s happiest times were in the Army.  He loved the service and was deeply committed to it.  We were so proud when he earned the Green Beret.  He was active duty for eight years and then stayed in the Reserves and National Guard for many years, including a deployment to Afghanistan in 2003.  He told me after that that Afghan tour was when he felt he had made his strongest contribution to the world.

Kevin worked for a number of companies after leaving active duty.  He had always loved weapons, history, the military, and writing, and saw a chance to combine all of his interests by creating Weaponsman.com.  I think the quality of the writing was what always brought people back.  Honestly, for what it’s worth, I have no interest in firearms.  Don’t love them, don’t hate them, just not interested.  But Kevin’s knowledge and writing skill made them fascinating for me.

Kevin and I really became close friends after our childhood.  We saw each other just about every day after he moved to a house just two miles away from mine.  In the winter of 2015, we began building our airplane together.  You could not ask for a better building partner.

Last Thursday night was our last “normal” night working on the airplane.  I could not join him Friday night, but on Saturday morning I got a call from the Portsmouth Regional Hospital.  He had called 911 on Friday afternoon and was taken to the ER with what turned out to be a massive heart attack.  Evidently he was conscious when he was brought in, but his heart stopped and he was revived after 60 minutes of CPR.  He never reawakened.

On Saturday, he was transported to Brigham and Women’s where the medical staff made absolutely heroic efforts to save his life.  Our dad came up on Sunday and we visited him Sunday, Monday, and today.  Each day his condition became worse.

As of last night, it was obvious to everyone that he had almost no chance of survival; and that if he did by some chance survive, he would have no quality of life.  Kevin’s heart was damaged beyond repair, his kidneys were not functioning, he had not regained consciousness, and he had internal bleeding that could not be stopped.  We made the decision this morning to terminate life support.

I’m not crying tonight.  I got that out on Saturday.  What I feel is a permanent alteration and a loss that I know can never be healed.  I loved Kevin so much.  He was brilliant, funny, helpful, kind, caring, and remarkably talented.

At dinner tonight, we agreed that there are probably many people who never “got” Kevin, but there could not be anyone who disliked him.  Rest in Peace.

Please feel free to express your thoughts in the comments and to the hognosecommunity@comcast.net email address

 

Lesser known instructors.

Article submitted by Mark Hatfield.
Update:
I want to apologize to Doc Kibbey.   In my article regarding him I wrote that he did an event using Airsoft equipment.  That is not correct.  Doc was using and demonstrating UTM Non Lethal Training Ammunition and conversions.  It was very interesting.  This equipment allows the user to easily convert their own actual firearm to one used against masked and padded training partners.  This allows a greater degree of realism in training over other methods. It seemed a little pricey to me for use by the average guy but does have benefits over that of other gear for this purpose.  It might be very good for police and military use.  After practice, the guns can be quickly return to their regular configuration.  All safety precautions apply here as with any similar mode of training.  UTM.
The last few years I have had the opportunity to attend a goodly number of firearms and related courses. Some of these I have written about, and there were many more of which I should have written about but alas I am under no requirement to do so and am getting lazier in my old age.
While studying under ‘big name’ nationally recognized instructors is great, sometimes there are others who are worth being given ‘a shot’, so to speak.  A problem currently, is that the ‘market’ is flooded with instructors and ‘wanna be’ instructors.  I witnessed one who was especially bad and what was worse was that his students were so new that they didn’t know he was bad.  For those who have not seen this short article it is elsewhere on this webpage.  Many of these ‘teachers’, new to the task, may often have been former military or law enforcement.  What they are teaching may not really be relevant to the average guy.  The class might be lots of fun, you learn new and interesting things, but they are things which may not apply to you, things which may never be useful to you.  Or the methods taught may work only with specific equipment or only if you take them to a high level of skill.  The teachers may be knowledgeable and skilled at their art but that does not automatically mean that they are good at transferring that knowledge to you.  Remember the difference between the pro athlete and the coach.  The pro might or might not make a good coach.  The coach played that sport, maybe not at a pro level, but can bring others to that level.
Today I want to mention C.R. Williams and ‘Doc’ Kibbey.
C.R., I have seen off and on for several years when attending classes by the big boys.  I have never attended any classes taught by him but have attended a ‘training group’ weekend which he organized and orchestrated.  He has written four books, the first three of which have been consolidated into one.  I have purchased these and find them to be quite similar to what I might have written.  One of the things which I respect about C.R. is that he teaches only what he knows and is confident of.  This is in contrast to some in the business. who try to determine what paying customers want, then try to learn enough about it to claim to teach it.
C.R. is located in Alabama but sometimes travels.  His business is In Shadow In Light.  (www.inshadowinlight.com)     His books are:  ‘Gunfighting, and other Thoughts about doing Violence’  (vol. 1-3 combined), and number 4, ‘Facing the Active Shooter’.  This last one is updated annually.  The books are worth buying.
Pierce Kibbey, I’ve only met recently, it was at an event given by C.R.  ‘Doc’ (a title we once both shared) organized scenarios using Airsoft equipment  For those not familiar, Airsoft guns use air powered plastic pellets so that (while wearing suitable protective gear) participants can simulate actual defensive situations against other participants.    While the situations we did were well thought, what especially impressed me was his insistence on debriefings of the participants:  ‘What did you see, What did you hear, At what point did you decide to…?, etc.  Previously, ‘Doc’ Kibbey and I spend a couple hours one evening comparing our military experiences and discussing how we got to where we are.
Kibbey has a business called PRACTICs, which is located in central Florida (www.practicsinc.com).  He offers more than just another ‘how to shoot the gun’ training.  Simply participating in scenarios organized by Doc Kibbey was enough to show me that he is not simply a teacher but a teacher who thinks, there is a difference.
C.R. in Alabama, Doc in Florida, both are worth looking into and more than just a little consideration.