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REMEMBERING KEVIN O’BRIEN

We are coming up  on the 1 year  point of the passing of our friend Kevin, also known as “Hognose” the owner and writer of weaponsman.com.

If you have not been to his website which is now preserved as is by his brother as a monument to Kevin, you are missing out on what was honestly the best gun culture blog on the internet.  I will let Kevin’s own words on his website speak for themselves below.

The Best of WeaponsMan Gun Tech

http://weaponsman.com/?page_id=11760

 

Since his passing he has been sorely missed by his family and many friends and readers.    You will have noticed that we often repost a lot of Kevin’s technical articles in an attempt to save them in case something happens to the weaponsman website and to help others discover his writing,

After Kevin died, his brother  had to sell Kevin’s collection and take care of his estate.  When he announced this sad fact of life, he made a post about it on his brother’s website with a list of the many fine firearms Kevin owned.   I was very keen to buy one of Kevin’s guns as something to remember him by and to keep in his honor.

I had just at the time spent a large amount of a few pistols so I was not able to buy  some of the highly desirable pieces like the Johnson rifle.  I was able to buy an old vintage .22 rimfire bolt action rifle.

It is a Springfield single shot from a time before series numbers.

It is in pretty rough shape with several parts missing.  I have been looking online  for the parts needed to restore it to shooting condition.

Much of the parts are missing and it has a pretty tricked out tack to act as a means to keep the bolt knob down.

The rifle was clearly sold as a cheap offering likely for boys. It was made with no buttplate. I know because it has none and has no holes for where the screw to hold one would be.

 

I don’t know the back ground story of how Kevin got the gun or how long he had it. I liked to think he owned it as a boy and imagine him running around the New England woods shooting chipmunks and cans imagining his future  self shooting commie  as the Army Green Beret he became when he grew up.

I hope the gun will get restored by me soon but if not thats ok. I didn’t buy it for that.   I bought it to honor a man I much admired.  And it is one of the most valuable guns in my safe.

If any of you purchased one of Kevin’s  guns from his estate, please let me know and share with the rest of us.

About Hognose

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

Vietnam Sniper Study

Today’s article is a repost  from   our  deceased friend Hognose, owner  of Weaponsman.com.  Kevin, AKA Hognose passed away last year and as an ongoing tribute to his memory and excellent work we repost the  his works to help preserve it. 

Vietnam Sniper Study

In 1967, the Army got the idea to study whether, how, and how effectively different units were using snipers in Vietnam. They restricted this study to Army units, and conventional units at that; if SF and SOG were sniping, they didn’t want to know (and, indeed, there’s little news either in the historical record or in conversations with surviving veterans that special operations units made much use of precision rifle fire, or of the other capabilities of snipers).

Meanwhile, of course, the Marines were conducting parallel development in what would become the nation’s premier sniper capability, until the Army got their finger out in the 1980s and developed one with similar strength. The Marines’ developments are mentioned only in passing in the study.

Specific Weapons

The study observed several different sniper weapons in use:

  • ordinary M16A1 rifles with commercial Realist-made scopes. This is the same 3×20 scope made by Realist for commercial sale under the Colt name, and was marked Made in USA. (Image is a clone, from ARFCOM).

realist11

  • Winchester Model 70s in .30-06 with a mix of Weaver and Bushnell scopes, purchased by one infantry brigade;
  • two versions of the M14 rifle. One was what we’d call today a DMR rifle, fitted with carefully chosen parts and perhaps given a trigger job, and an M84 scope. The other was the larva of the M21 project: a fully-configured National Match M14 fitted with a Leatherwood ART Automatic-Ranging Telescope, which was at this early date an adaptation of a Redfield 3-9 power scope. (Image is a semi clone with a surplus ART, found on the net).

M21 ARTR

The scopes had a problem that would be unfamiliar to today’s ACOG and Elcan-sighted troopies.

The most significant equipment problem during the evaluation in Vietnam was moisture seepage into telescopes. At the end of the evaluation period, 84 snipers completed questionnaires related to their equipment. Forty-four of the snipers reported that their telescopes developed internal moisture or fog during the evaluation period. In approximately 90 percent of the cases, the internal moisture could be removed by placing the telescope in direct sunlight for a few hours.

The leaky scopes ranged from 41% of the ARTs to 62% of the Realists. The Realist was not popular at all, and part of the reason was its very peculiar reticle. How peculiar? Have a look.

Colt realist 3x20 scope reticle(A later version of this scope, sold by Armalite with the AR-180, added feather-thin crosshairs to the inverted post. The British Trilux aka SUIT used a similar inverted post, but it never caught on here).

The theory was that the post would not obscure the target, the way it would if it were bottom-up. That’s one of the ones you file away in the, “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” drawer. Theory be damned, the troops hated it.

The use of the rifles varied unit by unit.  Two units contemptuously dismissed the scoped M16s, and wouldn’t even try them (remember, this was the era of M193 ammo, rifles ruined by “industrial action,” and somewhat loose acceptance standards; the AR of 20145 is not the AR of 1965). The proto-M21s came late and not every unit got them. It’s interesting that none of the weapons really stood out, although the NATO and .30-06 guns were the ones used for the longest shots.

None of the weapons was optimum, but in the study authors’ opinion, the DMR version of the M14 was perfectly adequate and available in channels. The snipers’ own opinions were surveyed, and the most popular weapon was the M14 National Match with ART scope, despite its small sample size: 100% of the surveyed soldiers who used it had confidence in it. On the other hand, the cast scope rings were prone to breakage.

The biggest maintenance problem turned out to be the COTS Winchester 70 rifles, and the problem manifested as an absence of spare parts for the nonstandard firearm, and lack of any training for armorers.

Looking at all the targets the experimental units engaged, they concluded that a weapon with a 600 meter effective range could service 95% of the sniper targets encountered in Vietnam, and that a 1000 meter effective range would be needed to bag up to 98%. (Only one unit in the study engaged targets more distant than 1000 m at all).

Snipers were generally selected locally, trained by their units (if at all), and employed as an organic element of rifle platoons. A few units seem to have attached snipers to long-range patrol teams, or used the snipers as an attached asset, like a machine-gun or mortar team from the battalion’s Weapons Company.

An appendix from the USAMTU had a thorough run-down on available scopes, and concluded with these recommendations (emphasis ours):

Recommendations:
a. That the M-14, accurized to National Match specifications, be used as the basic sniping rifle.

b. That National Match ammunition be used in caliber 7.62 NATO.

c. That a reticle similar to Type “E” be used on telescopic sights of fixed power.

d. That the Redfield six power “Leatherwood” system telescope be used by snipers above basic unit level.

e. That the Redfield four power (not mentioned previously) be utilized by the sniper at squad level.

f. That serious consideration be given to the development of a long range sniping rifleusing the .50 caliber machine gun cartridge and target-type telescope.

(NOTE: It is our opinion that the Redfield telescope sights are the finest of American made telescopes.)

Note that the Army adopted the NM M14 with ART (as the M-21 sniper system) exactly as recommended here, but that it did not act on the .50 caliber sniper system idea. That would take Ronnie Barrett to do, quite a few years later.

Rifle_M21_2

The Effects of Terrain

Terrain drives weapons employment, and snipers need, above all, two elements of terrain to operate effectively: observation and fields of fire. Their observation has to overlook enemy key terrain and/or avenues of approach. Without that, a sniper is just another rifleman, and snipers were found to be not worth the effort in the heavily vegetated southern area of Vietnam.

In the more open rice fields and mountains, there was more scope for sniper employment. But sniper employment was not something officers had been trained in or practiced.

The Effects of Leadership

In a careful review of the study, we found that the effects of leadership, of that good old Command Emphasis, were greater than any effects of equipment or even of terrain. The unit that had been getting good results with the Winchesters kept getting good results. One suspects that they’d have continued getting good results even if you took their rifles away entirely and issued each man a pilum or sarissa.

Units that made a desultory effort got crap for results. Some units’ snipers spent a lot of time in the field, but never engaged the enemy. Others engaged the enemy, but didn’t hit them, raising the question, “Who made these blind guys snipers?” Sure, we understand a little buck fever, but one unit’s snipers took 20 shots at relatively close range and hit exactly nothing. Guys, that’s not sniping, that’s fireworks. 

The entire study is a quick read and it will let you know just how dark the night for American sniping was in the mid-1960s: there were no schools, no syllabi, no type-standardized sniper weapons, and underlying the whole forest of “nos” was: no doctrine to speak of.

Vietnam Sniper Study PB2004101628.pdf

Vietnam Sniper Study

About Hognose

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

Best of Weaponsman Come for the Shovels, stay for the Swords

This is another re-post in our own going tribute to our now gone friend  Kevin, AKA “Hognose” owner of  weaponsman now missed by many . We will continue to put up Kevin’s excellent work as a back up to ensure it is saved.

Come for the Shovels, stay for the Swords

Swords and sword-fighting are a long time issue of ours, and once we’ve gotten past our amusement with the Russian and Russophile fascination with shovel fighting, we know that the art of sword fighting was once the peak of combat effect, and it seems obvious that the best guides to that art would be found in historical materials from that period.

Of course, sword-fighting never went away from popular culture, and it’s been a staple of Hollywood for nearly a century. But one has an instinctive feeling that Hollywood’s choreographed swordfights are as phony as their fist- and gun-fights; and that they’re doing it wrong. Sword expert J. Clements of the Association for Renaissance Martial Arts agrees in a long essay:

It is the stuff of Hollywood sword-fights and renaissance-faire fight shows: a swordsman cuts with his or her blade and in defense the opponent lifts their own sword to directly receive the blow at 90-degrees on the center of their blade. The two blades clash in the middle edge-on-edge with a loud “clang!”  There is just one problem. No two cutting-swords—historical or replica, authentic or modern, Asian or European —would withstand such abuse without their edges being severely gouged in the process. This is a problematic issue of historical fencing exploration that can be addressed reasonably and factually.

When it comes to historical swordsmanship, such a description stands in direct contrast to how edged weapons were actually handled and employed. It contradicts the very dynamic of effective and efficient fighting and resembles little in the way of sword combat described in Medieval and Renaissance fencing literature.

via Edge Damage on Swords.

He goes on at rather great length about the historical sources, so it’s worth reading the whole thing. But here’s another taste:

In the chronicle of the deeds of the 15th century knight, Don Pero Niño, we read how in a fight against the Moors, “the blows fell upon good armour, though not so good but that it was broken and bent in many places.  The sword he used was like a saw, toothed in great notches, the hilt twisted by dint of striking mighty blows, and all dyed in blood.”  At the end of the siege of the City of Tuy in 1397, we are also told again how Niño’s sword “blade was toothed like a saw and dyed with blood.”  Later, Pero Niño sent this sword by a page to France, “with other presents to my Lady of Serifontaine.” (De Gamez, p. 196.)  Given the context of this description, where Nino’s shield, armor, and sword are all damaged from especially heavy fighting, it would not seem unreasonable that he then gives his ruined sword away as a token of his chivalric courage. Certainly, we have no way of knowing if his sword edge was damaged from striking armor and shield rims or from striking other blades, let alone from parrying cuts (something less likely if he had a shield and full armor as described).  Regardless, the recognition that Nino’s sword edge had sustained heavy damaged so that it looked “like a saw” and was “toothed in great notches” from use is indicative that such a condition was certainly not a good thing for a functional blade. Above all, he did not enter combat with his prized weapon in such a condition.

Yes, that’s one single dense paragraph in the original.

Now, perhaps some of this is the well-known tendency for martial arts entrepreneurs to see no merit in, and consequently trash-talk, their competitors. An example which seems to be Clements doing just that is here.  But Clements’s approach of going back to period sources is to be commended. There is a great deal more information on the site.

HURSTWIC is an organization which takes a similar approach, not to the combat of the 13th through 15th centuries but to the earlier Viking era. Theirs, too, is an approach that combines archival research (in this case, in Norse sagas, mostly) with athletics. Compared to Renaissance and even medieval European sources, of course, Viking primary sources are few and this gives rise to some problems of interpretation. A page on Sword and Shield Combat Technique is one of many restatements of this problem on the Hurstwic site:

[W]e don’t really know how weapons were used in the Viking age. We don’t have any material that teaches us how Vikings used their weapons. The best we can do is to make some educated guesses based on a number of sources, as described in an earlier article.

This article summarizes some of the fighting moves we believe were used by Vikings when fighting with sword and shield. Not surprisingly, as we continue our research, my opinions on the nature of Viking-age combat have changed. Our interpretation of the moves is always in flux. So, please be aware that the techniques illustrated in these web articles may not always represent our most current interpretation. Notably, in the past, we have depended more heavily on the later combat treatises than we currently do. That bias remains in this and other articles on the Hurstwic site. We plan to edit the articles to reduce those biases as time permits and as our research unfolds.

Our most current interpretation is outlined in the article on the “shape” of Viking combat and illustrated by several videos on that page showing fighting moves from the sagas.

That article s found here and it is fascinating to watch the Hurstwic team grapple with these mysteries, to understand ancient armed combat, as they have only a few sources. Even these few have their limits: the sparse descriptions in the sagas, the known characteristics of Viking weapons, and their own powers of logic. Their own opinions have changed as their knowledge has grown, which is inevitable in a scientific approach to almost anything. They are keenly aware that their scientific approach rests on a foundation of assumptions, but what they’re doing is extremely interesting.

About Hognose

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