Want a giant handgun that shoots a supped up small caliber, super high-velocity round and has a funky loading process that you likely haven’t seen before? Well you sound like a Ruger Hawkeye pistol man.
What in the world is the .256?
Introduced in 1960 after some wildcat development by Winchester (with some input from Bill Ruger’s people), the .256 Winchester Magnum round took Elmer Keith’s vaunted .357 S&W Magnum, which typically fired a 120-150 grain bullet at about 1,400 feet per second generating about 500 ft./lbs. of energy downrange, and necked it down to make something altogether different. By loading a 60-grain .257-caliber bullet over the same load of powder, the round almost doubled the velocity to a truly amazing 2,350 feet per second, which in turn gave over 700 ft./lbs. of energy imparted.
Best yet, the round still hummed enough out to 200-yards to take varmints or medium sized game, therefore making it a perfect choice for the new (in the 1960s) handgun hunter market. As such, Bill Ruger was the first to market a pistol chambered from the factory for this beast– and it was a hand cannon.
Enter the Hawkeye:
“Ten Old Salts” Photograph taken on board former Warship Wednesday alumni USS Hartford at Hampton Roads, Virginia, winter 1876-77, by order of Chaplain David H. Tribue, USN.
The men present are: (Front row, left to right) Seaman James H. Bell and Quartermaster Thomas Trueman;
(Second row, left to right) Boatswain’s Mate Peter Eagen, Seaman Isaac Turner and Schoolmaster James Connell;
(Rear row, left to right) Boatswain’s Mate Edward Nash, Boatswain’s Mate David Clark, Seaman William McNulty, Quarter Gunner William Harrington and Gunner’s Mate Albert Allen.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.
From the 1890s through both World Wars, the Russian Imperial and later Soviet Red armies lived with and loved the Mosin-Nagant rifle. This huge (as tall as a man) bolt-action rifle was simple, rugged, and could fire 7.62x54R rounds out to a 1000-meters with decent accuracy. The thing is, at the tail end of World War 2, the Soviets started to follow the lead of Germany and the US toward smaller rounds. This led to the new 7.62x39mm cartridge and new families of rifles, first the SKS45 and then the AK47, to use it. These guns finally ended the Russian military’s love affair with the Mosin.
The thing is, while the AK could let it rip at 600- rounds per minute, it just could not match the obsolete Mosin’s long-range capability, or its accuracy. This limited the average Ivan down to firefights at ranges less than 300-meters. The Soviets spent the early 1960s looking for a fix for this, and even included trying to make the AK fire long range darts (Editor add AO27 article here!), but in the end had to settle for keeping a few Mosins in every platoon to give some long range firepower. This had to change, and Yevgeny Dragunov was the man for the job.
In 1920, little Yevgeny Dragunov was born in Izhevsk, Russia. If the place sounds familiar, you may recognize it as the home of the legendary arsenal/factory with the same moniker. Dragunov was raised in a family of gunsmiths who worked at the plant and soon found himself among them. During WWII, he spent time as a unit armorer in the Army and had a chance first hand to find out about the durability of rifles in combat conditions. Returning to Izhevsk after the war, he went to work at the factory he designed a number of very accurate hunting and target rifles. His Biathlon -7 series rifles were renowned for their accuracy. With such a background, it was natural for Dragunov to enter the competition for the Red Army’s new sniper rifle in 1958.
What the Soviets needed to reach out further than the AK and fire faster than the Mosin was a large-caliber semi-automatic. It had to be light, easy to mass-produce, and above all, accurate.
Dragunov submitted an auto-loading rifle that was gas-operated with an adjustable regulator. Firing from a locked-breech with a rotating bolt, everything about it was geared to reliable accuracy in practical conditions. Its 24.4-inch barrel was chrome lined and, while thicker than an AK barrel, was still not as heavy as on a target rifle. Overall length was 48-inches with an ergonomic rear stock that contained a built-in cheek rest and pistol grip. This was a foot longer than an AK, yet still a hair shorter than a Mosin 91/30. Its 10-shot box magazine was twice the capacity of the bolt-action rifle and its resulting rate of fire in an emergency was much higher.
For getting those long-range shots, the rifle was to carry the new Red Army standard PSO-1 scope. This nitrogen-filled 4x fixed power scope had a small objective lens (just 24mm), but its battery-illuminated reticle had a built-in stadiametric range finder while its turret had a bullet drop compensation (BDC) in 50 m or 100 meter increments set at the factory for the standard-issue 7.62x54R load. For the 1960s, this optic was stunningly state of the art. As a back up to it, Dragunov designed a very nice set of adjustable iron sights graduated out to 1200-meters.
Even with this rugged scope installed, the rifle came in at 9.4-pounds. While it does not sound all that featherweight, when compared to the Mosin sniper with a less-effective 3.5-power PU scope, it was still more than a pound less.
After several test trials against designs submitted by Kalashnikov, Sergei Simonov (father of the SKS), and others, Dragunov’s rifle was adopted in 1963 as the SVD (for Snayperskaya Vintovka Dragunova or “sniper rifle of Dragunov”). It was the first rifle designed from the beginning to be a modern sniper system.
The Red Army immediately began fielding the SVD in its airborne and motorized infantry divisions. A compromise design made to fill several conflicting specs; it was not the most super-accurate rifle in the world. However, like many Russian/Soviet systems, it only was supposed to be ‘good enough’. The weapon could put all of its rounds into a roughly four-inch circle at 100-yards with ball ammunition. Using 7N1 match ammo, it could achieve 1-inch MOA groups at 100 and still place groups inside a 15-inch circle at 600-yards. Shots to a 1000 or more on a man-sized target were possible with a skilled shooter using the right dope. The weapon also had acceptable accuracy for use with heavier machine gun, tracer, and armor-piercing rounds.
While this is not superb, Olympic-quality match capabilities, the SVD made up for quality with quantity. Unlike many Western armies that only had snipers at the battalion and company level, the Soviets issued one of Dragunov’s weapons down to the platoon level and squad level. Given to an expert rifleman, this soldier would not stalk the edge of the battlefield like a Western sniper, but instead would simply look for targets of opportunity past what his fellow soldier’s AKs could reach. These targets would improve officers, radiomen, heavy weapons guys, and other tactically critical soldiers.
This concept of a skilled sharpshooter with a ‘good enough’ rifle assigned to every small unit became the basis of today’s Designated Marksman concept. Again, these aren’t your extreme snipers running around on special missions clad in tree suits, but are specialists inside platoons and squads whose job it is to reach out and touch those targets that are just out of range for everyone else. The designated marksman concept is in current use with the US military with soldiers and marines who show exceptional ability are issued either refurbished M14 rifles or heavy-barreled acquired M16 platform weapons.
The SVD was soon exported ’round the Communist world in the 1960s and saw combat in Vietnam, Cambodia, Angola, and elsewhere. By the 1980s, it proved a favorite of Soviet troops fighting in Afghanistan where the wide-open nature of the countryside allowed for more long-range shooting. Around the same time, the design was modified to allow better portability to troops riding in cramped fighting vehicles, helicopters, and transports. This upgrade, the SVDS, uses a folding stock coupled with a slightly shorter barrel to make a rifle that will compact down to 34.5-inches. It’s lighter, using polymer and fiberglass instead of wood furniture but still has some 70% interchangeability with the classic SVD.
Although replaced in actual front-line Russian service, the gun has been seen often in the hands of Moscow-backed separatists and Ukrainian security forces alike in the past year. (Images via Reuters, AFP, AP)
I had a message asking for what I personally carry, so far as for self-defense. Remember to abide all of your local laws etc for your own choices. Well, here we go:
– My minimalist EDC set up includes a Smith and Wesson Airweight .38SPL in a Bianchi IWB holster with 5 rounds loaded, 5 in a HKS style speedloader, and 12 in Bianchi Speedstrips for a total of 22 rounds of Federal Premium LE +P. Knife is an old school Case folder and the penlight is a Steamlight Stylus. -It all compacts nicely and I can wear this with slacks at the office or out to the movies with no one noticing anything.
-A more comprehensive EDC that I often use is my SIG P229R DAK with a Galco Royal Guard IWB holster and a benchmade folder with pocket clip. For illumination, a Steamlight ProTac with aftermarket paracord lanyard if needed. Spare mags are shown in three different variants of carry. At the top a MOLLE style mag holder that can be reversed to wear IWB. Below that is a traditional open top kydex holder for two mags OWB (to be concealed by an over shirt or jacket) or, along the slide of the SIG, rests a hybrid pocket carry mag holder that looks like a pocketknife from the outside. I can carry the SIG alone, or one extra mag, or two extra mags, or heck, even all four extra mags should I chose. This is my general teaching rig when I am conducting CCW or LE classes.
-Among my rotation of backup guns include from top to bottom: A Beretta 950 in .22LR, A North American Arms 22WMR, a Ruger LCP .380ACP and a little Davis .25ACP Derringer. They also work great for carry each and of their own.
Ever wanted a gas-piston operated 12 gauge semi with a pistol grip and detachable box mag? Well besides Saiga, it looks like the Turkish firm of Hastan is giving it a go:
The company we know today as SA, who use the same name as the legendary Springfield Armory founded by the Continental Army, actually started in Illinois in 1974 with the production of a semi-auto version of the M-14 rifle (dubbed the M1A) and a new-production version of the classic 8-shot 30.06 brawler of World War II and Korea: the M-1 Garand rifle. Would you like to know more?
In military speak; the M1 Garand is officially known as Service Rifle, .30 Caliber, M1, NSN 1005-00-674-1425. Between 1937 and 1957, at least 5,468,772 Garands were produced by five manufacturers for use by the U.S. military. The government, always tight with a penny, kept these in front line service until 1963 and then transferred them to reserve and National Guard where they were often seen giving hippies some love as late as the mid-1970s.
The Army likes the M1 so much that they still keep more than 68,000 of them on hand for training and ceremonial purposes and loans out another 250,000 are still owned by Uncle but loaned out some 31,000 veterans groups and law enforcement agencies through the Ceremonial Rifle Program.
Designed by John C. Garand (hence the name) over a ten-year period, this iconic gas-operated, semi-automatic, rifle with its rotating bolt and long-stroke piston extraction is fed by a unique enbloc clip that holds eight rounds of 30.06 Springfield ammo and a skilled rifleman could run up to 50 rounds per minute through his weapon when the chips were down.
Out of production by the government since 1957 in favor of the M14, in the 1970s they made a comeback…in Illinois.
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday May 20, 2015 The destroyer with the heart of a battleship
Here we see the U.S. Navy Benson-class destroyer USS Laffey (DD-459) going mano-a-mano with IJN Hiei, a Kongo-class battleship that has a slight weight advantage over her.
With war on the horizon in the mid-1930s as tensions with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were on the rise, the U.S. Navy realized that the old WWI-era four-stack destroyers, while still serviceable, just weren’t modern enough for what was likely to come in the far-flung South Pacific and windswept North Atlantic. This resulted in a series of no less than 10 classes of modern fast destroyers designed and built from 1932-43, which would form the backbone of the fleet in the first half of WWII, amounting to an impressive 169 surface combatants.
Each successive class, like today’s multi-flight Burke-class Aegis destroyers, were really just improvements on the prior, with better engines, sensors, and armament suites experimented with, which resulted in increasingly larger but better tin cans.
These ships included:
- 8 1350-ton, 341-foot Farragut-class
- 8 180-ton, 381-foot Porter-class
- 18 1725-ton, 341-foot Mahan-class
- 4 2219-ton, 341-foot Gridley-class
- 8 2325-ton, 341-foot Bagley-class
- 5 2130-ton, 381-foot Somers-class
- 10 2350-ton, 340 foot Benham-class
- 12 2465-ton, 348-foot Sims-class,
And– the last fully prewar design– the 30 vessel 2515-ton 348 foot oal Benson-class (followed by the 66 near-sisters of the only slightly different but mechanically identical Gleaves-class).
The Benson/Gleaves class destroyers, capable of an impressive 37.5-knots on their quadruple superheated boilers driving twin turbines, were the top of the line in Allied destroyer design when the U.S. entered the war. Ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, in twin 5-tube deck mountings, were capable of sinking a capital ship if they got close enough. A pair of depth charge racks over the stern could drop it like its hot on enemy subs. But it was their guns that told the story.
Their five (later reduced to four) Mark 12 5″/38 caliber deck guns, in enclosed Mk 30 mounts were the finest Dual Purpose gun of World War II. Coupled with the Mk 37 FCS, they could hit a high-flying enemy aircraft at altitudes of up to 37,000 feet while their 53-pound shell was effective on surface targets and in naval gunfire support to some 17,000 yards and capable of penetrating up to 5-inches of armor plate at close range (more on this later). Further, they could be fired fast– at up to 22-rounds per minute per tube, which means that a Benson-class destroyer carrying the standard 320 rounds per mount could empty her magazines in just over 15 minutes of maximum sustained fire.
The hero of our story USS Laffey, was named after one Irish-born (County Galway) Bartlett Laffey who, as a 23-year-old seaman attached to the sternwheel gunboat USS Marmoa in 1864 along the Yazoo River, went ashore with a 12-pound howitzer to support a group of trapped force of the 11th Illinois Infantry, and 8th Louisiana Colored Infantry (yes, that’s the real regimental name). At great personal risk, Laffey remained at his gun and helped save the day, earning the MOH for his service. DD-459 would be the first ship named for this naval hero, but not the last.
USS Laffey was laid down at Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, San Francisco 31 Jan 1941 and her hull never touched any water other than the Pacific. Commissioned 31 March 1942, just fifteen weeks after Pearl Harbor, she rushed through her shakedown and soon was off to war.
Just days after the image above was taken, she was rescuing the stricken crew from the USS Wasp (CV-8), her first brutal introduction to the war.
Less than a month later, at the Battle of Cape Esperance, she came face to face with the heavy cruiser IJN Aoba (9,000 tons), flagship of Japanese Cruiser Division 6 (CruDiv6) and part of the high speed nocturnal “Tokyo Express” reinforcing Guadalcanal. In that harrying night action Laffey got close enough to rake that much-larger ship successfully with her 5-inch guns, hammering her numerous times, and killing Admiral Aritomo Gotō. While Aoba did not sink, she suffered enough battle damage that she was sent back to Japan for five months of repairs.
On Nov. 11 Laffey helped cover the U.S. Army’s 182nd Infantry regiment’s landings on Guadalcanal and her guns helped splash a force of 32 Japanese planes sent to plaster the soldiers on the beach.
No rest for the weary, Laffey, just seven-months old, next found herself as part of Rear Adm. Daniel “Uncle Dan” Judson Callaghan’s Task Group 67.4 for what became known as the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on Friday the 13th November 1942.
This force of five cruisers and eight destroyers moved to stop Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe’s much stronger force of 2 battleships, 1 cruiser, and 11 destroyers from running in between Savo Island and Guadalcanal in “the Slot” through what is (now) known as Iron Bottom Sound. Abe was a skilled surface warfare expert, having spent 26 years afloat in cruisers and battleships, and he had size on his side. Further, the IJN was adept at night fighting, having severely licked the Navy in several sharp surface warfare engagements in the area during the graveyard shift.
With no moon and a dark sky, the U.S. fleet used radar to close to within point-blank range until the Japanese fired off starshells and lit up their spotlights and the 1 a.m. battle was on– with the two fleets intermingling their battle line like a barroom brawl.
Laffey and her fellow destroyers and cruisers hammered the Fubuki-class destroyer Akatsuki (who soon sank with a loss of 197 crew) and then found themselves face to face with the 37,000-ton Kongō-class battleship Hiei (Abe’s flagship) while fellow tin cans Sterett (DD-407) and O’Bannon (DD-450) joined the fray.
While it would seem an uneven match, the Laffey got so close to the battlewagon (10 feet according to some reports) that the Japanese behemoth could not depress her guns low enough to get a hit on the plucky destroyer less than a 10th her size. However, this did not stop Laffey from pounding the Jap leviathan with 5-inch shells while her .50 caliber gunners, in close enough to make a difference, peppered everything that moved.
Laffey‘s crew paid close attention to the bridge of the flagship and almost claimed another admiral– severely wounding Abe and killing his chief of staff, Captain Suzuki Masakane.
However, the destroyer soon found herself surrounded by Hiei, the battleship Kirishima, and two Japanese destroyers. With over 80,000 tons of the Emperor’s warships pounding away with ordnance that included 14-inch shells and Long Lance torpedoes, it was over fast. Her magazines exploded as she was being abandoned and she suffered 59 officers and men killed and 116 wounded, over half her crew.
As reported in the video and book “The Lost Fleet of Guadalcanal,” Laffey is today upright at a depth of nearly a half-mile off Guadalcanal and largely intact from the bow to amidships, but her after third has disappeared. Both forward 5-inch guns are trained out to port, and her amidships superstructure is holed by a 14-inch projectile from a Japanese battleship.
In a battle that lasted just 40-minutes, both sides had taken a brutal beating and although the U.S. fleet was ravaged, only two American ships were still capable of fighting, and Adm. Callaghan had been killed on the bridge of his flagship, Abe broke contact and fled. Besides Laffey, her Benson/Gleaves sisters USS Barton (DD-599) and USS Monssen (DD-436) also rested on Iron Bottom Sound when dawn came while badly damaged sister USS Aaron Ward (DD-483), who had stood toe to toe with Kirishima, was limping but still firing at the Japanese as they withdrew.
As for the damaged Hiei, she sank while under tow on the evening on 14 November after taking her final hits from Army B-17s and Navy Avengers. Partly due to an attempt to help screen Hiei, Kirishima was caught the next day by the modern fast battleships USS South Dakota (BB-57) and USS Washington (BB-56) who beat the ever-loving shit out of her until by 15 November she was parked on Iron Bottom Sound as well.
The events of 13-15 November sealed the turning point in the waters off Guadalcanal and ended the Tokoyo Express. Further, it bought time for the new Essex-class carriers and legions of follow-on surface warfare ships to join the fleet as the Japanese licked their wounds and regrouped.
Admiral Abe, returning to Japan injured from Laffey‘s shells and whipped in a humiliating defeat by what Yamamoto considered a smaller force, was cashiered and died a broken man after the War– so we can count that as a combat effective kill for the destroyer as well.
Laffey in the end earned the Presidential Unit Citation
“For outstanding performance during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Southwest Pacific area, 15 September to 13 November 1942. Braving hostile file to rescue survivors in submarine-infested waters, the LAFFEY, after fighting effectively in the Battle of Cape Esperance, successfully repelled an aerial torpedo attack, and although badly crippled and set afire, inflicted severe damage on Japanese naval units off Savo Island. Eventually succumbing to her wounds after the enemy had fled in defeat, she left behind her an illustrious example of heroic fighting spirit.” For the President, James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy.
She was soon to have her name recycled by an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer, DD-724, who went on to make something of a name for herself as well in Naval history and is preserved at Patriots Point, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
The Benson and Gleaves classes gave extensively in WWII, with 16 lost during the war– five in the Guadalcanal campaign alone. After the war, they were mothballed with some reactivated for Korea. In the 50s a number were given to overseas allies to serve for another decade or so, but by the late 1970s, all of these hardy veterans were razorblades.
Still, Laffey has been remembered in maritime art and in at least two scale models from Dragon as well as through a veteran’s association that honors both ships of the same name as well as the Irish-American bluejacket who earned his MOH by blood and deed.
Displacement: 1620 tons (2515 tons full load)
Length: 341 ft. (103.9 m) waterline, 348 ft. 2 in (106.12 m) overall
Beam: 36 ft. 1 in (11.00 m)
Draft: 11 ft. 9 in (3.58 m) (normal),17 ft. 9 in (5.41 m) (full load)
Propulsion: Four Babcock & Wilcox boilers, General Electric SR geared turbines; two shafts;
50000 shp (37 MW)
Speed: 37.5 knots (69.5 km/h)
33 knots (61.1 km/h) full load
Range: 6,000 nautical miles (11,000 km) at 15 kt, (11,000 km at 28 km/h)
Complement: 208 (276 war)
4× 5 in (127 mm) DP guns, Mk 30 single mounts
6 × 0.50 in. (12.7 mm) guns, single mounts
10 × 21 in (53 cm) torpedo tubes,
2 × depth charge tracks
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