Category Archives: gun culture

SKS: It Takes a lickin…

Borrowing from the old Timex tagline— which if you already knew that you dated yourself as much as I have– check out this SKS that was recently plucked from a river by magnet fishers.

It had been down long enough that it was rusted almost solid and full of little crawling things that called it home.

However, after a good cleaning, and changing out some small components (magazine, gas tube, trigger pack) while keeping the original barrel and receiver, it started ticking again and was still holding palm-sized groups with steel cased ammo at 50 yards.

In Other News, the number of Youth in the Shooting Sports is on the Rise

I think it is no secret that I spent my childhood immersed in gun culture. Growing up in the Gulf South in the 1970s and 80s under the watchful eye of my grandpa (a retired 30-year SNCO) I got my first pellet gun at age six, my first .22LR two years later, and harvested my first deer– with a milsurp 8mm Mauser as tall as I was– before I left grade school. Added to this was Scouts, JROTC (where we fired Mossberg 442s in class against a sandbagged target trap every Friday!), hunting trips with my friends, and neighborhood turkey shoots, followed by working in a local gun store in my teens.

However, over the past several decades, the numbers of kids given the opportunity to shoot safely have greatly decreased, a sure bet that the number of responsible gun owners would shrink moving forward.

But, things may be changing a bit.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s hunting license sales index showed a 29 percent jump in new hunters taking the field in 2020 when compared to the previous year, climbing from an estimated 2.3 million in 2019 to over 3.2 million, gaining a legion equivalent to the population of Jacksonville, Florida, or Austin, Texas. Many of these were teens.

Besides apprentice hunters, the clay fields are also seeing big gains.

Following up on a record Fall Season, the USA Clay Target League told me last week that they will have a record 27,577 student-athletes representing 1,308 high school and college teams in 34 states participating in the league’s programs this spring, supported by 7,800 volunteers serving as coaches, range officers, and staff.

Maybe the kids will be alright.

The Two Biggest Flaws in a “Ghost Gun” Ban

Unless you have been under a rock, President Biden last week took executive action to order the DOJ to come up with a rule to regulate 80-percent complete firearm frames and receivers, something that has long been pushed by anti-gun groups and progressive politicians looking to get their face on the news.

The basic problem with the “80 percent” designation is that it is a marketing gimmick just as much as the term “Ghost Gun” is, and is not a real-life thing. The ATF looks at a firearm as being 100 percent a firearm, or 100 percent not a firearm. There is no such thing under the law as being anything between, hence the ability to sell such kits through the mail with no checks or regulations– because they just are not guns.

It is too hard to come up with a realistic rule for such things.

Take an AK47 or G3 style rifle. They have a receiver made from folding a flat piece of sheet steel together and making the required cuts. Super simple tech. A guy even famously made an AK from a shovel once.

How do you regulate that?

Even ARs begin life as a plain block of aluminum that doesn’t need that many steps to mill out to a receiver– a process that is in the public domain. 

Do you ban blocks of aluminum? Only transfer said blocks after a background check?  A couple years ago, a fellow with a simple sand forge melted down 265 coke cans to make an AR receiver then built a functional rifle from it.

Then there are guns like the STEN and the like, for which a myriad of plans and parts kits are floating around, which were specifically designed to be made DIY-style with commonly available parts and simple hand tools. Have you ever heard of Harbor Freight? 

Finally, the biggest elephant in the room: criminals will still find a way to make guns. In England, after intense gun control was established, blank guns and starter pistols were converted to fire projectiles while a cottage industry sprouted up to make obsolete 19th-century ammo for relics that had not seen factory-loaded a cartridge produced since Victoria was on the throne. The answer? More gun control on Sherlock Holmes-era firearms. Sure. 

Take this specimen recently picked up by the SFPD– a town without any (legal) gun stores since 2017 and in a state with an “assault weapon” ban since 1989.

Homemade with a DIY frame, this Glock-pattern 9mm also has a selector switch on the back of the slide to make it full auto. Now such switches have been illegal without a tax stamp since 1934 and banned from new consumer production since 1986, but here one is, just floating around the Bay Area. Guess making something illegal doesn’t magically mean it will vanish and that no one would break the law to make one. 

You just can’t really regulate this stuff and expect it to have an effect on crime.

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk, stepping down off my soapbox. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. 

If Only FN Made a 509-series Longslide. Oh, Wait

Earlier this year, FN released the Model 509 LS Edge, with the “LS” referring to the extended 5-inch barrel and corresponding lengthened slide. Optics-ready for just about every micro red dot on the market, it has a lot going on.

Due to the lightening cuts in the slide and polymer frame, the FN 509 Edge LS is the same size as an M1911 but, loaded with 18 rounds of 147-grain 9mm and topped with a Leupold Delta Point Pro, it weighs just 36 ounces.

I’ve been kicking the tires on one for a minute. Check out my initial thoughts after the jump.

Sandy Super Sherman

My buddy Ben recently attended the Big Sandy Night Shoot in Arizona and captured some amazing footage.

You have probably seen Ben’s work before as he is behind the camera whenever I am on video for Guns.com. Also, some of his footage of the semi-annual Knob Creek Shoot in Kentucky just shy of Fort Knox was recycled a couple years back by ABC and passed off as a firefight in Syria, because journalism.

Of note at Big Sandy this year was a surplus (but working) M50 Super Sherman tank. Also known as the Isherman since it was an IDF conversion of the old WWII/Korea-era medium tank, Super Shermans were still in use as late as 2003 by the Chilean Army.

Chilean Super Sherman…

The IDF’s Bail Out Pop Gun

The Silah Report has an interesting and detailed article on Eugene Stoner’s Armalite AR-7 .22LR survival rifle in service with the Israeli Defense Forces.

The IDF AR-7 had a few tweaks over the standard version. (Via Silah Report)

The IDF AR-7 with its stock collapsed and barrel attached. (Via Silah Report)

More here.

Ballistic Art

If you are a fan of fine art in the form of engraving on the media of ordnance grade steel, perhaps you know of the firearms modified by the late art collector and conservator Raymond J. Wielgus across a 30-year period that spanned from the 1970s to his death.

Browning Model 1902 Semi-Automatic Pistol, Raymond J. Wielgus, Art Institute of Chicago

Browning Model 1935 Semi-Automatic Pistol, Raymond J. Wielgus, Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago has 25 amazing guns that were given the attention of the skilled Mr. Wielgus, all available for viewing online.

Other examples of his finely embellished damascene engraving style are in the Cody Firearms Museum.

SOCOM Getting More Precision rifles

When it comes to new guns for SOCOM, the command’s FY21 budget justification book details that over the past two years 1,562 MK27s (Glock 19 Gen 4s) were acquired along with 1,930 Upper Receiver Groups-Improved (URG-Is), 250 new Personal Defense Weapons, and 450 new ASRs.

ASR?

Oh, that would be the Multi-Role Adaptive Rifle/MK22 Advanced Sniper Rifle award issued by the U.S. Special Operations Command in 2019 to Barrett as part of an effort to continue “development of enhanced capabilities to improve performance” of “individual sniper weapons to engage out to 1500 meters.”

The MK22 is a version of Barrett’s popular MRAD bolt gun, which can be swapped between three different calibers on the fly, hence the “Multi-Role Adaptive Rifle” abbreviation.

Barrett just pulled down a $50~ milly contract for ASRs from the Army, btw.

Sako Turns 100 Today

Established April 1, 1921, in Riihimaki, Finland, the now-famed gunmaker was formed from a pre-existing workshop where the newly independent country’s Civil Guard militia repaired Russian-made Mosin and Berdan rifles inherited during the Finnish Civil War. The company’s name– Suojeluskuntain Ase- ja Konepaja Osakeyhtiö (Civil Guard Firearm and Engineering Co.) — today remains a holdover from that origin. 

Their first product was the M/28 rifle, a modified Mosin design that proved so accurate that Samo ‘White Death” Haya used it during the Winter War.

The Sako-designed Mosin M28, via Millcoll

Today, Sako is the last Finnish rifle maker standing, having merged with VKT, Tikka, and Valmet over the years. Sure, it is owned by Beretta– and has been since 2000– but the guns are still made in Riihimaki. Last year, they produced 113,000 rifles, a record high.

Retired from a long career: M1903A3

While attending this year’s inaugural Shooting Sports Showcase, held at the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s superb 500-acre Talladega Marksmanship Park, I was lucky enough to find the former Creedmoor shop open on-site. The gun store at the TMP is one of three retail sites that the CMP maintains to sell surplus military rifles to qualified members of the public, with the other two locations being the North Store at Camp Perry and the South Store in Anniston.

Besides a good collection of M1 Garands, they also had a rack of M1917 Enfields and another of M1903A3s on hand.

M1903s

M1917s

The bolt guns have been listed as “sold out” on the CMP’s website for years, as the Army had long ago transferred the final stocks of those rifles on hand to the program. In fact, I remember Shotgun News ads when I was in college for $349 M1903s from the newly-formed CMP, which must have been effective.

The CMP’s site has for years stated, “We do not expect to ever again receive large quantities of these models. Currently, M1903 and M1903A3 models are not available, and CMP is not accepting orders,” when it comes to these guns.

The few that they do get from time to time are typically returned ceremonial rifles loaned by the Army decades ago to Veterans’ organizations such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Disabled American Veterans, and others like National Cemetery and LE groups.

Sadly, there is a nationwide epidemic of Veteran halls closing both as the number of active WWII and Korean war-era vets are thinning and COVID restrictions are shutting down revenue-earning enterprises such as bars and bingo halls that were used to fund operations. Further, as the old bolt guns are replaced under the Army’s order to homogenize the program to just CMP-maintained M1s, these long-serving M1917s and M1903s are being handed in.

This brings me to the gun I picked up at Talledega.

The card shows the Remington M1903A3 I selected while at CMP was inspected by an armorer in Anniston on Feb. 17 of this year– just three weeks before I purchased it through the program. Classified as “Service Grade” it has a good bore and is virtually unshot as both the bore and muzzle read #1 when gauged. The serial number dates to February 1943 production as does the barrel.

It sure is pretty.

The Parkerizing is perfect and shows the tooling marks from rushed wartime production. Remember, February 1943 coincided with the disastrous Battle of the Kasserine Pass in North Africa and the green hell of the slog up the Solomons

For reference, CMP’s Service Grade is:

Service Grade Rifles show less wear and better appearance than Field or Rack Grades. Good to very good condition. Rifle wear will be exhibited by worn and mixed colors of the parkerized finish. May have pitting on the metal parts. Wood will be either Walnut, Birch, Beech, or other variety and will be basically sound but may have minor hairline cracks, dings, scratches, and gouges. Wood may not match in color or type of wood. Bores will be generally good with only minor imperfections. The barrel crown may be nicked, but the muzzle will gauge “3 or less” and the throat erosion will gauge less than 5.

It has a Remington Arms “RA” marked S-stock.

As well as an “RA” barrel.

While M1903A3s saw lots of use in WWII, they were mostly issued to second-line troops such as signals, bridging, and engineer units. 

1944- U.S. soldier and Frenchman from Cherbourg toast the liberation of Paris with a glass of rare old wine. Note La Presse, Cherbourg’s newspaper on the table prewar, and the M1903

Odds are that this particular rifle, since the bore is so bright and tight, and it has the correct dated barrel for the receiver and a Remington stock, that it never saw war service and was shipped shortly after the conflict to a Veteran’s hall. There, it was carefully and lovingly taken out of storage once a month for low-impact drill purposes, served on a firing party for interments as needed, and was carried in dozens of Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, and Independence Day parades to escort the color guard.

That would explain the very rough buttplate, that has met the pavement on a regular basis.

As well as nicks and scratches in the stock and sight ears

Nonetheless, I gladly paid $770 for the rifle which was likely just stricken off the Army’s “books” in the past few months.

The cash will go to support marksmanship activities– for instance, the CMP has a scholarship program for qualified junior marksmen in addition to supporting rifle teams in JROTC, 4H, and others. Besides the initial instruction I received from my retired senior NCO grandfather, it was in JROTC that I was first introduced to marksmanship.

Further, as I have no plans to ever put more than a box or so of 150-grain ball through the rifle, this old vet can finally retire at age 78.

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