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Those pesky ghost guns

In California, it is pretty tough for one of the 13 million estimated legal gun owners to buy an AR-15 or similar gun deemed by local law since 1989 to be an “assault weapon” without seriously neutering the firearm itself to be compliant. Fast forward nearly 30 years, numbers of (non-compliant) ARs still pop up with regularity in gun crime. Recently, the ATF and LAPD busted a group associated with street gangs that were operating DIY gun mills from Hollywood area weekly-rent hotels that made ARs and Glocks from 80 percent lowers.

Some of the firearms appear to violate National Firearm Act regulations for short-barreled rifles. Go big or go home, I guess. (Photo: LAPD)

So, just regulate “ghost guns” right?

Here’s the funny part: under a bill, signed into law in 2016 by Gov. Jerry Brown, legal builders of homemade firearms have to first obtain a serial number through the state Department of Justice to complete their built and abide by a myriad of California laws.

Sheesh.

More in my column at Guns.com

The GPF of Gulf Shores

Here we see a U.S. Model 1918M1 155mm gun, the famous French GPF (Canon de 155mm Grande Puissance Filloux, a direct copy of the C modèle 1917 Schneider) of the Great War, which equipped U.S. forces overseas and– when upgraded with air brakes, new metal wheels, and pneumatic tires to allow for high-speed towing– remained the mainstay of the interwar Army throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

Note the unmodified 1918-series profile, with hard rubber wheels and no air brake, in other words, in its original WWI-era mode, suitable for being pulled by slow tractors or horses. (Photo: Chris Eger)

By the outbreak of WWII, the Army had 979 GPFs still on hand although they were being replaced by the new and much more modern M114 155 mm howitzer (many of the latter are still in use in the Third World today).

With the relegation of the old GPF to the reserve, when the balloon went up and German and Japanese subs started crawling just off the U.S. coastline, these vintage guns were pressed into service on what were termed “Panama Mounts,” a semi-fixed installation atop a circular concrete mount that allowed the gun to revolve and rotate in place. Capable of sending a 95-pound shell out to 17,700-yards every 15-seconds with a well-trained crew, they could shatter the hull of a U-boat with ease or give a surface raider far from home at least a moment of pause.

One such gun (pictured above) remains at Fort Morgan, Alabama, controlling the entrance to Mobile Bay.

In 1942 the fort received four GPFs, two of which (Nos. 176 and 802) were used on Panama Mounts on top of the old Civil War-era bastions while two others were left mobile.

Soldier sitting on top of an M1918 155mm GPF, 1942. The gun position would be located on top of Bastion 3 of the fort. Note the camouflage, sandbag revetments and Panama Mount (Fort Morgan Collection)

Taken in 1943, this picture shows one of two 155 GPF guns that were mounted on top of the fort. Maximum elevation was 35-degrees, which is close to what this tube is (Fort Morgan Collection)

These were manned by men of Battery F, 50th Coast Artillery throughout the duration of the War. It should be noted that, while Fort Morgan was an active U.S./Confederate base from 1819 through WWI, by 1931 it had been disarmed and abandoned, with the visiting 155’s of Battery F her last hurrah.

Established at Camp Pendleton, Virginia 1 February 1942, the 50th Coast Artillery was a tractor-drawn heavy artillery regiment. After just two months of training, Battery F entrained for Fort Barrancas (Pensacola) Florida. Arriving there on 7 April 1942, the unit left in a (slow) motor convoy to Fort Morgan to establish Temporary Harbor Defenses (THD) of Mobile and remained there until 1944.

Battery E went down the coast another several miles to my hometown of Pascagoula to defend Ingalls Shipyard from a point on Beach Boulevard, but that is another story…

Morgan’s remaining GPF, head on. Yes, double solid rubber wheels on each side. (Photo: Chris Eger)

The gun still at Morgan is on M1918 carriage No. 429, one of the 626 U.S.-made produced under a license from Schneider/Puteaux. Another 577 were purchased from the French directly. All U.S.-made carriages were manufactured by Minneapolis Steel from built-up steel alloy. (Photo: Chris Eger)

Her tube is No. 1073, Watervliet Arsenal production. All gun tubes for U.S.-made M1917/18s were made by either Watervliet or Bullard Engineering Works and marked as such on the muzzle. (Photo: Chris Eger)

Technically a 155mm/38 caliber piece, the tube is almost 10-feet long (232.87 inches) with the weight of the gun and carriage topping 19,860-pounds, or right at 10-tons. Muzzle velocity on the 95-pound shell was 2,411fps– which is a whole lot of energy. 

Their use in Coastal Artillery was nearly the last hurrah of the GPF in U.S. service.

By May 1941, the M1917/18 was a Lend-Lease item and much of those stocks not used to guard the various beaches soon were on their way to the British, where they made an appearance in North Africa against Rommel and Co. The GPF also served in the Pacific, with at least 60 of the model captured by the Japanese in the Philippines. Late in 1942, some 100 GPFs that remained in storage were mounted on the turretless chassis of the obsolete M3 Lee tank to form the M12 Gun Motor Carriage as a form of early self-propelled artillery. When teamed up with the companion Cargo Carrier M30 (also a turretless M3), which allowed them to go into the line with 40 rounds of 155mm ready, they proved popular in a niche role. These tracked GPFs earned the nicknames “Doorknocker” and “King Kong” in service due to their ability to pierce up to seven feet of reinforced concrete and turn pillboxes into a smokey hole in the ground– a useful thing in Northeastern Europe in 1944.

If visiting Fort Morgan, be sure to check out the small museum just a few hundred yards from where the surviving GPF sits.

Inside the museum they have the guidon of Battery A, 104th Coastal Artillery, an Alabama National Guard unit mobilized for federal service 10 months prior to Pearl Harbor and then shipped to the Pacific in 1942, only returning home in January 1946.

As well as the typical WWII Coastal Artillery uniform of sun hat, olive coveralls tucked into canvas leggings, gas mask, and cartridge belt:

Of note, interwar Coastal Artillery coveralls were blue denim but were often worn by National Guard units operating 155mm GPFs in WWII, such as one of these big guns going boom, shown in the late 1930s Kodachrome below.

A new civil war? Some people really think it is a thing

#Loc LC-USZ62-126968

A national survey conducted last week by Rasmussen found that almost one in three polled felt there was a pretty good chance of a second civil war in the country within the decade.

The survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted on June 21-24 by the poll taker and, when asked, “How likely is that the United States will experience a second civil war sometime in the next five years?” some 31 percent responded very likely.

Those who considered it not likely at all accounted for a comparatively smaller 29 percent, with the other third somewhere in the middle on the sliding scale of possibility.

Yikes. Everyone just step back from the rhetoric, slowly. Don’t make any sudden moves…

On the brightside, now #secondcivilwarletters are now a thing on Twitter

The life and times of a DC1 on a 50+ year old cutter

A look at what it takes to keep a half-century-old OPV in service on regular patrols.

“Petty Officer 1st Class, Victor Arcelay, damage controlman and crew member aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Active, a 210-foot medium endurance Reliance-class cutter homeported in Port Angeles, Wash., explains the effort required by crew members to keep a 52-year-old cutter fully mission-capable to conduct counter-narcotic patrols in the eastern Pacific Ocean, Thursday, May 17, 2018. Medium endurance cutters like the Active are scheduled for replacement by the Offshore Patrol Cutter, with construction of the first vessel slated to begin in 2018 and delivery of the first one scheduled for completion in 2021”

CUCV, is that you?

With my current location just an hour or so from Camp Shelby, where almost every National Guard mechanized unit in the southeast has stomped through the pine thickets since the 1960s, lots of DRMO’d surplus gear and vehicles are common. I give you, a very sweet mid-1980s Chevrolet K5 Blazer in its M1009 CUCV guise, found at a local bookstore.

These pop up a lot along with their M1008 1/2-ton Silverado cousins. GM produced some 70,000 CUCVs from 1983 to 1986 and they served on active duty through the 1990s in just about every utilitarian role needed across the Army:

There is just so much Reagan military goodness here. From the high color woodland scheme to the BDUs, M1 helmets and M60 “pig” set up like a technical. Note the MILES gear as well.

You still see a slim few in the Guard. For instance, I bumped into an immaculately maintained example belonging to a tank company while I was up supporting FEMA operations in Smithville after the terrible tornadoes in the area in 2011:

While these have typically all been put to pasture by Uncle, you can be sure civilian-owned specimens will continue to circle the globe for another century or so.

Of Dad’s Army and donated bangsticks

With the release of the latest Small Arms Survey data that puts most firearms (8.4 out of 10) in the hands of civilians worldwide, I thought the below artifacts from the Imperial War Museum would be interesting.

Winchester M1894 sporting takedown rifle .30/30 Winchester (FIR 5292) This rifle was one of a number of weapons provided for Home Guard use in 1940 by an American organization called the American Committee for the Defence of British Homes. They mounted a public appeal for firearms and binoculars which could be sent to aid the defence of Britain.  Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30035096

Springfield Model 1878 rifle (FIR 7917) This rifle was one of a number of weapons provided for Home Guard use in 1940 by an American organization called the American Committee for the Defence of British Homes. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30032392

While of course, on the outset the pair of smoke-poles above would seem hard-pressed to arm a British store clerk or country gentleman against a Fallschirmjäger with an MP38 and some potato masher grenades, they were better than nothing. In the early days of the Local Defence Volunteers and Home Guard firearms of any sort were a rarity. Remember the fictional Sergeant Wilson’s weapon report to Captain Mainwaring in the hilarious “Dad’s Army” sitcom that they stood ready to meet Hitler’s parachutists with “15 carving knives, one shotgun, a No. 3 Iron, and Lance Corporal Jones’ assegai.”

The first muster from the fictional Dad’s Army

Yes, the program was a slapstick comedy, but it should be noted that it was based partly on co-writer and creator Jimmy Perry’s own experiences in the LDV during the War and in many respects is dead-on.

The 1940 British Local Defence Volunteers, not far off from the above image

At one point, pikes were famously planned to arm the local militia force.

Yes, Pikes. Via Home-Guard.org.uk

It wasn’t until 1942 that quantities of Lend-Leased Great War-era M1917 Enfield, Lewis guns and M1918 BARs in 30.06s, mixed with newer weapons such as Thompson submachine guns started arriving in force.

A long service sergeant in the Dorking Home Guard cleans his Tommy gun at the dining room table, before going on parade, 1 December 1940. He likely went “over the top” along the Somme some years earlier.

British Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service members unloading a fresh shipment of lend-lease crates ca. 41-42. The boxes contain Model 1894 Winchester lever action cowboy guns

By 1943, the possibility of outright German invasion had atrophied although the need to have armed locals in place to police up spies, saboteurs and shot down Luftwaffe aircrews would remain very real.

Three soldiers of the Home Guard pose with a wrecked Messerschmitt shot down over south-east England during the Battle of Britain. Note the Lend-Lease M1917 Enfields

The “Baby Blitz” of Unternehmen Steinbock saw He 177A’s, Do 217s and Ju 88A-4s flying over London as late as May 1944. In that point, 800,000 unarmed volunteers of the ARP and another 1.6 very feisty Home Guard stood ready to defend the Home Isles out of a population of about 49 million, which is impressive especially when you keep in mind that the country at the time fielded a 3-million man Army, a 1.2-million strong RAF capable of pulling off 1,000-bomber raids, and a million-man Royal Navy that included 78,000 Marines and 50 (albeit mostly escort) carriers.

There are 857 million civilian guns in the world. Americans own nearly half

“The Small Arms Survey presents its findings on the number of firearms held by civilians, law enforcement agencies, and military forces in a series of three new Briefing Papers. The Survey estimates that of the one billion firearms in global circulation as of 2017, 857 million (85 percent) are in civilian hands, 133 million (13 percent) are in military arsenals, and 23 million (two percent) are owned by law enforcement agencies. The new studies suggest that the global stockpile has increased over the past decade, largely due to civilian holdings, which grew from 650 million in 2006 to 857 million in 2017.”

Sounds like rookie numbers to me. Gotta pump those numbers up.

 

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