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Warship Wednesday, June 26, 2019: The sub-smoking Greenfish of the Amazon

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, June 26, 2019: The sub-smoking Greenfish of the Amazon

Here we see into the sail of the Bahia-class submarine Amazonas (S16) of the Marinha do Brasil, in January 1985 as she was headed across the South Atlantic to the West African country of Côte d’Ivoire. Her crew is participating in a swim call and the bluejacket is armed with an FN49 battle rifle, dubbed an FS in Brazilian service, on shark watch. While our hearty sub never saw active ship-to-ship combat, she had a long life and would go on to sink not one, but two submarines on her own accord.

A member of the 121-ship Balao class, she was one of the most mature U.S. Navy diesel designs of the World War Two era, constructed with knowledge gained from the earlier Gato-class. U.S. subs, unlike those of many navies of the day, were ‘fleet’ boats, capable of unsupported operations in deep water far from home.

Able to range 11,000 nautical miles on their reliable diesel engines, they could undertake 75-day patrols that could span the immensity of the Pacific. Carrying 24 (often unreliable) Mk14 Torpedoes, these subs often sank anything short of a 5,000-ton Maru or warship by surfacing and using their deck guns. The also served as the firetrucks of the fleet, rescuing downed naval aviators from right under the noses of Japanese warships.

Some 311-feet long overall, they were all-welded construction to facilitate rapid building. Best yet, they could be made for the bargain price of about $7 million in 1944 dollars (just $100 million when adjusted for today’s inflation) and completed from keel laying to commissioning in about nine months.

An amazing 121 Balaos were rushed through five yards at the same time, with the following pennant numbers completed by each:

Cramp: SS-292, 293, 295-303, 425, 426 (12 boats)

Electric Boat: 308-313, 315, 317-331, 332-352 (42)

Manitowoc on the Great Lakes: 362-368, 370, 372-378 (15)

Mare Island on the West Coast: 304, 305, 307, 411-416 (9)

Portsmouth Navy Yard: 285-288, 291, 381-410, 417-424 (43)

We have covered a number of this class before, such as the rocket mail slinger USS Barbero, the carrier-slaying USS Archerfish the long-serving USS Catfish and the frogman Cadillac USS Perchbut don’t complain, they have lots of great stories.

Originally to be named Doncella (after a shovel-nosed catfish), the Balao that became the first warship named Greenfish (after a Florida ladyfish) was laid down at Electric Boat Co., Groton, Connecticut, in June 1944– 75 years ago this week in fact– but came in too late for WWII service. She would be the 101st submarine to be launched at Groton.

Commissioned 7 June 1946, her shakedown cruises included one of the first transfers of personnel from an aircraft carrier, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42), to a submarine by helicopter.

Greenfish in her as-built WWII-configuration, shown off Groton, Connecticut, in October 1947. Note her forward and aft 5-inch guns as well as her 40mm and 20mm cannon on the sail. Courtesy of D.M. McPherson, 1974. Catalog #: NH 79772

Greenfish in her as-built late WWII-configuration, shown off Groton, Connecticut, in October 1947. Note her forward and aft 5-inch guns as well as her 40mm and 20mm cannon on the sail. Courtesy of D.M. McPherson, 1974. Catalog #: NH 79772

Another task during her shakedowns was to Deep Six the captured German unterseeboot, U-234, off Cape Cod, Mass, 20 November 1947.

A Type XB “cargo U-boat” U-234 left Germany in the last days of the war in Europe with a dozen high-level officers and advisors, technical drawings, examples of the newest electric torpedoes, one crated Me 262 jet aircraft, a Henschel Hs 293 glide bomb and 1,210 lbs. of uranium oxide. She never made it Japan as her skipper decided to make for Canada instead after the fall of Germany. Two Japanese officers on board committed suicide and were buried at sea while the sub– packed with her very important glow in the dark stuff– surrendered to the destroyer escort USS Sutton south of the Grand Banks, Newfoundland on 14 May, a week after VE Day.

Though other U-boats popped up after her (U-530 and U-977 arrived in Argentina in July and August 1945, respectively) U-234 has been called “The Last U-Boat” in at least two different documentaries about her voyage.

Anyway, back to our sub.

After logging at least three short “Simulated War Patrols” in the late 1940s, less than two years after she left EB, Greenfish was sent back for GUPPY IIA (Greater Underwater Propulsion Power) SCB-47 conversion.

This conversion included adding German-style snorkeling equipment, enlargement of her sail, removal of much of her deck armament, and doubling her batteries to increase her submerged speed and range. She landed her WWII listening gear for an updated type WFA active and JT passive sonar set.

Also, her four electric motors were replaced by two of more modern design. Some 22 U.S. boats got such a conversion.

As noted by Capt. Alfred Scott McLaren, USN (Ret.), in his memoir Silent and Unseen on Patrol in Three Cold War Attack Submarines, from his time on Greenfish:

The most significant modification within the submarine, or below decks, was to provide the capability to shift electrical connections among the four main lead-zinc batteries from a normal parallel to connection in series. This shift, used during maximum or flank speed operations only, provided sufficient electrical current, or amperage, to the two direct-drive electrical motors such that they could drive both propeller shafts at a sufficiently high RPM to attain underwater speeds in excess of twenty knots, providing the hull was free of the marine growth that normally accretes from long periods in port. Such high speeds provided a boat, when under attack, with at least one good opportunity to break free of enemy active sonar contact and escape from an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) surface vessel.

As for her accommodations, McLaren notes:

Crews of seventy-five to eighty men normally manned diesel electric submarines of this era. All submarines—as high-speed, deep-diving warships—are compact, and Greenfish was no exception. By necessity they use every inch of interior space, but without compromising their war-fighting capabilities. Approximately a tenth of crewmembers had to hot bunk: that is, they had to share their bunk with a fellow shipmate, with one man climbing into a bunk as soon as its previous occupant had vacated it. Most hot bunking took place in the forward torpedo room where the most junior members of the crew slept in side-by-side pan bunks, positioned on top of the torpedo reloads.

Although all boats of this era had heating and air-conditioning systems, the systems were notoriously ill-distributed through any given submarine’s interior, despite the improvements that had been made since the war. Adding to crew discomfort when on the surface was the fact that GUPPY submarines now had a rounded bow, versus the previous uplifted, pointed or fleet bow, causing the submarine to ride less comfortably than previously on the surface, particularly when heading directly into rough seas. Finally, none of these older submarines was particularly clean below decks. The need to cram more and more improved equipment within each submarine created innumerable and inaccessible dirt- and moisture-collection areas throughout the boat, especially in the bilges, which became breeding grounds for cockroaches.

Her reconstruction lasting some eight months, Greenfish emerged ready to fight as one of the most modern diesel boats in the world and, assigned to the Pacific Fleet, arrived at Pearl Harbor 25 November 1948 to go about her Cold War career.

Greenfish stepside sail

Note her streamlined GUPPY IIA profile, with her guns deleted and a step-side sail

When the balloon went up along the 38th Parallel, Greenfish sailed for Korean waters and completed a war patrol there, 31 January to 1 March 1952. Following this, she was one of the first boats to operate among the ice with the Navy’s Arctic Submarine Lab— perilous duty for a snorkeler.

She conducted her second Korean War Patrol 21 Aug – 12 Oct 1953

Then followed a pattern of local operations out of Pearl Harbor, “special operations,” exercises along the American West coast, periodic overhauls, West Pac cruises, exercises, and the like, for several years.

She also proved a platform for a new breed of Recon Marines from time to time.

Reconnaissance scouts of the 1st Provisional Marine Air-Ground Task Force load into a rubber boat from Greenfish, a submarine of the Pacific fleet as they leave on a night mission against “enemy” installations on the island of Maui. The training afforded the Marines of the Task Force, which is based at the Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, is the most versatile offered to Marines anywhere October 7, 1954. Note the classic WWII “duck hunter” camo which had by 1954 been out of use for almost a decade except for special operations units. (Sgt D.E. Reyher DEFENSE DEPT PHOTO (MARINE CORPS) A290040.)

Night training launch from USS Greenfish 5.1.1953 via Force Recon Assoc

Night training launch from USS Greenfish 5.1.1953 via Force Recon Assoc

She would conduct at least six Special Patrols during this stage of her career:

Aug – Oct 1954
Oct – Nov 1955
21 Jul – 13 Sept 1956
3 Jun – 13 Jul 1958
17 -31 Jul 1958
Aug – Sept 1958

Stern view of four boats tied up in Pearl Harbor about 1959. Inboard to outboard are the Sabalo (SS-302), Carp (SS-338), Sterlet (SS-392) & Greenfish (SS-351).

Stern view of four GUPPY II boats tied up in Pearl Harbor about 1959. Inboard to outboard is USS Sabalo (SS-302), Carp (SS-338), Sterlet (SS-392) & Greenfish (SS-351).

Greenfish entered Pearl Harbor Shipyard 15 December 1960 for a FRAM (Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization) overhaul and extensive conversion to a GUPPY-III (SCB 223) class ship. This included cutting Greenfish in half and adding a 15-foot plug to her of hull to permit a new sonar room as well as space for more batteries and other equipment. She had one of her diesels removed to accommodate more A/C capacity and a larger freshwater distiller. She also picked up a BQG-4 PUFFS passive ranging (attack) sonar, with its distinctive three topside “shark fins.” Gone was her late 1940s WFA & JT sonars, replaced with PUFFS and augmented with a BQR-2B passive search sonar and BQS-4 active search sonar.

Only nine U.S. subs got the full GUPPY III treatment.

USS Greenfish (SS-351) with the shark fin arrays with the standard BQG-4 PUFFS system. This photo was taken in the 1960's timeframe. Text courtesy of QM2(SS) David Johnston, USNR. USN photo courtesy of http://ussubvetsofwwii.org

USS Greenfish (SS-351) with the shark fin arrays of the standard BQG-4 PUFFS system. Note her streamlined sail which had been raised an additional 5 feet to accommodate ever-increasing amounts of ESM equipment. This photo was taken in the 1960’s timeframe. Text courtesy of QM2(SS) David Johnston, USNR. USN photo courtesy of http://ussubvetsofwwii.org

Our still comparatively young boat, less than 13 years old, had by then been upgraded and converted extensively twice at this point. Her continued service included assignment to the 7th Fleet in Japan during the Cuban Missile Crisis, more periods of “special operations” which would result in a Navy Unit Commendation, ASW exercises, and, last but not least, a Vietnam patrol.

It is during this time that Greenfish counted her second “kill” when she torpedoed former Warship Wednesday alumni USS Barbero (SS/SSA/SSG-317) off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 October 1964, after that ship was stricken. Barbero was a Balao-class sistership.

Like the other WWII-era updated GUPPY boats, she was in the twilight of her U.S. service but had reached her prime.

Greenfish (SS 351) on Oct. 29, 1964, just three weeks after zapping sister ship Barbero. Photograph by Walter E. Frost City of Vancouver Archives

Greenfish at dock Dec. 2, 1967, Note her “E” swash on the sail and visiting Canadian Forces on deck. Photograph by Walter E. Frost, City of Vancouver Archives

Greenfish This submarine is shown underway in Subic Bay, Philippines, 28 October 1969. K-78775

Greenfish: This submarine is shown underway in Subic Bay, Philippines, 28 October 1969. K-78775

In 1970, Greenfish received a shipyard overhaul and was reassigned to Submarine Force Atlantic, making deployments to the Caribbean, the Med, and the North Atlantic for a northern European cruise as part of an ASW hunter-killer group together with the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid (CVS-11). It was during this time she apparently carried a couple Mk. 45 ASTOR nuclear torpedos.

Finally, Greenfish was decommissioned and struck from the US Naval Register on the same day, 29 October 1973, having completed 27 years of service for Uncle.

She had 16 skippers in U.S. service and made 2,600 dives while carrying the Union Jack:

CDR Ralph M. METCALF, USN 7 JUN 1946-27 JUN1947
CDR Robert C. GIFFIN, USN 27 JUN 1947-20 JUL1949
LCDR Murray B. BRAZEE, Jr., USN 20 JUL 1949-29 AUG1951
LCDR William P. W WILLIS, Jr., USN 29 AUG 1951-18 APR1953
LCDR Davis E. BUNTING , USN 18 APR 1953-10 JUL1954
LCDR James H. STEVENS, Jr. , USN 10 JUL 1954-23 JUN1956
LCDR John T. KNUDSEN, USN 23 JUN1 956-16 JUL1958
LCDR John A. Davis, Jr. , USN 16 JUL 1958-18 JUN1960
LCDR Homer R. BIVIN, USN 18 JUN 1960-7 JUL1962
LCDR John W. HEMANN, USN 7 JUL1962-10 JUL1964
LCDR Samuel L. CHESSER, USN 10 JUL1964-23 JUN1966
LCDR Robert C. BLANCHARD, USN 23 JUN 1966-13 MAR1968
LCDR Mark W. BYRD, USN 13 MAR 1968-7 APR 1970
CDR Karl L. PETERSON, USN 7 APR 1970-4 JAN 1972
CDR Kent B. LAWRENCE, USN 4 JAN 1972-26 OCT 1973
CDR Robert K. SLAVEN, Jr. , USN 26 OCT1973-19 DEC 1973

However, she was only halfway through with her career.

On 19 December 1973, she was transferred under terms of the Security Assistance Program to Brazil, where she was rechristened as the submarino Amazonas (S-16), the 8th such Brazilian warship to carry the name of that nation’s iconic river system.

Lt. Robert Wolfe, who was on board Greenfish for two years in the end her U.S. Navy career up to the transfer, was interviewed by the United States Navy Memorial in 2018 about the handover, being one of about a quarter of the crew who assisted with the physical transition.

The Brazilian Navy has long lived the words of Tenente Naval Engineer Emílio Julio Hess who said, “É o valor militar que justifica o submarino e define sua importância como arma de guerra” (It is the military value that justifies the submarine and defines its importance as a weapon of war.)

The Latin American nation has been in the submarine biz for 105 years, first contracting with the Italian firm of Fiat-Laurenti to craft three submersibles– F1, F3, and F5— commissioned 17 July 1914.

First Brazilian submarines: F1, F3, and F5, circa 1914.

After these three, Rio ordered a further four larger subs from the Italians in the 1930s including a Balilla-class and three Perla-class boats, which they used through WWII.

In 1957, the Brazilians went American by borrowing the Gato-class fleet boats USS Muskellunge and USS Paddle for five years under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program before turning them back in in 1963 for a pair of Balao-class boats: USS Plaice (SS-390), and USS Sand Lance (SS-381).

During  the 1972-73 time frame, Brazil pumped up their sub fleet with five surplus GUPPY II boats: USS Sea Leopard (SS-483), USS Amberjack (SS-522), USS Dogfish (SS-350), USS Odax (SS-484), and USS Grampus (SS-523) while Greenfish joined another GUPPY III, USS Trumpetfish (SS-425), as a pair of new British-made O-class subs were being built.

Greenfish/Amazonas went on to put in two decades with the Brazilians– including a 1985 African cruise, shown in the shark bait swim pic at the top of this post.

Amazonas na Baia da Guanabara, note red sail numbers and PUFFS system. Via naval.com.br

She took part in regular UNITAS operations, observed the British build up for the Falklands War, and, as noted by a former skipper, continued to carry old Mk 14 semi-straight running torpedoes and conduct (sometimes risky) dives to 400 feet well into her final years.

Greenfish/Amazonas struck from the fleet on 15 October 1992 but continued to serve as a museum boat at the Centro Historico da Marinha in Rio de Janeiro until 2004 when she was sold for scrap, as her condition had deteriorated.

Scrapping ex-Greenfish, Aft via HNSA

As such Greenfish/Amazonas outlasted five of Brazil’s six U.S. smoke boats, as Grampus and Odax were retired in 1981, Dogfish was scrapped in 1983, Amberjack in 1987, and Trumpetfish left the fleet in 1990. Sea Leopard endured as a pier side training vessel until 1993.

Greenfish is well remembered in maritime art.

USS 351 USS Greenfish loading a torpedo by John Houlden NHHC

USS Greenfish (SS-351) in Drydock – Bow by Jonathan Scott NHHC Accession Number 88-160-EG

Crew of Greenfish Shape-Up on Deck, December 16, 1970. Painting, Acrylic on Paper; by Dante H. Bertoni 88-161-aq

The crew of Greenfish Shape-Up on Deck, December 16, 1970. Painting, Acrylic on Paper; by Dante H. Bertoni NHHC 88-161-aq

Although Greenfish is no longer afloat– and her name was never reused– eight Balao-class submarines are preserved (for now) as museum ships across the country.

Please visit one of these fine ships and keep the legacy alive:

-USS Batfish (SS-310) at War Memorial Park in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
USS Becuna (SS-319) at Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
USS Bowfin (SS-287) at USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.
USS Clamagore (SS-343) at Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. (Which may not be there much longer)
USS Ling (SS-297) at New Jersey Naval Museum in Hackensack, New Jersey. (Which is also on borrowed time)
USS Lionfish (SS-298) at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts.
-USS Pampanito (SS-383) at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in San Francisco, California, (which played the part of the fictional USS Stingray in the movie Down Periscope).
USS Razorback (SS-394) at Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

As for Greenfish‘s final home country, currently, the Brazilians field five German Tupi-class (Type 209) SSKs commissioned between 1989 and 2005, which are slated to be replaced by five Riachuelo-class (French Scorpene type) submarines in the near future.

Brazilian submarine Tupi class S30 SSK German Type 209 frogmen commando swimmers

Brazilian Tupi (S30) a German Type 209 SSK, with frogmen commando swimmers. The more things change…

Meanwhile, the name Amazonas has been reissued a ninth time by the Marinha do Brasil, to a British-built corvette (P120) commissioned in 2012.

Specs:
Displacement:
1,848 tons (1,878 t) surfaced (as built); 1,870 GUPPY IIA; 1,975 GUPPY III
2,440 tons (2,479 t) submerged
Length: 311 ft as built; 307 ft. GUPPY IIA; 322 ft. GUPPY III
Beam: 27 ft 4 in
Draft: 17 ft
Propulsion:
(1945)
4 × General Motors Model 16-278A V16 diesel engines driving electrical generators
2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries
4 × high-speed General Electric motors with reduction gears
two propellers
5,400 shp (4.0 MW) surfaced
2,740 shp (2.0 MW) submerged
(1949): Snorkel added, one diesel engine and generator removed, batteries upgraded to 504 cells, 2 electric motors
Speed:
(Designed)
20.25 knots surfaced
8.75 knots submerged
(Post-GUPPY)
Surfaced:
18.0 knots maximum
13.5 knots cruising
Submerged:
14.1 knots for a ½ hour
8.0 knots snorkeling
3.0 knots cruising
Range: 11,000 nautical miles surfaced at 10 knots
Endurance:
48 hours at 2 knots submerged
75 days on patrol
Test depth: 400 ft (120 m)
Complement:10 officers, 70–72 enlisted
Armament:
10 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
6 forward, 4 aft
24 torpedoes
2 × 5-inch (127 mm) /25 caliber deck guns (removed for GUPPY)
1x Bofors 40 mm and 1x Oerlikon 20 mm cannon (removed for GUPPY)
two .50 cal. machine guns

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Guess what the most popular rifle cartridges are?

While making a post at Guns.com about just what rounds are the most popular in the centerfire rifle market commercially, I spoke with my homie Brandon at Ammo-to-Go and found out that the top six, in terms of sales by that distributor over the past three years.

The list:

1. .223/5.56mm Rem (no brainer)
2. 7.62x51mm/.308 Win (which I found intesting)
3. 7.62x39mm (..because I figured this cartridge would have been No. 2!)
4. .30-06 Springfield
5. .30-30 WCF (do you know how many Marlin 336/30s and Winchester 94s are out there?!)
6. 7.62x54R (which struck me as curious because, with the exception of a few VEPRs etc, this is Mosin food only)

The more you know…

Pee Dee’s popguns

Built at the Mars Bluff Shipyard, along the Pee Dee River in South Carolina, it should be no surprise the 170-foot Macon-class shallow draft schooner-rigged steam gunboat constructed there in 1864 would be dubbed the CSS Pee Dee. The lightly armed Confederate warship was designed to carry two Brooke rifled cannons but also had her armament bolstered by a captured Union Dahlgren cannon.

CSS Pee Dee underway on the Pee Dee River, South Carolina, circa 1862-1865. Via Navsource

Hitting the water in April 1864, by the next March, she was scuttled in shallow water some 100 miles north of Georgetown S.C. to prevent her capture by the Union Navy.

Discovered in the silt in 2010, archaeologists from the University of South Carolina five years later raised all three of her cannons.

They have since been restored and earlier this month installed at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs building in Florence. The guns include a VII-inch Brooke double-banded rifle, 6.4-inch Brooke, and IX-inch Dahlgren smoothbore

Photos and captions from The Maritime Research Division of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina:

CSS Pee Dee Chocked, wrapped, and strapped for return to Florence.

“CSS Pee Dee’s guns Chocked, wrapped, and strapped for return to Florence.”

“Glenn Dutton, Long Bay Salvage, and Jim going over the game plan.”

Mounting VII-inch Brooke double-banded rifle onto its carriage CSS Pee Dee

“Mounting VII-inch Brooke double-banded rifle onto its carriage”

Close-up of tompion in the muzzle of the IX-in. Dahlgren smoothbore CSS Pee Dee

“Close-up of tompion in the muzzle of the IX-in. Dahlgren smoothbore”

Overall view of the three mounted CSS Pee Dee cannons located between the VA building and the cemetery.

“Overall view of the three mounted CSS Pee Dee cannons located between the VA building and the cemetery.”

Items recovered from the bore of the IX-inch Dahlgren smoothbore, clockwise wooden sabot, tin straps, fuse, and gasket CSS Pee Dee

“Items recovered from the bore of the IX-inch Dahlgren smoothbore, clockwise wooden sabot, tin straps, fuse, and gasket.”

According to MRD, “A public event to introduce the cannons is planned for later this summer. Many thanks to the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, Long Bay Salvage, Florence County and Museum, CSS Pee Dee Research and Recovery Team, and Veterans Affairs for making the delivery process go smoothly and safely.”

Limpet mine update: ‘With high confidence’

U.S. Navy CDR Sean Kido, head of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit One One (EODMU 11) explains the attack on the Panama-flagged chemical/oil tanker Kokuka Courageous (19,349t) and the Norwegian-owned (International Tanker Management) Marshal Islands-flagged oil tanker Front Altair, allegedly by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, in the Gulf of Oman on June 13th, 2019:

For want of a bolt gun

One of the simple joys in life is “plinking” with a bolt-action .22 rifle.

I got my first pellet gun at age 5 and dutifully zapped plenty of surplus RC Cola and Barqs Root beer can (as well as a number of Dixie and Budweisers from the larger collection of my grandpas) to my heart’s content. Then, at age 7, I was presented with my very own Marlin Model 25 bolt-action 22LR while in second grade.

While most today would lose their mind over such a gift, let it be known it was locked up “with the rest of the guns” when not being used under adult supervision– with the word “adult” here somewhat flexible as this term also included the category of “grown-ups” such as my teenage uncles!

I probably wore the grooves out of the rifling of that Marlin and dumped buckets of leadheads through it the years, only partially chagrined that my uncles had autoloading Model 60s with an 18-shot capacity. I dutifully reloaded by seven round mag and pop-racked bolt-pop-racked bolt away. As I recall, I was better when it came to squirrel hunting than my uncles as well, and I think the fact that they were more spray and pray than aim and plink contributed to that.

Then, by my teenage years, I spent every Friday working the bolt of an old Mossberg 42 in NJROTC– yes, back then, they trusted teens with 22s in school (!) and its manual of arms was virtually identical to the old (by then smoothbore) Marlin. While many of the cadets were behind the curve, I was much more consistent and would typically produce a very nice little group, especially when you consider we were only shooting at 25 feet!

Fast forward two decades, and, with lots of different guns in the rearview, I went looking for a new Marlin bolt rifle in 2013 to recapture some of that old magic. Sadly, the Model 25 and its replacement, the Model 925, had been phased out by a more modern approximation– the “Remlin” XT-22.

While at first I was prepared for heartbreak, I can report back now that it is still holding up after a half-dozen years of tough love.

More in my column at Guns.com

Not bad for a platform that some deride as a 300-yard rifle, at best

Sgt. Cleland got it done 80 out of 80 times, out to 600 yards, with an M16 (Photos: U.S. Army)

A member of the U.S. Army’s elite Marksmanship Unit’s Service Rifle Team landed all 80 rounds in the 10-ring at a High-Power Rifle Course earlier this month.

The competitor, Sgt. Benjamin Cleland of Swanton, Ohio, pulled off the feat with a score of 800-34x. This means Cleland not only notched 80 back-to-back hits in the 10-ring but that 34 of those nailed the even smaller “X” ring at the target’s dead center. For reference, at 600 yards, the 10-ring measures 12 inches while the “X” is 6 inches.

According to the AMU, it is something that has never been recorded as on a service rifle in this type of match. Outstanding job, Sgt. Cleland!

More in my column at Guns.com.

Dragoon Snubbie?

Photo and caption via the University of Utah’s collection:

Colt's 1st Model Dragoon Revolver, Serial No. 3262 Stekes Utah Historical Collection

“This was Colt’s 1st Model Dragoon Revolver, Serial No. 3262. This revolver was made in 1848 or 1849 as records show that “a little over 4000 of the first model were made in 1848.” The barrel has been shortened from the original 7 1/2 inch length to 2 1/2 inches. The loading lever has been removed and a new front sight has been dove-tailed in on the barrel. This was a common practice to enable quicker drawing and firing & to carry concealed. The revolver was allegedly brought to Salt Lake City in 1936 by a lady from “Southern Utah,” who said that it had some connection with John D. Lee. It could hardly have belonged to Lee as William Stokes, Deputy U.S. Marshall, who arrested Lee at Panquitch on the morning of Nov. 7, 1874, related that Lee was curious about a similar revolver that he (Stokes) used. Could this perhaps be the Stokes modifed “dragoon pistol?” C.K. Gift of Charles Kelly. “

For reference, John Doyle Lee was famously convicted as a mass murderer for his role in the 1857 Mountain Meadows massacre and executed by firing squad at the Mountain Meadows site in 1877.

For further reference, this is what an unmodified Colt Dragoon looks like:

Pvt. Mabry W. Wafer, Company C, First Texas Partisan Rangers Colt Dragoon revolver Texas Historical Society Civil War

Pvt. Mabry W. Wafer, Company C, First Texas Partisan Rangers, shown with his Colt Dragoon revolver, photo via the Texas Historical Society

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