Category Archives: weapons

Hairy Legs and FALs

Well, technically inch-pattern L1A1s with early knife-style bayonets rather than true FN FALs, but still…

Note the “JAG3” rack markings on the stock of the rifle on the right, and the Soviet Red Naval banner shown on the passing destroyer. Crown copyright. IWM (A 35389) IWM. Original Source:

Official caption:

HMS Jaguar (F37) at Ethiopian Navy Days, February 1972, Masawwa Ethiopia. The frigate HMS Jaguar represented the Royal Navy at the annual event, in which the navies from Ethiopia, Britain, American, Russia, France, and Sudan took part. As the ships gathered at Massawa this shot taken from HMS JAGUAR shows her White Ensign and the Soviet Red Star of the Kashin-class (Project 61) destroyer Stroggi [sic].

Jaguar was a 2,500-ton Leopard-class (Type 41) frigate commissioned in 1959. A globetrotter, she completed a world cruise in 1969 and repeatedly went toe-to-toe with the Icelandic Coast Guard in the “Cod Wars” during which she was fitted with add-on lumber armor to absorb the impact from ramming ICG gunboats. Jaguar decommissioned in 1978 and transferred to Bangladesh as BNS Ali Haider (F17), serving until 2014.

As for the shorts, and FALs, they just historically go together.

Attention Gun lovers

For those who love beautiful and rare firearms, RIAC has some amazing offerings on their upcoming December Premier Auction.

They include a no serial number Singer Manufacturing Company M1911A1.

The sewing machine maker cranked out just 500 GI 45s in 1940-41, which came from an Educational Order issued by the Army. However, as this one has no inspector or frame markings, signs point to it being either a presentation gun made for company brass or a lunchbox gun.

How about this early production Colt Model 1911 with its scarce original box and even the original Ordnance Bill of Sale?

The U.S. Army contract pistol was shipped in a lot of 350 to the Commander of Springfield Armory in April 1912. Since then it has been carefully documented and passed down through generations of Lt. H.A. Davidson’s family.

Then there is this North American Arms Co. Model 1911 pistol, which was produced in December of 1918 in Quebec, Canada.

Did I mention it is SN#1?

And in the “you don’t see that every day” category, how about this Colt 2nd Issue Officer’s Model Target D.A. revolver that was manufactured in 1912 and is complete with an attachable period shoulder stock/holster manufactured by either W.P Thompson or the Ideal Holster Company.

Finally, how about this Belgian LeMat grapeshot carbine with a centerline 20 gauge shotgun barrel sistered under a 44-caliber revolving carbine.

It has Liege proofs and is SN#4.

If only I had a much larger piggy bank.

No longer Fearless

Here we see the Project 956 (Sovremenny-class) destroyer Bezboyaznennyy (Fearless) arriving at the breakers to be turned into shveynyye igly, or sewing needles in the Russian naval parlance.

Laid down 8 January 1987 at built by Severnaya Verf 190 St. Petersburg, Bezboyaznennyy served with the Soviet/Russian Pacific Fleet from 1990 until 2002 when she was decommissioned. It had been thought that she would be refurbished and returned to service, after all, she had only served on active duty for about a decade, but it looks like she is in very poor shape indeed, and that will not be the case.

A big, almost cruiser-sized tin can, the 8,500-ton Sovremennys were Moscow’s answer to the Spruance-class with the bonus of toting big carrier-killing SS-N-22 Sunburn AShMs.

Some 21 were completed.

The Russians still have at least six Sovremennys on active service, one (Bespokoynyy) as a floating museum in St. Petersberg, and two others– Nastoychivyy and Burnyy— formerly in mothballs, being refitted to rejoin the fleet.

The Chinese also have four variants on their own.

Hanging out with the Unloved

Normally, the pistols I test and evaluate for publications come from so-called “top shelf” or at least “mid-shelf” manufacturers such as Glock, S&W, FN, Kimber, et. al.

In a departure from that, I have been kicking around the Taurus G3C, the company’s third-gen polymer-framed striker-fired pistol for the past four months and have run more than 1K rounds through it, often carrying it as a BUG to get a feel for it.

The verdict? The damn thing works. It isn’t pretty. You aren’t going to want to show it off on your social media feed. However, Taurus has gotten their quality control in order and this gun has very little to complain about.

Plus, it is a 12+1 subcompact that is roughly the same size as a Glock 43, but only costs about $300.

More in my column at

Hawk sighting

A top-secret product of the Lockheed Skunk Works, the F-117 Nighthawk, better known as the original “stealth fighter,” first flew in 1981. After gaining IOC in 1988, they became public knowledge during the Gulf War after they helped take down some of the key strategic nodes of Saddam’s air defense and C4I network.

Officially retired in April 2008, just 59 production models were delivered. Of those, one, #82-0806 “Something Wicked”, was lost to Yugoslav SAMs over the Balkans in 1998, just one was scrapped, leaving the other 57ish Nighthawks (most of those on public display are early YF-117A “Scorpion” prototypes) to be put in what the Air Force described as “Type 1000” climate-controlled hangar storage.

Last year, 82-0803 “Unexpected Guest” went on permanent display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

However, at least two still have their wings attached and are in flyable condition. Withness this footage of two F-117As leaving Miramar MCAS last week:

The Emperor’s Magic Carpet Ride, 75 Years Ago Today

Rare postwar photo of SB2C Helldiver #43, carrying an AN/APS-4 radar pod under the wing, over kite-shaped Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands on 23 October 1945. The dive bomber is flown by Lt. Frederick C. Lambert USMCR.

(U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Museum/Naval Aviation Museum, Photo No. 1996.253.538)

In the background are the disarmed Japanese Katori-class light cruiser Kashima and her “escort,” the Cannon-class destroyer escort USS Thornhill (DE-195).

Kashima, the former Japanese Fourth Fleet flagship, spent the last part of WWII in Korean backwaters and escaped the Armageddon fate that was inflicted on the rest of the Imperial Combined Fleet. After the surrender, she had her munitions landed, her gun barrels torched off, breechblocks welded shut, and was tasked with repatriation duty, returning Japanese POWs and civilians home from overseas.

The old training cruiser was at Jaluit 22-23 October 1945 to retrieve 911 EPOWs and one-time Japanese immigrants for repatriation.

Officially stricken from the Japanese Naval List on 5 October, between 10 October 1945 and 12 November 1946, Kashima made a dozen voyages to New Guinea, the Solomons, the Marshall Islands, Singapore, French Indochina, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, and Hong Kong, transporting over 5,800 former Imperial Japanese military personnel and internees back Home.

She was then sold for scrap and broken up by mid-1947 at Nagasaki by Kawanami Heavy Industries, her steel being used to help rebuild that city.

As for Thornhill, she was decommissioned at about the same time that Kashima disappeared for good and was later transferred to NATO ally Italy, where she served as the frigate Aldebaran (F-590) through the 1970s.

Jaluit Atoll, which between 1914 and 1945 was used by the Imperial Japanese Navy as a seaplane base after spending 30 years as a coaling station for the Kaiser, currently has a population of around 1,200 locals today, and the former IJN power station, barracks, antiaircraft guns, and a Shinto shrine remain to the delight of tourists.

That a Colt in your pocket, bub?

I’ve always been a fan of the old M1903 Colt Pocket Hammerless.


First hitting the market in 1904, the thin-profiled Pocket Hammerless (Colt Model M) was one of John Browning’s finest early designs, everything a modern self-defense pistol should be.

Today, it still feels good in the hand when compared to the best that the 21st Century has to offer, although its .32ACP-chambering is on the lighter side of preferred ballistic performance today. There was a good reason why the platform, one of the first decent first semi-auto pocket pistols, was used by such cloak and dagger folks as the OSS and slipped into the jacket and field table of many a general concerned about their hide.

Iconic as a pulp-era handgun, the Colt was a favorite in B&W Noir films— Bogart carried one in no less than five films: The Desperate Hours, Key Largo, The Big Sleep, Casablanca, and Torture Ship.

A side view of Rick’s (Humphrey Bogart) Colt 1903 as he holds it on Capt. Renault (Claude Rains) via IMFDB

So naturally, when I came across an intact and original early model gun, I had to pick it up to scratch that itch.

The example I lucked into dates from 1911. Importantly, it hasn’t been reblued. The front sight isn’t banged flat. The first-gen hard rubber factory grips are intact. You can still read all the roll marks without a loupe. The magazine is in great shape.

I stripped it down completely and all the internals look OK and are in surprisingly good condition other than the recoil spring being a little relaxed.

Every now and then you have to treat yourself, right?

Have you seen what they are doing with Reapers lately?

No, not the guys in black shrouds that go around picking up souls, I’m talking about the very real drone series from General Atomics. Introduced in 2007 as a sort of super-sized version of the Predator, variations of the series have clocked six million flight hours and completed 430,495 total missions as of late 2019 while flying 11 percent of total Air Force flying hours, at only 2.6 percent of the USAF’s total flying hour cost– and maintaining a 90 percent availability rate.

The Air Force has quietly pulled off a couple of key mission enhancements in the past couple of months when it comes to Reaper.

In September, a Creech AFB-operated MQ-9 successfully went air-to-air, using an AIM-9X Block 2 Sidewinder missile against a target BQM-167 drone that was simulating an incoming cruise missile.

An MQ-9 Reaper, assigned to the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron, armed with an AIM-9X missile sits on the flight line, Sept. 3, 2020, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Haley Stevens)

This month, they doubled the number of Hellfires that could be mission-carried by a Reaper, growing from four to eight.

A 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron MQ-9A Reaper carrying eight Hellfire missiles sits on the ramp at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., Sept. 10, 2020. This was the first flight test of the MQ-9 carrying this munition load. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Haley Stevens)

This new capability is part of the MQ-9 Operational Flight Program 2409, a software upgrade set to field by the end of calendar year 2020. Previous to this software, the MQ-9 was limited to four AGM-114s across two stations. The new software allows flexibility to load the Hellfire on stations that previously were reserved for 500-pound class bombs or fuel tanks.

“The hardware/launcher is the same that we use on the outboard stations,” said Master Sgt. Melvin French, test system configuration manager. “Aside from the extra hardware required to be on hand, no other changes are required to support this new capability and added lethality. The Reaper retains its flexibility to fly 500-pound bombs on any of these stations, instead of the AGM‑114s, when mission requirements dictate.”

Reaper, with about 200 airframes in USAF service, also has a maritime variant that readers of this page should find very interesting– the MQ-9B SeaGuardian which can be utilized for mine countermeasures, ASW, SAR, and general sea patrol with a 25 hour all-weather loiter time that is cheaper and less crew-intensive than a manned aircraft and could really free up a limited number of P-8s, P-3s, and HC-130Js for more dynamic taskings.


The SeaGuardian variants can carry a 360-degree patrol radar and two 10-tube sonobuoy pods, while still being able to clock in with Hellfires and 500-pound bombs if needed. If you told me they could find a way to mount an anti-ship missile and some Mk. 50 torps, perhaps on a paired aircraft operating in teams, I wouldn’t doubt it.

SeaGuardian is not science fiction. Last month the platform concluded a set of maritime test flights over the sea-lanes off the coast of Southern California and last week kicked off a series of validation flights on Oct. 15 for the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, Japan. 

Love Boat shows teeth


There is really no way to sugar coat it, the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) has been a pear-shaped embarrassment in terms of naval acquisition, making the LCS and Ford programs look squared away by comparison.

Awarded in 2008, DDG-1000 took eight years to complete, which is kinda shocking for a “destroyer” but of course isn’t when you keep in mind it is actually 14,800-tons, pushing into the size envelope of a WWII-era Baltimore-class heavy cruiser, making them the largest non-carrier surface asset constructed for the Navy since the 15,500-ton nuclear-powered USS Long Beach (CGN-9) commissioned in 1961.

The Zumwalts were to showcase two new weapons platforms, namely the 155 mm Advanced Gun System– which likely will never be operational in practice– and the MK 57 VLS, which uses four-cell missile packs spread along the peripheral edges of the vessel instead of the more traditional 8-cell VLS modules bunched fore and aft.

Mk-57 Peripheral Vertical Launching System (VLS), for now, unique to the Zumwalt-class destroyers

At least it looks like the MK 57 is (almost) up and running, with a test launch of an SM-2 at Point Mugu, on 13 October– notably just 72 hours short of the $4.4B Zumwalt’s 4th commissioning anniversary.

“Today’s successful firing event is a critical milestone in the maturation of this incredible ship class and represents the culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work and partnership of Zumwalt’s talented crew and the engineers, designers, and programmers helping us to bring her capabilities to the Fleet,” said Capt. Gary Cave, Zumwalt’s commanding officer. “It is a day we’ve been looking forward to and demonstrates the strides we are taking to add combat capability to our surface force.”

Steel City Corsairs

Here we see a right side view of two Ling-Temco-Vought A-7D-11-CV Corsair II strike aircraft taking off during exercise Sentry Castle ’81. The Corsair to the right is carrying a blue AIM-9 Sidewinder exercise missile. Both of the aircraft are assigned to the 112th Tactical Fighter Group, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, based out of the Pittsburgh IAP Air Reserve Station. The photo was taken on July 9, 1981, by SSGT Marvin Lynchard, USAF.



Lynchard caught a great passing photo of 112th Corsairs lifting off, especially remarkable for early 1980s camera equipment.


Note the Sidewinder, the “flash white” underbelly, full-color markings complete with PA ANG shield, and forest top camo, standard for their intended mission of flying tactical ground support in Western Europe on a real-life REFORGER ala Red Storm Rising. DF-ST-82-07991

He also caught this guy…

2LT Robert S. Roth, the pilot aboard an A-7 Corsair II aircraft, prepares for take-off on a flight mission during exercise Sentry Castle ’81. The pilot is assigned to the 112th Tactical Fighter Group, Pennsylvania Air National Guard. DF-ST-82-07989

Note Roth’s squadron insignia, a Steeler’s flash with an A-7 worked in

As for the history, the 112th TFG was formed in 1942 as the 350th Fighter Group flying P-39 Airacobras with the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa, eventually upgrading to P-47 Jugs and taking the fight to Italy. Reformed as the 112th postwar and allotted to the PA-ANG, they were one of the last units to fly F-51D Mustangs before switching to jets (Sabers/Thunderstreaks) in 1954.

Upgrading to the F-102 in 1960, they performed NORAD air defense missions on 24-hour alert until 1975 when they switched to the less sexy but more modern A-7. The 112th would take the Corsair to war in 1989 during the Panamanian excursion but sit out Desert Storm. They were inactivated in 1992.

If you like these pictures, NARA has over 100 of Lynchard’s photos digitized, covering a wealth of DOD subjects through the early 1980s into the early 1990s. A great time machine. 


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