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From soldier’s souvenir to soldier’s arm

This very early Lee-Enfield India Pattern Mk 1 .303-caliber bolt action cavalry carbine was issued to Indian Volunteer Force mounted units of the era.

Lee-Enfield India Pattern Mk 1 .303 inch bolt action cavalry carbine issued to Assam Valley Light Horse, 1905 reissued for Home Guard WWII

NAM. 1973-09-20-1

This particular specimen was produced at the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield and issued to the Assam Valley Light Horse Regiment. With its headquarters at Dibrugarh in the state of Assam, the AVLH was formed in 1891, largely from local Europeans amalgamated from four previously raised troop-sized dragoon units (the Sibsager Mounted Rifles, Darrang Mounted Rifles, Lakhimpur Mounted Rifles, and Newgong Mounted Rifles.) Some members of the unit served in the Boer Wars as part of Lumsden’s Horse.

The rifle was presented to Lt.Col. James Stenhouse Elliot, VD, in 1905 on the occasion of his retirement from the Indian forces (he is listed on the Indian Army’s reserve list with an 1879 rank date).

Lee-Enfield India Pattern Mk 1 .303 inch bolt action cavalry carbine issued to Assam Valley Light Horse, 1905 reissued for Home Guard WWII

The good Lt.Col. Stenhouse Elliot likely took the rifle back to England with him, where it was pressed into service during WWII with the Britsh Home Guard and, in the initial stages of the formation of “Dad’s Army” it was likely one of the most modern weapons in the armory.

The first muster from the fictional Dad’s Army, which was based on the very real story of the British Home Guard

It is now in the collection of the National Army Museum. 

As for the AVLH, they were part of the British Indian Army’s cavalry reserve and never deployed as a unit, although members did volunteer for service in both World Wars and against the Abors in 1911-12. They were disbanded after India’s independence in 1947.

Introducing: Select Fire!

The first installment of Select Fire, the show I am hosting on Guns.com where we go around checking out cool gun stuff coast-to-coast. On this one, it is a “Guncation” where I stopped off at Machine Gun America and Tank America. It is kinda campy, but tell me what you think:

What will be filling the holsters of U.S. Army brass for the next few decades

When an Army colonel is promoted to brigadier (one star) general, their promotion ceremony typically includes the pinning of their star by a family member and the presentation of the General Officer pistol and pistol belt. The latter, a thick black leather belt with an 18-karat gold-plated buckle and imprint of an eagle, was first produced in 1944. The rig is worn at the discretion of the general.

As for the GO pistol, the first issued were Colt 1908 .380s in 1943.

These bad boys.

Then came Rock Island Arsenal-made R15 .45ACPs in the 1970s before Beretta M9 GOs became the standard in the mid-1980s. All have had special “GO” serial number ranges.

Now, Sig Sauer has a GO pistol model that is part of the Army’s handgun switchover as of late.

Sig’s M18 GO series

And to get more on that, I reached out to Sig. More on that in my column at Guns.com.

So long, Crestview

Here we see the beautiful Miguel Malvar-class offshore patrol “corvette” BRP Sultan Kudarat (PS-22) of the Philippine Navy on 5 July 2019, as she gave her last day of military service in a career that began in 1944– giving her a rock solid 75 years of hard duty across three fleets. Not bad for a ship considered at the time of her construction to be disposable.

If she looks familiar, she was originally built as USS PCE-895 a former PCE-842-class Patrol Craft Escort, by the Willamette Iron and Steel Corp., of Portland, Oregon during WWII. She patrolled Alaskan coastal waters in the tail end of the war and was later dubbed USS Crestview.

A picture of USS Crestview PCE-895 as she appears in a Christmas card from the 1955 edition of Our Navy magazine via Navsource. She hasn’t changed much!

Transferred to the Republic of South Vietnam 29 November 1961, she later became Dong Da II (HQ 07)

Derived from the 180-foot Admirable-class minesweeper as a substitute for the much more numerous 173-foot PC-461-class of submarine chasers that were used for coastal ASW, the PCE-842-class was just eight feet longer but a lot heavier (650-tons vs 450-tons), which gave them much longer endurance, although roughly the same armament. They carried a single 3″/50 dual purpose mount, three 40mm Bofors mounts, five Oerlikon 20 mm mounts, two depth charge tracks, four depth charge projectors, and two depth charge projectors (hedgehogs)– making them pretty deadly to subs while giving them enough punch to take on small gunboats/trawlers and low numbers of incoming aircraft.

While the U.S. got rid of their 842s wholesale by the 1970s– scrapping some and sinking others as targets– several continued to serve in overseas Allied navies for decades.

When Saigon fell in April 1975, Crestview/Dong Da II beat feet as part of the South Vietnamese exile flotilla to Luzon, where she, like most of that force, was later absorbed into Manila’s own forces.

The Philippines has used no less than 11 of these retired PCEs between craft transferred outright from the U.S. and ships taken up from former Vietnamese service, eventually replacing their Glen Miller-era GM 12-567A diesel with more modern GM 12-278As, as well as a host of improvements to their sensors (they now carry the SPS-64 surface search and commercial nav radars, for instance.) Gone are the ASW weapons and sonar, but they do still pack the old 3-incher, long since retired by just about everyone else, as well as a smattering of Bofors and Oerlikon.

Sultan Kudarat has reportedly been retired in preparation for the arrival of a more capable Pohang-class vessel that has been donated by South Korea.

The country still has four of the class on their Naval List, expected to retire by 2022.

  • BRP Miguel Malvar (PS-19), former USS Brattleboro (PCE(R)-852), ex RVN Ngọc Hồi, since 1975.
  • BRP Magat Salamat (PS-20), former USS Gayety (AM-239), ex RVN MSF-239, since 1975.
  • BRP Cebu (PS-28), former USS PCE-881, transferred from the U.S. in 1948.
  • BRP Pangasinan (PS-31), former USS PCE-891, transferred from the U.S. in 1948.

You do have a tungsten/polymer framed comp gun, yes?

The latest installment in Sig Sauer‘s ever-expanding P320 pistol series is the XFive Legion competition pistol complete with a tungsten-infused grip and match bull barrel.

The new exclusive Legion Series pistol features what Sig bills as the first-of-its-kind TXG tungsten/polymer XGrip module which helps translate to an unloaded weight of 43.5-ounces. The heavier grip module with a removable magwell translates to what the New Hampshire-based company says is a substantially reduced felt recoil and muzzle flip, cutting them in half.

The $900 XFive Legion will mount any optic and accepts 1911 recoil springs, while weighing in at over 40-ounces, unloaded, due to having tungsten mixed into the polymer.

So why not just go with a steel frame to begin with? Well, Sig says the hybrid tungsten/polymer frame gives the XFive Legion the ability to still flex like a plastic fantastic pistol while it has the weight of a steel gun to offer the best of both worlds in an IPSC legal gun.

Anyway, more in my column at Guns.com.

Hail, Poseidon

While kayaking around the Mississippi Sound a couple weeks back, I spotted this beauty in the sky, climbing out over Ship Island from Gulfport, and managed to get a snap.

169347 Boeing P-8A Poseidon of USN VP-30 June 13 2019 Eger

While it has the profile of a Boeing 737 airliner, the U.S. Navy markings and underwing hardpoints quickly make it clear this bad boy is, in fact, a P-8A Poseidon sub buster. Specifically, it is Bu.No.169347 which was only delivered by Boeing’s Renton facility (as MSN 63197) to Uncle in June 2018. She is assigned to Patrol Squadron Thirty (VP-30), the “Pro’s Nest,” out of Jax, the Fleet Replacement Squadron for the P-8 program.

If the lifespan of the preceding P-3 Orion is any benchmark, #347 will likely still be around in the 2050s.

Autobahnflugplatz

This pretty neat Bundeswehr film from 1988 shows REFORGER operations, specifically setting up an ersatz airfield on a closed portion of autobahn.

First come the standard Luftwaffe planes of the day, to include Panavia Tornados, Dornier Alpha Jets and F-4E Phantoms (using drogue chutes) along with some twin-engined Transalls.

Then follows some American C-130s, which unload a lot of plane handling gear, security forces, and ordnance.

Finally, some RAF SEPECAT Jaguars, Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s and USAF A-10s and F-15s show up to make NATO Cold War lineup complete, with the latter picking up some freshly unloaded Maverick AGMs.

Good stuff.

The concept dated back to the 1940s, when the old Nazi Reichautobahn was set up with just such a use in mind.

Junkers JU88 & Messerschmitt-Kampfflugzeuge Reichautobahn highway airfield

This 1973 film shows a group of 24 Fiat G.91 “Ginas” set up such a field in a day.

Some 29 Autobahn-Behelfsflugplatz/Autobahnflugplatz areas were created by the West Germans during the Cold War, with the length running between 2,000 and 5,000m. While most were demolished around 2005, several have been rebuilt in recent years and could still, in theory, pull off their assigned task if needed.

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