While you may know of today’s standard U.S. Army infantry rifles, and those of the 20th Century, how about those present at Lexington and Concord or the line of Springfield muskets from 1795 through 1865? What came after?
For all this and more, check out the easy 2,000-word primer I did for this last weekend at Guns.com.
While Remington has quietly ditched traditional black rifle brands Bushmaster and DPMS in the past several months– perhaps in a bid to get bought by the Navajo Nation — Colt exited the AR market late last year, much to the applause of anti-gun groups and politicians.
However, I spoke to Colt at the time and they made clear the departure was only temporary, due to having landed a multi-million FMS contract for overseas allies.
With that being said, Colt says they are now back to the business of shipping ARs for the consumer market again. Everything old is new again, it would appear.
More in my column at Guns.com.
In honor of the Colt’s 150th Anniversary in 1986 a new revolver hit the market, the .357 Magnum Colt King Cobra.
Based on the company’s Mark V system shared by the medium-frame Trooper series of double-action six-shooters, the King Cobra got its name as an ode to smaller Colt Cobra wheelguns which dated back to the 1950s but were only chambered in .22LR, .32 Colt and .38.
Borrowing the solid rib heavy barrel/full underlug profile of Colt’s Python series but coming in at a more affordable $400 smackers at the time, it was half the price of the iconic serpent.
This made it appealing to budding target shooters, law enforcement, and personal protection. Likewise, the price point made more competitive with other full-lug magnums of the time, namely Ruger’s then-new GP-100, S&W’s Model 586, and Dan Wesson’s 15HB.
Today, this classic “snake gun” now is in at least its third generation, a transformation I cover more in my column at Guns.com.
The humble original M16 was originally Armalite’s AR-15, and was first ordered for military service with a contract issued to Colt Firearms in May 1962 for the purchase of early Model 01 rifles to be used by Air Force Security Police.
Fast forward to the XM16E1, which became the M16A1 in 1967, and you started to come closer to the standard Army/Marine rifle used in Vietnam and throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. It used a forward assist and a 1:12 twist barrel.
By 1983, the M16A2 came about, it had a thicker barrel in front of the front sight, a modified flash suppressor (closed on bottom), a new polymer buttstock (lighter and stronger), faster barrel twist (from 1:12 to 1:7), and a spent case deflector for left-hand users. Considered downright vintage by the Army and Marines, the Navy still sports them these days.
By 1998, the M16A4 was in play, primarily for the Marines, which had a removable carry handle, a Picatinny top rail to allow for optics, short rails on the handguard for accessories, and a 20-inch barrel with a 1:7 RH twist rate.
Since the GWOT kicked off in 2002, the big shift over the years has been to move from the full-length M16 family to the more compact M4/M4A1 carbine, with its collapsible rear stock and stubby 14-inch barrel, leaving the increasingly old-school style rifle as something of a relic today. Heck, the Army for the past couple years has been very actively working on replacing their 5.56 NATO rifles and SAWs with a new 6.8mm weapon.
Now jump to 2020, and the M16A4 is now apparently the Army’s designated rifle for Foreign Military Sales to equip overseas allies in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Nepal.
Colt and FN are competing in a contract to supply as much as $383 million smackers worth of M16A4s by 2025.
More in my column at Guns.com.
While your best and most effective bet in the majority of hairy self-defense scenarios (barring something laser-guided or belt-fed) is a rifle– preferably a few different ones in a range of calibers– in a pinch a handgun is better than verbal judo, a pointy stick, or the lid off a can of sardines. With that in mind, I made a list centered on pistols and revolvers that are 1) modern, 2) accept common ammunition, 3) have spare parts that are readily available, 4) proven, 5) are simple to manipulate, and 6) easy to maintain.
Sure, each of these has their haters, but most importantly each type has a huge crowd of fans and users that have kept them in regular production for decades.
More in my column at Guns.com
So Colt brought the Python back from retirement after a 15-year hiatus. The old I-frame was a hand-fitted full-lug .357 with a tight lockup and superb finish.
The new gun is different.
I handed several models both on the floor at SHOT Show and at the range on media day and I have to admit: the new gun looks like a Python and shoots like a Python but it just isn’t. Arguably, it is better, with modern CNC techniques producing a wheel gun reportedly stronger, more durable and made to tighter tolerances than the Python of old.
Changes that came as part of the reboot included re-designing the internals to trim the number of parts (14 less to be exact), thus streamlining the trigger group, while improvements were made to reinforce the new Python through the use of stronger stainless steel alloys. The results say Colt, is that the upcoming Python has a smooth-as-butter trigger, and is more reliable, easier to maintain, and more robust.
Colt first introduced the full-lug six-shot heavy target style revolver in 1955 as something akin to the Cadillac of wheelguns. The big “I” frame .357 Magnum (although some .38 Special target models were made) was king of the block when it came to wheelguns for generations, which caused prices on used snake guns to skyrocket when the Python was put to pasture in 2005.
Now, after a 15-year hiatus, the Python is back in a 4.25-inch and 6-inch variant.
Importantly, the new Python has a lot of changes, which Colt says gives the revolver a smooth-as-butter trigger, as well as being more reliable, easier to maintain, and more robust.
I’ve always been a fan of the Fitz Special concept, although not a practicing fan. More of an idle curiosity you could say, as I personally think they are unsafe.
Around 1926, retired NYPD cop John Henry Fitzgerald began customizing both full-sized Colt New Service, Police Positive, and Police Positive Special models to make them small concealed handguns, much like Colt’s then-new Detective Special. This modification included shortening the barrel to two inches or less, fitting a new front sight, removing the hammer spur and carefully checkering the top of the now-bobbed hammer, shortening the grip, and—unique to this type—cutting away the front 1/3 of the trigger guard and rounding off the now open edges.
This trigger guard surgery left the bulk of the hammer exposed while carefully shrouding the very bottom and back of it to avoid snagging in the pocket. The open trigger guard allowed faster firing, accommodated large or gloved fingers, and according to some accounts made the weapon easier to fire through a pocket (if needed). While these modifications were done to large frame revolvers, they were performed mainly to the smaller Colt Detectives.
Although Fitz only converted less than 200 Colts, (some say as few as 20), the concept lived on and you see many other guns converted to the same degree.
Like this M1917 .45ACP moon gun:
My friend Ian over at Forgotten Weapons got a chance to check out a Colt Fitz at RIAC last week:
The backstory on how six divisions worth of M1 Garands got repatriated from the Phillipines, where they have seen hard service since the 1950s in some cases, back to the U.S. to be sold through CMP in Anniston. Contrary to what a lot of people think, CMP actually had to spend a small fortune to get these vintage weapons back CONUS.
“It goes almost without saying that accurately accounting for and transporting approximately 90,000 small arms from the other side of the globe is challenging under any circumstances. Throw in termite infestation, monsoon season, and asbestos contamination, and you will have a recipe for disaster.”
A Soldier serving overseas while his home state of record updated their regulations on owning certain firearms says he was left inadvertently in violation of the law.
“I recently returned to Connecticut and contacted the state police because I thought there must be some legal provision that allowed a returning veteran to register their weapon and legally exercise their constitutional right,” he told me, when he went to register the AR-15 he bought in the state in 2011, but had been banned in 2014 while he was in Korea.
“I found out that there was no such provision.”