Tag Archives: gun culture

Army issues huge handgun ammo contract– including .38 and .45

Mississippi-based Olin Winchester this week secured a nine-figure Pentagon award for assorted handgun ammunition.

Based in Oxford, Olin-Winchester was awarded a $145 million fixed-price contract to make .38 caliber, .45 caliber, and 9mm ammunition for the Army. The contract was issued by the Army’s Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois.

The company has been making M1153 and M1152 9mm loads as part of the U.S. Army Modular Handgun System (MHS) program since 2016, but the inclusion of .38 and .45 is interesting and points to stocks of specialized or legacy firearms still in use by the military.

While the Army used M1911s in SF units as late as the recent trips to the sandbox, the last “official” 38s bought by the Army were Ruger Security Sixes for use by Dept. of the Army guards at assorted armories and depots in the 1980s…but the Army is still buying .38-caliber ammo

More in my column at Guns.com.

On Deck for 2022: Colt Combat Pythons and S&W Firestorms

Although they haven’t “officially” announced them, both Colt and Smith & Wesson seem to have new handguns inbound for this year that mines at the tried-and-true vein of gun culture nostalgia.

Smith’s new CSX (Chief’s Special X?), a single-action-only subcompact 9mm that is hammer-fired, has an alloy frame, and a 10+1 or 12+1 magazine capacity, could be a hit with folks that don’t want polymer striker-fired micro 9s and are more familiar with carry-friendly M1911s such as the Colt New Detective or Sig Sauer P938.

The S&W CSX

It also, in my opinion, looks a lot like the old Star Firestar M43, although with a larger magazine capacity.

The Star Firestar was made from 1992-97, and would probably still be in production if the Spanish gunmaker was around as these were well-received little guns

Then there is the Colt Python with a 3-inch barrel.

While Colt produced the original Python in several barrel lengths between 1955 and 1994, including 2.5-inch snubs and commanding 8-inch Python Hunter, Python Silhouette, and Python Stalker models, the big I-frame snake gun rarely came with a factory 3-inch barrel. This was reserved for a short run of “California Combat” guns and a batch of 500 “Combat Pythons” made in 1988 for Lew Horton complete with a special “K” prefix serial number.

This circa 1974 Colt Python with a factory 2.5-inch snub-nosed barrel is sweet, but folks just went ga-ga for the 3-inch version, and Colt could do well to put such a thing back in production

The rebooted Pythons, introduced in 2020, including both a 4.25- and 6-inch model, with nothing shorter. With all that being said, the new 3-incher could prove both a hit with collectors as well as providing a more “carry friendly” Python for a new generation of wheel gun aficionados.

Either way, SHOT Show doesn’t start for another two weeks, so get ready for much more new gun news…I got my bags packed.

More Vulcans

The Pentagon on Wednesday announced a 10-year contract to General Dynamics-Ordnance & Tactical Systems for new M61A1 Vulcan 20mm guns.

The firm-fixed-price award, for $88,275,000, was granted to Gen Dyn by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, based at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. Classified as an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity requirements contract, it will cover the purchase of new M61A1s in support of the F-16 fighter aircraft. Of this amount, some $7.8 million in funds set aside for Foreign Military Sales were obligated. Notably, 25 overseas allies fly the aircraft along with Venezuela, which probably doesn’t rate FMS dollars anymore.

Battlefield Vegas’ 20mm Vulcan nicknamed ‘The Hand of God’ at the Big Sandy Shoot October 2018. (Photo: Ben Philippi / Guns.com)

More on the Vulcan contract, and Gen Dyn’s work on the Next Generation Squad Weapon for the Army, in my column at Guns.com.

Gun Show Woes

I used to love gun shows. Like a six-year-old on Christmas morning kinda love. 

Now pushing a half-century under my keel, I remember the “good old days,” if you will, of the early 1990s when a mad rush of surplus from post-Cold War Eastern Europe was flooding in coupled with the liquidation of stocks long-held in NATO arsenals for the same reasons. You know, $99 Russian SKSs, $49 Turkish Mausers and Russian Nagant revolvers, $79 Spanish Mausers and M91 Mosins (with bayonets and accessories!), $125 SMLEs, $200 Walther P-1s, $150 Makarovs, Bavarian-marked M1 Carbines for $300, etc, etc. ad nauseam.

However, sometime around 2014 or so, after the great panic buys and skyrocketing prices of everything gun that came post-Newtown, I stopped going to shows as I found that 99 percent of items were just way, way overpriced and the “I know what I got, son,” guys were just so tiring when you tried to point it out. Carpetbaggers. Opportunists. In-authentic bottom feeders of the gun community. Gross. 

Just as I was thinking about dipping my toe back into the water, I got this in the “new stuff” email from Empire Arms this week. If you don’t know, Dennis over there is the man, hitting the road like 200 days a year to scour the country for milsurp deals and passing them on to the people on his list.

Anyway, Dennis’s feedback on the huge recent Wanenmacher’s gun show, one of the largest and historically best in the country:

Our recent visit to the TULSA ARMS SHOW was pitiful, as virtually everything I wanted to purchase at tables was priced at two to five TIMES what we would sell them for (and few, if any, items were actually moving at those obscene asking prices). There has to be a lesson there somewhere, as this “top-dollar” attitude is not doing anyone any good. I am certain that these dealers and table-holders actually didn’t feel that their prices were too high at all, it was just that literally everyone coming through the door of the show was a “cheap bastard” (including me, I guess).

Of course, any public entering the show with anything decent for sale got “low-balled” by these same self-righteous idiots. We purchased almost every one of the measly twenty guns we were able to buy from walk-ins (who commented bitterly on the ridiculous cheap offers they were given by folks who often had the very same stuff at three or five times what they were offering). Very discouraging!

Sigh. You can never go home again, right?

Blue Devils with SCARs

The famed “blue devils” of the French Army’s 13e Bataillon de Chasseurs Alpins (13e BCA) date back to before the Crimean War, when they were initially raised as the plain old 13e Bataillon Chasseurs à Pied (13e BCP), fighting as such in Algeria, the Italian unification wars, and the Franco-German War.

Transitioning into crack mountain infantry in 1888, they guarded key Alpine passes in peacetime, then in the Great War fought in the Vosges, the Somme, in the Italian Alps against the Austrians, and generally everywhere they were needed, earning seven unit Croix de Guerre by 1918.

“Les Diables Bleus” WWI Chasseurs Alpins by Georges Bertin Scott, circa 1915

The blue devils received their name due to their dark blue uniforms and large berets, retained to this day in their service and dress uniforms. Hard fighters, their motto is “Jamais être pris vivant,” (Never to be Taken Alive)

Interbellum, they remained on the move for the Occupation of Germany with vacations in sunny Tunisia to fight insurgents for the glory of the Republic.

Chasseurs alpins during the Occupation of the Ruhr in Buer (now Gelsenkirchen), 1923. Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-09896

In WWII, following honors in the battle for Narvik against German mountain troops trying to hold on to Norway, they returned home to be dissolved by the Vichy government leaving most of its members to shrug and quietly join the maquis resistance. Reforming their battalion in August 1944, they fought for and captured the Grand Roc Noir (11,752 ft) from the Germans before descending into the Aosta Valley in Italy by the end of the war.

French Chasseurs Alpins showing off a captured MG42 in the Alpine mountains, January 1945.

Since then, they fought in Algeria, prepared for mountain combat in the Cold War, and, since that thawed, have been very busy in recent years with deployments to Bosnia, Lebanon, Chad, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Djibouti.

Why all this about the 13th BCA?

Well, they were chosen to be the first unit of the French Army to receive the FN SCAR H PR series precision rifle in 7.62 NATO, for use by their designated marksmen and snipers out to 800m.

The guns will replace the old MAS-derived GIAT FR F2 bolt gun that has been the French standard sniper rifle since the 1980s.

In several ways, the fusil à répétition modèle F2 is really just an updated MAS-36 in 7.62 NATO

More in my column at Guns.com.

Cracking the Army’s Budget Book on SmallArms

The Army’s recently announced budget request for the fiscal year 2022 includes at least $114 million for new rifles, handguns, and the next generation of small arms. 

While the overall FY2022 Defense Department Budget is $112 billion, most of the non-operational dollars are for high-level R&D and big-ticket items like the F-35 fighter. The Army’s budget book for weapons and tracked combat vehicles meanwhile has a low nine-figure ask when it comes to individual small arms. 

The bulk ($97 million) is to go to the Next Generation Squad Weapons, with much of the balance to acquire new Barrett-made Precision Sniper Rifles, and a few crumbs for M4s, M17s, and the like.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Python Shorty

While most of Colt’s world-famous Python .357 Magnum models were service-sized and longer, some more abbreviated variants were made.

First introduced to Colt’s 1955 catalog for a price of $125 and pitched as “a finer gun than you actually need” to “a limited number of gun connoisseurs,” the big double-action revolvers were most common with barrel lengths in 6-inch and later 4-inch formats. There were even some big 8-inchers that came along eventually.

Downsizing, Colt produced a few short runs of these vaunted revolvers with a 3-inch barrel known to collectors as “Combat Pythons,” and, off and on between 1955 and 1994, the 2.5-inch model, which still sported full-sized grips.

And they are beautiful.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Could the Army Ditch Brass for Plastic?

The hybrid polymer-cased cartridge, developed by Texas-based True Velocity as part of the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon program, is compatible with legacy firearms as well.

The 6.8mm TVCM composite case design, coupled with the Army’s 6.8mm (.277-caliber) common cartridge projectile, was originally developed and optimized for use in the NGSW-Rifle and NGSW-Automatic Rifle submissions submitted to that military program by General Dynamics-OTS. It performs better ballistically than 7.62 NATO and weighs 30 percent less.

However, using what True Velocity characterizes as a “switch barrel” capability, they have demonstrated it can work with much of the Army’s currently fielded small arms including the M240B belt-fed machine gun, the M110 semi-automatic sniper system, and the M134 minigun.

Which could mean that, even if NGSW tanks, there could be a revolutionary advance in the ammo used by U.S. troops in the near future.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Sig Shows off Planned Army Future Weapons

Sig Sauer, as I’ve covered a few times in the past couple of years, is one of the three teams who are in the running for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapons, a group of guns using the same 6.8mm caliber that is set to replace the M4 and M249 families. Further, they are the only one that is solely a firearms company and plans to do everything in-house as opposed to the other two teams which are made up of several sub-contractors. 

Their submission:

Sig’s MCX Spear series carbine aims to be the Army’s NGSW-Rifle, replacing the M4. Standard features include a fully collapsible and folding stock, rear and side charging handle, free-floating reinforced M-LOK handguard, fully ambidextrous controls, and a quick-detach Sig Next Generation suppressor. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

Sig’s Lightweight MMG is a belt-fed general-purpose weapon intended to become the Army’s NGSW-Automatic Rifle, replacing the M249 while hitting the scales at 40 percent lighter and with a round that has double the effective range of 5.56. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

Both platforms use Sig’s 6.8mm hybrid ammunition, which is billed as offering a significant reduction in weight over traditional ammo while offering better performance and greater penetration while using a 121-grain bullet. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

Further, Sig thinks they are positioned to pull it off, a move that, when coupled with the fact that their P320 pistol has been adopted as the M17/M18, would give the company the Pentagon small arms hat trick with the exception of 7.62 caliber platforms.

Sig: Next-Gen Weapons Delivered to the Army

Sig Sauer this week announced it has completed the delivery of the company’s Next Generation Squad Weapons system to the U.S. Army.

The company is one of three contractors who in 2019 got the nod from the Pentagon to continue with the NGSW program. The sweeping initiative aims to replace the Army’s 5.56mm NATO small arms – the M4 Carbine and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. Sig’s program consists of an in-house-designed lightweight high-performance 6.8x51mm (.277-caliber) hybrid ammunition, NGSW-AR lightweight machine guns, NGSW-R rifles (based on the MCX carbine), and next-gen suppressors.

They certainly look the part and, if selected, would give Sig the small arms hattrick as their P320s have been adopted as the DOD’s standard handgun to replace everything from the USAF’s lingering K-frame 38s to the Marine’s M45 CQB railguns and everything in between. At that point, the only man-portable system used by the Army not made by Sig would be the M240 and M2, which FN still has a lock on.

More in my column at Guns.com.

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