Tag Archives: Kagnew Battalion

A New Golden Age of M1 Garand Ammo?

For guys who own a few vintage and rebuilt M1 Garands– like this guy– sourcing suitable .30-06 ammo to feed them can be rough. Why not just use commercial .30-06 hunting rounds, well, the guns were designed for 150-grain ball at a certain pressure, and the newer, hotter stuff, can snap op rods, which are kinda expensive and tough to find these days. Plus, go price a box of even mid-shelf Federal blue box 150s ($34.99 per 20 plus tax and shipping) and you realize that shooing matches or practicing for such hurts the wallet at $2 per “bang” and $16 per “ping.”

When I first got into Garands in the late 1980s/early 1990s, the CMP had just pulled in tons of surplus M2 ball ammo from European sources (Norway, Greece, etc) with most of it produced in the coldest period of the Cold War to feed their FMS’d Garands, M1903s, and M1919s then stockpiled for “Der Tag.”

You could get it pretty cheap. Like $99 a 192-round spam can packed in bandoliers and en bloc clips delivered to your house kinda cheap.

CMP imported over 25 million rounds of 150-grain Greek-made Pyrkal HXP ammo manufactured in the 1970s and smaller quantities of AYR-marked Norwegian Garand food crated up in the 1950s, both of which have proved popular in service rifle matches and target shooting for more than a decade.

By around 2017 the last of that boon had dried up, seemingly for good, and the only glimmer of hope out there was that Sellier & Bellot in the Czech Republic and Privi Partisan in Serbia were boxing up low-pressure 150-grain loads for about 75-85 cents a round and you could even get Berdan-primed gray-case 168gr FMJ Wolf Military Classic for about 60-cents per round.

Then came the Great Ammo Whammy of 2020 in which everything, everywhere sold out and became unobtainable, even common 115-grain 9mm ball, and the production of niche low-pressure 150-grain ’06 halted overnight.

This left some moody 1970s-produced Ethiopian ammo as about the best option by about 2020.

Now, we have a three-punch combination of great news to try and fix the shortage.

Punch One:

Last February, RTI in Florida announced they were bringing in containerloads of U.S.-made Korean War surplus .30-06 M2 ball from Ethiopia, packed in factory-fresh 384 round cases. The cost, at launch, was $800, which I said at the time was way too high (over $2 per round).

Echoing my thoughts exactly, RTI smartened up and dropped the price to $499 (sometimes lower on weekend sales) per case, and have almost sold out at this point, with just about 30 cases left still listed as being “in stock.” With the drop in price, I bit the bullet so to speak, and bought a couple, and am really happy with their condition.

Check it out.

Each tin contains four bandoleers with six loaded 8-round M1 Garand clips.

This totals out to 384 rounds, 48 reusable clips, and eight cloth bandoleers with cardboard inserts. Kind of an ok deal for $500. Not great, mind you, but OK.

Punch Two

Winchester just announced they are making new U.S.-production 150-grain M2 ball ammo, especially for Garand users. Of course, that’s nice, but the price is a “whomp-whomp” worthy $35 a box. so there’s that.

Punch Three

The Civilian Marksmanship Program just announced the recent acquisition of .30 carbine, .22 pistol, M2 ball, and .22 Long Rifle surplus ammunition supply that will soon become available to CMP customers.

CMP recently received significant quantities of surplus ammunition, and it appears to be American-made Lake City stuff from the 1960s, at least according to the crate stamps.

Ohhhh, baby.

Via CMP:

Currently, the items are in the cataloging and assessment stage by staff members.

“The CMP plans to make the ammunition available to our loyal constituents sometime this spring, after the surplus ammo goes through all CMP in-processing procedures,” said Mark Johnson, CMP’s Chief Operating Officer and Director of Civilian Marksmanship. “Purchase limits and restrictions will be set to ensure that the mission of CMP is well served.”

The CMP intends on maintaining a surplus ammo inventory large enough to support CMP Matches for the next several years and to provide discounted surplus ammo to competitors attending CMP events. All sales will include set limits to remain in compliance with guidelines specified in the Memorandum of Agreement between the Department of the Army and the CMP.

CMP recently received significant quantities of surplus ammunition.

Further surplus sales details will be forthcoming in the near future. Commercial ammunition sales are currently available on the CMP E-Store to qualified individuals. Register for an account or browse the CMP E-Store at https://estore.thecmp.org.

I’m headed up to Anniston/Talladega next month for the Shooting Sports Showcase and will be sure to get the scoop as to where this stuff came from and what the deal is with it.

Stay tuned, and cross your fingers.

Swedish Barrels in Africa

You don’t think about the Swedish Air Force ready to drop napalm in Africa, but it was a thing.

Official caption, 60 years ago this week: “Two Swedish S29 SAAB Photo-reconnaissance jet planes arrived in Leopoldville, the Republic of the Congo, on October 23rd, 1962. Sweden has also supplied four J29 fighter jets with pilots and crew to the United Nations Forces in the Congo (ONUC). At Ndjili Airport is the United States Air Force MATS C-133 cargo plane unloading the planes after bringing them directly from Sweden.”

UN Photo # 113781

Back in the good old romantic mercenary days when you could grab a ticket to Africa and pick a side, the mass of confusion that was the 1960s Congo Crisis– which was later seen as downright gentlemanly compared to the pure shit show that was Biafra a few years later– saw a huge influx of non-aligned UN Peacekeepers from countries like Ethiopia, India, Sweden, Ireland (of “Siege of Jadotville” fame) and the like who, contrary to the UN of the 1990s and 2000s, often pulled triggers and dropped bombs in the interest of waging peace.

Cue the curious Saab 29 Tunnan.

Saab 29, colloquially called Flygande Tunnan

First flown in 1948 at a time when the Messerschmitt Me 262 was arguably still the best jet fighter in the world, the swept-wing turbojet Saab 29 Flygande Tunnan (“Flying Barrel”) set a world speed record of 607 mph and was put into production in both fighter (J= Jakt or “fighting”) and reconnaissance (S =Spaning or “scouting”) variants.

Capable of toting four nose-mounted 20mm cannons and equipped with 10 hardpoints for rockets, missiles, and light bombs, the J29 variants could take off and mix it up for an hour or so, with a combat radius of about 250 miles.

Royal Swedish Air Force SAAB J- 29 Tunnan after Napalm bombing in front of Hailie Selassie at Rosersberg in the Uppland province.

The Swedes would send a total of nine J 29B fighters and two S 29C photo reconnaissance Tunnans (the two shown in the first image above) between September 1961 and 1964, under the banner of Flygflottilj 22. They were soon joined by Iranian and Filipino F-86 Sabers and a force of Indian B-58 Canberras, giving the UN its first “Air Force.” 

Kamina Airport, UN Force in the Congo, January 1963, four Imperial Iranian Air Force F-86F Sabers of the Shah’s 103rd Tactical Fighter Squadron in the foreground, five stubby Swedish Air Force Saab 29 Tunnan to the right, and five Philippines Air Force Sabres. Also note the C-46 and two Sikorsky UH-19Ds.

A flight of four Swedish Saab 29 Tunnan (J-29) jets in the Congo

They eventually picked up a special “Congo” splinter camo scheme that they carried after late 1962.

While some of the only combat aircraft operated by the UN on the ONUC mission, Tunnan rarely engaged in combat missions or shoot down the mercenary-flown Fouga Magisters that had harassed the Irish at Jadotville. However, they were effective to a point.

From A Walter Dorn’s study: 

Active patrolling of the skies by the Swedish J-29s effectively cut the air bridge between Katanga and its allies in Portuguese West Africa and Southern Africa, precluding the introduction of new aircraft.[59] From 28 December 1962 to 4 January 1963 a total of 76 sorties were carried out by UN aircraft against Katanga’s airfields and aircraft

In the end, with the type withdrawn from service back home as they were replaced by the more advanced Saab J32 Lansen and J35 Draken, when ONUC wrapped up the Swedes destroyed their Tunnans on the ground in the Congo and flew their maintainers and pilots back home via SAS.

They have been remembered in box art and scale models. 

“Saab J 29B Tunnan Over Congo” by Zdenek Machacek

And, in semi-related news, let’s tap in Roland The Thompson Gunner…

Update on that RTI Milsurp .45 Ball

Earlier in the week, I had a post about Royal Tiger’s recent– albeit highly-priced– score of arguably collectible Korean War-era M2 .30-cal ball ammo, i.e. Garand, M1919, and BAR food.

Well, the other shoe has dropped and RTI just announced a beautiful larder of circa 1943-44 made .45ACP.

For lack of a better word, it looks amazing.

“Each crate of ammunition contains 1200 rounds of WWII era .45 ACP. Each crate contains 2 sealed metal tins, each tin contains 12 boxes of ammunition with 50 rounds per box. The ammunition is like new, crate condition is generally good to very good. The crate may have dings, dents, scratches, or small cracks in the wood. Metal tins are sealed from the factory.”

Sadly, it is also even higher priced than the .30-06, hitting the shopping cart at well over $2 a round (plus $23 shipping!) for just a 50-round box. Spam can and full crate sizes aren’t much cheaper per cap.

Sure, range-grade ammo right now is going for .45 cents a round, and this USGI stuff is not really for shooting but more for putting in a display case with your vintage M1911A1, but it still seems outrageously priced. 

As my buddy, Vic Fayard says, “Of course, it is up to you guys to judge if the juice is worth the squeeze. We are just reporting it.”

Flotsam of Korea, via Addis Ababa

Royal Tiger Imports has announced they have successfully received cases of original Korean War-era .30-06 M2 Ball ammo from an overseas source.

Late of the former Royal Ethiopian Army, each vintage wooden crate contains a pair of sealed metal tins.

Each tin contains four bandoleers with six loaded 8-round M1 Garand clips. This totals out to 384 rounds, 48 reusable clips, and eight cloth bandoleers with cardboard inserts.

Ethiopia was the first nation in Africa to contribute a complete unit of ground troops to the UN Korean command in 1950– the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Kagnew Battalions.

Formed from the Royal Guards division of the Imperial Ethiopian Army, the Kagnew Battalions drew their name from Haile Selassie’s father’s warhorse. They served alongside the U.S. 7th Infantry Division, receiving U.S. kit. They suffered 121 dead and 536 wounded during the course of the conflict.

The Ethiopians continued using the M1 Garand well into the 1970s.

The RTI-imported ’06 larder is expensive for my tastes ($800+ shipping) running over $2 a round, which, as it has been stored in Ethiopia under unknown conditions for the past 70 years, may or may not go off.

I can remember buying 200-round lots of loose 1970s-vintage Greek HXP from the CMP for $129 as recently as 2014, so I may be jaded, but it feels like the better price for the Ethiopian cases may be around half as much as RTI wants.

Still, it is nice to know that such old milsurp still exists.

Further, RTI is also teasing old surplus .45ACP and .30 Carbine ball, which may be of more interest. Watch this space for updates, as they say. 

The Emperor’s Peacemakers, 57 Years Ago Today

A Congolese child is seen in the arms of an Ethiopian soldier, listening over a field telephone, Katanga, 1 March 1963. Note his American-made M1 Garand

A Congolese child is seen in the arms of an Ethiopian soldier, listening over a field telephone, Katanga, 1 March 1963. Note his M1 Garand

UN Photo # 184419

The 25,000 soldiers from 25 countries serving as part of ONUC in the Congo from July 1960 to April 1963 included the Ethiopian 3rd Brigade.

Drawn from the Imperial Bodyguard, with the unit’s elite 4th Tekel Battalion being reviewed by Emperor Haile Selassie in Addis Ababa on 25 July 1960 before their departure for Stanleyville, they were well-respected as being a professional force. The Ethiopians would subsequently be involved in the whole Katanga affair in 1961 alongside Swedish and Irish troops and see a good deal of action.

The Ethiopian force grew to some 3,500 by 1962 with Ethiopian Lt. Gen. Kebbede Guebre made commander of the entire division-sized ONCU peacekeeping effort from April 1962 to July 1963.

A mixed patrol of Ethiopian soldiers and local police officer patrol Commune Albert near Elisabethville March 1963 UN Photo # 210715

A mixed patrol of M1-armed Ethiopian troops and a local Congolese police officer patrol Commune Albert near Elisabethville March 1963 UN Photo # 210715

Rebuilt after WWII and Italian occupation with the help of U.S. and British aid, the Imperial Ethiopian Army made extensive use of 1940s American kit and small arms, sending the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Kagnew Battalions to fight in Korea in the 1950s. The new gear replaced a hodgepodge of old German Mausers, some as old as Kar88 models, and relatively newer British SMLEs picked up during the war.

Once back from the Congo, the Ethiopians would see combat in the Ogaden before going on to switch polarity to Moscow once the Derg seized power from the Volkswagon-driving Emperor in 1974, after which the AK became the standard infantry arm.

An Ethiopian Soldier Poses Next To an Ogaden War Propaganda Poster in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia February 27, 1978. Note the Romanian-type AKM and Soviet-style uniform.

These days, GAEC produces the AK-103 rifle under license in Ethiopia from Kalashnikov.

Meanwhile, in an echo to the past, Ethiopian-produced .30-06 M1 food appears on the surplus market from time to time with mixed reviews. Notably, it all seems to be minted prior to 1974.

Sometimes a picture tells less than 1,000 words

(Photo Credit: State Department via U.S. Army)

(Photo Credit: State Department via U.S. Army)

Here we see an image of a typical late 1940s/early 1950s U.S. anti-tank team with a 75mm M20 recoilless rifle. Fielded by March 1945, the M20 saw limited service in WWII, but did yeomen work in Korea and in the early days of Vietnam. The three-man team looks pretty standard: M1 combat helmets sans covers, OD uniforms to include M1943 field jackets, leather holstered M1911 and M1 Carbine with buttstock mag pouch for sidearms. The mountains could be the hills of Georgia or North Carolina, or they could be West Germany…or Korea.

Speaking of which, Ethiopia was the first nation in Africa to contribute a complete unit of ground troops to the UN Korean command– the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Kagnew Battalions. The names of the three Ethiopian gunners from Addis Ababa preparing to fire a 75mm recoilless rifle are, from left to right: Cpl. Alema Welde, Cpl. Chanllo Bala and Sgt. Maj. Bogale Weldeynse.

Formed from the Royal Guards division of the Imperial Ethiopian Army, the Kagnew Battalions drew their name from Haile Selassie’s father’s warhorse. They served alongside the U.S. 7th Infantry Division suffering 121 dead and 536 wounded during the course of the conflict. They had none of their members counted among the captured. In general serving one-year tours (with several men serving two or more), some 3,158 Ethiopians served in Kagnew Battalions from 1951-54.

“We knew there was going to be sacrifice. But this sacrifice was not for nothing. It was for peace and liberty,” Col. Melesse Tessema, an Ethiopian veteran of the Korean War, said in a 2010 interview. “My friends, they gave their lives for history and for the freedom of human beings.”