Friday, December 17, 2010

Phantom Ray UCAV

Here are a couple of photos of Boeing's new Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle, the Phantom Ray.

The Phantom Ray project, called "Project Reblue" ( a play on Have Blue, the F-117 Nighthawk project designation) is being developed by Boeing Phantom Works, based on the earlier X-45C prototype. It was unveiled on May 10, 2010 and will be undergoing tests for the next several months or years. It is envisioned as the first of a new type or aircraft and may handle missions such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses, electronic attack, hunter/killer, and autonomous aerial refueling.

These pics show the Phantom Ray being carried on a 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft from St. Louis on December 13, 2010 during a test flight. The 747 will carry the Phantom Ray to Dryden Flight Research Center in preparation for its first flight.

General characteristics

  • Crew: None (UCAV)
  • Length: 36 ft (11 m)
  • Wingspan: 50 ft (15 m)
  • Max takeoff weight: 36,500 lb (16,556 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × General Electric F404-GE-102D


  • Maximum speed: Mach 0.85
  • Cruise speed: 614 mph (534 kn; 988 km/h) ; Mach 0.8
  • Range: 1,500 mi (1,303 nmi; 2,414 km)
  • Service ceiling: 40,000 ft (12,192 m)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rare Weapons- Webley Fosbery

Here is one you don't see every day. Or in my case, ever. This is the Webley-Fosbery Self-Cocking Automatic Revolver. Now I know that doesn't really make sense. Gimme a minute and I will lay it out for you.

At the turn of the century, designers were trying very hard to come up with ways to increase the rate of fire for small arms, this coupled with the ongoing industrial revolution helped to ensure a wide variety of designs. Some worked and some well... not so much. The Webley-Fosbery actually worked pretty well, but it was eventually simply outclassed by magazine fed semiautomatics.

The first patent for the gun that became known as the Webley-Fosbery was issued in 1895. . The weapon's designer, Lieutenant Colonel George Vincent Fosbery, VC, brought his prototype (which was built on a Colt Single Action Army) to Birmingham and presented it to the firm of P. Webley & Son. As the weapon is pretty clever and was clearly an improvement on the most common handgun of the time, the single action revolver, Webley bought the patent and applied its ideas to their own Webley Break Top Revolver, which at the time was the main sidearm of the British Army and had been pretty successful in the Boer War. Improvements were made for several years and it was finalized for production. By this time, Webley had merged with W.C. Scott & Sons and Richard Ellis & Son in 1897 to form the Webley & Scott Revolver and Arms Co., was became the primary manufacturer of service pistols for the British Army as well as being popular in the civilian market. The refined pistol was introduced in 1900 at the Bisley matches.

The new Webley was chambered in the standard .455 British cartridge, seen above. The cartridge is rather unimpressive by modern standards, firing a heavy 265 grain round nosed soft lead bullet at a rather slow 650 FPS. The original versions were a six shot cylinder, although later versions chambered in .38ACP were eight shot.
The main design feature is recoil operation. The barrel and cylinder are in one section and the lock and hammer in another behind it. These are both mounted in a set of grooves on the frame. Loading the Webley-Fosbery is pretty much the same as other contemporary Webley revolvers or any other break-action for that matter. A lever on the upper receiver is pressed and the barrel and cylinder are released to fall open downwards ("breaks"). At the end of the motion, a star shaped extractor pushes up, simultaneously ejecting the shells from the cylinder chambers.

Once loaded the Webley-Fosbery is cocked by pressing the entire action-cylinder-barrel assembly as far back as it will go. What this does, whether it is done by hand or by the recoil action from firing, is to engage a pivoting lever that cocks the hammer back. At the same time a small stud on the upper portion of the frame rides in the characteristic zig-zag grooves on the cylinder, moving the cylinder into line with the help of an internal spring. Unlike single action or modern SA/DA revolvers, neither cocking the hammer manually or pulling the trigger rotates the gun's cylinder. It must be pulled to the rear to be made ready to fire.

Unlike the weapons that preceded it, the Webley-Fosbery was intended to be carried at full cock, ready to fire. As a result a manual safety catch was added to make the gun safe to carry in this fashion. It is on the left side of the frame at the top of the grip. It can only be set to "safe"when the pistol is cocked, and it is operated by pressing it down from the horizontal position. It functions by disconnecting the hammer from the sear.

Probably no more than 5000 Webley-Fosbery Self-Cocking Automatic Revolvers were ever made, on a fairly short production run from 1901 to 1915.

Here is the fruit of my You Tube research

There is something about the Webley Fosbery that I really like from a design and aesthetics point of view. It has a very nice steampunk look to it. The Webley-Fosbery has gained some fame though, being used in the amazingly horrible Sean Connery epic-sci-fi awful-fest Zardoz (don't even attempt to watch this movie) and a very similar looking weapon appears in the absolutely amazing Xbox 360 game, Bioshock. (It is wicked good, check it out) It is also mentioned in the seminal noir film and book, The Maltese Falcon. (although Bogie gets it wrong and calls it an eight shot .45 automatic)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Victoria Cross: Sergeant Ian John McKay, The Parachute Regiment

During the night of 11/12 June 1982, 3rd Battalion The Parachute regiment mounted a silent night attack on an enemy battalion position on Mount Longdon, an important objective in the battle for Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Sergeant McKay was platoon sergeant of 4 Platoon, B Company, which after the initial objective had been secured, was ordered to clear the northern side of the long east/west ridge feature, held by the enemy in depth, with strong mutually supporting positions.

By now the enemy were fully alert, and resisting fiercely. As 4 Platoon's advance continued it came under increasingly heavy fire from a number of well-sited enemy machine gun positions on the ridge, and received casualties. Realizing that no further advance was possible, the platoon commander ordered the platoon to move form its exposed position to seek shelter among the rocks of the ridge itself. Here it met up with part of 5 Platoon.

The enemy fire was still both heavy and accurate, and the position of the platoons was becoming increasingly hazardous. Taking Sergeant McKay, a corporal and a few others, and covered by supporting machine gun fire, the platoon commander moved forward to reconnoitre the enemy positions but was hit by a bullet in the leg, and command devolved upon Sergeant McKay.

It was clear that instant action was needed if the advance was not to falter and increasing casualties to ensue. Sergeant McKay decided to convert this reconnaissance into an attack in order to eliminate the enemy positions. He was in no doubt of the strength and deployment of the enemy as he undertook this attack. He issued orders, and taking three men with him, broke cover and charged the enemy position.

The assault was met by a hail of fire. The corporal was seriously wounded, a private killed and another wounded. Despite these losses, Sergeant McKay, with complete disregard for his own safety, continued to charge the enemy position alone. On reaching it he dispatched the enemy with grenades, thereby relieving the position of beleaguered 4 and 5 Platoons, who were now able to redeploy with relative safety. Sergeant McKay, however, was killed at the moment of victory, his body falling on the bunker.

Without doubt Sergeant McKay's action retrieved a most dangerous situation and was instrumental in ensuring the success of the attack. His was a coolly calculated act, the dangers of which must have been only too apparent to him beforehand. Undeterred he performed with outstanding selflessness, perseverance and courage. With a complete disregard for his own safety, he displayed courage and leadership of the highest order, and was an inspiration to all those around him.

an unrelated Falklands War pic

The New Uzi

Let me get this out of the way for all you "correctors" out there. I realize that the changes to the Micro Uzi we are looking at are relatively minor, and do not really represent a "new" weapon. It's just a title, keep your pants on.

This is the Uzi-Pro, a sort of re-issue of the Micro-Uzi, manufactured by IWI (Israel Weapon Industries Ltd, which is a privatized company that was originally the "Magen" 0r Small Arms Division of the state-owned Israel Military Industries). Like the older Micro-Uzi, the Uzi-Pro is a blowback operated, select fire machine pistol chambered in 9x19mm. It is fed through the same magazines of the rest of the Uzi family, although primarily from 25 round magazines these days. Muzzle velocity is listed at 1148 fps, pretty normal for a 9mm, although submachine guns sometimes use high pressure ammunition that imparts higher velocity and lockup times and is often not recommended for use in pistols. It retains the grip safety, which I personally found somewhat uncomfortable to operate on the full size Uzis I have fired.

The Uzi-Pro differs from the older model in that it fires from the closed bolt position, which imparts somewhat greater accuracy (at least for the first shot) and diminishes the amount of dust and dirt that can enter the action. It fires at approximately 1050 rounds per minute, which is pretty fast, but significantly less than the 1148 rpm listed for the Micro-Uzi. It is also less than most other machine pistols, this was likely done to increase the users' ability to control the weapon during full auto fire and perhaps to limit ammunition expenditure.

The lower receiver of the weapon has been redesigned to meet the needs of modern forces and is constructed of high impact polymers to save weight. Also added to the lower receiver is a foregrip, recognizing that two handed control is always the way to go if you want to hit the target. The trigger guard has been changed to the full hand-encompassing variety that IWI used on the Tavor series of rifles. No self respecting, high-speed/ low-drag, tier 1, OMGD3LTA! gun can be without Picatinny rails these days, and the Uzi-Pro has three, one one either side of the barrel for lights and lasers and one for sights on the top, above the ejection port. To facilitate this, they moved the cocking handle to the left side of the receiver. The Uzi-Pro is 486 mm long, reduced to 282 mm with the stock folded and its barrel length is 134 mm. The Uzi-Pro is listed as weighing 2.3 kilos as opposed to the Micro-Uzi at 1.5kg. This probably makes it a little easier to control during full auto fire as well.

I certainly wouldn't call these changes merely cosmetic, as they almost certainly result in a weapon that would perform better than the original. But they are certainly an attempt to make an older gun that has fallen out of favor in the world's military and police forces get a new lease on life. Whether or not it will enjoy good sales, we will have to wait and see.

Don't Worry

This Day in History- December 2

I have to say that I am sorry about the low output recently, I'm back in school and am doing that
during the time of day when I used to bored enough to blog. Well, I am going to try and do a little more, starting with an easy one.

December 2, 1804

A Corsican-born General in the Revolutionary Army of France named Napoleon Bonaparte becomes Emperor Napoleon I. It is said that at his ascension ceremony in Notre Dame, he took the crown from the hands of Pope Pius VII and placed it on his own head. It is said he did this to show that he was the author of his destiny and rose to his position solely on his merit. If so, this would also seem in violation of custom in place from Charlemagne's time of the Emperors being crowned by the Pope.

Of course Napoleon is held to be one of the most gifted and driven military commanders and strategists in history. He also is mostly responsible for the creation of a new system of laws and courts known today as the Napoleonic Code. He also was a gifted military theorist and he made vast changes to the way that armies fought and were organized both in France and around the world. It took losing hundreds of thousands of troops in Russia and a crushing defeat at the Battle of Waterloo and a long term arsenic poisoning to keep him down. It is strange that his reputation in modern American culture is just that of a short, petty Frenchman. While he was certainly a "great" man, he was responsible for some social progress, had some nice buildings built and so on, he was also a voracious and cruel conqueror and is personally responsible for hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths at the very least. The very least. There are many who view Napoleon as belonging in the same class as people like Hitler and Stalin. While that may be taking it too far, as Napoleon is not generally thought of to be genocidal and bloodthirsty, just incredibly greedy, apathetic and cruel. But he most certainly deserves at least partial blame for the 17 YEARS of war that Europe experienced during his time and the estimated 6 million deaths those wars caused.

and on December 2, 1777

During the occupation of Philadelphia by forces under British General William Howe, the British command had commandeered a large room across from his headquarters to serve as a meeting room. Unknown to them, the home's owner, Lydia Darragh, an Irish immigrant, would discreetly listen to these meetings and pass the information to American revolutionary leaders. She did this by sewing notes into her coat and crossing the lines to meet American officers in secret.

America's first Bond girl villain?

On the night in question, she learned of a surprise attack on Washington's army in Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania. She devised a cover story that she needed to buy flour from a mill just beyond the British lines, she was able to get the vital plans to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Craig. When the British marched on Whitemarsh on December 4 they found an army ready and waiting for them. Three days of skirmishing followed, and General Howe returned to Philadelphia, having failed to destroy or dislodge Washington's force. Timely knowledge of the impending attack, much less any information on troop strength, route and cannon, would have been absolutely essential to the survival of Washington and his army. That being the case, Mrs. Darragh's actions, which were quite audacious and daring in my opinion, and were extremely dangerous to her well being if she were caught, were one of the most important forgotten events of the Revolution.

I see her as kinda like Princess Leia myself.

It is said (on Wikipedia) that the CIA remember Lydia Darrah as one of the first American spies.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mission: Impossible (or just Unlikely)

Have you ever noticed how things seem to happen in pairs or even in trifecta? I find it fascinating.
Anyway, this is different than our usual fare of guns, bombs and planes, but it is awesome.

Just like in the movies, people find reasons to disguise themselves. Usually, this involves either
hiding ones' identity with a balaclava, bandana, flour sack, Halloween mask, etc. or maybe even pretending to be someone else, like with a fake policeman's uniform. The two gentlemen we will discuss today, well, they had their "A" game going.

In the above pic, you can see a man in the commission of of a bank robbery. He actually made four robberies in three hours, including three banks, so we can say that he is willing to work. Not a whole lot to see, huh? Just an African-American man, in a hoodie and sunglasses. Except, it was really this man.

What you say? Yes, Conrad Zdzierak wore a movie-quality latex mask from SPFX to commit several crimes. He was traced to a motel via his getaway car, a Volvo covered in red dye from the dye pack.(Amateur!) The police found items associated with the robberies, including the mask, in his home. Makes me wonder why he didn't just carjack someone for the day. Below is the mask by itself. Notice how he wore sunglasses to hide the most obvious flaw in the mask wear it meets the eyes. That is why you get the hell out of Dodge when you commit four armed robberies in one day, idiot. Conrad is in jail, facing up to 120 years for aggravated robbery.

Anyways, not two days after reading about this, CNN reports on ANOTHER case of someone using a high quality mask to attempt a crime.

This time is was a young Asian man masquerading as a "crusty old white man" and if anything, his costume is even better. The old man hat and cardigan are especially nice touches. Reports from the scene state that he even moved like an elderly person. I wonder if he made vaguely racist comments and smelled like cabbage too. However, people do tend to notice when you board a plane as an old white man and emerge from the bathroom a young Asian man. He was also noted to have young-looking hands. Don't get cheap, they sell gloves too. He boarded a Air Canada flight in Hong Kong and flew all the way to Vancouver.

Of course what is really scary about this incident is that he was able to board a plane and fly halfway across the world. (Nice police work, there, Lou) When he was apprehended by agents of the Border Service Office, he made a claim for refugee status and protection. No word on whether or not he will get it. He allegedly used a boarding pass and frequent flier card from a US citizen to gain access to the plane.

I have to say, I find this amazingly cool. whenever I have seen these masks in the movies, I've thought to myself, yeah right, it would never work in the real world. But, with truth being stranger than fiction, we can see that it can work. It certainly makes me wonder if we have or will soon have secret agents running about in masks, shedding identities at will like in so many spy novels. Hint Hint CIA, if you still can't recruit enough people to look "Arabic" or "Central Asian" enough to do your spy-stuff, maybe you should employ these talented guys for a little while.

Here is another mask from the folks at SPFX ( Even Tom Savini, the master of movie horror effects, thinks they are cool. If you don't know who Tom Savini is, get off my blog. No, please don't leave, I need readers. They also do monsters and zombies (!) and stuff, if you want to rob a bank as the devil or something
(For any young, impressionable or stupid readers out there, this is still a bad idea.)


While doing my usual 40 seconds of research, I found another one!

This is from a robbery in San Diego back in April. The "Geezer Bandit" has robbed at least seven banks in the San Diego area. Once again, the young hands with old face combo gave it away to the tellers. A man has been arrested in connection to these crimes, but it remains to be seen if there is enough evidence to convict him, or if they even have the right man. (Or woman?)

This will likely trigger a bout of severe paranoia and delusions for yours truly. I am probably going to be running about, accosting passerby Austin Powers-style, attempting to pull off peoples faces for several weeks now.
Its a man, baby!

Friday, October 15, 2010

How to Fight a War

The U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) as a combat vessel during the War of 1812 carried 48,600 gallons of fresh water for her crew of 475 officers and men. This was sufficient to last six months of sustained operations at sea. She carried no evaporators (fresh water distillers). However, let it be noted that according to her log, "On July 27, 1798, the U.S.S. Constitution sailed from Boston with a full complement of 475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of fresh water, 7,400 cannon shot, 11,600 pounds of black powder and 79,400 gallons of rum."

Her mission: "To destroy and harass English shipping."

Making Jamaica on 6 October, she took on 826 pounds of flour and 68,300 gallons of rum.

Then she headed for the Azores, arriving there 12 November. She provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and 64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine. On 18 November, she set sail for England.

In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war and captured and scuttled 12 English merchantmen, salvaging only the rum aboard each.

By 26 January, her powder and shot were exhausted. Nevertheless, and though unarmed, she made a night raid up the Firth of Clyde in Scotland. Her landing party captured a whiskey distillery and transferred 40,000 gallons of single malt Scotch aboard by dawn. Then she headed home.

The U.S.S. Constitution arrived in Boston on 20 February 1799, with no cannon shot, No powder, No food, NO rum, NO wine, NO whiskey and 38,600 gallons of stagnant water.

Now those guys knew how to fight a war.

Now, for full disclosure, I found the above text on some board and have no proof whatsoever of its veracity. In all likelihood, it is grossly exaggerated or just plain made up.
But it does sound fun.

This Day in History - October 15

On this date in 1917, one of the most famous spies in history was executed.
Mata Hari was the stage name of a Dutch woman named Margaretha Geertruida Zelle. She became famous for, well to put it impolitely, kinda being a ho. She was a dancer known for performing "exotic" dances that seemed to consist of her wearing some kind of vaguely eastern costume and taking it off. She had a whole back story that she was born in an Indian temple and was taught sacred dances by the priestesses. However, it was all a pack of lies and what she knew of Indian and Javanese dances she learned while in Malaysia with her husband who was in the Dutch Colonial Army. But nobody knew or cared, because Internet porn was like, 70 years away. She was known as a famous courtesan, which is nice way of saying she was a gold digger. She was widely rumored to be banging( to use the parlance of our times) a bunch of high-ranking military officers both in the French and German armies. So, in 1917, the French authorities arrested her on suspicion of treason and espionage and sent her to the St. Lazare Prison in Paris. During her military trial, she was accused of revealing details of the new weapon, the tank, resulting in the deaths of thousands of soldiers. She was convicted and sentenced to death.

For 1917, this was wicked hot

Today, opinions are divided about the truth of the matter. Some say that she was a spy for the Germans and even worked as a double agent for the French, but that the Germans had written her off as pretty much useless. (except all the looking hot and dancing like a ho) Her trial was said to pretty much be a farce and no real evidence was brought against her. It has been suggested that the French High Command played her story up to distract the nation from the appalling losses that they French Army was suffering on the Western Front. No one will ever know the truth, I suspect. But the legacy is that Mata Hari became the archtype of the femme fatale spy, and we would probably not have any James Bond movies without her. In one of those incidents that is more like a movie than real life, she refused a blindfold and blew a kiss to her firing squad before she was shot.

Also in 1860 an eleven-year-old girl named Grace Bedell, wrote a letter to presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln, suggesting he could improve his appearance by growing a beard.


Rare Weapons- 6P62 12.7mm

OK, this ugly mug is the 6P62. It is a Russian anti-materiel rifle that is fully automatic. The rifle is chambered in the 12.7x108mm cartridge, which is pretty similar, but more powerful than the US .50 BMG (12.7x99mm). I think the Russians caught whatever disease the Germans had that made them always build bigger and more ridiculous guns. This thing is a monster. It reportedly weighs close to 40 pounds when loaded with 14 rounds of 12.7mm, and I would guess that the muzzle brake weighs at least 3 pounds. The brake might also function a little like a suppressor, probably making this weapon about as quiet as the average 500 pound bomb. It has a listed range of 1000 meters or more and can reportedly pierce 20mm of steel at 100 meters. Of course a full auto function on a weapon like this is just silly, even if it is firing at the reduced rate of about 400--500 rounds per minute, which is slower than most automatic weapons I can think of.

The 6P62 was never put into full production, likely because someone sobered up. While it could be used in a fashion like the Barrett Light 50 and other big bore anti-materiel rifles, I have my doubts that it can perform as well. It has a fairly short barrel and I can't see that it is fluted to give it strength without undue weight. At the least I imagine the recoil is well, sharp. The gentleman firing it offhand above (why?) likely had some rotator cuff surgery and called it a day. Interestingly, both photos that can be found show it without a telescopic sight, which one would need to fire at anything smaller than a barn at the intended ranges. This might be because its recoil force would tear a scope meant for .30 caliber rifles to hell and back.

One possible use is for the weapon to be used at road blocks and from fortified positions to get the most use of a weapon with long range and the power to punch through light armor and cover, but heavy machine guns and grenade launchers are probably better suited to that role. While the 6P62 will likely never be seen anywhere but the Internet, it may have a descendant in the form of the KPB-12.7 rifle, for which there is even less information than the 6P62. If anybody knows more about either of these weapons, or please god, has video of some unfortunate soul firing one, please let me know. Also, I will use this as my standard long gun when I finally finish that Power Armor I am working on in the basement.
So get ready.

Marines love the Misfits

Nothing much to say about this one, it of course reminds me of all the images of soldiers and Marines from Vietnam with various sayings written on their helmets or flak jackets.
If you don't know the reference, it is from a song by the Misfits, a punk band, if you don't know them get a copy of Walk Among Us. It rocks.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Exploded Views and technical drawings

I have always liked to look at the exploded view drawings of weapons both to gain a better understanding of how they work, and also to appreciate the amazing artistic talent of people who could plan out and execute such detailed drawings. So here are some neato pics.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The 2nd Amendment



At first when I saw this picture, I assumed that the wall near the soldier had been hit by an RPG or that a gunship was hovering and firing overhead. Or both. Or something. I don't know. Then other, more intelligent people pointed out that all the effects we see is simply caused by the back blast of the AT4 rocket launcher. It that caused all the chaos. And the really dangerous part was several hundred feet away.
Lesson: Don't stand behind anti-tank weapons though kids, because it will completely kill you. Just, you know, FYI.
It was enough to pick up all those empty shells, all that dust, and the M4, which was probably laying on the ground. So I am guessing that is an older model and not the newer one designed to be fired in enclosed spaces without breaking everyone around into little pieces and then having them breathe in the toxic exhaust.
Crazy stuff.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Airship drones

Awhile ago, I posted about the "Beast of Kandahar" in The Giant Blimp of Kandahar, which was suspected to be a long endurance, reconnaissance UAV. I found this pic a few days ago, and it seems to be the same aircraft. They both have a triple tail fin and similar overall shape. At the time, I guessed that it was a prototype or scale model of the Lockheed Martin LEMV. The caption just named it as the Persistent Surveillance System.

The earlier photo had no sense of scale, so I was pleased to get a closer look at "the Beast". As we can see, it is a pretty large maybe 40 feet or more, but that is much less than the reported 200 feet of the LEMV. Lockheed has understandably not released very much info on the LEMV, but they have hinted that it will be a UAV capable of staying aloft and using multiple technology to find and identify enemies. We can certainly assume it has powerful daylight, Nightvision and thermal cameras. It also might mount a magnetic anomaly detector for looking for IEDs or submarines or so forth, but that is just a blind guess on my part. It could also be used for things such as intercepting radio and satellite phone signals, or as a booster to send friendly communications. The one thing I am pretty sure of is that we will see more like it in the future.
Well, I don't really have any more info. I just thought it was a neat picture.

I can't tell, but I think this is not the same aircraft. Seems the nose and fins are shaped differently. But I felt bad for such a bare bones post, so I figured I would treat you, my beloved readers, to the fruit of a 3 second Bing image search. You are welcome.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Iconic Guns- Mauser 98

I have been waiting to write this one for awhile because I wanted to do it right. And I'm lazy. And I just got a Xbox 360. Yes, I know they have been out for a long time. It was a gift and I'm psyched.

The Mauser 98 is simply one of the most important firearm designs ever made. In terms of the importance and longevity of the design, it is like the Colt 1911 of rifles. It has only recently stopped being the basis of a huge amount every bolt action in production, and the best bolt action rifles of the 20th Century were almost all based on the Mauser 98 action, including the US Army's M24 sniper rifles and the USMC M40 series sniper rifles, which are still in service. The Remington 700, from which the M24 and M40 were developed, is based on the M98 action. The 700 is still a highly sought after weapon for hunters and marksmen, especially the early models. While the Mauser 98 was first produced in 1898 at Paul Mauser's factory in Obendorf, Germany, I am mostly going to be referring to the ultimate evolution of the design, the Karabiner 98 Kurz or K98k, the most common and smallest of the classic 98 line.

Mauser Karabiner 98 Kurtz with its basic equipment

When people talk about the Mauser 98, they are often just speaking about its action. The action refers to the physical mechanism that moves the cartridges and seals the breech in preparation for firing. The term is also used to describe the method in which cartridges are loaded, locked, and extracted. The Mauser system consists of a receiver that serves as the systems shroud and a bolt group. The body of the bolt has three locking lugs, two large main lugs at the bolt head and a third safety lug at the rear of the bolt which serves as a backup in case the primary locking lugs failed. This third lug was added to increase the safety of the rifle. Another important feature of the 98 is its feed mechanism.

M 98 controlled-feed bolt-action system: a = chamber, b = front main locking lugs recess,
c = receiver, d = internal magazine spring, e = ammunition stripper clip, f = bolt group,
g = firing pin, h = pistol grip.

The 98 possesses a large claw type extractor that holds on to the rim of the cartridge all through the process of chambering the round, firing, extraction and ejection. The bolt handle is straight and protrudes out on the Gewehr 98 and on later models it is turned down so that it is less in the way and can be manipulated more easily. The 98 cocks the firing pin when the breech is opened, unlike the SMLE for example which cocks on closing. There is a piece that sticks out both visually and to the touch to signify that the weapon is cocked, which has become standard on many guns today. The Mauser 98 also has a small metal disc set into the stock that functions as a bolt disassembly tool, which, along with an easy process for field stripping, allows the user to perform maintenance and even switch out broken parts in the field. In another design feature to increase the safety of the weapon, Mauser included a gas shield and two large relief holes to the bolt sleeve. these were there to channel the hot, high pressure gas and bits of hot, sharp, jagged metal away from the face in the event of a catastrophic failure. (Should it happen to blow up)

K98k Mausers with rifle grenade and bayonet

7.92x57mm rounds (8mm Mauser) on stripper clip

While the 8mm Mauser cartridge has largely fallen out of favor in recent years, it is a very capable cartridge whether for military or civilian use. It fell out of favor as the arms world coalesced into NATO and Warsaw Pact standard calibers in the 1960s. It is in no way obsolete and the Russians and many others still use the less advanced (rimmed) and older 7.62x54R cartridge to very great effect. The first M98s were chambered in a 8.07mm diameter bullet, and was switched to a larger but lighter 8.2mm bullet with a new pointed shape called the Spitzer bullet. Many different loadings of the 8mm were made from its adoption by the Imperial German Army in 1898 to the Nazi build up of forces in the mid 1930s and throughout WWII. The original load pushed a 226 grain Spitzer bullet at 2,095 feet per second. By 1935, this had been changed to a lighter 197 grain bullet with the velocity increased to 2,493 FPS, giving it a flatter trajectory and a slightly longer effective range.

The end result was a rifle that was light (relatively) very accurate and capable of a very high rate of fire. The Mauser had better accuracy, safety, and quality of workmanship than any other weapon of the era. The Mauser was in many ways the premier rifle of its day and was only really equaled by the SMLE and probably only surpassed by the Springfield 1903A3 (by virtue of its updated and superior sight), which was a Mauser design itself. Weapons designed around variants of the Mauser 98 action continue to see vast civilian and specialist military use more than 100 years after is debut. It has been used by many countries, and you can find surplus 98s all over. There are thousands of Yugoslavian Mausers made on the German machines right after WWII that can be had pretty cheaply, many of them in new, unissued condition. According to Mauser Military Rifles of the World, by Robert W.D. Ball, 54 different countries contracted with Mauser to make more than 1,000 models of the basic rifle from 1871 to 1945. From Argentina to Yemen, Mauser rifles served on the front lines of nearly every conflict of the 20th Century.

The Mauser 98 and its descendants have clearly made their mark on the history of firearms design and warfare. Millions of Mauser 98 type weapons have been made. If you count guns that have an action that is a copy or descendant of the 98, who knows how many there are. That is just how important the M98 is to the history and design of rifles. The only real deficiency to the design is that it is fairly expensive to produce and needed a lot of skilled people to make it right. But that is really just a hallmark of the meticulous and exacting nature of German design. Certainly it has been used by many others than the Germans, though. Today you can still find many examples Persian, Chilean, Argentinian, and Yugoslavian Mausers just to name a few. The Israelis used a number of K98ks in their War of Independence. They have been chambered in several different cartridges, some of which are very hard to find today.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Iranian Midget Submarine

Well, from Iran's terrible taste in camouflage and their imminent status as a nuclear power, we move to Iranian Naval power. The above is the Ghadir-class midget submarine. The powers that be in Iran have sought for several years to find a way to fight the Navies of the West, especially the US, in the waters near Iran. Despite the rather huge disparity in Naval power, the Iranians have several advantages in this theoretical battle. The waters of the Persian Gulf are relatively shallow and busy, making it harder for big subs to hide and hard for them to use acoustic methods to search for enemy subs. Also, in a potential conflict, the West must not only defeat the Iranians, but also keep open the vital sea lanes and prevent an ecological disaster from destroyed oil infrastructure. Whereas the Iranians would have a major victory in the eyes of many if they are able to sink even a few Western warships.

Well, to the specifics of this craft. The Ghadir is a class of midget diesel/electric submarines manufactured in Iran. It is fairly accepted that despite the Iranian propaganda machine's claim that the sub was designed by Iranian engineers, the sub was built from North Korean plans and with their technical expertise. And before we snicker into our hands about our friends the North Koreans, keep in mind that they were able to sink a South Korean corvette, the Cheonan, with a similar sub.

The Ghadir is named after Ghadir Khumm a Shiite holy site in Saudi Arabia.

There are 11 Ghadirs in service and more on the way, with new subs delivered in 2009 and 2010. They are about 90 feet long and have a crew complement of 18. While the sonar and sensors and so forth are unknown at this time, we can probably expect them to be based on older Russian and Chinese equipment, like most of the Iranian arsenal. The Iranian state-owned media claims that the subs are "stealth" and capable of evading sonar, but I am going to chalk that up with other, similarly wild claims about the indigenous weapons from Iran. The sub has two torpedo tubes and could likely only carry two torpedoes. It has been said that the Ghadir can also fire tube launched missiles. While the Ghadir is not the state of the art, it could still be a formidable weapon, especially employed in groups. Recently, a war game showed that swarming tactics using small, fast, torpedo and anti-ship missile armed boats could be a serious threat to a US Carrier Group. However, the US Navy is pretty much the world master in anti-submarine warfare, and in any kind of large scale combat, I would expect the loss rate of this little sub to be very high. If it was located, its chance of getting away is small, and if hit with any modern ASW weapon, it would likely sink in a minute or two, if it was not immediately torn in half. Its only hope is that its size could help it hide in shallow water. The Ghadir and the North Korean Yono-class are not to be underestimated, but you wouldn't get me into one. It is apples and oranges, but no Japanese midget subs survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, and that was hardly the best day for the US Navy.

North Korean Yono-class submarine