Saturday, January 28, 2012

Big guns - M1 240mm howizer

This monster is called the M1 240mm howitzer. It was given the rather appropriate nickname "Black Dragon". It is classified as a super heavy artillery piece and boy is it. The Black Dragon weighed in at an astonishing 64, 700 pounds. It fired a 360 pound explosive shell 14 miles. I don't know about you, but I find that pretty impressive. The M1 240mm was developed in 1941 to replace obsolete WWI artillery guns. It eventually saw service in the European Theater with US and some small scale use by the British. It was again called to serve in the Korean War. The two pics below are of fairly new vintage as the US transferred some 30 of these monstrosities to the Republic of China (Taiwan)in the 1950s, where they are still in service on the frontline islands of Kinmen and Matsu where they have been mounted on a rail system that allows them to be slid back into a heavy bunker for protection.

The first operational use of the Black Dragon was during the invasion of Italy at Anzio in September 1943. The US Fifth Army used them for counter battery fire against German artillery and was able to even hit enemy heavy tanks with them. They were also used to knock out the infamous Nazi heavy gun the "Anzio Annie". Later in the campaign they were used to complete the destruction of the monastery at Monte Cassino and were used to destroy high value bridges from long range.

The above pic is from the US Army artillery museum at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Some 12 M1s were taken out of storage for use by the 213th and 159th Field Artillery in Korea.
On the first day of their use in Korea, Baker battery of the 213th, a ceremonial shot was planned at a enemy held hill called "the donut". The shot struck an ammunition dump, setting off a chain reaction that sheared off a significant portion of the hill.
The video below is a demonstration from the ROC Army, showing the size and power of this beast.

Late in WWII, a self propelled version was planned, based on the Heavy Tank T26E3 chassis, but the end of the war caused the project to be dropped.


This is a neat little tool I picked up awhile ago and carry everywhere I go. It is called the Swiss tech Utili-key and as you can see is a key shaped mini multi tool. The tools it has are a serrated blade, standard blade , flathead screwdriver, Phillips head screwdriver, eyeglass screwdriver and bottle opener. I especially like that it has an eyeglass screwdriver, and anyone who wears glasses and has had a screw walk itself half out knows how nice it is to have the only tool that will help.

As you can see, it is quite small, just a little bit bigger than a standard key and it weighs about half an ounce. I will not lie to you my gentle readers, the knife is pretty crappy. However, I did manage to give myself a decent cut while opening a beer one afternoon. It was probably my fourth of the afternoon (barbeque) so maybe it was mostly my fault. But I do manage to use the Utili-key a lot. I use it as a prying tool quite often, opening paint cans or the damn weedeater or whatever because it is stainless steel and much stronger than a regular brass key and much better for rough tasks than my pocketknife (which of course is mainly for opening boxes and cleaning my fingernails) I can't recall what I paid for it, but I think it was about $7-10. Certainly not the best tool or knife in existence, but cheap and easy to carry. Do remember to take it off your keys before going to the airport though folks. Those TSA fools can't find a bomb, but they will likely send you to Guantanamo for this 2" blade.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The World Turned on its Head

In a turn of events that most would not have anticipated, a Russian arms company is now making an AR-15 pattern rifle. Former Soviet weapons manufacturer Molot, a subsidiary of the Izhmash industrial concern that has been producing AK-74 and AK 100 series rifles has begun to produce a carbine called the HPE-140 (впо-140) or maybe Vepr-15 (Вепрь-15) which apparently means wild boar. It may be that the first run will use some parts from German manufacturer Waffen Schumacher under the trademark of Schmeisser.

Previously, Molot produced RPK light machineguns for the Soviet Union and Russia. They also made civilian (semi-auto only) VEPR AK rifles. The weapon was announced at the Moscow ARMS & Hunting '11 expo a few months ago. The rifle will be a M4 type weapon (M4gery) with a quad rail hand guard, improved/rubberized pistol grip and some type of muzzle brake or flash hider. No word about any other calibers, so for now it will likely only be offered in 5.56mm NATO/.223 caliber. Price in dollars is unknown, but they will almost certainly not be imported to the US anyway. Of course there have been American AKs for some time, some of which started out as parts kits from Eastern Bloc countries via Century Arms and some fully homegrown versions like the Krebs Customs guns, which seem nice, but are pretty expensive.

Mikhail Kalashnikov and Eugene Stoner each holding the others' weapon