You are here

The National Interest

Subscribe to The National Interest feed The National Interest
The National Interest online seeks to provide a space for vigorous debate and exchange not only among Americans but between U.S. and overseas interlocutors. This is the new home for informed analysis and frank but reasoned exchanges on foreign policy and international affairs.
Updated: 3 weeks 5 days ago

How AI Could Help Soldiers Make Better Choices During a Battle

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 15:00

Kris Osborn

Technology, Americas

A fascinating new possibility for the U.S. Army.

A forward-operating Army unit is under heavy fire and poised to attack. The soldiers are armed with small arms weapons, shoulder-fired missiles, drones and even helicopter support, yet commanders need to know which among many targets to hit. Which targets should be hit first? Are any target points about to fire incoming weapons? Do any of the target vehicles contain innocents or non-combatants? What if there are integrated threats woven together from several different angles and points of view at one time? Essentially a non-linear attack? Which comparable previous scenarios might offer the best course of actions to consider? If squad leaders simply do not know the answers to these questions, they cannot attack, leaving themselves more vulnerable with little time to react. 

Dr. Bruce Jette, Assistant Secretary of Army, Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, examined this predicament in a conversation with TNI, explaining that emerging applications of AI are beginning to “perform AI on AI” in a collective decision-making fashion. 

“I have eight targets and four enemy vehicles. Which ones are the best ones to shoot? Or does everyone have to decide on their own? Or could I have an AI program that is looking at all eight vehicles seen and decide how I would distribute fire most effectively? It would be an AI program on top of an AI program,” Jette explained. 

After all, combat decisions invariably involve a complex tapestry of interwoven variables, including things like sources of incoming fire, enemy size and location, terrain and identifying multiple points of attack. Other important variables are also additional air or surface supportive fires options and, clearly and simply, deciding which weapons to use and where to use them across an entire unit. 

Artificial intelligence can already gather, fuse, organize and analyze otherwise disparate pools of combat-sensitive data for individual soldiers. Target information from night vision sensors, weapons sights, navigational devices and enemy fire detection systems can increasingly be gathered and organized for individual human soldier decision-makers. So, what comes next?

“We are looking at how we can apply AI to the analysis of data coming in from various AI systems. I can have an AI system that is generating an image of what is in front of me that gets sent to an AI system that is able to determine whether it is one image or multiple images,” Jette said. 

Jette’s description of current Army initiatives involves a host of collaborative efforts to identify and quickly harness or leverage the best available new technologies. Operating within this concept, Jette’s science and technology experts work in close coordination with Army Research Laboratory partners. Together, they are immersed in a complex new series of research and experimentation initiatives to explore the “next-level” of AI. Fundamentally, this means not only using advanced algorithms to ease the cognitive burden for individual soldiers—but also network and integrate otherwise stovepiped applications of AI systems. In effect, this could be described as performing AI-enabled analytics on groups of AI systems themselves, as described by Jette and Army Research Laboratory scientists. 

“Autonomy is doing things in a snipped way that can be connected. We can benefit from an overarching AI approach, something that looks at the entire mission. Right now our autonomy solves very discreet problems that are getting more complicated,” Dr. J. Corde Lane, Director, Human Research and Engineering, Combat Capabilities Development Command, Army Research Laboratory, Army Futures Command, told TNI in an interview earlier this year.

What does this mean? In essence, it translates into a way combat commanders will not only receive AI-generated input from individual soldiers but also be able to assess how different AI systems can themselves be compared to one another and analyzed as a dynamic group. For instance, Lane explained, perhaps multiple soldier-centric AI-empowered assessments can be collected and analyzed in relation to one another with a mind to how they impact a broader, squad-level combat dynamic. In particular, simultaneous analysis of multiple soldier-oriented AI systems can help determine the best course of action for an entire unit, in relation to an overall mission objective.

“What is the entire mission and possible courses of action? Do we optimize the logistics flow? Find targets as the dynamic battlefield gets more complex? The Commander can draw upon advanced AI to explore new options,” Lane explained.

Therefore, in addition to drawing upon algorithms able to organize data within a given individual system, future AI will encompass using real-time analytics to assess multiple systems simultaneously and how they impact one another to offer an overall integrated view. All of this progress, just as is the case now, will still rely heavily upon human decision-making faculties to optimize its added value for combat. Integrating a collective picture, drawing upon a greater range of variables will require soldiers to incorporate new tactics and methods of analysis to best leverage the additional available information. Exploring this intersection between new technology and its impact upon tactics, formations and maneuvers, is something Jette described as a top priority commanding much of his time. 

Kris Osborn is the new Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters

A Gun Like No Other: Why the Sig Sauer P220 Was So Revolutionary

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 14:35

Kyle Mizokami

Security, Americas

The gun that kicked off a new era.

Key Point: This weapon was very modern and would influence many other models. It was a classic and here is how it made its mark.

One of the finest handguns today is based on a Swiss design that, were it not for a creative corporate partnership, could have never left the neutral, land-locked country. The Sig P220 became available for sale worldwide only after the Swiss manufacturer partnered with a German company. The P220 went on to commercial success and adoption by countries including West Germany and Japan. The P220 is also the ancestor of many current Sig handguns, including the P226.

Founded in Switzerland in 1853, Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft, or SIG, developed a reputation for finely made, supremely engineered firearms—perhaps not a surprise for a country known for developing precision wristwatches. The company developed the Sig P210, a nine-millimeter parabellum pistol that was known for accuracy. The P210 was used by the Swiss Army, Danish Army, and West German Border Guard security forces.

During the 1970s, SIG reengineered the P210 to create the P220, giving it a shorter barrel and a larger magazine, and making it both cheaper and easier to manufacture. Swiss law prevented wider export of the P-series handguns, so the company partnered with German gunmaker J.P. Sauer und Sohn GmbH. Like SIG, Sauer had a long pedigree designing firearms, having been founded in 1751. The resulting partnership, Sig Sauer promised to open up the P210 basic design to the rest of the world—and that it did.

The P220 is approximately 7.79 inches long and a height of 5.5 inches. It is 1.3 inches wide, making it less attractive for concealed carry use, but then again it is a full-sized pistol. It weighs 1 pound, 13 ounces unloaded. It has a 4.40 inch barrel with six grooves and a right hand twist. It has an aluminum alloy frame and a carbon steel barrel, with a exposed hammer for single action operation. Early versions of the P220 were chambered in nine-millimeter parabellum and featured a detachable box magazine that held 9 rounds. Today the P220 platform is sold in both .45 ACP and ten-millimeter, each with a magazine of eight rounds, with nine-millimeter reserved for the P210, P225, P226, and P229.

The Sig P220 is of the same locked-breech pattern pioneered by American gun designer John Moses Browning, using a fixed cam underneath the barrel to withdraw and unlock the barrel from the slide. The slide is carried inside the gun, rather than riding on the outside of the receiver on milled rails.

The P220 is a double action pistol, meaning pulling the trigger both raises and lowers the hammer, which then strikes the firing pin, firing the weapon. This results in a longer trigger pull than a single action weapon, but is one that can be more quickly brought into action. In double action mode, it has a weighty ten-pound trigger. (Neither trigger pull weight nor travel are great objections to armies that issue handguns to conscripts that rarely use guns.)  The P220 includes a manual decocker, allowing the user to lower the firing pin on a loaded gun without pulling the trigger. The handgun also sports an automatic firing pin lock that prevents the firing pin from moving from moving unless the trigger is correctly pulled.

The P220 was adopted by the Swiss Army as the Pistol 75. It was also purchased by the Japan Self Defense Forces, Chile, Iran, Nigeria, and Uruguay. Sold in .45 ACP and ten-millimeter versions, the pistol is commercially available to civilian shooters in the United States. A slightly smaller version, the Sig P225, was classified by the West German government as the P6 and adopted by the Police Field Force Reserve, Federal Customs Police, and a number of German state police forces. Forty thousand P6s were reportedly made by Sig Sauer for the German police. It was also reportedly adopted by the U.S. Secret Service although is likely no longer in service.

The P220’s success isn’t just measured in the fact that it is still manufactured and sold today, but in its descendants. The P226, developed for the U.S. Army’s handgun trials in the 1980s, featured a double magazine that nearly doubled its capacity to fifteen rounds. The P226 also included an ambidextrous magazine release. While the U.S. Army and rest of the U.S. armed services went on to purchase the Beretta 92SB-F, the elite U.S. Navy SEALS went on to purchase the P226 after a number of accidents involving frame fatigue on the Beretta. This was followed by the lighter, more compact P228 and the P229, chambered in .40 Smith & Wesson.

The P220 was the original that spawned an entire family of pistols and is still, despite its age, a viable choice today. Had the two companies, one German and one Swiss, not joined forces to bring the design to the rest of the world, the P220 might have been restricted to a relatively small European market.

Kyle Mizokami is a writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and The Daily Beast. In 2009 he co-founded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch.

This first appeared in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Sig Sauer

Bang!: These .40 Caliber Pistols Are Among the World's Best

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 14:15

Gun News Daily

Security,

There are a wide variety of good .40 pistols to choose from.

Key point: The .40 was developed to give law enforcement a more powerful pistol than the 9mm to begin with.

Times are always changing, and that certainly applies to the gun world. A current trend that we are seeing now is a resurgence of the 9mm at the expense of the .40 S&W.

For instance, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently switched from the .40 S&W to the 9mm Luger, specifically switching from the Glock 22 and 23 to the Glock 17 and 19. The United States military very strongly considered switching to .40, but ultimately stuck with the 9mm when they selected the SIG Sauer M17 as their new service weapon. And police departments all across the country are trading in their .40 caliber pistols for 9mm.

It’s not difficult to see why. Even though 9mm FMJ is a fairly weak manstopping round, today there are a great abundance of highly effective self-defense jacketed hollow point loads at the disposal of civilians and law enforcement alike.  As a result, the need for .40 has diminished greatly, and on top of that, 9mm pistols carry more bullets and have lighter recoil.

You see, the whole reason .40 was developed was to give law enforcement a more powerful pistol than 9mm. Yes, the .45 ACP was out, but .45 pistols were also very limited by capacity.  This was why the 10mm was developed, but when the recoil created from the round was a little too excessive for some, it was shortened into the .40 S&W we have today.

The .40 S&W has served well for many years and will continue to do so for many more to come, but like was just discussed, the transition to a round that’s stopping power potential has been increased significantly and in a lighter and more controllable package is why we’ve seen .40 pistols begin to be replaced by 9mm.

But at the same time, this transition away from the .40 means that today there are an abundance of surplus .40 caliber pistols on the market, many of which are available for below average prices. And just because the .40 caliber itself is not as popular as it once was does not at all mean that it’s not a viable choice for defense.

In fact, the .40 is the third most popular caliber today, after the 9mm and .45 ACP, and is still very easy to find.  For these reasons, a .40 caliber pistol remains a more than viable option for self-defense or home defense, and again, the abundance of surplus guns and police trade-ins means that you have a lot of options at budget price points.

1. Beretta Px4 Storm and Px4 Storm Compact

What makes the Beretta Px4 Storm an impressive option for a .40 is its capacity: 14+1 rounds in the full size version and 12+1 in the Compact model, which is the same kind of capacity that you would expect out of a 9mm pistol.

The Px4 also deserves a place on this list because of the fact that the rotating barrel design helps to decrease the extra recoil produced from the heavier .40 caliber round. The gun is also safe to carry thanks to its double action trigger pull and its manual slide safety, that also acts as a decocking lever just like the Beretta 92 series.

The Px4 also comes with an ML-STD 1913 Picatinny Rail and back straps on the gun for different hand sizes.

2. Glock 22 and 23

Do you want to know a .40 pistol that holds even more bullets than the Beretta Px4 Storm Compact? It’s the most popular law enforcement pistol ever made: the Glock 22, which can boast of a 15+1 round capacity.

The Glock 22 has ridden in the holsters of more current United States law enforcement officers than any other pistol currently out there, which is certainly a big claim to fame.  The Gen 5 version was recently released, which has a number of improved features such as different ergonomics and a flared mag well to make reloads much easier.

Essentially, the Glock 22 is identical to the Glock 17 in terms of dimensions, only it’s chambered for the .40 instead of the 9mm. A smaller variant of the Glock 22 in .40 is called the Glock 23, which holds 13+1 rounds of ammunition and is equivalent in size to a Glock 19.

3. Heckler & Koch USP and USP Compact

The Heckler & Koch USP is a pistol that was designed completely around the .40 caliber. This is in direct contrast to many other pistols on the market chambered in .40 that are built on a 9mm platform.

Since the .40 caliber is a high pressure round, this means that 9mm frames chambered in .40 will typically have a shorter service life than the 9mm. But because the HK USP was built around the .40 caliber, it will be able to endure several thousand more rounds before needing to have parts replaced.

Beyond that, the HK USP is a full size duty pistol that holds 13+1 rounds of .40 in the magazine. The Compact variant, which is around the same size as a Glock 19 and is much easier to conceal, holds 12+1 rounds.

The USP is a double action single action pistol with a frame mounted safety and decocking lever. The safety can be engaged without decoking the handgun, so the pistol can be carried cocked and locked much like a 1911, and make your first shot a nice and crisp single action only pull.

4. SIG Sauer P226/P229

Right now there are a lot of surplus and law enforcement trade-in SIG Sauer P226 and P229 pistols in .40 S&W floating around the market for only the $300 to $400, which represents a truly incredible value.  These pistols may be well worn on the outside, but on the inside they have been fired very little and are still in truly excellent condition.

Regardless of whether you were to go with a surplus SIG or a new one, you’re definitely getting a quality pistol regardless. Both the P226 and the P229 hold 12+1 rounds with a factory magazine, while aftermarket quality Mec-Gar magazines will extend this capacity to 13 or 14 rounds.

The P226 and P229 are double action single action pistols that lack manual safeties. But there are also versions of them, popular with law enforcement, that had a lighter double action only pull. These are called DAK pistols, and they are among the most popular of surplus options available for a budget price point.

5. Smith & Wesson M&P and M&P 2.0

Like the HK USP, the Smith & Wesson M&P is also built on a .40 caliber frame, which should give it a longer service life than other .40 pistols.

The full size M&P pistol holds 15+1 rounds when chambered in .40, giving equivalent firepower to the Glock 22. The Compact 2.0 model holds 13+1 rounds, and is slightly smaller for concealed carry purposes.

The M&P has proven itself to be a very reliable striker fired pistol, and it also found its way into the holsters of law enforcement officers across the United States as well.  The 2.0 M&Ps also have very aggressive stippling on the grip, which is becoming a big trend with pistols in today’s world.

6. Walther P99 and PPQ

Walther pistols such as the P99 and PPQ are known for being among the most ergonomic pistols on the market today.  The P99 itself is a very unique offering. Despite being a striker fired gun, it is a double action/single action pistol with a decocking lever.

The PPQ is a more traditional striker fired auto in that it has a very light and crisp single action only trigger, which is also very widely regarded as being one of the best triggers of any pistol that money can buy today.

The P99 and PPQ also hold either 11+1 or 12+1 rounds of .40, depending on the magazine that you get.  Something that should be noted is that they can be rather snappy when chambered for the .40 round, so you’ll need to be prepared for that and get plenty of training in so you can properly manage the recoil.

Conclusion

Any one of these .40 caliber pistols would be a good choice for home defense, concealed carry, self-defense, or just casual range use.

This article by Will Ellis originally appeared at Gun News Daily in 2019.

Image: GLOCK 23 .40S&W Pistol - 3rd Generation. Wikimedia/Michael Donnermeyer. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Yes, the Navy SEALs Do Have Some of the Best 'Silent' Guns

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 14:00

Joseph Trevithick

Security, Americas

Here's what they can do.

Key Point: These clever weapons allow the SEALs to be stealthier. Here's how they make SEALs among the moth lethal forces out there.

 

More From The National Interest: 

Russia Has Missing Nuclear Weapons Sitting on the Ocean Floor 

How China Could Sink a U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier 

Where World War III Could Start This Year

How the F-35 Stealth Fighter Almost Never Happened

The Navy’s SEALs are well-known for their exotic guns—everything from machine gun to grenade launchers … and several iconic, quiet handguns.

The Navy stood up the Sea Air Lands teams in 1962 and quickly sent them to Vietnam to search out the enemy and work with local forces. The naval operators realized a suppressed pistol would be ideal for many of their most secretive missions.

“The value … of suppressed weapons had been noted prior to the teams deploying for combat operations in Vietnam,” noted SEAL historian Kevin Dockery writes in his book Special Warfare Special Weapons. “But very few weapons of that type were available during the early years of the war.”

At the time, the Pentagon still saw silencers as a highly specialized tool for individual operations. During World War II, intelligence organizations like the Office of Strategic Services—the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency—were far bigger customers.

Still, the technology was by no means new. Hiram Maxim—of Maxim machine gun fame—generally get credit for inventing the first sound suppressor for firearms and patenting it in 1909.

The noise of a gun firing comes from gasses popping out from behind the bullet—just like a backfiring car or opening a bottle of champagne. The devices—which Maxim trademarked as a “silencer”—work mainly by giving all of those fumes a different place to go.

The OSS and their British counterparts ordered a variety of suppressed pistols, submachine guns and rifles during the war, according to a contemporary U.S. Army study. And these weapons lingered on in both military and CIA arsenals well after the conflict ended.

With the close connection between special operations units and the CIA early on, the SEALs managed to get their hands on some of these guns. But the firearms were aging … and never intended for regular combat use.

For instance, the CIA had become particularly fond of a “wipe” type silencer. This kind of suppressor includes a soft rubber or plastic disc to help seal in the gasses after the bullets pass through.

But these “wipes wore away quickly under the stress of firing,” Dockery explains. “The intent was for the operator to use the weapon for a mission and then get rid of the suppressor.”

The SEALs needed a weapon that could handle day-to-day use out in the field. So the Navy set to work developing a replacement.

In 1967, the naval commandos got the first of new MK-3 “noise suppressors.” The silencers were fitted to specially modified nine-millimeter Smith & Wesson Model 39 pistols.

The MK-3 was still a wipe design, but essentially had a suppressor inside a suppressor. A large spring and O-ring held a separate insert firmly in place inside a main tube.

 

As the wipes were blasted away, the gasses could still expand inside this outer shell. Individual commandos could unscrew the whole arrangement and install a fresh insert back at base.

The MK-3 “becomes less effective after firing 24 rounds,” an official naval manual notes. “The suppressor insert refurbishes the suppressor.”

The weapons themselves—called the MK-22—also had a bar to prevent the slide from moving back and forth. This feature would make the gun a single-shot affair, but also eliminate the noise from the shifting parts.

To top this off, the elite sailors got unique subsonic ammunition that wouldn’t make the cracking sound that results from breaking the sound barrier. The pistol quickly became a popular and iconic addition to the SEALs’ arsenal.

In Vietnam, commandos fired the guns to take down lone guards or, more often, kill animals that could give them away. SEALs dubbed the weapons “hush puppies” … for obvious reasons.

“Very seldom did I used [sic] the hush puppy against a person—dogs and ducks raising an alarm were a much more common target,” Dockery quotes an unnamed SEAL as saying in his book.

The naval commandos kept their quiet pistols after the fighting Southeast Asia came to an end. But the teams were clearly tiring of the expendable wipe suppressors.

By the 1980s, the Navy had purchased a number of Heckler & Koch Model P9S pistols along with new silencers to replace the older combination. A company called Qual-A-Tech made the suppressors, which collected the propellant gasses in fixed chambers, according to a separate Air Force test report.

At the same time, the Pentagon was searching for a new pistol to replace the decades-old M1911. The SEALs and the fledgling Special Operations Command were both less than thrilled with the resulting nine-millemeter Beretta handgun.

SOCOM asked private companies to come up with what it called an “Offensive Handgun Weapon System” The weapon would shoot ammo that was “hotter”—loaded with extra or more powerful gunpowder—than traditional military rounds.

Companies also had to supply suppressors and lasers with their test guns. Only Heckler & Koch and Colt responded to the request.

SOCOM eventually chose the H&K offering. After the selection, the designers tweaked the pistol—initially called the EX-23—in a number of ways.

Most notably, designers replaced the original boxy suppressor. Knights Armament Company supplied a more traditionally shaped device with fixed baffles like the Qual-A-Tech silencer.

Most of the new weapons, finally dubbed the MK-23, went to the SEALs. The guns became “the first caliber .45 [caliber] … pistol to enter U.S. military service since the venerable government-model 1911A1,” the official operator’s manual states.

As of 2012, the SEALs still had their MK-23s, according to a SOCOM briefing.

This first appeared several years ago. 

Image: Reuters

China Is Buying Up Dozens of U.S. Commercial Airliners. We Should Be Worried.

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 13:55

Christian Whiton

Security, Asia

After years of aggression, broken promises and falsehoods, most recently about the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese government has finally begun to face the consequences of its misconduct. On behalf of industries that range from technology to pharmaceuticals, the United States is fighting back against the Chinese. Why then is it looking the other way as Chinese companies buy up the commercial aircraft that Americans fly?

After years of aggression, broken promises and falsehoods, most recently about the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese government has finally begun to face the consequences of its misconduct. On behalf of industries that range from technology to pharmaceuticals, the United States is fighting back against the Chinese. Why then is it looking the other way as Chinese companies buy up the commercial aircraft that Americans fly?

In April, a company named BOC Aviation purchased twenty-two airplanes from United Airlines and leased them back to the carrier. The sale included Boeing 737-9 MAX and 787-9 planes that can be expected to serve in United’s fleet for two decades. 

The previous month, American Airlines conducted a similar sale and leaseback of twenty-two of its own Boeing 787 aircraft. In May, Southwest Airlines sold ten of its Boeing 737-800 planes to the company and then leased them back as part of the deal.

A May 4 article in the Financial Times appropriately titled “BOC Aviation Taps Parent for Assault on Leasing Market” indicates that BOC Aviation is headquartered in Singapore. In fact, “BOC” stands for “Bank of China,” which is wholly owned by the Chinese government and is therefore tied inextricably with the Chinese Communist Party and its international aspirations. 

A May 8 analysis by aviation consulting firm Cirium about BOC Aviation’s “leaseback spree,” noted that the company is “…one of those lessors with considerable dry powder from its behemoth parent, the state-owned Bank of China.” The analysis added: “The lessor has partly been able to achieve this many leaseback deals due to its ability to draw down funds from a $2 billion ‘backstop’ revolving credit facility, provided by Bank of China.”

Think about that. Our government is allowing its foremost adversary to buy up the aircraft our citizens fly. Could this be a coincidence or simple business transaction devoid of political or national security considerations? That is a near-impossibility when it comes to China. Its foreign business activities are increasingly linked with its governmental efforts to dominate important fields and disrupt the economies of the United States and the rest of the free world.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2018 report on Chinese trade practices noted that Beijing’s commercial policies are far from benign: “These acts, policies, and practices work collectively as part of a multi-faceted strategy to advance China’s industrial policy objectives,” the report states. “They are applied across a broad range of sectors, overlap in their use of policy tools… are implemented through a diverse set of state and state-backed actors, including state-owned enterprises.” Elsewhere, the report states: “Obtaining and developing cutting-edge technology in the aviation sector has long been an objective of the Chinese government.”

It’s easy to rationalize Beijing’s sudden and growing ownership of planes that Americans fly. Some say the airlines need the money amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Others argue that the name on a title is irrelevant since the planes are still operated and possessed by U.S. carriers. 

These arguments don’t hold up. The U.S. government has expended tens of billions of dollars bailing out airlines and ensuring they have access to more capital if they need it. The recipients of this taxpayer support should not double-dip with the Chinese. And even though these Chinese-owned aircraft are leased, the U.S. carriers involved are still in hock to the Chinese government, which will influence their decision-making. 

The irony is that this development occurs as the Trump administration and Congress have begun trying to reduce China’s influence over key parts of the U.S. economy. The administration recently expanded export controls against Huawei, the Chinese technology manufacturer, by banning the export of foreign-made semiconductors to Huawei, even if they were made with U.S. technology.

In Congress, Republican Sens. Rick Scott (Florida), Josh Hawley (Missouri), and Marco Rubio (Florida), and Steve Daines (Montana) have proposed legislation that would reduce America’s dependence on China for pharmaceutical ingredients and medical protective equipment.  Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) has offered a plan to increase U.S. military deterrence in the Pacific.  Scores of other bills targeting the Chinese government are circulating on Capitol Hill. And the Trump administration is likely to announce new financial sanctions to punish China for its crackdown on Hong Kong. 

The American people are on board, too. A recent Gallup poll showed that two-thirds of Americans have an unfavorable view of China; only a third see the country in a favorable light. In this environment, it seems obvious that we should not allow ever-increasing Chinese ownership of our commercial aircraft.

Why Ruger's SR1911 Handgun Is Legit

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 13:30

Kyle Mizokami

Security, Americas

The design might be old, but...

Key Point: These guns are very well-made and are pretty durable. Here is how they pulled it off.

One of the most successful handgun designs of all time is the 1911 series semi-automatic pistol. Designed for war and to take advantage of the deadly .45 round, the 1911 and subsequent variants were the official handguns of the U.S. military from World War I well into the 1980s. The classic design, revered by many gun enthusiasts, is still sufficiently popular that most American gun manufacturers produce their own version. Sturm Ruger is no exception, the company’s SR1911 handgun a faithful rendition of what many consider gun designer John Moses Browning’s ultimate design.

In 1899 the U.S. Army was deployed to the Philippine islands. A recent colonial acquisition wrestled from Spain, the Army was sent to pacify Moro insurgents chafing under foreign rule. The war, which lasted for three years, saw American infantry engaged in close quarters jungle and village combat. The Army’s issue pistol, the Colt M1892 revolver chambered in .38 Long Colt was judged of insufficient power to stop a charging Moro tribesman, often requiring several shots to put the guerilla down. At times during the sometimes fierce, sometimes brutal hand-to-hand combat, there was time for only one shot.

After the insurrection ended in 1902 the Army took a hard look at upgrading its handguns. A new caliber, the bigger, more powerful .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) round was waiting in the wings. The new .45 ACP round was designed by prolific firearms inventor John Moses Browning and offered up to 50 percent more energy at the muzzle over .38 Long Colt, providing greater “stopping power” than ever before. Browning paired it with his brand new, thoroughly modern pistol design whose adoption promised to put the U.S. Army in the forefront of handheld small arms technology. The pistol, adopted in 1911 as the M1911, served throughout World War I. An updated version, the M1911A1, was adopted in the interwar years and remained standard issue among all the U.S. military services until it was replaced by the Beretta M9 handgun in 1985.

Browning’s patent on the 1911A1 expired decades ago, spawning easily more than a dozen contemporary imitators. Ruger’s SR1911 is typical of contemporary takes on John Browning’s masterpiece—conservative with few if any Ruger-specific design changes. The SR1911A1 handgun is a slab-sided, all steel firearm approximately 8.67 inches long, 5.45 inches high, and 1.34 inches wide. It weighs approximately 39 ounces unloaded and approximately 44.7 ounces with a loaded seven-round, single stack magazine flush with the pistol grip. The SR1911 also comes with an eight-round magazine that protrudes slightly from the grip, and with one round in the chamber can carry up to nine rounds.

The SR1911 features a 5-inch long barrel with a 1:16-inch right-hand twist to stabilize a 230-grain bullet. Like most handguns, the 1911A1’s effective range is short, typically 50 meters but depending in large part upon the shooter’s training and familiarity with the platform. Recoil is heavy but the gun’s reputation as a “hand cannon” is overstated—recoil is more of a firm push or shove than a violent jerk, making a .45 ACP handgun more manageable than handguns chambered for some lighter rounds.

The SR1911 includes a number of features that have come to be accepted in the highly conservative world of 1911 owners. The exposed hammer and trigger are both skeletonized for weight savings, and the gun has an oversized ejection port and extended magazine release. It features arguably the best sights for a 1911 series handgun, 3 dot adjustable Novak sights. Although traditionally blued or parkerized, Ruger’s 1911 is finished in satin stainless steel, completed with dark hardwood grip panels featuring the Ruger medallion.

The 1911 was one of the safest handguns at introduction in 1911 and arguably still is today. The SR1911 features a beavertail grip safety to prevent accidental discharge, and a manual safety means the pistol can be carried “cocked and locked,” with a round in the chamber, hammer cocked and safety on. A firm, quick push on the manual safety and the pistol is ready to fire. Finally, Ruger’s 1911 features a loaded chamber indicator, making press checks unnecessary.

More than a hundred years after introduction, the 1911 pistol design is still going strong, appealing to both traditionalists and new gun owners alike. Sturm Ruger’s take on the 1911 isn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, but it is a strong, robust handgun with Ruger’s reputation for reliability and affordability.

Kyle Mizokami is a writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and The Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

This first appeared in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Ruger.

Fear This: Why Heckler & Koch's AG36 Is One Hell of an Impressive Weapon

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 13:15

Charlie Gao

Security, Europe

Very impressive.

Key Point: This weapon is versatile and is relied upon by NATO forces. Here is what makes it so good.

The 40mm individual single-shot grenade launcher is one of modern infantry fireteam’s core pieces of firepower. They provide rapid explosive firepower at ranges greater than hand grenades but less than infantry mortars. During the Vietnam War, they were called the “squad leader’s artillery.” While the United States pioneered the use of this class of weapon with the M79 single-shot grenade launcher and later XM148 and M203 underslung grenade launchers, Germany’s Heckler & Koch GmbH has come to dominate this market. But how did the German designs end up replacing the American ones? Are there any real competitors who might challenge H&K’s reign in this market niche?

This first appeared in 2018 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

H&K’s first entry into this market was the HK69, a 40mm single-shot standalone grenade launcher designed as an alternative to the M79. More ergonomically modern, it featured a telescoping metal stock and thumb safety instead of the M79’s shotgun-style safety and wooden stock. It also weighed slightly less than the M79—but still a hefty 5.75 pounds due to its all-steel construction. The HK69A1 was adopted by the German Bundeswehr in the 1980s as the Granatpistole, or GraPi in short. It also has been adopted by a myriad of other nations—notably as late as 2002 (by Finland), when the next generation of H&K grenade launchers was already coming out.

While the HK69 was a moderate success in the 1980s, the M79 was already being replaced by the M203, an underslung grenade launcher in American service that allowed a grenadier to carry a full-length rifle in addition to a grenade launcher. H&K’s answer to the M203 was the HK79, a HK69 adopted into underslung form. This was paired with a G3, HK33, or G41, although it could be adapted to work with other platforms. Such a configuration were called the “Tactical Group Support” (TGS) variants of their parent rifle. The HK79 differed from the M203 and later H&K grenade launchers in that it swung open downwards. In some ways it was a HK69 turned upside down and given revised controls. Also atypical for an underslung grenade launcher, the sights were placed on the right side of the rifle (although there was the option to mount a ladder sight just front of the standard H&K diopter rear sight). The sights might have been placed there to encourage the operator to tightly brace the stock into their body before firing a grenade. However, the HK79 also had weight issues—its all-steel construction made the entire TGS rifle package extremely front heavy. It was adopted by a few nations, notably Norway for their AG3-F1 rifles.

H&K grenade launchers really came into the vogue when H&K designed a new underslung grenade launcher for their new G36 rifle in the 1990s, to replace the HK69A1 “GraPi.” As with the rifle itself, the AG36 was designed to use polymer and aluminum to reduce weight. The swing-under action of the HK79 was switched out for a swing-right action, to make loading grenades more ergonomic for most users. It proved a success in its role as a replacement, reaching full adoption in the Bundeswehr and being packaged with G36 export variants to other European countries such as Spain. Interestingly, the AG36 retains the right side ladder sight from the HK79.

Recommended: How the Air Force Would Destroy North Korea

Recommended: 10 Reasons No Nation Wants to Fight Israel

Recommended: North Korea Has Underground Air Bases

The AG36’s greatest strength proved to be its adaptability. In 1995, H&K offered a variant for the British L85/SA80 rifle. They adopted it as the L17A2, but it only began to be issued when the L85A2 program commenced in 2002, with the designation changed to L123. The L17A1 was a variant put on the UK Special Forces’ Diemaco C8 carbines—in lieu of the American M203 which was traditionally paired with an AR-15 variant. What marks the UK’s adoption as special is it ended an almost thirty-year search for a proper grenade launcher module for the standard British service rifle. Before, many grenade launchers were trialed on the L85, including the M203 and the HK79. The AG36’s next big sale was replacing the M203 itself in U.S. Army service, as the M320. The primary improvement the M320 offered over the M203 was the swing-right action that allowed the M320 to chamber longer rounds (including Raytheon’s 40mm “mini-missile). It also had a simpler safety, the ability to safely restrike the primer of a grenade and could be configured as a standalone module. As a standalone module, the M320 is significantly lighter than the HK69A1. The Army adopted the M320 in 2008, and the Marine Corps followed in 2017. The Hungarian Army has also adopted the M320 for their AK rifles.

In addition to the M320, H&K’s markets their AG36 derivatives under the name AG-C. Unlike the AG36 and L123, these are designed to simply mount on a bottom picatinny rail, similar to the M320. These have seen wide adoption by NATO forces, including the Netherlands on the C7NLD rifles, and Norway on their HK416s. The recent French adoption of the HK416F is also coming with another AG-C variant, called the HK2969F. This marks the departure from the French tradition of using rifle grenades (as supported by the MAS-49 and FAMAS) in favor of underslung 40mm grenade launchers.

With the French adoption of an H&K grenade launcher, the company’s grenade launchers arm practically every major military in NATO. Italy, Turkey, and Poland are some of the only countries to buck the trend, fielding grenade launchers developed in their own countries. H&K’s success was likely due to a well-designed product and smart sales—as well as a lack of a real competitor on the market. If one looks at the British trials that resulted in the adoption of the L17, most domestic competing designs were developmentally immature compared to the AG36, and existing mature designs didn’t have all the features the UK wanted. H&K came onto the scene at the right time with a “better mousetrap,” and reaped the rewards.

Charlie Gao studied political and computer science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national-security issues.

This first appeared in 2018 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Wikimedia/UK MOD.

Meet the Soviet RPD—One Really Revolutionary Machine Gun

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 13:00

Peter Suciu

History, Europe

Here's how this firearm made history.

The Soviet RPD was a weapon that was ahead of its time, yet soon after its widespread adoption was quickly superseded by superior firearms. Yet in many ways it was a portent of better firearms designs in the early Cold War era.

Its history began with the development of a new cartridge for a new breed of weapons.

From Assault Rifle to Squad Assault Weapon

The German StG44 was the world’s first assault rifle—a new category of weapon denoted by the use of an “intermediate” caliber round that was smaller than the standard rifle cartridge but larger than the pistol round employed in submachine guns. In the case of the Germans this was the 7.92x33mm Kurz cartridge, and soon Soviet small arms designers created the Red Army’s own 7.62x39mm M43 round.

That cartridge would go on to be used in the infamous AK-47, but before that it was used in two weapons developed at the tail end of the Second World War. The first was the semi-automatic SKS, a weapon that vastly improved on the wartime Tokarev SVT-40, while the other was a new light machine gun developed by Vasily Degtyaryov—who had headed the very first Soviet firearms design bureau.

Degtyaryov was one of those Soviet arms designers who had managed against the odds to survive the end of the Imperial Russian Czarist era and still went on to work for the new Communist regime. During his lengthy career he created several types of machine guns, submachine guns and even anti-tank weapons. Degtyaryov rose to the rank of Major General of the Engineering and Artillery Service, was a doctor of technical sciences and later was awarded the Hero of Socialist Labor. He was actually the second recipient of that honor after none other than Joseph Stalin!

His final contribution to the Red Army was a weapon that was an improvement over his previous designs yet was far from a perfect firearm in many respects. That was the RPD (Ruchnoy Pulemyot Degtyaryova), a gas-operated, hand-held, belt-fed light machine gun. It was developed to replace his aging DP machine guns that were chambered for the full-size 7.62x54mmR rifle cartridge—which was used in the Soviet’s Mosin-Nagant bolt action rifles.

The RPD was chambered for the intermediate 7.62x39mm round and was fed from a drum that could hold 100 rounds—ensuring that the soldier who carried it had plenty of ammunition. But because the rounds were smaller, and the gun was more compact than comparable weapons of the era, even with a full load out of ammunition the RPD weighed less than the comparable Bren Gun or American M60 light machine gun.

Degtyaryov’s design was one of three prototypes considered by the Red Army, and was ready for mass production in 1944. However, due to the fact that the Soviets were still only slowly recovering from the Nazi invasion, large scale production of the RPD didn’t actually commence until 1953.

It didn’t take long for military planners to see that it wasn’t a perfect weapon however.

While it was light enough to be used as a large automatic rifle, the placement of the magazine made it hard to operate in such a manner as the ammunition could rub on the shooters arm if held like a rifle. A bigger issue was that its barrel couldn’t be changed out—a serious problem in that it could only be operated in fully automatic mode. With a rate of fire of nearly 750 rounds per minute that barrel could heat up rather quickly.

As a result, operators were trained to fire only in short bursts, as anything more than 150-round bursts for more than a few minutes could burn up the barrel. The RPD was thus an example of three steps forward and one back—a trait not uncommon with Soviet small arms.

By the early 1960s, the Red Army adopted the Kalashnikov-designed PK machine gun, and the RPD was withdrawn from first-tier units across the Warsaw Pact. However, as the Soviets had produced vast quantities of the RPD, it was supplied in large numbers to the Vietcong and used as its standard light machine gun. The RPD was also produced in China as the Type 56 and Type 56-1, and in North Korea as the Type 62 light machine gun. Even today and despite its shortcomings, the RPD remains in active service with many African and Asian nations.

The lasting legacy of the RPD is that it was the first machine gun to be chambered for an intermediate cartridge and it served as a precursor to the modern squad automatic weapon (SAW).

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Peter Suciu

The Army Was Looking For a Compact Submarine Gun. Did Sig Sauer Go Too Far?

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 12:15

Charlie Gao

Security,

SIG’s “Copperhead” pistol is one of the smallest guns of its type on the market.

Key point: The gun was designed to provide security details with a compact submarine guns, but it might have gone too far.

SIG’s “Copperhead” pistol is one of the smallest guns of its type on the market. With a 3.5 inch barrel and an MSRP of over 1800 dollars, the gun is a very niche product. The odd design is a result of being built for the U.S. Army’s subcompact weapon (SCW) project. Unfortunately for SIG, the competing B&T APC9K won the contract. But does the Copperhead have wider appeal?

The SCW project was meant to provide U.S. Army personal security details (PSDs) with a compact nine-millimeter submachine gun (SMG) capable of being concealed in a very small space. Submachine guns have a long tradition of being used in such roles.

The U.S. Secret Service used the Uzi, which featured a folding stock, as a PSD weapon. But as firearms technology advanced, the open bolt nature of the Uzi came to be considered a liability, as it could cause the gun to discharge when dropped and was less accurate than closed bolt designs.

The next wave in concealable nine-millimeter submachine guns was the H&K MP5, which featured a roller-delayed blowback system for smooth recoil and a highly modular design. The MP5 is still widely used for PSD-type work worldwide, especially in the ultra-short MP5K configuration.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, nine-millimeter gun was looking obsolete. New cartridges, which resembled miniature rifle rounds like FN’s 5.7mm and H&K’s 4.6 millimeter were packed into compact guns like the MP7 and P90 for personal defense. These were quickly snatched up by organizations that did PSD work, as they were compact and could defeat threats in body armor.

But around the early 2010s, something changed again. The nine-millimeter SMG saw a resurgence, with designs like the Scorpion EVO 3 (2009), SIG Sauer MPX (2013), and B&T APC9 (2011) coming out. Part of the reason was the continued popularity of the MP5 in Europe and Asia. Many companies saw the opportunity to grab some of those sales for themselves.

The MPX’s special sauce is its short-stroke gas operating action, which allows the gun to be “tuned” to a specific type of ammunition to lower wear on parts and reduce recoil. The gas operation also allows the bolt mass to be lower compared to straight blowback designs, so the gun shifts around less in the user’s hand when firing.

However, this comes at a cost. The MPX is significantly more expensive than the blowback Scorpion EVO 3 due to the complexity of the gas system.

The Copperhead is the MPX’s design taken to its logical extreme as a PSD gun. With a barrel shorter than that in most compact pistols (a Glock 19 has a barrel of around four inches), the Copperhead is extremely short. It also features SIG’s special miniature pistol grip, which is also used on their compact Rattler carbine.

But in shrinking the gun down, SIG may have gone a bridge too far. While the U.S. Army SCW wanted a tiny SMG for the PSD role, stocked pistols or more svelte guns may be a better choice. Compared to ultracompact variants of the Scorpion and APC9, the SIG Copperhead appears to have more wasted space or bulk. This is no accident, as the MPX is designed to accept trigger groups and grips from standard M4 or AR-15 style rifles. But when the MPX is scaled down to the ultracompact level, it results in a design that looks a bit too big for what it offers.

Charlie Gao studied Political and Computer Science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues. This first appeared several weeks ago.

Image: A German soldier with the 291st Infantry Division (right), explains the functions of the MP7-PDW to a British soldier (left) assigned to 2nd Parachute Regiment, Vaziani Airfield, Republic of Georgia, July 30, 2017. U.S. Army/Joseph E. Cannon.

The Philippines Was the Battlegrounds of One of the Deadliest Battles During World War II

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 11:15

Warfare History Network

History,

In January 1945, this U.S. Army officer found himself part of a landing force preparing to invade Luzon, the largest of the Philippine Islands.

It was an amphibious commander’s worst nightmare—swarms of enemy tanks, spitting death with every cannon shell and machine-gun burst, smashing through the American beachhead. Stunned GIs were crushed in their foxholes by the unstoppable leviathans, or bayoneted by accompanying infantry. The few Allied fighting vehicles then on shore stood no chance against this mechanized onslaught. By dawn, after destroying ammunition dumps, supply depots, and motor pools, the Japanese attackers finally halted. Victorious, they had hurled their foe back into the sea.

 

More From The National Interest: 

Russia Has Missing Nuclear Weapons Sitting on the Ocean Floor 

How China Could Sink a U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier 

Where World War III Could Start This Year

How the F-35 Stealth Fighter Almost Never Happened

For Maj. Gen. Innis P. Swift, the threat of just such an armored counterthrust, an imagined nightmare scenario, made for many anxious moments. In January 1945, this U.S. Army officer found himself part of a landing force preparing to invade Luzon, the largest of the Philippine Islands. Swift’s task as commanding general of I Corps was a straightforward one: cover the flank of Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger’s Sixth Army as it liberated the capital city of Manila, thus fulfilling General Douglas MacArthur’s vow to the Filipino people.

Much like MacArthur, “Bull” Swift was also returning to the Philippines. He had been there before, as an aide to General John J. Pershing in 1908. Swift later patrolled the Mexican border alongside George S. Patton, Jr., before heading overseas with the 86th Division during World War I. Entering battle again in 1944 as commander of the First Cavalry Division, he earned rare praise from MacArthur for his efficient work throughout the Admiralty Islands campaign.

In charge of I Corps since August 1944, this ramrod-straight cavalryman had been serving his nation as a soldier for more than 40 years. He was, at age 62, the oldest and most experienced corps commander in the U.S. Army. As such, Innis Swift could be trusted to carry out the toughest assignments in MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific Theater of Operations.

There was nothing glamorous about the job awaiting I Corps on Luzon. Swift’s 60,000 troops were to come ashore near San Fabian and fan out rapidly along a line extending 15 miles north and east of the Lingayen beachheads. The I Corps front controlled access to Luzon’s Central Plains, a large, mostly wide-open avenue of approach that led 135 road miles to Manila. This ground had to be secured before the men of Maj. Gen. Oscar W. Griswold’s XIV Corps could make their “glory-ride” on the capital of the Philippines. Afterward, I Corps would pivot toward the rugged Sierra Madre mountain range of northern Luzon and mop up any Japanese still holding out there.

But a very dangerous man stood in the way of Bull Swift’s plans.

General Tomoyuki Yamashita, age 59, was the Imperial Japanese Army’s canniest tactician—a man nicknamed the “Tiger of Malaya” for his stunning conquest of British-held Singapore in 1942. Now, three years later, Yamashita commanded some 262,000 combatants of the 14th Area Army in an assignment most considered utterly impossible. Conventional military wisdom dictated that Luzon was too large and the Allied invaders too powerful for any defensive campaign to possibly succeed.

Yet Yamashita reckoned the more Americans he could tie down in the Philippines, the fewer men MacArthur would have available for an assault on Japan proper. By utilizing the forbidding terrain of northern Luzon together with the warrior spirit of his troops, the Tiger of Malaya hoped to upset Allied strategic timetables for months or even years.

After taking command of the Philippine Islands in October 1944, Yamashita made several controversial decisions. First, he chose to leave Manila unguarded, as that city possessed little strategic value. Japanese Navy forces not under his command would later wreak terrible carnage there. He further forbade ground commanders from entering combat whenever or wherever conditions favored the Allies in naval, air, and mechanized firepower.  Henceforth, no effort would be made to defeat amphibious landings on the beaches, nor were the Central Plains to be occupied.

Instead, Yamashita established his main defensive zone along the Caraballo Mountains north and east of Lingayen Bay. For months, Japanese soldiers had been building elaborate bunker systems, stockpiling munitions, and camouflaging artillery positions in this region.  Their front line stretched in a 50-mile arc from Rosario in the north down to the vital railhead of San Jose. It was here that supplies from depots in Manila were unloaded and then transported by truck into 14th Area Army’s mountain redoubts.

Until those warehouses could be emptied, however, San Jose needed to remain in Japanese hands. This crossroads barrio (village) also protected the entrance to Balete Pass, a major route through the Caraballos that led to Yamashita’s headquarters near Baguio. To further complicate matters, in mid-January a division of infantry was slowly marching north through the area to join the 14th Area Army; these riflemen required protection from marauding American armor.

The defense of San Jose would require a thorough yet unconventional plan. The Tiger of Malaya thrived on such problems, though, and on January 11, the 14th Area Army ordered into action its most mobile, battle ready unit. The 2nd Tank Division set out that very night, its destination a triangular sector safeguarding the approaches to San Jose and that town’s vital transportation hub. Under cover of darkness, miles-long tactical columns of armored fighting vehicles, tractor-towed field guns, and truck-mounted mobile infantry began making their way along Luzon’s dust-clogged roadways.

The selection of the 2nd Tank Division to conduct what was essentially a strongpoint defense violated all conventional tactical doctrine but acknowledged both the realities of combat on Luzon as well as the 14th Area Army commander’s unfamiliarity with armor. Said one Japanese officer, “General Yamashita, being an old time infantry soldier, did not believe in mechanized warfare.” Rather, he directed the unit to dig in on key terrain—in effect transforming its tanks into pillboxes.

While this scheme forfeited the principles of maneuver and mass used with great success by other combatant nations’ armored formations, it did offer some benefits. Well-camouflaged battle positions proved all but undetectable by aerial reconnaissance, while tanks fighting behind earthen fortifications were less vulnerable to Allied antiarmor weapons. Lastly, shortages of spare parts, ammunition, and especially diesel fuel meant a static defense was the only realistic course of action left open to Yamashita’s tankers.

Code named Geki (“Attack”) Force, the 2nd Tank Division represented an extraordinarily lethal presence on the battlefield. Under the command of Lt. Gen. Yoshiharu Iwanaka, it had available in January 1945 approximately 11,200 men and 1,500 vehicles of various types. Despite suffering losses to American submarine activity during its 1944 deployment from Manchuria to Luzon, Geki Division largely remained intact well into the new year. Some small tank and infantry detachments were sent to reinforce the defenses on Leyte that previous autumn.

The Third Tank Brigade, commanded by Maj. Gen. Isao Shigemi, was Geki Force’s primary maneuver echelon. This formation, which contained the 6th, 7th, and 10th Tank Regiments, normally operated with the 2nd Mobile Infantry Regiment. In early January, though, two battalions of those truck-mounted riflemen were detached to defend other positions in the south. Partly to make up for the 2nd Tank Division’s shortfalls in foot soldiers, Yamashita forwarded several hundred personnel of the 26th Independent Mixed Regiment and the 356th Independent Infantry Battalion to help hold San Jose.

Fire support was provided by 105mm and 150mm field pieces of the 2nd Mobile Artillery Regiment. Other combat elements included one company each of antitank (AT) guns and combat engineers. Logistical sustainment groups consisted of a maintenance company and transportation section; motorized signal and medical detachments completed the division’s organizational structure.

The 2nd Tank Division’s primary weapon system on Luzon was the Type 97-kai Shinhoto Chi-Ha medium tank, some 175 of which were assigned. Weighing 17.4 tons combat loaded and powered by a 170-horsepower V-12 diesel engine, the Type 97 could achieve road speeds of 24 miles per hour. Geki Force’s tanks came equipped with a high-velocity 47mm cannon and 7.7mm machine gun in the turret, as well as one hull-mounted machine gun. It took five men (gunner, tank commander, loader, driver, and hull gunner) to crew a Shinhoto Chi-Ha.

On hand as well were about 20 light tanks designated the Type 95 Ha-Go. Used primarily as a command vehicle on Luzon, this nimble cruiser tipped the scales at eight tons. Its Mitsubishi V-6 engine, rated at 120-horsepower, drove the Type 95 to a top speed of 28 miles per hour. Armament included a 37mm cannon and two 7.7mm machine guns. Each Ha-Go was crewed by three men: a driver, hull gunner, and tank commander, who also operated the turret weapons.

The 2nd Tank Division also fielded several experimental turretless tank destroyers as well as specialized engineer vehicles and self-propelled howitzers. Mechanics even got into the operation of a few antique tanks—Japanese and American—left over from the 1942 invasion. Anything with tracks, it seemed, was pressed into service by Iwanaka’s troopers.

Tank for tank, Geki Force’s armored fighting vehicles were no match for the M4 Shermans operated by I Corps. The Shinhoto Chi-Ha’s 47mm AT projectile could only penetrate an M4’s side or rear at close range, while U.S. 75mm shells punched right through Japanese steel plate at any distance or angle. The Shermans coming ashore on Luzon enjoyed every tactical advantage—mobility, firepower, and armor protection—except one. Against Iwanaka’s 220 tanks Swift could muster a mere 59 M4s.

Actually, the U.S. Army possessed more than 500 armored vehicles in the Philippines, but senior commanders held most of them back lest the 2nd Tank Division suddenly appear as the vanguard of a massive counteroffensive. American intelligence officers did not yet know that the Japanese had instead dug in their tanks to protect the transportation network at San Jose. The job of finding and then destroying Geki Force would have to be performed by the riflemen of Bull Swift’s 6th, 25th, and 43rd Infantry Divisions.

While the soldiers of all three divisions were battle tested, their experiences thus far had been in the rainforests of New Guinea or the Solomon Islands. Captain Michael Kane, a rifle company commander in the 20th Infantry Regiment, 6th Infantry Division, remembered his men needed to “unlearn” these jungle fighting skills before “relearning” more conventional, open terrain tactics. Kane added that his troops familiarized themselves with such antiarmor weapons as the “bazooka” rocket launcher and rifle grenade before sailing to Luzon.

Also training hard were gunners of the U.S. infantry’s AT platoons, who thus far had rarely used their towed 37mm cannons against Japanese armor. Destined too for tank-killing duty were the six 105mm M7 self-propelled howitzers in each infantry regiment’s Cannon Company. Though designed for use as an artillery carriage, these lightly armored vehicles would soon be advancing alongside U.S. riflemen as direct-fire assault guns.

Several attached units augmented I Corps’ infantry strength. The veteran 98th Chemical Mortar (CM) Battalion could rapidly drop sheaves of 4.2-inch high-explosive and white phosphorus rounds, suppressing or even eliminating fortified targets. Finally, spread across the corps were 59 M4 Sherman and 17 M5A1 Stuart tanks of the 716th Tank Battalion (TB). Their mission was to provide infantry support, although most tank gunners secretly itched to see a Type 97 in their sights. Many of them would get this opportunity before long.

The first waves of GIs to come ashore on January 9, 1945 (“S-Day” to Allied planners), quickly overran Lingayen Bay’s beachheads. As these assault echelons surged inland, however, Maj. Gen. Swift and his subordinate commanders grew increasingly concerned over the whereabouts of the 2nd Tank Division. The Americans had never faced such a large concentration of Japanese armor, and the threat of this potent force turning up behind U.S. lines continued to worry I Corps’ officers. Aerial reconnaissance overflights furnished few clues, and reports from friendly Filipinos often proved unreliable.

Patrols from the 43rd Infantry Division discovered their foe’s main defensive belt on January 11 while advancing up the coast near Rosario. There, along a ridgeline eight miles north of the Lingayen beaches, American attackers collided with Yamashita’s well-concealed riflemen. All attempts to turn the Japanese lines were met by an avalanche of artillery and small-arms fire. The I Corps’ rapid advance had ground to a halt.

In the meantime, Geki Force was completing its move into the San Jose region. Lt. Gen. Iwanaka established his command post, along with the division’s logistics trains and a small headquarters guard, two miles north of town. Five miles farther on, the 10th Tank Regiment entrenched at Lupao. In a barrio named Muñoz, nine miles southwest of San Jose, the 6th Tank Regiment began constructing strong earthworks. Small outposts stationed to the west provided early warning of advancing Allied units.

Geki Force anchored its northern flank at San Manuel, a village located alongside the Agno River about 40 miles northwest of San Jose. There Maj. Gen. Shigemi determined to make his final stand. “We will hold present positions to the death!” he declared in mid-January, dramatically concluding, “The enemy must be annihilated!”

While the Japanese were committed to a strongpoint defense of San Manuel, Lupao, and Muñoz, Yamashita did authorize several limited counterattacks intended to disrupt the U.S. offensive. One such probe, which took place over the night of January 14 near a settlement named Malasin, marked the first contact between the 2nd Tank Division and I Corps. During this brief fight, three light tanks blundered into a roadblock set up by Company A, 103rd Infantry Regiment, 43rd Infantry Division. One Ha-Go was taken out by bazooka fire, prompting the others to turn around and flee.

The Japanese struck again on January 16-17 when a combined armor/infantry team under the command of 1st Lt. Yoshitaka Takaki set out from its base at Binalonan on a nighttime raid. They got as far as Potpot, a tiny hamlet defended by the same Company A, 103rd Infantry that first encountered Geki Division at Malasin.

Two of Takaki’s lead tanks caught the Americans completely by surprise around midnight. With machine guns blazing, they drove straight through Company A’s perimeter before racing off into the gloom. AT gunners knocked out a third vehicle but then got caught up in a tenacious attack that lasted for more than two hours. At one point a platoon of Shermans from Company C, 716th TB went forward to help contain this menace.

The fighting ended at dawn when those two rogue vehicles that had earlier sped past U.S. lines clattered back up the road to Potpot, only to be stopped by now-alert gun crews. American casualties were light, two GIs killed and 10 wounded, while Takaki’s losses amounted to 11 tanks destroyed or damaged plus some 50 infantrymen fallen.

Even as the shooting stopped in Potpot, a new player was entering the game. Troops of the 25th “Tropic Lightning” Division stepped in on January 17 to fill a widening gap between I Corps’ 43rd Infantry Division to the north and the 6th Infantry then pressing southward. Backed by Company C, 716th TB, the 25th immediately started moving on San Manuel. Leading off was the 161st Infantry Regiment, veterans of fierce combat on Guadalcanal and the northern Solomon Islands.

Before they could capture San Manuel, however, the 161st‘s soldiers needed to neutralize a combat outpost at Binalonan. Later that afternoon, the 3rd Battalion entered the northern part of town where at 1730 hours they dispatched a single prowling Shinhoto Chi-Ha. Five more tanks then charged down the street, spewing machine-gun fire in all directions before bazooka teams and AT grenadiers could stop them. By nightfall, American riflemen had established a firm foothold in Binalonan.

The next morning 3/161st Infantry, aided by three M4s of Company C, succeeded in capturing this crossroads village. While some personnel and vehicles managed to slip away, the Japanese casualty count at Binalonan added up to nine tanks, two 75mm field guns, five trucks, one artillery tractor, and 250 combatants. U.S. losses included 19 men killed and another 66 wounded.

Not every battle fought against Geki Force ended in such a lopsided victory for the Americans. On the same day that U.S. patrols entered Binalonan, a column of Shermans cautiously approached the community of Urdaneta, 61/2milesto the south. Led by Lt. Robert Courtwright of Company A, 716th TB, this three-tank section was screening the advance of 6th Infantry Division foot soldiers.

Lying in wait for Courtwright’s M4s was Warrant Officer Kojura Wada. His three Type 97 tanks sat just off the road concealed in a mango grove and were perfectly positioned to ambush the Americans. Wada later recalled this tense moment: “I heard faint track noises…. One, two, three enemy tanks appeared among the palm trees; the white star painted on the front of each tank was clearly visible. They were 100 meters away—70 meters—50 meters—30 meters—but [still] they did not notice our tanks, because we were well-camouflaged.”

At a range of 25 yards, the Japanese opened fire. “Driver Yamashita shouted ‘Hit!’” Wada related. “The leading tank caught fire and turned to the opposite side of the road…. The second enemy tank also caught on fire after several hits.” Wada estimated his gunner put 60 47mm AT rounds into the third Sherman, which although disabled was able to return fire—knocking all three Shinhoto Chi-Has out of action.

In this engagement Courtwright suffered two tankers dead and two wounded. One of his M4s was declared a total loss, while the other two eventually returned to service. Sixth Infantry Division troops seized Urdaneta later that day, destroying nine Japanese tanks and killing 100 riflemen. The 2nd Tank Division’s outpost line had been smashed; could its bastions in San Manuel, Lupao, and Muñoz hold out long enough for those supplies and redeploying infantry to pass through San Jose?

The barrio of San Manuel sat between Highway 3, a major north-south thoroughfare, and the Agno River. While the surrounding countryside was mostly flat, an 850-foot-tall ridgeline one mile to the north provided excellent observation. The Villa Verde Trail, a footpath winding through the Caraballo Mountains, served as the garrison’s sole route of escape.

Occupying this village were at least 1,000 soldiers, plus 45 Type 97s and Type 95s of Shigemi’s 7th Tank Regiment. To protect their vehicles, Shigemi’s crews constructed sturdy adobe revetments that were then carefully concealed. Alternate fighting positions—75 of them—allowed for a semi-mobile operation in which armor could move back and forth as necessary to defend in depth. Street intersections and choke points were covered by indirect fire, while well-concealed riflemen and AT gunners shielded against enemy assaults. The Japanese then burrowed deep and waited, sworn by their commander to hold San Manuel at all costs.

On January 19, a mixed group of Filipino guerrillas, riflemen from the 161st Infantry, and M5A1 Stuart light tanks belonging to Company D, 716th TB set out to scout the area. Shigemi’s gunners let them get close before opening up, destroying two M5A1s and killing or wounding everyone on board. The Americans then fell back, electing to “soften” their objective with a five-day bombardment. Several battalions of field artillery, working with naval aviation and light bombers from the U.S. Fifth Air Force, flattened San Manuel while ground troops moved in to completely surround the township.

First, that bare ridge to the north was captured so forward observers could use it to call fire down on Japanese emplacements. Next, at 0725 hours on January 24, the 161st Infantry attacked. Advancing southward was 2nd Battalion with the main effort. A supporting assault conducted by 1/161st Infantry and Company C, 716th TB swept up along the Binalonan Road to strike San Manuel from the west.

Both attempts stalled in a hail of small-arms, mortar, and tank fire. Within minutes Company C lost six Shermans, while the 1st Battalion took more than 60 casualties. An unexpected counterthrust by three of Shigemi’s tanks pushed 2nd Battalion out of San Manuel later that morning.

The 161st tried again at 1700 hours. Backed by fast-firing 4.2-inch mortars assigned to Company D, 98th CM Battalion and the M7 howitzers of Cannon Company, 2nd Battalion succeeded in grabbing a toehold on the edge of town. One M7 was wrecked in a suicide attack, but by sundown the GIs had killed five Japanese tanks and were inside San Manuel to stay.

This small victory came at great cost. Technician 4th Grade Laverne Parrish, a medic assigned to 1/161st Infantry, carried to safety five men at San Manuel before he was fatally wounded by mortar fragments on the morning of January 24.  For these acts of valor, together with other heroic deeds performed earlier at Binalonan, Parrish received a posthumous Medal of Honor.

For the next two days, U.S. infantry, M7 assault guns, and M4 tanks fought street to street against Shigemi’s detachment. No longer able to withstand the Americans’ relentless attacks, his last remaining soldiers staged a breakout around 0100 hours on January 28. Leading the way were 13 Type 97s. The 161st Infantry’s regimental history tells what happened next:

“The tanks assaulted in waves of three, each tank followed closely by foot troops…. Riflemen in pits opposed them with rifle AT grenades, bazookas and caliber .50 machine guns. Two 37mm guns had the tanks within range. The first tank was hit but overran the forward position, spraying blindly with machine guns and firing 47mm point-blank.

“Ten of the tanks were halted,” concluded the American account, “the leading one just 50 yards inside our front. All had been hit several times. Hits and penetrations were made with AT shells, AT grenades, bazookas and caliber .50 machine guns.”

Perhaps 400 survivors somehow made it out, fleeing northward into the mountains. Shigemi was not among this number, though, having committed ritual suicide earlier that morning. U.S. commanders declared San Manuel secure after four days of intense combat; their casualties numbered 60 dead and 200 wounded. More than 775 Japanese died in the struggle.

With San Manuel firmly in American hands, Swift could turn his attention toward San Jose. On January 30, he ordered the 25th and 6th Infantry Divisions to conduct a pincer-like maneuver designed to cut the major roads leading in and out of this key transportation center.

Speed was paramount; Swift wanted to seize the foe’s routes of retreat before Geki Force slipped through his grasp. At Pemienta U.S. forces succeeded, ambushing a road column of eight Shinhoto Chi-Ha tanks, another eight artillery tractors, and 125 men. They were less fortunate at Umingan, where on January 31, an attack by the Tropic Lightning Division’s 27th Infantry Regiment bogged down in the face of withering automatic weapons fire.

Its forward progress stymied, the 27th held fast while on February 1 an adjacent unit, the 35th Infantry, bypassed Umingan for the nearby barrio of Lupao. Intelligence reports said a company of Japanese riflemen occupied Lupao; in reality, at least 40 tanks plus AT guns and engineers fighting as infantry were dug in there.

First Battalion went in on the afternoon of February 2. Caught in a murderous crossfire, the assault got nowhere. Next, field artillery and 4.2-inch mortars plastered the town with highexplosive and white phosphorous rounds. Another attempt made the next day also failed. Taking Lupao was going to be harder than first thought.

Fighting grew more intense on February 3, when the 3rd Battalion joined the battle. Much like its sister regiment at San Manuel, the 35th Infantry here employed M7 self-propelled howitzers as assault guns to good effect. Their 105mm cannons made short work of Japanese emplacements, enabling American infantrymen to take the southern tip of Lupao.

Once inside the village, advancing GIs played a savage game of cat and mouse with Lupao’s defenders. Bazooka rockets and AT grenades took their toll on dug-in tanks, while snipers and machine guns hidden in the rubble dropped attacking riflemen by the score. A series of ferocious Japanese counterstrikes kept the 35th Infantry off balance, preventing it from pushing through the objective.

A fresh battalion, the 2nd, took over starting February 5. Together with Cannon Company’s ubiquitous M7 assault guns and a detachment of Shermans, the 35th gradually squeezed shut their enemy’s perimeter. On February 7, some riflemen from Company G were moving forward when Japanese gunfire ripped through their ranks. Several soldiers fell while the rest took shelter in a roadside ditch. Though wounded himself, Master Sgt. Charles L. McGaha crawled out on three occasions to retrieve injured men. For this feat, McGaha would receive the Medal of Honor.

That night the Lupao garrison’s last eight tanks tried to bolt. Bazooka fire knocked out three; the rest were later found abandoned. By 1130 hours on February 8, it was all over. In this week-long battle the 35th Infantry Regiment lost 96 killed and 268 wounded, while Japanese casualties exceeded 900 men. Thirty-three demolished tanks were counted in and around the barrio.

While the 35th Infantry was busy clearing Lupao, other I Corps columns maneuvered on San Jose to the south. In the 6th Infantry Division’s zone, patrols from the 20th Infantry Regiment encountered a robust Japanese force defending Muñoz on January 31. This strongpoint was in fact larger than the one up the road at Lupao and would also require a week of hard fighting before the enemy was defeated.

Joining the 20th Infantry for this battle were several battalions of reinforcing field artillery plus two platoons of 4.2-inch mortars belonging to Company A, 98th CM Battalion. Company C, 44th TB also rolled up from corps reserve once it became clear there would be no armored counterblow on Luzon. These newly arrived tankers surveyed their objective with trepidation, as the battalion history related: “Tank operations were limited by the terrain, boggy ground and deep water-filled irrigation ditches. The town of Muñoz was fortified with antitank guns, 105[mm] artillery pieces and 57 light and medium tanks, all of which were dug in and with a three-foot thick top of logs and sandbags over them. In addition, numerous alternate positions were available so the tanks that were in one place one day would be in an alternate position the next.”

The battle for Muñoz began on February 1  when 3/20th Infantry assaulted from the southwest. Little headway was made against heavy resistance, so the next morning 1st Battalion joined the attack. Despite the welcome firepower of M4 tanks and M7 howitzers, the Americans could not advance more than a few yards at a time. The battle settled into a siege on February 4; powerful artillery and mortar barrages kept the Japanese pinned down while American riflemen carefully worked their way forward.

Captain Michael Kane, commanding Company B, 20th Infantry, vividly described one small-unit action that occurred on February 5: “Company B located a tank 75 yards to their front. Immediately they requested one of our supporting tanks to engage the enemy tank. Our tank came up to within ten yards of the Storage Building and, after the crew had been oriented as to the location of the enemy tank, they fired a 75mm round at the Jap[anese] tank, hitting and destroying it. However our tank, before it could withdraw, was hit by a 47mm shell from a mutual[ly] supporting tank…. Our tank burst into flames but the crew escaped safely.”

Technical Sergeant Donald E. Rudolph, an acting platoon leader, became a one-man army that same day when he advanced down a line of eight pillboxes, tossing hand grenades through their firing slits to eliminate the gunners inside. Later, he hopped aboard a Japanese tank that was firing on his troops to drop a white phosphorous grenade down its turret hatch. Rudolph received both the Medal of Honor and a battlefield promotion to second lieutenant for these acts of bravery.

Even though the entire 20th Infantry Regiment was now in action, by February 6 less than half of Muñoz had been brought under U.S. control. It was decided that evening to pull back and let seven battalions of 105mm, 155mm, and 8-inch artillery pulverize the place in an all-night bombardment. Fifth Air Force fighters also prepared to conduct a napalm strike the following morning.

Unknown to the Americans, on February 4  Yamashita ordered Geki Division to pull out of this sector. Due to communications problems, this directive did not reach Iwanaka’s headquarters until two days later. Nevertheless, under cover of a diversionary attack the remnants of Muñoz’s garrison withdrew toward San Jose before sunup on February 7.

They could not know that the 6th Infantry Division had taken San Jose days earlier. Furthermore, the highway leading there was now barricaded by U.S. infantry, artillery, and tanks. Roadblocks set up by the 63rd Infantry Regiment surprised the Japanese column’s lead elements, while nearby a group of tankers from Company C, 44th TB were awakened by the sound of unfamiliar vehicle engines.

“It sounded like an American Caterpillar going full speed,” Company C’s battle report later detailed. “As the vehicle sped by, they recognized it to be a Japanese medium tank. Immediately the alert was sounded and everyone was up.” More enemy armor then approached, shooting wildly into the night.

Another witness chronicled this chaotic encounter: “Japanese tanks pulled into firing position farther up the road, and started shelling the entire Company C area. Although their fire was far from ineffective, one by one they were picked off as the American tankers lined their sights in on the enemy’s lurid muzzle blasts. Some gunners searched for targets by spraying machine-gun tracer bullets in a wide arc. When one struck a Jap[anese] tank, it would spark as it ricocheted off. The vehicle would then be destroyed by 75[mm] cannon fire.”

Sunrise revealed a gruesome scene. Practically the entire garrison of Muñoz—an estimated 2,000 men—perished in this six-day fight. A physical count of wrecked Japanese equipment totaled 48 medium and four light tanks along with 16 AT guns, four armored cars, and four 105mm howitzers. U.S. casualties amounted to 97 dead and 303 wounded.

The 2nd Tank Division had been annihilated. While it held the approaches to San Jose long enough for badly needed supplies and infantry reinforcements to make their way north, the price paid was staggering. In three weeks of fighting, Geki Force lost at least 195 of its 220 tanks. No longer did Maj. Gen. Swift’s soldiers need to fear a mechanized counterattack. All that remained of Japan’s armored might on Luzon were a few three-vehicle platoons scattered across the island.

The last recorded tank versus tank fight in the Philippines took place during mid-April as American patrols neared Yamashita’s headquarters near Baguio. Outside of town, two Japanese tanks packed with high explosives made a suicide run against some Shermans of the 775th TB. Both vehicles managed to ram their targets, but neither charge detonated. Other M4s quickly knocked out these armored kamikazes. It was a fittingly courageous yet futile conclusion to the story of Japanese tanks on Luzon.

This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network. 

Image: Wikimedia

Revolvers: The 5 Very Best on the Planet (Ranked)

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 11:00

Kyle Mizokami

Security, World

Here is the list.

Key Point: These are some of the best handguns to make the cut. Which would you try out?

The revolver was one of the first multi-shot handguns. The revolver concept was preceded by the so-called “pepperbox” handgun, which used multiple barrels to arm an individual with multiple ready-to-fire bullets. This was later refined to the revolver concept, which saved weight by using a single barrel served by a revolving, cylindrical magazine holding six or more bullets. Although semiautomatic pistols have overtaken revolvers on the U.S. market, there are several good revolver designs that command attention. Simpler, less prone to jamming and capable of firing more powerful ammunition than the semiautomatic, revolvers still have their place.

Ruger LCR

The Ruger LCR was introduced in the mid-2000s as a lightweight, concealable self-defense weapon. Just 13.5 ounces and 6.5 inches long, the LCR fits easily into a pocket, hip or ankle holster. Like most small revolvers, it has a five-round cylinder. Ruger originally introduced the LCR in .38 +P configuration, meaning it can fire both typical .38 Special ammunition and higher-pressure, harder-hitting +P rounds. The gun’s 1.87-inch barrel, aluminum and polymer frame, and corresponding light weight make it the easiest of the pocket revolvers to shoot, although it still has a considerable amount of recoil. The double-action design means a single pull of the trigger will advance the cylinder to a fresh round and cock the pistol. As a result the LCR lacks a hammer, making it easier to draw from behind clothing without snagging.

Recommended: The Colt Python: The Best Revolver Ever Made?

Recommended: Smith & Wesson 500: The Gun That Has As Much Firepower As a Rifle

Recommended: Smith & Wesson's .44 Magnum Revolver: Why You Should Fear the 'Dirty

Smith & Wesson 686

One of the most popular revolvers in production, the Smith & Wesson 686 revolver is a medium (“L frame”) revolver chambered in the powerful .357 Magnum caliber. The 686 is designed to handle the heavier magnum round while pairing it with a heavier barrel and a six-round cylinder. Like all .357 Magnums, the 686 can shoot the less powerful .38 Special ammunition. The 686 features a four-inch barrel, has an overall length of 9.6 inches and weighs two-and-a-half pounds. It also adjustable sights, a double-action firing system and a stainless steel finish. A deluxe model comes with a larger, seven-round cylinder.

Ruger GP100

Sturm Ruger’s answer to the Smith & Wesson 686, the Ruger GP100 was introduced in the early 1990s. The GP100 was the successor to Ruger’s Security Six and Speed Six pistols, but uses a large frame very similar to the 686’s L frame. The GP100 is slightly heavier and the design slightly more angular than the 686, but it makes an excellent introduction to full-size revolvers and an outstanding home-defense weapon. The GP100 has since branched out into many other calibers, including .22LR, .327 Federal Magnum .and 44 Special.

Ruger Blackhawk

Sturm Ruger’s other line of popular revolvers has a distinctly Old West flavor to it. The Ruger Blackhawk line of pistols look similar to the old Western Colt Single Action Army revolvers of the nineteenth century, but with a host of modern features to keep them viable in the twenty-first. Cold hammer-forged barrels and a stout, beefy frame make the Blackhawk a manageable firearm in .357 Magnum, .41 Remington Magnum, the traditional cowboy calibers .45 Colt and, unusually, the World War II–era .30 Carbine. Like old-time cowboy revolvers, the Blackhawk’s cylinder must be loaded through a loading gate.

Taurus Model 85 Ultra-Lite

Although the semiautomatic pistol market has a large number of foreign competitors, Taurus is the only major overseas player in the revolver market. Among the Brazilian company’s many offerings, the most popular is the Model 85 Ultra-Lite. The Model 85 is a good choice as a home-defense handgun or concealed-carry piece, in the same class as the Ruger LCR. The .38 Special pistol can handle +P ammunition, with a five-round cylinder and comfortable rubber grips. The Model 85 is seven ounces heavier than the LCR but, unlike Ruger’s compact revolver, has a hammer allowing for single-action operation. This allows the Model 85 to be cocked first with a hammer, resulting in a much lighter trigger pull.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

This first appeared in 2018 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

Ruger's LCR Gun: The Best Self Defense Revolver on the Planet?

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 10:30

Kyle Mizokami

Security,

The LCR will be on the market for a long time to come.

Key Point: The snub-nosed revolver era began soon after World War II, but Ruger brought it into the modern era.

One of the most unexpected surprises of recent years is the resurgence in snub-nose, concealed-carry revolvers.

Largely displaced in the 1980s by a frenzy of interest in low-cost, high capacity 9-millimeter pistols, new interest in these short, compact revolvers was led in the late-2000s by the Ruger LCR, an entirely new revolver design that skillfully blended steel, aluminum, and even polymer into a very lightweight weapon.

The modern snub-nose revolver era began in the early 1950s, after World War II, with the production of the Smith & Wesson Chief’s Special Model 36 revolver. Five shot revolvers chambered in .38 Special, they were designed for police use and home defense. The small, handy revolver, although not exactly fun to shoot, was discrete enough to sit in a desk or bedside table, or in a shoulder, ankle holster, or even coat pocket. Snub-nose revolvers, as well as revolvers in general, were popular in the United States and for decades were a large chunk of the handgun market.

The rise of polymer-framed, high capacity nine-millimeter pistols, the so-called “Wonder Nines” typified by the likes of the Glock 17 was a tectonic shift in the world of handguns. Not only did such handguns—which were often as inexpensive or cheaper than revolvers—gut revolver sales but their scalability led to smaller compact and subcompact versions with up to double the magazine capacity of a five-shot subcompact revolver. The Glock 26 for example, weighs exactly as much as a Model 36 revolver yet can carry a minimum of ten rounds with a flush magazine, and considerably more than that if magazine weight and bulk isn’t an issue.

In recent years subcompact revolvers have started to claw back, their resurgence led by the Ruger LCR. First introduced in 2009, the LCR was a clean-sheet design unlike any revolver Ruger, or any other handgun manufacturer for that matter, had ever built before. The original LCR weighed just 13.5 ounces unloaded. It has a 1.87-inch barrel and an overall length of 6.5 inches. It has a five shot magazine and can accept both .38 Special and higher pressure .38 Special +P rounds.

The LCR achieves its lightweight through a combination polymer and aluminum frame. The frame is polymer in the grip area, where strength is not needed, but 7000-series aluminum in the barrel and cylinder housing. The five shot cylinder is made of stainless steel for maximum strength but also fluted to save weight. The barrel is also made of stainless steel.

The LCR does away with the external hammer, resulting in a gun with fewer protrusions that could be caught up on clothing when being drawn. As a result—unlike many revolvers with external hammers—the LCR cannot shoot in single action mode and is double action only.

Traditionally, revolvers have two firing modes: single and double action. In single action mode, the hammer can be cocked back to lighten the trigger pull with the subsequent shot. This reduces trigger pull weight, trigger travel distance, and can make for more accurate aimed shots. The downside is that it dramatically slows down firing, with the hammer needing to be cocked back with each shot. In double action mode, a single longer, heavier trigger pulls both cocks and fires the pistol. Despite the disadvantages, a hammerless revolver can be more quickly produced in an emergency and with more confidence that it will not be caught up in the user’s undershirt when being drawn.

One of the best features of the LCR is the Hogue wraparound rubber grip. Older snub-nose hammerless handguns, such as the Smith & Wesson 442, lack a recoil-insulating grip at the top of the backstrap, where the webbing of the hand comes in contact with metal. The combination of a two inch or less revolver barrel and .38 Special rounds makes for considerable felt recoil, quickly making the handgun uncomfortable and eventually painful to shoot. The LCR, on the other hand, has a rubber grip that rides much higher than other snub-nose revolvers, fully protecting the user’s hand from the force of recoil and providing for a much more pleasant shooting experience.

In the decade since its introduction, the Ruger LCR has branched out into several calibers and subtypes. From the original .38 Special +P model the LCR is now available in .22 WMR, .22LR, 9 Millimeter, .327 Federal Magnum, and .357 Magnum. (The latter uses a stainless steel, instead of aluminum, cylinder to handle the higher pressures of the Magnum round.) The Ruger LCRx series offers the LCR with longer three-inch barrels and low-profile external hammers, resulting in a double action/single action revolver.

The Ruger LCR series of revolvers are small, powerful handguns packed with the latest in technological innovations. From one handgun in 2009 today there are eighteen different variations, with differences both cosmetic and substantive, for a wide variety of gun owners and their needs. The LCR will be on the market for a long time to come.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he co-founded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

Image: This is an image of a Ruger LCR chambered in 38 Special +P. Wikimedia/Jephthai. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

Here's Why Kel-Tec PMR-30 Gun Is a Such a Fun 'Plinker'

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 10:00

Kyle Mizokami

Security, Americas

A good, high-ammo gun to hit a few tin cans with.

Key Point: These guns can hold a lot of rounds despite beign a small weapon. It is a good choice for causal, competitive shooting.

The Kel-Tec PMR-30 is a rarity among handguns on the market today: a pistol with a magazine holding more than seventeen rounds. The PMR-30 actually holds thirty rounds and does so with some clever engineering that reduces it to a lightweight package attractive to casual shooters, backcountry shooters, or people interested in a firearm for home defense.

This first appeared in 2018 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

High-capacity handguns have traditionally been a difficult engineering proposition. The first, if not one of the first, was World War I’s Luger P08 with thirty-two-round drum. Meant to provide plenty of firepower to clear trenches, the Luger with drum magazine was unwieldy and heavy, and dropped from German arsenals shortly after the war. The next major advancement occurred decades later, when the Glock 17—with its seventeen-round, 9mm Luger magazine—hit the market in the early 1980s.

The Kel-Tec PMR-30 blows every other gun out of the water in ammo capacity. The gun’s double-stack magazine holds thirty rounds of .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) ammunition. That’s five times as many rounds as the typical revolver, more than four times as much as a M1911A1 handgun and 70 percent more ammunition than a Glock 17.

All of that comes at a price, though: while the PMR may hold five times as many rounds as a Smith & Wesson 686 revolver, the .22 WMR is far less capable of incapacitating a target as the .357 Magnum. That having been said, the guns are completely different and there are different reasons for owning each.

The PMR-30 is relatively new, sleek looking autoloading handgun. Introduced in 2011, it has an overall length of 7.9 inches and a 4140 steel barrel length of 4.3 inches—typical for the handguns in its size class. It weighs just fourteen ounces unloaded, thanks to Kel-Tec’s use of polymers. By comparison, the Glock 17 weighs twenty-two ounces unloaded. Almost the entire exterior of the gun is made of polymer, with the slide made of Zytel reinforced with 4140 steel.

The pistol has fiber-optic sights with orange high visibility dots in the rear and a yellow dot in front. The trigger is described by the manufacturer as in the five-pound range, and trigger pull is described by one reviewer as short but with a “mushy” reset. Unlike other American-designed handguns the magazine release is at the heel, making it ambidextrous. An under-barrel rail allows for the attachment of popular accessories, including a flashlight or aiming laser.

The PMR-30 has an integral safety system consisting of a safety lever at the base of the frame, where it can be reached by the thumb. Pushing it to the “safe” position disconnects the trigger from activating the sear, preventing the hammer from falling. The safety can only be engaged when the hammer is fully cocked, allowing the pistol to be carried or stored in the “cocked-and-locked” position.

Kel-Tec’s high-capacity pistol is generally described as very reliable, with one reviewer stating his review weapon went through close to 700 rounds without a mishap. Another reviewer claimed that recoil “isn’t a consideration although the .22 Magnum exhibits a healthy muzzle blast.”

One major drawback for a .22 WMR gun is the ability for even novice shooters to repeatedly score hits on the target. Higher-caliber handguns generate significant amounts of recoil, making it difficult to hit the target with follow-up shots. A low-recoil gun makes it easier to plant more shots where you want them, opening up multiple wound channels.

Another reason to choose the PMR-30 is if one is generally afraid of guns and gun recoil but wants a firearm as a self-defense tool. A soft-shooting gun like the PMR-30 would generate less anxiety for someone afraid of gun recoil, making that person more confident in their shooting abilities—especially during high stress situations.

The PMR-30 is is light enough to be packed in and forgotten, then punch holes in soda cans in a friendly shooting contest. It is a reliable, low-recoil handgun whose large ammunition capacity can give the user the confidence he or she can live through an extended shooting engagement without reloading. Kel-Tec’s pistol can admirably fill a number of niches, from fun shooting to self defense, offering a little something for everyone.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

This first appeared in 2018 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Kel-Tec.

The SR-71 Blackbird Had No Chance of Staying a Secret

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 09:30

Robert Beckhusen

Security,

It was only a matter of time.

Here's What You Need To Remember: The Blackbird wouldn’t stay officially secret for much longer. Pres. Lyndon Johnson would run for election in 1964, and to counter criticisms from Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater, revealed the SR-71 during a speech on July 25.

There are few secret projects like U.S. Air Force black projects, and that was certainly the case for the famed SR-71 Blackbird.

The SR-71 was no ordinary aircraft but a big, beautiful and state-of-the-art spy plane designed in the 1950s and early 1960s to fly quickly at high altitudes over the Soviet Union, filling in for the U-2 Dragon Lady which had become vulnerable to then-new surface-to-air missiles.

Designer Lockheed and the Air Force treated the project with intense secrecy, and when still totally classified, the CIA recorded any hints that reporters, analysts or civilian plane watchers might have as to the jet’s existence. It didn’t matter who suspected it. If airport cab drivers were spreading rumors about secret doings at Lockheed, the agency wanted to know.

To keep the program under wraps, Lockheed engineers quietly worked on the plane at the company’s Skunk Works division in Burbank, California and the Air Force’s isolated Nevada base — known as Area 51 — beginning in 1958. The first Blackbird flew four years later.

The government surrounded the Blackbird with so much silence because it was an experimental plane and the first stealth aircraft, owing to its radar-reflective design. The SR-71's extreme performance — a speed of Mach 3.3 at an altitude of 85,000 feet — was highly sensitive information.

However, aviation experts and the press picked up on the project and did so relatively quickly, sometimes through sheer guesswork, according to the CIA’s recently declassified official history obtained by Governmentattic.org.

The first outsider to notice was John B. Pearson, a retired admiral who was then working for North American Aviation, the company which built the legendary F-86 Sabre and X-15 rocket plane. As it was his job to study the military aircraft industry, he suspected by April 1962 that the Air Force, Lockheed and the CIA were up to something big.

He had several reasons for the hunch. For one, Lockheed’s chief SR-71 designer, Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, had become hard to reach. Pearson also speculated to a friend working at Hughes Aircraft Company that engineers developing the firm’s GAR-9 missile must be assisting a secret aircraft program at Lockheed, because the F-108 Rapier — the only known plane which could fire the missile — had been cancelled.

In fact, Lockheed was developing an (eventually cancelled) interceptor version of the Blackbird which would have carried the GAR-9. “The old friend was noticeably startled and changed the subject which Pearson took as another clue,” the CIA recorded in a document listing examples of industry suspicions of the Blackbird project.

In any case, Pearson knew his stuff — and he knew that a long-range, high-speed and high-altitude surveillance plane was exactly what the Pentagon needed given the growing vulnerabilities of the U-2.

In January 1963, a manager named William Clegern at a Denver technology firm speculated that “Lockheed was working on a super U-2,” according to the CIA history. Like Pearson, Clegern had made an educated guess, although he had some help from an “unrecalled source” during a visit to Los Angeles.

In a tightly-knit industry with overlapping suppliers of hardware and spare parts, word got around —and traveling vendors were often a source of grist for the rumor mill.

Robert Widmer, then vice president of Convair, reported that it was “generally known” in the industry, particularly on the West Coast, that Lockheed was working on a similar but more advanced successor to the U-2.

Pearson and his colleagues at North American Aviation were also aware that the Pentagon was pouring millions of dollars into developing the huge J-58 turbofan engine — of which the SR-71 fitted two.

“They observed that the funds allotted to developing the J-58 did not seem to them justified unless there was some high altitude airplane available in which to utilize the J-58,” the CIA noted.

By March, Pearson and his coworkers studied shipments of liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel, movements of test pilots and even subcontractors working on specialized precision valves to deduce not only the existence of a new spy plane, but guess its specifications. They weren’t dead-on accurate, but they were close.

Taxi drivers shuttling Lockheed contractors from Los Angeles’ airport to the company’s terminal started asking questions. Even airline crews had spotted the A-12 Oxcart — a shorter version of the SR-71 flown by the CIA — in flight.

And the media got involved.

In January 1963, Fort Worth aviation newspaper Cross Country News reported that sources spoke of a “highly guarded … super-sonic transport” in the works at Lockheed, apparently mixing up the Blackbird with the U.S. supersonic transport program.

“Even in the X stage Lockheed officials say nothing,” the paper reported. “No details came from this tip, from sources considered highly reliable.”

Then disaster struck. On May 24, an A-12 stalled, went into an unrecoverable spin and crashed during a test flight in Utah. Fortunately, pilot Kenneth Collins ejected and survived.

Even in remote Utah, it’s hard to hide a crash. A local deputy witnessed the incident and a vacationing family snapped away with a camera. The CIA promptly seized their photographs and paid $25,000 each to the deputy and the family to keep quiet, according to a 2010 story in the Seattle Times.

The Associated Press reported on the incident and described the crashed aircraft as a “jet trainer.” The same day, the Las Vegas Review-Journal published a story stating the plane was an F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bomber, citing Air Force officials.

The “Thunderchief” claim was an elaborate cover story. But by July, Robert Hotz — longtime editor ofAviation Week and a former bomber pilot during World War II — “indicated his awareness of developments at Burbank.”

And in November, a Los Angeles Times reporter began making phone calls to engine maker Westinghouse, asking questions about CIA involvement in a secret project in “the desert.” TheFontana Herald News ran an article in November “speculating about a ‘super secret project site.’”

The Blackbird wouldn’t stay officially secret for much longer. Pres. Lyndon Johnson would run for election in 1964, and to counter criticisms from Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater, revealed the SR-71 during a speech on July 25.

More than a half-century later, the SR-71 is a museum piece. But secret aircraft projects, and strange sightings over the western United States, have not stopped. When observers notice and publicize their suspicions, an anonymous official is somewhere, surely, typing away notes.

This article was first published last year.

The German Hetzer Tank: Just A Scary Looking Tank or a Killer?

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 09:00

Warfare History Network

History,

This tank was based on a modified Czechoslovakian Panzer 38(t) chassis.

By 1943 it was obvious to the Germans that their tank production could not keep pace with battlefield losses. One of their efforts to expedite weapons production was the conversion of old, outdated tank chassis into tank destroyers, or Jagdpanzers. Early efforts demonstrated the rushed and sometimes rough mating of a small, old tank with a large, powerful gun. The Marder series especially appeared cumbersome and top heavy. The most successful conversion was the Jagdpanzer 38(t), commonly referred to as the Hetzer.

 

More From The National Interest: 

Russia Has Missing Nuclear Weapons Sitting on the Ocean Floor 

How China Could Sink a U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier 

Where World War III Could Start This Year

How the F-35 Stealth Fighter Almost Never Happened

A Versatile Czech Chassis

With international tensions rising in Europe, in 1937 the Czech Army began a search for a new modern tank. After exhaustive testing, the Czechs adopted the LT vz 38. It had riveted armor with a maximum thickness of 25mm and a minimum of 10mm, which was comparable to similar tanks of the era. A four-man crew included the driver, bow gunner, gunner, and commander. The main gun was a Skoda A7 37mm cannon, equivalent in performance to the Germans’ own 37mm or the British 2-pounder. A Praga inline 6-cylinder gasoline engine gave the LT vz 38 a top speed of 26 miles per hour and a range of 125 miles. All around, it could outperform or was at least comparable to any tank in the German Army with the exception of the PzKpfw. IV with a short-barreled 75mm gun, but this tank was available only in small numbers.
[text_ad]

When France and Great Britain sacrificed Czechoslovakia to the Nazis to gain Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s “Peace in Our Time,” the Germans were more than happy to get their hands on the famous Czech arms industry and its products. The vz 38 was not in service with the Czech Army yet, but the Germans eagerly adopted all existing models for themselves as the PzKpfw. 38(t), with the “t” designating the Czech origin of the vehicle, and kept the production lines rolling. The Germans used the PzKpfw. 38(t) to equip their 7th and 8th Panzer Divisions for the invasion of Poland in 1939 and France in May 1940. The PzKpfw. 38(t), with various upgrades, remained in frontline service with the Wehrmacht as a light tank until 1942, when new Soviet armored vehicles such as the T-34 medium and KV series of heavy tanks outclassed it.

However, the chassis and powertrain were still quite viable. These became the bases for a variety of German tracked vehicles, including self-propelled artillery, tank destroyers, assault guns, reconnaissance vehicles, a self-propelled 20mm antiaircraft gun, and an assortment of weapons carriers. The most successful of these was the leichte (light) Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer. The term “Hetzer,” or “baiter,” was never official nomenclature but rather a misunderstanding between German Army officials and Czech manufacturers. The name stuck unofficially.

An Effective Tank Destroyer Design

The Jagdpanzer 38(t) retained the Praga AC/2800 water-cooled inline, six-cylinder engine, the 150- to 160-horsepower transferred through a semiautomatic five-speed Praga transmission and Wilson clutch and steering brakes to the final drive. The original front drive sprocket, rear idler wheel, and leaf spring suspension of the PzKpfw. 38 was retained, but the four rubber-tired steel road wheels were larger than the originals and the track had only a single return roller on top. Relatively lightweight at 16 tons (the design specs calling for 13 tons) and with a 35cm wide track, the Hetzer had a ground pressure of 0.76kg/cm2. Although at 26 mph (42 kph) it was nowhere near as fast as the 55-60 kph originally called for in the design parameters, it had good cross-country performance, and although sluggish at low speed it could be quite nimble with the engine kept revved up to high rpms. It also featured a pivot steer, with one track going forward while the other reversed, enabling it to turn around basically within its own length.

The new hull was designed with armor protection and not crew comfort in mind. The frontal armor was of rolled steel plates interlocked and welded, 60mm thick with the top sloped at a 60-degree angle and the lower plate sloped at 40 degrees. The side and rear armor was of a lower quality alloy steel and only 20mm thick.  The top plates sloped at 40 degrees, and the lower hull and rear sloped at 15 degrees. Top armor was only 8mm thick, and the bottom plate 10mm.

One German after-action report by a battalion commander of a Hetzer unit noted the effectiveness of this armor. “The frontal armor resists penetration by the Russian 7.62cm antitank guns. Up to now, losses have only occurred due to penetration of the sides and rear. It is therefore especially important to only present the strong front to the enemy.”

It was a low, compact armored vehicle, the hull 15 feet, 9 inches long, just over eight feet wide, and less than seven feet tall, hardly higher than a standing man. Main armament was the reliable and powerful 75mm L48 PaK39, with a secondary armament of a top-mounted 7.92mm machine gun. Small, low and easy to hide, fairly nimble, and with a powerful gun, the Hetzer made an excellent tank destroyer.

The same colonel quoted above said, “The ‘leichte Panzerjager 38’ had passed its test in fire. The crews are proud of this Jagdpanzer and the infantry have faith in it. Especially praised is the … machine gun. The effective weapons, low profile, and well-sloped armor make it fully adaptable to both its main roles in combating enemy tanks and supporting infantry in both attack and defense.”

“In a short period, one company destroyed 20 tanks without a single loss. A task group destroyed 57 tanks, of which two were JS 122s at a range of 800 meters.”

The Hetzer’s Shortcomings

As with many wartime improvisations there were, of course, problems. Due to the width of the hull, the 75mm main gun had to be mounted on the right side, the mount supported by the thick upper plate. This limited the gun to a relatively narrow traverse of only five degrees left and 11 degrees right; anything further, or if engaging a crossing target, the driver had to turn the vehicle toward the target. The extra weight on the right side put undue pressure on the suspension’s leaf springs and also made the vehicle nose heavy, with the rear end sitting 10cm higher than the front. As production continued, improvements were made, such as beefing up the leaf springs and drive train and lightening the gun mantle. Other various modifications to ease manufacture and maintenance, such as small hatches in the armor for the fuel, oil, and antifreeze caps, were also incorporated over the life of the vehicle.

Nothing could be done to make more room inside the small hull, and the crew had little space. The driver, gunner, and loader were all seated in a line up the left side of the hull. The commander was perched in the right rear with the recoil guard of the main gun all but isolating him from the rest of the crew, hurting the vital teamwork of the whole crew. His view was restricted to the SF14Z scissors periscope forward and a small rear-facing fixed periscope.

The driver was squeezed into the front left corner with the transmission and gun mount right at his elbow. Steering was via two horizontal rather than vertical joysticks with exposed linkages, and his field of view was poor with only two periscopes pointing straight forward. Since he could not communicate well with the commander, there were three lights on the driver’s control panel which the commander could turn on and off to signal the driver to go left, right, or straight. Driver safety was limited to a thick leather pad above his head and a small, thick rubber pad on his left.

Because the gun was mounted on the right, the loader had to feed it from the wrong side, reach over it to switch the safety, breech block opening lever, and extractor release, as well as reach across the recoil path or the gunner to pull some of the stowed ammunition. The loader had a single periscope fixed in the 9 o’clock position to see out the left side of the vehicle.

The gunner was seated directly to the left of the gun breech, with hand-cranked traverse and elevation wheels directly on the right. His gunnery sight was the SFl.Z.F.1a periscope, which ran up through the roof. The reticule on the sight consisted of seven triangles that were four mils apart, enabling the gunner to aim without obscuring the target, calculate range, and lead a target. The reticule could be dimly lit for lowlight shooting. An adjustable range drum was graduated in 100-meter intervals for the trajectory of the four different types of ammunition used. When the whole crew was buttoned up, there was essentially no vision to the right side of the vehicle.

A remote-control MG-34 7.92mm machine gun was mounted on the roof for close-in defense against infantry. Behind the loader were the controls, rather like a submarine periscope with two folding handles, a rotating 3x periscope to aim through, and a trigger lever on the handlebar. While it did work, it was limited to a belt of only 50 rounds inside a metal drum; with a cyclic rate of fire of 800-900 rounds per minute, it was only good for a few short bursts. Reloading required the loader to pop out the hatch and expose himself to enemy fire.

The Hetzer’s Deadly Armament

It was the PaK 39 that was the heart of the whole system, and although only 75mm it was powerful enough to handle any Allied tank with the exception of the Soviet heavies like the Josef Stalin. Four types of ammunition were carried, with a total of 41 rounds. The Pzgr.40 high-velocity, sub-caliber, tungsten core round was the best antitank shell, firing a 4.1kg projectile at 930 m/s. Striking at a 30-degree angle, this round could penetrate 120mm of armor at 500 meters and 97mm at 1,000. The sight drum was graduated to 2,000 meters for this load.

The tungsten-cored Pzgr. 40 ammunition was often in scarce supply, and the runner up for anti-tank performance was the more plentiful Pzgr. 39 armor piercing, ballistic-capped with explosive filler and tracer element, launching a heavier 6.8kg projectile at a lower muzzle velocity of 750 m/s. It could pierce 106mm and 95mm of armor at 500 and 1,000 meters respectively.

The Gr. 38 HL/C round was designed around the shaped charge HEAT (high explosive antitank) principle used in the bazooka and panzerfaust, but was actually much less effective against armor than either of the other two AT rounds as well as being much less accurate. It could be used in lieu of the standard high-explosive round for soft targets.

With the Pzgr. 39 or 40 ammunition, the Hetzer was capable of first-shot hits at 1,000 meters. The German Army testing procedure assumed correct range estimation and a competent gunner and expected with Pzgr.39 ammo a 99 percent chance of a first-shot hit at 500 meters and a 71 percent chance at 1,000 meters. The small vehicle, camouflaged and waiting in ambush, could be deadly with such shooting. An Allied tank column would not know the Panzerjager was there until the lead tank burst into flames.

Hetzer Teams in Action

A German Army after-action report from the Eastern Front detailed what Hetzers with good crews could do, even against the Soviet giants.

“The 3rd Company with four Jagdpanzer 38s was in a firefight with a JS-122 at a range of 1,200 meters. The Russian heavy tank fired 10 rounds at the commander’s Jagdpanzer that had taken up a good position on a reverse slope. All 10 rounds came directly at the Jadgpanzer but always landed 100 meters too short.”

This shows the value of what tankers call a hull-down position. Basically, if the driver could see the target the gunner could engage it. The gun itself needed only 1.4 meters of clearance to fire; thus, in a hull-down or defilade position, the Hetzer presented a target only .77 meters tall.

“The company commander immediately sent a Jagdpanzer off to the right along a concealed route through a depression to attack from the flank. The sixth shot from this Jagdpanzer 38 penetrated the side of the Josef Stalin 122, and it burned out. This reemphasized the experience that if possible a single Jagdpanzer 38 should never engage in a firefight. When firing the powder smoke is blown back and envelops the commander’s scissors periscope and strongly hinders the ability to observe and correct the gunner’s aim. A second Jagdpanzer can observe the flight and strike of the rounds and relay corrections by radio to quickly destroy enemy tanks.”

So, teamwork was not only important with the individual crews, hampered by the recoil shield around the commander’s position, but also with the other vehicles in the company. The tactical use of terrain, cover, and concealment was nearly as important. Deploying single Hetzers, especially without infantry support, was almost certain to end in failure.

Postwar Service in the Swiss Military

Even after the end of the war in Europe, some Hetzers were manufactured from existing stocks and production facilities in Czechoslovakia. The Czechs built 180 for their own military forces, mostly used for training, and Switzerland ordered 158 export models of the Hetzer, which were given the Swiss Army nomenclature G-13.

Why, one would ask, with all the Hetzer’s little problems, would a postwar nation want them? The Swiss military system and doctrine was defensive in nature. When needed, the Swiss could mobilize some 500,000 troops. Every soldier, after serving his mandatory time in the armed forces, took all his equipment, including his rifle, home and was subject to periodic training. Individual marksmanship was especially emphasized, with nearly every town having shooting competitions on weekends, and the reservists issued both practice and ready ammunition.

The Swiss had authorized a marked increase in defense funding in 1936 and purchased weapons that they could not manufacture. They realized well, perhaps better than some larger and more powerful nations, the importance of armor and aircraft. One of the main rearmament purchases was for 100 Czech LT zv 38 tanks.  Only two dozen had arrived, without the main gun yet installed, before the Germans took over Czechoslovakia and confiscated all existing tanks.

The Swiss armed their tanks with an odd 24mm gun and distributed them in three eight-tank companies, one each in support of their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Light Brigades, but this was obviously little more than a token gesture. Although they had extensive fortifications in the Alps and could produce artillery pieces up to 150mm, their antitank arm was extremely weak. The German General Staff drew up two major plans to invade Switzerland, but both projects were fortunately dropped. Switzerland breathed a sigh of relief in 1945, but the nation was determined not to be caught in such an uncomfortable situation again.

Thus, the Hetzer was a good choice to quickly and cheaply begin to build up Swiss antitank capabilities, and its design was perfectly suited to their strictly defensive military doctrine. Additionally, the existing LT vz 38s had given them experience with running and maintaining the same automotive systems and could provide spare parts in a pinch.

The Hetzers were but a first step, and the Swiss postwar arsenal came to include exports such as the French AMX-13 and British Centurion tanks, as well as a host of infantry anti-tank weapons. The Swiss began building their own tanks in the early 1960s. Still, the G-13 soldiered on, with most converted to diesel engines in the early 1950s, until the last was retired in 1970.

This article first appeared at Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikimedia

Ranked: 5 Best Guns for Any Police Officer

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 08:30

Kyle Mizokami

Security, World

Or are they?

Key Point: These guns are reliable and well-known. Here are why they are relied upon by many.

American law enforcement faces a unique challenge: keeping the peace in a country with an estimated three hundred million guns in circulation. Although the overwhelming majority are owned by law-abiding citizens, a not-inconsiderable number are owned by criminals. When carrying a duty weapon, that it is comfortable and capable of matching the firepower of the majority of criminals is a key considerations.

Approximately 93 percent of gun homicides in the United States are committed with handguns. Concealable and intimidating, handguns are an attractive choice for criminals. As a result, it is rare that a law enforcement officer needs more than a handgun to equal the firepower of criminals, although the 7 percent of gun homicides committed with rifles and shotguns shows a need for police to also have long guns available and at the ready. With that in mind, here are five guns well suited for police, including handguns, rifles and shotguns.

Glock 22

Originally developed to fulfill a pistol requirement for the Austrian Army, the Glock 17 became a worldwide phenomenon, winning fans with armed forces, police organizations, and gun enthusiasts everywhere. The G17 was one of the first “Wonder Nines,” high-capacity nine-millimeter pistols that carried fifteen or more rounds of ammunition in a double-stack magazine. The Glock 22 is the 17’s cousin, modified to carry fifteen rounds of .40 caliber ammunition—and still weighing just over thirty-two ounces, making it comfortable to carry all day. The gun achieves this by using a metal slide but a polymer frame, saving weight. The G22 is used by several law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Marshals, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI.

Recommended: The Fatal Flaw That Could Take Down an F-22 or F-35.

Recommended: Smith & Wesson's .44 Magnum Revolver: Why You Should Fear the 'Dirty Harry' Gun

Recommended: 5 Best Shotguns in the World (Winchester, Remington and Beretta Make the Cut)

Glock 21

One of the very first Glock variants was the Glock 21. The G21 is essentially the exact same pistol as the Glock 17, only scaled up to accept the .45 ACP round. The Glock 21 can carry ten rounds of .45 ACP ammunition, two rounds more than the dominant .45 ACP platform for the past century, the 1911A1 series of pistols. At thirty-eight ounces loaded, the Glock 21 weighs ten ounces less than a 1911A1 pistol. This is primarily due to the use of a polymer frame and simplicity of design, which includes fewer steel parts. Although the Glock 21 has a lighter recoil, it is still very acceptable and similar to the heavier 1911A1. It is also considerably easier to maintain than John Browning’s 107-year-old design. The G21 is a useful option for police who want a heavier round but an ammo magazine that allows for a greater margin of error.

Sig Sauer P226

A rise in gun violence during the 1990s, and a handful of incidents in which law enforcement armed with revolvers were outgunned by better-armed criminals, led to the widespread adoption of semiautomatic handguns. One of those adopted by police across the United States was the Sig Sauer P226. The P226 was developed to replace the M1911A1 in U.S. military service, but while the Beretta Model 92 won the contract, the former handgun went on to win several high-profile police contracts, including the New York and San Francisco police departments, Texas Rangers, Michigan State Police and the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The P226 also features a decocking mechanism to lower the hammer, and a manual safety.

Remington 870

For decades the most popular long gun carried by police was the pump-action shotgun. Stored in a patrol car, the shotgun gave police the ability to overmatch the firepower of one or more criminals armed with handguns, or face down a riot or mob with a fearsome amount of firepower. Introduced in 1950, the Remington 870 may be sixty-eight years old but is still one of the leading-edge shotgun designs. Available in a dizzying array of variants, the most popular police version is the riot version, with a five-round internal magazine and an eighteen- or twenty-inch barrel. The 870 enjoys strong aftermarket support with a wide variety of chokes, lights, lasers and other accessories to tune the shotgun to a police department’s precise needs.

AR-15/M-4 series

An increasing number of police departments are arming their patrol units with AR-15 platform rifles. Designed by Eugene Stoner in the early 1960s, Colt sold a fully automatic version of the rifle known as the M-16 to the U.S. Air Force and later U.S. Army. The basic pattern of the M-16 persists to this day in the M-4A1 carbine, M-16A4 rifles and specialized rifles such as the M110 sniper rifle. At the same time, civilian use of the AR-15 surged with the sunsetting of the federal assault-weapons ban. The widespread use of AR rifles lowered costs, making them more affordable to police departments. Many departments use actual M-16s declared excess defense articles by the Pentagon, and released to law enforcement under the “1033 program.” An AR-15 with a thirty-round magazine provides a considerable amount of firepower for a police officer waiting for backup to arrive, and an offensive weapon for ending active-shooter situations.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

This first appeared in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters. 

Yes, .380 Pistols Do Bring Firepower. Here's Why These Guns Are No Joke.

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 08:15

Gun News Daily

Security, Americas

Check them out.

Key Point: These small guns are able to keep you and your family safe. However, they do have some disadvantages to keep in mind.

The .380 ACP semi-automatic pistol is one of the most popular categories of concealed carry weapons in the United States and has been for years.

It’s easy to see why: .380 pistols are typically small enough to carry in the pocket, they are unquestionably smaller and lighter than competing 9mm single stack autos or .38 snubnose revolvers.

But despite those advantages, .380 pocket pistols have also been plagued by a number of downsides. The Ruger LCP II, released by Ruger at the end of 2016, sought to remedy many of those downsides.

In this review, we will cover the disadvantages of the .380 pistol that the LCP II sought to remedy, what makes the LCP II an improvement over the original LCP, and the uses for and specifications of the LCP II.

WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF THE .380 POCKET PISTOL?

.380 pocket pistols are incredibly easy to conceal, and this is what is largely attributed to their long time popularity in the United States.

Examples of popular small pocket .380 autos include the original Ruger LCP, Taurus TCP, Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380, and the Kel-Tec P3-AT to name a few. Every one of these pistols are incredibly easy to conceal in your pocket.

Unfortunately, each of these pistols and others in their class suffer from a number of serious flaws.

These flaws include, but are not limited to:

THEY HAVE TERRIBLE TRIGGER PULLS

.380 pocket pistols have a well-deserved reputation for having some of the worst trigger pulls of any semi-automatic pistols on the market.

The trigger pull on most .380 autos is exceptionally long and gritty. In other words, it’s not pleasant to shot at all.

While larger .380 pistols such as the Walther PPK/S, Walther PK380, Bersa Thunder 380, and Glock 42 don’t have this problem, the truly small pocket pistols such as the LCP and TCP most certainly do.

THEY’RE DIFFICULT TO SHOOT

.380 pocket pistols are traditionally difficult to fire for a number of reasons: in addition to the horrid trigger pulls like we just discussed, they also suffer from being extremely snappy due to their small size.

Granted, .380 pocket autos are not guns that you take to the range for fun. They are meant to be defensive arms that can be easily carried in the pocket. Nonetheless, the fact that they are difficult to shoot can be a major problem for training and self-defense purposes.

THEY HAVE POOR ERGONOMICS

Last but not least, and while this is entirely personal preference, many regard .380 autos as having poor ergonomics due to the fact that their extraordinarily small size means you can’t get a full grip on them. This only naturally makes it more difficult to fire properly like we just talked about.

Ruger sought out to remedy much of these problems with the LCP II. Did they succeed? Let’s find out by comparing it to the original LCP.

BATTLE OF THE RUGER .380S: LCP VS. LCP II

The original Ruger LCP has been perhaps the most well-known and popular .380 pocket pistol since it was first introduced in 2008. Nonetheless, it still suffers from many of the issues that we just talked about in the previous section: the trigger pull is awful, they are difficult to shoot, it can be difficult to get a good grip on the pistol for some shooters, and the slide won’t even lock back on the last round fired.

Ruger listened to the criticism, which resulted in the birth of the LCP II. While the LCP II is still a small pocket pistol, Ruger made a number of improvements to it.

The biggest improvement, by far, is the trigger pull. The trigger pull on the LCP II most closely resembles the trigger on larger striker fired polymer pistols such as the Glock. It is considerably lighter and smoother than the original LCP and other comparable .380 pistols, and it also features the Glock-style bladed safety that must first be depressed in order for the trigger to be pulled.

Overall, the trigger on the LCP II makes it infinitely easier to shoot than the original LCP. Ruger markets the trigger as having a six pound pull. The reason the trigger pull is lighter is because it is a SA trigger versus the DA trigger on the original LCP.

The LCP II also features forward and rear serrations on the slide, whereas the original LCP only featured serrations on the rear. The serrations on the LCP are also wider in order to get a better grip in slippery conditions when racking the slide.

The trigger guard on the LCP has also been enlarged in order to accommodate a gloved finger without risking pulling the trigger.

The grip is also slightly enlarged in order to get a better grip, with an improved stippling job as well to better accommodate wet or slippery conditions.

All of these features together, the improved trigger, the enhanced serrations, the stippling on the grip, and the slightly wider grip size all combine to make the LCP II a better handgun to shoot than the original LCP.

Yes, the LCP II is still a .380 pocket pistol and as a result is still snappy. It’s not a range gun, and should not be treated as such.

Yet one more advantage for the LCP II is the fact that the slide locks back on the final round fired to signal you are empty. When you insert a fresh magazine, it will be easier to rack the slide this way as well. In contrast to this, the original LCP did not lock back on the final round.

While the LCP II will accept the same 6 round magazines as the original LCP, it also will not slide lock on the last round with those magazines because they were not designed to do so. Therefore, if you want the slide to lock back, you need to use the magazines that were made specifically for the LCP II.

One thing that was not improved over the original LCP, however, is the sights. The sights on the LCP II are built into the top of the slide like its predecessor. Both the front and rear sights are black which can make it difficult to see them if you are aiming against a dark background.

USES FOR THE RUGER LCP II

There are two primary uses for the LCP II: concealed carry and/or as a back-up pistol.

Ruger sells the LCP II with a neoprene pocket holster (which has the Ruger logo on it), and it actually works quite well. It covers the trigger guard of the pistol and has a hook and sticky material to stay secure in your pocket so it is easy to draw the pistol from your pocket without bringing the holster with it.

That being said, the LCP II can also be carried IWB or in an ankle holster just as easily as it could be carried in a pocket. But if carry options are limited to just a pocket carry for you (i.e. you have to wear shorts with a tucked in shirt), the LCP II will be a great option.

As a back-up weapon to a larger pistol, the LCP II would also be a great choice as it has a very similar manual of arms to larger pistols such as Glocks while also being small enough to easily conceal carry as we have just seen.

LCP II SPECIFICATIONS

Here are some basic facts for the Ruger LCP II:

Caliber: .380 ACP

Capacity: 6+1

Weight: 10.6 ounces

Length: 5.17 inches

Width: .91 inches

Frame: Glass Filled Nylon

Barrel Length: 2.75 Inches

Barrel Material: Alloy Steel

Trigger Pull: 6 pounds

Sights: Integral

Finish: Blued

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the Ruger LCP II simply represents the beginning of the evolution of the .380 pocket pistol. Ruger has proven that you don’t need to have an arduous and gritty trigger pull on a .380 auto and it’s likely that more manufacturers will now follow their lead.

With a much lighter trigger, enhanced slide serrations, wider grip, impressive stippling job, and the ability to slide lock on the last round, the LCP II is a definitive improvement over other comparable .380 pocket guns.

This article by Alex Joseph originally appeared at Gun News Daily in 2019.

Image: Ruger.

The A-12 Avenger Shows Why The Navy Needs A Long-Range Strike Aircraft

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 08:00

TNI Staff

Security,

The Navy’s carrier air wings would have greatly benefited from an A-12-like capability had the program survived.

Here's What You Need To Remember: Though it was not immediately apparent at the time, with the cancellation of the A-12 program and the retirement of the A-6E, the U.S. Navy gave up its long-range strike capability in favor of an air wing that focused on sortie generation. While that was not a problem in the immediate aftermath of the end of the Cold War, with Russia resurgent and the emergence of China as a great power challenger, it is a serious issue for the viability of the carrier fleet.

Recommended: Air War: Stealth F-22 Raptor vs. F-14 Tomcat (That Iran Still Flies)

Recommended: A New Report Reveals Why There Won't Be Any 'New' F-22 Raptors

Recommended: How an ‘Old’ F-15 Might Kill Russia’s New Stealth Fighter

During the closing stages of the Cold War, the United States Navy was developing a new long-range stealth bomber that could strike at even the most heavily defended targets from the deck of an aircraft carrier. But the ill-fated program was cancelled; leaving a gap in naval aviation capability that has not been filled to this day.  

Called the McDonnell Douglas/General Dynamics A-12 Avenger II—a product of the Advanced Tactical Aircraft (ATA) program—the new bomber would have replaced the long-serving Grumman A-6E Intruder. However, as the Soviet threat evaporated, then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney cancelled the A-12 program on January 7, 1991, due to massive cost and schedule overruns as well as severe technical problems. But while the stealthy A-12 had its problems, the bomber’s demise led the Navy to today’s problem: A carrier air wing that does not have the range or penetrating strike capability to defeat advanced anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities.   

While the Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter will finally bring X-band stealth technology onboard the carrier and the forthcoming MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial refueling tanker will help to extend the range of the existing air wing, those aircraft do not make up for the lack of a heavy hitting long-range bomber platform that can strike deep into the heart of enemy territory. Even with the F-35C and MQ-25, the Navy’s carrier air wings would not be able to strike at Chinese targets in the Western Pacific without putting the carrier at considerable risk. Beijing is able to threaten U.S. Navy carriers with anti-ship ballistic missiles such the DF-21D and the DF-26— the later of which has a range of roughly 2000 nautical miles—by forcing those vessels to operate further out at sea.

The Navy had envisioned the need for a carrier-based penetrating strike aircraft with extended ranges during the 1980s given rapidly advancing Soviet capabilities. Indeed, as former Center for a New American Security scholar Jerry Hendrix, a retired naval aviator, noted, the initial requirements for the A-12 called for an aircraft with a 1,700 nautical mile combat radius and an internal payload of 6,000lbs with a radar cross section comparable to the Northrop B-2 Spirit strategic bomber.

Had the A-12 program panned out, the Navy would still have a potent long-range carrier-based penetrating strike capability that would have been superior to anything currently envisioned. However, technical problems and requirements changes—all of which negatively impacted strike capability—whittled the A-12’s unrefueled combat radius down to 1,000 nautical miles and eventually down to 785 nautical miles. Eventually, as technical problems and program snafus mounted—largely due to “criminal” program management—Cheney was forced to cancel the entire program.

Though it was not immediately apparent at the time, with the cancellation of the A-12 program and the retirement of the A-6E, the U.S. Navy gave up its long-range strike capability in favor of an air wing that focused on sortie generation. While that was not a problem in the immediate aftermath of the end of the Cold War, with Russia resurgent and the emergence of China as a great power challenger, it is a serious issue for the viability of the carrier fleet. The Navy’s carrier air wings would have greatly benefited from an A-12-like capability had the program survived.

Analysts have proposed solutions such as a long-range stealthy unmanned strike aircraft as a solution to the Navy’s long-range penetrating strike gap, however, there are problems with that solution. Current Pentagon policy prohibits autonomous weapons from making the decision to take a human life on its own volition, which means that human operators have to be in the loop even when the aircraft is deep inside enemy territory. However, adversaries such as Russia and China will attack the vulnerable data-links that control such an unmanned aircraft through electronic attacks, cyber-warfare or a combination of methods. Drones have been hacked before—by insurgents, no less—thus positive control cannot be guaranteed.

Human pilots, however, cannot be hacked and can make on-the-spot judgments to engage or change targets etc. without the need to home phone—so to speak. Thus, a modern incarnation of a manned carrier-based long-range penetrating strike aircraft might be a solution to the Navy’s range problem. Modern materials, sensor and propulsion technology—particularly advanced adaptive-cycle engines that are currently in development—would solve most of the technical challenges that stymied the A-12 program.

Given that advanced adaptive cycle engines which are currently in development promise to reduce fuel burn by more than 35 percent, a new carrier-based bomber should be able to meet a 1100 nautical mile combat radius requirement even given the size constraints of carrier aircraft. Thus, the Navy should consider the development of a next-generation carrier-based long-range penetrating strike aircraft. Like the original ATA, which was also slated to replace the Boeing F-15E, a modern incarnation of such a warplane could also replace the Strike Eagle while supplementing the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-35C on the carrier flight deck. It will not be cheap, but given that President Donald Trump has signaled his intent to invest heavily in the nation’s defense, it is an option that the Navy should consider.

This article first appeared several years ago.

Image: Flickr.

During World War II the British Copied an Old German Machine Gun Design

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 07:30

Peter Suciu

History, Europe

Did it work?

After the so-called “miracle of Dunkirk,” in which the British military were able to successfully evacuate the majority of the British Expeditionary Force, along with a large number of French troops, after France fell to the Germans in late May and early June 1940, the British government was presented with a serious problem.

Much of its heavy equipment and even vast quantities of small arms had been left on the continent. While the British Army still was producing its Bren Gun, it simply needed weapons that could provide some added firepower. To solve that problem the British Army rushed into development the Sten Gun, the simple weapon that cost just $10 to produce. In addition, the United States also supplied some quantities of its Thompson submachine gun—but there remained a great demand for more weapons.

At the same time the Royal Air Force (RAF) determined that a submachine gun would be necessary for the defense of its airfields—yet instead of following the British Army’s lead with the Sten Gun, it opted to create a direct copy of the German MP28/II submachine gun, an updated version of the World War I era MP18.

The result was the Lanchester; a 9mm, blowback submachine gun that fired from an open bolt and which proved to be far more rugged and reliable than the Sten Gun even if it was heavier and a bit more costly to produce.

The project to develop this weapon was headed up by George Herbert Lanchester, an English engineer who ran the Lanchester Motor Company before selling his family’s company to BSA. After the outbreak of World War II, George Lanchester went to work at the Sterling Armaments Company, which subsequently produced the copy of the German machine pistol. So while named for Lanchester, he didn’t technically design the firearm—but copied a proven design and one that was actually fairly simple to produce.

The MP28/II was itself little more than an update of the MP18, the first widely employed submachine gun, which had been used to much success by German “storm troopers” at the end of the First World War.

What is notable is that the MP28 was produced by the German firm Haenel under the direct supervision of Hugo Schmeisser, and it served as inspiration for the Finnish Suomi Model 31—which itself served to influence the PPSh-41. In this way the British Lanchester and Soviet PPSh-41 were loosely related through the MP28.

However, while the Suomi and PPSh-41 improved upon the MP18/28, the Lanchester was still just an outright copy to the point that the British weapon could use the magazine and even the bolt assembly from the German gun. Where the German weapon essentially used a Mauser rifle stock, the British Lanchester utilized the wood butt and stock that were designed for the Lee-Enfield No. 1 Mk III rifle. The only notable improvements were that the Lanchester featured a brass magazine well, which made it an even more rugged firearm. It also featured a bayonet mount—a feature lacking in most other submachine guns of the era as well as the MP28. The brass well along with a brass butt plate were also employed as the metal was impervious to corrosion from saltwater—which became important in the Royal Navy’s decision to adopt the weapon over the Sten Gun.

The Lanchester measured 2-feet, 10-inches in length and weighed 12 pounds loaded. It was chambered for the German-designed 9x19mm Parabellum round, which of course was used in the MP18/28. It could be fitted with a 50-round magazine, but was also compatible with the Sten Gun’s 32-round magazine. The Lanchester featured a blowback action and fired from an open bolt with a rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute, and an effective range of 150 meters.

As with the MP18/28 the metal hardware could be swung open for cleaning, making it easy to field strip as well. This proved highly important as many RAF airmen and Royal Navy sailors hadn’t been as accustomed to cleaning and servicing small arms as their Army counterparts.

The Lanchester was produced in two versions, and this has led to some confusion. The two versions included the “Mk 1” and the “Mk 1*,” whereby the latter was a simplified version of the former and omitted the fire mode selector and with simplified rear sights. Only a true “Mk 1” was capable of semi-automatic and full-automatic fire, but many of those Lanchesters were modified to the Mk 1* version.

In total, less than 100,000 Lanchesters were reportedly produced during the war with Sterling being the main producer of nearly 75,000 units. Other firms, including Greener and Boss each also produced far lower numbers, with the former producing approximately 17,000 while the latter produced less than 4,000 in total. By contrast millions of Sten Guns were produced, which is why that firearm is remembered (for good and bad), while the Lanchester is largely forgotten.

The biggest negative, apart from its weight, was that not only did it cost more—the Sten cost around £2 ($10) per unit while the Lanchester cost around £14—but the latter weapon required a far more skilled craftsman and used more materials, including all-important brass.

Yet, the Lanchester, despite being based on an old design, was rugged and reliable. While the Sten Gun was retired soon after the war, the Lanchester remained in service with the Royal Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and other Commonwealth navies at least into the late 1960s. It was used by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines during the Malayan Emergency (1947-60) while the British Army actually used the Lanchester in limited numbers in the 1952-60 Mau-Mau uprising in East Africa.

The weapon was finally withdrawn from Royal Navy service in the 1970s, highlighting not only the British ingenuity but also the longevity of the MP18/28.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Reuters

Why the Taurus TX-22 Is a One Heck of a .22 Caliber Pistol

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 07:15

Gun News Daily

Security, World

One of the best?

Key Point: These full size .22 pack a punch. Here's why you should consider them.

If there’s one thing that all .22 semi-automatic pistols seem to share in common, it’s that they all hold ten rounds of ammunition in the magazine.

That’s by no means a bad thing, but there’s a lot of people who have strongly desired to own a .22 pistol with an ammunition capacity equivalent to a full size, duty 9mm pistol (which commonly hold fifteen to eighteen rounds in the magazine).

Taurus filled this void in the market by recently releasing the Taurus TX-22 pistol. This is a full-size pistol that holds 16 rounds in the magazine plus an additional round in the chamber.  In addition, Taurus specifically designed the TX-22 to have the look and feel of a duty pistol, in contrast to many other rimfire pistols that often have a weaker design.

The TX-22 is also striker fired, with a crisp five pound trigger and suppressor ready right out of the box, coming with a thread suppressor adapter. It also features Taurus’ trademark stippling on the grip for superior ergonomics, and a lightweight aluminum slide that ensures superior reliability as the lighter .22 rounds will have less difficulty in cycling the slide.

Overall, if you are looking for a full size .22 pistol that has the look and feel of a true duty pistol, the TX-22 will be the gun you’ve been looking for.

This article by Will Ellis originally appeared at Gun News Daily in 2019.

Image: Taurus. 

Pages