Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 23: Picture of the Day

Today's picture of the day is a cool shot that we got taking a spent shell out of my newly acquired turn of the century Hopkins and Allen 12 gauge side by side with Damascus twist barrels. I had done a lot of research on Damascus style barrels and it seemed like there were a lot of people who were strongly against even thinking of shooting ammo through it, but for every against there was another for.

I was set on firing it and so started my search for ammo that would work. The gun, and Damascus barrels in general, was made to shoot black powder loads so thats were I started to look. We found some online but almost everyone suggest reloading custom shells - something I am not currently setup to do.

As a wonderful surprise a friend of ours actually hand loaded some during a impromptu range visit. He swung by, saw us, drove a few miles back to his house and in a matter of minutes was back with some freshly loaded 12gauge black powder loaded shells. On his way walking over to us when he returned I asked if the shells were indeed loaded with black powder, he remarked, "oh yeah its black powder, hell the powder itself is as old as the gun". Now thats cool!

Thanks for reading and as always stay tuned for more reviews, tidbits, rants, and general gun things!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 22: American as Apple Pie - The M16 Part 1

To start off I just want to say that I had never been an AR-15/M16 'guy' until a couple years ago. I had always seen my self as an AK47 aficionado in the 50 year long debate. I think one of the reasons for this was the fact that many people take the M16's history away from it in a ritualistic sort of way that was never seen in the AK world (or at least wasn't seen to the same magnitude). On top of the people who defaced their M16s you had another camp that believed because they spent more than double, in some cases triple or greater, the cost of an AK47 clone that their firearm was a better platform. Those people had an air of undeserved arrogance to them - sometime that I know turned off more than myself to the wonderfully rich world of the AR-15.

Its important to note at this juncture that I will undoubtedly be switching and using the terms AR-15 and M16 almost interchangeably throughout this post. Of course some will argue they are not the same, and of course they're not, but for the purpose of this article it will work just dandy.

Over the last few year I've had a few AR-15s come and go because I really did not see a point in the items I had. That all changed when I fell into a period in my life when I became fascinated with the history of the Vietnam War. When I started researching the original M16s I found out the tremendously rich history that they have had over the last five or so decades. Everyone has heard the horror stories of the original M16s failing and costing American lives during the early part of the Vietnam War but thats only a small enclave in an extremely large cadre of history. From the original AR10, AR15, and M16 to the M16A4 lets take a brief look at the life of this truly unique firearm.

Birth of the Assault Rifle
Starting a few years after World War Two, the United States military began dissecting infantry combat experience that had been seen during the war. What was shown was that most combat that a typical infantrymen saw was at closer than 300 yards. The Russians and to some extent the Germans had learned this a bit earlier as they began to develop the world's first assault rifles. Where as the standard rifle from World War Two could be used at ranges upwards of 600 yards, and the standard sub machine gun or machine pistol would be lucky to hit anything past 110 yards, these new rifles met in a happy middle almost perfectly meeting the 300 yard engagement distance. The Americans wanted to get their hand into this new technology and around 1948 the United States government wanted to move to a smaller, but higher velocity projectile, that they could design an assault rifle around.

Eugene in a Bottle
In the early 1950s almost simultaneously two things begin to happen that will lead to the eventual creation of the AR15. Eugene Stoner begins work in his AR10, and the U.S. Government launches project Salvo to search for a suitable 22 caliber rifle platform. Stoner's AR10 design was originally based on the 7.62Nato (7.62x51mm) cartridge that the American M14 had been using but decided it could be easily scaled down to accept a 22 caliber cartridge. At the same time that Stoner began to convert a AR10 to a smaller cartridge, a search for the perfect 22 caliber cartridge was in progress. Eventually a brand new round was produced by a joint venture between Remington, Sierra Bullets, and Armalite (the company Stoner was working for at the time). The final projectile design was based on the popular .222 cartridge that was used for hunting.

When the final product of so much blood, sweat, and tears rolled out of the prototype labs at Armalite the rifle was designated the AR-15. At this point many people were extremely excited to see the rifle as it was years ahead of its time - using many polymers that had not even been thought usable in weapon systems. Unfortunately early tests produced poor accuracy and reliability results - a fault of the new .223 cartridges only found out years later. The AR-15 got it's first taste of a poor reputation and the Armalite corporation was not pleased. The AR-15 rights were sold to Colt Firearms. Eugene Stoner not far beyond, 'decided' to follow his rifle to Colt to continue its evolution.

Growth as a Firearm
In the next few years the AR15 had begun to pick up a following among a few in the U.S. military brass. U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, General Curtis LeMay, was one of the original fans of the M16, ordering the first set to replace aging M1 and M2 Carbines that Airforce security staff were still using. Once LeMay had the chance to inspect the weapons in person he became a major proponent in increasing awareness of the new "space age rifle". The Department of Defense and other top ranking officials in the U.S. Airforce began to think of the actual possibilities for the rifle. The ARPA staff decided to give the rifle an official test and purchase around a few hundred and sent them to field test them in a new cold war conflict that began to attract American concern - the Vietnam War. Perhaps surprisingly to a few including the original Armalite staff, the AR15 received amazing battlefield reviews and was nick named the "little black rifle" by the few South Vietnamese who had used it in combat.
Rock Bottom
When the glowing reviews came in the Airforce and Army signed contracts with Colt to produce almost 100,000 rifles for the newly designated M16, and with continued success the entire U.S. military had orders placed for
upwards of 800,000 rifles. Unfortunately for the M16 this is where it takes a punch to the gut. As soon as a small majority of American servicemen were equipped with the new rifle, catastrophic malfunctions began to become the norm. Most of these errors were due to poor choices made by the U.S. Army and only a very few could blame the rifle's design for their occurrence. The majority of the issues with the original M16 in Vietnam dealt with reliability and could be counted on one hand, they included lack of positive extraction of spent shell casings and issues with the bolt not going into battery. These issues happened for majority of reasons but the main two happened to leave the Army brass at fault.
  1. Use of poor powder (poorly made 'ball' instead of 'stick' powder)
  2. Rumor of 100% self cleaning leading to the rifles not even being issued cleaning kits
The use of the powder choice was in part due to the lack of production power of Du Pont at the time. Du Pont quoted the military and told them there was no way that they could mass produce the specific powder the M16 required. The military then went to Olin Mathieson Company who could produce a powder that met ARPA requirements. However, this powder raised the cyclical rate of fire from 650-800 rounds per minute to over 1,000! Not only did this increase the rate of fire to a rate that the gun was not designed for but the powder itself burned extremely dirty and allowed for the gun to become encrusted in carbon dirt extremely rapidly. This in-conjunction with the lack of foresight from top military officials who allowed the rifles to be distributed with out cleaning kits provided a rifle that was useless after a few shots.

Many soldiers who were issued the original M16 often remarked they had single shot weapons. After the first shot in a firefight of a well used rifle and the rifle would jam. This sparked the many stories from the battlefield such as soldiers trying to find sticks to ram out the spent casing like their M16 was a muzzle loading musket, or soldiers picking up any gun but M16s to use whilst in combat. These stories and many others at first come across as fictitious or rumors when in fact they're true.
We left with 72 men in our platoon and came back with 19, Believe it or not, you know what killed most of us? Our own rifle. Practically every one of our dead was found with his M16 torn down next to him where he had been trying to fix it.
- Marine Corps Rifleman, Vietnam.
Quick Fix or Design for a Lifetime
These issues were soon figured out and procedures to rectify them began to be set into place, unfortunately not before American deaths were to occur. The first set of changes to the rifle was to chrome line the chamber, add a forward assist, and increase the weight of the buffer system to slow the cyclical rate down to its intended speed. The changes, while minimal, corrected almost all of the immediate issues with the firearm. This new M16 wore the designation XM16E1 and in 1967 adopted as the mainstay of the military forces in Vietnam. Soon after the XM16E1 was released another variant the M16A1 was introduced. The M16A1 just continued on the progress of the XM16E1 and added an entire chrome bore and a few other tweaks such as changing the flash hider. For the duration of the Vietnam War the United States would be equipped with the M16A1. It wasn't until much later when the M16A2 arrived on scene with its own set of objectives as a rifle.

It is interesting to note that at the time of inception of the M16A1 to main military service the Department of Defense queried over 2,000 users of the M16 and out of the entire reach only 38 reported they would like to see the M16 replaced - out of those 38, 35 wished the M16A1 would be replaced with the XM177 (CAR-15) the shorter carbine version of the rifle similar to the current day M4/M4A1. This number is perhaps even lower than what a similar polling of the M16A4/M4 would bring.

A Tribute
After researching much of the history of the AR-15 and so forth the M16 series of rifles I became very interested in creating a replica. I had chosen a time period in the Vietnam War that had been the most intriguing to me -1968 - specifically the Tet Offensive. Now I could go in depth about the Tet Offensive but that will have to wait for the time being. The thing to know is that 1968 was the year in which the M16s and XM16E1s were being transitioned to the M16A1, and specifically the Tet Offensive was right in between the transition so a lot of the M16A1 have minor features that the later (1969 and on) A1s did not have.

My main reason in building this reproduction was to honor those who had served and to preserve history as best as I could. You wouldn't believe the amount of people that wonder about that funky looking AR15 when I take it to the range - it is a blast!

Without further adieu here are some pictures of the Ann Arbor Gun Guys having a great time with my tribute to those who preserved freedom so many decades ago.

Thanks for reading and stay with us as some cool articles are in the works.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 21: M1871/88 Beaumont Part Two - The Aceh War

Due to overwhelming interest in our article on the M1871/88 Beaumont Vitali we've decided to follow up on a bit of the history of the rifle. Thanks to a few of our Dutch friends we have been able to gather quite a bit of information about the historic and military background behind this forgotten rifle. That being said we've decided to focus on one of the most in depth and perhaps bloodiest conflicts that the Beaumont participated in - the Aceh War.

For many people locating Aceh (pronounced Ah-tjeh) on a map is difficult or even impossible. Aceh is a small area on found on the very northern tip of the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. The land of Aceh was somewhat special, especially for two major colonial players at the time - the United Kingdom and the Dutch. Since the area had began to be colonized in the early 16th/17th century the two powers always thought the opposite had hidden motives of pushing the other out of the territory, when in fact, they were complimentary to each other. The Treaty of London signed in 1824 expressed what territory each laid claim to. The British would have claim on the Malaysian corridor and the Dutch - Sumatra and its surrounding land. One important feature of the treaty was that it provided provisions for the independence of Aceh something the Dutch government did not like. This provision was declared in the Treaty as the British government saw the Dutch stepping on the proverbial toes of the UK's commercial ventures in Sumatra and specifically the pepper trade in Aceh.

Between the Treaty of London and the fact that the Acehnese began negotiating with other 'Western' powers the Dutch had become enraged and in 1871 signed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty where the British gave the Dutch full control over Aceh in order to gain a more equal trade partnership in the East Indies. This had appeased the Dutch until in 1873 the Acehnese began speaking with the United States - thus provoking the Dutch even further. The Dutch believing that they had full control of the Aceh territory deemed these 'talks' inappropriate and declared war on the providential body. What was to occur during the decades after would be known as one of the bloodiest conflicts in Dutch history.

After declaring war on Aceh, the Dutch sent an expeditionary force under the leadership of Major General Johan Koehler to forcedly take the entirety of Aceh - no simple task. Securing coastal villages was simple however in 1874 Koehler launched an attack on the sultan's palace, thereby eliminating all political resistance. After bombing the palace Koehler sent 3,000 troops ashore to capture the palace. Much to the surprise of Koehler the Acehnese resistance was much fiercer than expected and the army group was driven from the palace back onto the naval vessels at a significant loss. Over 80 Dutch soldiers and the Major General himself had been killed. Many criticize Koehler's tactics and stubbornness and claim he was at fault for the tremendous losses. This defeat extremely reduced the moral of the expeditionary force and resulted in the tarnishing of the otherwise impeccable Dutch reputation. To secure some time to recuperate the Dutch Navy blockaded the area as it was the only tactical decision that could be made.

It is important to note here that Koehler's intelligence on the enemy that he was to fight was grossly inaccurate. Two critical pieces of information arise in hindsight only.
1.) The Acehnese manpower was incredibly miscalculated. The most recent estimates put the total man power at somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 foot soldiers during the two expeditions.
2.) The government in Aceh had modernized their military force almost over night. The modernization, while not a full modernization as the equipment was second rate, occurred at a such a pace that there was absolutely no way they could have done it with out aid from 'Western' powers. Some believe that the UK and Italy both provided equipment and funding to fight off the Dutch, but this is unconfirmed.

Second Aceh Expedition
Soon after the first unsuccessful expedition the Dutch launched another one this time with more extensive preparations. This time the force was led by General Jan van Swieten and managed to capture the palace at the capital city of Banda Acheh. The sultan had been warned and fled before the raiding party could capture him but was found and killed soon after. The Dutch approved and put in power a new Aceh sultan that could be manipulated easily. However the new sultan was looked upon by the Aceh population as a puppet and regarded worse than the Dutch. Control over the territories were almost impossible to maintain and intense guerrilla fighting broke out throughout the countryside. This lasted for almost a decade until the Dutch realized they had to change their tactics.

Every Day Struggle
In 1880 the Dutch changed their tactics from an all out assault on the countryside to try to grab as much land from the insurgents as they could. The problem was it was an unsustainable method of warfare. Every time the dutch would capture a new province, they would lose another, previously held. This was extremely draining on the financial reserves of the colonial Dutch thusly prompting the change in the tactics to a more conservative approach. Instead of trying to capture all of Aceh the military would pull back to the territories that the Dutch had the strongest grasp on - the capital Banda Acheh and the coastal port city of Ulee Lheue. Everyday activities became a dangerous thing in Aceh, and even transportation required armed escort.

Continuation War
For a brief period there was a lull in major conflict in Aceh. This would not last as in 1883 the British naval vessel 'Nisero' was stranded and the crew was taken captive. After being strong armed by the British, the Dutch reluctantly sent a force to rescue the crew who had found themselves in a territory fiercely uncontrolled by the Dutch military. A local tribal leader Teuku Umar was asked for assistance but declined. The British shipmen were eventually rescued but only after tremendous payouts had been handed to the local leaders and the sultan himself.

Once the British crew had been rescued the Dutch minister of warfare once again declared all out warfare on Aceh, not surprisingly it once again had little effect. Even without much success the Dutch kept trying to implement a sustainable warfare doctrine. One of the new ideas they attempted after the 'Nisero' fiasco was to try to buy the help of local tribes and warlords with opium, weapons, or money. One notable warlord who was 'bought' was Teuku Umar, the same Teuku Umar who refused to allow the crew of the Nisero to be released. This is notable because it shows the feeling between the Acehnese and the Dutch as after Teuku built a somewhat respectable army at cost to the Dutch, he used his forces to attack the Dutch instead of helping them maintain peace inside the boarders of Aceh. This was known as Het Verraad van Teukoe Oemar - the treason of Teuku Umar, a significant incident that would assist one major in the Dutch army years later.

This stalemate was not broken until Major J.B. van Heutsz, an up and coming officer in the Dutch Army in the East Indies theater, was appointed Governor in the late 1890s. With the help of an old colleague one last 'new' plan was formed. The Dutch formulated that the sultanate was not the main source of power in Aceh yet it was the local hereditary chiefs. To take the countryside one must win over the local chiefs - whether with diplomacy, bribes, or warfare. This method of counter insurgency worked and by 1904 99% of the territory had been conquered, thus ending one of the longest war's in the history of man.

While Aceh had been conquered in 1904 some estimates put small factions holding out until the Japanese took over the Dutch East Indies in the time up to and including the second world war. While the groups were extremely limited and subject to only living in the greater highlands of Aceh it is an important medium to show the absolute length of the war and insurgency.

Hopefully you guys out there learned a lot about Aceh War - the Beaumont's baptism by fire.

Thanks and stay tuned!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Day 20: Cabela's Survives a Tornado

Cabela's is by far the best store in southeast Michigan for the hunter and outdoorsman. I could spend days in there in never get tired looking through their stockpile of firearms, inventory of hunting gear, and collection of taxidermied trophy animals.

The village of Dundee, Michigan was hit by a tornado overnight and damage was reported in the commercial district where Cabela's is located. Monroe county is currently under a state of emergency and many major roads are closed due to fallen debris and downed power lines. I was able to drive down there (roughly 20 miles south of Ann Arbor) and take a few pictures of the area right off US-23.

Cabela's opened late at 1:00pm today, but there was no readily apparent structural damage to the building other than a few demolished trees and signs. Other buildings in the area weren't so lucky. Most of Dundee's power is out (including street lights) and the whole area is swarming with cleanup personnel and law enforcement officers.

So to all you readers worried about the status of your favorite store, fear no longer. Cabela's is still up and running!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 19: Cheap Ammo

Shopping for ammo online can save you a lot of money if shop around and know whats good versus what's junk. But if you're in the market for cheap practice ammunition for common calibers, Wal-Mart is actually a great place to go. This afternoon, I bought a few boxes of Federal Champion 9mm Luger 115 Grain FMJ RN. At $9.97/50 it's the best deal in town.

I read somewhere that Federal Champion is simply Federal American Eagle re-boxed for Wal-Mart, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this were true. The case markings are identical and the rounds are indistinguishable. The prefix of the item number printed on the box is “WM” which gives credibility to this idea. Seeing as American Eagle is my favorite type of practice ammunition, this is a good thing, especially since I can’t find F-AE for much less than $12 anywhere while F-C goes for roughly $10.

The Ann Arbor Gun Guys team has registered for the Handgun I & II classes at the Michigan Defensive Firearms Institute (MDFI). The classes require a combined ammo count of 1100 rounds per student, so needless to say, we’ve been scrounging local Wal-Marts to slowly build up to the couple thousand rounds of 9mm we’ll need by mid-July. This ammo fits the bill for training applications, and we’ll provide detailed range reports after we’ve been through the classes.

On the topic of ammo cost, you may have noticed that we added an “ammo fund” donation box through PayPal on the sidebar of this blog. Not that I we expect anyone to actually use it, but hey, if you ever win the lottery and want to donate to the common people, we’ll be here! For the rest of you, please "follow" this blog if you like what you see!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 18: Streamlight TLR-1s Video Review

My new Streamlight TLR-1s came in today, and I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to start creating video reviews. This is the first movie of this kind that I've ever made, so please comment with suggestions so we can make more helpful reviews in the future.

Feel free to subscribe to our new YouTube channel!

Video Transcript:

Hey everyone, and welcome to the first video review by the Ann Arbor Gun Guys, covering the Streamlight TLR-1s. This is the newer edition rated at 160 lumens and includes a strobe function. I noticed there’s a general lack of information on this model so I decided this would be a fitting target for our first video review.

Of course the first step after unboxing is installing the batteries. Some people have trouble with this at first, so I wanted to demonstrate the process really quickly. There is a lever on top of the light that is only accessible when it is uninstalled from the weapon. To unlock the battery door, push this lever all the way up and lock it to the forward position, which unhinges the bottom of the door. You can then unseal the o-ring and pop the door open, allowing installation of the batteries. To finish reinstalling you simply following the directions in reverse. You have to lokc the o-ring in there which can be a little difficult at first, but then just push it in while flipping the hinge forward and you’re good to go. Simple, right? Some people complain about the tight-fitting o-ring, but it’s a solid way to make sure the light stays waterproof and functional, so I’m all for it.

The strobe light is only accessible by double-tapping the momentary on switch within 0.4 seconds. A single tap will give you solid light, and the permanent on maintains the solid light. It ‘s advertised as being a programmable strobe, but as far as I can tell from the operating instructions, that just means you can disable the strobe if you wish, so not too big of a feature there.

The light is easily installed on a variety of weapon systems. It comes with an assortment of rail keys to fit whatever configuration you might have. The light is attached with the aid of a single screw that can be adjusted by hand or with a large flathead screwdriver. So I’ll show you how it works really quickly on this Glock 19.

And you just tighten her up, and you’re good to go. You’re ready to light ‘em up. Now I’ll show you a few demonstrations with the lights off and let you know how it goes.

Well, that’s all for now. It’s a great little tactical flashlight and is a great choice for any home defense application. Thanks guys, and stay tuned for more reviews.