Sunday, January 29, 2012


We’ve noted here before that civilian JOHN MOSES BROWNING (reverent hush) was the Albert Einstein of small arms development, so we’ll set that part of the story aside.

One of his most famous and enduring creations has been the Caliber .50 M2 HB Machine Gun, more commonly known as the Browning Ma Deuce or the "Fifty Cal". Anyone referring to the odious M60 7.62mm machine gun as the “Sixty Cal”, however, needs to be immediately bitch slapped.

Anyhow, the Ma Deuce has been around a long time. Browning essentially built the gun around the .50-BMG cartridge, now officially known as the 12.7x99mm NATO, in response to General Black Jack Pershing’s desire for a heavy anti-aircraft and anti-tank gun in WWI. A hurriedly produced prototype was actually revealed in 1918, in less time than it takes for the modern military-industrial complex to decide upon what type of coffee to serve in the conference room. It worked, but it was a rush war-time project. For instance, Browning called for a 36-inch or longer barrel but, at the time, Winchester could only rifle a 30-inch barrel. (The current Ma Deuce has a 45-inch barrel.) A standardized version with upgrades became the short-lived M1921 anti-aircraft machine gun. More upgrades led to the legend as we now know it being born and standardized for U.S. military service in 1933 as the M2 in three different versions—water-cooled and air-cooled heavy barrel ground machine guns and an aircraft model. The rest, as they say is history.

The Ma Duece was used as an infantry weapon from the tripod. It was used as a fixed main armament in fighter-bomber aircraft (P-40, P-51, P-47, P-38, Sabre jet, etc.) and as a flexible mounted weapon in various bombers, up to and including the tail “stinger” in the B52 Stratofortress. It saw use as an anti-aircraft weapon in various ground, vehicle, and naval mounts. It armed a variety of wheeled and tracked vehicles, boats and ships. It was even used as a sniper weapon. It became the standard heavy machine gun for just about every Cold War nation outside of the Soviet sphere of influence, from Argentina to Zimbabwe. It is still manufactured in several countries and still in use all over the world.

If it works so well, WHY FIX IT? Well, mainly because, as always, the Army thinks gadgetry can replace proper training and practice.

While the Ma Duece is legendary for its reliability and robustness, it has one problem that is the main cause of damage to the weapon; failure to set headspace and timing after changing barrels. The only other way to hurt it is to drop a bomb on it.

Heavy MG barrels get hot after sustained firing of that big-ass .50-BMG round. Browning took that into account with a barrel which could be changed rapidly. However, after changing the barrel, one needs to properly set the headspace and timing. This requires use of a “Go” “No-Go” headspace gage and two “Fire” “No Fire” timing gages. They are all attached together by a little chain and one comes with every gun. In a real emergency situation, the gun can be head-spaced by screwing the new barrel all the way in and backing it off two clicks. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. I was trained in this over and over so that I could probably still figure out how to do now it twenty years later.

Headspace and timing gages. Most problems stem from Operator headspace and timing. Operator headspace and timing problems stem from Leadership headspace and timing.

Failure to headspace and time the Ma Duece can and will result in malfunctions and failures. Malfunctions and failures involving 55,000 psi of chamber pressure are Very Bad Things. According to the Pentagon, some 39 soldiers have been injured during the deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pentagon Wonk Army Major Christopher Kasker said, “This is not a contractor flaw. This is caused by soldiers not following the procedures in the technical manual.”

No Skippy, this is caused by LEADERSHIP flaw in not properly training soldiers and then seeing to it that they can and do headspace the weapon.

Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Ryan, after putting down his crackpipe, claimed, “It’s a very tedious process. It can upwards of twenty minutes on a really bad day.” (Of course it’s perfectly acceptable to keep a rifle which “may need care and cleaning many times a day” in hopes it will fire when you need it, but that’s another story.)

I don’t recall it ever taking over five minutes to set headspace and timing. Two or three minutes is probably more common. You could train a chimpanzee to do it in twenty minutes. But training requires LEADERSHIP, which, in a zero-fault politically correct environment, quickly disappears. Real leaders and warriors wind up leaving the service in disgust. This leaves political wonks who unquestioningly parrot the Party Line, even if they know it’s wrong, and who would sacrifice their mother on an alter at midnight for a promotion.

Not to worry! The Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex to the rescue! Good old GE has come up with super-secret chocho-fudgie “Quick Change” barrel kits which do not require setting headspace and timing, turning the Ma Deuce into the M2A1. They’re a real bargain too, the conversion kits costing a measly $5,700 per unit. (They could buy a whole new gun for $11,000.)

Is it a good idea? Most certainly yes, in theory. My whining? I have complete faith in the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex to screw the project up eight ways from Tuesday.

They’ve tried to replace the Ma Deuce before, with predictable (negative) results. The M85 .50-caliber machine gun was developed for the M60-series Patton tanks, enabling the commander to fire the weapon via remote control from inside the tank. It was another idea that was really good in theory but not so much in practice. It required special metallic belt links for the ammunition which were, of course, not interchangeable with those many millions of Ma Deuce links. It required a special cupola atop the tank turret which gave the vehicle an overall height of well over 10 and a half feet tall, as opposed to the target presented by its main opponent, the T-72, which was 7 feet 9 inches tall. There were also some reliability and feed problems. With the arrival of the M1 Abrams tank, they went back to a standard Ma Deuce on a pintle mount.

Then came the GE GAU-19, a multi-barrel .50-caliber version of the Mini-Gun, introduced in 1983. Again, a good idea in concept. The weapon system as mounted on a Hummer weighs 460+ pounds and requires electrical power from a 24-volt truck battery, recharged by the mounting vehicle or aircraft’s engine. It has seen limited use in US OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopters and is also used in small quantities by the cutting-edge military powerhouse nations of Mexico, Columbia, and Oman.

Next in line was the GE OCSW Objective Crew-Served Weapons System, a hybrid gas and recoil-operated weapon designed to replace both the Ma Deuce and the Mk 19 40mm automatic grenade launcher (another civilian designed weapon) in one fell swoop. As one would expect, this worked about as well as the M14 replacing the M1 Garand, BAR, M1/2 carbine, and M3 Grease Gun submachine gun all in one fell swoop. Lots of problems, piss poor project management, and tens of millions of dollars poured into the project. Order cancelled after field trials.

Meanwhile, the Ma Deuces and Mk 19s in the sandbox were wearing out. Rather than buy new ones, the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex started pouring millions into the .50-caliber XM312 CCSW Common Close Support Weapon. “We can quickly develop a replacement for the Ma Deuce and save all kinds of money (it cost twice as much per copy as the M2) by basing it on an existing developmental weapon systems.” The resulting weapon? See last paragraph plus a cyclic rate of fire of only 260 rpm. Field trials in 2005. Project cancelled 2007.

The Ma Duece soldiers on. From past projects, I do not have a whole helluva lot of faith that the big budget R&D boys will “improve” this tried-and-true design. It would be nice if they prove me wrong, but a betting man wouldn’t like the odds.

Meanwhile, since at least the Korean War, GIs and Marines wanted a lightweight portable .50-caliber rifle. By mounting a USMC 8x Unertl scope on a Ma Deuce and using the precise adjustment of the traverse and elevation mechanism on the tripod, the men in the field turned the Browning into a long-range heavy sniper rifle. The results were applauded all around (in Korea), with kills recorded as far as 2,000 yards. In Vietnam, Marine Corps sniper legend Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock set his long-standing record of a 2,500 yard shot with a Ma Deuce set up in such a matter.

Sniping with the Ma Deuce in Korea. Notice the angle of the scope and the barrel; they're shooting waaayyyy out there past Fort Mudge.

No matter how well it worked, the Ma Deuce is a crew-served weapon and too heavy to lug around on infantry operations in mountains and jungles.

Since having become obsolete as tank killers, the old WWII vintage anti-tank rifles, especially the Soviet 14.5mm weapons, had long been used by soldiers in the field as long range and/or anti-material rifles on everything from machine gun nests to parked aircraft to locomotives to small boats. This is what the boys overseas really wanted.

Why they're called Anti-Material Rifles. USMC Raiders, Makin Island, 1942. The only American unit equipped with the British .55-inch Boys anti-tank rifle, they used them to permanently ground two big 4-engine Japanese Kawanishi H6K flying boats in the Makin lagoon.

Various innovative American infantry officers showed it could be done. As early as 1949 WWII combat veteran Col. F.B. Conway was working on the concept at Aberdeen. Using an old German Panzerbucshe PzB 39 anti-tank rifle, Conway re-threaded the receiver to take a Ma Deuce barrel, modified the bipod for increased stability, put a 3x8 anti-tank gun scope on it, and designed his own effective muzzle brake. The Army hierarchy showed no interest. In the 1950’s, Conway and his team tested the “.50 PzB” as he called it in the open deserts of Fort Bliss, TX. Results showed an effective range of 1,400 yards in the hands of the average shooter; Conway himself could hit a 4x4 foot target at 2,800 yards with a few ranging shots. Conway was also later involved with the Redfield ART (adjustable Ranging Telescope) used on the M21 sniper rifle, and modified one to the trajectory of the .50-BMG round with excellent results. Again, the Pentagon boys had no interest in the contraption.

William Brophy's "field modified" Korean War PTRD .50 worked better than the 1970's Advanced Research Projects Agency's Flechette Rifle.

In Korea, then Captain William S. Brophy, a long-time competitive shooter, was working on something similar. He used a captured North Korean Soviet-made PTRD 14.5mm anti-tank rifle, once more modified to take the Ma Deuce barrel. He also mounted a Unertl scope and the T&E mechanism from a 57mm recoilless rifle on the butt as a precision adjustable monopod. It worked so well that even Army officialdom had him take it to Aberdeen Proving Grounds for testing. At 1,000 yards, it shot well within Minute-of-Angle. Then the Korean War ended and the Army forgot all about it again.

In the waning years of Vietnam, the Whiz Kids decided that such a rifle wouldn’t be a bad idea. Rather than a simple conversion such as Brophy, Conway, and a military adviser named Walker had, the Military-Industrial boys of the Advanced Research Projects Agency decided to build a whole new weapon from the ground up. Although using the receiver of an old British Boys .55-inch anti-tank rifle, they mated it with a super-duper smoothbore .50-caliber barrel firing a dart-like saboted tungsten dart at a whopping 4,500 feet per second. Although capable of penetrating two inches of steel inside 100 yards, it was a bust as a sniper weapon. Sniper weapons require accuracy; after all the R&D and money, the very best they were ever got out of the Flechette Rifle, after much development, was around 5-6 MOA at 600 yards. Vietnam ended and the project was dropped altogether.

The idea languished until the 1980’s when Tennessean Ronnie Barrett stepped up to the plate. Following in the footsteps of Christian Sharps, John Browning, and Eugene Stoner, a civilian tinkerer built a better mouse trap than all the Military-Industrial-Congressional R&D boys ever could have. Barrett had no military, gunsmithing, or engineering experience, but he knew a good idea when one came along. With the aid of a local machinist, they started building the prototype weapon in Barrett’s gravel-floored garage, working weekends and evenings. In four months’ time they took the prototype weapon to the range.

Incorporating improvements discovered building the prototype, the team then manufactured thirty new weapons, that number arrived at because that was how many slots they had in the gun rack. Advertised in Shotgun News, the things sold like hot cakes and they could not keep up with demand. Final tweaking resulted in the Barrett Model 82A1. Sales were mostly civilian, except for an order of a hundred weapons by the Swedish Army. Then came Operation Desert Storm. The United States Marine Corps and some Special Forces groups purchased Barretts. The weapon lived up to all expectations and was soon in use with the military and police forces of some thirty countries.

Once more, the rest is history. Thanks mainly to Barrett, military forces all over the world can’t get enough of the anti-material rifle, and they run the gamut from .50-caliber to 20mm, from single-shots to Barrett’s 10-shot semiautomatic.

In case anyone was wondering what to get me for Christmas...

So, while a new & improved quick-change barrel for the Ma Deuce is a terrific idea in theory, I would expect a good example to come from some guy tinkering in his garage rather than a multi-million (or billion) dollar project handled by the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex.

This is also just one more argument against civilian gun control. How are we going to come up with any good weapons if we leave it to the "professionals"?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jihadists Gotta Work Too

The federal government enjoys bragging that their efforts to sexually assault our children and grandmothers at airports, tap our phones, pull our library records, indefinitely detain us without charges, snoop through our homes without warrants, and assassinate us without trial have been successful in that there "hasn't been a terrorist attack on American soil since 9-11."  Even for this simple claim, however, it's apparent that the government has had to cook the books as it often does.

For instance, you may recall the 2009 Fort Hood shootings wherein Major Nidal Malik Hasan shouted "Allahu Ackbar!" ("God is Great" in Arabic) and opened fire on soldiers at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center on base, killing 13 and wounding 29.  The Defense Department has classified the incident as "workplace violence" not terrorism.

This may come as a surprise to radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.  Awlaki had corresponded with Hasan via email, bragged about influencing him and declared him a hero to the terrorist cause after the shooting.  In September, President Obama blew Awlaki's ass up with a Predator drone, which seems like a bit of overkill if Awlaki was merely fomenting "workplace violence."

The classification was so absurd that even Senator Susan Collins (RINO-Maine) "blasted the Defense Department for classifying the Fort Hood massacre as workplace violence and suggested political correctness is being placed above the security of the nation's Armed Forces at home." (According to a Fox News report.)  If Susan Collins thinks something is dumb, it must be really, really dumb.

Hangdog Senator Joe Lieberman (I[mostly D]-Connecticut), who sits on the Senate Homeland Security Committee has said, "The stark reality is that the American service member is increasingly in the terrorists' scope and not just overseas in a traditional war setting."  Indeed several plots to kill service members in America have thankfully been foiled.

One plot that was NOT thwarted was in Little Rock Arkansas.  In 2009 two Army privates, both recent basic training graduates, were shot outside an Arkansas recruitment center by a gunman in a passing vehicle. One of the soldiers was killed and one was wounded.  The shooter pleaded guilty and proudly declared that he carried out the attack on behalf of al Qaeda in Yemen.  The Defense Department has classified the incident as "car trouble."  Okay, they didn't.  But the incident has been treated like just another gang-banger drive-by shooting, not terrorism.

Testifying before Congress, the grieving father of Pvt. William Andrew Long, the soldier killed in Little Rock, put it poignantly:  "My faith in government is diminished. It invents euphemisms ... Little Rock is a drive by and Fort Hood is just workplace violence. The truth is denied."

As a small government constitutionalist and civil libertarian, I've got a lot of problems with the so-called "War on Terror."  But I've also got a big problem with slimy, weasel-worded politicians, such as the ones in the current administration, that can call Tea Party activists "terrorists" but can't bring themselves to use the term against actual Islamic jihadists shooting the shit out of our brave service members.  Such people shouldn't be in command.  Screw 'em!

Friday, January 20, 2012


Revisiting the Rifle Grenade

Modern MECAR M200 HEDP(High Explosive Dual Purpose) bullet-trap rifle grenade.

Although in existence since the First World War, the concept and use of the rifle grenade never really caught on in American military circles. Simply put, the rifle grenade uses a grenade projectile fired from a rifle to a distance far beyond throwing range.

I suspect a major portion of the reason the rifle grenade never caught on in the U.S. Army was the lack of meaningful training. “Weapons familiarization” involved firing a single inert grenade in basic training. Soldiers were hazed with tales of how bad the recoil would be long before they fired it, so many were actually afraid to shoot the damn thing. Talk to veterans of the M1 Garand era and their only impression of the rifle grenade was how, “It kicked like an SOB!”

Another reason was that earlier rifle grenades were pretty darned inconvenient to use. They required a launcher be attached to the muzzle of the rifle, the grenade slipped over the launcher, and a special grenade-launching blank inserted into the chamber to fire it. Needless to say, trying to launch one with a live round was a fast way for the folks back home to collect some GI life insurance. When the US Army landed in North Africa in 1942, every squad still had one bolt-action 1903 Springfield rifle to be used as a grenade launcher.
The Caliber .30 grenade launching cartridge was NOT interchangeable with the standard blank round, which had a wax wad. Note the "star-crimped" nose.

Some post-war Belgian rifle grenades used propulsive rounds that was not star-crimped. FN offered a short and long range launching blank consisting of a standard 7.62x51mm casing with a thin wad sealed with varnish. The short range launching cartridge had 1.70 grams of (unspecified) propellent and the long-range round 3.30 grams. Whatever the type, a special round had to be single-loaded for every grenade.

While launchers were eventually developed for the M1 Garand and M1 carbine, the launcher blank was still a major problem, especially with the Garand’s 8-round enbloc clip. Later, newer weapons like the SKS, M14 and FN FAL required turning the gas plug on and off in addition to all of the above steps.

Lastly, M9A1 HEAT grenade was touted as an anti-tank weapon, a role in which it was not very effective, especially as tank technology and armor protection increased at a frantic rate during WWII. It only remained useful against light armor like halftracks and armored cars.

An interesting aside, the M9A1 rifle grenade was ineffective against tanks, and the M1A1 2.36-inch (66mm) bazooka was also obsolete against German tanks by the end of WWII. In 1950 Soviet-built North Korean T-34-85 tanks rolled right over ROK and American forces armed with the above weapons. There was a mad scramble to get the 3.5-inch (90mm) “Super Bazooka” and the Energa (detailed below) rifle grenade into the hands of the troops to stop such tanks.

Yet after the Korean War, the US Army adopted the LAWS rocket, in 66mm. It proved ineffective against even the light amphibious PT-76 tank in Vietnam.

US Marine on Peleliu firing rifle grenade in indirect role from his M1 Garand.

Back to WWII. Although not a good anti-tank weapon, those GIs and Marines who became good shots with the rifle grenade, (their good training consisting of firing live rounds in combat) found it quite useful for many other purposes.

I was surprised how many references I found to use of the rifle grenade in the War Department study Small Unit Actions, detailing a battle for Santa Maria Infante in the rugged hills of Italy on the night of May 11/12 1944.

“The rest of the 3d Squad opened up on the two German machine guns with everything they had, shooting rifle grenades and throwing hand grenades at the two positions. When the shower of explosives was over, the machine guns were silent…(p131)” “After firing antitank grenades at the machine guns, Sergeant Eddy and his men decided to wait for reinforcements from the 1st Platoon, which was supposed to be following the 2d Platoon (p137)” “Sergeant Eddy's force tossed hand grenades, then shot an antitank grenade that landed in the enemy group, dispersing the Germans and putting an end to the fire fight (ibid)” [After mortars failed to silence a MG nest]….”Captain Nelson grabbed an M-1 rifle from one of his men and fired a grenade point-blank at the machine gun, knocking it out and killing the two gunners.(p138)” “…Pvt. John Rocke fired several rifle grenades. Their efforts or those of adjacent or supporting units must have been effective, for the fire from the nearest gun stopped.(P141)” “Colonel Champeny sent a squad to wipe out the enemy machine gun and Pvt. Harold W. Saager knocked it out with a rifle grenade. (p149)”

The 5th Army’s official “lessons learned” encyclopedia from the Italian Campaign also noted:

“The fragmentation rifle grenade was also very effective, and with a little training soldiers became very accurate in its use. It was used against groups of personnel in the open, against MG positions, and in clearing houses by firing through open doorways and windows. Frequently it was used in conjunction with AT grenades in attacking occupied houses; AT grenades were fired through doors or windows and the rifle grenades fired close to the house to inflict casualties as the occupants came out. The AT grenade was effectively used against armored vehicles, pill boxes, houses, and dug in gun positions. This grenade had a terrific concussion effect as well as penetrating power. In one instance the use of AT grenades broke up a three tank attack on a company position at a time when artillery support was not available. In another instance a light tank was knocked out and the crew killed by' hits from two AT grenades.”

A veteran of the Normandy hedgerow fighting put it this way: "I think what kept me alive was my love for the rifle grenade. I always had them handy. You know those stories about someone attacking a machine gun with hand grenades? I just took them out using my grenade launcher and a rifle grenade...Normally, you were only a couple of hundred yards away from the target and with a lot of practice [emphasis added] the rifle grenades were very accurate."

Doggies and Jarheads in both the ETO and Pacific soon figured out that the projection adapter designed to launch a conventional “pineapple” hand grenade could be readily adapted to instead launch a 60-mm mortar shell for extra punch. It was particularly popular for street fighting. Lobbing a 60mm mortar round through a window generally took out everyone in the room.

Grenade Adapter M1; it's not just for pineapples anymore.

“Use of 60mm Mortar as Rifle Grenade

From the Twelfth Army Group, ETO: “An infantry regiment has found that the 60-mm mortar shell HE may be fired from the M1 rifle by means of the grenade launcher M7 and the fragmentation-grenade projection adapter M1. Six inches of wire per shell and a pair of pliers are the only additional materials needed."

That same adapter could launch a WP (White Phosphorous) grenade in lieu of the pineapple as well. Later, dedicated WP grenades were introduced. Rifle grenades could lay down colored smoke for signaling, regular smoke for screening, or provide immediate night illumination with parachute flares.

Signal Corps personnel in the mountainous Italian campaign converted rifle grenades into grapnel hooks for stringing communication wire across deep ravines or up steep slopes. This adaptation was also used by infantry and engineers to clear areas of tripwire mines and to snare and pull clear barbed wire entanglements while the soldiers remained safely under cover.

With graduated marks on the rifle sling, rifle grenades could also be used for immediate indirect fire in a commando mortar role.

They discovered other little tricks of the trade as well.

“The bazooka and rifle grenade are very effective against enemy dug in along a tree line. A hit above the emplacement on a tree trunk is highly effective.” (Infantry lieutenant, Normandy.)

“Our men like the WP grenade a great deal because they get the Heinies out of their holes. If you hold your rifle at about 30 degrees, you can get air bursts by using the grenade projection adapters. Our men have learned to burst these grenades over the Heinies’ holes, and PWs say they really hate it.” (G-3, 29th Inf, France.)

GI in the ETO firing the M19A1White Phosphorous rifle grenade from the short-ranged M1 carbine.

In the post-WWII era, the rifle grenade became popular in Western Europe and elsewhere around the globe, with the most widespread weapon in use the Energa rifle grenade.

R1A1 "Super Energa"

Diameter: 73mm
Length: 14-1/2 inches
Weight: 1.58 pounds
Filling: 12 ounces RDX/Wax 97/3
Penetration: 200mm (7.87 inches) steel armor
Muzzle velocity: 203 fps
Range: 375 meters

Originally manufactured by MECAR of Belgium, the Energa was used by England, Belgium, Switzerland, South Africa and other nations through the end of the 70’s. It was a shaped-charge anti-armor grenade designed to be fired from just about any 7.62x51mm rifle. Some required adapters, but most European armies standardized their flash suppressors to 22mm in diameter so that rifle grenades could be used universally between NATO forces. The Yugoslavian SKS also has a 22mm muzzle, as Tito was one of the few Eastern European leaders able to stand up to Stalin, making his country “non-aligned” with Soviet satellite countries. Despite widespread use of the PRG-7 in the former Soviet Bloc, Poland also produced large numbers of rifle grenades for their riflemen and for export.

The Yugoslavian SKS has a 22mm grenade launching flash suppressor to take standard rifle grenades.

From 7.62x51mm rifle the Energa had a maximum range against area targets of around 350 yards and could penetrate, supposedly, eight inches of steel armor plate. Range against point targets such as the vulnerable areas of a tank, was only 75 yards. The nose fuze itself was actually a tiny shaped charge of its own. Upon impact, it fired off its shaped-charge jet down the hollow interior of the nose cone to strike and set off the booster charge which in turn detonated the filling of RDX High Explosive. A slightly improved version, the R1M1, was as of 2000 still manufactured and used in South Africa.

The Energa's shrapnel effect when used against soft targets was nowhere near as good as a fragmentation grenade, but it was often used as such simply because it was the only thing available. SAS troopers in Aden quickly discovered that an Energa fired into a cave full of rebels damped their enthusiasm with the concussion from the blast alone.

The best, however, was yet to come, since the Energa still required a special grenade launching blank. A new breed of Bullet Trap and Bullet-Through rifle grenades were developed. These could be fired with any rifle round, requiring no single loading of special propulsive cartridges. Thus, the soldier had a handy one-shot explosive weapon with the first round, and was instantly ready to open fire with conventional ammunition as the next round chambered.

Tail assembly tube of MECAR bullet trap rifle grenade before and after firing.

While admittedly a sales pitch, MECAR said of their bullet-trap grenades:

“The low recoil of the 40mm grenades permits their firing from any conventional rifle position or by propping the rifle, mortar like, on the ground. Several 40mm rifle grenades can be readily carried by the rifleman without hindering his freedom of action. As a result, the FRG-RFL-40 N extends the rifleman’s capability to handle the enemy in concentrations or in single combat. It avoids the need for light mortars at a corresponding reduction in logistic load on the platoon and the supply lines while substantially increasing the firepower of the rifle squad.”

The Israelis have been particularly fond of the rifle grenade from the FAL of the 70’s to today. I tend to believe that if the Israelis use something, it must work pretty well. A good example of the bullet-trap grenade is the Israeli BT/AT.

Jerusalem, 1967: Israeli grenadier with BT/AT 52 bullet-trap rifle grenades. Such weapons have been useful in street fighting since WWII.

This rifle grenade has a steel tail unit, inside of which is stacked a series of steel discs designed to collapse in succession, slowing the bullet to a stop while using it and the propellant gases to launch the grenade up to 300 meters. As a safety feature in the event of some malfunction with the discs, a hardened steel alloy bullet deflector shoots the rifle projectile out the side of the tube so that it cannot possibly hit and detonate the warhead. It has an impact fuse which can detonate the main charge of RDX/TNT at angles of as low as 15 degrees.

BT/AT 52
Diameter: 50mm
Length: 15.75 inches
Weight: 1 lb 2 oz
Range: 300 meters

Beruit, 1982. The IDF has gone from FALs to M16s but is still using the same rifle grenade.

The Belgian arms firm of MECAR has been manufacturing and selling a variety of bullet-trap grenades for decades. Their BTU series of 35/40mm bullet-trap rifle grenades are compatible with all the standard 22mm launcher muzzles and have been used by 35 countries around the world. Models include HE, HEAT, smoke, illumination, and CS (tear) gas.

The newest MECAR series is the M200 HEDP (High Explosive Dual Purpose) 35mm rifle grenade. It can be used with either 5.56mm or 7.62mm weapons with the standard 22mm muzzle devices. The shaped charge can penetrate 80mm of rolled homogeneous armor yet when used in the anti-personnel role it has fragmentation comparable to conventional hand grenades.

The French firm of Luchaire also manufactures a variety of similar bullet-trap rifle grenades, against standardized for 22mm flash suppressors. Although in the process of adopting a 40-mm under-barrel grenade launcher like the M203, the British Army purchased a large lot of these as the “RGL” (Rifle Launched Grenade) for use in the First Gulf War.

The Bullet-Thru™ rifle grenade

Fabrique Nationale of Belgium, as in FN of rifle fame, makes a really unique rifle grenade called the Bullet-Thru™. With a telescoping tail, it is pulled out to make the grenade safe, not only separating the firing pin from the detonator but also separating the HE charge from the fragmentation sleeve. When fired, the bullet passes through a polycarbonate plug while retaining enough gases to launch the grenade, and as it is fired, a spring retracts the body and tail back together, arming the weapon. Range from a 7.62x51mm weapon is 400 yards.

FN Bullet-Thru

Diameter: 37mm
Length, collapsed: 7.44 inches
Length, extended: 11.4 inches
Weight: 11.3 ounces
Maximum range (7.62mm rifle): 400 meters
Lethal bursting radius: 10 meters

Polyvalent Grenade

Another extremely clever rifle grenade that combines features wanted since Guadalcanal is the Polyvalent Grenade developed and manufactured by Losfeld of France. The Polyvant combines three weapons into one. It can be used as an offensive hand grenade (blast), a defensive hand grenade (fragmentation), or as an anti-personnel rifle grenade. The pieces include the explosive body, a fragmentation sleeve, and a tail assembly. The nose-mounted fuze has three settings; impact, 5-second fuze, or both.

Three different tail assemblies are made to tailor the Polyvalent Grenade to the particular weapon issued. The F1 tail is intended for use with conventional grenade launching blank cartridges. The F556 is a bullet-trap style for use with 5.56mm (.223) rifles and the heavier, stouter F762 model for 7.62x51mm (.308) rifles.

It was used by France and several other countries until the last 10 years or so. The listed data is for a Polyvalent fitted with the F762 tail assembly.


Length: 14.17in (360mm)
Weight: 1.14 pounds
Muzzle velocity: 310 fps
Range: 225 meters

This is not a completely new idea. German HE rifle grenades of WWII could have the driving band for the rifled spigot grenade launchers removed and be used as a conventional hand grenade. The Japanese had a grenade which could be used in rifle grenade launchers or the 50mm knee mortar and still be used as a hand grenade.


This is another unconventional and very interesting 53mm anti-personnel “rifle grenade” fairly recently developed and manufactured by the Israelis. It doesn’t launch a grenade projectile per se; it blasts out a cloud of flechettes, small, sharp, finned steel darts. The AP-50 shoots a swarm of 160 of these flechettes across a 10-degree arc to an effective range of 50 meters. Such a weapon would be deadly in the jungle, MOUT, night fighting, and other close and dirty situations. It has been referred to as the “Rifle Claymore”.


Another well-liked and often used rifle grenade, in both WWII and Korea, were the parachute flares. The M17A1 illumination round, pictured below, had a powerful thin-cased flare with a folded-up parachute in the nose. A 5-1/2 second fuze ignited a small smokeless powder propelling charge when the grenade was fired. This charge detonated at about 600 feet of altitude, igniting the flare and ejecting it from the thin sheet metal grenade case. The flare burned at 20,000 candlepower and the parachute kept it aloft for up to 30 seconds of illumination.


One other special purpose military grenade that comes in handy is the smoke grenade. Smoke screens are used a great deal by infantry, especially in city street fighting, but the standard smoke grenade cannot be thrown far enough to do more than cover the crossing of a street. Obviously, the smoke rifle grenade can lay down smoke in a great many more places and at longer ranges.

Belgium’s MECAR, originator of the Energa, makes an HC (Hexachlorethane) smoke grenade that lasts for 35 seconds. The manufacturer claims four grenades will cover a 200 meter front. I.M.I. (Israeli Military Industries) makes a similar grenade, and also a red phosphorous round good for 20 seconds. The French Luchaire smoke grenades last around 25 seconds.

VC unpack a shipment of Chinese-made rifle grenades.

A detailed read of ground combat accounts in Vietnam reveals widespread use of the rifle grenade by the VC/NVA.
In addition to normal combat uses, it was also a handy weapon to lob inside of American compounds. Fired with a fairly flat trajectory, it befuddled counter-mortar radars and the shooter would be long gone before any counter-fire could be laid into the location.

Despite the proliferation of dedicated grenade launchers attached to rifles, such as the American M203, Russian GP, and a host of others, the rifle grenade still soldiers on in some militaries around the world.

The Communist Chinese are still cranking out rifle grenades in large numbers. “Reverse-engineered” from the Belgian MECAR grenade, the Chinese Type 90 40-mm rifle grenade is a bullet-trap design which can be used with live ammunition instead of grenade launching blanks. A disposable ladder-type sight, graduated to 260 meters, is attached to the grenade itself. Models of this grenade include an armor piercing anti-tank round, an anti-personnel fragmentation model, a dual-purpose that works for both of the afore-mentioned uses, smoke and incendiary grenades. Being still an infantry-heavy army despite new modern heavier weapons, this adds considerable firepower to the riflemen of the Hordes.

French FAMAS 5.56mm assault rifle with Luchaire grenade and Chinese Type 95 5.8mm assault rifle with Type 90 grenade. A little "reverse-engineering" going on somewhere?

Don't get me wrong. I really like the M203 grenade launcher and consider it a very good weapon. With practice one can become very accurate with a 40mm grenade launcher. I found the 203 to be quite accurate when using the basic foundational skills of regular rifle marksmanship. Long-range indirect work requires getting the "feel" of the weapon as well as aiming. Perhaps it was just my perception, but I found live HE rounds to be much more accurate than the orange "powder puff" training rounds.

But there is the whole one-weapon-per-squad thing with the 203. I certainly don't advocate getting rid of the 203. Keeping the grenadier with the M203 and adding similar capability to every other rifleman would make a difference in gaining fire superiority over the enemy in the first critical minute of an engagement, or break up enemy concentrations later in the battle.

For instance, in Helmand Province Afghanistan in 2006, a platoon of the Royal Gurkha Rifles was pinned down behind a mud wall by a swarm of concentrated small arms and machine gun fire from a more numerous group of dug-in TAQ insurgents. Raising one's head over the wall to return direct fire was a losing proposition. When other groups of jihadists tried to encircle the Gurkhas from both flanks, they were able to break up these attacks as they formed with rifle grenades firing indirectly. The report didn't mention what kind of rifle grenades; I imagine Luchaires or something similar.

All this, of course requires live fire (or dummy fire) practice with either grenade launchers or rifle grenades, just like the rifle. Ah, therein lies the rub. One argument in favor of the rifle grenade is low cost since one can fire dummies all day, retrieving them and shooting them over and over. Getting the Army to spend a day at the range training with any ammunition is another matter. And, once proficiency is achieved, it has to be maintained.

The jihadists have found that the good old RPG-7 rocket propelled grenade pretty ineffective against modern heavy armor. Their solution is swarming, firing simultaneous volleys from several different RPGs concentrated on a single target. The more hits, the more damage done, and the greater the chance for a crucial hit.

Such concentration of fire from multiple weapons is hardly a new concept.

"M1 Grenade Launcher, Private First Class Paul Hogan [no relation to Crocodile Dundee], 30th Inf Div, Normandy: The M1 grenade launcher is really a perfect weapon. We wiped out two armored cars at about 175 yards with one round apiece from four M1's. The hits tore holes 6 to 8 inches in diameter in the sides, killing the men inside. One shell hit a gas tank and the car blew up."

God knows the modern Western infantryman carries waayyyy too much weight already without the addition of another two pounds for two rifle grenades, however. But a swarm concentration of numerous rifle grenades fired at a single target would work the same as an RPG swarm. Not gonna happen, though. Not even if the infantry's weight in other areas was sacrificed, such as dispensing with the large hard-bound volumes of State Department legal interpretations of the laws of war, which, I believe, one must consult before every shot fired.

Perhaps the best use of rifle grenades would be for folks who don't have access to M203s. Hmmm.

For some good information on rifle grenades see:

Combat Reform

Western Rifle Shooters Association

Monday, January 16, 2012




In my little dissertations, some are irritated by my assertion that I think doing it “by the book” is not always the best course, and that “the book” is not the end-all and be-all. Especially the American Army’s book.

The idea I’m trying to convey is not that the book is worthless, as there is much to be learned from the manuals. I expound upon the blasphemous idea that just because the American military does something one way does not necessarily make it the way. There is much to be learned from someone else’s book, too. One can even learn from opponents who don’t even have a book.

The lesson is, as Clint Eastwood said, to “improvise, adapt and overcome.” Don’t get bogged down in inflexible cookie-cutter solutions which may be totally inapplicable to the situation at hand. Use what works best for you and your group. Change when change is needed, adapt to the enemy’s tactics, avoid conventional one-size-fits-all thinking.

Think outside the box…always…or you’ll never get out of the box; it will eventually become a cage and ever more limiting. Huge, hierarchical, bureaucratic hierarchies, for the most part, can’t escape from the box, don’t adapt, and refuse to learn from the past or the present.

This attitude is best summed up by a quote from an anonymous American brigadier general during the Vietnam War:

I will be damned if I will permit the U.S. Army, its institutions, its doctrine, and its traditions to be destroyed just to win this lousy war.”

Fortunately, many military minds throughout history have had a more flexible mindset and approach. I hope that some of these quotes may provide food for thought and inspire outside-the-box thinking.

“The enemy's power of intelligent observation and thought give rise to what Georgetown University military historian Edward Luttwak calls the ‘paradoxical logic of war.’ No matter how sound the rules and procedures in ‘the book,’ the enemy will very shortly know ‘the book’ better than you do and will turn ‘doing it by the book’ into a death trap."

Jonathan Shay, M.D., Ph.D

“If men make war in slavish obedience to the rules, they will fail.”

General Ulysses S. Grant

“The only way to prevent ossification of the mind is to accept nothing as fixed, to realize that the circumstances of war are ever changing, and that consequently organization, administration, strategy and tactics must change also...Adherence to dogmas has destroyed more armies and lost more battles and lives than any cause in war.”

Major General J.F.C. Fuller

“There is no ‘approved’ solution to any tactical situation.”

“It may be of interest to future generals to realize that one makes plans to fit the circumstances, and does not try to create circumstances to fit plans.”

"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn't thinking."

General George S. Patton, Jr.

“Mortal danger is an effective antidote for fixed ideas.”

Field Marshall Erwin Rommel

“Fetishism for battle drills has been largely responsible for sanitizing imagination, creativity and mental mobility in infantry ranks.”

Colonel Arjun Ray

“Modern American war is as easy to script as a ‘B’ movie.”

“If you can't look truth right in the eye and learn from it, then it's going to end up biting you in the ass with a longer casualty list.”

Colonel David Hackworth

"Paper-work will ruin any military force."

Lieutenant-General Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller

“One must change one’s tactics every ten years if one wishes to maintain one’s superiority.”

Marshall Napoleon Bonaparte

“Yet it [the US Army] seemed weighed down by bureaucracy, a stiflingly hierarchical outlook, a pre-disposition to offensive operations, and a sense that duty required all issues to be confronted head-on.”

Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster

“Basic Field Manual knowledge is fine, but it is useless without common sense. Common sense is of greater value than all the words in the book.”

Brigadier General Amor L. Sims, USMC

“So a military force has no constant formation, water has no constant shape: the ability to gain victory by changing and adapting according to the opponent is called genius.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Time to check in on just a tiny sampling of how your government of, for and by the People is serving you. You may wish to grab your vomit bag at this point.

William Randolf Hurst was recently caught building an escape ladder from Hell, such is his jealously of our modern mainstream media and the power they wield via new technology he could never have dreamed of. We've all seen how our modern pillars of journalistic integrity have come to regard "investigation" of news stories to mean regurgitating White House press releases verbatim, presenting editorials of their personal opinions as news, creating news, skewing, omitting, twisting, get the idea. Hell, they can even get an unqualified boob elected to the presidency.

Journalists of all people should be wary of giving too much power even to a regime that they worship and indeed helped create. But, as with so many others in our modern society, they don't know history, and thus it is bound to repeat itself once more. Journalists who helped put the likes of Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin and Mao-Tse Tung in power all rued they day they did so when those regimes turned on them. When they support over-reaching, unrestrained unconstitutional powers being given to their current darling, they should stop and think, "What would happen if my worst enemy were in charge of such powers?" But they won't. Not until it's too late.

Whoops, looks like they already missed the bus.

Freedom of speech might allow journalists to get away with a lot in America, but the Department of Homeland Security is on the ready to make sure that the government is keeping dibs on who is saying what.

Under the National Operations Center (NOC)’s Media Monitoring Initiative that came out of DHS headquarters in November, Washington has the written permission to retain data on users of social media and online networking platforms.

Specifically, the DHS announced the NCO and it Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS) can collect personal information from news anchors, journalists, reporters or anyone who may use “traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed.”

We hate to say I told you so but...we told you so.

Bureaucrats within scores of needless and labyrinthine governmental agencies have also over-stepped their bounds with nary a peep from our journalistic defenders of freedom. Any horse's ass in, say, the Environmental Protection Agency can make up some asinine rule to justify his or her unnecessary existence and it becomes the rule of law without having to go through that pesky ol' Congress. In this case, apparently, the bureaucrats weren't moving fast enough, so Congress helped things right along since the fines go into's coffers.

WASHINGTON — When the companies that supply motor fuel close the books on 2011, they will pay about $6.8 million in penalties to the Treasury because they failed to mix a special type of biofuel into their gasoline and diesel as required by law.

But there was none to be had. Outside a handful of laboratories and workshops, the ingredient, cellulosic biofuel, does not exist.

Those damn mean greedy oil companies are screwing us again!

When it comes to the Men in Black, the judges of our beloved Federal court system, neither the Constitution, the laws of the land nor the will of the People are apparently any justification for, say, upholding the law of the land. I know "Separation of Church and State" is one of the classic Big Lies...we'll award $500 and a new car to anyone who can find that phrases in the Bill of Rights...but by that argument, how can Sharia law trump United States and State criminal and civil law? That's easy. Find yourself a Federal judge (I can't bring myself to call them "justices").

"DENVER (Reuters) - A federal appeals court upheld an injunction against a voter-approved ban on Islamic law in Oklahoma on Tuesday, saying it likely violated the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against religion...

The Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations welcomed the ruling, calling it, "A victory for the Constitution..."

If that's a victory for the Constitution, I'd hate to see a defeat.

Let me see if I have this right. Ben and I can form our own religion, like Scientology or the Acolytes of Al Gore, and our holy scripture says we can go around kicking Federal judges in the nuts whenever we want, would that then be OK? If so, we need to get cracking on Benandbawbism. May the Great & Powerful 7.62x51mm NATO watch over you and give you peace.

So why is Bawb off again on the whole Sharia law thing? This piece from the American Thinker, with plenty of links, says it better than I can.

10. Islam commands that drinkers and gamblers should be whipped.

9. Islam allows husbands to hit their wives even if the husbands merely fear highhandedness in their wives.

8. Islam allows an injured plaintiff to exact legal revenge—physical eye for physical eye.

7. Islam commands that a male and female thief must have a hand cut off.

6. Islam commands that highway robbers should be crucified or mutilated.

5. Islam commands that homosexuals must be executed.

4. Islam orders unmarried fornicators to be whipped and adulterers to be stoned to death.

[BTW ladies, you're guilty of adultery if you get raped.]

3. Islam orders death for Muslim and possible death for non—Muslim critics of Muhammad and the Quran and even sharia itself.

2. Islam orders apostates to be killed.

1. Islam commands offensive and aggressive and unjust jihad.

Hell, that's no reason not to give it precedence over the laws of the land.

But there still flickers an ember of hope, probably too little too late, but warming to us anyways...the County Sheriff.

"The Bureau of Land Management is taking onto themselves law enforcement authority that Congress never gave them. In the Federal Land Policy and Management Act that was passed in the early 1970s it made it clear that Congress said that, first, you must go to your local county sheriff for law enforcement activities.”

“In the BLM proposed rules and regulations, you can’t remove any plants or soil or pick up any rocks or minerals. You can’t drive on any vegetation or soil. You can’t disturb soil at all. Now you can’t set a foot on soil without disturbing it. You can’t set a foot on a ground plant without disturbing it.”

For the sheriff in Nye County, Nevada, BLM abridgments of liberty had gone too far. When BLM threatened to arrest the sheriff if he refused to go along with BLM’s illegal searches and seizures against Nye County citizens, Sheriff Tony DeMeo countered by telling BLM in no uncertain terms that should any agent attempt to enforce BLM’s unconstitutional policies, he would have his deputies arrest them. DeMeo even had his SWAT teams standing by to enforce the law AGAINST THE OUT-OF-CONTROL FEDERAL AGENCY. To put it in Sheriff DeMeo’s words, “We’d be standing between them [BLM] and my constituents [county residents].” At the last minute, BLM backed off and the confrontation between the Nye County sheriff’s office and the federal agency was averted.

Check out and support Sheriff Mack, one of the brave few Peace Officers (not a Law Enforcement Officer!) still wearing a white hat.