Gun History

History of firearms

History of the Barrett .50 BMG

In 1982, a man named Ronnie Barrett was a professional photographer taking photos of a military patrol boat on Tennessee’s Stones River. The patrol boat was armed with two M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun mounts. Barrett was intrigued by those guns and he wondered if a rifle could be designed to fire the .50 BMG bullet (“BMG” = Browning Machine Gun).

The cartridge is huge. Many of the inert rounds can be picked up at gun shows as bottle cap openers.

With no firearms design experience or training, Barrett hand-drew a design for a .50 caliber rifle. Barrett drew the rifle in three dimensions, to show how it should function, and then took his design to local machinists. But nobody wanted to help him. He believed that if a .50 caliber shoulder-fired rifle was useful someone would have developed one by then. Barrett finally found one sympathetic machinist, Bob Mitchell, and the two set to work. Less than four months later, they had a prototype rifle.

He completed his first rifle, the Barrett .50 BMG in 1982. It was a shoulder-fired, semi-automatic rifle designed around the .50 BMG cartridge. The weird part is that the Barrett rifle’s barrel recoiled backward after firing. A rotating-lock breech block equipped with an accelerator arm used part of the recoil energy to push back the block on firing. This cycled the action, cocked the firing pin, and loaded a new round from a ten-round steel magazine.

The result was a weapon that should generate sufficient recoil to make repeated firings uncomfortable, but using the recoil energy to cycle the action and the weapon’s weight reduced felt recoil. A double baffle muzzle brake that vented exhaust gasses to the left and right was added later and further reduced recoil. This makes total sense. A .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a tripod is geared for continuous rapid fire. However, you would not want the same caliber fired from a shoulder-mounted gun. The shooter’s shoulder will be black and blue before the magazine was empty. This gun was shoulder-fired, and was designed for single shot shooting…exactly what snipers do.

The .50 BMG cartridge compared to a 5.56 AR-15 round.

Barrett initially built thirty production rifles and placed an ad in The Shotgun News. The initial order quickly sold out and Barrett increased production. The Central Intelligence Agency saw the ad and placed an order for rifles to equip the Mujahideen guerrillas that were fighting Soviet Army occupiers in Afghanistan. The CIA saw the Barrett rifle as the ideal weapon for engaging the Soviets from long range. The Barrett’s ability to destroy enemy war material such as communications equipment, vehicles, weapons and other items with the heavy .50 BMG round created a new category of weapon—the anti-materiel rifle.

A .50 BMG cartridge compared to a 9mm cartridge and a quarter.

The Barrett M82 was fifty-seven inches long, had a twenty-nine-inch barrel, and weighed 28.44 pounds. The M82 delivered previously unheard levels of energy and distance in a sniper rifle. The M33 .50 BMG bullet weighed 661 grains, or 1.5 ounces, compared to the fifty-five grains of 5.56mm ammunition used in M16-type rifles. The M33 round had a velocity of 2,750 feet per second at the muzzle and delivered an amazing 11,169-foot pounds of energy, compared to just 1,330-foot pounds for the 5.56 round. The Barrett round was so powerful the bullet still retained 1,300 foot-pounds of energy after traveling 2,000 yards downrange. At a distance of 1.4 miles the M33 round still packs 1,000-foot pounds of energy—more than three times the power of a 9mm pistol bullet.

If you want to pick up one of Barrett’s inventions, you better have a gold card. This particular gun was recently selling for $7300.

In 1989, the Swedish Army placed the first military order for the Barrett Model M82A1, ordering 100 rifles. In 1990, the U.S. Marine Corps placed an order for 125 M82A1s and the rifles participated in Operation Desert Storm, the campaign to liberate Kuwait. The Marines bought more rifles in the 1990s, and the U.S. Army finally came onboard and purchased the rifle as the M107 in 2002. The utility of the heavy caliber sniper rifle can disable a multi-million dollar jet on the ground with a two-dollar bullet. This fact has been repeatedly proven in numerous conflicts, including the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and against the Islamic State.

“She Went To Barrett”

Today, militaries of more than sixty countries use the Barrett M82A1. These are mostly NATO countries and U.S. allies in Asia and the Middle East. All the major military powers field their own 12.7mm/.50 caliber-class sniper rifles, with Russia’s OSV-96 rifle serving with the Russian Ground Forces and China’s Zijiang M99 serving with the People’s Liberation Army. The Barrett M82A1, the rifle nobody wanted to build, ended up starting a revolution.

There is a spoof of the jewelry store commercial “He Went To Jared”, called “She Went to Barrett”. We have custom printed merchandise containing that spoof in our custom printed merchandise store. Click here to see all the product offerings.

History of the Barrett .50 BMG Read More »

Carbine Williams

This is excerpted from the February 25, 2022 post from “War History Online”. Blog Photo: David Marshall Williams visiting Sheriff Eugene W. Biscailuz, 1951

Another blog post on our site tells the story of how the M1 Carbine came to be. But the carbine would not have materialized without the help of a former jailbird.

A man named David Marshall Williams was a guy who was always in trouble. He was raised in rural Cumberland County, North Carolina. He was expelled in the eighth grade. Then when he was 15, he attempted to enlist in the Navy and got booted out for lying about his age, claiming to be 17. A couple of years later, he got booted out of the Blackstone Military Academy after a cache of stolen rifles and 10,000 rounds of ammo were found in his car. In 1918, he got married and the pair had a son. Now with a family, he found work with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. But again, that did not last long, as he got booted from that job because he was shooting at birds flying near the rails.

So now it was Prohibition, and Williams turned to bootlegging to support his family. Near Godwin, North Carolina, Williams had a still set up, but the authorities found it and raided it. When the police were leaving the scene, two shots rang out from the woods and struck a deputy riding on a car running board, killing him with two bullets. Williams was arrested and sentenced to 30 years of hard labor at the Caledonia State Prison Farm.

Ironically, that is when Williams’ life began to turn around. The superintendent there recognized Williams had a mechanical aptitude. Over time, the super let Williams have more time in the prison machine shop. Initially Williams crafted tools missing from the shop. Later he was permitted to service the prison guards’ weapons.

Four Carbine rifles designed by David Marshall Williams while in prison.

With nothing but time on his hands, Williams began drawing and designing firearms and over time, designed four different semi-automatic rifles. Using his mother as his conduit to the outside world, she sent him names of attorneys so he could patent his four firearm designs, but was rejected by the patent office because he was incarcerated.

His sentence was commuted and he was released from Caledonia in 1929. Now a free man, Williams was able to manufacture and patent his rifle designs. Colt Manufacturing Company found out about Williams and his patents and were interested in learning more about the floating chamber Williams designed on their Colt Ace pistol. The resulting partnership created the Colt Service Ace, a .22 caliber pistol with a stronger recoil than its predecessor.

Carbine Williams, 1952, with Jimmy Stewart in the lead role.

He also petitioned the War Department and made trips to Washington, D.C., to show them what he created, thinking it would have military value. In 1935, two patents were filed, and published in 1938. The Ordnance Department recommended Williams continue work with the Winchester Repeating Arms company to improve a rifle designed by John Edmund Browning. He collaborated with two other individuals. The three men had a personality clash so Williams developed one prototype, the other men developed another prototype. It was this other prototype which became the M1 Carbine. However, that gun would not have been developed had it not been for William’s patented short-stroke gas piston.

David Marshall Williams continued to work with Winchester for several more years, and in 1952 he gained notoriety thanks to a movie about his life, titled Carbine Williams. Legendary actor Jimmy Stewart played Williams. Wherever the movie was playing, Williams followed along to sign autographs.

In the 1960s, Williams donated his entire workshop and personal collection to the North Carolina Museum of History, where it remains on display. He died in 1975 at the age of 74.

Carbine Williams Read More »

History of the Winchester .30-30

The Winchester .30-30, commonly referred to as a “saddle rifle”, known as the Model 94, first appeared in August 1895, around the time when firearms and ammunition manufacturers switched from black powder cartridges to smokeless powder cartridges. The rifle was originally known as the “.30 Winchester Center Fire” or “.30 WCF”. Designed by John Browning as a lever-action repeating rifle, it quickly became one of the most famous and popular hunting rifles of all time. It originally debuted as a black powder variant before the barrel was strengthen to a nickel-steel combination

The trusted saddle rifle in its scabbard.

Its design uses a barrel or tubular magazine, rather than a conventional box magazine…the famous second barrel located underneath the primary barrel. Therefore, because cartridges are loaded end-on-end inside the magazine tube, the bullet is generally a blunt nose variety for safety considerations. These bullets are also rimmed and do not work well in a traditional box magazine.

Modern ammo. Notice the blunt time and rimmed cartridge

In the name, the “.30” designates the caliber, while the “-30” designates the early 30 grain smokeless powder charge. It is a very popular hunting rifle in both Canada and the United States. Deer and bear hunters like it because of its light recoil of just 10.6 foot pounds of felt recoil at the shooter’s shoulder compared to the more popular .30-06 and the .308 cartridges, thus preventing flinching. It is also preferred by hunters because it is light and quick (to reload). The rifle is good for about up to 150 yards, and is not recommended for long distance shooting across wide open spaces.

Opening Credits of “The Rifleman”
Holding his rifle at his hip, he rapidly reloads as he fires

Called the “saddle rifle” it got that nickname because it carried well on horseback. It is seen in just about every Western movie and TV shows. You can see the “repeating” action in the opening credits of the Rifleman TV series, in which Chuck Connors holds the gun at his hip and rapidly reloads his trusty rifle.

History of the Winchester .30-30 Read More »

History of the Desert Eagle

Back in the late 70s, the allure of the 1911 and revolver style handguns was beginning to wane. Newer technologies around plastics, polymers and manufacturing were making high quality semi-automatics popular and affordable. Thus, in 1982 we saw the introduction of the Glock 17, and the mid-80s we saw the introduction of the Ruger “P” series, Beretta 92F and the Sig Sauer P226.

With open breech

So a thought was put forth by John Risdall and Jim Skildam, the founders of Magnum Research, based in Minnesota, to attract the big bore hunting crowd and the semi-automatic pistol crowd, and built a handgun called the “L96”, chambered in .357 Magnum. Eventually, they introduced the concept of interchangeable barrels, chambered in .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum and then in 1991, the .50 Action Express, which at the time was the largest pistol caliber. Eventually the .50 AE was superseded by the .500 S&W.

But like many startups, they had the vision, just not the capital or the capacity. They were not able to mass produce the demand for this gun, so Israeli Military Industries was subcontracted to manufactured the handguns. Because of this subcontracting arrangement, many folks thought this gun was an Israeli invention. It was not. Magnum Research continued to hold the licensing rights. However, this led to the name change to “Desert Eagle”, which allowed sales to take off. IMI continued to produce the gun until 1995, when production moved to Saco, Maine.

The Desert Eagle is an amalgamation of other handgun styles. The beaver tail and magazine release model the 1911. The gas and piston system model the Ruger Mini-14, and the external safety and take down lever model the Beretta 92F. The real difference however, was in the gas operation. Typically, normal semi-automatic handguns use a “blow back” method of gas operation, whereby the expanding gasses of the fired cartridge would blow the breech backwards, thereby ejecting the spent round and chambering the next round.

The rotating AR-15 style bolt head is clearly visible when the breech is open for these .50 AE cartridges

But because the Desert Eagle was chambered for very large caliber pistol rounds, the gas operations had to be something different, or it would be difficult for the shooter to deal with the recoil. So the designers used a rotating bolt system, identical in function to the gas operations of an AR-15. After a round is fired, the bolt head will rotate as it moves backwards. Rotating bolt heads have very little recoil compared to their blow-back cousins. As a point of reference, my wife is skittish about shooting my 9mm, but loves shooting my AR-15 because there is hardly any felt recoil.

Counter-Strike video game

So in order to change out the caliber, the shooter simply has to remove the barrel and bolt head, and insert the new barrel and bolt head. The slide and the action remain untouched. So, if the shooter is in possession of the other caliber barrels and bolt head, they could theoretically shoot a .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum and the .50 AE all in one visit to the range.

The Desert Eagle has found notoriety in over 500 movies, but really found its niche in video games. As a result, the gun got its nickname, the “Deagle”, a shortcut of typing “Desert Eagle” on a keyboard. One of the first games to really take advantage of the handgun is the game Counter-Strike from Source. Players are allowed to purchase it, as it has the hardest hitting effects of any handgun in the game, so players routinely “buy” it at the beginning of the game and use it as their primary weapon throughout the game.

Gold-finished variant

The company was bought out by Kahr Arms in 2010, and control of production remains with this company. Magnum Research is still very much alive in showcasing the pistol and announcing various modifications and enhancements. A look on the current offers will show over 40 different combinations to choose from, including a titanium and gold finished variant. There are even calibers smaller than .357 Magnum produced. Those calibers smaller than the .357 are commonly called “Baby Desert Eagles”, and those calibers use the standard blow back gas operating design.

This gun does have some downsides. First, it is expensive. Typical models are in the $2500 range. Second, it is not a concealed carry gun. The standard barrel is 6″ long, with an optional 10″ barrel available. Third, it is heavy, with it coming in at over 4 pounds. Fifth, while the rotating bolt gas system is great on reducing recoil, it is complicated. Sixth, specialized availability. Although I would love to sell these in the Dakota Firearms online store, we don’t because our distributors don’t carry them.

Nonetheless, this gun is selling like hotcakes. Why? Simply put, it is the allure, plain and simple. It’s pretty much the only relevant handgun chambered in .50 Action Express, and holds more rounds than similarly chambered handguns. It is a gun designed more for the “my dick is bigger than your dick” crowd, because this is the gun which will stop a bad guy hiding behind the refrigerator…at your neighbor’s house.

History of the Desert Eagle Read More »

History of the Glock 17

Glock is now world famous for their high quality handguns. When I am asked “what is a good handgun to buy for my first one”, I always reply with “you can’t go wrong with a Glock”.

Glock G.m.B.H. (the Austrian equivalent of “incorporated”) located 15 miles northeast of Vienna, began in 1963 as manufacturer of consumer goods made of steel and injection-molded plastics and polymers.

But by the late ’70s, the handguns used by the Austrian Federal Army (the Bundesheer) were showing signs of age, namely the WWII-era Walther P38. So in 1980, the Bundesheer put out bids for a new handgun to replace the P38. The specs were that the new replacement had to be self-loading, chambered in 9x19mm NATO and had to contain at least 17 rounds, as well as some safety and durability standards. (The model number “17” did not come from the requirement of 17 rounds.)

Billionaire Gaston Glock

The company’s founder and head engineer, Gaston Glock, had no experience designing firearms. However, he did have extensive knowledge of plastics, and responded to the army’s bid and produce his own combat pistol. So in 1982, Glock assembled a team of industry specialists and experts with military and law enforcement backgrounds to give him ideas on the ideal combat handgun.

With their combined experience, as well as his own experience with plastics and polymers, Glock turned out his first working prototype in just three months. Glock already had 16 previous Austrian patents for his consumer goods products, but it was this 17th patent for a combat handgun for which this gun model was named.

Despite being a complete newcomer to the handgun industry, Glock beat out fellow competitors of FN, Beretta, Heckler & Koch, Sig Sauer, and Austria’s oldest firearms manufacturer, Steyr. The Budesheer formally adopted the Glock 17 in 1983 and placed an order for 30,000 units.

In 1984, Norway became the first NATO country to adopt the Glock 17. In late 1985, Glock manufacturing came across the pond and opened its first international subsidiary, Glock Inc., in Smyrna, George. At first, this facility handled just sales and assembly, as the parts were still being produced in Austria.

In 1986, Glock 17s finally were made available to the U.S. market. The first ads marketing their availability appeared on page 20 of the June 1986 issue of the famous gun magazine, American Handgunner. In 1988, the ATF requested a steel plate be added bearing the gun’s serial number embedded into the frame, under the muzzle.

By far, Glock’s most well-known customers are American law enforcement officers. The mid-1980s were a period of rising drug-related crime, fueled mainly by the introduction of crack cocaine. Criminal organizations were becoming better armed and more violent, and U.S. law enforcement agencies felt increasingly outgunned. In response, most police agencies nationwide started transitioning away from .38 Special or .357 Magnum revolvers in favor of high-capacity, semi-automatic pistols. Seeing an opportunity, Glock started marketing their pistols to the police market during this unique period in American law enforcement history.

Once the U.S. law enforcement community adopted Glocks, their products immediately gained a positive reputation. Glocks are lightweight, highly reliable, accurate pistols that are simple to use and even simpler to maintain, making them ideal for shooters of any level.

The Glock quickly entered pop culture and became a staple of action movies. One of the first depictions of the Glock pistol was Die Hard 2. In the movie, a famous scene depicts Bruce Willis describing it as a “porcelain gun from Germany that doesn’t show up on airport metal detectors.” Although the famous movie line is wildly inaccurate, it reflected common misconceptions about polymer-framed handguns in the early 1990s. At the time, they were still relatively uncommon to shooters and enthusiasts.

Eventually, as popularity with both civilians and law enforcement grew, the “porcelain” misconceptions began to wane. It became a staple of the handgun market, winning customers over through its simplicity, reliability, and reasonable pricing.

Glock products equip nearly ⅔ of America’s law enforcement agencies and almost 50 countries’ armies, police forces, and security agencies. They are also popular in the special forces community, including the Green Berets and the Navy SEALs. However, one achievement has eluded the Austrian firm for over 30 years: Becoming the standard service handgun of the U.S. military.

In 1983, the Department of Defense invited Glock to participate in the XM9 pistol trials, seeking a replacement for the M1911 (what we affectionately call the “1911”). Military officials requested 35 samples from the company, but Glock was unable to meet the request at the time. The XM9 trials concluded with the adoption of the Beretta 92F, becoming the U.S. Military’s M9 pistol.

Here is something you don’t see everyday. A Glock 17 with a 50-round drum magazine.

Glock had another chance in 2017 when the DoD announced the XM17 Modular Handgun System competition to replace the M9. This time, Glock came fully prepared. They offered the Glock 19 MHS, meeting all DoD requirements – including a manual safety, something Glocks typically lack by design. However, the Austrian company lost to longtime competitor Sig Sauer, whose P320 pistol was adopted and designated M17.

Today, Glock is an established and highly-respected name in the firearms industry. The company has created five generations’ worth of models suitable for nearly any customer. The selection includes full-size models for combat, duty, and home defense, compact models for general-purpose use, and subcompact models for concealed carrying. And aftermarket parts for Glocks abound. At a local gun show, there is one merchant with hundreds of aftermarket parts whose business name is “Nothing But Glocks”.

Now in its 5th Generation, the Glock 17 is available from our online store. To review and purchase this classic firearm, click here. Remember, you can never go wrong with a Glock.

History of the Glock 17 Read More »

History of the Colt “Peacemaker”

This was the gun that started the modern firearm revolution. Prior to Samuel Colt inventing this handgun at the age of 16, all previous handguns were of the black powder or flint-lock type…single shot guns manually reloaded.

“Buffalo Bill” Cody carried a Peacemaker. He got his famous nickname after his contract to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat

Officially called the The Colt SAA, short for “Colt Single Action Army”, which also went by other names as the “Model P”, “Peacemaker”, “M1873”, and “Colt .45”, this gun is a single action revolver with a revolving cylinder holding six metallic cartridges. It was designed for the U.S. government service revolver trials of 1872 by Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company and was adopted as the standard military service revolver until 1892. The Colt SAA revolver is a famous piece of Americana, known as “The Gun That Won the West”, because it helped protect pioneers who wanted to settle in the west.

Beginning in the Wild West era through the American Civil War, all the way to the sets of some of the most iconic Hollywood Western movies, this legendary gun shaped the entire culture. The Peacemaker was so much more than just one of the best-designed guns of the era. Additionally, it paved the way for the production of multi-shot firearms, which eventually would transform the United States into a global power.

One of the more popular calibers for this handgun was the .32-caliber version because it used the same rounds as the popular Winchester rifle. The Peacemaker became every man’s dream despite being expensive, as its reliability and elegance made it legendary. Some of the most famous outlaws of the Old West, including Billy the Kid, Jesse James, and Butch Cassidy, carried this gun. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday carried a Peacemaker during the famous 30-second shootout at the O.K. Corral.

John Wayne with Marsha Hunt in Born to the West (1937)

By the 1950s, Hollywood cowboys were almost exclusively equipped with the Peacemakers, as the gun became a national icon. John Wayne carried a custom-designed ivory-gripped Colt, and Clint Eastwood and Kirk Douglas also used the legendary revolver.

History of the Colt “Peacemaker” Read More »

History of the Walther PPK

Yes, this is the gun made famous by James Bond. In the first Bond movie “Dr. No”, Bond used a Beretta 22. Upon seeing the movie, a Glasgow gun expert said to Ian Flemming “I like everything about your James Bond except his deplorable taste in weapons. A Beretta 22 is utterly useless as well as being a lady’s gun – and not a very nice lady at that!”

Bond in Dr. No. His first gun was a Beretta 22, seen here.

Flemming corrected the oversight and in the next Bond movie “Thunderball”, British armorer Major Boothroyd outfitted Bond with the now famous Walther PPK to replace the Beretta 22. This model became Bond’s choice of handguns through the Sean Connery and Roger Moore years. Boothroyd was, from this movie on, affectionately known as “Q” (Quartermaster).

The Walther “PP” series was the main production variant of German gun manufacturer, “Walther”, with “PP” meaning “Polizei Pistole” (Police Pistol). A pocket version was introduced in 1931, known as the “PPK” for “Polizei Pistole Kriminal”, with Kriminal symbolizing this new pocket variant was to be used for covert undercover police work…read between the lines…”Nazis”, since the Nazis were the dominant political party in 1931 Germany.

The PPK was highly praised because of its compactness and reliability as well as the unique signal pin indicating that the gun was either loaded or unloaded. It protrudes from the rear of the slide when the chamber is loaded. If the chamber is empty it stays inside the rear slide. This loaded chamber indicator does not exist on the rim fire models, only the center fire guns.

Bond’s first Walther PPK, from Thunderball, sold for $260,000 at a London auction.

The PPK was well suited for undercover and intelligence work. It was compact, reliable and had reasonable stopping power. Many of the post-war intelligence agencies standardized on the PPK. In addition to MI5 and MI6, the PPK has been used by Germany’s BND, France’s SDECE, Israel’s Mossad and Switzerland’s Intelligence and Security Service. And, the Chinese intelligence service even actually issued a PPK clone.

However, here in the U.S., standardization was not possible. After the 1968 Gun Control Act went into effect and the PPK was barred from import, diplomatic pouches from Germany often bulged with brownish-red Walther PPK boxes. The Gun Control Act prohibited the importation due to the size of the gun. Under the legislation, a pistol must earn a number of points for various sporting features. The PPK could not earn the required points. The Walther firm, not wanting to lose US sales of the PPK, developed the PPK/s. By combining the frame of the PP, which was deeper than the PPK, and the slide of the PPK, the PPK/s was born. The PPK/s met all of the requirements for a handgun to be imported into the United States.

Scaramanga and his golden gun square off against Bond and his trusty sidekick, his Walther PPK

The PPK/s was first manufactured in the United States in 1978 by Ranger Manufacturing in Gadsen, Alabama. Today, both the PPK and PPK/s are manufactured with the .380 ACP, aka, the “9mm Short” as the standard caliber, a good personal defense round, provided the shooting range is short. Only American models have been produced in stainless steel. The German models are made with a blued finish.

The Pierce Brosnan years ushered in the latest model of Walther, the “P99”, and the “PPK” was relegated to the annals of famous historical movie guns.

The Walter PPK and other exceptional Walter models are available from our online store. To review and purchase a Walther PPK, click here.

History of the Walther PPK Read More »

History of the S&W Model 29

The Smith & Wesson Model 29 is a six-shot, double action revolver chambered for the .44 Magnum cartridge. It was offered with 3, 4, 5, 6, 6.5, 8.375 and 10.375 inch barrels as standard models. Other barrel lengths were available by special order from S&W’s Custom Shop. The 5″ barreled variant had a full length underlug. An underlug is a shroud which covers the ejector rod. Presumably, the underlug assisted with minimizing muzzle rise from this powerful round.

Model 29 with a full underlug, the shroud covering the ejector rod which makes the gun look like it has two barrels.

At the time of its introduction, the Model 29 was the most powerful production handgun, although it was later overtaken by handguns chambered for the even larger .454 Casull and .50 Action Express.

The gun’s claim to fame occurred in 1971’s Dirty Harry, starring Clint Eastwood, and his famous line “I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you have to ask yourself one question. Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?

Do ya feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?

The popularity of the movie caused Model 29 sales to soar. Hollywood magic did their part to give the gun an aura of absolute invincibility and power. However, expert handgunners found the revolver to be tough to handle with full-house magnum ammo. Soon, many “barely used” models went up for sale.

Many of these used guns ended up in the hands of big game hunters, and it was this popularity with hunters that made the gun shine once again, with the bagging of white-tailed deer, polar bears, feral pigs and elephants.

Archive photo from the National Firearms Museum’s Dirty Harry display.

The Model 29 will chamber and fire both the .44 Special and .44 Russian cartridges, as the .44 Magnum was developed from the .44 Special and the .44 Special was developed from the .44 Russian. The Magnum case is slightly longer to prevent magnum rounds from being chambered and fired in handguns chambered for the .44 Special.

As for the actual Model 29 used by Clint Eastwood, it had had a 6.5″ barrel, and was used in both Dirty Harry (’71) and Magnum Force (’73). It became part of the 2002 exhibit “Real Guns of Reel Heroes” at the National Firearms Museum.

History of the S&W Model 29 Read More »

M1 Garand vs. M1 Carbine

If you are a student of WWII history or you are a WWII reenactor, you are familiar with the M1 Garand and the M1 Carbine. But contrary to what many people think, the M1 Carbine is not merely a smaller version of the M1 Garand.

Back in 1888, an American named Hiram Maxim, from Sangerville Maine, invented the machine gun, which was a true wonder of the age. It used the power of the bullet to extract and eject the empty brass casing, feed another bullet into the chamber, re-cock the hammer, and fire again as long as there was ammunition. Maxim’s model was able to fire 500 rounds per minute. All over the world, arms designers scrambled to adapt the auto-loading principle to rifles and pistols. Because of the low power of its small bullet, the pistol was relatively easy, and semi-automatic handguns began to appear five years later. The rifle, however, was much more difficult, because the power of the cartridge was so strong it usually broke the rifle after only a few shots.

The standard issue weapon for U.S. troops in WWI was the 1903 Springfield (“M1903”), which was a bolt action rifle that fired a .30-06 round. The gun was heavy to carry and slow to operate, because the shooter had to recycle the next round manually with the bolt. But it was accurate at long distances, which came in handy fighting in trench warfare. So after WWI ended in 1918, U.S. Ordnance began to search aggressively for an auto-loading infantry rifle. Over the next ten years, many inventors submitted designs for testing, but none proved acceptable. If they could stand up to the punishment, they were too heavy, and if they were light enough to be portable, they had to be in a small caliber.

An enbloc clip, loaded with 8 rounds

One of the more promising designs was submitted by a young, Canadian-born inventor named John Cantius Garand. He was quickly employed by the main U.S. arms factory, Springfield Armory in Massachusetts, to develop his design further. Although promising, this rifle eventually reached a dead end, and the self-taught Garand set about on a new design. His new rifle derived the power to operate by tapping off the propellant gases of the fired bullet and using it to cycle the rifle. This design eventually beat out all the competition and was adopted as the standard U.S. infantry rifle in 1936. The rifle was simply called the “M1” (Model #1). The M1903 was retired from active service.

M1 Garand

The Garand’s 8-round enblock clip was loaded from the top. After the last shot was fired, the shooter heard a distinctive metallic “plink” sound as the clip was automatically ejected.

The M1 Garand was subsequently one of the most advanced service rifles of the war. It was a semi-automatic rifle that utilized a gas operated and rotating bolt design that enabled it to reliably feed the large .30-06 Springfield rounds (marked as .30 caliber by the military), the same ammunition that had been used for the M1903. The rifle held eight rounds and fed via an enbloc clip loaded through the top of the receiver. It also weighed less than the M1903, but still heavy in its own right. Garand’s initial desire was to use a detachable magazine which fed from the bottom, but a man named John Peterson was working on his own semi-automatic rifle design in the 1920s at the Springfield Armory and convinced the Ordinance Department to go with the enbloc clip, as he felt it was better.

Nearly 5.5 million M1 Garands were built. They remained in service with the American military throughout the Korean War and into the late 1950s, until they were finally phased out and replaced with the M14 rifle (which itself was essentially an M1 re-chambered for 7.62x51mm NATO with a detachable box magazine and shorter gas cylinder) and later the M16.

M1 Carbine

The Army decided that a smaller and lighter weapon would be needed for support troops (such as radiomen or mortar men). While the shorter Thompson sub-machine gun was in use, it was heavier than a Garand when loaded. There was also the Colt M1911A1 (aka the “Colt 45”) pistol, but this obviously lacked range.

The M1 Carbine was developed after the M1 Garand and was a completely different weapon. While a good rifle, the Garand was also quite long and heavy. 

The Garand weighed nearly 10 pounds, but the Carbine came in at just over 5 pounds.

The M1 Carbine was developed as a new weapon that would be lighter than both the Garand and the Thompson, while offering substantially superior firepower than the 1911. The new weapon was chambered for .30 carbine (not to be confused with the .30 caliber designation for the .30-06 Springfield of the Garand), which ballistically offered similar performance to the .357 Magnum. The standard magazine capacity was 15 rounds, compared to the Garand’s 8 rounds.

The new Carbine did borrow the rotating bolt design of the Garand, and it also made use of a shorter stroke piston that enabled better control for the shooter as well. The total weight of the M1 Carbine was just over five pounds, much less than the nearly ten pounds of the Garand. 

The carbine cartridge (l) is significantly better in many ways: weight, portability and recoil.

The M1 Carbine found substantial favor with American troops, to the point that it was issued as a front line service weapon alongside the M1 Garand, the Thompson, and the Browning Automatic Rifle (aka “BAR”). Soldiers (and paratroopers especially), who adopted a variant called the M1A1 Carbine (with a folding stock) liked the M1 Carbine for its light weight, compact length, and semi-automatic firing capabilities. 

Over six million M1 Carbines were built, the most of any American rifle produced during the war (even though the Garand remained the standard issue service rifle). The M1 Carbine continued to be used after the war and served alongside the M1 Garand again in the Korean War (where this time the Carbine was more commonly issued with an extended thirty round magazine). 

M1 Carbines were also distributed to American allies during the Cold War conflicts; the South Vietnamese made extensive use of them in the Vietnam War, for instance.

Aside from their similar designations, the primary factor that these two vastly different platforms shared was the fact that they each served the United States well both during World War II and in later conflicts.

In conclusion, the M1 Garand was the standard issue American service rifle of World War II, while the M1 Carbine was a completely different weapon that was lighter, shorter, and fired a significantly smaller round.

M1 Garand vs. M1 Carbine Read More »

History Of Gun Rights

When I went through NRA Instructor training, before training got under way, every student in the class had to tell other students in the class a little about themself and where they came from. Since there were students in my class from all over the country, I told them I was from Philadelphia, because no one can identify and locate on a map, my little hamlet of Gilbertsville. I also wanted to tell them something about the reason we were all sitting in a firearms instructor class was due to Pennsylvania’s patriotic forefathers. So I told them this…

Every 2nd Amendment Patriot can recite the following…

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.– 2nd Amendment, United States Constitution, 1791

But how many Patriots can recite this one?…

The right of citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.– Article 1, Section 21, Pennsylvania Constitution, 1776

Besides the language, does anything stick out with you between these two sentences?

Notice anything about the dates of the respective sentences? That’s right! Article 2, section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution predates the U.S. Constitution by 15 years. So while our patriotic forefathers were telling ol’ King George III to shove imperialism up his ass, delegates to the Pennsylvania State House were ratifying the PA Constitution.

Article 1, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution was the model for the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution. You’re reading it here first. Pennsylvania was the first of these new United States to recognize citizens’ rights to defend themselves. Every Pennsylvanian should be proud of that fact.

History Of Gun Rights Read More »

Thirty Interesting Gun Facts

Here are thirty (30) interesting facts about guns.

  1. The company Daisy Outdoor Products sold windmills and gave a complementary BB gun with every purchase. The BB guns became so popular that they stopped selling windmills and started selling BB guns.
  2. Over the past 50 years, gun owners have been responsible for over $2 billion in wildlife conservation in the United States due to a 10% tax on guns and ammo.
  3. President Garfield’s assassin purchased the gun that he thought would look good in a museum.
  4. Russian astronauts take guns into space to protect themselves against bears if they land off-course.
  5. The city of Kennesaw, Georgia has a law that every head of household must own a gun.
  6. The production team of “Lord of War” bought 3000 real rifles to stand in for AK-47s because they were cheaper than the prop guns.
  7. In Arizona, it is legal for any citizen to carry a gun, but it is illegal to carry nun chucks.
  8. In 2000, a man from Houston, Texas killed himself while playing Russian roulette with a semi-automatic weapon. He did not realize that this type of weapon automatically chambered a round when the gun is cocked. He later won a Darwin Award.
  9. In the 1920s and 30s a famous Texas Ranger owned a set of pistols with no triggers. The guns are fired by cocking and releasing the hammers.
  10. In 1986, the price for an AK-47 in a town in Kenya was 15 cows. By 2005, the price had dropped to just four cows.
  11. There is only one legally operated gun store in all of Mexico.
  12. Jackie Chan used to carry multiple guns and even a grenade to protect himself and other artists from the Triad in the 80s and 90s.
  13. The Soviet Union designed a machine gun (GSh-6-30) with such a recoil that it damaged the plane it was mounted on. Fuel tanks ruptured, parts fell off, and electronic circuits took damage. At least three crashes were attributed to just using this gun.
  14. The recoil on the A-10’s Gatling gun (GAU-8) is 10,000 pounds of force – “…slightly more than the output of one of the A-10’s two TF34 engines.”
  15. The Nazis created a weapon called the Gustav Gun, and it is the largest gun ever built weighing over 1300 tons and capable of accurately hitting a target 23 miles away.
  16. Jailers used to have keys that doubled as single-fire guns as a last resort for self-defense.
  17. During the filming of “World War Z,” the Hungarian Anti-Terrorism Unit raided a warehouse full of prop guns for the film. The guns were all found to be fully functional and had been flown in under false pretenses for the movie.
  18. The revolver was first created by Samuel Colt when he was 16 years old.
  19. The original designer of the Glock pistol fired all prototypes in his basement with his left hand so that he could continue drafting new designs with his right in case of a catastrophic failure.
  20. There is a pistol called the Armatix Smart System iP1. The Pistol won’t fire unless a radio-signal watch is located within 40 cm of the pistol, and the watch won’t activate unless a finger print and a PIN code are entered into it.
  21. TASER is short for ‘Thomas A Swift’s Electric Rifle’.
  22. A man once attempted to assassinate President Andrew Jackson with two pistols; however, both pistols misfired and Jackson proceeded to beat the man to near death with his cane.
  23. James Bond originally used a Beretta 418 until a fan of the novels (and small arms expert) told Ian Fleming that it was a lady’s gun. Fleming wrote a scene into “Dr. No” to detail the exchange and give Bond his now famous Walther PPK.
  24. In 1938, a revolver-camera was invented to take a picture just as the trigger was pulled.
  25. During WWII, Pacific Island natives thought the misplaced cargo parachute-drops delivered to them were from their dead ancestors. After the war, they imitated soldiers they had seen, reenacting marches with wooden rifles and built airplanes of straw, in hopes that the airdrops would return.
  26. Shotgun manufacturer Mossberg has a line of guns specially designed for killing zombies.
  27. A Finnish sniper had over 705 confirmed kills, 505 of which were from his Mosin Nagant rifle, which he used only with his iron sights. The rest of the kills were from his sub-machine gun.
  28. The Remington 870 pump-action shotgun is used by the US Department of Education.
  29. Picasso used to carry a revolver loaded with blanks that he used to shoot at people, who struck him as overly dull.
  30. In Russian roulette, a properly lubricated and maintained revolver has a higher chance of not firing the bullet, because gravity pulls the loaded chamber down, if it is allowed to stop on its own.

Thirty Interesting Gun Facts Read More »

The Legendary Colt 1911

When gun enthusiasts hear the phrase “45”, some think of Trump, but most think of the legendary Colt 45. But how did this gun, and its equally famous ammunition, get this loyal following?

The legendary Colt 1911

It all began in 1901 with America’s first “foreign” war, the Philippine-American war, one you probably never learned about in history class. But this was the first entanglement for America as a world power. In the Philippines, the Americans were confronted by a group of tribesmen, known as the Moro, from the southern islands. The Moro had amazing physical stamina and endurance, and savage fighting ability. The Moro engaged the Americans with guerilla tactics, which often included close quarters combat. The Moro were armed with long, Kris wavy blades, which were lethal in these close engagements. At that time, the Americans carried the Colt M1892 revolver as their designated sidearm. The revolver’s .38 caliber Colt Long cartridge was inadequate for staving off and incapacitating these Moro tribesmen. Even when the Moro lost limbs in combat, they often simply tied off bleeding limbs to prevent blood loss, and continued fighting, even after being shot several times. It was during these violent encounters with the Moro tribesmen that the U.S. Army realized they needed a more powerful and heavier round with more stopping power.

Moro Tribesmen

So, in 1906, the U.S. Army began testing various pistol designs and cartridges for combat use. The clear winner due to power, weight, capacity and auto-loading configuration was John Browning’s .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol), just in time for World War 1. It was named the Colt 1911, for the year it entered service. The 1911 was the “go to” handgun of the military from that initial acceptance up to 1985, when the military replaced it with the Beretta M9. Thus, it served the military well for 74 years, through two World Wars, Korea and Vietnam.

And because of its longevity in combat and nostalgia overall, it never really fell out of favor. In fact, there is a huge following for this firearm, despite increases in firearms technology, for three major reasons.

First, major stopping power. The 1911 combined with the .45 ACP cartridge, has some serious stopping power. This is due in part to the relatively slow velocity (about 900 FPS at the muzzle), and the large and heavy bullet. That size projectile creates some serious kinetic energy which hits deep and hard, leaving a pretty large wound channel.

Second, for its caliber, the recoil is relatively lame. The size of the gun does indeed absorb some of that felt recoil.

Third, it is a great carry weapon. While that sounds contradictory, it is not. The government-issued 1911 measures 9 inches and weighs 3 pounds, the slide is actually very slim. At only .9 inches wide, it is slimmer than a Glock 17 at 1.26 inches. Comparing it to the Glock 21, which is also chambered in .45 ACP, the 1911 is even slimmer. That slender profile makes it easy to carry if you have a belt which can handle the weight.

The Legendary Colt 1911 Read More »