Pete's random thoughts

Friday, November 30, 2007

US Army issue Jukebox, .30 cal

There are always an assortment of offbeat projects going on here. Some belong to customers, most are mine. This morning we managed to finish up one of them and get the pile of parts off of the bench once and for all.

I've been accumulating parts for the project for a while, and had actually got the last part for it months ago.

It's a Rock-Ola! No, not the jukebox. Yes, it is by the jukebox manufacturer, but it isn't actually a jukebox. It's an M-1 Carbine.

During WW2, the regular firearms manufacturers couldn't keep up with the needs of the military, so contracts to manufacture stuff were given to other types of companies. For instance, General Motors produced .30 cal machine guns, .45 cal "grease guns", as well as other rifles. In fact, General Motor's "Inland" manufacturing division was the biggest producer of M1 Carbines. The funky thing is that other types of manufacturers got in on this too. National Postal Meter, IBM, Underwood (the typewriter people) and of course, Rock-Ola.

The project began when I stumbled onto a box-o-parts on ebay a few years ago. There was a stock of unknown vintage, a 1972 dated barrel and the rest of the stuff all appears to be WW2 vintage, but all of them were brand new, unissued parts. What was lacking was a rear sight and the receiver. Between then and now, I tracked down a rear sight for it, and eventually hunted down a source of receivers.

The place that had the receivers had an assortment of them with varying prices, depending on manufacturer. The difference between the low end (Inland) and the higher priced names was $100. I have always felt that the concept of a jukebox company making guns for the war effort is a great story, so I decided to spend the extra $100 and get the much rarer Rock-Ola made receiver. I had already owned an Inland for a long time, and it used to be my "house gun" when I lived in a crappy neighborhood in Lowell, but that is another story...

So anyway, the parts sat around for a long time, and eventually I accumulated all of the specialized tools that it takes to assemble an M1 Carbine. There's a special tool to disassemble/reassemble the bolt group, another to remove/install the gas piston, and most importantly, a funky shaped wrench for screwing the receiver onto the barrel.

I went to install the barrel, and it stopped short of installing all of the way. No matter how hard I cranked on the special wrench, it stopped about 45 degrees away from where it needed to be. In frustration, I walked away from the project for a while, leaving assorted M1 parts and tools strewn about. It began to nag at me, but I couldn't take the time to figure it out.

Last night I went and read the 1953 dated Army issue shop manual for the M1/M2/M3 carbines, typical read-yourself-to-sleep stuff right? One sentence on page 121 solved the mystery. It reads: "Select proper barrel and receiver combination so that about 1/16 inch draw is obtained when assembled". Select proper combination? I had assumed that they would be 100% interchangeable, being mil-spec and all. Nope, and that was the problem!

So this morning Jim comes in, and we set about stoning down the mating face of the barrel by a couple of thousandths (by fitting until it worked, no real science to it) and cranked it down so that the barrel was square to the receiver. After that it was just a case of touching up the finish on a couple of spots and assembling the rifle. Jim polished some rust spots off of a 15-round mag that had gotten wet while sitting on the workbench (again, that's a story for another time), then reblued it. We removed the firing pin to see if the bolt would close all the way with a live round (poor man's headspace gauge) and it locked up nice and tight, so we stripped it down and put the pin back in.

I've got a bunch of .30 cal ammo; reloads that I inherited from a friend, surplus stuff and Wolf brand. Hopefully we'll have a chance to test fire it and sight it in sometime soon. With the exception of the refinished WW2 era receiver, it is a completely new gun, so I don't expect many issues, if any. Let's see what kind of music comes out of this 1940's jukebox!

I snapped a picture of some of my M1 Carbine stuff. Here it is as a thumbnail, click on it to see a larger version:

The Rock-Ola is on the top, the Inland is on the bottom. The Inland would have been set up exactly like the Rock-Ola when it was built during the war, but it is tricked out in "house gun" trim, complete with M2 metal handguard, post war folding stock, and 30-round M2 mag. In the middle is a reproduction fleece lined case. On the right is a post war bayonet for the M1 and it's scabbard. Clockwise from there is a magazine pouch for two 15-round mags (as seen on the top rifle), a .30 cal carbine round, the gas pistol nut tool, the bolt disassembly tool, and on the lower left is the special 7 lb. wrench for installing the receiver.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The "credit crunch" & stupid people

Know what bugs me? Stupid people.

We really don't get time to watch the news as we work late into the night, and I'm about a year behind in reading my periodicals like Muzzleloader Magazine, so having an hour each night to read the newspaper is out too. When I read news, it is online, read in the morning as I wake up and filter out my junk email.

What dominates the online news these days seems to be the so-called "credit crunch" and the "sub prime loan" fiasco.

It seems like everyone is whining about not being able to make ends meet and that "middle class" families are being targeted by "predatory lenders". I claim BS!

When I was a kid, "middle class" families in my neighborhood didn't buy overpriced houses or all have high-end SUVs. They rented houses, maybe had one new car and if there was a second car, it was a used one. Me, I came from a very poor family that not only didn't have a car, we didn't even have a phone.

Nowadays, EVERYBODY seems to have a new car, and not a stripped down model at that. EVERYBODY has a cell phone, a computer, flat screen TVs etc etc. The expectations of "middle class" have changed, and thus the costs.

It used to be that you'd save up money for years to make a downpayment on a house. 20% was the norm. You'd have to do some financial planning to be able to make a purchase like a house, and even then, you'd get a house you could afford, not some overpriced McMansion in a pretentious subdivision. Maybe I'm just a cranky old fart, but when did we stop using common sense? It seems like people expect to be able to not plan ahead, not save up for a downpayment, buy a house way beyond their means just because they qualified for a loan to do it, and when push comes to shove and they cant' really afford it, blame the banks, the government, China, Walmart, the education system, anyone but where the real responsibility lies: THEMSELVES!

A couple of weeks ago there was a series of articles on MSN describing how the middle class is being squeezed. One of the articles described a young family that was whining because they had a no money left over after making car payments on their $40k SUV and mortgage payments on their $400k house in an upscale neighborhood. It really irked me. Of course, they justifed all of their stupid financial moves. Since one of thme had a 10 mile commute to work, they "needed" the SUV because they needed a reliable car. I guess a less glamorous car that gets better gas mileage and costs about 1/3 of the SUV wouldn't be reliable? They "needed" to live in the upscale neighborhood because one of thme had grown up in the vicinity and had family nearby. I guess it is unreasonable to drive a few minute more to visit your older, established family members and live in a house you can actually afford.

Whose fault was the families dillemma? Everyone's! They said it was the bank's fault for giving them the loan with and adjustable rate that went up after two years (can't expect a consumer to actually READ the terms of the loan before signing it, right?). They said it was the housing market's fault for prices being so high on houses (actually it is market driven, if people weren't willing to pay $400k for a shoddily built McMansion, they would cost about 1/3 what they do). They said it was Walmart's fault for outsourcing jobs to China (of course, they still shop there for all of their "must-have" electronic crap that they don't really need).

Not once did they they concede that perhaps a family of four that "only" makes about $70k per year should perhaps be a little smarter with their money. Buy a cheaper car, live in a less prestigeous house, THINK a little before siging a loan document etc. all just seems like good old fashioned common sense to me.

What happened to "starter houses" where you'd buy a fixer-upper at auction, put some sweat equity into it, and move up to a nicer house when your income reached the appropriate level? What happened to economy cars or stripped down models? It seems like people feel the need to live beyond their means for image reasons, but aren't willing to make the sacrifices need to attain their goals.

How does this affect our society as a whole? When the dumb people who overpaid for overpriced houses and signed dumb mortgage agreements default on their loans, the banks fail. When the banks fail, the Federal Reserve steps in and bails out the banks by simply printing more money! More money means inflation because the dollar is worth less. A dollar that is worth less costs every single one of us in a big way because it is like a cut in pay...and it all started with stupid people living beyond their means.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Original guns vs Repros

Last week somebody asked how the Enfield muskets compare to the original patterns. Since the Enfield isn't one of my exclusive projects I didn't really have a good answer there, so after "regular" hours yesterday, Jeff and I tore apart some original Enfield muskets that I have here to compare with a sample reproduction one.

First, I should clarify that there are "regular" hours during which employees work here (10-6), then "normal" hours where Wendy and I work (10-midnight and beyond). Johnna and Jim had left, Wendy had taken Caleigh to visit friends in the next town, so at 6 PM, that meant Jeff and I were unsupervised by mature people and the potential was there for us to get into all sorts of trouble. In the big picture, tearing down three muskets and spreading out reference books is pretty minor trouble, at least until Johnna sees the mess we made of the packing table.

So anyway, we get into the rack of antiques with screwdrivers.

What we ended up doing was tearing down the repro Enfield, an original 3-bander and an original Enfield marked yeomanry carbine. I've got a bunch of other originals from this time period, but these are the Tower marked examples that should theoretically match the repro 3-bander in construction and pattern details.

Here is what we found:

Trigger guards: nearly identical with the exception of fitting variances (in other words, brass parts are sand-cast and need to be polished down, polishing takes away metal and thus changes the dimensions)

Buttplates: nearly identical, with one of the originals having the tang screw hole drilled off center and the other (the carbine) not having a tang screw

Sideplate washers: (not sure of the actual name for these, I'm talking about the washers that go under the lock bolts on the left side) Identical on the 3-bander, the carbine has a sling bar so is different

Locks: nearly identical (will detail this below)

Nosecaps: original 3-bander had a slightly worn down nosecap, hard to tell how close the repro is to it, but similar enough to say they are the same.

Barrel bands: bottom band identical, middle band was replaced on the original with a later one, the top band was identical with the exception of the sling swivel, which had been replaced with a brass one on the original

Original barrel #1:
The barrels were interesting on the originals. One of them had been replaced with a country-made spiral wound barrel with an integral breechplug that is NOT removeable. In other words, the breech was forged first, and then the barrel itself was formed by wrapping around a mandrel in a spiral fashion that gives a visual effect (under the wood line where there is less rust/browning) of a Damascus barrel, but it is not Damascus, just strap iron roughly 5/8" wide. I'm not sure if this can be clearly shown in a photograph. It is sketchy forge welding, kind of scary, but it's how they were really made and this thing survived at least one war (or at least a lot of abuse) as it was heavily used.

The seemingly poor welds may also just be spots where the century and a half of corrosion attacked the slightly different metallurgy of the welds at a different rate than the steel itself. On this example, the barrel tang is welded to the barrel, much like the old Belgian fowlers of the bicentennial era. I suppose this isn't a big deal, since the barrel is held with bands and the snail's fit to the lockplate keeps the barrel from rotating in the stock.

Original barrel #2:
The other original one used the typical British barrel with screw-in breechplug. I took a wire brush to the underside of it and revealed some period inspection and assembly marks on the barrel and breechplug. Jeff speculated that the barrels on this type of gun may have been formed by a rolling method the same way the US barrels were done at the time, resulting in a seamless tube. (of course the repro barrel is a seamless tube with a separate, threaded breechplug) If time allows, I'll research who the inspectors were.

Lock details:
The locks were quite interesting. They were so close that I suspect that parts may even be interchangeable (didn't try). There were only a few differences noted:

1. The Crown/VR stamp is behind the hammer on the originals, and in front of it on the repro.

2. There is no date stamp on the repro, one original was marked 1858, the other 1859

3. There are slight variances in the shape of the hammer head. Nothing really obvious, but minor dimensional issues in the size of the head, not even sure how I'd describe it. Of the three locks, none were quite the same in that respect, perhaps it has to do with who did the finish filing on each particular lock, how sharp the file was etc.

4. The original locks had internal marking as to the maker, inspectors etc. that are not there on the repro.

5. The TOWER stamping is larger on the originals, probably to fit it under the Crown/VR. As I said, it isn't my design and have no idea where the specs came from, so it is possible that the repros were made copying an original that had non-spec lock markings.

Upon close examination, the originals proved to have had the same decorative engraving and checkering of the tip of the hammer spur that the repros have.

What I found especially interesting is the apparent lack of care that went into the finish of the original guns. If you look close (and sometimes not so close) you can still see file marks on the metal parts and rasp marks on the wood. This is how they were really made folks! Not finely polished, high-end sporting guns, these were mass-produced work guns for the infantry. For a more modern example of this, take a look at any of the stamped steel machine gun receivers of the WW2 era. Big blobs of weld here and there, tack welds with a little stub of rod still sticking out, the whole thing covered in black paint etc.

It would be really neat to reproduce them exactly as the originals were finished, but can you imagine the whining I would hear if there were file marks left in the brass or rasp marks still on the wood?

What I wasn't able to compare was the rear sights because the original 3-bander has had it's rear sight replaced with a simple notched non-adjustable rear sight (to idiot-proof it? simplify training of native troops?). The repros sight, however, does look correct when looking at other originals in photographs.

All in all, this was an interesting investigation. Over the years I have learned to expect ANYTHING when tearing down an original gun. What I have to do now is track down the regimental markings on the butts to figure out who carried them and form theories on how and why certain changes were made. For instance, on the 3-bander, the muzzle has been cut back a little, likely to "freshen" it if it were worn out or dented. The carbine's muzzle is still dented!. Both of them have had their stocks painted black, was this to protect them or to identify them? Under the woodline, the original barrels appeared to have been left in the white. Neither of them are loaded (surprising), but the 3-bander is kind of chocked up with crud and rust, indicating that it went into storage dirty.

I took pictures of the original parts alongside of the repro parts and when time allows I'll crop them and throw together a webpage about the comparison.

Right now, however, I gotta go set up the folding tables, Coleman stove, trash barrel, cooler and a bucket to start transforming a bunch of obnoxious free-range chickens, ducks and geese to a freezer full of food...but that's a whole 'nother story.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Firearms refresher course

Got this from Ted in this morning's email:

Firearms Refresher Course

1. An armed man is a citizen. An unarmed man is a subject.

2. A gun in the hand is better than a cop on the phone.

3. Colt: The original point and click interface.

4. Gun control is not about guns; it's about control.

5. If guns are outlawed, can we use swords?

6. If guns cause crime, then pencils cause misspelled words.

7. Free men do not ask permission to bear arms.

8. If you don't know your rights, you don't have any.

9. Those who trade liberty for security have neither.

10. The United States Constitution (c)1791. All Rights Reserved.

11. What part of 'shall not be infringed' do you not understand?

12. The Second Amendment is in place in case the politicians ignore the others.

13. 64,999,987 firearms owners killed no one yesterday.

14. Guns only have two enemies; rust and politicians.

15. Know guns, know peace, know safety. No guns, no peace, no safety.

16. You don't shoot to kill; you shoot to stay alive.

17. 911: Government sponsored Dial-a-Prayer.

18. Assault is a behavior, not a device.

19. Criminals love gun control; it makes their jobs safer.

20. If guns cause crime, then matches cause arson.

21. Only a government that is afraid of its citizens tries to control them.

22. You have only the rights you are willing to fight for.

23. Enforce the gun control laws we ALREADY have; don't make more.

24. When you remove the people's right to bear arms, you create slaves.

25. The American Revolution would never have happened with gun control.

Right now there is an anti-muzzleloader uprising in New York. It seems some nutjob shot a police officer with an inline deer rifle. It didn't kill her, she was wearing a vest, but it knocked her down long enough that he got off a second shot (!?!?) with the rifle. The left-wing news media and politicians got wind of this and now they are clamoring to restrict muzzleloader ownership in NY.

This is pretty messed up, and typical reactionary nonsense politicking. Black powder shooters tend to be less politically active than cartridge gun shooters because they think they are safe from stupid legislation, but we are all under attack these days. A Brown Bess is an "assault weapon" in NJ because of the bayonet stud. In Massachusetts, there is a legal opinion that a blunderbuss is a pistol that requires a permit (based on case law, regardless of the fact that the statute law clearly exempts pre-1898 style muzzleloaders).

No gun owner, even if you own just one flintlock that hangs over your fireplace, is safe from gun control. I urge everyone reading this to become politically active and vote for your rights.

Remember that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance! The battles at Lexington and Concord on April 19th, 1775 began when the British troops set out to confiscate the arms of the militia. The resulting war led to the freedoms that we all enjoy today in every aspect of our lives. We owe it to the people who fought and died for us two centuries ago (and ever since) to not squander the rights that they won by being too lazy to speak out or even to vote.

Gun owners in the US are many, but we are quiet about it. Generally, the only press we get is bad. It is up to all of us to set a good example to non-gun owners and show them that we are nothing scary and shouldn't be unfairly legislated out of existence.

My challenge to all of you is to convert just one liberal anti-gunner to our side. Take one shooting. Teach them the history of guns in America (not the Michael Moore version). Don't show up dressing in camo and looking like Rambo. Don't use a human silhouette target, use a big bull's eye. Don't make them shoot a .458 magnum that will knock them over, just for laughs. Bring a .22 rifle, be sure to bring extra earmuffs and safety glasses. Show them what a real "sport" shooting is.

I've converted more than one anti-gunner by handing them a semi-auto Marlin .22 and teaching them to shoot. Most antis just don't know any better. For instance, they think semi autos are machine guns and that 9mm pistols are evil super-powerful cop-killer, armor piercing bullets. All they know is what the press told them, and it is up to use to teach them reality.

There is more responsibility to being a gun owner than just practicing range safety, every single one of us is officially part of the "gun lobby" and has the responsibility to protect the 2nd Amendment for ourselves, our children and all other generations to come.