Sunday, November 12, 2006

Time to put another scare into Brit

Last November I gave Brit the willies with my choice of Christmas present. Well, its that time of year again to add to my growing arsenal, so this year I chose a war surplus Enfield no.4 Mk I rifle, circa 1943. Given the price range for a new rifle, war surplus guns are a bargain. The Enfield cost me all of $130. It has the added benefit of being a collectors item and a part of history. The Enfield I bought was manufactured in Maltby, Yorkshire and probably issued to a British or Canadian trooper during WW II, and from its condition it looks to have seen some rough action.

The surprising thing to me, after doing some research, is that the Enfield was the standard issue rifle for the British Army until 1956. Surprising because it is a bolt action rifle, and both the Germans and Americans fielded auto-loading semi-automatic service rifles in WW II, and the Soviets had made the leap to the infamous AK-47 assault rifle, which fired in both semi and full auto modes in, you guessed it, 1947. Chalk it up to British stodginess and love of tradition, but the Enfield rifle is considered one of the finest military rifles of all time.


Blogger Harry Eagar said...

According to Tuchman ('Guns of August'), Middlebrook ('The First Day of the Somme') and others, a well-trained infantry using an earlier model Enfield was able to attain, in the field, rates of fire nearly equivalent to a machine gun.

And since this was disciplined fire -- as opposed to what American soldiers do -- the effect was, usually, better.

You cannot get that kind of musketry in a mass army, so the late endurance of the Enfield may have been more from a commitment to a small, highly trained, long-service infantry than to mere stodginess.

In the European Theater, the Allies expended 1,400 rounds for every wound caused by an infantry weapon. When I brought that up to my uncle (an Air Corps captain), all he said was, 'They needed 'em.'

November 12, 2006 3:27 PM  
Blogger David said...

Harry: Shouldn't that be equal to a semi-automatic?

I'm a little torn on this general subject at the moment. I'm qualified for a concealed carry permit in Massachusetts. In fact, through some odd quirks in the gun law, it's the only license I can get. I don't own a gun (yet) and I don't have any desire to carry a concealed weapon, but there are a lot of little ways in which having the license would make my life easier. Plus, it is possible that, after the recent election, the law is about to change. So I'm in the somewhat peculiar circumstance of being forced to get a concealed carry license against my will.

November 12, 2006 3:57 PM  
Blogger Duck said...


I think David is correct, there is no way to match a machine gun firing rate with a bolt action rifle. I read somewhere today that a trained soldier could manage 40 rounds/minute. Even that seems high, since the magazine held 10 rounds and they weren't issued spare magazines. If they had four loaded magazines at their disposal then I can see it.

David, is there serious talk in MA about passing further restrictions on gun ownership? Here in MN you don't need a permit to buy a rifle. To purchase a handgun you need a permit, and there is a separate concealed carry permit required if you want to carry.

November 12, 2006 4:47 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Here are two articles that explain the delay in adopting a semi-automatic service rifle by the British Army.

Basically Britain had a bullpup-style semi-automatic assault rifle, teh EM1, ready to adopt in 1952, but conflicts with the US over the use of a standard rifle cartridge for Nato caused its cancellation.

November 12, 2006 5:41 PM  
Blogger David said...

Duck: It depends on what you mean by "serious." It wasn't part of the campaign, but there is a very strong anti-handgun lobby in Ma.

Ma gun law is pretty complex. This is a pretty good run down, although these guys have a chip on their shoulder. My impression is that in practice Ma. gun law is more permissive than people realize and that many more people have a LTC than is generally thought. I am constantly surprised at how many women public school teachers I run into at the range.

November 12, 2006 6:16 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Wow, talk about regulating the hell out of the 2nd Amendment! This rule makes the purchase of a firearm for home defense pretty futile:

Bringing your gun home

Whenever your gun is not in under your direct control, or under the control of another person with the necessary gun license, Massachusetts law requires that your gun be safely stored. What that means is that it must be secured with a trigger lock, or stored in a locked case or some other secure container like a gun vault or a safe. This is known as "safe storage".

The safe storage law imposes serious, continuing obligations on gun owners. It is important that you thoroughly familiarize yourself with this law. To learn more about our state's safe storage laws, click here.

November 12, 2006 6:29 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I think what the historians were saying was that a platoon of British regulars could lay down lead at a volume about equal to a single machine gun.

During the war of movement in 1914, the number of machine guns per regiment was small (still only 28 per British division as late as July 1916), so that, in the field, the British 'old sweats' were able to call on about as much firepower as a comparable German unit, just from musketry.

Firepower is a complex thing. When the US Army adopted the full-auto capable M16, I recall one of the cadets in my ROTC summer course asking the dai wee (captain) how you kept most of the men in a squad from switching to full auto. 'Kick 'em in the rear.'

Vietnam, of course, was famous for 'reconnaissance by fire' and other uses of automatic weapons that made as much military sense as the gunplay at a Palestinian wedding reception.

I'll take fire discipline with an inferior weapon to fire indiscipline with a superior weapon anytime.

November 12, 2006 7:05 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Last November I gave Brit the willies with my choice of Christmas present.

Calm down, cowboy. Your aim isn't so hot that you can worry me from across the Atlantic Ocean.

November 13, 2006 4:50 AM  
Blogger David said...

Duck: As I said, those guys have a chip on their shoulder. The law requires that the gun be in a "locked container" when not in your "direct control." A locked container need not be a deposit vault with an iris scan and a seven-day waiting period. It can be a canvass bag with a zipper lock. Nor is "direct control" the same thing as "on your person."

On the other hand: The foregoing does not constitute legal advice. I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Police officers, judges and juries might well disagree with my interpretation of the law and its application in specific factual circumstances.

Brit: I understand that the NRA is suing to enforce its common-sense understanding of the 2nd Amendment as allowing private citizens to own ICBMs.

November 13, 2006 12:24 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Despite twenty years in the military, and having to regularly qualify on the small arms range, I don't really know diddly about guns, except which end is the best to hold.

Consequently, I'm looking for some advice.

In June I'll be moving to Alaska. Obviously, part of the attraction is the great outdoors. Just as obviously, those outdoors contain some hostile critters, primarily bears.

So the question is: If I'm enjoying a chunk of those great outdoors with my family, and a grizzly takes exception to my presence, what kind of equalizer (short of an ICBM) would best suit?

November 13, 2006 1:51 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

This will do the trick.

November 13, 2006 2:16 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

A real man would simply wrestle the offending grizzly into submission.

November 14, 2006 12:58 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I don't think the gun is as important as the ammunition when shooting bears.

Military rifles have plenty of punch, but in 'The Wild Hunters' by Gene Caesar (a book I read and re-read as a boy), there is a story about a hunter who shot a Kodiak bear with a military rifle and steel-jacketed bullets. Over and over. The bear killed him.

Any reasonably powerful gun -- it doesn't have to be a .50 cal. -- will do, as long as you're loading soft lead bullets.

And can hit the damn thing.

November 14, 2006 9:22 AM  
Blogger David said...

One of the downsides of shooting at Smith & Wesson is that every once in a while someone insists on shooting off that monster. Even at the range, it is somewhat startling to have a cannon go off next to you.

November 14, 2006 1:58 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

They won't let it in the range where I shoot.

November 14, 2006 4:00 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

What is motivating the move to Alaska, besides the call of Great White North? Do you have dibs on a cushy route? How excited are the missus and the kids?

To second Harry, this article gives a good explanation of the different hunting calibers and the reasons why you might not want to opt for the most powerful cartridges.

November 14, 2006 6:32 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


What is motivating the move to Alaska, besides the call of Great White North? Do you have dibs on a cushy route? How excited are the missus and the kids?

The chance to do the great Alaska experience is indeed the primary motivator. The family is really looking forward to the move. The critters are comforted by the temporary nature of the move -- from June 07 to Sep 08

But this is a close second: Tonight (8:00 pm Hong Kong time) I fly to Anchorage for 9.5 hours, landing at noonish ANC time. Then I hang about in ops for about an hour and a half before catching a jumpseat to Indianapolis, landing at midnight Indy time. Then I get to hang about in ops for 3.5 hours before catching a jumpseat to Detroit, landing at 6:30 am.

Then I get to drive home.

On Sunday, I get to rewind the whole thing, leaving DTW at 10 pm, 3.5 hour wait in Indy, then land in ANC at 7:30 am. Whereupon I get to sit in a hotel for a day and a half (the extra time alllows for a commute Plan-B) before starting the next trip.

So there is a couple of entire paras, their sleep deprivation, and four additional time zones that simply disappear by living locally. On top of that, I can pick trips that I prefer, rather than being restricted to stringing things together to avoid commutes. And when a trip suddenly comes open, I'm in position to accept a short notice call from skeds, and get paid time-and-a-half for it.

With all this discussion of weaponry, I notice there has been no mention of flamethrowers. I hear they don't make a lot of noise, and aren't too fussy about aiming.

November 15, 2006 1:33 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Well, I wasn't going to mention it, but if the bear is close enough for the average American gunman to hit it with a pistol shot, his momentum is probably going to kill you anyhow.

November 15, 2006 11:07 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Skipper: what you want is one of these. Best of luck with the move, don't forget to post some pictures.

November 15, 2006 1:07 PM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Oh, and put a set of these on it. And then practice.

November 15, 2006 1:15 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


Thanks -- I think I'm leaning towards the rifle idea.

And lots of practice. (I always qualified pretty well on the range, BTW.)

November 15, 2006 11:27 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

On further reflection, you might do better with a big dog. A Plott hound or similar bear dog.

November 16, 2006 11:49 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


I suppose our Golden Retriever isn't up to the task?

Wouldn't be much of a surprise if he isn't -- the only danger he would present to robbers is death by licking.

November 17, 2006 1:19 PM  

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