Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Defense Tech: Josh Rushing on the AK-47

(H/T - Castle of Argghhh! - H&I Fires October 16, 2007)

Whether you think the AK47 is "The gun that changed the world", or a piece of junk, you can't deny that the availability of a relatively cheap, relatively reliable honest-to-gosh Assault Rifle has put a lot of firepower in the hands of a lot of people.

Often these are people whose concept of firearms maintenance is primitive at best. We're talking about the same folks who think shooting full-auto bursts into the air, with no concern about where the lands round, is 'kewl'.
*(embedded video is 27.l3mb from Yahoo, downloads as you play it.)*

Click on the Defense Tech link for the full information, which also includes links to accompanying text AND a plethora of personal comments. You'll find that as many people there mirror your own opinion ... almost regardless of what your opinion is.

I can't speak for the accuracy of Josh Rushing's commentary, but it's 11+ minutes of interest for this Vietnam Veteran.

One thing which should be mentioned:
When I was in Vietnam, I heard rumors that the U.S. forces (especially "Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols -- LRRPS or LURPS) had found it effective to leave captured AK-47's where wanna-be VC could find them.

The 'top' of the breach on the AK was latched by a spring-loaded latch at the rear. The LRRPs would weaken the spring-metal on the latch so that it would hold it down until the gun was fired. This was done by simply stressing the metal. When the AK was fired, the latch would soon give way so that the breach cover released. This exposed the bolt and mainspring, allowing the bolt mechanism to travel past its designed limits. The bolt would be ejected to the rear with great force, speed and momentum causing grevous injury to any body parts in its path.

So rumor went. If the rifle was fired from the shoulder, it would be expected to, minimally, crush a cheek-bone. In actual practice, it was probably fired from the hip and the injuries were not likely to be fatal or even debilitating ... unless it broke an arm or took off a chunk of the rib-meat.

I can't attest to the veracity of the story, but it was some small consolation to those of us in the boonies.

A more believable war-story (all these from the 1st Infantry Division in 1969-1970 in the Dian area) is that of a young 2nd lieutenant on the first night of his first 8-day patrol. He had a squad of his platoon spread out in-line in a night ambush covering a known VC path. In the middle of the night a VC discovered the ambush, found a place at the end of the line and hosed the entire squad with a banana-clip (30 rounds) from his AK. They young lieutenant was not the only U.S. soldier to lose his life that night.

You can say what you will about the AK-47, but I know that it worked often enough to be an effective weapon in Vietnam.

Speaking of which, if you watch the video you will see comments about the unreliability and tendency to jam of the M16.

The early M16 did not have the 'forward assist' feature. Most of the problems were caused by fouling of the bolt, which allowed it to move forward without actually going into battery. It was difficult to recognize this situation, and more difficult to correct it.

Later versions (in place when I went 'in-country' in September of 1969) featured the forward-assist, and we found this to be an entirely reliable way of insuring that the rifle was functional

Other improvements included:
  • the introduction of LSA rifle lubrication
  • an understanding that not only the rifle, but also the magazines and the ammunition needed to be cleaned regularly
  • appreciation that magazines (both 20-round and 30-round) needed to be 'underloaded' by two rounds to insure reliable feeding
  • the issue of plastic 'zip-top' baggies to keep loaded magazines clean and dry in magazine pouches
  • a regimen of using up 'old ammunition' between missions on the practice range
  • the practice of always cleaning your rifle (often including using barrels of gasoline as a solvent!) EVERY time you completed a mission, and quick-cleaning your rifle at least every other day whether you used it or not
During the 12 months I was in Vietnam, I never heard of a single major malfunction with an M-16 when these procedures were observed and ritually practiced.

The M-16 was still a mouse load, and those fast, light bullets still couldn't be relied upon to push through the jungle to their target. I carried an M79 grenade launcher (loaded with 'canister' rounds ... buckshot) and backed up with HE rounds and flare 'illumination' rounds, as well as a 1911 .45acp pistol.

Still, my platoon never got a kill that wasn't directly attributable to artillary, the claymore mine, "booby traps" or the M-14 carried by our point men.


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