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The News

Local boy makes good, John Thompson

A child born across the river from Cincinnati in 1860 would grow up to invent the original subgun, the Thompson submachine gun.  He was born in Southgate House, a hopping music venue and bar in Newport Ky.   Check out the Cincinnati.com story.

picture of Thompson submachine gun

 The submachine gun was invented in the ashes of the First World War, and came to late to revolutionize warfare.  For close in work, whether the jungles or WW2 cityscapes, the Tommy Gun beat longer range rifles hands down.  British Commandoes couldn't get enough of them, and during continental raids, the .45 caliber lump of lead would usually settle things.

Picture of British Soldier and Tommy Gun

The gun was not an overnight success though, most conservative militaries were drawing down after the Great War and didn't have budgets that would include innovative weapons.  In desperation, submachine guns like Thompson's would be marketed to farmers for pest control.  

picture of US Marines on Okinawa

In the 20's and 30's, gangsters did take to them, and the police had to respond in kind.  During that time period, there were a number of shoot outs with machine guns around the Cincinnati area.  Newport was a big mob town through the '50's and 60's.  The last shootout in which Cincinnati Police armed with Thompsons was 1957 with safecrackers in Anderson Township, a local sleepy suburb.  

Even during the Vietnam War, the CIA carried Thompson's.  They are a bit heavy, but they are every bit as useful today as they were in the past.

Flight video - NZ Mossie

New Zealand Mossie back to life, with a little flight with some friends, a Spit and a Vampire.  In order to get the shots, they were flying pretty slow, the low throttle indicators were going off a lot. Looks good full screen.  Nice way to spend an afternoon.... from Gavin Conroy's channel.

Non-human Kamikaze...

The US Military and Darpa are working on a replacement for the Harpoon anti-ship missile.  The intention is a active and passive equipped airborne cruise missile that will go after any target anywhere, without being dependent on communications with home base or GPS.  It is also necessary to survive entry into the target area, and also be able to decide for itself where the most lethal point of the target is, and then hit it.

picture of Harpoon Anti-Ship Missile

The Harpoon is around 40 years old now, but is no slouch.  Originally developed as an open sea anti-ship weapon, it can now be fired from ship, sub or aircraft, at land or sea targets as a surgical strike weapon.  It's newest variant, the SLAM ER, for 'Standoff Land Attack Missile, Expanded Response', adds a man in the loop and makes the missile reprogrammable in flight.

The Harpoon's survivability in the current climate of sophisticated ship defenses depends on being networked, being able to see GPS and other overhead targeting satellites and drones.  Multiple missile launches are also necessary to ensure one gets through to the target.  This is what DARPA wants to solve.

picture of LRASM

The newest project, the LRASM, 'Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, aims to do away with any dependence on communications, or any outside guidance at all.  The missile will be using AI and computer algorithms to guide itself to the target, and choose where to hit it, with no outside interference, especially from the target's assets.  A supersonic version was dropped to concentrate on the subsonic version.  The sensor packages provided by Lockheed Martin and BAE have been tested, and the airframe should fly early in 2013.

The Horsfall Monster Gun

Iron guns were reaching their limits in the 1850's, even though the Americans and Brits pushed on with them into the 1870's.  The answer to their problem, defeating armor plate, was still in the future with higher velocity steel guns, but during the Crimean and the American Civil Wars, wrought and cast iron were the order of the day, and the major arms makers were pushing those frontiers as far as they would go.  

One big gun built by the Mersey Steel and Iron Company was known as the "Monster Gun" in 1856.  It was larger by a foot in diameter of the largest forging they ever made, and it took seven weeks to place bars of iron around the center core and beat them into shape with a 15 ton hammer.  After the gun took shape, the trunnions affixed to a large hoop was shrunk around the gun, adding strength.   Such huge forgings were said, by the common wisdom of the time, to be weaker than cast iron due to the length of time the metal was in contact with heat, but Mr. Horsfall persisted and the gun was bored to 13 inches, and weighed 25 tons.

pic of monster gun being built

Boring the gun took a couple of weeks, where several flaws in the iron were found and patched up, and after four months the gun was ready.  2 proof rounds were fired, a service shell filled with lead and 45 pounds of gunpowder, which the gun survived.  The next test was against a floating battery, an armored ship full of guns, but not much else.  With 25 pounds of powder and a 280 pound shot, it blasted its way though the battery's wrought iron armor easily.

picture of the Horsfall Gun

The gun was donated to the Government, but with the war over the British Admiralty hemmed and hawed around and not much was done with the gun.  It was tested again in 1862 against another giant pile of armor plate, which it duly splintered.  It was obvious the Mersey Works could build a gun. They had  previously built a smaller 12 inch wrought iron gun for the US Navy, for use on the USS Princeton, who had also installed another similar gun built by an American company.  In a demonstration, the American gun burst, killing the US Secretaries of State and the Navy.  A Mersey  gun is in the Washington Navy Yard today.

The passing of the Browning 9mm

As reported in the Telegraph, British troops are beginning to phase out the venerable Browning 9mm handgun in favor of the Glock 17.  The new handguns are better in every way but I for one will miss the old Browning

picture of the Browning High PowerThe Browning High Power, picture by Wikimedia contributor Rama

The Glock is lighter.  Half of it is plastic, and some of the fire control parts are small, light twisted pieces of metal buried in the plastic lower half.  On first inspection this doesn't seem very robust, however, the Glock is very reliable, and the 17 is famous for having 200,000 rounds run through it without much of a failure.  Hard to argue with that.

The trigger is safer.  Much to be said about the Glock trigger.  The gun won't fire unless a physical finger is on the trigger, much simpler in use than the Browning,  which is a single action pistol.  In order to bring the Browning into action, either the slide must be drawn back chambering a round, or the pistol is carried with the hammer back and the safety on, which must be thumbed off to fire.  With the Glock loaded and a round in the chamber, you merely draw the gun and fire.

picture of Glock 17

Glock 17, picture by Wikimedia contributor Hrd10

The Glock is a striker fired weapon, and the Browning uses a hammer.  If I had to choose, I'd take a hammer.  Strikers are allright for a rifle.  (That should start something.)  The operation  of the two pistols are similar, as the Glock is based on the Browning's barrel camming operation.  The Glock's external coatings are pretty good, protecting it from the elements and the shooter, and the Browning's are the traditional blueing and parkerizing.  

Finally, although there is much more that can be said, you can hang everything and it's brother on the Glock, from tactical lasers to wild sights.  The same thing can be done with the Browning, but is clumsy.  The Glock holds more ammunition.  The Glock is more modern in every way.  The Glock is cool. (They say.)

The British Army has used the High Power since the 50's.  You can say that they have been well served.  But now the Browning is entering the history books as another weapon that had served the British well, and it is in good company. 

picture of Canadian Forces