Modern Take on the Sturmgewehr, and a Mile Long Shot to Kill

Two things today…

First up, I recently had a chance to tinker with a rifle made by Brethren Arms, which is in many ways the modern evolution of the StG-45 that we looked at in slow motion yesterday. They call it the BA-300, and it’s a basically an MP5 or HK53 in .300 Blackout. A very compact rifle using the roller-delayed blowback system pioneered in Mauser’s StG-45, coupled with a cartridge that is a ballistic virtual twin of the 8mm Kurz (both cartridges fire a 125 grain bullet at 2200-2250 fps). With a 9-inch barrel and suppressor, the BA300 was an absolute buttercup to shoot, even in full auto. Brethren does a great job making them, and includes some nice updates like a welded-on rail for optics and a properly-placed ambidextrous magazine release.

One of the best parts of the range trip for me was listening to Quinn talk about his guns. He is a rare combination of whip-smart engineer and experienced military veteran, and he has no illusions about the shortcomings of the H&K design (unreachable safety and mag release, awkward charging handle, heavy trigger, etc). Rather than try to defend those elements with some huffing and puffing about Teutonic infallibility, he looks at the shortcomings as opportunities to improve the guns. I think Lossnitzer and Maier would be thrilled to see their rifle still being the subject of improvements 70 years after they built the first versions of it. Anyway, you can see the full video that Karl and I did with him over at Full30:

Brethren Arms BA300 review video

Changing gears completely, the other gun I would like to touch on today is a super-heavy target rifle dating back to the Civil War. Weighing in at 37 pounds, it is a .68 caliber progressive-twist-rifled muzzleloader with an interestingly storied history. It is referenced in Charles Winthrop Taylor’s book Our Rifles on page 91. The story is that a Captain Metcalf in the Union Army used it in the Battle of Pleasant Hill in the Red River campaign of 1864 to snipe a Confederate general while he was shaving in the morning, as a range of 1 mile, 187 feet (1794 meters). This story came to the public notice when it was made into an episode of Jack Webb’s TV show “TRUE” in 1962.

Metcalf's .68 caliber Civil War sniper rifle
A still frame from TRUE showing the rifle

The rifle allegedly has a 25x telescopic sight, and Metcalf used a surveyor’s transit to precisely measure the distance to the target, and calculate the bullet drop and flight time he would have to account for.

Well, it turns out that the whole story is bogus (this article does a good job of explaining the details). Neither Metcalf (allegedly a West Point graduate) not the Confederate General he allegedly shot actually existed, and the numbers quoted by Sawyer for bullet flight time and drop are wildly implausible. HOWEVER – the rifle itself is real and has been connected to the story since at least 1944 (when Sawyer’s book was published). Its most recent known location was hanging in a bar in rural Texas, complete with plaque commemorating the Metcalf story. The bar owner died, though, and the rifle disappeared into someone else’s hands.

A friend of mine is a very highly renowned forensic ballistics expert (you may have seen him in the video I published on an original Girandoni air rifle), and he has been very interested in this rifle ever since he saw the episode of TRUE about it. He would really love to have a chance to fire it and get an idea of it’s actual capabilities. He has a doppler radar unit for tracking bullets, which allows him to track velocity and calculate exact ballistic coefficients, and this rifle would be a fantastic experiment with that equipment.

So…if anyone happens to recognize this rifle and know it’s whereabouts, could you let me know? We would really like to speak to its owner!