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Terrorists In Washington?
Apparently, over at MSNBC, they're now saying that the shooter's weapon may actually be a Kalashnikov AK-74, a Soviet assault rifle. If so, all of this talk about .223 rounds has been mistaken. It fires a slightly smaller caliber bullet. It's 5.45 mm, which would be .215. It would be easy to mistake the size if one weren't careful with the calipers, and were looking for a .22.
It would also be a much less ubiquitous weapon. There's only one problem with this theory. It's not possible for anyone to be shooting people with such a gun in this country, because it's a fully-automatic weapon, and thus is illegal here.
Seriously, it sounds like a good weapon of choice for a criminal, or more specifically, a Middle Eastern terrorist. After all, they're new to this country, and can't be expected to know the law...
Actually, now that I think about it, I'm curious to go back and look at some of Osama's home movies to see what kind of gun he was using as his theatrical prop.
And as always, perhaps out of continuing misplaced political correctness, the investigators are still unwilling to even discuss the possibility of terrorists.
[More thoughts, a few minutes later]
Supposedly they were clued in by a witness, but it seems unlikely to me that a witness would be able to tell the difference between an AK-74 and and AK-47 from a distance, even if he was familiar with both weapons.
But if he reported an AK-47 (a very common street weapon in the district), then they might have gone back and remeasured the rounds, and verified that it was in fact a 5.45 mm, rather than the assumed .223. Bingo.
[Update on Thursday morning]
Jim Henley says that the police are now saying that the witness "deliberately misled" them.Posted by Rand Simberg at October 15, 2002 04:36 PM
Rand, some points here.
These guys are tangos....Terrorists.
and the choice of a .223 AK-74 as a "sniper" weapon is very poor. The AK family while relaiable and robust is not that accuret, from a bench rest and with a scope such shots can be done, however the choice of a Ak is unusal for a "sniper"
PS keep up the good work/
HarleyPosted by Harley Daugherty at October 15, 2002 05:56 PM
The dearly departed Osama "Pink Mist!" Bin Laden was seen holding a carbine version of the AK-74, also known as the "Krinkov."
Just so that you know, the AK-74 and their semi-auto variants are far less popular than the '47 in the U.S. The Russian 7.62x39mm round is a commonly stocked item in most gunshops; the 5.45x39mm is usually found at gunshows and on the Internet.
If it is indeed a '74, the potential ties to Bin Laden and Co. become very strong. Most Middle Eastern nations prefer the AK-74 over the M-16 (AR-15).Posted by flinch at October 15, 2002 06:30 PM
Posted by Jim at October 15, 2002 06:54 PM
There are a bunch of semi-auto AK-74's available in the US. Given what we know so far, though, I still think a .223 is more likely.
The 5.45 X 39 weapons are not noted for their accuracy. Reliability, yes, but not accuracy. I also wouldn't trust a random guy off the street to be able to identify a weapon; most people couldn't tell an AK from an AR from an FAL. And it would be indicative of extremely bad forensics by the police if they confused a .223 with a 5.45 X 39. They produce different wound profiles, and the projectiles are very different; see http://home.snafu.de/l.moeller/military_bullet_wound_patterns.html for the gory (literally) details.
I suppose it's possible they're using an AK chambered for .223, but it seems like a screwy rifle choice. It makes a lot more sense to dismiss the report, unless the witness has a lot of credibility.Posted by Ernst Blofeld at October 15, 2002 07:02 PM
The Ak 47 is not known for accuracy primarily because of its most common round - the 7.62x39.
However, chambered in .223, the rifle is perfectly capable of headshots with iron sights within 200 meters. And certainly within 100 for a beginner.
Many AK variants are very accurate in .223 and .308 - don't be fooled by misinformation.Posted by Dean Bartkiw at October 15, 2002 07:17 PM
"the choice of a .223 AK-74 as a "sniper" weapon is very poor"
I disagree, because the gunman doesn't want just a sniper weapon.
When the police catch up with him/them, they will be able to shoot it out. If they are terrorists (or even if it is just a crazy white guy, which is getting less and less likely every second), they probably want to go out in a burst of "glory" by killing a few cops.
In an urban situation, an AK-74 would be a very good choice, because none of the shots would be at too long a range. A Kalashnikov is accurate enough, and provides the flexibility of an assault rifle.
If they are spotted during their next shooting, they just might storm a building and take hostages, or something.Posted by Michael Levy at October 15, 2002 07:30 PM
I thought it was strange that all of these shots have come from around 100 yards. If it is a frustraited Charles Whitman, why not get .308 or any large caliber bolt action rifle and give yourself the freedom of shooting from up to 300 or 400 yards? The answer is that a bolt action enfield or Remington 700 is not much of a weapon when the police or some good samaritan catches up with you. An AK 74, most certainly is a good weapon for such a situation. An AK 74 maybe notoriously inaccurate when compared to a Remington 700, but with a good shooter at 100 yards, is accurate enough to get the job done.Posted by John at October 15, 2002 08:26 PM
I think as this matter evolves toward a scenario more identifiable with foreign terrorist operatives, the possiblity it is a diversion meant to disburse resources and draw attention away from a "bigger" issue has to be considered.
With the destruction of the twin towers, the remaining shining symbol of American hedgemony is Washington DC. I can easily see these sniper incidents as being calculated to draw law enforcement resources (and now, federal resources) away from DC, which might be the true target.
While a sniping incident is not generally consistent with the "claim your victory" terrorist mindset, a diversionary action would not be announced. The baddies would claim victory after the "true" attack.
Obviously, the powers that be had better put themselves on high alert for activity in the nature of a WMD attack.
I have a bad feeling about this.Posted by Hawkish at October 15, 2002 08:28 PM
"If they are spotted during their next shooting, they just might storm a building and take hostages, or something."
The governors of Virginia and Maryland and the Mayor of DC should call upon the unorganized militia in their jurisdictions to carry their firearms for their own protection and for defense of the state. Why do we want unarmed defenseless people as sitting ducks against the terrorists? If they do invade a Michael's Craft Store, how many people could they kill before they run out or bullets or are stopped. It would be less, if one out of five people were armed.
I remember arguing with the anti-self defense gun-grabber types in the past 15 years and arguing how legal gun ownership and carrying are part of national defense, because citizens could then fight against invaders and against terrorists. Of course, I was dismissed as a nutcase by my betters.Posted by Jabba the Tutt at October 15, 2002 08:33 PM
We've been discussing a lot of the same issues on Samizdata since this morning UK time.
If everybody is going to assume that this is a terrorist, Why are they going to assume that he (they ?) only have one gun ???
How about an AK-47/74 AND a bolt action .223?
Maybe even a few more? Granades (just havn't used them yet !)?
If this guy is NOT a terrorrist, why assume he only has one gun??
Posted by L. J. at October 15, 2002 10:14 PM
If this guy is NOT a terrorrist, why assume he only has one gun??
Posted by Hawkish at October 15, 2002 10:52 PM
A bit offtopic -
The gun OBL has used in videos and pictures has been an AKSU-74, the folding stock shortened barrel version of the AK-74.
Personally I think it is a very good weapon, apart from the very short sightline and the hard-to-clean expansion chamber/muzzle brake.
I have only seen mention of wound location with regards to one of the victims, and he was hit in the torso. Were all the others shot in the head?
That said, I think it is completely possible for a average trained shooter to consistently hit a human head at 100 meters with an AKSU-74, if the victim is standing still.
The AKSU-74 can fire semi-automatically. The safety-selector has three settings: safe, full auto, and semi auto.
The only thing I can think of that might weigh against that the sniper is using an AKSU-74 is that the bullets are reported to have fragmented. As far as I know there arn't any hollowpoints available in 5.45, and normal ball ammo doesn't fragment that easily.
Ursus MaritimusPosted by Ursus Maritimus at October 16, 2002 01:02 AM
Something hit me just after I pressed ''Preview,,:
Some years ago there was a Pakistani(?) who shot several CIA employees outside their Langley HQ. What kind of weapon did he use? Am I totally misremembering that it was a AK-74?
Ursus MaritimusPosted by at October 16, 2002 01:06 AM
Deliberately random sniper attacks may be new to us, but not to Israelis. Check this site out (http://www.walk4israel.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Home)to see a list of targets: military, civilian, men, women, young, old, babies and grandmothers. Sound familiar?Posted by Casey Fahy at October 16, 2002 02:20 AM
Ursus Maritimus said: "As far as I know there arn't any hollowpoints available in 5.45, and normal ball ammo doesn't fragment that easily."
That depends on the manufacturer; the West German 7.62mm NATO round tends to fragment readily, while the US version of the same round doesn't. I have no data on the 5.45x39mm, however, but isn't that round made in several different countries?
As for the wounds, AFAIK perhaps three were head shots; the remainder were torso.Posted by Troy at October 16, 2002 02:31 AM
There is another point here. Semiauto, legal AK-74's are still rare in the States. (I've seen one full-auto AK-47/AK-74 conversion at a Texas gun show.) It's much more likely that this is a smuggled, fully-automatic AK-74 or -74SU. That would be fully consistent with a terrorist team using their own equipment.
And I think I've read something about frangible rounds for AK's or other Sov-bloc weapons, somewhere. If they're frangible rounds, that would explain the problem distinguishing between 5.45mm and 5.56mm rounds. Metallurgy has probably already told FBI and ATF whose ammo it is. They may even have a lot number. And the .223 casing may have been a plant: if he's using a semiauto weapon, then he's probably using a brass catcher too, what think? Which suggests a planted casing.
Further annoying question: would there be an advantage to fire discipline, concealability, etc., in chambering a round, removing the Krinkov's magazine, and squeezing off just the one round in battery?
Last point: If this turns out to be a real Al-Q'aeda or Islamic Jihad terrorist cell operating with full-auto urban "entry guns", the gun-control enthusiasts now popping editorials and campaign proposals have just passed their apogee.Posted by lentulusgracchus at October 16, 2002 02:37 AM
It's not possible for the sniper to be killing people becuase murder is illegal in this country.
Just Kidding.Posted by S.B. at October 16, 2002 06:27 AM
"The Ak 47 is not known for accuracy primarily because of its most common round - the 7.62x39."
I am not a master marksman by any means. But I can ping the head off a mannequin target at 100 meters all day long with my SKS chambered in 7.62 x 39 using iron sights. The thing is that with just about any high velocity rifle round, it doesn't take much skill to attain pretty high accuracy. A couple of trips to the gun range and most any one can start to hit what they aim at. To a real sniper, even 250 meters should be an very easy shot.Posted by Hefty at October 16, 2002 07:40 AM
This is from NRO's Jack Dunphy:
Doesn't an AK-74 eject the cartrigdge? Was a cartridge found at the Home Depot site? I don't see the shooter hanging around to hunt for his spent brass. This argues for a bolt action rifle IMHO.Posted by Jabba the Tutt at October 16, 2002 08:29 AM
"As far as I know there arn't any hollowpoints available in 5.45, and normal ball ammo doesn't fragment that easily."
A jacketed round will leave behind a soft metal skirt. Its the steel insert that defeats body armor and most often passes through and through.
I don't know why everyone seems to think that AK-74's are so rare. There are at least four gun shops within 20 miles of my home that have them, chambered in either the russian round or good ol' .223 Rem. They aren't full auto, but there's been no evidence that this guy has a full auto rifle.Posted by Rob Lyman at October 16, 2002 10:25 AM
If the shooter is sitting in a vehicle with only the barel protruding, then the cartridge would normally be ejected into the passenger compartment... unless it bounce out the window by hitting the head rest etc. Also, a spent cartridge is not all that hard to find if you are shooting on pavment.Posted by Robert Cecrle at October 16, 2002 12:25 PM
1) Someone who recognized the distinctive muzzle brake and magazine of the AKM-74 would not mistake it for as AK-47. 2)I've never handled the AKM-74, but most of the AK-47's I've seen have a scope rail on the side. 3) AKM 74's are available in 5.56 NATO as well as 5.34mm Russian. The Valmet and Galil, Finnish and Israeli AK-47 clones, are made in 5.56mm. 4) The 5.45 Russiam uses a very long bullet with a large air space in the nose. When it was introduced some weapons authorities speculated that the bullet was so designed as to be unstable and to maximize trauma.Posted by Lou Gots at October 16, 2002 01:13 PM
lentulusgraccus: And I think I've read something about frangible rounds for AK's or other Sov-bloc weapons, somewhere. If they're frangible rounds, that would explain the problem distinguishing between 5.45mm and 5.56mm rounds.
I did a google search and while 5.45 is a lot more available that i thought, i haven't found any hollow or softpoints in that calibre.
Jabba the Tutt: Doesn't an AK-74 eject the cartrigdge? Was a cartridge found at the Home Depot site? I don't see the shooter hanging around to hunt for his spent brass. This argues for a bolt action rifle IMHO.
Robert Cecrle: If the shooter is sitting in a vehicle with only the barel protruding, then the cartridge would normally be ejected into the passenger compartment...
Not with the barrel protruding. If the shooter is firing out through a small, say 3" by 3" hatch, and the muzzle is a meter or so deep inside the trucks cargo space, not only will he be much harder to spot, but both muzzle flash and blast will be less noticable.
I read on a UK(?) blog that the PIRA used to do it that way.
Ursus MaritimusPosted by Ursus Maritimus at October 17, 2002 12:09 AM
first off ak 47 varrients are plentifull in the u.s. even here in california.home of the strictest gun laws around.i have one and so do three of my good friends.we bought them rite before the assault riffle registration bill went into act.all four are semi auto.three of the four fire a 7.62x39 and the other fires a 223.the same round found in the ar15 and mini14.all of theese rifles are accurate up to a certain point with the iron sights and much more accurate with a scope i assume though have never fired one with a scope mounted.a dragunov sniper rifle with a scope is a very capable sniper weapon used by vietnamese and soviets at one time.the dragonov would look like an ak to the untrained eye.oh and you can buy .223 hollopoints, softpoints,and heavy match hollow points.i have fired them in my friends rifle.i dont know who or what race is behind theese attacks i just hope they are caught before more innocent lives are lost.Posted by lochness at October 17, 2002 09:04 AM
I was thinking that the shooter could sit in the passenger's seat with the barrel protruding from the window. this would also provide a rest for more accurate shooting and the brass WOULD end up in the passenger compartment. I have sighted a rifle in before using this method when it was raining outside. Anyway the point is that whether you use a side window, a van side door or a rear door/hatch, there are ways for to ensure the brass is ejected into the passenger compartment. The gun does not have to be a bolt action.Posted by Robert Cecrle at October 17, 2002 10:21 AM
Hi everyone: Police said this afternoon that the witness who described shooter, van and rifle (AK-74) "deliberately misled" them.Posted by Jim Henley at October 17, 2002 10:55 AM
The AK-74 and the Ak-47 are easier to tell a part then one might think. The Ak-74 has a folding stock and a very visable muzzle break. The Ak-47 has a solid stock with a different angled hand grip. Also it has a normal muzzle on it. I'm sure you all have seen an AK-47 and know what I'm talking about.Posted by Ralph Dougherty at October 17, 2002 04:28 PM
Hawkish said "Well, he's only using one gun to do the killing, or they wouldn't be able to match the ballistics on the recovered bullet fragments." in reply to a comment about the sniper having both a sniper rifle and an AK. It seems to me that if he has a sniper weapon and a street sweeper, of course he's only going to use the former for his sniping. If/when the police come at him, he puts that down and picks up the other one.Posted by Rick C at October 17, 2002 10:02 PM
That gun benind Osama is a version of the AK-74 assualt rifle called the AKSU-74 it was developed for the soviet special units the Spetznatz. It is actually 450mm shorter than the Ak-74 AR. The actual round chambering for the 74' series of Russian Ar's is 5.45times50mm round so the gun used in in the sniper shootings must be of american desing (M-16A1,M-16A2etc.) and also to you who think you know guns there IS NO pre post-production AK's rebored to the american 5.56mm round. those that are are after-market reproduction AK's and are NOT the real thing.Believe Me I Know!Posted by Soviet Soldier at December 8, 2002 08:15 PM
I'v never handled genuine AK-47, our service rifle in Finnish Defence Force was Sako RK95, which is an ak-47 derivate. It was accurate as hell. I wasn't by no means wery good shooter by our standars, but at distance of 300 meters I never shot larger group than 20 cm by diameter.Posted by Khan McDick at November 22, 2003 12:45 PM
Look at the magazine if the AK47, and 74, the 74 is not as curved and has ridge on the forend side plate... Guns look similar.
Also if you look at the side pins, you can tell if is full Auto or Semi,
A note on sniping, it is also done at short ranges. There are guns designed to be fired under 250 M, and complete silent.Posted by Hollis at May 24, 2004 12:36 PM
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