Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Rest in Peace, Colonel John A. Dramesi

Rest in Peace, Colonel John A. Dramesi

12 Feb 1933-17 Sep 2017

Copyright 2018 by Michael H. Maggelet


I was assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing, 509th Munitions Maintenance Squadron, in January 1981 at Pease Air Force Base, New Hampshire after completion of the USAF nuclear weapons specialist course. It took a few months for my final top secret clearance/background investigation to be completed, not to mention several safety classes, including in-depth training on bomb disassembly/assembly. The first system I would work on, after certification by wing quality assurance, was the B61 bomb. Certification on the B43 followed soon after.

  By mid year, and after certification on numerous other tasks, we were rather busy with a number of wing and SAC exercises, including the ten day long “Global Shield”, in which all of SAC’s nuclear forces were generated to alert status.
  During one such exercise later in the year, we had pulled two MHU-141 trailers loaded with four nuclear weapons into our small maintenance bay, tracking in a small amount of water and mud. By this time, Colonel John Dramesi had taken over as wing commander, and just about everyone was familiar with his name due to his former POW status and his book “Code of Honor”, which several of us had read.
  One evening, Dramesi decided to visit the weapons storage area. I won’t go into the specific details of our nuclear weapons team’s encounter with Dramesi in the maintenance bay around live nuclear weapons, only to say he lost his cool over a trifling matter and that he was asked to leave our bay by our huge shop chief, a former Titan II missile fuels specialist who stood around 6’4”.  
  While there were other factors for Dramesi’s early retirement from the 509th, it was unfortunate that he was not placed in a non-PRP command staff position in 8th Air Force or higher up in SAC. Unlike some POW’s who also underwent interrogation or claimed torture, Dramesi never gave away military information to the North Vietnamese communists.

  Rest in peace, Colonel Dramesi, it was an honor to serve under your command.



A tribute to Col. Dramesi from  

POW Traitors
Washington Post article on those who collaborated with the communists.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Correcting Disinformation on the "Model 1800" and "Model 1792 Contract Long Rifle Pattern"

Correcting Disinformation on the "Model 1800" and "Model 1792 Contract Long Rifle Pattern"
Copyright 2018 by Michael H. Maggelet

  I posted this on the American Longrifles forum on 26 April 2018, and it's worth reposting due to disinformation being promoted on weapons of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  

  First and foremost, there was no such rifle as the "Model 1800", nor a "1792 Contract Long Rifle Pattern". These are spurious designations created by collectors or gun makers, some of whom have produced purported L&C era firearms that never existed. L&C Expedition short rifles (Model 1803 Type I) were not fitted with swivels or slings (as historical documentation proves).

Two fake rifles that never existed, promoted by gun makers before the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. The ruse has gone so far as to deceive collectors, reenactors, the NRA Museum, and U.S. Army.
_ _ _

"I wrote an article back in 2000 in "Muzzleloader" magazine entitled "The Short Rifles of the Lewis and Clark Expedition".
  First, the rifle that appeared in American Rifleman in an article by Kirk Olsen is not an 1803-1806 production variant, it has components from a Type II rifle (1814-1819 production). Research by Jess Melot of The Rifle Shoppe clearly shows the distinctions.
  Secondly, Harpers Ferry and Springfield Armories certainly never produced a rifle before the "short rifle" (also called "the iron ribbed rifle"), production which started with Lewis's visit in April 1803. This is borne out in numerous letters in official US government correspondance and arsenal lists of stores, which show only production for muskets and bayonets prior to 1803 (and were not talking about the incorrect 1822 records). How and why Carrick, Keller, and Cohan arrived at the "Model 1800" designation is beyond me [it's a fabrication from an early 20th century gun collector, who pictured an 1814 Type II Harpers Ferry rifle]. I have some doubts about the authenticity of the rifle they are promoting as a "Model 1800".

  There is no evidence that Lewis's rifles were equipped with slings, and those listed were for muskets, as evidenced in various letters of the expedition, government correspondance, and arsenal records (zero parts for rifles in stores, with the exception of 16 rifle sights [in 1793]). We also have drawings from Gass's journal. The art of St. Memin depicting Lewis holding a long rifle or fusee has sling swivels, and it's obviously not a military arm.

  As for Frank Tait's conjecture, he shows Model 1807 contract long rifles which were fitted with Harpers Ferry locks [dated 1812]. These rifles were clearly made after the expedition, and in no way resemble the earlier contract long rifles of 1792, which originated from at least ten different contractors, made along their own personal styles, and were required only to be uniform in regards to having octogonal barrels of a certain length, thickness, and caliber. There are many letters attesting to the poor quality of these rifles, hence Dearborn's letter to Harpers Ferry arsenal master armorer Joseph Perkin to produce the "short rifle" (what we now call the Model 1803 Type I). I sincerely doubt Lewis would have picked out fifteen of the "best" 1792 era rifles, and only modify them by cutting them down, bore them to 30 balls to the pound, and add sling swivels. There is nothing in ordnance correspondence showing any such measures taking place (even before or after the expedition). More wishful thinking.
  As for the authenticity of the purported "Model 1800" and its association with the L&C Expedition, there are several glaring discrepancies. For example, the lockplate does not fit into the mortise (notice the gap). Also, there is a mortise for the brass ferrule on the forestock, which was not present on early Model 1803 rifles- this was suggested in December 1803, long after Meriwether Lewis departed Harpers Ferry with his rifles, locks and spare parts, tomahawks, long knives, and iron frame boat. The stock appears to be from a Type II rifle. This rifle may have an original lock and barrel, however other parts [such as the rear sight] are not from a Type I 1803 rifle.
  Several years ago, a previous owner contacted me with the desire to examine his rifle. Unfortunately, I was out of state and could not meet him. As for forensic evidence, and given the fact that this rifle was advertised at auction for around $75,000, I propose that it be subject to non-destructive laboratory analysis, to include dating the wood, x-ray of the markings and parts, scoping the bore, chemical analysis of the metals, spectroscopy, etc., to actually determine its authenticity." 


Photo's supplied to the author from Michael Carrick; I added the red arrows to highlight gap in the lock mortise, and groove for band on forestock.

  Fakes abound in the gun sellers world, and this rifle could be no exception. This rifle stock is not part of the 1803 production run, given the fact that the 1803 type I lockplate does not fit into the lock mortise, and the forestock has a groove for a brass band (as suggested by Secretary of War Henry Dearborn in December 1803.

Illustration from Sgt Patrick Gass' 1809 journal showing expedition members firing short rifles- without slings.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Biography of Michael H. Maggelet

  U.S. Air Force retired. Nuclear weapons specialist and team chief from 1980 to 1995, certified on seven weapon systems to include the B43, B57, B61, B83 bombs, and AGM-69A Short Range Attack Missile. Certified by Sandia National Laboratories for specialized maintenance procedures.

  Living history volunteer with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks from 1995-2000 at Giant Springs Heritage State Park in Great Falls, Montana.

   Author and publisher of “Corps of Discovery Notes” research publication, bringing to light new information and documentation on the clothing, arms, and accoutrements in 120 articles on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1996-2001.

   Replicated two of the eight sections of Captain Meriwether Lewis’s iron frame boat, used as the basis for the public display at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park and reconstructed by park ranger Eric Johnson in 1999.

  Blacksmith Eric Johnson poses with a reproduction of Meriwether Lewis' iron frame boat. Michael H. Maggelet recreated two portions of the eight section iron frame (bow and center section), and donated research materials to Harpers Ferry, which was used as the basis for Johnson's effort to replicate the thirty eight foot frame.

   Author of “Researching Lewis and Clark”, published in “On The Trail” magazine in 1998, detailing the expedition’s portable soup (glue broth), tin containers, iron frame boat, and Harpers Ferry “short rifle” (Model 1803).

   Author of “The Short Rifles of the Lewis and Clark Expedition” in the March/April 2000 edition of “Muzzleloader” magazine, proving that the expedition’s “short rifles” were not modifications of existing rifles, but new production “Model 1803” rifles which differed only slightly from later variants (in not having a brass band on the forestock). These rifles were not cut down “Model 1792 Contract Long Rifles”, fantasy “Model 1800’s”, nor did they possess slings (as many authors incorrectly presume).

  Appeared in “Lewis and Clark, The Journey of the Corps of Discovery” by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan in 1997. Also appeared in “Lewis and Clark and Other Adventures” by the British Broadcasting Company, and a segment on period foods on the Food Network. 

  Featured speaker at the 1999 Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site Blackpowder Rendezvous, presenting the clothing, weapons, and accoutrements of the Corps of Discovery.

   Author of “Broken Arrow, The Declassified History of US Nuclear Weapons Accidents” with James C. Oskins. Our book brings to light previously classified information about US accidents via a three year Freedom of Information Act process.

   Author of “Broken Arrow, Volume II- A Disclosure of Significant US, Soviet, and British Nuclear Weapons Accidents and Incidents, 1945-2008), with James C. Oskins. This volume provides additional information and photographs on previously unknown incidents and accidents through the FOIA efforts of the authors. Submitted for the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2010. 

   Mike and co-author Jim Oskins interviewed by Professor Michio Kaku for his radio program “Exploration”, May 3rd, 2016.

   Author of several articles on unclassified nuclear weapons history for the Nuclear Weapons Technicians Association, to include “First Combat Atomic Weapons”, “North Korean Nuclear Weapons”, “East German Special Operations Forces”, “Soviet Spetsnaz”, “Early Soviet Nuclear Weapons”, and “Soviet Nuclear Depth Bombs”.

   Author of “North Korea’s Inevitable Nuclear Threat is Here” published in the August 2017 issue of "American Consequences" magazine, P.J. O’Rourke, Editor.

  For interview requests or historical consultation, please contact me at mhmaggelet "at"

Monday, February 19, 2018

Small Arms Maintenance, the M16, and Brownells “Retro” AR-15's.

Copyright 2018 by Michael H. Maggelet

As a nuclear weapons specialist, one of my five additional duties was unit armorer. While stationed in central Germany in the late 1980’s, myself and two fellow gun nuts (excuse me, armorers) maintained our shop’s stock of M16 rifles. These ranged from early issue Colt/Armalite stamped Model 601’s, and a decent number of Model 602’s and 604’s. It was interesting to field strip, inspect, clean, and then reassemble these rifles and note the differences in the versons, since the 601’s dated back to the earliest Colt production in Air Force contracts of 1963 and 1964. These rifles were supplied to the US Navy SEAL’s, advisors in Viet Nam, and to the USAF.

  Surprisingly, the rifles in our shop were not well worn, and retained their parkerized coating. There were a few that had typical AF “preventive maintenance” which consisted of a few dabs of black paint. Our 601’s did not have the original brown fiberglass furniture painted green (some were painted black), but had the early black non-trapdoor buttstock, standard nylon triangular handguards, and early three prong flash hider.  
  Internally, the early rifles all had chromed carriers and bolts, large firing pin, and machined firing pin retaining pin. A few I remember did have the early Edgewater buffer. All other features were typical of the 601, including dimpled take down pins, which I verified referencing a 1982 copy of “Small Arms of the World” by Edward Clinton Ezell. I wish I had copied some of the serial numbers down for future reference. On a more interesting note, we had five GAU-5/P's on order, however the first Gulf War in 1990 pretty much put a damper on that acquisition.
  The 602 and 604 rifles were a combination of parts, with some minor differences due to replacement by Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (CATM). All had birdcage style flash hiders.  Our limited maintenance included monthly inspection and cleaning, since many of the bores were not chrome lined, and we only called CATM when parts were damaged. A case in point was a damaged handguard which was found after an exercise, with a missing tooth in the handguard. Instead of handing the replacement handguards to me, the CATM specialist insisted that he replace them, and I had to sign this individual into a restricted area, escort him, and then sign him into the armory where he replaced the handguard (with my help), and of course escorting him out of the area. A simple task which I could have performed in a few minutes, but took more than 30 minutes from our schedule.

  I don’t recall any failures to feed, nor jams when we qualified after arriving in Germany. Just about everyone in our shop shot “expert”, at least by Air Force standards (standard silhouette, all rounds in the 10 ring and you were an "expert marksman"). This included firing twenty 5.56 rounds at 50 yards on semi in the standing position (right and left barricade), prone (right and left shoulder), sitting, and kneeling.  I was one of the unfortunate few who had a hot brass land inside my BDU shirt compliments of the shooter to my left, resulting in a nice 5.56 case shaped burn on my neck. We did not qualify when I was in basic in 1980, since it was “too hot” at the range (100 deg Fahrenheit temps on Lackland AFB/San Antonio, Texas that year). Also, the rifles in basic used .22LR adapters, and not the standard 5.56x45mm round.

  One of the highlights was a German/American friendship shoot, where we fired Bundeswehr weapons to include the P8 pistol and MG 3 machine gun (I don't remember the rifle, perhaps the G3). One individual in our shop received the German "Schutzenschnur" marksmanship badge. 

  While many gun enthusiasts have changed parts of a civilian legal AR-15 to resemble a semi-auto Model 601, the supply of original parts now is extremely difficult to find. Parts such as chromed bolt carriers, bolts, takedown pins, and lower and upper receivers are reproduced by Nodak Spud of Minnesota, and by Brownells of Iowa. 
   Brownells has recreated the early Model 601 with some minor variations.


Model 601 characteristics                          Brownells BRN-01


Furniture is molded fiberglass,                     Polymer, light green.

Painted an OD green.                   


Edgewater buffer.                                         Standard AR-15/M16 buffer.


Chromed bolt carrier and bolt.                     Chromed bolt carrier and bolt.


Dimple on selector switch.                           Has M16A2 indicator notch on right                                                                                side of selector.


Dimples on take down pins.                          604 type pins.


Steel lined bore.                                             Chrome lined bore. 


  With the cost of a Colt AR-15 SP1 Sporter rising significantly (one 1964 specimen sold for $4,000), acquiring Brownells civilian legal, semi only variations of the Model 601, XM-16E1, M16A1, or XM-177 may just be the thing for you. That, or their version of the 7.62 NATO AR-10. 

Retro Black Rifle- website on various models and variations of the M16, starting with the Model 601-

Brownells Retro Rifles


Brownells website-


USAF training film on the M16, 1967-