Clyde Farrell Made a Rocket Machine Gun
Thirty years before Robert Mainhardt and Art Biehl debuted their GyroJet rocket-powered pistol and rifle, another inventor gained some notoriety for his own, ahem, rocket gun system. Yes, you read that right. In July 1934 Modern Mechanix magazine hailed a new machine gun “hardly heavier than an air rifle” that was... Read more
China Spent Decades Trying to Build a Better AK-47
In the mid-1960s, the Chinese military began to seek a replacement for its assortment of Soviet-licensed small arms, including the Type 56 semi-automatic rifle, the Type 56 assault rifle and the Type 56 light machine gun. The result was the Type 63, first issued in 1968, which combined characteristics... Read more
The CIA Created Fake Weed That Can’t Get You High
In the 1970s, America’s top intelligence agency created super-skunky fake weed and burned it as part of a drug-abuse program that toured the country. According to declassified meeting minutes from 1972 and an old article saved by CIA, the Agency’s Office of Medical Services had a drug abuse booth... Read more
The Hotchkiss Portative Made For a Decent Tank Gun
Laurence Benét and Henri Mercié designed the Hotchkiss Portative light machine gun at the turn of the 20th century. It was a gas-operated, air-cooled, select-fire weapon that fired from an open bolt. A number of nations adopted the weapon, including France, Belgium, the United States and Britain. The United... Read more
The AEC Armored Car Pretended to Be a Tank
The United Kingdom fielded one of the widest varieties of armored cars during World War II. All were lightly-armored vehicles designed for scouting, convoy escort, rear security and other less combat-intensive duties. One of the more unusual British armored cars was the AEC, which came in three versions—Mk I-III—with roughly... Read more
The Russian Battleship ‘Imperator Aleksandr III’ Traded Hands Six Times
Imperator Aleksandr III was the third ship of the Imperatritsa Mariya class, a group of dreadnoughts built in the Black Sea and designed to fight the Ottoman Navy. The warship was initially named for Emperor Alexander III, who had succeeded to the throne of Russia upon the assassination of... Read more
As Long as Reporters Have Covered War, They’ve Glorified It
When Brian Williams reported on American missile strikes on Syria, he fawned over the sparkling, smoking columns of destruction. “We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the Eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen, ‘I... Read more
The Paraguayan War was the Dumbest and Costliest Conflict the Americas Ever Experienced
The Paraguayan War — sometimes referred to by South Americans as the War of the Triple Alliance or the Great War — pitted the armies of Paraguay against those of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. It was an incredibly lopsided contest. Paraguay had a population of roughly 500,000 people, while... Read more
Why Can’t Aung San Suu Kyi End Burma’s Brutal Counterinsurgency?
“They shot and killed my husband and injured other villagers. The soldiers burned down our houses and killed and ate our animals. They also burned our rice barn, destroying 190 tins of rice.” “I saw the military burning the houses and shooting people who were fleeing. When someone came... Read more
The Nashorn Was Germany’s World War II Tank Sniper
German tanks during World War II were often outmatched by superior Red Army designs beginning with the T-34. Armor, reliability and firepower were all—at various times—serious shortcomings. To counteract the Soviet beasts, Germany rushed ahead with tank destroyers—armored vehicles designed to inflict long-range firepower from concealed positions—but these also had a... Read more
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