“Civilize Them with a Krag.”

   06.27.16

“Civilize Them with a Krag.”
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Krag-Jorgensen carbine chambered for 30-40 Govt. in defensive action.

The American army adopted the 1889 Krag-Jorgensen repeater around 1892. It was superseded by 1903 Springfield and phased out well before WW1. A fairly weak action, it was also slower to load than clip-fed Mauser and its derivatives.

About half a million American Krags were produced, and a large share of those eventually surplused to the US civilian market. At that point, American sports shooters had weapons that remained front line weapons for several European countries until 1945 or so.

Gate loading is one of Krag's quaint features
Gate loading is one of Krag’s quaint features

The flip side of the simple action of limited strength was its smooth and rapid operation. The obsolescent 30-40 Krag cartridge had ballistics similar to 303 British. In the US, it has claimed quite a bit of deer over the years. Typically, a round sufficient for humane deer hunting is also perfectly adequate for defense. Since most 30-40 ammunition is round nosed, it is quite good at defeating cover like vehicle doors without immediate destabilization post-barrier. Sights, rather than ballistics, limit Krag’s utility at long distance.

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Even most of the cheaper scopes today improve on what was available to WW2 snipers. Krag, since it doesn’t use top-side stripper clip loading, doesn’t even require forward mounting of the optic. On the other hand, re-using the rear sight base for the mount avoids modifications to the receiver. This 2-7x32mm scope looks too high, but provides exactly the right sight picture in reality.

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While not a very hot round, 30-40 has as much velocity at 120 to 130 yards as the AK47 bullet of equal weight at the muzzle. Even the carbine variants of the bolt action are entirely adequate for hitting a guy with a Molotov at 300 yards. An average marksman with a Krag can check rioters more than a city block away.

Going forward in time, let’s consider the stronger and more accurate Mauser carbine, K98. Shorter than the WW1 Mauser, it still brought 24″ of barrel and adequate ballistics to the game. Plenty of Mausers in 8mm and 7.62mm NATO are still around. While WW2 Germany produced mainly inadequate 1.5x scout scopes for designated marksmen and 4x for snipers, most competent snipers used privately sourced hunting scopes in the 6x range.

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A very average marksman could secure hits out to 400 meters against wary and camouflaged opponents. The best snipers could do the same to 600 meters. A typical rioting mob is an easy target compared to Russian or American infantry. Given the availability of specialized low-light scopes, even the dark wouldn’t help against a dedicated defender. Given all this capability in even the old surplus equipment, not to speak of the much more accurate modern rifles, why aren’t the American deer hunters keeping typical urban rioters in the same fear that German snipers inflicted on their foes?

The answer is mainly: “rules of engagement.” Unlike the rioters, the lawful people who are stuck defending their lives, homes and businesses aren’t expecting to be excused for any unnecessary killings in the heat of the moment. While a masked hooligan running amok with a lit incendiary is a threat, he’s not an immediate threat until fairly close range. So hitting him at 250 yards with a deer rifle might still be murder, legally speaking. Moreover, hitting him at any range with a 30-06 soft point and having that bullet hit a second person further downrange could count as a negligent homicide at the least. For many lawful people, recoil is also a factor. A medium to big game cartridge in a lightweight hunting rifle can be a lot to handle while trying to concentrate on a stressful situation.

The other problem with the deer hunter vs. rioter scenario is the difference between their natural realms. Most civil disturbances happen in areas where neither deer hunters nor unobstructed 300-400 yard lines of sight exist. So a typical urban defender has little experience with long-range shooting, cannot engage from a distance for legal reasons anyway, and would be ill-served by powerful hunting ammunition that might over-penetrate.

Even police snipers shoot, on average, at distances around 50 yards. A typical private defensive engagement with a long gun almost always happens at ranges below 20 yards. Most lawful people will de-escalate to the last and fire only when presented with no other choice. At such distances, hiding or retreat are seldom possible: attackers usually move faster than their victims, the victims may have family to protect, and most modern homes aren’t proof even against .22 rimfire. So, despite the theoretical ability of an American to hit vertical deer from afar, it almost never happens in reality. While surplus rifles often mount bayonets for close-range negotiations, few people have any proficiency in their use these days.

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Armagon G12 shotgun with a ten shot magazine and a red dot.

Shotguns work. With shot loads, danger to downrange bystanders is minimized and one-shot stops are not unusual. The photo above, by the way, illustrates how a telestock enables even a five foot tall defender to obtain a comfortable hold on a full size weapon. Gas-operated self-loading also moderates the felt recoil.

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CZ Bren 805 rifle (5.56mm)

Despite the long tube, the illuminated 1-6x scope above can be used as a red dot with both eyes open. It’s marketed for dangerous game. I am sure that stopping a riot qualifies as such. The 6x magnification comes handy if engaged against opponents with ranged weapons. If a bullets hits your home, it helps to be able to figure out which no-goodnik fired on you and which was just standing around taking video with a cell phone. At range, they look pretty similar, and it’s considered polite to only shoot the criminals engaged in immediately hostile actions. Active ear protection is a very reasonable precaution against hearing damage. It actually allows better situational awareness by boosting the faint sounds while blocking gunfire.

Since defensive firefights usually occur up close, having the option of controllable rapid fire can be a life-saver. 30 rounds of 5.56mm is usually enough to turn even the most crazed mob. As importantly, the martial rather than sporting appearance of the weapon may be enough to drive off the attackers without a shot fired. Although 5.56 has a long range in case of a miss, most loads do not over-penetrate through humanoid foes.

In sum, it’s perfectly possible to civilize a rioting mob with a Krag, but it’s far from optimal for the task. Modern defensive rifles and shotguns are a better fit by far. That is yet another reason why they are becoming mainstream over the objections of the usual suspects in the media and the government.

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