Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Road Trip

So this morning, I loaded Murphy and a broken machine gun up into my SUV and we headed off for the wilds of Pennsylvania, taking the gun back to it's creator, gunsmith extraordinaire Charlie Erb.

Murphy just came along because so far he's a horrible passenger and I want him to get used to riding and settle down.

We got out to Frederickstown, PA a bit after noon, following a drive complicated by lousy Bing Maps directions and a minor incident as a gas station where I'd stopped to get a real map. My leg was troubling me more than a bit, so I stepped into the rest room to take it off and re-adjust it. No sooner was I in there though when the door began to rattle. I told the impatient person that I'd be out in a minute, and I could hear a child outside announcing to someone that he had to go poop.

Well darn, kid. I need to get my leg put back on. and at that moment, it was completely off and I was trying to clean the residue of a large burst blister out of the liner and disinfect the area around said blister. Needless to say, I was in a foul mood, both from the pain and from being somewhat lost, so I didn't respond terribly well when someone else began knocking on the door and a woman's voice yelled: "Hurry up in there! My son's going to poop his pants!"

I'm is this pending event that affects you and your son exclusively in any way MY problem? Do you think that I just came in here to read the graffiti, or enjoy the smell? I again announced that I'd be out in a minute and returned to re-assembling my leg, trying to get it to fit just differently enough to take the pressure off of the damaged area.

Another banging on the door. "My child needs to use the bathroom!" the woman yelled, confirming that she really believes that I'm supposed to vacate the rest room instantly in response to her kid's demand.

Whatever. I ignored her and focused on putting my leg back together. I finished in short order and it felt good enough to get by, so I opened the door and walked out to find a fattish woman glaring at me as a boy next to her who was probably five or six was dancing around like some sort of Special Olympian on crack. Shame on me, but when I walked out and pulled the door shut behind me, I seem to have inadvertently re-locked it. Oops. My bad. Hopefully the teenager behind the cash register had a key somewhere.

Back on the road, I reached the Erb estate about half an hour later and met the legend himself. Charlie Erb was 31 years in the machine gun business, during which time he built and serviced countless machine guns, and even though he's retired now he's still willing and able to help out people who own the guns that he brought to life decades ago. Charlie took my sick gun into his machine shop and tried what Mike and I had already done: Banging on the operating rod end with a steel rod and large hammer to no avail and saying "Wow..." a lot. That sucker was still locked up tight. Finally, after considerable effort was expended on it, I agreed to write the bolt off, and he put the gun on his vertical mill and ground the bolt out by cutting it through the ejection port and top of the receiver then busting the remains with a hammer, allowing the barrel to be removed. (The bolt, when in battery, locks the barrel in place.) He was able to determine that the gun's ejector had been blown up into one of the slots on the bolt collar by the explosion of the steel-cased cartridge, and with the ejector forced up into that slot, the bolt and barrel were effectively locked together and the destruction of the bolt was the only way to separate them again. This happens rarely to M60's but it does happen. My luck, it happened to mine the first time out. A contributing factor was likely an excessively worn operating rod and/or bolt. These parts had seemed ok to me when I inspected the gun prior to firing it, but I am admittedly no expert on this weapon system yet.

Anyway, the gun was cleaned, lubricated and reassembled with a new bolt and operating rod, and a few other minor kinks were ironed out of it as well, since it was open and on the table. Then we took it out to his test range and I put nearly 400 rounds of assorted BRASS-CASED ammunition through it--everything from surplus to my own reloads--and the gun ran without a hiccup. This thing is great, and after an inspection and rebuild by it's actual creator, the man who built it originally in the early 1990's, it's in better shape than it was before the catastrophic stoppage turned it temporarily into a 23lb. paperweight. An added benefit was that I got to learn all about this gun from the master himself, and my ability to diagnose it and keep it running has greatly increased.

Here's the man himself with the gun. He originally built 50 of these M60's, and numerous other great guns, including Stens, Sterlings, MP-40s, 1919s, Vickers and Maxim guns.

And here's Dave, Charlie's "watch rooster", who tormented Murphy incessantly by walking around and around my SUV and utterly ignoring him no matter how much Murphy barked. Dave knows that dog ain't getting out of that truck.
Finally we headed for home. Since I'd forgotten to bring food for Murphy, I slid through a drive-thru and got him a couple of burgers. I'd meant to give him the burgers once we were on the highway so I hid them from him by putting them under a jacket that was laying on the front seat, but when we got on the highway and I looked for them, they were gone. I looked in the back where Murphy was and I found the wrappers for those burgers, torn and empty and covered with dog spit. He'd helped himself, and done so in such a stealthy fashion that I didn't even see it go down. So the question is, if the dog steals food that's basically his food, is it still theft?

I'm thinking yes, just on principle.

But now we're home. The M60 is back in the gun safe, Murphy is in his dog bed, and I'm fixing to retire and read a few chapters of T.E. Lawrence before calling it a night.


  1. I'd'a been tempted to invite the poopy kid's Mom to hold the targets ... downrange.

  2. Just watch the fast food burgers. The one time we gave one to the puppy it gave him diarrea. Not fun!

    Does Murphy not travel well because he gets car sick or because he has no car manners?

  3. Murphy loves riding in the car. He just bounces around all over the place trying to look out all the windows at once and refuses to settle down. But by the time we were on our way home, probably because it was dark out and he couldn't see anything, he was doing a pretty good job of just napping on the seat.

  4. Yeah, right! "Inadvertently locked the door..." Sure it was inadvertent. I believe that...Not!

  5. A few of thoughts/questions come to mind:
    1) "Inadvertently" locking the door behind you...brilliant.
    2) It seems odd to me that the gas station only had one bathroom for customers instead of two. Why wasn't she banging on the women's restroom door too?
    3) It's probably a lot more hassle than it's worth, but it might have been entertaining to beat her senseless with the prosthetic.
    4) An M60 made in the 1990's? I thought only MGs made prior to 1986 were legal to own or is this a new gun built on a pre-1986 receiver?

  6. @ Shepherd: The receivers were all made before the deadline in 1986. Many manufacturers, Charlie Erb included, went to work full-time cranking out receivers and registering as many as they could before the ban kicked in and then building the rest of the guns later.

    This gas station also only had one "unisex" restroom...and hey--it's not my fault that they installed a lock that allows it to be shut with the lock mechanism engaged.

  7. M60, dog, hamburgers, road trip.
    Except for someone else's kid filling his drawers (and your leg issue), sounds like a great day

  8. What an intresting life you and Murphy live.

  9. @ Sport Pilot: Murphy is young, and he just got here a few months ago. He's still learning that his life is not going to be all boring and slow like that of most other dogs.

  10. Glad it's fixed and running again. It's funny, yesterday I had a squib round and a stuck bullet in my S&W 19-5. I couldn't get it pounded out so it's with the gunsmith right now. If it ain't one thing....

  11. Good thing you left Murphy in the ruck or he'd have had Dave for lunch.
    As for the burgers going missing I'm constantly amazed at how dogs in general can be so stealthy.
    Don't worryabout the car manners, it'll come (but you knew that).

  12. I gotta remember the lock the door trick :-) Glad you got the gun straightened out too! And sounds like you got a 'free' (so to speak) check up done too!

  13. I've been thinking about your problems with sore's and blister's with your leg. If you haven't already tried it get some Anti-Monkey Butt Powder. I promise you that it really work's, I use it under my body armor and with my running short's. It's also fantastic for motorcycle and bicycle riding.

  14. Unfortunately, no powder is going to cure a prosthetic that isn't fitting correctly any more. If the fit isn't exact, there's going to be damage.

    But we're working on it.

  15. Anonymous10:33 AM

    This has probably already been suggested to you, but you might consider wearing a sock or nylon stocking between you and your prosthesis. Cuts down on the friction and keeps you from getting blistered. I currently have a patient who is an amputee from WW2. He takes his wife's old nylons and cuts the feet off to use on his leg. He also puts a couple of 4x4's in there because his prothesis doesn't fit well. Just an idea!

    Love your blog, and Murphy (OF COURSE!).

  16. @ Lisa: The advice is appreciated (and Murphy digs the fan mail) but the problem here is hopefully temporary and was caused by my needing a bit of minor surgery that forced me to keep the leg off for almost two months. Now it just doesn't fit like it's supposed to, and the damage is coming from me trying to force-fit it again. It actually is working, and the fit's getting better, but sometimes I go a bit too far with it because I can't feel any minor friction points until the sores become severe enough to cause some deeper damage. It'll pass and I'll be running and biking again soon. But for now...

  17. Wow...I was so glad (!?) to read that the injuries don't hurt terribly. I swear - I don't know how you do it. Makes me ashamed to be all bitchy about things.

    Murphy is such a good boy - he didn't want to trouble you with all that burger unwrapping.

    Hope we get another vid of that amazing weapon in action...

  18. You shoulda hopped out on one leg and poked poopy pants in the chest with the other. He would've needed new pants then.

  19. All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible."
    — T.E. Lawrence (Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph)

  20. @ Brigid: Bravo! Where were you ten years ago?

  21. I'm quite glad your M60 is up and running again!