It's time for PGP to die.

Robert J. Hansen rjh at
Mon Aug 18 20:55:49 CEST 2014

> Something better needs to live. That's the opposite of what he is
> saying. What a negative Nancy.

(Long anecdote, but I promise, it's relevant.)


I live maybe ten miles away from the world's largest firearms museum.
When I first moved to this area a couple of years ago I figured I'd take
a look around and see what it was like.  While there, I got the chance
to see an original M-16 rifle from *1959* -- before it had even been
accepted for military service.

The museum curator explained to me that the original rifle from 1959 was
the product of extremely strict requirements.  The strictest was, it
couldn't mass more than 2.7 kilograms.  The rifle was built to meet this
seemingly-impossible weight target, and many of the worst defects of the
rifle were in reality triumphs of engineering that let them reach this goal.

For instance: the M-16 feeds hot gases directly from the barrel back
into the action in order to tap some of that energy to cycle the action
and chamber a new round.  The AK-47 has the hot gases operate on a
piston, and the piston in turn works the action.  This has the effect of
the AK-47 being much more reliable than the M-16, since it isn't
channeling hot gas and gunpowder residue directly back into the weapon.

For the last 50-odd years, people have called the M16's direct gas
impingement operation "Eugene Stoner's biggest blunder."  The reality
was, the AK-47's piston-style arrangement is *heavy*, and they had a
2.7-kg weight limit... so by doing it this way, they saved about 200
grams of weight.  That's a big deal when your total allowed mass is 2.7
kilos.  That it had an unpleasant effect on the reliability, everyone
knew... but everyone also knew that if they hadn't done it, there's no
way they would've hit 2.7kg.

Today, when the basic M-16 model weighs in at 3.8kg (they waived the
2.7kg limit in the 1980s), it's easy to look at the defects and start
criticizing Eugene Stoner's biggest mistake.  When you've got a 3.8kg
rifle there's no excuse for direct gas impingement.  When your rifle is
3.8kg, the direct gas impingement can only be thought of as a terrible

But it didn't start out that way.


There's a big difference between saying, "this needs to die," and
"something better needs to live," I agree.

I find myself wishing, though, that before people said either of them
they would give more thought to why *this particular thing* came to live
in the first place.  Because I keep on thinking about that walk through
the National Firearms Museum, and seeing that old M-16, and hearing the
curator explain that everything people hated about it were actually
features demanded by the government, and it would have never been
adopted -- much less been so successful -- without those defects.

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