Tag Archives: M4

A M4A3 Sherman Tank Sits Guarding the Mancelona, MI, American Legion Post 264

As I have written in the past, I am always fascinated my old military equipment located at American Legion Posts, VFWs, cemeteries and so forth. My wife and I have driven on US-131 a number of times over the years and seen a M4 Sherman tank right by the road but have never had the time to stop and take photos until October 2022. We were on our way home and had time to stop and take a few quick photos. Now, weeks later, I did a bit of research and compiled this post.

The tank is a static display for American Legion Post 264 in Mancelona, MI located on the corner of US-131 and State Street in downtown Mancelona – if you are headed North, it’s on the the right hand side of the road just before the intersection.

The tank is a M4A3 Sherman serial number 11755 with a 75mm cannon with a small hatch and dry storage. The smaller hatches were an earlier production design and many were kept in the US for training purposes and did not see battle.

Dry storage models had ammunition racks mounted on vulnerable positions and the rounds could catch fire. Later “wet storage” models moved the racks to the floor in less vulnerable positions and protected them with sealed chambers filled with water and anti-freeze to slow the progression of fire and allow the crew a few more seconds to escape.

The Details

To be honest, I had no idea how many variants to the M4 Sherman were made – it’s stunning actually. This Wikipedia page gives info on the tank in general and this one lists info on variants. I thought this would be a quick post to write but every time I pulled back a layer and got more details that then led to more details. I had to then dig specifically on the tank to read what others had written about it.

So here is the info I could sort out:

  • Model: M4A3 small hatch dry storage
  • Maker: Ford
  • Where: Highland Park Plant
  • When: February 1943
  • Production: It was one of 1,690 small hatch dry storage M4A3 Shermans made by Ford between June 1942 and September 1943. This variant had the lowest production numbers.
  • Serial Number: 11755
  • US Registration: 3053910
  • B&R Rebuild Stamp: 579
  • Engine: Ford GAA V-8 500HP – that engine is really interesting – it’s an all aluminum 1,100 cubic inch 32 valve dual overhead cam 60 degree liquid cooled engine. Everything was geared – no belts or chains – so it was actually very reliable. The design is amazing in my honest opinion.
  • Transmission: Synchromesh with 5 speed forward and one reverse
  • Max road level sustained speed: 26 mph – I got stats ranging from 21 to 30 mph on this one)
  • Fuel type: Gasoline, at least 80 octane
  • Fuel Capacity: 174 gallons
  • Range: From TM9-759, the manual reports 110 miles cross country or 155 miles on the highway. Note that means it’s not even getting a gallon per mile in terms of fuel economy.
  • Suspension: Vertical volute spring suspension (VVSS) with three bogies per side and two wheels per bogie
  • Track: This tanks has the T48 track with rubber chevrons – 16.56″ wide and makes contact for 147″
  • Main Cannon: 75 mm (97 rounds carried)
  • Integral machine gun: Two .30 cal M1919A4 – one in the ball mount on the right side of the hull and one coaxial to the main 75mm cannon. (4,750 rounds carried)
  • Secondary machine gun on the turret: .50 Browning M2 (300 rounds carried)
  • Mortar: 2″ M3 mortar for smoke (12 rounds carried)
  • Small arms ammunition: 600 rounds of .45 ACP and
  • Weight: 30.3 tons
  • Length: 19’2″
  • Width: 8’7″
  • Height: 9′
  • Crew: 5

Okay, I am a gear head. The more I read about the Ford GAA engine, the more fascinated I got. Displacing 1,000 cubic inches or 18 liters, it remains the largest V8 gas engine Ford has made and it made more than 28,000 of them. It’s estimated that only 500-1,000 still exist and they are sometimes found in competition pulling tractors. Here’s a video of one running on a test platform in 2019:

Here are pages with more info just on the GAA engine:

Photos of the Sherman – October 11, 2022

There is a nearby park with a lot that we left our van at. We then came up on the tank from behind. The American Legion post did a nice job painting it. It’s always nice to see history preserved.
One of the things I noticed right away was that the rubber treads were in remarkably good shape. On some tanks they are worn down next to nothing. The folding blanket rack on the back is down.
Close up of the rear left side idler wheel. You can see a grease fitting at the 10 o’clock position.
This is a photo of the rear bogie and two wheels. The Sherman M4A3 had three bogies on each side as part of its Vertical volute spring suspension (VVSS) with three bogies per side and two wheels per bogie. The bogie is the vertical part that the two wheels connect to.
Just forward of the “American Legion” signage looks like a sign board with more text on it. That’s actually additional armor welded onto the hull.
The hatch in the turret is a pistol port. You don’t see those on modern tanks 🙂 General Steel, who made the turret, stopped casting turrets with pistol ports in May of 1943 and any with them were welded shut.
The big upside down U is a lifting eye. The hatch behind it is a cover to the grouser compartment.
This is for the blanket rolls and could have held cleaning rods, etc.
The sun and that pine tree were in just the wrong place at the wrong time so I have a ton of shadows but figured I would include the photo regardless. You can see the elaborate front sprocket.
You can see the rifling in the barrel of the 75mm cannon. 24 grooves with a 1:25.59 right hand twist. The coaxial .30 cal machine gun would have poked out of the hole to the right of the cannon. Note, the cannon is resting in it’s “travel lock”.
This shows the travel lock a little bit better. At some point – presumably during the B&R rebuild – it was upgraded to the post war single locking arm model. In WWII it would have had two “fingers” – one on each side of the barrel – that would curl around and hold it.
Looking at the front cast nose section of the tank,
7411 was cast and the -107 was stamped.
The protruding armor on the side of the turret and the sides of the hull is known as “applique armor”. It was welded in place to compensate for sections of the casting that needed to be thinner.
This is the best photo I have of the applique armor welded to the turret. The casting’s armor was thinned by 2″ internally to make room for the gunner’s controls. It’s actually two plates welded together and to the hull to compensate for the curvature of the turret.
This is the only partial close up I have of the Ford front sprocket. It’s really eye catching and unique. One of the websites mentioned that there were so many field repairs going on that it wasn’t surprising to find parts from one type of Sherman on another.
Firestone showing their brand! You can see a grease fitting as well. The lubrication guides to the Shermans are incredibly elaborate – there were many, many grease points as you can well imagine trying to keep a 30 ton
More applique armor.
A view up at the turret.
This is the exhaust deflector.
I turned around and snapped one more photo of the old tank guarding the road,

Videos of restored M4A3 Sherman tanks

When I see a piece of history, I always wonder what they looked like when they were actually running / in use. Fortunately, there are many videos of restored tanks that you can watch and here are two:

This one has some interesting coverage of the “top 10 variants” containing narration, stills and original footage:

For More Information

Folks, there is just so much history relating to the Sherman tanks that there is now way I can capture it. Below are links where you can find out a ton more:

  • First off, specific to the Mancelona tank, L&P Hannah took a ton of photos of it in 2014 and still have them posted online. The paint had not been refreshed at that point but what is cool is that the photographer took many photos from many angles – way more and better photos than mine. Click here to open a new tab to go to their page.
  • This page hosted in France has a lot of info on Ford M4A3 variants.
  • A gentleman named David D Jackson has assembled an amazing tribute page to the American Automobile Industry in WWII and he provides photos and a wealth of info – click here to open a tab.
  • This page contains a wealth of statistics on Shermans including things like armor thickness, depth of water fording, etc. It’s a treasure trove of info and you have to scroll down to the M4A3 section, Click here.
  • Museum of the American GI has a page about their restored M4A3 Sherman that I got some of the stats from regarding dimensions and weight.
  • Another great site is TheShermanTank.com – click here to go direct to the M4A3 page.
  • The Sherman Register by Hanno Spoelstra is another excellent site.

The above links reflect massive efforts by their curators to capture history before it is lost. I couldn’t have written this post without their shared works.

Summary

It was pretty neat to stop and see the tank I wish I had a ladder or something to get more angles plus I wish I took more photos but you get the general idea. I learned quite a bit while researching this post and only scratched the surface, which is why I listed all of the additional resources above.

If you are on US-131 going through Mancelona, it’s definitely worth the stop. Finally and perhaps most importantly, kudos to the members of American Legion Post 264 for keeping the tank in such good shape and sharing history with us.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


PSA AR Build Kits Are Affordable and Fun To Build

I’ve pointed thius out before – I really enjoy building firearms. I don’t have the hardcore machinist skills to build one from scratch – I wish I could though – but I do enjoy assembling and tinkering plus I don’t mind some fitting / fabricating. With this in mind, I have a lot of fun building ARs from PSA kits because they are affordable, reliable and accurate. I’m not going to waste time with the whole manufacturing tiering or the rediculous “poor” labels – that’s all they are. Now, if you are in the military and you need special weapons, you aren’t reading this post – it’s that simple. If you are like most folks and want to build an AR that you can enjoy with friends and family, then read on.

Founded in 2008

For those of you who do not know Palmetto State Armory (PSA) – they have been around since 2008. It was founded by Josiah McCallum after his Iraq deployment and he started it in his garage. To put it mildly, he has been growing PSA ever since into the powerhouse it is today. Folks, PSA has a ton of offerings now – ARs, AKs, pistols, ammo, parts … the list goes on and on. One thing you will notice is that they are constantly learning and evolving.

I’ve Only Had One Problem

So, I bought and built my first PSA AR many years back – I looked at my order history and it looks like it was 2014. In all the years, I can only remember one problem – they forgot to include the disconnector. I contacted customer service and had one a few days later. That was probably a year or two after my first one and I’ve not had a problem since. You’ll notice now they bag their parts by grouping so this probably helps with quality control considerably.

Have I ever had a part fail? No – not that I recall. I normally will put a few hundred rounds through a build, eventually get bored of it and have my FFL, Michigan Gun Exchange, sell it to fund another project. So all I can tell you is that my experience with their AR kits has been very favorable and have no reservations telling someone to use them – especially if they want to start and learn.

What options do they have?

Whew – they have tons and tons of kits and parts you can choose from. Different barrel lengths, handguards, furniture, triggers, and so forth. You can buy a kit with everything except for a stripped lower receiver or you can buy assemblies such as a build kit for a stripped lower to then use with whatever upper receiver you want.

The point is that they have something for everyone and if you are patient and watch their Daily Deals (you can sign up for their emails) then you can get a great deal. For example, the kit I built this time is their “PSA 16″ 5.56 NATO 1:7 MIDLENGTH NITRIDE 13.5″ LIGHTWEIGHT M-LOK MOE EPT RIFLE KIT W/ MBUS SIGHT SET” – which means in has a 16″ barrel that is chambered for 5.56 NATO with a 1:7 twist and black nitried finish, has a 13.5″ M-LOK handguard, comes with Magpul MOE grip and buttstock, their enhanced polished trigger (EPT) fire control group and has a set of Magpul BackUp Iron Sights (BUIS). Yeah, they pack a lot into that description. The kit comes with everything you need except for a stripped lower receiver (I used an Anderson I already happened to have) and the best part was that it was only $479.99 vs. the list of $799.99.

This is PSA’s Model 516446780 parts kit that comes with everything you need except for a stripped mil-spec lower receiver.

Serves as a foundation

The AR parts are all Mil-Spec – what this means is that rifles that use parts built to the original military specification dimensions can use other parts. For example, I prefer the Magpul ACS stocks – they just feel better to me. Because the PSA buffer tube is Mil-Spec, that meant I coul easily replace the MOE buttstock that came with the kit with an ACS.

My point is that a PSA kit can serve as a foundation that you can very readily build on. Down, the road if you want to change out barrels, triggers, uppers, etc. you can easily do so. If something has a problem and you need to replace, again, there will not be a problem finding parts.

By the way, I would recommend a spare parts kit regardless of brand AR you are using – they are usually relatively inexpensive and include wear items, such as the firing pin, plus parts that get lost – for example, the takedown detents.

A quick comment on the EPT triggers

The PSA EPT triggers are a decent. I recently did a test on a number of triggers and a Mil-Spec Aero brand trigger had an average pull of 6 pounds 12.4oz. The PSA EPT had an average pull of 6 pounds 12.3oz and that was with both lubricated by oil. So, not a huge benefit but I do like them – just don’t expect a world of difference is my point.

If you really want a remarkable trigger, buy the PSA 2-stage trigger that has an average pull of 4 pounds 9.5 oz when lubed. It’s a must-have upgrade for only $64.99 and yes, you can always change to it later.

How do you assemble these kits?

Really, the only thing you need to assemble is the lower. PSA has already done the upper and headspaced it just to be safe. In theory, Mil-Spec barrels going into Mil-Spec uppers should not need headspacing but the reality is that you better check it just to be safe and PSA does.

I did a whole series of posts back in 2017 about building AR lowers – click here for a list that will open in a new browser tab.

The reference source I used to learn how to assemble AR lowers way back when is the guide on ar15.com. There are now tons of videos out there as well and you can learn a great deal by investing a little time to watch them. For example, here is one from PSA and here is one from Midway USA.

This is my latest 16″ PSA AR build. It has a MOE stock, Magpul BUIS and a Vortex Optics UH-1 sight.

Recommended Tools

Over the years, I have bought and tried quite a few tools but there are just a few that have stood the test of time that I still use. I figured it might help you to have a list so you can consider whether you want to pick them up or not.

  • Trigger Guard Jig – there are a ton of ways to do the trigger guard roll pin but a tool makes it really simple and reduces the odds of marring the finish or snapping an ear off the receiver.
  • Magazine Catch Punches – folks, Wheeler and others make long roll pin punches that have a vinyl coating to help install the mag catch. They are totally worth it. No more tearing up your finish or having to apply duct tape – these tools help you get it right the first time.
  • Front Pivot Pin Detent Jig – installing front pivot pin’s detent and spring is next to impossible without the right tools. Wheeler and others make a very simple pin set to help you save your sanity.
  • Trigger slave pin – greatly simplifies installation of the assembled trigger, disconnector and spring assembly. We make one 🙂
  • Magpul Castle Nut Wrench – I have used a wide variety of tools over the years ranging from the old GI tool to bizarre looking combination wrenches. If you want a solid tool that will hold up over time, the Magpul wrench is the way to go.
  • Gunsmith Punch Set – there are tons of makers. Basically you want a wide range of punches and roll pin punches. I have a mix of punches from Tekton, Weaver and Wheeler plus ones that I have no idea where they came from.
  • Non-Marring Hammer – You’ll need a small hammer from time to time that will not tear up your finish – I use Vaughan hammers.
  • Automatic Punch – I have a tremor so my hands shake. To stake the rear castle nut, I just use a good General brand automatic punch. It’s not as deep/good of a stake as a hammer driven punch but I do the automatic punch repeatedly to deform the surface and lock the nut.
  • Magpul BEV-Block – If you plan to install barrel nuts or muzzle devices, you will need a really secure means to hold the barrel and receiver securely. DO NOT use the blocks that just use the pivot and rear pin holes your you are apt to bend them. I did that once. Get a BEV block. It’s way, way easier and does a great job.

In Conclusion

If you are looking for something fun to do and there are tons and tons of tutorials out there – build an AR. The PSA kits are reliable and very affordable with different options to suit your tastes.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.


Do You Want A Remarkable Two Stage Trigger For Your AR That Doesn’t Cost a Fortune?

I appreciate a good trigger – in firearms in general and definitely in ARs. To me, this usually means a two-stage trigger that doesn’t have a heavy pull and I can feel the second stage starting to engage with a relatively clean break. I can tolerate military heavy triggers (5-8 pounds usually with long pulls) but they are not my first choice and I really don’t like them in any form of rifle where I am trying to get a degree of precision.

I’ve tried many different triggers over the years and have typically gone in two directions – living with the stock trigger in the rifle / the trigger that came with the kit if it was for self-defense or I went with a Geissele SSA-E. That is an amazing trigger but is expensive even on sale.

I recently noticed that Palmetto State Armory (PSA) is now selling their own two-stage trigger and the reviews were very favorable so I ordered one in as an experiment to go in an AR DMR I was building using a mix of parts – the barrel was a 20″ model by Ballistic Advantage on an Aero Precision upper with a MI Combat rail handguard. I wanted a decent trigger for the rifle but really didn’t have the budget for a SSA-E but didn’t want to use a Mil-Spec-ish trigger either. Guess what I paid? $64.99 with free shipping!

The PSA 2-Stage AR Trigger

I’ve read in several places that Schmid is making the trigger for them. It has a Nickel Boron finish to enhance lubricity, the first stage breaks at 2.0lbs. The second is 2.5 pounds and the total comes in at 4.5 pounds. The trigger isn’t adjustable.

The trigger comes with everything you see – the trigger, hammer, disconnector, pins and springs.

Installation

The trigger installs just like any other AR trigger. Click here for a post I wrote some years back on installing an AR trigger and it will open in a new tab.

The reference source I used to learn how to assemble AR lowers way back when is the guide on ar15.com and has a section on the trigger. A good installation video is from Brownells:

When you are done it will look something like this:

Comparisons

On top is an Aero Precision Mil-Spec fire control group. I’m using one of our AR trigger slave pins to pre-assemble the trigger, disconnector and the disconnector spring.

Okay, I had a couple of triggers that I could do pull tests on to give you some comparisons. Testing was done with a Wheeler trigger pull gauge that I really like.

This is my Wheeler Professional Digital Trigger Pull Gauge.

I created the following table by using the Wheeler gauge to do 10 test pulls of each trigger so you could see the average, minimum and maximum pull.

TriggerMinMaxAvg
Aero Mil-Spec6# 4.8oz7# 2.3oz6# 12.4oz
PSA EPT – Enhanced Polished
Trigger Group
6# 3.9oz6# 15.9oz6# 12.3oz
PSA 2-Stage Trigger4# 6.0oz4# 12.1oz4# 9.5oz
Minimum, Maximum and Average Trigger Pull in Pounds and Ounces Per Trigger

Conclusion

How did it feel? Well, there was a bit of pre-travel slack to pick up but then it broke pretty nicely. For $64, I was impressed! It’s kind of a no-brainer for me now that the next time I build a basic AR, I will use this trigger.

Maybe some day when I have time I’ll compare it to a Geiselle SSA-E side by side but for now, I’ll tell you that you can’t go wrong for the price. I actually ordered in another to replace the EPT trigger I have in another basic 16″ PSA AR that I have.

I hope this helps you out.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Computer Animation Video: This Does A Great Job Showing How Both An AR and M16 Operate

Folks, I always tell people you need to understand the basic mechanics of how your weapon operates. I’ve posted some slick videos in the past on how the AK-47, Dragunov. Glock pistol, AK-74, and AH-94 rifles operate [by the way, clicking on their names will take you to the blog post for each] and now I just found this one that very clearly illustrates how an AR-15, M16 and M4 operate. The author, Thomas Schwenke, goes through everything and explains both the semi-automatic and fully automatic mechanisms.

The video has some amazing detail such as this illustration of the M16’s full-auto fire control group.

One thing I like is that there is a narrator explaining what is going on plus they also label key parts – many animations just show the components without either a narrator or labeling.

So if you like AR rifles and pistols, you really need to watch this exceptional video. Kudos to the author for doing a seriously great job!

Here’s The Video


I hope you found it informative – I sure did.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Please note the photo was extracted from the video and remains the property of its respective owner(s).


ATF Opinion Letter on AR Pistols – Some Key Considerations

In this ATF letter, the author asked the ATF’s opinion on a number of great AR pistol related questions.  I am paraphrasing a few points I found important to help folks doing full text searches for opinions:

1) An AR lower receiver is neither pistol nor rifle until it is built the first time.  If you want to make a pistol, a lower receiver must *never* have been built in a rifle configuration.

2) AR pistols do not have a barrel length restriction.

3) AR handguards can be used on an AR pistol

4) An AR rifle and pistol can be in the same household — note, and this is a personal comment, what got a guy in trouble years ago was that he had only an AR rifle and a pistol upper with no lower to mount it on.  I don’t remember all of the details but the main thing here is that you never want it to look like the only reason you have a pistol/SBR upper is to put in on your AR that is legally classified as a rifle.

5)  Magpul angled fore grips (AFGs) are permissible on the bottom accessory/picatinny rail.

AR_Pistol_1AR_Pistol_2AR_Pistol_3

 

I recommend people print and keep copies of letters just in case they need to show someone that some aspect of a weapon was “approved” by the ATF at some point.  Just bear in mind that ATF letters are not absolutes but it helps to have them handy if asked.  A state or local government may have their own more restrictive regulations as well so this may not mean AFGs are legal for everyone everywhere.

Legal Disclaimer:  I am not an attorney and am not giving legal advice.  I am just passing this information along and it is up to you to determine what you can/can’t do.

ATF letter stating that the Magpul AFG is legal for use on AR pistols

Please treat this as reference material only and not legal advice. The ATF does not always adhere to letters, states and local governments are doing their own thing and it’s hard to say what is acceptable or not just to be perfectly blunt. We live in interesting times unfortunately.

Folks, here is an ATF letter saying that an angled foregrip (AFG), such as Magpul’s models, can be used on an AR pistol.  This is the first time someone shared a definitive letter with me vs. hearsay.

12/14/2014 Update:  Here are scanned images of two different ATF letters saying AFGs can be used on AR pistols because they are not considered vertical grips:

atf-afg

This is a second letter wherein they answer a number of good questions about AR pistols in general.  On page three is another comment that the AFG is allowed:

AR_Pistol_1
AR_Pistol_2
AR_Pistol_3

The reason this matters is that a vertical foregrip is not legal without first registering the pistol as an “any other weapon” or AOW.  I recommend people print and keep copies of letters just in case they need to show someone that some aspect of a weapon was “approved” by the ATF at some point.  Just bear in mind that ATF letters are not absolutes but it helps to have them handy if asked.  A state or local government may have their own more restrictive regulations as well so this may not mean AFGs are legal for everyone everywhere.

Legal Disclaimer:  I am not an attorney and am not giving legal advice.  I am just passing this information along and it is up to you to determine what you can/can’t do.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Sources For AR Parts

The following are all vendors of AR parts including barrels, handguards, triggers, magaziness and what have you that I use and recommend:

Beware no-name knock off websites selling generic import stuff. Some of the parts are counterfeit and not rated for firearms use.