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Reader NEIOWA writes:

I use federal surplus equipment to upgrade my local fire department. It’s, um, interesting to see who has what equipment in their “trash.” For example, I recently learned the Dept of Energy has SEVEN (7) RIFLE .50 BUSHMASTER BA50 the no longer need. I thought the .50 was an evil tool of Darth somebody and no civilian should have one . . .

Pretty sure the Richland, Washington location is the DOD/Hanford nuclear enrichment facility. But seven (or more) surplus .50s? And you can bet if they are getting rid of these they’re buying new replacements.

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Now two  have been requested by the FBI. And they are getting them. Why does the FBI need THESE EVIL THINGS?

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  1. I’d like to upgrade my fire department.. which consists of a fire extinguisher, a box of baking soda and a garden hose.. to whom do I send a SASE?

    • As far as I know, the Federal gov does not transfer functional weapons to the public (except for the few items that go through the CMP). Local gov’s are a different story, you see traded in pistols with PD engravings all the time. I have recently seen some demilled FBI .40 S&W MP5 parts kits for sale though, including the barrel and semi-auto only trigger pack.

      • The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) is owned by the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice & Firearms Safety. The CPRPFS is a tax-exempt non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation chartered by Congress, but is not a U.S. government agency.

    • I guess it depends who is using them.

      (I suspect this refers to whether the item contains hazardous material requiring special handling/disposal)..

      • Yes, Sir, you are correct. That is an HAZMAT inquiry for that label. Anyone who thinks that it was an description of the LAWFUL (but NOT evil, Sir) weapon, is completely unfamiliar and probably should go get some learning’ prior to commenting’.

    • Well without any ammo it’s just a big heavy steel club…

      Also says “Demilitarization: YES”

      With firearms doesn’t that usually mean rendered inert? Chamber blocked? or receiver cut or something?

      • If it has been demilitarized, how can it be usable?
        To demil a firearm (a full auto) the receiver must be torch cut into 3 pieces and the barrel plugged.

  2. I can’t help but believe that we are heading down a rather escalating and ugly path.

    I attended a meeting the other week at the University of Wisconsin Law School on the subject of “The Militarization of our Police Force.” Some of the ensuing discussions were around the concern that there is a cycle of escalation where police obtain more militarized weapons so civilians do the same for fear of a growing well armed police state. And the cycle continues. If you think about it, the technology of weaponry available to both rather amazing ranging from siting systems, calibers, new technology and the growth in the number of suppressors. Think back five years ago; ten years ago. Were we imaging all this? I don’t think so; or perhaps I had my head in the sand.

    As I said, it appears that we are heading down an ugly path. The problem is complex and no clear solution is emerging from what I can see. But I suspect that in a ironic twist in the minds of the public, less centralized government and more individual liberty and freedom would break the cycle. But that is like saying that, “If only the tide were not to come in.” I pray for our grandchildren where this all ends up.

        • Agreed ^ / ^^

          You could even trust your Podunk forces with it if didn’t cause themselves to feel elevated over the level of the citizens that they serve. Hold the index finger of your right hand straight-up. That’s the maximum number you will ever be equal to, no matter who you are or what your station in life is.

          “On the notion of individual sovereignty one individual could say to another “Stand feet shoulder-width in your largest foot gear and draw a chalk line around the soles of your shoes.
          The lines alone contain the hallowed ground upon which you are king, until, by you, I am made to move my feet”.” []TERMS, J.M. Thomas R., 2012, pg. 77

          But do embrace the cycle.

      • Yeah, they *really* need to hit those prairie dogs at serious distance down there.

      • Actually, the only work being done at Hanford now is environmental cleanup work, which is continuing. Most of the high-security areas have been closed for some time, and the actual footprint of active facilities has been drastically reduced since, say, the mid-1980’s. There probably isn’t much reason anymore for the level of security that they once had.

        Given wide-open distances out at Hanford though, I could definitely see the need for .50 cal weapons out there. If you absolutely needed to stop a car headed for the Yakima gate with a trunkful of stolen U-238, a .50 would be a fine choice: although a Cobra or A-10 would be more of a sure thing.

        • Well, yeah, but that’s because the hot stuff on the premises is so damn hot that anyone who opens the containment vessels will be dead in a week or so.

          But I suppose it should be guarded by someone, and I’m actually okay with not forcing the people doing the guarding to get any closer to the hot stuff than absolutely necessary.

    • The cycle is largely imaginary, which is pretty obvious once you look at what kinds of guns the police officers on the street actually face (as opposed to what law-abiding gun owners generally have). It’s pretty clear from the numbers that all those .50 BMG rifles and even ARs aren’t used to commit crimes; they’re used mostly to shoot paper targets and have fun doing so. So the notion that police needs to ramp up their equipment to “counter a rising threat” is bollocks.

      • So cops should not be allowed to have the same firearms as citizens? WTH!! When did you get to decide that a cop has to lose their 2nd amendment to be a cop. Talk to a cop sometime and you will find out that most buy their own pistols and rifles from the same place every other citizen does. People like you call it militarization, but it is more modernization. Take the tin foil off and get over yourself!!!! Also news flash that Bushmaster .50 you can purchase one for yourself it you like, because it is legal to own, not just for the .gov!

        • Your hubris is showing. It is not about cops with semi autos and AR pattern rifles. It is about cops with full auto weapons, body armor and surplus military vehicles…. In many cases in small cities and towns where the use of those items is laughable. The more the police equip and train like a military force the more of a military mindset they adopt. The problem is they usually end up viewing citizens they are supposed to serve and protect as “the enemy”.

        • Really Jon? Do you have reading comprehension issues? I hate to be rude but you come across as a moron in your random little diatribe that has nothing to do with the message you responded to. If I had to guess your profession I’d guess you were a cop.

      • The DOE security teams are most emphatically not ordinary cops. They are responsible for security at federal nuclear energy sites. Have you seen how well armed PRIVATE security teams at nuclear power plants are? I can tell you that you don’t want to mess with the small and very serious private army guarding Excel Energy’s nuclear power plants. Feds are armed heavily for the same reasons.

    • I agree but I would be happier if they where sold back to licensed gun dealers. We need to fix that.

  3. So did you buy the rest?
    You can put out a fire from a mile out and save gas…

    What happens if they don’t sell?
    Can people sit and wait at the dumpsters for them with everything else they don’t sell?

  4. I wonder what they’re replacing those rifles with. And next time I’m around the power-station while fishing, I’ll keep an eye on the tops of those buildings.
    Funny, they can afford .50s…. but they can’t fix the lines taken down by kudzu every summer.

  5. The inner workings of government make me scratch my head in wonder sometimes…… okay, often is more like it. I’m pondering why the dept of energy needed seven .50 cal rifles? And why they no longer apparently need them? I realize that it is a formidable weapon, but only 7? In my mind, it is one of those things that if you don’t need it, you don’t need it, and if you do need it, you need more than 7.

    • DOE has a couple of swat teams. So I’m guessing that’s who used them.
      Meaning they are probably shot out.

      • Yup, this is not the over-armed Postal Police or Social Security SWAT team.

        Though to be fair to the Postal Police, they were fighting Islamic Terrorism before it was cool.

        Anyway, since the scientists at Hanford could probably build a nuclear bomb on their lunch break, a few .50s seems like small beer.

        In the evening of 5 November 1990, the Israeli Rabbi and politician Meir Kahane held a speech in the second-floor lecture hall of the Marriott hotel in Manhattan, located at 525 Lexington Avenue, to an audience of mostly Orthodox Jews. After his speech a crowd of well-wishers gathered around Kahane as he answered questions. Soon afterwards, shortly after 9:00 pm, an armed assassin disguised as an Orthodox Jew approached Kahane and shot him from close range with a .357 caliber pistol.[1] Kahane was hit in the neck by the gunfire and died of his wounds shortly thereafter.[2][3][4][5]

        After the assassination, the assassin fled from the hotel and reached Lexington Avenue where, in front of a local post office, he attempted to take over a taxi at gunpoint. Carlos Acosta, an on duty police officer of the post office, drew his pistol and ordered the assassin to freeze.[1] Instead, the assassin turned toward the officer, shot and hit him in the chest. The officer shot the suspect, hitting him in the chin. Afterwards he arrested the suspect who turned out to be the Egyptian-born American citizen El Sayyid Nosair who had been living in Jersey City.

    • It actually makes pretty good sense to me. You’re talking about a weapon to be used to secure a secure nuclear facility against what would most likely be a relatively small attacking force. Three or four of those fiddys on the roof are going to be plenty, coupled with other, more conventionally-armed guards, but having a couple extras for backups is just good policy.

      • i was thinking anti-vehicle use. ..take on the engine block on an approaching car maybe?

        • Except they’d have access to mk 211 explosive anti-materiel rounds, so yes they could take out vehicles pretty well.

        • Saw BMG API rounds used against an engine, pretty sure 1 or at the most 2, would easily cripple it.

        • @Vhyrus,

          The US Coast Guard uses 50 BMG on occasion for drug intercept. They shoot from a helo into the engine block of inboard speedboats; tends to slow ’em down pretty well.

          A couple primary uses for 50 BMG are anti-material and EOD. EOD uses them to detonate exposives from a safe distance.

          Not sure why DOE would have them, although the facility defense theory seems at least somewhat plausible.

    • One of my best friend’s used to work armed security at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation (where these rifles were used), and yes they have/had .50 BMG rifles. They were often positioned in the sniper towers along the reservation’s vast expanse. They are there to fight off a criminal or terrorist assault to steal material for nuclear weapons. They are no joke when it comes to security, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable that the folks tasked with securing both a major nuclear power plant, and a *nuclear weapons facility* might have a .50BMG rifle or seven in their inventory.

  6. I would like to confirm that the Richland/Pasco/Kennewick area is where the Hanford Nuclear Project is and they have a LARGE defense force in the area.

  7. They fill out a lost weapons chit, like that trunk (monkey) rifle that went missing not too long ago. . . was that Secret Service???

  8. It’s a site that handles nuclear materials. I have no problem with them having these rifles. I’d imagine they’re to stop vehicles.

    • Damn straight. Protecting that radioactive sludge from falling into the hands of idiot criminals and terrorists is no game. Without anti-material munitions, it would be a cakewalk for any semi-armored vehicle to bust in and make a real mess trying to snag some of the waste that stored right out in the open in the tanks on the site. That crap is radioactive enough that it’s boiled through some of the older tanks and seeped into the ground in spots.

      • Acids are commonly used in nuclear processing – reprocessing. Having it in solution simplifies handling.

        The tanks are most likely leaking via the effects of corrosion than the radiation.

        • EDIT –

          That piqued my curiosity to do some digging. A number of those tanks at Hanford are still in the radioactive decay chain and are thermally and radioactively hot.

          It very well could be physically boiling in those underground sludge tanks. Combine that with the corrosive quality of the glop and it’s a nightmare situation they have there.

          In 1957 the Russians had a cooling system failure at a nuclear storage tank that led to the tank exploding. Massive contamination of some of the really nasty radionuclides like caesium-137 and strontium-90.

          What a mess…

  9. Ever wonder why oil field in the ME are seldom attack? Its for the same reason the enrichment facility had them.

  10. When I saw the title of this article I immediately thought “must be from Hanford.” Seeing they are being sold by Mission Support Alliance (aka MSA; the primary contractor for the Hanford cleanup project), obviously I was correct.

    Hanford is huge (586 square miles), and Hanford security are responsible for securing the entire area from all comers. The whole place requires badging to access, and you must pass through the checkpoints to get in there OR face up to Hanford security. They are, literally, deadly serious about people traipsing about out there. It does not surprise me at all that they have .50 cal sniper rifles. Remember, folks, this is where the vast majority of the plutonium to fuel our side of the Cold War came from. Furthermore, it is worth noting that DOE security clearances go higher than DOD clearances; nuclear physics is considered no joke by our Federal gov.

    • One of my best friend’s used to work armed security at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and yes they have/had .50 BMG rifles. They were often positioned in the sniper towers along the reservation’s vast expanse. Agree with everything you wrote… they are no joke when it comes to security, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable that the folks tasked with securing both a major nuclear power plant, and a *nuclear weapons facility* might have a .50BMG rifle or seven in their inventory.

    • Hanford should just use the TSA for security. Or don’t the nuclear boys need to pat down any old women and babies?

      • They do have to pat down old women and babies, but they can’t use TSA: their goal is to NOT allow explosives and firearms onto the site.

  11. This seems like overkill considering that stupid nun keeps breaking through the fence at nuclear sites and nobody stops her.

  12. Well, BMGs for defense at a nuclear facility makes sense – actually, tanks and Surface to Air Missiles makes sense if you are talking about protecting enriched uranium. As to the FBI, they are generally one of the friendlier Alphabets, compared with DEA, CIA, Reno’s ATF, and NSA. FBI definitely needs reasonable firepower because they are supposed to be fighting organized crime.
    Now it is true that government in general, especially the leftists, tries to demonize the weapons they want to use, especially BMGs, but look on the bright side. Our tax dollars are getting a nice repeater BMG at roughly 1/3rd the price of a Barrett, so at least they aren’t splurging. XD

  13. I understand where the reader is coming from, and where TTAG is trying to take it, but only an idiot would find concern over a government entity in charge of nuclear facilities being in possession of 50 caliber rifles. The only gripe you should logically have is *IF* they are “re-selling” “usable” rifles to acquire new ones. However, until I see proof that that is what they are indeed doing, it’s only speculation. For all we know they had acquired too many at one point in time and are now trying to downsize the amount they have to give themselves a boost in budget for the facility. My point is we’re crying wolf here in a sense but don’t know the full story.

  14. Lot of cointel pro popping up here. Either that or just a bunch of ignorant government apologists.

    • Actually, for buildings I would suggest 105mm or larger.

      Even 20/30mm is fairly ineffective against structures.

  15. I live in Richland and the reason that they have the 50 is because of the Hanford Patrol. Back in the day they were required to protect weapons grade plutonium that was ready for nuclear weapons. The product that they protected was paramount to protecting nuclear weapons themselves. They wanted to be sure that they were not “outgunned” by anyone. As of recently the plutonium was shipped off-site and there is no more need for that level of protection. So out go the 50’s.

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