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Thomas Kremers, supervisor at Maintenance Activity Mannheim, displays a squad automatic weapon that was recently refurbished.

Thomas Kremers, supervisor at Maintenance Activity Mannheim, displays a squad automatic weapon that was recently refurbished. (Steve Mraz / S&S)

Thomas Kremers, supervisor at Maintenance Activity Mannheim, displays a squad automatic weapon that was recently refurbished.

Thomas Kremers, supervisor at Maintenance Activity Mannheim, displays a squad automatic weapon that was recently refurbished. (Steve Mraz / S&S)

Gun barrels and parts are prepared to receive a new phosphate coating at Maintenance Activity Mannheim on Wednesday. When completed, the parts will be reassembled, and the gun will look like new.

Gun barrels and parts are prepared to receive a new phosphate coating at Maintenance Activity Mannheim on Wednesday. When completed, the parts will be reassembled, and the gun will look like new. (Steve Mraz / S&S)

Gun barrels and parts continue the process of receiving a new phosphate coating at Maintenance Activity Mannheim on Wednesday.

Gun barrels and parts continue the process of receiving a new phosphate coating at Maintenance Activity Mannheim on Wednesday. (Steve Mraz / S&S)

Thomas Kremers, supervisor at Maintenance Activity Mannheim, displays a squad automatic weapon that awaits refurbishing.

Thomas Kremers, supervisor at Maintenance Activity Mannheim, displays a squad automatic weapon that awaits refurbishing. (Steve Mraz / S&S)

MANNHEIM, Germany — Call it “Extreme Makeover: Firearm Edition.”

Weapons ranging from 9 mm pistols to imposing .50-caliber machine guns arrive at Maintenance Activity Mannheim desert-scarred and battle-worn. After a process in which they receive a new phosphate coating, the weapons look brand new.

“Most of the weapons coming to us look sandblasted because of the desert sand,” said Thomas Kremers, a supervisor at General Support Center-Europe’s Maintenance Activity Mannheim.

Since beginning the operation in February, workers have cleaned, sandblasted, phosphate-coated and reassembled nearly 650 small-arms weapons for U.S. Army Europe units. The facility where the weapons receive the phosphate coating is the only one of its kind in Europe available to the military. The German workers who run the plant traveled to Anniston Army Depot in Alabama to learn the process.

The phosphate coating protects the weapons against rusting and makes them less reflective. The latter is not a bad attribute to have when fighting in desert environments.

“The soldiers know that they cannot have shiny weapons or the enemy will know where they are,” said Manfred Scherzinger, ordnance division chief for Maintenance Activity Mannheim.

The process begins when the weapons arrive and are disassembled. From there, they are cleaned in a device that looks like a commercial dishwasher on steroids. After that, each piece is sandblasted and subsequently hosed off with air. At that point, the weapons have been stripped down to their steel core and have a silverish-gray tone.

Next, the pieces are loaded into a basket and plunged into a series of five tubs to get their phosphate coating. After the phosphate coating, the weapon parts take on their characteristic black look.

The pieces are dried, hosed off again and finally reassembled. The entire process takes about four hours for an M-16 and about eight hours for a .50-caliber, Kremers said.

Aluminum pieces do not go through the same process but rather are coated in a special paint that is baked on at the facility.

“It’s a very new mission for us but a very good mission,” Kremers said.


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