Category Archives: Crew-Served

Dahlgrens in the Rain

This morning, a steady drizzle fell, and it brought down many of the remaining leaves with it. It remained warm, to a welcome if unseasonable degree, and on our way from one place to another we found ourselves in the Norman Rockwell village of Hampton Falls, New Hampshire.

Like most small towns that existed in 1865, it has a Civil War memorial that has accreted memorials for various other conflicts in the following ages. It was constructed like many other memorials, with an obelisk aspiring to the clouds, and a display of forever-silenced cannon and cannonballs. Unlike many, if not most, such memorials, the cannon and pyramids of shot survived the scrap drives of WWI and WWII. The memorial is located in a small park which is home to various festivals and events during the warmer months, but adjacent to the busy north-south (appropriately enough!) Lafayette Road, named for the French volunteer’s use of the road in the 1820s to visit old friends from the Revolution. Lafayette Road is also US Highway 1, which runs in an unending ribbon of strip malls, motels and neon signs from Maine to Key West. Lafayette Road is on the left in this picture; the yellow building is on the other side of it.

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Thousands of people drive by this square every day and never give it a moment of thought.

Of greatest interest to you, dear reader, may be the Dahlgrens themselves. There are four of them, and four pyramids of projectiles, evenly arrayed around the memorial, in the shadow of the flagpole (were there any sun to cast a shadow today!)

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The guns appear to be in nearly new condition, although they’re filled with something — probably cement. It’s possible that they were cast at a foundry nearby, and then never delivered to the Navy due to the end of the war. It’s also possible that the Portsmouth Navy Yard had them in storage for fitting out ships. The Navy Yard is a short distance away by road or rail.

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The smoothbore Dahlgren guns have a distinctive, coke-bottle shape. They are beautiful machines, and were used in shore defense installations and on seagoing vessels alike. They often had a wooden carriage that resembled the cannon carriage of the Napoleonic wars.

These iron carriages are strictly for display.

Cannon balls may have been obsolete by 1865, but they sure did stack up nice. This pyramid has layers of 25, 16, 9, 4 and 1 ball = 55 cannonballs total.

hampton_falls13Each Dahlgren Gun is engraved with its maker, its serial number, and its weight, at least to the nearest 5 lb. This one was 4500 lbs. The others were all within 10 pounds plus or minus of this one.

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Why bother recording the weight? One possibility we can think of is for trim and balance calculations aboard ship. Three guns were cast by “C.A. & Cº,” and on one the maker name was not visible, but might well have been the same.

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Civil War Artillery.com has a useful page about cannon manufacturers, which breaks out this abbreviation as follows:

Cyrus Alger & Co.:  Cyrus Alger, who during the War of 1812 furnished the government with shot and shell, in 1817 started South Boston Iron company which at an early date was known locally as Alger’s Foundry and later became Cyrus Alger & Co.  The Massachusetts firm was a leading cannon manufacturer and when Cyrus died in 1856, leadership was assumed by his son, Francis, who piloted the company until his death in 1864.  During the war, both Army and Navy were supplied with large numbers of weapons.  The initials “S.B.F.” (South Boston Foundry) occasionally may be found on cannon, but the signature is traditionally “C.A. & Co., Boston, Mass.” or, rarely, “C. Alger & Co., Boston, Mass.”

The Serial Numbers of the gun whose maker was invisible (perhaps underneath, or marked on the muzzle) was Nº 105. The others were Nº 155, Nº 156, and Nº 157. (Without measuring them, these appear to be 32-pounder guns, of which 383 total were made by Alger and several other founders).

This gives some support to the idea that the guns came direct from production or storage, uninstalled and unfired, to the memorial. Since Alger had been casting cannon for almost 50 years at the close of the Civil War, these numbers must be unique to Dahlgren gun production at the Alger firm’s South Boston, Mass. facility.

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Today, it is a place where you can see four Dahlgren guns at once.

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And numerous plaques honor the town’s many veterans, of the nation’s many wars.

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Unfortunately, our shot of the Vietnam War honor roll was not successful, nor the one we took of the Civil War honor roll. It was a very different America in 1865 — the names were all English or Northwestern European, and many families sent five to eight men with the same surname to the war.

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The town and the veterans’ groups cooperate to tend this little memorial well.

While the Dahlgren Gun served the Union well, and Rear Admiral Dahlgren did, also, he paid a considerable price by giving his design to the nation free of charge. The USA then not only produced some 4,700 Dahlgren guns and howitzers for American used, it furnished the design gratis to various foreign nations. Alger did pay Dahlgren a royalty of 1¢ per pound of guns cast in South Boston for foreign customers, but his widow wound up in straitened circumstances and petitioned the Congress for relief.

An Old Projectile, Some Ancient History

You never know what you’re going to find on GunBroker. We found this unusual WWI Stokes Mortar cartridge, or really, projectile; and got, thanks to the seller’s description which is reposted below, an education on the human drama of the introduction of a weapon we’ve always taken for granted, the muzzle-loading infantry mortar.

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The seller explains (edited for brevity):

This is a part of very large collection I have bought in Miami. 81 mm inert Word War I British Mortar with all original paint. Please, read the history behind this munition development and deployment. The Stokes mortar was a British trench mortar invented by Sir Wilfred Stokes KBE that was issued to the British, Commonwealth and U.S. armies, as well as the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps (CEP), during the later half of the First World War.

The 3-inch trench mortar is a smooth-bore, muzzle-loading weapon for high angles of fire. Although it is called a 3-inch mortar, its bore is actually 3.2 inches or 81 mm.

Ha! Mortarmen of the world, that number ring a bell?

Near as dammit, 81 mm.

Near as dammit, 81 mm.

Frederick Wilfred Scott Stokes – who later became Sir Wilfred Stokes KBE – designed the mortar in January 1915. The British Army was at the time trying to develop a weapon that would be a match for the Imperial German Army’s Minenwerfer mortar, which was in use on the Western Front.

Success, right? Not so fast:

Stokes’s design was initially rejected in June 1915 because it was unable to use existing stocks of British mortar ammunition, and it took the intervention of David Lloyd George (at that time Minister of Munitions) and Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Matheson of the Trench Warfare Supply Department (who reported to Lloyd George) to expedite manufacture of the Stokes mortar.

The Stokes mortar was a simple weapon, consisting of a smooth bore metal tube fixed to a base plate (to absorb recoil) with a lightweight bipod mount. When a mortar bomb was dropped into the tube, an impact sensitive primer in the base of the bomb would make contact with a firing pin at the base of the tube, and detonate, firing the bomb towards the target.

Yes, they take shotgun primers.

Yes, they take shotgun primers.

The barrel is a seamless drawn-steel tube necked down at the breech or base end. To the breech end is fitted a base cap, within which is secured a firing pin protruding into the barrel. The caps at each end of the bomb cylinder were 81 mm diameter. The bomb was fitted with a modified hand grenade fuze on the front, with a perforated tube containing a propellant charge and an impact-sensitive cap at the rear. Range was determined by the amount of propellant charge used and the angle of the barrel.

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A basic propellant cartridge was used for all firing, and covered short ranges. Up to four additional “rings” of propellant were used for incrementally greater ranges. The four rings were supplied with the cartridge and gunners discarded the rings which were not needed. One potential problem was the recoil, which was “exceptionally severe, because the barrel is only about 3 times the weight of the projectile, instead of about one hundred times the weight as in artillery. Unless the legs are properly set up they are liable to injury”.

Several other kinds of mortars were tried by the various belligerents during the Great War: breech-loading mortars, rifled mortars, spigot mortars, and the French even made compressed-air-powered mortars. But the simplicity, portability and reliability of the Stokes was the category winner. While some of the above technologies found their way into World War II weapons, the majority of mortars then and now are on the Stokes model.

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The original Stokes had the benefits of simplicity and easy manufacturing, but it lacked things we now associate with this class of weapon: a fin-stabilized (or, in rare case, rifling-spin-stabilized) projectile for higher accuracy, a removable booster charge for selectable longer range, and sights. (You might ask, how does one use sights on a mortar or other indirect fire weapon, where by definition you can’t usually see the target? As one hears about relationships, “It’s complicated.” It would be a good subject for a later post).

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Mortars today are all descended from the humble Stokes, and they grew those capabilities mentioned above after the Armistice.

A modified version of the mortar, which fired a modern fin-stabilised streamlined projectile and had a booster charge for longer range, was developed after World War I; this was in effect a new weapon.

The projectile and all its history can be yours, if you follow the link to the GunBroker auction. For more information on the genesis of the 3-inch Stokes, including even a (grainy) picture of Stokes His Ownself, check out this great excerpt from a book by Bruce Canfield.

Why did Ordnance Hate the Lewis Gun?

After the Great War, long-serving Chief of Ordnance General William Crozier denied vehemently that his dislike of Col. Isaac N. Lewis had anything to do with Ordnance’s rejection of the Lewis Gun (which was, in fact, only partly invented, but wholly promoted, by Lewis). It is a fact that the Army rejected the Lewis several times, and that Lewis, like most American machine gun inventors, had to go to Europe to find a market for his invention. It is a fact that Crozier and his subordinates preferred their own, Springfield-Armory-built, Benet-Mercié Machine Rifle to the Lewis design.

BSA Lewis for Belgium

It is also a fact that the Lewis served satisfactorily with several nations including Britain, Russia, Belgium, and even in those US services that were reasonably remote from General Crozier’s authority, the Air Corps and the Marines and Navy.

William Crozier, Chief of Ordnance

William Crozier, Chief of Ordnance

After the war, called on the Congressional carpet, Crozier mustered the arguments of his ordnance officers and supporters. He produced a letter by Captain T.N. Gimperling, written to the Infantry Journal (but sent via Crozier, who chose at the time not to forward it). The entire letter is in Crozier’s memoir on pp.88-93. Here’s what he thinks of the Lewis:

It is our opinion that the parts of the Lewis gun are not properly finished and that they are made of a rather poor grade of material. The gun has a number of steel stamped parts, improperly heat-treated, which cause jams and a consequent inefficiency in the gun. As an example, the magazine is made of a very thin, flimsy steel stamping, toggled up with a combination of soft aluminum core and metal strips which are riveted on. This causes the magazine to be very vibrant and susceptible to the strain of feed pawl functioning. The ejector is made of a thin steel stamping, improperly heat-treated, and very often it bends, nearly always batters on the end, through bolt action, in the course of eighty to one hundred and fifty rounds. The feed pawls, stop pawls and rebound pawls seem to be made of a poor grade of steel. The gas cylinder is made of a twenty gauge mill run steel, which has been found to be full of scale pits and imperfections. We believe that the gun, as at present constructed, could be made in lots of a thousand or more, at approximately fifty or fifty-five dollars per gun, for material and labor. It is now sold to the Government for a thousand dollars.

What did Gimperling think of the Benet-Mercié?

Benet Mercie Machine Rifle, a Hotchkiss-derived oddity.

Benet Mercie Machine Rifle, a Hotchkiss-derived oddity.(Hotchkiss was another American inventor who took his wares to Europe, actually).

From the standpoint of mechanics, the Benet- Mercio gun is a masterpiece, inasmuch as the parts are finely finished and are made of excellent material and are properly treated where this is essential. The price at which the Government issues this gun is approximately $412.00, which, it is believed, would net, to a private manufacturing concern, but a fair profit over the cost of production.

The School of Musketry, too, would criticize the workmanship of the Lewis Gun, in a 7 Jan 1917 report also featured in Crozier’s book (pp. 93-95).

Thirteen Lewis guns were used in the firing. The guns were new. Except for some possible test firing not a shot had been fired from any of them prior to their use by this class. When they were received at the school it was found that several of the parts did not fit properly. This was true in particular of the joints between the barrel groups and the receiver groups. The other cases of misfit were due largely to poor workmanship and lack of finish.

When the firing of the guns began there was very little trouble with them that could not be accounted for by the fact that the personnel of the class was inexperienced and that about 3 per cent of the am- munition used was found to be faulty. After about 2,000 rounds had been fired from each gun, jams began to occur which were due to causes other than untrained personnel and defective ammunition.

By far the greater portion of jams due to defec- tive mechanism were caused by the wear of the feed operating arms and stud, the bending of the cartridge guide, and the faulty construction and bending of the magazines; and of these about one-half were due to faulty magazines.

The school also blamed the design of the Lewis for 44 broken parts, 17 worn parts (and 57 worn magazines), and 162 lost parts (!) during these tests.

Even when directed to buy the Lewis by Congress, Crozier dragged his feet, leaving American forces headed to Europe dependent on the French for small arms (as they were for artillery, another botched Ordnance responsibility).

Isaac Newton Lewis, Col., Coastal Artillery, Ret.

Isaac Newton Lewis, Col., Coastal Artillery, Ret.

Because the Ordnance Department did buy 353 Lewises originally manufactured by Savage for Canada, Lewis received substantial royalties on these guns — over $10,000. He sent a check for the full amount to Secretary of the Army Newton Baker. Crozier was furious, in part that Lewis hadn’t sent the check to him as Chief of Ordnance, and wrote Baker a memo suggesting that Lewis had an ulterior motive, and hinting that Baker should refuse the refund. Baker wrote to Lewis, enclosing Crozier’s smarmy memo, and stressing that accepting the check would not mean he was taking any side in any of the Crozier-Lewis disputes, which by this time were known to all in uniform and in Congress. It was probably Lewis’s turn to be furious, but he wrote to Baker, assuring him that his check was intended to go to the United States Treasury, as Lewis did not wish to profit by sales to the United States Government. He couldn’t resist bashing Crozier:

In the present very grave national emergency, I am directly instrumental in supplying, delivering and putting on the actual firing lines against the fighting enemies of my country more machine guns each week than the present Chief of Ordnance has supplied for the use of our own army of defence during the whole of the fourteen years that he has been in office. I have done, and am doing, this without one penny of assistance and without one word of encouragement or acknowledgment from any one connected with the Ordnance Department, and in spite of the long continued and active opposition of that Department.

Again, to Crozier’s credit, he includes the full correspondence, which reflects ill on him, in his memoir, alongside other documents that take his part. Before and after his postwar retirement as a Major General, Crozier would feel himself wronged and slandered by Lewis, and he repeatedly demanded a Court of Inquiry to, as he saw it, clear his name.

Paradoxically, the Army would adopt the operating system of the Lewis decades later. In the late 1950s, Springfield presented a machine gun called the T161 which was standardized as the M60. Springfield engineers had copied the gas operating system of the German Fallschrirmjägergewehr 42, apparently unaware that the German designers had copied it from… the Lewis Gun.

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Lewis. Note op rod and bolt.

FG42. Note similar op rod and bolt (Forgotten Weapons photo).

FG42. Note similar op rod and bolt (Forgotten Weapons photo).

M60. Note op rod and bolt.

M60. Note op rod and bolt.

Here is a copy of General Crozier’s memoir, Ordnance and the World War. This was originally scanned and posted by Google, but their OCR was a mess, so we re-OCR’d it and then compressed it, reducing scan quality to 75 dpi to make a much smaller file.

ordnance_and_the_world_war_4.pdf

We’ll likely have more to say on this later.

Artillery in Iraq, August 2016

artillery-02They came out of the sky in the night, using tactics invented in Vietnam and honed by generations of artillerymen since. Mobile warfare demands mobile fire support; overnight, a barren scrap of desert becomes a counter in the Game of War, a temporary home to a battery of M777 lightweight howitzers.

The Army describes a recent (August) mission involving the establishment of a forward firebase, and execution of multiple fire missions.

“Do you have eyes on?” Joseph radios to the CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilots as they approach. Given the affirmative, he watches as they float toward the landing zone. With a dull thud and a cloud of dust the guns are released onto the ground and the CH-47s turn off into the night.

The 101st is known for air assault operations and Fort Campbell, the home of the unit, is where the Sabalauski Air Assault School resides. For the team on the ground, this operation is business as usual.

“Let’s go, let’s get a move on,” Joseph says to the gun crews. Working under the lime-green hue of their night vision goggles, they move their guns and begin setting up the systems, ensuring they are prepared to execute their upcoming fire missions.

The Soldiers work through the night, and by first light they’re ready to fire.

WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS

Staff Sgt. James Johnson, the fire direction chief for Battery C, sits in the back of his fire direction center truck looking intently at his radio, waiting for a call for fire.

“This is where the magic happens,” Johnson says as he concentrates on his console.

Observers, which can consist of assets from the ISF, unmanned aerial vehicles and other aircraft, acquire targets they need hit. Once the battalion headquarters located miles away in the tactical operations receives the data, they push it to Johnson and his team at the FDC.

“We process data,” says Johnson. “They [the artillerymen on the gun line] proceed to shoot.”

A few hundred feet away from the FDC, gun crews are moving around their guns in full kit, checking and rechecking minute details, making small adjustments, waiting to spring into action once the FDC sends a message.

Just then the radio crackles and Johnson grabs his hand mic, listening to the data. He then begins his battle drill, one he’s done many times before. Johnson sends a message to the gun line, “Gun 2, fire mission.”

Down at Gun 2, the crew, led by Staff Sgt. Johnathan Walker, springs up as the radio beeps; in seconds they are at the firing position going through their crew drill.

“Come on,” Walker yells to the crew as they prepare rounds and take their positions. “Let’s make money!”

The crew members look through the sites and adjust the gun as Walker yells the fire data. Attention to detail is critical during this mission; he must remember the data for each round his crew is going to fire.

“Fire!” yells the crew chief, and a Soldier gives the firing lanyard a slight tug. The gun responds to this small motion, shaking the earth around the position as a high explosive shell is launched.

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The next gun fires soon after and the race is on between the two gun sections, a little company competition to see who can fire rounds the fastest and most proficiently. Even working in temperatures that exceed 100 degrees, the teams are driven.

“Let’s get through this!” Walker yells as he calls off the quadrant — up and down — and deflection — left and right — for the next round. Driven by their chief, the Soldiers move faster as the mission continues.

The dash endures for a while as the guns launch round after round. Dust hangs in the air after each round is fired and sweat stings the Soldiers’ eyes. The ammo carriers are running rounds weighing over 90 pounds from the holding point to the gun, heaving the shells into the firing tube. Walker’s voice grows hoarse as he yells adjustments and commands.

Finally, the last round is reached.

“Last round,” the ammo bearer says as he walks up to Walker. With a nod, Walker gets ready for his last command of the mission.

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via The gun raid: US artillerymen support Iraqi advance on ISIL | Article | The United States Army.

And that was that. After taking fire missions from a variety of sources, the redlegs secured their guns and called the Chinooks. Where did they go?  Was it to another hasty and temporary firing position? Was it back to the FOB to rest and refit?

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There are some members of ISIL who would like to know the answers to those question. And other, former, members, who are beyond knowing.

Is artillery useful in an unconventional war? Sometimes. Sometimes it’s not just useful, but indispensable.

Antitank Guns for the Man who Has Everything

We had a birthday in the family recently, and gave some thought to presenting one of these to a 16 year old. They’re all WWII vintage AT guns, and most of them are live. We’ve listed them based on asking price, from most expensive to most economical (for some values of the word “economical.”)

#1: M-1 57mm Anti-Tank Rifle 1943 Carriage Buy it Now: $65K

m1-57mm-01The American 57mm AT gun served throughout World War II, and was the main AT gun used in the peak years of the war. Effective against Japanese armor, it struggled to be relevant in Europe against better-armed and more-mobile German tanks. The US could, however, field a lot of them, and at close range they could make life miserable (if short) for Panzer crews.

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#2: British Six Pounder (57mm) Buy it Now: $35k

british-six-pounder-57mm-02The six pounder was the kissin’ cousin of the American 57mm AT gun and served throughout World War II. This one has been modified for movie duty, but is legally convertible to a registered destructive device (given ATF approval of manufacturing in advance. Unlike MGs, DDs can still be made by and for private owners). Don’t tell Governor Moonbeam, but it’s in California, and it’s actually CA-legal.

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 #3: Swedish Bofors AT (37mm) Opening Bid: $33.5k

bofors-37mm-05Thanks to the annoying Swedish habit of neutrality, the next gun lacks the combat cachet of the combatants’ pieces, but it’s, live, intact, and in beautiful condition. Of necessity, you become a reloader with any gun like this — this one comes with 15 cases. For loading data? KMAGYOYO!

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bofors-37mm-03While the mount is unique, and the muzzle brake follows midcentury Swedish practice, the gun itself seems to owe a lot to Krupp design. The Wehrmacht 37mm and the Red Army 45mm were both Krupp designs, and clearly cousins — as were the social systems the two armies fought for.

Same seller also has a carriage (no breech or barrel) available as well.

#4: WWII 25mm SA.L 1937 ANTI-TANK GUN. Opening bid $25k, Buy it now $30k

If a 37mm gun was already trending obsolescent at the outbreak of World War II, and it was, imagine how weak a 25mm gun is. Plus, this one has to wear the stigma of being from a nation defeated rather thoroughly by the Nazis in cut time: France. Still, it works, and it looks cool:

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It also has an extremely thorough description, and lots of pictures:

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Museum quality, live-firing, French WWII 25mm SA.L Mle 1937 anti-tank gun, serial number 566. This anti-tank gun was built in 1939 by the French design & manufacturing company, Atelier Puteaux, and is marked accordingly: “A.PX 1939”. These guns were manufactured and used by the French, but they were also captured and used by the Nazis, who gave them the designation: 2,5cm PaK 113(f). A quantity of the captured guns were sold by the Germans to Finland, who gave them the designation: 25 PstK/37. The gun has a muzzle velocity of 3150 feet per second, and is a very accurate weapon. We spent 165 hours performing a complete restoration on this anti-tank gun. The restoration work included: sandblasting, complete disassembly, painting, parkerizing, bluing, polishing, lubricating, new tires, reworking the recoil mechanism, and reassembly. This cannon is live firing, and has been fired several times. The gun performed flawlessly when fired…..please take a look at the video below, where we fired upon, and disabled a Ford F-150’s running engine, at a distance of 340 yards.

The chamber and rifling are in very good condition. Weighing only 618 pounds, this gun can easily be moved and fired by one adult male. The actual weight at the lunette when the gun is picked up is only 84 pounds. The gun is also very compact: 152″ in length (139″ with muzzle brake removed), 40.5″ in width, and 41.5″ in height. The cannon is equipped with iron sights, as well as an optical 3x M69C telescopic sight (very clear optics). All traversing, elevating, and depressing adjustments work completely and smoothly (see photos below).

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For the travel configuration, the cannon’s muzzle brake / flash hider unscrews from the end of the barrel, and stows above the recoil mechanism. The armor also folds up, which is also shown in the photos below. This is an all-matching numbers gun (#566). The gun includes 22 live, arsenal-loaded, rounds of 25mm ammunition. Once fired, the brass cartridge cases can be reloaded several times for additional firings. This weapon is an ATF/NFA registered destructive device, so it will be transferred on a $200 tax paid Form 4, or on a tax-exempt Form 3 to a destructive device dealer in your state. We will crate and ship this gun anywhere in the continental United States. Crating, shipping, insurance, and transfer taxes are all the buyer’s responsibility. Residents within Tennessee will be assessed state sales tax. Please take a look at all 70 photos that are included in the auction description below. This is a great opportunity to get a museum-quality piece of history, that displays as good as it shoots! Would make for a stunning display piece in any museum, gun store, shooting range, or office.

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There’s even pictures of this type of gun in German, Finnish, and what looks like Soviet(!) service at the link (Finns below):

Pst. Tykki miehistöineen

Pst. Tykki miehistöineen

Some less awesomely restored examples of this gun are also available right now, one at $15k Opening, No Reserve, and a deactivated one at $10k Opening, no reserve.

#5 106mm RCL (demilled) with Prime Mover: Opening Bid, $30k

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This is one of the things that replaced AT guns, a recoilless rifle, a US weapon of the 1950s-70s. Complete with a M-274 Mule, an offroad vehicle used by airborne forces of the period. An unusual feature was the semi-auto spotting rifle using a special .50 marking round (smaller than a .50 BMG casing.

106-w-mule04The spotting rig was a necessity because the firing signature of a 106 is tremendous, which means, a first round hit on the enemy tank is a life-or-death enterprise with this weapon. It was replaced by the TOW AT missile.

This is the most gun you can have and not need heavy truck and trailer, also one of the more fun toys we had in Nam. Comes with: 4 rds in tubes 2 more in displa manuels tripod (rare) breech cover muzzle cover optics battery pack< elec start This runs and drives as it should, not concourse cond. because we use and enjoy it. If you’ve seen one of these at Fl. MVPA events or the Melbourne Vets reunion in the last decade or so it’s this one This is one of the best equipted in the country. I also have a 25′ closed trailer for sale if this sells. will haul this and any Jeep type vehicle.

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Cool, but not live, alas.

#6 20 mm Lahti w/Spares. Opening bid $15k, Buy it Now $18k

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Here’e we’re down out of anti-tank guns into the high end of antitank rifles. This, the similar Solothurn, and a Czechoslovak weapon that was OBE and not produced in large numbers were the high-water mark of the infantry antitank rifle.

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This lot consists of 1 complete M1939 20MM lahti, w ski, 2 registered lahti receivers, 1 coffin 1 box of spare gun parts, 3 boxes of spare springs, 1 amorer box of tools, 6 boxes w 2 each magazines and 60 rounds of live 20 MM ammo. ALL NFA RULES APPLY!! $50% down and the balance upon transfer to your FFL dealer, buyer pays all shipping costs. and the ammunition MUST BE SHIPPED SEPERATLEY!!

This is live, but ammunition is extremely precious any more.

#7 D44 AT Gun 85mm Opening Bid $8,495.

d44-01

This World War II Russian AT gun is a postwar Polish clone. It is rather roughly demilled, but if not for that would be the clear bang-for-the-buck leader. These guns were widely used in Vietnam and the Arab-Israeli wars, among other 20th Century conflicts.

The shield on this cannon has been cut and re-welded (at Arsenal in Europe), a 12″ metal shaft is missing off of the breech block (replacement easy to create) and we recently repainted it so it looks good. We have discounted this cannon $500 in consideration. Otherwise in good condition. No obvious damage, little evidence of any major use. Working T & E, solid tires. Dem-illed to ATF specs, breech cut [easy weld], 85mm hole in bottom of chamber [donut whole included], hole is NOT visible from exterior of cannon.

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All demilled pieces [uncut breech block and cut ring] are included, a good ATF form 1 project, subcal to 30-50 BMG [no ATF reg needed], or oxy-propane conversion. We converted ours to a combination 30 cal, diesel fuel, and oxy-propane, sounds better than a real field piece, at a fraction of the price.

We will have INERT 85mm TRAINING rounds here in [about] 3 months.

Light enough to tow behind a jeep or a deuce.

d44-03

When you absolutely, positively have to get those damned kids off your lawn.

That’s about it for cannon right now. But if you’re feeling mortarous, other sellers can hook you up,

Wanna Get Your Crank On? With a Gat? (ling?)

Sure, there’s always a couple of vendors trying to sell Colt’s new-edition 1875, 1877 or 1878 Gatling Guns for prices around $50-60k. (There were eleven of them on GunBroker when we put this story to bed last night). What about those of you who jones for a Gatling, but can’t afford the price of a luxo car or SUV for it, or can’t get a decent trade for your first-born child?

Fear not, the cheapskate New Englanders at WeaponsMan.com have your back. Mission: save you money on a Wild West icon, so you can go bankrupt buying blackpowder or Cowboy Action rounds and getting your crank on.

Fun fact about Gatlings: they had been so well employed by one American officer that the US Army’s machine gunners — who were, mostly, under his sway — clung to the Gatling into the 20th Century, long after the armies of Europe and the modern armies of Asia had chosen automatic machine guns.

Item 1: Museum Quality Gatling Gun w Carriage 45LC Mag

Price: Buy it now for $18k, or make an bid on the penny auction — against the unknown reserve. No bids yet.

Gatling Portland 01

Great looking Gat(ling).

Seller’s been trying to unload this gat since 2015, at least on GunBroker and at the Portland, OR gun show. Initially he wanted $30k, then $25, and now he’s down to $18k. Ground shipping to your FFL (it’s a Title 1 firearm) is $600.

$18k too high? Let’s move on.

Item 2: Replica Gatling Gun in 45 Black Powder

Price: No Reserve sale with minimum bid of $10k, or actually $5 under that number. No bids yet.

Gatling Tucson 02

This one’s not as impressive as the $18k gun; it has a homemade-y look. But it’s $10k plus actual shipping from a gun shop in Tucson. The seller says:

Up for auction is a Modern Replica of a Gatling Gun, built in the 1980’s by a machinist who was also a civil war re-enactor.

6 barrels. Working Black Powder Gatling Gun, designed to fire cap and ball blanks only but barrels are .45 caliber and rifled.

Perfect for Recreations, Movies or Stage Prop. The gun has been a fixture in the shop for years and gets a lot of attention but it is time for us to change some of our decor so it is reluctantly for sale.

Item 3: GATLING GUN FULLY- FUNCTIONAL LIVE-FIRE 45 L.C.

Price: No Reserve sale with minimum bid of $7k, or actually $5 under that number. No bids yet.

While this is the price leader of the authentic(ish) Gatlings, it seems to be a high-quality piece with a lot of brass. The seller complicated his sale by not taking a single good picture of the whole Gatling, but there are some character-rich detail shots. The business end:

Gatling OK 04

And here’s the rear half, left side:

Gatling OK 03

The rear half, right side:

Gatling OK 01

And the forward:

Gatling OK 02

Sure, it’s not for everybody. Some guys will complain about its lack of Picatinny rails and others will turn it down because there is no place to mount a bayonet. The magazine capacity probably makes it illegal in Massachusetts, Colorado, California, and North Korea.

But it would be worth the price of the ammo (and the target frames) to crank this puppy up from time to time… maybe on the anniversary of the Little Big Horn.

But there you go — three options for less than the somewhat stiff cost of entry to the Colt Repro Gatling Club. Just the thing for getting your crank on.

And on the other hand, if you feel diffident about saving money on a 19th Century classic firearm, there are eleven Colt replicas available for up to $60k.

But if you feel diffident about saving money on anything under the sun, we don’t know what you are but you are not a cheapskate New Englander.

Need a Centerpiece for your German WWII Collection?

How about an authentic, combat-deployed, Normandy-captured 88? Yep, the 8.8 CM Flak 36, lovingly and freshly restored by the now defunct Normandy Tank Museum, whose former displays — all of them, apparently — are hitting the auction block next month.

flak_36_8.8_cm_02

The good news: this is probably the best 88 in the world. The bad news? While it’s offered at no reserve, they expect it to go for €70,000-130,000. There are also a number of tanks and armored, amphibious and soft-skinned vehicles representative of the armies that met in Normandy in 1944, as well as small lots with mannequins and artifacts.

The auction is being conducted by French auctioneer Artcurial; the catalog website is bilingual French-English, there’s a .pdf press release and the catalog (.pdf of course) is downloadable.

The catalog has an excellent précis of this individual artillery piece’s history:

History:

This fine example of a German “Flak 88” was assembled in 1942 by the Bischof-Werke in Sud Recklinghausen using components supplied by a multitude of manufacturers in both Germany and her Occupied Countries.

Here is just a small list of the many diverse companies who sent their output to Recklinghausen for incorporation into this deadly cannon:

  1. Gunsight optics by Steinheil Sohn of Munich;
  2. Electrictal system by Merten Gebruder of Gummersbach;
  3. Gun breech and heavy castings by Schoeller-Blecknaan of Niederdonau and Maschinenfabrik Andritz of Graz, Austria;
  4. Gun barrel and collar by Skodawerke in Dubinca, Slovakia;
  5. Electro-mechanical instruments by Siemens Schuckert of Budapest;
  6. Cable drum holders by Biederman & Czarnikow of Berlin;
  7. Cable drum reels by Franz Kuhlman of Wilhelmshaven;
  8. Major steel castings by Ruhrstahl AŽG of Witten-Annen;
  9. Bogie winches by VDM Luftfahrtwerke AŽG of Metz;
  10. Winch gearboxes by Gasparry & Co of Leipzig;
  11. Air brakes and fittings by Knorr Bremse, etc.

flak_36_8.8_cm_01

And of its provenance:

Origin and condition

This weapon has a true Battle of Normandy provenance. It was painted in the standard “Dunkel Gelb” or dark and finish [sic] and supplied in 1942 to a Luftwaffe anti-aircraft division where it found its way to Normandy in early 1943. By June 44, it was positioned in defense of a German Command Center located in an occupied chateau near to Cherbourg.When the Cherbourg pensinsula was over-run by the Allies in July/August, our weapon was captured intact by the Americans who, deciding it might be of some use, painted it olive drab green and presumably had some intention of using it.

As the Liberation of Europe continued, this 88 was left behind and was eventually destined to become a hard target on a firing  range. To this end, it was daubed with great splashes of bright orange paint but, thankfully, was rescued after the war by the French Army who repainted it in their own color and who most probably used it for training and educational purposes. After all, it was a very advanced weapon for its day and possessed many innovative technical features.

Finally, our weapon left French military service and passed through the hands of scrap dealers until nally being shut away in a huge barn by an eccentric collector – it has to be remembered that back in the 1970’s there was not a great deal of interest in German WW2 hardware.

And so it languished, becoming covered in grime and dirt until 2014 – all the time the multiple layers of paint ©aking and peeling and ending up a bizarre variegated hue. The Normandy Tank Museum rescued the weapon  and placed it in the hands of their highly experienced German restoration expert who, over a period of 8 months, brought the sad relic back to the amazing condition one sees today.

Missing or badly damaged parts have been replaced with locally sourced original replacements – an example of which was a set of the 3 part “Trilex” wheel rims and locking ring which our restorer found amidst a load of farmer’s scrap dumped in a forest when walking his dog.

The 4 brand new wheels and cartridge cases came from the Finnish Army who used them as practice rounds up till the 1980’s. They are obviously empty but, interestingly, are dated June 1944. The fuse nosecones are 3 anti-aircraft and one anti-tank. So a weapon with true Normandy provenance and a major rarity these days as many of the surviving and displayed “88’s” are of Spanish origin. This cannon is one of true German manufacture- a fact which adds significantly to its value.

The 88 was a revolutionary gun and its carriage, in particular, was copied not only by larger German AA guns used for homeland defense against the Allied bomber offensive (in 10.5 and 12.8 cm flavors), but also by American and Soviet AA gun designers.

Silenced Enfield Obrez…? Uh, no.

Hey, what’s this? We found it on a Russian forum, and it almost looks like a suppressed version of one of those cut-down Mosin “Obrez” sawn-offs used by various  Russian mischief makers. But that can’t be what it really is. Where would Russians get a Lee Enfield (well, apart from any left behind by the Allied intervention in Archangelsk 1918-19)?

Enfield GL

A pre-World War I vintage “Sht. L.E. III” which breaks out to “Short Lee Enfield Mk III,” it says here:

Enfield GL 3

It has a King’s Crown and the cartouche ER, of Edward VII, who was King and Emperor in the first decade of the 20th Century. (He was succeeded by George V, King during the First World War).

It even looks a little like a suppressor if you take it down:

Enfield GL 4

But we’ll let you in on a secret — the muzzle end is wide open, like the X Products “Can Cannon.” That’s a clue. Know what it is yet?

Here it is in place, wrapped up:

Enfield GL 5

…and unwrapped. Got it yet?Enfield GL 6

It’s a grenade launcher for the light Universal Carrier, aka Bren-Gun Carrier, a tiny armored vehicle much used by British and Commonwealth forces and descended from the flimsy Carden-Lloyd light tanks of the 1920s. The launchers were meant to be used with blanks only to fire (as far as we know, only smoke) grenades. Depending on the Mark of the Carrier and where it was built, this launcher might have been built on any available .303 action — Enfield, Ross, or even Martini. Here’s a Martini one in context:

Carrier 010

Yes, the Bren gunner or TC served this launcher from the left seat, whilst the driver jockeyed the vehicle from the right (even in the Canadian models, made in vast quantities by Ford of Canada and still occasionally turning up rusty in a Saskatchewan wheatfield). This sketch shows you where it all goes in the Mark II carrier (this one set up for a Boys 0.55″ Anti-Tank Rifle crew).

carrier mk 2

It was a tight fit for several men and all their kit in this tiny armored fighting vehicle, and it was at the mercy of nearly anything the Germans or Italians chose to fire at it. But you go to war with the Army you have.

Puts British and Commonwealth nerve in a bit of perspective, to think of calling this “armor.” It’s at the very bottom of the mechanized war food chain.

Here are a couple of pictures of restored carriers. The firearms and helmets should give you some idea of the scale of these toy poodles of the tank world:

Enfield GL 7 enfield GL 8

After the jump, two videos of running carriers: one enthusiastically driven (he actually drifts a curve), and the New Zealanders Motor Vehicles Collectors Club in 2015, breaking an Aussie record for most running carriers at a display!

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Paratroops vs. Tanks, 1945

C-47_transport_planes_release_hundreds_of_paratroopsThe little-studied and nearly forgotten last airborne operation of World War II, Operation Varsity, eventuated along the Rhine River on March 24, 1945. The participants had no way of knowing it, but they were six weeks from V-E Day and the end of the War in Europe. That end happened for many reasons, in part because the Western Allies forced the Rhine in March. (But had the Allies been held or thrown back, the Germans still would have lost, because the Red Army was coming from the East in any event).

Both sides came to the Rhine fight with Operation Market-Garden in Holland and Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein (called “The Battle of the Bulge” by the Americans in its path) in the Ardennes fresh in mind. One was an Allied fight, one a German, but both were ambitious offensives that fell far short of their goals. The American division that would be tabbed for Operation Varsity,  the 17th Airborne, had come in at the end of the Bulge to hold the cleared salient to Bastogne open, and to push the Germans back. They knew what fighting against German armored counterattacks would be like. The Germans holding their side of the river knew that the Allies had as many as four paratroop and glider divisions opposite them, and they knew just how weakened their units were by the endless meatgrinder of combat (one division was down to 4,000 men, counting walking wounded; that was about what the 17th was short after the Ardennes casualties, but the American unit got replacements).

One thing everybody knew: paratroops were overmatched by tanks. The Germans expected the Allies to land by night and planned to crush them by tanks at first light. The paratroops knew they needed to kill tanks. The problem was: it takes a hard hit by a heavy shot to kill a tank, and things that fired hard-hitting heavy shots tended to be bulky and heavy — not something you could jump out of a C-46 or C-47 with.

In the Ardennes, along Dead Man’s Ridge northwest of Bastogne, a paratroop sergeant named Isidore Jachman had engaged a German tank formation with the only organic AT weapon the airborne infantryman had, the 2.36″ (~60mm) Rocket Launcher (aka Bazooka).

M1-M1A1 2.36 inch bazooka

Jachman engaged two tanks, killing one and forcing a German retreat, but enemy fire killed Jachman, who became, posthumously, 17th’s only Medal of Honor recipient prior to Varsity. His citation:

For heroism January 04, 1945 at Flamierge, Belgium. When his company was pinned down by enemy artillery, mortar, and small arms fire, two hostile tanks attacked the unit, inflicting heavy casualties. Staff Sergeant Jachman, seeing the desperate plight of his comrades, left his place of cover and with total disregard for his own safety dashed across open ground through a hail of fire and seizing a bazooka from a fallen comrade advanced on the tanks, which concentrated their fire on him. Firing the weapon alone, he damaged one and forced both to retire. Staff Sergeant Jachman’s heroic action, in which he suffered fatal wounds, disrupted the entire enemy attack.

57mm and halftrack

57mm and halftrack prime movers.

The AT armament of the paratroops would be carried by gliders. By 1945, the inadequate 37mm gun (called by the British the two-pounder) was retired and the standard gliderborne airborne-unit AT gun was the 57mm, a good weapon for 1941 but hopeless against 1945 main battle tanks; the British users called it the six-pounder. (British and American guns had different carriages but the same tube).

In other American units, the prime mover for the 57mm AT was a half-track or a 1 1/2 ton Dodge 6×6 truck. The glider units had to make do with jeeps as prime movers. Carrying a sufficient ammo supply was a problem, and the gun and the jeep each needed their own Waco or Horsa glider.

An American AT gunner in another unit remembers this weapon:

My platoon was three 57mm Anti-Tank guns. A squad of 10 men for each gun. This gun was a reworked British “6 pounder”, so called because it fired a 6-pound projectile. Our version had good ballistics. A muzzle velocity of about 3000 fpm. It would penetrate 2 inches of armor plate and ricochet with killing velocity about 50 times. It sure didn’t look very impressive. The gunner had to kneel or sit to look though the sight.

A British 6 pounder (57mm) showing the crew's kneeling position.

A British 6 pounder (57mm) showing the crew’s kneeling position.

His crew got a lucky hit on a Panther that let them barrage the tank and drive the crew out of it.

We had gotten our kill!  That hole in their defense had to be covered by adjoining Panthers.  Later a Bazooka team got another one. …  At least we were no longer kidded about our “Little Pea Shooter”.  Most didn’t consider the 57mm much of a weapon.

The 57 had definite limits when engaging modern tanks.  But it was far more accurate and longer-ranged than the bazooka!

British forces had another option. Two batteries that airlanded on Varsity had three troops each with 6-pounders and one with 17-pounders. The 17-pounder was a high velocity 76.2mm weapon. This was, much more than its 6-pounder sibling, an effective AT weapon, but it was a lot bigger — by the time it, and its crew and prime mover were all lined up, it was a 17 thousand  pound logistical nut to crack. They could only deliver these by the gigantic General Aircraft Hamilcar glider. And glider delivery was always risky. Two Glider Pilot Regiment Sergeants, Peter Young and Neville Shaw had one of these heavy guns in a Hamilcar that didn’t get off its departure runway. Young:

Our load was a 15-hundredweight truck and a 17-pounder antitank gun, with a crew of eight soldiers, 70 rounds of ammunition, and spare petrol. The total weight was around 17,800 pounds.

We have the distinction of completing the shortest flight. On take off, the Halifax [tow plane] got into a tangle in the slipstream of the aircraft in front and cast me off. There was no choice but to put down in the overshoot. There was a spare loaded glider, but it was decided not to use this.1

Shoulder patch of the now-forgotten 17th Airborne Division.

Shoulder patch of the now-forgotten 17th
Airborne Division.

In the American forces, there was no formal anti-tank organization, unlike the British unit’s. Instead, the 17th’s 155th Anti-Aircraft Battalion picked up anti-tank duty, and the weapons to go with it. (This may have been because of the weakness of the Luftwaffe by March 1945). Oddly enough, the unit had a mix of British 6-pounders and American 57mm, but since the tubes and ammo were the same, the mixture had no practical effect.

But a new wonder weapon came to the battalion less than two weeks before showtime: the 75mm Recoilless Rifle.

Exactly two of these newfangled gadgets replaced six-pounders, one in each of two batteries. One of the crewmen, Corporal Eugene Howard, remembers:

It looked a lot like a fancy bazooka. It had a 7 foot long rifle barrel mounted on a yoke, with a pin on the bottom of the yoke to fit onto a .50-caliber machine gun tripod. The rifle weighed about 175 pounds and the tripod weighed about 65 pounds.

75mm rifle

M20 RCL sightThe gun was fitted with a new electronic sighting device that made it more accurate than the sight on the 57 mm [recoilless rifle]. In one respect it was like a bazooka: when the gun fired, a blaze of hot gases came out the rear of the gun with an equal force to the projectile coming out the muzzle. It had an effective range of about 1,500 yards.

The jeep was modified to carry the gun. The tripod mount was secured to the floor of the back section of the Jeep. A cradle for the barrel was welded to the front bumper of the jeep. One of the advantages of the gun was that it could be fired from the jeep. It could even be fired with the Jeep moving. Since we did not have to pull the 57-millimeter we would get a jeep trailer to haul ammunition. This meant we could haul more ammunition than we could for the 57-millimeter.2

Howard found the 75mm recoilless rifle worked well. The first time they were called on to use it, they killed a “self-propelled 88” (probably actually a 75mm StuG-III). Then they got the jeep into defilade, and began running the 75 against German vehicles, troops, and even an OP in a church steeple.

But that’s another story. What Howard and his gunner Pete found out was that the 75mm was an effective tank buster, within its limits, and they set a trend in paratroop AT weapons that lasted until the missile age. (Indeed, Russian and Chinese factories still produce much improved, larger caliber lightweight recoilless rifles).

Notes

  1. Wright, p. 68.
  2. Wright, p. 9.

Sources

Wright, Stephen L. The Last Drop: Operation Varsity, March 24-25, 1945. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008.