Category Archives: Weapons that Made their Mark

When The Army Resisted the M16A2, Part 3 of 3

The previous two stories set the stage, for a look at a report drafted for the Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences the Army was still pursuing the “best” (an upgraded M16 meeting all Army objectives) instead of the “good” (the M16A2, which was developed and revised to meet Marine objectives). Of course, we all know the spoiler aleady: the Army accepted the Marine M16A2 as is, leaving the report as an orphaned artifact. The report is here: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a168577.pdf

Colt factory shot of the M16A2. The A2 was developed by the USMC, but was manufactured by Colt and FNMI.

This is the third of a three part series. In the first part, Thursday on WeaponsMan.com, the Army contractors noted the specific solutions implemented on the A2 and the problems the Marines solved thereby, but complained that the problems and solutions were too USMC-specific. In the second part, posted yesterday, we discussed just what they thought was wrong about the Marines’ product. In this, third, part, we’ll list the modifications that they suggested in lieu of or in addition to the A2 mods.

Most of the Army’s problems with the A2 related to the burst mechanism, and the sights, especially the complicated rear sight. (This is actually an A3/A4 or M4: note the knobs, left, for removing the carrying handle. The A2 handle was forged as part of the upper receiver.

Reliability

We should note that the Marines’ tests, as reported in this document (p,7), demonstrated significantly lower reliability, and increased fouling in the A2 compared to its older brother. These tests are suspect because the early lot of XM855 used was considered bad ammo, but the M16A1 did outperform the A2.

Thirty Ml6A1 rifles firing 26,010 rounds of M193

Failures to fire – none
Failures to feed – 3 (Not locking magazine in place)

Thirty M16A2 rifles firing 26,010 rounds of XM855

Failures to fire – 52 (27 – bad ammunition) (25 – mechnanical [sic] malfunctions)
Failures to feed – 3 (Improperly loaded magazines)

Those failures to fire that were not attributed to bad ammo were thought to be caused by the A2 trigger system’s Achilles’s heel, the burst trigger mechanism. The A2 performed even worse in a cold weather test, but again, it was with the questionable ammunition, and many of the failures to fire were also laid at the feet of the burst mechanism.

The report has an interesting discussion of the burst mechanism and its rationale in Marine, but not Army, small arms doctrine:

The M16A2 has less combat capability due to the elimination of full automatic fire. Full automatic fire enhances the ability of Army units to clear and defend buildings, to conduct final assaults on enemy positions, to defend against an enemy final assault, to conduct an ambush, to react to an enemy ambush, to engage an enemy helicopter or fast moving vehicle, etc.

While the Marines claim greater accuracy and conservation of ammunition for the 3-round burst control, no data were generated during the test to support these contentions and no supportative [sic] data are known to exist.

Also, it should be noted that room-to-room fighting was conducted with blanks, no close-in firing was conducted, no firing with short time limits was conducted, no firing at aircraft was conducted, etc. In other words, for all of the automatic/burst firing conducted during the test, a semi-automatic mode of fire would have probably resulted in a greater number of target hits.

Finally, to be given very serious consideration, is the fact that the burst control requires nine (9) new parts in the lower receiver, evidently contributing to the large number of weapon malfunctions during testing of the M16A2.

They also took issue with the heavy barrel (“heavy in the wrong place”), the twist rate (preferred 1:9), stock length increased when even the A1 stock was too long for small soldiers, and the fast twist’s incompatibility with the .22 subcaliber system. 

The article includes an extensive comparison of the pros and cons of Marine KD vs. Army Trainfire marksmanship modalities. These training differences result from the different combat envelopes for the rifleman: the Marines need to engage with rifles in the 300-to-800 meter space, because they don’t have the supporting arms that the Army can count on, at least, not in the same quantity. A unit that must fight with just its organic weapons needs to get the very most out of these weapons. The Army of 1986 did not consider a 500 or 600 meter target a primary rifle target, but a crew-served-weapons target.

In the end, the recommendations the contractors made were mostly about the sights. They put their recommendations in a table with the M16A1 and M16A2 stats. Since the latter are probably familiar to most readers, we omit them now to save time, and just show the contract recommendations.

Item Recommended
Front sight (day) Fixed blade, 0.090″
Front sight (night) Luminous dot on each sightguard
Rear Sight (day) single 2mm peep. A single elevation knob marked for 200, 250, 390, 25, 400, 500, 15, 600, 700, and 800 meters. Windage knob at rear. Each click equal to 1 MOA
Rear Sight (night) Two luminous dots on upper portion of receiver (or a single flip- up luminous dot located forward of the carrying handle) are aligned with front dots for shooting at night
Zero Recording Yes
Zero Inspection Yes
25m setting (day and night sights) Yes
Mechanical Zero Yes
250-m battlesight Yes
Firing mode Semi and Auto
Barrel 20″. Slightly heavier than A1 at receiver and mid-barrel. 1:9″ twist
Handguard Same as M16A2 except held in place with a securely fastened ring nut to provide rigidity.
Buttstock Same material as M16A2. Same length as M16A1. Option for adjustable length.

There are several interesting observations to make here. First, the contractors recommended that the Army make changes that would decrease the mechanical accuracy of the proposed M16Ax relative to the Marines’ A2. Specifically, these changes included the wider fixed front sight blade, the 1-MOA adjustments on the rear sight (A2 offers ½-MOA), and arguably the simplification of the rear sight. The trade-off was simplicity and ease of training, instead of superior bullseye performance.

Second, some of the proposals would definitely improve the utility of the firearm, including restoring the short stock, or replacing it with an adjustable one; increasing the barrel diameter towards the chamber rather than the muzzle, thus improving sustained fire accuracy and reliability; reverting to automatic fire from the burst mechanism (which also has side benefits, in improving the trigger’s feel and consistency). The night-sight proposal was truly ingenious.

Third, in some of these road-not-taken proposals, the Army was reverting to the original AR-10 design and rejecting changes that were largely imposed on the AR design by the Army in the previous decade. These include the rigid fastening of the handguard, and the fixed front sight blade.

Finally, these proposals were almost the last gasp of the iron-sighted military rifle. As this  document passed from the contracting officer to file cabinets across the service, without action, special operators were already wringing out scopes and single-point sights, and a few visionaries were already arguing that the day of the iron sight had run its three centuries, and was now at an end. A new generation of optical technology was eliminating the two objections that had kept optics off the rifles of most soldiers: less durability than irons, and slower target acquisition. Many men’s efforts went into winning over the Voices of Experience who still said “no” to anything with a lens, thanks to memories of Uncle Joe’s elk lost because his scope fogged up, or the VC that got away because somebody attached an unauthorized 4×32 Colt scope to the carrying handle of his M16.

Hand Work in Making 1903 Springfields

During World War I, the national arsenals kept manufacturing the M1903 rifle, while industry was asked to manufacture the M1917. The arsenals decided to document their manufacturing processes anyway, just in case… and the process was published in a book, postwar, by Fred Colvin and Ethan Viall.

While the title of the book is United States Rifles and Machine Guns, it’s almost entirely about the manufacture of the 1903 — part by part and process by process. One gets the impression that the arsenals didn’t actually have a really systematic set of process sheets before someone asked them to make them up for war production; that before that request, this was all tribal knowledge contained in the foreheads of foremen and minds of machinists.

The sheer complication of 1903 production is one take-away from this book, but another thing that really struck us was that this 20th Century rifle, an icon of mass production, was not entirely produced by machines. Along with many machine setups and many trick jigs and fixtures, there are significant hand operations. Here’s one example. If you have a Springfield (or a Mauser, close enough), pull out the bolt and look at its face. See how the bolt face is relieved or “counterbored,” so that the head of the cartridge case is supported? This Is the two-step operation that produces that counterbore. And while the rough operation is done with a powered drill, the finish operation is done with a hand tool. First, let’s look at the rough cut:

springfield_bolt_face_counterbore_-_machine

OPERATIONS 45 AND 45½, COUNTERBORING FOR HEAD SPACE, ROUGH AND FINISH
Transformation: Fig. 725.
Machine Used: Pratt & Whitney 14-in. upright three-spindle drilling machine.

Work-Holding Devices: Drill Jig, Fig. 726; bolt handle stops against a stop, while clamps are drawn down on body by an equalizer bar.

The bolt is on the left, the jig on the right. We’ve omitted Figure 727, which is a scaled three-view providing more detail the drill jig in Figure 726 and the way it locks in the bolt. It’s obvious that getting this right (or wrong) has serious implications for headspace, which affects safety and accuracy.

The hand operation’s setup is shown below. It too requires a specific jig. Since here we’re in the forty-something’th operation on the bolt alone, and almost every operation needs one or more jigs or fixtures, the tooling requirement for an early-20th-Century rifle plant is mind-boggling.

springfield_bolt_face_counterbore_-hand

Why the hand operation? Our best guess (because the book doesn’t say why) is that, while the Pratt drill press was great at removing a lot of metal, it didn’t have the precision needed (“safety and accuracy,” right?), so a finer cutter in a hand fixture finishes the cut to exact depth and desired surface finish.

As Europe slid into war again, the arsenals were making a new rifle, the US Rifle M1. One suspects this book was the guide for industry as they, once again, produced a version of the 1903, this time with countless manufacturing simplifications. Many manufacturing processes were simplified (and more hand operations eliminated) as the war replaced and supplemented prewar craftsmen with wartime hires longer on enthusiasm than experience.

Incidentally, for the set-up seen here, the book even shows how the cutters and pilots are made, and their dimensions. (There are separate rough and finish cutters). It doesn’t show all the gages that must have been used by both the set-up men and operators of the machinery, let alone the inspectors.

It does show enough that you could probably set up your own Springfield factory and do it exactly the way they did it back in 1917 — if you could find a supply of 1917 Connecticut River Valley gun-industry craftsmen to make all these cuts for you. And if you could get some billionaire to fund you. (Well, there are two famous billionaires competing for the same job right now, one or the other will be looking for opportunities in a couple of weeks). Good luck!

So, You Want a Remington-UMC 1911?

They were rare. Very rare. 21,677 of them were made in 1918 and 1919, numbered from 1 to 21,677. And that was near-as-dammit a century ago, during most of which time they were a USGI pistol through four major and a bunch of minor wars. So survivors from that small old batch are rare today, and they change hands rarely these days.

remington-umc-m1911-nra-museum

Here’s the back story, from the NRA Museum, which holds this one, Nº 2900:

In late 1917 and early 1918, the government approached both Remington-U.M.C. and Winchester Repeating Arms Co. about manufacturing the M1911. Remington-U.M.C.’s Bridgeport, Connecticut plant was the largest in the United States at that time, and production lines at the 1.6 million square-foot complex were turning out a variety of arms, including M1917 bolt-action rifles and Browning .50 caliber machine guns, as well as M1891 Mosin-Nagant rifles for the Russian government. In nearby New Haven, Winchester also produced M1917 rifles, in addition to Browning Automatic Rifles and M1897 trench shotguns. Both companies received contracts for 500,000 M1911s. Under terms of their agreements, pistols manufactured by these two firms were to be completely interchangeable with those produced by Colt and Springfield Armory.

Colt provided technical assistance in the form of sample pistols and production drawings, but problems quickly arose. In addition to numerous discrepancies, these drawings contained only nominal dimensions and no tolerances. Finding it easier to make their own blueprints based on measurements obtained from the Colt-produced sample pistols rather than reconcile more than 400 known discrepancies, Remington-U.M.C. created a set of “salvage drawings” that were later used by other contractors as well. The Army suspended its contract with Remington-U.M.C. on December 12, 1918, but allowed the company to manufacture additional examples to reduce parts inventories on hand. All told, nearly 22,000 M1911s were delivered to the government before Remington-U.M.C. shut down its production line.

In the summer of 1919, the company turned over its pistol manufacturing equipment to Springfield Armory, where it was placed in storage until the Second World War.

Winchester’s 500,000 pistols? None were delivered: just parts. Indeed, the US took delivery of just over 500,000 1911 pistols in total from all manufacturers, mostly from Colt, including about 100,000 made before the US entered World War I. So, while Winchesters and some other abortive contract 1911s are functionally nonexistent, the survivors of the 21,677 Remington-UMC pistols are about the rarest 1911s that a regular guy can acquire — but the prices of the pistols have been climbing.

Until Remington and Turnbull cut a deal… which put new Remington-UMC pistols on the market. Turnbull made a run of 1,000, but they’re identically marked to their 1918-19 forbears — except for the serial numbers, which start at UMC 21,678 and go up from there.

remington-turnbull-1911-01

It’s a close match in processes, finish, and detail to the original. It even has the inspecting officer’s initials, reproduced, behind the trigger on the left side of the frame.

remington-turnbull-1911-05

Each pistol comes with a nice collection of accessories — holster, lanyard, mag pouch, and a display case that holds the pistol and the accessories.

remington-turnbull-1911-04

The accessories include original-style “2-tone” magazines.

remington-turnbull-1911-03

These photos came from one that’s up for auction for $2,000 opening bid, or a buy-it-now of $2,100, which is close to the recommended retail. Sure, you can get four generic imported 1911s for that, but that’s not what you’re buying here. While an original Remington-UMC 1911 in good condition is worth more than double the cost of this rig, the reproduction will never be worth as much as the original. On the other hand, Turnbull guns could certainly emerge as collector’s items in their own right.

If you shop around, you can find one or another for around $1,300.

Of course, this GI Turnbull is kind of entry-level for Turnbull’s 1911 line. You can spend many thousands on one, with, say, engraving and color case-hardening. And you can buy them in sets. 

Sure, it’s a modern reproduction, but it’s made in the USA, and isn’t a bad centerpiece for a US martial arms collection.

An M1 Comes Home

It’s not every day that you hear about a rifle lost on a French battlefield coming back, through the family of the soldier who carried it, to an American museum. But it’s happening with a World War II M1 Garand rifle like the one in the picture — one that was carried by a young American paratrooper in the D-Day invasion.

M1 Springfield NM - RIA

Martin Teahan was a tough kid from the Bronx, so it’s probably fitting that the story was told through Bronx descendants and in the Bronx Times. And Teahan was one American kid among many whose grit and excellence forever united the American Airborne and the nation of France in the context of martial enterprise, so perhaps it’s fitting that a French Colonel and an American General got involved.

Bronx native Jimmy Farrell is awaiting the return of an M-1 rifle that belonged to his uncle Martin Teahan who served in World War II as part of the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR).

Teahan, an Irish-American, was killed on June 6, 1944 in Picauville, Normandy after he had been scouting a position.

After his capture, a German soldier killed him.

Farrell, 60, said Colonel Patrick Collet, a French Army Paratrooper commander, contacted his sister Liv Teahan on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, to let them know the uncle’s rifle was recovered.

“It was the luck of the Irish,” Farrell said with a laugh.

Collet, while visitng a French farmer, had noticed that a rifle the farmer had was engraved with the name “Martin Teahan”.

He then made an effort to contact the family.

Farrell, who served in the U.S. Army from 1974-1977, said that in June he and his wife Monica visited the colonel in Normandy and got a chance to hold the rifle.

The Farrells and GEN Mark Milley and his wife at Teahan's grave in Normandy.

The Farrells and GEN Mark Milley and his wife at Teahan’s grave in Normandy.

“I felt the cold metal of the weapon on my fingertips, and envisioned my uncle, bravely marching forward through enemy territory,” said Farrell.

Afterwards, Farrell said he and his wife got a chance to visit Teahan’s grave site where they met U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley.

Farrell, now a resident of East Brunswick, NJ, said his uncle’s south Bronx roots played an important part in Teahan’s toughness.

Teahan, like many in his day, cheated his way into the paratroopers. He joined underage with a forged parental signature.

Farrell intends to donate the rifle for display at the 82nd Airborne Museum or at the Pentagon. It’s a good story; go Read The Whole Thing™.

An Interesting P.38 — and What’s Different About Collectors?

This interesting Walther P.38 up for auction is interesting both due to the quality of the listing — there are over 100 pictures with it (also available here, which may require you to accept a certificate mismatch) — and the degree to which small details drive the collector market (or try to). This particular pistol presents as an ordinary, Walther-made, 1943-production P.38.

p38-ac-43

What makes it unique, and a bestower of bragging rights on the owner, is that it is the highest known pistol of Walther’s 1943 production. In that year the pistols were marked, “ac 43” and serial number, and Walther serial numbers were one to four digits and a letter suffix (all running in numeric and alphabetic succession, with Teutonic precision). Previous reference sources have documented ac 43 “Third Variation” production from serial numbers 218m to 7932n. This pistol is 9248n, and records suggest it was made in December, 1943, after which month Walther transitioned to marking pistols ac 44.

p38-9248n-ac-43

It may have been the last one made that year; it’s definitely the last one to turn up so far. 

p38-9248n-ac-43-front

It’s a nice condition, all matching example, but the buy-it-now is set at $1,700, which suggests that the reserve (unmet at press time) is also high.

p38-9248n-ac-43-right

(For the record, “First Variation ac43” production ran from ac 43 1 to ac 43 8xxxg from Jan 43-Jun 43, and “Second Variation ac 43” from approximately ac 43 9000g and ends in the -l or -m range, made from June to October. Third variation was produced from about Oct 43 to Dec 43. If you were fuzzy on the three variations of 1943 Walther-built P.38s, you’re not alone, but as in all things Nazi, they’ve been exhaustively researched. The auction says this of the differences:

The Second Variation differs from the First Variation by the following: 1) the lightening hole in the frame, located in the front of the partition between the take down lever well and trigger well, was omitted; 2) elimination of the narrow secondary extractor spring plunger relief slow on the slide; 3) the left side of the slide’s cavity now included the extractor spring relief cut, which became standard on all subsequent models; and 4) increasing the thickness of the area between the trigger axel hole and the trigger guard to eliminate a weak spot in the frame.

The Third Variation ac43 P.38 differs from the Second Variation in several key respects. First, the previously used stacked code was eliminated and, in its place, the new line code was first introduced. This resulted in a new slide marking configuration: P.38 on the far left on the slide center line, the serial number, which is now just above the center line and beginning at the point of the slide parallel with the breech face, followed by the company code “ac 43.” The second principal difference is that, beginning with the Third Variation, the barrel was now left with the milling marks on the outer surface. Prior to this, the barrel had been polished smooth prior to bluing. This change was undoubtedly implemented to speed production.

With what we know of industrial production, this certainly sounds like collectors are sperging out and trying to bundle normal running production changes, something that happens on every production line for everything, into sets that they call “Variations,” a distinction that would have been quite meaningless to any of the production planners in Wehrmacht ordnance offices or in Walther’s production-engineering spaces.

All these serial number calculations assume, of course, that Walther retired the ac 43 stamp with a ceremony on 31 Dec 43 and opened the new year stamping guns ac 44 — firearms factories don’t often work with such military precision, but maybe all these Germans did. In the real world, stampings and serial numbers often get out of sequence and overlap.

This all matching gun has been bid up only to a low price for an all matching generic P.38, with a few hours to go in the auction (we think it’s very likely to be relisted). But that’s the sort of thing that collectors dig deep into, and one reason many people with quite a few guns don’t think of themselves as capital-C Collectors.

One last note — the collection of well-lit and well-shot pictures is a good look at the internal workings of this very interesting, world’s first DA/SA service pistol, if you’re not already familiar with its many innovations (for its era).

Update

With three hours remaining in the auction, the bid is now $855, and the reserve price remains unmet. The $855 strikes us a low to average price for a superior condition P.38 like this (collectors also prize condition), but we are not experts in the Nazi pistol market. The question is, does the rare nature of this very-late-1943 gun justify its price?  After all, it might be the last known ’43 Walther gun forever, or just until some higher number n-suffix ac 43 firearm turns up. It’s a very nice high-condition wartime P.38, though, and clearly one that hasn’t been buried in a bunker in Belarus for the last seventy years.

Want a Project? Here’s a Half-Track that Needs Everything

Every so often, we find something at auction that cries out for just the right buyer. This early World War II halftrack is just such a case.

m2-overview

m2-6120As you can see, this M2 (serial number 6120 of about 13,500 M2s made from 1940 to 1943) is lacking all its armor aft of the A pillar, plus the windshield assembly, plus all the stuff that was attached there. It does have an intact driveline that needs maintenance but does work — pretty amazing after at least 73 years.

One of the most interesting things is the original 6-cylinder flathead motor, still trucking after all these years. If you look closely right of center, you can see the “White” script trademark cast into the engine block.

m2-motor

This picture shows the other side of the motor in its native habitat:

m2-original-motor

Reproduction and restoration parts for halftracks are available, but you see what we mean when we say this vehicle needs the right buyer. (Welding and riveting skills a plus!)

While the body is mostly missing (lets you pick your own variant, perhaps), the office looks pretty much untouched since GI Joe last turned it in.

m2-office

The M2 was used as an artillery tractor, mechanized MG squad bus, and reconnaissance track, whilst the more common M3 (~45k built) and less common International Harvester M5 and M9 (~11,000 built) were mostly used as infantry carriers. All variants of halftrack were made into specialized AA, field artillery / tank destroyer, and other special-purpose vehicles, and many of them were supplied to American allies both under Lend-Lease and postwar.

They soldiered on with Israel through the Yom Kippur War, and served in South America into the 21st Century. Bolivia still may operate some ex-Argentine models (or they may have run out of spares, always a problem for the poorest nation on the continent).

How this one wound up at a US Government auction this month, with a minimum bid of $7,000, is anybody’s guess, but there’s a hell of a story in there.

Minimum bid is $7k, and you’ll have to pay a 10% kicker and Illinois state taxes, and remove it within eight days of the auction close (which is 28 September).

M2 Half Track Truck
ITEM NUMBER 766646
LOCATION
Maywood, Illinois, United States. 60153
AUCTION DATE
Sep 28, time TBD

METER READING 41 Hours
SERIAL # M2 6120
White 6 Cylinder Engine, Manual Transmission, Stake Sides, Bench Seating, Tool Box, Additional Undercarriage Components

via Surplus M2 Half Track Truck in Maywood, Illinois, United States (GovPlanet Item #766646).

It does seem to have a second flatbed-load of bogie and idler wheels and other gear, all of which look like they could use overhaul. At that link there are over 100 photos and a video of the motor running (it’s image number 55 if you want to skip ahead in the gallery).

If you buy it, we’ll come out to Illinois and help you load it!

Czechoslovak vz. 22 Picture Post

We recently discussed the Czechoslovak Model (vzor) 22 semi-automatic pistol, the first handgun produced by the state arsenal at Brno, and showed a couple of pictures of an example in our collection. Fine and good, but let’s do like we did with the Praga of similar vintage and look in some depth at the vz. 22.

cz_22-06

The look of this series of guns, which begins with some Mauser experimentals in 1903 and runs through many prototypes and the production M1910 and 1910/14 to the Czech vz. 22, 24 and 27 is a matter of taste; some people like them, and some think they look “blocky” and awkward. Of the series, the vz. 22 probably has the best lines.

cz_22-01

This pistol is a very good condition, late example of the type. As all were, it is chambered for the Czechoslovak Naboj vz. 22, which is functionally the Browning 9 x 17 aka .380 ACP. This particular pistol was accepted by the Czechoslovak Army in 1923, and seems to have lived a mostly indoor life. The external finish is generally smooth, deep and beautiful, as befits a gun made in an arsenal created in the image of the Mauser-Werke, but internally there are signs of extensive handwork.

cz_22-12

The parts all fit extremely well — too well for machine production only, circa 1920 — and all seem to be marked with full or partial serial numbers, which reminds us of the reports in the literature that these guns were hand-fitted and that the Czechoslovak authorities found the parts not to be interchangeable. (Without more vz. 22s on hand, unlikely considering what we paid Rock Island got for this one, we haven’t yet confirmed that the parts are not interchangeable).

The stocks are made of walnut and have shallow checkering (this is a good first-glance discriminator between the rare vz. 22 and the merely uncommon vz. 24). The finish is deep blue with some parts finished in a heat-straw finish, as was common on Mitteleuropäische pistols of the period. As on Lugers, probably the pistol that is most familiar to collectors and uses such a straw finish on trigger, safety, etc, the straw generally fades long before the blue goes. Our impression, which is subject to change as we see more examples, is that the CZ-Strakonice factory that took the project over (for vz. 24 production) later used fire blue instead. Both are beautiful but not well-wearing finishes.

More pictures after the jump!

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The First Czechoslovak Service Pistols. Nº2: the vz. 22

The first Czechoslovak service pistol, the Praga, was developed by private industry. The first Czech-developed service pistol from the national arsenals, on the other hand, wasn’t really all that Czech-developed. It was designed by Josef Nickl of Mauser-Werke, and, in his honor, was often called the “N” pistol during its long and fraught development. A version very similar to the one that would become a Czech service pistol was put forward in Oberndorf in 1916 as a single-action 9mm Parabellum auto pistol.

Nickl Mauser 9mm Prototype, auctioned by RIA in 2016.

Nickl Mauser 9mm Prototype Serial Nº 26, auctioned by RIA in 2016. (Rock Island Auctions photo, used by permission).

This hand-crafted, tool-room prototype is, apart from its 9 mm chambering and size, a ringer for the Czechoslovak vz. 22 in many details, as we’ll see. In 1916 and subsequently, Mauser never put his pistol into production, but they let him pitch it to the Czechoslovak military while he was helping set up a production line for Mauser 98 rifles (which would be, confusingly, the vz. 22 and vz. 24 also!). The Czechoslovak Army tested both 9mm and, at their own insistence, scaled-down 9 mm Short (.380) versions. (This development was taking place, according to Col. Dr. Milan Šada, contemporaneously with the procurement of the Praga pistol in 7.65 mm).

The initial accepted version was the vz. (vzor, model) 22 for the cartridge vz. 22 (the 9mm Browning Short or .380 ACP, for all intents and purposes), and from the very beginning, the Czechoslovak Army had trouble with it. In time, they developed an improved version as the vz. 24. That in turn was developed into a 7.65mm pistol for police and export, the straight-blowback vz. 27. (We’ll use the Czech and Slovak word vzor, the official abbreviation vz., and the English word “model” interchangeably in this article. They all mean exactly the same thing and identify the model by year of adoption. Note that, unlike many nations where, say, Model 24s start appearing in 1925 or 26, Czechoslovak practice often had the guns in production before the year of adoption marked on them!)

CZ 22. This is a late one accepted by the Czechoslovak Army in 1925.

CZ 22. This is a late one accepted by the Czechoslovak Army in 1925.

One nice thing about Czech and Czechoslovak firearms (inherited from their Austro-Hungarian imperial masters) is that most of the firearms are dated with a proof date (civil weapons) or MOD acceptance date (military ones). Some weapons bear multiple dates, if they were (for instance) accepted by the military, and later proofed for surplus sale.

Model 24s are relatively uncommon, compared to the Model 27 which the Germans kept in high production after the occupation, but the Model 22 is more uncommon yet. Production numbers are estimated at: vz, 27 (and German Pistole Mod. 27), 590,000 (all but about 30,000 of them under the Nazis); vz. 24, 190,000 from 1923-37, possibly -39; vz. 22, about 19,000.

Several common strains in Nickl’s Mauser designs were united in this firearm: a single-action auto pistol with a breech locked by rotating barrel, like an Obregon or some Steyr pistols; and the unusual safety arrangement from the Mauser Model 1910, 1914 and (later) 1934 “pocket” pistols in 6.35 and 7.65mm. The safety has two buttons: One is activated with a sweep of the thumb to put the weapon on safe; the other instantly releases it with a press. Described like that, it sounds awkward, but is quickly learned and intuitive to use.

Left side of the same CZ 22. Note marking "9 mm N" and the second line, which translates to "Czechoslovak State Factory for Arms, Brno."

Left side of the same CZ 22. Note marking “9 mm N” and the second line, which translates to “Czechoslovak State Factory for Arms, Brno.” Is the N for Nickl (some of his Mauser prototypes are so marked), or does in just mean “Cartridge,” abbreviated? The Czech word for “cartridge” is “naboj,” pronounced NA-boy.

The overall size, shape and form of the vz. 22 and later CZ 24 and 27 pistols is very reminiscent of the 7.65mm Mausers, also. The side plate is similar. The frame rails are similar; the slide is similarly offset to the right, from the shooter’s perspective (although the barrel is centered on the frame), which is a peculiarity of the Mausers as well. The grips are similar.

Where the Nickl pistol departs from the earlier Mausers (in which the relative contributions of Nickl, the Feederle brothers, and other Mauser engineers are not entirely clear) is that the Mausers are striker-fired, and the CZs are hammer guns.

Prototypes of the Pistole N (for Nickl) were made in 9×19 mm as well as 9×17. The Czechoslovaks preferred the smaller cartridge (also adopted by other European nations, including but not limited to Italy and Hungary) and that was adopted as Naboj vz. 22. 

The vz. 22 was manufactured at the Czechoslovak State Arsenal, Brno, and it is a rare Czech pistol to bear Brno markings on its slide. (Production of subsequent models would take place in a satellite factory in Strakonice, and after 1936 in Uhersky Brod, and many later pistols, regardless of where they were made, would be marked as if they had been produced in Prague, the corporate seat).

Changes from the Model 22 to the Model 24 were aimed at increasing reliability, increasing interchangeability of parts, and increasing production speed and lowering production costs. The Czechoslovak Army was bedeviled with reliability issues, and the extensive hand-fitting that makes them fit together beautifully makes them hard to replace parts in.

As mentioned above, the Model 22 is a rare pistol that is actually marked as having been made in Brno. Interwar Czechoslovak leaders had a touching faith in the power of central planning, and tried to run their arms industry on such a basis, reorganizing it several times during the short life of the Republic. They decided that Zbrojovjka Brno specialize in rifles (and, when it picked up Vaclav Holek’s MG design from Praga, light MGs); pistols would be made by Česká Zbrojovka’s factory in Strakonice (although they would often be marked “Praha” or Prague, the locaction of ČZ HQ), and over the years other plants would specialize in other weapons. After World War II some pistols would be marked with ZB trademarks (notably the ex-Dušek Duo pistol, the “Aut. Pistole ‘Z’,” but none of them would actually be made by Zbrojovka Brno.

The vz. 22 wasn’t the greatest pistol ever, but it was an important building block in the nascent Czech arms industry. Survivors, fairly plentiful, are prized today. It’s interesting to speculate what its position in auto pistol history might have been, had it been produced as Nickl originally intended, in the 9×19 mm service cartridge.

Sources:

(to be added).

 

 

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.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Soviet Armorer

We won’t go deep into the weeds on what you can find here. Notes of a Soviet Armorer is an occasionally-updated (last in March) detailed review of aspects of historical Soviet weapons, especially the weapons of the Great Patriotic War. He takes information from Soviet-era archival sources, and Russian-language firearms forums, and posts rare but in-depth examinations of Soviet small arms questions.

SVT sniper

We could go into greater depth, but we’ll just refer you to his post on Tokarev SVT sniper rifles, which includes serial number lists and production counts. Most “SVT snipers” in the USA or here in the West in general are fakes and forgeries, so it’s worthwhile to see what Russian sources say about these rare firearms. (The rifle and scope are relatively common. The mount? Vast majority out there are fake). He also has a post with entire photo galleries of real period photos of snipers armed with these elegant sniper rifles.

If that’s not enough for you, here’s a comprehensive examination of Soviet-era ammo pouches as used with the SVT and Mosin-Nagant rifles.

Good stuff. If you collect Russian stuff, maybe priceless.