Category Archives: Weapons that Made their Mark

Tons of Details on German WWII MG Tripods: “Lafettes”

We can’t discuss machine guns on this site without someone — usually Kirk — reminding us that the GI M122 tripod is rudimentary junk, and the class of the tripod world was the German Lafette 42. We’d like to steer those interested in these ‘pods to the incredible Lafette 34/42 web page of “Bergflak (“Mountain AA”) who is posting his work in progress on these amazing feats of German engineering.

How complicated was it? These are the parts of the lower half of the MG.34 Lafette. (The lower half of the MG.42 version was fundamentally identical).

Not complicated enough for you? Here’s 100-odd more parts from the Oberlafette, or upper half.

But wait, there’s more! 70-something parts that comprise the T&E mechanism.

Here’s a brief blurb from Bergflak:

The MG Lafette was a pretty complicated piece of machinery for its time. Some would say “typical German over-engineering”. It contains several systems that all work together. The difference between the Lafette 34 and the Lafette 42 is mainly the cradle. The weapon mounts and the trigger mechanism are simpler on the MG42 cradle. In addition it has a different bolt box. Everything else seems to be identical.  This page will only describe the Lafette 34. The change from the Lafette 34 to the Lafette 42 will be fully dealt with on the Wartime development page. On this page I will briefly explain the function of each of the components that make up the Lafette. For an even better and deeper understanding of the components you must visit my page Extreme details or the pages about Evolution of the Lafette (when they are finished).

via MG34 Lafette construction and details.

These pages explain which each part does, and pages on the evolution of the MG-34 and MG-42 Lafettes actually are complete now. Unfortunately, the page explaining the usage and employment of these tripods is not yet complete.

The whole site is worth reading already, and it stands to reason that as more information is acquired and analyzed, the site will just keep getting better and more useful.

PD Auctions Their 1921/28 Thompson: No Sale

The most iconic NFA weapon? Some would say the AK, or the M16A1. But you don’t have to be a full-on wehraboo to prefer the FG42, MP40 or MG42, and a few connoisseurs like the clockwork of a Maxim or BREN. But if you were to poll a thousand gun enthusiasts, the blank would most often be filled in with the various names of the original Chicago Typewriter, the Thompson Submachine Gun.

In recent years, even beater Thompsons have reached nosebleed price levels, with the most desirable early Colt-produced 1921 and 1928 guns reaching levels that would crimp even the Navy’s LCS budget. (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but not a huge one. And of course, with a Tommy, you’re actually armed, which is more than the LSC swabbies can say).

Unlike the later M1 and M1A1 TSMGs of World War II, these early guns had detachable stocks.

So we were a little surprised to see that this GunBroker auction ended on the 11th in a No Sale, despite the rarity and solid provenance of the firearm. The bidding was soft, taking some time to open at an initial bid of $20k and reaching only $29k before stalling out. The reserve is unknown (except for, “higher than $29,000,” obviously), but based on the selling prices of other 1921s and 1928s recently, was most probably in the high $30s.

Here’s the description (paragraph breaks added)

Colt Model 1928 Navy Overstamp. Thompson Submachine manufactured by Colt for the Auto-Ordnance Corporation. Colt manufactured 15,000 Thompson Submachine Guns for the Auto-Ordnance Corporation in 1921.

The Marine Corps obtained a small number of Model 1921 Thompsons in the mid-1920s and used the weapons with success in Nicaragua and China. Based on Marine combat experience, most of the unsold Model 1921 Thompsons were modified by Auto-Ordnance to reduce the rate of fire from 800 to 600 rounds per minute by adding a heavier actuator and had a Cutts Compensator added to the muzzle.

The modified Thompsons were designated “Model 1928 Navy”. Auto-Ordnance stamped “U.S. NAVY” above the model designation on the left side of the receiver and over-stamped the “1” in “1921” with “8”. The Marine Corps and Navy purchased a small number of Model 1928 Thompsons in the late 1920s and early 1930s; most 1928 Thompsons were sold to state and local law enforcement agencies.

 

That’s true of this firearm, Serial Nº 13350, which found a home with the Plymouth Borough, Pennsylvania, police department. Plymouth never used it in anger, although they sent for it once while tracking a multiple murderer. Since the firearm has increased greatly in cash value, but has little practical value for a 21st-Century copper, the Department thought that they could turn it into cash for some of their more mundane, but immediate, needs.

They were disappointed that the gun did not sell. As of this morning, the Thompson has not been relisted.

It was a bit scratched up. Collectors are strange cats; they want every gun to be documented as having been in the first landing craft on Omaha Beach, while simultaneously being LNIB. Maybe the scratches are what did it in.

Overall condition is fair with normal handling marks consistent with the gun’s age and police department use. There are deep scratches on the receiver. The gun includes two stick mags. There is no drum or any other accessories included. The mags have deep scratches on one side with the police departments initials.

via COLT Thompson Model 1921 AC .45 acp NAVY OVERSTAMP : Machine Guns at GunBroker.com.

No doubt that at the moment, they’re buried in lowball offers from some of the more rapacious high-volume NFA dealers (you know who you are).

For more information on Plymouth’s use of, and decision to sell, this Thompson, see this local news story.

For the Man who has Everything: 60MM mortar M224

When you see a 60mm mortar for sale, it’s usually the old vintage M2 or M19 that was the United States infantry’s go-to enemy grunt-whomper for decades, from the 1920s through World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and various smaller wars.

Rare picture! A TF Smith mortar crew in action 11 Jul 50. Half of the mortars in B Co had just been condemned by ordnance inspectors in Japan. They fought with them anyway [Signal Corps Photo #FEC-50-4100]

Mortars rule the battlefield; they are short-range, high-angle artillery in the hands of infantry commanders and their THOONK is one of the most reassuring, or terrifying, things you can hear on the battlefield. They are prodigious casualty-producers in the defense, but can also be (and are) carried on the offense or even on patrol. They can be fired in direct or indirect mode. “Direct” doesn’t mean straight at the target, like a rifle, given a mortar’s high trajectory. It means the gunner can see and aim at the target. In “indirect” fire the gunner is firing from behind terrain, and does not have line of sight on the target — he aims at a stake in the ground and adjusts from that position using corrections fed to him by the fire direction controller, who uses a whiz wheel or calculator that’s built of pure trigonometry. (You can do FDC doing the trig “by hand” but man, does it ever slow things down).

Mortars are generally smooth-bored and so their projectiles are generally fin-stabilized. Do not mistake this for “inaccurate”; an experienced mortar crew is capable of first-round direct fire hits anywhere in range.

There is nothing wrong with an M2 or M19. These licensed-built versions of the French Brandt-Stokes mortar differ only in that the early one has a trigger (which is good for aimed direct fire), and the later a fixed firing pin (better suited to fire for effect). They use the same ammo and the same firing tables, are simple as a hammer (although indirect fire with forward observers not in the gun-target line, and fire direction control for mortar batteries, can get complicated), and persisted for decades because they were hard to beat at their job.

But it is rare to see an M224, the widowmaker, life-taker and morale-breaker that replaced the M2/M19, on the civilian market. Here’s one:

When the USA replaced its 1950s vintage 81mm mortar with a new and better one, it seemed logical to apply that same technology to the 1920s-tech light mortar, which produced the M224, a mortar that is as easily patrolled with as the old 60 but which has the firepower, range and terminal effect of the old 81. The fixed-pin-or-trigger debate was solved by providing both and making the feature operator-selectable, so you can squeeze off single rounds in direct fire or to meet an exact  Time On Target, or you can have your well-trained crew deliver a steel rain of shells on your foes. In trigger mode, that hinged bar inside the carrying handle is your trigger… and no, Wolff does not make a spring for reduced trigger pull. Sorry ’bout that.

Even the Marines like this mortar, although they have grumbled about the lack of a thermonuclear round, and absence of a bayonet lug. (Maybe they can get HK to copy it and add the lug. Not sure if turning Oberndorf loose on nuclear physics is a good idea).

The 224s very seldom come up for sale in the civilian Destructive Device market. With the price being asked for this, it’s more likely to go to a well-heeled collector than a casual shooter. It’s a nearly complete mortar with the sight, bipod, T&E, and tube, but it doesn’t seem to have the smaller “patrol” baseplate, just the big one that changes it from an instantly-firing one-man carry to a 30-seconds-to-TOT two-man carry.

Whether those thirty seconds are a long time or not, depends entirely on whether someone is shooting at you (and who). Incoming aimed fire does weird things to time.

The seller, who’s in Oklahoma (relax, New Yorkers and San Franciscans, you’re out of mortar range), says:

This is a live 60mm M224 mortar and this a registered destructive device and will need to be transferred to an NFA dealer. Very nice overall shape and highly unusual to see this trigger fired mortar available for sale.

Ammo is also restricted by the National Firearms Act — if it’s explosive rounds. Training/practice and homegrown non-warhead rounds are fine. You can also roll your own, as the current owner says he does.

It functions well and can be shot with practice rounds or I have been using aluminum beer bottles full of plaster with 12 gauge blanks for engines.

via 60MM mortar M224 : Destructive Devices at GunBroker.com.

And then there’s the other target market — the ones who want to be ready when THEY come.

Because, really, who doesn’t want to be ready when THEY come? THOONK!

A Mystery Revolver with its Own Story

Long-time reader and commenter Jim Hall wonders about a revolver that is connected, one way or another, to two Vietnam veterans. “What is it?” he asks, and we have to admit we don’t know. A pistol copied from, or at least inspired by, the Colt .31 pocket revolver of 1849, with cylinder flutes like Colt introduced in 1862. We’re not experts in these, but it’s not a Colt, and it doesn’t have any visible markings.

This image has been straightened and desaturated a little to try to bring detail out.

The best thing about this mystery revolver, by far, is the story that comes with it. We’ll let Jim tell the story:

In 1971, dad had just returned from his 2nd tour in Vietnam, and was assigned as a recruiter in Kentucky. An older man walked in, asked some questions about the war, and was apparently trying to understand what happened to his son, recently KIA.

Dad took him out for a dinner, trying to calm the guy down. As they talk, the man tells him that he and his son had been into collecting antique firearms. This was the latest thing he’d found, and was supposed to be a “welcome home” gift for his son. It was obviously not needed in that role anymore, but he’d sell it and a few other odds and ends from their collection, stipulating that he only wanted them to go to another Army man, and not some idiot that would pawn it off at the first opportunity. Dad picked it up for 25 bucks, and another 20 got him an H&R single action .22/.22 magnum revolver.

The flutes in the cylinder resemble those on the Colt 1862 Police, but the 1862 Police has a rebated cylinder. Here is a pistol represented by the seller as a genuine 1862 Police. We’ll point out some differences between Jim’s mystery revolver and the typical Colt practice of the 1862.

The pistol is badly affected by wear and pitting, but still does not seem to have Colt levels of worksmanship.

Several details are clearly not Colt. One of them is a mainspring tension screw on the front strap. The screw present probably wasn’t the original (the head of the original probably was flush with the front strap), but Colt didn’t put one in this position, regardless. (Remington did).

Some of the nipples appear to have been removed or lost.

The grips of a colt are round at the butt end, and this one is squared off in cross-section. Compare the way a factory Colt interfaces with its trigger guard and grip (the ’62 higher up this post is typical) to the way this revolver does.

The Colt also has screws that also act as axles for the trigger and hammer. Compare the location of the screws on this revolver!

The trigger guard is odd and quite unlike any common Colt.

Now, the pistol that was Jim’s father’s, this heartbreaking “welcome home” gift for a kid who didn’t come home and grow old like his buddies, is Jim’s.

on my return from the sandbox, he presented it to me, along with the story behind it. looking on the net, it looks similar to early colt pocket revolvers, but there are no marks on it other than the scrollwork. it seems similar to an 1841 colt pocket revolver, and I’ve seen some pictures that look similar up until the early 1860s as well. I know it’s not worth a ton, but it’s got an interesting story and certainly is an uncommon find now.

Here’s the underbelly view. 

And here’s the overhead view. 

And a look at the backstrap. 

Finally, here’s a close-up of the right side. Yes, all these images embiggen. 

Naturally, something like this is an heirloom and not for sale. Could it ever be worth as much to anyone as it, and its back story, are to Jim?

Our first guess after looking over Jim’s pictures was that this is some kind of foreign, possibly Belgian, copy of the early Colt . It would have been made, almost certainly, before 1870. But it occurred to us that someone in the commenters may know these pistols better than we do.

We also think we might see the number “14” on the cylinder in some of the shots above.

If You’re Prone to Collection Envy Syndrome, Don’t Watch This

You may have seen this video already as it’s been going around. But it’s a collection tour of a collection that we can say with some confidence is deeper than yours… it’s sure as hell broader and deeper than ours.

Not all his descriptions are accurate. Can you spot his errors on the tank and the bombs? Those are a couple of the easy ones to catch.

He has a right to be proud of his collection though, that’s for sure. Heck, he’s lucky he has space to put it all… in any ordinary setting it would be a rather unique hoarder problem.

The 5.56 Timeline is Dead! Long live the 5.56 Timeline!

Use the links on the left of the page to navigate through the many html pages of the Timeline, organized by year.

One of the key resources for anyone interested in the long process of development of the small-caliber, high-velocity concept, leading up to the American adoption of the 5.56mm M16 and M16A1 rifles in 1963, and ultimately to every major army’s basic issue rifle today, has been Daniel E. Watters’s “5.56 Timeline,” developed over a lifetime of research and published until recently on Dean Speir’s site, The Gun Zone.

Five years ago, mentioning a resurce Daniel had turned us on to, we wrote, “For an overview of M16 development with lots of good links, you can’t really beat his page at The Gun Zone,” (adding a link that is now pining for the fjords).  A year later, we mentioned it again.

By 2015, we were calling Daniel’s 5.56 Timeline “indispensable” and it truly was, so it was pretty shocking when The Gun Zone closed down, and it went off the net… for a while.

Daniel explains it as follows:

This article was originally published at The Gun Zone — The Gunperson’s Authoritative Internet Information Resource. My friend and mentor Dean Speir has graciously hosted my articles at TGZ for nearly 16 years. These articles would likely have never appeared online without his constant encouragement and assistance.

With TGZ’s closure in early 2017, Dean encouraged me to find a new home for my scholarship so it wouldn’t be lost in the dustbin of the Internet. Loose Rounds has welcomed me with open arms. In the future, I intend to expand my legacy TGZ articles and add new contributions here at Loose Rounds.

While we regret the demise of TGZ, we’re thankful that this priceless Timeline was saved.

It’s now a permanent Page at Loose Rounds.

One thing that would make this Timeline really come alive is adapting it to an actual graphical timeline. Just thinking out loud, the 5.56 Timeline would make a great application for Scott ‘s internet startup, WhenHub.

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™.