Category Archives: Weapons that Made their Mark

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.

Why Were Little Cartridges Ever Good Enough?

Colt 1908. The kinship to the FN 1906 is obvious. Image: Adams Guns via wikipedia.

Colt 1908. The kinship to the FN 1906 is obvious (Both are Browning designs). Image: Adams Guns via wikipedia.

Today the defensive caliber argument seems to have devolved into two warring camps: those who like a small .380 or 9mm, and those who sniff at anything whose Imperial measurement does not begin at .4. So the older pocket pistols of the 20th Century, and even the police revolvers and some military pistols of the early 20th, seem inexplicable to a modern shooter.

Sure, they’re small, but so is a Seecamp .380 or a Micro Desert Eagle (both of which, completely off topic, have Czech antecedents. We’ll get back on topic, now). And the standing joke, which we believe may have originated with .45 aficionado and 10mm impresario Jeff Cooper, is, “Never shoot a man with a .32. It might make him angry, and then he’ll want to fight.”

Millions of .32s like this Iver Johnson were sold in the 20th Century. Why?

Millions of .32s like this Iver Johnson were sold in the 20th Century, mostly for defense. Why?

Yet, who ever thought it was okay for cops to walk the mean streets of New York and Chicago with a .32 Police Positive, Official Police, or M&P? Why did European cops cling to the .32 ACP well into the 1980s? Why did the Wehrmacht, of all things, reopen a conscientious objector’s closed factory so that his product, a tiny .25, could be produced — 117,000 of them — for sale to German officials?

More generally, why were micro .25s and compact .32s made and sold in the tens of millions worldwide?

First, the small size of these firearms (and their ammunition) is not just a disadvantage. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it is a boon: you carry a gun a lot more than you shoot it. In this nation of 330 million citizens and probably 3 million legitimately armed law officers and everyday concealed carriers, there are almost certainly under 300 police officers and Federal Agents who have fired their guns at suspects in more than one situation. (There wouldn’t be that many, if not for the emergence of tactical teams). The civilian who’s been involved in two defensive shootings is rare enough that we can’t think of an example — maybe you can.

Second, a small gun encourages carry. A gun that’s small and light inclines you to include it in your pocket litter or slip its holster onto your belt or waistband. Remember the first rule of gunfights: bring a gun. A small gun is, ceteris paribus, more likely to “get brung” than a big hogleg.

Third, for ex officio gun carriers, if not constrained by regulations, any gun will do. That’s why the Germans wanted all those .25s and .32s. Most cops were never going to shoot anybody, but the pistol in its flap holster was a mark of authority, like the badge. While that’s true for the National Railway Police riding the trains under Hitler, it’s also true for the large amount of American and worldwide cops who have a house-mouse assignment or are promoted to management rank.

Likewise, an officer of the vaunted German General Staff was supposed to have a pistol, but he had no serious plans to go down guns blazing like a Karl May hero, in front of a Red Army assault. The gun was a badge of office. It’s possible more officers killed themselves with their small pistols than killed a Russian, Brit or American enemy.

Fourth, there was historical precedent for small guns. As far back as a before the Civil War, Colt made its revolvers available in small and large caliber (.36 and .45). Others made .32s at this time. When Colt came out with its cartridge .32 in the 1890s, it had actually made a small, spur-trigger .22 some 20 years before that. Some people wanted a big gun, some wanted to trade off that gun’s advantages for the advantages of a small gun, and the market responded.

Fifth, the small guns were thought adequate at the time. The advent of the much more powerful smokeless powders in the late 19th Century made it possible to pack more power into a smaller gun. The NYPD did not adopt the Colt .32 at the behest of some berk ignorant of guns: Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, a lifelong gun enthusiast, drove the 1896 adoption of the New Police, a longer-barreled and square-butt version of the 1893 New Pocket revolver chambered for the .32 Colt. (Later, an improved version became the .32 Police Positive, chambered for the slightly less awful .32 S&W Long, which Colt called “.32 Police” because they wouldn’t say the two initials of their despised competitor upriver).

Colt New Pocket 32Why was a .32 adequate in 1896 but not by 1996? Certainly there have been many improvements in firearms since those beautiful little Colts left Hartford 120 years ago. Some of it may just be that more powerful handguns are available.

But another possibility is that human beings have changed. Anyone who has observed collections, for instance, of WWII uniforms notes that, compared to modern soldiers, midcentury guys were small. They were shorter and much leaner. Statistics bear this out.

The Union Army in the Civil War:

The average height of the Federal soldier was put at 5 feet, 8¼ inches.  …  Incomplete records indicate the average weight was 143¼ pounds.

That’s definitely a lot leaner (and a little shorter) than today’s median GI.

And here’s a table showing the gradual but real growth of the American soldier to 1984. (The Civil War numbers here are better supported than those in the link above). We submit that this growth has accelerated since (and note the small of the 1984 study suggests it may produce a less reliable mean than the earlier ones). Also, the Civil War measurements were taken clothed, WWI and up naked, so the differences were probably greater. Source.

Table 3-1Comparison of Some Anthropometric Characteristics of Male Soldiers in 1864, 1919, 1946, and 1984
Year of Study (n)*
Anthropometric Characteristic 1864 (23,624) 1919 (99,449) 1946 (85,000) 1984 (869)
Height (inches) 67.2 67.7 68.4 68.6
Weight (pounds) 141.4 144.9 154.8 166.8
Age (years) 25.7 24.9 24.3 26.3
Neck girth (inches) 13.6 14.2 14.5 14.5
Chest girth (inches) 34.5 34.9 36.4† 35.5
Waist girth (inches) 31.5 31.4‡ 31.3‡ 32.7
Estimated body fat (percent) 16.9 15.7 14.4 17.3
Fat-free mass (pounds) 117 122 133 138

Source: Table 3-1 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235960/

As you see, not only the overall mass of the soldier had increased by over 25 lbs, but also, over 20 of that was fat-free mass — presumably, stronger bones and thicker muscle. A 15% or more increase in musculature on the average young man makes him harder to stop and to kill, once again all other things being equal. Scientists ascribe this in part to improved nutrition as civilization’s benefits came to include refrigeration, rail transport and industrial-scale farming.

The people police may engage with, criminals, are also likely to be obese, unlike soldiers.

In Conclusion

In the last 120 years, more powerful cartridges (and more of them) have been a trend in pistols. We identify several possible reasons for this trend. But when you break it down, they basically fall into two categories:

  1. More powerful pistols are possible now, given technology’s advances in powder chemistry, metallurgy, etc.
  2. More powerful pistols are necessary now, given the increased robustness of the mean and median human target.

In addition, there’s a third factor that may outweigh these two practicalities: fashion. We won’t raise it with reference to the present time — we’ll just point out that Roosevelt’s adoption of the .32 New Police for his New York coppers in 1896 set off a preference cascade that led many big cities to .32 Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers within 10-20 years.

No sooner had the .32s graced police holsters than clamor for more powerful cartridges would set in. This led to a step up to .38, until S&W were finally convinced they had put the police firepower issue to rest for all time with the new .38 S&W Special cartridge.

But that’s another story.

A Little More Owen Info

Here’s a 1942 British Pathé Newsreel clip on the Owen Machine Carbine in testing:

And if you need more information, a thorough Owen source document was distributed to libraries (we think, in Australia) but the post of its contents at Machine Gun Boards stands as an excellent bibliography and list of what we suppose ought to be called Owenalia.

http://www.machinegunboards.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=12765

Roland might have been a warrior from the land of the midnight sun who carried a Thompson into musical memory, but the Owen gave its name to one of the most interesting fictional characters of the new century. For that alone, we’s love the beast, but it has a lot of other qualities that inspire affection, too.

Here’s a Guy’s UZI SBR Build in Progress

An Uzi build is one of the easier ones you can do, thanks to the gun’s simplicity. This builder lucked into a bag-o-parts containing an already-modified semi-auto bolt and striker assembly. He chose to build a carbine and then submit for registration as a Short Barreled Rifle. He described his build on Imgur and in Reddit.

I found a seller with a Ziploc bag containing an Uzi parts kit with all the semi-auto components (sear, top cover, bolt assembly + buffer) needed for a complete semi-auto build for just $300. After verifying that I’d only need a receiver and barrel to complete it, I couldn’t resist buying it.

bag o uzi parts

He chose to use an already assembled, Title 1 semi receiver from McKay Enterprises ($239). McKay also sells flats, non-FFL bent but not welded receiver shells, long barrels and other Uzi parts. With the supply of parts kits drying up, they may be tapering off this business.

With only a barrel and receiver to add, he was able to quickly build the gun up. An Uzi is a really simple, blowback operated, low-parts-count weapon even with the added complexity of the semi system.

uzi first assembly

It worked right out of the box, a testament to the simplicity of the design and the quality of the McKay receiver. He then finished the in-the-white receiver with Alumahyde, and redid the stock.

Uzi after refinishing

IMI Uzis may have been blued — he says his was — but FN Uzis we’ve handled were semi- or glossy paint over parkerizing.

On the factory Uzi, the wood stock is detachable This is not legal on a 16″ barreled Title 1 Uzi in the USA, because with the stock removed the whole thing is under 26″, making it an unregistered SBR. Therefore, he permanently fashioned the stock. (The semi version can’t be fired without the stock, but the law is the law).

With the alternative folding stock, the carbine with 16″ barrel just breaks 26″ and is Title 1 legal. Here it is with a dummy barrel in it, showing what it’ll look like when his SBR application comes back.

Uzi with folder

The detachable wood stock was used on early Uzis, but by the time of the Six Day War, the folder was more common.

He’s got, assuming he buys a short barrel and doesn’t turn down his 16-incher, about a grand into the firearm. That’s because he got lucky on the parts kit including the semi parts.

A 9mm carbine like this has no real tactical place or purpose any more, but it’s a great range toy, evocative of the submachine gun era. And the Uzi is great for a first build or first-but-AR build. You need no special tools, just the skills to assemble the parts.

Retro American Service Rifles, Part 2: M16A1 from the Great State of Texas

Mostly, retro black rifles have been the province of individual builders and small gunsmiths. In the last year, Troy and Colt have gotten into the game with their respective carbines (Colt’s isn’t cataloged yet, but they’ve showed it; Troy sells GAU-5 and XM177E2 clones). But a company in Texas is offering something different from the CAR-15 variants that Troy is selling and Colt has promised (but not yet cataloged): M16A1 rifle clones.

Built with original M16A1 parts on a Brownell’s M16A1 lower (something that Nodak Spud OEMs for Brownell’s), the firearms match the profile and details of the iconic Vietnam-era rifle.

Say hello to My Little Friend:

my little friend

Yep, that’s a semi M16A1 with a (very real) M203, available in several states of NFA-ness (registered Destructive Device (DD), parts to register yourself on a Form 1, unregistered non-DD 37mm launcher or dummy). We believe the 203 is an LMT.

my little friend alternatives

Here’s the Tony Montana view:

my litle friend tony montana view

They are asking a rather mainstream $3,300 for the DD version. Sure, you could build it for less if you took your time and scrounged parts. But not for a whole lot less.

Texas Machine Gun & Ordnance is working to launch a full line of clones, plus other fun stuff (like flamethrowers).

Texas Machine Gun line

Their website is currently an early-days work in progress. But they have several auctions on GunBroker. Among them is an upper modeling the short Colt carbines from the classic caper movie Heat, a non-NFA “XM177” tribute (which uses a later barrel, the wrong diameter at the front sight base, unfortunately), an IDF Clone, and an “M4 GWOT Home Starter Kit” that shows they have a sense of humor (emphasis ours):

Texas Machine Gun & Ordnance “GWOT Home Starter Kit”. This is as close to the off-the-rack, sign the DA2062, M4 many of us were issued in the Global War on Terror. The rifle has a complete kit of Knights Armament rails, MaTech BUIS, and engraving to match an M4. The barrel is a 14.5 pin & welded extended A2 flash-hider, to make it non-NFA. For maximum authenticity, the package also includes a crisp, refreshing can of Rip-It energy drink, reflective belt to ward off all dangers, USGI 30rd magazine, and case. All items are new, except the BUIS, which shows some handling wear.

Gen-you-whine GWOT accessories. Note the authentic background!

Gen-you-whine GWOT accessories. Note the authentic background!

We laugh now. In 2116 collectors will be haggling over genuine reflective belts. (But will they be haggling in Arabic, or Mandarin?).

Here are a couple examples of their base M16A1 clone, priced at $1,225 plus $50 shipping to your FFL:

txmgo_m16a1_clones

Their description:

This is one of Texas Machine Gun & Ordnance’s new retro rifle line, that’s a SEMI-AUTO ONLY M16A1 replica (it’s not a machine-gun). It is available with either a grey A1 style lower, or a black one that is engraved to match a USGI M16A1. It is also available with your choice of a duckbill, 3 prong, or M16A1 flash-hider. Stocks are used by in excellent condition, and all internal parts are brand new, with Sons of Liberty Gunworks’ BCGs. Gun comes with one 20rd magazine, sling, and case.

Here’s the receiver, showing the Brownell’s lower with TXMGO’s added crest and engraving.

txmgo_engraving

For those of you still in the clone market, here’s a viable alternative to build-it-yourself and local armorer builds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

AR-10 Sniper Reweld — On GB and Sold in a Flash

Seeing that this had already come, and gone, on GunBroker, was a bit like being King Arthur and the boys and hearing that the French knight would not join our quest for the Holy Grail, ’cause “‘E’s already got one.”

original AR10 sniper 01

Some lucky knight has now got the Holy Grail of early AR collecting, albeit a rewelded semi-auto version; but it’s as near as an ordinary mortal will get to the original as long as the Hughes Amendment stands.

Well, here it is, deep from the recesses of my collection, the legend of legends……………….For sale one each original 1960 Portuguese AR-10 sniper rifle manufactured by “Artillerie Inrichtingen (AI) of Holland.

original AR10 sniper 03

No-this isn’t a pretend AR-10 such as the contemporary Armalite, DPMS, or any of the other .308 AR-15’s, THIS IS A REAL AR-10. Original AR-10’s in and of themselves are scarce; this is an EXTREMELY RARE sniper rifle.

He’s got a point there. The only other one of these we’ve seen was in a government museum.

original AR10 sniper 04

I’ve had it since 1995 (which is the last time I shot it) and it’s time to pass it on to somebody else. The rifle is complete and original. The lower receiver was expertly welded together from an original band saw cut and de-milled Portuguese AR-10 by Lloyd Hahn who received permission from the ATF before he did the work so it’s all done in compliance with the law (I don’t do “grey area’s).

original AR10 sniper 02

Unlike the various after-market AR-10 receivers such as Central Kentucky Arms, Specialty Arms, H&H, Telco, Sendra, etc. this actually looks like an original AR-10 lower (cuz’ it mostly is) receiver markings and all.

The aluminum H&H is pretty good, but it doesn’t duplicate the original markings, except for the serial number.

original AR10 sniper 12

SCOPE-original Delft, 3.6 X 25, excellent condition with clear optics

original AR10 sniper 19

*UPPER RECEIVER-a real sniper upper (in case somebody should ask, it would next to impossible to correctly machine the proper sniper scope cuts in an ordinary Portuguese upper) *You may notice a piece of tape behind the ejection port in the photos, no it ain’t holding the rifle together ;-)I put that on in 95’ to mitigate any brass “dings” on the upper receiver.

original AR10 sniper 14

 

BARREL-NO Shaw repro, it’s a very good condition Portuguese with a shiny bore (most Portuguese aren’t)

Again, the seller is on the level here. Our AR-10 barrel is “pretty good for a Porto” and the usual run of them is more in the “what were they doing with these things, growing potatoes?” condition.

original AR10 sniper 20

STOCK-Unlike most Portuguese stocks this one has an excellent rubber butt pad. There are however several very small cracks in the stock which have been expertly repaired.

The early fiberglass stocks were brittle and the resin degraded under ultraviolet light.

original AR10 sniper 10

HANDGUARDS-The fiberglass is in excellent condition with no cracks or scuffs, most Portuguese bipod handguards are a little “scruffy”, this is the best Portuguese bipod handguard I’ve ever held in my hands.

Haven’t seen one this good (including the one in the museum), ourselves.

Bipod-good-very good condition fully functional with no rust, mostly original finish. MAGAZINES-four come with the rifle.

Well, at least we’ve got more mags than that.

original AR10 sniper 17

Thanx for looking! PS-This is the same sniper rifle which was featured in the book, “The ArmaLite AR-10 Rifle”. Hit “Buy it now” and I’ll throw in the book with the sale,

via ORIGINAL ArmaLite AR-10 SNIPER Rifle (Portuguese) : Semi Auto Rifles at GunBroker.com.

The “Buy It Now” price was $12,000, and the running joke is that half of it was for the rare Maj. Sam Pikula book. (Which has fortunately been replaced, finally, by a better book after decades out of print).

Exit question: was the knight in question Reed Knight? He has most variants of AR-10 in his collection, but we don’t think he had the ultra-rare sniper.

Carry Handle My Wayward Son

There’s been a rash of “carry handle” posting on Reddit’s /r/guns subreddit lately. Apparently some people think carry handles on firearms, which Stoner et. al. thought absolutely brilliant in 1955 or so, are old-fashioned enough to be quaint, or entertaining.

Some of the posts are clearly childish humor, but we guess someone had to compare our AR iron sight history with our CZ history. (Imgur source). (Reddit source).

carry handle cz

OK, this guy is coming in broken and stupid. On the other hand, that, and snarking at the bot, got the poster banned by one of r/guns’s mods, who are known to have itchy trigger fingers.

And then, there’s this A3, posted with the claim that carry-handle mounted iron sights handle mud better than optics.  (Imgur source). (Reddit source).

carry handle a2

He was trying to clone his service gun (USMC), but would do it differently now:

This is my carry handle, there are many like it but this one is mine. Unfortunately the rifle shoots like dog shit and the vertical stringing is legendary. Getting about 4″ groups with match 77gr and 69gr ammo. Wanted a semi-accurate service rifle clone for USMC nostalgia, went with PSA base tier. Was disappoint, gonna do it right next time and just pick up an RRA national match gun.

Some of them are highly personalized, like this custom-finished, wood-stocked A2.  (Imgur source). (Reddit source). On A1s and A2s, the carry handle is a forged part of the upper receiver.

carry handle A2-ish

The owner says:

Picked it up from my gunsmith buddy who had it laying around for a few years. LOVE this gun. No name upper, Anderson lower, Rock river barrel, internals/pieces, plus lots of stainless Ceracoat.

Just goes to show you can build a very attractive gun with popular-priced pieces. The only thing premium here is the walnut stock: find this set with the cheekpiece (and laminated options) at Brownells. (The Brownells product is made by Lucid, and on their own website they offer a greater variety of woods and figuring — also unfinished for custom fitting). A slightly more A1-ish and less custom set is here, and if you a real OG carry handle user, you’ll like the even more A1-friendly Ironwood Designs set.

Here’s a 9mm pistol with the Original Gangsta fixed carry handle. (Imgur source). (Reddit source).

carry handle 9mm

Poster describes it:

[M]y 9mm Colt-ish pistol (soon to be SBR I hope)…. built on a Black Creek Precision EF-9 lower, Colt upper, and RRA barrel.

And then there’s the guy who’s right in our wheelhouse with a retro collection.  (Imgur source). (Reddit source).

carry handle retro

He rather he’pfully defines them:

Thanks to the invention of the Carry handle i was able to bring all of these rifles outside for a pic in one trip.
From top to bottom: Colt 603 AKA M16a1
Colt 604
XM177e1
Colt 733
On the Side Colt 607, my XM177 is borrowing the 607’s lower until the XM177’s stamp is approved.

 

Asked for a parts breakdown on his XM177E1, the user, Admiral Ackbar, opbliged:

AdmiralAckbar86[S] 2 points 3 days ago
Upper: Nodak
Lower: Nodak
Barrel: Brownells 1:12 chopped to 10 inches by Retro Arm works
BCG: Colt
LPK: Colt
Pistol Grip, Handguards: Colt
Stock: Essential Arms
Buffer Tube: Nodak 2 Position
XM177 Moderator: Brick

Hey, whatever is fun for you. For most users a carry handle (and even iron sights) are a waste, all you need is a flat-top and a red dot for a defensive or plinking or training carbine. Of course, if you’re chasing meat, and that meat’s a Colorado elk, a red dot’s not going to do it for you (and neither is 5.56).

Not Your Uncle Joe’s Webley

Even though it’s a perfectly ordinary Webley & Scott Mark IV, this is not your Uncle Joe’s Webley. That’s why the opening bid at auction is a stiff $1,850 — several times what your plain, average Mark IV goes for.

Foss Webley 04

But this is not Uncle Joe’s plain, average Webley. That is, of course, unless your Uncle Joe was the late Joe Foss, WWII hero, Governor of SD, and former NRA President.

Foss Webley 01

Let’s zoom in on that certificate:

Foss Webley 02

A Webley & Scott Ltd Mark lV revolver in caliber 38 S&W with papers from the collection of Joe Foss who was a Ace fighter pilot in world war ll, medal of honor recipient and former Governor of South Dakota among other achievements and the certificate comes with the gun. Condition of metal is very good with fading military finish and shows a couple pitting areas. Grips are original and excellent. The barrel is 5 inches and has a bright sharp bore and it comes with the original holster. This is a true collectors dream.

via Webley & Scott Ltd Mark lV revolver cal 38 S&W : Curios & Relics at GunBroker.com.

Technically, it’s in .38/200, but that’s just British English for .38 S&W. It means a .38 caliber bore with a 200-grain bullet.

Kind of amazing to think that today, a Briton could not own this long-obsolete artifact from his own national heritage, but that’s laws for you.

Foss Webley 03

These things are a hoot to shoot and have a certain Olde English, “Dr Watson, did you bring your revolver?” feel to them. Actually, any tip-up revolver is a blast; well can we recall the first time a spray of ejected cases made us giggle out loud.

The Mk IV has an interesting history. From 1887 to after World War I, Webleys in .455 were made and issued to British soldiers in Marks I to VI. After the war, they wanted a smaller pistol, and so Webley took the mighty .455 and scaled the whole gun down to the .38 S&W. (They had previously done a similar job, for police, which they called the Mk. III .38 Calibre). Thus, in a quintessentially British way, the Webley Mk. VI is older than the Webley Mk. IV.

Foss Webley 05Instead of issuing the new Webley, though, the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield began producing a modified copy instead. Webley sued, but lost, and was out of the service revolver business until the war broke out, whereupon they had all the contracts they could handle. All surviving .38/200 Webleys, of the rough half-million produced, date from the war years.

Foss Webley 06After the war, the Webley revolver lasted a long time in British service because of official parsimony. Not only did the War Office not want  to spend the money on new sidearms, they didn’t spend any money on training ammunition, either, so the revolvers never wore out.

They were finally surplused in the 1950s and 60s after being replaced by a version of the Browning Hi-Power.

A Webley is a historic arm and would be a proud addition to any collection. A Webley that had been held by Joe Foss? (Here is a pretty decent capsule bio of Foss, explaining why he’s famous). Foss was an amazing character, who after a day of defending Guadalcanal in an F4F Wildcat, would take a rifle and hunt Japanese soldiers in the field — until his CO found out and put the brakes on his nocturnal poaching.

 

Arms of the Stormtroopers

No, we’re not talking about the combat lemmings in low-budget plastic suits in the Star Wars movies. We’re talking about the original item — the Stormtroopers of the German Empire in the Great War.

georg ehmig stosstrupp

We’re working our way through the excellent book Sturmtruppen by Spanish historian Ricardo Recio Carmona (translated to English by Gustavo Cano Muñoz and edited by Tyler Baldwin). This is a new book, published by Andrea Press in 2014, and it’s a richly illustrated and extensively documented survey of something every history buff thinks he knows.

Historical Background

The conventional story goes something like this:

After years of stalemate, the Germans developed Sturmtruppen in 1918, small, heavily armed detachments who operated independently and used stealth and infiltration tactics to surprise the enemy, and concentrated firepower to overwhelm him locally on contact.

And as remarkable as that development would be, it’s not exactly what happened. Carmona documents that, while Sturmtruppen had evolved to that level by 1918, to the point where even the Allies figured them out, they had been formed and deployed, if partly on an ad hoc basis, more or less continuously since 1914.

A fine point of German terminology is that Stosstruppen (Shock Troops) were strictly ad hoc, and temporary, but Sturmtruppen (Assault Troops) might equally be temporary “mobs for jobs” or permanent units. While assault troops might have been tasked to fight, they had a second, equally important role, which was to teach storm troops tactics to regular army formations.

Hptm. Willi Rohr

Hptm. Willi Rohr

The first such formal, permanent unit was probably Hauptmann Willi Martin Ernst Rohr, whose Sturmabteilung Rohr stood up in his Guards regiment in 1915. This was revolutionary in the German service, which entered the war committed, as its enemies and allies all were, to a line formation, whose only difference from the formations of Waterloo a century earlier was a little more open deployment, as a nod — an ineffectual nod — to the firepower of repeating rifles, machine guns and recoil-compensated quick-firing artillery.

Carmona notes that the characteristics of a Sturmtrupp operation, technically and tactically, included:

  1. Task organization, including assault and support elements;
  2. Selection of the men by the officer in charge;
  3. A rehearsal (or rehearsals) in a safe area configured to replicate the mission objective;
  4. Leaders’ reconnaissance to pinpoint infiltration points and routes;
  5. A precise schedule of execution with specific time hacks;
  6. Pre-arranged artillery and mortar support (not preparation);

In addition, surviving documents and memories make it plain that Sturm- and Stosstrupp leaders conducted very modern-seeming patrol inspections and troop-leading procedures that would not be out of place in a modern Army, and they began doing this from 1914. All the combatants were shocked by the terrifying effectiveness of modern 20th Century armaments, but the Germans did something about it. The French, British, and Russians just kept trying to logistically manage the battlefield in such a way that they’d deploy more human chests than the Germans could deploy bullets or artillery fragments.

Armaments of the Stormtroopers

The term Sturmtrupp was first used in connection with flamethrower detachments in 1914, and that offensive spirit was thought to reside in such units as well as in the new technical elite of tank operators, and the ancient light infantry of southern Germany, the Mountain Troops.

But most Sturm- u. Stosstruppen were armed with infantry weapons — just more of them. The principal weapon became the hand-grenade, a weapon that in 1914 was only in engineers’ inventory, not infantry. Period photos of a Sturm- u. Stosstruppler always show him well-endowed with ‘nades.

German Stosstrupp 3

German hand grenades came in offensive (blast only, no fragments, for use by troops in the open) and defensive (fragmentation, for use by troops under cover) varieties. The reason for taking cover when throwing a frag grenade is that it can produce casualties beyond its typical throwing range! Beyond that distinction, German ‘nades were produced in four broad types and many specific models. The types were ball grenades, disc grenades, egg grenades, and stick grenades.

German Stosstrupp

The ball grenade M1913 was the only grenade produced at the beginning of the war, and was produced originally only for sappers. It was a serrated iron-cased fragmentation grenade in the style of many other nations’ grenades, except that it was truly spherical, not at all ellipsoid. It had a pull wire on its fuze on top, which started a 5-7 second delay. (A second prewar version with a clockwork fuze was not produced after the war started). It would be redesigned during the war, to simplify manufacturing, but the replacements were called both M1913 Neuer Art (“new type”) and M1915.

This collection of Great War grenades came from a collector forum. German grenades in it include: 3. German M1915 Kugel grenade fragments 4. German M1915 Discushandgranate 5. German M1915 Kugel grenade, friction fuse 6. German m1913 Kugel grenade, friction fuse 7. Mauser T-Geweher round 8. German flechette 9. German Eier grenade with transit plug 10. German Eier grenade with standard friction fuse 11. German Eier grenade with friction fuse 12. German Eier grenade with M1917 friction fuse 13. German Stielhandgranate M1917 14. German Stielhandgranate M1916 15. German 1914 rifle grenade with transit plug

This collection of Great War grenades came from a collector forum. German grenades in it (all left of the center of the image) include:
3. German M1915 Kugel grenade fragments
4. German M1915 Discushandgranate
5. German M1915 Kugel grenade, friction fuse
6. German m1913 Kugel grenade, friction fuse
7. Mauser T-Geweher round
8. German flechette
9. German Eier grenade with transit plug
10. German Eier grenade with standard friction fuse
11. German Eier grenade with friction fuse
12. German Eier grenade with M1917 friction fuse
13. German Stielhandgranate M1917
14. German Stielhandgranate M1916
15. German 1914 rifle grenade with transit plug

The disc grenade was uniquely Imperial German and was fuzed to detonate on impact with the ground. It came in three different models: a sheet steel offensive grenade of 100-110 mm diameter; a cast iron defensive grenade of 80 mm diameter; and a catapult-launched Schleuder-Diskushandgranate that could be launched further.

The egg grenade was a latecomer, introduced in 1917. In continuously improved versions, it would remain in German service to 1945, but at the time it was a simple attempt to make a grenade that cost less and used fewer resources than the stick grenade. It had a time fuze and 32 grams of black powder.

The stick grenade, called by English-speaking troops the German “potato masher” from its resemblance to the household implement, is the grenade most people today associate with Germans, although many nations used stick grenades. Most stick grenades were offensive grenades with 200+ grams of explosive inside a thin sheet cover. The original M1915 had a time fuze initiated by pulling a wooden knob that formed the base of the stick. Apparently due to accidents, this was replaced by a pull cord that was protected by a screw-off protective cap in the M1916 and M1917 models. At some point, these grenades were available with impact as well as time fuzes.

Center, upper: Stielhandgranate 15. Center, lower: SHG 17 (pull cord extended). The grenade on the right is Austrian.

Center, upper: Stielhandgranate 15. Center, lower: SHG 17 (pull cord extended). The grenade on the right is Austrian.

In addition to these factory grenades, Sturmtruppen had a variety of improvised and field-expedient grenades, often made right behind the front in engineers’ workshops, especially in the 1914-15 period. Grenades were also combined into a Geballte Ladung with six extra heads, detonated sympathetically, arrayed around the one on the stick, or made into a Gestreckte Ladung by placing grenade heads at about 10-15 cm apart along a wooden lath or stick. (This seems to be intended to be an improvised Bangalore torpedo).

German Stosstrupp 4

Sturmtruppen carried lots of grenades, and the number rose as the war continued. A trooper might have felt well-armed with two or three grenades in 1915, but by 1917 he would want saddle-bags around his shoulders with three or four stick grenades on each side, and a few egg grenades in his pocket as backup. Some troopers were designated grenade-throwers, and they might have an assistant who carried a whole pack of ‘nades.

Firearms carried tended to be Mauser 98 carbines and numerous pistols. By 1918, the Sturmtrupp table of organization and equipment specified the new MP 18/1 submachine gun for all officers and NCOs and 10% of troops, but the firearm was never produced in such quantity.

And, of course, machine guns and mortars were used from the German trenches in support of Sturmtrupp attacks.

Ernst_Jünger_WW1

Jünger mid-war. He went on to be one of only 11 company commanders among the 700 recipients of the Pour le Mèrite, and to survive the war and become an important literary and philosophical figure in Germany.

Carmona quote a German officer, Ernst Jünger, on his armaments before leading a Stosstrupp (edited for clarity):

… across my chest, two sandbags, each containing four stick grenades, impact fuses on the left, delay on the right; in my right tunic pocket, a Pistol 08 [Luger] on a long cord; in my right trouser pocket, a little Mauser pistol; in my left tunic pocket, five egg grenades; in my left trouser pocket, luminous compass and whistle; in my belt, spring hooks for pulling out the pins, plus knife and wire cutters.

He was prepared for all eventualities, with his home address in a wallet in one pocket, and a flask of cherry brandy in another, and his Trupp removed unit identifying insignia from their uniforms and went “sterile.”

Grenades are one of those unglamorous weapons that gets short shrift between the wars, only to come into great demand “when the guns begin to shoot.”

Sturmtruppen is a well-researched and documented look at the German tactical revolution of WWI and will get you thinking about the profound impact these tactics have had on warfare today.

It’s made us want to read Carmona’s thesis which was on the quartermaster service of the Blue Division, Franco’s volunteers with the Germans on the Eastern Front, even if we have to read it en español. And it’s also made us want to read Jünger’s Storm of Steel, which has been translated into English.

Sources:

Carmona, Ricardo Recio. Sturmtruppen: WWI German Stormtroopers (1914-1918). Madrid, 2014: Andrea Press

Jünger, Ernst. Im Stahlgewittern. Berlin, 1920: E.S. Mittler und Sohn. Available online at: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34099

Numerous other Jünger works are available at Archive.org.