Category Archives: Rifles and Carbines

German Invader With Russian Defender’s Rifle?

Where this grainy photo appeared in Daily Mail recently, in support of a story on grave-robbery in the East,  the caption was: Arms: The items being gathered by collectors often include rifles similar to these being carried by these German troops running on the Eastern Front in 1941. But have a look at this picture.

Germans -- Eastern Front -- 1941

The picture is a familiar one, it’s one editors seem to always go to for an Operation Barbarossa shot. But look at the rifle in the hands of the lead soldier! It’s a Russian rifle, specifically, a Tokarev SVT-40 (below) or possibly an SVT-38. An SVT-40 is shown below. The SVT-38 has the cleaning rod on the right side of the stock instead of under the barrel, and has a slightly shorter metal hand guard.

SVT-40 tokarev

So… is this a Barbarossa pic, and the German has merely helped himself to a Russian bangstick? Or are these guys, perhaps, Finns? The Finnish Army used both German-style helmets (which was their standard) and Russian rifle, including Tokarevs, which they captured in massive quantities in the Winter War. Indeed, most non-import-marked Tokarev rifles you find in the USA come from about 5,800 pre-’68 imports from Finland, and bear the “SA” cartouche of the Finnish Army.

kennblaetter_fremden_geraetsThen again, every army in the world uses foreign and enemy weapons if necessary. The Nazis, always short of arms for their oversized army, systematized the use of foreign weapons, and actually issued many foreign weapons, from pistols to tanks, and issued them German logistics numbers and printed German-language manuals. The SVT-40 was known to the Wehrmacht as the Gewehr 259 (r.) with the “r” standing for russich, Russian; the SVT-38 was called the G. 258 (r). But these designations were not assigned until December, 1942, according to the official document, the Kennblätter fremden Geräts.

Either way, it’s an interesting picture, possibly staged (In combat photography, how often is the photographer out in front of the infantry?) and possibly not.

Someone’s Flogging His Big Johnson

Of course, you can’t have it if you’re in Libya, North Korea, New York, New Jersey or Massachusetts because it’s a big assault Johnson, but what it is, is a rare Johnson LMG kit, restored onto a semi Johnson M1941 rifle receiver, producing a legal semi-auto Johnson LMG. And you can have it — if you win the auction.

big Johnson 13

Manufactured on the original Johnson 1941 semi auto receiver , using original US GI LMG parts , semi auto only . Excellent condition , park. military finish ,mint original barrel , beautiful wood furniture. Test fired only. The gun fires , extracts and reloads 100% , very accurate. The gun comes with bipod and 3 magazines. Shipping to an FFL or C&R holder. The gun will be shipped from FFL in PA.

big Johnson 02

via 1941 Johnson LMG light machine gun semi m1941 : Semi Auto Rifles at

There are a number of these around. By “a number,” though, we’re probably talking about a single digit number. The parts kits are rare, and the rifles are valuable enough to collectors that it’s hard to make the case for sacrificing one.

Johnson guns get their collector cachet from their rarity1 and their use in training and combat by elite elements including the Paramarines, the Marine Raiders, the Canadian-American First Special Service Force (all ephemeral, hostilities-only WWII units), the OSS, and Brigada 2506, the Bay of Pigs invaders. The Marines and Cubanos only used the rifles; the FSSF, only the machine guns. Any surviving Johnson has some part of this history.

Because the Johnsons were not standard arms with standard doctrinal spare parts and maintenance support, they were withdrawn and replaced with US standard rifles and auto rifles/LMGs. Carefully packed away, all of them except for probable OSS/CIA stocks were surplused after the war.

We don’t know what it will go for. The current bid in the $8k neighborhood has not met the reserve (the rifles sell for $4k and up). Some comments, and the rest of the photos, after the jump.


  1. 30,000 Johnson M1941 rifles were made, a large percentage of which survive, but only about 3,000 were machine guns according to ATF Form 2s filed by Johnson Automatics. The Johnson M1944 machine gun appears to have been produced only in prototype quantities.

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Rifle Training, Fort Jackson, 1970s

OK, so there’s a new toy at the Unconventional Warfare Operations Research Library, and it’s a book scanner. First thing we tried to scan was a 1970s basic training “yearbook.” Like every student yearbook, it’s 95% stock content with 5% varying with each class, being the pictures of the current teachers and graduates. We did a hasty scan of the document, then edited out all the non-gun stuff.

1970s rifle training.pdf

So this is what M16A1 era basic training looked like on the only base that was, then, experimenting with integrated male/female training units. Check out the funny women’s uniforms — there was a female fatigue uniform which was made from the nylon stuff of late jungle fatigues and survived about two pressings, and female drill instructors wore a hideous knock off of an Australian bush hat. (Pretty sure women now wear the regular Smokey Bear hat).

Most of the troops attending basic at Jackson would go on to Combat Support and Combat Service Support jobs. Other bases trained Combat Arms (Infantry at Benning, Armor at Knox, Artillery at Sill). The Engineers trained at Fort Leonard Wood.

Rifle training was supposedly standardized across all training bases, and had several distinct phases or blocks of instruction:

  1. Mechanical training: operate, strip, clean, reassemble, and function-check the M16A1.
  2. Basic Rifle Marksmanship (BRM). Hold factors, sight picture, breathing, trigger, etc.
  3. Zero. Achieve a good battle-sight zero on the M16A1 with the Canadian Bull target.
  4. Field Firing. On a Trainfire (pop-up target) range, trainees practice shooting.
  5. Record Fire. On a Trainfire record fire range, engage targets from 50 to 300 meters.

After record fire, the green-fatigued troops could put a camouflage cover on their steel M1 helmets. The cover had a green side and a brown side, the brown side is seldom seen.

There were also familiarization fires such as NBC fire (5 or 10 rounds with a mask on), night fire (shot at day through light-limiting goggles — yes, really!), automatic fire from the bipod, and support weapons including the M60 (a few rounds) and the M72A1 LAW (for all but one or two lucky dogs per cycle, using the subcaliber device). Some of these are shown in the excerpt.

Yeah, the excerpt is rough. We’re still getting the hang of the scanner. Fujitsu SV600.

Saved By the Bell (Contract): Colt? Not So Fast.

colt_bankruptcy_bannerFor once, the Friday night news dump wasn’t bad news. Last night the news broke that everybody’s favorite Chapter 11 case had received a large contract for up to $212 million for new M4A1 carbines. Or did it?

For coverage, here’s TFB. But we also found an interesting detail in the official release. See if you can spot it:

Colt Defense LLC, West Hartford, Connecticut (15QKN-15-D-0102); and FN America LLC, Columbia, South Carolina (W15QKN-15-D-0072), were awarded a $212,000,000 firm-fixed-price multi-year contract for M4 and M4A1 carbines for the Army and others, with an estimated completion date of Sept. 24, 2020. Bids were solicited via the Internet with six received. Funding and work location will be determined with each order. Army Contracting Command, Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, is the contracting activity.

Did you see it? Let’s emphasize it for you, eh?

Colt Defense LLC, West Hartford, Connecticut (15QKN-15-D-0102); and FN America LLC, Columbia, South Carolina (W15QKN-15-D-0072), were awarded a $212,000,000 firm-fixed-price multi-year contract for M4 and M4A1 carbines for the Army and others, with an estimated completion date of Sept. 24, 2020. Bids were solicited via the Internet with six received. Funding and work location will be determined with each order. Army Contracting Command, Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, is the contracting activity.

OK, let’s translate that from Defense Acquisition to English for you:

  1. There’s a new contract for M4 and M4A1 Carbines (is anyone still using the burst-fire M4? USMC?).
  2. Both Colt and FN are approved vendors of these carbines under this contract. (There are many reasons a contract might be split like this, including maintaining second-sources for the sake of the defense industrial base, or ensuring the survivor of a competitor so that future bids aren’t expensively sole-sourced). They will provide carbines at the prices set in their contracts: as many, and as often, as DOD requires, up to $212 million worth between both firms.
  3. This contract runs for five years, and $212M is its max value over both vendors over all five years.

Therefore, if the orders were evenly split between companies and year-to-year, the contract’s worth $21.2 million a year each for five years. However, it’s unlikely that the contract will be evenly split like that.

At a bare minimum, the contract’s good news for FN and for Colt. For one thing, both of them can continue to claim that their carbine is “issue” as they sell their wares into the private market, which is much larger than the military market. (Private gunowners in America buy more AR-15 rifles in a year than the US military would need to completely re-equip its entire inventory).

There are some possible downsides of this contract from the point-of-view of resolving Colt’s bankruptcy and management issues. As Nathaniel at TFB notes, Colt may have bid so low it was reasonably assured of a win, but if so, it could a hard time meeting the bid price economically. More seriously, the company’s desperate financial straits were holding the managers’ feet to the fire in their ongoing conflict with investors (to be specific, bondholders). Removing present management is necessary for real success. The current managers/owners appear to excel at financial machinations, but they are poor at product and marketing. They utterly failed to take advantage of having the most wanted firearm brand, during the greatest run on firearms in American history.

It’s almost as if they’d rather play Wall Street games than win by producing high-demand products at a profit. So having a contract to keep the lights on and doors open may, paradoxically, delay the “creative destruction” needed to fully reform the company and the brand.

Still, the M4/A1 contract may keep Colt workers at work and ensure that American service members will have suitable firearms, while Ordnance goes back to the drawing board in pursuit of the Next Big Thing™.

Germans Issue Pocket Card for G36 Immediate Action

The Bundeswehr has responded to the ongoing clamor over problems with the G36 rifle by attempting to restore troop confidence in the weapon. One way they’re doing this is providing a graphical training aid, a Pocket Card for the G36 that describes lessons learned and immediate action for common problems with the weapon.

End of Life: Always controversial, the G36 is scheduled to be replaced by a new rifle, to be selected in a process that will probably be just as spectacularly controversial.

End of Life: Always controversial, the G36 is scheduled to be replaced by a new rifle, to be selected in a process that will probably be just as spectacularly controversial.

It’s available to German soldiers, sailors and airmen as a download on the German Armed Forces’ intranet. The BW news release is here (hat tip Thomas Wiegold, who outs himself in his post as a fellow fan of the late Douglas Adams) and our translation of the BW release follows:

In view of the demonstrated deficiencies, measures have been developed with a goal of minimizing any impairment of the G36.  These measures have been gathered together in a pocket card by the combat experienced experts of the “Infantry Team.”  It’s to be understood as an extension of the current technical and shooting manuals, and is ready to be downloaded in the intranet of the Bundeswehr.

The pocket card was published by the Infantry Team, under the leadership of Brigadier General Gert-Johannes Hagemann, commander of the Infantry Training Center. He, and his team of soldiers, have been assigned by the General Inspector of the Bundeswehr to advise in all questions of the utilization of the rifle G 36 in combat. In addition to advising soldiers with on-going site-visits, they will also visit units in combat and ongoing deployments..

In April 2015, an independent and thorough examination of the rifle G 36 revealed two problems: “increased dispersion by firing-induced heating of the weaopn,” and “displacement of point of impact due to external heating or changing climate conditions.”

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has decided to acquire a new assault rifle. Its introduction could begin in 2019, depending on market availability. As an interim solution, 600 assault rifles of G27P type and 600 MG4 light machine guns have also been purchased, and will be issued by the end of 2016. With this mix of weapons, the troops have significantly more flexibility in their ongoing and future missions.

The pocket card graphical training aid is something that other NATO armies, especially the Americans, have long used, and that the Bundeswehr has issued for several purposes, such as rules of engagement or, on Luftwaffe bases, fire-fighting procedures,

Unofficial G36 pocket cards have been developed and shared by German troopies before. For example, this one by and for reservists includes the basic manual of arms, specifications, and how to use the G36’s optic’s reticle. This one has similar information organized differently.

We’re hoping to get a copy of the official BW card. Wiegold has seen it and includes some of the text on it in his post; if a copy of the card doesn’t come our way, we’ll translate Thomas’s excerpts in some future post.


It is now our understanding that the card is marked VS-NfD. This stands for Verschlußsache — Nur für Dienstgebrauch which translates roughly as Restricted — Official Use Only and appears from official regulations to require special handling, to wit:

Items classified VS-NUR FÜR DEN DIENSTGEBRAUCH (VS-NfD – RESTRICTED) shall only be made accessible to such persons as must, in connection with the execution or negotiation of the given contract, have access to such information (“need-to-know” principle).

Items that are classified VS-NFD (RESTRICTED) may be disclosed only to government agencies, intergovernmental organisations or contractors which are involved in a programme / project / contract and must have access to the classified information in connection with such programme / project or contract.

Accordingly, our informal request for a copy is withdrawn. We don’t want to get any of our German readers in trouble with the law. According to that document, the card may be declassified at one year of age.

Just How Bad Was Is the SA 80?

Here’s an old HK document bragging up their rebuild of Britain’s buggy SA 80 assault rifle, circa 2007.  Whilst it’s marked “Commercial in Confidence,” a rough equivalent of the US’s proprietary information markings, it was presented at a public NDIA Conference (the 2007 Small Arms Conference) and it’s still available in DTIC’s document repository.1

HK Future Requirements 2007 Bantle_210PM.pdf

The Original L85A1 rifle

The Original L85A1 rifle

Without the audio or video of the presentation, making sense of the slide deck is a challenge, as the document was not made by fluent English users. You learn that after HK was contracted to un-screw the unreliable Enfield in 1996, the processes included “Weapon Measurement 4 Weapons,” “Evaluation with Various Ammunition,” and HK’s personal bugbear, “Firing at Different Temperations. [sic]” By 1997 HK thought it had some answers, and then it took another year to hash out a contract to fix 100 each of the rifle (Individual Weapon) and squad/section automatic (Light Support Weapon) units. The actual modification of the firearms took only six months, or half the time of contract negotiations — who do these guys think they are, with all this bureaucracy, Americans?

Why was the L85A1 so unreliable? This dissassembled view gives a clue. The innards were copied from the AR-18 -- indeed, the prototypes used Sterling-made AR-180 parts. Simply copied, not engineered at all.

Why was the L85A1 so unreliable? This dissassembled view gives a clue. The innards (bolt, gas system, barrel/magazine alignment) were copied from the AR-18 — indeed, the prototypes used Sterling-made AR-180 parts. Simply copied, not engineered at all.

Here are the firing cycles HK used for the 1999 tests:

Individual Weapon Firing Cycle
Sequence Rate (rounds / min) Duration sec Rounds fired Comment
1 30 40 20 40 secs
2 10 360 60 6 minutes
3 30 60 30 1 minute
4 10×4 60 40 10 bursts of 4, 1 min.
totals   520 150 150 rounds in 8:40

And here are the firing schedules used with the support weapon.

Light Support Weapon Firing Cycle  
Sequence Rate (rounds / min) Duration sec Rounds fired Comment
1 60 180 180 3 minutes
2 0 60 0 1m cooling
3 60 180 180 3 minutes
4 0 120 0 2m cooling
5 60 150 150 2:30
6 0 600 0 10m cooling
7 30 600 300 10 m, lower rate
8 0 120 0 2m cooling
9 60 150 150 2:30
totals   2160 960 960 rounds in 36:00

We note that those firing schedules, especially the rifle schedules, are very light compared to what is expected in modern combat and combat training. It’s nothing to burn through 5 magazines during a single practice hit during SFAUC, or any other CQB/MOUT training evolution, and you will burn through them in well under 8:40. And rates of fire in defensive operations, under the pressures of a modern, complex attack, are much higher.

The initial trials results in 1999 showed a very great improvement in both weapons (and exposed just how crappy the originals had been). But they didn’t go far enough. Results in Arctic firing tests, conducted in Alaska, were particularly shabby.


We can all agree that a weapon achieving 5% or even 22% reliability on that mild test cycle is junk, and that HK’s improvement of the firearm was near-miraculous. (We do wonder how much of it was just bringing indifferently-manufactured SA80s up to blueprint spec). But while the numbers speak for themselves, they don’t say this is a good firearm — even post-overhaul.

Now, 96% reliability sounds good, but that means, on average more than one malfunction or failure per magazine! And 86% reliability means, on average, more than four failures per 30-round mag. Of course, that beats the relative inutility of the unmodified guns, but you have to wonder why the MOD didn’t just send the SA80 to the knackers’ yard after these dismal tests.

Results in hot weather trials in Kuwait that summer were better, but not much better and probably within the margin of error of the test design.


You can’t help but think that what HK had at the end of this round of tests was a much better firearm than the British Army had had before — but still a piece of junk.

At this point, the UK considered ditching the SA80 and buying Stoner systems from Colt or Diemaco, but given that HK was then owned by Royal Ordnance (soon itself bought by BAE), it seemed sensible to give the contract to HK, and brag up the 98.5% reliability number — which was, you see, the very best result, in one style weapon, from one test. This produced the SA80A2, which had the following differences from the original (source):

  1. A new cocking handle, made of shaped nylon polyamide, which doubles as a cartridge case deflector;
  2. A new magazine, which is slightly longer, more curved and comes with a smoother spring feed action;
  3. The LSW has a heavier barrel;
  4. A new gas plug and cylinder made from superior materials;
  5. The catch spring has been widened to prevent jamming in the gas feed during re-assembly;
  6. The gas blowback cycle has been improved;
  7. One-and-a-half locking nuts removed from the barrel extension / chamber to accommodate a different extractor shape, which should also guide empty cases away from the ejection port;
  8. An all-new bolt head that has a larger, more robust extractor;
  9. The cartridge ejector has a new rim and a stronger multi-wire spring;
  10. The carrier has been polished to reduce the friction between it and the top-most cartridge in the magazine;
  11. A new sturdier firing pin has been installed, made from high-strength, quenched and tempered steel, with the stop moved from the rear to the front;
  12. The ejection port has been enlarged to improve the round ejection pattern;
  13. The magazine housing has been reinforced with additional welding to prevent it breaking;
  14. The weight of the hammer has been increased by 9g to prevent misfires caused by ‘bouncing’;
  15. The bolt release catch has been strengthened;
  16. A new recoil spring with a higher compression has been installed to even out the rate of fire.

HK received approximately $180 million for the upgrade of these rifles, about $400 each for the weapons that were done. Meanwhile the Army had been downsizing and so barely more than half of the initial buy were upgraded.

These were the weapons with which the British Army went to Afghanistan in 2002. (SAS were deployed earlier, but they were carrying M4s and Minimis). The regulars also used the Minimi in Afghanistan; as the L110A1 it has de facto replaced the unreliable L86 Light Support Weapon.

Since then, a Picatinny rail fore-end (developed for the firearm by Daniel Defense of the USA) has been added and Magpul E-mags have replaced the reliable but expensive HK steel “maritime” magazine.


You’d need more nearly A/B equivalent tests to be sure, but it seems that even after modification the SA80 is not even in the same reliability grid square as more popular weapons like Stoner and Kalashnikov system weapons, or even HK’s own much-maligned G36.

And while the LSW tests appear to have actually loaded up the weapon with heat — almost 1000 rounds in a half hour — the rifle firing tests were much lighter than a troop unit is likely to experience in a position defense.  In other words, as grim as these reliability figures are for the SA80 series weapons, they’re nowhere near the worst case for those weapons.

All this raises the question: how do weapons whose performance goes nonlinear at high sustained rates of fire get adopted in the first place? Our belief is that the initial testing protocols do not test the weapons sufficiently. A routine part of procurement of, for example, aircraft, is the provision of static test airframes or articles that are tested to failure or destruction. It’s clear from the dismal performance of the unmodified SA80 on these extremely mild firing programs that this weapon was not only not tested to failure or destruction, it was not remotely challenged during its original adoption. If it had been, the sorts of fixes the HK engineers used to raise the reliability of the weapon from nonexistent to merely worst-in-class could have been implemented way back in the 1970s when the British Army was shaking the thing down for the first time. Or pretending to.

How do you prevent an oversight like the one that gave some of the world’s most professional soldiers a weapon they couldn’t count on? We see that oversights are more likely to happen on in-house and sole-source projects, rather than on COTS and competitive projects. We think that helps point the way to a broadly useful prophylactic measure: more independent analysis (from varied independent analysts) and independent review of testing protocols and results. Also, weapons must be tested to and beyond the edge of the performance envelope, including testing to failure/destruction.

Is it wasteful to test toolroom prototypes, built for tens of thousands of dollars each, to destruction? Not if you think it’s wasteful to spend tens of millions on redesigning and rebuilding your combat arms after they’re fielded.


  1. NDIA’s document stash has recently been reorganized with a new website, just as amateurish as the last, and a new search function which can’t find much. The good news: trying to find specific documents you used to have links to, DTIC’s incompetent organization instead serves up serendipitous finds like this!

The Wooden AR-15

“Why do witches burn?” If this completed AR receiver works as forecast, it’s because they’re made of the same thing as guns. “Why do witches burn?” If this completed AR receiver works as forecast, it’s because they’re made of the same thing as guns.

Plywood (well, laminated walnut) AR lower.

Plywood (well, laminated walnut) AR lower.

Plywood (well, laminated walnut) AR lower.

Plywood (well, laminated walnut) AR lower.

This blog’s archives tell the whole story, but many of the posts are linked below (we didn’t find them all, we think. He doesn’t seem to use categories or tags). It’s not the first wooden AR lower ever, so it’s got a good chance of working.

There are some interesting technological choices. The laminated lower is made from the strongest possible wood — not home store plywood. It’s also supported with stainless steel cladding epoxied on the outside, and steel bushings supporting the various action pins.

Originally he seemed to be aiming at making an unusual wildcat with a steel tubular upper, but over time it seems his aim has been adjusted from time to time.

There are more, but that ought to get you guys started.

Guest Post: Russian Internally Suppressed, Captive Piston Quiet Weapons (Max Popenker)

This is a guest post by the Russian firearms expert and historian Maxim Popenker, co-author (with Anthony Williams) of several reference works1, and the founder and owner of the indispensable website. some time ago, we mentioned in a story on the Quiet Special Purpose Revolver that the US had not pursued such technology, but the Russians had, and Max asked if our readers wanted to know that Russian history. We said they certainly did, and he shared it with us — and now, with you. It has been very lightly edited, which is amazing given that Max is writing in what is to him a foreign language. We have added amplifying footnotes here and there. — Ed.

A very brief history of the internally suppressed, captive piston ammunition and firearms in Russia.

The basic concept of suppression of the firearm’s sound by capturing powder gases inside a closed volume in not new. In fact, it is quite old, with patents to that effect issued in USA as early as 1902 (see US Patent # 692,819 “Means for effecting noiseless discharge of guns” by J.E.Bissell)2.

Gurevich's design.

Gurevich’s design.

In Soviet Russia, a similar concept was first researched shortly before and during the Great Patriotic War3. So far we know about two concurrent developments, one by designer Gurevich and another by the Mitin brothers (who also designed more conventional sound suppressors for Nagant revolvers4 and Mosin M1891/30 rifles successfully used by Soviet partisan and NKVD troops against invading Nazis).

Gurevich experimental pistols.

Gurevich experimental pistols.

Gurevich's revolver.

Gurevich’s revolver.

The design by Gurevich was quite similar to that of Bissell; it also used a special cartridge with a piston in front of the powder charge, and a portion of water, which was used to push the 5.6mm or 6mm projectile through the bore; the powder gases were contained inside the case by jamming the piston inside the case mouth. Ammunition was based on 20 Gauge brass shotgun shells, and fired from the single shot, break-open pistols, or, later, through a special revolver with a necessarily long and wide cylinder.

Mitin Brothers' captive-piston Nagant revolver.

Mitin Brothers’ captive-piston Nagant revolver.

The Mitin brothers’ design was more unorthodox, in a sense. It featured a heavily modified Nagant revolver with two coaxially mounted cylinders. One cylinder sat in its conventional place, holding seven rounds of ammunition with sabots and subcaliber bullets. The second cylinder, mounted on the same axis and rotating synchronously with the first, sat at the muzzle of the gun. The front cylinder was bored through with seven bores, slightly squeezed or choked at the front. When the gun was fired, the projectile with its sabot travelled through the barrel in the traditional way; then, its 7.62mm sabot jammed itself in the constricted bore of the front cylinder, and the smaller-diameter bullet continued forward and to the target. Neither design was successful, and for some time the concept was abandoned.

A couple of Stechkin's "cigarette cases."

A couple of Stechkin’s “cigarette cases.”

During 1950s, the famous Soviet gun designer Igor Stechkin5 was tasked to design several deep concealment, noiseless weapons for KGB and GRU6; He then produced an experimental SP-1 cartridge7, similar in concept to that of the Mitin brothers. It used a specially designed bullet which could be squeezed through a constricted bore with an entry (throat) diameter of 9mm and exit (muzzle) diameter of 7.62mm.

Another of Stechkin's experimental hideout guns.

Another of Stechkin’s experimental hideout guns.

A special 9mm wad, placed between the projectile and powder charge, jammed itself in the bore to capture powder gases inside the barrel. Stechkin produced several prototype three-barrel guns on this concept, concealed inside a flat tin case imitating a contemporary cigarette case.

Stechkin's original SP-2 design, showing both the exterior and a cut away.

Stechkin’s original SP-2 design, showing both the exterior and a cut away.

Later on, Stechkin produced an improved round,  SP-2, with long, 7.62mm projectiles consisting of the jacket from 7.62mm TT bullet8, fitted with long aluminum core. The cartridge case contained small amount of powder and a pusher piston, which captured powder gases at the neck of the case.

During the sixties, similar developments were conducted by KGB’s own research institute (yes, they had their own well-funded and top secret scientific and R&D branch at the time). For their own use, KGB produced two similar captive piston rounds of same basic design but of different size and power.

Ammunition: a live and expended round each: PZ, PZAM, SP-3 and SP-4.

Ammunition: a live and expended round each: PZ, PZAM, SP-3 and SP-4.

S4m pistol.

S4m pistol. Holds two rounds in a spring clip, and opens by tipping, like a shotgun.

The smaller (and better known) one was the 7.62x63mm PZ “Zmeya” (Snake) cartridge, which later evolved into cheaper and more reliable PZAM cartridge of the same basic dimensions. It featured a massive steel case with a single-stage piston which propelled a standard 7.62mm PS projectile, taken out of the 7.62×39 M43 intermediate cartridge. Combined with the derringer-type break-open S4 pistol (see ) with two barrels, the PZ was intended for use by undercover agents, as well as by military Special Forces (Spetsnaz) to take out sentries or other enemy personnel during critical missions behind enemy lines.

Ammunition: a live and expended round each: PZ, PZAM, SP-3 and SP-4.

Ammunition: a live and expended round each: PZ, PZAM, SP-3 and SP-4.


Ammunition cutaways. From top to bottom: PZAM, SP-3 and SP-4.

The larger cartridge is noticeably scarcer even now. It is quite big and heavy (case length is 93mm), and it is available in two varieties, based on the same machined steel case. The PFAM “Falanga” cartridge was loaded with a heavy, pointed 9mm projectile made of hardened steel and equipped with a brass driving band. It was intended to take out NATO personnel wearing body armor, who can be found in the vicinity of critical installations such as C3I, ammo depots, airfields and tactical missile launchers. The PMAM “Mundstuck” propelling round was loaded with an aluminum push rod, used to silently propel a 30mm AP-I grenade, which would deal with the targets listed above, once the guard personnel were accounted for using PFAM rounds. Both rounds were fired from a huge, single shot pistol known as “Device D” (see ), and, later on, through a multi-shot carbine / launcher “Device DM” (see ).

Device DM in front of some other exotic weapons

Device DM, the latest Russian silent weapon, in front of some older exotic weapons

Firing Device DM

Firing Device DM

The MSP pistol with two rounds.

The MSP pistol with two-round clip of SP-3 ammunition. The pistol is completely unmarked.

During the early 1970s, the Tula Arms factory developed a more compact alternative to the PZAM ammunition and S4 pistol, in the form of a 7.62×35 SP-3 cartridge and a double-barrel, derringer-style MSP pistol (see ). This ammunition also used 7.62 M43 PS bullet, but featured a noticeably shorter and lighter case with a two-stage telescoped piston. To ensure safe containment of a high pressure gases, the thin-walled steel case is noticeably “fireformed” during the discharge. The same SP-3 ammunition was later used for the single-shot NRS shooting knife (see ).

Firing the NRS. Note the guard is the rear sight.

Firing the NRS. Note the guard is the rear sight.

NRS with accessories. The knife and sheath resemble those for the AKM bayonet, but the sheath extends to form a buttstock.

NRS with accessories. The knife and sheath resemble those for the AKM bayonet, but the sheath extends to form a buttstock.CORRECTION: Per Mac, the sheath is just a sheath. The hinged part is a wirecutter. The sheath stays on the belt, while the operator fires the gun with the blade toward his face, as in the picture above. Recoil is very low so that this is safe. –Ed.

Loading the NRS. The barrel comes out of the base knife, the round is loaded in the barrel, and then it is restored to its place.

Loading the NRS. The barrel comes out of the base knife, the round is loaded in the barrel, and then it is restored to its place.

The MSP is compact, and was deniable when first issued.

The MSP is compact, and was deniable when first issued.

The current author can attest that MSP pistol with SP-3 ammunition is quite silent; it is noticeably quieter than, say, integrally suppressed PB pistol firing 9×18 PM ammunition. However, KGB and GRU wanted their agents to be armed with silenced guns that could offer more than 2 shots and more lethality. This was achieved during early 1980s with introduction of the now well known PSS semi-automatic pistol (see ) and its 7.62×40 SP-4 ammunition.

PSS internally suppressed pistol.

PSS internally suppressed pistol.

PSS with action open and magazine of ready rounds.

PSS with action open and magazine of ready rounds.

The latter featured a single-stage pusher piston, jammed at the neck of the case, and unique projectile, made from steel rod and equipped with brass driving band at the front. This weapon is still issued to special elements of Russian army and police, and appears to be quite popular for its intended role – taking out bad guys (these days it’s mostly Muslim terrorists or organized crime strongmen) with as little sound as possible. The only weak spot of the PSS, besides its unique and expensive ammo, is, surprisingly, its semi-automatic action, which produces most unwelcome sounds during the cycle.

OTS-38 showing the unusual reload process.

OTS-38 opened up to show the unusual reload process.


OTS-38, side view, closed.

To alleviate this problem while maintaining adequate capacity, the late Igor Stechkin designed an unique OTs-38 revolver (see ). This five-shot revolver produces noticeably less sound when fired, compared to the PSS. It also features a barrel, aligned with the bottom chamber of the cylinder, a manual safety for cocked and locked carry, and a built-in laser pointer above the barrel. And if all that is not enough, it also features a unique side-swinging cylinder, a  system developed to ensure ideal coaxial alignment of the bore and cylinder chamber, which is especially important due to blunt shape and hard nose of the SP-4 bullet.

Finally, we must mention two underbarrel grenade launchers, built to same concept of capturing powder gases inside the closed volume. The first is “Tishina” (Silence) system, developed during 1970s to be mounted below the barrel of AMK / AKMS rifle. It used 30mm AP-I grenade, similar to that of used in D and DM devices, and propelled by a special blank 7.62×39 round Powder gases were captured after each shot gy a piston, located inside the rear part of the launcher’s barrel. With introduction of the 5.45mm small arms systems into the Soviet Army, it was reworked into the “Kanarejka” (Canary) system, mounted below the AKS-74U assault rifle. It was similar to the predecessor in concept, but used 5.45mm blank cartridges (see ).

Artists rendering of a carbine with the "Kanarejka."

Artists rendering of a carbine with the “Kanarejka.”

Actual weapon, shown with ammunition, including a sound suppressor for AKSU carbine.

Actual weapon, shown with ammunition, including a sound suppressor for AKSU carbine.

Editor’s Notes

  1. Those books include (stolen links from Forgotten Weapons, containing his code, so Ian gets any Amazon kickback):
    1. Assault Rifle: The Development of the Modern Military Rifle and its Ammunition
    2. Machine Gun: The Development of the Machine Gun from the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day
    3. Modern Combat Pistols: The Development of Semi-automatic Pistols for Military and Police Service Since 1945
    4. Sub-Machine Gun: The Development of Sub-Machine Guns and their Ammunition from World War 1 to the Present Day
  2. While we’ve linked to the patent, you can also find it in a previous article Max wrote for Forgotten Weapons. Yes, if you’ve read that you still need to read this one. And vice versa (it’s Part III of a three-parter on Spetsnaz weaponry).
  3. You guys probably know this already, but The Great Patriotic War is the Russian and Soviet term for World War II, which began for them when Hitler broke the non-aggression pact and invaded the USSR on 22 June 1941.
  4. Russian Nagants were well-suited to suppression because of their gas-seal design, unlike other revolvers (even other Nagants, many of which were produced in Belgium with no gas-seal mechanism).
  5. Stechkin is best known in the West for his select-fire pistol with a stock holster, the APS, which was produced in the early 1950s and remained in Soviet and Russian service for a long time. Some were exported to friendly states and guerrilla movements; one was a favorite of Argentine Communist revolutionary, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.
  6. Two Soviet intelligence agencies. The KGB stood for Committee for State Security and was a political/civilian intelligence and counterintelligence organization like the FBI or CIA (although its officers had military ranks, and in some assignments, wore uniforms). Its successors in the Russian Federation are the SVR (foreign intelligence gathering) and the FSB (counterintelligence and domestic security) of Russia. The GRU was the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff — military intelligence; it still exists except as a function of the Russian not Soviet General Staff.
  7. “SP” stands for Spetsianiy Patron, “special cartridge.”
  8. This is the 7.62 x 25mm Russian round of the TT (Tula-Tokarev) pistol of 1930 and 1933, also used in the wartime submachine guns PPSh-41 and PPS-43.

BREAKING: G36 Replacement will be All-New, Competition Starts in November

The G36 is the standard service rifle of the German Armed Forces, as it has been for about 20 years. But the Bundeswehr has announced that it’s now on the way out, and a solicitation for replacements is out — to all European manufacturers, not just German ones.

End of Life: Always controversial, the G36 is scheduled to be replaced by a new rifle, to be selected in a process that will probably be just as spectacularly controversial.

End of Life: Always controversial, the G36 is scheduled to be replaced by a new rifle, to be selected in a process that will probably be just as spectacularly controversial.

Early this morning, commenter “Tobse” flagged us to this article in the FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany’s most-circulated newspapers), noting that the decision to replace the G36 had been made. Here’s our translation of the first grafs of FAZ political correspondent, Johannes Leithäuser’s, article, The G36 Assault Rifle is being Mustered Out:

Defense minister Ursula von der Leyen made it known back in March that scientific tests of the G 36 had revealed an accuracy problem at high temperatures. A month later, the Minister announced that the standard troop rifle had ” no future in its current form” in the Bundeswehr

While the Ministry set up and tasked numerous commissions with the questions of: whether soldiers had been injured or killed in action because of faulty weapons; whether the manufacturing firm Heckler & Koch had too tight connections to the Ordnance Department of the Ministry; and whether the Ministry took too long to react to reports of the deficiencies — while, then, a great deal of attention was focused on working out questions about the past — the military leadership was working on a solicitation for a new weapon.

You may read the article in German here or a dread Google robotranslation here.

The key points of the article are drawn from this solicitation. They are:

  1. The BW won’t really get the new rifle until the 2020s.
  2. The solicitation is Europe-wide. Sorry ’bout that, Colt, LMT, etc. (Also, sorry ’bout that, HK. You’re going to have to compete with everybody, including those Polish rifles we saw this morning).
  3. The solicitation seems biased towards current production, COTS rifles, as the Ministry feels that only with such a head start can they hope to make a 2019 fielding of test units and 2020s for quantity production.
  4. In the light of the problems with the G36, there are specific environmental requirements for the new rifle’s accuracy (including in automatic fire) and its polymer parts.
  5. The various German (i.e., HK) and foreign weapons used as controls in the tests that exposed the G36 overheating problems were all better than the G36 at that, and sometimes at something else, but they all had disadvantages relative to the G36, such that none of them seems superior all-round.

BW soldier with G36

Previous FAZ coverage of the G36 problem is here (these are the links to the native German, copy the links — not our translated titles — and paste them into if you need the robo-english:

Augen Geradeaus! on the Solicitation

As you might expect, Thomas Wiegold is all over this at Augen geradeaus! He has three stories up so far including:

  • 8 Sep 15: Out with the G36: The Bundeswehr shall get a completely new assault rifle. This article is an update based on materials provided to members of parliament (the Bundestag). Most of the details of the specification remain up in the air, but will be in the Funktionalen Forderung Fähigkeitslücke (FFF), roughly equivalent to a US procurement Requirements Specification, which is due in November. So even such questions as caliber are still not decided. He quotes Minister von der Leyen as saying:

We have, with the military leadership, decided for a clear break. After almost 20 years with the G36, we want to acquire a new assault rifle for the Bundeswehr. The new sustem should also full more modern requirements better than an updated, improved G36. For this purpose, there will be an open and transparent tender process.

New Military Arms from Poland

Coat_of_arms_of_Poland-officialJane’s has been to an armaments exhibition in Poland (MSPO in Kielce, PL) where Polish armories have displayed new Polish small arms to the public for the first time. These arms comprise a modular family of 5.56mm small arms, the Modular Small Arms System, whose key gimmick is that the whole family interchanges to standard or bullpup lower-receivers, and a further improved UKM-2000P general purpose machine gun, which was already an improved, NATO-caliber evolution of the PKM, now with improved modularity and ergonomics.

I: The Modular Small Arms System

The Modular Small Arms System (hereafter MSAS to save typing, if you please) is a product of Fabryka Broni “Łucznik”– Radom Sp. z o.o. which looks intimidating to an English speaker, but means “Archer” Arms Factory, LLC in Polish, and is actually easy to spell and pronounce with a little coaching, because Polish is a phonetic language: Fab-REE-ka BRO-nee WOOCH-neek gets you pretty close. (You can’t fool a Pole, but he will probably appreciate you trying. The Polish language does not deserve its reputation for difficulty). Fortunately for non-Polish-speakers, FB Łucznik publishes their website in English as well as in their native language; unfortunately for us, they don’t have the MSAS information up there yet.

FB Lucnik Radom 90 years_drzwiotwarte_a4_netThis month is Fabryka Broni’s 90th aniversary. Fabryka Broni has made the Beryl AK-based assault rifle for the Polish military, the Glauberyt 9mm submachine gun, and traces its history back 90 years to its forerunners in inter-war Free Poland, before Nazi and Russian occupations (the USSR occupied eastern Poland from 1939-41 and the whole country from 1944-45. Apart from the roughly half of Poland annexed to the USSR [for which some German territories, stripped entirely of movable property by the Red Army, were given Poland as compensation], unlike some other slave states such East Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, that were kept under or put back under the Red Army boot, the USSR armed forces withdrew in 1956 and let Polish quislings run the country).

FB’s forerunners were the producer of Polish “Radom” Mauser 98-pattern rifles and the well-regarded 9mm VIS Radom pistol before and during the war, and later produced weapons, mostly of Soviet pattern, for the Polish Warsaw Pact forces.

The end of the Cold War required Polish forces to adapt to new tactics and interoperability challenges as part of NATO, but it also unleashed the nation’s considerable design and engineering talent and produced a variety of interesting firearms.

Here’s the MSAS in bullpup mode:


The picture is less than ideal, but visible variants include rifle, carbine, and short CQB variants. Common AR add-ons like COTS suppressor mount/flash-hiders and Surefire magazines are depicted, along with FB’s own compact grenade launcher and a sight resembling the original snap-on M203 peep sight. There’s no visible provision for a bayonet. Visible features include modular rail attachments, an adjustable gas system, and an ambidextrous selector/safety lever. Charging handle and ejection seem to be convertible to left or right. The rifle clearly uses a great deal of modern polymer structure.

Here’s the conventional-stocked MSAS modules. This picture’s a little lower-rez than the bullpip one, but the conventional rifles’ and carbines’ AR ancestry and SCAR-like folding stock are evident. The ability to accept an AK-like bayonet is an interesting feature.



In both bullpup and conventional layout, the “standard” barrel length is 16″ (406mm), not the more customary 14.3-14.5″ (~360-370mm). A shorter barrel length is available. The operating system used allows the stock to fold.

The grenade launcher is also an interesting module, and one that has export potential (as do the rifles themselves).

In the meantime, this is not a theoretical, proposed or prototypical weapons system, but is now in production for the Polish Armed Forces. Exactly which variants the Poles are buying remains to be seen.

II: The UKM-2000P Improved GPMG

First, our Polish friends need a better name for this thing. Because it really seems like the cat’s pajamas as a general-purpose machine gun, based as it is on the reliable PKM, but updated to use NATO ammunition, and accept modern attachments. This is made by another Polish arms concern, ZMT (Zaklady Mechaniczne Tarnow, or Tarnow Machine Factory).


Source: Remigius Wilk photo via Jane’s.

A lot of new engineering has gone into the MG, and as a result it has fewer legacy PKM parts than it looks like. Indeed, over 2/3 of the parts are new since the first NATO MGs, the UKM-2000, went into service fifteen years ago:


@Weaponsman 2015, data from Jane’s.

According to the ZMT catalog (English version), the changes from the UKM-2000 were the direct result of combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of requests from Polish troops. The company says:

Changes include introducing a new, folding telescopic buttstock with a cheekpiece and rear support, integral Picatinny rail and a three-rail fore-end system on the gas cylinder tube to improve the weapon ergonomics and reliability. The modified UKM-2000 is equipped with a new bipod and ergonomic pistol grip and a new cocking handle and safety selector as well as an improved tactical sling and a 100-round soft ammunition bag. Additionally, shell extractor and ammunition button had been modified [sic] and the breechblock covers latch was added to keep it in the open position. The modified UKM-2000 may be equipped with a shorter 440 mm (17.3″) barrel with an effective flash hider.

According to Jane’s, it’s durable and reliable.

The modernised UKM-2000P is more reliable than the original UKM-2000P (test guns fire 37,000 and 53,000 rounds) and can fire all 7.62×51 mm rounds – both NATO and non-standard. It can be loaded by any type of link belt, including German DM60. The steel ammunition box was replaced by a 100- or 150-round soft bag. ZMT introduced a new folding and telescopic stock for both dismounted soldiers and paratroopers; an ergonomic handgrip; a front grip; and a carrying handle.

Poland placed a $6.53 million contract for the delivery of 378 modernised UKM-2000Ps (30 in 2015, 138 in 2016, 106 in 2017, and 104 in 2018) back in June, although this only came into force on 28 August after the successful trials of two prototypes.

The original 2000 version could accept NATO standard disintegrating links, but it couldn’t interoperate with the German fixed link belts (even though those are also a NATO standard). While it seems like a PKM with a NATO caliber conversion and some cosmetic changes, that’s not only not true, it’s not even bad if it were true.

A Polish trooper with a camouflaged version of the original UKM-2000.

A Polish trooper with a camouflaged version of the original (and much less modular) UKM-2000.

Commenter Kirk was just saying that NATO needed something like a PKM. Well, the Poles were miles ahead of him.

Along with the GPMG, ZMT makes Poland’s heavy machine guns including a .50-caliber powered Gatling, sniper rifles, light grenade launchers and mortars, and some aircraft and vehicle armament mountings and interfaces.


Fabryka Broni „Łucznik”- Radom Sp. z o.o. website. Retrieved from: (Note: the MSBS family is not on the website, yet).

Wilk, Remigiusz. MSPO 2015: Fabryka Broni unveils full MSBS-5.56 rifle family. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, 2 September 2015. Retrieved from:

Wilk, Remigiusz. MSPO 2015: ZMT unveils modernised UKM-2000P machine gun. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, 4 September 2015. Retrieved from:

Zaklady Mechaniczne Tarnow website. Products catalog (English language, also available in Polish, Portuguese and Arabic). (The “Modified UKM-2000” on p. 10 appears to be a slightly earlier version of the UKM-2000P.

Zaklady Mechaniczne Tarnow website. Main Page:

Zaklady Mechaniczne Tarnow website. UKM-2000 Page: (Note: the UKM-2000P is not posted yet).