Category Archives: The Past is Another Country

Parker Otto Ackley Hated his Christian Name

That’s why he went by P.O. all his life. Anybody claiming to be his friend and talking about, “Parker and I…” immediately made an ass of himself to Ackley’s real friends, who were many, and influential in the small world of American firearms.

This is just one of the fascinating details we’ve learned from P.O. Ackley: America’s Gunsmith by Fred Zeglin.

In a time when college graduates and even high school graduates were rare, Ackley was a magna cum laude graduate of Syracuse University (in New York, his native state). His degree was in Agriculture, and he was a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

Why did he become a gunsmith? “During the Depression, there was nothing else to do anyway.” His college studies had made him a remarkably good potato farmer, but his potatoes found no buyers.

In 1936, he bought the Roseburg, Oregon shop of Ross King, who had in turn bought the business from the widow of his former employer in Los Angeles, Ludwig Wundhammer, arguably the first great American sporterizer of military rifles. King moved back to LA and kept gunsmithing for some years.

Ackley bought the shop sight unseen, sold the family farm, and drove to Roseburg to meet King — whose work he respected greatly — and see his new shop. He paid King $1,000 down and $1,000 over time, on a handshake. But he didn’t know barrel making, so he accepted the offer of a friend to teach him. Leaving the family in Roseburg, he spent most of 1936-37 in Cincinnati learning the trade from Fritz, last name unknown, an employee of the friend, Ben Hawkins.

Ackley built much of his own tooling. He could afford only one gun-drill, so his early barrels were all bored .22 and reamed to final size with reamers he made himself. His own rifling machine was one of the earliest button-rifling mechanisms — he claimed to have co-invented the process, although he never filed a patent on it — and an entire chapter of the book is Ackley’s own detailed technical description of this tool. Ackley wrote it for a book that was never published, and the rifling-tool chapter may be the only surviving fragment.

In that chapter, as in many other places in the book, Ackley’s wit shines through.

“P.O. said that Elmer Keith was the biggest bullshit artist in the United States, but if he said he hit something with a .44 Magnum at 1000 yards, you better believe it, ’cause he could shoot.”

“The best way to get an answer to the problem is to ask someone who has never made a barrel. They can always tell you.”

Ackley’s foundation of the school of gunsmithing at the Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado was a surprising story. Ackley left the Ogden, Utah arsenal during the war — some say, after a falling out with co-worker Elmer Keith, the story of which Zeglin was not able to establish, and unconfirmed stories about which Zeglin was unwilling to publish. He ultimately wound up in Trinidad, and, after the war, was buried in a mountain of correspondence from GIs seeking gunsmithing training under their GI Bill benefits. The college, meanwhile, was getting similar letters — thousands of them.

The gunsmithing school was a success from the start, and early students remember an unusual instructional technique: Ackley would disassemble a gun and reassemble it where students could not see it, talking them through the process. Then, in the lab, they’d have to do it themselves, forcing them to learn by doing, not monkey-see-monkey-do.

Lee Womack, one of his former students, wrote:

In spite of his 16-hour days, he was always available…. He gave freely of any information he might have. He used to say that anybody in the gun business who thought he had a trade secret was just kidding himself.

This year will be the 70th anniversary of the program, a living memorial to an interesting American craftsman.

We’ll close with a few more Ackley quotes. On bullpup actions:

My opinion of the Bull-pup idea in general would not be very complimentary, and like the man once said, “If you can’t say anything good about it, then don’t say anything at all.” Therefore, I am silent as HELL on this subject.

On relative and absolute strengths of rifle actions, something which he experimented on extensively:

[A]ny action can be blown up if you try hard enough.

On the strength of the Italian Carcano, proven in his blow-up tests:

In spite of the fact that the locking lugs looked as though you could knock them off with a tack hammer, we were unable to damage any one of the four bolts appreciably. When the actions finally let go the receiver ring flew off, but this didn’t come until we had reached loads whitch had previously blown up P-17 Enfields. I wish to point out. however, that none of this should be used to conclude that the rifle could ever be made into a desirable hunting arm because that is a fairly good definition of the word impossibility.

As you might imagine, we’re loving the book.

Great Special Operations: A Platoon Seizes a Fortress, 1940

We have mentioned the German airborne forces’ capture of the Belgian fortress of Eben Emael before a few times, but we’ve never explored it in depth. In this incredible special operation, an overstrength engineer platoon, 78 men, led by a first lieutenant who wasn’t even there for the bulk of the battle, captured a fortress held by a garrison of approximately 1,100 men. It was not an old, obsolete fortress, either: it was one built just a few years prior. The concrete was scarcely dry!

The place was the Belgian fort of Eben Emael, named for two villages it sat between: its function was to protect the approaches to Liége. Ir did this by puttin the crossroads at Maastricht and the Albert Canal under gunfire, especially the bridges crossing the canal and related rivers, which were natural choke points. It was well equipped with 120mm and 75mm artillery pieces and 60mm AT guns, in reinforced concrete, steel-armored casemates.

This documentary shows how the Germans used new weapons (shaped charge explosives, assault gliders) to deliver an effective, economical attack that the defenders had not even conceptualized a defense against. It has five parts, which should load and play after the first.

It was produced by a thing called the History Channel, which used to exist before it discovered that more of the sort of people who watch TV like welfare recipients do drugs were interested in Finding The Ghost of Sasquatch than the history of a global war.

There are some interesting small arms in the video, including some MG.34s mit und ohne Lafette, and the relieving engineers are seen marching in with an MP.34 (or -28, perhaps) slung over an officer or NCO’s shoulder.

Eben Emael is the subject of a number of worthwhile books and papers; it’s a frequent flyer in war and command-and-staff college papers (here’s an example), and it was one of the case studies in Admiral William McRaven’s compendium, Special Operations. 

We’ve been reading a lot about European fortresses of the 20th Century lately. They essentially were a lesson mistakenly learned from the First World War, where defensive technology, tactics and operational art deadlocked offensives, a lesson obvious in 1914 that did not sink in until the generals who ran up the butchers’ bills on all sides were looking back at the event over port and cigars postwar.

Four nations built fortress chains, none of which availed them much in the 1939-45 unpleasantness. They were France, whose fabled and well-engineered Maginot Line was flanked; Germany, whose post-repudiation fortress construction seems to have been a propaganda effort; Belgium, the fate of whose fortresses in the face of Blitzkrieg is here recounted; and the Czechoslovak Republic, whose fortresses, similar to those of the francophone nations, were in those regions of the nation inhabited primarily by ethnic Germans, and ceded to Germany by the Munich Agreement in 1938.

In fact, the ex-Czech fortifications in the Reichsprotektorat Böhmen u. Mähren were used by Lieutenant Witzig’s Abteilung Granit troops to practice fortress takedowns, before they had to do it for real.

This is a tourism video promoting visits to Eben Emael in the here and now. Five minutes.

Here’s some B-roll (mostly) of a 2010 reenactment. In the historical case, there does not seem to have been this many Belgian defenders on the surface… just a few AA gunners with Lewis guns. The gliders also had wings, and the German guns didn’t jam this much…. Voice-over en français.

And this is a video of the fort today, with some role-players at work. Best part: you get to hear the actual sound of the fort’s alarm siren. And see what’s for sale in the gift shop.

Here’s another recent-day visit. Different views of some of the same role-players as above!

A tactic, technique or procedure is only new once. Even though Billy Mitchell proposed vertical envelopment in 1918, and even though Germany, Italy, Japan and the USSR had been training for it since the 20s and 30s, the paratroop elements of the invasions of April-May 1940 took Britain, France, and the neutrals by complete surprise.

The cost of the German victory in Crete the next year took the Germans, who had been encouraged by their 1940 results, by even greater surprise. But that’s another story!

Another Gettysburg Hero from the ‘Shire

Well, no sooner did we get the story of Col. Edward Cross, when a new newsletter arrives from the legislature’s Republicans[.pdf], and bedamned if there isn’t another hero, who avenged Cross — and then perished himself.

Following up on last issue’s feature regarding Col. Edward H. Cross of the 5th NH Volunteer Regiment (whose portrait can be found on the first floor outside of SH103) Rep. Reed Panasiti of Amherst let us know of another hero of the Battle of Gettysburg who served under Col. Cross, Sergeant Charles Phelps of Amherst.

As written in our previous feature, on July 2nd, 1863 during the early hours of the Battle of Gettysburg, Col. Cross was shot by a Confederate sniper through the abdomen exiting near his spine mortally wounding him.

After seeing his commander fall to a Confederate sniper’s bullet, Sgt. Charles Phelps took careful aim and shot the sniper as he stood up from behind a stone wall, killing him.

This is beginning to sound like an episode of “Spy vs. Spy”, isn’t it?

Shortly after, however, as the “Fightin’ Fifth” retreated to the cover of the woods, Sgt. Phelps was shot in the back, and died later that evening.

Well, that’s a heck of a thing.

Sgt. Phelps’s remains were sent back to Amherst where he was interred at the Meadowview Cemetery. To this date there is a large marble headstone marking Sgt. Phelps’s grave with inscriptions of the 10 battles that he served in during the war. We thank Rep. Panasiti for sharing this interesting piece of NH Civil War history with us and helping us expand upon last weeks “Historical Happenings” segment.

We’ll have to go visit Sergeant Phelps one of these days.

Barrelmaking, a Century Past

This booklet at archive.org includes reprints of several Machinery articles from the First World War period, describing the industrial manufacture of rifle barrels at the time. The complexity of the task and its many operations are clear, plus, of course, there were various methods of cut rifling, but no other method of rifling, because button, cold forging, and electrochemical processes had yet to be applied to this task.

And before you could rifle, you must drill, which had its own problems.

The first article is on the manufacture of the Lee-Enfield barrel, and begins:

The most difficult part of a gun to make is the barrel. A knowledge of the conditions under which it will be used, a thorough acquaintance of the principles involved, and sound and accurate machinery are essential before a barrel can be made successfully.

Naturally, the sequence of operations and methods used are not identical in different factories, but there are definite stages in its manufacture which all makers must follow. After being centred, the surface of the barrel forging is rough turned to relieve it of outside strains, and briefly, the chief operations following are: drilling, finish turning, grinding outside, fine boring, rifling, lapping, screwing and chambering.

There are other operations that are only used in contingencies, for example, barrel straightening. The book is well worth the read!

Fred Ray: A Confederate Whitworth Sees Auction (Corrected)

Here’s another amazing find by Fred, in an auction catalog that AFAIK hasn’t come to Hog Manor yet in the treebark edition. but is already online. (Uh, we just realized, thanks to a comment, that while we were sleep-writing this post last night we confused Rock Island, whose catalog we do subscribe to, with James Julia, whose catalog we don’t — and probably should. The two auction houses are entirely different, and are keen competitors; both have a seemingly endless supply of historic firearms).

Auctioneer James D. Julia has a rare Confederate Whitworth up on the block. This one even has the four power Davidson telescope.

 

The brass tube Davidson scope was adjusted for elevation by turning the knurled knob on the right side of the forearm. This loosened the clamp on the left side so the 1-1/2″ bar graduated in 1/16″ increments could be raised and lowered, pivoting on the rear mount secured by the rear lock plate screw. The normal long range ladder sight could be used for normal short range shooting. There is extensive documentation on the acquisition of this rifle, along with correspondence regarding the use of these guns during the Civil War. This gun was originally found with the telescopic sight missing which was later purchased from Confederate authority Steve Mullinax and put back on the rifle according to documentation. In a 1992 letter from noted Whitworth authority John Morrow The Confederate Whitworth Sharpshooters, 1989. “The telescope mounted Whitworth ‘2nd Quality’ No. C529 Rifle” described here conforms to the specification of all the other known surviving examples of the Confederate Purchase Special Arms. Specifically, it is in the correct SN range, the simple form of the iron sights, two bbl bands, lack of a safety bolt, common breech rather than patent breech, very short muzzle projection beyond the forend cap (note that the bbl appears to have lost 3/16″ at the muzzle, it should be 33″ exactly), the method of mounting the telescope the form of the checkering and everything else about it confirm this. The total number shipped in this telescopic configuration is not known but only 8 have been traced up to this moment.” One identical to this gun, is pictured in Firearms of the Confederacy, plate XXIII and discussed on pages 27 and 28.

Fred goes on to explain what the marking “2nd Quality” on Confederate Whitworths means, and as always, Read The Whole Thing™.

Along with many photos, Julia has published a detailed provenance (.pdf) on the rifle. It goes back to its “rediscovery” in March, 1991, so you’ve got 26 years of the rifle’s over-150, and 125 or so years of mystery. Better than nothing.

Whitworths have characteristic hexagonal rifling.

At that time it was acquired by one Tom Hutchinson of Alton, Illinois, and Hutchinson immediately began a search for the just-as-impossible-to-find telescopic sight. Which he did find and have reinstalled. Whitworth military rifles with possible Confederate provenance are you-can-count-em-on-your-fingers rare, and several are missing their scopes; it’s the sort of detail collectors argue about, whether this rifle is original or restored. We would say “restored with original and correct parts,” perhaps, and that is pretty much what Mr Hutchinson, subsequent owners if any, and the James D. Julia crew have done.

That is also a solid reason why you should read every line of an auction catalog item, examine every picture, and ask questions rather than make assumptions. Sure, you may be bidding on a $300 Glock rather than a five-figure Confederate sharpshooter rifle, but it’s your money, and you earned it (we hope), and don’t want to be disappointed, surprised or definitely shocked when you open the package.

In our experiences with premier auctioneers, mostly with RIA, we’ve had a couple of positive surprises when guns were better than described, and only one negative surprise — when we didn’t look hard enough and long enough at the images, which accurately showed the poor condition of the extreme rarity we were purchasing.

Rare Firearms… An Investment?

Julia estimates that the rifle will sell for $50,000-70,000. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Inflation Calculator, inflation alone has raised today’s value of the $17,500 that Mr Hutchinson presumably paid to approximately $31,200, or approximately 178%. If the gun sells for low estimate, 286%; high estimate, an even 400%. That sounds great, but remember it’s over 26 years, and 178% of it is pure inflation, so your real gains are 90% to 222% over 26 years. How does that compare to the stock market?

If you invested in the S&P 500, according to this calculator, in March 1991, you would have made an annualized return of over 9.5%, and reinvesting the dividends into the account would have made a total of ~977% (540% without reinvesting). The calculator lets you calculate while accounting for inflation, and as you might expect, deflates those big numbers. Your total is only 502% and that comes to an annualized rate of return of 7.47%.

Not what Jack Madoff promised, but a pretty good example of a real-world result. But it’s more than double what the Whitworth did.  If.

If? Yes, if Julia’s estimate is right, and not the usual auctioneer lowball. Some lots do sell for under estimate — and some lots blow estimates away. We would not be shocked to see this rare rifle rocket into the six figures. If it goes for a quarter-million, as some rare, historic, and beautiful firearms have done of late, then this rare rifle has blown the stock market away. But it’s not the way to bet your retirement fund.

In general, firearms are a lousy investment. On the other hand, they’re a very financially sound piece of personal property. And on the gripping hand, something you want to buy anyway, and that will almost certainly sell for as much, if not more than you paid for it, even if it’s not the very best economic use of your money… well, things like that are rare. If you’re that guy, jump on it.

This Post Has Been Corrected

Due to operator fatigue and lack of layers and layers of editors, the original release of this post discussed Rock Island and Julia as if they were the same thing, which was probably received by both houses as an insult. (Actually, we in the collector community depend upon them both).

While correcting that error, we also decided to expand on the penultimate paragraph of the original post (the one that begins, “If? Yes, if Julia’s estimate is right…”) to include a discussion of the probability and consequences of this rifle blowing through the auction house’s $50-70k estimate.

Naturally, we regret the error, are grateful to the reader that identified it, and take pride in correcting it. A correction or clarification is always welcome in the comments.

So, How Many CZ Clones Are There?

Short answer — beats us with a stick. And we’ve been studying this for a while. Here is a very preliminary, rough and incomplete hack at the problem in mindmap form. As you can see, there are several ways to look at it: are the guns copies, clones, or inspired? The taxonomy is complex. Even breaking it down by nationality is difficult, as company names come and go.

It all begins with the simple CZ-75…

This looks old, but it’s a limited production CZ-75B Retro. A model that’s not on the mindmap yet, but already discontinued in the CZ-UB catalog.

…but CZ-UB alone has produced a bewildering array of versions and variations. Only some of them are listed on this mindmap, along with only some of the known clones. There are two breakdowns here, both grossly incomplete. The first is by the pistol’s legality (although as I understand it, some “licenses” are disputed). The categories are CZ products, Licensed products, unlicensed “Clones,” and unlicensed and different firearms “inspired” by the CZ-75.

As a rule of thumb, the interchangeability of parts runs in about that order: from full interchangeability to none at all.

Clones existed almost as soon as the CZ became popular, because American trade laws made COMECON (the economic equivalent of the Warsaw Pact) products hard and expensive to import. The Italian Tanfoglio TZ-75 was probably the first common CZ-like pistol most American shooters got to handle; it started as a copy of the CZ with only cosmetic changes (and full interchangeability) but has evolved over the decades into a full line, often offering versions that CZ hadn’t built yet (if they ever built them). Tanfoglio was first with out-of-the-box race guns and with compact carry CZ clones. They went through several US importers; Jim Thompson tells the early clone history in this 1997 Gun Digest article. Tanfoglio also exported parts in white and provided the basis of many a new company’s or nation’s CZ clone line startup.

 

Another way to look at the many CZ clones is by nation of production. (That’s what the blue section of the chart tries to do; it should probably be broken into a separate chart). Even here it gets cloudy, as many of the smaller clone producers are actually using partly completed receivers and other parts from CZ (rarely) or Fratelli Tanfoglio (more often).

A nation can have two competing cloners, one cloning CZs and one the divergent Tanfoglios — Turkey is an example of this. (And yes, it’s not up to date on the chart.)

This came to mind recently with a new CZ clone entering the walled garden of the Russian market. EricB at The FireArm Blog has a good introduction to this CZ clone, which is meant to keep Russians shooting in competition in the face of international sanctions that has starved them of CZs and parts and service. The sanctions-busting pistol, called the SoRatnik, resembles the CZ SP-01 but is wholly made in Russia. The prototype is a nice-looking pistol:

And it’s supposed to be part-by-part compatible with the current CZs. A dissassembled view would seem to confirm that.

North Korea and China also clone the CZ, as well as Israel, Italy, South Africa, Turkey, and others. Even England produced two clones prior to the 1996 UK handgun ban.

We’ll keep adding to the chart, but we have a sinking feeling that new manufacturers will ce coming on line, faster than we can keep track of them!

Plus de Napoleon — Invasion of Russia

The last historical film we presented on Napoleon chronicled his rise, which was built largely on good fortune and pure nerve. Those continued to serve him in good stead, amplifying his self-regard, up until his rather irrational decision to solve Russian backsliding on alliance with him… by invading Russia, in 1812. (With Bonaparte so preoccupied in the East, Britain was able to take a decent shot at turning a war they stumbled into, into a near-run reconquest of America … but that’s another story). This French film (professionally dubbed into rosbif) is a more traditional documentary, with acted scenes separated by low-budget CGI and talking-head historians (both French and Russian ones, who have a somewhat different view). The first half of the video culminates in Napoleon’s pyrrhic victory at Borodino before Moscow. A much weakened Grande Armée then takes up lodgings in an empty Moscow… that is promptly set afire by clandestine incendiaries, sent out by Alexander I. At this point, Napoleon’s plan, to defeat the Russians and impress them into alliance, is absolutely impossible. He persists.

Here’s the second part, in case the first one doesn’t lead in automagically.

It does underestimate the now-proven effect that disease, especially typhus, had on the Grande Armee. Instead, they attribute the devastation of the army to stress and starvation.

Napoleon made several errors here:

  1. He underestimated his opponent;
  2. He underestimated the effect that disease, especially typhus, would have on the Grande Armee; 
  3. He conducted a total war with limited-war aims;
  4. He believed that a single decisive victory would end the war on his terms.
  5. When he took the enemy’s capital, he considered himself the victor, and the campaign over. To his chagrin, the Russians didn’t see it that way.
  6. When it was clear his plan had no hope, he clung grimly to it.
  7. When he finally made the call to retreat from Moscow, he made it far too late for a horse-drawn army — 19 October 1812.

Every one of those errors comes, in our opinion, from his charmed life that began when he made gambles against tall odds, and seemed charmed to win, regardless of those odds. Improbability obeys mathematical laws and cannot continue forever, even if Napoleon hadn’t been stacking the wagers on his gambles ever higher.

The biggest casualty of the ill-considered Russian Campaign may have been Napoleon’s aura of invincibility.

The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte

Here is a fantastic BBC dramatization of the rise of Napoleon as a company and field grade officer. While it’s quite possible to quibble with the historical details and dramatization of the film, and actor Tom Burke looks about as much like Napoleon as he does Shaquille O’Neal, it’s quite well done and a lot of fun. It does bring out several things about Napoleon that made him an effective leader:

  1. His technical proficiency as an artilleryman;
  2. His intellect, the principal power that set him above his peers;
  3. The general incompetence of other French Revolutionary leaders;
  4. His remarkable nerve and audacity, which led him to irrational levels of risk taking; and, finally,
  5. His damnably good luck.

The speech before the Toulon attack is as good as any in fiction — yes, including the hortatory speech in Shakespeare’s Henry V. (We couldn’t determine whether Napoleon ever said such a thing).

It’s interesting to observe the number of times Napoleon was in mortal danger, and survived. Just consider the consequences of being wounded in the 1790s, and yet the Corsican’s robust constitution and impossible luck saved him for greater things.

Was Napoleon brilliant? Or was he a monster? Could he have been both? Regardless, the legend of Napoleon begins with a young artilleryman on his way to not just one but many dates with Destiny.

Enjoy the show!

Understanding CZ Test Targets

In accordance with longstanding European gunmaker custom, CZ ships a test target with its pistols. These seem ridiculously simple, but there are enough people asking about them in online forums that we thought we’d explain them. We usually have a few CZs with boxes and paperwork around the house…

Don’t get too excited, they’re not NIB old stock (well, most of them aren’t). (If you look real close to the right of the CZ-75 box, you can see a current CZ-UB box that almost exactly matches the black background. Adventures in photography). While we don’t have anything from the 70s or earlier represented here, we do have (oldest first):

  1. A CZ vzor 70 in 7.65 mm manufactured during the pistol’s production twilight, in 1980.
  2. A CZ-83 in 7.65 mm manufactured during the pistol’s production startup.
  3. A CZ-75 “Pre-B”, manufactured in 1987, prior to mass importation to the United States;
  4. A CZ-75 P-01, manufactured in 2015, which is typical of current CZ-UB production.

The first three pistols were manufactured during the Cold War era and the P-01 is contemporary. All four were probably scheduled for production with a view to exportation, although both the vz. 70 and the P-01 were also the standard pistols of the national police force, and when this CZ-83 was made, there was some thought that the Verejna Bezpečnost (police) would adopt it order to retain the 7.65 caliber.

It is our understanding that all targets are shot rapidly, from rest, at 25m, although only some targets are labeled with distance; and that Sellier & Bellot ball ammunition is customary.

We’ll now look at the targets in the same order. The targets are of three different types: the vz. 70 has a small polygonal aiming point inside a rectangular target area, the target used by the CZ-75 and -83 has a rectangular aiming point with the center of desired impact on its bottom edge and a circle centered on that point describing the desired impact area, and the P-01 target is a modern digital rendering of the firearm’s performance on an instrumented range.

  1. The vz.70 target is actually labeled vz.50. This makes perfect sense, as the two pistols have only cosmetic differences; most of the running changes in these small police pistols were made during the vz. 50 years. A late vz. 50 is more like a vz. 70 than it is like an early vz. 50. There are six shots on the target, one a flyer to the left. The legend at top reads: PISTOL 7.65 MODEL 50 and PISTOL NUMBER 652090. The legend on the bottom reads DATE: 29 Dec 1980; SHOOTER: Zemek (with two partial, illegible rubber stamps, one circular and one a signature), and OTK with a rubber stamp which may be the “kissing lips” we discuss below. We would welcome any insight to the meaning of the acronym OTK, but suspect it’s some type of inspector.
  2. The CZ-83 target is a CZ-75 target with the -75 legend scratched out with black ink, and a CZ-83 legend rubber-stamped in place. Whether a specific target was developed for the CZ-82/83 series is unknown; it’s possible, as this pistol has a four-digit serial number flagging it as first year production. The CZ-75 would have been the main export product of the Uhersky Brod plant when the -83 was introduced, and these targets would have been in daily use. On this target, the pre-printed CZ-75 lines (which you can read on the next target) are inked out, and a rubber stamp says Pistol čz model 83 caliber 7.65 mm. Below the inked-out CZ-75 lettering is Distance 25 m, and to the right is Pistol Number 002846. The legend on the bottom reads Date (blank) Shooter (stamp looks like JBICHR [?]), and OŘJ with a stamp we call the “kissing lips” but appears on magnification to be a blurred-out stamp that once had numbers or characters within it. It seems logical that OŘJ also refers to some inspector or inspection title, but again we do not know the Czech acronym.
  3. The target with the 1987-production CZ-75 (pre-B, which dates to 1992) is the same basic one used for the CZ-83 above, obviously without the CZ-83 adaptations. The legend inked out in the -83 target is seen to read PISTOL ČZ Model 75, Caliber 9 mm Parabellum, and the SHOOTER stamp at bottom center reads FICE[?]NC. The OŘJ stamp can be seen to be a circle with illegible characters inside (we liked it better when we thought it was kissing lips! From Moravia with love!). Seven shots appear to have hit this target, unlike the six of the two earlier ones. It is possible that this target is more “weathered” than the older CZ-83 target because the gun reached its end buyer in 1987, while the CZ-83 remained in one warehouse or another until 2017.
  4. The P-01 is a modern computerized target that depicts the fall of the shots graphically on an ordinary sheet of A4 computer paper, and contains a great deal more information than the old targets. There is no point in translating any of the Czech, as CZ-UB has helpfully done it for us. This target represents the impact of five shots by white circles. The blackened circle is the calculated center of the group.

That the new targets are labeled in English as well as Czech is a nod to CZ’s export focus these days; printing them on an ordinary A4 sheet of computer paper and generating them by computer saves time and money at a busy factory, yet gives buyers confidence that their firearm has been tested and worked. (Europeans still have to proof-test their firearms, but we suspect many American firearms leave factories without every cycling a live round).

The Cold War era targets are (sparsely) labeled in Czech only, and are printed on extremely coarse and flimsy Warsaw Pact era paper, which has, as you can see here, yellowed to one degree or other with age. They do have a certain character. If we didn’t want to keep these in the boxes the firearms came in, we might just frame them. How much of the dirt, oil etc. on these fairly dirty targets came from the range and how much from the intervening decades of handling is anyone’s guess.

All targets are serial numbered to the guns, usually with blue ballpoint ink, and have a space for the technician who fired the gun to stamp his name and the date. Both of these stamps are seldom present, but the serial number has always been.

One open question is whether targets like these were furnished with domestic police and military firearms. Our tentative hypothesis is that they were not; instead, the military (etc) acceptance stamp went on when the ordnance officer was satisfied, and there was no point in retaining a target beyond that. None of the CZs we have with Czech military or police acceptance marks came with targets, but all were used (most, well-used) when we acquired them.

Update

We thought that we’d add this: if you’re lucky enough to have a date stamp on your CZ test target, the month will be abbreviated in Czech. Here is a table of the Czech months and the standard abbreviations for those months, which CZ used on its stamps.

Czech Months

English month Česky (Czech) ČZ Abbreviation
January leden led.
February únor ún.
March březen břez.
April duben dub.
May květen květ.
June červen červ.
July červenec červen.
August srpen srp.
September září zář.
October říjen říj.
November listopad list.
December prosinec pros.

Watch out for June and July!

Vintage Armored Cars (1912-80 or so)

There’s an interesting if disjointed (and sometime wrongly-captioned) photo essay on armored cars at this link:

[W]e take a look at the many different types of armoured cars that have appeared over the last one hundred years.

via Dark Roasted Blend: Impressive Vintage Armoured Cars.

The armored wheeled vehicles range from the First World War’s Bristols and Rolls-Royces, up through the Russian Civil War’s Austin-Putilov…

…and many peculiar armored reconnaissance and scout vehicles of the interwar years, World War II, and the Cold War. Heavy on Russian stuff. There’s even a shot of Stalin’s own ZIS armored limousine, which looks like a Packard for the simple reason that the financially strapped Packard firm sold the USSR a lot of the tooling.

The wartime German types, which survived at very low rates, are underrepresented, but a lot of the interwar and Spanish Civil War Soviet types are depicted, as is the wartime the BA-64, which always makes us think (1) for an armored car, that’s cute as kittens, and (2) what a horrible place to die! It had angled armor, like the contemporary German designs.

Most of these things had 12-15 mm of armor (half to three-quarters of an inch) and were barely proof against small arms and artillery wide misses. (Even against those minor battlefield threats, the pneumatic tires were vulnerable to an easy mobility kill).

An example of the kinds of subtle errors in the photo essay is its description of this early postwar Czech armored car, the Škoda PA-II “Želva”:

The post says this of it:

We’ll start with perhaps the most interesting – a streamlined armored car: “Built by Skoda in 1923 and armed with 4 Maxim MGs, this Zelva served with the Czechoslovak police, and weighed more than 7 tons”:

Actually they missed its most interesting feature, one which fascinated the Germans: it had two driver’s stations and was equally at home going either way. They also called the MGs wrong, in our humble opinion. The image on the left seems to show the characteristic long flash hider and short water jacket of the Austrian-designed Schwarzlose, a mechanically unique gun that was used by the Czechoslovak Republic for some years after independence (they even developed improvments over the wartime gun). And indeed, a better reference on the Želva online spills important details: only 12 were made, the armor peaked at under a quarter-inch, and the Czechoslovak Army rejected them… and, oh yeah, the armament was 4 each, 7.92 mm Schwarzlose vz. 07/24 machine guns. The Germans took them over and used them as radio vehicles during the war. None are believed to survive.